A Snapshot of ‘Manar’ next3


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© Warren Fahey

Another well-known resident around this time was one of the Silk family. The Silks, a prominent Melbourne Jewish family, relatives of the Myer family, were the major Victorian distributor of fruit and vegetables, especially bananas. They lived in apartment seven. Lewis Albert Silk and family moved into Manar in 1962.

The minutes report that in 1963 Mesdames Hamilton and Megaloconomos were given permission to keep pets in their units.

Sir Garfield Barwick (and Lady Norma Mountier Barwick), Attorney General and Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, resided in the apartment now occupied by Ken and Mona Baker. It is said the 1973 dismissal of the Whitlam government was planned two days prior in the Manar apartment when Barwick tendered his advice to Governor General John Kerr about his constitutional powers. Incidentally, Barwick’s estate willed two extraordinary watercolours to the National Gallery: Early view of a bushfire at Potts Point, Sydney – painted by one Thomas Wingate (1807-69), and another, ‘Bush Fire, Potts Point, 1840’ was acquired to document the threat of bushfires to the young city of Sydney as well as for its depiction of the still undeveloped rural landscape of Potts Point.

‘Black Jack’ McEwan, Prime Minister of Australia from 19 December 1967 to 10 January 1968 also maintained apartment 23.

The celebrated ‘legal eagle’ and politician, Tom Hughes, brother of the equally celebrated art critic Robert Hughes, raised his family at Manar. The minute book notes he was appointed a Director of Manar in 1953. His daughter Lucy, later to marry local Member and Liberal Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and to become Lord Mayor of Sydney (2003/4), was born in Apartment 3, and recalls, “crawling out of the front garden, down Macleay Street, where there was a fruit barrow near Crick Avenue. We moved soon after!”

Tom Hughes QC was Attorney General and Liberal Member for Parkes/Barwon 1963-1972. Another legal identity that lived at Manar was Hugh Jamieson, a managing partner at Allens.

The complex seems to have a particular appeal to writers, especially if we review the present occupancy. Murray Bail, long considered one of Australia’s pre-eminent wordsmiths, especially for his novel ‘Eucalyptus’, (which won the Miles Franklin Award in 1999) lives in the garden apartment of building three. For five years Bail was a Trustee of the Australian National Gallery and in 1981 produced a highly regarded book on the Australian artist Ian Fairweather. His latest work is Longhand: A Writer’s Notebookand Notebooks 1970-2003. Reviewers recently compared Bail’s Notebooks 1970-2003 with Proust.

Peter Collins, a resident since 2000, covers both politics and writing. When a Liberal government was elected in 1988 Peter Collins was appointed Minister for Health (1988-1991) and Minister for the Arts (1988-1995). He was later appointed to various portfolios including Attorney General (1991-1992), Consumer Affairs (1992), State Development (1992) and Treasurer (1993-1995). Collins was Leader of the Opposition between 1995 and 1998. In 2000 he published his autobiography, ‘The Bear Pit: a life in politics’. Peter Collins resigned from Parliament in 2003. In 2006 his book ‘Strike Swiftly’, a history of the Navy Commandos, was published. He holds the rank of Commander in the Royal Australian Naval Reserve, and Honorary Colonel in the Army’s elite 1 Commando Regiment in which he earlier served as Lieutenant. He was the first chairman of the Brett Whitely Foundation. A little know fact is that Peter Collins assembled and gifted 76 historic and fashion neckties to the Powerhouse Museum collection. He married Jennine Leanader in 2002, she and her daughter, Tara, moved into number 17. Peter says his first encounter with Manar was as a guest of Kathy Gross and Martin Cooper, around 1992.

Rowan Nicks has three published books: one of poetry, an autobiography and a book on the history of thoracic medicine.

Manar has been well represented in the performing arts including Dame Nellie Melba who, according to saucy legend, was the reputed mistress of one Admiral Figgs V.C. The Admiral left the apartment to his housekeeper and, once again from hearsay, Dame Nellie’s personal belongings, including quite a lot of furniture, were also left in the apartment.  It is a nice dovetail that Australian entrepreneur and celebrity agent, Harry M Miller, has recently purchased the same apartment that was so much part of Melba’s history.

Another medical connection came with ‘Major’ Hamilton and his wife Vera who moved into building three in the 1950s. Major Hamilton was Secretary/ Administrator of the Repatriation Hospital, Concord. After the Major’s untimely death from a road accident the apartment eventually became home for their daughter Betty and husband Bob, who moved into apartment 21 in 1968. After Betty’s death Bob married Kathleen, also a hospital departmental head, and, in 2006, the couple purchased and relocated to apartment six in building two.

Other medical links came with Dr Beaumont, a leading eye specialist, who lived in apartment 6 and Dr Vincent McGovern, a pathologist, who lived in apartment 11.

The money market has always been part of the Manar history including Sir Alfred Davidson, innovative General Manager of the Bank of New South Wales. After his death in 1952 Lady Davidson remained at Manar in apartment 9. Today’s resident list shows several Manor-ites working in the money market including long-time Body Corporate Chairman Timothy Allen. In 2007 there are several money market and IT residents, reflecting the commercial climate of the 21st century.

The fashion industry resides at Manar too with long term resident Kathy Gross, being the designer for George Gross and Harry Who. Alex Zebottle-Bentley, tenant of the spacious apartment number one, is a well-established designer for his Fashion Assassin label. And Mark Cavanagh’s CavCon represents several style brands including Omega Watches, KMS and Absolut. Martin Cooper, represents the film industry and arts in his legal practice.

The visual arts are well-represented by 2006 arrival John Beard who took out the prestigious Archibald Prize for 2007, with his portrait of fellow artist Janet Lawrence. Patricia Anderson is one of Australia’s most regarded art critics and currently writes for the Australian Newspaper, several magazines and is the author of four books, including Elwyn Lynn’s Art World (2002) and most recently Art + Australia: Debates, Dollars &Delusions (2006). She is currently working on a book on Robert Hughes, providing another link to Manar’s history. Katherine West also has a long association with the written word inasmuch as her father, Sir Harold White, was the first National Librarian (1960) of the National Library of Australia.

I also have to put up my hand as a writer with over a dozen books on Australian social history, humour and folklore. The latest books under the Warren Fahey banner are ‘Great Aussie Yarns’ (2006) and ‘The Big Fat Book of Australian Humour’ (2007). I am also recognised as a performer specialising in songs from the colonial period.

Long-term residents, Ken and Mona Baker, are part of Manar’s modern history. Mona came from ‘the land’ at Coonabarabran, and Ken, migrated to Australia from England. They still retain an interest in a Queensland property. Ken, a man for all seasons, also has a successful history in stamp dealing and as a bookmaker. The Bakers purchased Manar in 1979 and moved in after their return from living in England, in 1981. Mona said, “I knew within ten minutes of our first visit that this is the place we wanted” and, as Ken laughingly says, “twenty-eight years later we have no plans to move.” Ken and Mona have visited both the Scottish and Braidwood Manars. Mona, a keen gardener, recalls, “When we came to Manar the gardens were still quite wild and I asked the committee if anyone would mind if I did some work on it. They said, “Please do.” There were no garden beds between Buildings One and Two as they were used as car parking spaces so that was the starting point. “The gardens were ‘planned’ but never really ‘planned’ and that is their appeal. The Garden Committee has done a marvellous job in retaining the most sympathetic and simple design.”

The above list is merely a snapshot of the residents of Manar and not meant to single out any individuals in particular.

Now for a few words of the social environment of Potts Point now and then.

Frankie Davidson’s comic song sums up the Cross of the 1960s. It was written in 1963 and recorded in Melbourne and became a chart success.

Have You Ever Been To See Kings Cross?

If you think you’ve done some travelling, like to say you’ve been around,
That you’ve seen the sights of Paris or the heart of London Town,
You might say a night in Soho would be mighty hard to toss,
But let me tell you folks that you just ain’t lived
Until you’ve seen Kings Cross.

Have you ever been to see Kings Cross where Sydneysiders meet?
There’s a million faces goin’ places walkin’ up ‘n down the street.
Why tourists everywhere in their travels do declare
I’ve seen the world you can hear ’em cry,
And they’ll bet you a tenner to a con man’s swy
You won’t have seen the lot until the day you die
If you haven’t been to see Kings Cross.

Let’s take the eating houses that you find along the way,
You might like to dine with a glass of wine or a serve of Shrimp Mornay,
Or you can try the spots down under, you get a three course for a zack,
Where you can write your will as you pay the bill
Just in case you don’t get back.

You’ve got a list of spots to see and you’d like to spend some dough
So you tell the taxi driver just where you’d like to go,
You might do a tour of Sydney when in fact it’s on the cards
That the place you sought when you climbed aboard
Was up the road a hundred yards.

So if you’re a weary traveller and you think you’ve seen the lot
Well take my tip and make the trip while the money you’ve still got,
And in later conversation you’ll never be at a loss
‘Cos you can tell ’em all that you had a ball
When you went to see Kings Cross.