Memento honours historical effort

In safe hands

Kerri Carr

Maurie Mulheron and Christine Smith chat about Tom Spencer's (inset) contribution to the historical record

As the future location of the honour boards and other memorials in the Department's Bridge Street headquarters remains unresolved, a framed collage of pages from Soldier-Teacher War Memorials: World War I - World War II - Post World War II has been presented to Federation.

The book, by Tom Spencer, documents the honour boards and memorials located in the Department's Bridge Street building, Sydney TAFE Ultimo, the Old Sydney Teachers College at the University of Sydney, and Federation’s headquarters.

Federation President Maurie Mulheron accepted the memento from Mr Spencer's niece Christine Smith. Mr Spencer, who served as honorary treasurer of the RSL Teachers Sub-Branch for many years, died in September 2015.

Mr Mulheron and Ms Smith are concerned about what will happen with the honour boards and other memorials in the Bridge Street building, given the Department will vacate the heritage building in 2018, as it is to be turned into a luxury hotel.

Mr Spencer spent many hours in Federation's library researching the union's records about the history of honour boards and other memorials to teachers who served in war.

Federation librarian Mary Schmidt said he was relentless in tracking down long overlooked memorials.

"One of his re-discoveries was a tapestry with the names of Sydney Teachers College students, who enlisted during 1914-1918, embroidered in blue silk thread and worked by the female college students during the war years."

The memento was originally presented to Mr Spencer at the book's launch in 2001 by then Director-General of Education and Training Dr Ken Boston.

At Mr Spencer's funeral Dr Boston recalled he was "shocked by the inappropriateness" of the venue at Fort Street High School that had been chosen to display the honour boards and other memorials when the they were removed from the Bridge Street building when the state government first tried to sell the building in the late 1980s/early 1990.

Dr Boston said when the education department moved back into the building and the honour boards and other memorials were transitioned back to the building, Mr Spencer was "very heavily involved in creating the shrine that we have in Bridge Street today".

Soldier-Teacher War Memorials: World War I - World War II Post World War II is available for loan from Federation's library.