Newcastle in the 1960s
As photographed by Ron and Liz Morrison
Greg and Sylvia Ray
©2017 Greg and Sylvia Ray
No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic
or mechanical, and including photocopying, recording or by information storage and retrieval systems,
without the written permission of the copyright owner.
Printed by NCP Printing, Steel River, Newcastle
Published by Greg and Sylvia Ray
Concept and design by Greg and Sylvia Ray
Research and captions by Greg Ray
Photographs by Ron and Liz Morrison
Image enhancement by Sylvia Ray
Front cover: Telephoto view of Hunter Street, Newcastle West, in the late 1960s.
Back cover: The BHP steelworks, dominating the skyline in a view from a Mayfield street.
Title page vignette: A classic Newcastle scene of the 1960s, with BHP steelworks dominating a typical
suburban landscape featuring rotary clotheslines and tall television antennae.
Newcastle in the 1960s
As photographed by Ron and Liz Morrison
by Greg and Sylvia Ray
A kaleidoscopic survey of the steel city
In the 1960s Newcastle was an industrial city full of contrasts. Employment in the heavy industries that
dominated the city was plentiful and relatively well-paid, supporting a prosperous and busy community.
But the tough years of World War II and the Great Depression were not all that long past, and those events
and circumstances left marks that were still visible on the city as the 1960s dawned. Indeed, the decade had
scarcely begun before a harsh credit squeeze struck, and some of the consequences – industrial trouble and a
chronic housing shortage – are hinted at by some of the photographs in this book.
Technology, much of it triggered by a rapid global surge in production, research and development prompted
by the war, was giving birth to the consumer society now so familiar to Australians. The statewide electricity
grid made it possible for new markets in electrical consumer goods to expand. New fashions in music and
entertainment likewise fed into the growth of consumerism. People began to demand better homes, better
cars, better clothes and better education for their children.
Television became ubiquitous and began to carve into the markets previously occupied by radio and
newspapers. The controversial Vietnam War took place against this backdrop of “new media”, which almost
certainly made it even more unpopular than conscription and political dissent had already done.
And yet society was still conservative by the standards of the 21st Century. Censorship was the norm, in
films, books and other publications. Most institutions were heavily dominated by males. White Australia
was still taken for granted as a social standard. Aboriginal Australians were only granted the right to vote in
1962, and were only included in the Census in 1967.
This book does not attempt to canvas or illustrate all the issues and developments that affected Newcastle
in the 1960s. Its focus is kept necessarily narrow by the fact that it draws on the work of only two
photographers, husband and wife team Ron and Elizabeth Morrison, whose output was relatively restricted
by the demands of the commercial and media clients for whom they mostly worked. Even with those
constraints, however, the photographs displayed here certainly reflect many aspects of life in Newcastle and
its surrounding areas in the period from 1959 to the early 1970s.
On the whole this book is a compilation of minutiae: small and ephemeral details of the kind for which
news publications had an insatiable appetite. Put together they form a kaleidoscopic survey of a city and a
time now gone, with faces, places, events and activities that are certain to jog the memories of many readers.
Newcastle has long
had a reputation as
“a graveyard for
the many short-lived
the city has seen
was the Newcastle
Sunday Mirror, a
on the established
It appeared in 1959
and lasted about 18
months. Many of the
photographs in this
book were taken by
Ron and Liz Morrison
for use in this paper.
Ron in the dark-room of The Maitland Mercury. Liz Morrison poses with a Rolleicord camera and flash.
Ron Morrison started work as a cadet photographer with The Newcastle Herald and Newcastle Sun in
1949, learning from such fine teachers as Milton Merrilees and Arch Miller. In later years he and his wife
Liz started their own press agency, providing photographs to newspapers and magazines across Australia.
Ron taught photography at the National Art School and at Newcastle College of Advanced Education,
where he became head of the Department of Visual Arts Communication.
Elizabeth Morrison taught history at Newcastle Technical College from 1973, becoming head teacher.
She also worked as a freelance journalist for many years and taught professional writing at Charles Sturt
University in Bathurst.
Between them, the pair has many books to their credit, including two collections of Novocastrian
photographs, Newcastle Seen (1989) and Newcastle, Times Past (2005).
In more recent years they have also published Newcastle, Heart of the Hunter (2007) and Those Were the
Days, Australia in the Sixties (2013).
Having been our mentors and friends for many years, and having provided valued advice on the publication
of our own books, Ron and Liz suggested we acquire their private collection of photographic prints and
negatives for use in our own publishing and research endeavours. We gratefully agreed, and quickly realised
that the collection contained many images that deserved to be assembled into a new book in their own right,
with no dilution by photographs from other sources.
It was interesting that Ron and Liz initially regarded some of the images involved as likely to be mundane
and uninteresting to readers. Once they were scanned, however, the negatives were acknowledged to have
acquired great interest, by virtue of the passage of time. On their re-emergence from obscurity they have
been found to contain enormous amounts of fascinating detail about places and people in Newcastle’s past.
We thank Ron and Liz for their generosity, and hope that this book brings their fine work to the notice of
many people who might not yet have encountered it in other contexts.
Above left: Liz was photographed at Maitland Courthouse by a press colleague while covering the gruesome
“double-headless murders” that rocked the Hunter in 1960 (see page 188). Right: Ron Morrison captures
a self-portrait while taking an “arty” reflection shot in the chrome headlamp of a fire engine in Newcastle.
Below left: A picturegram machine, used in pre-digital days to transmit photographs via telephone lines.
Right: The form once required when sending picturegrams using the facilities of Australian post offices.
When Ron and Liz Morrison needed to transmit images to distant newspaper customers they usually
used the picturegram machines provided by the Australian Post Office. Bigger newspapers had their own
picturegram vans which they would send to locations where important news stories were breaking.
In order to have an acceptable quality print available to “gram” Ron and Liz often used Polaroid film in
addition to their more conventional photomedia. The instant developing capability of the Polaroid meant an
image from a major story could be at the newspaper customer’s office in a remarkably short time.
The photograph at the top of the page opposite was taken by Ron with Polaroid film, specifically to enter
the 1962 National Polaroid Photography Contest. One of the features of the contest was that the winning
picture was to be shown on the Tommy Hanlon television show, It Could be You. Ron said he used a zoom
lens to obtain a big, bold image with enough contrast to look good on television. The vegemite-loving
children were Newcastle youngsters David and Elizabeth Anderson. The prize was £100 cash, and the
photograph at the bottom of the page shows Ron collecting the prize from Greenson Photographics, the
Melbourne-based agents for Polaroid products.
Ron’s prize-winning shot of David and Elizabeth Anderson (above) and Ron collecting his prize (below).
Nicely framed shots of Newcastle from Fort Scratchley (above), and activity at the fort in May 1969 (below).
Two views of Newcastle, looking east over Bank Corner, probably taken from the top of Latec House.
Hunter Street, east of Bolton Street. The charming former Bank of NSW building can be seen, behind the bus.
Looking south along Bolton Street, towards the courthouse. Steel’s Garage and Legacy House on left.
June 1969: Newcastle Post Office, with Norman Brown’s newspaper kiosk on the Bolton Street footpath.
Looking across Hunter Street to the Merewether Street railway level crossing. Sobb’s furniture store at right.
Another view of the Merewether Street intersection. The sign points to the way to the Stockton Ferry wharf.
Looking from the Merewether Street intersection across Hunter Street to the Frederic Ash hardware store.
Looking across Hunter Street towards the Civic Theatre and Wheeler Place from Civic Railway Station.
August 1960: Service station attendant Joe Hattam shows the grime from passing steam trains that has
settled on a car. The angry service station owner tried to make railway authorities pay for car washes.
Above: The David Cohen building in Bolton Street, January 1960. Below: Outside Palings store, Hunter Street.
Two views of the King Street Terraces. Above: Looking east from the terraces, across King Street. Below:
Parking inspector Jock Miller takes a long hard look at an FJ Holden parked near Crown Street in November
1959. Residents of the terrace houses complained that they had to shift their cars before 7.30am to avoid fines.
Strange case of the migrating gravestones
Newcastle’s Christ Church Cathedral boasts a lovely park that overlooks the city and provides views out
across the harbour. It’s a precious oasis of calm in the middle of the city, and a perfect spot for a picnic on a
sunny day. Of course, beneath the ground lie the bodies of those buried long ago in the cathedral graveyard.
Off to the side of the park some of the stones, moved from their original positions, can be seen.
The photographs on the page opposite show some of the gravestones still in place, before they were shifted
and before an unknown number of them were removed to become landscaping aids at Blackbutt Reserve.
Sharp-eyed visitors to Blackbutt can sometimes spot stones in the gardens with fragments of inscriptions
on them, and some of these have been identified as parts of particular memorials.
Former Newcastle City Council ranger Ray Raisbeck told me some years ago how, as a leading hand in the
mid-1960s, he and other workers were assigned to clear scrub from the overgrown graveyard.
‘‘We had to use a chainsaw and tractor to get some of the bushes out of the iron fences around some of the
graves,’’ Mr Raisbeck told me in 2007. The council catalogued and photographed many of the stones in the
1970s before shifting a handful to the cathedral park’s eastern end. Many were placed face up, level with
the lawn. By then Mr Raisbeck had moved to become caretaker at Blackbutt, and he said he received many
tombstones from the cathedral which he used for landscaping.
‘‘Some stones were offered to anybody who wanted them and I remember a lovely red granite one,
belonging to a Clunes Innes, that was taken to Port Macquarie,’’ he said.
Many of the stones had been vandalised and broken before they arrived at Blackbutt. Vandals had bored
into many crypts and stolen rings and other items from bodies.
The Christ Church stones were used in many parts of Blackbutt, notably the Carnley Avenue entrance
walls. ‘‘They largely consisted of broken stones or stones from the surrounds of graves or crypts. Odd bits
and pieces had inscriptions or detailed carvings,’’ Mr Raisbeck said.
Among the gravestones lost in the park clean-up was that of Henry Chatfield, captain of the ill-fated
steamer Cawarra, wrecked by a storm while entering the harbour in 1866, with terrible loss of life.
A view of part of Newcastle in the 1960s, taking in the Scotts building, then occupied by David Jones, and
Lynch’s prawn shop partly visible on the right. Christ Church Anglican Cathedral dominates the skyline at rear.