CHAPTER 1 1963 - 1967
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In 1963 two New South Wales (NSW) surveyors based in Parramatta "conceived the idea of having a group to allow the local practitioners to get a better knowledge of each other and to co-operate in enhancing the interests of the profession."
They met after hours in the office of one them and "agreed in principle and decided to approach all other local surveyors."
These co-founders of the Cumberland Group (the Group) were Walter Thomas Edward Ayling and Vernon Rupert Clements. The meeting took place at Vernon Clement's office, 71 George Street, Parramatta, and the words quoted here are his.
The approaches to "all other local surveyors (they) did and with success except in one or two cases in which no merit was seen in the proposal."
They "held an initial meeting at which it was proposed that a group should be formed with Wal Ayling as President and I (Vernon Clements) was asked to continue as secretary." This meeting took place on 13th December, 1963.
To quote again from the founding Group Secretary: "The foundation members to the best of my recollection were Wal Ayling, Vince Exley, Ken Hainge, John O'Keefe, and myself. I had a small notebook in which minutes of meetings were kept which should be around somewhere if the first records were kept. Other members were admitted as time went by but they were not founding members."
Unfortunately the small notebook has not come to light, which is most unfortunate because, despite contacting the other three surviving founding members, I have been unable to glean much Group information at all for the first few years (for example, numbers and names of those attending, office bearers), and this written record would have been invaluable in filling this gap.
I live in hope that this narrative may yet produce the notebook in question, which would appear to have been passed on to succeeding secretaries. I do know that the initial meetings were held monthly, that there was apparently no need for a treasurer, and that meetings were notified verbally.
Vernon Clements went on to say that "I am unable to locate my office notebooks and presume I destroyed them after cessation of practice. In my possession are most copies of the Institution Journal from the early forties until it was decided that Hon. Members should be deleted from the mailing list also I have quite a lot of copies of the old NSW Institution Journals. If you know of anyone who would be interested in having these I would like to hear from them so that these old records will escape destruction upon my demise."
I am pleased to pass on this request and to include two images of Vernon Clements ('then', See figure 1 and, 'now', See figure 2.) - he being the only contributor to this history who could produce any photographs of himself. This probably indicates that most surveyors are so busy they cannot pause long enough to waste time being photographed, or that their images are so ugly they cannot bear to have them recorded.
Vernon Clements was mostly a sole practitioner with offices at Parramatta and
Castle Hill, employed two or three people, operated in metropolitan and country
areas using firstly a vernier theodolite and level, both by Messrs Cooke, Troughton
and Simms, then later an optical glass circle theodolite and finally electric
distance measurement (EDM) equipment. He sold his practice in 1979, the same
year he last attended a Group meeting. He now lives in retirement with his wife
in a granny flat at his daughter's home in Jilliby NSW. He describes himself
as "an octogenarian", but fortunately for us, he is one with an excellent
recall. He suffered a stroke just before Christmas this year (1998), but subsequently
still managed to read a draft of this history, and make corrections and
comments on it.
With regard to the other co-founder, Walter Thomas Edward Ayling was born on 8th July, 1929, became a Member of the Institution of Surveyors on 10th August, 1951, and died in 1997 (See Appendix A).
As far as the remaining three founding members, Vince Exley, Ken Hainge and John O'Keefe are concerned, Vince Exley now lives at Airlie Beach in Queensland. How he can bear to spend his time there after practicing in beautiful downtown Parramatta from 1955 until 1995 is difficult to understand (in modern parlance, not). An intelligent Group member suggested that I should go to his present abode to interview him and although I was prepared to force myself, the other shortsighted Group Committee members could not see the obvious virtue in this course of action. Vince Exley acknowledges that he was a founding member of what was originally a fellowship group but he cannot recall any dates or details.
During the 40 years his practice was in Parramatta he operated at one time all over NSW as well as into Queensland. His own practice employed 19 people up until the time he combined with most other survey firms in Parramatta to form Exley, Smith, O'Keefe and Partners, which at one time employed 70 people, specialising in subdivision design, engineering design, town planning, environmental impact studies as well as peg-out and identification surveys. His continuing interest in technology meant that he believes he used the first Geodimeter and Hewlett Packard (HP) calculator. He played a leading role in the formation of the Association of Consulting Surveyors (ACS) - more on this later.
Ken Hainge is still a Registered Surveyor and still practices at a Parramatta survey office (and is now the Group's first Life Member). Although very co-operative, he cannot recall any details of the Group's formation.
John O'Keefe became part of the combined survey firm in Parramatta mentioned above and was also a Registered Surveyor until the latter part of this year (1998) when he received his Emeritus Certificate. He now lives at Forest Reefs in NSW and was recently appointed Legislation Advisor to the Board of Surveyors of NSW. He made it plain to me both in person and in writing that he was happy to assist in any way he could in the production of this history. He also played a leading role in the formation of ACS - again more on this later.
By way of background to the era of Group formation, Figures 4 to 7 inclusive
are extracts from two copies of The Australian Surveyor of 1963. It is now necessary
to move on to the year 1965 and to acknowledge the following contributions of
Barry McLeod to this history: In 1965 "I [Barry McLeod] was invited to
lunch at, I think, the
Parramatta Busnessmen's Club. I am not sure who asked me but can recall Wally Hunt, Vern Clements, Wally Ayling, Bill Timbs being present. There may have been others but we were at a small table so [there] would not have been many. My recollection was a few of the local practictioners had decided to meet on, I think, a three-monthly basis to have informal chats about surveying issues of mutual concern. As others in the area heard of these meetings and wanted to attend it was mooted to hold evening meetings."
These evening meetings eventuated and were held at the Skyline Motel on the Great Western Highway at Parramatta. It was interesting for the author of this history when the Group held a number of meetings at this same venue last year (1997). A number of attendees told me they remembered meeting there in the past and they remarked how much the panorama had altered.
Barry McLeod recalls that these evening meetings were held every three months, with special meetings on occasions. Members were notified by telephone. Meetings started with a meal and some were conducted while eating. They probably commenced about 6 p.m. About 15 attended these meetings and they included Vince Exley, Deric Finney, John O'Keefe, Jack Menzies, Eric Maronese and others.
The matters they discussed were "Initially matters relating to [survey] practice, (Land Titles Office) LTO requirements, and similar topics. As numbers grew, [included were] the problems of [the] education of surveyors, particularly dissatisfaction with the education of surveyors at (University of NSW) UNINSW School [of] Surveying. Probably arising from this came concern at the lack of action by the NSW Division of (The Institution of Surveyors, Australia) ISA (ISNSW, or the Division) in the addressing of education and other problem issues."
Barry McLeod remembers that "The Group was always viable. Members paid for their meals and that was the only cost. The treasurer's task was to collect the meal money and pay the motel. For some years no one paid to belong. The only list was for the Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer to be able to ring the last attendees to advise the venue and time for the next meeting. Once a year an election was held for these positions. The only criteria was office holders and those with voting rights were members of the Institution (more on this aspect later). The numbers grew very quickly. I do not recall it was an objective of those who commenced meeting to create a large organisation.
Enclosed is a phone list when I was chairman in 1967. Although [there are] only 55 on this list, I believe some later meetings exceeded 100 attendance."
The 1967 telephone list referred to is included as Appendix B. It is a rare
gem of recorded
information on Group membership during this period. Barry McLeod's observations on why the Group was viable in the late 1960s are interesting: "I was invited to join others in 1965 who at that time understood a lot more of the problems relating to the surveying world than myself. I cannot recall any discussion of a subversive organisation being
formed. My own opinion is the original meetings were being held to informally discuss current issues by members of the Institution in the Parramatta and immediate area. When the word got about a few were having such meetings it led to a virtual explosion of interest from surveyors over the greater metropolitan area. There had been a drift away from the central business district for the location of practices for some time and the Institution as a venue was becoming more remote.
Within the first few years of the group emergence as a forum it became apparent many members were of the view the Institution was not representing the surveying profession in a manner appropriate for the times.
"This was particularly evident in matters of education, low fee charging, and the standing of surveying generally in the community. The Divisional Committee was seen by many as an old boys club and lobbying within the group managed to obtain election of some Cumberland members onto the Committee.
"So although formed for 'a quiet chat' type of group it has evolved quickly into a political vehicle."
Barry McLeod still attends Group meetings. His photograph, taken at the time of his Presidency of ISNSW in 1993, is shown in Figure 9. The practice in which he still operates commenced in 1964 with five employees and two field parties, comprising two persons, sometimes three. They carried out mainly identification surveys and starting out into subdivision work in the greater western suburbs, using theodolites, wire chains, level and staff, and an Odner calculator. Vehicles used were a Valiant station wagon and a Ford panel van. An eight or nine hour day was worked Monday to Friday, with weekend work if needed on construction sites.
(to download a complete history
in pdf format click here)