Joan Adams had always spoken of her Aunty Jummy (Ida McKenzie) and Uncle Arthur Frederick Webb – they were the rich relations in Sydney. Uncle Arthur was a builder.
Joan’s grandmother, Edith Florence Joy (nee Hicks) and Jummy (Ida McKenzie) were the two youngest girls in Henry Thomas & Mary Ann Hicks’ large family of ten living children, (another four hadn’t survived beyond childhood). Not surprising then, that Jummy and Edith remained in contact over the years. (see More on Ida and her family).
The Tong and Lock Lee family (of Joan’s son- in-law Laurence) had been sharing about how their local high school in Murwillumbah, had been built by Uncle Arthur in 1929, during Laurence Lock Lee’s recent 60th birthday celebrations, in April 2013. At first this seemed a bit of a surprise, but then Uncle Arthur had also done extensions to Bulli Public School around 1923. However the Hicks family descendents down in the Illawarra didn’t realise just how much building work Uncle Arthur had actually done all over the state, before his eventual retirement and death at sea during a holiday cruise in 1966.
Coincidentally Arthur’s story had been written up in regional Northern NSW and Southern Queensland newspapers in January 2013.
From at least 1917, right through to the 1950’s, Uncle Arthur had a relatively big concern, as a major building contractor, including for many government projects, as well as the odd hotel, like the Imperial in Murwillumbah. There was more than the odd mention of Uncle Arthur in the Sydney Morning Herald, over the years, confirming he had been awarded yet another contract for a big government or private sector building project. One of the biggest was in 1927 for the Trades School at Wollongong corner of Rowland and Gladstone Avenue – now part of the West Wollongong TAFE Campus.
And along the way Uncle Arthur became involved in the NSW Master Builders Association. In 1937 he was a delegate to the Master Builders Federation of Australia’s Convention, where he was accompanied by his wife, Ida, our Aunty Jummy. Next he was elected as Committee Member (in 1938) , then Vice President (in 1943) and President (1949-1951) of the NSW Master Builders Association (more) – and consequently got mixed up in the odd MBA wrangle and even a political stoush at the time of the Federal Parliament Communist Party Dissolution Bill of 1950.
Most notably was when the Federal ALP were pushing to ban Communist Party members from being allowed to be officials in trade unions. Uncle Arthur, with his MBA representative’s hat on, felt that anything that ensured stability in the building game was a good thing. So far nothing has been uncovered to indicate that he had said anything really rabid on the subject, or called for the total outlawing of the Communist Party. Nevertheless it was intriguing, as wife Ida’s brother, Alexander Hicks, had been the President of the Illawarra Coal Employees Association years before – which was a precursor to the Miners Federation. Alexander had also been the Mayor of the North Illawarra Council in the early years of the 20th Century. Conversely, Uncle Arthur would have been connected into the relatively conservative Sydney Anglican Church circles, ie through his son-in-law, Gerald Knox who was a cousin to D B Knox, head of the Anglican Moore Theological College.
So what construction projects did Uncle Arthur do ? It’s probably a long list actually – but here’s a “few” … sometimes they were small one’s at these sites and others were larger …
1917 – District Hospital at Wellington west of Dubbo
1917 – Coffs Harbour Hospital
1919 – incomplete info as yet
1919 – incomplete info as yet
1923 – Bulli Public School
1925 – North Coast Girls College in Ballina
1926 – Bank premises and Manager’s Residence in Bellingen
1927 – Trades School at Wollongong corner of Rowland and Gladstone Avenue – now part of the Wollongong TAFE
1929 – Murwillumbah High School
1930-31 – rebuilding Imperial Hotel in Murwillumbah
1934 – Coast Hospital – Deputy Medical Superintendent’s Residence – presumably the hospital at Little Bay
1934 – Chatswood – Residence and Professional Chambers
1934 – Infants School at Lane Cove
1934 – Neutral Bay Girls School
1937 – Molong District Hospital
1940 – RAAF Training School at Bradfield Park, Lindfield
1940 – Buildings 15 miles from Sydney (?)
1949-1957 – Garrawarra Hospital – accomodation for attendants – reference H3266/83 (note Arthur’s niece and Joan Adams’ mother, Molly Callcott would spend her last years in the late 1950’s-1960 at Garrawarra Hospital).
1950 – Callan Park (Hospital ?)