April 29 - May 5, 2012: Issue 56
Brian Friend - 'Friendly'
A gentleman who is pure Pittwater, has the kind of nature you’d definitely term ‘Australian’, is a genuine hero, although he’d never admit it, with a face that greets you with a beaming smile and piercing eyes above it, and has decades of service behind him is Brian Friend. After 32 years as a policeman, 30 of those in the Water Police, Brian, called ‘Friendly’ by all, went on to form Touch Football, referee and coach for the Avalon Bulldogs, all on a voluntary basis, and still is filling each and every day with doing for others. Friendly’s list of commendations, awards and recognition of service would fill a large room but one among these, a Queens Commendation for Brave Conduct from 1975 stands out for what it represents.
Past a distinguished career in this service, Friendly is currently refereeing touch football on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sundays at Manly (including more training) for Warringah touch football started in 1983; (Life Member of this Association). He has worked with Manly Warringah Business Houses, started in 1978, to raise funds for children, is a member of the Masters with Narrabeen Sharks since 2004 and represented Australia for 4 years. Friendly also toured with the Australian Masters of Rugby League to Great Britain and played in the ‘one off test’ in 2008.
In 2000 Friendly was Citizen of the Year in Pittwater's Australia Day Awards. On Australia Day this year Brian Friend, was recognised and awarded an Australia Day award for contributing to sporting clubs such as Warringah Touch Football and Avalon Bulldogs Rugby League Club through coaching and refereeing. Another aspect of this award was recognising his fundraising for NSW Police Legacy and cancer research.
So what’s the attraction with football?
It’s a sport I like. When I was young I played Rugby League and a bit of Union.
How old were you when you started?
About ten, back in those days ( the early fifties) we didn’t have under 7’s, under 8’s; I think 10’s or 11’s was the youngest year. My mum bought a place in Narrabeen in 1947 and then I moved out here, we got married in 1967, to Avalon.
I joined the Avalon Junior League in 1966; I was the manager and assistant coach with one of my best mates Keith Feebely (also my best man); We played at Newport because Mary had a tip over here at Avalon that she was running.
Mary Gibson; she was a character, a wonderful lady, she had the rights to the tip, and at Warriewood; there was a Salvation Army paddock there where Rat Park is now, and also she had the rights to the one up at Terrey Hills. But she was a real character; her husband had been in prison that many times; when he shot ‘doodsie’ West at Narrabeen, that was about his 75th conviction!; he’d done a few armed holdups and break-ins. I used to get on pretty well with him; I was in the coppers for 32 years and I’d go around and knock on his door and say ‘Luke, I’ve got a Summons here.’ And he’d yell back ‘Go away, I’m drinking..!’ I would then turn up the next day and he’d accept it. It’s called ‘street wise policing’.
How long were you in the Police Force for?
I started at Manly, did six months there, went to Mona Vale, then I started with the Water Police and out of my 32 years I did 30 years on the water; Broken Bay, Sydney and Port Kembla.
That must have been lovely…
Yeah, it opened a lot of doors with opportunities and I met a hell of a lot of people; took Stormin Norman out, you know Schwarzkop (General Herbert Norman Schwarzkopf KCB) who was in the first Gulf War. We drove Di’ and Charles from Bayview up to Gosford on a 60 footer. Took Keefer Sutherland and his kids on a day trip, what a nice man.
What were Charles and Diana like ?
Oh, wonderful people. She was a little bit stuck up but the most beautiful skin I’ve ever seen on a person, and he’s an absolute champion, one of those who’d get in amongst and talk with all the people.
And when I was working in Sydney we took out George Bush senior, and he was only Vice President then, and of course we had a security boat, we had a 65 footer Police Boat, and they kept walking around, coming up to me, and talking into their cufflinks, talking into ties and watches. At the end of the trip we dropped them back and thanked us and one of them told me, “Mark my words, this bloke will be President one day.” and I said, ‘Oh, that’s nice.’ And they gave us a token of thanks; a keyring with G O Bush and it was signed across the back in bronze; I’ve still got it here; got it sitting up there in the thing over there with all the other keyrings. He was an amazing man, very switched on and more interested in our country then others were. They’re the sort of people you meet.
So you retired from the Water Police ?
Yeah, I did 32 years and I was getting close to 57. I wasn’t enjoying it as much. I wasn’t getting out on the boat as much, I was spending more time in the station and doing all the paperwork, as Senior blokes do, and I thought ‘a trained monkey can do this’ and we were getting into this computer age where everything had to be verified and chased up, instead of entering everything into an old pad where you can go back and check that the event is written off (completed), you had to go in to a computer and logon and all that sort of stuff which was time and effort, where I could have been out doing actual Police work. This is why you don’t see many coppers on the roads; because as soon as they start their shift they’ve got an hour of messages and stuff that they’ve got to answer before they can do any actual Police work. And, although computers are great because they’re quick and can access a lot of information out there, I’ve never yet seen a computer that can get in a car and go out and arrest someone.
There was a guy in the local paper this morning actually, a teacher, who wrote a letter in, a wonderful thing about why there’s no male teachers anymore; it’s because of the curriculum that people are putting to you if you’re in the coppers or the teachers; you now have to have more qualifications, and to do those qualifications you’ve got to go online; which is all very well if you’re au fait with computers. I’ve been coaching under 7s and under 6’s since 1975 for Avalon, which is a long bloody time, and I know more about kids, their idiosyncrasies, parents, all of what’s involved, then anyone can teach me. I’d learnt off a couple of old blokes many years before. Now these blokes have come in, and to justify their position in the Manly Sea Eagles mob, they’ve got a coaching director now, you now have to do another Course. Now, I’ve pulled this out of the computer last night, and I’ve got to do this; I’ve got to go online and do all of that; this is making my job harder. Now what they don’t do in there is tell you how to treat children that are ADD or are disruptive, meek or mild … every child is different and yet we have to take that child on his merits and help them become their best. This is the area I work on. Now one of my functions, and in coaching, is to teach them a bit about Rugby League, a lot about having a good time, and Stranger Danger.
Now, people say ‘Why?’ and it’s because this is a part of our society that we’ve got going at the moment and my pet hate has always been, which we don’t get a lot of up here, is paedophiles. If someone wanted someone to pull the switch, drop the guillotine or push the button I’d put my hand up. I’ve got five grandkids you know, and I know, if anyone ever touched them, I would kill.
I did do some coaching with the 13 and 14 year olds and it was getting to a stage where they were too hard to control. They’d be going around the back of the clubhouse smoking a bit of marijuana and stuff, halfway through training. In 1975 my wife took our two littlies, one was six and the other four, and they went over to see if they could play Rugby League and were told they didn’t have a coach so they called me and said ‘Get over here.’
So I started coaching and also some touch. I knew Frank had been doing this at Narraweena; and I said to him ‘how are you finding it, I’m ripping my hair out.’ And he said, no, no, this is what you do; and Frank was a great guiding light to 16’s and 17’s. I stayed with the 7’s. I saw him one day…and then another bloke from Harbord, Bob Butcher, took over 7’s at Harbord, so the three of us old blokes got together and formed this pact to do whatever we can to protect kids and ensure they get a good go at life and make sure they enjoy footy.
Whenever we have a Gala Day and the three of us are there the kids have a ball. I don’t want the kids to call me ‘Mr’, no one ever calls me 'Mr', they all call me ‘Friendly’.
(Friendly is referring to Frank Cridland, Narraweena and Bob Butcher, Harbord; Manly Warringah District Junior Rugby Football League Incorporated. All Life Members.)
The three of us make sure that all the kids in our area get looked after; plus the three of us are referees as well. So I’ll coach my team and then they’ll ask me to referee the next two games; but, I allow the kids to have a good time.
This new scheme and qualifications required doesn’t recognise prior experience?
I suppose it’s like your First Aid certificate; you have to stay current; it’s like the tickets I have to get to drive commercial vehicles, and to do that every three years you have to do a First Aid, and my Master Four which allows me to drive large vessels and my MED 2 (Marine Engine Driver 2) which means I don’t need an engineer on board at the time. Every five years you have to go to the doctors and do an eyesight test. The blokes who have written this aren’t taking into account, or have never coached, under 6’s, under 7’s and what you need to coach kids; it’s all about personalities.
2000 Sydney Olympics Torch Runner
Avalon Surf Club ?
I joined there in 1965. I rode six years in surf boats, two years R&R (Rescue and Resuscitate) and I’d come down and get involved in the big Surf Swims.
I knew Joe Gardener, who was the first copper here in Avalon; they used to work out of Kenny Gales house in Hudson Parade; that’s where the first Police Station was; no 9 Hudson Parade, Clareville. So when Ken got out of the Coppers and sold his house, that’s when they put the dogbox at the back of Mona Vale there.
What’s one stand out rescue that you can recall?
Not so much me; there’s been other guys that have done the rescues; back then we went out in a surfboat, we didn’t have rubber duckies, and because I was in the Water Police, the first power rescue boat was the Bartender at Newport, which was a timber double ended boat. They had a shed at the northern end of the surf club at Newport, and blokes like Brian Sproul worked on it; Bert King was one of the instigators, and there was another old bloke who had a radio in the actual clubhouse that could communicate with this boat, and they used to roll it down on a trailer with wide tyres and push it into the surf; it had a propeller which was half way up and it had a tunnel so that it could go across very shallow waters. So, instead of going over the top of a wave like a surf boat does and drops down and crashes and everyone goes overboard, they had the propeller halfway along the length of the boat so that when it got to a certain part of the wave it couldn’t drive anymore and dropped down quick.
When we, being in the Water Police, had any rescues, and we used to see a lot of rescues up and down the coast, the first thing you’d do is ring them up because they’d be out there quick, by the time we’d come around Barrenjoey. We did a lot of searches with them up and down the coast on dark nights. They were wonderful people. They were Clubbies, I love clubbies; it’s very professional now but back then they’d hear someone was in trouble and just launch a boat and out they’d go to rescue them, all kinds of conditions. Plus you had some great swimmers, blokes who’d grab a belt and just go.
What would be the best thing you’ve experienced in being involved with the Surf Clubs?
With Surf Clubs it’s the camaraderie and all pulling in the same direction. And of course Nippers has been wonderful; you look at the people who run the Nippers (Roland Luke for instance) and put so much into that; that has been the run up to step into Senior Lifesaving. Those people on the beach are all volunteers; people give them a hard time but they’re protecting lives out there every weekend for nothing. They’re saving lives. They all do their study, do their resuscitation. I can’t praise those clubs high enough, and they’re all the same up and down the coast.
So where are you dedicating your time now?
When we started, the first Avalon A grade was in the early ‘70’s and we only had it for three years and we kept getting a flogging every week and ran out of players, so in ’93 we got this A Grade.
The kids came up and came around to our place and said ‘we want to get an A Grade going.’ And I said I’d give them all the support I can.
To keep them fit during Summer I decided to run a touch footy comp. So we started over at Hitchock Park at 6pm on a Wednesday night and thought we’d just run it for an hour and word got around and before you knew we had twelve teams! So then I had to organise referees, had to mark the fields every two weeks, which is mowing and mowing and mowing and marking and I said ‘what am I doing?’. It just got bigger! We got to sixteen teams and we couldn’t put anymore on then sixteen teams; and it’s still going today. So I did the first ones since 93 and 2008 I think I pulled the pin on doing all that.
What happened in 2002 was all the mothers got together and said ‘hang on, you’re running this for them; what about all the kids who want something?’ and I said, well I coach kids in winter, I can’t do twelve months.’ And they said ‘come one, we’ll give you a hand.’.
So I went down and saw Annie Misdale here who does the grub in the canteen and another couple of mothers and we talked about starting a kid’s touch football on a Friday night and asked if they’d give me a hand. So we started it off and we had about 300 kids turn up for the first season. So I had to work out the draws, and I had to mark the fields, and then I had to work out who was playing in what, so we had a 8’s and under, 10’s and under and a 12’s and under, 14’s and under and 16’s and under. That’s five times; so I used to start at 4.30 in the afternoon and go through to ten o’clock at night, every Friday night.
So there goes our social life; now the flower’s (wife Robyn) not too happy about that. I’m out constantly; Tuesday nights I’m refereeing at Manly, Sunday I’m refereeing at Cromer, and Wednesday at Manly and Tuesday coaching kids.
So you haven’t retired at all, have you Brian ?
So now the girls have taken it up under the guidance of Lisa Matthews (Friday Kids Touch Footy) and they’ve got just under 900 kids. That’s the thing about Touch Football; anyone can play it. When we started I went around to all the schools; Bilgola, Newport, Mona Vale, and stood up in the auditoriums and said ‘Look, this is what I’m doing, any kid can play it; you can be rugby union, soccer, league, AFL’; girls can play it because it’s only a semi-contact sport. And of course now, all of a sudden, we’ve now got full girl teams, but my stipulation was we’re not going to do it for nothing.
Right: Three generations at Avalon Bulldogs
So I went to Avalon RSL and Palm Beach RSL and I asked them to provide six (6) dinners for two with a bottle of wine, which they did. And I’d run a raffle for these during the season and by the end, I think we started with a thousand dollars, it got up to two thousand dollars, and I got in touch with Eileen Gordon of the Mona Vale Hospital’s Women’s Auxiliary, and I said ‘this is what I’ve got’. So every year we’d go and see the Chief Sister up there (Mona Vale Hospital’s Children’s Ward) and ask her ‘what do you need?’ and she’d give us a list of things they need, also listing how much money each cost.
Over the years we’ve raised around 12 thousand dollars and that’s gone on hospital equipment. If you go up to the children’s ward you’ll see stuff that’s come from us.
There was another time I got with David Speed from Pittwater Council, he’s a ranger, Speedy, we ran a Gala Day down at Rat Park and raised $8000.00 in one day. We rang Patricia Giles and Eileen Gordon to ensure it went to the Hospital; so we did that two years in a row and that was good.
The Avalon JRFL Life Members were running the BBQ: and we had Col, of Col’s Meats. I ran Police Legacy, a golf day at Palm Beach for eleven years. We raised $65 000.00 for NSW Police Legacy doing those.
You see, what I always knew was, if I was killed or died while I was in the coppers, my family would be looked after; Legacy look after your children. When I was getting close to retiring I knew I wanted to pay something back to Legacy, and coaching, so I started it up with a couple of mates and we began out there at Palm Beach Golf Course. The first few we ran raised about three thousand, and then we were getting around 7 to 7 ½ thousand every year. And we ended upraising $65 000 towards Legacy.
To me it’s not just one person it’s the people who are prepared to put all their time and effort into it. See, we raise money for Legacy and for the Hospital, and with my Tuesday Touch Football, who are supported by Manly Warringah Business House, I raise money for Bear Cottage.
See, I always have an ulterior motive; so if you’re good enough to use the facilities and enjoy yourself then you’re good enough to tumble in some money. Say for instance, Johnson’s Hardware, they always donate things. I auction them off, and whatever money we get I take up to Bear Cottage.
The other way is of course, I’m Chairman of the Retired Police Association on the Northside, which is Harbour Bridge to Palm Beach; there we have certain functions and raise money through that. Also, I run the Retired Water Police one in the city every four months; we have a meeting there, and I hit them all for five bucks and all that money goes to Bear Cottage too.
You must be flat out ?
No; that’s the one there who needs a medal (Referring to wife Robyn who has just entered room). She’s a legend. I don’t know how the phone is still on the wall. When we were doing all this we were getting phone calls at ten o’clock at night and six, seven o’clock in the morning and a lot of the times I wouldn’t be here and she would have listed who rang and what they wanted. See I have 119 retired Water Police to keep in touch with on the Internet, I’ve got 105 retired Police I keep in touch with, plus she’s a tutor! Maths and English for Higher School Certificates and also years 8, 9 and 10; you ought to see her when HSC time comes around. Her students come around and give her presents as thanks yous…and she plays Netball Tuesdays and Sundays….
So do you two have a day off ?
A few hours in an odd morning; we also have grandchildren who we love looking after…and I have refereeing this afternoon so…and still doing Water Taxis on Mondays, which I really enjoy.
Plus, knowing all the people around the waterfront, so it’s nice to catch up with them. You know the Residents Association, the Co-op over at Mackerel, I used to go over there to their Meetings when I was in the coppers, you get to know the people. And the same at Coasters. You see there’s 52 houses at Coasters and 124 at Mackerel, plus, I’ve always kept in touch with the people who run the co-op. Russel and Wendy are over there running it now, before that it was David Haythornthwaite and Bob Ellis. So they’re all the people you get to know.
What is your favourite place in Pittwater and why ?
I just love Pittwater. The places, the people.
I used to walk down to Avalon and it’d take me four hours to get the paper. Nowadays I go down there, the old paper-shop’s gone, it’s moved around the corner, and I used to enjoy walking down there and having a natter with people and I’ve met some truly wonderful people.
I remember when Bob Grace asked us to go on his ticket to remain in Council. I said, hold on, what if we get voted in; I don’t want to be a Councillor; I remember Patricia Giles got Ian Treharne to go on hers and they got that many votes he became a Councillor, and I said to Bob, if that happens to me, and I’m made a Councillor, I’m going to get rid of all the coffee shops in Avalon and put a pub on every corner!And he said, ‘you’ll be right, you won’t get voted in Friendly.’
I love being on the Water Taxi, I pull up along barges and go to The Basin and sit down and have a cup of coffee with Robbie the Ranger, and wander around to Carl’s and have a cup of coffee with them, and Barrenjoey Boat Hire. It’s great getting to stop at all the different places and talk to people.
But we were taught that by my old boss in the Water Police, Buster Brown, who was a Clubbie too, and he said the only way you can get any information is to go and talk to people. Everyday he’d say, get on the boat and get to the two boatsheds (which were at Newport) and go and talk to the people and when you come back I want their names, who they are, what they desire, what their needs are and what information they can give us. So we’d go down to the old Holdencraft Mariner, which is no longer there and Newport Boat Sales, and we’d talk to them; and we got on a personal basis. Now over at Scotland Island you had a core that didn’t like coppers. But I got in the know there, through football and surf lifesaving and stuff like that, so I knew the Ducks, who were on the ferries. Lenny and Keith; Lenny’d be driving, drinking beer, Keith’d be hanging out the side painting as they were going along Elvina; it was the funniest times; and of course, I’d wander up and have a drink in the park with them, next to the Pasadena, and I got to know all the people on the island, and that’s when in ’94, the RTA decided because they’re part of the State of NSW, all the people on Scotland Island, 360 houses, all those vehicles have to be registered. So they took a mechanic over there and the boss of Dee Why RTA as it was then, and gave them all defect notices; listing stuff they had to have fixed and told them they’d be back in a month.
So they came back in a month, passed all the ones that had had all the work done. Then once they’d done that they told them they had to get an Authorised Inspection Station and Examiner to come over here once a year and inspect all the vehicles. So since ’94 I’ve been doing all that. I’m a mechanic by trade and I’ve got my Licence to do Inspections and Examiners Certificate; so I go over and do that on a Voluntary basis for them.
The coppers pick me up at Taylor’s Point and take me over there; I use the Fire Shed, and we do that once a year.
So, do you think that’s still part of the Police Force; what are their needs, what are their desires, how can we help them?
No. It’s all computerised, it’s all numbers now. The coppers have no respect now because there’s no respect from above. They used to have a Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner, a Deputy Commissioner and Superintendents; you had about half a dozen of those and that was it; they ran the State of NSW.
Now, everywhere you go you’ve got a Superintendent.
So there’s too much top structure, not enough on the ground ?
In corporate business they say you have your triangle; you had your top line, your middle managers and your workers. Now someone’s come along and kicked the living sh*t out of this triangle and its bounced over to the point end being the other way at the bottom. Now you’ve got all these bosses up here and all those middle line managers and that lonely worker. You look at your roadworks going on now; everything’s farmed out to sub-contractors; and now all these people making the big money can’t make a decision unless they go and see a Consultant. There was a recent report stating they’ve spent billions on supposed new road-works when nothing has actually been done because all the money spent so far has gone to Consultants.
You see, the worst thing that can happen on water is when the wind picks up and the surface becomes choppy, it’s like potholes out there, now with the roads now is that the RTA and Water are now in bed together; there’s another one; The National Parks and Wildlife, know who they’re in bed with now? The EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency, so when you’ve got those two in together that’s a disaster.
Most of those kids that come out of university, they wouldn’t face a frog with a shovel.
What is your ‘motto for life’ or a favourite phrase you try to live by?
You’re here for a good time not a long time
Also, many many years ago a bloke said to me, and I kept saying it all the time to the point where a girl from Acacia clothing made a hat for me… How good is this ?
Have you ever seen that movie ‘The Castle’ and the scene about ‘the serenity’ ...? Yeah…like that
Also from many years ago; I’ll sleep when I’m dead
I haven’t got time to sit on my ar*e…
Above: The Friends Family and with:Roper Lars Scott 'Buster' Brown, Gordon 'Boot' Wellings and Brian 'Friendly' Friend - Broken Bay Water Police
Brian Friend (Friendly) Articles and Updates:
A Cruel Sea by Gordon Wellings Q.C., B.C.
Broken Bay Water Police - History
Friendly Toulouse Goose at Palm Beach - Yes! Pittwater has her very own 'Mother Goose' - for Children
Mermaids of Palm Beach July 2012 Fundraiser with JPY and John Williamson by Brian Friend and Michael Mannington
Roper Lars Scott (Buster) Brown - ‘LEGEND of the SEA’ by Brian Friend, OAM-QCBC - On Friday 7th of February, at the Pt Clare Marine Rescue Base at Gosford, RLS 'Buster' Brown was presented with a his 'Life Membership' and 'Long Service' awards to the RVCP (now Volunteer Marine Rescue). Brian Friend, OAM, a fellow Retired Water Policeman was in attendance and shares an insight into one of Pittwater’s finest.
Ropers Lars Scott Brown Q.C.B.C. (Buster) Memorial Service - Tribute to a Waterman Extraordinaire by Eric Brown Family, Charlie Chicka Kuhn (South Curl Curl SLSC), David Harrison (Life Member Marine Rescue Broken Bay) and Brian Friend OAM QCBC - Retired Water Police
The World's Greatest Shave - 2019
Please read A Cruel Sea by Gordon Wellings (this Issue) to gain some small insight into the work our police service performs and is up for every time they don the uniform and go to work. Too much is said about what our police service should and could be doing, not enough is recorded about what they actually do and have done. We’d do well to remember that every member of our police force puts their life on the line in service, that all are also a loved member of a family, barely visible wives and children who must hold their breath until the familiar footstep sounds outside the front door.
A Cruel Sea Re-published here with the kind permission of Jean Wellings.
Also included, from former Avalon artist Christine Hill: The Story of the making of the paintings illustrating the “Falcon” rescue of “Votan” and her crew – Sunday 9th June 1974 by Christine Hill FASMA, written October 2011