October 30 - November 5, 2011: Issue 30

Words and Images Copyright Philippa Poole 2011. All Rights Reserved. R&R Team photo by Leon Cayley .

The Breakers at Beach Beyond 1901 – 2011
by Philippa Poole

 A long time ago, a young girl wrote in her diary, “I do want Fame --- plenty of it. If a fairy offered me Love or Fame… I don’t see why I shouldn’t have both. I don’t want to be married though for a long long time… I want to have a tilt with Fame first.” These words written by my grandmother Ethel Turner were to come true within two years of her wish, for on 21st September, 1894 she wrote, “Just as I was going to town the post came--- and with it Seven Little Australians. I think it was the very  happiest minute of my life.”

 I am pleased to tell you that Ethel did get married—for otherwise I should not be here to tell you her story.






A struggling young law student, Herbert Curlewis, fell helplessly in love with her and they were married in 1896.

They had two children, Jean and Adrian. Herbert, a keen photographer, took this photo of a Sunday family picnic. (Top Left)

Both children started school at Killarney in Mosman and after a family
trip to England in 1910, Jean went to SCEGS Darlinghurst, and Adrian to Mosman Prep and then to Shore School (SCEGS); left Jean top and Adrian below.

This early T Model Ford was one of the four cars to be seen at Palm Beach in the early 1900’s. In this photo Ethel and her sister Lilian and son were having a picnic whilst Adrian, looking out to sea, seems to be contemplating what lay ahead for him.

This photograph of the final year students at Shore School was taken in 1919 (Adrian 2nd from right).



After leaving school my father used to set off for Patrol duty at Palm Beach. This took a considerable time to get there as it involved four or five methods of travel. His father, Herbert, told him that he would be better occupied studying for his University degree in Law.

The membership of the Palm Beach Surf Life Saving Club grew rapidly and the boys managed to acquire an old boatshed for their new surfboat. (Left)

They also built their own shark patrol tower. The writing on the back of this old photograph says, ‘The shark tower donated by Clive Curlewis in 1926’. It was suggested that the construction of this timber edifice coincided with the disappearance of nearby fences.





Above: This R&R squad competed in the first Surf Carnival to be held at Palm Beach on 1/1/1923.
The second Club House was now a necessity as enthusiasm grew and weekend Surf Carnivals were increasing. (Left).

This was the Palm Beach Boat Crew competing at Manly Surf Carnival.

 Jean and her friends spent a great deal of time at Palm Beach as she too was a keen surfer. During her short life she wrote four books, one was called “Beach Beyond” – it was all about Palm Beach, which she described as ‘twenty minutes past the End of the World’.



In between his University Law Examinations in 1925 Adrian proposed to a gorgeous girl at Palm Beach, called Betty Carr, and asked her would she wait for him until he had £500 in his bank account.

As Betty had not quite finished her Swords Club Course(nowadays is Australian College of Physical Education), she accepted a position at MLC Adelaide. The parting was difficult for both of them.
On the 4th of January 1927 Ethel wrote in her diary. “Adrian home and with a big secret to tell us --- he and Betty are engaged… I think we shall grow very fond of her.”

 Adrian often drove his parents car when they needed to travel --- he is seen here with his mother Ethel, sister Jean and new brother in law, Dr Leo Charlton. (Left)

But I think the great pleasure for him was when he had the opportunity to change the car to a convertible and meet up with his Palm Beach friends. (Left)

Adrian and Betty were married at St Phillips Church Sydney on 12th December 1928.

They had two children, Ian and Philippa. (Left)

In 1933 Adrian was elected President of the Surf Life Saving Association of Australia – a position he held for over 40 years





During the 1930’s our family spent summer holidays at Palm Beach. This photo (above)of my father standing on his head has followed him through life  --- particularly later in life when his career moved on to the role of a dignified District Court Judge.

Betty too enjoyed riding a surfboard, but she was happy to ride it in the traditional way.

In 1938 Adrian and Betty purchased a block of land in Mosman and took out a loan to build their own home. (Left) Scarcely had they finished building when war was declared.

The peaceful days at Palm Beach were drawing to a close --- life would never be the same again. Little did I realise when this photo was taken that I would not see my father again for nearly five years. This was his final leave. (Left)

My father had enlisted for overseas service and on 4th of January, 1941 he, with the 8th Division AIF, boarded the Queen Mary for an undisclosed destination.

The destination was Singapore. All through the years of WWII Adrian kept a meticulous diary, and for the first year, letters between Mosman and Singapore were voluminous --- they have all been filed.




With the departure of so many lifesavers, a band of young enthusiasts formed their own junior R&R squad at Palm Beach.

On 8th December Ethel’s diary records, “War declared by Japan on Britain and USA. Pearl Harbour, Hawaii bombed. Manila too. American warships on fire.”

On 15th of February 1942 Singapore surrendered. (Left Above: Staff Officer Sugita conducting Lt-General Percival (right) and other British officers to the Ford Factory at Bukit Timah where the surrender took place and Left Below this; Surrender.)

Communication during the following three and a half years was nearly impossible. This letter from Betty, to Adrian in captivity, was returned to their home in Mosman after the war, three and a half years later. Ethel described this period as “four crashing and heart-twisting years.” (Left: Ethel at Leura in Blue Mountains and Below; Ian and Philappa with Betty going to school during these times.






Japan Capitulates  - these long awaited words were finally received on 16th of August 1945 with great jubilation.

Adrian saying farewell to several of his mates as he left  Singapore.

These years have been recorded in War Histories and in many books. The men and women who survived the atrocities of nearly four years in captivity returned home in October 1945 - they were all suffering from malnutrition, malaria, beri beri and many more tropical diseases. Left: Adrian in 1945

Adrian on Chinaman’s Beach (Above). My father’s health and strength gradually returned and I can recall the thrill of having our family together once more. He was very determined to become fit again so that he could return to his legal career. In 1948 he was made a District Court Judge.

Holidays resumed at Palm Beach and I followed in my parent’s footprints, enjoying both surfing and boardriding. (Left)

When Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip visited Australia in 1954, a Royal Surf Carnival was held at Bondi Beach – it was a glorious and spectacular event. Betty and Adrian are seen here welcoming the Royal couple.


In 1972, as is required by law, Adrian at 70 retired from the District Court Bench. Here he is seen surrounded by his eight grandchildren.

In 1973 the ABC/BBC produced a brilliant 10 part television series of my grandmother’s book ‘Seven Little Australians’. It was a great success and has been sold to 30 countries around the world. (Left)

Presentation of a silver tray to Sir Adrian Curlewis CBE, national co-ordinator 1962-1973 by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh on behalf of the Award Scheme in Australia, 15th October, 1973.




As a result of the popularity of the television series of Seven Little Australians people asked me to tell them the story of my grandmother’s life. so in the late 1970’s I collated and had published ‘The Diaries of Ethel Turner’. This was a very new venture for me, and very exciting to find myself in the publishing world, quite by chance.


In 1976 at the conclusion of a long Annual Meeting, Adrian announced that he was retiring as President of the SLSA. The secretary at the time, Gus Stanton, said “Curly, there is one more thing to be done this evening. We have arranged for a helicopter to take you for a sight seeing trip up and down the coast to see all the beaches that have meant so much to you.”
My father was then driven back to Channel 7’s Television Studios where he was interviewed by Mike Willesee for the program ‘This is Your Life.’ Mac Leonard too was present to receive him. It was a total surprise for my father and at the same time a great honour.

Ever since the publication of  ‘The diaries of Ethel Turner’ I had been overwhelmed with the letters I received requesting information about our family after Jean’s death. And so ‘Of Love and War’ was written. It was the greatest privilege and challenge that I had ever faced. It combined Adrian’s illicit diaries written in Changi as well as while he was on the infamous Thai/Burma Railway, with diary entries and letters from the family during those desperate and heartbreaking years of the Second World War.

This photograph of our family was taken on the steps of our home in Mosman at the time of launching ‘Of Love and War’. (Left)

In 1967 Adrian received a knighthood from the Governor General Lord Casey.

In 1976 Adrian was made Life Governor of World Life Saving.

My father died on 16th June, 1985.

A Thanksgiving Service was held at St Andrew’s Cathedral Sydney. Bishop George Browning  gave a magnificent Eulogy and as we left the Cathedral, we walked through a guard of honour from many SLSA Clubs  around Australia. (Left)
In 1991 a Scholarship was created for each state to be awarded  yearly to a promising male or female under 26 who was showing leadership qualities and dedication to Surf Life Saving in Australia.

The first awards were given by my mother at my parent’s home in Mosman.

Since then I have enjoyed, each year, a dinner at Surf House to meet another wave of fine young people who have received the Sir Adrian Curlewis Scholarship Awards at a dinner at Surf House. (Left)


This story would not be complete unless I add a personal note of my own.

Just as my mother had done in 1927 – I found an Adrian in 1957! Or perhaps he found me! I am not really certain, but I think we must have found each other!

Well, this was the greatest blessing that I could ever have received in a lifetime. I thank the Lord for the 53 years that we shared together… for our children and grandchildren, and for the love and strength that he gave me all our days.

My admiration and blessings go to Surf Life Savers all around the world, and as my father would add, “I salute you all.”

Philippa Poole.

The File Below is the Original Setting of this Story, with Photographs embedded, which Philippa worked at for us. We include this so  you have both options for reading this wonderful work.