Harry and Ray Ctercteko


William Thompson Masonic School

Interview 3

Interviewees: Harry Ctercteko, born 1918
          and Ray Ctercteko, born 1920

Interviewer: Frank Heimans,
            for Baulkham Hills Shire Council

Date of Interview: 18 Dec 2006

Transcription: Glenys Murray, April 2007

This interview represents the personal recollections, views and opinions of the interviewee(s)

Harry & Ray’s father was a Mason who died when they were small. Harry came to the Masonic School in 1927 and Ray in 1928. They both spent 6 years at the School and their later education was funded by the Masonic Youth Welfare Fund established in 1923. Harry became President of this Fund 7 years ago.

Ray do you remember Mrs Cropley?

Yes Mrs Cropley was the head matron of course of the school. But she was quite a disciplinarian in many ways. In particular we had to look after the cottages ourselves there were no paid cleaners or gardeners in each cottage. We as boys had to do everything. Now every Saturday morning the cottage, two dormitories were turned upside down polished and cleaned the beds made quilts put on and then Mrs Cropley did the inspection. She was able to find dirty ledges and the quilts not properly put on and she awarded marks and at the end of the year there was an assessment and honours given for the best kept cottage during the year. That was her main role and that kept her busy. We were a bit afraid of her because we wanted to win.

What do you know about William Thompson either of you and what can you tell me about his vision that he had for the school?

William Thompson was Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of NSW. Today NSW and the Australian Capital Territory but it wasn’t that then. His son was killed during the war and we find that he caught the vision. He was an architect, I’m pretty certain, was he not in the Legislative Assembly too. I’m pretty certain of that but don’t shoot me if I’m wrong. He had the vision, looked for property found it at Baulkham Hills of course. Persuaded the Grand Lodge to accept the plans and accept the suggestions. I can remember him as a big man with a white moustache and regal bearing individual. We never had much to do with him as far as conversations were concerned but this was the picture of a real patrician.

William Thompson

What was his vision Ray do you know? What sort of school did he want to set up?

It wasn’t to be an orphanage. He as has been described was a member of the Free Masons of NSW and I can only say that it must have been his thought related to Free Masons and the children of Free Masons. The whole time that we were at the school the entrance was “the son or daughter of a deceased Free Mason”. It wasn’t the son of the widow, mother it was the son of the deceased Mason.

So you had to be a Mason of course to be eligible to have children put into the school?

Yes that’s right

Was there any restriction as to your religion?

I remember very vividly a Jewish boy there and him going home at particular Jewish festivals. No there was no restriction.

So it was quite a broad vision that he had wasn’t it? What were the eligibility criteria then that he had? Did the father have to be deceased or incapacitated or what?

Well both actually, certainly deceased. Originally I think the idea was to provide a home for the children of deceased soldiers, Masonic members as the war finished but then it broadened out to member of the lodge and incapacitated individuals.

Harry, which year did you begin at the school?


Tell me do you remember your very first day at the school?

Obscurely in a way sitting in the office, details being taken with my mother by Mr Cropley. Then when they were completed he took us up to the cottage where I was to stay. There were five cottages AB, CD, EH, JK, LM and I was to be in EH and there was a covered walkway sort of verandah uniting all the cottages. I remember him he had his hand under my chin, very kind. I remember him saying “Harold you can’t ride a bike with Harold, you’ll be Harry” that’s my memory.

Admin Building late 1940s (now Building 14)

What about you Ray do you remember your first day?

Oh yes very well, sitting in Mr Cropley’s office. It was a big awe inspiring office and getting the details into the register. The standard question your birthday and I said the fourth of June 1920 and he shot his hand forward and he says “that’s my birthday too”. I remember that very clearly. Then from then on finally another girl had hers the same day so the two of us and after leaving school I sent a card to Mr Cropley and he sent one back to me. So it was continued on. It didn’t get me anywhere.

What about you Harry as the months went by and you got a bit more familiar with it were you confident there?

Oh yeah I think I was confident. I was able to take my place in most of the things.

What was the standard of education like from what you can remember?

Well we passed exams. What I mean was in those days it was the QC (Qualifying Certifcate) with us. A number of us were able to pass to Parramatta High School I was one of them. Why I don’t know but I was one to Parramatta High. Then there was the second strata which was more commercial training. Intermediate school, Parramatta Intermediate a number of fellows went there. A number of fellows went to Granville Central Tech. It meant that we had passed and satisfied the standard that the Education Department demanded.

So the teachers were good, you’d imagine?

Oh yes they were qualified teachers. Very competent headmasters, the first one was a man named Godfrey as far as I was concerned. Eventually it came up that his son was the manager of the engineering shop to which I was sent. However that’s another thing.

Ray how do you feel about standard of education?

Well it was the standard set by the Department of Education it was their curriculum we had to follow and as you said the QC. Now I happened to do the QC one year and was successful for Parramatta Intermediate. But they said “oh you’re too young to go, have another go and sit for a bursary”. But that was a disaster, I was not successful and I finished up at Granville Central Tech. Now I’m quite happy with that because the advantage of that was that you were taught to use your hands. In carpentry and metal work and that has always stood me in good stead. I never followed anything like that because I went into commerce with the Sydney County Council and I took on the accountancy course and I finally qualified as an accountant and a chartered secretary.

So it doesn’t seem to have done any harm?

No, no.

Now for those people who have never been to the school, can you describe what the buildings looked like and what was there at the school?

The central building was the assembly hall and on either side of the assembly hall there were five brick cottages which housed twenty four children and a matron. That was their home. Identical cottages the architecture was the same. The matron’s room was in the middle and there was a dormitory on either side of twelve beds. There was a lounge room to right in the centre. It was comfortable enough and there was a bathroom at each end of the building.

Sports Day late 1940s with Kentwell Street in background

Now what other facilities were there in the school? Sports and so on?

There was a gymnasium which was presided over by an Aldershot sergeant major, who’d also had a lot to do with the beginnings of Duntroon Military College and the physical culture side down there. Retired and then he came to the school he was a very fine man in himself. That was the gymnasium. There were sports ovals we were able to organise cricket and football. Once a year we had our annual sports. There was a sporting oval within the complex. We’d run and jump and give physical exercise displays under the tuition and supervision of Jimmy Stanford who was the physical culture instructor.

Did you play any sports Ray?

Oh yes we were encouraged to. There was inter-cottage competitions, the cricket banner, the football banner. There was a lot of competitive sport in that way. With the annual sports day itself there was the usual running, jumping that type of activity where awards were made. That carried on right through. Various Lodges used to come with a cricket team and play against us it was very encouraging. They were the older ones and we were the young ones and sometimes we won and sometimes we lost. But it was the competitive nature which was brought out. It was very good.

Can you describe a typical day at the school? What a day would be like from the moment you woke up in your beds to the moment you went down again into your beds? What happened during a typical day at the school?

Well if you’re thinking of the junior school. It would be from memory, I could be a bit wrong on this one but I think six o’clock we were wakened, there was a cold shower, you made your bed and got ready for breakfast. We marched down to the dining room for breakfast and then after breakfast marched back ready for school. Then we marched down to school. The schools were at the entrance gate of the whole property and the cottages were set more or less in the middle of the property. So there was some distance between the cottages and the school. We’d march there’d be a drum and fife band which consisted of the students. You can imagine what it was like. Then school hours marched back for lunch marched back for school and then marched back after school. Then we either played or we had things to do, gardening, that’s where I lost my love of gardening. In those days of course in the primary school there wasn’t much homework. We had to clean our shoes get ourselves ready for the next day. Marched down to tea, come back.

Marching Band late 1940s

So were you happy at the school. What about you Ray were you happy there?

Oh yes, yes. It was a wonderful day when we left but looking back over it was very good really.

Did you get any musical training? Did they teach you play the piano or whatever?

Never specifically there was a couple of attempts at a choir and you could join choral singing I remember that. My voice broke when I was in the junior school and it was a bit of a croak when it came to music and I didn’t do much along those lines for which I’m sorry.

Was there any interest in the arts shown by the teachers? Were you learning anything about art?

As far as I’m concerned only in the school curriculum, I don’t know anything beyond that.

What were the expectations the teachers had for you? I mean what did they want their kids to reach, what levels did they want them to reach?

Well I suppose obviously they wanted them to be successful in examinations and they did have sort of character training and they helped us along with that.

Did they feel that you could become lawyers or doctors or were they aiming for a more technical kind of outcome in terms of careers that you might have after the school?

As far as I remember it was our own choice. I remember as far as I personally was concerned I chose to go to sea. There was a captain of a rather popular passenger ship called The Niagara he was a Mason and became interested in the schools and they traded between Sydney and New Zealand. Mr Cropley said to him “well we’ve got one boy here who wants to go to sea”. So Captain Micky Hill said “well when he’s ready send him down to me and we’ll send him off”. Well anyway religion got in the way and that changed everything. One of the interesting things there is that most of us left the school when we were fifteen at the time of the Intermediate Certificate. Now to get to the university you had to have the Leaving Certificate and if you were young and showed prospect you stayed on. Now very few stayed on through to the Leaving Certificate. Now that didn’t say that we didn’t get to the university because a lot of the guys when they left school they continued. We have doctors and lawyers and accountants that qualified after leaving school. They had to do the Leaving Certificate at home and at that time it was the Masonic Welfare Association that took us up and paid the fees for continuing the education. I got my accountancy and chartered secretary through the association.

So there was a great amount of support?

It continued on yes, yes.

Harry you became a reverend. When did you first decide that you wanted to go that course? Was it the school that led you?

I would say that it was at school. Mr Cropley was anxious that we had some religious education. It had been carried on by an elderly of the staff and it was getting beyond her. He went round to all the churches in the district, different denominations inviting them to come and conduct Sunday School but none of them took up the offer. That was because Sunday School in those days was held in the afternoon and all their resources were taken up. They hadn’t enough to come outside. So then he appealed to an interdenominational mission which was supported by all the churches. All the churches recommended it well they stood by it anyway. Called the Children’s Special Service Mission and Scripture Union and they came every Sunday up until the time that the school was closed they were there rain, hail or shine they turned up very consistent. When the school was handed back by the army Ray took it over and he conducted the Sunday school. But it was during that the time the message got through to a youngster myself at the age of fourteen and I was to use the term converted and I did after I suppose six months or so took over a Bible class and conducted a Bible class amongst the fellows.

Having a gym instructor who was once a former Aldershot military instructor was very helpful to about 220 former students (Old Masonians) who joined the Australian Army, Navy or Air Force in the Second World War. Twenty five of them were killed in action...

There were quite a few that joined up almost the day that war broke out. So it went right through. What happened we wrote letters back to the association and the secretary Aubrey Johnston(?) kept the letters and he made a brief of the letters and they were published in The Masonian which was the school magazine. That started in 1925 and went through to 1974 every month and during the war years 1939 to 1946 these letters were published in The Masonian. I have every copy and I’m endeavouring to put them into one book form. Our outstanding soldier was none other than Sir John Overall and he finished up the architect for the City of Canberra and he was awarded an MC and bar. Then we had other awards Air Force awards, Army awards. We had quite a few prisoners of war we did our part I think very honourably. The schools were ideal as a hospital and the government approached the Masonic Lodge about the use of the schools and the Grand Lodge gave the schools at no charge to the army and it became the 103 Australian General Hospital and it functioned that way. It was good for orthopaedics because there were no steps in the cottages it was all on level ground so it was ideal for that purpose. That was in 1942 and they were handed back in 1945. But there is quite a story with that. If I may say now I mentioned it to you when we first met and I have the story here of the takeover and the return of the schools.

Operating Theatre built c1943 late became Recreation Hall

Now Ray you were telling me about the war. You actually joined up in 1940?

I turned twenty in 1940 and I couldn’t avoid it they got onto me and I was called up. I joined signals unit Eastern Command Six and we finally became the Second Australian Corps of Signals and I went right through the NCO ranks and finally became a commissioned officer and I had my own section and finished up with a telegraph operating section in New Guinea and in Moratai. Earlier on it was pretty boring in being a rookie in the signals and sometimes fellows joined the AIF and got away. I put in an application for the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve in England but they wouldn’t have me because I had a hearing problem. I’ve always been deaf in one ear and they wanted a full time hearer so I didn’t make it. I kept on with signals and finally got an NX number and we went off to the Pacific islands.

Now what’s the history of the school in terms of what happened during and after the war can you tell me a bit about that?

Yes after the schools were closed 1942 there were students at school and of course the Grand Lodge had to make provision for them. They couldn’t stay at the school so the children were farmed out into various homes. They went if their parents were still alive one or the other they went back to their mother or to their father and they attended the local schools. The whole time that they were away the Masonic order payed money to the parents they all got fifteen shillings per week. If they were under Child Endowment or anything it was made up to fifteen shillings. If they weren’t covered by that it was fifteen shillings and that was paid to the parents every week that they were away. At the same time the children wrote back to The Masonian and there are recorded letters of the children at various schools that they went along to. Then of course when the schools were handed back in 1945 the schools were reopened and those that were still students they came back to the school. During that time some of them reached the age where they had to finish at fifteen and they were as we were. They also were found positions and some calling and they’re all recorded in The Masonian. A number of them went on to university there are a number of medical students and architects and so whilst the war was on the school still functioned in every way except they didn’t sleep at school.

Right I see that’s very nice of them isn’t it to have that ongoing commitment?

Well it’s an ongoing commitment now because the NSW Masonic Youth Welfare Fund is the carry on of that and we subsidise children from age five right through to final university. To stay in their homes or to be on university campus to live we subsidise them, see them through to their education. It still goes on but today the constitution is so broad now that any child irrespective of Masonic association, religious culture whatever can be included and we’re subsidising them.

Masonic Youth Welfare Fund logo

Ray what sort of state was the school in when it was returned to the Masons in 1946?

It wasn’t good and in my report that I’ll give you it’s all detailed. The discussions that went on between the Grand Lodge and the government appeared in the Daily Telegraph. It was not a happy situation because the terms of accepting the schools to be handed back in the same condition. Unfortunately the Army in their wisdom added new kitchen features. The gardens were destroyed and ruined so it wasn’t a happy situation. Finally it all sorted itself out and the schools came back.

Now you worked at IBM didn’t you Ray?

I first joined Sydney County Council and it was a semi government position and I was looking for greener fields. One of the old boys from the school happened to be with IBM and the general manager of IBM knew of the schools and he had a number of us join IBM and I was encouraged to join and I did. That was well before computers came in 1952 and I continued on with IBM for twenty eight years. I was able to reach the role of manager and I opened the data processing section of IBM in Adelaide and stayed there for three years and then came back to Sydney in a management role and in education. Finally I went back into the field because I enjoyed the selling aspect.

And Harry where did you do your studies to become a reverend?

On leaving school I was accepted into Godfrey Manufacturing Company in the office and I studied accountancy at the Sydney Tech. Got through if memory serves me right I took one subject of the final and then switched over which I think was one of the worst mistakes I ever made because I didn’t finish something. Nevertheless I switched over to theology and became a student at what is known and accepted as the Sydney Missionary and Bible College. Graduated there two year course and then was accepted into Moore College that’s the Anglican Theological College. During my first three or four months at Moore College that I was asked to go to the Northern Territory to fill in because all the women on mission stations had been evacuated. This was 1942 and I was told could I go up there and stay with the senior missionary. I remember the secretary saying “you’ll only be there for six months the Japs will be there you’ll be back” Four years later I came back. I was away all the time the schools were taken over by the army and knew nothing about what was going on but I’ve got the history of it. But during my time on the mission field in the Aboriginal areas way in the middle of Arnhem Land very primitive in those days. I did some studies and they stood me well when I came back to complete my course which I did and was ordained at the end of 1947.