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Interview D

uring January, The Beast caught up with Aussie film legend and all round good bloke Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell, who has taken on the honour of patron of the Coogee Arts Festival...

Where are you originally from Bud? Melody Street, Coogee. I was born in Melody Street.

It’s a good part of the world Coogee, isn’t it? Yeah, it was down market in my day though. The posh people lived in Bondi or Manly. Coogee, Clovelly and Maroubra, woo, no. But no, it was a good place to live though.

What did your parents do for a liv- ing? Dad was an accountant with a car company and lost his job in 1930 during the start of the big Depression.

Whereabouts do you live these days? I live in Melbourne, which is where Dad was born. My dad was born there and then he met Mum, we think, at the Randwick military hospital, because he was badly wounded a lot in World War I and Mum was working up at the hospital as a voluntary aide, a VAD. And that’s where I assume they met there.

So how did you guys get by during the Depression? With difficulty. Well, you know, what you’ve never had you’ve never missed, you don’t know. Mum made a lot of our clothes, as I remember. We didn’t know what a posh restaurant was so yeah, you just sort of get by.

What do you like most about the area? Oh, nothing much. The soil is crook, it’s hard to grow things. The beach was alright except when the sharks were about. It was a big shark beach Coogee, I don’t know whether you realise that, in the old days.

Was it really? Oh, bloody oath. Well there was a feeding ground. You know the rocks near the surf club and then there’s the wedding cake island out a bit in the water, that was a feeding ground for sharks and they used to assemble there.

I’ve got my godfather, Mum’s elder brother, my uncle - I’ve got his gallantry certificate on my wall. He dived into the water with a couple of other fellows to pull a bloke out of a shark off the rocks at the surf club and this poor bloke, Milton Coughlan, had just gone for a warm up swim. It was the day of the surf carnival.

Was that with Beaurepaire? Yeah, that’s right. Frank Beaurepaire got, I don’t know, something or other, a special medal, and my uncle got this certificate of commendation. In fact Milton Coughlan died in my uncle’s arms in the ambulance going to the hospital, so it was very traumatic. And Jack Dagworthy, who was a member of the surf club, he lost his, I can’t remember which leg, but a leg right up near the hip and he still used to come down for his swim on his crutches with his one leg and everybody was just “Oh yeah, that’s right, there are sharks about in this beach”. I don’t know whether you know, but there was a big pier in Coogee. About 1927, ‘28 and then they put in a shark proof net that ran from the beach itself right out to the end of the pier and then across to the surf club.

So what happened to all the sharks? Sharks? They must have stopped feeding. And the other attraction to sharks was that all the fishing boats were up at the other end, Giles Baths end. And they used to come in there and they’d clean the fish and everything so that was a good attraction for sharks and it was a great place to buy your fish.

That’s bloody incredible. No, it’s not. What’s incredible about it? Come on you people, you’ve got to learn your history. “That’s why I’m talking to you”, said the journalist. And the football oval, they changed the football playing field in the oval ground (Coogee Oval) north to south, it used to be east to west.

Down where Randwick play? Yeah, it’s the home of Randwick Rugby Union Football Club.

Are you a Randwick supporter? Oh bloody oath, you know, Les Polson and Cyril Towers and people you have never heard of. And Wally Meagher, I’ve got a shot, a photo- graph of me at the age of I think 6 with a Randwick sweater on that Mum must have knitted with number 7 on the back because Wally Meagher was number 7. I think in those days number 7 was halfback and 8 was five-eighth. And my uncles played and so did my young brother, not in first grade, down a little bit. And that photograph of me with number 7, I’ve had arguments with blokes who thought they knew Randwick and Coogee, it’s back when the Randwick Rugby Union Football Club had horizontal red and white stripes.

Really? Yeah, and then they went green, you know, some years later. And then we were the Greens or the Wicks we used to be called. There’s a very famous Aussie writer, novelist, called John Cleary. We were play- ing cricket together in London years ago at Australia House and I said something about red and white. He said, “No, no, green, green” and I said, “Before green, mate, red and white”. He couldn’t handle it. But I’ve got lots of old photographs, of course, of the red and white horizon- tal stripes, broad horizontal stripes.

So how did you get into acting in the first place? I was at Randwick High School, which was a boys’ only high school then. Sitting next to me in first year was a bloke called Owen Winegott, because we were alphabetically divided up in the classroom and his surname started with ‘W’ and my surname started with ‘T’. So Owen and I were down the bottom right-hand end of the classroom and the ‘A’s and the ‘B’s were up the top left-hand corner and that gave us a chance to chat to each other. We were mad about this new thing called radio - radio plays and radio serials and things. We had a very good English master,

the Beast • 53

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