01 January 2010

Jim Belshaw on Leslie Hubert Holden

There is a fascinating story from the early days of Australian aviation on Jim Belshaw’s New England, Australia blog. It concerns Leslie Hubert Holden (nephew of the founder of the Holden Motor Body Builders) and his DH 61 Giant Moth Canberra.

Jim was inspired by a photo of Canberra at Armidale aerodrome, probably between 1928 and 1931, sent to him by John Caling, a fellow pupil of both of us at the Armidale Demonstration School in the 1950s. John had the photo from his mother, who told him it was the first passenger aircraft to land in Armidale. He decided to find out what he could about this plane and its owner, and he has turned up quite a story, which may be read here.

Jim’s New England, Australia blog, accessible at http://newenglandaustralia.blogspot.com/, is a rich source of history, news, photographs and reminiscences about the New England region of New South Wales, the part of Australia that stretches from the Hunter Valley through to the Queensland border and incorporates the Hunter Valley, the Mid North Coast, the Northern Rivers, the New England Tablelands, the Northwest Slopes and the Western Plains.

He is the grandson of The Hon David Drummond, former Member for Armidale and New South Wales Minister for Education, who played such a vital role in the establishment of the New England University College (now the University of New England) in 1938 (see my Booloominbah for an account of this). Drummond subsequently became Member for New England in the Federal Parliament.

Jim’s father, also James (more familiarly known as Jimmy) Belshaw, was the first staff member to take up duty when the University College opened its doors in 1938. How fitting that he should marry Drummond’s daughter, the first librarian at the College, giving rise in due course to Jim (Jr.).

Naturally, being a Kiwi, Jim Senior became the rugby union coach, and rapidly made the acquaintance of my father, the first student to enrol. Item P1590 in the UNE photo archive, a photo of the 1940 university team, includes both of them.

Belshaw senior went on to become the University’s first Professor of Economics upon the University’s becoming an autonomous institution in 1954. I remember attending his inaugural lecture in the Teacher’s College Auditorium, in company with my parents.

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