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Brian John Andrews OAM
Brian John Andrews was born in Moree, NSW, and was the second child of Eric and Alma (Allie) Andrews. His father was a State Rail employee and his mother worked at home. He had a sister, Lorraine, 22 months older and a younger sister, Maree born in 1952, who are both now deceased.
At the age of 6, Brian's father was promoted and became the manager of Broadmeadow's railway marshalling yard, and so his family came to live in Mayfield.
Being raised in the Catholic faith. Brian attended Catholic schools in the area. At a young age he showed his flair for learning, being Dux of his primary school and later receiving high grades in his Intermediate Certificate at Hamilton's Marist Brothers High School.
His parents could not afford to send him on to further education. In 1959 at the age of 16, he moved to Sydney to live with his aunts and then to a boarding house while he trained to be a technician with the Post Master General Department (PMG), which would later become Telecom. He completed a traineeship, then, at the age of 21, passed the Senior Telecommunications Technician Exam which enabled him to manage telephone exchanges. Over the next 30 years he managed some of Sydney's largest exchanges including Ryde, Pymble, Wahroonga, Pennant Hills and Hornsby.
Brian Andrews was an avid sportsman. As a child he played soccer for Mayfield, and at 19 played rugby league for Balmain. In 1962 he played at centre in their Presidents Cup team. Unfortunately, he broke his wrist and decided to retire. He still supported the Balmain Tigers until he relocated to the Hunter where he changed his allegiance to the Kurri Kurri Bulldogs and the Newcastle Knights. Brian also loved following cricket and participated from the time he was 18 to 40. Twenty two of those years he played as an opening batsman and first change bowler.
It was in the early '80s that his love of documenting history developed. On interviewing elderly uncles, he was able to find the final resting place of his earliest ancestors. They were located in a paddock next to a church in Mount Vincent. He had to find out more. Living in Sydney meant he could easily access the State and Mitchell Libraries to gather information.
This research led to meeting many residents in the Mulbring, Mount Vincent and Brunkerville area, many of whom he discovered were his relatives.
In 1984 he helped organise the Andrews' family reunion and later in 1986 the McDonald family's as well. Both had more than 1000 descendants attending, some travelling from afar.
By 1987, Brian was producing a bi-monthly journal called Sugarloaf which documented the Mulbring Valley's history and pioneering families. It had a subscription of 140 and continued to issue number 48 in 1995.
The year was 1993. Brian was then 49 and Telecom offered a redundancy too good to refuse. He retired and relocated to Kurri Kurri. His father, Eric, had passed away in 1991 so he invited his mother, Allie, to move in with him. She died in 1997. Brian spent the rest of his life in Kurri Kurri.
His life in Kurri Kurri
Brian was an active member of the Catholic Church. He served on his local pastoral council for 11 years. He was also the inaugural representative for his area on the Maitland-Newcastle Diocesan Pastoral Council for 4 years.
He was the author/compiler of Hunter Valley Catholic History and was working on a revised edition when he passed away.
He was a Special Religious Educator for 14 years, being the Co-ordinator for most of that time. He taught at 4 infant and primary schools each year and worked in all of the State schools in the Coalfields area.
Brian was a foundation member of the Coalfields Heritage Group, now the Coalfields Local History Association, and managed the Sir Edgeworth David Memorial Museum for the 22 years prior to his death in 2019. He was also their historian, secretary and treasurer. Prior to this he was secretary of the Cessnock History Society.
Brian was a member of Kurri Kurri Probus Club for 20 plus years and became their President in 2001. He went on many bus trips and formed many friendships. He worked for Towns with Heart, conducting Kurri Mural Tours, and he ran Old North Road bus excursions. He loved presenting historical talks for schools and community groups. He wrote over 300 articles for Cessnock and Kurri Kurri independent newspapers and other publications, was a regular guest presenter on 2CHR (Central Hunter Radio) and ABC Radio over the years. He was chosen to be the Regional Volunteer on the Cessnock City Council's Cultural Heritage Committee. He also carried out volunteer work for the Kurri Kurri High School and University of the Third Age (U3A).
In 2009 he was commissioned by Coal Services Australia Ltd to research and write a book detailing every coal mine in New South Wales. The book was completed in 2011 and is some 500 pages in length. When it came time for payment of his commission, he requested the $50,000 be paid directly to his Coalfields Heritage Group.
Brian was awarded the accolade of the OAM for his community service and writing history of the Hunter Valley and surrounding area in 2009, an honour of which he was most proud. In his lifetime he published more than 185 books, not including published articles.
Some of the other recognitions he received were:
- 2002 - Kurri Kurri Citizen of the Year
- 2003 - NSW State Heritage Volunteers Award
- 2019 - Inaugural Life Membership to the Edgeworth David Memorial Museum for his 22 years of service.
With Brian John Andrews' passing the Coalfields area has lost a great advocate and expert on local history. He dedicated his life to community service. Brian lived a full and meaningful life and will be missed by all who knew him.
This biography is derived from the Order of Service for Brian J Andrews OAM's Funeral and is reproduced here with permission of his family.Date of Birth6th July 1943Date of Death10th September 2019OccupationHistorianOther OccupationManager of Telephone Exchanges, Post Master General Department