Donald C Holland a short biography

Don was born in London England in 1932 and died in 1987.

Don Holland 1961

Don Holland 1961

In his early life living in England he lived with his parents Marjorie and Harold in East Barnet greater London. This area was also known as Whetstone.

Throughout England there are a few places named as Whetstone. They were places where Knights would pass by and sharpen their swords. This one however was legendary and thought to have the name due to soldiers preparing for the battle of Barnet in 1471. This battle was one of the pivotal battles of the war of the roses where the Yorkist King Edward the IV was to meet the Earl of Wickham in battle.

Don lived in a two-storey terrace at 412 Oakleigh Road North now in Brunswick Park above his father’s cycle shop. He probably went to school at the local Oakleigh infants School which first opened in 1928. This school is in easy walking distance from the shop, only about a street or two to the north up Oakleigh Road North.

One of Don’s favourite past times apart from playing in the park down the laneway beside the Pub opposite the shop, was to train spot from the railway bridge south down Oakleigh Road North. In the early forties there would have been many steam locomotives to see on that line.

As Don attended this school from about 1937 through to about 1942, on a very few occasions he would tell of his experience at school during the London Blitz.

For those who do not know what that was, it is a terrible time during the second world war for Londoners when the Luftwaffe or German bomber units would relentlessly bomb London with incendiary bombs. Don recalls being caught in the school playground during one of these raids, recounting that one firebomb fell in front of him and then one fell behind him as he was attempting to make his way to the bomb shelter. It must have made a large impression on him, as he would have only been about 8 years of age at the time.

He also recalled sleeping in the air-raid shelter built-in the back yard of their shop front home. Most houses would have had a bomb shelter built-in the back yard if the yard was big enough and this property had a sizable rear yard. One night during some wet weather, Don recounted that on the bottom bunk his hand fell out of the bed while sleeping and fell into water that was starting to flood the shelter. The family had to evacuate and move to the public shelter down the road that night.

Don’s father Harold was listed as a bicycle mechanic on the manifest for the family’s immigration to Australia in 1948. It is known that Harold ran a bicycle shop business through the war years.

There is a small group of shops just south of Balfour Grove on Oakleigh Road North, which is the probable location of his small bicycle business.

During the war after the retreat of British forces from Dunkirk, England started to get more enlistments in the home guard service. This was made up of shopkeepers and older residents and formed into neighborhood groups. Don’s father Harold joined. During his service he sustained an injury when training on one of the coastal guns. After this, he was never able to straighten one of his arms, although he continued as a bicycle mechanic for many years.

When Don was about 15 year of age he decide to ride his push bike all the way up Oakliegh Road, past Barnet and up High Road to the St Albans Road to the town of St Albans. He recounted how impressed he was with the magnificent cathedral in the town. The trip was about 60 miles, a decent feat to cycle for a young lad.

St Albans Cathedral

St Albans Cathedral

The cathedral was built-in memorial of Alban a Roman citizen martyred in the persecution of Christians in England before Emperor Constantine recognized Christianity as a religion. Apparently Alban in an effort to protect the Bishop of the area, took his clothes and was captured by Roman soldiers and beheaded in about 250 AD. The cathedral and abbey had been added to and repaired over the years at one stage saved from demolition and a new building being built-in its place.

After the Second World War, Harold and Marjorie would have felt that little was holding them back from emigrating. Although, Marjorie had a brother William whom she was close and her Father Horace left in England, Harold had little to do with his family.

Harold and Marjorie after deciding to emigrate sold the shop and moved to a terrace at 10 Balfour Grove, not far from the shop.

So for the princely sum of about 50 pounds the family of five boarded the ship Orion on the 10th of January 1948 to become what is affectionately known as 10 pound “Poms” in Australia.

On the three-month journey to Australia from England, the family made a few friends. Two families became long time friends to them. The Alan’s and the Mock’s.

On many occasions the Holland’s would visit the Alan’s small holiday house at the beachside town of Rosebud situated south of Melbourne on the southern parts of Port Phillip Bay. This would continue for many years, even taking Grand children down to enjoy the beachside atmosphere. The Alan’s house also had a Beach hut or bathing box on the beach, which was very convenient for a changing room when bathing.

When they arrived in Melbourne Don was still only 16 years of age. However he never went back to full-time school. His younger brother Bernard, however did attend Mentone High School being only 13 at the time.

The Holland family settled down for another winter, the second in the year for them, finding a residence in Mentone, then another Melbourne southern suburb.

Don had been involved in scouting in Barnet in greater London so for him it was a logical thing for him to get involved in scouting In Australia.

At age 17 years old he was too old to be a scout so he became second in charge of a Sea Scout troop in his local Mentone, late to take the reins when the group scout master resigned suddenly.

Reginald, Reg for short, his twin brother, got involved in ballroom dancing and various athletic pursuits. He became a very good dancer and won some quite large medals and cups through competitions. Many of these cups could be viewed for many years in Harold and Marjorie’s house.

Why the cup became housed in his parent’s house is a bit of a sad story. Reg had a girl friend and at 21 years old was engaged to be married, while Don was a bit of a recluse or at least did not have the same opportunities to meet women as Reg. Don was involved in scouting and going on scout camps. His habit also was to do a lot of reading. Don through the war years became a prolific reader and one would think this was still the case in his late teens and early twenties.

Both Reg and Don would cycle. Reg would do more cycling than Don it has been reported but since their father was a bicycle mechanic and now setting up business in Australia as a bicycle shop owner one would think they would both ride extensively.

Don found himself working at the Yorkshire Insurance Company from about 1949.

Don Holland 1949

Don Holland 1949

He was employed as an office clerk, but by the end of his short career working for the same company he became the manager in charge of systems, which means that he was one of the chief problem solvers in the Melbourne head office of the company. During this time of his career insurance companies were getting bigger to survive and Yorkshire was no different. The Yorkshire insurance company took over the Scottish insurance company and then itself was taken over by General Accident some time in the late 1960’s.

Don after working for the company for a few years, he became interested in a young lady named Rita who worked as a secretary for one of the bosses in the company. Rita traveled to work, which was in the central business district of Melbourne, by train from a small station called Chatham, just a stop or two east from Canterbury station.

Don started to get a bit more interested in riding his bicycle. The reason was that he wished to visit Rita although the train would have taken him to Chatham from Mentone, it meant a considerable commute changing trains at Melbourne’s Finders Street Station. So Don would ride from Mentone to the locality of Hyfield a considerable ride one-way but then would ride home again probably in the dark on the return journey. This feat of endurance seemed to impress Rita’s mother Ruby as the story was told many years later.

Don Holland about 1952

Don Holland about 1952

Around this time Reg had bought a small car. An Austin 7, and the two boys Don and Reg set off on an adventure through to southern NSW. They travelled the Princes Highway from Melbourne through Cann River and on to the Boarder of New South Wales. It is not clear from stories whether this road in 1950 was tarred, but in about 1964 this section of road east of Cann River in Victoria was only tarred to the width of one car. One assumes, then as now large log trucks would frequent this stretch of road regularly.

But to the ever sadness of his mother, in his prime at the age of 21, Reg had a devastating and eventually fatal bicycle accident with a car at the five way intersection not far from his Mentone home in Cheltenham Road. He was rushed to hospital but later died of his injuries. All were devastated, but none more than his fiancé and his Mother. In fact within the family it is know that is Mother never got over his death.

The family thought that she loved Reg more than Don over this, however after Don eventually dying in 1987, his mother was still alive and reports came back that she was never the same and lost her own will to live, dying not long after at the age of 75.

After a decent courtship of several years Don eventually married Rita in 1955. By this time they had gathered a deposit for a home in South Blackburn. After their Marriage Rita could no longer work for the Yorkshire Insurance Company due to company policy related to married couples both working at the company, so this is when she went to work at the Repatriation hospital as a secretary.

But the company looked after them through Don’s employment providing a low-interest loan fixed on the 3000-pound purchase price of the house.

Donald Holland 1958 In new home

Donald Holland 1958 In new home

Don and Rita had two children, one boy and then one girl as hoped for by the couple.

After Reg dying and Don moving to Blackburn, Harold and Marjorie moved into the back of the cycle shop at Ormond a small suburb in Melbourne’s southeast. Bernard being still at home had the small bedroom at the end of a long passageway towards the back yard of the property, but to the right of the hallway. (The passageway may not have been as long as made out in this story but for a small observer everything can be big)

Don would still go to Rosebud with his parents to the Alan’s beach house, taking his family. Although coming from England, all the 10 pound “Poms” in this group enjoyed the summers and the clean sand of the bay. Often times Don would have a whole dug in the sand by his son David, daughter Gail and nephew Glen and allowed himself to be buried up to the neck in sand by them to the laughter of all.

By this time in the early 1960’s Bernard, had married a lovely little English girl, from another family of 10 pond “Poms” and had the first and second of three children.

Later both Bernard and Don’s family and the grandparents would often go to Mordialoc Beach on the Bay for a day out. Edithvale beach was also a family favourite beach location for Don and Rita as it was the closest beach to their home in Blackburn. However in the 1960’s and 70’s much of the trip was in the open country unlike today with houses both side nearly all the way to the beach at Edithvale.

Don was a hard worker, some suggested that he was a workaholic. But he certainly enjoyed being involved.

After moving to his own home, he started a new scout group. The scout group first met on a chook farm, about half a kilometer or so from Don and Rita’s home.

Don Holland about 1960

Don Holland about 1960

It was an interesting place to visit, chooks and eggs everywhere. There were process workers checking eggs to ensure eggs were not fertile before they went out for sale. This farm was a true free-range farm with roosters and hens in the pens together. Little fluffy chick in small pens could be seen and handled if desired.

But progress never stops and this farm was due to be closed and subdivided up for new housing, so the fledge ling scout group needed to move.

Don became Group Scout master at the age of about 25 years and had several scout and cub leaders to manage. The group would go on bottle drives to get money to sink into the new property for the scout hall on MacCracken Avenue Blackburn South. Scouts and leader would drive around neighborhood on a Saturday and collect bottles. While this was happening the scout hall was being built. Once finished, you could always see large stacks of beer bottles and all kinds of other bottles along the side of the scout hall ready to be picked up by the recyclers.

An old piano adorned the entry to the hall for a few years, however seldom was it in tune.

Don didn’t seem to mind either way as his level of interest in music was negligible and he had a tin ear anyway.

Don ran a news-sheet for the scout group called the “Spotlight”. He would use a Roneo machine to produce copies of the paper. Rita would often type the words on a special paper. This typing would partially cut the wax paper and allow ink to come through onto plan paper when in the Roneo machine.

Don and his scout troop about 1960 with his son bottom right in stripped shirt

Don and his scout troop about 1960 with his son bottom right in stripped shirt

The Roneo machine was a proprietary brand of mimeograph machine. The paper would be placed on the Roneo machine barrel and a handle would be turned to allow a print to be made on copy paper.

After Don’s death the Scout group wanted to honor Don for his dedication to the 2nd Nunawading (1st Blackburn) Group so they named the scout hall the “Skipper Holland Hall”.

During his time working in the Central Business district of Melbourne at the Yorkshire and later General Accident insurance company, he became a fellow of the Insurance institute and after completing extensive study in the area of insurance.

While working in the industry and in Melbourne he joined a lunchtime club of the Victorian Rostrum Club. As the years went by Don became more involved and my the late 1960 was a convener of one of the major competitions for the Victorian club.

Rostrum is an after dinner speaking club and many a politician cut their baby speaking teeth in a rostrum club environment like this.

Don was a member of Club 23, but as the convener of the Joe David Cup Competition, he was responsible for ensuring all the Victorian clubs were invited to put competitors into the competition.

On the night of the presentation of the Jo Davie cup in about 1966 or 67 the governor of Victoria Sir Roden Delicom was present siting next to Don who was presiding over the proceedings. On that night he brought his son David who also sat at the head table next to the governors aid.

In about 1964, Harold and Marjorie sold the cycle shop and bought a pet shop living somewhere in Ormond. A little time after this moved to Blackburn south not far from both their sons.

However a year or so after, Bernard and his wife now with three children, two boys and a girl, moved to Western Australia in about 1967, first to Perth and then later after getting a job at Mount Tom Price, moved there with his family.

In about 1970, Harold and Marjorie were on the move. They had bought a block of flats at Tugun on the Gold Coast of Queensland, just north of the New South Wales border. They had become partners with one of the friends they met on the boat coming to Australia, Mr. and Mrs. Mock.

So in 1970, on his annual leave Don and his family went by car to visit them on the Gold Coast at the flats they owned and stayed for about two weeks. Harold was in the process of gaining his real estate license at the time, which he gained a little time later. He could be found working in a small yellow sign written office at the front of the flats doing tourists bookings and selling real estate.

The weather was superb, but all to soon the family had to drive back home to the Melbourne suburbs.

In the early and middle 1970’s he became more involved in Rostrum. One time was leafleting, with his son David, two country towns Druin and Warragul, located to the south-east of Melbourne, for a planned Rostrum event. During one of these trips for Rostrum, but by himself on this occasion, he had a serious car accident where a car failed to stop and ran up the back of his stationary car at a set of lights near Dandenong. He was hospitalized and made a good recovery after about a week in hospital.

In about 1977 Don was involved in inducting new speaking clubs into the rostrum culture. He would travel around the State of Victoria and assess club proceedings as part of their application to be a Rostrum Club. One such trip was to the locality of Vermont where his son David had joined a club not yet affiliated with Rostrum. Sitting in the background, Don observed the proceedings, later recommending the acceptance of the fledgling clubs application to Rostrum.

Some time after this Don became a freeman in the organization. This was an office in the club that members aspired to.

By 1978 Harold and Marjorie had retired to a 3 bedroom house in Tugun. Don, as a dutiful son went and visited them without the family this time not long after they had moved.

After many years of high blood pressure and at about 48 years old, Don had a bad heart attack that caused him to retire from work. He was still involved in the rostrum club as much as possible but scouting had to take a back seat in his life after this. When he was about 53, and had been Victorian president for a couple of years, the Victorian Rostrum realizing that Don only had a short time to live due to his illness and voted to make him Honorary Victorian President for life for the recognition of the service he had done for Rostrum over the years.

Don died just before his 55th birthday and one month after the birth of his first grandson save one day. He never saw his grandson as he was born in Tasmania and Don was convalescing at home and later in the hospital. His son David travelled back from Tasmania not long after he went into hospital and noted some of the last words he spoke to him.

“Always remember your family”

Later he would have a grand son born on his birthday a year later and his first granddaughter born on the day he died. Ultimately he would have four grand sons and two grand daughters.

His life seemed to be normal yet extraordinary. One where the effects of war would have made a large impact on him and even the death of his twin, yet able to push those sad times aside and enjoy life as he had it and even excel in a quiet way, gaining honor and respect from people he helped and members of organization he dedicated much of his spare time to.

by David Holland