Thursday, December 20, 2018

Goans: My Sydney Diary Part II

My Sydney Diary Part 2 (work in progress)
GOA NSW 1980-1989

The team that lost in the final of the Indo-Australian cricket tournament in the early 90's. Back row L-R Richard Rattos, Cyprian, Harold, Willie, 2 Consulate staff, ??, Hilary Front: Richard Tanner, Paul Francis, Barth Pacheco, Alban, Patrick Pinto

Indoor (from memory): Robert Mascarenhas, Cyprian, Alban, Richard, Harold, Willie, Clovis, Leon, Lavocah? Hilary Bachelors (from memory): Clovis, Amir, Jude D'Silva, Chris D'Silva, Gavin Gomes, Reuben Rattos, Chris Vaz, Cyrus, Leon Fernandes, Shane Scott, Michael Scott Glen Pereira and others.

This my way of saying thanks to all the folks I have been privileged to meet through the Goan Overseas Association of NSW. Most of the folks I mention, worked tirelessly to keep the association going. Too often things almost fell apart because no one wanted to take up the presidency and someone had to have his or her arm twisted and once again the association was saved at the 12th hour or an AGM or EGM was threatened with a lack of quorum and the situation was saved by ringing round. Some functions faced extinction for lack of bookings and the day was saved by committee members telephoning individual families and cajoling them to come. There were extremely robust debates but no one crossed the line or sued the association or was in a position to sue the association. After the meeting, we agreed to disagree and we buried our well-intentioned hatchets and got on with keeping the association alive. Everybody helped with everything, from setting up the halls, clearing afterwards, manning the bar and generally making sure things went OK. For many there were many sacrifices made and their efforts have been lost in the sands of passing time. I can’t remember every single one who was involved and I apologise for that. However, as I said, to those I have mentioned below: Many thanks for the memories we made and shared together.

If you would like to add your own mems, corrections, or whatever, please send to Also would appreciate any fotos of this era. You can read more at  Like I said, we arrived in Sydney hot, hot, hot in late 1979 from cold, cold, Leicester, UK. One of my farewell gifts was an umbrella. It was well meant from one of my journo friends who had worked in Melbourne for a while and had returned to the UK. His advice was: “You will need it, it rains there all the time.” I have not seen him since and I would like to think he was pulling my leg.

Our transition from London to Sydney was thankfully very seamless. We felt at home from the moment we landed at Sydney International Airport. In fact, just as we got off the plane and smelt the Mombasa-like salty air, we knew we were home. The folks at the Sydney Morning Herald were very welcoming especially my immediate boss Denis Muller (who is now teaching journalism in Melbourne). He and his family had us over for Midnight Mass at his local church and on New Year’s Day, Rob Barrett and Helen had us over for lunch, along with other colleagues. That became an institution and the annual attract because the smoked turkey Helen served was special from some friends. It was so, so, so delicious. Pink, a unique texture and it melted in your mouth.

I cannot exactly remember the first Goans I met in Sydney. The only ex-Kenya Goans I knew in Australia were the late Ben and Julie Pereira and they were in Melbourne. We had spent a lot of time together with a bunch of people in Nairobi and we were semi-glued together. That friendship was forever. A quick call to the telephone directory inquiries found their phone number and spoke to each other hours and we would speak regularly after that. We could not wait to drive the 10 hours or so to Melbourne for our first holiday. It happened a couple years later and we caught up with Geoff and Ellen Ahluwalia, Edgar and Rose, Alma and late Henry, and a whole lot of other people. What a holiday.

Can’t remember when exactly, but amongst the first people I met were the late Sheila and George Pereira and their boys Colin, Clive and Carl. Colin actually designed the GOA NSW logo but the credit went to Carl because Colin had submitted multiple entries under different names. Still there today. George seemed to have worked for Air India all his life. I first met him in Nairobi where he was with … Air India. A softly spoken thoroughly likeable bloke. Hadn’t change much when I met in Sydney … still sneaked a puff or two and had a good nip of scotch, smiling broadly as usual. Sheila was the belle of the ball. If there was no stage, she would get up on a table and sing to the seniors. Both were dedicated to the GOA and I am delighted to say that Clive and Colin have continued that tradition with honours that would make their parents proud. Clive and I produced one of the first newsletters during his dad’s presidency. We typed it all and photo-copied the mag on a Saturday morning at my place of work in the City. It was back-breaking work … naturally we made a mistake or two. I think we got a date wrong. Can’t remember how we fixed it.

I had been looking forward to meeting a whole bunch at Centennial Park where a picnic had been arranged for one day in 1980, I think, but it had to be cancelled out of respect for the passing of Franco Pereira. I used to see Franco and Mabel around the Norwich Union House/Law Court complex when I worked around there. Sadly, he left us too early.
We were magnetically drawn to Hazel and Harold D’Souza and their three daughters Hayley, Gayle and Hylett. Harold was a sporting icon back home in Mombasa and he dedicated himself to promoting sport among the young Goans (and some not young) Sydney. In fact, he was always the Godfather of sport. He pioneered the exchange of sports visits between Melbourne and Sydney. There was a little bit of bad feeling there because some of our friends were in mixed marriages (especially the children) and they would not allow them membership of the GOA in Victoria. It left a bad taste but Harold persevered. In Melbourne, it was an old friend of Harold’s, the late Nobby D’Costa, who got the ball rolling. We played indoor soccer, indoor cricket, out-door hockey for men and once or twice for girls, table tennis …and the whole thing culminated in the social event of the year: The Sports Dance.
Harold was forever Sports Secretary but later came to the rescue of the association and took up the presidency with Mal Ferris as the vice president. Hazel, on the other hand, corralled her daughters into helping her in very large lucky dip stalls.

In those early years, Eleanor D’Souza was one of the best social secretaries and she had a pretty good corps of ladies to help her: Dawn Dias, Anne D’Silva, Rineth Scott, Laura Rattos, Gloria Vaz and names I can’t remember. Most of the functions in my time were organised by this team. However, Joe and Christine Gomes and Michael and Tessa Antao were a formidable team in organising various games, novelty dances, the bingo, hall decorations. Joe was also a mad keen squash player. A large part of the successful functions was due to their efforts.

From day one, one of the great benefactors and a cricket tragic was the late Dr Pat D’Souza who with his wife Bertha in her beautiful saris both looked an eloquence of elegance. The family continues to support the association.

Maggie Soares deserves special mention. From the earliest days, she was the cultural guardian of the association... especially when it came to traditional Goan dances. She twisted arms, begged, cajoled and sometimes even inspired people to take part. She even stitched the costumes. She was always the leader or part of the choir, the Christmas carols or any kind of community singing. She was also always doing something or other on every occasion. As President and with Dunstan D'Souza and others in the community, she is the only person who has hosted a GOA function in Sydney's Town Hall. It was perhaps the poshest function ever held by the GOA ever. The music, the decor, ... everything was sheer class.

To this day, Tony Vaz remains one of the true pillars of the association. He has always been a delightful person to work with. He was a treasurer for many seasons and a committee member for even more seasons.  In similar vein, there were Maggie Soares (President), Ancet and Olga Fernandes, Victor (President) and Monica Nazareth, Hazel and Felix Nazareth, Indira and her late mother, Mona and Cass Dias, George (treasurer) and Cynthia Peres da Costa, Alvito Peres da Costa, George Dias, Joe (auditor) Pereira (late Mary), late John (auditor) Mascarenhas and Ivy (one of those rare characters who devoted a lot of time and effort towards the betterment of the association and its membership), Tony (President) and Quinnie Machado, Joe (President) and Martha De Lima, late Baptist and Aggie D’Sa chief caterer, John Sequeira (Jeanette), Cornel and Maureen Coutinho, Roque and Sylvie Rebello, Leo Rocha, Manuel (current Trustee) and Nelita, Paul Francis, late Joe and Natty Gonsalves, Willie and Betty Fernandes, Mabel Pereira, Allan and Crecsy D'Souza, Albert and Patsy Mascarenhas, Lassere Gomes, Robin Scully (table tennis), Arthur (table tennis champ) and Genevieve Lopez, late Octavius and Merlin De Souza, Mark (treasurer) and Candice De Souza, Joe and Gwen D’Souza, Alfred and Helen Vaz, Dunstan D’Souza, Jude D’Souza, Francis and Maria Baptista, late Alda D’Souza, late Freddy Mascarenhas, Imre Gomes, Silroy and Yvette Thomas, Gavin and Marilyn Thomas, Michael and Gemma Evesson, Tessa George (Michael Antao), Eva Fernandes (Mark Fonseca), Merlyn Martins (and her brother Jeff who was pretty good squash player), Mal and Margaret Ferris, Patrick and Yvonne Silveira, Michael Machado (a dedicated sportsman), Alban (president) and Laura (president) Rattos, late Tony and Lucinda Coutinho, Richard Rattos (muso extraordinaire and who I had the rare privilege of beating in a GOA 100 yards race, me fourth, he fifth, or was it third …!!).

The brothers Silroy and Gavin with their respective spouses Yvette and Marilyn made a huge contribution. Silroy is always the life of the party, a good dancer, always with a laugh and smile and as Master of Ceremonies he had everyone dancing their hearts away. Silroy was always a great benefactor of the association. Gavin’s piano playing is in a class of his own as his wife’s singing. Between them they brought their network of friends, quite a few ex-Bandra folks.

It was also good to make acquaintence of George and Monic Hommes. Their daughter Mary-anne was a general secretary during one of my terms. Enjoyed working with her.
This has nothing to do with official GOA NSW circles. I am just reminiscing about the good old days. Talking about good old days, the first time we met Gail and Ivan Mendens turned up at a venue for the GOA function on Sunday that did not happen. It was cancelled and we did not know anything about. No problem. A couple of other families turned up, Ivan set up his portable barbecue, we shared the food we had brought and had an absolute ball.  The other thing about the Mendens was that each year on Boxing Day they held a sing-along at their home and it was always something that topped off the holiday season. Musicians and singers made a beeline for their home.

Dr George Dias who remains a staunch member, and even stauncher golfer, was also involved with the Indian associations in Sydney. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was due to visit and he put my name forward to make the keynote address. I sat next to his wife at the top table and chatted a little. My address was based on the youth of India around world looked him as our version (good parts) of John F. Kennedy. It was received pretty well, that might be a little understated.

Just before that I had met Neena and Vijay Badhwar who rate amongst my closest friends. They roped me into editing their brainchild Australia first English language monthly newspaper called The Indian Down Under which was published for more than 20 years and is now only available online … time is taking its toll of wearing bones.

A few years later, I met the legendary Malachy Ferris and his wife Margaret who, to this day, I count special. Mal was a vice president of the association and a committee member. He usually ran the bar like he was running his meat factory in London. He got into an argument with a lady (who shall remain nameless) because he was charging her $5 for a bottle of lemonade which probably cost a dollar something at Woollies. The lady was quite right in challenging Mal. He used buy the stock for the bar, stick it in his van or car, pack the eskies with ice, bring everything to the hall, set up the bar virtually on his and was ready for business for the function. It is the nature of his DNA that, while his mates are sipping beers or wines, he is hard at work doing this or that. Never seems to stop and puts all his mates to shame. A tiny blemish in an otherwise sterling career, one which some of his friends will never let him live down: he failed in a bid to become president of the Moira association which promptly died away for want of a leader. Ironically, he has been in love with Goa, all its wonderful food, chillies, chillies and more chillies, and feni, feni and more feni. He would go there twice a year if he could. They have had a home there for several years now. Only he would love driving in Goa! He swears that Sorpotel and Pork Vindaloo (hot, really hot) are two of the greatest dishes every invented. Oh, and he loves a good lamb mince samosa or a good beef croquet. He has also been trained well in cutting pork into the tiniest pieces for Sorpotel. For all that he has not deserted that drop Irish holy water, a good pint of Guinness!

He was also the man who invested the association’s funds in stocks and shares. After a major revolt the association was forced to liquidate the shares. The whole affair split the community, split friends and relations. One relationship was particularly painful … and was never repaired even though the President at the time Harold George D’Souza apologised and went to great lengths to repair whatever the imagined or real damage was. It broke Harold’s heart. He didn’t deserve that.

Freddy Mascarenhas who had achieved pioneer status with the early Kenyan Goans in the UK following the exodus, had been an inspiration to all he came into contact with, especially in sports, particularly hockey. He was bound to great things for the Goans in NSW. He came on the committee a few months after migrating to Australia. We lost him in a tragic boating accident not too far from Wiseman’s Ferry. My last memory him … on a hot day at park near Silverwater by the river … we taking a break after setting up for the picnic … he guitar in hand, one of his daughters cradled in his arms, still playing the guitar and singing with her. It was a picture of bliss only he could have painted as part of real life. Never forget you, buddy.

George Peres da Costa looked at me from across the table and said: “What do you like to drink?” That was the first time I had sat eyes on him. We were at Tony (Carramar) Fernandes’ place for a game of three-card brag (Flush). From that moment on our friendship was cast in Scotch for me and Cognac for him, preceded by a beer or two. We lost him a few months ago. Also gone are Andrew D’Abreu, Lawrence Fernandes, Richard Gonsalves and one or two others whose names I forget. Could never forget the drinks, the meals or camaraderie! So there is just Tony and I, and the guys who have left the table forever have taken the card games with them. Rest easy my friends, never forgotten.
We don’t see much of Tony and Philomena Fernandes, more is the pity because they deserve a special mention in the history of the GOA. For several years, Tony almost single-handedly organised the bulk of the annual athletics meeting. Joe Gomes and Harold George D’Souza also made big contributions. Alan Ferris was the “most valuable athlete” one year.

I won’t mention the Goencho Bazaar in too much detail because I can’t remember all the stalls. I think the winner was always the one manned by Mona and Cass, Cynthia Peres da Costa and others. Indira usually put on a Goa history lesson on display. Very popular. I introduced the Goencho Bazaar because at that time there were a lot of young families migrating to Sydney. The wives either did not have the time or did not know how to cook the famous Goan dishes. We decided at least one day in the years, members could share their culinary wares at very low price. One year my late wife Rufina, late friend Ben Almeida his wife Vivian and I fried 96 rechado bream onsite at one of the best venues we had then The Crystal Ballroom near Ryde. We held many of our dances there and the owner would let use the hall free of charge on a Sunday, if it was available. It was a brilliant venue.

Goencho Bazaar stalls: Navelim Union: Mona and Cass Dias, Alex and Lucy Mendonca, Charlotte and Denzil, Tony and Gloria Vaz.

Goencho Bazaar stalls: Moira Union, Aggie and Baptist D'Sa, George and  Sheila Pereira, Glafy and Braz Goes.

Alban Rattos (brilliant batsman) and Harold George D’Souza (wicketkeeper) guided the GOA cricket teams for many years. We had a pretty useful indoor side as well as an outdoor team. It was bolstered by the Pakistani Goan players, among them Clovis D’Souza (in mold of Malcolm Marshall), Leo Rocha (wicketkeeper), Aamir Zachariah (tall, very tall, fast bowler), Patrick Pinto (very fast bowler), Mervyn Pinto, Paul Francis (school captain in Karachi and a damned good barbecue cook who put on a feast with Haleem and Nihari at each match), Eric Dias, late Kenny Dias, Chris D’Silva, Jude D’Silva and others whose names I forget, sorry. Others included Francis Baptista, Richie Rattos, Bart Pacheco, Willie Fernandez, David Walker, late Shaun McKay … and names I forget. With the Pinto boys and other we used to regularly have World Series cricket in Frederick Street Pendle Hill, especially during the big holidays when we used barricade the street (literally). Otherwise it was our backyard. We also had a table tennis table. Good times past. There was also a team of bachelors.

The Navelim feast, albeit for a short while, was one of the best village feasts celebrated in Sydney. Pioneered by the late Joe and his wife Natty, it was a quality event reminiscent of similarly celebrated in East Africa, UK and Canada. Hope to get more on this and pictures.

My son Leon and I used to play tennis court cricket in a team put together by Alban Rattos in the southern suburbs. Played in the evening, memories were made of this.

In my small circle of friends I must remember the late George and Cynthia Fernandes. George was a one-man emergency response team. He fixed our taps, got on the roof and fixed the tiling or any leaks … just about anything that needed to be fixed. My next door neighbour the late Lyle Sandford and his wife Helen and his late father and mother Frank and Maree were very special people. Frank and Lyle were walking encyclopaedias of local knowledge. Both were also very handy around the house, the car, and they had a garage with a spare part and a fix for most things that went wrong around the home. When moved into Frederick Street on a grim, rainy day and while we had not even started to unpack ... in walked this guy, put down the six pack of beer, extended hand, with his other hand  he niftily eased the six pack's by picking up two bottles, one of which he handed to me and said: I am Lyle Sandford, I am your next door neighbour, welcome to Pendle Hill. 

On a Saturday afternoon around 3 o’clock, one of us would fire up the mower and, after 30 minutes or so, the first crow would plonk himself with an esky containing a six pack. A few minutes later several other crows would arrive. After I had finished the mowing there was the serious issue of solving the world’s problems. At around someone would wonder where we would be burning the meat that night and we would all head for the nominated host’s backyard with our respective families. It was only after dinner that we would solve Australia’s problems with strong emphasis on New South Wales, the Western Suburbs, Parramatta and of course our own local council. We would head home having told ourselves that we had had a good night.

Or we would be sitting outside Lyle’s place at around 4 o’clock and we would decide on an instant part and call Dorothy Gonsalves, Vivian Almeida, Cynthia Fernandes, John Muir and a few others. An hour or so later we were sharing everything.

John Muir was a New Zealander and a delightful person. One New Year’s Eve, Lyle was barbecue for the children who were all next door at our place. Ben Almeida was going to cook for the adults but before he could get started a hungry John Muir went to the table and helped himself to a dish that was particularly appetising. “It is a bit tough,” he announced, “A bit chewy”. And we all burst into gales of laughter … he was chomping on pieces of marinaded raw pork. Never did that again.

The Lyles’ children Bryan and Claire went to Pendle Hill Primary School which was exactly 2 minutes away. They took little Carl with them and when they brought him home each day he was treated to a toast with vegemite … and a glass of lemonade. Carl learned to love school so much that he used to spend time there even after he moved to secondary school. He helped them with their computers. The Lyles were always great neighbours. Miss them all terribly.

A lot more history has happened after 1990 and I hope someone will write that story.

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