Faces of Tamworth: historian Lyall Green

LIVED LONG: Lyall Green in what was an enduring uniform for him for Tamworth people for decades – a bow tie and hat.

LIVED LONG: Lyall Green in what was an enduring uniform for him for Tamworth people for decades – a bow tie and hat.

He loved history, he made history and he witnessed more than 100 years of it. Today’s Face of Tamworth is Lyall Green – teacher, war veteran, volunteer, historian and author. We take a look back at then acting editor Ann Newling’s story written shortly after Mr Green’s death.

FEBRUARY 15, 2016:

THE grand old man of Tamworth’s history, Lyall Green, has died – painlessly and at peace with himself after achieving his own personal historic milestone of 100 years and 47 days of age.

The man regarded as the pre-eminent and most prodigious chronicler and researcher of the Tamworth story from European settlement, died Sunday afternoon in his room at Moonby House, where he’d been a favourite among staffers for over six years.

Mr Green was the guest of honour at a civic birthday party just a month ago to mark his own historic centenary celebration after actually turning 100 on December 29.

His closest friend, Ted Woodhart, said Lyall died peacefully and he had been dozing on and off and it appeared the end wasn’t too far off.

“I gave him an ice cream at 2.15pm and he finished that and five minutes later he died,” Mr Woodhart said.

“Very peacefully. I hope I go the same way.”

For the past few months Lyall had been unable to speak much, but he had continued to read, and to write short notes, including a salutation for his birthday event, and he and the staff at Moonby House and Mr Woodhart had their own ways of communicating without a lot of verbal explanation.

“But he loved his party and I think that was what he lived for,” he said.

FAVOURITE FRIENDS: The birthday bloke, Lyall Green, was the centre of attention with many staff at Moonby House last month to mark turning 100 two weeks before. With Mr Green are, from  left back, Tracey Gibson, Stephanie Bellanto, Trudy Locke, Adi Goff, Debbie O’Shea and Lyn Brett, with Pam Corcoran (seated front), Wendy Williams and Bernardine Smyth. Photo: Geoff O'Neill 130116GOC07

FAVOURITE FRIENDS: The birthday bloke, Lyall Green, was the centre of attention with many staff at Moonby House last month to mark turning 100 two weeks before. With Mr Green are, from left back, Tracey Gibson, Stephanie Bellanto, Trudy Locke, Adi Goff, Debbie O’Shea and Lyn Brett, with Pam Corcoran (seated front), Wendy Williams and Bernardine Smyth. Photo: Geoff O'Neill 130116GOC07

“When it was over, maybe he thought that’s enough.”

A Masonic funeral service will be held on Thursday at 10am at Lyall’s favourite church, the Uniting church in Marius St.

Mr Green was the acknowledged grand keeper of the historical records of Tamworth for nearly 60 years and a former school teacher who had researched most of the history of Tamworth and its people up to the year 2000.

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The celebrated historian is one of only 10 people accorded the highest honour the city can confer – as a Freeman of the City, which he was given in 2004.

He had been awarded an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in 1990 in the federal honours list for his community service as well.

His four-volume encyclopaedic publication, The Chronological History of Tamworth – the bible of Tamworth history – and written in conjunction with the late Dr Warren Newman, was printed in 2004. He was also the virtual king of the castle at Moonby House.

The nursing home and retirement complex owes its very considerable achievements in the Royal Freemason’s Benevolent Institution aged care company and history to Mr Green and his untiring work dating back some 35 years to resurrect the former privately-owned historical home into what it is today.

They actually named rooms in the company’s inventory of some 23 complexes after Lyall Green, too.

From the beginning

Lyall Green was born in 1916 and grew up in the Clarencetown and Maitland areas.

His father died when he was just 12 and historical society members believe his lifelong passion for history probably came from his mother who was a keen historian. 

He stayed at school and after graduating from Armidale Teachers College in 1936 went teaching, before joining the army to serve during World War II in New Guinea and later join the Occupation Forces where he was sent to Japan at the end of the war. 

Historical society officer Mike Cashman said Lyall arrived in Tamworth as a schoolteacher in 1947 and his first permanent teaching appointments were at Westdale and Tamworth primary schools, before serving his final 26 years at Tamworth High School. 

“He was responsible for numerous publications, including a comprehensive newspaper series in 1968 in the John Oxley Sesquicentenary year and extensive material in 1976 for the Tamworth council centenary,” Mr Cashman said.

“He was an inaugural member of the Peel Valley Historical Society, later to become the Tamworth Historical Society, being president for a decade in the 1960s.

“Aside from his significant history and education contribution, Lyall has been very active over the years in church and Masonic lodge activities, including Tamworth’s eisteddfod, dramatic and musical societies, arts council and local cricket.”

Lyall’s mother, Margaret, remarried in the 1950s to former Tamworth High school teacher Bevis Platt, who had taught science there. When he retired, they moved overseas. Lyall’s mother died in 1964.

He was an only child, and after his mother’s death, he lived half his life without any family around him.

As a fiercely independent person, and a stickler for setting down our heritage and stories, Lyall has done the same for his own.

He has written his own eulogy – penned some five years ago and kept in perpetuity until his death – and it will be opened from a sealed envelope and read at his service.

It will be fascinating to see if he accords his own recognition of “a life well-lived”, as author-colleague Warren Newman wrote of him a few years back, to the legacy he leaves Tamworth.

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