Faces of Tamworth: historian, teacher Warren Newman OAM

PROUD HISTORY: Historians Warren Newman and Lyall Green, at centre, at the launch of their pictorial history in 1998, flanked by publisher Alan Halbish and designer Richard Tabaka.
PROUD HISTORY: Historians Warren Newman and Lyall Green, at centre, at the launch of their pictorial history in 1998, flanked by publisher Alan Halbish and designer Richard Tabaka.

Last week, Faces of Tamworth featured Lyall Green – today, we focus on the other half of the dynamic duo who set down the history of our city from the days of European settlement in the huge undertaking called The Chronological History of Tamworth. In another story by longtime leading NDL journalist Ann Newling, Dr Warren Newman is remembered for his work and contributions.

December 7, 2013: NOTED historian Warren Newman – the man honoured only four days ago with the highest civic award Tamworth can bestow – died early yesterday morning.

The academic, teacher, educator, historian and writer slipped away in his sleep just before 2am.

A family friend, Euan Coutts, said Dr Newman, 75, had, in the end, died peacefully.

Dr Newman was admitted to hospital about 10 days ago after the cancer that plagued him two years ago made a savage and swift return.

But he survived to see his name added to the civic plaque that names him as only the 11th identity in our city’s history conferred with the Freeman of the City title.

That ceremony took place on Tuesday and although Dr Newman was too ill to accept it personally, he was aware of it, saw the citation and was proud and honoured by the significant gesture from Tamworth Regional Council and the people it represents.

Historian’s history

Born and raised on the family dairy farm at Alstonville, Newman studied teaching at the Armidale Teachers’ College. 

He taught at St Mary’s School in Sydney, then at the one-teacher Burrapine School near Taylor’s Arm, west of Macksville, succeeding by coincidence David Maher, another noted Tamworth educational leader.

Newman returned to teach at Armidale after that stint before going overseas to Canada and postgraduate studies in education.

He returned in 1971 to the ATC as a lecturer in education and history, and was later appointed head of education when it became a College of Advanced Education.

With its amalgamation with the University of New England, he was appointed an associate professor and dean of the faculty of education, nursing and professional Studies.

In 1990 he moved to Tamworth to become regional director of programs and planning with the Education Department but took early retirement when his position was made redundant.

Prolific writer

Newman then resumed his interest in history full-time, going on to either write, co-author or edit many books on Tamworth or Armidale history. His most significant work, co-authored with the eminent local historian Lyall Green, was the four-volume Chronological History of Tamworth, published in 2004.

Before then, he and Mr Green wrote Tamworth: A Pictorial History, produced by the then-city council.

In 2006 he was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in the Queen’s birthday honours list.

Dr Newman was a noted and prodigious guest speaker and authority on all things historical and educational.

He’s been a prolific producer of snippets of history for all types of groups and community organisations. 

When he first became ill a couple of years ago, he’d actually just completed a substantial and entrancing series of 100 articles, titled Timelines, drawn from Lyall Green’s earlier works, and published in The Leader every weekend for two years.

His last column appeared almost exactly two years to the day he was struck down again by the insidious cancer that has killed him.

It was just like the generous nature of the man that he did that writing so willingly, with enthusiasm and panache, and freely.

He did the same for many other groups, providing expert details and historical digging to enhance their heritage research.

A special friend of The Leader, he would answer late-night SOS calls from the newsdesk for often little-known facts to embellish stories for the city and its people.

His memorial service will be held next week, a date and time are yet to be confirmed, but it will be in his church, St John’s. 

Parishioners will know him as the organist there.

He was, according to Mr Coutts, a brilliant pianist and organist, which he’d learnt as a trainee teacher. 

During his college years he played at the Saturday night college gigs and he went on to be the organist at St Peter’s Anglican Cathedral there later on, too.

Dr Newman was also a Past District Governor of Rotary (1987-88) and was made a Paul Harris Fellow in 1989.

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