2019 Ron Rathbone Local History Prize winners

The 2019 Ron Rathbone Local History Prize winners were announced by Mayor Bill Saravinovski on Saturday, September 7 at an awards function in the Rockdale Library.

The judges found it so difficult to decide upon a winner that they made the decision to split the prize and declare two joint winners.

They are: Dr Garry Darby for a new history of our area incorporating the stories and histories of the Aboriginal people of the Botany Bay area; and Glen Humphries for research into the story of David Scanlon, better known as the Kingsgrove Slasher, who terrorised our district in the 1950s.

Leonie Bell received a Highly Commended Award for her work on the wonderful history of the Brighton-le-Sands area.

Ada Kwok, who has entered every year and is now in her final year of school, was presented with an award for her outstanding contribution over the years.

Primary School Awards went to:Dana Khalil for her essay, The History of Bexley; Mishel Tareen for her essay on the redevelopment of Bexley Pool; and John Vimal for his essay on the suburb of Bexley

The High School Award went to Cindy Purvis for her incredibly detailed essay on the history of Tempe House.

"This year's prize has resulted in some wonderful entries covering a range of topics," said Mayor Bill Saravinovski.

"We had entries on the local Aboriginal peoples, our Chinese communities, our heritage-listed buildings, our churches and our suburbs," he said.

"We even had an entry on one of our most notorious criminals. All the entries are well worth reading and all offer a wealth of new information and insights into our past."

Glen Humphries submitted one of the most readable pieces of local history that the judges have ever encountered.

Night Terrors is a work of true crime detailing the case of the "Kingsgrove Slasher". David Joseph Scanlon was a resident of Arncliffe who, in the late 1950s, terrorised Kingsgrove and the surrounding suburbs.

The title of Glen Humphries' work - Night Terrors - is an accurate description of the effect the Kingsgrove Slasher had on all of Sydney and on the Kingsgrove area in particular.

In 1956, an unknown man - soon given the moniker of the "Kingsgrove Slasher" - began slashing flyscreens to enter women's bedrooms through their windows and attack them while they were sleeping. The Slasher - David Scanlon - was not identified by police or arrested until April 1959. He was eventually sentenced to 18 years in jail.

Glen Humphries draws on contemporary newspaper coverage, as well as on police and court records, to weave a compelling narrative of David Scanlon's crimes and their impact on the community.

"Night Terrors creates an astonishingly vivid picture of the atmosphere of escalating fear in suburban households where people grew so afraid to sleep at night that they resorted to installing steel bars on their windows. Night Terrors is both an excellent piece of local history and an utterly compelling work of true crime," the judging panel said.

Dr Garry Darby is well-known as a chronicler of the history of the Sans Souci area.

In 2015, Dr Darby won the Local History Prize with his entry on Rocky Point Road. This year, he has entered a thoroughly researched work on the Aboriginal people of the Botany Bay area.

Dr Darby has brought to life many of the Aboriginal people of the area, including Johnny Malone, Mahroot, Albert Binghi, Biddy Giles and Jimmy Lowndes.

The theme of Dr Darby's work is the "intersecting lives" of Aboriginal people and European residents, and he has drawn on a vast array of primary sources to document the many interactions that took place between the peoples of two vastly different cultures. His work makes a genuine contribution to our understanding and knowledge of our history.

Leonie Bell, who has written several wonderful entries for the Local History Prize over the years

(including winning entries on the Rockdale Opera Company and the Botany wool industry), entered again this year with a work entitled, The Grand Parade Brighton: real estate and recreation.

Although Leonie's work is called The Grand Parade, it covers so much more than just the history of the road.

Her work uses that main road as a focal point to explore the history of the suburbs of Brighton-Le-Sands and Ramsgate.

Leonie details how the real estate sales along the length of the road led to the suburbs of Brighton and Ramsgate being developed both as residential areas and as centres of recreation.

Leonie's work will appeal to anyone who grew up in the area and remembers local icons such as the Brighton Baths, Pemberton's Ramsgate Baths or the lovely old Brighton Hotel. Her work also looks at the long history of lifesaving along the beachfront and covers more recent history too; in particular, the storms that wreaked havoc in Brighton in the 1960s, the Grand Pines Tourist Park and the beginnings of the Roxy.

"Full of wonderful maps and illustrated by numerous photographs, this work is a must for anybody interested in the history of Brighton-Le-Sands and the surrounding areas," the judges said.

Entries will be on display in the Local Studies section of Rockdale Library.

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