ALBERT Southern was one of Bulli’s favourite sons. He played an active part in the industrial, political, business and civic life of the northern Illawarra for almost 40 years last century, and was held in the highest esteem by the community.
Albert served with distinction on the Bulli Shire Council for six years, first elected in 1922 and was one of the first two Labor aldermen elected to the shire.
In 1926, when he was shire president, he entertained vice royalty when the State Governor (Sir Dudley de Chair) and his wife visited Bulli.
Albert was also a director of the Woonona Co-operative Society for 35 years and was president of the board for an unbroken period of 30 years, retiring in 1951 owing to ill health.
In the course of a life dedicated to his community, Albert held at various times the following offices:- vice-president of Bulli Hospital Board, president of Bulli Woonona Labour League, president and delegate of Old Bulli Miners’ Lodge, and member of Bulli Progress Association.
Albert was also a musician, and was president and treasurer of the Woonona Bulli Town Band for many years. An active bandsman he ‘played home’ every local returned soldier from the Great War. His granddaughter, Elizabeth Kingston wrote:
“Our brave soldiers were heading home from WW1, many injured and many more traumatised. This should have been a joyous time, instead Australia was dealing with the Spanish Flu. The Illawarra residents were living in fear! It was normal for the local Town Band to herald the soldiers from the train and their loved ones to gather in mass at stations such as Bulli. The Bulli Town Band was set to welcome the heroes home at Bulli Station, but most of the band members were too worried & scared about the Spanish Flu so one by one they dropped out. Albert Southern, my grandfather was unable to go to war because he had a glass eye, but was determined to be there, because these young men fought for our country and he was so grateful for what they did. So he took his cornet and like the lone piper played with gusto and welcomed them home. My grandfather, while not a war hero was held in such regard by the community. Within a few years he was elected as the first Labor Alderman of the Shire of Bulli and in 1925 became President of the Shire.”
Born in Aspull, Lanchashire England on October 17 in 1882, only a few miles from Rochdale, home of the famous co-operative pioneers, it was no wonder Albert Southern was so dedicated to the movement. There he worked in the coal mines of Wigan,.
Albert married Mary Ann Mercer and they had two children, Winifred and Hylda before the young family decided on a move to New Zealand to improve Mary Ann’s health in 1912.
While in New Zealand, Albert had an eye shot out by a nephew with a daisy air gun, an accident that would prevent him from fighting in the Great War.
The family sailed to Australia at the end of 1913 and they took up residence in Hopetoun Street Bulli. Later, Albert built a house across the road from where they were living in Hopetoun Street and the family moved there in 1922. Albert’s great granddaughter and her family still call that house home to this day.
Albert worked at Old Bulli Colliery from 1914 to 1942, and then for several years, until his retirement from the industry, was a member of the Coal Miners’ Reference Board.
While in Australia, Albert and Mary had two more children, Albert Jnr and Bessie.
Albert Jnr became a police officer in the 1930s, and was said to be “the first native of Bulli to qualify for such position under the new system”.
On Albert’s retirement from the Woonona Co-Operative Society, the South Coast Times reported on April 26 1951:
Mr. Southern, who announced his retirement recently because of failing health, had been president of the society for the record period of 30 years, and a member of the Board of Directors for 35 years. He has been succeeded as president by Mr. Albert Hart, a director of Woonona branch for many years. Mr. Southern was first elected to the Board of Directors of the Co-Operative Society in 1916, and held the office of president continuously from 1921 to 1951. His resignation was accepted with regret and all members of the Board paid eulogistic tribute to his untiring devotion to the principles of co-operation. During his term as president he watched the membership of his society from 1600 to its present figure of well over 6,000 and has worked with five different general managers – J. W. Lamb, J. R. Marley, T. Clark, W. McEllister and, for the last eleven years, Mr. P. Frew.
Albert died at his Hopetoun Street home in October 1951 at the age of 69. His funeral at St Augustine’s Bulli was said to have been attended by most of the population of Woonona and Bulli.
The Austinmer Bridge
SPACE FOR PEDESTRIANS
The new bridge over the creek which crosses the Main Road at Austinmer, near the junction of The Grove, is now completed, and will be declared open in an official manner on Monday afternoon; It is certainly wider than the old structure, but a space of six feet is being reserved on either side for pedestrians, so that in reality the space for vehicular traffic will be only five feet more than formerly.
– Illawarra Mercury, Friday, May 21, 1926
The new bridge over the main South Coast road at Austinmer was also officially opened by Mrs. Albert Southern (wife of the president of the Bulli Shire Council. Mr. W. Davies, M.L.A., and Mrs. Davies were among the speakers.
– The Labor Daily, Thursday, May 27, 1926
- Special thanks to Elizabeth Kingston, granddaughter of Albert and Mary Southern, for photographs and information
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