Kurri Kurri historian Brian Andrews OAM has passed away, aged 76

HONOUR: Brian Andrews receiving his Order of Australia Medal (OAM) from Governor of NSW, Marie Bashir in 2009.

HONOUR: Brian Andrews receiving his Order of Australia Medal (OAM) from Governor of NSW, Marie Bashir in 2009.

Brian Andrews devoted his life to preserving the history of the Hunter Valley.

A founding member of the Coalfields Heritage Group and a long-serving curator of the Edgeworth David Museum at Kurri Kurri, Mr Andrews passed away on Tuesday, September 10, aged 76.

A descendant of the Andrews family of Mulbring, Mr Andrews was born in Moree in 1943, and moved to Newcastle at the age of six when his father Eric, a State Rail employee, took on managing Broadmeadow's railway marshalling yard.

He was received high grades in his Intermediate Certificate at Hamilton's Marist Brothers High School, but his parents could not afford to send him on to further education, so at age 16, he moved to Sydney to live with aunts, and later in a boarding house, while he trained to be a technician with the Postmasters General Department, which would later become Telecom.

Mr Andrews went on to manage some of Sydney's largest exchanges including Ryde, Pymble, Wahroonga, Pennant Hills and Hornsby.

In 1993, he took a redundancy that was too good to refuse and retired to Kurri Kurri, aged 49.

His father had passed away in 1991, so he invited his mother Allie to move in with him. His mother passed away in 1997.

He became the curator of the Edgeworth David Museum in Deakin Street in 1996; founded the Coalfields Heritage Group a year later, and wrote more than 180 books on Hunter history, covering everything from war to coal mining to the Catholic Church.

"Brian loved writing about the history of our area; he used to say this area is rich in history and so many people don't know what the coalfields has to offer," Coalfields Heritage Group secretary Lexie Matthews said.

Mr Andrews had also been a mural tour guide in Kurri Kurri; conducted excursions and history walks on the Old North Road, and worked closely with the University of Newcastle's Cultural Collections on many projects, including the People and Place, Coal and Community exhibition and the Voices of the Hunteroral history project.

PASSION FOR HISTORY: Brian Andrews, pictured at the Edgeworth David Museum in June 2018 when he was assisting with the Lost Diggers project.

PASSION FOR HISTORY: Brian Andrews, pictured at the Edgeworth David Museum in June 2018 when he was assisting with the Lost Diggers project.

"Brian will be missed so much by many people, he loved to talk history, he didn't always agree with what people were saying and he wasn't afraid to say so," Ms Matthews said.

"He loved it when the school children or the Joey Scouts came to visit, they had so many questions. Brian loved to talk with them and tell them about the sort of things they would find inside the museum; things that they may not have seen before.

"One night the Joey Scouts had Brian take part in the flag ceremony before they came inside. He said 'that was good, I haven't done that before, it is good that I can still learn something new'."

Mr Andrews was named on the Queen's Birthday Honours List in 2009, receiving the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for his years of dedication to recording local heritage and service to the community.

He was also Kurri Kurri's Citizen of the Year in 2002 and received a Stage Heritage Volunteer Award in 2003.

Mr Andrews was diagnosed with cancer in March this year, and spent the last few months of his life in care at Kurri Kurri Masonic Village.

On Monday (the day before his passing), Coalfields Heritage Group bestowed another honour on Mr Andrews - its first-ever life membership.

Ms Matthews said it was a privilege to present Mr Andrews with the award, saying he could have earned two life memberships, given his 22 years of service to the group.

"I think we made him a little brighter knowing that we at the museum wanted him to to have this service award. It wasn't like going to Sydney to get his major awards, this was from his team they were awarding him. I think that made it a very special day," she said.

Ms Matthews said when one of the group's members went to visit Mr Andrews on Monday night, he was asleep holding his trophy.

He passed away the following afternoon, with his nieces Jenny and Cecelia by his side.

Mr Andrews's funeral service will be held at Holy Spirit Catholic Church, Kurri Kurri on Tuesday, September 17 at 10.30am.

WEALTH OF KNOWLEDGE: Brian Andrews, pictured at his Kurri Kurri home in 2009, after he was named on the Queen's Birthday honours list. Picture: Krystal Sellars

WEALTH OF KNOWLEDGE: Brian Andrews, pictured at his Kurri Kurri home in 2009, after he was named on the Queen's Birthday honours list. Picture: Krystal Sellars

The following article appeared in the Advertiser on June 10, 2009.

A thirst for our history earns high recognition

It would be hard to find a person who has researched and documented the Hunter Valley's history more than Kurri's Brian Andrews.

Mr. Andrews, 65, was on the Queen's Birthday Honours List on Monday, receiving the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his years of dedication to recording our local heritage and service to the community.

"It's a big honour, something I never thought I'd receive," Mr. Andrews said.

A descendant of the Andrews family of Mulbring, Mr. Andrews began researching nearly 40 years ago when he undertook a thorough history of the Mulbring Valley and its pioneers - resulting in the 48-page book "Sugarloaf" series.

Following his retirement in 1993, Mr. Andrews moved from Sydney to Kurri to be closer to his family and devote himself to recording the area's history.

He has been the curator of the Edgeworth David Museum since 1996, and founded the Coalfield Heritage Group a year later,when he also established the Jim Comerford Coalfield Library, Archives and Research Centre.

The museum houses more than three million pages of local history, more than 10 per cent of which have been written by Mr. Andrews himself.

As well as having written 104 books, hundreds of newspaper articles and radio items, Mr. Andrews has been heavily involved with community groups, particularly schools and the Catholic Church.

As well as teaching school students about local heritage, Mr. Andrews is the Scripture teacher at four local schools and was a member of the Parish Council and the Vineyards Region Representative on the Maitland-Newcastle Diocesan Pastoral Council for two terms.

He is also a past president of the Kurri Probus Club and has been on Cessnock City Council's Cultural Planning and Development Committee since 2007.

Previous honours Mr. Andrews has received include Kurri Citizen of the Year in 2002 and a Stage Heritage Volunteer Award in 2003.

Comments