Paul and Angela Riggs

I arrived at BGH in 1970, to find a well-established organisation and culture, or of course so it appeared at the time. We were not to know that from the perspective of 2015, it might now look to current students as if we ‘oldies’ were students at BGH and the ANU in the mists of distant historical times. Presumably many aspects have evolved over the 40 years since then.

A similar timeline and perspective applies to the ANU Soccer Club which recently (2012) had a 50th reunion.
The ANU Soccer Club is now the ANU Football Club, and Burton Hall is now combined with Garran Hall as BGH, but many similarities no doubt have continued in the student experience over the last 40 years.
I had the great pleasure to be President of the ANU Soccer Club and of the Burton Hall Junior Common Room at times during my student years as a resident of Burton Hall from 1970 to 1973, during which time I completed a B.Sc (Hons). This was a very enjoyable and (I like to think) developmental time, and hopefully we maintained if not built on the existing foundations of ANU institutions and culture, to the continuing benefit of students.
The figures of authority at the time were Mr Rossiter, Master of Burton Hall, Mr Walsh, the Manager, and Jamesy (Eric James), who occupied a position called Porter.
Jamesy was a former policeman who functioned as a resident watchman and, by his own choice and through his steady friendly personality, acted as a mentor and friend for many students, including (among many) me and also another student, Angela Brock, who subsequently became (and still is) my wife; we shared fun times with Jamesy in his flat playing cards, marbles and other games, and also ventured further afield for example to Captains Flat for a village-style cricket match he organised against the locals, who Jamesy knew form his country police days.
Mr Walsh was a less-familiar figure to us students, but generally helpful to us when we got involved in something with a management or financial aspect. For example, we ran a late night service selling hot meat pies in the Central Block, serving the needs of students after a heavy night studying (presumably!). In those days there were few options in Canberra for late night food, and not many students had cars anyway to travel into town.
Mr Rossiter was a respected but slightly forbidding figure, who embodied a firm but fair attitude. One of the activities of the student body (the Junior Common Room) was to organise a student ball annually. A memorable one of these balls (about 1971) had a Mississippi Riverboat gambling theme, and we printed our own currency for the night, called ‘The Rossiter”.
Burton and Garran Halls were ‘mixed’; rather than having separate wings for male and female which had been previous practice and at the time was still usual in other University accommodation Halls. This was quite an attraction and seemed very leading-edge. BGH was also progressive in having its own licenced Bar, called the Buttery, in the Central Block. Eric James was the bar manager as part of his duties. In addition to serving beer, he created the “Angel Drink” (contents now unknown), kindly named after Angela Brock. He also encouraged some of us to drink straight rum, which was presented as a ‘pre-emptive snake bite cure’ with the validation from his own experience of drinking rum while on country police patrols, and managing to avoid snake-bite for the entire time apparently as a result of this pre-emptive strategy.
In terms of students there are of course too many to risk offending by mentioning a select few, but I will identify some of the groups within the student population.
The Foresters were a hearty bunch known for wild physical exploits, and overlapping somewhat with the mountain-climbers.
There was a significant group of students with Melbourne origins, who brought news of exotic places like Chapel Street, and also carried the passions of Australian Rules football with them to Canberra.
Among Graduate students (and also Lecturers and other University staff) there were a significant number of Brits; this was particularly useful for the Soccer Club!
And there were also ‘local’ students at ANU, who actually came from Canberra and lived either at home or with friends in shared houses. For those of us ‘immigrants’ to Canberra staying in Halls of Residence, contact with these locals was not very common, as we lived, ate, studied and played within a short walk of the Halls. Fortunately over time I did meet some of these.
It was a friendly, comfortable environment at ANU in the 1970s (as I remember it!). I stayed in Canberra for a further 8 years before leaving for Melbourne in 1982, where we continue to live (with frequent trips abroad).
In 1978/1979 a few ex-residents (including Angela and I) organised a student reunion which was held at the Halls on the long weekend in January 1979 (27/28/29 January).
All the best to those attending this reunion and to students and Burton and Garran Hall residents of all eras. We are sorry not to be able to attend but we will be in Europe in January 2015.


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