Old Sydneians’ Newsletter - Volume 23

Sydney Grammar School

Old Teacher Profile

Mr Alan Swan (Latin and English master from 1953-1969)


Alan was born in Adelaide and he studied at the University of Adelaide. He taught at St Peter’s College before moving to Tudor House and becoming Senior Master. 

Master at Sydney Grammar School (1953-69)

Alan joined Sydney Grammar School in 1953 and was particularly well known as a Form Master in the Lower School. He taught Latin at Edgecliff Preparatory School for a while and coached rugby, helping Mr Stevenson with his famous Midget teams. For ten years he was Assistant to the Master of the Lower School where he interviewed new boys and efficiently dealt with significant clerical work. 

Mr Alastair Mackerras, writing in Alan’s Sydneian obituary, noted that he would be remembered for:

  1. ‘his forceful teachings of the Classics and of English and particularly for his precision in the teaching of English Grammar.’
  2. ‘the warmth of his personality and his hatred of humbug and cant.’
  3. ‘his love of good books and … his love of the School.’

Unfortunately, Alan’s health began to decline in the late 1960’s and, although he was obliged to withdraw from most of his teaching, he continued to work at the School. He left a lasting impression on his pupils, and he donated many of his own valuable books to the School Library. 

(Thanks to Ross Buchanan (OS 1971) for making an inquiry about Alan Swan.)

Alan Swan and Russell John (‘Stevo’) Stevenson with the undefeated rugby premiers (1960)

From the President of the OSU

Without doubt, 2020 will go down as one of the most tumultuous years in modern history. In Australia we started the year in smoke from some of the most devastating bushfires the country has ever seen. COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the way we work, interact with each other and our communities, and face challenges. While great tragedy has surrounded us this year, the human spirit and courage in the face of adversity has never been more on display. There have been Old Sydneians who have led the way through these times and supported our communities. From the plethora of Old Sydneians working in health - on the ‘frontline’ - to those who made and distributed urgently needed face masks for free, and to those who simply supported a colleague through these tough times – we salute you and thank you. 

COVID-19 has obviously hampered the OSU’s activities. Most reunions have had to be cancelled, the Gold Challenge deferred to next year, the Great Debate postponed and the Annual Lunch cancelled for 2020. Consequently, the focus is very much on next year. The Committee is working on a number of events and initiatives for 2021. There will be catchup reunions for those who missed this year as well as the one slated for 2021, a new members ‘meet and greet’ event (venue to be decided), a new format annual lunch and we’ll continue to develop the mentoring program. 

To the class of 2020, we welcome you as Old Sydneians and, as members of the Union, I hope to meet you all in the new year.

As the School begins to open up to non-students, so will our support for School events and projects. In particular, the new sports development at Weigall is taking shape. I recently had the privilege to review the concept drawings and designs with the Headmaster, and I can assure you that it is impressive and will provide a much-needed boost to the School’s sporting facilities. I hope to write to Old Sydneians in more detail about this exciting project in the new year.

The OSU has launched new, exciting customisable and personalised headwear. The fabulous new OSU cap with the OSU badge on the front has the option to have embroidered your year of graduation and your initials on the sides; a unique way of celebrating your Sydney Grammar Journey.

This is a perfect addition for reunions or a Christmas gift. The cap is being sold (with all embroidered options included) at a price of $50.00 + GST

Please click on the following link to organise your cap today.



The following masters are leaving the School: 

Mr Gregg Williams retires from the Science Department following his 28 years at the School during which he also served as a Housemaster.

Dr Geoff Windon retires from the English Department following his 24 years at the School.

Dr John Hughes retires as Librarian and from the English Department following a 22 year career at Grammar.

Mrs Amanda Miller leaves after 16 years at the School in the Prep and College Street Music Departments.

Mr Luke Wilson leaves for Cranbrook after almost 12 years coaching football and teaching Applied Arts.

Ms Felicia Boyages leaves after 12 years at the School as English master and Assistant to the Senior Master.

Dr Callie Reynolds Massey-Reed leaves us for Meriden after 8 years as Science master and Cadets.

Mr David Houghton (OS 1994) leaves us for Oxley College after 7 years as Mathematics master.  

Many reunions have been cancelled or postponed this year due to COVID-19. Nevertheless, there were two functions held on Friday 6 November. Peter Polgar organised the Annual 1967 Lunch at Ripples, Chowder Bay and Peter Gibby was the convener for the Annual John Duffy Lunch at Watsons Bay Hotel. In addition, the 1970 50-year Reunion Lunch took place on Saturday 21 November at I’m Angus Steakhouse, Cockle Bay Wharf, Darling Harbour. It was organised by Richard Farrar, Bill Brooks and Mark Todman, and a group photo is below.


The 1971 old boys met for lunch on Friday 27 November at the The Royal Canberra Golf Club, hosted by Sam Lamond and old boy Club members Peter Middleton and Peter Gibson.

For information regarding reunions, please contact Wendy Scotter wes@sydgram.nsw.edu.au.

Hector Abrahams (OS 1978)

Hector’s family has a long-standing connection with Sydney Grammar School. He and his five brothers attended the School, as did his father, uncles and cousins. Indeed, his grandfather Leon was there in the first decade of the 20th century and is listed on The Great War honour board in ‘Big School’.

Hector completed an honours degree in Architectural Science, followed by a degree in Architecture from the University of Sydney. He then specialised in Heritage buildings, being a partner in the eminent museum practice of Clive Lucas Stapleton and Partners for fifteen years. He worked on many important old buildings, including colleges at the University of Sydney, the Treaty House (Waitangi) and the Sydney GPO. In 2012 he established Hector Abrahams Architects (HAA), a company that is particularly interested in the architecture of old places ranging from repair, conservation and the making of strategic changes to use space more sustainably. HAA has worked on the Australian National Memorial, the Fouilloy War Cemetery and the Sir John Monash Centre at Villers-Bretonneux, and the company is currently providing advice to The Australian War Memorial Canberra.


Image by Fancy Boy Photography©

Murray Fredericks (OS 1987)

Murray is a well-known photographer and artist, specialising in imagery of remote, empty landscapes. He also shoots commercially as an architectural photographer and works as a time-lapse specialist in film and TV production.

Since 2003 Murray has made 26 long and challenging, often solo journeys, to the surface of Lake Eyre in the Australian Outback. Known as The Salt Project, its output includes many Australian and International exhibitions, a documentary film (Salt 2009) and his works are held in both public and private permanent collections around the world.

Murray’s film and TV commissions include a number of BBC / David Attenborough productions, documentaries and Australian drama and cinema. In the urban environment he works for many of Australia’s leading architectural firms and can regularly be seen on the television advertisements for COLORBOND® steel. 

Nikesh (Anand) Lalchandani (OS 1988)

Nikesh Lalchandani is an accomplished banker, technologist and communicator. With experience in all major Australia financial institutions, he has founded and helped set up startups, and introduced innovations to banking and fintech. Nikesh recently published a very successful book, an Australian first on the topic, Payments and Banking in Australia: From Coins to Cryptocurrency. 

The book uncovers:

  • How the Australian payment and banking system is designed and how it works.
  • The assumption that banks will continue to control payments and the flow of money, and challenging that methodology.
  • Chinks in the financial system armour and where opportunities lie within.
  • The technologies and approaches discovered that disrupt and transform the current model.
  • Knowledge and understanding you need to make sense of and navigate this critical industry, and how its transformation can be utilised in innovative and valuable ways.

Tanveer Ahmed (OS 1992)

Tanveer was born in Bangladesh in 1974. He and his parents moved to Australia in 1981, and settled in Toongabbie, in the western suburbs of Sydney. ‘Tanny from Toony’ as he was known, won a scholarship to Sydney Grammar School and went on to the University of Sydney, where he studied medicine, graduating in 2000 as a psychiatrist. He became involved in politics and served on local government at the City of Canada Bay between 2012-2017. Tanveer has also worked in the media and he is currently a columnist for The Australian Financial Review. He has written three books, the previous two titled The Exotic Rissole and Fragile Nation.

His most recent publication is called In Defence of Shame, where he looks at the concept of shame in a more positive way, saying that ‘its expression can be an act of love, a signal that one is part of a human collective.’ He argues for a more nuanced appreciation of how shame can be usefully ‘tamed’, the value of ‘good shaming’ (such as #covidiot) and how it can help people tolerate negative or challenging emotions.

Tariq Sappideen (OS 2002)

Tariq has a Bachelor of Arts (Social Policy) and a Master of International Studies from the University of Sydney. He has been working overseas for International SOS since 2012, and is currently based in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

International SOS is the world’s leading provider of medical and security risk mitigation solutions. It specialises in providing holistic medical and security services to the oil, gas and mining majors but also to governments and the NGO sector. Kazakhstan is an energy and mineral rich nation and, since the fall of the Soviet Union, the big names in energy have operated there, including Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron and Eni. 

Tariq’s role is primarily on commercial and operations, overseeing the group’s remote site projects across central Asia. The focus is on the provision of primary, occupational health and emergency care taking into consideration medical staffing models, equipment, drugs and disposables and medical evacuation planning. His job is constantly evolving and involves substantial travel. One day he will be meeting clients in Moscow and the next day he will be in a container room on a gas-to-liquids (GTL) plant in the middle of nowhere; identifying supply chain routes in Uzbekistan or discussing pandemic preparedness in West Kazakhstan. Language and cultural barriers are issues for expatriates, but he recommends learning some basic Russian.

Living in the mountainous city of Almaty has been a wonderful experience for Tariq and his family, and he is enjoying the warm summers (+30°) and very cold winters (-20°).


A vast amount of hard copy magazines are 'returned to sender' each time the School sends a new edition out to subscribers through the post. If you are regularly on the move and would prefer to receive the SGS magazine online via email, or would no longer wish to receive a hard copy of the magazine via post, please kindly notify Alumni Officer Wendy Scotter on (02) 9332 5843 or wes@sydgram.nsw.edu.au.

Alternatively, you are able to view most editions of SGS and Foundations magazine anytime via the School's website

The School Archives now has a permanent display space to showcase our collection of archival photographs, artefacts and memorabilia spanning over 170 years of school-related history. The Archives Museum and Alumni Reception area is located on the Middle Playground level of the Science Building at College Street. The visiting hours are from 9:00am- 4:00pm Monday to Friday. Due to COVID-19 restrictions Old Sydneians and the public are unable to visit the Office until further notice.

Archives on the Sydney Grammar School Website

A range of archival content has been digitised and recently uploaded to the Grammar website, aiming to make it easier for users to access the School Archives collection. Visit the School Archives to explore enrolment registers, copies of The Sydneian and Speech Day booklets and lists of Old Sydneians involved in World War I and II among other resources that will continue to be added to this page. For further information please contact Bridget Minatel or Charlotte McColl at sgsarchives@sydgram.nsw.edu.au or phone 02 9332 5833.

To view photographs via Flickr visit the following link. Do you have any old Sydney Grammar related photos you would like to donate to the Archives? If so, please let us know at sgsarchives@sydgram.nsw.edu.au.

Snapshots of Grammar

We are making a regular feature of showcasing photos that have been sent into Archives. Please send a digital or hard copy of your favourite photo, as well as a caption, to SGSArchives@sydgram.nsw.edu.au


Edgecliff Prep Book Week dress up parade

Form I boys viewing the Cammerosaurus special exhibit, 6 September 1956 – by Australian Museum photographer Howard Hughes (Courtesy of the AM, AMS351/V10207)

Middle Playground 1970-71 (Photo courtesy of Hunter Scales)

Mr Stathakis’ Ancient History Class 1970-71 (Photo courtesy of Hunter Scales)

Headmaster Mackerras with boys at lunchtime c. 1982 

In Gallant Company

Dr Philip Creagh’s (OS 1965-1966) book honouring the Old Sydneians who died in World War I is available, at a cost of $65 plus postage via the following TryBooking link. No other school in Australia made such a contribution or suffered so many casualties in World War I as Sydney Grammar School. This book includes short biographies of each Old Sydneian who didn’t make it home, comprising details of their school career, the circumstances in which they found themselves during the war and events leading to their untimely demise.

A Continuing Tradition MGS v SGS

Jim Catlin’s (OS 1961) book outlining the history of the Melbourne Grammar v Sydney Grammar cricket matches is available, at a cost of $50 plus postage via the following TryBooking link. It celebrates the feats of players from both schools in the oldest continuing inter-colonial (interstate) cricket match in Australia starting in 1876.


AAGPS Games to Play out

Bob Grant’s (OS 1959) book on the origins and development of the AAGPS is available, at a cost of $40 plus postage via the following TryBooking link. It is a celebration of a unique institution which emerged in the late nineteenth century, and which has had a significant impact on many lives.

To finish this newsletter, here is another poem from Dr Bob Strum (OS 1950) who has taken up poetry writing later in life.

Diving Suits

People try to communicate,
They seek the links which make us one.
We send out doves and then we wait,
A twig is there for everyone.
True, no matter how hard we try,
We are forever trapped inside.
Our souls find freedom when we die.
We seek our siblings but they hide.

Two lovers wearing diving suits
Are desperate for a loving kiss.
Unable to taste love’s fair fruits,
It is communion which they miss.
Our bodies are a prison cell.
Our souls are yearning to unite.
Perhaps this life is really hell.
One day our souls will see the light.

We ease our pain with fantasy.
We seek a reason for the pain.
Why could the architect not see
That ark-bound souls seek land again?
Was human existence designed
With a clear purpose, we don’t know,
Or did creation have no mind?
Evaporation when we go.

All we can do is speculate
And do the very best we can.
We can be masters of our fate,
We have the means, for we can plan.
If we give meaning to our lives,
If we can choose how we shall live,
Morality may yet survive.
All we need do is learn to give.

Dr Bob Strum (OS 1950)