Old Sydneians’ Newsletter - Volume 25

Sydney Grammar School

Old Teacher Profile

John Duffy - Teacher at Grammar (1957-1987)

Early Years

John was born in Sydney in 1929, the eldest child of six. His father, Thomas Patrick Duffy, was a prominent member of the Australian Labor Party and the trade union movement. John was educated at Harcourt Public school, St Mel’s and later De La Salle Brothers at Marrickville. He graduated with a BA from the University of New England, his majors in Mathematics and Economics. After teaching at various schools in Armidale, Cronulla and Milson's Point, John was appointed to the staff of Sydney Grammar School in 1957 to teach Mathematics.


In 1960 John travelled to England to take an appointment at the John Fisher School, Purley, Surrey. After his year abroad, he returned to SGS and coached the Second XV for three years with a Premiership in 1962 and second in 1963. He coached the First XV from 1964 to 1972 with the exception of 1969 when he was in the United States. His successes were legendary: in 1966 the Firsts were Champions, in 1967 they were Premiers and in 1968, Runners-Up. He was also a highly regarded GPS selector for Rugby from 1979 to 1986.


In 1969 he accepted an appointment to the Mathematics Department of Oklahoma University and he took the opportunity to complete several post-graduate Mathematics courses. Shortly after returning to SGS, he became the Head of the Mathematics Department in 1971. Mr Mackerras when describing John’s influence in this field said, ‘The hallmarks are accuracy, rigour and careful setting out of problems expressed in proper English - simple, basic things and yet rarely insisted on.’ (1988 Sydneian Valette)

Not surprisingly, Grammar boys did very well in mathematics during this time. John was also a member of the Syllabus Committee in Mathematics for the Higher School Certificate from 1972. On leaving SGS, he accepted an invitation from the Mathematics Department of The University of New South Wales to be a Visiting Fellow for 1988.

Later Years

In retirement, John loved to keep fit by jogging along Bondi Beach and he was a member of the North Bondi Surf Lifesaving Club. He regularly made use of the club gym and established a ‘Coffee Club’ with fellow members to have ‘a good yarn’. He had a constant bug for travel, undertaking trips overseas – travelling around Britain, Europe and America. He also loved going on tours around Australia – the Tanami Track, Canning Stock Route, The Gunbarrel Highway and Cape York Peninsula, to name a few. He generally loved being outdoors and took a great interest in Australian birdlife, studying it intently.

In 2010, the School honoured John with the planting of ‘The Duffy Tree’ beside the grandstand; the plaque highlighting his contribution as both a teacher of mathematics and an outstanding rugby coach. In 2014, ninety Old Sydneian rugby players from the leaving years of 1957 to 1983 attended a luncheon at Weigall to celebrate John’s 85th year.

Sadly, John passed away in 2016 and it says a great deal that a group of old boys has a lunch every year in honour of him! 

John Duffy in the 1970's

John Duffy with the GPS 1966 Rugby Premiers

From the President of the OSU

Dear Old Sydneians, 

In this edition, I wanted to share with you some information about the incredible feats of some of us. It never ceases to amaze the heights that are reached and often with such diversity. First, for those avid fans of 'Masterchef', there’s Eric Mao, who, I’m informed, dropped out of studying Medicine temporarily to follow his passion for cooking – particularly east Chinese cuisine – and made the top twenty on the show. Although Eric has unfortunately been eliminated, his fantastic effort to even make the show let alone get through to the top twenty should be applauded. Next, I wanted to share the recent achievements of Oliver Schwartz (2016) who has been awarded the ‘Class of 1916 Cup’, which may be simply described as the award for the best scholar sportsman at Princeton University. Oliver is a computer science concentrator and a member of Princeton’s heavyweight rowing eight, leading the eight to podium finishes. He graduated summa cum laude and has been showered with other awards.  

I’m so proud to be an Old Sydneian and hearing about these amazing Old Boys adds to it all. 

I also wanted to remind you of some important upcoming dates (subject to COVID-19 regulations): 

The Great Debate, back by popular demand, is scheduled for Friday 16 July in the Alastair Mackerras Theatre (AMT). If the event goes ahead, keep your eye out for tickets. 

The Annual Old Sydneians Event, a long lunch this year, will be held at the Royal Automobile Club of Australia on Thursday 26 August 2021. Again, tickets will go on sale soon via the OSU website

Last, but not least, the GPS Gold Challenge is moving full steam ahead this year for the 1987 and 1988 years. It will be held on Friday 1 and Saturday 2 October (the Long Weekend) and is shaping up to be the biggest attended event. The Grammar ’87 and ’88ers have chosen their sport captains and will be on the hustings soon to organize teams and training sessions. The topic for the debate – the last event – will be 'that Sport is better than Sex'. Grammar is on the negative team. For more details, please go to the website at gpsgoldchallenge.com.au or contact any of the following below: 

1987: wmaccallum@rk.com.au; andrewksimons@gmail.com 

1988: glesnie@smartline.com.au; sandybasten@live.com.au 

Mr Walter MacCallum (OS 1987)


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. It is a unique way of celebrating your ‘Sydney Grammar School Journey’. This is a perfect addition for reunions or a gift. The cap is being sold (with all embroidered options included) at a price of $50.00 + GST.

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

Sport at Grammar

The Winter sports season has started well.

Both the First XI and Second XI Football teams secured the 2021 GPS Plate with brave 1-0 wins over strong St Ignatius' College opposition.

The First XV Rugby also performed well, recording wins against St Ignatius' College and Sydney Boys High School in the GPS Thirds Competition.

Term III home games scheduled for Weigall:

Saturday 17 July – Rugby (The King’s School); Football (GPS Round 4 v The King’s School)

Saturday 31 July, Back to Weigall Day - Rugby (The Scots College); Football (GPS Round 6 v The Scots College) 

Saturday 8 August – Rugby (Shore)

Prefect Raffle

This year, the Prefects have chosen to raise funds for the charity SANE, a national organisation that focuses on mental health, making a tangible difference via support, research and advocacy.

Back by popular demand, the renowned ‘Grammar Raffle’ is planned to take place during Term III this year. As a result, the boys are seeking donations of prizes from the Sydney Grammar School community and any contributions would be enormously appreciated.

If you are able to assist by donating a prize, please consider emailing prefects@sydgram.nsw.edu.au.

Similar raffles at Grammar have featured donations such as (but not limited to) gift cards, holidays, hampers, dinners. Tickets for the raffle will be available online shortly and for purchase at the OSU Great Debate. Further information will follow.

‘The Symphony of Annette’ - A Charity Evening Honouring Annette McClure

Annette was Choral Director at Sydney Grammar Edgecliff Preparatory School from 1992 to 2014. She taught many generations of Grammar boys and instilled within them a love of life, music, joy, creativity and laughter. At the end of 2019, Annette sadly lost her battle with endometrial cancer. This year her children, Luke (OS 2004) and Kate, have decided to host an event in her honour, called ‘The Symphony of Annette’.

It will be held on Saturday 28 August at Doltone House in Jones Bay Wharf and will be a night where everyone, who was a part of her life, can come together to remember what an amazing and beautiful person she was.

The evening will start with canapes overlooking the harbour, followed by a beautiful three course meal, free-flowing alcohol, amazing musical performances throughout the night and a live auction and raffle. All money raised will be donated to the Australian Gynaecological Cancer Foundation (AGCF), the only Australian Foundation focused purely on funding research into all gynaecological cancers.

Please follow the link below to purchase tickets either individually or as a table of ten. Even if you are unable to attend, you can still make a direct donation to the AGCF here.

GPS Annual Golf Day and Lunch

The GPS Golf Day and Lunch is scheduled for Manly Golf Club on Thursday 19 August, please click on the following entry form.

Scheduled Reunion Dates

Saturday 14 August: 1976 45 year Reunion Drinks, Pyrmont Bridge Hotel, 6:30 pm – 11:30 pm, (Organiser: Paul Kotala)

Saturday 9 October: 1991 30 year Cocktail Party, Big School, 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm (Organiser: Neomal Silva)

Saturday 16 October: 2011 10 year Reunion, The Bellevue Hotel, 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm (Organisers: Sam Watson, Max Jones, Alexander Klimt, Charlie Mazzochi)

Thursday 28 October: 1960 and 1961 60 year Reunion Lunch, Cellos Grand Dining Room, Castlereagh Boutique Hotel, Sydney at 12 midday for 12:30 pm (Organisers: Bruce Marich, George Conomos, Jim Cattlin)

Wednesday 10 November: 1950, 1951 and 1952 Annual Lunch (including partners), Alastair Mackerras Theatre Foyer, Stanley Street, from 12:15 pm (Organisers: John Wood, John Edwards, Don Middleton, Ken Turner, Tony Lister and Cliff Dodds)

Saturday 13 November: 1981 40 year Reunion, Tattersalls Club, time - to be confirmed (Organiser: Richard Head)

Weekend of 19, 20, 21 Nov: 1971 50 year Reunion (To be confirmed)

Thursday 9 December: 1986 35 year Xmas Party, LinQ Bar, Shelbourne Hotel, 6:30 pm – 10:30 pm (Organiser: Steve Hing)

Recent Reunions:

The 55-56 old boys held their “Balmoral Breakfast Club” on 19 April 

Back Row (L to R): John Greathead, Phil West, Warren Marks, John Neeld, Ric Cozens, Brian Folbigg, David Whitehead

Front Row (L to R): David Lesnie, Gary Furlong, John Vicars, Paul Vrachnas, Moreton Rolfe

2001 20 Year Reunion 


Phoenix Hotel on Saturday 19 June. (The organiser was Robert Chiu)

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

Gregory Peter Shand AM (OS 1978)

For significant service to the Jewish community, and to charitable initiatives.

John Handel Cutler OAM (OS 1967)

For service to the fashion industry.

Michael Dillon AM (OS 1962)

With the recent passing of Prince Philip, we are proud to remind Old Sydneians that Michael Dillon was Australia’s first Duke of Edinburgh Gold Awardee.

When Everest was first climbed, Prince Philip, patron of that expedition, devised a series of tiered personal tests, a bit like Scouts’ or Guides’, but in a school context. Its aim was to round off the education of teenagers through exposure to outdoor adventure and service to others. In the early 1960’s, to see if it would catch on here, it was started at Sydney Grammar School and Sydney Church of England Grammar School. Exactly the right age to give it a go, Michael was lucky enough to be one of the first to roam the Australian bush doing a ‘Duke of Ed’. He and his mates put their bikes on the overnight Cooma mail train, and rode all over the Snowy Mountains, rucksacks on their backs. They did normal schoolwork too, but it was the outdoor Duke of Ed memories that have burned the brightest through the years. It even influenced Michael’s career choice.

Michael has been a documentary cinematographer and director for more than 40 years, including 25 years as Sir Edmund Hillary’s filmmaker. He has filmed three Australian Everest expeditions, and is a founding director of the Australian Himalayan Foundation, which carries on Hillary’s social and educational work in the Himalayas.

Michael’s remastered 1977 film Ocean to Sky recently screened at many cinemas around Australia on 14 May. The film depicts Hillary's last big expedition as they jet boated from the mouth of the Ganges to the base of the Himalayas, then set out to climb peak Akash Parbat. It is recounted by nine amazing storytellers including Hillary's son Peter and many of Hillary's best friends. Amazing images, crafted by Sir Peter Jackson's team in New Zealand, combined with a brilliant music score to help the film win many international awards, a five-star review, and great acclaim from Film Festival audiences.

Read more about Michael in SGS Magazine - Edition 13, Winter 2021

A young Michael Dillon meeting Prince Philip

Michael Dillon pictured with the award at his home

Justin Davies (OS 1994)

Justin is a BAFTA Award winning film producer. Some of the shows that he has helped produce include: Beautiful People (2008-9), Psychoville (2009-11), Absolutely Fabulous (2011-12), Way to Go (2013) and Quacks (2017).

Justin is currently in Australia about to film a new surf drama for the ABC called Barons. Focusing on the hedonistic world of surfing, the cut throat culture of big business and the emotional roller coaster of relationships, the eight-part drama features a group of brave but crazy, twenty-something friends, who all have one thing in common – a love of the ocean and surfing. It is likely to air in 2022.

Eric Mao (OS 2017)

Eric has recently been a contestant on the latest series of MasterChef. Indeed, he auditioned for Junior MasterChef Australia some ten years ago at 10 years of age, and, although he didn’t quite make it into the competition, the MasterChef magic stuck with him. Eric has progressed well during the recent episodes, showing creativity and organisational skills. After being eliminated a couple weeks ago, he fought hard to get back into the competition but narrowly missed out.

One of two children born to his immigrant Chinese parents, Eric has been inspired to share his food philosophy and passion for regional Chinese cuisine with Australia. With roots in Wuxi in Eastern China, Eric and his family have travelled back to their homeland on numerous occasions.

Eric is a third-year medical student at the University of NSW but, as he is always thinking about his next meal, his dream is to have a pop-up restaurant that brings regional Chinese cuisine into a modern Australian setting.

John Ulm (OS 1938)

Congratulations to John who turned 100 on 23 June. John’s father was the well-known aviator Charles Ulm, who flew with Charles Kingsford Smith. John himself became an aviation correspondent and worked as a Special Assistant to Management at Qantas.

When asked what he thought was the legacy that Sydney Grammar had given him as a person, John commented:

I found at Grammar an unstated sense of service, decency and leadership which determined my life. Sydney Grammar School nourished good values: whatever we do we should do well. I also believe that the School helped me develop a profound interest in History, most notably French. I also liked the idea that Grammar was non-denominational, and I am reminded of John Vallance’s quote that ‘Catholics would teach Hebrews the Protestant ethic.’ Overall, I have always had very positive thoughts about my old school, and I have tried to keep in touch since returning to Australia. I donated a trophy prize and I attended several ANZAC Day lunches and gave the 2008 ANZAC Day Address. In recent times, I have developed a friendship with the former Headmaster John Vallance, who is now Director of The State Library of New South Wales.

(Footnote: John’s grandson Alexander finished at Grammar last year, and he has just started a Bachelor of Environment and Sustainability degree at ANU.)

Ronald Crawfurd Hutcheson MacKellar (OS1939)

Congratulations also to Ron who just turned 101 on 1 June this year and is our oldest Old Sydneian. (Ron was written up in the Term II 2020 E-Newsletter.)

Archibald Finalists

There were 938 entries in the 2021 Archibald Prize and 52 made it into the last round.

Here are the five finalists that are Old Sydneians.

Matthew Kentmann (OS 1995) 

‘Les’ (Sitter: Leslie Rice)

Mathew Lynn (OS 1981)

‘Apprentice – Self-portrait with Papa K (aka I do see colour)’

Julian Meagher (OS 1996)

‘Fozzy’ (Sitter: Craig Foster)

Michael Snape (OS 1969)

‘Stuart Purves’

Oliver Watts (OS 1994)

‘Dorian Gray/Eryn Jean Norvill’

The Grammar Shop has some items for sale that may be of interest to Old Sydneians.

Price List:

Apron, black or denim $20

BPA Free Plastic Drink Bottle (white) $14 

Steel Drink Bottle (black) $18

Tea Towel $15

Leather Wallet $85


If anyone is interested in purchasing items, please email sgswashop@sydgram.nsw.edu.au.

SGS Magazine Edition 13, Winter 2021 is now available


The latest edition of SGS, Edition 13, Winter 2021 is available in electronic form here. Copies posted to subscribers will be mailed 9 July 2021.

A vast number 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.

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

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.

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.

Here are some photos that have been added to Flikr:

St Ives Prep infant pupils with their bottles of (tepid) milk 1959  

The SGS Rifle Club 1886 | Wearing their scarlet cadet tunics

Sir Robert Menzies on 1963 with pupil at the opening of the Advanced Science Labs 

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

Music at St Ives Prep in 1976

Year 6 Activities in 1978 at St Ives


Tug o’ War at the 1976 St Ives Athletics Carnival

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.

Humanity in Medicine

Kerry Breen has written a biography describing some of the amazing achievements of Dr Stanley Goulston (OS 1932). It can be ordered through the followinglink. 

During WWII, Stanley was the sole doctor for 1500 soldiers in the Middle East, and he was involved in the famous siege of Tobruk, later receiving a Military Cross. On his return to Australia, he worked at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney and became one of our first gastroenterologists. In addition to his contribution to medical research and training, Stanley wrote poetry and studied philosophy. He then taught his fellow doctors to write in the hope of fostering a more humane and compassionate version of modern scientific medicine.