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Black, Cecil Audley (Cec) (1936–2010)

by Malcolm Brown

Every community club needs a big-hearted man to take its members under his wing, teach the children skills, collect old newspapers to raise money, bang the big drum in the band or some such equivalent – whatever was called for – drive the buses, visit the elderly when they fall ill, and Cec Black, of the Gladesville RSL Club, was it.

Cecil Audley Black was born in Brisbane on August 13, 1936, to Cecil Black and Gladys (nee Morrison, then Rosevear from her first marriage). He was educated in Brisbane and in 1954 joined the Royal Australian Navy. He trained at the Flinders naval depot in Victoria, then joined the sloop HMAS Swan for at least two years, doing survey work around Australia. Following a brief posting to HMAS Kuttabul, he was sent to HMAS Tobruk and served in the Strategic Reserve during the Malayan emergency. For his service he received the Australian Active Service Medal with Clasp, the Naval General Service Medal with Clasp and the Australian Service Medal with Clasp.

Black married Stella Ginger in 1959 and the following year left the navy with the rank of petty officer. He then joined the Maritime Services Board in Sydney and continued his work in communications, initially working at the board building in Circular Quay, taking communications from ships and co-ordinating their movements in and out of the harbour. From the family home at Gladesville, he supported his three sons in sport, taking them swimming every Sunday he had off to the Cabarita pool and supported them in football. He became involved in the RSL junior football club and collected old newspapers to sell to a pulp mill and raise funds.

In 1970 Black took over the Gladesville RSL Youth Club Band. Drawing on his military past, he gave them marching practice. All his sons joined it. He spent thousands of hours over the years tutoring children and young people in becoming proficient in playing various musical instruments, and drove the bus to take the band to its engagements. When there was nobody to play the big drum he slung it onto his shoulders and played it himself, drawing wry looks from the crowds.

The band went on to win numerous awards. In 1974 he became the honorary treasurer of the Gladesville RSL Youth Club, which grew to a membership of 1200, due in no small way to his efforts and influence. He held the position for 34 years.

Also in 1974, Cecil Black became the first Maritime Services Board worker to take up a position in the MSB Tower when it was opened, giving him for the first time an unsurpassed view of the situation he was controlling. Andrew Mills, who worked with him at the board, said: ''Cec was a real gentleman. He was quiet, reserved and efficient in everything he did.''

In 1988 he joined the board of the Gladesville RSL sub-branch. In 1989 he became the welfare secretary and went on to give vast amounts of his time to visiting war veterans in hospital, nursing homes, retirement villages and in their homes. He attended many funerals, driving the bus to take club members to them, and often delivering the RSL tribute.

Black also used the bus to transport women in the ladies' auxiliary to fund-raising events. His son, Michael, said: ''The ladies loved him because he used to take them out in the club's bus. I think the youngest would be about 68. Most of them had lost their partner and did not get out much. He would take them to the movies, to the markets and other places. They would say, 'Don't forget lunch for the driver, please.' He helped people with big problems and little ones. He had a big heart, and people did not forget it.''

As the club said in a citation for him for the Medal of the Order of Australia, he got no money for his efforts apart from a $3120 a year honorarium when he became a director of the Gladesville RSL and Community Club, as it is now known, in 1997. In 1999 he received an award from the prime minister, John Howard, for his community service in the seat of Bennelong.

Black retired from Sydney Ports Corporation, which had absorbed the MSB, in 2000. He continued his work for the club and was awarded his OAM in 2005 for his services to the community. He succumbed to the effects of being exposed to asbestos during his naval career, and was diagnosed with mesothelioma, for which he received treatment at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

His wife died in July, and his health continued to decline. On Anzac Day last year he joined his colleagues in the navy Communications Branch on the march through the city but he was being pushed in a wheelchair.

Cecil Black is survived by his sons David, Michael and Richard, a half-brother, Tui Rosevear, and his seven grandchildren.

Original publication

  • Sydney Morning Herald, 6 February 2010

Citation details

Malcolm Brown, 'Black, Cecil Audley (Cec) (1936–2010)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/black-cecil-audley-cec-16859/text28755, accessed 13 December 2017.

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