A man whose research debunked the myth of Melbourne Cup winner Archer walking from Nowra to Melbourne has died aged 79.
Keith Wallace Paterson, a well-known local identity, historian and author, passed away on July 22 after a short illness.
Keith spent most of his long life in Nowra.
His adopted parents were respected local citizens – his father Tom served in World War II and his work with veterans led to life membership of Nowra RSL sub-branch, while his mother, Mary Ann cared for 80 children under the Child Welfare Department.
His working life started during the month of his 15th birthday in 1953, at the Nowra Leader, the last apprentice to be indentured by Shoalhaven’s only female newspaper proprietor, Miss Florence Connolly.
After the paper was sold, Keith’s role was in the commercial printing arm of the company, and he was given the responsibility to see that work was completed on time.
Frustrations led to him leaving that position, and even the Shoalhaven for a short time. He returned and had a variety of jobs, even conducting a small café in the Shoalhaven Arcade near Woolworths for a short time.
He eventually settled into employment with Ison and Co in Bridge Road, and was in his element assisting do-it-yourselfers.
Over the years he had been associated with a number of local organisations including the Nowra Volunteer Fire Brigade, Nowra Music Club, Shoalhaven Philatelic Society and more recently the Shoalhaven Historical Society, where his passion for history and research came to the fore.
He joining the fire brigade in 1970, participating with the local teams in demonstrations and attending some of the area’s most significant blazes.
In 1988 he was presented the national medal, awarded to firefighters with more than 15 years’ service, and continued for a lengthy period after that.
That involvement led to his first foray into local history writing, with A Century of Tradition being released at the time of the brigade’s centenary in 1994.
Keith has always been renowned for his interest in local history and it is hard to pinpoint when it started.
It may have been the Captain Cook Bicentenary in 1970, or during that same decade when he spent countless hours helping Darrell Riles with his restoration of Terrara House.
Keith devoted years to researching that subject, and when ill-health led to his retirement from Isons in mid 1999, he had more time for the project which became an obsession.
He published The Master’s Touch – Racing with Etienne de Mestre in 2008, and while it was difficult to market, the book earned the highest recognition.
In a field that included professional authors, it won the inaugural Bill Whittaker Award for the best racing book of the year.
It was during his research he discovered Archer, the winner of the first two cups, hadn’t actually walked to Melbourne as per the popular myth, instead travelling down the coast via a steamer.
He also used his material on Archer to produce a smaller publication.
Over the past decade, Keith has been a dedicated member of Shoalhaven Historical Society, seldom missing a meeting or activity.
Having grown up in the town and knowing many people, he had plenty to offer.
A regular on the museum roster, he also served a couple of years on the committee in the early 1980s, before becoming a permanent member in 1994, serving continuously until his passing.
That included 10 years as treasurer.
There would be other publications he prepared for the society – Saga of the Terrara School of Arts; The Circus and Other Travelling Tent Shows in the Shoalhaven; The Spirit of Back To Shoalhaven Week; and that little known event The Day the Chimborazo Sailed into Point Perpendicular.
He was also the joint author with Alan Clark and Robyn Florance of The Soldiers’ Memorial Gates, Nowra in 2011; and Nowra School of Arts – Celebrating 120 Years in 2012.
Long-time friend and collaborator Alan Clark said Keith proved himself to be a thorough researcher.
“Apart from what he did at Nowra, he took many trips to Sydney to gather information,” Mr Clark said.
“While working on The Master’s Touch, he travelled far and wide to meet people connected to or with knowledge of the de Mestre family.”
While he was not comfortable using computers, he was assisted with his books by various locals, including Pam Cornell with research problems; Robyn Florance who took on typing and formatting manuscripts as well as being a trusted adviser; along with Lynne Allen and Alan Clark who both helped with editing and proof-reading.
His nephew, Kyle Paterson patiently followed the printing processes with Keith whose days in the printing industry had left him with definite ideas on how things should be done.
Mr Paterson’s funeral will be held at the Shoalhaven Crematorium Chapel, Worrigee on Thursday, August 3 at 11am.
- Information provided by Alan Clark