On April 13 this year my column paid tribute to artist and teacher Marr Grounds. I got a few responses, none more elegant that one from fellow student Peter Bicevskis, who wrote: “Marr touched all our lives at a formative age and his imprint has been with us all through the course of our lives”.
Two weeks later I attended the memorial to Marr and his extraordinary life. In seeing so many old friends, with their reminiscences, it turns out I got most of my piece right, and some howlingly wrong.
Everyone was touched by Marr’s energy and determination, and his gruffness. Marina gave a beautiful eulogy, particularly about her upbringing, lovingly documented by Sandy Edwards, who also spoke eloquently and affectionately. And Robin Ramsay, sharp as ever, did recall picking me up as a hitchhiker, and more exceptionally so did his daughter, aged four at the time, who recalls my intrusion into the Kombi as the time she learnt what a hitcher was.
But, and a big but, despite knowing Marr for 50 of his 90 years, and my research into his earlier years, my haphazard writings let me down. Let me set a few things right, I hope.
Marr was drafted into the US Navy, did not go willingly, and served in Korea. But I remain convinced the impact of this rigorous training remained a twin impulse in his life, a Yin to his libertarian artistic Yang. And the building in Paddington was bought with artist Tony Coleing and had Roslyn Oxley’s first gallery as a tenant. And speaking of galleries, ‘Avago’ needed more emphasis.
But the howler was the history of the 2 houses in Balmain. Deserves an explanation.
Last year, one of my former students, Conrad Johnston, who had bought house #8 some time before, asked for my help on the history. I had some reminiscences, including labouring on the house, but I got the history horribly wrong. At that time, I rang Stuart Whitelaw, who had been my tutor, and who I remembered had made the drawings. Sammy, as we called him, wasn’t interested, it was a painful memory.
I continued in my belief that Marr’s father, Sir Roy Grounds, had been the instigator of the purchase and design. I even told Peter Salhani, a real architecture journalist, this complete fiction. So, the history in the story in ‘Houses’ magazine was a complete crock. Sorry, Peter. Don’t rely on me again. The architect was actually almost all Stuart Whitelaw, with some intelligence from Marr.
Time wounds all heals, as Spooner would say, and by the time I saw Sammy at the memorial, he had written a detailed account to set the record right. You can read a slightly edited version in tomorrow's Architecture & Design magazine. Let’s cut this short right now, and you can turn to Sammy’s riveting account.
And BTW, Stuart Whitelaw is now a guru of Permaculture on the NSW south coast. And more on that soon.
Tone Wheeler is principal architect at Environa Studio, Adjunct Professor at UNSW and is President of the Australian Architecture Association. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and are not held or endorsed by A+D, the AAA or UNSW. Tone does not read Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Linked In. Sanity is preserved by reading and replying only to comments addressed to [email protected]