Peter Lacey recollects the South Coast

My Triangle 2017.07

Have you seen the two issues of Recollections? These publications on the history of the NSW south coast have caused quite a stir. The founder of the NSW South Coast History Society and creator of Recollections is Peter Lacey, who has been interested in history since high school, when he was inspired by his teacher to enquire upon the past.

Peter entered Macquarie University in 1967, the very first year its doors opened, where, in addition to history, he studied Measurements and Evaluations (statistics in modern speak). Being in that inaugural class had its benefits, as it inspired students to create the education they sought. You wanted to sing in a choir? Well, create one! You wanted to join in a bushwalking club? You organised one! Because it was all new, that first year was a ripe atmosphere where students could form their school according to their own interests. Peter enjoyed that freedom and spirit of engagement and has kept it alive in his interest in historical research.

He also used it as well when engaged by Bankcard as it started up in Australia to provide statistical analysis for the scheme and the participating banks. Bankcard was a whole new world for banks (can we even imagine a time before credit cards?). Peter was proud to have been an integral part of rolling out this new, profitable service.

Sydney born and bred, Peter and his wife Helen joined their daughter Jane Woolacott (of Bega and Cobargo Veterinary fame) in this area just five years ago. Now that they’re happily residing near Quaama on a few acres with a handful of cows, they’re wondering why they didn’t make the move here decades earlier.

Retirement has given Peter the time to pursue his old interest in history. Despite not having any roots here himself, he has taken to local history with a passion. Initially, he combined this with his lifelong interest in World War I, researching and authoring ‘The unreal story of World War I & the NSW south coast’. This is the story of how badly the soldiers’ families back home were treated by the army and government. The tale is a sad one of personal loss and bureaucratic failure told as only a historian-cum-statistician could!

Peter helped organise a South Coast History Day seminar in February this year where 90-plus people filled and spilled out of the University of Wollongong lecture room. Folks were hanging on every word from the speakers as the stories were so fascinating. A second seminar, ‘Our History, Our Heritage’ will be held in September. Welcome to all who are interested, this all-day event will be only $20, including lunch and afternoon tea.

In fact, Recollections too is affordably priced. It’s free! Peter feels that history belongs to everyone, not just to members of those clubs and societies that ponder the subject. He wants everyone to be inspired by our fascinating local history, to research their areas of particular interest and have their work included in future editions of Recollections. He’s hoping to publish stories from differing south coast groups and people, whether aboriginal, fishing, farming, forestry, or feminist, you name it!

Until now, Recollections has been printed quarterly but will soon move to bi-monthly.

I, for one, am grateful to him for this enormous, relevant gift to our community and hope that Peter achieves his goal of inspiring folks young and old to delve into the past and become local historians themselves. If you haven’t seen Recollections, the first two issues can be obtained in electronic format by emailing ‘Send Recollectionsto