Detective trails

Of the six architects, we already knew Rick Le Plastrier, who had been involved in the Lloyd Rees Festival of 2013. He was still in touch with Lawrence Nield, and we were able to trace Neville Clouten and Ross Bonthorne through the internet. All were delighted to hear about our plans for the paintings, and spoke most warmly of their memories of Lloyd and of the experience of being involved with the High School paintings.

However both Ken Murray and Clem Cummings were no longer living, and we were keen to find out more about them, and if possible trace family members, who might be interested in the rediscovery of the paintings.

Neville contacted Graeme Heine, an architect who had also been a student at the same time as the others, and he was able to put us in touch with Ron Murray, Ken’s brother, and his wife Pam. They have been very helpful, and were able to provide Ken’s biography, his correspondence with Lloyd, and a photo of Ken with Lloyd. Ken worked much of his life nearby in the Shoalhaven, and died in 2005. Such a shame we didn’t find the paintings in time for him.

Clem Cummings presented more of a puzzle, as none of the architects could provide contacts or information for him. On the website of the Canberra Chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects we found reference to the Clem Cummings Medal which recognises contributions by architects and non-architects to architecture and the public interest. ‘The spirit of the medal is exemplified by the public service exhibited by the late Clem Cummings who died in 1997’.

The spokesperson for the Chapter was only able to say that they thought Clem’s wife and daughter were still living in Canberra, and that his daughter was a sculptor. Well there are 12 Cummings in the Canberra Whitepages, and of course his daughter might have a different surname. But we persisted with our googling, and found a mention of a sculptor, Christine Cummings, who had connections with Strathnairn Arts, on the Western edge of Canberra. The Arts Administrator was able to forward on an email to Christine and yes, she is Clem’s daughter!

In a phone conversation with Christine she told me that she has strong memories of Lloyd, because he and Marjorie used to stay with their family whenever they were in Canberra. She also visited them in their house at Northwood. She said her father continued to paint and draw throughout his life, and she was curious to know whether the other architects did this too.

In 1996, when her father was dying, he talked about the Kiama painting, so she came to Kiama to search for it, and found the paintings behind the stage in the School Hall. She too is very pleased the paintings are being given a new lease of life.

She will write in more detail about her father for us, when she’s not so busy – we hope in January.


Bobbie Miller



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