Stuart Osborne Devenish-Meares 1895-1972
O.D-Meares was both a golfer at Long Reef from the late 30’s and employed as Secretary from 1940-1942, and again after war service, in 1946.
He was known as OD Meares. “OD” was a cross between an abbreviation and a nickname. Stuart Osborne Devenish-Meares, was born in Mudgee in Dec.1895. His father’s family were Irish originally and the surname was simply ‘Devenish.’ It was a marriage to a Miss Meares by John Devenish in Portik County Westmeath in Ireland around 1750 that led to the hyphenation of the surname. (In “OD”s time the hyphen is rarely used so that Devenish appears to be his third Christian name. His first name, Stuart is only used on official documents.)
His Grandfather, William, born in 1823, was the son of a Reverend Mathew Devenish-Meares. William was the oldest of twelve children and born in Dublin. By the age of nine his parents had immigrated to Australia and William is listed as one of twelve students who were the first to attend Kings School, Parramatta. William married Jane Osborne in 1846, and the name Osborne is used as a Christian (first or second name) in the next generations. For example OD had an uncle named Henry Osborne Devenish-Meares.
William and Jane, OD’s grandparents, lived in the Wollongong and Kiama area and had eight children, four girls and four boys and OD’s father (Mathew) Charles Devenish –Meares was the second child and oldest boy and born in 1850. There was a William Devenish-Meares who was a police Magistrate who served in Mudgee in the 1880’s, so we might assume that the family were in Mudgee together by the late 1880’s
Charles, OD’s father, qualified as a Solicitor in 1872 and established a practice in Mudgee in 1875. Charles married well into an old family with property and connections. He married Louisa Eliza Cox in 1882 in Mudgee. She was the only child of the first marriage of the celebrated merino sheep breeder, Charles Clarendon Cox of Broombee, Mudgee. (Charles was a direct descendent of William Cox, the early explorer and pioneer. The Cox family had extensive land ownership from the Blue Mountains, to Mudgee, Bathurst and beyond. The association with the region started in 1821. Some of the land they farmed, other acreages were leased out.)
Charles and Louisa lived at “Clarendon,’ the house named by Louisa, in Mudgee, after another house of the same name that had been owned by her family in Richmond. The house in Mudgee had been built in 1865 and had ten acres of adjoining land. In 1885 the property was sold to Louisa’s uncles and she and Charles initially tenanted and then owned the house for the next 41 years. The house played a prominent role in Mudgee’s social life. This is where OD and his five sisters and two brothers were born.
OD’s father, Charles, served as Mayor of Mudgee in 1888, 1989 and 1893.
In an account in the Book, ‘ Historical houses of Mudgee’, Charles is described as follows – “Charles Devenish-Meares was a remarkable man – small with delicate features and slim, refined hands. He was a fine cricketer and leg spin bowler of great dexterity … He was renowned as a wit and a superb reader out loud. People would come from far and wide to hear him read from ‘On Our Selection’ and other amusing stories. Clarendon would also ring with the sound of music.” The house was a substantial property and not only had a tennis court but a private golf course was available. (Number of holes unknown). The course could have been located near the house, or on one of the nearby family properties.
So it was into this home, town and environment that OD was born in 1895. It seems to be a privileged rural life. This was where his golf game began, which was to play an important role in his life until his death. By the age of 11 he was defeating men twice and three times his age. We know a little about two of his sisters. Nellie was an accomplished artist and his sister Sylvia a golfer. He attended High School in Sydney, and the following article appeared in the ‘Saturday Referee and the Arrow’ on Saturday 12 Feb 1916. OD is mentioned in part of the article when the writer, “Tee Tee” is talking about the Leura Golf course and recent results. –
“O.D. Meares is a magnificent driver, getting great length and at the same time accuracy. He usually plays at Mudgee, but if at any time he resides and plays in Sydney he will rank very highly indeed. His record in other sports is a remarkably good one, and are as follows: Church of England Grammar School: Football colours 1913, Rifle colours 1913, Cricket colours 1913, 1914, Football colour 1914, Rifle colours 1914. Great Public Schools: Premier badges in Rifle Shooting 1910, and 1913. He won the first eleven batting and bowling averages S.C.E.G.S 1913 and 1914: was in Champion Service team N.S.W for rifle shooting team for Lord Robert’s Cup for boys under 15 in 1910. A very fine record and one to be proud of and yet he carries the honours with great modesty.” (School records show that OD attended SHORE from 1913 as a 17 year old. It is not known where he spent his earlier teenage years. He was a Prefect at SHORE and the Captain of the First XV. It may be that OD in fact attended Kings School, for some of his high school years like his father and at least one of his brothers.)
We can learn from the above that OD was still at school in 1914 as an eighteen year old. He may have been such a good shot because of his rural background, but the shooting of vermin, or game for food, on a property was soon to be replaced by a gun with a much larger bore, and the sun-burnt land replaced by acres of sodden mud – but not just yet. It is shown in golf results that prior to the First World War he was a member of Leura Golf Club, as both his parents had been before him. His sister played at Leura too.
Two years later at the age of 20, on the 16th June 1916, Stuart Osborne Devenish-Meares, completed the form to enlist in the Australian Military Forces, the Australian Imperial Force. (There was a very large recruitment drive in 1916 and two failed referendums on the subject of conscription.)
O.D followed his brother’s lead.
He older brother Charles Leycester joined the A.I. F. 6th Light Horse Brigade in March 1915. He was twenty-one years of age, but had some experience as a cadet, serving three years as Acting Sergent at the Kings School. His occupation until this time had been as a Station Overseer. He served in Egypt and Syria from 1916. The family was unaware for some time, over a period of six months, that he had some health issues whilst serving. He suffered with influenza, was wounded in the hip, and eventually had heart problems, which caused his discharge in 1918. He was given a pension, but died four years later from associated health and heart problems.
The Devenish –Mears may not have known about Charles’ whereabouts and health when OD applied to follow him to the Front. Going by the date of a letter attached to the application, OD had already been to his father to ask him to write a letter giving his consent. This letter was dated the 12th June 1916. We do not know just how he had spent those two years since school, but the form asks for details of previous service and OD lists the Senior Cadets, University Scouts. His “trade or calling” is listed as Jackeroo.
We can picture him from the following details – height 5ft. 51/4 inches, 146lbs, with a tan complexion, blue eyes, brown hair. His religion was C. of E. and his service number 29316.
On the 1st October 1916 he embarked from Melbourne for Plymouth, England with the 117th Howitzer Battery, on the troop ship named ‘Aeneas”. Gunner Osborne D-Meares was on his way to war. He arrived in England on the 19th November 1916, and was finally transferred to France via Folkestone on the S.S. Princess Henrietta in January 2017. He “marched in” to Etaples, France, on the 24 January where he was transferred to the 2nd Division Artillery. By April he was transferred on to the 4th Battalion, and then “taken on strength” to the 11th from the 2nd.Battalian.
We do not know exactly where OD served on the front, but it is well documented that the 1916-1917 winter was the coldest experienced in over ten years.* OD was arriving at the beginning of what was to be worst year of losses. “Australia suffered its greatest losses of World War 1 in 1917 as over 20,000 Australians were killed on the Western Front- nearly half the number killed on that bloody battlefield in the whole war and more than the total number killed fighting on battlefields in World War 11 –Peter Burness, Historian Australian War Memorial, 2008”* Nearly 60,000 Australians were injured in 1917. “The AIF spent the second half of 1917 defending Ypres until the final Battle of Passchendaele in October.’*
In May 1917 OD was wounded in action. He was burnt by a shell and had contusions to his back, but was treated in a field hospital and returned to the front in June 1917 to be transferred to the 14th Field Artillery Brigade, 2nd Division again as Gunner. His rank was Full Gunner. He was wounded again in September three months later. This time with gunshot wounds to his back. With serious injuries this time he was taken to England on the hospital ship ‘Matilda’. Here he was admitted to hospital at Honeywell, near Bath. Finally, having recovered sufficiently, 9 months later in May 1918 he was returned to the front in France again for the remaining months of the war.
(It was on the 1st May 1918, that Major-General John Monash was appointed to command the newly constituted Australian forces as commander-in –chief. The first time an Australian had been in charge of Australian forces.) OD may have been there retaking Villers-Bretonneux in May, and then moved on to the battles at Amiens. In September he could have been part of the first allied breakthrough of the great Hindenburgh fortified trench line. The very ‘last battle fought by Australians of the AIF was on the 5 October 1918’. * The Armistice was signed on the 11 November 1918. He had survived! We do not have details of what OD must have witnessed or hardships he experienced.
On the 5 June 1919, OD, left the port of Devonport to return to Australia on the ship ‘Mahia” and the troops arrived in Sydney on the 20th July 1919. He had been away for two and a half years. He was discharged on the 28 August 1919, and he received the “British War Medal”, the “Victory Medal” and the “Star Medal”.
OD must have had the physical scars to show for his service, particularly on his back, but he appears to have been fit enough to get back to his normal life quite quickly. Mr Wedmeyer, Country Golf Association President, at this time, tells a story that only 8 days after returning to Australia, OD borrowed some clubs and entered the NSW Country Championships. It was held at Manly and he won. (Read more below). There were four other N.S.W.’s Country Championship wins to come.
In the short term he was able to get back to his family and his father and brother, in particular. A decision to allow his son to go to war, to leave and fight must have been a very difficult one, particularly knowing the tremendous losses in the previous two years, and that an older son had already volunteered. His father died a few years later in 1924 at the age of 74. His mother was to go on to sell the property. ‘Clarendon” in 1926 and move to Leura, and a year later OD married Adele Beatrice Conroy in 1927. OD’s mother passed away in 1931 at Katoomba.
In the 6 August 1920, “Tee Tee” writes a report on the country visitors.
“The country visitors have had lovely weather for their annual visit to Sydney, and expressed themselves to have a good time. They had games at Kensington, Killara and Manly, so that their experience has been diverse. It was unfortunate that the drought and other causes prevented more from coming up. It is trusted that more will be able to make the journey next year. O.D. Meares, the holder of the cup, retained the title with rounds of 79 and 75. Last year he won at Manly with two rounds of 78. Meares is only 23 and a magnificent all-round athlete. At Mudgee, when he was twelve years of age he was playing well. Before going to the front he played most of his golf at Leura, and only came into prominence in 1919 in Country Week. Since then he has developed his game vastly, and show promise of being equal to the best in the country. He has a powerful and attractive style, and his methods are sound. He gets a very long ball without pressing, and is blessed with an excellent temperament.”(Incidentally L. R club opened the following year in 1921.)
OD became the NSW Country Golf Champion in Oct 1924 for the third time. It was held at the Australian Links, Kensington. The Sydney Morning Herald gives a full account on Wed. 8th October. –Writer unknown.
WON BY O.D. MEARES
“The Country Golf Championships of New South Wales which was played off on the Australian Club’s links at Kensington yesterday, was won by O.D. Meares, a young player from Dubbo. Meares has won the championships on two former occasions. H.W. McLelland (Wollongong) and G.F. Colbeck (Leura) tied for second place…..
With the State amateur champion, R.W. McLelland, in the field very few others appeared to have anything like a reasonable chance of winning. The performance of the champion O.D. Meares was all the more meritorious. Meares is one of those fortunate players who can always produce a sound game whether in or out of practice. When he won the championships at Manly in 1918 (Ed, correction 1919), as Mr Windeyer (Ed. President of the Country and Suburban Golfer’s Association,) remarked when presenting the prize, he had returned from the front only eight days previously. For this championship (1924) he had no real practice beforehand, having had only two or three games this year. He played solidly in the morning, and while never brilliant was always steady. He hits a ball of tremendous length, and his short game is always accurate. In the afternoon he played well and at times brilliantly. The champion comes of an old golfing family, and learned the game on his father’s private course at Mudgee. Mr Windeyer recalled somewhat ruefully, having been beaten by young Meares, then a boy of 11 years of age. The winner’s morning score was a total of 80 with 77 in the afternoon.”
In Oct 1926 The Sydney Morning Herald again reported the Country Week results.
“Meares wins Championships”. We learn that “The Championship was won by O.D. Meares to be considered by many as one of the finest players in Australia. Meares has won the country title on several occasions although he has not had many opportunities for practice, as he is living at Coolah. His win in yesterday’s event was popular. In the morning he had the exceptional card, of 7, or under bogey. The long sixth (577yards), he holed in four, which is two under bogey”. He played soundly throughout as the following card testifies. He was Out in 37, and In in 41. Meares did not produce this form in the afternoon. “He finished with a card of 88, an aggregate of 164, which was sufficient to assure him yet another win in the championship”.
OD seems to have been a member of the Coolah Club (near Bathurst,) for some time. (The Coolah Club, in the Western Districts was formed in 1928. The first Club House was the “Steward’s and Jockeys room at the race course. It moved to a different site in 1934/35.) From 1933-1937, his name appears in the Clubs results, and is listed as his home club in many away events.
In his playing achievements reported from 1919 to 1934 in which time he won the Country Golf Championships 5 times, 1919, 1920, 1924, 1926, 1928. He didn’t play in 1929, was third in 1930, second in 1933 and third again in 1934. He also played in competitions at Leura, Rose Bay, Kensington, Royal Sydney, The Lakes and Killara.
In 1934 he was selected and played in the NSW’s Amateur Team. He was probably still finding it hard to find time to practise, as he was working on the land. On the electoral roll, his details are listed. In 1930 he was living at Broombee, Leadville, as a Grazier and Farmer. Broombee had been purchased by his grandfather Charles Clarendon Cox, Louisa’s father in 1862. So Broombee was a family property on his mother’s side. We do not know if OD was an owner of this property, or if his uncles, mother and siblings were also involved in some way. His mother was still living at Leura at this time. In 1933 OD lived at Cassilis, Robertsen as a Grazier and farmer, and in 1939 Cassilis, Gwyder, as a Grazier and Farmer. We do not know what brought him to Sydney in the late 30’s. We do know that he and his wife Beatrice took a trip to Japan in 1936, to Yokohama, via ports on the ‘Yanda”. Perhaps this was a holiday, or a wool selling business trip! We also know that OD and Adele had three children, all boys, Leycester, Dennis and Michael. Perhaps it was because of their schooling that OD came to the city, although the boys would be young men by then. Perhaps OD was of independent means by then!
The Registration books for 1936 -1939 at Long Reef Golf Club are lost but we do know that OD was a member in 1939. It seems likely that he joined Long Reef on 25th June 1939, where his address is listed as Ocean Avenue, Collaroy and his occupation a Grazier. He seems to have played at Long Reef and for the Long Reef Pennant Team immediately after joining. Newspaper results in 1939, tell us he played for Long Reef in June when the team lost to the Australian, and then the team lost again versus Royal Sydney in July. He was second in the monthly medal both in September and October.
Following the AGM in August 1940 he became the Club’s full- time Secretary having won the position following a ballot, after the retirement of long standing Secretary, A.P. Lambert.
“Minutes of the Committee Meeting Tues 18th June 1940.
Application of Secretary –
Resolved –That a ballot be taken for the election of Secretary.
After the Ballot Mr O.D.Meares (no hint of a hyphenated name here!) was declared elected at a salary of ……(unable to decipher amount).. pounds per week.” The club receives a letter of acceptance in July 1940.
It was a busy time as the Club had become incorporated in 1939, and all members had to re-new their membership, and at the same time wartime shortages and the use of some of the headland by the military, were changing the club and course. By this time OD was 46 years of age. (See cartoon on page one.)
History will tell us that there were terrible losses on the war front in 1942, and this may have prompted O.D to re-enlist in the forces. He resigned from his position of Secretary and full membership under the L.R.’s rule 8a – implemented by the club to allow the non-payment of subscriptions, and for a member to leave the club and return at the end of hostilities. He was granted a leave of absence from 11 March 1942. O.D seems to have been committed to rejoin the forces. Only he would know the extent of the wounds received during the First World War, and how fit he was to serve. Well he and the Medical Officer.
He enlisted in the Australian Army on the 18 March 1942, in Leura, stating at the time that he lived at Collaroy. Following assessment and some basic training he was discharged, DRO, on the 7 June 1942. The very next day he enlisted in the RAAF as an Aircraftman 1, in Melbourne, but was discharged on the 11 July 1942. His posting at discharge was the NSW School of Administration. In the Registration book on his return to the club in 1946, it says that he was discharged from “the army in November 1945”. A Statutary Declaration was sent to the Commonwealth of Australia by OD in March 1942, asking for a copy of his discharge papers from 1919 as he had lost then when “my house, and all its contents were burnt.” Then jumping ahead some time later he writes again in 1967 having lost the copies this time, “having moved twice in two years” – but on this statutary declaration he describes his service in 1942-45 as being in “Records” during the second world war. His highest rank achieved was Sergeant. In June 1945, Adele applies to enter her two sons for the Royal Naval College Examinations, because OD is not able to do it on their behalf because he is “ at present serving out of Australia with the 2/5 Australian General Hospital. OD found his way to serve again – and we can confirm it in his own words.
The recent cutting was loaned to us from a Scrap Book belonging to Frank Eyre. We don’t know which newspaper it was cut from, but it is dated Wednesday February 14th 1946.
‘KEY PAIR OF LONG REEF AT OLD ADDRESS’ Two of Long Reef Gold Club’s stalwarts are thankfully back again at that most popular of seaside courses. They are secretary O.D. Meares and Club Pro. Frank (Happy) Eyre.
MEARES who has played golf for more than a quarter of a century will be mainly remembered as the man who every now and then walked off with the Country Championship.
Winning the event for the first time in 1919, he repeated the performance on four occasions, spread out through the years sufficiently to confound the critics who thought he was getting just a bit old for that sort of thing.
Meares like most golfers who has been away from the game, has had his handicap put up to six, but breezily says that it has happened before and thinks he can get it back down under four again once the season gets under way.
A veteran of the First World War, Meares has only just been discharged from the second, and has definitely decided that it will be his last.
“LIFE’S GETTING MUCH TOO FAST THESE DAYS, SAYS MEARES. IT TOOK ME 19 DAYS TO GET TO MOROTAI AND 18 HOURS TO COME HOME IT’S THE AGE OF SPEED ALRIGHT”
(Ed .Morotai Island is in the Halmahera group of eastern Indonesia’s Maluku Islands .It is one of Indonesia’s northernmost islands. In the Second World War Japan invaded Morotai early in 1942 as part of its Dutch East Indies Campaign. US forces and their allies counter-attacked by launching the Battle of Morotai in 1944; bombing the island in August and invading it in September. Imperial Japanese forces on Morotai held out until 1945 but failed to expel the Allied invaders. In the latter part of 1944, 61,000 personnel landed on Morotai. Two thirds of them were engineers, who rapidly established facilities including harbours and two airstrips plus extensive fuel stores.)
It seems as if the position of Secretary had been “reduced” to an honorary one during the war years, 1942-45, in OD’s absence.
On his return to Long Reef, in February 1946, OD soon had a new assistant secretary as the club got back to business. Pat Farley started working with him in June 1946. Pat, now Jones, was both an Assistant Secretary and player at the Club from 1946 for five years. Living now in Griffith in her 90’s, Pat had been a wonderful source of information. In fact it was her question ‘what happened to OD?” that has led to this research. She found him to be such a kind person to work for, and said what a very good golfer he was. On the 14th November 1947 OD resigned from his position. The Minute book says “Secretary’s resignation be accepted with regret”. Later OD was to be replaced by Jim Alderdice. There is no indication in the Minute book as to why OD left. A new head for a new era perhaps! Perhaps it was OD’s choice. For some reason Pat thought that OD had been treated badly, but he continued to be a member for another 14 years or so. During these 14 years he lived at Wollstonecraft.
In the 1949 Registration Book OD’s occupation is listed as Clerk. As he continued to be a member of the Golf Club, there are many mentions of his name in the golf results columns at Long Reef throughout the 50’s. His wife Adele was also a member at Long Reef from 1948 -52. In 1949 he appears to be working as a Secretary in Crows Nest, and this is his listed occupation Clerk /Secretary for the rest of the time of his membership at Long Reef. Before the end on the 40’s they are living in Wollstonecraft where they stay until 1963. As listed in the 1966 census, OD has moved to Neutral Bay, but Adele does not have the same address or seem to live close by. After this he moved to Rose Bay, which makes it more than likely why he was playing at Royal Sydney as mentioned below.
Looking at the Club’s results books, his name is listed through the post war years until the time he resigns, in 1961, as a single figure handicapper. Here as some examples –
In Jan 1953 he was playing off 9, and on that day scored a net 74.
In Jan 1954 he was playing off 7 and achieved a -5.
In Dec 1955 he was playing off 6 and score 33 pts.
By March 1957 he was playing off 5 and achieved an -8 in a Par handicap round.
In 1959 his handicap had changed to 8, on a stroke handicap day with a 70. In the memorial Cup 36 holes in April 1960 he achieved the figures of 66.77.136 off 9. But he was soon to reduce to 5 or 6 again, and in the last two games he had for the club in Jan 1961 he was off 5 scoring -8 and in Feb 1961, he played off 6 in a 72-stroke handicap event.
His resignation from Long Reef is listed as 21 July 1961, completing 22 years of membership, but that doesn’t seem to be a retirement from golf. In 1965 and again in 1969 results in newspapers show him as a member of Royal Sydney Golf Club. On one occasion here, in print, he was referred to as ‘Ossie”. He may have been a member at Royal Sydney for some years.
Incidentally in his time at Long Reef the result book shows that he played along side a certain young Alan Hohnen, and often partnered Wally Smith in Foursomes. OD does not appear on the Championship boards – but of course he was already over 40 when he joined Long Reef in 1939 and by the time he got back to golf in 1946 he was 51 and he had two World Wars behind him.
Stuart Osborne Devenish-Meares died in Concord Repatriation Hospital on 21 August 1972, at the age of 77, leaving behind a wife, Adele Beatrice and his three children. The funeral was held at Northern Suburbs Cemetery, on the 24 August 1972. The death-notice in the Sydney Morning Herald, mentions his children, Grandchildren and Great Grand children. All three sons were married. The eldest Leycester, and Denis were both Accountants, and the youngest son Michael was a Building Contractor. ODs wife Adele Beatrice out-lived OD by nearly 20 years and died in 1991. (D.O.B. unknown).
We know more about his early years, than his time after he ‘resigned” as Secretary from Long Reef at the end on 1946. I think we can think of him as someone who had a magical country upbringing, who received a good education at a leading private Sydney School, and was a natural sportsman who served his country in two world wars. He was a Jackeroo and Grazier, on family properties but was comfortable and familiar with city life. He was a very good and Champion golfer, maintaining a high standard all his playing life. The fact that Stuart Osborne Devenish-Meares, from a well connected family was more than happy to be known as simply OD Meares says much about the man.
*The Western Front Diaries – Jonathan King -2008
National Archives. War Memorial. Trove. Registra.
RESEARCH – JOY REECE
Compiled Sandra Mellowes