Wednesday 14 July 2021

George Verryck


George Thomas Verryck, was born in Liverpool, England on 2 July 1893, to Louis and Charlotte Verryck. George's father Louis was born in Antwerp, Belgium, and moved to England as a young man. He was an interpreter for the British Home Office at Liverpool’s busy port.

George had his early schooling in England, but his teenage education was at the College Internationale in Brussels. During these years he lived with his Belgian grandparents.

On his return to UK, the family moved to Dovercourt, Essex. His father worked at the port of Harwich for several years before returning to Liverpool. While in Dovercourt, George became apprenticed to an Electrical Engineer.

The new Dreadnought Scheme and the ‘good life’ the lads could have in Australia was being advertised, and eighteen-year-old George successfully applied to join. He sailed from London on the SS Orontes with nine other Dreadnought Boys, arriving in Sydney on 14 September 1911.

After his training at Scheyville, he went by ship to Ballina. From there he went up the hill to Tom Leadbeatter's farm at Uralba. His years with the Leadbeatters were good, as Tom and Martha treated him well. While working there he met Leila Green, from Alstonville. Leila was working for Charles Nuttall in his confectionary, fruit and refreshment room in Alstonville's Main Street.

World War I was under way and, in September 1915, George enlisted in the army. He served with the 47th Battalion in Egypt, France and in Belgium where, in October 1917, he was wounded in action — the severe gunshot wounds left a piece of shrapnel lodged in his spine at the base of the skull, where it could not be removed. He received extensive medical treatment in England and returned to Australia on the hospital ship SS Borda, arriving in Sydney on 1 June 1918. Discharged medically unfit on 17 July 1918, he returned to Alstonville.

In Brisbane Hospital, a head/body brace was made for him. It was designed to hold his head steady, and he wore this for some years, until a more comfortable thick leather collar was made. Eventually, he was able to manage without the collar.

George Verryck, showing part of his body brace. (Dreadnought Archives).

Recovery was slow and farm work was out of the question, so as soon as he able, George obtained a 1915 Studebaker Touring Car. The Department of Repatriation helped him with a loan. After a promising start, the hire-car business didn’t work out and George turned to other matters.

In August 1919 Charles Nuttall decided to sell his business, in order to start a news-agency across the road. George bought the business where Leila was still working. The following month George and Leila were married in St Bartholomew's Church of England in Alstonville. They took over the business after the honeymoon. In 1921 Charles Nuttall sold the news-agency to George and Leila, and they operated this business until they moved to Sydney in 1925.

In Sydney, they initially lived in Lewisham, before moving to Marrickville where George and his family lived until 1953. While in living in Lewisham in 1928, George joined with some other men that he knew from the Ballina area, to be proprietors of the Alston Iron Foundry in Leichhardt. This partnership only lasted three months, George having the task of looking after its winding-up. The ownership of the iron works passed to one of the partners, George Banks.

In 1929 George Verryck, now 36, took over a Billiard Saloon at 301 Illwarra Rd Marrickville. Very soon after, he got a rude shock when the Saloon was raided by police late one night. George Verryck was fined £20 ($1,600 today) for permitting the premises to be used as a gaming house. Patrick Lyden, who was running the game (called “5’s and 6’s”), was also fined £20; another 41 men were fined up to £1 each for being found in a common gaming house.

George kept the Billiard Saloon through the ‘Crash’, but in 1933 he was struggling and unemployed. Eventually, he got work as a lift driver in the city.

After raising four children and 34 years of good married life, Leila died in 1953, and George went to back north to live with daughter Noela Trevillion, in Broadwater near Ballina. He died in July 1957, aged sixty-four.

George Verryck did not have a long life, and much of it was not easy – but, he was a survivor who’d “had a go”!