Lawrence’s OAM honour
- For more than six decades Lawrence Bond has been a member of Fairy Meadow Surf Life Saving Club
- He received an OAM recognising his contribution to the club
- He also has a passion for the performing arts
- Lawrence, who lives at Howard Court at IRT Pioneer Place, spoke to The Good Life and we share his story here
Lawrence Bond knows Fairy Meadow Beach like the back of his hand, and his commitment to keeping its shoreline safe has earned him a 2021 Queen’s Birthday Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM).
The 78-year-old, who lives in Howard Court at IRT Pioneer Place, was honoured for his contribution to the Fairy Meadow Surf Life Saving Club (SLSC) after more than 60 years of service.
Lawrence first joined the Fairy Meadow SLSC as a 15-year-old after being invited to come along and check out the club during the 1957/58 season. “I was a cadet with North Wollongong Surf Club and my friend said he was having lots of fun at Fairy Meadow, so he invited me out one Sunday and then and there I was inducted into the club and I’ve been there ever since!” says Lawrence.
In his 63-odd years at the club, Lawrence has seen his fair share of triumphs, troubles and tragedies. The former Club Captain rescued dozens of people from the surf over the years (he retired from patrol duties in 2020), including pulling 14 people out of a bad rip within a three-hour period. Lawrence recalls the disappearance of three-year-old Cheryl Grimmer outside the change sheds at Fairy Meadow Beach as one of the saddest occasions during his time on patrol. “We searched for her all night, rowed up and down in the surf boat to North Wollongong and got home at 9 o’clock the next morning, but she was never found,” says Lawrence.
Lawrence has borne witness to a number of significant changes to surf life saving over the decades, including the introduction of female membership, the removal of surf reels as a rescue tool, and the introduction of “rubber duckies” (inflatable rescue boats), jet skis and jet boats. “You can get out to a patient much quicker now in a jet ski or rubber duckie, but sometimes depending on how big the surf is, you can actually get to them faster just swimming,” says Lawrence. “It’s about being adaptable – it’s knowing what to do at the right time at the right place in the right conditions.”
Lawrence said mateship and camaraderie attracted him to surf life saving, as well as the surf carnivals that would be held every weekend in summer. Crowds of hundreds of people would watch local clubs compete in a range of events on the sand and in the surf. “The atmosphere at those big events was unbelievable,” says Lawrence. A major drawcard was the novelty events such as wheelbarrow races, chariot races, pillow fights and greasy pig races. And what is a greasy pig race, you might ask? It’s exactly as it sounds, explains Lawrence. “They’d bring along a three-quarter grown pig, grease it up a bit and let it run down the beach and a heap of blokes would chase it, and try and tackle it and hold it down for six seconds. The RSPCA banned it back in the 1960s.”
Never one to stay still for too long, Lawrence is also a life member of the Wollongong Swim Club (WSC) and Wollongong Whales Winter Swimming Club (WW). He has held a range of positions across both clubs including Chief Timekeeper and Vice-President (WSC), and Awards Organiser, Publicity Officer and Historian (WW).
Out of the water, Lawrence has a keen love for the arts, including theatre and poetry. He has written 1562 pieces of poetry and 27 short stories, which are stored on his computer. Lawrence’s wife Jeanette recently compiled 100 of his poems about the beach, the surf, lifesaving, and swimming, into a hardcover book.
Lawrence and Jeanette were central members of the Wollongong Actors’ Studio, along with Lawrence’s sister Prudence. “My sister was the studio’s governing directress,” explains Lawrence. The team produced and performed in a number of shows in the Wollongong Town Hall Annex in the 1960s and then at their Camelot Theatre in Swan Street, Wollongong in the 1970s. By then Lawrence and Jeanette had two children, Jason and Michael, who became a priority, and Prudence had moved to London, so after four years the theatre was closed. Lawrence keeps his love of performing alive today as a member of the Arcadians Lamplighters Male Choir and the Arcadians Minstrels group, where he often has the chance to perform one of his poems at gigs.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lawrence’s OAM Investiture Ceremony at Government House was postponed three times. However, the event finally took place earlier this year for the honour he was “surprised and shocked by, but very honoured and very proud to receive”.
When asked why someone should consider joining a surf life saving club, Lawrence’s answer is simple – “it’s a great feeling, knowing you’ve done something to help others.”
Lawrence wrote this poem following the 2021 Tokyo Olympics about Wollongong Olympian Emma McKeon. Her dad, brother, uncles and grandfather were and are all renowned swimmers and lifesavers in the Illawarra.
LAWRENCE F. BOND OAM
Rick and brother Ron
Could both swim really well,
And so could younger Ron and Mick
As anyone could tell.
But then came siblings, Dave and Emma
Who began to make their mark,
David he was very good
But Emma seemed to have more spark.
She travelled then to Tokyo
For the Olympic Games – you see,
Dived into the pool
And began a medal spree.
Seven medals, she picked up
Four were coloured gold,
The biggest tally ever
By a woman, so I’m told.
She’s been given now the title
Of yes, Queen of the Pool,
And I think you’d have to say
That, that sounds really rather cool.
Now, for a while she’ll be in lockdown
But when she arrives back here in town,
The name – Emma McKeon
Will ever be of great renown.
For Emma’s record is the best
That’s ever come along,
And she hails from Illawarra
Yes, that’s right – Wollongong.