New Theatre News


New Theatre mourns the passing of Life Member Tom Salisbury who died on 24 January. He was 99.  

Tom served in the army during the Second World War and boarded at Coogee after his discharge. A fellow lodger was Alan Herbert, then acting in the New’s Woman Bites Dog. Tom saw the show, was hooked and joined up. That was 1947. 

Tom worked on 72 productions, his first as sound operator on Deep Are The Roots. He went on to stage manage, act in small parts and crowd scenes and direct and assist on a number of Workshops. A memorable experience was his involvement in The Candy Store which played to striking underground shale miners at Newnes in 1952. A bricklayer by trade, he helped with building repairs at King Street.

One of only three members with a heavy vehicle licence, Tom was the regular driver of the theatre’s open flat-top truck. He took the New’s writer-in-residence Oriel Gray, her sons and furniture from Herne Bay to Newcastle to join John Hepworth. When Frank Hardy’s Black Diamonds played in Lithgow he drove the Arts Council truck there and back to Sydney. Tom also owned a motor bike.

Tom’s family migrated from England to Australia. As a child he had an unpaid gig as one of the “orphans from bankrupt bookies” in Strike Me Lucky made by Cinesound Studios at Bondi Junction and starring Roy Rene. A dance sequence filmed in Centennial Park ended up on the cutting room floor because the kids were “untrained and hopeless”. Nevertheless, parents were invited to the opening in the State Theatre.

Tom played in a New Theatre cricket team captained by Arnold Butcher, a good batsman. Others in the team were Ken Crozier, Bob Sweeney, Graeme Stewart, John Armstrong, Leon Sherman, Mel Lowe, Sid Feldheim and Clive Young. They practised at Moore Park near Sydney Boys High and sometimes played against the wharfies.

In 1955 Tom married Silvia Meech. The couple were regular marchers on May Day, sang at New Theatre fundraising functions, and were made Life Members in 1987. Tom’s mother Nell Stokes was an associate member. She helped with fundraising activities and cleaned the theatre at St Peters Lane.

Tom co-authored Windradyne of the Wiradjuri: martial law at Bathurst in 1824, a book widely consulted by later researchers.

Reginald Thomas Salisbury first came to the attention of Security in 1948 and was the subject of numerous ASIO reports, one agent noting that he was a non smoker and non drinker and that “flattery has no effect on this person”.

The theatre extends its sympathies to Silvia, Kim and Kylie.