G5 07 Phillip Grose Sullivan

Phillip Grose Sullivan was a great grandson of Timothy Sullivan through his grandfather Samuel Grose Sullivan and his father Wilf Sullivan.


Phillip (Phil) Sullivan was born in Prospect in May 1922, the second child and only son of Eric Wilfred Sullivan (Wilf) and wife Adeline (nee Whitford). His older sister was Margaret Rendle Sullivan born in 1917.

PGSboyAt about the age of 5 the family moved to the house/pharmacy at 163 Magill Rd Maylands which was to remain the family home for many years. He attended the Wellington Rd (now Portrush Rd) primary school at Trinity Gardens, and completed his schooling there in 1934. These were the Depression years, and no doubt he learnt about frugality and making ends meet, and also about helping others from the quiet charity his Dad dispensed at the pharmacy along with prescriptions. During these years Phil grew up in an extended family, with two uncles living nearby, visits from cousins from Broken Hill, and the attractions of his Uncle Jack’s market garden and orchard which seemed to have been the hub for the extended Sullivan family. He was also able to spend holiday time with his cousins at Broken Hill.

With both parents musical, Phil learnt the flute and banjo, and was a member of one of the well known Adelaide bands.


Young Phil in band uniform.
Photo courtesy of R Sullivan


pgsrowerIn 1935 he commenced schooling at Prince Alfred College, attending until 1939. His academic career was solid and tended towards the physical sciences with maths, physics and chemistry predominant. On the sporting field he was absent, choosing instead rowing at which he excelled. In his final year his team-mates elected him at 10 stone 7 pounds as stroke and captain of the first eight. His coach offered the following critique. “A polished oarsman of remarkable strength for his size. An inspiring stroke of excellent judgement.”

"A winning captain."
Photo courtesy of R Sullivan

PGSmanIn 1940 he commenced his science degree at the University of Adelaide, and graduated with a BSc in Chemistry in 1943.

In 1941 Phil received his mobilisation call up and enlisted in the Army Reserve. After 3 months training over the University summer holidays further service was deferred whilst he continued his studies. He re-enlisted in the Navy Reserves in early 1943 after graduating, and undertook basic training at the HMAS Cerberus base in Victoria, followed by a further 6 month training as a radio mechanic.

Photo courtesy of R Sullivan


 On completion of his training he was immediately transferred from the Navy Reserves to the Navy proper, and was posted for further training in the new science of radar at bases in Sydney. In May 1944 he commenced active service in New Guinea initially at Milne Bay and later Madang, including combat experience on several vessels to which he had been posted. In May 1945 he was reposted back to Sydney for further advanced training in the newer radar developments. After some difficulties in obtaing a discharge, he re-entered civilian life in early February 1946, and a few weeks later married Shirley Stalley back in Adelaide.

From around 1944 Phil had been in contact with Imperial Chemical Industries in Botany Sydney regarding future peacetime employment as an industrial chemist, and he commenced work with ICI within a very short time of his wedding, whisking his bride away from the comforts of life in Adelaide to a smallish house in Carrs Park Sydney. He worked in various production supervision roles with ICI including some night shift work, until about 1950.He was an active member of the Australian Chemical Institute being awarded associate membership in May 1948. He was for a time Secretary of the Chemical Engineering Group and subsequently Institute Secretary.

He had taken his father-in-law Jack for a tour of the factory, and Jack had been appalled by the apparently hazardous nature of the goings on. As Jack was wishing to secure the future of his drapery business in Adelaide, he made Phil an offer to come back to Adelaide and take over the business. So Phil and his young family returned to Adelaide around 1951. However Phil found himself completely unsuited to the drapery business, and took up a position with Caltex Oil, which was to be his employer for the rest of his working life.

He commmenced permanent employment with Caltex in September 1952 in some sort of technical sales role. In 1955 Caltex transferred  Phil back to Sydney in 1955 in a similar technical sales role, but one which although based in the Sydney head office required time away from home visiting country clients. Part of this role included site selection for future service stations. Phil appears to have relished the sales role, and this posting continued until 1963. During the Sydney years the family lived at Killara and West Pymble, both on Sydney's north shore. The family grew from first son Richard born in Sydney in 1948, second son Andrew born in Adelaide in 1951, daughter Catherine born in Sydney in 1955, with youngest son Robert in 1961. During these Sydney years Phil also became involved with the Apex service clubs. He was a member of the Chatswood Apex club and was awarded life membership in 1962.




Family photos courtesy of R Sullivan

In 1963 the family returned to Adelaide with Phil being appointed South Australian Technical Sales Manager. The family moved into a two story home in Fullarton. He was based in the office in Victoria Square, but preferred to spend more time at his lab at the Birkenhead Terminal working with his small technical staff to devise and blend lubricating products tailored to meet specific customer needs. Again this involved Phil in further country trips, taking him away from home. It seems he was good at his job, and he made some long-lasting friendships with his customers. In 1974 additional sales responsibilities were added for country areas. Around this time the industry was experiencing competitive pressures with the inevitable cost cutting, and Phil may have become disillusioned. He undertook some studies that could have opened up opportunities in the Real Estate Industry. Also with two sons having left the nest, the remainder of the family moved to a smaller house at Walkerville.

Around 1979 aged 57 he was offered an overseas posting to Bahrain in the middle east, as Technical/Lube Sales Specialist, presumably in a similar technical product development sales role, with a training component for the local Bahrainis. After about three years Caltex then relocated Phil and wife Shirley to the USA, living in Conneticut and commuting to the head office in New York, and then eventually relocating to the new Caltex head office in Dallas. There was no longer a permanent role so Phil elected to return to Adelaide, and as there was no role in Adelaide he took early retirement in 1983.

pgsandsksOn their return to Australia in 1983 they purchased the home in Aldgate where they remained for roughly the next twenty years. These were probably Phil's golden years, as he had the time and energy to pursue hobbies, to travel, and to relax and enjoy life and his family.

When his sister Margaret’s health began to decline he took responsibility for relocating her from her house full of books to the retirement unit and ultimately the nursing home at Norwood.


Shirley and Phil "at home"
Photo courtesy of R Sullivan




pgsoldAround his 80th birthday and with declining physical capacity to care for the big garden at Aldgate, Phil and Shirley relocated to the courtyard home at Glenunga. Sadly Shirley's unexpected illness and Phil's continued decline eventually required them to relocate to a nursing home.

He died two weeks short of his 88th birthday in May 2010.


Phil and first great grandchild Max circa 2009
Photo courtesy of R Sullivan