Eric and Rita Kaye were at the heart of the Castlecrag community for more than 50 years.
The construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge during Eric’s teenage years sparked his interest in engineering. He joined the Navy and studied engineering at Technical College in the evenings. He met Rita after her family had moved from the eastern suburbs to Northbridge and they were married on 21 February 1942.
During his successful engineering career with the Australian Navy, Eric took possession of the Navy’s first computer in the United Kingdom, an event he fondly recalled in his later years. He subsequently spent several years in the United States based at Washington DC where he and Rita made many close friends and became interested in the human rights movement.
Eric and Rita purchased a block of land at 325 Edinburgh Road in 1948 and contracted local architect and close friend, Chris Sorensen, to design their house. They then spent many years building this house — indeed, Eric was still working on it 50 years later!
Eric held an abiding love for Castlecrag and established a strong relationship with the whole Castlecrag community. He was a passionate advocate for the natural environment, and it was under Eric’s guidance as president of the Castlecrag Progress Association that the successful campaign against the extension of the Warringah Expressway through the bushland of the northern escarpment of Castlecrag was fought during the 1970s.
In 1980, Eric was elected to Willoughby Council. He stated that his aim was to preserve Castlecrag’s quiet beauty for the enjoyment of Sydney’s future generations. The following year he was one of 11 local residents appointed by the council to prepare June to undertake the Castlecrag Local Environment Study. The Castlecrag Local Environment Study prepared by the committee was submitted to Council in 1982, providing a basis for the Willoughby Local Environment Plan of 1985. Eric was re-elected in 1983, becoming Deputy Mayor in 1985. He took great pride in his role as an alderman, taking particular interest in issues relating to public transport and the natural environment.
During 1982 both Eric and Rita spent many months preparing submissions to and attending every session of the Inquiry into the future use of the Warringah Freeway Corridor Land (the Kirby inquiry). They were backed by a report by the Total Environment Centre commissioned by the Castlecrag Progress Association and 67 Castlecrag residents also made submissions. The six recommendations of the Inquiry supported the Progress Association’s position.
Rita Kaye took on the role of editor of The Crag, the newsletter of the Castlecrag Progress Association, in 1983 and she shaped its style and character over the next six years. She was also active in rehabilitation of the bushland in Castlecrag. Both Rita and Eric were made life members of the Castlecrag Progress Association for their contribution to the community.