This article was re-posted with permission of the Editorial staff
of the Manly Daily, NSW Australia.
Credits goes to: manlydaily.com.au
And Author: John Morcombe
Our pioneer nudist: naked ambition in the face of prudery
24 Jul 12 @ 12:01am by John Morcombe
Ashmore's The Australian Sunbather tested the limits of free speech and the law in post-War Australia.
THE northern beaches has had many pioneers in many fields but one of the least-known is Balgowlah's Ron Ashworth.
He founded Australia's first long-term nudist club and published the nation's first nudist magazine.
Ron Ashworth was born at Rockdale in 1910 and, after serving an apprenticeship as a fitter, worked as an engineer. In 1938 he married Ivy Hillard and by 1943 the couple was living in Lombard St, Balgowlah.
Despite his engineering background, by 1950 Ashworth was running a secretarial business at Manly.
There appear to have been a few short-lived nudist clubs in the late 1920s but the first one in Australia that survived more than a year or two was the NSW Sun and Country Club, founded by Ashworth on April 5, 1932.
The site of the club's camping ground is uncertain but may have been near Berowra. The club appears to have folded with the outbreak of World War II but was reformed by Ashworth in 1946.
The re-formed club had only two rules - members had to have partners of the opposite sex and alcohol was banned.
Ashworth and other members of the club wanted to buy a piece of secluded bushland near Sydney on which could be built a clubhouse, swimming pool, tennis courts and a miniature golf course. The only problem was finance. Membership of the club was 10 guineas a year - a significant sum for the time.
Historian Magnus Clarke, himself a nudist, said that Ashworth or the club bought land at Frenchs Forest - believed to be near Blackbutts Rd - and that the club was able to begin construction of a clubhouse in mid-1947.
Even before then, Ashworth had launched Australia's first nudist magazine, The Australian Sunbather, the first edition of which appeared in March 1946.
But the club's property at Frenchs Forest was far from secure - from the press, from voyeurs and from the police. In March 1948 the police told Ashworth they wanted to visit the camp.
The police later told the press that they would not take action against the club and that its members were law-abiding members of the community, organised in a properly-constituted club that met on private property. At the time the club said it had 300 members.
Ashworth believed there was a need for a national body for nudists, so he held a convention in the Frenchs Forest grounds of the club on November 13 and 14, 1948, the result of which was the Australian Sun Bathing Association (ASBA).
By the time the ASBA's third annual general meeting was held in 1951, it had 430 members and 58.10.6 in the bank.
Ashworth wanted the money put towards the purchase of a national convention centre but the proposal fell through.
But Ashworth was serious about a national nudist camp and tried to lease Bowen Island off Jervis Bay, but that plan also came to nought.
In 1947 Ashworth launched The Australian Sunbather Annual, in 1948 he launched The Australasian Sunbathing Quarterly Review and in 1950 he published Naturism Illustrated.
But Ashworth and the law were never far apart - legal action against him was launched in Melbourne in 1948 but was dismissed. In 1950 he was found naked in a hotel bedroom with another man's wife.
The woman's husband was granted a divorce and gained custody of their son, while Ashworth had to pay 100 pounds in damages and the husband's legal costs. In 1952 Ashworth was fined 5 pounds for publishing obscene photos in his magazine, which ceased publication in early 1953. Ashworth's Dare appears to have ceased publication in 1954 and the club closed about the same time, after which Ashworth disappeared from public view.
Ashworth's wife Ivy died in 1954 and he died in 1983 and was buried in Frenchs Forest Bushland Cemetery.
THE four-page magazine was printed by the Manly Daily but five girls who worked in the Manly Daily shop refused to handle or sell the magazine, with one telling the press: "I don't agree with that sort of thing. I won't sell it."
At the time the Manly Daily Ltd printed everything from business cards to books but appears to have backed away from any further involvement with The Australian Sunbather after the first edition.