Off To Join The Blackheathens…

When I first heard about being a “Blackheathen”, I thought it sounded like joining a Satanic cult. However, Blackheath is actually a town in the Blue Mountains West of Sydney and the locals call themselves “Blackheathens”, while throughout it’s history, visitors have dubbed it: “Bleakheath”. It is freezing. Well, at least by more wimpy standards where 18°C is considered “frozen” and we’re wrapped up in so many layers of jumpers, blankets, coats and overcoats, that we look more rugged up than Eskimos.


Any way the wind blows, Henry goes with the flow…

Last week, I loaded up the little red car and drove up to Blackheath to stay with a cousin for four days. This was no ordinary “cousin” either. My 4 x Great Grandfather, John Johnston was her Great Grandfather’s older brother. We first met about 20 years ago when I was researching the bridge they built, the North Sydney Suspension Bridge, and I came across her name in a newspaper article in the local history file at the library. We met up back them, along with another cousin who was in her 80s at the time, and we formed a sort of inner circle of this vast outer circle of this Johnston family hailing back to the island of Islay in the Scottish Hebrides.


Angus Rutherford Johnston my 4th Great Uncle and James Campbell in Seattle, USA. The photo album itself was a work of art.

When I got back in touch a few weeks ago, it turned out that a cousin had dropped off two family photo albums dating back to the 1880s and she invited to to come up to stay, copy of the photos and catch up.

Govetts Leap


As it turned out, copying the photos was the tip of the iceberg and I was brought deep into the Blackheath fold and not only taken to local lookouts, but also inside Blackheath. I watched a local musical theatre production on DVD called something along the lines of: “A Hot Time in Blackheath”. Blackheath used to be a popular destination for not only honeymoons back in the day, but also a “dirty weekend”. As I’d toured the lookouts in the past, such history had never crossed my mind. So, it was quite interesting to get this inside perspective.


Zooming in on a rock face over Govett’s Leap. I have always been astounded by the tenacity of Australian plants to grow in such challenging locations.

Before I left for Blackheath, I had been planning to indulge in food the entire week without any thought of ballooning into twice my size or blowing the budget. I was wanted to indulge. However, while we did stop at the Ivanhoe Pub for a magnificent pie, I actually indulged more in books as I found out that one of my favourite all time bookshops, Gleebooks, had a store in Blackheath and I fell deep down that precarious slippery slope back into book addiction.


Meanwhile, in the nearby carpark, I spotted an amazing mural designed by Jenny Kee,  a well known Australian fashion and event designer and writer and Blackheath local on the side of the historic Victory Theatre. The mural features bold and colourful representations of Australian plants and wildlife in Jenny Kee’s typical style.

Of course, my time in Blackheath was over way too soon. However, I did spend a few hours in Katoomba, breaking the homeward journey. So, stay tuned.

Have you ever been to Blackheath?

Best wishes,



9 thoughts on “Off To Join The Blackheathens…

  1. mariemclean

    It sounds like you had a lovely time in Blackheath. I have vague memories of visiting there when I lived in Sydney many years back.
    What a gorgeous mural!

  2. TanGental

    Been to Blackheath? I nearly bought a house there. The English version of course named because the place was one huge plague pit, os so the story goes. Rather lovely part of my neighbourhood in fact and all rather posh. Not a dirty weekender in sight in truth

  3. New Journey

    How wonderful to not only have met your cousins 20 years ago, but stay in touch. I love the quaintness of the town, I have never heard of a “dirty weekend”, but it sounds fun all the same…LOL I am glad you had a great time away, breaks are necessary not only for our minds but to remind the family of just how much they take us for granted ! LOL that can never hurt!! Isn’t mother nature simply amazing. Trees, and bushes growing out of a crack in the most bizarre places. Cactus do the same in the desert, I little crack in a rock and poof out come some sort of plant. XXkkat

  4. Rowena Post author

    Isn’t the resilience of such plants incredible! It seems to be much the same with humans and we mistakenly believe that luxury is the sim in life, when rugged struggle is what produces the most personal growth. My cousin was telling me about how she and her husband used to walk miles each way to school as kids and they’ve been strong enough to tough it out and she’s still fit in her 80s. At the same time, while I understand the theory, putting it into practice is another story. Much easier to build resilience in others than yourself!
    BTW I had an iron infusion a few weeks ago and am feeling alive once again. The cough seems to be improving and I also changed my GORD meds and that’s helped. Quite astounding as I really wasn’t going so well. I have fingers and toes crossed. August is usually the toughest month for me each year with chest infections but I am hopeful. As I said, fingers crossed!
    How are you going?
    xx Ro

  5. Rowena Post author

    Thanks for filling me in on the English version. My cousin said Blackheath was named after the town in England. She’ll love to know she’s living in the Aussie very of a plague pit and I think “Blackheathen” goes quite well with the history, don’t you?
    I’m sorry that I haven’t got back to you about the London tour. What was supposed to be a quick revisit of my family history, resulted in a deep submersion into bigamy, adultery, whisky distilling and no doubt quite a very comparatively ordinary people. I have also found a very strong performance streak. It makes so much sense, even though most of us weren’t famous and passed well under the radar. Yet, that element is very much there and in some of us, quite abundant.
    Speaking of which, Miss is competing in a local dance competition this week and Gang Show is on at the end of the week. Somehow, I’ve managed to secure the role of Taxi Driver” in these performances, when I was pretty sure my contract read “Star” and came with my own dressing room. I’ll have to look into that!
    Hope you are having a great week. It is looking warmer today. Hey, it’s actually 21 degrees. Time to bring out the bikini (choke choke)
    Anyway, had better make sure the llittle ballerina is organized. She’s also performing a contemporary solo I haven’t seen today and it has a lot of acro elements so I can’t wait to see it.
    Best wishes,

  6. New Journey

    Glad to hear your feeling better and the energy level is up. All my fingers and toes are always crossed for you my friend. When my folks we alive I also heard stories of how many miles each way to school was for them. I agree resilience does make you stronger in the end, but man is it ever hard to make ones self do it if you don’t have to….I am all good, I am heading back to Arizona next week come hell or high water, living in an empty house is crazy…LOL xxxxxx

  7. Rowena Post author

    Thanks so much for looking out for me. It’s very much appreciated. Have you sold the house yet? Got my fingers and toes crossed for you there.
    xx Ro

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