Tag Archives: Australian History

U – Umina Beach, Australia…A-Z Challenge.

Welcome back to Places I’ve Been, my theme for this year’s Blogging From A to Z April Challenge. Today, we’re off to Umina Beach, which isn’t very far away for me at all. It’s actually only 700 metres down the road.

Indeed, Umina Beach is home. Geoff and I moved up here almost 20 years ago to buy our first home. Despite what we thought would be a quick renovate and flip, we’re still here. In fact, we haven’t finished those renovations, and what we did manage to get done back at the beginning, needs to be re-done. After all, fixing up a fixer-upper is a lot like painting the Sydney Harbour Bridge. By the time you finally reach the finish, you need to  start painting at the beginning again.

Zac at the beach

Zac at the beach a few weeks ago.

Geoff and I didn’t plan to leave Sydney, or even buy a place in Umina Beach. We’d started looking around real estate in Sydney, but came up to Umina Beach to visit our niece and this place was for sale two streets away. This massive decision was all very spontaneous, although you could also say it was meant to be. However, as we’ve found out, this decision was a lot more far-reaching than deciding where to camp for the night. Although Sydney’s only an hour down the road and Geoff commutes there for work, it’s not the same as actually living there.  It’s taken me quite a long time to call Umina Beach home, and I still consider myself a Sydney person. This region is considered part of Greater Sydney. However, when I was alone at home with the new baby and Geoff was commuting to Sydney and away most of the day, I really felt that distance. However, through getting involved in Church, playgroups and community action groups, that started to change. By the time the kids started school and I was also working part-time for a local IT company, I felt a lot more settled. Through living there, we’ve managed our mortgage on one income, without being enslaved to the mighty mortgage which is the norm in Sydney. It’s naturally a lot more relaxing around here with the beach at one end of the street and flat, inland water suitable for sailing and kayaking down another. Can’t complain about that!

 

Lady at Ocean Beach

Lady at Ocean Beach, NSW.

So, after that rather lengthy introduction, you must be wondering if we’re ever going to make it to the beach. My apologies. I can take all of this a bit for granted what with living here all the time. However, before we hit the beach, I need to make a quick distinction between the name of the place and the names of the beaches around here. The place is called Umina Beach, but the beach itself is divided into Ocean Beach, which is just down from our place, and Umina Beach to the West. However, it’s all one expanse of golden sand and a fabulous place to go for a walk. There’s even a designated dog beach.

Nippers Running

Our son racing at Nippers, a junior form of life saving. 

In so many ways, the beach is our cultural hub and a true blue melting pot where lifesavers, swimmers, walkers, dogs, kids and seagulls all congregate, exercise and relax. We’ve taken the kids down to the beach from the time they were born, and held them into the frolicking waves, until they were old enough to hold their hands and eventually join Nippers, along with many of the other local kids on a Sunday morning. Now, our daughter goes down to the beach with her friends and Geoff and our son prefer sailing. I have done some swimming, but am better known as walker and dog walker, although there can also be a bit of talk with that as well.

The set of photos above were taken in November 2007 celebrating Geoff’s Birthday.

Our beach has had some rough times over the years. Rough storms have removed tonnes of sand, ripped out rows of native trees and extensive remediation works have been undertaken to halt the damage. The road around the beach front was even closed off for awhile there, as there were concerns it too could fall in the drink. I don’t think this situation has really stabilised but it might’ve improved.

Geoff & Rowena

Just off Umina Beach, there’s the Umina Precinct Park, which as a dream come true for the local action group I belonged to when the kids were small. Back then, even getting a local park with a fence seemed like an impossible pipe dream. However, council came onboard and the project snowballed into a regional park and tourist attraction. This was well beyond our wildest dreams, and I should remember this when a situation seems hopeless. Never give up!

Flamin Ron the World’s Hottest Chilli Pie on TV

However,  every town has to have its personality. It’s claim to fame. For Umina Beach, this comes in the form of pastry chef, Ron Bruns from the Bremen Patisserie and his infamous pie… the Flamin Ron, the world’s hottest chilli pie. While I know Ron quite well and love his almond croissants and bee sting cake, I’ve never even considered dipping my little finger into one of these pies, let alone tried to eat one. In case you’re wondering whether this pie is as ruthlessly hot as it claims, you actually need to sign a legal waiver beforehand. So, that’s warning enough for me. However, despite local horror stories, there are still mighty warriors willing to take on the Flamin Ron challenge blow the consequences. This includes Richard, who tells a wonderful  tale

Woy Woy Air Strip

Woy Woy Air Strip extending down to Umina Beach with Lion Island right in front of the runway. 

While I was putting together this post, I did some historical research, hoping to find some historical detail of interest. After all, if you’ve been following me throughout this series, you’ll know how much I love jumping into my time machine, travelling back in time beyond the present day. It’s somewhat well-known around here that there used to be an air strip through town. I couldn’t have told you exactly where it was. However, that’s what Google’s for and the old newspapers.

This brings us to the Woy Woy Airstrip, which was built during WWII along with an aerodrome. The runway extended from Woy Woy down in a straight line along what’s now Trafalgar Avenue into Umina Beach, ending about a street away from our place. During WWII, the air strip was even used by US bombers. You can read more about it here  at All Things Woy. 

Tiger_Moth

Imagine this crashing into your roof. Luckily, no one was home when a Tiger Moth crashed into a Umina home in 1950. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

However, our street wasn’t always a street away from trouble. On the 4th November, 1950 long a few life times before we moved in, a Tiger Moth plane crash landed into a house at the end of the street. Of course, 70 years down the track, having a Tiger Moth crash land in your street sounds particularly exciting (especially after being in lock down for at least 6 weeks!!), although I should also point out that the pilot was injured. The plane crashed into the roof, and as the pilot wandered out in a dazed state, he fell 15ft  off the roof. Fortunately, residents Mr and Mrs Henson were away visiting their daughter in Sydney at the time. The plane crashed right on dinner time, and it’s almost certain they would have been killed. So, there’s something more I learned on my travels during the Blogging From A to Z Challenge.

Couple Ocean Beach best

Sunset at the beach

Well, it’s now time to leave Umina Beach behind and get a bit of shut eye before our adventures start up again in the morning. Indeed, I might need to stay home for awhile after all this travel is over. What I would give to sleep in my own bed again, instead of tramping along the road from hotel to hotel.

Oh, that’s right. I haven’t been anywhere at all. It’s just me, myself and I stuck inside these same four walls along with Geoff, two teenagers and three dogs.

Humph! We’re definitely in need of a holiday!!

How are you holding up in isolation? Where would you like to go? My list is just getting longer and longer. However, due to my health, my movements are particularly restricted. So, right now even being able to walk into a local shop to buy some chocolate has become an impossible dream. That said, I’m certainly not going without. Hoarding chocolate hasn’t become a crime.

Take care & stay safe!

Best wishes,

Rowena

T- Toowoomba, Queensland…A-Z Challenge.

Welcome back to my travel series for the 2020 Blogging From A to Z April Challenge where we’re taking a virtual tour of Places I’ve Been.

In case it hasn’t already come to your attention, this list of places seems extremely random and looks like something plucked out of a lucky dip. However, trying to allocate a place to every letter has been challenging, and I’ve also tried to give a broad smattering overview of where I’ve been within these constrains. However, I’ve still managed to leave out two entire countries…China and Hong Kong. That does seem a little unfair. However, they had some stiff competition. Well, perhaps I should’ve written about China, instead of Canberra. However, that would also have meant going looking for photos from 1989, and I wouldn’t know where to start.

Today, we’re leaving Sydney behind and travelling up North via the M1 Motorway and veering off at Hexham onto the New England Highway, which is generally known as “the inland route”. Toowoomba is is only 864 km up the road. So, we’ll be there in around 10 hours give or take. However, since you’re travelling with the likes of me, it could take a hell of a lot longer, and they could well be sending out a search party long before we arrive. I’m well-known for stops, which encompasses everything from: “Hey, look there’s a Kookaburra” to multiple toilet stops. I always end up regretting that cup of tea before we hit the road.

So, out of all the cities starting with T, why did I bring you to Toowoomba?

Great Grandparents Haebich mama and kids toowoomba

Toowoomba looking out towards Table Top Mountain in 1948. My mother is pictured front left with her mother, Ruth Haebich (Gordon). The older couple are her parents in-law, Clara and Ed Haebich, from Hahndorf, South Australia. Due to war time restrictions on travel, they’d been unable to get to Queensland for my grandparents and I think this was the first time they actually met my grandmother and the kids.

Well, I could’ve taken you to Terrigal, one of our local beaches. However, we went to Sydney yesterday, and I’m going local tomorrow. Besides, we really liked Toowoomba with it’s panoramic views, crisp mountain air and old-world, country charm. While it’s known as the “Garden City”, it could well be known as Queensland’s “Mountain City”. That said, at a mere 800 metres above sea level, that’s more like a hill by international standards. However, when you live in a country that’s almost as flat as a pancake, you’ve got to be thankful for whatever altitude you’ve got and it doesn’t take much for a mole hill to be reclassified.

IMG_8968

We timed our visit to Toowoomba well and caught some stunning Autumn leaves.

Although we’re approaching Toowoomba from the South, it’s also located 125 km west of Brisbane by road. The estimated urban population of Toowoomba as of June 2015 was 114,622. There’s a university and it also hosts the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers each September and there are more than 150 public parks and gardens in Toowoomba. Considered the capital of the Darling Downs, it’s also developed into a regional centre for business and government services.

IMG_8978

Although I’ve been through Toowoomba onboard the McCafferty’s bus to visit my late grandparents in Ipswich more than I’ve actually stopped off, I’ve actually been to Toowoomba a couple of times and really liked it, the views and the crisp mountain air. I had a friend who lived in Toowoomba who I actually met on one of these McCaffertys bus trips. Finding out we were both writers, we had a lot to talk about. Indeed, I think we talked all night along with the two we palled up with in the seat in front. Anyway, I ended up getting a bit of a tour and really liked the place.

IMG_8983

The Office Building, Concordia College, Towoomba.

I also have family connections to Toowoomba and the surrounding region. My Mum’s two younger sister were both born in Toowoomba while my grandfather, Pastor Bert Haebich, was Acting Principal of Concordia College in Toowoomba. It was a Lutheran co-ed boarding school , which does seem rather progressive for the times but it was strict. One of my grandfather’s many stories was about how he’d tell the students:  “girls you can be friends with boys, and boys you can be friends with girls, but if we see you pair up, you’ll soon find one of us alongside you.” We’ve always felt this was a very sensible, enlightened approach, especially for the 1940s.

6-Big house or school

A photo of the rear of school taken by my grandfather, Pastor Bert Haebich, back in 1948 before the world went colour.

Anyway, all of this brings me to a family day trip we had to Toowoomba back in 2010. Back then, our son was six years old and our daughter was four and let’s just say Geoff and I were also a bit younger. We were staying with friends just outside Ipswich and having fond memories of my first visit to Toowoomba and loving the mountains, I thought we’d head up for a day trip. As usual, our trip wasn’t planned and was rather spontaneous. However, I did want to see Concordia College. I’d seen the photos of my mum and her older brother standing in front of the school gate when they were roughly the same age my kids were at the time. There were rows of Bunya trees and it was just a very quintessentially Queensland scene and my mother was part of it.

IMG_8993

My grandfather, Pastor Bert Haebich, centre stage.

However, when we approached the school office, I never expected we’d be given a tour of the school grounds, and I actually saw my grandfather’s portrait hanging on the wall alongside the other past principles. I was pretty chuffed about that. However, I should also point out that I had Master 6 and Miss 4 in tow,  and while you’d expect a school to be somewhat understanding of young kids, we were there representing my mother’s family. You know the old-style hat and gloves brigade. My grandmother always used to sit perfectly still perfectly still with her hands carefully folded on her lap,  as though she she was sitting on a stage all the time. After all, especially back then, that’s what it was like for a minister’s family. They lived under the microscope 24/7, especially in smaller communities. You either had to be good, or you had to develop a very good veneer.

IMG_8994

Photos of previous headmasters on display in the boardroom. My grandfather’s photo is second from the left. Thank goodness the kids were give the freedom to draw on the white board. Could you just imagine the horror of them drawing on these beautiful and rather stately walls?!!!

However, my kids didn’t know much at all about that, or sitting still. Instead, the college grounds probably seemed like one big playground to them and somewhere to run around. Indeed, to really put you in the picture, when we’d had lunch in a park in town, our son found a dead bat and thought it was absolutely fascinating. Just beautiful!

Above: My mother and her brother at the college in 1948 and our kids in 2020.

However, our tour of the school went really well, and I must commend their Public Relations Officer for being understanding and empathetic with the kids. She was beautiful!!

Jonathon & Amelia Toowoomba

The kids stepped back in time at the Cobb & Co. Museum.

Another great place we went was the Cobb & Co. Museum. If you haven’t noticed by now, we’re rather fond of museums. Moreover, when the kids were small, we were particularly found of museums which knew how to educate and occupy the kids and make learning fun.

IMG_8908

I just had to sneak in this very cute photo of our son with a galah puppet at the Cobb & Co. Museum.

Geoff and I are also serious history buffs and what with my  local German cultural heritage, I was particularly interested to find out more about the early days of settlement. Back then, I didn’t really think too much about how my ancestors might’ve displaced the Aboriginal people or even been a part of frontier conflict. It’s amazing how you can store your knowledge in separate files, and it can take awhile for the information to jump across.

IMG_8909

Our son climbs aboard a kid-sized Cobb & Co Coach in the play area. The kids had so much fun here.

Lastly, I just want to mention a great place we went to on the way up to Toowoomba, the Spring Bluff Railway Station and the Spring Bluff Cafe.It’s really worth a visit and the cafe had incredible old world charm and real artistic flair.

IMG_8896

Just a few stairs up to the very quaint Spring Bluff Cafe, which is housed in the former Stationmaster’s house.

 

Well, I hope you enjoyed our brief trip to Toowoomba.

The A-Z Challenge is now starting to come to an end. I must admit it’s been a wonderful diversion during social isolation, and I’ve loved revisiting all these incredible places I’ve been. It’s also allowed me to collate a lot of personal and collective family memories and has been very productive from that point of view. I’m often so focused on trying to dig up stories from the past, that I can forget to jot down and organize our stories from the present, which probably meant a lot more to the living, that those of the dead.

IMG_8873

Thought you might be needing a hot chocolate for the road from the Spring Bluff Cafe  before we leave.

How are you going with the A-Z Challenge? I’m sorry that I haven’t visited very much. Geoff and I have both found ourselves much busier than usual in lock down and it’s been hard to juggle all the balls in the air.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Canberra- Day 3 Blogging A-Z Challenge.

“The hardest thing about living in Canberra is that almost everyone who doesn’t live here asks: ‘Why on earth would you live in Canberra?’ Loudly, and in a way they would never use to discuss anywhere else. And they never listen to the answer.”

Judy Horacek, Cartoonist

Welcome to Day 3 of the Blogging A to Z Challenge.

Today, we’re leaving Europe behind and leap frogging across the globe to Australia’s capital city, Canberra, which started out as a city in the sheep paddocks and has evolved into a dynamic cultural centre despite, or perhaps because of the politicians. Indeed,  “Canberra” is often used to refer to all things political going on down there, becoming an entity beyond place.

Parliament House, Canberra

However, before Canberra became “Canberra”, the indigenous Ngunnawal and Ngambri people had been living in the area for thousands of years and the name ‘Canberra’ is said to be derived from an indigenous word meaning ‘meeting place’.

Canberra only rose to fame after Australia’s six states and two territories federated to form Australia. As there was intense rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne  to become the nation’s capital, it was my understanding that it was decided to locate the capital   half-way in between in Canberra. However, it turns out that at a premiers’ conference in Melbourne in January 1899, NSW Premier George Reid won support for the capital to be located within his state. However, as a trade-off, section 125 of the new federal Constitution specifically stated that the capital  could be no less than 100 miles (160 kilometres) from Sydney. In the meantime, Melbourne would act as the interim capital. The first Commonwealth Parliament met in Melbourne on 9 May 1901. However, Federal Parliament didn’t move to Canberrra until 1927.

Don’t you just love politics!

However, when we’ve gone to Canberra, it’s had nothing to do with politics. Rather, we’ve always been driving back from the snow, and were more interested in its museums.

Being the nation’s capital, it’s home to the National Gallery (art), Questacon (Science), and the Australian War Memorial, which I’d place on an equal footing. However, I doubt the rest of the family would concur and no doubt our teenagers would want to see more than galleries these days.  I also wanted to mention that both our kids went on what’s known as “The Canberra Trip” when they were in primary school. It’s a right of passage (at least around here) and it’s a big excitement for them to head off in the coach with their friends, and an emotional time for their parents as the coach leaves.

Obviously, all three of these museums are currently closed due to the Coronavirus. However, perhaps this will inspire you to visit later. Alternately, these brief stop overs might satisfy your museum urge while you’re in social isolation and I’ve actually been able to provide links to online exhibitions. So, I’m pretty chuffed, and am not such a bad tour guide after all!

Last Post Ceremony

The daily Last Post Ceremony, which is held at the Pool of Reflection. Geoff and the kids presented a wreath in honour of Geoff’s Great Uncle, Pte Robert Ralph French who was killed in action in France. 

The Australian War Memorial

“Here is their spirit, in the heart of the land they loved; and here we

guard the record which they themselves made.”

– Charles Bean, 1948

For anyone with a passion for history, I strongly recommend visiting the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, especially if you have a family member who served in any of our armed conflicts, or even if you simply want to know how war has impacted our people on and off the battlefield. It’s absolutely riveting. Indeed, I believe we’ve been there three times as a family, and each time we’ve stayed much longer than intended and had to tear ourselves away. Moreover, now that my research into Australians serving on the Western Front during WWI has taken off, I could probably spend the rest of my life in this place and not blink an eye. Indeed, if I snuck down while the place is in lock down, nobody would even know I was there…!

Over the years, the Australian War Memorial has moved from being a physical, concrete entity and added an online counterpart, which is an invaluable resource. I am particularly grateful for this, as it’s not that easy for me to get down to Canberra and it’s so much easier to click on links online than combing through boxes of files.

If you’d like to read more about the history of the museum itself, please click Here.

Questacon – the National Science and Technology Centre.

Questacon is like a huge playcentre for science and engineering nerds. Yet, I also managed to find my own niche as a photographer by capturing the freaky lighting effects on film. That was a lot of fun and really extended my powers of perception (see above).

DSC_8120

Of course, that wasn’t why it was there. Besides, I love science anyway.  It’s just that some of it can get beyond my pay grade, or is in areas I’m not interested in and that’s okay. We don’t have to love everything.

lever

By the way, I should also mention there’s a great shop at Questacon. If you’re getting a bit sick of wearing Pyjamas everyday, perhaps you’d like to splurge on a Questacon lab coat?

Questacon Lab Coat

 The National Art Gallery

The National Art Gallery has made my job a lot easier, and is currently holding a couple of online exhibitions. So, I’d love you to join me for:

Matisse & Picasso

Australian Artist Hugh Ramsay

download

Hugh Ramsay: The Sisters, Art Gallery of NSW

In case you’re unfamiliar with Hugh Ramsay’s work, here’s a brief intro posted by the gallery: “Hugh Ramsay (1877–1906) was an accomplished Australian artist whose portrait paintings achieved success here and in France before his untimely death at the age of 28. This retrospective, the first to focus on Ramsay in more than a quarter of a century, brings together paintings, drawings, sketchbooks and letters from collections around the country to celebrate his achievements.”

In terms of their regular exhibits, my favourite is Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly Series:

Ned Kelly Nolan

Well, that concludes our very brief gallery tour of Canberra, but I’ve left you with plenty of places to wonder off to online if you follow through to the links.

Have you ever been to Canberra? What were your favourites? Please leave your thoughts and any links in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

George A. Aldworth…A Poem Written on The Way to War.

War is the very antithesis of poetry, and yet it is often in our darkest and most torturous moments that our thoughts turn inward and flow out through the pen. Indeed, I don’t even need Google. Rupert Brooke’s The Soldier immediately comes to mind:

If I should die, think only this of me:

That there’s some corner of a foreign field

That is forever England…

 

There’s also Hugh McCrae’s: In Flander’s Field:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below…

George Aldworth, a young English Private serving with the AIF, wrote a poem as he embarked onboard HMAT A26 Suevic, the very same ship as Maud Butler, which departed Sydney on the 22nd December, 1915 bound for Egypt. It’s quite possible that he wrote these lines as they sailed through Sydney Harbour at sunset, as he pictured a little yacht silhouetted by the setting sun. Naturally, it’s hard for me to picture this very different Sydney Harbour without the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. It was such a different place.

Clip Showing Troops Embarking 1915

At Sunset was published in the Suevic’s onboard newspaper The Sports Company’s Gazette.and reprinted in The Sun newspaper on the 22nd March, 1916 three months later.

Margaret Preston

Margaret Preston, Sydney Heads, Art Gallery of NSW 1925

Along with a brief introduction, it reads:

“A pretty picture Is suggested In the lines:  At Sunset, by George A. Aldworth, of the 20th Battalion. These were the verses:—

Far down the bay

A barque with sails of white

Fades at the close of day

Into the far away

Beyond the light.

The sunset glow

Spreads out across the deep

To the isles a long ago

Where the evening zephyrs blow —

Where seabirds sleep.

Oh! barque so free

Sailing Into the west.

Would I could follow thee,

Lull’d by the moaning sea

To share thy rest![1]

George Alexander Aldworth was born around 1883 in the village of East Hanney, near Wantage, Oxfordshire (then Berkshire). He was one of six known children born to Alfred Aldworth, a carpenter and joiner and Mary Ann. He arrived in Australia in 1911 and settled in Rockdale. George was a keen soccer player and finding it wasn’t a popular sport in Australia, founded the first local club at Rockdale, the St John Soccer Club, and was their  first captain. He was also a popular member of St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Kogarah and was a great favourite of the children and choir –boys and had composed a children’s hymn.

I did a Google search to find out if George had sent any more letters home. Or, fingers crossed, even more poems. However, my joy at finding this extremely well-written and moving account of travelling through France to the front, was very short-lived when I found out that George was Killed in Action in France before it had even gone to print. Unfortunately, as it seems, while we writers staunchly believe the pen is mightier than the sword, it is no match for a bullet.

Tyne-Cot-Cemetery-in-Flanders-Fields-Belgium

This doesn’t get any easier. I know in my head that so many of these beautiful young men didn’t make it home. Moreover, this isn’t the only letter I’ve read where I’ve been drawn so deeply into the writer’s orbit, only to have my hopes dashed. He didn’t make it home. It’s so easy to forget they’re mortal.

Naturally, it is my intention to get to know these men as individuals and not only absorb their stories, but also to slip inside their skin and disappear.  See what they see through their eyes, their minds, their hearts while working to remove any sense of myself at all. After all, this is the ultimate goal of the writer, the actor who doesn’t just play a character, but all but becomes one with them. I might have as much chance as Maud Butler of being able to pull it off, but I still have to try.

That said, it’s obviously not the safest ground psychologically speaking and at times I do find myself shuddering as conditions get tough. I’ve also been a bit “emotional” and I do wonder if I can handle it. Should I be so immersed in the horrors of this war, which wasn’t to end all wars? Wouldn’t I be better writing about rainbows, unicorns and fairies in castles? Isn’t there enough darkness and despair all around me, without needing to go back to the past and take onboard some of the very worst of it? My grandmother who did admire my writing, was concerned about my pull towards the darkside and suggested more than once I should take up floral arranging, very much in the same vein as Keats who advised us to “glut our sorrows on a morning rose.”

These concerns are justified. However, for me there is no doubt that I’m meant to be doing this. That someone has to keep these young men alive in the only way we can…through the pen. Moreover, through capturing and retelling their stories, I’m also acknowledging my gratitude too. I might not understand why they went to fight, but I appreciate their sacrifice and their belief in something ultimately good which was worth fighting for. That despite absolute horrors on all fronts, they believed there was something worth fighting for. Had a  faith in a better world. Moreover, I came to admire and be quite touched by their capacity to notice something incredibly beautiful in the midst of it all…such as a bird singing in the middle of no man’s land. This is such an important lesson for us too.

Anyway, as usual, I’ve digressed.

I wanted to share with you this letter George sent home about his trip through France on the way to the front. It appeared in the St George Call Saturday 16 September 1916:

FROM THE FRONT.

Private George A. Aldworth, of the 56th Battalion in journeying through France on his way to the front, gives the following description of the delightful country. We regret to announce that since sending this letter for publication, Pte. Aldworth has been killed in action, and is now at rest in the country of which he so favourably writes : —

“Thy cornfields green, and sunny vines. O pleasant land of France.[2]” We repeated the lines automatically and often, in the old schoolroom, in the old days. They meant nothing to us then. It is otherwise now. We have had many experiences, and have seen much since the day we left the sunny home shores to aid the mother land. After a day’s wait outside we entered the harbour and soon the work of disembarkation began. We entrained immediately and moved off without visiting the city. Very soon the train was plunging through a series of tunnels, which lead through the rocky hills to the country beyond. Looking back, as we occasionally emerged from the pitchy black underground, we got wonderful pictures of the city, the Mediterranean, and the fine rugged coast scenery. A slight haze softened the outlines of the mountains behind the town, and the boys were loud in praise of the glorious view. Again the deafening roar of the train in the darkness and when we again saw the sun Marseilles had passed from view. For about eight hours we made good progress, stopping for tea at a place which strangely enough was called Orange. The train had taken us through the most fertile, picturesque country we had ever seen. A country indeed worth fighting for— either to possess or, to retain. So far as the eye could reach, the vineyards and wheat fields spread. Hardly a yard of ground which was not under cultivation. The entire land was, like a vast garden, so thorough, are the French peasants in their work. And the love of the beautiful which is natural to our Ally, finds expression in the way they lay out their fields and road ways. The vines, and the corn, the carefully tended vegetable gardens, mingle beautifully with the long avenues of poplar and lime trees, which shade the white neatly trimmed roads. Scores of villages and small towns were passed, so dainty looking were the little red and white homes which, like newly born chicks, cluster closely round the grey old churches. What a warm reception from the inhabitants too, as we continued our journey. Scarcely a man, woman or child but waved a hand or if the train stopped, came with haste to wish us good luck. Many women were in black and there was a wistful look and a tear occasionally, mingled with the good wish. One old lady of very great age, we saw, who was feebly shaking one hand to us while she supported it with the other. The men generally were in uniform— they had probably been sent from the firing line to aid the harvesters,— the reaping season having just commenced. A very delightful time could be spent visiting the many churches we saw. Some were very fine edifices — others interesting because of their quaintness. Especially so, in the latter sense, was the Church of Arles, where also is a railway works. The town of Farascon possesses a couple of very fine castles, one of which might almost be a .replica of the famous Bastille. The women seem to have taken up their tasks splendidly, which are, for a time, left them, to perform. We saw them everywhere, in the fields, even using the scythe, also riding upon the horse rake and reaping machine. We passed Lyons in the early dawn of’ the next day, obtaining a confused picture of fog on a river, a couple of imposing bridges, and some fine streets. The, second day was like the first, mile after mile of vineyards, more villages, more “bon voyage” from the people, pretty winding lanes, leafy fairy lands, busy scenes in the fields. Here a sturdy blooming lass, deftly using a hoe, thinking no doubt of her Denis away up north. There a sad-eyed dame, pushing to market a heavy load of cherries, strawberries, currants, carrots, and cauliflowers, together with the choicest roses and dahlias, etc. She paused awhile near us, to have a ‘ blow,’ brush back a few strands of grey hair, and to wave her hand to the “Howstraityong!” Then on again with her load of produce and perhaps her load of sorrow. Unfortunately, we did not see Paris, having left it on one side in the early hours of next morning. The vineyards also had not been able to keep up with us, and we now looked out upon country almost entirely ‘devoted to agriculture and dairy farming. Naturally enough, we now looked out for signs of warfare. Slowing down into the station of Criel, we stopped alongside a hospital train which had just come in from the firing line. We gave a very hearty cheer for the plucky Frenchmen and those who could, thanked us, either in mixed language, or by eloquent looks and shoulder shrugs. We also struck against a train load of men bound for the front, and they greeted us like brothers. After our great experience of the beauteous country, it was with emotions of pride and brotherliness that we responded, showering upon them all our cigarettes, matches, etc., things we had eagerly rushed to procure an hour previously. Upon this day we saw many families on the way to Church, the cows were idly lying in the meadows. There was the song of the lark, the blackbird, and the thrush. The swallow skimmed the mirror-like surface of the river, while here and there in the shade of the willows, sat ancient disciples. Very little, after all, to point to the fact, that away behind the river, the willows and the meadows, Earth’s sublimest tragedy was being enacted. Towards evening of the second day we once more came in sight of the ocean. We had passed one or two camps, where troops were resting. Like the people to whom we had spoken en route, we found the soldiers cheerful and, confident of ultimate success. Just before dawn on the following day we arrived at our journey’s end. Sixty two hours in the train.

The behaviour of the men was first class; everybody, especially the women folk, being treated with a courtesy that was good to see. We are now scattered through a very quaint old village — in nearly every respect like an English one— living in the barns attaching to tumble-down farm houses. I write this in an old stable. It is wonderfully peaceful. From the meadows comes the not unmusical rattle of the reaping machine. There is a cackle of hens outside. A pair of swallows comes in with fluttering wings and chirpings, ‘ to work upon a mud nest on a beam two feet above my head. Only now and then away eastward, there is the long dull roll of artillery, the roar of a heavy gun, and the sound of tramping men as they make their way through the leafy winding lanes. Above all, and better than all, are the outpourings of a lark. From out the blue sky comes the song to break in golden rain upon the earth. Foolishly, perhaps, I allow myself to dream. A dream of warfare ended—of a humanity made regenerate through war— gone forever the hypocrasy, the lust, the selfishness. Only a desire, lark like, to soar high in thankfulness to the Benign Influence which gives to all the chance to live in peace and good will in a paradise of which beautiful France is only a part. A foolish dream ? Perhaps ! “Fall in, with gas helmets on!” rings out the order, and so I go away to be “gassed.” The lark sings to deaf ears now, and the swallows have the stables to themselves[3].

….

George’s death is a tragedy. There are no other words for it. No redemption, until we consider what would have been if one good man many times over, didn’t stand up to fight  against tyranny. Germany, after all, had invaded neutral Belgium and Britain had signed a treaty to defend her neutrality. Were we as nations going to be shirkers, or would we stand up a fight to defend the innocent? I don’t believe in war, but we do need to defend our turf and help our friends. These are values most of us hold dear as individuals, and it’s only natural that they would apply to us collectively as nations.

After leaving Australia, 16th February, 1916 George was transferred to the 56th Battalion of the 5th Division, which had just been formed following the reorganisation and expansion of the First Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in Egypt following the Gallipoli campaign. The 56th Battalion arrived in Marseilles 20th June and was immediately entrained to northern France, a journey which took 62 hours. Within a fortnight, they fought in the Battle of Fromelles 19–20 July 1916, where the 5th Division undertook a disastrous attack that was later described as “the worst 24 hours in Australia’s entire history”.[6]

It appears George survived the Battle of Fromelles. However, he was killed in action on the 26th July only a month later. He was buried by Rev W.M. Holliday from the 56th Infantry Battalion at Cemetery Suilly-au la Lys 5 miles South-West of Armentieres.

A memorial service was held  at St. Paul’s Church of England, Kogarah on Sunday 8th October, 1916 in honor of George and two other men who’d been “killed at the front in France in the Empire’s cause”. At the service, it was explained George was working as a stretcher bearer and met his death from a high explosive shell while in a dug out. One shell had wounded a couple of soldiers, and George and some others, had immediately rushed to their assistance, when another shell burst over the same spot, killing them all. It seems a cruel twist of fate that George died helping someone else. However, being a stretcher bearer was dangerous, and many lost their lives.

On the other side of the world in Swindon, Wiltshire, George’s family was also grieving. George had only been living in Australia for five years when he left for the front, yet he was very much loved and part of the community here. However, for George there was also “an over there”. His father was listed as his Next of Kin living at 72 Graham Street, Swindon, Wiltshire. That was where his effects were sent home…a balaclava cap, two kit bag handles and a lock (broken).

Lastly, on 10th December, 1916 a memorial tablet was unveiled at St Paul’s Anglican Church in honor of the memory of the late Private George Alexander Aldworth. The Rector, Rev. H. R. A. Wilson officiated. The tablet was placed in the north portion of the chancel, the position for tenors belonging to the choir, and exactly at the spot where our departed hero could be seen at almost any service on the Sunday. The memorial was subscribed by the choir alone, and bears the inscription ‘ Peace, perfect peace.’ A large congregation was present[4].

Peace, perfect peace…was that what George was fighting for?

I guess we’ll never know.

Best wishes,

Rowena

References

[1] George’s poem At Sunset appeared in the Suevic’s onboard newspaper, The Sports Company’s Gazette, which was reprinted in The Sun newspaper Thursday 2 March 1916, page 10

[2] Quoted from Thomas Babington, Lord Macaulay, The Battle of Ivry.

[3] St George Call (Kogarah, NSW : 1904 – 1957), Saturday 16 September 1916, page 8

[4][4][4] St George Call (Kogarah, NSW : 1904 – 1957), Saturday 16 December 1916, page 6

 

WWI…Maud Butler & the Troopship Suevic (Continued)

Continuing on from yesterday’s post, the saga of Maud Butler continues.

It’s hardly surprising that the discovery of Maud Butler, a young woman masquerading as a soldier on board the troopship Suevic, attracted a lot of attention. As soon as the troops on board got wind of it, she was snapped by the likes of 500 cameras and also they passed around the hat raising £600 as a “dowry” to get her home. She was mentioned in soldiers’ diaries and a couple even messages in bottles, which were hoisted overboard before they left Australian waters. Newspapers all round the country shared her story and also used her determination to get to the front, to rally men to enlist. Shame those wretched shirkers into enlisting and doing their bit. Not unsurprisingly, Maud Butler’s appearance in a man’s uniform, also raised questions about the role of women and affronted conventions of the time. However, while her actions were unconventional, to many Maud became a sort of hero.

As I said, Maud’s presence on board the Suevic attracted additional media attention to that particular voyage and details about conditions on board were captured, which (from what I can glean) often went unreported. These everyday details don’t matter much when you have thousands of men to tell the story. However, over 100 years later, their voices have fallen silent. Perhaps, it’s particularly important for those of us who had family who served to know their journey from start to finish, and to not just read the headlines. Know about the battlefield. I, for one, needed to have some understanding of what they went through. After all, I’ve always taken this quote from Harper Lee in To Kill A Mockingbird  to heart, adapting it to my own sense of walking in someone’s shoes:

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

Harper Lee.

As it turns out, the troops on board the Suevic produced their own on board newspaper called The Sports Company’s Gazette. It was edited by Lieutenant Webbe, a Hansard Reporter and  Lieutenant Wells and Private Tom Dawson were associate-editors. The Art Editor was Private C. V. Walters, who’d worked as a process engraver for The Sun newspaper before going into camp[1].

According to Elise Edmonds, Senior Curator, Research and Discovery at the Mitchell Library, such newspapers weren’t uncommon.:

“Articles published highlight the day to day cares and routines of the ordinary serviceman. There is much poetry – sentimental verse, along with examples of black humour, prose, photographs and drawings. Soldier illustrations often consisted of caricatures of military culture, enemy forces, or the political situation. All the articles and artwork were created whilst in trenches, at military bases and on the troopships – either heading to war, or on the way home in 1918 and 1919. Writing, illustrating and editing these publications was a good way to reduce boredom or the tension of military life.[2]

Of course, Maud Butler rated more than a passing mention in The Sports Company’s Gazette. It reads:

‘Knowing what we do, we should all be proud that Australia can breed girls heroic enough to brave the dangers of a troopship, and the terrors of war for their country’s weal. There should still be plenty of men, however, and Miss ___ goes back to Sydney with our best wishes. May she marry a man worthy of her. We give her the following as our dowry: —

A plucky young lady named Maud.

Who wished to go fighting abroad:

One day sailed away In Khaki array

And said ‘Who will think me a fraud ?’

An eagle-eyed captain we had

Who soon made poor Maudie feel sad.

He made her blush red

When next day he said

‘I think you’re a lady, me lad.’

And Maudie’s adventure was o’er;

She’s way back in Sydney once more;

She shed a few tears;

We gave her three cheers.

And wished her good things in galore[3].

The following appeared in The Sun:

GIRL ON THE TRANSPORT HUMOR AND GOOD VERSE

The newspaper Industry flourishes at sea these days. Every troopship that rides the waves produces a sheet which contains more or less newsy stuff, and it is extraordinary how the man with the touch of humor is discovered. The last paper to see the light has just come to hand. It was well edited, and handled a variety of copy capably. It recorded in quite a dignified manner the disappearance of Private H. H. Brown, of the 18th Battalion, who, it was supposed had fallen overboard at night….

The humorist showed up in a report of a concert at which he said the absence of ladies in the audience was greatly deplored, the only lady passenger having found it necessary to disembark before they said good-bye to Australia. The reference, of course, was to the adventure of Maud Butler, the little Kurri Kurri girl. How Maud was discovered is thus expressed:— A muster parade had been called, and the adjutant was gently floating round the ship looking for shirkers. Presently his eagle eye glared on a young private, and he asked, “Well, my lad, why aren’t you parading with your unit?” The lad stammered, and replied, “Sir, I cannot find my unit.” “Probably not,” said the adjutant, whose searching glare had disclosed the fact that the offender’s trilbies were not encased in service boots, while the jacket was minus battalion numbers. After a back view he said in his dry and official manner, “You are a stowaway, and it will be necessary for you to be examined by the medical officer.” Exit soldier and adjutant. It was afterwards announced that the soldier was a dear little girl. The wireless got to work, and Maud was sent by to Melbourne. She was still dressed in khaki, but carried in addition a cash belt containing £23, generously sub scribed by all on board, so that on her arrival in Melbourne she could secure the necessary raiment to enable her to resume her proper station in life. What everyone wants to know, the story concludes, Is why the adjutant objects to that delightful song entitled Come Into the Garden, Maud. The theme Is then taken up by the Limerick man, who under the title Maud of the Mercantile Marine writes: —

A certain young lady named Maud

Secreted herself on ship board.

The dear little duck

Had plenty of pluck,

But the venture turned but quite a fraud.

She climbed up a rope in the dark,

The adventurous, giddy, young spark;

But the adjutant wise

Had piercing brown eyes,

And so put an end to her lark.

When discovered she

Shed a small tear,

Which proves she’s a woman, the dear!

Then the ____came

Her person to claim,

So exit sweet Boadicea.

The sheet had its sporting page conducted by “Bill” Corbett’s understudy, and it also dealt with the ceremony associated with crossing the line, as well as getting off a great many good-natured hits at the expense of officers and men alike. The sheet was edited by Lieutenant Webbe. Lieutenant Wells and Private Tom Dawson were associate-editors, and Private C. V. Walters, who before he went into camp was a member of the Sun process engraving staff was the art editor. ‘

A touching poem  At Sunset by George A. Aldworth, of the 20th Battalion. Also appeared in the Suevic’s  Sports Company’s Gazette. However, I felt George warranted his own post so stay tuned.

Do you have any connection to Maud Butler or someone who served onboard the Suevic? Or, perhaps your loved one also served in WWI? If so, please leave details and links in the comments below.  

If you are interested in Maud Butler’s story, here’s a couple of posts of interest.

There’s  Maud Butler: Teenage Stowaway – Victoria Haskins a history professor at the University of Newcastle.

Message In A Bottle Hunter- Maud Butler

A children’s book https://www.cessnockadvertiser.com.au/story/5014176/book-pays-tribute-to-mauds-fighting-spirit/ has also been written and I’m about to place my order. Hunter historians John Gillam and Yvonne Fletcher and illustrator Paul Durell have brought Maud’s extraordinary story to life in the new book “You Can’t Fight, You’re a Girl!”

As I mentioned in my previous post, my Great Great Uncle Jack Quealy served in France, but my husband Geoff’s Great Uncle Ralph French was Killed in Action in France. We also have quite a few other family members who have served. Our son will be visiting the battlefields of France as part of a history tour with his school next year and will be spending ANZAC Day at Villers-Bretonneux and I wanted him to have some idea of what happened before he left.

After all, we talk about “Lest we forget”, but a hundred years later, we don’t remember. We don’t know. Of course, we can’t know everything about the past, but for me it’s not only important from a point of respect and gratitude. It’s also helpful to know what these people went through and how they handled this dreadful period in history provides valuable life lessons, which are just as relevant and needed today.

I also needed to know what it was really like for them to be there. Not from us imposing our own interpretations over the top. Rather, I needed to hear their stories directly through their own voices. Despite studying Australian History at Honours level at university and being gripped by Australian and family history most of my life, what they told me was quite different and much more complex than I expected. They needed to be heard.

Stay tuned.

Best wishes,

Rowena

References

[1] Arrow (Sydney, NSW : 1916 – 1933), Saturday 22 July 1916, page 1

 

[2] https://www.sl.nsw.gov.au/blogs/first-world-war-troopship-and-unit-newspapers

[3] Arrow (Sydney, NSW : 1916 – 1933), Saturday 22 July 1916, page 1

 

The Story Jack & Maud…the Rollercoaster Ride of Writing Historical Fiction.

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

John Lennon.

Writers of historical fiction will appreciate the gruelling roller-coaster ride I’m on. Indeed, as I pursue this exceptionally gripping story, I’ve become a crazed addict. I’m hooked. I might be parked in the lounge room on my laptop, but the adrenalin’s pumping. It’s so exhilarating, and I have to remind myself I’m running a marathon, not a sprint. While there’s a huge whopper of a fish on the end of my line, I still need to reel it in. Catch the darn thing. So, it’s very important that I don’t get ahead of myself. I need to get my facts straight, even though the bright lights are all but blinding me.

However, although these seemingly random pieces were starting to come together, there was still this awful, niggling feeling that Jack and Maud weren’t on the same ship after all. That the dates which were ever so close, weren’t quite lining up and I couldn’t quite make them fit. Had I been a writing fiction, of course, it wouldn’t matter. I could’ve bent or even manufactured the truth and kept my story alive. However, the historian in me couldn’t do that. She insisted on the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. According to her, there’s nothing worse than red pen in the margin which isn’t your own.

Yet, while it was starting to look like Jack and Maud were on separate ships which didn’t even pass during the night, I didn’t know for sure and wasn’t quite willing to give up on the story yet.

 

Above: Left photo of Maud Butler on board the Suevic taken by Robert Fletcher owned by the Australian War Memorial. Right photo of Private Jack Quealy, my Great Great Uncle.

The story of Jack and Maud isn’t one of romance. Rather, it’s one of war. On 9th August, 1915 my Great Great Uncle, Jack Quealy, enlisted in the Australian Infantry Force (AIF) at Holsworthy and joined the 13th Reinforcements of the 13th Battalion. At the time, he was 27 years old. He was working as a Letterpress Printer for Cunningham & Co in Pitt Street Sydney and was married to Maggie known as “Scotty”. They had two young children… Jack Jnr three and Eddie two. His service records state that he embarked on the 20th December, 1915 although the name of the ship was conspicuously absent. If it wasn’t for Maud, the exact name of the ship wouldn’t have mattered quite so much, but now it did and I dearly wanted Jack to be on the Suevic. However, it was looking like the Suevic didn’t leave until the 22nd. So near, and yet so far.

Yet, why does Maud matter? Who on earth was she and what, if anything, did she have to do with our Jack? Why all the excitement?

Perhaps, the best place to start is via a message in a bottle which was found washed up on a beach at Portland Bay, Victoria on New Year’s Day, 1916. It read:

“At sea, Saturday, December 25, 1915, 4 p.m. My dear Mum,—I am sending this note by bottle from the Victorian coast. I hope you will get this O.K. We have just finished our Christmas dinner—turkey and pork. Everyone on board is O.K. A girl was found on board dressed as a soldier; she was going to fight with her brother at Gallipoli. Oh, well, good-bye for the present.

—I am, your loving son, Ted.” 1.

That girl was Maud Butler, the 17 year old daughter of a Cessnock coal miner who’d disguised herself as a soldier to get away to the front to serve as a nurse. However, she’d applied both at the Red Cross and at Victoria Barracks and was knocked back due to age and inexperience. Not easily deterred, Maud hatched a plan which is best expressed in her own words…

“I wanted to help at the war, and I still want to do something. It is not true that I stowed away on a troopship just to see my soldier brother in Egypt. I would have gone just the same, because I really do want to be a Red Cross nurse and help the wounded boys.’ This is the response Miss Butler made when questioned by the women of the Y.W.C.A. in Melbourne, in whose care she was placed until she could be clothed in feminine attire and returned to her people in Kurri Kurri, N.S.W…. ‘Soon after the war started,’ the girl continued, ‘I had a terrible desire to help in some way, but I was only a girl, and I soon found that there were difficulties to overcome. I knew it was no use to stay at Kurri Kurri, because I could never learn to be a nurse there. My brother had gone to the war, and I decided to do something for myself. I took a situation in Pyrmont, as a waitress, and while there put in my time off trying to get in as a nurse. I went to the Red Cross in George-street, and then to Victoria Barracks, but there was no luck at either place. I was only seventeen and I was without training. I could see that I looked too young to enlist as a boy, so I decided to get on board a transport as an ordinary soldier and try my luck that way. I bought uniform bit by bit, all except the regulation tan boots. Then I went to a barber and had my hair cut oft, pretending that I had a fever. He said ‘You don’t look it,’ but he did what I asked him. Climbed a Hawser. ‘I walked from Pyrmont to the city and through the Domain to where a transport was lying at No. 1 wharf. I saw a sentry there, so knew it was no good trying to get past him. ‘Well,’ I said to myself. ‘here goes for up the line.’ It was a hand-over-hand job, and I didn’t think the boats were so tall. I got up after a struggle and crawled to a life boat. The only provisions I had brought with me were some lollies, and I had not had anything to eat from that Wednesday night until Friday, when I was ‘howled out.’ On Thursday, when soldiers were about the deck, I got out of my hiding place and walked round with them. Some asked me for a cigarette, others offered them to me, but no one seemed to suspect me. At sea everything went well except that I was hungry. That night I got back to my hiding-place, and next morning about 10.30 an officer came up to me on deck and asked me what I belonged to. I said, ‘The seventh of the nineteenth.” I went on watching the boys play cards, and gave them advice. Then the officer came back and said, ‘Show me your identification medal. That was the finish of me. I had forgotten that, he said he was going to get a doctor to examine me, so I knew it was all over and I then told him I was a girl. If I had been a boy it would have been all right. I could have gone on. They took me to the captain, and he was very nice —in fact, they all were. The captain gave me a good breakfast, and it was great, but the news was all over the ship in three minutes, and 500 of them had snapped me with cameras. The captain said that he was going to tranship me. Then I cried for the first time; it was hard luck, wasn’t it. now?. The captain was a jolly fellow. He asked me why I didn’t get tan boots, and that made me cry more. ‘Miss Butler asserts that if she had been a boy she would have been in the firing line before this. She is convinced that there is something she can do, and intends to try the Red Cross again.[2]

It would’ve made a great story if Jack and Maud had been on the same ship and something to share with the family. Moreover, thanks to Maud, the Suevic’s journey to the front attracted more media attention and provides some valuable insights into life on board.

As it turned out, Jack Quealy embarked on the Aeneas and so far, I’ve unearthed nothing about that voyage at all. Anyway, it’s quite probably that these details about the Suevic provide some insight into Jack’s trip to the front as well. I’ll elaborate on these in my next post.

Stay tuned!

Best wishes,

Rowena

References

  1. Koroit Sentinel and Tower Hill Advocate (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), Saturday 22 January 1916, page 2

[2] Farmer and Settler (Sydney, NSW : 1906 – 1955), Friday 31 December 1915, page 8

Weekend Coffee Share10th June, 2019.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Thanks to the English Queen’s official birthday, we Australians on the other side of the world, have received a gratuitous public holiday. Although I take an interest in the royal family, I’m a Republican to the core. After all, we Australians are more than capable of standing on our own two feet and making our own Vegemite toast. That said, I’m not handing the holiday back.

Anyway, how was your week? I hope you’ve had a great one and have a few stories to tell.

It’s officially Winter here. However, the weather is quite variable from day to day.  This week there were a few truly miserable days where is was raining, freezing and gray without even a hint of sunshine, and the lot of us complained bitterly wondering what this dreadful beast called Winter is and what it’s doing here in the land of perpetual sunshine. Fortunately, the weather-makers got the message, because we then had a few glorious days of sunshine and we were all happy again. Our world was put right again.

DSC_4182

 

On Wednesday, I managed to get down to the beach for a walk and took my camera along just to ensure my heart rate didn’t increase to anything like the point where it could be considered aerobic exercise. While watching the waves roll in, I thought about all the generations of people who have arrived by boat upon these shores and come to call Australia home.

While this might seem a bit strange, I’ve been researching our first arrivals for my book. Our earliest arrived in 1808 only twenty years after the arrival of the first fleet. So, a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then. Arrivals by boat continue today and give our politicians much to discuss.

It’s funny how they fail to consider that the Aboriginal people weren’t happy when we landed on their shores and that those threatening spears might have been their way of saying: “Stop the boats”. While refugees need new homes and places of safety, my concerns turn more to the environment. There are way too many people on this planet and these population pressures are causing hosts of serious issues impacting on the survival of the planet. I had a bit of a wake up call on that front this week while writing a poem after my walk along the beach. They weren’t my thoughts. A random muse dropped them into my poem. However, once they were there, I couldn’t ignore them. A warning that our planet is more important than people. Coming from me, that’s a big thing because I’m a people person and I’m not as much of a big picture thinker. However, as I said this insight come from somewhere else and was left in my lap.

Yesterday, we drove up to Somersby just North of Sydney  and went to the Harvest Festival. Well, we actually went to visit the pecan farm where my annual violin concert is held. Hey, I’d better rephrase that and say that Stratford Music where I learn the violin has their annual concert there and I am but one of the many performers.

 

 

Anyway, getting back to the pecans, the idea was to fill up a bucket with pecans which were weighed and paid for as you left. We arrived quite late in the day because we were also there to pick up our daughter from dance rehearsals nearby. So, things were winding up, but we did see them shake a tree to get the nuts down and the merrymakers were rummaging around collecting their loot. I gathered up some pecans myself. However, I was also distracted through the lens and enjoyed photographing the naked branches silhouetted against a muted blue sky with the quirky-looking seed pods dangling on stalks. Kids were having a ball running through the fallen leaves and the chilled air was filled with laughter. It was very refreshing and although I’m 40 something myself, I still found magic in crunching those fallen leaves underfoot. We’re drying out our stash for a bit and then I’m going to attempt making a pecan pie for the first time. I’ll have to see if I can source some other local ingredients to truly be able to say my pie came straight from the farmer’s gate.

DSC_4289.JPG

 

It wasn’t long before sunset when we set out and we pulled over beside the road to photograph a stunning row of Autumn trees which were prancing around in that glorious magic-hour light looking absolutely glorious. I just kept taking photos from all angles not knowing quite what was going to work out best til I got home.

 

DSC_4292

Indeed, to be perfectly honest, I wanted to soak all of it up and take it home with me. Plant that setting in our own rundown and neglected backyard of arid beach sand. Well, I wouldn’t really want to do that, because I wouldn’t want all of those beautiful trees to die.

DSC_4327

After picking up our daughter, we drove down to Sydney for my parents’ birthdays. That was a low-key celebration at their place sandwiched in between the kids’ activities and Dad’s golf. There was a bit of a miscommunication about the cake and so there was no cake, no Happy Birthday but we had the presents and card sorted. After dinner, mum and I retired to the lounge room where she accompanied me on my violin. Our main piece was Tristesse by Chopin but we’re also working on Edgar’s Love’s Greeting. Although mum’s done a lot of accompanying over the years as well as teaching the piano, getting our act together has been unexpectedly complicated. We usually end up having different versions of the same piece of music, which have been written in a different key. So, even when we’re playing together, it’s been difficult for us to be on the same page. However, we’re starting to get there now.

No doubt, many of you also experience this in different ways in your families and finding togetherness is more difficult than you’d expect.

Meanwhile, in terms of posts for the last week, there was Ghosts On The Run for Friday Fictioneers and if you’re wanting to have a good laugh, you should go and check out Jonathan Livingston Budgerigar. You’ll never forget him. Speaking of Jonathan Livingston, I made a few references to him in Gull On The Run.

How was your week? I hope you have a great one.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by  Eclectic Ali. We’d love you to pop round and join us.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Bangalow Doors…Thursday Doors.

Welcome to Thursday Doors!

Today, we’re off on an exciting doorscursion through village of Bangalow. Self-described as “a bit above Byron”, Bangalow is a historic rural town located 13 km west of Byron Bay, 758 km north of Sydney and 165 km south of Brisbane. Moreover, just in case you have absolutely no sense of direction or geography whatsoever, we’re in Australia. I try never to take that for granted. Just because I know where I am, it doesn’t mean you’re in the know. I was here exploring Bangalow while my husband and I were staying at nearby Newrybar with his sister while the kids were away at the Australian Scouting Jamboree in Adelaide.

Our Walk is starting at Bangalow Museum on the corner of Ashton and Deacon Street on the left just as you drive into town. While every old building hasa past, this house has more of a past than most and indeed, wasn’t built at its current location. Rather this traditional Queenslander-style home, was built in 1920 at Brunswick Heads and in its last incarnation, was a brothel. Indeed, just inside what now the front entrqance, there’s a pegboard with hooks for the brothel workers room keys, which their names still attached…Cuddles, Shiela (spent wrong), Rosey and Zoey. This allowed the brother manager to quickly ascertain who’s in and who’s out. I’ve been told that many blokes who join their wives on the museum tour doesn’t seem that interested, but when they hear it was a brothel, it’s like the “walls had ears” and I* dare say, eyes as well!

heritage house

Heritage House, Bangalow.

Bangalow Heritage House verandah.jpg

Verandah, and front door Bangalow Museum.

img_3115

Residence on the main road, which is currently under renovation in preparation for going on the market.

Abracadabra Bangalow.JPG

Abracadabra Window.JPG

Abracadabra…a view through the window.

dsc_1397

This art gallery, which has been here as long as I remember has closed it’s doors, and it’s former occupants have sought greener pastures in Tasmania.

 

dsc_1390

I’d love to know the story behind these doors. Where did they come from?

dsc_1391

img_3112

Above: Island Luxe – 62 Byron Street, Bangalow. THese doors also intrigue me. They’re magnificent.

dsc_1946

dsc_1574

dsc_1577

dsc_1600

Bangalow Hotel

dsc_1602

Pink Flamingo Pool Toy in a ute parked outside the Bangalow Hotel.

img_3056

Wax Jambu

img_3057

The Julian Edwards Gallery, Bangalow.

dsc_1962

Bangalow Pharmacy and on the right hand side, you can see the remnants of an old Kodak advertisement.

bangalow cwa door

Above: The Country Women’s Association (CWA) Store.

img_3067

img_3063

Loved the Sign for Town Cafe Restaurant.

dsc_1950

Town Cafe Restaurant. I loved the tile patterns out the front too.

Above: Polish Bangalow at the Masonic Hall, 14 Station Street, Bangalow, just off the main road.

pres church bangalow

A motor bike parked outside Bangalow Presbyterian Church in Market Street.

Although I have tried to keep these doors somewhat in sequence walking up and back down the main road, I had to save the best til last…The Red Phone Box.

dsc_1663

dsc_1662

By the way, if you’d like to read more about Bangalow and its history, you can read  Walking Through Bangalow’s Past.

This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0. Why don’t you come and join us and share a few of your favourite doors. It’s a lot of fun and helps you see parts of the world you’ll never get to visit.

Best wishes,

Rowena

A Walk in Redfern, Sydney…Thursday Doors.

Welcome to Another Thursday Doors! This week, we’re off for a walk through part of Sydney’s Redfern, which is located 3 kilometres south of the Sydney central business district. The suburb is named after surgeon William Redfern, who was granted 100 acres (0.40 km2) of land in this area in 1817 by Governor Lachlan Macquarie. You catch the train to Redfern Station to get to the University of Sydney and the footpaths are heavily populated by streams of students.

_DSC6509

Well you might ask why we’re going on a doorscursion around the backstreets of Redfern, when we haven’t been to the Sydney Opera House yet. Of course, if I were planning my life around notable doors, that would be a very good place to start.   However, as much as I admire doors and could even support a philosophy of “Doors for Doors Sake”, that’s a luxury I can’t afford at the moment. Rather, I’m needing to be pragmatic. It’s more of a case where the door follows me, rather than me following the door. That said, there doors are quite stationary and not moving anywhere so I still need to go to them. I just can’t go too far out of my way.

_DSC6511.JPG

This week, we’re jumping back in time, returning to the Carer’s Day Out, which was held at the Redfern Community Centre. As it turns out, it could’ve been named: Door Day Out. As you may recall, I’ve already written about returning to my old front door at Abercrombie Street, Chippendale and photographed swags of doors around my former stomping ground, the University of Sydney.

_DSC6513

Today, we’re alighting at Redfern Station and onto Lawson Street right into Abercrombie and back down into Caroline Street and into the park outside the Redfern Community Centre. This area is very much a celebration of Australia’s urban Indigenous culture, but it has also been a dangerous no go zone. I have struggled trying to juggle these two extremes as I bring you down here and actually felt quite a lot of relief to be able to walk around these backstreets safely, which wasn’t the case when I lived here in 1988. I have read various views about this area and in particular “The Block” and for me the bottom line is that for many people this area has been home. Their home might have been on struggle street but it was/is still their home and deserves respect. No one likes having high and mighty outsiders coming in and telling them that their home is crap. I know our place isn’t perfect and after years of fighting my health/disability situation, it’s not what I envisaged either. I know I wouldn’t like someone coming in here and highlighting all it’s faults with none of its strengths.

_DSC6523

Redfern is the birthplace of the urban Aboriginal civil rights movement in Australia. The establishment of Aboriginal-founded and controlled services in the 1970s, such as the Aboriginal Medical Service, the Aboriginal Legal Service and the Aboriginal Housing Company, provided inspiration for self-determination for many Aboriginal communities nationwide. 1972: Redfern-based Aboriginal activists establish a protest camp, for justice and land rights, on the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra. This ‘Aboriginal Tent Embassy’ was a critical political action in the Aboriginal struggle. 1973: ‘The Block’ is established and attracts an international reputation as the bedrock of Aboriginal activism in Australia. 1978: Radio Redfern, housed at the Black Theatre (now Gadigal House) provides a voice for Aboriginal people in Redfern. 1992: Keating speech given at Redfern Park. ‘Before that, Australians did not know what was going on in their own country. We shaped that speech!’ —Redfern elder https://www.pmc.gov.au/sites/default/files/publications/indigenous/empowered-communities/alt/description-redfern.html

_DSC6564

A tribute to The Block, housing development.

The Block would have to be the best-known, most notorious and controversial landmark in Redfern. Probably the best known Redfern’s great claim to fame was: The Block. Houses on The Block were purchased over a period of 30 years by the Aboriginal Housing Company (AHC) for use as a project in Aboriginal-managed housing. The focus of life in The Block has always been Eveleigh Street, which is its eastern border, with railway lines on the other side of that street. ‘The Block’ is an area in the immediate vicinity of Redfern station bounded by Eveleigh, Caroline, Louis and Vine Streets.

So, when you look at the front doors of Redfern, you can know those doors have endured and seen quite a lot and built considerable resilience. That they’ve also part of a community. They don’t stand alone.

_DSC6566

Caroline Street, Redfern.

Clearly, I’m just passing through Redfern and don’t expect to revisit many of these streets until I’m back here next year for another Carer’s Day Out, which could well be the case. I had a fantastic day out.

_DSC6525

This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0. Why don’t you come and join us and share a few of your favourite doors. It’s a lot of fun and helps you see parts of the world you’ll never get to visit.

Best wishes,

Rowena

_DSC6548

Thought I’d let Puss have the last word, even if he/she might’ve been sitting around the corner in Abercrombie Street.

The Rocks, Sydney…Thursday Doors.

Welcome to Another Thursday Doors!

This week, you’d better back a hat, water bottle and a decent pair of walking shoes because we’re on a doorcursion  to Sydney’s Historic Rocks area, where European settlement began shortly after the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788.AS you can see from the photograph, The Rocks has some stunning views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and fronts onto Sydney Harbour.

The route we’re taking starts out at Wynyard Station and we’re turning left into George Street. This is quite a chaotic construction zone at the moment. However, I managed to battle my way through to The Rocks, which clearly has to be a fertile breeding ground for photogenic doors.

The Rocks Sydney

Map Showing the location of The Rocks, Sydney.

_DSC6891

This mural pretty much marked where I pulled out my camera and marks the start of The Rocks. While no doors are features, I felt it helped set the scene taking you back in time when the residents of The Rocks were living on struggle street.

_DSC6895

Next we come across Sydney’s oldest pub, the Fortune Of War, which was established in 1828 and has come to include a couple of pubs under one roof.

 

Russell Hotel Anime

The Russell Hotel (Previously known as The Orient) was built in 1887 in the Queen-Anne Style and in recent times appeared in the Japanese anime show: Free! Eternal Sunshine.

 

_DSC6897

Inside the Fortune O War Pub.

By the way, I should warn you as we continue our tour, that we’ll be dropping in on quite a few pubs. While The Rocks is a popular spot for a pub crawl, I hope you’re not in desperate need for a beer because we’re not stopping. We’re only checking out the doors and moving onto the next one.

_DSC6900

You’ll notice a Halloween joke out the front today.

_DSC6902

This front door belongs to the Julian Ashton Art School, which continues to train and encourage upcoming Australian artists.

_DSC6917

The Observer Hotel

_DSC6940

 

_DSC6947

A bit more of a Halloween theme at this cafe.

_DSC6949

The Mercantile Hotel, The Rocks.

_DSC6976

_DSC6982

I’m a big concerned about this door in the footpath. Could swear I could hear intermittent banging sounds.

After visiting all these drinking holes, it was inevitable that our doorcursion was going to end up here:

_DSC6969

I wonder if the riff-raff are also forced to use the Gents? This sign clearly pre-dates uni-sex toilets.

Well, I hope you enjoyed our doorscursion to The Rocks. I had a wonderful time. By the way, my walk through The Rocks was a detour on my way to the Sydney Conservatorium of Music last night. I was off to attend Gerard Willems’ Twilight Recital. Gerard is not only a brilliantly talented International concert pianist, he is such a warm and loving person and such a character. He was a year behind Mum at school and they both learned from another generous and encouraging soul, Nada Brissenden before studying at the Con. Mum studied piano there under my Dad’s mother, Eunice Gardiner while Gerard was under Gordon Watson. One night, my grandmother held a soiree at her Lindfield home for Gerard to get more performance practice and invited mum along. My Dad picked Gerard and Mum up from the station and that was the beginning of a whole new book, a whole lot more than just a chapter.

This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0. Why don’t you come and join us and share a few of your favourite doors. It’s a lot of fun and helps you see parts of the world you’ll never get to visit.

Best wishes,

Rowena