Tag Archives: Australian History

Soggy Weekend Coffee Share

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This weekend, I recommend you find yourself a good pair of gumboots and jump in a few puddles. No one knows you around here. So, it doesn’t really matter if you embarrass yourself. Besides, you’ll probably only get a few death stares from the local duck population wanting to evict you from their “pond”. You could say, that they’ve made a “pond conversions” to the  local potholes. Just call them “duckgineers”.

Well, you’re in luck today because you can try my “Christmas Cake”. In typical fashion, I stumbled across an intriguing recipe just before Christmas but the cake needed to rest for two months. So, this Christmas Cake was never going to be ready in time for Christmas and to compound my stupidity, this recipe made enough cake to feed an entire shearing shed. It contained 3kgs of dried fruit alone. It’s called the Aussie Harvest Cake and has grated apple in it and for the dried fruit, I used included figs, dates in addition to the usual sultanas and raisins and made for an interesting, moist and dense cake.

Anyway, I thought you might like to try a slice.

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The local radio station broadcast from my daughter’s school last week.

Speaking of cooking, last Monday local radio hosts, Rabbit & Julie broadcast live from my daughter’s school. The Julie of this  combo is Julie Goodwin, Australia’s first Masterchef. Knowing JULIE was coming to the school, I was up the freeway in a flash armed with my camera and copy of her cookbook. I was so excited and gushed profusely, embarrassingly so, but I met JULIE!! You can read about it here.

 

This year, I’ve backed off from my blog for a bit to follow up on the wealth of experiences we had on our three week trip to Tasmania. This has not only involved getting the photos printed and sorted. It’s also involved capturing my husband’s personal and family history. Although you can join Ancestry, that gets expensive and I have found a free, alternative source of much of my research…the online newspapers. For better of worse, unless your ancestors were very rich or well-known, most of what you pick up is things like court cases, criminal matters or acts of sheer stupidity. So, these research escapades can be rather intriguing, entertaining…or horrific.

I have been doing this research at a rather intense and rapid pace. So, my head has become something like a story calculator or processor adding up all these details and cross-referencing individuals and being rather surprised to find some very strong trends throughout. One of the interesting ones was that quite a few branches of Geoff’s family were involved with horse breeding, racing, trotting, pacing and even journalism. That really surprised me. I’ve also come out of all this research feeling that life is very random, yet not. Or, perhaps it is your fate that’s random. There are those people who die young and others who pass in their nineties.It made me feel like God was playing around with a couple of dice up there in heaven. Yet, there were strong threads as well such as a strong scientific mind, which spread across the board. I still don’t know quite what to make of it all.

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All this ploughing through the old newspapers has certainly dug up a lot of stories involving the family and local area. There was the sighting of a flying saucer at George Town. There was the guy who had 5-10 whiskies and “no lunch” who then drove his truck home but skidded and flipped it on a turn losing his life. At the inquest, when the coroner asked if he was inebriated after drinking all that whisky, a couple of witnesses said: “no”. Anyone who can walk after that much whiskey, must have a cast iron constitution. Shame, it didn’t carry across into his driving capacity. Of course, these days you’d be taking away his keys and giving him a lift.

This coming week, is going to be very full-on.

Our son turns 13 on Wednesday…the beginning of the “Teenage Years”. I’m surprised that there hasn’t been an American sitcom by that name. Or, perhaps there has and I’ve just missed it. I don’t know whether you’d class it as humour or horror  and how you’d rate it but there’s never be a dull moment.

Thursday…Thursday 9th March…is the Selective High Schools Test. This is being held all around NSW for our selective, academic schools. Our daughter, who is currently in a selective primary school class, along with most of her class mates, will be sitting for the test. It’s been hanging over us for more than a year and as much as you’d like to pretend it’s not hovering in the shadows, it’s there.

My reasonings for her to attend the selective high school, are quite complex. Naturally, you want the best for your child and ideally every kid gets the opportunity to feel comfortable, be accepted and not be “the outcast”. This can be a real issue for bright students. Yet, I’ve really noticed how well the kids get on in my daughter’s class and a number of them have told me that they struggled to fit in at their old school but feel comfortable now. That’s really important. After all, even if you enjoy time on your own, that should be a choice. All these kids get on really well together  and it would be really great to see them stay together and also meet up with similar, like-minded people. From this perspective, selective schools aren’t just about being elitist but also allow birds of a feather to flock together.

What I have also noticed, is that many of the kids in my daughter’s class aren’t just academic high achievers, but they’re also high achievers in other fields like chess, dancing, music and sport. This means that when you get these kids together in a class, you create a fertile breeding ground for all sorts of ideas and skills and it’s not necessarily just about academics. That said, moving into high school, academics is going to become more important.

So, I would really appreciate your prayers for my daughter, her friends and our local kids to get into our local selective school. There’s a lot of talk about kids in Sydney opting for our local selective school as it has a lower entry mark. They can catch the train up from Sydney quite easily. Moreover, they’re heavily tutored when many local families can’t afford that. Local kids who are really bright, probably still make it in and I’m not too sure whether the hoards from Sydney are a fabrication but there’s definitely a contingent and they must be taking away local places.

Anyway, that’s me on my soap box for this weekend. Speaking of the weekend, it’s almost over here and Monday’s looming overhead like a bad smell. Wish it would go away!

How has your week been? I’d love to hear from you

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share  now hosted by Nerd in the Brain and you can click here for the linky.

Best wishes,

xx Rowena

 

 

Government Cottage, Port Arthur.

Usually, when you see before and after shots, there’s been some kind of miraculous make-over, renovation or transformation. WOW! You’re absolutely blown away by all the amazing improvements and you can barely recognise the clapped out wreck.

However, sometimes you can’t put all the pieces back together again, but there’s a different kind of beauty in the wreckage…a stoic timelessness, a strange kind of strength. At the very least, these crumbling wrecks can make poignant, photographic works of art.

Indeed, these crumbling brick walls were very photogenic indeed. That’s right. My eyes were out on stalks, heart palpitating. It was love at first sight!

Indeed, I even found my initials carved into the brick.

xx Rowena

Harbour Cruise, Port Arthur, Tasmania.

In hindsight, I don’t know how we could’ve allowed so little time to explore Port Arthur. Once we’d arrived and seen that our entry passes were valid for two days, it became immediately obvious that we’d seriously under-estimated the time to do it properly. Now that we’re home and goodness knows when we’ll get back, I have my regrets. Yet, at the same time, you can only absorb so much history in three weeks. Indeed, you can’t absorb all of Tasmania in 3 weeks either, especially when you’re scratching beneath the surface. Moreover, with Geoff being Tasmanian, we also had a lot of friends and family to catch up with …and there was so much catching up to do!

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So, when it came to doing the harbour cruise at Port Arthur, we had to stay on board without getting off to explore the Isle of the Dead of Point Puer. I don’t like missing out. However, we missed out on so much in the end that we’ll be back sooner rather than later.

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So, this is but a very brief photographic tour accompanied by a very simple footnote.

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This photo was taken about 15 years after James Newton arrived, giving a fairly good idea of what it looked like when he arrived.

As we pulled out of Port Arthur on the ferry and the expanse of water between use and the prison ruins expanded, I thought about how Geoff’s 3rd Great Grandfather, James Newton, would’ve felt as his ship sailed into Port Arthur. Coming from notorious Norfolk Island, he’d been initiated into the cruel hardship of the convict system. Yet, was there still that sense of dread? Or, was the relief or even hope that it might be better there? I don’t know. He obviously didn’t send us a postcard: “Having a wonderful time. Wish you were here!”

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Like so much of Port Arthur, the harbour cruise was very scenic, relaxing and you really had to remind yourself that this place was hell on earth. Not only for the convicts, but also for the victims of the Port Arthur Massacre, their families, service personnel and locals. It has such stunning natural beauty, that it’s too easy to forget.

So, we hope you’ll be able to get down to Port Arthur sometime and experience the cruise yourself (along with everything else!!)

xx Rowena

The Chapel at Port Arthur.

Hauntingly photogenic, the Chapel at Port Arthur stops you in your tracks…especially once you delve into its past. After all, this Chapel witnessed such horrific, systemic brutality,  that it’s hard to conceive how Christianity had any place here. Indeed, I can almost hear those convicts crying out: My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

As I explained in my previous post, we visited the Chapel on our recent visit to Port Arthur. If you didn’t know its history,  you could easily describe it as a work of art with its striking silhouette representing resilience over adversity and withstanding the ageing effects of time. Moreover, whether you believe in them or not, these ruins definitely speak of ghosts!

Last night, I went trawling through old newspaper accounts about the chapel and thought I’d provide a few excerpts to give you a feel for its former horrors and glories.

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In 1842, the late Mr. David Burn, of Rotherwood, Ouse, made an excursion to Port Arthur and his account of attending the Chapel is very interesting:

“Next day (January 9,1842) being Sunday, we proceeded, after breakfast, to see the convicts mustered prior to their being marched to church. They were drawn up in three lines, each gang forming a separate division, the overseers (convicts) taking their stations in the rear. It was hideous to remark the countenances of the men, to which their yellow raiment, a half black, half yellow, P.A., and their respective numbers stamped in various parts, imparts a sinister, a most revolting expression. Scarcely one open set of features was to be found. To read’ their eyes, it seemed as though they were speculating the chance of gain or advantage to be hoped from us. Crime and its consequences were fearfully depicted in their ill-omened visages, and we turned from the disagreeable caricature of humanity with as much disgust as pity and regret.

Muster over, the men were marched with the utmost silence to church, whither we shortly followed — a military detachment, with loaded arms, being so stationed as to command the entire building. This necessary arrangement in a great degree destroyed the solemnity of the worship. The crew of the Favorite were present, their frank, manly, jovial countenances offering a striking contrast to the lowering aspects of the miserable yellow jackets. Service was performed by our fellow- traveller, the Rev. Mr. Simpson ; and the occasion being in aid of the Sunday schools, the worthy pastor took the opportunity of remarking, that as cash was a scarce commodity on the settlement, the I O U of any individual disposed to contribute would be gladly received, an observation which excited a general grin, since, however beneficial it might prove to the cause, the expression seemed more fit for the gaming table than the pulpit ; the language, nevertheless, was soon forgotten in the motive.

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The Church of Port Arthur is a beautiful, spacious, hewn stone edifice, cruciform in shape, with, pinnacled tower and gables. Internally, it is simple, but neatly fitted, affording accommodation for upwards of 2,000 sitters. There is no organ ; but a choir has been selected from among the convicts, who chant the psalms with considerable effect. As yet no clergyman of the Established Church has been resident, the religious duties having hitherto been undertaken by those zealous and indefatigable Christians the Wesleyans. Mr. Manton is the present respected pastor, a gentleman who has devoted himself not only to call the sinners of Port Arthur to repentance, but who has erstwhile laboured earnestly in the same good cause at the now abandoned settlement of Macquarie Harbour.1″

On Saturday 12 January, 1952…. this account of the Chapel’s history appeared in the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate:

“The church is noted for its high arches and soaring spires. It is of artistically worked freestone, and has a paved floor. Fire and time have ravaged the timber and the fine stained-glass windows. A convict named Mason was credited with having designed the church, but investigations have shown that it was designed by James Blackburn, who was later Town Surveyor of Melbourne. The church was interdenominational, and therefore never consecrated. It could accommodate 2000. Legend has it that residents of the area almost lynched a farmer who started a fire, a spark of which caught the roof and gutted it and the interior timber of the church.”2.

You wouldn’t know it looking at the Chapel now, but it was once covered in ivy.

As The Clipper reported on Saturday 22 April, 1893:

“Anyone who has been to Port Arthur, or has seen a photograph of the church, must acknowledge that the building owed much of its beauty to the enormous quantity of ivy which covered its outside walls. The preservation of this ivy was of much interest to the residents, but towards the latter days of the settlement, when discipline grew lax, the officials allowed their goats to graze within the church enclosure, which ate the leaves and tender shoots away as high as they could reach while standing erect on their hind legs. Although so thick on most parts of the wall there was one spot where it never grew at all — which was often a subject of remark by visitors and others. The reason given is not generally known. While the church was in process of erection by prison labor and when almost finished two prisoners were fixing the leads upon the roof, when they had a quarrel. The one knocked the other down, who fell heavily to the ground and was killed. In falling he struck the building, his blood staining the ground below. It is a curious fact, but the ivy never grew on that spot.”3.

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However, my newspaper journey exploring all these fascinating historical details, has in swamped what was OUR visit to the chapel. As I’ve mentioned before, Geoff’s third Great Grandfather served as a convict at Port Arthur. Therefore, as we explored and experienced every single nook and cranny, we were thinking of him. Indeed, we were family coming back to a very strange sense of home.

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Therefore, as I photograph the chapel perfectly silhouetted against an azure sky, I think of him hoping that against the odds, he might have found some solace here.

What are your thoughts about the ruins of Port Arthur?

xx Rowena

Sources

  1. Launceston Advertiser (Tas. : 1829 – 1846) Thursday 26 January 1843 p 4 (From Frazer’s Magazine, for September. J Concluded).

2. Saturday 12 January, 1952 the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate.

3. The Clipper (Hobart, Tas. : 1893 – 1909) Saturday 22 April 1893 p 4 Article

 

Port Arthur, Tasmania…A Family Relic.

When James Newton went on a thieving rampage on the night of 11th October, 1843 I wonder if he considered the possibility of being caught and sentenced to 14 years transportation?

I doubt it.

Indeed, it doesn’t look like he was “thinking” very much at all.

Although James Newton seemed to be doing alright (he could apparently read and his occupation was Quarryman), he stole a lot more than the proverbial “loaf of bread”. When he was tried at the Hereford Assizes On the 21st March, 1844, it turned out that he and his mate had burgled three separate dwellings in one night and had quite a haul.

James Newton was sentenced to 14 years transportation and sent to London’s Millbank Prison. On 8th July, 1844 he left Woolich on board The Agincourt. With authorities taking a tough stance against theft, he was initially given the harsher penalty of being sent to Norfolk Island with a view of being transferred to Port Arthur down the track.

Naturally, getting caught had consequences and James Newton moved from being a free man, into a system of discipline and punishment and debate about moral and prison reform. Indeed, questions were being asked about whether the “criminal class” could actually be reformed.

So, when James Newton arrived at Port Arthur, he was at the mercy of “the system”.

As yet, I don’t know how long James Newton spent at Port Arthur before being consigned to John Connell at Oatlands. However, from 1848, harsh physical punishment within Port Arthur was rejected in favour of punishment of the mind. Flogging gave way to solitary confinement and the Separate Prison was built at Port Arthur in 1850. Cruciform-shaped, each of the four wings comprised a central corridor flanked by rows of solitary confinement cells. Separated by thick sandstone walls, it was hoped that the convicts would benefit from contemplative silence and separation. This design was based on  Jeremy Bentham’s model prison, Panopticon. Indeed, Bentham himself described the Panopticon as “a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example.”[1] Elsewhere, in a letter, he described the Panopticon prison as “a mill for grinding rogues honest”.[2]

On January 8th, 1887,the Illustrated Australian News reported that:

“Port Arthur  was considered to be the most secure prison in the island. Surrounded almost on every side with water which teemed with sharks, its only connection with the mainland; by Eagle Hawk Neck being guarded by chains of sentinels and ferocious blood hounds, it well deserved the trust reposed in it by the convict authorities, for few were the escapes, that took place from it. Even old hands that had broken prison time after time recognised the fact and took for their motto: “All hope abandon ye who enter here.”1.

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Knowing that a member of your family endured this physical and psychological brutality for any length of time at all, is disturbing. Yet, you really have to look pretty hard to see any signs of that on a gorgeous sunny day where the prison ruins take on a rugged, artistic beauty, the gardens are magnificent and there’s even the luxury of a cricket pitch.

Anyway, returning to our visit to Port Arthur.
Unfortunately, by the time we’d admired the Tasman Peninsula, that we only had half a day left for Port Arthur. This meant we seriously had to rationalise our visit. We went on the walking tour and harbour cruise (which are both included with your entry fee) and then we decided to focus on the Chapel. From there I made a quick dash into the Chaplain’s cottage, which also housed some interesting convict artifacts.
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Geoff and Miss on board the ferry cruise.

To do the place justice, I’ll be visiting each of these locations in a separate post.
The Chapel
Meanwhile, I should let you know that things turned out pretty well for James Newton in the end. On the 22nd September, 1853 James married a free settler, Bridget Vaughan,  and they went on to have 6 children and own their own farm in Campbell Town. James had his conditional pardon approved 4th October, 1853.
Stay tuned.
xx Rowena

Sources

Illustrated Australian News (Melbourne, Vic. : 1876 – 1889) Saturday 8 January 1887 p 10 Article

http://www.jenwilletts.com/convict_ship_agincourt_1844.htmhttp:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panopticon

http://portarthur.org.au/history/the-convict-era/

Deloraine, Tasmania.

If you only have a couple of days in Tasmania, places like Penguin and Deloraine, might not come up on your radar. However, getting off that well-worn tourist trail, takes you into real the Tasmania. It’s places like this where you’re meeting and chatting with locals, that you get a much better sense of the place.You might even cut through all the nefarious layers, and even sense it’s pulse.

Well, make that locals from Northern Tasmania. There is a distinction!

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Church of the Holy Redeemer, Deloraine.

While it might appear like we’re heading off the beaten track going to Deloraine, it was “going into town” for Geoff’s grandmother, Molly Griffin. Molly went to school, got married and was buried  in Deloraine. So, for us Deloraine is a thread in the family fabric. Indeed, we still have family living in the region.

Our first port of call was the Deloraine Folk Museum in search of relics from the former convict Probation Station in Deloraine. I recently found out that during an outbreak of convicts from the Probation Station, a gang of absconded convicts turned up at the Griffin’s farm, Mt Patrick, wielding hammers demanding provisions. These are the same desperate brutes who hacked the leg off a lame oxen still attached to its wagon. What a tale and naturally I am trying to find out more!

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However, the Deloraine Folk Museum contained so much more than these convict relics. They have converted a former hotel into a living, almost breathing, pioneer museum. Inside, there’s a nursery, servant’s room, school room and master bedroom. They have dressed old mannequins in period clothing and I swear one of them felt hauntingly real. She definitely spooked me a few times.

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Outside, there’s all sorts of farming equipment. Personally, this was from my grandfather’s era. However, my dear husband recognised much of these tools and equipment from home. There was more than one moan of: “I’m so depressed. I feel old. I’m too young for my life to be in a museum.”

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The Folk Museum also includes an incredibly impressive community embroidery project called: “Yarns of Deloraine”. I’m going to be writing more about this down the track (when I’m not madly running around day and night trying to squeeze too much of Tasmania into our meagre 3 week holiday). The quilt has four panels for each of the seasons and while watching a film about the quilt, they played Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in the background. It’s an incredible display and when you get up close and check out the technical skill and creativity which has gone into recreating these recognizable local landmarks and features, it will blow you away…OMG!

After finishing up at the Folk Museum, we drove into town. The kids desperately wanted to go to the Alpaca Shop. We just made it in there before they shut and found that virtually all the shops in Deloraine shut bang on 5.00PM. Well, I guess that was good for the budget but I was quite disappointed as Deloraine is quite an artistic community and I would’ve like to see what was there. I am still hoping to get back. Deloraine is only 30 minutes from where we’re staying.

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A Black Swan on the Meander River, Deloraine.

We did find a take away food place, which was open and we took our dinner down to the local “train park” by the river with its historic steam train in situ.

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I am notorious for talking to strangers, especially dogwalkers and while chatting to a local and her dog, found out that platypus live in the local river (the Meander River). Wow! That was exciting as I’ve never seen a platypus in the wild. I switched my eyes on and started scouring the tea-coloured waters. Nothing. I wasn’t surprised. The platypus is notoriously shy and difficult to spot. It was a bit like trying to spot “Nessy”.

However, finally our son spotted one. At first, we were rather sceptical but then he pointed out it’s dark brown “beak” sticking out of the water. Eureka! We’d seen a platypus in the wild. Oh happy days!!!

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We walked around a bit more and by the time we arrived back to the car, the sun was setting. I’m a sucker for a sunset but being heavily into photography, these days it has to be a particularly good sunset for me to bother with the camera. However, with the sun setting behind the hills and all those layers of colour, we had to pull over.

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The Flock.

By the way, we also spotted a Church with its own flock of sheep. So much could be said about that, but I’ll leave that up to your imaginations.

Have you ever been to Tasmania and what do you like best? Or, perhaps there’s something you’d love to see here?

Well, now it’s time to try uploading the photos. It’s taking about 15 minutes per photo so it’s very painful and I definitely miss my NBN connection back home.

xx Rowena

The Secret- Short Story

“There are no secrets in Balmain.” – Dorothy Mullins.

  1. Sunrise, Balmain… July 21, 1903.

 

 “Singing Tooral liooral liaddity.

Singing Tooral liooral liay.

Singing Tooral liooral liaddity.

And we’re bound for Botany Bay.”

 

Setting off in their fishing boat, Dadda was the Captain and Maggie was 1st Mate.

“Fishy!” Maggie squealed, as Dadda helped her reel in her fish. “Bweckfsst!”

2.

That’s all Margaret remembered about before.

A book with no beginning, Margaret had been adopted as a tot and her story now began at Chapter Three. All the previous chapters had been ripped out. Thrown away. She wanted them back. Not that she and her sister didn’t love their second family. But you are who you are, and then you’re not. Sometimes, Margaret wondered if finding out would turn her into someone else. Or, whether she was more than a just a name.

Years ago, Margaret had consulted the tea leaves .Yet, as she peered into the tea cup, there was nothing… only the scream. She had lived with the scream all her life, never knowing why.

Now in her late 60’s, the beginning didn’t matter anymore. She was “Grandma”.

 

3.

Moon Landing, Balmain…Monday July 21, 1969, Sydney Time.

As the neighbours crammed into their sardine tin of a terrace, everybody knew Bob’s brand new telly had fallen off the back of a truck. No one cared. Man was landing on the moon. There was barely breathing room left!

Grandma was knitting footy socks in the front row. 1969 would be a good year for the Balmain Tigers. She felt it in her bones.

“Robbie, Tom, Arty, Jack…these should fit Paddy,” she mumbled.

Knit one, pearl one but then Grandma dropped a stitch… and another.

More than her knitting was unravelling. Mary Mullins’ perfume had unwittingly unlocked a secret inner labyrinth, and the Minotaur was out. The room was spinning round and round like a record on acid and Margaret felt incredibly dizzy. Being sucked into this swirling vortex, she reached out a frail, desperate hand. Bob steadied her back in her seat.

“Lottie, tell Mum Gran’s had another turn,” Bob yelled. Even if his mother-in-law dropped dead in front of the telly, he wasn’t budging. He had the best seat in the house.

Lottie found her mother bailed up in the kitchen, making curried eggs and cups of tea.

“Dot, I can’t watch! They’re gunna die!” her cousin wailed, who clearly hadn’t read The Power of Positive Thinking.

“Mum, Gran’s had another turn.”

“Mother Mary!” Dot gasped, crossing herself. “Grant me peace!”

Dot’s blood pressure hit the roof. She ripped open the Bex and made one for Mum and one for herself.

Bex might be a universal panacea, but they knew Grandma had more than a headache. That she was on the blink like a broken telly. At times, she didn’t know who or where she was, retreating inside watching her own, private movie. How long would it take? Dot’s eyes welled up, as she pictured spoon-feeding her mother like a baby.

“How’s your Mum, luv?” a neighbour asked. “Saw she had another turn. Have you taken her to the quack? Don’t mean to pry but don’t you think it’s time?”

“There’s no way I’m sending my own mother to the asylum. She’s just under the weather. That’s all. She’ll be right.”

“None of her business,” Dot muttered.“We’ll get by. We always do.”

After all, they were Balmain born and bred… tough as old workman’s boots, and never gave up!

Dot’s sister turned up with the kids.

“Gran’s got purple hair!” The cousins all burst into hysterics.

Engulfed by the intensifying vortex, Margaret had arrived home with a new “do”. New hair always helped, although she wasn’t too sure about this purple halo, which seemingly glowed in the dark.

Like an apparition, a sketchy white figure appeared through the fuzz, bouncing along like a kangaroo. “The Eagle has landed…That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind “

The room erupted with applause until Robbie’s home-made detergent bottle rocket missed the moon, smashing through the back window, hitting Grandma on the head.

“Robert Joseph Augustus Mullins!!!! Go to your room!”

Robbie bolted off to save his hide.

Meanwhile, Grandma wandered out the front door heading for Darling Street. An old lady slipped out behind her. Lottie had seen her before at Mass.

“Mummy! Mummy! Grandma’s…” Lottie shrieked.

“Not now, Lottie,” Dot snapped. “Grandma can wait!”

Yet, before she even stood up, a pamphlet slapped her in the face:

“Save our Sons…The government has failed to convince Australians that Vietnam is truly a war in which young lives must be sacrificed. That is why it relies on unjust conscription law which forces young men into the army against their moral convictions.”

“Dotty, you’ve got five boys. You’ve gotta sign up. This war’s the devil’s work!” Her sister insisted. Bernadette had married well and moved up to Wahroonga. They even had their own swimming pool.

“Mrs Mullins, don’t listen to that pack of hysterical mothers with nothing better to do,” groaned a bloke in a suit. “Without the Yanks, the reds will move in. We’ll all be speaking Russian.”

Dot was saved by a knock at the door, although the front door was wide open and the flotsam and jetsam were letting themselves in and out.

“Quick! It’s the coppers”.

They all knew Constable Baker. He was a local lad, but he still meant trouble.

“The telly!” Bob panicked. “Fell off the back of a truck…Struth! Should’ve known. This time, it’s the slammer!”

Bob had been charged with receiving stolen goods before.

Meanwhile, the toilet flushed…just in time.

“Mrs Mullins, your mother’s down at the wharf again. You’d better come.”

“See, Mum,” Lottie snapped. “Tried to tell you Gran had wandered off.”

Riddled with guilt, Dot grabbed her purse.

As usual, Bernadette was “busy”.

4.

The pressure was building. Hauling herself into a dinghy, Margaret thought she was fishing with Dadda again. Yet, the voices were still yelling and screaming with violent horror. Margaret could no longer block them out.

 

“Brownie! Gotcha Brownie!” Her father threatened, holding a razor to her mother’s throat.

“Stop, Jack! It’s me…Florrie!”

Blood squirted like a fountain from her mother’s neck. Miraculously, Muvver ran down the hallway clutching Sadie.

Then, Maggie heard a thud, another scream and found Dadda also bleeding by the throat beside Muvver.

“Muvva! Muvva! Wake up, Muvva!” Maggie shrieked.

But Muvva was gone.

Maggie heaved Baby up all by herself. She was Muvver now.

“Ssh, Bubba. Sleepy-byes.”

Then, the lights went out.

5.

“Mum!” Dot called, holding her hand.  Margaret had taken off her coat and was holding it like a baby.

“We’ve called the ambulance, “Mrs Mullins.”They’ll be taking her to hospital,”

“But she’s my mother. She belongs at home,” Dot pleaded.

“Mum. It’s me, Dotty.”

There was no response. Margaret was rambling and her words were like autumn leaves scattered by the wind. All Dot heard was: “Uncle, Dadda did it.”

“Dadda, did what?” Dot gasped, but she already knew. “I’ll strangle the bastard.”

This was a demon no priest could exorcise. An unforgivable sin. No amount of Hail Marys could fix this. Dot fell to her knees.

“Your mother’s not losing her memory, dear. She’s getting it back.” Said the voice and Dot realised an old lady was holding her up.

Who was she? An angel? She seemed so familiar. Yet, Dot couldn’t place her. Those eyes! Finally, the penny dropped. The stranger had her mother’s eyes. Pedalling backwards through time, she’d almost arrived back at the beginning, crash landing in an eerie corridor overflowing with ghosts. Suddenly, she remembered the lady hugging her at her first Holy Communion.

“I’m Aunt Cissie…your mother’s aunt. Florrie was my sister.”

Dot shuddered. “Florrie…” even the name sounded like a ghost.

Words were inadequate. Aunt Cissie reached into her handbag, pulling out a well-worn newspaper clipping.

BALMAIN SENSATION.

SAD DOMESTIC TRAGEDY.

A TAILOR KILLS HIS WIFE.

AND ATTEMPTS SUICIDE.

A MOTHERLESS BABE.

EXCITEMENT IN DARLING-STREET.

The busy waterside suburb of Balmain was

thrown into a state of unusual excitement

this morning, by the news of one of the saddest

domestic tragedies imaginable, a tragedy

which was committed by a man of good re

pute, worried by business troubles into a

state of temporary insanity…[1]

“I’ll never forget her little voice: “Dadda hit Muvver”.

“Not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought of Florrie and the girls. My poor Ma, bless her, went to her grave a broken woman. As much as we loved the girls, we had to set them free.”

Dot held her hand tight just to make sure she was real. That she wasn’t an angel.

Aunty and Dot climbed into the boat beside Margaret.

Finally, they were all in the same boat together.

 

Balmain’s secret was out.

 

[1] The Australian Star (Sydney, NSW : 1887 – 1909) Friday 24 July 1903 p 5 Article

This is the short story I submitted for the Central Coast Short Story Competition. I have identified some changes I’m going to make but I wanted to post the original and would appreciate your feedback and suggestions.

Many thanks!

xx Rowena