Tag Archives: Blogging A-Z Challenge

Irish Famine Monument, Hyde Park Barracks, Sydney

DSC_4290My journey through the Blogging from A-Z Challenge continues today and as I approach the letter I, I am starting to understand why this thing is called a “challenge” and not a “walk in the park”. With the kids on school holidays and being at Palm Beach and wanting to experience more than just the inside of my laptop despite the blah weather, today I’ve taken the easy way out. I have cut and pasted most of this post from my other blog: Finding Bridget: https://bridgetdonovansjourney.wordpress.com/2014/09/03/welcome-to-bridget-donovans-journey/

After introducing you to my German heritage yesterday, today I’ll dip a very little toe into the Irish side. Although being a Curtin hailing back to the City of Cork, County Cork; I wanted to introduce you to Bridget Donovan, who I came across on a complicated goat’s trail off a goat’s trail even though she is my Great Great Great Grandmother. Bridget was little more than a name on her daughter’s birth certificate (her daughter Charlotte Merritt married James Curtin), which had turned up in the family safe many years ago. That was, until a Google search showed up a Bridget Donovan who was one of the Irish Famine Orphan Girls who went sent out to Australia as part of the Earl Grey Scheme on board the John Knox on the 29th April, 1850.

This was how I discovered the Irish Famine Monument at Sydney’s Hyde Park Barracks. No doubt, I’ve walked past the Famine Memorial many times since its completion in 1999. Yet, I missed it. If you know me, that isn’t exactly surprising. With my head up in the clouds or my attention focused through a camera lens, I frequently miss even the blatantly obvious.

It’s a pity because this monument is so much more than a static reminder of the Famine. Rather, it has become something of a living, breathing focal point not just for people exploring their Irish roots like myself but also for the modern Australian-Irish community, especially at it’s annual commemorative event. You could say any excuse for a Guinness will do!

While you might be wondering why anyone would build a monument commemorating an Irish famine which took place over 150 years ago in Ireland in modern Sydney, it is worth remembering that many, many Irish emigrated to Australia particularly during or soon after the famine. This means that the Irish Famine is, in a sense, part of Australian history as well.

Moreover, the Irish Famine wrought such devastation that it must be remembered. We should never forget that an estimated 1 million people lost their lives and a further 1 million emigrated and what a loss of that magnitude meant for the Irish people…those who left and also those who stayed behind. The politics behind the Famine is also something we should keep in mind because unless we learn from the dire lessons of the past, history will repeat itself and many, many will endure perhaps preventable suffering.

While I grew up as an Australian understanding that my Dad’s Curtin family had emigrated due to the potato famine, that was a simplistic view. The causes of the Irish Famine were much more complex than the potato blight itself and certainly our family didn’t emigrate until the tail end of the famine, or even a few years after the famine had “ended”. This is interesting food for thought and I can’t help thinking the Australian Gold rushes also attracted its share of struggling Irish searching for their pot of gold at what must have seemed like the end of a very long rainbow.

While I recommend visiting the Memorial in person, the Irish Famine Memorial’s website also provides helpful background information about the Irish Orphan Girls and the Irish Famine Memorial. It includes a searchable database you can find out if you, like me, can claim an Irish Orphan girl. There are over 4,000 up for grabs and the good news is that you don’t even have to feed them.You have a better chance than winning Lotto!

You can click here to access the web site: Mmhttp://www.irishfaminememorial.org/en/

About the Monument

Although I have visited the monument a couple of times, I have learned so much more about it since deciding to write this post.

Bridget Donovan wasn't on the list... missing in action yet again!!

The Australian Monument to the Great Irish Famine (1845-1852) is located at the Hyde Park Barracks, on Macquarie Street, Sydney, Australia. It was designed by Angela & Hossein Valamanesh (artists) & Paul Carter (soundscape). I must admit that I didn’t notice the soundscape on my visits and I missed much of the detail and symbolism in the monument itself. My attention at the time was focused on the list of names etched into the glass and finding out that Bridget Donovan, as usual, was missing…lost, silent. The artists had selected 400 names to represent the over 4,000 Irish orphan girls so you had to be lucky for your girl to be chosen. However, the artists had chosen the girls above and below Bridget on the shipping list and had left Bridget out. I swear it is like Bridget has activated some kind of privacy block from the grave. “Leave me alone”. She really doesn’t want to be found.

The Plaque

The web site provides a detailed explanation of the monument:

“On the internal side of the wall, the long table represents the institutional side of things. There is a plate, a spoon and a place to sit on a three legged stool. There are also a couple of books including a Bible, and a little sewing basket. In contrast, on the other side, is the continuation of the same table, but much smaller in scale. There sits the bowl which is hollow and actually cannot hold anything, representing lack of food and lack of possibilities. There is also the potato digging shovel, called a loy, leaning against the wall near a shelf containing some potatoes. The selection of 400 names, some of which fade, also indicates some of the girls who are lost to history and memory.”

Anyway, even if you can’t claim Irish blood, the Irish famine Memorial is certainly worth a visit and you can check out the Hyde Park Barracks Museum while you are there.

Bridget would have worn something like this simple dress...Hyde Park Barracks Museum.

I have written about Bridget Donvon’s Journey more extensively in my other blog: Finding Bridget, which you can check out here: https://bridgetdonovansjourney.wordpress.com/2014/09/03/welcome-to-bridget-donovans-journey/

You can also read about our Irish night where we cooked up an Irish Stew, Irish Soda Bread and had it with Australian Pavlova to commemorate 160 years since John Curtin, an Irish Sailor who went on to become a Stove Maker in Sydney’s Surry Hills: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/06/06/irish-nightcelebrating-a-journey-from-cork-city-to-sydney-1854-2014/

xx Rowena

Found…Lost Dog.

You know how much I love our precious Lady, a 2 year old Border Collie x Cavalier King Charles Spaniel what with her effervescent wagging tail which speeds up as you approach and her warm, loving, affectionate nature…

However, without being a dibber-dobber, she has quite a capacity for mischief and her sin sheet is long and extensive. In Australia’s past, humans have been transported for lesser crimes or even hanged.

Anyway, Lady’s latest crime wasn’t so much that she got lost, although that she did. It was more a matter of how and where she got lost and what that little black dog was up to, which caused her to get picked up off a busy road before being unceremoniously squashed by the L90 bus, which travels a long and arduous route from Palm Beach to the city.

It was this skulduggery which had her picked up off the road and “transported” to the local vet’s. “Transported” was the word used when sending convicts to our shores and in the case of Lady, who really did deserve to have a mug shot taken, she truly was transported. She was being a very, very bad dog!!

You see, if you have been following Lady’s adventures, you might recall that she found a recently “deaded” rabbit on the road near a park on the Palm Beach foreshore a few months ago. She took off from me and shot off to the beach where she efficiently skinned it and had an instant meal. Lady came from a farm in rural Tenterfield and I had been warned that she liked to hunt. However, being a city girl, I’d never had a dog who could help themselves in such a fashion before. All my other dogs were just happy with their kibble and the occasional butcher’s bone and could only bark at any furry or feathered critters.

Lady must be quite partial to a bit of rabbit because every time we walked near the park she’s take off near the road and I was naturally terrified….especially her being a black dog on a black road. Black on black doesn’t make for good visibility!! Lady was back on the lead.

Being awhile since we’ve been over, I’d naively thought that Lady would have forgotten about the rabbit by now. She’s a lovely dog but she’s no Einstein and she certainly doesn’t seem to remember her name when you call her or other “commands”. You could say that she’s very “laissez-faire”.

Lady out walking in the clouds at Palm Beach, yesterday.

Lady out walking in the clouds at Palm Beach, yesterday.

Anyway, I was walking past the park which backs on the road and is just down from where she’d found the rabbit when I saw Bilbo walking out of the park but Lady wasn’t in sight. Suspecting she was off rabbit hunting again and her chances of surviving on the road were slim, I raced up in hot pursuit. Well, as fast as I could, which is, as you’d expect, is well below the speed limit!! The traffic up ahead had stopped and that did concern me. Had she been hit? What was going on? But I hadn’t heard anything and I would have heard a yelp, a screech. I scanned up and down beside the road for a ball of fur but saw nothing. Lady had simply vanished. I even asked Bilbo where she was but he wasn’t helpful at all and looked flummoxed, which was odd. We walked further down the beach but there were no paw prints and another dogwalker hadn’t seen her either.

By this stage, I was really starting to worry. I’ve lost her down here for a few minutes before but she’s soon reappeared usually running furiously to compensate for some deviation she’d found.

I scanned the beach, the water, the road and found no sign of her, which really wasn’t making any sense. How could the dog simply vanish almost right in front my nose? The dogs can sometimes walk a few metres ahead but they generally don’t wander and Bilbo certainly stays close. This unfolding nightmare was just like a scene out of CSI, where the parent turns away for just a second and then their child was gone. Kidnapped in one of those plain white vans.

I called and called and called her name and no little black dog appeared.

Where was she? What had happened to her or had she simply made her own way home?  I was starting to get frantic!! After all, I love my little black dog!

But she wasn’t at home either and when I told Miss I’d lost Lady on our walk, she wasn’t impressed. “You were supposed to look after her,” she said.

Lady had vanished without a trace from right in front of me and I really had no idea what to do. How could I lose the dog? Miss told me off and said I was supposed to do looking after Lady. She was right. I wasn’t happy when the two kids had ridden off on their bikes once and Mister arrived home saying he’d lost his sister. At the time, I couldn’t understand how he could lose his sister when they were riding together like that but now the same thing had happened to me and I’d lost the dog. Now, I could sort of understand that these mysteries were possible even if I didn’t know how.

I’d barely been in the house five minutes when my phone rang and it was the Avalon Vet. Lady was safe and hadn’t been injured. The prodigal dog had been found on the road, rescued and taken to the vets.

Perhaps, the driver could’ve checked if she was alone before they put her in the car and drove away. I was only metres away from her and as I said, I saw the bus and some kind of delay on the road. I also called Lady over and over and over again they could have heard me. That said, it’s a narrow, busy road where the traffic is awkward. Morevover, there probably wasn’t anywhere to stop.

As much as I value persistence, Lady discovered that persistence also has it’s drawbacks and we also need to know when it’s time to stop and apply the brakes.

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

Calvin Coolidge

I’m bending the rules a little but this is a second ‘F’ post for the Blogging from A-Z Challenge. After the morning I’d had with the kids, I also wrote about Fractured Fairytales.

Do you have any lost dog stories to share? I’d love to hear them!

xx Rowena

PS: I just remembered that while we were at the vet’s Miss saw a sign advertising Puppy School and she said that’s where Lady needed to go. When we were talking about how F was my letter for today’s challenge, she said: “F for Fail”, referring to Lady failing Puppy School. It looks like Lady will be getting an education when we get home!!

Byron Bay: Australia’s Alternative Paradise.

As  soon as you exit the Pacific Highway and take the Byron Bay exit, throw your watch out the window and prepare to slow down. You’re now on Byron Bay time. Not only that, you’re about to enter another world where it’s more or less assumed that you’re at least somewhat lateral, alternative, creatively inspired or just plain mad. Well, not quite everyone. Byron Bay is no longer the hippy mecca it once was but despite the yuppie blow-ins, it’s retained much of it’s original character. You might just need to look further afield to find it.

Byron is all about taking the road less traveled...the alternative route. Check out my kids exploring the grass off the well-beaten track.

Byron is all about taking the road less traveled…the alternative route. Check out my kids exploring the grass off the well-beaten track.

Dolphins viewed from Cape Byron Lighthouse.

Dolphins viewed from Cape Byron Lighthouse.

Whale Spout near Julian Rocks, Byron Bay.

Whale Spout near Julian Rocks, Byron Bay.

 

 

 

 

 

As we have family living in the Byron Bay hinterland, we tend to head up to Byron at least once a year and Cape Byron Lighthouse has become something of a yardstick of our kids’ growth over the years as I force them through another round of photos against it’s glowing white fascade. You really do need a good pair of sunnies out there.

Family Photo 2nd July 2010 outside Byron Bay Lighthouse

Family Photo 2nd July 2010 outside Byron Bay Lighthouse

Determination!

Determination!

We always stop for an ice cream at the lighthouse and it's always a race to see whether the kids can finish it before it melts.

We always stop for an ice cream at the lighthouse and it’s always a race to see whether the kids can finish it before it melts.

 

Of

Byron Bay looking North to Mt Warning.

Byron Bay looking North to Mt Warning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of  course, Byron i also renowned for it’s many gorgeous beaches and great surf. However, rather than giving you a picture postcard view of Byron Bay, in keeping with the spirit of Byron, I thought I’d share some of the ephemeral sights we’ve uncovered over the years. You see, when it comes to Byron Bay, anything is possible and you certainly don’t need a permit to be a little different.

Starting off at the beach, we came across a sand sculptor who was building the most amazing creations in the sand. He created this fire breathing dragon, which I’ve photographed here. You’ll notice he’s having a cup of tea and that’s my Royal Albert teacup which I photographed around Byron Bay on a few visits. I’m not ashamed of stepping out beyon dthe flow myself.

 

We met a guy who is a world class sandcastle builder and I offered his dragon a cup of tea.

We met a guy who is a world class sandcastle builder and I offered his dragon a cup of tea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also stumbled across this medley of musos and dancers who met up around sunset each evening just as the Rainbow Lorrikeets were churping away in the Norfolk Pine Trees beside the beach.  They sure showed me you’re never too old to boogie!

We stumbled across this random group of whatsy-me-call-its: dancers, musos and hangers on which meets around sunset at the Northern end of the beach. They sure showed me you're never too old to boogie!

Musicians and dancers, Byron Bay at sunset.

 

 

 

 

 

Crepes at the Beach: January, 2011.

Crepes at the Beach: January, 2011.

In January 2011, we had a wonderful surprise when a  group of French backpackers set themselves up just off the beach doing a roaring trade selling crepes…just like you’d see on a footpath in Paris. We felt absolutely spoilt indulging in scrumptious Nutella crepes or lemon and sugar after emerging from the surf. As you could imagine, this thriving little enterprise was operating without Council approval or any form of insurance. That is Byron Bay.

As much as we love the beach, the sun demands respect and so we stay off the beach much of the day. One of our other favourite hangouts in Byron Bay is the park beside the railway. This park has the most fabulous climbing tree, which is a type of fig. It got damaged in a storm I believe and it’s fallen over and now grows along the ground like a caterpillar. This makes for fabulous climbing, especially for really little kids who can reach the branches.

This tree has become something of a magic wishing tree and every time we go there, somebody has stuck something different in the branches and we can’t wait to see what’s there. We’re only talking about simple things like ribbons tied in the branches, a milk crate suspended by a rope but on one visit we came across a very touching artistic tribute by a grieving mother whose son had died in the park and she wants to help young people feel good about htemselves and help all of us feel more love.

Mister in our climbing tree in the Railway Park. Every time we go there, something else is hanging there or decorating the tree. It seems like a magic wishing tree although there's a rough side to the park here with drinking etc. We need to choose our moments wisely when we take the kids.

Mister in our climbing tree in the Railway Park. Every time we go there, something else is hanging there or decorating the tree. It seems like a magic wishing tree although there’s a rough side to the park here with drinking etc. We need to choose our moments wisely when we take the kids.

She decorated the climbing tree with bright yellow flowers and painted the park benches with all sorts of messgaes and graphics. I was still wandering around with my tea cup and photographed it wioth her artworks.

 

Tea Cup in the Railway Park, 2011.

Tea Cup in the Railway Park, 2011.

A heart broken mother whose son died in this park wrote these messages on the park benches.

 

Unfortunately, even paradise has it’s underbelly and Byron Bay is no exception. Unfortunately, our beloved park attracts some heavy drinkers who can get quite narky and obviously, this isn’t a suitable environment for the kids. I’ve also heard that there are quite a few rapes.

Thje photo below was taken at the old railway station where I’ve sure homeless people must doss down. Sadly, Byron Bay isn’t just all beautiful beaches, peace, love and serenity.

Sadly, Byron Bay isn't just all beautiful beaches, peace, love and serenity.

On a more poitive note, of course, no tour of Byron Bay is complete without going Kombi spotting. Back in the day, Kombis were all lined up prked along the beachfront with boards on their backs. You can still spot Kombis around town these days but they are obviously thinning out. Here’s one I spotted by the railway station:

In it's heyday, Byron Bay was Kombi paradise with rows of Kombis parked beside the each with boards on top.

In it’s heyday, Byron Bay was Kombi paradise with rows of Kombis parked beside the each with boards on top.

This is by no means a comprehenive tour of Byron Bay. I haven’t evn covered Byron Bay’s famous markets, which sell the very best chocolate donuts that ever walked this planet. They’re more of a cross between a jam donut and a chocolate croissant and just thinking about them is making me feel like getting in the car and driving  North.

While it’s a bit of a thing to climb Mt Warning or to the lighthouse to watch the sunrise, we are better equiped for watching the sunset and this is the prfect way to exit Byron Bay.

The Sun Set Byron Bay

The Sun Set Byron Bay

This is my second contribution to the Blogging From A to Z Challenge. Bis for Byron Bay.

xx Rowena

I am participating in the A-Z Challenge.

I am participating in the A-Z Challenge.