This whole concept of trying to get in the zone before school goes back is failing miserably. I sat in my chair at my computer without any sense of where to start and what to do next, and the dog sat on my lap which only compounded my sense of being lost in the wilderness, when I suddenly remembered I had my weekly Coffee Share to write. A quick check revealed I still have an hour to go. How lucky am I. Being on Summer time, I’ve gone forward an hour, and Natalie has lost an hour. Happy days!
Well, after much soul searching during the last week which mostly revolved around a close covid contact and our son’s return from youth camp, I am feeling a sense of relief. As you can see from the opening, I’m not quite on top of things, but I’m not travelling backwards at the speed of sound either.
Indeed, I feel I’ve moved forward somewhat from when I posted this during the week:
The most important thing is that we were covid clear. I was still fighting the pseudo-covid virus and annoying vertigo, but not being covid meant we could get some milk, Geoff could do a critical IT upgrade at the hospital and I wasn’t left wondering whether I should go to hospital or not. As I said, happy days. On top of that, our daughter is getting back on track with her dance after a difficult year last year, and in their production of Swan Lake, she will be covering Odette and playing a Big Swan. It’s so exciting. She was also accepted into a separate choreography piece, and I’m not sure what that’s about but she’s in.
Meanwhile, I’m working towards the “kids'” upcoming birthdays. Our son will be turning 18 in March and our daughter will be turning “Sweet 16” (I sometimes wonder about that, but most of the time she’s sweet enough). As you could imagine, I’ve taken loads of photos over the years. I’m wanting to produce some printed photo books. However, they have around 30 pages, and although you can add extra pages, you don’t want something the size of an old-fashioned phone book. It has to be manageable. So I think the 30 pages is good, and I’ll just break them down into categories and do a couple. However, producing a photo book is much more complex than I thought, especially if I’m producing the photos he wants to see, which might be very different from the photos I would choose for myself. There are also ethical dilemmas, and on this front, I’m running with the Golden Rule. I know I’m very good at over-complicating things, but this time I’d seriously under-estimated what was involved and I’m seriously hoping the special deal they have running doesn’t run out before I’ve got it sorted. I guess that also tells me what I’m doing this afternoon.
Lastly, in terms of research this week, I’ve been doing a bit on my Irish family history. This time, I’ve been looking at the Curtins from Cork City, County Cork. I’ve mentioned them last week I think. It’s now starting to look like John Curtin’s siblings survived the Great Hunger and childhood. Or, at least some of them did, which is good and we probably have rather distant family who are still there. Small steps. Meanwhile, I walked around Cork City via Google Earth. It was fun, and I covered quite a lot of distance in my lounge chair without wearing out. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get over there in the not too distant future!
Btw here’s a link to a post I put together for Thursday Doors:
Well, how was your week? I hope it’s been good and I look forward to hearing about your adventures over tea or coffee.
Meanwhile, you might like to join us over at the Weekend Coffee Share, which is hosted by Natalie the Explorer https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/ I can’t offer you any fresh baked snacks, but I can share a slice of paradise:
It’s been awhile since I’ve contributed to Thursday Doors. Having been in and out of lockdown and keeping a low profile due to my vulnerable health status, I’ve been heading out into nature for my walks rather than places that have doors. However, I also have flirtations with Google Earth and go wondering overseas.
This week, I went to Cork City, Ireland. It’s home to the Curtin side of my rather expansive gene pool, and went wandering along Evergreen Road. While this isn’t where most people head when they travel to Ireland, especially for the first time, it had special significance for me. When my 4 x Great Grandfather was buried, it mentioned that he was a “Native of Evergreen, Cork” on his tombstone. While I’m still not entirely sure what that meant, there is an Evergreen Road and an Evergreen Street, and a few Curtins who lived there over the years. However, just to annoy me, I’ve found no sign of him or his parents living there.
If you have had anything to do with family history and I am what would be classed as an obsessive addict, you would know that there are those ancestors who are very upfront, share all their secrets and are an open book. On the other hand, there are others where you’re pulling teeth just to get the very basics out of them. I understand that, and that even the dead might want their privacy. However, that doesn’t stop me from trying, or from being disappointed when I hit another brick wall. I have an insatiable curiosity.
As it’s turned out, some of the most elusive characters have given up their secrets in time, and that includes John Curtin. He was baptized on the 1st July, 1831 in the Parish of St Finbarr’s, City of Cork, County Cork, Ireland. HIs parents were Mary Scannell and Thomas Curtin, who was a Stevedore according to John’s death certificate. It took me about 30 years to finally find the ship which brought John Curtin out to Australia. He’d worked his passage over as a Able Seaman on board the Scotia, arriving in Sydney on the 4th April, 1854. We don’t have any photos of John Curtin. However, the other day, I stumbled across a physical description in the newspaper while looking for someone else. As you could well imagine, this physical description wasn’t there to praise his physical prowess. Yes, indeed. He was a wanted man, and this description appeared in the New South Wales Police Gazette and Weekly Record of Crime a list of deserting husbands on Wednesday 7 April 1880:
“Deserting Wives and Families, Service, &c.
Sydney.—A warrant has been issued by the Water Police Bench for the arrest of John Curtin, charged with disobeying a Magisterial order for the support of his wife, Bridget. Curtin is about 50 years of age, 5 feet 7 or 8 inches high, fresh complexion, brown hair, short brown whiskers and moustache, shaved on chin ; dressed in dark tweed trousers and vest, and black cloth sac coat ; a blacksmith.”
This was followed up by this notice in the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday 17 April 1880:
“John Curtin, 50, for neglecting to pay to the officer in charge of No. 3 station the sum of £8 15s., due on an order of court for the support of his wife, was committed to gaol until the order should be complied with.”
The timing of his disappearance wasn’t great. On the 12th March 1880, Elizabeth Curtin the wife of their eldest son John Thomas, had passed away leaving three children. Three days later, on the 15th March, their eight month old daughter, Mary Ann, was admitted to the Benevolent Asylum where she died on the 13th December, 1880. John and Bridget had also lost a two year old son the year before. Clearly, these were hard times, which perhaps begs the question: would they have been better off back in Ireland? Did they ever consider going back?
Anyway, this brings me back to Evergreen Road in County Cork and 2022. I’d had a peek through Cork before and wasn’t surprised that it felt familiar was quite similar to Sydney’s Paddington and Surry Hills. Yet, it’s different and besides, I’m only talking about one street, and a small section at that. It’s hardly representative. Further explorations and clearly required.
By the way, while I was rambling along, I stumbled across the Evergreen Bar at 34 Evergreen Road, Turners Cross. Of course, I had to wonder whether it was around in John Curtin’s time, and indeed whether it might’ve been his “local”. If so, was he singing along to Irish music in there way back then? What would those walls say about him if only they could speak? However, my imaginative wanderings were cut brutally short when I found out the Evergreen Bar has been closed and is now being turning into housing. Oh! Woe is me!! It would’ve been nice to go there in person one day and simply wonder where John Curtin had been.
Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with a link to an Irish band, the Sea Captains, who had played at the Evergreen:
My 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.
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 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.
While St Patrick’s Day is usually the day when we celebrate all things Irish, we had a special Irish celebration of our own tonight. You see, we celebrated the 160th anniversary since our ancestor John Curtin arrived in Sydney onboard the Scotia on the 4th April, 1854. He was an Able Seaman and worked on board as part of the ship’s crew.
Not only did we celebrate his journey from Cork to Sydney, we also celebrated the end of a quest because it’s taken our family well over 30years to find the record of John Curtin’s arrival in Sydney. It’s been quite a frustrating business not just because we wanted to know more about how we arrived here but also because knowing when your ancestor came out to Australia is one of the very basics of family history research. If you want your research findings to have any kind of credibility at all, you need to know when you’re ancestor came out. That’s just basic, simple Simon stuff and we couldn’t find him. It was yet another gap and it certainly detracted from researching the Curtin family. I had other branches of the family history which were bursting with fruit. I didn’t need to waste my time with such a barren stump. I moved on yet there was always this nagging gap. How did John Curtin get to Australia?
Although we have quite an assortment of ancestors who have come from Ireland, Germany, Scotland, England, we haven’t celebrated any other arrival in quite this way, although we did take the kids down to Hahndorf in South Australia last year to see where my grandfather was from. He was a Haebich as in Haebich Cottage and his father, grandfather and great grandfather had all been blacksmiths in town. We have also taken the kids to London Bridge, near Queanbeyan to see where my great grandmother came from . You could say that I’m addicted to family history and I want to share this love with the kids and also give them a sense of who they are and our family’s heritage or story.
Anyway, we have been looking for John Curtin’s arrival since 1984 and I only found it two weeks ago. I’d really given up any hope of ever finding his arrival and we’d pretty much decided that he’d come out as crew and we were never going to be able to find him because the lists are all about passengers, especially assisted immigrants.
All good things come to she who waits. Well, actually they come to she who never gives up because I decided to have yet another look and fortunately some very nice people have been transcribing the shipping lists and low and behold they have actually added the crew! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! So when it came to actually finding John Curtin now, it only took seconds along with a few minutes for me to do the maths. Because there is such little detail about this John Curtin, we can’t be entirely sure that he’s ours but cross-references work out and it’s good enough.
Anyway, as I was doing my research, I realized that we were rapidly coming up to the 160th anniversary of his arrival and I wanted to do something special to celebrate. Ideally, I would have got my Dad’s family together. However, we didn’t have enough notice and now our family is fighting off a chest cold so we’re in no position to socialize. We’re actually wearing face masks round the house as a chest infection could really be bad news for my lungs and in general as my immunity has been repressed to contain my auto-immune disease.
So that’s a little bit of background to our Irish night.
I decided to have an Irish-Australian menu. So we had Irish Stew served with buttered Irish Soda Bread followed by Pavlova for dessert. I printed off the Irish Blessing and we said that together in lieu of grace. Of course, we needed a bit of Irish music so we put on Riverdance. I also put on a bit of a slide show of images of Cork City and Sydney dating from 1854.
I really recommend you do something similar to share your cultural heritage with your children. In the past, Australia has been a bit closed to cultural diversity and we needed to assimilate but now we can bring all our assorted ancestors out of the closet and celebrate who they were and indeed what is a part of ourselves…our very flesh and blood as well as our cultural heritage.
Here’s our menu from tonight:
I have always understood that the pavlova, named after the famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, was created by Australian chef Bert Sachse from the Esplanade Hotel in Perth and prepared for her while on tour.
However, like most great things which are considered uniquely and indisputably Australian, there’s often a foreign element. Hey, even Vegemite and the Australian Women’s Weekly are foreign owned. So it also appears that the Kiwis (AKA New Zealanders) are trying to take over our pav. Is nothing sacred?!! That said, a pav just isn’t a pav without kiwi fruit on top so I reluctantly got to give the kiwis a bit of credit.
This recipe comes from Margaret Fulton who, now aged in her 90s, has to be considered the Grandmother of Australian cooking. I grew up cooking from her cookbooks as a child and even though we have never met, she feels like some kind of surrogate cooking Supergran and I’m sure most Australian women would feel much the same. So much more than a name, she’s part of the family, albeit on the shelf.
This pavlova is my signature dish. It is relatively simple but I always receive gushing praise and have somehow become the “Pavlova Queen”.. With its crisp crunchy crust and soft marshmallow interior, it’s amazing and I find so many people truly love pavlova and nothing compares to the classic home made version. It almost makes everybody deliriously happy.
6 egg whites at room temperature
Pinch of salt
2 cups caster sugar
1.5 teas vanilla
1.5 teas vinegar
Pre-heat oven. There is quite a difference in settings depending on whether you are baking the pavlova in a gas or electric oven. If you are using electric, pre=heat the oven to a slow 150° C (300°F). If you are using gas, preheat it to a very hot 230°C (450°F).
Grease tray. I use a pizza tray covered in foil and spray it with canola.
Separate egg whites into glasses and transfer each egg white to the main bowl in case a bit of yolk slips through the net. You don’t want to waste the lot!
Beat egg whites at high speed until soft peaks form.
Add sugar one tablespoon at a time beating well after each addition.
Stop beating after all the sugar has been incorporated.
Fold in vanilla and vinegar.
Pile mixture onto the tray and swirl it around creating attractive curls.
Cooking instructions vary depending on what type of oven you have. If using an electric oven, put the pavlova in and bake for 45 minutes and then turn the oven off and leave it in there for 1 hour. If using a gas oven, turn heat to the lowest temperature. Put the pavlova in and bake 1.5 hours or until crisp on top and a pale straw colour.
When pavlova is cooked, remove from the oven and cool completely.
Now you essentially drown the pavlova in cream. You can either buy the tubs of very thick cream which you can pour straight onto the pavlova or you can whip some cream up yourself. We always add a bit of icing sugar and vanilla to our whipped cream. Just to make the pavlova healthy, despite all that sugar and cream.
Top the cream with fresh fruit which is typically slices of kiwi fruit , banana and strawberries along with some passion fruit. My sister-in-law used frozen raspberries, defrosted of course, and these went very well with it as well. She actually put the raspberries underneath the cream and that looked very good.
Pavlova is best made the day before and it’s not something you can easily squeeze into the oven in between cooking other things what with juggling oven temperatures and it needing a slow oven. I have been making this pavlova for many years and haven’t had a flop until recently and I think that’s from trying to cook it straight after having the oven hot for something else.
Rowena Newton based on a recipe from taste.com.au
¼ Cup plain flour
1.25kg lamb chops, trim off fat.
¼ cup olive oil
1 brown onion finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 carrots, sliced
1 kg desiree potatoes, cut into 2 cm pieces
6 cups of beef stock
Thyme sprigs to serve
1) Wash, peel and dice potatoes and wash and slice carrots and put aside.
2) Finely cut onion.
3) Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large heavy frying pan on medium heat and when bubbling add onion and thyme leaves. Cook stirring for 3 or 4 minutes or until tender and transfer to a bowl.
4) Place flour and chops in a bag. Shake until chops are coated.
5) Increase heat to high. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in pan. Add half the chops. Cook for two minutes on each side and transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining oil and chops.
6) Leave half the chops on the bottom and cover with half the onion mix, half the potatoes and carrots and then cover with the remaining chops and cover these with the remaining onion mix, potatoes and carrots.
7) Pour over stock.
8) Bring to the boil, skimming off fat where necessary. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour 30 minutes.
9) Remove lid and simmer until sauce has thickened to desired consistency. I ended up simmering it for at least an hour and the sauce became more of a gravy, which we preferred to a watery soup.
10) Serve with buttered slices of Irish soda bread straight from the oven.
Irish Soda Bread
This recipe comes from Katherine and I apologise for pilfering her recipe but I have translated it into Australian and will give her credit when I’ve found her site again.
I’ve never tried authentic Irish soda bread so I have no idea what it’s supposed to be like. Unfortunately when I made this for our special Irish celebration tonight, I was rushing to get the pavlova into the oven and as a result neither were cooked properly. When I sliced into the bread, it was still raw in the middle and because the pavlova was now cooking in a very slow oven, I had to use the microwave to finish the job off and nuked it for 5 minutes. No doubt, I would have been tried for murder in Ireland for committing such a crime but the bread seemed to recover and went well with our Irish stew. The family all enjoyed it whether it was authentic or not.
Although I haven’t tried the real thing, I did a Google search and found what looked like a fairly authentic recipe which had quite a preamble initiating the uninitiated into the fine art or is that complications of making the real deal. All these warnings and specifications did make me feel rather wary about taking on the great Irish Soda Bread challenge. There seemed to be so many things to go wrong and this dough really does seem very fussy and demanding compared to throwing everything into the breadmaker or simply buying a loaf of bread at the supermarket. But there’s nothing like making your own bread and wanting to have an authentic Irish night, I had to have a go.
There are a few things to watch out for:
1) Irish flour is soft and low in gluten so the bread will have a different consistency when other flours are used.. If you can’t get Irish flour, use unbleached flour or Plain Flour. Do not use bread flour. It is very high in gluten and simply will not work in bread which do not use yeast.
2) NO Kneading and only use a light touch to mix the dough ie use your fingers rather than your full hand to mix the dough.
3) Work fast and get the dough into a hot oven the minute the dough is shaped. The reaction between the bi-carb and the buttermilk starts as soon as the two ingredients meet and you want that happening while the bread is cooking. Wait too long, and your bread won’t rise
4 cups Irish white flour or plain flour
½ teas Bicarb soda
½ teas Salt
2 cups unhomogenised Buttermilk
Pre-heat oven to 230 degrees C . Wait until oven is hot before you add the bread.
Sift flour, bicarb soda and salt into a large bowl and mix.
Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in about 2/3 of the milk. Quickly and with a light touch bring the flour in from the sides and mix with the milk, until al the ingredients come together into a dough. Use your hands for this, never use a spoon or mixer.
It is impossible to be exact about the amount of buttermilk needed, it will depend on the nature of the flour. The dough should not be sticky and should come together into one lump of of soft, slightly floppy dough.
Once the dough had come together, do not knead it. Simply place it on a floured board and rub flour into your hands so they are perfectly dry and shape the dough into a flat round which is about 5 cm thick.
Place on a baking tray. Dust the handle of a wooden spoon with flour and press into the dough to form a cross. This gives the bread its tradition cross-shape and also helps the bread to cook through more easily, although I have read that this is to let the fairies out. This process should only take 5 minutes and you need to get the bread in the oven immediately. Quick. On your marks. Get set! Go!
Set timer for 5 minutes. Turn the oven down to 200 degrees C The initial high temperature ensures a good crust. Set timer for a further 20 minutes and take the bread out and knock on the bottom. If it sounds hollow, it’s done. If not, pop it back in the oven for a further 5-10 minutes and check again.
This bread should be eaten on the day that it’s made which shouldn’t be a problem. It also makes good toast.
Cook your pavlova well before bake your bread. Pavlova might be a dessert but it needs an hour to rest in the oven after cooking for you do need to allow quite a bit of extra cooking time and the pavlova didn’t like me mucking around with the oven temperatures either. I am known for my pavlovas which have a deliciously crunchy crust with soft marshmallow inside. This pavlova decided to be fussy and it had no crunch at all and was pure marshmallow which still tasted great but it wasn’t the same.