Tag Archives: family history

Bridge Street, Sydney…Thursday Doors.

Welcome back to to Another Thursday Doors.

Before we touch down in the Sydney CBD, I thought I’d better give you a map and help you get your bearings.

Map of The Rocks NSW 2000

You might recall that last week I attended concert pianist Gerard Willems Twilight Recital at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music with my parents. On the way, I went on a detour (or “Doorscursion”) via The Rocks and then walked up Bridge Street to the “Con”. Last week, I shared The Rocks leg of the journey and this week, I’m taking you from George Street to the Conservatorium via Bridge Street.

Bridge Street isn’t one of Sydney’s most famous streets. Yet, although in this instance it was getting me from A to B, I was also retracing my mother’s footsteps on this journey. As a student back in the 60s, she used to walk up Bridge Street on her way to the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. I could picture her almost running up Bridge Street possibly even running a bit late, especially when I spotted the imposing clock face peering down in judgement from the Public Lands Building. So, it was special to walk up Bridge Street and feel her with me, particularly as Mum and Dad were both meeting up with me at the concert. It was much more enjoyable to be able to do this walk while she’s still living than as a memorial.

So, I was just lucky that Bridge Street had such a plethora of stunning sandstone colonial buildings and some pretty photogenic doors. That said, there was also much to distract me. Bridge Street is full of history and so much phenomenal architecture.

Only 500metres long, Bridge Street is one of Sydney’s earliest streets, and started out as a path from the Governor’s house (then in what became Bridge Street) to the Military Barracks in Wynyard. It was named after the first bridge built over Tank Stream. By the way, for those of you not familiar with the Tank Stream, when Captain Arthur Phillip sailed into Sydney Harbour in January 1788, searching for a new settlement site, one of his main requirements was a reliable fresh water supply. As he sailed around Bennelong Point, now the site of the Sydney Opera House, he saw a wide-mouthed stream running into Sydney Harbour. At high tide, the water was deep enough for schooners to go as far as present-day Bridge Street. Here Phillip established the new colony, the new city and the beginnings of European Australia. Unfortunately, the Tank Stream has long been a storm water drain (Source: Sydney Water

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The Metropolitan Hotel, 1 Bridge Street.

Our Journey begins at No. 1 Bridge Street…the Metropolitan Hotel, which unfortunately has a McDonald’s downstairs so no great door photographing opportunities here.

 

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Burns Philp Building  7 Bridge Street, Sydney. Built 1901.

While the Burns Philp building is incredibly grand and held my attention, my roving eye was soon drawn away by the magnificent clock tower across the road, which is perched so graciously above the Department of Lands Building at 22-33 Bridge Street.

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The Department of Lands Building

Large public clocks like these always intrigue me and too often loom over me as a bad omen: “I’m late! I’m late! Late for an important date.” Or worse still I remember waiting on Town Hall Steps on a Saturday night in my youth waiting to meet a date and there’s always that fear that they’re not going to show up and that preoccupation with the clock. I also think of how these clocks have withstood time and so many people must’ve walked up and down Bridge Street under the shadow of this clock and while they have passed on, it is still here.

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However, I’ve allowed myself to be distracted. I’m supposed to be focusing on doors instead of clocks. So, let me just close the door on that meandering train of thought and we’ll keep walking.

Well, it looks like I haven’t found a door at the Department of Lands yet. So, you’ll just have to hold onto that thought for a bit longer.

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Here it is. Front Door, Department of Lands Building, Bridge Street, Sydney.

Across the road from the Department of Lands Building, we come to Macquarie Place. Again, I apologize for a conspicuous absence of doors here. However, as many of you will agree, it seems a bit rude not to include door-free landmarks we stumble across along the way. Indeed, I don’t know about you, but I feel a bit rude saying something along the lines of:  “Sorry, I can’t mention you because you’re not a door.”

Anyway, getting back to Macquarie Place… It’s a small triangle of land which was formalised as an open space with the erection of an obelisk in 1818 by Governor Macquarie to mark the place from which public roads in the colony were measured. A sandstone Doric fountain was also erected the following year. A sandstone dwarf wall and iron palisade fence were built around the site, and although the railings were removed between 1905 and 1910, part of the wall remains. While this area was rather spacious back in the day, it now looks small, overcrowded and when you see the obelisk, you can’t help wondering what on earth it’s doing there.

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The Obelisk, Macquarie Place, in 1926.

As I’m walking up Bridge Street, it was pretty hard not to notice The Gallipoli Club which is under construction and fenced off by some rather bright and colourful murals, which are rather out of keeping with the more traditional, surrounding architecture.  Positioned alongside grand sandstone buildings, these murals stand out and look fantastic as a temporary thing. As much as blending the old and the new can be quite effective, I also think it’s good to preserve the character of a place, especially in Sydney where we don’t have a lot of historic buildings of this calibre.

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The Gallipoli Club, Loftus Street, Sydney just off Bridge Street.

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Construction Entrance, The Gallipoli Club.

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I have always loved these quaint terrace houses located at 39-47 Phillip Street, on the corner of Bridge and Phillip Streets. Built in 1867-9, they look like something time forgot surrounded by soaring skyscapers and even pre-date the imposing sandstone buildings nearby.

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The Industrial Relations Commission

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Southern Cross University at 117 Macquarie Street.

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Hotel Intercontinental, 117 Macquarie Street and on the corner of Bridge Street. The InterContinental Sydney rests within the Treasury Building of 1851 – the first purpose-built government office in Sydney.

From the Intercontinental, it’s just a short walk across the road to arrive at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

I hope you enjoyed this doorscursion along Bridge Street to the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, even if my definition of door was rather broad this week. I certainly enjoyed my photographic walk. However, as I was putting this together, I realized just how rushed and incomplete it was. That said, I’ve put a lot of work into this chunk of the story. Of course, you could write a book about all the magnificent buildings in Bridge Street and their stories, but I’ll leave that for someone else.

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.

I’m now off to make myself a cup of decaf tea and head to bed.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Featured image: The Powerhouse Museum, Sydney.

Speech Day 1928: The Life Lessons My Grandfather Heard.

As a woman, it’s already difficult to put myself in my grandfather’s shoes and know what it’s like to be a man. Moreover, not having a contraption like the Tardis to travel back in time, it’s also hard to rewind the clock back to 1928 when my grandfather left school as an 18 year old.My grandfather was also Catholic and attending Waverley College in Sydney, which is run by the Christian Brothers. Back at this point in time, there was a great divide between protestants and Catholics which I find hard to imagine these days, although its still rippling away under the surface.

Papa Curtin with Rowena 1969

My grandfather and I. 

Yet, almost 60 years later, I was also sitting at the back of the school assembly hall not paying much attention to what was being said. So, despite all these glaring differences, we were probably not all that different and had very much in common. The transition from the cloister of school into the next chapter has always been a big step.Yet, generation after generation, has gone before us. We were not alone. We have never been the first generation stepping out there trying to find out way, which I now find largely reassuring.  and I guess you just have to hope that most of them eventually found their way and as George Bernard Shaw said:

Life is not meant to be easy, my child; but take courage: it can be delightful.”

Being a by-product of my own generation, these attempts to walk in my grandfather’s shoes, have taken me back to one of the greatest movies of all time: Dead Poet’s Society, (Indeed, it would be my favourite if Casablanca hadn’t got there first!)  For those of you already replaying the movie in your heads, I’m reminded of that scene where English teacher John Keating played by our very much loved friend and mentor, Robin Williams, is looking at the portraits of ex-students on the wall and says:

“They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you. Their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because you see, gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen. You hear it?… Carpe… Hear it?… Carpe. Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”

-Dead Poet’s Society

As it turns out, I have been able to read the words my grandfather would have heard courtesy of the old newspapers which are now online. Eerily enough, these words actually have a Dead Poet’s Society feel about them, as most of these end of school speeches do. By the way, my grandfather had attended Waverley College, Sydney run by the Christian Brothers and the Address was given by Archbishop Sheehan:

Archbishop Michael Sheehan.

“Your years of youth, my dear boys, are very precious. It is the time in which you build for the future. The opportunities which are now close to your hands will, if neglected, never come within your reach again. Your greatest enemy is the spirit of ill-will and idleness; your best friend is the spirit of obedience and industry.

Your whole life from childhood to death is a warfare, a struggle against temptation. Every victory you gain over yourselves and over the powers of darkness brings with it a strengthening of your will, a strengthening of your character. 

The process of building therefore of which I spoke a moment ago means more than piecing together the divers kinds of knowledge. Let us put it in this way: your task is not only to build for your-selves the house of knowledge, but also and much more to build firm and strong the fortress of the will.

‘How will you take these few words from me? I know boys too well not be be conscious that they listen to old people like myself with a certain amount of patronage, and with a secret feeling that we are out of date and possibly suffering from a touch of dotage, and that therefore any advice of ours is to be taken with a good grain of salt.

Well, it may shake you a bit to hear that the boys of every generation have had exactly the same thoughts, and that when they grew up they found their mistake. One of the chief temptations of your time of life comes from a kind of pride, from a tendency to underrate the advice of the more experienced.’ His Grace concluded by again congratulating the Brothers and the boys on a most successful year, and wished all present the blessings of the Christmas season.” Catholic Press (Sydney, NSW : 1895 – 1942), Thursday 5 January 1928, page 25

Whether you agree with the Catholic ethos or not, I found good wisdom in there. The Archbishop, who’d been born on the 17th December, 1870 at Waterford in Ireland, did a pretty good job of crawling into the boys’ shoes, seeing himself through their eyes and hopefully captured their attention. In his roundabout way, he first encouraged the boys to listen to their elders and hopefully thus avoid some of life’s predictable potholes. He also wanted them to have a heart, a love of God and be living breathing humans. He didn’t want them to be walking encyclopaedias, robots or money-making machines.  He wanted each and every one of those boys to have a rich and complex life. Catholic or not, there’s a lot of good advice to hold onto there and you can adjust it to suit your personal creed.

There’s one thing I’d particularly like add.

That is the importance of family, close friends and having meaningful relationships, which you carry with you throughout your life. Having lived overseas and travelled, I know what it’s like to be that random atom drifting through space where no one knows you, your history, or your family. Moreover, as an Australian living in Germany, there was only the odd person who knew what an Australian was either and I got away with a bit under that heading too.

While there can be real freedom and liberation in flying away from all those ties, I felt quite lost without them too. There’s a lot to be said for having shared memories within a close community where you can bump into an old friend down the street and have those shared experiences, insights and memories. We have been living in our home for something like 18 years. That’s really crept up on us and initially, it took a long time to get established. However, I now have a genuine, informed interest in the people around me. This has nothing to do with career, paying off the mortgage or even putting food on the table. However, there’s food we don’t eat and we also have to cater for our souls.

What would your advice be to a young person leaving school at the end of 2018? Any regrets? Anything you did or observed that worked well and you’d like to pass on? We’d love to read your thoughts in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS I thought I’d better point out that these young men left school the year before the 1929 Fall of Wall Street. The Wall Street Crash of 1929, also known as the Stock Market Crash of 1929 or the Great Crash, started on October 24 (“Black Thursday”) and continued until October 29, 1929 (“Black Tuesday”), when share prices on the New York Stock Exchange collapsed. The crash, which followed the London Stock Exchange’s crash of September, signalled the beginning of the 12-year Great Depression that affected all Western industrialized countries. Wikipaedia These same men could well have fought or enlisted in WWII having had their own fathers serve in WWI. They didn’t have it easy.

 

Penguin Doors – Thursday Doors.

Last week, we focused on Old Penguin Gaol. This week, we’re spreading our wings and seeing a bit more of this very quaint Tasmanian seaside village where my father-in-law was born around 1927.

 

Above: Brown’s Bakery. Geoff’s grandfather moved into the unit upstairs after his wife, Molly died in 1936 leaving three kids aged 9, 8 and 2 without their mother. It was also the Depression and very hard times. I had a very heavy heart visiting this place, but were very blessed when the current tenant let us have a look around inside. That’s the view of the beach through their back window, which faces right onto Bass Strait.It was such an incredibly beautiful place when we visited but it must also get its storms. 

Geoff & KIds penguin

Geoff’s grandmother used to photograph her kids up against a paling fence. Here’s Geoff and the kids on the fence next to their old place above the bakery.

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Geoff’s father, Brian with mother Molly around 1927.

 

These photos were taken in January 2017 when we went on our first family trip to show the kids where Daddy came from. Much of this trip actually ended up being more about walking in Geoff’s father’s footsteps, largely because we were staying with friends who live out of Devonport in the North-West rather than closer to Scottsdale in the North-East where Geoff grew up. This was equally important because Geoff’s Dad passed away when he was 16 and so it’s not easy to get a sense of the man. Indeed, I really need to peer in between the lines and listen at the keyhole and yet, I am married to son. Surely, there must be parts of  I also know like the back of my hand which have been passed down?

 

 

Above: Niki’s Sweet Treats, Penguin.

Thank goodness doors are much more straightforward. They might not always be a case of what you see is what you get and they can become unhinged or attacked by bugs, but no one’s ever felt the need to write a manifesto about the psychology or philosophy of doors. There’s no DSM manual either. A door is a door, except perhaps to the doorextraordinaire.

Above: Penguin Market is held in the former Penguin Public School grounds where Geoff’s Dad went to school. While this post is supposed to be about doors, I was struck by the view of the sky and clouds through these large windows in one of the former classrooms. I thought of Geoff’s Dad staring up at those windows thinking of his mum. It gives a whole different slant to that staring out the window so many of us have done during class.

Anyway, these photos were taken long before I’d even heard of Thursday Doors and so these are the doors which stood out to me as we walked through town, either due to their own innate appeal or a personal connection.

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Penguin!

 

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Penguins Beware!

Lastly, which should probably have been firstly, here’s a map of Tasmania. Penguin is up the top to the left of Devonport where the Spirit of Tasmania sails to and from Melbourne, linking Tasmania to the mainland.

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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 funa nd helps you see parts of the world you’ll never get to visit through the keyhole.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Penguin Gaol – Thursday Doors

Before you start getting up in arms about penguins being locked up,  I should let you know that Penguin is a town on Tasmania’s North-West Coast. The town was named by the botanist Ronald Campbell Gunn after the little penguin rookeries, which are common along the less populated areas of the coast. Not unsurprisingly, the town is now home to the Big Penguin.

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Introducing the Big Penguin, who is looking more like a stunned mullet.

We spent a few days in Penguin in January last year. Not just because it’s a quaint coastal town which some very photogenic natural features. You see, my husband’s father was born there in 1927 and his mother away when he was only 9 years old leaving three kids aged 9, 8 and 2 or thereabouts. Geoff’s father passed away when he was 16 so visiting Penguin was almost like visiting a haunted village but in such a beautiful, incredible poignant way. We were walking in the dust of their footprints.

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Old Penguin Gaol 

 

Old Penguin Gaol’, circa 1902–1962. The old gaol was originally located behind Penguin’ s courthouse, but was restored and resited in 1992 by the Penguin Apex Club. I haven’t actually seen inside it so I’m not sure how much room is inside, but it looks like standing room only and not the sort of place you’d want to spend the night especially if you have to share.

 

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That’s quite a lock. 

Here’s a newspaper story about a former inmate of the gaol in 1903:

A Sham Constable

SEVERAL HOTELS SEARCHED AN ACTIVE “OFFICIAL”

An individual possessed either with the idea of perpetrating a practical joke or of levying blackmail paid several coastal publicans a visit on Sunday night, and representing himself as a constable in plain clothes put them to considerable trouble by making a methodical examination of their bars, and with searching for persons who might be unlawfully on the premises. He gave the name of Constable Robertson

and is now in the Penguin gaol, and will today be brought to Burnie and charged with impersonating the police. The Bay View Hotel, Burnie, was visited about 10 o’clock on Sunday night and the landlord, Mr F. H. Furner, was interrogated by what he describes as a stout burly man with .suspicious looking brass buttons, although dressed in plain clothes. He was told in a perfunctory way that he (the visitor) had to perform the ‘painful duty’ of having a look at his bar. Mr Furner complied, after questioning the visitor’s bonafides, and wondering inwardly at meeting a man in his hotel to whom it was a”painful’ duty to enter the bar. After a casual inspection the visitor in pompous tones ex pressed his satisfaction, and after visiting several of the rooms to satisfy himself that none other than lodgers were in. the place he left, after having, of course, tasted something in the matter of liquid refreshment. And he confided to the licensee that he had secured the names of 40 residents that day at Ulverstone for being unlawfully in hotels. He proceeded to the Burnie Hotel, and Mr W. H. Wiseman was attracted by a loud knock. ; Opening the door the question was put to him that the visitor supposed he (the publican) did not know who he (the visitor) was. Mr Wise* man did not, and told: him so.’ ‘Another leading question as to whether his coming had been announced ; also drew forth a negative. Next ‘ came an off-handed request to be admitted to the bar, which done, the visitor, laid hold of sundry bottles of liquor, and uncorking smelt the contents. After several queries he appeared . satisfied. This examination over he ‘liquored up,’ entered the parlor and questioned the right of two gentlemen there to be in the hotel on Sunday. .’. He was assured they were lodgers, and after a while waxed communicative. He volunteered the information’ that he was a .Swiss, and offered to ‘ tie -anyone up in that language,’ He also confided to. the proprietor that, he .was. stationed at Devonport, and had instructions to visit and search the coastal hotels. He did not want the police to know of his visit, as he was watching them as. well as. the publicans. He was going to be lenient for the first offence, but after that ‘.no mercy would be shown. The man visited the Central Hotel and also the Commercial Hotel. He told Mr Pearce that he had taken the names of 120 persons found in hotels on Sunday since he started out, but he had to congratulate him and his fellow publicans that the Burnie hotels were the best conducted on the coast. Mr Pearce was naturally pleased at this information. The

Visitor then confided he was about to search the house of a leading religious man in Burne. Here, he lowered his .voice as the intelligence seemed to warrant He was sorry that a scandal should be caused, but the fact was sly-grog selling was suspected. He then made an admission which lowered him considerably in the estimation of Mr Pearce. When he went back to Devonport he was going to tackle collecting dog licenses! He left Burnie late at night, driving a horse and trap, which he had stated he got from Johnston’s Bridge Hotel, Forth. At 3 a.m. yesterday he roused ‘ up Mr B. McKenna, of the Middleton Hotel, and wanted to know if he had any persons on the premises other than lodgers. Mr M’Kenna thought the man must be mad, but the brass buttons in the night light were suggestive, and a peremptory order secured an examination. .. The denouement thus came about. Yesterday Mr P. H. Furner visited Ulverstone and. naturally made inquiries as to the 41) names secured by Robertson. He was surprised to find that ‘no visitation had been made as alleged. The truth at once dawned on him, and on returning he saw Acting-Sergeant Fidler. They both set out to .overtake the imposter, and did so at Penguin, where he was putting Mr Coram of the Penguin Hotel, through his facings. He protested when taxed by the Acting-Sergeant to produce his authority tbat he was in structed by Superintendent Armstrong at Latrobe. On being told : that there was no Superintendent Armstrong at Latrobe, he said he meant Trooper Armstrong. On being further told there was no trooper of that name in the Tasmanian force, ho looked foolish. His arrest followed, as stated, the man still contending that a member of .the force was being lodged in gaol. It is believed that the man is a returned soldier, Henry Robertson by name. He is a young fellow of about 26 years of age. North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times (Tas. : 1899 – 1919), Tuesday 23 June 1903, page 3

Thursday Doors is hosted by Norm 2.0 at Thursday Doors.  Why don’t you come and join us and share a few of your favourite doors.

Best wishes,

Rowena

An Almighty Juggling Act…Concert Pianist & Mother, Eunice Gardiner.

If you’ve been following Beyond the Flow for any length of time at all, you’ll know that I’m totally obsessed and absorbed in research. Indeed, I wrap myself up in all these stories like a thick fleecy blanket feeling so snug and cosy.

Yet, there’s also that frustration. The compulsion to keep on searching even though you know what you’re looking for isn’t out there, and you’re needing to go offline.

That’s where I was tonight.  I’m actually in the throws of researching my grandfather’s second cousin, Asher Hart, who was a champion swimmer who was struck down by polio in his teens, but went on to become a surf champion and saved four lives on Black Sunday 1938 when a mini tsunami hit a crowded Bondi Beach in Sydney. Given my own struggles with disability and muscle wastage, he’s been such an inspiration to me in recent years, even though I only stumbled across him five years ago while I was recovering from chemo.

Anyway, it was getting late by now and I was winding down while my last cup of tea was cooling down, and entered my grandfather’s name into the search engine for these old newspapers. You can tag the articles so I can easily spot the ones I’ve read and the ones I’ve missed. New newspapers are being uploaded so it can be very productive to revisit what really might seem like the end of the road. Indeed, my motto is: Never Give Up, which could be a bit of a problem when research isn’t supposed to be the centre of my universe. Or, as is often the case, it can easily become my universe. I can become incredibly focused.

So, here I am tinkering away with these old newspapers around midnight, when I strike gold. Indeed, tinkering right before bed can be quite a bad thing because that seems to be when I stumble across something I can’t put down. That I must explore immediately and there endeth a good night’s sleep.

Eunice with Bon in Backpack

Tonight, I stumbled across an article and photo of my grandmother, concert pianist Eunice Gardiner carrying my uncle in a back pack. I have never even seen this photo before, and I’m absolutely stoked. There she is not only photographed with him in the backpack, but she’s also talking about going shopping with the toddler on her back, the baby on the front while my grandfather was away with the army. Yet, not one to be conquered like us other mere mortals, she was also giving a Beethoven Concert at the   Sydney Conservatorium. Moreover, she discusses all of this as though everybody was doing it and there’s no talk at all about taking one small step for woman and an enormous leap for womenkind”. She was simply her own person. Mind you, that was also a bit of a luxury enabled by her mother, Mrs Ruby Gardiner, who steeped in and looked after the kids a long with household help. There was actually a migrant hostel at nearby with a source of willing labour. That’s not to belittle her extraordinary achievements, but I share this to console those of us battling to stay afloat in the real world. My two are just under two years apart, and I haven’t forgotten the difficulties of trying to get out the door with two little ones in tow. I also had backpacks, front packs but for getting to the shops, I had this extraordinary double pram contraption I’d picked up from the op shop with a toddler seat on the front. It was the size of a bus and really didn’t encourage going out. By the way, we also had a huge English Sheepdog who was tied to the pram on these walks. In hindsight, I don’t know how we survived. Rufus could well have bolted to the beach after a seagull despite the cumbersome attachments. He was that type of dog…a pure maniac.

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My Grandmother at the Australian Embassy in Washington, 1948. She had three children all back in Australia when this photo was taken, including my Dad. So hard to comprehend on so many, many levels.

Despite my grandmother having seven children, I never thought of her being loaded up to the hilt with kids like myself. While my youngest uncles are only ten and eleven years older than me, I still just think of her as MY GRANDMOTHER and given that I often went round and saw her on my own, that makes a lot of sense. Each of us has multiple roles and relationships to different people and we’re not as pigeon-holed as we often try to make out. Indeed, she was much more complex than her title: “Melba of the Piano” implied. She was a modern, Renaissance Woman.

I was so happy to find this article, that I decided to post it here where it’s easily accessible to the family and I can share it with you as well. It’s not like showing it on TV. My blog has more of an “intimate” audience.

I hope you enjoy reading it and might even feel a tad inspired, even if it is only to take yourself off for a walk.

Best wishes,

Rowena

I remember reading a story about your grandmother. I think it was about her trip to New York, if I’m not mistaken. She was quite the character, traveling alone to follow her passion.

Thanks for the comment, Rowena. Have a nice day. 🙂

Liked by you

  1. Thank you, Varad. My grandmother has been this incredible mystery all my life and having all these old newspapers go online, has both illuminated and confused me. One of the things that really blew me away, was finding out there was a miniature grand piano on top of my grandparents’ wedding cake. My husband and I have both thought it was an acknowledgement that my grandfather was marrying her the piano and all that went with it. I’ve never seen a photo of the cake and would dearly love to and I only found out about it from the newspapers. It is very strange finding out such personal details about your own grandmother through old newspapers online. The other thing that I’ve come to realize is that her genes have been passed onto us. In the past, that was simply seen as whether or not we’d inherited her musical talent, and perhaps in the more specific context of the piano. Could we play? It’s taken me some time and a few more generations to join the mix, to see that we have inherited a smattering of things from her, including an absolutely dogged determination and focus, which was just as important to her success as her musical talent. A jack of all trades isn’t going to cut the mustard.
    You’ve inspired got a story there, Varad and I’m going to paste it to the end of my post. Your comment really got me thinking this morning as I’m back at my desk with a cup of tea, porridge and my go pills.
    Hope you have a lovely weekend!
    Best wishes,
    Rowena

 

Weekend Coffee Share… 17th July, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This week, I’m retracting all my boasts about the balmy warmth of a Sydney Winter, and will let you know you’d better bring a big thick woolly blanket when you come to visit me this week. Indeed, last night, I not only dug the scout blanket out of storage, I put a beanie and woolen gloves on before going to bed AND jacked my electric blanket up to high. It only warms the bottom side and cool air was chilling my head through the window and one blanket and a doona were no longer enough over the top. I think I saw that it was actually 18°C today. So, you probably take me for an absolute wimp. However, the houses here aren’t central heated or prepared for the cold and are better suited to letting out the heat. That’s great for about 10-11 months in the year but then there’s that last month of Winter that really reminds you you’re alive and Winter isn’t such a myth after all.

So, what have you been up to?

Last week, I headed up to Blackheath in the Blue Mountains West of Sydney to stay with a cousin. We’re not exactly first cousins. Rather, we’re what I call “family history cousins” and my 4 x Great Grandfather and her Great Grandfather were brothers who came from the island of Islay in the Scottish Hebrides. I contacted her recently to fill her in on all my discoveries of bigamy, divorce and other intrigues, and she told me a cousin had dropped off two albums of photos dating back to the 1880s and invited me to stay. I was off. Didn’t need to be asked twice. I don’t like leaving people without a name, especially when such old photos are so rare and precious.

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A page from the historic family photo album showing Angus Rutherford Johnston & James Campbell.

Blackheath is in the Upper Blue Mountains and Sydney-siders have called it Bleakheath due to its “freezing” temperatures for generations. Blackheath locals call themselves “Blackheathens”. They sound like a dangerous bunch but are actually rather harmless. Indeed, there’s a strong creative community thriving in the area, along with an outpost of one of my favourite bookshops: Glee Books. Yes, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven when I spotted that and of course I bought a stack more books despite having piles and piles of books back here at home that I’ve never read.

Above:A family visit to the Paragon Cafe in 2011 Continue reading

Off To Join The Blackheathens…

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

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

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

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

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

Govetts Leap

 

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

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

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

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

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

Have you ever been to Blackheath?

Best wishes,

Rowena