Tag Archives: Lutheran Church

Hahndorf, South Australia: the Blacksmith and the Artists.

Welcome to Hahndorf, a German-Australian village in South Australia’s Adelaide Hills.  As you prepare for landing, could you please switch you clocks back well into last century to an era where there were few, if any, cars and the horse and cart were still being serviced at HA Haebich’s Smithy on Main Road, Hahndorf. That was before WWI when Hahndorf’s name was changed to Ambleside, as a reflection of fierce anti-German sentiment and changed back again in 1935.

Map showing the location of Hahndorf.

I send my apologies in advance as this is only going to be a rudimentary tour. This will only be a fleeting day trip for the Blogging from A-Z Challenge. I promise I’ll pop back later for a more in depth visit.

My much loved Grandfather, Bert Haebich, was not only born in Hahndorf but was also descended from the Hartmann and Paech families, who were among the very first German settlers to arrive in Australia back in 1838. These Lutherans were escaping persecution in Prussia and came to South Australia in search of religious freedom. They were an extremely stoic and hardworking community who used to walk their produce into Adelaide on foot and certainly weren’t afraid of backbreaking hard work!!

Hahndorf is a thriving tourist attraction these days and something of a living museum. In so many ways, it looks like a chunk of 19th century Germany, which was dug up and transplanted to the South Australia. Many of the original houses have been retained and restored including Haebich’s Cottage, the family’s home on Main Street, which was built in the late 1850’s by J.Georg. Haebich. It is a substantial ‘fachwerk’ (basically a timber skeleton with infill of pug [straw/mud], brick or stone) German cottage and is absolutely gorgeous.

As this is just a fleeting tour, I’m going to cut to the chase and introduce you to the Blacksmith and the artists.

Heinrich August Haebich, my Great Great Grandfather had a Smithy on Main Street, Hahndorf and lived in Haebich’s Cottage next door. August was was born in Hahndorf on the 17th March, 1851 to Johann George HAEBICH (1813-1872) and Christiane SCHILLER (-1857). August married Maria Amalie Thiele in 1874 but she died less than a year later and on 12th April, 1877, he married Caroline Maria Paech. They had 9 children and I think all four boys worked in the Smithy at some time. With the advent of the car, the business slowly wound down and my Great Grandfather Ed left to work as an engineer with the railways and later as a market gardener. His brother Bill was the last Haebich blacksmith…the end of the line.

My grandfather loved telling me stories of growing up in Hahndorf and I was enchanted. There was an incredible cast of characters and antics like tying a goat to the Church bells so they rang every time to goat reached out to eat more grass. There was also an explosion of some sort during WWII, which sparked fears of a Japanese invasion but was yet another prank. There was a cockatoo which allegedly used to walk across the road leaning to one side with its wing bent staggering along saying: “Drunk again! Drunk again!” Hahndorf is a short distance from the Barossa Valley, one of Australia’s most famous wine-growing regions and there is even a Lutheran Church planted, or should I surrounded by vineyards. I think that should put you in the picture!

While most of the characters in my grandfather’s stories remained anonymous, one name certainly stood out. That was the world-renowned artist Sir Hans Heysen, who lived in Hahndorf with his wife Sallie and family in a spectacular home called: “The Cedars”.

Hans Heysen, "White Gums".

Hans Heysen, “White Gums”.

“Its (the gum tree) main appeal to me has been its combination of mightiness and delicacy – mighty in its strength of limb and delicate in the colouring of its covering. Then it has distinctive qualities; in fact I know of no other tree which is more decorative, both as regards the flow of its limbs and the patterns the bark makes on its main trunk. In all its stages the gum tree is extremely beautiful.”

SIR HANS HEYSEN

 

Heysen had what you could describe as a spiritual relationship with the Australian Gum Tree and he was also captivated by light and trying to capture and infuse light onto the canvas. Understandably, Heysen was quite the conservationist, particularly where saving these glorious gum trees, which were threatened by the installation of electric wires but also by development. He deeply lamented each tree which was lost. Indeed, it was his through his protection of the local gum trees that Hans Heysen entered my Grandfather’s stories. It was known that if anybody wanted to chop down one of these trees, they would have to speak to Hans Heysen first and he was a formidable force. I also found out that my grandfather’s sister, Ivy, worked as a housekeeper for the Heysen’s. That still intrigues me and unfortunately I need had the chance to discuss this with her.

My grandfather took this photo at the Hahndorf Centenary Celebrations in 1938 and I believe that in Hans Heysen standing on the RHS wearing a white coat and his characteristic knickerbockers and long boots.

My grandfather took this photo at the Hahndorf Centenary Celebrations in 1938 and I believe that in Hans Heysen standing on the RHS wearing a white coat and his characteristic knickerbockers and long boots.

Here is a link to some of Hans Heysen’s works: http://www.artgallery.sa.gov.au/agsa/home/Learning/docs/Online_Resources/Heysen_Trail.pdf

With his love and reverence for the Australian Gum Tree, I guess it is fair to say that Heysen’s outlook fitted in better with the more pastoral and bush portrayal of Australia and Heysen certainly despised Modernism and all its trappings. This was reflected in paintings such as The Toilers (1920) where Hans Heysen painted a local farmer “Old Kramm” and his horses.

Perhaps, it was Heysen’s love for this passing pre-mechanised world,which inspired Hans Heysen to undertake an etching of Haebich’s Smithy in 1912. My grandfather had a print of this painting and it was something we knew about and I guess were proud of without knowing any background to it at all.

Hans Heysen, "The Old Blacksmith's Shop, Hahndorf." (1912)

Hans Heysen, “The Old Blacksmith’s Shop, Hahndorf.” (1912)

It was only last year, that I really questioned Heysen’s perspective of the Blacksmith’s shop and how his still life contrasted to my grandfather’s animated stories of a busy, flourishing workshop. I remember how my grandfather;s face would light up, even as an old man, talking about how the water would whoosh up when the red hot steel rim for the wheel would be dunked in water producing an incredible gush of steam. He was a small boy once again mesmerised by the whole experience and and there was such theatre.

In addition to questioning Heysen’s still life of a place which was anything but still, I also realised that Heysen’s work portrayed the more traditional tools of blacksmithing at a time when the Smithy was already being mechanised. August Haebich and his eldest son Otto, were innovative engineers who invented the Wattle Stripper and engines. They were hardly relics from the past or living and breathing museum pieces.

So, there was a bit of food for thought, which I’ll need to investigate further.

In the meantime, while  doing yet another Google search and romping through the online newspapers at Trove, I made quite a discovery. It might not warrant global acclaim but it felt like I’d found a gold nugget in my own backyard. Believe me!  I was shouting “Eureka”from the rafters even though no one else was listening!

It turned out that Hans Heysen wasn’t the only famous artist who had depicted the Haebich Smithy. Hans and Sallie Heysen entertained numerous artists and performers at The Cedars. Indeed, famous singer Dame Nellie Melba was a regular visitor and naturally fellow artists also came to stay. Naturally, they roamed around Hahndorf and did what artists do…sketch. After all, the very quaint German buildings are what we would now call very “photogenic”.

Lionel Lindsay: "The Smithy Window, Ambleside" (1924).

Lionel Lindsay: “The Smithy Window, Ambleside” (1924).

So, consequently, I have unearthed other sketches of the Haebich Smithy. There was one by Sir Lionel Lindsay, brother of artist and author Norman Lindsay of Magic Pudding fame as well as artist and art publisher Sydney Ure Smith. Sydney Ure Smith was so smitten with Hahndorf, that he included scenes in his book: Old Colonial By-Ways (1928)…alongside much more recognised Sydney landmarks such as the buildings in Macquarie Street and Elizabeth Farm House in Parramatta, which is the oldest house in Australasia. Elizabeth Farm House was built In 1793 Sir John MacArthur and was where he con ducted his experiments with merino sheep, giving birth to the Australian wool industry.

Sydney Ure Smith: The Blacksmith's Shop, Ambleside (1925).

Sydney Ure Smith: The Blacksmith’s Shop, Ambleside (1925).

So, immortalised alongside, Elizabeth Farm House, is Haebich’s Smithy.

When you look at it like that, it really does seem rather incredible and amazing and yes, I’m impressed, proud and so many superlatives that I couldn’t possibly get them all down without sounding like a thesaurus!

xx Rowena

Blogger’s Block and the Ghost of Steam Engines Past.

Have you ever found that this blogging business is much more difficult than you’d ever imagined?

That when you just want to write a seemingly simple post, for some unknown reason, the words, the thoughts, the structure simply won’t come together?

I’m not talking about writer’s block. It’s not about staring at a blank page or an empty screen. There are words. There are ideas. You’re just not “in the flow”. All those thoughts, words and ideas won’t link up. They’re like random Lego bricks refusing to snap together.

That’s where I’m at.

I just wanted to post a simple postcard from the Workshops Railway Museum in Ipswich and yet it’s not coming together. I’ve been working on this post for a couple of days now and what I thought should have been a pretty basic exercise, has become an epic struggle.

It doesn’t make a lot of sense. Our family has been going to the train museum since 2007 and I thought I knew it pretty well. Moreover, I’m not trying to write anything that fancy…only a simple postcard. It should be Simple Simon… “Having a wonderful time. Wish you were here” and upload a couple of photos.  Yes, I know a blog post has to be a bit better than that but it’s not rocket science.

My problems all began with trying to write about the big, black steam engine out the front. As much as I love it, I couldn’t tell you what type of train it was or anything about its history. I don’t know what it was, how many wheels it has or whether they are big wheels or little wheels and what gauge of track it requires. It is simply the big, black engine. I can just vouch for the colour but if you were to tell me that it is green instead of black, I wouldn’t argue the point. I just remember photographing the kids on it and Geoff discussing its technical specifications (not that I can actually remember any of the details). I love the romance of steam trains and all the history but I am not technical!! I am really not technical.

Slowly but surely, the cause of my writing difficulties was coming to light. I was trying to write in my husband’s voice, instead of my own. You see, he is the train enthusiast, along with our son…not me. I don’t actually know much, if anything, about trains. I was trying to give a technical tour of the museum when clearly I’m not a technical person. I was trying to crawl inside my husband’s shoes, or more pertinently his head and it’s no wonder I couldn’t string everything together. There were too many gaps to fill in. I like trains and I love the train museum but I’m there taking photos and that is my love. I’m not into all that nitty gritty train stuff just like I have no idea what’s under the hood of my car.

So I’m going to give you my very own unique tour of the train museum and that involves a bit of a history of our visits to the museum, which all started off with a bit of a bang when our then 3 year old son threw the tantrum to end all tantrums and almost busted his boiler and mine along with it when we had to leave.

Almost heaven!

Almost heaven!

This is not an uncommon event at the train museum. You could just imagine what that place is to a little kid. They’re in heaven and their mean and nasty Mum or Dad is dragging them away…you’d be complaining too. Fortunately, the museum’s staff are very obliging and will turn things off to help you get out the door.

Captain Newton...the Captain lends Mister his real Qantas Captain's Hat.

Captain Newton…the Captain lends Mister his real Qantas Captain’s Hat.

At Sydney Airport before Take Off

At Sydney Airport before Take Off

We were in Ipswich to attend an official service to celebrate my grandfather’s 70th year of ordination. At 92 years of age, my grandfather was the second longest-serving minister in the Lutheran Church in Australia.  My father and I had a bit of time to fill in and decided to take Mister to the train museum. We were just planning to check it out and come back the next day if it was any good.

Train Driver

Train Driver

Well, Mister was happy beyond his wildest dreams and thought he had died and gone to train heaven!!! You could just imagine his delight when he was surrounded by huge big steam trains. His eyes were almost bursting out of their sockets and I can just imagine how he felt when all those magnificent steam trains suddenly came to life. He was beyond excitement. Moreover, there wasn’t just steam trains. There was also a huge model train track which totally dwarfed his little wooden train set back home. He was fixated watching the model trains and pressing all the buttons. For a little 3 year old boy who adored trains, this place was just superlative. He was happy beyond his wildest, wildest dreams!!

Then, it was time to go.

Now, I’m sure you can see it coming… the tantrum. Not just any tantrum either. Mister blew a boiler!

My Dad ended up carrying him out of the museum and he was still kicking, screaming and fighting with all his might to go back in when we finally managed to get him into the car. Even then, he absolutely refused to get into his car seat and he certainly gave fresh meaning to the power of persistence…

Nothing in the 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. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

Calvin Coolidge.

You know how these events work. The entire day is planned out with clockwork precision and meltdowns by toddlers aren’t factored into the schedule.

We were in big trouble.

The Cake

The Cake

Well, we managed to get there on time in the end but it was a lot of stress.

Looking at cards the next day with Papa Bert

Looking at cards the next day with Papa Bert

I laugh when I look back on it all now. You know how it is. The worst moments often make the best stories down the track.

We have all loved the train museum so much that we’ve had annual membership passes even though we live inter-state over 1000 kilometres away. We just make sure we stay for the best part of a day to keep everybody happy. There is so much to see and do!!

This still isn’t the postcard I’d intended to send from the train museum. That’s still to come. Perhaps, we’ll call this one the ghost of steam engines past.

One interesting little PS to this post.

Both children at the train museum.

Both children at the train museum.

I finally finished this post last night and then went hunting for the photos. They turned out to be quite an insight. You can’t just trust everything to memory. Our daughter was also in the photos.  Somehow, she had been omitted from the story. I had assumed that we had left her back at the house with my Mum but there she was in all the photos. Photos I had mentally attributed to a later visit. I also found photos of the technical details. Perhaps, they were for Geoff. He couldn’t get time off work for that visit and we had flown up with Mum. There is also a remote possibility that I was trying to educate myself on the technical aspects of trains, although that has to be pretty doubtful. Who knows? Memory is obviously an unreliable witness.

Taking care of his little sister.

Taking care of his little sister.