Tag Archives: Tasmania

“My Grandmother and Myself”…A Short Story From WWI.

Two years ago, our son was booked to go on a European history tour with his school, which included visiting the battlefields of WWI, and spending ANZAC Day at Villers-Bretonneaux. Wanting him to know what our family members had gone through, I started researching my Great Great Uncle, Jack Quealey, and my husband’s Great Uncle Ralph French who was Killed in Action at the Battle of Mont St Quentin.

It was all supposed to be fairly quick, and nothing more than an overview. However, it was me doing the research, and after covid hit and his trip was cancelled, unravelling and understanding their WWI experiences dramatically expanded to become “My Covid Project”, especially as lockdowns and self-isolation continue. Once again, my passionate curiosity had led me astray.

As it turned out, there were some interesting twists to their stories. Uncle Jack’s parents were Irish, and the “Bill” Uncle Ralph mentioned in his diary might’ve been born in Tasmania, but his parents and siblings were German-born. While the Irish initially supported the Empire and got behind the war effort, the 1916 Uprising and the brutal English response, reignited longstanding animosity and called for independence. I’m Australian and we weren’t taught any Irish history at school or university and I just grew up with some scant reference to the potato famine. I had no idea parts of the family had come out more recently, and what had gone on. Ireland was simply the land of green grass and Guinness. Clearly, I’ve been on a steep upward curve trying to make sense of it all, and it’s no wonder I’ve ended up in an Irish mist so much of the time.

Anyway, this brings me to this short story I wanted to share with you. Of course, it will mean a lot more to people with Irish heritage, but I really enjoyed it as a story and was also intrigued by the grandmother who can’t see, but has incredible vision- very much like a close friend of mine.

My Grandmother And Myself 

By Mary Synon 

ILLUSTRATIONS BY BOARDMAN ROBINSON 

My grandmother was at the basement window, peering into the street as if she were watching for someone, when I came home from school. “Is that you, John?” she asked me as I stood in the hall stamping the snow from my boots. “Sure,” I called to her. “Who’d you think I was? A spirit?” 

She laughed a little as I went into the room and flung down my books. My grandmother hasn’t seen any one in ten years, though she sits day after day looking out on the street as if a parade were passing; but she knows the thump of my books on the table as well as she knows the turning of my father’s key in the lock of the door. “‘Tis a lively spirit you’d make, Shauneen,” she said with that chuckle she saves for me. “No, ’twas your father I thought was coming.” 

“What’d he be doing home at this time?”

“These are queer days,” she said, “and there are queer doings in them.”

“There’s nothing queer that I can see,” I told her. 

“I’m an old, blind woman,” she said, “but sometimes I see more than do they who have the sight of their two eyes.” 

She said it so solemnly, folding her hands one over the other as she drew herself up in her chair, that I felt a little thrill creeping up my spine. ”What do you mean?” I asked her.

“Time’ll tell you,” she said. 

My mother came in from the kitchen then. “Norah forgot to order bacon for the morning,” she said. “Will you go to the market, John, before you do anything else?” 

“Oh, I’m going skating,” I protested. 

“It won’t take you five minutes,” said my mother. She seemed tired and worried. The look in her eyes made me feel that there was trouble hanging over the house. My mother isn’t like my grandmother. When things go wrong, my grandmother stands up straight, and throws back her shoulders, and fronts ahead as if she were a general giving orders for attack; but my mother wilts like a hurt flower. She was drooping then while she stood in the room, so I said: “All right, I’ll go,” though I’d promised the fellows to come to the park before four o’clock. 

“And look in at the shop as you go by,” my grandmother said, “and see if your father’s there now.” 

“Why shouldn’t he be?” my mother asked. 

There was a queer sound in her voice that urged me around past my father’s shop. My father was there in the little office, going over blue-prints with Joe Krebs’s uncle and Mattie Kleiner’s father and a big man I’d never seen before. I told my grandmother when I went home. “I knew it,” she said. “I knew it. And I dreamed last night of my cousin Michael who died trying to escape from Van Diemen’s Land.” 

“You knew what?” I asked her, for again that strange way of hers sent shivery cold over me. 

“Go to your skating,” she bade me. 

There wasn’t much skating at Tompkins Square, though, when I found the crowd. The sun had come out strong in the afternoon and the ice was melting. “Ground-hog must have seen his shadow last week,” Bennie Curtis said. All the fellows—Joe Carey and Jim Dean and Frank Belden and Joe Krebs and Mattie Kleiner and Fred Wendell and the rest of them—had taken off their skates and were starting a tug of war in the slush. Mattie Kleiner was the captain on one side and Frank Belden the captain on the other. Mattie had chosen Joe Krebs and Jim Dean and Joe Carey on his side. Just as I came along he shouted that he chose me. Frank Belden yelled that it was his choice and that he’d take me.

“He don’t want to be on your side!” Mattie cried. “He’s with the Germans!” 

“Well, I guess not,” I said, “any more than I’m with the English. I’m an American.” 

“You can’t be just an American in this battle,” Frank Belden said. 

“Then I’ll stay out of it,” I told him. 

They all started to yell ” Neutral!” and “‘Fraid cat!” and “Oh, you dove of peace!” at me. I got tired of it after a while, and I went after Mattie hard. When I’d finished with him he bawled at me: “Wait till your father knows, he’ll fix you!” 

“What for?” I jeered.

“For going against his principles, that’s what,” Mattie Kleiner roared. 

“I’d like to know what you know about my father’s principles,” I laughed at him. 

“Well, I ought to know,” he cried. “I heard him take the oath.” 

“What oath?” we all demanded, but Mattie went off in surly silence. Joe Krebs and Joe Carey trailed after him. I stayed with the other fellows until it was dark. Then I started for home. 

Joe Carey was waiting for me at the corner. “Do you believe him, John?” he asked me. “Do you believe Mattie about the oath?” 

“How’s that?” I parried. I seemed to remember having heard a man who’d been at the house a fortnight before whispering something about an oath, and I knew that I’d heard my mother say to my grandmother: “I pray to God he’ll get in no trouble with any oaths or promises.” I kept wondering if Mattie Kleiner’s father and Joe Krebs’s uncle and the big man with the blue-prints who’d been in my father’s shop had anything to do with it.

“Oh, Mattie’s talking in his sleep,” I said. 

“Well, maybe,” said Joe Carey; “but he wasn’t sleeping the night they had the meeting in his house. He was on the stairs going up to the top floor, and he kept the door open a little way and he heard everything they said, and nobody at all knew he was there.” 

Joe Carey’s eyes were almost popping out of his head, and so I knew that Mattie had been telling him a long story.

“I guess he didn’t hear very much,” I said. 

“You bet he did,” Joe declared. “He heard them reading the letters telling people not to go on the ships because they were going to be sunk, and he heard them talking about bombs and munition factories. He says that he heard your father say that he’d gladly lay down his life for the sake of Ireland.” 

“But Ireland’s not in this war!” 

“Sure it is! Mattie says the Germans are going to free Ireland if they beat England. That’s why the Irish ought to be with the Germans. Mattie says your father’ll be awful ashamed that you wouldn’t go on his side. Mattie says your father…” 

“I don’t give a whoop what Mattie says about my father,” I told him. “I guess I can take my own part.” 

“I guess you’ll have to,” said Joe. 

As I went up the street toward our house I had that queer feeling that comes sometimes after I’ve been away for a while, a fear that something terrible has happened while I’ve been gone and that I’ll be blamed for it. It was dark on the street, for people hadn’t lighted the lamps in the basement dining-rooms, and I was hurrying along when suddenly a man’s voice came over my shoulder. I hadn’t heard his step behind me at all, and I jumped when he spoke.

“Where does Mr. John Sutton live?” he asked me. 

“Right there.” I pointed to our house. 

“Do you know him?” he asked. Through the dark I could see that he was a tall man with sharp eyes. I knew that I had never seen him before, and that he didn’t look like any of the men who came to my father’s machine-shop. “Don’t you know Mr. Sutton?” he repeated. 

“Yes, sir.” 

“Know him well, sonny?” 

“Yes, sir.” 

“How well?” 

“He’s my father.” 

He whistled softly, then laughed, turned on his heel, and strode down the street. I watched him to see if he’d take the turn toward the shop, but he turned the other way at the corner. I thought that I’d tell my grandmother about him, but my mother was with her in the dark when I went in. They were talking very low, as if someone were dead in the house, but I heard my mother say, “If I only knew how far he’s gone in this!” and my grandmother mutter: “Sure, the farther he goes in, the farther back he’ll have to come.” I stumbled over a chair as I went into the room with them, and they both stopped talking. 

I could hear the little hissing whisper my grandmother always makes while she says the rosary, but I could hear no sound from my mother at all until she rose with a sigh and lighted the gas-lamp. She looked at me as if she hadn’t known I’d been there. “Have you any homework to do to-night, John?” she asked me. 

“No, ma’am,” I said. “It’s Friday.”

“Then I want you to come to church with me after your dinner,” she said.

“Oh, I don’t want to go to church,” I’d said before my grandmother spoke. 

“‘Twill be a queer thing to me as long as I live,” she said, “that those who have don’t want what they have and that those who haven’t keep wanting.” 

The telephone bell rang just then up in the room that my father uses for an office, and I raced up to answer it. A man’s voice, younger than that of the man who’d spoken to me, came over the wire. “Say, is this John Sutton’s residence?” it asked. “And is he home? And, if he isn’t, who are you?” 

“What do you want?” I called. 

“Information. This is The World. We hear that there’s to be a meeting of the clans to-night, and we want to know where it’s to be held.” 

“I don’t know,” I said. 

“Can you find out?” 

“No,” I lied. “There’s nobody home.” 

“Won’t your father be home for dinner?” 

Even then I could hear his key turning in the lock, could hear him passing on his way up to his bedroom, but a queer kind of caution was being born in me. “No, sir,” I said. (pg227)

“Who was that?” my grandmother asked me when I went down. 

I told her of the call, told her, too, of the man who had stopped me on the street. Her rosary slipped through her fingers. “I feared it,” she said. Then the whisper of her praying began again. 

At dinner my father was strangely silent. Usually he talks a great deal, all about politics, and the newspapers, and the trouble with the schools, and woman-suffrage, and war. But he said nothing at all except to ask me if the skating were good. My mother was just as quiet as he, and I would have been afraid to open my mouth if my grandmother hadn’t started in to tell about New York in the days she’d come here, more than sixty-five years ago. She talked and talked about how different everything had been then, with no tall buildings and no big bridges and no subways and no elevateds. “Faith, you can be proud of your native town, John,” she said to my father. 

“I wish I’d been born in Ireland,” he said. 

She laughed. “And if I’d stayed in Ireland, I’d have starved,” she said, “and little chance you’d have had of being born anywhere.” 

“It might have been just as well,” he said bitterly.

“Oh, no,” she said; “there’s Shauneen.” 

He rose from the table, flinging down his napkin. “I won’t be home till very late,” he said to my mother. 

She stood up beside him. “Do you have to go, John?” she asked him. 

“Yes,” he said. 

“Oh, John,” she said, “I’m afraid.” 

“Of what?” 

“Of what may happen you.” 

“Nothing’ll happen me,” he said. 

I wanted to tell him of the strange man who had halted me on the street, and of the telephone call, but my father’s anger was rising and I feared to fan it to flame. My grandmother said nothing until after my father had gone. Then she spoke to my mother. 

“Don’t you know better,” she asked her, “and you eighteen years married to him, than to ask John not to do something you don’t want him to do?” 

My mother began to cry as we heard the banging of the outer door after my father. “Well, if you can do nothing else,” my grandmother said, “you’d better be off to church. Keep your eyes open, Shauneen,” she warned me, while my mother was getting her hat and coat. 

It was a grand night, with the evening star low in the sky, like a lamp, and the big yellow moon just rising in the east. The wind blew sharp and salt off the water, but there was a promise of spring in the air, saying that it must be almost baseball time. We went over to the Jesuit church, walking slowly all the way. There we knelt in the dark until I was stiff. As we came out my mother stopped at the holy-water font. “John,” she said, “will you promise me that if you ever marry you’ll never set any cause but God’s above your wife?” 

“No, ma’am, I won’t,” I said, vaguely understanding that my father had hurt my mother by his refusal to stay at home, and wondering what cause he had set above her. As we walked toward the car line I remembered what Joe Carey had told me of Mattie Kleiner’s speech about my father. “Do you have to go to Ireland to die for Ireland?” I asked her. She clutched my hand. “My grandfather died for Ireland,” she said, “and he wasn’t the first of his line to die for her. But I pray God that he may have been the last.” She said no more till we came into our own house. 

My grandmother was still at the window of the dining-room. There was no light, and my mother did not make one. “There was another telephone call,” my grandmother said. “Norah answered it. ‘Twas the newspaper calling again for John to ask about the meeting. She said she knew nothing about it and that no one was here to answer.” 

“Do you suppose,” I said, “it was detectives?” 

They said nothing, and I could feel a big lump coming up my throat. I thought they might not have heard me until my grandmother said: “Do you know, Kate, where the meeting is?” 

“I don’t know, and I don’t want to know,” my mother cried. She turned to me sharply. “Go to bed, John,” she said. 

“I know where the meetings are,” (pg 228) I blurted out, eager enough for any excuse to put off the hateful order. “They’re at Mattie Kleiner’s house, because he hides on the stairs when they come, and he heard them take the oath.” 

“Is that Matthew Kleiner’s boy?” my grandmother asked, so quietly that I thought she had not realized the importance of my news. 

“Yes, ma’am.” 

“Go to bed, Shauneen.” She repeated my mother’s order. 

I went up-stairs, leaving the two of them silent in the dark. I whistled while I undressed, but I shivered after I had turned out the light and jumped between the sheets. I was going to lie awake waiting for my father’s return, but I must have dozed, for I thought that it was in the middle of the night that something woke me. I knew, as soon as I woke, that someone was in my room. I could feel him groping. I tried to speak, but my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth. Then I heard a faint whisper. “Shauneen,” it said. 

So far away it seemed that I thought it might be a ghost until my grandmother spoke again. “Your mother’s in bed now,” she said. “Put on your clothes as quick as you can.” 

“What is it?” I whispered. 

“We’re going to Matthew Kleiner’s, you and I,” she said. “I’d go alone if I could see.” 

“What time is it?” 

“Between ten and eleven.” 

I pulled my clothes on as fast as I could. Then stealthily as thieves we crept out from my room and down the stairs. I held my grandmother’s hand and wondered at its steadiness. When we had come outside the basement-door she halted me. “Look down the street for the tall man,” she bade me. There was no one in sight, however, and we walked along sturdily, turning corners until we came to Kleiner’s. 

It was a red-brick house in a row, not a basement house like ours, but with a cellar below and an attic above its two main floors. There was no light on the first floor, but I thought that I saw a stream behind the drawn curtains upstairs. I found the bell and pushed on it hard. No one came for a long time. I rang again. I could see shadows back of the shades before Mattie Kleiner’s mother came.

“What is it?” she demanded before she opened the door. 

“Tell her that your mother’s sick, and that you’ve come for your father,” my grandmother ordered me.

I repeated what she’d said.

Mrs. Kleiner opened the door. “Oh,” she cried, “it is Mrs. Sutton and little John. Oh, you did frighten me. Is the mother very sick? I shall call the father.” 

“Let me go to him,” my grandmother said. We were inside the hall then, and I put her hand on the railing of the stairway. She had started up before Mrs. Kleiner tried to stop her. “I’ve a message for him,” said my grandmother. Mrs. Kleiner and I followed her. At the top of the stairs I turned her toward the front room, for I could hear the murmur of voices. I passed a door and wondered if Mattie Kleiner were hiding behind it. “Oh, we must not go in,” Mrs. Kleiner pleaded. “The men will not want us to go in.” She tried to stop us, but my grandmother turned, looking at her as if she could see her. “I’ve always followed my own conscience, ma’am,” she said, “not my husband’s, nor my son’s, nor any other man’s.” 

From within the front room came the sound of the voices, growing louder and louder as we stood there, my grandmother alert, Mrs. Kleiner appalled, I myself a thrill. I could hear my father’s voice, short, sharp. “It’s our great opportunity,” he was saying. “We have only to strike the blow at England’s empire, and the empire itself will arise to aid us. Twenty thousand men flung into Canada will turn the trick. French Quebec is disaffected. What if soldiers are there? We can fight them! We may die, but what if we do? We will have started the avalanche that will destroy Carthage!” 

There were cries of “Right!” to him. Then a man began to talk in German. His voice rang out harshly. From the murmurs that came out to us we knew that the men were applauding his words, but we had no idea of what the words were. Mrs. Kleiner stood wringing her hands. “Who’s in there?” my grandmother asked her. 

“I do not know,” she insisted. 

Pg 229

“Joe Krebs’s uncle is there,” I said. “I know his cough. And Mr. Winngart who keeps the delicatessen shop. And Frank Benner’s father; and that’s Mr. Carey’s voice.” 

“They just meet for fun,” groaned Mrs. Kleiner. 

“Sure, I saw that kind of fun before,” said my grandmother, “when the Fenians went after the Queen’s Own.” 

My father’s voice rose again. “We are ready to fire the torch? We are ready to send out the word tonight for the mobilization of our sympathizers? We are ready to stand together to the bitter end?” 

“We are ready!” came the shout. Then my grandmother opened the door. 

Through the haze of their tobacco smoke they looked up, the dozen men crowded into the Kleiners’ front bedroom, to see my grandmother standing before them, a bent old woman in her black dress and shawl, her little jet bonnet nodding valiantly from its perch on her thin white hair. She looked around as if she could see every one of them. My father had sprung forward at her coming, and, as if to hold him off, she put up one hand. 

“Is it yourself, John Sutton, who’s talking here of plots, and plans, and war?” she said. Her voice went up to a sharp edge. She flung back her head as if she defied them to answer her. All of them, my father and Joe Krebs’s uncle and Mattie Kleiner’s father and Mr. Carey and Mr. Winngart and the big man who’d had the blue-prints in the shop, and the others, stared at her as if she were a ghost. No one of them moved as she spoke.

“‘Tis a fine lot you are to be sitting here thinking ways to bring trouble on yourselves, and your wives, and your children, and your country. Who are there here of you? Is it yourself, Benedict Krebs, who’s going out to fight for Germany when your own father came to this very street to get away from Prussia? Is it you, Matthew Kleiner, who gives roof to them who plot against America, you, who came here to earn a living that you couldn’t earn at home? Is it you, Michael Carey, who’s helping them hurt the land that’s making you a rich man? Shame on you; shame on you all!” 

“Why shouldn’t we fight England?” Joe Carey’s father said with a growl. “You’d be the last one, Mrs. Sutton, that I’d think’d set yourself against that.” 

“‘Tis not England,” said my grandmother, “that you fight with your plots. ‘Tis America you strike when you strike here. And, as long as you stay here, be Americans and not traitors!” 

They began to murmur at that, and my father said: “You don’t know what you’re talking about, mother. You’d better take John home. This is no place for either of you.” 

“No more than it’s a place for you,” she said. “Will you be coming home with me now?” 

“I will not,” my father said. 

“Faith, and you’ll all be wishing you had,” she told them, “when the jails’ll be holding you in the morning.” 

“The jails!” The big man who had held the blue-prints came closer to us. “What is it you say of jails? You have told the police, then?” 

“I didn’t need to,” my grandmother said. “The government men have been watching this long time. ‘Twill be at midnight that they’ll come here. But ’tis not myself they’ll be finding.”

I saw the men’s glances flash around the room through the smoky haze before she called: “Come, Shauneen.”

I took her hand again and led her out of the room. Just before the door closed after us I saw that my father’s face had grown very white and that Mattie Kleiner’s father had dropped his pipe on the floor. 

Outside the house I spoke to my grandmother tremblingly. “Do the police really know?” I asked her.

She gave her dry little chuckle. “If they don’t, they should,” she answered; “but I was born an O’Brien, and I’ve never known one of them yet that ever told the police anything. No, Shauneen,” she laughed, “’twas the high hill I shot at, but I’m thinking that the shot struck. We’ll watch.” 

We crossed the street and waited in the shadow of the house at the corner. For a little while all was quiet at Kleiner’s. Then I saw the tall man come out with Joe Krebs’s uncle. After a time my father came out with Mr. Winngart and Mr. Carey. They walked to the other (Pg 230) corner and stood there a moment before they separated.

“Shall we go home now?” I asked my grandmother after I had told her what I had seen. 

“Not yet,” she said. “I’ve one more errand to do this night.”

I thought it might have something to do with the tall man who’d spoken to me or with the telephone call, and I wondered when she sighed. “I’m a very old woman,” she seemed to be saying to herself. “I’ll be ninety-one years come Michaelmas Day. Some of the world I’ve seen, and much of life. Out of it all I’ve brought but a few things. I’d thought to give these to my son. But—” She paused. “How old are you, Shauneen?” she asked me. 

“Fourteen,” I said. 

“Old enough,” she nodded. She turned her head as if she were looking for something or someone. Then: “Do you know your way to the Battery?” she asked me. 

“Sure,” I told her. “Are you going there?” 

“We are.” 

It had been quiet enough in our part of town. It was quieter yet when we came to Bowling Green and walked across to the Battery. Down there, past the high buildings and the warehouses, we seemed to have come into the heart of a hush. To the north of us the sky was afire with the golden glow from the uptown lights. In front of us ran the East River and the North River. Out on Bedloe’s Island I could see the shining of the Goddess of Liberty’s torch. Every little while a ferry-boat, all yellow with lights, would shoot out on the water. A sailing-vessel moved slowly after its puffing tug. The little oyster-boats were coming in from the bay. A steamer glided along past it as I walked with my grandmother out toward the old Castle Garden. 

On the Saturday before Joe Carey and I had come down to the piers, prowling all afternoon on the docks, watching the men bringing in the queer crates and boxes and bags while we told each other of the places from where the fruits and spices and coffee and wines had come. There were thousands and thousands of ships out there in the dark, I knew, and I began to tell my grandmother what some of the sailors had told us of how the trade of the world was crowding into New York, with the ships all pressing the docks for room.

“If you could only see it!” I said to her.

“I can see more than that,” she said. Then: “Take me to the edge of the waters,” she bade me. 

Wondering and a little frightened, obeyed her, trying to solve the while the mystery of her whim to bring me to the deserted park in the middle of the night.

“Is Castle Garden over there?” she pointed. “Then, I’ve my bearings now.” 

She stood alone, a little way off from me, staring seaward as if she counted the shadowy ships. The wind blew her thin white hair from under her bonnet and raised the folds of her shawl. There in the lateness of the night, alone at the edge of the Battery, she didn’t seem to be my grandmother at all, but some stranger. I remembered the story I’d read somewhere of an old woman who’d brought a pile of books to a King of Rome, books that she threw away, one by one, as he refused them, until there was but one book left. When he’d bought that one from her he’d found that it was the book of the future of the empire and that he’d lost all the rest through his folly. As I looked at my grandmother I thought she must be like the old woman of the story. Even her voice sounded strange and deep when she turned to me. 

“It was sixty-five years ago the seventh of November that I first stood on this soil,” she said. “‘Tis a long lifetime, and, thank God, a useful one I’ve had. Burdens I’ve had, but never did I lack the strength to bear them. Looking back, I’m sorry for many a word and many a deed, but I’ve never sorrowed that I came here.” 

I would have thought that she had forgotten me if she hadn’t touched my arm. “You’ve heard tell of the famine, Shauneen,” she went on, “the great famine that fell on Ireland, blighting even the potatoes in the ground? We’d a little place in Connaught then, a bit of land my father was tilling. We hadn’t much, even for the place, but we were happy enough, God knows, with our singing and dancing and the fairs and the patterns. Then, little by little, we grew poorer and poorer. I was the oldest of the seven of us. My (pg 231) Mother and myself’d be planning and scraping to find food for the rest of them. Everyday we’d see them growing thinner and thinner. Oh, mavrone, the pity of it! And they looking at us betimes as if we were cheating them of their bit of a sup! Sometimes now in the dark I see them come to my bed, with their soft eyes begging for bread, and we having naught to give them. Brigid—she was the youngest of them all—died. Then my father went. 

“I used to go down to the sea and hunt the wrack for bits of food. There by the shore I would look over here to America and pray, day after day, that the Lord would send to us some help before my mother should go. You don’t know what it is to pray, Shauneen. Your father cannot teach you and your mother hopes you’ll never learn. For prayer is born in agony, avick (my son), and grief and loss and sorrow. But because you are the son of my soul I pray for you that life may teach you prayer. For when you come to the end of the road, Shauneen, you’ll know that ’tis not the smoothness of the way, but the height of it and the depth of it, that measures your travelling. Far, far down in the depths I went when I prayed over there on the bleak coast of Connaught. 

“God answered my prayer. There came from America food to us. There came, too, the chance for me to come here with the promise of work to do. ‘Twas a drear day when I left home. How I cursed England as I looked back on the hills of Cork harbor, all green and smiling as if never a blight had cast its shadow behind them! 

“‘Twas a long, dreary sailing. Nine weeks we were in the crossing. A lifetime I thought it was between the day I looked on the western sea from the Connaught mountains and the day when I stood here looking back toward home. Sure life is full of lifetimes like those.” 

She paused a moment, but I felt as if I were under a spell that I must not break by word of mine. A cloud came over the moon and all around us grew shadowy. The big throb that the city always beats at night kept sounding like the thrumming of an orchestra waiting for the violin solo to start. 

“I’d plenty of them before many years.” My grandmother’s voice came like the sound for which the thrumming had waited. “Did you ever think what it means to the poor souls who come here alone for their living? When you’ve a house of your own, Shauneen, with men servants and maid servants, don’t forget that your father’s mother worked out for someone. They were kind people, too, who took me to their homes. Don’t forget that either. For ’tis my first memory of America. Kind they were, and just. They helped me save what I earned and they showed me ways of helping my folks at home. I’d brought out Danny and James and Ellen and Mary before the war. I met each one of them right here at Castle Garden. That’s why I always think of this place as the gateway through which the Irish have come to America. Sure Ellis Island’s been for the Italians and the Jews and the Greeks. We didn’t wait outside the door. We came straight in,” she chuckled. 

“My mother wouldn’t come from the old place. Long I grieved over her there in the little house where my father and Brigid had died, but after a while I knew she was happier so. Sometimes, Shauneen, I think of Ireland as an old woman, like my mother, sitting home alone in the old places, grieving, mourning, with her children out over the world, living the dreams of her nights by the fire. ‘Twas here we found the freedom the Irish had been fighting for. ‘Twas here, away from landlords and landholding, away from famine and persecution, that we found that life need not be a thing of sorrow. ‘Twas here I met your grandfather. 

“I’d nothing of my own, and your grandfather had but a trifle more when we married. I suppose ’tis brave that people would call us now. We didn’t think that we were. We were young and strong and we loved each other. And we were getting along fairly well—we’d started the payments on a bit of a house of our own after your father was born— when the war came down on us. 

“Your grandfather went with the brigade. Not twice did we think whether or not he should go. We knew that he owed his first duty to the country that (pg 232)had called him, and sheltered him, and given him work and hope and freedom. For he was a boy from home as I was a girl from home. I stood on the curbstone the day he marched by, with your father in my arms, and I cheered for the flag. ‘Sure he’ll be walking to meet you when you come back!’ I called, lifting up the child. Your grandfather never came back. He fell at Marye’s Heights.” 

When she spoke again her voice had changed more to her every-day tone. “Well, I raised your father,” she said, “and I thought I was raising him well. My arms were strong. I worked at the wash-tub morning, noon, and night. It wasn’t long till I had a laundry of my own. I thought to give my son all that I’d ever wanted for myself. Perhaps that was where I made my mistake. I thought too much of the things that money can buy in those years when money was so hard to earn. Perhaps ’twas myself and no other who taught your father the cold, hard things of life, though, God knows, I’d no thought to do it. He’s a good man in many ways, but he’s not the man I want you to be. He’s a good hater but he’s not a good lover. And, faith, what’s there in life but love?” 

I moved a little then, and my grandmother swung me around, with her two hands on my shoulders, and, blind as she is, stared at me as if she were looking right down into my heart. “Shauneen,” she said, “I have prayed, day and night, that your father might be to America the good citizen his father was. I have prayed that if America should ever need him he would stand ready for her call. I have prayed that he’d love America as I have loved America. I love Ireland, mavrone. Always in my heart do I see her hills as they looked on the morning I looked back on them from the sea. But I love America, too, and I wanted my son to love her even more than I do. I’ve wanted him to love this land as my fathers and their fathers loved Ireland. ‘Twas not that I wanted him to forget my land; when he was a lad like you, I’d tell him tales of Ireland’s glory and of Ireland’s woe. How was I to know that all it would do for him was to rouse the black hate for England? I taught him love for Ireland, but never did I teach him to set my land above his own. 

“For ’twas America gave us our chance, Shauneen, when we’d no other place on earth to seek. Hard days we’ve known here, too, days when even the children jeered at us, but we’ve never felt the hand of the oppressor upon us since we touched our feet on these shores. We’ve been free and we’ve prospered. Fine houses we have and fine clothes; and ’tis a long day since I knew the pinch of hunger. This is our debt. Tell me again, Shauneen, what you see out there?” 

I told her of the shining lights, of the funnels of the steamers, of the piled piers, of the little oyster-boats, of the great liners waiting the word for their sailing. 

“‘Twould be a fine sight,” she sighed. “Do you think me a madwoman to bring you here?” she went on, as if she had read my thought. “Perhaps I am that. Perhaps I’m not. For you’ll remember this night when you’ve forgotten many another time, just as I remember the day when my mother took me to the shrine at Knock. For this is the shrine of your country, Shauneen, this old Castle Garden, where your people set foot in the land that’s given them liberty. Here it was that I told my brothers and my sisters of the future before them. Here it is that I’m telling you that your country will be the greatest nation of all the world if only you lads stay true to her. That’s why I’ve brought you here to-night, Shauneen. I’m an old, old woman. I’ve not long for this earth. But I’ve this message for you; it’s yours; this duty that your father shirks when he plots with black traitors who’d drag us into wars that are not of our choosing. Raise your hand, Shauneen. Say after me: ‘As long as I live, God helping me, I shall keep my country first in my heart and, after God, first in my soul!” 

Through the misty moonlight there came to me the memory of my mother’s plea at the door of the church, my mother’s cry: “Promise me that you’ll set no cause but God’s before your wife!” Some battle of spirit struggled within me. For an instant I was silent. Then, suddenly, as if the moon had ridden above the cloud, I saw the right. “Since all (pg 233) true causes come from God, it is right to set my own country above anything else that may ever come. I said the words after my grandmother. She took my face between her hands and kissed me. “God keep you, Shauneen, for the woman who’ll love you, and the children you’ll teach, come.” Then through a sleeping city my grandmother and I went home. 

……

There’s a lot to absorb and process in this story, but I wanted to share it with you first.

What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear from you and get a bit of discussion going.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Responding To Tasmania’s Jumping Castle Tragedy.

Many of you would have heard about the freakish, tragic accident in Devonport, Tasmania where so far six children died when a jumping castle was swept 10 metres into the air by a fierce, rogue gust of wind.

Map of Tasmania. Devonport is on the North Coast roughly in the middle.

Although we live on the Australian “mainland” (as Tasmanians call it), for us it’s still quite personal. My husband is Tasmanian, and in particular, from Northern Tasmania. While Geoff was born and raised in Scottsdale on the North-East, his dad came from Penguin which is just over 30 kilometres away from Devonport and Geoff has families spread right throughout these parts. Indeed, numerous branches of his family arrived in Tasmania in the 1830s, and let’s just say there was no TV back then. Many of his ancestors had massive familes, and there was one guy in particular who really clocked the numbers up. He had 24 kids with two wives. So, you can appreciate how his family tree has been very prolific and spread something like a weed. I stir him about being related to anyone with old time family ties in Northern Tasmania, and I’m yet to be proven wrong, although it’s only been a small sample size.

Our two rogue children on our son’s last day in Year 6. The photos went downhill from here.

So, like everyone else we were shocked and heartbroken by this freakish tragedy, but we had the added concern of whether we had family involved and it took awhile for them to release the names of the children. So, while we were one of the families pulling up at the school not knowing whether our child was affected or not, we were connected. Indeed, so many people are. Moreover, quite a number of my friends have kids making the transition from year 6 which is the end of our primary school system here, and into year 7 next year, which is the start of high school. So they’re really feeling it too.

At the end of their last day at school, the school children form a tunnel through the playground and the Year six’s run through, and I took this close-up of their hands.

For awhile there, we didn’t know the names of the children who had passed away. So, far they’re not familiar. However, but one grandfather looked familiar and would’ve fitted in well at Geoff’s sister’s place for Christmas. Moreover, there’s definitely a sense of Geoff and his family genetically belonging to this community. There’s a noticeable “look”. Being an island, Tassie is a close-knit community, but it’s also had its internal divides too. There’s traditionally been a very strong divide between North and South, and to a lesser extent the West Coast as well. Like most island communities, Tasmania is isolated and they refer to the refer of Australia as “the mainland”. One of Tasmania’s other claims to fame is that it often gets left off the map, although during covid having a moat was rather advantageous and I think some politician down there talked about having a moat and a drawbridge, and not being afraid to use it back in the early days of covid.

So, for this to happen in a place like Devonport, it’s monumental. With an estimated population of 25,747 in the 2020, it’s not a village. However, with a web of established families and networks, it’s a particularly close community – especially now.

Sharing a bit about Devonport with you isn’t going to help any of these families, but it helps me feel closer. It helps us feel closer to a community where we have indeterminate connections. A close friend of ours, who is married to Geoff’s best man, is a school counsellor at a nearby school, and was at Hillcrest School on Friday providing counselling for families and children – such a tough job but she’s put years into her training and really strives to develop strategies for connecting with children, and in particular children who are doing it tough for a whole swag of reasons. I’m not her mum, but I am proud of her and so grateful she was there. However, as we move into school holidays and Christmas, there needs to be a changing of the guard as school staff go on holidays. They will need support for the long haul.

This was awhile ago now, but it’s one of my favourite dance photos of her.

Meanwhile, tonight we did what we do at the close of every year. We went to my daughter’s end of year dance concert. With all the stunning and thought-provoking dancing, it always makes me reflective, and when I see the younger ones dance, I also remember our daughter’s progression through all the grades to where she is now about to embark into the senior teens. I wasn’t being morbid. I wasn’t teary or sad. However, it certainly hammered home what it would mean if it happened here, and a sense of what the families at Hillcrest School are going through, and the students. Six of their precious friends are gone and for some it’s going to be very lonely going back to school next year. You hope they were all someone’s bestie, and know there are now six huge, and very painful holes in the playground, as well as at home. Holes they will never be filled, but I pray there will be some kind of healing. That maybe being in this together, they can help each other muddle through, and as the Beatles said “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

They are in my prayers.

Rest in peace dear sweethearts,

Love,

Rowena

Q – Queenstown…A-Z Challenge.

Welcome to Queenstown, the latest stopover on my series, Places I’ve Been, for the 2020 Blogging From A to Z April Challenge.

Before we go any further, I should warn you, that Queenstown isn’t on my top ten places to visit. Indeed, at the time it was a mistake, and my views haven’t changed. So, I caution you to be very careful when you program “Queenstown” into your magic carpet, and ensure you clearly enter  Queenstown, New Zealand into your GPS. Do not mention Tasmania. You’ll certainly notice a striking difference, which goes well beyond the accent and how much Vegemite they spread on their toast.

Unfortunately, I ended up in Queenstown, Tasmania  back in 1995 when I flew down for the 50th Anniversary of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. I hired a car with a fellow backpacker from the Youth Hostel and unfortunately neither of us had done our research. After leaving Hobart and visiting the stunning Russell Falls, we noticed Queenstown on the map and decided to head there for the night.

Big mistake!!!

Well, perhaps, it it wasn’t such a huge mistake, because it was an education. However, we’d have to be one of the few visitors to Tasmania who went to Queenstown instead of the breathtaking East Coast.

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Back in 1995, Tasmania’s Queenstown was still an environmental catastrophe and nothing short of a heartbreaking, barren moonscape after years of copper mining  had all but destroyed the place. As the Tasmanian Times explains: “Queenstown became famed for the denuded landscapes … and its Red River. The Queen River turns red from the iron oxide that leaches from the mine along with other metal sulphides and most of the creeks around the town are subject to the acid mine drainage and can be consider contaminated 1.” (I highly recommend you click through to this article and particularly check out the photographs).

“The copper smelters wreaked havoc on the surrounding landscape. Not only did the sulphur fumes kill off plants in the area but the eleven furnaces required vast quantities of timber and the mining company simply cut down the forests to fuel the fires. It has been estimated that hundreds of men were employed as timber cutters and that over 3 million tonnes of timber were cut down between 1896 and 1923. At its peak the furnaces were consuming 2,040 tonnes of wood each week. The combination of timber felling, the sulphur fumes and the heavy rainfall in the area (which washed away the top soil) ensured that by 1900 the whole valley looked like a desert.[2]”

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Queenstown, New Zealand.

So, clearly the Tasmanian Queenstown is a striking contrast to its Kiwi namesake.

Unfortunately, this also leaves me with another confession to make.

Geoff and I spent two weeks travelling around New Zealand on our honeymoon, but didn’t make it through to Queenstown. Otherwise, I would’ve been writing about my honeymoon instead, which would’ve been such a wonderful story straight after my tales of heartbreak and existential angst in Paris.

Well, perhaps you’ll be pleased to know that my travels do end up with a happy ending, which actually turned out to be a new beginning.

Do you have any travel stories where you took the wrong fork in the road? I’m sure there must be so many of them out there. I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Rowena

References

  1. https://tasmaniantimes.com/2016/12/the-red-river-a-mining-legacy/

2) https://www.theage.com.au/lifestyle/queenstown-20040208-gdkqp5.html

 

D- Devonport, Tasmania: Crossing Bass Strait…A-Z Challenge.

Welcome to Day 4 of the Blogging A to Z April Challenge! Today, after visiting Australia’s capital Canberra yesterday, today we’re off to Devonport in Tasmania and you’re in for a treat. That’s because we’re travelling by boat on board the Spirit of Tasmania which runs between Melbourne and Devonport. I should point out that this is NOT a cruise ship and since we’re travelling in the virtual realm, you won’t catch the coronavirus. I promise!

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So, while it’s not a major city, you could say that Devonport is the Gateway to Tasmania when you’re traveling by boat.

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Family Photo taken in Devonport just before heading home on the boat.

It’s been three years since we last went down to Tassie. My husband, Geoff, was born and bred in Scottsdale in the North-East and families on both sides date back to early settlement. While most of his family were free settlers, the original Newton was a convict who was sent out Van Dieman’s Land via Nolfolk Island at Her Majesty’s Pleasure. He was caught red handed wearing the clothes he’d stolen.

Have you ever been on the Spirit of Tasmania? Here’s a link to our experience.

We hope that you and yours are keeping well and safe and pray for God’s protection and comfort at this time.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share from the Bunker.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

How do you like my photo this week? I was looking for a cafe scene but couldn’t resist the pink flamingo. I hope it lifts your spirits at this challenging time.

Well, I guess I ought to ask you if you’ve managed to get out of your pyjamas today, and do you actually have enough changed of PJs to get you through the working week in social isolation at home? Fortunately, i have been somewhat prepared. Thanks to my health issues where I can spend long stretches sick at home, I’ve indulged in a few pairs of Peter Alexander Pyjamas so I can feel creatively colourful while bunkered in at home. Today’s pair is covered in colourful tea cups, which is very appropriate and quite a coincidence for our weekend coffee share.

So, how are you? What is the state of play with the Coronavirus where you live? I live just North of Sydney, Australia. Australia has 4093 cases of coronavirus and here in NSW we have the most with 1,918 cases. I had hoped it had mostly stayed in Sydney, but local cases are starting to increase to 90 cases. Most of these have apparently come from overseas. These infections largely focus on the cruise ships and in particular, the Ruby Princess which has now been re-cast as a vile super-spreader of the virus with almost 2,700 passengers disembarking in Sydney without health checks, despite passengers showing symptoms. It was an absolute debacle and quite culpable under the circumstances. Around 130 passengers are known to have contracted the virus. However, as usual those responsible are passing the buck, the ship’s still parked in Sydney Harbour with 1700 crew members on board. Three crew members were taken off the ship to hospital today. Needless to say, that ship will be going through a major re-branding exercise after this. It’s currently perceived as the plague ship. 

Before I move on from the Coronavirus, I wanted to share a link with you  through to Australian aid worker and Mr Compassion Australian himself, Tim Costello, who talks about the social impact and how to respond the the level of community grief. Here’s the link.

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The Family

Well, during the last week, our home has become and office, school, hospital, ball and stick throwing centre for dogs and in about 30 minutes, the kitchen will be metamorphosing into a dance studio right during dinner time, which is going to be interesting. While it’s all very well to be flexible and adaptable, it’s also a lot to process and it’s not easy to juggle with so many balls in the air. Our son is in year 11 at the pointy end of his education, so we’re at least trying to get that right, but right now it’s very tempting to just let all those balls crash down to earth and let them smash like raw eggs on the pavement. As long as we don’t get the virus, especially me with my acute lung issues, the rest doesn’t matter. We’ll get to it when the cloud has lifted.

Meanwhile, my WWI research continues and I wanted to share something absolutely horrific that I only just came across. Perhaps, you have already heard about the British soldiers who were executed for desertion and other causes during WWI. However, for me it only rang a very faint bell and it was only when I heard about the case of Private Jack Sweeney that the full of horror of this practice was revealed. Jack Sweeney was born in Emu Bay Tasmania and later moved to Lietinna near Scottsdale in the North-East where my husband and his mother’s family were born and bred. So, this story wasn’t about some stranger. It was about somebody who lived alongside Geoff’s two Great Uncles who served in France…Ralph French who was killed in Action in 1918 and Len Brooker who returned home. However, because he was working in New Zealand when war broke out, he enlisted with the New Zealand Army, which made a big difference to his future on two fronts. Firstly, the New Zealand government concurred with the British government and allowed deserters to be court-marshalled and shot. Secondly, it took Jack away from his Tasmanian social and family network where he could well have found greater support for the ravages of war he experienced, including shell shock. I was horrified to find out that this could happen and so silently and swept almost under the carpet. Yes, indeed There’s been a cover-up and I was quite shocked the New Zealand which is generally known for it’s compassion and progressive policy-making could be so barbaric and take such a different road to the Australian government. It’s probably the most gut-wrenching stories I’ve come across in the 9 months I’ve been doing this research and that says something. By the way, I should also add that Jack had a daughter, Doris who was about 11 years old who was left with her dad and in 1925 his father committed suicide after telling family “I’m a broken-hearted man”. As you would expect, this is a story I’m pursuing further.

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This dog is a good lookalike for  our Lady, but I left our dogs at home to keep my walk simple and uncomplicated. 

Not much else has been going on. I’ve been on two walks along the local beach. Even this simple, ordinary activity had been impacted by the virus. I’m an uber-social extrovert so the whole idea of avoiding people in case they’d been infected by the plague, felt very unnatural. If anyone looked like coming near me, and I’m talking 4-6 metres away, I flinched like I’d developed some kind of allergy to people. Dogs don’t catch the virus, but their fur is just like any other surface so patting dogs down there was also off limits, although I could still photograph them from a safe distance. I also happened to witness a rather nasty dog fight involving 3 dogs and it took about 5 people to separate them, and then there was a clash between the owners. That’s not exceptional at the beach, but with concerns about social distancing and my own vulnerability to the virus, I felt like shouting out to them to step back. Of course, I didn’t. Instead, I tried to remain invisible. This was not the time to play the hero.

Rowena Victory

I will leave you with an uplifting photo of myself at the beach a few years ago looking triumphant. Something to focus on during these difficult times.

How are things going where you live? I hope and pray you and yours are okay and are able to steer clear of this horrible blight. If you are struggling, please share with me in the comments. A trouble shared, is a problem halved.

Lastly, are you taking up the A-Z April Blogging Challenge? I’m intending to do it, but had trouble signing up yesterday, which I need to look into. If so, what is your theme? Mine will be something along the lines of Australians serving in France during WWI with some kind of twist. I have a gazillion stories to inspire me, even if time’s rapidly evaporating.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by  Eclectic Ali. We’d love you to come and join us for a virtual coffee.

Love & best wishes,

Rowena

Stanley, Tasmania…Thursday Doors.

Welcome Back to Thursday Doors.

This week we’re off to the picturesque village of Stanley, in North-West Tasmania. Stanley is the main fishing port on the north west coast of Tasmania and it was named after Lord Stanley, the British Secretary of State for the Colonies in the 1840s.

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Before we launch into the subject of doors which can be surprisingly stimulating to a select group of obsessed door folk which is starting to include myself, I wanted to share the broader experience which is Stanley with you.

Map NW Tasmania

You can spot Stanley right up the top middle of the map.

Chances are you’ve never been Down Under, let alone to Tasmania. So, we’d better launch off with a map and a few directions. If you knew me in the real world, you’d already know navigating isn’t one of my strengths. Indeed, that’s what maps are for and fortunately we won’t be needing to turn the map upside down on this trip. Stanley is up the top. Stanley is also located on Bass Strait 127 km from Devonport and 231 km from Launceston. If you need any further directions, you’d better ask Suri.

However, even if you suffer from acute map-reading blindness, you can’t miss Stanley. It has it’s very own inbuilt honing beacon, a massive volcanic plug known as “The Nut”. The Nut rises 150 metres straight up out of the beach and peers over the cottages below like a friendly giant. The first European to see ‘The Nut’ was Matthew Flinders who recorded in 1798 that he’d seen a ‘cliffy round lump resembling a Christmas cake’.

Nut beach old

Historical Photo of The Nut, Stanley viewed from the beach.

If you fancy a quick geology lesson, the plaque at the lookout reads: “The Nut, discovered by Bass and Flinders in 1798, rises abruptly 143 m from the sea to a flattish top. The geological survey of Tasmania has confirmed that The Nut is the stump of an old volcano. The original core was built of fragments mainly volcanic rock ejected by explosive eruptions. Molten basaltic lava welled up the feeder pipe and in places intruded into these fragmental rocks and formed a lava lake in the crater where it solidified. As it cooled the basalt became weakly magnetised in the direction of the local magnetic field of that time. The direction and dip of this fossil magnetisation is quite different from the present magnetic field and suggests that the volcano was active during some period between 25 and 70 million years ago. Weathering and erosion since has removed all the weak rocks which built the cone so that the hard basalt of the lava pool now stands up as a conspicuous landmark. If you modelled a cone and crater in sand and half filled the crater with molten iron through a pipe from below then jetted the sand away with a hose you would get the picture.”

Captain's Cottage

If you’re really fit, you can climb up to the top of the Nut, but there’s also a chairlift. Unfortunately, on the day we were there, it was so windy that the chairlift was closed. Well, it wasn’t just when we were there. Stanley is renowned for being windy.

However, if you’re only interested in doors, you’ve probably had enough of my meandering waffle and just want me to show you the doors. You could also be thinking that when it comes to doors in Stanley, there isn’t much to show and tell.

Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I photographed these doors before I’d heard about Thursday Doors, so they’d caught my eye in more of a general sense. There might be doors which are much more photogenic, historic, or unique than those I’ve featured here. However, these are the doors I have. Although almost all of my contributions to Thursday Doors have been from Tasmania, I actually live in Great Sydney and can’t can’t just duck down to expand my scope. I have what I have. That’s it.

 

Above: Joseph Lyon’s former childhood home in Stanley. He was Australia’s only Tasmanian Prime Minister.

Lastly, I couldn’t leave Stanley without including this photo of the ubiquitous red phone booth:

 

Red Phone Booth

Anyway, that ends our door tour of Stanley. If you’d like to read more about our visit to Stanley, you can check out Blown Away By Stanley

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.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

The Emporium, Sheffield, Tasmania…Thursday Doors.

You’ve got to feel for us simple folk who don’t live in Italy where every house sports a magnificently carved, ancient front door. Indeed, for those of us surrounded by ordinary doors, each and everything Thursday our stomach’s tighten and we feel veritably ill as the querst continues. Will we ever find that perfect door? The door of our dreams? Or,  as the moon rises high above the sky threatening to go to sleep, will we simply have to lower our standards and accept that any door will do? Well, I haven’t got there yet, because I still have a stash of door photos from our trip to Tasmania last year.

This week, we’re visiting The Emporium, in Sheffield in NW Tasmania and it’s not far from that crazy place we’ve visited before in search of wacky doors…Tazmazia. For better or worse, The Emporium was closed by the time we arrived in Sheffield. So, we can only appreciate it from the outside.

 

Sheffield Emporium building.JPG

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I’m feeling way too tired to process this place is any way that could possibly make sense. So, I’ll just leave you with these photos and make a run for it.

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.

Best wishes,

Rowena

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.

marion and brian.jpg

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.

Penguin Gaol

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

Weekend Coffee Share – 16th September, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This week, you’re in luck. You can fight my husband and I for the remains of the  Lemon Meringue Layer Cake I made on Friday. The cake has two layers of butter cake which are both covered in a thick layer of meringue and then baked. To assemble, you sandwich the layers together with the lemon curd and whipped cream. This was the first time that I’ve ever made this cake and it was a rather ambitious project. More ambitious than I realized because I’d already separated the eggs, when I read that the lemon curd needed to set for four hours or overnight. I didn’t have four hours. At best, I had three including travel time. I was taking it to a friend’s place, which was also why I was making this fancy cake. It was quite big and I knew our family never get through it. So, you don’t need to be psychic to know trouble’s brewing and well you might ask whether the cake part has learned to swim. That’s before we even consider surviving the drive there and going round corners. However, I’m getting ahead of myself. The cake is still in the oven. I have to duck out to pick my daughter up from dance but my support worker is here to keep an eye on it and turn it around. However, somehow the dial on the oven got bumped and in what is starting to sound like a screw up of Masterchef proportions, the temperature has jumped from moderate to hellishly hot and the perfect setting to scorch the outside and leave the inside raw. In other words…DISASTER. Well, it would’ve been a disaster if I wasn’t the master of disaster and know how to cover things up. Snipped off the burnt bits and praised God for the invention of icing sugar. Meanwhile, the lemon curd had magically set in the fridge. It was all a bit flowy and unstable but it looked and tasted spectacular with a luscious lemon zing.

Last week, wasn’t just about cake.

It’s Spring here and all that increased sunshine and balmy warmth, went to my head. Lights. Camera. Action. I accepted that our garage sale wasn’t going to be happening any time soon and sorted through the mountain of clothing and kept the best of put on eBay and filled up the car and took the rest to the charity shop. Walked out of there with a new slow cooker and a Wedgewood jewelry box for my Mum. She had something like this when I was little and I’m not sure if she still has it. I remember poking around it looking at her jewelry which a special treat.

Wedgewood box

Do you remember something like this from your past? 

I’ve also gone through some of my writing and am trying to do some editing and find some direction for some dog stories I wrote almost ten years ago. I’ve been thinking about them as kids’ books, which clearly they were not and I’m now revisiting them as potential short stories or even a series of interconnected stories. Either way, there’s a fair bit of work ahead, but the foundations are there. It would be such a relief to get something finish and in a format that works.

Do you have a few projects up your sleeve like that? Isn’t it a writer’s lot? Well, this writer is trying to convert a few goals. Or should that read trys? I’m not into sport.

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My husband’s lawn protection growing device is achieving wonders. 

The garden is also progressing nicely and we even have lawn in our backyard. That was such a breakthrough, that it warranted a post all by itself: Making the Grass Greener

The other big news this week, is that the family and I attended a disability access meeting run by our local State MP Paralympian, Liesl Tesch. A new disability access web site, Wheeleasy which is like an equivalent of Trip Advisor was being launched and the idea was for us to go out for lunch afterwards and rate the access of local cafes. We skipped that part but I appreciated the opportunity to raise a few of my local frustrations and know Liesl takes my opinions seriously. Hopefully something will get done. By the way, while I’m not in a wheelchair myself, I have some mobility issues stemming from an autoimmune disease which attacks my muscles, but which is fortunately in remission. Yet, I am still part of the disability community, and also not. Having an invisibility puts me into something of a No Man’s land.

Road Kill CafeIn terms of what I’ve posted this week, for Friday Fictioneers, there was Cuckoo Clock House and for Thursday Doors, we were off to Tasmazia’s  Road Kill Cafe.

No wonder I’m feeling tired.

How was your week? I hope you’ve had a great one!

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Ecclectic Ali. We’d love you to come and join us.

Best wishes,

Rowena