My mother and the secret river; Ulster accent; class act

A mixed bag indeed.

My mother spent her infancy on the secret river, at this place:


See More tales from my mother 1 — Spencer, NSW. My mother was born in 1911, but her father had arrived at Spencer five years earlier – nearer in time to the events depicted in last night’s imaginative recreation of the life of Solomon Wiseman (Will Thornhill) than her birth is to us today. She recalls a settlement that in her day could still only be accessed by boat.


That’s Tim Minchin as the revolting Smasher Sullivan in The Secret River on ABC – a great over the top performance. This is interesting: “Tim Minchin reflects on the trauma of being a part of the … ABC mini-series The Secret River and the ultimate importance of the project.”

That Ulster accent! I reflected as I heard it that my ancestor Jacob Whitfield would almost certainly have sounded just like that in 1822 – though there is no evidence he was in any other way like Smasher Sullivan, though I fear it is likely Smasher’s type existed.

See A History of Aboriginal Sydney: 1800s and A History of Aboriginal Sydney: 1810s. It seems that “Green Hills” referred to several times last night is now known as Windsor, so that places the events of last night’s episode prior to November 1810, earlier than the historical Solomon Wiseman.

In November, 1810, Governor Macquarie set out to inspect the outer western Sydney districts. He travelled with Mrs Macquarie and a group of aides and surveyors, including Captain Antill, Dr Redfern and Mr Evans. The ‘tour of inspection’ followed the Hawkesbury and Nepean Rivers. Macquarie surveyed the available land and designated and named five settlements which would become known as the ‘Macquarie Towns’ – Windsor, Richmond, Castlereagh, Pitt Town and Wilberforce.

Finally, can anyone else recall when Bill Shorten was hailed as a “class act” by Miranda Devine? Yes indeed!

Whether the man suits the times or the times suit the man, it is clear that the diminutive, Jesuit-educated lawyer with an MBA covered himself in glory during the 14-day marathon rescue.

When the nation’s media were crying out for news on the trapped miners, it was Shorten who delivered. Available night and day, he spoke articulately and engagingly, and livened up his commentary with original descriptions of prosaic mining matters…

He gave excellent, generous sound bites. Authenticity cannot be learnt, and it is hard to think of Kim Beazley in the same position saying anything that didn’t appear to be shouted at an imaginary crowd.

Shorten also resisted the temptation when 60 Minutes reporter Richard Carleton prodded him to criticise mine management on safety issues: “I know that people … want explanations for this disaster. But we cannot afford to distract from the issue of rescuing the men. These men are still trapped in the earth and we want them back. And any behaviour that distracts from that, to be blunt, just has to wait.”

Wearing his trademark AWU chambray shirt with matching bomber jacket, Shorten managed to work in the union line liberally, but it always seemed appropriate: “It’s good workers are being recognised and, frankly, it’s good unions are being recognised.” He did more for the image of the union movement than any number of ACTU ads of working mothers weeping. “Today I rejoin the union,” wrote Dorin Suciu of Bronte, in a letter to the editor yesterday…

But thanks to Shorten, the Beaconsfield mine disaster showed the best of the union movement, perhaps enough for the public to question if the pendulum is swinging too far away from workers’ rights….

That was then, as they say!


See also north of Sydney on the Aboriginal History site at 1800s, 1810s and 1820s. Note that my brother married a direct descendant of Sophie Bungaree: Family stories 4 — A Guringai Family Story — Warren Whitfield.