Random items on Queen’s Birthday

Let’s start there, as it is a good news story! Yes, it is the Queen’s OFFICIAL birthday and the local version of the Honours List is out. I am pleased to see a familiar Wollongong face — my boss 40 years or so ago.

Rex Cook still keeps in touch with students he first taught when he started teaching at Grafton High School back in 1950. The love and affection these students, many of whom are aged in their 70s and 80s, still have for her father, is one of the reasons Wendy Cook-Burrows nominated Mr Cook for an OAM.

She said the 92-year-old Mount Ousley man was “gobsmacked” when notified of his OAM for service to the community of Wollongong, and to education….

And I taught Wendy back then too…

Next: Getty Images has released a set of slides claiming to be Australia’s oldest. This one is particularly evocative, though there are no details of its provenance.

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Now to the weird and wonderful present. China Daily has posted this on Twitter, probably with due glee:

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Yes indeed. Read Donald Trump adviser says ‘special place in hell’ for Justin Trudeau as White House steps up G7 row (not from China Daily.) I for my part am considering joining the Justin Trudeau Fan Club! After all, his country is a fellow Commonwealth member!

And we are all on tenterhooks with eyes on Singapore now. I hope the famous one-minute body language reader reads correctly. (Maybe I should warn him that if a Korean gives you full eye contact it is not necessarily a good sign, despite our western assumptions.)

. Looking just past the person’s face is generally the norm from what I’ve noticed. I don’t think you need to stress over the occasional direct glance, but you should be careful about “gazing”, or staring directly into someone’s eyes for a long period of time. It’s considered challenging and possibly even aggressive, depending on circumstance.

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No, I didn’t watch it…

By which I mean the “tell-all” paid interview on Channel Seven last night.

I did watch the new TV series of Mystery Road though. Loved it!

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About:

Filmed in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia, Aaron Pedersen and Judy Davis star in Mystery Road – The Series a six part spin-off from Ivan Sen’s internationally acclaimed and award winning feature films Mystery Road and Goldstone. Joining Pedersen and Davis is a stellar ensemble cast including Deborah Mailman, Wayne Blair, Anthony Hayes, Ernie Dingo, John Waters, Madeleine Madden, Kris McQuade, Meyne Wyatt, Tasia Zalar and Ningali Lawford-Wolf.

Directed by Rachel Perkins, produced by David Jowsey and Greer Simpkin, Mystery Road was script produced by Michaeley O’Brien, and written by Michaeley O’Brien, Steven McGregor, Kodie Bedford and Tim Lee, with Ivan Sen and the ABC’s Sally Riley as Executive Producers.

I have in fact been reading a lot lately, including some very interesting choices from Wollongong Library. Kudos to whoever is responsible for buying new books there! I may list my recent reading in another post, but here is my current one:

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I am finding it quite riveting. I don’t think I could ever read or see Gone With The Wind ever again! The book is not uncontroversial.  Here is a post by a dissenter. But see also Harvesting Cotton-Field Capitalism.

“Have you been happier in slavery or free?” a young Works Project Administration interviewer in 1937 asked Lorenzo Ivy, a former slave, in Danville, Va. Ivy responded with a memory of seeing chained African-Americans marching farther South to be sold.

“Truly, son, the half has never been told,” he said.

This anecdote is how Edward E. Baptist opens “The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism,” an examination of both the economic innovations that grew out of the ever-shifting institution of slavery and the suffering of generations of people who were bought and sold.

Mr. Baptist, a history professor at Cornell, said in an interview that his book represented his decade-long effort to blend these two aspects. Published in September, “The Half” joins a new wave of scholarship about the centrality of slavery — and the cotton picked by slaves — to the country’s economic development.

Mr. Baptist shows the ways that new financial products, bonds that used enslaved people as collateral and were sold to bondholders in this country and abroad, enriched investors worldwide. He also emphasizes viciously enforced slave labor and migration. The cotton boom led planters to sell slaves — one million moved from old to new slave states from the 1790s to the 1860s. Productivity, he argues, came through punishment. Enslaved and formerly enslaved people like Ivy are at the center of this sprawling story….

Sometimes unfolding in a novelistic way, his book casts unreimbursed labor as torture and Southern plantations as labor camps. Mr. Baptist imagines the thoughts of a slave being put to death. He quotes exchanges between planters about the sexual exploitation of enslaved women….

As he writes in the book: “The idea that the commodification and suffering and forced labor of African-Americans is what made the United States powerful and rich is not an idea that people necessarily are happy to hear. Yet it is the truth.”

It is the specific human stories that make this book so compelling. It would appear that our convict era was a holiday camp compared with the ante-bellum South!

Fascinating story of Wollongong Art Gallery

Must go again! On an earlier visit:

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It is the Gallery’s 40th anniversary.

An immersive interactive installation project that celebrates the significant and generous gift by Bronius (Bob) Sredersas, a Lithuanian migrant and steel worker whose personal art collection became the impetus for the establishment of Wollongong Art Gallery.

Incorporating the Sredersas art collection, this innovative multidisciplinary exhibition recognizes both the Gallery’s origins and celebrates the contribution that migrants and refugees have made and continue to make to our communities.

This work has been created by the Society of Histrionic Happenings under the curatorship of Anne-Louise Rentell​ through the Gallery’s Visiting Curators Program.

​​THE GIFT on Vimeo

See also THE GALLERY / The Story of Us.

It was not until 1975 after a chance meeting with a very modest gentleman named Bronius (Bob) Sredersas. Bob wanted to donate his collection to the “Children of Wollongong”. This momentous gift was the catalyst on which the Art Gallery was built (Sredersas Gallery). The Illawarra County Council donated the property formally known as the Hughes Whetton Reilly Building (now Wollongong Youth Centre), including the land upon which it stood to Council on the proviso that the property be used for an Art Gallery. Through the persistence and hard work of the society, volunteers and donors, and with the assistance of Council and Government funding bodies, a Director and Board of Trustee was appointed and on the 2 June 1978 Wollongong City Gallery was officially opened by Mr Neville Wran, Premier of NSW at 85 Burelli Street, Wollongong attended by over 500 people. The first exhibition was titled Burghers of Calais, with works borrowed for the National Gallery and Art Gallery of NSW.                                      

Local ABC has a great feature: The Lithuanian secret service officer whose art collection changed an Australian city.

Bronius 'Bob Sredersas stands in front of a painting while holding a cigarette.

I was back in Wollongong by late 1978, though seeing out the year working at Sydney University.

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“North Wollongong Beach in the early 1980’s. Photo thanks to Lost Wollongong member Michael Schurr.” I was living not far away in Church Street at that time – well, at least from late 1978 to the beginning of 1981.

I recall hearing about “The Gift” at the time. Interesting the role played by Father Michael Bach, whom I met earlier in the 70s when he officiated at a wedding where I was a groomsman.

Mr Sredersas’ life outside of work could not have been more contradictory — he would not be seen at the local pubs that were filled with steelworkers or at the local football matches and horse races.

Instead, he would spend his time at his fibro cottage in the Wollongong suburb of Cringila, tending to a garden of roses, cabbages, lemons and a line of trees to absorb the dust from the steelworks.

It was in 1956 when he decided that his home needed a painting and he caught the train to Sydney, a journey he would regularly make over a period of 20 years….

In 1977, hastened by a break-in which saw 13 of the works stolen — including two Willian Ashtons and a Norman Lindsay — Mr Sredersas began to wonder where his collection would be stored over the long term.

He decided that the people of Wollongong, the city he felt he owed a great debt to, should own the paintings.

A devout Catholic, Mr Sredersas, who was then in his late 60s, enlisted the help of Father Michael Bach who was the administrator of Wollongong Cathedral at the time….

Too many Whitfields!

I have a lot of family history in my blogs, much now consolidated in Neil’s Family Specials and Memory Hole. Lately some potentially confusing comments have appeared in what is in fact my original (though revised) post on Whitfield family history. What a maze that comment thread has become over that past 10+ years! On the other hand much there is of value and interest to family members — or families members! There are, it appears, at least four Whitfield families floating around in Australia history.

One lot came from Hull. I noted them almost ten years ago.

There is a new series ongoing on Ninglun’s Specials: Looking for Jacob. Yes, I know I said I was dropping the series idea, but not the series tags, but a recent email from one of the Whitfield family historians set me off on a small expedition to record the area we now know held the convict Jacob Whitfield’s residence in the 1830s. I was just now reflecting on this: as a child I met, and remember, at least four of the children of William Joseph John Whitfield (born 1836), the grandson of the convict, none of whom ever mentioned their great-grandfather. In fact there was a story my father had that the original family member in the colony had been a shipwright from Hull in northern England – Dad even had a shipwright’s chisel in his tool kit that allegedly came from him. Curiously, there was a Jacob Whitfield in Hull around the time of the Battle of Waterloo, listed in Indentures of apprenticeship cancelled or discharged before the magistrates 1813 – 1821: “Jacob Whitfield, son of Jacob Whitfield of Hull, blacksmith to Thomas Stephenson of Hull, master mariner, 21 June”. Not our Jacob, it seems, though the general trades area is right: but how did my father make a Hull connection in his story? (See also Family stories 3 — About the Whitfields: from convict days. Our Jacob came from Ireland.)

I noted that a family in Sutherland Shire traced back to the Hull Whitfields…

It turns out there is another Whitfield family altogether extant – and with Shire links.

Perilous Seas: The Whitfield Family – Ancestors & Descendants England & Australia 1605-2012

The Whitfield family farmed in the Tyne Valley of Northumberland before moving to iron works on the Derwent River in Cumberland where two daughters drowned in separate accidents. Descendants experienced contrasting fates. One, James Whitfield made a fortune on the Australian goldfields before becoming a successful entrepreneur in Workington. His siblings lived and worked in industrial towns and the youngest, William Whitfield became a master mariner in Australia, experiencing a number of misfortunes before returning to Hull, Yorkshire, leaving his Australian family behind.

Now that is interesting, because my father used to say his Aunty Jessie and one other family member had traced the family to Hull, and there was allegedly a lost fortune there… That must be this family, but there is no doubt there is no close connection.

Speaking of confusing, have a look at this! Jacob Whitfield (1759 – abt. 1851). Family historian Bob Starling was on the case:

In a 2011 comment on “About the Whitfields: Convict Days” Bob Starling wrote:

For some years I have been searching for Jacob Whitfield’s death. It was noticed that Jacob gave his religion as a Quaker on one of his applications to marry. With this fact the Quaker society in Sydney has carried out some research and came up with the following piece of information:

“In searching the incomplete records we have of burials in the Friends Burial Ground within the old Devonshire Street (Sandhills) Cemetery, I came across a reference to:
“Burial Notes missing of … Jacob Whitfield” Unfortunately, there is no indication of his date of death or burial. Burials took place in the Friends Burial Ground from about 1837 through to about 1880.”

Whilst we can now accept that Jacob died in Sydney, probably between 1851 and 1856 we cannot quite put him to rest until we find an exact date.

He was certainly around for a long time.

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From Bob Starling

Now going way back it would be interesting to see how all the Whitfield families link to Wikipedia’s Whitfield family.

The Whitfield family was a landowning Norman family in present-day United Kingdom; the family was seated at Whitfield Hall Northumberland in Northumberland. The area was granted by William, King of Scotland in the twelfth century. The family derives its name from the old English hwitfeld, meaning open white lands….

Quite likely the Irish connection began as part of the Plantation of Ulster.

Saw “Riot” on ABC last night

Riot is a telemovie on the first Sydney Mardi Gras, June 1978.

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They did a good job recapturing the series of events leading up to that first Mardi Gras. I was not there, but I have posted on those who were: For the 78ers.

I was working at Sydney University in 1978 and for part of that year living in Glebe Point. Perhaps around mid-year, when that first Mardi Gras occurred, I had moved back to reside in North Wollongong, commuting to Sydney. I honestly don’t recall reading the infamous SMH stories. I was not at that time involved in the gay community.

Now posts of my own.

Back in the day… Oxford Street memories

Posted on March 9, 2014 by Neil

A rather amazing picture appeared recently on Lost Gay Sydney, a Facebook group.

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That is Martin Place June 24 , 1978, according to the original post on Facebook, and there in the centre carrying a triangle flag is Ian Smith.

Requiem for a Dowager Empress

Posted on December 27, 2010 by Neil

The shocking news I alluded to earlier is that Ian Smith, aka The Dowager Empress of Hong Kong, died about a week ago.

He was a 78-er, that is a participant in the first Sydney Mardi Gras…

See also Julie McCrossin, a South Sydney friend:

JULIE McCROSSIN Hello. I’m Julie McCrossin. And this year at Mardi Gras, I’m marching with Uniting. Back in 1978, there was one truck and a few hundred people. You must be thinking, “We’ve come a long way.” And in many ways we have. But that struggle that began back in 1978 defined the struggle that continues today.

SFX: CHEERING

WOMAN Happy Mardi Gras

GARRY WOTHERSPOON I was born during World War II, and I had uncles and things off fighting the war. War turned people’s lives on their head. And before the war, it had been very respectable, conservative society. The Second World War changed Australian society immensely. By the time I was a teenager, in the 1950s, the police commissioner, Colin Delaney, said the two greatest threats facing Australia are Communism and homosexuality.

SALLIE COLECHIN
I was 10, and I had a very close friendship with someone I went to primary school with. And we used to, “You be the boy, I’ll be the girl.” We used to play with that. We were discovered in primary school, though, and were separated. And I do remember the absolute embarrassment and the sense that there was something wrong.

PETER MURPHY I was in a religious institution when I was young. I was going to be a priest. One evening I remember…I think we must have had a serious talk about it, so a priest said, “Oh, you know, you might have feelings for each other, and these are called special relationships in the Catholic Church, and they’re a no-no, basically.”

GARRY WOTHERSPOON I went through a heterosexual phase in my late teens and early 20s, but I always knew that I wanted something different. And so, gradually, you came to terms with where gay life was existing then. In the ‘60s, there were places you could go to. Kings Cross was it, initially. Kings Cross had always been bohemia in Sydney. The Rex at the Cross, the beer garden there, it had a bar at the back called the Bottoms Up Bar. Nice name for a gay bar. So that set the scene for the 1970s….

I at the time was somewhat outside the wilder reaches of liberation politics; nor had I ever at that stage been to any kind of gay venue.  Some of what I was up to in 1978 is in this post: More livin’ in the 70s – Wollongong style.

The first Mardi Gras I attended was 1986. I wrote about this in 2001. See also:

Seen heading for Mardi Gras

01 March 2008

I reached the stage a couple of years back where standing around in a crowd, no matter how friendly, does not appeal any more, so I am giving the Mardi Gras Parade a miss. However, in my wanderings around Central/Chinatown/Surry Hills I do get to see some sights, most of them pleasant on this particular occasion.

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Photo somewhat indirectly from Betty Loves Blogging.

This afternoon I saw a happy group of young lesbian Aboriginal people, wearing, where they could, the inscription “ONE LOVE”. Now there are a few challenges to the diversity-phobic! 😉 Mardi Gras still can make you think, as well as laugh.

I thought as I walked home of a night around midnight some twenty years back when I was walking from The Britannia in Chippendale, then a gay pub, back to Bennett Street Surry Hills where I briefly lived. I had had a few, which may explain the conversation I had somewhere between Eveleigh Street and Prince Alfred Park. I was always a bit nervous about that nocturnal walk, I should add, and not unreasonably.

I had been accosted by a person seeking directions. Turned out to be an Aboriginal transexual, and alcohol emboldened me to say, “My God, how many oppressed groups do you belong to?” The person just laughed, saying “If I lived in the Northern Territory I would possibly be speared…”