What was I up to in February 2012?

Hard to believe yesterday’s post replayed items from TEN years ago! Today I offer a selection from Monthly Archives: February 2012.

If I hadn’t seen the video I wouldn’t have believed they could be so stupid…

Mining executives, that is.  Or should that be so contemptuous of us and the truth?

This week mining billionaire Gina Rinehart became the largest shareholder in Fairfax, having already bought a stake in Channel Ten. But this new video reveals this move is bigger than one woman’s ambition — it’s part of a coordinated and very deliberate strategy, with climate skeptic ‘Lord’ Monkton seen here advising a room full of mining executives on how the industry must gain control of Australia’s media. – GetUp.


Skull Murphy: a Monckton fan

See also my post How to pick a climate site that’s not worth reading.

1. It thinks global warming is all about Al Gore.

2. It thinks every scientific organisation in the world from the Royal Society down is in a massive conspiracy to destroy capitalism.

3. It takes Lord Monckton seriously.

4. It touts some pipsqueak or other simply because they cherry-pick “proofs” climate change is not happening.

5. It thinks all the measurements from NASA or elsewhere are somehow rigged.

6. It sees climate science as a racket whose sole aim is garnering research grants.

7. Checking the site’s fine print shows it is a front for powerful energy interests or right-wing US think tanks.

8. It believes the “Oregon Petition” is genuine.

9. It displays the most egregious ignorance of the well-established physics behind climate theory.

10. It has no idea about the concept of “certainty” and the scientific method.

Monckton? OMG! See also Monckton: this has to be a joke…

No, the ones who would be stupid would be us punters – if we were to believe one self-interested word this mining mob comes up with. Now we have seen how desperate they are. Scientific objectivity? Concern about the environment? Concern about the well-being of the country and the planet? Pigs arse!

Compare So What’s A Teacher to Do?

Imagine you’re a middle-school science teacher, and you get to the section of the course where you’re to talk about climate change. You mention the “C” words, and two students walk out of the class.

Or you mention global warming and a hand shoots up.

“Mrs. Brown! My dad says global warming is a hoax!”

Or you come to school one morning and the principal wants to see you because a parent of one of your students has accused you of political bias because you taught what scientists agree about: that the Earth is getting warmer, and human actions have had an important role in this warming.

Or you pick up the newspaper and see that your state legislature is considering a bill that declares that accepted sciences like global warming (and evolution, of course) are “controversial issues” that require “alternatives” to be taught.

Incidents like these have happened in one or more states, and they are likely to continue to happen. Teachers are encountering pushback from many directions as they try to teach global warming and other climate science topics.

The importance of climate change education is, to the RealClimate community, a no-brainer. Numerous professional science organizations, from the American Chemical Society to the American Geophysical Union to the Geological Society of America have stressed the imperative of climate science being an integral part of science education.

So What’s a Teacher to Do?

Long a defender of the teaching of evolution, the National Center for Science Education has recently launched an initiative to support and defend the teaching of climate change science…

Quite a month for anniversaries

Coming up is the anniversary of the fall of Singapore in 1942. I don’t recall that but it certainly affected some people I have known very directly and all of my generation in one way or another. Of course less well known is the fact that I was conceived in 1942.

Then there is 1952 and the current Diamond Jubilee of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II to the throne. That one I remember very clearly for reasons I gave last month. By a very indirect route that brings me to my grandfather, Roy Christison.

That’s him seated on the right of that photo with my brother Ian leaning against him.

You see of the many things Grandpa Christison talked about with me during the 1950s – and oh how significant I now know those conversations to have been in my life and thought! – one topic was the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, which he, to my astonishment, remembered – along with much else of pre-Federation New South Wales. And another thing that peppered conversations with Grandpa Christison was Charles Dickens. Grandpa Christison’s world-view owed more to Charles Dickens than it did to the Bible – about which he had somewhat agnostic views. He used to say that if you saw someone praying you needed to watch out for the knife behind his back, for example. But Dickens – no friend either of evangelicals and God-botherers – was a pure source of ethics as well as delight. My mother recalled family readings of Dickens, as no doubt many people of my grandfather’s time and tribe would.

And of course it is now the Dickens Bicentennial.


There are quite a few connections between Australia and Dickens, which explains his having an entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.  As an article in the Sydney Morning Herald explains:

FOR someone who never visited the place, Charles Dickens wrote, obsessed, lobbied and published an awful lot about Australia.

Though plans to make a lecture tour and write a book, The Uncommercial Traveller Upside Down, fell through, Dickens encouraged two of his sons, Alfred and Edward, to go to Australia. And, of course, many of his most memorable baddies, including Abel Magwitch (Great Expectations), John Edmunds (Pickwick Papers) and Wackford Squeers (Nicholas Nickleby) were transported down under…

At first, Dickens saw Australia only as a place of transportation, says a Queensland scholar, Marion Diamond,on her website Historians are Past Caring.

”But by the 1840s, free emigration to the Australian colonies was becoming important. This sparked his interest.” Encouraged further by the discovery of gold, he supported a number of emigration schemes, in life and in fiction. Indeed, at the end of David Copperfield he ”sends an absolute torrent of redundant characters to NSW: the Micawbers, Mr Peggotty and Little Em’ly, and Mrs Gummidge. Just to round things off nicely, he then has Mr Peggotty return, 10 years later, to tell David just how successful they have all been. Mr Micawber has become a magistrate!  Mrs Gummidge received an offer of marriage. Martha has married a farm labourer, and they now live happily on their own land, 400 miles from the nearest settlement.”

Like Magwitch and Micawber, the Dickens boys prospered in the new land of opportunity. At least, at first.

Alfred bought a station near Forbes, NSW, and later moved to Victoria, where he and his brother set up a stock and station agency, called EBL Dickens and Partners. He died on a visit to the US.

Edward managed a property in Wilcannia, and for five years represented the town in state Parliament. He later worked as a rabbit inspector and lands department officer for the NSW government. He died in poverty in Moree.

In Australia as in England, the public devoured Dickens’s prolific outpourings in books, stage plays and magazines, such as Household Words and All the Year Round.

As the author’s entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography notes, so widely published was his material that it ”helped impose Dickens’s own view of Australia on Australian life and society”.

Marie Bashir, the NSW Governor, is one of many prominent admirers of the author, who died in 1870. She recently recalled how as a ”little book worm” growing up in Narrandera in southern NSW, she visited his statue in the park, and later munched her way avidly through his complete works.

”I can still hear my mother saying, ‘Come to bed, Marie. It’s past midnight. Put that book down’.”

Next entry I will recall another anniversary of a literary nature, and confess more about my new addiction to eBooks!

Damn Fine Gentlemen and visitors from Beijing

Yesterday at The Five Islands Brewery.





The ladies were part of a bus tour. They are from Beijing. Seems word is getting out about what a good venue we have down here in The Gong.

Yesterday: the Christening Party at Five Islands Brewery





M’s Wollongong visit


M in Mylan studying the menu.

Friday Australian poem #NS7 — “Araluen”—Henry Kendall 1841-1882


* A stream in the Braidwood district, New South Wales.

River, myrtle rimmed, and set
Deep amongst unfooted dells—
Daughter of grey hills of wet,
Born by mossed and yellow wells;

Now that soft September lays
Tender hands on thee and thine,
Let me think of blue-eyed days,
Star-like flowers and leaves of shine!

Cities soil the life with rust;
Water banks are cool and sweet;
River, tired of noise and dust,
Here I come to rest my feet.

Now the month from shade to sun
Fleets and sings supremest songs,
Now the wilful wood-winds run
Through the tangled cedar throngs.

Here are cushioned tufts and turns
Where the sumptuous noontide lies:
Here are seen by flags and ferns
Summer’s large, luxurious eyes.

On this spot wan Winter casts
Eyes of ruth, and spares its green
From his bitter sea-nursed blasts,
Spears of rain and hailstones keen.

Rather here abideth Spring,
Lady of a lovely land,
Dear to leaf and fluttering wing,
Deep in blooms—by breezes fanned.

Faithful friend beyond the main,
Friend that time nor change makes cold;
Now, like ghosts, return again
Pallid, perished days of old.

Ah, the days!—the old, old theme,
Never stale, but never new,
Floating like a pleasant dream,
Back to me and back to you.

Since we rested on these slopes
Seasons fierce have beaten down
Ardent loves and blossoming hopes—
Loves that lift and hopes that crown.

But, believe me, still mine eyes
Often fill with light that springs
From divinity, which lies
Ever at the heart of things.

Solace do I sometimes find
Where you used to hear with me
Songs of stream and forest wind,
Tones of wave and harp-like tree.

Araluen—home of dreams,
Fairer for its flowerful glade
Than the face of Persian streams
Or the slopes of Syrian shade;

Why should I still love it so,
Friend and brother far away?
Ask the winds that come and go,
What hath brought me here to-day.

Evermore of you I think,
When the leaves begin to fall,
Where our river breaks its brink,
And a rest is over all.

Evermore in quiet lands,
Friend of mine beyond the sea,
Memory comes with cunning hands,
Stays, and paints your face for me.



At the head of the Araluen Valley is one of the best views in the south east looking towards the Deua-Wadbilliga Wilderness. Then riding in the Araluen Valley along the Deua River is very peaceful on good quality dirt.—Sydney Cyclist

From the  Biographical Note by Bertram Stevens:

Henry Kendall was the first Australian poet to draw his inspiration from the life, scenery and traditions of the country. In the beginnings of Australian poetry the names of two other men stand with his—Adam Lindsay Gordon, of English parentage and education, and Charles Harpur, born in Australia a generation earlier than Kendall. Harpur’s work, though lacking vitality, shows fitful gleams of poetic fire suggestive of greater achievement had the circumstances of his life been more favourable. Kendall, whose lot was scarcely more fortunate, is a true singer; his songs remain, and are likely long to remain, attractive to poetry lovers.…

Of Basil Kendall’s early career little is known. While in South America he saw service under Lord Cochrane, the famous tenth Earl of Dundonald, who, after five brilliant years in the Chilean service, was, between 1823 and 1825, fighting on behalf of Brazil. Basil returned to Australia, but disappears from view until 1840. One day in that year he met a Miss Melinda McNally, and next day they were married. Soon afterwards they settled on the Ulladulla grant, farming land at Kirmington, two miles from the little town of Milton. There, in a primitive cottage Basil had built, twin sons—Basil Edward and Henry—were born on the 18th April, 1841. Five years later the family moved to the Clarence River district and settled near the Orara. Basil Kendall had practically lost one lung before his marriage, and failing health made it exceedingly difficult for him to support his family, to which by this time three daughters had been added. On the Orara he grew steadily weaker, and died somewhere about 1851.

Basil Kendall was well educated, and had done what he could to educate his children. After his death the family was scattered, and the two boys were sent to a relative on the South Coast. The scenery of this district made a profound impression upon Henry, and is often referred to in his early poems. In 1855 his uncle Joseph took him as cabin boy in his brig, the ‘Plumstead’, for a two years’ cruise in the Pacific, during which they touched at many of the Islands and voyaged as far north as Yokohama. The beauty of the scenes he visited lived in the boy’s memory, but the rigours of ship life were so severe that in after years he looked back on the voyage with horror.

Henry Kendall returned to Sydney in March, 1857, and at once obtained employment in the city and set about making a home for his mother and sisters. Mrs. Kendall, granddaughter of Leonard McNally, a Dublin notable of his day, was a clever, handsome woman with a strong constitution and a volatile temperament. Henry was always devoted to her, and considered that from her he inherited whatever talent he possessed. She helped in his education, and encouraged him to write verse.

The first verses of his known to have been printed were “O tell me, ye breezes”—signed “H. Kendall”—which appeared in ‘The Australian Home Companion and Band of Hope Journal’ in 1859…

Braidwood and Araluen will be getting a mention in the next of the Neil’s Personal Decades series. Also my mother spent some of her teenage years in Milton: see Scans worth preserving–3–“The Sydney Mail” 1928.

As for the poem: it is of interest, but I don’t think anyone would claim greatness for it. “Daughter of grey hills of wet”, for example… But the love shines through.


Milking time (Araluen Valley) – Elioth Gruner 1922

Neil’s personal decades: 10 — 1865

As I said, here we are starting to see some people I actually remember.


That is enlarged from a tintype photo:

The invention of the tintype in 1854 brought the reality of photography closer to the mass population. A Tintype consisted of a thin iron ( not actually tin ) plate coated with a wet collodion emulsion. Once developed the tintype exhibited crisp detail on a varied gray background. The average tintype was about 2.5 x 3.5″ however many other sizes were produced, including miniature tintypes the size of postage stamps. Initially presented in ornate cases with pressed metal boarders similar to that of the Daguerreotype, most tintypes were housed in decorative card sleeves, specially designed albums or often left loose. While certainly more robust than a Daguerreotype, the tintypes emulsion was sensitive and often scratched due to careless handling….

It is a portrait of Thomas Daniel Sweeney Whitfield, my grandfather, who was born in Picton in 1866.

His father, William Joseph John Whitfield, had been born in Sydney in 1836, marrying Elizabeth Ratcliffe in 1861.

While WJJ did go on to considerable success in the Picton/Myrtle Creek/Tahmoor/Bargo area, the 1860s had their moments, it appears. This is from February 1866.


Meanwhile Picton was being linked to the world by rail!

Following the completion of the first railway from Sydney to Parramatta Junction in 1855, proposals for the first railways to the rest of NSW were driven by postural communities interests seeking improved transport for their produce from inland centres such as Goulburn, Bathurst, Singleton and Muswellbrook. When John Whitton arrived in Sydney in 1856 to take up his position as Engineer-in-Chief of the NSW Railways, “he understood his job was to plan the extensions which would take the infant railway into the interior of Australia. At that time only the railway from Sydney to Liverpool was open, just twenty-one miles (34km) in length. Its extension to Campbelltown and beyond to the banks of the Nepean River at Menangle, a total of about seventeen miles (27km), had been surveyed” (Lee, 2000, p98). This was one of the first sections of line completed by Whitton by 1862…

When John Whitton planned the railway extension from Campbelltown to Picton, he was under pressure from government to keep costs low by using as much local material as possible, and originally proposed a timber bridge for crossing the Nepean River at Menangle. However following a large flood in 1860, Whitton designed a high level wrought iron large span bridge to get extra clearance from the waterway. Flanked by long timber approach viaducts, the bridge was a total of 582 m (1,909 feet). It was a massive structure for its time, comprising 5,909 cubic yards of masonry, 1,089 cubic yards of brickwork and 936 tons of wrought iron for a total cost of 94,562 pounds. The completion of the bridge in 1863 was an internationally recognised engineering achievement (Lee, 2000).

The single line from North Menangle to Picton opened on 1 July 1863 with Picton Station opening on the same date. The contract for the construction of the station buildings was awarded to M Jamieson & Eaton. The design of the Georgian style station building at Picton is attributed to Whitton and was completed for the opening of the single line in 1863. Other notable early stations attributed to Whitton include Mittagong, Moss Vale, Scone, Muswellbrook, Penrith (No.3 platform), Bowenfels and Mount Victoria. These early buildings borrow heavily from Whitton’s design experience in England and increasingly move from Georgian to Victorian architectural styles and represent Whitton’s obstinate faith in British railway standards and workmanship which continued throughout his career (Lee, 2000).

A goods shed and engine shed were also constructed at Picton in 1863. Picton remained the terminus of the line until the line was extended to Mittagong in 1867…


Picton Station 1863

You can read about the difficulties attending that Mittagong extension here.


Segue to my mother’s family, and the first time England gets a mention in this series*:


  • Born: 2 JUN 1846, Kirkby Thore,Westmorland,England
  • Baptised: 12 JUL 1846, Kirkby Thore,Westmorland,England
  • Died: 20 JUL 1912, Dulwich Hill,N.S.W.,Australia
  • Buried: Rookwood Cemetery,Sydney

married 31 DEC 1867, St Michael,Appleby,Westmorland — Isabella Ann NELSON

  • Born: 1845, Bongate,Appleby,Westmorland
  • Baptised: 30 DEC 1845, St Michael,Appleby,Westmorland
  • Died: 23 JUL 1925, Dulwich Hill,N.S.W.,Australia
  • Buried: Rookwood Cemetery,Sydney

That couple are my great-grandparents! Their daughter Ada married my maternal grandfather Roy Hampton Christison.

And am I right in thinking that the patriarch, Henry Hunter, was an engine driver? Certainly seeing Goulburn mentioned in that family tree brought back stories Grandma Ada told me about him and Goulburn, and his being crippled with arthritis partly as a result of time spent in the cab of steam locomotives.

And I should also mention that my great-grandfather John Hampton Christison and my great-grandmother Sophia Jane Christison nee Lillie had both been born in 1858: in his case in Scotland, in hers in Australia. On GenForum:

George Lillie (Born 1834 in Aberdeen to Thomas and Martha Mathers) married Mary Collier in 1836. They went to Sydney, Australia as assisted immigrants and had the following children: Mary, George G., Thomas C., John K., Frederick W. and Sophia J.


Kind of true, given I haven’t mentioned it yet in this series, but the Wests (as in Caroline Philadelphia West, wife of William Whitfield) and the Ratcliffes (as in the wife of William Joseph John Whitfield) were of English background, just for starters.

Neil’s personal decades: 9 – 1864-5 – pause for a murder

I see that the decade 1855 to 1865 saw the birth of several people I actually remember! More on that next time.

Meanwhile you may recall the extraordinary (I now think) article posted in the Sydney newspapers in 1839 about my convict ancestor Jacob Whitfield who was at that time about to appear before the court charged with receiving stolen goods.

Jacob was subsequently discharged by the court. I guess he was in no position to sue Whitfield the gunsmith (no relation), a free settler.

whitfield-1 41297

Revolver, double trigger, Tranter c. 1860 (AF). Revolver, percussion, (Tranter, double trigger model) top barrel inscribed “George Whitfield Cannon House, King St Sydney”, 1850 – 1864

See also The Firearms Technology Museum

There is an entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography. I said in my recent post in this series “So that gunsmith, who was murdered in 1864, may have been just a bit unfair about my ancestor.” It does seem possible he rather made a habit of blackguarding people, if the person eventually found guilty of murdering him (but not hanged for it) is to be believed. “On the evening of November 4th 1864 at about 6:30pm while talking to two friends outside his shop he was murdered by patrick McGlynn, a former employee who had been dismissed after a disagreement about four years earlier. McGlynn walked up to him and shot him through the temple with a six shot revolver.” You will find the Illustrated Sydney News 1864 account here. It was big news throughout the whole country. This is from the Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser 12 November 1864.


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The Shrunken Morning Herald, and an eBook find

Today is the day!


Yes, The Sydney Morning Herald now looks confusingly like The Illawarra Mercury, but pricier.  To be fair, though, why should not being a broadsheet affect in itself the quality of the content? After all, The Guardian Weekly manages to be even more compact and no-one would confuse it with The Daily Terror. On the other hand it is obvious Fairfax is putting a brave face on what really is a retreat.

Horrible to have to say this, though: there was not only nothing much to object to in Paul Sheehan’s piece today but I would even go so far as to recommend it!

Piece by piece, month by month, the map of Sydney’s greatest unsolved and unacknowledged crime wave has taken shape. What that map belatedly reveals is that thousands of men were stalked, savagely assaulted and, in at least 50 cases, murdered.

Mostly it was groups who preyed upon these men and they often brought implements for violence, sometimes knives, sometimes tools of their trades. Among the weapons used were bags of drill bits, claw hooks and iron bars. The preferred footwear was workmen’s boots, good for kicking.

They hunted for a certain kind of victim, on thousands of outings, across different parts of Sydney. The police were oblivious. They remain oblivious to the scale of what they missed.

Nobody in authority has acknowledged the extent of this wave of very specific crimes. It has taken 25 years for the big picture to finally come into focus.

What these crimes all had in common was the type of victims: gay men. Most of the assaults were premeditated. These were gay bashings. When this wave of crime washed through Sydney between 1985 and 1999 the phenomenon was largely invisible to the wider culture.

About 20 deaths officially recorded during this time as unsolved, suicide or death by misadventure are now seen to fit a pattern of gay-hate murder that has never been officially acknowledged.

The number of serious assaults, enough to require hospitalisation, was in the hundreds during these years. Most were never categorised as gay-hate crimes. The number of violent incidents numbered in the thousands. Few perpetrators were charged…

Having been in and around the Oxford Street/Newtown scene all through 1985-1999 I can testify to the climate of fear that did prevail as we heard of one hate crime after another. I would very often walk late at night back to Redfern or Surry Hills or Glebe in that period with my eyes constantly on the lookout for danger. Or caught a taxi. I was lucky. The worst I experienced was occasional verbal abuse. I knew quite a few people who were not so lucky.

I did have one funny experience around 1 am in Oxford Street on a Saturday night/Sunday morning in the later 1980s. Some mean-looking characters all chains and leather were heading my way and I was scouting escape routes when one said, “Oh hullo, Mr Whitfield! Having a good night?”  Yes, Sydney High Year 11s out on the town…

Mind you, Paul Sheehan’s piece really is just an extension and reworking of the Australian Story item I discussed on Australian Story: justice delayed. So kudos really should go to the ABC.

While looking for more information about Valerie Desmond I landed a wonderful eBook from Monash University Press (2009).



Valerie appears in Simon Sleight’s “Reading the British Australasian community in London, 1884 1924.”


From 1888 until 1912 the British Australasian published its own list of ‘Australasians in Europe’, both settlers and sojourners. This information enlightens as well as omits, but a few suggestive trends emerge from a slice analysis based on a comparison of five different weeks across five different years (see Table 7.1). Note the increasing proportion of married and unmarried women (sufficient, perhaps, to prompt the initiation of a ladies’ column in the newspaper in July 1905); the relative steadiness of numbers of dependants and percentage of New Zealanders in Britain; and the significant, though fluctuating, presence of Australasians in Scotland, the overwhelming majority of whom gave their postal address as the Australasian Club in Edinburgh. Established around 1877, some 21 years before its English namesake, Edinburgh’s Australasian Club was one of the longest established Australasian societies in Britain yet probably the least mentioned by historians.

At best these figures represent a slim sample of those in Europe. Most likely these were individuals subscribing to the newspaper, which in any case reduced the column inches devoted to its Australian address book over time. Further clouding the picture, in 1911 Valerie Desmond even suggested that one’s lack of material progress in the capital could affect one’s chances of inclusion in the British Australasian’s list. ‘When frequent changes of address’, she stated, ‘make it too plain that the C.Y.A. [Clever Young Australian] is bilking his landlady, and the change of locality is from humble to worse – well it discreetly draws the curtain. The “British Australasian” is a most genteel publication’. Perhaps more insightful was the editor’s admission that ‘only a very small proportion’ of ‘the many thousands’ of Australasians in Europe featured in the directory. By March 1912 the list had gone, ‘owing to the ever-increasing numbers of visitors’.