Blogging the 2010s — 7 — January 2016

How time flies! Reading Peter Corris, Martin’s Mates (2003) — and thoroughly enjoying it! — was for me rather like time travelling, to sites that ten to thirty years ago were very familiar. Now to go back three years… And a bit more family history as a bonus.

Australia Day at Mount Kembla

About Mount Kembla see Wollongong City Library:

Kembla is an aboriginal word meaning “wild game abundant” or “plenty of game”. The aborigines called the area “jum-bullah” or “Djembla” which means a wallaby. Mount Kembla has been described as a “sub-tropical belt of rainforest ” which “housed a variety of game life which provided an abundant food supply”. The first grant in the Parish of Kembla was made to George Molle in 1817. It was for 300 acres. In 1818 W. F. Weston received a promise of 500 acres. Both these grants were on the northern side of Mullet Creek. In 1843 four grants were obtained by Henry Gordon which had frontages to American Creek. Another grant on American Creek, 24 acres, was issued to Patrick Lehaey. A settlement developed in this locality and in March 1859 a National School was completed here.

First record of the name Mount Kembla appeared on H.F. White’s map of the Illawarra in 1834…

I was there yesterday with Jim and Helen (nee Christison) Langridge – Helen is my cousin – and a delightful lady born in France whose childhood around Brittany in the latter years of World War 2 was to say the least eventful. There was much reminiscing about schools and family.

Now of course I took pictures of my grandfather Tom Whitfield as a child in the 1860s and as an old man in the late 1940s. Why? Because we were lunching in the Mount Kembla Village Hotel. You may recall this post: Neil’s personal decades: 18 – 1890s – T D Whitfield.

I had noted the work my grandfather T D Whitfield did repairing Tory’s Hotel, which still stands. What escaped my notice is that it seems my grandfather built the Mount Kembla Hotel – now the oldest weatherboard hotel in the Illawarra (1898).

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2010 – with Sirdan

See Sunday lunch–Mount Kembla Hotel (2010) and First Sunday out of cardiac ward: Mount Kembla Pub (2011). I then had no idea of my grandfather’s connection with the place. UPDATE: Built 1887, opened 1898. T D is ambiguous: he may have built it, or he may (presumably later) have “painted and repaired” as he did the Freemasons, which used to be on the corner of Crown and Keira Streets.

Now remarkably I have found an amazing photo, thanks to the Lost Wollongong Tumblr – which I plan to explore again:

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Yes, that is the actual building of the Mount Kembla Hotel! See also tag “Mount Kembla” A note there says “The Mount Kembla Village Hotel is one of the few original timber hotels remaining in the Illawarra today, seen here during construction in 1870.”  I doubt that date; Wollongong Library has: “This two storey building was built in 1887. It is constructed of weatherboard with a corrugated iron roof, and a timber front upstairs verandah. It was a meeting place for the miners of Mount Kembla for many years. In 1924 the Tooth’s company purchased the hotel from its original owner, Mr O’Halloran, the village’s first publican. Over recent years the interior has been extensively refurbished.”

Update

There are peculiarities about the dates for the Mount Kembla Hotel. The pub itself has 1898 on its site and on the building. Yet the University of Wollongong list of local pubs says “Mount Kembla Hotel Cordeaux Rd, Mount Kembla, 1907-Present”. It does seem strange that a pub built, it seems, in 1887 would wait until 1898 or even less likely 1907 to open, though that last date is “years of operation”. Maybe the issue is when it was actually licensed under its present name.

Just as a framework, here are dates from the Wollongong Library page, and a strong clue there:

1865 Pioneer Kerosene Works opened at Mt Kembla

1878 Mount Kembla Coal and Oil Co. established to work coal seams.  E. Vickery principal shareholder

1882 Railway constructed by the Mt Kembla Coal & Oil Co from Mt Kembla Colliery to the Port Kembla jetty

1883 Post Office established at Mt Kembla on 1 October 1883

1883 Mt Kembla Colliery opened

1884 Name of school changed from Violet Hill to Mt Kembla

1887 A second coal mine was opened directly below the summit of Mt Kembla

1887 Mt Kembla signal box was built at Unanderra on the main southern line

1889 Mt Kembla Gun Club established

1894 First Roman Catholic Church at Mt Kembla opened by Dr Higgins, Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney

1896 Workmen’s Club formed at Windy Gully

1896 New two storey school building and teachers residence opened on 18 April

1898 Mt Kembla Hotel receives confirmation of its licence

1899 Mt. Lyell Co. establishes coke ovens alongside Mount Kembla Colliery jetty – operated until 1925

1901 336 men employed at the Mt Kembla mine

1902 Mount Kembla Colliery disaster 31 July 1902.  96 men and boys die

Blogging the 2010s — 6 — January 2015

Reading today about what’s happening around Thirlmere and Picton…

Neil’s personal decades: 16 – 1880s and 90s – Whitfields again

No Friday poem today as I want to follow up yesterday’s post which, you may recall, detailed the sad fate of William Whitfield (1812-1897) and the impact of the Depression of the 1890s on his son William Joseph John Whitfield (1836-1925), whose son in turn (Thomas Daniel Sweeney Whitfield 1866-1948) was my grandfather at whose knee I have sat. Just think: when William was born Napoleon was off to Russia, and William Joseph John lived through World War 1.

I was really moved by the extra detail about William’s death in Rushcutter’s Bay. Afterwards I wondered what happened to his wife, Caroline Philadelphia West. I also wondered just when William had returned to the inner Sydney he had left in the1840s. The second I don’t know yet, but the first is a sad story again.

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William Whitfield and his wife Caroline Philadelphia

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1881: leaving a husband and 13 children

The following year William sold up:

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Location, location, location:

Once occupied by the Gundungura and Tharawal Aborigines, the first Europeans to investigate the area around Picton were the party of ex-convict John Wilson who passed through in 1798. They had been sent by Governor Hunter to accumulate data about the southlands to discourage convicts who were escaping and heading south in the belief that China was only 150 miles away.There was already a very small European presence to the north around present-day Camden, consisting of stockmen sent to tend the cattle on the Cowpastures, although all other settlement of that area had been forbidden in order to ensure the development of the herd (see entry on Camden for further information on the Cowpastures).

By 1819 Governor Macquarie had authorised the construction of a road from Picton through to the Goulburn Plains. The first land grant in the area was ‘Stargard’, a gift to Christian Carl Ludwig Rumker, Governor Brisbane’s astronomer, in honour of his rediscovery of Encke’s Comet. Nearby Major Henry Antill established a 2000-acre property in 1822 which he first named ‘Wilton’, subsequently renaming it ‘Jarvisfield’ after Jane Jarvis, the wife of his friend, Governor Macquarie. The station stretched from Stonequarry Creek to Razorback. The family home still stands although now it is used as the clubhouse for the Antill Park Golf Club….

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Stargard Estate today

Moving now to the son, William Joseph John: I was struck by the details of that sad auction announcement. It really must have been quite a big concern, that Blue Gum Mill. One of the items listed is a 14hp Rushton Proctor Portable Engine. Imagine that!

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Casting forward to 1903 I note this:

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That is one of my father’s younger aunts, the daughter of William Joseph John. They settled in Wellington NSW where in the late 60s and early 70s I stayed in their house with their daughter Dorothy. They were deceased by then. The house however had quite a few treasures, including a Whitfield family Bible that may have been old William’s. The groom’s father long lived in Appin NSW, part of the district including Picton – just the other side of the escarpment I see from my window. There is a famous tale about Appin: Massacre at Appin in 1816.

When Europeans took up land grants, they cleared and fenced the land, irrecoverably changing the patterns of hunting and gathering that had been followed by the Dharawal people for tens of thousands of years.
Some European settlers formed a close rapport with Aborigines. Charles Throsby of Glenfield was accompanied by Dharawal men when he explored the southern highlands area. Throsby was a persistent critic of European treatment of the Aborigines. Hamilton Hume who, in 1814 with his brother John, made the first of a number of long exploratory trips southwards, did so in company with a young Aboriginal friend named Doual.
Whereas the “mountain natives” (probably Gandangara) had a reputation of being hostile in defence of their people and their land, the Dharawal were peaceful and had no history of aggression. Unfortunately few settlers could distinguish between the two groups.
In 1814, Macquarie issued an order in the Sydney Gazette, admonishing settlers in the Appin and Cowpastures area. “Any person who may be found to have treated them [natives] with inhumanity or cruelty, will be punished?.” This followed an atrocity when an Aboriginal woman and her children were murdered at Appin.
Two years later, in the drought of 1816, the Gandangara came again from the mountains in search of food. Europeans were killed and about 40 farmers armed themselves with muskets and pitchforks….

That becomes a very sad story. It is commemorated annually theses days: Annual Appin Massacre Memorial Ceremony.

On 17 April 1816, there was a massacre of Dharawal people near Appin. For over a decade now, the Winga Myamly (sit down and talk – Wiradjuri language) Reconciliation Group, which works towards Reconciliation by raising awareness of issues and promoting a partnership to bring about change for Indigenous people, has organised this Memorial Ceremony held on the Sunday afternoon closest to 17 April….

Just a reminder of the background behind the stories I have been telling and the places concerned.

Family note and then Attenborough

First family. I have noted before that my grandnephew David Parkes and his sister Lauren have been on an amazing and very extensive trip through Europe. Lauren’s latest posts on Facebook are from Ireland. This is just one photo:

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So more descendants of Jacob Whitfield are revisiting the scene of the crime, so to speak. I have been wondering how close they have been to where his son William Whitfield was born 16 Mar 1812 , Parish of Drumgoon, Cootehill, Co. Cavan, Ireland.

Years ago, without even realising the family connection, David and Lauren’s older brother Nathan was in the Emerald Isle too, but only briefly.

That’s my grandnephew Nathan in Ireland in 2011.

And now Attenborough. Tonight Channel Nine is showing the Australia episode of Seven Worlds, One Planet. Definitely a must watch!

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On Facebook recently I reminded myself and everyone else of how David Attenborough moved from scepticism to acceptance on the subject of climate change. To quote the man himself way back in 2006 — and if anything his conviction has grown since.

I was sceptical about climate change. I was cautious about crying wolf. I am always cautious about crying wolf. I think conservationists have to be careful in saying things are catastrophic when, in fact, they are less than catastrophic.

I have seen my job at the BBC as a presenter to produce programmes about natural history, just as the Natural History Museum would be interested in showing a range of birds of paradise – that’s the sort of thing I’ve been doing. And in almost every big series I’ve made, the most recent one being Planet Earth, I’ve ended up by talking about the future, and possible dangers. But, with climate change, I was sceptical. That is true….

But I’m no longer sceptical. Now I do not have any doubt at all. I think climate change is the major challenge facing the world. I have waited until the proof was conclusive that it was humanity changing the climate. The thing that really convinced me was the graphs connecting the increase of carbon dioxide in the environment and the rise in temperature, with the growth of human population and industrialisation. The coincidence of the curves made it perfectly clear we have left the period of natural climatic oscillation behind and have begun on a steep curve, in terms of temperature rise, beyond anything in terms of increases that we have seen over many thousands of years.

People say, everything will be all right in the end. But it’s not the case. We may be facing major disasters on a global scale.

And here under the rubric FACTS from NASA is something from the present:

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As I said on Facebook:  I fear I have become even more intolerant of self-styled “climate change skepticism” in recent times. I cannot even imagine why anyone in the light of so much evidence can even contemplate such an idea! But of course people are entitled to their opinions…

See also Skeptical Science, and browse extensively there!

On my brother — some images reconsidered

See Ian Jeffrey Whitfield 3/10/1935 – 5/4/2017.  Last Friday on Facebook I posted a photo from c.1940 of Ian at 61 Auburn Street Sutherland, where I also lived 1943-1952. My niece Maree (with whom I have only recently renewed contact) commented that she had never seen it before.

That took me back to the image I used in the post linked above. I cropped it in order to think more about exactly when it was taken. It also shows my sister Jeanette (19 March 1940- 15 January 1952).  My father was in the RAAF from 8 April 1940 to 23 November 1945. The following photo was taken probably in 1944. It shows the family grouped in the yard at 61 Auburn Street.  It is possible my father took the photo before he was sent to Port Moresby, where he served in the last year of the war. Reflecting on the fact that these are wartime photos has been part of my revisiting them.warfamily

Left to right: back row: my aunt Ruth Christison, my uncle Neil Christison (in RAAF uniform), my aunt Beth Christison. Front row: me, my mother Jean Whitfield, my sister Jeanette, my brother Ian. The photo is creased so much because my father took this copy with him to Port Moresby.

Now the cropped photo, which may even date from the same day. If so, Ian would have been eight or nine years old.

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Just over ten years later, Ian (right) on his wedding day at 1 Vermont Street Sutherland, 1955:

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VP Day

Yesterday was VP/VJ Day — Victory in the Pacific/Victory over Japan. 74 years! And yes, I was alive at the time, doing what I have told before:

I do remember sitting on my dinkie on the gravel drive, near the Dorothy Perkins climbing rose which I called Mrs Perkins and confused with the lady next door who I thought was also Mrs Perkins. A yellow biplane flew over very low and the pilot leaned out and waved to me. My mother later told me that must have been the end of World War II.

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And here I am close to that time with my sister Jeanette (1940-1952):

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My dad was still in the RAAF in Papua. Here he is in the cockpit of a Kittyhawk in Port Moresby:

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And here he is in uniform:

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My uncle, Neil Christison, turned 21 in July 1945 — I was named after him — was around Moratai at the time. His was a hard war. Here he is out of uniform in the backyard at Auburn Street, Sutherland.

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Another uncle, Keith Christison, was in the army on the home front.

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Yesterday there was a commemoration at Wollongong City Diggers. To be honest, it wasn’t until I saw footage on the local WIN News that I remembered what the day was! Not many WW2 vets left now. The scene at City Diggers yesterday, photo from our local member of parliament Sharon Bird:

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