New England's History

Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

History Revisited - New England's first Aboriginal settlers

BREATHTAKING: The rolling hills of New England have not always looked like they do now. Jim Belshaw explains in his column this week that changing climate conditions altered the landscape
In my 15 April column, I made you stand on Smoky Cape for 40,000 years watching the dramatic sea level and climatic changes of the late Pleistocene and Holocene epochs take place around you.

The Pleistocene was marked by repeated glacial cycles during which the sea level fell and the climate became much colder and drier. Some 11,700 years ago, it was replaced by the warmer and wetter Holocene during which sea levels rose 120 metres to their present level.

These changes provide the backdrop to the changing patterns of Aboriginal life across Northern NSW, the broader New England, over the millennia that New England’s Aboriginal peoples occupied the land. The changes would not have been noticeable at any point in time, but would have been very noticeable over time, forcing regular long term adjustments on the Aboriginal inhabitants. 

We don’t know exactly when the Aborigines first arrived in the area that would be called New England. However, dating from the Willandra Lakes site in south western NSW that Aboriginal people were present in inland NSW by around 41,000 years ago, while the pattern of archaeological dates across the continent suggests that they came to NSW via inland routes potentially from both the north and the west.

This was a benign time in climatic terms. From 45,000 to around 36,000 years ago, moderate temperatures and high rainfalls filled the inland lakes and rivers. Travel would have been relatively easy across the inland plains. The dates we have suggest to me that early Aboriginal settlers in the north spread south along the western coast, north across the continent, then south along the inland corridor. However, they could have moved in multiple directions.

We now have a rush of dates. In the Hunter, we have dates from sites with a range of 17,000 to 30,000 years ago. Evidence from the Liverpool Plains indicate Aboriginal occupation from at least 19,000 years ago, while the Wallen Wallen Creek site in south east Queensland suggests occupation from about 20,000 years ago.

There is a very particular pattern to these dates, for the world was changing and for the worse.

From 36,000 years ago, the climate became cooler and drier, the sea levels began to fall again as the ice caps grew. Water remained plentiful in the lakes and rivers because lower rainfall balanced lower evaporation.

From 25,000 years ago, the climate deteriorated, culminating in what we call the Late Glacial Maximum (LGM). This lasted from 21,000 to 15,000 years ago. Sea levels fell from around 50 metres to perhaps 130 metres below current levels. The climate became very dry and intensely hot or cold over much of the continent.

If we now look at the dates we have, three apparent features stand out. They generally fall during the early onset stages of the LGM. They are inland dates or at least away from the coast. Finally, and so far at least, an occupation gap emerges in the archaeological record.

I will continue this story in my next column.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 13 May 2015. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

History Revisited - teeing off a history of sport in New England

A PLEASANT WALK SPOILED: Jim Belshaw's research led him to discover fascinating aspects of the history of golf in Armidale
Did you know that there have been three very different Armidale golf courses? I didn’t until I read Pat Chapman’s history of the Armidale Golf Club 1899-1981.

Organised golf was played in Armidale from at least 1893, although the Armidale Golf Club itself was not formed until 1899. The Club’s first golf course meandered through the paddocks along Dumaresq Creek from near Markham Street as far west as Douglas Street.

That first course had its own problems. Plucking balls from the tar filled effluent from the gasworks was usually a smelly job, There were also problems with landholders and indeed with angry bulls, making ball recovery difficult.

Matters came to a head after the First World War when a series of wet seasons with consequent long grass made the course virtually unplayable. Finally, the Armidale Golf Club leased the grass rights on the race course from the Armidale Jockey Club with the tea rooms as club house. The new nine hole course opened in 1922.

I blinked a bit when I read this, for the race course grounds were multi-purpose space, including Armidale’s aerodrome. Indeed, it was a remarkably crowded space catering not only for gallops, golf and aircraft, but also trotting, coursing, cricket, soccer and hockey. 

Mrs A R J Woller found this out first hand when she was forced to take refuge in the horse stands after fleeing from a wayward aircraft which had struck hockey posts on takeoff!

In 1927, the Armidale Golf Club committee was charged with acquiring a sufficient area of land for an 18 hole golf course. This was quite a brave decision, for the Club had only 40 pounds in the bank.

Searching, the committee purchased from Frank Pearson a block in a commanding position overlooking Armidale from the southwest. The price? A thousand pounds!

To fund the purchase, the Club launched an oversubscribed debenture issue paying 6 per cent interest. Repayment was to be by an annual ballot, with 10 per cent of the capital to be repaid. 

You couldn’t do this today, of course. The Armidale Club issuing debentures? The rules wouldn’t allow it. 

During the depression of the 1930s, those holding the debentures hoped that they would not be selected for repayment in the annual ballot. Investments yielding 6 per cent were very hard to find.

The site that the Club purchased is that we know today. It remains one of Armidale’s major community assets, one that many of us know and have greatly enjoyed.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 6 May 2015. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015.


Wednesday, May 06, 2015

History revisited - J F Campbell: surveyor, botanist, historian

I first came across J F Campbell as an early writer on New England’s history. Between 1922 and 1937, he published twenty eight papers in the Royal Australian Historical Society Journal and Proceedings, many on New England topics. I would also find that from 1907, he published sixteen papers in the Institution of Surveyors’ New South Wales’ journal, The Surveyor, again many with New England connection.

Clearly, J F Campbell was quite prolific, but who was he? Searching, I found that a much later New England historian, John Atchison, had written extensively on Campbell’s life. Campbell was much more than just an historian.

John Campbell (1853-1938), was born on 21 August 1853 at Loch Leven, Kinross-shire, Scotland. After school, Perthshire, he was apprenticed to an architect. Upon completion, he switched to surveying, studying at the University of Glasgow.

Often restless, a need for movement would mark his life, Campbell left for Dunedin in 1879 before completing his course. Two years later he moved on to Sydney.

In Sydney, he adopted the middle name Fauna for identification purposes, becoming J F Campbell. For reasons that will become clear, Flora would have been a better choice given his interests, but Flora was a girl’s name, one carried by Jacobite heroine Flora Macdonald, an association not likely to appeal to a Campbell

In Sydney, Campbell joined the Department of Lands as a cadet draftsman and was soon promoted. Completing examinations, he was registered as a licensed surveyor on 10 January 1884.

Late in 1888, Campbell was sent to the Walcha district of the Armidale Land Board, establishing his New England connection, one that he was to maintain in one way or another for a long time. In February 1889, he married Althea Louisa Gissing, a newly arrived Englishwoman, in Sydney. The couple quickly became well known in the district, with Campbell serving on the Walcha Council for eight years.

Campbell was fascinated by the natural environment. The passage of the Crown Lands Amendment Act of 1884, an uneasy compromise between squatting and free selection interests that became the basis of land policy for the next 100 years, encouraged new selection. Outside his official duties, Campbell began documenting a changing landscape.

A member of the Linnean Society of New South Wales, he studied and collected new botanical specimens, working with Ernst Betche and J. H. Maiden who named a shrub after him. Later, his geological notes were incorporated in Sir Edgeworth David's 1931 Geological Map of the Commonwealth of Australia.

In 1903 Campbell moved to Sydney for the education of his children, briefly returning to New England as crown representative and chairman of the Armidale Forest Board in 1906-07. In retirement from the end of 1913, Campbell retained his interest in rural issues, now researching and writing quite prolifically.

A reticent man who shunned publicity, Campbell displayed unflagging zeal and patience in detailed research until his death in 1938.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 29 April 2015. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

History revisited - a short 40,000 year tour of the Macleay Valley

Growing up, did you build castles or forts on the beach to try to hold out the waves? The waves come in rushes, overtopping the walls. You hastily rebuild, waiting for the next wave to arrive. In the end, you have to go home, leaving your construction to be destroyed by the waves.

We remember the inexorable power of the waves from our childhood experiences or from playing on the beach with our own children. It’s not all that long ago since my own girls were young enough for me to play with them in this way, sometimes attracting other kids from the length and breadth of the beach. I still miss those times!

This is a history column, not a chance for personal recollections, attractive though that may be.

You are standing on Smoky Cape, looking at what will become South West Rocks. It is forty thousand years ago. The sea is 50 metres below its current level. You look across a coastal plain sloping down. You turn to your right. The coast is distant.

It is now twenty thousand years ago. The sea is 120 metres below its current level. From your perch on Smoky Cape you face out to sea. You cannot see the water. It’s much colder, perhaps 6-10 C degrees below current levels.

You think of popping down to the coast for a swim, then shrug, Perhaps not. You come from the cold Tablelands. There are glacial ice sheets at Guyra. You are used to the cold. Still, it’s just too cold. You shrug and pull your fur coat around you.

It is now seven thousand years ago. From around fifteen thousand years temperatures began to rise, the ice sheets began to melt.

The rush of water was quite sudden. On the vast plains and wetlands that stretched between the current Australian continent and New Guinea, up to a metre of land was lost to the seas each year. Entire ancestral lands were lost within a generation. The myth of the great flood was born.

Smokey Cape has become an island. Looking inland, you can see sea stretching to modern Kempsey. But further changes are afoot.

Around six thousand years, the seas began to stabilise. As they did, sand barriers began to extend from coastal islands such as Smoky Cape. The silt deposited by the Macleay River was no longer washed away, but began to accumulate. A new estuarine environment was being formed.

Around five thousand years looking north east of Smoky Cape, you would have seen an Aboriginal camp begin on the foreshores near what would become Clybucca Creek.

Drawn by the rich shell fish resources, the camp would last for over two thousand years, but was then abandoned. The silting of the Macleay estuary meant that the previous marine food resources would no longer support a camp at that point.

The Macleay Valley as we know it today had emerged.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 15 April 2015. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015.



Wednesday, April 15, 2015

History revisited - the Aborigines: comparing work place efficiency

GATHERING FOOD:  the Aborigines used tools such as fishnets to catch more food quickly and thus to spend more time on personal, ceremonial and spiritual life.
In my last column on Aboriginal New England, I suggested that the Aborigines did not have to work as hard as the later Europeans to feed and house themselves. They had more time available for other things, for companionship and ceremony.

Farming communities first emerged during the Neolithic period. In those communities, the work routine was often dawn to dusk just to feed families and gain a small surplus for later use.

In England during the first decades from 1788, working hours for many could exceed twelve hours per day. It is not surprising that one of the major industrial fights of the nineteenth century was the fight first for a ten hour and then eight hour day.

This was replicated in Australia. Down in the coal mines of the lower Hunter, Australia’s first large scale industrial activity, the miners were early concerned with what was called bank to bank, the time taken from entering to leaving the mines.

By contrast, an Aboriginal group could generally feed itself with six hours work, leaving eighteen others for other things including sleep.

The Aborigines strike me as pretty efficient. There was time spent just lazing around, something we might envy in today’s time poor world, but they also spent time making future life easier for them. Today we would probably refer to this in terms of investment and productivity gains.

Take gunyahs or housing. Often this might not be required. In other cases, the gunyah might be no more than a few sheets of bark leaning on a pole fastened a few feet up from the ground with a fire in front. However, in still other cases, far more substantial dwellings were constructed forming small villages.

On the Clarence, for example, Captain Perry in 1839 described two villages on the banks of the river with canoes moored in a line in front of the village with carefully made fishing nets, baskets, water vessels and cooking utensils on display.

I said that the Aborigines were efficient. These more substantial semi-permanent dwellings were not permanently occupied, but were built at points where food resources allowed regular group occupation at certain periods. It was therefore worth investing time to create structures for later re-use.

Time was also invested in making future food collection easier. These included the creation of standing nets in the bush to aid hunting and, more permanently, the creation of stone fish traps. The latter must have involved considerable effort, but once created gave long term gains.

Time was invested, too, in constructions connected with ceremonial and spiritual life. This included carved trees, bora rings and stone arrangements. Perhaps the most spectacular example of the last are the Serpentine standing stones, a site that must have taken considerable time to create and then maintain.

I hope that I have given you enough in these two columns to gain some feel for the complexity of traditional Aboriginal life. In later columns, I will look at the way traditional life varied across New England
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 8 April 2015. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

History revisited - misconceptions of Aboriginal material possessions

In this column, I want to take you deep into New England’s past, well before the arrival of the Europeans. New England as such did not exist, of course. That was a later European construct.

There is still, I think, a belief that the Aboriginal peoples were an unchanging people living in an unchanging land. That holds even though we now know that the Aborigines modified the landscape to suit their needs, that Aboriginal life including the technology used changed many times over the millennia of Aboriginal occupation of this continent.

There is also a deeply held perception that the Aborigines were poor in material things but rich in imaginative and spiritual life. I am sure that the second is true, in part because the Aborigines did not have to work as hard as the later Europeans to feed and house themselves. They had more time available for other things, for companionship and ceremony.

The idea that the Aborigines were poor in material things dates back to the early days of European settlement. It’s partly a matter of contrast between the apparent simplicity of Aboriginal life and the clobber that Europeans accumulated when they could afford it. However, it’s also connected to misunderstandings of key aspects of traditional Aboriginal life.

Our views of the pattern of traditional Aboriginal life are deeply affected by our perceptions of nomadic and hunter gatherer life. One of Geoffrey Blainey’s best known books is called simply The Triumph of the Nomads. Blainey was in fact trying to challenge previously held perceptions of Aboriginal life and history, but the title itself arguably acts to conceal.

Aboriginal groups moved on foot across defined territories as food and to a degree fashion dictated. The kit they carried with them was dictated by that life style. This is the hunter-gatherer life style. However, it’s not the end of the story.

Just as the modern Armidale person may have a second house on the coast with its own kit, the Aborigines had multiple homes, regular camping places. The archaeological remains found at those sites are not just the detritus of life, but also things deliberately left behind for use on future visits. You don’t need to carry things if they are already waiting for you.

The landscape the Aborigines moved through was less overgrown, more open than it is now because of regular and targeted burning. However, in the thick bush of the North Coast and Southern Queensland the Aborigines created a network of paths to make travel and communications easier.

Some of these were formed through regular use, but they also involved conscious action to create and maintain. Think of them as roads.

In the drier parts of the North with limited water in dry periods, the Aborigines created wells and water storage facilities to support travel in dry times. With restricted tools, there creation took considerable time and conscious effort. Think of them as service stations!

I will continue this story in my next column. 
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 1 April  2015. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

History revisited - memories of artists' camps

As part of their on-going fund raising, the New England Regional Art Museum has been running an “Adopt and Artwork” program. In simple terms, you adopt an artwork, and pay for the conservation costs.

It’s not cheap, although you can donate smaller amounts. Conservation work is expensive, but its part of the price we pay to maintain those things that we love about our city.

That was a view a friend took. He gulped, and then adopted Arthur Streeton's "Sydney from the Artist's Camp", a classic Australian painting.

I am obviously a history nut. I wouldn’t be sitting here year after year writing this column, trying to interest you in the history of Armidale and the North, if I were not. However, the history of the things that you see around you in Armidale, the things that we take for granted, can lead you into worlds that you might not expect, worlds with their own excitement totally disconnected with the routines of our daily life.

Arthur Streeton returned to Sydney on 19 April 1920. Art collector Howard Hinton met him on arrival, taking him to lunch at the Café Francis. On 22 April, Hinton visited Streeton in his rooms at Dalley Street which he was sharing with painter Benjamin Edwin Minns (1863-1937).

Minns is a Northerner. Born at Dungog, he grew up in Inverell where he had his first lessons in painting and drawing.

Hinton recorded his visit to see Streeton in his notes: “bought one of his panels showing Cremorne Point and the city from Sirius Cove – an easterly breeze is blowing over the blue water – fine strength – full charm in his blue water contrasted with the gold of distant shores and bronze gum trees.”

This is, I think, the painting Paul adopted, an Australian classic.

The painting is significant for another reason as well. Sirius Cove is the location of one of those artists’ camps that dotted the shores around the Sydney suburb now called Mosman.

Howard Hinton was born in England in 1867. It seems almost certain that when or soon after he arrived in Sydney in 1892, Hinton went to live with artist friends in a camp on the edge of Balmoral Beach.

Today as Sydney café society gathers at Balmoral for their morning breakfast overlooking the water, it is hard to imagine what it looked like then, a beach camp in bush near the water’s edge.

Mind you, camp is a relative concept. C B Newling, a friend of Hinton’s and the first principal of the Armidale Teachers’ College, described the camp in this way.

Several strong tents with wooden floors provided sleeping accommodation. A central marquee with a piano, table etc provided a dining and living room. Nearby were a kitchen and shower room, while canvas deck chairs dotted the grounds. An ex-navy rating acted as cook, caretaker, housekeeper and gardener.

That’s what I call camping!
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 25 March 2015. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

History revisited - the man who stopped Thunderbolt

INFAMOUS CHARACTER: Thunderbolt is one of the most reognisable names amongst Australia's bushrangers. This is his statue in Uralla.
Some years ago on a visit to the McCrossin’s Mill Museum in Uralla I was fascinated to see that my great grandfather John Goode was one of those signing the document congratulating Constable Walker on his actions in shooting bushranger Captain Thunderbolt in Kentucky Creek in May 1870.

Growing up in Armidale, the name Constable Walker was a familiar one, if overshadowed by the more famous Thunderbolt. However, I actually knew very little about Walker. He was there as a necessary figure in a much bigger drama.

Alexander Binnie Walker was born in 1847, joining the police force as a teenager. After training in Sydney, Walker was sent early in 1867 to the Northern Police District where he served first at Grafton and then briefly at Armidale before being posted to Uralla in October 1867.

Uralla was, to use Walker’s own phrase, then it its roaring days. For four days a week Walker guarded the mail from Uralla to Bendemeer. The coach travelled past that rock now called Thunderbolt’s Rock south of Uralla.

In 1869, Walker and boss Senior Constable Mulhal were involved in the search for Charles Rutherford. Rurtherford and another man, Frank “Dr” Pearson had been bushranging and had been involved at a shooting at the Shearer’s Inn at Engonia where Constable McCabe had been shot and killed.

Pearson, a fascinating rogue who claimed to be the model for Boldrewood’s Captain Starlight character, deserves a column in his own right. For the moment, the two men split up after the shooting, with Rutherford coming up though the Liverpool Plains onto the New England to Innes Taylor’s property Terrible Vale.

Mulhall and Walker pursued Rutherford for four days without sighting him. Soon after Walker could have been shot, for Rutherford watched him while Walker changed horses at the pub at Carlyle’s Gully. Three days later, Rutherford was shot by the publican while trying to hold up the pub at Pine Ridge.

The fight that took place at Kentucky Creek has been variously described.

Walker was not a big man, five foot five inches or just over 165 centimetres tall, but he was young and obviously reasonably fit. Shot, the much older Ward grappled with Walker. Walker's horse fell. Thunderbolt rushed at him with his revolver in his hand. Walker then fired at the bushranger, who rose and attempted to grapple with the constable. The latter then struck Thunderbolt over the head with the revolver. It was Walker's last shot that killed Ward.

Private and official tributes flowed to Walker, including a Government reward of 300 pounds. On 1 June Walker was promoted to Senior Constable in charge at Glen Innes and then in August Sergeant.

Walker went on to a long and very successful career in the police force. His death at Cremorne in Sydney at the end of March 1929 attracted considerable newspaper coverage, in part because of the link the bushranging past.  
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 18 March 2015. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

History revisited - combatting leprosy

STARTING POINT: Leprosy became a problem in Australia during the Gold Rushes. The first reported case in the New England was in 1881 
I have deferred the next column on the history of history in New England because I need to do more research to complete it.

In 1881, New England’s Chinese community collected subscriptions to send a leprosy sufferer away to Queensland. The plan misfired. Police at Stanthorpe arrested him and sent him back.

Leprosy, now called Hansen's Disease after Norwegian Armauer Hansen who discovered the bacterium that caused it in 1873, has afflicted humans for a long time. It existed in ancient China, India and Egypt as far back as 6000 BC and may have been brought to Europe by Alexander The Great around the 4th Century BC.

The incidence of leprosy peaked in Europe in the fourteenth century. It was a disease that caused great fear and loathing. Lepers were expected to live in isolated colonies and in Europe they carried a bell to warn others of their presence.

While leprosy is still something of a medical mystery, it is clear that the disease is does not deserve the fear and loathing attached to it. In fact, most people who are exposed to the bacterium will never get the disease.

Leprosy affects the skin, the nerves and the lining of the upper respiratory tract, causing areas of skin to lose both pigment and sensation. It is this lack of sensation that results in most tissue damage. You hurt yourself, but don’t notice, leading to serious deformation, the rotting associated in the popular mind with leprosy.

In the nineteenth century, leprosy was endemic in parts of China and was brought to Australia by the incoming gold diggers. Those first Chinese lepers went unrecognised even when treated in hospital. It was not until 1857 that the disease was first identified.

We know that the Chinese diggers who came to New England first for gold and then for tin brought leprosy with them. We do not know how common the disease was, although its incidence was probably quite low.

In 1883, two more lepers were brought down from New England to Newcastle. They had to wait there, for no collier or coastal steamer would carry them to Sydney. The small Chinese community in Newcastle sent them food, but would not go near them. The Government ship Pinafore was sent up to take the patients to the infectious diseases hospital at Little Bay.

By 1888, there were 11 male leprosy patients at Little Bay. A new lazaret or leprosarium was established to isolate them from the rest of the hospital. There they would spend the rest of their lives.

The relationship between leprosy and the Chinese became a potent political weapon. Speakers wishing to stop Chinese migration railed against the “leprous Chinese”. But it was the Aborigines of Northern Australia who became the real victims of the disease.

With no natural immunity and greater concentration in camps, the disease spread, leading to a twentieth century epidemic, another disruption of traditional Aboriginal life. 
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 11 March 2015. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

History revisited - building the institutions that would preserve and promote New England's history

BUILDING HISTORY: Eric Dunlop's recreation of a bush school room in the Museum of Education around 1958
In 1920 the first New State manifesto, Australia Subdivided, put a key problem facing the North in this way: In Northern New South Wales, a few high schools, no technical schools, no universities exist to retain the intelligence and culture of the area.

To try to address this problem, the Northern leadership set about institution building.

The establishment of the Armidale Teachers’ College in 1928 was the first major building block. It was to include a museum that Education Minister David Drummond hoped would represent the North to students from the North. To this end, he peppered his Department with minutes demanding that they find the best possible exhibits.

Down in the Clarence, in 1931 Sir Earle Page suggested the establishment of a historical records museum, which was named the Clarence River Historical Society, with R. C. Law as Secretary. In 1935 the society affiliated with the Royal Australian Historical Society, the first country historical society to do so

In 1933, Drummond opened the Armidale Municipal Museum, proclaimed as 'the first municipally controlled museum' in the state. The museum, Drummond suggested, should be more than just a repository of specimens. To his mind, a country museum should firstly be a place for objects that are 'intimately bound up with the history of the district'; and secondly a place for things 'closely associated with the industries of the district'. He warned that, above all, the museum 'must not be allowed to become a mausoleum or dumping ground for curios'.

In 1936, the Richmond River Historical Society was founded. By 1938, it was publishing its own journal.

New institutions attract new people. Eric Dunlop was one of the people drawn to Armidale by the new Teachers’ College.

Born on 17 May 1910, Dunlop went to Fort Street Boys High School where he was taught history by CB Newling, later first principal of the Armidale Teachers' College. Newling reputedly fired Dunlop's interest in museums by setting a project for him and another student to examine and report on the Australian Museum's Captain Cook artefacts.

In 1933, Dunlop graduated from Sydney University as Master of Arts with first class honours in history in 1933. The following year with Newling’s encouragement, he took up an appointment as lecturer in history at the Armidale Teachers' College.

Dunlop stayed just two years at the College before returning to teaching. He decided that this was an error wanted to come back, but it would be 1949 before he could return. He would then take up the up the museums cause with great enthusiasm, leaving his imprint on Armidale and on the study of history.

Another of the new people drawn to Armidale by the new institutions was Jim Belshaw. New Zealand born, Belshaw arrived in Armidale early in 1938 as foundation lecturer in history and economics at the newly established University College.

The base was now set for an explosion in New England historical writing. Two very different institutions, a university and teachers’ college, would combine with local historical societies and community bodies to create a golden age in New England historiography.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 4 March 2015. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015.