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

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

History blogs 2 - Helen Webberley

Subtitled The fine arts, decorative arts and architecture of Europe, North America and Australia, 1650-1933, Helen Webberley's ART and ARCHITECTURE, mainly is a consistently good blog.

All those who become interested in history need to set their own thinking in a broader context. We also all draw ideas from others, even though the topic may seem far removed from our normal interest. To illustrate this, I thought that I would take just a few of Helen's posts over time.

Published in July 2009, Traditional Vs Modern Art: 1930s Australia provides an entry point to a significant controversy in Australian art, including links to earlier posts.

I am cautious about some later interpretations of this controversy and of those involved because I feel that they pay insufficient attention to the context of the time and sometimes end by judging the artist on things other than the art. What I do find very especially interesting about the whole imbroglio is the way it helped inspire different forms of of artistic expression.

Posted in November 2009, 19th Century Amusement Centres: healthy living, sport, fun deals with leisure activities. See also Late Victorian pleasure piers Vs inter-war lidos published a little later that month.

The idea of holidays and leisure activities depends directly on the availability of time and money. When most people worked six or even seven days a week, leisure was obviously limited, activities took place close to home. More time, more money plus better transport created a market for a wider range of activities.

Posted in January 2009, Art Deco and Cruise Ships, a marriage made in heaven is a rather wonderful post about Art Deco in cruise ships. 

These few examples are intended to give you just a taste. If you take the time as I did to browse using Helen's tags, I think that you will find it enjoyable and very worth while.  

Friday, March 26, 2010

Icons, history and thunderbolt

Hat tip to Canadian historian Christopher Moore for this one. Toffs and toughs

Every so often a story, photo or image becomes so much of an icon that the story of the story becomes the story.

This classic photo is a case in point because it has come to illustrate the English class system independent of the original story. In a fascinating piece, FIVE BOYS: THE STORY OF A PICTURE, Ian Jack explores the history of the picture.

I have two reasons for mentioning this story.

The first is that in my Armidale paper I spoke in part about the highly structured class system that emerged on the Northern Tablelands. I want to do some straight personal writing on this, exploring the complexities including the way it affected names and naming.

The second reason is the way that the bushranger Captain Thunderbolt has now entered the iconic class. Some might argue that he always was, but in fact (and this has always puzzled me) Fred Ward has been a poor cousin to the more famous Ned Kelly. Now this is changing.

Following a new book on Thunderbolt, the NSW Legislative Council has passed a motion requesting the NSW Government to release all documents relating to his capture, autopsy and inquest.

According to National's member Rick Colless:

“Greg Hamilton and his co-author, Thunderbolt descendent Barry Sinclair from Uralla, have tried repeatedly to gather this information from the police and were exacerbated by the Police Minister Michael Daley.

“The passing of this motion by the Legislative Council will bypass the Police Minister and guarantee the reConstable Walker shoots Thunderboltlease of any documents still in existence.”

The aim is to try to establish whether or not it was Thunderbolt who was in fact shot. The painting by Samuel Calvert (La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria) represents the event.

When you think about this, all this is quite remarkable. After all, Thunderbolt was meant to have been killed in  Kentucky Creek on 25 May 1870. That's a long time ago.

I have yet to read the latest book. Still, at one level I don't think that it matters. After a certain point, a story just runs and runs, with each repetition adding its own new gloss. The story is now the story in its own right.       

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Hillgrove hydro electricity

The mining town of Hillgrove near Armidale was the first town in Australia to be lit by hydro power (early 1895), beating Launceston in Tasmania by ten months. Gordon Smith's  Threlfall Track: Looking down has a nice photograph of the country through which the flume ran to the power plant, along with a link to an article setting out the history of the plant.

One thing not covered in the article is the fact that the Hillgrove operators tried to persuade Armidale Council to use their power. They failed, in part because the Council had a heavy investment in gas lighting. Had Armidale Council agreed, it would have changed the economics of the hydro operation. Perhaps it would still have been in existence today. In the event, Armidale was not to get electric power until 1922.

The history of electric power in Armidale can be found here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Aviation and the Perdriau Rubber Company

Gordon Smith's Old news from Armidale and New England carried two stories that caught my eye.

The first was For sale: “Booloominbah”. As it happens, I am presently reading Mathew Jordan's A spirit of true learning, a jubilee history of the University of New England. I will write more on this a little later.

In the second story, Sydney to Brisbane flight in nine hours, the name Perdriau caught my attention. The story deals with a Friday 9 July 1920 flight by a plane owned by the Perdriau Rubber Company that landed at no less than six New England towns on its way through.

The Perdriau Rubber Company was formed by Henry Perdriau and ultimately became Dunlop. I had no idea that the company was involved in aviation.

Henry's nephew Raymond took up a selection on the Tweed River in 1906; he carried on dairying and, later, banana-growing. A strong New Stater, he was elected to the NSW Legislative Assembly as a member for Byron in 1920. There are some interesting stories here that I should write about, for the period after the 1920 elections was politically stormy.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

North Coast Stories

While I was in Armidale recently, John Ryan from the University of New England suggested that I should write a shot biography of a North Coast figure to go into a new book equivalent to ones published previously for the Northern Tablelands.

Whom do you think might be a suitable candidate?  I have more or less agreed to do it, but thought that it might be sensible to seek some suggestions.

Friday, March 12, 2010

NSW Decentralisation Commission

I am really enjoying Gordon Smith's Old news from Armidale and New England. I just like the random element, and keep looking at the date and story and wondering about the background.

I was struck by his post, Decentralisation, on the hearings of the Decentralisation Commission in Inverell on 11 October 1910. Now this Commission is actually a gap in my knowledge. I know that the failure of the Sydney Government to act on its 1911 recommendations was one of the reasons given to justify the launch of the separatist agitation after the end of the First World War, but the Commission itself is a blank spot.

The web searches that I have done don't tell me a great deal. Does anyone have more details?   

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Newcastle University's regional contribution

Finally finished the first draft of the paper I am delivering in Armidale 19 March. One of the issues that I am discussing is the contribution that the New England University College and then the University of New England made to New England thought and to the region. I also mention in passing Southern Cross and the University of Newcastle.

In all this, one big gap in my knowledge is the University of Newcastle itself. I simply don't know enough about that University's contribution. 

One book that I am aware of but have yet to read is Don Wright assisted by Rhonda Geale, Looking back, a history of the University of Newcastle, University of Newcastle, Callaghan 1992. For the moment, I just wanted to record the reference so that I did not lose it. However, I was left wondering whether any readers had suggestions as to other sources on Newcastle or ideas as to the University's role.

What I really want to do is to be able to show the Newcastle University's specific contribution to its region. I have ideas and hypotheses, but I need to be able to test and extend these. Any ideas?