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

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Garry Williams remembers

This video clip is from Al Jazeera. I wanted to record it to ensure that I didn't lose it.


For some reason, and it's frustrating, the sound doesn't seem to be working.

Bogged down in writing

I am still bogged down in writing my Armidale paper and indeed well behind on that! I have lots of material on social change in New England in the period 1950-2000, so there is a selection issue. Then, when I come to look at the material, I find the inevitable gaps!

In Difficulties & opportunities in New England's history, I said that the interesting challenge just at the moment was how to balance local, regional, national and global. That remains the case.

The first part of the paper simply sketches some of the changes over the period. I then plan to take several main themes for more detailed examination.

Length is one problem, of course. I am trying to fit a lot into a short space without overburdening listener or reader too much. I also want it to be interesting!

Later, I will post some of the supporting material here for reference purposes.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Drummonds & Forteviot

Sarah asked me a question on Facebook about the Drummonds & Forteviot. The following is an excerpt from my biography of David Drummond.

"According to family tradition, the branch of the clan from which David Drummond descended had been farmers for generations. His grandfather, William Drummond, was born about 1821, probably in Perthshire.[1] As a young man, William leased land from the Earl of Bute.[2] Later he had a small farm at Forteviot in Perthshire.[3] Some time in the forties, probably in 1844 or 1845, William met Henrietta Morris, his bride to be.[4] Born about 1822, Henrietta was one of the five daughters of David Morris, the factor or steward of an estate near Forteviot, Perthshire, and Sophia Henrietta Archbold.[5] Few details about Henrietta survive. However, we know that she worked as a domestic servant on the Edmonstones' Colzium estate at Kilsyth, Stirlingshire, on the old road from Stirling to Glasgow, was well regarded, but was forced to give up work because of problems with her eyes.

On 8 September 1846 Henrietta and William were married in Perth and then probably settled down immediately at Forteviot.[6] Forteviot was a small village - the population of the Parish as a whole was estimated at 638 in 1841 - surrounded by pretty and well-watered country.[7] In 1847 the couple's first child, Elizabeth, was born, followed in regular succession by seven others.[8] Morris, David Drummond's father, was born in 1852 and was their third or fourth child. Life at Forteviot must have been peaceful for the growing family, with the children helping on the farm before going off to the small local school.[9] It had its share of tragedies, however, as two of the girls died in childhood. Then, on 25 September 1867, Henrietta herself died.

After leaving school Morris probably worked first on the land.[10] David Drummond always thought that his father, along with many other highland lads, was forced off the land by the enclosures,[11] but this is probably not true. The enclosures, which had been brought about by the profitability of large scale sheep farming which led Highland landowners to eject their tenants in order to gain the necessary land, were largely over by the time Morris was born. However, even if Drummond's assessment was not strictly correct, the reduction in available farm land brought about by the enclosures would probably, in the absence of considerable family wealth, have prevented Morris from staying on the land. In this regard the family seems, at best, to have lived in reasonable comfort.

While the details are scanty, the Drummonds probably moved several times, though always within the Forteviot district, before renting Coblehaugh Inn from the Earl of Kinnoull in 1866.[12] The Inn was probably small, perhaps little more than a sitting room, located on a small farm. At the time of William's death, the family property included two work horses, two cows, a bullock, two pigs, wheat and corn stacks, fifteen tons of turnips, a variety of farm implements, household furniture, plus a full assortment of spirit dealer's effects. The list, while not insubstantial, certainly does not suggest great wealth.

Whatever the reason, in 1871 Morris became an apprentice mason with Perth builders, McCurrach and Sons.[13] Morris was still an apprentice when, on 3 December 1873, his father died. With William's death the farm was relinquished, and the furniture and fittings sold by auction. In July 1875 Morris completed his apprenticeship, and then probably left almost immediately for Glasgow which, like Perth itself, was then going through a period of sustained rebuilding.[14] In Glasgow Morris met Catherine McMillan, 'a real little highland lady', who was to become his wife.[15] Born in Renfrewshire on 9 June 1854, Catherine had been brought up by two maiden aunts, probably at Rothesay on the Island of Bute, before entering domestic service in Glasgow.

In 1878 Catherine and Morris agreed that he should emigrate to Australia and, when established, send for her. It must have been a difficult choice for Catherine; she seems to have been very close to her family, and particularly to the aunts who had brought her up, and the decision meant that she had to leave them and the familiar home country, probably for ever.[16] For Morris, too, it was a big decision. But in his case he was following his trade, and it also seems likely that the possibility of emigration had been discussed amongst the Drummond children. Upon William's death, and the break-up of the family home, the family had begun to disperse. Brother David had moved first to Perth to take a labouring job, but had then established himself as a joiner. He also was considering emigration, and would shortly leave for Canada. John had also gone labouring, following the work where it took him. Sophia was to marry Alex Harper and move to Glasgow. Only William, the eldest, was to be left in Perthshire following the family's traditional occupation of farming. Despite this dispersal, the Scottish sense of family remained firm amongst the Drummonds, with the links between the family members generally surviving into the second and third generations, forming one of the constants in David Drummond's life.

[1]The birth date is calculated from the inscription on William's still standing gravestone at Forteviot. The Drummonds traditionally came from Perthshire.

[2]David Drummond's recollections, DM, p.6. Drummond did not know where the land was. In the Second Statistical Account for Ayr and Bute, Bute is given as the owner of Ochiltree, Ayrshire. The volume Peter May land surveyor (Scottish History Society 1979) records that John, Fourth Marquis of the Bute (Lord Mountstuart) bought an inn at Largs on the Ayrshire mainland. It also notes that Robert Oliphant of Rossie was appointed Commissioner for the Earl of Bute's affairs in Scotland. Oliphant possessed the estate of Culteuchar in Forgandenny, the adjoining Parish to Forteviot. This information on Bute's interests was supplied by Charles S. Coventry, M.A., B. Phil., A.EA., of the Perth (Scotland) Historical Society.

[3]The handbill advertising the sale of family and farm effects after William's death is in Family Papers (FP).

[4]Inferred from dates in FP.

[5]Details on the Morris family are drawn partly from family trees in FP and partly from the family recollections of Ellie Morris, David Drummond's half-sister. Interview with Mrs Morris, 1 October 1982. Information on Henrietta is drawn from a letter from Lady Edmonstone to Henrietta's mother, 22 November 1844. original in FP. Details on Colzium were supplied by Mr Coventry.

[6]Details taken from the couple's banns. In FP. It seems probable that the couple did settle immediately at Forteviot since William was listed as living there at the time of the banns.

[7]This description of Forteviot is based on: The Topographical, Statistical and Historical Gazetteer of Scotland, 2 vols., A.Fullarton & Co., Glasgow, 1842. Vol. 1, p.576. The country today is much the same. However, apart from the church the original village has vanished, apparently rebuilt by a later land owner as a 'model' village. The Gazetteer listed Forteviot's population as 600 in 1834: the later figure was supplied by Mr Coventry.

[8]The family details are based on family trees in FP and on the inscription on William's gravestone.

[9]We know (1) that the children received some education since they could read and write and (2) that Forteviot had a school since the Gazetteer, ibid, p.576, lists a schoolmaster with a salary of 34 pounds, 4 shillings and 4 pence halfpenny with about 16 pounds in fees.

[10]This seems likely given the probable gap between the time Morris completed school and started his apprenticeship in Perth.

[11]For a brief description of the enclosures see: G.S. Pryde, Scotland from 1603 to the present day, vol. 2 of A New History of Scotland, Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1962, pp.150-161. For a more detailed description see: E. Richards, A History of the Highland Clearances: Agrarian transformation and the evictions 1746-1886, Croom Helm, London, 1982.

[12]The evidence here is largely circumstantial, for the reason given in footnote 8, it seems probable that William and Henrietta settled immediately at Forteviot. According to Mrs Morris, they lived for a period at Pathstruie, a house near Forteviot which Mrs Morris later visited. The first William Drummond so far discovered in district records appears in 1863: between 1863 and 1867 he rented Wordhead farm from Lord Ruthven. Then another William Drummond rented Coblehaugh Inn between 1866 and 1874. It seems almost certain that this Drummond was our William Drummond. Coblehaugh Inn's lease was relinquished in the year following William's death, which is not inconsistent with the time necessary to realise the family effects. Again, those effects included a complete set of spirit dealer's requisites, while family tradition has always claimed that William did keep an inn. The information on land records was supplied by the District Archivist in Perth, again via Mr Coventry.

[13]The details on Morris's apprenticeship are taken from his certificate of completion of apprenticeship in FP. The certificate is dated July 1875, but Morris could in fact have completed his apprenticeship a little before this.

[14]The evidence that Morris left for Glasgow is again largely circumstantial: Mrs Morris believes that he mainly worked in Glasgow; his later diary contained many more Glasgow addresses; and there is no record of his living in Perth after July 1875.

[15]The description of Catherine is by William Sinclair, an old friend of Morris's. DM, p.6. Details on Catherine's life are drawn from records in FP, and from the interview on 1 October 1982 with Mrs Morris. There is some confusion in the papers about Catherine's birth date: one record gives it as 1854, one as 1852.

[16]The letters from Catherine's aunts are full of family news and suggest a close and affectionate family. Details on the Drummonds are drawn from records in the FP.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Difficulties & opportunities in New England's history

I have started writing the paper I have to give in Armidale on 1 April on social change in New England, 1950-2000.

The interesting challenge just at the moment is how to balance local, regional, national and global. In reviewing John Ferry's book Colonial Armidale, Don Boadle began his review in this way:

John Ferry's stimulating study of Armidale in the making is the very antithesis of Whig history. Whigs celebrate uniqueness, institutional progress and consensus. Ferry concerns himself with similarity, with the static as well as the dynamic, with struggle, competition and division. He focuses on the social structures of a small colonial town - a town in many ways typical of other early towns along the eastern Australian highlands - and uses it as a ‘case study of colonial Australian society'.

John's book is a very good one. However, he does (as Don notes) treat Armidale as a case study of a broader society. This means that he ignores, again as Don notes, many aspects of life. If you read the book and then one on twentieth century Armidale or New England, you might wonder where later events came from. There is nothing in John's book to tell you.

I have taken a different view to John. I am writing the history of an area, not a study of what that area's history might say about broader events. I am interested in those broader events as they affect New England.

In choosing the particular area that I have, I have to show to the reader - justify, if you like -  that there is a natural unity, that the area is worthy of study as an entity. This is problem only because New England does not exist - it has no official status, while there is disagreement even as to its boundaries. I don't see this as an issue, although it does raise some technical difficulties in the way I approach the task.

A second issue is the relationship between local, regional and the broader New England. My local readers will want to know how their area fits in; they will be very critical if their area is neglected. However, in a general history I am concerned with patterns, with similarities and differences. I cannot cover everything. So there is a balance issue. 

Then there are broader NSW, Australian and international issues. Here I hope to say something new by setting New England in a context, showing how things worked out on the ground. Again, there are problems.

One of the difficulties, but also opportunities, lies in the way that current explanations are all driven by broader fashions in historiography that, in turn, rest upon historians' perceptions of of what is important.

Most historians assume that their readers are likely to have some background knowledge; many write at least in part for audiences that are specifically interested in the topic. I cannot easily do this.    

The type of topics especially relevant to New England, the history of the wool or manufacturing industries are examples, have diminished or even vanished from research over the last thirty years. Important secondary sources are now out of print. Little is on-line. I have to assume zero knowledge, very limited special interest in my topic. I have to decide how much to explain, to write in a way that will interest the general reader who has no background knowledge. I have to tell story, in other words, while meeting the canons necessary for historical research.

That's both the difficulty and the opportunity. If I can tell the story properly, if I can set New England in a context, then I have the chance of saying something new, of providing new insights.

I guess that some of this may sound pretty egotistical. Certainly I have set myself a hard task. Here I keep telling myself I just have to deliver!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

NEA blog performance February 2011

Stats Feb 11 2 The attached graphic shows visits (yellow) and page views (yellow plus red) on this blog for the year to end February.

The top ten posts over January were:

Excluding search engines, the main referring sites have been:

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Introducing warfare in Aboriginal Australia

I am going off-line, probably for a week, because I am moving house. However, I just wanted to record this one from History and Futility, Steven Pinker on how the world has gotten much more peaceful, to come back too. It contains a link through to Pinker's original remarks.

There is a bit of myth in modern Australia that the Australian Aborigines lived peacefully in harmony with nature. The reality is far more complicated than than that - deaths from warfare appear to have been high relative to the size of the population.

I want to come back to this because it is relevant to my history of New England and the relations between groups in Aboriginal New England.