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

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The demons of a historic New England figure

Edvard Munch, The Scream 1893: Driven by his own demons, William Ogilvie, Edward's eldest son, took his own life in 1920.This, the tenth in a series on growing up on the Northern or New England Tablelands, continues the story of writer Judith Wallace
Life can sometimes become too much. On 18 November 1920, William Ogilvie was found lying on his bed at Sydney’s Usher’s Hotel with a bullet wound in his temple, a revolver clasped in his right hand. He was only 58.

Near his body were found a letter to his solicitor plus telegrams to his wife and children.

“Good-bye, my darling wife, one telegram read, “I shall never see you alive again. I have written you to Ilparran today, explaining everything. Fondest love, my dearest dear.”

I do not know what drove him to suicide, can only imagine the distress it caused his family.

Edward, the eldest boy and Judith Wallace’s father, was in England. After beginning his education at TAS (The Armidale School), he had gone to England to study at Oxford, his father’s old university. He was, the TAS magazine observed, one of the few Armidalians who had studied at Oxford.

Edward underwent officer training and in 1914 became a second lieutenant in the 17th Lancers. At the time of his father’s death in 1920, he was still in England as a lieutenant with the Life Guards.

Now as his father had wished, Edward returned home to help his mother and manage Ilparran as well as the family’s other interests.

Four years after his return, he married the English born Dorothy Gytha Micklem in Brisbane at what appears to have been a considerable social wedding.
"It is indeed a haunting, sad, but magical book..."
The Micklems owned property in North Queensland, so the papers presented it as a union of two major pastoral families with the Governor of Queensland present as one of the guests.

To house his new wife, Edward built a new house on the property. That house and the surrounding property form the centre piece of Judith Wallace’s memoir on he childhood.

Writing in 1996, David McCooey (Artful Histories: Modern Australian Autobiography) features Judith’s book as one example in his study of Australian autobiography. He capturing the key elements of the book to place them in a broader context; ideas of place and time; the elegiac nature of accounts of place; the way time weaves itself through the narrative.

It is indeed a haunting, sad, but magical book, one that shows life at a particular time in a particular place. Australia is not and never has been a uniform whole, but a place of many and varied stories.

Next week I will look at key features in Judith’s story.


I used the famous Munch image to illustrate this column because it captured that sense of personal despair  Over on ART and ARCHITECTURE, mainly, Hel's Edvard Munch, Norwegian meteorology and mental ill health provides some fascinating background to Munch painting.

Other Reader Feedback

Ed wrote (21/11/2018) in an email:
Greetings Jim,
You local history articles are greatly appreciated and on some topics you have a unique perspective: an insider looking out.  This message is specifically prompted by your sequence on William Ogilvie -- of particular interest to me because I actually visited Yulgilbar Castle circa 1952.  It was a mess, of course, and ascending the stairs was not prudent; my main memories are of lucerne hay bales stored where there was still some roof and of the lions couchant at the entrance, maybe they are still there.  My companions on the day informed that a nearby creek called “OBX Creek” was so named because the landholders along it were Ogilvie, Boyd and a completely illiterate chap who only signed documents with an ‘X’.  I took that with a grain of salt but it’s a lovely story and it would be nice if it were true.  Can you shed any light on this this pressing matter?
I fear that I can't provide light on QBX Creek. Perhaps a reader can? I did love the description of Yugilbar. I understand - I have still to visit - that the upstairs is gone. Too difficult to repair.   
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 5 September 2018. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016, here  2017here 2018 .


Hels said...

Tomorrow morning I have scheduled a slightly different version of Edvard Munch's The Scream in my blog post, but they were powerful images, weren't they? I never liked Munch when I was first examining turn of the century art works, and in any case, William Ogilvie may not have seen such images when took his own life in 1920. But many other people did.

Jim Belshaw said...

I'm sorry for the slow response, Helen. That was a good post of yours. I will bring it up in the main post as a postscript. It is a powerful image. I hadn't know the background to the painting until I read your post. I have always envisaged it in metaphysical terms, a symbol of overwhelming despair.