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

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Reflections on the life of John Mulvaney

The death of Professor John Mulvaney on 21 September 2016 placed a full stop on a remarkable career and, in a way, the end of an era. John Mulvaney was as the first university-trained prehistorian to make Australia his subject and has been justly described as the ‘Father of Australian Archaeology’.

I met Professor John Mulvaney just once, at an ANZAAS conference in Canberra. I remember his infectious smile, the way he cocked his head.

This was a fun conference, a real experience. I was a nineteen year old university student who had been interested in Australian prehistory by Isabel McBryde. Isabel had studied under John Mulvaney at Melbourne and was one of his protégés.

I had come to the conference almost by accident because we were staying in Canberra, allowing me to go. This was an exciting time to be involved in Australian prehistory. Everything was new, the first drawing back of the veil over the deep history of Australia’s Aboriginal peoples.

This was the conference at which Alexander Gallus presented his results on Koonalda Cave. I remember the scepticism about those results, the discussion over coffee at the breaks. In the end, Koonalda Cave would prove to be as important as Gallus suggested, but that was certainly not clear at the time.

Derek John Mulvaney was born at Yarram, South Gippsland in 1925. One of five children, his Irish born father was a teacher with the family moving around country Victoria to various schools and eventually to Frankston.

After completing year 11 at Frankston High School, John became a trainee teacher but quickly realised that this path was not for him. In 1943, the eighteen year old joined the RAAF as a navigator. He was sent to Canada for training and then posted to England in September 1944. 1944. During his days off he toured the English countryside, creating an interest in history. Apparently, it was his visit to the megalithic standing stones called ‘the Consuls’ that sparked his particular interest in prehistory. I was curious, but was not able to identify those particular standing stones in a short web search.

The War ended before John entered active service. Late in 1945, he returned to Australia, enrolling at Melbourne University as an honours student in history. The course was funded by the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme, a scheme that would have a considerable impact on Australian intellectual life.

At Melbourne, John studied Roman History under John O’Brian. There were just six in the class.
In 1949 he was appointed tutor in ancient history at Melbourne, enrolling in an MA. Twelve months later he submitted his thesis on ‘State and Society in Britain at the time of Roman conquest’.

Reflecting on this early history, I was struck by the timing of it all. By the time John was 25, he had started as a trainee teacher, served in the war, completed his first degree, worked as a tutor and then completed an MA. That’s not bad going! John was always an organised man!

John’s experiences as well has his study of ancient Britain had aroused an interest not just in archaeology, but in the possibilities of Australian archaeology. He applied for an Australian National University post-graduate scholarship. His application contained an unusual request: he asked to use the graduate scholarship to enroll in undergraduate study, in Paleolithic archaeology, at Cambridge University. Reflecting the influence of Grahame Clark and his colleagues, Cambridge was one of few university centers interested in archaeology beyond the Old WorId. It was, John argued, essential for him to train as an archaeologist and this required undergraduate studies in prehistory at Cambridge University.

His application was accepted, and in September 1951, full of enthusiasm, John became an undergraduate student at Clare College. Given that he already had two degrees at honours level, he did not have to complete the first part of the undergraduate course but was allowed to complete the remaining course over two years.

While John would later be critical of what he saw as Clarke’s imperial tendencies and indeed of the Cambridge school as a whole, that period in England was (to use his own words) a “Golden Age.” Upon arrival, John went to see Grahame Clark who was to be his first Supervisor. Clarke told him that, in addition to himself, John must go to a young man named Charles McBurney, who was the real Stone Age authority. John hadn’t heard of McBurney, but would learn much from him.

The then level of staff student interaction is hard to imagine today. For his two years at Cambridge, John was supervised every week by McBurney and also by Clarke until Clarke was appointed professor. Then Clarke’s place was taken by Glyn Daniel, so throughout his two years, John had contact every week with two academic supervisors.

Over the two years, John studied stone tools and took part in his first archaeological digs – in England and Ireland, Denmark, and in Cyrenaica, Libya. The Libyan dig was especially important, for it introduced John to the application of rigorous excavation techniques that he would later use in Australia and teach to his students, including Isabel McBryde.

Early in 1952, McBurney invited John to join his party to go to Libya to dig at the Haua Fteah, the enormous cave where McBurney had dug a trial trench the previous season. This was clearly an adventure for John. In June 1952, they drove across France to Marseilles, went by sea to Tunis and then drove across North Africa to Apollonia near where the site was located. There was a British army base at Apollonia. That proved fortunate, for John collected two serious infections, both requiring hospitalisation at the base hospital. 

Archaeology is about precision and preservation. Charles McBurney had developed techniques to excavate deep sites; the year John was there they got down to 27 feet. McBurney used sieves suspended on stands that he developed and he sorted material separately according to stone, bone, shell, keeping them separate. These were techniques that we used under Isabel’s guidance sixteen years later, using tweezers to pick up pieces of bone or charcoal so that they would not be contaminated and could be properly bagged for later examination by a subject specialist.

John was also exposed to the very early days of carbon dating, something that would be absolutely critical for him a little while later in establishing the antiquity of Aboriginal occupation of Australia.

In September following his graduation, John met and became engaged to Jean Campbell. At this point, John might have stayed on at Cambridge for a period or, alternatively, gone to Auckland as Professor of Archaeology, a move suggested by Clarke. However, while visiting friends in the north of England there was a car crash that badly injured Jean and also placed John in hospital. Coming out of hospital, he found a message from his parents that his father was dying. So the couple abandoned all other plans and returned to Australia, marrying after their return.

John was offered a position at Melbourne University teaching Ancient History. He was now teaching with his former teacher and mentor John O’Brian. Inevitably, his teaching soon extended to prehistory and archaeology. In 1957, John was allowed to introduce a fourth-year Honours history option to undergraduates, a course called Pacific Prehistory. This was the first course taught anywhere in Australia on the prehistory of our region. So little was known about Australia that Polynesia was taken as the main field, with Australian material added as the years passed.

In 1956, John began his journey into Australian prehistory by excavating a limestone rockshelter at Fromm’s Landing on the Murray River, a dig that continued into the early 1960s. Radio carbon dates from the site, John’s first, suggested that the site had been occupied for almost 5,000 years. At Fromm’s Landing, John discovered the skeleton of a dingo, the tooth of a Tasmanian tiger and the highest flood in the history of the Murray River, all about 3,000 years ago.

John’s Cambridge experience had already convinced him of the importance of interdisciplinary studies. So at Fromm’s Landing he worked with geomorphologists. He also took a palynologist, Sadly, no pollen was discovered in the deposit. 

John’s second excavation was also a limestone rockshelter, this time at Glen Aire on Cape Otway. This was Isabel McBryde’s first fieldwork experience.

John’s third excavation, at Kenniff Cave in Queensland, began in 1960. In 1962 he received a telegram from his wife, giving him the first carbon dates from the site. The oldest was 16,000 years. John thought there must have been a mistake and telegrammed back. The date was indeed 16,000 years. With that one date, the antiquity of Aboriginal occupation of Australia had been pushed back many thousands of years into the Pleistocene era.

Here we need to reflect on the state of prehistory globally and especially in Australia at the time.

Globally, the study of prehistory was in many ways still in its infancy. To a continuing degree, archaeology was dominated by the romance of the Classical World. In Australia, those few interested in Australian prehistory had come primarily from museum backgrounds.

In 1960 the University of New England was the first to appoint a tenured staff member, Isabel McBryde, carrying prehistory in her job title and was, I think, the first Australian university to require the study of prehistory as an element in in the introductory history course. In 1966, UNE was also the first to introduce an Australian prehistory course at honours level.

I enrolled in History I at UNE in 1963. Even then, there were very few textbooks. Further, those we had had a distinctly European flavour. By 1996 when I enrolled in honours, the frontiers were already being pushed back. Here there were two distinctive features in Isabel’s archaeological work, both reflecting John Mulvaney’s influence. The first was a focus on developing a regional cultural sequence, on exploring Australian prehistory, Aboriginal history, within the confines of a reasonably broadly defined but still geographically contained region. The second was the importance placed upon the ethnographic record as a way of examining patterns of Aboriginal life that might then inform the archaeological record. It was an exciting time. 

In 1965 John was appointed to a position at the Australian National University in the Research School of Pacific Studies, allowing him to work full-time for the first time as a research worker in the Australian region.

At ANU, John became increasingly involved with Jim Bowler (a geomorphologist from Melbourne University) and Rhys Jones (an ANU prehistorian newly appointed by Jack Golson.

In 1969, Jim Bowler persuaded John and Rhys Jones to take part in a field trip to Lake Mungo, in western NSW, one of the dry-lake beds in the Willandra Lakes complex, surveyed and named previously by Bowler. This visit set in train the most important archaeological discoveries in Australia, or perhaps anywhere in the world, to that time. The first samples of charcoal and burnt bones included material dated to 26,000 years before the present, the earliest evidence for human cremation. Another burial site located by Jim Bowler was an inhumation, ritually covered with red ochre, was older still. These were the most remote Paleolithic remains of Homo sapiens discovered to that point, placing Australian Aborigines at the very end, in time and place, of the human diaspora out of Africa. In 1981, John had the honour of introducing the nomination of the Willandra Lakes as a world heritage site, at a World Heritage Committee meeting.

In the midst of his other work, John found time to complete and publish The Prehistory of Australia in 1969. This book has now seen three editions (the most recent with Jo Kamminga as co-author in 1999 involved a total revision) and remains a classic.

In 1971 John was appointed to the Foundation Chair in Prehistory in the Arts Faculty at the ANU and in the following year introduced Prehistory 1 as an undergraduate subject. In addition to a busy archaeological life life, he became involved almost inevitably in related public activities.

In the 1960s, John along with Jack Golson and Isabel MvBryde campaigned for legislation to protect Aboriginal sites, including organising a major conference on the requirements for site legislation. Between 1965 and 1975, every state in Australia introduced some kind of legislation to protect Aboriginal sites. He was involved in the formation of the Australian (now Australian and Torres Strait Islander) Institute of Aboriginal Studies, being an executive member between 1964-80 and then its chair in 1982-84. He was also involved in organising the first meeting of the Australian Archaeological Association.

John became a leading light in bridging the gap between the public and academia, actively campaigning on pubic issues, including the struggle to save the Franklin River and its Aboriginal heritage. He became a foundation member of the Australian Heritage Commission in 1976, remaining a member until 1982, and member of the Committee of Inquiry on Museums and National Collections 1974-75, the body which recommended establishment of the National Museum of Australia. It would be 20 years before this recommendation would be acted on and even then its details were largely ignored. John was also involved in the formulation of the Burra Charter (1979) and was the chief Australian delegate to the inaugural UNESCO meeting in Paris, held to determine the criteria for World Heritage listing. He was instrumental in nominating the Willandra Lakes and Kakadu National Park to the World Heritage list. latter

John’s role as a public intellectual during his long career has been detailed in the book Prehistory to Politics. John Mulvaney, the Humanities and the Public Intellectual edited by Tim Bonahady and Tom Griffiths (Melbourne University Press 1996).
In the late 1970s, the ANU decided to include anthropology alongside prehistory in John’s Department. High student interest led to the appointment of another professor. Differences in approach created difficulties for John.  Partly for that reason, partly to open his post to a younger prehistorian, he decided to ease into an early ‘retirement’ in 1985 aged 60, being inscribed as Professor Emeritus at ANU the following year. 

‘Retirement’ is in inverted commas since John remained as active as ever. He became Honorary Secretary of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, and Chair of the ACT Heritage Committee, while the following two decades became a golden age of writing and publishing. During this period John wrote, coauthored or edited 16 books, including his autobiography. 

Over his long career, John received many awards including .a CMG (Companion in The Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George) in 1982, an Order of Australia (Australia’s highest Order) in 1991, the Graham Clark Medal by the British Academy in 1999 and the Rhys Jones Medal from the Australian Archaeological Association in 2004.

Reflecting on the changes that had taken place over his long professional and public career, John suspected in 2000 that that there might not be another general prehistory of Australia. So much had been discovered that it was very difficult now to cover it in one book within the space limits set by publishers. Instead, it would now be possible and indeed more sensible to write specific regional histories. In a sense, that was almost a reversion to the position he had held in the 1960s on the need to develop regional cultural sequences instead of trying to create generic sequences that may or may not hold in individual areas.

He also mused on the changes that had taken place in the disciplines of archaeology and prehistory, at the way multi-disciplinary science had pushed out the boundaries of what could be learned. They have indeed been truly remarkable. This links to another element in John’s various reflections.

When he first became interested in Australian prehistory and indeed for many years after, he had not met any Aboriginal people. He was 35 before he saw his first Aboriginal people on his first trip to Kenniff Cave in 1960 and then met many after he started field work in the Northern Territory from 1963 on. He was not aware of the extent of continuing knowledge among Aboriginal people. He was alerted to this partly by the anthropological studies, partly through increasing contact. In 2000, he said: “I suppose in my own career I went from this ‘I was a Stone Age archaeologist, I wasn’t dealing with the living’ till I started meeting living people and giving greater and greater credit to work of Donald Thomson (Australian anthropologist), work like that.”

I could identify with that. While I was doing my honours thesis on the economic structure of Aboriginal life in Northern New South Wales at the time of European intrusion, I read Malcolm Calley's PhD thesis on Bandjalang Social Organisation with fascination. My thesis was a study in ethnohistory, using historical records to try to understand the economic structure of aboriginal life. At the time I was writing there was great suspicion among historians about the role of oral history and tradition as an evidence source. There was also a view that the Aborigines of Eastern Australia were too far removed from their tribal past for current memories to be a valid guide to traditional life. To me, the striking thing about Malcolm's thesis was the way it demonstrated that oral tradition was still in fact worthy of study as a way of understanding present and past Aboriginal life.

John became involved not just in the study of the Aboriginal past but in giving Aboriginal access to that past, in involving them, recognising their continuing history and contribution. Among other things, he played an important role in the transformation of the Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies into an Indigenous controlled institution, as well as campaigning for protection of indigenous sites.

By 1999, John was worried about balance, concerned that the pendulum had swung to the point that policies and processes were actively impeding the study of Aboriginal history. The consent requirements for digs, for example, imposed financial and time costs on honours or higher degree students that many students could not afford, reducing the numbers of those interested in Aboriginal history. As another example, the reburial of remains has the effect of destroying their archaeological value, including the possibility of using new scientific techniques to extend our knowledge.

Perhaps ironically, the work that John and others did to protect Aboriginal sites has led to an explosion in certain aspects of Australian archaeology and especially the need to carry out investigations in advance of development activities. This has created jobs for John’s students. I say ironically because so much Australian archaeology is now carried out on a fee for service basis without peer review or indeed the results being easily available. Meantime, and I find this sad, Australian prehistory seems to have dropped behind studies elsewhere. I still remember my astonishment at visiting the Danish National Museum last year at just how much was now known about Danish prehistory as compared to Australian. .

In 2004, Jean Mulvaney died after heart surgery. She was 81, a little older than John. They had brought up six children in the home in Yarralumla which John and Jean established when they moved to ANU from Melbourne. Because my focus was on John, I haven’t said much about Jean. She was clearly a remarkable person in her own right, you will find details given under sources below, and the couple formed a very real partnership. 

In 2006 John married again, historian Liz Morrison. John and Liz continued to live in the Yarralumla home John and Jean had established. John continued his work until his death  plus the gardening that had been his primary leisure activity..

Australian Archaeological Association Award of the Rhys Jones Medal 2004 https://www.australianarchaeologicalassociation.com.au/awards/rhys-jones-medal/john-John/
In 2000,John was interviewed by Pamela-Jane Smith as part of the Personal Histories Project. A full transcript of that interview can be found at http://www.arch.cam.ac.uk/JohnTranscript
John Mulvaney & Johan Kamminga, Prehistory of Australia, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, 1999
The Australian Women’s Register, Mulvaney, Jean (1923 - 2004), http://www.womenaustralia.info/biogs/AWE4884b.htm

Below is the YouTube video of John's 2010 ANU interview

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Emergence of New England public figure

Sir George Gipps was Governor of the colony of NSW for eight years between 1838 and 1846.  Jim Belshaw continues the story of Terrible Vale, the Taylors and the early days of the New England pastoral industry.
Alexander Macleay was not the only Northern member elected to the Legislative Council in that first NSW election of June 1843 so vividly described by sixteen year old Annabella Innes. Two other Northern representatives were also elected, both for districts centered on the Hunter.

One was Richard Windeyer, another prominent name in the early history of NSW. The second was someone I have talked about before, William Dumaresq, one of the two brothers who left their name imprinted on Armidale.

I do not think that either William Tydd Taylor or his wife Margaretta came down to Port Macquarie for the election. Certainly Annabella did not mention them. However, William Taylor was now becoming a prominent public figure in his own right, a standing that would later see him elected to the NSW Legislative Assembly as the second member for New England.

Soon after his arrival at Port Macquarie in 1840, Taylor had been appointed a magistrate. While the first paid magistrate in New South Wales, D'Arcy Wentworth, had been appointed in 1810, much judicial work was still carried out by what were in fact unpaid volunteers.

With Commissioner George James Macdonald some distance away in Armidale, William Taylor became the figure of authority in the southern part of the New England Tablelands. The role wasn’t always easy, for it involved the administration of justice in what was still in many ways a penal colony.

In 1845, Governor Gipps appointed William Taylor as councilor for the District of Macquarie. The Constitution Act of 1842 that had created a partially elected Legislative Council also provided for the creation of district councils to raise rates and undertake various local government activities.

This proposal proved immensely unpopular. The colony was still recovering from a depression that had adversely affected Government revenues, as well as private fortunes.

Governor Gipps was an advocate of free immigration. Subsidised immigration schemes were established, funded from the proceeds of land sales. Among those who came were New England’s first German settlers, another thread in our story.

Immigration peaked just as depression gripped and land sales collapsed. The Gipps administration, faced with almost £1,000,000 in immigration orders that it could not pay for, struggled to find funds.

In these circumstances landowners considered, accurately enough, that the district councils were simply another way of funding government activities and therefore resisted with vigour.

Unable to proceed with the formation of the councils as planned, the Governor legislated for their creation and then appointed councilors including William Taylor.

In many cases, the newly appointed councils simply refused to meet and, in the end, this first attempt to create local government collapsed. Local government as we know it today was still decades away.   

At this point, we do not know if the Macquarie District Council ever met or, if it did meet, just what it did. William Taylor was closely aligned with the landowning interests opposing the creation of the councils, so it is quite possible that the Macquarie Council remained an entity in name alone.
 Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 20 July 2016. 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, here for 2016.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

There's more to constitutional matters than just the 'vibe of the thing'

Annabella Boswell's dairies present a clear picture of life at Lake Innes including NSW's first election campaign. Jim Belshaw continues the story of Terrible Vale, the Taylors and the early days of the New England pastoral industry
Do you find constitutional matters terribly boring? I did at school and I think that most Australians do now.

In fact, constitutional discussions and decisions are some of the most fascinating historical topics, for they represent then current controversies and set the frame for later events. You only have to look at the current Brexit debate to see what I mean!

We are now at the point in the sprawling story of William Tydd Taylor and his wife Margaretta Lucy Lind and their world where constitutional matters become important, a time when key aspects of our system of Government were established. 

By 1823, the growing colony with its rising number of free settlers, emancipists and locally born required a new system of governance. In that year, the British Parliament passed an act “for the better administration of Justice in New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land.”

The NSW Act as it was known created a 5-7 person Legislative Council to advise the Governor It also established a judicial system, with the new Chief Justice given the power to veto colonial legislation that he considered to be in breach of the laws of England

The new Council met for the first time on 25 August 1824. Its first piece of legislation passed on 28 September 1824 was a Currency Act. Then, as now, economics was important!

The first Council’s five members were all officials. However, in July 1825 the Council’s numbers were increased to seven, of which three were to be non-executive members and then in 1829 to ten to fifteen of which seven had to be non-executive members.

Council members were still appointed, but the presence of the non-executive members provided an external and increasing fractious check on executive government.

In 1842, the British Parliament passes the first Constitution Act. Membership of the Council was increased to 36, of which 24 members were to be elected. The franchise was limited, but this would still be the first Parliamentary election in the colony, marking a major constitutional step.

The elections were scheduled for June 1843. Former colonial secretary Alexander Macleay decided to stand for the districts around Port Macquarie where his son-in-law Archibald Clunes Innes, William's cousin, was such a major figure.

We have a very clear picture of that first election from the journal of Archibald Innes’s sixteen year old niece Annabella. By 1843, the depression had forced Innes to retrench, but he still maintained considerable state at Lake Innes including a butler, two footmen, four maids and a personal piper!

The house filled with visitors including Alexander Macleay. There was constant movement, with the girls making favours in Macleay’s colours to be worn by the men on election day.

Polling day Friday 23 June dawned bright. The men left for Port Macquarie by coach and horseback, joined outside the gate by six men on horseback carrying flags to escort the party. It was quite a show.

Macleay was elected and would become first speaker of the new Parliament. But to Annabella, it was the colour and excitement that counted. She mentions the result only in passing!

 Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 6 July 2016. 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, here for 2016.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Matthew Henry Marsh formed deep links with New England

Jim Belshaw continues the story of Terrible Vale, the Taylors and the early days of the New England pastoral industry. Mathew Henry Marsh and family
In an earlier column, I spoke of the friendship that formed between the Taylor and Marsh families following the arrival of Mathew Henry Marsh’s new wife Elizabeth. Eliza and Margaretta Taylor had attended the same school and now shared common experiences.

Mathew Henry Marsh (1810-1881) was born in Wiltshire, England, eldest son of the Reverend Mathew Marsh and wife Margaret. Marsh was educated at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford and then began practice as a barrister. Finding briefs few, he followed the advice of his mother’s brother and decided to emigrate. It would prove a wise move.

Mathew Marsh clearly had access to money. He arrived in Sydney in June 1840 and then, later that year, purchased a 34,000 acre (13,759 ha) run from Robert Ramsay Mackenzie which he named Salisbury Plains. We have come across Robert Mackenzie before, for it was he that sold the adjoining run of Terrible Valley to Messrs Taylor and Middleton at around the same time.

Marsh quickly added another New England run, the 175,000 acre (70,820 ha) Boorolong, to his holdings and then a 200,000 acre (80,937 ha) Darling Down run Maryland. Now established, Marsh returned to England in 1844, leaving his more recently emigrated brother Charles in charge of the properties.

I almost wrote that Mathew Marsh returned to England to find a wife, for that is what he did, but I presume that he already knew Eliza. That may be just a presumption, for Marsh was clearly a very determined man. Just three years after arriving in the colony, he had returned with substantial holdings to his name.

On their return to the colony, Mathew and Eliza lived in first an old canvas lined slab hut called Old Sarum until Salisbury Court was finished in 1846. It was around six miles, a bit under ten kilometers, between Margaretta and Eliza, and the two visited each other on a regular basis.

It appears that Mathew Marsh could be a stroppy man. He was also a conservative one. But it is also clear that he was a very good manager, building his wealth through land. He was also something of a romantic.

In August 1855, Mathew would return to England leaving brother Charles to run the properties. In England, Mathew became a member of the British Parliament for the liberal interest, but the New England had burnt itself into his soul.
Marsh as a UK MP. Appropriately enough, he was Member for Salisbury.  
Ten years after leaving, Marsh returned to Australia on a trip. There his support for Queensland self-government, Marsh is part of the continuing story of New England’s own fight for self-government, was recognized at a public banquet in Brisbane staged in his honour.

In 1867, Marsh published Overland from Southhampton to Queensland, telling the story of his trip. It’s a good travel yarn, with the latter part full of his early New England experiences.

Marsh was only thirty when he first came to New England. The love of country that was formed partly out of the sense of a young man’s adventure is deeply embedded in the book in prose and poetry. This was, he suggested, the most beautiful countryside in the world.

If Commissioner George James Macdonald was New England’s first European poet, Marsh may well have been the second.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 29 June 2016. 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, here for 2016.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

History Revisited - wool production a chilly business for homestead

Jim Belshaw continues the story of Terrible Vale, the Taylors and the early days of the New England pastoral industry
Soon after bringing Margaretta Lucy Lind  and the children to Terrible Vale in 1844, William Tydd Taylor had built a new woolshed on the property about 100 yards from the newly constructed homestead. That plus the homestead and the nearby barn and men’s quarters made for a small settlement.

The woolshed was needed.

The depression that gripped NSW in the early 1840s made money hard to obtain and yet money was constantly required to develop the early New England runs and to bridge the financial gap between the annual sales of the wool clip.

With scarce capital, the NSW Legislative Council agreed changes that allowed loans to be advanced on the security of unshorn wool and mortgages over livestock. In February 1845, this allowed Taylor to borrow £1,200 pounds from Stuart Alexander Donaldson secured by mortgage over 9,696 sheep.

Donaldson and Taylor would later be in Parliament at the same time, with Donaldson becoming the first Premier of NSW.

With growing sheep numbers, Taylor faced the challenge of collecting the flock, washing them and then bringing them to the new shearing shed where the wool was clipped and baled.

Washing the sheep was important. Grazing, sheep collected grit and burrs that added to the weight of the wool and made it harder to process.  Washed wool attracted a premium, something that was important to cash strapped pastoralists.

But washing sheep was also hard, back-breaking work. Today we forget just how much physical labour was involved in making a living in our very recent past.

This applied as much to women as men. Maintaining a household, especially a large household, required constant work.

On Terrible Vale, washing the sheep was done in October prior to sheering. Sheep had to be collected from across the property and then penned in a specially constructed yard near the creek. There they were driven into the creek.

In the creek, a line of men standing in waste deep cold water would take the sheep and try to clean it before passing it on to the next man. At the end of the chain, the sheep were hauled out onto the bank and placed in a yard to dry.

Have you ever tried to lift a fully grown ewe? In Armidale parlance I’m a townie, but I have and they are bloody heavy. So imagine a scene in which protesting wet wool sheep (wet sheep are heavier because of the weight of the water) are swimming or being pushed along a line while men scrub them.

October can be cold, so following hours of this work the sheep are cold but the men are frozen. To help them continue, men were often given a ration of grog in the middle of the process.

Once the sheep were washed, they had to be shorn. The shearing gangs that would become a feature of New England life did not yet exist, so everybody helped.

Shearing completed, the wool was dispatched to London, first by Port Macquarie, later Morpeth. Now began the anxious wait. Would the wool get there? What price would it get?
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 22 June 2016. 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, here for 2016.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

History Revisited - Terrible Vale grows into expansive lot

QUITE THE FLOCK: There were 7827 sheep on Terrible Vale in the 1840s among 60 cattle, six horses and 26 human residents. 
I don't have a picture of the house William Tydd Taylor built for  his family. This is a much later slab and daub homestead.  
The house that William Tydd Taylor built for Margaretta and the children on Terrible Vale was a timber slab and bark home with some stone foundations built near the creek for easier access to water which had to be carted in barrels from a spring near the creek. Much of the washing was done in the creek itself.

To this point, I have been referring to the run as Terrible Valley, its original name. However, by the time I am writing about, the shortened form of the name seems to have come into popular use.

With the house finished, the family took the long dray trip from Port Macquarie over the ranges onto Terrible Vale. We do not know what the weather was like, the road was absolutely dreadful in wet periods, but it was probably quite exciting for the children if Annabella Boswell’s descriptions of similar trips as a child are any guide.

For Margaretta Taylor, the trip must have been more difficult, for she was leaving the civilisation of Port Macquarie for a remote place with no female companionship.

By 1844, Port Macquarie’s brief golden age was in decline as the penal colony began to wind down, but there were still the stores, church and the regular steamer connections with Sydney. There was still the regular social life centred in part on Lake Innes involving the army officers, the administrators, the merchants and the increasing number of free settlers who had made the Hastings Valley their home.

Margaretta was no stranger to the rigours of settler life. She had experienced that at Oakville, where she was often alone apart from the servants while William was working away on Terrible Vale. Still, there was a considerable difference between a world in which you could purchase supplies after a journey measured in hours, where you could order something from Sydney and expect it to be delivered in a few weeks, to one where the most basic supplies could take many weeks to arrive.

Terrible Vale itself had developed into a small settlement. When Commissioner George James Macdonald, Armidale’s founder and first poet, visited the run early in 1844, it had 30 European residents. There were four cottages and huts 90 acres under cultivation, 33 cattle, one horse and 5,714 sheep.

When the Commissioner visited eighteen months later, the number of residents had declined to 26, the area under cultivation had dropped to 18 acres, but stock numbers had grown rapidly. There were now 6 horses, 60 cattle and 7,827 sheep.

The small number of horses in these records always comes as a surprise, but horses had been in quite short supply for much of early colonial history. . Horses reproduce relatively slowly, so that even with imports they could be difficult to obtain. People walked rather than rode, often for very long distances.

At the end of 1844, Margaretta Taylor’s isolation was eased by a new arrival, one that will introduce another familiar Armidale name, Marsh.

Eliza (Elizabeth) Merewether had attended the same school as Margaretta. In 1844, she married Mathew Henry Marsh, the owner of the adjoining Salisbury run, coming to live with her new husband on Salisbury.

Taylor and Marsh knew each other. Now with Eliza’s arrival, a deep family friendship was formed. 
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 15 June 2016. 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, here for 2016.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

History Revisited - 1840s wool crash brings new challenges

KEEPING SHEEP: Jim Belshaw continues his story of the Taylor family, their world and the trials and tribulations of the early wool industry in New England 
As depression gripped NSW, the sprawling commercial and pastoral empire of Taylor's cousin Archibald Clunes Innes came under pressure. 

By 1843, he was in serious financial difficulties. He managed to borrow the enormous sum of £29,000 pounds secured by certain landholdings, his stores at Armidale and Port Macquarie, his household furniture, carriages and other personal effects. That stabilized the position for the present.

Photo: Archibald Clunes Innes as a young man. The commercial empire he founded and the life style at Lake Innes, his Port Macquarie headquarters, provide one of the themes in our story. 
Later in 1843, the large mercantile firm of Messrs Hughes and Hoskings, one of those who had lent money to Innes, failed. The firm owed £155,000 to the Bank of Australia and its failure pulled the Bank down, adding to the economic woes.

In 1844, the commercial, shipping and pastoral empire of Joseph Grose failed. 

We first met Grose when he commissioned the construction of the William the Fourth, the Billy, the first steamer built in NSW (1831) and a familiar sight on the Port Macquarie run. This was followed by the purchase of the Sophia Jane, another familiar ship to those living at Port Macquarie and in the southern New England.

The drought that gripped NSW in the late 1830s affected Grose, as did the decline in stock prices. His Hunter River trade came under pressure from the newly formed Hunter River Steam Navigation Company, while in 1839 his largest and fastest steamer, the newly purchased King William the Fourth, was wrecked. Then came the collapse of the Victoria Mills with a loss to Grose of £5,000. It was all too much.

In addition to the funds borrowed from Messrs Hughes and Hoskings, the £29,000 borrowed by Innes in 1843 included substantial contributions from the Macleay and Dumaresq families. Innes was married to Margaret Macleay, while William Dumaresq had married Margaret’s sister Christiana Susan.

Henry (1792-1838) and William John Dumaresq (1793-1868), were the sons of Colonel John Dumaresq. Both went to the Royal Military College, Great Marlow, and served during the Peninsular War and in Canada.
Photo: The Dumaresq River in Northern New England, Southern Queensland, Armidale's Dumaresq Creek and the previous Dumaresq Creek are just some of the features named after the Dumaresqs 
Between 1818 and 1825, Henry served in Mauritius where became military secretary to General (Sir) Ralph Darling, who married his sister Eliza. When Darling accepted office as governor of New South Wales, Henry became his private secretary. This brought Henry and William to NSW. 

The two brothers each built up considerable estates in the Hunter Valley, while also acquiring the large New England runs of Saumarez and Tilbuster, thus establishing the now familiar Dumaresq name in the Armidale district.

Both brothers established reputations as effective and indeed kindly managers who looked after their staff, convict and free. “The result of such a system is just what might be expected”; wrote John Dunmore Lang, “the men are sober, industrious and contented”

While the loans from the Macleay and Dumaresq families were helping stabilize Archibald Innes’s position, William Tydd Taylor Margaretta Lucy Lind were taking the next step in their own journey.

William had purchased Middleton’s interest in Terrible Valley in November 1843. With full ownership, he began construction of the first Taylor family home on Terrible Valley.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 8 June 2016. 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, here for 2016.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

History Revisited - twist in Taylor's fate with wool price crash

EARLY 1840s. The long NSW pastoral boom ends in perfect economic storm. While William and Margaretta Taylor were able to consolidate their position at Terrible Valley, cousin Archibald Clunes Innes faced possible bankruptcy and the destruction of his business empire. 
The first fleet arrived in Sydney in 1788. Reflecting both the penal nature of the new colony and the difficulties of settlement, the initial growth of the non-Aboriginal population was relatively slow.

In 1798, ten years after the first fleet, the non-Aboriginal population had reached 4,588. By 1808, it had more than doubled to 10,263 including the new colony in Van Diemen’s Land. It more than doubled again over the next ten years, reaching 25,859 in 1818. Growth now accelerated.

By 1828, the population had increased to 58,159 and then to 151,808 in in 1838. By 1840, the year that William Tydd Taylor and Margaretta Lucy Lind arrived in Port Macquarie, the population was 190,408. The following year it grew to 220,908.

This long growth cycle has been supported by British Government spending on the penal system. Early fortunes were made by supplying the commissariat or, indeed, appropriating stock from the commissariat to build personal herds. Convicts supplied the labour required to develop estates.

This early growth was replaced by one based on pastoral expansion. High wool prices provided a value product that could support high transport costs. Settlement exploded as people sought new land. Demand for stock to meet the needs of an expanding frontier made sheep, cattle and horses valuable property.

The merchants and ship owners such as Joseph Grose prospered, supplying both the settler and growing urban population. Money was made from real estate as land values increased. Growing wealth was invested in mansions and the trappings of civilized life. It was a real boom.

In the early 1840s, the boom went into reverse. Wool prices collapsed. This added to a collapse in the value of stock associated with the end of rapid pastoral expansion that had supported stock prices as settlers bought stock to fund their new runs.

A practical man, William Taylor seems to have focused on consolidating his position as depression emerged. By the end of 1842, he owned Terrible Valley in partnership with Joseph Middleton as well as Oakville in the Hasting Valley, splitting his time between the two. 

Taylor had become a magistrate soon after his arrival in 1840. With Commissioner Macdonald, the nearest legal authority, some distance away in Armidale, Taylor was required to dispense justice.

He built the first woolshed on Terrible Valley, while the station store became a source of supplies for settlers further inland whose drays were delayed bringing supplies up from Maitland and the nearby river port of Morpeth on the Hunter.

In November 1843, he was able to make a major advance, buying Middleton’s share of Terrible Valley for £400. The price was a sign of the difficult times, for Taylor and Middleton had paid £3,500 for the run just three years before.

William and Margaretta now had a relatively secure base. That could not be said for his cousin, Archibald Innes, who was facing possible bankruptcy. Its resolution will introduce a new and very familiar name to our story, that of Dumaresq. 
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 1 June 2016. 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, here for 2016.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

The History Carnival 156

Welcome to the 156th edition of blogging's The History Carnival. I have has a significant computer crash, losing emails. If I miss anybody, please accept my apologies.

Drusilla Modjeska begins her book Stravinsky’s Lunch, a biography of Australian painters Stella Bowen and Grace Cossington Smith, with a story about Russian composer Igor Stravinsky. It appears that Stravinsky required total order and quiet when working, and it was his wife’s business to deliver this.

I mention this as an introduction to the first post in June’s History Carnival, Cath Feeley’s rather nice short piece on Misplaced Habits, Where are the women? Rewriting the history of Marx’s Capital. Floored by a question in her mock viva discussing her thesis on the British publication and reception of Karl Marx’s Capital about the absence of women in the story, Cath later investigated and found out that there were indeed women involved with the production of the book. It might well not have come out without them. I leave it to you to read the story.

Frog In A Well’s Alan Baumler’s Visual Digital History looks at the rise of internet recording including the digital archive and the implications for our craft. I was especially interested in the photos because of their Chinese content, interesting because I am interested in China, although it’s outside my primary field.

I think that we all wrestle a little with this one, the rise of the internet. It is just so convenient, but it does influence selection. For those of us who want people to be able to follow up our sources or who want to find things again, the constant loss of links and the shifting patterns of ever changing search algorithms also makes life hard.

In another post linked to history method, Dr Lucy Noakes MASS OBSERVATION AND THE CENTENARY OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR looks at current UK perceptions of the of the First World War. In a way, this is not history at all, these are current views, but the post links to history at several different levels.

If you know what views are at point in time, then you can ask how those views evolved. Some of the most valuable modern historical sources are anthropological and sociological studies of culture, attitudes and social structures. Then the post provides a perspective on the history and work of the Mass Observation organisation. I must admit to not having heard of it. However, its research carried out for other purposes now provides a valuable historical source.    

Architecture is part of physical and visual history, something that stands in the landscape that we can see.  Influenced by the availability of local materials, its also reflects the ideas and character of particular periods. Adrian Yekkes' Picture Post 54 - Stanhill Flats, Melbourne provides a fairly spectacular example of the Australian Art Deco style.  

While I always had an interest, I became really interested in Canadian history on a visit  a few years ago when I bought some histories and started reading.  To an Australian, there are obvious connections because of the two countries shared history and connection. However, excluding the Aboriginal people, Canadian history is both longer and more complex.

I was reminded of this by Anya Zilberstein's piece, Jamaican Maroons in Nova Scotia: The politics of climate and race. Canada's Caribbean connection continues to this day.  

On Friday 20 May,the remote Atlantic British Island of St Helena celebrated both  her new airport and her 514th discovery anniversary.

St Helena's long history includes her role as a British East India company base, although is the Island is best known now as Napoleon's place of exile. In a post, Napoléon à Sainte-Hélène: La conquête de la mémoire (6 April to 24 July 2016), on  Reflections on A Journey to St Helena, John Tyrrell reports on a joint exhibition by St Helena and the French Government on Napoleon's exile there.

John Hawks Weblog remains a good source on paleoanthropology, genetics and evolution. His Neandertal stone circles at Bruniquel Cave discuses the problems involved in using archaeological evidence to evaluate the past, especially the distant past.

Helen Webberley, a former host of the Carnival, has a nice eye for a good story, Her Robert Capa - Hungarian-American-world citizen photojournalist is a case in point. Perhaps he should have married Ingrid Bergman after all. She was clearly very keen and it might have kept him at home and alive! But then, perhaps not. He was a wanderer.

Mike Dash's Sorcerers and soulstealers: hair-cutting panics in old China traces the story of an outbreak of superstition in late Imperial China, setting it against the backdrop of Imperial power and structures. It's an interesting read.

At Musings, George Campbell Gosling wonders Am I a Contemporary Historian? I note that he is referring to his subject area, the history of medicine and charity in modern Britain, rather than his position in our craft. What is the dividing line between modern and contemporary history and does it matter anyway!

A remark by Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast VC Patrick Johnston - Society doesn't need a 21-year-old who is a sixth century historian. - really got up the nose of Charles West. His Sorry, Vice-Chancellor. We need more historians of the sixth century was quite a stinging response. You will see where my sympathies lie!

That's all folks. The next edition of  the History Carnival will be at the many headed monster on 1 July. Usual nomination form.