New England, Australia

Monday, September 01, 2014

Scotland and the fight for New England self-government

On Thursday 18 September, Scotland will vote on independence. This wikipedia article provides a good introduction. 1000px-Flag_of_Scotland.svg

I have mixed feelings on the vote. I am not sure that full independence is in Scotland’s best interests. However, two things are important from a New England self-government perspective.

The first is that Scotland has  already achieved the thing that we have been fighting for, self government within  Australia. They did so despite continued opposition from Westminster and the established elites.

The second is that the vote on independence is treated as the self-evident right of the Scots to make their own decisions.

We New Englanders are entitled to no less. If we take control, we will certainly make mistakes, but they will be our mistakes. We will have only ourselves to blame.

Surely it is not too much to ask to give us another vote? Are we to be treated as less than the Scots? After all, it is our right too.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Two Newcastle MPs go, is the Mayor next?

Andrew Cornwell

The ICAC (Independent Commission against Corruption) Inquiry has now claimed the resignations of two Liberal Party MPs, Charlestown MP Andrew Cornwell (photo right) and Newcastle MP Tim Owen.

I haven’t commented to this point, but its really quite amazing, Having broken back into the traditionally Labor dominated Newcastle and the Lower Hunter, the Liberal Party has effectively imploded on the techniques used to gain election.

This piece from the Newcastle Herald provides a reasonably good introduction to the issues. Its hard to see how Newcastle Lord Mayor Jeff McCloy can possibly survive all this given his role in the whole affair. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The final Newcastle wool sale

wool industry reps, final Newcastle sale

This photo shows wool industry representatives gathered for the final Newcastle wool sale in February 2013.

In my History Revisited column in the Armidale Express I looked at the history of wool sales in Newcastle. The posts are:

The sale marked the end of an era. Wool selling began at Newcastle because Northern growers demanded it and fought for it. It stopped in the end because the combination of technology with the decline of wool and wool growing made it unviable.

Still, sad,

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Visions of New England – Raleigh Rumblings

There are hundreds of small halls scattered across New England. They are neither pretty nor pretentious, but they form one core of local life.

Raleigh is a small settlement near Urunga, not far from Bellingen, in the Bellinger Valley. All sorts of functions are held there, including the Raleigh Rumblings. This is one clip. Comments follow the clip.

i have been in so many of those halls over the years. The acoustics are often dreadful. Sometimes they can be bloody cold, but they help bind the community together.

As I research more into the history of New England, I find that that’s one of the things that really counts.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Can we have a New England civil aviation development plan? Please?

The NSW Legislative Council’s State Development Committee is presently conducting an inquiry into Sunderland Flying Boats Clarence River regional aviation services in NSW. The Inquiry was established on 13 December 2013 following receipt of terms of reference from Andrew Stoner, Deputy Premier and National Party Leader.

Just for something different, the photo shows Sunderland flying boats on the Clarence River when they were conducting a service from Grafton to Sydney.

You will find the entry page for the Committee here including terms of reference, submissions and transcripts of evidence.

  It’s all remarkably difficult. As the economics of flying shifts, fewer and fewer New England towns have access to air travel. Those that do, have to pay high prices. It affects every aspect of daily life and severely disadvantages tourism.

While there is no easy solution, if we had our own Government then we might have a chance of preparing a development plan. We could think of Newcastle and Coffs as international ports. We could look at limited selective subsidisation of services such as Tamworth or Armidale to Brisbane just to build base traffic. We could use our tourism promotion to build our traffic rather than being simply submerged in NSW.

It is unrealistic to think that we can have the services we once had, but we could do better if we didn’t have to accommodate all those NSW interests.    

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Introducing my Visions of New England series

I make no apologies for being one eyed about the things that I care about. Sometimes there is a negative element in this, such as when I attack what I perceive to be the evils of modern management or the rise of what I see as harshness, censoriousness or blind cruelty in modern Australian life.

Sometimes I just want to tell a story, to share things that I care about.

I have had various goes at this. I start, stop, and then go on. I am human. I get distracted by the now. I find it difficult to maintain focus. I start projects and then stop. Despite the failures and inconsistencies, there is a coherence, a focus, in the things that I write about.

Accepting my failures and inconsistencies, I have decided to start a new series called Visions of New England to try to integrate some of my material. This first video clip is an example. It features my old home town and the immediate surrounding areas. Further comments follow the clip. 

Armidale is a very pretty place. It is also a lucky place because of past efforts that have created the many things that Armidale people take for granted today.

To integrate the series. Visions of New England is the top sort. Then I will drop down to local areas such as Visions of New England Armidale or Newcastle or subject areas such as wool.

New England has become much diminished. Just at present, I live in Sydney. The things and places that I love have declined in recognition and importance. It would be nice to think that I could restore them to some degree. I will need help. I want visual material in particular. So let’s see how we go.  

Friday, June 20, 2014

Friday, May 23, 2014

St John’s College Armidale & then Morpeth

Very few people know that St John’s Theological College in Armidale was, in fact, the first tertiary institution in the North. St John’s acted as a trigger for a post on my personal blog: Populating a landscape – writers and writing. This History Revisited post, History revisited – college a capital idea, tells a little of the early story.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Journey to the Hunter – Saturday 19 April 2014: on to Morpeth

Continuing the story from Journey to the Hunter – Saturday 19 April 2014: St Patrick’s Singleton, we drove out of Singleton in the late morning on our way to Morpeth for a late lunch. I hadn’t been to Morpeth before, and had been wanting to go for years.

The first part of our journey took us along the newly opened Hunter Expressway towards Maitland. I am sure that it’s convenient, certainly it’s quicker, but it imposes its own blankness on the landscape. In fact, this was a problem for the whole trip. I knew the Hunter very well and had done so for many years. However, the new roads and the spread of the urban landscape in the Lower Hunter created a very special spatial dislocation as my mind warred between the scenes I saw now and my previous memories.

For those who don’t know the Hunter Valley, it’s 29,145 sq km (11,252.9 sq mi) in size. The population is over 620,000, of which the great bulk lives in the Lower Hunter. We left the Expressway to drive into Maitland. Founded in 1820, Maitland (more precisely West Maitland) was the second largest town in Australia until the gold rushes, acting as the main entrepot point for Northern New South Wales. Established in 1843, the Maitland Mercury is the second oldest surviving newspaper in Australia after the Sydney Morning Herald

Maitland has many historic buildings, but this time we couldn’t stop. I wanted to get to Morpeth. Had we stayed on the main road, the signs would have taken us there. Me being me, I decided to try to follow the river, promptly getting lost. We ended up in a place calledP1010475 Bulwarra with some fascinating old buildings in the midst of the more modern houses. I had never heard of it, 

Sadly my photos didn’t come out properly, but this will give you a feel. By now it was quite late, my companion wasn’t feeling well, and we needed to get to Morpeth to eat. I walked across the road and asked a woman for directions. She was very friendly. “I went to school here,” she said. “ I wanted to come back, but it took us a very long time to find a house. There just aren’t any for sale.”

She explained that the house we were looking at was indeed one of the original big houses built during the convict period. With directions, we drove on, coming into Morpeth across the river bridge.

I should now introduce Morpeth. It was founded around 1831 by Edward Close at the head of navigation on the Hunter River. Smaller craft could go on to Maitland, but Morpeth was the effective head of navigation. At the time Morpeth was established, the main connection between Sydney and the Hunter Valley lay over the difficult inland route. In 1825, convicts began building the Great North Road to provide a better connection. Finished in 1836, the road was a major engineering feat, However, by then technology had changed.

In May 1831, the Sophia Jane arrived in Sydney Harbour from England. the first working steamer to be seen in Sydney Harbour. Built by Barnes and Millar in 1826, she was 153 tons and had one engine of 50 horse power. Three years earlier in 1828, two experienced shipbuilders, William Lowe and James Marshall, had arrived in the Colony. Under the guidance of entrepreneur Sydney merchant John Hickey Grose they selected land on the bank of the Williams River at Clarence Town and by 1830 had set up a shipyard complete with a wet dock cawed from a convenient  creek. After building a few small boats to get the feel of the local wood they laid the keel of the first  Australian steamship, the 'William the Fourth, in early Feb. 1831.

These ships were small, but they transformeP1010476d trade. Sailing ships has struggled to travel the sometimes narrow and winding Hunter. Now goods and people could be carried with a degree of certainty al the way up the river to Morpeth and the main population centres, Morpeth grew rapidly.

Today, it is actually hard to imagine the bustling town and its busy river port. We unpacked the picnic basket on a spot overlooking where the main wharves had been. There is still river traffic, more than I expected, but it is all leisure craft now, We were both tired, so we sat there quietly eating bread and pate, cheese, olives with a glass of wine in hand watching the other picnickers.

Packing the picnic basket, we drove back up the hill to find a place to park. The town stretches in a longish strip along the river bank, The buildings vary in age, with the usual mix of domestic and the monumental you might expect from the town’s previous importance. This is the old court house.


And this is an example of one of the older buildings.P1010500

And this will give you a feeling for the screetscape in the town centre. Cupz and Crepes is, we were told, currently the most fashionable locale in Morpeth!


Morpeth was packed with tourists there for the Easter Weekend. P1010498Feeling tired, we joined the queue to find a spot for coffee looking down towards the river. It was time to return back to Pokolbin and dinner.

The drive back gave me something of the same feeling of disconnect that I had had in the morning. I wanted to go a different way home, but found myself driving through miles of suburban sprawl.

Then came dinner at the resort. Because it was a holiday period, they added a 15 per cent price premium. Later, I saw a sign at reception advising of this, but it wasn’t on the menu  nor signed in any way at the restaurant. We wouldn’t have minded so much if the food was good, but it was the worst cooked steak I have ever eaten. It was horrid!

I was annoyed. It cast a damper over what had, in fact, been a very good day.

For those who want to follow along with the story, you will find the entry point for all the posts here.