Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Judith Wallace's "Memories of a Country Child-hood"

One of the things that has always fascinated me about New England is the variety to be found in the patterns of life over time. This holds even though the period from the first European intrusion is very short in historical terms.

I was reminded of this because I have just been re-reading Judith Wallace's Memories of a Country Childhood. (University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, 1977).

Born in 1932, Judith grew up on Ilparren, a sheep and cattle property not far from Armidale. Her family was part of the Ogilvie family, a family described a little earlier in George Farwell's book Squatter's Castle: The saga of a pastoral dynasty (Lansdowne Press, 1973).

At the time that Judith was born, the New England pastoral dynasties that come to wealth in the nineteenth century - Dangars, Whites, Wrights to name a few - still held sway. This was a world of wealth, of stratification, of manners and customs. There were servants - maids, cooks, nurses, nannies -to help the family.

Still very English is some ways, English visitors sometimes described them as county families, they were also moulded by the Australian environment. Some can best be described as transplanted English, Australians who identified first with the social life of Sydney and the mother country and who lived lives separate from the locals. Others identified with and contributed enormously to New England.

The Second World War marked the beginning of the end of this life style. Domestic help was no longer available, while new economic forces were rising that would lead to drastic restructuring of the rural sector.

Judith's book records the now vanished life style and the changes that were forced on it from external events. The last sentence of the book captures the end:

The new owners (Ilparran had been sold) never homesteaded on Ilparran and the great house, still standing in spite of the sunken foundations, stares with blind eyes over the ravaged garden.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Clarence River - a few notes

Photo: Clarence River, Grafton

The web frustrates me some times. I am used to getting information from the web, but often there are gaps.

The Clarence River is one such gap. This is a big river, yet I cannot find a proper description. So I thought that I should record a few basic facts.

The facts that follow are taken from various sources. I have not attempted to link all sources.

Key facts:

  1. The largest coastal river catchment in NSW at 22,700 square kilometres in the New England ranges extending into southern Queensland.
  2. Largest of all NSW coastal rivers - flows up to 16,800 m3/s have been recorded at Grafton while the average annual discharge is approximately 3.7 x 106 ML/yr.
  3. Length around 394k (394 miles).
  4. Road distance from river mouth to Grafton 62k.
  5. Main tributaries Mann River, Nymboida River, and Orara River.
  6. More than 100 islands form part of the Clarence River system.
  7. The limit of tidal influence is Smiths Falls near Copmanhurst, about 105 km from the ocean.

Key references


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Road Tunnel Old Grafton Road

This photograph by Gordon Smith, Inside, looking out, shows the view towards Grafton down the old Glen Innes Grafton Road from inside the road tunnel.

It may seem hard to believe that this was the main road to Grafton for more than one hundred years.

Down this road crawled heavy drays and bullock waggons laden with wool for shipment from the busy port at Grafton. Is it any wonder that fights for better transport should form such a constant theme in New England's history?

Gordon noted that the road was built by convicts in the 1800’s, while the tunnel was cut by a contractor in the 1860s.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Keeping a blog up to date - and interesting

I spent a fair bit of time on New England New State Movement - consolidated posts linked to the fight for New England self government because I wanted to make the post as useful as possible. However, in doing so I became a more than a tad dissatisfied.

I found the posts that I had written too fragmentary to properly support the story I wanted to tell. I also became dissatisfied with the standard and variety of some of the posts that I had written.

I know that all bloggers struggle sometimes in keeping their posting up to date, especially where more than one blog is involved. There is then a temptation, one that becomes especially strong when posting is behind, to rush stories just to keep the posting up.

As is true of the web in general, content is king when it comes to a successful blog. I have found two things to be of importance here.

The first is momentum. When I am posting regularly I find it much easier to generate new ideas, to find things to say, because the posts themselves generate ideas.

The second important thing is depth. Where there are a number of posts on a topic that together tell a story or provide information in a linked way, then there is greater value for a reader. Depth also encourages further posts as a way of filling gaps.

Depth takes time and effort. At first the stories are fragmented, isolated. Only with time does the depth build so that past stories come to paint a picture rather than isolated blobs of colour.

Looking back, I can see a slow upward trend in traffic. That's good. But looking now, I can see the gaps. I think that I need to spend more time filling some of those gaps if I am to really achieve what I want.

Will this make the blog interesting? I don't know. Interest is always in the eye of the beholder. I suppose the only way that I can measure interest is through traffic.

Monday, May 12, 2008

New England New State Movement - consolidated posts linked to the fight for New England self government

Graphic: New England New State Movement Anthem, National Library

We will raise the banner of New England
Work for New England,
Fight for New England
We will raise the battle cry of freedom
Fight for our Liberty
Part of the New England Anthem

Way up in the north of Northern NSW
There is a new state movement that's sort of on the go
But what will be the capital of this new state of ours?
That is the burning question that's being worrying them for hours
Will it be in Armidale, Tamworth or Bendameer?
Or will it be in Grafton the place where they make beer?
Song, University of New England Student Review, 1960s

I was browsing Wikedpia and I found a talk section on the New England New State Movement. I also found two of my blogs including this one listed as not suitable for citation but as a useful entry point for source material.

I added some information, and then thought that my own writing on the New England New State Movement is all over the place in terms of blogs and post topics. I have been meaning to put up a Wikipedia page on the movement, there is not one at present, but it would sensible to do something about consolidating my own stuff first.

My own biases on this matter will be clear. I was a member of the Movement and was in fact on the Executive for a period representing the University of New England New State Society. I remain a strong supporter of New England self government.

Since the Movement went into decline following the defeat at the 1967 plebiscite, its history and indeed that of New England itself has become lost. I believe that's a pity.

This post is intended to provide a consolidated entry point for my posts on the New England New State Movement. It is broken into two parts. The first simply provides a short overview of New England and the Movement. The second is an annotated list of posts broken up by topic.

I hope that the post is of some use to those interested in the topic. I will try to update from time to time.

The Snapshot

Name: New England was initially called Northern NSW, the North, the Northern Districts or the Northern Provinces. The name New England was originally the name of the Tableland area forming New England's core. The Tablelands are known as the Northern Tablelands, the New New England Tablelands or sometimes just the New England to distnguish them from the broader New England area.

The name New England was adopted for the whole area by the Northern Separation Movement at its 1931 Maitland convention. From there its usage spread, contracting again as the New State Movement went into decline after 1967.

Area: Because New England has never had a formal identity, its boundaries have varied with time. In broad terms, it covers the humid coastal strip from the Hunter Valley to the Queensland border, the New England Tablelands and the immediately adjoining Western slopes and Plains.

In economic and geographic terms, New England forms a natural unit that has survived to the present day. The modern TV aggregation boundaries, as an example, reflect the New England core.

In political terms,the boundaries have varied. The initial separation discussions excluded the Hunter, in part because of tensions between the industrial and mining heartland of the lower Hunter and the rest of the area. The problem with this is that Newcastle and the Hunter are a logical part of New England. The boundaries recommended by the 1935 report of the Nicholas Royal Commission into areas of NSW suitable for self-government included Newcastle and the Hunter. These boundaries were adopted by the New England New State Movement and used as the basis for the 1967 self-government referendum.

New State Agitation. The first separatist agitation occurred during colonial times at the the time of the separation of Queensland from NSW. While this was followed by outbreaks of agitation,these remained sporadic.

This changed in the twentieth century. Agitation began again at Grafton ltowards the end of the First World War led by Earle Page, a local doctor and later a prominent Australian politician. This was picked up a little later by Victor Thompson, editor of the Tamworth Northern Daily Leader who launched a sustained newspaper campaign that involved papers as far south as Cessnock in the lower Hunter. This led to the creation of a formal movement. One outcome was the 1924 Cohen Royal Commission into New States.

The Cohen Commission ruled against to the movement and it went into decline, resurging at the start of the depression. This forced another Royal Commission, the Nicholas Commission. While this recommended in favour, the movement was again in decline as economic conditions improved.

Agitation started again at the end of the Second World War and this time was sustained by permanent staff. In 1961 the movement launched Operation Seventh State, raising over 100,000 pounds. This allowed more staff and greater agitation, culminating in the 1967 referendum.

The no vote was led by the Labor Party who campaigned hard. The very high no vote in the Labor strongholds of Newcastle and the Lower Hunter offset the majority yes vote elsewhere, although the no margin was not high. Exhausted, the movement collapsed.

The Posts

Because of the importance of the topic to me, material about the separation movements and the New England self government cause can be found in many posts. I have tried to select posts that will give the interested reader an entry point. Uou will find the material somewhat fragmented. Looking at the posts reminded me just how many unfinished series and indeed incomplete posts I have.


New England's geography is central to its story because it both divided and provided a natural unity.

The Changing Definition of New England

As indicated in the introduction to this post, both the names used to describe New England and the meaning attached to New England itself has varied with time.

Introduction to the History of New England

The history of Northern NSW has yet to be written, with the area squeezed between the state or national level on one side, the narrow regional or local on the other.

Politics - historical

During the colonial period, New England politics was dominated by the Sydney based factional political system, with particular local manifestations. The emergence of the party political system saw the new Labor Party and the Progressive/Country Party compete for influence. Labor influence was strongest in Newcastle and the mining areas of the Lower Hunter, the Country Party came to dominate elsewhere. New England interests dominated the NSW Country Party.

In addition to the political parties, the separation movement exercised varying degrees of influence. There were close links between the separation movement and the Country Party in terms of leadership and aspirations, especially in the period between the wars. This added to Labor's opposition to separation.

Today the National Party (the name the Country Party came to take) is in serious decline in its previous New England heartland, in part because of the rise of the New England independents who better represent continuing local differences.

Separation Movements - history

From sporadic outbreaks in colonial times, the various separation movements came to represent a unique and powerful element in New England's history, creating common views across sectional and parochial interests.

Current Politics

I have selected a few posts on current politics that contain information linking present and past.

New England Thought

New England developed its own forms of thinking conditioned by its geography and history.

To be continued

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Why I remain a New England New Stater 10 - the sad case of Newcastle

Note to readers: This post is one in a series using personal examples to illustrate why I continue to support both agitation for New England self-government and self-government itself. Agitation, because its very existence forces forces the Sydney Government to consider New England interests. Self-government, because there are some things that we cannot achieve without this.

I was listening to a radio discussion on the way home from work. A southern commentator compared the favourable treatment (and publicity) that cities like Hobart or Adelaide obtained compared to Newcastle. The reason given was that they were state capitals, whereas Newcastle was treated simply as an extension of Sydney.

I think it true that Newcastle is much neglected.

From the time the Hawkesbury rail bridge was opened to Sydney with rail freight rates set so as to attract freight from elsewhere in New England to Sydney, the city has suffered as Sydney's much smaller and poorer second cousin.

Would Newcastle have benefited from New England statehood, given that it would not have been capital? It is hard to argue otherwise. As New England's major city, Newcastle would necessarily have attracted attention and promotion in a way not possible in NSW.

In 1967 Newcastle voted no to self-government out of loyalty to the then Labor Party who opposed separation. I think that I would challenge those in Newcastle who opposed self-government in 1967 to name a single thing that Newcastle has gained since that the city would not have gained as part of New England.

Since 1967 Newcastle has declined in relative terms. The city is no longer as important or relevant as it was. Some of the decline has been due to broader causes such as industrial change. However, part of it is due to the way that Newcastle has been increasingly sidelined within NSW.

Return to introductory post.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Friday, May 02, 2008

Wing Hing Long & Co - Tingha

This photography of Wing Hing Long & Co letterhead, 1927 was taken by Stephen Thompson and forms part of the NSW Heritage Branch on-line exhibition on the store.

The exhibition provides a window into one thread in New England's story, the hisroty of New England's Chinese community.

New England Australia's Chinese - Reference Post provides an entry point to various posts linked in some way to New England's Chinese.