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.


jillian blakey said...

I too have just re-read this book and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was goggling to see if Judith Wallace had written any other books as I liked her style of writing. Know of any?

Jim Belshaw said...

Hi Jillian. Sorry for the very long delay. I blame it in part on travelling! The only thing I could find was The Push: an impressionistic memoir (Primavera Press, 1995) published under her maiden name, Judith Ogilvie. I believe there were some sociology books as well published under Wallace.