Saturday, July 31, 2010

Round the New England blogging traps 16 - Hunter Valley sojourn

Newcastle Harbour

One of the things that I have always liked about Newcastle, apart from its very difference to the world in which I grew up, is the accessibility, the feeling of closeness,  to the Harbour.

This photo from Newcastle Au Photos City & Hunter draws this out very clearly. Isn't it a great photo?

I was going to leave this blog here, and then I thought of something that happened during the week.

David Roberts from UNE's Heritage Futures Research Centre sent me an article that he and Erik Eklund from Monash University were preparing on the treatment of Newcastle's Coal River Heritage Project.  Now before going on, I want to insert another photo from Newcastle Au, one that has absolutely nothing to do with convicts, but is still linked.

The following photo shows a group of terraces from Newcastle East. Newcastle East The photo could have come from North England, and indeed many of those who came to Newcastle were from this area.

But how does this industrial shot link to convicts? Well, for a number of complicated reasons, Newcastle has in some ways been written out of Australian history.

The core of the draft article on the Coal River Heritage Project is the difficulty in gaining recognition that Newcastle was a major convict centre in fact worthy of recognition.

In similar vein, Australia's industrial past and Newcastle's role within it is rarely dealt with today. I stand to be corrected, but I see very little on it. With the exception of the occasional passing reference or footnote, Newcastle really does not exist in historical terms.   

Concluding, this really is a great photo blog. Just take a bit of time and browse the various tags.

I continue to enjoy Sharyn Munro's The woman on the mountain. Sharyn has a real love affair with wallabies! She has also just been visiting south east Victoria. As I read Magical Mallacoota, I thought of my last visit there all those years ago.

I was reading Wollombi Valley On-Line when an odd thought occurred to me.  The trigger was a story:  Womens Spirituality Workshop. Wollombi

This, by the way, is a shot of Wollombi.

Living in Sydney as I am just at present, it's easy to forget that the desire to discover spirituality is one of the themes that appears across New England's alternative life style settlements.

The University of Newcastle's Cultural Collections blog continues to provide a range of fascinating material. As just one example, the story Henri Rochefort – Noumea to Newcastle is not just a fascinating yarn, but also provides both a slice of French history and a visitor's snapshot of Newcastle in 1874.

Staying in the Hunter, it has been a little while since I visited Gaye's Snippets and sentiments. Gaye's blog is a gentle, personal, blog with a nature focus; it is always a pleasure to read. Re-visiting, I discover that they have bought a house further north in Baradine, a small community near the Pilliga Scrub, an area that Gaye has always enjoyed. While they will be staying in the Hunter for the present, the aim is to retire to Baradine.    

All for now.

3 comments:

Greg said...

Hi Jim,

You have touched on a nerve here. I am a (proud) Novocastrian and some of the things that I love about the place are it's harbour, beaches, buildings, streetscapes and it's colourful history.

That it started life as a convict gulag for the worst of the worst. It was the first European settlement in Australia outside of Sydney. It is the birthplace of Australian export. It is still the largest export port by tonnage. It was the site of the first heavy industry in Australia. It is the site of the only Australian coastal guns ever to be fired in anger and was shelled by Japanese submarines in WWII (something rarely mentioned in Australia's wartime history). It had the largest tram network of any Australian city outside of Sydney and Melbourne. It's proud football teams have a long history of defeating the visiting the then dominant Great Britain rugby league team.

It's streetscapes are a fascinating mix of architicture - colonial, georgian, federation, art deco, moderne, English terraces, industrial, bungalow etc.

Yet you will find very little recognition of Newcastle's unique and important place in Australian history. As your blog says - it seems to have been written out.

That is a concern. A place that loses it's history loses it's individuality, it's pride and even it's soul. Newcastle is the Aborigine of white Australia - neglected and forgotten. Were it a capital city it would probably be celebrated as a unique Australian jewel.

Despite occupying such an important place in Australia and it's history it has been relegated to a barely noticed footnote.

Jim Belshaw said...

You are right to be proud of Newcastle, Greg. One of the things that I would like to think of my current historical writing in particular is that, in a small way, it might bring Newcastle alive to a broader audience

I am not a Novocastrian, but perhaps because I do write as an outsider and see things a little differently, I may have a better chance.

Mark said...

So true Greg. Where would Australia or NSW be now if this place wasn't on the map?