Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Belshaw’s World: the Hugh Frewen story

Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express on Wednesday 4 February 2009. I am repeating the columns here with a week's lag because the Express columns are not on line. This column is in fact a shortened version of a much longer post - Saturday Morning Musings - Hugh Frewen: a New England story 

I first met Captain Hugh Frewen (or Cappie as he was known) in the early sixties. I specially remember him from New State Meetings and from our car drive on Sydney. There he stood out in his tropical drill suit, frail but still erect.

I had no idea of his history. It was only later that I found out the full story following a very popular BBC TV series that told the story of his mother's family.

Frewen recorded his own story in Imogene an odyssey (Australasian Publishing Company, 1944). It is the story of a man who wandered the world from his birth until his arrival in Dorrigo and New England where he was to spend the rest of his life.

The forest melts as we o'ertop the crest,
Yielding to homely scenes and paths we know,
While grassy uplands open to the west,
The rolling hills and downs of Dorrigo;

Our story begins in 1849 with the marriage of the New York financier Leonard Jerome and Clarrisa (Clara) Hall. The couple had four daughters, one of whom died young.

Leonard Jerome was a financial robber baron who speculated in stocks and had interests in a number of railroads, making and losing several fortunes. However, he was very much a New York person, content to fund his wife's interests.

Clarrisa was different. According to one tart biographer, her sole goal was for her daughters to marry nobly and lucratively. In 1867 she and the girls sailed for Paris where, she believed, the Court of Napoleon III would inevitably fulfil her most ambitious social fantasies.

Following Napoleon’s fall in 1870, Clarissa took the girls to London where they cut a swath through society.

The beautiful Jennie married first. On 15 April 1874, she married Lord Randolph Spencer-Churchill at the British Embassy, Paris. Their first son, Winston Churchill, was born in November 1874, making him a somewhat premature child if my maths is correct!

Then on 2 June 1881, Clarita (Clara) married Moreton Frewen at Grace Church New York.

Moreton became known as Mortal Ruin because of his habit of borrowing and losing money on grandiose schemes. This included a Wyoming US cattle venture where he is reported to have arrived with 16,000 pounds, leaving owing 30,000 pounds!

Rudyard Kipling observed of Moreton Frewen that he lived "in every sense, except what is called common sense, very richly and wisely to his own extreme content, and if he had ever reached the golden crock of his dreams, he would have perished".

Hugh Frewen was born in 1883, growing up in the old manor house of Brede Place, a house that his mother somehow managed to keep despite the family's financial tribulations. This was a world that mixed access to the old European aristocracy with the embarrassment of a father who sometimes could not pay the school fees!

From 1906 to 1909 Frewen was private secretary to Sir Percy Girouard, the Governor of Northern Nigeria, and then a little late political officer in charge of a Nigerian hill station. However, he had to resign from the Colonial Office when his concerns about what he saw as British profiteering on Nigerian currency issues, concerns that he raised with his father who was then a British MP, led to the appointment of a Royal Commission.

On February 21 1914, Hugh married donna Maria Nunziante, daughter and co-heiress of the Italian Duke of Mignano. They had two sons before the marriage ended in divorce in 1922. Hugh then married Rosalind Jones, a marriage that brought three further sons and two daughters.

Hugh served throughout the First World War, including the Gallipoli Campaign. Following the war, he ended up as a special services officer in Iraq. This was not always easy.

Here for a little while did I contrive
To measure wits with Oriental wiles
(my predecessor had been burnt alive).

Like many English men of the time, he had a great love and respect for the Arab.

Thine are the manners of an earlier day
Thy nature decorous as ours uncouth,

His support for the Arab position led to another falling out with elements of the imperial system when he took the side of King Feisal against the British High Commissioner, Sir Percy Cox.

He resigned, and began the wanderings that were to bring him finally to Dorrigo and to our meetings.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Round the New England Blogging Traps - 4

This post will actually come up a little after its formal publication date. I started it, but then got side-tracked. 

In my post Can we form a New England history group? wondered about the possibility of forming a group focused on the understanding and promotion of history in the broader New England. This post was triggered in part by  LIVING IN THE NORTH, a post by Lynne Sanders-Braithwaite.

I have really been enjoying Lynne's blog. I discovered it through Neil's Google Reader series. In my own little blogging world, Neil is something of a leader. We may not agree with Neil on particular issues, but his innovative approach to blogging as a form of expression influences us all.

Returning to Lynne, her recounting of the experience of Peter Knox struck a real cord. If we cannot count on New England's universities to help record our history and experience, then who can we count on? I think that we have to do it ourselves.

Over on Jock's blog, Jock Laurie as President of the NSW Farmers' Association continues to present a country viewpoint. The blog is worth reading.

 NEWCASTLE AU. CITY PHOTOS PLUS HUNTER VALLEY AND BEYONDNewcastle garden is running a series of photos on gardens around Newcastle.

Still in Newcastle, Newcastle Green's councillor Michael Osbourne is protesting about the proposals to cut the rail link into central Newcastle.

I am not in a position to comment on all the detail. I can only say as as non-Green outsider that I think that the move would probably be a serious error.

I am short of time, so will finish here. But first a plea.

If you live in the areas I call New England - Hunter Valley to the Queensland border - and want your bog to be included in this weekly review, please let me know!       

Friday, February 06, 2009

Can we form a New England history group?

There is so much that we do not know about New England. This photo from Gordon Smith shows a tree from which the bark has been cut, almost certainly by New England's Aborigines. 20090117-09-30-55-oxley-wild-rivers-national-park-scarred-tree

Now that you have looked at the photo, are you interested in joining a New England history group? By this I do not mean a Tablelands' group, but one that covers the whole area from the Hunter to the Queensland border.

It seems to me that in the years I have left, I am going to be able to barely scratch the surface. I need help.   

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Belshaw’s World: Access Economics feeds the herd instinct

I felt quite flattered to have attracted a response from one of the Express’s better known letter writers. Like any writer, I want to be read. And Dr Fidlon clearly read my column on the wonders of blogging.

I wasn’t quite sure how to respond. In the blog world, this would be a comment to which I would respond with a comment. If I thought that the comment was especially important, I would add a postscript to the main post alerting readers to the comment.

A column is a little different because of space limitations. Should I then respond through a letter to the editor?

I might do that in future. For the moment, I thought that I should just note that my interest in the hoax played upon Keith Windschuttle lay in the process that led to the discovery of Katherine Wilson as hoaxer, not the fact that Keith Windschuttle was the victim.

I watched Australia just before Christmas. There is a spectacular stampede scene where cattle being driven to Darwin are deliberately spooked by the bad guys. Once started, all the cattle go with the herd in a blind panic.

The release of the latest report by Access Economics on the Australian economy made me quite angry because it played to the herd instinct. And we don’t have a little kid to stand in front and bring the mob to a halt.

I have a deal of respect for Access.

Sometimes known as the Treasury in exile, the firm was founded by former colleagues from the Australian Treasury. Their economic reports go into the board rooms of all the big firms in the country. Their reports also attract media attention, a great deal of media attention if, as appears to be the case here, they carefully craft their words to attract that attention.

The single message that came through the media reporting was that the Australian economy was buggered. Access says so.

I had the distinct feeling watching Access's Chris Richardson on TV that the size of the media firestorm was creating a degree of discomfort. He did make the point in a kind of sub-text that the Australian recession was going to be far milder than that experienced in some other countries, but this was swept away in the response to the headline statements.

A line by Australian poet John O'Brien (P J Hartigan) has entered the popular language: "We’ll all be rooned," said Hanrahan, "Before the year is out."

The problem with the actions of Chris Hanrahan Richardson and his colleagues lies in the concept of a self-fulfilling prophesy. If all of Access's clients accept the reported Access headlines without looking at the detail, then their responses may indeed bugger the Australian economy.

For some time now I have been making two key points about the global economic position.

The first point was that conventional consumption stimulus measures were unlikely to have the desired short term effects given the crash in confidence and because they did not address global structural issues that had helped trigger the crash. At best, as has happened in Australia, they can have a cushioning effect.

The second point was that it would take time for structural imbalances to correct and for longer term investment measures to start feeding into the system. The challenge was to manage through to the recovery point.

In all this, it remains true that Australia is in a remarkably good position to ride through the storm. Further, there were clear signs that a degree of local confidence was returning. Indeed, if you drop below the screaming headlines, even Access is actually forecasting a recovery.

The key requirement at a time like this is to keep a cool head. This applies to business and to Governments. Here the Rudd Government has already displayed something of a tendency to shoot from the hip, to try to do too much too quickly.

Keeping a cool head is far from easy when a firm in Access’s position plays for short term publicity in the way it did.

For length reasons, I will defer both my usual question and the answer to the last question to my next column.

Note to readers

This column appeared in the Armidale Express on Wednesday 28 January 2009.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Round the New England Blogging Traps - 3

I have decided to standardise on either Saturday or Sunday to do my round-up of New England  blogs. Doing this weekly forces me to do my blog review. This is actually quite hard because otherwise I get sidetracked.

Woodford Dale Public School lies to the north east of Grafton on Woodford Island near the Clarence River. The school has just begun its own blog, still a rare event for a NSW primary school. My thanks to North Coast Voices for alerting me to this.

Moving north, LYNNE SANDERS-BRAITHWAITE  has been mourning a lost love. I can understand this. I was also pleased to see Lynne's praise for Centrelink at  Murwillumbah.  

Last year I ran a series of workshops around NSW for community housing managers on new rental approaches. Centrelink presented at each workshop. This led me to write  Praise for Centrelink and then a little later, In Praise of Centrelink Mark Two.

In the second post I mentioned the second Grafton workshop. There the Murwillumbah Centrelink office was partially featured, so I felt an immediate connection to Lynne's comment.  

20090111-10-19-29-new-england-national-park-lyrebird-track Gordon Smith on lookANDsee has returned to the New England National Park. This photo shows the Lyrebird Walk.

I am still puzzled as to the reasons why the sheer beauty of the New England countryside is so poorly recognised.

Over on Media Hunter, Craig Wilson in Loss of Localism mourns the changes to Newcastle's radio 2HD that have effectively destroyed local content. I remember 2HD because I used to listen to it while visiting Newcastle.

Craig is dead right. Driven by economics, the loss of localism is a real problem. The media ceases to represent the people it serves.  

Over on The Marketer, Craig's work partner Gordon Whitehead had  the quire remarkable story of Hyundai Motor America's offer to their customers. If the customer loses his/her job within one year of purchase, they can return the car. Talk about a recession beater!Dion Archibald

On Art News Blog, Australian painter Dion Archibald (the photo shows one of his paintings) has a disturbing story, Paris Street Painters Lose to Cheap Chinese Paintings

Those who have been to Paris will remember the small stores along the river. Many, me included, have bought a painting of Paris to remember the experience. But made in China?

Moving north to Bellingen, Pip Wilson continues to provide  strange facts and anniversaries from our past.

And, finally, Armidale romance writer Bronwyn Parry is struggling to finish her latest book. I know how she feels!