Thursday, December 30, 2010

When we think about Melbourne: the imagination of a city

Jenny Sinclair explores through the use of maps, fiction, music, art and film what makes Melburnians relate to Melbourne.

A major section of the book concerns the history of maps describing our city - the maps of the first European settlers defining boundaries (land and coastal), maps showing the terrain, maps leading to the goldfields, as well as the current dependence on Melways (with an S) for finding our way around. We can also view our city from a tower, by walking through laneways or riding along bike paths or other tracks or view the city from the windows of a tram. The second part of the book looks at visions of the city through artistic work.

In a recent interview with Alan Brough on 774 the author described how the book was written to encourage people to think about their city and the locations that are important to them. In many ways Jenny Sinclair may only scratch the surface but she left this reader wanting to carry out their own investigations as to what the city means to them. I especially found the discussions on maps interesting and started adding additional titles of novels set in Melbourne to the list provided. A project during the next year or two will be to read more fiction set in Melbourne / Victoria.

The book contains many photographs and has a useful list of references and index.An interesting introduction to the city that is Melbourne.

Mortal remains

The thirteenth book involving investigations by Dr Temperance Brennan has also been published under the title of Spider Bones.

When Tempe and Detective Andrew Ryan investigate a suspicious death in Quebec the victim is unidentified as John Charles Lowery. As John Charles Lowery was buried in North Carolina in the 1960s after dying in Vietnam Tempe is persuaded to travel to Hawaii to work with staff at the JPAC - a US agency that identifies Americans killed in action overseas. In Hawaii an unidentified body from the Vietnam War is discovered wearing a dog tag belonging to John Charles Lowery. Tempe and Danny Tandler work together to unravel the mystery.

Tempe is also asked to help identify the body of a young man found in the sea and shortly afterwards another body is located. The deaths appear to be gang related.

Family matters are also a focus of the book. Tempe's daughter, Katy, accompanied her to Hawaii. A close friend of Katy's had recently been killed in Afghanistan and Tempe hoped a new environment might help her daughter. Andrew Ryan also arrives in Hawaii with his daughter, Lily, who was recovering from drug addiction.

As with the other books in this series by Kathy Reichs includes forensic detail throughout the story as the plot unfolds and in this book carefully explains the many acronyms that occur. As the investigations continue Tempe receives a number of threats to persuade her to cease investigation. There are many twists and turns until all the questions have been answered. An interesting concept but at times the plot lines are predictable.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A place in The Rocks

The first European settlement in Sydney was on the sandstone stepped area later referred to as The Rocks. Over the years many small houses and tenements were built in this area, initially timber to be replaced by stone. This book recalls a number of distinct stages in the history of The Rocks and the establishment of a house museum consisting of a terrace of four houses, known as Susannah Place, located at 58, 60, 62 and 64 Gloucester Street.

Susannah Place was built in 1844. Each house had two rooms on two floors and, because the houses were constructed on a slope, another room was dug out of rock at the back of the house.

Susannah Place survived the slum clearances as a result of bubonic plague in 1900, the clearance of land for the building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the 1930s and other land clearances for 'development' in the 1970s and the 1980s. The Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales has converted the Susannah Place building into a house museum to record the lives of the many people who lived in this area and this important part of Sydney's social history. The stories of people recorded in the book are the result of an oral history project. Photographs throughout the book are from a variety of collections. There is also a tenant list providing the names of families who lived in the four houses from 1845.

  Susannah Place Museum

The Antiques Roadshow

The first program of the Antiques Roadshow was broadcast in May 1977. This book celebrates the first 21 years of the show. Sections of the book provide biographies and photos of the experts who have been involved in the show, chapters on the research and behind the scenes work required before the filming of each program plus information about some of the finds made on the show.This well illustrated book provides an insite not only into the making of the television show but also into the collecting passions of the public.

Torn apart

Peter Corris is primarily known as the writer of the Cliff Hardy private investigator novels. In this book Cliff is surprised to meet a second cousin, Patrick Malloy, who suggests they visit Ireland and connect with distant family who are Irish Travellers. On their return, Patrick is shot dead. Who shot Patrick? Was the bullet meant for Patrick or for Cliff? Why is Patrick's ex-wife, Sheila, suddenly on the scene? Cliff has lost his PI licence but this does not stop him investigating who killed his cousin. It might be him next. A well written book with plenty of action and intrigue.

Then and Now

Two books forming the sequel to Morris Gleitzman's book written for children about the Second World War, Once.

Then continues the story of Felix and Zelda attempting to find a safe place to stay to keep out of site of the Nazis. When Genia offers them shelter she is pacing her life in danger too.

Now is set in Australia and focuses on Felix's grand-daughter, also named Zelda, as she uncovers the story of her grandfather's life during the war and also comes to terms with her own problems.

These thought provoking books provide teenagers and adult readers with a greater understanding of the horrors faced by displaced people during war and also poses questions as to what is really valuable in this life.

The charming quirks of others

In this Isabel Dalhousie novel Isabel is asked to investigate the qualities of three perspective candidates for the position of principal at a local school. She then discovers that one of the applicants is the new boyfriend of her niece, Cat. To further complicate her life a person she does not like offers to write a review of the work of another person that Isabel mistrusts for the Review of Applied Ethics that Isabel edits.  Isabel also discovers that another woman has designs on her partner, Jaimie. Many dilemmas for Isabel to think through and make decisions on . Another enjoyable book from Alexander McCall Smith.

3AW is Melbourne - 75 years of radio

Margaret Campion has compiled a collection of interviews which together recount the the history of the radio station from 1932 to 2007.

Radio station 3AW first went to air on the 22 February 1932. From 1936 to 1990 the studios were located 382 La Trobe Street before moving to South Melbourne and then to the current studios at Docklands in 2010.

Initially the story is told in decades, 1930s, 1940s 1950s etc followed by chapters on specific themes including football, news, behind the scenes, advertising, the listeners and the presenters. Many photographs accompany the telling of the 3AW story.

Minding Frankie

When Stella realises that she will not survive the birth of her daughter she contacts Noel Lynch and asks him, as the father of the child, to look after Frankie. Noel, a drifter and an alcoholic, appears the least likely person to bring up a child but the close family and neighbourhood network that is St Jarlath's Crescent, Dublin, provides the support mechanism required, if he will respond to it.

As with other Maeve Binchy novels, this books examines the relationships of a close community as they face the challenges of life. One of the successes of Maeve Binchy's stories is the use and development of characters and places already known to her readers as well as the introduction of new characters that become pivotal parts of the multiple stories interleaved throughout the book. New characters include Emily, the daughter of the brother of Noel's father, who visits from America and quickly becomes an important member of the local community and a catalyst for some of the stories as does Moira, the social worker appointed to look out for Frankie's interests, who faces her own family problems as she attempts to carry out her job while Lisa, attempting to establish a new life after making an unfortunate career move, finds perspective again through involvement in this close-knit St Jarlath's Crescent community. The continuation of stories introduced in earlier books further add to the involvement of the reader in the lives of well loved characters.

Maeve Binchy fans will love this addition to her continuing stories of the struggles and joys of life in suburban Dublin.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Remembering Fromelles

The Battle of Fromelles took place in France on 19th and 20th July 1916. The battle had been planned as a diversion for the Battle of the Somme but as the date for the battle approached the possible non-success of the attack was discussed by military leaders however they did not abort the campaign.

Fromelles was the first battle fought in France by the AIF. Five thousand three hundred Australian men were killed, wounded or taken prisoner during the battle of less 24 hours. The remains of many of those killed were never discovered. After the war the Imperial (Commonwealth) Graves Commission created cemeteries for reburying and commemorating war dead but many of the bodies of Australian and British soldiers who fought at Fromelles were never recovered.

A Victorian school teacher, Lambis Englezos, led a campaign to discover additional sites where the soldiers may have been buried. Eventually it was discovered that the Germans had buried many of the bodies and returned the soldier's tags to their families via the Red Cross. This book describes the excavation of the graves, the archaeology involved, the objects found at the site, the attempts to identify the bodies and the reburying of the bodies in a new cemetery at Fromelles in June 2010. Not all the bodies have been identified but research is continuing and if identification is made, the name of the soldier will be added to the appropriate grave.

Illustrated with many photographs this book provides an account of the work involved in identifying soldiers who died during the First World War and the respect with which the bodies are examined and reburied.


1942 in an orphanage in Poland. Felix believes that he has been left there by his parents, Jewish booksellers, while they sort out some problems - they will return for him. Realising that all is not well and his parents are in danger, Felix escapes from the orphanage to locate and warn his parents.

The book traces the journey of Felix in his search and the people that he meets including Zelda and Barney. Through his observations and encounters of Nazi occupation of his country he gradually realises the truth and the dangers that surround him.

Felix and Zelda's story continues in the books, Then and Now, which I have not yet read.

In these books written for children, Morris Gleitzman, through the eyes of Felix, portrays the horror of life in Nazi occupied Europe during the Second World War

Dead man's chest

This is Kerry Greenwood's eighteenth book in the Phyrne Fisher series featuring an English socialite who decides, towards the end of the 1920s, to leave London for Melbourne and dabble at solving mysteries, particularly murders. The adventures of the uninhibited, independently wealthy, Miss Fisher take her to different parts of Victoria which form the backgound to the mysteries she encounters.

In Dead man's chest, while renovations are being made to her St Kilda home, Phryne and party journey to Queenscliff for a holiday.  On arrival they discover that the staff of the house where they are staying have disappeared, encounter three unruly teenagers next door and a group of Surrealists inhabiting the other neighbouring property. Phryne, her maid and companion, Dot, and her adopted daughters, Jane and Ruth all contribute to solving the mysteries they encounter, find some treasure and enjoy their sojourn from city life.

These entertaining books provide an insite into life in Victoria in the 1920s as well providing a mystery or two to resolve and enjoy.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The true deceiver

As an admirer of Tove Jansson's Moomintroll books for children I was interested to read this novel written for adults. Initially published in 1982 but not published in English until 2009, The True Deceiver examines the relationships of people living in a small Swedish village in the middle of winter. The main characters are Katri Kling and her brother, Mats, both considered outcasts by most of the other villagers, and the artist, Anna Aemelin, who lived alone in a large house outside the village. When Katri and Mats move into Anna's home the lives of Katri and Anna, in particular, change as they are forced to re-evaluate their beliefs and thoughts as they adjust to the changes caused by their new situation. The concept of what is truth and what are lies is a focal point of the book. Several of the villagers also impact on this story as does the setting of the isolated  village in winter. The use of sparse use of language in this beautifully written adds to the enjoyment. The book begins with an introduction by Ali Smith.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Wicked Appetite

Wicked Appetite, the sequel to Plum Spooky, has Diesel still hunting his cousin Wulf but the action has now moved to Salem where Diesel conscripts Lizzy Tucker, a pastry chef from Dazzle's Bakery, to help him. Lizzy is only one of two people with the power to recognise the four charms that combine to locate one of the Stones of the Seven Deadly Sins. Diesel has to stop Wulf acquiring the stones. Unfortunately the charms that relate to the Gluttony Stone transfer, once located, an addiction to the person in contact with them.

As usual there is an array of unusual characters including Glo who works at the bakery and believes that she can cast spells, Hatchet who believes that he is a medieval knight, Cat 7143 who may have special powers and the reappearance of Carl the monkey.

As in previous Evanovich books buildings are destroyed, cars are rendered undriveable and the normal mayhem ocurs. By the end of the book one Stone has been recovered - no doubt there will be additional Diesel adventures to follow.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Collecting the twentieth century

Adrian Franklin looks at the collectables of last century in the fields of fashion, technology, architecture, design, music, arts and crafts. The book is divided into decades providing descriptions and photographs of items important to each period. Those who watch television programs such as Bargain Hunt and Antiques Roadshow will find this a useful reference for providing additional information on many types of items found in those shows. The book may also provide inspiration for those wanting to start their own collections.

Siizzling sixteen

Another installment in the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich with the usual ingredients of cars and buildings destroyed, difficulties in apprehending bail absconders, a cast of crazy characters and, of course, the presence of Morelli and Ranger. In this volume Vinnie has been kidnapped by gangsters and a ransom of more than a million dollars has to be found for his release. Stephanie, Lula and Connie devise a number of plans to rescue Vinnie and save the Company from which Vinnie has been embezzling money. Many of the situations are becoming predictable ( this is the sixteenth book in the series) but there were still a number of occasions when I found myself laughing at the incredible shenanigans portrayed in the book. As usual a fun, relaxing read.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Captain Bligh's other mutiny

Stephen Dando-Collins provides an account of the military coup that occurred in Sydney on 26 January 1808 resulting in the removal of William Bligh from his position as governor of the colony and resulting in two years of rule by the military until Lachlan Macquarie arrived from England in 1810 to take over the role of governor. Although Major Johnston led the coup the power behind the rebellion was that of John Macarthur, a former member of the army corps but now a landowner in the colony, and much of the book investigates the machinations of Macarthur in taking control of the colony.

The interest in this period of Australian history is not just of the rebellion and its aftermath including the enquiries into the event and trial of Macarthur back in England but in the descriptions of life in the colony at this time.

From the family history viewpoint, Simeon Lord was one of the colonists who signed the petition authorising the arrest of Bligh. A number of references are made to Simeon throughout the book. He obviously felt that Supporting Macarthur against Bligh was a strategically good move at the time but later refused to continue support Macarthur as Macarthur sought to increase his power-base. However Simeon was not the only family member to be mentioned. When Bligh sailed to Hobart seeking the support of Colonel Collins, George Guest was one of the colonists who defied the government orders and made available supplies to Bligh and his party on the ship. George was arrested for defying Collins' orders.

This book was published in 2008 - two hundred years after the coup. Another book on this topic is The Rum Rebellion written by H V Evatt and published in 1938.

Book of lost threads

When Moss searches for the father she never knew she unleashes a chain of events that affect the lives of a group of people, all of whom have not come to terms with traumatic events that have affected their subsequent actions and lives.

Her father, Finn, blames himself for the death of a girl who ran in front of his car, Lily Pargetter grieves for the stillborn baby she was never able to hold, Sandy Sandilands regrets never having protected his mother from his abusive father while Tess regrets her attitude towards her mother, Linsey.

Tess Evans' book explores how these damaged people gradually come to terms with their problems and work together to once again positively face life. Thank you Pauline for recommending this book.

Friday, July 23, 2010


The scene is primarily set at a boys school in Oxford but events also occur in other locations including London, Paris, Italy. The plot revolving around a web of relationships manipulated by North, a student, and observed by an unnamed narrator predictably ends in disaster. The author - Brian Martin, an English teacher - has interwoven throughout the book illusions to literature - the writings of Milton, Shakespeare, Chaucer, Keats. The descriptions of places and of the daily life of the characters and the literary references make this book more than just an expose of relationships and human foibles plus a study of the control that North appears to have over the lives of others. A powerfully written book.

Bean's Gallipoli

The diaries of Australia's official war correspondent edited and annotated by Kevin Fewster

In Australia there is increasing interest in the Anzacs and Gallipoli which will only increase with centenary of the event only a few years away. The edited copy of the diary kept by Australia's official war correspondent, C E W Bean, with photographs provides an insight into the events leading up to the landing of the Australian and New Zealand troops on the 25th April 1915 until their evacuation in December 1915. Included are brief biographical notes of men mentioned in the diaries.

The diaries and notes of the war experiences of C E W Bean can be located on the Australian War Memorial website.

Digitised images of selected war diaries are also located on the website.

The official history of the First World War written by C E W Bean is also now available online.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Diggers Rest Hotel

Charlie Berlin is sent to Wodonga from Melbourne to investigate a series of armed hold-ups of Northern Victorian railway offices by a gang of motor bike riders. Shortly afterwards a local Chinese girl is murdered and left lying in a street. With the help of local policeman, Bob Roberts, and journalist, Rebecca Green, Berlin investigates the cases and comes to know many of the troubled individuals in the town and at the nearby army barracks of Bandiana. The story, written by Geoffrey McGeachin, is set immediately after the Second World War and many of the characters, including Berlin, are struggling to cope with the memories of the horrors of war and with the difficulty of adapting to life after war.

In an interview on ABC regional radio with Geoffrey McGeachin the author talks about about the writing of the book and his memories of growing up in Wodonga.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

No Excuses!

Steve Willis is the Commando. Those who watch The Biggest Loser (Australia) will all know the Commando and the tough workouts he provides for the contestants in his charge. In No Excuses! Steve Willis briefly tells his life story and his philosophy of life. After leaving the army (Special Forces) Steve became a personal trainer, eventually running a fitness business, and also trained as a CrossFit athlete participating in the 2009 International Crossfit Games. Articles written by former Biggest Loser contestants are interspersed throughout the book. The final chapters contain information about CrossFit plus examples of how to lift weights. His food diary on page 145 caused a few comments from members of my family. No excuses! provides an interesting insight into the man of steel with the sunglasses and tatts who makes the bravest contestants quaver when they realise that they are to have a session with the Commando.

Eat my dust: early women motorists

Women played a significant part in the early history of motoring. In Eat my dust, Georgine Clarsen provides a number of case studies of women motorists and mechanics in the USA, Britain, South Africa and Australia prior to the Second World War.

The Woman who does - A Melbourne Women's Motor Garage (chapter 6) tells of the Alice Anderson Motor Service, a garage in Kew that employed only female staff and, among other services, provided courses for women who wanted to know more about the workings of the car.

Driving Australian modernity - Conquering Australia by car (chapter 7) describes three expeditions by women around or across Australia by car in 1926 and 1927.

Campaigns on Wheels - American automobiles and a suffrage of consumption (chapter 5) explores the use by women of the motor car to promote the suffrage cause across the United States of America.

Reading these accounts it is obvious that women quickly saw the advantages of this new method of transport and the freedom it gave them to explore their world.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

House rules

Jacob Hunt is 18 and has Asperger's syndrome. He lives with his mother, Emma and 15 year old brother, Theo. His father left the family when Jacob was 3 and has since remarried and has two young daughters. Jodi Picoult's book provides an insight into lives of members of a family where one of the members has special needs, is unable to communicate efficiently, takes verbal communication literally, is easily upset when routines are changed yet wants to be accepted as a normal human being. Jacob is highly intelligent and has a photographic memory. He is fascinated by forensic science and enjoys recreating crime scenes and watching CrimeBusters at 4.30 each week day afternoon. Jacob also believes that people should tell the truth and his life is conditioned by a series of 'house rules'.

When Jessie Ogilvy, Jacob's tutor, goes missing and her body is later found wrapped in Jacob's handmade quilt, Jacob is arrested. A major theme of the book examines how the legal system copes, or fails to cope, with providing a fair trial for someone whose everyday actions would normally indicate that he is guilty and who is unable to fully comprehend questions put to him.

The story told by Emma, Jacob, Theo, Rich (the detective) and Oliver (the lawyer defending Jacob) often provides different perspectives of an event. This book would provide many discussion possibilities for members of book clubs.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Wide Sargasso Sea

This prelude to Charlotte Bronte's novel, Jane Eyre, was written by Jean Rhyss. Set in the West Indies the book is the story of Antoinette Cosway and her relationship with Rochester before he took her to England. Events and often misunderstandings in Antoinette's early life determine her eventual path to insanity. Much of the book deals with Antoinette's struggle for identity and acceptance against the backdrop of the environment in which she lives and the prejudices of those around her.

The dog who came in from the cold

Number two in the Corduroy Mansions series continues stories of the lives of the inhabitants of this London block of flats and of their friends and family. The Pimlico terrier, Freddie de la Hay, has an adventure while working on a mission for MI6, Caroline agonises over her relationship with James, Barbara Ragg finds happiness with her Scottish fiance, Rupert Porter continues to desire Barbara's flat, the Green Man intervenes to save Terence Moongrove from financial ruin, Dee decides to make her fortune marketing a product to aid solving Sudoku puzzles while Rupert trails a yeti through Fortnum & Mason. The skillful interweaving of the various plots leaves the reader waiting for the next chapter featuring this eccentric collection of neighbours.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Doggie day care murder

A Melanie Travis mystery (no. 15). Melanie is a mother, the wife of Sam, a schoolteacher, a lover of standard poodles and a solver of mysteries. Most of the books in the series revolve around events associated with the world of dogshows - breeders, handlers and judges - but in this book the setting is a day care centre for dogs. When Melanie and Alice visit the centre to check whether it is suitable for Alice's dog to attend, they discover that Steve, one of the owners has been murdered. Melanie investigates. The books in this series are laced with humour and are enjoyable to read, however the laws regarding using mobile phones when driving appear to be more relaxed in America than in Australia - kept wanting to say, "Stop the car to take the call".

The keys to the kingdom

A fantasy series - Mr Monday, Grim Tuesday, Drowned Wednesday, Sir Thursday, Lady Friday, Superior Saturday and Lord Sunday - written for older children and teenagers by Garth Nix - introduces the reader to another realm, the House, plus a mystery involving the Architect, the Trustees, the seven Keys and the Will. Arthur Penhaligon, Suzy Blue, Leaf and a host of other extraordinary characters battle many forces of evil, enabling Arthur to collect the seven Keys and the seven pieces of the Will needed to save not only the world of the denizens but also Earth which is being invaded by evil forces from the House. An exciting series with many gripping adventures.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Not so eminent Victorians

A collection of ten essays about individual school teachers working in Victorian schools in the nineteenth century edited by R J W Selleck and Martin Sullivan. An essay by Selleck about the career of John Murphy vividly describes the life of teachers working in elementary schools. Murphy began as a pupil teacher when he was 13 and continued working and sitting for exams until he became a qualified teacher. Initially he worked at schools in the Stawell region. Moving to Melbourne to complete his training he became actively involved in teachers' associations, political debates about education and improvements required for teacher training. For two years from March 1889 he was head teacher at Box Hill State School. He died in January 1891 aged thirty-five from hepatitis and typhoid fever. The essay highlights the problems faced by teachers after the introduction of compulsory education in 1872, inadequacy of teacher training, over crowded schools and debates on corporal punishment. The collection of essays about ordinary teachers shows the challenges faced by teachers in nineteenth century Victoria.

The Double Comfort Safari Club

The 10th addition to the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith returns us to Botswana to spend time with Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi as they search for a Safari Camp guide to give him a legacy from an American tourist, a former visitor to the camp. They also investigate claims by a husband and wife that each partner is having a relationship outside the marriage. Mma Makutsi's has additional concerns as her husband-to-be has had an accident and she has to contend with his senior aunt who wants Mma Makutsi out of her nephew's life. An enjoyable few hours is spent revisiting the world of Mma Precious Ramotswe and her friends.

A truth universally acknowledged: 33 reasons why we cannot stop reading Jane Austen

Jane Austen would have to be one of my favourite authors. This collection of articles written by authors providing critiques on the importance of the work of Jane Austen in English literature is edited by Susannah Carson. Contributing authors include E M Forster, W Somerset Maugham, Kingsley Amis, J B Priestley, C S Lewis, Martin Amis, A S Byatt, Fay Weldon and Virginia Wolfe. Jane Austen only wrote six novels but her characters and her art of describing everyday life continues to fascinate readers. Jane Austen's novels are books that devotees do not read only once but read and enjoy many times. I think it is time that I revisited the novels and became immersed in the world of Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey again.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Merlin: knowledge and power through the ages

Merlin has been a recurring character in literature, particularly but not exclusively in the many retellings of the Arthurian legend. Stephen Knight explores the myth of Merlin from his initial appearance in early Welsh legends as Myrddin through to the many modern works of fiction in which Merlin features. Knight looks at the evolution of the character as a figure of wisdom, provider of advice, cleverness and in more modern times as an educator. Two bibliographies are provided - the first is a long list of works in which Merlin is a character while the second is a list of books and articles about Merlin. This detailed study of the many guises of Merlin and his role in literature is a little ponderous but would be a useful resource for those fascinated by the story of Merlin.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The ruling caste: imperial lives in the Victorian Raj

David Gilmour provides a detailed account of the role of the British Civil Service in India during the reign of Queen Victoria. The mutiny in 1857 was a watershed in the British administration in India. Prior to the mutiny the East India Company administered the Indian Civil Service and the men holding positions in India were educated at Haileybury - the East India Company College established in the early 1800s - after being nominated by directors of the Company. A high percentage of men from Scotland served in India at this time. The two year course purported to provide the skills the young men required to work in India however the relevance of many of the subjects and the seriousness that some of the students viewed their studies is debated in the early chapters of the book. After the mutiny the British government took control of the Indian Civil Service with opportunities for positions opened to a wider range of people trained at a variety of institutions and the age of new civil servants raised to early twenties.

The book concentrates on describing what life was like for the British in India in the years after the mutiny until the beginning of the twentieth century. It primarily describes the lives of the British living in India during the reign of Queen Victoria, particularly after 1857 when the management of the Indian Civil Service was taken over by the British government.

From Jolimont to Yering and along our Yarra Valleys with Neuchatel's bachelor vignerons

Raymond Henderson has written a history of the Yarra Valley focusing on the early wine industry and featuring the de Castalla, de Meuron, de Pury and Leuba families from Switzerland.

This well illustrated book provides detailed information on the European families that settled the area in the nineteenth century and also has a chapter on the Aboriginal settlement at Coranderrk.

Brief reference is made to the property, Cooring Yering, owned by the Hutton family from the 1870s to the 1920s. Walter and Maurice Hutton planted 30 acres of grape vines on the property in the 1890s twenty years after Samuel de Pury had uprooted his crop on the same property (pages 141 and 220).

Bottersnikes and other lost things: a celebration of Australian children's books

Juliet O'Connor has produced a fascinating insight into early children's book illustration in Australia. Divided into five major sections - schooldays, morality and family, home and land, journeys, other worlds - the book describes the development of illustrative material produced for Australian children.

Schooldays, for example, looks at nineteenth century educational texts, the development of alphabet books from The Young Australian's Alphabet published in 1871 to more recent publications such as Graeme Base's Animalia (1986) and A is for Aunty by Elaine Russell (2000) as well as school papers and readers including John and Betty (1951).

Each page of the book contains illustrations from the books described in the text demonstrating changes in art reproduction and style as well as the type of material made available for children. A great addition to the history and understanding of Australian children's literature.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Corduroy Mansions

Alexander McCall Smith's latest offering is Corduory Mansions. Like the Scotland Street series the book introduces us to a series of characters living in or associated with a locality - this time a four storey building in Pimlico, a suburb of London. The reader enjoys the company of an eccentric group of characters including William, a wine merchant who is encouraging his adult son, Eddie, to leave home; Dee, Jenny, Jo and Caroline who share one of the flats; Oedipus Snark the politician and Jenny's employer; Barbara Ragg, a publisher and one time friend of Oedipus; Berthea Snark, a psychotherapist and mother of Oedipus who wants to write an unauthorised biography about her son; Terrance Moongrove, Berthea's brother, who lives in his own world in the country to name just a few. Not to forget Freddie de la Hay who comes to share William's flat. McCall Smith obviously enjoys these characters and uses them is comment on attitudes and misconceptions of our times.

Like the Scotland Street series the book is based on a series of articles, this time appearing on the website - The sequel to Corduroy Mansions is The dog who came in from the cold and (audio) chapters can be downloaded from this site.

I certainly want to know more of the lives of these characters in Corduroy Mansions and look forward to reading the next installment.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A short history of the University of Melbourne

The University of Melbourne was incorporated in 1853. In 2003 two publications on the history of the university were published to mark its first 150 years - a detailed account, The Shop, by Richard Selleck and a smaller volume, The short history of the University of Melbourne (193p), written by Stuart Macintyre and Richard Selleck. This account with many illustrations describes the challenges and tensions faced in the development of the university from its initial intake of 15 students to a major tertiary institution.

Lachlan Macquarie: his life, adventures and times

2010 marks 200 years since Lachlan Macquarie arrived in New South Wales as Lieutenant Governor, a post he held until February 1822. This detailed biography, written by M H Ellis, was first published in 1947. In 2010 the book has been republished with a new introduction.

Ellis, in great detail, describes events in Macquarie's life including his first career was in the army in India. Macquarie arrived in Australia after Bligh had been deposed and the military had been in control of the colony for several years. His time in New South Wales was to restore stability to the colony and promote its growth though many of his projects were criticised by the 'gentry' of the colony who opposed his appointment of emancipists in positions of trust. One of the emancipists who benefited from Macquarrie's time in New South Wales was Simeon Lord.

Macquarie's name is commemorated in the naming of many important sites and institutions in Australia.

Ellis undertook many years of research before writing this book and provides a detailed list of resources for each chapter. It is not necessarily an easy book to read however it is an important contribution to the early history of Australia.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


This is a crime novel with a difference. The 'hero' of the novel is a man who has has made a successful living stealing jewellery, artworks and cash, but with improvements in electronic surveillance and increased use of electronic tranfer of funds, his opportunities are diminishing.

When during a heist Wyatt is double crossed, he seeks revenge and attempts to regain his prize.

Most of the action, except for brief interludes overseas, is set around Melbourne including the city, Frankston, Ringwood and Yarra Junction adding to the interest of the book for those of us living in Australia.

The plot is action packed and a book hard to put down. I must now look for earlier books in this series.

Writng history

Increasingly people are writing family or community histories. Writing these books is not just telling the story but also presenting the information in an interesting manner that people want to read as well as recording the sources used when researching the information for the book.

How to write history that people want to read by Ann Curthoys and Ann McGrath (2009) is a useful addition to books on writing history. These Australian authors provide information about research, selecting information, advice on writing, choosing a style, acknowledging sources, editing and revising the work and marketing the final product.

Gavin McLean in his practical guide, How to do local history, looks at the topic from a New Zealand perspective as he provides advice on ideas and questions, research, writing and publishing.

Style manual for authors, editors and printers, 6th ed, 2002 is an extremely useful resource for information on writing, presentation, use of grammar and spelling, use of citations, indexes, design and illustrating, editing - all facets of producing a book. A must for all Australian writers.

In 2006 the Federation of Australian Historical Societies published Publishing history: a guide for historical societies by Helen Doyle and Katya Johanson. Topics include planning projects, how to publish, drawing up a budget, contracting an author, components of a history book, images, editing and design, identification and access requirements and selling the finished product.

These are only a small selection of titles now available in libraries and bookshops to assist in the writing of readable history.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Japanese submarine raiders 1942: a maritime mystery

On the night of 31 May /1 June four midget submarines attempted entry to Sydney Harbour. The entry of unidentified objects was detected at the Loop Station but unreported. It is possible that one submarine that may have entered at the same time as a ferry. During the evening a number of torpedoes were fired resulting in the sinking of the Kuttabul. A week later on the 8th of June a submarine off the coast fired shells into Sydney Harbour many exploding in the streets of Rose Bay and Bellevue Hills with minimal damage though one left a crater in Manion Avenue, Rose Bay. Due to censorship restrictions little was known about these attacks until many years after the war.

The story of the Japanese submarines patrolling the New South Wales coast in 1942 is recorded by Stephen L Carruthers after researching records from Australian and Japanese resources and provides information about what was happening on the submarines as well as the effects of the attacks on Sydney.

Another book on this topic is Battle surface: Japan's submarine war against Australia 1942-44 by David Jenkins.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Australians volume 1 Origins to Eureka

The first volume of Thomas Keneally's history of Australia provides the stories of European settlement of the country until the 1850s. Well known for his novels Thomas Keneally has written other works of non-fiction relating to Australia including The Commonwealth of Thieves, an exploration of the settlement of Sydney as a convict colony.

Keneally is interested in characters so he tells his story by interleaving events as they affected the lives of a selection of participants. A detailed time line to 1860 is provided along with extensive notes and an index.

The Commonwealth of Thieves dwelt on the transportation system, conditions on the transport ships and the initial establishment of Sydney. Like Australians the story is character driven and provides a readable insight into what conditions may have been like in the 1770s and 1780s. The notes and bibliography provide guides for future research for those interested in this period of history.

The early sections of Australians also provides information about the transportation system but concentrates on the development of the colonies that later became Australia, although the emphasis is on Sydney. Telling the story through events in the lives of the convicts and other settlers provides graphic images of life including challenges and achievements at the time.

Having 12 convicts in my family who had arrived in Sydney by 1808, both these books are valuable source books providing background information for family history research, especially as one of the convicts who features as a character in both books is Simeon Lord.

75 years of the Australian Women's Weekly: memories and great moments from Australia's most loved magazine

I have memories, when a child, of being asked to go to the newsagent to purchase a copy of the Australian Women's Weekly for my mother. I think the prince was 9d at the time. It was the one magazine she had to have each week.

The first issue of the Australian Women's Weekly was published in June 1933. The aim of the publication, published in black and white, was to provide articles covering the latest news, fashion, fiction, social issues and food. At the end of 1935 my grandfather, R J H Moses, left Smith's Weekly to join the editorial staff of the Australian Women's Weekly before becoming consultant editor of the new newspaper, the Daily Telegraph, in 1936.

Since December 1982 the Australian Women's Weekly has been issued as a monthly but continues as one of the most popular publications for women in Australia. This 75 year tribute to the Weekly provides an overview on the the themes that have been a major part of the publication but concentrates on events and people of more recent years. Themes include people, beautiful Australia, news stories, war, the Royals, women, fashion, the family, travel, food, the home and Christmas. There are also chapters on some of the former staff of the Weekly.

Flicking through the pages of this book provides a glimpse into the recent (non- teenage) popular culture of Australia including photographs and articles about people involved in sport, television, film and fashion. Fortunately examples of articles from earlier editions of the magazine can be found in the side bar of some pages.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Illustrated Guide to Antique Writing Instruments

When we first learned curved writing at primary school in the 1950s being allowed to use a pen was considered something special. The first pens we used were pens with nibs dipped in inkwells recessed in our desks. The challenge was not to get blots on the page and blotting paper was used to help dry the ink. At secondary school we graduated to fountain pens and blue marks on the fingers holding the pen were common. Biros were not allowed as they would spoil our writing.

The Illustrated Guide to Antique Writing Instruments by Stuart Schneider & George Fischier provides a history of the fountain pen and pen manufacturers in the United States of America. It is primarily a book for collectors containing photographs of different types of fountain pens manufactured by a variety of companies until the 1940s. A brief history of each of the major pen manufacturing companies is also provided - Parker, Sharffer, Swan, Mont Blanc, Waterman to name a few from the list.

The history of the fountain pen provides background information on the early development of fountain pens. Although a Frenchman invented a fountain pen in 1702 it was not until the nineteenth century that experiments in fountain pen design increased with an American taking out a patent in 1809, John Scheffer taking out a British patent in 1819 and John Parker taking out a patent for a self filling fountain pen in 1831. Early fountain pens used an eye dropper method to fill the pen and leaking ink was common. In 1884 Lewis Waterman patented a fountain pen with an improved feed mechanism resulting in increased popularity of pens containing their own ink supply.

Art Deco in Australia: sunrise over the Pacific

Edited by Mark Ferson and Mary Nilsson, Art Deco in Australia, is a series of articles with photographs covering features of the art deco movement including architecture (houses, public buddings and cinema), furniture, jewellery, pottery and art, fashion, household items, bookplates and book design and transport. Although many of the examples are from New South Wales there are also specific chapters on art deco in Western Australia, Victoria, Adelaide and Queensland. Each article is accompanied by copious photographs of the examples being described. A good introduction to the influence of art deco in this country.

Modern Times is another book on this topic.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A place to remember: a history of the Shrine of Rembrance

Special buildings have their own atmosphere commanding awe and respect. The Shrine of Remembrance in St Kilda Road is one such building. When my three sons were young I took them to visit the Shrine of Remembrance. The guard on our arrival was not encouraging and warned me that if any of the boys misbehaved we would be asked to leave. He need not have worried for as soon as we entered the precinct the atmosphere of the building immediately impacted upon the boys as we explored the memorial. They instinctively knew that this was a special place.

The Shrine of Remembrance was dedicated on the 11 November 1934. This book by Bruce Scates celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Shrine by examining the quest to have a suitable war memorial in Melbourne, the controversy that ensued from the announcement of the award winning design in 1924 until the laying of the foundation stone in 1927, raising the finances for building the Shrine, the building process and subsequent additions and memorials including the new visitors' centre and the effectiveness of the Shrine as a memorial.

In the 1920s there were many conflicting views as to the type of memorial to be built - a cenotaph in a newly constructed park in the city, a tower, a hospital, an arch with cafes at ground level were some suggestions. A competition was held for the design of the memorial but when the design for the Shrine was selected in 1924 the Herald newspaper ran a campaign, including a plebiscite, to try and rally public opinion to have the award overturned. There were also accusations of plagiarism (dismissed) as parts of the design were based on older architectural styles. A temporary cenotaph was constructed with suggestions made that a permanent cenotaph should be built in Melbourne, possibly near Parliament House, instead of the Shrine. However the matter was resolved in April 1927 when Sir John Monash, at a dinner commemorating Anzac Day, announced that 'the Shrine of Remembrance is the only memorial worthy of the support of the soldiers of Victoria' and on the 11th November 1927 the foundation stone for the Shrine was laid.

Since the dedication of the Shrine in 1934 it has become a focal point for Melbourne, a place where people can go at any time to remember the sacrifice of those who served their country in war that there may be peace.

Remember them: a guide to Victoria's wartime heritage

Most suburbs and towns in Victoria have a war memorial - memorials to those who served their country during times of war and especially to those who died. Garrie Hutchinson provides a guide, with photographs, to a selection of war memorials in the state and in most cases tells the story of the war service of one or two names on the memorial. Not all war memorials are covered. The Box Hill War Memorial and the Boer and China War Memorial are the two memorials mentioned from Box Hill. The experiences in World War I of Driver Clarence Norman Draeger are described along with mentions of Able Seaman William Henry Pope and George Walters who served in China and Lance Corporal George Rowland Button who served during the Boer War. The war service of Corporal Henry Edwin Sloan is told in the section on the Doncaster War Memorial. Brothers William Gibson and Edward Kehoe have their stories told in the section on the Ferntree Gully Primary School Memorial. The selected stories provided at each location collectively portray the extent of military service and sacrifice provided Victorians over many generations.

The first chapter of the book is devoted to the Shrine of Remembrance and the many memorials within and surrounding the Shrine. The other chapters cover specific geographical areas. The introduction includes a section about the main, primarily, online resources for researching individual servicemen and there is another list of sources at the back of the book.

War Memorials in Australia provides a comprehesive listing of Australian war memorials plus photographs and inscriptions.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Beyond the Facade: Flinders Street, more than just a railway station

For one hundred years the facade of Flinders Street Railway Station has been a focal point of Melbourne. Although the railway line and station had been in existence since the 1850s, by the 1880s, with the growth of Melbourne and increased use of the railways, it was obvious that the railway station needed to be rebuilt not only to accommodate current travellers but also for projected growth of railway usage. Jenny Davies provides information about the planning for and the building of the new station, completed in 1910, plus subsequent alterations to the complex.

The main focus of the book, however, is descriptions (often provided by people who worked at or near the station) of the use of the extensive railway buildings by passengers, members of the Victorian Railway Institute and other groups using the facilities including the importance to Melburnians of the station clocks, the newspaper stands and newsboys selling the Herald on the station steps in the evening, the City Hatters shop on the corner of Swanston Street and Flinders Street, Hearns Hobbies, various refreshment services provided over the years including a restaurant, shops selling and promoting fresh and dried fruits, as well as places to grab a quick drink or something to eat on the way to the train. Two chapters are devoted to the Victorian Railway Institute and the various activities and events offered by this organisation at Flinders Street Station. From the early 1930s to the early 1970s Miss Dorothy Gladstone ran dancing classes in rooms at the station. From the June 1933 until January 1942 the railways provided a child minding service where mothers who travelled by train could leave their young children.

This is a book for browsing - examining the many photographs and reading the eye-witness accounts of working at and using the station over the years. Another contribution to the history of Melbourne.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

MasterChef Australia the cookbook volume one

Like many Australians in 2009 my family regularly watched and enjoyed MasterChef Australia so I was interested to see whether the cookbook would be primarily a promotion tool for the show or a useful cooking aid. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the second option is the case. The book continues the show's premise, apart from being a cooking contest, of encouraging the enjoyment of cooking and providing practical information on cooking techniques.

The initial chapters provide advice on general ingredients - how they can be used and storage hints, tools and equipment, how to chop vegetables - basic knife skills, dicing onions, slicing carrots and cubing potatoes - and plating up food. The rest of the book contains recipes for dishes prepared on the show by contestants, by some of the guest chefs and in the master class sessions. In some sections additional guidelines are provided. For example in the vegetable section information is provided about choosing the right type of potato, different types of onions and how to skin tomatoes. Information in other sections includes poaching eggs like a professional, jointing chickens, filleting fish, cracking open crabs and extracting meat from a lobster. At the beginning of each recipe the contestants comment on the dish and how they might do it differently. The book is fully illustrated with photographs and clearly set out making it easy to use. There is an index plus glossaries of ingedients, terms and equipment.

This would be an excellent book for those setting out on the cooking adventure as well as a useful book for those wanting to experiment with food. And yes, the recipe for Adiano Zumbo's croquembouche can be found on page 216 for those brave enough to try it.

Google your family tree: unlock the hidden power of Google

Published in 2008, Daniel M Lynch has compiled a comprehensive guide to using Google for family history research. Basing examples on his family history research, Lynch provides basic information about Google and how it works, using advanced search, using tools such as Google Books, Blog Search, Google Alerts, Google Maps, Google Earth and Google Toolbar. The appendices deal directly with genealogy research including getting started in genealogy and useful websites for genealogists plus other internet search engines, a useful article defining web search engines, and a syntax summary with examples for genealogy searches.

Illustrating how quickly the internet changes, one chapter of the book deals with using Google Notebook which ceased taking new users in 2009 - Google Docs can be used to carry out a similar function - and one of the recommended sites, Family History Online (Federation of Family History Societies), has now been absorbed into Find My Past. However this is an extememly useful guide as to how to use Google in particular and the internet in general for family history research and I have now discovered some additional tools to use.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Capital: Melbourne when it was the capital of Australia 1901 - 1927

1901 Federation of Australia and the opening of the Australian parliament and for the next 27 years Melbourne was the interim capital city of Australia until the establishment of Canberra. Kristin Otto describes what living in Melbourne was like during those years. This social history of the times focuses on the people and events that made the city a special place during a time frame that began with the celebrations and expectations for Federation and included the Great War and its aftermath. It is the interwoven stories of the people of Melbourne who are the feature of the book - Helena Rubinstein, Alfred Felton. Tom Roberts, John Wren, Squizzy Taylor, Nellie Melba, Percy Grainger, Macpherson Robertson, H V McKay, Billy Hughes, Sidney Myer, John Monash, C J Dennis, George Nicholas, Keith Murdoch to name a few. Buildings also play a part including the Exhibition Building, Flinders Street Station, Coles Book Arcade, Luna Park, Capital Theatre, Cafe Australia, Myers and Coles. It was an age with an emphasis on the use of new communication technologies and transport. Photographs throughout the book expand the text. The spirit of a vibrant city is captured in this book.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Great Mutiny India 1857

Christopher Hibbert in 1978 set out to record the causes, events and consequences of the Great Indian Mutiny in 1857 extending into 1858.

English merchants commenced trading in India in the reign of Elizabeth I and in 1613 the East Indian Company was granted permission to establish a permanent trading station at Bombay. The influence of the company grew as additional trading stations were established. Eventually British soldiers were needed to protect the interests of the East India Company in India. During the 18th century expansion of the company accelerated and alliances and treaties were made with Indian princes who were prepared to surrender some power while those who opposed the British were defeated. In 1773 a Regulating Act was passed in England making the East India Company responsible for governing its territories and by 1784 the East India Company was an agent of the British Government in India. By the 1850s the Company was the British Government's representative in the civil administration of India and was also responsible for the armies in Bengal, Madras and Bombay manned by native soldiers (sepoys) and native cavalrymen (sowars). Regiments of the British Army were also stationed in India. By 1856 the ratio of British soldiers to Indian soldiers was 1 to 6.

Lord Dalhousie became Governor General of India in 1848 and during the eight years of his term he implemented many changes that caused unrest among some of the Indian population, particularly among the ranks of Indian soldiers. Dalhousie implemented changes reforming the ownership of land resulting in a number of people from varying ranks being dispossessed of their land. Resentment that new laws and regulations threatened traditional customs and in some cases religious practices and were implemented from a foreign government began to cause unrest. There were also problems with some of the ammunition provided to the Indian soldiers.

In 1857 sections of the Indian army, in company with disgruntled princes and other leaders, mutinied against the British and any other foreigners in their territory resulting in mass murder of men, women and children. By May there had been murders of Europeans at Meerut and in Delhi. June saw the mutiny and siege at Cawnpore resulting in the massacre of most of the Europeans in the city followed by brutal retaliation inflicted by some of the British soldiers on suspected siege participants when Nana Sahib fled the city. The mutiny and siege at Lucknow also resulted in the loss of many lives. By June 1858 the battles were over and relative calm returned to the areas of India affected by the mutiny. In November 1858 Britain abolished the East India Company and took control of governing India in its own right.

As well as providing detailed and graphic account of the events relating to the mutiny Chrisopher Hibbert vividly describes conditions in India during the 1850s for the Europeans - soldiers, civil servants and their families - and also the Indians involved with the Europeans. As well as a glossary and chronology there are detailed notes, bibliography and index. For those interested in this period of Indian and British history this is a good book to read.

Australian pottery of the 19th & early 20th century

In December 2009 the Museums Australia (Victoria) end of year function was held at Roy Morgan Research, 401 Collins Street. The highlight of the evening was Gary Morgan describing his passion for collecting Australian art, particularly pottery and allowing those present to view some of the treasures in the collection. During the talk Gary Morgan talked about John Percival's Angels which I knew well from having worked at the Hargrave Library, Monash University, where a mural of angels adorns one wall. He also mentioned Ola Cohn, creator of the Fairies' Tree in the Fitzroy Gardens and William Ricketts but most of the other names I did not recognise. I realised that I need to know more about Australian pottery. It was time to start investigating the library collection.

Marjorie Graham, in her book, Australian pottery of the 19th & early 20th century, looks at the development of pottery in each of the states and photographs showing examples of the pottery are provided. The emphasis in the book is on domestic pottery - the Victorian chapter concentrating on Bendigo Pottery - but mention is made of the the artistic potters starting with Merric Boyd and other members of the Boyd family. Chapter 7 concentrates on potteries from the 1920s with Art Decco and Art Moderne influences resulting in more interesting Australian designs featuring Australian fauna and flora. Australiana designs had been incorporated on some earlier works but became a feature of the works of a number of twentieth century potters. Marguerite Mahood, Klytie Pate, William Ricketts, Dorothea and Grace Seccombe are some of the artistic or studio potters mentioned. Information is also provided about decorative works produced by potteries such as Fowlers, Bendigo Pottery and Cornwell's Pottery at Brunswick.

Published by the National Gallery of Victoria, Gwyn Hanssen Pigott a survey 1955-2005, contains a series of essays about the work of this Australian potter. Photographs of examples of her work form a major part of the book. There is also a chronology, a bibliography plus a list of collections in Australia and overseas that house her work.

Pates post-war Australian pottery by John Davenport documents the history of a family pottery established in Sydney in 1946. Alf Pate originally worked for Fowlers Pottery until with two family members Pates Pottereries was built. Photographs provide examples of the pottery that was particularly popular in the 1950s and 1960s. The author also describes the processes used to make the items, stamps and styles as well as marketing of the pieces and a guide for collectors. The book was written just before the building that had housed the pottery was demolished in 1992 but the author was able to interview family members and had access to some company documents. A history written just in time.

Bound for Botany Bay: British convict voyages to Australia

A couple of lines under the heading Ship News in the World and Fashion Advertiser, Tuesday 15 May 1787 announced the departure of the First Fleet on its way to Botany Bay:
Portsmouth May 13. Wind S.E. ...
Early this morning sailed the Sirius of 24 guns, Commodore Phillips. Captain Hunter with the following transport and convict ships for Botany Bay: Friendship, Walton; Charlotte, Gilbert; Alexander, Sinclair; Lady Penrhyn, Siver; Prince of Wales, Mason; Scarborough, Marshall; Fishborn, Brown; Golden Grove, Sharp, and Borrowdale, Reed. The Hyena frigate, Capt. D. Courey, sailed with the above, and is to accompany them 100 leagues.

Thus began began a voyage that would end with their arrival in New South Wales on 26 January 1788 resulting in the establishment of a British settlement in Australia. Alan Brooke and David Brandon have written this book about the transportation of convicts to Australia which continued until 1868. Sections of the book include the beginnings of transportation, the first three fleets, the trauma of exile, who were the convicts, transportation of children, keeping order and staying alive on convict ships, transportation from the view of a ship's surgeon and life, crime and punishment in the colony.

The convicts were transported from England as a punishment but for many it was a chance to escape from living in overcrowded gaols and hulks and starting a new life. A major consequence of transportation was the establishment of a new settlement with many hardships but also many opportunities.

Charles Bateson's book, The Convict Ships 1787-1868, is recognised as the definitive work on transportation to Australia but this account, incorporating excerpts from correspondence, logbooks and songs of the time, provides informative background information outlining experiences faced by the thousands of men, women and children who travelled to Australia aboard convict ships.

John Mackillop and the Great Mutiny India 1857

John Mackillop, son of George and Jean Mackillop, was born probably in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1827. George Mackillop was a merchant and he made his money trading in India. Searching newspapers from the 1820s to the 1860s show advertisements for trading firms - Cruttenden, Mackillop & Co; Palmer, Mackillop & Co; Palmer, Mackillop, Dent & Co; Mackillop & Co; Mackillop, Stewart & Co - in which George and / or his brother James were partners. George was also involved in real estate and advertisements can also be found for properties that he sold in Scotland, England and Ireland.

With this background it is not surprising that John became a Civil Servant in India. The 1841 England census shows a John Mackillop, aged 14, attending Bibsworth Manor House School at Finchley, Middlesex. More research is required to check that this is our John Mackillop. However he did attend the East India College (later Haileybury) at Hertford Heath from 1844 to 1846. The college was established in 1806 to provide general and vocational education for youths 16 to 18 years who had been nominated by East India Company Directors.
An article in The Times 2 July 1846 p8 describes a graduation and prize giving ceremony at the college mentioning Mackillop as one of the 'highly distinguished' term three students. After completing his studies John Mackillop served in India and was stationed at Cawnpore where he was killed in the Mutiny of 1857.
The college website carries the following memorial -
John Robert Mackillop. Joint Magistrate of Cawnpore; a brave unselfish man. When the English entered what were called the intrenchments, which were hastily thrown up earthworks, affording little or no shelter to the besieged, Mackillop took it upon himself to draw water for his comrades from a well exposed to the fire of the rebels. He did not long carry on this dangerous duty, but soon fell victim to his unselfish bravery, pierced by the bullets of the enemy. No man yielded his life better than "Jack" Mackillop.

In 1978 Christopher Hibbert, in his book The Great Mutiny India 1857 wrote a history of the mutiny recording not only the events of the uprising but investigating the causes. Chapter 9 deals with the events at the siege of Cawnpore in June. The following paragraph on page 184 describes the events leading to John Mackillop's death . -
There was only one well within the entrenchment, and as it was in an exposed position it was extremely dangerous to draw water there by day. Even at night the creaking of the tackle would usually call forth a storm of musketry. It was not long before the machinery, like the brick framework, was shot away; and thereafter it was necessary to haul the bucket up by hand from a depth of over sixty feet. John Mackillop of the Civil Service, in his own estimation 'not a fighting man', appointed himself 'Captain of the Well'. He survived in office for a week until killed by grape-shot in the groin. Before dying he expressed the wish that a lady to whom he had promised a drink should not be disappointed.

The book includes a number of photographs, a chronology of events, detailed notes and references for each chapter, a bibliography and an index. The two books referred to by Hibbett providing information on the Mackillop incident are Thomson, Captain Mowbray. The Story of Cawnpore (London 1859) and Trevelyan, G O. Cawnpore (London 1865) - the State Library of Victoria has a copy of the second title.

Obviously the death of John Mackillop is a minute event in the overall story of the Indain Mutiny in 1857 but it is an example of the detail provided by the author in unravelling the account of the tragic events that occurred in India during 1857 and 1858.

British newspapers from the second half of 1857 are full of reports of the events occurring in India including news stories, letters from survivors and death notices. The Times 5 October 157 p1 recorded the following death notice -
At Cawnpore, on or about the 25th June, in the 31st year of his age John R. Mackillop Esq., of the Bengal Civil Service, and Joint Magistrate of Cawnpore District, son of George Mackillop, Esq., of Bath, formerly of Calcutta. His death was occasioned by grape shot wound, received when assisting in the heroic defence of General Wheeler's entrenched camp.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Carter's mid 20th century

A guide to furniture, appliances, clothing, arts and crafts and other products representative of the 1950s and 1960s. As well as providing an overview of the decor and design trends of this period this richly illustrated book compiled by William and Dorothy Hall is also a social history of the times. New developments in household appliances, particularly in the kitchen, the impact of television and the increased use of plastics, are featured along with a review of toys including the Barbie doll. Many of the items in the book, which we took for granted when we were growing up, are now collectibles.