Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Three relative instances

Yesterday I got a letter (well okay, an overdue library notice) from the Ipswich Library, beautifully stamped on the front with the logo "Ipswich 150, 1860-2010." I dumped it on my kitchen counter unopened because I knew exactly what it contained and didn't feel up to dealing with it. I saw it this morning and I thought, "Oh that's nice, 150 years old, wow." (In my defense it was 6am when I noticed this and I hadn't had coffee yet so my brain processes weren't up for anything more sophisticated.) Then I thought, "Hmmh I'm supposed to be some kind of historian - what are some sort of anecdotal comparisons I can think of?"

When Mr. Blithe was a very young teenager, 30 or so years ago, his family went to visit his mother's relatives in Germany. On coming back to Australia Mr. Blithe was asked to do one of those "what I did in my holidays" school talks with which we are all familiar. He told the class that while he had been in Kuppingen (which is just south of Stuttgart), the town had celebrated its 1000th birthday. His teacher corrected him and insisted that the town could not possibly be 1000 years old. Of course it was. When we visited 15 years ago, we saw a wonderful exhibit on the Roman ruins and artifacts of the area and indeed, the prehistorical archeology. But his teacher couldn't imagine that a town could be that old and indeed, that it had that long history of awareness and layers of time.

When I started studying Chinese history at university one of my first lecturers told me that he had decided quite early on in his career to specialise. He didn't do any Chinese history after 1000BC. If he kept a lid on his interests he was able to read everything available on the subject and be an expert. If he ventured past 1000BC, then there was just too much to know and he wasn't able to have a comprehensive grasp of everything. As a first year uni student I was overwhelmed by the amount of pre-1000BC Chinese history. Even writing this now, I had the urge to write 1000AD instead of BC because BC just couldn't be right.

Of course we now know that Australian history far predates white colonisation and that Australia is one of the oldest continents with a history to match. In that history 150 years is a very small part. When you look at the vast sweep of Australian terrain and think that for 150 years, there has been a city clinging to the edge of it, tenuously at times, it is relatively amazing. And when you place the dot of Ipswich in relation to the rest of the world, you get a sense of how far people came to get here. Sometimes you wonder how they managed to survive and why they stayed here.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Snippets of memory

26 June 1931
Mrs Mary Portley, 72 years

"She was a great reader and always a very keen student of politics even in earlier days when women were not supposed to have opinions of their own on matters of political importance.

24 July 1931

Mrs Edith Bulcock

"She was a most kindly, generous woman and an ardent worker, especially for her church."

28 October 1932

"Relic of Alexander Bradshaw Collingwood

December 19, 1942
Mrs Rose Gerber

"…was of quiet retiring disposition, and was respected by all.

For women it was about their disposition, whom they married, and their offspring. I do like Mary Portley's obituary though.

I also picked out a few names that I particularly liked: Apolonia, Queenie, Mirley and lots of Augustas. Adolf was still quite common as a name for one's son. I'm guessing it fell out of favour in the next decade or so.

For men it was about what they did, often long recitals of places been, wives married, children produced, jobs undertaken, worlds conquered. There are lots of words about men: "well-known," "highly respected," high esteem" but little about their personalities. A few hints are occasionally given. Two of my favourites are a description of a man as having a "quiet, manly disposition." And the lovely:

"Of a quiet retiring disposition, he had fine manly characteristics that are typical of those who have lived in and traversed the wide spaces of the West and North.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

A world apart

It's been a funny year for computers. I am not a generally consumption-oriented person. I like to get something good and hang onto it. Hence the combined middle-agehood of the household cars, clothing from op shops, decade-old shoes, piles of books from uni (20-ouch years ago now), old furniture...the list goes on. But we have cut a swathe through computers over the last 12 months. Our back landing is piling higher and higher with casualties.

The last Mac lasted about 7 months. Admittedly it was used when we got it, but it curled up its toes and gave up right after the big dust storm. It was a G4 "windtunnel" and I guess the windtunnel sucked up a bit more dust than was optimum for operation. We now have a G5, elderly in computer terms, but it seems to work just fine.

But it does mean days, if not longer, of discombobulation, finding a new computer (thank you eBay and Mr Blithe), waiting for parts (in this case a specialised Mac cable that didn't come with the computer and had to be ordered from the Apple Store). The trusty iMac keeps the household plugging away in times like this, slow but so far reliable now that its blown-out connection to the internet has been jerry-rigged. That was a storm about 18 months ago. But you have to work out what was on which computer and what version and what needs to be done without the backup of computerised records or even a browsing history. Memory sticks are very helpful here.
I know that time is passing me by though when memory sticks have more memory than the first computer I used.

I hear people talking about the need for taking precautions and I have to tell you here that the computers are about as protected as they can be in a regular household. There are surge protectors, safety switches and backing up (perhaps not as frequently as required). I think that this is just rough terrain for computers. There's wind, dust, heat, cold, power surges, lightening strikes, storms and general wear and tear.

Early settlers didn't have computers but they faced all these things and more. And they didn't have the internet to order things delivered to one's house.

The new desktop image on the G5 is of the Brisbane River in 1870. I stare at it when I am meant to be working, trying to get an idea of what life really was like back then. It is such a world away from computer problems. Can I get my mind around it? Should I even try?

Saturday, 17 October 2009

The smell of water

Sometimes you read books of the adventuresome type, I’m thinking Wilbur Smith, Lawrence of Arabia or Hammond Innis, or diaries of early explorers and they describe how the lone adventurer, usually male, is striding across the land. They’re rugged and dusty or injured and dusty or tired and dusty and they’re looking for water. They stride or stagger or crawl over a rise in the ground and they can smell water. I always read that claim with a grain of salt, thinking it some sort of literary (or mass market) license.

Thursday night I found out that it was true. I was coming over the Tallegalla hills, driving though staggering mentally, the car full of groceries and the darkness shifting from twilight to something deeper. It was that time of night in the country where you really need high beam to see properly but you can’t because you can just see someone’s taillights in front of you and you don’t want to blind them. So you’re easing your own way through a small puddle of light and hoping that nothing too big will leap out of the darkness at the sides of the road. Usually it’s only a hare but I can tell you that they make quite a thump.

I wiped my sweaty brow. Well not really, but remember I’m channelling early explorers here – it was actually a beautiful cool evening with pockets of warmth left over from a long dusty day. I downshifted into third to turn right towards Marburg and suddenly all I could smell was water. It was the most intense amazing smell of dampness and life wrapping around me.

I know that it is because the top section of the Marburg-Rosewood Road runs alongside Black Snake Creek at a point where it spreads out into a maze of small ponds and rivulets. But I could imagine Cunningham or Sally Owen or her unnamed husband (if there was one) pushing through the heavy scrub up from the flat plains over a steep embankment, wondering what was going to be on the other side. Pausing on the ridge they would have continued downhill towards a distantly perceived valley running northwards and hit this wall of scent -- the glorious promise of water. And if they were smart they would have seen all the evidence of long-term aboriginal camping.

Me. I’ve learnt that the smell of water is not just literary license and that I’m happy to be driving home even if it’s late and I’m tired, rather than pushing through the scrub or dragging teams of oxen.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Come to the festival!

It's that time of year again, Marburg's Black Snake Creek Festival, running tonight and all day tomorrow. Come listen to music, see the art show, look at quilts, check out the Rosewood Scrub Historical Society and a myriad of market stalls and of course, buy a hamburger from the school burger stall.

There's a rumour that there will be line-dancing schoolchildren on the Saturday and a great parade.

I managed to get myself organised and put some photos into the art show. I had a quick preview of some of the entries on Wednesday and the show promises to be great. There's a art show opening reception, a poet's breakfast and music of all kinds. Our neighbour has been practicing diligently with his band. It's pretty good as far as I can tell (at least from 500m away).

Take a wander over to Marburg's blog and check out the events and timetable.

I'll see you at the festival!

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Deathly interesting

I love obituaries. Does that raise eyebrows? Not the deadly dull obituaries of most people today, but the ones that tell you something about the person who died, what they did and what they considered important. The other day at the historical society, doing my open house duty, I was reading through obituaries in The Rosewood Register and Marburg Mail and the Queensland Times for 1938 and 1939. Why that period? Well firstly, it was the time period covered by the folder I pulled out and secondly, I kept reading because it was about the time period that there were many deaths of Marburg pioneer families. I read of ship voyages, shipwrecks, land selection, storms, family deaths, successes and a few failures. I'll bring you a selection over the next few weeks. Maybe you'll see the appeal.

Queensland Times
July 21st, 1939

Mr John Schulz

The death occurred on July 9 of a very old and respected resident of Marburg. Mr John Schulz at the age of 95 years and 10 months. He came to Australia with his parents, brothers and sister, at the age of 21 years, in the sailing boat La Rochele. After seven years in Australia he sent for his intended wife, Miss Caroline Barlet [Bartel?] and upon her arrival they were married in Ipswich. They had five children and in 1880 his wife died. In 1885 he married Miss Emma Windoff and they had nine children, three of whom died.

Mr Schulz took up shepherding upon arrival in Australia, then started farming at Mt. Walker, later taking a selection at Marburg, then known as the Rosewood Scrub. He remained here for the rest of his life. The funeral took place in the late Mr Schulz's private cemetery. The Baptist Minister, Pastor Evans, of Minden, officiated at the graveside. He is survived by five sons, Messrs Fritz, Bundaberg, Gustave, South Nanango, Wilhelm, Esk, Hermann and Adolf, Marburg, and six daughters, Mesdames Michael Goos, Tallegalla, W. Beduhn, Wondai, A. Schneider, Oxley, F. Kuss, Ropeley, N. Meissner, Biloela, and J. Berlin, Marburg.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Historical question of the day

Why did Ludwig Leichhardt ("The Dauntless Explorer" who disappeared mysteriously about his task in 1847) carry gelatine amongst his supplies?

Sometimes your children stump you. Blithe Girl was studying famous Australians at school (though Leichhardt like most early Australians was a migrant). She told me that Leichhardt was carrying gelatine in his supplies and that their task was to find out why. I'm not sure that the school has returned to the question but I, self-styled "Dauntless Explorer of the Internet" have.

Here's his provisions list:

"17 horses, 16 bullocks, 550 kilograms of flour, 90 kilograms of sugar, 40 kilograms of tea and 10 kilograms of gelatine."

My initial thought was that the gelatine was for photography. However, gelatin silver photography was not introduced until 1871. Instead the answer was simple and explained by the man himself.

October 18, 1844

We have regularly balanced our loads, and made up every bag of flour to the weight of 120 pounds: of these we have eight, which are to be carried by four bullocks. The chocolate and the gelatine are very acceptable at present, as so little animal food can be obtained. The country continues to be extremely boggy, though the weather has been fine, with high winds, for the last four days. Tracks of Blackfellows have been seen; but they appear rare and scattered in this part of the country. Though we meet with no game, tracks of kangaroos are very numerous, and they frequently indicate animals of great size. Emus have been seen twice.

Why would one eat gelatine? According to the Gelatin Manufacturers Institute of America, gelatin (American spelling) is 84-90% protein with 9 of the essential amino-acids. It doesn't go off though it does get sticky, it can be easily carried and though not tasty, was considered better than starving to death. Interestingly though, according to some sources, gelatine is one of the few foods that cause a nett loss of protein if eaten exclusively. There is also a link to CJD. I doubt Leichhardt was worried about any of this.

If you are interested in Australian botany,
Leichhardt's journal is fascinating for his descriptions of plants especially in what is now the Scenic Rim area. Sadly he was a better botanist than navigator.

The scrub opens more and more; a beautiful country with Bricklow groves, and a white Vitex in full blossom. The flats most richly adorned by flowers of a great variety of colours: the yellow Senecios, scarlet Vetches, the large Xeranthemums, several species of Gnaphalium, white Anthemis–like compositae: the soil is a stiff clay with concretions: melon–holes with rushes; the lagoons with reeds.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Fixing oneself

Does anyone remember The People's Home Medical Book? Published in 1922, it was a mainstay in many family houses. In Australia it came bundled with The People's Home Recipe Book and The People's Home Stock Book (animal management rather than soup-making) under the overarching title of The People's Home Library: A Library of Three Practical Books. The Rosewood Scrub Historical Society possesses a battered copy that has seen much use. It is clearly the sort of book that was in constant reference by all members of the family.

Oddly enough, Marburg is now less well supplied with medical practitioners than probably any time in the past. At one point there were two hospitals in the area, including Dr. Sirois' famous establishment. Rosewood had it's own midwife who delivered many a baby at home or in her house at the corner that now has the traffic roundabout at the top end of town. Nowadays Rosewood does have several GPs as does Lowood or people can choose to go further afield to Ipswich, Toowoomba or even Brisbane.

A lot of basic medicine took place at home though and this book was the bible of self-help. Advice was given on everything from women's health to sugar diabetes, freckles to obesity (or adiposity), drunkenness to acne and snake bites.

A few snippets forthwith. First, to help your with planning for your weekend.
Symptoms: These are too well known to need description.
What to do: Produce vomiting by giving lukewarm mustard water, using from 1 to 4 teaspoons of mustard; or give one or two teaspoonfuls of alum dissolved in lukewarm water; or, give lard or salt or produce vomiting by tickling the throat. You may also give strong coffee [Ed. Before or after the vomiting?] Apply cold to the head and warmth to the arms and legs. Use artificial respiration if necessary.
And a beauty tip (one of the nine options offered so freckles must have been a serious problem):
Freckles may sometimes be removed by wetting a piece of saltpeter [sic] and rubbing the freckles two or three times daily.
Other freckle removal options included a paste of bitter almonds and barley flour; borax, sugar and lemon juice; glycerine and lemon juice; washing with buttermilk and rinsing; leaving sour buttermilk on one's face overnight; grated horseradish in very sour milk; crushed strawberries; and a long bathe in borax and lemon juice.

I think I'll put on my hat and sunscreen and stick to coffee.