Thursday, November 1, 2012

A.C.T. Election Outcome - Minority Government Yet Again

The good people of the A.C.T. voted on 20 October 2012.  The last Territory Government was a Labor-Greens coalition.  In this election, Labor picked up 8 seats, Liberals picked up 8 seats and the last seat went to the Greens.

So we'll be burdened with yet another 'compromise' Government - one where the majority party (whether it be Labor or Liberal) is dictated to by the sole Green member.

Look at the photo below. 

It's a roundabout in Bonython.  To my mind, it represents the compromised outcomes electors receive from Governments that are beholden to a minority party.

The roundabout has a 'green' element - the native grasses (and weeds) planted in the centre, presumably in an effort to minimise the environmental impact (i.e. to be 'green').  A token acknowledgement of the Green way of thinking.  The Labor government, in it's efforts to maintain political hold on government, has agreed to the vegetation in the roundabout, thinking what a wonderful way to have development and 'maintain' the environment.

But we, the people, have ended up with a traffic hazard, because the Labor government failed to recognise that the vegetation needs to be mowed regularly to ensure traffic safety.  Funds for mowing regularly are inadequate (because mowing is never done often enough), so we've ended up with this ridiculous hazard.  Great roundabout, but visibility for drivers is dreadful.

To me, this roundabout symbolizes the outcomes of a coalition government.  An inability of government to deliver its primary objectives because of the need to constantly compromise with the small, but powerful, party holding the power of veto.

Unhappy Jan.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Just One Australian in Europe

I'm tardy at blogging.  I would never be able to keep a diary. I just can't make the time to sit and type. Laziness partly, but just busy with getting on with life mostly. Now I've finally made time to describe my recent visit to various parts of western Europe.

Just Two Australians - my older son and I - undertook a whirlwind tour through parts of western Europe, starting in London.  The 25 hour trip from Australia to UK to start the tour was actually much, much longer. Our first day of travel began at about 7.00am Canberra time.  Nine hours later, our international flight departed Sydney, bound for London.  So  nine hours plus 25 hours flying time (I can't sleep seated, despite the nice Airbus seats that QANTAS has) = 34 hours.  OK, that simply got us to Heathrow.  It was 6.30am London time and the hotel wouldn't accept check-in for hours yet.  So our day in London had just begun.  We finally got to sleep at about 7.00pm that night.  That made about 47 hours total with only a little dozing between Singapore and Heathrow.  Yuk!

But London was great.  It had been all tarted up for the 2012 Olympics and looked resplendent.  We arrived on the Monday.  The closing ceremony had taken place only the day before.

My previous post describes our excursion beyond the boundaries of London to see our ancestral family home of Marsworth and a little bit of the English countryside.  On a future trip, my wife and I will spend more time exploring this country (what IS the name of this place anyway?  Is it United Kingdom, Britain, Great Britain, Team Great Britain!!!). Doesn't matter. Just curious. The London Midlands trains were excellent.  New, clean, quiet and on-time.  London-Tring-London was an easy excursion from Euston for us complete novices.

After Marsworth, we hit the tourist spots of London.  All very spectacular.  What surprised me is that London is not (yet) an overwhelming city as are other large metropolises eg. New York.  I could see a resemblance with parts of Melbourne. I think the bus network, at least in inner London, is brilliant.

London looks gloomy in this shot, but it was very warm and humid, with only a brief passing shower.  The remainder of the day was quite sunny.

We left London on the Eurostar - the very fast train that connects England/UK/Britain whatever with Paris.  That train - it certainly zips along!  How beaut it would be if such a train serviced Canberra, linking us with Sydney and Melbourne.  It seems our population is not large enough yet for suitable passenger numbers and thus economic justification.  I was surprised that there was no signal or announcement when we entered the 'Chunnel' - the tunnel linking England with France.  It just came and then 20 minutes later it just went. And then we were in France!  And wow! The countryside!  Blue skies, patchwork fields of green, brown, tan and scattered villages each with their own church spire towering high.  And modern wind farms, highways and high tension power lines running across this otherwise pretty landscape.  Unfortunately, industrialistion is spreading its ugly fingers ever wider.

We saw some of the key attractions in Paris and the Palace of Versailles.  Paris is really a remarkable city to look at - the development that occurred during the late 1800s was extensive, massive and very tasteful.  And must have cost huge amounts of money.  The high rise buildings are few and discretely set apart from the more intersting older parts of the city. 

At a cafe outside Notre Dame cathedral.  My son enjoys an ale while I waited for my food to arrive.  The waiter behind spoke reasonable English after patiently listening to my paltry attempts to communicate in French.  The service was good and friendly.

We were told fewer and fewer Parisians can afford to live in the older parts these days and the population is shifting to the lower cost outer areas, where the architecture is simply ... ugly.

We left Paris and headed across the country by road towards Luzern in Switzerland.  On our way, we saw lots of the French countryside.  Many beautiful sights and attractive natural landscape.  We passed through Basel in Switzerland and from there the motorway took us through some breathtaking Swiss countryside.  This kind of scenery just doesn't exist in Australia.

Our stay in Switzerland was in a great little spot called Fluelen, on the shore of Lake Lucerne. I loved this place, but my son disliked the claustrophobic hotel room, lack of airconditioning (it was 33 degrees during our visit and Swiss hotels are not designed for such weather), noise from the adjacent railway and the tolling of the local church bell every 15 minutes 24/7.  The church was a mere block away.  But t hese distractions did not worry me in the least (although if I lived here I might choose a spot a little further from the rail and church).  I loved the place!  I would gladly return here for a longer holiday and I would love to see it cloaked in it's winter mantle of snow.

Fluelen, Switzerland.  The church with the tolling bell (every 15 mins) stands prominently on the slope at right.  Our hotel just out of view to the right.

After gliding across Lake Lucerne aboard a launch and marvelling at the picture postcard views we then visited the top of a nearby glacial peak via cablecar. Just Two Australians enjoyed a quiet dinner and Swiss ale that evening in lovely, quiet Fluelen (trains and church bells aside).

The view from our window in the Hotel Hirschen (late afternoon).
The view from our window in the Hotel Hirschen (early morning).

The next day we departed, headed for Venice, by road. The road trip took us through the third-longest road tunnel in the world (the St. Gotthard Tunnel) to Lugano, another lovely lakeside Swiss city. 

Lugano, Switzerland

Interestingly, while Luzerne (and Fluelen) were mainly German speaking and distinctly german-Swiss in architecture and style, Lugano was distinctly Italian influenced and Italian speaking. Just One Australian enjoyed a good cafe latte here!

Just One Australian about to enjoy morning coffee in Lugano, Switzerland

We arrived in Venice late that same afternoon, staying in a cornfield just outside Venice (actually, it was a hotel in a cornfield, and very nice it was too, with free internet). We  then headed out for dinner in a little restaurant just off St Mark's Square. This was fun - a motor launch took our group from the mainland to the main island, past glitzy ocean liners, like the Ruby Princess, docked in the Port of Venice. Once on the island, we walked to our restaurant, marvelling in the late evening sunset at the canals and impressive buidlings all the way. We enjoyed a good meal together and good conversation with our fellow travellers.  I was impressed with how much our Indian fellow travellers knew about Australia and its current politics!

Venice.  A very busy place. Residents here need to be very tolerant on account of the huge numbers of camera-toting tourists crawling across every part of the island.

Just One Australian finds time to enjoy a coffee in Venice (despite the heat).

From Venice we drove to Florence.  Here we again stayed in a good quality hotel with wonderful aircon and free internet.  Only the room safes were old, leading to a 20-minute panic attack one morning when I couldn't locate the key for our safe, which contained the passports of Just Two Australians!! All was well in the end, as the key was always where I thought I left it - in my pocket!! It just fell into an inner coin pocket, that's all. Whew!  Florence - more impressive buildings, palaces, architecture, but our interest was a little down due to the oppressive 42 degrees Celsius heat.

Just One Australian at the Ponte Veccchio (literally 'old bridge'), in Florence.

Onward to Rome!  Via Pisa.  The famous leaning tower, of course.  This was fun to see, though Italy seems to have a relative abundance of leaning towers!  I was quite amused when my son drew my attention to one particular souvenir stand - just about all the souvenirs neatly set out on the layer of shelves leaned!

Just Two Australians and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

The leaning souvenirs of Pisa!

Finally Rome!  The ancient ruins.  Amazing.  We were fortunate to receive an early morning tour of St Peters, followed by a tour around and inside the Colosseum. This was but a brief look at a slice of how an ancient civilization lived.  What an amazing city it was 2,000 years ago - population 1 million and a cosmopolitan mix of peoples from all over the known world.  But not so nice in Rome if you were a slave or in the lower economic echelons.  In fact, Rome was a dangerous place for the 'average' citizen, with muggings and murders common in it's crowded, narrow laneways, with little interest in the problem from the Emperors. 

Gone are the gladiators, crowds, emperors and lions.  Now the place is simply infested with .... Turisti Terribili!

Iconic!  And no ... I don't mean the Hawthorn jumper.

We finished off our Rome visit with dinner some fellow travellers at a Chinese-Japenese restaurant.  The menu was written in Italian and Chinese but luckily the wait staff spoke broken English.  The food was good and at an excellent price.  Dale and Ellisha provided great company that evening for Just Two Australians.

Inevitably, the tour had to end and we left Rome airport for Hong Kong then a connecting QANTAS flight to Sydney, then a connecting flight home to Canberra. 

Our QANTAS 747 arrives in Hong Kong.  Only two more hours of waiting (12 hours already down) until this bird is turned around to take us home!

On arrival, I couldn't help notice how much larger Canberra Airport is compared with Florence Airport (Florence is a city of similar population), which we had passed on our road trip. The other thing that was so noticeable, particularly from the air as you approach Sydney from overseas, is how small our population is in this country.  No wonder we don't have fast trains and brilliant bus networks.  Ours is still a young country that is spread out thinly across a vast continent. But that can be a good thing too - the peak-hour crush on the Paris Metro is something France can keep!! And the tourist crush in peak season Venice ... not a problem in Canberra!!

I thoroughly enjoyed this holiday.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Marsworth - Visit to an Ancestral Home

A fortnight ago, my older son and I visited Marsworth in England.

Marsworth is a tiny hamlet.  Apparently, it has existed since Roman times. A pub, a church, several old houses surrounded by a number of newer (early 20th century) houses.  All set in quiet, grassy farmlands.  Marsworth is on the Grand Union Canal.

The reason for our visit?  Well, it was something of a pilgrimage really.  Some years ago, I discovered (after 10 years of researching) that my great-great grandfather - William Rowland - was born in Marsworth and had been baptised in the All Saints Church there.  Further research showed that his father (William sen.) and grand-father (John) were also born in Marsworth and also baptised in All Saints church.

There is a strong likelihood that earlier generations of Rowland also lived in Marsworth.  I can reliably trace back to 14 June 1740, when a John Rowland was baptised there.  I suspect John's father was a Robert Rowland and he too was baptised in All Saints at Marsworth on 9 March 1712.  And perhaps Robert's father was baptised there too. That would take our family connection with Marsworth well back into the 1600s. There is a record of a contribution of 6 pence by a William Rowland of Marsworth in 1642.  Such contributions were sought from all the men in Buckinghamshire and were " ... voluntary contributions which were to be used both for the succour of refugees and for the mounting of an invasion of Ireland by an English army." This detail can be found on page 51 of "Buckinghamshire Contributions for Ireland 1642 and Richard Grenville's Miltary Accounts 1642-1645 John Wilson" (Buckinghamshire Record Society).

My eldest son and I visited the All Saints church and were amazed to find it has existed in some form since about 1200, although it has been rebuilt and repaired sveral times - the original wooden church of 1196 AD is long gone.

It was quite amazing to think we were in the same church where several of my ancestors had been christened centuries before. In this little hamlet, my ancestors lived out their lives as either a victualler (John Rowland 1740 - 1820) or a carpenter and canal overseer (William Rowland sr 1799 - 1875).

After our exploration of the eerily empty All Saints, we left a small donation in an envelope then wandered down to the Grand Union Canal.  It was here that William Rowland (sen.) gave away carpentry when he found work as a canal overseer sometime between the 1841 and 1851 census.

My son and I then walked back up past the church and retired to the Red Lion pub, which sits opposite All Saints. 

It too is an old building - apparently it dates back to the 17th century (according to the menu). 
I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to this pub. It is warm, welcoming and cosy, with two lounges separated by a wall and doorway. The front entrance is small, like you might expect to find in someone's house. Here you can remove your wet weather gear before entering the pub itself. We chose a beer each then retired to the lounges on the next level. After a while, we ordered our meals. I chose the lamb shanks in gravy and mint suace - superbly cooked!

My son opted for the modern traditional cheeseburger but was somewhat disappointed. We moved to a small table at the rear of the lounge to eat our food, next to a window that overlooked the rear of the pub building. The age of the building was clear to see and the view of the backyard garden was pleasing to the eye. Very quaint.

My great-grandfather was William Rowland (jr.) (1828 - 1920).  In about 1850, William (jr.) left Marsworth. No doubt there was little work available in Marsworth.  He found work in London firstly as a porter, and then as a waiter, at the Red Lion hotel in Edgware Road (now demolished) in Marylebone. Like so many other young men of his time, William was enticed by stories of the fabulous gold finds in Victoria, Australia and saved for his passage of 18 pounds.  He boarded the barque 'Brightman', which departed London for Port Phillip on the 14th of September 1852.

William was unlucky on the goldfields and found work as a crew member aboard various coastal cutters travelling between Melbourne and Launceston.  He was initially a transient resident at Leven River (now Ulverstone) in north-west Tasmania from about 1854, but settled there permanently around the late 1850s.

RMS Ormuz

On the 22nd of March 1898, William and his daughter Susan journeyed by sea, aboard the RMS Ormuz, around the world and visited Marsworth (no small undertaking, especially for a 70 year old man).

William saw the house in which he was born and the church in which he was baptised (this is stated in his obituary).  Which house was his?  Is it still there?  I somehow doubt that it survives, but 'Cottlesloe', a house of the early 1800s, might represent how his house looked back in 1828.

Or maybe this one ..... ?

William and Susan returned home after a six month sojourn in England, arriving home in Tasmania on the 29th of October 1898. 

William died at the grand old age of 92 and is buried in the General Cemetery in Ulverstone, Tasmania. William Rowland of Marsworth, Buckinghamshire - an early Australian pioneer.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Hats Off to the Jet Propulsion Lab and NASA

Posted Image
The Curiosity Rover has successfully landed on the surface of Mars.  This was a truly incredible piece of robotic engineering. Plaudits to all the people at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, USA, and NASA who were involved in this feat.

See my earlier post (here) to view the incredible landing mission.

Curiosity Rover has a mission life expectancy of 2 years.  If the last NASA rovers (Spirit and Opportunity) are any guide, the design and manufacturing processes are such high quality that a much longer life is possible.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

They're Playing With My Mind!!

I don't normally talk about my dislikes, but I loathe hip-hop/rap music (what's the difference; who cares anyway).

Then I heard this song on the car radio one evening. 

It's kind of ... good?  But it's basically a hip-hop, or rap, song.  You see, the artist has tapped into an older audience by evoking imagery (at least in my mind) of early '60s beach movies. I half expected to see Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon chasing a huge beach ball across Malibu Beach on some forgotten sunny, summer day in the 1960s.

But its' really a secret plot to make me like hip hop.  Well it won't work.  I'm awake to you dudes. Oh yeah. Uh huh.

click to listen:


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tuggeranong - Official Travel Promo Video

Thinking of visiting Tuggeranong in the near future?  What's that?  It's on your bucket list?  Of course it is!

If this is you, then you've no doubt been searching the internet long and hard for a travel brochure, just to get some idea of what Tuggeranong actually looks like. 

Now, you could easily go to Google Earth, or do a Street View on Google Maps.  But just for your convenience (Mandy and Adrian!), play this video and you'll get an idea of what the place is like.

Look forward to seeing you all here one day soon!

And you can see more of Tuggeranong at:  Tuggeranong Views

Friday, June 29, 2012

US Fires

Residents of Canberra, particularly those on the western edges of this city, fully understand the danger and disruption to lives being created by the current fires in Colorado and Utah.  With the dreadful 2003 Canberra fire still clear in our memories, our thoughts are with the people in western USA as they deal with their terrible firestorms.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Story of John Hornby - Part 5

Once John and his family were together again, life began anew in Zeehan. School for Grace. Mary minded young Meg and kept house. John went to the mine every day, where he worked underground chiselling tunnels into the rock face to retrieve the metallifeous ore. This was known as working on tribute.

 The girls grew older. Meg started school (where she was known as Maggie).

On 8 August 1897, John left Mary and the girls temporarily, to go to the Klondike goldrush in the Yukon River district (NW Territory of Canada, near the Alaskan border). His departure was described thus: "Mr John Hornby, for several years connected with Zeehan British Mine, has left Zeehan with a bad attack of British Columbia gold fever". While absent, on 30 December 1897, Zeehan endured a dreadful bushfire, which burnt close to Argent Tram (near the Hornby house). Luckily, Mary and the girls survived, as did the house. Many of the miner's houses were destroyed. Like the majority of prospectors that went to the Klondike, John found very little (only enough metal to have mounted into a broach). The conditions were very harsh and so he returned to Tasmania, where he resumed mining work in Zeehan sometime in 1898 or 1899.

On the 6th of June 1903, John's brother Thomas uplifted his family from Zeehan and relocated to South Africa, where their brother Joseph was now well established. Thomas had "occupied the position of engine driver at the Montana mine for the past 11 years".

Zeehan had an active industrial environment. In 1906, John was appointed to a working committee to help a Mr Lamerton represent a break-away movement from the Workers Political League. John was also active as a member of the Druids.

Mostly, John worked the hard life of extending tunnels in the mines. Periodic reports on the progress of miners involved in tunnelling made the press. Mr Hornby and party were occasionally mentioned.

In 1909, John and Mary had an addition to the family, a son, John Bainbridge Hornby.

On 12 October 1912, Australia's worst mining disaster occurred when a fire in the Mt Lyell mine caused the death of 42 miners. On 25 November 1912, the Tasmanian Government established a Royal Commission of enquiry. John Hornby was appointed as one of three miners and four ratepayers comprising the Commission.

The Commission was unable to identify the cause of the fire and returned an open verdict.
Daughter Grace moved to Melbourne to work as a milliner. Meg moved to Penguin to work as a bookeeper and, in 1920, married Herbert Rowland. They settled in Ulverstone. John and Mary lived in Zeehan until their son John was an adult and left home to become an electrical engineer.
In 1927, John and his brother Joseph were reunited when Joseph (Jos) and his wife Elizabeth visited Tasmania while holidaying. This event made local news.
Joseph and Elizabeth Hornby (left) with Mary and John Hornby (right) - 1927

In 1931, John retired and he and Mary relocated to a new house they had built in Shaw Street, Ulverstone. Unfortunately, within six months (on 19 October 1931), John died suddenly, a victim of silicosis at the age of 64. Mary survived him by many years, eventually passing away on 2 August 1950, aged 83.

So ends John Hornby's story. I've described Patrick McCarthy's arrival to Australia in 1804 - he was the earliest arrival of any of my ancestors. John and Mary are at the other extreme - being the most recent emigrants to Australia in my ancestry (1892 and 1894, respectively). John and Mary Hornby - my great grandparents.

Back to The Story of John Hornby - Part 1

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Story of John Best - Prequel to "The Road to Hollow Tree"

I've been researching one of my ancestors - John Best. 

Here's a little story starter to create a bit of hype amongst Best family and genealogists with Van Diemen's Land connections.

It was August 1817. Ireland. County West Meath. John Best, of Kinnegad, was tried at the Trim summer assizes.  He was found guilty of burglary and robbery.  He was given a life sentence.  He was to be transported to a penal settlement in New South Wales.

John was a married man with four young children.  In 1817, the family's standard of living had been deteriorating.  The wet summer of 1817 reduced income from their main cash crop (potatoes).  Rent was steep. Absentee landlords cared little about their tenants. Who knows? Maybe John was tempted to steal simply in order to make rental payment on his family cottage and land. Default on his rent would have meant eviction for his family, literally being ejected out onto the street. John may not have acted alone - a George White was also tried for burglary and robbery at the same hearing.  White appears to have lived close to John and there are tantalising suggestions that he might have been John's brother-in-law (or married to a close relative of John Best).

That John was caught suggests robbery was not something he was particularly good at!  The impact of his capture on his family is hard to know - were they evicted?  Did John's wife, Mary, and the children have to move into a relative's cottage to try and pick up their lives?

John was despatched to Van Diemen's Land on New Year's Day, 1818. On the 7th of June 1818, the convict transport 'Minerva' arrived in Hobart Town.  John was 35 years old, not a young man in those days. He may have thought he had lived out most of life by then.  Little did he know that the second half of his life in Van Diemen's Land was just about to begin.  Nor would he have been aware of what a ride he and his family were in for!

Read about John's story in "The Road to Hollow Tree".  It is a limited print, but a hard copy will be available at the National Library, the State Library of Tasmania (LINC Tasmania), the University of Tasmania Library and the Historical Information Centre, New Norfolk.

For my blog readers - I'm sorry but 'The Story of John Best' as it appeared on my blog has now (as of 19 December 2017) been removed.

If you have a family connection with the Best family (or the White, Bennett, Bell, McCarthy families etc.), I welcome you making contact with me via email.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Postcard From Tuggeranong

Despite the cold start (-3 Celsius), yesterday was a beautiful Canberra day. Winter is approaching, but the sun still retains some warmth.  It was about 15 or 16 Celsius at the time I took this photo (approx. 3.30pm).

It was such a nice day, I decided to take a walk up Urambi Hill, where I captured this scene of Tuggeranong town.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Visit to St Kilda

My wife and I went on a trip to Melbourne recently.  While we were there, we took the tram to St Kilda and had a wander around.

There was, of course, the St Kilda Pier .....

 ... with a very strange looking ship passing in the background (more info below).

The view of Melbourne city was quite spectacular, with the beach in the foreground.  This is not the usual view associated with this beautiful city.

St Kilda is synonymous with Victorian era architecture mixed with modern, fishing off the St Kilda Pier, tourists ...

palm trees ...

pleasure boating ...

photo opportunities (black swans in this case) ...

boardwalking ...

Luna Park ...

and cafes, of course - the Republica in this case (highly recommended) ...

And that strange ship?  It was the 'Adriatic Highway'.  A quick check on Google showed it to be a vehicle mover.  Possibly offloading Mazda 3s to Aussies who can't seem to get enough!  Or taking Aussie-made cars (Fords from Geelong?) somewhere?? Here's a close-up of the Adriatic Highway ...

As they once used to say .... 'St Kilda The Beautiful!'

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Tasmania's Convicts - How Felons Built a Free Society

I've just finished reading this book. Very well researched, but oh what a struggle it became to read!

It was interesting up until Chapter 7 'The Convict Stigma'; which is about about half-way through. From there onwards, it delved into the history of perceptions - perceptions of convicts, perceptions of people with convicts in their family, perceptions by Tasmanians of themselves and the 'stain' that a convict hsitory had on society.  Often repetitive, Chapters 7 -14 conveyed no real sense of direction.  The book just became a longish documention of the history of different views and phases over time, with too much analysis (for me) of various contemporary histories and novels.

Perhaps a better title would have been "A History and Analysis of the Convict Stigma in Tasmania".

I kept thinking, as I was reading, that maybe Alison Alexandra's next book might tackle a similar subject emanating from petty jealousies, snobbery and extreme ignorance, such as Canberra-bashing, or the city vs country debate.

If you're interested in reading about the stigma of the convict episode, this is for you.


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