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Historyread your way along the south coast of NSW

September 10, 2013

When I was a child I used to write my name and address down on bits of paper. You might have done something similar. I would start with my name on the first line. On the next line I would write my house number and street, progressing down the paper with my suburb, town, province, then (because I grew up in New Zealand) South Island, country, continent, hemisphere and lastly, The Milky Way! I guess this was my way of figuring out my sense of place and creating a record of where I fitted in.

Thinking about it, each of those address lines gives a locality and each locality has an associated community of people and a record of what has happened in the past, bearing in mind ‘past’ could be as recent as yesterday!  We are all members of different layers of community experiencing different (and sometimes competing) perspectives of events (think about two children trying to explain how a ball broke a window and then add the house owner’s perspective). This is what history means to me – a multi-dimensional intersection of people, places and events, riddled with various memories, interpretations and perspectives.

Just like life itself, reading about history can be as varied as you want it to be. History Reads umbrella all the other genres of fiction and the categories of non-fiction.

If it is intrigue you crave, then Five Men Vanished by Cyril Pearl is a must read!  Five men inexplicably disappeared after setting off from Bermagui in a boat in October 1880. They were never seen again, despite searches and no trace or clues have ever been discovered. Read the book, read articles written at the time on the Australian National Library’s Trove and let us know what your take is on the Lamont Young mystery’?

Whales in Twofold Bay, 1930s, photograph from collection of Bega Valley Shire Library Photograph Collection

Of course, history is littered with adventure.  Whale hunting was a livelihood for many families around Eden in the latter half of the 1800s and Killers in Eden by Danielle Clode (or the more sensationalist Killers of Eden by Tom Mead) relates the unique story of how killer whales herded baleen whales towards waiting whalers in Twofold Bay.

Where there is adventure, disaster is often not far away. With steam and sailing ship being the main method of transport up and down the coast, stories of shipwrecks, capsizings and collisions abound. Jack Loney’s books about shipping disasters around Australia’s coasts are well known and his Wrecks on the New South Wales Coast chronicles shipping losses from 1797 to 1992, including the capsize of the steamer Bega in 1908. Imagine the terror of being bundled into a life raft in the dark with a misty rain falling. Pigs and cattle were also aboard and no doubt added to the mayhem as the animals were frantically thrown overboard in an effort to lighten the boat and prevent water flooding in. Fuel your imagine by reading reports of the capsize in newspapers of the time using Trove!

They made this valley homeWhat could be more romantic than following your fellow half-way around the world on a sailing ship to settle in a new country?  Well, some women had no choice and made the trip out of necessity or maybe it was a case of blind love!  But the stories in They made this valley home: stories of the pioneer women who helped build the Bega Valley are can’t put-downable. Despite the hardship of those early settler days, let’s hope some romance blossomed as well.

The children don’t miss out on History Reads either.  They will love the beautiful illustrations of Jo Oliver’s Tatiara, a story set around the historical Tathra Wharf.  Or Booris of Eden is a delightful counting book by Uncle Ossie Cruse and celebrates local Indigenous counting words young children can learn.

In Travelling With Percy: a South Coast journey Lee Chittick and Terry Fox beautifully summarise their book of stories about Percy Mumbler. “While no single person or image tells you everything about the man and his times, each speaker, each photograph, adds just a little more to the story.”

I’d like to substitute a word here and there to the above quote to describe how History Reads adds layers of memories, interpretations and perspectives to build what we know. While no single read or image tells you everything, each read, each photograph, adds just a little more to the story, to the history.

Linda Albertson

Linda Albertson is the Information Services Librarian at Bega Valley Shire Library on the beautiful Sapphire Coast of NSW and has been involved in the Valley’s local history for several years. She loves the opportunity to learn new things about the place where she lives. Linda has worked as an information professional in various guises in Australia and New Zealand.

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 27, 2014 12:37 pm

    Reblogged this on Bega Pioneers Museum.

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