A Ned Kelly Tour

 

On the latest trip to Australia, we visited Beechworth in northern Victoria. We knew there was a Ned Kelly association, but apart from that very little. I hadn’t appreciated that it was one of the earliest goldfields.  I knew of the Ovens but hadn’t associated it with Beechworth. What a great little town! It still has a host of wonderful, original gold rush buildings,  crafted by Scottish stonemasons; the courthouse; telegraph office, lock-up; go2018 11 17_0679ld office etc. Luckily they have managed to preserve them and build a tourist town around both them and Ned Kelly, for it was here that he was tried and condemned.

We did two tours with the same guide and he was fantastic. One was on the town and the other on Ned Kelly, but he threw in the ill-fated Bourke and Wills expedition too. We learnt so much and I can understand now why he has become such a folk hero. I know that Ned Kelly was seen by great-grandfather, Joe Timms, at some point. In my book the Digger’s Daughter, Jane witnesses the bank robbery at Euroa, so we continued eventually down the road to there. It was a reluctant farewell to Beechworth, which is an idyllic p2018 11 17_0682_edited-1lace . The elm-lined roads, old railway walking track and reservoir could have kept me happy for a week or more. I thoroughly recommend it on a tour of Victoria.

Euroa, on the banks of the Goulburn River was settled by sheep farmers. There’s a fascinating little museum which pays homage to an amazing woman, Eliza Forlonge. I loved the story of this strong, determined sheep pioneer from Scotland. The fact that she first settled in Tasmania and in the same area as the Dugmore’s, makes me wonder if they knew of her, maybe even saw her in Launceston. I love how these connections are made in my travels. The museum also has a section on the famous bank robbery and a useful booklet. Most importantly for me, I was able to visualise the scene much better, standing with my back to the station, looking at Biddle Street and the site of the original bank. Google Earth is no real substitute for standing where your characters stood. Although I may not have got much wrong, I have been able to re-edit that particular chapter to put in more detail and colour. The joy of self-publishing.

Finally, we walked along the river to the war memorial, celebrating the Victoria Cross heroes from the area. Again, I am reminded how Australia honours its war dead in a 2018 11 17_0656way that is informative and visually stunning. Every town, every village has not just a cenotaph but an Anzac Avenue. It’s not just the generals who are commemorated by street names. There is an equality of service that we in the UK find unfamiliar and we are the worse for that.

 

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Roses from the Heart

in Tasmania this year, it was my absolute pleasure to meet Dr Christina Henri, who has been ‘artist in residence’ at Cascades, the female convict factory in Hobart. Christina has made it her life’s work to honour each of the women transported to Australia, through the medium of embroidered bonnets. Such a simbonnetsple idea, but one full of resonance. These women had so little in life and yet we should honour them as pioneers, who helped found Australia. By using the bonnets as an educational tool, Christina is spreading the message globally. Women from around the world are getting involved in creating and embroidering the bonnets and services are then held in cathedrals to remember the women.

A few years ago, Christina worked the Embroider’s Guild in England on this project and she would like to do something similar next year. I am no embroiderer, but I know the female convict story and I want to help spread the word. I have the pattern for the bonnet. Let me know if you would like to get involved. Wouldn’t it be great to have a ‘blessings of the bonnets’ in England next year? Many bonnets are here, stored in England, waiting for another opportunity to be displayed and blessed. You can see more about this project on Dr Henri’s Facebook page, christina henri – roses from the heart

 

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A Twelve Thousand Mile Journey

As we travelled to Australia in Business Class this time, a decision made because of age and infirmity (not mine), I pondered on the journey my ladies took in such different circumstances almost two hundred years ago. Our journey with a five hour stop-over took around 30 hours, their’s took five months.

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Now as a child, I travelled to Singapore by liner, which took three weeks and that was quite enjoyable. I remember a library, entertainments, reasonable food, interesting ports of call. I also recall on the return journey a storm so wild that it damaged our ship. Waves crashed over the ship as it fell into deep troughs of water, everything slid about, seasick passengers took to their beds. I never felt in danger, but imagine a ship a fraction of the size,  less than 1% of the size. Wood and sail, without glass portholes, without proper sanitation, with only salt water for washing and no way to dry clothes other than hanging from the ropes.

In Business Class we were plied with tasty and fresh six course meals. My ladies had weevily, hard ship’s biscuit, peas which had to be boiled and still didn’t soften, meat from a barrel, often rancid and of poor quality. Water drawn from the Thames and stored for five months in barrels. Who knows what wildlife and bacteria grew in it during that time. And yet, they survived. They suffered dreadful seasickness, constipation and its opposite, being soaked from rain and sea and sun-stroke from a ship without shade.

We were cocooned in a lie-flat seat, isolated from our fellow passengers by a cunningly designed pod. They had to dress and wash in public, they slept on beds attached to the side of the ship, taking every roll of the vessel, however small or big. Yet they survived.The human spirit is strong.

As an eight-year-old child, I was preyed upon by a paedophile sailor, luckily I escaped with only terror and an abiding anger. My ladies would have had little protection from  sailors unless their naval surgeon was vigilent and determined to protect them.

On arrival they were faced with an unknown future, at the mercy of their masters and  mistresses2018 11 17_0629, on an island at the very fringe of empire and civilisation. One thing they could be certain of – they would have no rights, no redress. For they were desribed as ‘notorious strumpets and dangerous girls.’

2018 11 17_0643_edited-1This new installation on Hobart’s Harbour at last pays tribute to the women who helped make Australia. I am proud of my husband’s 3 times great-grandmother, Ellen Fitzgerald. Her ship, Henry, is commemorated on the plinth. Here is the embodiment of my charaters  Sarah, Helen with her baby, and Nora, personified by an Irish artist, in recognition that so many poor women were sent from Ireland. Be proud of them.

2018 11 17_0639Current research, which I am honoured to have taken part in, now recognises that many of the women fared badly. While most married, those marriages were often unsuccesful. Less than 40% reared families and fewer survived to a ripe old age. Many died in  the pauper home or asylum. Many resorted to drink to numb their memories or their harsh lives. The tales of the orphan children and how they were treated is a story for another day.

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Guest Post – Lexi Rees

I am delighted to host Lexi Rees on my blog, today. Having been on my own travels for six weeks in Australia, and only now overcoming jet lag, I was happy to give another author a turn. I’m also excited that I have bought Lexi’s book, Eternal Seas, for my granddaughter’s Christmas present. Over to Lexi.

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Rosemary posed the question how travel inspires my writing. That’s such a hard question – the short answer is massively, through my own reading, in my travel and in my choice of locations.

My favourite travel books

I’ve always read a lot of travel-related non-fiction books. Bill Bryson’s “Neither here nor there” and Tony Hawkes “Round Ireland with a fridge” make me laugh out loud. Joe Simpson’s “Touching the Void” and Mick Dawson’s “Rowing the Pacific” scare me rigid.

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My persistent travel bug

A school cruise on a badly converted car ferry that still smelt of diesel didn’t put me off travel, but I couldn’t afford to take a gap year. It wasn’t until my twenties that I was able to start to travel. I was offered the chance to relocate to Australia with the company I was working for. I must have thought about it for at least 2 seconds before starting to pack. I had an amazing two years, but the time came to return to the UK. A round the world ticket turned out to be the cheapest way to add a stop in South America, where I backpacked through Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil.  Eventually, I landed in Madrid, but somehow it didn’t feel right wasting the other half of the ticket, so I kept going, via Asia. The trip was amazing but did cause a slight problem in that I had arrived back in Sydney 10,497 miles from Edinburgh! I seriously considered buying another round the world ticket at that point, but decided a one-way ticket might be more sensible, especially given the rather depleted savings pot.

I still love exploring the countryside, whether it’s hiking in Scotland to campervan-ing in New Zealand, a working cattle ranches in Montana or pottering about on boats in the Mediterranean.

Locations in Eternal Seas

As a sailor with a serious travel bug, it’s not surprising that my debut novel was going to combine travel and sailing!  In the first book in Relic Hunters series, Finn and Aria are chased across the oceans, whilst the sequel will take us into the mountains (with ponies – so many people have commented that I forgot to put ponies into Eternal Seas, but they are a little hard to keep on a boat).

Each of the locations visited by Finn and Aria on their voyage is based on a real place, although I confess it’s not always accurately represented.

Gylen Castle, is a real castle on the Isle of Kerrera, near Oban although, as you can see from the photo, it’s stunning, not remotely barren and harsh like I portray it (apologies to the inhabitants of Kerrera – I promise, the story of Gylen Castle has not finished yet).

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Blurb

Such a small parcel shouldn’t cause experienced smugglers much trouble. But this parcel is far from normal.

Chased across the seas, Finn and Aria must solve the mysteries within the parcel.

What does it mean? Who should they trust? What will happen?

The fate of an ancient people depends on them and time is running out …

Amazon link viewbook.at/EternalSeas

BIOGRAPHY

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Lexi Rees grew up in the north of Scotland but now splits her time between London and West Sussex. She still goes back to Scotland regularly though.

Usually seen clutching a mug of coffee, she spends as much time as possible sailing and horse riding, both of which she does enthusiastically but badly.

You can join her secret readers’ team https://m.facebook.com/groups/1054746188010017?ref=bookmarks

Or connect via any of the social media channels …

Website https://lexirees.co.uk/

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/LexiAuthor/

Twitter https://twitter.com/lexi_rees

Google + http://bit.ly/Lexi-on-GooglePlus

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/lexi.rees/

 

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Guest Feature: Chindi Author, Lorraine Lexi Rees, discusses ‘Four Top Tools for Writers’

I’ll look into Trello. After returning from a long trip, my head is bursting with all the things I need to do.

Patricia M Osborne

Have you ever wondered about tools for writers, and  how they work?

Well you’re in luck because today I have a special guest that has come to discuss ‘Four Top Tools as an Author.’ Please welcome fellow Chindi author, Lorraine Lexi Rees, Chindi’s Author of the Week.

image1 (5)Thank you Patricia for hosting me on your blog to coincide with my Chindi Author Spotlight.

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‘Top Tools For Authors’

Lexi Rees

I’m actually pretty organised usually, but when I published my debut novel I discovered I was totally unprepared for this new world. Over the past year, I’ve come to rely on a number of tools to keep me organized and help me spend more time writing and less time on admin, so I thought I’d share my favourites.

Scrivener: the ultimate writing tool

I got a discount code for Scrivener following a successful Camp Nano a few years ago. I was using…

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Reflections

As I sit relaxing on the deck of our Airbnb towards the end of our third trip to Australia, I am reflecting on what I have learnt this trip.

​We have travelled in the South East from Sydney as far west as Wagga, as far south as Bruny Island in Tasmania. We have stayed in cities, deep in the countryside and in beach resorts. We have visited museums, parliament, galleries and had tour guides; talked to lots of Australians, and experienced the reactions of my sister-in-law, Heather, who has visited with new eyes. I dwell mainly on her thoughts. You may cry ‘generalisations’, but they are our reflections.

​​1. Australian weather is as diverse and unpredictable as our own. I packed mostly for the summer. Before, we have experienced anything between 11 in Tasmania and 42 in Melbourne. This time, only slightly earlier we have had no more than 5 days when the weather reached 22 or more, mostly it was between 15 and 20. Although many areas of The country are in drought, the rain, when it comes,  can be torrential. 

2. Heather only knew Sydney, Adelaide and the outback. The greenery and beauty of southern Victoria, which can resemble Yorkshire, Switzerland, Ireland, even Scotland has blown her away. 

3. People are friendly and respectful, slowing down to let you cross the road, holding open doors, giving up seats on trams to older folk. Each town, however tiny, has a park, children’s playground and an Anzac memorial, maybe a street named Anzac St, statues to the fallen and an RSL, returned servicemen’s club in a prominent, central place. The history is younger but strong in that respect. Ours feels more jaded and we pay the price in less respect, other than around Nov 11th.

4.  Fire – I am writing this as Californian wildfires rage, destroying 6000 homes and businesses. A year ago, fire raged in Bega, a few miles north of here. Yesterday we drove 250k through forest. The danger is all around. People have told me ‘what use are possessions when all may be destroyed’. They know they have to escape in a fire and have plans ready, but with so many eucalyptus forests around, I am unsure if I would have the courage to live several miles up gravel tracks surrounded by trees.

5. The diversity of bird and animal life is fabulous and needs many more visits to get to know. Plants grow here with impunity. Flowers escape to colonise and become weeds, 15 pairs of sparrows introduced in the 1850s have become millions. It’s lucky that the native birds have louder more insistent bird song. 

6. Politicians are held in as much in contempt here as they are in the UK and the US.

7. Prices of food are higher, but the quality can be excellent, petrol is a third less, accommodation about the same, but often outstanding. Tipping is not part of the culture. People get paid a decent wage. However, for the first time, we have seen homeless on the streets, which is heartbreaking.

8. Building, so much building. Sydney, Melbourne and the surrounding suburbs are increasing at an astonishing rate. House prices are rocketing, even in Hobart. Australia surely is ‘the place to be’. 

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A Third Journey of Discovery

I am on my third trip to discover the real Australia, one that has given me so much to think about. Here in beautiful Beechworth, the home of Ned Kelly and before that what was known as the Ovens goldfields, there is a sublime mix of England and Australia. It has got me thinking about the early settlers, especially the monied ones. They journeyed twelve thousand miles to make their fortunes, but what did they do when they had the chance? They tried to recreate what they had come from. I imagine the ladies moaning to their husbands that they mourned the loss of the flora and fauna they knew. It was not enough to be growing great flocks of Angus cows and Merino sheep on green pastures, where twenty years before only thick bushland thrived. They were not satisfied with the many varieties of gum trees, the cabbage tree palms, the wild flowers identified and admired by Joseph Banks. They wanted elms, oaks and cypress, they demanded roses, lilac, clematis and wisteria.

Why be satisfied with the warbling of Australian magpies, with the shriek of cockatoos, the boom of bitterns, the laugh of kookaburras when you can import blackbirds, sparrows, pigeons and starlings? 

Beechworth is a wonderful mixture of the old and the new country. Granite buildings by Scottish stonemasons provided offices for the control of the thousands of miners who descended on the area in the 1850s, and these lie adjacent to simple, wooden bungalows with tin roofs.

The town is full of wooden clad shops with large signs above, proclaiming, bakery, clothing emporium, hotel, just as they would have done 150 years ago. It is all very ordered and pristine, but this was a pretty lawless place at the time, despite the efforts to control. The police were as lawless as the bush rangers they sought to imprison. The rich squatters, mostly Protestant, were determined to get rid of the heavily mortgaged selectors,often Catholics, who tried to eke a living on the margins – Ned  Kelly, more sinned against than sinning, the inevitable folk hero result.

Posted in Australia, Digger's Daughter, Research | 2 Comments