Tuesday, 15 August 2017



Today marks the third week         
of  National Family History Month... each week the Blogging Challenge has a suggested theme, based on a book by an Australian author.

Week 3 - All The Rivers Run.. Nancy Cato

 Summary from Wikipedia...

All The Rivers Run follows the life of English girl, Philadelphia Gordon, from the time when she is shipwrecked and orphaned off the coast of Victoria in 1890. She spends most of her life around Echuca, on the Murray River, and invests some of her inheritance in the paddle steamer called PS Philadelphia. Her life is changed forever when she meets paddle steamer captain Brenton Edwards. She is torn between the harsh beauty of life on the river with its adventures, and the society life in Melbourne with her blossoming career as a painter. It is an adventure and a love story: between her, the men in her life, and the river.

TROVE tells us that there are 34 editions of this book and where to find them.. including audio, in a number of languages..
check here...

 Lots more detail re the story and Nancy Cato  here

As always, the title and a family story set me off on another tangent... I thought about the rivers that had featured in my extended family history... from so many countries including Ireland, England, Wales, Scotland, Greece, Canada, America, India.. to name a few. 

However that seemed too literal.. then I thought about where rivers run to .. and I had my story. All rivers run to the ocean... the ocean being the whole family, a repository of all who have gone before... the rivers.

As the events report, by no means complete, from my family history program, runs to over 216 pages, I'll spare you all that.

I wasn't aware that my family was a little different till I started school. After all, everyone I knew had Aunts and Uncles and most had grandparents. Maybe not as many in the family as we had, but there were sure some even larger families around. 

We visited many friends of my grandparents and there were always many others coming to visit them. It was all just normal to me. I didn't bat an eye when some spoke another language, as my grandparents sometimes did. I thought everyone spoke differently to their grandparents, though I had trouble at times understanding my grandmother. I asked Dad so many times to teach me Greek as I didn't want to be left out, but he assured me that I wouldn't need it as I was Australian. So, other than a few words here and there, I learnt little, some from my Aunt Mary, a little from my grandfather, but he died juast a few months after I started school, after that I was so upset that I didn't want to know anything for awhile.

He'd told me about coming from Greece, a beautiful island called Kythera/Kythira and said he'd hope I'd visit one day. There were so many questions I still had to ask, but he was gone. 

I think I got about halfway though Grade One when for some reason, some of the children started calling me 'wog girl'. I had no idea what they were talking about, but I could tell it wasn't being nice by the looks on their faces. At first, it was just one or two, then there seemed to be a lot saying the same thing. Then it was pulling my plaits while calling me names. It was only then that I told Mum. She was furious...and went straight up to the school that afternoon. The headmaster lived in a house in the school grounds, pity for him, as that meant he was easy to find... I can still hear my Mum asking what he was going to do about it. 

I had no idea what a 'wog' was... and was very indignant when Mum explained it to me. All I was thinking was that my beloved grandfather was no 'wog'.. he was a very proud, hardworking new Australian... having been in Australia for many years... Later I found that he'd been here since 1904.. it was then 1953, so he'd been here longer than some of the families, whose kids were tormenting me, had been alive. 

 The headmaster talked with the children and some of their families. I never did know what was said, but other than a few odd looks, I had no more problems. That beautiful man then decided to show my class where it was that my grandparents came from. I was so surprised when a week or so after he produced a map of Greece, with the tiny island of Kythera, which is not far from the mainland, marked with a tiny handmade Greek flag.  I hadn't seen such a map before and I was so excited. He'd taken it from 'an old world atlas'.

Thanks to Google Maps.

 He asked me to think about what made my family different, and special. I didn't know what to say. He asked me about food, was there anything that my grandmother made... I answered pickles... I loved her pickles. Of course, it was at a time when 'everyone' made pickles... then, what was my favourite food that my grandmother made... 'baklava'. He was the only one that had heard of it... so that caused a lot of laughter and various comments. He asked me if I could make it... I couldn't then, not by myself, but I said I would ask my grandmother or my Aunt Mary to make some and I would bring some to school. 

Of course, then others in the class decided that their grandmothers were good cooks too, so they wanted to bring along some of their cooking. I can imagine the looks on some of the families when their children went home and said that the next week they wouldn't have to make lunch, just send along some of the good things that their grandmothers, or other family, made. It was to be one week later, on a Friday.

 I was so excited, but Mum wasn't so sure my grandmother would be. My Aunt Mary stepped in and I went to her place one afternoon and 'helped' her make baklava. Luckily she made a big batch, as I knew I wouldn't get any at school, it was always so good. I don't recall all that was brought, but I did see a lot of jams and pickles... I wonder who took them home. All I remember was that the 'yuk' stuff the boys had teased me about, disappeared very quickly. 

 Other than scones, the only other offering I remember was a little unusual.. a bowl of jelly. Of course, it had all melted by the time it got to school, except for a thick layer in the bottom of the bowl. My Mum would have been horrified, as we always had the job of stirring jelly so there would be no thick bit.

 A few years went by till my Greek heritage came to the fore. My brother was at school then and he was being teased a bit, as I was, for taking different lunches.. I loved cold pita (spanakopita ) and was happy to have that, but my friend, the headmaster's daughter, had peanut butter... I'd never tried anything like it, so of course, we swapped.  Then she became interested in other Greek things.. so we decided to show them some Greek dances... I'm not sure who came up with the idea, but we planned to put on a concert, with my brother and I doing Greek dancing. To be honest, we knew nothing about it, but we had seen some relatives dancing. It was all going very well and we were going to make our fortune at 3d a time... till my friend asked her Mum for 3d (about 2c) for the concert.  We'd already collected some money, we had to hand all that back and apologise...so much for our dreams of fortune.

I still haven't made it to Kythera, or Co Clare where my other grandmother came from. I never knew her, as she died when my Mum was just 11, but the pull of my Irish heritage is as strong as that of my Greek.  Add those to my husband's heritage, of Irish, Indian, English... and it's no wonder my small son stood up in class on a United Nations Day and said he was Irish Stew... oops, little boys remember more than you realise.

All rivers run... we are of one world.

Image by Pixabay

* More family stories..





and sprinkled throughout That Moment In Time, as well as this blog.

This post first appeared at https://headlinesofold.blogspot.com/2017/08/trove-tuesday-august-15th-2017-all.html

Monday, 7 August 2017


Thank you to all for supporting this blog over the last year. It has been an interesting concept, far removed from my other blogs, and continues to increase readership post by post.

My most popular post to date has been...


with over 2,600 views and it continues to attract interest. It's good to know that I'm not the only one intrigued by our convict history.

Also very popular was




My very first blog here was for National Family History Month...


My story on my young Great Uncle, John Dillon, who died in a tragic accident, so far from his Irish home, also attracted a lot of attention...


as did my Guest Blogger's (Joan Birtles) contribution...


and this one...


I hope you continue to visit often, or perhaps subscribe by any of the means that suits, listed in the column to the left. Comments are also always welcome...


Today marks the second week of National Family History Month... each week the Blogging Challenge has a suggested theme.



 I was surprised to see that the book, first published in 1963, had such a variety of covers... in no particular order.. and just a selection. Which would make you interested in reading this book?                                             

The book became a Miles Franklin Award winner... 

Or perhaps you would prefer the movie poster? The film was released in 1983... also to rave reviews...

The story, as told by Sumner Locke Elliot, tugs at your heartstrings, as a six year old boy, whose mother has died, and who is being raised by an aunt, is suddenly the centre of a battle between a second aunt, who has decided to claim her nephew, as she has joint custody. 

The title refers to the battle between adults as this child is uncertain as to what will happen, in what has been his loving and happy childhood to date. How much does he hear?

This led me to memories of  times when adults were whispering or stopping conversations in mid sentence, so that I might not hear. 
My earliest recollection was hearing that everyone else was going to my grandparents place, except for my brother and me... we were going to our neighbour's, whom we called Auntie Coral. 

 We loved going to Auntie Coral's where we were allowed to look through Uncle Kev's scrapbooks of cartoons or photo albums and laugh at the funny old cars or costumes, or play dress ups with Auntie Coral's costume jewellery and, maybe, if we were very good, she would show us her fox stole. That fascinated and terrified us at the same time. We might even get a treat of 'lob scoush' for dinner...which was Uncle Kev's name for mashed potato, chopped up corned beef, cabbage and tomato sauce... how we loved it.

 However, nothing was as much fun as going to our grandparents' home when all the family were there. My brother didn't mind as much as I did, as I would always help my Aunt and grandmother in the kitchen...there was lots of whispering, but the answer was still a firm 'no', which really puzzled me.

 I was playing at the front of Auntie Coral's house when I saw a whole lot of cars drive out Hungry Head Road.. and raced to call Auntie Coral, and to tell her I saw a big black car that had flowers in it. I asked her what the parade was for. Tears welled in her eyes and she asked if my mother had told me. "Told me what? How come we couldn't go to the parade?" It was then I learnt that my beloved Papauli had died. I was inconsolable.. no wonder the adults were whispering, but I never did understand why I never got to say goodbye. At five, I had lost one of the most loved members of my family.

Other times come to mind. I would be laying in bed, pretending I was asleep, when my parents would listen to the radio, perhaps it was the drama on the General Motors Hour, all I can recall is that the stories would have me listening intently. One night I was listening carefully and there was absolutely no other noise in the house or anywhere else...it was as though the world was holding it's breath, as the tension built. Then I heard that a child had been found, murdered. I burst into tears... and my Mum rushed in to comfort me, yelling at Dad that she had told him I could hear it. I slept with Mum that night and Dad had my bed.

Years passed, I had a family of my own and many's the time, we whispered so as to conceal surprises, or protect the children from bad news items, but I always told them about family dramas, even if not always the whole story.

 Then the tables turned. My youngest brother and I became the carers for our father. It was our turn to be concerned that he didn't hear us when we were given the diagnosis of Alzheimer's. He'd had such a fear of it, as he'd seen his brother go through it, that with his doctors' blessings, we decided to not tell him.  The days, weeks, months, were filled with hospital visits, specialist visits, and dealing with assorted health problems, and strangers coming to the house, as well as his Alzheimer's. Dad's odd behaviour and confusion was increasing rapidly, though some days were worse than others. 

Each morning and each night, we had handover, so each of us would know what had happened on the other's watch and what we needed to be aware of. If Dad noticed us talking he would get very upset, even more so if he heard us, so it was definitely a case of 'careful, he might hear you..'  We hated having to keep things from him, especially when we could no longer keep him safe, nor care for him as intensely as he needed to be. 

As hard as it was, there were special moments also, when, for maybe a moment or two, or maybe longer, Dad would be with us for a while. He didn't hear us when we met with social workers and doctors, nor when we searched to find a place he would be comfortable with. Nor did he hear us when we agreed that he could be taken there from the hospital by ambulance 'to the other end of the hospital' while waiting for more tests. He didn't mind the company and actually recognised an old friend from so many years ago.. but that didn't stop him packing his bags regularly to go home. One of us would distract him, the other would go and put everything back. 

He was happy when the very kind pianist played for the residents in his unit every Friday morning. We would be with him and that made up for all else, as we watched his absolute joy at hearing his beloved music.

After so long of being careful that he didn't hear us, he did hear when I told him that it was ok, Mum was waiting for him. He quietly slipped away, the last words he heard were of love and gratitude.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017


Today marks the beginning of National Family History Month... each week the Blogging Challenge has a suggested theme.

 This week it is as in the title..


As a long time fan of Ruth Park, I had already written a post on her, which I hope many of you have already read, but just in case you missed it, there is an excerpt at the end of the page and the link to the whole post...

POOR MAN'S ORANGE  was set in the then working class suburb of Surry Hills. The Dictionary of Sydney, a great go to site, has a very comprehensive article on the history of Surry Hills...

From the collection of the 

Another site, one of a few, tells of the history of Surrey Hills..


 A few excerpts...

If the worn sandstone street kerbing of Surry Hills, Sydney, could talk it would tell some of the most riveting tales of Australia's past.
Surry Hills history mirrors the history of Sydney city. Soon after the First Fleet's 1788 arrival at Sydney Cove, wealthy settlers spread into the fringe areas but within a few decades the wealthy were moving further out of town and the working class was taking over Surry Hills.
By the turn of the century, Surry Hills had become very overcrowded because of this shift in the population.
When walking past the rows of Victorian terraces today, it is hard to image that 19th and early 20th century Surry Hills was indeed even more crowded.
From the collection of the 
                                                           State Library of New South Wales

However, my interest is a bit more personal. This is the Crown Street Women's Hospital .. where I was born. My mother was very young and was also very ill at the time of my birth. Her memories were very mixed of her experience there. She was in a large ward with women of all ages..what she first noticed was that there were few male visitors, in fact, few visitors at all. 

Crown Street Women's Hospital, Crown Street., Sydney, NSW - 1950 Photo shared by the State Library NSW. v@e.

The staff were very offhanded with her and dismissive of most requests. The first day she had trouble getting anyone to listen to her, or even to get a drink of water. 

Image courtesy of State Library of NSW

She had been admitted with some bleeding and when she asked to be changed, she was told that it didn't matter, it'd all be over soon and then she could leave and find somewhere to stay. She protested and said she needed help, then got reprimanded for getting herself into trouble and expecting others to take care of her problems. It was only when the sister left, that another patient told her they treated all unmarried girls like that. My mother was horrified, she was married and showed the girl her ring. She just laughed and said we all buy one of those, not that it makes much difference. 

 It wasn't till a few hours later when my Dad arrived and insisted on seeing her, that they accepted that she wasn't putting her baby up for adoption as the others were...It took quite some convincing, but she was moved to another ward on my father's insistence. The attitude there was entirely different and she not only got the help that she needed, but an apology as demanded by my father.  He was horrified that any of the mothers to be were treated as Mum was.. he tried to get the newspapers to publish a story about it, but they were reluctant to do so, using the excuse that if the girls couldn't go there, they would be forced into having their babies in the streets... as few places would take unmarried mothers.

 In later years, more stories were revealed... such as this...

 My mother never quite forgave them for treating her and the others  in the first ward as if they didn't matter and spent much of her life quietly helping girls who 'got into trouble' as they said then.

Thankfully, those days blended into others.. changes in attitudes and acceptance over time meant that society didn't, for the most part, treat people like that. By no means were all the staff like this, I have nothing but praise for nurses in general, but it always saddens me that my teenage mum went through such a terrible time. She had no mother to assist her, she had died when my mother was just 11, and must have felt so alone. My parents were always very close all their lives and when Mum passed at just 51, it broke my Dad's heart.

 One of my mother's sisters had been born there many years before, so my mother had been very confident about going there.

 Crown Street Women's Hospital closed in 1983, and with it, went so many memories, some good, some not so good. It was known to be an innovative place regarding women's health and re the survival rate of babies that may have been a lot less if born elsewhere. It had many good outcomes, but hidden away are also many sad stories. 




Ruth Park, pre 1947, by unknown photographer.jpg
pre 1947 
reproduction rights owned by the State Library NSW

I would think that few of us would instantly recognise this lady, but there would be few Australians, and lovers of great stories, who wouldn't recognise a number of her thoughtful portrayal of the lives of early Australians in "Poor Man's Orange" and "Harps of the South".. the author is Ruth Park. I loved both those books and have reread them over the years. I don't recall reading the third in the trilogy, "Missus".. I must look for that. 

Her works included novels, non-fiction and also children's books. She also wrote the children's serial "The Muddle Headed Wombat"...

Rosina Ruth Lucia Park was born on the 21st August, 1917 in Auckland and though she didn't migrate to Australia till 1942, she is often thought of as an Australian writer. I like to think that both New Zealand and Australia can share her.

She lived till the age of 93, passing away on 14 December, 2010.

There is a wealth of information 'freely available' in the 'Pictures, photos, objects' section of TROVE.

You can even read one of her childrens' books, Playing Beatie Bow, by going to open library at 
either online, or by borrowing the ebook as it becomes available. You may have to join the waiting list, or links are given to look for it elsewhere.

Cover of: Playing beatie bow by Ruth Park     

About the Book

A lonely Australian girl from a divided family is transported back to the 1880's and an immigrant family from the Orkney Islands.

Edition Notes

For 10-14 year olds.

A photo taken in 1962 of Ruth Park holding her cat, can be found at Ruth Park holding her cat outside her home in Balgowlah, Sydney, 10 December, 1962 / John Mulligan. As the copyright is in place for some years yet, I am unable to reproduce it here.

Continued here...  link