Showing posts with label Braidwood. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Braidwood. Show all posts

Friday, October 11, 2013

My Irish story is finally finished

I've finally completed a full version of my maternal family-history story, entitled A Little Bit of Irish. It's 242 pages long, and can be downloaded from the following address:

I've borrowed my title from an embarrassingly sentimental old song (containing the expression "God made Ireland") that was used as a theme by the Irish tenor Patrick O'Hagan (father of Australian-born Johnny Logan, of Eurovision fame). Please don't feel obliged to listen to this recent version right through to the end:

My document presents 4 or 5 generations of ancestors who were all—to a greater or lesser extent—rural pioneers in New South Wales, first in Braidwood then up on the Clarence River (where I was born in 1940).

An interesting outcome of my family-history research (in chapter 3) is my "discovery" and identification of a hitherto little-known Braidwood bushranger: Billy Hickey [1818-1901], the big brother of my great-great-grandmother Ann Hickey [1822-1898]. Billy had been a mate and short-term accomplice of the notorious Clarke brothers.

John Clarke (with gunshot wounds in his right shoulder) and Tommy Clarke were the last Australian bushrangers to be hanged, on 25 June 1867. Fortunately, Billy Hickey gave up crime before the age of 30, for reasons that remain a mystery. Then he married, settled down as a farmer and raised a family of 7 kids. Billy's farm was located in the Irish Corner settlement on the outskirts of Braidwood, in the vicinity of the Farmers' Home tavern run by my great-great-grandfather Charles Walker [1807-1860].

Thursday, April 15, 2010


My sister Susan sent me this photo that she has just discovered in Mullumbimby, in northern New South Wales, where she now lives.

It shows members of the Mullumbimby Agricultural Society Committee of 1909. In the middle of the front row, the man with a white beard is Patrick Walker [1845-1941]. He was a brother of our great-grandfather Charles Walker [1851-1918]. They were both born in the notorious gold and bushranger territory of Braidwood, and this is the first photo I've ever seen of any relative of that generation.

Beneath the photo, a caption identifies all 27 men in the photo. It provides us, too, with the names of three committee members who happened to be absent when this photo was taken. To my mind, that could be a trivial lie. Those three fellows weren't really absent. The truth of the matter is that they weren't allowed to participate in the photo because they dared to turn up without hats.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Braidwood bushrangers

About a year and a half ago, I placed the following document in the Issuu system:

It's a chapter of the monograph entitled A Little Bit of Irish, which presents my maternal genealogy.

Yesterday, I was thrilled to receive a friendly comment from a woman in Australia named Kylie Clarke, whose great-great-uncles Thomas Clarke [1840-1867] and John Clarke [1844-1867] were prominent bushrangers in the Braidwood district, executed by hanging in Sydney on 25 June 1867. For a while, my great-great-uncle William Hickey [1818-1901] was a member of their gang.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Spirit of place

For Nancy and Natacha

Many people persist in believing that any two places on the planet could be made to resemble each other, provided that enough transformation work were to be carried out at both ends. A couple of months ago, I joked about this style of thinking in my post entitled Mediterranean Bondi. [Click here to see this post.]

In fact, many spots on the planet Earth would appear to be unique and inimitably specific. Surely one of the most celebrated places of this kind is the sacred mountain at the heart of the Holy City, adorned by the Moslem Dome of the Rock.

If only this majestic site could be duplicated magically at other spots on the globe, this might end many ancient quarrels. American Jews could then have their own holy mountain, say, in an isolated corner of Colorado. Certain Christians might admire a copy in Salt Lake City. And Moslems would be free to recreate the spirit of Jerusalem's splendid es-Sakhra, the Rock, in every Arab corner of the globe.

But that's not at all the way the cookie crumbles. Places are unique. They are not swappable. We cannot rebuild Paris, as somebody once suggested, out in the country.

Why is this so? What does it mean to say that places are unique? It means that certain places have a spirit. A spirit of place. As the Romans put it: a genius loci.

Probably the most extraordinary machine on Earth is the human brain. And, if any known machine is capable of detecting the ubiquitous spirit of place, it's surely our extraordinary human wetware, about which we still know so little. Our brains react to the specificity of a place.

I was thrilled this morning, when phoning Nancy to wish her a happy birthday, to learn that she had recently ventured by accident into the place of our ancestors in New South Wales: the tiny country town of Braidwood. And that my aunt had been engulfed in a curious spiritual cloud that Nancy described naively as happiness. Why not?

I know that such things happen, that such mysterious feelings arise unexpectedly from time to time. But I don't know why. No more than Nancy does. Nor even Natacha, who's attached profoundly to the spirit of certain places in her beloved Provence. It's obviously a matter of the ways in which our respective cerebral mechanisms interact with tellurian memories stored away in specific places, in ways we don't yet understand. In a nutshell, we're sensitive to the spirit of place. For the moment, that's all we can say. But let's say it with joy!