On my morning walk to Cleveland Point last week, I was surprised to see a new addition to the old Lion’s Club and former Schoolhouse Gallery in Linear Park. Although the building was familiar to me, I couldn’t place it, until when I drove home past the nearby RSL Club I noticed that the old building next door was missing. Of course! They have moved it (and demolished a shop next door) to make was for extra parking at the RSL Club. I am not really in favour of cars taking precedence over history, but at least, as I learnt in the local paper next week, the 128 year old stationmaster’s cottage has now been preserved in a better historical spot for use by the Cleveland Community.
At a recent meeting of the Friends of Peel Island Association Inc. a colleague showed me the following extract from ‘The Friendship Book’ that had been published in 1976:
‘Wednesday July 7
‘Very few people in this country (England) have heard of Kate Marsden, yet in parts of modern Russia she is famous. For in the 1890’s this trained nurse and dedicated Christian began to inquire into the lot of lepers in Russia. Armed with a letter of introduction from the Princess of Wales, she personally interviewed the Empress of all the Russias and learnt of the lepers of Viluisk, expelled from their homes to a living death in the frozen forests of Siberia.
‘Kate Marsden went to see for herself, enduring terrible hardships on the journey which were to leave her an invalid for thirty years. What she saw made her badger the Russian authorities until, six years later, a leper hospital was built.
‘That same hospital was closed down not so many years ago because, thanks to one determined woman, there are now no more lepers in Viluisk.’
Notwithstanding that the term ‘lepers’ was no longer in use in 1976 except in derogatory terms and jokes, the article surprised me because I had never considered Russia to have had such patients. However, as leprosy (or Hansen’s Disease, as it is now known) is thought to have originated in China, it would have been brought by traders along the Silk Road all those centuries ago and thence into what is now known as Russia.
Helen Ellis writes: ‘I have been spending many enjoyable hours reading as much as I can of the history of Moreton Bay on your various websites and blogs. One item I did read mentioned that there was an unsuccessful search to identify an old burial on Mud Island which may have been of an aboriginal person (Stories from Mud Island – 1 posted on Saturday 23rd January 2016). I did find mention of a burial of a South Sea Islander from the ‘Don Juan’ which arrived in Moreton Bay on 14th August, 1863 in ‘Journey to Sugaropolis’ on the Gold Coast City Council website. I wonder if this could be the burial.’
The editor has traced back its original reference to the Sydney Morning Herald, 22 August 1863 which records:
August 15.—Don Juan*, from South Sea Islands.
The schooner Don Juan, Captain Greuber, left Erromanga** on the 4th instant, sighted Moreton light at 3 o’clock on Friday morning, rounded Moreton Island at 8 a.m., and anchored off the lightship at 9 p.m. During the passage she experienced a fine S.E. breeze and fine weather until the 12th instant, when the wind changed and blew a heavy gale from the N.E. The Don Juan has on board in all seventy-three South Sea Islanders for Captain Towns’ cotton plantation. One of the islanders died on Saturday last from exhaustion caused by sea sickness. He was buried on Mud Island. The agreement made with these men is, that they shall receive ten shillings a month, and have their food, clothes, and shelter provided for them.—Queensland Guardian.’
It could well be that if the skeleton was not European, then it may have been that of the unfortunate South Sea Islander.
*The first party of South Sea Islanders (Kanakas) was shipped to Queensland by Captain Robert Towns in the schooner “Don Juan” and arrived at Moreton Bay on August 14th, 1863. They worked on a cotton plantation in the Logan River area.
**Erromango is the fourth largest island in the Vanuatu archipelago
Last year, I accompanied a group of young tech enthusiasts from CSIRO, UQ, and QUT to Peel Island to film a documentary for the BBC. It was all part of the CyArk project with the aim of digitising the Lazaret (see my earlier blogs: ‘Click’ of October 15, 2016 and ‘Digitising the Lazaret at Peel Island’ of May 14, 2016). It was all under the guidance of Nick Kwek, the show’s producer and director who came from London to do the filming. He realised that the story’s human side is really fascinating as well, so I was included in the team to supply a bit of the human history to the now empty huts that the drones and robots were to film.
Now it’s available for all to view on the BBC’s official YourTube account:
Two and a half months after being given this 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle for my birthday, I finally placed its penultimate piece in place. Penultimate, I am sad to say, because the last piece was missing.
After so many hours of concentrated work, I had been thinking of placing the finished product behind a sheet of glass and mounting it as a picture, but the missing piece destroyed that idea. In the end, I resorted to the wisdom of the Tibetan Buddhists, a tradition involving the creation and destruction of a mandala made from coloured sand. Their sand mandala is ritualistically dismantled once it has been completed and its accompanying ceremonies and viewing are finished to symbolize the Buddhist doctrinal belief in the transitory nature of material life.
I was sure I hadn’t misplaced the piece myself, so my suspicions turned naturally to the manufacturer. I consulted Google to see if other people had the same problems. Yes they had, one person had spent seven years on a 5,000 piece jigsaw, only to find one piece missing when he got to the end. The trouble is, you have to get to the end before you know whether you have a piece short or not.
Also on the Google page was this nice quote from Bonnie Arbon. I guess we are all pieces in a giant cosmic puzzle, I like to hold the thought that when I am no longer of this world the piece that was me will still remain on in the lives of others
Following on from my blog of last week (07.01.2017) entitled ‘Closure and Closure’ I have reached a compromise with the aid of the good folks at WordPress and am happy to relate that my website ‘Moreton Bay History’ (www.moretonbayhistory.com) will continue as before. I’ll keep on blogging, too, but probably not on a regular Saturday morning basis as I have been doing, because I am still resolved to pursue the writing of ‘the novel’.
Also, looking at the image I published last week of myself at the typewriter in 1970 reminds me of my muse at that time: my new brother in law, Patrick Vaughan, who wrote under the name of Bill Cody.
Cody was a gifted writer with a wonderful grasp of words that were able to capture the personalities and events of his life in the Irish countryside. That’s his window on the upper floor of the Vaughan’s house at Dromagh. From here he could look out over the schoolyard next door and across the green fields that surrounded his house.
Regrettably many of his works were lost when they went missing after his death in 1986. However, the Irish Government did honour his memory when they erected this plaque in the fence outside his home:
Sounds like a firm of lawyers doesn’t it, but no, for me it’s to tell you that:
1. I am closing the Moreton Bay History part of my webpage (which means that you won’t be able to log on using the http://www.moretonbayhistory.com address after next week).
I opened my Moreton Bay History webpage in April 1997 and after nearly 20 years, I think I’ve said all I need to about the bay’s history. However I’ll try to keep the blog section open for the occasional blog. Hopefully, barring technical difficulties in the transfer, you may still log in to the blog using the following address:
2. My second closure is to finish writing ‘the novel’ which I began way back in 1970. After being constantly put on the back burner for the past 47 years due to the demands of my history writing, I’ve made it my new year resolution to finally seek closure on the ‘novel’ project. It won’t be a number one bestseller and will probably be seen by nobody but myself, but like learning to play the guitar, it will satisfy a lifelong ambition.
I’ll keep sending my new blogs to Facebook and Google+ so I hope we can still keep in touch.
If you are like me, you have probably been singing Auld Lang Syne at Hogmanay all you life and still don’t know the meaning of the terms. Well, this year I have resorted to Wiki to enlighten us.
Wikipedia says of Auld Lang Syne:
The Hogmanay (Scots word for the last day of the year) custom of singing Auld Lang Syne has become common in many countries. Auld Lang Syne is a Scots poem by Robert Burns written in 1788 and based on traditional and other earlier sources. It is now common to sing this in a circle of linked arms that are crossed over one another as the clock strikes midnight for New Year’s Day, though it is only intended that participants link arms at the beginning of the final verse, co-ordinating with the lines of the song that contain the lyrics to do so. Typically, it is only in Scotland this practice is carried out correctly.
‘And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give me a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.’
However, in all the versions I have ever sung it is really just the first verse and chorus that I know (like nearly every other song in my ‘repertoire’):
Should old acquaintance be forgot
And never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot
In the days of auld lang syne?
For old lang syne, my dear,
For old lang syne,
We’ll take a cup of kindness yet
in the days of auld lang syne.
(repeat chorus amid kissing, hugging, fireworks, drinking and much celebrating).
For the Scots, the New Year must also be a time for fond remembrance of their motherland. My mother (whose father was a Glaswegian) would have loved to visit Scotland and in later life often chose the heather-clad hills as a subject for her china painting. I can still re-evoke the strong smell of the solvent she used in the painting process. Phyllis and I, spent our honeymoon motoring through Scotland to the Isle of Skye. The heather was brown at that time of the year and there was no intoxicating smell of mum’s china painting solvent, but (before the fog set in) I gathered enough memories of my grandfather’s auld country to love it like he and mum did.
Oh, incidentally, the song’s Scots title may be translated into standard English as “old long since”, or more idiomatically, “long long ago”, “days gone by” or “old times”. Consequently, “For auld lang syne”, as it appears in the first line of the chorus, might be loosely translated as “for (the sake of) old times”.
One of my earliest recollections of Christmas is the carol “Good King Wenceslas”. There’s also an image that comes to mind from a school music book of a drawing of the said king looking out from his castle towards a pauper struggling through the snow ‘deep and crisp and even’. Describing snow as ‘deep and crisp and even’ seems to have made a lasting impression on my young mind which had only experienced the heat of an Australian Christmas until that time. The rest of the carol’s lyrics have always been a bit of a mystery to me.
This year, in a fit of (another) pique at the commercialisation of Christmas I thought I’d scrap all those carols extolling the virtues of Santa and Rudolf, and settle for a more traditional tune. “Good King Wenceslas” sprang into view, with its mysteries still waiting to be discovered after a lifetime buried under the deep and crisp and even snow.
Wikipedia came to my rescue:’”Good King Wenceslas” is a popular Christmas carol that tells a story of a Bohemian king going on a journey and braving harsh winter weather to give alms to a poor peasant on the Feast of Stephen (December 26, the day after Christmas). During the journey, his page is about to give up the struggle against the cold weather, but is enabled to continue by following the king’s footprints, step for step, through the deep snow. The legend is based on the life of the historical Saint Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia or Svatý Václav in Czech (907–935). The name Wenceslas is a Latinised version of the modern Czech language “Václav”.
‘In 1853, English hymnwriter John Mason Neale wrote the “Wenceslas” lyrics, in collaboration with his music editor Thomas Helmore, and the carol first appeared in Carols for Christmas-Tide, 1853. Neale’s lyrics were set to the melody of a 13th-century spring carol “Tempus adest floridum” (“The time is near for flowering”) first published in the 1582 Finnish song collection Piae Cantiones.’
Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the Feast of Stephen
When the snow lay ’round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath’ring winter fuel
“Hither, page, and stand by me,
If thou know’st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?”
“Sire, he lives a good league hence,
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes’ fountain.”
“Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine-logs hither
Thou and I shall see him dine
When we bear them thither.”
Page and monarch, forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind’s wild lament
And the bitter weather.
“Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how
I can go no longer.”
“Mark my footsteps, good my page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shall find the winter’s rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly.”
In his master’s step he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye, who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing.
So the carol is more about December 26th (Boxing Day) than Christmas Day where we are urged to give to the poor rather than receive gifts ourselves. Could John Mason Neale, the hymnwriter, have been fed up with the commercialisation of Christmas even in 1853?
Happy Christmas (and Boxing Day) everyone!
Any businessman working in Brisbane after 1950 will be familiar with the well-known suit manufacturer George Symons Suits. It was with a great deal of pleasure then that, as a result of my profile in the Consultants Register in the Professional Historians Association (Queensland) webpage, I was asked by George’s granddaughter to write the history of the family behind the firm. Because I had been so lacking in the history of my own grandfather (it is limited to just three sentences!) I jumped at the chance, full of admiration for her far sightedness.
George Symons was born to a priest of the Greek Orthodox Church on the tiny island of Kastellorizo in 1895. Because of its strategic position just 2 km off the Turkish coast it straddles the two continents of Asia and Europe and has been controlled by many different countries over the ages. The fact that it has a magnificent, deep-water harbour has made it greatly sought after.
After WWI the economy of Kastellorizo, like the island itself, was in ruins, and its inhabitants were leaving in droves. George had been living in nearby Alexandria in Egypt where he married and learned the tailoring trade from his brother in law. His initial intention was to migrate to America where his wife’s family were involved in the fur trade. However for whatever reason he missed the boat so it was suggested that he migrate to Australia – the other country of Greek migration. This he did in 1924 and set up a successful tailoring business in the Melbourne’s prestigious Block Arcade in Collins Street. There he employed many of his Greek family and friends until 1950 when, on the advice of one of his brothers, he sold up and came to Queensland, where he bought a bigger factory in Ipswich. After an unsuccessful few years George transferred the business to Brisbane’s CBD – initially to Charlotte Street and then to Elizabeth Street next to the Treasury Hotel.
George was gradually to hand over control of the business to his son, Sim, who was later to be joined by Sim’s son, George, who introduced many advertising ideas for the firm. Most successful was the firm’s sports advertising, where, in 1972 George Symons Suits started giving a suit to the player of the week. Then they sponsored the Brisbane Bears, who later became the Lions and were also involved in other forms of sport. Tony Roche, the legendary tennis player and a relative, was also doing some advertising for the firm but asked for nothing in return.
The opening of the Myer Centre resulted in George Symons Suits moving to addresses South Brisbane, where it was eventually sold.
George Symons Suits employed many thousands of people over its half century of business in Brisbane. If you, the reader, have a story, either as an employee or a customer, please send it on to me. Like all family histories, it will never be finished, but I will be very happy to add your contribution to the saga of George Symons Suits.