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Monday, November 14, 2016


 

Writing the lives of midwives on the Mid North Coast (see fuller description of my my long years of research on my website at:  Midwives of the Mid North Coast of New Sout Wales, Australia)

Macleay Argus
4 January, 1924

 

As I draw near to the final stages of my research and writing about the lives and careers of midwives (and nurses), and their private maternity hospitals, I find myself sometimes catching a  glimpse of who they were...I chart their lives on the mid north coast towns where they worked as this is the focus of my study.   But, to understand them a little more and fill in their lives, I also sketch in their beginnings, some family information,  their training, and the many moves they had to make to find work in the years 1890s through to the 1940s.  And I do look at what happened to them when they left the mid north coast as these women were highly mobile and always looking for their next appointment. 

I am struck always by their resourcefulness, their willingness to accept change, their strength and their endurance as they sometimes changed places/towns and employment sometimes yearly, always often. One example is Clara Armitage  who was the licensee and resident manager of Kendall Lying In Hospital (a small village near Port Macquarie, NSW) from 1920 to 1926. She then returned to Sydney where she worked in Hurlstone Park (1927), Marrickville (1928), Coogee (1929), Arncliffe (1930-31), and then moved to the country town of Guyra (1932-1937). Clara was single and was 84 when she died a few short years later in1941.  She had been working and delivering babies and caring for women all of her life.

Clara is just one of the 200 women’s stories which will be part of my Historical Biography of these women. But as I attempt to fill in these final pages and write how these women were I do have a sense of them, some idea of who they were,  a glimpse of them in my mind’s eye, so many of them passing but real in that ghostly, fading past. It is so important that they are remembered, these indefatigable women who gave so much to local communities and are still, in many cases, remembered by those communities today.

I will publish my book Women's Business: Midwives on the Mid North Coast of NSW, (a historical biograpy of the Hastigns, Macleay and Armidale regions to 1950)  in 2017. Updates will be posted on my blog and my website at: www.writingfamilyhistory.com.au
 

 



Monday, September 28, 2015

Kempsey Museum

Make sure you check out the Facebook page of the Kempsey Museum, it has been updated and will have more info soon,
https://www.facebook.com/kempseymuseum.org

Monday, July 27, 2015

Schooldays

Talking to groups about my childhood memoir Ghost Child  it is clear that remembering our schooldays is a big part of our story, we remember it well whether the memories are good, bad or indifferent ....we have had public education in NSW since 1848 and most children, girls and boys, have spent the best part of each day, 5 days a week in at least elementary (primary) schooling. Look at the RSVP column (not the dating site, but the page in their Spectrum supplement where family queries and mostly school reunions are listed, rsvp@smh.com.au) each Saturday in the Sydney Morning Herald and you will find several school reunions being publicised. I started school as a 5 year old at Nulla Nulla Public School and attended Carcolla, Bellbrook (several times, as we moved a lot) and we were at Carrai when Bill Haydon dragged the disused school building from Corangula to Carrai and established Haydonwood Provisional School. Many of the people I talk to remember the long treks to school in bare feet along a dusty road, rain or shine. We had no hats, wore ordinary clothing and took our lunch consisting of stale bread sandwiches, stale cakes, hard boiled eggs and oranges when they were in season. Along the way walking home we hopped fences and picked blackberries, looked for stone fruit and waded in the creek. No one thought anything of sending small children to walk long distances, after all everyone had done it, our parents and grandparents,  and we were all the same then. Occasionally we could cadge a ride on a neighbour's horse.
http://www.writingfamilyhistory.com.au/Ghost%20child%20prom…


 
Carcolla Subsidised School c.1940s?
 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The book launch

My book launch for Ghost Child last month was an amazing event. I was thrilled with the support I received from the local community, friends, my family and of course my cousins, aunts and my friends from the Kempsey Museum and the family history community.



This photograph of my daughter Sue Kyle, myself, and granddaughters Anouk and Alana was taken by Penny Tamblyn,  Macleay Argus journalist and photographer. I was very appreciative of the support I had from the Macleay Argus editor Dave Coren and also Port Macquarie newspapers, especially the Port Macquarie News


I had good support too from local bookshops and local radio. More Than a Bookshop at Kempsey has been selling my book without any charge to me, a great boon to this struggling writer.  Bookface at Port Macquarie agreed to stock my book and made every effort to help me as well. Local ABC radio announcer Michael Spooner was kind enough to do an interview as was 2WAY FM.  I am humbled by the willingness of local people and local media to support local writing and especially a local childhood  history memoir.
 
Everyone who turned up to my book launch, I think more than 60 at last count, brought the book and were keen to talk about the writing of it.  I need to thank every one of you.
 
I need to thank the volunteers at the Slim Dusty Centre, especially Joan, and also Kate Mainey who did so much to make the book launch so easy to organise.  I need also to thank the Mayor of Kempsey Liz Campbell who as usual did a fabulous job of launching the book. 
 
I have spent some time since the launch talking about the book to local organisations and that experience has been useful and inspiring for me.  Most people relate to the childhood experiences I have described in the book, but it is especially resonant to those people who, like me, grew up in the 1940s and the 1950s.  Some of the things that have jumped out at me as significant to others are:
The books we studied at school:  for women the Commonsense Cookery Book always has a resonance, and many also remember The Breath of Life (a book of prose stories for high school) around the mid 1950s.
Most people remember their schooling and are interested in how to go about researching it, finding records and also the experience of it.
There are many other aspects that seem to be of interest and I will write about these next time.
The following is a photograph my 11 year old granddaughter Anouk took of me when I was signing a book, I liked it!
 
 
 
 


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Mill child

When I was a child trees were simply there.  But along the banks of creeks and the river on the Upper Macleay trees were much more than that.  My grandfather and great grandfather on my father’s side were second-wave farmer-cedar cutters and they worked in the bush well into old age supplementing the meagre income earned from the dairy farm. My father also worked hauling logs, driving trucks and sitting astride the cat, cutting and shaping the bush, a third-wave cedar cutter as were his brothers and cousins along the Upper Macleay.  And we were mill children for a time, surrounded by trees, logs, whirring chain saws and the swirling ever present gritty dust.


Monday, December 29, 2014


Landscapes of my childhood
Along the white, dusty ribbon of road that runs past the front of the Kirkpatrick farmhouse there   are eucalypts.  One is a battered rather crooked old apple gum.  It is still there now, it has been there as long as I can remember sitting so close to the road it is almost growing from it.  If once white settlers could not bear to think of these tough trees as worthy subjects for the artist’s brush now their sparse beauty is all we need to bring us home.  My child’s eye saw this tree, was drawn to it.  I was soothed by its thick sturdy branches and familiar drooping leaves.  It’s white trunk and leathery leaves claim the stories, hold the history, hint at memory, hope and dreaming for us all.
 
 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Writing the Ghost Child


Writing the Ghost Child
 

I was not planning this trip back to my childhood. I have not yearned for nor wanted to return to the memory of those days. I left the Nulla Nulla Creek in 1951 as an eleven year old and I did not look back.  When I did go back more than fifty years later and walked across that same ground -  the paddocks, the banks of the Creek and the white ribbon of road that is Nulla Nulla Creek Road - the same spaces and places my parents and grandparents and great grandparents and I had once traversed I saw it differently of course.  I saw it through layers of my own life and living, and the memories of that childhood had faded. As a consequence I  have had to re-learn my own life history to write this memoir and I have had to research the history of the small dairy farming community that once thrived along the banks of this small tributary of the Upper Macleay River. My memory of childhood is blurred and uneven. But memory is like that, it pulls us into spaces and places that we remember, vaguely or well, and from that somehow we shape a version, our version of the past.