Women’s History month – women in the paid workforce – some thoughts

At the conclusion of Women’s History Month I have been thinking about personal history and in particular women’s history month which led me to reflect on how much has changed in the world of women’s public work. Of course the simple fact is that whether our female ancestors were in paid employment or not, they were invariably significant contributors to their family’s economic activity. They made clothes, sold eggs, grew fruit, milked cows, were railway gatekeepers etc etc: inevitably a vital part of what made our ancestral families effective, not to mention their contributions to community organisations of all sorts.

Over the past few decades there have been so many changes which have made it “easier” for women in the paid workforce, without denying there is still plenty of opportunity for improvement.

My reflections brought up a few things which have improved over the past forty years or so:

  1. Most women were required, not just expected, to resign from work as soon as they married.
  2. My mother-in-law worked for 25 years in Papua New Guinea as a teacher. Throughout that time she remained a casual employee with no leave or superannuation benefits –entirely due to the fact that she was married.
  3. When I was engaged and not far off finishing uni, I applied for a job with a large multi-national company. During the interview, and once they knew I was getting married, I was told that I couldn’t have the job “because married women get, ah, pregnant or…”… something I hadn’t realised was peculiar to those who married.
  4. There was no maternity leave even after married women continued to work. If you were pregnant, you either took leave without pay (if the employer was accommodating) or resigned your position.
  5. If your children were sick, you were reluctant to admit this for fear of a negative impact on your job and had to find strategies to look after your children. You could not use your own leave, or take carer’s leave, to cover days off to mind sick children even though you took as few as possible personal sick days “just in case”. If you were lucky and working after the advent of flexitime you could stockpile some hours to cover you when your children were sick.
  6. Workplaces were predominantly male and offices were generally less welcoming and more structured.
  7. Child-care centres were few and far between.
  8. Superannuation entitlements for women employees had significantly different benefits than those for men even those contributions were the same.
  9. Salaries for women weren’t the same as those for men, except in some industries.

These are significant changes to many women’s day-to-day working conditions over a very short period of time, barely even one generation, and I’m sure others would come up with different points. Not everyone will agree that it is a good thing for women with children to be in the paid workforce but for those who choose to do so, their work-family balance is a little easier to maintain. From my own point of view I’m pleased that my daughters have more flexibility and opportunity than was possible only a few decades ago.

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History: Week 13: Sweets Lollies and Desserts

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History:

Week 13’s topic is Sweets. What was your favorite childhood candy or dessert? Have your tastes changed since then?

This week’s topic intersects both my genealogy and my own personal history. As I grew up I was told that my maternal great-grandfather owned a chocolate factory. You can imagine how much my mouth watered at that! Although the sceptical side of me assumed this was an extension of the truth, I’ve subsequently managed to prove it was correct….he was a skilled confectioner and pastry cook. So I suppose it almost goes without saying that I have a “sweet tooth”. One of the benchmarks of a true dessert aficionado is the need to check what’s on the end of a restaurant menu before deciding on the main course, and whether there’s room for an entrée. Having said that, the power of the desserts is slowly losing its hold on me….perhaps because there are so few that truly live up to expectation?

Do you associate sweets/biscuits etc with your relatives? I remember my maternal grandmother (who died when I was young) by the round, jam-spliced shortbread biscuits she would bring when she came for a visit –it was her father who was the pastry chef/confectioner so I guess she had a sweet tooth too. My paternal grandmother is Orange Cream biscuits and my paternal grandfather the Ginger snaps he’d dunk in his tea. My maternal grandfather is associated with the rich, complex Hungarian cakes that neighbours would give him in exchange for home handyman work he’d do for them in those post-War migration years. My mother goes with sponge cakes and my father sums it up with “custard, cream or ice cream” to which he’d reply “yes please”. He never did bother with the “or” in that query! My grandson associates his aunt with chocolate crackles that they make together and me with making smoothies together or the tiny ice cream that they have after their afternoon nap…I wonder what their memories will be of this as they grow older.

A delicious slice of custard tart.

When I was a child my birthday request would often include home-made custard tart –delicious but temperamental to cook, especially to ensure the pastry remained firm but melt-in-the-mouth. Mum would make lamingtons with her home-made sponge cake, and these were another favourite as my mother’s sponge cakes were “to die for”.  For special events she’d sometimes even make the lamingtons with pink icing rather than chocolate…girly heaven.

But I don’t want to focus on desserts but rather on the confectionery side of this topic – lollies, sweets, candy or whatever confectionery is called where you come from.

My Easter raffle prize tin - without the lollies.

My stand-out memory of lollies is the year I won the Easter raffle at my primary school. I need to tell you that despite my strong Irish ancestry, the luck of the Irish for me involves black shrivelled shamrocks, not buckets of money at the end of the rainbow. This explains why a win of a metal tin of home-made lollies has stayed so strongly in my memory over such a long period. I’m a sucker for pretty “containers” and an even bigger one for delicious lollies so it was a double whammy. The tin still lives with me and holds some of my childhood memorabilia. The lollies inside the tin were all hand-made and included marshmellows, coconut ice, toffees, and chocolate fudge. Delicious!

In those days it was not uncommon for women to make their own lollies –or perhaps it was and I was just lucky to know so many who were skilled at cooking confectionery. My mother would sometimes make marshmellows, usually in winter I think, as it’s an item which can be very temperamental to make in a sub-tropical and humid environment and needed the “right” sort of day before it could be made.

Coconut ice is another confectionery item that I used to love but these days it’s remarkably difficult to find one with the right texture and taste, even among the home-made varieties. A few years back I found a commercial one at a deli in New Farm in Brisbane, and I would stock up when I went down there for a visit….not that it would last long. J  Mum’s coconut ice was pretty good too but some could be too creamy, others too sugary, some just too sweet and ikky.Wholesome Cook’s picture of coconut ice looks perfect. And just in case you were wondering about whether I really liked coconut, we’d also have home-made pink coconut ice blocks during the summer 😉

Mum would regularly made toffees for school fetes or the birthday morning teas that were a part of our school-day celebrations. These toffees would be made in patty cake papers and usually the top was sprinkled with hundreds and thousands.

The best chocolate fudge that I remember was made by the man who lived across the road and whose daughters were childhood friends of mine. He was ahead of his time and very comfortable in the kitchen –a change of pace, and possibly stress-release, from his real job as a train driver. Jim’s fudge was smooth as silk, rich and dark and melt-in-the-mouth. Nothing since has quite matched his standards.

In the 1950s school and church fetes were huge and most of the things on sale were hand-made. Confectionery was among the many appealing things available to buy and you got to know which ones you liked best. Toffee apples were a feature and so appealing with their bright red toffee coating and crisp healthy inside: do you think the healthiness of the apple offsets the sugar factor?

Even the lollies on sale at the corner store had some ceremony rather than being packaged up as they are today: they were stored in large glass bottles with silver lids, and our shop probably had about 10 jars. For most kids a treat involved being allowed to buy a small paper bay of lollies from the corner store and the ones I remember best are the hard heart-shaped ones which had messages written on them or the bright pink musk lolly twists. There was also a stick-jaw type mint stick with chocolate coating. What were they called?? These are the ones that have stuck in my mind along with the round gold-foil-wrapped Coconut Rough chocolates- now I can only taste the copha fat in them.

In another post I’ve talked about the Ekka and its role in the life of Brisbane children. It is inextricably linked with the show bags which were so fantastic in the 50s with all sorts of miniature and real-sized lollies and treats.  Not to mention those strawberry and ice cream cones. It’s difficult to convey the sheer excitement and anticipation of this wonderful event and the treats associated with it.

It’s not surprising that hand-crafted items, be they clothing, houseware, or food are regarded as luxury items now. Once they were “normal” but we’ve become so accustomed to the mass-produced goods that the old-style things are now luxurious because they’re less common.

Having said that, one of the quite surprising things about Darwin is that we have a fabulous pastry chef here at Kurt’s Cakes who works behind a glass wall of the Bar Espresso at the interestingly-named Ducks Nuts. Kurt makes wonderful, amazingly decorated cakes that add impact to a special event. We bought my daughter’s wedding cake from him and “special” birthdays also merit his special cakes. It’s also one of the comparatively few places in Darwin where a coffee shop offers a range of delicious sweet treats to go with coffee….thanks Kurt! Its location next to the city cinema is very clever!

We recently had a week in Provence and found the most heavenly cake-shop in Aix en Provence, L’instant thé Riederer …talk about lush. Heaven and decadence rolled into one. We sampled some but if we’d been there longer we’d have made it our mission to sample more.

Delicious sweet-treats in Aix en Provence

Whatever my age or where I live, a delicious cake or a tasty sweet-treat will always make my day!

BTW I’m now on the rampage for some good coconut ice and today’s wonderful Portugese custard tarts, or the ones from Chinatown in Sydney…but they’re all so far away ;-(

Darwin was Wiggled

A little over three weeks ago the Wiggles came to Darwin for the first time. It seemed like most of the under-fives in town went to one of the shows held at our new Darwin Convention Centre.

Two of the grandchildren, Master Four and Miss Three, were among the lucky attendees and had an absolutely fabulous time! Miss Three had to wear a particular swirly skirt so she could sing Hot Potato (with actions) then when fully dressed, well ahead of the time, sat on the front step calling out Wake up Geoff (one of their trademarks).

Since the concert we’ve been regaled with repeat performances of all aspects of the show. Master Four has role-played Anthony as compere, Murray with the guitar, Captain Feathersword and Geoff’s handstands. This week I became Dorothy –not sure why other than perhaps because I had on a green shirt.

Cricket bats and other racquets have been transformed into guitars for the performance. Miss Four was allowed to be a Wiggle (even though at first instance she needed to be a Wiggly dancer since she was a girl). The two of them together belted out Big Red Car and Hot Potato with Lights Camera Action being a big hit! They’ve had a great time, the two older cousins, role-playing their entertainment adventure. Master Nearly-Two blithely navigates their performances, stopping to pilfer the feather duster aka Captain Feathersword’s sword – or a wiggly dancer’s banner. 

The show’s success has been astounding and well-deserved I think. The kids love it and so do the adults – although waking up in the middle of the night with Big Red Car in your head can get a bit tedious.

My bat plant is flowering!

Bat plant in profile view

The bat plant shows its face.


No I haven’t lost the plot….my new bat plant (Tacca chanterii) that I only bought about 6 months ago, is flowering! Having seen it at last year’s Open Gardens I had to have one but rather expected to lose it through the Wet Season. It’s a tropical plant and supposedly difficult to grow, so you can imagine that I’m pretty happy that it’s flowering 

52 Weeks of Personal History & Genealogy -Week 12: Movies

This week’s topic in 52 weeks of personal history and genealogy is: Movies. Did (or do you still) see many movies? Describe your favorites. Where did you see these films? Is the theater still there, or is there something else in its place?

I’d been looking forward to the Movies question but as it happens it generated far more memories (and no shortage of questions) than I expected.

Many children “of my era” were routinely given a small amount of money and sent off to the Saturday afternoon “flicks”/movies at the neighbourhood picture theatre with allowance made for an ice cream or lollies as a treat. However, my memory is that I rarely went to the movies and I’m quite certain I didn’t go unaccompanied as my parents were quite particular in that way. There was a movie theatre on the main road at Kelvin Grove and this is where people went to see the current films. There was also a fish & chip shop nearby and I remember we sometimes got take-away from there, wrapped in newspaper. The Saturday afternoon matinee was mainly (I think) serials and news. The news reports were always done in a terribly British accent.

Until I was a teenager every movie show started with a short clip of the Queen trooping the Colours while “God Save the Queen” was played and everyone in the audience was expected to stand. As renegade uni students in the 60s we would defiantly sit through the playing of the national anthem. Now it’s impossible to imagine that anyone would think of playing the national anthem before a movie, and of course even if they did it wouldn’t be the Queen.

The neighbourhood theatre was largely used for the general circulation runs, sort of a pre-multiplex option. For bigger block-buster movies, people went into town to one of the bigger, and generally much flasher, theatres. The roar of the MGM lion was the prelude to many of the movies. The first movie I remember seeing was Fantasia which I saw in Brisbane city with my mother and great-aunt Emily. It was far too imaginative for me and frightened the wits out of me, so my first movie experience wasn’t a great success. That theatre survived in Albert St for many years but is no longer there.

As a young teenager, my first taste of movie freedom was to see an Elvis film (maybe Blue Hawaii?) and a Gidget film. I think the independence was more important than the film! I remember I saw those films at the old Tivoli theatre which was in King George Square. Not only is the movie theatre no longer there, the whole Square was transformed beyond recognition in the early 1970s when we were living in Papua New Guinea. There is a picture of this area on Picture Australia but it is copyrighted (Image BCC-B54-4329).

My Fair Lady programmeOne of the biggest block-busters was of course Sound of Music which I saw at the same theatre as Fantasia. Like most people I thought the movie was great fun, especially the dance sequences and the women’s formal dresses. It seems strange now to realise that every big movie had a printed booklet or type of programme on sale in the foyer. For anyone who could afford them, it was usual to buy one as a souvenir, and to save your ticket. Going to the movies was an “event” rather like a big concert today!

"MY Fair Lady" Programme

One particular theatre in Brisbane which was very classy was the Regent Theatre, which is still there though it has been modified into a multi-plex model. It was built in 1929 and its décor is quite amazing. This is what Wikipedia has to say about it: The Regent’s entrance foyer is on the narrow Queen Street site, and the auditorium was constructed on the broader site in Elizabeth Street. The original interior decoration was a mixture of Spanish Gothic and Romanesque. The mezzanine foyer contains a white marble staircase, made from Queensland marble, along with vaulted cathedral ceilings. A total of 2,600 patrons were able to be seated in air-conditioned comfort. However my illusions have just been shattered as googling for further information I have just learned that this theatre is now closed, to be destroyed for a 38 storey office block. Really Brisbane has never learned to preserve its heritage…we have absolute disregard for our unique icons, whether it’s the iron-laceworked Bellevue or the historic dancehall (and exam venue) Cloudland! 

http://www.ourbrisbane.com/suburbs/city-suburbs/regent-close. The YouTube video clearly shows the Regent’s emotional appeal for Brisbaneites.

My recollection is that the Regent had a sound shell for the pianist/orchestra, probably dating back to the silent movie era. I saw My Fair Lady here with my mother and it was quite a formal event. The Regent was one of the theatres where there were always usher(ettes) to show you to your seat. During the interval (and there was always one), the usherettes would come round with trays on which there were ice creams and lollies to purchase. Fantales, Jaffas  and later Maltesers were my favourite treats. It was all very civilised! Watching the YouTube clip on the link above reminded me that we had also taken our daughters there to see Bambi when they were young…half way through the show my husband had to go to the shop across the road to buy more tissues. We were always a hopeless family when it came to animal shows;-) Possibly the only family to ban Disney animal shows on TV!

You can see that the modern cinemas lack the character and drama of these old-style movie theatres.

When I moved to Alotau in Milne Bay, we used to go to the Cameron Club on a Friday night to see whatever movie was scheduled. The venue was partly open and the atmosphere was distinctly informal. As soon as the movie was finished we’d jump in the car and race home so we could boil the jug and have a coffee before the power went off at midnight (we had 18 hour power). To my surprise the Club is still there – described by Lonely Planet as a large cavernous space like a rugby clubhouse. But it was all we had for entertainment so who was complaining?!

In Port Moresby and later in Brisbane we very occasionally went to the drive-in, but with small children and limited baby-sitting options, we rarely went to the movies.

Darwin is famous for its Deckchair cinema, which like Broome’s outdoor theatre is “under the stars”.  I confess we rarely go there as somehow a late afternoon session suits us best and this means the multiplex. One of Darwin’s more aggravating habits is the tendency for movies to come and go with amazing rapidity –blink & you miss it! With all three cinemas showing pretty much the same programs, it’s all too easy to miss out on something you intended to see. It’s common, too, for ones you’ve seen reviewed and marked as “must see” to simply not arrive here.

Far too often these days my movie-watching is confined to in-flight entertainment, so if I’m not flying I don’t keep up with the current releases.

And so to my “faves”, which I might add are not deep-and-meaningful and indeed are mostly pedestrian. These are the ones I watch again and again on DVD.

84 Charing Cross Road: for Helene Hanff’s sassy New York attitude and the stoic Britishness of those at the bookshop. But WHY did she wait so long to go across the Pond?  Didn’t she know travel is as important as new teeth and a brownstone?

Hopscotch: A younger Walter Mathau and Glenda Jackson in a Cold War movie which is something of a spoof. We love it.

Out of Africa: While the others in the Ladies cried over the death of Robert Redford, I was crying about the servant left behind and waiting faithfully, and fruitlessly, for her to send for him. Don’t care about the cinematic bloopers that some kind soul emphasised for me, I just love it.

Top Gun: hot shot pilots, great music, quotable quotes, and Tom Cruise (before he dumped our Nic), and my daughter’s “embarrassing moment” during the beach volleyball scene!

You’ve Got Mail: For killing my ambition to own a small bookshop.

When Harry met Sally: so many quotable quotes, plus the scenery …but that bizarre female dating behaviour…

My Fair Lady –for the music and those magnificent costumes.

Dr Zhivago and Reds – for the historical era, the drama, scenery and the cold!

Other memories:

Seeing Hawaii with a new boyfriend in the front rows. I don’t think he enjoyed the birth sceneJ

Casino Royale with my future husband and being given a friendship brooch.

Papillon as an anniversary outing in Moresby –ugh –probably the only movie we’ve walked out on.

Born on the 4th of July with Tom Cruise: Sobering for the Vietnam generation. I think he did a good job on this one.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner: In Sydney as a teenager.

Outings with other holiday workers from Pellegrinis book store–when the boys would roll Jaffas down the floor –the other customers must have hated us! Typical silly teenager behaviour really.

And lots, lots more. I love movies –they’re one of my favourite forms of entertainment!!!

Driving down the Track -St Patrick’s Day 2011

On Thursday and Friday we celebrated St Patrick’s Day with a little round-trip jaunt of some 1600kms “Down the Track” as it’s known locally, or officially the Stuart Highway, towards Alice Springs. Actually the only connection is that when we finally arrived at our destination in Daly Waters, the pub had “Happy St Paddy’s Day” written on the bar refrigerators and a couple of Irish (and 1 American) bar-tending backpackers!

 So what’s so intriguing about driving down the Track? Usually when we do this trip we’re on a 3000+km trip interstate so it was pleasant to be able to do it without the deadline of many miles to cover. It was actually quite therapeutic having been cooped up in Darwin for the past five months while we’ve experienced a record Wet Season rainfall of over 2.5 metres leaving us feeling like we should swim down the track, not drive.  Coincidentally this surpasses the previous record from the year we arrived in the Territory. 

As we set off on Thursday the fog hung over the road making it look like a wintery day…very strange. The huge rainfalls mean the Territory is looking green and beautiful with water along the sides of the road, huge billabongs visible in the bush, water over the road in some parts and a slalom course of potholes. We didn’t expect to see much wildlife thinking that they’d have plenty of tucker and water without coming too close to the road. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case and there were quite a few small wallabies that had fallen foul of passing trucks or vehicles, as well as a dingo and a large snake which was providing a great meal for some whistling kites (hawks).

A billabong along the way -beautiful reflections

Each time we stopped to take photos, the bush was alive with the sound of bird-song. It was absolutely brilliant!  We saw heaps of varieties along the way including white cockatoos, red-tailed black cockatoo, kookaburras, magpie geese, a jabiru and rainbow bee-eaters (quite my favourite bird along with pelicans). However the big sight for the day was a turkey bustard by the roadside. They are really big birds and we’ve only ever seen one before. (My daughter wasn’t so lucky a few years back when one slammed into her windscreen on a bush track – didn’t do the windscreen or the bird much good).

The biggest hazard, apart from those potholes and a short aquaplane on one watery section, was all the birds that wanted to hang out on the warm bitumen as dusk approached. Birds are always a small hazard since they’re not going to harm you but I really hate hitting one, so with little traffic on the road we were able to be birdlife-friendly:  apart from one little brown bird (LBB) which came from nowhere straight at us. The rainbow bee-eaters were sitting in small flocks on the road so I was most anxious to avoid them: there must have been insects at ground level.

Our drive was also quite meditative watching the kilometres unwind before us. There was very little traffic on the road making it a major change from Dry Season driving which involves slaloming around what feels like a bazillion backpackers and grey nomads on the move in caravans and campervans. As the Highway is a two-lane road only for the vast majority of its length, overtaking can be tricky at speed and you need a good line of sight. On Thursday, over 970kms we passed 1 car, 1 campervan, and in close succession a triple road train and another road train transporting two halves of a demountable house. Naturally I was the lucky winner of the pass-the-road-train competition. Himself seems to miss out on this fun, but Friday it caught up with him when he also had two to pass! So what’s so challenging about this you might ask. Well a road train is an articulated lorry (in UK-speak) with two, three or four trailers. It used to be that you mostly saw three trailers but it seems reasonably common now to see four trailers, especially on road trains transporting petrol. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Road_train).

Road train at Daly Waters

 Given the length of a road train (over 50 metres long) they take an inordinate amount of time and distance to pass even at speed and you learn to be very “sensible” before launching into overtaking. They certainly deserve a driver’s respect. This is a picture of one outside the Daly Waters road house with our XTrail in front of it.

Road train at Daly Waters with X Trail for size comparison

 There were actually very few of them around this trip because the three main access roads were cut by flooding so the only route available was Darwin to the Three Ways or Tennant Creek (a distance of some 1100kms).  I would not want to be on the Track once they all get clearance and are in a rush to get to Darwin having lost several days travel time. They’re very good drivers as a general rule and like the TV Promo “we share the road, we share the safety”, but they’re still scary to have to pass. As a diversionary sideline, until January 2007, the Territory had no speed limit on the open road. Now the speed limit is 130 kph  except through small towns and settlements (as far as I know the highest speed limit in Australia, but I could be corrected on that).

 The road is also historic: there are the explorers, especially John McDouall Stuart, and the Overland Telegraph people who “opened” up the route. All along the road there are signs to World War II airstrips, and the odd military hospital, as this part of Australia was a primary defence line for the Pacific element of WWII. After the bombing of Darwin in 1942 this was taken particularly seriously. The Territory remains one of Australia’s primary defence locations with a number of Defence bases, and partly explains the generally excellent standard of the Stuart Highway.

 Along the 1500kms of the Stuart Highway from Darwin to Alice Springs, there are only two small towns – Katherine and Tennant Creek, and a few smaller settlements of varying appeal (Elliott continues to look daggier each time we go through while Mataranka seems to have improved in appearance with the new alcohol restrictions). Virtually all other stops are very small or just highway petrol stations combined with accommodation.

The super weird whirlpools we saw:

The waterhole was tranquil but the whirlpools were rather scary.


I’ll put some of my photos on my Flickr site for anyone who’d like to see more of the scenery.  http://www.flickr.com/photos/cassmob/

Our records for the trip:

Most exciting bird sighting: Turkey bustard

Most beautiful birds: Rainbow bee-eaters

“Best” driver: the bloke with his leg up on the dashboard and no hands in sight. Hopefully he had the 4WD on cruise control and steering with at least one finger.

Scariest moment: aquaplaning on the water over the road (yes, going too fast as it came up quickly)

Most beautiful scenery: the billabongs in the bush with long grass waving nearby.

Silliest Skippy: the small kangaroo that kept hopping along the road in front of us instead of going bush!

Prettiest trees:  Melaleucas covered in white and lime-green flowers.

Weirdest sighting: Two swirling whirlpools as water from one waterway was sucked under a culvert to that on the other side.

Biggest Omission: Not seeing that there were two pelicans around the dam where I’d photographed a big mob of cattle –until I got home and looked at the photos!

Funniest: Watching the frilled neck lizard (frilly) run, in his pre-historic way, into the bush.

52 weeks of Personal history & genealogy: Week 11: Injuries and Illness

Well I’m behind the eight-ball this week!

Week 11’s challenge in Amy Coffin and Geneablogger’s 52 weeks of Personal history and genealogy is “Illness and Injury”. Describe your childhood illnesses or injuries. Who took care of you? Did you recuperate in your own bed, on the couch in front of the television, or somewhere else?

I have to say I’ve been very fortunate and had very few illnesses and even fewer injuries in my childhood.  When I grew up it was common for kids to run the gauntlet of the routine infectious diseases: measles, chicken pox, German measles and mumps as there were not yet immunisations for them.  Inevitably I went through measles and chicken pox as a child and the only odd thing was that I caught measles three times. Each time my mother called the doctor for a defined diagnosis hoping that it would be German measles, which I didn’t have until I was an adult.

TB was tested for and I recall the school nurse coming to “punch” our arms with a strange circular needle that looked a little like a modern computer connector. The wound was then inspected some time later to see if you already had immunity. As I recall I did and then didn’t have the immunisation.  The Salk vaccine was brought in when I was at primary school and I remember getting the spoonful of liquid to prevent polio. We knew what polio was in those days and occasionally saw children who had suffered from this disease.  In fact we had a young boy in the class below me who’d had it but recovered very well – he played a “mean” game of tennis! Treatment previously had been with the use of the iron lung, but Sister Elizabeth Kenny, an Australian former military nurse developed a more effective, less invasive treatment. http://www.cloudnet.com/~edrbsass/poliohistory.htm

Like many kids I had my tonsils out and this was a very scary experience. My surgery was done at the Mater hospital and it was quite frightening to be left alone at the hospital. I still remember the chloroform anaesthetic –most unpleasant. While the general view as that you could eat as much ice cream and jelly as you liked while recovering, this didn’t work for me because I caught chicken pox (or was it one of those measles attacks, not sure?) at the same time and was quite ill. My mother always looked after me at home when I was sick like this, giving me all her attention, but my grandmother would also visit from next door to check on how I was going. While much of the recuperation was bed-rest I seem to think I was sometimes resting on the lounge. I have a fond memory of Dad bringing me home a special photo book to read when I was sick like this –there were some Bible story comics which I enjoyed.  Basically I was very happy to get something to read. Television had not yet arrived so lounging in front of the TV wasn’t an option.

The only injury I had was a three inch cut in my leg when a bike pedal cut my shin. I had to be carried home by the father of the children I was playing with and from there went to hospital for stitches. A very uneventful childhood injury I’m pleased to say.

Thinking on this topic made me reflect on how many illnesses have vanished from public memory and community sight.  In those post-War days it was common to see men missing limbs, blind or handicapped in some way –or just plain drunk, quite understandably. They would often be selling newspapers on the corners of the city’s streets, perhaps because it was the only work they could get. It’s very sad and depressing to think how they would have been young men, who’d gone off fit and healthy but no longer had prospects or good health. Women (and it usually seemed to be women) were often seen with huge thyroid goitres in their throats. These are things you just don’t see any more.

Other women had “blue babies” –babies lost to illness soon after birth.  Scientists eventually found that this was attributable to the Rh negative factor where a woman with Rh- blood had a child to a man with Rh+ blood. The clash of blood groups could result in the loss of the child. Some years ago I was astonished to meet and become friends with a fellow family historian who had been on the research team to discover this. These days, women with Rh- blood are routinely given an injection to control the “conflict” and ultimately it’s possible to do a blood transfusion.  This condition meant that a mother might have her first child quite successfully but subsequent pregnancies would fail as her body had built up immunity to the baby’s “foreign” blood group. This is my simplistic understanding of it. I’m sure there are other readers who could clarify it for us. However I remember in my early family history being told that when you see a family with only one child, to consider this possibility.  http://pregnancy.about.com/od/rhfactor/a/Rh-Factor-in-Pregnancy.htm

Australian convict history in London – a memorial (aka Plaque in park)

Towards the end of 2010, my husband and I were in London for the final week of an overseas holiday. We had made various plans for the day ahead, but a beautifully clear and sunny day caused us to revise our plans and we decided ultimately to stroll across Vauxhall Bridge towards Westminster. Shortly after crossing the Thames we came to this unprepossessing park and happend to notice a plaque on a ballard which we stopped to look at. We were so surprised to discover that it commemorated the departure point for “all” prisoners who were transported to Australia  -departing from nearby Millbank Prison. http://www.victorianlondon.org/prisons/millbankprison.htm

The plaque states:

London County Council

Near this site stood Millbank Prison which was opened in 1816 and closed in 1880. This buttress stood at the head of the river steps from which until 1867, prisoners sentenced to transportation embarked on their journey to Australia.

This was especially exciting for my husband since he had a young convict ancestor, James McKenna, who had been transported after the relatively “modern” and tolerant re-training at Pentonville Prison.  http://www.cultureandrecreation.gov.au/articles/convicts/

James McKenna’s mother, Elizabeth and his siblings emigrated to Australia almost immediately after his transportation so it seems they may have made arrangements to come as soon as his sentence was passed. Although the family originated in Ireland, they had been living in Melbourn, Cambridgeshire for some time previous to his offence.

Clare County Library

As you can see from one of my blog pages, I have an interest in emigration to Australia from East Clare, and in particular from Broadford, Parish of Kilseily. The Clare library site has been an invaluable tool in my research.

This week is Library Ireland Week with the slogan “Smart Libraries for Smart People” so this is an opportune time to post on why I am so in love with Clare County Library and the adjacent Local Studies Centre. While many Irish counties seem to give little thought to history and genealogy for those with Irish roots, Clare County Library has been making its presence known to those with Clare ancestry – and most amazingly in the Irish context, free-of-charge. Their forward-thinking deserves all the kudos it can get!  http://www.clarelibrary.ie/index.htm

Over the past perhaps 10 years or so they have been steadily increasing the information available on their genealogy and history pages (but don’t forget to look at the others “tabs” available. http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclare/genealogy/genealog.htm and http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclare/history/intro.htm

This is another achievement for family history volunteers as much of what is on there has been transcribed by people around the world. Specified formats are used for each source and cross-checked prior to publication. This helps to ensure optimal accuracy. It also tends to mean that the people transcribing the records probably have a fairly good idea of the place names etc, and care whether they are right. These are not mass-indexed publications by people who have no idea of the people, names or places they’re indexing.

So what might you find on the library website? There are:

  • An index to townlands in Clare
  • An index to all Clare parishes
  • Indexed Griffith Valuation records and Tithe Applotment records, searchable by name or parish
  • Maps of the parishes throughout Clare as they apply to the above.
  • Digitised copies of the Griffith Valuation maps that previously had to be viewed in Dublin
  • Historical reference books of travel through Clare
  • Gazetteers
  • Information on the Great Famine
  • The Bodyke and Kilrush evictions
  • 1901 census data for Clare, searchable by name or parish
  • Some graveyard transcriptions
  • Some transcribed parish records (complete or partial). My only concern about these is whether there are publication or copyright issues around the transcriptions.

While some of this information has been overtaken by official government releases, or commercial organisations, this remains a free-to-view site. It really is a wonderful site for any with Clare ancestry, and could provide background information for other Irish research as well.

The Clare Local Studies Project (CLASP) has written a large number of the historical background “stories” for the library site but they have also printed books available to order, which can provide wonderful background information for your family. http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/library/local-studies/clasp/index.htm. For example, Sable Wings over the Land highlights the impact of the Famine on one area.

There’s also some information detailing an action plan for those lucky enough to visit Clare and Ireland: http://www.ourlibrary.ca/phpbb2/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=1548. Paddy Casey’s tips are excellent and a great boon to anyone going to Ireland.

As a disclaimer, I have no official involvement in the Clare County Library, nor do I receive any benefit other than that available to all researchers.  I just want to keep singing their praises! If your family come from other counties you are much less fortunate, sorry.