Of Reading and Religion


R2020Reading for me is like food and water – an essential experience in life, and one I can’t imagine being without. I’m so grateful to my dad for sharing his love of reading with me. Not because we shared books but because I saw his example of reading being a pleasure even though, in retrospect, I suspect he was somewhat dyslexic. Similarly, I love seeing my grandson being immersed in a book and not lifting his eyes when the end is in sight.

My mother was never much of a reader which is strange because she liked to write some poetry and little children’s stories. To her, reading was a waste of time away from tasks and hobbies, unless it was reading something religious. Dad combined both by bringing me bible story comics when I was sick.

Religion is a hot button topic for many people and a source of great contention for many people. These days I’m sitting on the barbed wire fence on the topic even though (or because) I was firmly embedded in the Catholic religion when growing up.

Pauleen newspapers 1980s (2)
Weekend reading in the pre-digital era.

 

Ancestors and Reading

Maryborough Chronicle 17 Oct 1878
Nord Australischer Glaubenseifer. (1878, October 17). Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser (Qld. : 1860 – 1947), p. 3. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article148529577

I wonder whether reading was important to any of my ancestors. I can’t imagine not being able to read as many of my early Irish ancestors couldn’t. It seems likely George Kunkel could have read at least the news because he was a regular signatory to government petitions, yet would he have had any German literature available to him? Did he subscribe to the German language newspaper, Die Nord Australische Zeitung, which was published in Australia or could he not afford it? Luckily at least some articles found their way into the local English newspapers. Did family members perhaps send him a book or two? Was there a German-language lending library anywhere or did he bring a couple of books with him when he emigrated? So many questions and so few answers. The reality is probably that all of my immigrant ancestors were so busy working long hours to establish themselves that the hobby and pleasure of reading just didn’t fit into their day.

I think, too, that they cultivated the power of memory more than perhaps we do. Dad could rattle off verses of poetry, whereas that was a skill beyond me. Did they learn them at school and never forget?

We never stop reading, although every book comes to an end, just as we never stop living, although death is certain. Roberto Bolano, Chilean writer

Ancestors and Religion

Sandon church and pub
Sandon Church of England where my Kent ancestors worshipped,  and the old Six Bells public house © Pauleen Cass 1992

Mostly religion is much more clear-cut for my ancestors: they fitted neatly into mainly two categories. The Irish were Roman Catholics and the Scots were Church of Scotland or later Presbyterian. A couple wavered between Baptist, Methodist and Church of England. Ironically, my maternal, Catholic, branch includes as many non-Catholics as Catholics, while my non-Catholic paternal side has just as much representation of Catholics.

True religion is real living; living with all one’s soul, with all one’s goodness and righteousness. Albert Einstein, German physicist.

Kilmorich Parish Church.
Kilmorich Parish Church at Cairndow where my McCorkindale ancestors worshipped. My great-grandmother Isabella’s grave is on the right side of the path.

The truly sad thing is how religion could divide families. My father was a non-Catholic and I am appalled now to think how much he was humbugged, including by me, to come to the Catholic church with us and how his entire home environment was filled with Catholic iconography. On his death bed he told me he wasn’t religious but he had faith. Amen! My grandfather refused to attend his daughter’s wedding in the Methodist church in Brisbane, Dad’s cousins reportedly would not attend his wedding in the Catholic church or act as groomsmen. My paternal grandfather, from a long line of Catholics, lost contact with most of his siblings after he left the church so that while I have myriad second cousins on that line I knew nothing about them until, by coincidence, one was in my class at high school and recognised my surname. Similarly visits by my grandmother’s Presbyterian siblings and children generated angst if I jumped the fence (literally and figuratively) to go and see them. I’m so grateful that second cousins on both my Catholic and Presbyterian lines have reached out over the years and we’ve regenerated the links and friendships that were lost. If all that reads very cynically you can see why I sit on that barbed wire fence today.

Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair. G.K. Chesterton, British writer.

Ancestors, Religion and Community

New and Old Catholic church Murphys Creek DDG 15 June 1895 p5 and 6
FUNCTION AT MURPHY’S CREEK. (1895, June 15). Darling Downs Gazette (Qld. : 1881 – 1922), p. 5. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article171383494

In those very early days of pioneering settlement, families played a huge role in bringing churches to their communities. Similarly, the clergy of all denominations rode long miles across the colony to visit their parishioners, sometimes marrying couples and baptising their children at the same time. Oftentimes, the members of all churches contributed to funds for the building of another church…they were all in it together to develop their communities.

Lists of donations to church building were published in the newspapers and while I was lucky enough to find some pre-digitisation, Trove has certainly made it so much easier to find them and get a sense of where they fitted in the community’s financial structure.

Community gatherings celebrated the opening of churches and of course the women were pivotal in organising and feeding people at these events.

DSC_0237
The old decommissioned church from Murphys Creek now on a rural block at Upper Laidley. Photo copyright P Cass 2011.

I was surprised how often I’ve blogged about religion over the past 10 years but you can find any by entering “religion” in the search bar on the top right of the page. Perhaps the most relevant is another post here or religion in Papua New Guinea here.

When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the creator. Mahatma Gandhi, Indian leader.

 Religion played a pivotal role in my life for many years and reading has been a constant thread thoughout my life.

Was religion an important part of your ancestors’ lives?

And for the family historians who love to unearth an epitaph for their ancestors – an amusing, ironic quote:

Reading the epitaphs, our only salvation lies in resurrecting the dead and burying the living. Paul Eldridge, American educator.

 

 

 

Author: cassmob

I'm a Queenslander by birth and after nearly 20 years in the Northern Territory I've returned to my home state. I've been researching my Queensland ancestors for nearly 30 years and like most Aussies I'm a typical "mongrel" with English, Irish, Scottish and German ancestry.

7 thoughts on “Of Reading and Religion”

  1. It is interesting that my post is also about religion (the Bush Brotherhood), all because I found my mother’s Baptism Card signed by a member of the Bush Brotherhood in 1920 in Charleville. I also recalled a Neville Shute book about a member of the BB.

    The strong division in families over Catholic v Protestant has certainly waned. It caused much heartbreak and division. Organised religion does not have a place in my life but I do find its effects on society to be fascinating.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Mercifully those days of religious division have waned…they did indeed cause grief in a variety of ways…hard to believe today isn’t it? Fascinating about the Bush Brotherhood certificate.

      Like

  2. I feel sad when I read on a baptism record that one or both of the parents couldn’t read or write. My 3x ggm was Irish Catholic and she fell in love with a Protestant, she was forbidden by her parents to see. They eloped to Canada. She could not read, but used to tell her grandchildren stories. When she could no longer go out to church as often her son would go every night to her house and read to her from the Bible.
    My mom used to read chapter books to us at night. I was so excited when I could read for myself, being a visual person. My favourite place to read was on the top bunk in my room at our cottage during a rain and thunder storm. Now I like to read in bed before sleeping and because of some medical issues I have I can’t hold a book or my iPad so I read on my phone. Me too I always have a few books ahead. When I broke my shoulder last fall I found a new to me author and read 8 books in 12 days! I haven’t done that since my kids were little haha!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. She was a brave woman to elope at that time and all the way across the seas. So sweet that her son repaid the joy she’d given him by reading to her. Reading is a joy!

      Like

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