Sunday 23 August 2020

Cape York Castaway

The astonishing and little known story of Narcisse Pelletier, a French cabin boy cast away in 1858 on the Daintree coast of North Queensland has in recent years come to the notice of historians and history buffs. Now ten years after historian Stephanie Anderson published her amazing book on Pelletier, a new book by journalist Robert Macklin has recently been published on the story of this castaway. The new book tells the story of the 14-year-old Narcisse Pelletier who sailed from Marseilles in the French trader ‘Saint-Paul’. With a cargo of Bordeaux wine, they stopped in Bombay, then to Hong Kong from there they sailed with more than three hundred Chinese prospectors bound for the goldfields of Ballarat and Bendigo. However, around the eastern tip of New Guinea, the ship became engulfed in fog, struck reefs and ran aground. After a perilous voyage in a longboat, crossing almost an thousand kilometres of the Coral Sea, young Narcisse was abandoned on the north Queensland coast by his shipmates and left for dead. He was rescued by the local Aboriginal people and for seventeen years he lived with them and learnt much of their culture until in 1875 he was discovered by the crew of a pearling lugger and wrenched from his Aboriginal family and taken back to his 'real' life in France. An amazing story from a time before the north was changed forever by the coming of the white man in search for gold.

Tuesday 2 June 2020

Midwife history

A recently published history that might interest those with a medical background is 'Neither Mischievous nor Meddlesome: the remarkable lives of North Queensland’s independent midwives 1890-1940’.  This fascinating new book by Townsville historian, Trisha Fielding tells the story of the North Queensland women who tirelessly devoted their lives to the service of others as midwifes.  Today they are largely forgotten by the communities in which they lived and worked.  Even though doctors at that time thought many of these midwives were mischievous and meddlesome, it was these women who dominated in the provision of midwifery services in the North.  It was also these women who built and operated many of the private general hospitals and conducted lying-in hospitals from their own homes, all before the advent of government-funded maternity hospitals.  This book examines the courageous lives of these women who quietly went about their duties with dignity and grace, though they were often faced with the same pioneering challenges as their patients – the perils of childbirth, loneliness and isolation, and frequent tragedy.  Congratulations to Trisha Fielding, this is another great achievement.

Sunday 31 May 2020

Blackbirding tale

For those seeking some historic fiction to escape these difficult times, then John Singe new book may interest you.  John has written a number of books on the history of the Torres Strait along with a couple of stories using his adventurer 'Duncan Ross' to tell a rollicking saga of adventure and intrigue set against the colonial rivalry of the great powers in the South Pacific.  This story starts with his Duncan Ross, a placid clerk, receiving a letter from Queensland which plucks him from his humdrum life on the Sydney wharves and is dispatched on a secret mission to the South Seas where he encounters brutal blackbirders, fierce cannibals and a resurgent Ku Klux Klan fixed on recreating the cotton plantations of the Old South in the far reaches of the Pacific.  From the crystalline lagoons of the Coral Sea to the pearling grounds of the Torres Strait the story's hero charts an erratic course between duty and self-preservation.  Kidnapped and castaway the desperate Duncan finally pitches up on the coast of the unknown New Guinea where he is plunged headlong into the midst of savagery and danger. A rollicking read to while away a few hours while stuck at home. 

Friday 8 May 2020

New Port Douglas History

Mr Noel Weare of the Douglas Shire Historical Society, recently presented his latest book at the Mossman Library where it was launched by the shire Mayor Julia Leu.  Entitled 'This Upstart Port Douglas - A different view of Port Douglas, as reported by newspapers between 1873 and 1911.'  This new book contains some 95 actual newspaper reports from the days of the old cedar-getters of 1873 to reports from the disastrous 1911 cyclone which destroyed some fifty houses out of the 57 which made up the town at that time.  While researching the district's local history over many years, Noel found one of the most useful internet resources to be the National Library of Australia's Trove digitized newspapers website.  Certain caveats apply of course, and like the press of today, all their reported information has to be viewed in a discretionary manner, but from another point of view maybe these newspaper editions give rise to accurate time stamps.  It seems to Noel then that the time-line of events can be read by using the actual text of theses digitized images, sometimes partial fragments, together with his own historical comments and attached notes.  An interesting new way to view a history and a good read to save you from Netflix in this time of corona-virus lock-down. 

Saturday 4 April 2020

Douglas Shire Historical Society

The Douglas Shire Historical Society announced that their Court House Museum in Port Douglas is temporarily closed in response to the current pandemic as Museums and Galleries QLD is encouraging all volunteer-run museums to colse to the public.  These recommendations recognise that volunteer groups are largely comprised of an older demographic and refer to the risk to which older people are exposed to if they contract the coronavirus.  They are sorry to inconvenience their visitors.  The meeting scheduled for Monday 6 April has also been cancelled due to current health advisories.  Hopefully in this year, the group will try to achieve a Queensland Heritage Register listing for the 'Dixie's Shed' (the former Customs Boat House for which Dixie May was Port Douglas' last employee there) which, together with the Douglas Shire Council, the Society were able to save from demolition by the then owner Queensland Fisheries in 2015.  For any queries, please e-mail the Society.

Cairns Historical Society

The Cairns Historical Society's Research Centre and Museum is closed to the public from 24 March 2020.  Rest assured they are still working.  If you have a history research or photographic request, please e-mail and they will follow it up.  The next set of local history lectures which was to be held on the 18 April has had to be cancelled because of the Covid19.  These lectures will still be presented when it is appropriate for the Local History lecture series to resume.  Nominations are still being called for this year's SE Stephens History Award with the closing date being the end of June.  The Museum will be working to shift their child-friendly activities online.  So please keep an eye on their social feeds and on the website for updates.  They will keep you informed but due to the rapidly changing nature of the situation, they are not announcing a re-opening date at this time and will provide update on a week-to-week basis on their website and social media channels.  Keep an eye on these pages as they are exploring a range of ways to stay in contact and to save you all from Netflix.  

Thursday 2 April 2020

Cooktown Historical Society

The Cooktown History Centre will close their doors to the public for the foreseeable future.  This does not mean that they won't be manning their e-mails or taking research requests or book orders.  Those volunteers who wish to and feel well, will continue to work behind the close doors.  The Cooktown Historical Society apologises in advance for the inconvenience but are sure you all will understand.  It has also been announced that the big Cooktown Exop 2020 will be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.  Plans are under way for the rescheduled of the event which was to be held in July to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the landing of Captain James Cook and the first recorded act of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.