2b — Irish

NOTE: Recent family history research has William Whitfield aged 10 on arrival in the colony, as indeed he is in the “Thames” passenger list. Also, it appears Jacob Whitfield’s first wife, Mary, was Goss not Gowrie.

Posted originally on March 17, 2015 by Neil.

As you may recall my father’s family descended from an Irish convict who arrived in Sydney 10 March 1822, and his son who joined him age 14 (or 10) as a free settler in 1826. They came from this bit of Ireland, or nearby:


I am not sure where they would have stood on St Patrick’s Day – which is of course today. See National Museum of Australia.

St Patrick’s Day has always been the day for the Irish in Australia. On 17 March 1795 there were rowdy festivities among the Irish convicts, and the cells were filled with prisoners. Later the occasion gained in respectability, marked by formal dinners attended by the colonial elite, many with no Irish connections.

By the early 20th century, parades were held in capital cities and rural centres. These were demonstrations of connections with an Irish Catholic past, or support for Irish political causes.

Today, St Patrick’s Day in Australia has evolved into a fun day marked by revelry, green beer and comical hats. On that day, some say, there are only two kinds of people — those who are Irish, and those who wish they were.

While “the wearing of the green” apparently commemorates the United Irishmen of the late 18th century, many of whose leaders were Protestants, it is now rather associated with the Catholic majority. My ancestors were not Catholic, presumably descended from the 17th century Plantations. They certainly lived in the Six Counties. The picture above is near Cootehill in County Cavan.

Whatever, I refer you to an item in today’s Sydney Morning Herald:

From its humble St James Gate brewery beginnings in Dublin to its position as one of the world’s most recognised beer brands, the black brew with the stark white head can come with some turf wars. Some Guinness enthusiasts may cry “It tastes better in Ireland!”, but the black stuff is now brewed in more than 55 countries and the distinction is best settled from pub to pub.

Sydney’s raft of Irish pubs may lay claim to the best Guinness in town, but it’s sometimes in the spots you least suspect it that the black nectar finds its best expressions. Sydney’s pubs host a wealth of bartenders serious about their Guinness pouring but, in the end, the cream rises to the top.

Surry Hills pub The Porterhouse heads the list. Now that brings back memories!

Sunday lunch was at the Porter House

Posted on December 14, 2008 by Neil

How long have we been coming here, I asked Sirdan. We couldn’t remember for sure, but suspect it may go back to last century… It certainly goes back to 2000 or 2001, as I recall The Rabbit coming here… This is a real Irish Pub with real Irish people, and a great $12 Sunday roast.

3 — 1835-6 — Whitfields

NOTE: Recent family history research has William Whitfield aged 10 on arrival in the colony, as indeed he is in the “Thames” passenger list. Also, it appears Jacob Whitfield’s first wife, Mary, was Goss not Gowrie.

Posted originally on January 11, 2015 by Neil.

This series of posts is the most comprehensive I have done on family history. I am doing them backwards here so that in due course they will appear sequentially.

Or thereabouts. Very significant for Victoria:

On 10 May 1835 John Batman set sail in the 30-tonne schooner ‘Rebecca’ on behalf of the Association to explore Port Phillip for land. After entering Port Phillip Bay on 29 May, Batman and his party anchored their ship a short distance from the heads and made several excursions through the countryside. On 6 June, at Merri Creek near what is now Northcote, Batman purchased 600,000 acres of land, including the sites of both Melbourne and Geelong, from eight Aboriginal chiefs. The Government later cancelled this purchase and, as a result, had to compensate the Port Phillip Association.

On 8 June 1835, Batman and his party rowed up the Yarra River and landed near the site of the former Customs House (now the Immigration Museum). John Batman recorded in his journal: “about six miles up, found the river all good water and very deep. This will be the place for a village.” Batman left three white men of his party and five Aborigines from New South Wales behind with instructions to build a hut and commence a garden, and returned to Launceston to report to his association.

Do see James Boyce’s excellent 1835: The founding of Melbourne and the conquest of Australia. (That’s a very left-wing review; it really is a great book.)

And another noteworthy event of this era: 1834 – Six English farm labourers (Tolpuddle Martyrs) sentenced to transportation to the Colony for organising trade union activities.

The population (non-Aboriginal, and rounded figures) of Australia in the decades we have come thus far was: c. 1815 – 25,000; c. 1825 – 35,000; c.1835 – 128,000. The present population of Wollongong is c. 282,000.

This was an interesting decade for my Whitfield ancestors. The convict Jacob got his Ticket of Leave in March 1834.

Then, as I have noted before:

[Jacob] witnessed the wedding on 20 June 1836 at St Andrews Presbyterian Church of William Whitfield and Caroline Philadelphia West, along with the other witnesses Maria Burgess and William Burgess. On 18 September 1836 (yes, I can count!) the baptism is recorded at St James Church, King Street, of William Joseph John Whitfield, son of William and Caroline. William gave his profession as carpenter, and his address as Elizabeth Street. The child had been born on August 14. (By the way, it snowed in Sydney on June 28 1836.)


At that wedding the minister most likely would have been John McGarvie, the second Presbyterian minister in colonial Sydney. The much better known John Dunmore Lang was around at the time, but at Scots Church. Lang had arrived in Sydney a year after Jacob, became a member of the NSW Parliament, and died in Sydney in 1878. The baptism on the other hand was in the Church of England. St James’s remains a very notable part of Sydney’s architecture and life.

Jacob Whitfield had a bit of an adventure in 1834:


The story goes on:

Deneen was not in the room at the time of the robbery, and he was not at all like the man whom complainant gave into his charge; the man was a stranger to him, and afterwards left the house. Whitfield was again examined,and swore positively to the prisoner Coch-rane, but knew nothing of Deneen. There being no evidence against Deneen, the Magistrates discharged him, and committed Cochrane, to take his trial for the offence. As soon as Cochrane had been removed from the bar, Whitfield was placed in the dock, and sentenced to be confined in a solitary cell for seven days, for being in a  public-house tippling on Sunday. The Magistrates, Messrs. Slade and Benington,also remarked that they considered the conduct of the publican highly reprehensible, in not taking the fellow into custody who robbed the old man, and stated, that it was not only the duty of publicans as special constables, to assist in the apprehension of robbers, but any Citizen was bound to do so, and uphold the laws of England.

Yes, by now Jacob had been assigned to his son William! The source is the Sydney Herald, 2 October 1834.

Jacob may never have been in the following pub, but I and my friend Sirdan and his friend Penny were in 2010:

Yes, that is the Surveyor-General Inn at Berrima, NSW, established in 1834 and licensed in 1835 – the oldest continuously licensed pub in Australia. Jacob’s children, who ended up in the County of Camden,  may well have called in — as has this great-great-great grandson more than once.

26: Whitfields, Christisons, and more — 1915

Posted originally on February 18, 2015 by Neil

This series of posts is the most comprehensive I have done on family history. I am doing them backwards here so that in due course they will appear sequentially.

In Shellharbour the home front for my family was a sad place in 1915, as posted in More Whitfield family history last year.

My uncle, Colin Whitfield

Obviously I never knew him, nor he me, though when I was in high school I used an Algebra textbook that was in our house, inscribed with his name. This is such a sad story. I had never before seen this detailed version, though it confirms the oral accounts I have had of that dreadful tragedy back in Shellharbour in 1915. Illawarra Mercury 9 April 1915.


My grandfather and grandmother had already lost two other sons, Aubrey (1893-1906) and Thomas W (1906-1906).

They went with…

As well as giving basic enlistment and embarkation information, the AIF Project also has rolls of the units soldiers belonged to. Norman Whitfield was in Australian Naval & Military Expeditionary Force (Tropical Unit), F Company in August 1914, but listed as Thomas, then 1st Battalion, 7th Reinforcement in July 1915. David Bellford (sic) Christison was in 1st Field Company Engineers, Reinforcement 13 from Sydney, New South Wales on board HMAT A35 Berrima on 17 December 1915.


HMAT A35 Berrima

Ken Whitfield in 3rd Battalion, 25th Reinforcement leaving Sydney 31 October 1917.  One name among his companions leapt out at me: ULM, Charles Thomas Phillippe, Mosman, New South Wales.  Yes, that Charles Ulm, later friend and colleague of Charles Kingsford-Smith, pioneer aviators.

Charles Thomas Philippe Ulm (1898-1934), aviator, was born on 18 October 1898 at Middle Park, Melbourne, third son of Emile Gustave Ulm, a Parisian-born artist, and his Victorian wife Ada Emma, née Greenland. Charles was educated at state schools in Melbourne and Sydney (after his family moved to Mosman) and began work as a clerk in a stockbroking office. Emulating his grandfather and uncle who had fought in the Franco-Prussian War, as ‘Charles Jackson’ he enlisted in the 1st Battalion, Australian Imperial Force, on 16 September 1914: his height of almost six feet (183 cm) gave credence to his stated age of 20. He embarked for Egypt in December and was among the first troops to land at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. Wounded in action that month, he was returned to Australia and, as a minor, discharged from the A.I.F. at his parents’ request. In January 1917 he re-enlisted under his own name; while serving with the 45th Infantry Battalion on the Western Front, in July 1918 he was badly wounded and evacuated to Britain before being demobilized in March 1919…


Kingsford-Smith and Ulm

Sad letter

In this letter the mother of a relative, killed at Gallipoli, of one of my friends from City Diggers* acknowledges receipt of her son’s effects. “Died of wounds, 2.30 am, 14 July 1915. Buried at sea, 3 miles off Gaba Tepe.”


January 1918! Painfully slow?

  • Neville Permezel is still with us at 91 as of 7 May 2017.

Nostalgia on D-Day — 2001

Starting last Sunday I have been looking back, though I’ve not yet turned into a pillar of salt. As I mentioned on Monday I have found a back-up of quite a few of my old posts from Diary-X and elsewhere. This is one I haven’t seen for years!


Really old followers of my blogs – not all of them old in years though – will recall my discovery of textures and flashing bars, even if mine were of course in good taste. 😉

This one takes me back to Sutherland.


Nostalgia on D-Day
From my June 2001 diary

I have been thinking a lot about nostalgia lately. Today I propose to indulge in it; later I will subject nostalgia to critique. While nostalgia is a strong element in my own personality, and while I even derive pleasure from it, particularly when sharing it with that rarity, an appreciative audience, I am aware it has its dangers too, may personally be a weakness and in political terms a millstone.

But, to indulge.

Let me run back my decades for you, first in a public context, then when I have reached my target, some impressions of a more personal nature.

1991: Australia has 17,000,000 people (19,000,000 now). The Australian Republican Movement is launched, and a gunman shoots seven people at Strathfield Mall. I am working at the beginning of the year at Wessex College of English, later back at SBHS. I live in George Street Redfern with M, Philip and Michael, then in Little Everleigh Street Redfern with M.
1981: Australia has 15,000,000 people. Malcolm Fraser is Prime Minister. I have just moved back to Sydney (Glebe) and am working at Fort Street High. John Hawke (aged 16), Rob Duffy (aged 19), Lyneve Rappell (aged 17) and I start the poetry magazine Neos: it runs until 1985. I live alone.
1971: Australia has 13,000,000 people. The dreadful Billy McMahon is Prime Minister. We are heavily involved in the Vietnam War. I have just started working at Illawarra Grammar School, Wollongong and am living at Dapto, then West Wollongong. My parents have moved in with me. My friend S. first met me at this time. My God, we have known each other for 30 years!
1961: Australia has 10,600,000 people. Very few of them are Asian. Robert Menzies is still Prime Minister. Patrick White’s Riders in the Chariot wins the Miles Franklin Award; ABC-TVFour Corners begins with the terribly British- sounding Michael Charlton anchoring. Trams stop running in Sydney. I am in Arts II at Sydney University, 17-18 years old, and a member of the Evangelical Union. I am studying English (including Anglo-Saxon), Modern History (sitting next to the present Minister for Immigration) and Education I. I live in Oyster Bay Road, Como, with my parents. I sneak looks at the boy next door and hate myself for it.
1951: This is my target. Ah, the 1950s. No TV, baths heated by a wood-burning boiler. No refrigerator, though our neighbour had one. "The iceman cometh" weekly. Milk arrives in bulk and is ladled into whatever receptacle we take out to the milkman, who arrives by horse and cart, as does the baker.

The corner shop, Marshalls, sells biscuits in bulk; you have them put into a brown paper bag. There are two types of cheese, "block" cheddar and processed. There are basically three types of cold meat: ham, corned beef and devon. Chicken is eaten only at Christmas, and the rooster involved has its head cut off by my father and, horribly, runs round the yard without its head. His harem supplies our eggs. Our neighbour two houses away has a cow, which kept me supplied with milk during war-time shortages. My brother’s horse, Lassie, sometimes lives in the next-door yard, a Canadian war-bride whose war-traumatised alcoholic husband has just died. When Lassie is in our own yard, she has a habit of coming though the back door and sticking her head into the kitchen until my mother gives her sugar. Peter the Kelpie dog observes all this wisely. This is Sutherland, outer suburban Sydney, seventeen miles from the Harbour Bridge.


Royal National Park near Sutherland in the late 1920s or early 30s. It didn’t look all that different in the early 1950s — and my grandfather and some neighbours had cars like those!

My brother is 16 and is an apprentice carpenter. The local girls find him very attractive; at the moment he seems to prefer the horse. My sister is 11; I am 7-8. I remember us getting a special book from Mr Menzies (all school-children did) because Australia was 50 years old.

That began my political education.

My mother has the local wives in for a cup of Bushell’s Tea. They address each other as Mrs Mack and Mrs Doyle and Mrs W. Everyone is an Anglo; some fairly suspect people are Catholics and have statues in their houses, or so we have heard.

Sunday nights in winter we listen to the radio and make toast by holding it on a fork in front of the lounge-room fire. It is rather nice.

I still like to eat toast and listen to the radio on Sunday nights, but do not have a lounge-room fire. And then read.

Mr Menzies is Prime Minister, although the High Court found his Communist Party Dissolution Act invalid, and the Labor-dominated Senate blocked his banking legislation, leading to a double dissolution and an election. Australia has 8,5000,000 people. Over 90% of them are still Anglo-Celtic.

King George VI is on the throne, and crackers are let off on Empire Day, bonfires lit. The neighbourhood seem to spend weeks building the fire on a vacant lot down the road.

In a year George VI and my sister will both be dead.

In 2050 Australia will be 50% Anglo-Celtic. M and M may both be alive then, M2 almost certainly. M2 will be a decade older than I am now.

Weeping like a child for the past

D H Lawrence’s poem "Piano" is as powerful an enactment in words of nostalgia as I know. Like sentimentality or grief, it is a quality that defines us as human; to be without it is to be less than human. Like those, it is also dangerous, or can be. It is instructive sometimes to check a dictionary, in this case the latest Shorter Oxford:

nostalgia | n. L18. [mod.L (tr. G Heimweh homesickness), f. Gk NOSTOS + algos pain: see -IA1.] 1 Acute longing for familiar surroundings; severe homesickness. L18. 2 Regret or sentimental longing for the conditions of a period of the (usu. recent) past; (a) regretful or wistful memory or imagining of an earlier time. E20. b Cause for nostalgia; objects evoking nostalgia collectively. L20.

2 A. TOFFLER This reversion to pre-scientific attitudes is accompaniedby a tremendous wave of nostalgia. Country Life Nostalgia for a worldof Norfolk jackets, muttonchop whiskers, penny-farthing bicycles. A. BROOKNER She alone remembers her father with nostalgia for his benevolent if abstracted presence. b P. DE VRIES Her potato bread was sheer mouth-watering nostalgia.
Also nostalgy n. (rare) M19.*

The earlier use confirms my feeling that nostalgia can be a form of grief. Migrants, I am told, especially involuntary ones such as refugees, spend their lives going through the stages of grief over and over again, even when on the surface they may appear settled. In a sense we are all migrants, and our home country is childhood, or some warmer world than the present, which may be a world of imagination. I am a nostalgic person, and it is my own childhood that draws me, or even my mother’s childhood, a more bucolic world or apparently more settled values. My mother’s father, whom I dearly loved, was a teacher; in a sense it was my nostalgia as a 16-year old that made me become a teacher.
I would not be without the sometimes sad pull of nostalgia, yet I also recognise it is a force that can lead away from maturity and contentment in the present moment. I think it partly explains why I am drawn to younger people than myself; if I am honest, it must be seen as a reluctance to leave youth behind–the "Peter Pan" principle, or what the Jungians call puer aeternus. That is part of my make-up, not in itself a bad thing but bad if allowed to become unbalanced. "To be young at heart" and all that is the positive side. Paradoxically, nostalgia also draws the young to those who are older, as part of their appeal is that they may represent a "lost world" to those on the edge of the complex and possibly dangerous choices life offers. And you thought it was "wisdom" the old had to offer; well, partly so–but it is also a retreat into a "better" past through the old sometimes I suspect. Certainly there was a lot of that in my affection for my grandfather, apart from the fact that he amply deserved such affection.

In politics the role of nostalgia is well worth exploring. I would hypothesise that much of the appeal of reactionary or conservative politics is nostalgia, which can be easily distorted or manipulated. From the Nazis to Pauline Hanson to George Dubya Bush to John Howard–consider these not as equivalents–it would be silly to say Howard has much in common with Hitler–yet nostalgia is a crucial factor in all four, I suggest. Not to mention the present ruling party in India, fundamentalism worldwide, and so on: a force to be reckoned with is nostalgia.
In education, nostalgia governs attitudes to schooling, often to the detriment of education, which needs to be future-oriented as well as conservative. To prepare students for a world that existed for their parents or grandparents is to betray those students. Yet there are lessons from the past, and things worth preserving: respect for the rule of law and human rights, for example. Hence I again stress the immense value of studying History–but critically rather than nostalgically or sentimentally.

So much more could be said, but that is enough for one Sunday rave!