With time served in Fremantle Gaol then it was on to York

The area around Fremantle and upstream in the Swan River to Perth is quite beautiful.

Beautiful sandy beaches flank the mouth of the Swan River and its bustling Port.

From Kings Park there are views over the River and the City of Perth

Kings Park includes the Perth Botanic Gardens and its amazing native flora collection.

Not that my Great grandfather would have had time to enjoy any of these beautiful sights as his home was Fremantle Gaol. From his arrival in 1853 until he and his brother were given a pardon in 1855 they worked, like all convicts on the gaol. The limestone extracted from the site of the gaol and cut into blocks on site.

It would have been hot dusty work with no escape. Summer temperatures in Perth are often in the high 30c range and not unusually 40c+. Temperatures unheard of in Ireland, but the convicts toiled in the heat, sleeping in quarters on the quarry at night.

I should introduce my Great grand father. His name was Edmund and his convict records describe him and 6ft and 1/2 inch tall (only 1 inch shorter than me) stout with a ruddy complexion, (mmm could be me) with brown hair and hazel eyes (phew Im not a reincarnation my hair was once ginger and eyes are blue). A tall strong man in modern days in 1853 he was the tallest on the ship and I can imagine that strength was well put to work in the prison quarry till he and his brother were pardoned in 1855.

Not long after being pardoned, Edmund married and Irish Bridget and with his brother they all headed west to the farming centre of York. York was the first inland white settlement in Western Australia with the colonial settlement process continued the dispossession of Aborigines starting in 1831.

So I followed in their footsteps and checked out of Fremantle Gaol and headed to York

Its a bit over 100km to travel from Fremantle to York and it was certainly easier whipping along the road east on a motorbike than would have need the journey in 1855.

The road to York crosses the Darling Ranges, a low mountain range the attracts rainfall that feeds the catchments of Perth to the west and the towns on the eastern hinterland.

Recent bushfires had scared the bush but in the miracle that is the Australian bush there are the plants that like fire. The grass trees or Xanthorrhoea australis to be formal are one example.

Bush fires, grass trees and strange animals. I wonder what my troop of intrepid Irish forebears thought as the headed east after a mere 2 years in this strange land.

Looking out over the town of York and its surrounds you can see the lovely green bush .

Down in the town the grand buildings tell the tale of past prosperity.

But the grandest of buildings is the Town Hall

I had come to York om a bit of a hope and a prayer about finding any information of my Great grandfather in years so far past.

In the town hall I walked up the stairs to the balcony and there was an Honour Board of the councillors.

And when the Municipality of York in 1861 was Edmund Cahill

Now I hear some of you saying that that goes to prove that local government is just full of criminals. But just hold your horses.

At the York Historical Society Archives I was able to view a copy of the 1859 York Census filled in by Edmund showed that they had worked hard to be successful farmers in this new land.

At the farm there was Edmund and his brother, and wife Bridget, their two children and two employed labourers also from Ireland. The had 50 acres under cultivation and 46 head of livestock. This in the 4 years since pardoned and land that could only be dreamed of back in Ireland.

The family was also instrumental in establishing catholic church a beautiful building still standing and prominent in the town.

But such acquisition doesn’t come without a cost.

The cost was being paid by the local aboriginal people for whom land is part of them.

In the park opposite the church on the eucalypts the aboriginal colours are crocheted onto the tree. The colours have meaning. Black represents the aboriginal people, yellow represents the sun, the giver of life, and red represents the land and aboriginal connection to that land.

That connection with land, with country will never be broken for a first nations person.

You may have thought that with success in York Edmund and Family would have settled and be content but there are more twists to this tale yet.

In the next blog let me show you some some of the towns around York before we rejoin Edmund and his family as they continue their pioneer journey further east.

Fremantle and finding the convict streak in me

There were around 167,000 convicts transported to Australia from the UK and now Republic of Ireland

My Great Grandfather and his brother were two of them.

Driven by the horrors and starvation of the Irish Famine, they resorted to stealing cattle and were sentenced to transportation to Australia for 10 years.

They arrived by ship in Fremantle in 1853 after a long and torturous voyage.

The gates of Fremantle Gaol greeted them. Built by convict slave labour to incarcerate convicts. Its a World Heritage Site along other buildings built by convict labour.

So I thought I should visit the spirit of my forebears

A wing of the old Fremantle Gaol has been turned into hostel accomodation. I booked a cell.

A double cell in fact as the wall between every second cell was knocked out to allow enough room to fit a modern single bed in.

So did my spirit mingle with my Great grand father’s? Well I don’t know but thoughts of him and his story of marrying and moving east as a frontier pioneer have certainly permeated my mind. Since I was in Fremantle.

The Round House a prison fort was the first public building in the new Swan River Settlement later to become Perth.

The Fremantle Gaol soon followed as a major public building.

Fremantle is now a major port city of many beautiful historic building

But in 1853 the sight would have been very different for the 309 convicts who arrived with my Great grandfather.

After 110 days sailing from England on a putrid sailing vessel, where 10 convicts had died on voyage, the land that greeted them was dry brown and barren compared to Ireland.

But their home had been gripped with famine since 1845. During ‘The Famine’ its estimated 1 million Irish people died from hunger or disease related to malnutrition and another 1 million migrated to America, Australia and other destinations to escape starvation and British brutality.

For some of the convicts, the sight of the Australian landscape must have been frightening for others a lucky escape from a desperate life.

Their ship arrived in September, the start of Spring in Australia but where they came from the start of Autumn and the cold wet months of Winter. Did they even know that the next months would be hot and dry. Hotter than they had ever experienced.

My Great grandfather was convicted at the age of 20. Since 15 he had only known hunger. After being imprisoned for two years he was transported and at 22 he landed in the Great Southern Land.

So dear friends and followers now that I’m back in Melbourne and can publish from a laptop rather than a smartphone. I will take you, in the next few posts, from Fremantle on the trek of an Irish/ Australian convict pioneer as he and his family moved east with the expanding frontier of the Western Australian Colony in the second half of the 1800s.

Central Australia Adventure 5 – always will be Aboriginal Land!

Interpretation at Arkaroo Rock

The Adnyamathanha people are the aboriginal custodians of the lands around Ikara, or the Flinders Ranges as the colonialists called this land.

At Arkaroo Rock there are rock drawing that convey the dreaming stories of the Adnyamathanha.

These snippets from a large rock wall underplay the intricate linking of picture and storytelling that is contained on the rock wall

Stories such this one on the formation of Ikara.

Rock drawings change from region to region. The drawing in the Flinders Ranges differ to those in Kakadu, in Cape York and in other parts of Australia.

Each reflecting the stories and dreaming of the local Aboriginal people.

They also differ over time.

The rock etching in the Sacred Canyon and at Willow Springs being much older than that rock drawings are believed to predate the current aboriginal custodians of the land

For me the walk into Sacred Canyon is very spiritually moving.

Lets make sure we recognise and cherish this ancient culture that has lived in one with the land

Lockdown Reflections 6 – The Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya , the Masai

The Masai Mara richly deserves its reputation as one of the great natural reserves in the world

Here one finds the living culture of the Masai people,

The amazing landscape of the the norther Serengeti Plane, and

Most notable the array of unique and amazing African wild life

The Masai are reputed to be warrior tribe but traditionally they have been primarily nomadic pastoralists roaming the grassy planes of what was once known as Masailand.

These days like many of the tribes in North East Africa the Masai way of life is in a battle to adapt to evolving life in Africa.

The nomadic life is more constrained due to population, land use and the desire to remain close to schools and education for the next generation.

Over the next few posts I will look at the amazing wild like of the Masaimara,

Lockdown Reflections 3 – Ethiopia’s Tribal South

The Omo River valley is the centre of the tribal area of Ethiopia

The south east of Ethiopia near where the borders of Ethiopia, Kenya and South Sudan meet is home to a group of mainly nomadic tribes

It is largely a very traditional part of Ethiopia with numerous tribes, mainly nomadic, living in the highlands and valleys surrounding the Omo River

If visiting the part of the Ethiopia the South Omo Research Centre Museum, Which is a German/Ethiopian collaboration provides awonderful introduction to the tribes and their cultures in the Region

Outside the museum

Not far from Jinka along one of the dirt roads that connect villages

Roads which the walking paths through the landscape

Is the small market village of K’ey Afer which on market day is abuzz with colour and activity

Selling spices and earthenware

And cattle and sheep

K’ey Afer is n the Hamar tribal area

Each tribe is distinctive in clothing hairstyle and custom. Some tribes are less welcoming to tourists that others.

Like all traditional cultures though there is a challenge to of maintaining custom in the face of western society encroachment

Up in the mountains

Is the land of the Mursi, a warrior tribe and visiting without prior approval is not advised

The Omo River winds its south toward Lake Turkana which is the largest permanent desert lake and largest alkaline lake in the world.

This southern part of Ethiopia is very hot, dry and dusty a significant contrast to the cool moistness of the central plateau.

This is Dassanetch country and these nomadic herders land has traditionally spanned the borders of Ethiopia, Kenya and South Sudan

The simple housing reflective of the nomadic existence of the Dassanetch

There are over a dozen tribes in the South Omo Zone

Others include the Borani, Banna Surmu and others

All culturally and physical distinctive in their own ways.

It is nearly 13 years since visiting this part of Ethiopia and even then the tribal life here was under threat. – Like traditional life in all continents.

Since this time the Omo River has been dammed and resettlement from the more populous parts of Ethiopia into this Zone has accelerated.

All this presents a survival challenge for these traditional tribes , their culture and way of life

Sailing Ships upon the Sea

1988 Hobart to Sydney Tall Ship Race

There is a certain romanticism of billowing sails carrying great ships across the sea

Distant shores unexplored

Harnessing the power of the wind

The power to cross vast oceans

The clouds of billowing sails

Masts reaching for the sky.

Ships from all parts of the world

Oman and the exotic east

The new world of the Americas

The old continents of Europe and Africa

These sailing giants covered the globe

As a young man I read and read Joseph Conrad and dreamt of the sea

My mind full of imaginary adventures in distant and exotic ports

The exotic ports of the trade winds in Lord Jim

The loneliness of being at sea and the weight of command in The Secret Sharer

The power of the weather and the sea in Typhoon

To be amongst the tall ships and the sailing tales of the crew

To sail away

Tech Note

These images were captured during the 1988 Hobart to Sydney Tall Ship Race on colour transparencies. I have rephotographed these with my digital camera using an Emora slide copier extension tube attached to the my camera lens.

Maldon in the Central Goldfields of Victoria, Australia

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In many ways Maldon is the little town that stood still

Built in the 1860’s during the height of the Victorian Gold Rush

It remains largely unchanged

 

There is a lovely 2 hour ride to Maldon through the Central Highlands of Victoria

Past the farming and old logging towns of Greendale and Trentham

To the Spa centres of Daylesford and Hepburn Springs

The Hepburn – Newstead road is a little ripper

From Newstead perched on the Loddon River its a gentle curves and sweepers through scrubby bush to Maldon

And its Gold mining history of diggings and old gold processing building ruins

 

And like all good old country towns there is the little quirk

The little Triumph motorcycle shop.

Looking as old as the town and the Triumph Motorcycle itself

Not surprising as Maldon host the a major highlight of the annual All British Motorcycle rally

The ride from the Newstead Racecourse camp ground to Maldon

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One of my most memorable visits to Maldon was to see a round of the 2013 World Motorcycle Trials World Championships

Held on a specially designed course on the side of Mount Tarrengower

Which provides a beautiful view over Maldon

What a beautiful ride on a crisp winters day!

Travelling in the time of Coronavirus

Lone tourist with mask on Lambath Bridge

London was surprisingly quiet as I wended my way to the Tate

Few tourists about

A lone fellow with a face mask taking pics of Parliament House

Even Borough Market had lost its hustle and bustle

It was an easy saunter past Lambath Palace

Past the war museum

Past typical London Street Art

And the Houses of Parliament to the Tate

And an Aubrey Beardsley exhibition

But that was a couple of days ago

And as the WHO declares a Coronavirus pandemic

I’m on the ferry from Portsmouth to Bilboa

Australia’s Summer of Discontent

When I arrived back home in Australia in October 2019 the bushfires had already started.

The amazing temperate rainforests of Northern NSW and Qld were already on fire

Rainforests don’t burn we thought but things have change

Beautiful ancient forests dating back to Gondwanaland were on fire

It was heart braking

The long summer of bushfires cast a pall over the country

Dead wildlife, rare forests burning, towns and cities choking on the the thick smoke

My long Bike trip in Europe had left me sore, depleted and nursing some nasty Shoulder Tendinitis

So my mood was low and the acrid smoke that clung to the skies of Eastern Australia only darkened my feelings

Dark like the smokey sky and the burning bush

Dark and disturbing

On a ride to Omeo in Victoria just after Christmas , I was spooked by closeness of the fires the smoke so thick

The town cut off from electricity

An eerie smokey foreboding of the horror fires that were to be unleashed on New Years eve in the east Gippsland forests.

Spooked a bit by the smoke ad proximity of the fires I left

Leaving I had a fall off the bike on some leaf litter while pulling off the road

Dislocated thumb ouch, nothing todo but pull it back in and ride the 400+ km home.

So the New Year was seen in with a cast on my hand and Australia Burning

Indeed a summer of discontent

This summer say the sale of Futura

I did the last slip, scrub and paint

And as I write, she with her new owner is approaching her new home in Whyalla South Australia

As the final blow there is now Coronavirus

Emerging and spreading

Quiet leaving Melbourne Airport

Planes only half full

A friend has told me that I’m stubborn and wont change my plans for anyone or anything

Maybe right

As here I sit in London

I’ve collected the Mighty Breva

And on Wednesday I head to Portsmouth to start the journey south to Morocco on the ferry to Bilboa

The summer of discontent, though, is a weight on my enthusiasm

And as I have been reminded though I’m 35 between the ears im actually in a 62 year old body.

But in the world of the traveller a summer of discontent doesn’t lead to winter.

Its spring here

The daffodils are in bloom in Perivale Park

And life’s adventure must go on

A Bush Christmas

A Bush Christmas is synonymous with Australia

But now much of our bush, Australia’s Bush is on fire

Not all

but too much

too much rare and precious flora, rare and giant trees and flowers

Much of Australia’s unique fauna, quolls, koala, snakes, goannas

to name a few

burnt alive in the fires

So its a sad Bush Christmas for those of us that love nature

her bounty and her beauty

The fires are not so large and intense in Victoria so I’ve taken some walks in the bush

The Ada Tree (above) is special, over 300 years old and a towering 75 metres high.

One of the last remaining giants of the forest

A Giant Mountain Ash found only in the southern parts of Australia

So few of these great trees remain

And in the damp gullies ancient Beech Trees remnants of Gondwana land and dominated the forests in wetter times.

The forest has its special sights sounds and smell.

See the tree ferns, hear the whip birds call

The birds have no voice in Parliament, no capital, but a beauty in their song

What a sad place it will be if we kill that song.

Happy Christmas and reflect and enjoy the wonderful things nature have given us

This Christmas think about how we can give nature a present