Friday, January 25, 2013

The Eve of Australia Day


As it is the eve of Australia Day, I've been reflecting about those brave and daring ancestors who first settled our country. About six years ago, my father was researching his genealogy and writing it out by hand. He managed to delve back a long way and there were hundreds of pages, which he asked me to type out for him and give a bit of polish as I went. It turned out to be a really interesting experience. For example, one of his British grandfathers in the late 1700s (I forget how many 'greats') always wrote down his profession as 'auctioneer' and it turned out the commodity he dealt in was slaves.

I must be a thorough Aussie girl because ancestors from both sides of my family seemed to be arriving thick and fast as far back as the 1830s and 1840s, when South Australia was first settled. There were devout German Christians on my mother's side, who needed to escape religious persecution in their homeland. They were among the first to settle in the Adelaide Hills. And on my Dad's side were all sorts of respectable tradespeople from Britain who were finding it impossible to make ends meet in the old country and were lured by the stunning advertisements about the Great Southland which sounded too good to be true. Okay, there may have also been a few dodgier characters too, like that 'auctioneer' I mentioned.

Not long ago, I took my younger children to look through Adelaide's Migration Museum, which turned out to be a fascinating experience. On the wall was an old poster singing the praises of South Australia's open countryside and warm climate. Even then, it proudly advertised the place as the only convict-free state. I stood reading it, knowing that many of my direct ancestors had been desperate enough to accept the challenge.

One of the ancestors Dad had plenty of info about was a nineteen-year-old named George Peter Hammond, who'd read those adverts and decided he fitted the bill they were looking for; young, fit, able-bodied and willing to work. He booked himself passage and said goodbye to his parents and younger siblings, intending to write and let them know if the place looked any good, so they could consider coming too. Dad ended up with many details about his ship journey down south to the other side of the world, including the sharks the crew caught for everyone on board to eat.

 As I typed it out for him, I had this thought occur to me. That young man probably considered that he was acting independently, doing something off his own bat that affected just himself. Yet I wonder if he had the foresight to realise that his personal decision would end up shaping and molding the lives of literally hundreds of people still to come. I am one of them. So is my husband. So are my children and their future spouses. If that young adventurer hadn't decided to book himself passage to check out the new land, I wouldn't be an Aussie girl at all. As it turned out, the rest of his family did decide to join him down the track. And the rest of their story, for me, is now history.

When I was 20, I took a break from Uni and traveled with my parents for a driving tour around Britain. I felt a link and affinity with it, considering it our Motherland even after the passing of more than a century. It was wonderful to travel around, seeing landmarks where historical events had taken place, visiting the homes of great writers such as my beloved Bronte sisters and Jane Austen, and finding where our own ancestors had lived. But by the time our months there were over, I was happy to return to Heathrow Airport to head for home again. Because of the God-guided decisions of many people before me, something out of my control had been set in motion for me long before I was born. It is that in spite of all that ancient Prussian and Anglo Saxon blood flowing in my veins, I am an Aussie.

I wish everyone a lovely Australia Day tomorrow, as you may even take the opportunity to stop and reflect on the events that led to you being an Aussie too. Remember that the settlers who came were bold and resilient, so we have that in our DNA. And if you are an international reader, spare us a thought on January 26th and consider reading some of the excellent Australian books we've produced collectively, with their distinct flavour.

Paula Vince is an award-winning novelist who lives in South Australia's lovely Adelaide Hills with her husband and children. Many of her books are set in the same area, full of romance, mystery, suspense and adventure.

24 comments:

  1. How interesting Paula. Our ancestors were courageous determined people. What a great point you make that none of us are independent. Our decisions do affect many people who follow us. Thanks for inspiring me this morning.

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  2. Thanks, Jo. We have a lot to be proud of when we look back, that's for sure.

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  3. I love reading about family histories. Perhaps there is an historical novel in there somewhere, Paula?

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    1. Hi Meredith, I'd love to think so too. I'd really like to work on one. As I've tried fantasy, why not historical?

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  4. 'Because of the God-guided decisions of many people before me, something out of my control had been set in motion for me long before I was born.'
    What a powerful statement, Paula! And to realize God was in that plan even if young George wasn't a believer. It boggles the mind.

    Thank you for those wonderful insights. Yes, as Meredith says, surely a faction story is aching to be written.

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    1. Hi Rita, I'm toying with the idea of trying a historical faction tale, as there is reams of information at my fingertips. And I've loved reading your books and others. Just got to muster the courage.

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    2. You inspired me to write what I love about Australia in my blog, Paula. Thanks for the nudge!

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  5. Paula, I was also thinking that's too interesting a story not to turn up in one of your novels. Interesting point that we also help shape the future for those who come after us. Thanks for sharing :)

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    1. Thanks Nola, my dad has plenty more, which I found equally fascinating. Maybe I should just give it a go.

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  6. Thanks for that Paula. It's certainly a great time to reflect on who we are as Aussies, and I love the historical stories. As you know, most of my ancestors didn't choose to come here (they were transported), but still the choices they made once they arrived has affected who I am as an Aussie. It's a great reminder to us all of this principle.

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    1. I've been thinking of the stories you've woven, Carol, based on your history. Your whole family must be so proud to look at them, and know you have them for posterity.

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  7. A really interesting read, Paula - I'd love to hear more about those devout German Christian ancestors of yours and what happened after they came to SA. My great-great-grandfather's brother was R D Blackmore, who wrote 'Lorna Doone'. I like to say I'm descended from him but apparently he never married. Oh well!

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    1. Hi Jo-Anne, it wasn't an easy time for them and there is plenty of story-worthy material, that's for sure. And I think having R D Blackmore as a great-great-great uncle is something you can be very proud of. I remembering reading "Lorna Doone" in my youth. That's fantastic.

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  8. That was a very interesting post Paula. Thank you. Great to reflect on what it means to be Australian as we look to Australia day. And great also to think about the beginnings of this Great south land of the Holy Spirit.

    You are a real Aussie girl and it's amazing isn't it - how the decision of one person has affected hundreds born after him. Makes one realise how our actions and decisions affect many people other than ourselves.

    I have been an Aussie citizen for almost 11 years and have lived in Oz for 14. I feel very gratful to Australia for welcoming us, for giving us many wonderful opportunities and for the amazing life we enjoy in this beautiful country.

    I am a dual citizen so am a Sri Lankan too, and have my feet in two different continents. Ironically I believe I can enjoy aspects of Oz to the full because of my SL heritage and vice versa. Ah! Just had a light bulb moment thinking about it - I think there's a blog in that thought. :) Thanks for opening my eyes to it.

    Happy yAustralia day Paula. Proud to be an Aussie.
    Anusha

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    1. Hi Anusha, I always enjoy what you have to share about both Australia and Sri Lanka.

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  9. I loved the way you pointed out that the actions of one person can affect future generations. It reminds me of the Bible verse which tells us about the sins of the fathers visited on the sons.

    My family came from Poland to avoid persecution. Originally all Jewish, one man, my great grandfather, accept Christ as his saviour. My husband was born in Wales and we'd like to visit there, God willing, later this year.

    Thanks for reminding me, once again, of everything there is to be thankful for in this country! :)

    Lee

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    1. Hi Lee, I agree with you, there is so much to be thankful for here. Wow, I hope you manage your visit to Wales later this year. That would be wonderful.

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  10. Interesting post about how one person's actions affect future generations and how God directs choices. Thinking about that, especially today after having come back from the beach and feeling so blessed by this beautiful place God has given us to live in. Sometimes it just overwhelms me.

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  11. Hi Dale, It certainly is a wonderful country in which to live, in so many ways.

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  12. I agree Paula, we do have a wonderful country and how pleased you must be, to have discovered so much about your own heritage. I often think how difficult life was for the yesteryear pioneer in comparison to us. We do own them so much, and yet we just take it all for granted.

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    1. Hi Crystal, Yes, my dad has stacks more information and I really should keep it in mind. How hard it must have been for them. I can't think of a change more dramatic.

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  13. Happy Australia Day, Paula! It really makes you think about the choices you make with your own life and how they might affect future generations. I want to leave a good legacy! XXOO

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    1. I wholeheartedly agree, Amanda. Happy Australia Day!

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  14. Wow is very beautiful and interesting your blog. Kisses from Spain.

    http://redecoratelg.blogspot.com.es/

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