13 January 2017

Vale Giuseppe "Joe" Giugni. Esteemed businessman, philanthropist and Canberran

With the passing of Giuseppe "Joe" Giugni on the 6th of JanuaryCanberra lost one of its true characters and entrepreneurs..

There would be few who shopped at the Fyshwick Markets from the 1970s who didn't accept slices of apple or pear off Joe's knife at his shop, Wiffen's.  It is certainly a fond memory for this librarian, of Joe the Fruit Man.

Giuseppe Gianpiero (Joe) Giugni at Fyshwick Markets, 2 May 1987
Source:  Porter, Michael, Canberra Times CollectionImages ACT number 001141

The Giugni family originate in the mountain village of Colda in northern Italy, about 50km from St Moritz in Switzerland. Joe was born there on 11 May 939, to Arturo Giugni, a soldier in the Alpini, and Caterina nee de Pedro. Arturo was seldom home during the war, fighting first in Libya, then Greece, then dying on the Russian Front in 1942. The war came to Sondrio, the nearest town, in the form of air raids; when the sirens went off the family took cover under Joe’s grandfather’s chestnut trees beyond the vineyard.
Grandfather Giacinto Giugni was a small farmer, with a few cows and chickens for food and some sheep for wool, which the women of the family turned into socks and jumpers. With a relative, Nino, he had come to Australia in the 1920s, grown tobacco in Queensland and then worked on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Giacinto returned to Italy but Nino stayed on to be joined in 1932 by Joe’s uncle Dino. After the war Dino persuaded Caterina to emigrate with Joe and his younger brother. He married Caterina the day the ship berthed in Sydney, 31 January 1950. Joe is grateful for her bravery in agreeing to marry a man she had never met and live in a foreign country so far from home. “Australia has given me everything”, he says.
In Sydney the Giugnis rented a terraced house and sub-let the spare bedroom to the Zubanis, a father and son who ran a fruit shop in Darlinghurst. From the age of 12 Joe worked in the shop on weekends, then also before and after school. At first he had no English, but his arithmetic was good and he liked the work. School was frightening, with no special assistance for migrant children to learn English and constant antagonism towards ‘enemy’ Italians in the immediate post-war period. Still with poor English skills Joe went to Darlinghurst High until he fought back against vindictive teachers and was expelled. Paddington Junior Tech was better. Joe enjoyed the manual arts classes, but left at 15 to work full time at the fruit shop.
Joe’s tolerance of the long hours waned after a while and he tried shoe repairing, butchery and welding, then a year as a clerk with the railways. None suited him, and he returned to fruit marketing but in a shop in Canterbury. He spent three years there, learning the trade properly, but lost his job during a slump and returned to the Zubani shop. At the age of 18 Joe was offered a job running a small fruit and vegetable shop, and soon afterwards he bought the shop with his mother and brother. It was tiny but well located near Strathfield railway station, and they stayed there for ten years.
At 23 Joe met and married Maruta, a refugee from Latvia. They had three children and, although they bought a bigger house, they continued to live with Maruta’s mother. During this time Joe joined Apia Soccer Club as a member of the committee, and was also a member of the Sydney Fruit and Vegetable Retailers Association. In 1965 he leased another shop with a friend, and they began driving to Crookwell and Batlow for potatoes and apples and trucking them back to Sydney during the night. The hours were cruelly long, so when Lismore banana growers wanted to open a shop in Canberra with Joe as the buyer, Joe considered it very seriously and in 1969 made the move.
This first shop in Civic soon expanded to eight, but it was hard work for little gain, and the partnership was dissolved with Joe taking over the smallest, called Wiffens, at the new Fyshwick Markets. The markets had been established after a government enquiry into the high price of fruit and vegetables in Canberra, and were designed to be growers’ outlets, thereby lowering the price to consumers. Kevin Wiffen, a Riverina citrus grower, kept the licence but Joe managed the stall. It opened four days a week, and Joe drove to Sydney wholesale markets for supplies.
Joe enjoyed these weekly market trips, maintaining earlier friendships and being persuaded to take up golf. Although he didn't care much if he won or lost, and admited to being a pretty average golfer, he relished the competitiveness.
Joe’s years of experience made him a leader in the Fyshwick markets. He introduced self-service, relying on the quality of his produce to minimise the amount rejected by his customers. While other stallholders were selling cheaply by the bucket, Joe sold by the kilo and prospered.
His marriage did not. Maruta left early in 1980 and Joe’s mother, recently widowed, moved in to help with the children. Joe had made friends with some Thai embassy staff and through them met Chun Chai, a trade counsellor; they married in 1981 and had a son in 1984. Chun Chai kept her diplomatic job, taking an overseas posting to Rome in 1988, chosen because Joe spoke the language and wanted the opportunity to revisit his homeland. Joe visited every couple of months, leaving his eldest son in charge of the shop. Chun Chai’s next posting was Thailand, then Sydney, making the visits progressively easier. She became an Australian citizen in 2007.
In that year also, Wiffens was sold, although the Giugni family continued their long association with the markets. From the beginning Joe took an active role. As president of the Canberra Retail Markets Association, and later as director of the consortium of market traders, he has steered up to 40 stallholders through several reorganisations. In 1988, after years of on-off negotiations, Fyshwick Market Traders bought the facility from the government and a board of six shareholders and an independent chairman was established to run the markets. In January 2016 the complex was bought by the Irvine family, to whom Joe had sold Wiffens in 2007.
A five-year multi-million dollar revamp of the markets ended in 2012. Joe has overseen it all. From makeshift buildings erected in the 1970s with an expected life of about ten years, he has nursed and nurtured the markets into an award-winning structure that recreates the traditional market square but offers 21st century facilities. One building, named for Joe, has murals representing his home village of Colda.
Joe ensured that the markets contribute to the community. They donate more than $110,000 annually in cash or products to events from the Australia Day breakfast to The Canberra Times fun run, and also donate food for a Christmas Day dinner for the homeless in Canberra.
He contributed personally as well. In the mid 1990s he was on a committee to establish the International Fruit and Vegetable Dealers’ Convention. He was a Rotarian, and was involved in their successful promotion of reusable canvas shopping bags. He supported the Australian National Eisteddfod and several charities including the Heart Foundation.
Joe handed Wiffens over to his children and youngest brother in 1999. This was a big year for Joe. Besides being named Canberra Citizen of the Year, he almost died. A heart operation saved him, and then a proposed leg amputation was averted by having a steel rod inserted, allowing Joe to keep playing golf.
Joe has been compared with a pineapple: “rough on the outside but sweet on the inside''. When asked to describe himself, he would say he is “just a normal, down-to-earth, big-mouth, shit-stirrer”. By any name, he was a Canberra institution.


Awards and Distinctions

  • 1999 Canberra Citizen of the Year for his contribution in providing donations of fruit and vegetables and financial contributions to charities and soup kitchens
  • 2009 Fyshwick Markets won the small business category at the Ethnic Business Awards
  • 2013 Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for service to the community through multicultural and charitable organisations.


Select Bibliography

1999 Guigni, Giuseppe, The story of Giuseppe Gianpiero Giugni and his family, Canberra
2009 Fruits of labour for a migrant spirit, Canberra Times, 27 December.

10 January 2017

"Call me Jim": Looking back on the life of Lial James (Jim) Woods OAM, 1913 - 2016

Lial James (Jim) Wood, circa 1994
Lial James (Jim) Woods, circa 1994
Source: Looking back, p. 3
We were saddened to hear of the passing, on 27 December 2016, of Queanbeyan resident, and historical treasure, Jim Woods. Jim's life spanned 103 years, more than a lifetime for most, in which he was a highly active citizen who believed in his abilities. He turned his hand to so many endeavours and achieved great success in a number of areas;  as a journalist, editor, businessman, sportsman, printer, community leader, musician and family man. He saw incredible change and was agile in adapting to what it offered so that he remained current, if not at the forefront.

Born on November 11, 1913 in Temora to Alfred James and Rose Ellen Woods, Jim was the eldest of seven children. At the age of six he attended Temora Public Primary School, and like so many of that time, he was part of the "barefoot brigade", attending school without shoes. This was an indication of the financial situation of a family. In his autobiography Looking Back, Jim described himself as an average student who didn't really like his first name, nor the associated nicknames, so he started using his middle name, thus ending up with Jim.

Jim assumed the role of paperboy at a very early age for The Temora Star, by chance when he noticed boys lining up outside the newspapers premises and discovered the opportunity to sell papers. Jim did his deliveries by foot, because he didn't have a bike. The effort did not go unnoticed by John Arthur Bradley and at the mere age of 14 - the then legal age in which a student could leave school - Jim was offered a position with Bradley's Temora Independent. This was the beginning of a 66 year career in the printing and newspaper industry and a long association with the Bradley family - as an employee for 22 years and a business partner in 10 newspapers and printing businesses in southern NSW.

The premises of The Crookwell Gazette in 1949 when Jim took over the paper with Jack and Arthur Bradley.
The premises of The Crookwell Gazette in 1949 when Jim took over the paper with Jack and Arthur Bradley.
Source: Looking back, p. 26
Jim was an active sports participant. In his 20s and 30s cricket, hockey, tennis and rugby league were were his preferences, with cricket being the number one choice.  For 20 years he played cricket and was involved in club administration, often being club captain and selector. He played hooker for the Temora Dragons and played first grade in the Temora Maher Cup Team. Later in life be replaced these sports with golf and lawn bowls. As a lawn bowler Jim represented the Queanbeyan area on over 150 occasions. He was also a patron of the Queanbeyan Golf Club and Queanbeyan Junior Cricket Team. He modeled and supported the importance of sport as a part of life.

Music was also a feature of Jim's life, his father bought him a banjo mandolin as a school boy and he had some short term lessons. He would play on his veranda and with locals, learning very quickly that he could earn a bit of  extra money too. He later turned his hand to the tenor horn and then the trombone enabling him to to do dance and orchestra work. He also played the saxophone.

After a courtship of 4 years, Jim married Mary Walterina (Rene) Wallace in 1938, a marriage that would span 65 years and result in two sons Ken and Bob, as well as grand children and great grand children. He believed in the family unit and was proud that three generations of his family worked in the newspaper business associated with The Queanbeyan Age.

The Queanbeyan Age Building in 1956 when the Bradleys and the Woods family went into partnership with the Shakespeare family of  The Canberra Times.
The Queanbeyan Age Building in 1956 when the Bradleys and the Woods family went into partnership with the Shakespeare family of  The Canberra Times.
Source: Looking back, p. 31
The Woods family moved to Queanbeyan in 1958. following almost nine years in Crookwell, after leaving Temora. The decision to move and go into part ownership of The Queanbeyan Age was a difficult one as the family was settled and active in the Crookwell community. They were also feeling on top of their finances after going into considerable debt to co-own The Crookwell Gazette. With family in mind, in particular future prospects for the boys. the decision was made, despite the newly acquired The Queanbeyan Age being near bankrupt.

Jim spent much of the next decade in Queanbeyan re-building the premises and re-equipping the newspaper plant. The Queanbeyan Age prospered as a result with more publications introduced during the week.

In 1971, Jim expanded his business by striking deals that resulted in acquiring newspapers at Moruya Bega and Eden. Braidwood was also added to the portfolio at the time for the unbelievable price of ten dollars (More details about this acquisition and the others can be found along with other insights into the man in his autobiography Looking Back. The ACT Heritage Library has two copies that you can come in and read).
Front cover of Jim Wood's autobiography Looking Back
Front cover of Jim Wood's autobiography Looking Back
Jim's accumulation of newspaper businesses with the Bradleys continued as did his participation and leadership in the Queanbeyan Community. He instigated the Queanbeyan and District Historical Society and the associated Queanbeyan and District Historical Museum in the mid to late 1960s.

In 1985, The Queanbeyan Age celebrated its 125th birthday and marked the event with a donation of the Queanbeyan City's first fountain in the Town Park, to coincide with the Queanbeyan City Council's centenary. Jim also received the Order of Australia that year. Such honorable recognition did not slow Jim down. He was a Rotarian for over 4 decades, through which he was involved with the Queanbeyan Floral Festival and received Rotarian of the Year (1991 - 1992).

Jim was a driving force in establishing the Queanbeyan Sporting Gallery, which opened in 1993. He volunteered a great deal of  his time in gathering information. photographs, arranging type setting and putting together many entries. He was assisted by his son Bob Woods, and other staff of The Queanbeyan Age, who volunteered their time to the Queanbeyan City Council project. The same year Jim became Queanbeyan Citizen of the Year.
Front cover of a book about the Queanbeyan Sporting Gallery Queanbeyan sporting gallery at the Queanbeyan Bicentennial Function Centre
Front cover of a book about the Queanbeyan Sporting Gallery Queanbeyan sporting gallery at the Queanbeyan Bicentennial Function Centre
In 1994 Jim officially retired, at the age of 81, which also coincided with the sale of The Queanbeyan Age to Rural Press Ltd.  Whilst paid work had ended, his community work continued.

The Queanbeyan Printing Museum was officially opened on 23 October 2004. Jim set it up  to illustrate letterpress printing technology over 100 years and the history of Queanbeyan's first newspaper The Golden Age, later renamed The Queanbeyan Age. Jim remained a volunteer at the museum, even as a centenarian.
Catalogue of  The Queanbeyan Print Museum Collection held at the ACT Heritage Library
Catalogue of  The Queanbeyan Print Museum Collection 2006 held at the ACT Heritage Library
Jim's commitment  to the Queanbeyan community and business was well recognised. In 2010, Jim received the Queanbeyan City Council's outstanding contribution to heritage award and in 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award at the Queanbeyan Business Excellence Awards.

In 2012, Jim was interviewed by the Canberra Panel of Engineering Heritage Australia as part of its oral history project. A summary of the interview is available on the Libraries ACT Website .  The interview can be listened to at the ACT Heritage Library.

There are so many other stories and achievements that illustrate the man that Jim was and the roles he played in over a century of life. The Queanbeyan community has lost a key citizen, but his contributions will continue to be a part of the community and local history.

Farewell Mr Woods your tireless efforts will not be forgotten.

Jim Woods autograph
Jim Woods inscription in his autobiography held at the ACT Heritage Library
Source: Looking back, p. 1


Bibliography

2013, 'Celebrating Jim Woods' , The Queanbeyan Age http://www.queanbeyanagechronicle.com.au/story/1895730/celebrating-jim-woods/ 

2016, 'Jim Woods', Queanbeyan Printing Museumhttp://queanbeyanprintingmuseum.com/jim_woods.html

Woods, Jim 1997, Queanbeyan sporting gallery at the Queanbeyan Bicentennial Function Centre, Queanbeyan City Council, Queanbeyan, NSW.

Woods, Lial James 1995, Looking back, Queanbeyan, NSW. 
http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/137722/20160102-0000/queanbeyanprintingmuseum.com/Looking_Back.pdf  



12 December 2016

On this day in history: Canberra land goes for a song

The first land auction in the ACT, 12 December 1924. On the platform, from left are:  J. H. Calthorpe, H. C. Crammond, W. G. Woodger, Sir Austin Chapman and T. E. Woodger.  Source: #003693, Images ACT,
The first land auction in the ACT, 12 December 1924. On the platform is (from left):
 J. H. Calthorpe, H. C. Crammond, W. G. Woodger, Sir Austin Chapman and T. E. Woodger.
Source: #003693, Images ACT

On the 12th December 1924 the very first land auction was held in the Australian Capital Territory. At the time, Canberra was still in its infancy, with only a scattering of buildings around the Molonglo River like the Hotel Canberra, St John’s Church, Blundell’s Farmhouse and some small cottages at Acton and Duntroon. The population of 1,500 lived mainly in tents and huts. Houses were impossible to get.

But on this day there came a great change. As seen in the advertising poster below, residential and commercial blocks all over Canberra were released for purchase towards the end of 1924, some for as little as £350. Blocks along Empire Circuit cost around £400-470. The most expensive block advertised, on the corner of Wilmot and Tennyson Crescents, would set you back £470.

Blandfordia real estate poster, 1924.  Terms and conditions listed on the left-hand side. Locality map (bottom right) retains much of Walter Burley Griffin's original plan for Canberra, notably the geometric street designs and three distinct basins of the central lake.  Source: HMSS 0182 W. G. Woodger and Family Papers
Blandfordia real estate poster, 1924.
Terms and conditions listed on the left-hand side. Locality map (bottom right) retains much of Walter Burley Griffin's original plan for Canberra, notably the geometric street designs and three distinct basins of the central lake.
Source: HMSS 0182 W. G. Woodger and Family Papers 

The auction, held in a marquee on Capital Hill next to the Surveyors' Camp, was attended by around 300 people, a fifth of the population of Canberra. Run by Woodgers and Calthorpe Ltd, the auctioneer started the day by proclaiming; ‘No capital city in the world started with the same advantages in the way of water, light and sewerage as Canberra enjoyed,’ and that he hoped ‘figuratively speaking, that each of them would take away a piece of Canberra in his pocket.’



Houses under construction in Blandfordia, ca 1926. Source: #007871, Images ACT
Houses under construction in Blandfordia, ca 1926.
Source: #007871, Images ACT
And then the bidding commenced with lots in Eastlake (later known as Kingston), Manuka, Red Hill, Ainslie, Civic and Blandfordia (Forrest) going under the hammer. They proved very popular, selling for on average around half a thousand pounds, which far exceeded what was expected. The first business property was sold to J. B Young, a storekeeper in Queanbeyan. Starting at £650 ‘spirited bidding’ raised the price of the Eastlake property to £2,050. The first residential property went to H. F. Halloran for £400, and Mrs O’Hanolan became the first woman to purchase a lease in the ACT. One particular block sold to Thomas Shakespeare, who went on to use the premises to establish The Canberra Times. Woodgers and Calthorpe themselves bought property in Civic. The day was thought of as a considerably success. 

House at 75 Empire Circuit, Forrest, ca. 1926.  Source: #007192, Images ACT
House at 75 Empire Circuit, Forrest, ca. 1926.
Source: #007192, Images ACT

Land auctions remained a feature in Canberra over the next couple of years with demand remaining very high; one block measuring 20 feet by 108 feet went for £3500. Sometimes properties would go for three times more than the asking price. Woodgers and Calthorpe, as Canberra’s first real estate agency, played a vital role  in the growth and advocacy of the city and became very successful. They eventually sold the business to L. J. Hooker in 1959 with William Woodger continuing as director of that firm. J. B. Young's went on to become a successful and extensive department store chain. They operated on their Eastlake premises for around fifty years, before the business which was taken over by Grace Brothers in 1979.

J. B. Youngs, Kingston, decorated for the visit of the Duchess of York in May 1927.  Source: #008041, Images ACT
J. B. Youngs, Kingston, decorated for the visit of the Duchess of York in May 1927.
Source: #008041, Images ACT 

Like all properties in the ACT the blocks sold on that first day were 99-year Crown leases, which required the leasee to pay rent (starting at 5% of the unimproved value of the land) to the Commonwealth. This revenue was intended to fund the new city. However, the scheme was not a success and in 1971 Prime Minister John Gorton finally abolished land rent of leases.  The leases are due to expire in 2023, seven years from now. What happens next is still unknown, but it is assumed that the government will roll over the leases for another 99 years.

House at 33 Melbourne Avenue, Forrest, ca. 1926 Source: #007193, Images ACT
House at 33 Melbourne Avenue, Forrest, ca. 1926
Source: #007193, Images ACT

In today’s money[1], £400 would equal the moderate amount of of $36,640. According to real estate website Allhomes, blocks of land in theses suburbs today have an unimproved land value of a minimum of $652,000. A house on Tennyson Crescent was recently sold for $3,950,000. Demand for land and housing, is as ever, very high.

The papers of the Woodger family, including photographs and other documentation relating to land sales and the development of Canberra are available for reference from the ACT Heritage Library at HMSS 0182 Papers of W. G. Woodger and Family.

 
  

Bibliography

1924 'CANBERRA', Queanbeyan Age and Queanbeyan Observer (NSW : 1915 - 1927), 16 December, p. 2. , viewed 26 Nov 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article31658763

1967 'One of biggest industries', The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995), 26 May, p. 16. , viewed 21 Nov 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article131657153

 Curious Canberra, ABC. 2016. Can people own land in the ACT?. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-07-04/can-people-own-land-in-the-act/7550166. [Accessed 26 November 2016].

 Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate. 2016. Leasehold. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.planning.act.gov.au/topics/buying,_selling_and_leasing_property/leases-and-licenses/leasehold . [Accessed 26 November 2016].




[1] Modern day prices were arrived at by using this website to convert 1924 currency into 2016 currency. It was assumed that the Australian pound and British pound were worth the same in 1924. That figure was then converted into modern Australian dollars.

18 November 2016

Board in Canberra?

With International Games Day  on Saturday 19th November, and the recent speculation about Canberra featuring on a new Monopoly board, we thought it was a good time to have a peek inside the ACT Heritage Library’s collection for some good old fashioned vintage games.


Playing cards featuring Old Parliament House, date unknown
Playing cards featuring Old Parliament House, date unknown

The simplest and most versatile of these are the playing cards featuring Old Parliament House. As those of us who have been to a gift shop recently know, playing card designers (whoever they are) love to feature iconic buildings, and these are no different. Printed and designed in Hong Kong these playing cards were probably aimed at the tourist market.

'Know Your Cities' jigsaw puzzle featuring Civic, ca 1970-1981
'Know Your Cities' jigsaw puzzle featuring Civic, ca 1970-1981
Another more educational initiative brought about the inclusion of Canberra in the first series on the  ABC of City Education ‘Know Your Cities’ jigsaw puzzle production, published by the UK-based Paul Hamlyn Group.

This jigsaw puzzle of several hundred pieces, shows an aerial photograph of the city. The photograph looks south across the lake and beyond and can be dated by the appearance of various landmarks. The National Carillion in the top left hand corner puts the picture after 1970, but the lack of construction on Capital Hill places it before 1981. Civic itself is much roomier than it is today – there are open air car parks and even single story buildings along Northbourne Avenue! The jigsaw puzzle is a snapshot in time that shows a city, not even fifty years ago, that looks remarkably different from the one it is today.

'Canberra Visitor: the Capital Board Game,' approximately 1978
'Canberra Visitor: the Capital Board Game,' approximately 1978

Another snapshot is provided  by ‘Canberra Visitor: the Capital Board Game,’ published around  1978, at a time when Belconnen Mall had the moderate claim to fame as the second largest regional shopping centre in the country – a fact proudly proclaimed by one of the 'Destination Cards' in the deck.

Players for this game select an itinerary and have to move around the board (a map of Canberra) to complete it as quickly as possible. Chance cards provide both setbacks and opportunities such as ‘A friendly student invites you to a jazz concert at the A.N.U. Union. Go straight there,’ and ‘One of ACTION’s articulated buses stops near you. Luckily the bus is going directly to one of the places you intend to visit. Go straight to that place.’ Designed ostensibly to educate players about Canberra, it also had the obvious additional benefit of promoting it as a destination.

Chance cards, 'Canberra Visitor' board game, approximately 1978.  Card reads 'Most usually it starts to rains. Shelter for a while. Miss one turn.'
Chance cards, 'Canberra Visitor' board game, approximately 1978.
Card reads 'Most usually it starts to rains. Shelter for a while. Miss one turn.'

Finally there is the ‘This is Your Capital: Canberra Game', a cross between Monopoly and ‘Canberra Visitor.’

Businesses and landmarks such as the Canberra Times, Telecom Tower, ADFA, Young’s, and even Woden Bus Interchange were all up for grabs.  Smaller businesses scattered round Canberra made it onto the board, like Continental Decorators, Flair Style Manuka Arcade, Sapphire Photo Processing, ACTCOM Computer Centre and Village Newsagency Hawker, many of which are now defunct. Aimed to promote Canberra businesses, it was created by the Canberra Association for Regional Development. The first player to buy twelve properties and return home safely wins.

'This is Your Capital: Canberra Game,' approximately 1985

Games like these ones reflect the changing fabric of society, from marketing Canberra as a tourist destination, to tracking the rise and fall of small businesses, to a providing an unintentional snapshot of the city fifty years ago.

But these games also provide a glimpse into how people, particularly friends and families, came together to spend their time. One example of this can be seen on the back of the Canberra jigsaw puzzle case where someone in the past forty-odd years penciled in a list of names, presumably those of the family who played the game. Different handwriting also warns about a missing puzzle piece. The simple, child-like handwriting shows that these games are not static, but worn in, well-loved dynamic pieces of our history.

To reflect this, some of these games are now available to be played during library hours. Just ask at the ACT Heritage Library. More details about all the games can be found through the Libraries ACT catalogue

08 November 2016

On this day in history a sudden death became a prophecy

On 8 November 1845 thirty-three year old Sarah Webb, nee Rolfe, tragically died during childbirth. During her lifetime she was a pioneer in the Canberra region, but it was her death, one hundred and seventy-one years ago, that catapulted her to fame.

Born in England around 1812, Sarah was only nine when she arrived in Sydney with her mother Elizabeth. They had sailed on the Duchess of York following in the wake of Elizabeth’s second husband, who had been sentenced to fourteen years transportation in New South Wales. Sarah quickly began work as a servant in Liverpool and later met convict George Webb. They married at St John’s Church of England, Parramatta in 1828, when Sarah was seventeen years old.

Lanyon Homestead and Murrumbidgee River from air, 1953
Lanyon Homestead and Murrumbidgee River from air, 1953
Image Source: ACT Heritage Library image 009688

That year, Sarah’s mother, Elizabeth, and stepfather, Timothy Beard, started work at Lanyon Homestead in the Limestone Plains, on the very limits of European occupation. There were already several other settlements in the region, including Robert Campbell at Duntroon and Joshua John Moore at Acton. Sarah and George, who had been granted his freedom in 1832, followed them shortly after with two small daughters in tow. Their third and fourth children were born soon after.
George was able to acquire a License to Depasture Stock in 1837. At a cost of £10 per year, they leased 2,560 acres across the river at the foot of the mountains, at a place called Tidbinbilly. That area was (and still is) a significant site for Aboriginal people and the Webbs were the first Europeans to settle there. Sarah was probably the first European womea to set foot west of the Murrumbidgee river. She gave birth to another four children at Tidbinbilly and together the family ran horses and cattle.
 Tidbinbilla valley and mountains, 1955
 Tidbinbilla valley and mountains, 1955
Despite the growing number of Europeans in the area there was still very limited infrastructure, and life would have been quite isolated. One Webb child, Caroline, died aged only five. Drought conditions prevailed and the Murrumbidgee stopped flowing for two years. Their horses strayed to the mountains and went wild. Supplies ordered from Sydney were often stolen by bush rangers, or even one time, by the driver himself.

Sadly, just as the drought was ending, tragedy struck again and Sarah died giving birth. The child did not survive either. The only local doctor (in the new town of Queanbeyan) was not able to attend, given the distance and state of the roads. Sarah left behind her husband George and remaining children; Eliza (14), George (11), Betsy (8), Joseph (7), William (4) and Charlotte (2), as well as her mother Elizabeth.
Headstone of Sarah Webb, ca. 1938
Headstone of Sarah Webb, ca. 1938
Image Source: HMSS 0151 Maurice Quinton Photographs
She was buried on 12th November at the newly consecrated Church of St John the Baptist. Hers was only the second headstone erected. The headstone, chosen by one of her sons, reads ‘For here we have no continuing city but seek one to come,’ a slightly inexact quote of Hebrews 13:14. The biblical passage refers to a heavenly city hoped for by believers.

Within a fewof decades after Sarah’s death it became apparent that the Limestone Plains was going to be the site of the future capital city. The quote on Sarah’s headstone started attracting notice, with many taking the passage to be a strange and coincidental prophecy of the coming city of Canberra. The prophetic tombstone or ‘Prophet’s Tombstone’ as it eventually was known, rather quickly, became a local landmark with travelers such as William Glover going out of their way to visit it. By 1949, church officials at St John’s were remarking that the location of the Prophet’s Tombstone was one of only two questions tourists asked when visiting the church.

St John's Church and churchyard, 1940s
St John's Church and churchyard, 1940s
Image Source: ACT Heritage Library images 005031

George Webb, who never remarried, died in 1868 and both he and Betsy were buried with Sarah.  The mountain range and valley on which the Tidbinbilly run stood was made into the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve in 1967. Other place names, such as Mt Eliza and Webbs picnic area, also point to Sarah and her family.

The ACT Heritage Library has a number of publications related to the history of the Webb family, as well as the history of St John’s Church. Other early photographs of the prophetic tombstone can be found in ImagesACT.

Bibliography

1843 'Government Gazett', The Sydney Morning Herald, 30 October, p. 4. 

1848 'Claims to Leases of Crown Lands Beyond the Settled Districts', The Sydney Morning Herald, 12 October, p. 3.
  
1949 'Prayer Essential in National Affairs', The Canberra Times, 3 October, p. 2. 

1950 'Lead to Canberra Seen in First Foundation', The Canberra Times, 15 May, p. 2.

1957 'Service Held In Memory Of George Webb', The Canberra Times , 11 February, p. 2. 

1992 'A prophetic epitaph?', The Canberra Times, 1 December, p. 8. 

Body, A. H. 1986, ‘Firm still you stand: the Anglican Church of St. John the baptist, Canberra, its parish and parishioners 1841-1984,' St John's Parish Council, Pirie Printers, Canberra

Lewis, C. 2012, ‘On the Back of two Sheep: A History of George Solomon Webb and his family pioneer settlers in the Tidbinbilly and Urayarra Runs,’ Bluestar Print, Canberra

St John's Canberra. 2016. St John's Churchyard. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.stjohnscanberra.org/st-johns-churchyard?lightbox=image_xi3 

01 November 2016

Writing in Fellowship


Today is November 1st, which means for some people it’s the first day of National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo for short. For those not in the know, participants of NaNoWriMo attempt to write fifty thousand words – just enough for a decent length novel – over the course of November. It is both thoroughly admirable and extremely difficult.  A vibrant community, both online and in the ‘real world’, has gradually built around the yearly challenge. We delved into the ACT Heritage Library’s collection to see what we could find to inspire the NaNoWriMo people in Canberra.

School children busily writing in classroom, Narrabundah, 1953
School children busily writing in classroom, Narrabundah, 1953
Image Source: ACT Heritage Library image 009524
Canberra (and the surrounding region) has a long literary history, going back to the quintessential Australian novelist Miles Franklin; she of the brilliant career with two major literary prizes named in her honour. Franklin grew up in the Brinabellas, and Mt Franklin (on the ACT border) was named after her family. Other writing legends found among the region’s ranks include Manning Clark, A. D. Hope, Rosemary Dobson, Judith Wright and the inimitable Jackie French.

Writing by Miles Franklin, Judith Wright, Rosemary Dobson and others
Writing by Miles Franklin, Judith Wright, Rosemary Dobson and others
More recently Canberra has been featured by writers Chris Uhlmann and Steve Lewis as a city full of spies and intrigue. In a similar vein, Frank Moorehouse completed his Miles Franklin-winning ‘Edith’ trilogy with Cold Light, set in 1950s Canberra. Authors like Daniel O’Malley, Anita Heiss, Sean Costello, Pamela Burton, and many others have either written books in Canberra or about Canberra. Local NaNoWriMo-ers can be rest assured that they are in good company.

Novels written in Canberra or about Canberra
Novels written in Canberra or about Canberra
Indeed, while writers like Virginia Woolf and Orhan Pamuk talk about the importance of working alone, NaNoWriMo is all about working together. In fact one of the oldest organisations in Australia is the Fellowship of Australian Writers (FAW), which provides opportunities for writers of all levels to share their work, advice and experiences with others. The ACT branch of FAW, which originally included people like Judith Wright and Rosemary Dobson, still continues to meet under the auspices of the ACT Writers Centre at the National Library of Australia.

The records, publications and newsletters of FAW ACT are held at the ACT Heritage Library. In addition to be being peppered with manuscripts from writers like Neilma Sidney and Alan Marshall, HMSS 0048 Fellowship of Australian Writers, ACT Branch Records are a treasure trove of useful writing information, which range from the general to the genre-specific. For example, when penning a romance novel one publication advises to ‘Never write tongue-in-cheek.’ Other advice warns that ‘slovenly writing comes from slovenly minds.’ There’s even one long correspondence between several grammar-loving members about the minutiae of semicolon usage.

Manuscripts of members of FAW ACT
Manuscripts of members of FAW ACT
But for NaNoWriMo participants, who aim for length rather than perfection, one particular presentation from a 1986 writer’s workshop may be more helpful. Some suggestions even seem especially relevant for Canberrans (note that typographical errors are original).
Having written some things down. Select some of you better jottings and TYPE them. Anything looks better typed (including rubbish written in the public service).It will encourage you to edit and work on it. If you are bereft of any ideas dosome[sic] typing .Remind yourself that soon you are going to need to be bettertypist[sic]  or wordprocessor[sic]  person.
Hand drawn figure wielding large pen, used on FAW ACT newsletter
Hand drawn figure wielding large pen, used on FAW ACT newsletter

Other advice may prove useful in the long, caffeine-fueled month ahead.        
I am sure that many of us quite often give up and don’t finish stories that we start to write because... We imagine stories that seem quite good in our minds but put something down on paper and it invariably frustrates and disappoints us... Experiment and work out what works for you. Playing games is much more fun than work. Until recently I used to gather all my writing notes together and sit down at a table to write. It rarely worked. It reminded me too much of studying accountancy. My mind invariably wandered.... Now I get comfortable in my favourite chair. I’ve made writing a game that is just as pleasurable as reading a book.
In addition, if there are any NaNoWriMo-ers in need of inspiration – or even just a distraction – they could do worse than to look at the region’s history. For example, once upon a time, a convict escaped and held up his master’s property  before running off to become bushranger. Another time an unidentified masked woman, known only as ‘Mother’ dressed up as Santa Claus  for reasons left up to the viewer to guess. There was also the time a Prime Minister died suddenly in his hotel room and his ghost was reportedly sighted around the place for years afterwards. Once, in a surprising plot twist, a pilot died crashing his aircraft midway through the opening ceremony of Parliament House.

Marked up manuscript proof of FAW ACT Publication Australian '75
Marked up manuscript proof of FAW ACT Publication Australian '75
While not every member of FAW ACT wrote about Canberra, and certainly novelists are not required to write what they know (or even write where they live) then as now, writers agree it’s good to be in fellowship with other writers. Whether the NaNoWriMo people are writing about Canberra, or London, Mumbai, Narnia or outer space, we wish them the very best, and hope that the fellowship and community of NaNoWriMo proves fruitful. As former FAW ACT president, Sally Clark said, ‘Best wishes for success in your writing this month,’ (FAWord, no. 85, November 1995).

31 October 2016

The long road: the ACT's self-government journey

With the election fresh in our memories, it is strange to think that it’s only recently that local people have been able to have a say in how our Australian Capital Territory is managed.

The election just gone was only the ninth territory election, or, to put it another way, the first election was held around the time that young voters (who voted in their second or third ACT election) were born.

One of the unique things about living in Canberra is the tension between ‘Canberra’ as the seat of federal government verses ‘Canberra’ as a place where a small but growing community of real people actually live. The long road to self-government shows this tension writ large.
First ACT Election Postal Ballot Paper
First ACT Election Postal Ballot Paper 
When the ACT (originally called the Federal Capital Territory) was gazetted in 1911 it was run by the Commonwealth government and Commonwealth public service (APS), which naturally focused on federal issues. In those early days, the small local community were able to directly contact the appropriate person over various issues, but on a federal level, they were still disenfranchised without any direct representation. It wasn’t until 1949 that the Federal Division of the Australian Capital Territory was created, and even then, the new Member for the ACT could only vote on matters directly related to the territory.
First ACT Election Ballot Paper with caricatures by Geoff Pryor
First ACT Election Ballot Paper with caricatures by Geoff Pryor
In the 1950’s Prime Minister Robert Menzies established the National Capital Development Agency and brought the full public service from Melbourne to Canberra. The population more than doubled in under a decade and Canberra as we know really began to take shape. Due to the exploding population and an increase in the private sector, it became desirable to some that Canberra be administered in its own right, and not merely as the seat of government, and so the debate ensued.
First ACT Election Ballot Paper with caricatures by Geoff Pryor and signed by some of the Candidates
First ACT Election Ballot Paper with caricatures by Geoff Pryor and signed by some of the Candidates
Self-government was a heated issue – most other Australians were against it and the administration of the ACT was shunted from department to department for many years. Various ideas were suggested, such as Canberra electing a mayor or the ACT being subsumed and managed by New South Wales. After a failed referendum in 1978, there was a continued push for enfranchisement from members of the community and the government. People wanted the ACT to pay for itself and not rely on federal funding.

Despite opposition from various fronts, including locally, self-government was eventually granted in 1988, with the first election for Legislative Assembly held on 4 March 1989. While some ACT residents welcomed the change, others opposed self-governance, evidenced by the original ballot paper, held at the ACT Heritage Library. In typical Australian fashion, and indicative of local feeling, the ballot paper contains such gems as the ‘No Self Government party,’ the ‘Sun-ripened Warm Tomato party,’ the ‘Surprise party’ and the ‘Party Party Party’. Votes were cast and many of the anti-self government protest parties were elected to office. This made for interesting proceedings for the first assembly, with control of the government changing twice before the next election.
Examples of some of the protest parties in the first ACT Election
Examples of some of the protest parties in the first ACT Election
There was much debate over the role of the new government and the as yet unformed ACT Public Service (ACTPS), with some wanting it to function like a local council or a mayor’s office. It took until 1994 to pass the Public Sector Management ACT, which allowed the Territory to manage its own housekeeping and shifted over 20,000 public servants across to the ACTPS. The unique position of Canberra as a city-state allowed state and local government functions to be combined into one service with the ACTPS performing roles usually associated with local councils such as waste disposal, running libraries (like us!) and maintaining roads. After the first assembly, consecutive elections took a more traditional path, and political life stabilised.
Souvenir memorabilia issued in honour of the commencement of the ACTPS
Souvenir memorabilia issued in honour of the commencement of the ACTPS
Along with the copies of the first ballot paper, including one with caricatures by Geoff Pryor and signed by some of the candidates, the ACT Heritage Library holds several related collections, such as: HMSS0107 Transition to Self Government Oral History Project, HMSS 0147 House of Representatives Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory and HMSS 0072 Establishment of the ACT Government Service Papers. You will also find some souvenir memorabilia issued in honour of the commencement of the ACTPS on display in the reading room.

Bibliography:
1994 'Shaping country's most diverse administration', The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995), 11 July, p. 14. , viewed 08 Sep 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article118190365

Wettenhall, Roger (1998). "Governing the ACT as a Small Quasi-State". Canberra Bulletin of Public Administration (87): pp. 8–20.

Grundy P. et al. (1996), Reluctant Democrats: The transition to Self-Government in the Australi Capital Territory, Federal Capital Press, Canberra







21 October 2016

On this day, in 1824, who managed to get a ticket for land in the centre of Canberra?

Portrait of Joshua John Moore Image Source: Mawer, p.16
Portrait of Joshua John Moore
Image Source: Mawer, p.16
On 21 October 1824, Joshua John Moore was given a ticket of occupation for land in what is now the centre of Canberra. As a result of this opportunity, he became the first pastoralist on the Limestone Plains.

Born in England in 1790, Moore was a veteran of Waterloo, a free settler, and a man of some social standing. He already had lands and holdings near Cabramatta and Goulbourn and was looking, along with many others, to extend further south. The Colonial Secretary wrote and gave him:
'...sanction for the temporary occupation if 2000 acres of land in a circle around your stock yard ... to be placed under the charge of John McLaughton, free by emancipation, provided that it is now depasturing by no previous owner,' (Mawer, p.17).
The last provision meant that Moore had to race to get there before any of the other pastoralists who had their eyes on the area, in particular ex-convict Owen Bowen. Moore took the precaution of hiring the talented John McLaughton out from under Bowen and making him superintendent of his own holdings.

McLaughton, himself only recently pardoned, set out from Goulbourn with two assigned convicts James Clark and John Tennant, in late 1824. When they reached the Limestone Plains they chose the site of ‘Canberry’, a word used by local Aboriginal people. Canberry was ideally situated next to a deep waterhole and a rise of higher ground above the flood zone, which is now home to the National Museum of Australia (NMA). Bowen, defeated, ended up settling at Marley south of Lake George.

On the Canberry site, which was previously used by Aboriginal groups, McLaughton, Clark and Tennant established their dairy holdings. Within a few days of settlement they constructed rough temporary bark huts before later clearing and formal building could be completed. Moore’s 2000 acre property covered most of the city area, including Acton, Civic, Reid, Lake Burley Griffin and the Australian National University.
Acton Cottage with 1930's additions Image Source: HMSS 0091 Canberra Our Capital Photographs
Old Acton Cottage
Image Source: HMSS 0091 Canberra Our Capital Photographs
McLaughton, Clark and Tennant were on the Limestone Plains for nearly a year before any further settlers, such as the Campbells of Duntroon, showed up. Their time in those early years was fairly isolated, with little contact with the wider colony. It all proved too much for Tennant, who in September 1826, stole £6 from his employer and escaped. He joined a bushranger gang and was at large for over a year, at one time holding up Canberry station. Mount Tennant in the south of the ACT was named after him.

 In 1826 Moore wrote again to the Colonial Secretary about buying the property outright:
'The land I wish to purchase is situated at Canberry on the east bank of the river which waters the Limestone Plains above its junction with the Murrumbidgee adjoining the grant of Mr Rob’t Cambell Snr, my having had the possession of that land for upwards of three years,' (Meyers, p. 31).
An astute reader will notice that the dates don’t quite add up. Some argue that Moore was exaggerating how long he had been there to buff up his claim to the property. Whatever the method, he was eventually successful and was allowed to buy it. His men extended and built the stone Canberry Cottage. By the 1828 census, the station had cleared and cultivated twenty five acres.

Despite having been such a prominent pioneer, Moore never lived at Canberry or took any interest in the development of the district, and the property was managed entirely by overseers. After a period of drought and financial troubles, Moore sold it in 1843 to Lieutenant Arthur Jefferies, son-in-law of Robert Campbell.

Acton Cottage with 1930's additions Image Source: HMSS 0091 Canberra Our Capital Photographs
Acton Cottage with 1930's additions
Image Source: HMSS 0091 Canberra Our Capital Photographs 
Jeffries renamed the property Acton, after which the cottage had many roles including parsonage, the home of surveyor Charles Scrivener, and a police station and courthouse. It was demolished in 1941. Most evidence of Moore’s property was destroyed by the building of the old Royal Canberra Hospital and more recently, the NMA. Only a plaque, built using some of the stone of the cottage remains. The name Canberry survives still, in its altered form of ‘Canberra’.

Moore’s story and the history of the Canberry property can be traced in several publications in our holdings. Original photographic prints of the station are available in HMSS 0091 Canberra Our Capital Photographs.

Bibliography

Fitzgerald, A. 1977, ‘Canberra in two centuries : a pictorial history,’ Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.

L. F. Fitzhardinge, Australian Dictionary of Biography. 1967. Moore, Joshua John (1790–1864).

Mawer, G. A. 2012. ‘ Canberry tales : an informal history,’ Arcadia, Melbourne.

Meyers, D. ‘Lairds, lags and larrikins : an early history of the Limestone Plains’ Sefton Publications, Canberra.