Library Loot: Migration experiences and learning Gaelic

Once again I’m following in the footsteps of Julie from Angler’s Rest and reporting in on my recent Library Loot.

When I pick books up from the library I’m less selective than when I’m splashing my own cash: I figure that I can try something new and even if I’m not rapt in it, then it doesn’t really matter. On the other hand sometimes I get lucky and discover something that really appeals to me.

Two books from the Palmerston Library which I’ve read recently  might be of some interest to my readers and fellow family history junkies.

Titanic Lives

Titanic Lives may seem like it will be yet another beat-up about the well-known sinking of the Titanic, but it actually offers a much deeper perspective.  The author, Richard Davenport-Hines, is an historian and biographer and his skills shine through as he writes about how the passengers on Titanic, and their lives, were a microcosm of, and reflection of, life in the era. He also documents the sources behind his story. What I most liked about the book is that it personalises the saved and the lost: they become real people not just “steerage” or “rich”. I wasn’t especially interested in the wealthy Astors, Wideners or Guggenheims but there were riches indeed in the stories of those in 2nd class or steerage/3rd class passengers.

If your ancestors emigrated in this time frame (early 20th century) there is much in this book to illuminate your ancestor’s travel and migration experience as well as the challenges of gaining entry to the USA through Ellis Island. The author also devotes a chapter to the crew of the Titanic, providing great insights into the working lives, and safety hazards, of the merchant seaman. As I have several of these in my family this chapter was very interesting on the responsibilities of stewards and firemen. Admittedly my ancestors were working on rather less glamorous ships than the Titanic but nonetheless there’s useful information there.  I found this book very interesting and learnt a good deal from it. This is not just another reiteration of the story of a major tragedy.

Home with Alice: A Journey in Gaelic Ireland

This book might be of interest to my readers who are keen Irish researchers with its exploration of Gaelic-speaking Ireland and the role, and threats to long-term survival, of the language.

When I picked the book up at the library I thought it might be another version of Brigid by Australian author, Jill Blee, which I had enjoyed for its focus on Co Clare. In fact this story had little in common with Brigid, despite the nominal role of the author’s aunt Alice in his journeying to Ireland’s Gaeltacht districts. I personally found Alice’s interventions contrived and unnecessary other than to explain the author’s initial decision to learn Irish.

Author Steve Fallon is a journalist and, inter alia, a travel writer for Lonely Planet, and at times the book takes on the tenor of a guide book. However I enjoyed learning more about the challenges of Irish as a language, especially as at one point I’d thought of learning it myself.  If anything the book convinced me this was a delusional aspiration due to the language’s complexity. I learnt that there were differences between the various dialects within the Gaeltacht regions, the new acceptance of Irish as a fashionable language with the rise of the Celtic Tiger, and the invasiveness of English into the Gaelic expressions.

It’s always a pleasure, too, reading a book which describes places you may have visited so that you can visualise where he’s talking about, whether Connemara, Kerry or Donegal. The impact of Gaelic television and radio also reminded me of the significance of Australia’s own ethnic broadcaster, SBS.

I do find the Irish-American tendency to identify as “Irish” a bit strange. While I too have an Irish passport like the author, and have many branches of Irish ancestry as well as a love of Ireland, my mongrel Australian ancestry means I feel it would be inaccurate and presumptuous to call myself Irish. Apart from the significance of the Catholic church to Irish emigrants in both countries, the experience of being a descendant of Irish emigrants in Australia seems to me to be quite different from that in “America”.

The Tin Ticket

The Tin Ticket[i] was one of my purchases from Gould Genealogy at the Qld Expo recently. I selected it because while I have no convicts in my own tree I thought it would be an interesting read.

In essence the book aims to illustrate the life experiences of three female convicts who were sentenced to transportation to Van Dieman’s Land (Tasmania) for seven to ten years in the 1830s. Two were Scottish teenagers who’d been living on the streets for some time, Agnes McMillan and Janet Houston. The other was Ludlow Tedder, a literate housekeeper who’d been sentenced for pawning her employer’s silverware. Ludlow’s young daughter Arabella was also sent out with her.

All three were confined to the Cascades Female Factory for part of their sentence and were there for some overlapping periods.

Pros

I found the book interesting for what I learned about the horrors of Newgate Prison in London and the conditions at the Cascades. It is appalling to think how little clothing and food these women were given, the shockingly unsanitary conditions under which they lived, and the double standards of the time. The story of Elizabeth Fry’s work to improve their conditions at Newgate was also interesting. I’d liked to have had more information on life as a female convict towards the end of transportation era to see what conditions had changed: the nod to Irish convict Bridget Mulligan was to my mind cursory and subject to stereotyping.

From our family’s perspective, the references to Oatlands in central Tasmania were also informative as Mr Cassmob’s Irish convict, Denis Collins, was there for part of his sentence.

Cons

As a reader I found this book difficult and “stumbling” to read. The writing style was excessively florid with superfluous adjectives at every turn, and some phrases repeated ad infinitum, in a way which worked against the story as a whole.  I didn’t need to be told more than once or twice that Agnes was a “grey-eyed girl” or that she came from Glasgow, nor did I need the words “convict maids” to be always conjoined. The hyperbole made me sceptical about the accuracy of the content and would have benefited from a severe editing. I also found it irritating to read Americanisms in a book written about Australia and the UK. It does highlight how important it is to have a local reader do at least one edit.

These convict women were strong and resilient, whatever their faults and convictions, and I’d have liked to have known even more detail about their lives after gaining their Tickets of Leave as this is when they contributed to the development of Australia. No doubt this was partly due to the lack of documentary evidence for this period of their lives, in marked contrast to the detail from their convict period.

Summary: Worth the read to learn about life as a female convict in the early-mid 19th century, and of special interest to anyone with ancestors who may have been at Newgate or the Cascades Female Factory in Hobart.  A more balanced, edited writing style would have been more convincing rather than leaving me wondering about the validity of some of the statements.

You may also be interested in an article by the author in from The Huffington Post this week about Cascades and its female convicts.

[i] Swiss, Deborah J. The Tin Ticket: The Heroic Journey of Australia’s Convict Women. New York, Berkley, 2010.

Foreign Correspondence and why I am Australian

Spurred on by Kristin’s request for some Australian novels, I’ve recently been re-reading some of the novels on my Australian Reading List (and the additions in the comments). So far I’ve read A Town Like Alice, They’re a Weird Mob, Harland’s Half Acre and The True History of the Kelly Gang (can’t believe I read about Ned Kelly!). What’s particularly struck me is how strange it seems to read stories set in a geographical background that is familiar. Somehow reading “foreign” novels is normal, whereas a story set in my Australian hometown seems quite out of the ordinary. Perhaps more than anything it tells you of the cultural dysjunction with which we have traditionally lived.

The other day I picked up Foreign Correspondence by award-winning author and journalist/foreign correspondent, Geraldine Brooks. Geraldine grew up in Sydney in the 1960s and while there’s about a five year time difference from my own experience, so much of what she talks about is familiar. Her experience of living in Sydney’s western suburbs is so much starker than my own in Brisbane although the tightness of the community and a sense of its potential claustrophobia is similar. Much of Australia’s cultural attitudes of the 1960s come through in her writing, some overtly and other aspects more indirectly. She speaks too of the big events and issues of the era including the Vietnam war and the impact of Gough Whitlam’s election as Prime Minister.

Her health in childhood affected her schooling and how she interacted with others. She speaks very much as one who couldn’t wait to leave Australia and see what the big wide world had to offer and until she reached adulthood, she used pen pals as her gateway to the world. Nearly 30 years later she wonders what happened to those “foreign correspondents”. She traces them in the US, Middle East and France ultimately concluding that in fact her early life was not quite as circumscribed as she thought and that despite her many successes, at the time of writing this story she gained satisfaction from living a life not unlike the village-based life of her former French pen friend.

Her experiences made me reflect on my own experiences. My suburb also had a significant post-war immigration with people from Czechoslovakia, Poland, the Netherlands, Yugoslavia, Malta….. They were recent immigrants and many of the adults spoke little English. Playing with their children taught me indirectly about different cultural attitudes, tolerance for others and the language challenges. We never really knew of their lives before they came to Australia but their very presence in our daily lives opened the world’s doors: a pivotal influence in my life. Like the author I also had pen friends- three in the USA at different times and one in Holland. Also like her I’ve sometimes wondered where life took them. (Are you out there Patsy Kiwala, Carole Dzurban, Connie Cundiff and Ria Fyn van Draat?)

Warriors at the Highlands Show, Goroka, PNG 1972.

Reading a book like this, which fits closely with one’s own experiences, raises questions about life differences. My first thought was that while I had always desperately wanted to travel, I never expected or wanted to live the life of an expatriate. Only one or two of our friends from university made the sea voyage to England to work, perhaps because many of us met our life partners at uni. It’s a paradox that when thinking of living “overseas” and the life of an expatriate, my focus remains on the UK. This is ironic because for nearly a decade I was an expatriate in Papua New Guinea, a country which was vastly different to anything that would have been experienced in Europe, despite its dominant Australian overlay. London would probably have been less of a shock.

With cheaper and faster flights world-wide it’s now common for our children’s generation to live and work overseas. Many parents (including us) have one or more children living at vast distances from them. Many  Australian young adults make the pilgrimage to live and work around the world. Most of them probably return eventually, but others live elsewhere for the rest of their lives: we are a peripatetic nation.

A centuries-old ghost gum in the East McDonnell Ranges, NT

There is a book by Nikki Gemmell called “Why you are Australian”, written to her children who had been growing up in London until the family made the reverse migration to Australia. Although some of it seems over the top or idealised, she does evoke so much about being Australian.

Why am I Australian? Apart from those five generations of Queenslanders who’ve gone before me, the reasons are based in country almost in the indigenous sense. When you return from overseas, the first thing that hits you is the light. The brightness of the colours almost hurts your eyes after the grey skies of northern countries. Perhaps that’s why the birds are so often colourful too –they have to compete. The sheer expanse of the sky and its vivid blue on its many clear days. The ocean of stars in the sky at night, spanned by the white haze of the Milky Way, more startling in the bush or over the desert. The Southern Cross tracking its way across the night sky spinning on its southerly axis.  The red desert colour, the roar of the ocean waves breaking on long stretches of white sand or the red beachside cliffs of north-western Australia. The starkness of our bush, and what foreigners see as its emptiness and isolation. Storm clouds over the Tropical north in the Wet Season, all sound and drama. The geological patterns stretching from shore to shore, across thousands of kilometres so that the country around Mt Isa will remind you of the Red Centre or parts of Western Australia. The ancient rock formations and the centuries-old ghost gums. For so long we saw ourselves as a young country when in reality we’re as old as time, deceived by the absence of buildings to declare man’s presence yet in caves around the country there’s ancient artgoing back thousands of years.

Floodplains, billabongs and aged melaleucas in the Wet.

I remember once a distant Irish cousin asking me if I was Australian or Irish. It was a genuine question but I confess I was both bewildered and astonished. For me it was a “no brainer”, I’m an Aussie through and through, much as I love visiting my ancestral places. You won’t (usually) find me beating the patriotic drum, flying a flag at every turn sets my teeth on edge, and those stickers saying “if you don’t love it, leave” make me want to scream (do they never criticise someone they love? I doubt it). But yes, I’m an Australian to my core. Funny how a book can make you want to declare your sense of belonging.

I wrote this story a week ago but hadn’t posted it. Last night soon after it was uploaded I was reading recent posts by a young Aussie blogger I follow at A Big Life.  Living in Bavaria she talks about being caught between two countries and the pull of home – the expatriate’s dilemma. Two of her reflective posts are here and here.

You can see other photos of the Top End of Australia on my Tropical Territory blog which shows just how beautiful this part of the country can be. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll have seen some of the magnificent east coast country.

52 weeks of Abundant Genealogy: Week 18: Historical Books

Amy Coffin of the We Tree blog, in conjunction with Geneabloggers, has a new series of weekly blogging prompts for 2012 and the theme is 52 Weeks of Abundant GenealogyWeek 18: Historical books.  This week we’re going to shine the spotlight on other historical books that benefit the genealogy field. Do you have a favorite book that falls in this category? What makes this book special to you? How can other genealogists benefit from its content?

As usual I find it impossible to restrict myself to just one book because the history books you’ll find useful will differ depending on where your families come from. So here are some of my Irish, migration and Scottish references.

IRISH HISTORY REFERENCES

I’ve written about a couple of these before so I’ll also refer you to my previous posts.

Oceans of Consolation, Personal Accounts of Irish Migration to Australia, Fitzpatrick David

I regard this book as a truly unique insight into the Irish migration experience. Yes, it focuses on Australia but anyone with an interest in Irish migration generally would find it fascinating. Fitzpatrick uses a series of letters to/from Ireland by emigrants and their families. It gives us a unique perspective on these correspondents’ experience of their new life, the loss of family and mediated new loyalties against those of (Irish) home and family. A wide range of counties are represented among the letter-writers: West Clare, Down, Galway, Tipperary, Kerry, Cork, Meath, Kings, Armagh and Fermanagh. Sadly for me, nary a one from East Clare. If you didn’t already wish for a stash of emigrant letters, this book will certainly make you do so, and mourn their absence if they don’t exist. The spelling is often “exotic” but they managed to make their message very clear.

At last year’s Not Just Ned exhibition, extracts of these stories were available in the sound booths on iPads and in heavy demand. I could have sat there all day listening to them.

Biddy Burke from County Galway is one of my favourites. She ends one letter Queensland for ever and agus an baile beag go brâth (and the small town forever)[i]….pertinent in relation to Hidden Ireland (see below), and demonstrating her loyalty to both her old and new homes.

The End of Hidden Ireland, Robert James Scally

Unless you have Irish ancestors from the townland of Ballykilcline in Co Roscommon, you’d be wondering why I’m recommending this book. While it focuses on the events and people in this townland, it provides a valuable insight into the life of one townland in the midst of the Famine. What I find fascinating is how it informs us on the nuances of townland life, obligations and familial and social obligations. Scally talks of it as baile, a settlement and landholding together, with community links often with specific family links [ii] while we’re more accustomed to only associating the townland with the geographic space/land. I’m about a third through re-reading this book and finding even more subtleties than on the first reading…you can tell by the annotations and the flags.

Farewell my children: Irish migration to Australia 1848 to 1870, Richard Reid

Sure this book applies to the Irish coming to Australia, but Richard’s approach to understanding more about the process and the immigrants is, in my experience, somewhat unusual as he complements the general history with personalised grassroots examples. I’d be surprised if anyone with Irish ancestry couldn’t gain insights into how their own Irish immigrant fitted into the broader data.

Mapping the Great Irish Famine, Kennedy L, Ell P S,  Crawford, E M, Clarkson L, (eds)

I mentioned this book briefly last year in a post on the impact of the Famine. It is a book I used extensively when researching my East Clare migration data, and it certainly provided some startling comparisons. Most books on the Famine, easily found, focus more on data for all of Ireland or perhaps one county. What I think is so valuable about this book is that it compares the before and after data for baronies or poor law unions, meaning you can drill down and make valid comparisons with your own family’s experience, and to see how typical they were of their place in terms of education, occupation etc. This article tells a little more about the book and the project.

SCOTTISH HISTORY REFERENCE

There are innumerable general histories for Scotland, but I am going to focus on a region-specific history.

Argyll: 1730 -1850, McGeachy, R A A

This book explains the ways in which Argyll changed across the important years 1730 to 1850 and includes such important aspects as Jacobitism, clearances, industrialisation, cultural change, and fragmentation of families and society. He addresses occupational changes and how this affected people at a grassroots level and provides many examples drawn from across Argyll. My own copy is annotated throughout and post-it notes sticking from the edges.

In the introduction, James Hunter (himself a noted Scottish historian) remarks “universal themes can sometimes best be understood by studying their local impact”. This runs contrary to how history was perceived for many years, but is an approach that I personally identify with, and have been inspired by in Richard Reid’s historical writings.

Judging on the prices you will need to shop around if you want this book, and will probably need to buy it used (unless you’re up for $413 for a new book). I paid £25 from a bookshop in Scotland in 2006.

MIGRATION TO AUSTRALIA: HISTORY REFERENCES

Two books which provide valuable insights into the experience of Australia’s immigrants from recruitment to arrival are both by Robin Haines.

Emigration and the Labouring Poor: Australian Recruitment in Britain and Ireland 1831-1860

This book focus on the pre-departure experience of the potential immigrant and the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners’ (CLEC) approach to recruitment. If you want to know how your immigrants may have been recruited and how they fit into the broader migration data, this is the book for you.

Life and Death in the Age of Sail: the passage to Australia, Haines, R

This is a fantastic book for anyone who wants to learn more about the emigrants’ experience at sea. There is a broader overview into how the emigrants were provided for, and the care taken by the emigration commissioners in ensuring the voyage was as safe as possible. The book also discusses the migration experience in different decades, pertinent with the changes to medicine as well as type of shipping. It is interspersed with extracts of letters and individual examples which illustrate the experiences.

SUMMARY

Australian residents should be aware they can borrow these books from The National Library of Australia on inter-library loan to their local reference library, assuming it’s not already on the shelves there.

Another tip for genealogists everywhere is to see if your local university library has these books in its catalogue. You may not be able to borrow them, but you will be able to sit in the library and read them (yes, I know, no coffee or snacks!…I’m reminded of 84 Charing Cross Rd when I say that). You may also find some in your favourite online bookshop or real bookshop, new or used. I can see I also need to go into my blog and add these titles to my Reference Books tab.


[i] Oceans of Consolation, page 155

[ii] The End of Hidden Ireland, Scally, page 12

Insights into Australia: a book list

An American genea-mate asked me for recommendations of fictional books set in Australia as a way of getting to know a bit more about Australia, and I guess her people. This is my list of possible options though of course one could go on adding books indefinitely. Also a lot depends on whether the focus is to be modern life, or a story in an historical setting, as well as personal style preferences.

Mary Durack: Kings in Grass Castles (An older story, largely fact, though not entirely accurate in places due to family bias. A good yarn telling the story of an Irish family in the 1850s+. They became a family dynasty in Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia.)

Bill Bryson: Down Under (may be called In a Sunburned Country , or possibly Walkabout, in the US). Hilarious essays on Australia. I could really relate to some of his comments on Darwin.

Alex Miller: Journey to the Stone Country or Landscape of Farewell (I particularly liked the latter of these two books.)

Kate Grenville: The Secret River (a fictional story, based on some historical fact, about life north of Sydney in the early days). Issues of convicts, colonisation, and relationships with Indigenous people.

Ruth Park: A Poor Man’s Orange and Harp in the South (oldies but goodies)

Sally Morgan: My Place  (an indigenous life story)

Sally Dingo: Dingo, the Story of our Mob (a biography of Ernie Dingo, a well-known Indigenous actor.

Tom (Thomas) Keneally: A River Town (long time since I’ve read this one but I enjoyed it enough to keep on my shelves. Set in New South Wales.)

Henry Lawson:  various short stories and poetry, about the old days in Australia

Hilary Lindsay: The Washerwoman’s Dream (set in Queensland late 1880s+)

Tim Winton: Dirt Music (a modern story set in Western Australia). Not one of my favourite books, didn’t like the ending, but I admired the fact that he started again from scratch with hundreds of pages written.

Neville Shute: A Town like Alice (includes WW2 theme and Northern Territory).

Addendum: David Forrest’s The Last Blue Sea (about the Australians’ war in Papua New Guinea, WWII)

David Malouf, Peter Carey, Thea Astley, Janette Turner Hospital (short stories) are all other authors who would provide a more modern insight into Australia today.

I have used LibraryThing to link these book titles to reviews which may help find out more about each book, and see which appeals. Everyone’s taste is quite different in books. I’m not sure how difficult these books will be to access from bookshops or libraries in the States, but at a quick glance many are available as Kindle e-books.

What recommendations would other Australian geneabloggers want to add to this list? Please do add suggestions in the comments. I’m looking forward to seeing some different perspectives and reminders of ones I’m bound to have forgotten.

No quibbling over Q

I am participating in the A to Z 2012 blog challenge throughout April. My theme is a genealogical travelogue or a travel genealogue (I’m not sure which). There really was no quibbling as to what Q was for….

Q is for QUEENSLAND and Q150    

Queensland is Australia's north-eastern state.

Queenslanders are a proud breed, as fiercely loyal to their state as to their nation. Like the little sibling made good, Queensland was formed in 1859 when the former district of Moreton Bay separated from the colony of New South Wales. My own Australian ancestry is almost entirely Queensland-based though with business or kin links into New South Wales.

The arrival periods of my Queensland immigrant ancestors.

Queensland (Qld) celebrated its 150th anniversary of separation in 2009 with many festivities but also many Q150 projects to commemorate the state’s heritage. Believe me, if you were a family historian you had a busy 12 months across 2008/09. I’ve been planning to talk about a few of the genealogical projects for some time and now’s my chance.

GENEALOGICAL SOCIETY OF QUEENSLAND (GSQ)

GSQ undertook two projects in 2009.

PROJECT 1 was an update of the bicentennial Pioneer Muster of people resident in Queensland between 1859 and Federation in 1901. This had two parts: the construction of a database from the names submitted in 1988 and an update with new names. Many volunteers work hard to bring this to fruition. So far a CD is available with 12,000 names and it’s anticipated another will be forthcoming.

Pluses:

  • A readily searchable database of names of Queensland pioneers rather than the three volumes which had no doubt been languishing on the bookshelves.
  • The ability to link up with other family researchers.
  • The 2009 versions are likely to contain more information as the internet has made research more accessible. However by preserving the 1988 work, the entries of researchers from the time is also available.

Weaknesses:

  • It would have been great if the database had been searchable by place as well as name. This would have been perfect for anyone wanting to undertake a One Place study or simply to learn more about the people who lived in the same place as their ancestors.
  • CD#2 is still outstanding no doubt due to the sheer volume of work involved.

PROJECT 2 for GSQ was a book of 400 stories about the early Qld pioneers.

Pluses:

  • I liked the thematic approach to the stories, clustering stories of people with similar backgrounds or occupations. This made it easier to see similarities and differences.

Weaknesses (for me):

  • Like short stories, I found it frustrating to only get a canapé size bite of information about families. Limited visuals.

The link to these publications is here.

QUEENSLAND FAMILY HISTORY SOCIETY (QFHS)

QFHS’s Q150 project was Queensland’s Founding Families, the stories of people resident in Queensland prior to Separation in 1859. It includes approximately 16,000 names.

Pluses:

  • QFHS had a requirement of proof of residency prior to 1859, making it more stringent.
  • With its focus on Pre-Separation Moreton Bay, this publication complements GSQ’s Separation to Federation database.
  • The stories were limited to three pages which gave the writer sufficient scope to tell the family’s story and add some illustrations.

Weaknesses:

  • None for me but perhaps the book is too expensive and too heavy for anyone who doesn’t want to use the CD.

Toowoomba and Darling Downs Family History Society (TDDFHS)

TDDFHS’s Q 150 project was to gather stories on a representative sample of people buried in the now-Heritage Listed Drayton and Toowoomba Cemetery. The book’s title was Drayton and Toowoomba Cemetery: Our Backyard and it includes some very interesting yarns.

Also worth mentioning in the context of the above databases and publications, thought not Q150 focused, is TDDFHS’s publications of the Darling Downs Biographical Registers: Part I to 1900 in two volumes, and the recently released Part II up to 1920.

Once again, if you have any interest in, or ancestry from, the Downs these publications are well worth tracking down in your local genealogical or research library.

State Library of Queensland (SLQ)

The Storylines Q150 project has only recently come to my attention and it’s well worth a look if you have an interest in Queensland.

Some thoughts on “St Mary’s Ipswich: the Luckie Parish”

St Mary’s Ipswich: the Luckie Parish

This book by John R Kane was published in 2011 and was a winner of the Viva Cribb Bursary offered through the Ipswich City Council. I bought the book during a driving trip to Ipswich a few weeks ago and felt my money had been well spent, and as a bonus it gave me in-flight reading on the way home.

This book added a new timeline dimension to those I’ve read before about Catholic Queensland, or Ipswich, or both. This meant I got a clearer sense of what had happened in St Mary’s Ipswich before and during the years my Kunkel ancestors lived there. Other ancestors lived there but they were members of other congregations. My interest really focussed on the period from the church’s inception to the turn of the 20th century.

The physical and emotional demands placed on these early Queensland priests, essentially missionaries, echoed our own experience of missionaries in Papua New Guinea in the 1970s. It could be a very lonely life as well as physically challenging and financially draining.

I had known about Fr McGinty’s indefatigable efforts to fund-raise and build churches for the Catholics of his geographically-dispersed parish (or mission as it was technically known). I’d also known that he had ridden many, many miles in his commitment to his parishioners, baptising and marrying people who may not have seen a priest for some years. My great-grandmother Julia Gavin and her brother were among those he baptised on these rides to far-flung stations, settlements and towns. He’d also baptised some of the Dorfprozelten descendants as well as an unrelated Gavin family I research. The man really had enormous energy and dedication. Unfortunately his resistance to the Bishop’s directive to hand over the donated funds raised by McGinty, caused untold controversy, and no shortage of ill-will. He could also be a rigid-thinking man who got himself into bother with the community over religious holidays or refusing to bury those who did not practice their faith (even children). Still I continue to admire his commitment and energy.

It may not have been the author’s intention, but I left the book feeling no love for Bishop Quinn and his impact on the church in Ipswich. Certainly McGinty was obdurate but to over-ride the parishioners’ wishes for the money they’d so generously donated seems both unwise and insulting, albeit consistent for the times. My understanding is that the Sisters of Mercy struggled against Quinn’s control as well, though Kane suggests they conformed –not my understanding from years at All Hallows’ but perhaps my memory is not correct.

The book also highlights the Irishness of the Catholic Church in Australia, something that’s not news to anyone brought up in the faith in Queensland, and something the German Catholics had to come to terms with (though sometimes it drove them to the Lutherans). The book also talks of the debates and changes around parochial education and government funding –something that continues to rear its head from time to time.

From a personal point of view I remain disappointed that the church built by Fr McGinty in 1860 from donations by early parishioners was largely destroyed, to be replaced in 1884 by a grander church of cathedral dimensions. Surely it would have been possible to retain the old one and use it for another purpose. I wonder how many of the first donors contributed to the second church’s construction…those early pioneers must have suffered from church-building-burnout, especially if they moved around. Fr Martin (see book below, p134) indicates that stones from the previous building were used in the sacristy of the new church.

I’d have liked to see a little more cohesive editing of the book in some sections, and a subject index, but this did not detract from its value to understanding the history of St Mary’s Ipswich and would be a useful reference for anyone whose family worshipped there.

It is a good complement to the following books:

The Foundation of the Catholic Church in Queensland, Martin D W, Church Archivists’ Press, Brisbane 1998 (this book has some excellent images of St Mary’s Ipswich, old and new).

St Mary’s Story: a history of St Mary’s Catholic Parish, Ipswich 1849-1999, St Mary’s Parish Historical Society, Ipswich, 1999.