Australia’s Motorcycle Chariot Race...

Chariots are something from the Roman era, and not something to you associate (or see) these days, or even in the relatively recent past. But back in 1920s-1930s chariot motorcycle racing was a thing. Yes, for real! And Australia even got in on the act. I recently saw the photo above, on the History in Pictures Facebook page, and couldn’t believe what I saw. Two men in Roman style outfits, in chariots, with two motorbikes pulling them along. The caption read “Motorcycle Chariot Race in New South Wales, Australia, 1936”.  I was intrigued, I wanted to know if this was for real, so I headed to Trove. Sure enough, the motorcycle chariot race did happen. It was one of many events that were held at Sydney Showgrounds for the New South Wales Police Carnival on Saturday, 29 February 1936. With an estimated crowd of 50,000 this was AN EVENT!! Here’s just some of the articles I found on Trove about it … And to top it off there’s even a short video up on YouTube of the race. The National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) have a great write up about the NSW Police Carnival day, together with a longer video showing more of the events, which is totally worth watching. Check that out here. And for the record, there was going to be two heats (two laps each), but a third was needed to determine the winner: Heat 1: Constable J. T. Riley 1, Constable Langham 2. Time, 59 3-5. Heat 2: Constable Langham 1, Constable Riley 2. Time, 60 2-5. Heat 3: Constable Riley 1, Constable Langham 2. Time, 1.1¾. So from seeing a very cool random vintage photo online, to a history lesson … what’s not to love...

The First (and Last) Woman Hanged in South Australia...

March is almost over, but before it leaves us I wanted to write something for Women’s History Month. And after much thought, I have decided to write about Elizabeth Woolcock. The name might be known to a few, but not most. Her name has been added to the pages of history as she was the first, the last, and the only woman to be hanged in South Australia. Convicted and sentenced to hanging for the murder of her husband Thomas Woolcock by mercury poisoning, she was just 25 years old. Her life was a short, tragic one. Her Birth Born on 20 April 1848 Elizabeth Lillian Oliver was the daughter of John and Elizabeth Oliver, who were immigrants from Cornwall. They resided in the a dugouts at Burra, South Australia (several hundred kilometres north of Adelaide). In January 1852 John Oliver did what many men from around the country did, and that was head to the goldfields in Victoria. After a number of months at Ballarat he had some good fortune, and the family joined him later that year. However that’s when things started to go wrong. Catherine the younger daughter of John and Elizabeth, died of dysentery aged just 2, and shortly after that John’s wife, Elizabeth left him to return to Adelaide – not liking life on the goldfields, and she left 4 year old Elizabeth with him. Elizabeth was abandoned by her mother at four, witnessed a murder at six, brutally raped and beaten at seven, and orphaned at nine. Following the Eureka Stockade rebellion in 1854, Elizabeth was traumatised after witnessing the death of her father’s friend, Henry Powell, at the hands of police. And the following year, 7 year old Elizabeth, who was left...

21 Facts About the First Fleet...

Did you know that approximately 20% of Australians descend from convicts … yes, true! Having a convict in the family has become a badge of honour for many, and having a First Fleeter even more so. And while the term ‘convict’ tends to mean ‘criminal’, so many of the 162,000 who were transported to Australia weren’t actually ‘bad’. In fact, many were just trying to survive. So just how much do you know of your Australian convict history? In particular the First Fleet? Here’s some intriguing facts that you probably didn’t know. Why send convicts to Australia? Britain had shipped about 52,000 convicts to America between 1717 and 1775 before they started sending them to Australia. And it was because of the American Revolution in 1776 that Britain started sending their criminals to Australia. When and where did it leave from and arrive? The fleet left Portsmouth, in Devon, England on 13 May 1787, and arrived at Botany Bay, New South Wales, Australia between 18-20 January 1788 How many ships in the first fleet? The whole fleet consisted of 11 ships. 6 convict ships, 2 naval ships and 3 ships with supplies What are the names of the ships in the first fleet? H.M.S. Sirius, Charlotte, Alexander, Scarborough, Lady Penrhyn, Friendship, H.M.S. Supply, Prince of Wales, Golden Grove, Fishburn and Borrowdale Who was the captain of the first fleet? Captain Arthur Phillip What about Port Jackson? The fleet arrived at Botany Bay but as that place was deemed unsuitable as a settlement due to the lack of fresh water, the fleet sailed on to Port Jackson (Sydney Cove), New South Wales arriving on 26 January 1788 What’s so special about the date 26 January? 26 January marks the anniversary of the 1788...

6 January 1912 – Australia’s First Plane Crash...

6 January 1912, is the date Australia’s first official plane crash happened. But before going into that, just a little background information. Australia’s earliest recorded attempts at powered flying took place in 1909, and within a year, numerous aircrafts were being imported, with others being locally made. As you can imagine, some of these new flying machines proved less successful than others, with mild accidents on take-off occurring in several cases. However it was inevitable that a ‘proper’ aeroplane crash would take place sooner or later. William Ewart Hart is the man who’s name is now in Australia’s history as being the pilot of Australia’s first plane crash. Billy Hart (as he was known) was born in Parramatta, New South Wales in 1885, when at age 16 he was apprenticed to a local dentist. By 1906 was a registered dentist himself, and after registration he practiced as a dentist in Wyalong, where he rode the first motorcycle and drove the first car in town. Quite the man, no doubt! He went on to practice in Newcastle, New South Wales. In 1911, at age 26 Billy Hart learnt to fly and became the first man to hold an Australia aviator’s licence. His No. 1 Certificate of the newly-created Aerial League of Australia was granted on 5 December 1911. Hart imported a British aircraft for £1300 (approx $140,000 today), and maintained it in a tent at Penrith, New South Wales. However, shortly after its purchase, strong winds overturned the tent and the plane, reducing the aircraft to a wreck. Not to be defeated, Billy salvaged what he could, and built a biplane from the parts. On 6 January 1912 he was demonstrating his aircraft, and had military officer Major Rosenthal as a passenger,...

Trove – Eight Years of Incredible Discoveries...

Eight years ago, the way of historical and genealogical research in Australia changed forever. Trove went live. Created by the National Library of Australia, the Trove website is a portal to their absolutely incredible collection of records. By “absolutely incredible”, I’m talking millions of records. But not “just” millions. How about 554,000,000 of them? That’s right, over HALF A BILLION of them in fact! All online and all free to search. So how lucky are we? There’s no doubt that Trove is Australia’s number 1 website for research. If it’s not yours, it should be! So go and bookmark it www.trove.nla.gov.au now. If you’re not familiar with Trove, take a quick look at the videos below that give you a quick overview, of what it is, and the different facets to it. So you’ll find photos, journals and articles, archived websites, government gazettes, music, sound and video recordings, diaries and letters, maps and books, even vintage issues of the Women’s Weekly magazine. They all make up the phenomenal collection of Australian history that the National Library of Australian (NLA) looks after. For more a detailed analysis on using Trove and all it’s facets, check out Shauna Hicks’ “Trove: Discover Genealogy Treasure in the National Library of Australia“. However what most researchers (myself included) head to Trove for, is their historical newspaper collection. And why wouldn’t we, they are so fun. And with over 200 million pages of old newspaper online already – there are so many stories just waiting to be found. The blog theme “Trove Tuesday” was started back in 2012 by Amy Houston of the Branches Leaves and Pollen blog, [note, I know the link has changed, but I still wanted to give her the credit], and through its creation, has...

History and Wine Part 2: 19 Crimes...

Following on from my earlier post about convict wine, now we’re on to Part 2. And we have more history, more wine, and more convicts with “19 Crimes“. This wine is what got me started me on the whole “convict wine” thing. And you know what … it was actually a Canadian friend who introduced me to it. Thankyou Ellen. I’ll admit I’m not a wine fanatic, but I am a history and family history buff … so anything with a convict on it is going to get my attention. So I’ve researching this wine to suss out the stories behind it all. So it’s made in my home state of South Australia as a brand for Treasury Wine Estates, and 19 Crimes is sold locally in Australia, and overseas as well. And it was first made in 2012, so how did I not know about this until now? So what’s so cool about 19 Crimes wine?  The Corks = The Crimes Did you know that there were 19 reasons for transportation? No, nor did I. And each of these reasons is written on a cork. So if you’re a collector like me you wan to get the whole set. But it can be a challenge as they are added randomly you never know what you’ll get. So if you buy 2 bottles of the same wine you may get different corks, or you may get the same … you’ll never know until you open it. As a collector I’ve found it fun collecting the whole set, although I did have to bend the rules a little, since the Australian version of the wine doesn’t come with corks, but rather screwtops … so I headed to ebay, and little-by-little...

History and Wine Part 1: 717 Convicts...

This is the first of two posts that I’m writing about wine, history and convicts! And I must say, that this topic is my newest fascination addiction. So let me introduce you to the “717 Convicts”wine. Made by Darren and Suz Westlake of Westlake Vineyards. They run a small, family operated business in the heart of the Barossa Valley, South Australia’s wine country. And their range “717 Convicts” is one of their brands, and is a tribute to the First Fleet, and tribute to Darren’s ancestors. The story starts back in the county of Devon in England where Edward Westlake was tried for stealing 40 pounds of mutton to the value of 10/-., back in 1786. He was found guilty, and was sentenced to 7 years transportation, along with his father in law, John Mortimer and brother-in-law Noah Mortimer. All three got their “free ticket” to Australia aboard the “Charlotte”, which one of the 11 ships in the First Fleet., which left England in May 1787. You can read more about the ships (and the convicts ) here. Edward, John and Noah were just three of the 100 males, 32 females and 30 crew aboard the “Charlotte” for a total of 252 days – that’s an incredible 8 months, 1 week, and 1 day. I’ve been on cruise ships and by day 12 I tend to get stir crazy – and that’s pure luxury compared to the conditions that these ships would have been, so there is no comparison. After all they were prisoners, and were treated like it too. Anyway all three survived the voyage to New South Wales (not everyone did), and by March 1788 all three were then transferred on to Norfolk Island, as part of...

Everything is Instant

We live in an instant world. I don’t think anyone would disagree with that statement. Our food is instant, our communication is instant, our coffee is instant, and entertainment is too. But from time to time I am reminded about how much we rely on power and automation to make our life what it is. And I’m thinking that maybe I don’t think quite like everyone else, as I like to think about what it was like ‘back in the day’. Back in the era of my grandparents, or even great grandparents. So even just getting up and ready for school or work would have been an entirely different routine to those in today’s era. Just think about it these days: – you can flick a switch, at the lights go on, or when the power is out we have torches (none of this lighting candles just to move from room to room) – and we can turn the knob on the stove, and it heats up – push some buttons on the microwave, and tea is ready in a few minutes – open the fridge or freezer door and you have nicely cold food and drinks – if you’re cold, just pop the heater on – or if you’re hot put the airconditoner or fan on – the washing machine just needs a few buttons pushed, and wallah, it’s all washed for you – and the same goes the dryer – want hot water? No problem. Just turn the tap. None of this having to heat up water in the kettle or copper – want toast for breakfast … just pop a slice in. You don’t have to have a fire to get doing, to then toast the bread – and...

Society of Australian Genealogists …. the Beginnings...

Most Aussies who’ve been doing genealogy for a little while will be familiar with the major genealogical societies in each state: QFHS, GSQ, AIGS, GSV, WAGS, GSNT, GST, SAGHS, HAGSOC and SAG. Today’s story focusses on the Society of Australian Genealogists in Sydney, which we commonly refer to as SAG. While recently browsing on Trove (as you do on cold, almost-winter evenings), I came across the following article which tells of the beginnings of the Society … So as you can see the Society of Australian Genealogists was formed way back in 1932. This made me go looking to see when the other state societies were formed, and here’s what I found: 1941 – Genealogical Society of Victoria 1964 – Heraldry & Genealogical Society of Canberra (also now known as Family History ACT) 1973 – South Australian Genealogy & Heraldry Society (also now known as GenealogySA) 1973 – Australian Institute of Genealogical Studies 1978 – Genealogical Society of Queensland 1979 – Queensland Family History Society 1979 – Western Australian Genealogical Society 1980 – Genealogical Society of Tasmania (now known as Tasmanian FHS) 1981 – Genealogical Society of the Northern Territory A snippet from the above 1932 article states… “Mr. H. J. Rumsey, said he was convinced that no country had more complete records from the time of its occupation by civilised people than Australia. Mr. Rumsey indicated the various sources of information available for research work, both in Australia and Great Britain … To help one another in genealogical study, Mr. Rumsey advocated the use of a card index system, so that members could be supplied with standard cards to record their investigation. Ultimately, he said, it was to be hoped that a genealogical reference library of their own...

Hoon, and You’ll be Fined … Even in the 1840s...

Same thing. Different century. And still boys will be boys! These days it’s reckless driving, back then it was reckless riding … Furious riding and driving are daily witnessed in Sydney to the extreme annoyance and danger of all persons who may happen to be in the street. People, whether drunk or sober, seem equally careless of the consequence to be apprehended from such wanton conduct, and we often wonder that children and others are not more frequently rendered the objects of accidents; For the middle of the streets are seldom empty, and indeed the contempt of danger of those on foot seems quite equal to the absence of caution on the part of riders and drivers. On Monday a youth on horse-back rode at a quick rate, nearly at full speed, through the street, and knocked down a young girl, the mother of a child, with the child in her arms, and occasioned in her very serious injury. A complaint was made at the Police Office, and the offender was committed to the Sessions for the assault. – The Australian Sydney, NSW, 14 February 1827, pg2 Back in the 1840s a law was passed in South Australia to fine those who were “furious riding or driving”. In otherwords, speeding or ‘hooning’ on your horse, as opposed to speeding or ‘hooning’ in a car as it is these days. Furious Riding or Driving By the provisions of the New Police Act, furious riding or driving is punishable by a fine of from Two to Ten pounds. It will be seen by our police report that a penalty of the lowest amount was enforced yesterday against a person for galloping in Hindley street. He pleaded ignorance of the Act (an excuse not likely long to be available), which was apparently the occasion...