This Father’s Day there will no doubt many a father choosing to spend the day on the water. Perhaps on the family boat for a sail around the quiet waters of home, pull in for a bbq at some bay and feel the sense of peace and gratitude that sailing in Australia can bring. Whatever your vessel type, the ease of getting out on the water brings joy to a lot of families.
It is so easy for us today to access music anytime, anywhere and in any style that it is difficult to imagine that music was still influential in people’s lives prior to radio, stereo, records etc. Music was played live but it was also widely distributed in the form of sheet music. Cheaply produced in large quantities sheet music meant people could play or learn the songs themselves and the song could be sung in a wide range of venues including homes, pubs, street corners, wharfs and music halls.
At the beginning of the 20th Century, the world seemed unbearably young. It had yet to experience a World War or the Great Depression. Fossil fuels were the future and any new technology was seen as a good thing. It became known as the Gilded Age and it must have been heady times for those who had the cash to enjoy it. And there were plenty of those. One, in particular, was Thomas W Lawson. At one time Lawson was thought to be one of the wealthiest men in America with a fortune estimated at over USD $50 million (over $1 billion in today’s money).
The year 1837 was a busy one for the colony of New South Wales. Busiest of all was Sydney Harbour, which saw thousands of convicts arriving and a growing number of immigrants. In addition to the free single men and women, whole families were travelling from Britain to try their luck with a new life.
On 5 November 1836 the immigrant ship Lady McNaughton left Ireland for Australia. On board was the largest number of children ever to immigrate to Australia at that time. Passenger lists show 196 of the passengers of the ship were under the age of 14. However, by the time the ship was about 300 kilometres from Sydney, 54 of the passengers had died – 44 of those being children. Even in the age of dangerous sea travel, this was an extraordinarily high death rate. The typhus fever on board showed no signs of abating, with some 90 passengers still afflicted.
It was bound to happen. There was only one this year: a lone Christmas card arriving in my mailbox, stoically spreading Christmas cheer and best wishes for the season. Likely, next year there will be none and although we may discover new ways to spread cheer, via emails or seasonal emojis, but for me, the demise of the Christmas card is cause for some lament.
Whilst Halloween slowly approaches, its pretence of horror and worn out ghoulish clichés appear again. Pumpkins and cobwebs adorn houses and plastic skeletons dance limply off front fences. No doubt witches and vampires have their earned their scary credentials but the forced spookiness of the season only makes it feel like a poor cousin to where real horror exists. Offshore.
Oswald Brierly is probably known to most Australians for the whaling scenes he painted while at Twofold Bay, near Eden in New South Wales, which perfectly captured the drama and danger of the whaling at that time. He spent five years at Twofold Bay managing a business there for the Scottish-born entrepreneur and pioneer Ben Boyd. However, his time there would end up being just a small part of this versatile man’s truly remarkable life. Continue reading
The life of a lighthouse keeper is often either romanticised or seen as a desolate life for those who prefer the solitary confines of the role, away from the social rigours of mainland life.
In reality, the life was a mixture of both and so much more. The ANMM has in its collection an extraordinary log book kept by the lighthouse keeper William Norgate from November 1893 to November 1929. The log is dilapidated and fragile but reveals a humble yet extraordinary life.
On 2 June 1949 a small advertisement appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald. It was for the sale of Hegarty’s Ferries, a family-owned service which at that time operated between Circular Quay, McMahons Point and Kirribilli. The whole enterprise was now up for sale, including the ‘diesel-engined boats, its wharves, offices, and equipment’. The owners, the well-known Hegarty family from Drummoyne, were heading south to Victoria.
A surprising purchaser stepped forward to take on the business – three women, headed up by Maud Barber. Maud, although no stranger to the Sydney harbour scene, bought the business along with her daughter and Miss Jean Porter. Maud was married to the boatbuilder and naval architect Arthur Barber, best known for his design of Rani, the first ever winner of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, in 1945.
When the news of Cook’s death reached London in 1780, it did not make front page news, but rather, was merely noted with a small announcement of a single paragraph. But public expressions of grief came, one being ‘Elegy on Captain Cook’ written by Anna Seward in 1780.
Where does Australians’ love of the sea first start if not at the beach as children? Absorbed for hours by the sand, ignoring the heat and discomfort of constantly wet swimmers, they diligently build and rebuild imagined cities and swimming holes, filled up by countless trips down to the water’s edge to return with slopping buckets of seawater.
In the big scheme of the museum’s collection, they are not your standout items. Overshadowed by bigger and bolder objects jostling for gallery space, the collection of beach buckets sits in storage protected from the rigours of the outside world. But they are very much part of the fabric of Australian maritime history.
Captain Edward ‘Tip’ Broughton was already a veteran of two wars. He had served in the Boer War (that time ‘overestimating’ his age in order to be accepted) and had been part of the Maori Battalion at Gallipoli. He later served in France and was mentioned in dispatches for his ‘distinguished and gallant service’. Broughton moved to Australia after the war and settled in Melbourne where he was a bookmaker until the opportunity to serve in the army arose again.
It is easy, when reading accounts of early European explorers, to see only the official version they leave behind. The naval reports, detailed charts and an imposing portrait of a confident man in an impressive uniform.
But often, dig just a little deeper and a different man emerges. A man with individual oddities, unsuspected sympathies, personal tragedies and constant worries. Such is the case with the French explorer Durmont d’Urville.
In the Navy gallery of the Australian National Maritime Museum there are three double handed cups commemorating particular moments of Australian and British naval history. James Cook, Horatio Nelson and Arthur Phillip are immortalised in the moments that endeared them to the public forever.
As much as these cups recognise the achievements of those famous men, the cups are also representative of the career of a much less well known man, Charles Noke of Royal Doulton.
Noke was one of those men who was born to his profession. Who knew from a very early age what he wanted to do with his life and had the natural talent to achieve it. He became an apprentice ceramic modeller in 1874 at the age of 16 to the Royal Worcester Porcelain factory. In 1889 Noke then moved to Royal Doulton as the chief designer and modeller at their famous Burslem factory in Staffordshire.
Noke and his colleagues, were working at Royal Dolton during a great period of great creativity where the traditional and functional role of Royal Doulton was expanding into artistic and decorative ware at its Burslem site.
Noke became Artistic Director in 1914 and was eager to continue to grow the Royal Doulton figure range which he had been working on since 1893. The figures had not been commercially successful and in addition to the war, Noke’s attention had been diverted elsewhere. But now he was focused on what he believed would be a strong part of the future of Royal Doulton.
It was in the early 1930’s that Noke introduced the range of Loving Cups and character jugs of the type seen in the ANMM collection. Noke was a great lover of English literature, especially Dickens, and English history. These first issues of Loving Cups were based on popular historical figures, such as Nelson and Cook, historical events and characters from widely known fiction. The wide appeal lay in the characters recognizable faces and events.
Noke had invented what would become known as “Series Ware”. It was a burst of business genius and would become a significant part of the Royal Doulton range, even today.
In 1939 Noke and Cuthbert Bailey, a long-time collaborator and the manager of the Burslem factory, came together on a new project. Bailey had introduced the Bunnykins range of nursery ware in 1934. It was Bailey’s daughter, Sister Mary Barbara who had created the Bunnykins characters whilst living in a convent of the Augustinian Canonesses of the Lateran. It is said that the Reverend Mother of the convent was against the venture, but allowed it to go ahead if it was kept under wraps and if Sister Mary Barbara received no financial benefit from her work.
Recognizing the appeal of Sister Mary’s Bunnykins characters, Noke created a series of six bunny figurines based on her drawings. These were the first ever Bunnykins figures, a series that is now synonymous with many childhoods and with Royal Doulton and still it’s most popular series today featuring hundreds of different characters.
Whether bunnies, heroic men or the rogues of Dickens’ imagination, there is great sentiment in Noke’s interpretation and modelling. In the cup of the Captain Phillip and the First Fleet, we see the landing party having a drink while cheering the British flag. Nelson is portrayed proudly on his ship before battle yet vulnerable with his pinned sleeve and concerned expression. And Noke’s first bunny figures are as endearing as the tender Bunnykins drawings by Sister Mary Barbara.
Noke ‘retired’ from Royal Doulton in 1938 but apparently modelled every day until he died in 1941. His son Cecil took over his job and continued the work that his father had started.
Charles Noke’s vision of thematic figures, plates and cups became a legacy that lives on in living rooms today. But his idea was more than just a publicity or commercial promotion for Royal Doulton. Whether through the Bunnykins figures or national heroes Loving Cups, Noke ensured that there was something for everyone in his world of ceramics.