The many survivals of Barbara Crawford

The reality of travelling steerage where diseases found the perfect conditions. ANMM collection 00005627

The reality of travelling steerage, where diseases found the perfect conditions. ANMM Collection 00005627

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.

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The lost art of the Christmas card

Not quite at the water's edge, yet. This 1865 depiction of colonists at Manly celebrating Christmas appeared in The Illustrated Sydney News. Image: ANMM collection 00006061.

Not quite at the water’s edge, yet. This 1865 depiction of colonists at Manly celebrating Christmas appeared in The Illustrated Sydney News. Image: ANMM collection 00006061.

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.

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Warwick Hood AO 1932–2015

Dame Pattie full sail - photo by Douglas Baglin

Dame Pattie under full sail – Photographer Douglas Baglin 00029529 ANMM Collection

Naval architect Warwick Hood AO passed away at Erina on the NSW Central Coast early in July, shortly before his 83rd birthday. To the general public and the yachting scene in particular he was well recognised and highly respected as the designer of Australia’s second America’s Cup challenger, the International 12-Metre class yacht Dame Pattie. This design was very significant in its own right, but was a part of Hood’s long career in naval architecture that was also filled with remarkably varied work that reflects wide interests along with an ability to manage diverse marine projects.

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Gervais Purcell: hats, photography and fashion of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s

Gervais Purcell - model in beach hat

Woman modelling a hat, Gervais Purcell 1949

Cock your hat.
An angle is an attitude

– Frank Sinatra

Its hat week this week – for myself it’s an excuse to kit up for winter but among the vast collection of images by respected Australian commercial photographer Gervais Purcell the hats are generally more about form than function.

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Researching your family’s child migrant history

The museum’s travelling exhibition On their own – Britain’s child migrants recently commenced a tour to the UK, opening at Merseyside Maritime Museum at Liverpool’s historic Albert Dock. The exhibition traces the history of the government-sponsored schemes that sent more than 100,000 unaccompanied children from Britain to Commonwealth countries between the 1860s and 1960s. The special guest at the opening was former child migrant Tony Chambers, who was sent to New Zealand in 1951 at the age of nine.

Former child migrant Tony Chambers (second from left) with Merseyside curator Ellie Moffat, ANMM curator Kim Tao and Merseyside deputy head Ian Murphy in Liverpool, 2014

Former child migrant Tony Chambers (second from left) with Merseyside curator Ellie Moffat, ANMM curator Kim Tao and Merseyside deputy head Ian Murphy in Liverpool, 2014

There was something incredibly symbolic about being gathered at this museum on the banks of the River Mersey – where so many child migrants embarked on their long sea voyage to a new life – to hear Tony speak about his experiences. He acknowledged that he was one of the lucky ones, in that he was able to return to England in 1965 and reconnect with his birth mother. Many others were not so lucky, and one of the most common questions I was asked while in Liverpool, and indeed throughout the three-year Australian tour of On their own, was How can I find out more about my/my family’s child migrant history?

A great place to start is the ANMM’s research guide to child migration resources in our Vaughan Evans Library. Merseyside Maritime Museum’s information sheet on child emigration is also very useful for an overview of the schemes and sending organisations.

The National Archives of Australia’s Child migration to Australia fact sheet contains a guide to personal documents of child migrants that are held in national and state archives, while Good British Stock: Child and Youth Migration to Australia includes a guide to archives and libraries in the UK, Canada, Malta and Zimbabwe, as well as organisations that can help former child migrants to find family members.

The Child Migrants Trust provides a range of social work services for former child migrants, including counselling, family research and support for family reunions. It has offices in Nottingham, Melbourne and Perth. The International Association of Former Child Migrants and Their Families advocates for recognition, understanding and reparation for former child migrants.

It is also a good idea to contact the sending organisation, if you know its name, as many have aftercare offices that can provide information to former child migrants or their families. There is a detailed list of organisations and their contact details in the report from the 2001 Senate Inquiry Lost Innocents: Righting the Record – Report on Child Migration.

Find and Connect is a comprehensive web resource for Forgotten Australians, former child migrants and anyone with an interest in the history of child welfare in Australia. It brings together historical resources relating to institutional care and also helps people to connect with support groups and services in their state or territory. The Find and Connect website has a list of commemorative events that have been organised this week to mark the fifth anniversary of the Australian Government’s apology to Forgotten Australians and former child migrants who experienced institutional or out-of-home care as children during the 20th century.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologises to former child migrants, Canberra, 2009. Reproduced courtesy Fairfax Photos

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologises to former child migrants, Canberra, 2009. Reproduced courtesy Fairfax Photos

At the Parliament of Australia website you can watch or read the transcript of the historic apology in Canberra on 16 November 2009, when then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologised for ‘the absolute tragedy of childhoods lost’ and acknowledged: the particular pain of children shipped to Australia as child migrants – robbed of your families, robbed of your homeland, regarded not as innocent children but regarded instead as a source of child labour.

To those of you who were told you were orphans, brought here without your parents’ knowledge or consent, we acknowledge the lies you were told, the lies told to your mothers and fathers, and the pain these lies have caused for a lifetime.

To those of you separated on the dockside from your brothers and sisters; taken alone and unprotected to the most remote parts of a foreign land – we acknowledge today that the laws of our nation failed you.

And for this we are deeply sorry.

On their own – Britain’s child migrants is on show at Merseyside Maritime Museum, National Museums Liverpool UK, until 4 October 2015.

Kim Tao
Curator, Post-Federation Immigration


Apologies, anniversaries and hidden histories

This week marks the fourth anniversary of the British Government’s apology to former child migrants who were sent to Commonwealth countries through government-sponsored child migration schemes.  It also marks the return of our travelling exhibition On their own – Britain’s child migrants for a final showing at the museum before it begins a UK tour later this year.

On their own - Britain's child migrants

On their own – Britain’s child migrants

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Suitcases, boats and bridges

Last week I was invited to speak about the museum’s work at the Suitcases, boats and bridges: telling migrant stories in Australian museums workshop, organised by Dr Nina Parish from the University of Bath and Dr Chiara O’Reilly from the University of Sydney. The workshop brought together academics, museum professionals and museum studies students to discuss how migrant stories have been collected and articulated in a number of Australian museums, ranging from large government-funded institutions such as ours, to smaller regional, suburban or volunteer-run museums.

Suitcases and boats in Passengers, the museum's permanent exhibition about Australia's immigration history. Photographer Andrew Frolows

Suitcases and boats in Passengers, the museum’s permanent exhibition about Australia’s immigration history. Photographer Andrew Frolows

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Remembering the Forgotten Fleet

In late 2013 a new display will open to the public in the museum’s USA Gallery. This World War 2 story remembers the service of over 3,000 Australian civilians employed by the US Army Small Ships Section between May 1942 and January 1947. Many objects and photographs selected for display have been borrowed from individuals or from the families of those who served with the US Small Ships. The US Army Small Ships Association Inc has been instrumental in helping museum staff with the development of this project.

So why are we telling this story?

It is a fascinating and little known part of the Allied war effort in the Pacific. The US Army Small Ships Section played a crucial role in transporting supplies to Allied troops fighting in the Philippines, Papua New Guinea and other South-West Pacific campaigns. Sailing under the American flag, they carried food, water, ammunition, mail and building and medical supplies. They collected the wounded and repatriated the dead.

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Unloading supplies from a US Army small ship, Papua New Guinea, about 1943.
Photographer Neil Sandery

Nothing about this fleet was conventional.  The vessels were largely skippered and crewed by Australian civilians considered too old or too young or medically unfit to join the Australian Armed Services. Some were as young as 15 while others were 70 years old. A small group of US Army officers led by Captain Sheridan Fahnestock co-ordinated the charter and requisitioning of vessels from Tasmania, mainland Australia and New Zealand. It was essential for these ‘small ships’ to have shallow draft so they could navigate the uncharted coastal waters of Papua New Guinea where larger vessels could not safely go. This ‘raggle taggle’ fleet included fishing trawlers, sailing craft, tugs, private launches, speed boats, ferries, landing craft and some larger ships such as freighters. This fleet grew to over 3,000 by war’s end due to an ambitious vessel building program.

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US Army Small Ships in Papua New Guinea about 1943. Photographer Neil Sandery

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US Army Small Ships personnel in 1943 Neil Sandery, second from right. Photographer Robert Bruce Irving

While researching the story of the US Small Ships, I was struck by a series of photographs taken by Neil Sandery (1917- 1946) who joined the US Small Ships in 1942. He was a keen amateur photographer and his evocative images provide an insight into the hazards and hardships of daily life as part of the US Army Small Ships service. Sandery takes the viewer on board the vessels he skippered as well as the places he visited. His is but one of many compelling stories to emerge from researching the history of the US Small Ships service during World War 2.

Sandery was the skipper of the Timoshenko, one of two trawlers involved in the advance landing of US Army troops at Pongai, Papua New Guinea, in October 1942. Timoshenko and King John were mistaken for Japanese vessels and attacked by an American bomber. Two men were killed and 18 wounded in the attack.

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US troops on board the trawler Timoshenko enroute to Pongai 18 October 1942. Photographer Neil Sandery

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Unidentified bombers overhead, Papua New Guinea, about 1943.
Photographer Neil Sandery

This exhibition would not be possible without the generosity and assistance of individuals who served with the US Small Ships Service, the US Army Small Ships Association Inc and its President Ernest A Flint, and the efforts of others who have previously researched and written about this fascinating subject.

Penny Cuthbert

Suggested Reading
Lunney B and Lunney R Forgotten Fleet 2, Forfleet Publishing, 2004
Reday L The Raggle Taggle Fleet , US Army Small Ships Association 






Dawn Fraser AO MBE voted Australia’s greatest sportswoman

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Dawn Faser by a pool in Townsville in training for the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games. Photographer: John Konrads. ANMM Collection

On 27 February 2013, swimming legend Dawn Fraser (1937- ) was named Australia’s greatest sportswoman of all time at the Sport for Women Day celebrations in Canberra.  She beat former Olympic Athletics Champion Betty Cuthbert and seven times APS World Champion surfer Layne Beachley for the top honour.  You can see the full list of Australia’s top 100 Sportswomen on the Sport for Women website.

In a career marked by triumph and controversy, Fraser won eight Olympic medals, including four gold medals, and six Commonwealth Games gold medals. She also held 39 records. Continue reading

Canoes and culture at Saltwater Freshwater for Australia Day

On Friday 25 January David Payne and I made our way north to Taree from Sydney. With one of David’s derivative plywood nardan (or derrka) strapped to the roof, and sheets of stringy bark in the boot of the car, we were on our way to the Saltwater Freshwater Festival on the banks of the Manning River on the mid north coast of New South Wales.

The festival is held every year along a river or on the coast at a centre within the 10 local Aboriginal Land Council areas grouped in the Saltwater Freshwater Arts Alliance. This festival, the fourth, was held in Taree after the 2012 event was washed out by the floods.

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Saltwater Freshwater CEO Alison Page accepting a nawi model made in the workshop with David Payne (L) and Daina Fletcher (R).

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A day in the life of a cruise ship

Like nocturnal animals, they come home as dawn breaks, find their haven to sit out the heat of the day, and then head back out as the day cools into the evening. That’s one day’s pattern in the life of a cruise ship that comes to Sydney.

Cruise ship on Sydney Harbour at dusk, with sun setting and ship lights onDawn breaks. Sneaking in through the heads, lights ablaze, beating the sun still chasing it from under the eastern horizon, the cruise ship picks up its pilot and silently, unnoticed by most of Sydney still sleeping. It glides down the western channel, past Bradleys, Fort Dennison, under the bridge at a crawl, hard to port and a sideways slip routine, sometimes helped by a tug, has it berthed at the Barangaroo terminal before 7am. Continue reading

Shaping the unknown land to the South

Carte des Indes Orientale

‘Carte des Indes Orientale’, maker Pierre Du Val, 1677. #00000919 ANMM Collection

Maps are fantastic storytellers. At first glance they provide a collection of scientific data, information to be read like a coded book, a tool for guidance. However as they evolve into historical items and beyond their practical use, maps offer additional and unique dimensions to historical narratives.

Before coming to the Australian National Maritime Museum I worked in the Research Centre at the Australian War Memorial and came across many WW1 military trench maps. The inter-connectedness of these maps with operational records opened up the literal records to a more visual history – where was that cemetery, now destroyed but briefly mentioned by coordinates within the records? Continue reading

Happy Birthday to Australian horses!

Today is the birthday of all Australian horses and to celebrate I decided to write about shipping horses from Australia to India. Yes a rather unusual topic, but nevertheless a key story in our upcoming exhibition East of India: Power, Trade and Australia 1788-1857.  I have been spending my days trawling through historic newspapers, government records and diaries to find reports of shipping activities between Australia and India during the early years of European settlement.

Imports from India to Australia included flour, rice, muslin, chintz, shoes, furniture and rum. Unfortunately for the ship owners there were few goods available for export back out of Sydney. While John Macarthur is famous for introducing the merino sheep to Australia, he also bred horses and established the largest stud in the colony. In 1822 he sent the Governor General of India a stallion as a specimen of a ‘fine New South Wales horse’. Captain Collins was sent to Sydney from Madras in 1834, his mission was to purchase horses for the Madras artillery and dragoons. By the end of the year he had sent three shipments of horses to India. Independent agents and ship owners were also keen to make money and they began shipping horses direct, hoping to sell for a higher price.

"Shipping horses to India"

Illustrated Australian News 4 October 1882  ANMM Collection

Offloading horses in Madras was particularly hazardous as shown in this dramatic painting from the collection of the Mitchell Library.

There was an absence of natural deep waters in the Madras region, so small country boats were sent out to meet the larger sailing ships. The horses were swung into the boats, and they were then taken to shallow waters, where the boats were capsized and the horses forced to leap out and somehow reach the shore. Daniel Wilson was responsible for looking after the horses onboard the Henrietta on a journey from Sydney to Calcutta and an excerpt from his fascinating diary held in the Mitchell Library illustrates one of the difficulties the horses faced on the journey.

‘Sunday 18th Feby. 1844-1845
We have now a great deal of trouble with the horses, they are quite worn out with standing so long on their legs that they are falling down every morning, especially Bowmans horses which are in very bad condition, being so when shipped.’

We are still working out how to tell the story of the horse trade in an effective and dynamic way for visitors. We could display paintings and reproduce historic advertisements or perhaps record dramatised accounts of diary entries with sound effects of loading horses onboard ship in the background. Another approach might be to interview a vet involved in shipping horses in the twenty-first century to reflect on the challenges involved.

While life onboard was difficult for all the crew and passengers, I feel especially sorry for the poor horses.

East of India: Power, Trade and Australia 1788-1857 opens in June 2013 and we will be posting regular updates on various aspects of its development over the next twelve months.

Eighteen months on a leaky boat

 ‘Southern Pygmy Leatherjacket, Brachaluteres jacksonianus’

‘Southern Pygmy Leatherjacket, Brachaluteres jacksonianus’, by Ferdinand Bauer, lent by Natural History Museum, London

There is something intriguing about natural history illustrations. The plants look as though they are sprouting from the page but the animals appear slightly on the edge of reality, with blankly staring eyes and stiffly posed limbs. Perhaps this is because the immobility of plants permit them to be drawn from life whereas animals do not generally allow the painter that luxury unless they are in a more, well, deceased state.

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Object of the Week: The many lives and deaths of the tug HERO


Tug HERO towing PAMIR, Max Dupain. Reg #00038310 ANMM Collection Gift from Brambles Australia

If ever there was a little tug whose adventures could have graced the pages of a children’s book, it would be the Aussie tug HERO.

Arriving in Australia in 1892, as the Australian towing industry was coming into its own, HERO remained a feature on (and at the bottom of) Sydney Harbour for nearly 70 years. Continue reading