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Friday, 28 March 2014

From flood plain to planned lake

I grew up in Canberra,which was planned and designed in 1913 as the capital city of Australia, and is located  in the Australian Capital Territory, between Sydney and Melbourne. Canberra was built around a flood plain, at the centre of which was the Molonglo River. The winner of the world-wide competition for the design of the city was an American architect called Walter Burley Griffin, and one central feature of his plan was to turn that flood plain into a lake, around which various significant institutional buildings would eventually be constructed, such as the National Parliament, the High Court, the National Library, the National Art Gallery and the National Museum of Australia.
In consequence of disagreements with Walter Burley Griffin, departures from his original plans and the intervention of two world wars, the Molonglo River continued to divide north and south Canberra for fifty years  before it was eventually dammed to form a lake, to be known as Lake Burley Griffin. Originally the only convenient way to get from one side to the other was to use a bridge called Lennox Crossing, which was regularly submerged when floods occurred and that this caused considerable disruption and  inconvenience for Canberrans. Below is one photograph showing the crossing in flood in.1926, from the collection of the National Archives of Australia, and another showing the bridge in 1927.


                        The following items snipped from the Canberra Times of 26 February 1934 and of 2 March 1961 respectively provide examples of the sorts of problems caused by floodwaters from the Molonglo River. Such flooding had been a regular occurrence ever since the very early days of the Capital.

Canberra Times, 26 July 1961
 In 1960 tenders were called and accepted and in 1961 work began on the excavation and construction of Scrivener Dam and Lake Burley Griffin. On Friday 20 September 1963, the Honourable Mr Gordon Freeth, then Minister for the Interior, officially closed the valve on the Scrivener Dam which would cause the lake to fill. The advertisement below from the Canberra Times invited the members of the public to attend, and I was part of a busload of other students from my school and others who were chosen to go along and witness the occasion. You can see from the advertisement that the duty was intended to be performed by the Prime Minister, but apparently he was indisposed on the day. I wonder if Mr Freeth's substitution mean that the commemorative plaque to be erected at the spot had to be completely remade.  As the notice says, the next day, September 21, was declared an open day for the public to inspect the dam and a related display. Special buses were arranged if you weren't driving, for a return fare of 2/6 for adults.



 I like the fact that the enterprising Girl Guides took advantage of the opportunity to attract more customers to their fete in the grounds of the Prime Minister's Lodge, which some visitors would pass en route to or from the Dam.

'Canberrans flock to see Scrivener Dam from which Lake Burley Griffin was created'. Photo: National Capital Authority,
I can't recognise myself in this photograph, but I'm sure there were more people there than are shown, and I was definitely there somewhere!

This photograph from the National library of Australia shows Mr Freeth speaking in 1961 at the opening of Kings Avenue Bridge. one of two substantial bridges built to cross the future lake.  It looks like Mr Menzies is seated behind him. He would get his chance at a ceremony on 19 October 1964 to commemorate the filling of the lake. If you have a few spare minutes, you might like to click here and watch this short film about the construction of Lake Burley Griffin. Apart from giving an interesting history of the lake's conception and creation, it gives quite a good insight into life in Canberra in the 1960s!

The headline for the remainder of this article published in the Canberra Times of 24 September 1963 was "Dam Visitors Locked Out", and the article proceeded to detail the chaos that resulted when thousands of people tried to visit the dam on the Sunday, when it was no longer open for viewing.

Despite the optimism of those determined sailors, there was a seven month delay in the natural filling of the dam following the valve closure, due to Canberra experiencing drought conditions, but finally the rain came in April 1964 and filling progressed rapidly from then onwards. The lake was officially considered full in September of that year.                 
 I don't have any photographs of the valve closing ceremony, maybe because as an eleven year old it didn't strike me as the most exciting event ever, but I took these two snaps the following year in 1964, when the lake was semi-full. The first is a view from the elevated vantage point of Black Mountain, and the photograph below taken from the opposite side of the lake shows the now demolished old Canberra Hospital on the left, where our first daughter Claire was born, Mount Ainslie reflecting in the lake, Commonwealth Avenue Bridge and the domed Australian National War Memorial building in the far distance on the right. The former Canberra Hospital site is now home to the National Museum of Australia.  Canberra is notable for its numerous national institutions.


As Prime Minster Menzies says in his speech on film, the lake has certainly become a focus for Canberrans and visitors to gather around for relaxation and to participate in many sporting activities.  Below are a few photos from the 1970s and 1980s showing family members spending time around the lake.

Grace Dawn Featherston, aka Aunty Dawn to her many nieces, nephews and their families, visiting the Lake with the Water Fountain shooting 147 metres up behind her, c. 1975.

Yours truly posing lakeside in the early 1970s. The Grecian influenced building on the other side of the lake is the National Library, which had only been completed a few years earlier, and what was then Parliament House  can be seen on the far left. It's since been replaced by a much more imposing structure built on and into a hill in the near vicinity called Capital |Hill.

Our eldest daughter enjoying  a ride on her uncle's wind surfer, c. 1982

Cousins Ben and Claire at the lake, perhaps on a family picnic, c. 1984
Photo from my mother's collection taken of the crowds at the opening of the Carillion on Aspen Island by HM Queen Elizabeth in April 1970.  Can't see the Queen here, but everyone looks to be eagerly awaiting her arrival.
  We left Canberra in 1980, but still return occasionally to visit family there. In  fact we were there just last weekend for our niece's wedding, and after the ceremony everyone enjoyed champagne and wedding cake beside the National Carillion, opened in 1970 as per the previous photograph. A very enjoyable event in a very pleasant location!

For more Sepian  tales on this week's photo prompt, just click here to go to 
Sepia Saturday 221. 

Monday, 17 March 2014

Empty Chairs

I included a couple of statues in my blog last week, so now I'm simply going to focus on those chairs in the current prompt. I imagine they were awaiting the arrival of dignitaries for a speech concerning the Jefferson Monument.

Here is a recent photo of an old family heirloom. This sweet little chair is of particular significance to my family history, because it was made by my great great grandfather Adam Cruickshank for his daughter and eldest child Jessie. It's a child's rocking chair, and no doubt Jessie loved rocking in it. Perhaps she protectively guarded it from her seven younger brothers, because it's still in very good condition, and is now greatly treasured by Jessie's granddaughter Joyce.  If Joyce's grandchildren and great grandchildren are allowed to use it, I'm sure they would be carefully supervised!

Jessie Ann Cruickshank was born in Canada in 1856. Her parents Adam and Charlotte had travelled to Canada from Monquhitter Aberdeenshire, but apparently decided that the climate wasn't good for their health, and returned to Scotland for about four years before emigrating again in 1863. This time they set out for the port of Bluff in the far south of New Zealand aboard the ship New Great Britain, with their two children Jessie and William, together with Adam's brother William and his wife Jane and family, and Adam and William's widowed mother Janet Cruickshank, nee Mackie. They settled in the Gore district where Adam became a successful farmer and had six more sons, several of whom helped him to run the farm. A painting of his farm, named Oakdale, by Jessie's daughter Charlotte, who was an accomplished artist, can be found here. My great grandfather Charles Cruickshank, born in nearby Invercargill in 1866, was the fourth born son of Adam and Charlotte.

Adam, Charlotte and family, c. 1870. Daughter Jessie standing at rear, with Charles on his father's knee  The other sons shown here in order of age would be William, George, Adam and baby  Richard, with two more yet to come.

William and Charlotte Cruickshank, with Adam's older brother William.

Adam and Charlotte Cruickshank with their children and their families on the occasion of their golden wedding anniversary in 1906. Adam seems to have favoured the same style of 'wrap-around' beard all his life, but it looks more distinctive in white.

Jessie Cruickshank married Isaac Petrie, a master mariner, and she lived to be 101 before passing away in Invercargill in 1957. No doubt she had some wonderful family stories to tell. The second photograph below shows Jessie celebrating her 100th birthday. She's seated, although not on that little rocking chair I'm sure. We were lucky enough to be able to listen to a short recording of a radio interview conducted with her on that momentous occasion in 1956, which very coincidentally happened to be repeated on NZ radio shortly before we were over there. If you'd like to hear Jessie speak for a couple of minutes, just click here, go to the first hour of the program and then if you move the slider along you can pick her up around the 38th minute mark.There were a few more verses of the poem that Jessie was able to recite, which are transcribed in full at the end of a diary of the voyage of the New Great Britain here, but she did pretty well for a 100 year old lady!

Jessie and Isaac Petrie and family outside their family home in Invercargill NZ. Elder son Arnold was killed in World War 1. Elder daughter Charlotte on the far left trained to become an artist at the Slade School of Art in London,and also lived to be 100. Daughter Gladys was also artistic, and she became an opera singer, living into her 90s. Younger son Frank was the only one of the four to marry and have children. His daughter Joyce generously shared these old family photographs with me. 

Jessie and Frank with their first three children, c.1898. Little Charlotte is sitting on a rocking horse here, perhaps also made by her grandfather Adam, who lived with the family in his final years.

Jessie Petrie, nee Cruickshank, on her 100th birthday in 1956

185 Empty Chairs
Last year, after we met Joyce and were able to see Jessie's rocking chair and hear that recording of her voice, we spent a night in Christchurch, the town where I was born, and were saddened to see how damaged the centre of the city was and still is, following the major earthquakes that struck in 2010 and 2011. The installation below is a poignant memorial to the one hundred and eighty five lives that were tragically lost as a result of this natural disaster. The empty chairs placed on the site of a fallen church create a very moving monument to all those people who were killed, much like the white bikes that are sometimes positioned where a cyclist has lost his or her life in an accident. Unlike the chairs in the prompt photo above, these chairs will never be occupied.

185 Empty Chairs, Christchurch NZ

              There are a number of stirring video tributes to the people of Christchurch to be found online, for example this one set to the stirring music of Bruce Springsteen, but in accordance with the theme of this blog, here's Don McLean, with his song Empty Chairs.

For more blogs from other Sepians on Monuments, Statues, and perhaps more chairs, just take a seat here

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Libraries, desks and hallowed halls

This week's photo shows an inside view of the Library of Congress in Washngton DC. You can go on a tour and look down from above, but I actually obtained a reader's identification card, in order to go onto the floor as a researcher and order a couple of volumes from the stacks in relation to the history of my husband's American ancestor Dan Calwell and family, when we visited Washington in 2007. The process of going down into the bowels of a neighbouring building to apply for the card and be photographed, fingerprinted and interrogated as to my reasons for wanting it and then waiting for it to be approved took some time, but eventually I was presented with my card and was able to go into the library and submit my order, and then sit at one of those desks waiting for the books to be brought up from the stacks. That took well over an hour, and unfortunately when they did eventually appear, one book turned out to be for the wrong year, which was bad luck as it was too late in the day to re-order and I wasn't able to go back the next day, but never mind, it was an interesting experience.

Here in Melbourne we have the State Library of Victoria, which was first established in 1854. The library's most influential founding fathers were Charles Joseph La Trobe, who became the lieutenant-governor of the State of Victoria following its establishment in 1851, and Sir Redmond Barry, who is possibly best known for having been the judge who sentenced Australia's most notorious bushranger Ned Kelly to death by hanging in 1880, and himself died 12 days later from unrelated health problems.

 Augustus Henry Tulk was appointed in 1856 as the first librarian of what was then known as the Melbourne Public Library and both he and Redmond Barry worked closely together to develop and expand the collection from 400 volumes to over 80,000 works when Mr Tulk died in office in 1873. In a glowing tribute to the late Mr Tulk published here in the The Argus of 3 March 1873, it was suggested that "The statue of Mr Justice Barry already graces the great reading room; that of Augustus Tulk should be placed alongside it. To these two gentlemen - true brothers in the good cause of popular enlightenment - Victoria owes a debt which it can never adequately repay".

 The crowning glory which is  the Domed Reading Room was not added to the Library until 1913, when Mr Tulk and the others were no longer around, but I think they would have appreciated it. It was modelled on the designs of both the Library of Congress and the former Reading Room of the British Library, now the British Museum, and at that time it was the largest dome of its kind in the world. Here is some more specific information, from a display panel in one of the galleries around the dome.

Problems developed with falling plaster and leaks, but after major restoration the Dome was re-opened in 2003, and was renamed the La Trobe Reading Room, in honour of Charles La Trobe. There are statues of  La Trobe and Sir Redmond Barry outside the library, but sadly the tribute-writer's suggestion extracted above was not taken up, and there are none of Augustus Tulk, whose only memorial seems to be a trendy cafe called Mr Tulk, established at the library in recent years. I wonder what he would make of that?

Sir Redmond Barry surveys the scene, high on a pedestal in front of the library entrance
Charles Joseph La Trobe reading to one side of the entrance
and even a bunyip lurking about the garden

but oddly a name and sillhouette on some cafe umbrellas is all the recognition  that First Librarian Augustus Henry Tulk gets. There is a portrait of him in the library collection but it is presently confined to the vaults, and someone serving on the library information desk did not even know who the cafe was named after!   I'm tempted to email a suggestion about this apparent omission to the present chief librarian.

(From the SLV digital collection)
      Sir Redmond, perhaps waiting for Mr Tulk? 
(from the SLV digital collection)

 The SLV is a popular and busy place, with several other more modern reading rooms, but to me the Dome is the most impressive. I understand that writers often go there to absorb the historic atmosphere and  write their manuscripts while sitting at the desks. No security process or membership card is needed for admission, you just stroll in, but of course a card is required if you want to order books that aren't openly accessible. The viewing galleries on the upper levels contain fascinating displays of rare and historical works from the library collections, and other exhibits on Australian and Victorian history, including for example Ned Kelly's armour, among many other interesting items.

Inside the Dome

Looking down, from a gallery alcove

Focus on the light-filled dome

Street view

View of the library complex from a nearby office block, 35 floors up

Zooming in on the dome

This early photograph on display in the domed gallery shows people working away at the library desks. Interesting that some of the men did not remove their hats while inside. 

 Mr Tulk and the others would surely have raised their eyebrows at illuminations of their beloved library like this one, taken recently on Melbourne's White Night, and would probably have been thankful  it was only a fleeting image!

Desks on the floor below the dome are a prominent feature in our prompt, and as I can't end what is essentially a family history blog without some mention of family, I  thought I would finish with this photograph of Daniel William Morrison, former surname Morrissey, at his desk in the dairy factory in Canvastown NZ, where he worked for many years as secretary. Daniel and his wife Mary Bridget emigrated to that area of New Zealand in 1875 as a young couple from Cork City, Ireland, aged about 22 and 19 respectively, with their first child Minnie aged 6 months, and had another 14 children, of whom all but four survived to adulthood. He would definitely have needed to work hard to support that large brood.

 Daniel died in 1945 and here is his obituary. The ship that brought the Morrison family to NZ was actually called the Hanibal, not the Annabell, and by my calculations, Daniel and Mary Bridget's grandchildren eventually produced a total of 94 great grandchildren, of whom I'm just one.

Now for more offerings on towering domes, arches, desks and other items of interest, just click here to jump over to Sepia Saturday 219

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Backyard fun

The origin of our photo prompt this week is a rather grim subject, depicting backyards in inner Sydney in 1900, where slum-like conditions and the escape of rats from ships that had arrived at the wharves combined to cause an outbreak of bubonic plague in the area, resulting in the deaths of over 500 people in Sydney and Brisbane. I see there are other photographs on the web site of State Records New South Wales, including one showing men cleaning an infected backyard, but I think I'd rather focus on happier scenes in backyards I've known over the years, primarily as recorded in my mother's albums.

It's amazing how often fences dividing off neighbouring properties seem to feature either as intentional or incidental backdrops for family photos.

The first snap is of my parents Ian and Jean and a couple of their friends with their respective babies, squatting down in a not particularly scenic backyard in England, possibly in Cambridge, in 1954. Of course these days the background could be cropped out, but that wasn't an option back then. Either it was foggy English weather, or the photograph came out that way, but despite that they make a nice little group.

Our family moved from New Zealand to Australia in 1956, and the next two photos show my brother and myself in the backyard of the first home we rented in Turner ACT, where my father Ian had taken up a position as a research scientist with the CSIRO, a national research body. In the first shot we've made use of the fence as a ledge for our dolls, and in the second one I look rather mischievous, with a funny old doll I loved called Bane - no fence to be seen here, but the washing in full view proves it was definitely in the backyard.

 Ian making good use of the new saw he'd received as a birthday present. He may or may not have chopped up all that wood beside the fence, but no doubt he stacked it up in a tidy pile.

We moved to another house for a short time, and here I am helping the boy next door to get back home, but I'm not too sure that he would have succeeded - the step ladder and my assistance may not have quite got him over the top.  It would probably have been easier to climb over  from his side, as there would have been horizontal rails you could use for  footholds. No harm trying though!

In 1958 my parents moved into a government house in the new suburb of O'Connor, which they were able to buy a few years later - although in Canberra all land is actually subject to a 99 year lease from the government, so you don't actually own the property outright. This was the backyard we grew up in, and here's a selection of shots over the years up until 1965, when we moved to a bigger home 'up the hill' in the same suburb.

My brother looks like he was living life rather dangerously here! Note the Hills Hoist ( iconic Australian designed rotary clothes line) in the background - we were strongly discouraged from swinging around on it!

My sister and her doll Mary Ann, with the girls' cubby house in the background. There was a sandpit in front of it, and I remember that little window as being very good for puppet shows.

Backyard cricket players

Long hot summers spent with paddling pool friends

Posing outside my brother's cubby, which in its past life was a chook house. I only have a hazy memory of  chickens roosting inside.

I think this open fence may  have been there to deter the kids from running around Ian's domain, the vegetable garden. I remember that path hopping with grasshoppers in the summer months. This blurry snap shows Granddad Oliver Cruickshank, also a keen gardener, visiting us from NZ. Here's an earlier photo of him in the late 1940s, keenly weeding his own lawn, which is presumably around the back, from the look of whatever has been thrown into the garden behind him.

Not to be outdone, here's a matching snap of my other grandfather Jack Morrison, doing the same thing in his Christchurch backyard too.

On a family trip back to NZ in 1965 we visited some friends who kept a pet sheep in their little backyard - we kids have climbed the fence, as if we weren't too sure if it was friendly. They lived in the country and had other sheep, but this one was hand raised, and may even have been allowed inside!

Around fifty years and numerous backyards and photos later, and here's a corner of our present small backyard, quite compact yet practical, quiet and pleasantly private, thanks to reasonably high fences, well-established trees and other greenery. It's easy to forget we live within a block of a major highway and busy railway station.

A tawny frogmouth visited recently, and spent a morning perching on our back fence

Here is a backyard view from the loft window of one daughter and son-in-law's London terrace. Backyards here are very narrow, and with low fences there's not a lot of privacy from neighbours here, either on the ground or from up above. Naked sunbathing would not be a good idea! There's a den of foxes in behind there who serenade residents with their nightly mating shrieks.

Contrast the view from the back verandah of our other daughter and son-in-law's 40 acre property in country Victoria, the boundary of which extends out to the distant tree line. 

Late final extra,7.3.2014   - I just remembered this lovely colourful  'fence behind a fence' that we spotted while cycling beside the Main river in Germany a few years ago:

My apologies for including so many photographs, but I do like to tell a family story through them, rather than just concentrating on one or two pictures.

For more glimpses into other Sepians' backyards, take a peek here