Orphans of a Perfect Storm

I started writing this story for posting about the time of Valentine’s Day but only now that it’s St Patrick’s Day do I find myself completing it. This is not altogether inappropriate as ultimately this is a love story from Ireland. It was difficult to complete for all the usual reasons all family history can be difficult to write: There is always the hope that some new fact will come to light, but when it does every thing you thought you knew has to change.…

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When the apocalypse comes

A few days ago the early warning systems of the islands of Hawaii announced that a intercontinental ballistic missile was heading their way and it was not a drill. Forty-eight hours ago, black ash floated down on the suburbs of Perth. The air not only felt hot, it smelt it. The mid-afternoon light dimmed to a dark orange. The forests around Mundaring were on fire. Twenty-four hours ago the rains began. These were ex-cyclonic rains, they started and did not subside. Twice a summer’s month…

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The Stranger In the Mirror

There is currently no known authentic likeness that exists of James Dyson. He was a prominent man of his time— merchant, land owner, Perth City Councillor—he was present at certain key events in the history of the city: He was definitely present at the opening of the Perth Town Hall, he was most likely present at the opening of the Perth Railway Station, The Wesleyan Church, Royal visit, parades… All these events were photographed, but there is no currently identified photograph of James Dyson. Even…

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An Anthemic Ancestor

Television and photo-plays have theme tunes. Nation-states have theme tunes which they call National Anthems. For most of Australia’s past two centuries, the national theme tune has been “God Save the [Queen/King]” (which does say quite a lot about the mentality of those who made that choice). Outside show-business identities and fictional characters, real people tend not have their own personal theme tune which plays whenever they make an entrance in to a room. (The President of the United States’s personal theme music pretty much…

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Happy Gunpowder Treason Day

Bristol, England at dusk on an evening in November 2015. The pops and bangs were very loud and seemed to be right outside of the tiny bedroom I was staying in. It was right outside my window and I was bemused on investigation to find that a collection of children and their parents were setting off full-blown fireworks in the lane-way outside. Fireworks Day, or Guy Fawkes Day, or (as it was initially celebrated as a public holiday after 1605), Gunpowder Treason Day, has not…

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Dyson’s Hotel

Part 2 of the Dyson’s Corner Story. …previously. Do I have any primary source for life in Western Australia in the 1870’s-1880’s more infuriating than the work of Mr Jesse Elijah Hammond (1856-1940)?(Probably, yes— but one should never let the truth get in the way of a good rant…) He was on the ground when it all dramatically happened for the Dyson family. He even lived next door to the Sons of Australia Benefit Society Club house on Murray Street, so it is inconceivable he…

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Dyson’s Corner (the First)

As a would-be historian, I am always torn between my desire to share the information I have collected and the desire to find that one final piece of the puzzle that will complete the story I want to tell. Most of the time, that final piece is not— and may never be— there, but what to do then? Should I hoard away what I have so far, or publish and be damned? If this is not your first reading of this page and what you…

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Fake News

Before the internet, before social media, before electricity itself, there was the newspaper. If you want an exemplar of F—book in print you only need to look in the Social Pages of an early twentieth century newspaper. Invaluable for family historians looking for details of their more well-heeled ancestors, in too-large doses they can make your eyes bleed from the sheer inanity of the detail — mind numbingly minute descriptions of the garments worn by the ladies at certain occasions. — Slavish preoccupation with the…

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Winterbottom’s End

Joseph Winterbottom was the old bastard pursued by Oldham police across the border from Lancashire into the West Riding of Yorkshire in the summer of 1833. Arrested by the Halifax Constabulary, he was immediately identified by visiting Oldham bloodhound Heywood as a known rogue and vagabond, and proceeded to squeal like a pig, identifying the four men who were his accomplices in robbing a local Halifax man on the road that previous night. But when the case went to trial, Winterbottom was not among those…

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