When you drive streets in Maclean lined with tartan telegraph poles and hear the skirl of the bagpipes echoing in the main street, you know the town is definitely a stronghold of Australia’s Scots history. And mine for that matter. Over two million of us claim Scots ancestry – my grandchildren have the blood of the Baird, Carey, Murray and McDonald clans in their veins.
So, I spent a day or two there recently, looking under the ancestral kilt to see why big numbers of Scots moved here in the mid-1800’s. I was heartened to discover that the claim we Australians make for having one of the best lifestyles in the world, could well have been built on a bedrock of purposeful duty to God mined out of bare hills and heather half a world away in Scotland.
Sitting at the impressive polished table in the School of Arts building in the New England town of Tenterfield, I wondered just how this remote country town, straddling the train line between Sydney and Brisbane, became a crucial link in Australia’s journey to nationhood.
I discovered it has to do with one strong-minded man – Henry Parkes. Right where I was sitting was the spot from which the feisty, five-time Premier of NSW first gave a rousing speech, which he then repeated fifteen times in other locations. This gave serious momentum to the push for federating the six states. Professor Marie Bashir, the recent Governor of this state, declared “…his stirring words of exhortation and unity to the crowd of citizens who loved him – ‘One people, one destiny’ – will continue to inspire.”
As I travel, I look out for the stories and symbols that shape us Aussies. Observers say that during the first few years of our lives as we learn to talk, to read, to share in the common story of our people, we’re quietly absorbing a worldview.
Normally we’re not conscious of it. It’s like the lenses of our glasses, it is not something we look at, but something through which we look in order to see the world. On the road to Gundagai, I discovered a faithful hound, a popular song and an inspirational sculptor that had all played a part in telling us about ourselves.
Robyn and I sat in a palliative care room last week and witnessed first hand the two nurses ministering to our friend and her family. “This is our passion” one of them told us. That affirmation echoed what I heard in the voice of Katherine, a paediatric care nurse in Wagga, a few weeks earlier.
The historian in me couldn’t help seeing behind these kind women, the figure of Florence Nightingale, who almost single-handedly transformed the role of nurses in the hospital in Scutari during the Crimean War of 1852-56. Others had gone before her but this Christian woman made caring a world-wide calling – a true profession.
We've had some pretty wild weather lately and travelling home through some heavy downpours, we decided to take time out in the town of Yass in southern NSW. It was a great opportunity to seek out a story. We headed first to the Tourist Centre, had a bit of a walk around town and then hunkered down in the local library for a while. Here's the story we discovered.
Last night the throb of Harley-Davidsons announced the Longriders had come to Dubbo. After meeting their club Chaplain in Uralla in March we invited them to visit if they came through Dubbo. We also figured they would have something in common with Bruno Efoti’s Tradies Insight group. It turns out they are both working to provide the kind of spaces where men in particular are comfortable enough to be themselves and talk out life issues. WATCH as Paul chats with Padre Matt about their experience.
This is the story of an Irish youth who arrived in Australia with nothing and died giving away a to benefit orphans, schools, universities, hospitals and churches. Samuel McCaughey was a genius. In the world of 19th century agriculture he fathered large scale irrigation works, was an innovator in the wool industry, designed and built earth moving equipment and was on the cutting edge of new technology. His vast sheep stations were among the largest in the world and featured beautifully built homesteads and out buildings - again of his own design. WATCH as Paul tells his story.
Young men from small towns across the country answered the call to go to war in 1914. Among them was an unlikely group of clergymen. This is the story of how they too became part of the Anzac legend.
Travelling through Uralla recently, I took some time to explore the story of Thunderbolt, the legendary bush ranger, whose ‘career’ spanned 16 years around Northern NSW.
Aunty Pat Doolan is one of those rare people you meet in life who radiate goodness. As a result she’s been a game-changer wherever she’s lived. You can’t help being touched by her rare blend of determination and kindness - that’s how she’s got things done. She leads by being a servant and she never wavers in declaring her faith in public.
Join The Outback Historian, Paul Roe, on an unforgettable journey into Australia's Past as he follows the footprints of the Master Storyteller and uncovers unknown treasures of the nation.