Behind Bars

Lex Watson's Book Collection for Sale

It’s thirty years since the decriminalisation of consensual male sex in New South Wales, and “some of the leading figures responsible for that change have all died in a six month period”, we were told by Murray Maclachlan at the Australian Homosexual History Conference held at Sydney’s University of Technology. He was referring to former politicians, Gough Whitlam, Neville Wran and Ron Mulock, and to the academic and homosexual activist, Lex Watson. As a young man thirty years ago, first becoming aware of homosexual liberation politics, Lex was a name […]

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Darlinghurst History Walk

Then and now

I spent the early part of the day teaching at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School. As part of the lecture I gave, I repeated the mantra, “there are no boring stories, only boring story-tellers” which I’ve heard many times from radio consultant, Valerie Geller. She’s absolutely right. Just about any story can be interesting, so long as there’s someone interesting to tell the story. And thankfully, the second part of the day was a combination of both: interesting stories and an interesting story-teller. As part of History Week, […]

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Appin Bi-Centenary

Celebrations for the 200th Anniversary of Appin

“I have a connection to the pub across the road” I told the woman who was looking after things at St Bede’s Catholic Church in Appin today. “Two of my ancestors ran the pub back in the 1840s”, I told her, referring to William Rixon and Ann Hoare. “There was a close connection between the church and the pub” she told me, pointing to the family, the Carolls who owned the pub and who ran it as a guest and boarding house, who were buried in the graveyard. “The sisters […]

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Colonial Wine Tasting

Ten green bottles

Talk about four seasons in one day. What began as a fine sunny day in Sydney, had, by mid-afternoon turned into something cold and wet. Cold and wet enough to drag out the possibly fake “North Face” rain jacket I bought in Beijing a few months ago. As the rain tumbled down, I could think of nothing better than an afternoon of wine tasting at Elizabeth Bay House. And not just any kind of wine tasting. No, it was Colonial Wine Tasting, an event at Elizabeth Bay House put on […]

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Chinatown Tour

Fresh fruit and veg at Paddy's Markets

“These will bring passion and romance into your life”, the bloke behind the counter said to me as I handed over my planned purchase. “That was the general idea”, I told him and we smiled at each other. It was towards the end of an “Historical and Cultural Tour” of Chinatown, co-inciding with Chinese New Year Celebrations in Sydney. I love a good walking tour, and when I saw this one advertised a few weeks ago, I signed up immediately. Interestingly, I recognised two couples from some previous history walks […]

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More History

Unmarked grave for Joan Kathleen O'Brien, East Lismore Cemetery

I went in search today of details about the still-born child my mum and dad had back in 1953. As with many things in my family, it wasn’t something that was talked about. Indeed, when I mentioned it to one of my older sisters, and showed her the record from the online historical indexes of the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, she seemed genuinely surprised. Although unnamed on the BDM records, a visit to the Lismore Lawn Cemetery revealed she was buried on July 10, 1953 and that […]

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Granny was a Hoare

Elizabeth Hore and Ann Phibbs photo from 1865`

Sometimes you can forget how beautiful Sydney is at this time of the year. That is, until you take a walk along the coastline near Bondi, Bronte and Tamarama. The sandstone cliffs, the blue-green colour of the water, and the gentleness of the walk are both relaxing and hypnotic. The walk wasn’t overly busy, though, as most people were down on the beach. My reason for a visit today wasn’t to relax: I went in search of the gravestone of one of my ancestors, Ann Hoare. I’ve known for a […]

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