Thursday, September 28, 2006
The weather is getting warmer, and the lovely winter rains have slowed down.
A reminder that we are moving into that part of the year when we all start saying "I cannot believe it will soon be Christmas."
There are a couple of very distinct "seasonal" reminders just in front of "Devon." The other morning, Bernie and I were enjoying a cuppa on the front verandah, when we realised the first pair of Fairy terns have set up their nursery on the branch of the big old White Oak.
Each year, the terns spend our winter up in more northerly climates, such as the Philippines, and return in the mid to late Spring, to breed their young. They return to the same trees and branches generation after generation. They do not build nests, but hatch their eggs directly on the branch, sealing it with a sticky secretion. The same "glue" helps the very fluffy chick to stay in place until he develops his smoother white flying feathers. Sadly, in a storm, some chicks or eggs may be blown to the ground. It is very tempting to try to rescue these chicks, and hand feed them. But our efforts are not always successful....nature knows best.
Meanwhile, the native wisteria has burst into bloom and is draping itself over nearby trees. There will still be some blooms when the Jacaranda starts to put on its November show...they look wonderful side by side.
Here is an update on the Norfolk Incinerator. Captain Pugwash and his men have reached Forster on the New South Wales Coast, after an exceptionally speedy run from Lord Howe. After gathering their resources, and carrying out minor maintenance, they will continue down the coast to Sydney, and John will leave them there and head back to Norfolk Island.
Granddaughter Emily, who arrived last Sunday, will be very glad to see her Uncle John, especially as Uncle Charles, together with Kim, heads off to New Caledonia today on a special charter, for a few days R&R.
Life is very busy just now. We are both actively involved in preparations for an Organ Recital tomorrow evening at the Chapel, a Museum display next week, and the A&H Show the following weekend. I hope to bring you news and pictures of all these events in coming posts.
Meanwhile, here is a picture of Charles and Kim at the airport, prior to their departure.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
The picture above shows John and Bernie sharing a few moments on Cascade wharf before the catamaran Incinerator was put into the water on Tuesday afternoon.
We have spoken to the boys on the Incinerator a couple of times by satellite phone, and this morning they were over halfway to Lord Howe Island. For the first night and day of sailing, the sea was like a millpond, and in spite of a few problems with one of the outboards, they were making great progress.
Since then there has been a bit of wind and some choppy seas, but they are fine. In fact, they say have so much food aboard, thanks to everyone's generosity and some over-enthusiastic provisioning, they are doubtful if they would manage to get through it in forty days and forty nights!!
Meanwhile, thanks to Jonno at the Printery, I have managed to find some pictures of the original rescue operation last December.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Norfolk Island receives many visitors, but none more unusual or unexpected than this object that was seen bobbing in the ocean to the north of the island in December last year.
A group of enterprising local fellows, including our son John, headed out in a boat and secured a rope to the abandoned craft, and hired the government launch to help them tow it back to shore. After pumping out the hulls (which contained quite a few large and healthy Kingfish), they organised a crane to lift it onto the wharf, and a hastily constructed cradle. This operation earned them the right to call themselves the official "salvage team."
A large number of kids and adults rallied round with waterblasters, scotchbrite, scrapers and all manner of things to move an enormous accumulation of barnacles, and after a few hours, the name "Incinerator" was revealed. This confirmed what some initial enquiries had suggested, that this was a 14 metre catamaran that had been at sea for nearly 6 months, since it had overturned and its crew had been rescued just outside Sydney Heads in the previous July. At some stage, after what were extensive travels around the Tasman, it had mysteriously righted itself, and had been spied and photographed by a passing freighter about 170 miles SW of Norfolk a few weeks before.
After the initial cleaning up, the Catamaran was moved (with centimetres to spare) up the narrow Cascade Road to Geek's paddock up country, until more could be discovered about the past and future of this incredibly lucky vessel.
The designer of the Cat, Robin Chamberlin, was immediately relieved and delighted to learn of the rescue of his pride and joy. It may have been the victim of some bad luck and poor sailing...it had actually been in a big shed fire when it was close to completion, thus the name. But the yacht had also shown itself to be very fast, winning the Three Peaks Race in Tasmania the previous year. Rob made plans to visit the island as soon as possible. At this stage, Incinerator had become the property of NRMA Insurance, who had paid out the owners. Negotiations continued, and Rob Chamberlin's friend Terry Travers eventually became the new owner, and was very keen to repair the vessel, which had actually suffered fairly minimal structural damage.
For the past 6 weeks, Rob and young Adam Travers, who is the new owner's son, have been hard at work making Incinerator seaworthy again.
Yesterday afternoon she was finally returned to the water, with a new name "Norfolk Incinerator", and plenty of evidence of her strong Norfolk Island connection firmly imprinted all over her hulls. Three members of the salvage team have joined Rob and Adam to crew her back to New South Wales...our John, Byron Adams and "Bunting" (Kerry Douran.) There were plenty there to see them off, and to load them up with supplies for a voyage of uncertain length...that is because they are only using two outboard motors, with a rudimentary sail. After reaching Sydney, "Incinerator" will continue on to Tasmania for a complete restoration and refurbishment. Much of this has been made possible by the incredible skills and resourcefulness of our wonderful Norfolk fellows, something that Rob and Terry have been keen to acknowledge.
Among the supplies put aboard was a big bunch of bananas. It was suggested that if they did not want to eat them, they may be able to recoup some of their expenses by selling them back in banana starved Aussie!!
Just before their departure, our Chaplain Rod said a prayer for their success and safety. The latest news via satellite phone, is that they are making good progress towards Lord Howe Island, and the sea is like a millpond. Praise the Lord!
Saturday, September 16, 2006
His name is George, but he has rarely been called anything but "Kik" since he was a boy.
Last week he reached his OBE (Over B...... Eighty), and we celebrated in grand style.
Kik is much loved by us all, but the young ones think he is really special. Our son Peter has enormous respect and affection for him.
Early on the birthday morning, Kik's grandkids and other young blokes all formed a Norfolk "Groundforce" and headed up to Cutters' Corn to mow the lawn, trim the hedges etc. as their gift on this special day. Actually Peter had to leave the John Deere ride-on mower from Fletcher Christian up there while he went to clear the mail from that morning's plane. Kik took great delight in thanking him for his wonderful present when he saw Peter later!
About 80 of us gathered at the South Pacific for a wonderful smorgasbord lunch, organised by Bonnie and the family. It was a great Norfolk occasion.
Greg Quintal paid a special tribute, recalling Kik's young days, when he seemed to score all the best girls and horses! Greg also had a chuckle recounting a recent occasion when Kik was playing Jaero (a Norfolk card game) at White Oak Club. As he produced the trump card to win the game, he raised his hand and said: "Thank you Lord"...and a solemn, but mischievous voice called back "You're welcome!"
Then it was the grandkids' turn, and they left us in no doubt of the strong anfd beneficial influence their Pop has had on their lives.
Kik's presence is pretty important at any occasion in this community, because he is our "lead singer!" In church, every vistor's head turns to see where the glorious sound is coming from. He always has the job of starting off the Pitcairn anthem or the Norfolk grace. Glad to say that grandson Wes has inherited the good singing voice, as well as Kik's good nature!
Congratulations and well done, Kik! And many happy returns!
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
JAMES DAWE THE MILLWRIGHT
When Bernie was a boy, the land stretching right up Queen Elizabeth Avenue from where Hillcrest Hotel now stands right up to the corner at Middlegate, was known as "Dawe's Land." The seven acres where our home "Devon" was built in the 1920's was also part of "Dawe's Land".
This land, totalling about 54 acres, was granted in 1859 to a James Dawe, who was a miller.
When the Pitcairners were moved to Norfolk Island from Pitcairn, the Colonial authorities, in their wisdom, decided to bring out from England a small group of people who would provide some skills which were not available in the Pitcairn community. This included a man called Blinnan, a stonemason, and Rossiter, a schoolteacher. There was also a shoemaker and an agriculturalist.
These men were enticed to leave their homes and employment in England with the promise of a free passage for themselves and their families, and a free grant of land on Norfolk Island.
James Dawe, who came from Cornwall, but who had studied much of his trade in Devon, arrived with his wife Mary Ann and one child (one seems to have died en route) in June 1859. Two more children were born while he was here.
Dawe did not find things easy on the island, and he appears to have regrets about leaving behind his home and business in England. The two mills on the island were in a bad state of repair, especially the windmill. He decided to concentrate on getting the watermill (whose ruins are pictured above) into good working order. He was hampered by lack of proper financial assistance, but his worst problem came from an apparent lack of interest and co-operation from the Pitcairners.
Not only were they unwilling to lend a hand with the physical work, but showed little interest in learning to either grow or grind the grain. What we should remember is that this community had come from a small tropical island, and had a strong Polynesian ethnic and cultural base. Large scale cultivation in the European style was foreign to them. In any case, the starch part of their diet was more likely to come from such things as kumera, yam, maize and arrowroot, rather than from bread and wheat flour.
Dawes also complained that the Bounty people seemed to want to be left alone, and resented the presence of outsiders in their community. There must have been a real clash of cultures, something that the well-meaning but insensitive colonial authorities had not considered. The only one of these newcomers who ended up staying and marrying into the island families was Thomas Rossiter. But he was the only one who had a guaranteed income, a princely 300 pounds a year!
Dawe appears to have lived in a convict built cottage close to the Watermill. We do not know if he used his grant to grow anything for his own needs apart from cattle, but we do know that by 1861, he was leasing the land to the Sawmill Company, owned by Charles Christian.
By 1862, Dawe had decided to cut his losses and move his family to Sydney. He sold his land to Charles Christian. This was the very first sale of land in the post-convict era. Charles paid 30 pounds for the 54 acres, but he also paid 17 pounds for 7 cattle belonging to Dawes, and we still have the receipt!
I have often wondered how Charles( a grandson of Fletcher Christian) could have accumulated sufficient cash to deal in property at that early stage, but they say he was a very entrepreneurial man, and sold produce and supplies to the Mission ship "Southern Cross" and to other passing vessels, including whaling ships.
Charles apportioned the land to some of his 16 offspring, including 20 acres to his daughter Emily (who was Bernie's great-grandmother.) Of course, as was the custom, the land was put in the name of her husband George Bailey.) Emily and George bequeathed the 7 acres where Devon stands to their daughter Charlotte, who left it to her great-nephew Bernie (my husband.)
Today we had a visit from Margaret Smith of Castle Hill in Sydney. Margaret is descended from Dawe's son James Greenland Dawe, who was born on Norfolk Island. By a remarkable coincidence, James' granddaughter Alice married a great-great grandson of Nathaniel Lucas, who was on Norfolk Island in the convict settlement. Now Nathaniel Lucas had been responsible for helping build those mills!
Next time I shall tell you about another remarkable coincidence, where other previous owners and occupiers of "Devon" turn out to have an interesting connection!
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
An unexpected and much appreciated gift of a large quantity of end-of-bolt upholstery fabric has given me the impetus to get in and finish off a few projects, such as this cushion.
I think I must have done most of the work on the Crazy Patch front a couple of years ago, during my "shabby chic" phase, when I was somewhat hooked on these soft pink/green combinations. Come to think of it, I still love this rather classical look, partly because it reminds me somewhat of my mother, who was a great exponent of "Shabby Chic" without ever knowing it.
The cushion is on the bed in Edward's room, and in the background you will see the lovely soft green chenille bedspread, one of a pair I was delighted to find and purchase at the Op Shop recently. There is something about this soft turquoisey/mint green that I find extremely nostalgic. I remember it was the favourite colour in my paintbox when I was a small child.
Actually, Edward's room has undergone a somewhat feminine transformation while he is away working in Sydney. But it is only a surface thing, achieved with hangings, pictures, bed linen and ornaments. I am sure I can quickly reverse the effect, and change it back to a more masculine room when he comes home for Christmas!
Meanwhile I have a couple of other cushions that are finished or nearly finished, which I will show you in postings in the near future.
As for the upholtsery fabric....well, Ross (our friendly upholsterer) arrived with a vanload a couple of weekends ago. He was having a clean-out. Well, you know the story....one person's clean-out becomes another person's junk pile. Bernie was remarkably restrained when he saw this massive, untidy mound of bolts of fabric all over the verandah. I should have taken a photo, but felt the urgency of unwinding it from those big bolts into more manageable folded piles before my DH's patience was really put to the test! Now I have it hidden all over the place, in cupboards here and there, behind doors, in the boot of my car. I am using some for these current projects, I gave some to Tony, who makes lots of cushions for people, and some has gone to the Op Shop. But I must confess that there are a couple of bolts, in the "too-hard basket", still there on the verandah, giving rise to mutterings from Bernie, and mumbled excuses from me every time we pass them!
But one bolt - about 25 metres of poly gingham in a striking dark green and white check- was used the very next day in a marathon sewing session. I made it into about 10 picnic/party table cloths to replace the old faithful red and white ones that have served us faithfully for about 20 years or more.
Meanwhile...can anyone suggest a use for about 40 metres of dark green poly corduroy velvet?
Friday, September 01, 2006
Spring has arrived in this part of the world, and it is a beautiful day here on Norfolk Island. Although a little of the winter crispness lingers in the air, especially in the evenings, there is no doubt that we are entering the time of year when nature responds joyfully to the lengthening days and the warmer air.
There are new calves on the Common and in the paddocks, and the shrubs in the garden are full of buds and new shoots. They are showing the benefit of our lovely winter rains.
The bees are busy, too.
Funny thing about bees. Whenever I see them buzzing around the blossoms...they just love the lavender and pineapple sage in the bed in front of our house....I always get the feeling "all's right with the world."
Living in a sub-tropical zone, perhaps we are not so conscious of the seasonal variations here on Norfolk Island as in the temperate and cooler zones. Many of your lovely bulbs and cottage garden plants yearn for a colder winter, so they can bury themselves and go to sleep while the frost covers the ground. We are compensated by the rich foliage colours and showy flowers of the tropical plants around us
But that does not stop us trying to emulate our gardening friends from Europe and North America!
Take these daffodils, grown and arranged by our friend Edie Mack. When Edie planted her bulbs some years ago, we told her that she could only expect to get a year or two out of them here in this climate.
But we forgot to tell the daffodils, and year by year, not only have they emerged in their glorious gold formation each year in Edie's garden, but they have multiplied magnificently. I don't know if it is the care and loving attention, or if Edie is talking to them in just the right way, but they are always magnificent at this time of year. This particular arrangement was the prize for the lucky winner of the raffle at the White Oak Club last week.
I have just a few of Edie's bulbs in my garden. I see that several of the green spikes have poked through the ground without me even noticing. They are partly hidden among the untidy cluster of opium poppy seedlings that faithfully appear each year and provide me with a brief, but very welcome show of pink blooms each Spring.
Any day now, I hope I will be able to pick my own little bunch of daffodils. Then I will know that Spring has truly arrived here at Devon.