Tuesday, May 30, 2006

I doubt if there is any other community of fewer than 2000 people in the whole world that enjoys the cultural and entertainment experiences and opportunities that we do here on Norfolk Island. Our own Community Arts Society fosters local talent, and last weekends locally-composed song competition was a good example of this.
Throughout the year, we have a wealth of visiting performers and artists in all sorts of areas of performing and creative arts....... poetry, theatre, rock music, jazz, opera, drumming, ballroom dancing, line dancing, Polynesian dancing.
One of the main highlights of our year is the Trans-Tasman Country Music Festival, held in May each year. The big tent goes up next to Rawson Hall, and enthusiastic Country fans from Australia and New Zealand, as well as lots of local Norfolkers, gather to experience the top talent from all three places. Not only do we have the week of shows in the tent, but the artists also entertain at all sorts of places during the week, in the clubs and pubs, in the street, and in many other places.
Take Dennis Marsh, for instance. Dennis is a popular Maori Country entertainer who has been coming here for years, and is much loved by the locals....and obviously by his fellow Kiwis, if the enthusiastic fans who followed him over here are anything to go by. Dennis, who has a wonderful easy-to-listen- to style, was there entertaining wherever one went, last week....in church, on the radio, in the street, at the RSL, out at the White Oaks Seniors Club, and he even sang a couple of numbers at the airport before departing on Sunday!
The highlight of the week for Bernie and me was a special show, organised at a late date, on Wednesday 5:30 p.m. - 8.00 p.m. There were only two artists...the well-known Felicity Urquart and Graham Connors, each entertaining us for an hour or so. There was no band that evening, just the accompanying guitars, which was just wonderful for the older folk who took the opportunity to go along. It made it so much more personal and intimate. We had great seats, and did not need ear plugs. Graham Connors gave his very first rendition of his song about Norfolk Island, only composed in the past 24 hours! "In my heart...there is an Island." Quite moving, in Graham's inimitable style. It was a winner.
Another winner was his "What if..?" song, where he unexpectedly slipped in the line "What if John Howard left Norfolk Island alone?" It produced a great round of applause!
This week is the Line Dancing Festival. Some intrepid Country fans have made a double-act of it, and stayed for the fortnight. So we will continue to see many boots and big hats around town for a few days yet!

Friday, May 26, 2006

The Tahitians arrive in just a few days, and there are plenty of preparations underway.
On Sunday 4th June, we are going to have a special ceremony out at Simon's Water, which will affirm our friendship and strong family connections.
Our John has been working on a special seat, which will be unveiled by Sylvia Hermann, the Tahitian lady who has been working for some years to foster the link between the Bounty descendants of Norfolk and Tahiti. Last weekend, some of us went out to Simon's Water to choose the spot where it will be placed. It will, of course, face out to sea in a northeasterly direction so it looks towards Tahiti!
Simon's Water was chosen as the site because the property was an original grant to Simon Young when the Pitcairners first came to Norfolk Island in 1856. Simon Young was one of those who returned to Pitcairn with his family, and I think it was his granddaughter Ida who went to live in Tahiti. Many of our Tahitian friends trace their family back to Ida and Simon!
Simon's Water actually continued to belong to Simon, and was later part of his estate, until earlier last century when it was purchased by a member of the Buffett family. Bernie bought the 54 acres from Bobby Buffett in the 1960's (when all land was just 100 pounds an acre!) It is lovely to think that the link with the Young family will be re-established!
I think you will agree that the outlook from the seat will be very beautiful, from this photo taken in the late afternoon with the sun shining down on Cascade Bay.
On the day of the ceremony, there is also to be a tree planting. Two Norfolk Pines will be planted.....one by Archie on behalf of the Norfolk Islanders, and one by Gladys Lintz, on behalf of the Tahitians.
After the ceremony, we will have a feast, with the food from the "Ahiimaha" which Matt Bigg will prepare earlier that day. An Ahiimaha is a Tahitian-style "Hangi", and there will be all sorts of goodies to go into it. Matt has been fattening a pig, and Arthur will be killing several ducks next week. Peter has some lovely sweet tatie, and no doubt there will be plenty of other veges and meats to feed all the people we are expecting to join us that day!
This past week, Charles has been burning the midnight oil building a semi-portable outside loo to put out there on the day. There is no stopping him when he gets an idea in his head.
Today the boxing was put in place for the concrete base for the seat, and it will be poured in the weekend. Darren Bates is going to prepare wording on wooden plaques using his computeried routing equipment. This will be in both Tahitian and Norfolk languages.
Many months of planning, fundraising and preparation have gone into this visit, and we know everyone is going to have a wonderful time.
You can see Bernie is getting excited.....if all the arm and hand gestures are anything to go by!!!

Finally, I could not resist including this lovely shot of one of Norfolk's most loving Grandpas with grandson Reuben!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

William Fist's quilt, which has come down through the women in my family to me, is what is known as a "Military Quilt." It is made from the cloth from which the military uniforms used to be made. It is called "feltcloth", although it is not true felt, just a very tightly woven woollen cloth. However, the yellow border on William's quilt is actually felt...no doubt used for greater colour impact, or maybe because he ran out of the other fabric!
There are a number of examples of these quilts still around. The only one I have actually seen is in the Military section of the Auckland museum, but I have seen photos of others, including a couple in the American Museum in Bath, England, and one in Tasmania. There is also quite a lot of information and pictures in a book called "Quilt Treasures -The Quilters' Guild Heritage Search" put out by the Quilters' Guild in Britain. There is a famous painting by a Thomas Wood, painted c. 1956, showing a soldier sitting up in bed in a military hospital sewing a patchwork quilt.
The making of these quilts was a strong military tradition for over half a century. It is believed that tailor's scraps were used for making them, and sometimes cloth from the uniforms of soldiers who had died. About half of the known military quilts were made by men serving in India, as in William's case, and these tend to be in brighter colours than the others. Evidently some of the sewing was sometimes done by Indian civilians attached to the British Army, but it appears that William denies having had any assistance!!
One of those shown in the picture below was made as late as the Boer War.
The quilts tend to use detailed geometric designs and are made with great "military precision." William's quilt is incredibly square, although it has over 5500 half-inch pieces (before seams).
In the picture above, which shows the reverse side, you can see the tiny seams worked in a strong cotton thread with a backstitch. Some of the thread ends are still hanging. There is no doubt that this very strong cloth would have been rather challenging for a woman's daintier fingers to sew!
It is believed that some of them were made as a form of rehabilitation for convalescing soldiers, or while in a Military prison. I have no reason to think William was ever wounded, but he may well have served a short time in prison for one of breaches of duty that caused his demotions!
Actually, William's quilt is somewhat more modest than most of the others I have seen pictured. It is, nevertheless, a fine achievement and evidence of great persistence and endurance, as well as a somewhat artistic bent. And it is an heirloom I will always treasure.

Monday, May 22, 2006

In my last posting, I wrote about a quilt that made by my great-great uncle William Fist. The quilt was apparently commenced during his service with the British army in India in 1869, and at some stage...we do not know when...was sent back to England to his sister Sarah Castle.
My own mother remembered the quilt well as a child, because it was draped over a small round table in her grandmother's front parlour. It must have been there for some years, because there is still a circular area stretched out of shape. Mum also recalls talk about a "rich uncle" in Australia, but when she asked if he was likely to leave them any money, she was told that he had lost all his money playing cards!! There may be some truth in that, because the quilt is described as a "cloth" and is just the right size for a card table cover!!
The quilt, along with William's India medal and a photo was passed down to Sarah's unmarried daughter Sally...the one who did crazy patchwork. She in turn passed it on to her niece Rose, who was my aunt and godmother.
About 20-25 years ago, when visiting her relatives in England, my mother was handed the quilt by Aunty Rose, with instructions that it was to be given to me. I was delighted to receive it, but funnily enough, at the time I was more intrigued with it as an article of historical interest than as a piece of patchwork.
A year or two later, I met up with the then vice-president of the N.S.W. Quilter's Guild, who was holidaying on the island. When I showed her the quilt, she was extremely excited. The result was that it went on display in the Antique Quilt section of the big Bicentenary Quilt Show in Centrepoint Tower in 1988. It also featured in the first version of Margaret Rolfe's book of the History of Quilts in Australia. It was through the article and the photo in this book that I came into contact with the descendants of William's brother John. Bevin Fist, a Uniting church Minister in Melbourne, has been able to give me much more information about the Fist family and about uncle William, and he also gave me the photo of a younger William, shown here.
Along with the quilt, I received the medal, and an old photo of William that was sewn to a piece of card. The following words were written on the card. We believe it is in Aunt Sally's handwriting:
Soldier as Seamstress
Mr W. Fist of Richmond Australia. An Army Veteran. Since the year 1869 in fashioning a Table Cover of Military Cloth showing all the colours of the Regiment to which he was attached. 9th Lancers. 16th Lancers & the 19th Hussars. This cloth is worked in 32 inches square & is made up of 5,593 half inch pieces. The foundation is in emerald green cloth which is an effective foil to the scarlet, blue and yellow. Several fair fingers offered to help. But the Veteran went on with his task alone and unaided.
Mr Fist wears the red and white Riband of the Indian Mutiny & these colors are given a prominent place in the Cover-"
There is still more to tell you about this wonderful heirloom, and in the next post, I will show you some close-up pictures.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

I promised to give you another chapter in the family quilt story.
This time we go back to Christmas Day 1830 when John Fist married Jemima Hawkins in St Mildred's Church, Canterbury, Kent, England. John is listed in records as a "cordwainer", so we assume he was fairly dexterous with his hands. They had eight children, but those involved in this story are their first born (also John), born 1832, their third son William born 1840, and their second daughter Sarah born 1842.
Father John Fist died in 1849, leaving Jemima with a large young family to support. We are told she worked as a shoe-binder to help support the family. However, things must have been tough, as by 1851, son John was awaiting transportation on a prison hulk for burglary. He was transported to Tasmania, where he was eventually freed, and became a very respectable citizen, with a number of descendants still living in Australia.
Meanwhile daughter Sarah married a James Castle, and they were my great-grandparents.(Shown in the first picture.) Their son James was my maternal grandfather, and their daughter Sarah was my great-aunt Sally, about whom I wrote in the previous posting.
William (shown in the second picture), embarked on a military career, advancing his age to receive adult pay! He achieved the dubious distinction of being promoted to Corporal and Sergeant twice, and demoted back to private twice for misdemeanors! He served two terms in India, the first during the Indian Mutiny, service which earned him a medal (in my possession). In his second term he was transferred to the forces of the British East India Company. Around 1869, William began making a quilt in his military colours - more about that later!!
On his discharge, William went to Australia, possibly to join his brother John, now a free man with a family. We know he kept in contact with his sister Sarah in England. His mother, meanwhile had remarried.
While his convict brother had become an honourable citizen, William's life was one of ups and downs. For many years he lived with a Mary Ann Kiely. They never married, but had a son William who was an epileptic and ended up in an institution. He did later marry after Mary's death.
William was something of a drifter. It would appear that he kept contact with many of the veterans with whom he had served in India, and was actually chosen to represent them and make a presentation to the visiting Prince of Wales to Melbourne in 1920.

William himself died in 1921, and was buried in the Dandenong Cemetery. There is no headstone for him.

Some of his possessions....a handpainted coffee pot and a rosewood walking stick...were handed down through his wife's family, but have been given now to descendants of his brother John, who also have a cup and saucer William gave to John's granddaughter Isabel.
However the quilt he had made, at some stage, found its way back to England to his sister Sarah. We are not sure when, but my mother remembers it being on a little round table in her grandmother's "front parlour." William's medal also went back to England, and Great-grandmother Sarah had it fashioned into a lovely silver brooch.
I will tell you more about that quilt in my next posting!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Sarah Castle was the daughter of Sarah Anne Hewitt (Fist) Castle and James Castle. I think she was born around 1880. She was, of course, a somewhat elderly aunt when I was a child, and I held her in great veneration. But I was able to find a picture of her in her younger days, complete with bicycle.
Sally never married, but was "in service" for most of her working life. When I knew her, she had retired, but still lived in a cottage on the estate of the people for whom she had worked as a lady's maid. This was in a little village called Ickham near Canterbury in Kent.
I loved to visit her there. The photo shows me on her lawn, with Great-aunt Sally, and my mother's sister Emma.....and a basket of newly picked pears.
It was magical at the cottage. She had a sitting room just filled with wonderful treasures. I remember a big turtle shell in the enormous fireplace. There were examples of Aunt Sally's handwork everywhere. Upstairs there was a little attic bedroom. I used to long to have the opportunity to sleep there, but alas, it never came. Only my older sister had that pleasure, because she was Aunt Sally's goddaughter.
Although Sally was a maid, I do not believe she had a life of drudgery. She was a very creative person. As lady's maid, she had access to the dressmaker's samples that were brought to the "big house" from which Her Ladyship chose her new season's garments.
Being frugal by nature, Sally would take these samples and turn them into Crazypatchwork. She would make cushion covers for all the members of her extended family, with colourful pieces joined with feather stitch.
Sally also made use of scraps of wool. When I was about five, she knitted me a pair of long socks - with stripes every colour of the rainbow, and one sock bearing no resemblance to the other. I just loved them, although I do recall feeling slight embarrassment at the mismatched appearance!
There were orchards near the cottage, and Sally actually used to send us plums through the post. The mails were more reliable in those days! She also sent her bread scraps in the mail to my grandmother for her chickens.
I described the Suffolk puff quilt that she made from scraps of cotton sheeting. The picture below shows Sally's quilt alongside the one my mother made. The puffs in Sally's quilt are smaller and daintier. One of her Crazy patchwork cushions sits on top of her quilt. This is also in my sister's possession today. But I do love to "borrow" it from time to time, because I do believe that my love of crazy patchwork began with great-aunt Sally all those years ago.
The quilt in the middle also has a family history that goes back even further than Aunt Sally.....but more about that another time!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

On this special day, no doubt many of us are thinking of our mothers.
For those of us whose mothers have died, it is an especially poignant time, as we must be content with memories and reminders.
And talking of reminders, I do not actually have a great deal in the way of possessions that remind me of Mum. Just a few bits and pieces really. Funnily enough, the thing that I always associate with her the most is a set of plates that I purchased during the last shopping expedition that we made together.
Although Mum was a clever seamstress, and very good with her hands, she tended to "make something out of something else" rather than create. When I think of how much I spend on my crafts, I am reminded of how she would "make do" with what she could lay her hands on, a frugality that was the result of living through the Depression.
One very special treasure I do have, that was made by my Mother, is a Suffolk Puff quilt. This was made from the good parts that were left in old white cotton sheets after they became too worn to use on the beds. Much of this quilt has been made from old sheets that were withdrawn from use at Fletcher Christian Apartments. One reason that I am glad to have this quilt.....and also, I suspect, a reason that she made it....is that my sister has a similar one made by our great-aunt Sally. Aunt Sally spent many years on this quilt. In those days, when sheets became worn, they would be cut down the middle, and the new edges would become the outside edges, and the former outside edges would be seamed together in the middle, thus extending the life of the sheet. When this area finally became worn, there was still good cotton or linen at the corners, and this would be put to a good use. In Aunt Sally's case, it would be used for her Suffolk Puff quilt. As a spinster, she did not use many sheets in her household, and so she needed to beg scraps from friends and relatives.
In her latter years, Sally's quilt was still just a little too small to cover a double bed, so she made the bold step of purchasing 1/4 yard of cotton sheeting to finish it. Having to buy that fabric really went against the grain!
Aunt Sally's quilt eventually went to my sister Sally, who was her god-daughter...and now we each have one of these very special heirlooms!
In my next posting I will post a picture of the two quilts together, and maybe tell you a little about Great-aunt Sally.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Doris Violet Castle was born 11th May 1911, on the Isle of Sheppey in England. She was the second youngest of seven children born to Alice Elizabeth (Nance) and James Franklin Castle.
Today would have been her 95th birthday. I know that if she were still alive today, she would still be the same gentle, accepting and caring lady she was when she died 10 years ago.
This is the earliest picture I can find of my Mum. It was taken when she was 17. I have never seen a picture of her as a child. But she was certainly a beautiful young woman. There was a young teenage boy on the island who was attracted to her from the start, in spite of the fact that she was 5 years older than him. David Winch used to stand behind the lamp posts and watch her as she was taken out by other older fellows...and he waited. Finally he was allowed to "court" her, and they were married in 1937, just 5 weeks after David's 21st birthday.

Although she was a great achiever at school, Mum had to leave at fourteen to help support the family, as was the way in those days.
She took work at Jennings Shop in the High Street in Queenborough, and actually trained in millinery. Mum used to love making hats for my sister and I as children. She used to love the June Millinery Store in Sydney, where you could buy a hatform, and decorate it in the shop!
! wish I knew more about my mother's childhood. I do know they were a strong and supportive family. The Isle of Sheppey was a fairly strategic area in WW1, being right at the bottom right hand corner of England, and people who lived there had to have a special permit to go on and off the island. I still have my grandmother's permit book, signed by the Commanding Officer on Sheppey. Mum used to tell how they used to billet soldiers at their home.

On the back of the photo at the top, it says it was taken at "Wichanbreaux, home of Susan, Sally and Mary Castle." My mother used to tell stories about these three elderly aunts, and how they came to visit her parents. Whenever someone had a piece of news or gossip, Susan would say "Well I never!"
Sally would say "Goodness Gracious!" And then everyone would hold their breath until Mary piped up: "Fancy that!"
The picture below shows that Mum was very much an outdoor girl in those youthful days!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

It is now eight months since New Orleans was devastated by Cyclone Katrina, and the rebuilding process is in full swing.
Meawhile the quilters of the world have not been idle, particularly those here downunder and in the U.S.
Sharon Boggon, a Canberra quilter, decided to organise a fundraiser to assist Katrina victims. She asked leading quiltmakers in Australia and the U.S. to each contribute a block...in the Crazy Patchwork style...to be made into a quilt to be auctioned. One "space" in the quilt was left vacant, to be filled by selecting a prizewinner from any blocks other quilters would like to submit. All the blocks were to have a New Orleans theme.
The blocks that were eventually submitted were sufficient to make three quilts, and were put together by another wonderful Canberra quilter Annie Whitsed, before being despatched to the United States.
The quilts are now being auctioned on Ebay in the U.S.
I wish I could show you a picture, but "Blogger" is being a bit unco-operative today! But you can see them in all their glorious glitz and colour on Sharon's site:


You may even like to go on Ebay to bid on them!

Sunday, May 07, 2006


You can't beat a good old-fashioned get-together, with young and old and in-between, just enjoying each other's company. That is how it was at the Parish cente last night, at the Tahiti Group's Fish Fry Fundraiser.

Old friends were able to catch up. So good to see Ena back home, seen here chatting to Pumbles. And it is always great having "Christy home on holidays, here chatting to Dot (busy on her next knitting project, which is a shawl for Kim!
The hall looked great with all the colourful hibiscus, and the food was just perfect!
For sweets, there were plenty of island pies.......lemon, coconut and passionfruit, and enormous bread and butter pudding brought by Celia. Plenty of cream, too, of course....Norfolkers love cream!
The music was great,and quite a few got up and had a dance!

The raffle was popular...a lovely shawl knitted by Dot, just perfect for Bounty! And a beautiful crocheted rug, donated by a very generous visitor. Margaret won the rug, and Ken Nobbs won the shawl! But it looks better on young Ebony than it did on Ken. Ebony won one of Dot's shawls at our last Tahiti night.

It was a really beautiful evening, with just a touch of Autumn crispness. But it was warm enough for some of the young families to sit outside while they kept half an eye on the kids playing in the dark.

Aren't we blest to live on such a beautiful, safe and friendly island, enjoying all those good things the Lord provides?

Friday, May 05, 2006

DEVON..10 years on

Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of the day we moved into our home "Devon". We had decided that it was time for Bernie to retire from active management of Fletcher Christian Apartments, and although we already had managers since February, the "new"house was not ready for us until May.
I have mentioned that Devon was built back in the early 1920's by Charlie Bailey for his sister Charlotte. It was typical of a New Zealand bungalow of the time, and even today when we travel around New Zealand, we often spy an old house and say: "Oh look...there's "Devon!"
Charlotte did not actually live in the house, but it was let to various people over the years, such as Burns Philp managers. During the war, it became headquarters for the New Zealand army, and was occupied by Colonel Barry and then Colonel Cockerell. At this time an army hut was built adjacent to the house, and at a later stage the two buildings were connected. There were tents encamped in what is now the woodland between us and the road, and the remnant foundations of the "mess", with drains and greasetraps, can still be seen at Devon Cottage next door. Water was actually pumped up from the spring in the valley behind the house to halfway up the mountain, where the Mini Golf and Agnes' Toyshop are now....about 3 km away. The water was then gravity fed back down to the various army encampments. The lawnmower recently shaved off enough dirt to reveal one of the old metal pipes out near our clothesline.

Bernie's parents went to Sydney in the war years, and when they returned to the island in the 1960's, Charlotte invited them to live in the house. George made considerable internal alterations and modern touches. It became very much the "family home."
After George and Dorothy passed away in 1991 and 1992, we let the house to various short term residents, and they all said they loved the place and that it had good vibes.
The alterations we made in 1995-6 were extensive, with several rooms being added on, including an open upstairs area. Of the four old bedrooms, one became a bathroom, one became a dining room, and one became a laundry, while the old bathroom formed the hallway that led through to the new section.
The day we moved was memorable. I had received word the day before that my mother was very ill. By that day, it was apparent that she was dying. My sister told me not to come, that I would be too late to see Mum alive, and to concentrate on the moving. However, Charles, who had been living with Mum, insisted I come. I travelled on the plane that evening, and was able to spend an hour or two with Mum before she passed away.
So although we moved on the 5th May, I did not actually get to sleep in our new home for another week.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

I mentioned that the recent rains have been producing an abundance of magnificent blooms on our hibiscus bushes.
Hibiscus grow really well on Norfolk Island. We grow a great variety of them here, from the endemic Phillip Island Hibiscus (which changes from pale green to pink) to the little common red one to the great big and showy Hawaiian hibiscus. I am not sure why they are called "Hawaiian"......maybe the cultivars were developed there. But when we went to Hawaii, the blooms were small and scrawny compared to the way they grow here.
A Hibiscus expert from Queensland spoke to our Garden Club. He gave us all the instructions for growing healthy hibiscus - preparing the soil, what to feed them, how to prune them etc. Then he finished by saying that we could safely forget everything he had said, because they seemed to grow beautifully here no matter what!!
Hibiscus flowers generally only last a day or so, on or off the bush, in or out of water. But that doesn't stop us gathering them in abundance whenever we want a quick show of colour. We pile them in the centre of the table for a dinner party. Mind you, one must be wary of the ants. The little creatures love to gather deep inside the flowers, and unless you give them a good shake when you first pick them, you are likely to have ants join your dinner party!
You can stick the blooms onto the thorns of a wild lemon branch to make a showy spray, or poke the stalks through the holes in a large monsterio leaf to decorate a wall for a function. The tour buses even line them up along the dashboard when they take our visitors around the island.

And of course, you can always tuck one behind your ear!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


I know today is the 2nd May, but the first of May, yesterday, is one of those red spot days in the calendar. When we were growing up, we were always told that on the first day of May, you should wash your face in dew, and you would be beautiful forever more. Obviously I did not do it often enough!
In England, where I lived as a young child, this was the day for maypoles and the like. I never had the experience of dancing round one, but my mother told me that when she was a girl, one year, she was the "Queen of the May". I remember they had a maypole here at the school one year..I think it was for the Bicentenary...and after weeks of training from Julie South and Fay Bataille, the girls performed a very creditable maypole dance in the school quadrangle!
In England, May is at the height of spring, and no doubt everyone is enjoying the longer days, the warmer weather, and the blooming of the spring bulbs and flowers.
Funnily enough, here on Norfolk Island, even though it is Autumn, our gardens are looking lovely. Everything is feeling the benefit of the lovely rains, and the milder (i.e. cooler) weather. The roses are all in bud, and the hibiscus bushes are a mass of blooms!
Now I went looking for a picture of my mother as the Queen of the May, but could not find one. But I did find this little beauty of my Dad, aged 2, standing next to a supersize marrow. Notice that he is still in a dress! This would have been taken about 1918!
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