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Posts tagged ‘Jackie Kerin’

Persian Plantings

Recently, a chance mention of a ship called Persian by fellow writer and storyteller, Jackie Kerin, led to the discovery of an intriguing coincidence.

Jackie uses the Kamishibai format to tell the story of the historic voyage of the Persian in 1833 when it transported seeds and plants such as ferns, grasses and grape vines from England to Australia. The plants survived this long and arduous journey thanks to terrarium style glass boxes called Wardian cases.

The 1833 voyage carried an experiment by amateur horticulturist, Dr Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward, who wanted to see if the boxes he had designed could successfully transport plants and seeds across the oceans of the world when all other methods had failed.The experiment was a resounding success. After six months at sea enduring temperatures from  -7°C   to 40°C  (19.4°F to 104°F), the plants arrived ‘alive and vigorous’.

The Wardian cases were on the third voyage the Persian had made to Australia. The coincidence we discovered relates to the Persian’s second journey in 1830. This time, my paternal convict ancestor John Rowley was on board.

In 1830, John Rowley, an eighteen-year-old labourer from Leeds, and his partner in crime, twenty-two -year-old William Thackrah, were sentenced to death for breaking into a premises and stealing goods and chattels (such as  spoons,  sheets,  aprons, table-cloths & fabric).

Why the death sentence despite the fact the men had not hurt anyone? Crimes against property (and the Crown) were considered the most heinous by the British Government of the time, and no doubt the privileged class that owned property held the same view. So while thieves were hanged, a man found guilty of manslaughter was fined as little as one shilling.

Eventually, the death sentences imposed on Rowley and Thackrah were commuted to fourteen years transportation to Australia. Both men were on the Persian in 1830 when the ship transported 198 convicts (all male) to Van Diemen’s Land.

Three years earlier in 1827, the Persian had made her first voyage to Australia as a female convict ship carrying sixty convicted women including, to give an example, sixteen-year-old Charlotte Williams who had received a life sentence for a first offence of ‘stealing a watch from the person’.

All three voyages brought foreign transplants to the Australian continent.

Not all of the convict ‘plants’ had a beneficial impact but most of the 160 000 plus men, women and children who were transported across the oceans and transplanted on the Australian continent made positive contributions to the building of Modern Australia. When my ancestor, John Rowley, had served his time, he left Tasmania to take up land allotments in Gippsland, Victoria and played a significant role in the development of the township of Rosedale. Without convicts like him we would not have the Australia we know today.

Like the convict transplants, not all the exotic plants (or the microorganisms that travelled with them in the soil) transported in Wardian cases made a positive contribution to the Australian continent. However, without Dr Ward’s amazing case we would not be enjoying the health benefits of the Cavendish banana or locally grown delicious mangoes. In the 1840s the Wardian cases brought grafted mango trees to Australia from India, generating the establishment of mango production in Queensland.

The Wardian cases were so successful worldwide they revolutionised the transportation of plants and were even used in botanical espionage. In the19th century, China’s tea monopoly came to a halt when Wardian cases were used to successfully move nearly 20,000 tea plants from China to India. Likewise, Brazil’s monopoly on rubber ended when the Wardian cases facilitated the successful transportation of 70,000 germinated rubber tree seeds to Ceylon.

After bringing the first Wardian cases to Australia, the Persian returned to England in 1834, once again successfully carrying plants, such as the coral fern and the black wattle, across the oceans.

My ancestor was not free to return to his homeland but in his new land he planted many, many more plants starting with his own eight children who went on to ‘propagate’ numerous more Rowley ‘plants’.

Learn more about  Jackie Kerin’s story of The Amazing Case of Dr Ward .

Until next time….JB 🙂


The Growth of Plants in Closely Glazed Cases by N.B. Ward

A Commonwealth of Thieves by Thomas Keneally, Anchor Books 2007

Australia Day Blogging Awards

Versatile Blogger Award
Thank you, Bean from Finding Your Gibbee, for awarding me The Versatile Blogger award.

In keeping with the rules of this award (see below) and to celebrate Australia Day, I would like to award The Versatile Blogger to the following brilliant bloggers:
Jackie Kerin
Lillian Rodrighues-Pang (http://lillistory.wordpress.com/)
Zena Shapter
Skye : Leopold Primary School
Liam : Leopold Primary School
Riley : Leopold Primary School

Rule number 4 (Share seven completely random things about myself.)
1: I am a child on the inside (the outside is another matter)
2: I am also a reptile (love the heat and cannot tolerate the cold)
3: I love a good murder (in fiction)
4: I have killed
5: I have never been in jail (well, not as an inmate)
6: I make a mean pavlova (never been arrested for it)
7: I love listening to audio books (never been arrested for that either)
Re point 4: It was a mouse.

Here are the rules that go along with this award:
1.In a post on your blog, nominate 15 fellow bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award.(15 isn’t mandatory, but it’s a nice gesture. Try and pick at least 5 )
2. In the same post, add the Versatile Blogger Award.
3. In the same post, thank the blogger who nominated you in a post with a link back to their blog.
4. In the same post, share 7 completely random pieces of information about yourself.
5. In the same post, include this set of rules.
6. Inform each nominated blogger of their nomination by posting a comment on each of their blogs.

I’m just a timid little mouse in the blogging universe but there is nothing like an award to get me roaring like a lion. JB 🙂

Phar Lap in rhyming verse

Phar Lap was the hero that died a tragic death. The legend of the much loved racehorse, foaled in Timaru, New Zealand, 1926 is well known to every Australian but has recently been published by Museum Victoria in a picture book and ballad combination.

The darling of the race-going public in Australia during the Great Depression the champion chestnut gelding was so fast he won race after race, living up to his name (Phar Lap is a Thai word meaning lightning). The winning style of the horse with the big heart (his heart was twice the usual size)  thrilled those who bet on him at a time when most people were out of work and struggling to get enough money to feed and clothe their families. However, Phar Lap’s habit of winning races did not please the criminal element in the race industry. Gangsters tried to shoot him a couple of days before the 1930 Melbourne Cup but the attempt failed and Phar Lap went on to win the coveted Cup that year.

Two years later Phar Lap went to the USA to race in the Agua Caliente Handicap – North America’s richest race at the time. After travelling by ship across the Pacific Ocean to San Francisco and another 800 kilometres by road to Tijuana in Mexico, Phar Lap raced against the best horses in America to win easily by two lengths in a time of 2:2.8–a new record. He was described by commentators as ‘the handsomest horse ever seen on an American track’.

Alas, two weeks later he came down with a mysterious illness (recently revealed to be arsenic poisoning) and died an agonising death in California on April 5, 1932. Australia mourned the death of the horse that had won the hearts of the people. His body was returned to Australia and he now stands in the Melbourne Museum; their most popular exhibit.

In the years following his death, Phar Lap became a national icon in Australia and New Zealand. Books were written about him, songs were sung for him, films were made about him and in 1978 an Australian postage stamp was issued in his honour.

Now, a new generation of Australians can discover Phar Lap’s story in ballad form with Jackie Kerin’s Phar Lap the wonder horse  published by Museum Victoria. To capture the mighty Phar Lap’s story in rhyming verse while maintaining historical accuracy is no easy matter but Jackie Kerin has masterfully achieved just that. The story flows seamlessly and begs to be read aloud.

Here is how Kerin records Phar Lap’s final moments with his faithful strapper, Tom Woodcock, by his side.

By midday things were getting worse, and Phar Lap was in pain,
The treatment was to walk him, so Tom tried, and tried again,
But nothing worked, and finally, the horse lay down to die,
His best friend watching, helpless, as the light dimmed in his eye.

Phar Lap

Phar Lap the wonder horse

The book’s thirty two pages come to life with captivating pictures by well known illustrator Patricia Mullins using Japanese, Nepalese and Indian papers as well as crayon and photo montage. A perfect size for class room use at 28cm x 26cm, this beautifully presented book comes with a comprehensive and easy to read glossary at the back. JB 🙂

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