I have been very recalcitrant! Almost a year since my last blog post! What can I say?
2017 has been thus far been a year of travel: January to Bali for pure relaxation and pleasure; April/May to Sydney and Arrowtown in New Zealand; June/July to Singapore/China/Singapore/Bali. More about China later.
Arrowtown was very interesting not the least because of its extraordinary Museum – that such a small town could host such a high quality institution is amazing. Never mind the great scenery, wonderful food, beer and wine – we there for a birthday party after all. The Museum contains a comparatively small but high quality Chinese history exhibit. Coupled with the nearby Chinese miners’ village which has been partially restored and subject of detailed archeological investigation, the Chinese aspect of this region is most interesting. This gave me much food for thought in my role as the Coordinator of the Chung Wah Society Chinese Museum in Darwin.
It goes without saying that the trip to China was the standout of the year! The primary motivation was to visit Chengdu and its Pandas as a 50th birthday present to Lorelei. We visited Beijing where we stayed in a ‘hutong’ style hotel, walked and climbed the Great Wall, and explored Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden Palace and the Summer Palace. With a population of 21 million, we only saw a fraction of the city and despite its modernity and the ravages of the recent past, history still prods you at every corner.
Onto to Xian and its Terracotta Warriors – what a mesmerising exhibition! Your television Time Team experience magnified a million times! Huaquing Palace with its series of Bathing Pavilions and magnificent gardens was most interesting. A curious feature is the highlighting of Chiang Kai Shek’s temporary residence there in 1936 – forcibly by his own his own subordinates to change the Nationalist Government policy to end the civil war against the Communist Party and to collaborate with it against the impending threat of Japan. The Xian City Wall – first built in the 14th century and refurbished many times since – was fascinating. And yes – yours truly traversed 14.5 km of the wall by push bike! Somewhat disappointingly, we did not have time to explore the enclosed town and saw only tantalising views from atop the ramparts.
Chengdu was a revelation – we stayed close in to the central business district which is a modern shopping paradise outrivalling Singapore. It goes without saying that the Giant Panda Breeding Centre met every expectation and Lorelei was very happy with her birthday present (even if she did actually pay for most of it!). With four of her sisters present, and my daughter and son-in-law, we had a wonderful time including a private and sumptuous birthday banquet at a ridiculously cheap price. My brother-in-law and I escaped a shopping expedition to visit the Wuhou Temple complex. If you are into gardening, the bonsai garden here is mindboggling.
Four of us went onto Guangzhou staying in the bustling centre of the old city. Nearby was Shamian Island, the site of the 19th century legations of the French and English and other European countries where the buildings today are largely preserved. On the bank of the Pearl River, the area is beautifully landscaped with a fascinating array of bronze street art sculptures. From there we visited the city of Jiangmen from which many of the ancestors of todays Australian and Northern Territory Chinese departed for Xin Jin Shan (New Gold Mountain – Australia). Jiangmen is the site of the Wuyi Overseas Chinese Museum housed in a magnificent building and flanked by an equally magnificent square. Housing an enormous collection of artefacts, with a not unexpected emphasis on North America and only fleeting references to Australia, the institution is curiously soul less. The only visitors apart us was a group of Chinese tourists led by a guide armed with the ubiquitous high flag and blaring loud speaker!
Following a few days rest in Singapore and Bali (to get over the holiday – it was a fairly intensive 14 days of travel) it was back to Darwin and work – sort of! Back to managing the Museum volunteer roster and back into my project of the reviewing Northern Territory Chinese history through the view of the newspapers of 1874-1884. I have done some further work on researching Fred Sexton and his transition from World War I infantryman to Australian Flying Corps pilot, his involvement with the saga of the missing Atlantis Junkers W-33 in Western Australia’s north-west, employment with West Australian Airways and his World War II role as RAAF Wing Commander at the Gorrie airfield in the Northern Territory.
In recent days my collaborators to my Muir-Buirchell Tree have unearthed some information as to the origins of Mary Anne Walton who, according to dozens of Ancestry and MyHeritage members, came from Burslem in Staffordshire but which none of us has ever accepted. In the never ending search for an answer to my friend Sue’s mystery associated with the Montefiore family, came the discovery that she is the 5th cousin once removed of Timothy James Hamilton Laurence, the second husband of the Princess Royal Anne. Family history can be fun!