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Movie making Camden style

Smilie Gets A Gun Movie Cover
Smilie Gets A Gun Movie Cover

Movie makers have always had an eye on the Camden district’s large  country houses, rustic farm buildings, quaint villages and picturesque countryside for film locations.

From the 1920s the area has been used by a series of film makers as a setting for their movies. It coincided was an increasing interest in the area’s Englishness from poets, journalists and travel writers. They wrote stories of quaint English style villages with a church on the hill, charming gentry estates down hedge-lined lanes, where the patriarch kept contented cows in ordered fields and virile stallions in magnificent stables.  This did not go un-noticed in the film industry.

Camden Park Publicity

One of the first was the 1921 silent film Silks and Saddles shot at Arthur Macarthur Onslow’s Macquarie Grove by American director John K Wells about the world of horse racing. The film was set on the race track on Macquarie Grove. The script called for a race between and aeroplane and race horse. The movie showed a host good looking racing blood-stock. There was much excitement, according to Annette Onslow, when an airplane piloted by Edgar Percival his Avro landed on the race course used in the film and flew the heroine to Randwick to win the day. Arthur’s son Edward swung a flight in Percival’s plane and was hooked on flying for life, and later developed Camden Airfield at Macquarie Grove.

Camden film locations were sought in 1931 for director Ken G Hall’s 1932 Dad and Dave film On Our Selection based on the characters and writings of Steele Rudd. It stars Bert Bailey as Dan Rudd and was release in the UK as Down on the Farm. It was one the most popular Australian movies of all time but it was eventually shot at Castlereagh near Penrith. The movie is based of Dan’s selection in south-west Queensland and is about a murder mystery. Ken G Hall notes that of the 18 feature films he made between 1932 and 1946 his film company used the Camden area and the Nepean River valley and its beauty for location shooting. The films included On Our Selection (1936), Squatter’s Daughter (1933), Grandad Rudd (1934), Thoroughbred (1935), Orphan of the Wilderness (1936), It Isn’t Done (1936), Broken Melody (1938), Dad and Dave Come to Town (1938), Mr Chedworth Steps Out (1938), Gone to the Dogs (1939), Come Up Smiling (1939), Dad Rudd MP (1940), and Smith, The Story of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith (1946).

Camden Airfield 1930s Camden Images
Camden Airfield 1930s Camden Images

The Camden district was the location of two wartime action movies, The Power and The Glory (1941) and The Rats of Tobruk (1944). The Rats of Tobruk was directored by Charles Chauvel and starred actors Chips Rafferty, Peter Finch and Pauline Garrick. The story is about three men from a variety of backgrounds who become mates during the siege at Tobruk during the Second World War. The movie was run at Camden’s Paramount movie palace in February 1945. The location for parts of the movie were the bare paddocks of Narellan Vale and Currans Hill where they were turned into a battleground to recreated the setting at Tobruk in November 1943. There were concerns at the time that the exploding ammunitions used in the movie would disturb the cows. Soldiers were supplied from the Narellan Military Camp and tanks were modified to make them look like German panzers and RAAF Camden supplied six Vultee Vengeance aircraft from Camden Airfield which were painted up to look like German Stuka bombers. The film location was later used for the Gayline Drive In. Charles Chauvel’s daughter Susanne Carlsson who was 13 years old at the time reported that it was a ‘dramatic and interesting time’.

The second wartime movie was director Noel Monkman’s The Power and The Glory starring Peter Finch and Katrin Rosselle. The movie was made at RAAF Camden with co-operation of the RAAF. It is a spy drama about a Czech scientist who discovers a new poison gas and escapes to Australia rather than divulge the secret to the Nazis. Part of the plot was enemy infiltration of the coast near Bulli where an enemy aircraft was sighted and 5 Avro-Anson aircraft were directed to seek and bombed the submarine. The Wirraway aircraft from the RAAF Central Flying School acted as fighters and it was reported that the pilots were ‘good looking’ airmen from the base mess. There was a private screening at Camden’s Paramount movie theatre for the RAAF Central Flying School personnel.

Camden Park was used as a set for the internationally series of Smiley films, Smiley made in 1956 and in 1958 Smiley Gets a Gun in cinemascope. The story is about a nine-year old boy who is a bit of rascal who grows up in a country town. They were based on books by Australian author Moore Raymond and filmed by Twentieth Century Fox and London Films. Raymond set his stories in a Queensland country town in the early 20th century and there are horse and buggies and motor cars. The town settings were constructed from scratch and shot at Camden Park, under the management of Edward Macarthur Onslow. The movies stars included Australian Chips Rafferty and English actors John McCallum and Ralph Richardson.  Many old time locals have fond memories of being extras in the movies. Smiley was released in the United Kingdom and United States.

In 1999 Camden airfield was used as a set for the television documentary  The Last Plane Out of Berlin which was the story of Sidney Cotton. Actor Geoff Morrell played the role of Cotton, who went to England in 1916 and became a pilot and served with the Royal Naval Air Service during the First World War. He is regarded as the ‘father of aerial photography’ and in 1939 was requested to make flights over Nazi Germany in 1939. Camden Airfield was ‘perfect location’ according to producer Jeff Watson because of its ‘historic’ 1930s atmosphere.

In 2009 scenes from X-Men Origins: Wolverine were filmed at Camden and near Brownlow Hill.

In 2010 filmmaker Sandra Pyres of Why Documentaries produced a number of short films in association for the With The Best of Intentions exhibition at The Oaks Historical Society. The films were a montage of contemporary photographs, archival footage and re-enactments by drama students of the stories of child migrants. The only voices were those of the child migrants and there were many tears spilt as the films were screened at the launch of the exhibition.

In 2011 scenes from director Wayne Blair’s Vietnam wartime true story of The Sapphires were filmed at Brownlow Hill starring Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy and Chris O’Dowd. This is the true story of four young Aboriginal sisters who are discovered by a talent scout who organises a tour of American bases in Vietnam. On Brownlow Hill a large stage was placed in the middle of cow paddock and draped with a sign that read ‘USC Show Committee presents the Sapphires’ and filming began around midnight. The cows were herded out of sight and the crew had to be careful that they did not stand of any cowpats. Apparently Sudanese refugees played the role of African American servicemen of the 19th Infantry Division.

Camelot House early 1900s Camden Images
Camelot House early 1900s Camden Images

The romantic house of Camelot with its turrets, chimney stacks and gables, was built by racing identity James White and designed by Horbury Hunt was the scene of activity in 2006 and 2007 for the filming of scenes of Baz Luhrman’s Australia, starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman. The location shots were interior and exterior scenes which involved  horse riding by Kidman and Jackman. The film is about an aristocratic woman who leaves England and follows her husband to Australia during the 1930s, and live through the Darwin bombing by the Japanese in the Second World War.

Camelot was a hive activity for the filming of the 1950s romantic television drama A Place to Call Home produced by Channel 7 in 2012. Set in rural Australia it is the story of a woman’s journey ‘to heal her soul’ and of a wealthy family facing changes in the fictional country town of Inverness in the Bligh family estate of Ash Park. Starring Marta Dusseldorp as the mysterious Sarah and Noni Hazlehurst  as the family matriarch Elizabeth, who has a number of powerful independently wealthy women who paralleled her role in Camden in time past on their gentry estates.  The sweeping melodrama about hope and loss is set against the social changes in the 1950s and has close parallels to 1950s Camden. The ‘sumptuous’ 13 part drama series screened on television in 2013 and according to its creator Bevin Lee had a ‘large-scale narrative’ that had a ‘feature-film feel’. He maintained that is was ‘rural gothic’, set in a big house that had comparisons with British television drama Downton Abbey.

The 55-room fairytale like mansion and its formal gardens were a ‘captivating’ setting for A Place to Call Home, according to the Property Observer in 2013. Its initial screening was watched by 1.7 million viewers in April 2013. The show used a host of local spots for film sets and one of the favourite points of conversation ‘around the water-cooler’ for locals was the game ‘pick-the-place’. By mid-2014 Channel 7 had decided to axe the series at the end of the second series. There was a strong local reaction and a petition was circulating which attracted 6000 signatures to keep the show on air. In the end Foxtel television produced a third series with the original caste which screened in 2015.

Camden airfield was in action again and used as a set for the Australian version of the British motoring television show Top Gear Australian in 2010.  Part of the show are power laps in a ‘Bog Standard Car’ were recorded on parts of the runways and taxiways used as a test track.

Camden Showground became the set for Angelina Jolie’s Second World War drama Unbroken in 2013. The main character Louis Zamperini, a former Olympic runner, and Onslow Park was used as part of the story of his early life as a member of Torrance High School track team. The movie is about Zamperini’s story of survival after his plane was shot down during the Pacific campaign. The filming caused much excitement in the area and the local press gave the story extensive coverage, with the showground was chosen for its historic atmosphere. Camden mayor Lara Symkowiak hoped that the movie would boost local tourism and the council was supportive of the area being used as a film set. The council had appointed a film contact officer to encourage greater use of the area for film locations.

Edwina Macarthur Stanham writes that Camden Park has been the filming location for a number of movies, advertisements and fashion shoots  since the 1950s.   They have included Smiley (1956), Smiley Gets a Gun (1958), Shadow of the Boomerang (1960) starring Jimmy Little, My Brilliant Career (1978) was filmed in Camden Park and its garden and surrounds, and The Empty Beach (1985) starring Bryan Brown, House Taken Over (1997) a short film written and directed by Liz Hughes which used  lots of scenes in the house. In the 21st century there has been Preservation (2003) described a gothic horror movie starring Jacqueline Mackenzie, Jack Finsterer and Simon Bourke which used a lot of the scenes filmed in the house.

In 2005 Danny De Vito visited Camden Park scouting for a location for a movie based on the book “The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle”.  In Sleeping Beauty (2010) an Australian funded film was shot at Camden Park and the short film La Finca (2012). In September 2014 Camden Park was used as a location in the film called “The Daughter” starring Geoffrey Rush. Extensive filming took place over 3 weeks and members of the family and friends and Camden locals played the role of extras.

In September 2014 Camden Park was used as a location in the film called “The Daughter” starring Geoffrey Rush. Extensive filming took place over 3 weeks and members of the family and friends and Camden locals played the role of extras.

The Daughter Movie Set Camden Park 2014 E Stanham
The Daughter Movie Set Camden Park 2014 E Stanham

In 2015 the Camden Historical Society and filmmaker Wen Denaro have combined forces to telling the story of the Chinese market gardeners who settled in Camden in the early twentieth century. The project will produce  a short documentary about the Chinese market gardeners who established vegetable gardens along the river in Camden and who supplied fresh product to  the Macarthur and Sydney markets.

In 2015 an episode of the Network Ten TV show of The Bachelor Australia was filmed at Camden Park in August 2015. They showed scenes of the Bachelor Sam Wood taking one of the bachelorette Sarah on a romantic date to the colonial mansion Camden Park. There were scenes of the pair in a two-in-hand horse drawn white carriage going up and down the driveway to the Camden Park cemetery on the hill overlook the town. There were scenes in the soft afternoon sunlight of the couple having a romantic high-tea on the verandah of Camden Park house with champagne and scones and cup cakes. In the evening there were floodlit images of the front of Camden Park house from the front lawn then scenes of the couple in the sitting room siting of the leather sofa sharing wine, cheese and biscuits in front on an open fire and candles. Sarah is gobsmacked with the house, its setting and is ‘amazed’ by the house’s colonial interior.

 

In 2018 a children’s film Peter Rabbit was been filmed in the Camden district. The movie is based on Beatrix Potter’s famous book series and her iconic characters. The special effects company Animal Logic spent two days on the shoot in Camden in January 2017. The first scene features the kidnap of the rabbit hero in a sack, throwing them off a bridge and into the river. For this scene the Macquarie Grove Bridge over the Nepean River was used for the bridge in the movie. According to a spokesman the reason the Camden area was used was because it fitted the needed criteria. The movie producers were looking for a location that screamed of its Englishness. Camden does that and a lot more dating back to the 1820s. The movie is set in modern day Windermere in the English Lakes District. The location did not have to have too many gum trees or other recognisable Australian plants. John and Elizabeth Macarthur would be proud of their legacy – African Olives and other goodies. Conveniently the airport also provided the location for a stunt scene which uses a bi-plane. The role of the animators is to make Australia look like England.

 

 

In August 2018 the colonial Cowpastures homestead of Denbigh at Cobbitty was the set for popular Australian drama series Doctor Doctor. The series is about the Knight family farm and the show star is Roger Corser who plays doctor Hugh Knight. He said, ‘

The homestead is a real star of the show. The front yard, the dam and barn brewery on the property are major sets – I don’t know what we would do without them.

The show follows the high-flying heart surgeon and is up to season three. Filming lasted three months and the cast checked out the possibilities of the Camden town centre. Actor Ryan Johnson said that Denbigh ‘made the show’.

Denbigh homestead was originally built by Charles Hook in 1818 and extended by Thomas and Samuel Hassell in the 1820s.

denbigh-2015-iwillis
Denbigh Homestead Open Day 2015 has been used as a film set in 2018 for the TV series Doctor Doctor (I Willis)

 

In late 2018 the TV series Home and Away has been using the haunted house at Narellan known as Studley Park as a set for the program. The storyline followed three young characters going into the haunted house and staying overnight. They go into a tunnel and  a young female becomes trapped. Tension rises and the local knock-about character comes to their rescue and he is a hero.  The use of the set by the TV series producers was noted by Macarthur locals on Facebook.

Studley Park at Night spooky 2017 CNA
Spooky Studley Park House is claimed to be one of the most haunted locations in the Macarthur region. The TV series Home & Away on 3 & 4 October 2018 certainly added to those stories by using the house as a set location. (CN Advert)

Studley Park has recently been written up in the Camden-Narellan Advertiser (4 August 2017) as one of the eight most haunted places in the Macarthur region. Journalist Ashleigh Tullis writes;

Studley Park House, Camden 

This impressive house was originally built by grazier William Payne in 1889. The death of two children has earned the house its haunted reputation.

In 1909, 14-year-old Ray Blackstone drowned in a dam near the residence. His body is believed to have been kept at the house until it was buried.

The son of acclaimed business man Arthur Adolphus Gregory died at the house in 1939 from appendicitis. His body was kept in the theatrette.

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Going to London

Going to London

Thousands of young single Australian born women travelled to London and beyond from the mid-to-late 19th century.  This pilgrimage, as historian Angela Woollacott has called it, was a life-changing journey for these women. They were both tourist and traveller and many worked their passage throughout their journey.

Suters Archive Travel Diary5 2019 SSuters lowres
A typical trip diary kept by the young women who travelled to London in the 1950s as they explored the world. They were both tourist and travellers as they broke stereotypes and gender expectations in Australian and the UK. (S Suters)

 

Their travels illustrate the links between metropole and the periphery, between the settler societies and the imperial centre that have been little explored by scholars of history. These young women were both insiders and outsiders, both colonials and part of the heritage of colonizers. The dichotomy of their position provides an interesting position as they explored the transnational relationship between Australia and the UK.

These women occupied a space between metropolitan centre of London and their shared British heritage and notions of England as ‘home’ yet at the same time they were outsiders in England and other parts of the British Empire that they visited in Colombo and Aden.

There has been some recent scholarship that explores the Australian diaspora in the United Kingdom around issues of imperialism, expatriation, globalisation, national identity and overseas citizenship.

London Tower of London 2006 PPikous-Flckr
The Tower of London was a popular tourist attraction for young Australian born women who travelled to London and beyond. These women acted as both tourist and traveller in their journey of exploration.  (P Pikous, 2006)

 

In the 19th century colonial born women from well-off families went husband-hunting in England. By the early 20th century the list of women travelling to the United Kingdom started to include creative-types including actors, writers, artists, musicians, and singers. One of the most famous being Dame Nellie Melba.

In the mid-20th century following the Second World War young working women from modest backgrounds started to explore the world and head for London.  There were a number of Camden women who undertook this journey during the 1950s that are the subject of a history project.

Travelling to London

Dr Ian Willis explores the transnational journey undertaken by these in paper accepted at the 2019 Australian Historical Asssociation conference in Toowoomba and the 2019 Redefining Australia and New Zealand at the University of Warsaw.

38th Australian Historical Association Conference 2019, Local Communities, Global Networks, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, 8-12 July 2019.

Title of Paper

Tourist or traveller: the journey of an Australian country girl to London in 1954.

Abstract

In 1954 Shirley Dunk, a young country woman from the small community of Camden in New South Wales, exercised her agency and travelled to the United Kingdom with her best friend and work colleague, Beth Jackman. This was a journey to the home of their forefathers and copied the activities of other Camden women. Some of the earliest of these journeys were undertaken by Camden’s elite women in the late 19th century when they developed imperial networks that functioned on three levels – the local, the provincial and the metropole.

This research project will use a qualitative approach where there is an examination of Shirley’s journey archive complimented with supplementary interviews. The archive consisted of personal letters, diaries, photographs, scrapbooks, ship menus and other ephemera and was recently presented to me. It was a trove of resources which documented Shirley’s 12 months away from home and, during interviews, allowed her to vividly relive her memories of the journey.   Shirley nostalgically recalled the sense of adventure that she and Beth experienced as they left Sydney for London by ship and their travels throughout the United Kingdom and Europe.

The paper will attempt to address some of the questions posed by the journey and how she reconciled these forces as an actor on a transnational stage through her lived experience as a tourist and traveller. Shirley’s letters home were reported in the country press and were reminiscent of soldier’s wartime letters when they acted as tourists in foreign lands.

The narrative will show that Shirley was exposed to the cosmopolitan nature of the metropole, as were earlier generations of local women who journeyed to London. The paper will explore how Shirley was subject to the forces of urbanism, modernity and consumerism at a time when rural women were presented with representations of domesticity and other ‘ideal’ gender stereotypes.

 

Camden Shirley Rorke Beth Jackman 1953 Clintons SRorke_adjusted
Two Camden women who headed for London in the mid-1950s were Shirley Dunk and her best friend Beth Jackman. This image  shows their workplace in the Clintons Motors Showroom at 16 Argyle Street, Camden where they both worked at sales assistants in 1953.   (S Rorke)

 

2nd Biennial International Conference on Redefining Australia and New Zealand, Changes, Innovations, Reversals, University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland, 16-17 September 2019.

Title of Paper

An Australian country girl goes to London.

Abstract

In 1954 a young country woman from New South Wales, Shirley Dunk, exercised her agency and travelled to London. This was a journey to the home of their forefathers and copied the activities of other country women who made similar journeys. Some of the earliest of these journeys were undertaken by the wives and daughters of the rural gentry in the 19th century when they developed imperial networks that functioned on three levels – the local, the provincial and the metropole.

This research project will use a qualitative approach where there is an examination of Shirley’s journey archive complimented with supplementary interviews. The archive consisted of personal letters, diaries, photographs, scrapbooks, ship menus and other ephemera and was recently presented to me. It was a trove of resources which documented Shirley’s 12 months away from home and, during interviews, allowed her to vividly relive her memories of the journey.   Shirley nostalgically recalled the sense of adventure that she experienced as she left Sydney for London by ship and her travels throughout the United Kingdom and Europe.

The paper will attempt to address some of the questions posed by the journey and how she reconciled these forces as an actor on a transnational stage through her lived experience as a tourist and traveller. Shirley’s letters home were reported in the country press and were reminiscent of soldier’s wartime letters home that described their tales as tourists in foreign lands.

The narrative will show that Shirley, as an Australian country girl, was exposed to the cosmopolitan nature of the metropole, as were earlier generations of women. The paper will explore how Shirley was subject to the forces of urbanism, modernity and consumerism at a time when rural women were presented with representations of domesticity and other ‘ideal’ gender stereotypes.

 

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A 1950s country girl goes to London

Warsaw conference presentation

University of Wollongong historian Dr Ian Willis will present a paper at the University of Warsaw in September later this year. The conference is the 2nd Biennial International Conference on Redefining Australia and New Zealand Changes, Innovations, Reversals.

The paper will tell the story of Camden girl Shirley Dunk on her first visit to London with her travelling companion Beth. Both young women had the adventures of their lives and Shirley recalls the journey with great fondness and nostalgia. The journey was a life changing experience for both your women from an Australian country town.

The title of the presentation is An Australian country girl goes to London.

Abstract

In 1954 a young country woman from New South Wales, Shirley Dunk, exercised her agency and travelled to London. This was a journey to the home of their forefathers and copied the activities of other country women who made similar journeys. Some of the earliest of these journeys were undertaken by the wives and daughters of the rural gentry in the 19th century when they developed imperial networks that functioned on three levels – the local, the provincial and the metropole.

This research project will use a qualitative approach where there is an examination of Shirley’s journey archive complimented with supplementary interviews. The archive consisted of personal letters, diaries, photographs, scrapbooks, ship menus and other ephemera and was recently presented to me. It was a trove of resources which documented Shirley’s 12 months away from home and, during interviews, allowed her to vividly relive her memories of the journey.   Shirley nostalgically recalled the sense of adventure that she experienced as she left Sydney for London by ship and her travels throughout the United Kingdom and Europe.

The paper will attempt to address some of the questions posed by the journey and how she reconciled these forces as an actor on a transnational stage through her lived experience as a tourist and traveller. Shirley’s letters home were reported in the country press and were reminiscent of soldier’s wartime letters home that described their tales as tourists in foreign lands.

The narrative will show that Shirley, as an Australian country girl, was exposed to the cosmopolitan nature of the metropole, as were earlier generations of women. The paper will explore how Shirley was subject to the forces of urbanism, modernity and consumerism at a time when rural women were presented with representations of domesticity and other ‘ideal’ gender stereotypes.

Read more about Australian expatriates in London in the 1950s who were made up of artists, writers, actors and musicians.

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Notable women in Camden

International Women’s Day 2019

On International Women’s Day in 2019 it is worthwhile reflecting on some of Camden’s prominent women over the decades. Camden elite women were formidable figures and matriarchs in their own right and left their mark on the community.

Kirkham’s own  Frances Faithful Anderson, who moved to the Camden area with her husband, William, in the 1890s. She renamed James White’s fairytale castle Kirkham, Camelot, in 1900 after being reminded of the opening verse of Tennyson’s The Lady of Shalott. Frances (d. 1948) lived in the house, with her daughter Clarice, until her death. Both women were shy and retiring and stayed out public gaze in Camden, unlike the domineering fictional character of Elizabeth Bligh. The Anderson women were supporters of the Camden Red Cross, Women’s Voluntary Services, the Country Women’s Association, Camden District Hospital and the Camden Recreation Room during the Second World War (The District Reporter, 29 March 2013). Clarice willed Camelot to the NSW National Trust, according to Jonathan Chancellor. The NSW Supreme Court rule in 1981 that her mother’s 1938 will took precedence. Frances  wanted the house to become a convalescent home, but this clashed with zoning restrictions.

 

Elizabeth Macarthur Onslow Portrait lowres
(Eliza) Elizabeth Macarthur Onslow of Camden Park NSW (L Abraham)

Camden’s Edwardian period was dominated by the figure of Elizabeth Macarthur Onslow of Camden Park.  She took control of Camden Park in 1882 when her husband Arthur died. Under her skilful management the family estate was clear of debt by 1890 and she subsequently re-organised the estate. She established the pastoral company Camden Park Estate Pty Ltd, with her children as shareholders.  Heritage consultant Chris Betteridge states that she organised the estates co-operative diary farms, built creameries at Camden and Menangle, orchards and a piggery. Elizabeth was a Victorian philanthropist, a Lady Bountiful figure, and according to Susanna De Vries was a strong supporter of a number of local community organisations including the fore-runner of the Camden Show Society, the Camden AH&I Society. She died on one of her many trips to England and has dropped out of Australian history.

 

rosa sibella macarthur onslow
Sibella Macarthur Onslow (CPH)

Elizabeth’s daughter, Sibella, was a larger than life figure during Camden’s Inter-war period and was quite a formidable figure in her own right. She grew up at Camden Park and moved to Gilbulla in 1931, which had been the home of her sister-in-law, Enid Macarthur Onslow. Sibella never married and fulfilled the role of a powerful Camden patrician figure. She was a true female matriarch amongst her brothers who took public positions of power in the New South Wales business community. She was one of the most powerful female figures in New South Wales and her personal contact network included royalty, politicians and the wealthy elite of Sydney and London. Macarthur Onslow possessed strong conservative Christian values and was an active figure in the Sydney Anglican Archdiocese.  She was a Victorian-style philanthropist and was president of the Camden Red Cross from 1927 until her death in 1943.

 

Rita_Tucker1
Wartime president of the Camden branch of the Country Women’s Association Mrs Rita Tucker. (J Tucker)

The power vacuum in Camden’s women’s affairs left by the death of Sibella Macarthur Onslow was filled by Rita Tucker of The Woodlands, at Theresa Park. She had a high community profile in 1950s Camden and was well remembered by those who dealt with her. She became president of the Camden Country Women’s Association in 1939 and held the position until her death in 1961. She was a journalist and part-time editor of the North West Courier at Narrabri before she moved to Camden with her husband Rupert in 1929. She was an active member of the Camden Liberal Party in the 1950s, holding a number of positions, and was New South Wales vice-president of the CWA between 1947 and 1951. She was an accomplished musician and played the organ at the Camden Presbyterian Church in the early 1940s.

 

1935_Murch Susan Crookston_Portrtait
This portrait is of Zoe Crookston’s daughter Miss Suzanne Crookston painted by Arthur Murch of Sydney in 1935 (AGNSW)

A contemporary of Tucker was Zoe Crookston, the wife of Camden surgeon, Robert Crookston. A shy retiring type, she lived in grand Victorian mansion at the top of John Street and was the wartime president of the Women’s Voluntary Services. She was a Presbyterian, a liberal-conservative and an active committee member of the United Australia Party in the 1930s. According to her daughter Jacqueline, ‘her mother was a no-nonsense person who always liked to get on with the job at hand’. She was a foundation member of the Camden Red Cross and was actively involved until 1949. Other community organisations occupied her time including being on the committee of the Camden District Hospital Women’s Auxiliary from 1933 to 1945. She was married to Camden medical practitioner Robert Crookston, and had two daughter Suzanne and Jaqueline.

A more recent woman of note was Elizabeth Kernohan.  Elizabeth (Liz) Kernohan was the first woman in Camden to be elected as an alderman on council (1973), to the hospital board (1974) and subsequently as deputy mayor (1974), mayor (1980) and finally as a member of parliament (1991). She was a popular local identity until her death in 2004.

Elizabeth Kernohan 1994 Camden Images
Elizabeth Kernohan 1994 (Camden Images)

Kernohan, like earlier Camden women (Sibella Macarthur Onslow and Rita Tucker), combined female agency and active citizenship, and developed a ‘parallel path’ for herself where she acquired considerable social, moral and political authority. She combined her conservatism with civic duty and an ethic of selfless service.

Kernohan’s political success was based on her aggressive use of localist politics in an area that was proud of its rural traditions and heritage.  She was plain speaking to the point where ‘What you see is what you get…(and) I call a spade a bloody shovel’. An approach that endeared her to the local community.

Kernohan was a fierce advocate of Camden’s rural identity in the face of the New Cities Plan (1973) which planned massive urban growth  on the metropolitan fringe.  She maintained in 1981 that Camden should become the ‘Double Bay of Sydney’s southwest’, an exclusivity that is still recognizable in the area’s identity and sense of place. This identity of difference drove her popularity and appealed to the ‘aspirationals’ who moved to the area from the ‘burbs’. The new arrivals were looking for a place where the ‘country still looked like the country’ and were ready converts to her cause.  Above all she proved that all politics is local, to the detriment of her career.

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A camera captures a living history moment

A camera captures a living history moment

It is not often that the historian can get a view into the past through the lens of the present in real time. I was able to this in Camden New South Wales recently at a photo shoot for the History Magazine for the Royal Australian Historical Society.

camden laura jane arygle st photo shoot 2019 iwillis
A photo shoot in Camden NSW for the History Magazine of the Royal Australian Historical Society. Model Laura Jane, photographer Jeff McGill. Location Argyle Street Camden 2018 (IWillis)

 

Photographer Jeff McGill and author Laura Jane were the participants in this activity. We all walked along Camden’s historic main thoroughfare, Argyle Street, which still echoes of the Victorian period.  Our little group made quite a splash and drew a deal of attention from local women who swooned over the ‘gorgeous’ vintage dress worn by Laura Jane.

sydney david jones market street 1938 sam hood dos slnsw
Sydney’s David Jones Market Street store was one of the city’s most elegant shopping precincts. The city had a number of department stores that attracted women from all over rural New South Wales. This image was taken by noted Sydney photographer Sam Hood in 1938. (SLNSW)

 

Mid-20th century enthusiast Laura Janes lives the lifestyle in dress, makeup and hairstyle and made the perfect foil for her History article on Sydney fashion, the David Jones store and their links to the fashion house of Dior.  Laura Jane modelled her 1950s Dior style vintage dress  in front of Camden’s storefronts that were reminiscent of the period. With matching handbag, gloves, hat, hairstyle, stiletto heels, and makeup she made a picture to behold captured by Campbelltown photographer Jeff.

camden laura jane looking class 2019 iwillis lowres
A photo shoot for the History Magazine of the Royal Australian Historical Society in Argyle Street Camden. The location is Looking Class retail outlet in a building from the Interwar period. The entry tiles are reminiscent of the mid-20th century that are representative of the period for model Laura Jane’s Dior style gown. (I Willis)

 

Laura Jane encompasses the experience of the country woman going to town when Camden women would dress-up in their Sunday best to shop in Camden or catch the train to the city.

Pansy Camden train crossing Hume Hwy L Manny Camden Images
The ‘Pansy’ Camden train crossing Hume Highway at Narellan in the mid-20th century. This was a light rail service which used a tanker locomotive and ran as a mixed freight and passenger service. The service ran several times a day  between Camden and Campbelltown railway stations. Here the train has just left Narellan Railway Station on its way to the next stop at Currans Hill. (L Manny/Camden Images)

 

A city shopping expedition would entail catching the Pansy train at Camden Railway Station, then change steam trains at Campbelltown Railway Station, then another change at Liverpool Railway Station from steam train to the electric suburban service for Central Railway Station in Sydney. The suburban electric trains did not arrive at Campbelltown until 1968.

burragorang valley women 1923 claude jenkins' service car at the bluff light six buick cipp
This image shows country women from the Burragorang Valley coming to town in 1923. They are done up in hats, gloves and stockings and travel in the valley service car run by Claude Jenkins. He ran a daily service between Camden and the Valley using this Light Buick Six Tourer. Here they are stopped at The Bluff lookout above the Burragorang Valley. (Camden Images)

 

City outings for country women often happened around the time of the Royal Easter Show when the whole family would go to the city. The family would bring their prized horses and cattle to compete with other rural producers for the honour and glory of winning a sash. While the menfolk were busy with rural matters their women folk would be off to town to shop for the latest fashions for church and show balls or to fit out the family for the upcoming year.

sydney royal easter show cattle parade sam hood 1938 slnsw 17102h
The Sydney Royal Easter Show was a regular outing for the whole family. The men would show their prized animals in the various sections hoping for a sash, while the women went shopping in town. This image by noted Sydney photographer Sam Hood shows the cattle parade for Herefords at the 1938 Royal Easter Show. (SLNSW)

 

Country women from further away might stay-over at swish city hotels like the up-market elegant Hotel Australia near Martin Place. These infrequent city outings were a treat and a break from the drudgery of domesticity and women would take the opportunity to combine a shopping trip with a visit to see a play or the Tivoli theatre.

The intrinsic nature of the city outings for country women were captured by the Sydney street photographers.   They operated around the Martin Place, Circular Quay, Macquarie and Elizabeth Street precincts and are depicted in an current photographic exhibition at the Museum of Sydney.

sydney hotel australia 1932 wikimedia
Sydney’s Hotel Australia was the city’s most elegant hotel on Martin Place and Castlereagh Street opened in 1891. The country family would stay here for a special treat when the Royal Easter Show was on at the Moore Park Showground site. This image is from 1932. (Wikimedia)

 

The images of the Sydney street photographer captured of moment in time and their most prolific period was during the 1930s to the 1950s. The country woman would be captured on film as she and a friend wandered along a city street. They would be given a token and they could purchase a memento of their city visit in a postcard image that they could purchase at a processing booth in a city-arcade. The Sydney street photographer captured living history and has not completely disappeared from Sydney street.

sydney street photographers mofsyd 2019 iwillis
Sydney street photographers were a common part of the city streetscape between the 1930s and the 1960s. They captured Sydney street life in a way that was unique and along with it provide the viewer with an insight into Sydney’s cultural life. These images are from the photographic exhibition on at the Museum of Sydney. (I Willis, 2019)

 

Laura Jane, whose lifestyle encompasses the mid-20th century, in an expression of the living history movement in motion.  The living history movement is a popular platform for experiencing the past and incorporates those who want to live the past in the present, aka Laura Jane, or relive it on a more occasional basis as re-enactors who relive the past for a moment. There are many examples of the latter at historic sites in Australia, the USA, and the UK.

The Camden photo shoot was an example how a moment in time can truly be part of living history where the photographer captures a glimpse of the past in the present. An example of how the present never really escapes the past.

There are host of these stories in my Pictorial History of Camden and District.

Cover  Pictorial History Camden District Ian Willis 2015
Front Cover of Ian Willis’s Pictorial History of Camden and District (Kingsclear, 2015)

 

Aesthetics · Art · Attachment to place · British colonialism · Camden · Camden Community Garden · Camden Park House and Garden · Camden Produce Market · Camden Town Farm · Campbelltown Art Centre · Colonial Camden · Colonialism · Community Health · community identity · Cultural Heritage · Cultural icon · England · Entertainment · Fashion · festivals · Heritage · Historical consciousness · history · Landscape aesthetics · Leisure · Living History · Local History · Macarthur · Memorials · Memory · Monuments · Moveable Heritage · Parks · Picton · Place making · Public art · sense of place · Settler colonialism · war

Gardens: a special place

The many faceted aspects of gardens

Gardens are practical, places of beauty, peaceful, have a pleasing aesthetic and are popular with people. Gardens across the Macarthur region certainly fulfil these elements.

Author Robert Harrison maintains that

The gardens that have graced this mortal Eden of ours are the best evidence of humanity’s reason for being on Earth. History without gardens would be a wasteland.

Humans have long turned to gardens—both real and imaginary—for sanctuary from the frenzy and tumult that surrounds them.

Harrison maintains that people wander through many types of gardens:

Real, mythical, historical, literary.

Camden Park House 2018 Flynns LForbes
The display of spring wisteria in the gardens at Camden Park House. The gardens are open in spring every year and are a magnificent display of vibrant colours. The gardens are part of the September Open Weekend at the property which provides one of the important intact colonial Victorian gardens in Australia. This image was taken by Lyn Forbes on the 2018 Open Weekend. (L Forbes, 2018)

 

Many say that gardens and connectedness to nature contribute to wellness

 

Wellness and wellbeing

Wellness is an area of growing public interest and is one the most popular sections of bookshops. A simple Google search of wellness reveals over 700 million search results.

The Wellness Institute says that wellness is:

a conscious, self-directed and evolving process of achieving full potential.

Why is wellness important?

The University of California Davis Student Health and Counselling Services states that wellness is important because:

it is important for everyone to achieve optimal wellness in order to subdue stress, reduce the risk of illness and ensure positive interactions.

The UCD states that there are eight areas to wellness: emotional; environmental; financial; intellectual; occupational; physical; social; spiritual.

Gardening and horticultural therapy or ecotherapy contributes to wellness through physical, psychological and social wellbeing.

 

Studies have shown that being connected to nature is linked to well-being. Gardening is a connection with nature. Some see it as a form of biophilia.

Biophilia

The hypothesis of biophilia says that people are connected to nature. The degree that nature is part of a person’s identity is ‘nature connectedness’.

The term biophilia was introduced by Edward O Wilson in his 1984 book Biophilia where he defined it as ‘”the urge to affiliate with other forms of life”.[3]

These ideas are not new and in ancient Greek mythology Gaia is the ancestral mother of all life and the personification of the Earth: the primal Mother Earth goddess.

In 1979 James Lovelock, in Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth; his Gaia hypothesis which sees the Earth as a self-supporting organism.

Gardening has many of these elements and a direct connection to the earth.

 

A selection of gardens in the Macarthur region

Camden community garden

One active gardener maintains that this garden provides

therapy time, social interaction with other like-minded people and the satisfaction of growing your own produce. It is very peaceful down there and there is something about digging in the earth. It is fulfilling and a sense of joy seeing something grow from seed. There’s nothing like being able to pick and eat your own produce. The wide variety of colours of the flowers and vegetables in the garden builds mindfulness.

Camden Community Gardens[1]

 

Macarthur Park and garden

TripAdvisor

This is a park with varied places to wander through and enjoy, roses in abundance, opportunities for parties, weddings or friends, and 2 palm trees at one of the gates planted by Elizabeth Macarthur to add to the history!! Very pleasurable. (Val S, Camden)

 

A two minute stroll from the gorgeous township of Camden and you’ll find this little hidden gem. Beautifully maintained gardens in a tranquil setting make this spot just perfect for a short retreat from the rest of the world. no bustle, no shops no noise (except the occasional church bells), just peace and tranquility. (PThommo101, Camden)

 

I just loved the park with its wonderful rose garden and beautiful arbor. I was there to do a photo shoot and this park never fails to impress with its beautiful shadows and views (CamdenNSW)

Camden Mac Park
Camden’s Macarthur Park endowed to the residents of Camden by Sibella Macarthur Onslow in the early 20th century (I Willis, 2016)

 

The Australian Botanic Garden, Mount Annan

The Australian Plant Bank

TripAdvisor

A beautiful, restful place to take a Sunday stroll. Any time of the year there is always something on offer, but spring time is especially lovely. (Sue H, Sydney) 

It was wonderful to spend time here at the beginning of spring, (Matt H, Penang, Malaysia)

What a beautiful place for a picnic….the grounds are extensive and have an impressive display of Australian native plants….wattles, grevillea ,bottlebrush and eucalypts, to name but a few. (Lynpatch29, Sydney)

 I was very impressed it is beautiful (Camden NSW)

A tranquil space for a walk among native plants.  Your head is back in a good space. (Susie994, Canberra)

mt_annan_botanic_garden2
The Australian Botanic Gardens at Mount Annan showing a bed of paper daisies 2016 (ABG)

 

Sculpture Garden Western Sydney University Campbelltown

Maybe it is the walking around the picturesque landscape provided by the WSU grounds staff and gardeners. Maybe it is the landscape gardening and native vegetation set off by the water features. Maybe it is the quiet and solitude in the middle of a busy Campbelltown.

Whatever it is in the sculpture garden, whether provided by the permanent WSU sculpture collection or the exhibition works, the site has a positive serenity that is hard to escape. It certainly attracts the staff and students.

The exhibition makes up part of the programme linked to the WSU Art Collection.  Take yourself on a virtual tour of the WSU Art Collection.

Campbelltown WSU Sculptures 2018
The sculpture garden in the grounds of Western Sydney University Campbelltown are one of the best kept secrets of the Macarthur region. It is great to see the display of public art and there a host of display pieces to hold the interest of any art nerd. (IWillis)

 

Camden Park House & Garden

Japanese Garden at Campbelltown Arts Centre

The Japanese Gardens are a special gift from Koshigaya, Campbelltown’s Sister City in Japan, and are located in the grounds of the Campbelltown Arts Centre.

The Campbelltown Japanese Gardens celebrate the sister city relationship between Campbelltown and Koshigaya. The gardens were presented to Campbelltown by the citizens of Koshigaya on 10 April, 1988.

The Gardens symbolise the beliefs and religion of both Shinto, the indigenous religion of Japan, and Zen Buddhism.

The Campbelltown Japanese Gardens feature a traditional waterfall, koi pond, timber bridge, stonework pathways, lush plantings and a 16th Century designed teahouse, hand crafted by Japanese craftsmen.

The aim of the garden is to obtain quiet solitude. The design represents elegant simplicity, lending itself to contemplation and heightened awareness. (Campbelltown Arts Centre)

Campbelltown Arts Centre Japanese Garden3 2018 CAC
The Japanese Garden at the Campbelltown Arts Centre. The garden illustrates the ‘peaceful surrounds and tranquility of the traditional Japanese plants, designs and craftsmanship’. (CAC)

 

Picton Botanical Gardens

Picton Botanic Garden 2017 Pinterest
The Picton Botanical Gardens 2017.  The gardens were established in 1986 and covers 4.1 ha and has 90% native Australian plantings. (Pinterest)

Tripadvisor

The gardens are beautiful. (TamJel, North Sydney)

Well presented, peaceful park just what the doctor ordered.. (Gasmi, Sydney)

Purely by chance, I saw a signpost for the Picton Botanical Gardens. I drove down Regreme Road and discovered a beautiful, peaceful space adjacent to the oval. (Jennifer C, Belconnen, ACT)

 

Macarthur Centre for Sustainable Living

Mac Centres for Sust Living 2017 Mount Annan
The Macarthur Centre for Sustainable Living garden ‘The Centre  is a not-for-profit, community-driven organisation supported by local Macarthur Councils and the Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust. MCSL is primarily an educational facility and model for sustainable technology’ (2017 MCSL)

 

Camden RSL Memorial Rose Garden

Camden RSL Memorial Rose Gdn 2017 CRSL
The Camden RSL Memorial Rose Garden is the site of the annual Anzac Day Dawn Service in Camden. It attracts thousands of people each year and is a site of memory and commemoration. The extensive rose garden has a memorial obelisk located in front of a columbarium.  (CRSL, 2017)

 

Rotary Cowpasture Reserve Garden

Camden Cowpasture Reserve Spring Flowers 2018
The Camden Rotary Cowpasture Reserve garden in spring 2018. The reserve wall was opened and dedicated on 19 February 1995 by Rear Admiral Peter Sinclair Governor NSW. The monument celebrates the Rotary Centenary and the service that Camden Rotary has provided to the community since 1947. (2018 I Willis)
Attachment to place · Camden · Camden Show · Campbelltown · Communications · community identity · Cultural Heritage · Cultural icon · Entertainment · Fashion · festivals · Heritage · Historical consciousness · Historical Research · Historical thinking · history · Living History · Local History · Local newspapers · Macarthur · Narellan · Newspapers · Place making · Ruralism · sense of place · war

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter Extracts by Ian Willis

90.3.3 Camden: Launch of a new regional newspaper

Ian Willis, of Camden, writes (19 November): This week a new masthead appeared in the Camden Local Government Area called the Independent South-West published by King Media Regional based in Bowral, NSW. It was launched at Camden’s annual Light Up Festival. Editor Jane King and other staff handed out copies of the free monthly to families and friends who had come to see Santa, watch the fireworks and see the Christmas lights on the town’s Christmas tree.

The 20-page tabloid is printed in colour on glossy paper and is sure to give the other three free Camden weeklies, the Macarthur Chronicle, the Camden Narellan Advertiser and the District Reporter, a run for their money. King says in Issue 1 that it “is an exciting new title…family owned and managed business”. She says that the paper will serve the local community and employ local people.

The first issue certainly lives up to these promises by reporting the proceedings of the Moss Vale Local Court. Two matters dealt with involved Camden identities. Local court matters are now heard in Moss Vale since the closure of Camden and Picton court houses. The robust reporting of local court proceedings has largely disappeared from the other three Camden weeklies.

A feature page, “Ark” Up, is written by journalist Juliet Arkwright who in another life was a councillor on Wollondilly Shire Council. This edition profiles the Acting President of the Camden Chamber of Commerce Maryann Strickling. The chamber states ‘we look forward to working with a truly independent newspaper’.

The first edition also has copy provided by the local federal member, a photo feature of a fashion launch at Campbelltown, and content shared from the newspaper’s stablemate LatteLife Wingecarribee, which claims to be the “Heartbeat of the Southern Highlands”.

King Media also publishes City Circular which, according to Miranda Ward at Mumbrella, replaced a void left by the closure of News Corps mX in 2015 and is distributed at railway stations. The first newspaper published by King Media group was the masthead LatteLife Sydney which started life in the Eastern Suburbs in 2010. King Media then expanded to publishing the Southern Highlands edition in 2014.

The Independent’s print run of 10,000 will be distributed across localities from Cawdor to Leppington through local retailers, surgeries, real estate officers and other outlets. The print run is modest by comparison to its competitors in the Camden LGA and the publisher’s promises seem ambitious. King Media will support the print edition by managing a Facebook page.

The conservative reporting of local matters by the Independent’s three Camden competitors certainly leaves a niche in the market place if controversies surrounding Camden Council continue as they have done in recent months. King has promised to “hold the Council to task” and take it up to other local papers. If she sticks to her promises the Independent South-West will fit in well with Camden’s fierce parochialism and localism.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter, No 90, December 2016— 11

 

Newspaper Image IndepSW 2016 Iss1
The first edition of The Independent South-West that appeared in Camden (I Willis)

 

89.4.10 Tahmoor’s once-a-century publication

Ian Willis, of Camden, writes: On 1 September 2016 the local independent weekly, the District Reporter, published an eight-page wraparound supplement under the banner heading of the “Tahmoor Times Souvenir Edition”. It was “edition 1, volume 1” of a special edition that was “published every 100 years”. The supplement celebrated the centenary of the naming of Tahmoor NSW and the Back to Tahmoor celebrations. It was sponsored by the District Reporter and the Tahmoor Chamber of Commerce under its president Bob Clayton.

The District Reporter is a free 16-page weekly published by a family owned company, Wombaroo Publishers, of Camden. The newspaper was launched in 1998 and has a distribution of 16,900 primarily across the Camden and Wollondilly Local Government Areas, including Tahmoor. The publication has a popular weekly local history feature on the back page called “Back Then” under the direction of newspaper editor Lee Abrahams. Volunteers read aloud the supplement to some of the residents at the local Carrington Convalescent Home.

The idea of the supplement and its promotion were the brainchild of Bob Clayton who is variously described as a team of one taking on roles from journalist and political editor. Clayton’s editorial stated that he only published the supplement “every one hundred years” with the next edition in 2116. Clayton supplied the content with layout done by the District Reporter’s sales manager Noel Lowry.

The supplement’s feature article “Bridge to Bridge – Tahmoor a History” presented an interesting collection of images with a short story of the history of the town. Past extracts from the Picton Post supported the story. For example, in 1933 local character Barney Abbot spotted a UFO from his farm paddock one night. Then there was an offer in 1934 to take a Ford V8 for a drive with a recent sighting of Elvis Presley in Tahmoor.

Mr Clayton said, “It was all to have a bit of fun and to tell tales from the past. History is a bit dry and you need to make it interesting.”

Other centenary celebrations were outlined in the supplement and are a “Back to Tahmoor Day”, a history publication, a photographic exhibition, the development of a history walk and a time capsule for Tahmoor Public School.

Storytelling occurs in all cultures and the “Tahmoor Times” supplement adds to some of the colourful yarns about the local area. Clayton said he would send a copy of the supplement to the National Library. The supplement provides an insight in to the area’s sense of place and its cultural landscape.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter, No 89, September 2016— 15

 

Camden Show Signage 2018
The Camden Show attracts over 40,000 people to the two day festival in the country town of Camden. (I Willis)

 

67.3.4 CAMDEN: SHOW COVERAGE HIGHLY COMMENDED

Ian Willis from Camden writes (31 March): The Camden press excelled itself in recent weeks with an incredible coverage of the 2012 Camden Show. The show always gets strong support from the local weekly newspapers – Camden-Narellan Advertiser, Macarthur Chronicle (Camden Edition) and the District Reporter – and this year was no different.

The amount of page space devoted to the show is worthy of special examination. Between January and March over 6300 column centimetres were devoted to the show matters, peaking in the weekly editions before the show. The Advertiser had an eight- page wrap-around, the Chronicle had a 12 page wrap-around while The District Reporter had a 24-page special edition, as well as its regular weekly edition. This was supplemented with extensive photo galleries on the newspaper websites and in their print editions after the show. In addition the Macarthur Chronicle offered to print a special front page for showgoers with their image at their show stall. The show committee supported this coverage with posters, pamphlets, programs, and television (first time 2011) and radio advertising.

The Camden Show illustrates one of the key strengths of the local press, which in the case of Camden is becoming increasingly the local suburban press, its localness. The Camden community is in a period of transition located on Sydney’s rural-urban fringe and undergoing a crisis of identity. The role of the local press in the success of this annual festival cannot be understated. The annual show (23-24 March 2012) is the premier cultural festival for the community, runs over two days and in 2012 attracted over 38,000 people. The constant theme in all material related to the show was its role as ‘still a country show’. The event had all the trade mark features of the stereotypical country show from cakes to show bags to cattle and wood chopping. The relationship between the Camden press and the show juggernaut is mutually beneficial and illustrates the strength of Camden’s sense of place, community identity and local parochialism.

The 2012 press coverage of the show illustrates the dynamic vibrancy of the local newspaper. In these days when the metropolitan press are increasingly under pressure the local press goes from strength to strength. Camden’s newspapers add to the resilience of the local community in the face of constant change on Sydney’s rural-urban fringe from urbanisation.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter, No. 67, May 2012 — 12

 

Missingham, Di: D. 18 February, aged 63; former manager of the Macarthur Chronicle; was appointed manager of the Chronicle in 1985, not long after the newspaper was established; spent nine years at the newspaper “building relationships in the community’ and laying the foundations for the success of the newspaper”; was also a Camden councillor between 1995 and 1999 and deputy mayor in 1998; most recently she was Lifeline Macarthur’s sponsorship manager (Source: Ian Willis, Camden.)

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter, No 57    May 2010                Page 3

 

57.2.2 DISTRICT REPORTER GOES DIGITAL

Ian Willis reports: The District Reporter had its first digital edition on 15 March. The Reporter is an independently owned 16-page free weekly published by Wombaroo Publishers. Established in 1997, it circulates in the Camden and Wollondilly local government areas. One of its most popular features is the “Back Then” history page. The website has an archive of editions from the previous 12 months. It can be viewed at http://www.tdr.com.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=58&Itemid=1

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter, No 57  May 2010               Page 3

 

61.4.9 LIFE AS THE EDITOR OF A SMALL COMMUNITY PAPER Ian Willis reports from Camden: The editor/proprieter Lee Abrahams of the District Reporter addressed the Camden Historical Society on the life of an editor of a small community newspaper on 9 February at the Camden Museum. The District Reporter is owned by Lee Abrahams and Noel Lowry, of Camden. It is a 16pp free weekly published in Camden NSW each Monday. Abrahams maintains that it has a ―quirky style that concentrates on local and rural news. The most popular sections are the back page feature, ―Back Then, on local history, followed by ―The Diary, which is a summary of local community events. The paper has a print run of 17,000 which is circulated in the Camden and Wollondilly Local Government Areas. It is printed at Marrickville.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter, No 61 February 2011 Page 18

 

Newspaper TDR 2018July6 Cover
The front page of The District Reporter which is a local independent newspaper in the Macarthur region of NSW. (The District Reporter)

 

62.3.1 CAMDEN, NSW (1): FOOTY’S BACK Ian Willis reports from Camden: On 8 March two of Camden‘s weekly newspapers, Fairfax Media‘s Camden-Narellan Advertiser and Cumberland Newspaper Group‘s Macarthur Chronicle, both published eight-page wraparounds featuring the Wests Tigers Rugby League teams. Under the banner headline, ―NRL Glory Calls‖ player Loti Tuquiri was featured in a full-page feature in the Chronicle, complemented by a season draw. The Advertiser went further and had two popular players, Chris Lawrence and Gareth Ellis, in a double page spread, while the inside two pages featured a ―Footy Tipping Guide for the die-hard fans. All for the start of the official footy season!

62.3.2 CAMDEN, NSW (2): THE SHOW Ian Willis reports from Camden: Camden‘s three free weeklies each had a major feature on the 125th 2011 Camden Show. The show is a yearly event and is promoted as the largest regional show in Australia, with expected attendances in excess of 30,000. The District Reporter, an independent, published a 24-page special advertising feature for the event, which is ‘still a country show‘. Items ranged from the opening by the Governor-General, to entertainment, horse events, grand parade, Miss Showgirl, and a guide to community groups performances (schools, community band) and local artists.

The Cumberland Press‘s Macarthur Chronicle had a 12-page wraparound and noted that the show was still going strong‘ after 125 years, and the appearance of the ―G-G was the ―icing on the cake. It was reported that the inaugural show in 1886 was ―met with enthusiasm and approval‖ by those attending. Fairfax‘s Camden-Narellan Advertiser had an 8 page wraparound ‗souvenir edition‘ and featured a double page spread of an attractive young bloke‘ from the show organising committee, Daniel Dickenson. Daniel stated that he was ‘dedicated to making sure the country show continue[d] for many years‘, while the Advertiser assured its readers that the show was ―an age-old event that stop[ped] Camden in its tracks.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter, No 62 May 2011 Page 9

 

Camden Show 2018 promo
The Camden Show is an annual celebration of things rural in the township of Camden for over 100 years. (Camden Show)

 

CAMDEN (NSW): AN EDITOR’S LIFE

63.4.4 Ian Willis reports from Camden: An account of life as the editor/proprietor of the District Reporter, Lee Abrahams, was published in the March journal of the Camden Historical Society, Camden History. The District Reporter is a 16pp free weekly published each Monday in Camden. Lee Abrahams and her husband Noel started the newspaper as a monthly in 1997 in the Austral area. They moved the paper to Camden to fill a vacuum left by the closure of the Camden Crier, a free weekly. The Reporter has a circulation of 17,000 and a footprint of 37,000 homes. It has been online for 12 months with around 200 weekly downloads. The most popular feature is the weekly history page, Back Then‘.  According to Abrahams the masthead colours of blue and green reflect the rural landscape of sky and grass.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter, No 63 July 2011 Page 15

 

56.3.3 CAMPBELLTOWN AND CAMDEN: DIGITAL EDITION

Ian Willis reports: The Macarthur Chronicle announced a complete digital edition of the newspaper in its issue of 23 February. The online edition also provides access to archives of the newspaper containing issues for the last two years, an online index and a host of live hyperlinks.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter, No 56     February 2010     Page 4

 

56.4.1.3 CAMPBELLTOWN, NSW: 25 YEARS

From Camden, Ian Willis writes: The Macarthur Chronicle (Cumberland Courier Newspapers, with Campbelltown and Camden editions) recently had a 16-page wrap-around to celebrate its 25th anniversary.  The feature reproduced a number of the front pages from over the last 25 years. These illustrated the changes to the masthead (nine all up), the introduction of colour photographs on the front page in 1991 and the changing format of the presentation with the greater emphasis on images and less on text. The foundation editor Chris Wharton (now chief Western Australian Newspapers) recalled how Greg Evans and Debbie Newsome of the top rating TV show Perfect Match launched the first edition. The cover story of the 36 page first edition was the arrival of baby Andrew James Packer, a healthy baby delivered at Camden Hospital. The current editor Mandy Perrin, who assumed control in 1993, recalled how she started as a cadet journalist nine months after the Chronicle was launched. Under her leadership the Chronicle has grown and in 2006 split into three editions for Camden, Campbelltown and Wollondilly and had its first online edition. The 25th commemorative edition had 128 pages and according to Bob Osburn (editor-in-chief of Cumberland Courier Newspapers) 123,000 readers. There were many tributes on the anniversary from civic leaders. Michael Knight, former Campbelltown State Labor MP, stated that “local newspapers succeed best when they become part of the fabric of their community… And that’s precisely what the Chronicle has done”.

 

Newspapers Image Pile
Newspapers provide a trove of information about events, personalities, stories, businesses, sport and a host of other matters. (Wikimedia)

 

56.4.1.4 CAMDEN, NSW: 130 YEARS

Ian Willis again: The Camden Advertiser issued on 10 February a 16 page wrap-around celebrating 130 years of newspaper publishing from 1880 to 2010. The supplement had the genealogy of the newspaper and its antecedents. In all, the newspaper family tree identified 20 different mast-heads that were related to the Camden Advertiser. These included local newspapers published in Camden, Campbelltown, Picton and Ingleburn. The birth of the newspaper group took place with the Campbelltown Herald first published on 14 February 1880 by William Webb.

The history of the newspaper group in the feature was divided into a number of sections: 1. The Great Pioneers 1880-1900, 2. The Builders 1900-1920, 3. The Sidman Supremacy 1920-1938, 4. The War Years 1938-1949, 5. Goodbye to the Sidmans, 6. The Heyday of S. Richardson Newspapers, 1952-1982, 7. The Hard Years 1982-1987, 8. From Strength to Strength, 8. Modern, But Traditional. Since 2006.

The publishers of these newspapers were colourful local identities and they all made an indelible mark on their communities. The feature provides an interesting glimpse, if brief, into the role of the local newspaper in a small community, with their parochialism, localism and parish pump politics.

The feature has 17 photographs with a number of reproductions of front pages. There are also interviews with a number of surviving staff who worked for some of the newspapers in the group.

The front cover of the feature is an interesting juxtaposition between then and now, with a reproduction of the 1880 Camden Times, with a local reporter, MIchelle Taverniti reflecting on an 1880 version of herself.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter, No 56  February 2010         Page 5-15

 

29.61 THESIS

Ian Willis, “The Women’s Voluntary Service: A Study of War and Volunteering in Camden,  1939-1945”, PhD thesis, Department of History and Politics, University of Wollongong,  The thesis is a local study of wartime Camden through an examination of a war-specific  voluntary organisation, the Women’s Voluntary Service. The aim of the thesis was to unravel  the social processes and cultural traditions at work in the town’s female philanthropy, and, by  so doing, tease out the main threads of Camden’s wartime experience. The thesis  encompasses the involvement of Camden’s press in these processes.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter No 29 September 2004 Page 17

 

12.42 Research

WILLIS, Ian (Camden, NSW): Work in progress – PhD, “The Women’s Voluntary Services: a case study of war and voluntarism in Camden, 1939-1945”; principal source dfocuments, Camden News (owner George Sidman) and Camden Advertiser (owner Arthur Gibson).  Address: PO Box 304, Camden, 2570.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter No 12 May 2001 Page 15

 

Newspapers Local 2018Aug6
A selection of newspaper mastheads from the Macarthur region in 2018. (I Willis)

 

41.33 FOR THE HOLIDAYING AUDIENCE

Ian Willis writes from Camden, NSW: Fairfax Community Newspapers issued a special edition of their Sydney suburban newspapers on 26-27 December 2006 and 2-3 January 2007  called the Holidayer. The issue covered 14 suburban newspapers across the south, south-west  and western parts of Sydney. Titles included: Campbelltown Macarthur Advertiser, Camden  Advertiser, Wollondilly Advertiser, South Western Rural Advertiser, Liverpool City  Champion, Fairfield City Champion, Parramatta Sun, St George & Sutherland Shire Leader, Penrith City Star, Hawkesbury Independent, Blacktown Sun, St Mary’s-Mt Druitt Star, Hills News, Northern News. The Camden edition carried local stories and advertisements from local businesses. There were also stories on holiday activities across western, south-western and southern Sydney under the heading “Get out, go do it”.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter No 41 February 2007 Page 10

 

1.2 LOCAL NEWSPAPERS – LOCAL IDENTIES CONFERENCE

A very successful Conference was held at Chiltern, North East Victoria, on the  weekend of 1-3 October 1999. About 60 participants enjoyed papers on:

  • The history of the Chiltern Federal Standard (Ross Harvey)
  • Dynasties in the NSW provincial press (Rod Kirkpatrick)
  • The Shepparton News’ recent history (John Tidey)
  • Newspaper preservation (Wendy Smith)
  • Old Journalism at Moreton Bay (Denis Cryle)
  • The Barrier Daily Truth’s women’s column in 1910 (Liz Macnamara)
  • The effect of the introduction of radio on the Dimboola Banner (Leigh Edmonds)
  • Newspaper trade directories (Dennis Bryans)
  • Circulation figures for nineteenth-century Victorian country newspapers (Tom Darragh)
  • Newsprint in nineteenth-century Australia (Carol Mills)
  • Weekly and monthly papers in the nineteenth-century (Peter Dowling)
  • Country Catholics and the Melbourne press (Victoria Emery)
  • Patriotism reflected in WWII Camden News and Camden Advertiser (Ian Willis)
  • Community, identity and the ethnic press (Sonia Mycak)

ANHG No 1  October 1999  p1

 

Newspapers Image
Newspapers are an important means of communication and have been around for centuries in print and most recently digital form. (Wikimedia)

 

10.19 COMMUNITY PAPERS (2): ALLIANCE TOWN CRIER FOR BERRY

Ian Willis, of Camden, has sent us a copy of The Berry Alliance Town Crier, a quarterfold produced by the Berry Small Towns Alliance Inc. which sets out to “provide communication to the people of Berry about community activities and to generate a small income for the Berry Alliance to cover administrative costs”. Editor is Bonnie Cassen. Issued monthly, it has a distribution of 1800. The September issue carried 24 pages.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter No 10 December 2000 Page 7

 

37.50 CAMDEN ADVERTISER BACK COPIES

Camden Public Library is trying to find a good home for originals of the Camden Advertiser in a broken run from the 1930s to the 1950s. Ian Willis writes: “I convinced the library to put them on microfilm when I was doing my PhD. It was one of my principal sources. Our historical society cannot house them.”

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter No 37 May 2006 Page 15

 

39.27 CAMDEN ADVERTISER 30 AND 20 YEARS AGO

From Ian Willis, of Camden, NSW: The Camden Advertiser (23 August 2006) had a 16-page wrap-around on the theme “Living in the 70s”. It included a series of three articles that recalled the front pages of the Campbelltown-Ingleburn News, the Camden News, and the Picton Post in 1976. The stories related to local issues surrounding planning and the new Macarthur Growth Centre, parking, a new bridge over the Nepean River, and Camden retaining its “rural charm”. The Camden Advertiser (20 Sept. 2006) carried a 12 page advertising feature liftout on “Living in the 80s”. The feature carries an overview of the newspaper stories of the period, with a concentration on 1986. It features the front-page stories of that year including a “heated war of words” between the mayor of Campbelltown, Guy Thomas and Campbelltown’s Labor MP Michael Knight.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter No 39 October 2006 Page 10

 

51.3.1 SMALL PAPERS

Ian Willis reports from Camden, NSW: Our local newspapers treat the men and women who contributed to the Victorian Fire situation as local “heroes” in the finest tradition of the bushman and Anzac legends. The front page of the Camden Advertiser of 18 February reads “FACES OF GENEROSITY” with the story starting: “As bushfires wreaked destruction on lives in Victoria, Camden sprang into action. Our firefighters flew in to meet the flames, and thousands of dollars of donations have poured in to support relief.” The story ran through to pages 2 and 3 with photographs of RFS volunteers, school children holding fundraising events and other community fundraising events.

Our weekly independent, the District Reporter led on 16 February with a story “COMMUNITY SHOWS IT HAS A BIG HEART”, outlining the efforts of a local Catholic independent high school and its fundraising effort with photographs of the young people at the school. This was supported with a page 5 story about donations collected at a local shopping centre.

The Cumberland Newspaper Groups is represented in our local area by the Camden Edition of the Macarthur Chronicle. On 17 February it led with a story headed “OUR FINEST”. The story outlined the efforts of the Macarthur RFS unit and stated “the Macarthur region’s exhausted firefighters arrived home last week into the arms of loved ones after experiencing hell on earth”. The story outlined the efforts of efforts of our local heroes defending homes, electricity switching stations, and general fire fighting. Colin Spinks, the deputy group officer and member of the Camden West RFS brigade stated: ‘(the fire) would come down and the wind would turn back again. There was no saying where the wind was going to come from”. This was supported with extensive coverage of local fundraising events on pages 4, 5 and 6. David Campbell reported that “the heartbreaking plight of the bushfire victims in Victoria has prompted a generous response from the Macarthur region”.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter  No 51  February  2009      Page 7

 

43.26 MACARTHUR NEWSPAPERS

Ian Willis writes: The Macarthur Chronicle, which is part of the Cumberland Newspaper Group, has launched a new website for its local Macarthur newspapers. These are Macarthur Chronicle (Campbelltown Edition), Macarthur Chronicle (Camden Edition), Macarthur Chronicle (Wollondilly Edition). The three newspapers are on the front page of the website then linked to local stories for each edition. The site is located at http://www.macarthurchronicle.com.au/.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter  No 43  July 2007      Page 8

 

Newspapers WW1 Country Mastheads
Local newspapers were an important part of all country towns across Australia. (Trove/IWillis)

 

39.27 CAMDEN ADVERTISER 30 AND 20 YEARS AGO

From Ian Willis, of Camden, NSW: The Camden Advertiser (23 August 2006) had a 16-page wrap-around on the theme “Living in the 70s”. It included a series of three articles that recalled the front pages of the Campbelltown-Ingleburn News, the Camden News, and the Picton Post in 1976. The stories related to local issues surrounding planning and the new Macarthur Growth Centre, parking, a new bridge over the Nepean River, and Camden retaining its “rural charm”. The Camden Advertiser (20 Sept. 2006) carried a 12 page advertising feature liftout on “Living in the 80s”. The feature carries an overview of the newspaper stories of the period, with a concentration on 1986. It features the front-page stories of that year including a “heated war of words” between the mayor of Campbelltown, Guy Thomas and Campbelltown’s Labor MP Michael Knight.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter  No 39  October 2006       Page 8

 

Willis, Ian, presented a paper at the Australian Historical Association 2006 Biennial Conference at the Australian National University on Genres of History. The paper title was “Looking at Regional Identities on the Homefront” and concerned the role of country newspapers as an important historical source. He used the case study of the Camden News and Camden Advertiser, during World War II. The paper examined the regional identity of conservatism and its representation in the wartime reporting in Camden press as patriotism.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter  No 39  October 2006     Page 8