In-laws and Out-laws

It’s probably not at the forefront of people’s minds, when the issue of legalizing same sex marriage comes up, but when it happens (and I assume that in Australia, sooner or later it will), we are going to have to do something about genealogical software packages.

There has been a great deal of research into same sex relationships during the last 50 years. I wrote recently about one such study, Yorick Smaal’s study of homosexuality amongst Australian and American soldiers in the Pacific during World War I. But the problem with researching the history of sexuality – particularly, but not only homosexuality – is the dearth of sources. Sexual activity most often enters the historic record when it comes under scrutiny from bureaucratic structures like the military or the courts.

But what about people, men or women, who entered into discreet, long term, loving relationships that never encountered legal impediments? Most people don’t leave a documentary record of their sexual activities, so we rely on speculation – except in the case of fertile heterosexual couples whose children provide the most basic evidence that they were sexually active. Otherwise it’s often guesswork.

I’m currently dealing with such a case while finishing the last chapters of my book on Walter Davidson and the Macarthur family. Davidson’s extended family had close ties with John Macarthur and his family over a period of more than 60 years. Several of WSD’s nephews married into the Macarthur family, and John Macarthur’s son James married a woman whose family was friendly with WSD.

And then there’s John’s eldest son Edward. I am fairly certain that Edward Macarthur was in a discreet, long term, loving relationship with another man for more than 20 years – but it’s all speculation.

Edward’s partner – or so I think – was an aristocrat called George Horatio Cholmondesley. George’s father was George James Cholmondesley, from an old, aristocratic and very wealthy Cheshire family. The father doesn’t rate a mention on his own behalf in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, but when I search on the word ‘Cholmondeley’, he pops up all over the place, as a co-lover with the Prince of Wales of various Regency courtesans. A number of their offspring were brought up in the Cholmondeley household.*

George James’s eldest son didn’t fit this mold. According to the diarist Joseph Faringdon, George Horatio was ‘a young man of effeminate manners, not promising much manliness of character’, and his libidinous father much preferred his younger son Henry.

Edward and George Cholmondesley met in 1812 in Sicily. Edward was a professional soldier, and his regiment was based in Malta. George Cholmondeley visited Sicily as part of the modified southern Grand Tour that was all that was available to young gentlemen during the Napoleonic War. Edward was 23, George 20.

George seems to have been going through a crisis at this time. Perhaps influenced by the Catholic lands he was visiting, he briefly converted to Catholicism, before swinging in the opposite direction towards Methodism. And his friendship with Edward perhaps provoked a sexual crisis as well, because in October 1812, on his way home to England, he married Caroline Campbell, the daughter of the Lieutenant Governor of Gibraltar. Caroline died 3 years later, and there were no children.

Edward and George went their separate ways for some years. George followed the path laid out for him by his status as the eldest son. In 1817 he was elected MP for Castle Rising, a rotten borough in his father’s gift, and in 1821 he moved to the House of Lords. He was one of the 8 sons of peers chosen to carry George IV’s cloak at the Coronation, and his portrait shows a youth with delicate, pretty features – although we can’t draw any conclusions from the pink robe, which is the uniform of the Order of the Bath.

George Cholmondeley From Nayler’s History of the Coronation 1821

One of the problems, for 21st century republican historians like me, is sorting out George Horatio’s various titles at different stages of his life. In 1812 he was Lord Malpas, while his father, George James, was the 4th Earl of Cholmondeley. In 1815, his father was promoted to become the 1st Marquess of Cholmondeley. When George Horatio replaced his father in the House of Lords, he did so under the Marquess’s junior title of Baron Newburgh. He was normally known as Lord Rocksavage (another junior title) until his father’s death in 1827, when he became the 2nd Marquess of Cholmondeley. Hanging in there?

Meanwhile Edward served with the Army of Occupation in France, then went with his regiment to Ireland, before visiting his family in New South Wales in 1824, but he went back to England the following year. His father John offered him an annual income of £500 if he married, and in her will, his mother Elizabeth left him furnishings on condition that he came out to Australia – but he resisted these blandishments. His heart was in England.

The Cholmondeleys were equally concerned. According to the diarist Mrs Arbuthnot, the Cholmondeley family ‘despair of … Rocksavage’s ever marrying and are most anxious for an heir’. Harriet Arbuthnot’s stepdaughter married Henry Cholmondeley, George’s younger brother, so she knew all the gossip surrounding George.

On his father’s death, George inherited the title, Cholmondeley Castle, and 33,000 acres of land in Cheshire and Norfolk, but everything not covered by entail went to his younger brother Henry, his father’s favourite son. George also acquired the hereditary position of Lord Great Chamberlain of England, an arcane position associated with the Court, handling ceremonies such as the Coronation of the new king in 1830. George appointed Edward secretary in the Lord Great Chamberlain’s office, a position that came with a grace-and-favour apartment in the House of Lords.

Edward must have told his mother about his appointment, for Elizabeth wrote from New South Wales:

We congratulate you on your appointment. Your friend the Marquis certainly has shown you very marked attention. I should think him a kind and good man. In my early days, I have heard the beauty of his mother celebrated – if she was, as I believe – Lady Charlotte Bertie.’

Trust Elizabeth to remember the celebrities of her youth – though if she was suspicious of Cholmondeley’s ‘marked attention’ to her son, she said nothing.

George married again in 1830. According to gossipy Harriet Arbuthnot, Lady Susan Somerset was ‘arrogant’ and ‘very methodistical’, but ‘I don’t think he could do better, and as it is a very well behaved, good family, if he is as poor Ld. Choly. used to say, one has a good chance that a wife of that sort won’t introduce any left-handed child.’

Poor Lady Susan. There were no children, left-handed or otherwise. Instead, Edward continued to visit Cholmondeley Castle regularly. ‘Edward went out of Town on the last day of the old year [1830],’ his brother John reported, ‘to usher in the new year at Lord Cholmondeley’s in Cheshire,’ just one of many family letters that refer, quite casually, to Edward’s visits into Cheshire.

I have found almost no correspondence between Edward and George, but there is a brief undated note from George, inviting Edward to join him for a ride to Roehampton, now a suburb on the western edge of London. The note is entirely innocent, which may be why it survives. By then George and Edward had been together, off and on, for over 20 years.

The Mitchell catalogue entry for this note says ‘Rochampton’, and gives the date as ‘1835?’ Both are almost certainly wrong – and the reason behind my frustration with available genealogical software.

I’m writing about Walter Davidson and his cousins, and their ties to the Macarthur family. One of WSD’s cousins, Sir Walter Rockliffe Farquhar, owned Roehampton House, and in 1838 he married Lady Mary Somerset, Lady Susan’s younger sister. The Macarthurs and the Farquhars were already good friends, so this note from George to Edward was an invitation to join him for a sociable ride out to visit his sister-in-law and her husband.

Everyone knew their relationship, and it was all understood within the family. But how the hell do I put this mingling of in-laws and out-laws into a family tree?

Edward also eventually married in 1862, at the age of 73. There were no children.

The quotes from Faringdon and Arbuthnot come from the biographical entries on George Horatio Cholmondeley in History of Parliament Online
Hazel King covers the initial meeting with Lord Malpas in Sicily, and Edward’s appointment as Secretary in the Lord Great Chamberlain’s office, in Colonial Expatriates: Edward and John Macarthur Junior (1989)
Other quotes come from the Macarthur Papers in the Mitchell Library

Trivial fact: According to his Wikipedia entry, George’s father, George James Cholmondeley, may be the first member of the Mile High Club:

‘According to the betting book for Brooks, a London gentlemen’s club, Cholmondeley once wagered two guineas to Ld. Derby, to receive 500 guineas upon having made love to a woman “in a balloon one thousand yards from the Earth.” It is unknown whether the bet was ever finalized.’

Flying Colours

For the first time ever, a female jockey has won the Melbourne Cup. The colours Michelle Payne and Prince of Penzance wore are randomly selected – but how’s this for serendipity?

suffragettes banner

Lavender, green, and white – the colours of the suffragette movement

From Sydney Morning Herald, 4 November 2015

From Sydney Morning Herald, 4 November 2015

Red Poppies, Blue Poppies

Nearly 3 years ago, the British Prime Minister David Cameron made his first official visit to China. It was early November, so like most British (or European) politicians, he was wearing a red poppy in his lapel to mark Remembrance Day.

The British Embassy staff in Beijing advised him not to wear it while he was in China. Poppies have a loaded message for Chinese, which has nothing to do with the bloodstains of Flanders fields. Poppies mean opium.

The opium poppy, Papaver somniferum, has flowers that are usually blue, although they can also be red, white, or somewhere in between. After they finish flowering, the seedpods swell. Left alone, they will eventually dry and crack to release a mass of tiny poppy seeds, but to produce opium, the poppy farmer carefully slashes the green seedpods. Over a day or so these wounds bleed raw opium, which is collected daily.

Traditionally the sticky resin was dried into cakes of opium, which could be used in many ways. It could be chewed or smoked – there’s an excellent description of the process of preparing an opium pipe in Graham Green’s The Quiet American. Dissolved in alcohol, opium became laudanum, which was used widely as a painkiller or soporific in the 18th and 19th centuries.


Purified into heroin, it was used by doctors well into the 20th century. I once gave a talk on the history of opium to a group of elderly women. Most of them had had their babies during the 1950s. One woman told me afterwards that the births she experienced using heroin were much less painful than the ones after it became illegal in 1952.

The Chinese prohibited opium much earlier than the rest of the world – but without success. There were edicts against it during the 18th century, and in 1799 the Chinese government banned its importation in any form. The British East India Company was the main supplier, and while the EIC officially withdrew from the opium trade in 1809, a mere 10 years after they were asked to do so, they didn’t stop making the stuff. Most of the illegal opium produced today comes from the same Golden Triangle first set up by EIC traders in the 18th century.

The trade really took off in the 19th century. Free traders, mainly British but also some Americans, smuggled it into Canton/Guangzhou, where it had a devastating effect – not just on individual users, but on the economy as well. One of the key figures in the trade was my old friend Walter S Davidson, who went to China as an opium trader in 1812. By the time he left in 1822, two firms dominated the smuggling trade, Jardine, Matheson & Co (still alive and kicking in 2015) and Dent & Co, WSD’s old firm.

In 1839 the Chinese renewed their efforts to keep out the opium traders. The Emperor sent his own picked official, Commissioner Lin, to Canton to crack down on the trade. In a grand public gesture, he seized the stockpiles of opium from the British merchants and destroyed the ‘foreign mud’ by mixing it with salt and lime and throwing it into the sea.

It was a grand public gesture, but it failed completely. Britain declared war, and China was defeated in the First Opium War (1839-42). In a humiliating peace treaty, the Chinese were forced to hand over Hong Kong Island, and open 5 Treaty Ports to foreign trade. When land sales opened on Hong Kong, Dent & Co bought the first block of land. They were also among the first to open in Shanghai.

The opium trade continued to flourish and foreign trade and foreign ideas steadily weakened in Chinese Imperial Court’s grip on authority. A second Anglo-Chinese War (1858-60) saw British and French forces reach Beijing, where amongst other things, they looted and destroyed the Summer Palace. Amongst the many items looted was a Pekingese dog that was given to Queen Victoria. Without so much as a blush, she named him Looty. There’s a good account of the affair here.

China is very much in the news at the moment. The Australian Government is passing a China-Australia Free Trade Agreement. An American warship has deliberately sailed within 12 nautical miles – the distance that marks the extent of territorial waters – of the Spratly Islands.

And President Xi Jinping has just been on a state visit to Britain. This has inevitably led to talk about human rights in China. Reporters at the BBC in particular have been effortlessly sanctimonious, and there is no doubt that in some matters, China’s record is dodgy – but then, as our ex-PM Tony Abbott so effortlessly demonstrated yesterday, nobody is perfect.

Wearing poppies, David Cameron, George Osborne, Vince Cable and Michael Gove drink a toast at a contract signing in China, The Guardian, 10 November 2012

Wearing poppies, David Cameron, George Osborne, Vince Cable and Michael Gove drink a toast at a contract signing in China, The Guardian, 10 November 2012

On his 2012 visit to China, David Cameron didn’t take his embassy’s advice, and wore his red poppy regardless, because he refused to kowtow to Chinese sensibilities. The word kowtow is Cantonese. It refers to a stylized prostration before the Emperor, where the subject kneeled, then knocked his head on the ground a specified number of times. It came into English usage following Lord Macartney’s 1793 Embassy to China. Britain wanted trade concessions, but Macartney failed to get them – allegedly because he refused to perform the kowtow.

Personally I think it might be a good idea to cut China some slack. In a culture that famously thinks that it is still ‘too early to tell’ what will be the impact of the French Revolution of 1789, the humiliations of the 19th century are still quite raw.

Libby Connors’ Warrior wins Premiers Prize

Last night my good friend Libby Connors won the Queensland Premier’s Award for a work of State Significance for her book Warrior: A legendary leader’s dramatic life and violent death on the colonial frontier (Allen & Unwin, 2015).

libby connors warrior

To my shame, I’ve been meaning to review Warrior for the Australian Women Writers Challenge for a few months now, but it has been on the backburner – well, okay, my whole blog has been on the backburner this year, as I try to finish my book.

Now of course, with the recognition that comes with winning the major prize in the Queensland Literary Awards for 2015, Libby will get all the publicity she needs without my poor endorsement but, for what it’s worth, Warrior is terrific: an engrossing read and an enlightening new perspective on racial accommodation and conflict at Moreton Bay. It is also a high wire act. Unlike most of those who write about race relations in Australia, Libby has chosen to write from the point of view of Dundalli, the warrior of the title, a lawman from the Dalla tribe in the mountains north of Brisbane who later moved to Bribie Island, and who was hanged in Brisbane in January 1855.

In Connors’ account, Aboriginal people are not generic victims of generic white abuse, but have names, tribal affiliations, objectives and agency – and their own customary law. Aboriginal dispute resolution might lead to fights, and occasionally to deaths, but it had its own internal logic, and it was not disproportionate to the original offence.

In March 1842 a terrible offence occurred when the shepherds of Kilcoy Station gave out flour poisoned with arsenic. Somewhere between 30 and 60 Aboriginal men, women and children died. Connors forensically examines how this event affected Aboriginal politics, and how certain men were legally designated to avenge the crime. More killings followed, a clash of cultures that culminated with another judicial killing, the hanging of the lawman, Dundalli. Like most forensic examinations, the story is fascinating but hard to summarize – and you really should read the book.

The Queensland Literary Awards have been controversial in recent years. One of the first acts of the previous LNP government, under Premier and Minister for the Arts (!) Campbell Newman, was to cancel the Premier’s Prizes. The Premier justified the act as a way to save money, although the savings were infinitesimal compared with the ill will generated in the arts community – and arts communities, as Federal Arts Minister George Brandis learned to his cost, can express their resentment in creative ways.

george brandis as venus by botticelli

The response in Queensland was the keep the prizes going through crowdsourcing. This meant a smaller pool of money for prizes – but for many writers, perhaps most, the publicity generated by winning a prize is still valuable, especially as the subsequent boom in sales brings more royalties anyway.

The prize money has now been restored under the new Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, while Campbell Newman experiences the sour aftertaste of disapproval, with some Brisbane bookshops refusing to stock his new biography. (I can see Avid Reader’s point, but this seems to smack of censorship to me.)

One unspoken reason for the Premiers Prize controversy, I suspect, is that writers from Down South frequently dominated the Queensland prizes. That tends to be the case with prizes: in any one year, a few titles do the rounds of all the competitions. Their domination may be deserved, but sometimes it feels like the lazy option, and in any case, there’s an argument that local awards should honour local writers. Hence the ‘Work of State Significance’ category. Connors deserved to win on merit, but winning this category with Warrior also says much, I hope, about Queensland’s maturity, its ability to confront the centrality of Aboriginal dispossession in the state’s history.

Connors was in many ways the ideal person to write this book, for it depends on a sympathetic understanding of the local landscapes around Moreton Bay, and Libby’s environmental credentials have served her well. She is probably more familiar to most Australians as an environmental activist than as a historian. She has stood as a Senate candidate for the Greens, and is associated with the Lock the Gate Alliance that has campaigned against coal seam gas mining, initially on the Darling Downs.

In addition, like many academics these days – especially, dare I say it, women with more senior partners – Libby has spent her life as a #FIFOacademic, commuting between her home in Brisbane and her job at the University of Southern Queensland in Toowoomba. I know that has made research and writing difficult at times, but it has also taken her regularly through Dundalli’s lands, across the Brisbane Valley, through the backwaters of the river systems – the Stanley, Bremer, Brisbane, Pine and Caboolture – that mix and merge on their way to Moreton Bay.

In Warrior, this intimate knowledge of the landscape comes through very clearly:

The Brisbane Valley stations formed a crescent around the spine of Brisbane’s D’Aguilar Range. They occupied the river and creek flats of the Brisbane River as it curved west and north of the old penal station, and the pastoral leases reached right into the foothills and scrubs of the mountains that fed the river. These mountains were Dalla heartlands. [p.58]

Dundalli’s country. Congratulations, Libby, you’ve done him proud.

Getting to Hungary

In July 2013 I went on a river cruise along the lower Danube, from the river port of Giurglu in Romania to Budapest in Hungary. It was a fascinating trip through the Balkans only a few years after the conflicts there had finally ended.

Vukovar water tower

Vukovar water tower, destroyed in 1991, kept as a symbol of the siege today.

One day our boat stopped at Vukovar, the Croatian river port that was under siege by the Serbian remnants of the Yugoslav National Army (JNA) for 87 days in 1991, at the beginning of the Balkan War. Parts of the town remain a pockmarked ruin of bullet holes, but everyone was flying flags that day, just 2 weeks after Croatia joined the European Union.

From Vukovar we took a bus 15 kilometres to Osijek. This town was Roman, Hungarian and Turkish, before it was rebuilt as a Habsburg garrison town in the late 17th century, with Vauban-style walls and bastions designed to withstand cannon fire.

Siege of Vienna by Ottoman forces

Siege of Vienna by Ottoman Forces, 16C. Note the cannon. From Wikipedia Commons

Travelling up the Danube River, I was constantly reminded that this was the route that Suleiman the Magnificent took when his forces laid siege to Vienna in 1529. Vienna didn’t fall, and the siege was lifted in time for the Ottoman Turks to retreat back down the Danube as winter set in, although they left most of their cannon behind in the muddy river flats. The Turks tried to seize Vienna again in 1683, after which the frontier between Catholic and Muslim Europe stabilized, with garrison towns like Osijek marking the border.

A large Catholic monastery (with a population, these days, of 4 monks) is a reminder that this marked a cultural and religious border as well, between Catholic and Orthodox Christians these days, but once also between Christians and Muslims.

In fact this river valley between the Balkan and Carpathian Mountains has been a highway for armies for millennia. The Romans under Trajan marched east along the Danube to conquer Dacia. The Crusaders marched this way too. So too did ideas, art, language and religion, making the Balkans a mass of frontiers where many fault lines converge.

A river cruise must be about the most luxurious form of soft tourism, and I know I am very fortunate I can travel this way. I have the money, the time, and above all, the passport and return air ticket, that give me the privilege of easy entry into the Schengen states of Europe.

This became clear one early morning. I’m an early riser, unlike most people on holiday, so I was sitting in the lounge drinking tea and writing emails around 6am, when an unexpected announcement came over the PA system. Everybody, but everybody, was ordered to the lounge, because the Hungarian immigration authorities insisted that they needed to check every individual against the photo in their passport. Until then, our passports were kept at the desk so that we were not inconvenienced as the boat sailed upstream – from Romania – to Bulgaria – to Serbia – to Croatia. Hungary, though, was different.

A sleepy, shambling crowd of over-indulged tourists, we queued for our passports. I was lucky to be showered and dressed. Most people were in dressing gowns or tracksuits, with wet or bed-head hair, many showing the after effects of too much good food and wine the night before.

The authorities checked us all against our photos and gave us back our passports. Now we had reached Hungary, the eastern edge of the Schengen states, we would not need our passports for the rest of the journey, not even those staying on the ship as far as Amsterdam.

Later, at breakfast – strawberries, smoked salmon and bagel (and if I had wanted it, freshly squeezed orange juice and champagne) – someone told me the whole affair was just for show, to give an illusion of fairness, a veneer of equity covering the hard reality of our privileged status. Other immigration officers would be checking for stowaways below decks, checking for ring-ins amongst the crew and the innumerable workers who changed our sheets, cooked our meals, and scrubbed our bathrooms.

What struck me at the time was the name of the port where the Hungarian authorities came aboard to check our papers – Mohács. In 1526, the Ottoman Turks won the Battle of Mohács. It was the watershed moment in European history, marking the most westward extent of Muslim penetration into central Europe. The Hungarian king Louis was killed on the battlefield. Most of Hungary was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire, leaving Louis’s son-in-law, the Habsburg Emperor’s younger brother Ferdinand, to become king of a much-diminished Hungarian monarchy. The Ottoman-Hungarian border shifted again in 1687, when a second battle of Mohács resulted in the defeat of the Sultan’s army by the Habsburgs. This nondescript little river port was twice a pivot in world events.

What strikes me now, though, seeing the photos, watching the footage, of desperate refugees trying to make their way into Europe through Hungary, is that in the long term, national borders are fragile, impermanent things. Cultural and linguistic frontiers shift too, even more slowly, but geography is permanent. The lower Danube has always funneled the movement of people between Central Europe and the Black Sea – and beyond that, the Fertile Crescent. This is the route, after all, along which Neolithic farmers first brought wheat into Europe.

Only the exceptionally privileged do the journey by river these days.

Sausages at the Shrine of Remembrance

Last week I went to the book launch of Yorick Smaal, Sex, Soldiers and the South Pacific, 1939-45, a fascinating study of same sex relations between men during the Second World War, in Australia and the Pacific.

Much of the book is based in Brisbane, which for a brief time between 1942 and 1945, played a central role in the Pacific war effort. A million American servicemen passed through my hometown during these years. They were, according to the catchphrase, ‘Over paid, oversexed, and over here’ – and for some of them, as well as for the Australian servicemen and civilians they met, the turbulence of war brought with it new opportunities for sexual expression – and opportunities for new forms of sexual expression.

cover of Yorick Small Sex, Soldiers and the South Pacific

Some of the people Smaal writes about were openly homosexual – or as open as it was possible to be at a time when such activity was illegal. Others were experimenting surreptitiously with homosex (Smaal’s preferred term) as a passing phase that they barely acknowledged to themselves.

Smaal is particularly interested in the geography of sexual encounters, so I found it fascinating to see my city laid out in a new way. My first memories of Brisbane date from the 1950s but my family’s stories go back to wartime experiences. My father used to tell the tale of seeing a man cooking sausages over the Flame in the Shrine of Remembrance in Anzac Square. When Dad questioned him, the man said he was an ex-serviceman, which seemed to be an adequate justification for his transgression. I wonder, though, if Dad realized at the time that this place was a gay beat?

At school, we were told not to wait for buses in the city at the covered bus stop in William St – another pick up point. And my mother’s dark but obscure references to the Pink Elephant Café make more sense now – the proprietor of the café was Frank Mitchell, a close associate of the artist Donald Friend, whose painting of naked men showering is on the cover of Smaal’s book. Mum visited the café as a teenager, all the same, though whether she met ‘Lana Turner’, ‘Pearl of the Pacific’ and the other cross-dressing waiters, she has never divulged.

By the standards of the day, I think my family was pretty relaxed about same sex relationships. My grandparents had a self-contained flat attached to their old Queenslander, which they rented out to a series of ‘confirmed bachelors’. One of them was the distinguished poet Val Vallis. My grandmother got on famously with them, and many of them came to her funeral.

Smaal’s research for this book is remarkable. Sodomy was illegal, so there are numerous court and police records – both civilian and military, Australian and American – and he has made good use of these. Many consensual encounters never reached the courts, though, especially if the participants were discreet and could conduct their encounters in privacy, though this was not always easy in a military setting. Smaal has interviewed a few remaining survivors of this era, and has used earlier interviews from the 1980s onwards. There are also memoirs and diaries. Faces are pixellated and pseudonyms are used where an unexpected revelation could cause someone embarrassment.

Sources on sex are always hard to come by, and so are sources on illegal activities, so Smaal is working under a double disadvantage, but one of the characteristics of military organizations is that they are vast bureaucratic regimes with a capacity for generating endless paperwork – the raw material of historians.

Both the Australian and the American armies worried about homosexuality within their ranks, and its implications for the civilian community. These concerns were less moralistic than practical: as with women in the army today, the top brass worried that consensual same sex relationships might change the group dynamics of the fighting unit. They worried about non-consensual sex, or sex with young boys (though since all homosex was illegal, no legal age of consent existed). They worried about venereal disease.

Smaal looks beyond Brisbane to other places across the South Pacific where soldiers met and mingled – and encountered other races and cultures, with different attitudes towards homosexual relations, looking particularly at the experiences of the Australians in New Guinea and the Americans in New Caledonia.

Studies of same sex relations can often be a rather cheerless read, partly because medical and criminal records invariably form an important part of the research on which they are based. What I like particularly about Smaal’s book is that his subjects are not constantly viewed in the dock, or under the microscope, but were frequently joyful participants of the world they inhabited, ‘a very social world. Australian girls and US belles made their own fun. Friends and lovers organized regular get-togethers and sing songs.’ [83] It sounds like the obverse of the nurses and marines in South Pacific, and no doubt it was fun – though the slightly hysterical fun that young men on a battlefront engage in, constantly aware of their own mortality in a war zone.

It was a world that operated below the radar. Though many of the men Smaal describes were good soldiers and brave men, they inhabited a world that was out of kilter with the dominant narrative of manly fighting men and the Anzac spirit. As Robert Aldrich said, when he launched the book last Thursday, the word ‘Anzac’ is even missing from the index – and how good is that.

Street Names and Naming Conventions

I’ve just got back from a research trip to Sydney. I don’t know greater Sydney terribly well, because when I visit, I spend most of my time in a library or the archives – or back in my hotel bedroom, filing notes or vegged out in front of old episodes of the Antiques Roadshow. This may not sound appealing to many people, but to me, a week in the Mitchell Library is sheer bliss.

This time I blew the budget and stayed on the edge of the CBD, so I could walk to and from the library every day. There’s great charm in walking through a city, getting a feel for the layout and the geography, a sense of what the place felt like before the Car. It is useful to pace out distances: how long did it take the New South Wales Corps to march from their barracks to Government House to overthrow Governor Bligh?

I stayed in a hotel at the Chinatown end of Kent St. This isn’t the Rocks, the original rookery attached to the working port around the Harbour, so eloquently described by Grace Karskens in her book The Rocks but the other end of the CBD, the more orderly development that gradually replaced the original shacks and houses of the early colony.

A symbol of that change is the Judge’s House in Kent St, the oldest house in the Sydney CBD, according to a plaque at the gate, and the second oldest building in Sydney, named after one of its first owners, Judge James Dowling. Though I’m not sure she ever lived there, the house reminded me of his wife Harriott, whose Memoir I read during the week.

Kent St is named after the Duke of Kent, and nearby are memories of the other reprobate Hanoverian brothers, Sussex, Clarence and York. My walk took me past the Judge’s House into Bathurst St, named for the long-standing Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord Bathurst, then across George St. This was the original High St of Sydney, and it is still one of its main commercial hubs. Named – naturally – for the King. Then up the slope of Bathurst St, crossing (Prime Ministers) Pitt and Castlereagh into Elizabeth St.

With Elizabeth St, I finally reach a street named after someone who actually visited the country – Elizabeth Macquarie, the Governor’s wife. Then across Hyde Park and across to Macquarie St.

Hyde Park Barracks, Sydney

Hyde Park Barracks

Macquarie St, to my mind, is one of the loveliest streets in Sydney, with its sober Georgians, the Hyde Park Barracks and St James Church facing each other across the street. Beyond the barracks is the old Rum Hospital, now Parliament House. A pause to rub the pig’s nose – which I’ve been doing religiously since I first worked at the State Library of New South Wales in the 1970s – and I’m at the entrance as the doors open at 9.

Il Porcellino, Sydney

Il Porcellino, Sydney, a copy of the Florentine original

People back home in Britain found it hilarious that New South Wales named so many of its streets, towns and geographical features after Tory politicians. Sydney Smith wrote, tongue in cheek, lamenting the lack of Whig equivalents:

We cannot help remarking here, the courtly appellations in which Geography delights – the River Hawkesbury; the Town of Windsor on its banks; Bathurst Plains; Nepean River. Shall we never hear of the Gulph of Tierney; Brougham Point; or the Straights of Mackintosh on the River Grey? (Edinburgh Review, 1819)

It was not to be, at least in Sydney. It all depends on the timing.

In Brisbane, where the streets were laid out in the 1840s, the political order was reversed. One of the few things most people know about Brisbane is that its CBD is laid out on a grid where ‘the boys’ – Edward, Albert, George, William – go in one direction while ‘the girls’ – Ann, Adelaide, Queen, Elizabeth, Charlotte, Mary, Alice – go in the other. They are all Royal names until you reach the edge of town, where a few geographical features – Creek, Wharf – get a look in.

On the south side of the river there is also a modified grid, though its features have been much broken up by later developments. There’s an imperial naming pattern at work here too, though not such an obvious one: the streets are named after Sir Robert Peel, Lord Melbourne, Lord John Russell and Lord Grey, all Prime Ministers, as well as Colonial Secretaries Barons Glenelg and Stanley, and Herman Merivale, the permanent under-secretary at the Colonial Office. Further afield is Gladstone Rd.

Sydney Smith would be pleased. Most of these politicians and bureaucrats were Whigs, although party loyalties were shifting during the 1840s, and the old aristocratic term ‘Whig’ had been replaced by Liberal by the time that Mr. Gladstone became Prime Minister.

The former Premier Peter Beattie once lamented that the name ‘Grey St’ was so bland and boring. In fact Earl Grey was not particularly boring, so it’s a shame that he is best known today for the tea that bears his name. It would be nice if, one day, all these street names carried brief biographies of the people – okay, men – that gave them their names. Otherwise a layer of history disappears into anonymity.

Ref: Sydney Smith’s quotation appears in Anne-Maree Whitaker, Joseph Foveaux: Power and Patronage in Early New South Wales (2000)