As the theme of this blog entry suggests, I am blogging today about Australian Colonial History. Having completed numerous history assignments in school on the subject, sang rebellious folk songs inspired by the wild boys of the bush (many moons ago), I completed a journey of discovery into the past.
Visiting the haunts near my home town, west of Sydney on the out skirts of Llandillo, Windsor, and along both the Hawksbury and Nepean Rivers, I headed south travelling to the beautiful Historical towns of Bowral, Berrima and Mossvale collecting ‘scope’ for my wild imagination before heading to the Illawarra district and had some fun in Old Mogo Town near Batemans Bay. From there, I returned north to Forster and Taree to visit the Old Bar Cemetery, where some of my early settler ancestors were laid to rest. That was a very interesting part of my journey, since I was using an old 35mm roll of film to document my trip. The journey began as a search of Family History for me, and I’ve been on this crazy ride for many years. I took photos of the graves, tombstones and the area in general to get a better idea of where I came from.
The funniest part was getting the entire roll of film developed. The girls at the photo shop were rather rattled by the morbid photographs, but shared a laugh once I explained where I had been and what they were for. It was on this journey of self-discovery that I had the inspiration for a story. I was drawn in by the scandal, romance and heroism of the early colonial settlers. Having been through more than my fair share of hellish ordeals, I found myself connecting with the past in a very unusual way. I put myself in the shoes of my ancestors in that time period and discovered a family secret that had been a mystery for many years. It was not that hard to deduce the likelihood (from a geographical standpoint) that some of them had come across the path of a bushranger or two in their time. This revelation sparked my curiosity and thus, my obsession with the bush began. Several years later, I am still trying to piece together the puzzle and write a fictional story about the wild colonial age.
The recent Australian television show, ‘Wild Boys’ starring great Australian talent such as Daniel MacPherson and Bridie Carter, has rekindled my interest in this subject.
The inspiration behind the storyline for my piece of work, actually stems from old folk songs about Jack Donohoe (Donahue/Donohue/Diegan/Duggan/Dougan). He was one of Australia’s iconic boys from the bush, who was shipped out from Cork, on the ‘Ann & Amelia’ transport (convict ship), he was originally born in Ireland. He was only 18 years old when he began his wild career. He was likely seduced into the life when an Irish gang robbed a farmhouse he was working for under the terms of his convict sentence. He escaped custody from his gaoler and hooked up with a couple of other escapees Wamsely and Webber.
There after they committed a string of highway robberies, thereby becoming notorious Bushrangers. (This is the part I like.) It was said that mid 1830, he ended up at Nepean River where he apparently robbed two elderly tenants of Sir John Jamison near Regent Ville. (I lived around the area growing up as a child.) His story comes to an end after being shot, (some say in his head, others say the bullet pierced his proud young heart) and died in the Bringelly scrub near Campbelltown. There is a ton of fact mixed with fiction/folk lore about this young, handsome Irish lad. His origins, his travels across New South Wales intrigued me, since I too had been to many of the places this legendary outlaw had long ago graced. The male protagonist in my story was modelled on three famous Australian Bushrangers. Beginning with Irish born, John (Jack) Donohue, Canadian born, Johnny Gilbert and Harry Powers, known as the ‘Gentleman Bushranger.’
So now, I have a load of information to sort through in order to detangle the web inside my head so that I can bring the characters I’ve created to life. I’m sure the real fun lies ahead in finishing this story and sharing it with you.