It’s Summer holidays, Christmas was a few days ago, there’s sunny, warm weather on the forecast. Perfect days for lazing around home and reading a good book or two.
I happen to be passing Blackwood Books recently (we were actually visiting an adjacent shop but I thought I’d have a quick look). I asked to see their ‘local history’ section and was taken along some winding corridors to a couple of bookcases full of books. I didn’t have that long to browse, but two books looked interesting.
Not Only In Stone by Phyliss Somerville was first published way back in 1942. It tells the story of Mary (Polly) Thomas and her family, who emigrated to South Australia from Cornwall, England in 1865. It caught my attention as parts of the story are based in Wallaroo, Moonta and Kadina - towns on the Yorke Peninsula that I have some family connections of my own. It is a fascinating snapshot of early colonial life.
I’m two thirds through the book as I write this. So far Polly has endured numerous hardships, but is not deterred in providing for and making a home for her family. I’ll be interested to see how it ends.
At first glance a possibly unusual pick. I grew up in the Mitcham Hills area, and have been involved in the Methodist and then Uniting Church my entire life. This book, written by Rosemary Mitchell and published back in 2000, traces the history of the many Uniting Churches that were and continue to be in the Mitcham Hills area. I have a vague recollection of being aware of the book, possibly around the time it was launched, but I didn’t have a copy and a few people I’ve talked to since also had either forgotten or didn’t know about it.
The old history is fascinating, and just the effort (especially in the early days) that people put into ensuring that they had worship services was inspiring. Take this quote from page 6 (discussing the travelling preachers did in the 1850s)
Later Mr Illman who lived at Unley would walk to Cherry Gardens in the morning, walk on to Clarendon for the evening service and walk back to Unley
That’s a decent drive in a car today, let alone walking on foot. Google Maps suggests that’s around 50kms! Possibly in the 1850s you might have been able to take a more direct shortcut across the hills from Cherry Gardens to Clarendon, but that’s still astounding.
In the latter sections, there are lots of familiar names. Families and people I knew when I was growing up (and some I’m still connected to). Fun fact, I’m actually mentioned in the book too! (via my volunteering with the Blackwood Youth Project back in the 1990s). That was a pleasant surprise.
There’s a few passing mentions of indigenous people living in the area in the early days. It would be interesting to find out more about that - might need to see if there’s any other books that cover Aboriginal history of the area in more detail.
I don’t know if the book is still available anywhere. I’ll make some enquiries to see if it’s still for sale, otherwise I might have to lend my copy out to friends and family that found it interesting.