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So-Called Progress

“A generation which ignores history has no past – and no future.” – Robert A Heinlein

Growing up in one of the five Macquarie Towns in the Hawkesbury Valley near Sydney, we had history taught to us ad nauseum. Problem was, it was the same old, same old. Convicts. Bligh hiding under the bed during the rum rebellion. Governor Macquarie’s building program, with two examples located in our town. We tuned out. Were bored by it.

My parents had purchased our house from my late grandmother’s estate. Built in the 1830s, there were a few convict bricks and, under the tin roof, shingles. In the garden we played with shards of broken crockery. My father found a clay pipe, bottles, and ink wells.

New Street was lined with old houses. Now mostly obliterated, along with the smithy on the corner. A Georgian style home, with columns and attics. Others, like ours, with verandahs, and gardens with interesting old plants, “wild” strawberries, mulberries, and figs. All that’s left is one lowly example (picturesque enough to be used as background in an episode of “A Country Practice”) and one other. The big feature these days is concrete. Hard to dig for relics under concrete!

The rot set in back in the 1950s and ’60s. An old building here, another there, street awnings torn down, all in the name of progress. When a fund was started to replace the roof on Macquarie’s church, I was witness to one of my parents’ friends wanting to know why it couldn’t be torn down and replaced with something more modern!

It continues. The NSW government is keen to destroy the oldest town square in Australia, by putting a highway right through it. Since signing a petition against this a few years ago, I haven’t been back. Why visit a town with pedestrian walkways lined with “antique” street lamps and featuring a pretend water wheel? A town with ye olde tea shops located in pseudo “colonial” buildings? A town where so much history has been destroyed?

Because I’ve learnt to not only appreciate history, but be inspired to write about people who lived it! There are so many interesting “new” stories out there. Yes, in Australia!

If you want to write stories inspired by our history, maybe start with the National Library’s Trove. Read some old newspapers. Look at early photographs. You’ll be gobsmacked!

The Heart Has Its Reasons is available for ORDER by clicking this link



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