Monday, October 02, 2006

Gunnedah (Part I)

On the weekend of September 23-24, 2006, I travelled with my parents from Port Macquarie to our hometown of Gunnedah – situated “in the heart of the Namoi Valley” on the Liverpool Plains of north-western New South Wales.

Above: Gunnedah from Porcupine Lookout - Sunday, September 24, 2006.

"Gunnedah" is an Aboriginal word meaning "place of white stone", a reference to outcrops of sandstone in the area.

Founded in 1856, the town of Gunnedah celebrates its sesquicentenary (150 years) in 2006. Through the Millerds, my maternal grandmother’s family, my family can trace its connection to Gunnedah back to the town’s earliest days.

I lived in Gunnedah for almost twenty years – from my birth in 1965 to my leaving for college in 1984. I studied first in Armidale (a three-hour drive from Gunnedah) and then in Canberra (an eight-hour drive). Throughout my college years and my six years of teaching in Goulburn, I would regularly return to my parents’ home in Gunnedah during college breaks, at Christmas, and for at least part of every school holidays.

Since my relocation to the U.S. in 1994, and my parents’ retirement to Port Macquarie in 2002, I obviously don't often get to visit Gunnedah and my relatives and friends who still live there. My recent weekend visit to Gunnedah with my parents was, therefore, something I greatly enjoyed.

Above: The Gunnedah Town Hall, which now also serves as home to the Gunnedah Circus School.

Above: My childhood home in Gunnedah, photographed in 1990.

Above: Sitting shirtless with the neighbourhood kids in the late 1970s. That’s my younger brother, Tim, behind me giving “rabbit ears” to an unsuspecting friend.

Above: Deano (1976-1986), our family’s Yellow Labrador.

Above: The Bayly family of Gunnedah – January 1984.

Above: Dorothea MacKellar Memorial, Gunnedah - Saturday, September 23, 2006.

Australian author and poet Dorothea MacKellar (1885-1968) is perhaps best known for her poem
“My Country”. Later works appeared in the London Spectator, the American Harper's Magazine and the Sydney Bulletin. She also had four volumes of verse published, The Closed Door, The Witchmaid, Dreamharbour, and Fancy Dress.

The MacKellar family owned several properties in the Gunnedah area, including “Kurrumbede” and “The Rampadells”. Throughout Dorothea’s early life, she and members of her family made regular visits to their Gunnedah country residences from their Sydney home.

The first draft of what was to become arguably Australia’s most quoted and best loved poem, “My Country”, was written in England at a time when Dorothea was feeling homesick. Never quite content with the verses, she wrote and re-wrote the poem several times after returning to Australia and living in the apartments above her physician father’s consulting rooms in Buckland Chambers, Liverpool Street, Sydney, opposite the
ANZAC Memorial.

Gunnedah’s Dorothea MacKellar Memorial, erected in 1984, now graces the town’s ANZAC Park, and depicts her as the young woman who wrote “My Country”, and gazing in the direction of her beloved “Kurrumbede”.

NEXT: Gunnedah (Part II)

See also the Wild Reed posts:
One of These Boys . . .
A Lesson from Play School
Catholic Rainbow (Australian) Parents
The Bayly Family - July 2006 (Part I)
The Bayly Family - July 2006 (Part II)
The Bayly Family - July 2006 (Part III)
My Brother, the Drummer
Like Father, Like Daughter
A Rabbit’s Tale
Remembering Nanna Smith

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