Monday, September 16, 2019

Family Time in Gunnedah

Even though I've been back in the U.S. from my recent month-long visit to Australia for just over a week now, I'm still documenting my time in the Great South Land here at The Wild Reed.

As most reading this would know, this particular visit to the land of my birth was precipitated by the August 5 death of my father, Gordon Bayly.

In this post I share images and commentary on the August 14-18 visit to Gunnedah, which I undertook with my mother and youngest nephew, Brendan (pictured with me at right).

As I've noted previously, Gunnedah and its surrounding area were originally inhabited by Indigenous Australians who spoke the Kamilaroi (Gamilaraay) language. The area now occupied by the town was settled by Europeans in 1833.

Left: One of a number of memorials to Gambu Ganuurru, "Red Kangaroo," the aboriginal warrior and leader of the Gunn-e-dar people of the Kamilaroi tribe. After his death in the late 1700s, he was buried in the traditional way inside a carved tree. This memorial is located at Pensioners Hill.

Through my maternal grandmother’s family, the Millerds, my family can trace its connection to Gunnedah back to the town’s earliest days.

For more about the town’s history and my family’s connection to it, see the previous Wild Reed posts, My “Bone Country” and Journey to Gunnedah.


Above: With my mum, Margaret Bayly (née Sparkes) and her younger sister, my Aunty Ruth, at Ruth's home in Gunnedah – Wednesday, August 14, 2019. The table we're sitting at belong to Mum and Ruth's parents, Valentine and Olive Sparkes. I remember how, as a child, I would sit at this table in the enclosed back verandah of my grandparents' home.

Right: With my dear Aunty Ruth! – Saturday, August 17, 2019. Last year Ruth resigned from nursing under Hunter New England Health after more than 55 years in the profession. For the Namoi Valley Independent's July 20, 2018 interview with Ruth about the "struggles and the rewards" of her many years in nursing, click here.

Above: Enjoying lunch at Gunnedah's Courthouse Hotel with Mum and her brother Michael Sparkes – Thursday, August 15, 2019. Brendan snapped this pic! . . . And, yes, I'm wearing my Buffy Sainte-Marie t-shirt.

Above: Mum and Ruth with their two cousins Joan (left) and Betty (center), and the cousins' sister-in-law Raelee (right) – Sunday, August 18, 2019. Joan and Betty's mother, Peggy, was Mum's mother's sister, and Joan and Betty's deceased brother, Don, was married to Raelee.

Above: With my cousin Therese, whose mother Fay was my Mum's older half-sister – Friday, August 16, 2019.

Above: With my Mum and Brendan and family friend Brenda – Friday, August 16, 2019.

We're pictured standing beside Gunnedah's Miners’ Memorial (right). Erected in November 2000, this memorial honors the twenty miners who have died in a little more that a century of coal mining in the Gunnedah district.

Notes local author and town historian Ron McLean in his book The Way We Were:

Mining started in the Gunnedah area in 1880 when well-sinkers found a coal stream on the Backjack frontage to Wandobah Road. First miners Barney McCosker and James Pryor sank crude pits and started mining the seams, carting by dray to the railhead in Gunnedah.

The first fatality occurred in 1897 when 23-year-old Bernard McCosker, a nephew of Barney McCosker, was killed in a fall of rock at Gunnedah Colliery.

My maternal grandmother’s first husband, Jack Louis, was killed in a mine workshop accident in nearby Werris Creek. The eldest of their two children, Eric (my Mum’s half-brother) was hit and killed by a coal truck while traveling to work at the Gunnedah Mine on his motor cycle. He was only in his early twenties. Both father and son are honored on the Miners’ Memorial.

Left: With Mum and Brendan and family friends Brenda and Jillian – Friday, August 16, 2019.

You may recall that last July Jillian and her husband David visited me in Minneapolis. For images of their visit, click here.

Above: My cousin Greg and his boy Henry – Friday, August 16, 2019. Greg is the youngest of Ruth's two children.

Above and below: Brendan, Henry and Ruth playing basketball at Ruth's place – Friday, August 16, 2019.

Above: Mum and I with our good friends (and former Gunnedah neighbors) John and Heather Sills – Saturday, August 17, 2019. John and Heather are Jillian's parents.

Above: Mum with our good friends Peter and Delores Worthington – Thursday, August 15, 2019.

Above: Yet more wonderful family friends! . . . Mum and Brendan with Gwen Riordan, two of Gwen's daughters, Denise and Wendy, and Wendy's husband Gary – Friday, August 16, 2019. For more about our longtime friendship with the Riordan family, click here.

Above: With my childhood friend and neighbor David Syphers – Friday, August 16, 2019. We're pictured in his father's store, Bill Syphers Footwear, Saddlery and Repairs.

Above: Relaxing at Ruth's home where Mum, Brendan ad I all stayed while in Gunnedah. From left: Mum, Heather, Brendan (making us all some tumeric tea!) and Ruth  – Saturday, August 17, 2019.

Above: Out to dinner with family and friends at the Gunnedah Services and Bowling Club – Saturday, August 17, 2019. From left: Peter, Peter, me, Mum, Brendan, Louise, Joanne and Robert.

Left: With school friends Sue and Lisa.

Above: On our last morning in Gunnedah, Ruth hosted a lovely morning tea at her home. Pictured from far left: Betty, Ruth, Raelee, Mum, Joan, Brendan, and Joan's son Matthew – Sunday, August 18, 2019.

Right: Ruth with her (and Mum's) cousin Betty. . . . Yes, she's quite the character!

Above: From left: Me, Betty, Raelee, Mum, Matthew, Joan (partly obscured), and Brendan – Sunday, August 18, 2019.

Above, left, and below: On our way out of town and back to Guruk, we stopped to look inside the (relatively) newly renovated St. Joseph's Catholic Church.

Mum and Dad were married in St. Joseph's Church in 1959, and my two brothers and I were all baptized and confirmed here.

And, yes, I'm wearing my Marianne 2020 t-shirt!

NEXT: Return to Guruk

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Remembering and Celebrating Dad
Family Time in Guruk
Across the Mountains . . . from Guruk to Gunnedah
An Unexpected Visitor
Australian Sojourn – April-May 2019: In the Land of the Kamilaroi
A Visit to Gunnedah (2017)
Australian Sojourn, May 2016: Gunnedah
Australian Sojourn, March 2015: Gunnedah
A Visit to Gunnedah (2014)
Journey to Gunnedah (2011)
This Corner of the Earth (2010)
An Afternoon at the Gunnedah Convent of Mercy (2010)
My “Bone Country” (2009)
The White Rooster
Remembering Nanna Smith
One of These Boys is Not Like the Others
Gunnedah (Part 1)
Gunnedah (Part 2)
Gunnedah (Part 3)
Gunnedah (Part 4)

Images: Michael Bayly and Brendan Bayly.

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