Dear “Radical Newcastle” supporter,

The editorial collective of Radical Newcastle is currently in negotiations with a premier scholarly press in New South Wales regarding a publication contract. The publisher is very interested in the proposal that we submitted and it would be a great outcome to secure this publisher for the book. Decisions by publishing houses are often finely balanced financial decisions and we therefore need to cover as many bases as we possibly can to strengthen our chances of success when our proposal is put before the Board of the publisher.

One of the critical issues that will decide the outcome – in addition to a publication subsidy – is being able to offer a pre-sales commitment that we have a ready and interested market for “Radical Newcastle”. Judging by the turn out for the Radical Newcastle panel at the Newcastle Writers Festival earlier this year we have no doubt there is a viable market for our book. Furthermore, we already know, for instance, that Newcastle Trades Hall will purchase 20 copies of the book.

What we would like to do in the first instance is to get from you – our most dedicated Radical Newcastle supporters – an indication of your intention to pre-purchase one copy of the book. If we could get a strong indication that our immediate network would agree to pre-purchase say a total of 100 copies of the book, this would be a major factor in our favour.

Saying that you would be interested in purchasing a copy, in no way binds you to actually do so, we are only seeking expressions of interest at this stage to get an idea of the volume we need to order.

Please let us know if you would be interested in possibly purchasing a copy or copies by sending an email to the following address: J.Bennett@newcastle.edu.au

Thank you for your patience with this process and for your continuing support.

All the best,
James Bennett
For the Radical Newcastle editorial collective

History @ Newcastle

Research Seminar Series

ALL WELCOME!! Seminars are held in Cultural Collections @ Auchmuty Library (ground floor, through AIC), from 10am, and are followed by morning tea at 11am.

Week 5 – Friday 4 April 10 am

Professor Ann Curthoys

Professor Ann Curthoys

Presenter – Prof Ann Curthoys, University of Sydney

Title – Australian history and E.P. Thompson: The Making of the English Working Class and its influence on Australian historiography

Abstract – This  paper explores the impact of E.P. Thompson’s classic text, The Making of the English Working Class, on Australian historiography, from its first appearance in 1963 to the present. While many commentators now stress the book’s impact on the fields of Australian labour, social, and cultural history, Australian historians were actually slow to take notice. The book’s influence was slight in the 1960s and 1970s, reached a peak in the 1980s, and thereafter declined somewhat, as questions of Indigenous history, the British imperial context, and transnational approaches came to the fore.

Thus the paper considers the ways in which class, gender, culture, and race have been understood in Australian historiography over the last half century. Along the way, it also explores the work of two of Thompson’s contemporaries – Russel Ward and George Rudé, and ponders the significance of pathways chosen and avoided in creating the historiographical landscape we work in today.

All welcome!

Radical Newcastle Event

Radical Newcastle Event

The program for the forthcoming Newcastle Writers Festival has just been announced 4-6 April 2014. Download your programs from here: http://www.newcastlewritersfestival.org.au/

Make sure you don’t miss the Radical Newcastle free event on Sunday April 6th starting at 1.30PM in the Mulubinba Room Newcastle City Hall.

1.30pm Sunday April 6th, Newcastle City Hall – Writing Radical Newcastle: Leading historians share their stories about the fascinating cast of communists, heritage activists and churchmen who are part of Newcastle’s colourful  past and a new book. With Ann CurthoysGionni Di Gravio and Prof Peter Hempenstall. Hosted by Dr Nancy Cushing. Free session.

Radical Newcastle @ Newcastle Writers Festival

Free event.

  • Sunday, April 6, 2014
  • 1:30pm – 2:30pm
  • Mulubinba – Room – Newcastle City Hall (map)

Protesting against coal with Rising Tide

Paula Morrow

I just told a bloke I met for the first time today in ‘Suspension’, the most activist-friendly coffee-shop in Newcastle, that being involved with groups that protest, that work for positive change, is enlivening.

I am here to tell you that you feel extremely alive when you paddle a kayak out on to the harbour with many others as part of one of the ‘flotillas’ organised by Rising Tide and stop the coal ships for the day. And Vera Deacon has done that in her 80s!

It reminds me of the day 200,000 of us sat down in Sydney’s main streets for the Vietnam Moratorium. And stopped the city.

And when you trespass on to the coal loaders and stop them operating for a few hours.

Or when you run breathless with fear and excitement (and probably lack of fitness once you are over fifty) through the fence and up on to the mountains of coal in the grounds of one of NSW’s filthiest power stations, ‘Bayswater’ near Muswellbrook. You feel very alive then.

I have form as an active member of the Vietnam Moratorium. I was voted on to the NSW co-ordinating committee of the Moratorium, at the age of 24 when I was single mum with a two year old, or a ‘deserted wife’ as they called us in 1970.

I arrived in Newcastle in 1988 with three of my four kids, 15 months after my second husband died of cancer. We were following the eldest who was starting university here. I straight away looked for groups similar to those I had been involved with on the far north coast of NSW: environment groups and co-counselling.  And Quakers.

I went to some environmental group meetings which spawned Newcastle Greens and Trees in Newcastle. I was one of the earliest in Newcastle Greens. And later on I was the (un-official) Newcastle representative to the Greens’ meeting in Sydney that made the decision to form The Australian Greens. I just said that I didn’t think that Newcastle Greens would stand in the way of such a move. (That being the low level of enthusiasm I had judged from our group, for centralisation of any kind.)

My three younger kids were exposed to people talking about politics. I especially remember one magical Greens’ night at John and Carrie’s that included as well as big pots of food, someone playing the didgeridoo. I was glad that they experienced that particular night. This was about the time that Ian who was one of the organisers of The Wilderness Society Newcastle, came on board with the Newcastle Greens and that felt like a strengthening. (I had joined The Wilderness Society from the far north coast, soon after it was formed over the Franklin crisis.)

Other environmental groups started springing up about ten years later, notably Rising Tide. I have been arrested three or four times over the past four or five years with them. On the coal-loaders twice, in the grounds of Bayswater power-station, and in the entrance of parliament house, Canberra. I must come across as a middle-aged feral!

I am happy to answer to the term environmental activist. Or to hippy, from my positive experiences in the hippy commune movement from 1970 in south eastern Queensland and in far northern NSW.

The Sydney Morning Herald was recently kind enough to call me an ‘eco-writer’.

April 08 trespassing on the site of the 3rd coal loader.

The only time I got arrested with my full-time forest activist son Ben was on the first coal-loader jaunt. He had already been diagnosed with cancer by then, had had the exploratory surgery that could do nothing, and a few rounds of chemotherapy, but bounced back into his old spiritual self with the leadership qualities he had exhibited when he came into his own in the forests of NSW and Tasmania.

I felt constricted with fear for him. He was taking photos. It was raining and cold and muddy. Later we were all, about 23 of us, held and harassed in the police station cells in Newcastle for hours. They had taken our water bottles. There was a tap attached to the top of the filthy toilet in the cell I was in with four of the young women. None of us drank from it. I was concerned about Ben, in with the other activist blokes, but weakened by illness and treatment.
In the cells with the idealistic young women, including one who meditated for a bit, I started to tell the story of being in the police station in Kuwait, when I was twenty and a traveller, and how much more desperate and dangerous it was then. I think it was Naomi who particularly wanted to hear, but we were interrupted by the police wanting to catalogue us: photos and fingerprints.

I was concerned that one of the young women in another cell, Chrissie, might get hypothermia and told a cop who seemed to be interested in OH & S and he went and talked to her and got her a blanket. You can always rely on those people, and the reps in a place, to take some responsibility.
The police took everything: our jewellery, wallets, and the aforesaid water bottles as well as our fingerprints and photos.

At one stage an assertive and cranky female cop asked us if we wanted her to get some Maccas in. It must have been about 2 pm by then. I was more concerned about us not drinking anything for hours. All we protesters and ferals had strong ideas on nutrition too. Young rangy men started saying ‘can they leave the meat off mine?’, and ‘can I just have chips?’

‘If you are going to be pedantic, I won’t bother!’ said she, and she didn’t.

Pete Gray had told us early in the day, at our six am start, that he was not happy missing out on actually being in the protest. I assumed he was on bail or something. Pete had a whole feast lovingly arranged for when we got out, late in the day. He had a table set up on the path right outside the police station with a huge selection of breads and dips!

There is often this intense appreciation of each other as individuals who have bothered to step off the well-trodden path and put ourselves on the line in order to try and wake the population up. Wake up to the dangers of evaporating our coal-mines into our atmosphere. Our grandchildren’s only atmosphere.
Bob Brown said at Ben’s funeral in Newcastle in 2009, ‘He was one of the VERY FEW WHO ACTUALLY GET IT!’

Before that I tried to get arrested in the same vicinity as Ben was trying to not get arrested. I walked into the exclusion zone of the Weld Forest in Tassie earlier in 2007. Ben and other direct action activists were climbing through the bush secretly, so that the police could not grab them and put them out of action, while lots of us were walking on the easier logging road. It was still seven kilometres each way, deliberately in the exclusion zone. Including young women with prams. On that rough logging road. There was a public and media blackout zone so the logging company could take out more old-growth forest. I had meant to get arrested but they did not arrest any of us that day.

I have written about meeting some of the Tasmanian forests through Ben’s inviting my daughter and me down there in my novel based on truth: Darwin’s Dilemma: the damage done and the battle for the forests.

In November 2008 we trespassed on Bayswater power station near Muswellbrook.

It was a big drive. I took my car. Jude sat next to me. Jonathan in the back said something about the despair of having all this environmental catastrophe on us. And I said, No! It was ever thus! Before we knew all this. It is the existential angst! The anguish of being conscious beings in animal bodies. I certainly felt it as a young person very keenly, extremely keenly, reading Albert Camus. Fromm was the antidote, The Art of Loving shared amongst those of us who most needed it. And then later Island by Aldous Huxley. The impetus for my own utopian novel, Life in Time. Jude later said that she enjoyed that conversation between Jonathan and me.

Graeme Dunstan was there in his very obvious van. It had a loudspeaker on it! I knew him vaguely as one of the organisers of the Nimbin Aquarius Festival in 1973: the ‘Survival Festival’. I went over ten days early from my banana shed in Mullumbimby to help with the setting up of the festival. Graeme made us a cup of tea out the back of his van after the Bayswater escapade.

I felt again the rush of fear and excitement as we breached the wire fence. And then we run, together. Get in before they stop us! As usual I giggle with the excitement and the unusual effort and wonder if I will keep up. Later, further in, the black mountains of coal are huge and the coal slips away from under my feet which makes me giggle more.

Later we covered for the couple of photographers who needed to get out and get the film out.

One of the workers said he thought we were doing the right thing.

When the police were there and we were reduced to lots of standing around on top of a hill, one of the young protesters said that he thought it was like the anti-Vietnam protesters, everyone thought they were wrong at first and then they were proved right. He seemed a bit thrilled when I told him that I had been part of that too when I was about his age. I was even voted on to the organising committee of the NSW Vietnam Moratorium when I was 24.

And the only time I have been arrested with my daughter was in 2009, in the entrance to Parliament House Canberra, with Rising Tide and people from other states. About 200 of us were arrested when we gathered to try to encourage Kevin Rudd to go for reasonable targets at Copenhagen. My daughter had been radicalised when we spent the night in the Styx Forest as guests of Ben and his small band.

Mind you, I also feel very alive when I swim in the sea, or walk in the bush, and surprisingly when I walk, or catch public transport, in the rain. It takes me back to being a kid, when we all walked or caught buses or trains a whole lot more. A bit of discomfort (not too much thanks!) activates the senses. As does the witnessing of human interactions when we are out in the public space, as opposed to sealed, de-humidified and homogenised, in our cars.
How much more do we then feel enlivened if we meet with others of similar values and try to push for environmental sustainability, or for social justice? And get out there in it?

As Pete Gray signed off on one of his emails to a group of us fellow protesters,

‘Pleasure makin’ trouble with you!’

Vera Deacon was Guest Speaker at the 2012 International Women’s Day Dinner held on the 9th March 2012.

The Event was sponsored by the Newcastle Branch of the Union of Australian Women and held at The Adamstown Club Brunker Road Adamstown.

Vera was introduced by Janet Mundie and spoke on “Life by the Hunter River – Then and Now”

Vera is described as “an island girl who has tried to make the world a better place”

Her speech covered the followed topics including Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the current toxic state of politics and political debate in Australian media, University published book ‘100 Women’, Dr Jean Talbot, Donna Meehan, Hunter Valley and its ongoing care, 101st Anniversary of International Women’s Day, Winning of the Women’s Vote in Australia, Rose Scott, Scott Sisters, Ash Island, Women’s Suffrage Movement, History of Women’s Vote in Australia, ‘My Brilliant Career’, Vera’s early years, Woodstock Street Oakley’s Paddock, Hanbury Street Mayfield, Midwifery, Nurse Whiteman’s Lying In Home, Father works at BHP Coke Ovens, Family moves to Dempsey Island, then Mosquito Island, Labour Movement, Depression Camps, Platt’s Channel, Shortland Camp, Mayfield West Camp, Dole, Vera’s pedigree convicts Irish Catholics bullock driver, Aunty Nola Hawken, Awabakal People, convict women on Nobbys, Lysaghts Girls, Josephine Conway, Marilla North, Janet Copley, Charlie Skene, Vera’s father’s life, Big Ben, Soviet Union, Min Wilson, Communist Party of Newcastle, Socialists, Feminists, Reading, Migrants, Jessie Street and The Women’s Charter, Stockholm Appeal, Ban the Bomb, Dorothy Hewett, Nuclear tests and diseases of Children, Peace, Germaine Greer and the struggle for women’s rights across the world.


Radical Newcastle Symposium Flyer

The Radical Newcastle Symposium was held on the Friday 16 November 2012 from 8.45am to 1.30pm in the cute theatrette in University House.

Speakers included Dr Judith Sandner, Marilla North, Dr Faye Neilson delivering a paper by Dr Angela Philp and Dr Liam Phelan as well as musical and theatrical performances by Paul Spencer and University of Newcastle students.

Radical Newcastle Symposium Programme

A Lyrical Afternoon in celebration of the life and work of Norman Talbot, Dorothy Hewett and Merv Lilley was held at Varuna, The Writers’ House in Katoomba,  on the 15th September 2012.

The first part of the afternoon was dedicated to honouring the life and work of Norman Talbot. Presenters included Dr Jean Talbot, Don Cohen,  President of Catchfire Press, Dr Christopher Pollnitz, Jo Tregellis and Zeny Giles.

Original running order for the segment was as follows :

The Work of Norman Talbot

Introduction by Don Cohen
Jean Talbot gives biographical details then reads the following poems:
First Hen Sonnet (photo)
Mum in a Photograph (photo)
Nine Tailors (photo)
Parachutes in the Second World War (photo)
Bell Pullers
At Aunt Ivy’s Christmas 1944

Followed by Christopher Pollnitz reading the following poems:
The Cactus
The Wrath of Tibrogargan
Birdsong at the Double Locks
The bat, Gunnedah
Listening to Little Wobby: Poetry Class
Followed by Zeny Giles reading from the unpublished novel Sulphurcrest

Followed by Don Cohen reading the following poems:
The Mystic Boiler Maker
The Birds of Lake Macquarie

Followed by Jean Talbot and Don Cohen reading The Pinkerton Haiku.

In addition to the Tribute, the Newcastle Poets also presented readings from recent works as part of the Event. Running order for this segment was Jo Tregellis, Dr Christopher Pollnitz, Zeny Giles, Don Cohen and Dr Jean Talbot.

The second part was dedicated to honouring the life and work of Merv Lilley. Presenters included Rozanna (Rose) Lilley, Marilla North, Tom Flood, Joe Flood and Adele Flood.

The original running order of the Merv Lilley segment (plus one Dorothy poem):

A: Poems (Rose and Marilla): approx. 15 mins
1. [from Git Away Back (1983)] Legend: 1 min

Rose : From What About the People?
2. Lucky Gem (p.14, 1.30)
3. When Freedom Cannot Marry (p.28, 2 mins)
4. The Canecutters Comeback (p.51, 45 secs)

Then Marilla does :
Go Down Red Roses (5 mins)

5. Where Sailor’s Belong (p.54, 1 min)
6. Nostalgia (p.61, 1.35)

Then Marilla does :
Husband of the Poet (2 mins)

B: Merv songs : Tom, Joe, Adele: approx. 15 mins
Anti-Fouling Roll
Cane Killed Abel
Pick-up Shed (2.5 mins)
Birchgrove Park
Possibly a 5th Merv song (shorter than D’s)

C: Poems from Cautious Birds (1973): Rose: approx. 7 mins
To A Sleeping Bird (1 min)
On Holiday (1 min)
God’s Fool (1 min)
The Lesson (1 min)
Through Every Grey Dawn (1 min)
River Road (2 mins)

D: Prose/ Pom reads from Gatton Man (approx. 5 mins)

E: Merv on death: Rose (approx. 3 mins)
From Sandgropers (1973)
Lucy (p.17, 1 min) [about the death of his mother]

Poems Merv wrote late in life
Swift (ms, 1.30) [about the death of his mother/Dorothy]
Request (ms 40 sec)
[this last poem is about Dorothy’s grave, so that segues nicely into the
DH section]

The third and final part of the afternoon was dedicated to honouring the life and work of Dorothy Hewett. Presenters included Rozanna (Rose) Lilley, Rosie Scott, Tom Flood, Joe Flood and Adele Flood.

The original running order of the Dorothy segment is as follows:

A: Dorothy songs: Tom, Joe , Adele [15 mins]
Norman Brown (Tom)
Sailor Home From the Sea (Adele)
Sweet Song for Katie (Adele)
Black Strike (Clancy & Dooley)

B: Rose reads
Once I Rode with Clancy (3 mins)
Living Dangerously

C: Rosie Scott: 10 mins
Halfway Up the Mountain
In Wind and Rain

D: Rose reads from Wild Card (Last Summer) 5 mins

This segment finishes with ‘You’ve said enough’, snaps the ghost of my
grandmother, ‘so hold your tongue.’

Reminiscences (Joe Flood)
End of the Town
Dorothy on Death
Last Rites

Final Song: Weevils in the Flour

At the end of the day was heard the most beautiful Australian song ever written. A poem by Dorothy Hewett in 1963, set to music by Mike Leyden in 1965. Based upon the reminiscences of the Great Depression by our own local treasure Vera Deacon. The “island in the river” is Moscheto Island that once stood in the Hunter River, the BHP was own BHP, the Humpies were those on Platt’s Estate.

A classic Australian song based from memories of Newcastle. http://unionsong.com/u140.html

Weevills in the Flour (Click for a larger image)

UPDATED Weevils in the Flour: A short history of a song by Mark Gregory (1.1MB PDF File)

Please read Weevils in the Flour: A short history of a song by musicologist Mark Gregory. Also included is a note about the new setting of Black Strike (Clancy & Dooley & Don McLeod) relating to the first strike . Mark Gregory, in conversation with Marilla North, has referred us to the eminent  Julian Croft’s (of University of New England) paper he did back in 1999 – “A Sense of Industrial Place” published in ANTIPODES Vol 13 No 1, June 1999. Croft  nominates Newcastle as “the world’s first industrial city” and asserts that it was “atypical of the usual construction of Australian place”. He further asserts that proper parallels for the shaping of Newcastle should be made with Stuttgart, Birmingham and Pittsburgh.  One of Mark’s discovered heroes is “Frank the Poet” who has his own link: http://www.frankthepoet.com  who actually was a convict sited in Newcastle over 1837/1840 and who wrote four poems in or near Newcastle c 1838.

Marilla North, who conceived and organised this event contact Vera Deacon, who unfortunately could not make it. She did send her apologies which included the following reply:

I’d love to be there with Malcolm to remember Dorothy and Norman. One of the great joys of my life in the Sydney Realist Writers meetings was to her Doffy, as our little children called her, say her poems in that wonderful, melodious voice…”Have you heard the children singing…” and “Hiroshima, Hiroshima.” Our fifties generation of young mothers was haunted by fear of the atom bomb tests and our children developing leukemia; a fear powerfully real for Dorothy who had lost her little boy to leukemia. The RWG National Council published Merv Lilley and Dorothy’s collection What About the People. Denis Kevans and I sold that precious collection in the Sydney Domain, when we were invited to recite the poems from various stumps. I treasure a photo of myself, taken in 1964 by an old man, as I spoke from the stump. You can clearly see a copy of What About the People in my hand.

It’s seven years since Denis Kevans, Australia’s ‘Poet Lorikeet’, died in August 2005. Ten years since Doffy left us to sleep in that lovely Springwood bushland place. Eight years since I sat with many others, in silent homage to the moving quaker celebration of Norman Talbot’s life. A few years since I heard Merv Lilley and Jean Talbot perform the “Swan River Love Poem” at a hamilton poets’ night. Our memories, our lives are richer for having known them. Now I have kate Lilley’s selection of Dorothy’s poems and so the music of her life and work lives on.

Please give Merv and Jean a BIG HUG and greet the members of the Performance Celebration for me.

Cheers! Love and Big Hugs for you!!


This rally in Civic park Newcastle brought together people from across the political and social divides.

This was a classic example of how radical Newcastle ticks at its best.


A Eulogy for Laman St

Paul F. Walsh OAM

[Beauty, A Eulogy for Laman St, was written by Paul F Walsh OAM and delivered by him at the Baptist Tabernacle, Laman St, Newcastle, Australia, on Sunday February 26 2012.]

The trees were budding, the birds were singing – the grass was wet – the whole earth was shining. And suddenly I was the trees and the flowers and the birds and the grass – and there was no I at all.

- Kahlil Gibran from Mary Haskell’s journal, May 23 1924.

I am Ignoramus.

We are Beauty.

La Man, a sexual paradox in Laman St, a place where the masculine and feminine aspects of each of us stand either side of a contraceptive barrier erected by fear:

fear of the truth; fear of a hidden Anzac agenda; fear of a genuinely independent assessment; fear of non-independent, dependent, ‘independent’ consultants; fear of the great lie within our chamber of secrets; fear of insurance-driven lack of assurance; fear of mediation; fear of collaborative oneness; fear of the mal in maladministration; fear of the loss of an ethical and moral compass; fear of manipulative blindness masquerading as vision; fear of non-representative representation; fear of institutionalized deceit; fear of unregulated regulators turning a blind eye; fear of a lack of genuine parliamentary oversight; fear of oxymoronic government neutrality; fear of the fig leaf covering our cultural ugliness; fear of Beauty.

I am Ignoramus.

We are Beauty.

Beauty:  December 27 1930: ‘In one of the first utterances after his election as Mayor of Newcastle Ald. Parker made a welcome statement of his intention to use his energies for the beautification of the city. He spoke of the beaches, but the most interesting feature of his statement was his reference to trees.’

Ignoramus: ‘Chop them down! Crucify them! Chop, chop chop!’

Beauty: December 27 1930: ‘If he does nothing else but inaugurate a new era of tree planting, he will leave a name that will be honoured and sung in the years to come. A memorial erected in stone in recognition of civic services cannot be compared with the memorial living in the hearts of each succeeding generation. And it is the latter kind of memorial that will be the Mayor’s reward…’

Ignoramus: ‘Chop them down! Crucify them! Chop, chop, chop!

Beauty: December 27 1930: ‘A young tree in a park is an invitation to the rude destructive hands of boys and girls, and sometimes the parents witness the work of destruction unmoved. If spoken to, they remark with surprise that it is only a tree.’

Ignoramus: ‘Chop them down! Crucify them! Chop, chop, chop!’

Beauty: December 27 1930: ‘In the case of ill-treatment of a dog or cat or some other animal they would be instantly stirred to action, but a tree does not cry out: it submits silently to destruction. Where there is no poetry in the soul, this view can be understood, but the city should have poetry in its soul, and it should deal with those who would either crush beauty or despoil it.’

Ignoramus: ‘Chop them down! Crucify them! Chop, chop, chop!’

Beauty: December 27 1930: ‘With the younger generation there should be special efforts in the schools to promote a tree sense, and this should lead to the protection of trees already planted…’

Ignoramus: ‘Chop them down! Crucify them! Chop, chop, chop!’

Beauty: January 6 1931: A sentiment attributed to Alderman O’Neill: ‘He agreed with what had been said, that a “tree spirit” should be inaugurated.’

Ignoramus: ‘Chop them down! Crucify them! Chop, chop, chop!’

Beauty: January 6 1931: A sentiment attributed to Alderman Gibson: ‘What has been done in a few months on the barren block of land facing the Town Hall showed what attention could do. The trees were already nearly 2 ft in height. They were beautiful.’

The trees of Laman St were equally beautiful, and Ignoramus killed them.

Ignoramus killed Beauty.

Ignoramus declared Beauty to be dangerous.

Beauty might attack his tenuous grip on the tail of Simpson’s donkey. But a strong wind event from the back of the beast might cause Beauty to swoon and fall.

‘Chop them down! Crucify them! Chop, chop, chop!’

Ignoramus cannot imagine do-gooders at Anzac Cove. Nor can he see tree-huggers at Lone Pine. His grand revitalization vision can see only himself, the past universal I reflected back to him from every superficial non-reflective surface.

Ignoramus wears his Pyrrhic victory like a borrowed raincoat to protect him from a torrent of contrary Newcastle Voices. In his limited limitless mind Ignoramus is the community. Anybody else is a passing storm of something other, and that other must be a noisy thunder-clapping, lightning minority, no matter how majority that minority may be.

Ignoramus does not recognize the Anzac spirit in the Laman St pickets. He does not recognize unity in community. He does not recognize victory in apparent defeat.

Ignoramus does not recognize what he seeks to commemorate.

Ignoramus destroys what he seeks to commemorate.

‘Chop them down! Crucify them! Chop, chop, chop!’

I hear the choir of birds singing in the canopy at dawn as we nervously await the approach of the centurions. I take one last lingering look: these beautiful figs have fashioned an arboreal cathedral, a sacred grove, a living memorial; they are a parable of unity in community: fourteen living as one. I want to tell them to run away, to uproot themselves and save Beauty for another day.

But Beauty does not run. Beauty is too deeply rooted in the poetry in our souls to run. The wisdom of 1930 still rings true. Beauty does not cry out: she submits silently to destruction.

Ignoramus crucified Beauty on the cross of her own wood.

And yet Ignoramus and Beauty live within each of us.

We are all responsible. We are all one.

Where is Beauty’s burial place from which hope might spring?

There is no resurrection of this crucified Beauty in Laman St but there is surely a resurrection of Beauty in our hearts.

We are the figs!

We are the figs!

We are the figs!

Let us shade and comfort each other.

And when next we enter the polling booths in the Novocastrian Spring, that time of new life, a new dawn, a newer world, let Beauty cast our ballot, let us uphold an electoral mirror so that Ignoramus may see Beauty reflected.

I am Ignoramus.

We are Beauty.

‘The trees were budding, the birds were singing – the grass was wet – the whole earth was shining. And suddenly I was the trees and the flowers and the birds and the grass – and there was no I at all.’

Kahlil Gibran from Mary Haskell’s journal, May 23 1924.

Beauty, A Eulogy for Laman St, was written by Paul F Walsh OAM and delivered by him at the Baptist Tabernacle, Laman St, Newcastle, Australia, on Sunday February 26 2012.

Mr Walsh thanks:

Susan Harvey of Tusk Productions for creative editorial support and research assistance; Gionni Di Gravio, University Archivist, University of Newcastle, for research advice, research contributions and creative assistance.

Mr Walsh acknowledges quotations from:

‘I Care About Your Happiness, Quotations from the Love Letters of Kahlil Gibran and Mary Haskell, selected by Susan Polis Schutz; designed and illustrated by Stephen Schutz; Continental Publications, 1975 and Coolabah Gallery.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, Saturday December 27 1930, ‘Trees and the City’.

Newcastle International Women's Day Celebrations 1944-2011

Photographs and images compiled by Jude Conway for the Radical Newcastle Colloquium held at the University Gallery, 2 December 2011.

Click here to access the complete set: http://www.flickr.com/photos/uon/sets/72157628324360701/

And click here for the slideshow: http://www.flickr.com/photos/uon/sets/72157628324360701/show/