Heritage Gest

Heritage, Exploits, Stories

Chinese Kiandra or Gold and Geomancy

‘In front there is a Red Bird followed by a slow-moving Turtle at the rear to the left is the Azure Dragon and to the right a White Tiger’.

Sounds appropriately mystical and treasure-huntey right? Exactly the type of clue your favourite pop culture archaeologist would be following right?

This quote is from the Li Ji or Book of Rites. It is one of the Five Classics of the Confucian Canon and was written around 213 BC and describes the social forms, governmental system and ceremonial rites of the Zhou Dynasty (1046–256 BC).

One of the topics this book covers is Geomancy, or the art of placing or arranging buildings on sites auspiciously. According to the Li Ji, where you should establish a settlement should be dictated by these features. The Phoenix should be to the south catching the sun. A source of water nearby. The Tortoise, Dragon and Tiger all providing shelter from prevailing winds, giving shelter and privacy to the settlement.

Let’s skip forward about 2200 years to the Snowy Mountains in NSW. Kiandra is a now abandoned town that is located on the Snowy Mountains Highway between Tumut and Adaminaby. The town owes its existence to the discovery of gold at Pollock’s Gully in 1860. For a broad history of the town have a look at the website of the Kiandra Historical Society. Today all that is left are a few buildings and a massive archaeological landscape (tips on how to read such a landscape will form the topic of a future post). Jennifer Hewitson was previously the Historic Heritage Project Coordinator, Kiandra Heritage Precinct and has put together some awesome albums on Kiandra past and present.

By the end of 1860 the population of Kiandra had risen to 7000 people, 10% of which were Chinese. The rush was short and sharp and within 3 years the town had a population of only 650 people. Of these over half were Chinese, reflecting their ongoing success on the goldfields of NSW at that time.

There had always been tensions between European and Chinese miners in the colony, the most notorious event being on the night of 30 June 1861 when about 2000 Europeans drove the Chinese out of their camp at Lambing Flat destroying tents and looting possessions. Back at Kiandra, the good and Christian folk of the town did not want the Chinese camped too close to them, so an initial camp was moved by order of the Gold Commissioner to a location further away from the township.

Only three contemporary newspaper records of the location of the new Chinese Camp survive from the time. These are that the camp was to the ‘east of the township sheltered under the brow of a small hill’, ‘on the hill fronting the government camp on the eastern side of the gully’ and ‘about half a mile down river’.

Exactly where this settlement was located was not known for sure. It wasn’t until the mid-1990s that, Lindsay Smith, a Masters student at the Australian National University began the search for the Chinese at Kiandra that the exact location was found. Lindsay’s thesis on identifying Chinese ethnicity in the archaeological record is titled Cold Hard Cash. What is really interesting is how Lindsay found the settlement. He went back to first principles. How did the Chinese like to establish their settlements? They wanted to have a water source where the sun came from (Red Phoenix) (south in the northern hemisphere, north in the southern). A strong protective back (Dark Tortoise) with undulating hills to the west and east (Green Dragon and White Tiger). Using these parameters Lindsay started to look for likely places for the settlement, combined with the information contained in the newspaper accounts he found the lost Chinese settlement of Kiandra (well not completely lost, just a little misplaced).


This picture from Jennifer Hewitson shows an outcrop of rock about a kilometre from the Snowy Mountains Highway. This is the Dark Tortoise behind which the Chinese settlement was located. The principles set out in a book written in 213 BC helped define a perfect place for the camp. A rocky outcropping behind the settlement; protected from prevailing winds by small hills to the east and west; access to its own water and capitalising on the winter sun to the north(ish). Figure 2 in this article by Lindsay shows a plan of the Chinese settlement, the large rock outcropping is the same as in Jennifer’s photo. Obviously the real world doesn’t always match people’s pre-established ideas of how it should work so what we see is a best fit of the ideal on the actual.

The quote that I used at the beginning of this post is actually applicable to real world archaeology, not just treasure hunting movies. Of course in the real world the language would look something like this:

If looking for the ideal place for a Chinese settlement in rural Australia look for somewhere north facing with its own water source. Protected from prevailing winds on the sides and at the rear. Look for somewhere comfortable and private.

I know that it is accurate and prosaic. And that is really how archaeology really works. But sometimes it’s good to have the excitement, the romance, the gest.

So come seeker of treasures. That which you wish to find is hidden by the great shell of the Dark Tortoise. It is guarded by the Azure Dragon and White Tiger. When you reach the Red Phoenix it will show you your goal.

Since we are on the subject of fictional archaeology this is my favorite scene from the Indiana Jones movies.

Coming up next on Heritage Gest….

Mount Panorama or Spooner’s Repression Delief Scheme

Talk Soon.


Shep Woolley or more on Sea Shanties


Sorry for the delay in getting to this but life got in the way. This is part two of my Sea Shanties post following on from my educational yet fun and rousing shanty from early August.

Shep Woolley is an entertainer who served in the Royal Navy. In 1975 he left the Navy to begin a career as a full time entertainer. Have a look at Shep’s  own website to find out a bit more about him. What I did know about him came from the cassettes and later CDs that my father would play. My father had a career in the Royal Australia Navy, a life that two of my siblings have also followed. So I have grown up and continue to be surrounded by stories about life in the Navy. Shep’s songs and stories resonated initially with my father, and now, siblings because they told the stories that were familiar to them. These stories had their own language, their own identity.

There is an introduction of one of Shep’s CD’s that starts with the line “the music he writes today may well be the folk history of tomorrow”. This introduction hints at something important about music and stories.

What is found in Shep’s music and in fact in all music is a something of the culture, the history and society that led to its creation. But how important is this? Why should anyone care? UNESCO does. In 2003 it ratified the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. You can read through it at your own leisure. But the bit I want to draw your attention to is the definition of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals and festivals, traditional craftsmanship. All this is an important part of our heritage.

I mentioned in my first post that I didn’t want to just talk about bones and stones well ICH is exactly that, the not bones and stones. Here is just a sample of some of the UNESCO inscribed elements that appealed to me: Slovakian Bagpipes ; Arabic Coffee ; and East Asian Tugging Rituals .

The importance of stories and songs is universal. The theme for NAIDOC (National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee) week in 2016 was ‘Songlines: The living narrative of our nation.’ This was an opportunity to celebrate the traditional songs, stories, dance and art that carry significant spiritual and cultural connection to knowledge, customs, ceremony and Lore of many Aboriginal nations and Torres Strait Islander language groups. The intangible is as important as, or even more so, than the tangible.

So back to Shep. I grew up hearing about Jimmies and Buffers and Kelligs. Runs ashore in civvies while being up-top. Greenies, Dib Dabs, Stokers and Dhobi Gear. This is the language of serving and past members of the Navy. So when Shep Woolley is singing a shanty he is singing about a lifestyle, a shared history and a comradeship that endures for those who experienced it. Even for me who didn’t go into the Navy, they are a comfortable place, a reminder of my life, my past.

Now I know that Slovakian Bagpipes or mostly unintelligible Navy slang can be a bit obscure so let me give you with two examples of Intangible Cultural Heritage that just about everyone either in Australia or across The Ditch can relate to.

If you want to have some fun sit back, grab a beer and enjoy some ICH that some 6.3 million Australians engage in weekly. If you actually want to hear a proper expert give a really interesting and informative presentation on ICH listen to Professor Máiréad Nic Craith Chair of European Culture and Heritage and Director of Research Heriot-Watt, given in 2015.

My suggestion is check both out. By the way happy Talk Like a Pirate Day for Monday

Coming up next on Heritage Gest….

Chinese Kiandra or Gold and Geomancy

Talk Soon Me Hearties.

Just because I like a Sea Shanty

The Australian Institute for Maritime Archaeology teaches a 4-part course on maritime archaeology in conjunction with the Nautical Archaeology Society. I am currently working through the stages to become a tutor for this course, which involves presenting all of the lectures that are run as a part of the two-day course.

As I mentioned last time, I am not a maritime archaeologist and presenting the lecture on ship construction was difficult, do you have any idea how many different parts of a ship there are? Luckily, to help me learn them, I wrote a ship-parts sea shanty, because I like a shanty

Now I have no musical ability so I stole the tune and structure from a performer named Shep Woolley. He is a comedian and performer and ex-member of the Royal Navy. In an odd coincidence Shep will be the subject of my next post so more on him later.

Have a listen here to get a feel for the tune and tempo I appropriated. Got it, right. For your gratification and to help teach you what makes up ship I give you, Roll on the Tide (chorus on the left following verse on the right).

Roll on the tide boys                    The stempost is at
Roll on the tide                              The bow of the ship
I’ve found an old shipwreck           It runs to the bowsprit
Lyin on her side                             Also known as the jib
What are the bits                          The hawsehole lets
I see before me                              The anchor chain run out
And what exactly                          To stop the ship
Is a hanging knee                         From floating about

Roll on the tide boys                     The anchor can act
Roll on the tide                               To help date a ship
I’ve found an old shipwreck           Admiralty, Patent
Lyin on her side                            And Wasteneys Smith
What are the bits                          Under the water
I see before me                              The chain can be found
And what exactly                          Extended out
Is a lodging knee                          Or in a big mound

Roll on the tide boys                    Then there’s the keel
Roll on the tide                              So strong and so broad
I’ve found an old shipwreck           It runs down the ship
Lyin on her side                             Between port and starboard
What are the bits                          It tells the length
I see before me                              Of the ship that we’re on
And what exactly                          Its internal member
Is a standing knee                        Is called a keelson

Roll on the tide boys                    The rudder is found
Roll on the tide                              Attached to the stern
I’ve found an old shipwreck           With pintles and gudgeons
Lyin on her side                             It helps the ship turn
What are the bits                          With chain or hydraulic
I see before me                              The tiller helps us get far
And what exactly                          But what’s a Worm Drive
Is a dagger knee                            A bloody small car

Roll on the tide boys                     Now engines have boilers
Roll on the tide                               Funnels and gears
I’ve found an old shipwreck           They can be steeple
Lyin on her side                             Diagonal, Side Levers
What are the bits                           Grasshopper, Oscillating
I see before me                               Beam and Compound
And what exactly                           Reuses the steam
Is a composite knee                      A second time round

Roll on the tide boys                    So at last we have a
Roll on the tide                              Collection of knees
I’ve found an old shipwreck          Hanging and Lodging
Lyin on her side                             Dagger, Standing you see
What are the bits                          As a structural supports
I see before me                              To reinforce hulls and decks
And what exactly                          They’re spotted all round
Is a bloody knee                            All types of wrecks

Roll on the tide boys
Roll on the tide
I’ve found an old shipwreck
Lyin on her side
Now my songs done
Sung with some pride
All that’s left is to say
Roll on the tide

Coming up next on Heritage Gest….

 Shep Woolley or more on Sea Shanties.

Talk Soon.


Old Jindabyne or it’s not just all about shipwrecks

Jindabyne is a year round holiday destination in the Snowy Mountains. Hiking, canoeing or mountain bike riding in summer or as a base for skiing in winter, Jindabyne has a lot going for it. The countryside around it is stunning and the first views of the town across the lake as you approach from East Jindabyne, awesome!

So when I mention shipwrecks talking about a place located at an altitude of 915m and approximately 130 km as the crow flies from the ocean is the obvious starting point.

The mention of maritime archaeology either invokes the names of some of the pioneers in the field (George F. Bass, Robert F. Marx, R.D. Ballard, Alexander McKee) or perhaps the Hollywood portrayals (Matthew McConaughey in Sahara or perhaps Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson in Fools Gold).

UNESCO estimates that there are approximately 3 million shipwrecks undiscovered around the world. In fact if you ask most people what is Maritime Archaeology you will get the answer shipwrecks first. Then you will probably get answers like maritime infrastructure (wharves/lighthouses), maybe crashed planes. Some people might add things like shipwreck survivor camps, Aboriginal sites such as fishtraps. The way these terms are defined is a topic of ongoing discussion in the field of maritime archaeology and you could check out the Australian Institute for Maritime Archaeology or Nautical Archaeology Society for some more in-depth discussion.

I am not a trained maritime archaeologist but I have picked up a lot of what I know through working with a good friend of mine Sarah Ward. Sarah has 15 years’ experience in the field, has worked in over 30 countries, runs a successful consultancy and I consider her to be my mentor. If you really want to understand maritime archaeology, what it is and where it can take you, Sarah’s blog Indiana Sarah, is a great place to start.

When you look at the NSW State Heritage Register there are dozens of listings that have maritime links including: lighthouses and associated infrastructure (Green Cape Maritime Precinct, Norah Head Lightstation Precinct); shipwrecks (Green Cape Maritime Precinct, Hive Shipwreck, the M24 Japanese Midget Submarine Wreck Site); shipwreck cemeteries (Green Cape Maritime Precinct); and Aboriginal sites (Brewarrina Aboriginal Fishtraps/Baiame’s Nghunnhu).  These show the wide range of sites that under the term maritime.

But how does the town of Jindabyne fall into this category? The Jindabyne that we see today is actually the second town to hold that name. The original Jindabyne sits beneath the placid waters of Lake Jindabyne, at a depth of up to 40m metres.  The earliest settlement in the Jindabyne area began with the advance of graziers in the 1820s. The goldrush of the 1860s saw an influx of settlers and the development of the town. Over the course of a century it grew into a thriving mountains community. Everything was going fine until the idea arose for the Snowy Mountains Scheme. This was the beginning of the end for Old Jindabyne. In the 1940s plans were developed to build a massive dam at Jindabyne. This would however mean the complete flooding of the township of Jindabyne. A new town was planned on the high ground adjacent to the town.

In 1964 the new township officially opened. An entire new town was constructed, people relocated. New shops, houses, churches, schools all constructed to replace a town to be abandoned and submerged. Over the course of the next three years people continued to live in Old Jindabyne until the last residents finally left in 1967. Have a look at this series of clips from 1965 to get a perspective of the event from the time.

Imagine the scenes. The elderly who had lived in Jindabyne for decades forced to move to a new and unfamiliar town. Perhaps for the children it was a great adventure, but for their mothers and fathers the loss of livelihoods created uncertainty, fear. It is easy to understand their concerns; forced to move because a government hundreds of kilometres away makes a decision for the greater good. Easy to make decision when it is not your town, your home that is to be destroyed. These sorts of decisions are still being made today. Badgerys’s Creek Airport and the West Connex are just two examples. These projects are forcing people from their homes. How history judges them will be interesting.

However, Old Jindabyne has a new life. Today it is one of Australia’s premier inland dive sites. Yes that’s right; you can scuba dive in places other than the ocean. The remains of the old township are there for all to see. Houses, roads, churches, cars, water tanks, all the familiar trappings of country life can still be seen beneath the waters. Now I haven’t dived it myself, it is a goal I am working towards. But what remains are the places where people lived, what they did and how they did it before the town was submerged. Check out some of the videos from others have made the dive (love the soundtrack on this one).

So next time you happen to be going past a dam spare a thought for what may have been lost to create that dam. Hume Dam in Victoria and Happy Valley Reservoir in South Australia have each submerged towns (I’ll leave it to you to find out which ones if you’re interested). In Australia and overseas, each new dam will impact the lives of those unfortunate enough to be in the area to be inundated. Homes lost, people relocated, lives uprooted (1.3 million people were relocated during the construction of the Three Gorges Dam in China).

So I don’t leave you on too much of a bummer this article from the Daily Mail  shows some cool images of submerged churches from around the world; everything I just said notwithstanding.

Coming up next on Heritage Gest….

 Just because I like a Sea Shanty

Talk Soon.

Firehorse Lane or why toponymy is cool

Let’s get through the apologies first. This post will only peripherally be about fires and horses and definitely not about horses that are on fire. So if the last thing is what you are in to then get help.

The title of this post comes from Firehorse Lane in Parramatta. For most people it is the shortest and quickest route from Parramatta Railway Station to what some would argue is the best coffee in Parramatta.

Although most people I know head there for coffee, I think that there is much better coffee at a place on George Street. Actually, it is not the so much coffee, but they do have terrariums. Terrariums are quite cool, kind of like bow-ties, Jammy Dodgers and the word Geronimo; but I digress.

Toponyms are place names and toponymy is the study of these names. Some are easy; Adelaide (Queen Adelaide, consort of King William IV), New South Wales (obvious), Macquarie Street, George Street (you get the idea). Others are less so and are associated with past uses of places. For those of you who know Sydney you may know Fort Street and Bridge Street. These are not just random names they tell us what these places were used for.

Bridge Street, about 200m from the Circular Quay was once a bridge. The link below is to an 1803 painting by G.W. Evans of Sydney Cove from the State Library of NSW catalogue.  Look for the bridge to the right of the image.  Its name reflects its past, but more than this it starts to tell the story of how Sydney has changed. Land reclaimed; a city expanded.

Fort Street, the street that ran to a Fort built at Dawes Point (named after Lieutenant William Dawes), built in 1789, one year after the founding of the colony. For over a century the Fort was upgraded and changed to deal with new and changing threats to the British Empire. The construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge led to the demolition of the Fort and associated buildings. And like that….gone. All we have left is the name Fort Street. There is an Upper and Lower Fort Street. The names of these have to do with the topography of the site; the upper street leading to the fort and the lower street leading to the fort.

So to Firehorse Lane. The 20 storey built in 2006 has cut off the link between Firehorse Lane and the former Fire Station on Church Street. In fact, standing in Firehorse Lane there is nothing to suggest this connection. However the laneway was the service point for the Fire Station, where the horses that were used to provide transport for the fire-fighters were kept.

If you happen to be standing around waiting for your latte or long black in Firehorse Lane, spare a thought for the brave firefighters who, in 1939 tried to extinguish a fire at the Old Victoria Theatre. The building was gutted and collapsed around the firefighters. Fortunately, there were only minor injuries and no-one was killed. These were the men who risked their lives to protect others.

Their legacy lives on today in the efforts of the professional and volunteer fire fighters throughout Australia. The women and men who sacrifice their time and sometimes their lives to help others in time of disasters. Their stories are the continuation of the story of those men, who tried to save the Old Victoria Theatre.

The story, the history of Firehorse Lane is one that has reverberations today and it can be found in the name of this unpretentious laneway.

The naming of places to reflect their function or characteristics is not just a European tradition. The place names given to the landscape by Australia’s first inhabitants can be read in the same way. Burramatta – place where the eels lie down and Girrawee – place of white cockatoos are just two examples of place names that denote a function, a history, a story of people living in the landscape.

Some would argue that the study of toponymy may be boring, staid, nothing more than an academic exercise. But you know what? I think it’s cool. It gives us an insight into the past. These place names tell of a past. Tell stories of the people who have gone before us and the lives they have lived. Geronimo.

So next time you are somewhere think about the place names around you. Where are the lime kilns near Lime Kiln Bay? What is Three Mile Dam three miles from? Who were the unknown fighters at Pugilistic Creek.

Just to up the geek factor I grabbed the 1:25,000 topographic maps for Kingsdale and Braidwood and found fifteen place names that seem to denote a former function or use. Sixteen if you include Sawyer Road and assume that is was named for its relationship with the timber industry rather than just after someone named Sawyer.

Coming up next on Heritage Gest….

Old Jindabyne or it’s not just all about shipwrecks.

Talk Soon.


Gest is a word usually found in romantic literature. It is a tale of romance or history, a notable deed or exploit. So why use it in the title of a blog about heritage. After all, most of us know what heritage is right?

So if you look to your left you will see a two-storey terrace built in 1883 which is a part of a historically significant precinct. Note the fine example of Victorian filigree architecture….the unique Georgian town planning….

Sorry drifted off for a bit there.

Don’t get me wrong, I like a piece of Victorian Filigree Architecture as much as the next person, but you know heritage isn’t just about sandstone buildings; it is also the stories about the people who have lived in and experienced our landscape and its places.

Take for example the Hero of Waterloo pub in The Rocks, Sydney. It is, according to its State Heritage Listing, significant because of its strong vernacular design, the fact it retains substantial evidence of its original form and is an integral part of the Millers Point precinct. Technically correct, and an important part of the building’s heritage.

But what about the secret tunnel that legend says ran to the harbour and was used for smuggling and the occasional Shanghaiing of sailors. Or the ghost of the former innkeeper’s wife, Anne Kirkman who ‘fell’ down the stairs in 1849 and is said to still haunt the hotel, playing beautiful piano music.

Heritage is much more than stones and bones. It is the landscape, the names we see in our cities and towns, the connections that people have with places and each other. The ubiquitous Chinese restaurant found in rural towns, the Greek cafés, archaeology, shipwrecks, songlines and stories. These are all aspects of our heritage that I want to explore. Some tangible, some not. Some big and important, and some just small, personal and interesting. That is why Gest is a perfect name for this blog. I want to share the histories, the romance and the deeds, big and small that make up our heritage.

I have worked in archaeology and heritage management for over a decade. Okay, not as long as some others, but I came to it a bit late. I may tell you about it sometime.

What I have come to realize is there is a whole lot of stuff I see, places I get to visit and stories I hear that make up this giant web that is our heritage that do not seem to get out there. So this is my attempt to share some of what I know and hopefully contribute to a much broader discussion of what heritage is and what it means. No mean feat for 600 words per post; which the more knowledgeable websites on these matters suggest is the ideal length for a blog.

I know that’s it not all about me (insert frowning emoticon face here). Our heritage, what is important to us, is individual. So let me know what you consider to be your heritage, what you consider to be heritage generally or if there is something you want to know, I will see what I can do.

Left to my own devices you will get a series of posts about what is in my mind at the time. It will probably come from things I am reading, places I visit or just stuff that pops into my head. So that’s about it.

That is how this blog is likely to go. If I can make it interesting for you then yay, if I can help expand your idea of what heritage is then double yay. If you can teach me something I don’t know or help me look at something in a brand new way then triple yay.

Don’t get used to this because I am not sure I can sustain it but, coming up next on Heritage Gest….

Firehorse Lane or why toponymy is cool.

Talk Soon.

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Recording history in the Hawkesbury and beyond

Touring the Hawkesbury - history and heritage

Indiana Sarah

Heritage, Exploits, Stories

Heritage Gest

Heritage, Exploits, Stories