What is history?   The subject came up at a discussion I participated in, in the context of statues of Confederate notables , such as Gen. Robert E. Lee, being removed in America’s South.    Doesn’t this constitute a re-writing of history?   Or is it legitimate to remove symbols that remind us of “distasteful” events in the past?  Or is it a question of degree?  For example, a statue of Hitler would be regarded as distasteful by almost everyone. Obviously there are no easy answers!

There have been lots of instances of statues being removed over the years.  For example Ukraine recently removed all statues of Lenin (apparently 1,320 in total).   And in recent years, the removal of statues has been raised in Russia.     This wouldn’t be new:   statues of the Tsars were removed after the 1917 revolution.  Is it that history is politics looking backwards?

If so, how ought it work at Cooma, where there are flags denoting the countries from which people who worked on the project came;  should these be changed as the countries change (such has occurred in the Balkans), or even as countries change their flag (as with South Africa)?

The above barely touches on the the topic.   Right now, there are discussions occurring in Australia about statues of Captain Cook (even if the discussion seems to be more about the inscription), and not so long ago in Britain, there was an issue about the statue of Cecil B Rhodes at Oriel College, Oxford.     Perhaps topics for future posts!



Matthew Flinders

Down at Mornington (and here) they’re aware of their connection with Matthew Flinders.   I see that Flinders landed at Birdrock Beach (a little way to the south)  on 29 April 1802 and carried his survey instruments to Schnapper Point from which he made the first survey of Port Phillip Bay.  Flinders wasn’t the first to enter or even map Port Phillip, but seemingly his work was respected because it was comprehensive.

There a nice statue of Flinders in the park.  This was erected as a Bicentennial project, along with a separate marker and plaque.  The obelisk at the highest point of the cliffs commemorates the 150th anniversary of his entry into Port Phillip Bay, and, alongside it, the compass commemorates the 200th anniversary of his birth.  There’s  also a plaque at the base of the flagpole.

Bicentennial sculpture
At base of flagpole
Cairn marking 150th anniversary of Flinders entering Port Phippip Bay
Plaque on compass
Bicentennial plaque

Night Life

We went to the Night Life exhibition being put on by the National Trust at Ripponlea.     It showcases evening wear (almost exclusively women’s)  from the early 1920s – featuring lots of beads and glitter – to the “Moderne” style of the 30s (with a greater focus on prints).

It also includes  the works of some contemporary Melbourne  designers who view the era through modern eyes.

From generation to generation

I see that it’s been reported that the last person known to have been born in the 1800s has died.   Isn’t it interesting that someone born in the 21st century, who might well live into the 22nd century could, in theory, have spoken to this woman?

Looking back on history, we tend to think of centuries as being distinct, yet here we have a possibility of four centuries being spanned in two lifetimes.

Bernard Salt recently wrote about this, putting it into the context of a type of time travel:   “If a centenarian today had spoken at, say, the age of seven (in 1924) to their 100-year-old great-grandparent, who in turn had spoken about their childhood recollections, it is possible to connect with a second-hand account of life in 1831. Is this not time travel? Even a 100-year-old’s recollections of their parents provides a window into the mores of the late 19th century.”

Except for the fact that life expectancies in the past were less than they are today, on Bernard’s assumptions it’s possible that a person living in 1852 could have heard 2nd hand about the Great Fire of London in 1666!

UPDATE:   Here’s a report about the woman who might now be the oldest person living.

Streets where we live

The Stonnington History Centre has a temporary display focussing on the evolution of the local urban landscape.   It’s not large but I found some of the material extremely interesting, such as the  early Crown maps which gave an insight into the original landholdings in the area.  These pre-dated the railway, so from these, and from the slightly later maps with the original streets marked, you could ascertain the changes to the streets that took place when the railway went through.

There were early rate books and a slide show of interesting houses that have now been demolished, as well as a number of photos depicting early streetscapes and aerial views.




The streetscapes were from various periods, but I was particularly interested that one or two of them dated from the ’30s, where the scenes depicted were still almost “semi rural”.   It’s a reminder that things have changed a great deal over the last few generations.

The display is set up in an area that’s a bit off the beaten track, so there didn’t appear to be a lot of visitors.   Given the interesting material on display, I thought that was a bit of a pity.


I was vaguely aware that Guadacanal was the site of a major battle during World War 2 (75 years ago this year), but I admit I didn’t know much about it.    The we got a phone call from C, who had just returned from spending 3 weeks in the course of her work at Honiara in the Solomons, where she had been introduced in a tangible way to the history of the battle (apparently before that, she knew even less about it than I did).

She had visited the open air museum with various relics, and had scuba dived around the wreck of one of the Japanese ships.

It sounds very interesting, but even so, apparently the weather in the Solomons is pretty oppressive (at least at this time of year), and the tourist facilities seem not to be well-developed (although the diving is said to be great), so I have to admit a visit there is quite a long way down my “to do” list.

Open air museum
Open air museum 2
Open air museum 3
Sunken Japanese ship now diving site
Trenches where Allies trained
Scenery is good, too