A winter walking trip

It was the end of Autumn, and one of these weekends where the garden turns from a golden symphony of reds and yellows to a mess of sodden rain soaked leaves and bare branches.

When we had gone to Apollo Bay earlier in year we had conceived the madcap scheme of walking some bits of the Great Ocean Coastal walk at the start of winter.

Yes, it’ll be cold we told ourselves, but equally the weather’s often fine then after the Autumn storms have passed.

Looking out on the wet garden the day before departure, we began to regret our ambition, but it was too late to back out now.

So, we were up before the sun, loading the car in the dark, and off by 8.30 in the morning. The weather had cleared more or less, with only the odd smirr of rain, and while cold and blowy, the sun began to peep through the clouds.

Rather than drive through Melbourne, we turned off at Broadford, and heading west via Kilmore made for Woodend, where we stopped for lunch at an unassuming but excellent cafe – more than decent coffee, and one of the best Reuben toasted sandwiches I have tasted outside of New York. J’s rather more prosaic cheese and tomato toastie was also excellent with a decent dash of a strong mustard in with the tomato.

Then on to Geelong heading down through Gisborne and Bacchus Marsh on a stretch of road that seemed to go on forever, and we then followed the upgrade Princes Highway to somewhere west of Winchelsea, where we turned off to Birragurra.

When we had come down in March, there had been diversions, road closures and endless roadworks, but this time we reached Birragurra without any detours, only to find ourselves detoured after Birragurra, with various roadworks on the way through the Otways to Skenes Creek. And the rain came back in great pelting winter squalls to add to the fun.

We had planned to be at the Food Works in Apollo Bay for three or just after but we ended up reaching Apollo Bay just before four.

Supplies bought, we set off on the final rain soaked seventy or so kilometres to our remote destination – the owners had warned us that we needed to bring everything – hence the stop to stock up in Apollo bay. We were conscious that the light would begin to go just after five and we finished the journey in the dark.

Fortunately, the owners had left the heating on and an outside light making finding it and unloading a relatively straight forward exercise.

A couple of glasses of wine, a veggie pasta and an early night, and we were fine.

The next morning we woke to howling rain screaming in off the southern ocean. Other than a family of kookaburras hiding in a tree on the edge of the property there was no life to be seen at all. No seabirds, no parrots, no cockatoos, zilch.

We had our own problems, we discovered we’d forgotten to bring any ground coffee. Fortunately the owners had provided a nespresso machine and a complimentary box of capsules, so while I’m not a fan of capsule machines, thinking them wasteful and the coffee poor quality on the whole, for once I put up with them.

says it all

Around lunchtime the weather cleared and we walked down to Moonlight Head in the hope of perhaps seeing an early season migrating whale, but no, no such luck. As we got back to our unit it began to spit with rain suggesting that the rest of the day was probably going to be tea, biccies, and books …

rainy tuesday

And yes, it seriously rained and blew a gale for most of the night, meaning after a tuna bake and a glass of pinot noir for dinner,we curled up and read books. While there was TV in the unit, we could only get the standard broadcast channels, and nothing appealed, meaning an early night..

By sunrise the next morning, the rain had gone but the trees were still being whipped by the wind, but gradually the wind began to ease, and by mid morning it was simply blowy, rather than a full on gale.

So we set off to Princetown with the intention of following the walking track maybe as far as Clifton beach. In the end we didn’t quite get there but had a pleasant few kilometres of up and down, at first across the boardwalk across the reedbeds and then an extended walk through dense scrub, which while it meant we couldn’t see anything, sheltered us from the wind.

We got as far as Brown Mountain (perhaps a kilometre short of Clifton Beach) before turning back to have a pleasant break on a clifftop overlooking the sea, then back to the car.

We then drove down to Port Campbell for a late lunch, and then played tourists for a bit stopping off at the Twelve Apostles and Gibson’s steps, before heading back to the unit for a cup of tea and some diary writing while watching rain squalls zip over the ocean.

That night, the wind came back and it rained heavily again. We woke to a grey dawn, enlivened by a group of three or four kangaroos grazing on the grass in front of the unit. Having lived in a bush suburb in Canberra it wasn’t exactly an unusual sight to us, but it was a reminder that there was wildlife out there, especially if one got out early enough to look…

After some humming and hawing we decided to try the Wreck Beach walk. Having checked the tides, we reckoned we had a chance of being able to see the anchors of the Fiji and Marie Gabrielle, but no chance, the wind was pushing the waves onto the beach making it foolhardy to even venture down onto the beach. The surge was even worse than when we had tried in 2018, so as in 2018, we had a walk through the scrub to Gable Head and some dramatic views of the surging sea.

gable head june 01

Unlike previously, we walked down the dirt road from the Gable Head car park to the Moonlight cemetery under the misapprehension that the victims from the wrecks were buried there. Wrong! the cemetery only opened in 1901 meaning the grave sites are elsewhere, most probably close to the monument to the wreck of the Fiji that is now buried in bush above the wreck site and almost impossible to access – Parks Victoria are building a spur off the clifftop section of the Great Ocean walk, and clearing and refencing the site but as yet there’s no access as such. Hopefully it’ll be a quite reflective place like the Ly-ee-moon site at Green Cape.

Then back along the track to the car park and back to the car and the unit for a late lunch. On the way back to the car the clouds parted for a moment and we had a glorious sunlit view of the surging sea, but then the clouds came in with a hint of rain, suggesting that perhaps games were off for the rest of the day.

The next morning we checked out and drove to Port Fairy, meandering gently with a picnic lunch at Peterborough and stopping to take photos at the Bay of Martyrs and the little visited Childers cove. The sea was still wild and wind driven, and the temperature was only just in double figures.

We’d planned for a walk out to the island, but the cloud was thickening an threatening rain so we wimped out after checking into our motel, and instead drank tea and went for a wander round the town.

That night we went to Blake’s restaurant in town. We’d promised ourselves a decent meal out as a reward for actually doing this mad thing, and Blake’s certainly did not disappoint.

Saturday, and we woke to heavy rain. Breakfast at Bank St &Co – a little too egg fixated for my taste so I settled for fruit toast and a coffee – and then a long drive cross country trying to avoid driving through any major cities and Saturday traffic, so we drove via Terang and Skipton to Beaufort to take the freeway to Ballarat and then cut off cross country again via Daylesford and Woodend to join the Hume freeway heading north. It rained until we reached Beaufort and then cleared to a lovely sunny winter’s day.

Lunch was in Creswick – we’d planned to avoid stopping in trendy Daylesford or Trentham where we expected there would be a lot of competition for tables anywhere decent.

Unfortunately when we got to Creswick it was just after 12.30 and, being country, cafes were closing up. However we had a pretty good lunch at Meg’s Place, which seemed to be the only place open in town – avocado and bacon on toast (D) cheese ham and tomato toastie (J). We’d been there before, before the pandemic, when it was called something else and the management was different.

It was a slightly odd experience – the furniture and the counter were the same, but somethings had gone and other things had replaced them, but the food was good and the coffee was decent, and it did the job.

Then home, arriving after sunset to a beautiful clear moonlit night. We’d bought a home style lasagne that morning in Port Fairy that morning and stuffed it in our esky for the dive home. It was still cold so dinner was lasagne and a couple of glasses of red. An excellent end to an excellent trip.

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Another legacy of nineteenth century migration

A long time ago I went down an internet rabbit hole while researching the use of Linux in education in Latin America, and instead came up with something else entirely – a story of the legacy of Anglo Irish migration to Latin America in the 1800s.

Well today I’ve just come across something similar.

A news article I was reading about inflation in Argentina was illustrated with a picture of the new 2000 peso banknote

Like many banknotes around the world it has images of historical personages on it, usually ones who are conveniently dead.

I noticed that one of the pictures was named as Cecilia Grierson, which is not a Spanish name, but one that screams ‘Scottish heritage’.

Cecilia Grierson was in fact a pioneer of women’s health and the first woman in Argentina to graduate from medical school.

She graduated from Buenos Aires medical school in 1889. To give that context the date is a little before Iza Coghlan and Grace Robinson, the first women to graduate in medicine from the University of Sydney, and five years before Marion Gilchrist became the first women to graduate from medical school in Scotland.

All these women were strong characters. Some were active feminists, some were not, but all campaigned for improvements in healthcare.

And it is important to realise that they were all part of a movement towards women’s emancipation around the world.

Historians have an understandable tendency to focus on the Anglophone world. But by doing so we tend to forget that one of the legacies of the large scale migration from Europe in the nineteenth century, was not just the movement of people, but also the spread of ideas.

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John Harvey of Caithness (or not)

This morning, when I was scrolling through my RSS feeds, I came across an article on the ABC website, about how John Harvey, one of the founders of Salisbury in South Australia had African heritage, yet had been born in Wick in Caithness way up in the north of Scotland.

My first question was why would a person of African heritage be born in Wick?

Given that he was said to have migrated in 1839 at the age of 18, he would have been born in 1821 or thereabouts, something which should be reasonably easy to check.

And then I came across a problem. If you search Scotland’s People, there are 25 John Harveys (or Harvies) born in the period 1820 – 1822 but none were born in Caithness.

So, why the connection?

My guess is that he indeed spent most of his early life in Caithness, and may genuinely have thought he was born there, but was in fact born somewhere else.

And of course, the sugar trade is probably the answer.

One of my distant ancestors, Robert Fairweather, was born in humble circumstances in Stracathro in Angus. He was obviously clever and somehow got noticed and ended up as a planter’s attorney in Jamaica.

He had a mixed race partner, who was probably the result of a liaison between a European person and an African person. The convention was that the offspring of such unions were acknowledged by the father, and that daughters were considered free and often had reasonable dowries (Miss Lambe in Jane Austen’s Sanditon would be an example)

Robert Fairweather’s partner had the rather Scottish sounding name of Catherine Allen, suggesting that her father was Scottish.

John Harvey sound like a typical Caithness name and there were certainly Harvey’s involved in the sugar trade, and by extension slavery, but most of them seem to have come from Aberdeenshire and worked in Grenada.

However, the will of one of the Grenada Harveys shows how things worked:

After various bequests to (white) family members comes the following

Also that a mulatto boy named David and two mulatto girls named Sally and Rachel may be bought from the estate of Josiah Marten Esquire and made free. A negroe boy and a [?] negroe girl be bought and given to each of them, the boy to David and the girls to Sally and Rachel. The boy to work on trade and the girls to be made shempstresses to help to support the said David, Sally and Rachel. David put to learn any trade and the girls Sally and Rachel bound to some good school mistress of good reputation to learn to be shempstresses and milliners and that they should also be taught to read and write and do every thing necessary about housekeeping, that they may be fit for service to gain their livelihood with ease. The expense of their education to be paid by my executors out of their division of my estate at Antigua and £20 currency be allowed each of them annually to keep them in clothes until they are able to so for themselves. £500 currency to each of the girls if they should behave well and be married to a free white man or a free mulatto.

(will of John Harvey, Antigua https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/2146639897)

So where there’s one Harvey who was successful, there could be others who did not become estate or slave owners, and  who lived and worked in Jamaica.

And I am guessing, and it is only a guess, that the John Harvey who migrated to South Australia in 1839, had been sent to Wick, or been brought to Wick by his father, to learn a trade, and had then migrated.

By 1839 slavery had been abolished, but I suspect that he had been born free in the West Indies and brought to Scotland at an early age.


I didn’t know what a shempstress or sempstress was – it’s an archaic word for seamstress. In a world where all clothes were hand made, someone who could sew and sew well would never lack work…

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Postcards and encryption

While I was down the Charles Babbage and the Crimean War rabbit hole, I came across a couple of coding cribs designed to allow people using postcards to encode the message written on the cards.

You see, when postcards were first introduced in Britain in 1870, it was thought that people might be reluctant to use them because anyone in the postal system, or even, gasp, one’s servants could read the message on the back of them.


It’s important to remember that when they were introduced, postcards were different from the picture postcard that anyone over forty remembers sending.

The first postcards, like this rather impressive Russian example, were prepaid cards where one wrote the address on one side and the message on the other. If you can read pre revolutionary Russian text, you’ll see that while the French reads Carte Postale – post card – the Russian reads Открытое Писъмо – open letter, which basically is what a postcard was

Picture postcards as we knew them, didn’t really appear to some time around 1900 when the various postal administrations agreed to accept divided back cards with a picture on one side and with the address and message written on the back, with the address in the right-hand half and the message on the left.


When first introduced in Britain in 1870 at a cost of ½d – half an old penny and half the price of the penny post for a letter they proved amazingly successful with thirty seven million being sent in the first year they were on sale, more than one for everyone living in Britain at the time.

It can be hard to get a handle on the cost in real terms due to inflation and the change in incomes and living standards but using the Bank of England’s inflation calculator you end up with the cost being roughly 20p ($A0.37), which compares quite well with the current UK price of 75p ($A1.40) for an economy (second class) letter


(The Bank of England’s inflation calculator assumes you convert your price to British post 1971 decimal currency. As there were 240 pre decimal pennies to the pound, there were 480 half pennies, making the half penny worth around £0.002 in post 1971 currency).

Mostly, postcard seem to have been used in much the same way we use text an whatsapp messages today – as a way of sending short simple messages or confirming meetings or travel arrangements. I did a very rough scan of vintage postcards for sale on ebay and etsy, and while some had longer messages on the back, most have pretty short messages.

I thought we might see some examples with messages written in code or in Ancient Greek or Latin, to stop the servants reading the message, but no.

In fact one postcard collector who had come across an example in code says that it’s the only example he’s come across in twenty years of collecting. There are a few examples out there, as well as ones in which the text has been obfuscated, such as by using mirror writing.

Basically, it looks like people mostly wrote postcards in clear text. That’s not to say that the messages were not sometimes used to confirm assignations and the like, but that they looked innocuous.

To explain consider the following made up example

Dearest Dottie,

Are you able to meet for tea on Sunday? I’ll be coming on the Norwich train


Seemingly innocent, except for the word Norwich – which was used by British squaddies during World War II, and possibly earlier, as an acronym for ‘knickers off ready when I come home’ and was commonly used in telegrams to let wives and girlfriends know that they had some unexpected leave. Telegrams cost a shilling (5p) for the first few words so brevity and acronyms were required.

So, returning to our nineteenth century courting couple, they may well have used some private words to communicate something more private given that postcards were open media.

But did they? Possibly they did, or as always in such matters probably some did, some didn’t, and one should always be careful not to read too much into a message, after all Albert might have genuinely caught the Norwich train …

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Codes, the Crimean war, and a hint of incest

Today’s been wet.

Too wet for a walk or gardening, and of course a bike ride is out of the question for a day or two until a replacement tyre arrives in the mail.

So, I’ve been off down an internet rabbit hole.

At the moment my bedtime reading is ‘A Bitter Remedy’ by Alis Hawkins.

Set in late Victorian Oxford, it’s an absorbing mystery novel, and for me, all the better for involving nineteenth century patent medicines, not to mention a walk on part for Charles Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll and a little bit of cryptography.

I admit I’m a sucker for well written mysteries, but this is a fascinating one.

And I learned something I did not know.

In the story there’s a throw away line that Charles Babbage had cracked the Russian codes during the Crimean war. Well, I had to check that out.

The story’s a little more complicated.

In 1845, Babbage realised that Vignère ciphers could be cracked mathematically, but did nothing with the idea until, in 1852, John Thwaites, a Bristol dentist, claimed to have produced a new secure cipher


Babbage cracked it and showed that it was really just a variation on the Vignère cipher.

However, credit for breaking the Vignère cipher is usually given to Friedrich Kasiski, an officer in the Prussian army, who published a method of cracking Vignère ciphers some twenty years later.

The reason why Babbage’s discovery was not publicised was that the Russians were using Vignère ciphers to encode diplomatic telegrams in the run up to the Crimean war. At the time all telegrams were sent over the public network by clerks in telegraph offices, who typed, and sometimes retyped the text along the way as a sort of human signal repeater, meaning that if a telegram was to be kept confidential it needed to be encoded prior to being sent.

Vignère ciphers were though to be uncrackable, or so the Russians thought. Babbage’s discovery meant that the British could, with some effort, and a lot of paper and pencil, read the Russian official telegrams. And of course, having cracked the Russian code, the British could crack any similar code.

Given the sensitivity of this information, Babbage’s role was downplayed and he never really received credit for his role in breaking the Russian codes until the 1980’s.

These codes had a surprising longevity, being in use as late as the Korean war.

Sir Francis Beaufort, the manager of the Royal Navy’s hydrographic service and the officer responsible for training Robert FitzRoy, later commander of the Beagle during Darwin’s voyage and the inventor of the Beaufort scale, was a friend of Babbage and developed his own variation on the Vignère cipher which was later used in the US Army Hagelin encoding machine, very broadly the US equivalent of the German Enigma machine.

Encoding machines were needed to encrypt messages as morse code radio transmission could of course be listen in to by anyone with a suitable radio receiver.

Beaufort would have understood the need for encrypting communications, as he had worked with his brother in law to install a semaphore telegraph in Ireland during the Napoleonic wars to warn of a repeat of the French invasion of the west of Ireland in 1798.

On a more human note, Beaufort also used a simpler code to encrypt some of his private papers, including his diaries. When his diaries were decoded they revealed that after the death of his first wife he had had an incestuous affair with his sister Harriet. Both were in their fifties at the time, and the affair continued until he later married Honora Edgeworth, his brother in law’s daughter, in 1838, which I suppose was one way of keeping it all in the family.

Harriet, sometimes known as Henrietta, is today principally remembered as botanist.

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Digital and retro photography crossover

While we were down in Apollo Bay last week, I didn’t bother taking any of my film cameras, instead taking my old Fuji digitsl SLR and my little Canon iXus – the Fuji is bit heavy to carry around all the time, so I often just take the little iXus with me as lightweight alternative.

What was noticeable though was that despite only a very slight experimentation with film cameras the week before I felt I was more disciplined in composing the shot rather than simply relying on editing tools to fix things up afterwards.

There’s clearly a role for both but I found it interesting that only after 20 minutes playing with film cameras I’d started to sharpen my technique and be more considered about composition …

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Retro photography – just do it

Almost a year ago I blogged about how I was going to go play with my old film cameras.

Well, like the grand old duke of York, I marched them up to the top of the hill, then marched them down again. I bought some fresh film, even bought an extra camera through ebay (a totally mechanical Balda Baldessa from the 1950’s), and then did nothing.

Not quite true. I put some film in my old Olympus Trip and may old Vivitar SLR, but I didn’t, like, actually do anything as radical as take a picture.

Well there was an article on the ABC at the weekend (another one) on how film was making a comeback. Incidentally, this isn’t just hype, the price of working retro cameras on ebay has been steadily climbing, and the last time I was in the big Camera Warehouse in Albury they were stocking film and advertising they could process it for you.

So, yesterday, I took my old Olympus Trip down to Chiltern with me, and after my day’s documentation I stopped off at the railway station.

Chiltern railway station is unmanned these days and fairly quiet allowing me to geek about. I’d timed my visit to coincide with the arrival of a train, but the train was late, meaning I had the station more or less to myself.

I realised that I’d forgotten to set the film speed, and I couldn’t remember what film I’d loaded, so I took a guess at 100ASA and set the camera to that.

I took some fairly crappy shots of the old station building – probably badly composed and amateurish, but actually I found the experience useful to bring back old skills – like you do need to use the viewfinder, you do need to line up and compose your shot, and the time to wind on set up the next shot is more, much more, than with digital.

All in all, I’ve probably taken around ten fairly poor shots, but I’ll go back in a few days, and try and do it in a more composed manner.

I’m not going to try my own processing and scanning this early in the exercise, I’ll let the photo lab process and scan the negatives for me. I’ve already played with Gimp enough to work out how to both convert a negative image to positive and play with light and contrast, so we might be in with a chance, plus I might learn something …

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Life experience and documentation

Down at Dow’s, quite often I come across things to do with photography.

Not just film packets, which you’d expect, but items such as contact print frames, developing trays, and even some very old photographic developing powders


I’ve even found an old 35mm film camera in a drawer which might have belonged to one of the pharmacists or an assistant.


We can date it to the 1950’s or just possibly the early 1960’s as Neoca went bankrupt and disappeared in 1960.

In fact there’s enough photographic bits and pieces shoved in drawers to suggest that someone working at the pharmacy was an amateur photographer who was interested enough in photography to do their own developing and printing – normally a chemist offering a film processing service would send customers’ exposed films off to a big commercial specialist processing facility, such as Kodak’s lab in Burnley.

And this was how most people had their films processed and printed.

However, especially for black and white photography, the whole developing and printing process was quite open. It was easy enough to process your own films and make your own prints. Colour processing was rather more complicated, and while doable at home, you needed more in the way of specialist equipment and a dedicated lab space.
In comparison, black and white processing was simple enough to do at home, and there was enough tolerance in the process to allow a bit of inaccuracy. You could buy home use developers and fixers over the counter, and all you then needed was a measuring cylinder or two, a stopwatch, and a developing tank, plus a change bag – basically an opaque bag in which one opened the film cassette and spooled the film into the developing tank spool, and then closed up the light proof tank.

You then followed the bouncing ball, adding chemicals in the correct order and fifteen minutes or so later you had a set of negatives.

How do I know this?

Because I’ve been there.

As a teenager in the early seventies, I became interested in the social history of trains. Still am, truth be told.

And around where I lived, there were quite a few abandoned train lines and railway stations and I used to ride my bicycle out to them to photograph and document them using my trusty Regula Sprint camera.

Some of the pictures I took, I took on colour slide film, and that was too complicated to process at home, and anyway most of the over the counter brands included the cost of processing in the price.

But I also took a lot of black and white photographs, most of which have sadly disappeared.

By the time I’m writing about colour photography had become the norm, but the equipment to do home black and white developing and printing was readily available second hand, and most good camera shops would sell you the processing chemicals, making doing it yourself a very cost effective proposition.

And that’s exactly what I did. I acquired the equipment, including an enlarger to blow up images to a larger and more usable size, taught myself how to process and print black and white photographs, and even rolled my own film cassettes using bulk black and white film from eastern Europe and recycled empty film cassettes – again some of the more specialist camera shops would happily sell you a bag of empty cassettes for something fairly nominal – I think they sort of assumed that you’d come back and buy chemicals and photographic paper from them, and perhaps eventually a more expensive camera.

And then, of course, life changed and I no longer had time to do my own developing and printing, and by the time I might have had the leisure to start over, photography was going digital.

Since the I’ve dabbled in retro photography, but to be honest, it’s only been dabbling.

But strangely, while documenting at Dow’s I’ve found what could be described as irrelevant knowledge useful.

After all no one under the age of forty probably remembers pre digital photography, and amateur developing and printing was always very much a minority sport – the people who did it were either oddballs like me, art students who did it as part of their course, and some old school press photographers, meaning the knowledge was probably not that widely spread to start with.

And suddenly, years later, being able to recognise the equipment, knowing about film brands and film sizes, has suddenly been very helpful in identifying and documenting items.

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A few days ago I was idly browsing instagram (my instagram feed is full of posts from various archive services) when I came across the item above.

It had been misclassified as a packet loose tea – when it in fact was a packet of loose rough cut cigarette tobacco or makhorka (Махорка).

There’s also a bit of a give away in that the labelling includes the word табакъ (tabak or tobacco). We can also confidently date the packet to a date before 1918 as the word табакъ includes a hard sign character (ъ), something that was done away with in the 1918 spelling reforms

Makhorka is made from the dried leaves of Nicotiana rustica – a different species of tobacco from the one used in the west.

Nicotinia rusticana  grows freely over most of Russia, meaning that it for the peasants it was essentially free as it could be grown behind the chicken coop in the back yard.

It also has great cultural significance – it was issued to the Red Army during the second world war, and Russian novels are full of descriptions of peasants hand rolling cigarettes made of newspaper and makhorka and held together with a bit of spit.

Okay, so I know something that the person who catalogued the packet didn’t. That’s not a crime, and I’m painfully aware from my work cataloguing Dows Pharmacy just how easy it is to misclassify objects. In fact I’ve gone back on several occasions and corrected entries in the light of new knowledge.

And equally, I’ve been very dependent on the work of others who have traced and documented objects for much of my documentation work. Standing on the shoulders of giants etc.

And, to be fair the archive site, responded when I told them and said they would check it out – perfectly fair – they don’t know me from Adam and I could have been talking out of my bottom for all they know.

However I think what this little story does show is the power of opening up one’s collection online and allowing comments, which indirectly may help improve the quality of the archive.

Yes, it’s only a minor correction but it is a correction …

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Pubs with tile exteriors

Recently I posted the following on Mastodon

Screenshot 2022-12-25 125925

in response to a post about a recent article on why some Aussie pubs have tiled interiors

The urban myth is of course that during the time of the six o’clock swill beer was spilt, bodily fluids released, and tiling pubs made them easier to hose out.

I’ve also heard a hybrid version where pubs in mining towns in NSW and WA had tiled counters because the miners would drink thenselves into oblivion, and piss themselves when they slid down the bar and fell over.

Not true.
And not true in Scotland either.
In Scotland, the main reason for pubs acquiring ceramic tiles on the outside was to make them stand out among the general greyness of the typical late Victorian street scene – no publican would invest in brightly coloured (and expensive) tiles for his clientele to wee against.

Most tiled exteriors post date the 1880’s when glazed tiles became easier to produce in mass quantities – for much the same reason early London Underground station (remember the system started in the 1860’s and the Central Line mostly dates to the 1880’s) have red tiled exteriors to make them stand out in an otherwise grey streetscape …

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