Research is interesting

For the past eighteen months I have been slowly plodding through the background to the death and final resting place of firefighter Albert GREENMAN.  Albert, as I have mentioned in two precious blogs, (The nostalgia of cemeteries and The nostalgia of cemeteries Part 2) was killed in the explosion that ripped through the ship, City of Singapore, in April 1924, at Port Adelaide.  The other two firefighters killed in that explosion have a memorial to their sacrifice at the Cheltenham cemetery.  There is no recognition, for Albert, on the plot at the West Terrace Cemetery (WTC).

Records at the WTC show that there is a third body buried in Albert’s grave and it is likely to have been his mother in law.  Caroline Barbara Lena MARHORANA who, prior to her death resided in Royal Park SA and died on July 2, 1956 (aged 85 years).  Caroline is probably the mother of Laura GREENMAN, Albert’s wife, so it is probable  that Laura’s maiden name was MARHORANA.  However, there are no persons listed with that surname in the White Pages, in South Australia or nationally.

Other spellings of MARHORANA indicate that this is a name with an Indian ancestry however, there is also a strong Italian connection as well.  Indian/Italian heritage could indicate some of the disquiet in the GREENMAN family almost 100 years ago.

So far I have not been able to track down when Laura GREENMAN died, where she was buried, or if there were any surviving children.  There may have been a daughter, an infant at the time of Albert’s death in 1924, but I have not found any details of that as yet.

Copyright cleared with Shayne Greenman 2016

Firefighter, Albert Greenman, C 1920s. Photo supplied by Shayne Greenman, Queensland, and used with permission.

Now the hiccup – nothing can be done with the site of Albert’s (et al) grave regarding its upkeep, or adding a memorial headstone without the written permission of the site licence owner.  All avenues need to be exhausted in attempting to ascertain who is the current holder of the ‘licence’ and either have their permission, or have the licence transferred into someone else’s name before any memorial can be considered.

Blackwell Funerals, according to the WTC records apparently handled the funerals of Albert (snr), Albert (infant) and Caroline MARHORANA.  As luck would have it, I am attending an information session regarding death, as part of my University Students’ course work next Tuesday at Blackwell Funerals.  So I will see what else I can discover whilst I am there.

Also I have discovered another publication on the history of Port Adelaide and it apparently has a significant section on the City of Singapore Fire in 1924 – Triumph, Tragedies and Port Adelaide (2005) by Ron Ritter.  I have that book on order through an Inter-library loan so I will see if it sheds any further information of value for this project.

The research is becoming more interesting.  What started out as a desire to have a memorial on the grave of a firefighter killed in his duty, is now interwoven with World War I history, family genealogy, family history, and the history of South Australia.

The Nostalgia of Cemeteries – part 2

In May 2015 I wrote about a visit to the West Terrace Cemetery.  As a part of that story I also commented on the unmarked grave of a firefighter, killed in the City of Singapore Ship fire at Port Adelaide.  Since then the challenges of research revealed that Albert Greenman was also a WW I – Western Front – returned soldier.  His unmarked grave gives no recognition to his service to Australia both in war and peace.

The Metropolitan Fire Service is supportive of providing some form of recognition on his grave.  However, all efforts to find any surviving family has, until today, drawn a blank.  As testament to the value and power of research and the internet, a nephew of Albert found my 2015 blog and has contacted me.

While it is still too early to predict what may eventuate from this online meeting, I am hopeful of a headstone being placed on Albert’s grave.  I’ll keep you posted on any progress via my blog.

A few updates from India

While I enjoy using WordPress, there are some gaps between my posts so I have to re-teach myself each time.  I’m slowly catching up with my experiences at the IHOA Conference in Bangladore, India.  My apologies for the cross-posting.  However, enjoy the read. Just click on the drop-down menu above: An Indian Experience for some more Blogs.

A rocky start to this trip

Follow: My Indian experience on this link.

It has been a while since my last post.  Frustrations of finalising the PhD, buying a motor-home, a bit of local travel and of course, teaching and marking assignments.  Today I’m off to India via Dubai to present a paper on a part of my research at the International Oral History Association (IOHA) conference in Bangalore, India.  Getting a conference Visa for India has been an experience.  Three letters of approval, my own university plus an abstract of my paper to start with.  Naturally these things were not coordinated and there were last-minute delays.  The online Visa experience is challenging and the applications form is also a bit of a nightmare.  Then $180 poorer (well $360) as I got double billed the Visa arrived.

Now let’s not get confused over the Visa Card, which is a must for travelling.  On Friday my Visa Card was swallowed by an ATM.  No chance of recovery.  I didn’t realist how much the card was used for regular payment of bills.  NAB could not have been more helpful and arranged a Travel Card for me post-haste.  Then Visa Global has been exceptional.  It has arranged a temporary card for the duration of my travelling and a new card will be sent to my home.  However, the temporary card cannot reach me today, before I fly out tonight.  Not only will the temporary card be delivered to me at my hotel in Dubai, but they have specified the time so that I can sign for it.  Now that is customer service.  Kudos to NAB and Visa.

Oh and my flight was changed, but after all the other challenges, this was just the icing on the cake.  Next stop the Adelaide airport.

Almost there

About thirty minutes ago I submitted my thesis for examination.  Given the challenge to get this tome submitted before Christmas, ‘blogging’ has been a somewhat  poor relation in the past couple of months.  Marking student assignments, writing, toss in two presentations as well as the thesis, there was little time, or desire left to blog.

I have discovered that submitting a thesis for examination is a challenge as well.  It is a process of bureaucracy, getting it approved firstly by my supervisor(s), soft bound copies printed, paper-work, always the paper-work, filled out and signed and then physically depositing the three copies for examination.  Then it disappears in to the mysterious world of the Graduate Research Centre.

Then sometime later my two examiners will each have a copy posted to them, hopefully early in the new year.  One is here in Adelaide and the other in Canada.  All I know about them is what I have read of their CVs and the recommendation from my associate supervisor.  The reading and grading process can take three months.  The thesis is 90,000 words, plus the reference list, so it is not a short novel to read at leisure.  After the examiners have submitted their grade I then have about six weeks to reply to their comments (and modify the thesis) before it goes the the university academic board for confirmation.  So if all goes well I will be awarded my PhD later in 2016.

As for an update on my other research projects, the blogs will follow shortly.

A New Appointment

There is no such thing as a free lunch – well that is a common ‘tongue in cheek’ statement from those who have the opportunity to eat on someone’s expense account.  For me it was not so much as a free lunch but a very successful presentation at the recent conference I attended at the University of Vienna.

Entrance to the historic University of Vienna, with Vienna university colleagues Lisa, Christine and David.

The historic University of Vienna, I’m with Vienna university colleagues Lisa, Christine.

The subsequent request came as a surprise, but not for a free lunch.  I was approached to join the editing team, led by Associate Professor Ian Conrich, and have now been appointed as one of two assistant editors for the Journal of New Zealand and Pacific Studies.  My colleague, Jenny Wagner, a former PhD candidate at UniSA who has returned to the US to complete her thesis, is the other assistant editor.  I will be Jenny’s support until I learn the ropes and take on a little more responsibility to ease her workload.

Jenny Wagner: Vienna Natural History Museum, July 2015.

Jenny Wagner: Vienna Natural History Museum, July 2015.

The journal is published by Intellect Journals (ISSN 2050 4039) and is a newer academic publication in its third year.  This is a trans-displinary peer reviewed journal.  Disciplines covered include the humanities and the social sciences and subjects such as cultural studies, history, literature, film, anthropology, politics, and sociology.

Do not avoid AGMs – you might learn something.

How many of us belong to organisations, clubs, or societies and then when the AGM comes around we can find any excuse not to attend?  That, to me, begs the question why bother, why bother being a member if you cannot attend one meeting to hear about the year’s activities and plans for the future? I have heard all the excuses, the most prolific is the one that goes like this: “oh if I go along I will be roped in to doing something.”  Wow, you might be invited to contribute your knowledge, expertise and skills to help make the organisation a little better – such a burden isn’t it?  The operative word here is ‘invited’.  You can decline.  However, attending the AGM shows your support, and appreciation to those who are able to work on various committees or have roles in the running of the organisation.

I am a member of a few organisations and today I attended the AGM of the SA branch of Oral History Australia.  I did not take on any State based responsibilities, the running of  OHA (SA) is in excellent hands and there is a strong group of volunteers to carry on the work.  Besides getting an overview of the various activities and the status of the financials there was an excellent speaker after the formal business.

Liz Harfull, is a former journalist, has also worked in public relations – specifically in the rural sector – and is now an accomplished author.  Her presentation covered a little of her working history and then a special project where she researched and wrote a history of Robe – Almost an Island: the Story of Robe.  It is a publication which brings together the stories, memories and images of this small country town, tucked away on the rugged Limestone Coast of South Australia, which has played a remarkable role in history. Liz’s approach was different in that she involved the community, through the local football club, a centenarian and a series of oral history tapes buried in the archives of the local council offices.

During her presentation to the small number of OHA members present, Liz made a number of observations between her former profession as a ‘print’ journalist and that of an oral historian.  Never in her extensive career has Liz ever asked for, been given written permission to interview a person, or to ‘report on’ what she has discovered through the interview.  This is a practice she has continued in to her publishing career.

For me, that raised the question as to why we, as oral historians, go through the bureaucracy of ethics clearances and signed consent forms?  There is no one answer to these questions and it is one that I will comment on in my Blogs from time to time. Others may wish to comment also.

Cover of Liz's 2013 book

Cover of Liz’s 2013 book

Who is Liz Hartull?  She is an award-winning journalist and Churchill Fellow.  Liz grew up on a small farm near Mount Gambier, which has been in the family since the early 1860s.  Her fist publication was the bestselling Blue Ribbon Cookbook.  [This abstract is adapted from the publication, Women of the land.]

A night of jazz with James Morrison

Dinner at the Bistro in the Dunstan Playhouse was tasty.  I had Lamb shanks, with the meat falling off the bone, a very drinkable McLaren Vale Merlot followed by some indulgence.  Well it is an early birthday treat for me.  The pavlova melted in my mouth, a few too many times I think.  I tried not leave any.

The pavlova to die for.  I did leave a little though.

The pavlova to die for. I did leave a little though.The service was prompt and the setting warm and comfortable.  The cost; about $60 a head.

It is a handy restaurant to the Festival Theatre and it was a quick, but brisk walk across the Plaza to the venue.  What annoyed me was that Bass, the ticket agents, slug you $11.59 for the privilege of booking online and paying by Visa.  A dam rip-off.

The promo for the event calls it a night of jazz with three musical geniuses.  A little poetic license though, but two out of three is not all that bad.  James Morrison is brilliant.  I have seen and listened to him a number of times since the late 80s and he just keeps getting better.  His supporting jazz band was excellent.  The outstanding surprise for me was the pianist, Marian Petescu.  I had not heard of him previously and what a wonderful master of the keyboard he is. His fingers were a blur of movement and his ability to play any style of music (perfectly) from the classics to jazz was mesmurising.  What a talent.

James and Marian, earlier in the week, were at the UniSA Jazz Music Academy in Mt Gambier.  This is a unique learning environment for up and coming jazz musicians and makes me proud to be part of the UniSA teaching environment.  Of course I can not longer hold a tune or play a note on the trumpet.

However, the vocalist supporting the jazz band tonight was disappointing.  Megan Washington has a sweet, clear and captivating singing voice, one I could listen to time and again.  However, her stage presence was pathetic.  I had to either look away or close my eyes.  I could not work out her gyrations, maybe she was constipated, or the mic had a short in it and was giving her electric shocks.  Her voice was a delight, but her time on the stage spoilt the evening for me – and judging from other comments I heard, I was not the only one.

The promotional flyer for the night of jazz.

The promotional flyer for the night of jazz.

Visiting when travelling

A colleague posted on Facebook last night, a piece on how a visitor from a ‘first world’ country had stayed with her and her family, didn’t engage with them, never said thank you, and left their home without saying goodbye.  Downright rude, me thinks.

One of the great things I love about travel is meeting people from other places, not only fellow travelers, but those local to the places I visit.  Occasionally I have been privileged and invited in to their homes.  For nine years I have been teaching in Singapore and Hong Kong.  The friends I have made there are wonderful and always happy to see me, as I am happy to see them.  Twice in Singapore I have been invited in to a home. While this may not seem as frequent as here in Australia, the cultures are different and home entertainment of guests is not as common as here.  Each of these occasions was dissimilar. One was a feast after Ramadan and the other to a Singaporean Indian parent’s home.  Both were wonderful experiences and I am happy to have them as my friends.  Others have made the effort and shared coffees, meals or beers that have been fun and enjoyable moments in my traveling journey.

This brings me to my recent trip to Cebu in the Philippines.  In my previous blog I mentioned that I was invited to the parents’ home of my colleague.  Having moved through the general area where the family lived I had a basic understanding of the style of home they owned.  Again, I cannot, nor should I, compare this with Australia, it is different.  In the part of the Philippines (at least) it is not normal for each house to have a road frontage,.  Each residence is connected to the main road via a network of pathways.  Whilst the homes are of a good size, the surrounding property is limited in area.  That is, no extensive gardens or outdoor areas other than for cooking.

This time the taxi ride, from The Henry Hotel, out past the international airport on Mactan Island, was quicker as the traffic, whilst still heavy, flowed easily.  It was dark and street lighting was minimal.  When I arrived I was formally met by the family.  And I mean the whole family, grandparents, older aunt, parents, children and grand children.  Thirteen adults and five children.  The formality was special.  Age is held in high esteem here and the younger family members not only greeted me politely, but in the formal custom of the Philippines brought my hand to their forehead as a mark of respect.  Conversation was polite and as people relaxed the formality slipped away a little and the family interaction became evident.

Conversation with the younger members was easy as their English was excellent.  Remember I was the one lacking here, I speak one language, they all speak at least three.   Even the youngest, Liam, a four-year old, understood at least two languages.  Their home was warm, inviting and happy.  All family members interacted and the conversations flowed.  They were interested in what I normally ate at home, if rice was a staple part of my diet and similar basic living experiences. I did not see a fridge and from the discussions around food and cooking I gathered that food purchasing and cooking was undertaken on a meal-by-meal basis.

Like many Australian homes the kids love computer games .  However, the whole family looked on and enjoyed the skill of the game.  Angel, a beautiful seven-year-old, loved colouring and her book from school depicted her artistic talents.  I was touched by the obvious love between the generations, no matter their ages.

Life is tough in the Philippines.  Often the working hours are long, up to nine hours a day and six days a week.  On average the take home pay is about P6,000 per month (that is with a university degree), which equates to less than A$3,000 per year.  Sure the cost of living is less, but try buying a car ,or an iPhone on that amount of income.  Forget overseas holidays, or weekends in the numerous resorts dotted around the islands.

My evening with this wonderful family was enjoyable, friendly and for me special.  They opened up their home, showed genuine friendship and made me feel welcome.  I thank them. On leaving, we walked back along the path and waited on the road for a pedal-trike to come past.  There were three of us.  Cathy, my colleague, Lorraine, her married sister and myself.  Lorraine is the mother of Angel and works night shift in an accounting call centre. We required two trikes and about five minutes later we met up at the main road and took a taxi back into the downtown area of Cebu city.  Lorraine had about twenty minutes before she had to be in the office so we ate a light meal in a local cafe/restaurant.  By the time my head hit the pillow, I was tired, it had been a long day, but complete with memorable experiences.

Cathy and her son Liam (4 years)

Cathy and her son Liam (4 years), Mactan Island, Cebu, July 2015.

Out of the ordinary

The saying goes something like this: ‘expect the unexpected’.  This past week of travel has certainly dished up the different and the interesting.  In my earlier post I wrote of my Monday in Cebu and the Cebu University.  By Tuesday I had an attack of the ‘guilts’ so I put a concerted effort in to editing the final chapter of the thesis.  Sitting at the Henry Hotel, by the pool, bottomless cup of coffee, cool water on request and the time slipped past.  No distractions – emails, texts, phone calls – then a reward at the end, a big ice-cold beer.  Around four in the afternoon I re-joined the world and walked through the back streets of downtown Cebu.  Life here in the Philippines is certainly different to that of Australia and I’m sure I’d struggle to adapt.  Tuesday night I had dinner in the hotel.

This is the Church and Convent of Santo Nino, in uptown Cebu.  First erected in 1565.  I did not realise that this was a funeral until I downloaded the photographs.  I have probably breached a protocol, although with social media now, maybe not.

This is the Church and Convent of Santo Nino, in uptown Cebu. First erected in 1565. I did not realise that this was a funeral until I downloaded the photographs. I have probably breached a protocol, although with social media now, maybe not.

While Cebu is great for some adventure tourism, diving, climbing and para-sailing the more traditional venues of museums, art-galleries, and street architecture is not high on the list of things to do here.  However, with local friends a new world opens up.  I will write this up in a more detailed segment to these blogs in the next day or so when I get all my photos organised as well.  We visited the uptown area of Cebu, looked through malls, walked the avenues, visited churches that date back to the first Spanish settlement (invasion) and then took a ferry ride across the harbour to Lapu Lapu – Mactan island.

Row upon row of candles available to light for the Catholic rite.

Row upon row of candles available to light for the Catholic rite.

Another church and so many candle sellers, and candles, which are lit at almost every shrine. We took a stroll through the attached high school (to this specific church) and then into the totally confusing labyrinth of traffic congested streets.  I didn’t notice any public transport.

There are taxis, jeeps (partially covered vans where the passenger hops on and off at their leisure) and then the trikes – motor-bike and sidecar is a lose description and pedal power.  We used them all.

A typical bike/trike.  They are often loaded with a couple of people and a pile of goods.

A typical bike/trike. They are often loaded with a couple of people and a pile of goods.

I was privileged to visit a local government office where (Vicki) the mother of my colleague and guide is the office manager and secretary to the Mayor.  Her role is a complex arrangement of formality, minute-taking, welfare, assisting tourists in difficulties and helping the local community navigate their way through the complexities of the legal system.

The 'Local Government' offices I visited and where the mother of my friend, colleague and guide, Cathy, is the office manager of the 'Barangay Buaya'.

The ‘Local Government’ offices I visited and where, Vicki, the mother of my colleague and guide, Cathy, is the office manager of the ‘Barangay Buaya’.

While her position is a normal office hour role she is well known in the community and often people will call on her at home.   I will end this blog on the mention of their home.  Vicki invited me to visit their home later that evening and to meet all of the family.  This was a surprise and I understand the importance that is placed on this offer, which I graciously accepted.