Two new works on local history to be launched

Huntington's History of Newcastle and the Northern District

Huntington's History of Newcastle and the Northern District

The Story of Lambton - a Newcastle Suburb

The Story of Lambton - a Newcastle Suburb

Two new important works of local history will be launched this weekend at Lambton High School Hall.

The two works were prepared by Ken and Maree Shilling with assistance from fellow members of the Newcastle Family History Society Inc.

The works are entitled:

Huntington’s History of Newcastle and the Northern District. Compiled by Ken Shilling with additional biographical material written by Cynthia Hunter. Published by the Newcastle Family History Society Inc 2009.


The Story of Lambton – a Newcastle Suburb. Compiled by Maree Shilling with contributions by Newcastle Family History Society Inc. and Residents of Lambton Past and Present.

Both works will be launched by University of Newcastle Archivist Gionni Di Gravio, who originally suggested the idea to the Society of reproducing Huntington’s History, which in our opinion is one of the finest histories of Newcastle that has ever been published.

Henry William Hemsworth Huntington (1848-1926) wrote the history as a series of bi-weekly installments in the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate between August 1897 and 1898 in support of Newcastle’s Centenary celebrations.

These articles would have been forgotten had they not been assiduously collected by another Novocastrian historian and dentist, Ben Champion, who compiled them into a bound book.

This book was donated along with his papers to the University of Newcastle Archives.

The articles became an important historical resource for the early history of Newcastle, as Huntington had compiled them from original documents and manuscripts which he transcribed along with anecdotes and personal reminiscences.

It has yet to be surpassed in its scope and charm.

So therefore it is with great gratitude to the Newcastle Family History Society (and Ken and Maree Shilling in particular) that they took up the challenge of transcribing and editing Huntington’s History of Newcastle.

It will be a work of enduring value to the study of our local history, and act as a spring board to future research.

The second book to be launched is entitled The Story of Lambton-a suburb of Newcastle, compiled by Maree Shilling with the assistance of the Family History Society Inc and members of the local Lambton community.

The book contains a foreword by Dr Troy Duncan of the University of Newcastle’s School of Humanities and Social Science.

It is an enormous feat of scholarly labour and a veritable treasure trove of information on the foundations and evolving history of all facets of the suburb.

At over 400 pages in lenght it is a monumental tribute that comes with a supplemental CD rom containing 140 extra photographs and a database listing the details of over 5,500 early residents of Lambton.

Both works can be purchased from the Newcastle Family History Society Inc.

Huntington’s History of Newcastle and Northern District August 1897 -August 1898
279 pp. A4, (2009) – $35.00+$9.00 p&p; CD: $27.00+$3.00 p&p
Launch 30 May 2009
For description see Latest Publications

The Story of Lambton – a suburb of Newcastle NSW
Describes every facet of the growth of this diverse community, abundantly illustrated. 411pp
Book incl bonus CD $50.00+$9.60p&p;
CDset [Book on CD+Bonus CD]  $35.00+$3.00 p&p.
Can order now, available after Launch 30 May 2009
For description see Latest Publications

Captain Law and the six escapees from New Caledonia

Newcastle (Illustrated Sydney News April 1875)

Newcastle in 1875

Key to the View of Newcastle (Illustrated Sydney News 8 April 1975 p.20)

Day Shift – 17/03/2009 – 02:10 PM
Presenter: Carol Duncan
Producer: Jeanette McMahon
Interviewee: Gionni Di Gravio, Archivist, Newcastle University

University of Newcastle Archivist Gionni Di Gravio discusses the arrival in Newcastle of six escaped political prisoners from New Caledonia back in March 1874 through the eyes of Henri Rochefort. Recounting his observations of the people and places of Newcastle “Happy those peoples who have no history!” Rochefort was also very appreciative of the Newcastle Captain of the P.C. E. (Peace Comfort and Ease) who provided them with safe passage to his home town of Newcastle. We hope to find the relatives of this Captain David Law, who once lived at Pitt Street Newcastle, just behind the Public Library in Laman Street.

Broadcast Notes:

Dubbed the “Prince of the Gutter Press”, Henri Rochefort (along with 5 of his fellow escapees) visited Newcastle in 1874 after he made a daring escape from prison in New Caledonia, where he was serving time for his notorious role in the French Revolution of 1870.

Henri Rochefort

Henri Rochefort

The portion of Henri Rochefort’s full account published in his book De nouméa en Europe : 200 illustrations contenant 700 sujets / Dessins de Denis, Desjours … etc Published Paris : Ancienne Librairie Martinon, [1876?] concerning Newcastle was translated in 2002 under the title ‘Noumea to Newcastle: The Story of an Escape’ by the University of Newcastle’s Professor Ken Dutton.

The complete translation is here:

These escapees arrived in Newcastle Harbour on the 27 March 1874 amid great fanfare. The ships in the Harbour had been all decked out in anticipation for the arrival of the Governor, Sir Hercules Robinson, who was to arrive that morning. Somehow they got swept up in the fanfare and became the sensation of the day and became the day’s ‘Lion’.

On their arrival they were taken arm in arm to visit the who’s who. Rochefort’s account of Newcastle and the people he encountered is hilarious.

They stayed in the most expensive place in Town, The Great Northern Hotel, and while three of them returned to Sydney to get some money to pay the bill, they left the other three as a ‘deposit’ to ensure that the bill would be eventually paid. While here, the three took a trip to Maitland and onto to the homestead of Philobert Terrier, a fellow countrymen who established St Helena’s at Lochinvar. He was a pioneer of Champagne wines.

A couple of weeks ago we hosted a visiting scholar from Melbourne, Professor Malcolm Macmillan, who is researching the local Australian reception to these escapees. He is especially interested in Newcastle, and is interested in locating additional accounts of their visit here, especially contacting relatives of those who featured in the story.

One person in particular is their rescuer, Captain Law. His full name was Captain David Cochrane Law. Captain of the P.C.E. which stands for Peace, Comfort and Ease. His wife was Harriet (Ruwald), her brothers were also Master Mariners and came out from the United Kingdom with her. They once lived at Pitt Street Newcastle, a long lost road that once ran somewhere along the carpark behind the Newcastle Public Library in Laman Street. They appear in the 1871 Census of St John’s Parish as having 4 children. Together they eventually had 6 children, 3 girls and 3 boys. We would love to get in touch with any of their descendants.

The breakdown of events is as follows:

Friday 27 March 1874

– Arrival of the P.C.E. from New Caledonia, having on board six of the most prominent French State prisoners recently exiled to that colony.

– They were:

Henri Rochefort, journalist and member of the first Provisional Government.
Pascal Grousset, Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Olivier Pain, Secretaire-General.
Francis Jourde, Minister of Finance.
Achille Bailliere, Aide de Camp to General Rossel.
Charles Bostiere Grandhille, Commandant de Bataillon.

– It was somewhat singular that these men should arrive while all the vessels in the harbour were arrayed with a display of flags in honour of his Excellency the Governor, Sir Hercules Robinson, who was expected hourly at the time.

– H. Rochefort and two of his compatriots left by the Kembla, at night, for Sydney.

Saturday 28th March 1874

– M. Henri Rochefort, M. Pascal Grousset and M. Francis Jourde arrived safely in Sydney, on Saturday morning.

– The other three, namely M. Olivier Pain, M. Achille Bailliere and M. Cavan Grant Achille [sic] still remain at Newcastle, where they will remain until remittances are received from Paris.

– M. Olivier Pain, M. Achille Bailliere and M. Cavan Grant Achille [sic] visited Maitland on Saturday.

Sunday 29th March 1874

– M. Olivier Pain, M. Achille Bailliere and M. Cavan Grant Achille [sic] at St Helena (with Mr Terrier).

Monday 30 March 1874

– M. Olivier Pain, M. Achille Bailliere and M. Cavan Grant Achille [sic] returned to Newcastle.

Tuesday 31 March 1874

– possibly returned to Sydney?

Anyone who has any further information relating to this visit, or is a descendant of any of the characters in this story are encouraged to contact us at the University.

Yours sincerely,

Gionni Di Gravio
University Archivist