Glimpses of an Extraordinary Life

Cover of the book, The Lone Protestor

‘The Lone Protestor: A M Fernando in Australia and Europe’ by Fiona Paisley, (Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 2012).

Warning: This post contains references to Aboriginal people who are now deceased.

The Lone Protestor is the story of a remarkable Aboriginal man who lived in Europe during the interwar years.  Anthony Martin Fernando’s protest about the terrible treatment of Aborigines in Australia was featured on the front page of the highly regarded Der Bund newspaper in Switzerland in 1921.  Fernando handed out hundreds of flyers decrying the behaviour of British towards Aborigines to Catholic pilgrims in the vicinity of St Peter’s in Rome.  He used his court appearances at the Old Bailey to bring attention to the injustice received by Aborigines in Australia.

Creative, intelligent and audacious are some of the words that came to my mind when reading about A M Fernando.  His protests were bold and very public, reaching to institutions that were at the heart of European civilisation. Yet few Australians knew about him at the time. His name has never been mentioned in history books… until now. Continue reading

Blog Header – The People

The header for this blog reflects my view of history.  It reflects a world where people communicated and travelled beyond their national borders. I am attracted to the perspectives offered by ‘transnational history’ which challenges the traditional nationalist histories of the past.  Historians who take a transnational view understand that people, ideas and goods travelled extensively beyond national borders.  These transnational connections were already extensive by the time we noticed them in the late twentieth century and started talking about globalisation.  People have always been curious about what lay beyond their home and sought to understand the ideas and exchange the goods of others.

The Silk Road is a good example of interaction between peoples.  The European empires that emerged after the travels of Columbus are another obvious example albeit in the case of many indigenous peoples, an exchange forced upon them with devastating consequences.  The lives of the people in the header of my blog were significantly affected by people who lived beyond Britain’s shores.

John Cornelius Woolward

John Cornelius Woolward d. 1836

The first person that I would like you to meet is John Cornelius Woolward.  You can only see the bottom part of this silhouette in the header (at the top above the ‘s’ and ‘t’ at the end of the blog title).  In 1798 he fought in the Battle of the Nile at Aboukir Bay, a significant battle where Nelson routed the French fleet.  John Cornelius suffered a significant hearing loss from this battle.  He then became the harbourmaster at Ramsgate, England.  He served in this position for 26 years.  His interaction with the world outside Britain was through conflict.  As far as I am aware, opportunities for him to interact with people from other parts of the world outside battle were very limited.

Studio photo of Matilda Woolward seated, holding a book

Matilda Woolward d. 1907

The next person was the wife of the son of John Cornelius, Matilda (nee Barrett).  She married in 1845 on the island of Guernsey.  Her husband worked for the coastguard and I assume had been transferred from Kent to Guernsey as part of the service’s policy of transferring their employees in a bid to prevent collusion with smugglers.  Continue reading


Lotus Temple - Delhi

Baha'i House of Worship - New Delhi

Tuesday 5th October was a significant day.  I handed in my honours thesis and my mother had her seventieth birthday.  Both of us were very busy on the day but we managed to talk to each other on the phone.  Technology helps to minimise the 700 odd kilometres that lie between us.

I have not written any posts in the last month because I needed to minimise distractions.  However, now I have finished I have loads of time to reflect on the last four years.  Given that I now have time to watch the Commonwealth Games, my thoughts have turned to Delhi. Continue reading