Friday, November 11, 2011

Who called them gum trees?

 I have always loved gum trees - their size and grandeur, bark colourings, strange shapes, the eucalyptus smell, blossoms and so on, and I have been thinking more about them in the last few weeks. Who was it first referred to them as gum trees? I have tried to look it up, but can only find why (the extrusions of gum they often have), not who. Why do I ask?
My brother and I are working on our family history, and I had a great 'find' recently. Our great, great grandfather was one of the first settlers of South Australia, coming 3 months after (1837) the first ship (1836), the "Buffalo' - he married a lady who came on that.
I was searching the digitised newspapers on Trove, the great National Library resource at where I have found quite a bit of information (some revealing, some quirky) about Oscar and several other family members, when I thought I would try his name in the Diaries and Letters section. I found reference to letters stored in the UK but copied under the Joint Copying Project, and available in 3 locations in Australia, one of them being Flinders Uni here in Adelaide. I tried to read the microfilm (a story in itself) but it was fairly hard going so I contacted the source record office in Luton in the UK to ask about copies and found they have more documents relating to his/our family in the UK.
The 6 copied letters are between Oscar and his mother, and are very interesting and informative, hers and his, describing events, the scene, the people, prices, labour shortages and so on. In 1852 Oscar visits the gold fields in Victoria. On the way to the fields from Melbourne he says they slept under the stars, 'under a gum tree'. Presumably he has described them before for his mother, or that name was commonly known? I will have to keep looking - all very interesting and enjoyable, but it does cut into my quilting time!

Before I finish, here is a picture I took when I went to Flinders Uni. Your guess is as good as mine. From a distance it looked like a small sculpture on the wall. Close up it looked like a pile of chocolate coated sweets melted together!

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