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Inhaltsangabe: The Liberator’s Birthday is a story about a group of Irishmen who live around the junction between Redan and Sebastopol to the south of Ballarat. Both districts were centres of intensive goldmining during the second half of the nineteenth century. Mining impacts on all their lives. They have either been involved themselves in raking the riches out of the earth or they have supplied the mines and men with needs. Some mined when every man was his own boss, others had to be content with wages begrudgingly paid by hard nosed managers. The more enterprising formed up into tribute parties and contracted out their services. All were affected by what mining had done to the environment, the muddy roads and paths, the dammed creeks overflowing with all manner of effluent, the flooded back yards and the privies that spilled over to provide a deadly cocktail of diseases which threatened all their lives. In the summer they put up with grit carried from the mining sites by the hot winds and deposited into every crevice, and there wee the flies and mosquitoes which bred on the pools of stagnant water. And there was always the noise as quartz mining replaced alluvial and the city and surrounds were dotted with huge powerful stamper batteries to crush the rock.
These Irishmen gathering in a pub on the corner of Rubicon and Skipton Streets had other concerns too. Prominent among them was the Catholic Church which, unlike the benign and understanding church their ancestors had fought and died for, had become a stern and unbending task master. It had imposed upon them rules and regulations that were hard to understand and even harder to obey.
They had to turn their backs on comrades with whom they had shared the great adventure of gold mining. They could no longer count among their friends men who did not profess the Catholic Church as the one true church, and they could not marry any woman who took their fancy. The children too had to be in schools approved by the church and increasingly these were ones constructed with money that had come from their own pockets.
Some of them were confused, others resentful, but they were also fearful. They knew they could not disobey. To do so would be to place themselves outside the church and dam their souls forever.
They brought their old-world conflict with them to the new land. The Orange and the Green focussed their antagonism on neighbourhood pubs in 1875, at a difficult time on the famous Ballarat goldfields. Jill Blee skilfully surrounds her characters with the flavours of time and place. The mines and mining tragedies loom in the background while the belligerence of miners and lorrymen, together with their imported patriotism and religious bigotry threaten the desire of the Farrell family to achieve wealth and respectability This special day in the life of their pub becomes life itself, filled with contemporary spleen, beautifully described household routines, and relentless social climbing that threatens Tommy Farrell's chance of finding love.
Written with attention to the big picture, but infused with telling detail, this book offers time-travel to a former here and now. Weston Bate (President, Royal Victorian Historical Society)
About the Author: Jill Blee has a BA and an MA in history from Macquarie University, an MA in writing from the University of Western Sydney, and a PhD in History from the University of Ballarat. Her interests are principally in Irish and Irish-Australian history and literature and both have featured in her own writing. Over the last four years her attention has been focussed on Ballarat and the Irish migrants who settled there during and after the goldrushes of the 1850s.
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