‘Golden Words’ illuminate Uralla’s golden heritage

Published 30 March 2010

goldenDuring an event on Saturday that celebrated the gold-mining heritage of the New England town of Uralla, the regional and cultural historian John Ryan said the town still had an “integrity” that it had “retained from the goldfield”.

The event, at McCrossin’s Mill Museum in Uralla, was the launch of a newly-published book on nineteenth-century gold mining and its impact on the history, folklore and landscape of the region.

Golden Words and a Golden Landscape, by J. S. Ryan, Arnold Goode, Robert Haworth and Peter O’Donohue, is subtitled “Essays on Uralla gold mining history and a Glossary of the miners’ language in Australia from the 1850s to 1905: a volume in honour of Arnold Goode, local historian”. It is a joint publication of Arts New England, the University of New England’s School of Arts, and Uralla Shire Council.

At the heart of the book is a unique 100-page glossary, compiled by Dr Ryan, of words and phrases that have a special significance (technical and social) in the context of nineteenth-century gold mining, collected from the published writings of Rolf Boldrewood, author of Robbery Under Arms. The book also contains essays on historical, archaeological, and “bushranging” themes related to the gold-mining era in Uralla.

In his Foreword to the book, Alan Atkinson, Emeritus Professor of History at UNE, says: “It is a combination of linguistic, geographical and archaeological learning – sense of language plus sense of place – and as such is a model of its kind, and a highly valuable contribution to our knowledge of the history of Australia and of New England.”

UNE’s Professor Jennie Shaw, who officially launched Golden Words and a Golden Landscape on Saturday, reinforced this assessment of the book’s significance. She said that, in tracing the influences of the gold-mining era on the character of Uralla, it was “an important contribution to the social history of the town”. Professor Shaw is both Head of the School of Arts at UNE, and Director of Arts New England.

Both Dr Ryan and the Uralla Shire Mayor, Councillor Ron Filmer, paid tribute to Arnold Goode, President of the Uralla Historical Society, for his tireless and meticulous work in preserving historical, industrial and social records of the Uralla region, and facilitating a wide range of research on the region’s economic, social, and natural history. Mr Goode responded by thanking the contributors to the book, which he said he would “cherish”.

Councillor Filmer provided a Preface for Golden Words and a Golden Landscape, in which he speaks on behalf of “the myriad supporters . . . who all hold such an enormous debt of gratitude to Arnold Goode for his on-site interpretations of the past, thereby keeping alive the deeper understanding of our distinctive and dynamic identity that has come down from colonial times”.

Dr Ryan spoke about Mr Goode’s family connections both to the working of the Rocky River goldfield and to the founding of the University of New England. (Those family connections include the University’s principal founder, D.H. Drummond.) He emphasised the vital role of Uralla – particularly in its active enthusiasm for adult education – in creating a social climate conducive to the founding of the University.

After talking about the social “freedom” (including “the need to recognise societal inequities”) that developed on the goldfields, Dr Ryan concluded that “gold revenues and societal wealth made possible the four passionately democratic university foundations – in Sydney, Melbourne, Dunedin, and Armidale”.

Clicking on the image of alluvial gold miners’ equipment from Rocky River displayed here reveals a photograph used as the frontispiece of Golden Words and a Golden Landscape. The photograph is captioned: “Arnold Goode examining a tipping frame near the entrance to the long tunnel at Rocky River.”