Preserving History with Personal Memoirs
What is history without the personal memoirs of those who were there? Those who actually experienced the events and shared their thoughts on both the events and the times the occurred in.
Where would our researchers be without the chroniclers of the times?
Lieutenant General Watkin Tench
I found the memoirs of Lieutenant-General Watkin Tench, who sailed as a Captain-Lieutenant of the marine detachment under Major Robert Ross on the “First Fleet” of convicts to Australia and arrived in Botany Bay on 20 January 1788, a treasure trove of information about the first European settlement of Australia. Published in London in 1793, Tench’s “A Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson” (available online from Guttenberg Press
) is one of two books of his personal memoirs which provide a window into the very first years of the establishment of the British Penal Colony at Port Jackson which was later to become Sydney.
Ulysses S. Grant
Or perhaps you may be more familiar with the personal memoirs of Ulysses S Grant, 18th President of the United States. Published after his death in 1885, by Mark Twain, and dedicated by Grant to the American Soldier and Sailor, Ulysses S Grant’s personal memoirs concentrate primarily on the General’s actions during the American Civil War and have been praised for its conciseness and clarity. Grant’s memoirs are also available online and free via the Guttenberg Press Project
if you are interested.
"Bilarni" - Bill Harney
For myself, however, it is the stories of ordinary people whose personal memoirs paint a picture with their words, whether an audio life story or in printed words and pictures, that bring alive the essence of a place and time. Stories like that of “Bilarni”. Bill Harney, Australia’s greatest ever yarn-spinner and a “bushy” who was appointed, in 1957, as the first ranger at the Ayers Rock- Mt Olga National Park and was distinguished by his lifelong involvement with Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory. Some of “Bilarni’s” stories are preserved by the Australian ABC National Hindsight Program and you can still hear his voice recounting his tales
44 years after he passed from this life in 1965.
Whilst personal memoirs have been produced for centuries, and those of more prominent citizens such as Tench and Grant published and even popular, new methods of preserving the personal memoirs of ordinary people have risen in popularity over recent times. No longer the preserve of the wealthy or the prominent it is now within affordable reach of the ordinary “man in the street” to employ the services of a specialist oral history company such as Lifetime Memories and Stories in Australia, to preserve their personal memoirs or life story and pass this valuable history down to future generations of story keepers and historians.
Hopefully our descendents will have an even richer well of source material to drink from.
Tags: audio·australia·history·oral history·personal memoirs