Once upon a maybe time.
As bloggers go, it transpires, I’m of the slack tart variety. Lots of mitigations, of course – our house plans disappearing into the black maw of Heritage, the architect on holiday for a month, the editing of my friend’s Phd thesis, the acquisition of a new potter’s wheel on which to make my lumpen creations ( but which doesn’t work – woe!). And last but most – health.
But no-one likes excuses.
For someone who’s taken on a ‘heritage’ house, I’m not really much of a history fan.
Not in the sense of chronology, anyway. My idea of a good history book is G K Chesterton’s, which very endearingly hasn’t got a single date. I remember in a history exam a lifetime ago I had the WW1 starting in 1939. I like to think that was nerves rather than egregious stupidity. Please don’t pop my bubble.
Nor am I much for all that begetting business of history either. I can’t even seem to quite get my mind around the concept of second cousins and so for the complexities of ‘twice removed’ and ‘by marriage’, I lean heavily on Mr Pimp. ( He having voluntarily dived into the plungepool of genealogy and emerged victorious with a structure quite incomprehensible to me, other than that it resembles a rudimentary mobile . Or a multi-tiered clothes hanging device. So naturally I didn’t do well in exam questions about kings and queens of England either. You learn to live with disability. )
But I do like a story. Especially one knitted from fancy, happenstance and conjecture. A story so full of gaps you can shape it to fit your own whimsy. There is, of course, such a story about the house.
It goes like this… Once upon a nineteenth century time John Flavelle, an Irishman, and his wife Mary begat several children amongst whose number was another John Flavelle. See my confusion? And in turn this younger John Flavelle travelled from Dublin to Australia and eventually, with his wife Catherine, begat about ten children of their own. He also begat, in another way of begetting, the house in the centre of Sydney which we, the deranged Pimps, have recently acquired.
But before all that begetting business and even before that wonderful collapsing portico was a twinkle in his eye, he went to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) to work as assistant to George Baron Goodman, who brought his daguerreotype apparatus to Australia, (reputedly the first), made his subjects endure half a minute of sweltering heat, and charged them a guinea for the likeness. Our man John, was a trained optician and therefore, I suppose, knowledgeable about lenses.
It was on one of Goodman’s two visits to Tasmania that he (maybe) took this photograph:
It shows the tabacco store of Ikey Solomon, who was Hobart’s ‘principal crook’. But before arriving in Hobart, Ikey Solomon had been London’s ‘King of Thieves’, training a gang of boys to pick pockets for him. He is thought to have been the inspiration for Dickens’ Fagin in Oliver Twist.
So there you have it. A picture taken of a tobacconist’s shop in Hobart around the middle of the nineteenth century, maybe taken by GB Goodman who was maybe assisted by John Flavelle, builder of The House. In the doorway of the shop stands a man who was maybe Ikey Solomon, who himself was maybe the inspiration for Fagin. That’s the type of history I love – black and white, all plain and clear.