I recently inspected the buildings collected in the Pioneer Village at Pittsworth on the Darling Downs, with my historian colleague Dr Thom Blake. One of the buildings is a one-teacher school from Broxburn near Pittsworth.
The school was built by the local community and opened as a provisional school in 1898. Provisional schools were set up in places where there were few pupils, and were usually temporary structures. This building was a cut above the norm. It became a State School in 1909, and closed in 1959.
As Thom pointed out, provisional schools were ephemeral, and this is a rare and highly significant survivor. I’d be interested to hear of any others.
The Department of Education has published a short online history of Queensland provisional schools.
Bad business at Mowbray Park
It looks like the citizens of East Brisbane will have to mobilize again, and stand up for the things they value.
Noel Pearson remembers Gough Whitlam
Thanks to the ABC for recording Noel Pearson’s powerful address at the state memorial service for Gough Whitlam in Sydney Town Hall today. The whole address is in the video below. Pearson spoke of Whitlam’s government as the textbook case of reform trumping management. Here’s a taste:
In less than three years an astonishing reform agenda leapt off the policy platform and into legislation and the machinery and programs of government. The country would change forever. The modern cosmopolitan Australia finally emerged like a technicolor butterfly from its long-dormant chrysalis.
And thirty-eight years later we are like John Cleese, Eric Idle and Michael Palin’s Jewish insurgents, ranting against the despotic rule of Rome, defiantly demanding: And what did the Romans ever do for us anyway?—apart from Medibank, and the Trade Practices Act, cutting tarrif protection, and no-fault divorce, and the Family Law Act, the Australia Council, the Federal Court, the Order of Australia, federal legal aid, the Racial Discrimination Act, needs-based schools funding, the recognition of China, the abolition of conscription, the Law Reform Commission, student financial assistance, the Heritage Commission, non-discriminatory immigration rules, community health clinics, Aboriginal land rights, paid maternity leave for public servants, lowering the minimum voting age to eighteen years, and fair electoral boundaries and senate representation for the territories—apart from all of this, what did this Roman ever do for us?
And the Prime Minister, with that classical Roman mien, one who would have been as naturally garbed in a toga as a safari suit, stands imperiously with twinkling eyes, and that slight self-mocking smile playing around his mouth, in turn infuriating his enemies and delighting his followers.
Etymology of a microphone
As I was reading about the technicalities of sound recording, I wondered where the lavalier microphone got its name—(a lavalier is the little microphone you sometimes see clipped to peoples’ shirts when they are interviewed on TV). I did some digging and here’s what I found.
The word lavalier comes from the name of a mistress of King Louis XIV of France, Louise de La Vallière (1644-1710). She is remembered for her style and her piety—after having four children with the king she left the court in 1674 and spent the rest of her life as a Carmelite nun.
Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870), who knew a thing or two about mistresses, fictionalised the duchess in Louise de la Vallière, the second part of his 1847 three-part novel The Vicomte de Bragelonne—a story of action, intrigue, romance and skulduggery in the court of Louis XIV. Perhaps, through the popularity of this sequel to The Three Musketeers, the name Lavallière came to signify high-class style with a dash of danger.
The name La Vallière crossed over into English in the late nineteenth century. The Oxford English Dictionary records these moments of adoption and transformation:
1873—in an English women’s magazine, about a hat—White chip Lavalliere Hat. The crown is moderately high, with a rather broad brim, turned up in front and down at the back.
1916—in a Canadian newspaper, about a necklace—Our stock of moderately priced Necklets, Pendants and La Valieres is most attractive.
1942—in an English literary journal, about a man’s neck tie—His collar and ready-made tie (a lavallière).
1972—in an American book about word origins—Today the small television microphone that hangs on a cord from the neck is also called a ‘lavaliere’, taking its name from the pendant necklace.
I met him just once, and heard him speak several times, and feel the expected sadness at his passing. Many of his accomplishments made a direct difference to me, to say nothing of their effect on so many other people.
James Semple Kerr 1932-2014
Dr James Semple Kerr died on Wednesday. Today I have spent a little time with the biography he wrote of Joan, his wife and partner. It was a pleasure to read it again—sad, but still a pleasure because it is so imbued with Jim’s wry observation and clarity of thought. I can hear his voice as I read it.