Sunday, September 17, 2006

Journeying for emergence....on the 'Coleman trail'

For various reasons I have, till now, missed my 'summer' holidays. So I set aside much of September to rectify things. My starting point was to drive from a wet, grey Melbourne - very welcome rain I might add - to Ballarat on the trail of my elusive Coleman ancestors. I had no firm plan and no arrangements made for the first part of the journey.

The Coleman's, my paternal grandmother's family, came from Clifden in County Galway to Australia during the 1850s. They probably came during the goldrushes and the Victorian goldfields was probably their first destination. Ballarat is a pleasant city but a bit like a large home when the kids have gone away - it is hard to fill it out, and one retreats into the main spaces leaving nooks and crannies unattended. In Ballarat miners found some of the richest sources of gold in the history of Australia - fine public buildings followed, expressions of wealth and a European statement on the (relatively) new continent.

In a research sense I struck gold that afternoon in the Ballarat Library - in records of the Ballarat East Clerk of Petty sessions. I await with interest the records to see the nature of the misdemeanours of my Coleman forbears!

Ballarat revealed misdemeanours of another type. I am being metaphorical here in relation to the lack of attention by firms and government to broadband and community access. I am staggered by how 'unconnected' so many parts of Australia are when a decade or more ago we seemed to be ahead of the game. There is no internet cafe in Ballarat. In my hotel, which was not cheap, I was promised wireless access, but in the end it was down as was their own direct connection in the lounge. Hotel staff did not seem concerned, but as I sat sipping red wine in front of the fire, numerous vistors, including UK tourists, were left frustrated. They may not be back!

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