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Maldon, October 2009 Henry Handel Richardson Celebration Weekend With thanks to the organisers, Sally Morris, Marg Taylor and JaneyRunci, and also to their army of volunteers
Ethel Florence Lindesay Richardson Ethel (Ettie) Richardson, better known by her nom-de-plume Henry Handel Richardson, was born in Victoria Parade, Fitzroy on 3 January 1870. She wrote the novels Maurice Guest (1908); The Getting of Wisdom (1910); Australia Felix (1917); The Way Home (1925) and Ultima Thule (1929) published as the trilogy The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney in 1930.
From prosperity ... The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney is based on Ettie Richardson’s childhood experiences. The Richardson family migrated to Australia during the Gold Rush, and Walter Richardson became a respected doctor in Ballarat. From there they went to Melbourne where he was a notable progressive.
to hard times... Successful investments enabled him to take his family home to England but he was restless and unsettled and brought his family back to Melbourne in the 1870s. There he lived the life of a gentleman but his investments failed and he had to set up in practice again. As his health began to fail, he then tried practice in Chiltern and Queenscliff but became seriously ill and died in August 1879.
A determined woman... So in 1878, Mary Richardson learned the skills needed to be postmistress from friends Henry Dod and his sister Bessie in Queenscliff. Another friend, Henry Cuthbert, got her the job of postmistress in Koroit, and Walter died there in August1879. From there they moved to Chiltern. The Richardson’s home: Lake View House in Chiltern
The Maldon Post Office. From Chiltern Mary Richardson took up the position of postmistress in Maldon, with daughters Ethel (Ettie) and Lil. The family lived at the Maldon Post Office from 1880 to1886. Mary Richardson was paid less than half the male wage, and suffered the derision of the local paper, the Tarrengower Times, because it was unthinkable for a lady to work and be in charge of male employeers.
Commemorative Plaque on the Maldon Post Office
Calder House At Calder House, Ettie Richardson and her sister Lil enjoyed the friendship and lively company of Thomas Calder and his family. They enjoyed card nights and musical evenings. It’s now a lovingly restored B&B.
The Maldon AthenaeumLibrary This building dates from 1934, but the site was used for a Mechanics Institute from about 1863 until it burned down in 1933. It has a wonderful collection of classics!
Tressider’s Cottage (1859) and John Robinson’s Gothic Revival’ house (1866) These houses were already built when the Richardson Family arrived in Maldon in 1890.
Holy Trinity Church (1861)and Vicarage (1868) Ettie Richardson was tutored by the handsome young Reverend Jack Stretch in the vicarage but her youthful infatuation was not reciprocated.
Maldon and the novels... In The Getting of Wisdom, Laura, aged 12, leaves her home in the fictional town of Warrenega, which Henry Handel Richardson based on Maldon. Laura travels by Cobb & Co coach to Castlemaine, and then catches the train to Melbourne, where she goes to school at PLC.
‘The driver had mounted to his seat, he unwound the reins, cried ‘Get up!’ to the two burly horses, the vehicle was set in motion and trundled down the main street. Until it turned the corner by the Shire Gardens, Laura let her handkerchief fly from the window. (The Getting of Wisdom) Cobb and Co Coach
Kangaroo Hotel, Maldon After passing the Shire Gardens, Laura’s coach would have passed the Kangaroo Hotel, which still stands. A collection of wooden buildings was replaced by this brick building on Fountain Street in 1866.
The Commercial Hotel (now Lavender, Lace and Living) As long as the coach rolled down the main street Laura sat bolt upright at the window. In fancy she heard people telling one another that this was little Miss Rambotham going to school. She was particularly glad that just as they went past the Commercial Hotel, Miss Perrotet, the landlord’s red-haired daughter, should put her fuzzy head out of the window; for Miss Perrotet had also been to boarding school and thought very highly of herself in consequence, though it had only been a year, to finish. (The Getting of Wisdom)
Maldon Railway Station Ettie Richardson travelled by coach to Castlemaine, but today you can take the lovingly restored Victorian Goldfields Railway.
This historic steam train offers all the luxury of first class rail travel.
It’s staffed by friendly volunteers, who do things just the way they used to in the ‘good old days.’
Laura certainly wouldn’t have enjoyed champagne and nibbles, nor would she have sat in cane chairs, because this carriage, the Tambo wasn’t built till 1919.
Sources: Text from notes taken at the lecture by Peter Cuffley and Clive Probyn from brochures and posters on display in the Maldon Community Centre at the Celebration weekend Photos by Lisa Hill, except for the interior of the Athenaeum Library postcard, see also http://maldonlibrary.org.au/gallery.html The Richardson home in Chiltern, and Henry Handel Richardson, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Handel_Richardson