Tag Archives: history

The Tattooist of Auschwitz, by Heather Morris

At first the novel comes across as an easy to read Mills and Boon like romance tale. But once I read more about the terrible situation in the prison camp and the small actions that can make a difference whether you live or die I soon appreciated it for the great story and inspirational story that it is.

Continue reading The Tattooist of Auschwitz, by Heather Morris

Who Killed Jim Barclay?, by Wallace Mortimer

Who Killed Jim Barclay?

Book by Wallace Mortimer

Published 2009, 124 p., [32] p. of illustrations.

Who Killed Jim Barclay, by Wallis Mortimer.
Who Killed Jim Barclay, by Wallis Mortimer.

This book is about the murders of Jim Barclay and John Bamford in late 1917 at Wonnangatta Station located about 65km south of Myrtleford in Victoria. It’s reasonably well written but the writing quality is not up to main stream standard; plus I found a few grammar errors. Having a professional writer, like Gary Smith of Clever Words, go over the text would have made the book a lot better.

Local History

There is a lot of local history gone over, some of it relevant and some that’s more interesting to know than relevant. For example the author mentions Ian Stapleton who was one of the founders of Geelong Grammar’s famous Timbertop campus. He relied on his helpful neighbour John (aka Jack) Klingsporn to help especially when the when the camp had problems. Jack Klingsporn has a tenuous link to the murders.

The Theories

Forensic techniques were very limited around 1917 and there is very little hard evidence to solve the crime convincingly. All of the theories come from sources who heard it from the alleged murderer and some who had a grudge.

Each of the theories are discussed in detail in the book.

Jealous Husband

One theory is that Jim Barclay was allegedly having an affair with Annie Klingsporn. Her husband, Robert, and his brother killed Jim for revenge.

The author dismisses this as there is no evidence the affair happened. In addition, both parties lived some distance apart and with no means of communication back then (probably still true now in the remote bush-land) a relationship would have been impossible.

Annie was also a busy householder helping to look after a farm in the early 1900’s with no time for anything else. It’s likely the hurtful theory was spread by Alex Trahair who detested Annie Klingsporn for some reason.

Evil Poet

With no evidence at all Percy Weston accused Billy Wye (a bush poet) and his accomplices of the murders to cover up their nefarious activity of cattle rustling. Percy saw Billy as a “never do gooder” and a trouble maker. Being an excellent poet I think it’s unlikely Billy is the murderer as he does not fit the typical criminal profile.

The Cattle Rustlers

This theory I think is the most likely solution to the crime. This again came second hand from the alleged murderer who told Frank Harrington about his exploits.

James Beveridge being eight years junior to this brother John (aka Jack) Beveridge, always lived under his shadow. It was his suppressed upbringing that made it impossible for him to be able to confide in adults, only children. An old James told the very young Frank Harrington what happened.

James hated the prospect of possibly being conscripted into the army to fight in World War I and he escaped to the bush for many months. During this time he learnt that Jim Barclay was running Wonnangatta Station on his own and he saw an opportunity to steal cattle, a practice he was already familiar with. The brands used all had the same initials, JB for Jim Barclay’s cattle and JB for James’ brother John/Jack Beveridge. If he was caught James could easily pass them off as his brother’s cattle.

But James was scared of being caught and killed Barclay, and then John Bamford to remove any witnesses to the crime.

Both the Beveridges became very rich with their wrongfully gained riches and bought many properties in the area. But both died unhappy and unloved. No one turned up, even his wife, to mourn the passing of James Beveridge.

I think James and possibly his brother John too, are the most likely murderers. James has a track history of disobeying the law and had no qualms about stealing cattle, in fact he thought he deserved the cattle more because he cared more for them than the absentee land owners. John was an over bearing and probably violent brother. The amount of property they owned and wealth they possessed was never questioned and it’s clear evidence that they both must’ve been up to something big that was illegal.


Who Killed Jim Barclay? is a fascinating read into Australian and Victorian bush history. We will never know who really killed Barclay and Bamford; and the case will always be an interesting subject for passionate discussion. This book is a good source for those who want know the background and some of the theories out there. Each one is discussed in detail and well analysed.

Learn more about the murders on the Harry’s Hut website.



Einstein, by Walter Isaacson

Einstein, His Life and Universe

Book by Walter Isaacson

Publisher: New York, Simon & Schuster Paperbacks,, 2017.
ISBN: 9781501171383 
Characteristics: xxii, 675 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, portraits ; 24 cm. 

After watching the series Genius season 1 I was curious to see how well it followed the book it’s based on. The TV show paints Einstein’s wife, Mileva, as an overlooked scientist rather than the assistant to Einstein that she really was. The TV show even compares her to Marie Curie suggesting that her husband shared the credit and so should Einstein. According to Isaacson Mileva was a second rate scientist who failed to pass the entrance exam and was more of a personal assistant than a fellow scientist when it came to developing the Theory of Relativity.

Poisonous Gas Development

The TV series spends a good amount of story time on the development a chemical weapon consisting of a poisonous gas which causes friction between Einstein and his friend; this is not mentioned in the book at all so I guess it’s a side plot the producers wanted to include. Not being in the book I don’t know if it’s true, but the side plot shows Einstein’s ethics and that he’s willing to disown friends if they go too far.

Theory Development

Einstein’s job at the patent office taught him to be sceptical and to question everything. This mentality led to him not accepting the current understanding of the physics of the universe but to develop his own ideas. Thankfully the book covers much of the development of his Theory of Relativity and even attempts to explain it to the reader. I feel a few diagrams to illustrate the ideas would have been more helpful than text alone. 

His personal life is probably more interesting to most readers and the book covers dealing with the difficult and fiery Mileva (portrayed well by Samantha Colley in the TV series) and his heartbreak being separated from his beloved sons due to problems with the marriage.


The book is an engaging read and it thoroughly covers Einstein’s life from childhood to the misuse of his theory to develop nuclear weapons. There is much content to get you thinking about many related issues. Highly recommended, along with the TV show too.

Giants of Steam, by Jonathon Glancey

Giants of Steam: The Great Men and Machines of Rail’s Golden Age

Book by Jonathan Glancey

Published 2012, 376 p., [16] p. of plates.

An excellent read for anyone interested in the past and possible future for steam. Full of facts and statistics the statements are well backed up and interesting to read.

The book starts with the tragic story of George Jackson Churchward, a giant himself of British steam locomotive design for the Great Western Railway, was tragically killed by 4085 Berkeley Castle after he stooped down to inspect the condition of the track.

This is just the first of the of facts that I learned about steam locomotives and their fascinating history of their development. Only the countries that developed their own steam fleet are included and this left out Australia.

In the book the reader learns about:

  • Andre Chapelon and his advancement of steam locomotive efficiency and power improvements
  • Making steam efficient
    • Gasified firebox, reduced pollution
    • High pressure boiler
    • Super heating
    • Improving steam flow and removing gas bottlenecks
    • Compounding
  • Running costs between steam and diesel are comparable
  • Steam locomotives can use any fuel and are not limited to oil over which wars have been fought (and still being fought)

He laments over the poorly managed way the British converted away from steam. Rather than chucking out locomotives they should have followed the Japanese example and kept steam in good running condition until an alternative was up and running.

Glancey believes there is a future for steam, but I think it would only happen if crude oil got scarce. This is unlikely due to the “frackers” of the United States who are currently producing more oil than is needed. There are locomotives on use on tourist lines that are kept warm overnight so they can start up within 15 minutes for the first service. Gasified fireboxes completely burn the coal and are not only make the locomotive more thermally efficient but also make the funnel output cleaner.


An excellent read about steam locomotives. It would have been even better with diagrams and text explaining how gasified fire boxes and steam flow improvements worked for example. There are lots of train weights, tractive effort and horsepower figures to keep the reader interested. There are also lots of journey times and if you don’t know the area they are hard to appreciate.

Useful Links

The Mystery of Princess Louise, by Lucinda Hawksley

Published 2013, 349 pages.

An excellent read which covers the relatively unknown life of Princess Louise, Queen Victoria’s second youngest daughter.

  • Was an accomplished sculptor, although some say she didn’t do the time consuming finishing off work of her sculptures.
  • Didn’t like being under Queen Victoria’s thumb and was rebellious
  • Argumentative with her younger sister Beatrice until they were both elderly
  • Compassionate to others through Albert’s guidance during childhood. She was a nurse and helped with many charities.
  • Excellent cook and didn’t mind helping out
  • Controversially had a lover (fellow sculptor)
  • Spent a lot of time in Canada with husband John Douglas Sutherland Campbell,
  • Suffered many deaths of her friends and family
  • Ate little to stay thin (had three brussel sprouts at one dinner) as she wanted to avoid the “Hanoverian” figure of her mother. Louise was in better health than younger sister Beatrice who was overweight
  • The author paints a bad image of Queen Victoria as an over authoritative controller of her off-spring, even more so when they were adults.
  • Louise had a very progressive view of women’s role in society, should be able to become professionals.
  • attractive and popular with public, appeared often in public.


It’s good to read a few books on the same subject and get a different view of the history that is covered, and this book gives a perspective of someone else in the royal family besides Queen Victoria.


Unsuitable for Publication: Editing Queen Victoria, by Yvonne Ward

Published 2013, 208 pages

A quick glance at the cover made me think I had picked up Victoria The Queen, by Julia Baird (which undoes the bias which occurred back then). The book discusses how two old boys from Eton, Viscount Esher and Arthur Benson, gave the modern world its view of Queen Victoria.

The author goes into a lot of detail how the editors went about their task, which was a huge one and sometimes there were regrets that they took it on. The editors can’t be blamed completely for the skewed image of Queen Victoria as they had to avoid displeasing the king even though one of them was good friends with him.

One bias was caused by Esher and Benson focusing on the male communications and not the female ones.

Due to being over careful with the sensitivities of the king the publication of The Letters of Queen Victoria was delayed quite a bit. The author discusses the type-setting process of a book. Even though I read books a lot it’s something I never gave thought to. Even a small book would needs lots of type-setting, but this one ran into three volumes and sold for 3 guineas (about £3 3s, or £3.30). All 5000 copies were sold and it was generally well received.

The book is a good study of censorship. Highly recommended.

Further Information

Victoria (2016)

The Young Victoria (2009)

Queen Victoria’s Children (2013)


Holden Our Car 1856-2017, by Toby Hagon

Published 2016, 280 pages

Holden, Our Car covers the period of Holden from the beginning in making saddlery, then car bodies and lastly their own car (with lots of help from General Motors).

There are many great images to stir up the nostalgia. Many photos could have been taken by my parents on holiday with the caravan and car in the 60’s.

It’s interesting to read about the process of designing, building and marketing a car, and the huge financial risk involved.  Each company effectively bets millions of dollars on a car that they don’t know if it will be a success or not.

Manufacturing Demise

The book covers the sad demise of car manufacturing by GMH in Australia. The author notes that the stronghold of Holden support, The Bathurst 1000, there are many supporters wearing the Holden gear but arriving in Japanese built cars.

Part of this is due to bad quality control which is noted by one of the overseas managers. From my own experience both my Torana 1900 and Ford Cortina often broke down. Rarely if ever a problem with my Japanese built Subaru or Nissan cars.

Design Industry

The book finishes on a happy note saying that Holden is still doing well in Australia as a leading design studio.


Overall an excellent and enjoyable read. Highly recommended.


Victoria the Queen, by Julia Baird

Victoria the Queen. An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled An Empire, by Julia Baird

Published 2016, 696 pages (including 35? of notes, bibliography and index).

This book was thoroughly enjoyable. It begins with a “list of characters” amongst maps and the family tree which suggests a play; and that’s the way it was written.

The style keeps the reader interested; plus the extensive background to the age helps understanding of why the characters did what they did.

Some of the issues discussed in the era are:

  • Bad treatment of child workers (under 10 years old) in the mines, many had to crawl along the wet muddy ground of the mines to haul coal carts as adults were too large to do it.
  • Lack of sanitation leading to disease. It was surprising to learn that Buckingham Palace was victim to this as well as the poor, with sewage leaking out in the kitchen.
  • Very few rights for women (given that Victoria was female in such power you expect more would be fixed here).
    • Treatment of women as chattels.
    • No rights to house or children after divorce.
    • No government voting rights.

A recent documentary Queen Victoria’s Children paints Victoria in a very dim light regarding her children. However in this book we learn that Victoria was fond of her children but refused to breast feed them as was common for the wealthy classes of the day. Her daughters were different here as well as in many other things including one who became an accomplished sculptor.

Victoria had a strong interest in politics, although when Albert was around this seems to have waned.

Overall an excellent and enjoyable read. Highly recommended.

Further Information

Victoria (2016)

The Young Victoria (2009)

Queen Victoria’s Children (2013)