While visiting Australia during 1914, French aviator Maurice Guillaux flew his Bleriot monoplane to deliver Australia’s first official airmail, flying from Melbourne to Sydney on 16-18 July. Over this coming weekend, the The Aviation Historical Society of NSW, with the assistance of Australia Post, will lead the centenary celebrations for this significant event, through a re-enactment flight by Owen Zupp in his Jabiru and accompanying aviators and aircraft. Although the idea of carrying mail by aircraft these days seems very ordinary, in 1914 Guillaux’s flight was an exciting and inspiring moment for many Australians.
On a cold and windy day, the National Museum’s ‘Horse team’ were amongst thousands of people gathered to witness history in a paddock at ‘Willow Vale’, just outside of Yass, New South Wales. An initiative of the Yass Antique Farm Machinery Club Inc, ‘Woo back!’ hosted 28 horses and their humans to set a Guiness World Record for the most heavy horses ploughing in one field. It was an enthusiastic celebration of the contribution of equine muscle to Australia’s agricultural history, allowing a new generation to see horse drawn ploughs in action.
Today marks 150 years since the birth of Australian poet Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson. Given that the talented horse rider took his pen name ‘Banjo’ after a racehorse owned by his family, it is not surprising that Paterson’s work was filled with lively descriptions of horses and riders in various settings, in particular the high country of New South Wales and Victoria. Paterson’s passion for his subjects can be found in each word of his poems, with a distinctive rhythm that brings their actions to life for his readers. It is perhaps those qualities that have given Paterson’s work its longevity, so that generations after his words were written, Banjo’s equestrian ballads are still a defining marker for the characters and lifestyles they have come to represent.
With Chinese New Year celebrations now underway around the world, 2014 is a year to consider the beauty and power of the horse. As 2014 is the year of the Wooden Horse, it is particularly poignant for the Horses in Australia project team at the National Museum, and a good time to reflect on a few horse stories in the Museum’s collections.
The dust has now settled on Warwick’s 85th week of campdraft and rodeo events, one of the most popular and famous sporting events in Australia. Museum photographer Jason McCarthy and I headed to Warwick to watch and talk to some of the best horse and human competitors as part of continuing research for the Horses in Australia project. Continue reading