Home' Hunter Its People : Hunter Our Backyard June 2011 Contents 23
MY HUNTER ADVANTAGE
Q: "What advantages in life
do you feel you have had in
coming from Maitland?"
A: ''Growing up in Maitland
in the 1950s gave me a great
affection for the farms around
Morpeth - my grandfather
was a great friend of the
Lantry family. Our extended
family was very close and
we made our own fun - lots
of bush picnics and home-
made theatricals. Life may
have been culturally deprived
compared to life in Sydney, but
on the other hand the sense of
isolation gave me time to think
and dream of the future. There were few distractions''.
- John Bell, acclaimed Australian actor and theatre director,
born in Maitland in November, 1940. He founded the Bell
Shakespeare Company in 1990 and has been instrumental in
shaping Australia's theatre industry. He spent five years with
the Royal Shakespeare Company in Great Britain, in the 1970s
taught at the National Institute of Dramatic Arts, and in 1978
was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, in 1987
a Member of the Order of Australia and in 2009 an Officer of
the Order of Australia. Both the universities of Newcastle (1994)
and Sydney (1996) have awarded him an honorary Doctorate of
Letters. In 2002 he won a Helpmann Award for Best Male Actor,
in 2003 the then Prime Minister, John Howard, presented him
with the Cultural Leader of the Year Award and he has been
named an Australian Living Treasure.
Q: ''What advantages
in life do you feel you
have had in coming
A: ''Growing up in a
part of NSW, large
enough to expand my
horizons but small
enough to be personal
and supportive; in
having access to a high-quality public-school education
which prepared me for critical thinking and contributing.
The cherry on the top was in having a holiday shack at
Fingal Bay where, in the days before mass tourism, we had
the run of the beach and the bushland. I carry with me
always an appreciation of light and sunshine and space.
- Cheryl Kernot, one of the National Trust's 100 National
Living Treasures. She was leader of the Australian Democrats
from 1993 to 1997 and a Labor shadow minister from 1998 to
2001, playing a major role in the introduction of compulsory
superannuation and native title. She was a member of the
Council for Reconciliation from 1992-1997 and was patron of the
Australian women's cricket team from 1994 to 2000. Following
her political career she worked in the UK and is now director of
social business at The Centre For Social Impact in Sydney and is
chair of the Fair Trade Association Australia and New Zealand.
She is an honorary board member of Foresters Community
Finance and is on the founding committee of a UK charity which
works to provide shelter and education for street children in
It's creepy and it's kooky,
mysterious and spooky, and
altogether ooky . . . but it isn't the
Addams family, it's Maitland Gaol,
a sandstone monolith that housed
murderers, rapists, serial killers,
armed robbers, escape artists
and petty criminals, and where
visitors can now visit its cells and
even spend the night . . . if they
The echoes of unbelievable
horrors bounce around the gaol's
razor-wire topped walls. The 16 men hanged
there are all believed to be buried beneath the
courtyard. Others were flogged. Infamous names
from Australia's criminal elite were captives: serial
killer Ivan Milat, drug trafficker George Savvas,
robber and escape artist Darcy Dugan, Jack
''Chow'' Hayes, Edward ''Jockey'' Smith, the Anita
Cobby, Leigh Lee and Janine Balding murderers
and Ebony Simpson's killer.
From its opening in 1848 to its closure in 1998
as the longest continually operating correctional
institution in Australia, no one wanted to be
at Maitland Gaol - and now tourists flood its
The gaol saw escapes and riots, suicides and
killings, fires and attacks on wardens. Tennis balls
and dead birds stuffed with drugs were thrown
over the prison walls. Home-brewed alcohol was
hidden in toilets.
Now these tales are retold as the gaol has become
an anchor tourist attraction for the region with
a self-guided audio tour and themed and torch-
lit tours as well as group sleepover nights. The
audio tour is narrated by actor Chris Haywood,
interspersed by comments and observations by
former inmates and guards.
There's four themed public tours -- personal
accounts from ex-inmates and ex-wardens,
a history tour and a psychic tour, some
incorporating torchlight, school group and dinner
Icons: Top, actor John
Bell and the razor-wired
fence of Maitland Gaol
and, bottom, a restored
Tiger Moth flies over
Q: What do you think is special about
A: ''I'm still walking . . . it must be the
Maitland air. The people here are all
wonderful, all good friends. It's our home
here, and that's something. I have a lot of relations -- my
great nephew lives here and all his children . . . We love the
place out here better than England.''
- Blanche Coward, a resident of Maitland's Catholic Care
Mount Carmel Village who, at 109 years old, is the Hunter
Valley's oldest resident. Born in England in 1901, she came
to Australia in 1914 and has been living at Maitland for more
than a decade.
THE LAST WORD ...
Named by Captain
a settler of 1828, after
Farleigh, near Bath in
Named after an early
settler named Bishop.
Named in error by
a railway official
in 1925, when the
should have been
TELARAH A Welsh word for
pit pony, named by a miner
who worked in a nearby pit.
Named after a
locality in Ayreshire,
for the battle of
Largs in 1620.
MORPETH From Morpeth, near
Newcastle upon Tyne in England.
The English Morpeth is on the River
Wansbeck on the road between
London and Edinburgh and is believed
to derive its name from ''moor path''
as it crosses the moors.
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