Posted by: Lisa Hill | December 4, 2020

Two Books for your Christmas Shopping List

I’ve only had time to browse these two books, but Christmas is suddenly upon us, and these two would make great presents for someone you love.

The first is A Pictorial History of Australia’s Little Cornwall,  by Philip Payton, Professor of History at Flinders University.  This one is of particular interest to South Australians, where Cornish miners flocked in the nineteenth century, and few long-established families who cannot point to Cornish branches somewhere in their family trees.  These rugged individualists brought with them a distinctive identity, Methodism, and Celtic customs.  Impelled to migrate by poverty, they were attracted to South Australia by reports of mineral discoveries, the first of which was galena (silver-lead) in 1841.  The Burra-Burra copper mine soon emerged as the principal employer of Cornishmen in the period to 1860.  Some of these miners abandoned SA when gold was discovered in Victoria but discoveries of copper at Wallaroo and Moonta in the early 1860s brought the industry back to life again.

The book is primarily a history of the mining industry: it’s profusely illustrated with B&W photos of mines and the miners, but there’s not much in the way of other aspects of community life or the role of women.  The book is a reprint of an earlier edition from the 1970s, which seemed progressive then but now seems a bit deficient in not mentioning the early contacts between Cornish settlers and the indigenous Narungga people. [Who were presumably distraught at seeing the havoc wreaked upon their lands] But for family history buffs, local historians and anyone interested in the history of South Australia in general and migration in particular, this is a terrific book.

Australia’s Little Cornwall is published by Wakefield Press and is available from their website RRP $29.95 and wherever good books are sold.

Some readers will remember an author Talk I reported on back in September. Courtesy of  events manager Christine Gordon from Readings, author Richard Broinowski was in conversation with Amelia Mellor about his new book Under the Rainbow, The Life and Times of E W Cole.  From comments below my post you can see that this book roused nostalgic memories for many people of a certain age, and intrigued those who hadn’t heard of Coles Funny Picture Books.  The book is lavishly illustrated and is cleverly designed to evoke the era of the Funny Picture Books with font and pictures.

It’s a comprehensive biography, beginning with Cole’s life in Kent and his subsequent migration to Australia, but it’s more than a biography because Broinowski is a former diplomat with a powerful grasp of issues beyond Cole’s commercial genius and capacity for self-promotion.  There are chapters about the Great Depression, the White Australia Policy and Cole’s visit to Japan in 1903.  It strikes me that authors of Australian historical fiction would find much that’s useful for background research in this book, both in terms of domestic history but also the wider historical context.  A full double-page spread of just some of Cole’s publications shows that he was much more than a publisher of amusing children’s books: there’s The Kookaburra Cookery Book, and The Best Poems of Ella Wheeler Wilcox but there were also pamphlets about the White Australia policy (to which he was opposed).  I think this is a book with very wide appeal.

Under the Rainbow is published by The Miegunyah Press RRP $44.99 and an eBook edition for $22.99 and should be available from their website but they’re out of stock.  But Readings has it so it’s probably widely available in good bookstores.

Happy shopping!


  1. Philip P has written prolifically about the Cornish diaspora, and of course on their migration to Australia. I’ve not read them, but would hope he considers in these other volumes the areas he elides in this one.


    • I think he probably does: there’s no biographical info about him at Goodreads, but there’s a pile of other books about Cornwall and the Cornish, and I assume that’s not including his academic papers.


  2. I really enjoyed ‘Under the Rainbow’.


Please share your thoughts and join the conversation!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: