Marking time

Marking time

Friday 1 May 2020

Gado gado

In this time of social distancing, my friend Jo Bragg has set up a fundraiser and invited me to Create Gado Gado and Fight COVID 19.

Join us on Saturday 2nd May to create, decorate and digitally enter your own Indonesian Gado Gado, Crazy smoothie or other Indonesian favourite. Donate to Oxfam’s emergency appeal to enter and fight COVID 19. Why? To help protect our neighbours in Indonesia and elsewhere with needed hygiene equipment. Prizes will be given for best entries based on authenticity and creativity.

I have eaten many versions of gado gado, but the best of them was my first, in Bali in 1972. I remember it well. I don’t want to try to recreate that first experience​—​that would risk adulterating the memory.

I was staying in the village of Kuta, a short bémo ride south west from Denpasar. Foreign backpackers had started coming to Kuta and staying, as I did, in rooms added to some of the local family house com­pounds, or in one of the few small guest houses. You could eat excellent local food, and buy batik and ikat sarongs and other clothes necessary for visiting temples, and observe the people and the landscape. We back­packers brought money into the village, but our presence did not seem to disrupt the Balinese way of life​—​rice cultivation, fishing, animal raising, and the rich patterns of observance of temple obligations, all continued.

In 1991 I visited Kuta again (with my partner Margie this time) and found the place had changed. What I remembered from 1972 as a dirt foot path meandering through a grove of coconut trees had turned into a paved road clogged with buses and taxis and crowded with tacky bars and shops. I look at a google map of Kuta now, and I know I won’t be going back there…

Enough of that. Let me return to that gado gado of almost fifty years ago. I’ll need to bring in some Indonesian words to evoke the scene:

Warung​—​a kind of eating place, smaller and simpler than a restoran or rumah makan, and more than a roadside food cart. In my memory this particular warung had a wooden table with a couple of stools for diners to sit on, and space for the proprietor to prepare food, under the shade of a thatched roof. It was close to the beach, beside the road leading from the village to the seashore.

Wayan​—​a person’s name signifying that they are the first-born child in their family; also the name of the young woman in charge of the warung. Gado gado was the main item on her menu (or perhaps the only one, I don’t remember), and this is how she made it:

Sambal​—​the sauce. Wayan began by grinding fresh chillis (cabé rawit = bird pepper) and fried peanuts (kacang tanah) in a stone mortar that had the form of a flattish dish rather than the usual bowl shape. She mixed in some water to adjust the thickness of the sambal.

Lontong​—​pieces of cold cakes of compressed rice were the main ingredient of the dish by volume. These rice cakes had been made in advance, and were hanging under the thatched roof. Each cake was pillow-shaped, enclosed in a little basket of woven strips of coconut palm leaf. As Wayan made my gado gado her younger sister was making the next batch of these baskets, deftly twirling loops of leaf in one direction, then weaving another strip through them at right angles, then drawing the weave together to leave no gap a grain of rice could pass through, except for a small opening at one corner​—​uncooked rice was put through this opening, partly filling the container, then the package was pulled tight with a hanging loop protruding from the corner. When the packets were put into a pot of boiling water, the rice grains swelled into a solid mass within the palm leaf packet, ready for the next day’s gado gado.

A couple of woven coconut-leaf lontong containers [Drawing by Soun Vannithorne, from The rice book: the definitive book on the magic of rice cookery by Sri Owen (London: Doubleday, 1993)].

With her sharp knife Wayan cut the lontong packets open, threw away the (bio-degradable) packaging and sliced the rice cakes into pieces and put them on my plate.

Tahu​—​slices of soybean curd (tofu) came next.

Sayuran​—​vegetables. There probably were some greens but I don’t remember what they were. The list of ingredients in my notebook has a cryptic ‘etc.’ which I now guess included various lightly-cooked vegetables served cold.

Taugé​—​Bean sprouts brought crisp textures to the dish.

Telur​—​egg. Small bantam-sized eggs, hard-boiled, shelled, and quartered, went in next, accompanied by distant crowing of bantam cocks, the wind in the coconut trees, and the swish of waves on the beach, followed by the sambal, and all the contents of the plate were mixed together to merge the sambal with the other flavours and textures.

Finishing touches​—​whole crisp-fried peanuts were sprinkled on top, along with Ikan bilis (tiny, intense, salty, dried anchovies) and a few Kerupuk (brightly-coloured fried prawn crackers kept in a large glass jar with airtight lid to keep them crisp) topped the dish.

Wayan handed the plate to me, with an aluminium spoon, with a smile and a hint of a bow. Salamat makan!

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Sunday 19 April 2020

Nowhere near Bordeaux

I had planned to be in France about now, making a pilgrimage to the Gironde estuary and the Cordouan lighthouse. But the spread of the coronavirus put a stop to that plan. So now I am keeping my distance at home. Maybe later, after the present un­pleasant­ness is behind us, I’ll try again.

Cordouan Lighthouse one hour before low tide [photo: Thibault Grouas]

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Tuesday 24 March 2020

Introducing Daniel Marquis

I have been plugging away, investigating my great-great-grand-uncle Daniel who came to Brisbane in the 1860s. I have started work on a website​—​Daniel Marquis: a Scottish photographer in colonial Queensland​—​but it’s not quite ready to be seen.

For that website I have written this short account of Daniel Marquis. It corrects some furphies you might read in Wiki­pedia.

The account is based on reliable historical doc­u­ments; in­form­a­tion about those documents will appear in footnotes at the bottom of your screen when you put your mouse cursor on the asterisks in the text.*See, like this.

Carte-de-visite backmark

Daniel Marquis (1829-1879), photographer, was born*National Records of Scotland: Old Parish Registers: Births 644/2 40 196Z: Gorbals. Daniel was born on 17 May and baptised on 24 May 1829. and raised*Census of Scotland 1841 (Washington Street, Parish of Anderston) and 1851 (Crown Street, Parish of Gorbals). in Glasgow. He was the second of twelve children of John and Mary Marquis, who were grocers, victualers and spirit mer­chants.*Census of Scotland 1841 and 1851; Glasgow directories 1818-1849.

In 1851 Daniel married Grace Murray in Glasgow;*National Records of Scotland: Old Parish Registers, Marriages 644/02 0080 0060 Gorbals: 1 December 1851. he was 22 years old and working in a cloth warehouse*Census of Scotland 1851 (Crown Street, Parish of Gorbals).; she was 20 and keeping house for her father and her five younger siblings*Census of Scotland 1851 (Cathcart Road, Parish of Govan)..

Grace and Daniel went on to have five children, of whom three survived to adulthood.*National Records of Scotland, various birth and death records.

By 1855 Daniel was working as a photographer in Glasgow.*National Records of Scotland: birth register entry for Isabella McGregor Marquis, Daniel’s and Grace’s second child. In 1856 he was running his own studio in Grangemouth.*Advertisement, Falkirk Herald, 5 June 1856. In 1857 he was in Hamilton.*National Records of Scotland, birth register entry for John Marquis, Daniel’s and Grace’s third child. By 1858 the family had moved to Stirling where Daniel opened a studio in Mayday Yard,* Advertisement, Stirling Observer, 5 June 1858. then at 32 King Street,* Listing in Slater’s royal national commercial directory of Scotland, for 1860 & 1861. and later in Barnton Place.*Carte-de-visite with Barnton Place backmark, dated 24 July 1863.

In 1862 doctors certified that Grace Marquis was insane and she was treated for several months in the Montrose Royal Asylum.*Montrose Royal Asylum records. For most of the following year she was in the Royal Edinburgh Asylum.*Royal Edinburgh Asylum records.

In late 1864 the family left Scotland for a new life in Australia. They sailed from London to Moreton Bay as fare-paying pas­sen­gers in the clipper ship Flying Cloud. The household​—​Daniel (35 years old), his wife Grace (33), their children Isabella (9), John (7), and James (5), and Grace’s sister Margaret Murray (23)​—​arrived in Brisbane in March 1865.*‘Flying Cloud’, Brisbane Courier, 14 March 1865.

By the end of 1865 Daniel had rented studio and living space in George Street in Brisbane, the capital of the newly-separated colony of Queensland. Within a few years the family had bought land*Memorandum of conveyance, 7 March 1867, for Sub 5 of Eastern Suburban Allotment 93, Parish of South Brisbane. and built a house beside the river at Lower River Terrace, South Brisbane.*The house is visible in a photograph taken from the roof of (Old) Government House by Captain Verney (Album of photographs of Brisbane 1867-1869, National Library of Australia, Bib ID 3044189). They also used their government-issued land orders to buy 33 acres (13½ hectares) of rural land on the river at Indooroopilly.*‘Crown lands sale’, Brisbane Courier, 28 February 1867.


Advertisement in Pugh’s Queensland almanac, directory and law calendar for 1866

Daniel established a successful photographic business in the George Street studio.*An advertisement in the Brisbane Courier on 30 December 1865, offering for rent two of the four shops and dwellings in Markwells Buildings, suggests that Daniel had already rented his premises. He made portraits that were presented as albumen prints in carte-de-visite and larger formats.*There are many examples in public and private collections. Outside the studio he photographed the town’s buildings and places, either on commission or for sale as stock items. He produced albums of views.*For example, an album presented to Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, after his visit to Brisbane​—​see Brisbane Courier, 18 May 1868. He showed his work in exhibitions,*Brisbane Courier, 29 June 1866. took forensic pho­to­graphs for the police,*‘Murder’, Brisbane Courier, 4 January 1870. provided photographs to make engravings for publication,*Brisbane Courier, 9 August 1870. and he made copies of drawings.*The Queenslander, 15 July 1871.

His most remarkable work was a series of photographs of In­di­gen­ous people who posed in his studio for solo and group por­traits​—​he was the most prolific Brisbane photographer in this genre in the 1860s and 1870s.*Michael Aird, ‘Aboriginal people and four early Brisbane photographers’, in Jane Lydon, Calling the shots: Aboriginal photographies (Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 2014), 144.


A copy of a photograph by Daniel Marquis of a group of Indigenous people in front of a painted scene of Brisbane, circa 1868 [Pitt Rivers Museum, Uni­ver­sity of Oxford, accession 1998.249.7.15.]

In 1873 Grace Marquis had another breakdown and was treated at the Woogaroo Lunatic Asylum near Brisbane.*Queensland State Archives, inquest file, item ID 2725918.

Daniel Marquis died of hepatitis in 1879 at the age of 49*Register of deaths in the district of Brisbane, 23 January 1879. and was buried at South Brisbane Cemetery.*Funeral notice, Brisbane Courier, 27 January 1879. He left his estate to his sis­ter-in-law, Margaret Murray, as trustee for Grace and the three children.*Will made 7 March 1873, Queensland State Archives, ecclesiastical (will) file, item ID 2803147. Daniel’s photographic business, including his archive of negatives, was sold to another operator,*‘Imperial Photographic Gallery’, advertisement in Telegraph, 7 June 1879. but it was closed about a year later.*The business was repeatedly advertised for sale in the Brisbane Courier from 24 June to the end of July 1880.

Grace was admitted to the Woogaroo asylum again in 1881 and died there in 1882.*Queensland State Archives, inquest file, item ID 2725918.

The three Marquis children who came to Queensland in 1865 all married and stayed in Queens­land.*Isabella Marquis (1855-1923) married John Baker in 1888; John Marquis (1857-1918) married Agnes Bailey in 1881; James Marquis (1859-1892) married Margaret Appleby in 1892. Grace’s younger sister Margaret continued living in the house at South Brisbane until she sold it in 1887.*Land title records.

The lives of Daniel Marquis and his family exemplify the ex­per­i­ence of Scottish migrants who came to Queensland in the 1860s. Daniel did not leave a cache of diaries or letters to tell his story, so much of his personal life remains obscure, but a substantial photographic legacy has survived in private and public collections.

Photo album

An album of photographs by Daniel Marquis in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. It is open at one of a panoramic series of four views of Brisbane from Bowen Terrace, and sits on a cushion in a private viewing room at the gallery. I had arranged to see the album, and a gloved curator turned the pages for me. [Accession NGA 85.1543.3].

Photographs by Daniel Marquis are in the following public collections:

State Library of Queensland
State Library of New South Wales
State Library of Victoria
National Library of Australia
Queensland Museum
Queensland Art Gallery
Berliner Gesellschaft für Anthropologie, Ethnologie und Urgeschichte
Pitt Rivers Museum at Oxford University
National Gallery of Australia

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Tuesday 18 February 2020

National Library cancels the OED

About a year ago I wrote that I was sad to be a member of a library [that is, The State Library of Queensland] that has so little regard for historical knowledge, but I am pleased to belong to the National Library of Australia which continues to provide online access to the OED.

That pleasure has not lasted. The other day I was having trouble getting a connection, through the national library website, to the online Oxford English Dictionary. I asked for help, and received this email reply:

As part of its ongoing collection management activities, in 2019 the Library conducted a review of the eResources collection to ensure that it is a coherent and cost-effective collection that meets the needs of a broad cross-section of the Library’s diverse audience. Considerations included relevance to the Library’s collecting policy, reader needs and interests, and subscription costs. Unfortunately, as a result of this review, the Library no longer subscribes to the Oxford English Dictionary online.
      In place of using OED online I recommend either the Macquarie Dictionary: Australia’s national dictionary online or Oxford Reference. Oxford Reference is a suite of databases and includes a shorter version only of the Oxford English Dictionary.

It looks like we are becoming a banana republic.

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