Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Epic fail and win

I joined the 100 million plus people watching the Superbowl and, true to form, picked the wrong side. Again. Go the Cowboys? she says in a weak voice.

So. Football is done and dusted for another year - and with the looming lockout, we might not get any games next season. Sigh. It's a good thing the rugby union starts in a couple of weeks. I'm just saying.

I'm multi-tasking at the moment: working on two books. One for a beta reader (sorry, S., it's coming, I promise!) and one for the museum for whom I do some work.

Now, the Lady Denman Heritage Complex is so named because of the main attraction: the ferry. Back in the day, all Sydney ferries were named for the wife of the Governor General. So ours is named after the wife of the fifth Governor-General's wife, Lady Gertrude Denman. The ferry was built by local builders and plied the waters of Sydney Harbour for nigh on seventy years before a community group managed to get the ferry back home.

It's not the only attraction, there's other stuff, too. But it is the ferry that's important.

One of the most frequently asked questions by visitors is "Who was Lady Denman?"

I'm a little disgruntled that the reply is usually, "The wife of the fifth Governor-General of Australia." Or "She named Canberra." Lady Denman was more, did more than most Australians realise.

So, I set about researching, with the aim of writing a few pieces for the newsletter. I got distracted last year by other stuff going into the newsletter, but I'm now back on track.

Everywhere I looked, the primary reference was Gervas Huxley's biography Lady Denman, G.B.E, 1884-1954 (Chatto & Windus, 1961) now out of print. I managed to track down a second-hand copy from Abe Books in New York (isn't the internet a wonderful thing?).

Today, the book arrived. It doesn't have a dust cover but it is in a good condition. I'll be using it in conjunction with other primary and secondary sources. My sense of satisfaction turned into a squee moment and a Holy Shit, followed by an OMG. Inside the cover is a bookplate, no big. On the opposite page is an inscription:

To Eve & Bert
with love
Judy Burrell

Yeah, I know you're thinking 'so what?' So I'll just say, Judy Burrell was born, the Hon. Anne Judith Denman and married Lt-Col. Sir Walter Raymond Burrell, 8th Bt. She went by the name... Judy.

There are ways to check the provenance of the book, but I don't have access to the databases required - or how Eve and Bert knew Judy, but the scenarios are legion, if I want to try.

I'm just happy to have the text and to marvel at the universe for putting the book into my hands. It's almost as good as having Lady Denman sign it herself!

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