Tag Archives: National Museum of Australia

THIS WRITING LIFE: Spirited – Australia’s Horse Story

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While I was visiting Canberra the other week for the Australian Romance Readers Convention, I was fortunate enough to catch the Spirited: Australia’s Horse Story exhibition at the National Museum of Australia before it closed.

Being horse-mad from birth, I can’t resist the call of anything equine and the museum was only a pleasant stroll around the edge of Lake Burley Griffin from the QT Hotel where the convention was being held. A sunny autumn day, some horsey goodness… perfect.

The museum released a great video of the exhibition which is well worth a look. It certainly got me excited!

It was rather thrilling to be confronted with more video on entrance to the exhibition, this time showing wild brumbies in action. An elderly man, who said he used to help his dad break brumbies, and I stood mesmerised by the footage in warm, horse-loving companionship. We were so entranced we watched the video loop through twice. Even when I left to take in the main exhibits, he stayed on. I don’t think he wanted to leave.

Video still of brumbies at the Spirited exhibition

As expected, the exhibition was a trove of interesting artefacts and information. Look at this: A first edition of The Silver Brumby alongside Elyne Mitchell’s typewriter.

Typewriter used by Elyne Mitchell and a first edition copy of The SIlver Brumby

The first displays were interesting, focusing on colonial life and the important role horses played in the development of the colony and agriculture. Horses were uncommon in the early years of settlement. A few arrived with the first fleet, but according to the museum guide book by 1791 only one stallion, one mare and two colts survived, and horses remained scarce for several decades.

There were some wonderful artefacts on display from Springfield station, near Goulburn, including this magnificent dress harness fitted with the Faithfull family crest.

Carriage harness with Faithfull family crest decoration from Springfield station.

From Burrungurroolong station, also near Goulburn, came this wonderful rocking horse. I would have killed for something like this as a kid. That’s a go-fast rocking horse if ever there was one!

Wooden rocking horse from Burrungurroolong station.

I thought this carved-out log trough was amazing too. Imagine the hard work involved in its creation.

Carved log feed trough.

I also really liked this forging anvil, which was used by blacksmith Samuel Sinclair, who arrived in Bermagui in 1904 to set up shop after having served as a farrier in the Boer War. I know it’s hard to tell from the photo, but this thing was HUGE and weighed 348 kilograms.

Forging anvil.

My favourite display was probably the trophy cabinet. This contained, among other things, the 1866 Melbourne Cup won by The Barb, and is our earliest known intact cup. Initially, the Melbourne Cup was a prize – a gold watch or cash – and the first actual cup was awarded only in 1865, which makes this version particularly precious. The other two trophies are the 1867 Melbourne Cup and Queen’s Plate won by Tim Whiffler. Apparently two horses called Tim Whiffler competed in the Cup that year, with ‘Sydney Tim’ taking the prize, along with the Queen’s Plate two days later.

Ornate Melbourne Cups and Queens Plate

The exhibition had its quirky items too. Moving from the sublime to the ridiculous, here’s Jackson, a toy horse used in the 2007 alternate Birdsville races when an outbreak of equine influenza caused a ban on the movement of horses and shut down the normal event. In typical outback fashion, the show went on, with mock races fielded with stuffed toys.

Jackson, the stuffed toy Birdsville races competitor

And more quirky exhibits. An inkwell made from a horse’s hoof. This makes me think of the snuffbox the British made from Marengo’s hoof, Napoleon’s favourite warhorse, and was presented to the Household Brigade.

Hoof inkwell.

There was even an old horse-drawn dairy carriage, circa 1947, complete with poo (out of shot, unfortunately). One of the plaques told a great story of a bakery horse who was so habitualised that it simply set off on his route when flu kept its driver from turning up to work.

Lincoln Park Dairy delivery cart

This sculpture had so much life, and was (ironically?) surrounded by anatomical specimens, including bits of Phar Lap.

Wire man and horse sculpture

There was much, much more in the exhibition, including information on breeds in Australia, a fascinating video on the use of the whip in horse racing, medals from Olympics and other major events, pony club tales and photos (rah!), and pieces on all the various equestrian sports Australians compete in, from dressage to campdrafting and everything in between.

Definitely worth the visit but for those who missed it, never fear! The National Museum of Australia has pages and pages on its website about the exhibition. There are photos, videos, and deeper stories about horses in Australia. You can spend ages on there. A fantastic resource for those who love horses or are simply interested in our history.

And here’s my souvenir from the exhibition: Hot Chocolate the blow-up wonderhorse. What a steed!

HotChoc3.0

Not quite the real thing but at least he’s house trained, doesn’t eat much, and packs away flat. Sadly, he will never, ever compete with this darling. Not in my eyes.

Cathryn as a little girl with Mysty

My first horse, the romantically named Mysty. Best horse evah. Sigh.

Yep, once a horse-girl, always a horse-girl!

 

THIS WRITING LIFE: ARRC Part 2 – The Photos

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I’m sure you’ll see from these photos that everyone who attended the weekend’s Australian Romance Readers Convention in Canberra had an absolute ball.

Victoria Dahl during her keynote speechI think the highlight for me (other than catching up with old friends and meeting new) was Victoria Dahl’s speech on unsympathetic heroines. I’ve never read any of her books but was left so impressed that by the end of her talk I’d bought two of them. Gotta love technology.

The booksigning was, as it always is, loud and enormous fun. I’m very grateful to that most excellent of book sellers, Booktopia, who generously gave away multiple copies of Rocking Horse Hill over the course of the weekend. So many people came up to me to get them signed and have a chat. It really made my convention. There were plenty of delegates with The French Prize too, which they’d received in their welcome bags thanks to Harlequin Australia. All of us came away loaded with excellent reads. I’m looking forward to Yes, Chef by Lisa Joy (thanks to Penguin Australia), The Brewer’s Tale by Karen Brooks and Luna Tango by Alli Sinclair, who also won the ARR Award for Favourite New Romance Author (both titles from Harlequin).

Here are some of my favourite happy snaps from the weekend. There would have been more only it appears I have managed to kill yet another camera. Sigh. Oh well, at least this one was only a cheapie, unlike the last.

Hot Chocolate, the blow-up horse, being given the kiss of life by Cathryn Hein in the QT bar at ARRC 2015

Hot Chocolate being given the kiss of life by me in the QT bar (pic thanks to Amy Andrews)

I arrived in Canberra a day early and after a spot of shopping wandered off to check out the Spirited: Australia’s Horse Story exhibition at the National Museum of Australia. The exhibition was nearing its end and the shop had discounted all its stock. Naturally, with all that lovely horsey stuff on offer, I went on a bit of a spendy-fest and one of the items I came away with was an inflatable horse. I thought I might use him as a prop during the booksigning or simply as a fun toy for my office.

But as I passed the bar on the way back to my room, I found myself waylaid by Anne Gracie and Kelly Hunter. I resisted their entreaties to join them hard. Really hard. These ladies are persuasive though, and it was with great reluctance *cough* that I settled down for a catch-up over a few drinks.

The crowd soon grew (must have been our magnetism) and somehow the blow-up horse was dragged out for a show-and-tell. After a bit of encouragement, I agreed to inflate him. What an effort! It was a close run thing but I eventually managed to get him blown up without passing out. He then needed to be christened, and while a few names were bandied about I believe it was Amy Andrews who came up with Hot Chocolate. And thus Hot Chocolate he became.

Anne Gracie with Cathryn Hein admiring Hot Chocolate the blow-up horse in the QT bar at ARRC 2015

Anne Gracie with me, admiring Hot Chocolate the blow-up horse in the QT bar at ARRC 2015 (pic thanks to Amy Andrews)

I’m proud to say that Hot Chocolate even scored a mention in Helene Young’s wonderful opening keynote speech, and was much-admired by many over the weekend.

My shy roomie at ARRC 2015, Rachael Johns

Rach was feeling a bit camera shy…

My ARRC roomie was good buddy and rural romance star Rachael Johns. She took a bit of prodding to get up on Friday morning. Rach blames the 3 hour time difference from WA to the ACT but I don’t know…

As mentioned, Helene Young (whose novel Safe Harbour also won Australia’s Favourite Romantic Suspense award) gave a wonderful opening keynote speech, in which she talked about her reading and writing journey. Helene was followed by book launches for Rachael Johns (The Road to Hope) and Shannon Curtis (Tribal Law). All proceeds from Tribal Law’s sales go to ARRA so if you haven’t yet nabbed a copy, go get! You’ll find across all major ebook platforms, including amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Smashwords or your favourite retailer. Or order the paperback from Booktopia.

Dangerous Liaisons panel at ARRC 2015. L-R: Cathryn Hein, Shannon Curtis, Helene Young and Bronwyn Parry

L-R: (a grumpy-looking) me, Shannon Curtis, Helene Young and Bronwyn Parry (thanks to DB Tait for the pic)

The rest of my morning was taken up by the Red Dust Heroes panel with Rachael Johns, Lisa Ireland, Alissa Callen and myself, and superbly moderated by Jeanie Misko, followed by the Dangerous Liaisons panel where I was joined by Bronwyn Parry, Helene Young, Shannon Curtis and moderator with the mostest, Amanda Knight.

Saturday night was awards night, and what fun was had! The theme was roaring 20s (or something like that!) so there were lots of flappers.

Rach and me getting ready for the ARR Awards dinner at ARRC

Me and Rachael Johns getting ready for the awards dinner. A couple of glammypuss flappers!

Me with Red Sand Sunrise author and all-round gorgeous person Fiona McArthur showing off our sexy flapper outfits

Me with Red Sand Sunrise author and all-round gorgeous person Fiona McArthur, showing off our matching sexy flapper outfits.

Some of the crowd at the awards dinner.

Great crowd at the awards dinner!

Fiona Lowe, Shona Husk, Delwyn Jenkins and Cheryl Adnams all dressed up for the ARRC 2015 dinner

L-R: Fiona Lowe, Shona Husk, Delwyn Jenkins and Cheryl Adnams.

Kylie Scott (deserving winner of Australia’s Favourite Romance Author and more) sponsored a photo booth at the dinner where a lot of fun was had. Here’s my collection.

Pictures from the ARRC dinner photobooth

Another highlight of ARRC was the booksigning. This is such a great event and very well attended.

The booksigning room

Alyssa Montgomery, me and Trish Morey

Alyssa Montgomery, me and Trish Morey

Cathryn Hein and her blow-up horse at the ARRC 2015 booksigning

Me and Hot Chocolate the blow-up wonderhorse.

Sunday was another full-on but fun day. As mentioned, Victoria Dahl gave a great speech and there were plenty of fascinating panels to keep us perky after a big night.

Anna Campbell, Christina Brooke and me enjoying the romantic destinations panel

Anna Campbell, Christina Brooke and me enjoying the Romantic Destinations panel.

L-R: Kate Cuthbert (moderator), Margareta Osborn,  Cheryl Adnams, Barbara Hannay and Victoria Dahl.

L-R: Kate Cuthbert (moderator), Margareta Osborn, Cheryl Adnams, Barbara Hannay and Victoria Dahl on the Small Town Seduction panel.

Reader Jeanie Misko  enjoying the Changing Lanes panel at ARRC 2015, featuring Trish Morey and Fiona McArthur (plus Amy Andrews and Fiona Lowe out of shot).

Reader (and our fab Red Dust Heroes panel moderator) Jeanie Misko enjoying the Changing Lanes panel, with authors Trish Morey and Fiona McArthur in the background.

Overall, a wonderful time was had at ARRC 2015. Everyone left Canberra feeling fab except for poor Hot Chocolate, who was feeling very flat that it was all over.

Hot Chocolate the blow-up wonderhorse felt very flat that ARRC was over.

Never mind. We’ll resurrect him again in 2017!

If you’re after a romantic read that won’t let you down and would like a list of all the 2014 ARR Award winners, you’ll find them all on the ARRA blog.