Tag: Shekki

Discussion on Stan Hunt’s book ‘From Shekki to Sydney’

I’ve already mentioned Stan Hunt’s book From Shekki to Sydney: An Autobiography. Here’s an opportunity to meet the author, editor and publisher.

What: Discussion on Stan Hunt’s book From Shekki to Sydney: An Autobiography
When: Thursday 11 March, 12:15pm
Where: Customs House Library, Circular Quay (Level 2 Meeting Room), Sydney

Blurb: Join Stan Hunt, Diana Giese as editor and Dr Mabel Lee as publisher, to discuss Stan’s new book, From Shekki to Sydney: An Autobiography. It’s an enthralling account of his family story, including his close relationship with his father, and the arrival of his grandfather in Australia in the late 1880s. The book offers a window into vanished worlds such as the villages of interwar southern China and country New South Wales emerging from the Depression. Stan describes setting up a series of successful family businesses in Sydney, as well as contributing to the community through service to Rotary, the Freemasons, the Chung Shan Society and the Australian Chinese Community Association.

Stan will discuss the book with Diana Giese at a free event at Customs House Library, Circular Quay (Level 2 Meeting Room), from 12.15–1.00pm on Thursday 11 March 2010.

Diana Giese has worked with Chinese Australian communities countrywide to produce the Post-War Chinese Australians project for the National Library of Australia, and have written books in the field including Astronauts, Lost Souls and Dragons (University of Queensland Press) and Beyond Chinatown (National Library of Australia). Diana Giese has collaborated on life story books with people of Polish, Hungarian, Slovakian, German, Austrian and Indian background, as well as Stan.

Dr Mabel Lee set up and runs the independent publisher Wild Peony, showcasing new writing and arts, focusing on Chinese-related themes. She has facilitated the careers of many of the most celebrated Chinese writers, artists and performers, including 2000 Nobel Prize-winner Gao Xingjian, whose work she translates. Her academic research is on modern Chinese intellectual history and literature.

From Shekki to Sydney: An Autobiography by Stanley Hunt

A new book that might be of interest (via chinatown.com.au):

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries large numbers of Chinese travelled to the USA, Australia and other parts of the world to prospect for gold, or to work as labourers, gardeners and traders, but there are few eyewitness accounts of the lives of these people who predominantly came from South China. Stanley Hunt’s From Shekki to Sydney fills part of that gap in Chinese and Australian social history by documenting his childhood in Shekki, his experiences after relocating to Australia, and the lives of his parents and grandparents. His story will resonate with those of many silent others all over the world.

From Shekki to Sydney by Stanley Hunt

Stanley Hunt was born Chan Pui-Tak in Shekki, Zhongshan county, Guangdong province, China. The Japanese had invaded North China, and were beginning to bomb Shekki and the nearby coastal areas of South China when he, his mother and two younger siblings, left home to join his father in Australia. Reunited in Sydney on 5 April 1939, the small family travelled north to the county town of Warialda where his father ran a general store. Australian troops were fighting in Europe and Asia, the country was still suffering lingering effects of the Great Depression, and his father was on the verge of bankruptcy. On the timely advice of a travelling salesman, his father was able to save himself from financial ruin by negotiating new terms for repaying his accounts.

Through times of rations and quotas, the family value-added to their limited supplies, worked very hard and paid off their debts before relocating to Sydney in early 1945. Stanley and his father acquired businesses and prospered. Stanley is recognised for his significant contributions to social and community work in Australia, and China.

The father worked in Australia and had only returned to Shekki a couple of times during the author’s childhood: father and son were virtual strangers when they were reunited in Australia in 1939. As a twelve-year-old boy he began to work as a man alongside his father, and the development of their relationship contains many poignant moments that underscore the impact of ‘old country’ traditions on a younger generation of Chinese maturing into adults in Australia. The author is a highly observant ‘outsider’ as he grows from boy to man and is transformed into an ‘insider’.

If you are interested in the above abstract, please order your new book: From Shekki to Sydney: An Autobiography by Stanley Hunt, 200 pp. including 42 black & white photographs. Softcover: AUS $37.50.

In Sydney, copies are now available at GLEEBOOKS at 49 Glebe Point Road, Glebe NSW 2037, phone (02) 9660 2333, www.gleebooks.com.au.

Alternatively, the book can be ordered through local bookshops.

ISBN: 978 1 876957 15 5
Sydney: Wild Peony, September 2009
International distribution: University of Hawaii Press. www.uhpress.hawaii.edu

Transnational ties

An article of mine has just come out in a new volume called Transnational Ties: Australian Lives in the World, edited by Desley Deacon, Penny Russell and Angela Woollacott and published by ANU E Press. The book is the result of a great conference, Transnational lives/Biography across borders, that was held at the Humanities Research Centre at the ANU in July 2006.

My article, ‘A journey of love: Agnes Breuer’s sojourn in 1930s China’ explores a ‘scandal’ involving a young white Queensland woman, Agnes Breuer, who went to China with her Chinese husband in the early 1930s. (Their picture, together with their baby son, is featured on the front cover of the book.)

The couple had married contrary to the wishes of both their families, and Agnes found a very cold reception from her father-in-law on her arrival in China. Wishing to return to Australia, but with an infant son to look after, Agnes’ plight was exaggerated to the Salvation Army in Hong Kong – and she was ‘rescued’ under dramatic circumstances.

I first came across the story in John Sleeman’s White China, but he doesn’t mention Agnes Breuer’s name, or that of her husband, except as ‘Low Mun’. It took a bit of lateral thinking and a ship’s passenger list to find the family’s real name – Lum Mow. Sleeman had referred to a statement given by Agnes to Australian Customs officers when she returned to Australia, so I figured that there had to be some material in the National Archives about it all. More lateral thinking uncovered a file about her husband, known to most in Australia as William Lum Mow – but the file was listed under his Chinese name, Lum Wie. It was one of those lovely fat departmental files that contains correspondence and news clippings and all sorts of treasures.

More pieces of the puzzle fell into place when I managed to track down both Agnes Breuer’s granddaughter and William Lum Mow’s neice, who had themselves only recently made contact. Much thanks therefore has to go to Liz McNamee and Jenny Showyin for their generosity in sharing what they knew about the story of Agnes and William. Of particular value to me were the photographs, letters and other documents of Agnes Breuer’s that her granddaughter still had. The photographs are particularly wonderful, with a handful of pictures taken in China in 1932 during Agnes’ trip and many more of Agnes and William and their friends in and around Townsville in 1931. A detail from one of my favourites of Agnes and William is below.