Seven Day Challenge 6: Haibun, Meroogal, Mr Garling and Tottie

Kennina Fanny McKenzie Thorburn , to give Tottie her full name, was one of the generations of women who lived at Meroogal.  She, her nieces and all but one of her sisters, who died in childbirth, never married. Spinsters all. A nasty, spiky word to bandy about unmarried woman. One can hear the neighbours sniff. Lots of men friends. Always driving out. Can’t keep a man.

The curators of Meroogal are modern people with generous modern sentiments. They put a positive spin on the girls’ unfortunate circumstance: ‘A young woman of the Victorian era, Tot Thorburn had suitors and male friends but chose not to marry. She enjoyed a long and happy life with her sisters at Meroogal.’

Tottie, not being a modern person, may have thought otherwise. ‘1896, January Tuesday 14. Mr Garling came up & took Netta & I out to give us a lesson how to play Golf.  I got quite interested & got on very well. Mr G. stayed to tea. Wednesday 15. Mr Garling came we drove him home. Saturday 18. Mr Garling came out with us for a drive. Sunday 19. Went to church in the morning. Mr Garling was there came up in the afternoon he stayed to tea. Monday 20. Nice day. Mr Garling came up & gave Netta & I another lesson in golf says I get on well. I like the game. Tuesday 21. Mr Garling came to dinner. After afternoon tea I sang for Mr G & Netta. Mrs. Matthews Will & I drove Mr Garling to the train & saw him off to Mittagong quite sorry to see him go. Came home, feeling glad there were no visitors.’

1896
He taught Tottie golf
pretty glow
yet Mr Garling leaves on the train

For day six of my personal challenge to illustrate one haiku a day for a week I have written a haibun. Haibun includes haiku and prose. I’ve just this week discovered this form. I really enjoy the story telling potential in combining three concise prose paragraphs with a haiku.


Do take a look at some of the links to Meroogal. A fascinating place with such richly diverse stories. From home and back it’s less than a day. When the jacarandas flower I’ll go there. Things should be better by then. In this covid era haven’t we all learnt to plan simple, to cherish small dreams?

Golfing Tottie Sources
The Caroline Simpson Library and Research collection is the source for the lovely picture of Tottie[i] relaxing in the garden.[ii]
The iron rose is from the Rijksmuseum.[iii] You must be a subscriber to the Rijsstudio for full access to their images but it is so worthwhile.
When travel is again possible Meroogal is a must visit.[iv]
Find out more about ‘The Women of Meroogal’[v]
Meroogal’s curators tell a story about life at Meroogal, Tottie and Victorian mores.[vi]
The image of Tottie’s golf clubs comes from this engaging story about golf.[vii]
You can read some of Tottie’s diaries online.[viii]


[i] http://collection.hht.net.au/firsthht/fullRecordPicture.jsp?recnoListAttr=recnoListRI&recno=44948

[ii] https://sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/research-collections/library

[iii] https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/nl/collectie/NG-NM-1089-A

[iv] https://sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/meroogal

[v] http://collection.hht.net.au/firsthht/fullRecord.jsp?recnoListAttr=recnoList&recno=347

[vi] https://sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/stories/home-their-own

[vii] https://sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/stories/cupboard-under-stairs-meroogal-and-golf

[viii] https://sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/stories/tottie-thorburns-diary

Collage: Exploring Meaning

So Many Stories

MEROOGAL: This collage is a variation on my Meroogal short story #21. It is part of my response to the 2020 call for entries in the Meroogal Women’s Art Prize. Use this link to find out about the competition. https://sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/meroogal-womens-art-prize-2020

Stories are infinite in their variety. We want to participate in them.

Artists have long understood the power of collage as a tool for manipulating the singular narratives that so often exclude them.’[i]

We now live in a time of formalised isolation. But so many lives have been lived in imposed isolation. Historically many women were isolated and excluded by class and behavioural expectation.

Such women wrote diaries, took photographs, used scissors, paper and glue to collect scraps, photographs and cuttings into scrapbooks and collages. This work was rarely viewed by its creator or her contemporaries as an art piece. They were just women occupying themselves in artistic pastimes. But in doing so they used their creativity to review and comment on the world around them. I’d call that art.

She lived a good deal by herself, to herself, working, passing on from day to day, and always thinking, trying to lay hold on life, to grasp it in her own understanding. Her active living was suspended, but underneath, in the darkness, something was coming to pass. If only she could break through the last integuments!’[ii]

In my isolation I use the technological equivalent of scissors, paper and glue to make my collages and scrapbooks. Historically women didn’t ask for permission to keep their scraps, they didn’t claim ownership of the original images, or sell their scrapbooks. Nor do I. Did they see scrapbooks as art? Maybe not, but mine are art to me.


[i] https://nas.edu.au/queer-contemporary-2020/

[ii] Lawrence, D. H. Women in love 1923. New York. Thomas Seltzer. P. 10.