Life in the Shadow of the Hydrogen Bomb

‘If Soviet Russia has the hydrogen bomb… then the West must turn again to its defences.’ Published in the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners Advocate in 1953, this foreboding warning came in response to the Soviet Union’s explosion of their first thermonuclear weapon—a hydrogen bomb. Soviet Charman Georgy Malenkov considered this the end of the […]

Read More…

Industry Connections

Rectangular tray of rusty, assorted drill bits.

At this point, the history of Newcastle, located on Awabakal and Worimi country, is enmeshed with coal mining – but this was not always the case. Though these twentieth-century drills bits may have seen use in one of the many coal mines in the region, they are actually typical of those used for woodworking or […]

Read More…

Safety in Numbers

Imagine spending hours underground every day, working in a dark, damp, confined space, and breathing powdered coal dust that also coats your hair, skin and clothing. Add to that a constant, risk of physical injury, cave-ins, and the threat of explosions caused by any burning substance coming into contact with the methane gas seeping out […]

Read More…

Protective Measures

‘At present nuclear attack on Australia is unlikely,’ reads the final page of this booklet, ‘Should our strategical circumstances change and it become advisable for you to prepare to meet the dangers of fallout, you will be informed.’ Locals of the Greater Newcastle area would have had mixed emotions when these pamphlets began arriving for […]

Read More…

Earning His Stripes

Two black and yellowed fabric patches shaped like the tops of arrows

After 24 years of service at Dudley Police Station, on the 20th July 1945, Constable Albert Edward Wallbank (1887-1953) was promoted to the rank of Senior Constable. Upon receiving his new rank and responsibilities, Wallbank also earned these Senior Constable stripes that were affixed to his uniform. As a policeman, Wallbank dealt with his fair […]

Read More…

For Your Information

News of the success of the poliomyelitis (polio) immunisation program would have delighted Dr. Kenneth Starr, a former Medical Superintendent of Newcastle Hospital during the 1930s. Polio was one of the most terrifying diseases to sweep across Australia during the 20th century. Affecting mostly children, in many cases it could cause permanent paralysis and even death. […]

Read More…

Putting Pen to Paper

Computers, tablets and smart phones might be helpful, but many would agree there’s still nothing like scribbling down your thoughts using a pen and paper. In December 1872, when Maitland Mercury newspaper employee John Thompson ( – 1902) first opened this diary, he seems to have been thinking of using it in the coming year […]

Read More…

Tackling Speed

This wooden sheave block – which houses a metal wheel (the sheave) and, together with its rope (called a strop) and hook attachment, functioned as a pulley – is a relic from the celebrated nineteenth century steamship called the SS Sophia Jane (1826-1845). English-built in 1826, the Sophia Jane sailed to Australia in May 1831. […]

Read More…

A Laugh a Day

The popular Australian cartoonist Les Lumsdon (1912-1977) was born in Abermain, New South Wales, a small outlying town of Newcastle. Spanning three decades, Lumsdon documented the lives of ordinary Australians, capturing the political mood of the times in his satirical comic sketches.   He created these hand-drawn cartoons for the Newcastle Morning Herald from 1946 […]

Read More…

En Route

In November 1916, as the troopship HMAT Borda approached Cape Town, Private Leslie Clouten and his mates on board were surely impressed by the scenery – the city at the southern tip of Africa nestled between the shore and Table Mountain, rising behind. His ship had already called at Durban a few days earlier, and […]

Read More…