Friday, September 09, 2016

BULAHDELAH - A woman of Spirit by Kate Loveday

It’s the name of a town. A small rural Australian town, with a big history. 
Ask anyone about it and, unless they live nearby, or drive up the Pacific Highway regularly, it’s an even bet they’ve never even heard of it.
So much for fame!
When I first moved into the area I had no intention of using it as a setting for a story, or of writing a historical novel—let alone a series of them. All my previous writing was contemporary, but I’ve always loved history, so when a friendly acquaintance offered to loan me a book containing the letters of an early woman settler to her sisters, and describing her life there, I accepted it gladly. Rachel Henning, being quite well-to-do, had a very pleasant life here, and her anecdotes made me interested to learn more of the early days of this picturesque town. I started my search with the local Historical Society, and they made available to me all their records and photos of earlier times.

Located 145 miles north of Sydney, Bulahdelah sits on the banks of the Myall River, at the base of a great mountain, which, I learned, the aboriginal people named "Boolah Dillah", meaning the Great Rock, long before the white man came.
In the early days it was a significant timber cutting area, and gold and diamonds in the surrounding areas lured adventurous fortune-seekers.
There wasn’t much to Bulahdelah back then—a dusty High street, a general store, and the Plough Inn, a convivial gathering place--and not much else.

Learning about earlier days here made me realize life was hard for many people then, and made me wonder if all the women led as pleasant a life as Rachel Henning, and how life was for all women back in the nineteenth century.
And what I learned shocked me, for women were considered to be physically, emotionally and intellectually inferior to men. She was a second rate citizen. Not just in Bulahdelah, but everywhere.

The law in the era stated that when a woman married, all her assets became her husband’s property. And the law gave him the right to force her to obey him in every area of her life. This meant she was totally dependent on him for everything, both financially and emotionally. When she married all her property became her husband's on the day of their marriage, so she became virtually his chattel, to treat as he wished. No matter how badly he chose to treat her, she had no redress.

And that’s where the idea for my book ‘A Woman of Spirit’ was born. It’s about a young woman who rebels against the standards of the day, and the problems she meets when she decides to live her life outside the normal rules for women of the day.
Life, and love, was not easy for her.
And what better setting for this story than beautiful Bulahdelah.

Today Bulahdelah is a thriving country town of about fifteen hundred inhabitants. Timber cutting is finished, but it’s a popular tourist destination, known for boating on the river and lakes, fishing and scenic bush walks. It’s not known for a bright night life, but it has great eateries, and the Plough Inn is still there.
And the town is filled with friendly people .Who love reading stories that have immortalized their town in print.

In the town I’m known as ‘The Author’, and when I take coffee in my favourite coffee house, the Myalla Magic, I’m warmly greeted, and I’m often asked about their favourite character. ‘How’s Kitty?’ they ask. To them she is very real! And they ask about my next book, all agog to read the next episode in the Redwoods series.

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