Stories sought about Midland’s past

Dr Shane Burke holding a relic colonial tea cup.
Dr Shane Burke holding a relic colonial tea cup.

MIDLAND seniors educated locally or who worked on the railroads in the first half of the 20th century are encouraged to share their stories at a forum run by the newly-founded Midland and Districts Historical Society.

The University of Notre Dame archaeology researcher Shane Burke will talk about the origins of Midland at the event on Sunday.

“It’s always an asset to hear the story of a person who lived in a time and place, to uncover themes and ideas that are not obvious from the history books or archaeology,” Dr Burke said.

“Once a person dies, the amount of information about their lifetime that is lost is huge; more people have to become aware that the stories in their minds are in fact very important.

“Each individual will experience the same history differently and the more perspectives we can use to examine a historical event and the more diverse the storytellers, the more informed the history books will be.

“One thing that is no longer available about the development of Midland is the testimonies of people who grew up in the 1890s and the first decade of the 1900s.”

The forum will consist firstly of a 30-minute presentation by Dr Burke, who studied the founding of Guildford, Swan Valley and Midland during Australia’s colonial era for his PhD.

“I think Matthew Pavlinovich, the acting chair of the society, has given me ‘the guernsey’ for speaking on Sunday,” Dr Burke said.

“I have a spiritual connection with Midland, having gone to school at La Salle College and played footy at Midland Oval, so it should be easy for me to connect with people.

“I will not just be looking at Midland in the 1900s; I will also be talking about the colonial days of the town’s development in the 1880s and how it affected the already established landscape.

“You can still see ghosts of the pre-Midland colonial infrastructure around today.

“For example, there had been a farm in the area since the 1830s. The Swan and Helena rivers have also been home to indigenous people for thousands of years.

“I will be showing people how to look for features in the landscape they have driven past many times without realising the significance of particular bends in the road to the history of the area.”

Dr Burke said he was excited about holding more forums as people began to learn about the Midland and Districts Historical Society.

“Midland has a long cultural identity with famous individuals from the area, especially athletes,” he said.

“For example, Keith ‘Spud’ Slater (sportsman), the Gartrell family (sports store owners) and Ken Bagley (footballer) are all Midland boys who grew up in the first half of the 20th century; it would be great to have them come up and have a talk.”

Anyone with an interest in Midland’s history is welcome to attend the forum at Church of Ascension Hall, Spring Park Road, Midland, on Sunday at 2pm.