Letters to the editor | July 19

Bridging our history

I write in support of the letter from Peter Smith, president of the Braidwood and District Historical Society (BT, July 12).

His plea for the retention and maintenance of the old bridge reflects many other occasions in the recent transport history of NSW when such valuable artifacts have been thoughtlessly destroyed.

In the Goulburn area, a similar bridge over the Mulwaree Ponds was destroyed a few years ago when the new concrete bridge over the road from Braidwood was installed, and a similar fate now looks likely for the road bridge on the way to Goulburn Airport. 

These bridges were designed like a semi-wooden Meccano set. There is a great deal of flexibility in the design and it is quite easy to replace any given part without the need to dismantle much of the rest of the structure.

Early railway technology had hundreds of them. Survivors today can be seen on heritage lines like Kuranda (Queensland) and ‘Puffing Billy’ (Dandenongs, Victoria). Outside Australia, they were common in the UK where the idea originated, and in all countries whose early rail networks relied on initial British technology. In New Zealand, the technological historians have preserved several in modern cycle trails and public footpaths.

Mr Smith is right to query the wisdom of demolition of the bridge at Charleyong. Who would be responsible for the sorting and stowing of the component parts? Would they be made available to potential purchasers? Or would it all merely end up on the local tip?

Anthony Shepherd, Braidwood

Preservation, not money

I was pleased to read Peter Smith’s explanation re the demolishing of an historic bridge (BT, July 12). I was appalled to hear the Historical Society approved the Charleyong  Bridge demolition.

On the same premise, as it costs a lot of money to maintain, we would have to demolish Bedervale. History is about preservation, not money.

This lovely old wooden bridge has received a lot of maintenance and as a new bridge for vehicles is being constructed on another site, there is no valid reason for not keeping the old bridge as a pedestrian walkway and tourist attraction.

Margaret Royds, Braidwood

The Clarke Gang in Perspective

I would like to point out some of the incorrect information that has been published about the murder of the Special Police in 1867.

The Clarke boys were never charged with this murder. At the time there were several groups of suspects. The local police were unhappy with their presence, as it was an indictment of their competence. It was suggested at the time that the police themselves might be responsible.

Some Braidwood citizens had burnt an effigy of Carroll in Braidwood as a result of his high-handedness, and Carroll was criticised by Colonial Secretary Henry Parkes for involving himself beyond his jurisdiction.

Many people of the Jingera district whom Carroll suspected of being the gang’s harbourers felt victimised by threats of arrest.

Given the severity of the law, long gaol terms could be expected for those found guilty, with families left without breadwinners, or in some cases mothers, for years, and innocent children sent to orphanages.

It is a known fact that they were responsible for the death of Constable Miles O'Grady at Nerrigundah.

The police report states that Miles was staggering down the street from the effects of his illness described as a fever. It is surmised that the fever was due to cholera, which was rife on the goldfields.

His plan was foolhardy: sick, staggering, possibly affected by opiates, armed only with a single shot pistol, he opened fire without announcing his presence.

Again there were no charges proceded with, but Tom Clarke and Pat Connell were outlawed. This meant they could be legally shot by anyone, could not give themselves up, and were totally set up for failure, without any chance of leading a reformed life.

Good history and reporting presents facts, provides analysis and raises questions that examine why things happen as they do.

In fairness to the historical record, the Clarke brothers themselves and their many descendants, we need to honour the concept of reasonable doubt.

Judy Lawson, Araluen