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Friday, December 4, 2020
Clarendon Homes
Clarendon Homes

Newcastle author pens series that began as a gift

Julie Keating is a Novocastrian who loves local history.

The retired librarian says she savours the time spent researching her favourite topic, Newcastle in the 1800s.

Ms Keating published Adamstown and Broadmeadow: The early days of settlement this week, the eighth book in the series.

The book takes an in-depth look at the suburbs’ early European origins, including the origins of its name.   

“Adamstown was originally named Adam’s Town after Thomas Adam, who first purchased land in the area,” Ms Keating said.

“Broadmeadow was a low-lying swampy area between Hamilton and Waratah known as Broad Meadows.”

Ms Keating, whose former workplaces include University of Newcastle and TAFE NSW, says her book series began as a gift for her parents.

“It started six years ago when I did some research on Lambton,” she said.

“I was raised in Lambton and my parents lived there most of their lives. My research was for them.”

What followed was a book about Waratah and Mayfield written so her grandparents could also immortalise their origins.

She has since written titles including Merewether and The Junction, Newcastle’s Harbour Foreshore and Newcastle’s Hunter Street.

After years of following leads, reading old newspaper articles and scrolling through online library sources, Ms Keating says she has learned some fascinating tidbits about the former steel city.

One of her favourite fragments of Newcastle history involves the city’s iconic foreshore.

“I was horrified to hear that in the 1850s they were planning to blow up Nobbys,” she said.

“It wasn’t a safe harbour and incoming ships had to choose between north and south when entering.

“To the south was a rocky outcrop, to the north was problematic winds and water depth.

“Their idea was to blow up the harbour. They had even sent the gunpowder to Newcastle to do it, but the residents protested and it’s believed it was the first environmental protest in the country.

“Can you imagine Newcastle without Nobbys?”

Ms Keating’s experience in teaching has helped her to sift through fact and fiction.

“It takes eight to 10 months to complete each book,” she said.

“A lot of what was written isn’t accurate and a lot of people’s research isn’t accurate, so, if I can’t verify it, I don’t use it.”

Memories are also not considered a source when collating history, she said.

“I have a childhood memory of playing on the steam engine in Lambton Park,” she said.

“I thought it was huge, and then I saw it as an adult and I soon learned that memories can’t be trusted.”

Julie Keating’s Newcastle in the 1800s book series is available from MacLeans Booksellers and Marketown Newsagency.