2nd Draft almost finished

I didn’t realize it had been so long since I last posted here on this blog. Strangely there have been many people visiting the blog from all over the world. Well even though I haven’t been posting on the blog I have been busy on the book. The second draft is almost finished, after applying the editing tools I learned in the workshop I attended some time ago.

I had to rewrite some parts of the book due to not being able to find the information that I wanted. I was in touch with the Port Pirie Diocese Archivist, who checked for me about any plans or information regarding the updating of the building back in 1925 when the church bought it. Sadly there was no information in the archives! So I’ve had to write a new chapter at the beginning of the book speculating about what might have happened to the house in 1925. I have also started a timeline of events regarding the old house to show it’s place in the history of Crystal Brook.

I also had to print out the forty pages of the first draft of the book because editing on a computer can get very confusing. One has to be very careful to focus on which draft you are working on, and ensure you aren’t updating the old draft. But I think I got it down pat and the work is going much faster now. I have also found a professional editor who might take a look at my second draft and give me some advice regarding printing. She is the sister of one of my friends and I’ll be getting in touch with her soon.

I also had a lovely long conversation with a lady who was a child in the Orphanage in the 1970’s. She lives in Queensland now and we talked and reminisced for about an hour. She is coming to Adelaide in February, so I’m hoping to catch up with her then.

We haven’t had time to get up to Crystal Brook recently. We have had the grandchildren here four mornings and afternoons a week, which kept us very busy. But as of now we are free agents again as my son and his wife have made other arrangements for the children. We can make arrangements to travel any time we want now. I should be able to really get on with this book too and have it finished in the near future.

I hope everyone is well and keeping safe and warm in this wild weather we are having in Adelaide.



Yesterday I spent the afternoon with about a dozen other avid writers learning about editing a manuscript. Mr Kevin O’Brien, a renowned professional editor, ran a workshop at the S.A Writers Centre for those who write non fiction.

It was an excellent workshop and I learned a lot about how to prepare a manuscript for printing. Now I just have to put all that I learned into practice on my own manuscript. But this editing and refining of the manuscript is much more work than just correcting spelling and grammar mistakes. It is looking at how the whole story flows, capturing the imagination of the reader to keep them interested, and rechecking dates and information for accuracy. It also entails ensuring that all chapters are of similar length, all headings and subheadings are set out the same, photos are captioned, and all quotes are acknowledged. Does the story need a prologue or a post script, an index or a bibliography? I had intended to include all of the stories that have been sent to me, even though I have quoted from and used the information from your stories in the main story. I still intend to do that but I will have to get written permission from each person, so as not to infringe your copyright.

I’m really hoping to have this book ready for delivery by the end of the year, so I’d better get stuck into the work that needs to be done.

I still have to go to Port Pirie and check out the Catholic church archives for proof of a couple of points about the orphanage when it was first bought by the church. I’m hoping to do that during the coming July school holidays.

I have written to three or four other people that I thought lived at the orphanage but to date I haven’t heard anything back from them.

Hope you are all keeping warm in this cold wet winter we are enjoying.


The book is coming along really well and is nearly finished. But there are still a couple of questions I can’t find an answer to. I was nearly ready to give up and admit defeat. Then we went to Crystal Brook for a day during the recent school holidays and I was able to spend some time in the History Room. I did get some more information but not the answers I was looking for. Then a chance call from the secretary of the History Group followed by an email gave me another person to contact and he gave me a few more ideas of where to look. One of those ideas was to check out the architect who lived in Port Pirie and did a lot of work in the district.

J. Firmin Jenkins had a very busy, influential life in Port Pirie. As well as being an architect, he was mayor, chairman of the cricket club and the horse racing club, and had his hand in many sporting ventures in Pirie.  His wife was also busy on social committees and working with children. After reading many articles on Mr. Jenkins and his wife in the newspapers of the day, I found an article about the opening of St. Catherine’s Girls College and Mr. Jenkins was the architect who drew up the plans ‘for the renovation, alteration and expansion of the old hospital.’ Yes , now I just need to find the plans. Hopefully they are in the care of the Port Pirie Diocese. Just have to enquire how I get permission to access their archives. 

Looks like a trip to Pirie will be on the agenda in the not too distant future I hope. I just need to get the writing finished so I can start the editing and getting this  manuscript   ready for printing. I’m sure you are all waiting patiently for me to finish the story and send you a book. Won’t be long now!!!


Documents from my research

The letter to Mrs Margaret Parkinson from the Institute Committee
Dr. John Taylor Parkinson’s signature

You can see the different writing styles in these photos and how difficult they are to read. But how exciting is it to see the actual handwriting of someone who lived and died over a hundred years ago. How many times did the doctor sign his name during the 14 years he worked in Crystal Brook, and how many of his nsignatures have survived.


The SA Research Centre has move back to Gepps Cross and for me it is much more convenient. I can drive to it from home and parking is available without cost and I can read the documents they have there from Crystal Brook.

First I was able to find the Institute Minutes of Meetings from 1881. While I didn’t think there would be much about the hospital in these minutes, I did find a bit about Dr. Parkinson. It seems he was a trustee from the inception of the Institute and was elected President in 1882. He served in this role for eight years and his resignation was only accepted because he was returning to England for further study. The committee thanked him ‘for his excellent work over many years’. At the time of his death in 1891, the committee wrote a very heart warming letter to his widow Margaret, expressing their regret at losing such a valuable member of the community.

I also found the minutes of the Crystal Brook Board of Health which I thought might have some useful information. Not one mention of the hospital, but some good stories about some of the doctors. It seems the Board was most concerned with the sanitary conditions of the town and the condition of the piggeries and slaughterhouse.

Finally I read the Council Minutes from about 1880 to 1925 hoping to find some mention of the building. The only mention I could find was that the road leading to Dr. Parkinson’s was in need of clearing.

So two days of reading, and all of these documents were in longhand, didn’t get me much further along the road to finishing this book. So I think the next step would be to go back to Crystal Brook and see if I can find out what information the history group might have found.

My friend has an account with Ancestry.com and she is going to try to find a relative of Dr. Parkinson’s who might just have the good doctor’s diaries and books. So another avenue of research has opened up. This is a very exciting story to research. I will be finished the book by the end of the year so not much more time to wait. Once the writing is all finished and the editing is under way I will be calling for orders so I will have an idea of how many books to get printed. Watch out for that in the near future.


Crystal Brook Reunion and research

It’s been  very busy these past couple of weeks but at last I’m  getting caught up with all my work and able to write about some of the things I’ve been doing which may be of interest to you.

Firstly I found a workshop run by the SA Research Centre which was of great help in finding my way around their website. The workshop took a couple of hours and was held at the State Library. It was jointly run by the SA Centre and the Australian Research Centre. As a result of doing this workshop I have been more efficient at searching the website and have found some documents that may be of help with this project. The Crystal Brook Council minutes dating back to 1888 and the Institute Minutes as well. So now it is only a matter of finding the time to get into the Research Centre and start reading the seven boxes of documents to find any mention of the building that we all know as the Orphanage.

Also taking up a lot of time this past week was the Crystal Brook Reunion. It was on Monday 7th March in the city. There was quite a good attendance but not as many as last year in Crystal Brook. The reunion is held each year on the 1st Monday in March, just another Mad March date to remember here in Adelaide. I spoke to several people and gained a bit more information. One gentleman told me that bricks from the old orphanage were used to create the steps going from the No. 9 hole on the golf course to the club house. I’ll have to go there and get a photo of that, but at least some bits of these buildings were recycled.

Another lady talked to me and she had contact details for another family who used to live at the orphanage in the mid 60’s to 70’s. She offered to contact them for me and to ask them to get in touch with me. And yes true to her word I had an email from one of the girls the very next day! I’m hoping to get lots of information from this family about the time after I left the orphanage. The best part about the reunion this year was that Dianne came over from Melbourne to go with us. We were able to spend another day together as well and talk about lots of things that we have both been doing since we left the orphanage.

I hope you have all been enjoying the fine, humid weather or at least able to keep cool and taking in some of the the Fringe or Festival events. Writers week came and went very quickly but I did get to visit the site briefly, but didn’t get to hear any of the presentations this year.

DR. John Taylor Parkinson

While doing more research last week trying to find an exact date when the Orphanage was built I was reading about Dr. John Taylor Parkinson. He is the man credited with building the orphanage or at least the building that eventually became the orphanage. It was built as a hospital and was called Dr Parkinson’s Cottage Hospital. It served the community of the mid north from the time it was built until  1924 when the present hospital was built.

Dr Parkinson came from England in 1877 and was encouraged to go to Crystal Brook to practice medicine. I would imagine that there were very few doctors in the country areas being opened up for agriculture at that time. It would have been a blessing to have a doctor available for the many diseases, accidents and births. The doctor began seeing patients in the Royal Hotel and apparently was often seen out and about in his trap visiting patients who couldn’t be moved. There are many reports in the papers of the time  about him attending people who were sick or hurt.

Dr Parkinson was an English gentleman who loved sports, and being a keen cricketer himself he had his own pitch where he played against visiting teams. He also encouraged the men of the town to be involved in sport for the good of their health.

The doctor was also a favourite dinner guest to hostesses entertaining important guests. He was genuinely interested in people, was a very fine speaker, and loved entertaining people with his stories. He also lectured to community gatherings about diseases and how to treat them or even avoid them.

It is also reported in his eulogy that it wasn’t unusual for him to keep a patient in the hospital well past the time the patient could have gone home. Knowing that his patient would probably be expected to get back to work as soon as he/she was discharged this gave the patient a bit more time to regain his/her strength. He was even known to slip a patient enough money to tide them over till they were well enough to get back to work or to help with the bills piling up during the time the patient was ill. He did this in such a manner that it was not common knowledge and in a way that didn’t make the patient feel obligated.

Dr. Parkinson must have had some money  before he came to Crystal Brook because he bought quite a bit of land both in the town and in the surrounding area. In the assessment books of the council all the sections and blocks that he owned are listed with the amount of rates he paid.

Dr. John Parkinson died at the age of 44 from a brain bleed (stroke) on January 29th 1891 and last week it was the 125th anniversary of his death. It is reported that people came from all over the mid north to attend his funeral. He is buried in the Crystal Brook cemetery.