Thursday, 16 June 2011

Kelmscott, Australia; or, Happy Birthday, Auntie June!

Today is not only Bloomsday but also the birthday of my Auntie June in Australia – she and Uncle Bill and their children having emigrated out there from Deal in Kent in 1969 (along with 80,000 other ‘Ten Pound Poms’ in that year). Before she moved to her current address in Armadale, she used to live in Kelmscott, a south-eastern suburb of Perth. I’d always been struck by the name, of course, and for a while (carefully not checking the facts) liked to imagine that it was originally a utopian community set up in the Antipodes by Morrisians who had got tired of the old country and its intractable politics.

Alas, that is not it at all (as T.S. Eliot’s Prufrock might say). Kelmscott, Australia was indeed named after Kelmscott, Oxfordshire; but that is because the latter was the birthplace of the first Anglican clergyman in the Swan River Colony, of which Kelmscott was one of the earliest towns. The Reverend Thomas Hobbes Scott lived from 1783 to 1860, and since the antipodean Kelmscott was founded in 1830, it predates William Morris altogether. So we still await a full-blooded Kelmscottian utopian experiment; and happy birthday to my dear aussie Aunt in the meantime.

1 comment:

Tony Pinkney said...

Just noticed that in her fine study of 'The Romance of William Morris' (1982), Carole Silver remarks that Morris knew 'the epics and tales of places as diverse as India, Persia, Russian Georgia, Alaska and Australia' (p.149), so perhaps the Morris-Australia connection would indeed bear further research!