Days of my Youth
By Charles Napier Hemy Ra, ARA, RWS, 1841 – 1917
This fantastic little book is a great way to personalise students experiences of our History, and provides an opportunity to debate the classification of a source as primary or secondary. Charles Napier Hemy was a renowned maritime artist of the late 19th century. At the age of 10 he accompanied his father on a trip around the world, culminating in a visit to the Goldfields of Victoria in 1851-2. In 1904 Charles sat down on board his yacht Van Der Meer in Falmouth harbour and wrote a journal of his recollections of his travels under sail, and adventures on the Goldfields.
Now we can never know how reputable the memory of a 63 year old man is about his childhood, but even if some stories are inaccurate, it is still a wonderful recollection of life on the Victorian Goldfields.
These memoirs were never published by Hemy, and were meant more for his own family’s benefit. But in 2007, Peter McGann met Margaret Powell. They were both descendants of Charles Hemy, and were intrigued by their ancestor’s schoolboy essays, and memoirs. Together with his daughter, Rebecca McGann, Peter decided to publish the memoirs of Charles’ trip to Australia.
The book is a fairly easy read, scattered with newspaper articles, pictures and maps of the Victorian Goldfields. It is the memoir of a ten year old boy, but some of his adventures are anything but the usual childhood experiences. It is also dotted with newspaper articles, pictures and maps from the era which are worthy of more research. We don’t want to give away the plot, but we think this book would certainly be interesting for other 10 year old children to read. It’s rare to get a personal account of such a major event in Victoria’s history.