Monday, June 2, 2014

'Paul Bushell, Second Fleeter' at AIGS

At the annual AIGS lunch in Melbourne on Sunday 25 May, my book Paul Bushell, Second Fleeter was the 'Highly Commended' runner-up for the Don Grant Award 2013. It was a thrill, as it means that all three of my books about early convict settlers of the Hawkesbury have been recognised by independent judges. (For the record, the other two books were Robert Forrester, First Fleeter and Southwark Luck.)
The AIGS (Australian Institute of Genealogical Studies) has been based in Melbourne for many years but entries for AIGS awards are submitted from around Australia. I'd like to thank this year's judges most effusively for all their hard work in reading and scoring the entries, a time-consuming labour of love. This year the three judges were Emeritus Professor Fred Smith, whose sudden death just after completing his judging duties shocked everyone, Helen Doxford Harris, a professional genealogist, historian and author, and Gail White, a librarian and AIGS President.
The guest speaker at this year's lunch was Hon. Ted Baillieu, MLA, a former Premier of Victoria. (By the way - I'm not a 'shrimp' - he's very tall.) He presented a fascinating exposition of the work of the Victorian Anzac Centenary Committee to mark Australia's involvement in World War 1. An aim of the commemoration is to make that dreadful war 'personal' to Australians but Ted was preaching to the converted at the AIGS lunch - in a room full of family history researchers, nearly everyone present knew of a relative who'd fought in the Great War. In my own case, my grandfather Cleon Dennis was Engr Lieut on HMAS Sydney when it sank the German raider Emden in 1914. Sydney was one of the escort vessels for the first convoy of troops sailing across the Indian Ocean to the Middle East.
Back to my book. Paul Bushell, Second Fleeter has had a chequered path to 'glory'. Its journey began late in 2010, several months after its publication, when the book was entered for the Alexander Henderson Award, 2010.
But, at the awards lunch in May 2011, it was pronounced as disqualified, along with a number of other books, for not fitting the AIGS definition of an Australian 'family history'. (My book essentially told the story of one man's life, without taking the family story down through subsequent generations.)
When the AIGS introduced the Don Grant Award for a biography, the Bushell book's candidacy was moved across to that new Award. Unfortunately, the entry was inadvertently overlooked and the book was not judged with the other entries for the inaugural Don Grant Award, 2012.
Finally, the book competed for the Don Grant Award, 2013. In the intervening years, the standard of family history publishing has continued to rise. Although I pride myself on the quality of the intellectual content within my books, a book laid out in 'Word', like the Bushell book, is a poor relation to glossier productions and I counted myself lucky to be this year's 'runner-up'.
Due to my frequent absences from home, the above news is somewhat belated, but also very timely, as we are about to draw the public's attention to the fund-raising campaign to restore Paul Bushell's grave at Wilberforce Cemetery. Please watch this space - and our Facebook page.

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