Sunday, November 6, 2011

An Outstanding Performance at Ku-ring-gai

Wendy Blaxland's background in teaching, drama, and the theatre was obvious when she addressed the monthly meeting of the Kur-ing-gai Historical Society Family History Group yesterday. A natural speaker, Wendy had those gathered enthralled as she told the stories of her famous Blaxland ancestors and some 20th century family members.
Wendy signing one of her children's books
Wendy is a direct descendant of Gregory Blaxland who led the first crossing of the Blue Mountains. She related the history of the two Blaxland Brothers, John and Gregory,  early free settlers in New South Wales, who became entrepreneurs and built  beautiful homes on either side of  the Parramatta River. John's house that became the original Newington College has now been restored and is part of the Silverwater Gaol while Gregory's more modest home Brush Farm has been restored by Ryde Council who have owned it since 1990.

Audrey Blaxland, Wendy's mother, was an actress and drama teacher who began her acting career at the Independent Theatre in the 1940s where she met Wendy's father. Wendy shared with us stories of Audrey's involvement with the Pymble Players and the Marian Street Theatre where Audrey spent 12 years as the Principal of the Marian Street Theatre School. Wendy who has been involved in the theatre since she was five years old is still deeply involved with the Marian Street Theatre for Young People as a producer, writer and board member.

Bohemian artist, Elizabeth Blaxland, an artist, sculptor and teacher at the East Sydney Technical College was the other 20th-century subject discussed. When Wendy first met her aunt, Elizabeth, who was in her 90s they immediately developed a strong bond. A number of Elizabeth's works are in the Manly Art Gallery.

I only wish that some of the genealogy presenters whose talks I have endured heard could have seen Wendy's presentation. It was an examplar that we could all follow. Wendy spoke naturally from the heart without notes, she used elements of humour and surprise choosing words that tugged at our emotions. She drew us into her world through voice and eye contact supported by the use of artefacts.

If you ever get a chance to hear Wendy speak grab it.

Thanks to Jo Harris, Leader of The Family History Group at Ku-ring-gai for organising such a super afternoon.

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