3 out of 4 stars
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I am certain there is always a popular street somewhere named after a prominent person whose history is unknown to the majority of those who frequent it. Without informing new generations about them, it is easier to unintentionally adopt reasoning that things have always been the way they are. This, of course, would be one of the most misleading assumptions. Consequently, I sincerely appreciate the author of Edward Christopher Merewether, Reverend Doctor Brian Roach, for writing the book.
Edward Christopher Merewether: The Man; The Suburb is 208 pages long and consists of 13 remarkable chapters describing Merewether’s life and impressive accomplishments. Merewether was born on February 20, 1820, as the fifth son to his parents in England. The Post-Napoleonic depression that hit the country forced many young men to sail to New South Wales. Merewether also migrated, and the patronage system worked in his favor. He was appointed as Governor George Gipps’ aide-de-camp shortly after his arrival at Sydney in September 1841. Numerous prestigious positions followed this.
I reasonably believe this is the kind of book that will instantly remove Merewether from the ‘footnote’ of history and position him on the cover page. I read about a man who was passionately committed to justice and exercised impartiality in his dealings. I was delighted to follow his journey as he worked passionately to improve the working conditions of coal miners. At a time when mine operators kept wages at a minimum to maximize profit and miners could be imprisoned for striking, Merewether negotiated with them. Although they never agreed with all his decisions, the local miners appreciated him as he was prepared to listen and address their grievances.
What I liked most about the book was the outstanding nature of Merewether. His personality was intriguing. He was kind yet very strict at times. He was tough, uncompromising, and could not tolerate any minor deviation from his instructions but was ready to apologize when proven wrong. The quest to maximize profits prompted him to decline requests to purchase essential tools. However, he invested generously in education, sporting and recreation, church, and other ventures. His leadership ability and integrity were displayed in every position he occupied. Despite constant opposition and criticism from some individuals, his achievements, especially as General Superintended of the Australian Agricultural Company, reveal his excellent qualities.
I have learned a lot about Merewether, and this will benefit many other readers as well. I acknowledged the importance of the book after reading some newspaper articles included in the conclusion. They revealed that a few people actually remembered him shortly after his death. Therefore, the book will remind readers about him while also appreciating his significant roles in the history of New South Wales.
I noted a few minor errors, though, that could detract from the enjoyment of the book. Some years were incomplete in many instances and thus causing confusion as to the dates mentioned. The Burwood Estate Railway map in the appendix of the book was also barely visible. 'Then’ was also repeatedly used instead of ‘than’. As a result, I rate the book 3 out of 4 stars. I recommend it to all readers of memoirs and history. All fans of Australian colonial history will also enjoy devouring it.
Edward Christopher Merewether
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