Review by Ian Doyle:
Away from Tipperary, Nicholas Sadleir, Australian Gentleman
by Robert Hodge
Robert Hodge was always going to write this book. He had no choice. The story was in his bones and he had to write it down…and what a cracker of a yarn it is.
You’ve heard a hundred times before ‘you should write a book’. Very few of us take up that challenge and commit the time, passion, and energy needed to deal with the hurdles and frustrations along that journey to see the project through.
Away from Tipperary, Nicholas Sadleir, Australian Gentleman is a result of years of thinking, and writing ..and talking ..and researching and arguing and contemplating and rewriting …and doubting (and drinking too much red wine) and regretting missed opportunities – and finally getting to a point where he is 95% happy with it ..but he’d like to have another go at parts of the publication because he knows if he had more time he’d make it better! Robert has learnt that it is never finished!
Robert Hodge has done a lot of things with his time on this mortal coil. He can now add the title of writer / author – one with a critical eye for detail, a loving sense of history and a clear understanding of the elements that make a story within a story riveting.
His observational writing and clarity of historical perspective ensures the reader is carried along with his journey to chase down many rabbit holes and connect the threads of his extended and extensive family around the world over the past 180 years – and what a tale it is!
His mates call Robert ‘Red’ for obvious reasons. The hair is now grey but as storyteller in Away from Tipperary, Nicholas Sadleir, Australian Gentleman he has adopted an interesting and engaging approach. The book is largely a well-structured chronological long form conversation between two men – Red, appropriately renamed ‘Blue’ for the story (by Nicholas) and his long dead great-grandfather Nicholas Sadleir. It’s a simple and effective way of breathing oxygen and life into what could have been a weighty and well-meaning family history. As a result, as a reader you feel part of the story – and it’s an enjoyable and engaging read.
The starting point for the story is a conversation Red has with his great grandfather while sitting in his car outside the Mungerannie pub on the Birdsville Track (You need to read the book). His great grandfather Nicholas Clarke Sadleir was born on Boxing Day 1834. Nicholas married Anna Georgina Sturgess in February 1874 and he died on April 7th 1904. They parented fifteen children. That summary is a bit like suggesting the short version of ‘War and Peace’ is ‘Napoleon fell in love and died’.
In Away from Tipperary, Nicholas Sadleir, Australian Gentleman there are many close and distant relationships identified in the stories. This happens when someone takes the time and commits their waking hours to doing the research, get lots of help and ask the right questions of the right people – wherever they live. Robert has done this exceptionally well.
One such distant sort of family connection he discovered is that of Diana, Princess of Wales and Australia’s national rogue / murderer / bushranger Ned Kelly. Who knew these two were very distantly associated. If Robert had published online thirty-five years ago (obviously before the internet had been invented), Her Majesty may not have been amused. This scandalous information may have changed the course of history! (You need to read to book).
There are ordinary, epic and heroic stories of paddle steamers, drovers and property management, sheep, horsemanship, camels, gold, bushmen in the back country, back ground stories to the Burke and Wills expedition and the impact white settlement had on aboriginal people.
Away from Tipperary, Nicholas Sadleir, Australian Gentleman provides a wonderful and at times detailed snap shot of life in Ireland and Australia in the nineteenth century.
Nicholas’s adventures and day-to-day life experiences allow the reader to connect with his experiences, emotions, successes and tribulations. The stories are accessible, engaging and easy to read.
As a journalist and storyteller I strongly commend this important work to you. Unlike many stories of families that only work if you are on the inside and a family member, this work is for everyone.
You need to read the book!
Ian Doyle B Ec. DipEd
Journalist & documentary maker