During the Christmas period our extended family went to Adelong Falls for lunch. The area has been refurbished, with ruins such as the water wheel repaired to give a three-dimensional feel to the gold rush era.
Recent rains had filled the creek. Families swam in the pools, with some being game enough to drift with the swift flowing water.
Australians don’t always value our history. Since gold worth the equivalent of $300 million at today’s values was mined here, Adelong Falls is surely a very significant place.
Around the same time in history, British explorer Cecil Rhodes was engaged in colonial ventures in South Africa, and in what became known as “Rhodesia”, now named Zimbabwe and Zambia. As with all colonial activities, there were displacements of native tribes, yet his burial in Rhodesia was attended by Ndebele chiefs, who asked that the firing party should not discharge their rifles as this would disturb the spirits. Then, for the first time, they gave a white man the Matabele royal salute, Bayete.
Rhodes attended Oxford University. Oriel College was erected in 1906 in recognition of the vast sums of money he left to the university. As we would expect, a statue of Rhodes was erected at the entrance to the college, with a plaque. Rhodes was a towering figure in British colonial history, and his money has been used to benefit not only Oxford and its students, but also education in South Africa and the former Rhodesia.
Everyone has heard of Rhodes Scholars. There have been 7688 to date, including Bob Hawke, Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull. The endowment that continues this good work came from Cecil Rhodes’ will.
According to Wikipedia, the “Rhodes Scholarship, the world's first international study programme … enabled students … to study at Rhodes' alma mater, the University of Oxford. Rhodes' aims were to promote leadership marked by public spirit and good character, and to ‘render war impossible’ by promoting friendship between the great powers”.
Rhodes bequeathed his wealth for good works, in Britain and Africa. Yet, according to stories in Britain’s The Daily Mail, ethnic students want Rhodes’ statue and plaque removed. Forcing ethnic minority students to walk past them on their way to lectures amounts to “violence” because the college benefactor believed in colonialism, they say. And unbelievably, “The university has also said it will consider demands to tear down a statue of Rhodes that stands at the entrance to the college”.
But wait a minute! Wasn’t Rhodes an important British historical figure? Didn’t his money provide many of the facilities at Oxford that these “ethnic minority students” enjoy? Attending Oxford carries with it academic prestige, which comes in part from Oxford’s history. Students do not have to attend Oxford if its history offends them. There must be plenty of inoffensive suburban universities in Britain that have no history at all.
When we start altering history to appease ethnic minorities, we are in trouble. We are allowing ourselves to be in the same company as ISIS, whose misguided rabble desecrated the Temple of Bel at Palmyra.
History may be open to interpretation by future generations, but it should not be obliterated to please some transient political attitude.
By the way, does the name Wilham Williams mean anything to you? He was the prospector who found the Adelong reef at Charcoal Hill. Where’s his statue?
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