Shady Grove Dreaming

I don’t consider myself to be a religious person, but I do have a very strong link with the Shady Grove Unitarian Church, set amongst a bush block off dirt roads near Littlehampton. There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, there is a strong family connection with the place. My Great Great Grandfather on my Mother’s side, Frederick Charles Smith was the ‘Preacher’ for many years, and a member of one of the original families who built and established the church. Frederick and his wife are buried in the adjoining Shady Grove Cemetery, as are both of my parents. In addition, the founder of the church, and the man who donated the land  is also my Great Great Grandfather on my Mother’s side. My Mother’s Father was Cecil Smith, grandson of F. C. Smith, and son of Ernest Alfred Smith. Ernest Alfred married Editha Monks, the daughter of the founder of the church, John Monks.

The Unitarians are not set in their ways. They do not use the word Christian in their definition, and although they consider Jesus as a special person whose values they respect, they do not accept the Trinity, the Resurrection or ‘Son of God’ as part of their beliefs. Indeed the Unitarians have no fixed dogma at at all. Thus one may attend a service which contains the music of Bach, readings from Buddist texts, or anything from the wide range of human discourse and philosophy.

Accordingly, I was not surprised, but certainly delighted when I heard that a traditional Aboriginal ‘smoking’ ceremony was to be held as a part of a recent service at the church. In particular, the smoking was to be conducted by a descendant of the traditional Peramangk occupants of the Mount Lofty Ranges,  Ivan Tiwu Copley. I had met Ivan on many previous occasions, mostly when he was presiding at events which commemorated the Peramangk people, something which has become increasingly regular I am happy to say, after an embarrassing silence of more than 150 years.

After a short but dignified service, which featured the music of Gurrumul, Ivan gave a talk on the Peramangk, before exiting and lighting his fire in a traditional ‘coolamon’. He wafted the smoke over the people with the feathers of the black cockatoo and a wedge-tailed eagle as they left the church, then smoked the interior after it was empty. We then moved to the adjoining hostel for more smoking and a feed. It was a deeply significant and moving afternoon, and much appreciated by the congregation of thirty odd people.

It was a pleasure to see Ivan  bridging the gap between two aspects of life in the hills which I have had a lifelong interest in. He was involved for example, in the installation of of a large and beautiful Peramangk sign along the south-eastern freeway, which greets visitors as they pass the nearby Mount Barker Summit and enter the heart of the traditional Peramangk land.

Finally, inspired by last Sunday’s experience, I did some more research on my ancestors’ involvement with Shady Grove, and I was delighted to discover that Frederick Charles Smith was the driving force behind the erection of the memorial to Captain Collet Barker in the township, in 1903.

I have had a life long fascination with Collet Barker, and have done a lot of research on him. Barker was a very close friend of Aboriginal people both at Raffles Bay in the Northern Territory, where he was stationed in 1828, and at King Georges Sound in Western Australia, in 1829-30, (modern Albany) before he was speared to death at the Murray Mouth in 1831. Kangaroo Island sealers were responsible for this tragedy, as they had been mistreating the mainland people, who took their revenge out on the innocent Barker.  (For more information on Collet Barker, see my ‘In Search of Collet Barker’ blog category).

I also discovered that Frederick Charles and I share a common birthday, the 24th June.

9 comments on “Shady Grove Dreaming

  1. Anne Johnson says:

    Thanks Bob, wonderful to read your response to the ceremony……and to see your photos. I was deeply moved by the ceremony as well — especially knowing that there were (I think 4) descendants of founders/pioneers there, sharing it with a Peramangk Elder descendant.
    Mia is sending me copy of her photos, which will be very good to have as well. It has been suggested that we repeat that service in future, which I definitely think would be worth doing.
    I’m very glad you could be there; maybe we’ll see you there again!
    (I’m a former resident of Balhannah, long-time Unitarian, been going to Shady Grove since 1974, but now live in Norwood, very near the church there.)

    • BobInnes says:

      Hi Anne, Nice to hear from you. I have now added some more content, as I really got my nose into the family history over the last week and a half, and I realise my family’s link to the Shady Grove Church is even stronger than I thought. My Great Grandmother, (Mother’s Grandmother) was John Monks’s daughter. So Frederick Charles Smith’s son, Ernest Alfred Smith, married Editha Monks, John Monks’s daughter, and their son was Cecil E Smith, my Grandfather.

      If that isn’t confusing enough, F.C. Smith’s daughter, Ina Smith married George Monks, John Monks’s son. They didn’t have children.

      • Anne Johnson says:

        Yes, I thought you’d not quite gotten it all there; very good. Your sister Yvonne and I are working on a display of founders/pioneers for the hostel, so I have been learning about all these people….. but your sister knows it all I believe. You’ll have to come to view the display when it gets finished. I am working on it today, but don’t often get the time to get this accomplished, so its taking a very long time!

  2. grannysmiff says:

    Dear Bob please do let me know when you have another ceremony. I am a Peramangk Elder living in Strath and Ivan is my first cousin.

  3. BobInnes says:

    Hi Granny, Good to hear from you. I’ll keep you in mind. Did you notice that there is a link on the right (follow) which will inform you when a new blog is posted? No doubt we will meet up some day.

  4. Ann Ferguson says:

    Dear Bob
    What agreat piece of our history
    please let me know when the next service is to be held

    • BobInnes says:

      Hi Ann, The next service is on the 5th May at 4pm I believe. I will let you know if any different. They usually have a shared supper/cuppa after. Incidentally, I have substantial Keynote presentation about Collet Barker I would love to show you, and/or the council sometime.

      Shady Grove reminds me why I love the Hills so much.



    • Anne Johnson says:

      Dear Ann
      Yes, the next service will be in May, on Sunday, 6th May, at 4:00 pm, and we do always have a shared supper following. You will indeed be most welcome to join us. (We always have a service on the first Sunday of each month, but the time will vary.)
      Best regards,
      Anne Johnson
      Shady Grove congregation member

  5. natalie says:

    Just checking out some family tree today and find my husband is the ggggrandson of FcSmith

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