Lost Newcastle - Carol Duncan

Tony Robinson 2012

January 10, 2018
Tony Robinson talks about how to encourage a community to care about its history.
Tony Robinson is perhaps best known to an older generation of television viewer as Baldrick from Blackadder, but to younger generations he's known as the guy leading archaeological digs on Time Team or the poor unfortunate host up to his knees in a tank of urine in Worst Jobs In History (that story was about tanning hides for leather).
In December, 2011, Tony was filming in Australia for his series Tony Robinson's Time Walks in which he visits cities to reveal their history.
Carol Duncan caught up with him in Cathedral Park, what was Newcastle's first burial ground at Christ Church Cathedral, to find out how we can continue to encourage people to care about their local history.
'I think the most important thing we can do is to talk to your kids about it. I know I have such a vivid passion for history is because my dad used to talk to me about his adventures in World War II,' said Tony.
'Not that he had a glorious war or anything, he was just a fitter working on the Spitfires and Hurricanes, but he was a working class boy and it was probably his first time away from home for any extended time and he had so many adventures, his eyes used to shine when he told me about them.'
'I got this vivid picture of what it must have been like to be an ordinary aircraftsman in World War II, a time far beyond my ken as a little boy, so I've always - as far back as I can remember - had an understanding of things before I was born.'
How does Tony Robinson perceive Australians and our feelings about our own history?
'There's always a feeling that Australians, white Australians particularly, feel a bit embarrassed about the brevity of their history. I think the history of the last 200 years here has been quite extraordinary', he said.
'This notion that a combination of a handful of free settlers and lots and lots of pretty hard-nosed convicts - a lot of them political dissidents remember, so these would have been people who dreamers, utopians, political activists in Britain who wouldn't have been able to get a look in, but here suddenly they had a whole continent they could take command of and the psyche of people here seems to be so different from what's happened virtually everywhere else in the world and I think it's remarkable and to be celebrated.'
'But the story of human life here prior to Captain Cook is absolutely fascinating and it's always tantalising to me with indigenous people that so much of their history and archaeology is so fragile.'

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