Today is Mother’s Day in the UK.
I am close to my Mum and always have been. Even though I now live on the opposite side of the world, we still keep all the connections going and spent time together just recently when I was in Melbourne over the Christmas / New Year period.
Others are not so fortunate. Some will spend the day in remembrance whilst a great many more will fall somewhere between the luxury of close proximity and feeling separated emotionally. For still others, this is just another day.
In Australia, we celebrate Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May so today is a bit of an awkward one for me. There’s the flurrying around me here but my official nod happens in May. I’ve been grappling with how best to acknowledge this UK version for the last couple of days.
I have also been reading Peter Frankopan’s The Silk Roads: A New History of the World. I saw him interviewed last year at the Institute of Directors in London and liked his premise – that we have a peculiarly Western view of how the world works and that non-Western cultures have a lot to offer if only we’d look. A couple of years ago, a colleague from the Middle East accused me of looking at the world through Western glasses so Frankopan’s point hit home – and the book arrived on my bookshelf last August thanks to Mum.
It’s taking me a while to get through it. It’s quite big, even in paperback, so not great for commuting or reading in bed. But I’m fascinated and I’ve been trying to find chunks of time so that I can read a few chapters in one sitting.
Yesterday I embarked on The Road of Black Gold, a chapter about the beginnings of the global oil economy. It starts with a story about William Knox D’Arcy whose family moved from England to Rockhampton in Queensland, Australia in 1866. Oh cool!, I thought. Mum grew up just near Rockhampton. What an interesting connection.
But it got better.
In 1882, Knox D’Arcy – by now a lawyer and pillar of the community – was introduced to Fred, Edwin and Thomas Morgan who were looking to fund a gold claim they’d staked on Ironstone Mountain south west of Rockhampton. Knox D’Arcy formed a syndicate of investors and much money was sunk into setting up the mining operation for the brothers. But the Morgan boys lost their nerve and in 1883, sold their shares back to the syndicate.
It turned out to be poor timing indeed as not long after, the operation struck gold – literally. It was the richest deposit in history and made Knox D’Arcy one of the richest men in the world. Until its closure in 1981, the mine yielded 262 tonnes of gold, 37 tonnes of silver and 387,000 tonnes of copper.
Meanwhile Knox D’Arcy returned to England and, based on his success in gold, was invited to finance the development of England’s oil interests in Persia. He was involved in the creation of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company which became British Petroleum, or BP.
Interesting story, you may be thinking, but what’s your point?
Ironstone Mountain became Mount Morgan – the small country mining town where my mother grew up.
The Humphreys family is well-known in Mount Morgan. There are long associations with the local swimming club, Uncle Mark still lives and works in the town and Mum has recently been reconnecting with old friends from swimming and school days to reminisce about the paths people’s lives have taken.
My grandfather Jack Humphreys also worked at the Mount Morgan Mine. I remember going to see the open-cut mine with him as a little kid. (The mine closed in 1981). Needless to say I was completely unaware of the historic shoulders upon which I stood.
It’s an extraordinary thing that somehow all of these things converged on my sunny patio at just the right time. I had been absorbed in stories about the various roads to riches that had seen the rise and fall of a series of empires. I suddenly found myself immersed in a moment of familial pride at my small (some might say tenuous) yet significant niche in the history of the world.
It seems entirely fitting that I stumbled across this crossroads as I was thinking about today’s post. In fact, you might say that the road to motherhood – Mum’s road in any case – was paved with gold, silver, copper…and a host of other metals…
That’s not a bad lineage if I do say so myself.
So I finally found my nod to Mum and mothers everywhere…
…and all of the roads they took to get us here.
Have a wonderful Mother’s Day, however you are spending it.