New South Wales Hunter Region Historian’s Legacy Lives On

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The following excerpt is from a fascinating article posted in the 29 July 2016 edition of theherald.com.au.

EVEN from beyond the grave, Jack Delaney is still making his presence felt.

Right up to the end back in June 2010 at age 91 years, Cessnock historian John W. (Jack) Delaney was trying to preserve the stories of Hunter Valley folk wherever he met them.

His hobby resulted in an estimated 33 works, chronicling much regional history that might have otherwise been missed.

For example, researching the early days of the Northern coalfields, Delaney reported that in the late 1930s and early 1940s there were 38 collieries using the private South Maitland Railways to transport coal.

He had not long retired in 1979 when he said he’d audio-taped 40 conversations with older folk. His aim was to build up an accurate picture of life on the Coalfields from pioneer days.

“I’m not saying it will be quick work,” Delaney laughed at the time.” But I hope someone will (eventually) publish it.”

By December 1982, the tenacious amateur historian had recorded about 150 interviews in his spare time, dealing in subjects ranging from mining disasters, to early settlers and the fluctuating fortunes of the local wine industry.

Despite this, Delaney’s mammoth project during the 1970s and 1980s was generally overlooked as he tackled other significant historic projects.

Some people even thought his invaluable audio-tape collection might be lost, but it wasn’t. The tapes were being held by the Coalfields Heritage Group, at Kurri Kurri. Then, about a year ago, CHG permtted a team from Newcastle University’s Cultural Collections to digitise the tapes to make them available to the world.

The official launch of the project, called Voices of the Hunter was held last week at the university’s Auchmuty Library.

Read the full article.

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