IN MEMORIAM – Barry McGowan

18 June 1945-1 September 2018

Friend and colleague Barry John McGowan was born on 18 June 1945. Barry’s first degree, and his first career, were in economics. After gaining a Bachelor of Economics at the University of Adelaide in 1967, Barry spent two years as ‘Assistant to the Economist’, South Pacific Commission, Noumea, under the Australian Volunteers Abroad Scheme. From 1970 to 1996 he worked in the Commonwealth Departments of Health, Territories, Trade and Industry, Prime Minister and Cabinet, and finally as a Director in the Department of Industrial Relations.

Barry’s inner archaeologist and historian, however, fought to break free of the bureaucracy, and after completing a Bachelor of Arts at the Australian National University in 1995, he left the public service and set himself up as a historian and heritage consultant. He had done a little moonlighting on leave before then, in 1993 and 1995 undertaking two major studies under the New South Wales component of the National Estates Grants Program (NEGP). As a consequence of that work he published two books, Lost Mines, and Bungonia to Braidwood, the former of which was revised and republished as Lost Mines Revisited. Barry’s desire to change direction was in part a result of extensive family holidays in the outback, which had led to his writing articles for Australia Post and 4X4 Magazine.

Barry was a quiet and unassuming man, balancing a vibrant mix of disorderliness, unconventional approaches to challenges, energy and determination, faith and passion, with a healthy good humour. He had a deep interest in how people individually and as communities negotiated life in mining areas, and went about the physical activities of mining. As a subset of this interest, he developed a great empathy for Chinese communities, and wished to see their histories and life experiences better understood and promoted as a valuable part of Australia’s history. His generosity of spirit towards local communities, his local informants and assistants, and to his wider network of professional colleagues was a hallmark of Barry’s second career, as was his infectious enthusiasm for this work. In 2001, in conjunction with Lindsay Smith and Michael and Bronwen Van Leeuwen, Barry designed an exhibition at the Canberra Museum and Gallery, ‘Southern Gold’, on the continuous contribution of the Chinese in the Canberra region. Barry wanted the information he had gathered and its analysis to get to the communities he was working with, and, experiencing the publishing difficulties many have experienced at some time, he initially self-published a series of regional mining studies (see the attached Publications list). Most of his later books (he wrote 17 if I count correctly) were published by commercial or government publishers. I had the pleasure of working with him on two of these.

Barry became a Research Associate at the College of Asia and Pacific at the ANU, and in 2011 was awarded a PhD from ANU for his thesis ‘Dust and Dreams: a regional history of mining and community in south-east New South Wales 1850-1914’, which consolidated his exhaustive work on mining and community over the previous years.

I know Barry was immensely happy that he was able to work on a series of studies of the history of Chinese communities in southern NSW over the past few years, under the title ‘Tracking the Dragon’, commissioned by the Museum of the Riverina in Wagga, the reports of which are now available on-line (see below). Barry was awarded a well-deserved Medal in the Order of Australia (OAM) for his services to community history in June 2018. The Governor General, Sir Peter Cosgrove, conferred the medal on Barry at his hospital bedside. Barry was touched – ‘I’ll send him a book!’.

Barry was active till the end – he always had plans. The last time we had a long talk was earlier this year when he was planning a trip to Nagasaki for an International Society for the Study of Chinese Overseas meeting. Barry had been negotiating prostate cancer for twenty years with characteristic determination and unconventional methods, but it came back with unexpected virulence over the last few months, and on 1st of September 2018, Barry lost the battle and passed away peacefully with his loved ones by his side. He is survived by his partner Chong and sons Andrew and Douglas and step children Sean and Genie, brother Chris, and his much-loved grandchildren. Thanks to Andrew for providing family information.

Ave atque vale Barry

Michael Pearson
Canberra 7/9/18

Publications by Barry McGowan (probably not complete)

McGowan, B. 2016. Tracking the Dragon: the history of the Chinese in the Narrandera district of New South Wales. Museum of the Riverina, Wagga Wagga (download)

McGowan, B. 2016. Tracking the Dragon: the history of the Chinese in the Hay, Deniliquin and Hillston districts of New South Wales. Museum of the Riverina, Wagga Wagga (download)

McGowan, B. 2016. Tracking the Dragon: the history of the Chinese in the Tumut and Adelong districts of New South Wales. Museum of the Riverina, Wagga Wagga (download)

McGowan, B. 2016. Tracking the Dragon: the history of the Chinese in the Temora district of New South Wales. Museum of the Riverina, Wagga Wagga (download)

McGowan, B. 2016. Tracking the Dragon: the history of the Chinese in the Wagga Wagga district of New South Wales. Museum of the Riverina, Wagga Wagga (download)

McGowan, B. 2015. Tracking the dragon: thematic history of the Chinese people in the Rutherglen/Wahgunyah region of the Indigo Shire, Victoria: a report to the Rutherglen Historical Society and the Wahgunyah History Group. The author, Canberra.

McGowan, B. 2013. ‘Transnational Lives: Colonial Immigration restrictions and the White Australia Policy in the Riverina District of New South Wales, 1860-1960’, Chinese Southern Diaspora Studies, vol. 6, 2013, pp.45-63

McGowan, B. 2010. Tracking the dragon: a history of the Chinese in the Riverina. Museum of the Riverina, Wagga Wagga.

McGowan, B. 2010. Dust and Dreams. Mining Communities in Southern New South Wales, UNSW Press, Sydney.

McGowan, B. 2008. ‘From Fraternities to Families: The Evolution of Chinese Life in the Braidwood District of New South Wales (NSW), 1850s-1900s’, Chinese Southern Diaspora Studies, vol. 2, pp. 4-33.

McGowan, B. 2007. ‘Hegemony, localism and ethnicity: The ‘Welsh’ mining communities of Currawang and Frogmore in southern New South Wales’, Journal of Australasian Mining History, vol. 5, no. September 2007, pp. 39-66.

McGowan, B. 2007. ‘The making of a legend: Quong Tart on the Braidwood Goldfields’, Journal of Australian Colonial History, vol. 9, pp. 69-98.

McGowan, B. 2006. Fool’s gold: myths and legends of Australian gold seeking, Lothian Books, Sydney.

McGowan, B 2006. ‘Ringbarkers and Market Gardeners. A Comparison of the Rural Chinese of New South Wales and California’, Chinese America, History and Perspectives, vol. 2006, pp. 31-47.

McGowan, B 2005. ‘The economics and organisation of Chinese mining in Colonial Australia’, Australian Economic History Review, vol. 45, no. 2, pp. 119-138.

McGowan, B 2005. ‘Chinese market gardens in southern and western New South Wales’, Australian Humanities Review, vol. 36, pp. 1-10.

McGowan, B 2004. ‘Reconsidering Race: The Chinese Experience on the Goldfields of Southern New South Wales’, Australian Historical Studies, vol. 124, pp. 312-322.

McGowan, B 2004. ‘The Chinese on the Braidwood Goldfields: historical and archaeological opportunities’, Journal of Australian Colonial History, vol. 6, pp. 35-58.

McGowan, B 2004. ‘Class Hegemony and Localism: the Southern Mining Region of New South Wales: 1850-1900’, Labour History, vol. 86, pp. 93-115.

McGowan, B 2002. Australian Ghost towns. Hachette Australia. Sydney.

McGowan, B 2001. ‘Mullock Heaps and Tailing Mounds: Environmental effects of alluvial goldmining’, in McCalman, I., Cook, A. and Reeves, A. (ed.) Gold: Forgotten Histories and Lost Objects of Australia, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 85-100.

McGowan, B. 2000. The golden south: a history of the Araluen, Bell’s Creek and Major’s Creek gold fields. The Author, Canberra.

McGowan, B. 1996. Lost mines revisited: historic mining communities of the Monaro, Southern Tablelands, and South West Slopes Districts of New South Wales. The author, Canberra.

McGowan, B. 1996. Bungonia to Braidwood: an historical and archaeological account of the Shoalhaven and Mongarlowe goldfields. The author, Canberra.

McGowan, B. 1995. Historic mining sites survey of the Shoalhaven and south west slopes districts of New South Wales. New South Wales Dept. of Urban Affairs and Planning : Australian Heritage Commission, Sydney.

McGowan, B. 1993. Historic mining sites in the Monaro Southern Tablelands Districts of New South Wales. New South Wales Dept. of Planning and the Australian Heritage Commission, Sydney

McGowan, Barry and Li, Tana 2013, ‘Charlie Wong Hing and the Son He Never Met’, Chinese Southern Diaspora Studies. Sources, Language and Approaches in Chinese–Australian History, vol. 6, pp.166-171.

McGowan, Barry and Li, Tana 2013. ‘An Example of Usury Within the Chinese Community: An Account from Wagga Wagga, 1923–1927’, Chinese Southern Diaspora Studies. Sources, Language and Approaches in Chinese-Australian History, vol. 6, 2013, pp.172-177.

McGowan, Barry and Lindsay Smith 2008. Tracking the Dragon through Southern NSW and the Riverina, report to the NSW Heritage Office.

Pearson, M. & B. McGowan. 2009. Mining sites in NSW: History and heritage—with guidelines for assessing heritage values and for taking actions on heritage mining places, Industry and Investment NSW, Sydney.

Pearson, M. & B. McGowan. 2000. Mining heritage places assessment manual, Australian Council of National Trusts and Australian Heritage Commission, Canberra. (download)