Knowing me

My name’s Mark MacLean.

JamboThis blog is about Hamilton North, New South Wales. The main focus is on the walks I take with my dog, Jambo, down Styx Creek, and the things we see when we’re down there.

I have a very rubbish camera on my very rubbish phone and so I try to take photos of these things, though the photos are usually rubbish. However, this hasn’t stopped me and I’ve grouped these things into categories:

Round things: usually balls (tennis balls, cricket balls, basketballs) but also chokos, Christmas baubles, bike helmets and balloons.

Found things: mountain bikes, shopping trolleys, bits of carpet underlay. I think of this category as “washed up things” though in truth they’re always washed down. Go figure.

Drowned things: dead birds, dead fish, dead eels, dead cormorants.

Around town things: which is just for all the left-over bits of stuff I see around Hamilton North 2292.

My phoneMaybe one day I’ll get an iPhone and then all my photos will be like brilliant. Till then, this is my phone. Note the very large, old-person buttons and the sticky label to remind me of what my own number is.

Update: you may have noticed a significant improvement in the quality of photos. I don’t mean that they’re composed any better but they “look nicer”. Yes, I got me an iPhone.

29 Responses to Knowing me

  1. Lesley Walker says:

    Hi Mark, My name is Lesley I read your story in the “weekender”. I lived on Broadmeadow Road 3 homes down from “the drain” during the fifties and sixties. I only recently found it had its own name – I love the conatations of “Styx” Creek. We used it as a quick passage to visit friends in New Lambton, much to my parents horror (they imagined us being washed away by sudden floods!) I recently found out my own daughter, who attended Hunter School of Performing Arts, also used it as a corridor to go shopping at Westfield during spare periods at school!
    I love the blog – keep up the good work.

    • Mark MacLean says:

      Hi Lesley

      What a lovely story. I’m really starting to get a sense of the history of the creek from the notes and replies people are sending me. One thing that’s coming through is that the creek/drain’s always been alive and always been a part of how people live in and around Broadmeadow, Hamilton North, New Lambton and Islington.


  2. Jack says:

    Great blog. Generaly i dedicate blog time to trawling for photo’s of scantely clad tattood women and the latest shots of riot dog. However when the outdoors call i can be found traversing local waterways with my dog Frank taking photo’s of exotic rubbish and the latest rap tags. Perhaps we are kindred spirits.

    Keep up the good work.

    • Mark MacLean says:

      There are more of us than THEY could ever imagine. In fact, I feel a song coming on:
      We are one
      But we are many …

  3. Kevin McDonald says:

    Just finished reading AYDTD, given to me by a close friend. What a gem of a book, written in a quirky, discursive and highly engaging style. This book appealed to me by the way in which it brings to life a phenomenon few of us think about – the drainage of city/suburbia and how the drains/canals reveal a dubious engineering solution to the vagaries of nature’s creeks. I liked the way the author takes us through the months of the year, commenting on the weather, and the moods of the year. And then there is the way in which the author reminisces about the lottery of life, and how life has impacted on him, and on other people, particularly “old mate”. The book caused me to go to the website, with its many snapshots of “life” in a concrete drain – fascinating photos each of which tells a little story. Finally, the book reminded me about a project in environmental education in which I was involved in the mid 1970s, where we took primary school kids out of the classroom and investigated Newcastle’s network of open canals. That project was a real eye-opener, not only for the kids, but for me, showing how we often don’t really solve an environmental problem; we often just shift the problem from one place to another place! Congratulations to Mark on his book and website.

    • Mark MacLean says:

      Hello Kevin
      Thank you for the thoughtful review; I’m really glad you enjoyed the book.
      The project you describe, taking kids into the canals back in the 1970s, sounds intriguing. I wonder how it influenced them: where are they now?

  4. Kevin McDonald says:

    The project was part of a wider program of urban environmental education, and the then teacher-in-charge of the Awabakal Field Studies Centre, Brian Gilligan, produced a set of notes in booklet form. (I still have a copy.) At the time, I was President of the Association for Environmental Education (NSW) and we had urban E.E. as a theme at our annual conference (in 1976). I was a senior lecturer in biological and environmental sciences at the then Newcastle College of Education. The kids involved in the canal investigation were from Islington Primary School, and the principal there was Blake Lewin. The then Newcastle Morning Herald ran an article on the project and printed a photo of the kids in the canal. I might scan and email a copy for you separately to this email . Of course I have no idea where the kids are now – all this was about 35 years ago!

  5. Marion Bannister says:

    I’ve just finished A year.. and enjoyed it enormously along with your pictures and blog. It was a real privilege to be get to know more of your world and the area around Hamilton North and it has given me a different take on a world that I’d frankly written off as unsightly or dangerous. I’ve loved the conversational style and diaristic nature of the unfolding world of your observations and musings. Lovely to get to know you a little better through A year.. Part of my dread of the ‘drains’comes from early childhood horrors foisted on me by parents and authorities about children being swept away in storm water drains. Further unjoys of the drains comes from watching in horror at the massive and rapid overflow and localised, but thankfully very brief, flooding around the drains in Mayfield during the June flood of 2007? So my initial horror of your adventures down the drain was slowly converted to admiration for your discoveries and research into associated phenomena and places in your writings. Mark, thanks for the book on many levels. Marion

    • Mark MacLean says:

      Thanks for the lovely comment, Marion.
      I think that fear of the drains must go back a long way in (colonial) Australian history; it must have been a very real danger for many people for many years, and it’s simply been transposed onto the urban waterways.
      They certainly can be dangerous places but their reputation seems to be like that of sharks at the beach: it only takes one surfer out of millions to be snapped up every couple of years and suddenly the sharks are vilified (and I write this the day after the Redhead incident).

  6. Kevin McDonald says:

    Hi Mark, I see in today’s (Tues. 24 Jan.) Newcastle Herald, that Hunter Water will be replacing an ageing section of concrete lining along Throsby Creek, in a $500,000 project. We should keep an eye on this project! Incidentally, I am a member of Hunter Water’s Community Consultative Forum. We meet once every third month. I will try to find out more about this Throsby Creek project.

    Your photos of the recent shocking pollution of the canal really deserve public showing. It’s the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality at work. The public should know about this. Do you want me to raise the matter with Hunter Water?


  7. Kevin McDonald says:

    Reading your Things to be Cheerful post today, I must admire your individual effort in collecting those 13 bags of litter. What will you now do with the bags?!

    I have been the site supervisor for East Seaham (re Clean Up Australia) for the last 16 years, and each year my small but gallant crew collect a depressingly huge amount of litter. I live opposite a State Forest which has many tracks used by the trail-bike fraternity, mostly teenage kids. They all bring along their drinks (whether Coke, beer. “Mother” and other high caffeine/sugar “hits”), consume the contents and chuck the bottles and cans into the bush. Every morning as I take my dog (Zoe, an ageing Rhodesian Ridgeback “mixture”) I collect these cans, etc and bring them home to place in my own yellow-lid wheely bin. I call the roadsides and trails, the “litterall zone”! Australians are a nation of litterers. But a few of us actually care.

    • Mark MacLean says:

      Ha, the litterall zone: love it!
      The bags are stowed up on the banking by the gasworks. I’ve emailed Hunter Water about collecting them as I know that every now and again they do patrols down the creek to scoop out the litter by the boom next to the TAFE; in fact, I saw tyre tracks there this morning.
      If they won’t or can’t do anything then I suppose I’ll just have to squish them into my little wheelie bin, one per week for a quarter of a year!

  8. Anna Kasper says:

    Hi Mark, I found your book in Macleans just when I was feeling I might have had a year down the drain myself last year. And promptly fell in love with the ‘upstream bit of my creek’ , and your writing and, so, Newcastle a bit more too. We’ve given it as presents about 5 times in January!
    I’ve been 7 years around Throsby Creek, from Islington Park to Carrington bridge mainly – these past 3 also with a tail-varmint (not my expression, but how great) and a 6am friend 2 days/week. It has changed immensely, mostly in the way people appreciate it – we took to the creek in our canoes in 2009 and have been chuffed to see how many others are doing it too. Hope the Hunter Water project does not end up too naff – no start to it yet.

    • Mark MacLean says:

      Hi Anna
      A tail-varmint?! I’m trying to imagine it!
      I’ve yet to do the kayak/canoe thing in the harbour or up the creeks at high tide but it’s on my list. I think we’re all reaping the rewards of work that was done on the creek system twenty years ago but I reckon it’s time to mobilise and move it to the next level. We’re a city on a swamp; the drains criss-cross the place and I think their day has come.
      So glad to hear that you enjoyed the book. Did you buy it for other Novocastrians or people out of town? I’m always curious as to whether it’s a purely Newcastle thing or whether people in Perth or Kuala Lumpur would “get it”.

      • anchors says:

        Ah, ages go by. Now I’m reading the book aloud to the resident 9yr old – who’s keen to go for a big bike ride tomorrow, on new bike,
        and check it all out. I bought the book for other folk coming from far away to live here and unsure about its merits…as I was…

      • Mark MacLean says:

        … and unsure about its merits … as I was …

        I’m intrigued!!!!

  9. Jack says:

    Hello Mark.

    I have recieved your book from the “greenman”. He did not pawn it for drug money. Unfortuantely i have left the afore mentioned prints in the care of my brother who is currently subscribing to a phone free lifestyle. Fear not. I will honour our trade and recipricate you in kind. I apologise for the delay.

    • Mark MacLean says:

      The Greenman only deals with honourable people so I never doubted for you for a second! And the best things are always worth the wait.

  10. Jack says:

    Hello Mark.

    Employed a tracker well versed in the movements of juvinile offenders who was able to locate my deadshit brother complete with a few of the prints he hadnt yet swapped to his friends for cheap liquor. Long story short, i finally have your print. Send me an email at to set up a rendezvous.


  11. John Ruffels says:

    Goodday Mark, Enjoying this chatline. Haven’t read your book. Yes Newcastle is built on low-lying wetlands as well as coastal sanddunes. Down south in the Illawarra, local councils have cemented natural waterways and are very big on Gabion Boxes. I am sure you could link up with kindred spirits there.

    • Mark MacLean says:

      Ah, gabion boxes! Where would we be without them. I don’t get down your neck of the woods very much but I’d love to have a mooch around the Gong’s drains!

  12. rebec says:

    Hello again.
    Do you know anything about the British Australian Oil Company? They had a refinery at Hamilton.
    Someone is researching the history, (SMH 14/12/13). Maybe it’s you!

    • Mark MacLean says:

      Long time before my reply, sorry, but I really haven’t been able to find out who’s doing the research – and it ain’t me! Did you find anything? Maybe it’ll remain a mystery, until the book of the BAOC comes out.

  13. I know nothing about this. Maybe an inquiry could be made with the Newcastle City Library and/or the Auchmuty Library at the University of Newcastle.
    Kevin McDonald

    • Mark MacLean says:

      Hello Kevin

      Nice to know you’re still dropping in on the blog. Hope you’re well and that 2013 was kind to you.


  14. Stevi Russell says:

    Hi Mark, your pic of the burst yellow football was tweeted recently! Id like to use the image in an online vid with a mention of the tweet so I just wanted to check if thats ok with you? Didn’t want to just use it without your permission! You can see the tweet here – Thanks a million, Stevi

    • Mark MacLean says:

      Sure thing, Stevi. I thought internet fame was the best, but tweet fame sounds even better!

  15. D. Smith says:

    Hi Mark,

    I’ve just discovered your blog after googling some ecology info on Styx Creek. Just moved to Newcastle from the UK and am delighted by your public spirited, ramble-orientated musings. Thanks!

    • Mark MacLean says:

      Hello D Smith

      What a queer old world! I’m replying to your message from, of all places, Cumbria! I’m over here at the moment sorting out a few things with my later father’s house, and so I haven’t been down the Styx for a couple of weeks.

      Glad to hear you enjoyed the blog: check out the book if you get the chance.


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