Name: James Donaldson
Previous Occupation: Ordained Minister of Religion
Location(s) Of Your Previous Career: Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne.
Current Business: Promoter of a Pastoral Heritage, and a Scottish Past.
Tell us about your career..
I immigrated from Scotland in 1951, working on pastoral properties in the Riverina of N.S.W. for six years before moving to Albury, to study “Sheep and Wool” and “Experting in Sheep Shearing Machinery” Courses. I successfully completed these qualifications, before moving to Sydney, to commence University of Sydney studies for the Ministry of the Presbyterian Church. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts with majors in Philosophy and History, then reading for a post graduate degree of Bachelor of Divinity, completing this second degree with First Class Honours and a University Medal in New Testament Literature and Language.
I later graduated with a Master of Theology from Melbourne, then studied for the Doctorate in San Francisco. I worked in various parishes such as Belconnen in the ACT, before becoming the Chaplain at Knox Grammar School in Sydney for 11 years. I was invited to become the Senior Minister at Toorak Uniting Church in 1984. Following my official retirement in 1994, I was the School Chaplain at St Catherine's School in Toorak for 6 years, then St Michael's Fellow at St Michael's Church in Collins Street. Since then, I have engaged in preaching appointments during ministerial vacancies for various Melbourne Parishes. I visited Toronto as an exchange Minister in 1990, and was Visiting Scholar at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1993.
How did you become interested in sheep shearing, Scottish emigration to Australia and hand tools?
I carried my interest from my pastoral days into a hobby of visiting sheep shearing woolsheds.Then I started to collect sheep shearing machinery, dismantling and restoring shearing handpieces at my home workshop. I used my interest in history and research to visit libraries and commenced collecting materials on shearing and its pastoral associations. I began to publish a Newsletter twice a month, which I circulate privately among other collectors, sharing knowledge and building up an enthusiasm for pastoral heritage and history.This, I promote through writing articles and giving talks. My love of the bush remains a constant.
Being Scottish, I began to research a group of Scottish Highland destitute emigrants who left their impoverished homeland in 1837-1840 to migrate to Australia.This involved doing a study of the Highlands between 1746-1830, and the colonies of Victoria and NSW where they and their families later settled.I later wrote and published the material in a book named "Farewell to the Heather", which happily has sold amazingly well. While I am a Scot by birth, I am an Australian by choice.
An interest in hand tools has developed since my days on the properties, and my interest in shearing machinery. I shared a commitment to these through the Hand Tool Preservation Association of Australia, where I edited the quarterly journal for five years.This is an excellent group of like minded enthusiasts.
Your interests take you around Australia. What are some of the some of the fascinating places (or shearing sheds) you have visited?
I have visited a number of states looking at woolsheds, in NSW, Queensland, Tasmania and Victoria. I meet fascinating people, and see many parts of the bush country that many people do not visit. When people realise that I have a genuine interest, they also show me horses, rams, artesian bores etc. It is a great privilege to visit many woolsheds in the one district. Sadly many old sheds are falling into the dust, and farmers lack the funds to restore them adequately. I continue to build a collection of photographs that will help to preserve the heritage.
The historic woolsheds such as Toganmain, Burrabogie, Tupra, Dunlop, Yamma, Boonoke, Hartwood, Alice Downs, Terick Terick, Darr River Downs, Eurugabah, Moonbria, etc. are national treasures that few Australians are aware of, or appreciate, and have become relicts of the a forgotten past in a non- rural environment .
What's the best part about your interests?
I meet interesting, vital people, I gain a unique perspective on the past, through visits to the great woolsheds of Australia.They stand as monuments to the golden age of wool, and to the pioneers who battled droughts fires and floods to succeed. My interest will never run out of ideas or places to visit.There is always more to learn and wonderful people to meet. There are always great woolsheds to explore and admire. I also enjoy my field trips in the company of great friends, who regardless of whatever time elapses between trips, always take up the conversations as if we had never been apart. It is an outdoor activity in the Australian landscape.
Many challenges. How to encourage an enthusiasm among other Australians, especially children, to learn about woolsheds and the pastoral heritage of the past. How many Australians know that wool in 1891 produced more revenue than gold and silver put together? How many know that John McArthur was not the first person to bring Merino sheep to Australia? There is a challenge not only to learn about the pastoral past but to commit it to writing. There is a challenge in a country where the first flock of sheep was shorn completely without machines, to preserve the heritage of that great event.There is always the challenge to grow, to learn and to expand.
What have you learnt regarding following your passions?
I have learned that to follow one's passions opens up new fields of endeavour, new friendships and new knowledge. What seems impossible becomes probable then expands into a reality of achievement.These become further stepping stones to higher achievement,and encouragement to others.
What do you think are some of the challenges of retirement for people?
One challenge is to remain a participator rather than a spectator.
To continue to say “yes” to life which means risking, rather than a persistent “no” which leads to a comfortable and complete isolation, and loneliness.To realise unfulfilled abilities in an atmosphere of the freedom to do so. To live amongst loss with courage and continuing hope.To realise that “being” is more important than merely “doing”.
Advice for people who would like to pursue a second career after 'retirement'
Find your passion, and do not allow others to squash your enthusiasm. Persistence leads to achievement and goals. Be joyfully involved with people and life. Believe in yourself and your capacity to achieve. Make the most of yourself. Now not later.