‘COTTER – A Novel’ by Richard Begbie
The Story of Garrett COTTER (1801-1886) - County Cork to New South Wales, Australia
In 1822, nineteen-year-old Garrett COTTER was given a life sentence of transportation to NSW. His crime was participating in ‘Whiteboy’ action to bring about fairness and justice for the poor peasant families in his district. This story tracks his life from Ireland to NSW in a moving narrative.
The story of Garrett COTTER will stay with me forever. It is beautifully written, the language authentic, clear and convincing, the story powerful and profound. It is a great example of the creative non-fiction genre that brings history to life, life to history and gives us the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the story, the characters, place and time. It teaches us.
We regularly picnicked and explored along the Cotter River and Murrumbidgee corridor when our boys were young not knowing that we were walking in ‘Cotter’ and ‘Onyong’ Country. It is wonderful to now have a better understanding of the rich history this country holds.
I loved learning about Garret Cotter, his indomitable spirit, his kindness and the dignified way he dealt with adversity and injustice. I loved learning about Onyong and his people and their dignified yet little-understood way of living and special relationship to country. I loved learning about the relationship that developed between Cotter and Onyong out of need, but also respect and understanding.
Extraordinary research was undertaken to bring this story together. It’s a must read for those interested in Irish and Australian history and more specifically Canberra history. It covers issues such as transportation, relationships between the suppressed and the suppressors and the European impact on local Aboriginal tribes. It’s a bittersweet tale.