Chequered Lives by Iola Hack Mathews with Chris Durrant

cover image

Wakefield Press, 2013. ISBN 9781743052587.
(Age: Adult - Senior secondary) Recommended reading. Chequered Lives is the engrossing biography of a pioneer Quaker family from England, who arrived in South Australia in 1837. Specifically, it tells the tale of John Barton Hack, his younger brother Stephen Hack and John Barton's wife Bbe Hack. However, it also tells some of the story of the Society of Friends (the Quakers) and of early South Australia. As such it's worth noting that the National Library of Australia has catalogued this book in South Australian history.
On arrival the Hack family quickly erected a small cottage by the lagoons at Glenelg beach before the city of Adelaide was created. Over time and from this simple beginning John Barton became a merchant who owned a 3000 acre estate in the Adelaide Hills, as well as ships, a whaling station and the first vineyard in South Australia. Stephen became a grazier and explorer. He was the first person to overland cattle from New South Wales to South Australia. Their business and grazing interests had many ups and downs and the title of this book Chequered lives represents these times very well.
The author, Iola Hack Mathews is John Barton's great, great-granddaughter. Much research has gone into uncovering her family's beginnings in South Australia. I particularly enjoyed the accounts of the development of Quakerism in England and South Australia, of which I knew very little.
This book is finely written with great detail but also lightly written in a style that is easy to read eg "Nick Vine Hall, the Australian genealogist, said that after sex, the number one area of research on the Internet was genealogy, 'and oddly enough the two are sort of related.' " p.8
Included are Sponsors and Acknowledgements with a clear explanation of the painstaking research process and in particular the use of primary sources; and a lengthy Introduction.
At the end of this history/biography is an Appendix with details of John Barton's 8 sons (his 6 daughters all died young) including Iola Hack Mathews' great-grandfather Theodore Hack and details of Stephen's 2 surviving children (his daughter died in infancy); Notes (chapter by chapter); and a comprehensive Index.
There are also photographs, artworks, a family tree, maps and diagrams.
The predominant audience for this book is adult, but it would be useful for Senior secondary students of Australian History and Religion Studies, as well as for Research Projects investigating genealogy topics.
Margaret Strickland