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To our friends Down Under, I wish you a happy Australia Day. January 26 is traditionally the day that Australia celebrates its national heritage - the people, the land, the indigenous culture and the diversity that makes up this very unique country. With over 5,000 events scheduled across the continent, it is the largest celebration of Australia's existence.

As you may know Conan Doyle was a world traveler, and one of his journeys took him to the former penal colony. Even before making what must have been an excruciatingly long trip, he managed to to put a number of connections to the island continent in the Canon. Here are the ones that come to mind:
  • The Boscombe Valley Mystery - "from Ballarat to Melbourne" - Turner and McCarthy met in Australia, where Black Jack of Ballarat made his money as a highway robber
  • The Gloria Scott - Trevor Sr., alias James Armitage was "sentenced to transportation" and found himself "bound for Australia" aboard the ill-fated ship when he encountered Jack Prendergast, Hudson and others.
  • The Empty House - the Hon. Ronald Adair was the son of the Earl of Maynooth, "governor of one of the Australian colonies. Adair’s mother had returned from Australia to undergo the operation for cataract" when they moved to Park Lane.
  • The Priory School - at the conclusion, James Wilder was to leave the Duke of Holderness "and go to seek his fortune in Australia."
  • The Abbey Grange - Mary Frasier and Theresa Wright came from "the less conventional atmosphere of South Australia" - Adelaide, to be exact
  • The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax - Holy Peters turned out to be "one of the most unscrupulous rascals that Australia has ever evolved."
While these are the only overt references to Australia that I can remember off the top of my head, there are other entries that might imply a connection with the land down under:
  • Holmes doesn't say where in The Sussex Vampire, but "a year at sea" for Master Jacky Ferguson might include Australia
  • Watson wrote that his experience of women extended "over three separate continents" in The Sign of the Four; might one of those continents included the island nation?
It's a lovely country with fascinating people - a unique mix of American, British and Pan-Asian cultures over a wide variety of landscapes. When I traveled there in 1997, I was treated like royalty by the Sydney Passengers. If you ever have the chance to visit this great country, by all means, go.

Advance, Australia Fair!


Bill_B said... January 26, 2007 at 5:53 PM

Yes, it was a great day. Lots of good-natured celebration. For anybody travelling here, please let us know and we'll put you in touch with the nearest Sherlockian group.

Bill Barnes
'Captain', The Sydney Passengers