The strangeness of Australia’s flora and fauna

by Ellen Lawson

Tranquillo Pata of Sonogno emigrated in 1855 following the Victorian Goldrush in Eganstown, Australia and the opportunities that this presented to young single men. The successful marketing of migration schemes to people (like Tranquillo) in Ticino. Originally gold prospecting, storekeeper 1856-62 (bankrupt 1862), hotel licensee 1869, carpenter and farmer in Eganstown district 1873-1909.

We have always known of our Swiss-Italian ancestry through my father’s line. The home built by Tranquillo Pata in Eganstown (always referred to as ‘Home’) is still standing and was occupied by descendents of one of his daughters until recent years.

Subsequent generations from other children also stayed in the Eganstown area to raise their families, so the family connection to that area is strong.

I have become more informed over the years through research. Particularly through my discovery in 1995 of Giorgio Cheda’s research from l’emigrazione ticinese in Australia, Vol 2 that includes a selection of letters that Tranquillo sent to his family in Sonogno over 50+ years. The early letters reveal his immediate reactions to Australia – strangeness of flora and fauna, climate, his isolation and anxiety for news from home, etc. Later letters reveal his interest in and his opinion of local political issues such as his opposition to the proposal to incorporate the Protestant religion in State-provided education. Tranquillo applied for naturalization in the Colony of Victoria in 1899, this enabled him to vote in the Federal referendum of the Commonwealth Bill of that year.

Family (his own and relatives in Sonogno) is a common theme in all the letters. Tranquillo returned to Sonogno, Ticino, 1904-05 to visit family. He died in Australia in 1914. I am not aware of any further contact being made between family in Australia and family in Sonogno since his death.

I don’t speak italian. As are many fifth, etc generation Australians, my family are descendents of mixed lineage. Tranquillo, as did other Swiss-Italian men who settled in the Eganstown area, married an Irish woman – having same Roman Catholic religion. Our family lineage also includes, Irish, German (from Holstein-Schelswig region) and English.

Like other descendents of Swiss-Italians, my nana (grandmother) practiced some traditional domestic tasks, e.g. she made Italian sausages using the family recipe. These ‘bull-boar’ sausages are a well-known traditional produce of the Daylesford district.

I suspect that our Ticino heritage is to be found in family traits and interests, etc.

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