John Mannion is a local historian for the Orroroo community. Growing up on the family farm near Pekina, located 14 kilometres of Orroroo, he has a fascination for the local area. He is the co-author of the book ‘No place like Pekina, a story of survival,’ which is a fantastic book on the history of Pekina and surrounding area.
As a youngster, he was never particularly interested in sport and would rather fiddle around with machinery. He has always been intrigued by people’s stories, old buildings and railways, which led to his interest in collecting history. After working as an electrical fitter for some time, he is now a freelance historian among other things and also works part-time for the Orroroo Carrieton Council as the heritage coordinator. John has an Advanced Diploma in Local, Family and Applied History (UNE, Armidale, NSW 2003). Throughout his life, he has experienced the development of technology which has made researching and recording history a lot easier, especially with the internet. John still remembers his first recorded interview in 1974, which was very exciting and it amazed him as it gave the people he interviewed a voice and life to their stories, which is a critical element of history.
John focuses a lot more on social history which he calls ‘ordinary people’s’ history. He believes it is sad that the only record of some people’s lives is what is on their headstone and some people don’t even have this. Everyone has their own life stories, which often go unheard. The former Pekina station headquarters, located just south of Orroroo, was once a thriving settlement from the 1850’s-1870’s but nothing was ever heard about the workers. It is recorded that there are up to 35 unmarked and un-located graves at the site and another three identified graves nearby. John finds this very intriguing and would like to know who the people were, where they come from and why they went unrecorded. This is just one example of the things that motivate John’s research and emphasises his personal importance about recording social history.
John thinks that it is important to record history, as he believes ‘we’ owe the people who came before us an obligation. Recording history helps him understand the reasons behind why things around us are this way. Throughout his life, he has seen things changing and thinks that not only the facts that are recorded, but people’s stories. In ‘No place like Pekina, a story of survival’ this is shown as he includes many stories and personal histories, rather than just statistics and facts. This also applies to building and historic artefacts. According to John, anything has a story, from a railway to a stone wall. How it was built, when, why, and by whom, are just some of the questions that come to him. As John is very passionate about historic buildings, he has had many experiences trying to preserve buildings against demolition. Many of these attempts have failed, with the Orroroo railway goods shed and the Grave diggers shed at the local cemetery being just a few that have been destroyed. John and others did manage to preserve the ‘Red Bridge’ [railway], located near the Giant Gum Tree in the Pekina Creek, which is a valuable achievement. John is passionate about preserving historic buildings as they are a legacy to the people who preceded us and their efforts shouldn’t be wasted.
John Mannion is a very knowledgeable, interesting, enthusiastic person and a very valuable member of the Orroroo community. His extensive knowledge of the history of the area is remarkable and he is very helpful to anybody interested in what he does.
Written by Georgie Custance with special thanks to John Mannion who can be contacted by email email@example.com