BOOK CLUB: Look for the Red Umbrella

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[Total: 6 Average: 4.3]

Look for the Red Umbrella by Geoff McArthur is a historical story of a Scottish family who settled in Ballarat Victoria in the 1850s.

John and Margaret Greig, with their four children, Isabella, Agnes, John, and Maggie, spent three years in Sydney before the lure of the gold rush drew them to Ballarat. 

The family witnessed the attack on the Eureka Stockade and many years later Agnes’ recollections were published in The Argus. 

Geoff McArthur discovered that Agnes Greig had lived in the house that he and his wife have lived in for many years. He has extensively researched the Greig family to write this book.

There’s a range of characters, both community-minded and those with dubious intentions. Fortunes are made and lost in the goldfields and in the retail industry.

One very interesting character is Agnes’s younger sister Margaret, who married a young German man named Frederick Muller. He was a rather outspoken man who upset other Ballarat business owners.

Frederick opened an umbrella shop and Margaret played a significant role. As a daughter of a tailor, she was a skilled seamstress.

Not all in their marriage went to plan as Fred deserted her and was convicted of fraud.

Margaret is an amazing, strong, courageous woman who ran a successful business at a time when business was dominated by men. Who knew umbrella making could be so competitive!?

It is interesting to learn about the events in Ballarat at that time through the lives of the descendants of John and Margaret Greig. Their children and grandchildren feature in many newspaper articles.

I am sure many people wonder about who lived in and the history surrounding their own house. It is fortunate for Geoff that this prominent and newsworthy family was associated with his.

Thoroughly recommend this informative book which takes you back in time to the early years of Australian history.

A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club members are reading Look for the Red Umbrella by Geoff McArthur. You can read their comments below, or add your own review.

27 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: Look for the Red Umbrella

  1. Thank you so much to beauty and lace for allowing me to read this novel.
    It was wonderful to read all of these local things and even have snippets of local newspaper articles.
    Because I was familiar with the areas I found myself picturing everything so much more vividly.
    Geoff (author) obviously did a massive amount of research and actually taught me a lot more than I already knew.
    If he has any other novels I would love to read them.
    I highly recommend giving this book a read.

  2. If you ever needed inspiration for looking into your family tree then look no further than, Look for the Red Umbrella, by Geoff McArthur. It is a wonderful example of combining all types of resources to create an historical account of a family and their life well lived.
    Congratulations on providing such an entertaining read. I’m sure many hours of research and documentation provided the stimulus.

    1. Thanks Vicki. I appreciate your comments. I can highly recommend this type of project. TROvE is literally a treasure trove of stories waiting to be discovered and told..

  3. Thank you, so much Shawline Publishing, Beauty and Lace and local Ballarat researcher Geoff McArthur for the opportunity to read and review Geoff’s debut non-fiction novel “Look for the Red Umbrella. Admittedly non-fiction isn’t a genre I normally gravitate towards, but having read the blurb, and loving the title and the book cover, and not knowing anything about either Ballarat or Bendigo’s gold mining history I was intrigued.

    The story of our heroine the successful businesswomen Margaret Muller in a time when businesses were largely run only by men is a true success story of its time. Married to a flamboyant domineering husband, Mr. Frederick Mueller (Muller) who regularly publicly aired his grievances with rival umbrella tradesman, Mr. Boxhorn via the various local newspapers of the time was a constant source of entertainment for the people of Ballarat.

    Margaret was Ballarat’s most admired and talented umbrella designer and manufacturer, who built her own loyal clientele, a generous employer who cared for and encouraged her staff and family who climbed the ranks and managed new stores as they opened in Bendigo 61 miles North-east of Ballarat.

    Margaret was a dedicated mother, who dearly loved her very bright, musically gifted children, who were members of the Ballarat Orchestra who performed regularly. With Margaret’s daughter Betha marrying a prominent Victorian (hurricane) Sigismund Schlam who later became the Mayor of Menzie’s, who was instrumental in progressing the Menzies – to – Kalgoorlie rail line to fruition.

    I loved that it was a chance search of rate records that unearthed that Geoff’s wife, Anne’s childhood family home was the same one that Agnes Greig had lived and died in, and the very home that he and his wife actually lived in. I am in awe of the astounding amount of research Geoff has undertaken in the writing of this very interesting story, the sheer number of newspapers, letters and court reports Geoff would have read through makes my eyes water. I also loved the organic way, that Geoff’s dad was of all things, a newspaper compositor, how fitting.

    So intrigued with the fascinating history of Australian female umbrella designers, I did a quick google search and found a wonderful story published in September 2015 on the incredible Brisbane local Alicia Mora-Hyde who after 40 years is still learning the trade, and who at that time may have been the “only woman left in the world that was still able to make an umbrella from start to finish.” What an amazing skill, now, that’s something I could definitely hang my hat (umbrella) on. ☂

    1. What a great review – thank you Kathy! And thank you for sharing on Goodreads! My first review there! I was very excited.. I have been so delighted with the support of the readers from the Beauty and Lace book club. Thank you Kathy and all the readers.!❤️

      1. You are very, very welcome Geoff, your book was sooo interesting, I really enjoyed it, I’m in awe of your research skills, I eagerly await your next book with bated breath ☂

  4. Turn back time to Ballarat during goldrush times, follow the family of Jon Grieg and his family’s brave move to Victoria where they set to make a life for themselves. Enter Frederick Muller, who courted and married their daughter Margaret.
    This story follows these two through their lives, via historical documents, especially local newspapers. The good, the bad and the ugly.
    A unique way of writing, this is a non-fictional style story with great research and attention to detail.
    While I applaud the author Geoff McArthur for all the work in this book, I have to admit that I was a bit challenged to get into and follow the story. I guess just not quite my type of read. Thank you Geoff and Beauty and Lace for the chance to try something new

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