For many years Pauline Conolly has published her popular blog, which has become a Blue Mountains institution. Her main subjects are Blackheath (especially our birds), history, humour, and travel. In 2015 the National Library of Australia decided to permanently archive her website as one of national cultural significance.
Pauline has worked in jobs including maid in a hotel on Loch Ness, librarian and journalist, and has written two books. She is ably assisted by Editor Des, a small bear with his own Facebook page: editordes
Q: Why did you start paulineconolly.com?
A: My publishers suggested it when my first book was published in 2012. The only problem is that I now write so many articles that my current book, a biography, is way behind schedule!
Q: How did the range of subjects gradually expand?
A: Well, I was born curious, so I’m always trying to solve historical mysteries; missing artworks for example. Social history in general is a passion of mine. Plus, my love of gardening and birds has inspired a lot of stories.
Q: With your historical stories, how do you fix upon a subject?
A: Something I hear or read will prompt me to do some research. And often one story will lead to a related one. If I find a subject interesting, I hope others will too.
Q: Which are your favourite birds?
A: Now that’s a difficult question, because we have so many here. Tiny birds such as blue wrens, silvereyes and robins are delightful. However, my partner Rob and I have a special affection for a pair of native Wonga Pigeons that have been nesting in our garden for years. They are so gentle, and we feel privileged that they share their sweet babies with us. They spend their days plodding around the garden paths rather like I do myself.
Q: What subjects are the most popular on the website?
A: Crime stories are popular; not necessarily murders, but ingenious robberies and interesting trials etc. Travel and humour (often combined) also attract lots of visits. Oh yes. and anything food related and nostalgic. I’ve written about almost every ‘iconic’ Australian food imaginable, from Tasmanian scallops to rabbit stew, and all manner of cakes, biscuits and sweets. I have just been reminded by my associate Editor Des that his articles are sometimes more popular than my own.
Editor Des in reflective mood.
Q: Has the site’s popularity surprised you?
A: It certainly has. I think a background in writing for magazines and newspapers has helped me ‘write tight’ and maintain readers’ interest. Understanding Search Engine Optimisation also makes a big difference. With so many websites it’s important to rank as highly as possible on Google searches.
Q: You’ve lived in the Mountains more than 20 years. What are the biggest changes you’ve seen here?
A: It’s busier of course, but there haven’t really been many changes, which is why I love living here. Having grown up in Tasmania, Rob and I moved up from Sydney to enjoy the distinct seasons and the birdlife. I guess only climate change could pose a threat to our little haven. Our gang-gang cockatoos are now listed as endangered after the big bushfires.
Q: Do you have a favourite season, and if so, what do you like about it?
A: I particularly love autumn. We have a lot of deciduous trees in our garden and the colours are incredible. There is something so quiet and restful about the season after the heat of summer. The mists that roll in add to the romance and mystique of the Mountains.
Pauline’s website is: paulineconolly.com. Her books The Water Doctor’s Daughters and All Along the River: tales from the Thames are sadly out of print, but there are hopes for the latter's resurrection before too long.