Voice of Real Australia: A holiday among ghosts of plagues past

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At Manly's Q Station, the juxtaposition of breathtaking scenery and gruesome history slaps you in the face like the nor-easter coming off Sydney Harbour.

One would think, quite reasonably, that a holiday these days would involve getting as far away from thoughts of the pandemic as possible.

Or you could head straight for Sydney's fascinating former quarantine station, now restored as an historic tourist precinct and awash with ghosts of plagues past.

When I wrote about my visit to Q Station, I couldn't help reflecting on how rudimentary our defences against infection remain.

In times past, border closures, face masks and curfews were the main weapons against early pandemics, and many of the victims of these; of Bubonic Plague, Typhus, Smallpox and Spanish Flu, lie buried in the cemetery at North Head.

As the debate about the suitability of quarantine stations versus hotel rooms rages on, my colleage at the Milton Ulladulla Times, Damian McGill, got talking to Mollymook resident Dr Ian Lavering.

Ian's father managed quarantine stations in the 50s, 60s and 70s, and a good chunk of Ian's youth was spent at Manly's Q Station.

He offers a unique insight into the subject of quarantine, and an interesting story to tell of a boyhood growing up with a certain stigma about where he lived.

If he was a bit socially isolated, he said the beauty of the environment, with its sheltered beach, Sydney sandstone bushland and panoramic views, was some consolation.

For me, it was impossible to stand on the clifftops at North Head and not imagine the plague ships coming around the corner, flying the yellow jack flag of disease.

I guess you can always go somewhere and sit by a pool, but I think I prefer places like Q Station where you can learn something new and reflect on days gone by.

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