Peter Rymill’s passion for Penola

The historian: Peter Rymill.
The historian: Peter Rymill.

Peter Rymill, the descendant of the great John Riddoch, has written a sharp and engaging book about the history of Penola.

Titled Penola to Coonawarra from Foundation to Federation, the book is a comprehensive source of both Aboriginal and European history in the region.

“I’ve worked on it on and off,” said Mr Rymill.

“I kept notes and was writing stuff – I’ve been interested in it for a long time.

“It (the book) was originally intended to be a concise summary, I wrote it in an A5 paper journal. It’s a good disciplinary exercise!”

Mr Rymill decided to increase the book’s size and length due to the interest in the material from wineries and devotees of Mary MacKillop.

Penola to Coonawarra is also intended to be a source book for journalists, other historians, and the general public.

While Mr Rymill didn’t study history at university, he is a well-known amateur historian. He wrote about the Penola Primary School’s 100th anniversary, and his writings on the Rymill ancestry was critically acclaimed.

Mr Rymill even worked with Australia’s published historian, Professor Geoffrey Blainey. The two men originally bonded over football rather than history – “we’re both fans of Geelong FC” – but soon found they had much in common.

As well as offering constructive feedback, Prof Blainey also wrote the foreword of the book.

He also commented upon the short, sharp, and colourful images within Penola to Coonawarra, which prompted Mr Rymill to reply: “One doesn’t need to go to Hong Kong to get a quality print job done!"

Mr Rymill hired Naracoorte’s Hansen Design and Print to help with the book’s publication, and mentioned that there is history in the book which people from the Naracoorte-Lucindale district may find interesting. 

The book covers some history near Mosquito Creek and Struan, in particular clearing up some history about the Robertson family.

It is widely believed that Struan was founded by John Robertson in 1842, when it was in fact founded by his younger brother William Robertson in 1844, with John arriving at the site in 1846.

NewsXpress is stocking the book at $20, and it can also be found in the Penola information centre, Penola local history collection, Penola supermarkets, and Penola newsagency.

It is also in Mount Gambier, at Collins Booksellers.

It can be bought online through the Rymill Coonawarra website.

It is available to borrow through the State Library and National Library.