We were in the middle of a World War when we arrived in Tasmania. I think that WW2 had started about the day I was born. Every thing was in short supply and mostly rationed. My Father had the only motorised vehicle on “Armitstead” being the manager.
All the work was done with horses. Draft horses for ploughing and harvesting, stock horses for stock management and personal transport. There was an old small tracked Caterpillar tractor which was used for some of the heavy work.
After the harvesting was over and the hay stacks were built, a local contractor would come in with his traction engine and chaff cutter to cut the oat sheave into chaff, and bale the stacks of hay into hay bales. All this was just the best fun for a young kid.
We did not have electricity until I was about 8 yrs old. The power came to Kimberley first, but what with the war on and short supplies it took a bit longer to reach us. The poles seemed be up along the road and to our house for ever before it was turned on. My Mother would say, in her frustrated way- “I wish they would hurry and turn the bally power on!” Well it eventually came on and we celebrated by turning every light in the house ON. Out side on a power pole above the garage was a huge light which seemed to light up the whole world. And it had a two way switch. One at the house and the other at the garage. How’s that for technology in the 1940’s. Gone were kerosine lamps, out came the toaster and refrigerator. My Mother was very Happy.
I started school at the Kimberley State School in 1946 at the age of 6yrs and 4mths. It was a two room school with two teachers and about 30 children. The second teacher was often a young trainee except for Miss Dwyer who was older. The School house was attached to the School. My Mother was always involved in school affairs and the Headmasters would become family friends.
I was already accomplished at riding a horse when I started School. I even had my own horse. Trixy was her name. My Father or one of the men would catch Trixy in the morning and have her saddled and ready for me, at least until I could catch her myself. She was reluctant to go the 4 kms to school and I had to coax her along a bit with a stick. She was easy to catch in the school paddock and when I saddled her up and headed for home she would canter all the way. I would always hold her back and make her walk the last 1/2 klm. Kind wasn’t I !
When my sister Jenny started school the next year, we would ride double up. When Wendy started, she and Jenny rode the horse and I had to walk, but only until the school bus started, which was not that long after.
In the six years at Kimberley School I can only remember having two Headmasters. There was Mr James, who had a large car and once drove a group of us to Hobart to see the Queen and Prince Phillip. I remember seeing the largest crowd of people I had ever seen, lining the streets of Hobart, and the shining black car flashing by with the waving Queen and Duke on board. We stayed overnight in a private home and returned home the next day. A great adventure. Then there was Mr Challice, an older man, who spent the the first hour of the day reading the newspaper to us. I can’t remember much more about the schooling, except I was in serious trouble one time in grade 2 or 3 art class for painting the sea purple. It was about then that I was found to be colour-blind.
Being more or less a stranger
Walking up and down the street
I received an inspiration,
While being on the beat;
So I’d better tell the story,
How I rambled to and fro,
And how I met those shearers
All shearing in a row.
Now two gentlemen were talking,
On a corner in the town
And I heard their conversation,
As I wandered up and down.
So at last I got darn’d cheeky,
And butted in the frame,
To here the latest highlights,
In the good old shearing game,
Seems they got me—and inspired me
‘Til at last I had to go
To those ‘Cromdale’ shearers,
All shearing in a row.
There were Eveston and Halligan,
Both racing in the lead,
While Knight and old Jack Hutchens,
Were clapping on the speed:
And another ‘gun’, named Boucher
Was fighting hard to win,
And take the cherished title
Back far Deniliquin:
Seems they,re shearing for the honor;
Being set in earnest race
To be the ‘Cromdale’ ringer,
And hold the pride of place
While wishing them good fortune,
A tribute I must pay,
To the sterling Beveridge brothers,
Should I ever go their way.
And while there’s crayfish in the Murray,
And there’s nice girls in the town,
I’d always be contented
To be wandering up and down. Anon.
Shearing was always a highlight of the year and went on for about a month, shearing the “Armitstead” sheep and then the sheep on the neighboring property, “Shadyside”. My Father knew all about Sheds and Shearing. He had worked in sheds in Victoria and NSW as a Woolclasser. At “Cromdale” near Echuca in Northern Victoria where He and his Brother Roy lived and ran their Property, they had a large shearing shed. Many thousands of sheep were shorn on contract for other property owners in the district.
The shearers were hired through the shearing co-op, Grazcos. The Co-op was formed in 1919 as the Graziers Co-op Shearing Company Limited, and they arranged teams of shearers for property owners all over Australia. Our team of ten men, were four Shearers, a rouseabout, piece picker, wool roller, presser, the cook and the Overseer-Expert-Classer, who was also the team boss so to speak. The Expert part of his job was to keep the machinery maintained and running smoothly and to grind the combs and cutters for the shearers, and he would count the shorn sheep at the end of each run.
We always called him the woolclasser and and he lived with us in the Managers house during the shearing.
The shearers would turn up in all types of transport, some on the train, on bikes or even Taxi. The men usually arrived from the mainland over a weekend ready to start on a Monday morning at 7:30 am. They would work four- two hour runs with a half hour smoko 9:30, one hour lunch break and afternoon smoko at 3:00 finishing at 5:30. The shearers liked shearing our crossbred sheep, because they had no wrinkles on the skin like the Merino. They would stay on in Tasmania after our shed cut out to shear at other sheds in the state. Shearing gangs were always an unpredictable lot, with regard to punctuality and behaviour, and it was not uncommon for someone not to turn up on time or to snatch it (leave) after a day or two. They worked hard and played hard.
On one such occasion My Mother was called upon to cook for the shearers until a replacement could be found. We had two Aunts staying with us at the time, They were Illa and Mary from Melbourne, and were great fun. Well Mary went to help Mother in the Cookhouse at the Shearers Quarters, which was 500 Meters up on the side of a hill, and Illa stayed home to keep the home fires burning, and look after the three of us. By this time Wendy, my second Sister had arrived and was still quite young.
One of my jobs was to cut the wood and morning sticks and to keep the woodbox full for the kitchen fire. Well my hand was a bit too close to the axe and I cut my hand while cutting the small sticks. I raced inside to Illa, who panicked somewhat, but calmed enough to bandaged my hand then insisted we walk up the hill to Mother in the Cookhouse. Well my Mother was a Nurse and not very impressed with my problem, but she took me over to shearing shed where the well stocked first aid kit was kept. She patched me up pretty good but said it should have stitches. However shearing is a busy time and no one had time to get me to a Doctor. I still have the scar on my hand. I spent the rest of the day in the shearing shed, a far more exciting place to be than the working on the wood heap.
My early days at Armitstead began when I was three years old. The memories of my arrival are very vague but for some reason I can remember being so sick on the boat from Melbourne, and arriving at Kimberley on the train. This is probably because of the stories of the trip related to me later in my life, by my Mother.
Armitstead was by far the largest property in the District, employing a dozen or so staff. There were five houses for married men, stables, blacksmith shop, machinery sheds, shearing shed and single mans quarters. There were several other buildings, storage sheds, charf houses and barns and a dairy for the house cows.
What an ideal place for me and my sister Jenny to grow up. We had free range of all this and took full advantage of it. We would play amongst the waggons and drays and get grease all over us. The blacksmith shop was also a great place to explore. Jenny would not always be with me and this meant I was free to be a little more adventurous, like climbing the huge pine trees which guarded our house or explore the banks of the rivers.
We had two rivers – the Mersey and the Dasher rivers within easy walking. The Mersey was a beautiful river and ideal for swimming. The Dasher was a smaller shaded river with trees along its banks. Both were good fishing. My father was not a fisherman, but he did give me some advice at times. He always seemed to be too busy. One of the workmen would occasionally take me fishing in the evenings. I will always remember sitting on the bank of the Dasher with the moonlight shining on the ripples in the water. I have forever been fascinated with rivers and indeed the sea, even though my first experience with the sea was not a good one.
Well we had a great weekend for Liam’s Sixth Birthday Party at Scrubby Rise. The weather was perfect, the company was amazing including Liam’s school friends from China Japan and Spain, and family of cause.
We had 18 adults at the long table for dinner and a table for the Kids. Roast Lamb, Roast Pork with all the trimmings. Oh and cheese cake.
There is a bush playground and a trampoline at Scrubby Rise now so with some walks in the bush all were well entertained. So after two days of full on birthday party, roast dinners, BBQ’s, a drop of wine and round the fire discussions, the group slowly departed. Suddenly the bush became quiet again, except for the birds and a solitary Koala calling. A short search soon found him high in a tall gum tree. How goods that?
My first traveling experience was in 1942 at the age of three. My parents were moving from Victoria to Tasmania to take up a position as a Farm Manager in the small town of Kimberley. The property was “Armitstead”, but all of that is another story.
The Boat trip took most of a 24hr. day. It was rough as only Bass Strait can be, the boat was called the Norana and it rolled and rolled as only the old Norana could. I was 3 years old and sea sick, my sister Jennifer, one year younger was sea sick, I believe my Mother was sick and may be my Father as well, although he never admitted it.
The boat arrived in Devonport and we stayed in an Hotel for the night and caught a train to Kimberley the next day, to be met by the property owner. And so endeth my first travel experience.
Hello world. This is my first post. It may seem a little odd to you, but to me it really feels odd, you know talking to the whole world and all that.
I know the world is talking to each other via face book and twitter and other social media but I will be posting stuff on this website about our upcoming trip to the USA leaving here on 24th September. You will find other bits and pieces from time to time on other adventures from the past.
This trip was planned to leave in early 2013 but resulted in two postponements then a cancellation and finally a rebooking. All this happened because Frances had three accidental and very unfortunate falls and had to spend a considerable time in convalescence. During this time my back was returning to give me some problems so we both attended a two week back pain clinic at the Wesley Hospital. This proved to be a very good move as we are both fighting fit again and anxious to get on with life again.