(joliy at hotkey.net.au)
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Thomas Elliott Yelland Memoirs
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By Geoff Yelland, Thomas’s grandson.
Our Grandfather commenced writing these memoirs in May 1942 and they end abruptly and incomplete when he died of a heart attack a year later in April 1943. It is disappointing that he was not given the opportunity to complete his memoirs as their ending corresponds with a time of significant change in his life, namely the commencement of his own family. Notwithstanding we are indeed privileged in having this information of those early years.
Grandfather wrote by hand with pen and ink on scrap paper which bore the company letterhead of "Autocars Ltd". His possession of this paper stems from the time when he was liquidator for the company in 1932!
I have typed this copy to exactly follow the format used by Grandfather. While he makes one reference in the text to a 'Diary', the main source of information, particularly for cricket details, came from his scrap book. This book is vestry bible size and weighs 3.3 kg. The first section contains newspaper cuttings of references to himself, family members and organisations he was associated with whereas the remaining section has cricket and tennis information including scores. A formidable looking scrap book, remarkable for its content and possibly unique for the times. As some cousins have little or no recollection of our grandparents, Josephine and I have agreed on this portrayal:
Their characters were significantly influenced by the times in which they lived. Hard work in the early development of the Colony, world wars and a lengthy depression affected everyone of their generation. In general terms Thomas was a strict, stern and high principle man but remembered also for his gentle affection, generosity and love for his immediate and wider family. He was very much a people person. On the other hand Clara was a strong and decisive woman with a warmth and caring nature.
These characteristics were manifested by their behavioural patterns detailed in our family history book. For example, their open house to members of the Yelland, Mann, Mills families etc. displayed a genuine generosity and love of family often lacking in present society. Also their church and community involvement displayed similar characteristics.
Additional note: by John H Yelland, Joseph Yelland’s grandson, Jan 2003.
Originally written for the immediate family, Tom describes many places, persons and other details, which might not be immediately understood, even by the present family, let alone others… I have therefore re-transcribed cousin Geoff’s copy in its original form and provided footnotes for interpretation. Since the memoirs are “as written” they are a personal account and no attempt has been made to correct errors of fact. The notes will do this where appropriate. For family history, I refer the reader to Geoff’s book “Feudalism to Freedom”.
Geoff died in 2008.
Please contact me joliy at hotkey.net.au for details.
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The footnotes in red are by John H. Yelland and are a “work in progress”
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It is the 7th June 1942. I am writing at a bridge table before the fire with my youngest grandson Leith1, son of Clair and Melva, sitting opposite scribbling on paper or talking as he does, although he is not yet two and a half years of age. I look at him proudly: what will the years hold for him? What kind of a world will he look out upon at my age? (I am seventy three). And what of the winding track through youth to old age will his memories recall? This I cannot know, but perhaps he and my other grandchildren will then be interested in the story of a more distant time when their grandfather’s grandfather, with his wife and family set foot in Australia, and in the years that followed, played his part in its progress and development. For these I write my memoirs.
An old family Bible printed in 1775 and handed down to me, shows that my grandfather, Joseph Yelland, was born at Foxhole Cornwall on 1st. June 1813, the son of John Yelland and his wife Caroline, whose maiden name was Kelly. They were married on 6th April 1795, and had a family of six boys and three girls. Some of the writing is difficult to decipher, but it would appear that this John Yelland was the third son of another John Yelland and his wife Mary nee Clyma. This would date the record back to 1740 or more than 200 years. In that early family, the first son, named John, was drowned but the name was perpetuated in that of the third son. There was also a Thomas, a William, James and Septimus.
Note by Stuart Roberts: This has since been disproved, the family were Clyma not Yelland. How the Clyma information came to be in the Yelland Bible is not known as no connection has yet been found between the two families.
Joseph, my grandfather, who was a farmer, on the 15th February 1840 at the age of twenty seven, married Maria Crocker at Mevagissey in Cornwall. Five children were born to them in Cornwall – Harriett Ann. 2nd May 1841, John Henry 21st April 1842, Frederick 4th August 1843, George 13th December 1844 and Catherine 23rd August 1845.
Things were not too good for farmers in England in those days, and the glowing account of opportunities in the new land of Australia, especially of South Australia founded on the colonisation scheme, induced Joseph to decide to migrate to a brighter and more sunny land, and to try his fortunes in pioneering a new country. When they made application, they met with difficulties as they had five children and apparently four was the limit they could take. This was a difficulty they had not expected, but so determined were they to come to South Australia that arrangements were made to send one of their sons in advance with another family2 who were not so encumbered, and Frederick, their third child, three years of age, was sent with someone else and arrived here nearly twelve months in advance. One can imagine with what misgivings and sadness my grandparents parted with this little boy. The farm they left a year later was known as 'Goverseth' and was situated near St. Austell in Cornwall. When my father visited England in 1903 he sought out and recognised the old farm, though it was fifty-six years since he had left it as a child of five and a half.
1 Leith died 2009
2 Name unknown
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The family sailed from Plymouth in September 1847, by the 'Success' and arrived at Port Adelaide on 28th January 1848: there were 245 souls on board. During the trip their fifth and youngest child, Catherine, died on 8th November 1847 and a sixth child born on 1st January 1848 when they were opposite St. Paul's Island and she was named Catherine St. Paul Yelland.
One wonders what were their impressions of this land when they arrived to make their new start in life. Their first thought would be to find their boy, for they were sure of a hearty welcome from one Australian, and the joys and rapture of holding again in their arms their son must have been the greatest pleasure of all. The house in which these strangers in a strange land settled was in Thebarton. It was a quaint building after the type of many of the two-storied homes in the old country. The ground floor rooms were low, with steps leading up from the living room; the upstairs rooms were also low, the walls about six feet with gabled roof and the board ceiling following the roof nearly to the top and then a beam across, making the centre eight or nine feet high. It was built of stone and was comfortable. The lower rooms were not ceiled, showing large beams or joists on which the flooring boards of the upper rooms were placed. This house they occupied for many years and on visiting and inspecting it when my father died in 1912 it was in good repair. The people then occupying it said they had lived in it for thirty-eight years. It was destroyed about 1922 to make room for modern homes. We have no data as to whether Joseph built or bought it and other blocks of land adjoining it.
In this house were born four more children - William who died at birth, Elizabeth who died when six days old, another Elizabeth and Mary Ann. Joseph Yelland had sufficient money to set up in business as a carrier operating between Adelaide and Port Adelaide. Carting in those days was done by bullock and by horse teams, but grandfather had horse drawn vehicles and for several years was kept busy.
The idea of the original surveyor was that Adelaide should be connected with the Port by a canal. Goods could be transferred from ships to barges and drawn to Adelaide up the canal as is done in many places in Europe where water carriage has been recorded as the cheapest method of transport. This scheme never eventuated, but the long rows of gum trees planted on the space left for the canal has stood for many years as a memorial to the man who had the foresight to make preparation for a scheme which, but for the great strides in the progress of commerce, trade and transport, would have lent itself to the purpose for which it was reserved. As I am writing, these gum trees are being removed to make way for garden plots and ornamental trees to beautify the two-way road leading from the Port to the City, the main entrance along which overseas visitors travel to Adelaide.
I have met only one who knew grandfather during that period - a Mrs Pink of Mt Lofty, in 1897. When she heard my name, she said she had met only one person of that name before. When she was a girl, she said there was a carrier of that name on the Port road whom she knew. We were at once friends and although it was nearly fifty years since she had met him, this old lady said she would never forget him because he was such a gentleman. This was the greatest compliment that could have been paid and I found similar expressions from others who were associated with him during his lifetime.
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Like many others Joseph was twice attracted to the Victorian gold diggings and made 300 pounds3 on each occasion.
Successful as he apparently was in his carrying business, Joseph longed to get back on the land and try his luck at farming under conditions vastly different from those of the old country. He had been long enough on South Australia to gauge the diversity of the seasons, and to get an insight into conditions affecting the working of a farm under these new conditions. At the time, most of the land near the City consisted of farms, and much of the wheat and other grain was grown on the Adelaide plains as far south as Aldinga and north to Gawler. This gave him an opportunity to gain the necessary information he desired before taking up a farmer’s life again in the new country. Why he did not secure some of the good land within reasonable distance of the City, I do not know.
In those early days, many interested in land favoured the southern parts: Port Elliot was in the boom at that time, for it was to be the great southern port, and Joseph with others, secured land in that area. His land was at Castle Range, fairly high land about five miles north from Port Elliot4, and with his family, he moved to this locality in 1853. Here they built a home and pioneered a heavy timber block consisting mostly of gumtrees. One cannot but admire the courage and energy of these early English folk, accustomed to quite different conditions on very small farms near thickly populated towns, able to get within easy distance of the necessities of life. Now they were in the midst of a forest, and had to start the almost impossible task of felling and grubbing the large trees and clearing the land so that they could sew a few acres of grain to provide at least flour for the coming season.
Joseph and his family were very much interested in religion and were associated with church work. We are not surprised that he helped to build near his farm a slab church of which, like many of the early homes very little is left today5, but it served its day and generation. Joseph took a leading part in the church work which was under the Bible Christians and was superintendent of the school for many years. All his children, except the two youngest, attended6. It also served the purpose of a day school7 where they received their education such as it was, for it was not under the Government Department and the district had to provide their own teachers and pay them. No wonder children taught under these conditions were anxious that their children receive something better.
Most of the work on the farm was done by bullocks and there was nothing better for clearing the land in those days. All the trees had to be grubbed out, a very laborious occupation, but the boys at a very early age had to take their part and help in clearing the farm.
They must have had stout hearts and above all, a great hope for the future. How they managed to exist under the difficulties is not easy for us, living nearly a century afterwards, to understand. But they survived, had large families and made
3 Gold price at the time was about 4 pounds sterling per ounce. It is not known where Joseph found his gold. Since the Victorian diggings began at Castlemaine in 1853, it seems that Joseph was either one of the early prospectors or went to the diggings after the move to Middleton in 1853, or both. He also appears on the list of those South Australian diggers who used the “Gold Escort” to return their findings to SA.
4 On the hills behind Middleton, with a view over the plains, Lakes and the ocean to the South East.
5 A headstone still stands.
6 Anglican Church records in Port Elliott show that several Yelland infants were baptised there.
7 The School teacher at the time is believed to be the Mr Smith whom Maria later married.
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money: they were healthy and enjoyed life. The old saying "If you want to be happy do something to make other people happy” accounts perhaps for their life's enjoyment. The cooperative spirit was well developed in those days; one man would buy a plough or harrow and the whole district would use it: each helped the other to the one end that all might succeed. They were all friends because they all started on the same level and under the same conditions, and if one, by any chance, had a little more than his neighbour, he would give a little extra help to try to level things up. There was no necessity to ask "Who is my neighbour"? for all men were neighbours. They were all working for the same cause - a home in a new land.
Fortunately, the price of wheat was high and anything from ten shillings per bushel, even up to twenty shillings was received during some of the early days. The land being freshly cleared and the timber burnt, heavy crops were cut. The wheat had to be cut by hand with a scythe and it was very tedious work. The wheat was then thrashed by hand with a flail made by two strong sticks strapped loosely together end to end, the farmer holding the longer stick with his hand and beating the heap of wheat and straw with the shorter end - a kind of whipping process. When the wheat had all been whipped out of the heads, they took advantage of the wind by throwing the straw in the air, the wind blowing away the light stubble, leaving the grain cleaned. It was a long and tedious job and limited the quantity any farmer could handle. When one compares these days with the progress made a few years later with the advent of the ordinary stripper and winnower, and in later years with the harvester and header with tractors, one can fully appreciate the progress made in agriculture, especially in wheat growing in S.A. In the early days, a number of small flour mills were started in most districts where wheat was grown. Some were very primitive in construction, stones being used for grinding and many of the very early ones were arranged so that they could be worked by wind power. More up to date ones were driven by steam engines. At Middleton and Goolwa the flour mills worked by steam were erected fairly early but at Encounter Bay there still stands the remains of the old mill driven by wind. Farmers who had wheat would take in a load or two and pay to have it gristed, taking back their flour, bran and pollard from the wheat they had grown. In this way, they would have sufficient flour to last all the year and as they baked their own bread. They were assured of a plentiful supply of the staff of life. Butter and cheese were also produced on the farm. Thus while they lacked many other commodities they had the essentials. One often wonders how the farmers managed to live and bring up a big family on their small farms, but the above facts help to explain this. They grew practically everything they required, and the little else the needed was bartered for by the surplus produce of their small holdings.
Dairying was a big help to the early farmers and Joseph always kept cows and with the butter produced he could pay his account at the store. As this was in the days before separators and dairy factories, the milk was set in pans, and the cream rising to the top was skimmed off and afterwards churned by the hand or with wooden spoons, and then pounded and usually sold or bartered with the storekeeper in exchange for goods. Prices were very low, often not more than sixpence per pound, except in the summer when it was difficult to handle and when feed was scarce. Calves were raised to build up their stock and sold or kept to extend their dairy herd.
Cheese was made when butter was extra cheap and every farmer's wife learned the art of making cheese. That which is a science now and experts for which high salaries are paid was an every day ordinary job for the wives of farmers in those
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early times. It was marvellous how they learned the art and what good cheese they made with rough and ready methods. The old wooden vats in which cheese was made were pressed by a long weighted lever, the pressure being light at first and gradually increased by adding stones in a bucket at the end of the lever. The cheeses were taken out once or twice daily, a fresh cloth put on them and the cheese turned over in the vat. The pressing took about seven days to complete.
The cheese was then put in the cellar to mature, during which period it would be turned over daily and left until it was considered ripe. Cheese was considered an important part of their living and was one of the luxuries. The dairy was an essential part of the farm building and was usually built partly underground, just off the main house, but sometimes attached to it, being covered over with slabs or thatching grass, occasionally with a false or second roof to keep it cool in the summer. This was the store room for their dairy produce and it was a very serviceable one too.
Pigs formed part of the farmer's stock and much of his meat supply, as sheep were a rarity on farms in those days. The farmers would kill the pig, eat some of it as fresh pork, and cure the rest making various kinds of puddings and sausages, and using up everything eatable, smoking it in the fireplace and hanging the bacon and hams in the kitchen. My earliest remembrance of bacon cured in this way was eating it with eggs, far too often considered a dainty dish.
It was by this form of mixed farming that, Joseph and his family in those early days made ends meet. The women attended to the dairying, the pigs and the poultry - in fact, this was considered the women's share of the farm work, and they played a very important part in providing for the home with these supposed side lines. They were more important in those days because they were essential to provide the wherewithal to feed and clothe the family. If work could be obtained outside the farms, the boys would secure it. My father John said he worked for some time with a horse and dray on the breakwater at Part Elliot during 1853-1860.
Their old home at Castle Range has long been in ruins, but when I revisited the old place there was one interesting feature that remained - the chimney. The lintel over the fireplace was carved out of a large gum log with an axe and adze and was nicely curved. It was the custom in those times to place a heavy lintel over the fireplace and work it into the masonry of the chimney, but this one was the best construction and the finest timber I have ever seen for this purpose. The house was built, like many of the old homes, of upright split timber slabbed with mud and then white washed inside and out, giving it a nice clean appearance. It was very comfortable and cosy inside and must have contained several rooms because before the family left there in 1861, it had been increased by the births of four more children – Susan, William, Louise and Thomas. Joseph and Maria had had in all fourteen children but three had died in infancy.
And now grandfather (Joseph) began to look around for new lands to conquer. The country near Lake Alexandrina appealed to him and in 1860, he took up some property on the old Clayton to Milang road (known afterwards as Sandy Road Paddock8). It was here that John and Fred did a lot of pioneering work, going back occasionally to Castle Range, collecting a good supply of food and then returning to clear and plough the new land. Shortly afterwards, Joseph purchased the farm of
8 Joseph purchased sections 110,111,112 and 113 in December 1857. These are now owned by Falzons. The road to Clayton passed over a sandhill and there was a road northward through these sections. It is unclear which “Sandy Road” is referred to!
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Mr Middleton at Point Sturt9 and this was destined to be the home of the Yelland family for many years: at the time of writing10, they had lived in it continuously for over 80 years. It has been added to and remodelled in many ways, and when some of the alterations were being made in 1881/8211, a wooden lintel block with ‘1863’ carved on it was removed from one of the fireplaces. It seemed to have no value in those days and was probably destroyed or used for flooring. What a valuable relic it would be today had it been saved and polished. The old home at Castle Range was sold to Mr Hollett who afterwards became a pioneer farmer in the Wirrabara district. I was at the jubilee celebrations of the S.A. Farmer’s Co-operative Union at Jamestown in March 1938, and was discussing the South with Mr Hollett, when he informed me that it was his father who had bought my grandfather’s farm.
Another old friend of the family still living is J.M. Stone now of Curramulka, a very staunch Farmers' Union man. He never missed an opportunity to talk about the old days at Castle Range and his esteem for Joseph and his family. "Well do I remember those happy days” said Mr Stone. "We children had to do our part in pioneering. I used to mind the cows on the open land when Elizabeth and Mary Anne were looking after grandfather Yelland's cows and we often met and enjoyed our childhood pleasures of bush life. I shall never forget old Mr and Mrs Joseph Yelland for their kindness to me as a boy as long as I live", said Mr Stone in 1935. In those early times Granite Island was without a causeway and the boys at low tide used to walk across to the Island and watch the breakers.
Before leaving Castle Range, the marriage of Matthew Abbott and Harriett, the eldest daughter, took place, and they came to Point Sturt to look after the new place, pending the disposal of the old home in the hills and the removal of the family to the new house near Lake Alexandrina.
Joseph struck a good year with his first crop he sowed on his new farm: the price that year was one pound a bushel and the yield was very good. From the proceeds of this crop he purchased more land along the Milang Road known as Grey's, Masons or Camerons12, for each of these people had lived there for a short time. Later John purchased Bellamy's block13 on the Clayton - Milang road, and Joseph secured the Steel's block14. A few years later Robinson’s farm15 was purchased, and also a block next to Wilson's16 from Newsulme.
Matthew Abbott built a house17 on Robinson's place which nowadays forms part of the sheds18 on my brother Will's property and grandfather gave Harriett the old
9 Section 50 Hd Alex., purchased March 1862. Section 55 Hd Alexandrina, the “Three Cornered Paddock” was purchased May 1863, by “Joseph Yelland of Goolwa”
10 1942 The house is still in the Yelland family.
11 Following the move from Point Mcleay. See later.
12 Section 49 Hd Alex. Purchased from William George Masson on 17th October 1855. Mortgage of £240 taken out from Jan 1866 to Oct. 1868.
13 Unknown section. This name is not on any of the sections known.
14 Unknown section Same comment.
15 Section 48. Captain Robinson had donated 1 acre for the Church of Christ in 1861, leading to a confusion of titles for many years
16 Wilson was the Post Master at Point Sturt and donated the land for the Congregational Church in 1859, later the Point Sturt School.
17 The Abbott family were well-known stonemasons in the Middleton area and continued the trade at Point Sturt. Other members of the family also built at Point McLeay, Wellington and later moved to Kaniva, like many of the early settlers of Point Sturt.
18 Still standing and forming part of the farm sheds built by Will’s son Graham Yelland.
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vineyard which was part of this old farm. Farther up the Point, near the road on the next Section, was a cottage in which Fred, who had married Sophie Robinson in 1861, lived; Sophie Robinson was the first teacher at the school at Point Sturt19. In those early days, there were many settlers on the Point and one only has only to count the old homes to realise the number of people who once lived in that locality. In those days, farmers were allotted 80 - acre blocks and settled on these small holdings hoping to make a living, but many soon heard of fresh fields and migrated to other centres. On the old homestead which is now held by my brothers Joe20 and Will, there are new and old buildings representing at least twelve homes of which they occupy only two.
On the farm that Joseph bought there was a small house of two rooms covered with thatching grass, and these rooms remained for many years just outside the new house which was erected in 1863. Two underground rooms of the new house were very acceptable and were used extensively during the summer months: in fact, they were so snug that as I look back upon my early visit to the old home, I think they must have always used the main one as a kitchen and dining room21.
The house consisted of two rooms in front, the floors of which were two steps higher than the two back rooms, and the two underground rooms were immediately under same; the entrance to the underground rooms was by steps leading down from the back room. Both front and back doors opened onto porches and a well built stone wall surrounded a well kept garden in front of the house. The flower most vivid was a border or edge of pinks, or carnations, as we should call them, of a pink shade. It is probable that this garden was prepared much later than the original house and cared for by the young members of the family. A large underground tank was dug at the end of the house, adjoining and underneath a portion of the dairy to provide catchment for the rainwater from the slate roof22.
It was a rich find for the early pioneers when slate was discovered at Willunga and John, my father, went with a team to get the slates to cover the roof of this new home. These slates have long since been replaced with galvanised iron during further improvements and additions to the house23 but the little Church of Christ building erected about 1860 still has the original slate roof, and is the only one left in this district to show the lasting qualities of slate for roofing purposes24.
The move to Point Sturt seemed to be justified affording as it did greater scope for the family, several of whom were nearing or had attained manhood. Yet there must have been some regrets at leaving the old home at Castle Range and the friends they had made there during their eight year sojourn in the district25.
19 Probably the school held at the Church of Christ, mentioned later.
20 Joseph Mann Yelland, father of Laurance.
21 Indeed the remains of an iron oven is still in place in the cellar fireplace.
22 The ‘dairy’ is the semi underground cool room as mentioned earlier. This was filled in along with the short tunnel connecting it to the cellar c1951. It also appears from the construction of the walls of the house that the tank was dug before the dairy was constructed.
23 A few still remain under the corrugated steel roof.
24 The Church of Christ was built on land donated by Thomas Robinson in September 1861 and still has its original slate roof.
25 Several contacts continued for many years after and into several generations. I can myself remember visiting the Misses Mcleod at Middleton during the 1960s. Their grandfather had been a friend of old Joseph!
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Point Sturt was one of the early districts pioneered by the colonists26. What interesting reading diaries of those early settlers would have made but they were out to establish homes for themselves and their families, and they thought of little else. The fact that they established a church in their midst by setting up the Lord's table and observing His Supper each Sunday, first in a tent or under a spreading sheoak tree, and afterwards in their own homes, clearly shows the devotion of the early Christians who arrived there during 185527. Among these early settlers were my grandfather and grandmother on my mothers side, Mr and Mrs David Mann, who with their family settled on a block and built their house, which they named 'St. Clair'28.
Many of the old post and rail fences of the early days were erected by my father, and it is said that he could put up 40 posts with two rails a day, doing all the morticing. This was, no doubt, smart work as it has come down to the present day as something out of the ordinary. Well do I remember seeing him working on these fences at Point McLeay, and they are very vivid recollections of my earliest childhood.
John, George and Fred made and formed a causeway across the swamp from the bottom of our land on the road, which leads to Milang29. The first metal road in the district was over the sand hill in front of our homestead gate: large stones were laid, but there could not have been much cracked metal on it, for my early remembrance of this road was the big boulders over which the carts and drays would pass and make an unnecessary row. Strange to say, it was left like this for sixty years, and has only just been re-metalled. Several early road exchanges were made because of the sandy conditions making them impassable. Thus the road along the swamp from the Chapel to the corner was exchanged, leaving a small paddock of a few acres separated from the homestead block30.
It was in 1867 that John married Margaret Smith Mann, and having built a three roomed - house31 facing the road near the old homestead, they settled down, for a few years working for his father, Joseph.
It was here that the happy days of married life were started, a life full of joy and happiness, a life blended in unison. John was full of energy, and worked his hardest to make a home of comfort, supported by his Scotch wife with her more placid and calm ways. They blended their lives together and lived a conscientious Christian life, full of hope and pleasant memories, making many friends and giving of their best to make the lives of others feel that even in those early and hard days, with none of the privileges of the present generation, life was worth while. All their pleasures were those they made for themselves, and in the making they found that which all people desire - joy and happiness. Added to this was the spiritual and social life of the little
26 Surveyed for settlement in 1854/55, the same time as Milang.
27 See the Church of Christ centenary booklet.
28 Now owned by Graham Yelland and still in use by Anne Harnett and Mora McCullum.
29 Known to my parents as “the Causeway”. It was apparently built of logs laid side by side. The road was re-built to be above 1956 flood level during the early 1960s and all traces of the old construction have long gone. extra note 2007: during the period of very low lake level this year, a short (c10m) section of similar causeway was found on the lake bed near the western boundary of section 359, over an area of soft mud.
30 This exchange was reversed c1950. The road formation can still be seen by the gap in the pine trees that are growing there. Another exchange occurred along the Finniss road, where the sand hill has been quarried out and the Council now dumps burnable waste and road materials.
31 Somewhere to the north of the entrance gate. There are a few rocks and bricks to be found in the sand.
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Church of which they were members and workers. Today people overlook the joys they could receive from being associated with God in his Church, for not only is it a source of spiritual strength and divine comfort for our daily life, but it is a place where one can educate himself to become a useful man or woman in the district in which he lives.
People had to start early in life to earn their living so John, like many in his day, had very little schooling. In the Church he found a place in which he could learn, and later teach, and this stimulated the important task of studying at night: it was through this effort that he acquired most of his knowledge. He was mechanically inclined and spent much time in studying mathematics which helped him much in after life. He not only designed his own plans for houses and outbuildings, but built most of them and even made many of his own farm implements. His three furrowed plough, convertible to a double plough made later on the Point McLeay farm covered a want that he needed for increased production, and showed ingenuity, and was I believed to be the first three furrowed plough made in S.A. But this is getting a little ahead of the story, The outlook in farming life was not big enough for John, working with his father, so he purchased land at Point McLeay from T.S. Price which was transferred on 27th July, 1869 (sections 222, 226, 227, 232, 233) giving a mortgage to Mr. Price. This mortgage was discharged on 27th February, 1872, and a fresh one given to Thomas Crocker of Adelaide (John's cousin32) and discharged on 3rd August, 1877, the land having been fully paid for.
Besides these sections he held 220 and one of which the number was altered when the Narrung estate was sold, but is held now by W.J. Richards (No. 456). It was on this block that John first built his home at Point McLeay, a very simple hut of reeds with a thatched roof and a stone fireplace. Some of the stones are still to be seen as the only remains to indicate the place where the hut was located, near the road between Richard's and Mann's present residences33. Not much was ever said about their living here, but Jim McLeod a very old friend of the family34, who was working at the Mission Station. and assisting in the building of the Church, often went there, but his chief subject was his sympathy for Maggie under her difficult pioneer days and her howling son, Tom (T.E.Y.)35 then an infant. Only those who have gone through these times and have to put up with the anxiety and fear, and being so far away from medical attention, know anything about the troubles of the out-back farmers in the early days. There was one redeeming feature - the Mission Station with the Rev. George Taplin, who was not only minister but manager, and knew something about medicine and therefore became the friend of the white folks as they settled in this district.
Just about the same time as John purchased land here, several others purchased land, including his brother Fred, Alex Mann (brother in-law), old Mr Turner and W.H. Turner (another brother in-law), Moulden, Block, Stehn, McLeans, McBeth, Giles, Stokes, Ferry and a few others all trying to establish a new home in a fertile and rich grazing district. There were two large station properties - Narrung and Campbell House, but as usual these people lived their own lives and the new farmers had to live their lives and make their way as best they could. It was not long after they purchased
32 John’s mother Maria’s family
33 This was the case in 1942!
34 See note 20.
35 The author of this memoir!
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the land from Mr. Price that they decided to settle in the centre of those five blocks. and so they erected another reed house to live in while they built a two-roomed stone house. Water was one of the difficulties but they overcame this by building a large underground tank at the foot of a small hill, and burnt lime and made a large catchment on this rise to run water into the tank. For years this was the main supply of their water not only for themselves but for their horses and cows. Father’s next move was to build a large stone stable thatched with the thatching grass grown nearby, which was the only means they had for putting a roof on their house and buildings in those days. Galvanised iron was either not known or far too expensive for farmers to buy. This was a model farm stable even viewed from seventy years later when every improvement possible has been brought into operation - feed from the front with a loose box at one end and provisions for hay-stack conveniently situated. John’s next move was the erection of a large barn for the storage of grain etc for even in those days they stored their wheat in bulk. They would strip their grain and winnow it through once and then cart it into the barn unless they had sold any for early delivery. When in the barn it was left until sold, but before delivering the stored wheat to the merchants they would put it through the winnow again and thus get a good clean sample. Their reason for storing their wheat in bulk was for the purpose of spreading the labour and saving bags. Wheat kept better in bulk without losing bags through mice, etc. Most of the wheat was supplied to millers and they liked the farmers to hold a certain quantity to supply their needs later in the season.
John grew mostly wheat but always sowed a quantity of barley, Cape for pig feed and Chevallen for sale. These were sown prior to the wheat crop, but nowadays barley growers sow their crops after the wheat as they prefer a shorter stalk with heavier yield, and they get it by this method. Wheat was their staple crop and although the yields were not heavy they had satisfactory returns. Father's heaviest yield was over a thousand 4 bushel bags of grain, and as the price was good his returns were satisfactory. He must have done fairly well because he paid 10% interest on his mortgages, paid them off in a few years and then commenced buying more land. The most disappointing crop was in the rusty year of 1870 when a beautiful wheat crop so high that you could not see the stripper on the other side of the paddock where it was grown. Great hopes were entertained of a wonderful return, but despite its luxuriant growth sultry weather brought about the worst rust conditions ever experienced, and the grains were so small that there was no sale for the wheat. This was one of the biggest knocks a farmer, especially in the pioneering days could receive, and a set back, coming in the face of so bright a prospect for a big harvest, must have knocked the spirit out of their enterprise.
Farmers in S.A. have had many experiences of rust in good years and drought in bad. although science has overcome the rust difficulty by sowing a better class of wheat, and to a certain extent by better cultivation and intense fallowing they have contended against droughty conditions.
As is usually the case, the rust year was followed by floods, especially in the interior. The Murray came down over its banks and the Lake was the highest known even up to the present time, for all the low land adjoining the Lake was flooded and caused great inconvenience to farmers within those areas.
The Point Sturt folk frequently talk about the difficulties during that period. Water found an outlet from Reedy Point through the back paddocks and emptied into the
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Finniss River36. They tell how Adam Taylor and family came in a boat to church at Point Sturt leaving their boat in the swamp just in front of Will's present Cow yard37. Persons going to Milang had to take the back road going down through Joseph's scrub paddocks38 and taking the back road39 behind Varcoe's and Goldsworthy's40 farms, the front road being impassable. In the old carts they had in those days it was a very long trip and a hard day's work, but those early pioneers were made of the stuff that Adam Lindsay Gordon described when he said. 'The hardest day was never too hard nor the longest day too long' and so these difficulties were overcome and surmounted and considered part of life's trials which had to be faced and endured. Progress was made in those early days even under these difficult conditions.
It was hard work at Point McLeay but Father glorified in it for, after a stiff day, he would go out after tea and work by lantern or perhaps put a horse in the cart and go to the Lake landing and bring home goods which had been sent over from Milang. As time went on and his family grew they had to keep help in the house, especially as they had started to milk a few Cows and make butter. The first cow they bought from Mr. Stehn and they were so excited about this special cow that they tested her for some days and found that she was producing 20 pounds of butter for a week.
There were no seed sewers and drills in those days; all crops had to be sown by hand with a special dish strapped to the shoulders. Most farmers sowed with one hand but John used his two hands, going down the furrows and back along the ridge. The land was ploughed in chain strips so that by sowing by both hands a man could sow half a chain wide an each walk dawn the field. This however was laborious work and John's inventive mind planned an easier method. A large flat box was fixed to the spring dray with a bag over it sagging in the middle. This was filled up with the seed wheat, and standing on the cart with his back to the horse and someone to drive, he sowed the wheat. This method proved much quicker and less tiring and was used for a number of years until the broadcast sowing machines were placed on the market.
Father got together some good horses and although the teams were not large - generally three in a plough and four in the wagon (the old German type) - they worked two ploughs which were three furrows during the latter part of their stay on Point McLeay.
Later on they added a room to the house and built an implement shed, buggy house and blacksmith's shop, also another large underground tank. Although they made attempts to find water they had very little success: the only place was on the rise in the paddock going to the landing and father was overjoyed in finding this. He dug the well about 20 feet, stoned it up, put a pump on it and built a stone trough to water the stock. The irony of the position was that a few years after he had returned to settle at Point Sturt his manager found an inexhaustible supply within 150 yards of the house, about four or five feet below the surface and in other parts of the property wells with splendid supplies have since been sunk. The general opinion is that there is an underground river or outlet running through this district and on this you can get your
36 This appears to have been over the present Point Sturt - Finniss road near the new shed built by Mick Falzon and across the paddocks to the north of Clayton township.
37 Graham Yelland's Dairy. Also Matthew Abbott's house is there as part of the present sheds. He was Tom's Uncle, having married John's older sister Harriet. See also Albert Taylor’s story “A Hard Life”
38 Now Falzon’s.
39 Now called Blackwell road
40 Now Peter Wilson’s.
supplies. Several underground tanks built in the district when empty were bulged up in the centre and salt water came up: in one case it was salt one side of the tank and fresh at the other and from this latter spring a powerful supply was always available for stock. It was strange that early settlers never struck these springs. Permanent water is essential to the man on the land, and as the carrying capacity of the land increases these springs became a great asset.
Prices for wheat and barley were high. They possessed no sheep in those days but milked a few cows; the one producing 20 pounds of butter for the week was something out of the ordinary in those days. Later they had a number of cows, perhaps ten or more, but they had to make their own butter and then send it across the Lake to Milang where the grocer took it at a low rate in exchange for their other requirements.
Some of my earliest remembrances were of the old home, its stables, barns and blacksmith’s shop. I soon learnt to ride a horse and become useful. The purchase of a buggy and its arrival home was a great day. It cost 70 pounds but was a useful and a necessary article on the farm. Previously we had a spring cart with the side seats, and an one occasion going up an incline Joe, the next to the baby, slipped out on to the road, and after going a little way one of us casually told mother that Joe had fallen out. My riding experience was sometimes exciting. We used to go out into the paddock put a bridle on the quietest horse and drive the other home; on one occasion in the Lone Hill paddock the horse made off and Joe and I could not hold it and we were soon landed on the ground. On another occasion we decided to canter up a furrow so that if we fell off it would not hurt us. We rode bare-back as always, Joe hanging on to me, but we had not gone far before we went sprawling on to the ploughed ground.
Later when I could ride and had a saddle of my own with a pummel across the front to hold me on, they had a young animal which was broken in for me. It became fairly quiet, but one day when going for cattle, as Father and I started off to canter, this pony bucked and it was not long before it had me over its head on to the ground. I got on again and finished the ride but they were always afraid to let me ride it again. Going to picnic at McBeath's hut of course I had to ride but Father had a leading rein on the pony, much to my disgust, for by the time we arrived at the picnic it was foaming with perspiration. However some of the older boys got on it and gave it a good gallop, and it was much quieter after that. It was from this picnic that most of the folks came to our place and had a party in our large barn. The aborigines did not attend these picnics, but at the party Bonney41, who had taken up a block of land and built a house adjoining our place, was allowed to attend, and I remember my mixed feelings when I saw them playing for the first time "This is my friend’s seat" and Mother had selected Bonney as her friend. In after years I often called and saw this native who had lived practically all his life in the two roomed house he had built. He had planted many fig trees and supplied many of the farmers with figs for their jam.
It would seem that none of our horses were quiet enough for children to ride, or else Father had a poor opinion of our riding ability. I rode to Uncle Fred’s for the mail one day, and was afraid to let the horse out of a walk, and by the time I got to the Post Office the pony was covered with perspiration, so one of my cousins said he would quieten it down, and he mounted the pony and gave it a couple of miles gallop. It was
41 Named Napoleon Bonaparte on baptism by a well meaning cleric, Bonney was one of the few to operate a farm. His story is told in “Conquest of the Ngarrindjeri”, Jenkin.
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much more contented on the ride home. I was always very fond of horses and handled my ponies fondly. Father always kept some fine draught horses and got some good prices for them.
Mother was very fond of visiting the neighbours, and it was the delight of us children to go with her. As I grew older I used to often drive the old cart but perhaps the most interesting part of the visit was the afternoon tea, and the very nice cakes that some of the ladies cooked. As we had plenty of relations in the district we loved going to see them. The Mann family were cousins and our own age so we loved going there to play, and the association made in those days lasted throughout our lives. They returned to Point Sturt before us but the association was renewed a few years later on the other side of the lake. W.H. Turner’s and Fred Yelland's families were also cousins and these later went to Lillimur, Victoria, some years after we came back to Point Sturt.
I well remember a trip when Father and Mother took Joe and me and travelled overland to Binnum, near Francis on the Victorian border to see Uncle John Mann and Auntie Mary Ann. I must have been about seven or eight and we started out in a spring dray with two horses, and Mr. and Mrs. Stehn, who accompanied us took a German wagon with two horses. I do not know how many days we were on the trip, but the first night we camped out about two mile from Wood’s Well alongside a nice well of water. One other spot I well remember - a broad plain with water holes and bracken ferns. We had probably lost our way or wanted to make a short cut because Father could not find an opening in a fence, and made one so that we could get through. It may have been a new fence over the old track. The last day we arrived in very wet and muddy country and it was getting dark when the Stehns left us but just then Uncle John, riding a horse, picked us up and directed us along the terrible track. It was late at night when we arrived, but it was nice to go into a house again. We stayed for some time and Mother was taken to Naracoorte and went to Mt. Gambier to see her sister, Auntie Betty (Mrs. Wilson). Later Father took me into Naracoorte to meet her and we had to stay at the Hotel for the night as the train came up in the morning. There is always something that remains a memory with you on such occasions and this time it was of a Mother sitting on the verandah of the Hotel singing to her little girl "When Mothers of Salem". It is still a most vivid picture, about the only one I have of that occasion. While with Uncle John I delighted myself by taking an axe out and cutting down some of the small bulloak trees of which there were hundreds, but one night when Uncle John came home he noticed that a much larger and beautifully shaped tree which he had selected to preserve was lying on the ground42. He did not blame me, but he was nevertheless, very upset over the matter. Living near Uncle John's were a family of Hemingways; I think they came from Port Elliot district for Father knew them. There was also another family, the Hendeys. The stay there was a delightful one. On our way home we all called at Fred Taplin's who had settled nearby and spent a night with them.
Visitors in those days were scarce, especially from a distance, so I expect we got a great welcome coming as we did from near his old home. The long trip through the desert, travelling probably only 20 to 30 miles a day and carrying the horse feed and
42 Besides aesthetic appreciation of the tree, builders of boats often selected suitably shaped trees for parts of the frame of a future boat. It was said by my father that the Oakleys of Clayton would force a sheoak into a particular shape by tying it with ropes while it was small so as to get a particular shaped piece for a boat.
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our own provisions, was very slow, but it was only in keeping with the times and no notice was taken of our slow progress.
As some of the events in those days are not in rotation in my mind I will give them just as they appear to me in the far distance.
At Point McLeay besides Father and Mother, the Manns, Turners and W.H. Turner had come from Point Sturt. They were all members of the Church of Christ and set up a service and broke bread in one another’s houses. The only service I can remember is one at Mann's old hut near the road and what impressed it upon my mind was that while the service was on, Mary Mann and I went and brought chips of wood in our pinafores43 for the fire. I think it must have been when old Mr Turner and his family left for N.S.W. that they ceased holding these meetings and then went to the Mission Station Church and it was this Church with the Rev. G. Taplin preaching that I remember as the first Church that I had entered44. Mother had previously taken me to Point Sturt Church of Christ and it was from this Church in after years that I got my liking for the Church, the Gospel and its association, to say nothing of the many friends I made during the years of loving worship and meeting around the table of our Lord and Master.
But it was from the Point McLeay Mission Church that I received my first impressions, listening to the beautiful and simple sermons of Mr. Taplin, kneeling as he prayed before the throne of God hearing his prayers. Most of those attending were the natives but about three front seats were reserved for the Mission folks and a few farmers who came to the morning service. It was in those days that I learnt to respect the simple and honest native. One event is very vivid in my mind. The older folk remained to an after meeting for the Lord's Sacrament, and I had to go out on my own. I was always a little scared of the larger children and when I got out I went straight to our buggy and got up into it and got the whip and told them if any of them came near me I would let them know how it felt. This had the effect of keeping them away, but when my parents came out they found me mounted high up in the buggy keeping back a crowd of black children with the whip, not seriously, but the youngsters apparently thought I was scared and were having some fun at my expense. Although young I remember two sermons preached by the Rev. G. Taplin. The first was "The last enemy that should be destroyed is death". This worried me: I could not understand it, and was thinking about it for days afterwards, but later he preached from the text a "New Commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another". This I could grasp and it has had a lasting effect on my life. If all mankind would take this as their motto in life, what a bright and happy world this would be and how contented would be those who live in it!
The drive to the Mission Church and home again was one of our great pleasures for it was the only day we put on our best clothes and met other people.
In the early days they carted their wheat and got their food by boat from the Bluff near the Mission Station and many times we went with Father to the landing and I was very delighted one day when I picked up a shilling piece near a dinghy just by the water’s edge. But the place was getting of more importance and as the overland mail
43 It was the fashion for small boys to wear a dress like the girls. See Albert Taylor’s story “A hard life”
44 The Mission was Congregational. Fred and family were excluded from the Mission Church for a time because of “Backsliding”!. See Jenkin
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to Victoria came to Milang by coach and crossed the Lake by steamer, one was called the "Dispatch", there became the necessity for better landing facilities and so the Government constructed the jetty at the narrows opposite Port Malcolm and later on built the lighthouse on that point.45 This was useful for the overland steamer and also the boats crossing down the river and across the Lakes to Goolwa, although for many years they had travelled across the Lake without any direction by lights, often stopping if the nights were very dark and doing the journey by daylight.
Father was always a great worker and developed his land, fenced much of it with the sheoak tree he grubbed from the land by making brush fences. He always left some of the best trees as shelter but as this class of tree is not long lived, they have long died out and the place is now bare of trees. Young trees would grow but stock, and later rabbits, destroyed them in their tender stages. But Father planted a lot of wattle trees on the hill where he had carted stone with the intention of building a larger and more serviceable house, but he left the district before he could enter into this expenditure. He also planted trees in a small plantation near the house and some still remain. Later on, two of his neighbours, Giles and C. Stehn. who had small farms on the South East of his land, sold out to him and went to Victoria. These were small farms but it showed that Father must have been making money to have purchased them for he was over there eleven years and bought his own land, then added to it and also bought these two small farms, probably 160 acres each, and paid for them in that period. Most machinery was very dear, interest was high, but they lived very cheaply and got good prices for their wheat and barley. There were no rates and taxes; this was before the Income Tax came into operation.
We cropped these two farms and I had my little duties to perform when they were clearing the wheat and rendering what help a kiddie could do and there is always something they can do on a farm.
As the cows increased these became a source of revenue and as farmers in those days had not gone in for sheep they would keep all the calves. There was some scrub land at the back of Father's farm and the growing stock was turned out on this commonage. For some time the cows were milked in the stable yard but later a proper cow yard bail was made near the barn and Father also built a blacksmith's shop near by. This was because they had more horses and wanted to keep them apart. In those days a good horse always brought money when sold and we kept a good class of horse, and usually had some for sale to any buyers who came along. Father started in a small way fattening cattle and selling them. Money gained in this way was an addition to the wheat and barley returns.
They started a cricket club at Point McLeay and Father was enthusiastic as any of the younger men. After one of their meetings he came home and said he had joined and also paid a subscription for the farm hand a Mr. Schurmann, but subsequently, he found out that this man had paid his own fee, so Father said it did not matter, the amount he had paid would go as a subscription for me and would make me the youngest member of the Point McLeay Cricket Club. I was then about nine years and well do I remember the games we used to play near the old school. They made for us boys some stumps and bats, and many games we had together.
45 The present Narrung vehicle ferry is at the same place.
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There was not much opportunity for matches, but one comes vividly before my mind in the Christmas week of 1878, when the Meningie team played our Club, and their boys played our boys. It was the first cricket match I played in. The scores we made or who won I cannot remember, but it always remains in my mind as the starting point of my cricket, and the whole day is a bright memory of the match played near the Point McLeay (now Narrung) jetty.
Cousin Fred Yelland was a good player and very alert in the field and it was recorded that on one occasion when fielding a swallow flew among the fielders, and he made a jump and grabbed it. Anyone knowing the alertness of these birds, can guess how the cricketers talked about this smart catch.
Snakes were very plentiful and the boys were always killing them about the house, but the best snake story that remains in my mind is the experience we had one Sunday afternoon going over to Uncle W. H. Turner's. One of the Mclean girls (Bell and Annie at different times worked about the place) was taking Marion and me over and we went across Stehn's swamp paddock where there was plenty of grass, and it was early summer, the snakes were out sunning themselves. We saw many coiled up, and others, being disturbed by us, went in all directions.
On two occasions we stepped right over them, and our hearts beat for fear of treading on one. We were glad when we got out of the paddock and long grass. I never go by this spot now without recalling the horror of that day.
On one occasion when Father was harvesting in Stehn's paddock near their old house and stables, they put me on the horse. It started off and before they could stop it, it went straight into the stable which was very low, not sufficiently high to allow me to go with it; so I was pushed off by the top of the shed, and went sprawling on the ground. Although I was not hurt, the bump was rather severe.
Uncle Fred Yelland built a school near their house and Auntie Sophie was the teacher for same time, having previously taught at the Point Sturt School. By the time I was old enough to go, however the school was closed, though for a short time I went there to Sunday School. But the first recollection of this School was a children's treat before I attended, being taken by Clara Turner, a daughter of old W. H. Turner. I took part in the children's games, but always kept close to Clara. This was my first Sunday School experience, and later I spent many years of happy association attending and teaching, and in the man's classes. In after years I went in for Scripture examinations and particularly at Grote Street got several prizes. It is a good grounding for spiritual and moral training of young people.
Father always kept a couple of men and on one occasion he got some immigrants who came from England. Their name was Thorton; they lived in a house on Stehn's property and one of their children had died so Mother took me with her to see them, but the thing that impressed me most was that Father gave us a long board so that they could make a coffin to bury the child. The following day while we were in Sunday School, the funeral went past. These people lived in the district for some time and then went to Victoria as did other folk from this district and passed out of our existence
One of the Giles girls worked for Mother for a while prior to leaving. Another family left for Victoria, and when they had got a mile or so on the road they realised that they had not handed over the key of their house, one of the girls walked back to our place to bring the key. We thought she had come back to stay with us; much to our delight.
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The partings were sad for the young ones. We never saw them again and I do not know that Father ever heard from them.
We often went to the Turners and we enjoyed this. Their two children were Mabel, a curly - headed girl, and Louis who was afterwards killed on the farm at Riverina in N.S.W. helping his father with horses, one of which kicked him. It was a sad day for us when we received the telegram announcing the accident and his death. We often visited them and on one occasion I stayed there all night and slept in their kitchen on the sofa and during the night fell out of bed. On another occasion we took a young dog with us and he killed several of their ducks.
We killed a sheep apparently bought for our meat supply and I walked over to their place, about one and a half miles away and carried a quarter for them. When I arrived with it Auntie Turner offered me sixpence for taking it over but I frankly declined to take it. I told Mother when I got home and she said I was quite right not to take it as I should be willing to do little things like that for other people without expecting a reward.
Father had a boy named Perry from Hindmarsh Island working for him. He was not very fond of work and on one occasion he was sent to take the cattle and horses down to the Lake near Thornley, about two miles for a drink.
I had often gone with Father to drive them down there but on this occasion he sent Perry with the mob but he was back in a very short time and was questioned and finally admitted he had not taken the stock to water. I don't think I had ever seen my Father so angry and he made the boy sit up and take notice.
Like most youngsters in those days I was vaccinated46 and it was done at Moulden's; and after they had done it to me I yelled and ran outside and down the paddock shouting, "Give me my coat, old Moulden".
Father had a man named Fred Whitehead working for him for several years and I used to go to the Jetty on a load of wheat when he carted it. Schurmann worked for Father and on his marriage, Father built a cottage for him near the barn. He had some children and later left and took up land in Victoria and about ten years afterward when I was in Victoria in 1886 I called and saw him and his family and spent a night with them. I also called and saw Blocks boys near Gorroke and joined with them in a game of cricket, which reminded us of the days we spent at Point McLeay. I also went on this occasion to Mount Arapiles to see Grandmother who had married the second time and was now Mrs. Smith47. Her husband used to be a school master at Port Martin on the Finniss River48, and some of my Uncles and Aunts went to his school.
Father and Mother went to the Mission Station to see the Rev. Taplin and took the baby Herb with them. On their way home, it being a dark night and they had no lamp on the cart, the horse tripped and fell and sent them flying out of the cart. Neither was hurt very much but the baby had evidently got a nasty bump, for when they got home, its cry woke me up and they told me what had happened. They were warming some
46 Against what is unknown, possibly smallpox
47 Joseph died of cancer in 1875. Maria was buried at Point Sturt with Joseph, having been brought from Mt Aripiles in a lead coffin. The headstone identifies her as Joseph’s wife Maria Smith!
48 Mr Smith is also said to have been Schoolmaster at Castle Range. Port Martin, also known as Lower Finniss, is about halfway between Clayton and Finniss. The road on the Finniss River side is now called Glengrove Road. It extends to the east to Blackwell road, near Milang. The settlement had a Weslyan Church, built c1856 and the School operated until c1875.
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water to give it a hot bath. However, it was not very serious for a few days afterwards it was all right again.
George, a brother of Father's, lived at Meningie near the Causeway on Lake Albert on the Port Malcolm Road, and although so close to us, the crossing of the passage prevented us seeing much of them. On one occasion Father and Mother went up to Narrung Station, left their cart and horse there and crossed the passage and Uncle George met them on the other side. It was only for a day or two but we were glad to see them again. Their boys, Albert particularly, now at Naracoorte, came over a few times to see us and we boys would play cricket together. We were very fond of this pastime and Father would often play with us; he was a good under hand bowler, breaking out from the leg side and as he had a good length, was always pretty consistent and difficult to play.
I have recollections of going to the Coorong on one occasion and the land was covered with a condensed growth of teatrees, but a few years ago when I visited the same spot it was cleared and grassed. At Loveday Bay there were some good fishing grounds and Father had arranged with Uncle Turner to come over and go fishing with him and Schurmann one summer afternoon. They had hardly started, before a fire broke out in the grass paddock and all hands were soon at the fire. It did not do much harm except to burn grass, but had it got out of hand it might have burnt out the whole of the Stations which adjoined our property.
Two picnics I especially remember. One was held between our place and the Mission Station and what I particularly remember were the races for the young folk, for, in one of these, I won and was awarded a fourpenny piece (silver coin similar to a threepence). Some dispute occurred over the winning of some of the kiddies' races which I was too young to understand, but Mother and Father talked about it afterwards and said how childish and foolish it was to disagree over such simple little things. The other picnic was held on the hill (Gardner's house is there now) near Narrung Jetty. Father had spent much time in making a ball and knitted it over with twine so that I could play cricket with the younger boys, and I went off with great glee. During the day someone thought he had more right to it than me and I went home without it. I remember how annoyed Father was that I had lost it, but there were some boys from one family living in the district who were always in trouble and there was no doubt in my parent's mind that they had sneaked it away for their future pleasure.
Kangaroos were a trouble to our crops and as there was a large scrub at the back of the farm, it abounded in these and other wild animals and birds and we were always chasing them out of our paddocks with dogs, and many were caught. Father would go out night after night as the crop grew and shoot them as they jumped the bush fences and came for the wheat and barley. We used the nicer parts of them for meat and their tails were always made into kangaroo tail soup. It was delicious and I wish I could get some occasionally. Thinking of kangaroos reminds he that I was once taken for one! Father and the men were winnowing wheat in our well paddock at the end of a large swamp, and I had strayed away from home for it was about a mile from our house. Coming to the swamp I started running and jumping, and one of the men perhaps, a little short-sighted, seeing me, said as he went for his gun 'Look at that kangaroo coming up the swamp!" Father looked and after a few seconds said it was me coming out to them. Anyone knowing these swamps can very well understand how one might be uncertain as to what a distant object really was.
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Somewhere near this spot I was riding one day and met a Black - fellow with a small fire, and I asked him what he was cooking. He told he that he had climbed a large sheoak tree to a crow's nest and got four eggs, which he had cooked in the ashes and eaten. The natives were very fond of eggs and would follow up the birds at the Lake, especially the swans whose nests are easily found, and who lay nearly a dozen large eggs. These are greatly relished by the natives.
The natives in those days were very poor workers; they had never been trained to do any work except hunt for their food, and only hunger would make them do that. We tried them occasionally to do fencing, etc. for us, but we never knew when they would finish the job; if ever they did we would be most surprised. The one thing they excelled at was the hand-shearing of sheep, and for years they did most of the station’s shearing around the Lake, but as machine shearing came into use shearers got better wages, they have been knocked out of the one job that they did well. When I was nine years old Mother gave me a party. Three or four boys of my own age, and the present I had was a threepenny-piece with a hole in it, and a small card from the Schurmann family. I kept these for years, and only after I was married did some one, perhaps my own boys, open my box and remove some of these most precious things of my early days
After Mann's removal to Point Sturt, they sent Mr. and Mrs. Williams and family to their home to work the farm, and these folk were friends of Mothers and we became closely associated with them for the last year we were at Point McLeay. Although Father had purchased two sections or farms at Point Sturt49 while living at Point McLeay, I do not think he intended to move over the Lake, but a disastrous tragedy made it necessary for him to move to Point Sturt and make the old farm there his home.
The Christmas of 1878 was a happy time in the old home. Grandmother, Willie and Louisa50 were the only ones left, and they invited a cousin, one of the Crockers, from Adelaide, to spend the holidays with them. They borrowed a boat from Milang so that they might do some sailing and fishing. Grandmother intended going to the South- East to Uncle John Mann's and left on 6th January, 1879, by boat to cross the Lake and thence by coach to Kingston. Her daughter Harriett51 drove her to Milang and the others were taking the boat back, sailing around Reedy Point52. Grandmother went on her trip, but Harriett waited in vain for the boat to come, and as the day closed there were anxious eyes watching, but no-one saw or could see any trace of it. The worst had happened; the boat was found next day bottom up and the sail tied down tightly. All four were drowned - Will, Susan, Louisa and their cousin - the saddest and bitterest experience in the life of my family, and the worst disaster recorded on the Lake53. We were still living at Point McLeay and knew nothing about the disaster until next day. We were expecting Turner's family over to our place, and were watching for them. At last we saw them coming as we supposed, two horses in their buggy gallop across the swamps and paddocks, but Uncle Turner only had William Pearce of Point Sturt with him, and he came in and told Father that his brother Willie was drowned.
49 I know of Section 68 in July 1876. There may be others.
50 And Susan.
51 Harriet Abbott, who lived on the next-door farm.
52 The long thin peninsula jutting out into the lake to the north of Yelland’s shore.
53 See also the newspaper account in the appendix.
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That was a terrible blow to Father and Mother, and too much for me. I rushed out into the barn and stayed there for some time. Later Mother told me the complete tragedy. Father went back to Point Sturt with Mr. Pearce and the days searching for the bodies were bitter days for relations and friends. I was not old enough to recollect the details of those weeks that followed when Mother was alone with us children, and Father was over helping Grandmother, who had been recalled by a wire saying that an accident had happened. She did not know the fatal result until she got back to Milang. One thing always remains in my mind. Father had just started teaching me geography and had bought a book dealing with S.A. and learning the Bays and Points on the West Coast on the day that Mr. Pearce brought to us the disastrous news of the boating fatality.
Father had previously arranged for me to go to Point Sturt for my schooling. After arrangements had been completed for Uncle John Russell and Auntie Kitty and family to look after Grandmother and the farm, I was taken over by the steamer "Dispatch" which carried the overland mails across the Lake to start my schooling days. I was about ten and a half years old and had never been to school. I knew only what Father had taught me of reading, spelling, writing and especially arithmetic.
My first days at the Point Sturt School under Miss Mathews in the Church of Christ chapel54 were trying days for me. I was a big boy and had to start in the first class when most of the other children of my own age were up in the second or third classes. Naturally I was bad at most things, especially spelling and reading, but I was always telling the higher classes how to do their sums. In fact I could do the sums of the highest class quite easily, and it was the result of Father's teaching me things that he liked and what I liked.
That first year at school was interesting but I felt lonely. I was made to do certain things at Grandmother’s such as chop the wood, bring it in, go for the cows and always set the tea. Our meals were taken in the underground rooms. Very nice in the summer, but not so pleasant in the winter. Father came over several times and his visits were a great joy to me. On one occasion Mother had made me a suit, the coat being a kind of jumper, and sent it over and when I opened it I remember the joy it gave me. There was a pocket in the jumper where I found five shillings, a big amount for a boy and it brought tears to my eyes, as it has often done in after years when I think of the joy it must have given Mother to put that money in my pocket. How often is the heart touched by a simple sign of love, but do we always appreciate the little kind deeds of our Mother at the time? But, thank God, they come back in after years, bringing their full value of love and sincerity. Mother's love is never forgotten. The little deeds of love are ever remembered; they influence the life of every man and men and woman are braver and better for the memory of a devoted Mother’s love. The sad tragedy made it necessary for our family to move to Point Sturt55 and Father had arranged for a Manager, Mr. Hughes to move in at Point McLeay. Father and Mother came over in Uncle Fred's sailing boat "White Cloud" and when I came out of School for lunch on 28th February 1880, I saw the boat just coming into the old reserve landing. Brother Herb always says this was a birthday trip for him, for he was
54 The Education Department school at Point Sturt later opened in 1883, in the old Congregational Church, which had also been used as a private school. See Sophia Robinson
55 The land titles for Joseph’s farm tell an interesting story. John Henry was executor for Joseph’s will and it appears that William was likely to inherit the farm. He already owned section 109 from Sept. 1878. However the transfers were incomplete when he drowned intestate. The ownership then transferred to John Henry over the next year, as apparent executor of both estates.
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one year old on that day. Oh the excitement when I went home from school to see all my own folks getting settled down in the old Point Sturt home. Grandmother had to take as her bedroom a room just off the house56 and how we managed to find room in the four-roomed house, with kitchen down stairs I don’t know, but it was not long before Father built a new kitchen and small bedroom for us boys and discarded the underground kitchen. The original house was square with a porch at the front door and a large porch at the back door and in adding the new kitchen this porch was removed and windows put where the porch door led into the dining room57.
I was a proud boy taking Marian and Joe to School the next day after their arrival. Of course they were not entire strangers because they knew Mann's family and some of the others but the first day at School is always strange for children and especially for those living out in the bush and away from other children especially if they had not been to school before.
There are two incidents which stand out in my first year at School, before our family came over. One day Miss Mathesen fainted in the school and we all rushed out, and I ran over to Abbott's and told my Auntie58 that she had dropped down dead. They came over anticipating that it was only a fainting fit. The second incident was also a fainting fit, but we knew what it was this time, and she went home. Several of us boys went up the Point into Gollan’s Station, bird nesting; we had our lunch with us and made the best of our day on our trip. When I came home I told Grandmother all about the fainting fit and what we did, with the result that I got a good scolding for going with the other boys. My duty was to come straight home.
I often went minding sheep in the scrub paddock and I was doing this on my eleventh birthday. I remember it so well because of this, and the present given to me by Grandmother - a large glass marble with a silver lamb inside it which belonged to Aunt Louisa59 and also a picture of a dog which belonged to Uncle Tom who died an l2th September 1865 at the age of six years. I have both of these still: the marble is on the specimen shelf and the picture, like many others, in these days has been relegated to the cellar, as hidden reminders of bygone days.
Our next school teacher was Mr. Bruce and it was during his time that the Government bought the old Congregation Church on the hill and converted it into a school. Occasionally he overstepped the mark with drink and on those occasions he became very ambitious for the school to do great things. We called them his "Ambition Days". He was a very poor teacher but was the only one who ever gave me the cane - a few nasty smacks on the hand. Later Mr. D. Roper took charge, a young married man, and under him I enjoyed school life. I took private lessons from him in Book-keeping which has always been a help to me in my business life. After five years at the Point Sturt School I left at the end of 188360 without getting the leaving pass and commenced work at home. They were milking a few cows and Father kept sheep and was still working the Point McLeay farm, although about this period he
56 Location not certain but there was a story about a room between the house and where the Moreton Bay fig tree, planted 1902, stands now. There is also the remains of a building, possible a stable, and a tank on the other side of this tree.
57 The old window from the room was re-used in the kitchen.
58 Harriet Abbott
59 One of those drowned in 1879
60 See the Point Sturt School register, which states that Thomas left to go to Glenelg Grammar School in 1884 having completed the fourth grade. He is No 9 in the register and was one of the 17 students at the school when it was transferred to the Education Dept. in 1883.
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leased the land to Mr. Richmond who owned the Narrung Estate. In the meantime Uncle Fred Yelland had sold his farm to Father and had left Point McLeay and gone to Victoria near Kaniva. I had been at Point McLeay helping to clear this up before making a final shift of the wagon horses and cattle to Point Sturt. Father came over and bought Lin with him and we started off and camped the first night near Cambell House by an old brush fence with fires to keep us warm and with a saddle as a pillow. The next night we stayed at Uncle George’s near the Causeway61. With their boys we slept in the wagon and Father slept inside. We had a very happy time with Albert and Ted who thought it lovely sleeping in the wagon with us. The following night we camped against the Murray by the Wellington punt and were worried to death by the sand flies. Poor Lin had a terrible night. We had very little sleep and were glad to cross in the punt next morning and move on towards the Lake at Mulgundowara62 where Father bought some tins of sardines and we had a good dinner. How these simple little things always remain in your mind and the bigger and more important things fade away! We eventually arrived home safely with many bright memories of the trip from the Point McLeay farm.
I did some hard work during my first year after leaving school. The stiffest job was hay carting and cutting with the scythe, especially as Father thought I should keep up with him. I tried my hardest, but at the end of each row I would lie down to try and ease the strain of the work upon my back. However these were the experiences which make men out of boys, and the time soon came when I could hold my own with any of them in general farm work.
I was always very fond of cricket and every opportunity we had would be devoted to the game. We had a picnic near Stewart's place and Point Sturt played the Milang men. I cannot remember the result but Ward Stewart and I did most of the bowling. The thing that was most strongly impressed on my mind was that several were discussing the fact that Father had decided to send me down to Adelaide to school for a year, so during 1885 Mother brought me down to town to buy me some clothes and take me to the Glenelg Grammar School whose Head Master was Mr. F.I. Caterer. The reason for sending me there in preference to Prince Alfred College was that it was a smaller school and at least one of the Milang boys, Herb Grierson was already there, and, also that it was near the sea. All this seemed right at the time but in after years as my own boys went to P.A.C. and the G.G.S. had gone out of existence, I always felt that I would have liked to have claimed the College to which I sent them as the one which I had attended.
I devoted myself solidly to my studies and came out top in the classes in which I was placed, including drawing, winning the drawing Master’s two prizes for the year and also the French prize. Mother asked me if I would learn music, but as I had previously tried without success I said that drawing would suit me better.
Boarding at College has its advantages and is a good training for boys, and during those days I made many friends. Besides Herb Grierson, Bob Duncan was my best friend and in after years he spent many holidays with us at Point Sturt, and later in life Bob was best man at my wedding. Others who were friends as the results of those days were Walter Summers (afterwards Secretary of the Department of Agriculture),
61 George Mann, mother’s brother
62 Possibly Mulgundawa, on the corner of the main road from Langhorne Creek to Wellington and the road to Murray Bridge via Brinkley. There was a Hotel there.
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the two Bonnin boys from Nalpa Station (both Doctors), Percy Caterer, George and Murray Evans, Jim Galloway, Jack Hackett, the Bickfords and Rymills. Jim and Frank Bonnin came straight to school from a Governess at the Station63 and as they came from the Lakes district, (although they did not know me), Mr. Caterer suggested they should sit with me for a few days until they got used to the school surroundings. It was a coincidence that 53 years afterwards at the last Old Scholars’ Dinner, with Dr. J.A.Bonnin in the chair and I was next to him, having to propose the toast of remembrance to our old Head Master, and his family and School, that I should be sitting in the same order with the Bonnin boys as I did on the first day they went to G.G.S. Dr. Frank Bonnin had come from Ballarat to be present at this function and sat next to me. What memories this occasion brought to each of us as we discussed old school days and the many happy times we had together.
I looked forward to my holidays as boys always do, but I had a few surprise visits from Father and the happiness of them are bright memories. The summer morning bathing was much appreciated by the boarders. Sunday was a very sacred day. We could march down to the Congregational Church for the two services, all dressed for the occasion with gloves and bowler hats, and sit on the left hand side near the front, and listen to the Rev. C. Manthorpe preach. We could also attend Sunday-school in the afternoon. At that time W.N. Phillip (afterwards Sir) was the superintendent, and in after years when he was knighted he got quite a thrill out of any reference I made to the days under his superintendence when I attended the G.G.S.
Cricket was always interesting. We had a turf wicket and prepared it ourselves. During the last term I was Captain and the last two matches stand out above all others. We were playing Caterers of Norwood, and Alf Peterson of Campbell House, Point McLeay was their crack batsman. I had been bowling for some time and was keeping him quiet, and finally hit the off-stump and turned the ball over to slip, but the bails did not come off, so he continued batting. I had a good day’s batting and made 37 by very patient play. The other match was also played on our oval, and I especially remember it because of a brilliant catch I made on the leg side: the batsman swung the ball low and I ran, but apparently too far, and was passing the line of the ball, but I stopped and stooping with my hand behind my legs about six inches off the ground, held the ball; it was the best catch I ever made. Alf James, my cousin64, who was the main Hawthorn bowler for many years, was at the G.G.S, that day, and even to this day he talks about that catch.
The Christmas Break-up at the School was held in the Town Hall, and I was very proud of my prizes and the display of drawings. The old schoolroom is now a dwelling and the cricket pitch has houses built upon it. The School, which produced some fine scholars has had its day, but for those who attended it, it recalls many happy memories.
The following year I settled down to genuine hard work at home. We were milking more cows and growing more hay and barley and a little wheat. We usually had a boy to help on the farm, but it was fairly hard going, and I had to get down to solid graft. I was by this time very interested in cricket, having some practice at the G.G.S. so I played for Milang Club. I could not get in much practice, but managed to do well the first match and that made me a very important man. I went in near the end of the innings and scored 20 and special mention was made of my fielding and batting. The
63 Liz’s Aunt Lesley Warne was a housemaid at Nalpa Station in the 1930s, much later than this story.
64 Nephew of Mrs Goldsworthy, mother’s sister Helen See later in the story page c.48