22 December 2017

Of Christmas past and present

It is the time of year when one reflects on Christmases past and enjoys the pleasures of the present season.

Childhood Christmas in the 1950s and early 60s

  • Christmas Eve – decorating the tree – always fresh, cut from the scrub paddock
  • Midnight Mass with lusty carol singing
  • spotting Father Christmas’s (never Santa) sleigh in the sky returning home in the darkness
  • a fresh ham sandwich before bed
  • morning excitement, Father Christmas presents found in the lounge room
  • fresh cherries for nibbles
  • gathering of large family around the Christmas tree once the turkey and vegetables were in the oven,  distribution of small but multiple presents
  • middle of the day – hot Christmas meal, home grown, stuffed and roasted turkey, roast potatoes and pumpkin with a green vegetable usually peas or beans, treat was a fizzy drink – lemonade or creaming soda, in later years a sparkling wine
  • hot plum pudding with lashings of fresh thick cream from the farm cows

Christmas as a couple in the 1970s

  • alternate years between parents
  • celebrations with friends
  • 1975 Toowoomba, Qld - Christmas in our first-purchased home
  • 1977 husband in Antarctica, self, long drive to South Australia to visit parents
  • 1979 Christmas UN in Srinagar, Kashmir -  ice and snow

Family times 1980 – 2000

  • writing the Christmas holiday newsletter to send to all family and friends
  • children’s Christmases, school celebrations
  • some years with parents-in-law
  • Canberra Christmases, carols by the lake
  • camping at Burrill Lake, NSW, boats, swimming and fishing
1997 Christmas Day, high above Tignes, France

  • 1997-2000 Christmas parties in Matilda’s, Australian Embassy, France
  • 1997 skiing at Tignes, France -  a fondue Christmas
  • 1998 Parisian style - apartment full of Australian visitors
  • 1999 International Women’s Group cookie exchange chez nous, Christmas week skiing at Val Thorens, France
  • 2000 Freezing in New York, abandoning the Christmas Day walk in Central Park
International Women's Group Christmas cookie exchange hosted at
15 rue de la Federation, Paris 1999

Empty nesters

  • 2001 –2011 Sydneysiders
  • Celebrations with adult children
  • Family visits
  • Boxing Day on the harbour
Boxing Day on Sydney Harbour

Retiring times

  • Street party celebration
  • Community groups gatherings
  • Alternate years – offspring and grandchildren’s visits
  • BBQs, mangoes and ice-cream treats
  • Ride bikes to the beach in the morning return home to a seafood salad beside the pool
The next generation - unwrapping Christmas 2016
Have you created a timeline of Christmases of the past?

13 December 2017

Place names - A personal reflection

Nomen what? Nomenclature

That’s the devising and choosing of names and answers the question - Where did that place name originate?

While investigating our family histories I’ve found that so many of my forebears came from a geographically small area and so the recurrence of place names is frequent in birth, marriage and death notices. But what was the source, the origin of those place names?

I’ve returned to one of my favourite sources of information to get some early views on the origins of the place names below: Trove’s digitised newspapers.

In 1908 during the months of May, June and July, The Register newspaper published a series of twenty eight posts under the heading Nomenclature of South Australia. These articles were researched and written by Rodney Cockburn. This series engendered a wide range of discussion in the form of letters to the editor. Whilst reference to many of these places can be found in earlier versions of newspapers, these snippets of information provide a rich, albeit sometimes inaccurate background, to the origin of many South Australian place names.

By August of 1908 The Register had announced that the series of articles would be republished in book form which was then advertised in November of the same year for the sum of 3/6d or 3/10d via post. The book contained revisions and corrections from the original posts. Discussions continued in the newspapers. Writers discussed the practice of adopting names from European countries,  debated the appropriateness of naming places after early settlers, officials, their wives and children and some emphasised the desirability of using more of the pre-existing Aboriginal place names.

More recent research in the 1980s and 1990s on South Australian place names, was conducted and published by Geoffrey Manning.  The 2012 edition of his work, A Compendium of the Place Names of South Australia, is freely available. This more scholarly work pays tribute to those previous recorders of the place names of South Australia and expands on place names and corrects the misattributions.

So from a combination of these sources and the South Australian State Gazetteer here are some of the meanings of the names of places of significance in my family’s history. I have limited the list to South Australian places for the sake of my readers’ patience!

On the banks of the River Alma in the Crimea the allies gained their first victory in 1854. The name comes from a Tartar word meaning 'apple tree.’ Manning: 2012
The Hundred of Alma was surveyed in 1855 and proclaimed in 1856.

By the time my father Edward John Horgan and his siblings Honora Mary and Joseph Andrew were born in the early 1900s a vibrant community of farmers had grown up around the early established Christian churches. Their days at Alma South School are recalled in A building with memories. After my parents’ marriage in 1937 they lived on the family farm at Alma.

Hamley Bridge
—Break of Gauge. —
Hamley Bridge reminds us of Lieut. Col. F. G. Hamley, Acting Governor, of South Australia from February 20, 1868, to February 15, 1869. That was the interregnum between Sir Dominic Daly's death and the arrival of his successor. Sir James Fergusson.  Lieut Col. Hamley was the senior officer in command of Her Majesty's forces in South Australia at the time of Governor Daly's death. He opened the bridge, which, together with the township, bears his name. Cockburn: Part 12
This was a typical entry in the Cockburn work, a heading to break up the long list of names and a concise paragraph to convey maximum information in a few words. Here is an account of the laying of the foundation stone by Mrs Hamley. The bridge was essential for the continuance of the railway network.

My O’Dea great grandparents, John O’Dea and Maria Crowley had retired from farming at Pinkerton Plains to Hamley Bridge from where grandfather Patrick met and married grandmother Georgina Bennett.  After Patrick’s  death in Pinnaroo, Georgina returned to Hamley Bridge with her six youngsters and my mother Hannah lived there until her marriage in the Hamley Bridge Catholic church in 1937.

Humphrey’s Springs
Humphrey's Springs, a mile and a half east of the little postal town of Alma, take their name from James Humphrey. They are on country which, was held by him for pastoral purposes in 1842. Cockburn: Part 13
My paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Smyth, was born at Humphrey’s Springs.


“That’s when someone put their cap under a cow or goat when they wanted to get a quick drink”  Capunder – how long did I believe this as a child? Did it come from my father or brother?  I cannot be sure. Needless to say it does not appear in any study of place names, another childhood belief debunked!
Kapunda - A corruption of the Aboriginal cappieoonda - ‘jumping water’, probably related to a spring, supplying the town of Kapunda when it was laid out in 1844; another source asserts that it means ‘place of smoke’ and, in an interesting article on nomenclature in 1921, Mr N.A. Webb suggests the name is derived from the Aboriginal kappaunga - ‘the locality of the quail’; further, it has been recorded that Charles Hervey Bagot took up land in the area which he called kunangga derived from ku – ‘shelter’ and nangga – ‘good’ Manning: 2012
My O’Dea forbears came to Kapunda in 1854 and spent some years as carters before taking up land in 1863 at Pinkerton Plains. Gt-gt grandmother Johanna (Fitzgerald) Horgan, gt-grandfather John Horgan and his wife gt-grandmother Honora O’Leary and four of their children are all buried at St John’s near Kapunda.


Under the subheading Crumbs of nomenclature, Cockburn often included single sentences where limited information was available. With this entry he summed up:
Navan, a township of the past between Riverton and Tarlee, is after the Navan in County Meath, Ireland . Cockburn: Part 19
Indeed he could not have foreseen that the Navan of 2017 is but a small chapel and graveyard. At this place my parents, Horgan grandparents and many other relatives from the past, occupy the now hallowed ground.

My great grandfather’s brother, John Smyth, attended the seminary at Navan in County Meath and after he arrived in Australia he became the Vicar-General of the Catholic church in South Australia until his early death in 1870. Some members of that Smyth family, my father’s first cousins Fr. Edward Smyth and his sister Mary are also buried at this Navan.

Pinkerton Plains
William Pinkerton who arrived in the Rajahstan in 1838 and took out an occupation licence on the River Light on 15 August 1844. Manning :2012
Sometimes listed as Pinkerton’s Plains, Pinkerton Flat and previously confused with an area near Quorn in the Hundred of Pichi Richi.

At this Pinkerton Plains between Wasleys and Hamley Bridge,  the O’Deas farmed. Paternal gt-grandparents Smyth, and maternal gt-grandparents O’Dea are buried in the old Catholic cemetery of St Benedict’s at Pinkerton Plains.

—A Big Man.—
Pinnaroo is a native word used to express "big man." Curiously enough, it runs through the vocabularies of nearly all the tribes north or south. John McKinlay, the explorer, was dubbed 'Pinnaroo wildra' by the blacks — meaning "big man with a cart'' Cockburn: Part 20
In 1911 grandparents Patrick O’Dea and Georgina Bennett moved to Ngallo, Victoria just over the border from Pinnaroo. My mother was born in Pinnaroo in  1912. Patrick was a victim of the 1919 influenza epidemic and died in a private hospital there.

In an unpublished history, Mrs R.B. Scholefield said that ‘James Masters came to the Gilbert Valley… accompanied by Charles Swinden, Dr Matthew Moorhouse and John Jubb Horner’: (See Washington Gardens) In connection with the naming of Riverton I quote from a letter from the late Gilbert Horner, a grandson of J.J. Horner: ‘My grandfather often told us he named the town… Mr Masters remarked that the Surveyor General had written and announced his intention of laying out a new town… and asked for a name to be recommended. “What about calling it Hornertown?”, suggested Mr Masters. My grandfather, however, would not consent and said, “Call it after this little river”. ‘So the name of “Gilberton” was sent in [and refused] because the name had already been chosen [for an Adelaide suburb]. Mr Masters then called on Mr Horner and again suggested Hornertown [to which he replied] “If they will not accept Gilberton, call it Riverton”.’John Jubb Horner was both the first flour miller and postmaster in the Gilbert Valley. Manning: 2012
Many of my McInerney relatives have lived in and around Riverton for many years. For my last three years of primary school I attended the convent school run by the Mercy nuns of South Australia. Both of my parents died in the Soldiers Memorial Riverton Hospital.

—A Governor's Cousin.—
Snowtown derives its name from Thomas Snow, M.A., Private Secretary to Governor Jervois. The Snows, two of whom were out here, were cousins of His Excellency. Cockburn: Part 22
After the sale of the Alma farm at the end of 1939 my parents moved to Snowtown with their first child. Their stay lasted only 2 years and a return to the Horgan farm south of Tarlee was effected after grandfather Andrew’s two brothers died in 1941 and 1942.

Stockport was laid out in 1856. The section on which the town stands was originally held by Samuel Stocks, jun., of Stockport, England who died in 1847. Cockburn: Part 23
There goes another childhood belief. There were pens and races for loading cattle and sheep (the stock) onto the trains at the Stockport railway yards so an assumption that the name came from that practice could possibly be viewed as a natural progression.
The old Stockport station
Stockport loomed large in my five years at boarding school. It was the station where we boarded the train bound to Adelaide and where Dad would meet us on that one “free” weekend a term as well as at the end of each term.

- The town is situated 38 kilometres north of Gawler. Land in the area was held first under occupation licence by George A. Anstey in 1845, while sections adjacent to the present day town were taken up by Messrs E. Prescott, James Lewis, P. Conway and Thomas Colbert in 1866. By 1868, section 987 was owned by Edward Prescott (1829-1910) which he subdivided into 85 allotments ‘adjoining the terminus of the Roseworthy and Forresters Railway… being the very nucleus of the lines of northern traffic…’ The auction was advertised to take place at the ‘Forresters’ Hotel at Gilberton (sic) on 15 June 1868. (See Gilbert Town) 
Of significance is the fact that Prescott named one of the streets ‘Oldham’ and, in August 1869, when an extension was made to the town, all lots (nos. 86-118) were purchased by Nathaniel Oldham. 

These facts suggest a close friendship between Prescott and Oldham who had a family connection with Ireland and, therefore, it may have transpired that Oldham suggested the name ‘Tralee’ to Prescott who, as an expatriate Englishman, corrupted it to ‘Tarlee’. 

To give further credence to the ‘Irish influence’ Prescott named another Tarlee street ‘Hallet’ (sic) and John Hallett was a co-subdivider of nearby’ Navan’, also a town in Ireland, that is in close proximity to ‘Tralee’. The ancient name of Tralee in Ireland was Traleigh - ‘the strand [shore] of leigh’ and derived from its situation from the point at which the River Leigh discharges itself into the broad sandy bay of Tralee. 

Rodney Cockburn says that, in 1908, Mr J.O. Taylor asserted that it was a contraction of the Aboriginal word tarralee and referred anyone in doubt to Mr Prescott who laid out part of his farm as the town of Tarlee. However, he preferred the following explanation: Tarlee is a name which has given considerable trouble in tracing. It is believed to be a misspelling of Tralee, the chief town in County Kerry, Ireland. ‘Tra’ is Irish for ‘strand’ or ‘beach’ and the Irish Tralee is built on the River Lee [sic] and the tide goes up as far as the town. There is a popular ballad entitled ‘The Rose of Tralee’… Navan and Tralee are close to one another in Ireland and so are Navan and Tarlee in South Australia, which gives colour to the suggested derivation of the latter.
In May 1869, the village was described as comprising ‘an inn, blacksmith’s shop and Methodist Chapel.’ Manning: 2012
About 7.5 km south of Tarlee my Horgan ancestors from County Kerry, Ireland took up farming in 1858. My parents returned to this farm from Snowtown in 1942 and it was here that I spent my childhood.

These are just a few of the place names in our family history. If you are interested to know more about South Australian place names the references below provide a wealth of detail.


A Brief History of South Australian Nomenclature and an Analysis of Perpetuated Myths - 1893-1990 – (An address given by Geoffrey H. Manning at the Family History Award Dinner of the SA Genealogy and Heraldry Society on 23 June 1990) accessed 11 Dec. 2017

Manning, Geoffrey A Compendium of the Place Names of South Australia rev. ed.  2012 – originally published as The place names of our land: a South Australian anthology, Modbury, South Australia : Gould Genealogy & History, 2010 accessed 11 Dec. 2017

Nomenclature of South Australia This Trove list compiles the posts written by Rodney Cockburn in 1908 related to the place names of South Australia

South Australian Gazetteer roads and place name search
1908 'Advertising', The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929), 18 November, p. 4. , viewed 11 Dec 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article56998197

15 October 2017

Is your Kain here?

Guests at the golden wedding celebration

On the veranda at “Clare Villa” in Hamley Bridge, South Australia, this family group gathered for a photo on the occasion of John and Maria O’Dea’s golden wedding anniversary.

The winter chill of early August 1913 did not dampen the spirits as the reports in the newspapers of the day record. The newspapers report the date of August 8th however having determined that August 8 was a Friday in 1913 it could be that this photo was taken after Sunday Mass on August 10, 1913. All are dressed in Sunday best clothes and that would have been a non working day for the farmers and others in the group – a suitable day for a celebration.

Original photo on black card
But who were all the characters in this photo and where did they fit in the lives of the elderly couple? I’ve been spurred into action by a recent comment on my blog from a Kain descendant and indeed many of the folks pictured above are Kains, my mother’s uncle and aunt and her first cousins.

The photo is badly damaged and while I revisited the photo and attempted to improve it by retouching and repairing with limited photo-shopping skills, the wise folks on a genealogy Facebook group pointed me toward the Rootschat photo restoration group. Within 24  hours of uploading the photo I now have several improved versions thanks to those generous volunteers.

Odea_JohnandMaria_1913GoldenWedding By Rami_loord74
photo enhancements by Rami_loord74
Back row - left to right, with relationship to John and Maria O’Dea my maternal great grandparents 

Peter Paul Kain:  born 30 Jun 1899 – died 27 Mar 1939, grandson, parents Bridget and Colman.  It appears that Peter never married and died at Parkside in Adelaide. His friends were notified in the newspaper that his private funeral had been held the day after his death. (1)

Michael James Kain: 15 May 1898 – 14 May 1920, grandson, parents Bridget and Colman (2) A life cut short by appendicitis

Patrick Joseph O’Dea: 18 Oct 1877 – 8 August 1919, son, my maternal grandfather An early death, victim of the influenza epidemic of 1919.

Martin Kain: 5 August 1894  – 7 Oct 1940, grandson, parents Bridget and Colman
In 1916 just before his 22nd birthday Martin volunteered for the AIF. By January of 1917 he was in France with the 32nd battalion. He was wounded in battle in October 1917 resulting in the amputation of his lower left leg. After three months in hospital in England he was shipped home and disembarked back in Adelaide in March 1918.(3) Martin’s service records are available on the National Archives of Australia site.  A few weeks after his return he married Bertha Hilda May Meacham in Adelaide on 27 April 1918.

Michael James O’Dea: 3 April 1881 – 25 Jan 1962, son.

Thomas Kain: 22 Dec 1891 – 13 October 1964, eldest grandson, parents Bridget and Colman

Colman Joseph  Kain; c.1860 – 22 Jan 1932, son-in-law, husband of Bridget O’Dea and father of six sons and and one daughter. He was the youngest son of  Martin and Catherine Kain, born in South Australia 3 years after their arrival on the ship ”Lady Ann.” He married Bridget in February of 1891.

Patrick Kain: perhaps a cousin but unknown at this stage. As far as I am able to ascertain, Bridget and Colman Kain did not have a son named Patrick. The missing son of Bridget and Colman is John Francis Kain: 11 May 1896 – 20 Aug 1956 unless the names written under the photo are incorrect. They were added many years later. I would be pleased to hear from anyone who may be able to resolve this anomaly, perhaps another descendant has this photo with the names.

Odea_JohnandMaria_1913GoldenWedding_McGroger sepia)
photo enhancements by McGroger - sepia version
Middle row left to right, with relationship to John and Maria O’Dea

Margaret O’Dea: 13 Dec 1865 – 1 Mar 1930, daughter. She remained unmarried and cared for her parents until their deaths.

Maria O’Dea (born Crowley) c.1841 – 21 Sept 1929 the matriarch with bouquet of flowers. Maria arrived in Melbourne of the “Henry Fernie” in 1862.

Hannah Teresa O’Dea: 1869 – 8 September 1943, daughter. She remained unmarried and cared for her parents until their deaths

John O’Dea: c. 1834 - 26 Jan 1922 the patriarch  John arrived in South Australia with his parents aboard the “Time and Truth” in 1854.

Bridget Kain (born O’Dea) 1864 – 20 Sept 1936, daughter. Wife of Colman Kain, mother of six sons and one daughter
photo enhancements by ymfoster

Front row left to right, with relationship to John and Maria O’Dea

Mary Ellen O’Dea: 1 June 1908 – 16 December 1988 granddaughter (father -  Patrick O’Dea back row) My mother’s eldest sister who must have travelled up with her father Patrick and uncle Michael from the block at Ngallo, Victoria where her parents had moved to in 1911. The handwriting on the photo notes her married name of Conley so these names were added to the photo sometime after 1933 more than 20 years after this event took place.

James Benedict Kain: 17 May 1904 – 13 Jan 1977 grandson, parents Bridget and Colman

Maria Immaculate Kain: 2 July 1901 – 12 November 1928 granddaughter, parents Bridget and Colman. Another early death at only 27 years old. (4)

List of 50 found articles in Trove about the Families of Bridget O'Dea and Col[e]man Kain


1. KAIN.—THE FRIENDS of the late Mr. PETER PAUL KAIN, formerly of Hamley Bridge, are respectfully informed that his Remains were peacefully laid to rest privately on TUESDAY, 28th inst., in the West Terrace Catholic Cemetery. Rev. Father T. Moore officiated.
1939 'Advertising', The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 - 1954), 29 March, p. 16. , viewed 15 Oct 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article49800344

2. Death of Michael James Kain -  May 1920
Quite a gloom was cast over the town [ Hamley Bridge] on Friday afternoon, when news was received from Wallaroo that M. Kain, fourth son of Mr. and Mrs. Colman Kain, had died there, after an operation for appendicitis. He was for some time engaged in the loco. department here, and was transferred to Wallaroo. He was born in this district, and was just entering on his 22nd year, his birthday being on the day following his death. He was a fine young fellow, and a great favourite with all who met him.
1920 'COUNTRY NEWS.', Kapunda Herald (SA : 1878 - 1951), 28 May, p. 3. , viewed 27 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article108287163

3. On Thursday morning at Hamley Bridge when the train arrived from Adelaide a number of the townspeople assembled on the platform gave a hearty welcome home to Private M. Kain. About two years ago Private M. Kain and his brother enlisted. After a short time in England they were sent to France, where Private M. Kain was wounded in October last. An amputation of one leg was found necessary.
1918 'HONORING SOLDIERS.', The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931), 18 March, p. 8. , viewed 15 Oct 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5536488

4. KAIN. —On the 12th November, at the North Terrace Hospital, Adelaide, Maria (Queenie), beloved and only daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Coleman Kain, of Hamley Bridge; aged 27 years. R.I.P.
1928 'Family Notices', The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929), 13 November, p. 8. , viewed 29 CAug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article53603925

This post first appeared on https://earlieryears.blogspot.com/2017/10/is-your-kain-here.html 
© CGalvin 2017

19 June 2017

The ram’s head and the rock playground

A visit to the farm

Time flies and the past slides into the distance. After my series of A-Z posts in April, I enjoyed a week’s visit to South Australia. This chance to catch up with family brought more shared memories, photographs and reminiscences of times past. With my brother I toured the farm 2017 style, looked at additions and changes that time has wrought since I lived there as a child.

A visit to the sheds revealed that, amongst other treasures, the ram’s head I mentioned in Making merry and other muck still hangs in the shearing shed 50 years later. The lower jaw is missing as is the wire my brother had rigged to move the jaw up and down just as friends glanced upwards to view the light source. At the time, much amusement followed as there was speculation about how much drink had been consumed at the 21st birthday party that was in progress. “Did that jaw really open and close?”

In the sheds, evidence of my father's labour. The hand built walls from creek gravel and cement which grew by a plank width and height over time. The wooden gates, fences and yards painstakingly constructed as he followed in the footsteps of those who had laboured and innovated before him.

Walls in the cowshed and shearing shed built up
layer by layer, plank by plank
Evidence of my brother's labour - looking up in the lofty sheds to the frames welded together then mounted high before installing the roofing. Evidence of the ongoing work  and new sheds, now with machinery that dwarfs that of yesteryear, more technical expertise needed as well as the hard physical labour.

The rock playground

We clambered onto the rocks once more in the creek where we played happily for hours as children. Over the years the creek has deepened but recognisable clefts in the rocks and the ‘seats’ remain the same.  The lower branches of the trees where we bounced up and down and rode them as ‘horses’ are still there.
Further down were the ponds where we gathered tadpoles and moss. The old house was built along the edge of this creek for the fresh water it supplied.
The rock playground in the creek

The old walls of the original stone house built in the 1850s crumble now, but the memories of times past are reinforced by shared photos, memorabilia and a tribute to those men and women who have lived and laboured on this farm to provide for their families in good times and lean.

from 1858: the widow Johanna Horgan with sons John, Thomas and Daniel
1863 John and Honora Horgan, then with sons Andrew, John (Jack) and Tom, daughters Catherine (Kate) and Johanna
from 1883 the widow Honora Horgan with sons Andrew, John (Jack) and Tom until Andrew's marriage in 1906 took him to Alma, SA.
until 1941 Jack and Tom with their sister Kate
1942 return of Andrew (after the deaths of Jack and Tom) with his son Eddie and Hannah Horgan
until 1975 Eddie and Hannah Horgan with their son, my brother
My brother and his wife and children
and now my nephew, the current incumbent.

One of the original, now crumbling walls, stones and mud

30 April 2017

Zero, nought, nothing

A-Z challenge - My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties

Indoor games

In the game of Scrabble, the letter Z is one of the highest scoring letters worth 10 points. Mum loved to play Scrabble and so did I. It was a game we often played, recording the scores and keeping a tally of who had won the most games. If one was lucky enough to get a Z and use it with either a double letter score or a triple word score square, one was well on the way to victory. Scrabble is more challenging with multiple players and competition was fierce as we all aimed to better Mum. She kept the dictionary nearby to check up on any questionable word one wanted to use.

Noughts and Crosses was always an excellent time filler. On the backs of envelopes or scraps of paper, many games were quickly scribbled and contested.

Monopoly The aim of this board game was to collect as much money and as many properties, houses and hotels, as possible. Probably the lingering memory of Monopoly is the card from the Community and Chance chests which read GO TO GAOL: Go directly to gaol. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. In other words, you have nothing, zero, zilch, a negative result.

And that's it I have zero, nought, nothing left to add. Thanks to all those who have visited and commented either here or on Facebook. If you missed a post here’s a linked list.

A – Apricots and Almonds: all whistle now
B – Bulls in the paddock, baking and bicycling
C – Cars for carting
D – Drat that darn dog
E – Early childhood and Easter
F – Feathered foes and furry friends
G – Gates and grates
H – Harvest, hay and a Hills hoist
I –  Instruments and implements
J – Jelly jests
K – Knitting, kneeling and killing
L – Love, learning, luck and a little licorice
M –Making merry, mud and other muck
N – Nettles, nasties and netball
O – Oranges in the orchard and some offal
P – Plenty of peas
Q – Quinces and the Queen
R – Rabbits and the rain gauge
S – Sheep, sewing and saving
T – Tennis, tin kettling and a telephone
U – Udders and unders
V – Vegetables, verandas and the magic Vegemite jar
W –Waiting and washing
X – Some eXtras for X
Y – Youth
Z – Zero, nought, nothing - that's the lot for now.

29 April 2017


A-Z challenge - My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties

Rural Youth Clubs

As early as 1949 there were plans afoot to introduce a program in South Australia that would emulate the young farmers' organisation in the UK. By December of 1951, a supervisor had been appointed by the Department of Agriculture to oversee the formation and promotion of Rural Youth Clubs. The early aim of these clubs was ‘to interest young people in both the city and the country in the agricultural way of life’ 1

The first senior and junior clubs were established at Clare in the mid-north of South Australia in 1952.  Fifty-five young farmers attended the first Rural Youth week at Roseworthy College in August of that year. Clubs were established at Kapunda and Freeling and by October of 1953 there were 30 clubs in the state. 2  The clubs were for both male and female, city and country. Statewide competitions and exchanges between the clubs were introduced. Rural Youth organisations soon became important contributors to both their local and state agricultural shows.

Maurice Horgan
An active member of the Tarlee Rural Youth at
the roadside sign just south of
Tarlee, South Australia c 1967
My older siblings became heavily involved in the local Rural Youth club. There were informative talks to attend, debates for participation, dances and balls, visits to farms and field days, opportunities for leadership, other areas of the state to see, as well as interstate trips and the chance to host other youth. I have a wonderful picture of my brother ready for a Rural Youth "mock debutante" fancy dress ball but it is not for publication here.

Tarlee Rural Youth club had a strong debating team and in 1962 were the runners-up in the Statewide final narrowly defeated by the Victor Harbour Club. 3

The Rural Youth movement provided companionship, education, skill development and friendship opportunities for many in the years from 1952 up to and beyond the time my reflections about life on the farm finish in 1967.

1. 1951 'Rural Youth Supervisor Appointed', The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 - 1954), 7 December, p. 3. , viewed 26 Apr 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article45790766

2. 1953 'RURAL YOUTHS', The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 - 1954), 21 October, p. 17. , viewed 26 Apr 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article48928232

3. 1962 'RURAL YOUTH DEBATE', Victor Harbour Times (SA : 1932 - 1986), 21 September, p. 1. , viewed 29 Apr 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article186743849

28 April 2017

Some eXtras for X

A-Z challenge - My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties

Extra! Extra! Read all about it the newspaper boys called as they touted their wares on street corners. I have a few little extras that did not fit into the main edition of A-Z posts.

Sugar in hessian bags

Sugar was bought in 70lb hessian sacks. The bag was put on the pantry floor with a scoop in the bag to access the sugar for jam making, preserving and everyday uses. The hessian sacks were put to a great variety of uses once they were empty. They could be used to store potatoes or onions, used to carry tools in the boot of a car or in the back of a ute, and sometimes cut up to use for children's craft or sewing projects.

Chop picnics

Before there were barbecues there were chop picnics.  Sometimes on a Sunday, the car would be loaded with a loaf or two of bread, mutton chops from a recently killed sheep, the thermos for tea and a picnic rug. The occasion may have been a birthday or Dad’s cousins visiting. We headed over to the scrub paddock, the only paddock where there was a rise that still had a few acres of uncleared land. A grate over a fire or a fire in a cut-in-half 44-gallon drum served as the cooking medium. Once the chops were cooked, we ate them in a piece of white bread. A chop picnic was quite a novelty as it was rare that we ate outside of the house. Chops would be charred but delicious and we could run freely and play hide and seek between the trees.

The rock playground in the creek

We spent many happy hours playing in the creek. Not far from the house and through a fence, a mostly dry creek ran with a trickle of water. At one spot there was a solid crossing place consisting of many rocks. We would clamber and climb, play imaginative games and hide in the trees nearby. In winter when there was more running water we were not supposed to play there as it became very muddy. Of course, children will be children and there came the day with shoes off we went to cross the creek. As it was slippery, someone made the decision to throw the shoes across. The first shoe made it but the second was carried away in the now swiftly flowing stream. These were new brown school shoes purchased only a few weeks before. I don’t remember the consequences but my mother was very good at selecting a punishment to fit the crime.

X for Extra help in the house

When I was small, Mum had extra help in the house. I don’t remember the two girls who worked there over the years but my older siblings remember them.

Here’s a picture of us on an outing with Grandma O’Dea at the back (Georgina Ellen Bennett 1890 –1965)

Centre front nursing me is one of those extra helpers, Kay Browne. Soon after this, I was a flower girl at her wedding, what a pity I can't remember that either!

27 April 2017

Waiting and washing

A-Z challenge - My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties


I spotted the old dentist equipment in the picture above in a London museum, it brought back the waiting room agony I suffered as a child. The walls were thin in the dentist’s surgery and the loud noise of the drill created a dread of expectation. We were taken to the dentist every six months and with poor teeth, there was often a filling to be done. Mr White, the dentist would cheerily approach and ask “Now who is going to go first?” He had so many gold fillings, his mouth almost glowed. I don’t ever remember volunteering to be that child but I’m sure there was more agony in the waiting than the actual treatment. The needles used to numb the mouth were huge. Do you remember them?

Waiting for an injection at the doctor’s surgery was just as bad. Crying children emerging and a distressed mother reassuring me that it wouldn’t hurt. The doctor did offer a jelly bean after an inoculation to pacify the criers.


In the old farmhouse, there was a chip heater at the end of the bath that was used to heat water on bath nights, Wednesdays and Saturdays. We collected kindling for the fire from the wood heap, and once the water was warm the eldest girls got to bath first. The chip heater got very hot on the outside so care was taken to keep well away from it. Water was scarce and on the other days of the week, we washed with a flannel – a face washer. In the new house (1958) the bathroom had hot water taps and the electric water heater was on the veranda directly outside the bathroom. A shower was later installed in one corner of the laundry.

Separate from the old house, the laundry contained a copper tub for heating water, two large concrete troughs and a green tub wringer machine. There were also washboards for scrubbing and a large tin wash basket. Once the water was boiling in the copper, it was ladled with a dipper into the washing machine or into one of the tubs so that the really dirty clothes could be soaked.

At the end of the wash, sheets and garments were passed through the wringer. They were then rinsed and had to be passed through the wringer again. One had to be careful to avoid getting fingers caught as clothes were fed into the wringer. The weight of sodden wet sheets meant that this was heavy work. This old laundry had a tin roof and the temperature in there both during the heat of summer and the depths of winter made washing days some of the hardest work a woman had to do.

The new house incorporated a laundry at the end of the back veranda, but the water was still saved from the wash in one tub, clothes rinsed in the other tub then the wash water returned to the machine for the next load.

Laundry was not finished until all was dry, ironed, folded and put away. We first learnt to iron handkerchiefs, tea towels and pillow cases. Mum even ironed all the men’s work clothes. I remember Monday as always being the washing day. I guess by having such a routine she could plan to get through the week’s chores.

When I look back I realise how easy these tasks are now. As children, we took for granted the hard work our parents undertook in their daily lives.

Be sure to read W for Wringer Washer where Carolyn details the day-long task of doing the washing.

26 April 2017

Vegetables, verandas and the magic Vegemite jar

A-Z challenge - My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties


We had a large vegetable garden with beans, carrots, turnips, swedes, onions, potatoes and pumpkins. In summer there were watermelons, strawberries, tomatoes, beetroot and lettuce. As the pumpkin vine spread, we would look for those that grew hidden under the large leaves. The pumpkins were a large blue variety that kept well for months on end. They were stored on the tank stand just at the edge of the back veranda. Onions and potatoes were picked and bagged and stored underneath the concrete tank stand in the cool dark space. Thinning the carrots was a favourite task as we got to eat the tiny sweet ones fresh from the garden. We ate potatoes and pumpkin and a third vegetable with our meat most nights. Vegetable soups warmed our winters.


Our house had three verandas. At the front of the house was the red polished concrete veranda surrounded by a low wall ideal for seating. Mum was very proud of her front veranda and the job of polishing it usually fell to her children. It was a down on the hands and knees job for many years before the advent of an upright electric polisher. She was happy for us to slide up and down on the veranda on rags as this kept it shiny. In later years, three of my sisters left the house through the front door for their weddings and had photos taken on that veranda.

The back and side verandas were the functional spaces. At the back door, an old cedar sofa was the ideal place to sit and remove muddy boots and shoes. Cats and dogs made that sofa their home too. Easy access to the wood box, the water heater, and an old meat safe meant this was a functional space. It was also a good place to play in inclement weather as it continued around to a side veranda that bordered the tennis court. Two lines stretched across the side veranda for hanging the washing in wet weather. In hot weather, water was cooled by evaporation from a canvas water bag, it swung on the line under the shade of the veranda. Another lidded box seat at the end of the side veranda had tennis racquets and the net stored in it.

The magic Vegemite jar

Many Australian children grow up eating vegemite on their toast or in their sandwiches. We were no exception and often on meatless Fridays we had vegemite sandwiches for school lunches. Vegemite is a rich, strongly flavoured yeast extract spread.

Each year in August we went to the Royal Adelaide Show for our big day out. One year I got a show bag that had a small jar of honey and a small jar of vegemite along with promotional material. I had not seen tiny jars like this and was excited to be allowed to use them at breakfast time. Each morning I would find the jars were once again full.  It took me a long time to realise that Mum was refilling the small jars as they emptied, she had me convinced that I had a magic honey and magic vegemite jar!

1958 'Advertising', The Australian Women's Weekly (1933 - 1982),
5 February, p. 44. , viewed 22 Apr 2017,
In 1954 as part of an advertising campaign, this catchy radio jingle for Vegemite was launched

We’re happy little Vegemites as bright as bright can be,
We all enjoy our Vegemite for breakfast, lunch and tea,
Our mummy says we’re growing stronger every single week,
Because we love our Vegemite,
We all adore our Vegemite,
It puts a rose in every cheek!

Sing along or enjoy listening to this 30-second clip – courtesy of the ASO https://aso.gov.au/titles/ads/happy-little-vegemites/clip1/

25 April 2017

Udders and unders

A-Z challenge - My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties


The cows were milked morning and night but before milking their udders were washed. Once the cow was penned in the milking shed a clean pail of warm water and a cloth was used to wipe over the udders before the suction cups of the milking machine were applied. Cows would usually stand contentedly but occasionally a cantankerous beast might try to kick. If there was very little milk to be had, or when the herd was small, a cow was sometimes milked by hand. I remember trying this once or twice but never successfully.

By Amanda Slater (Butter Pats)
 [CC BY-SA 2.0 ],  via Wikimedia Commons
We always had fresh milk, in fact the fridge was often overflowing with milk so milk puddings and custards were frequently on our menu. At school when the free milk in little bottles was delivered many of us disliked it, it was not the day fresh milk we were accustomed to.

Cream, yes lovely thick cream, separated from that milk over in the milking shed, there was plenty of that so we added cream to all our desserts and when there was no dessert we piled jam or honey topped with cream onto slices of white bread.

Sometimes Mum made butter from the extra cream, beaten until the whey separated then salt added and the wooden ridged butter pats shaped the final product.


  • underneath the Christmas tree, there were often up to fifty small presents as we all tried to give something to each member of the family
  • underneath the blankets on a cold winter’s night, I remember the heavy weight as more blankets were piled on
  • underneath the trees along the creek, we loved to go mushroom picking in late April and May
  • underneath the workshop Dad had built a pit so that a vehicle could drive in and he could get underneath it to change the oil
  • underneath the wood pile spiders and the occasional snake lurked, we collected kindling from the edges and wood was chopped on a larger log
  • underneath the kitchen bench a clever wood box was concealed – it was filled from the veranda outside and wood could be retrieved inside, it was also a favourite hidey hole
  • underneath the old house a cellar housed the generator before the power was connected
  • underneath the ground the sewerage pit was concealed, I remember a sister threatening to drop me in it but it was always securely sealed
Next V - Vegetables, verandas and the magic Vegemite jar

24 April 2017

Tennis, tin-kettling and a telephone

A-Z challenge - My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties


Anyone for tennis? 
Mary and Edward Horgan - 1927
Alma tennis court, South Australia

My father, his brother Joe and sister Mary had all played tennis in their youth in the 1920s. There are several mentions of the matches they played, won and lost in the newspapers of the time.

When we moved into our new farmhouse in the late 1950s a tennis court was constructed along one side of the house.

Sunday afternoons when the weather was clear, it was time for tennis. Uncle Joe, though of short stature at about 4 ft 11 inches, had a very mean slice and backhand. He made up for his lack of speed around the court by excellent ball placement. Games played were usually doubles to cater for a number of players. Often Joe would be at one end and Dad at the other with one or other of my siblings pairing with them. Some of my siblings also played in the local town tennis teams during summer.

Our racquets had heavy wooden frames with gut strings and were kept in screw down frames to prevent the wood from warping.
A high fence had been constructed around the court but there were often stray balls that ended up in the paddock beyond the gate.

1954 'Blyth Notes and News.',
Blyth Agriculturist (SA : 1908 - 1954),
7 April, p. 1. , viewed 20 Apr 2017,

Tin Kettling

Tin Kettling of newly married couples was a common country tradition to welcome them home after the honeymoon. A group of friends of the couple would arrange a meeting place armed with pots and pans that could make a loud noise. They would then proceed furtively with car lights turned off as they entered the property. The aim was to arrive outside the newlywed's house after the couple were settled for the night. Then with loud banging of pots and pans, and the added cacophony of car horns, the noise continued until the surprised couple appeared.

The evening would end with either a previously arranged dance and supper in a nearby venue or the tin kettlers would go home after they had been offered a drink and some supper. Food for supper was usually supplied by the tin kettlers.

I remember the excitement I felt as some of my older siblings gathered together pots and pans to take to a tin kettling. There are many reports in the local country papers of the time about tin kettlings.


One phone for all
In the old farmhouse, the telephone was attached to the wall at adult height and had an earphone receiver piece that was lifted off its holder. To speak into the telephone one had to face the fixed mouthpiece. Our short Uncle Joe had to stand on a stool in order to use the phone.

In the new house, we had a black bakelite phone like the one above that I spotted in a museum visited recently. Next to our phone in the hallway was a money tin. Telephone calls cost sixpence for three minutes so the bill was to be paid by those who used the phone.

To make a phone call on a special occasion such as Christmas, Mum had to ring the operator days in advance and book a time for the call. Christmas and birthdays were usually the only time that she made phone calls to her siblings who all lived further away than the local area sixpence calls. These were known as long distance or trunk calls and cost significantly more. At the appointed time the operator would ring our phone, then announce "Putting you through." At the end of the three minutes the operator would ask "Do you wish to extend?" this, of course, would result in an additional charge.
During the sixties, automatic telephone exchanges were gradually being introduced to country areas but manual exchanges were still needed for calls outside the local area.

T for Times sure have changed!

Next U - Udders and unders

22 April 2017

Sheep, sewing and saving

A-Z challenge - My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties


Sheep were raised for the wool clip and were also sold to the abattoir at Pooraka, Gepps Cross on the northern outskirts of Adelaide. On the farm, the sheep were shifted between paddocks as they grazed and when little grass was about, they were fed with bales of hay. From a young age, we all learned to steer the truck while hay was forked from the tray.

During lambing season there would often be weak newborn or orphan lambs that we cared for at the house. As children, we loved having pet lambs and fed them from bottles. It was always surprising to return home one day later in the season and find that the pet lamb, now well grown, had been returned to the flock. Each Sunday Dad liked to go for an afternoon drive around the paddocks to check on the sheep, I always enjoyed these drives. Apart from milking cows morning and night that was usually the only farm work done on a Sunday. Sometimes the full grown sheep that had been pet lambs would still come when called.

All lambs were tailed to prevent them from becoming fly-blown, a serious problem in Australia. Crutching ensured that the sheep remained clean by removing the dirtied wool around the tail and down the back legs. Faces were also tidied and trimmed. Once a year sheep were shorn. Two or three shearers would arrive, and with Dad and later on, my brother penning and sorting the sheep, the shearers would bend to the task. Each fleece was then tossed on the table for sorting and classing. Into the bales it went and once the clip was complete the bales were branded before being trucked to market. Shearing usually lasted three to four days, a busy, tiring time for everyone.


Mum sewed all of our clothes and taught all the girls to sew. With five older sisters, I had many hand-me-down dresses or dresses made from the material of previously unpicked garments. My early efforts at sewing included making doll's clothes and sewing up hems.There was a Singer treadle machine to learn on and great excitement when the new electric machine, also a Singer, arrived when I was still quite young. 

In the sewing room, I enjoyed playing with the button tin, sorting all the buttons into sizes or colours. There were plenty of scraps of material to play with too, these were sorted by colour in a variety of bags that were stored in the bottom of a large chest of drawers. When a garment could no longer be mended all the buttons were cut off to be saved for future use. The old clothes then became dusting cloths or rags for Dad to use in his workshop. 


“Take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves.” This was an oft-repeated phrase I learnt early in life. Money was hard to come by so was to be carefully saved. I had a Commonwealth Savings Bank of Australia money tin and precious halfpennies and pennies, sometimes threepences and sixpences were added to that. It did not have any way to open it apart from using a can opener which would then render it useless. Money could only be removed by tipping the money box upside down and shaking in the hope that a coin would fall out. Once the money box was full, it was taken to the bank where it was emptied and deposited into an account.

Pre-decimal currency coins
When I went to boarding school in 1963, my sister and I were allocated 10 shillings spending money for each term. There were three school terms each year. Each term was about fourteen weeks with one trip home in the middle of each term. Our suitcases were packed with clothes and toiletries but if the soap or toothpaste did not last or was lost, we had to buy supplies from the allocated money. I was well into high school when decimal currency was introduced into Australia on the 14th February 1966. Australians of a certain age will all remember this jingle used to introduce the new currency.

Next T - Tennis and tin-kettling

21 April 2017

Rabbits and the rain gauge

A-Z challenge - My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties


Rabbits are a serious pest in Australia. They were brought to Australia as early as 1788 in the First Fleet and the first record of them appearing in South Australia is in 1840 when the ship Courier set sail from England for Port Adelaide with “a number of hares and rabbits…. to be turned out on their arrival in the colony.” 1  

They were protected by legislation for gentlemen’s sport until 1864. It appears that the rabbits on Mr Dutton’s Anlaby station near Kapunda were turned loose at Julia Creek. Rabbits eat crops, dig burrows and destroy the arable land. By 1867 farmers were allowed to destroy them but they had spread far and wide. 2

On the farm, we used several methods to try to get rid of rabbits. The most exciting for a youngster was to go spotlighting. After dark Dad would drive into a paddock in the car and use a spotlight to focus on the rabbit. Once framed in the light it would be shot. A clean shot meant roast rabbit was on the menu the next night. Several rabbits were needed to make a decent meal so spotlighting went on until enough for a meal were obtained.

Rabbit traps were set in the entrances to burrows and rabbit skins could be seen hanging on farm fences. Sometimes a ferret was used to hunt rabbits out of their burrows and a quick dog could catch the escaping rabbit. Rabbit skins could be sold and in 1954 were worth 20 -24 pence per pound for skins in good condition. 3

Rabbits are still a problem in Australia in 2017.

Rain gauge

Each morning Dad would check the rain gauge for any sign of moisture. This area of South Australia has low rainfall averaging less than 400 mm per year. The graduated glass rain gauge was housed inside a galvanised cylinder attached to the fence. A funnel directed the rain into the glass cylinder. As he wandered outside he always looked up to the sky, often sneezed, then proceeded to check the gauge. The amount of moisture in the soil determined when seeding could start and at harvest time the amount of moisture also determined whether crops could be reaped.

1. 1840 'ENGLISH NEWS.', South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900), 11 July, p. 7. , viewed 16 Apr 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article27441604

2. 1876 'HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY.', South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900), 1 November, p. 6. , viewed 16 Apr 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article43013586

3. 1954 'Hides And Skins', Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1895 - 1954), 2 December, p. 27. , viewed 16 Apr 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article93985968

Next S - Sheep, sewing and saving

20 April 2017

Quinces and the Queen

A-Z challenge - My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties


Quinces were the one fruit we never took from the tree. A raw quince is dry tasting and has an unpleasant furry skin. When they ripen however they can be used to make a variety of dishes. Mum made quince jelly which was a jam strained of fruit until only the clear liquid remained.

The cleaned and chopped quinces were boiled with a little lemon juice for about one and a half hours. When the fruit had cooled the juice was strained through a muslin cloth then boiled with added sugar. The scum was skimmed from the top before pouring into jars for sealing and labelling.

The left over quinces were somewhat dry but leaving nothing to waste, Mum would then make a cake-top pudding from the remaindered fruit. We also had stewed quinces with cream for a sweets course when our tree had plenty of fruit. Nearby neighbours had more quince trees so it was not unusual to process a large bucketful of quinces for either the clear red quince jelly or stewed fruit.

The Queen

I’ve added this post about the Queen from my sister Catherine’s memories.

In 1954 Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip were due on their first trip to the antipodes. Much excitement was generated in the papers of the day with thousands of articles in national, regional and local papers following the royal progress through New Zealand and Australia. As March approached, plans were published of the details for the South Australian visit.

On Tuesday, March 23rd the royal couple would be greeted by thousands of school children as they toured the Wayville Showground oval in an open-topped vehicle.
Schoolchildren from all over the state were transported to Adelaide for this momentous day. The local primary school where my brother and three sisters attended sent some carloads of children to Adelaide for the event. Catherine was excited to be going in a neighbour’s car dressed up in her Sunday best. It was the first time she had been in a car that did not belong to Dad and she remembers having a paper flag to wave.

Here’s an extract from the afternoon edition of the News on that day.
98,000 CHILDREN CHEER FOR 5 MIN. Noisiest welcome Queen has had
The Queen watched with apparent delight at Wayville this afternoon 98,000 schoolchildren in the largest, noisiest, most spectacular display she has seen in Australia.
When the Queen and the Duke arrived on the oval the massed children broke into a scene of fluttering flags and shrill sustained cheers. They cheered without pause for more than five minutes as the Queen and the Duke, standing in the back of a Land Rover drove around them smiling and waving. It was the longest sustained acclamation the Queen has received any where in Australia, and the greatest in volume of sound. Joy and dignity were the twin key notes of this occasion which none of the children will ever forget.

The complete article can be read from the following link.
1954 '98,000 CHILDREN CHEER FOR 5 MIN.', News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 - 1954), 23 March, p. 30. , viewed 13 Apr 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article130871892

It must have made quite an impression on a young farm girl from a small country school to see such crowds and I thank her for recalling it now 63 years later.

Next R - Rabbits and the rain gauge

19 April 2017

Plenty of peas

A-Z challenge - My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties

Pigs, pine trees, pens, penfriends, practice, plums, peaches and peas. So many Ps, a plenitude of choices. We had peas in a paddock, pigs in pens, pine trees along the driveway with plums, peaches and pears in the orchard. Photos were taken but the film was expensive and one would sometimes wait months before the roll was finished and sent for processing.


My brother received two mated sows for his sixteenth birthday. Imagine our excitement when large litters were born. The pigs were “large whites” and sometimes had up to thirteen piglets in a litter. It was difficult to prevent the sows from rolling onto and squashing one of their litter. Clean straw had to be added to the pens regularly, cleaning out the pen before adding fresh straw was a really smelly job. Thank goodness I never had to do it. Once the pigs started to grow the pen could be opened into the small paddock where they often proceeded to roll in the mud. Pigs were bred for the market for several years.

Pine trees

My father planted a row of pine trees along one side of the driveway and named the property, Pine Creek. At this stage, there was no town water supply on the farm and he watered and tendered those trees carefully until they were established.

Pens and penfriend

After several years of practising one’s letters in pencil at primary school, we graduated to pen and ink. The school desks had a hole where the inkwell sat and after carefully dipping the nib in, one started to write. It was difficult to get the right amount of ink on the pen and a blotter was used to soak up the extra ink blobs on the page. If a person pressed too hard there would be a hole in the paper or the nib would split and be ruined. One wrote slowly and carefully. I remember the excitement of getting my first fountain pen. It had a removable cartridge which could be refilled. The end of the cartridge was carefully inserted into an ink bottle and ink drawn up into it like a syringe.

While I was still at primary school I had a penfriend in New Zealand. Her name was Helen Uhlenberg from Taranaki in the North island. We had practised writing letters at school and once the letter was deemed acceptable we rewrote it on good paper to be posted. It was very exciting to receive a letter from someone far away in a different country.

We also practised our penmanship by writing letters to the Five Stars Club which was the children's page of the Southern Cross newspaper and several of us had letters published there over the years. Letter writing practice was an excellent preparation for boarding school where each Sunday night we wrote a letter home to our parents. Mum wrote to me every week at boarding school without fail. I wish I had some of those letters now.

Next Q - Quinces and the Queen

18 April 2017

Oranges in the orchard and some offal

A-Z challenge – My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties


“I’m just testing the oranges to see if they are ready.” I often heard my mother say this with a smile as she peeled another freshly picked orange.

We had a wonderful collection of fruit and nut trees in the orchard planted between the house and the milking shed. There were navel and Valencia oranges, mandarins and lemons. Stone fruits included apricots, several varieties of peaches and nectarines and a least three varieties of plums. My favourites were the delicious dark satsuma plums. A pear tree bore plentiful fruit alongside a quince, fig, almond and walnut trees. There were at least two apple trees.

Fruit was eaten fresh, stewed, made into jam and marmalade, bottled and preserved so that we had it throughout the year. In winter there were fruit crumbles – stewed fruit with a crumble topping made of flour, butter, sugar and cinnamon, fruit tarts in pastry cases and fruit puddings – stewed fruit underneath with a batter cake baked top. Apple cakes, orange cakes and more, nothing was ever wasted and no food thrown away.

Lemons and oranges were also made into cordial. This is Mum’s recipe in her handwriting.

She knew and recited or sang all the related nursery rhymes, stories and songs related to the fruit. These are some that were in her repertoire. I'm sure you'll be able to find them.
Oranges - Oranges and lemons say the bells of St Clements ......
Plums - Little Jack Horner ....
Apples - Johnny Appleseed ....
Pears - I had a little nut tree but nothing would it bear ......


Does that put you off? We did not have tripe but lamb’s liver in a thick gravy was a staple meal. The giblets from hens were used to make a nourishing soup with carrots and onions from the vegetable garden. These were chopped very finely to enhance the chicken stock. Sometimes the soup was very thin as water was added to make it go a little further. I still enjoy a feed of liver and bacon.

Next P - Plenty of peas