Thursday, January 29, 2015


We left mum and dad wanting to acquire more land as they felt they would not make a living on their present property.  Here we also read about 'how the other half lives" and how sheer grit and determination wins the day once again.  Not a lot of excitement in this episode but to me still quite interesting, but then I suppose it would be as after all, they were my folks.

Excerpt from 'THE CLOCK OF TIME" by Gertrude Ruston (pp. 62-66)     (with pictures added by yours truly to embellish the tale a little).

"The Second Property

Close by Chorkerup siding there was another small swamp which was unoccupied.  Harry made application for it and it was granted to him.  Nearby there was a family which was rather well-known in the district for 'borrowing', and we were warned to avoid 'lending' because that would mean the article or item of food would not be returned.

The father seemed to spend his days by the fire with books and could quote Henry Lawson to all and sundry, while his wife and daughter had to cart water from a distant swamp.  The living quarters were a humpy; the bags rather the worse for wear; the beds were made of bush timber and bags; kerosene tins and boxes provided the furniture; while a birch broom provided the only means of sweeping out the rubbish.

There were five children - 2 girls and 3 boys - and everybody sat around on the floor and dipped into a saucepan of soup mostly made of kangaroo, rabbit, squeaker or some other wild creature, which the boys had managed to shoot with their .22 rifle.  Even the eight year old had a gun, and they were all encouraged to go shooting for tucker.  I often had a lucky escape from their shots.

The mother and father were educated people but they never bothered to send their children to the bush school, nor they they have decent clothes.  The mother was generally wearing a chaff bag with a hole cut for the neck and two for her arms, and two slits fastened with safety pins to permit her to feed the baby.  I often wondered how an educated woman could sink so low.

Once again we set about planting potatoes, but this time we had a 3-furrow plough, three horses, as well as good seed potatoes and the required amount of fertiliser.  The soil was not the best but we had a reasonable crop of spuds, and the neighbour's boys came to dig for us.  They were quite nice boys and we paid them the ruling rate for the job, so much per bag  However, we were living away from the property, and there was no way of knowing how many potatoes went home with the boys each night or were gathered after dark!

Being close to the siding the carting of the saleables was reasonably easy and empty trucks were left for the purpose.  The smaller potatoes were brought home for me to sort into seed potatoes and those suitable only for the pigs or fowls.

We rigged up a sloping sorting table with a wire netting base, which allowed the dirt and small potatoes to fall through, and made it quite easy to sort the good seed from the rejects, and the seed was retained for the next crop.  Williamson and Pugh handled most of the potatoes in the district. although Harry used to sell some direct to Barnetts in exchange for goods, and to an agent by the name of Knight.

This was one more step on the way to achieving our goal but we were still hoping for something better.

We Move

It had become known that we were looking for another property, preferably with a swamp, and Harry was approached by a man named Jim Carty, a railway ganger from Redmond, a district nearby, whose wife ran a small local post office there.  Carty owned a property about a mile from Redmond siding on which there was a large peat swamp which had never been cleared and which was extremely boggy.  He offered Harry the use of the swamp and property for a limited period in return for us clearing and ploughing it.  Local people warned Harry that the swamp, about ten acres, was so very boggy that he would never be able to plough it.  It was winter time when we saw it and it was under water, but Harry had made up his mind that we could and would do it, and he agreed to the terms.

There was no house on the property but there was a house on the other side of the adjacent bush road belonging to a man named Harry Tanner.  The Tanners wanted to leave the district and told Harry we could occupy the house if we took over an extremely good vegetable garden and cared for it until it matured, when we were to sell the produce and pay the owner half the proceeds.  It was a very good offer and we were delighted to accept it.

The house was a four roomed jarrah structure lined with match boarding, which was excellent for our needs and quite good by bush standards.

We spent a great deal of time caring for those wonderful vegetables, and when they were ready to market they were absolutely magnificent.  Harry and I decided to go to Albany together to arrange for their disposal and we were offered a very good price.

Imagine our horror when we returned at night to find a herd of cows feeding on the vegetables, and what they had not eaten they had trampled down.  Had it been our own produce it would have been bad enough, but we had just arranged to sell them on behalf of the owner, and I think Harry would have shot the beasts had he possessed a gun.  As it was he decided to milk them and drove them into the cowshed.  He found all the cows were dry and the last in line was a bull!!

The place was very well fenced and we felt sure it had been deliberately broken down to allow the cattle into the property, as it was the first time we had seen them anywhere near, and the only time we had been absent at the same time.

Harry demanded compensation but without success, and we had the very unpleasant job of explaining the disaster to Mr Tanner.  He was very decent about it and we felt possibly some of the neighbours had told him what happened.  Fortunately we were allowed to continue living in the house.

The locals had not exaggerated when they warned us about Carty's swamp.  Clearing and planting it was a nightmare.  First of all we had to clear and burn the rushes which were about 5ft high, and it was so boggy that we could hardly stand up on it.  It was a tremendous job to cover the large area, and we had to follow the water down and stack the rushes to dry before burning.  I remember we both had to wear rubber boots or our feet would have been wet all the time.  However, everything comes to an end, and eventually we had the satisfaction of seeing the rushes cleared and burnt and the swamp dry enough to commence potato planting.

We had bought excellent seed potatoes and the necessary potato fertiliser.  All the locals said we would never be able to plant the swamp. and there were times when we wondered how far we would get.  It was not possible to employ labour as our capital was going downhill, and we had to look at every penny in order to keep Len at Albany High School as long as possible.

A short trial run proved that the horses could not pull the plough without becoming bogged, but they were able to do the job if we put a carpet of potato bags down to stop them sinking.  The horses were scared of the swamp but as long as the bags were there to hold them up, they were able to carry on.  This meant we could only plough a few yards at a time and then pull out the bags and rearrange them after the horses had trodden them into the peat.

I planted the seed potatoes, Harry ploughed and replenished the fertiliser distributor from time to time, and we both arranged the bags for our poor horses.  It was hard work for the animals but they had frequent rests while we changed the bags, and there was a respite at the end of each furrow.  I doubt whether Australians would have undertaken this task and I am sure that they thought us quite mad.  It was a mammoth task, but we accomplished it and the resultant crop was magnificent.  Once ploughed the swamp firmed down and there was no more trouble.  In later years a machine called a rotatiller was available, which was capable of going over the surface and breaking up the peat so that it could be ploughed.

It was impossible to wear shoes in the wet peat and rubber boots were too clumsy for planting, so I had to wrap my feet in rags to prevent them from becoming sore.  Over the years Harry and I planted some hundred of acres of potatoes and we had some excellent crops despite scab, frost and floods on various properties.  When crops were ready we engaged men at contract rates per bag to dig the potatoes.  They picked up the larger ones, known as saleables, first and then the seed size and piggies together for sorting at the shed.  We would follow along and sew the tops of the bags ready for carting.  The saleables were put in stencilled bags and sent to the siding to be railed for marketing, the name of the grower and origin being clearly marked.

After sending them away we would wait anxiously to hear whether there would be enough from their sale to buy food and fertiliser to see us through another year. *A great deal depended on the Eastern States; if they had surplus crops they often flooded our market and dragged down the price, and the Federal constitution prevented action being taken to stop them dumping their excess interstate.

A rough calculation of the size of the crop as it was dug gave a fair indication of the possible result.  It was estimated that a bag of saleables standing every chain (22 yards) meant a four ton crop per acre."

There we once again leave the busy farmers working away,  and next we see how they meet up with others in the area and lead a more social life which they richly deserve.

* Western Australians often felt 'put upon' by those in the eastern states of Australia and on 8 April, 1933 a secession referendum was held in Western Australia on the topic of withdrawing from the Federal Commonwealth.  The proposal was accepted and a petition was sent to London where a Joint Select Committee of the British Parliament ruled it invalid because it had come from a State and not the Commonwealth.  Voting was compulsory and the result was 138,653 in favour of secession with 70,706 against.   The establishment of the Commonwealth Grants Commission in 1933 did help address some of the grievances that motivated the secessionist movement.  A strong secessionist movement still exists in Western Australia and the subject frequently comes up in discussions about how many Western Australians feel about the matter in general.  (Whenever I feel W.A. has been hardly done by I say to Phil "It's time to secede!!!" and at times he agrees with me.)

Monday, January 26, 2015


We left mum baking bread (among other things) and dad having horse problems.  They have just cleared the swamp and now want to plant some potatoes.

Excerpt from 'THE CLOCK OF TIME' by Gertrude Ruston (pp. 58-62)    (Where I can I've added a few photos.   I hope I am not making these 'episodes' too long.  It is difficult to know just where to stop without breaking the continuity of the story).

"Mr Wallinger had told us that the seed potatoes we had been sold were only fit for pigs, but we decided to sort and plant the best of them, and I did the planting and put some fertiliser along the rows.  The resultant crop was terrible, but we did manage to obtain sufficient potatoes for our own personal use.

After finishing the swamp Harry decided to plant a vegetable garden, and chose a spot near the house which was covered in grass, and which he thought would be an easy job.  Poor Harry!  The grass turned out to be couch.  We had not seen couch grass before and, of course, the poor horse had no chance of getting through it.  As you may imagine, the result was a horrible mess, the grass patch was spoilt and we had no hope of a vegetable garden near the house.  It took us a long time to make it tidy again using our spades.

We had only been at the block a few weeks when Mr Wallinger came over one day and asked me to help his wife who was about to have a baby.  Although I had been a V.A.D. I had no knowledge of childbirth and told him I could not assist him, much as I would have liked to have done.  He said he could look after the birth as he had brought all his children into the world, but he wanted me to look after the children, do the washing and feed the family.  Can you imagine me faced with this?  I had always had charwomen, maids and housekeepers, and now had to try to wash for a family in kerosene tins, bake bread and cook for all of them.

Well, no doubt there were problems, but I do not remember much about them.  We overcame them, whatever they were, and the mother was soon up again with the new baby.  Nobody seemed the worse for wear for my poor efforts.  It had to be a case of giving a helping hand whenever it was needed in the bush.

In time we visited our other neighbours the elderly mother and her daughter. and were intrigued by their very comfortable home.  It had wooden uprights, and all the walls, inner and outer, were made of fertiliser bags, cleaned and whitewashed.  Flour bags were used for tea towels and aprons.  Furniture was made out of kerosene boxes, and the carpets on the floor were also made of bags.  I remember describing it when writing to mother as having canvas walls, and she wrote back that an old friend of ours had remarked - "how handy - you could paint your pictures straight on to them".

These people had a very nice flower and vegetable garden and we were very impressed with their home and surroundings.  We were very shocked to learn that, not long before we reached Australia, a man named Charlie Hyde, who was the son of the Mrs Parker from whom we were renting our place. had attacked the young woman and attempted to rape her.  He was put in Claremont Mental Asylum and everybody hoped he would remain there.

Meantime we had ordered food for the animals and, when fetching it from the siding in the spring cart, I had visited Mrs Elliott.  She was a widow with grown up children the only unmarried one being a daughter named Grace, a little younger than I.   Grace was working at a boarding house in Albany at the time, and when she came home to see her mother she brought with her a small puppy.  It was a delightful animal and I fell in love with it.  I asked Grace to let me have it she should decide to part with it.

At the time she wanted to keep it and took it back with her to the boarding house.  Like most puppies, it got into mischief and often took shoes, slippers, nighties and other articles belonging to the staff and visitors out onto the law, so Grace was told she could not keep it there.

That is how I became the owner of the puppy.  He name was Flossie and she was a much loved member of our family for many years.  She was beautiful to look at, easy to train, had a wonderful nature, and the whole district loved her.  Sad to say, when she was about 10 years old she developed a growth and the vet could do nothing for her,  She was suffering so we had no choice but to have her put to sleep.  We all grieved and we have never had another dog. " (Note:  I well remember mum talking about her beloved Flossie.  I have an idea she could have been a collie but don't recall ever being told what breed she was.)

"Dairy Farming

The cows had to be milked.  This was one skill that Harry had acquired in England and he taught me.  What a fool I was to learn!  We bought a separator and started to make butter which we sold in Albany.  Then we bought cream cans and sent the cream to Albany by train, receiving a monthly cream cheque from the butter factory; not a very large cheque but a very welcome one."  (Here is dad on the farm using the milk separator.  I have no idea how old this photo is or who took it or even which farm it was on).

" Keeping food was a problem in the bush and the only things available for the purpose were known as Coolgardie safes.  They were actually wooden frames covered in hessian, a water container on top from which strips of cloth carried water onto the hessian to keep it damp, and provided one remembered to replenish the water and take care no flies got in when the door was opened, most if us managed reasonably well.  In the towns they used ice chests and regular deliveries of ice were always available. "

 (The type of Coolgardie safe I remember was similar to the one mum described, but the water container on top had a small tap under it which dripped and kept the hessian covering of the safe damp at all times.  I feel it was a much more efficient cooler than the earlier one and you could regulate the drip rate.  My friend Judy had one of the later type on her back verandah at her home in Katanning n 1950s.)

"It was fun when Len arrived home for school holidays.  On one such occasion he was with us when our sow had to be taken over to a boar on a neighbouring farm.  The pedigree pigs were enormous, like small cows, and we wondered how we could transport it.  Harry had heard that it was possible to drive a pig with a rope on its leg, but our pig had other ideas, so Harry decided he would sink the wheels of the spring cart so that the pig could be driven into it.  Meantime I was told to hold the pig by the rope on its leg but, being very big and heavier than I, she pulled away.  Harry called out "sit on her" which I did and was taken for a ride around the paddock.  Can you imagine a very precise English girl, straight out from London, riding helplessly on a very large and determined black pig? " (I've often tried to imagine my mum on the bag of that pig and perhaps she looked a little like this.)

 "Harry managed to lower the cart and, with some problems we did eventually get "Krojan Jean" into the cart and tied down.  We had a plank which fitted across the sides of the cart for a seat and off we went.  Len opened the gate to let us through and, at that moment, the pig decided she had certainly had enough of this, so up she got and Harry and I and the seat were sent sprawling, much to Len's amusement.  Somehow we finally got the pig to her destination, but I often think how green we were and how the neighbours must have laughed at us.  We could certainly certainly have written a good yarn about our experience similar to "Dad and Dave". "   (Note:  Dad and Dave was a radio serial about a farming family that went to air for many years during the 1940s and perhaps beyond then).

"The pigs were fed with pollard and skim milk and did well; the cows improved and, after a while, having learned the hard way, we continued to work hard but to better purpose, and realised that the farm we were on would not provide us with a living so we began to look around for better land.

One day, while Len was still on holidays, Harry had to go to Albany on business and Len and I drove him to the siding at Chorkerup, a few miles away.  Before leaving I had baked a batch of bread and left it to cool on the kitchen table with a cloth over it.   We watched the train leave and then started for home at a leisurely pace, disturbing a few kangaroos along the way and enjoying the early morning in the bush.  After unharnessing the horse we went into the house to make a cup of tea.

Imagine our astonishment and concern to find a big fat man sitting at the table eating my new bread,  He had found himself some butter and made a cup of tea, having eaten nearly two of the loaves.  I guessed he was the infamous Charlie Hyde and was very scared.  He wanted to know what we were doing there and said it was his place.  I told him his mother had rented it to us and asked him to leave but he refused  There was an old fashioned couch in the kitchen on which he lay down and went to sleep.  I did not know what to do.  I was afraid to leave him alone for fear of him setting fire to the place, and I could not risk leaving Len with him."  (I can imagine what must have been going through mum's mind when confronted by this man that she knew was dangerous."  (I am so glad he slept so soundly and did no harm, apart from helping himself to two loaves of bread.   I borrowed this free picture from the internet and would think the guy would have looked perhaps a little like this.)

"In the end we had some lunch and did a few odds and ends round the house until it was time to fetch Harry from the train.  The man was still asleep and I took Len with me and chanced whether or not it was wise to leave the place.  When we reached home nothing untoward had happened and the visitor was still asleep.   Harry woke him up and told him to get out but he refused and said it was his home.
Apparently he had walked out of Claremont Asylum and continued down the railway line until he reached the farm which must have been about 300 miles, which explained his hunger and the fact that he was very tired.

Harry went to the neighbours and discovered that Charlie had a sister married to Claude Harris, one of the larger local farmers.  The latter arranged to take Charlie over, got in touch with the authorities, and Charlie was returned to Claremont to finish his term.  Years later, in Perth, I saw him in the distance but he did not recognise me.  He was still extremely fat, and the story went that he had been given treatment and was no longer a danger.  Whether or not this was the case we did not discover, but he had obviously been released from the mental hospital.

I took Len back to Albany at the end of his school holidays and stopped overnight at the Clifton boarding house,  It was there that I had my first experience of bed bugs.  I had no idea what they were when I was attacked by them in the dark and was nearly driven made with the irritation.  The rooms were lined with match boarding and, when I put the light on, I saw the wretched things disappearing into the grooves.  I was scared of taking the pests home with me and put everything I had been wearing into disinfectant as a precaution."  (I've heard of bed bugs and even that there is an epidemic of them in some of Perth's suburbs but fortunately we don't have that problem.  This is a picture of the one of the horrible little critters).

"It made a change to spend a few hours in Albany, but I did not wish to remain there.  I was quite happy on the farm and fascinated by the animals and birds and the deadly quiet of the bush at night."

We now have mum and dad settling in nicely and learning the right and wrong ways to farm.  There is a search underway for more, or another, piece of land.   The decision they make will be revealed in the exciting next episode of this epic of the Ruston family.  This is beginning to remind me of one of those radio serials we used to listen to each night when I was a youngster.   I do hope you are continuing to enjoy it.   I know I am enjoying re-reading mum's story and sharing it with you). 

Friday, January 23, 2015


Mum, Dad and Len arrived in Albany and safely disembarked.  They found somewhere to stay and met some very nice people.  They now have to decide what their next move will be.

Excerpt from 'THE CLOCK OF TIME' by Gertrude Ruston (pp. 51-58)      (Where possible I have added photographs to embellish the story a little).

We Start The Great Adventure

Harry was determined to become a farmer and spend the rest of his life, if possible, in the open air rather than at an office desk.  However, he had very little knowledge of farming and certainly knew nothing of Australian conditions and methods.  One of his brothers-in-law was a gentleman farmer in England in a small way, and Harry's only knowledge had been gained when he had spent a few days there from time to time.

While considering our next move, Harry was approached by a man named Benstead and invited to go out to a farm on the Hay River, about 38 miles from Albany, where he was to work for food only (or "tucker" in Aussie lingo), and be taught something about sheep and cattle farming.  As we had a reasonable bank account Harry thought this a good opportunity to obtain some basic knowledge and so he accepted the offer.

Benstead had one of the few "T" model Ford vehicles about the district and he drove us out, dropping me at Narrikup siding, where I was to board with a Mrs Elliott, about ten or twelve miles from where Harry would be working, so that we were all three living separately at that time.  Harry was told he could ride or drive in to see me occasionally and fetch goods and mail for the farm.

Mrs Elliott was a dear old Australian woman for whom I developed a very warm regard.  It was from her I learnt very much about the country and the people.  One of the first things she told me was that it was unwise to speak to one person about another in the district, as they were practically all related, having descended from early settlers who had, of necessity, intermarried.

It was in Mrs Elliott's home that I first tasted kangaroo and squeaker and quite enjoyed both, although I probably would not have done so had I known beforehand what I was eating.  The squeaker tasted like chicken, and the kangaroo minced with bacon was most tasty.  I was often glad to eat both in later years when times were hard and we were reduced to living off the land.  (Note:  I know the 'squeaker" is a bird of some kind but unsure exactly which.  When I googled "squeaker" it showed the currawong which is native to southern Western Australia, so perhaps that is the bird that tasted like chicken.)

Narrikup siding is on the Great Southern Railway Line, handling a large amount of goods and many passsengers for an extensive farming area.  At that time it had a small post office and a bush school, while Mrs Elliott's house was close by.  Later a man named Sam Jolly built a small store in Hay River Road, near the siding, and Williamson and Pugh started up as dealers in produce, adjacent to the railway."  (Note:  When Phil and I visited Narrikup many years ago I took these photos of the old produce store and shop mentioned in mum's book.  We visited the shop which had been Jolly's store and which is now run as a tearooms and souvenir/craft shop.  We had morning tea and I bought a table lamp base made from a blackboy (now called a grass tree to be politically correct).  I imagine at some time in my young years I would have gone into these stores with mum and dad.  It was a strange feeling going into the shop so many years after I had left Narrikup.  Quite eerie.  Trains no longer run from Perth to Albany and haven't done so for many years which is a great pity.)


"Hay River Road led straight out from Narrikup siding and I used to stroll along the road to meet Harry if it was his day off while he was working with Benstead.  It puzzled and annoyed me sometimes when some of the typical bushmen with beards, wearing sun hats decorated with fly nets and corks, informed me that they had seen where I had been, where I had stepped off the road to pick a flower or sit on a log. and where I had continued my walk.  In later years I found that I also took notice of footprints and tracks.  It became second nature.

One man rather frightened me as I thought he might have improper designs, so I always got off the road when I saw him coming.  Later I found him to be extremely nice, pleasant and quite harmless, and he told me he only watched my comings and goings because he knew I was a "new chum" and might not know the danger of wandering in the bush.

Harry was not having a good time.  He had been given the job of collecting large pieces of ironstone in a spring cart over a 50 acre paddock, and he had not seen one animal.  He asked Benstead about the animals and was told that the paddock had to be cleared before he could do anything about the sheep and cattle.  Harry, whose hands were very sore from the unaccustomed rough work, realising he would be lifting ironstone for many more weeks, told Benstead that he was leaving as he felt he had been taken on under false pretences.  Benstead must have been  a very hard man because he wanted to charge Harry for his food, and refused to cart him and his gear to the siding.

So ended Harry's efforts to gain experience before actually starting farming on his own behalf.  My stay with Mrs Elliott also ended, but I often stayed with her overnight when planning to catch the train into Albany in the early morning, and we remained friends for many years.

Our First Home in Western Australia

We decided to look for a small farm to rent in the Narrikup area and were told of a vacant place about four miles out from the siding which belonged to a widow named Mrs Parker. It had a small cottage on it and was partly furnished with the simple basics.  As the rental was reasonable we arranged to take it over for a short period in order to gain experience.  We had our crates sent up from Albany and bought the few additional items of furniture that we needed.

There was a small uncleared swamp on the block covered with tall rushes, and Harry decided to clear and plant it with potatoes as our first farming venture.

There was an old horse on the property and a poor looking single furrow plough with which Harry considered he might be able to make a start.  Before doing anything else we were pesuaded to buy a few cows to provide us with milk, cream and butter, and to purchase some pedigree pigs from which to breed and, finally a small quantity of seed potatoes with which to plant the swamp.

I have head of much criticism of 'pommies' in Australia, and must agree that some of it appears to be deserved.  On the other hand I must say that, from our personal experience, starting with Benstead, there are some Australians who will, without any compunction, take down any newcomer with whom they do business and considered it smart to do so.

Harry went to a man who was said to be a reputable agent, explained that we were newly arrived and inexperienced, and asked him to find us four really decent cows; a pedigree boar and sow; and a small quantity of seed potatoes.  Later we discovered the cows were very poor; the boar was sterile; and the so-called seed potatoes were throw-outs, known as 'piggies'.

We should, of course, have taken legal action against the people concerned, but it was some time before we discovered how badly we had been taken down, so that was another unfortunate experience we had to write off.  We later heard that the people in question had boasted about their smart deals and thought it a joke to take down a new chum.  We never again trusted an Australian without a thorough investigation, and one family in particular became very suspect as far as we were concerned.

We had a spring cart and the one horse with which we carted our goods from the siding and we moved in,  young and enthusiastic, determined to let nothing deter us from making a success of our farming venture.

Len, of course, was boarding in Albany, so Harry and I, two Simple Simons as far as living and farming in Australia were concerned, started the great adventure.

We decided to have a cup of tea and, for this, discovered that our only water was from the tank outside, fortunately full as there had been good rains.  The Metters No. 1 stove was entirely different from anything we had seen before but we realised that, if we wanted to heat our water, we had to find some wood, and Harry gathered some twigs and kindling which boiled the kettle without trouble.

It was cool weather and we required some decent wood to keep the stove going in order to warm the cottage and cook our meals.  Harry found a good dry log not far from the house and decided to split it up.  His tools, brought from England, consisted of a small cold chisel and the usual domestic hammer.  In addition he had a tomahawk and a small hand saw.  In England, with our soft white wood, the log would have presented no problems, but this was very old and very dry jarrah, and although Harry did manage to get the cold chisel into a crack he never got it out again, nor did he make any impression on the log.  This was our first experience of hard wood, and we ended up looking for dry boughs we could use until we had the correct tools to tackle the jarrah.

There were three neighbours within walking distance.  The nearest, adjoining us was owned by an old English farmer type named Archer and his wife, together with their adult son and daughter (twins).  They were certainly not friendly or neighbourly in any sense of the word and we left them well alone.

Beyond them and adjoining the Archers were Mr and Mrs Wallinger, also English with a family of small childrem and beyond them again was an elderly woman with a middle aged daughter, whose names I cannot recall."  (I can remember over the years, mum talking fondly about the Wallinger family).

"Mr Wallinger came over to see us and was most friendly and helpful, and from him we learned that we needed a maul and wedges to deal with the jarrah log.  He also told Harry to make a jarrah roller, and for this he required to cut down a straight tree from which to cut a length of about 6ft .  Having found a likely tree Harry proceeded to cut straight through it.  Of course, as soon as he neared the end the weight of the tree made it split up.  After three attempts he woke up to the fact that he had to cut halfway from both sides and he finally achieved his purpose.  I often wondered if anybody had written a book telling mugs what to do when they first came out to pioneer in Australia.

Thanks to acquaintances in Albany I was able to bake bread, and was delighted when my first attempt proved eatable.  I had bought bread tins in Albany and, most important, a large dish in which to mix the dough and a small bath which served many purposes.  We stood in the latter in order to have a daily washover. 

 We had acquired a number of kerosene tins, full and empty, and the boxes in which they were packed, and these filled a number of needs.  For years my washing was boiled in a kerosene tin, we carried water in them, they were out milk buckets, our rubbish bins our washing-up dishes and, turned upside down, we used to sit on them and the boxes made good cupboards.

Everything we did was a source of amusement. and a good sense of humour carried us over many small tragedies.  We often stopped and looked at one another and thought how different we were from the precise people who had left England a short time before.

Next we started on the swamp.  We made everything a combined effort, and we had two new spades which had been sharpened according to Mr Wallinger's advice.  Instead of cutting through the rushes on the surface and being left with the stubble, we were told to slide the spade below the surface under the rushes. when the whole thing came away clean.

It was a very hot day but we thought we had to get used to the heat and so we plodded away, stopping every now and again for a breather.  We had not been going long when Mr Wallinger came along and told us we were quite made as it was 105ºF and nobody worked outside in the heat.  It sas wonderful to be told that we could stop and not be thought slackers, and we took him in with us and we all enjoyed a cup of tea.

We finished clearing the swamp when the weather cooled, and then Harry started to plough it with the horse and single furrow plough.  It was his first attempt at ploughing and he and the horse did not see eye to eye.  I have never seen a more crooked furrow!"

How about we leave mum and dad there with mum feeling proud about her bread baking efforts and dad and the horse trying to come to terms with each other.   When I come back I will have more tales to tell of the experiences that happened to this inexperienced twosome.

Thursday, January 22, 2015


I can remember in my youth when I was often too young to do some things.

One example is when I was about 14 at swimming lessons down at Mandurah I had passed the exam and received my Bronze Lifesaving Medal.  Later that day the older people were going for their Silver Medal and one young chap didn't have a partner so I was asked to work with him.  I did everything one had to do to earn the Silver but because I was too young the instructor apologised but said I'd have to come back in a couple of years.  I never did as I found other things of interest.

Another example in my youth was you had to be 21 to be served alcohol in an hotel.  I was not a person who drank at that time so it didn't worry me but I knew many young people who broke the law being under age.   I doubt many were asked for proof of age and then years later the drinking age was lowered to 18.   I have never agreed with that decision but I guess you have to move with the times, for better or worse.

We also had to wait to vote until we were 21 and we who belonged to the "Young Libs" would get frustrated as elections came along and we were unable to vote.  That too of course changed, and now young people can vote at age 18.  Sometimes I also wonder if that was a good decision but if you can go away and fight for your country then I guess you should be able to drink and vote when you reach 18.

I am sure there were other occasions when I was too young to do certain things but now I come to being too old.

 I frequently see on TV, especially if I happen to occasionally turn it on during the day, constant advertisements for funeral insurance.  My daughter always says pre-paying for your funeral may be a good idea but what if the funeral home goes broke before you die which I feel is perhaps a good argument for not doing so.  This though is not what I'm thinking about.  Phil and I are TOO OLD to take out funeral insurance!!   Imagine that.   I think you have to be perhaps younger than 74 or in some cases 79 but he and I have obviously gone past our use by dates.  That's so sad.

The other day on Facebook there was a little competition which for a bit of fun I took part in and gave the correct answer.   I then moved on to the next section and found it was a competition being run by Myer.  Having answered correctly I was entitled to leave my name, email address and date of birth.  When I went to do so and scrolled down to my year of birth I WAS TOO OLD.  It only went down to 1934 and I was born in 1932.   Imagine being too old to enter a competition??   Come on Myer that is an insult to the older members of the population.  I thought to complain but then thought "why bother?"

I am sure there are many other things for which Phil and I are too old so does that mean we are now redundant?   Sort of living out here in the wilderness where nobody is interested in us?  Never mind.  We still have each other and I guess, when you think of it, that's all we really need.

So to all you youngsters out there.   Make hay while the sun shines before you are past it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

MUM'S STORY (1920s)

We left mum, dad and Len on their way to Australia aboard the "Euripides" and spending a few days in South Africa.

Excerpt from 'THE CLOCK OF TIME" by Gertrude Ruston (pp. 48-51)  (I have added photos, some of which are my own)


Landing in Western Australia

Approaching Albany we found the rocky terrain rather awe-inspiring and had some slight understanding of the feelings of the early settlers when they arrived from overseas and were thrown very much on their own resources in a difficult and hostile environment.  No houses were visible and no people; the sea was rough and deck chairs were being thrown about from one side of the ship to the other.

The ship could not go into the jetty so we had to go down a rope ladder into a small boat.  Harry had been presented with a silver clock, duly inscribed, as a farewell gift from the Royal Commission on the Sugar Supply, just as we were leaving.  Young Len needed his father's help to get down the wretched rope ladder, so I as given the precious clock to carry while I made my very nervous and shaky descent.  I nearly lost the thing several times. as I found two hands quite inadequate for holding onto the ladder, my handbag and the clock.  However, we all landed safely in the small boat with our parcels and were taken to the jetty where a large group of people awaited us."  (Note:  I never saw that silver clock as, of course, it was destroyed when their farm house was destroyed by fire before I was born).

"I had been told that it never drizzled in Australia but rained heavily an then stopped suddenly.  Imagine my disgust to find that we had arrived in the midst of a Scotch mist!!

Of the people awaiting the ship we particularly noticed one couple because they had a most beautiful Collie dog.  They spoke to us later in Albany and we became very good friends for many years.  They were Annie and Jim Dakin, and they had been out from England for many years.  Jim was choirmaster at the Anglican church, a charming old building in York Street, one of Albany's main streets."  (Note:  This is truly a very beautiful old church.  It was initially built by townsfolk and completed in 1844.  In 1851 the tower was added by soldiers stationed in the town.  When completed the church could hold the entire population of the town - 170 people).

This photograph (also taken by Trevor Bunning in 2012) shows the interior of the church looking toward the alter:

"First of all, of course, we had to seek accommodation and were recommended to a boarding house in York Street called "The Clifton",  handy and reasonably priced.  We settled in there together with a number of other passengers from the ship.  By this time it was getting dark and the evening meal was being served."

This is an old photograph I have of the Clifton where mum, dad and Len stayed after arriving in Australia.  It appears in the photo the boarding house is either in the process of being demolished or renovated.  I have no idea where the photograph came from but I do know I've had it for many years.  You can see the name CLIFTON HOUSE on the board behind the two men.

"The majority of boarders appeared to be from the outback, such as farmers and miners.  They were all very pleasant and told us something of local conditions.  I was, of course, very young, and some of the old timers decided to have some fun with me and warned me to beware of fearsome wild animals in the bush.  There were some very weird noises going on outside, and the men told me these were really dangerous and to keep inside.  However, I noticed that people were going in and out of the boarding house without any special precautions and, by asking a few questions discovered that the 'wild animals' were only frogs.  I pretended that I was really frightened the men were pulling my leg and I was pulling theirs, and we eventually had many laughs together over it.

We stayed at the Clifton for a while before deciding what to do and where to go.  This enabled us to enjoy the scenery, the different varieties of trees and the countryside, so different from England.

Later we learned that Mr and Mrs Elsegood from Holborn, London, who had been with us on the ship, had bought the Clifton boarding house and we always stopped there whenever we were in Albany and we became firm friends."

This is a photograph I have of Mrs Beech, who was formerly Mrs Elsegood before she was widowed.  She is with her grandson Peter.  If I remember correctly she had both grandsons, Peter and his brother Brian, live with her for some years.  I don't know remember the full story as I was very young at the time.  I do vaguely remember Mrs Beech as a very kind elderly lady and I do vaguely remember the two boys but I was probably only 5 years old when we visited them in Albany from our farm in Narrikup.

"What were my first impressions?  First of all the beauty of the Albany district and the friendliness of the people, the lack of twilight, with night following so closely after day; the way heavy showers resembled the sudden tipping up of a bucket of water, confirming what I had been told in England; the differences in the types of shops and articles for sale; the simple clothes worn by both men and women; the way men foregathered at functions and local hotels and left their wives on their own; the deadly quiet of the bush at night; the comfort of a wood fire in the boarding house soon after we arrived, during the chilly dampness of May; the way in which so many people, children particularly, went barefoot, the latter even doing so when going to school; the different manner of greeting people -"goodday" taking the place of "good morning" or "good afternoon", and the change from "good evening" to "goodnight" due no doubt to the lack of twilight; farmers with horsedrawn vehicles in town collecting supplies and very few cars; the depth of gutters in York Street, allowing for drainage of the heavy rain from the hills.

Wandering around we found a small park nearby and were playing ball with Len when Jim Dakin looked over his fence and invited us in for a cup of tea.  They were very hospitable and had an attractive home.  We gathered they had no children and had adopted a boy who was killed in the war.  I do not know the facts, but believe he was not a baby when adopted, and it was a great blow, particularly to Jim, when they lost him.  They had a boarder, a young man named Thompson (nicknamed Tompy) to whom Jim transferred his affections.   He became almost like a son to them and was with them for a long period."

This photograph of Annie and Jim Dakin was taken some years later outside their Perth home.  With them (on the left) is Annie's mother.  I remember "Auntie Annie" and "Uncle Jim" very well as a quite old fashioned elderly couple; they probably once would have been described as "genteel".  Jim Dakin worked for the AMP Society all his life.   The last time we visited them (I was still quite young) they were living in a caretaker's cottage belonging to a very large house in Dalkeith, one of Perth's very posh suburbs.  The owner was away at the time and the Dakins had been given permission to entertain in the big house in the owner's absence.  I imagine Annie would have felt right at home among all the beautiful appointments in that big house.  I do remember being given a cup of tea in a very lovely cup and saucer with matching bread plate and the difficulty I had trying hold both without having an accident.

"We did not wish to take Len straight from his boarding school in England to a small school in the bush, where we understood there would only be one teacher and a handful of pupils.  We decided to board him in Albany so that he could attend the local high school and placed with a Miss Burt, her sister and brother-in-law, well-known residents, and descendants of early pioneers, who had been recommended to us.  They were nice people but past middle age and extremely prim.  After a short time we found that it was not a suitable hom for a small boy and Len was not happy.  Jim and Annie Dakin offered to take him and he was with them for some years until, in fact, we came to the end of our money and could no longer pay for him to remain in Albany.

Annie Dakin was a very clever needlewoman and an expert at making curtains, cushions and bedspreads.  She had become well-known in the district and received orders from shops, hotels and many regular clients.  Years later, when they moved to Perth, she made the large stage curtains for the Ambassadors Theatre in Hay Street, Perth, when it was built.  This theatre had a ceiling painted to represent the sky at night and was, I believe, the first theatre to install the latest in cinema organs."

The Ambassadors opened in 1928. I remember seeing films in this theatre and always felt quite proud that I knew the lady who had made these beautiful curtains:  (The theatre closed on 2 February 1972 and was eventually demolished to make way for the Wanamba Arcade which included a new theatre).

"Annie had a great love of beautiful things and Jim worshipped her and nothing was too good if Annie wanted it.  She had a quantity of good china including a Crown Derby dinner set.  On one occasion, when she was washing up after visitors had left, she asked Len to wipe up the dishes.  He, poor child, no doubt being too careful, dropped and broke a plate.  Annie lost her temper and took the reminder of the Crown Derby set and threw it out of the door, smashing the lot.  Jim came round the corner at that moment and you can imagine his reaction!

 I blamed Annie, not Len, for the accident, as she had no right to allow him to handle such precious things.  I offered to make good the broken plate and try to match it which I am sure would have been possible, not knowing at the time that she had smashed the remainder in her rage.  I apologised for the breakage but pointed out that Len was only a small boy and requested that, in future, he should not be asked to perform such tasks.  Annie admitted that she was at fault and the matter ended by Jim replacing the set.

Their home was very beautiful but rather untouchable and a great contrast to our "necessities only" farm house.  I would have loved to know their impression when they stayed with us on the farm in later years."

So we now have the little family enjoying Albany (it is so beautiful you can't help enjoying it) and deciding what their next move is.   Join us for the next installment and find out what they choose to do with the rest of their lives.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

MY MOTHER'S STORY (1918-1920)

World War 1 is over but the world has been overtaken by a deadly strain of 'flu.  We rejoin the family with many of them being rather ill.

Excerpt from "THE CLOCK OF TIME" by Gertrude Ruston (pp 43-47).  (pictures supplied by yours truly).

"The war had interrupted our lives and the Sugar Commission would be closing.  This meant that Harry would probably go back to a desk job in Mincing Lane, not a good prospect in view of the doctor's recommendation.  We did not hesitate and set about gathering all the pamphlets we could about Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

After due consideration we decided on Western Australia and prepared to sell our house and home.  We had to sell many of our treasures, including a Bechstien grand piano of which I was very fond.  I think I regretted leaving our home in Streatham more than anything else, but we had to face this new challenge and look upon it as an adventure.
As soon as the *Kelsey family heard we were leaving for Australia they wanted to come with us, and Mrs Kelsey Snr begged us to take them.  This was the last thing we wanted and we did not tell them were we were going nor when.  Apparently Mrs Kelsey paid their fares and w heard later that they went to Queensland on a different ship.  We often wondered how they were fitting in.  Archie would have had no difficulty in finding a job as a teacher of languages, but Elsa because of her abrasive manner may have had problems."

(*This was the family that, although mum and dad quite liked the man, they found the wife aggressive and rather crude.  It was their son Vic with whom Len had become involved when he got into trouble.)

"We filled two very large packing cases with essentials and some small precious articles to take with us, including a few of our wedding presents, medals and certificates.  We sold the furniture and the house without difficulty and at a good price.  Later we heard that, during the 1939/45 war, the lane in which the house stood was completely wiped out, so perhaps we were lucky we had been unable to remain there.  (Note:  This was told to mum many years later by a friend who had visited England.  I am not sure the entire 'lane' had been destroyed as there are real estate photos today showing vintage type housing in that same street).

"After my marriage I found that Len was constantly suffering from colds and that he appeared to have some ear trouble.  Both his father and grandfather had defective hearing so I took Len to a specialist and obtained treatment for him.  He was wearing some extremely heavy underwear bought by his aunts, and the doctor said it was unsuitable for him and to dress him in something lighter.  When he heard we were going to Australia he said the sea voyage may clear the ear trouble.  He was correct, and for years Len was free from ear trouble, but it returned years later after his service in the R.A.A.F. in Australia."  (Note:  In later life Len suffered from Meniere's disease and was almost totally deaf.  He learned to lip read and it was difficult realising, when having a conversation with him, that he was so very deaf.)

"In order to leave England as soon as possible after the war, Harry had to bribe a shipping clerk to get an early booking, and we obtained berths on the s.s. "Euripides".  Harry and Len had to share a six berth cabin with other males, and I was in a four berth women's cabin.  We were on the first available ship after the return of the troops and, of course, we paid full fares.

Len remained a boarding school after we sold the house and furniture, and we spent a few weeks with my mother's sister Christine and her husband, in North London.  I left the Commission before harry and took care of all the details.


The last night before leaving for the ship we stayed with my mother, sister, brother-in-law and their small boy Eddie.  The boys were the only happy ones!  The atmosphere was highly charged and emotional, and mother was on the point of breaking down at any moment.  We played cards although few of us were giving gull attention to the game.  Ted, a keen bridge player without thinking, criticised mother's play which caused her to break down completely.  I persuaded her to go to bed, ad gave her some warm milk in the hope that she would get some sleep.  My own sleep was very disturbed and it was at that time I faced the fact that we were leaving for the unkown at the other end of the earth.

They all came to see the train leave for Tilbury Docks next morning and mother nearly broke my heart by running alongside the train until the last moment.  Little did I think it would be the last time we would see one another.  I promised faithfully to write to her each week and kept that promise constantly except for one or two occasions when I could not afford to buy a postage stamp."  (This was Tilbury Docks in 1920).

The voyage started well, despite a very rough passage through the Bay of Biscay, when many of the crew and a considerable number of passengers were laid low with seas sickness.  The three of us took the advice of stewards and spent the time on deck, walking round whenever the movement of ship permitted, so that we all gained our sea legs and beat off the mal de mer.

In my cabin I shared with three women, two of them were Christian Scientists.  One of them was very sick (she really looked quite green) and was quite unable to stand on her feet.  The other woman was a more hardy soul, and berated and accused her colleague of giving in and lack of faith.  It was my first experience of Christian Science and I was not at all impressed.  Anything less Christian I had never seen.

The third passenger in the cabin was a young bride with her trousseau in her cabin trunk under her berth.  Due to the rough conditions we had water flowing through the cabin at times and it got into our bags.  Some of the precious trousseau articles were spoilt as dye had run from a coloured costume.  There was little we could do to help but the stewardess was kind and did manage to dry and iron some of the things.  I have since wondered whether our baggage was covered by insurance and whether the company was responsible for the loss.   Fortunately we did not sustain any damage.

We made friends with a number of people on board and Len had a wonderful time wandering all of the ship.  I think he put his nose into every nook and cranny, and could be fund in the galley or the engine room, in fact anywhere out of bounds to passengers.  His father was always going in search of him but, as Len had a mop of red curly hair, he was not too difficult to trace.

We spent most days in deck chairs in the company of two Scottish girls, of whom one was going to the Eastern States to be married, and the other to join members of her family.

We had hoped to land at Teneriffe, but health regulations did not permit it.  We stopped there for some hours and enjoyed seeing the natives diving for coins thrown overboard by the ship's passengers.

When we crossed the equator Neptune came on board and most of the young people, including Len, were dumped and enjoyed the fun.  Harry and I kept well away and id not let it be known that it was our first time to cross the line.

Passing ships were rare, but we did see a few at night in the distance looking most fascination with all their lights on.  There was a little fog at times and it was rather eerie when the fog horns were sounding.  We loved watching the flying fish and albatross, and sunrise and sunset were often breathtakingly beautful.

If my memory serves me rightly we were four weeks and five days on board, most of the time being spent with the Scottish girls either reading, talking, playing cards or housie housie.   There was an old crone on the ship who told fortunes if her palm was crossed with silver.  I fancy she spent it all on liquor and she seemed to have lots of customers  The two girls were persuaded to go to her and they, in turn, pushed us along  She told us both we would meet other partners in Australia and we wondered how that was likely to be managed.

One morning when we were sitting on deck I was reading a book lent to me by one of the girls.  Harry apparently spoke to me and I did not hear him, probably because it was necessary to concentrate entirely when trying to read.  He was so annoyed that he snatched the book out of my hand and threw it over the side. "  (NOTE:  Strangely enough I remember very little of dad having a temper, certainly he never lost his temper with me, but I occasionally saw the jealousy flare up in small ways, although nothing serious).

'When we reached Cape Town he had to visit all the book shops to find a replacement for the owner, while the rest of us went sightseeing.  I was not a bit sympathetic: red hair and red temper!  I had to learn to deal with both his jealousy and temper during our married life.  Fortunately he eventually found another copy of the book to the relief of all concerned, because it had been a parting gift. 

The ship stopped in Cape Town for several days and we decided to get off for a break and see something of South Africa.  We spent three of the days at Three Anchor Bay and enjoyed the change.  Of course, everybody stopied for siesta and we did the saame as it was very hot midday.  Black stewards would come in with coffee to wake us after siesta, and the Scottish girls were horrified as they were wearing practically nothing because of the heat.

I liked Cape Town.  We did some climbing, collected a few souvenirs and enjoyed the shops in Adderley Street, particularly the street cafes.  We were lucky enough to see a native wedding and a native funeral.

Unfortunately one could not miss the colour problem, and it was obvious that the natives were inclined to be resentful.  They had to get off the footpath to let whites pass, and were obliged to sit apart in the picture theatres and transport.  No doubt this colour problem is very difficult but one feels that, now that the black people are becoming educated, **they will one day come out on top."

**Bear in mind mum wrote this in 1982 since which time things seem to have improved somewhat.

This seems a good place to stop and next time we will see the little family arrive at their destination.

Thursday, January 15, 2015


I left mum and dad enjoying their honeymoon before returning to settle into their own home and return to their busy working lives at the Sugar Commission.

Excerpt from 'THE CLOCK OF TIME" by Gertrude Ruston (pp 39-43)   (All pictures included by me to lend a touch more reality to the story).

"All too soon we had to return as we were due back on duty at the Commission.  The little break had been most enjoyable and we were now looking forward to settling into our own home.  We had engaged a housekeeper as I continued to work, and she took care of Len and looked after the cleaning, washing and cooking.  She was recommended by an aunt of mine and was most reliable.

Rations were not generous and there were times when Mrs Williams found it difficult to provide an interesting meal.  We only had a very small butter ration and Harry insisted on us having individual butter dishes to be sure that nobody had more than their fair share".  (Note: Yes, that does sound like something dad would do.  Not being mean but just wanting to be fair).

Occasionally it was possible to obtain a few herrings without coupons, and I particularly remember one such occasion when the housekeeper opened the fish out flat and poured cheese over them, forgetting to remove the bones.  As you can imagine, the bones were practically cemented in and it was almost impossible to find a few scraps to eat.  Harry's language was terrible!!!"  (Maybe the herrings looked somewhat like this?)

"It was arranged that Mrs Williams have Saturday afternoon and Sunday off each week, and we thoroughly enjoyed having our home to ourselves at the weekend.  I enjoyed cooking and used to make pies and cakes on Saturday afternoon.  Len used to like to make weird and wonderful things with the scraps and we had fun together.  Unfortunately Harry became annoyed when Len chose to stay with me rather than go for a walk with his father, and I was accused of alienating his son.  He was obviously jealous of us both and it became necessary to walk carefully and, as far as possible, keep strictly to duty."  (Note:  Although I loved dad dearly I do have to admit he did have a jealous streak which showed even itself in minor ways while I was still living at home up to the time of my marriage.  Nothing too serious but it was definitely there).

It was arranged that Len should come home at the New Year when we returned from Eastbourne and his cousins Cecil and Reg Alder, came with him.  The children came quite regularly to visit us, and it was good for Len to continue the close association with them.  Unfortunately the link was broken when we left for Australia. " (Note:   Many, many years later mum received a letter via the Red Cross in London from a member of the Alder family wanting to make contact.  As it was Len's family more than hers, she handed the letter to Len and, manlike, nothing was done about it.  I was very disappointed as such mystery surrounded dad and his family that I may have learned from them the reason that he never had contact with his family after he left for Australia).

{Here I have left out a large section mainly dealing with people that mum and dad knew and it has little bearing on their main story except for the influence one of the sons had on Len.  It was more or less mum saying how she felt about these people.  I will however tell of what took place involving Len.}

"............there were four children in the family, the eldest of whom was Vic with whom Len became involved.  He was about 11 years old and certainly not a good example for Len to follow.  He told Len and the other boys the most outrageous stories of having killed bears in Austria and other parts of the continent and the children took them all for gospel.

One day we discovered that the boys were going around drinking milk from containers left outside houses by the milkman. 

 We also found that Len had acquired some money from some unknown source (possibly from my handbag or Harry's pockets) and that he was smoking, ass as the result of the friendship with the incorrigible Vic.  The headmaster of the school sent a message asking Harry to go to see him but he decided it would be better for me to see the headmaster.  I was told that, either as a prank or persuaded by Vic, Len had collected all the rulers belonging to all the boys in his class and put them in his desk, and nobody could get any explanation from him.  It was possible that somebody else may have done it to get him into trouble and we never discovered what exactly had happened.

 We talked it over and decided something had to be done to cut the link between Len and Vic.  Harry saw the local policeman and asked him him to give Len a fright.  He gave the boy a good talking to and locked him in a cell for a while. and I think it had the necessary effect."  (I am sure poor Len would have been quite frightened being 'locked up' even just for a short time).

"The best solution seemed to be to send Len to a good boarding school, not an easy task in war time but we succeeded in getting him enrolled in a Catholic college (similar to Christian Brothers in Australia)l where be became a good scholar and gave no trouble.   At this school we had to allocate a certain amount of pocket money which was handled by the master in charge.  If the pupil worked well and was well behaved he received full pocket money, or a graded amount if the report was not so good and parents were advised accordingly.  Len received his full pocket money, which would seem to confirm that his misdemeanours were due to bad influence.  He enjoyed the school and remained there until we were ready to leave for Australia in 1920.  He was not obliged to become a Catholic."  (Note:  Nor was I obliged to become a Catholic when I attended a Catholic college in Perth from age 5 to 11.).


On November 11th, 1918 we were told that the Armistice had been signed.  We all went made.  After four years of war it was necessary to let of steam and all those who could get there went up to London.

I remember Harry, Len and I standing near Trafalgar Square while it teemed with rain and the gutters were running with water.  We were wearing raincoats but our feet were wet and nobody worried about shelter.  

People took over buses and cars, filled up with passengers, and drove anywhere, and we all joined in the excitement.  King George V and Queen Mary drove through the streets in an open carriage, and entered into the spirit of thanksgiving which was so prevalent  It was very hard to believe that the war was really over, that Germany had been defeated, that the boys would soon be home, and that only the final cleaning up, gathering of records and signing of papers remained to be done.

Restaurants were over crowded, and it was only through Harry's knowledge of London's by-ways that we were able to obtain something to eat in a small cafe off the beaten track.

We were beginning to feel tired and, as we had a small boy with us, we decided to go into one of the theatres.  I cannot remember which but here too players and audience alike were overflowing with patriotism and joy,  The Union Jack was everywhere and special songs were sung by players and audience alike.

About midnight we wandered around trying to find some means of getting home in a mad world, but we did reach home and I still cannot remember how we found transport.  Then the pneumonic 'flu swept through the world, probably the aftermath of war, and it was said that this killed more people than the war itself.  There was a terrible death toll.  One by one families were being smitten, and one heard daily of one's friends and tradespeople dying or being very seriously ill.

In our family my sister Amy was the first to catch it.  She became very ill and my brother-in-law was sent home from France as they feared she might die.  As a last hope the doctor asked permission to try one of the new drugs on her and she rallied.  However, it was essential for her to have oxygen.  The family and the doctor tried to obtain some, but without success.  Then someone remembered that I had been secretary to the Managing Director of the British Oxygen Company at one time, and they decided to ask for my help.

By that time our housekeeper had left and Harry, Len and I were all in our double bed with 'flu.  Ted came along and asked for my help and I could not refuse although Harry was not happy about it.  Ted had a car at the door so I got out of bed and went with him to see my former boss.  He very kindly allowed us to have two cylinders of oxygen for Amy which undoubtedly helped save her life.  Fortunately I did not suffer any ill effects.

To start with Harry and I took it in turns to prepare such light meals as we were able to eat, and then Harry became really ill and the doctor, coming in every day, was worried about complications.  By this time Len and I were able to get about and were convalescent.  On the other hand, Harry had pleurisy and pneumonia. and I was glad I had some nursing experience from my VAD days.  The doctor asked about Harry's family hisotory, and it was only then I heard of several of his relations having died from T.B.  The doctor thought there was a risk that Harry would not be able to stand the cold climate of England in the future and recommended him to a warmer part of the globe."

It is beginning to look somewhat serious for the little family.  What decision will they make that will bring big changes to their lives?  If you would like to know the answer to that question watch out for the next episode which will be coming to this blog very soon.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

MY MUM'S STORY (continued)

We left mum musing about the way the two chiefs of the Sugar Commission used to enjoy scoring of each other and where she also told of becoming friendly with Harry Ruston.

Excerpt from 'CLOCK OF TIME' by Gertrude Ruston.  (pp 33-39) (pictures inserted by yours truly just to highlight different segments of the story).


In July 1917 Harry Ruston and I became engaged.  He was twelve and a half years older than I and many people did not approve.  When Harry asked me to marry him he told me that his wife died before we  met,  having been ill for a long time with dropsy.  Her two sisters had looked after their son during his mother's illness, and Harry had boarded with the eldest sister and brother-in-law, the Adlers, after his wife's death.  (Note:  Mum told me she had a very beautiful emerald engagement ring but I never saw the ring.  I am thinking it was possibly lost when their farmhouse was completely destroyed by fire before I was born).

Harry and I had similar tastes and were both very fond of good music and opera so, when possible, we went from the office to the West End shows which carried on through all the years of the turmoil.  There were times when were almost too tired to keep awake and, on one occasion, Harry slept through the whole of an opera after having spent an enormous amount to get good seats for it.  I did not wake him as I felt he needed the sleep more than the music.

One very busy Saturday morning at the office a young woman came up and asked to see Harry.  She made a great fuss because she had just heard of our engagement.  Apparently she had been very much in love with him for some time and was under the impression that he might marry her when he was free.  She made quite a scene, way obviously very upset, and embarrassed Harry considerably, so that he felt obliged to give me some explanation, as my office was near enough to hear part of the disturbance.  He told me that she was the sister of his best friend and he had never thought of marrying her.  I offered him his ring back but he refused to take it and she eventually left.

We enjoyed the period of our engagement despite the fact that we were very busy.  We visited the shows whenever possibly and I think we managed to see most of the operas and Gilbert and Sullivan light operas at that time. so that we became very critical.  I had to close my eyes when the leading soprano, despite her glorious voice, and obviously about 14 stone, when playing the part of a girl of sixteen.

We mostly took the two small boys out on a Sunday and as Len, Harry's boy, often wore a sailor suit and Eddie my nephew, was in a kilt, they attracted quite an amount of attention; there was only five months difference in their ages.  (Note:  I wish I had a photo of Len in his sailor suit but this picture will have to suffice).

We arranged to be married on 22nd December, 1917 so that we could have a few days honeymoon during the Christmas holidays.  We went house hunting and bought a charming three storey residence in Greyhound Lane, Streatham Common, S.W. London.  Unfortunately it was a long way from my people and from Harry's family and in-laws. but it was within our pockets and, before the wedding, we spent much time in getting it in order.  Harry's furniture was taken out of store and we purchased items needed to complete the home which had five bedrooms. dining room, drawing room, kitchen and scullery.  (Note: This is a house in Greyhound Lane which I imagine would have been something like that in which mum and dad lived.  It is described by the agent as a 'period' house so quite old.  It seems many of these houses are now converted into flats).

There were many problems connected with my marriage in wartime.  It was impossible to buy an iced cake, nor could we buy the ingredients.  After much searching and 'phoning I managed to buy the last uniced cake - a single deck - from a very well known firm of wedding cake specialists.  It cost me £5 (my week's wages) and mother iced it.  A home-made job but it looked quite nice stood up on a box, which was covered with a beautiful linen cloth, and it served the purpose very well.  (Note: I imagine the cake would have probably looked something like this)

My wedding dress was calf length cream lace, and it had a long narrow train falling from the shoulders.  I made it myself and was very proud of it.  My wedding veil was of real lace, full length, lent by a friend, as also was the orange blossom, which I wore round the back of my head.

My going away frock was of crimson velvet bought at Bourne and Hollingsworths in Oxford Street, and I had a full length fur coat.  I was not really keen on the crimson colour, but was persuaded into buying it by my sister, and it certainly looked very well indeed with my honey blonde hair.

We were not allowed to have cars for the wedding owing to the petrol situation, but Harry knew somebody with a car who agreed to take us to and from the church and, later, to the station for our our honeymoon, so long as I did not look like a bride in the car.  I can remember having to be disguised with my head covered to hide my bridal array.

The best man, my husband's friend, sent a telegram at the last moment saying he could not get there and my brother-in-law, who was home on leave, acted as best man, leaving my sister to give me away.  We were put down a short distance from the church, and Harry and I were picked up there after the wedding to avoid being seen as a bridal couple.  (Note:  I have often wondered if Harry's friend happened to be the brother of the young woman that had thought she would one day marry Harry and so he decided not to be best man to avoid upsetting his sister).

My mother did not go to the church.  She did not attend Amy's wedding nor mine.  Perhaps it was on these occasions that she felt my father's absence.  He was not invited, not did he send either of us a wedding present but, rather grudgingly, he gave permission for my marriage as I was underage.

The church was full of my old friends and everyone seemed to be very impressed by Harry in his hired top hat and morning suit.  I had a little flower girl and my sister's small son was a page boy in his kilt.  I was married at Woodberry Down Baptist Church, where I had been baptised.  (Note: This was Woodberry Down baptist church in 1883).

The wedding breakfast went off well although, due to rationing. we only had a small reception in our home attended by some of my mother's relatives and our personal friends.  None of Harry's people came along although they had been invited.  Unfortunately no photographs were possible but a friend took a few snaps indoors which were very indistinct.

We left in the early afternoon for our honeymoon as being winter time, it got dark at about 4p.m.  We were going to Eastbourne but had not told anybody of our destination.  The cab turned up to take us to the train and Ted, my brother-in-law, saw to it that our bags were duly loaded.  They had been carefully locked to prevent them being disturbed.

Then it was time for goodbyes and we were smothered in confetti and rice.  Again we had to be careful to protect the driver, but his luck and ours was out because the wretched car broke down about a hundred yards from the house.  The driver helped to carry our bags and we had to catch a bus or tram, I cannot remember which, to the nearest station.  With a fur coat on you can imagine how the confetti had stuck to it, an w were a walking advertisement for newly weds, and very embarrassed.  We eventually caught the Eastbourne train, found an empty carriage and disposed of the evidence.   (Note: This is Eastbourne about the time mum dad were there on their honeymoon).

It was an icy cold day and snowing when we reached Eastbourne.  Harry found a cab and we were driven to our boarding house to the music of bells on the horse's harness.  They sounded wonderful over the crisp roads - the clip clop of the horse's hooves and the bells.

The first things we were asked for on arrival were our ration card and found, to our horror, they had been left behind.  We had to send a telegram for them to be forwarded so the family soon knew where we had gone.  (Note: Not sure if this is from WW1 or WW2 but they would be very similar).

As soon as we opened our bags we realised that somebody had found keys to fit them as they were full of rice an confetti.  It took simply ages to do our best to clear it up, but I am sure we must have missed some of it.

While Harry was out of the room the landlady brought up her visitor's book to show me and pointed out that Harry had written in it some time previously that he and his wife had spent a pleasant time there.  Imagine my confusion and embarrassment!  The landlady may have thought I was Harry's light of love or even that he had married me bigamously.  Harry was extremely annoyed and refused to explain to the woman or allow me to do so.  (Note:  What an old busybody that landlady was and what a dreadful thing to do to a young woman who was obviously on her honeymoon.  It is quite likely that dad had been to that same boarding house with his first wife and, even if he hadn't, I still think that woman should have kept quiet).

I was in love with my husband and, despite the difference in our ages and the fact that both my parents, although giving permission for the marriage, strongly disapproved of me marrying a widower, we were very happy, although he could be extremely jealous.

The weather was kind to us on our short honeymoon, crisp, find and cold.  We both enjoyed walking and wandered around the historic district with its ancient castles and buildings.  We were warned that in one of these there was a ghost which appeared from time to time and people had been known to collapse there.  We lingered around hopefully, but the ghost must have known we were sceptics and we neither heard nor saw anything strange.

I will leave the happy couple enjoying their honeymoon and in the next 'episode' we will find them moving into their home and resuming their busy jobs at the Sugar Commission.