Saturday, February 28, 2015


This is something that has been annoying me for some time now and I just had to get it off my chest.  I know it is my own personal taste but I still think a man should either grow a moustache, or a moustache and beard, or darned well shave when he is going out.   I have nothing against a chap perhaps not shaving over the weekend when he is at home to give his facial skin a rest from the razor but otherwise....shave.

I have grabbed a couple of pics from Google and have no idea who these men are but here is one beautifully dressed, perhaps for a night out, but I think the total effect is spoilt because he's not shaved:

Here is an older unshaven man and I think he looks downright grubby.  OK, maybe he is retired and doesn't want to go through the daily grind of shaving but surely, if he is going out, he will shave.  Seems though that he hasn't as he appears to be out and about...somewhere.

It appears I am in the minority as surveys seems to show many women find unshaven men sexy and attractive.  Where does that leave me I wonder?  Just being an old fuddy duddy as usual?

Now when it comes to nice neat beards I have no problem.  For some years Phil wore a beard and moustache and I thought it suited him.  He got tired of it so he shaves most days, and always when he is going out.  With him it doesn't matter a lot as he is fair and even two days growth doesn't show much.  My son-in-law grew his moustache and beard at the same time as Phil and has kept his and I think it really suits him, but it is a proper beard and moustache.  The last time I saw my son he too had a beard which looked good.  I wonder if he still has it?

OK, perhaps I've opened a can of worms but I would honestly like to hear the opinion of other ladies, both young and older.  Do you think unshaven men are sexy and attractive?  Do you really enjoy the roughness of a day or two's growth of whiskers against your skin?  Please do let me know what you think.

Friday, February 27, 2015


Previously another move, a death in the family when Uncle Ted died, Len in the RAAF and so life goes on.

Excerpt from ''THE CLOCK OF TIME" by Gertrude Ruston.  (pp-98-103)  The photos of Len and his family are my own.


Meantime Len was absorbed into the war effort and lent to the American Army Air Force on active service.  We heard little of his whereabouts, of course, and were always worried if his cards or letters did not reach us regularly.

Jean joined the Australian army (AWAS) as a typist/telephonist, and sometimes spent her weekend leave with us.  She felt embarrassed as she did not know many hymns. so we often had long sessions with Moody and Sankey over the piano, which we all enjoyed.  Jean left her bank book with me and I banked her allotment regularly so that, at the end of the war, she had accumulated some hundreds of pounds."  (This is Jean in her army uniform):

"At one time I sent Len some eggs which I hope would reach him in time for Christmas.  I obtained a large biscuit tin and some sawdust into which I carefully packed as many new laid eggs as possible, after having rubbed them with "Keepeg" to prevent them from going bad.

I took the parcel to the G.P.O. in Perth after having marked it carefully wherever possible 'FRAGILE - HANDLE WITH CARE" etc.  I asked the man at the parcel counter to treat it kindly, but just as I turned away I saw him throw it a long way into a distant heap of parcels, and could only hope the eggs would not be a sticky mess when they arrived.
 In due course Len wrote that the parcel arrived in time for Christmas Day and that he had shared the eggs with other officers in the mess and they all enjoyed them.  I wondered at the time if he was telling me the truth or letting me down lightly if the eggs had not arrived intact.

Occasionally, when the boys were on leave, we produced tinned salmon and other such delicacies which we had hoarded for the purpose, only to be told that they were tired of tinned food and looked forward to a good old roast dinner and some of Mum's scones and cakes, apple pies etc.  After that we did not feel guilty if we managed to get a few extras when shopping and were able to enjoy them ourselves."  (My mum made the most delicious fudge chocolate cake, much loved by everyone).

When things were hotting up in the war in the Pacific Len wrote that he may not be able to write for a week or two, so we deduced there was something doing up north and we all became rather anxious.  After a long delay Jean received a telegram stating that Len was alive and safe.  Later we learned that the USAAF plane "Shady Lady" had crash landed on the northern tip of Western Australia. " **(They were very fortunate to make it as far home aas they did as the fuel gauge in the B24 showed empty and the engines were in danger of shutting down. )

"American planes always carried good emergency rations so they did not starve.  After a few days some Australian natives from a nearby mission who were out on 'walkabout' approached the airmen.  The men were in need of water and the natives were able to show them where they could get water.  After several days a lugger came around the coast to pick up the crew.  It was fortunate that nobody was hurt when they crash landed although Len did sustain a blood nose.  Shortly after this happened Len had a period of leave and we gave him a welcome home party.

Len gradually gathered rank and was a Flight Lieutenant in a responsible position when the VP Day was announced.  He was one of the fortunate airmen to return home although he had some disabilities and received a small pension.  He received a nice letter from General McArthur in appreciation of his service with the the American Army Air Force." (Actually the American crew of the Shady Lady were all awarded the Purple Heart for their part in the raid on the Japanese held Borneo oilfields but as Len was Australian he was not entitled to receive that award.  That is why he received the personal letter from the General.)  (This is Len in his RAAF handsome brother):

"Len chose to return to civilian life and obtained a position with Gibneys Photogaphic Studio as a photographer, travelling around the countryside taking pictures of beautiful spots in W.A. for reproduction in a magazine.  Later Len became the manager of Gibneys Studio."  (Some of Len's photographs were also used in a Western Australian calendar).

"Meantime Len's wife, Jean, had been hoping for a family and had almost given up hope when, after some years. she found she was pregnant and on 27th August, 1948 their daughter Penelope was born.  Two years later, on 26th July, 1950, a second daughter, Wendy, was born."  (This is a photo taken in 1950 showing Jean with Penny (aged 2) and baby Wendy):

"Jean's savings added to Len's gratuity made it possible for them to then go into business for themselves and, while the children were still young, they purchased a mixed business in the suburb of Riverton which included a newspaper round, keeping them both on their toes".  (They also had a sub-post office and I thought an off licence but I may be wrong about the latter).

A few years later they sold the Riverton business and bought a dry cleaning business in addition to which Len took over a part-time post office and fancy goods shop. attached to which was a hair salon.  Considering that neither of them knew anything about these types of business one must give them full marks for running and disposing of them profitably in due course."

NOTE: From here on, although this is written in the present tense, please remember it should be read in the past tense as, of course, not only did mum die in 1985 but Len in 1986 and Jean in more recent years.

Len's last job was an office in an insurance company in the city and he remained there until his retirement.  He and Jean now have a nice War Service home in Floreat Park, one of Perth's better suburbs, and they had a comfortable income.  Len had developed Meniere's Disease which affected his hearing so badly that he had to wear hearing aids and he also learned to lip read very well.  He also suffered a serious heart attack.

Len has built a fully equipped sports room adjacent to their garage, containing a billiard table, bar and all necessary accessories.  Backing on to this Jean has a delightful fernery and they have a very lovely garden.

Jean has become a member of the Anglican church, plays golf regularly and keeps in close touch with her sisters and their families, in addition to which she phones or visits me from time to time which I appreciate.

When on a holiday in England they visited my nephew Eddie and his family.  My sister Amy was living in a self-contained flat on their property.  It was a pity their stay was so brief as Amy made a great fuss of them and would have loved to have them stay longer.  They are the only ones who have seen any of my family since I left England back in 1920."

**Last week I learned quite by accident that a film had been made about the flight of the Shady Lady to take part in the bombing of the Borneo oilfields held by the Japanese.  It was the longest flight attempted in aviation history.   My wonderful son-in-law downloaded the film for me and made it into a DVD.  Phil and I watched it on Sunday night last.  It was a wonderfully made film and very, very accurate.  As I watched the ending where the plane managed to make landfall and make crash landing on the northern tip of Western Australia I felt so grateful to the American crew who managed to bring my brother safely home to Australia.  I then learned that one of my nieces and some of her family had actually viewed the film when it was shown in Perth two years ago and even been involved in some of the research.  I was rather upset that nobody had considered I may be interested and bothered to contact me at the time.  After all Len was my brother and when I was 11 I remember him coming home on leave and telling us all about that flight.  If you Google "Shady Lady" you will find quite a few stories about this epic flight.

That concludes the section of mum's story about Len and his family.  Len succumbed to lung cancer and died in 1987 when he was 76.  Jean moved into a very nice retirement village and continued to play cards with her friends and and still saw a lot of her family and her two daughters and their families.  Jean died in 2004, aged 87.  I was very fortunate to see both of them on the day prior to their death and attended both funerals.  At Len's funeral a friend of his, that he had sung with during his singing career, sang Amazing Grace.  I never hear that song without thinking of my brother.

Monday, February 23, 2015


The Rawleighs business is doing well and Len and Jean were married in 1940.   At long last things are definitely looking up for the family.

Excerpt from 'THE CLOCK OF TIME" by Gertrude Ruston. (pp.96-98)  (Photo 1 is not mine but photo 2 is a family photo).

"By this time I was feeling much better and decided to offer my services to the Red Cross.  I was asked to assist Miss Turton at Royal Perth Hospital, which involved taking the trolley round the wards so the patients could buy a variety of small goods, serving teas and helping with the shop and library.  This was voluntary work and we were rostered for half day periods in the old original part of the hospital to start with and, later, in the new building."  (No, unfortunately this is not mum, but this was the type of volunteer work she was doing).

Red Cross ladies were well known and most helpful to patients, particularly those without regular visitors who needed some help with shopping etc.  This was my first return to welfare work and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

We now felt the need for something better in accommodation and we rented a nice furnished house at 67 Auckland Street in North Perth from a Mr and Mrs Coombs.  They were having difficulties in meeting financial commitments, and only retained for their own use the back verandah and share of bathroom facilities.  It was a very comfortable home and, as there was a piano, Peg was able to practise and I too was able to amuse myself as of old.

The larger building enabled Harry to keep the vast amount of stores then necessary, and the arrangement was a happy one, particularly as Mrs Coombs became very fond of Peg.

They had a dog and we had a nice blue-grey cat called Molly.  We wondered how they would settle down together and were delighted when they became the greatest of friends and even shared the same sleeping quarters.  When Molly had kittens the dog looked after them if Molly was absent.

Molly made herself comfortable on Peg's bed to have her kittens, and the young lass watched the whole thing and was left in no doubt as to how kittens and presumably, other creatures arrived.  The cat had been put out and we were horrified to discover she had sneaked back in.  However, Peg did not turn a hair and with delighted with the kittens.  Mrs Coombs was rather horrified at what had taken place but we assured her no harm had been done and reminded Peg had lived on a farm for nearly six years."  (This is me with Molly and some of her kittens.  Not sure if this photo was taken at Auckland Street or later at Coronation Street).

(I am going to interrupt here as I think mum has her story a little wrong.  I am almost certain Mr Coombs was away in the Air Force (or one of the services) and Mrs Coombs was living in a room at the back of the house and had a job in the city.  I know I was sleeping on the partly closed in back verandah which is how Molly came to have her kittens on my bed and not that she had snuck back in after being put out for the night.  I was about 8 at the time and I remember the birth of the kittens so well.   I sat up in the middle of the night and recall stroking Molly's head while she had her kittens, feeling absolutely intrigued and delighted by the whole event.)

"It was obvious after a while that the Coombs marriage was deteriorating, and we were not altogether surprised when Mrs Coombs told us they had decided to sell the house and go their separate waysThey offered us the furniture and we bought it as it was and moved into another nice house in Coronation Street (also in North Perth), belonging to Mrs Jukes and her son.  The latter was not allowed to look, breath nor speak without his mother's approval and it was sad to see a middle-aged man so dominated.

Sadly my sister had been widowed, her husband having developed cancer of the gullet not too long after my mother's death.  Their son, Edward, was at Oxford University taking dental surgery.  At my father's recommendation Edward joined the army where he could finish his degree without a drain on my sister's resources."  (I have often wondered if the cancer of the gullet was perhaps an aftermath of Ted having been in the army and in the trenches in WW1.  I know certain gases were used by the enemy which I feel would not do one's throat etc., a lot of good.)

Amy and I continued to correspond and I leaned that she had gone to the War Office on war service when the 1939/45 war broke out, and that her son Edward won on active service.

When France collapsed and the little ships were picking up our men from Dunkirk my nephew was helping with the casualities on the beach, for which he was decorated with the M.B.E.  It was on active service that he met a nursing sister, Winifred, who later became his wife.  They have one daughter Margaret.

After the end of the war he was transferred to points aborad, including the Middle East and Singapore, gradually rising in the ranks until his retirement as Colonel."  (I remember Edward always insisted on being addressed as Colonel after his retirement.  When addressing a letter to him it was always to Col. E. Ferguson, M.B.E.  I had the feeling he may have been a bit of a snob!!)

This is quite short episode but the next section may prove to be somewhat longer and I am always conscious of not wanting to become boring.  Back soon.

Saturday, February 21, 2015


The family were all living in Goderich Street and (Margaret) Peggy was attending Victoria Square College which was just over the road from the house.  Harry had become a Rawleighs dealer and with mum's help it was going well.  They had of necessity bought a car.

Excerpt from 'THE CLOCK OF TIME" by Gertrude Ruston.  (pp 94-96)

"With Peg growing up, the flat in Mr Bail's house became too small, and Harry found a place in Clive Street, West Perth, where we shared a house with an elderly pensioner.  I had to look after the house, except for Mrs Laird's private room, and the garden was also our responsibility.  By this time Peg was able to travel on the tram to school and was fairly reliable in traffic.  Len remained at his self-contained flatette at Bail's place and was still employed by Yellow Cabs, a reasonable occupation but with very little future.

At this time the Royal Australian Air Force advertised for a trained photographer, and I suggested to Len that he apply for the position.  He feared his maths may let him down, so Harry and I gave him a short refresher course one Sunday morning prior to the date of the interview.  Harry was in bed at the time with a touch of lumbago, and I remember the three of us grouped on the bed full of enthusiasm.  Harry was an expert on decimals and was delighted to act as a tutor."  (Dad may have been an expert on decimals (mum was with fractions) but to this date I've never yet got the hang of decimals!!)

"To cut a long story short, Len applied for the job and, and of 28 applicants, he was the one selected.  He was stationed at Pearce Aerodrome, and I feel sure that was the turning point of his life.  He was on the permanent Air Force staff." (This picture was taken at Pearce Aerodrome, possible on an Open Day prior to the commencement of WW2.  I wonder why Len is pulling that face?):

"Len had a very good baritone voice and, having been taught by one of the top men in Perth, Mr Leckie, he enjoyed his singing and blossomed into opera and musical comedy.  Had it been possible at that time he may have joined one of the choirs and perhaps even gone overseas.  We all enjoyed his singing and in later years I even managed to play most of his accompaniments." (One of the family's favourite occupations when they got together was having a sing song around the piano at either our place or Len and Jean's home).

"Len then became engaged to Jean Thompson, whom he met while working in the Brookton district, where the Thompson family were farmers.  Mr Thompson died and Mrs Thompson and her four daughters moved to Perth.  We met Jean earlier when Len brought her down to see us while we were still farming in Narrikup and Peg was small.  Jean visited us again from time to time when we moved to Perth.

We were living in Clive Street at the time of the wedding and I remember how difficult it was for me to buy a frock to wear.  As luck would have it a frock shop in West Perth had a sale and I secured one of their bargains for £2.00.  It was a little tight but they were able to let the seams out so that I could fit into it comfortably.  It was teal blue, a colour which suited me and I felt I did not disgrace the family.  Of course I didn't tell anyone the history of the dress and I felt quite smart as the mother of the groom."  (There was an article in a local newspaper describing the wedding and the clothes the bridal party wore plus those of the mother of the bride and of the groom).

"The wedding was a very pleasant family affair where I met Mrs Thompson and the other member of the family.  I had made Peg a pretty coat and hat from material sent from England, and she handed Jean a floral horseshoe on ribbon as she entered the church."  (This is the formal picture of Len and Jean after the wedding ceremony.  You can actually see the little horseshoe hanging on the ribbon).

"After a while we continued to gather a little more money and put it away for the future, while Harry became an established success as a Rawleigh dealer, and enjoyed contact with his regular customers.  Meanwhile, I kept the books and found new and more attractive ways of make up parcels for sale.

We then came up against the 1939/45 war, and men were being recruited for service overseas.  Once again the authorities sought Harry's assistance.  He was, of course, too old for active service, but he was asked to act as a night guard at the Gas Works in East Perth.  This was to be a temporary measure until such time as all essential services could be covered by the authorities.  Apparently records were available of both reliable and unreliable people in key positions, and every effort had to be made to prevent the latter from interfering with the war effort."  (This is an old picture of the gas works that dad had to guard in 1939.  Strangely enough on the local Channel 7 news today they were talking about developing a parcel of land in that area where there is also an old power house):

"Harry was provided with a revolver and had to parade around the Gas Works all night.  Fortunately no effort was made to damage this essential building, which was very close to the Swan River and I often wondered whether, had Harry found anybody without authority wandering about the place, if he would have attempted to shoot them or if they would have short him first, because I don't think he was at all familiar with a loaded revolver."  (I am sure he would have had some training on how to use the revolver,  but maybe not).

"However, he did that successfully for a while as war service and combined it with a certain amount of Rawleigh's business.  He was paid for the guard duty but I cannot remember how much he received.  As thing settled down the services took over at all vital points, and we were all very glad and relieved when Harry's help was no longer required.

Meantime I had discovered that sage was not obtainable in the shops, and had asked in the large stores if they would be interested in buying some.  There were quite keen and I sent Harry along to see them.  Rawleigh's sage was excellent. so we broke up the large packets into small plain parcels and sold them to some of the retail stores.  We made a very good profit on them and they sold readily.  Each time Harry sent an order to Rawleighs he included one for large quantities of sage, and the bank balance began to look very healthy."  (This would be the modern day version):

Things are going quite well for the little family now.  Next episode mum and mum begins doing the first of her social work.  Another move or two coming up as well.

Friday, February 20, 2015


Having been forced to leave the farm owing to mum's ill health we now find the pair trying to make a go of it in Perth.

Excerpt from 'THE CLOCK OF TIME" by Gertrude Ruston (pp 92-94)


Len found us limited accommodation with a Mrs Furze, with whom he also boarded, at the top of Wellington Street, East Perth.  Mrs Furze was extremely kind and we stopped with her for a short time until we found something more suitable.

Peg was quite bewildered by city life and was really afraid of Perth children.  Mrs Furze had a young son a couple of years older than Peg and he took great joy in teasing her.  She came to me one day and told me to come outside quickly as the house was going to burn down.  When I investigated I found Peter Furze had put a bunch of dry twigs against the corner of the house and told Peg he was going to light it and that the house would be burned down.  I made him apologise to Peg and admit he was only teasing, but I often noticed her watching to see if there were any more bunches of twigs which he may be tempted to light.

Earning a living was not going to be easy for Harry because his particular knowledge was not required in any capacity that he could find.  He was quite sure that if he could earn £5.00 a week we would be well off as, in those days, that was quite a good salary.

The only available job seemed to be that of a door to door salesman, and he eventually became very successful at it.  He was eminently suited as he had the gift of the gab and the right approach to the ladies.  He sold pots and pans, photographs and other articles, so we managed to live while I gathered my strength back.

It was while we were with Mrs Furze that I received a cable to say that my mother had died and, later, my sister sent me a copy of a booklet distributed at the funeral service and my mother's wedding ring from heer finger.  I presume Amy received the rest of mother's possessions but I did not receive any details.

Mother had stood by Amy and Ted over all the years while the war was on and they had lived together since I had left and they had cared for her in her illness.  Shortly after mother's death I received a number of parcels from her which she had sent for Christmas presents before she died.  It was really dreadful - receiving something from the dead, and as I was still not feeling very well, I was quite broken up.  She always wrote to me regularly, as I did to her, and several letters arrived after she had gone.  When they stopped I felt entirely alone.

Peg was old enough to be enrolled at one of the local primary schools, and she was accepted at East Perth.  She was not at all happy because they put her in the lowest grade because she had not yet turned 6, and began teaching her the ABC.  She had reached Standard 1 in her correspondence lessons which I had been teaching her, and she could both read and write a little.

She suddenly became very distressed and quite ill so that I was obliged to call a doctor.  He was rather mystified and asked what we had been doing with the child since we left the farm.  There was nothing we could think of except the change of our way of life and her unhappiness at school.  He said that was obviously the cause of the trouble and she had had a mild nervous breakdown.  He said we must either keep her at home until she had forgotten what she had learned by correspondence classes, or find a school which would allow her to continue on at her first standard level.

I enquired at Victoria Square College (now known as Mercedes College) in Goderich Street, and they were quite happy to place her according to her ability.  We had to pay fees and provide a uniform, and it took stringent economy to make this possible. I made her uniform and her blazer.  She had only one white blouse which had to be washed and ironed each night for the next day, but it was worth the effort because she was a very happy child, and always close to the top of her class, although invariably the youngest student. (This is the actual gate through which I entered and left school each day for just over six years.  I loved attending that school so much and was saddened when mum insisted I leave at the end of Standard 6 to attend a C of E college, but that comes later in this story.)

"We were fortunate in finding a small flat opposite the school with a Mr Bail, thus avoiding traffic problems for Peg.  Len also found a self-contained flatette at the same address."  (That was at 198 Goderich Street and many years later the house was pulled down so the Perth Dental Clinic could be extended.  Checking on pictures of the address today I have no idea what the very large building is now. Looking at it closely on the Google map it could well be either a government department or even a large block of units.)

It was while living at 198 Goderich Street that I celebrated my 7th birthday and mum was able to put on a small party.  I still remember all the people that were there that day, some of whom were girls I went to school with; three were the children of family friends.  I notice mum had provided fancy hats and fans for the girls and I know we had some tasty eats as well.  My mum was simply amazing the things she did for me and yet went without herself.

Harry had replied to an advertisement for dealers in Rawleighs goods, run by an American company manufacturing chemist lines, cosmetics, spices and condiments.  They had a district vacant close to the city and, from their various pamphlets, it appeared possible to earn a reasonable living if one was willing to become one of their door to door salesmen.

To join the organisation it was necessary to purchase a quantities of stores, which they would sell us on credit, provided one had a guarantor for their value.  Our old friends, Mr and Mrs Dakin, who were now established in Perth, very kindly became guarantors until Harry was able to finance his own purchases.  The fitted sample bag supplied by Rawleighs was quite heavy and it was essential to buy a bike with a carrier to assist Harry while travelling, a hard task at his age when the weather was hot or wet, and I doubt if he could have done if he had not become accustomed to physical work on the farm."  (At this time dad would have been in his early fifties as he was 46 when I was born).

 Although I was not able to bring in finance in any other way, I started to make up very attractive parcels as birthday and Christmas gifts, using Rawleigh goods, handkerchiefs, ribbon and cellophane.  These boosted sales tremendously and kept me very busy.

As sales improved we managed to save sufficient for a deposit on a small Fiat car, ad we had to find £5.00 to pay it off and petrol to run it.  It was very difficult indeed to pay Peg's school fees, the amount due each week on the car, rent for the flat and the food bill.  There was no money whatever to spend on clothes on luxuries.  It as years before I was able to buy any clothes for myself, and I remember very hot days when I had to wear a warm dress when going out because it was the only respectable thing I had. "  (This is the brand new Fiat 8 Tourer.  The picture was taken in King's Park.  The car was said to have a top speed of 60mph and supposedly could do 60 miles to the gallon.  It had a soft top and no real windows.  In those days many of the cars had 'side curtains' often made of mica which you could see through quite adequately.  You will notice it has a carrier on the back on which dad placed his large Rawleigh sample case).

 Seems a good place to stop once again (trying to keep the episodes short so as not to be boring).  I am afraid city life wasn't quite as exciting as farm life but I will continue on with the story if you are interested in hearing more.  Do please let me know.  I am so enjoying re-reading mum's book and now also re-living it as well.

Thursday, February 19, 2015


The family, father, mother and daughter, are now living in Narrikup and doing quite well although still having to work very hard.

Excerpt from 'THE CLOCK OF TIME" by Gertrude Ruston.  (pp 88-91)


When Peg was about four years old my health failed and I became really ill.  I had severe pain, giddiness and bladder problems and had to go to see Dr Hanrahan in Albany for advice.  He diagnosed kidney and bladder problems, and said he thought it possible I had a growth.  He gave me some medicine to take and told me to return to see him after three weeks.  At the next visit he confirmed that I did have a growth and needed an urgent operation, which was a shock to us all and posed many problems.

Daphne had left at the end of the busy season, as had also the young Scotch fellow who was helping Harry.  This meant that Harry would have to manage all the farm work on his own and cook his own meals.  Fortunately there was a small shop at the siding from which he could obtain most essentials, and bread could be sent up from Albany.

Peg was the greatest problem.  Several of the neighbours offered to have her as also did our old friend Mrs Beech (formerly Elsegood).  The latter was then a widow living privately in Albany with her two grandsons whom she had adopted, as their mother had died.  We gladly accepted Mrs Beech's generous offer.  (This is Mrs Beech with one of her grandsons, Peter).

The operation was performed in Albany hospital and I was able to have Mrs Beech and the children visit me as soon as I was allowed to have visitors.  It seemed strange that we should have come to Australia because of Harry's poor health and in the all the years we had been here, he had only suffered an odd,  mild attack of lumbago.

Nobody knew what the doctor would find and we had faced the risk that it could be a malignant growth.  Having lost his first wife that left him with a small boy, Harry must have wondered if fate was about to deal him a second similar blow.  I decided to write a letter to my mother to be posted to her only in the event of my death, or destroyed should I get through safely.

It transpired that I had three fibroids which I was told were very difficult to remove but there was no malignancy.  I came through the operation successfully but had several complications, including thombosis in both legs which crippled me for about twelve months.

I think the utility must have been out of order because Harry used to ride his bike all the 28 miles to Albany and back in the evening in order to visit me once a week and that worried me very much.  Fortunately he did manage to occasionally to get a lift with neighbours.

When I first left hospital, after about six weeks, Mrs Beech kindly offered me the use of her house for myself and Peg while she went for three weeks holiday with her grandsons.  I was not well enough to return home and was very glad of this kind gesture.

It was summer and, with difficulty, I managed occasionally to walk as far as the beach with Peg, so that she could paddle and play on the sands."  (If you knew how steep York Street is in Albany you would be amazed that mum was able to walk down and back again as I remember Mrs Beech's home being up yet another hill).

"Other children allowed her to play with them and, fortunately for me, their parents watched Peg for me as well as their own children.  There were times when I dozed off and when I woke up I was terrified that something had happened to my little girl."  (No, this is not me but I like to imagine I had this much fun).

"Returning to Mrs Beech's house we had to climb the steep hill in York Street, (see my note above) and I was obliged quite often to sit on the high kerb for a rest with my feet in the stormwater drain.  People would look at me and I fear some of them may have thought I had imbibed too freely.  It was not at all a pleasant experience and I really needed somebody to care for me, but we had no money to spare and Harry had to remain on the farm.

Before Mrs Beech arrived home I was thankful to find enough strength to wash the sheets we had used and make the house reasonably tidy.  We then, of course, had to return to the farm.  The doctor was very reluctant to allow me to go home, and warned me that I must rest entirely and that, if I attempted to work at all I would be back in hospital within six months, very ill indeed.

It was wonderful to be home again and Daphne came back to assist me in caring for Peg and looking after the general housework and cooking.  Being a farm lass she was excellent at baking bread, making butter and so on, and in order to assist as much as possible, I used to sit at the kitchen table with my legs stretched out so that I could prepare vegetables and help with as many of the lighter jobs.

Harry was showing signs of strain and very much appreciated home made bread and good meals once again.  We all enjoyed the family reunion, and Peg became very interested in correspondence lessons which I had obtained for her by mail from the Education Department, and in which Daphne and I joined in as "teachers".

Walking was still very difficult for me and Harry fitted up a rope for me from the kitchen to the outside toilet, so that I could hold on to it whenever necessary.  For months I suffered from dyspepsia and for food would often only eat a few teaspoonfuls of jelly and a dry biscuit one hour, and a tablespoon of whiskey the next.  I hated the latter but it helped keep me alive.

Unfortunately my health did not improve and after about twelve months, the doctor ordered me to try and eat a little more each day, in spite of the resultant indigestion.  I gradually began to get back to eating small meals but by then I was painfully thin, and had little strength.

The doctor had proved to be absolutely right. and that was when he ordered me to leave the farm.  He warned Harry that if he did no get me away from the farm I would be carried out in a box.  Harry then realised that I would not be able to continue to help him run the far and, as we could not afford to pay for labour, he reluctantly agreed that we had no choice but to leave the farm and go to Perth.

At that time we were in debt to the government for a loan they had made to us and they insisted that we walk off the property and leave everything behind.  This was terribly cruel after all ouf hard work but we had no option.  The Depression and my breakdown in health finished us.  Later we heard that one of the locals took over the farm, cut down all the pine trees and sold them and also sold the stock. 

Len had had a number of jobs over the years and at one time during the Depression he was employed by a bee keeper - and from what Len told us he was a "B" man in more ways than one!

At another time he was employed driving a truck for a local man at Brookton, where he me this future wife, Jean Thompson, and he later became the driver of a Yellow Taxicab.  It was while he was driving the Yellow can that we had to leave the farm.  (This is a picture of Jean Thompson taken probably about the time of her engagement to Len.  Jean was about 5.7" with dark brown hair and grey eyes.  The large building behind the fence was in those days a girls' high school.  It is now part of the W.A. Police Department).

We had sold as much as possible of our personal furniture and belongings to gain a little cash, and Len brought his Yellow cab down to Narrikup and took us and our goods and chattels (the bare necessities) up to Perth for the start of another life in W.A.  If I remember rightly the hire of the cab cost us £7.00."  (When you realise it is over 400km from Albany to Perth I wonder what a taxi fare would cost today?)

(This is a picture of Len in his cab driver's uniform.  In those days the drivers had to wear a uniform complete with peak cap and leggings.....pity some of today's cab drivers don't smarten themselves up a little.  That is me with Len and I think the picture was taken about a year after we moved to Perth when I would have been perhaps 7.  I know mum had made the outfit I am wearing here).

As mum and dad (with Len) had arrived from England in June, 1920 and left Narrikup in 1938, they would have been working very hard to make a go of farming for 18 years.  During that time they had been flooded out several times, had their home burned down losing all their possessions, done their best to survive during the Great Depression and then, as they finally appeared to be getting on their feet, be forced to leave owing to mum's illness, taking very little with them.   Next, we find out what fortunes, or otherwise, await them in the big smoke.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


The son has returned home and a baby daughter has arrived for this farming couple.

Excerpt from 'THE CLOCK OF TIME" by Gertrude Ruston. (pp 87-88)

"We always had our own chickens and a few ducks.  It was amusing to see the Indian Runner ducks follow one another down to the water when they were let out in the morning and return the same way each night.  We had to watch out for goannas as they were always after the eggs.

One of the ducks, that I called Jane, insisted on getting over the garden fence and I was always chasing her.  When Peg could toddle around and started to talk she also chased Jane, and we were horrified to hear her use some of Tim Healy's picturesque adjectives, in quite the right places, when describing the duck.  Tim received a severe final warning regarding his language and I must admit he thereafter did try to moderate it.

We often saw beautiful black possums and had to chase them away from our seed potatoes which were spread out on racks under the pine trees, where they hardened, turned green, and produced shoots ready for planting the next crop.

The true name of these attractive animals is oppossum, and they are protected under law to prevent them being killed for their beautiful skins.  They are nocturnal in habit.

As one time we found a small possum in the shed and made a pet of it, giving it saucers of milk and various titbits.  First of all she lived in the rafters of the shed, but she gradually followed us down to the house and would disappear in the daytime.  Eventually we found her sleeping in the curtain pelmet.

When she came out at night "Possie", as we called her, wandered around ready to climb anything that was handy, including out legs if we were not careful.  She would stick her claws out to support herself and my young home help and I could often be seen sitting with our feet up on another chair in self preservation.  In the end Possie disappeared and we assumed she had joined her own kind in the bush."

That was just a short interlude before the next dramatic part of the story takes place.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


We had left out two intrepid farmers battling bushfires and endeavouring to build up their stock and once again forge ahead with their plans.

Excerpt from 'THE CLOCK OF TIME" by Gertrude Ruston.  (pp 85-


For some considerable time we had longed for a daughter and, at long last, our little girl Peggy (*Peg) was born on 2nd January, 1932.  We had both hoped for a baby girl because having a son, Len, we did not want there to be any thought that we could favour one over the other."  (This is one of the 'nearly' new arrival with her parents and half-brother.  Len would have turned 21 on 17th March.  Somewhere there is a tiny photo of dad holding me when I was very small; just wish I could find it.  Do please realise these photos were taken in 1932 so the reproduction on here is not marvellous).

"Peg was a lovely child with glorious curly hair, and she became a favourite with everybody.  All the local girls wanted to mind her wherever I went".  (This was me at 2 years and 8 months.  I was told I was wearing a blue dress and I am positive Mum did have one coloured photo but have no idea where it disappeared to.  This is a better photo as obviously it was taken in a photographic studio.)

Before she was born I went to Perth to see a specialist and decided, while there, to try and trace Len.  We had heard through the grapevine that he had left Nortons (they were farmers in Narrikup) and gone to Bunbury,  Apparently he had bought himself a motor bike and started racing.  Rumour had it that he was very successful and had become "Speed king of Bunbury".  Later it seemed he had financial problems in keeping up with the sport." (I have endeavoured to find some history of motor cycle racing in Bunbury ca 1930/32 but have been unable to do so.  I am not sure how factual this part of mum's story is but I imagine there must be some truth in it.)

"When we heard of him he was working for a photographer in Perth, and one of his duties was to collect orders from the various firms on behalf of his employer.  I enquired at Boan's counter and was told that he was due to call in there.  Luckily he came in and we were able to talk for a few minutes and made arrangements to have dinner together the following night before I returned home.

When I got back to my boarding house I found an urgent telegram from Harry requesting me to return immediately.  I concluded that something had gone wrong and that I must catch the first train home.  I left a message for Len explaining that I had been obliged to go home at once and apologised for being unable to meet him.  By some misfortune he did not receive the note and concluded I had let him down.

When I reached home I was very cross to find that there was nothing wrong at all and I could have easily stayed an extra day in Perth.  Some time later I discovered where Len was working and managed to get father and son to heal the breach.

Len came home for a while and dug potatoes at contract rates like our other diggers at the time.  When Peg was a small baby, I had a difficult job stopping both father and son from utterly spoiling her.  Len became extremely fond of his little sister and there was a close bond between them for many years.

At the time of his twenty first birthday Len was with us at Narrikup.  It was not possible to give him a party as funds were too low, but Harry did manage to give him a few pounds and I made him a modest cake to mark the occasion.

Peg had a birthday party when she was about three or four years old and I invited a few of the local children.  Of course, we had some whistles, balloons etc., and when the children started to blow the whistles and make a noise all the cows rushed up to join the party, and stood under the pines looking over the garden fence.   I imagine they thought it was a new kind of animal making the noise.  We were all very amused and, until the party finished, the cows remained en masse.

I now had one of the local girls to help me.  The Depression was being felt and there were few jobs.  The government sent us a young fellow from Scotland who was without a home and work, and he helped Harry on the farm.  I think we had to pay him £2.00 a week and provide his board and lodging which, at the time. was better than being unemployed, and we could no longer manage the work on our own.

Sunday afternoons became our visiting times, and we frequently had ten or twelve people roll up; they were mostly reasonably young and very pleasant.  However, it meant producing afternoon tea for the crowd and there was no hope of a rest before milking time.

At last, as my health began to suffer, Harry had to ask them to give us a break during busy periods.  Few of them worked as hard as I did and most wives did not work outside at all.  I was very glad they did not take offence an were understanding that ours could not be a 'do drop in' every Sunday.

Some of the neighbouring farmers and their wives came visiting during slack times. and it was possible to spot visitors coming through the top gate.  If I have no scones already made, I would then have some in the oven and almost ready to eat by the time they reached the house.  There were always home made biscuits available.  We used to buy Bushells tea in 6lb tins and, when empty, the tins were wonderful to hold biscuits.

*On my original birth certificate my given name is shown as Peggy and or many years my family, and consequentially my friends and workmates, called me Peg or Peggy.  It was not a name I ever liked and, when I was about 10 or 11, and upon reading a letter my grandfather (PR) had written to my mother wherein he had made the comment that he rather thought my name "sounded like a common household utensil" I disliked the name even more.  I had always loved the name Margaret and asked mum if I could change it.  She agreed and it was changed from Peggy to Margaret by Deed Poll.  It took many, many years before I became known as Margaret and even now there are one or two old friends that still call me Peg.  Phil also does very occasionally, although his name for me 99% of the time is Mimsie, including on birthday cards etc.

I have kept this episode short so as not become boring and will try to do that in future and maybe post them more frequently.

Sunday, February 15, 2015


We had left mum and dad not in the best of moods with each other but that was put behind them as they fought on to make a good life for themselves.

Excerpt from "THE CLOCK OF TIME" by Gertrude Ruston (pp 83-85). 

"We needed more animals and I let Harry sell my rings on the understanding that the stock they bought would be my property.  There was my solitaire diamond engagement ring, and a large square emerald surrounded by eight diamonds, both of which were valuable.  (I was obviously wrong when I said earlier that mum's engagement ring was an emerald but I do remember her telling me of an emerald ring of which she was very fond).  I lost the rings and the animals in the end when we had to leave the farm.  Years later, when we were on our feet in Perth, Harry did buy me two rings but they were not comparable with those he had sold and had no real sentimental value.  (I have those two very lovely diamond rings and have often intended to have them altered to fit me.  Perhaps one day!)

There was a time when we had become big potato growers, planting up to 100 acres, and I still did the planting while Harry drove the horses.  It is a most expensive crop, fertiliser of the best having to be used in large quantities, and I sometimes felt it would have been easier and less exhausting to put the money on racehorses, when we would have known the result of our gamble in a few minutes instead of waiting months for it.  (This does not sound at all like mum who never gambled in her life, apart from going in the Melbourne Cup sweep, but I feel it rather describes how she must have been feeling at the time after all they had been through).

We were independent of outside employees, and I believe some of the neighbours criticised the fact that I worked on the farm like a man, but farming was then so precarious that we could not have managed otherwise.  Most of the other farmers had families to help with the work.

We had adjoining neighbours, two brothers by the name of Tim and Jack Healy, and the water from our swamp went into an enormous drain on their property.  Harry had to help clean and maintain the drain which was hard work and a constant worry.  We seldom saw Jack as he had very bad eyesight and spent most of his time quietly working on their farm.  Tim, on the other hand, was a constant visitor.  He was a big hefty Irishman and I did not dislike him but I did object to his language.  Like his brother though, he was a hard worker.  (Many years later (when I was about 35) I remember visiting Jack Healy who then was living in a cottage and had a small orchard in the Perth hills.  He was legally blind but seemed to be managing quite well on his own.  Mum had been instrumental in obtaining a disability pension for Jack and his way of saying thank you was to invite us to his home for afternoon tea.  I remember him as a kind and gentle old man).

As is usual, we had a number of bushfires, and one day in the middle of January the temperature in Narrikup reached 116ºF and there was a ring of fire all around us.  All the local people were out fighting fires round their own places and Harry and I were alone in our efforts to try to stop the fire crossing our fence line.  It was a hopeless task as the fire was travelling in the tops of the trees and sparks were flying everywhere into dry grass.   We were using wet bags to beat out the fire and try to stop the spread.

Late in the afternoon, after battling the fire all day, we were utterly exhausted, and came to the conclusion that we had reached the end of our tether and could not do another thing.  The fire raced across the dry grass towards the house and the pines like an express train, and we had to just stand and watch it.  At that moment, just before it reached the trees the wind changed to a westerly and the fire was turned the other way.  As this had already been burnt we were able to knock out the few sparks remaining and say thank God for a miracle.

Another time fire threatened a place we were renting a few miles distant.  By this time we had obtained a secondhand utility and went over by road to protect the other property.  The fire was in the distance and seemed unlikely to reach us but, taking proper precautions Harry went to watch the shed and equipment, and left me to take care of the ute, which he had parked in a spot full of tree stumps and fallen trees where there was no grass.

Once again the fire stampeded along in the trees and reached us much more quickly than anticipated.  As sparks were dropping all round I knew I must get the vehicle away or the petrol might explode.  I could just drive the bus but had not done so as I had no licence.  I was near a gateway and road and managed, in low gear, to get it around the stumps and logs without touching them, and along the bush road for some distance until I reached a place where trees and everything else had been burnt by a recent fire and there was no further danger.  Harry managed to put the fire out round the shed and equipment, and came to see how I had fared.  He was amazed then he saw the fire had been through and there was no sign of me or the ute.  Eventually, very worried, he realised that I had managed to drive it out and could hardly believe it when he found us far away. none the worse for wear, and safely clear of the fire.  So much for flood and fire.

At Narrikup we became quite popular with some of the local people.  The schoolmaster, a young man named George Hill and his friend, Lawrence Downie, used to come along and play bridge in the evening if it was not our busy period.  At about 10.30 p.m. I would produce supper as a hint that it was nearly bedtime.  If the message did not get through Harry would wind the clock and put the cat out, but we seldom got rid of them before 11 p.m. of, if it was the weekend, midnight. " (I remember mum speaking of Lawrence Downie but not George Hill for some reason or perhaps I just don't recall his name.   I can remember years later dad used to try the same trick of winding the clock etc if he thought visitors had stayed too late.)

This is a photo I have of a group of farmers at Narrikup taken I think a year or two before I was born.

Len (with hat on) is third from the left at the back and dad (also with hat on) is standing behind the lady holding the small child.  Mum (also wearing a hat) is standing next to the car just in between the two men.  I am presuming they had perhaps been to a picnic or similar.  Unfortunately I don't know who the people are but I am sure I would have met them when I was little.  A am I wrong in thinking that mum and dad sort of stand out as being pommies and not dinkum Aussies?

"It was George' first school and he was batching in the very limited quarters attached to the school building.  If making an early trip to the siding we would often see George, very informally dressed, cooking his breakfast in a frying pan on the outside fireplace.  Board and lodging for country school teachers was difficult to find and, even if available, not very satisfactory."

A good place to stop as in the next enthralling episode an exciting development for our two farmers.

Thursday, February 12, 2015


I know some of my friends do own and use kindles.   I have problems holding heavy books and have often wondered if I should buy a kindle.  However, in the magazine of a recent Weekend Australian newspaper there was this article which gave me much food for thought:

"The day my screen lost its gleam by Natasha Robinson

It is hard to pinpoint the exact moment I fell out of love.  Something just died and I cannot quite say when or why.  all I know is I haven't touched my Kindle in weeks.  Like a spouse keeping up appearances when a marriage has long crumbled, I keep buying books that sit in my electronic library, unread.  Or I stop halfway through a novel that I desperately want to finish, because I cannot face pushing that sliding button, or seeing that black and white image of Emily Dickinson flicker into view when the screen saver activates one more godforsaken time.  The e-book is dead to me.

I have reverted to a world of nostalgia and fantasy.  My daydreams take me to Ski Lanka's tea country, to Nuwara Eliya where about 15 years ago I rad the bulk of Anna Karenina in betwen games of chess.  It was the fattest book I had ever read.  I held it in my hands and i felt I'd climbed a literary mountain.

I cannot remember achieving that kind of immersion in an e-book  Certainly, right now when I look at my Kindle it leaves me feeling cold.  I crave absorption in something that doesn't have a screen or emit light.

Apparently I'm not alone in this.  While Christmas shopping, my local independent bookshop was bustling.  And the evidence of our ongoing love affair with the physical book is not just anecdotal.  The organisation that handles group buying and marketing for independent bookshops of Australia, Leading Edge Books, says sales data indicates the digital share of the book market has peaked and stabilised as readers who have sampled the e-reader begin to migrate back to the physical book.

Five years ago, my former colleague Corrie Perkin departed journalism after a distinguished 30-year career to open a bookshop, right at the peak of the market upheavals that saw publishing giants such as Collins go into administration.  "Everybody said we were crazy, " Corrie says.  "But I had an innate belief that as our daily lives became more and more linked to the iPad and the iPhone, that in our leisure time we may want to spend less time on those devices.  For a meaningful engagement with a book  ...  a tactile, tangible, physical item is the thing that people keep coming back to."  The gamble paid off.  Corrie's bookstore, My Bookshop, is about to open its second premises in Melbourne.

There is another aspect too.  As we speak, Corrie is looking at  her own bookshelves, where she has a collection of books left behind by her father, the acclaimed newspaper editor Graham Perkin, who died when Corrie was 14 years old.  "He was a big reader, she says.  "I have stacks of his books; they connect him to me."

My mother, too, kept some of our childhood books.  John Brown and the Midnight Cat was a favourite of me and my sister.  Now I read that story to my children.  The pages are tattered, more than a few held together with sticky tape  But it's a physical marker of a tradition, of a head resting in the nook of a mother's arm after bath time, a time of absorption that is all too rare in the electronic world.  Long may it live."

Those of you who regularly read e-books may not agree with this article and I would love to read your comments about it.   Even though my hands hurt when holding a book, I still don't know that I would get the same feeling of connection to the story from an e-book.  It certainly made me have second thoughts anyway.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


We left the pair gradually getting back on their feet after a series of setbacks and thinking about finding a house to live in after 18 months in their makeshift humpy.

Excerpt from 'THE CLOCK OF TIME" by Gertrude Ruston.  (pp 79-83)  (I have added some little pictures to help carry the story along plus two family pics which I am so glad I have.  One of "The Pines" .. the farm in Narrikup...and one of dad using the separating machine.  The other pics are free ones I obtained by googling what I wanted).


We found a suitable place about four miles from Narrikup siding and a short distance from the Hay River Road, and were fortunate enough to obtain it from the government.

The house was not perfect but, after our humpy it seemed a palace to us.  It had four rooms and was built of *jarrah with polished jarrah lining throughout, and we made ourselves quite comfortable there.  Unfortunately white ants had moved in at some time but they did no worry us and they may have left because we did not fall through floors or walls."  (I may be wrong but I seem to remember, as a small child, discovering a room on the back of the house that had no floorboards but you could walk in there on the bearers.  I think it may have been where the white ants had been before they had been destroyed.  I am sure I spoke to mum about it but can't recall exactly what she told me.)

"The kitchen was fairly large, had a good Metters No. 3 wood stove, and it even had a tap through the wall from the tank which saved many steps.  There was not a sink but that would have been an unexpected luxury, and the waste water served to keep the grass growing round the house.

There was a small lake about half a mile away which provided water for stock during dry periods, and in which we were able to have a dip occasionally in the evening when the weather was hot,  There was a reasonably good dam on the farm but we had to cart water for the animals at the end of a long dry summer.

It was mainly on this property at Narrikup that, of necessity, I became proficient at milking, bread making, butter, cheese and bacon producing.  I had, of course, tackled them before but never to the same extent.  Milking was done by hand and separating by hand operated machine.  The herd increased and we took the cream to the siding regularly and received a good monthly cheque.  We were almost self-sufficient and only needed a supply of dry goods and occasional fresh meat.

The swamp was very good peat and produced excellent crops, many of the potatoes being exceptionally large.  We sent a few of these outsize saleables to Boans and Bairds (both now Myer), with whom we dealt.  They both exhibited them in their windows in Perth, and we received orders for the seed from the crops, the proceeds from which we bought our dry goods for the year, everything being ordered in large quantities.

We called the property "The Pines" because it had a magnificent double row of pines on one side of the house and a single row on the other side.  These provided marvellous shade and were also a good wind break."  (I can remember as a child how I used to love to walk under the pines and feel the needles crunch under my feet.  This is the only photo of 'The Pines" that I have and it was probably taken a year or two before I was born, ca 1930-31.  I have a nice little collection of tiny black and white photographs taken in the early 1930s).

"The herd had now increased to 30 cows, which I often milked on my own, starting at about 5 a.m. and finishing about 8 a.m. when it was breakfast time.  The unfortunate thing about cows is that they never have a day off and neither do you if you are milking them.  Meantime Harry was busy with the other work, and he did the separating while I cooked the breakfast."   (I am not sure when this photo of dad with the separator was taken but I imagine it would be in Narrikup as there don't seem to be any other photos prior to that time.  Quite possibly ca 1930/31, a year or two before I arrived on the scene).

"By this time we had realised we were very foolish to buy loads of chaff from the merchants with which to feed the stock.  There was not a great deal of goodness in the chaff, and we thought it much more profitable to start growing our own hay as is done in England.  At this time very few people around had hay stacks but we decided to grow our own grain and chaff it.  We bought a secondhand chaff cutter and were very proud indeed when we had our first stack of hay.  No more carting of chaff!  We had to toss the hay before stacking it to be sure it dried properly, and while doing this one day I was terrified to see an enormous black snake depart hurriedly.  As you can imagine, I watched very closely after that when tossing hay.  Most farmers now have haystacks, and clover is planted in between the trees instead of laboriously clearing the whole paddock as we used to do.
 You often read of people being bitten by snakes so it is strange that, although we had a number of frights and near misses none of us were bitten.  On one occasion, soon after we arrived in W.A., Harry was following me along a narrow cow path and saw me tread on three small snakes.  I was wearing rubber boots, and the snakes were certainly not looking for trouble, but it gave me a jolt and I soon found it necessary to take them seriously.  When fencing, and we did a great deal of that through uncleared bush, snakes reared up and hissed at me but nothing happened when I left them alone.

When we arrived in W.A. the Australian wood stove and camp oven were exciting new experiences but, with kindly help, I had soon become proficient.  I even managed to use a hay box after a few failures.  (You can Google 'hay box' to find out what they are).

Camping out was another new adventure and I recall sleeping under a spring cart and, during hot weather, in the open when planting a crop on a distant block where there was no building.

We needed a cowshed and Harry thought we could copy one from a plan he had seen in a farm magazine.  We erected it by ourselves, and made it large enough to take ten cows at a time.  We would put the feed ready in each bail, the cows would go into their own stalls and, by moving a rod at the end they would all be fixed in automatically.  It was a complete success, especially for a man not particularly good with tools.  We had one old cow named Rosy who was extremely wise and an expert at moving sliprails.  If we were not watching she would let the rails down and let all the animals in or out, depending on what she wanted to do."  (It may not have been quite as flash as this but I imagine the cow shed looked similar to this one).

"The cows would often be feeding on a hill nearby and we only had to tell our dog to fetch them and down they would all come.  She also fetched the horses for us and they used to race her down to the shed.

It was on that same hill paddock in the early morning that we often watched kangaroos feeding.  Sometimes they appeared to be having a fight and, strange to say, they fight as men do, using their fists like boxing gloves.  Quite interesting and entertaining to watch, but annoying to see them eating our precious feed, especially when there were a dozen or so in the paddock.

At times we used, from necessity, to kill kangaroos when we had no meat  There were times when we were obliged to eat kangaroo for long periods - we either did so or went hungry.  The tail makes excellent soup.

In the winter, when there were ducks on the swamp, Harry would sometimes be lucky enough to shoot one or two for us to eat, which made a welcome change of diet.  When visiting in the bush I have eaten many meals without knowing of what they consisted.

There were times when it was not possible to write home as we had no money for a postage stamp, nor indeed for anything.  We mostly had a bag of flour so that we could make bread a bag or part of a bag of sugar to keep us going, butter and cream from the farm; pork and all that was necessary to make bacon. as well as some bacon hanging up in bags from the last curing.  We could live from the land, and we were undoubtedly more fortunate than many folks during the Depression, as we wee not hungry at any time.  We had learned the way to catch our own food and managed to get some rabbits at times.

Tommy, the cat, often raided a rabbit burrow and brought home one or two small rabbits, which he had caught overnight.  He used to put them behind the kitchen door, which was left open, and next morning we might suddenly see a small paw sticking out.  He apparently ate his fill and brought the rest into the house to store.  I don't know whether or not he could count, but he didn't seem to mind sharing his catch.  Rabbits were trapped all over the bush for food and skins, as this was before the wholesale poisoning commenced.

With everything that had been happening I think we were beginning to get on each other's nerves somewhat and at times I found it difficult to do anything to please Harry and seemed to be constantly in hot water.  I remember one particular morning when I had taken all I could stand and he came along grumbling about something or other.  I was at the kitchen door and had a dish of washing-up water in my hands ready to throw on the garden, and I let fly with it.  Harry stood there with the water dripping all over him and didn't say a word.  It was wonderful to get my own back and I really shocked him that time.

After a long period of hard work and no relaxation there was to be a friendly social in the Narrikup Hall.  Everybody turned up to these neighbourly affairs with their children and, of course, a plate of eats.  Harry didn't dance and refused to go along and, to his annoyance, I accepted an invitation to go with a nearby family.  He was quite cross when I reached home with the neighbours after a pleasant evening and then he handed me a telegram addressed to me telling me of my grandmother's death.  I felt he had held on to the telegram for a day or two and then given it to me to spoil what had been a pleasant evening.  I was really cross and I hit him and he hit me back - the only time that I can remember that happening."  (I never knew dad to be spiteful but with the pressure they had been under, mum's going off without him may have been just too much for him and, although I am sure he trusted here, he had a jealous nature.)

*Jarrah is a Western Australian hardwood, very long wearing and said to be reasonably resistant to white ants (termites).   Much of the jarrah forest was chopped down by the early settlers and in fact some of the streets of London were lined with jarrah blocks which gives an indication of how hardwearing it is.   In later years it developed jarrah dieback which decimated much of the forest and strict laws were brought in to endeavour to stop the spread of this disease.

Boans and Bairds are two Perth stores I remember so well from my youth.  Bairds was the store that most farmers dealt with and the slogan was they sold everything from a nail to an anchor or something similar.  Boans was bought by Myer who promised to faithfully keep the name Boans but it only took a couple of years before the name of Boans disappeared from Perth city.  Bairds was rebuilt and a very large Myer store now stands in its place  ....  or at least I think it does as it is some years since I was in the city.

I am going to leave my good folks there (neither in the best of humour) as I don't want to make these episodes too long or they will become boring.  Would you prefer I left the pics out (except any that are my own) or do you think they help with the story?  Your wish is my command.

Sunday, February 8, 2015


After being flooded out and then burnt out where is there to go for these two English farmers?  Son Len has taken off for parts unknown and there are further problems ahead for all.

Excerpt from 'THE CLOCK OF TIME" by Gertrude Ruston.  (pp 75-79)  (The pictures I have added are free pictures I find on the internet as I do not have any photos taken at this time.   I just like to add them to embellish an already wonderful story).

"At the time following our tragedies with flood and fire we came up against the world recession, and we were going through the terrible depression that hit this country, so things were very difficult.  We were having to chop firewood in the bush and truck it to Albany to obtain the very little we had in the way of stores, and there was practically no money.

When Harry drove into town one day he was asked to go along to see the local policeman.  Somewhat mystified he went to the police station and was asked if he would give a home to two Englishmen to keep them going as they could not find any work.  They were penniless and there was no unemployment benefit in those days.  The policeman explained that while Australians might put themselves out for their own people, they were less willing to take in two inexperienced pommies.  The two men offered their services for food and shelter and, as they were our countrymen, Harry was put on the spot.  He explained that we were up against it ourselves, living in a humpy on very plain food, and that we could only bed them down in a rough shed.  They promised to help us and agreed to Harry's suggestion that we all try it out for a while.

Imagine my surprise!  Instead of having one man come home I had three.  The two strangers made themselves comfortable in the shed and joined us in the humpy for a meal.  They came from two distinct levels of society.  Taylor, tall, slender and with an Oxford accent, fitted perfectly the usual conception of a remittance man., whilst Tommy was a typical cockney railway porter.

They were both bridge players so, after tea, we played cards.  I enjoy a game of bridge but like to be able to make an occasional remark, as did Tommy, but we were very much discouraged by Taylor who obviously, when he played cards in the usual way, did so very seriously for money.  In our case we played for matches, and even those were hard to come by so we had to hand them back after the small satisfaction of winning.  Smoking was OUT - nobody could afford it - and such things as radio and television did not exist.

Taylor claimed to have been a Commissioner on one of the nearby islands.  Whether or not this was so, he did describe in detail a large residence with a row of stones around it painted white.  We later saw a picture of such a place and wondered whether there could have been any truth in his story.

Fortunately for all of us, both of them had a sense of humour and this helped us over a very difficult period, but I am afraid the amount of work we got out of them was not very profitable, so they really did less than Harry and I would have done on our own.

The extremes of birth and character of the two men were an entertainment in themselves, and they did not hesitate to make fun of each other.  It was not at all strange for us to go down to the paddock with the idea of planting potatoes, fertilising and so on, to find Taylor singing something from one of the operas, or with flowers around his head acting as Simplicitas, while Tommy, as soon as he saw Harry and me approaching, would start singing "where did you get that hat?" because, being fair skinned, we were both obliged to wear large straw hats.  Altogether, although an anxious time, it was not an unhappy one, and perhaps helped us to over come a little of our private problems resulting from flood, fire and the Great Depression.

On Christmas day all we could muster were two large tins of herrings in tomato sauce, and new baked rolls with jam and cream.  Fortunately we did have some laying hens and one milking cow.  We held a conference as to what we could do with the available fare and Taylor offered to make a special dish with the herrings, mustard, eggs etc.  We warned him what would happen if we could not eat if but, surprisingly, it was very tasty and went down well together with some potato cakes.  The hot rolls, jam and cream finished off an enjoyable meal, if not a traditional Christmas dinner.

 While Taylor was busy with his cooking I noticed that Tommy had disappeared.  He later came along with four fancy hats made from newspaper he had found in the shed which we all wore and which helped to give us a party feeling.  We were all friends in distress and made the best of things.

The men were with us for quite a while and then Tommy managed to get himself a job with one of the neighbours.  Taylor was not so easy to place as he always disappeared if any visitors came round and he did not fit into the farming life.  He was absolutely hopeless with horses.  It was hilarious to watch him trying to drive a horse and saying "get up you silly blighter" or "you blithering idiot:, all with the Oxford accent and obviously nervous of the animal, which would either stand still or do whatever it felt inclined to do.

Things were getting a little better locally and Harry thought Taylor might be able to do something about a job in town, so he sent him to Albany by train with sufficient money for his return fare.  He also gave him an order for stores which we required from Barnett Bros., and £5 of our very little money to pay for them.  We never saw Taylor again.  He pocketed the return fare and the £5 for the food without even having the decency to give the order into the store.

How different were the two men!  Tommy was always straight and decent - an honest working man.  Taylor, on the other hand, left us without a word and in a desperate position without stores, despite the fact that we had taken him in when we could not afford to do so, and he had never earned his tucker.  However, we once again took the blow philosophically and set about chopping firewood again to earn enough for the badly needed groceries.  At least there were only the two of us to feed.
During the winter we went into the bush with two axes and a maul and wedges and cut firewood to send by truck to Albany to pay for our food (about £40 then - probably several hundred of dollars today) to carry us along until the crops matured.

Whilst at Chorkerup we had reduced our milking cows to one small Jersey named Biddy,  She was quite tame and we could call her up, give her some food, and she would stand by a post and allow us to milk her without much difficulty.  I used to milk her night and morning and she gave us sufficient for our own use.

I remember one occasion when I went along with a bucket and stool ready to milk.  I was going along nicely when there was a very loud grunt behind me.  The boar had got out of his sty.  He was an enormous black Berkshire, nearly as big as a cow.  Well, I went, the cow went, and the milk went.  There was nothing more done until Harry's return to help fasten the boar once more in the sty.  Pigs seem to have an uncanny knack of knowing when the man of the house is away!

 We gradually built up our herd of milking cows until they brought in enough cream to pay the grocery bill and, occasionally. a little meat from town.  For the rest we would kill a pig, make brawn, save a small piece to roast and turn the rest into bacon.  We had been shown an excellent method of curing bacon and it became a wonderful standby.

I remember our first attempt to build a smoke house for the bacon; it caught fire and cooked the meat.  Fortunately we had experimented with a small amount and were able to use it with some kangaroo to make a tasty meal.  We certainly had to learn by experience, the hard way.

After eighteen months in our hump we decided to look for a property with a decent house on it and a larger and better swamp, which we might be able to get through the government.

While still at Chorkerup Harry decided to experiment with a small crop of peanuts, which were said to be profitable.  They came up well and intrigued us as they looked like healthy clover plants.  The nuts form underground and have to be dug like potatoes.

To our annoyance we found that some of the bush animals had discovered the plants and were eating them.  Harry said he would put a stop to that and put up a scarecrow and the result was not exactly as we had expected.
We could hardly believe our eyes when we saw every emu for miles around come to investigate the scarecrow, which was complete with an old hat and tins that rattled in the wind.  Unbeknown to us they are apparently extremely curious birds and they enjoyed the entertainment and remained to eat the crop.   Another brainwave discarded!"

A big change is coming up for our farmers and I will tell about that in the next episode of my mother's story.  Please let me know if I should continue with this story and, if you say yes, then stay tuned.   *_*