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.


  1. Replies
    1. I am sure it was the old stiff upper lip that saw them through. They were certainly built of very stern stuff.

  2. Hari OM
    Hard, hard times; yet, as is so often the case, the 'rock bottom' is the place from which we can bounce... Len does look smart! I recall that one or two of the larger cab companies in Sydney insist on at least a company shirt (with eppaulets and logo), but on the whole, the dress standard now is very poor... YAM xx

    1. I've often said to people, when you hit rock bottom the only way to go is up.

    2. I do think they were very close to rock bottom at this time of their lives but still they shone through as people often do. It must have been hard going from what was quite an easy life to such a harsh one for so many years.

  3. Such desperately hard times....your mom must have been quite the seamstress.

    1. Dreadfully difficult times. I don't really remember mum doing much sewing but then I began making my own clothes when I was about 15 so she probably didn't have to bother after that.

  4. Times were tough, but I'll bet there was a lot less complaining going on that what we hear today from families who don't have every little thing they want. People used to suck it up and do what had to be done, no matter how tough or disappointing it was.

    Fascinating story!

    1. Thanks Susan. Mum, mum in her book, told it just the way it was at times making some family members seem a little hard but I guess they were hard times so we mustn't judge.
      I am sure there are still people in the world today that accept life's challenges and get on with it without complaint.

  5. I feel humbled when I read of the hardships your parents went through Mimsie. What an amazing story.

    1. Thanks Denise. I am sure there were folk even worse off but perhaps not all that many compared to mum and dad though. They just took setbacks in their stride and jolly well got on with it.

  6. A sad episode with your mum becoming ill and not fully recovering. The hardest part to read was them having to walk off the property and leave everything behind. Everything! That's harsh.
    That little girl on the beach looks like it could almost be you, with the smile and the dark curls.

    1. Yes, I feel if mum had been in slightly better health they may have put up a fight but I think the doctor really frightened them both so they had little choice but to just go.
      Strange but I too thought perhaps she looked a little like me so that is why I chose that one. Her hair looks darker but it may have been wet.

  7. Oh Mimsie your Mum is the strongest woman I have ever read about. I do understand hardships of farming but your Mum makes me think I have it easy. I am so happy to learn more about your family. xo HUGS B

    1. Thanks Buttons for your kind comments. Mum was certainly made of stern stuff as they say and fought really hard right to the end of her long life.
      I think you do understand about farming life very well and no, you've not always had it easy yourself but you keep on keeping on don't you! xx