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.


  1. Hari OM
    Stand out? Not particularly Mimsie... Perhaps a little less 'laid back' looking, but that wouldn't necessarily say 'pommie'...

    Ooooohhhh - are we at the bit where you come on the scene??? (patience gal....) YAM xx

    1. p.s. how's the phone bizzo going??? Yxx

    2. I think I meant just as you said "not quite so laid back" which made them stand out somewhat.
      I arrived very surreptitously didn't I? Very little said about a pregnancy etc. Mum wrote that bit in rather well I thought, even the bit about wanting a daughter so badly.
      Phone problem sorted. Went to JB HiFi and bought a $38 Nokia 106 and the chap changed the sim card over and we are in business. Works well and although keys now a lot bigger it is much easier to use and even the little instruction book is easy to understand. xxx

    3. ...Yaaayyyyy for Nokia; they are good. Glad it's sorted! Yxx

  2. They do look a tad more 'city' than the rest don't they?

    1. Yes, I thought they certainly did. Not quite so laid back.

  3. How awful to have to stand and watch as fire races towards your home, I can well imagine the relief when the wind suddenly turned it back.
    Sorry to hear your mum lost not only her rings, but the stock they bought as well.
    I don't see any difference in the people in the photograph.

    1. I tried to comment yesterday but wasn't able to for some reason.
      I guess they would have felt the same as so many Australian families over the years when these raging bushfires happen but in mum and dad's case they were fortunate that they and their property survived.
      Maybe it's because I know who they are I thought they looked a tad different....maybe their style of dress perhaps?