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.   *_*


  1. Of course you have to continue can't leave us hanging.

    1. OK Delores I don't have to be told twice. Thank you.

  2. Hari Om
    ...crikey mate - ya better!!! &*> YAM xx

    1. Your message received loud and clear. The story shall continue. Thanks. xx

  3. What a combination of memories here, Mimsie! Isn't great to be able to see things through different eyes now that we're "older"!!!...:)JP

    1. Yes and I am amazed at how clear mum's memories were. She was in her early 80s when she wrote her book from which I am quoting.
      Things were certainly so different for people back then.

  4. Do you really have to ask? Continue. Please.
    The livestock they kept made me think of 'Mugga Way' - our most prestigious street. Well it is now. When Canberra was designed the blocks there were bigger - so that the poorer people could keep some animals to keep the wolf from the door. Now, there are regulations about keeping chickens in the suburbs. You would have no chance of keeping a cow or two, much less pigs...

    1. I did have to ask EC as I don't want to boring but obviously there is enough in mum's story to keep people's interests.
      I think you can still keep chooks in some of our suburbs but probably not the posh ones. We still have our little chook house (now used for storage) and we're not sure if our bylaws still allow chickens to be kept and yet the lady next door did or still does have a few. I do really think that cows would be out now. : )

  5. Yes, yes, please continue. The story is now beginning to remind me of things my mum used to do to make a few extra dollars although much later in the 60s and 70s.
    Sorry to hear about the loss of the milk when the boar appeared. That would have been hard to take. And that Taylor! A con man I'm sure.

    1. Thank you River and continue I shall as there is still heaps more to tell. Mum actually had many phases to her life beginning with her life in England, in the bush down south, as a housewife in the city and then her social work in later life. She never stopped.
      I always enjoyed the story about Taylor and Tommy. One would have thought it would have turned out the other way but mum may have been correct when she said Taylor was just how you would expect a remittance man to appear to be. I was glad the cockney chap turned out trumps cos dad came from East London too.