Dad bought ‘Elphin Grove’, East Sassafras about the same time as Uncle Henry bought ‘Cheverton’. To my father’s chagrin, Henry made a success of farming whilst Dad had to sell ‘Elphin Grove’ after many difficult years. Dad’s farm was run down, and Henry’s was in top condition, this may have had something to do with it.
The farm was bought before Angus was born. Mum found this a formidable period with two households and a baby. At three months, Angus became ill in Devonport, and Mum didn’t ring Dad at the farm. She asked me to hold Angus whilst she brought in enough wood to keep the fire burning throughout the night. As I held him, he lay perfectly still until he’d jump almost out of my arms. This was due to his high temperature. The doctor was called, something my mother didn’t do lightly. He didn’t know whether Angus would make it through the night. Next morning Angus had spots. He had measles.
The upstairs three bedrooms and bathroom were built-on whilst I was still at primary school. This was a point of disagreement between my parents, as the arrangement was to have been: build-on or buy a farm. It turned out to be both. Dad had asked a wealthy cousin, Graeme White, to go into financial partnership with him to buy the farm. My mother was not pleased, especially finding herself pregnant. She wanted us to continue going to the local primary school in Devonport wishing to stay in town, but the farm was about a twenty- minute drive out of town, considered a long way then.
Dad practised mixed farming. In this photo you can see the thistles surrounding the sheep. We used to all go out with a hoe to try to eradicate them. An unending job on 500 acres. My father was against pesticides and farmed organically, not popular in those days.
Angus became the baby who soon learnt to get his own way, and my mother’s frustrations grew. He learnt to swear at the age of two, and many people remember him having tantrums ‘up the street’; Angus lying on the pavement, and my mother resorting to jelly beans to quieten him. Travelling to the farm we had a little pale blue Commer van. It was my job to nurse Angus, as there were no car seats or seat belts then. His head felt so heavy when he’d fall asleep and my arms would ache from holding him.
On the farm, he roamed with just a rather dirty-looking nappy on his tanned body. He was ten years younger than me. During his toilet training period there was the occasional hose down at the end of the day. Once he crawled up to the bee- hives and was stung. He was duly treated with the bluebag from the laundry. We loved hearing his prayer at night, as instead of ending with ‘For Christ’s sake, Amen’, he’d say, ‘For Christ’s sake, come in!’
The Russell household remembered Angus’ urinary contributions to the rain gauge. David kept the official records for the weather station, and Angus’ contributions were not welcomed.
Angus rejoiced in eating lipsticks. Auntie Mynie lost one, before she realized that Angus had a fetish for them. He also ate Auntie Judy’s new Revlon, and she did not take that quietly. Angus, Nigel, and Graeme stayed with Auntie Mynie at times during the years Dad had the farm. Being away at school, I was unaware of this, even though Mum wrote weekly.
Our youngest brother was canny, if money were to be found, Angus would find it. Mum made him take it to the Police Station when he found a note of some worth. He’d wait and it was always returned to him.
The Advocate newspaper photographed Angus, and it incorrectly stated that he was collecting pinecones for the aged. Some children were, but Angus was bringing his sack home. One of his ‘sculptures’ was also seen in the newspaper, a log adorned with seaweed, looking like a woman. The headline: ‘unknown artist’, delighted him.
A story in The Examiner (29th March 1989) describes Angus’s endearing naughtiness: ‘When young, Angus Roberts set his school pencil case adrift on the Mersey River for him and his school mates to pelt with stones, it wasn’t until it was about 10m from the shore he remembered it contained his school report card.’ This article was about Angus becoming the first Devonport- born sea captain returning to the Mersey for some time. Angus’s quote: ‘My bedroom overlooked the river, now my bedroom is the river.’
In 1956, the year Angus was born, Clive was sent to board at Scotch College in Launceston. He took to it and excelled in everything, becoming head prefect at fifteen, a position he held for two years. His first Christmas holidays at home in Devonport he said, ‘Mum, I’m playing in the tennis tournament.’
Mum responded, ‘Do you know how to play tennis?’
Clive returned home with a brand new tennis racquet having won the Junior Section. I basked in the shadow of his popularity.
Apologies for the lack of quality of the box brownie photos!