Enduring Threads: part 13

1956

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.

Clive, Graeme, Angus, Nigel, Barbara and Frank at 'Elphin Grove'

Clive, Graeme, Angus, Nigel, Barbara and Frank at ‘Elphin Grove’

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.

29 Victoria Parade after top floor was added

29 Victoria Parade after top floor was added

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.

Greens Creek running through 'Elphin Grove', East Sassafras

Greens Creek running through ‘Elphin Grove’, East Sassafras

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.

Angus sitting in Auntie Mynie's driveway.

Angus sitting in Auntie Mynie’s driveway.

Scan

Eric Pyett and Angus outside the old house at the farm

 

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.’

Clive, 1950s

Clive, 1950s

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!

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8 thoughts on “Enduring Threads: part 13

  1. Dixie Minor

    Angus sounds like a handful! 😀 How exciting that he became a sea captain. I had a little Brownie camera too. I really enjoyed this and am so fascinated by your stories and especially love hearing a about living out from town on the farm.

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  2. avian101

    It’s so much fun to read about children doing what they always do. I enjoy it because it seems that in every family things happen at similar level of children craziness. Thanks Barbara! 🙂

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  3. ChristineR

    The photos have character, Barbara. I was very pleased to see No 13 appear over to the right as I finished No 12. Almost missed it! This is great. I love the way how you are making it more about you. Angus has got a big head, no wonder he was heavy. And I’ve been there, done that with thistles. So damned thankless a task, and that was only on 230 acres.

    I’m sure my dad had a old commer van, once. We were coming home from Mt Gambier. We had not long crossed the border into Victoria, when a wheel came off the axle, or the axle broke. A few of us kids were in the back, no seats, and the noise of the axle scraping the bitumen was horrible. We were lucky the van didn’t fall over. It happened on a sweeping bend and luckily dad wasn’t going very fast and we didn’t get banged about too much.

    Thanks, loving these memoirs.

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    1. bkpyett Post author

      Loved hearing about your Commer van Christine, lucky none of you were hurt! Most of the photos are pretty poor from this time, but have put them in regardless, as hopefully it helps give a fuller picture. Yes, the thistles were a constant…. never seemed to be any better!

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