Tag Archives: family

Summer departs with a freak storm:

Saturday was still and warm, the last day of summer, perfect for sitting outside for lunch and the afternoon tea. Two of our children and families came down to share time with us. This is what I love, preparing food for family.

Liza, Mackenzie, Francesca and Hazel

Liza, Mackenzie, Francesca and Hazel

Relaxing in the warmth of the evening the power fluctuated several times and went off all together. I always enjoy lighting the candles and having a quiet time.

The stormy winds sounded like a mini tornado, and then the rain began. We went out the back to see that everything was all right and to experience the storm. It wasn’t until the morning we discovered how damaging the storm had been. We were fortunate that only one street tree dropped a branch without any major damage.


Tree branch blocking our driveway.

Tree branch blocking our driveway.

Walking up the street a block we saw how a huge tree had fallen. Breaking a fence, falling across a parked car and blocked the road. There was also a cement electricity pole broken in half. Electricity wires were ripped from quite a few houses, so they will be without power for some time. We’re lucky as the power came on early this morning. So the beginning of Autumn came with a bang.

Next corner up.

Next corner up.

If you look closely you can see the broken cement power pole and the tree down.

If you look closely you can see the broken cement power pole and the tree down.

Autumnal crocus

Autumnal crocus

Me time: What’s your ideal Saturday morning? Are you doing those things this morning? Why not? Michelle W. Daily prompt.




Looking back over the holiday period makes me very grateful for what we have and the family we share.

The Sunday before Christmas we had Christopher’s boys and their families. Will and Rachael are now foster parents. They brought their son and a foster boy with them to share our special day. At present this child is only having respite time with them as his mother is waiting for a placement in a drug rehabilitation centre. Ice is a particularly nasty drug, which is far more addictive than other drugs, and is rampant in Victoria, as it is probably everywhere else. It is hard to imagine what it is like for an only child to live in this environment.

L. appeared happy to be with us and joined in the conversation. Since joining his foster parents he’s experienced many things for the first time. Going to the beach, to the cinema and many family activities that we take for granted.

Conversation at the lunch table was interesting. L is obsessed with the army and army activities. Someone at school had convinced him that ISIS has nothing to do with terrorism. He asked each of us what we thought, but our thoughts didn’t deter him, even though he couldn’t remember the reasoning behind his friend’s comment. Rachael calmly suggested that since he couldn’t remember the reason, perhaps he needed to reconsider this information.

I thought how easily a child can be led astray. Hopefully listening to a group of adults with different views from his own, will give him pause to reconsider his way out views.


Daughters in law with naughty Grandpa and youngest grandchild.

Daughters in law with naughty Grandpa and youngest grandchild.

The meal was a great success, always a relief for me when it all comes together. Many of the vegetables were new to L. and so it was rewarding to see him tasting and liking them. Roast pork turned out to be a favourite.

Playing cricket in the street was fun, apart from my beloved tearing a tendon when he was trying to bowl a googly. He was surprised that his body didn’t respond as it did forty years ago. He ended up fielding with Millie by his side, who delighted in catching the balls that came their way.

We were thrilled at the end of the day when L. announced he’d never had such a wonderful Christmas, it made it all so worthwhile. It also made me sad to think of how many children there must be out there who would be not celebrating, as we were able to do. Christmas isn’t always a happy time for people, so it makes me more appreciative than ever, that we’re able to share with a family we love.

Some good news announced today, 2-1-15: Collingwood, the largest Australian Rules Football Club announced that it has donated 30 homes to the Salvation Army to house those less fortunate. This means 80 people are now benefitting from this generous gift. Collingwood Football Club propose to donate another 70 homes this year. What a wonderful, generous way to start the year. Congratulations to all of those involved.



Fantasy dispelled:

Oral history is not always reliable. I had thought I’d write a quick post regarding my father in law, Eric Harold Pyett, who wrote yesterday’s short story, ‘Jenny and the Bag of Bones’. After a couple of checks on some of the details, facts have been distorted. So here is a little of what I’ve been able to decipher:

In 1930, Eric Pyett went to sea at the age of 16. His father who had been a builder and shipwright in Liverpool, England, due to the depression, also left home and found work at sea. Eric was the eldest son, though had an older sister, Kathleen, and two younger brothers, Alan and Brian.

Eric has written short stories about his time at sea. He has not written about his time during

Margarett and Eric Pyett with Chloe Hall, and Aidan Eddy, (Margarett's brother) 28-2-1940

Margarett and Eric Pyett with Chloe Hall, and Aidan Eddy, (Margarett’s brother) 28-2-1940

the war. We do know that he met Margarett, his wife to be, at a dance at Beauty Point, Tasmania, before the war. He was at this time working for the British Blue Funnel Line, shipping cargo, including apples from Tasmania to England. Eric and Margarett married on 28th February 1940.

After their marriage, Eric transferred to the ship, ‘Manunda’, Adelaide Steamship Company. This ship was converted to a hospital ship. The fall of Singapore happened on 15 February 1942. There was a build up of activities around the Northern coast of Australia.

On Thursday 19th February 1942, there were 55 ships in Darwin Harbour at the time of the attack. Six large ships and two smaller ones were sunk. There were about 176 people killed and about 200 seriously injured on ships in and around Darwin Harbour. Eric was 4th officer, and ashore, when the ‘Manunda’ with its red cross on a white background was sprayed with shrapnel, killing four people. 76 holes were peppered into her plates and a bomb exploded on B and C decks, missing the bridge, but starting many fires.

There were many staff injured and the navigational instruments were damaged. Hospital crew who, rescued seriously injured people from the water, manned the life- boats. There are differing accounts of how many people were killed and injured. In one account there were 13 members of the ships’ crew and hospital staff killed, 19 others seriously wounded and another 40 or so received minor wounds. Thanks to the Internet for this information. Such times must have made life seem very precious.

The ‘Manunda’ was able to leave Darwin the next day taking casualties from other ships to Fremantle. As Captain of the ‘Manunda’, Captain Gardener, was later awarded the OBE, in 1945 for his bravery. He navigated by the stars to Fremantle in their battered ship.

Eric later became Captain of the ‘Manunda’, after completing his Masters Ticket in Sydney, becoming the youngest Captain, at that time in Australia.

After the war, Eric and Margarett and Christopher moved from Malvern, Victoria to Devonport, Tasmania, where they settled and Eric built their beautiful home in North Street, completing it with his own myrtle furniture. Their acre garden was also a work of art.

Eric left the sea to work as a stevedore, organizing shipments leaving Devonport for far away places. Eric shared his love of classical music with his son Christopher who was born in 1943. Eric and Christopher inherited a great love and understanding of classical music from Eric’s Maternal Great Grandfather, composer, Sir Henry Bishop (1786-1855, the first knighthood to be bestowed on a musician).

Eric and Margarett had the happiest marriage of any couple I knew, as a child, and an adult. Margarett had an artistic streak and their home was once featured in Home Beautiful, in the 1950s. It was before its time being sun drenched, with large glass doors and windows to bring the garden inside. The eaves were at the right angle to capture the sun in winter and deflect it in summer. Eric had large round windows upstairs facing the street, and when we saw the round window on our house, we knew it to be the right one.

Ship's bell that Eric had on their two houses, that he kept polished. We have moved it to our home in Victoria.

Ship’s bell that Eric had on their two houses, that he kept polished. We have moved it to our home in Victoria.


So all things considered, I believe that yesterday’s short story, ‘Jenny and the Bag of Bones,’ to be fiction. Christopher and I pondered this for some time, as it sounded so real, but looking at dates, it couldn’t have been true.





Enduring Threads: part 17

Selling the farm

Dad was devastated when the time came to sell the farm. Consecutive bad years meant that the farm was not paying its way. The decision to sell was my mother’s.

Dad’s depression following this was hard. He started working for a local builder, Gordon Ibbott, doing his books. Once he managed to get Gordon back on his feet, Dad became a marine and boat building chandler. He loved the sea and was a competent sailor. Getting out to sea suited him. We children were taken out to fish, but often my mother chose to stay home. His first fishing boat was ‘Sabrina’, and then the ‘Brenda’.

Sabrina, Dad's first fishing boat

Sabrina, Dad’s first fishing boat

‘She’s broad in the beam’, my father would say when asked why it was called that. In fact it was called that when he bought it. These boats helped restore Dad’s self- worth. We had many fishing expeditions in both fishing boats. Dad built a fibreglass dinghy in the sunroom, that was too big to get out, so the windows had to be removed to extricate it.

Once, in a storm, ‘Brenda’ was seen floating past the house. She was normally moored opposite the Elimatta Hotel in the Mersey River. Dad rushed out with the dinghy and rescued her.

Dad later bought ‘ Valkyrie’, a beautiful ketch, but I’d left home by then. He also built ‘Argos’, which took years and had to be recorked several times before it went in the water. These boats took the place of the farm by restoring Dad’s independence and need for occasional solitude.

Valkyrie on the Mersey

Valkyrie on the Mersey

One memorable expedition, Christopher and his father Eric Pyett accompanied Dad around to Ulverstone for a race to Devonport. Valkyrie was the biggest yacht in the race; so the Ulverstone Yacht club, put ‘a rooster’, as Dad called him, on board to see that there was no foul play.

Dad silently objected by going below to make a cup of tea. He was always partial to a cuppa. By the time they had had their tea, the other boats had left, and Dad appeared unconcerned, ‘They appear to have left us behind!’

Christopher being competitive was totally frustrated. Eric and Frank enjoyed the trip, but the man was dropped unceremoniously on the Ulverstone wharf, where they had to return him.

Angus said the only time he remembers Dad swearing was when he was below in Valkyrie. As

Mum and Dad on Valkyrie

Mum and Dad on Valkyrie

he checked the speedo log, he said, ‘this thing is f****d!’ Valkyrie was eventually sold to some Victorians, who sailed her back to Victoria, only to sink her on the coast line on their return.

Later in the 70s Dad moved shop. Gordon built another shop with materials from some demolition work, and Dad was more than willing to utilise the materials. Here at East Devonport they built a solar panel shop with slow combustion heaters on one side. His marine shop moved to the other half, next door. Nigel worked with my Father, so they ran the businesses together. Dad was always interested in the environment. His organic garden with chooks flourished; this was well before Permaculture became popular.

Devonport developed; there was now an arcade next to Churches’ jeweller’s shop. That was the arcade my father told Christopher not to visit on a Friday night, ‘ Be careful lad, don’t go there, it’s the tunnel of love.’


Enduring Threads: part 15



A Reprieve

Nigel, Barbara, Angus, Clive and Graeme. Robinson Studio photo 1958 (Barbara cutting her fringe as usual before photo)

Nigel, Barbara, Angus, Clive and Graeme.
Robinson Studio photo 1958 (Barbara cutting her fringe as usual before photo)

Looking forward to holidays made the school year bearable. We’d go to the farm at East Sassafras where we children would stay in the old house, whilst our parents slept in the new house. We helped paint the old house inside; yellow and grey in the boy’s bunkroom, and pink and blue in my room. How hideous it sounds now, (fashionable 50s colours). The open door to the outside veranda let the possums in, with their shiny black eyes reflecting in the firelight. Both bedrooms had a fireplace that I delighted in lighting. That love of an open fire remains with me. There was magic about the place. The gnarled old apple tree was the backdrop to our lunches outside in the sunshine. Winter days I picked masses of yellow daffodils growing wild. Arranging these inside radiated a warm glow, brightened the very dark kitchen with the camp oven. The windmill overgrown with an old-fashioned pink cabbage rose filled a fron garden.

One sad holiday, Rummy, our Cocker Spaniel, who was getting old and slow, didn’t manage to keep up with the Land Rover. It was one of the few occasions I remember Clive crying. It was a wet, cold month, but the daffodils bravely flowered.

Frank, Clive and Barbara Graeme, Brenda, Nigel and Angus on the farm.

Frank, Clive and Barbara
Graeme, Brenda, Nigel
and Angus on the farm.

Christopher Pyett

Christopher Pyett

There were always plenty of jobs to be done. Milking I decided not to be good at, as I really didn’t want that responsibility. My father milked the cows by hand. Feeding out was something

Angus and Nigel

Angus and Nigel

we all enjoyed, throwing hay from the back of the Land Rover. Learning to drive was fun, and we learnt as soon as our legs were long enough. Once I drove Uncle Bob, (before he married my aunt), to show him around the farm. I took him over Greens Creek and ended up bogged, and both of us had to walk through the mud to organise the tractor to rescue the Land Rover.

Only once do I remember my father getting angry. We children had all gone around the swampy area with firebrands, burning what we thought was just a swamp area, but Dad had just finished planting out new trees, and we managed to destroy them. I can’t remember any consequences, though knowing Dad was angry was enough to subdue us for some time.

Christopher often used to ride his bike out to the farm for the holidays. He says it was about a three- hour ride, though he is inclined to exaggerate. We’d play Monopoly and Ludo by the fire in the old house on stormy days. Clive and Chris would cheat, and Clive had a terrible temper if he didn’t win. Chris was also competitive, so it was always interesting. Christopher would

Baby Angus on the farm

Baby Angus on the farm

sometimes creep into my bedroom after the boys were asleep. He’d lie on top of the bed, sharing my pillow as we quietly talked into the wee hours, watching the shadows from the fire play on the ceiling. He introduced ideas I’d never heard of, like ‘pop’ music. Our fathers only listened to classical music. I had so much to learn.

Walking around the farm we’d sing songs, pick mushrooms, burst stomachs of dead sheep and collect wild flowers. Mary Mayguard helped housekeep for Dad and Graeme White whilst they were living at the farm when Mum wasn’t there. Mary helped around the farm too. We called her Mary Mudguard as she rode a motorbike.


The Mersey River with Princesss, (ferry) passing our house on Victoria Parade.

Sometimes the first long weekend in the year fell on my birthday. There was an Apex carnival held in Devonport on Victoria Parade that weekend. The man who ran the Ferris wheel would give us free rides before the carnival officially opened. It was always very exciting, and during my school years I was sad to be dragged away to return on the bus to school in Launceston.

Graeme boarded with (Great) Auntie Mynie for part of this time, so that he could attend the primary school in Devonport whilst Mum went to the farm. As a middle child, he probably felt undervalued. He was good-looking and clever too, like Clive. He excelled at school and became a prefect at Scotch College and then went on to study engineering at university, also like Clive.

Nigel and Angus went to Scotch, following in Graeme and Clive’s footsteps. The new principal was a single man. During their time at Scotch, a fire broke out in the boarding house. The house- master’s paedophile activities were uncovered by the discovery of photos hidden in a wall, of him-self with some of the boys. I don’t know if Angus and Nigel were involved but they were brought home to the local high school. Nigel’s best friend committed suicide. It was a terrible time, especially for Nigel.


Enduring Threads: part 13


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.


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!

Enduring Threads: part 11

I feel uncomfortable about how these snippets of ‘Enduring Threads’ will be perceived. My aim has been to depict the carefree childhood of the 1940s and 1950s. The uncomplicated life of children who were privileged to have a mother at home; the freedom of play without the imposition of parental supervision, and an extensive wider family who enriched our lives.

Awareness of the present generation, our grandchildren, who are growing up with very different perceptions has inspired my recollections. They have the stress of both parents working and the development of technical devices that negate their close affinity with nature. Being driven to school, free play limited and computerisation changing the simple task of, for instance, writing a letter. My sharing of my own experiences through life will, in time, seem the antithesis of their own childhood. So, I continue to write:

Maternal Relations

Exciting holidays with the Roberts-Thomson family were spent in Launceston, at Great Lake, and later in Adelaide. Our cousins came to stay with us in Devonport too. One early incident: I tried to step on a floating object in their fishpond thinking that it would support my weight. Of course it sank and so did I. An early physics lesson.

Barbara, Clive, Peter and Mary Elizabeth

Barbara, Clive, Peter and Mary Elizabeth

Uncle John was a keen trout fisherman. When we were out fishing on Great Lake, he’d say, ‘Can you spot a bunyip?’

Uncle John’s hobbies were: making flies, photography, woodcarving, playing the violin and astronomy. He built his own telescope and taught himself to play the violin. He was accepted into the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra before his arthritis became problematic. My father joked, (because John was a minister),

‘He can do all that because he only has to work one day a week!’

Auntie Lillian played the piano. Girls were not encouraged to succeed professionally outside the home but she had worked for the family firm before her marriage.

Lillian must have been very frustrated as a housewife and a minister’s wife. She resorted to

Peter and Mary Elizabeth 1949

Peter and Mary Elizabeth

disciplining the boys with the wooden spoon, and on one occasion it broke when she spanked Clive. All her life she wrote letters weekly to her siblings. After my mother’s death we exchanged letters, keeping up to date with the news of the wider family, until her death at the age of 98.

Cousin Peter ‘s enthusiasm for his environment made him an interesting guide when I visited them as a teenager. We’d cycle to visit the Adelaide Art Gallery, the astronomy observatory, plus sights up in the hills beyond Adelaide. Mary Elizabeth and Peter topped Adelaide University in Medicine. Mary went on to become a paediatrician and married Adel, an Egyptian, against her father’s wishes. Adel later became a professor of nuclear medicine in Canada. He found Australians racist, so they left for America straight after their wedding, later to live in Canada.

Peter R-T went to Oxford after completing his medical degree. He later became a professor at Adelaide University specialising in rheumatology.

Mark R-T always wanted to be a pilot. His parents insisted, ‘ You must do a science degree first, something to fall back on.’ He did this and then became a pilot.

 Auntie Mary, Mum’s younger sister, married in her thirties. She travelled overseas on her own prior to her engagement. My parents went to Sydney to welcome her home and the Pyetts moved in to look after us. Clive and Christopher were away at Scotch and Grammar Schools in Launceston. The sweet corn was ripe. My parents sent me a cooking set from Sydney for my birthday. It had miniature cake tins and a small frying pan that I could cook with. Grandma gave me a crystal set (radio) with headphones. This meant I could now listen to 7AD, the local commercial station, and become familiar with top of the pops music. Eric Pyett helped set it up for me in his kind and practical way.

Auntie Mary’s welcome home afternoon tea was organised for her friends to hear about her travels. I had been asked to put out the sugar, which she’d brought back from all of the countries she had visited. I started tearing the packets emptying the sugar, quickly to be told they were to remain in their packaging. How foolish I felt.

? Jane D, Bob and Mary Gott, Henry, Barbara and Mary Elizabeth 2-11-57

Dick Frazer, Jane D, Bob and Mary Gott, Henry, Barbara and Mary Elizabeth 2-11-57

Auntie Mary married Bob Gott on 2nd November 1957. Mary had previously refused to marry Bob and live with his mother, as she and the mother didn’t get on. Fortunately Mrs. Gott died. Cousin Jane was their bridesmaid and Mary Elizabeth and I were the flower girls. My tooth was capped, so that I no longer had a toothless smile; the previous cap I’d swallowed. This wedding ceremony was the first to take place in the newly built St. Columba’s Presbyterian Church in Devonport, followed by a reception at 6 Ronald Street.

Mary Elizabeth, Barbara, Dick Frazer, Jane Donohue, Bob and Mary Gott

Mary Elizabeth, Barbara, Dick Frazer, Jane Donohue, Bob and Mary Gott

Auntie Mary took down the flying ducks on the walls and made 124 her own. Timothy, Robert and Susan were born in quick succession.


Auntie Mary, Susan, Timothy, Robert and Uncle Bob Gott

Cooking was something that Mary learnt, but it didn’t come with the innate ease that my mother seemed to have. Mary and Brenda mixed in different circles, though that could have been due to their age difference. Both appeared very confident people and attracted many people into their orbits.

Uncle Bob bought the newsagency in Rooke Street, and I was able to work there in the school holidays. His eccentric habit of wearing his Scottish tam-o’-shanter brings a smile to those who remember him.

Enduring Threads: part 10

Paternal Relations

Grandfather Roberts would come to stay with us once or twice a year. He, too, was a short man, like Grandpa Harry, but Grandfather K was very strong. He would cut the hedge, right up until just before he died, in his eighties.

Uncle Hong and Auntie Alex came to stay when she taught me ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’, so I must have been very young. As she bathed Clive and me, she’d say, ‘Let’s take those potatoes out of your ears.’ I thought of Alex as exotic as she spoke English and  French. They lived on a cocoa plantation in New Guinea, and later adopted two children, Anne and Timothy.

Staying at the Sadler’s farmhouse with five cousins was fun. We played in their beautiful

Cousins: Ruth, Duncan, John, Margie and Helen  Sadler

Cousins: Ruth, Duncan, John, Margie and Helen

garden and the extensive orchard. At that time ‘Alandale’ was a dairy farm. When their son, John, took over, he diversified into vegetables and flowers.


Helen and I were the same age, and so we linked up again in later years when we were at boarding school together. Bringing the cows in, we’d chatter as we avoided the fresh cowpats. I found the rhythm of life on the farm even slower than our life in town.

Helen and Barbara in BHS school uniform

Helen and Barbara in BHS school uniform

Uncle Loch and Auntie Judy Fran lived at ‘Currajong’, with a creek meandering through the property. They had five boys and one girl. Penny was one year older than me, and she also went to Broadland House School as a boarder. I sat beside her at table in my first year. She and Helen both went on to do nursing at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, after finishing school.

At ‘Robin Hill’, Uncle Barney and Auntie Jean’s children were a little younger than me. They had three boys and one girl, Jill. Theirs was a dairy farm, plus pigs. The white wisteria over the front veranda was thick and lush. The baby grand piano in the lounge room gave it elegance. The warmth of their hospitality was captured by the smell of Auntie Jean’s bread wafting through the house. Barney wrote poetry and stories and in later years he let Bruce and Max take over the farm, so that he could write full-time. Bruce is also a poet. The eldest, Rod, became an economist and joined my brother, Clive, as one of his partners in buying Waterhouse Island, the only privately owned island off Tasmania.

In their retirement, Barney and Jean built a rustic cottage with timber from the property, where Barney and Jean both wrote in their book-lined cosiness, dispersed with paintings. I loved going there to visit them in their idyllic setting on the hillside with platypuses in the nearby creek. Instead of saying, ‘Come and see my etchings.’ Barney would say,

‘Come and see if we can see a platypus.’

Barney had the same initials as me, B.K.Roberts, and once I knitted a tie that was ridiculously short. I sent it packaged with my name, on the back and Jean thought Barney must have another wife somewhere.

Barney and Jean both died on the farm and were buried on the property in a place that they chose to be together. They were an inspiration to me in their contentment. Throwing daffodils onto the grave has etched a lovely memory.


Enduring Threads: part 9

‘Currajong’,’ Robin Hill’ and ‘Alandale’

Dad’s family lived on dairy farms at Flowerdale, near Wynyard. New Year’s Day picnics were spent there with lots of cousins, (the full quota, twenty two cousins, but two lived in New Guinea). Early on the picnics would be by the creek at ‘Currajong’ at Loch and Judy Fran’s. That was when we were all small, but not small enough not to be included in a game of cricket.

Middle years tasting the homemade plum wine at ‘Alandale’ produced a rather loud cheery gathering. That was at Dad’s sister, Judy, and Bob Sadler’s. The orchard beyond the house and garden was abundant. In later years gatherings were held at ‘Robin Hill’, Barney and Jean’s farm where we’d sit out on the grass tennis court. Our numbers, including the next generation, were quickly increasing.

When we first had a car, Dad fixed the brakes before departing, knowing that he could use the brakes only once. We made the whole journey without him using the brakes till we arrived home. This was an incredible feat as the road was hilly and windy around the coast. It was all done with gear changes and slowing down.

Dad was the eldest of a family of four sons and one daughter: Frank, Judy, Lachlan (Lock), Bernard (Barney) and Henry (Hong, or as some called him Hank, after the war). His parents Amelia (Amy) and K (short for Knyvet) Roberts lived on the farm ‘Currajong’ at Flowerdale, which passed on to Lock and his wife, Judy Fran. We were all given Knyvet as a second name. The name lives on at Cradle Mountain too, where K did a lot of exploring and the Knyvet Falls were named after him.


Grandfather K Barbara and Clive at the Devonport Show 1950/51

Grandfather K
Barbara and Clive at the Devonport Show 1950/51

Dad’s grandfather had come out from Norfolk as a Church of England minister and had thirteen children. They lived on a farm called ‘Woodrising’ which is now the Devonport Golf Club. He was instrumental in having the Devon Hospital built.

The story of his father finding a snake in his bed, grabbing it and tossing it to the other side of the room, made me nervous about getting into bed when in the country.

Amy, Frank’s mother, was from an Irish Protestant family that had settled in the Sale area in Victoria. She had been a teacher before marrying K. Her cousin Mary Fullerton had written several books, and I have a copy of one called Bark House Days, about the pioneering days in the Sale area. It has very dated language but is interesting in an historical sense. Amy had instilled a love of language and books in her children; subsequently that love passed on through my Dad, who encouraged us, by making up stories, reading to us, and later, talking about the books he was reading. My mother read to us too, sitting by the study fire as the clothes dried nearby. ‘Winnie the Pooh’, ‘Snugglepot and Cuddlepie’ and ‘The Magic Pudding’ are instant reminders of that time.


(Apologies for my absence. Family commitments have taken me away from blogging… )