Homes among the gum trees (Part 2)

Hugh and Ettie’s first home was at Kangaroo Flat in a house which was later referred to in the family as “the old kitchen”.  As late as the 1990s some building and garden remains could be seen.

 

File_000 (10)

A granddaughter and great-granddaughter of Hugh and Ettie at the site of the “the old kitchen” c1997.  

Presumably there were other rooms than a kitchen.  This property was owned by Kenny McLean. When Hugh and Ettie left the property, the house was bought by Hugh’s half-sister, Ellen Iverson and her husband George Stubbings and moved to their property at Burnt Blanket.

George and Ellen Stubbings 001

George and Ellen (nee Iverson) Stubbings

Perhaps it was during this period that they lived at Koreelah.  They had built a house at Beaury Creek but Kenny McLean and his wife were living there.  When Hugh and Ettie had to leave Koreelah, they moved in with Hugh’s half-brother Donald Iverson’s family at the Little (Tooloom) Falls.

Eventually they were able to move to their house at Beaury Creek and lived there for many years, although with a bit more to-ing and fro-ing.

SCAN0029

Thought to be the Beaury Creek house

During World War 2, oldest son Allen was married and farming nearby, next son John, also married was farming in Queensland.  Two sons, Hughie and Lach, were in the army and the youngest son, Ewan, too young to enlist, was at home with his parents and once he left school working on the dairy farm. Ettie’s brother Emerald was also living with them and lending a hand.  He was not in robust health, having only one kidney as a result of having contracted meningitis as a child, in a tragedy which claimed the lives of five of his siblings.

The oldest daughter, Bell, was living in Newcastle where her husband, Doug Guest, was working in what was considered an essential industry, namely ammunition manufacturing.

Meanwhile Hugh and Ettie had been busy making sure that Hughie and Lach would have a livelihood when they came back from the war and had purchased a property for each of them.  The property secured for Hughie was “Grimstead” essentially across the road at Beaury Creek.  The family moved over to run the dairy farm there until Bell and Doug moved back from Newcastle, soon after which Hugh, Ettie and the children still at home moved into the property on the Falls Road which had been secured for Lach.

People obviously had fewer possession and different expectations in those days.  May went to school in Urbenville that day and the first she knew of the move was as she was riding home from school and was informed by a local family she came across that she was to go to the Falls Road property instead of “Grimstead”. She arrived there to find her parents settling in and trying to build a fire.

After some time, they must have moved back to Beaury Creek.  It no longer stands, having been demolished to provide some of the mismatched building materials for the house at “Windy Hill”.  Hugh wanted to name the house in the Gaelic he had heard his grandfather speak but was unable to remember the words which would convey the idea of a windy hill.

File_000 (11)

“Windy Hill”

I was only ever a visitor to the Windy Hill house.  I never lived there but to me it is where my mother came from.  For her, the house at Beaury Creek was her childhood home, which she describes fondly as a beautiful farm. She is working on a map of it.

There are other versions of the order in which Hugh and Ettie’s moves happened.  This is May’s version as told to me.

Advertisements

Homes among the gum trees (Windy Hill)

My grandparents’ house had a very long dining table in the kitchen.  It ran most of the length of the kitchen.  There was no dining room.  The house was built after the Second World War when building supplies were still in short supply.  This explains why some of the boards of the walls ran vertically and some ran horizontally.

The kitchen viewed from one end with horizontal boards

The kitchen viewed from one end with vertical boards

The kitchen was the hub of the house where family sat around the table, talking until late into the night, women worked together to prepare food and men came in for “smoko” (i.e. a cup of tea and something to eat), dinner (midday meal) and tea (evening meal).

File_000 (5)

The kitchen viewed from the other end with horizontal boards

The other place to congregate was the U shaped verandah which hugged 3 sides of the house.  Grandsons perched on the railings, aunts leaned over the edge to talk to uncles in the yard and the older, more sedate members sat on chairs or even snatched a rest on one of the many beds along the verandah.  There were only two bedrooms so when there were overnight visitors, some of the verandah beds would probably be in use.  In summer we slept under a mosquito net and in winter under a pile of thin, well-used blankets.

Sitting on the verandah rail

Sitting on the verandah rail

The large family certainly made use of the long table but it not originally been made for domestic use.  The Von Harten family owned the Urbenville Hotel and a property at Koreelah. They ran into financial difficulties and asked my grandfather, Hugh McLean Mulcahy, to take over the debt and the property.  My grandparents moved to the Koreelah property, leaving their home at Beaury Creek available for Hugh’s uncle Kenny McLean live in. They took some of the hotel furniture with them and lived there for a time until they were also unable to meet the debt repayments.

Along with the table went a number of chairs, including two carvers.  There was also a sideboard and what was known in the family as the “dinner wagon”.  I imagine that it was used as a buffet in the hotel.  In my day it displayed framed photographs.

There had been a long couch which matched the chairs.  It met its demise in the scrub somewhere between Koreelah and Beaury Creek as the family made the move back, with their possessions loaded onto a dray or buckboard.  The load was too heavy, they were at risk of getting bogged so the couch was thrown off into the scrub.

Afterwards, whenever they passed that spot, Ettie would say, “The couch is down there”.

"Windy Hill"in its early years (perhaps in the 1950s)

“Windy Hill”in its early years (perhaps in the 1950s)

 

A somewht later photo perhaps 1960s) during a traditional Christmas Day cricket match

A somewht later photo (perhaps 1960s) during a traditional Christmas Day cricket match

Heirlooms of a different kind

I come from a long line of people living on the edge of poverty, from factory workers in the “dark Satanic mills” of Paisley, to displaced agricultural labourers trying to scrape by in the big city, to Highlanders cleared from their fertile traditional holding to tiny barren plots, to convicts arriving in a foreign land with nothing but the rotting, filthy clothes on their backs.

There aren’t many heirlooms in my family.  Nobody had the money to spend on expensive items and any goods that were acquired were then divided amongst the large numbers of will beneficiaries in the large families which were common in days gone by.

Here are a couple of non-material things which were handed down the generations.

A love of growing things and the green thumb to go with it

Pictures below show my mother’s courtyard when she moved into her new home just over six months ago and what the courtyard looks like now.  She always has fresh flowers in her house and usually has some greens for dinner and some tomatoes ripening on the kitchen bench.

2015 - 1 (2) 20141203_081313 (1)

One of my aunts was known for her garden and when I think of her I think of dahlias and oranges – the best oranges I’ve ever eaten.  Through two winter pregnancies, her oranges supplied me and my babies with Vitamin C. The bounty of another aunt’s garden kept us supplied with rosella jam.

But my mother and her sisters didn’t come from a long line of farmers. They came from a short line of farmers who learned to grow things as a matter of necessity.

Recipes

My recipe file includes many recipes from aunts and cousins and even great-aunts (Aunty Ivy’s Stingy Pudding).  I wouldn’t actually recommend the Stingy Pudding.  It’s a recipe for hard times when there’s not much in the pantry but you still have a lot of mouths to feed.

2015 - 6

My grandmother, Ettie, made a pudding (or delegated the task to a daughter) every day and her sister Ivy probably did the same for her family. In Ettie’s case it was ususally a milk pudding of some sort.  They were dairy farmers in the time when her children were young so there was plenty of milk available.

When Ettie was older (probably in her seventies), she started to make a lemon meringue pie.  It was really  a cross between a cheesecake and a lemon meringue.  It was very popular amongst the family and Ettie readily shared the recipe with her daughters but every time they made up the recipe, what was produced was definitely a cheesecake.

Ettie on her 80th birthday

Ettie on her 80th birthday

It remained a mystery for some time how it was that Ettie was the only one who could make this dish the right way until one of her daughters watched her making it and realised that Ettie was not using the amount of cream cheese which was written in the recipe. Ettie was unwittingly using a smaller packet than the recipe called for which was why her version was less cheesecakey and more lemony (enhanced of course by her beautiful homegrown bush lemons). Here’s the recipe:

Crumb crust:

1/2 lb plain sweet biscuits

4 oz butter

Melt butter, stir into crushed biscuits and press into an 8″ tin, lining the base and bringing the crumb mixture halfway up the side of the tin.

Filling:

2 oz cream cheese (not 4 oz!)

1 tin condensed milk

2 eggs, separated

Rind and juice of 1 lemon

1/2 cup castor sugar

Beat cheese in electric mixer, beat in condensed milk, lemon rind and juice and egg yolks. Pour into prepared crumb crust.

Whip egg whites. Gradually beat in half the sugar. Beat until stiff. Fold remainder of sugar and spread evenly over filling.

Bake in hot oven for 10 minutes to brown.