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.

 

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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).

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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

Making your debut

My girl cousins were all debutantes. Their “deb” photos were proudly displayed on my grandmother’s dinner wagon.

One of my cousins as a debutante.  Queensland c1960

One of my cousins as a debutante. Queensland c1960

Another cousin as a debutante.  Queensland c1960

Another cousin as a debutante. Queensland c1960

I wasn’t a deb because I lived in the city and debutante balls had by my teens ceased to be something that happened regularly in Australian cities. My cousins were mostly really of a different generation from me, my mother being towards the end of a large family and having started her own family at a more mature age than most of her siblings. When my cousins, aunts and my mother were teenagers living in the country or boarding at schools in regional towns, deb balls were a rite of passage.

The debutante ball originated in England where young women of the upper class were presented at court to the monarch. This marked their entry into society and meant that they were able to attend adult social events. The hidden (or not so hidden) agenda was also for them to meet prospective husbands from the same social level.

“On the day of the court presentation the débutante and her sponsor would be announced, the debutante would curtsy to the Sovereign, and then she would leave without turning her back.” (Wikipedia)

Court dresses were traditionally white or a similar colour such as cream, ivory, pearl, grey or pink. In Australia, white has always been fairly standard.

Court dress c1890

Court dress c1890

In the days when my mother and her sisters made their debuts (1920s-1940s), they were required to find a male partner to take to the ball which was organised by the local community. Any girl who had never worn a ball dress before could make her debut.

Measurements were sent to a dressmaker who chose the design and mailed the finished dress.
The ball was presided over by a matron of honour to whom the girls were presented. Sometimes there were flower girls and page boys as part of the party.

The debutantes, matron of honour, flower girls and page boys at the ceremony in which my aunt, Phyllis Mulcahy, made her debut.

The debutantes, matron of honour, flower girls and page boys at the ceremony in which my aunt, Phyllis Mulcahy, made her debut. She is in the back row, fifth from the right. Urbenville,NSW c1940

Many members of the local community attended the ball. It was no doubt a good excuse to get together for a party. For many girls it was probably the highlight of the year. My mother described it as “excrutiating”.

May Mulcahy as a debutante. Urbenville, NSW c1945

May Mulcahy as a debutante. Urbenville, NSW c1945

Photo credits:

St Edmundsbury Borough Council [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Big John Payne

John Payne wasn’t called “Big John Payne” for nothing.

“Big” John Payne (1843-1910)

The man was 24 stone in the old money which is roughly equivalent to 152kg.  He had a special bathtub made for himself because he didn’t fit in any regular one.  I believe it is in the Upper Clarence Historical Society’s museum.

John Paynes bathtub

John Payne’s bathtub

John was born and grew up in the Hunter Valley where his ex-convict father and child-of-ex-convicts mother had been granted land.  Their house still stands near Wollombi at Payne’s Crossing.

He married Mary Ann Sophia Merrick, the granddaughter of four convicts when he was 21 and after a few years and two children they set off north in search of greener pastures or adventure.  Over the next decade and a bit they lived in different towns in New South Wales.  Mary Ann Sophia died in 1885 in her late forties of a mystery condition, recorded as “tetere grave” on her death certificate.

In the next stage of John’s life he moved to the northern rivers area of New South Wales, ran the Australian Hotel in Drake for a while and then opened his own hotel on the Tooloom goldfields in 1894.

The Tooloom Hotel with John Payne at the far left on the verandah

The Tooloom Hotel with John Payne at the far left on the verandah

Because John was such a big man, he could rest his arms on each side of the hallways as he walked through the building.

A hallway in the building which was once the Tooloom Hotel

A hallway in the building which was once the Tooloom Hotel

Tooloom Hotel

Tooloom Hotel

He also had interests in a number of goldmines and claims.  The best known of these ventures was the “Rise and Shine Gold Mining Company”. Family stories say that he and his son, Jack, salted the mine so that its wealth appeared greater than it actually was to attract investors.

In 1889 John returned to the Hunter Valley to marry Mary Eliza Macfarlane and brought her north with him.  There were no children of this marriage.

John Payne's grave

John Payne’s grave

Big John died in 1910 and is buried at Flagstone near Tooloom.

His widow ran the hotel for another ten years or so before she retired.

Mary Eliza Payne's send off from the Tooloom Hotel

Mary Eliza Payne’s send off from the Tooloom Hotel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

People say that John’s ghost haunts the old Tooloom Hotel, now a private residence.  The more prosaic explanation is that it is the cedar which the walls are made out of creaking as the temperature changes.