The Days of Long Ago
Pioneering on Yorke Peninsula
We have heard and read lots of stories of the pioneering days, and the history of our State, during the Centenary celebrations, but so far not very much of local doings. Although many of our pioneers had trying and even exciting experiences, Yorke Peninsula seems to have treated them in the same kindly fashion that it has treated their defendants. Though the pioneering days on Yorke Peninsula were hard, they were not extremely so, compared with the conditions some settlers had to endure in opening up new country, any more than the conditions and climate which we enjoy to-day are extreme. Life goes on here at a even even tempo than it does in many other parts of the world, or, indeed, of the State.
Since the introduction of super, Yorke Peninsula farmers have never sown their crops in vain, and while there is still some competition to get in the first load of wheat, think how exciting it must have been to Mr. Jas. Anderson, of Brentwood, first wheat buyer in the district, when he shipped his first load of wheat to the United Kingdom in 1856!
It was thirty years later that Mr. William Long established a roller flour mill at Minlaton. The business flourished for some time, them waned, was revived, but finally had to give way before the march of progress.
To the uninitiated, the telegraph call for Minlaton— "G. F" is most puzzling. Most places have two letter's taken from the name of the town. Usually the first letter and another consonant, to make up the call sign. "Y.W" for Yorketown, ''E. B." for Edithburgh, "S. Y''." for Stansbury, and so on. Minlaton's call dates from the days when the whole surrounding country was under the management of Gum Flat Station, and the first name given the new township was "Gum Flat."
Gum Flat Station at one time extended from Penton Vale in the south almost to Maitland in the north, and Mr. John Butler remembers as many as fifty blacks coming up to the outstation hut. They had a burying ground not far from what is now the Minlaton-Stansbury Road, and Mr. Butler remembers that they always buried their dead in a sitting position.
When Mr. Butler was about eight years old, he remembers getting lost on one occasion when he and his uncle, the late Mr. James Trott, made a trip to the beach. On their way out they blazed trees so as to be able to find their way back, but they walked up the beach some distance, and entering the scrub at a different point from the one they had left it, couldn't find their carefully marked trail. All day long they wandered about in the blazing heat. There was a search party out looking for them, and lots of black about, when, finally, mad with thirst, they found their way to a shepherd's hut.
The station manager used to drive a pair of horses in an express wagonette, but most of the farmers used spring carts, and the transport and work of the farm was done by bullock teams.
Scrub cleanup was carried on in the winter time when the ground was soft, and bullocks were used to pull the trees up. A heavy timber roller was fixed to the back of a dray, to which were harnessed fourteen bullocks and then, away she went. Sheoaks were cut down to feed the bullock, which, at night were belled, and turned loose. There were no restraining fences in those early day. Bullocks were also used to bring stores and visitors from the boat at Stansbury. Later a rough unit crossing, followed by a tortuous trip in a bullock dray! The journey to Stansbury from Minlaton and back took all day and part of the night! Mr Dave Cook is proud of the fact that his bullocks won the last prize offered for a team of bullocks at the Minlaton Show.
To those of us who remember nothing smaller than the ten-furrow stump jump plough, ploughing in the land with a one-furrow plough seems almost pre-historic, but for the first crops on Yorke Peninsula, sown less than a hundred years ago, one and two-furrow ploughs were used with a man guiding the plough handles and a boy driving.
To those of us who have only met with Roman figures in the Prayer Book, the idea that they were ever in general use amongst any people but the Romans seems fantastic, and yet, the last record book kept at the Minlaton Police Station, and started in 1880, had all letters written in the Roman way. In those days, when men were men, and horses a fast means of travel, most of the charges recorded were for furious riding! It sometimes took the constable a week to patrol his huge district on horseback.
Of all the tales told around Duncan's Well by men who came from as far away as Maitland, and all the things predicted in those early day, and although we still suffer occasionally from a water shortage. I don't suppose any of those old seers ever thought to see the day when the precious water would be brought by pipes to water lawn and plants fertile beautifying of the then unstated township of Minlaton.
— Edna Davies
Mining Days on Yorke Peninsula
Eighty years ago mining was booming on Yorke Peninsula. Copper was about £120 per ton. In 1873, a small sydnicate of Moonta men obtained a miner's right over section 40 at Kalkabury and sent out four men to test it for mineral. These men, Messrs. W. Mathews, T. Davey, R. Morton and R. Martin, put down two shafts, and did a lot of costeaning work, that is, sinking small pits just large enough for a man to work in. These pits were sunk so as to cross the veins between the shafts. No. 2 shaft was sunk only about 20 feet, but No. 1 shaft was 100 feet deep, when it was no longer possible to haul the stuff to the surface without a windlass, so they closed down without having found any mineral, though indications were said to be good. The shaft is still there.
A Varied Use
The miner's hut was used for a number of purposes in the community. A day school was started with a Mr. Henry Jones from Wallaroo as teacher. Mr. Jones was an educated man, a surveyor by profession, but apparently was not adapted to schoolmastering, for the school did not last long, although one man paid 2 6 per week for his three boys, and others paid more than the prescribed 1 - for big children and sixpence for small ones, in an effort to keep the school going.
Church was also held in the miner's hut, although the first service in December 1873. and several in 1874, were held in the home of Mr. J. Colliver. The Rev. W. T. Carter and the Rev. W. H. Pollard were the first ministers, and amongst local preachers who conducted services were Messrs. N. H. Wilson, from Maitland, H. Lamshed and C. Miller.
About the end of 1874, the mining syndicate was wound up and the miner's hut demolished, so it was necessary to find some other place for the holding of church services.
For a time, services were held at the home of Mr. D. Henderson, who then gave a piece of land at the junction of Moonta, Kadina and Paskeville roads for the building of a chapel. On it, a wattle and daub structure was erected by the residents. Mr. R. Winzer, plasterer, and Mr. Buik, a carpenter, helping largely with the work.
The chapel was about 25 by 10 or 12 feet, with an iron roof, two small windows at each side, and a front door. A subscription to raise funds for roofing materials and furniture reached £25, and the little church was opened free of debt.
Amongst well known Moonta men who conducted services in the church were Messrs. Jabez Tonkin, Brown (from Moonta Mines workshops) and John Anthony. The church was in the charge of the Maitland circuit, and the Revs. T. M. Rowe, R. Kelly and T. E. Thomas were among the early ministers. In 1882, a property was purchased in Arthurton township.
With the building of the little church, other efforts were made to give the children some schooling. A Miss Pascoe conducted a school in the church for several months one winter, then a Swedish doctor called Smidl was a schoolmaster under the Education Department before the Arihurion schoolhouse was built. But learning the three R's was a chancy business in those days.
Mr. Colliver, from whose reminiscences this information about early Arthurton comes, tells us stories of the road — or lack of the - in those early days. The tracks were made by bullocks winding in and out amongst the trees. The trees were so tall they met over the track top, making it very difficult to be sure whether the right track was being followed, or to see any end to the road.
Kangaroos were so plentiful in those days, he says, that they looked like flocks of sheep in the mornings and evenings. One man made a practice of shooting one or two each morning and evening. From the sale of their skins he was able to buy a set of shaft and leading harness for his first two horses, besides supplying the cook with some meat.
Mr. R. B. Smith and brother, Mr. C. H. Smith started work near Arthurton as blacksmiths. Mr. Colliver says he cannot completely vouch for the evolution of the stump jump plough as invented and made by the Smith brothers, but as far as he could remember, the first attempt was "a disc wheel or coulter affixed to an ordinary single furrow plough to run in front of the share and a little deeper, so that when the disc struck a stump, it would rise over it, lifting the plough with it. The handles would rise over the head of the man holding them, and when the obstruction was passed, drop back into place again. Another attempt was a V-shaped frame with one wheel in front and two behind and the body of the plough fixed in between the frame on the hinge, or king bolt, with a long wooden lever to keep it down. Afterwards, an iron lever was used with a knob of iron about the size of a good pie melon on the end to make it take the hard ground." "I believe." he says, "the secret, of the first plough consisted of this king bolt, or hinge, as all stump jump emplements have it. There are many different shaped frames and devices to take the hard ground, but they all have to be hung on a king bolt to make them jump. Mr. R. B. Smith has the credit of being the inventor, but, it was Mr. C. H. Smith who did the work and followed it up with improvement on the first attempt."
The Peninsula and the Jubilee
With the Jubilee Celebrations taking place next year, commemorating the year in which our separate States were banded together for the "common weal," our minds should also try and celebrate by expanding to think nationally.
But, before we "take on" the nation, it should be interesting to learn something of our more immediate surroundings so that we can feel our feet firmly planted on home ground before we meet the nation.
The name, at least, of Captain Matthew Flinders is one which not only those men who go down to the Australian seas in ships should know. II should also be known to land lubbers, and particularly to the people who live on Yorke Peninsula. It was Flinders who named this strip of land, describing it in his Journal as "singular in form, having some resemblance to a very illshaped leg or foot." That was in 1802, nearly 150 years ago.
In July, 1801, leaving his young wife behind him—as Ernestine Hill has told us in her book "My love must wait"—Flinders sailed from England in the tiny ship "Investigator." It was not his first trip to Australia, which he visited for the first time in 1795 when he was twenty-one. Before that he was a midshipman in the ''Providence" under Captain Bligh of "Bounty" fame, and in the "Providence" made an expedition to the southern Pacific and West Indies.
Flinders was in command of the 'Investigator." and on the 7th December, 1801, the ship reached Cape Leeuwin and Flinders began to make and record a detailed survey of the southern coast of Australia.
It was on March 18th, 1802 that Flinders sighted the foot of Yorke Peninsula, and named a "remarkable point" Corny Point. This was after he had sailed round the shores of what he then named "Spencer's Gulf," in honor of the respected nobleman who presided at the Board of Admiralty when the voyage was planned and the ship put into commission. That was the second Earl Spencer, great-great-greatgrandfather of Captain the Viscount Althorp, whom you will remember was aide de camp to Sir Willoughby Norrie. It was Lord Althorp, who unveiled the Flinders Memorial plaque at Corny Point in April 1948. He is himself heir to the present Earl Spencer. Cape Spencer was also named after the Earl.
Point Pearce and Point Riley were named "for two gentlemen at the Admiralty." The large bay between Corny Point and Point" Pearce he named "Hardwicke Bay, in honor of the noble Earl of that name." This bay, he said, "is well sheltered from all southern winds, and none others seem to blow with much strength here."
After sailing up the peninsula's eastern gulf Flinders landed at the head of it on March 30th, 1802, and walked towards the Hummocks. There he named the peninsula round which he had just sailed. Yorke Peninsula, after the Right Hon. Charles Phillip Yorke, of the Admiralty.
The gulf on the eastern side of the peninsula he named St. Vincent's Gulf, after Admiral Lord St. Vincent. Troubridge Point. Troubridge Shoal, Troubridge Hill and Troubridge Lighthouse were all named after Admiral Sir Thomas Troubridge, a distinguished naval commander of Flinders' time.
Flinders, after many hardships including eight years as a prisoner of the French in Mauritius, died at the early age of forty years. He was one of the greatest navigators and cartographers the world has ever known. It was Lord Hardwicke who, as First Lord of the Admiralty in 1810, authorised the publication of Matthew Flinders' Journal.
It would be a fitting part of the Jubilee Celebrations if a film were made of the life of Flinders based on Ernestine Hill's book about him. Mrs. Hill first became interested in Flinders and his work when she was sailing in Torres Strait and round Cape York Peninsula. She found then that the charts of those very complicated coasts, which Matthew Flinders had made more than a hundred years earlier, were still being used by the navigators.
Records show that Major Anthony Bacon suggested to the Colonial Office, London, in February, 1831, that the capital of the new province of South Australia should be fixed on Yorke Peninsula. But Colonel Light, that commonsense surveyor with vision, said, "Good harbors are not to be found in narrow peninsulas." His opinion was given the more weight by sealers who described the peninsula as "a barren and sandy waste." So the peninsula was left to the sealers, the kangaroos and the aboriginals for a while longer.
When the Right Hon. Sir Jas. Fergusson was Governor of S.A. from 1869 to 1873 he named a number of the Yorke Peninsula places.
Edithburgh was named after his wife Edith, who was a daughter of the Marquis of Dalhousie. Blanche and Edith Streets in Edithburgh were named after his two daughters. Lady Edith Fergusson died at Glanville Hall near Port Adelaide on October 28th, 1871. The sandstone with which Glanville Hall was built was taken from Yorke Peninsula by a Captain John Hart CMG, who owned the hall.
Sir James Fergusson was a scotsman, born in Edinburgh. The County of Fergusson, in which Yorke Peninsula lies, is named after him. His father was Sir Charles Dalrymple Fergusson. The Hundred of Dalrymple got its name from this family. The Hundred of Ramsay commemorates one of the christian names of Lady Edith Fereusson's father, and the Hundred of Melville after a friend of this family. Lord Melville Kilkerran was the name of Sir James' estate in Ayrshire, Scotland.
By Edna Davies: Copyright)
Shipwrecks on Peninsula Coasts
It is estimated that 600 people went to Point Turton on Sunday last to see the ketch "Nelcebee" aground on the rocks near Point Turton. This unusual sight reminded Peninsula people that they do live on a peninsula, and that the sea, and the people who work and travel on it, are still a vital part of peninsula life.
Fishermen, whether amateur or professional, will always remain so long as there are fish in the sea, but the sea transport of wool and grain seems likely soon to be concentrated at one or two ports, and this will alter peninsula life.
People who do not live near water of some sort miss one of the chords from the music of life, and the rhythm of Yorke Peninsula will be less harmonious when her sea trade is more concentrated.
Memories of other disasters and accidents to ships have been brought to mind with the mishap to the "Nelcebee."
The ketch "Hawk" which, at the time of writing this, was on her way to assist the "Nelcebee." was herself badlv battered in 1949 when she sank, fully loaded, alongside Port Victoria "jetty in a very severe storm. Because her engines failed to respond it was not possible to get her away from the jetty against which she bumped badly.
It is nearly fifty years ago since the ketch "Ethel" was driven ashore near Cape Spencer. When she was disabled off the Althorpes a young sailor leapt Into the frothing waters with a line and made for the shore. The rest of the crew were saved, but he was drowned. A portion of a mast on the clift top above the wreck marked the spot where he was buried. It was the Master of the "Ferret" who reported the wreck of the Ethel.
Sixteen years later the "Ferret" met her own end at the same spot at which the "Ethel" was wrecked. The beach which received them both is only a few hundred yards in length, and is east of Pondalowie Bay. Now there is a light to guide small ships between the Althorpes and the mainland.
Many people will remember the barque Hougemont, which was dismasted by a gale in St. Vincent's Gulf some years ago. After a terrific battle by the crew, she finally limped into Port Adelaide. The powers that be decided to scrap her, and she was towed to a point off Stenhouse Bay and sunk there to form a breakwater.
Many ships have been wrecked on or near Wardang Island, which guards the entrance to Port Victoria, where most of the windjammers have called for grain at one time or another. One of the most tragic wrecks which has occurred on the Peninsula coast was that of the Clan Ranald.
On her way to South Africa from Port Adelaide with wheat and flour in January, 1909. she developed a serious list and ran into bad weather in St. Vincent's Gulf, and grounded opposite Troubridge Hill. Only 24 were saved from a crew of 64. Although many of the men managed to get ashore in the darkness, some were dragged back by the undertow and then hurled against the cliffs. The sea demands a price from the men who use her. Hie men who perished, including the Captain, were buried at Edithburgh.
The old Clan Ranald wreck is appreciated by the schnapper. They find it a grand protection from the bigger fish which frequent those waters. (Edna Davies : Copyright)
HERE AND THERE
(By Edna Davies).
A City man who recently motored through the Peninsula said how wonderful the crops were looking, but was astonished because nowhere along the route had he seen one farmer working, and at this time of the year he had expected them all to be working in the paddocks Then we started talking of the vagaries of the weather, and he said "I suppose there's no way of earning a living where more things can go wrong than they can with farming." "Except poultry" someone interjected. The talk wandered on and we came Jo the conclusion that it's no wonder there's such a gambling spirit among Australians. It was a gamble for the early settlers whether they got here or not, the voyage from England being what it was even a hundred years ago. When they did get here it was a gamble whether they survived the blacks, whether they found gold — or water. There was very little certainty about any enterprise in those early days, and there is a considerable amount of uncertainty about quite a lot in these days.
And then the institution of Tatts keeps that good old "give-it-a-go" spirit alive too, to say nothing of the farmers and graziers who give it a go each year, and generally manage to get sufficient of a go to give it a flip again next year. With so many farmers and graziers amongst our population it's not surprising that the habit of having a flutter remains a dominating Australian characteristic.
The man regarded by many as Australia's best poet, Robert D. Fitzgerald, has even put it into verse : Hazard
Life, toss up your florin:
"Heads," I call.
Regret be far and foreign
whether for losing or winning
The stake scarce to be won --
It's a fine flash of silver, spinning
In the gay sun.
There it is, the national spirit of your luck, and if you don't win—and how many do — the fun was good while it lasted.
Having written that I have remembered something else the City man said—that everybody seems tired and disappointed. particularly the younger people who, having fought with great expectations, I now find the fighting was vain, and have no joy left in the living.
Well that tiredness, which is of the spirit, as well as the body, pass? Will these young people be themselves to fight in peace and for peace to make life once more worth living ? Even with Tatts you have to put in before you've even a chance of pulling anything out. Or is the answer simply this — that we have lost all joy in work ? Have the machines got too much for us, and taken from us the joys of striving and accomplishing?
There is still the spirit of gambling in farming — and that attracts because it implies something to be overcome — man likes to feel he has won against odds—but a lot of other attractions have gone as the machines have come in.
Sitting for hours on a tractor is a vastly different thing from sitting those same hours behind horses — even though you did have to get up early to feed them. The horses were alive, which meant that never for five minutes together did they look exactly the same. There was some feeling between them and their driver, which meant that life was flowing. It dead-ends against a tractor.
And man although he may have gained time by using machines doesn't always know how to use that time. And he has lost the joy of having something live to care for. Something that took his thought away from himself, and that is a great loss. Machines everywhere have a deadening effect on man when they do his work for him. Perhaps what is wrong with us is.
HERE AM THERE
Most Australians who visit England are amused at the average Englishman's lack of knowledge of Australia, and their absolute inability to realise what distances are out here, and what differences there are between place and place. Any excuse for amusement is welcome in this old world, so we can be amused at our superiority over the Englishman when we realise what a little most of us really know about any part of Australia other than the one in which we live, and a nodding acquaintance with two or three other places which we have visited on holiday.
Recently I heard of a Queensland lad who had spent the whole of his twelve years in the north of Queensland and did not know what a rabbit was like! That seems impossible to us who have been brought up amidst rabbits and believe that they are equal pests throughout the length and breadth of the continent.
A city lad was very amused, and almost incredulous, of the Queenslander's ignorance, but then the city lad found it hard to believe that there are really crocodiles in the Queensland rivers!
Englishman, writing about the habit of his countrymen to go abroad for their holidays remarked that the home beauty spots of England could not be exhausted by an ordinary man taking ordinary holidays in a lifetime. If that is true of England, how much more so must it be of this larger Australia—though maybe beauty would not cover the description of all the things to be seen so well as curious.
One of the most remarkable and m testing to be seen in our vast "Centre" if you can stand the heat, is at a place called Twin Wells, miles away from any habitation, where the thermometer on a summer's day registers 88 degrees at dawn, 120 at midday, and 101 at dark.
The twin wells are not more than fifty yards apart, and provide just one more example of the strange phenomena of this old, old country of ours. In one well is fresh water, in the other, water that tastes as though salt had been added to the sea, over each is a windmill and a pumping engine. The water is pumped daily from the two wells into a number of receiving tanks, half from the fresh well, half from the salt, and then piped into two long troughs.
You might visit this place, a small clearing not more than a mile wide, and never see a sign of life of any sort, and you would wonder why on earth man had committed one more lunatic act and sunk wells and erected windmills and tanks in this deserted and unbeautiful spot.
EMUS, KANGAROOS, FOXES, AND DOGS.
But if you were to go there on a summer's day when there had been no rain for many months, and all the natural waterholes and watercourses were dry, you would be astounded to see large stately emus advancing with majestic gait and wide, open mouths to the water troughs for their midday drink. They do not rush the water, but drink in a calm mannerly way, although some of them lie down to do so.
Nothing else ventures forth in the extreme heat, and the only moving things are the huge "whirlies." hundreds of feet high, that spin across the dry plain.
But, when evening comes, and the declining sun brings a little relief to the baking earth, from the shelter of surrounding scrub—for the plain in which the tanks stand has been made bare by the tread of thousands of creatures anxious for water—will come large mobs of kangaross, anxious for water, and yet afraid to drink until evening is well advanced. They will squat near while flocks of redbreasts, galahs, and crows come shrieking to slake their thirst. A mob of sheep comes trotting, and the kangaroos move a little to give them passageway. And the rabbits come, too, scores of them, for the "Centre" knows them if northern Queensland does not, and they catch the drips from the troughs, or the more daring ones lean over the side to drink from the trough itself.
As darkness falls, the kangaroos come forward at last, having shown far more restraint than many human beings would do under similar circumstances, and all through the night the procession goes on. Animals that will not venture near in the light come padding up to the troughs under cover of the darkness, foxes and wild dogs. In the morning the plain is deserted, but next day the same performance is gone through, the emus coming at midday, and the other furred and feathered birds and beast with the shadows of evening.
I often wondered where the word "gibber"' came from (pronounced with a "g'' as in gorge), and how such a word became associated with the stone covered plains of the north. Its only relation to a stone that I could discover came from the hard unyielding sound of it. It is, I now discover, a blackfellow name for stone.
There are many of these gibber plains in the interior. Large tracts of country covered by stones ranging from pebbles to fair sized boulders, and colored red, black, brown and white.
While my lady sits clicking her needles rhythmically as she knits himself a new pullover, and talking over the latest romance she has read, or seen at the talkies, does she ever think of the romance wound up in the ball of wool that keeps rolling from her lap to the floor?
Romance! It is full of it, from the time the wool starts growing on the sheep's back until it is delivered to my lady to be dealt with. And who shall say that it plays no further part in romantic history?
* * Just think for a moment of those little white wool-laden specks on a way-back station run where there has been no rain for many weary months, and the sheep wander, searching, searching as far as they dare from the waterhole, for the remains of spinifex and saltbush, while the wihrlwinds cover them with dust, the distant mirages tease them with promise, and every day the sun sucks up a little more precious moisture.
Think of the musters. Sometimes of sheep in good condition, travelling contentedly towards the sheds where they will be relieved of their burden of wool; at other times, of a worn, weary mob, continually dropping by the way— times when the sheds mean nothing but death for the poor skeletons, which cannot withstand the cold, piercing wind when their warm coating of wool has been removed.
And while the mustering is going on up north, out east and west, think of the men who are starting, from widely different parts of the country, for those same sheds, where they will do their part towards preparing the wool for my lady's knitting.
Classers, shearers, pickers, pressors, hangers-on. By motor car, motor bike, train and truck, with horses, camels or donkeys, and along the wallaby with Matilda they move, until at last they all meet, and for a time form a strange and startling community, with the one central interest—wool.
Then the wool adopts a different method of travel, and behind a it ring of donkeys, or strapped to the backs of grunting camels, it moves day alter weary day across the gibber plains, the saltbush plains, and the drifting sand to the railhead, and thence to the selling sheds.
• • Romance! Think of the men who come from strange countries to feel and weigh those fleeces before the auctioneer enters upon the scene. And, when he comes, what brisk competition there is to possess those fleecy stacks, though there is probably no other sale in the world where the auctioneer plays so small a part.
Then away, away it goes again, swung through the sunlight on a huge hook, down, down into the depths of the hold, to see daylight again after weeks of tossing on restless seas—worse even than being tossed on a camel's back— in some strange land, where perhaps the words "wool" and "fleece" are misplaced by queer mumblings and mutterings, or if words remain familiar, blue skies and dusty plains are replaced by a green world, whose grey skies weep continually.
Next it goes into a huge building, where the noise is so deafening that the noises of the shearing shed fade into insignificance. Then there is tearing and combing, spinning and winding, dyeing and carding. All sorts of queer things happenings, until skeins of rainbow-colored wool set forth on a journey over more tossing seas, and finally my lady buys eight skeins of blue four-ply, and starts clicking her needles as she walks and talks with such purpose that soon she is wearing a jumper "just the color of her eves," to match our blue Australian skies, and the advertising managers are displaying large placards advising us to "wear more wool."
And way outback the musterers go to the station store for supplies, and little white specks start moving purposefully along towards the homestead, while down south men are tinkering up their engines or buying railway tickets for "somewhere north," and the old wayfarer is humping along with Matilda. Men who have been just loafin' around or on the dole for the rest of the year pull themselves together and move out to the homestead, too, for a few weeks work, and once more the musical comedy collection of men is rounded up, and the stage set for the first act in the "Romance of a skein of wool!"
The Children's Library
Educational facilities for children ftrow more and more comprehensive, so tliat it seems there is nothing thev cannot learn if they have the will. So many of these facilities are free, and though wireless is multiplying the opportunities of the country children, they are still behind those of the city.
* * *
When I was in Adelaide recently I paid a visit to the children's library. The getting there was quite an experience. You have to go down behind the museum through an old stone gateway which, to judge by appearance, wont be long after the State in celebrating its hundredth birthday. Across a stone paved courtyard is a building which the stone wall and gateway were built to protect. It has a narrow wooden balcony running along the outside, and in what were obviously stables are now to fee found motor bikes and push bikes.
It is the old Police Barracks, built in the days when bush-rangers and cattle duffers ran riot in the Mount Lofty Ranges, and bullock drays and victorias drove about the streets of Adelaide.
It is an eye-opener too, to the person who never penetrates beyond North Terrace, to see how our University buildings spread themselves out behind the other public buildings on the Terrace.
* * * In one portion of the old Police building is the Children's library. A long, low room with several windows and shelves all round. It is furnished with tables and chairs and there is a librarian in attendance. There arc thousands of books, on all subjects of interest to children, from fairy talcs to talcs of engines and ships.
* * * I would have liked to ask the librarian many questions, but as it was a busy day for her I did not like to intrude, so I do not know whether the children are allowed to take the books away, or have to read them in the library. I think the latter is the case. Neither do I know on what days or at what hours the library is open, but any country child who wants to make use of the library when in Adelaide can easily get particulars by asking at the Public Library.
* * * Periodically different people give lectures to the children. "The Australian Aboriginal Child" was the subject the day I was there, given by a University member, who had been to Central Australia, and, illustrated with pictures he had taken during the trip. The previous lecture had been on fairy stories. The room was full of children of all ages, with a slight sprinkling of adults, all eager to hear the talk. The children understood and enjoyed it. too, but I am afraid several mothers would be worried with amateur corroborees afterwards.
* * * Because people are of a different color or nationality we have the trick of thinking them different from ourselves, so that when they act in a similar manner to us we are surprised, forgetting that human nature is the same the world over. The black children were shown playing a number of their games, which, like those of the white children, were made up largely of imitations of "what Daddy does." The girls had their turn, too, at copying Mum, when they were not allowed to take part in, or watch, the boys' games.
* * *
There is at least one lesson we could learn from the natives, and that is the time and patience given by the parents to teaching their children. They played with them, directing, explaining, leading the way. Teaching them through their games, a method we consider so modern in our kindergartens.
These people realised long ago, as we still refuse to realise, that "example is the only way of teaching," and they see to it that they set the best example they know in the things which count according to their plan of life, while we go on leaving it to teachers to tell our children what we are too lazy and selfish to show them ourselves.
The various corroborees of the blacks, like the better class plays of the whites, each have their meaning. There is the hunting corroboree, when one party starts out to its hunting ground and is intercepted by another, and a mock fight ensues. All done by the most clever miming, for the natives are excellent actors.
* * * Do you remember in "We of the Never Never," the way the little Missus took to a tree one day when a scrub cow got loose when they were mustering? The black "boy" who chased and rounded lip the cow appeared to not even see his mistress, but for months afterwards he entertained the camp with a farce, "Missus climb tree." perfect in every detail.
* * * The blacks, in their corroborees, imitate the animals and birds they hunt and know. Their bodies are always kept so supple with exercise that they can use them at will, and can suggest the startled air of a kangaroo caught off guard by a hunting party, or the movements of an emu, a river, a tree, anything with which they are familiar. They teach their children the game of life, and right joyously they practice it.
* * * The white children, watching and listening, were learning to understand something of the nature of the black people whose territory their grandparents took. Their interest was being roused to read and learn more about them, so that in the future they may he dealt with more justly and understandingly by the people who are now responsible for their well being.
By Edna Davies. of Minlaton.
Have you ever lived in a house with a clock that is continually slow ? A clock which has to be put on every few days. It has rather a hurrying, sometimes even a harrying effect, and life seems one long effort to catch up.
Whether the house clock is slow or not this effect is more marked at Christmas-time. It seems there just isn't enough time for everything, and the nearer we get to Christmas the more pronounced does this feeling become. Indeed, sometimes it seems that it would be better to give up the unequal struggle, and just sit down and let Time, the conqueror, fly past.
• • There are some fortunate people, of course, to whom time appears to mean nothing They are always calm, they never hurry, and yet they seem to accomplish all they set out to do. Are their deeds as great in number as the deeds of the hurried ones ? After all, does the number of things accomplished really matter ? Is life worth while if we are going to spend it in an eternal struggle " to get things done." However, the struggle seems necessary at Christmas time, or what would Father Christmas do ? Even the household that possesses a well regulated clock can't seem to escape the Christmas rush. The clock gets ahead of them somehow !
* * * We don't always blame the clock, of course — sometimes it's the weather. "It's not a bit like Christmas weather," or "I just can't seem to get the Christmas feeling," or "It's too cold for Christmas," but it avails us nothing to find excuse. The clock ticks on and we rush after it, and somehow we wake on Christmas morning with a smile and the parcels all ready !
And that's all Christmas means to some of us Shopping and giving and receiving gifts. And we do it all sometimes with such a bad grace, except the receiving—there's generally a smile to spare for that. "This Christmas shopping is a curse," "I really can't give any presents this year, I can't afford it," or "I can't be bothered." These are the things we say and hear, but the presents get sent, the bills paid, and we start teaching the children about Father Christmas long before we think it necessary to mention more important things.
* * * And we affect to scorn tradition. If anybody mentions it we say we've no time for it, it doesn't mean anything, and Australians have none, and so on. But we can't get away from it. Even if we scorn the more generally accepted traditions, and behave like Scrooge at Christmas, if we are honest every one of us has some carefully treasured feeling for a custom, a symbol, an association, that is really a tradition, something that has been handed down.
It's no use trying to get away from the past. We can't. When you come to think of it, it's rather humorous to try, for aren't we all busily working away to make sufficient impression in this little old world to ensure some sort of a memory that will last for a while at any rate after we have lost our last contest with Time ?
* * * Christmas is one of the oldest traditions we have—you see, we don't realise that it is a tradition, do we ? But it's one' that nearly everybody has to plead guilty to supporting. Mistletoe, which plays so large a part in Christmas decorations in colder lands, has been banded down to us from the day of the Druids, when they used it for decorating their places of worship.
The Christians of ancient Rome handed down to us the tradition of Christmas boxes. Even in those days it was the custom to give to the poor and needy at Christmas time, and boxes were hung up in the churches by the priests for offerings to be dropped into, to be distributed amongst the poor. From that came the idea of giving Christmas boxes, and also from that we get the name of the day that follows Christmas, "Boxing" Day, because it was the custom of the Romans to open on that day the boxes in which the offerings had been placed. How it came to be regarded as a public holiday I know not, and its curious name had often puzzled me until I happened to find this information. By the way, have you ever thought how many of our traditions and customs had their origin in things connected with the Church ? The modem theatre can be traced back to the Miracle plays which were written by monks and performed in churches.
* * * The Christmas tree, so I discovered, is also of Roman origin, ' though it is generally believed to be of much more recent date, and to have come from Scandinavia or Germany. It was, however, introduced into England from Germany, where Christmas has for years been a great time of celebration.
Though our grandparents brought with them many traditions from older countries, we are gradually building up some for ourselves, and as we grow older nationally we will come to regard them as much more valuable than we do now. It takes time to build up tradition.
The Band of the Grenadier Guards, by the way, which visited Adelaide recently, was formed in the reign of Charles II., and the drummers, or "time-beaters," as they are called in the Band, still wear mourning for the King.
In the British Navy every sailor wears a black tie in memory of Lord Nelson. A little thing, perhaps, but it is such little things that have built up the British Navy. It would be a sad thing for the world if the traditions of Christmas were to be forgotten, and even though we find it hard to keep up with the clock, Christmas makes us happy, and we have a few days' grace to get our breath again before we are called upon to start a brand new year.
Life on Wardang Island
By Edna Davies (Copyright)
By Edna Davies. Have you ever been to Wardang Island? It is well worth a trip, and if you can manage to stay till evening, you will see the penguins come in after their day's fishing. You will not only see them come in, you'll hear them; their loud raucous evening cries fill the air with noise.
The Wardang Island penguins are, I imagine, what are called fairy penguins. They are much smaller than the king penguins and are grey and white, not black and white like their bigger brethren. Indeed, not all the king penguins have white breasts either. We saw some in the London Zoo with brilliant orange waistcoats, and others with pale lemon-colored ones.
The little grey and while penguins lay eggs which look exactly like hens eggs in size and color, and to look at, give the egg collector no thrill whatever. Other island birds, however, produce some very handsomely shaped and marked eggs. Amongst the birds which frequent Wardang are seagulls, shags, gannets, starlings, sparrow and chicken hawks and occasionally a few mutton bird.
The first thing that strikes you on landing after your seven-mile, trip acrossc Spencer's Gulf from Pt. Victoria to Wardang Island is the huge bin erected by the Broken Hill Proprietary Coy. for storing sand, carting of which provides the islanders with their means of livelihood.
Eight men are employed by the Company to move a particular kind of sand found on the south-west of the island, by five ton trucks, to the storage bin on the eastern side. Periodically a barge comes from Port Pirie, sometimes every two, sometimes every three weeks, to lift the sand and take it back to the iron and steel works at Pirie, where it is used in the process of smelting.
The barge brings from Port Pirie, especially in summer-time, fresh water for the islanders. A certain amount of rainwater is obtained by roof-catchment, but people mostly depend on the barge. So that the second thing that strikes you on the island as you climb the cliff road is the windmill which drives the water from the tank where the barge discharges, thirty feet up the cliff to be piped to each of the nine island homes—eight occupied by the B.H.P. employees, and one by the schoolteacher, who teaches the island's nine school-going children.
On each house property is a water meter—not there so that the householder can be rated for the water used, but so that each one may see that he is not using more than his quota of the precious liquid.
There is no other water on the island, so that in summer, rabbits driven by thirst go down to the sea to drink—and die of it.
There is a small hall on the island, where films are shown fortnightly. Each afternoon, a small grocery store is open for business, but most supplies come from Port Victoria by means of the Company's launch, which makes the trip across thrice weekly.
The houses are gaily painted, and gardens are neat. A refrigerator is installed in each home, and the houses all have grand front fences of brush—especially brought from Tasmania by one of the Company's ship.
Some time ago, tamarisks were planted, but they did not do well; now the islanders are very pleased with the growth of a number of young mallees, which look strong and healthy.
Strong seas beat against the island's western shores, driving the salt spray way up onto the cliffs—a most spectacular sight that, once witnessed, will live in your memory.
There is now no longer any sign of the French barque "Jean Barte," which went ashore on the south end of the isle little more than forty years ago. Time and the sea have done their work with her. At the northern end a buoy marks the spot where the "Songvaar" foundered about the same time.
Sharp-nosed dark grey porpoises, leaping high out of the water, may be witnessed on the crowing from mainland to Wardang. Those I saw were much more torpedo-shaped than any others I remember. Porpoises somehow always manage to convey a feeling of joy in living, like light-hearted children who leap for joy on a fresh sunny day. The people who live on Wardang Inland, seem to enjoy life to enjoy life.