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   Ellison Family
 Block numbers were 34A and 34B on opposite sides of road

Here are my brother's memoirs. He became the Chief Valuer for the NSW Department of Main Roads and was much mourned by his family,friends and colleagues when he died prematurely.He was a great character who wrote many poems published in the Main Roads Journal. He in later life enjoyed skiing travelling many times to Mt Baldy in America and to other parts of the world. He was a member from the age of 15 of the Narrabeen Surf Life Saving Club and of the Long Reef Golf Club Nsw. I will send a photo of Bill taken later in his life when I locate it in my records. We do hope to have Bill's journals published at some time but know he would be pleased to have this part in your Website.. Yours truly Lynette Ellison Kensey .

More excerpts from his memoirs can be found here

Family Story
My father Alec was a World War I returned soldier who had served in Egypt, Gallipoli and France. Prior to his marriage in 1927, he had been basically a bushy all his life. His family had resided in country towns or in rural localities since arriving in Australia in the 1850s and therefore he was no stranger to farming. In the early 1920s on their return from overseas, he and his brothers Jack and Lionel had farmed in partnership, at Colinrobie between Narrandera and Barellan in New South Wales. Upon the dissolution of this partnership, Alec went back and worked for a former employer of his at Rosebery in the Old Mallee area of Victoria and some one hundred to two hundred miles from the scene of my childhood. The Old Mallee is also dry farming country but generally is much safer country climate wise. It is also much less saline.

Still Dad was not a complete stranger to dry country as before World War I, he had spent some time at a property, owned or managed by one of his uncles by marriage near Oodnadatta where the average annual rainfall is only five or six inches. About the time of Dad's marriage Jack, his elder brother had been allocated a block in the Millewa settlement about ten miles south of Meringur and in the last tier of the subdivision. In explanation the settlement area was about 60 miles wide and fifteen miles deep with blocks each about one hundred chains deep by roughly sixty chains wide in rows or tiers of about eighty blocks each stretching in about twelve strips from east to west across the settlement. I am aware that these figures give more than 800 blocks, in fact, 960 if my dimensioning is accurate but the discrepancy is accounted for by firstly the approximate nature of the dimensions and second by the reservation of certain areas for public purposes, such as forestry reserves, and traveling stock and camping reserves.

School sites, townships and tank sites would also further reduce the area available. However to revert to the story. Jack had been allocated a block. Dad had selected a block which was eventually allocated in the tier immediately north of Jack's block and two blocks east thereof.. Jack and Grandpa, otherwise Willy, had moved up and kept sending messages to the newly weds, Alec and Glad, to come up but they were a little reluctant to do so until they could be reasonably assured of accommodation. Jack kept assuring them that they could put them up so finally they set off in a horse drawn van also sometimes referred to as a covered waggon driving up in the summer heat(See photo below). Upon their arrival they found Jack and Grandpa camped in an open fronted galvanized iron shed on the block to the west of Jack's and nothing else in the way of a building for miles around except Archie Bennier's stone house, the only structure of this material in the whole of the settlement.

With this limitation on accommodation, the newly weds camped in the waggon for the next several months while Dad and his father who was a carpenter, built the house on Dad's block which had now come through. While this may have been a bit of a trial for Alec, his country background would have given him some training for it, but imagine poor Gladys who had been an urbanite all her life other than country holidays and was suddenly roughing it. Still she had some previous experience with the climate as she had spent two years teaching at Broken Hill where the country and climate were possibly even more trying than the Millewa but hardly under the same conditions. The cottage which was of timber frame construction, with weather board cladding and galvanized iron roof, comprised four main rooms lined with three ply to dado height with fibrous plaster above and fibrous plaster ceilings.

The lot stood on red gum piers, about eighteen inches above the ground and was surrounded by a verandah on all sides, about twelve feet wide. The rear verandah was enclosed and had a workman's room at one end and a bathroom at the other. The northern side verandah had no floor and was used to garage the car, a 1924 Hupmobile. The rear half of the south side verandah also had no floor and was utilized as the laundry. A fuel copper on iron stand and two tin tubs comprised the laundry equipment which were in the yard. Water supply was obtained from two 1000 gallon tanks which stored roof water and supplied the bathroom and an outside tap. There was no water to the kitchen, washing up being done in a large dish and the only hot water was obtained either by lighting the copper or by putting the kettle on the stove.

The stove was a fuel stove burning mallee roots which make an excellent fire and there was an open fireplace in the lounge. Lighting was by kerosene lamps and the toilet was an earth closet, the contents of which it was Dad's pleasure to empty and bury at frequent intervals. Drainage was non existent and bath water, washing up water and any thing that could be spared, was used to water Mum's Passion Fruit Vine( Mum tried to grow these vines wherever she went) and any vegetables which could be grown. There was no such thing as domestic refrigeration and ice was unobtainable in the district therefore the only means of keeping food cool was to use a Coolgardie Safe. This basically consists of a wooden framework with hessian sides standing in a drip tray with another tray full of water as a top with strips of cloth hanging over the sides from the top tray so that the hessian is kept damp.

Evaporation provides cooling and when there is a breeze, the effect is not too bad. Water was similarly cooled in water bags to which a handful of oatmeal was added. This was the house occupied by the family when I was born and was to remain my home until late 1936 when we moved to Mildura. The move to Mildura was an abandonment of the farm and was the culmination of a series of poor seasons and low prices. We were by no means the first family in the area to walk off and were certainly not the last. I lack data on the present population but would be surprised if in the whole of the Millewa more than six hundred people still reside. Just because we went broke doesn't mean that the whole of life was a struggle or that nobody had any fun. In the first few years, before the depression really bit, the young family people in the area had a fair sort of social life and lived fairly well.

They held dances and At Homes where those musically or dramatically inclined would provide the entertainment. Mum played te piano by ear and records let them know the tunes popular around the time. A tennis court was built from ant nests and a cricket pitch. Agricultural Shows were held at which Dad and his horses were a success as was his dairy cow until the drought hit. However by 1934 most people would have realized the settlement was not a goer and the last few years before Dad got out would have been pretty grim. For that matter the first few years in Mildura were even grimmer to him, and it wasn't until we moved to New South Wales that things started to look up a bit. This is not an aspersion on the state of Victoria, but is a commentary on the hard times of the 30's. I was still quite small when we left the farm having just gone six, and due to the remoteness of the locality my only regular playmates were my three sisters, one of whom was older than me, and two younger, the youngest being about eighteen months old at the time of our moving to Mildura. As well, there were my cousins, Janet and Ken, the first about my age and the other Lynette's my second sister. We saw them pretty regularly, and as we got older were within walking distance of about two miles.

These were Jack's children he having married in the district after moving up. Others who were in walking distance were a large family called Pawker who lived about a mile and a half north of us, and an even larger tribe named McMahon about the same distance to the south east. Both these families were older than any of us except the youngest of the Pawkers, and so we didn't get to know them really well. As well as these neighbours there were a few more children more my age belonging to various friends of Mum and Dads who were on the visiting circuit, but other than odd recollections helped by family reminiscences I know little more than their names, and except as one may cop a passing mention as I progress with this tale all that needs to be said about them has been said. What sort of life did we kids have in this remote locale with limited facilities and towards the end little or no money? Probably as good if not better than most during the depression years.

We ate well and didn't need much in the way of clothes. What did we eat? Well we had chooks and our own milking cows. We made our own butter and killed our own meat. Grain was ground by itinerent mobile mills on the basis of one bag for the miller and one for the farmer. Other requirements were obtained by a bit of barter, surplus eggs and butter being our contribution to the trade. In retrospect it was a pretty spartan existence but the consumer society had hardly got under way at that time and one didn't miss what one hadn't had. Still to revert to my story. I think the last thing that has happened so far is that I was born. Pam was born about fifteen months before this and had had a visit to be shown off to her admiring maternal grandmother in Sydney. She also had a visit somewhat later to go to said Grandmother's funeral. With the death of her mother, Mum was left with no blood relatives other than her children at that time , one and one in the can me, so that as far as we are concerned all family are Dad's relatives.

When I was about fifteen months old the whole family had a holiday by the sea at Port Noarlunga in South Australia, but with increasing financial stringency this was the last family holiday we had. When I was barely old enough to remember Dad went down to Melbourne for the Show and took Pam and me with him. We stayed at Lionel's place but all I can remember is the concrete in the back yard and wondering where all the endless supply of water came from without tanks. In these early years Dad and Mum played tennis and Dad cricket and possibly even football but with the aggravation of hard times and the movement of people from the district these activities were a thing of the past by the last couple of years. Schooling There was a school at Tunart about five miles from our place and another at Kurnwil, about the same distance away.

By the time Pam and I were old enough to start school both these had been closed and the only suitable school was at Meringur ten miles distance,so Mum who was a teacher gave us our early lessons in the three R's. In those days there were no free rural school buses or for that matter no public transport of any kind within the Millewa except a weekly train service which wasn't much use to us so that this isolation was the first straw leading to our departure from the farm.

Bill aged 5+

Pam & Bill Ellison c 1934

Glad and Alec

Alec Ellison on Header
Gladys & Pam in
Background 1930

Grandma Ellison

Grandpa Ellison

Glad Bill & Pam, Meringur 1931

The wagon
it was in this that Gladys and Alex Ellison travelled from
Beulah to Meringur to take up settlement. They took with them three prize dairy cattle and five prize clydesdales from which Alex hoped to breed a noted Stud. What dreams they had! This was to be my mother's home for the first three months until the house was built or partly so





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