Family History – Aunty Ruby

Early one Sunday morning in May, while we were still warm in bed, our grand-daughter flew in early from London (where she is on a working holiday) and was whisked off by her father on a 90 minute journey to see one-day-old Ruby, her one and only niece. It was also the grandfather’s first sight of Ruby and we believe he nursed her for more than an hour, understandably more gently than with his lambs and calves.

A link with the past is the naming of our new arrival. My father’s younger sister was named Ruby when she was born along with a twin sister Olive in 1896 at Maroona, a small town in Victoria’s western district situated on the rail link between Ararat and Portland. Olive died a few months after birth. Seven years later, the family was living at Lilydale, east of Melbourne, when her mother Emma died after childbirth. Ruby’s father, Ted Mewett, remarried and the ever expanding family was relocated at Wycheproof, a railway town in the north west of the state. After a railway accident at Wycheproof, my father Percy, an amputee, was sent to the Newport railway workshops as a telephonist and there he met my mother, Margaret (Maggie) Pollock, and they were married at North Williamstown in 1915.

Ruby met Maggie’s younger brother David who had fought on the Western Front in France during World War I and they became betrothed, but sadly she dumped him and married Will Weaver, a young hard-working but penniless farmer who had acquired about 400 acres subdivided from The Gums sheep station situated 20 miles north of Melbourne at Kal Kallo. She learned to milk cows, yard sheep, raise motherless lambs, raise chickens, make butter and bread, and drive the one-horse gig or jinker 5 miles to deliver the cream can to the railway station at Donnybrook. Her sun-tanned arms contrasted with the milky-white arms of her city sisters. It was a harder life than she had expected.

As the birth of my younger brother approached in 1932, my mother despatched my three-year-old self to Kal Kallo via Donnybrook for three months to be minded by my childless Aunty Ruby. We got on well and she wanted to adopt me even giving me the alternative name of Peter but my mother having been brought up on a farm knew the hardships of the life and she declined to let me go, but the bond between aunt and child remained and I spent school holidays happily roaming around the farm, helping yard sheep and learning from my uncle the names of the birds: crows, magpies, mudlarks, groundlarks, skylarks, nunbirds, chickenhawks, willy wagtails. And then there were the Jersey and Ayrshire cows, the Dorset Horn rams, Snow the cart-horse, the large Clydesdale draught-horses, the White Leghorn fowls, and the small black and tan Kelpie sheep dog, Lass.

My aunt and uncle always called me Pete and my uncle often referred to us as “cobbers”. Sometimes I wandered through the paddocks on my own, gazing west to the distant Mount Macedon and to Mount Slide and the Kinglake ranges to the north-east; in this way I was conditioned to open spaces and prepared for bushwalking in my later life. And the cane chair in which my aunt died in 1972 at Bendigo has stood beside my bed almost 40 years, a constant reminder of happy childhood days.


Published in: on June 23, 2011 at 4:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

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