Uncle Will Weaver – Photos

Single days, leaning on hammer

Single days, leaning on hammer

Weaver's horse team, photo by almewett

Weaver’s horse team, photo by almewett

Milking was a daily chore

Milking was a daily chore

Max, Colin, Alan aka Pete (standing), Uncle Will holding Snow the cart horse. ca 1944

Max, Colin, Alan aka Pete (standing), Uncle Will holding Snow the cart horse. ca 1944

Ruby and Will Weaver in their "Sunday best"

Ruby and Will Weaver in their “Sunday best”

Central Station, Sydney ca.1970

Central Station, Sydney ca.1970

Published in: on March 31, 2014 at 10:52 am  Comments (2)  

Uncle Will Weaver

The Gums farm was situated two miles off the Hume Highway to the west, at the end a gravel road now signposted as Gums Gully Lane. The far boundary of the farm was to the west where the Old Sydney Road, a stock route, follows a ridge of hills, being the watershed of Deep Creek (which becomes the Maribyrnong River) to the west and The Drain to the east (it becomes the Merri Creek as it flows south).

My Uncle Will had taken the three-horse-drawn wagon up on to Riggs Hill at the south-western corner of the farm and was moving inside the boundary fence northward where the hill slopes back to the east. I was a small boy on holiday and I cannot remember why we were up there with the heavy wagon; I guess it was to drop off fence posts and rolls of wire, a load too big for a one-horse two-wheeled dray. The centre horse, Violet, was harnessed to the shafts (which steered the front wheels) as well as throwing her considerable weight into pulling. Each of the side-horses was simply harnessed by chains hooked to their collars and hames and anchored to the swingle-bars attached to the wagon. Each horse was attached to its neighbour by a short chain or strap connected to the bit or mouthpiece thereby ensuring that the horses would turn together or keep a straight course ahead when steered by the reins held by the driver.

At the steepest slope of the hill the horse on the lower side lost its footing, fell and rolled entangling itself in the chains hanging beside it. Naturally, it struggled to get up but was powerless against the restraint of the twisted draw-chains and the short bit-chain. The animal was understandably distressed and panicky.

To a child the situation was frightening. I had been following the wagon on foot to the side at some distance and was now turned to see what would happen. My uncle had reined in the other horses with loud “Whoa”s, hurriedly chocked the wheels, and was calming the alarmed animals with quiet “Whoa”s; he looked for slack in the fallen horse’s chains and how best to disentangle them, going about his inspection slowly and carefully to avoid being injured by the horse’s struggles, all the time talking quietly and soothingly to the animal. Using his own great strength he was able to release it from its harness eventually and the animal stood free but shaken. Undoing the bit-chain he allowed the horse to break free and wander in the paddock; soon it was heading home alone to the house paddock and stables.

The wagon team of two resumed its way along the boundary fence, now gently sloping down to the gully and watercourse called The Wash. I was relieved that any danger had passed and that the situation was back to normal. I had faith in my uncle to do extraordinary things and that faith had been reinforced by the day’s incident.

Years later we were carting in hay together on another farm down towards Craigieburn; it fronted the Hume Highway below Mount Ridley. My uncle had overstocked and overworked the first farm and, as a consequence, production had dropped significantly; he was advised to rest the land to restore its productivity, so he invested in “Misery Farm” as he called it although officially it was known as the River Bank Estate (Merri Creek ran through the north-eastern corner). We had finished work for the day and he was putting out sheaves of hay on the ground for the horses when one of them, frustrated by the bullies at the head of the line, came trotting down to the freshly laid hay and swung his rear legs around at my uncle, missing him by inches. My uncle turned quickly and swore with some heat “You rotten cow!” Lesser men, not nearly so tough and hard-working as he, would have let the world know in no uncertain terms what they thought of the beast’s parentage.

My uncle was building a new workmen’s hut to replace the ramshackle hut which had stood in the house paddock since before the old Gums station had been subdivided. One day, as he worked inside the nearly completed hut, his favourite horse, Violet, then retired but once a hardworking draught, poked her head in the unfinished window and gave my uncle a nudge. Light-heartedly he told her he was busy and she shouldn’t waste his time. She withdrew her head and shortly after he heard a mighty PLOP! Violet had collapsed on the ground outside the hut and was already dead when he rushed out to see what was wrong. Had Violet a forewarning of her dying moment and wanted to to receive a last minute comforting pat from her master?

His first car to replace the jinker or gig drawn for years by the quietest horse, Mick, was a Willys 77 coupe with a rear outside “dicky” seat. The engine was American and the bodywork was built by Holden in Melbourne before the days of General Motors – Holden. The ubiquitous Jeeps of World War II were built by the Willys company. My uncle’s choice of car was, I suspect, influenced by the brand name which humorously declared his ownership of the car. Occasionally a sheep, bag of chaff, or pan of over-ripe plums graced the dicky seat as well as an itinerant worker or two. The small black and tan Kelpie sheep-dog, Lass, had pride of place on the single bench seat alongside the driver. Weaver would drive along his two-mile unsealed lane in second gear, studying the neighbours’ crops and sheep with a keen eye; there was never any other traffic on that road to distract him.

William Henry Weaver was born on 18 March 1891 at his grandfather’s farm “Allandale” at Bagshot, Victoria; son of Sydney Weaver and his wife Clara Alexina Weaver (nee Allan). He was married to Ruby Irene Mewett at Seddon Congregational Church on 13 March 1924; there were no children. Will died at Bendigo on 12 June 1972, just three weeks after the death of Ruby.

– almewett

Published in: on March 31, 2014 at 10:51 am  Leave a Comment  

Maggie Pollock – Photos

Maggie Pollock 2 238Perc Mag Mewett 0894Slides1119

Top: Maggie Pollock 1889 – 1979
Centre: Percy and Maggie Mewett 1915
Below: Pollock sisters: Maggie Mewett and Alice Boyd 1967
after christening of Liz Mewett, Como W.A.

Published in: on March 30, 2014 at 8:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

Maggie Pollock

Do You Know was intended to be a less formal blog than Who Were They, but after two posts the writer ran out of inspiration and ideas and concentrated his efforts on the Mewett, Pollock and related families in Who Were They. Consequently, he is now closing down the blog Do You Know and transferring the two posts over to this current weblog. His idea had been that snippets of information about departed extended-family members and occasional photos of them would give the reader an insight into personalities of the past and their way of life. These posts would have relied heavily on the author’s recollection of conversations (including gossip) and events. Forgive him if he started with his own mother; no apology should be needed to have embarked on this venture with nostalgic memories.

Maggie Pollock

My mother was known as “Mag” to her immediate family, which to me was an ugly-sounding name. Her former employer, Mrs MacKechnie, called her “Maggie” and I felt that was an improvement and I shall refer to her this way. The only person to call her “Margaret” was a Congregational minister’s wife, Mrs Krohn, whose family stayed with us for a short while when Fred Krohn resigned his ministry and went off to World War II as an Australian Comforts Fund officer to serve the troops overseas. Maggie’s cousin, Will McGuigan of Kanumbra, once teased her when they were horse-riding by calling her “Margaret” and he received a bruising on his arm for his tongue-in-cheek gallantry.

Will’s parents were going away on holiday and they asked Maggie to come down to Kanumbra to look after young Will and his brother. What fun! the boys thought, but soon changed their tune when Maggie took over from their mother with a zeal and a determination to uphold the trust Mrs McGuigan put in her.

On her father’s farm near Bonnie Doon she was the second daughter and was expected to help with farm chores, including riding up the hill to bring down the cows for milking. As she looked down through the cold early morning mist at the farmhouse below she thought enviously of her brothers and sisters still in their warm beds. She and her older sister, Lily, were part-time students at the local primary school; they took it in turns to stay at home and help their parents. Sowing the crop seed was done by hand as father Pollock walked methodically up and down the paddock; the girls were kept busy running to him with yet another bucket of grain for him to scatter left and right from his bag apron. Maggie was always on her guard to stop her half- brother Jack from bullying the younger children. One can guess that her combative nature led to her parents finding employment for her well away from the farm.

MacKechnie was a mine manager at Woods Point, south of Mansfield, and his wife needed help with her growing family in that out-of-the-way town; and that help came from Maggie Pollock, in service to the MacKechnie family. One cannot imagine a servant’s duties in those days being limited but instead, all-inclusive. Maggie learned the finer points of housekeeping, cooking, shopping and child-minding under Mrs MacKechnie’s watchful eye. When the family left Woods Point and moved to St Albans near Melbourne, they took Maggie with them, travelling in a two-horse buggy. After an overnight camp they found one of the horses dying from the effects of an illicit feed in a nearby crop and the rest of the journey was a trial with just one horse in harness.

Maggie’s elder sister Lily was married to Bob Black, a fire-engine driver (later, farmer at Woodfield), and Maggie lived with them at Newport after her service to the MacKechnie family at St Albans had ended. She worked at the railways workshop canteen at Newport (Melbourne suburb) as a waitress; one of her duties was to take the daily food orders to the switchboard to be phoned through to the suppliers. And who should she meet there but telephone operator, Percy Mewett, who had been repatriated there after a railway accident at Wycheproof had left him an amputee. His plight stirred her Big Sister feelings (she was three years older) and they were married in 1915 at North Williamstown.

Maggie as wife and mother might have been described then as domineering but today we would call her a control freak, not with malice but because she was doing her best for her family. For instance, she made sure I had a good education at Melbourne Boys’ High School. Her love was expressed through good hot food on the table, a clean shirt on our back, a clean house to live in, not by cuddles and kisses. The weekly pay packet was barely sufficient to pay the rent and energy bills, let alone food and clothing. Grandfather Mewett once claimed that she could knock up a hot dinner out of next-to-nothing. The Sunday roast leg of lamb came back to the dining table during the week in many disguises. Four sons can be a handful, especially four male egos experiencing the first feelings of independence and self-importance. But she coped without complaining.

Once, at dinner time she received a phone call and returned to the table in tears. ”I’ve lost the best friend I ever had,” she cried. Mrs MacKechnie had died. Embarrassed by our mother’s weeping, we ate in silence.


Published in: on March 30, 2014 at 8:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Longevity of My Mewett Ancestors

Samuel Mewett, my great-great-grandfather, died at Kersbrook, S.A. on 26 January 1888, aged 85. Judging by his death certificate entry he was thought by his family to be 86; the memorial at Kersbrook cemetery, installed in 1976 by family descendants, gave his age as 84. However, Samuel was baptised at Willingdon in England in September 1803 so we might assume that he was born in that year (civil birth registrations were not kept until decades later). This explains why I have dared to contradict the death certificate and the headstone memorial in stating that Samuel died at age 85. Why is this so important to me? Read on.

Another of my great-great-grandfathers, William Giddings, died at Gumeracha, S.A. on 26 July 1897, also aged 85. I accept this age because it was given on his death certificate and again on the headstone of his grave at the Kersbrook one-time-Methodist church, his birth date being recorded thereon as 1812.

Jesse Mewett, my great-grandfather, son of Samuel and Martha and husband of Rhoda Giddings, died at Parkside, S.A. on 20 March 1911 of bronchitis and asthma, aged 75 years. Other great-grandfathers included William Lloyd who died at Horsham in 1906 aged 65, John Campbell Pollock who died at Woodfield in May 1897 aged 69, and William McGuigan who died in Melbourne, though a resident of Kanumbra, in 1909 aged 81.

Ted (Edward John) Mewett, my grandfather, died at Blackburn, Victoria in 1934 aged 72. My grandmother, Emma Lloyd had predeceased him by 30 years after the birth of her seventh child.  William Hendry Pollock, my maternal grandfather died at Woodfield, Victoria, in 1928 aged 80.

My father, Percy Edwin Mewett, died of lung cancer at Prahran, Victoria in 1959, aged 67.
(My mother Maggie Pollock died at Kew in 1979 aged 90)

This week I celebrate my 85th birthday (28 March 2014) thanks to the marvels of modern medical practice and the loving care of Mary, my wife of 59 years. But I think back to my great-great-grandfathers who both lived to 85; they were born in England in the early 19th century, and as poor emigrants they brought their families to Australia on sailing ships, worked for the South Australia Company as tenant farmers, settled on the land in the Kersbrook-Chain Of Ponds-Gumeracha districts, and survived drought, bush fire, flood and other hardships without the help of modern medical science or government assistance. They were the tough and true pioneers of our families in Australia; I’m proud to claim them as my ancestors and I acknowledge and honour them by publishing this tribute to them.

I haven’t forgotten the women pioneers of the Mewett family but I will have to wait until I reach 90 to write in similar vein about their longevity and the roles they played in supporting their menfolk!

Published in: on March 28, 2014 at 10:47 am  Comments (6)