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  

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