Mewett Road, Kersbrook, listed in Adelaide Hills fires

We have noted that fires currently burning in the Adelaide Hills in the Sampson Flat and Humbug Scrub areas have threatened towns and districts where our Mewett and Giddings forebears settled 160 years ago, namely, Kersbrook, Gumeracha, Williamstown, Chain of Ponds, Forreston (once known as North Gumeracha), and Kenton Valley. The ABC online news service gives the Country Fire Service listing today (4 January 2015) – including among others: grass fire at Checker Hill Road, Kersbrook; tree fire at Retreat Valley Road, Gumeracha; tree fire at Rake Road, Kersbrook; grass fire at Redgum Lane, Kersbrook; grass fire at Mewett Road, Kersbrook; grass fire in Kenton Valley, Gumeracha. I commented in a post on this blog some years ago that the Mewetts and other emigrants in the 19th Century had given up the hellish economic conditions experienced by agricultural workers in southern England for the Australian hell of drought, bushfire, flood, pests, etc. but I did not imagine then how close to the truth this would become in the areas settled by our great-great-grandfathers. May the outcome of these current fires in the Adelaide Hills not include any loss of life and minimal loss of livestock and property.

– almewett

Published in: on January 4, 2015 at 9:28 pm  Comments (2)  

Robert Brace and Martha Pollock Wedding 1917

Robert and Martha Brace

Robert and Martha Brace

This photograph was kindly sent to me by David Brace, grandson of Robert and Martha Brace who were married at Kanumbra, Victoria, in 1917. See previous post for details of wedding party, bride’s dress, gifts, family and friends present at the ceremony.

Published in: on January 4, 2015 at 4:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

Robert Brace – Martha Pollock Wedding, 1917

The Robert Brace – Martha Pollock Wedding,

Kanumbra, 12 October, 1917.

The following report was forwarded to me by Darryl Mewett, researcher of Mewett family history worldwide, which he found while delving into Trove for newspaper reports which included the name Mewett; as you will see in the body of the report Mrs P. Mewett was listed as a donor of cutlery to her sister Martha Pollock on the occasion of Martha’s marriage/wedding to Robert Brace.

The report was from the Yea Chronicle published 18 October 1917 and headed “Orange Blossom”. I reproduce it as published (except for punctuation modifications) but will explain the personalities and their relationships as a postscript; these people included my mother, grandparents, aunts, and great-aunts and great uncles.

A very pretty wedding took place on Wednesday, 12 October 1917, at “Spring Vale” Kanumbra, the residence of Mr John McGuigan. The contracting parties were Robert (late of the A.I.F.), son of Mr R. Brace of Kerrisdale, and Martha Elizabeth, daughter of Mr and Mrs W. Pollock of Bonnie Doon. The Rev W. C. Jones, of Alexandra, performed the ceremony.

The bride, who was given away by her father, was attired in a very pretty gown of white China silk with soft lace and ninon effect, and wore the customary wreath and veil, and carried a bouquet of trumpet lilies, snowdrops and asparagus fern. Miss Marion Pollock, who acted as bridesmaid, was dressed in a Fugi silk costume. Mr H. McGuigan acted as best man.

There were about 30 relatives and friends present, and the exquisite breakfast was a picture of perfectness. Mrs H. Day, a resident of Kanumbra, is responsible for this most important adjunct, and is to be highly commended for the manner in which she laid out and superintended the dainty repast. The usual toasts were proposed and responded to in an able manner.

The happy couple left by motor en route for Melbourne amid the hearty good wishes of their friends and showers of confetti. The travelling costume was of navy serge, with hat to match.  

The presents were as follow;

Bride to bridegroom, gold sleeve links.

Bridegroom to bride, gold pendant and chain, and to the bridesmaid, a gold bangle.

Miss E. McGuigan, household linen, tea set and cheque.

Mr J. McGuigan, cheque.

Mr and Mrs W. Pollock, cheque.

Mrs R. S. Black, sugar basin and cake dish.

Mrs P. Mewett, cutlery.

Miss A. Pollock, salad bowl.

Miss Marion Pollock, silver butter dish and knife.

Miss Annie Pollock, silver cruet.

L.Cpl. D. Pollock, cheque.

Mr Thompson, cheque.

Mrs Thompson, silver cruet.

Master W. Thompson, pair silver salt cellars.

Miss L. Thompson, silver and glass honey jar.

Miss M. Thompson, silver butter dish and knife.

Mr and Mrs Jas. McGuigan and Mrs Mintern, silver teapot.

Mr H. McGuigan, silver and glass sweets jar.

Mr and Mrs H. Kubiel, cheque.

Mrs Almond, cheese dish.

Miss Jean Almond, pair of vases.

Miss Madge Almond, butter dish and sugar basin.

Postscript: 1. The bride, Martha (“Markie”) Elizabeth, was the youngest child of my grandparents, William and Mary Anne Pollock. Her mother possibly suffered what we now call “post-natal depression” after the birth of Martha and was not coping well with her larger family. Her sister, Elizabeth McGuigan, single and childless, gathered up her niece and took her home to care for her at Kanumbra. John McGuigan, bachelor farmer, was no doubt easily inveigled into this arrangement.   It is understandable that the wedding was held at “Spring Vale”, the McGuigan farm.

2. Martha’s sister, Marion Pollock, the bridesmaid, remained single and was later carer and housekeeper to her mother, Mary Anne.

3. Mr H McGuigan, the best man, was Herbert James, son of James McGuigan, and cousin of the bride.

4. Mrs R S Black was Martha’s eldest sister, Lily Florence, married to Robert Stanley Black, farmer of Ancona Road, Woodfield.

5. Mrs P Mewett was another sister, Margaret (Maggie), married to Percy Mewett (the blogger’s parents; thereafter, Maggie always gave cutlery sets as wedding presents).

6. Miss A Pollock was another sister, Alice, later married to Angus Boyd and settled in W.A.

7. Miss Annie Pollock was sister Mary Ann, later married to George McLean.

8. L/Cpl David Pollock, brother, was overseas with the A.I.F. at the date of the wedding.

9. Mrs Thompson would have been Martha’s Aunt Martha, married to Jack Thompson of thereabouts.

10. James McGuigan was Mary Anne Pollock’s twin brother, uncle of the bride.

11. Mrs Mintern was Irene Jane, daughter of James McGuigan, and cousin of the bride.

12. Mrs Kubiel was Jane McGuigan, married to Ernest Henry Kubiel, and younger sister of Mary Anne Pollock and aunt of the bride.

13. Mrs Almond was Margaret McGuigan, sister of Mary Anne Pollock, married to Robert Almond, and mother of Jean and Madge Almond, cousins of the bride.

14. Robert “Bob” Brace and Martha were parents of seven children:

Faith (Mrs Kipping)

Lorna (Mrs Wentworth)


Mervyn (married to Mary “Girlie” McMahon)

Shirley (Mrs Scott)



15. Bob Brace had been a bullocky in his young days and retained the bullocky’s colorful language even after years of farming and a long convalescence and retirement. When I read the first chapter of Joseph Furphy’s Such Is Life with the bullock teamsters yarning around the campfire with their “bloody”s, and “hell”s etc. portrayed by Furphy in words acceptable to the puritans of the 19th Century in brackets, I think of Uncle Bob and his yarns when I visited the Braces at Mackay Street, Seddon, say, fifty years ago.

– almewett

Published in: on November 29, 2014 at 4:49 pm  Comments (1)  

Mewetts: A.I.F. Servicemen of the Second World War 1939-1945

The following information about returned A.I.F. servicemen has been extracted from World War 2 Nominal Rolls, National Archives records and genealogical research by the late L.Robert (Bob) Mewett and Darryl Mewett. Digitised war records for most of these returned servicemen were not available for viewing online. The listing below is in alphabetical order. It is by chance that the last names are of servicemen who were killed while on active service.

Allen (Allan) Walter Mewett, service no. SX27552, born Williamstown, S.A. 28 October 1919, enlisted at Plympton, S.A. He served in 121st Australian General Transport Company. Next of kin: Ivy (nee Morgan). My comment: great-grandson of Samuel and Martha, grandson of Thomas and Caroline (nee Meakins), son of Walter and Edith (nee Polkinghorne)

Arthur Mewett, service no. NX165265, born Campsie, NSW,  5 October1919, enlisted at Ingleburn, NSW. Next of kin: Hilda.

Clarence James Mewett, service no. SX18444, born Williamstown, S.A., 24 April 1904, enlisted at Wayville, S.A. Next of kin: Avis (wife)(nee Millington). My comment: great-grandson of Samuel and Martha, grandson of Jesse and Rhoda, son of James Clarendon and Grace (nee Whiteman).

Clifford Herbert Mewett, service no. SX 27524, born Williamstown, S.A., 21 July 1916, enlisted at Alice Springs, N.T.  Next of kin: James (father). My comments: great-grandson of Samuel and Martha, grandson of Jesse and Rhoda, son of James Clarendon and Grace (nee Whiteman), brother of Clarence James (see above).

Douglas Ross Mewett, service no. QX33582, born Kilcoy, Qld, 30 July 1921, enlisted at Biggenden, Qld. Next of kin: Margaret.

Geoffrey Lloyd Mewett, service no. VX21163, born Sunshine, Vic, 4 October 1920, enlisted at Caulfield, Vic. Served with 2/4th Field Regiment in Middle East as signaller. My comment: great great-grandson of Samuel and Martha, great-grandson of Jesse and Rhoda, grandson of Edward (Ted) and Emma (nee Lloyd), son of Percy and Margaret (nee Pollock), brother of almewett.

Gordon Mewett, service no. SX29468, born North Adelaide, S.A., 3 October 1910, enlisted Katherine N.T. Next of kin: Eva (wife)(nee Selway). My comment: great-grandson of Samuel and Martha, grandson of Jesse and Rhoda, son of Rhoda Ann Mewett.

Herbert George Mewett, service no. QX61498, born Caboolture, Qld, 30 December 1909. Next of kin: Bernice.

Ivan Mewett, service no. VX38459, born Wycheproof, Vic, 7 November 1918, enlisted at Royal Park, Melbourne. Next of Kin: E.Mewett (father). My comment: great-grandson of Samuel and Martha, grandson of Jesse and Rhoda, son of Edward (Ted) and Elsa (nee Geiger).

Jack Mewett, service no. NX31385, born Annandale, NSW, 12 July 1913, enlisted at Paddington, NSW. Next of kin: Thomas.

James Lambert Mewett, service no. NX47205, born Wallsend, NSW, 16 May 1901, enlisted at Newcastle 26 July 1940. Next of kin: Ida (wife). Rank at discharge: Warrant Officer class 1. My comments: great great-grandson of Edward (b.1776) and Elizabeth (nee Rigglesford), great-grandson of Jesse (b.1802) and Sarah (nee Buss), grandson of William and Henrietta (nee Relf), son of Charles and Sarah (nee Lambert).

John William Mewett, service no. VX58050, born Mentone, Vic, 7 January 1922, enlisted at Royal Park, Melbourne. Next of kin: Charles.

Leslie Mewett, service no. VX73875, born Wycheproof, Vic, 6 July 1912, enlisted at Caulfield, Vic.  Next of kin: Alice (wife)(nee Quick). My comment: great-grandson of Samuel and Martha, grandson of Jesse and Rhoda, son of Edward (Ted) and Elsa (nee Geiger).

Murray Laurence David Mewett, service no. SX 28621, born Gawler, S.A., 16 September 1906, enlisted at Katherine, N.T.  Next of kin: Alfred (brother). My comment: great-grandson of Samuel and Martha, grandson of Jesse and Rhoda, son of David Wm and Eva (nee Trestrail), brother of Frank Gawler (see previous post re First World War Mewetts).

Raymond Valentine Mewett, service no. VX 45626, born Noradjuha, Vic, 29 June 1900, enlisted at Caulfield, Vic.  Next of kin: Annetta (wife)(nee Dawkins). My comment: great-grandson of Samuel and Martha, grandson of Robert and Eliza Rebecca (nee Manser), son of Andrew and Annie Louisa (nee Coates), uncle of L.Robert (Bob) Mewett.

Rodney Mewett, service no. NX25049, born Campsie, NSW, 9 February 1918, enlisted at Paddington, NSW. Next of kin: Thomas (father). My comment: son of Thomas Henry and Hilda (nee Berrisford).

Sidney Frank Mewett, service no. SX4468, born Walkerville, S.A., 19 July 1915, enlisted at Adelaide, served in 2/7 Field Regiment. S.A. Next of kin: Maureen (wife) (nee Fallon). My comment: great-grandson of Samuel and Martha, grandson of Jesse and Rhoda, son of David Wm and Eva (nee Trestrail)

Thomas Marshall Mewett, service no. SX12890, born Kersbrook, S.A., 30 January 1920, enlisted at Adelaide, S.A. Next of kin: Ernest (father). My comment: great-grandson of Samuel and Martha, grandson of Thomas and Caroline (nee Meakins), son of Ernest Marshall and Ruby Verna (nee Warner).

+Thomas Marshall Mewett was killed in action at El Alamein on 29 October 1943. His name was listed on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. +

William Alexander Mewett, service no. QX30709, born Kilcoy, Qld, 26 March 1919, enlisted at Brisbane. Next of kin: Margaret.

+ William Alexander Mewett was killed in action and his name was listed on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.+


Published in: on May 2, 2014 at 2:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

Mewetts and the 1st A.I.F. in World War I

On ANZAC Day this year I watched the televised versions of the dawn services and part of the Sydney march of the veterans. I thought of my Uncle Dave Pollock who fought and was wounded, gassed in France during the 1st World War, my brother Geoff who was in the Middle East with the 2nd AIF when he was injured with other troops in a vehicle accident, and my cousin Mervyn Brace who was a prisoner of war held by the Japanese.

It dawned on me that there would have been many more Mewetts who served in both wars. I searched without success in my disorganised paper files and folders for a list I had once seen; however, using Spotlight, a Mac application, I located the list of names hidden away in my computer files, and then downloaded further information from the National Archives and the Australian War Memorial. Genealogical information was sourced from research by the late Bob Mewett and Darryl Mewett.

The First World War 1914 – 1918 (names listed alphabetically)

Charles Mewett, Private No. 903, of the 5th Battalion, who enlisted at Ripponlea, Vic.,17 August 1914. He was born at Mentone, Vic. Next of kin: Thomas (father).

Frank Gawler Mewett, Private No. 7036, of the 4th A.S.C., enlisted at Adelaide, S.A., 23 October 1916. He was born at Gawler, S.A. on 1 October 1897. Stated next of kin: Eva Mewett (mother). My comment: Frank was a great-grandchild of Samuel and Martha, grandson of Jesse and Rhoda, son of David William and Eva (nee Trestrail), and cousin of my father Percy.

Harold Ernest Mewett, Sapper No. 21615, of the 2nd Field Squadron (Signals), who enlisted in Brisbane 30 May 1917. He was born at Caboolture, Qld. Next of kin: Alfred Ernest Mewett (father).

John Scott Mewett, Private No. 4473, of the 28th Battalion, who enlisted at Blackboy Hill, W.A., 15 February 1916. He was born at Busselton, W.A. Next of kin: Robert Mewett (father).

+ John Scott Mewett was killed in action. His name is listed on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial +

Walter Leslie Mewett (a.k.a. Leslie Walter), service number 6062, who enlisted in Adelaide, S.A. He was born at Kersbrook, S.A.  Stated next of kin: Mary Jane Mewett (mother). My comment: he was a great-grandson of Samuel and Martha, grandson of Thomas and Caroline (nee Meakins),and son of William Samuel and Mary Jane (nee Stephenson).

William Charles Mewett, service number 95735, who enlisted at Wallsend, NSW. He was born at Wallsend. Next of kin: James Mewett.

As the last two entries of Walter Leslie and William Charles were not listed on the embarkation rolls kept at the Australian War Memorial; it seems likely neither of them served overseas. My next posting will list the names of Mewetts who served with the 2nd A.I.F

Postscript :  Alison Mewett, a follower of this blog, has added her grandfather to the above-listed  Anzacs:

Major James Edward Hedley Mewett, M.C., O.B.E.,  enlisted in the Auckland, N.Z., Infantry Battalion 4 January 1915. He served at Gallipoli;  wounded in action in France 21 February 1917 losing his right hand. 1918-19 Company Commander N.Z. Command Depot, Codford, England. He returned to N.Z. aboard SS Ionic 25 October 1919. He was born in Australia in 1893 and emigrated to N.Z. shortly afterwards. His father was James Mewett from Newhaven, England, a distant cousin to Frank Gawler Mewett (see above).



Published in: on April 29, 2014 at 4:30 pm  Comments (4)  

Pollock Family Photos

Maggie (Mrs Mewett) holding Alan, Marion Pollock, Mary Ann Pollock (Mrs Maclean) Seated: Mary Anne (Grandma) Pollock (nee McGuigan). Benalla ca.1933

Maggie (Mrs Mewett) holding Alan, Marion Pollock, Mary Ann Pollock (Mrs Maclean)
Seated: Mary Anne (Grandma) Pollock (nee McGuigan). Benalla ca.1933


Mary Anne and William Hendry Pollock ca.1920

Mary Anne and William Hendry Pollock ca.1920

David Hendry Pollock before joining 1st AIF He fought in France

David Hendry Pollock
before joining 1st AIF
He fought in France

Published in: on April 2, 2014 at 12:00 pm  Comments (1)  

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