Museums are marvellous places, they take us back to times gone-by and show us how it used to be. The big city museums are usually rooms with different collections of all things. But I love discovering the small country museums lovingly put together and researched by the local community. Quite often they are in a heritage building that has been thoughtfully restored.
When we turned into the drive to “Home Cottage” it was like going back to the 19th century. The home built by John Maley in 1860 for his new bride Elizabeth Waldeck as a small 4 room cottage, soon had to be extended as the family grew to 14 children. As the most impressive building in the area and John being a successful business man, known by all as “King of Greenough Flats”, it soon became the social centre for the community of Greenough.
For me the true heroine of this story is Elizabeth, his wife.
Cast your mind back to this era, no modern conveniences, no supermarket, Perth, the nearest city almost 500 kilometres away and transport to get there was horse and cart.
Can you imagine how Elizabeth coped? 14 children, constant visitors calling in, a huge house to maintain and a garden to look after. She did have one maid servant, but reading Elizabeth’s diary (on display in the museum), the maid was quite lazy and uncooperative. No doubt the children had to do their share of the chores. Often John had to be away to look after other business concerns and Elizabeth would be left for days on her own and in those times, as well as usual chores, there was the added burden of running the flour mill that was on the property.
A botanist friend would visit regularly and he planted the beautiful pepper trees dotted around the property and giving much-needed shade. So come with me into the world of Elizabeth and John circa 1800’s.
Enter through the small door and suddenly you are in a world were every thing you do is hard work. To provide a meal means first of all growing the vegetables, killing and curing the sheep, beast or chicken, baking the bread, which is an all day task, chopping the wood for the wood-burner stove. Hopefully there has been enough rain to fill the tanks, but it will need heating for washing duties.
What resourceful people the pioneers were, and what a beautifully crafted table this is. A table this large would be needed for the family. I can imagine the happy times shared around this table, the laughter and chatter at meal times.
Times were hard but in a small tight-knit community they would make their own entertainment. There would always be a friend or neighbour to help.
Ironing was another essential chore, non-iron fabrics were not invented and cottons, calico and wool needed washing and then ironing.
Finally the days chores would be finished and time to go to bed.
I remember my Mother had one of these bed bases with an old horse hair mattress. It made a great trampoline for a 5 year old girl, but it was very saggy to sleep on.
In 1888 disaster struck this area. It was a Sunday in February, a normal mid-summer day, the sun beat down and the heat was oppressive. Unbeknown to this community a huge deluge of rain fell in the mountains a long way up north. Within hours the Greenough river was a roaring torrent With no communication systems to warn them, the first indication of danger was the roar of the river. Imagine the horror as the Greenough Flats became a huge lake 48 kilometres long and 5 metres deep in parts. 4 people drowned and houses, crops and stock were destroyed.
Home Cottage and the flour mill were not affected. Elizabeth provided shelter and food to many of the homeless families. The photos and accounts of this disaster were heart breaking to read about.
John Maley’s biggest losses came about by the many farmers that owed him money not being able to repay their debts after the flood had wiped them out. Many families moved away after the flood, some going to the gold fields, others starting up in other agricultural areas. John had to sell off many of his business ventures.
Finally a walk down the garden path took us to the “Dunny”, no plumbing and inside loos back then. But this is no ordinary Dunny.
Notice the newspaper hanging on the peg on the wall?
I can still remember in the 1940’s, as a child in England, using the newspaper for toilet paper. We did not have an outside dunny, but times were hard after the war.
The museum was established in 1966 by the Geraldton Historical Society then purchased by the local council in 1971. It is now managed by the Community Group of Greenough. Part of the house is still occupied by a manager, and as we left he called out to us
“Take a walk down to the river, it’s not often we see it with water running in it”
This was only caused by quite a minor rainfall that we have had over the past 10 days. I can only imagine what it was like in 1888.
Dawn from her blog “The Day After” encourages us to look for interesting windows and link them to her challenge “Lingering Look at Windows”. So this week I am showing you a few windows I found at the museum.