floods

Lingering Look Through a Window into the Past

looking through to a by-gone era.

looking through to a by-gone era.

 

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.

Home Cottage built 1862 with the help of convict labour.

Home Cottage built 1862 with the help of convict labour.

For me the true heroine of this story is Elizabeth, his wife.

An amazing woman

An amazing woman

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.

The large, mature pepper trees provide much needed shade for the back of the house.

The large, mature pepper trees provide much needed shade for the back of the house.

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.

Wood-burner stove with the bread oven alongside

Wood-burner stove with the bread oven alongside

A table with a history

A table with a history

Information about the table

Interesting information about the table

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.

Old style irons

Old style irons

Ironing was another essential chore, non-iron fabrics were not invented and cottons, calico and wool needed washing and then ironing.

The iron bark clothesline

The iron bark clothesline

 

Essential sewing machine, all clothes had to be hand made

Essential sewing machine, all clothes had to be hand made

Finally the days chores would be finished and time to go to bed.

Be careful these stairs are very narrow and steep.

Be careful these stairs are very narrow and steep.

The old wire mesh bed-stead

The old wire mesh bed-stead

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.

The children's beds

The children’s beds, the quilts would be hand made too. When would they find the time?

Time to get up as the morning sun shines in the window

Time to get up as the morning sun shines in the window

Look out to see what the weather will be. No radio to tell you what to expect

Look out to see what the weather will be. No radio to tell you what to expect

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.

Now would you want to share???

Now would you want to share???

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”

Take care, we could hear the roaring as we approached.

Take care, we could hear the roaring as we approached.

You can see part of the road is washed away

You can see part of the road is washed away

 

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.

 

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Categories: Australia, floods, floods, Greenough, Lingering look at windows, museum, photos, Western Australia | Tags: , , , , , | 31 Comments

Historical Springvale Homestead and thoughts on travel

In the middle of a burn area this sculptural group survives

Travelling I think is genetic, some people have an urge to move, explore,experience new places. Others are happy to stay in one place, making a nest, putting down roots, surrounded by family and familiar friends.

I know I am the restless gypsy type. To explore and discover new places gives me satisfaction. If I am in one place for long I get restless and start to plan the next trip.

Discovering the history of the places we pass through brings the area alive. Over the weekend we stayed in the campground behind Springvale Homestead, 5 kilometres from the town of Katherine. This has a very interesting history and is the oldest surviving homestead in the Northern Territory. Every afternoon at 3pm Wendy gives a very lively and descriptive talk about the history of the place. Since 1877 it has been through good times and bad. Many different types of farming have been tried. For me the individual character of Mary Giles shone through in the talk. She came as a young bride from the city of Adelaide and was the first white woman to to be brought onto a station in the Northern territory. What a strong, resilient pioneer, how lonely she must’ve been, but she planted a vegetable garden and fruit trees, then used the produce to make preserves, jams and chutneys.When the gold rush started a few years later at Pine Creek just 90 kilometres along the road she built a thriving cottage industry selling her produce to the passing crowds going to, hopefully, make their fortune in the gold fields. She even had a separate storehouse built for her business.

Alfred and Mary Giles and family

Eventually the station went broke. Over 4 years the 1200 sheep that had walked over 2000 kilometres from Adelaide had dwindled to 70. The spear grass had got into their gut and poisoned them, and they could not breed. In 1886 the property was put on the market and Alfred and Mary and their 4 surviving children moved on.

Historic Springvale Homestead

But the Homestead remained. It survived fire and flood and in the 1980’s joined the tourist industry with the establishment of a campground and cabins behind the old homestead. The natural hot springs were capped and a swimming pool created with a constant 34 degree temperature. The camp is situated on the banks of a peaceful lagoon. We stayed 3 days in this idyllic setting.

 

The town of Katherine was the scene of one of Australia’s worst floods in 1998. The river rose and the town was inundated. The homestead on the banks of the Katherine River had water up to the roof. Looking at this gently flowing waterway today it is hard to imagine the roaring,giant monster that swept all before it in 1998.

Railway bridge over the Katherine river

This railway bridge was covered, the water came 6 foot over the lines. It is very hard to visualise that much water pouring through.

 

In 2005 I stayed in Katherine backpackers when I travelled around Australia by Greyhound bus (that is another story….) At that time the memories of the flood and the emotions were still very raw. I visited the museum and they had a video made by the SBS TV station showing the horrors and aftermath of that flood. They interviewed locals who shared their stories of loss and grief but also heroism. Being in the town and watching that video had a great impact on me. I felt the sorrow but also the mateship and bonding that great disasters bring to a district.

Next year, 2006,I sat in disbelief, at home, and watched on TV as Katherine, once more, sank beneath the river.

This country is beautiful but capricious and can turn in a moment to danger and disaster.

On a lighter note, when the flood water went down a saltwater crocodile was found swimming around Woolworth’s supermarket meat department….

Family conference termite sculpture

 

As for these characters? We saw them along the road and just had to stop and take their photos, they seemed to call out to us….

Categories: Australia, australian travel, caravan park, floods, Northern Territory, outback, travel | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

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