On Saturday,21st January,2023 I headed down the Hume Hwy to Melbourne for my elder sister Helen’s Memorial Service and ashes burial. It was the first time I had driven to Melbourne for something like 40 years!
Enroute I stayed with former Clyde Station Managers Tony and Michelle McManus at their great new Station Management position on Berrembed Station on the northern side of the Murrumbidgee River between Wagga and Narrandera.
This was indeed a treat. Great hosts on this beautiful olde world 13,000 acre station. Great country with beautiful River Red Gums on the flood plain and a massive old , well maintained house set in a wonderful similarly massive garden.Lucerne a feature. I was fascinated to discover the property is still owned by the Mackenzie family and recalled the very enjoyable connection I had with the deceased family doyen, Kenneth Mackenzie,back in my Dalgety days.
Entrance to Berrembed Station
The Memorial Service on Monday 23rd January was conducted by The Very Reverend Keren Terpstra a former student of Anne’s and Dean of the Anglican Cathedral at Sale (Gippsland). Anne and Keren designed the Service and Anne did a moving, warts and all eulogy in loving terms. The whole thing was very appropriate with some great music.Helen would have loved it.
The Very Reverend Keren Terpstra,my sister Anne and her daughter Helen-Louise
Helen’s two sons- David and Jamie Cooper
We then went to Jamie and Jen’s rustic, comfortable home on “acreage” at Hurstbridge NNE of the Melbourne city. They put on a delicious lunch where I ate and drank to excess. We had a little ceremony to plant a bush amongst some of Helen’s ashes in the garden. David and Jamie spoke movingly of their mother and displayed no bitterness towards her leaving them when they were very little boys.
I had deliberately kept the rest of the week clear to go where my inclination led me. Being in Victoria I remembered how much I had enjoyed my trips to the Western District in my Dalgety days and decided to head in that direction on Tuesday morning. I called on my 90 year old former Dalgety colleague David Morgan at Geelong where I received a warm welcome from David and his wife Anne, arriving unannounced as I had his address, but not his phone number.
As I had never been on the Great Ocean Road, with encouragement, I headed due S from Geelong to Torquay where that road begins. Between Aireys Inlet and Lorne I ran into a truly violent storm, hugely heavy rain, lightning and hail. Virtually all vehicles pulled off the road as driving was very dangerous with little visibility and water cascading down the hills over the road. I spoke to Mike on the phone who looked up the BOM website and reported the storm was quite narrow and I may have been thru’ the worst of it. In fact it was mostly ahead of me. At Lorne it was completely dry with no evidence of any moisture! The storm meant I had made very slow progress and when I discovered the turn off to Warrnambool was still an hour and a half ahead of me, I squibbed it and headed for Colac, a decision I later regretted.
The Great Ocean Road, notwithstanding the weather, is a spectacular drive and I would like to do it again more fully including the “Apostles” which I hadn’t reached.
However, I enjoyed the drive up the Otway Range, particularly once over the peak and drove thru’ some picturesque country to Colac which was a much bigger town than I had envisaged.
A No Vacancy motel in Camperdown directed me to a very pleasant motel in Terang.
On Wednesday I awoke to very heavy fog and delayed my departure before driving to Mortlake and on to Hamilton. Beautiful country as I recalled it. Hamilton strikes as a thriving town.I then drove to Horsham-a distance over 200km. I much enjoyed the spectacular Grampian Mountains which I have never seen up close before. The road skirts their western side, as without foothills they rise straight from the plain. It seems that the Hamilton end of this leg of my trip is dominated by livestock grazing, mostly cattle and closer to Horsham wheat and other crops dominate.
On the way into Horsham I spotted a large Nutrien (Dalgety) establishment. I called and met the Manager. A pleasant, alert young man, clearly focussed on “merchandise” (chemical and fertiliser sales).He told me that these comprised 90% of their business. He told me that they had had a walkout of their livestock staff at the time of the Ruralco merger, who had joined Australian Wool Network.
I then decided I would follow my BMW navigation on the most direct route to Echuca. All the main roads converge on Melbourne so this track took me along a whole complex of cross roads-all sealed (with the usual potholes following the very wet August/December period).The country had all “hayed off”. From Horsham I went thru’ Minyip,Donald, Charlton,Boort,-all arable farming country with very few livestock. Some irrigation in evidence closer to Echuca well south of the Murray River. Water source?
At Echuca I booked into the Pevensey Motel for sentimental reasons-Pevensey being a well known Hay property where Tandou leased the irrigation country to grow cotton as that crop moved south, and the name of one of the historic paddle steamers. I visited the wharf area and had an interesting discussion with the steam engine operator on water matters and also to a Canadian (Alberta) farmer, whose wife came from Clermont (Queensland).We found common ground on climate matters and I was encouraged by his view that reality was finally making progress in winning public opinion.
My old Dalgety mate Roly Woodcock, who now lives at Echuca came to the motel for a drink and reminiscing session about Dalgety and fellow staff. Roly is 89 and his wife has recently gone into care with dementia-so we had much in common.
On Thursday (Australia Day) I did the long haul across the Hay/Deniliquin Plain, another 200 km stretch. Country in great condition, but few livestock in sight.
A very enjoyable interlude at Hay where David and Coleen Houston directed me to a picnic spot on a “beach” on the Murrumbidgee. We were once quite close to them but had lost touch until I phoned them a few months ago. I met their two kids Rowan and Lani and they pointed out their four grandchildren (Rowan’s).
David took me on a most interesting tour of the Dunera Museum which he had a major role in establishing. Notwithstanding David having some memory issues and now not driving, I found both David and Coleen (née McKinnon) the same strong, warm personalities we knew so well in the 1960’s.
I had lunch with them at Lani’s house (once the Bishop’s home when the Anglican Diocese was based on Hay), and now containing a self contained unit for David and Coleen’s town house.
I drove on to Griffith via Darlington Point-lots of familiar property names. I booked in at a comfortable very basic motel and went straight to the Cemetery. After a lapse of 54 years I was proud of myself immediately finding Jennifer’s grave site.
On Friday morning I returned to the Cemetery and was immediately offered assistance by the Manager who could not have been more helpful in confirming the grave site and showing me the options for a headstone or a concrete based plaque. He directed me to the Council office where another most helpful Council employee, a young lady,led me through the procedures to have the plaque made and installed. I paid the bill and it only remains for me to confirm the wording, which I have now done, and the job will be completed.The Cemetery Manager’s comment that we were dealing with an “unmarked grave” brought home to me the need to correct the situation.
For those who don’t know the story;here is an extract from my unpublished memoirs-
“On a personal basis we had a tragedy. Gail was pregnant with our first child and was very excited at the prospect of our own baby. She attended a highly regarded obstetrician in nearby Griffith. The baby was in a breech position and an attempt to turn it was unsuccessful. After an initial decision for Gail to have a Caesarian, the Doctor changed his mind and after taking measurements decided she could give birth naturally. This was a gross error. On Easter Sunday 1968 Gail went into labour and we took her to Griffith Hospital. That afternoon she attempted to give birth and the baby’s head obstructed.The anaesthetist was on the golf course and by the time the perfectly formed baby girl was freed she would almost certainly have suffered brain damage. We had her christened by Archdeacon Twigg almost immediately and called her Jennifer Anne as planned should it be a girl. She survived for only two days. Meanwhile Gail haemorrhaged and for a time her own life was in danger. She was broken-hearted having to return empty handed to our Hillston house with the lovingly prepared baby’s room all ready.”
From Griffith I headed for Temora to meet Ian Preston who originally contacted me as a consequence of close matching DNA tests. I rang him from Griffith and we arranged to meet prior to his lunch appointment. This drive took me past Ardlethan where my paternal Great Grandfather had the property “Uley”. I drove thru’ the village and noted the Old London Hotel, once owned by Boyd family members, was well presented.
We had deduced that Ian and I share a grandfather as a consequence of an illicit affair between our mutual Grandfather who had lost his first wife to breast cancer,and a twenty year old. After producing five children from his first marriage, the evidence is strong that he produced another (Ian’s father) with the young lady,before remarrying.Ian’s father was brought up by his grandparents as their child.
I warmed to Ian, as I expected to from various phone calls. His working life included time as a stock and station agent and we have a number of mutual acquaintances.
Ian Preston and me,
From Temora I headed for the Hume Highway via Harden and arrived home late Friday afternoon-pretty tired. I had driven just under 3,000km.