Go Home and Knit Socks – Australian Women’s Role in World War I

Compiled from a presentation by Shirley Seale
at Rouse Hill House on ANZAC Day 2007

When World War 1 was declared in August 1914, Australia was a small country of only five million people, but we were fiercely loyal to the King, George V and the British Empire. Our Labor Prime Minister Andrew Fisher stated firmly, “We will defend the Mother Country to the last man and the last shilling”. He made an offer of 20,000 men for the Australian Imperial Force and by 20 August, 10,000 men had enlisted in Sydney alone.

These were the men, but what about the women? Women were still pretty much under the control of their husbands, fathers or brothers. They were confined, not only by social custom to be content with “a women’s place in the world”, but even by their clothing. They were restricted by the corsets they were expected to wear to produce a fashionable shape.

Only 24% of women were in the workforce at the time that war broke out. These were mostly women in low paid jobs like shop assistants, some clerical workers, some teachers and nurses, but largely domestic workers or servants to the more affluent.

The women were patriotic too and wanted to be involved in this war effort. They tried to enrol in the forces, but were refused, they offered to take the men’s places when they went to fight but were refused. They tried to be ambulance drivers, but although women were welcomed in other countries in this role, in Australia they were refused. Dr Agnes Cooper, a medical practitioner with 25 years experience was told by the recruiting officer if she really wanted to help the war effort she would go home and knit socks. (She actually travelled overseas to enlist and had a distinguished record.)

Lots of support was needed by the troops. For every soldier who went to war, it was estimated that another forty people were needed to support him – doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers, sailors, truck drivers and factory workers. Going to war meant that the whole of Australia had to join in the work.

Mothers and children had to do without the men’s wages, although a portion of the soldier’s daily pay could be allocated to those at home. Many women took in boarders, did other people’s washing and housework. Children left school as early as possible to help support the family.

Some of the changes made to everyone’s life by the War Precautions Act, included the imposition of income tax by the Federal Government. This had only been done by State governments previously, so now there were two taxes to pay. The Federal Government could now raise loans to pay for the war, fix prices, intern people with backgrounds from enemy countries, compulsorily purchase farmer’s crops and censor mail.

Toy manufacture for children was severely curtailed and children began to make their own toy guns to play-act battle scenes, and girls dressed up as nurses. Children were flying small copies of the Union Jack flag on their scooters and bikes and the books published for them often included war themes. Writers such as Mary Grant Bruce and Ethel Turner, amongst others, had their characters enlist in the army.

So what did women do? Their attempts to play a constructive role in the war effort were never taken seriously, so for most, voluntary work was the only option available and they took to it with zeal and energy.

Voluntary Organisations
Women were told that the greatest sacrifice they could make was giving their sons, husbands, fathers and brothers to the slaughter, and they were expected to contribute only in appropriate ways. Knitting socks was appropriate, using a rifle was not. Approximately 10,000 patriotic clubs were formed during the war to provide comforts for the troops.

The Red Cross
In New South Wales 88 city and suburban branches and 249 country branches of the Red Cross were formed. In their first year of activity they sent a total of 605,370 items of comfort to the troops, made up of things like hats, toothbrushes, pyjamas, towels, underclothes, handkerchiefs and socks, with a total value of £93,781. With the basic wage of the time a little over £2 a week for a family of four, this was an incredible effort.

Riverstone formed a branch in September 1914, with Mrs Anstey, the headmaster’s wife as president. Mr Cohen, a local storekeeper, donated a roll of flannelette for them to make pyjamas for the wounded soldiers.

On 15 August, a group of ladies met to start the Kellyville-Rouse Hill branch of the Red Cross. The president was Nina Terry, secretary Miss Redden and treasurer Miss M. Pearce. At the October meeting they brought items such as six pots of marmalade, a fowl, six dozen eggs and two beautifully worked camisoles. These were sold to other members and the money used to buy comforts for the troops. They were already sending them soldiers bags, twenty five cholera belts and six Balaclava hats. (Cholera belts were made of flannel and were designed to be wrapped around the stomach to ward off gastric complaints.) Sewing bees were held in the school room at Rouse Hill house. A pattern used for crocheting mittens is still amongst the possessions at the house.

One of the special tributes that Nina Rouse paid to the soldiers was to use leaves from the loquat tree in the garden at Rouse Hill House, every ANZAC Day to make a wreath to hang on the gate of the little Christ Church on Windsor Road at Rouse Hill. It is a tradition that is continued by the staff and volunteers at Rouse Hill house, though these days the wreath is hung on the door of the church as the gate has gone.

Donations to the Cause
It was necessary for the women to work at providing supplies, as the troops were very poorly equipped for the kind of territory they were fighting in. They were encountering freezing conditions in France and had insufficient warm clothing, so sheepskin vests were added to the items being sent from this area. In Windsor, three small girls, Thelma Fewings, Marjorie Mitchell and Madge Williams, held a children’s fete and gave 14 shillings to buy two sheepskin vests for the soldiers.

By 1916 Kellyville-Rouse Hill branch had sent away 401 items and donated over £186 pounds. Riverstone branch, under the presidency of Mrs Anstey, then Mrs Cruickshank, secretary Mrs Vidler and treasurers Emma Rumery and A. Fletcher, had in the same time sent 366 items and raised £228. They had sent 24 Christmas packages and remembered Randwick Military Hospital with a gift of sweets for the wounded.

Conditions in the Trenches
The women knew that the men in the trenches were having an uncomfortable time. The food was very poor and there were rats, lice and fleas. The soldiers always asked their families to send flea powder and lice powder. They just had to learn to live with the rats, but sometimes they ate them if the food was scarce.

Their feet were often wet from the water collected at the bottom of the trench, causing many to develop “trench foot” and having to be taken out for treatment. The women knitted socks for them to keep their feet dry, as each soldier was only issued with three pairs.

The Socks
Knitting socks for the boys was an important part of the women’s and girl’s lives. Rosemary Phillis of Riverstone says her grandmother, Ida Rumery, recalled knitting socks for the Home Comforts Fund. The women knitted whenever they had a spare moment, even when they were walking around the house. Knitting the leg and foot was no problem, but the heel was difficult because of the shaping. Difficult of not, they kept knitting. When steel for knitting needles was no longer available, they used the sharpened spokes of bicycle wheels to knit the socks with. My aunt Muriel did that. Altogether the women of Australia sent more than one million pairs of socks to the soldiers. Not a bad effort when our total population was only five million people. One frustrated woman wrote to the newspaper in 1916 saying, “hundreds of intelligent women are wondering whether they may not be doing something more helpful than knitting and making flannel garments”.

In the last year of the war Kellyville had maintained their output. The Red Cross groups raised money in many ways with euchre parties, musical evenings and Riverstone even held a remarkable cricket match in which the ladies team played against the men, who were suitably handicapped by batting with their opposite hands and using stumps and pick axe handles as bats.

In April 1917, a sports day was held at Mr George Terry’s old racecourse at Box Hill in aid of the Kellyville-Rouse Hill Red Cross. People came in cars, motorbikes, drays, buggies, sulkies, perambulators, while a number came on “shanks pony” (walking). The admission charge was one shilling for adults, and two pence for children. Over £21 was raised.

The Patriotic Fund
The Patriotic Fund had been formed by the Lord Mayor of Sydney who issued a directive to local councils to form a branch in their municipality. In Windsor a meeting was held. The appeal for funds was to be voluntary, but it was decided that if someone gave money after answering a knock at the door, it should be considered as voluntary. The names of those people donating were printed in the local press. Both in Windsor and at a subsequent meeting at Riverstone, £50 was donated to get the appeal going. The employees of the Riverstone Meatworks held a fancy dress ball. By the end of the first year, £19,787 had been raised in Sydney. 6,000 carcases of mutton, 6000 tins of jam and 100 cases of preserved meat had been sent overseas. Throughout the war these funds continued to grow and citizens felt they were doing their best for the boys at the front.

In this letter to Ida Rumery, one of the members of the Riverstone Home Comforts Fund, Hugh Gilmour writes of his appreciation of the effort that goes into knitting socks.

These circles of women, working enthusiastically for the common cause of aid to their fighting men became a strong support for each other, in worrying, anxious and sad times. They became quite powerful political lobbies at times like the conscription referendum.

Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD)
The VAD was formed to assist the Australian Army Medical Corps. They were unpaid and had to provide their own uniform. They cared for the wounded soldiers coming home, met troopships at the docks with food and clothing for the men. Sometimes as many as 1,400 wounded men were disembarked. The VADs acted as assistant nurses and generally came from well-to-do families.

Kathleen Rouse sailed for England just two weeks after the death in battle of her fiancée, Captain Norman Pearce. There she stayed with an aunt and joined the VADs. She wrote a poignant letter home telling of the terrible sights she was witnessing. These young women from privileged backgrounds were seeing the horror of war at close quarters.

The Nurses
Trained nurses in Australia in the early 1900s were generally from what we would call “middle class”, as they had to be supported during their three year training by their family, as well as being equipped with uniforms. The normal working class family could not afford to do this.

During World War I about 3,000 Australian nurses served overseas as part of the Australian Army Nursing Service. Nurses from the Hawkesbury district who served included: Nurse Hendren, Sister Dickson, Sister Louise Young, Nurse Vida Greentree, Matron Alice Mary Cooper and Matron Julia Bligh Johnson.

Send Offs
When the soldiers left the district to begin their service, the women gave each soldier a great farewell party, with singing, dancing and speeches from local dignitaries. They presented them with farewell gifts:- shaving equipment, pens, tobacco pouches and often a wrist watch, a very expensive item at the time, with a reminder that “every time the soldier looked at the face of the watch, he should remember the faces of those at home who wished him well”. The local papers at the time declared that the halls on these occasions were decorated beautifully, as usual, by “the fair sex”.

At Riverstone, Miss Matilda McCabe, a teacher at the local school, had become a driving force behind all these activities. She had organised a First Aid Class and her girls, dressed in white with a red cross on their aprons, took part in all the activities. She announced that she was going to war as a nurse, and a grand community farewell was held for her. Then her plans fell through when her mother, who was very ill, made a dying wish that Matilda should stay home to be there to nurse any of her brothers should they come home wounded from the conflict.

Welcome Home
Having supported the soldiers throughout the war, the Red Cross ladies were there to welcome them home again. The railway stations were decorated with branches and regimental colours and welcome home evenings were organised. Each returned soldier was presented with a gold medal, and these were pinned on the uniforms by the young ladies. The Windsor and Richmond Gazette reported on one occasion when, “some girls kissed the boys, some boys kissed the girls, kissing was meekly submitted to in most cases, but one or two of the ladies bolted and would not be kissed”.

The Kellyville-Rouse Hill Red Cross held a gypsy tea with games to welcome home some local lads. Mrs Crisp, wife of Constable Crisp of Riverstone was very involved in war work. She was the Secretary of the Patriotic Committee as well as being a member of the Win the War League and the Welcome Home Committee, ably assisted by Mesdames Packer, Brooks, Teale, Wallace, Alderton, Schofields, Voysey and others.

The men from Riverstone gave a wonderful thank you gift to the women who had supported them for the war years. Each lady was presented with a large framed photo board featuring pictures of many of the soldiers with a thank you plaque printed on the bottom. Many of these survive as treasured mementoes through the generations of families since WWI.

The End Comes at Last
Throughout the war years, women were discouraged from showing their grief publicly if they lost a member of the family. They dreaded the sight of the telegram boy, the Postmaster or the local Minister coming down the street in case it was bad news for them, then felt guilty that they had wished the terrible visit on another family instead of their own. They were told that any sacrifice was a noble one, that men died for their country and that the women gave them up “to rest in a foreign field”. By 1916 idealism had waned and they felt they just had to see the ordeal through. Mothers were awarded a medal if they lost a son in battle.

In February 1919, the casualty list for the war was given as 58,037 dead, 166,230 wounded and 82,402 sick. For many young women their chance of marriage had vanished with the death of their sweetheart, and also, many of the young soldiers returned with wives they had married overseas. Many of the young Australian women had been widowed and the community rallied to help the local families left without a father. Riverstone people raised money at many functions to buy land opposite the police station and then to build a home for the young family of Private James Symons who was killed in France on his twenty sixth birthday.

The women did grieve, Elsie Robbins of Riverstone wrote of her brother John Thomas who had been killed in France:-

Somewhere in France my brother lies,
Somewhere in France he fell.
Little I thought when we parted,
It was our last farewell.

In the ANZAC Memorial in Hyde Park, there is a wonderful sculpture called “Sacrifice”. It is a tribute to the mothers, wives, sisters and daughters of the men who fought and recognises the support and suffering that the women endured during the four years of World War I. The women are shown supporting the soldier, lying on his shield and I would like to leave this image in your minds today as we remember not only the heroic deeds for the men, but the strength and sadness of the women of World War I.

As this article came from a speech it has not been referenced. A bibliography is available from the Historical Society upon request.

In this letter to Ida Rumery, in addition to thanking her the parcel of comforts, Cpl. W. S. Mackay expresses his appreciation of the role of women during the war.

Canvas Town from the Gazette

by Clarrie Neal

The seasonal nature of slaughtering at the meatworks meant at times of increased kills there was a demand for temporary accommodation in Riverstone. When the works were slack the butchers would seek work at Glebe Island, Aberdeen, Bourke, Rockhampton, Townsville or other country towns, often to return when Riverstone increased their kills again.

Many of these meat workers resorted to living in tents and the area of town where the tents were situated became known as Canvas Town. Throughout the 1890’s the name Canvas Town appeared regularly in the Riverstone column of the Windsor and Richmond Gazette (Gazette) and below is a chronological history of the articles:

2nd March 1891: A slaughterman sought refuge in the slaughterhouse when a wild bull destroyed his tent.

7th November 1891: Alick Fyall collapsed when returning to his tent.

18th November 1893: The first time the term ‘Canvas Town’ is noted. That Cockroach Alley and Canvas Town are a trifle jealous of ‘The Dog’s Home,’ a rather queer name given to a house in town occupied by a number of butchers.

9th December 1893: When the employees at the meatworks have finished their night’s work they proceed to Dan Wiggins tent, where coffee and other refreshments can be obtained.

In the same column it was reported ….the tent owned by Joseph Jones was destroyed by fire.

3rd March 1894: A robbery was perpetrated at one of the tents located near the meatworks.

11th May 1895: H. Ireland and H. Tebbutt have decided to live in Canvas Town, near the meatworks, in a domicile erected some time ago by H. Ireland and E. Hodge. It was occupied for some time by Mr. Connoly until his family came down from Orange.

1st June 1895: Canvas Town is growing in size, if not in importance. Quite a number of the unmarried workers at the meatworks reside in this salubrious and aristocratic locality, which by the bye, must be a trifle draughty in a season like the present. It is predicted that some of them will strike camp and go into lodgings before the winter is over.

13th July 1895: A resident of Canvas Town is to marry a local lass shortly.

17th August 1895: Canvas Town is growing and increasing in importance. There is even talk of creating a municipality there. Good old Canvas Town.

31st August 1895: Canvas Town stood the test of the wind remarkably well on Sunday. In only one instance was the canvas removed and that was from a portion of Harry Ireland’s domicile. Sam Hear has gone down there to lodge. He is evidently keeping in view the day the town is to become a Borough and hopes to have a seat as an alderman. Stacy should have a good show of being elected first Mayor.

7th September 1895: By the way, if ever a spark gets in amongst the residences at Canvas Town, there will be a big blaze. A half hour conflagration would render the aristocratic locality, – it is now the Potts Point of Riverstone, absolutely a thing of the past. Truth to tell, if such a fire only produces some new style of architecture, it would not be without its advantages.

14th September 1895: Canvas Town residents believe that Fred Sargeant will have a big bid for the Mayorship of that locality.

30th November 1895: Canvas Town…..the brush is being cleared, and admirers who travel by train often draw the attention of other passengers in the compartment to the neat cabooses which have been erected around there. One of the residents, it is said, is going in for a two storeyed tent.

22nd February 1896: The bushes in the vicinity of Canvas Town are being cleared away. A well known figure of that locality is about to leave for fresh fields and pastures new. This personage, however, does not carry away the champions belt for pugilism, as this was lost a week or so ago, a light weight secured it in very few rounds, which were warm while they lasted.

18th April 1896: Things are very quiet in Canvas Town at present. One must naturally come to the conclusion that it will be some time before the place will become a Borough Council. Many different opinions exist as to whom should be the first presiding Mayor. A couple who had good claims have left the locality.

5th September 1896: The bush in the vicinity of Canvas Town is becoming clear; another young gentleman has taken up residence there, having made a canvas addition.

3rd April 1897: A new building has gone up in Canvas Town and it will improve the appearance of that locality. Steps will probably be taken to have it formed into a Borough Council. The gentleman who had the prior claim to the position of Mayor has taken up his abode elsewhere.

15th May 1897: Of late the residents of Canvas Town have been dwindling away. The Mayor leaving has caused others to seek fresh fields and pastures new.

28th August 1897: Canvas Town appears to retain a fair number of its inhabitants, and another one has added to its list of residents down there. The contest for the position of Mayor of the Council, will it is expected, be a close one. Several have notified of their intention of seeking the suffrages of the ratepayers.

This is the last time that Canvas Town was reported on by the Gazette, though on the 26th February 1898 it noted that fire destroyed Perry’s tent on Crown Road.

Up until the present day, members of the Riverstone Historical Society have been unable to identify the exact location of Canvas Town. References from the Gazette such as ‘near the meatworks’, ‘visible from the train carriages,’ ‘the bushes being cleared away’, and ‘Crown Road’ clearly indicate the area between the junction of Crown Road and Bourke Street with Riverstone Parade as the probable site. The area was directly opposite the old boiler house.

Other factors which could indicate it as the probable site are:

    • The area was level and not subjected to any flooding.
    • Their water supply could be obtained from the meatworks.
    • The site was opposite their workplace and with the works unfenced, all they had to do to gain access was walk across the railway line.

The area was never fenced, photos taken in the 1930’s still show it as cleared open space; it was never fenced until it was subdivided in c1959.The only trees in the nearby area were to be found along the George Street boundary, with a few on the Crown Road corner.

The area continued to be used by others for temporary housing until the late 1950’s.(see items on George Arnold and Perce Shepherd)

George Arnold was a long time Yard employee. When he retired in 1927 he was presented with a gold watch and a pair of spectacles, a rather unusual retirement gift in today’s world.

George came from Granville and for much of the time he worked at the meat works he lived in a single room brick shack on the corner of Crown Road and Riverstone Parade. His grandson Tommy Arnold, who worked as a meat inspector at Riverstone from 1956 to 1986, provided the following information.

George reared a family of 9 children, 6 boys and 3 girls and lived in a two storied house near Granville station. He used a horse and sulky to travel between Granville and Riverstone, living in the shack through the week and returning home each weekend.

Nancy Anderson who lived in Bourke Street remembers the shack being occupied by George Arnold, and in later years when it was occupied by Perce Shepherd. Perce worked for many years in the freezers and lived at Freeman’s Reach. He travelled down by horse and sulky on Sunday evening and returned home on Friday afternoon. Perce also lived for a time in a shed at the rear of a house in Bourke Street.

Clarrie Neal recalls the shack on the Crown Road corner with its iron roof strapped down by fencing wire attached to two suspended railway sleepers. Maybe this brick shack was the ‘new building that will improve the appearance of the locality’ the one reported in the Gazette on the 3rd April 1897.

On the other side of Crown Road was a shop owned by Mr. Sutch & Mrs. Coleman who ran a boarding house for the slaughtermen in the 1930’s and ‘40’s.

School Days and Other Memories

by Winsome Phillis

I started school when I was four, owing to the fact that I put on such an act when my sister Elaine, who was twelve months older, started school without me, that Mr Rouse, the Head Master, allowed me to start too. So in 1934, there I was, trotting off to school with Elaine and Gwen (my eldest sister), with a little school case containing a slate, a slate pencil, a wet rag in a tobacco tin (to clean the slate with) and my lunch.

We went to Riverstone Public School in Garfield Road. Riverstone was a small town in those days and 1st to 6th classes were all held in this building. I remember 2nd class in the Hall with Miss Grant as the teacher; 4th class, Mr Handcock; 5th and 6th class with Mr Campbell. We would go in the front door and leave our bags etc in the Hat Room. In winter there were open fires in the rooms and they always had a most distinctive smell. In summer we would go down to the back of the playground and play under the trees.

The best thing that I can remember about school is the School Magazine. I loved the poetry – “The Last of His Tribe”, “ The Cattle Hunters”, “The Australian Sunrise”, to name just a few pieces – and I had no trouble in memorising them. On the back of the Magazine was a song in ‘Doh-ray-me’ format and we would often learn this in our singing lesson.

Each year the Riverstone Show was held in the Park (opposite the present park in Garfield Road) and there were competitions for school children – writing, composition, etc. Entries were all displayed in the Pavilion and Certificates and Prizes were awarded to the winners. It was probably in 6th class that I received a fountain pen as 1st prize in one of these competitions and I was delighted with it. Normally we wrote in pen and ink. (Washing out the ink wells in the sink at the school was a terribly messy job usually awarded to the naughty boys. Very naughty boys often got the cane too, wielded by Mr Daly, the Head Master!) The children would also put on a display of Maypole dancing at the Show, and practicing for this was a lot of fun.

A special ceremony was held on Anzac Day; a wreath of flowers was made in the school hall and taken down to the Cenotaph. Empire Day was remembered by “Land of Hope and Glory”. There was a map of the World laid out in concrete in the school ground and we would put flags of the countries belonging to the British Empire.

The end of year Concert and Prize Giving was held in the Olympia Theatre and was always a great event. One year Elaine and I had blue and pink crepe paper dresses and hoops covered in paper flowers to take part in one of the items. I think we were flowers and danced. We thought it was wonderful! Mum made our dresses. She also made us lovely dresses for a Fancy Dress night held at school. I had a pretty ‘Lavender’ Dress with lace on it and a bonnet to match, and Elaine was the ‘Queen of Hearts’.

We walked to school every day, usually meeting friends on the way. Sometimes we would go along Railway Terrace, round Rosenthall’s corner and up Garfield Road, or else we would go up Regent Street (which was gravel then) and in the back gate. There were numerous culverts to jump over or look in for tadpoles, and in winter they would be examined to see if there was any ice on them.
Skipping, hopscotch, fly, marbles, yo-yo’s, rounders, countries, there were many games to play at lunch time. That is if we were not out in the playground with Mr Campbell, learning our tables and spelling till we knew them off by heart. He was a very tough teacher, but a good one.

The 2nd World War started when I was in 6th class in 1939. We had Air Raid practice and I remember we had to go out of school and lay down in the gutters along Garfield Road.

In 1940 Mr Daley and Mr Campbell left Riverstone and I moved on to Parramatta Domestic Science School.

I’ve always said that I didn’t like school, but looking back there were lots of good times and good friends to bring back some happy memories.

This story was written by Winsome in 1984 as part of a Christmas present for her daughter Rosemary who has always loved history and stories of Riverstone.

Vineyard and Riverstone Schools see the Queen

by Alan Strachan

During her five week Bicentenary Tour of Australia in 1970, Queen Elizabeth would visit Windsor and the Hawkesbury Agricultural College at Richmond, this being the first time a reigning monarch had come to the district. In the early afternoon of Thursday 30 April 1970, the aircraft carrying the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh landed right on time at the Richmond RAAF Base.

They spent a little more than an hour in the Hawkesbury District, during which time they visited the Agricultural College and St Matthew’s Church at Windsor. Around 2.50pm they left the church and travelled along the Windsor Road towards Parramatta, in a special Rolls Royce motor vehicle.

Arrangements had been made for as many Vineyard and Riverstone Primary School children as possible to line the Windsor Road to catch a glimpse of the Queen. At Vineyard, hundreds of children and adults lined up on both sides of the road in the vicinity of the old brick Vineyard school and up past the shop on the southern side. On the northern side they lined up in front of the “Jack and Jill” Picnic Pleasure Grounds.

Barbara Strachan (nee Britton) recalls attending this special event, as her son Peter, had started school at the beginning of the year. Barbara managed to take several photographs of this memorable occasion while she was standing on the southern side of the road outside the school.

As for the Riverstone Primary School children, Rosemary Phillis recalls going on one of several buses with other children from the school. The buses dropped the children near the intersection of Boundary Road and the Windsor Road. Here the children lined both sides of the Windsor Road, along with other children and parents and adults from the local area.

The teachers went to a great deal of trouble to bring the children out for the event, where they spent an hour or more waiting in the hot sun. When the Queen finally arrived at both locations, many were disappointed, as the Royal vehicle went past at such a fast speed that they could only catch a glimpse of the Royal Couple. Despite this, it was an event not forgotten by those who were there.

Queen Elizabeth passes through Vineyard.
Photo courtesy of Len and Barbara Strachan.

Lance Skuthorp and the Skuthorp Family

by Clarrie Neal

Lance Skuthorp Snr. was born at Kurrajong on the 15th December, 1870 and spent most of his life as a young man on the family property at Garah in northern N. S. W. He became a legend in his own lifetime, being a champion rodeo rider, a master horse trainer, a showman, a cattle drover, prize fighter, athlete, writer, and storyteller. He is acknowledged as having pioneered the rodeos and buck jumping shows that began in Australia in the late 1800s.

He is featured in several exhibits in the Stockman’s Hall of Fame, Longreach, Queensland, and also in the Australian Outback Heritage Book – “The Stockman”. He and the Skuthorp family are also featured throughout the Jenny Hicks book Cowboys, Roughriders and Rodeos.

In 1896 he performed the first of two publicity stunts that made him famous throughout Australia. After backing himself for ₤200 and watched by a huge crowd, including cattle king Sidney Kidman, he borrowed a horse and repeated the poet Adam Lindsay Gordon’s feat of jumping a six foot fence and landing on a six foot ledge bordering on the edge of the Blue Lake of Mount Gambier.

In 1906 ‘Bobs’ was recognised as the best buckjumper in Australia and it was claimed that no man could ride him. Lance took up the challenge and it became a much publicised event. The rivalry between the various rodeo shows enabled the publicity to continue for several weeks.

The event was finally held in Rawson Place, Sydney and was attended by a crowd of more than 3,000 people, including the Governor of the day. Lance rode ‘Bobs’ to a standstill and in doing so, he became a legend, reportedly winning ₤1,000 in prize money and wagers.

Most of the time Lance managed his own buckjumping shows, but he also worked with other shows like Wirths circus, riding buckjumpers in their lion cage. It has been said that Lance was a likeable rogue, who was rich one day and broke the next. When he sold ‘Snips’, a champion buckjumper for ₤700, he spent all the money there before heading back to the bush. This was a pattern he continued throughout his life, making a fortune, blowing it all, and then starting out again from scratch.

In 1902 he and his friend Charlie Philpott, drove a mob of 6,000 fat bullocks from the Wave Hill station in the Northern Territory, a distance of more than a 1,000 miles to Burrandilla Station, near Charleville in Queensland. There were no roads to follow, no bores to water the cattle, and the droving trip over the Spinifex plains and red sand hills took more than twelve months to complete.

Lance was more than 40 years old when he married a 16 year girl, Violet King, who was appearing in his show. Violet was a very capable horse rider who was riding buckjumping bullocks in 1911.

They reared three very talented children – Madge b. 1913, Lance Jnr. b. 1915, and Violet b. 1919, with Madge becoming known as an artist. The other two children followed in their parent’s footsteps, with Lance Jnr. becoming well known as a horseman, fighter, wrestler, writer and song writer, writing many of the songs made famous by Tex Morton. Violet also became a champion horsewoman. It was the children who added the “e” to their name Skuthorpe.

In her book Cowboys, Roughriders and Rodeos Jenny Hicks provided the following information under the heading – ‘The Incomparable Skuthorpes’

“In 1926 the Skuthorpe family worked their show through the Victorian country towns then headed onto Adelaide. The crew included Lance and his wife Violet, children Madge, Lance Jnr. and Violet Jnr., fourteen riders, a cook and scores of hangers on. The group had a total of 136 horses, five buffaloes, eight mules, and three donkeys, and were able to manage thirty miles per day.

They arrived in Adelaide broke and Lance put the bite on Sir Sidney Kidman for money to publicise the show. Opening day at Jubilee Oval saw 14,000 people turn up and the money flowed in. After a successful season they lived it up in Adelaide for six weeks until they’d spent all their profits and then moved on to Port Pirie and Broken Hill.

After that the seemingly indefatigable Mrs. Skuthorpe decided that enough was enough and they bought a house at Riverstone, on the outskirts of Sydney. Lance leased his show to another showman and started a brick business. The business went bust when the depression hit so he got a job at the Riverstone meatworks. Although over 60 years of age, it was the first time in his life he had ever held a regular job. On the weekends the family still did the occasional show around the district.

There was always something a little regal about the Skuthorpes, which reinforced the rumour that the first Skuthorpe was the illegitimate son of the Duke of Sutherland. Apart from the fact that it was difficult to get your wages out of him, by all accounts old Lance Skuthorpe was a ‘great’ man. His physical prowess was legendary – he could jump over a saddled horse in one graceful leap. He was a good dancer, writer and illustrator. He was always well dressed and, always the debonair showman, wore lots of jewellery.

Because of his deafness – it was a hereditary affliction – he compensated by becoming a storyteller. Both Lance Snr. and Lance Jnr. carried themselves with an air of authority that made those that knew them wonder if perhaps the Duke of Sutherland’s genes were indeed alive and well.”

It was in the 1920s and 30s the family lived in this district and their home was actually just across the road from Schofields railway siding. The surrounding paddocks were used to run their horses and the home was used as a base from where they commenced their tours of the country towns. The children all attended Schofields Public School at various times. It appears the family left the area after their return from America, and moved to the Bankstown area.

Lance Jnr. and Violet learnt their horse riding and buckjumping skills at an early age and featured prominently in their father’s show. In 1938 they were invited by Colonel Tim McCoy to America to appear in his Wild West show “Roughriders of the World”, recognised as the biggest show of its kind in the world. They were accompanied by their mother and performed as roughriders, with Violet becoming a star also with her whip cracking and rope spinning.

An American journalist at the time wrote – “This pretty girl from Australia is a match for any fiend in the shape of a horse … with elegant ability she sat animals whose wild eyed ferocity drew gasps of horror from the watchers. She is a regular Boadicea for courage.”

When they returned, Lance Jnr. took over as front man of the family’s buckjump show and turned it into a smaller, more commercial, more American outfit — It became “ The Skuthorpes Wild West Show.” It was cheap, light to transport, and a good money spinner. In the late 30s and 40s there would not have been a person in Australia that didn’t know the names Lance and Violet Skuthorpe.

Lance Jnr. won the Buckjumping Championship of Australia, held in Sydney in 1944. Just after winning this title he recalled travelling around the country with his Dad, when people were indifferent to shake his hand, they only wanted to shake the hand of Lance Snr. It was then he realised that it had nothing to do with any title; it was because they wanted to tell their friends they had shaken the hands of a legend. Violet and Lance Snr. continued to travel with the show, with Lance continuing to travel almost to the day he died in 1958.

After the war Lance Jnr. was back on the road, doing the small sideshows at the agricultural shows. In 1947 – 48 he took the show on an extensive tour of New Zealand. He returned to Australia, toured for two more years and the final Skuthorpe show was held at the Brisbane Exhibition in 1950.

Lance Jnr., like his father, was a bit of a renaissance man. He had his father’s physical prowess – he was a great roughrider, an amazing athlete, and could fight like a ‘threshing machine’. He had good taste, wore the best of suits, and liked the finer things of life. He was well read and creative. He wrote and performed songs, played the banjo and the piano, and worked in radio with his close friend, singer and song writer Tex Morton. They often combined shows and toured together in the 40s. Both men were intelligent, talented, and good looking with a weakness for women.

Violet started her career as a five year old riding into the ring on a pony to open the Skuthorpe’s show. She was riding buckjumpers by the mid 1930s and was Australia’s first and foremost lady rough riding star. After the American tour she was always billed as “The World’s Champion Lady Buckjump Rider” A competitor at the time wrote of Violet – “she was a lovely person that radiated … there was a real glow, and she was 100 per cent a professional performer.”

Harris Davis, now living in South Australia, recalled Lance Snr. running his sideshow at Windsor and Richmond, and at Riverstone in the paddock alongside Conway’s shop. He recalled a particular donkey that Lance used. He would load three to four children on his back and give them easy rides around the ring. He would then load three to four bigger kids on the donkey’s back and then whisper into the donkey’s ear, about half way around the ring the donkey would toss the kids off, much to the amusement of the crowd.

Harris recalled Lance having an interest in the clay pit out near Carnarvon Road. and would often see Lance, with his characteristic straight back style, riding his horse past the Davis home in Grange Avenue.. Even in his later years Lance maintained this straight back seat in the saddle. As a lad, Eric Conway recalled Lance walking around Riverstone, a powerfully built man with a straight back, often with his stockwhip hanging over his shoulder.

The Skuthorpe family left the Schofields area in the late 1930s and moved to the Bankstown area.

Many outback folk loved to fantasize with their humour and Lance Snr. was no exception, becoming well known as a writer and story teller. The book “The Stockman” features two of his short stories, and also his classic tale of whip cracking: One day when Lance was sitting on a country railway station he noticed a man mounted on a horse on the other side of a line of trucks cracking his whip, whereon the line of railway trucks began to move. “By God ! That’s whip – cracking” he thought. The trucks having concealed the presence of a bullock team besides the tracks.

Lance Skuthorp Snr. died in Liverpool hospital on the 9th February 1958 and was buried in a church cemetery in the Kurrajong district, his place of birth.

Compiled by Clarrie Neal in August 2000.

The Burglar’s Cup

by Chris Counter

On Boxing Day 1985, a Golf Skins’ competition being broadcast live on television, was being watched in Riverstone by a group of 20 year old lads. Mal (Jnr) Reed, Chris Wells, Gary Case, Gary Godbehere, Jim Whitehead, Paul Miller and Jeff Fauchon, who had all attended Riverstone High School together and lived in the town.

The group often spent Saturday afternoons at the Reed house, 18 Grace Avenue, sharing a carton of twist tops, playing cards and listening to the races, on which phantom bets were placed using matchsticks.

Following one of these Saturday sessions Gary Case, whose folks had moved to Queensland, stayed on for a while at Margaret and Mal (Snr) Reed’s house. It was to be a month before the bonding session with the Reed family was over and he finally moved on. He did not move far however, only to Vicki and Mal (Jnr) Reed’s house at Schofields. He stayed for a while until he felt that they missed him so much back at Margaret and Mal’s, he was obliged to return! And so it went on.

Following the Boxing Day broadcast, Chris Wells and Mal (Jnr) Reed had the idea that the group should play their own Golf Skins Tournament at Rouse Hill Public Golf Course on the first Saturday after Christmas that year and every year thereafter. The Tournament would be known as “The Burglar’s Cup”. Twenty two years later The Burglar’s Cup is still being played – these days at the inaptly named Marsden Park Golf Academy.

The original Burglar’s Cup was purchased. It was a small trophy with a golfer on the top and a base surrounded by small shields on which the winning names were engraved. After a few years Mal (Jnr) Reed obtained a shield under dubious circumstances (he had won it at a company golf day and not returned it). Engravings from the previous cup were transferred to the new shield. The original cup is still presented each year for the winner of the closest to the pin on the 4th hole. For the 20th Anniversary game, a new trophy was procured. Previously presented at the Royal Melbourne Show in 1931 for the Best Dog or Bitch in Show, the magnificent cup was mounted on a new base with the engravings from the previous shield.

The Burglar’s Cup is a Skins game. Early games were played with each player paying $2.50 for each hole. The money was pooled and paid to the winning team who were then responsible to pay for the ensuing celebrations. The format is a two man Ambrose competition.

The players in the inaugural 1985 game were: Paul Miller, Gary Case, Athol Underwood, Chris Wells, Jim Whitehead, Mal (Jnr) Reed and Jeff Fauchon.

In the early years, a draw for two member teams took place at the Riverstone Bowling Club on the night before the game. A few beers and a game of pool finished off the evening nicely. In later years, the draw took place on the morning of the game during what has become loosely known as “Breakfast with the Stars”. The night before the game becoming known as “A Quiet Night Prior to the Game.”

For some years breakfast was held at the Wells residence, 51 Elizabeth Street, Riverstone. The venue then moved to the Whitehead home at 19 George Street, Riverstone. For the last ten years the breakfast has been at 21 Railway Terrace, Schofields, the home of Mal (Jnr) and Vicki Reed. Following breakfast, the golf gear and drinks are laden into trailers and driven out to the golf course.

An official welcome is made at the course to new players with a designated person previously nominated providing the liquid refreshment for the official toast.

In 1985 there was no post-game food. From 1986 on it became traditional to hold a post game BBQ. That year and for the next eleven or twelve, it was held at 51 Elizabeth Street, Riverstone. Then it moved to 19 George Street, Riverstone. One year it was held at the Riverstone Guide Hall complete with donkey rides for the kids and a blow up jumping castle. Like the breakfast, for the past ten years the BBQ and Presentation have been held at 21 Railway Terrace, Schofields.

Costs for the day included such things as green fees, beer, (it was compulsory to have at least one can every two holes), golf balls, meat, salad, munchies, wine and soft drink. Costs in 1986 were $27.00 per player, in 1996 they had risen to $60.00 per player.

In recent years there has been no money collected apart from green fees. Alcohol is now non-compulsory on a BYO basis. Vicki and Mal (Jnr) Reed generously host and fund the breakfast and the after game BBQ. Chris Wells, Mal (Jnr) Reed, Jim Whitehead and Gary Case usually organise the day.

Tradition has it that the “closest to the pin” and “longest drive” markers are always made from cardboard taken from a beer carton.

Apart from winners, listed players over the years include:- Adam Cott, Andrew Counter, Jeff Fauchon, Matt Gilbert, Hazza, Gary Hedger, Jim Hunter, Karl Johnson, Mark Melchoir, Graham White, Mini Me, Nathan Wilkins and Aaron Williams.

Previous winners are as follows:-

1985 M Reed Jnr. and G Case/A Underwood and C Wells.  1986 G Godbehere and C Wells.
1987 M Reed Snr. and C Wells.  1988 I Saunders and C Wells.
1989 J Milakovic and M Jarick. 1990 V Outten and J Milakovic.
1991 M Reed Snr. and M Cobcroft. 1992 M Reed Snr. and I Jarick.
1993 M Reed Snr. and J Milakovic /M Reed Jnr. and G Case.  1994 G Case and M Jarick.
1995 S Reed and C Wells.  1996 M Reed Jnr. and D Nichol.
1997 J Milakovic and I Jarick.  1998 M Reed Jnr. and J Milakovic.
1999 J Whitehead and I Jarick.  2000 G Hill and J Whitehead.
2001 C Counter and M Reed Snr./J Milakovic and M Reed Jnr.  2002 P Miller and M Reed Jnr.
2003 T Counter and C Wells.  2004 P Miller and A Lawrence.
2005 C Wells and M Counter.  2006 M Fox and T Norman.

HOLE DEDICATIONS in memory of departed player friends

The 4th – chosen due to his “closest to the pin” win and dedicated in fond memory of Mark Melchoir.

The 8th – chosen due to his comment at the Marsden Park Golf Academy, “Gee I hit that well, pity it went in the water” and dedicated in fond memory of Victor Outten.

The 13th – chosen due to his “Eagle” on the 1st at Rouse Hill and dedicated in fond memory of Michael Jarick.

The Burglars Cup is about mateship and family. The golf, though important, is secondary.

Most of us do not see each other for twelve months, so the day gives us a chance to catch up on the preceding twelve months in each others lives. We reminisce over the Burglars Cup family members and players who have passed on and the contributions they made in days gone by. Family have been part of the Cup since its inception and is important to all who take part. It is an opportunity for the older players to instil their sporting values on the younger, newer players. It is also an opportunity to meet after the game with new partners, wives and children. We have always encouraged player’s children to participate as they become ready and this will hopefully ensure the longevity of the social golf day started in 1985 by the group of ex Riverstone High School students.

Friendship is the core, a fantastic day for all with the quality of the golf always coming second to the laughter and fun.

The Burglar’s Cup Rules Card

Riverstone Netball Club – The First Ten Years

by Heather Smith

This article would not have been possible without the assistance of Kim Petherick who was the historian of the Club and maintained immaculate records of the first ten years.

In 1971, I was President of the Riverstone Infants School Mothers’ Club and many of the mothers, myself included, were keen to play netball. Something that we had all done at school and later with various business houses in Sydney competitions. Many of the wives of service men living in Riverstone had also played in inter-service competitions, both interstate and overseas.

So out went the inevitable notice, home with the Infants School children, requesting expressions of interest from any mothers who wished to play in the 1972 Hawkesbury District Night Competition. The response was overwhelming, so the Riverstone Mothers’ Netball Club was born.

Three teams were entered into the night competition, complete with umpires, coaches, managers and scorers. The uniform was a white box pleat tunic with two yellow stripes around the hem, a maroon t-shirt, a yellow corded belt with tassel, long white socks and sand shoes. Nevis Worboys made most of the white tunics.

I was elected President, Bev Potter Secretary and Nevis Worboys Treasurer. We approached Blacktown Council and their sole contribution to start us off was a patch of grass beside the Footballer’s Hall (now demolished), on the corner of Garfield Road and Creek Street, where they erected four goal posts. We were expected to mark out the courts ourselves with a lime marker. Unfortunately the land was below flood level and each time it rained we all trained in mud. However this changed when, in 1974 Nevis Worboys was the first women Alderman elected to Blacktown Council and we were able to obtain two asphalt courts with lights. Riverstone, I believe, is still the only Club in the Association with this luxury.

The first competition season saw some spectacular losses – we were long on enthusiasm but a bit short on skill.

1972 seasons saw great improvement. Three Senior teams were entered into the much stronger day competition where they proved worthy adversaries winning the Senior B Grade Division. Captained by Pat White the team was Bev Potter, Janet Greig, Elaine Brown, Maria Stoev, Marie Alfreds and Roma Everett, coached by myself. We went on to greater heights that year when Bev Potter was selected in the Hawkesbury Senior Representative team to compete in the New South Wales Championships and I gained my New South Wales ‘C’ badge in umpiring. Roma Everett was also awarded the most outstanding player in the Division.

1973 saw fierce competition between the Riverstone teams themselves. To avoid confusion as they were playing the same grade, they were called the Riverstone Ramblers, Rockets and Rangers. This was the forerunner of many years to come as gradually the Riverstone teams became so strong that many of the Grand Finals were contested between two strong Riverstone teams.

In 1974 it was decided to incorporate junior teams into the Club and with a strong background, plus support and knowledge which had been gained by the senior players, we then formed the Riverstone Netball Club. Mrs Coulter and Mrs Betty Croghan agreed to be our Patrons and Betty also donated a trophy for the Best Senior Player.
Riverstone has always been a working class town surrounded by more affluent neighbouring towns. However Riverstone has always been blessed with strong characters and we were all very protective of our players and conscious of our reputation. We wanted Riverstone Netball Club to create an impact when we made our first appearance as one of the newest and also the largest club in the Association. We changed the town colours of yellow and maroon to red and gold and resplendent in our new uniforms of gold tunics and red shirts, seven junior teams and five Senior teams from the Riverstone Netball Club won their first march past at the opening day of the season – a fore runner of many more to come.

I was the Club President, Secretary Bev Potter, Treasurer Nevis Worboys and Coaches were Rhonda Greenham, Meryl Cameron, Maureen McAlister, Nevis Worboys, Colleen Gatsby, Bev Potter and Marie Alfreds. The first junior team to play in the Riverstone colours were Sharon Clark, Karen Drummond, Amanda Chambers, Jeanette Cartwright, Amanda Smith, Colleen Dawson, Helen Minchin, and Wendy Greenham. In our first year in open competition we won one Premiership, were runners-up in two divisions and were awarded the most Improved Club trophy by the Association.

By 1975 Riverstone was gradually improving and providing strong competition in all grades. Our team of Cadets 15-17 year olds, were Joint Premiers in one of the most contentious games Riverstone ever played. When the full time siren went Riverstone were one goal ahead and as the girls jumped in joyous celebration the opposing team picked up the ball passed it into the goal circle and shot another goal to draw. They claimed that they were playing injury time, which the Riverstone players did not hear the Umpires call. Although Riverstone Executives protested vigorously afterwards, the game was classed as a draw.

However this Cadet team was the basis for the many successful Riverstone A Grade teams that followed. Captained by Margaret (Moogie) Johnson were Kim Simonds, Sharon Chambers, Joanne Tozer, Vicki Henry, Michele Smith and Maree Wolffe. They were coached by Bev Potter.

At the commencement of the 1976 season the club had grown even more and we entered sixteen teams in the HDNA Winter competition, twelve junior teams, one Cadet Team and three Senior teams. Our Cadet team this year showed their supremacy by winning the Division outright. No doubt about the score that year! There was also a change in the ranks of the club Executive. Bev Potter and I had been elected to the Executive of the Hawkesbury Association. We were both coaching Representative teams as well as Riverstone club teams and Bev Potter was also preparing the By-laws of the Association, as well as drafting a new Constitution. Vivien Parkes now took over as President and our 10 years’ team were the first Riverstone team to win a Junior Carnival in Open competition at Penrith. Judged the Most Outstanding Player in the club that year was Margaret Johnson. We were also successful in winning the March Past again.

In 1977 we made the jump with our Cadet team to Open Competition, when they entered as the new Riverstone A Grade team. Comprising predominately players who had come through the junior ranks of the Club, they were Bronwyn Murphy, Margaret Johnson, Sue Croghan, Kim Simonds, Kay Maxwell, Michelle Concannon, Michele Smith and Coach Bev Potter.

In 1978 the ‘A’ Grade team reached the Finals in their first attempt but were defeated by a more experienced C.Y.S team. However three of our Club members experienced their first International competition when Margaret Johnson, Beverly Willet and Kim Simonds were selected in the Hawkesbury District representative team to play the visiting Trinidad-Tobago National Team and Bev Potter was named as the Coach. The same year I was elected as Senior Vice-President of the Association together with Sue Orr who was elected Umpires’ Convenor, a position she still holds today. Another notable citizen of Riverstone became a Coach in our club and that was Eric Maginnes, a Gold Medallist in basketball at the Paraplegic Olympics. The Most Outstanding Junior Player was Belinda Lloyd, Intermediate was Linda Woods and Outstanding Senior was Kerry Thornton. Our umpires’ Award went to Wendy Fitzgerald.

By 1979 we were going from strength to strength, running our own coaching clinics for our club members, as well as for our umpires, and assisting other clubs in the District with their coaching clinics We were financially independent and entered sixteen teams in the winter competition, eleven Junior teams and five senior teams. Never were our junior players more dominant than on Grand Final Day. Capping the season with eight teams contesting the Grand Finals and going on to win five Premierships as well as Runners-up in the other three Divisions. Also our 11 year (2) team which was coached by Susan Woods was awarded the ‘Most Improved Team’. Kristine Aldridge was presented with the Debra Kay Memorial Trophy for the ‘Most Outstanding 10 year old Player’ of the District.

Our Junior teams were now reaping the rewards of being coached by Senior Players. Michele Smith Kim Simonds, Vicki Burke, Susan Woods and Vicki Bates and Barbara Young were all passing on their knowledge to the ever increasing number of junior teams, assisted by Bev Potter, Sue Orr, Nevis Worboys and myself. In 1979 we gained one of our best Coaches, Barbara Nichols who over many years of dedicated service to the Club was responsible for the basic skills that were instilled into our junior players. By the time they reached the next level they were skilled in catching, throwing and court craft and Riverstone gained a reputation for outstanding junior teams.

This was the beginning or Riverstone’s Golden years. We were now superior in every division but still we were unable to crack that elusive “A’ Grade Premiership, a trophy that was to elude us for three more years. We were beaten by one goal in the 1979 Grand Final by our old nemesis “Poppets”. Although Cathy Lynch was awarded the Hawkesbury Netballer of the Year Trophy we were still striving for the big one

Although it was a much quieter year for the club we still managed to win the 11 years coached by Michele Smith and the 15 years coached by Kim Simonds. We were Runner-up in the 10 years coached by Barbara Nichols, 11 years coached by Vicki Burke, B2 Division coached by Sue Orr and A grade coached by Bev Potter. 1980 also saw Riverstone award Life Membership to myself and Bev Potter, as well as Honorary membership to Sue Orr, Barbara Young and Barbara Nicholls.

1981 saw the culmination of a coaching programme that had been rigorously followed by the Riverstone coaches. Riverstone Club scooped the pool at the Grand Finals of the Associations Winter Competition winning all Junior Divisions, one Intermediate and two Senior Divisions. I was selected as Manageress for the New South Wales U/16 State team and followed up the same role with the famous Australian Coach Joyce Brown with the Australian u/16 Squad.

Riverstone A Grade were the product of this experience and success was ours in August 1981. The team comprising Lynda Woods, Susan Woods, Kerry McGlone (Teuma), Michelle Miller, Cathy Harris (Lynch), Michele Smith, Pat Cartwright and Kerry Thornton, captained by Kim Simonds, coached by myself, finally proved that Riverstone was superior in every department by winning Senior A Grade Division.

By this era Riverstone teams were proving so strong in the competition that they were meeting each other consistently to play off for the Premiership. Bev Potter and Nevis Worboys solved the problems by forming a second Riverstone based club, Huxley Homes Club, which proved just as successful. Dot Etheridge, who was based with the RAAF at Richmond, also used the experience she gained by playing with Riverstone Club to form Hobartville Netball Club, comprised mainly of wives and daughters of servicemen stationed at the RAAF base Richmond, whilst Bronwyn Murphy formed Tikis Club..

In 1982 Riverstone had mixed results. Our stand-out team that year was our 13 years team coached by one of our first male coaches Brian Kenny. They were successful going through undefeated at metropolitan carnivals at Blacktown and Auburn, then went on to win the Premiership at the end of the season. These promising players were Angela Kenny, Sharon Brown, Julie Brown, Julie Perrett, Lisa White, Justine Anderson, Elizabeth Lee, Beverley Armitt and Elaine Whelan.

We entered sixteen teams in the 1982 competition comprising ten juniors’ teams and six seniors’ teams and at the end of the season our 12 years, 13 years(1), 13 years(2) 14 years(1), 14 years(2), B grade and A Grade had all qualified for the Grand Finals. Our 12 years team of Justine Lawler, Rebecca Orr, Lisa Shields, Sarah Grealy, Tammy Hayden, Karen Lehner and Sonya Sullivan went through the competition undefeated. We were Minor Premiers in the 9 years Division, no finals played, it was first past the post. But once again the old problem reared its head we were playing for Premiership honors against our own teams.

Something that we had not foreseen was the defeat of our A Grade by Londonderry 41-38, a bitter blow for all of us.

Riverstone Club was priding itself on bringing on junior players to aspire to A grade level and to this end we were always introducing new and smarter designs to our uniform. All senior players were now wearing the yellow pleated kilt and a red shirt probably the most notable change being the introduction to the A Grade of yellow socks with matching yellow suede shoes complete with three red stripes down the side, courtesy of Tommy Raudonikis who had a sports’ store at Blacktown at the time.

The disturbance this caused at Hawkesbury!!! The game was stopped and the team was informed that one team could not wear accessories that had not been registered for the entire Club. The players had to then change to the regulation white socks on the side of the Court, but were allowed to wear the yellow suede shoes as they protested that these were the only shoes they had with them on the day. However the yellow socks were not permitted to make another appearance until the next season, when they were registered and worn by the entire club. The following year when we introduced the customised yellow track suits with a large red “R” dominating one side and matching red sports’ bags we made certain this was approved by the Association.

In 1983 we again won the March on the opening day with all players now sporting the yellow socks and they were congratulated on their precision marching by the judges from the RAAF Base, Richmond. One of the highlights of the year was when the 14 years Representative team from HDNA, coached by Michele Smith, went on to win their Division at the New South Wales State Age Championships. Riverstone players featured predominately in this team, they were Kristine Aldridge, Lisa White, Angela Kenny, Bridget Orr and Donna Castles.

Once again we dominated the competition winning 8s- 12s, 14s, Junior Bs, D Grade, A reserve and A Grade and were runners up in the 10s and 13s.

By 1984 Riverstone was fielding 17 teams in the competition and on top in every Division. With eight Senior teams and nine Junior teams, we finished the season with six Premierships including the three major Senior Divisions of A Grade, A Reserve and Junior B. The Most Outstanding Junior Player was Sharon Thornton, Intermediate Kristine Aldridge and Outstanding Senior was Kerry McGlone (Tuma). However the A Reserve win created a problem for the Riverstone club. Their Premiership win meant they automatically went to the A Grade Division as the Riverstone A2 team for 1985, so the team of Leanne Leach, Kim Brooks, Jeannie Gearos, Leah Tighe, Amanda Smith Bridgett Orr and Kelly Nichols, who had proved themselves so strong in the lower Divisions, were now to come up against their sister team of Michele Smith, Patricia Cartwright, Angela Kenny, Kim Caffyn, Kristine Aldridge, Kim Petherick (Simonds), Kerry McGlone (Tuma) and Rebecca Orr. To complicate matters more, Michele Smith was also the Coach of the team – it was a time of mixed emotions

All fifteen players had commenced with Riverstone as Juniors and came through the ranks to reach the A grade, something that we were all very proud of and we could not deny them the chance to play at top level. The A1s beat the A2s 55-32 in a match at which all the spectators seemed to come from Riverstone and realized that the atmosphere usually surrounding a Grand Final was missing. Unfortunately this scenario repeated itself the next year. Riverstone A1s had won three consecutive Premierships, however an even stronger A2 team got within 3 goals in the Grand Final, going down 34-31 in a tight game. This was to be the final year for many of our Senior players who were now married and concentrating on starting a family.

Although I continued to coach younger Club teams for a few years I gradually eased myself from the Netball scene. Riverstone Netball Club was in excellent hands and still is today, in 2007. Many hundreds of players have worn the gold and red uniform. The game has changed dramatically since 1971 when Court fees were $1.00 per game and Umpires performed their duties for nothing. Although the rules banning earrings and long finger nails are still strictly enforced, the footwear and socks regulations have been relaxed. Many of the girls who played with us in those early days now have their daughters playing every Saturday, repeating the theme of mothers and daughters playing for the same Club.

Riverstone Netball Club has an illustrious history sprinkled liberally with personalities, success stories and, thankfully, only a few disappointments. It is a Club that has always had its own character, been protective of its identity and stimulated by loyal supporters.

Sadly we have lost some of our foundation members who were there at the beginning, Nevis Worboys, Pat White, Win Morris and Maree Wolffe and Mrs Coulter. I hope that one day another member from Riverstone Netball Club will take up the challenge and continue documenting the history, traditions and highlights of this wonderful Club.




Riverstone Netball Club, 1986 A1 and A2 Teams

Lach Lumsden

by Rosemary Phillis

I was originally from Strathfield and was looking for a place to establish a pharmacy. Setting up in Schofields was as a result of a co-incidence. My sister used to go around to schools with a Doctor checking on the health of the children. They were visiting Schofields’ school, when the Doctor recalled seeing an advertisement in the Australian Medical Journal looking for an applicant for a pharmacist in Schofields.

The ad had been placed by Mrs Williams, who along with her husband had built a number of shops on the corner of Railway Terrace and Station Street. We went up to have a look at the shop. John and Lola Fulton who had just started a haberdashery shop on the corner made us feel so welcome and in 1960 we decided to move into the shop next door where Dr Lalji is now.

At the time many of the locals were emigrants from places such as Poland, Germany, Italy, Malta. I remember a Dutch-Indonesian family named van Gorp used to bring us an Indonesian style meal at Christmas.

The only other pharmacy in the district was Williams the Chemist at Riverstone. The population was not quite big enough to sustain two pharmacies, so we had to come up with ways to get business, such as introducing home delivery. We got to know a lot of people.

About three years later, when Lola Fulton closed her business, we moved into the shop on the corner.

We purchased a block of land next to where Jack Mills had the butchers shop, and I had a single storey building constructed in 1968. I later added a second storey and Geoff Pfister was the first tenant with his hair dressing salon.

I always tried to use local tradesmen and they never let me down. People such as the Wattons were good old fashioned tradesmen. I had Alan Scott put all the fittings on the wall and the flooring in for £100 all told.

The local kids were good kids. Geoff Pfister and a few of the others wanted to learn judo. I was still living at Strathfield and driving back and forward each day. The kids used to come with me in the car to judo, then they’d catch the train back home again.

We ended up playing cricket together for Schofields. We made Schofields one of the biggest clubs in the Parramatta district. At one stage we had six senior teams and ten junior teams.

I recall playing with Dinky Knight. He had a hand that had been disfigured, but even with the disfigured hand he was the best spin bowler that I ever kept wicket to.

Nicknames were very big in Schofields and Riverstone. I remember when “Bozo” Lane got his nickname. He was fielding in the outfield and Bill Isberg called out to him “ stop going about like Bozo the Clown” and the name “Bozo” stuck.

Mr de Chellis built the liquor shop in Railway Terrace with the beautiful house behind. He used to go back to Italy to get liquors to blend into his own special brand.

Mr Alf Parkhill lived in a house next door, which has been pulled down.

There were quite a number of people in the Schofields area who lived to their 80s and 90s, including Mrs Seville, Miss Rothwell and the Barclays.

Some of the others I recall were Pete (Pepino) who lived over at Cow Flat and was a good boxer. He was boxing around the time of Rocky Gattelari, but he didn’t have the killer instinct to go on with it.

Harry Pizarro had a grocery shop up near St Albans Road. After the shop was burnt out in a fire he moved to Bondi.

In 1981 I bought into another pharmacy in Quakers Hill. My nephew Sean Kelly came into partnership with me and he moved to the Quakers Hill pharmacy. In 1985 we sold Schofields to Harry Beck, a pharmacist from Hornsby, and we bought into a newsagency at Quakers Hill as well as operating the pharmacy.

I was in Schofields for twenty five years before I left and I regretted leaving ever since. It was a lovely place, like a village and I made many life long friends there.

In 1989 Mrs Callanan offered me the chemist shop in Riverstone and I went to Riverstone while Sean stayed at Quakers Hill. We sold Quakers Hill in 1997 and Riverstone in 1998 and I moved into retirement.

I saw many changes in the pharmacy business throughout my career. When I started in 1954 we were making up prescriptions from the chemical ingredients. This was known as compounding and I was fortunate to have had the training in the old style. These days some chemists are coming back to it to allow them to vary the strength of particular ingredients. There was not much in tablet form at that time.

When the National Health Scheme was introduced around 1956 there were not many items that were included on the list, only life saving ones.

We were the first major profession to take on using computers. Many of the doctors are just changing over now, which makes reading prescriptions much easier. (The impact of women doctors also meant, as they were neater writers, their scripts were easier to read.)

Our system here in Australia is by far the best system, as, if you have nothing, the system will still back you up. In America, the cost of drugs is prohibitive.

These days I am retired but busy, as I still take the opportunity to be involved in the pharmacy business. My life has been a very enjoyable journey.

Information from a phone conversation with Rosemary Phillis February 2007.

Riverstone Meatworks Paddocks Re-Visited

by Alan Strachan

After 46 years, I decided that I would like to re-visit the areas where I once went fishing with my father, Frank Strachan, and other members of the family, at both the Eastern and South Creeks, the weir over Eastern Creek and also to possibly visit the Blood Hill where my father worked for just on twenty-years. All of the sites were located within the confines of the old Riverstone Meatworks paddocks. After talking it over with my cousin, Len Strachan, he made arrangements with our cousin, Reg “Googa” Anderson, to take us out to the old “works” paddocks. Without the two of them, my visit would not have been possible. I considered it a privilege to get onto the paddocks, let alone being driven and shown around. (I had been prepared to walk in to the property.)

On Saturday 27 May 2006, we left Riverstone at 9.00am, and travelled along Garfield Road-West to the Richmond-Blacktown Road, then west to a gateway at one of the old dairies. Here, we borrowed an old four-wheel drive utility from “Smithy”. With the three of us in the cabin, we set off through the paddocks. Reg remembered that someone had hung a mannequin of a fully dressed woman from a large old dead tree. Arriving at the location on the south-eastern side of the large paddock, we found that the wig and dress were missing, just the white body of the mannequin remaining.

Leaving this location, Reg drove out to the main paddock, following a bush and fence line. Numerous kangaroos were disturbed and went bounding away off into the distance. With the windows on the vehicle down, we started to freeze up in the chilly winds on that cold morning.

In no time at all, we had arrived at the Large Paddock and onto the Blood Hill, where an old round steel shed, with an opening for a doorway and a steel chimney was standing near a fence. Reg informed me that this was where my father [Frank Strachan] worked hard in keeping the numerous trenches clean. These drains were about two feet deep and about the same in width when they were in use. When the killing floors of the beef house, mutton board and the pig house were hosed down etc. all the blood, fat and other rubbish was flushed out onto the Blood Hill and into the trenches.

This particular shed was known as Frank Strachan’s “Hut”. I was later informed by Max Strachan, that he and my father rolled this round tank up the hill to its present location, and they chiselled a doorway on one side. This opening was positioned facing the east so that the cold westerly winds would not blow into it during winter. This “hut” was only large enough to accommodate two or three men at the most. My father was responsible for the trenches in his area. Max Strachan also informed me that in the winter months, he would join up with my father, and together they would fell suitable trees in the Sullivan Paddock and cut them up into logs for fence posts.

I recall that my father rode his bicycle two miles from Vineyard, and then rode another mile out from the meatworks, over the old wooden bridge spanning the Eastern Creek. When it rained, time was spent huddled in the cramped “hut” keeping warm and dry in front of the fire. Reg Anderson further explained that the Blood Hill was about one mile in circumference and had hundreds of trenches stretching out in all directions which eventually flowed into South or Eastern Creeks. The off-drains were also used to water the grass for the cattle to feed on.

There were two areas which made up the Blood Paddock or Blood Hill. Half was called the Blood Hill and the other half was known as the Sand Hill. The workers would shovel the rubbish and place it onto the ground, the main aim was to keep the drains clean and clear so the water was kept running. No rubbish was allowed to flow out into the creeks.

There were three “huts”, the first being Frank Strachan’s. Another square shaped corrugated tin shed a bit further on down the paddock towards the South Creek, was known as “hut” No. 2 and was Max Strachan’s “hut”. Max was Dad’s cousin. Here in his spare time, he worked on a small vegetable garden that he had established over the years. Max grew pumpkins and other vegetables. He also had fish-traps in the nearby South Creek, where a constant supply of fresh fish was guaranteed. Max shared his vegetables and fish with my father.

At times, the trenches were dammed so that the water banked up and was then released in another direction for a better flow over the ground into the paddocks. Those who worked at the “huts” and others who worked on the main part of the Blood Hill came under the “Yard” and Mr Norman “Norm” Brown was the boss, but he never ventured out into the paddocks from the meatworks.

Leaving Frank Strachan’s “hut”, we travelled through another gate and ventured across the large paddock, crossing over the “Flood Road” which had been raised and built up over the years from using the ashes from the “Boiler House”. This road could be used during low flooding and went across the paddocks, towards the Dairy. Here I asked Reg how he came to be called “Googa”. Reg told me that when he was a small boy he would climb trees of all heights, and climbing out onto the limbs, he would place his hands into hollows or into bird nests and collect the eggs. Hence the name “Googa” after “Googy-Egg”. He only took one egg from the nests, and during many years he went all over the meatworks paddocks to collect them. His collection was large, and he had them safely packed in match boxes and other small boxes. He never broke an egg that he had collected from the nests, as he would place them into his mouth when climbing down out of the trees. In later years, Reg’s extensive collection of bird eggs simply disappeared.

The next stop was Crouch’s old dairy. Here, there was the first old house, and the second house, all of which were in a state of ruin, along with the milking bales, although the brick milk room was still standing intact. A short distance away was the old feed shed that was falling down. It appeared as though vandals had used an iron bar or similar to break holes in the fibro of the houses. We were fortunate in seeing these old buildings, as the next weekend, they were all flattened to ground level by a bulldozer, with the exception of the brick milk room which was left standing.

Travelling from Crouch’s Dairy, we followed along a fenced in laneway, and arrived at another gate, and passing several large roan coloured bulls that were, luckily for us, standing on the other side of the fence, we arrived at the concrete Weir which was only a short distance from the dairy.

At the Weir, on Eastern Creek, the water was banked up towards Riverstone and had green algae covering the top. The concrete road going across the top of the Weir itself was in ruins, although the water was still flowing over the concrete boulders at a fast rate as it flowed west along the creek. This particular spot brought back memories from 1954 when I ventured there in boyhood days [11 years old] from my Vineyard home with my friends, Trevor Brazil, John Robbins, Charlie Warbick, my cousin Ross Burden and young “Chubba” Humpherbay. I recall when we were walking across the paddock from the railway line [Riverstone Parade], a storm broke out overhead with bolts of lightning. We all ran into a dense forest consisting of tea-trees [paperbarks] and were saved from getting wet and the lightning. We were confronted with swarms of “Mosies” [mosquitoes]. I did not know it then, but this was called the “Park” paddock.

Arriving at Eastern Creek and the Weir on the eastern side, we decided to build a raft from two 44 gallon drums, and wooden planks that were found nearby. We tied the planks to the drums with some rope we had brought from home and some fencing wire we found. After the raft was assembled, we dragged it up-stream [towards the Meatworks] and placed it into the creek. The raft successfully floated and young John Robbins volunteered to have the first go of testing it out and floating down the creek, with the current, to the Weir. Unfortunately, the raft struck a dead tree and due to the fast flowing current, the raft broke up on impact. Young John Robbins clung onto the tree as the two drums and timber planks went sailing down to the Weir. The tree which the raft had struck was some 12 feet out from the creek bank, and with the rushing water passed, young John Robbins explained to us that he could not swim. At that location, the water was very deep, and the current was strong. We were not strong enough to swim out to rescue him, so we came up with the idea of having young John tie a rope around his body, and the three of us would drag him in to the creek bank very fast before he sank or the current carried him off. Eventually, after several attempts, we did succeed in throwing a spare rope out to him. John tied the rope around his waist, he let go of the tree, and we pulled him to safety on the bank.

Not long after this incident, Mr. Tom McNamara came riding his horse across the top of the Weir and told us in no uncertain terms that we should not be on the Meatworks property, and that we were trespassing. We all got the message loud and clear, and headed off home. By that time we had enough excitement for one day anyway. Tom McNamara must have been checking the stock, when he heard us calling out to each other. Anyway, all these memories came flooding back. Reg pointed out across the creek and told me that it was the “Park Paddock” and was full of “Tea-Trees”. I knew that it was the place that we had walked through all those years ago, but I imagined it to be further away from the creek. When you are young, you imagine things differently. Near the Weir I found two blue-cups that the wire had been cut off. The cups had been taken from the poles and discarded, and were either telephone or electricity cups. These cups are on display at the Riverstone Museum.

Leaving the Weir, we went to the old Pumping Station at South Creek. Reg explained that it had fallen down some three years ago [2003] and was in a big wooden pile. The steel supports to hold the timber together were still in place. The two deep concrete square wells which held the water were intact and dangerous. Nearby, the wooden frame of a previous water-pump was still standing. Alongside this structure was an electricity power pole with all the wiring cut and disconnected.

Further along, we followed the South Creek on our left, and to our right was the Eastern Creek. Reg showed us where he would go with his father [Malcolm Anderson] and feed the fish, then camp under the willow-trees overnight. The next day they would go fishing using their Kelly Rod’s which were made of bamboo. They caught mullet and perch, and sometimes they went fishing at night.

Although the water in South Creek appeared to be clear, Reg assured Len and I, that it was not and that the fish were not good for eating anymore. The water was a refreshing light blue/green colour and not the usual brown muddy colour. Water bird life was abundant in this area.

Reg then set off again, this time heading for the Junction, and we had the South Creek on our left and the Eastern Creek on our right, and we travelled through the paddock between them. Reg pointed out the location on Eastern Creek where our Uncle Stan “Dick” Fennell died in 1963. He was fishing and had made arrangements for his son Freddie to meet up with him at that location. Fred found him lying on the creek bank and thinking that he was asleep attempted to wake him up, but he had passed away. Fred then had to run all the way home to Hamilton Street to break the sad news, and to get help. Len Strachan remembered that Dr. Tynan of Riverstone went out, but it was too late. There was nothing that they could do.

Arriving at the Junction, I looked across to the northern bank and could visualise my cousin Ross Burden sliding down the steep bank to the water’s edge of Eastern Creek. Memories came back of that weekend in 1953, when I went fishing with my father at South Creek. We had walked through the Meatworks paddock from home, across the railway line, then walked for about two miles and crossed over the Weir near Crouch’s Dairy and went to the Junction where we met up with Uncle Stan Fennell and his sons, Ron and Fred. I recall that Uncle Stan had a glass jar with a screw-on lid, which contained live grass-hoppers, crickets, potato diggers, dragonflies, and worms.

It was at this Junction where my Uncle Fred Burden and his young son, Ross were on the northern side. I could still see Ross Burden as he stood up and then slid down the creek bank, right up to the waters edge of Eastern Creek. They then walked around and, crossing over the Weir, joined up with us for a day of fishing in South Creek. The location was just south of the Junction. We all had bamboo rods, and the fish we caught were placed into a sugar bag and anchored in the water by a piece of rope that was tied around a stick stuck firmly on the edge of the creek bank. This kept the fish alive and fresh until we were ready to go home. I caught a couple of small mullet, and in those days, you ate your catch of the day. I recall that they were good eating, very sweet and succulent.

On our trip back from the Junction, we drove along the same track in the thick brown almost dead grass alongside the South Creek. It was not long before we arrived back at old Crouch’s Dairy, and from here we had a fine view of Bald Hill, and the flying model aeroplanes nearby. Driving back over the raised Flood Road we arrived back at the Blood Hill paddock. Reg explained that there used to be three “huts” on the Blood Hill, but one had vanished.

Following a track, we saw more drains that went in every direction, and arrived at Max Strachan’s “hut”. Following the track for a short distance, we arrived at South Creek and Reg pointed out the old wooden bridge spanning the creek that was once used to move the cows from the paddocks to the dairy. Windsor Downs now backs onto South Creek and the high mansion homes are built right up on the creek bank. A bit of concern should South Creek flood again and break its banks.

At the location of the wooden bridge over South Creek, Reg also pointed out a large box tree with a large hollow at the base, which was large enough for people to sit in. In the old days, the drovers would use this hollow as a shelter from the bad weather. Up to three people could huddle together in this hollow. A bit further along South Creek, Reg pointed out to us where Jones’ Hole was. Mr. Jones had the dairy on the other side of the creek, where the bridge was.

To complete the trip around the Jericho Bush Paddock area, Reg took us to a small graveyard, just in from the Richmond-Blacktown Road. Here, there were up to five grave sites. Headstones reading as early as 1837 were lying on the ground where they had broken off and fallen.

Returning the four-wheel drive utility to Mr Smith, we departed the old Meatworks property, and proceeded to Riverstone, via a tour of the roads at Marsden Park near the Meatworks paddocks. We arrived back at Riverstone just in time for lunch. I was glad that we had not walked into the old “works” paddocks, as the area covered would have been too great to visit on foot. It was a venture which I will treasure for the remainder of my life-time, as I probably will never visit the old “works” paddocks again.

Joe Millerd

by Clarrie Neal

“Joe” Millerd was the headmaster at Riverstone Public School from the 1st December 1939 until he retired in December 1949.

Though he was a firm disciplinarian in the days of school when discipline was a strong tradition, he was a popular figure amongst his pupils and was highly regarded by most parents.

He was born in Melbourne in 1885. His full name was James Francis Millerd. His parents came from the Victorian town of Euroa. His grandparents were amongst the early settlers of that district.

For some unknown reason, Riverstone was the only town where he was known as “Joe”, and to most of us children at school it was ‘old Joe’. In all other districts he was referred to as Jim. Perhaps it was because at that time every kid in Riverstone had a nickname, so why not the headmaster.

As a young man Joe had become a teacher in the Victorian Education system. To further his education Joe came to Sydney in early 1900’s to attend the Sydney Teachers’ College, and also commenced attending the Sydney University of an evening to gain his degree in Economics.

It was while attending the Teachers College that he met his wife to be, Evelyn Adele Smith. They became engaged as World War 1 broke out but decided not to marry until Joe returned home from the war. During the war Evelyn became a teacher at schools as far west as Forbes and Bourke, which must have been quite an experience in those days.

Joe enlisted in the Motor Transport section of the A.I.F. 5th Division; because motors were in their infancy he often remarked how self reliant they had to be. The 5th Division went to France in 1916 and because of the policy that those who went early were the first to come home, Joe did not return home to Australia until 1919.

Joe and Evelyn married shortly after his return and their only child Adele was born in 1921. Joe continued to teach in Sydney until he received his first appointment as a headmaster at Tocumwal in 1926. He followed this appointment with four years at Bellingen and seven years at East Cessnock. He was appointed headmaster at Riverstone School on the 1st December 1939 and he held this position until he retired in December 1949.

While in Riverstone they lived in one of the four meatworks houses in Garfield Road, opposite Creek street. The family was fortunate that during their ten years in Riverstone there were no major floods, though Adele recalled that one flood did come up to their back door.

Adele recalled during the evacuation of Dunkirk in the 2nd World War her father sat up all night listening to radio reports of the events. Because he had been there and really understood the circumstances, he was fearful they would not be able to save all the troops.

Jim Russell was the Deputy Headmaster from 1944 to 1948 and had the following comments to make in the 1983 Riverstone Public School Centenary booklet:-

“The Principal was James Francis Millerd, one of the kindest, most humane men I have ever met, and with whom I formed a friendship until his death many years later. Riverstone was his final posting and his dedication to that school was contagious.

He was quite a character – he referred to World War 1 as ‘the last disturbance’. Father Coffey, the priest who gave Scripture lessons once a week, once asked him with a very straight face if he was referring to the Crimean War! Like all school principals, James was plagued by the loss of keys. In desperation he arrived one morning with the Staff toilet key attached to almost half a railway sleeper on which was written “Lose this if you can”.

With many teachers absent during the War in the Services we saw the first of the “retreads” – retired teachers who came back to help out. At the beginning of one school year a young girl fresh out of teachers college arrived, on the same day as a very old “retread”.

“We’ve got ’em from the cradle to the grave, lad” quipped Joe Millerd.

Meryl Fleming, the young ex-student, played the piano very well and after school hours, while awaiting the late train from Riverstone, we would while away some hours with piano and flute. James always referred to these sessions as piano-banging- flutin’- tootin’ shows.

Meryl, shortly after arrival at Riverstone, married Bob Bromley, then teaching at Adjungbilly. From that day on Joe always referred to her by the name of that remote school. Joe referred to most other females as “Lasses” or “Goldilocks”.

Joe was an ardent tree lover – on Arbor Day 1944 we held a tree planting in Riverstone Park and the then Director of Education, Mr. J.G. McKenzie attended.”

David Brown, later to become a School Principal, was a pupil from 1943 to 1948. He had this to say in the Centenary Booklet.

“Mr. Millerd was the 6th class teacher as well as being the school principal. One always spoke to Mr. Millerd with awe, though he was a kindly, sincere man. The epitomy of childhood endeavour was to earn a crown rubber stamp off Mr. Millerd for good work.”

Being headmaster at a school in those days was an additional duty because you still had a class to teach, at Riverstone Joe always taught the 6th class.

Judith Lewis remembers Joe as a very compassionate man who loved to talk on his experiences of the 1st World War, and asking such questions as “where did the saying ‘Go west young man’ come from”? Sometimes a correct answer would be rewarded with a penny from Joe’s pocket. He often referred to his pupils by their pet or nickname and always referred to Judith as ‘Goldilocks’.

Bobby Parkes remembers Joe as a very reasonable man and a good teacher who used to walk to and from the school every day. Like all other pupils he remembers Joe walking around the class with a piece of chalk in his left hand, ready to be thrown at any pupil who was not paying attention. More often than not, he would say nothing, – pupils realising a piece of chalk meant ‘sit up and take notice’ as he continued on with the lesson.

Joe retired at the end of 1949; though after a few years he returned to part-time teaching at the Correspondence Teaching School at Blackfriars School in Sydney. Joe Millerd passed away in 1968 aged 83 years.

Compiled by Clarrie Neal from information supplied by Joe Millerd’s daughter Adele, Judy Lewis and Bob Parkes, February 2000.