Riverston and Grantham Farm

by Clarrie Neal

The first land grant in the district comprised 2,500 acres and was known as ‘Riverston’. ‘Grantham Farm’ was the name later given to the first part of the ‘Riverston’ estate to be developed and could well be described as the birthplace of Riverstone.

Governor Phillip on an early expedition to the Hawkesbury area in 1791 had described the area around Eastern Creek as – the face of the country was of poor soil, but freely formed and covered with stately white gum trees.

In 1802 Governor King declared the entire Riverstone – Schofields area as a stock reserve, to be used only as common grazing land. Governor Macquarie, who arrived in 1809, decided to make better use of these lands by giving land grants to the early settlers for farming to help feed the struggling colony.

In December 1809, Maurice O’Connell arrived in Sydney as Commander of the 73rd Regiment and in 1810 was made Lieutenant-Governor of the colony. Later that year when he married Mary Putland, the widowed daughter of Governor Bligh, he was granted an area of 2,500 acres by Governor Macquarie as a wedding present. The boundaries today would be Eastern Creek, Bandon Road, Windsor Road, and Garfield Road. O’Connell named the estate ‘Riverston’ after his birthplace in Ireland and was supplied with six convicts to clear and operate the farm.

Another 1,000 acres known as ‘Macquarie Mount’ was granted to O’Connell in 1814, extending the estate’s southern boundary to Kensington Park Road. When he was transferred to India with his Regiment in 1814 he left the farm in the care of a George Druitt.

Records from Governor Macquarie’s journals show that on the 8th December 1810, returning from a visit to the Windsor farms, he made a short stop at the ‘Riverston’ estate. The journal reads- We halted for about a quarter of an hour at Lt. Col. O’Connell’s farm at Riverston, (granted to him by me on his marriage) distant about six miles from Windsor on the high road to Parramatta, examined his dairy and stockyards, and then pursued our journey.

The 1822 muster shows six convicts assigned to Col. O’Connell at Windsor. However, the Post Office Directories of 1832 and 1835 for the Windsor Road show only the names of farms owned by Rouse (Vinegar Hill) and Terry (Box Hill); there is no mention of ‘Riverston’ farm. The census of 1841 shows no residents on the property, but noted capital improvements including “a completed timber house and another partially completed”. This indicates there may have been more than one cottage on the estate. From 1839 to 1847 the property was mortgaged to John Terry, a neighbour.

Most of the estate appears to have been used for stock grazing only, with the development of vineyards on the slopes of Eastern Creek. Thomas Musgrave’s map of the Windsor district in c.1842 shows a cleared area and fenced paddocks with buildings on the site. The map shows a track leading west from the Windsor Road to the ‘Riverston’ farm houses and another track leading to the vineyards on Eastern Creek.

O’Connell first advertised the estate for sale on the 27th March, 1845 in the Sydney Morning Herald; it was eventually sold in 1847 to the Australian Trust Co. who in turn sold it to Andrew H. McCulloch, a Sydney solicitor, in 1855.

1856 Riverstone Estate Sale Plan

McCulloch immediately subdivided the whole estate into eight sections, with 59 farms for sale. The Sydney paper The Empire on 24 April 1856, advertising the auction, described the actual ‘Riverston’ homestead blocks as -Section ‘F’, Lot 6, contains 81 acres, with dwelling house, outbuildings, well of water, enclosed paddocks, stockyard, good cultivation ground and a fair supply of timber. The lot is known as the Riverston Homestead. Lot 7 is another portion of the Homestead, containing 55 acres. There are two cleared paddocks of good soil, with frontage to the Windsor Road.

It appears the ‘poor soil’ as described in 1791 by Governor Phillip must have improved dramatically as other parts of the estate when auctioned in 1856 were advertised as ‘good cultivated land’, ‘splendid agriculture land’, ‘excellent grazing land’, and ‘well timbered’.

Despite the agents ‘optimistic’ descriptions of the estate, the 1856 sale was unsuccessful, and when auctioned in 1864 with the opening of the rail line, McCulloch again suffered the same disappointing result. In the meantime three of the larger blocks were sold – 179 acres to a Mr. Dawson, 179 acres to William Rumery and 79 acres to James Strachan, whose family became the keepers of the Bee Hive Inn on the Windsor Road at Vineyard. These three blocks were not part of the Grantham estate.

These sub-divisions of the 1850’s and 80’s of the ‘Riverston’ estate established the present day road pattern of the Riverstone district. Many of these roads, particularly those of the Vineyard area are still non existent, and appear only as names on a map.

With the development of Riverstone in 1878, McCulloch then offered one and two acre blocks for sale in the first township subdivision of the area bounded by the rail line, Crown Road, Piccadilly Street, and Robinson Street. By this time Benjamin Richards had purchased his 2,500 acres of land on the western side of the rail line for his meat works.

Sketch from the 1881 Riverstone Estate sale, showing a garden, cottage, kitchen, tank and stables.

In May 1881, the larger ‘Riverston’ estate was again subdivided into smaller farms and offered for sale by auction. As Riverstone developed with the expansion of the meat works, more auction sales were held with various portions of the original ‘Riverston’ estate now being identified by different names -Riverstone estate 17th September 1881, was the 2nd auction held that year. Roseberry Park estate 1st March, 1884, Riverstone Heights estate c 1886, Grantham Estate c1886.

When the area failed to sell as farms, some of the estates were subdivided into ridiculously small lots measuring 30 ft x 200 ft. As one would expect with the poor soil so characteristic of the area, all these schemes attracted little interest from the buyers.

This last auction shows Grantham Farm surrounded by the properties being auctioned with the Grantham Estate bounded by Crown Road, Windsor Road, Victoria Street and Brisbane Road. The farm itself, now reduced from 81 acres to 39 acres, is bounded by Princes Street, Grantham Street, and Loftus Street, and is the only cleared area on the estate.

This appears to be the first official use of the name ‘Grantham’, but it is not known exactly when and where the name originated. The plan clearly shows the location of the original buildings that may have been the dairy and the accommodation built for the overseer and convicts on the original ‘Riverston’ estate.

Land Titles Office records show that an area of 39 acres known as ‘Grantham Farm’ was sold as part of the ‘Riverston’ estate in 1886 to Julius Schoffel for the sum of 775 pounds. This was an extraordinary amount of money for those days and it indicates the farm was well developed with substantial buildings. The farm is bounded by Loftus Street, Grantham Street, Princes Street, and the western boundary is the area used as a gravel pit in the 1930’s and 40’s.

Julius Schoffel operated the farm from 1886 until his death in 1906, when it was taken over by his brother Thomas, with records showing orchardists Thomas and Alfred Rumery as the owners/mortgagers. In the mid 1920’s Sam Challenger took over the property.

The property was sold to the Swift family in 1933 who built a new house on the hill on the Princes Street corner near the gravel pit. They continued to operate the farm, running a small dairy and had a few fruit trees. A drain two feet deep was dug along the gravel pit boundary, possibly to prevent any run-off onto the farm. The covered pick-up stand for the milk cans was located near the bottom entry gate in Grantham Street. To supplement the family income Lionel Swift also worked in the hide house at the meat works.

Ken Schoffel (b.1928) recalled returning to Riverstone just after the death of his mother, moving into his grandmother’s home on the Windsor Road. As a lad he spent a lot of his time on Swift’s farm, helping Lionel with the farm work. He found the Swift’s a caring family, also called Mrs. Swift ‘Nan’ and remembers her as a wonderful lady who always made sure he had good meals. He said he often refused to accept money for doing work around the farm.

He recalled:

    • milking the cows. There were about 30 in the herd and when feed was scarce, letting the cows out into the nearby bush to graze .
    • the cans being loaded onto the truck and taken to the milk factory at Windsor.
    • using the chaff cutter.
    • planting crops such as corn and oats.
    • Lionel’s large gold fish pond at the back of the new house. Walking to Vineyard school with Lionel’s step sisters – Rosie and Cecily Smith.
    • Roy Challenger (Wilma’s father) working on the farm.

During the interview, when first shown the old photo of the Schoffel farm, Ken said it was definitely not Grantham Farm, but was not so certain later in the interview.

In the late 1950’s Lionel Swift entered into a partnership with Noel Vickery Dunston to grow mushrooms in sheds on the property. With the untimely death of Lionel and then his mother, the property was taken over by Noel Dunston in 1963.

Noel built stables for his trotters and built a training track around the adjacent gravel pit to train them, the track being used by several other Riverstone trainers when their track on Garfield Road was closed. Noel also built the large dam that exists on the property today.

Noel’s wife Jean recalled the fruit trees, the slab barn and the old house in the lower paddock of the property that was let to the Hunt family for many years. When the Hunt family moved to Perth Street the old buildings were demolished. The nearby well, full of goldfish, was considered too dangerous for their younger children so they had it filled in.

Colin Cubitt, who as a child in the 1930’s lived nearby in Loftus Street and later in the 1960’s worked several years with Noel Dunston on the mushrooms, recalled –

    • as a child playing in the trench that bordered the gravel pit and Swift’s property.
    • the milk can stand with a galvanised iron roof in Grantham Street, still there in the 1950’s.
    • the well and its goldfish near the original barn. The well was square shaped with natural earth sides, with a water level two to three feet below ground level that remained static. The water was always clear but it was not used as the city water had been laid on to the farm in the late 1930’s.

Johnny Hunt, whose family came from Tenterfield in the late 1940’s and were the last family to live in the old homestead recalled –

    • the family renting an old home from Swifts, situated about 100 yards in from the Grantham Street gate entrance.
    • the house in two parts, both with cement floors, the bedrooms were next to the barn, and the kitchen, laundry and bathroom in a separate building 50 to 60 feet away, they had to walk across the grass to get to the kitchen for breakfast.
    • the barn, a double storey slab building, with a hoist on the end facing Princes Street.
    • Going up the driveway and located on the right hand side, and in front of the barn was the well. It was sited about 20 yards from the bedrooms.  Today (2002) there is a slight depression in the ground here that may indicate the exact site.
    • the well was not connected to the house or the barn. He said geographically the well was located on the high ground, so it may have been fed from a spring; the well was full of goldfish, that he used to catch and sell.- The stand of bamboo at the side of Swifts house, still thriving today (2002).
    • The family buying vegies from Mr. Bull who lived opposite the Grantham Street gate.

John has since contacted other family members and all have confirmed the above details. Some family members recalled discussions with Lionel Swift where he stated that their kitchen building may have been previously used for other purposes. Contour maps issued in 1957 show the farm houses exactly as John described them, with Swift’s residence and sheds also shown at the top of the hill near the old gravel pit.

John later confirmed that the well was square shaped, the rim formed of large 9” x 4” beams to prevent the top soil collapsing. He also confirmed that at the end of the barn under the hoist, continuous use had left a large depression in the ground.

Aerial photos taken in 1968 show the house and several sheds adjacent to the gravel pit boundary, a total of four dams, and a single building (the old barn) near the old well site. Aerial photos in 1997 show the farm being extensively used with a number of metal and PVC green houses.

Other items of interest:

    • the bell that was used on Grantham Farm to summon the convicts to start and finish work is now located at St Paul’s Church of England church at Riverstone.
    • the Windsor & Richmond Gazette of 13 November 1918 noted – A bush fire on Grantham Estate. The scrub burnt fiercely and made rapid headway, fanned by a heavy wind. It was providential that some of the houses in the vicinity were not destroyed or damaged.
    • In the 1940’s Loftus Street was partially formed to take a line of power poles out to the Windsor Road. The greyhound men of the day (and there were many) had a better use for this 300 – 400 yard straight stretch of track and used it as a training track for their dogs. A modified bike frame with a single wheel was used to drag the stuffed lure up the hill for the dogs to chase.
    • A large blackberry bush growing on the creek side of Loftus Street marked the site used by the horse drawn sanitary carts for the townships’ first sanitary depot. The blackberry bush was a haven for rabbits, sometimes causing the greyhounds being trialled up the straight to make a comical detour.
    • World War 2 when several hundred soldiers camped near Loftus Street for several days.
    • Noel Dunston sold the property in the 1980’s to an English family and it became known as the Ellawong Estate, it was then leased to a Mr. Thornton. The present owner is Sam Camilleri with the property being used for grazing and green house farming.
    • the term gravel pit was a misnomer as it was actually a hill of gravel, the top 2-3 feet being scraped off and used on the roads of Riverstone. The gravel has a characteristic red colour. Another similar gravel pit was located on the Bandon Road corner at Vineyard station.
    • the house built by the Swift family in the 1930’s was demolished after it was damaged by fire in c.1995.
    • In the 1950’s Bert Logan had an orchard in Princes Street on a lot that had the appearance of a gravel pit. Bert had the soil tested, made up the deficiencies and grew the best tasting navel oranges.

Information from descendants of Karl Schoffel’s family indicates that the original Grantham homestead was burnt down in the early 1900’s. In an article written by Pamela Hinchliffe on her father, Reg Schoffel’s childhood, states in part:

My father remembered when they used to stomp on the grapes in the vats to make wine. It was most likely at Grantham Farm as they would make their own wine each season.

He often mentioned that the farmhouse at Grantham Farm had burnt down, this was most likely the original old house that stood in the middle of the property. This event was perhaps one of the more traumatic happenings of his life, as you can imagine watching your home burning to the ground. An event he spoke about into his later years.

The family of Pearl Douglass (Reg Schoffel’s half sister) also recall her saying the house was burnt down in the early 1900’s.

Was the well located on a spring, which in the early 1800’s made it an ideal site to build a cottage nearby? Or maybe the well was fed from the roof water of the original buildings, which explains why it is located on the higher ground.

At this point we cannot claim that the buildings in Schoffel’s photo are those of Grantham Farm, nor can we ignore the fact that the Schoffel family operated the farm from 1886 to 1933. Hopefully, someday, more family research may provide the answer.

However, members of the Historical Society are satisfied to have located the well site, and believe that the farm site is the birthplace of Riverstone.

Compiled by Clarrie Neal from information and photos provided by the Schoffel family, Colin Cubitt, Merv Davis, Johnny Hunt, Rosemary Phillis, Florence Short, and Tommy Henderson. September 2002 and March 2003.

The Teale Family and the First World War

by Clarrie Neal

The Teale families of Riverstone were descendants of some of the earliest settlers on the Hawkesbury. John Teale had married Dinah Kable, daughter of Henry Kable who came to Australia with Governor Phillip and served as Chief Constable before becoming a prominent businessman.

When Dinah died in 1855 the newspaper reported “Death of the oldest white Australian”. Dinah was the wife of the late John Teale, a miller of Windsor, and the second white woman to be born in Australia and the first to live to maturity. The above information was extracted from an historical article in the Windsor & Richmond Gazette on the 7th Nov. 1919.

The first reference to the Teale families in Riverstone appears in the Electoral Rolls of 1893-4 with John H. and George H. registered. It is likely that they came to Riverstone to work at the meatworks.

During World War 1 the Gazette made several references to George and Will Teale serving in Europe from 1915 to 1918. The Gazette also published extracts from letters sent from the front to their parents Mr and Mrs George Teale of Riverstone. Below is a selection of these letters.

A.I.F. Heavyweight boxing Champion … Gazette 1st September 1916

“Mr & Mrs George Teale have received a cable from their son Will who is having a spell in England after being in the trenches in France. The message reads – “Doing well and in good health”.

Pte W Teale left last October and on the way won the heavyweight boxing championship. The prize was a Gold Medal, which he sent to his parents, but they never received it. He had his 21st birthday in Egypt and is over 6 ft tall. Another son of Mr & Mrs G Teale, George left for the front on the 12th March and the two brothers met in Malta in strange circumstances, as related in a letter from Will. We will publish extracts from the letter next week and let him tell the story of the unexpected meeting.”

En-route to France Gazette … 8th September 1916

Extracts from a letter received by Mr & Mrs G Teale from their son Will.

“I am writing this letter at sea, on our way to France. We are having a good trip as long as we don’t get hit with a ‘tin fish’ (torpedo). I am not sorry we left Egypt, and I don’t want to see another place like it. But, they put us in a worse place than Egypt – Arabia, a part of Asia Minor. The place is not fit for the niggers that were there. All you can see is just sky and desert, and that’s where we had our trenches. Flies in millions, 130 degrees F. in the shade and a pint of water a day. It was just the sort of life I wanted to experience, and I got all I wanted, too.

I wonder how George is (his brother), I suppose he is in England to finish his training. We are hard and well trained, so they will put us straight into the firing line, I suppose. I don’t want to get killed, but I can tell you this much, – I am anxious to have a go at those “square heads”. I was pretty bad when I fell sick, but have got over that little lot. I met Sid Hudson over here and every time he had a chance he came over to see me. He treated me as if I was a brother, especially when I was sick. He is one of the best pals I ever had. It will be soon 12 months since I left Sydney, and by jove, it seems like double that time. Things are going alright with me, I feel A1, but I am glad we left Egypt. A bloke would have died there this summer. As I can’t post this letter until I get to France, I will close now, and add more to it when I get there.

At sea

“I said I would finish this letter when I got to the front, but I will put some good news in it. We pulled up at Malta for a couple of days, and three other boats full of soldiers stopped in the harbour. I signalled over with flags and asked if George’s lot was there, and they answered back “Yes”. We were just half a mile apart. The thing was how to get there, I determined it was to swim. I’m not a good swimmer – but I learnt and did a lot in the Suez Canal. I swam it with plenty in hand. I pulled myself up on a rope, and when my brother saw me he nearly fell overboard. Funny place to meet him, was it not. He looks splendid. Home, I tell you flashed through my mind and we were talking for awhile. It was a great pleasure meeting one of my brothers. I was only talking to him for half an hour, and then I left and swam back to my boat. About an hour later his boat pulled out, but where he is going is more than I can tell you. Fred Hurley is with him.

We have landed in France, and are just behind the firing line. We can hear the big guns going off, so it won’t be long before we are right into it. France is a lovely place, it is worth fighting for. The women do the farming; nearly every man in France is a soldier. What a change after being in Egypt; lovely green grass to lie on. When we landed in France we did a 50 hour train journey – over a 1,000 miles. It does not get dark over here till after 11 o’clock, and the fire from the guns makes it look like day, and they make the ground shake.


Other Riverstone Boys … Gazette 17th January 1917
France 29/10/1916

“I have not been able to write for a while, as we have been very busy, and are still hard at it. I cannot tell you where we are, but you will see by the papers where the Australians are. We are up against it I can tell you, but that is all in the game. I got a good mail this week, but all the letters were written in May, I was pleased to get them. I received a parcel from E. Hurley a couple of weeks ago, and a letter from her yesterday. Bill and I went to see Aub Schofield and his brother and A. Mason, they all look well. C. Morris was not wounded, he was suffering shell shock, but that is just as bad. S. Alcorn was wounded, and C. Alcorn is suffering from shell shock. We are both well, but if don’t hear from us for a while,
don’t worry.


Life at the Somme … Gazette 17th January 1917
France 2/11/1916

“I received your letter and the photo. I don’t want you to worry about me and George, because I feel sure we will pull through alright. We are down on the Somme at present, and I tell you it is very hard. We get 3 biscuits for the 24 hours, and a drink of tea if we are lucky. I have had wet clothes on for a week, and have a cold, of course. George is the same; but I have a little bit of strength left and can see it out. I ran across Griffin cooking, and I had the feed of my life. The mud is up over our knees, and it very seldom stops raining. Mind, I’m not grumbling, I enlisted for this purpose, and am willing to see it through. I only mention it to let you know what a good time we are having. I sent you 2 cables from France. You told me you got the first, hope you got the second. Don’t worry, we are in the best of health. George and I will see this job through. We will be out for a spell shortly, and my word we need it. Tell Mrs. Griffin her husband is well, and he thanks you for visiting his wife. Shells over this way are iron factories weighing 200 lbs. F Hurley is well and wishes to be remembered to all.


Shell Injury … Gazette 11th May 1917

“Just received some more letters from you, and many thanks for the parcels, George also received some. I will send you a little present when we get out of this place. Where we are now we cannot buy anything. Every house for 20 miles is swept away by shell fire. There is not a house standing, it is terrible. One has to have a good nerve to stand it, but I am still hanging on like grim death. Two nights ago I was standing talking to my mate in the trench when a shell burst right near us. and a piece of shell put a hole in his back as big as my fist. I dressed his wound at once and then carried him to a Doctor, under heavy shell fire. George and Fred saw me do it. I thought my time had come, but I put plenty of heart and confidence in myself, and I pulled through alright. I have had poor fellows killed right alongside of me. George and Fred have also had some narrow shaves. I have not had a wash to speak of for 6 weeks. I think I have told you all the news, so good-bye.”

Love from BILL
Edmonton Military Hospital, Suyers Street

Christmas in the Trenches … Gazette 11th May 1917
France 25th December 1916

“Well, Mother it is Xmas day today and we have just finished our dinner. We had some stew and a piece of plum pudding and a packet of biscuits, so we made the best of things. The pudding was not bad, only we had to get a piece of string to pull it out of our jaws, it was so sticky. I hope you enjoyed yourselves. I know there was many a sad home in Australia, but we will get over that some day. They sent Fritz over his Xmas dinner today. There was a big bombardment, so they fixed him up for Xmas dinner. The big guns never stop, they are going day after day and night after night. At times the bombardment last for weeks, and never cease. They can hear the roar in some parts of England. It is only a 24 hours run from where we are. It is very wet over here. The constant roar of the guns makes it rain. We are seeing plenty of fighting, plenty of snow, plenty of mud, and plenty of shells. Did little Arthur and Fred hang up their stocking at Xmas. I hang mine up every night full of water. I will send some silks when I get out of this place. I think I will close now, so good bye, from your loving son


Injury and Recovery … Gazette 4th January 1918

“29/10/1917, received by Mr & Mrs G. Teale from their son Pte W. Teale from the Southern General Hospital, Birmingham, England.

“Just a few lines to let you know my wounds are going splendidly. I have to go under an operation shortly to get the shrapnel out of my thigh. I shall never forget the morning I was wounded. The 2 men carrying me out got wounded, and I was wounded again. When they were wounded, I started to crawl, and crawled for half a mile through mud and shell holes. It was raining and the Germans were shelling heavily all the time. It was terrible. When I had crawled to the nearest dressing station, I was utterly worn out from loss of blood, and then fainted, the first time I ever went out to it in my life. I laughed when I came round, but was very weak from the loss of blood.

Never mind, I am in a feather bed now, listening to a nice piano being played. The nurses are very good to us here; it is quite a pleasure to be talking to an Australian girl again. Do you remember the old Warialda, the boat I left Sydney in. Well, they have made a hospital ship out of her, and I was brought from France to England in her. I met old Dick Pape’s son on her, he is an engineer on the boat and doing well. I see where Italy is being beaten. The war won’t end there, it will end on the Western front. I was wounded in Flanders, in Belgium, near Ypres.”

Pte W. Teale also breaks out in poetry and sends the following and penitent effort to his family.

“A Thought Of Home”
In my dugout, somewhere in France
I sit alone with my thoughts
I think of the dear old home, askance
Of the sorrow on my parents I brought

I think of the day I left behind
The dear old Mother and Dad
I think of my brothers and sisters so kind
I sit alone and am sad

I picture below the white stone hearth
A chair that is vacant for me
In a home in Australia, the land of my birth
In a home far across the sea

I know that the chair will be filled some day
That place by the old fireside
I can see my parents kneel and pray
For this boy far over the sea

When this awful war is over
And I return again
I’ll prize the dear old homeland for ever
And hope never to leave again.”

Report on Will Teale and a Poem … Gazette 1st March 1918

“Mr and Mrs G. Teale have received a letter from Lieut. Alex Teale about their son Pte Will Teale who will shortly be returning to Australia, having been shot through the lungs. The letter was written from the Southern General Hospital, Birmingham and dated 29/11/1917. The paragraphs below have been extracted from the letter.

Dear Mr and Mrs G. Teale,
Just a few lines to let you know that your son Will is progressing favourably, and will, I think be winding up winning the “Recovery Stakes” in an easy canter in speedy time. His wounds were not serious, but just sufficient; I think to spend Christmas in England, instead of the land of slush and mud where death is constantly spoken. He is in hospital with me, and, rather a strange coincidence we should meet here, after not seeing one another for some years, and that was at the Hawkesbury Show.

His boxing has won him fame through out all the ranks. He is a game soldier, which is strongly appreciated by all ranks of his uniformed brothers of the Australian Forces. His self determination and intelligent spirit, with a strong devotion to duty, has won him honor and fame, amongst the bravest on earth.

I am enclosing a composed piece about Will which I have written pastime at the hospital. You can send it to the Windsor paper. I know you will be surprised when you receive this letter as neither of you know me, but Harry does. So I must ring off now with a Merry Christmas and Prosperous New Year, trusting you are both and all who are near you are enjoying life and partaking of the very best the earth can give.

Alex Teale.
2nd Battalion, Australian Imperial Infantry.

Champion Heavyweight boxer of the Australian Army, wounded at Ypres.

With feint and counter, with hook and swing
He has brought big crowds to roar
For battles fought around that ring
Has come to his eyes before

But he took on more than a boxing stunt
And a far rougher game than football
When he came to fight for all at the front
May he be one of the last to fall

For Will was no shirker, he took his stand
To score a ‘try’ was his aim
This play was grand – he’d a goal in hand
Was it a German sniper, or an HE shell

For at Ypres wounded with others he fell
In a fight where nothing was banned
He realised then, t’was no ring fight
As the shattering shrapnel flew

Now in spite of the lead, he kept a cool head
As most of the Australians do
When as man and gun, he’d forced the Hun
With resolution high
For he’s one of Australia’s fighting sons
Who are never afraid to die.
Alex Teale”

Another Son Joins the War Effort … Gazette 10th May 1918

“Pte Jack Teale sailed to the front this week. This makes the third of Mr and Mrs G. Teale’s boys to go to the war. Two brothers are already fighting in France now.”

Heavyweight Champion … Gazette 14th June 1918

“Mr and Mrs George Teale have received a splendid photo of their son Will in his fighting costume. Will is now the Heavyweight Champion of the Australian Armed Forces and the photo was taken just after he gained that distinction.

The following paragraph is taken from one of the Army magazines.

“The fast, best and most exciting fight of the evening was the heavyweight contest between Pte W Place of South Australia and Pte W Teale of New South Wales. Each man was out to win by the short route, and a real ‘stouch up’ was the result, the decision being most uncertain until well into the last round when Teale just managed to outpoint his opponent. Teale received the decision amid applause.”

Also there is a brief description given of another bout held on 15th February with Pte Teale’s fighting weight at 13 stone 4 lbs.

Gassed … Gazette 21st June 1918

Mr and Mrs. G. Teale have received word from the Base Records Office that their son Pte George Teale has been gassed. George was with the 5th Pioneer Battalion, and formerly with the 51st Battalion.

Loss of Right Eye … Gazette 23rd August 1918

“Mr and Mrs G Teale have been advised their son George lost his right eye in recent fighting in France.”

After the War

After the war the three brothers returned home to Riverstone and resumed their jobs at the meatworks. George continued to suffer from the terrible injuries he received during the war and in the late 1930’s he moved with his wife and family of three boys to Parramatta.

In the 1940’s when George was unable to care for his family, the boys were placed in the care of the Masonic Homes at Baulkham Hills. George passed away in 1951.

The twin boys Ken and Keith both became meat inspectors with Keith working at Riverstone for several years during the 1960’s.

Bill was a beef butcher at Riverstone, operating the beef saw that split the beef carcases into two sides. In later years he moved with his family of three children to Bett Street at Parramatta where he built a gymnasium at the rear of his house. He continued his boxing career and taught many of the districts youth the art of boxing. Following the death of the noted boxing referee Joe Wallis, the referees job at the Sydney Stadium was shared for many years by Bill Teale and Bill Henneberry.

Bill continued to work at Riverstone until he retired around.1960 and passed away in 1975.

Compiled by Clarrie Neal from information provided by Keith Teale, Les Teale and the Windsor & Richmond Gazette. July 2006.

Chemist Williams

by Rosemary Phillis

According to his son Lyle, Chemist Williams moved to Riverstone around 1947. He had studied Pharmacy in Queensland and was on the lookout for a town that was well established. He felt that Riverstone would have potential, as it had a well established industry in the Meatworks.

He first opened a chemist shop in a building that stood where the Commonwealth Bank is now. Around 1955 he had a new shop built, which he operated until leaving the district around 1963. In 2008 the building is still operated as a chemist, by Catherine Vu.

In 2007 Lyle allowed the Historical Society to copy some family photos, which we share below.

Thrippo’s Rivo of the 1950s

by Judith Lewis & Graham Britton

About six years ago Graham Britton’s doctor told him he needed to get a hobby. He thought long and hard about it before deciding he’d try to make a model of the Riverstone Royal Hotel (demolished in the 1970s). Graham chose the hotel because he had spent his early years living in No. 3 of the terraced houses which were just down from the Royal. He was so pleased with his effort that he decided next to build the terraced houses. He then decided he would try to build the township of Riverstone as he remembered it in the 1950s. The result, the much acclaimed Riverstone Township model that has been on display at the Museum, a number of Riverstone Festivals and at the 120th anniversary celebrations of Riverstone Public School.

The work took Graham eighteen months to complete and his total expense was roughly $30 – for the base of compressed pine, measuring 10ft. by 4ft., and for the model animals, cars and train (his grandchildren also happily contributed some of the latter). All other materials came from around his home or on the scrap heap at Mac’s Hire, where he was working at the time. Fences and electricity poles were made from matchsticks or kebab sticks, cotton was used for wires, plastic folders made the rooves and plastic inserts the windows, wire bound together made the trees and pieces of sponge formed the leaves.

Graham emphasises that the model is not made to scale, some houses just wouldn’t fit and have been left out. It is the Riverstone of the 1950s as he remembers it – in his own words, “I was just a rough old bloke doing something he wanted to do”.

Graham’s plan has made it possible for us to walk through the old town with him. Let’s do it!

Plan of Thrippo’s Rivo of the 1950s
    1. The Butchers’ Shop: (now a Vet’s) was Riverstone’s only butchers’ shop from 1922 until 1953 when a new shop was built closer to the township on the other side of the railway line.
      Inside the shop there was a long counter, chopping blocks where butchers were working, white and blue tiles on the walls and plenty of sawdust on the floor. A cashier sat at the counter behind a money till.
      The old shop then became Norm Foley’s Barbers’ Shop.
    2. The Royal Hotel: Built in 1906 and demolished in 1977. It was Paddy Morgan, the licensee at the time, who gave Graham the nickname “Threepence” or “Thrippo”. He had a small dog called “Tuppence”. Graham was a little bloke at the time and Mr Morgan claimed he wasn’t much bigger than “Tuppence” so he became known as “Threepence” (pronounced Thrippence).
    3. Grainger’s Shop: Between the Royal and the Terraces, sold all types of mixed goods and fruit and vegetables.
    4. Terraced Houses: There were four families living in the Terraces in the 1950s– in No. 1 were people who, according to Graham were “poshier than us”, in No. 2 were Ray Keegan’s parents, Les & Eunice Britton and their then five children (they were to have eleven) were in No. 3 and a German family lived in No. 4.
    5. Wally Wood’s Store: Graham recalls his mother sending him there with a carry bag made from an old sugar bag, folded in half, with two handles sewn on, and armed with a shopping list. Wally bought the shop in 1949 from Charlie Knight, son-in-law of the original owner, Chas Davis. With his sister Jean, and with a staff which included Verlie Sullivan and Dot and Howard Perrett and delivery staff of Ken Donnelly and Eddie Phillis, Wally ran this successful grocery business until 1962 when it became AP Motors.
    6. and 12. Fisher’s Bakehouse & Shop: Charlie Fisher’s bakehouse was in Railway Terrace, the shop fronted Garfield Road. They sold bread and cakes. The Fisher family lived in the house behind the shop. The house had a green roof and picket fence (When the model was on display at one of the Festivals Nancy Hayden nee Fisher complimented Graham on the accuracy of his model).
    7. Rosenthall’s General Store: The Rosenthall family operated this store from 1923 till 1973. It was a general store in the true sense – you could buy produce, groceries, hardware, tools, clothing , shoes, furniture, manchester, kitchenware, haberdashery and even linoleum. Graham recalls the polished wooden floors, the huge counters and the large display windows. Kevin Lewis recalls helping with grocery deliveries. People would drop off their orders, the goods would be packed in boxes and delivered to the residents (with no delivery charge).
    8. Wattle Milk Bar: Horrie and Pat Kelly took over The Wattle in 1943 and operated it till 1952. Alongside Rosenthall’s, it was a milk bar and delicatessen with a gauzed-off room for the cold meats on the right from the entry. Behind the counter on this side were some groceries. There were a number of tables and chairs on the left and a counter with lollies to the side. The main counter was across the full length of the back wall. Besides Mrs. Kelly and her daughter Noeleen (at weekends) others to work there in the ‘50s included Jean Phillis and Judith Drake. In 1954 Jack Notaras bought The Wattle and operated it for the next 27 years. Owners lived in the premises behind the shop.
    9. Stacey’s Fruit Shop: The Stacey family ran this store from 1942 to 1962. The shop had a long counter, with fruit and vegetables displayed behind it. Potatoes were on the floor in large bags. There was only about four feet of space on the buyers’ side of the counter. Graham’s only “job”, which he described as “good fun”, before he went to work fulltime, was helping with deliveries with young Dick and John Stacey. Deliveries, in an old ute, went as far afield as Cow Flat. In the shop old Dick always wore a leather apron, on deliveries young Dick wore a leather money bag.
    10. Now an optometrist’s, previously, from 1965 to 1999, Eric Brookes’ Shoe Store. Do you remember what it was in the ‘50s? Unbelievably Graham cannot! Perhaps a ladies hairdressers?
    11. Keating’s Barbers’ Shop: Graham’s sister Joan worked there.
    12. See 6.
    13. George Trahanas’ House & Shop: The shop was real “Happy Days” style with booth type seating. On movie nights it was packed during interval. Graham used to enjoy meeting friends after work there for a bottle of coke. If the top of your bottle had an ace inside you got a free coke.
    14. Charlie Murrell’s Olympia Theatre: Movies were shown on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights with a matinee on Saturday afternoons. You couldn’t afford to miss going on a Saturday afternoon because you always had to find out how the hero had survived the precarious situation he’d been left in at the end of the previous episode. You were usually given nine pence for “the picture”, sixpence to get in and threepence to spend at interval.
      Old Charlie would stop the movie if there was any disturbance. Someone one day threw a meat pie, which hit the centre of the screen. Charlie stopped the movie and offered to donate ten pounds to Windsor Hospital if someone would identify the culprit. Many knew who it was but no one identified him.
      “Tip” Davis and Robbie Shepherd from the Riverstone Motorcycle Club persuaded Charlie to rent out the theatre for a special Wednesday night screening of the Marlon Brando movie “The Wild One”. Hundreds of Bikies from neighbouring clubs lined both sides of Garfield Road with their bikes. Fifteen minutes after the movie finished there was not a bike or bikie to be seen.
    15. Carlisle’s Grocery Store: Roy Cook, manager of Carlisle’s would give you threepence for your empty drink bottle. He’d also give you sixpence worth of broken biscuits for two. Graham and his brothers used to walk along the railway line near the meatworks where the men would throw their empty bottles. The boys soon learnt he’d give you an equally huge bag for one empty bottle, so they took to going in singly with a bottle each.
      As with the other grocery stores, mothers could send a child down with a written order to be delivered later and paid for on delivery. If she was “down the street” and only wanted a few items, she could sit at the counter whilst the grocer weighed up her exact requirements into small paper bags.
    16. Blair’s Mixed Business: Run by Lizzie Blair, her brother Billie and his wife Edna, was another shop that opened at picture times. It did not have the variety of goodies offered by the other two so you were more likely to get served there more quickly. The Blairs lived behind the shop with their children Ray, Margaret and Mervyn. Billie also delivered fruit and vegatables in an old ute This shop was relocated to the Australiana Village at Wilberforce.
    17. NSW Produce Store: Run by Bert Lillia. Out the front on the footpath was a gravity fed pump from which you could buy kerosene, a popular heating fuel in the ’50s.
    18. Fred Roots’ Mixed Business: Originally owned by Mary Wallace and known by everyone as Aunty Mary’s Store.
    19. Barnes Bus Co. and Ampol Garage: Doug Barnes drove a speedboat on the Hawkesbury River. His boat hit and killed a swimmer on the southern side of the bridge and after that speedboats were restricted to the northern side.
    20. Dr. Boag’s Surgery: Dr. James Fraser-Boag had been a doctor in WWII. A brilliant doctor he was remembered more for his abrupt, military-like manner. Graham’s wife, Carol’s, first job was as his receptionist, for one week!
    21. St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church: Moved from its Oxford Street site, now serves as the St. Andrew’s Uniting Church’s hall.
    22. Bottles’ House: (Still standing, with it’s “twin” having been recently erected adjoining it). There were always horses in the adjacent paddocks.
    23. Fred Coulter’s Bike Shop: became his wife’s Ladies’ Wear Shop in the ’50s. Behind the Ladies’ Wear Shop was a Ladies’ Hairdressers’ Salon. The shop is now Bruno’s Barbers’ Shop.
    24. Coulter’s House: The Coulter family lived next door to their shop.
    25. The Greig Family Home: Possibly Riverstone’s oldest building, this is now a storage shed for its owners who live in the large brick home at the front. The first Presbyterian Church service in Riverstone was held here in 1872
    26. Mulford’s Tuck Shop: Was built after Les and Ruth Mulford and their four small children, Betty, Fay, Les and Roy moved to Riverstone in 1939. The family lived behind the shop, which was always open, and sold all manner of foodstuffs so that, if visitors arrived unexpectedly at the weekend you were always able to buy cold meats from there. Les also made deliveries the most popular being bottles of Noon’s soft drinks.
    27. Riverstone Public School: Built in 1928, it became the Infants’ Department when the new school was opened in 1957. In 2002 the whole school was consolidated to the one refurbished site in Elizabeth Street and today Casuarina School occupies the Garfield Road site.
    28. Stationmaster’s Residence: (Still standing but unoccupied) was built in 1886. Prior to this the Stationmaster resided in living quarters at the station in what is now the Parcel’s Office.
    29. Railway Station: The original Riverstone railway station (1864) was a short wooden platform with a brick building that was a combined waiting room, station office and living quarters for the Stationmaster. At the Water Tank steam trains filled up with water. If you were running late for the train you knew you had a little extra time “up your sleeve”.
    30. Conway’s Newsagency & Barber’s Shop: Built in 1925 is now owned by Geoff Pfister & was, until 2007, his hairdressing business which is now operated by Nicole. Behind the small paper shop at the front was Ossie Robbins barber shop. Brian McNamara ran the shop in the 1950s and it was Brian who gave Graham his first paid haircut. On the corner of Garfield Road and Riverstone (where the Florist’s now stands) was the Conway’s tennis court.
    31. The CBC Bank and 32 Williams the Chemist: This was one building, sharing a common entrance step and then completely divided by a brick wall. Both were small premises with a single counter. The chemist shop had most items secured in glass cabinets behind the counter
    32. See 31
    33. Nichols’ Garage: Bill Nichols began the first motor repair shop in Riverstone in 1926, opposite the present day post office. The following year he moved to the corner of Carlton Street and Garfield Road. In 1935 he built Nichols’ garage on what is now the Commonwealth Bank site. The garage had two gravity fed petrol pumps on the footpath. The business was relocated in 1962 to the site opposite the Uniting Church.
    34. Billy Hughes’ Boot Repair Shop: Shoes were an expensive item in the 1950s and shoe repairers were much in demand, which probably explains why Graham remembers the dust and cobwebs in the shop’s window.
    35. Mrs. Harris’ Fish Shop: As well as opening Riverstone’s first fish shop, the hard working Mrs. Harris was also a cleaner at the school and an usherette at the Olympia Theatre.
    36. Mrs. Connie Moulds’ House and Stables: Connie Moulds bred, owned and trained horses and her son Laurie went on to become one of NSW’s leading trainer/drivers, winning the Sydney Drivers’ Premiership in 1962-63. At the first night trotting meeting in Sydney, in 1949, “Machine Wood”, a horse rescued from the knackery and trained by Connie and driven by Laurie was the “sentimental winner” of the night.
    37. The Post Office: Was built in 1942 to replace the original one which had been established at the railway station in 1877.
    38. Ambrose Driscoll’s Real Estate Agency: Later became Driscoll & Reid and is now in new premises, First National. Ambrose Driscoll was a licensed auctioneer and valuer, the man who came to value your worth for the dreaded “death duties” of the time.
    39. Parrington’s Terrace: Built in 1883. The three terraced houses, still in use, have changed little in that time. (Not shown is the Drake family home).
    40. Dr. Carroll’s Surgery and House: Until the early 1940s Riverstone people knew this former house as Sister Barnes’ hospital where most children born between 1926 and 1941 would have been delivered by Sister Barnes. Dr Carroll and his wife had ten children and were very popular members of the community with Dr. Carroll also being the doctor for the Riverstone Meat Company. Not shown is the small cottage now occupied by Solicitor Mervyn Cathers.
    41. Tozer’s House: Had verandahs along three sides. A paddock, then three homes, the centre one of them being the Hillier family home, remembered for the stone lions that sat either side of the entrance to the house, the third one being:-
    42. Mr. & Mrs. Albert Woods House: Albie Woods was a keen gardener. He grew prize-winning dahlias and every spring the fence on the George Street side was always a mass of sweet peas.
    43. The Masonic Hall: Riverstone’s first public school opened in 1883 on this site. It became the Masonic Hall after the school closed in 1929. Graham recalls his father being one of a number of men who joined the Masons. It was the only place you could get a beer on a Sunday! In the 1950s, as the only large hall in the town, it was in great demand as a venue for concerts, fetes, weddings, parties, fancy dress balls and dancing lessons. It reopened as the Blacktown City Bicentennial Museum in 1988.
    44. Taylors’ Produce: (Now Uncle Arthurs’). Malcolm Anderson and Colin Cubitt worked there. Graham was sent there to buy pollard to feed the family’s ducks.
    45. Eric Brookes’ Shoe Repairs & Pool Hall: Originally McCutcheon’s General Store this building later became rooms for Dr. Quadri.
    46. Riverstone-Schofields RSL Club: Graham’s fondest memories are of the Christmas parties, Santa sitting under the tree, running up to receive one’s present, ice cream buckets in the huge green, padded containers (called shippers) and Noon’s crinkly orange drinks.
    47. The Jack Douglass’.
    48. ?
    49. The Holloways’.
    50. The Miljerek’s? Tony, son Alec.
    51. One of the 3 houses in Cockroach Alley.
    52. Methodist Church: Ceased to function as a church when the Methodists and Presbyterians combined to became the Uniting Church in 1967. Services were held in the former Presbyterian Church and until 1969 Sunday School classes were held in the former Methodist Church.
    53. CWA Rooms & Baby Health Centre: Opened in 1952, this “modern’ building replaced the small wooden room adjacent to the Railway Station and Stockyards, which had served as a Baby Health Centre since 1934.
    54. Major Nelson’s large weatherboard home
    55. Mr. & Mrs. Keating’s
    56. The Burnett’s
    57. The Leslie’s.
    58. The Benz’s.
    59. The Puzny’s.
    60. Stockyards: Like most Riverstone children in the 50s, Graham was in fear of the horses that were unloaded into these yards off the trains. The trains pulled in to the station, the horses were unloaded into the yards and then driven through the streets and out to Burns’ knackery (on the Windsor Road and now Burns Pet Food) by the stockmen. There could be as many as 300 horses galloping towards unsuspecting school children. They had every right to be fearful as John Phillis, one of the stockmen, later told Graham he had travelled to Queensland with Texas Burns to bring down the first lot of these horses and many of them had been wild brumbies.

Cattle were also unloaded from the station into these yards on at least one occasion. It is remembered well because a steer escaped, ran over the roof of Lachie Lumsden’s car parked outside his Chemist’s Shop opposite the station, denting the roof of the car down to the passenger’s seat.

Graham’s model of 1950s Riverstone conjures up great memories to those who lived there at the time and gives today’s generation a glimpse at a lifestyle they have probably heard about but will never experience. Progress?

Graham’s model on display at Riverstone Public School.
Photos courtesy of Rosemary Phillis
Graham’s model on display at the Riverstone Festival.
Photos courtesy of Rosemary Phillis

The Hood Family

Auto Undertakers

by John Hood

The Hood Family started in Castle Hill in 1932 after moving from Canada. Alexander Hood and his wife Agnes were both in their 40s when they arrived. There was Peter Hood, who was about ten, Alex who was eight, and not long after that the Riverstone chapter was to unfold. My grandmother gave my grandfather a nudge and said “how about one more child”. Then John Hood arrived, a blue eyed blond. My grandmother was a very strong Christian, a Methodist lady with a very strong Scottish accent, who I remember as a grand lady.

From what I can gather my father, John Hood, left home to go west at the age of about sixteen, (he attended Castle Hill Primary school till that age). He worked on a sheep station between Trangie, Cobar and the surrounding area. Being a jackaroo he met my mother Elizabeth Ann Hayes. She was a shearer’s cook somewhere out there and they returned back to Castle Hill to get married. There they bought 2½ acres from my grandmother (who owned five acres in Carrington Road, Castle Hill where the Hills Centre is now). On the 2½ acres my father built our family home, a 2-3 bedroom fibro and tile home. I came along, then Alan came along 18 months later, and after about five years my sister Sybil was born, then last of the line, Phillip Thomas Hood.

My mother had a mishap on Windsor and Schofield Roads with our 1937 Willys car. It sat in the back yard for a while. One day while my father was at work logging at Glenorie, a chap who also had a Willys car pulled up and wanted to buy the engine. He came back that night and saw dad and bought the motor out of it. That’s how the wrecking yard started on the 2½ acres not long after. It was covered in old cars being wrecked for spare parts. Baulkham Hills council wanted us out! We got enough money to buy 2½ acres at Riverstone at the corner of Melbourne Street and Riverstone Parade where the Famous Auto Undertakers started. We even had a 44 Chev Hearse to do our deliveries with. Now the yard, on two building blocks, is run by myself and my brother Phillip and is called Western Wreckers.

Auto Undertakers Wreckers

Robert Rankine

Robert Rankine as identified in a 1915
Riverstone football team photo.

by Rosemary Phillis

According to Army Records, Robert Rankine was born at Laurieton in the Parish of Camden Haven in New South Wales. His parents were William and Jessie Rankine. At some stage the family moved to Schofields and it is understood that Robert attended the Schofields Public School.

At the time of his enlistment in 1916, his occupation was listed as a plumber, being apprenticed to his father. His residence was Schofield’s Siding. The family were members of the Presbyterian Church congregation at Riverstone.

At the time of his enlistment medical examination at Victoria Barracks, Robert was 25 years and five months. He was five feet six inches tall and weighed 129lbs. His chest measurement was 35-37.5 inches. His eyes and hair were brown. He was listed as having a long vertical scar in the centre of his abdomen from an abdominal hydatid six years ago. He also had a scar on his back and his hip.

Robert enlisted on 22 March 1916. The times leading up to his departure from Australia were captured in several references in the Windsor and Richmond Gazette:-

19 May 1916 – Schofields Send off
Schofields Progress Association members determined that they would not let the occasion of enlistments of our local boys go by without an appreciation of some kind from the residents…
In handing a wristlet watch to Robert Rankin, Mr Saundercock gave good advice to all the recipients who thanked the donors….

26 May 1916
At Riverstone four soldiers were farewelled at Riverstone in the Presbyterian Church on Saturday evening, and presented with safety razors, bibles and other articles suitable to the needs of camp life. There was a large attendance of both past and present Sunday school scholars and other friends.

The departing soldiers were Cecil Greenshaw, Rupert Vidler, Robert Rankin and Alex Stubbs. The two former are on their way to France and their relatives received their presents, and will forward them to the front. The presentations were made by the Rev. Jas. Steele, who spoke a few words of encouragement to the men and comfort to the parents.

4 August 1916
Several of the boys who have enlisted – Messrs R. Rankin, C. Bryant, S. Alderton, and Wilson – were home for the weekend, returning on Sunday to the several camps at Goulburn, Kiama and Liverpool.

Robert was part of the 19th Reinforcements 2nd Infantry Battalion AIF and embarked onboard the CC Troopship ‘Wiltshire’ on 22 August 1916, arriving at Plymouth in England just under two months later on 13 October 1916.

After two months in England he proceeded to France on 13 December 1916 on board the ‘Arundel’, sailing from Folkstone. He was wounded in action on 9 April 1917, taken to the Operating Centre at the 3rd Casualty Clearing Station with a GSW Abdomen (gun shot wound to the abdomen) where he died as a result of his wounds on 10 April 1917.

The Windsor and Richmond Gazette of 11 May 1917 reported:
Pte Robert Rankin, son of William Rankin, of Riverstone, was killed in action on April 10, during the big push between Lens and Arrars, which occurred in Easter week. The sad news came through on April 26, to Rev. James Steele, who informed the parents. The young soldier left the Australian shores with the 17th Reinforcements of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Brigade. He was a fine footballer, a splendid rifle shot, and won the battalion prize at Liverpool, and again won the prize at Salisbury Plains for accurate shooting. Being such a good shot it is believed he was engaged in sniping. He was born at Camden Haven was 26 years of age and went to France in December 1916.

Robert was buried in the Pozieres British Cemetery, Ovillers-La Boisselle in France. His name was listed on Honour rolls at the Riverstone Railway Station, the Riverstone Cenotaph, the Schofields Public School and the Presbyterian Church (now the Uniting Church) at Riverstone.

Robert’s personal effects were returned to his mother. They consisted of “an Identity disc, Wallet, Belt, 2 Knives, Nail Clippers, Badges, Match box cover, Metal mirror, letters, Photos, Cards, Writing pad.” She acknowledged receipt on 29 October 1917. His mother, Jessie Rankin, was granted a Pension of ₤2 per fortnight from 24 June 1917.

Chris and Joe Counter lay flowers at the base of Robert’s grave in Pozieres Cemetery. Photos courtesy of Chris Counter

A Special ANZAC Day 2008

Part of Our Five Day Tour of The Somme

by Chris Counter

I attended my first Anzac Day Dawn Service in Sydney on 25 April, 1969 six months into my two year stint as a National Serviceman and just over two years after arriving from England with my parents, brother and sisters as immigrants.

For about the last fifteen years I have attended the Riverstone Schofields RSL Sub Branch Anzac Day Dawn Service with my father, a regular attendee. Is it my imagination or is the weather at dawn in Riverstone on Anzac Day warmer than it used to be? I clearly remember it being very cold year after year. Gloves, hats and warm jackets were the order of the day.

This year Dad and I had the opportunity to travel to France to attend the first Anzac Day Dawn Service to be held at the Australian National Memorial at Villers- Bretonneux. On the walls of the memorial are engraved the names of 10,771 Australian soldiers who went “missing in action” on the Western Front in France and who have no known grave. This service was held on the 90th Anniversary of the Battle of Villers-Bretonneux which took place three years after the Gallipoli landings. Anzac Day services are traditionally held at the Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux every year on the Sunday closest to Anzac Day but this was to be the first Dawn Service.

As part of our package tour Dad and I stayed in Peronne, a town familiar to our troops in WW1. At that time our soldiers renamed streets in the town – Rue de Kanga, Melbourne Street, Circular Quay amongst others. Signs in shop windows on our arrival, printed together with an Australian flag read “We do not forget Australia” and “Welcome to Peronne”.

The day before Anzac Day we visited memorials and cemeteries including the Lochnagar Crater, The Ulster Tower, The Thiepval Memorial, The Windmill and The 1st Australian Division Memorial at Pozieres.

While in the Pozieres area the group found time to allow us to visit the Pozieres British Cemetery. Buried here is 6077 Private Robert Rankine, 2nd Battalion Australian Infantry, who died on the 10 April, 1917 aged 26. His headstone reads, “Only Good Night Beloved not Good-bye our loved one”. He is listed on the cenotaph in Riverstone, listed on the railway station Honour Roll, listed on the Schofields Public School Honour Roll and listed on the Riverstone Uniting Church Honour Roll. It was an honour and a privilege to be able to place a poppy on the grave of this Riverstone/Schofields man killed and buried so far from home.

On Anzac Day we were told to be ready to leave the hotel lobby at 2.30am, even though it was only a half hour drive to the memorial where the Dawn Service was to be held. Apparently our reserved seating could be lost if we were not there early. We arrived at the memorial which was situated at a turn off on a narrow country road at 3.00am where we joined a convoy of at least twenty coaches parked at the edge of a field. Walking silently and orderly up to the memorial, blue lighting on the ground being just enough to see our way, and up lights shining into the trees and on the Cross of Remembrance, we found our reserved seating. The weather was dry and clear but very cold and our thoughts were not far away from those brave souls here so long ago in such desperate circumstances.

The pre dawn lead up to the service was unusually solemn and also very peaceful due to the lack of any background noise. We were after all in the French countryside. No chance of hearing the Riverstone ‘rattler’ coming into the station from Vineyard, setting off the railway crossing bells as it pulls in on cue every year to join proceedings at the Dawn Service at home! Uniquely Riverstone.

The service itself was moving because, I think, of its simplicity. We were extremely impressed by the choice of readings, hymns and the various speakers’ reflective tone. The wreath laying, as one would expect, was quietly dignified with many floral tributes laid by descendants of those who made the supreme sacrifice. Dad had been asked to lay a wreath on behalf of the New South Wales State Branch of the RSL, which we laid together.

Following the service we returned to Villers-Brettoneux Town to visit the Victoria School built with Australian funds in 1927. This school has a large sign erected on a building overlooking the playing area which reads “Never Forget Australia”. After breakfast was served by the parents we were treated to a rendition by the primary school aged children of “Waltzing Matilda”, sung unaccompanied in English in their strong French accents. There were not too many dry eyes in the crowd by the time they had finished. Our large tour group made a combined donation to the school of four thousand Euros as a continuing gesture of friendship and goodwill.

From the school we formed up and marched down the main street of the town, joined by other tourists and locals, totalling around 2,000 in all. We were given a wonderful reception by the locals and an official welcome by the mayor. An attempt for a quick Anzac Day beer in the local pub by Dad and I and two travelling companions was almost thwarted by an over zealous bus driver who ordered us with much finger pointing back on the bus. Phew, just made it.

After leaving the school we travelled to the Digger Memorial at Bullecourt.

The day after Anzac Day we visited Mont-Saint-Quentin, the Second Australian Division Memorial, Bellenglise, the Fourth Australian Division Memorial and the 17.7km long Riqueval Tunnel on the Canal de Saint Quentin. The tunnel, started by Napoleon in 1802, was used to great effect by the Germans, who at one point were hiding thirty four long barges of troops and supplies in the tunnel.

As the tunnel entrance was near Bellicourt, the group kindly allowed us to visit the Bellicourt British Cemetery where 3923 Private Edwin Augustus Schofield, 5th Battalion Australian Infantry, is buried. He died aged 37 on the 19 September, 1918. His headstone reads, “He lived as he died nobly”. A slaughterman, Edwin is listed on the cenotaph in Riverstone, the railway station Honour Roll, the Riverstone RSL Honour Roll and the MUIOOF Honour Roll. Again, it was an honour and privilege to place a poppy on the grave of this Riverstone man, killed and buried so far from home.

Back on the bus we drove to the small High Tree Cemetery which contains the graves of the most easterly buried Australians in France. There are close to 50 allied soldiers buried here, only four Australians, two of which are unknown. We were told that in the past year only one tour group had visited this cemetery. We laid poppies on the four Australian graves.

Both Dad and I found the trip haunting at times but an incredibly memorable and moving experience especially the three days described above.


The Schofields “Santa” Tradition

by Doreen Ross

Every Christmas Eve members of the Schofields Bush Fire Brigade drive Santa around the streets of Schofields, meeting the children. It is a tradition treasured by the Schofield’s community, young and old. Doreen Ross has been on every Santa Drive since it started and shares her memories.

We sat down after the 2007 Santa Drive and decided that it was 32 years that we had been driving around the town on Christmas Eve. It started back when Alby Taber was the Captain and we originally went around on the back of a truck singing Christmas carols. We put hay bales on the back, loaded a piano for the music and then drove around the town singing.

We used an ordinary truck, Alby Taber’s and at one stage Mr de Chellis’ truck. The carol singing didn’t last too long and we switched to using fire trucks and taped carols, taking Santa sitting on the front of a Brigade personnel carrier. When insurance became an issue with the Fire Brigade, we switched to using private vehicles, with the brigade trucks following.

Some of the first people involved included myself, Vi Sayers, Mum (Mavis Lane), Mrs King and Jan Taunton. For a while we used to sit in a trailer towed behind one of the vehicles. My husband Ernie Ross was involved in the Santa Drives from the start up until about three years ago. For most of the time he drove the truck.

Santa Drive 1985. Photo courtesy of Doreen Ross

Originally we handed out bags of lollies, but as the population grew, we switched to Twisties and then to packets of chips. About five years ago the population had grown so much that we didn’t get home until 1 o’clock on Christmas morning. That was a bit too late, especially for members of the brigade with children of their own. We decided to switch to using two trucks to cover the area, so that everyone could get the chance to shake hands with Santa. This year we handed out 700 packets of chips and next year we will need more!

To fund the purchase of the lollies and chips we collect money in a Fire Brigade hard hat with a slot cut in it. The hat sits on the counter in local stores in Schofields for people to put their spare change in. The tradition continues to this day, though last year we were grateful for extra support from the Riverstone-Schofields Memorial Club to help cover costs.

The community gets into the spirit of things by having get-togethers with their neighbours on the footpath while they wait for Santa to come. The fire engines sound short bursts on their siren to let people know where we are.

Santa handing out packets of Twisties to children.
L it R: Santa assistant Noel Taunton, Mark Ross, Adam Ross, Dean Ross, Aaron Ross. Girl in front Portia Downe, lady in background, Mrs Evans. Photo courtesy of Doreen Ross

The tradition has been going on for so long we now find ourselves handing out chips to the children of children we visited on Christmas Eve in past years. Some former locals even come back for the evening to take part. Some residents spoil Santa by giving him a gift, which Santa donates to the Brigade to share.

After the run we meet back at my place to have supper and a get-together. On New Years Day we get together again to eat the New Years Eve left overs and to have a water fight. I love it and wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Jordan Truswell and Doreen Ross helping out with the 2007 Santa Drive. Photo: Rosemary Phillis.

A WW2 Ambulance Driver recalls Schofields Aerodrome

by Lorna Watson

This letter was received from Lorna Watson (nee Newberry). Lorna served as an Army Ambulance driver in the 2nd Australian Ambulance Corps of the Australian Women’s Army from 1945 to 1947. Lorna has fond memories of her trips to the Schofields aerodrome.

Clarrie Neal.

“During the two years (1945 -1947) of driving an Army Ambulance, one of our regular jobs was to drive from our headquarters at Randwick to the Schofields aerodrome, which is near Quakers Hill. There were no expressways, not many traffic lights, and mostly a one-lane road.

I was sent several times to Schofields to pick up soldiers from New Guinea – mostly with Malaria and, if it was winter, they shivered from Malaria and with the cold as they were only dressed in summer uniforms. Fortunately there were plenty of blankets in the ambulance. Usually there were only one or two soldiers each time, looking very yellow from the Malaria tablets and also painfully thin but very happy to be home.

I enjoyed these trips very much and driving on the tarmac in the Blitz ambulance, because of the surface, was like being on a race track.

PS. I still love driving and would like to do it all over again.”

HMAS Nirimba – An Apprentice Remembers

by Robert Rudkowsky

HMAS Nirimba was the training base for many Naval apprentices over the years. Some were locals and others came from the other side of Australia. Robert Rudkowsky was one such trainee from Perth. In 1999 he put together some memories as he travelled to a reunion in Canberra. The following article has been adapted from those memories.

I can remember when, just a few days after settling in at Nirimba, I was standing at the main noticeboard, looking at the class of ’58 list. The list was 50 names long. A normal six monthly entry and the fourth since the school began in July 1956.

Just before I leave the main notice board another apprentice begins to read the same list of names out loud. After stumbling through the names he turns to me and pronounces, “Look at all the wog names, I bet you and I are the only ‘Aussies’ here. By the way, my name is Graham Archer, what’s yours?” “I’m one of those wogs,” I reply. From that moment on Graham and I were the best of friends.

Nirimba was modelled on the Royal Navy Apprentice Training School at HMS Fisgard in the south of England. All training carried out in the Royal Australian Navy at that time was modelled on the Royal Navy.

As I read the list (in 1999), the only names I can recognise are my colleagues from Western Australia. The five of us had left Perth on the 1st of January 1958 by train for Sydney. The trip took five days, as there were many train changes for the different rail widths across Australia. By the time we arrived in Sydney our friendships had been cemented.

I made many friends from our early days at Nirimba. We were all in the same boat, or as we learnt the Naval difference – ship. Our youth was the catalyst for endeavour. With the motto of HMAS Nirimba being “Success From Endeavour”, it was our opportunity to learn a good trade.

My mind drifts back hopping from memory disc to memory disc and stops at what appeared to be constant ‘doubling’ or running everywhere. Skinny legs, navy blue shorts and berets, all intermingled with the excitement of Navy life. I can see our fresh faces, pimpled and newly shaved around the wide grins of youth.

It’s finally the middle of December 1958 and the Western Australian apprentices were about to depart for Christmas leave. Because of the distance, we were entitled to 10 days travelling time. This had always been a sore point with the other apprentices and especially those from New South Wales who were not entitled to any travelling time at all.

Everybody was excited, one year of training completed. We were privately proud that we had survived some difficult moments and the occasional bout of homesickness. Our bags were packed. We boarded the Naval bus at the Regulating Office. Everything at Nirimba was controlled from the Regulating Office. We were inspected, as per regulations. Leave orders read out loud. “You will conduct yourselves as members of the Royal Australian Navy and will not forget that you represent the elite of Australian youth. Anyone breaking these rules will be punished in accordance with the Naval Board Regulations and Instructions.” The dreaded RI’s.

The RI’s were more powerful than the Bible, but just as confusing. We grunted our confirmation that we had heard this solemn proclamation. However it had the lowest priority in our minds at that very moment. That moment was to enjoy. Long leave!! – Home!! – Christmas!! – There was no contest.

The Naval bus carrying us on our first leg to happiness, stopped at Blacktown railway station. All group travel was controlled by some type of patrol. This was an escort patrol only as far as Blacktown. From Blacktown we were on our own. Our normal procedure was to report to the Naval RTO at Sydney Central Railway. They issued real tickets in exchange for our travel warrants. For some reason, still not clear to me, Laurie Kelly and I did not deem the RTO as our most important destination, opting instead for the Town Hall Hotel, a favourite hotel for sailors in those days.

Laurie and I certainly enjoyed ourselves that afternoon or at least we must have since I couldn’t remember much about it later. Through this cold haze I can remember only the salient points of the events that followed. We hurried to the RTO’s office to get our tickets, raced for the interstate departure platform in time to see our train to Melbourne accelerating away. As we stared into the empty space where the train had been, the Duty Shore Patrol at Central Railway arrested us, their smiling faces in contrast to their actions.

A paddy wagon ride back to Nirimba, then the ‘fronting’ before the Officer of the Day (OOD). The gods must have been smiling on us that day. Despite our feeble excuses, the OOD considered this a ‘one off’. We were instructed to fly, at our own expense, to Melbourne and join the train to Perth. “This Navy is not too bad after all.” The unspoken words clear to us as we smiled at each other. “We always knew we were innocent.”

The major problem of bookings was solved by a special charter, a Sydney to Melbourne flight carrying Russian refugees from China. There appeared to be room for two wayward Naval apprentices. We were finally on our way home!