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Aussie Pioneers - 24. AP Chapter 24

14th March 2014

Today marked 100 years since Uncle Edwin, and my dad Archie, arrived on the farm for the first time, and even though both are no longer with us, the family was still farming the land, and we had gathered at the original homestead for a family celebration meal, to mark the occasion.

The homestead was not in use no more, abandoned for a more modern homestead, located on the site of the Hamlet, which was pretty much destroyed, when a wildfire swept through on the summer of 1945, just after the end of World War Two.

Although the area once had a total of 8 farms, with families living on their farms or in the hamlet, we now only have three farms, all owned and run by our family. After the devastating wildfire, which saw the loss of many stock and fences on the neighbouring farms, Plymouth Farm was lucky enough to have lost no stock and only fences along the south east corner and the eastern half of the south boundary, along with the entire hamlet, with just the stone walls of the school and the cemetery remaining.

When the wild fire was first noticed, my dad and uncle Edwin had moved all of their stock to close to the homestead, and the family at the hamlet moved all of their belongings and most of their furniture to the homestead, as had some of the neighbours, while the more southern neighbours, elected to pack up most of their belongings and furniture, and make a dash towards the towns of Penang or Ceduna.

After the wildfire, once all the damage had been assessed, it was decided by most of our neighbours, to sell up and move onto greener pastures, and it was Uncle Edwin, dad and their cousins, Daniel and Charlie O’Donnell, who bought those other farms, which have now been combined into three farms.

Uncle Edwin had bought the D’Angelo farm, which was originally the northern half of the Applegate farm, so he had a total of 25,940 acres, Dad had bought the Barrington and O’Grady farm, which totals 15,570 acres, which I now own and my son manages, and the O’Donnell cousins bought the remaining thee farms, which totals 18,060 acres.

For the first five years, all the farms were managed as one big farm, to allow everyone time to rebuild all the fire damaged fences, and to build new homesteads, and it was mid-March 1950 when the three farms began operating separately.

Uncle Edwin and Aunt Florence had three children together, a son and two daughters, with their son – Oliver, my first cousin, now running their farm, while their older half-brothers had acquired jobs in and around the district or in the City, and although now retired, they had managed to travel to attend the family reunion.

“Mitch, I think you should make the speech” my cousin Oliver said to me, as the family around us stopped chatting, and all looked in my direction. “Well, I guess all I can say is, that I am very proud of what my Uncle Edwin and my dad had achieved during their long years of building up the original farm, and after the wildfire of ’45, they also rebuilt from all the damage.

What started out as just 20,750 acres of scrubland, over two days horse and buggy ride away from the nearest town of Ceduna, they had built with their own two hands, and a little later with the assistance of the Applegate boys, what we see now, with all three farms working as one for a period of 5 years, it totalled 59,570 acres, that our families now own and run.

I think that is quite an achievement, considering the limited tools, stock and supplies that they originally started with, after the long tall ship journey from Plymouth in the UK.

So, I ask you to raise your glasses, in a toast to our fathers, grandfathers, and great grandfathers, Edwin and Archie Cameron, the pioneers of farming in this district” I said, and everyone held up their glasses in the air, before taking a sip.

“That was a great speech Uncle Mitch, well done”, Jedd my eldest nephew said to me, as he stood next to his father Oliver, who nodded his head in agreement. “I need to sit down, my back is starting to ache again” I replied, and a chair was soon found for me to sit in, and Oliver sat down next to me.

“Well cousin, I think we have brought up some terrific son’s, and they have done a lot to the farms, since we retired, what seems like so long ago, and I am glad that we had this reunion, it is not often that we all get together, and we will probably not make another one” I commented to Oliver.

“Are you still up to making a visit to the cemetery, to visit our grandparents and parents?” Oliver asked me after a long period of silence.

“Yes, I would very much like to do that with you cousin, before heading back to town” I replied, and we watched in silence as our grandchildren played in the paddock that once had crops of corn and wheat.

Later in the afternoon, the whole family made the pilgrimage to the Yumbarra Cemetery, located beside the ruins of the old school and church of Yumbarra Hamlet. In the family section of the cemetery, there is the graves of our grandparents, as well as Edwin and his wife Florence.

There was also Aunt Martha and Aunt Beatrice, both who never married, plus Uncle Simeon and his wife Clara, my parents, Archie and Matilda, and my younger brother Jacob, who dies at the age of four from a snake bite, my late wife, Anna, and Oliver’s late wife Julia, 19 in total.

In the other part of the cemetery, there is Florence’s first husband, and two daughters, who were relocated to the cemetery after the end of World War One, and their three sons, James, Adam and Mark, all who were killed in the World War Two, and brought home to be buried, plus Reverend and Mrs Forrest, who were the Methodist minister and his wife, who made monthly visits to Yumbarra, to do church services and weddings, until they retired.

Oliver and I now live in a retirement village in Adelaide, and we had both expressed that we wished to be buried at Yumbarra, and after the visit to the cemetery, Jedd drove us back to Ceduna, where we would stay with him overnight, before catching the train back to Adelaide in the morning.

It was a big shock, when I was informed by Jedd, that my cousin, Oliver had died peacefully in the night, at the age of 91, so the trip home to Adelaide was postponed, to organise and attend Oliver’s funeral, and a few days later, on the farm, as I stood at the grave site, after the service, I knew that it would not be long before I too will be buried here.

The End

Copyright Preston Wigglesworth January 2019 All Rights Are Reserved

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Chapter Comments

Thanks everyone for your comments.

i have just returned home from a ten day holiday, passing near the area of this story, there are small clumps of tall trees, but it is mostly salt bush country, that goes for tens of miles with no sign of civilisation anywhere.



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Another great story that I've enjoyed from you, Quokka.  Thanks again for sharing your stories, talent and hard work with us.  Wish you all the best and look forward to reading many more of your stories.

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I have enjoyed reading many of your stories, but I think this is one of my favorites. Although I am a "city boy," my grandfather and many earlier relatives were farmers. It was interesting to read about the hard work and determination needed to build a successful farm from nothing. I assume this is a realistic portrait of Australian settlers, and I wondered if these characters were based on your relatives? Thanks for sharing this wonderful story. 

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Excellent story. Probably some of the best writing you have done. At least with this one it has a decisive end to it. Not one that seems like when it says "The End" the reader seems to feel like "what the hell"

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