Early Memories of Elaine Grigg

Elaine Grigg

 Born 25/05/17, Rainbow, Vic Died 16th October 2003
Married 11/10/41, St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne, Vic.
William Morrison (Bill) Gillespie

 Early Memories-Elaine 

(Each member of the second generation alive in 1983 wrote their memories of the early days at Baring.)
Contribution by Elaine Grigg (Gillespie) 9th Child, 2nd Daughter, born 1917 at Rainbow.

When christened I only had one name, but priest said Elaine was name of a town, so Mum said alright either of her Grand mothers names, Mary or Johanna and he chose Mary. I only use one name.

Early days in Rainbow very vague. Remember bit of the fire: being terrified and having nightmares later we must have stayed with friends and walking past still scared. Also remember Sylvie and I lost a pair of black patent strap shoes in the fire - ankle strap - the cost 2 pounds - a fortune in those days. Perhaps Aunt. Sylv gave them to us.

Our move to Baring: I remember the covered wagon and all of us sleeping on the ground - must have taken a couple of nights. Sand hills on Hopetoun Road, being bogged and all the children helping to push. Noreen was just a baby. Arrived Patchewollock. Alan was on a horse and had two beautiful bung eyes (caused by fly bites). Next came a tent home - suppose we had beds and some necessities. A log cabin was built and what luxury. Mum and Father slept there and an old stove one end for all cooking and huge tub for bathing. Can remember Mum calling out one night some one was tickling her feet but the house cow had wandered in and ate all the bread. Supplies had to be collected from Speed by horse and gig. Speed road very bad those days, sand hills.

Next came the house, log cabin was moved also. Must have been wonderful for Mum to have a sink - still no bathroom, that was end of log cabin. Water heated in copper and by time all had bathed Saturday Nights was rather soupy.

Older boys, George and Tom, when visiting not happy using same water, but water was precious - it drained into a sunked 40 gallon drum and when settled the scum drained off and was used for the garden. All water was saved and when it rained Mum would be outside - all inside work forgotten and Sylv. And I would have to wash up etc.

When pictures came to Patchy. Mum wouldn't go - said that shilling would buy a lot plants. Only exception was if a Charlie Chaplin film was on.

Early days were hard but we children didn't seem to suffer - always enough to eat and had warm clothes. Mum used to make "woggees" - all old woolies sewn onto calico and then a pretty cover on top. We all had one on the beds. Bob carting water - had to go to Council damn near where Michael now lives (I think). 2 loads one day one the next - pump frozen - stock waiting for a drink. Household coming last. We used to put Epson Salts in the tank to clear it. Us children helping to clear ground, were all walking in a line picking up sticks and then they would be burnt. We enjoyed it, didn't seem like a chore.

Depression years didn't seem to worry children - we ate turnip tops for greens, but today I still do not like turnips. We crushed out own wheat and made porridge, had milk and cream and Mum made bread. Hated that separator - if it wasn't rinsed then got very sticky - took a lot of cleaning, hot water which was scarce: a huge black boiler always sat on the stove.

Our wheat used to be sent to Warracknabeal (by then we had a train to Patchewollock) for years supply of flour.

Mum used to get a huge grocery order once a month from Warracknabeal. Remember the only hiding we ever got. Sylvie, Alan and I got down the cellar and at all the dried apricots and fruit.

School days first at Patchewollock. Arthur (big brother) drove us in a horse and cart. Also with us were Noel and Alice Jamieson: first school was where Patchy sports ground is now. We left home in darkness and home in darkness. We also brought home mail and bread for neighbors.

One morning I remember was bitterly cold and we were rugged up in old coats and the eternal "Woggees" and on arriving at School we could undo the huge safety pins that fastened our coast (our hands were so cold) so we sat in the cart till lunch time, we were too embarrassed to get the teacher to help. One night coming home from school near "Sutherlands" a huge big man kangaroo bailed us up and Arthur couldn't get the horse to go past. We sat there till some one came looking for us (Grand children love this story.)

Mum always had a cup of soup waiting for us after school. Then school days at Darleys - we walked there - one morning a snake was across the road and we ran all the way home, go into trouble and had to walk again. Then a School built on the reserve near the Golf Links, walked again. Arthur by this time rode a horse to our envy. Matt had arrived by then and we had to take it in turns to carry him home from school - he would fall asleep. The school teachers boarded with us - poor things - how they must have suffered - such a crowd of us - us three girls in a double bed and a single bed for the teacher in a room 12 x 12 - butter boxes stacked together to form a cupboard and a large corner cupboard. Good old Cesarine bought by the yards made curtains and covered the boxes and corner hanging space. Bed spreads were all made of Cesarine and had flounces on them. How Mum ever had time to cook, sew and wash.

As Sylvie and I got older we did all the house work. Floors washed and polished every week: cupboards Saturday mornings lined with paper: dresser and mantle piece had lacy cut outs - all out of newspaper.

When we were old enough to go out, we couldn't go unless all work was finished and if the boys would take us. Bert, Bob, Harold, Arthur and how they played on it. We had to clean their shoes, light the copper to get hot water and see their clothes were ready. We would say to Mum can we got to the dance tonight. Mum would say if the Boys will take you. I think all the local lads knew the boys were watching us and if they wanted to walk to the car with us we would say you have to ask Bert of Bob. Football nights when we were young the older ones would go and from Arthur down seven of us stayed home. Mum seldom went out, but we used to have bread and milk - how we loved it. Bread with boiling water on it and lots of milk, cream and sugar.

We used to visit neighbors for Sunday teas and entertain. Also always had jelly se in fruit, bowl of custard, cold meat and salad, lettuce, potato, tomato or beet root. No fridge., the old coolgardie safe. The constant battle trying to keep things cool - had a pit dug and used to place the butter in it. Children everywhere. We all slept top to toe and no whinging like these days.

I think their must have been a mark on the front gate for Commercial travelers, and all travelling people seemed to arrive at our place at meal time. Mum used to say there was always room for one more and in depression days swaggies always called in and were never refused a meal and some tea and sugar on their way.

Can remember Lord Baden Powell (?) was Lord Somers having a meal once. What he was doing there I don't know - and always our Minister had a meal. For a time we had church Service at home but then we went to the School. The bishop came once after a confirmation service.

Although Mum was a practical person she was dramatic at times. One day she was talking to Bert on the Phone (he had his own farm then) and we came racing in saying "The bull has got Arthur on the ground" Mum screamed Passion (the girl we had working) get the axe, I'll get the gun and left poor Bert not knowing what was up. He came racing in but all was under control. The day Noreen sat on the sleeping foal - it got up and kicked her head - she was unconscious and bleeding badly - no transport - she has the scar to this day I think. Neil being very ill - rheumatic fever - nursed day and night. Another one - can't remember whooping cough. Sylv was very sick early days - stayed at Murtoa: can't remember that much except I had to look after Sylvie.

Winter nights in the cosy kitchen - Mum darning everlasting socks, mending. All waiting a turn to read the Weekly Times - almost a bible those days. Us children playing jacks (knuckle bones). Older boys gave us a Bob set.

Bert walking in the bedroom with the three girls sprawling saying prayers - a smart rap on the bottom and told them to kneel properly (I always knelt until I went nursing - felt odd as no one else did)

Mum never ill or never complained although I think she had arthritis in the arm badly. When Sylv and I were about 12-13 Mum had an operation in Melbourne (Woman op.) Very hush hush those days. Sylv and I had to do all the work - our bread making was a disaster.

We lost Matt one day - he had wandered off and a frantic search found him curled up fast asleep near a rabbit burrow.

One Christmas - depression days - believing and not believing in Santa Clause we searched the house every where and couldn't find a present. Woke up next morning - not Santa Clause. Younger ones crying - then Bob and Tom came in and said come into the sitting room. There was the most wonderful sight ever - a huge tree and gifts for all. Where they had hidden them we never knew.

War years. Harold enlisting first, then Tom and Bert and as each brother, Arthur, Alan and Neil got older. Mum never missed writing to all every week. Only now I realize how important news from home was to them all.

I am like Jean - could go on for ages.

Those dust storms: having Kerosene lights on at meal times impossible to serve a meal. Mouse plague - wires strung across the room with all clothes hung on them. All kitchen furniture legs placed in tins of water.

Everyone seemed to come to Mum for advice and help with their children - even the Batchelors - remember Jack Comini and Ted Talbot (he taught all the young girls how to dance) they used to bring their good navy suit for Mum to clean and press for a special ball. At Christmas time Mum always had an extra cake baked for all the alone people. Two McCaddie men always called in on way to Patchy shopping - they lived near Pine gate. Also the Websters - remember staying there one night and coming home in great excitement saying we don't have to strip beds each morning - just pull them up - was sharply told that was bad and we still stripped beds completely and aired them before remaking. So many beds took us ages. Had a large sleep out built by then and all the boys slept there. About 6 or 7 younger ones used to get the Magnet and Gem and how we loved them - no girls magazine. Table setting - butter, jam etc always in a china dish - we rolled the butter - lovely curls or round balls: All had to be emptied after each meal and dishes washed.

Mum scraping jam jars to get the last bit out. I still do, to my children's scorn. How we follow our Mothers training, but not our children I'am afraid.

Must mention this: whenever we went out at night, always escorted by the brothers - what ever time we arrived home Mum would always be awake and greeted us "What's the time girls" Must get up in the morning and we always did. When boys called and always had tea - Saturday or Sunday nights round about 11pm. Father would wander round about muttering - time to put the porridge on - boys took the hint and left.

At seventeen I had my first train trip and went to Melbourne. Always remember arriving at Spencer St - all those lights. Lights still fascinate me - first sight of the sea. Stayed with Aunt Sadie, and Maisie her daughter, Uncle Jim, our Fathers brother. Sylvie was in Melbourne also. Mum must have missed us but never complained.

Back home and wanted to go nursing. Tom got me an interview at Horsham, but told months delay. Had interview at St Arnaud: Tom took me and he can't drive a car really. Accepted almost immediately - frantically sewing clothes and due to leave in a week. Then received a call to Horsham to start next week - decided to go to Horsham: my whole life changed. March 1937 - age 20.

Loved nursing - hospital rules very strict - we worked 10 hours a day (6am - 6pm or 2pm - 9am) and only one late pass - 10pm each week. First year had several visits from my brothers Bob, Tom, Harold - had to have permission to see them - and one day Matron called me in and said Nurse you seem to have a lot of visitors - brothers - are they real. When I replied and said I had ten brothers she accepted it.

After 12 months and New Years party I met Bill Gillespie - he was the only person who would bring me home by 11pm. Romance blossomed over the next two years: we were married Oct. 1st 1941 at St Pauls Cathedral, Melbourne. War had started - a very quiet wedding. Arthur was best man - Bills brother was overseas RAAF. Bill was to go into camp Nov. 7th. He was stationed at Victor Harbour and then Exhibition St. I continued nursing near where ever he was and came back home Christmas 1942 5 months pregnant.

John William Gillespie born 24.4.43 Horsham
Judith Anne Gillespie born 26.6.44

Bill was able to see John a few times but did not see Judith until she was 14 months old.

Joan Elsie Gillespie - born after the war- 23.7.48 at Margaret Coles Hospital, Prahran.

I was home at Baring all through the war years.

Mum and Father were very good to me and the babies - but was a lonely time.

After the war Bill got a job in Melbourne driving a Taxi. Then an insurance agent. We were successful in gaining a ballot for a block at Barham and arrived there Nov 7th 1949, and there we still are.

We used to go to home (Baring) Christmas and Easter for years. Children loved it, and still do.

Mum all those years loved having the family home. Bob loved ginger cake and one was always made specially for him. In later years mum used to say "If only they had time (including me) to sit and talk and look at old photos". We are all guilty of being impatient at times, only as we get older ourselves do we understand what memories mean.

Elaine Gillespie and Family



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