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Braided Channels of History Recording & Transcript - 80 (Text)

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Trish Edith J – Julie
IN 00:00:00 OUT 01:02:37
Trish FitzSimons
Edith Weidenhöfer
Griffith Film School
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Side A Tape 1 Topics in Bold Refers to tape 80_BC_SX Some approximate timecode in this transcript
Interview with Edith McFarlane
Braided Channels of History Recording & Transcript - 80
William Lane & Parguay Race Relations
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Edith McFarlane
Interview with Edith McFarlane. Part 1 of 3.
part of:
Braided Channels of History Recording & Transcript - 80
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80_BC_SX_MCFARLANE-plain.txt — 43 KB

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OK. This is Trish Fitzsimons on sound. Julie Hornsey on camera. We’re
      with Edith McFarlane in her house in Cleveland. This is Tape No 80 on
      camera and we’ll call it 80 for DAT, in the Channels of History project.
      17th May 2002.

OK. I’m actually rolling. And I’m rolling –

06:01:18:00    Edith, I’d love you to tell me where and when you were born
      and what your name was when you were born.

I was born in Adelaide in 1903 and my name was Edith Weidenhöfer. My
      grandparents had come from Germany in the 1800s. My father was born in

06:01:52:00    And what was the land – like in what context did you grow up?
      What was the land like around you in your childhood?

Well, we – we had a property in the Torrens Valley ah about 11 acres and
      most properties there were 11 acres and they were given over to fruit farming,
      fruit growing ah peaches – all the stone fruit, grapevines, and my father looked
      after that in his one and a half day’s away from the office in the city. Um so
      my childhood really was spent in a very open area and then I later learned
      something of the outback of Australia through Mrs Gunn’s book and felt that’s
      – I would like to go out there some day.

From a young age?

I was quite – only in my teens I think when I first began to think about
      wanting to go into the – into the outback.

And what do you think it was that fired your imagination?

06:03:10:00    Well, maybe it’s because it’s because it was something within
      me. You see my – my forebears, coming from England and from Germany,
    then when my parents were very newly married, they and my grandparents,
    went off to Paraguay for this wildcat scheme that was going to convert the
    world to you know – you must’ve heard about it. The Paraguayan Scheme.
    When everybody was going to put in and everybody would share the profits,
    but it didn’t work. It just didn’t work. Right from the beginning. But I think
    the fact that they had – there’d been so much travel to Australia and then from
    Australia, I probably got back with that feeling of wanting to travel, and I
    wanted to travel overseas too. But first of all I did want to see more of
    Australia and –

Were your parents idealists politically?

Very - very much so. And so were my mother’s parents. Very, very much of
    the idealistic ah feeling of sharing and sharing alike, and they did pull their
    weight in that community but it just was no – to no avail really, and my
    grandfather died there and my parents and my grandmother, and some of her
    other children too, came back to Australia very disillusioned.            Very
    disillusioned. Because that was long before my time. That was in the early
    1890s that they did that. So I had heard so much about it, that I think I was
    probably inspired to also do something a little different.

Would you have described yourself as an adventurous child?

06:05:13:00    No. No. No, not as a child. I was a bit on the timid side. Very
    shy. Always retiring if there were visitors about that I didn’t know very well.
    I just didn’t want to be in the limelight, and I think even by the time I had
    finished at school, I had – I tended very much to sit back and take things as
    they came.

How much education did you get Edith?

06:08:08:00    I went through four years at High School. Well, the fourth year
    was a repeat of the Third Year. In those days the Senior was a very hard exam
    to pass. That was the Third Year of High School. I don’t know what it’s
    called now, but it’s Third Year of High School, but ah it was almost an
    understood thing that you didn’t pass your exams at the end of that year, and
    so I repeated it. I had passed one – one exam which I hadn’t expected. Nor
    did the Headmaster expect me to pass it and was going to say don’t – don’t put
    yourself down for that one, and I forgot to go and see him and next day he said
    you didn’t come to see me and you filled in your paper and I said oh, I’m sorry
    about that. He said I was going to tell you not to take Latin. Latin was the
    only thing I passed. Um and then the following year I did get my Senior
    Certificate and I had 12 months at home to settle myself down for doing a
    kindergarten training course and I had no music lessons, and I had to be able
    to play for the children and I got an old tutor book and taught myself to play.
    By the end of the 12 months I could play everything required for kindergarten
    and a few of the easier classical things, and so off I went and did my two year
    kindergarten training course. Started my own kindergarten and gave that up to
    help Mother and in that final year was when I heard about the position out in
    the south-west corner and decided to apply for that.

What was the position and how did you hear about it?

06:07:50:00    It came through a friend who had been staying at Nappamerrie
    Station and she had heard that they were wanting a governess on Durham
    Downs. I said to Mother, what do you think about my going? Oh, she said, I
    don’t know. See what Father says. So when Dad and I were coming home
    from a concert, I said what do you feel about it? My going away like that. It’s
    a long way, for those days it was a very long way. Oh, he said I don’t know
    dear. See what Mother says. So neither of them could decide. I had to decide
    for myself that I would go. And I promptly packed up my things and went off
    on a train to Birdsville – to Broken Hill, and from there up to the north-west
    corner of Tibooburra – of New South Wales to Tibooburra on the mail coach
    which was not a coach but a big lorry. Very, very hot weather. Terribly hot
    weather. Drought stricken. The worst drought that had been in that country
    for quite a long time and I was met at Tibooburra by the head stockman whose
    name happened to be McFarlane. So you know what happened? I just fell in
    love with him when I first saw him. You needn’t – you needn’t tell the
    general public that if you don’t want to. And he took me on the - the rest of
    the way which was um maybe 400 miles I suppose into Queensland on to the

What year was this in?
That was in 1925 and I was 22, and so I settled down to, to try to teach the
    boys and draw a curtain over quite a lot of – a lot of the ensuing two years that
    I had there which were not all that happy. Ah, I got back into Adelaide quite a
    wreck and I had um, I had about the best part of nine months at home when I
    was asked to do some relieving at one of the schools and from then on, I was
    doing jobs filling in for people and then governessing again in South Australia
    until I went up – came up to Queensland to be married.

Can we just go back a little bit –

On to Durham.

As you were um on the journey to Durham, did you meet any other women?

06:11:00:00    Ah, we stopped at er one of the Kidman Stations and had
    morning tea with a woman who had either 8 or 10 children and how she
    managed, I don’t really know. And then we went ah further to another small
    property, what they call selections, and there was a woman there who was
    pregnant and I later heard that she went to Tibooburra to have her baby. There
    was a little hospital there. And she died. And the baby lived and was looked
    after by the sister – the older sister, who was about 12 or 13, and the father.
    And I think it was that kind of thing which inspired John Flynn and the other
    people who pushed so hard for doctors and nurses in the inland. There was so
    much in that – in that time, and before the time that I went out there where
    people had no medical help at all, and it meant that if they wanted to go to a
    doctor, they might have three or four or more hundred miles to go to get help.
    And if they didn’t have adequate transport, well there was nothing else. They
    would just die. So that – that illustrated to me in the very early days what
    could happen with that outback country.

And when you say you – you fell in love with your husband when you first
    saw him, do you think in some way you went to Durham looking for love?
    Like there are lots of governesses that marry out there.

0613:10:00     Yes, well no. I had no thought of that when I went away. I had
    never been particularly interested in the opposite sex and I didn’t dance very
    much, but if I went to a dance it was a matter of having a male partner. But I
    had really gone to see the country and to see the native people. Something of
    the native people. But there was no thought then that I would eventually live
    there for all my married life. Um – but he was – he was a very – a man that
    was very much admired by everybody and I have recently heard from the man
    who’s managing the property that we stayed on finally. He is a legend in that
    country for what he did, and I think it was something in him and just looking
    at him – I could see something that appealed to me whereas it never happened
    before. So I won’t go in to any more of my private life.

So I’d love you to tell me a little bit more of – of examples of the dry that you
    saw approaching Durham Downs – the country. What it – what it – what that
    drought of 1925 was like.

Drought of 1925

    The country was completely bare. Not a blade of grass to be seen, and we
    passed sheep, coming into the watering places, a windmill with troughs, and
    they staggered in. That was in New South Wales. Then it came over the
    border. It went into Queensland, and the waterholes were so low that they
    were only really bog. Mud and a little bit of water, and cattle would – in very
    weakened condition, would go down to get a drink from these meagre little
    pool of water and of course they had to plough through the mud and that was
    it. They couldn’t come out again. They just couldn’t pull themselves out.
    And many of them were shot there. Others just died there. It was a most
    tragic thing, and perhaps a very bad beginning for a new chum from the city to
    be witnessing something like that. But it still didn’t deter me. Well then from
    there until I reached Durham, I didn’t see any more – I saw the dry country,
    but I don’t remember seeing any more stock and we travelled on to
    Nockatunga Station which is on the Wilson, and left there quite late in the
    evening. Um, the manager wanted us to stay but I had understood that the car
    was travelling better in the cool weather so I said well I was prepared to go on,
    not realising just how much further it was going to be and we didn’t arrive at
    Durham until 3 o’clock in the morning. I was exhausted. Absolutely. I had
    never had a long trip like that.     Nor been into any country that was so
    depressing. However, I was prepared to stay on and to go back for a second
    year of teaching there.
Beth Staer is a woman that you may or may not remember, who was the
    governess at Clifton Hills Station in the – later in the ‘30s. She describes
    expecting to find a glorious station and finding like a shed amidst a sandhill
    and she wanted to run away. What was you first impressions of Durham

Well, Durham Downs was a house built of pisé which is mud and clay tamped
    together in frames like you would – as you would put cement in frames when
    you’re building up. And it’s tamped down. And that lasts for many years but
    it does fret away and becomes very untidy and dismal looking, but still, it was
    a house with bedrooms and a main room so that my impression of the
    homestead was it was really not depressing ah as some of the things had been.
    I think that Clifton Hills was much further west in country that had fewer
    transport vehicles. It was much more difficult to get um supplies there and it
    was probably an old – may have been an old pisé house. On the other hand, it
    may only have been a – a place built with bush timber and imported iron, as
    um the house we finished up in at Tanbar, the old pisé there was taken to
    pieces eventually when we built the new place, and when the ceiling came out,
    I discovered that the rafters, instead of being timber, timber cut – timber. You
    know, all processed and sawn properly. It was boughs cut in the bush and
    wired together. There were no nails or screws. It was just all these long bush
    – pieces of bush timber with a wire around to hold them together. And that
    house stood from 1865 until 19 – the late 1940s.

Going back to Durham, who do you think had made that pisé?

Well I – the, the original – the original settlers. And I really don’t know for
    sure who the original settlers were. It was a Kidman property finally, but he
    was not the first owner. I don’t who they were. And it would’ve been white
    men who built it with the aid of Aboriginal men folk I expect, and they
    would’ve taught them what to do. They themselves of course were still living
    in gunyahs and living – and even when I went there, they were still living in
    their natural way. But they would have been brought in to help with any work
    to be done in the way of building.

And what was the floor of Durham Downs made from?
Um – I think it was a dirt floor. It was a long way. I can’t really remember.

I think in your book you said something like wax and dirt or – there’s a – I
    wish I could remember the precise detail but yeah, I think it was some kind of
    like rammed packed earth.

Well it would – it would be just dirt rammed down and watered. Um, I know
    the verandah was done like that. Every now and again the verandah was wet
    down and then tapped down and boards may have been put on in the inside of
    the house later. Ah, but I just can’t really remember exactly now what the
    floor was like. I remember the verandahs quite well.

And how was – was the house close to water? Like just describe the environs
    of Durham.

Well the house stood about – on a rise – about oh four or five hundred yards
    from one of the big water holes in the Cooper. There are five waterholes
    along the Cooper who are – which are permanent water holes. In between it
    dries up completely in a long drought, between the big floods it dries
    completely. And these water holes then are used for pumping water to the
    garden, vegetable garden or whatever, or home use, pumped in – usually
    pumped into a big tank – holding tank. Um, and it was a stony – very stony,
    very very stony country all round there, right from where the house stood back
    – many miles back into the bush was stone. Ah, one of the roads we used to
    go over had to be cleared every little while but the stones would all work up
    again. Great big stones would all work up again so it was very rough. Rough
    travelling out along that way.

So could you describe the garden of Durham to me and who worked in it?

We had a – in those days there were quite a number of Chinamen still out in
    the country, either as cooks or gardeners, and when I went to Durham, there
    was a Chinese gardener and he had a wonderful display of vegetables in the
    cool weather. Nothing in the summer. That’s what I found at Tanbar too.
    You just can’t grow things. They wilt. The green vegetables wilt. The root
    vegetables rot in the ground because it’s so hot and as soon as you water them,
    they become steamed. But this um Chinaman had little square wells in various
    places in the garden and he would pump the water into those wells. They had
    a donkey whip. A whip being – the donkey was attached to a long shaft and
    he walked round and round and round in circles, and as he walked, the water
    was pumped up from the river. And then he wanted to water the garden, he
    took his two big – great big buckets with him and he dipped them into the well
    and carried the water to all the plants. There was no piping laid on there. It
    was all done by hand. Everything was done carrying the water.

So when you first arrived, was the garden there or did the drought mean that
    there was –

No. They still had the garden. Well, there was very little left in the garden by
    that time because of the heat but the following winter, we had a beautiful
    garden there and fruit – some fruit trees. I took cuttings of a fig tree from
    home and that fig tree probably is still there. I know long, long afterwards
    somebody told me that the fig tree was growing and bearing very well. But on
    the whole, soft fruits – stone fruits, don’t do well there. It’s too hot for them.
    They – they’ll grow but the fruit is very small. But the vegetables are always
    very lovely. And oranges do well out in that country too. Apples no. It’s too
    hot for apples and pears but oranges do very well indeed.

And what was the working life of a governess? I know there’s things you
    don’t want to tell me Edith. I’m certainly – I read the little – the little thing
    about mental cruel – cruelty mentally applied, and you must pick your way
    through that. But I’d love to know as – because I’m interested in women’s
    work. As much as I can, about um what your – the daily life was like. Are
    you right Julie?

Um. Yep.

Well I don’t really know what would happen on other properties. I can only
    say what it was like for me. When I got there, I was told – apart from teaching
    the children, I would dust the dining room which was more of a sitting room
    than a dining room. They had built a cane grass dining room separate from the
    house. And if there were any flowers in the garden, I was to put the flowers
    in. Otherwise there was nothing else to do but teach the children. Now that
    was alright.   I did my best, and it wasn’t with correspondence.          I think
    correspondence schools had begun then but they were not very widespread,
    and so it was a matter of just working a little bit from works and from
    memory. But unfortunately it wasn’t very long be –



If you wouldn’t mind, we might start that, just that last question again just
    very briefly the beginning, but what was the working life of a governess on
    Durham Downs?

It was teach the children and to do this slight amount of dusting in one room
    and put in flowers if there were flowers available. Otherwise, no other duties.
    But it was not very long before I found that I was expected to do something
    else. One of the things – take the family darning socks round to the school
    table and darn the socks while I tried to teach the children. And then in the
    winter time, ah we had a few cows there and milk and get some cream and one
    day I heard the children’s mother say in a loud enough voice for me to hear,
    oh, I didn’t realise how much Miss New did to help me. Oh, I felt so bad
    about this, so I talked to the bookkeeper who was a nice old gentleman who
    eventually married the previous governess. And I said, am I supposed to be
    doing anything else? Um, I’m doing all that Mrs. McCullagh asked me to do.
    Well, he said, um – ah, well um ah – Miss New used to get up and make the
    butter. So I got up very early on these cold mornings to make the butter. And
    then the children’s mother decided to take over cleaning the bookkeeper’s
    room until she was too tired to do any more. Who did the bookkeeper’s room?
    The governess. Then it was the head stockman’s room. When he was out in
    the camp ah somebody would go up and tidy his room where the children’s
    mother started. Soon she was too tired so the governess took it on. The
    governess had very little time to teach the children. The little girl – the mother
    fussed over the little girl’s food, didn’t want the old bush cook cooking them,
    so she did them and she became too tired. So the governess made the sweets,
    then she made the sweets for the family and she made the cakes for the family.
    And in between all this, there were periods of long, long silence, when I was

Who – who was Miss New? I want you to tell me –
Miss New, oh Miss New was the previous governess. And I don’t know how
      long she was there, nor why she left, but I have great suspicions that the
      reason she left was the same reason that I had to give up in the end. I was a
      nervous wreck. After I married and we moved back to that south-west corner
      to the property adjoining Durham Downs, and the bookkeeper came up to see
      my husband on something to do with the property, and he said to me oh the
      governess is having a bad time down there. And he mentioned her name and
      she was one of my co-graduates. Then I was almost convinced that the reason
      why governesses left there was because they were over-burdened with – with
      jobs that you know, really didn’t – weren’t a governesses job.

I’ve heard that it was – I’ve come across other cases in this research of women
      that never could really handle the Channel Country and became kind of
      invalids. Is that what you’re saying about Mrs McCullagh?

No. No. She grew up in Birdsville so she – that was the life she had –

End of Side A Tape 1

Side B Tape 1

Grew up in Birdsville so she – that was the life she had known. See it was a
      mental – mental attitude of hers. She had a wonderful husband who just
      thought the world of her, but I learned a lot of things later which I will not
      discuss on this film that I realised that there was just something that –
      something was wrong. But she grew up – her people were in the hotel in
      Birdsville, and she grew up there. So she knew that outback life and Durham
      was certainly a better spot than Birdsville, because Birdsville – I’ve only just
      seen Birdsville very briefly flying from Tanbar down to Leigh Creek. But my
      impression of Birdsville was that there is nothing, absolutely nothing but sand
      and stone. No – there seemed to be no timber about. It was – but Durham was
      quite a – not an unpleasant place for living for as far as surroundings were
      concerned and being quite close to the water where there were lots and lots
      and lots of lovely trees all along the channels. It was really quite pleasant
      there, and to go out in a boat – we quite often, if there were a few people
      about, we’d get the boat and we’d go out in the evening down along the river
    and it was very, very pleasant. But I think she did not know how to handle
    people and she was unsatisfied in many ways and it was taken out on the
    governess who was the only other white person on the place.

Can you tell me about um jokes played on the new chum? On you as a new

Yes. I had only been there for a few days and some of the men were in. They
    weren’t doing stockwork at the moment, and I heard a rooster crowing, not
    very far from my – where I was sLeighping on the verandah. When - on the
    very hot weather we slept out on the verandah, so I thought I wonder what that
    rooster’s here – near here for? He ought to be down with the – in the fowl
    yard. So something came up about it at breakfast time and I said oh, this
    rooster woke me up this morning. I don’t know why. And the boys got a bit
    interested about this, the two boys that I was to teach, and they went round
    investigating and they came back and they said, no wonder you were wakened
    by the rooster. It’s tied under your bed. And some of these young fellows out
    for a practical joke to tease this new chum from the city, had decided to feed
    the rooster on corn to make him crow lustily and then they took him up one
    evening, about when he would’ve been asLeighp you see, and they tied him to
    the leg of the bed or under the bed somehow or other and left him there. Of
    course he slept peacefully all night but at daylight, he started to crow. That
    was the – that was the only practical joke they ever played on me. I think they
    found that I took it quite well so it wasn’t – it was all – all fell very flat
    because I didn’t annoyed with them over it.

There wouldn’t have been many young non-Aboriginal women there. Were
    you the object of a lot of attention?

Ah, I guess, had I been the right sort, I could’ve been. But I wasn’t the right
    sort.   Um, no they were always very, very polite to me.             Ah, the old
    bookkeeper was something of a flirt but a very harmless flirt and sometimes
    we’d go out in the car in the evening in the cool just for a run in the car, and
    Mrs McCullagh’d sit in the front with the children and I’d sit in the back with
    the bookkeeper and the bookkeeper would be trying to hold my hand and I
    objected to things like that. But he, he was just harmless really.
Was this Norman McLean?

That was Norman McLean, yes. He was a nice fellow. And in the end, when
    I was so completely run down and exhausted from the treatment that I had
    had, he said to me – he always called me ‘girl’ - most of them called Miss
    Weidenhöfer but he always called me ‘girl’, he said when things get too bad,
    he said, if you want to talk, come up here to the store and have a chat. I
    wouldn’t – I wouldn’t say what was worrying me, but he could see, and I feel
    sure that that’s what had happened perhaps to Miss New. But um at the end,
    Mother wrote to me. I had written to my sister and expressed very volubly
    what was the position there and she was in Sydney. She was running a
    kindergarten in Sydney. And I didn’t expect her to say anything to Mother but
    she wrote to Mother and she said I think Edith’s having a very bad time. So
    Mother wrote to me, said she wanted me to come home. Ah my husband,
    husband-to-be, had come back to the property. He’d been away from there for
    several years. Well, he left about four months after I got there and then he
    came back um late in ’27 – he came back – so he was away for about 18
    months. And he just came back to see everybody, but during that time I
    discovered that he was as much in love with me as I was with him, but nothing
    had ever been said before. And I had – I had mentioned him in letters. They
    said I mentioned him more than I mentioned anybody else. So Mother wrote a
    letter to him asking him to support me if necessary and in the case of his being
    absent, would the bookkeeper open the letter. But as it happened, he had left
    and gone to help at Nockatunga because the bookkeeper there had had an
    accident and was going to be away for a long time, so he went over to look
    after the store for him and the mailman – the postal people in Thargomindah
    knew that he had moved to Nockatunga so they redirected his mail. It didn’t
    come to Durham. Of course he was worried then about what was happening
    to me, and eventually he – Mr Hughes, the manager, said to him, there might
    be somebody at Durham that would like to go Adelaide. You’re to go over
    and see, and I said no. I wouldn’t give her the chance to say I had let her
    down, although it was school holidays – I wasn’t bound to be teaching, but I
    stayed ‘til the bitter end.
So Edith, when things were difficult with Mrs McCullagh, how did you handle

Well I just became depressed. I struggled to do all the things that she wanted
    me to do. I struggled to try and get teaching done. Ah but in the end, when
    Mother’s letter came and she also wrote to Mrs McCullagh and said – and I
    know, my Mother was a very, very lovely person. Everybody said that about
    her. She must have written a very lovely letter, but she said she wanted me to
    come home. Well Mrs McCullagh’s sister was there at the time so she sent
    her around to get me and I was abused ah verbally. Ah my Mother was
    accused of writing a terrible letter. She didn’t think my Mother would –
    because she had met Mother, I didn’t think she could write such a terrible
    letter. Well that – because that upset me and I dissolved in tears. I was
    absolutely brokenhearted to think of anybody talking about my Mother like
    that. But I went round and I did the evening duties of getting things ready for
    tea and for supper and ah the bookkeeper came round and said you’re upset. I
    said very upset. Very upset. And he – and I said, did Mrs McCullagh show
    you the letter that Mother wrote and he said yes, and it couldn’t have been a
    nicer letter. Which, you know, I was glad that somebody else had seen it
    because I knew Mother couldn’t write a nasty letter.

Who owned Durham Downs in these years?

That was a Kidman – a Kidman property, and they had had it for quite a long
    time at that stage. I don’t know when they acquired it, but they acquired so
    many properties out there as you probably know.         But they would have
    nothing to do with the running of the place. They would only have the
    financial side of it to think about and ah telling when they wanted stock sent
    away. If it was a good season and they could send stock, they would say what
    they wanted. But otherwise, they had nothing to do with the running of the

Did the bosses from Kidman come to visit?

Mmm? Pardon?

Did Kidman or his managers come to visit?
He had a general manager in that corner. Mr Watts. And he came over
    several times, but Kidman himself did not come there. I believe his son, in
    later years, may have gone to Durham. I know he was at Nockatunga when
    Doug was helping there in the store and the bookkeeping, but I don’t know
    whether he ever went across to Durham. It’s a long and dreary trip through
    river country. Ah about 90 miles and most of that is a very poor road so he
    may not have wanted to take it on. But the general manager, for all the
    properties down in that corner, used to come occasionally. Otherwise it was
    left entirely to Mr McCullagh to – to run things and he was a very good
    manager too. An excellent manager, and a very nice man.

Now you’ve described that um you – part of why you’d gone to Durham was
    because you were interested in Aboriginal people.


How would you describe what you found – describe the Aboriginal people
    around Durham and the way they lived and worked with the white people.

Well, they – they worked – we had two that worked around the house, and one
    that helped the cook in the kitchen, and one very old one, sometimes two very
    old women would come to rake around in the garden and keep tidy and things
    in the garden, and a very, very old man who was the King of the tribe, looked
    after the cows and took them out to feed and brought them home again and I
    think did the milking. They did all those sort of jobs. Ah then when they had
    finished for the day, they would go back to the – on to the top of the hill to
    their camp which was just as they had always lived. In humpies that they’d
    made themselves.    There was a big building put up in which they were
    supposed to live because the Government had said they must be properly
    housed, but they didn’t want to be housed like that. So they never did use it.
    Um, the reason being that if somebody dies in the humpy, they won’t – no –
    no – the rest of the family won’t live in there. They knock that humpy down
    and build another one. In the case of Emily dying, they knocked that humpy
    down and her husband, when he was in at the station, lived in another one.
    It’s a superstition which has been ingrained into them I suppose for centuries
    that they will not live where somebody else has lived and died. Perhaps if the
    person died somewhere else, it might be a different matter, but if they actually
    die in the humpy, that’s what I understood, they would not use it again.

When you say they were living naturally or just as they always had, what do
    you mean by that? Could you give me some examples?

Well, they took off all their clothes. They went up and when we drove past
    one day, there was a big scatter. They were all quite naked. Men and women.
    Nothing on at all. Ah, the ah they did get supplies from the station but at the
    same time, they did some hunting and fishing for themselves and they would
    cook over their little fires in their humpies, just as they’d always done. They,
    they were not dependent on the white man’s food as later the ones that I had
    when I was first married, always had food supplied to them, and they would
    take it up to their own little humpies. But at Durham, they did quite a lot of
    hunting for themselves. There would be birds to kill and a certain number of
    rabbits about there, and dingoes. I don’t know that they did kill dingoes but
    there were dingoes about.

How about Aboriginal women? I’d like you to tell me about the nardoo for

Ah, they – in, after floods, there’s a nardoo that grows, a plant that grows there
    that’s called a nardoo, and as it dries, the seeds mature. They’re very small
    seeds. Very small seeds. But they would go out into this country and it’s a
    flooded country, where the – you know, where the flood had been, and they
    would gather the seed and take it back and they had grinding stones. Um, the
    one that they used for nardoo I think was the - a round one with a hollow in
    the centre that would be a stone about this wide, and a hollow in the centre,
    and then they had a round one – a rounded stone which they ground round and
    round and round and round, like this, until they had a flour. Like a flour –
    what we would call flour, and they would make – what did they call it? I
    forget what they called it. But it’d be like making bread. Making biscuits.
    Something like that. And it would be pounded down and then mixed up with
    water and cooked in their ashes or in their fires. Ah, then they had another
    long one. I used to have them – specimens of these that had been found you
    know, laying around in the bush. But I left them at Mayfield with the – you
    saw Francis Hammond where she lived with her grandmother and her aunts or
    was it cousins? And they have - had that stone there. About this long and it
    was a red stone – a reddish colour, and on one side there was a deep, a very
    deep groove about this deep and then they had a round long round stone which
    they rubbed up and down and up and down there and the seed that they ground
    in that, one of the women told me was called pepper – pepper seed she called
    it. Well there is a grass that’s called pepper grass and I imagine that that’s
    where they collected the seed and that again would be used for making up into
    something for some of their food.

How about string making?

Yes.   String making was quite interesting.       Um, there’s a – it’s like a
    marshmallow, a very plant would grow up oh maybe five or six feet, and when
    that was mature, they would cut that and strip – strip it in long like threads
    then to make string, of course they had bare legs, they would put the string
    here and they would rub like this until the various strings were bound into a –
    into one cord, whatever size they wanted. And as they, as they did this, it was
    cutting the string and the leg would bLeighd and the blood helped to bind all
    these threads together and that would go until they had the length they
    required. And then that string was used to make into dilly bags they always
    called them, to carry their few possessions if they were walking about
    anywhere. Ah, and they would be - I don’t, I didn’t ever see the making of
    those but I just know that they had these dilly bags to put their odds and ends
    in. Ah the other thing that they made was coolamons(?) to carry their babies
    in and a coolamon was cut from a tree, the bark of a tree, and then shaped to
    be – to various sizes. If it was one for carrying things that they’d collected if
    they went out digging up yams, they would carry them in their coolamons. If
    they had a baby to carry, they’d carry the baby in it. They’d be about this
    long, and hollowed. Ah, it must’ve been a certain amount of timber, not only
    bark, unless there was a specific kind of bark which was very solid.

And was there evidence of traditional forms of trade?

Ah, the only thing I knew of that came into that country from the Birdsville
    area was pituri and pituri was what today people would call tobacco, and they
    chewed it. I think it may have had a certain amount of drug propensity in it
    and they would chew it and chew it and chew it and like kids with chewing
    gum, they’d go and stick it behind their ears you know, for the next chew.
    Um, but that didn’t grow there. That came from a plant that only grows
    further west. How far – how much further west I don’t know but I know it
    was in the Birdsville area, and so some of them must have walked right away
    across that way, which is a pretty terrible – terrible area to walk in. Stony
    most of the way. Ah, might be some flat areas, but there’s no water holes.
    Unless it might happen to be just after rain, a shallow spot might hold water,
    but there are no water holes such as there are in rivers. So they must have
    walked across there to exchange goods at some time or other.

And was there ever gatherings of more than just the Durham Downs people at

We had one very, very big gathering. When they came from Nockatunga,
    Nappamerrie, Innamincka, Arrabury, Cordillo, oh it must’ve been hundreds of
    them there, and each night they had a big corroboree, and I did go down one
    evening to watch them and I knew that they were going to corroboree well on
    into the night and the early morning, and I said could I come down to watch in
    the morning and they said yes, but not until after the sun has risen because
    they were sacred rites then. It was quite fascinating to watch them and the
    head gear that the men used in their dancing, was made of sticks, a frame
    made of sticks covered with feathers. Oh they were very intricate. I think in
    the, in the book there should be some photos of those um head – head gear,
    head dresses. Anyway, I did go down in the morning. After sunrise I went
    down to watch them again but it was only the men that danced. The women
    sat all round the outside and they, they changed their songs. Oooo – ooooo –
    ooooo! You know, it was, it was very monotonous. There’s no tune as we
    know a tune. It was just a continual humming sound, buzzing sound, and their
    clapping. Or if they had sticks with them, they would be hitting their sticks on
    the ground. But the dances were quite intricate really and all had a specific

And was this kind of traditional ceremony accepted by the managers? Like
    how did the Aboriginal workers mix their traditional and pastoral?
Well they would, they would choose a time when there was not a great deal of
    stock work to be done and I suppose all the managers were the same, that they
    – some of them they had objected. But ah evidently the one, at that time, all
    the station managers and station owners were quite prepared to let their, their
    workmen go to attend these big ceremonies because it – I don’t think it would
    happen more than once every two or three years. It was only once in the two
    years that I was there that a big ceremony was held, and they came from
    everywhere. So it was not frequent and they would choose a time when it
    would suit the stock work that had to be done.

So how would you characterise relationships between black and white on
    Durham in terms of conflict or – or cooperation? You know, how would –

Well I think on the whole, I think they did work very well with the – with the
    white man. Ah the only instance I knew of when there was any trouble was
    with a man who had been down – he was a half-caste. He had been down at
    one of the Missions and then he’d gone back to that country, and I think it was
    when Mr McCullagh was out riding one day, just got on to the horse and this
    particular black man picked up a great waddy and he was going to hit him on
    the head with it. Fortunately somebody saw what was going to happen and
    managed to stop him but otherwise there was never any trouble that I could
    see and none that I ever heard of.

Now going back in the time before you were there, there had been trouble
    between black and white. What evidence of that did you see?

Oh well that was shocking. In those very early days. Nappamerrie was
    operating. Ah and they saw some of it there. The convicts I think had seen
    something of it. The troopers who were sent out to get rid of the blacks really,
    which was a terrible thing really, um they would get a black man or black men
    from other tribes that they knew were not friendly tribes and take them with
    them. Well there was this very big roundup on Nappamerrie and they were
    herded up and shot. But one little black boy managed to hide and when it was
    all over, he went back to Mr Conrick and Mr Conrick looked after him and he
    grew up – he was an old man. When I saw him, he was an old man and very
    faithful old man. Very faithful to Mr Conrick. There was a place on Durham,
    right beside one of – the river, that Mr McCullagh found one day and he came
    in and he said I just found a place ah in a sand hill that I’ll take you to have a
    look at. So we went up with him and these skeletons had been unearthed with
    a storm. A wind had come and blown the sand away from them and as far as I
    know, that was the first time it had been found and the skeletons were laying
    at all angles. Obviously they’d been shot. Legs this way. Arms that way.
    Bodies every way – which way. If it, if it had been a natural cemetery which
    they don’t as a rule have, they would’ve all been laid out in straight, you
    know, reasonably straight lines. But these had obviously been shot and it, it’s
    a terrible reflection on our early pioneers. I still don’t believe that our Prime
    Minister should say ‘I’m sorry”. It was nothing to do with him, and a lot of
    compensation has been carried out in the way of trying to help people so I
    think this idea of you must say ‘I’m sorry’ is ridiculous, and the Stolen
    Generation business is also a farce. A lot of those children, the parents asked
    to have the children taken away where they could be given a chance. I don’t
    know whether you heard, when oh, who was the half-caste man? It was very
    much –

Charlie Perkins.

Charlie Perkins. When Charlie Perkins died, his mother I heard on say on the
    television news, he was not stolen. I begged them to take him away and give
    him a chance. So there you are! And that’s from the Aboriginal woman and I
    think that it’s these um trouble-makers amongst them who are just trying to
    get something more and they are not looking after what they are given. They
    have been – have had houses built for them. They’ve torn those houses down
    to make fires outside to cook their food. Well you can’t really say that it’s the
    white man to blame for everything that’s going on now but I do think that
    originally it was terrible terrible cruelty that they should have sent troopers out
    and particularly getting black men from other tribes to help them to come and
    kill their kin – they’re more or less their kinsmen but they did belong to
    another tribe. I’ve got very mixed feelings about all of the things that are
    going on today with the Aboriginal folk up in the north. They’ve been helped.

We’ll just pause a moment because we’re just about –
End of Side B Tape 1