An Oral History

The area around Natya is part of the Eastern Mallee and consists of gently rolling sandhills, loam flats, with occasional outcroppings of limestone. The larger vegetation was principally Dumosa Mallee, but there was a lot of Hop Bush as well, and a few Mallee Pines.


“Where on earth is Tutye?” I gasped.

“I don’t know,” said my principal, who had delivered this news at Sunday midday. “Apparently the children there are out of control. You take over tomorrow.”

Young teachers, who hadn’t gained a permanent appointment could be sent anywhere at any time. I had been informed of my move to Mildura just three days before I began teaching there, but this was ‘a bit of a roughie’.

My years as a Bush Schoolie Pt7

Part 7 - A Formidable Spirit

I was surprised that 90% of the children that I taught at Natya in those years came back to the "Back to Natya" in 1986. Nearly 90% of them were there, and they have all done well in life.

I am very proud of the ones who had a tough time trying to learn - some lived in a bag hut, which must have made life difficult, and they told me that, "Mum made the soup of frankfurts". They'd had a very rough life, and they've all done well, and are good Australian citizens - what more can you ask?

My years as a Bush Schoolie Pt2

Part 2 - Teaching in a One Room School

The plan of that school was repeated right throughout the Mallee. Plenty of big windows on one side, and a fairly large window on the other. There was also a little room to keep your papers and books in. There was a large open fireplace on the west side, with new blackboards on either side. But it didn't take long for the blackboards to start to buckle, with the terrific heat we had.

There was one rainwater tank and a filter to filter the water for the children to drink.

My years as a Bush Schoolie Pt1

Part 1 - Becoming a Country Teacher

I was born in 1901 in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and I emigrated to Australia in 1911 with my mother, brother and sister. My father had preceded us some time before, and we settled in Melbourne.


My father was born on May 25th, 1860, at Ballarat in Victoria. His father was Richard English, one of a family of six born in Durham, England. His mother was Rebecca Colclough, one of eleven - who came from Kilkenny, Ireland. I assume that the two were unknown to one another until they chose to emigrate to Australia on "The Champion of the Seas" in December 1856. Rebecca's sister Matilda - of 16 years - accompanied her. I have no copy of their marriage certificate but assume that it would have been in 1869.

The Mallee Dust Storm

The air was hot and sultry the sky was overcast,
We knew there'd be a dust storm before the day had passed.
The wind was getting stronger as it blew across the land,
The fallow started drifting as it blew across the sand.
Far away beyond the horizon the dust clouds rise and roll,
Like smoke from a huge bush fire, that's out of men's control.
The dust storm slowly gathers, for a while the wind is calm,
And a brooding silence settles around the house and farm.
The fowls seek shelter on the roost the birds fly to the trees,

WWI Soldier Settler

In 1922 I obtained a free rail Pass from the Soldier Settlement Board to the rail head at Annuello. This part of the Mallee was being opened for settlement. The area of blocks being 640 acres to 800 acres. I spent three weeks with the Lands' Officer Pat Cloonen looking at areas available for selection. Conditions did not appeal to me. I obtained a ride with one of the local settlers to the township of Manangatang. Here I was introduced to the Manager of the English Scottish and Australian Bank. (E. S. & A.) Ultima (Mr Fred Palmer).

The Mighty Wheat Bag

The wheat bag was a very handy, useful and versatile object around the farm and the homestead, gone out of fashion now since wheat is bulk-handled, but back in the years 1900 to 1950, wheat was put in 3 bushel Indian jute bags, 3 feet long and 1 foot 10 inches wide. Filled with grain, hand stitched and stacked in piles at railway stations ready to be transported south to flour mills, or ships for export. The bag size was governed by weight - the weight that a man could lift!

Lombardy Pioneer

In 1891 John Polinelli migrated from the colony of Lombardy in Italy and began his life in Australia as a young farm labourer in the County of Towaninnie (Lalbert). In July 1898 he applied to the Department of Lands and Survey, through a special Land Board at Wycheproof to select a section of land. This land was a block called Allotment nine in the Parish of Chinangin, County of Tatchera which was situated eight miles south west of Ultima. The following is an extract from application.