The Picnic Train

Based on a true story of a massacre which took on New Year's Day in 1915 near Broken Hill, NSW. Alma, who was killed in the shootout, was 17 years old. From my latest book, I Do.

"I am so excited! Only two days to go. My Johnny is taking me on the picnic train on New Year’s Day."

So many of Dad’s friends work for the zinc-lead-silver mine and they all like Johnny. He only started to work at the mine a few months ago and he was also looking forward to the trip to Silverton just like me.

The Abbotsford Muster

A century ago this year way back in 1912,
A small intrepid family with no-one but themselves,
Trundled 'cross the black soil plain to take up a selection,
With nothing but the wide blue sky stretching in each direction.

Charlie and Bea Abbott called their station Abbotsford,
They brought a house from Charters Towers dismantled board by board,
Rebuilt it on its present site and settled down to create,
One of the best properties in that part of Queensland state.

Music, Memories

The piano on which my mother gave lessons went to my sister's lounge room in Adelaide. She inherited it after our Mother died. It was fully maintained and restored to original condition - it was a "Cable" upright orchestral piano (it had the extra octave applicable to Grand Pianos). 

Some Early Memories

In 1912-13 or before, and until the 1914-18 War, there was a small shop with a couple of rooms at the rear occupied by a Mrs Kitchen, known to all as, "Granny Kitchen". She sold vegetables, fruit, lollies etcc, and every week obtained fresh fish from Swan Hill, or by train from Bendigo or Melbourne. Eventually the building was destroyed by fire, and Granny then lived in a 2 roomed unlined cottage on the corner of the sstreet and the main road, behind the Catholic Church. Sometime after Mrs Kitchen died, the building was removed.

End of WWI

One of my earliest memories is of a lady, Mrs Watt, walking up to the school excitedly ringing a bell, to let us know the First World War was over - as my father (Bill Harrison) was away with the forces - this was especially good news for us.

I remember our Sunday School Anniversary, when Mr Thomas had us practising for weeks, and on the big day we went to the hall, which had been beautifully decorated with flowers for 3 services, we received our yearly prizes on this day and usually, had a new dress, so we looked forward to it.

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).

Succession of Doctors

Before the 1914-18 War, Dr James Rowan and his mother came to Ultima, and built a home; one room at the front of the house was used as a surgery, and the rest of the house, as their private home. There were no cars in the district at that time, so the Doctor used a horse and buggy to visit his patients, who lived out of town. On one occasion he was called to a farm at night, to deliver a baby.

Rise & Fall of Business Pioneers

When my grandfather was advised by his doctor to "go north" he and my grandmother purchased 1800 acres of land in the Victorian Mallee. Perhaps they were influenced by the current thinking of the politicians and intellectuals of the day who considered that closer settlement of the country was required to alleviate the depression of the 1890s. The Land Board Officers assured them that the Mallee had good rainfall, but ignored possible droughts.