March to Freedom

UPDATE - 21/11/2016

We've had contact from readers who suggested we re-title this transcript. As a result, we've renamed it March to Freedom (from Death March). 

We have also been asked about the reference to a woman cooking the food: As the POWs marched through villages and towns accommodation was sought. The guards expected the women to cook the rations so they could eat too. Few men would have been around at the time.

The Mystic East

This poem, written in Skeeter's handwriting, was found in amongst his letters and papers kept by him from WWII. It is published posthumously.

There was a P.S. at the bottom which read, "Adele Smith is the special correspondent for the Woman's Weekly in Malaya and she wrote a story about the wonderful time the boys are having in Malaya. Evidently they don't agree with her".

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.

Two Uncles

Memories; they live on and emerge when a simple word recalls them and stirs the cache of stories from the past. Music stirred my memory this time, the skirl of bagpipes and sound of marching feet, drums beating time. I could hear them coming from round the corner, the sound still stirs my senses, especially on Anzac Day. The place was Brisbane. The time was the early 1940's. Our Dad wanted to say 'good-bye' to his brother and Mum had to see her young brother.

Sunday Nights in the 50s

The thud of the silver axe echoed through the low ranges in a monotonous beat, as it landed on the wooden chopping block. The centre of the wood revealed its rich colours as it split and fell. Barely touching the ground, gnarled hands gathered the pieces quickly and threw them into the old galvanized iron barrow. From the kitchen the children heard a familiar intermittent squeak as the father trundled the load onto the back veranda. He paused. It was the end of his working day, and he was tiring. One more chore and then he could rest.

Sikh Farmhands

Like many farmers, we had Indian men work for us. Their job with us was to pick up smaller Mallee (tree) roots while the land was being cleared for farming. And these workers returned to India just before the war.

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.

Tragedies & Accidents

Farming was very hard work here in the early days. I remember Norm Crowe - he lost his arm in a chaff cutting accident. He could do anything, with just one arm. I've seen him yoke up a team of eight horses, putting collars and hames on them, which is a big job with 2 arms. He'd push the collar up, with the two straps to buckle up and he'd grab them and hold them in his teeth, until he could do them up. He lost his arm in a portable chaff cutter, when he was about 20, might have been a bit more. He was working for people named Dowling.

Local Pubs

James Henry Punch and his wife Mary Kate (Polly) were married about 1920 - she being a sister of Mr Carlo Wilkins of "The White Swan" Hotel in Swan Hill and Mrs Nan Barwick of "The Royal Hotel" in Swan Hill.

In 1923 they bought the Ultima Railway Hotel, but soon afterwards it was destroyed by fire, along with all their possessions. Two daughters, Mona Beatrice ("Peter") and Sheila Patricia ("Pat") had been born by then, but son Michael Wilkins was born later, when they were in the new building. A younger son, Billy, died in infancy.

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).