Thursday, 22 January 2015

Another local recollection

MR ALBERT ERIC WILSON The Story of a Pioneer Fruit Grower of Hillview Road.

(Although not a former pupil of Glen Park Mr. Wilson,93 when his recolections were first recorded, grew up in the district.)

Hillview Road, Brown Hill, is off the White Swan Road and leads on if you follow same, and comes out at the top of Longs Hill Road near the Glen Park School. There are three roads there, one to Pootilla, one to Wattle Flat and the other to the White Swan Reservoir - a very nice drive.

Regarding my own life from school days, my Father and Mother had a small orchard on the corner of Gracefield Road and Bromley Lane. I was born and reared there and went to Brown Hill State School. The Headmaster at that time was John Risday and Walter Fairley. Even at School I was a keen gardener and had flocks, nasturtiums and marigolds around the paths. I was good with Arithmetic, not good with Grammar, however I got my Merit Certificate before I turned 14, my birthday being 4th February. On the last planting of trees day, when I was thirteen years of age, I planted the big spruce tree that is still there nearest the flagpole at the southern gate at Thompson Street.

When I left School, I earned a few shillings where I could. I put in two years at the Ballarat Lytho printing works where now is 3BA's office. Mr Will Prowse was one of my seniors then. The wages at that time were 10 shillings and six pence for 1st year and fourteen shillings the next year. Any how, I did not like printing and I left same. I received a position in an office at the Sub Treasury where they issued the Miners Rights each year that was next door to the entry into the Post Office backyard, off Lydiard Street. I was there for about six months and I got a position with the Commercial Bank at Heidelberg. I got rather homesick and came back home.

To gather a few pounds in those days, I cut wood, caught rabbits and dug potatoes with the potato fork. The price for digging same was from 10 pence, 1/- or 1/4 or, if a light crop, 1/6-. At the end of a day digging, you would be lucky if you had dug and earned up to one pound for the big three bushell bag.

I saved what I could and in the year 1922 - 23, I purchased the 43 acres I have now, for four hundred pounds. It was rather rough, a small portion had been cleared, the rabbits were bad and I had to wire net the portion I planted with trees to protect same.

I carried on the clearing of the main portion in the depression year. Up to the 13th January, 1939 bushfire, I had four horses and to get the trees down we grubbed round the bottom, and cut what roots we could get at down to one foot in depth. Someone would climb up with a ladder to a reasonable height, attach a steel cable from there. The cable would go to a large log to which the horses were connected. This was effective. We always made sure the cable was long enough that when the tree fell it did not hit the horses. In the depression I had three boys of 17 or 18 years of age working for me. Wages for them then was around 30/- a week for 5 eight hour days.

Regarding the 1939 bushfire, I can consider myself lucky that I am able to be here to write this article. I belonged to the Glen Park Fire Brigade. Mr McBain at Kirks Reservoir was the Captain. When the smoke from the fire came towards us from the north, he phoned me and advised me to meet them at Springs Road (now White Swan Road). We assembled there and the wind on that day was terrific. Pieces of gum bark, as long as one's arm were coming over our heads fully alight. Anyhow with several others, we saved Hardings house and a Mr. Frank Davidson, an employee of the Water Commission said to me "go up home, you could be in trouble there". I made a run to go up the gully towards home. This gully was not on fire at that time. He called out to me "The pig sty is alight". I went back to him and put the building out and if I had continued on my first attempt I would never have survived, the wind and burnt leaves were going south like a big suction.

When I arrived home or near home the stables housing four horses was burning. I rushed in, undid their ropes, put a chaff bag over their heads and pushed them out into a clear spot. All the sheds were burnt, including the apple packing shed. My home was saved with help from J. L. Bennett and Co. who I had called for help. Mr W. Curnow of that firm used the orchard spray plant to keep the west side of the house wet to stop it going up also. This fire burnt as far as Bungaree, taking with it the Water Commission factory pine plantation and several houses. The temperature on the four days before the fire, was above 110 degrees and you may imagine how dry things were.

Being in the Brigade and having lost the sheds, my friends gathered together later on, on a couple of Saturday's and they rebuilt the sheds. My main loss at that time was 1000 twelve year old fruit trees with a good crop of saleable apples on and that year the price was good. Harcourt had no water and Bryant and Gourley gave me one pound four shillings for Five Crown and Rymer apples - a saleable apple in those days.

In the earlier days, I had planted a number of varieties not now grown or even remembered. They were to my best memory - Maidens (Blush or twenty ounce), Munroes Favourite, Yates (Rienett decanida), Rymer (Five Crown London pippin), Alexander, Alfraston, Bismark (Stewart Seedling), Hoover and Democrat, (Northern Spy) Buncombe, Sturmer, Quaringdon, Statesman (Snow Apple Pomedonnag), King Cole and those best known today - Jonathan, Grannysmith, Delicious and Gravenstein. Regarding the King Cole apple, it is a good all round apple, a good keeper either eating or cooking and not so hard to keep free of disease as some others. These apple trees were given to us to try. They came from Coles Nurseries at Tyabb some 50 years ago. They turned out a good one and we planted some 100 trees of these varieties but today they are not known so we have gone out of that one for the better known ones.

In my early twenties I spent 5 seasons in the shearing shed at Euston on the Murray River. The shed usually, unless notified, started on the 4th August and to get there we would leave Ballarat Station around 10 o'clock at night arriving at Mildura about 8 o'clock the next morning. We would take our bikes and blankets, etc., cross the river by the punt at Gol Gol, travel the bush track, then through the malley scrub ride the 50 miles and get to the shearing shed quarters by tea time. One year I was roustabout for the shearing team of 14 shearers. Next season I got a job on the wool press for 5 weeks and 3 days. After paying expenses at the shed, I received a cheque for fifty-six pounds, which was big money for those days.

One Sunday night after leaving Ballarat, there had been floods in this area and when we got to Sutherland, Swanwater, a lot of the ballast under the sleepers had been washed away. This meant a train was sent down from Woomerlang to meet the passengers who could walk from sleeper to sleeper. The others that could not attempt to get across were taken back to Maryborough. That year, when we arrived at Euston, the river was very low. After the five weeks, a fisherman's wagon with two horses was required to take us through the water, two and a half miles wide, to where he put us down on firm ground. We rode the bikes to Manangatang to get home again.

Regarding the old varieties of apples, some 10 years ago it was time to get out of them. I had them bulldozed out and Lloyd, my son, and his son Geoff have enough of the good varieties on their and my first wife's property to look after and maintain. There is also a cool store on that property.  Since the taking out of my fruit trees, I am developing the growing of berries, raspberries, black and red currants, Logan berries and a thornless blackberry which was only planted last season and is a good one.

The raspberry varieties I have are all good ones. They are Willowmite (Glen Clover) (Camber) Tasmanian Full Basket and Heritage and they are all making headway.

Regarding the tree Lucerne, we have had hedges of this tree since we started and did not know the value of same for fodder till the Department of Agriculture drew attention to same. These trees are not a hungry tree like Pines and Cypress. You can grow anything under or near them without any worry. They are a quick grower and the foliage is good fodder for a dry season, if goats or animals, that would eat them, are kept away.

Regarding Boobialla - they too are a good tree for a hedge or windbreak. They thicken out and are evergreen. The same applies to the Lucerne trees.

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