More tales from my mother 4 — Dunolly NSW — and conclusions

My mother died in 1996. Internal evidence dates what follows to 1979, so my mother wrote it at the age of 68 at Oyster Bay while I was living in Wollongong. It is thus ten years more recent than the other memoir published here earlier. In the late 60s we had visited relatives at Wellington, Yeovil, and out towards Mudgee, some of whom had children affected by the rationalisation of the small schools. She may have also been thinking of them as she wrote.

The pages she left me have no title and consist of thirteen handwritten quarto writing pad pages. They overlap somewhat with the other memoir published here earlier. The subheadings are mine. I did not see these pages until after my mother’s death, so far as I know. The earlier memoir I had seen. Her theme in all these sketches is the worthiness of the small country schools of NSW.

The third extract dealt with Braefield NSW 1916-1923. This page concludes her story.


My father at Dunolly, Singleton NSW, 1923 – 1924/5*

Map of the area


NOTE (not by my mother):

Singleton was founded in the 1820 by John Howe, making it one of Australia’s oldest towns. Howe led an expedition to the valley of St Patrick’s Plains. Many land grant recipients followed to raise stock on the rich fertile land on the banks of the Hunter River. The town was named after Benjamin Singleton, one of the first settlers in the region.

The first one hundred years of Singleton history is dominated by agriculture. However, the discovery of vast resources of coal in the area has transformed Singleton into the States largest producer of coal, giving the Shire a twofold industrial profile.

The diversity of its resources has encouraged many changes, helping Singleton to evolve from a quiet country town to one of the most progressive and sophisticated commercial centres in the State, catering for its cosmopolitan workforce and residents. The Shire is continuing to experience further mining developments, and is diversifying into other industries.



The Hunter in flood, Dunolly Bridge June 2007

Dunolly was on a hill — it is now called Singleton Heights I believe — and we overlooked rich dairying and lucerne flats to Singleton itself. We used to walk on a Friday night into the town — it was linked by the Dunolly Bridge — for late night shopping. It was a lovely spot and the church bells ringing out the hours from St John’s Church of England used to echo clearly in the night.


Aftermath of Singleton floods. Linked to Aussie Helpers, an interesting site.

For the first nine months Dad taught 82 children in six classes and then he was given an assistant.

We bought an old Ford car, about a 1913 model, and it opened our vision as we could go easily at weekends to Maitland, Muswellbrook, Branxton, Jerrys Plains, Warkworth and Maison Dieu — what lovely names, a beautiful area in the usual weather, but terribly hot and steamy in summer. The Hunter I have seen as pot holes only and also as a raging 42 foot deep torrent cutting us off from the town and drowning the farm houses on the beautiful land between us and the town. Only the chimneys would be visible above the raging waters, but the farmers went back, as they still do in this country of ours.



The pioneering spirit dies hard.

After four years* in the Valley Dad was appointed to a Central District School and he was on his way up the ladder, but that is another story.

* I have a problem here as Roy Christison was Head at Milton, his next school, from 1925 to 1928. Even if he arrived at Dunolly one year before my mother seems to be saying, that is 1922 rather than 1923, and even if he went to Milton during, rather than at the beginning, of 1925, I can’t see that her “four years” is strictly correct. — N

1913 ford  model T

1913 Ford

Conclusion 1979

What I am really trying to say is that while those hardships may be gone in these days of good roads, fast transport, electric light in most farm houses, and television, why can’t the small school be re-established to help the very young avoid so much difficult travelling today? Young teachers could live in the nearest large town and transport themselves daily to the small school without undue hardship, and the hardship experienced by young children who currently have to travel long distances to a central school would be avoided. It can and should be done. Our character as a young country could not help but strengthen with the knowledge those teachers would take from the experience of something really well done.

That ends my mother’s last set of memoirs, written at Oyster Bay, Sutherland Shire, in 1979.