And So it goes

This is the post excerpt.



DSCN10420003 cropped & autocorrected

It seems that it has become impossible in many blogging sites to ‘like’ or add comments to friend’s posts that I like without joining network’s like google + and wordpress.  So I have.

I began blogging in 2013 at ‘For Love of Gaia’.  After a long hiatus I was hoping to be able to return to performance as a sacred art in practice, and blog about it – ‘to explore and foster conversation about the artistic, ethical and philosophical aspects of performance-ritual, that is, performance in the context of ritual and the sacred’.  It hasn’t really turned out that way.

Instead, beginning with quotes, the ‘forloveofgaia’ blogs moved on to topics that explored cultural and religious ideas and questions.  The underlying questions became,

I have no real aim for this  ‘And So It Goes’ blog.  I am hoping it will shape itself.

1789 – Elizabeth Pulley’s second year

pulley image cropped 3  1789 – Elizabeth Pulley’s second year[1]

The following is the next in the series of my version of Elizabeth’s first years in Australia[2].  The story is my take on what life would have been like for Anthony and Elizabeth, and draws on events that would have affected them directly, or of which they would have been aware.  The previous instalment, https://andsoitgoes775.wordpress.com/2018/02/05/1788-elizabeth-pulleys-first-year/ finished in December 1788 at the time of Ar-ab-anoo’s capture.


The second year of settlement began with New Year celebrations, which included the usual hoisting of the flag, suspension of work, and the Governor’s dinner, at which Ar-ab-an-noo was in attendance.  The band played, a singer sang, but Ar-ab-an-noo was not impressed and went to sleep. Ar-ab-a-noo’s abduction had led to a few months of relative peace.  The aborigines, understandably, kept their distance, as the little trust they may have had in the English would have evaporated.

Ar-ab-a-noo, Nān-bar-ee and Ab-ar-óo

Ar-ab-a-noo was quick to learn the English language and customs, and was taken back to his people a few times so they could see he was not harmed.  But his people kept well away.  Phillip’s plan had backfired.  By April Ar-ab-a-noo’s fetter was taken off, and he was free to move around the settlement, causing comment wherever he went.  And in the same month disaster struck.

Reports were coming in of large numbers of Aborigines being found dead around the cove and along the coast.  It was small-pox, probably brought in by the British.  Whereas the settlers were immune, being previously exposed to this disease, the Aborigines had no resistance.  Between April and June they died in their hundreds[3].

A number of aborigines who were found sick but still alive, were brought into the settlement’s hospital for treatment.  Of those, two children survived.  The boy, Nãn-bar-ee, was adopted by Mr. White, the surgeon-general, and the girl, Ab-ar-òo, was ‘received into’ the family of Mrs. Johnson, the clergyman’s wife.

Then, in May, Ar-ab-a-noo, who had been tending his people in the hospital, became ill, and died eight days later.  According to Captain Tench, ‘the governor, who particularly regarded him, caused him to be buried in his own garden, and attended the funeral in person’.  I wonder if his remains are still under the high-rises which overlook Sydney Cove?

east sideEast side of the Cove: Governor’s residence on corner of Bridge and Loftus Sts.[4] 

The developing town

Life for Elizabeth, Anthony, and now Robert, continued with little change.  Couples married (Anthony was witness to a friend’s wedding in September), children were born, and a number of them and their mothers died during or after birth.  The building and organisation of the settlement struggled on.

Two roads, one linking the landing, hospital and stores, and another down to the magazine and Observatory, were under construction.

sydney cove west sideWest side of Sydney Cove[5]

A second and more stable boat was being built to transport supplies between the Cove and Rose Hill.  Temporary shelters were slowly being replaced by more permanent brick buildings, and Anthony would have been busy at the brickworks.  

The brickworks[6]

Well, most of the time.  On 11th February Anthony, along with John Summers, was charged with ‘neglecting to work where ordered’, and ordered 25 lashes.  Then, on 9th March, Anthony was charged again, and ordered 25 lashes.  Perhaps there was a reason for his reticence.


The brickworks were well out of town, so there was always a potential lack of supervision of workers there.  It seems that conflict between the brickworkers and aborigines, which had come to public attention in December, was not isolated, and on 6th March it came to a head.  Members of the Brickmaker’s gang, and some others, armed with working tools and large clubs, went towards Botany Bay to attack the aborigines and plunder their fishing-tackle and spears.

They were met, or ambushed (depending on source), by a group of aborigines, who killed one of the convicts and injured seven others.  The convicts who escaped gave the alarm and an officer, with a detachment of marines, was sent to rescue the wounded and bring them back.  Later two more armed parties of marines reconnoitred the area to signal the Governor’s disapproval.

Over the next couple of months the convicts involved were rounded up, charged, and ordered 150 lashes and to wear a leg iron for a year.  Samuel Day, who had been Elizabeth’s accomplice in the sea-pye incident the previous May, was one of them.  Anthony, however, was not on the list.  I would like to think that his reason for shirking work during this period was because he would have known of the plans for the impending attack, and he did not want to be part of it.  So, he stayed away.  But I could be quite wrong.  He may have just been ‘slacking off’.

Protecting food supply, the Night Watch, and mutinies

As well as ‘slacking off’, the stealing of anything and everything at Sydney Cove and the newly established Rose Hill gardens, by all and sundry, continued unabashed.  In March six marines were executed for a well-organised and long-term exercise of systematically robbing from the stores.  By August a Night Watch was established in both places to try and quell the nighttime raids.  It turned out to be very effective.

Tension between the officers continued.  This time Lieutenant-Governor Ross turned his ire on Governor Phillip and Judge-Advocate Collins.  Ross’ complaints related to the chain of command being abused, and him, or his officers, being slighted or sidelined.  Underlying the complaint was the old grievance of who was in charge of whom, and who should be required to do what.  The newly established Night Watch, which was instructed to stop and detain marines as well as convicts, was also a sore point.

Ross had had enough, and openly, and inappropriately, complained about his situation.  He was heard publicly stating, ‘Would to God my time was expired, too’.  He was soon to get his wish.  Plans were already being made in Britain to bring the marines home, and replace them with an army corps.  But Ross was not the only discontent.  Insurrection was also becoming a problem at Norfolk Island.  In March news had come from there of an unsuccessful convict mutiny.

The Kings birthday and the first play

The tension was somewhat diverted mid-year with the celebration of the King’s Birthday.  This time the officers were entertained at dinner in the newly built Government House (cnr. Bridge & Phillip Sts).  The highlight of the night was the performance of Farquhar’s comedy of the Recruiting Officer by some of the convicts.

Sixty people attended the play, held in a convict-hut especially fitted up for the occasion with ‘three or four yards of stained paper, and a dozen farthing candles stuck around the mud walls’.  A ‘prologue and an epilogue, written by one of the performers, were also spoken on the occasion;  which…contained some tolerable allusions to the situation of the parties, and the novelty of a stage-representation in New South Wales.’

Expansion beyond the Cove

In the meantime explorations continued further west of Rose Hill, and north-west along the Hawkesbury River, past Richmond Hill and the waterfall at the junction of the Grose and Nepean rivers.[7]

from the cove to the hawkesbury

The usual selection of seeds and vegetables were planted in any potentially suitable site on the way.  The parties noted yam planting, animal traps, hunting huts, and other signs of organised Aboriginal husbandry.[8]  They also noted the after-effects of torrential rain and flooding, which meant that the area would not be suitable for European agriculture.  Every attempt to go further, towards the Carmarthen and Blue Mountains, was still thwarted by the rugged countryside.

Diminishing stock and food reserves

Back in the settlements provisions were, as usual, limited. Rats, which had decimated everything in March, still proved to be a problem in the stores in October. There was an imbalance in new births of sheep and goats, with significantly more males than females being born.  Everyone was henceforth forbidden to kill a female.  Fish once again returned with the warmer weather in September, and by summer they were plentiful.

At Rose Hill and Norfolk Island clearing and planting crops had continued steadily throughout the year.  There was still hope that the gardens, at Rose Hill and on Norfolk Island, as well as in the Cove, would soon produce crops beyond seeding stock.

rose hill from bradley 1789Rose Hill c. 1789

 James Ruse, a farmer and one of a number of convicts whose sentences were now expired, had been sent to Rose Hill to develop an experimental farm.  Even so, in November, almost everyone’s rations were again reduced.

The indigenous population re-emerges

The warmer weather also brought the aboriginal inhabitants.  The devastation caused by small-pox, and the usual lack of food in winter, meant that very few aborigines had been seen on the shore or in canoes.  Many had run away or moved to other areas.  Then in September the attacks on solo or unarmed English recommenced.

At the end of November Phillip, using the two aboriginal children as bait, once more captured two adult males.  They were Bà-n-eelon and Còl-beeCòl-bee was a chief or elder of the Ca-di-gal tribe, and was very respected by Bà-n-eelon, who remained quiet in his presence.  Both had obviously survived small-pox.  It was not long before Còl-bee managed to escape, even with an iron ring on one leg.

Bà-n-eelon, however, seemed right at home.  He quickly imitated the language and manners of the English, eating and drinking everything he was offered.  He laughed, danced, sang, and skited about carrying off women and fighting competitively, especially against the Cam-ee-ra-gal (based on the North shore, and one of the largest and most powerful tribes in the area).  He was quite a character; dressing in the military red coat and trousers, flirting with the women, and generally keeping the town entertained.[9]

Fear of starvation

In spite of these diversions, everyone in the settlement was becoming pre-occupied by a growing fear.  As the year drew to a close and 1790 began, Capt. Hunter wrote, ‘in every company, the converfation turned upon the long expected arrivals from England…with a fupply of provifions’.


[1] These stories sprang from the research my mother, Madge Rups, undertook in the 1970’s and 1980’s which I extended from late 1990’s onwards to include the social context and indigenous presence.  It is a compilation drawn from the Journals of the First Fleet, the Historical Records, the Picman Catalogue, the Colonial Secretary’s Papers, articles from the Royal Historical Society Journal and Proceedings, and other writing.

[2] As I explained in the previous instalment, it was two hundred and thirty years since my ancestor Elizabeth Pulley arrived in Australia and it seemed an apt time to offer my version of her first year in the colony.  I had also uploaded a very much abbreviated version of the first part of Elizabeth’s story, Beginnings and Arrival, in 2017 as Remembering Elizabeth Pulley on ‘Australia Day’  These are from a longer doco-story, The Story of Elizabeth Pulley: and her first five years in Australia (2010).

[3] Estimates vary from hundreds to thousands.  Cpt. Phillip commented that, from the information he was able to gather, ‘one-half of those who inhabit this part of the country died’

[4] Soas not to infringe copyright all sketches are my copies of original records with additions.

[5] My understanding is that George Street follows this early road, and that at this stage the landing of goods, etc was carried out via the beach.

[6] I have previously uploaded this section about the brickworks onto the Rope-Pulley facebook page

[7] During the course of my research I have been constantly amazed how quickly and extensively the newcomers travelled in their efforts to find suitable settlement and agricultural sites.

[8] In his article, Australian Temper and Bias, https://meanjin.com.au/essays/11312/  Bruce Pascoe touches on the evidence, recorded in explorer’s journals, of early aboriginal settlement and agriculture around Australia by the time of European arrival – vast fields of agriculture, bread making, the damning of rivers and streams, and building.

[9] In November 2018 the NSW State Government bought the site where Bennelong is believed to have been buried to establishing a public memorial, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/nov/18/bennelongs-burial-site-to-be-turned-into-public-memorial

Australia Day: conflicts and alternatives

This year I will again be honouring my convict ancestors’, Elizabeth Pulley’s and Anthony Rope’s arrival in Sydney Cove on 26th January 1788.  Elizabeth had been sentenced to be ‘hung by the neck till she be dead’.  She escaped that fate by being shipped to Australia.  Because of this I have been given the gift of life yet I am well aware of the devastation it caused Australia’s, and therefore our, first peoples.  As I have said many times previously, while I am happy to celebrate my ancestors arrival in Sydney Cove on this date, designating 26th January as ‘Australia Day’ for all Australians is unacceptable and must change.

According to research undertaken by the Rope-Pulley Family Heritage Association[1], celebrations on 26th January by emancipated convicts began in 1808 in Sydney.  In 1818 Governor Lachlan Macquarie designated the date as Foundation Day and a holiday for all government workers.  By 1888 all states except South Australia were celebrating Foundation or Anniversary Day on that date.  By 1935 the day became officially known as Australia Day.[2]

The Reconciliation Council of NSW has uploaded additional information about, and history of resistance to the 26th January being designated ‘Australia Day’.[3] Some of it includes,

The Roving Date.

26th January a national official public holiday called ‘Australia Day’ is recent (1994) and could well have been politically motivated as were earlier dates.  The first ever official national day that was actually named ‘Australia Day’ was July 30 in 1915, which was to raise funds for the World War I effort.  In 1916, the Australia Day committee that had formed (to organise the war effort fundraising the year before) determined that it would be held on July 28.  In 1837, the first Sydney Regatta was held. In 1838, crowds of people attended the event and to see the hoisting of the New South Wales flag. South Australia, Western Australia, and Van Diemens Land (Tasmania) were toasted as sister colonies, despite having their own celebratory day.[4]


In 1938 on 26th January there was a significant Aboriginal protest against Australia Day, calling it a ‘Day of Mourning’ and, as the rally against Australia Day was held, 25 Indigenous men were told if they did not perform the role of ‘retreating Aborigines’ in a re-enactment of the First Fleet, their families would starve.[5]  Then, in 1972 the Aboriginal tent embassy was established in front of Parliament House.  In 1988 40,000 Aboriginal protesters and non-Aboriginal supporters marched from Redfern Park to a public rally at Hyde Park and then on to Sydney Harbour to mark the 200th anniversary of British invasion.[6]


There are an increasing number of events on offer that highlight this conflict.

This year the Festival of Sydney is offering a vigil beginning at 8pm Friday 25thth January at Barangaroo Reserve, to signify ‘The Day Before Everything Changed’, and opportunities to participate are available (check website). [7]

Wugulora Morning Ceremony, Bangarroo, Sydney on Saturday 26th.

At 11 am Saturday 26th there is a protest march beginning at the corner of Elizabeth and Liverpool streets.[8]

Yabun festival at Victoria Park.[9]

There was a documentary on NITV the other night in which an elder spoke of the tradition of the annual gathering of various tribal groups in October/Spring/when plants emerge from the ground, and during which each group shared their tradition through stories/song, and I assume, dance. This communal gathering was well established long before the rest of us arrived and perfectly timed for our Australian climate…Spring…new beginnings…hope for the future/survival.  A perfect time for Australia day, especially as we already celebrate the Australian-specific Wattle Day around this time.

It also seems to me that the number of indigenous-centred events in this years festival, which begins the night before the designated day, has the potential of expanding even further to a three-day festival…the day before, focusing on Australia’s longer indigenous history…the beginning of change, focusing on British arrival….and arrivals, focusing on the history of migration and refugees.

What Australia Day should be doing is choosing a time and format which recognises and respects our longest traditional culture and its history as well as sharing the stories of all cultures which have arrived more recently.

To bridge the gap the Reconciliation Council of NSW has offered Approaching 26 January respectfully: protocols and suggestions.


[1] Rope-Pulley Family Newsletter, January 2016, No. 81

[2] still not in all states

[3] https://www.facebook.com/reconciliationNSW

[4] https://www.sbs.com.au/topics/life/culture/article/2018/01/23/many-different-dates-weve-celebrated-australia-day?fbclid=IwAR1Sx4HexsSXLF7LrF1f4kHArixEsGBNU_Rr0a3V7_BNrNAu-pvTxNQHdUQ

[5] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-01-25/eighty-years-since-forced-first-fleet-reenactment/9358854

[6] This was the beginning of my real awareness that ‘there was something wrong’.  I had been involved in a number of reconciliation events which included choreographing an Australian history timeline in which the National Aboriginal and Islander Dance Theatre had been invited to take part, and was becoming increasingly aware how us ‘whities’ were speaking for ‘them’, and that we needed to listen.  I also remember walking down Elizabeth street with my family, dressed in colonial garb for the ‘official’ ceremony, seeing the thousands of protesters marching by and cheering them along.  I had put earrings of the Aboriginal flag in my ears as my own small protest;  not much…just a symbol/acknowledgement to myself.

[7] https://www.sydneyfestival.org.au/events/the-vigil

[8] https://www.facebook.com/events/1750661138392701/

[9] http://yabun.org.au/


Anthony Rope and the Sydney Cove brickworks

thumbnail (1)

Motivated by Julie Austen’s link on Rope-Pulley Family Heritage association facebook page to upload the information I have gleaned.  This is an excerpt from my The Story of Elizabeth Pulley and her first five years in Australia.  Hope it is of interest.

‘On 11th February Anthony, along with John Summers, was charged with ‘neglecting to work where ordered’, and ordered 25 lashes.  Then, on 9th March, Anthony was charged again, and ordered 25 lashes.  Perhaps there was a reason for his reticence.

The brickworks were well out of town, so there was always a potential lack of supervision of workers there.  It seems that conflict between the brickworkers and aborigines, which had come to public attention in December, was not isolated, and on 6th March it came to a head.  Members of the Brickmaker’s gang, and some others, armed with working tools and large clubs, went towards Botany Bay to attack the aborigines and plunder their fishing-tackle and spears.

They were met, or ambushed (depending on source), by a group of aborigines, who killed one of the convicts and injured seven others.  The convicts who escaped gave the alarm and an officer, with a detachment of marines, was sent to rescue the wounded and bring them back.  Later two more armed parties of marines reconnoitred the area to signal the Governor’s disapproval.

Over the next couple of months the convicts involved were rounded up, charged, and ordered 150 lashes and to wear a leg iron for a year.  Samuel Day, who had been Elizabeth’s accomplice in the sea-pye incident the previous May, was one of them.  Anthony, however, was not on the list.  I would like to think that his reason for shirking work during this period was because he would have known of the plans for the impending attack, and he did not want to be part of it.  So, he stayed away.  But I could be quite wrong.  He may have just been ‘slacking off’.’





Elizabeth and Anthony Rope’s life at The Ponds, 1791- ?

Elizabeth and Anthony Rope’s life at The Ponds, 1791- ?[i]


The Ponds Creek was originally a series of swamps, soaks and tributaries along Dundas Valley. The name Dundas came into use in the late 1790’s but not officially until the late 1800’s.  Originally the home of the Darug speaking Wallumedda clan.  www.parracity.nsw.gov.au

2. The Ponds location map

Captain Watkins Tench lists the Ropes among the settlers at the Ponds during his last visit to the area on 6th December, 1791. Bonwick’s ‘Return of Land in Cultivation…as of 16th October, 1792’, dates Anthony as being settled at the Ponds on 10 January, 1792.  Perhaps January was when Anthony’s sentence expired and he ‘officially’ received the grant.  If that was the case, by mid-January Anthony could have been farming full-time,[ii] and the family would only have needed to visit Parramatta for their weekly ration, as well as for replacement tools, seeds, clothing, medical assistance, and divine services.  

Whatever the case, by the beginning of 1792 Elizabeth and Anthony would have been well settled into their new environment.  The Ponds, so named because of the large ponds of good water in the area, was located in the gently rolling hills and creeks around Dundas Valley.  Elizabeth would have noticed the quiet and the sense of isolation in contrast to the bustle of Parramatta, especially while Anthony was at work in town.

Because of their two children they had the largest allotment: seventy acres reaching over the hill between two creeks or ponds.  The other 14 or so allotments were settled by couples, or, as in the case of Anthony’s friend John Summers, were share-farmed by two men.[iii]  In the centre of the small community was a military detachment of one officer and 3 privates, who were to protect the new settlers until the clearing of the land was complete.[iv]

Upon settlement they would have received the same provisions and equipment, and would have been under the same conditions, as the other ex-convict settlers. The family would have been given enough grain for the first year and tools.  Tools were given to both men and women;  each receiving a hatchet, a tomahawk, two hoes, a spade, and a shovel.  A number of cross-cut saws were shared among the community, and muskets were given to each family for their protection.  Also, at some settlements, a convict was given to a family as an assistant.

As well as tending to the vegetable garden and assisting Anthony with the bulk crops, Elizabeth would have been making clothes, cooking, and caring for the needs of their children: Robert, now almost three and a half years old, and Mary, just over six months.  At the time the home gardens included vegetables, such as cabbages, greens, peas, kidney-beans, turnips, carrots. leeks, parsley, all of which did well in the Australian climate.  The larger crops were wheat and other grain.

They had obviously immediately set to work clearing the land and planting.  Records show that by February 1792 the Ropes had 8 1/2 acres cleared from trees, and another 8 1/2 acres were under wheat and maize;  a major improvement since the previous December. They would have built their own hut, to which a brick chimney would have been added mid year.[v]  By February they had acquired one horse and eight hogs.  So they were doing well.  When Atkins visited the Ponds in March he was generally impressed, remarking that the settlers ‘are for the most part…very comfortably lodged…  In short they are in every particular much better situated than they could possibly be in England.’

It was a fulltime job as there were inevitable problems with scavenging hawks, crows and bugs, which meant replanting, as well as marauding absconders and local aborigines who were after anything edible or barterable.  Elizabeth and Anthony were also lucky to get the animals, for although two sow pigs were promised to each ex-convict settler, they were not always received.

In spite of their progress, however, it was too soon for the family to self support, and in February three of them are listed as still being on government stores.  Elizabeth was probably breastfeeding Mary, the fourth member of the family.  The stores were essential for the new settler’s survival, as it was becoming obvious that it would be some time before they would be self-sufficient.  The government had given them eighteen months to establish themselves, after which they would be taken off stores and would need to pay for the hire of their convict labour themselves.[vi]  After five years of continuous farming the land was theirs at one shilling per annum rent.

The previous year had seen some major changes in the settlement of New South Wales.  The focus of cultivation of crops and animal husbandry, which had moved from Sydney Cove to Parramatta and Norfolk Island, was now extending further north, east, and west of Parramatta.  Sydney Cove was now considered an administrative centre and a depot for stores, with the Governor’s main residence there.  Parramatta was the agricultural centre where the Governor had a second residence.  Commuting was the norm, and a pathway now connected the two towns.

As well, Sydney Cove was turning into a busy port.  One month after the last of the Third Fleet had departed in January, 1792, the first ship of the Fourth Fleet pulled into the harbour.[vii]  The bi-annual arrival of Fleets had begun.  By the end of 1792 this traffic was augmented by trading and Whaling ships, which had heard about the new colony in other ports, and were hoping to trade goods, as well as to carry out repairs and replenish supplies of wood and water.

The movement of ships and people between the Cove and Norfolk Island increased in frequency as convicts, supervisors, soldiers and provisions were ferried back and forth.  Often ships from the Fleets would be commissioned in this way before returning home.  Phillip also regularly diverted the returning ships to Batavia or Calcutta to purchase extra provisions, clothing, and stores.

The colony was still much in need, and there was the constant fear that the storeships from England would be delayed or shipwrecked.  So the weeks between one ship departing and another arriving were spent in anxious anticipation.  In addition, the stores, clothing and provisions, when they were landed and checked, were often damaged, underweight, or unsuitable for the climate and harsh conditions of the country.  In the end extra provisions were purchased from the trading ships as well, to make up for any losses or omissions.

The Fleets themselves were now commissioned from private firms by the English Government.  So the ships masters would view the exercise as a trading opportunity and not just the transport of personnel and government goods.  Shops were set up in huts on shore, and people would flock to purchase the wares.  Some newly settled convicts took the short-term option of selling their stock and leaving their land so that they could purchase the alluring ‘unnecessaries’ or a return passage home.[viii]  Disputes regarding money exchange and the price of goods began to form part of the Court’s agenda.  And, of course, convicts would regularly stowaway, and sailors abscond.

At the other end of the river, Parramatta continued to expand.  Many of the convicts and soldiers were now based in the area:  the convict men in agriculture or other trades, and the women making clothes from material they collected from the stores, acting as ‘minders’ for the men’s huts while the men were at work, or themselves working in the fields and, of course, getting married and having children.[ix]  Reverend Johnson calculated that by October 1792 he had performed 220 marriages and 226 baptisms since arrival.

Increasing numbers of First Fleet ex-convicts and ex-marines, who had decided to settle were, like Elizabeth and Anthony, on their way to becoming self-supporting.  New settlers were given land around Parramatta, in areas called Prospect Hill (west), the Ponds (northeast), the Field of Mars (along the creek) the Eastern Farms, the Northern Farms, and south of the creek.  As the crops from these outlying farms were harvested the excess was brought into town for barter or sale.

The area northwest of Parramatta, initially called ‘new farms’ and later named Toongabbie, was selected as the site for the new public farm.  In January 1792 the clearing began.  By June the convicts employed there were planting seed, and in September they had harvested the first crop of wheat and Indian corn.  The produce, if not stolen, was taken to the government stores where it was augmented by imported provisions, or stored as seed for the following season’s planting.[x]

Expectations for the future were high, and in April the foundations for a town hall, to include a market place for grain, fish, poultry, livestock and clothes, and a hospital were laid at Parramatta.  A ‘clerk of the market’ was appointed to register sales and barters, in an attempt to deter the sale and exchange of stolen goods.  Goods on sale at Parramatta market during May included:  hens, cocks, chickens, eggs, fresh pork, vegetables, tea, coffee, sugar, tobacco, soap and cheese.  New arrivals commented on how well the colony seemed to be doing, and how much the convicts had compared to labouring people in England.  The reality was that the colony was still struggling to feed itself.

Everyone was still on reduced ration, a situation that had continued almost unchanged since November 1789.  Many of the convicts were starving and a number of newcomers commented on their appearance.  Atkins described them as ‘mere walking shadows’.  By March 1792 work was restricted to the hours between 5 and 9 in the morning, and 4 and 5.30 in the afternoon, as the convicts were too weak to do more.  Then in April, as in the previous year, rations were reduced further.

The rationing took its toll.  During the first half of the year at Parramatta, there were daily burials of convicts.  Small children were also vulnerable.[xi]  Quite a number of the convicts had never recovered fully from the lack of care during their journey out the previous year and were weak and malnourished.[xii]  In addition, the hand-mills, which England had sent out, were not strong enough grind the Indian corn, and the grain was being eaten raw.  In an attempt to bring relief, the Governor established a fishery on South Head, and sent gamesmen to Parramatta to procure fresh meat for the hospital.  The fresh protein, added to the large numbers of vegetables the gardens produced, and a little rum, gradually slowed the death-rate during the rest of the year.

Governor Phillip had been concerned and in June, a few weeks after the King’s Birthday, he visited the new settlement (Toongabbie) where most of the convicts were labouring.  He apologised to them for the small ration, and asked them to be patient, orderly and to do their duty.  He promised that storeships were expected, and that when the ships arrived the convicts rations would be increased if they behaved well.  He then released all those in irons, a gesture which usually coincided with the King’s Birthday.  Yet it was some months before rationing approached an adequate quantity.

By this time relations with the aboriginal inhabitants seems to have settled down once more.  Reverend Johnson mentions their daily presence in camp.  Five aboriginal people seemed to have been living permanently in the towns and are listed as being on government stores.  These were probably working for, or living with, some of the English.[xiii] There is mention of groups of aborigines stealing the ripening corn and other items from the outlying farms, but there is only one incident recorded of a ‘payback’ nature.  In May a convict was found dead, having been speared and cut as payback for firing on, and, it was assumed, killing, one of a group caught stealing goods from a hut.  Otherwise there is very little comment on relations between the two cultures.

Each new boatload of convicts, on the other hand, continued to cause as much trouble as they could.[xiv]  Whereas many of the convicts who came out in 1788 were now settling down and becoming ‘model’ citizens, the new arrivals went through the whole rebellious cycle of absconding, stealing, running scams, [xv]and mutiny, including attacking people for their provisions on the roads from Parramatta to Toongabbie or to Sydney. [xvi]

The court record for Parramatta on 9th January, 1792 is an example of the types of crimes committed by the convicts at this time.  The court heard seventeen charges of stealing chickens, corn, greens, vegetables, including from the Governor’s garden, clothing, money, of disorderly behaviour, and of going to Sydney without permission.  The severity of punishment, such as stocks, iron collars, lashes, executions, or transportation to Norfolk Island for life, did not seem to have deterred them.

As well as the community’s growth in size, a much more complex society was emerging.  The new colony was no longer just an extended ‘low security’ prison, but an agricultural and trading centre with two major towns and a number of satellite communities.  Reverend Johnson and Judge-Advocate Collins were both writing of their increased workload.

The Reverend was conducting divine services in three places: Sydney, Parramatta, and ‘a new settlement 3 miles west of Parramatta’ (Toongabbie).  Attendance, however, was still irregular and although four hundred acres of land had been given over for church use, no building to house the congregations had yet been erected.[xvii]  As well Johnson now had competition.  A number of the more recent convict arrivals were Irish and Catholic.  In November four males and one female signed a letter at Parramatta alerting the Governor to the inconvenience in not having ‘a pastor of our religion’, that is, a Catholic priest.

The need for administrators, supervisors and skilled workers was increasing, a point that Phillip continued to make in his letters to England.  He was also alerting England of the need to pay skilled workers, as the ships masters were offering passage home in return for work, and draining the colony of experienced tradesmen.[xviii]  The skill pool was further reduced by accidents, sickness and by some who had been here long term requesting retirement.[xix]

Some of Phillip’s needs were addressed during the year.  Atkins, a magistrate, arrived in February, and was posted to Parramatta to deal with criminal matters there, as well as assist Judge-Advocate Collins in Sydney.  In October a replacement surgeon, a master carpenter, a master miller and a settler experienced in cultivation arrived.  The gaps were also filled by ex-convicts who had proved themselves trustworthy and were granted remission and jobs.[xx]

Money was now a commodity, partly due to the trade instigated by the arriving ships, but also due to skilled workers needing to be paid, and the increasing numbers of ex-convicts having to support themselves.  By October shops for private trade had opened in Sydney and Parramatta.[xxi]  In response to Phillip’s requests ‘three thousand-eight hundred and seventy ounces of silver in dollars’ arrived in November on the transport Kitty.  One thousand were immediately dispatched to Norfolk Island, the rest was held in Sydney as ‘public money’.

Education appeared on the agenda.  By March 1792 three schools had been established for the children of civil and military families, and some convict children: one at Parramatta, another in Sydney, and the third at Norfolk Island.  Those in Sydney were run by schoolmistresses;  the one in Norfolk by a convict ex-teacher.[xxii]  Reverend Johnson was writing to England for financial support and resources, such as books.  He stressed the need for educating convict and aboriginal adults and children.  He also canvassed for additional teachers, ‘as I fear that a school mistress wd not do so well neither be proper to instruct the men Convicts’, and missionaries for ‘the ignorant and benighted heathens’.

The arrival of Major Grose in February, as Lieutenant Governor in charge of the NSW corps, began well.   He was agreeably surprised by the colony.  But this was not to last.  He was soon unwilling to abide by Phillip’s more democratic philosophy.  By October he was complaining to Phillip and England that he and his soldiers had been placed on the same ‘unwholesome’ ration as everyone else, and of the limits placed on the availability of liquor.[xxiii]  In spite of Phillip’s opposition, he and his Officers privately hired the Britannia to go to the Cape of Good Hope and bring back provisions they considered essential for men of their rank.  It seemed as though the battles that Phillip had fought with the First Fleet officers were about to recur.

However Phillip by this time had had enough.  His decision to resign, publicly announced at the end of October, caused a flurry of activity as long-termers, like Judge-Advocate Collins and Surgeon-General White, also submitted requests for leave in the hope of accompanying him home.  Phillip had slowly been working towards consolidating his administration throughout the year, and October and November were spent finalising all accounts, writing detailed reports to England, restating his mandate for the colony, updating records of provisions, stores and personnel, and granting absolute and provisional pardons to those he considered deserving.

On Friday 7th December Phillip conducted his last item of business and officially closed his government.  Then on Monday 10th at 6pm, he ‘quit his charge’ and embarked on the Atlantic.  He was received near the wharf on the east-side, where his boat was lying, by Major Grose at the head of the NSW corps.  There the NSW corps ‘paid him all the marks of honour’.  The officers of the civil department, and the three marine officers who were to accompany him to England, were in attendance.

On board were the last of the marines, two convicts whose period of transportations had expired, and two aboriginal men, Bennillong and Yem-mer-ra-wan-nie, who were friends of Phillip.  They had decided to travel with him, much to the distress of their wives and friends.  The following day those officers who were to remain behind sailed with Phillip down the harbour.  At 9am they disembarked, and gave three cheers as the ship prepared to move between the heads and depart the colony.

It was not without regret on both sides.  In Phillip’s view, the colony was now approaching ‘that state in which I have so long and anxiously wished to see’.  From the standpoint of those who had worked alongside him since the beginning, it was a great loss and ‘no small degree of concern in the settlement’.

Major Grose was sworn in by Judge-Advocate Collins, and immediately began to institute military, rather than civil rule.  Nothing in future was to be done, including court proceedings and punishment, without Grose’s and his officers’ approval and direction.  A few days later a distinction in rations was ordered, with all civil and military personnel placed on full ration while the convicts’ allowance remained restricted.[xxiv]  Some of the convict-settlers responded by selling off their stock in order to buy spirits.  As Atkins commented, ‘times are changed’.

It is difficult to imagine how Elizabeth and Anthony would have felt during this time.  Change is always unsettling, and they, like everyone else, were probably biding their time to see how advantageous or not, the new government was to be.  The inequalities in rationing would not have affected them greatly, as their allowance was supplemented by the produce of their farm, and their community was well enough away to function on its own.  As they do not seem to be mentioned in any records until 1794, they probably were not causing any trouble worth noting.

During the year they would have received the extra ration of spirits for the King’s birthday celebration in June.  They may also have benefited from the clothes which arrived, and were handed out to convicts, at the end of October.  They probably did receive one of the ewes, for the purpose of breeding, which Phillip gave to each married settler just before he left the colony.

But over the long-term, it seems that the changes brought in by military rule had their effect on Elizabeth and Anthony as well.  Not only was government provisions now unequally rationed, the military began to monopolise both the marketplace and the giving of land grants.  Military insistence on easy access to liquor meant that spirits became the preferred currency, the illegal distillation of liquor a preferred source of income, and farming being a lot of hard work for virtually nothing.

In addition Elizabeth and Anthony lost their third child, Elizabeth, who died in 1794 soon after birth, and could possibly be buried at The Ponds.  Although they were still there during 1795 for the birth and baptism of John, by the end of the following year the family is recorded as having settled at Mulgrave Place, near Windsor.  Perhaps they had had enough and walked off their farm to squat around the Hawkesbury like so many other people at the time, or perhaps they had received a settler’s permit there.[xxv]  Whatever the case their land at The Ponds was left unresolved for a number of years while the family focussed their efforts in the area bounded by the Hawkesbury and Nepean Rivers, South Creek, and Rope’s Creek.

[i] The information for this story springs from the research my mother, Madge Rups, undertook in the 1970’s and 1980’s which I extended from late 1990’s onwards to include the social context and indigenous presence.  It is a compilation drawn from the Journals of the First Fleet, the Historical Records, the Picman Catalogue, the Colonial Secretary’s Papers, as well as articles from the Royal Historical Society Journal and Proceedings, and other writing.

[ii] Toby Ryan places Anthony working at Toongabbie, which is a government farm, around this time.  As the Ropes already have their own farm at the Ponds, I cannot see them living at both places, unless Anthony travelled to Toongabbie to work as a labourer from time to time.  Anthony’s trade is still listed as a bricklayer, so this could be what he still did in addition to working his own farm.

[iii] There is little mention of other friends of theirs.  Betty Mason, who lived with Elizabeth and Anthony for a while, and married Richard Hawkes in 1790 gave evidence at a trial in April 1792  But it looks as if she and Richard separated around this time.  By May Richard was established on a farm by himself, and at the end of the month she gave birth to a daughter under her maiden name.  At the daughter’s christening later that year, Phillip Morris was named as the father.  Isabella Richardson (nee Rawson) whose marriage to William in 1789 had been witnesses by Anthony, became a schoolmistress.  Both these women were probably based at or around Parramatta, and Elizabeth & Anthony may have remained in contact with them, but they may just as much have gone their separate ways.

[iv] The military presence was to deter poaching and violence.  All the food and water sources for the local aborigines were being increasingly taken over by the expanding settlement and understandably they would take from the farmer’s crops and animals for their own survival.

[v] In July Phillip organised builders to come in to add the chimneys to the huts ‘at the Ponds’, and to carry out other repairs.

[vi] By December Phillip was writing that more time would be needed.

[vii] This one with Lt. Governor Francis Grose, who was in charge of the NSW corps, soldiers, more convicts, and, as usual, limited provisions of salted beef and pork.

[viii] Not all convict-settlers worked the land they were given.  Some just worked for their neighbours and forfeited their grant.  The result was they ended up back where they started:  homeless, off stores, and causing mischief.  Part of the reason was that many ex-convicts still wanted to return home and saw no purpose in making their home here.

[ix] Rather than supply convicts with ready-made clothes Phillip decided to keep everyone busy, and the women had to return the clothes to the stores once completed.  He had found that the convicts, generally, became more ‘socialised’ when they worked in some sort of trade, gradually leaving their convict language and behaviour behind.

[x] In October Phillip was writing of the 1,500 bushels stolen from the grounds, in spite of precautions taken to protect it.

[xi] The death tally for the year included 418 male convicts, 18 female convicts and 29 children.

[xii] In England the trial against the master of the Neptune, for ill treatment of convicts, was underway.  Later transports carried a naval agent to supervise convict’s treatment and a ‘medical gentleman’ to treat them if they fell ill.

[xiii] Rev. Johnston still had two aboriginal girls living with his family.

[xiv] Upon disembarkation in Sydney a number would immediately abscond into huts, and would have to be found, detained, and transferred to Parramatta by force.  By October Phillip had decided to curb this practice, sending them directly to Parramatta and Toongabbie instead.

[xv] One of the scams was that convicts were selling their supplied clothes to soldiers.  Phillip wrote of the need to distinguish them, and all other convict items, in some way, like with a special strip, so that they could not be sold or bartered.

[xvi] The path turned out to be a problem as thieves used it to move their stolen goods between Parramatta and Sydney, or abscond, without anyone noticing.  Phillip responded by stopping its use.

[xvii] The previous year the foundations of a church building had been laid at Parramatta, but the building was quickly converted into a prison, and by 1792 it had become a granary.

[xviii] Phillip, whose health was deteriorating, also continued to ask for leave: ‘the complaint seldom leaves me lately for more than a few days’.  His ailing condition was also remarked upon by a number of new arrivals.

[xix] In April Burton, a Botanist and Supervisor who had examined and reported on the soil in the settlements and cultivation areas around Parramatta, died from a shooting accident.  Phillip wrote: ‘I lost one whom I cannot replace and whom I could ill spare’.  In July, Arndell, the assistant surgeon based at Parramatta retired due to age, and settled on his farm at East Creek.  In October, Phillip commented that of the four superintendents sent out from England, only one was left who was effective.

[xx] Such as Stephenson, who began work at the provisions store in October, Kelly, who was employed as assistant surgeon at Toongabbie, Barrington, head constable of the Night Watch at Parramatta, and Robinson, who was employed at the Public Barn and Granaries at Parramatta.

[xxi] These shops had a licence to sell porter, but also traded other spirits, which led to some ex-convict-settlers setting up drinking houses on their farms and selling to others at inflated prices.  The result was ‘much intoxication.’

[xxii] One of the schoolmistresses was Isabella Richardson (nee Rawson) whose marriage to William in 1789 had been witnesses by Anthony Rope.

[xxiii] Even Phillip was eating the same rations as everyone else, although it was probably supplemented with game and wine.

[xxiv] Everyone’s rations had increased in June with the arrival of rice, dahl and soujee from Calcutta.  But as not many knew how to cook these foods it was of little help.  In July, salted beef and pork finally arrived and brought some relief.

[xxv] As later there were problems with the sale of The Ponds grant and arrears in rent, this could well have been the case.  It is really unclear what occurred.  Hawkesbury was viewed as the next promising area for farming, and ‘permits to settle’, not actual land grants, were given by Gov.s Grose and Paterson.  According to Paterson, by June 15, 1795 there were 400 people settled nearly 30 miles along the banks on both sides of the river (Mulgrave Place).  Anthony is not mentioned on this list.  (in Campbell, 1925, pp. 106, 107).  I also have in my notes, with a note to check with Colby, that mid 1797 Anthony sells the Pond grant to John Larkham for £50 with crops and  that Larkham then sues Anthony for not including the crops, and wins the crops.


Education Week: The Mudgee Ropes and the Lawson Creek Schools

It’s Education Week and an appropriate time to revisit and update an article I began in 2016.  It is especially relevant as it is also my great grandfather George Rope’s memorial day next week.

The background research for this was conducted by my mother, Madge (Rope) Rups during 1970’s, ‘80’s and ‘90’s; taken from birth, marriage, death, cemetery, land and department of education records as well as information given to her by relatives.  After mum died In 2015 I began checking through her records and my additions with the purpose of handing them on to the next generation.  I was amazed to notice how many of the third generation of Australian Ropes ended up in or around Mudgee and how involved they were with the establishment of the first schools in the area.

First I wish to acknowledge the original inhabitants and the violence that was part of Mudgee settlement.[i]

The Mudgee area is the home of the Wiradjuri Nation’s Mowgee clan. The Mowgee women’s totem is the wedge tail eagle (Mullian), and the men’s, the crow (Waggan).

In 1821 James Blackman jnr, assisted by Aaron an Aboriginal guide, finds the Cudgegong River, and Blackman follows it to the Burrundulla Swamps.  Later that year Lawson makes it as far as the Aboriginal camp at Mudgee.  By 1822 Lawson has convinced George and Henry Cox (of Mulgoa) to settle the land with him.  Other settlers soon follow.

Gradually the battles begin between the settlers and Mowgee over the Cudgegong River, other food sources (incl. animals which the settlers would kill), and sacred sites.  In 1824 Martial Law is imposed, and the Mowgee are shot without question. 

By 1845, the time that Robert and his siblings probably arrive, Mudgee has been gazetted as a village, there are 30+ dwellings, including a post office, 3 hotels, a hospital, 2 stores, an Anglican church and a police station.  There is little evidence left of Aboriginal presence.

My family’s story centres on Robert’s son and my great grandfather George Rope, as well as James Rope and families.  George was the great grandson of first fleet convicts, Elizabeth Pulley and Anthony Rope.  Anthony, Elizabeth and their growing family had moved west following the expanding settlement in the Sydney basin, finally working and settling around the areas east of the Nepean River.   At some stage in the 1840’s Robert, grandson of Anthony and Elizabeth and son of John and Maria, moves to Mudgee with his siblings, George, Thomas and Elizabeth. These siblings as well as Ann and her husband John Randall, and Mary Ann all seem to have died there.[ii]

James, another grandson of Elizabeth Pulley and Anthony Rope, and his mother, Elizabeth Ann, daughter of Anthony and Elizabeth also end up in Mudgee[iii].  James, who marries his cousin Elizabeth (Robert’s sister), is recorded as working as a labourer in Cooyal in 1847 and their first child is born there.  By the time of their third child it looks as if they have moved to Lawsons Creek, not far from Robert, Hannah Jane, and family.

Our records show that Robert acts as witness to Elizabeth and James’ marriage on 13th December 1853.  Robert’s partner (Hannah) Jane Rope[iv] acts as second witness.  This is a couple of months after the birth of James’ and Elizabeth’s third child.  James continues to work around the area, and the family continue to expand to thirteen children all of whom seem to be born around Lawsons and Pipeclay creek Mudgee.

By 1859 Edward Player, James’ half-brother, is also in Mudgee where he marries Jane Matthews and then Cora Proctor after Jane dies.  All their children are born in Mudgee.  There is an Edward ‘Rope’ who purchases land in 1874.  I am wondering if this is misnamed Edward Player as I cannot yet find an alternative.  By 1869 Thomas, brother of Robert, and his wife Letitia give birth to their fourth child, Albert Robert, in Mudgee. Thomas and three of his eight children die there.

My great-great grandparents, Robert and Hannah Jane Rope, have four children, George, Matilda, William E. and Henry[v].

1. Robert Rope2. Hannah Jane Thompson-RopeRobert and Hannah Jane

At the time of George’s birth in 1852 the family are living and working at Botobolar/Bottaballar near Mudgee.  By 1853 they have moved to Oakfield, which is overlooked by Mt Buckaroo near Lawson Creek.  Matilda, William E.  and Henry are born there.  By 1859 they have a small holding at Lawsons Creek.

George Rope cropped4. Matilda5a. William and Henry

George, Matilda, William E and Henry

In 1859 a school opens at Burrundulla on the other side of Mudgee.  Although still in Mudgee surrounds it is a hike from Lawson’s Creek.  By 1870 another site has been selected at Lawsons Creek and the school building is moved to its new location.  It is dedicated the following year.  In 1876 the school board is listed as James McGrath, Duncan Kerr, teacher Joseph Southwick, unmarried, and James Rope.

During 1876 the board, including James Rope, requests a new building and in 1877 the plan James Rope has presented to the Board is approved, accepted and surveyed, with the value of improvements: Hut £4, Fencing £10, Clearing £12.  The following year, 1878, Mr. John Rope (I assume James’ and Elizabeth’s son) presents a bill for fencing.  By 1879 a request has been submitted to grant permission to sell the old building to pay for other buildings.

This is perfect timing for George (my great-grandfather) who has married Ann (‘Hawkie’) Johnstone from Lue in 1874.  The first of their thirteen children, Maria Jane, is born the following year.  Maria Jane is followed by Florence Matilda (Flo), Charlotte Ethel (Eth), Henry Albert, Linda Dorothea, Violet, Clara, Alice May, Ellen Olive, my grandfather Joseph George, William Claude (Bill), Ivy Irene Madeline, and Daisy Pearl.[vi][vii]

6. George, Ann Hawkins Johnstone-Rope and children

George and ‘Hawkie’ build Edenville, just backing onto the railway line at Mt. Frome, to which they keep adding rooms for their expanding family.[viii]

7a. Edenville, Mt. Frome with 'Hawkie', Fla & EthEdenville

By this stage there are a lot of Rope descendent children of all ages growing up in the area.

There is a sad sidenote to this story.  A few months after the birth of George’s and Hawkie’s first child George’s mother is shot and killed by his uncle and namesake during one of his rages.  Robert, William and Henry are all there at the time, and Joseph Johnstone, ‘Hawkie’s father, is outside.  At the end of the year ‘uncle George’ is hung in spite of the rest of the family’s objections and pleas for leniency.  Five years later, in 1880, Robert marries a second time, Jane Haynes, a widow. Yet Robert seems to go into decline.  By 29th September 1887 he owes school fees, and in 1891 a letter is sent to the Minister for Public Instruction in Sydney requesting for Robert’s debts to be cancelled because of his continuing sickness (almost bedridden) and poverty:  Robert is being attended to by Dr. Nicholl ‘for the last three months’ and is without means of support.  He dies on 15th July 1892.[ix]

In spite of this George and his brothers make a success of their lives.  By June 1900 George is involved as one of a number of parents signing a petition for a new school and residence.  He has six children attending the school.  By September of the same year he is named in a letter to Department of Public Instruction as willing to give or sell 2 acres of his land nearer Mt. Frome station in exchange for the present school site, half a mile away, which can only be accessed through the Rope private property.

By 1902 the new school is built and George offers to purchase the old school property at a fair price, especially as it joins his property, and as it has not been cared for since and tramps have damaged the buildings.  In October the land, near Billy’s Lookout is transferred.  In 1911 a report is submitted regarding the need for fencing to keep the rabbits out of the school garden.

8a. Mt. Frome school with George and 3 Rope childrenMt Frome School with George (my great grandfather) and three Rope children.

8b. Mt. Frome school. Joseph George 3rd row, 4th from RMt. Frome School with Joseph George (my grandfather) third row, fourth from right.

This is the school that my grandfather and siblings attended, followed in turn by my mother, Madge, and her brother, Geoffrey George (‘Geoff’) when they were young.

George’s energy and vision sees him gradually expand his holdings.  By the end of his life this has extended up the mountains on both sides of Lawsons Creek – Mt. Buckaroo and Mt. Frome.

He is obviously a very successful farmer and well respected in the community.  When he dies one obituary comments on his generosity and kindness and continues with,

‘he was a successful farmer, and for many years has added dairying as a profitable industry, and was one of the directors of the Mudgee Butter Factory (ed. which is managed by his son, Henry).  He also spent a period as alderman of the Cudgegong Council….He was an enthusiastic member of the Mudgee Agricultural Society…the Mudgee band has also lost a generous friend.  One who time after time opened his hospitable home when a band benefit was in progress.’

The other,

‘The funeral…was one of the largest witnessed for some years, thus showing the respect in which the late Mr Rope was held’

After George’s death[x] the property passes to ‘Hawkie’, and then the two sons, my grandfather Joseph George, and William (‘Bill’).   During World War I Bill joins the army and Joseph George is constrained to stay at home and help look after the farm for his mother.   He extends the land holding and agriculture, including an orchard and vineyards, and moves into the brick house (at the junction of Lue and Rocky Waterhole Roads) which is opposite the old farm, adding a veranda around the outside for sleeping during summer.

The orchard contains every type of fruit, including quince, peach and fig trees.  The farm is mixed.  Although mainly dairy, there are also chooks, pigs, sheep and crops such as lucerne and oats.   The milk is separated, and the cream sold to the Mudgee Butter Factory, managed by Joseph George’s brother, ‘Harry’ (Henry Albert), while the skim milk is fed to the pigs and weaned calves.  The lucerne is pressed into bales and stored in the hayshed.[xi]

10j. Mt. Frome from BuckerooThe property from Mt. Buckaroo showing the schoolhouse, school and brick house

 10i. The orchard c. 1927 croppedThe brick house and orchard

Joseph George marries Florence Smith and the brick house becomes their home:  it is where my mother and her brother grew up and where we often stayed as children.

Joseph George football cropped 2Florence May Smith cropped

Joseph George and Florence May

At some stage Joseph George also buys the two storied Hawthorn heritage cottage near what once was the causeway, and more land along Waterhole Road which was previously owned by Lawson.

When ‘Hawkie’ and my grandfather die within four months of each other Fla, Eth and Daisy are given the brick house and surrounding land.  My grandmother ‘Flo’ inherits Joseph’s half of the farm and continues to manage it until her son, Geoff, receives a scholarship and decides to move to Sydney.  Flo goes with him.  Fla, Eth and Daisy agree to rent and run the property for her in her absence.  Madge follows her mother and brother at a later stage.

By all accounts the property has always been the centre of social life for the Lue and Rylestone Ropes when they pass through on the way to town, and the clan continues to gather regularly even after my mother moves to Sydney.   Fla also runs a post office and telephone exchange in the front room which would have been the locus for local news[xii].

1961 map copy showing Rope land img955 close upshowing the Ropes holdings.

My uncle Geoff and family, my mother, my father and we children continue to return to the property to maintain it, staying in the main brick house with Fla, Eth and Daisy[xiii].  At some stage Fred Creaser (who marries Daisy and stays on after her death to assist Fla and Eth) is engaged to run the farm and continues to do so after the sisters die. Here the order of events is not clear but at some stage the main house becomes unavailable to us.

It is probably then that my uncle Geoff organises to rent the school back from the Department of Education.  The two families convert it into a large, single room living space.  I remember clearing out all the bird nests and droppings, as well as sheep droppings.  My cousin Judith remembers cupboards being moved from the main house to provide a division between sleeping and living areas, beds being moved over for us to sleep in, and having to bath in a tub.

As well as the tub I also remember a large log fire on which we heat the hot water in the kettle and make toast for breakfast, layered with fresh cream which we collect over the road at the farm as it is being separated from the early morning milking of the cows, and going through the mist and frost to do so.  This is still during Fred Creaser’s time as I remember helping him wash the separating machine.  And, of course, we both remember the ‘dunny’ out the back facing the railway line and Mt. Frome.  For me it was a childhood highlight; much anticipated.  For our parents, however, it was lot of hard work keeping the property maintained from such a distance and, once my grandmother dies my uncle decides to sell.[xiv]

The Coopers, who are renting the school house, buy the schoolhouse and school once the Department of Education puts them on the market.  In later years when mum and I visit we notice that the school is converted into an attractive cottage – who would have believed it!  And during my last couple of visits I was delighted to discover that Moothi Estate[xv] and winery is established on what once was the Mt. Frome section of the property.  I think both my great grandfather and grandfather would be pleased to know that grapes are still being grown on the property.


looking back from Moothi Estate

[i] Mudgee History website as well as other sources.

[ii] The road across the Blue Mountains was completed earlier in the century, Robert’s mother Maria dies in 1842, his father John dies in 1845, his grandmother Elizabeth in 1837 and grandfather Anthony in 1843.  Toby Ryan, son of Mary (nee Rope) and another grandson of Elizabeth and Anthony, by his own account, has been travelling often, crossing the Blue Mountains between Penrith and Bathurst and bringing back glowing reports: ‘great grazing country’….’a great deal of land was taken up, but not at that time occupied’ (Ryan, pp. 124-126). Although it is impossible to say whether these events triggered the move, it seems to have been time for a new start.

[iii] I don’t have the detail whether James arrives with Robert and Robert’s siblings or comes separately, or when James’ mother arrives.  In addition at least five of Elizabeth Ann’s other children, James’ siblings, arrive at some stage and marry and die in Mudgee.

[iv] Robert and Hannah Jane marry in 1868

[v] Matilda marries James William Honeysett, and I believe there are still Honeysett’s living in Rylestone;  William and Henry become brewers and hoteliers in Orange and are buried there.

[vi] Maria Jane marries Henry Castle Adams, owner of Victoria Hotel, Orange;  Florence (Fla), Charlotte Ethel (Eth) and Daisy end up managing Lawson Creek property, dying in Mudgee; Henry marries Belle Smede and manages Mudgee Butter Factory;  Linda marries Frederick Rule Webb; Violet marries Walter Hedley Ford and dies in Mudgee; Clara marries ‘Gus’ Manners and dies in Mudgee;  Alice May marries Clarence Hilton Clark of Mudgee; Ellen Olive marries Roy Keith Stoddard and moves to Sydney; Joseph George marries Florence May Smith and manages the Lawson Creek property;  William (Bill) marries Bessie Ann Kellet, works for the office of railways which requires him to move around, and dies in Mudgee; Ivy marries Tom Rowbotham and moves to Home Rule.

[vii] On our visits to the farm we catch up with those of George’s children and grandchildren who are still around.  As well as Fla, Eth and Daisy, I remember aunty Ivy clearly, and still visit her daughter Sally up at Home Rule.  I also remember calling in regularly on Graham and Tom Clark (Alice’s sons) and, of course, visiting their brother Peter’s memorial in St. John’s Anglican church, Mudgee.

[viii] According to mum, ‘He built a house of slabs, like they used to do, with lining on the inside covered with fancy wallpaper, on the block near the railway line.  Had 13 children, so kept extending it backwards.  Because of the fuel stoves and danger of fire they had a division between the dining area, kitchen and bathroom at one end, and the bedrooms at the other.  In between was a courtyard with a cement floor.  It was long, but quite a pleasant house.  The dining room was large with a huge fireplace at one end; the other end had one or two bedrooms.’  (ed. By the time my generation visit Mt. Frome Edenville is little more than a pile of bricks, and my father teaches me to drive in the surrounding paddock).

[ix] Two other deaths occur around this time. On 23rd August 1889 Elizabeth Ann (Rope) Player dies in Mudgee, notified by her son James.    On 4th May 1895 James Rope dies.

[x] George has the foresight to buy a sizable plot in Mudgee Cemetery.  He, Hawkie and many family members are buried or interred there or nearby, including my parents.  There is also a memorial to Robert and Hannah Jane.

[xi] At harvest time Frank Muller who lives along Eurunderee Lane (near Pipeclay creek) comes over to help prune the orchard and vines.  He and Joseph George are great friends.  Frank Muller’s sister Freda ends up marrying my grandmother Flo’s brother, Lloyd Smith.  When mum and I visit in 2008 Frank Muller’s two grandsons are still living there and growing grapes.

[xii] All the kids run to answer the phone when it rings and I seem to remember helping to plug in the connections to answer and transfer calls.

[xiii] ‘Hawkie’ wills the brick house and surrounding land to her three unmarried daughters, and follows through with George’s wishes that Bill inherits the Mt. Buckaroo side of the creek, which is more suitable for sheep, and Joseph George the Mt. Frome side, which is more suitable for agriculture.

[xiv] The Mt Buckaroo side of the property, which Bill inherits, is passed down to his son, Ron.  My understanding (from speaking with Ron’s family when mum dies), is that they still own their property and live there periodically.

[xv] Moothi Estate sells ‘the best’ cabernet savignon among other wines, has a cellar door, and offers lunch with a wonderful view over our ancestor’s property.

1788: Elizabeth Pulley’s first year

Pulley image cropped

It is two hundred and thirty years since my ancestor Elizabeth Pulley arrived in Australia so seems an apt time to offer my version of her first year in the colony.  This excerpt is part of a longer doco-story, The Story of Elizabeth Pulley: and her first five years in Australia.[i]  I uploaded a very much abbreviated version of the first part of Elizabeth’s story, Beginnings and Arrival last year as, Remembering Elizabeth Pulley on ‘Australia Day’  

As Elizabeth would not have been considered one of the better behaved women convicts, she would have stepped onto Australian soil on 6th February 1788.  It also means that she would have been placed on the west side of the tank stream.  Like other convicts she would have been carrying her bed with her.

SURVIVAL:  Sydney Cove 1788-1790


Three months after stepping onto Australian soil, Elizabeth Pulley married Anthony Rope.  She was about 25 years of age, and Anthony about 29.  Frances Williams loaned Elizabeth special clothes for the occasion, and Elizabeth Mason and John Summers acted as witnesses.  Elizabeth Mason had been one of ‘Pulley’s crowd’ on the Friendship, transferring with her to the Prince of Wales where they must have met up with Frances Williams.  John Summers had travelled out on the Alexander with Anthony.

Theirs was not the first wedding in the new colony.  Not long after the convict women landed fourteen couples announced their plans to marry, to the delight of those in charge.  However Judge-Advocate Collins suspected that some had been responding to a rumour that married couples would be given special privileges for, when they realised their mistake, they very quickly applied to be unmarried again.  It was also suspected that some already has spouses in England.

By the time of Elizabeth’s and Anthony’s marriage, the colony had more-or-less settled into a routine.  The sound of the drum summoned the battalion and convicts to work, dinner, official assemblies, and divine services.  By the morning ‘Revalie beating’ everyone had to be clean, dressed and out of their tents, and at the end of the day, the ‘tattoo beating’ announced ‘lights out’.  The routine was in place well before the women convicts landed.

On the day after the women landed Governor Phillip gathered everyone together on a cleared area used as the parade ground, and, with great pomp and ceremony conducted the official commissioning.  With Judge Advocate presiding, Phillip was formally appointed Captain General and Governor over the territory of New South Wales, which England viewed as extending the length of the Eastern coast.  The legal and court system for the colony was also formally established.

Phillip then turned to the convicts, who were seated on the ground and surrounded by soldiers, and urged them to view this as a new start. He did his utmost to encourage their good conduct and co-operation, and warned them of the dire consequences of misbehaviour.  At the conclusion three volleys were fired, interspersed with the band playing God Save the King.  The officials viewed the troops, and a dinner was enjoyed by the officers and gentlemen.

Within a few days a court martial had been convened, and soon after a court of criminal justice.  The trials began.  It was not only the convicts who were at fault.  As was the case during the journey out to Australia, the marines were as much to blame.  Part of the problem was drunk and disorderly behaviour due to the marines bringing liquor ashore, part centred on the women’s camp, into which the marines would sneak at night, and the rest centred on the public stores.

Phillip had brought enough provisions for only two years, so food was often rationed, and the stores were continually under attack from the male and female convicts, marines and the guards themselves.  In fact everything – food, clothes, and tools – could be bartered, so was at risk of being stolen.  At first those caught were given a warning and pardoned, or flogged, or put in chains, or given harsher rations of bread and water, or, in the case of the marines, drummed out of the camp.  When this did not seem have the desired effect, a gallows was built.  On 27th February, one month after arrival, James Barrett was made an example, and had the dubious notoriety of being the first person to be hung on Australian soil.

Food was a real concern.  Not all the provisions had lasted the journey.  Animals died in transit, or on arrival, flour grew mould, and fresh mutton was full of maggots in a day.  Efforts were quickly directed into supplementing the limited stores.  Settlement gardens were dug and seeds planted near the Governors place and the hospital, the Public Garden and a farm for stock were organised at a cove nearby (the area now marked by the Botanical Gardens at the head of Farm Cove), and another garden begun on Garden Island.

Everyone, including the convicts, was encouraged to develop their own garden and keep chickens, for which they were given Saturday free from normal work.  Sunday was for the compulsory divine service.  However, by the end of the first year it was realised that the soil was not very good, not much grew, ants and field mice were a problem, and the stealing of tools and provisions was still rife.  Even the officers, who were free to wander, hunt, and explore, found that survival was not as easy as it seemed.  One remarked that he did not know how the ‘natives’ did it.

As well as working in the gardens, convicts were involved in the major project of constructing the town.  The aim was to get everyone and everything out of the tents: that is, the hospital and stores built, the Governor and officers in proper housing, the marines in barracks, and the convicts in huts. Both men and women were expected to be gainfully employed, although a number of women were pregnant or had young children, so were excused.

It was a slow process.  In spite of Phillip’s motivational speech, the convicts were more inclined to ‘slack off’ or escape into the woods.  Nine men and one woman were soon missing.  As one reported, ‘not more than 200 out of the 600 were at work’.  Part of the difficulty was that the officers and marines did not consider the convicts to be their responsibility once the convicts had landed on shore.  So, the supervision was carried out by the more trusted convicts who, naturally, had a difficult time.  Another problem was a lack of skilled labourers, especially carpenters, bricklayers and farmers.

Waves of sickness did not help.  By the end of February ‘the flux’ (dysentery) became a mini-epidemic, with reports of over two hundred being hospitalised.  Scurvy too, began to take its toll.  There were attempts to augment the diet with wild celery, spinach and parsley to fight the effects of malnutrition.  Native sarsaparilla was found to be effective in treating scurvy, but soon became scarce around the settlement.

The tank stream, being the only real source of fresh water, was strictly monitored.  It was forbidden to cut the trees along its banks in an effort to protect it from the heat of the sun.  Smaller streams around the settlement quickly dried up in hot weather.

Phillip was only too aware of the limits of confining survival hopes to one small area.  From the first day he had encouraged his officers to explore and map every bay and stream along the river, as well as the land to the north and north-west, in the hope of finding other suitable sites for settlement.  In mid-February the Supply set out, with supplies and a small number of convicts, to settle Norfolk Island, with the aim of cultivating flax, corn, cotton and other grains, as well as sending back pine for building and trading purposes.

The following month Phillip led a party north to explore Broken Bay.  He returned to the area in April, moving further inland beyond the end of the river, hoping to find the mountains, another river, and other sources of fresh water and fertile land. During April and May other excursions were made west to carefully assess the land at the head of the harbour.

It was not long before the Aborigines began to react to the effect the newcomers presence had on their previous way of life.  They were not pleased that the English had taken over their fishing grounds, nor about the large numbers of fish the seine could haul in.  At first they assisted, and were rewarded with part of the catch.  At some stage the reciprocal arrangement fell apart. The aborigines began to avoid contact.  They began to steal equipment, probably in retaliation for their own spears and tools being ‘souvenered’, in spite of official orders not to do so.

By May some sheep had been killed by dingos belonging to the aborigines, and convicts gathering native plants and reeds from the outskirts of the settlement had been attacked, wounded and killed.  There was a suspicion among the officers that some convicts had also killed natives, and that the aboriginal attacks were payback.  Winter was fast approaching, fish were scarce, and the aborigines were no longer so willing to accommodate the encroachment on their food sources and on the land they saw as belonging to them. Yet there are reports of continuing friendly encounters and sharing of food, with a number of officers noting how hungry the aborigines looked.

In spite of the difficulties, the tent city was slowly being transformed into a town.  By the time of Elizabeth’s and Anthony’s wedding, saw-pits had been dug, a stonemason found, the stone quarry begun, a bricklayer found, and a site for the brickworks chosen, although chalk or lime was still not available.  Some of the women were employed making shingles for the roofs, the pegs to attach them, and in crushing shells for lime.

Sydney Cove horizontal view

The foundation stone for the Governor’s house had been laid, and at least one of the storehouses had been completed and was being used for divine services.  The hospital was having shingles put on its roof, and the building of huts for the officers and women had commenced.  The general construction of the huts was of pine for the posts and plates, and cabbage trees split in half for the sides.  The huts were then plastered with clay and thatched with rushes or shingles.

During this time, Elizabeth and Anthony had met, set up a relationship, and Elizabeth was pregnant.  Records suggest that both of them were employed. Anthony served as a labourer at the brick pits, which were situated near the marshes at the source of the tank stream.  Elizabeth may have been doing jobs, or acted as a home help, for the overseer of women convicts, though this is not as certain.  In November the overseer wrote a letter home, which included the comment that, ‘The girl that was with us, Elizabeth Pully is married, and has a fine little boy.’

Their marriage is recorded as being on 19th May at St Phillips Church of England, Sydney.  It probably took place where divine services were being held, that is, under a tree, or in the storehouse.  A week after their wedding they held a ‘marriage supper’, supposedly for a friend, which resulted in some entertainment for the rest of the town, and has become part of the Rope-Pulley legend.

The ‘marriage supper’, at which the infamous ‘Sea Pye’ was eaten, took place on ‘Sunday Sennight’ 25th May.  It was held in Anthony’s hut where both Elizabeth (now Rope) and Elizabeth Mason lived.  Also present were ‘Price, Day…a Marine and a woman named Williams’.  Both James Price and Samuel Day had travelled out on the Alexander with Anthony, both probably worked with him at the brickworks, and Price had helped Anthony build his hut.  Elizabeth’s friend, Frances Williams, has already been mentioned.  The marine was Robert Ryan, with whom Frances later had a daughter.

The location of Anthony’s hut could have been near the brickworks, or in the married quarters along the west side of the Tank stream closer to the Cove.  On Tuesday 13th May, George B. Worgan, one of the Surgeons, had

‘walked out to Day, as far as the Brick Grounds, it is a pleasant Road through the Wood about a Mile or Two from the Village, for from the Number of Little Huts & Cots that appear now, just above Ground, it has a villatick appearance.

I see they have made between 20 & 30,000 Bricks, and they were employed in digging out a Kiln for the Burning of them.’

Near the brickworks was ‘two acres of ground…marked out for such officers as were willing to cultivate them and raise a little grain for their stock’.

The animal, which it was alleged comprised the ‘Sea Pye’, had also been in the area during that month.  It seems that George Johnston, Lieutenant of Marines, had sent out a ‘She Goat’ to some land ‘a little beyond the Brick Kilns, at the head of Long Sea Cove’ to graze.  William Roberts, ‘a person who looks after the stock’ had tethered it ‘by a rope…round her horns to a stake’, and at some stage on Saturday 24th May she went missing.  The same day its skin was found ‘near a Point where the Brick makers were collecting Sand’.

Anthony Rope and James Price were charged with stealing its flesh ‘with force of arms…on or about 24th May’, and Samuel Day and Elizabeth Rope were charged with a similar offence ‘on Sunday 25th May last’.  A number of friends and co-workers came to their defence, swearing they had seen the goat already dead and ‘crows at it’. William Earl swore that he had told Anthony about seeing ‘the Animal lying there’.  Others corroborated that Earl had told them as well.  Another admitted that Price had passed some meat on to their hut, and they had made a meal of it.  Although there was disagreement about the cause of death, that is, whether it was mangled by an animal, or killed cleanly by a person, the evidence from friends held, and the four were acquitted on 2nd June.

By now winter was taking its toll.  Over the next two months the settlement relied on salted meat.  The aborigines were starving.  Some were found dead.  Others began to appear closer to the settlement, and took ‘with force of arms’ the odd animal, fish from the fishing boats, and other food and clothing.  They weren’t the only ones.  Although a number of Officers had remarked how ‘better behaved than expected’ the convicts were, some of them, as well as the marines, continued to make trouble, in spite of the executions which followed.

For their own part, the Officers maintained their refusal to be involved in anything else but ‘their duty of soldiers’ and setting up home and garden for themselves and their help.  The marines felt insulted that they were expected to live on the same rations and under the same conditions as everyone else (that is, the convicts).  There had also been some dissent between some of the Officers about who had the right to pass judgement in a particular court-martial, which unfortunately mushroomed into a series of official complaints and arrests.  The friction between Major Ross, Commandant of the Marines, Captain-Lieutenant Tench and some of the other officers, continued the rest of the year.

The sheep were dying, the crops disappointing, and, to add to the strain, the cattle on the Governors farm went missing.  The expected fresh turtle from Lord Howe Island did not eventuate.  There was a desperate need for new clothing, especially for the women.  Some of the thatched huts burned down when fires were lit inside.  Chimneys were outlawed.  There were no beds or cots, so convicts still slept on the ground.

The transports had begun to return to England, leaving everyone, including the Officers, feeling isolated.  Then, in August, the rains turned everything into mud.  The brick kiln fell in, bricks were destroyed, the roads were impassable and the Lieutenant Governor’s house had fallen down.

Phillip was getting quietly desperate.  His letters back to England stress the lack of involvement of the Officers, ‘the great want of proper persons to superintend the convicts’, and the need for ‘support from the mother country, on which for a few years we must entirely depend’.  Provisions such as, clothing, blankets, tools, medicines and food, were needed.  He was also concerned that England was planning to send out more convicts.

‘I hope few convicts will be sent out for one year at least, except carpenters, masons, and bricklayers, or farmers, who can support themselves and assist in supporting others.  Numbers of those now here are a burthen and incapable of any kind of hard labour, and, unfortunately, we have not proper people to keep those to their labour who are capable of being made useful.’

Even though by November everyone had fallen out, and the Officers and marines just wanted to go home, there was progress in some areas.  Lieutenant Dawes’ Observatory had been built, the Governor’s brick house was finished, the Lieutenant Governor’ hewn-stone house was completed.  Most Officers huts had plastered roofs, and the Officers were being ordered to focus on building public barracks for their men.  Fresh fish, rather than salted, was back on the menu as fish began to return with the warmer weather.

The news from Norfolk Island was also good, as the agricultural efforts there were beginning to look promising.  So Phillip turned his attention west.  Since the excursions there in April and May Phillip had been seriously planning a satellite town near the head of the harbour (Rose Hill, later known as Parramatta), and on 3rd November a settlement was established there.

There were other highlights to the year.  One was the Kings Birthday celebrations on the 4th June, for which everyone received a three-day holiday and a ration of spirits.  The earthquake later in the same month gave everyone a fright.  On 12th August the Prince of Wales’ birthday offered another excuse to celebrate and make merry, and for a few months speculation about the discovery of a ‘gold mine’ set tongues wagging.  It was found to be a fabrication and the perpetrator was ‘rewarded for his ingenuity with a hundred lashes’.

And, of course, on the 30th October, Elizabeth’s and Anthony’s first child, Robert, was born.  He was christened three days later, on 2nd November.  Ryan’s memoirs (Toby Ryan was Elizabeth’s & Anthony’s grandson from their second child) state that Robert was the ‘first white male child born in Australia’.  Ryan also recounts the family tradition that Robert was born ‘in the Soldiers’ Barracks, Wynyard Square’[ii].

By the end of the year relations between the Aborigines and the settlers were causing great concern.  In November, Phillip was writing home, ‘I now doubt whether it will be possible to get any of those people to remain with us, in order to get their language, without using force’.  Then, on 18th December there were rumours of an assembled aboriginal force near the brick-kilns.  It turned out there were only fifty men, and they were soon dispersed, but Phillip had made up his mind.

On 31st December Phillip sent two boats to Manly Cove where two Aboriginal men were seized.  One escaped, but the other was dragged to the boat, ‘fastened by ropes’, and taken back to the settlement where he was imprisoned.  His name was Ar-ab-a-noo.


[i] This story springs from the research my mother, Madge Rups, undertook in the 1970’s and 1980’s which I extended from late 1990’s onwards to include the social context and indigenous presence.  It is a compilation drawn from the Journals of the First Fleet, the Historical Records, the Picman Catalogue, the Colonial Secretary’s Papers, as well as articles from the Royal Historical Society Journal and Proceedings, and other writing.

[ii] If Elizabeth and Anthony were living near the brick pits this could be so, as the hospital was on the other side of town, near the cove, and the barracks were in between.  She may have been caught unawares.   The debate around whether Robert was the first white male child is addressed in the Rope-Pulley Family Newsletter, December 2014, No. 77

Anzac Day: remembering family, their stories and reality’s challenge to idealism

Geoff's hat

I guess I am an idealist yet this idealism is always tempered by the realities of the world in which we live and our history, which includes the ghastly side of human behaviour and conflict.

My father also was an idealist.  His family had moved to Indonesia when he was two.  At eighteen he was conscripted for twelve months into the Dutch army (Royal Indonesian-Netherland army) as were all men his age.  He returned to the army for retraining for active service in 1940 and was called up the following year to fight the Japanese when they invaded Indonesia.  He was soon captured and spent three years in Japanese prisoner-of-war camps.  Upon release he was again called up by the Dutch army; this time to fight the Indonesians who were claiming independence from their colonisers.  My father was aghast.  His childhood and adolescence was spent playing with Indonesian children on and around the estates where he lived.  He viewed them as brothers and sisters.  Fortunately for him he received an honourable discharge for health reasons and was not forced to fight again.

Peck in Singapore on release from POWphoto taken after liberation from POW

My mother’s family were drawn into the patriotism which spread through Australia during World Wars I and II.  I think it was viewed as part of our duty to Britain, the ‘mother’ country, and the proper thing to do.  As far as I am aware she and her family had no problem enlisting.

Hats cropped

Her father and uncle were first off the rank for World War I.  The next generation enlisted for War War II.

Mum's hat 1Mum applied to the Australian Women’s Army Service (AWAS) in 1941 and was accepted in 1942, ending up being based at Victoria Barracks.  She was proud of her army years and responded well to the regularity and discipline which was part of it.  She felt she was doing an important job for her country.  Some of her closest long-term friends were made during that time and every now and again they would meet up, attend reunions, or special events at the Barracks.

The ‘war years’ was a focal event, or series of events, in the lives of both my parents.  My father requested that the Last Post be played at his funeral and interment because of the significance of hearing it in the camps when one of the prisoners had died.  My mother, when television arrived in our household, would turn it on immediately on waking up on Anzac Day and it would remain on until the public events of the day were complete.  Their need signifies the importance of ritual acts which mark, honour and remember.

I’m not sure how many of my family saw active duty.  As far as I am aware only mum’s cousin was killed, and that was an accident.   He had become a pilot and a Canadian pilot flew into his plane during a training exercise in England in 1943.  Both pilots crashed and were killed. He is buried in Annan, Scotland.  His parents donated a stained glass window to St. John the Baptist, Mudgee.  Two months before his accident he had written a letter to mum and the family commenting on letters he had received, thoughts of family and friends at home, his experience of R ‘n R in Cambridge, and, ‘Next time I write I hope to be flying spitfires.  Should be only a couple of weeks in fact now….So long for present….till next time.  luv….’  I am sure many families have similar poignant stories.

13c. Memorial to Peter Clark in St. John the Baptist Church Mudgeememorial at St John the Baptist, Mudgee

The dating of Anzac Day links it to Easter, thematically as well: death, being killed for a cause, and the promise of remembrance and possible resurrection and salvation, but not resurrection in the literal sense as far as ‘our sons and daughters’ are concerned.  Both stand as memorials to young, and not so young, men and women who died for ‘us’.  The interesting thing about Australia’s wars is that they have been fought, on the whole, for someone else, although the Japanese did begin to invade Australia and surrounding islands.  My uncle was based at Darwin, where my mother had initially wanted to be posted as well, so he was part of the contingent which was defending our shores.

Of course the first defenders of Australia were our First Peoples.  They fought us;  the British colonisers.  War leaders like Pemulwuy, with the Eora and Darug around the Sydney basin, and Windradyne with the Wiradjuri around Bathurst, led guerrilla armies in attempts to reclaim their territory and food sources and in retaliation for atrocities committed by the invaders and their accompanying armed forces.  These were Australia’s first wars, enacted on our own shores.[i]

Yet I don’t think that descendants of the First Australians have been invited to march on Anzac Day, let alone lead the march.  The reality of this omission challenges the idealism of who we include under ‘Australian armies’, ‘fallen soldiers’ and the limits of this designated memorial day.  I imagine there must be a constant reinvention of meaning and purpose by the organisers to justify this omission or accommodate change.  Look how long it took to recognise and include the Vietnam War and its veterans.   I hope that one day we are mature enough to include this earlier truth.

[i] Grassby, A. & Hill, M.  Six Australian Battlefields.  St. Leonards, Allen & Unwin, 1998.  It is encouraging to see that the University of Newcastle has begun to map and make public the early Frontier Wars massacres, beginning with Eastern Australia, 1788-1872