“Throsby” – The Old Mud Cottage

Dad, Mum, baby Jos in front of Throsby

It would have been interesting to hear the conversations that filtered through the walls of the old mud cottage, deep in Belanglo State Forest. Mother, an eternal pessimist, but father talking of great opportunities. Baby brother asleep in his cot.

I can imagine my father saying, “I told you, everywhere they bake bread”.

Mother replying, “yes, but we have to drive through the snake-infested bush to get it”.

And father, “Yesterday was hilarious”.

“Why so”? mother replied.

“Everyone running to your rescue, thinking you were being attacked by an axeman. Your opera singing leaves a lot to be desired”.

Mother loved the opera and considered herself a pretty good singer, she loved nothing more than to sing.

Mother said she thought the incident of old Jack was funnier when he stood on a bull-ant nest and stripped himself naked in fear and agonising pain.

Later, the master of hilarious had the most compelling story to tell. When she was pregnant and milking in the dairy, she forgot to secure a cow. After the teats were fastened the cow bolted, ripping apart the stall, leaving mother on the milk-drenched floor. Mother quit her milking duties after that.

It was the early 50’s when mother and father and their baby son arrived in Australia. They berthed at Woolloomooloo Wharf, on an immigrant boat. They were met by their prospective employers and brought to a farm north-west of Sydney.  Shortly after, they found alternative employment outside of the township of Berrima, in the Southern Highlands, New South Wales.

Pitt Street farmers, Mr. and Mrs. Newman were the proprietors of a private Sydney bus company and visited their farm only on the odd weekend. The farm was left in the care of a group of Dutch families.

An employee was sent to collect my parents in a vintage truck. The old Hume Highway, slow and meandering was a delight, it exposed the vastness and beauty of their new country, but the bush-track to the remote property was daunting. Bunnigalore Road twisted its way through the vast pine forest of Belanglo, through creek crossings, along ravines and deep into the bush. Mother, anxious until her arrival was pleasantly surprised by the farm and their little cottage. “Throsby”.

The weekly trip to Bowral was a big event. All supplies were purchased for the entire week, no going back for incidentals.

The Wingecarribee River would from time to time burst its banks, bubbling around the farm in all its fury. Eels were plentiful in the river, delicious smoked on fresh bread and butter. Snakes were plentiful too and difficult to distinguish from the eels.

There were the weird creatures of the bush, often wandering in the path of the farm’s inhabitants. Wombats, kangaroos, possums, echidnas, blue-tongue lizards, turtles, water-dragons, bandicoots, platypus, kookaburras, bower-birds, tawny frog-mouths, sugar gliders, wrens, wallabies, wedge-tail eagles, and cockatoos.

My parents loved the warm summers, the sunny blue skies, but were surprised about the cold winters. They were led to believe that Australia was always hot.

“We came to Australia to escape the cold, I think we better move to Queensland” father would complain.

One summer a bush fire surrounded Bunnigalore on the peripheral of the gullies, it looked like a ring of fire, threatening the farm and inhabitants because there was only one road out.

The new arrivals experienced at first hand our beautiful Australian bush in those early years, in which I was born, but the farm was too remote for a growing family. My parents would need to find work and a house closer to town.

I have no memories of Bunnigalore, but mother’s stories, with mention of Black Bobs Creek, Wingecarribee river, the firm friends she made, and the trips into Bowral, including on the occasion of my arrival into the world, were captivating.

Pen and ink illustration of Operas, by my mother.


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