Arthur & Viola Black lived at Applegate Farm, an enviable property, located not far from our home. They had five young children and the house was big and rambling, built in 1881 from a mixture of rubblestone, sandstone and timber cut directly from the local bush. It had a dam and worker’s hut and was situated on a large acreage beside the eternal flowing waters of Gibbergunyah Creek.
The homestead itself was perched on a hill, with a long, dirt and cobblestone drive leading to it. An apple tree eloquently guarded its entrance. The property had previously been a primary producing apple orchard (hence the name).
Mr. Black worked as a health and building Inspector at Mittagong Shire Council, as well as developing his farm which was his passion.
Briefly, Dad was farmhand for Mr. Black, and subsequently, we children visited the farm with him a few times. I loved the place and kept it in my heart. On our regular long, rainy spells, I thought of Applegate pastures being fed with the liquid silk from the heavens, and greening the property, fattening the cows.
Dad stood on his little plot watching the rain, and we dreamt of the day when we would own a property such as Applegate and be “fair dinkum” primary producers. “It will happen, Eleky”, he said, rolling his cigarette.
David Black recalls: “We had a life of outdoor adventures, with two dogs tagging along, we chased rabbits, explored Gibbergunyah Creek, and caught yabbies in our dam. We had our chores to do, in our large veggie garden, and milking a couple of dairy cows, feeding pigs, chickens and ducks.
I learnt to drive a tractor at only eight, and used jam tins for targets, shooting an air-rifle, and later a .22 calibre rifle.
It was a simple life without frills but there was a genuine sense of order, love and harmony within our family with a regular Sunday routine which included attending our local Baptist Church; my Dad was also a Deakin in the church.
On school days we walked a few hundred metres to Hume Highway to catch the school bus. The bus took us around many Welby stops, primarily on dirt roads, to pick-up a load of kids ranging from kindergarten through to High School.
Our family’s happiness was shattered in July 1964 when our Dad died suddenly from a massive heart attack aged just 49.
Our lives were never the same, and many things changed. Our Mum suffered terribly with the isolation of living at Applegate Farm, without a driver’s license, and raising five children on her own.
I had been a good student but found myself at a loss without my father’s guidance and many things worried me, which held me back, impeding my educational progress.
By 1968 Mum had sold the farm and we moved into a small cottage closer to Mittagong. My Mum struggled on the Widow’s Pension and took a job as a seamstress at Tudor House.
At family get-togethers we reminisce about the happy times growing-up on Applegate Farm; we feel privileged to have enjoyed such freedoms, with lots of space, to enjoy nature and to experience living off the land, which provided fresh farm eggs and milk, and home-grown vegetables every day. Thanks go to our parents for their un-conditional love, guidance & support. Even though I was only nine when my Dad passed-away, I learned from him a moral-code of loyalty, integrity and respect that I follow to this day”.