About this blog

This blog is about the history of the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp and neighbouring areas, such as Pakenham, Cranbourne and Garfield, and any other historical subjects I feel like writing about. It's my own original research and writing and if you live in the area you may have read some of the stories before in the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp Historical Society newsletter or the Koo-Wee-Rup township newsletter, The Blackfish, or the Garfield township newsletter, The Spectator.
Heather Arnold.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Letters to Aunt Connie of the Weekly Times: Koo-Wee-Rup, Lang Lang and Five Mile

The Weekly Times used to have a ‘Young Folks’ page, edited by ‘Aunt Connie’ and children would write letters to Aunt Connie and have them published in the paper. The letters are quite descriptive and the children would write about their gardens, the town they lived in, their farms, school life etc. In this post we look at how the children described Koo-Wee-Rup Lang Lang and Five Mile. In another post we look at what they wrote about Garfield, Bunyip, Tynong and Cora Lynn. I have researched some biographical information about the writers.

In January 1902, Linda Ellis of Koo-Wee-Rup wrote to Aunt Connie. The grass is very poor about here, and the grasshoppers are numerous. They eat all the grass up. They ate the leaves off our turnips, and now they have started on the fruit trees. A couple of weeks ago the crows started on the grasshoppers, and they are having such feeds. It is amusing to watch them fight to get the most grasshoppers. There is a lot of work going on here at present, as all the drains are being enlarged. It will be a good thing when they are done, as it will keep the people from being flooded. We are only milking four cows at present; they do not give much milk.

In September 1903 Linda wrote again, this time a much more poignant letter.  The crops around here are looking splendid. We have a nice lot of cabbages in, but just as soon as they begin to look nice and green the hares come and eat them off. My father is away from home just now, working, and we do miss him so much. Since I last wrote to you we have lost a little sister, and just six weeks before she died one of my aunties died in New South Wales. Mother took my little sister to the Children's Hospital, but the doctors could do nothing for her, and about three months afterwards she died. My father's mother died, too, so you see we had a very bad misfortune last year. Our flower garden looks very nice this year; especially the violets.....Some of my cousins are saying what they would like to do when they grow up. I think I would like to always stay at home. I do not like going from home.

Linda was the daughter of Henry Ernest and Jemina (nee Milroy) Ellis; she was the eldest of ten children, born in 1890.  By 1909 the family is listed in the Electoral Rolls at Abbotsford. Linda married Richard Semmens in 1911 and she died in 1966

In May 1902, P. Rundle wrote to Aunt Connie about Koo-Wee-Rup Our township consists of two general stores, a blacksmith’s shop, a draper’s shop, a bakery and also a butcher’s shop.  We have a nice Presbyterian Church and a Sunday school combined. The Roman Catholics have recently called for tenders for the erection of a chapel. A few months back some of the leading spirits of our town called a meeting, in view of building a public hall. It has been decided to do so, so we now have the prospect of another building in our small township. The local agent for the Massey-Harris machinery has arranged with my father to hold a field trial of their farm implements in one of our paddocks on Tuesday, the 20th. Everybody seems to think that it will be a fair trial, as everything looks very favourable so far. As we live about four miles from the township, we do not see much life, so we expect to have a pleasant day the day of the trial.

This is Priscilla Rundle, born in 1888 to James and Janet (nee Campbell) Rundle. She is listed in the 1909 Electoral Rolls as a school teacher. She married William Freeman in 1913 and they farmed around Traralgon. She died in 1965.

In July 1904, eight year old Dorothy Gray wrote to Aunt Connie I have one little sister, Vera Muriel. She is two years old. I am learning to ride. We have a large orchard. Koo Wee Rup is a small place. It is very wet in winter. There is a township and in it there is one butcher, one baker, two grocers, one saddler, one blacksmith, one boot maker and a draper’s shop. The people get their living by sowing oats and maize, mostly, and dairying....My father planted 600 fruit trees. I like going to school. I wish there were six school days. We are milking six cows and we also have a separator. We send the cream away once a week now. We used to send it twice a week in the summertime. My little sister is such a chatter box. My pets are a cat, parrot, calf and pup.

Dorothy was the daughter of Richard and Margaret Mary (nee Browne) Gray.  Dorothy was married in 1916 to Albert Jack. A report in the paper said that she had been in charge of Christies Post Office, Wonyip for the past three years and the couple would be making their home at Daylesford. Wonyip is north of Foster. She died in 1985.

Also in July 1904, Ethel Glover from Caldermeade wrote to Aunt Connie.  It has been a cold, wet day to-day, but Nellie and I went to school. Bertha has a bad cold, and she has been home from school all the week. My sister gives her lessons at home. We have skipping at school to keep us warm these cold days. I passed in everything except mental arithmetic at our last examination. I am in the higher sixth, and Nellie is in the fourth class. We go to Lang Lang State School. I will tell you a little about Lang Lang. It is becoming quite a flourishing little centre. There are four grocers' shops, two blacksmiths', two drapers', a chemist's, a green grocer's, a saddler's, barber's, baker's, and two dressmakers'; a butcher's, a printing office and butter factory, besides many private residences. So you will see it has made great headway since the railway has been constructed. When my father came to Gippsland first, 15 years' ago, Drouin was the nearest railway station, and he says the roads were in a fearful state then. We have got good roads at Caldermeade. It will soon be twelve months since we came here to live. My little sister Alice is sixteen months old now, and she does torment us sometimes, when we are doing our lessons. She likes to get hold of a pen and if we don't watch her she will make a dive at the ink bottle. She races about all day like a little rabbit, and she can say a few words. We have a nice little pony to ride now. I am very fond of riding, and so are my sisters. When we lived in Lang Lang East we sometimes rode to school over the hills and small creeks, "gullies," we call them. One evening, when crossing the last gully, our pony stumbled, and tipped us over her head, splashing into the water. We were not long in scrambling up the bank, dripping wet, and the pony was quietly waiting for us. It was good of her not to clear off home and leave us.

Ethel (born 1891) had five sisters and one brother, the children of Samuel and Johanna (nee Bindt) Glover. Ethel married David Scott Donaldson in 1917, they lived in Lang Lang and she died in 1971.

Katie Garbellini, Five Mile, wrote in November 1916 I will take for my subject a flood that we have just had. It began to rise one Saturday afternoon and we were not able to get out until the following Friday. There were two little boys drowned, one having been swept off his feet from the flow of the water. We had to paddle out in the water to milk our cows, while my brothers had to take the horses away. I have one brother at the front. He has been in the trenches for about six months, but has not been wounded yet. He left home on May 4, 1915, to sail to Egypt. I have five sisters and seven brothers. Four of us go to school, which is about a quarter of a mile away. There are 49 children attending our school. I am 13 years and eight months old, and in the seventh grade at school.

In March 1917, Catherine Garbellini, as she called herself,  wrote again.  I will take for my subject ‘Our Farm’ There are 110 acres in our farm, of which 65 acres are under potatoes. The potatoes are looking well after this rain. We had about 40 acres sown down with oats and barley, but it is now cut and stacked, and the rest of the land we have sown down with grass for the horses and cows. We have six horses and a little foal, besides seven cows. We separate our milk, and send our cream to the factory, where it is made into butter. My brother at the front has been in hospital for about two months. My age is 14.

Katie Garbellini wrote again in July 1918, this time about Koo-Wee-Rup.  Koo-Wee- Rup is a large, one sided township. It consists of a large hotel, a coffee palace, a school, a baker’s shop, two butcher’s shops, three churches, four general stores, a lollie shop and a blacksmith’s shop. Large quantities of oats, barley and potatoes are grown, but some of the farmers are talking of growing flax. I have left school and am helping at home. I wish this War was over. I have had one brother killed. Many of the boys from here have gone and some of them have returned.

Katie was the eighth child of Pietro (Peter) and Jane (nee Crombie) Garbellini. She married David Blackwood from Pakenham South in 1923 and they had four children and lived in the Pakenham area. She died in 1983. Her brother, George, enlisted in February 1915 at the age of 23 and was Killed in Action in France in May 1917.

In May 1919, eleven year old Airlie Ragg from Lightwood Park Yannathan wrote I will take for my subject the district where I live. Our nearest town is Lang Lang, eight miles away. There is a  school, hall, church and butter factory here but they are situated in different parts of the district. The chief thing that is done here is dairying. Some of the farmers send their milk to Melbourne, others send their cream to the factory. The country all around here is very flat and is often flooded in the winter. The Lang Lang River flows through Yannathan. Most of the farmers around bore for water, and have windmills to pump the water for the cattle. It is good grass country, mostly rye grass and clover. There is no railway here at present. Our nearest station, Caldermeade, is eight miles from here. There is a branch railway line being made from Koo-Wee-Rup to a place called McDonald's Track and the Yannathan station is going to be on farm where I live. My brother and I go to the Heath Hill School, which is nearer for us than the Yannathan School. I have a little sister, her name is Nancy. She is just four years old, and is going to school next year. I am eleven years and three months old and in the seventh grade at school.

Airlie was the daughter of Thomas and Rose Amelia (nee Newbound) Ragg. She married Thomas John Collins in 1937 and they lived (according to the Electoral Rolls) in Flowerdale and they had five children.

In this post we looked at how the children described Koo-Wee-Rup Lang Lang and Five Mile. In another post we look at what they wrote about Garfield, Bunyip, Tynong and Cora Lynn.

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