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Errol Quick's Memories

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Uncle Errol Quick’s memories

I was born in 1905 in a little cottage at Brim in Victoria and lived with my parents and 2 brothers at Brim where my father had a farm where he grew wheat and kept sheep.

At the early age of seven years I used to go with my Father to preaching places such as Lah, Brim, East Brim and Willenabrina.

One trip to Willenabrina, for an afternoon service we left home Sunday morning, would go to a certain farmhouse and have dinner and then to church in the afternoon. On this trip while we were in church one of the ponies took ill, so we harnessed them up and set off for home. When we got halfway home, Father said we couldn’t go any further, so we pulled into Uncle Tom’s place and had to stay the night. Next morning our sick pony was not any better, so we harnessed them up and left for home. I sat up in the buggy while Dad walked on behind, leaving one pony to pull the buggy and help the other pony along. We didn’t get home till midmorning on the Monday.

When I was about eight years old, I got the great idea that I would like to camp out one night. Down in the straw shed there was an empty wagon, so I set to work to build a tent in the wagon out of wheat bags. After tea, Dad came down with me and we both sat in the tent for quite some time. It had now got quite dark. Dad had the lantern going so we could see each other, but after some time, the foxes started to howl, the owls came around to see what was going on and the curlews set up their plaintive call. Dad could see that I was getting uneasy, so he said, “I think you had better come home to your nice bed.” I took his advice and we both went home. That was the end of me as far as camping out goes.

One day Mother was cooking, and she sent me out to get some wood for the stove. There was not any wood chopped and as I was too small to use the axe, I saw a piece of wood that would fit the stove, but it had a heavy log laying on top. I could not roll the log off this small piece of wood, so I thought if I could burn the big log, I could get the piece I wanted. Not thinking I would set the whole wood heap on fire, I got the matches and set the log on fire. This was harvest time, and two reaping machines were working not far away when Father saw the fire. He and the other man got it out just a few feet from where they were reaping. For my punishment, I was made to stay in my room till they finished reaping which was just over one week. Mother let me out for Sunday dinner, but sat me over in the corner of the dining room on my own. As soon as I was finished my dinner, back in my room I had to go for several days. That was my experience in playing with matches.

One year about 1913, I would be eight years old and brother Arnold about ten years when we were left home to look after the animals while Mother and Father were over in Adelaide for a few weeks. We still had to go to school which was over four miles away and we had to walk. We had a maid to look after us and also a cousin came down to keep her company. One day we decided that we would play wag. Not far away there was about eighty acres of scrub country, so we played around in the scrub, but still had to go to the railway siding to get our bread. Arnold went into town and got the bread while I sat under a small bridge over Brim creek, until he got back. As the day was getting on and the sun was in the west, we thought it would be safe to walk home along the road, but it was earlier than we thought. Who should be coming down the road but Uncle Tom, one of Dad’s brothers? He said, “Good day boys,” so we said, “Good day uncle.” Nothing more was thought of this till over a week later Uncle Tom came to see Dad and we heard him say, “George, your boys must have been good at school while you were away as I met them coming home early one day.” Little did either of them know we had played the wag.

One time when Mother and Father were over in Adelaide, Arnold and I were left home to look after the farm animals. We still had our maid Linda Newman and our cousin Olive Dawmill staying with us. It must have been a Saturday, Arnold and I decided we would go and catch a bucketful of yabbies for tea. We caught all the yabbies we wanted and kept four yabbies to ourselves. These we put two in each of the girls’ beds, down where their feet would go. You can guess the commotion when the yabbies crawled over the girls’ feet, as they give us a nasty nip when they like. Well these two girls got those yabbies, came into our bedroom and chased us two boys out of the house and around the backyard in our night attire. What time we got back into the house I would not know. Guess we never slept much that night.

Sometimes we had to walk to school and would cut across Hood’s property. When we came to the creek, there was a foot bridge about two feet wide and we had to cross one behind the other, so coming home from school one day we found some large melons so we picked a couple each. When we got on the foot bridge, we broke them open and held some pieces in the water and the leeches would come up and feed on the melons. After a while we threw the melons into the water for the leeches to feed on.

Our eldest brother Hartley left Brim and came over to Adelaide to work in the post office. He came back home one year at Christmas time and brought me a little boat about fourteen inches in length. I would take this little boat down to one of the dams, wind it up and set it off to go across to the other side, then I would run around the dam pick it up, wind it up again and set it to go back again. It was a great little toy and I loved my little boat as I was only about eight years old.

One year, Mother was very sick so Dad decided to take Mother into Warracknabeal Hospital, so Dad got his buggy out and laid a mattress in the bottom of the buggy for Mother to lay on as the trip was about thirteen miles. I was only about seven years old at the time. We got Mother to lie down on the bottom of the buggy on the mattress and she just lay there motionless. I thought Mother if you would only smile or open one eye, I would know you would be alright. I kept looking for some sign on Mother’s face, but it never came. We got her to hospital, and she got well. I was so concerned about Mother on that trip to hospital.

In our district all the sheds had straw for roofing and the sparrows used to build their nest under the straw rooves. To keep the sparrows in check, the council used to pay young lads about threepence a dozen for sparrow eggs and fourpence a dozen for sparrow heads. Brother Arnold and I knew that within a few days Father would be going into Warracknabeal on money matters as there were no banks in Brim, so we boys set to work and got quite a lot of sparrow eggs and heads together so we could go to town with Dad. We went to town with Dad and came to a large building. we thought this must be the council chambers, so we went in to sell our eggs and heads. The chap behind the counter said, “This place is a bank and we don’t buy sparrow eggs and heads.” So down the street we went until we found the council chambers where we sold our goods. I don’t know how much money we got but I guess it bought a lot of lollies.

Once when we were all home together, Dad wanted some small item from the Brim store, so he told me to saddle up my pony and go to Brim for it. It was only a very small item as it would fit in my coat pocket. Going into Brim, I had to go over a bridge on the creek. Just over the bridge lived some people who were dressmakers and we used to leave our school ponies at this place when we went to school. I went up to the store and got what Dad wanted. I came back the same way that I went up, past the dressmaker’s place and over the bridge, when I thought of a small part belonging to a harvester at the blacksmith shop and Dad would be glad if I got it for him. I was too proud to go back into Brim past where these people lived. I didn’t want them to think that I had forgotten something, so I went into town another way. There was no bridge, so I put the pony to the creek and said this is the only way. We crossed the creek alright, but the pony got wet up to his ribs and I had to lift my feet up to save having wet feet. When I got to where I had to go, a young lady came out and said, “You wicked scamp making the pony sweat like that.” I said, “He’s not sweating. He’s just been through the creek.” I don’t know if my parents ever knew of this.

One past time I did enjoy was catching yabbies. We had three dams on the property and two always had plenty of yabbies. I would get several lengths of twine about eight feet long and put a bone or a piece of meat on one end and put this end in the water and the other end around a stick on the bank. The yabbies would come over to feed on the meat. I would pull them in slowly and put a net behind them, so when they swam off, they would go into my net. When I got a bucketful, I would take them home for Mother to cook. When they cooled off, you could have a feed of yabbies. We would have them for tea sometimes.

Sometimes when we drove to school, we would drive through a property known as Hood’s. These people had an apple orchard and one day when we were coming home from school, they gave us several buckets of apples to take home for Mother to cook, but we boys thought otherwise. We put these apples in the back of the buggy so no one would see them, so we could have them for ourselves. But one day Dad wanted to go into Brim to do some shopping. He took our school buggy instead of his big buggy, and after shopping, went to put his things in the back of our buggy and found all our apples. Mother got most of the apples after all.

One day when Father and Mother were away, Arnold and I were playing in the backyard, when Arnold said that things were too quiet about here and we would have to liven things up a bit. Laying down in the cow yard were a couple of cows, a steer and a big heifer. We coaxed the big heifer up into one of the bails and locked her in, then we got about twelve feet of rope, tied one end to the heifer’s tail and put an empty four gallon kerosene tin on the other end of the rope. Arnold said that when he sung out, I should let the slip rails down to let the heifer out. So down went the slip rails and out went the heifer. Arnold banged the tin on the ground, and they all took off like streak lightning. The cows came home to be fed and milked but I don’t think the heifer and steer came home for a couple of days. The rope and tin were down in the scrub somewhere.

1914 was a bad drought and in school holidays we would mind our sheep on the roads where there was a bit of dry feed. There were quite a few dead sheep about the paddocks and Dad would send Arnold and I to pluck wool from these dead sheep. It was not a very nice job. We could not let the wool go to waste, although it was only worth a few pence per lb. We kept a couple of cows home, but all the horses in the district were sent down to the lower parts of Victoria where they had feed for some months.

When it came to Christmas school holidays, Arnold and I never had our holidays all to ourselves. It must have been 1915 which was a good year and early in the harvest, Dad could not get a man to help with harvest work, so while Dad drove the harvester, Arnold and I had to sew up the bags of wheat as they came off the machine. This was very hot work with the sun scorching down and we were only boys ten and twelve years of age. Dad paid us one penny per bag for sewing up wheat. When we did get a man to help with the work, we had to go carting hay. Arnold and I stacked on the wagon while the man pitched the hay up to us. After we had carted hay for some time, Arnold had to go wheat carting. Dad could only spare three horses as he wanted the others in the harvester. Arnold took a load of thirty odd bags of wheat every morning into Brim railway siding, then when he got home after dinner, our man and myself, would have to help Arnold put on another load for next morning. This was done with an iron framework attached to the side of the wagon. A bag of wheat was placed on the frame, a horse was attached to this framework and it was my job to lead the horse forward a few feet which threw the bag of wheat into the wagon. This went on till you finished the load. Arnold carted wheat for several weeks. When Dad finished reaping, he went wheat carting with a bigger team of horses, so the man and us two boys would go back to sewing up bags again. That was how we boys spent much of our Christmas school holidays.

In 1917 Dad decided to sell up and return to South Australia, I believe more so because of mother’s health. I would be twelve years of age so went to Salisbury school for another two years. When I turned fourteen, I left school and went to work at the Parafield Poultry station which was next to our place where Dad had built up a dairy farm.

We were always a church going family, Dad being a local preacher for fifty years and Arnold and I followed in his footsteps somewhat by taking services. I took my first service when I turned seventeen years of age and our preaching places were Salisbury, Burton, Abattoirs and Northfield. We had at Salisbury church a young people’s social club where forty to fifty young people met once a fortnight to sing around the piano and play games. Here I met a young lady named Vene Spencer and we kept company for a number of years before becoming engaged. We were married in Enfield Methodist Church in February 1932.

After we were married, we went back to live with my parents. We had our own separate rooms, the kitchen and the like, but we were in the house should they need any help anytime. After nearly three years our son Brian was born and some years later, our daughter, Rosemary was born. When father and mother passed on, I was left the property, so I gave half the land to two brothers and kept the house and some land for myself. (Hartley and Reg challenged the will and were awarded half the land, Val Baker, Reg’s daughter). Sometime later I sold the home and my land and built a new home in Goodall Crescent, Salisbury as the home we had was much too large for us. My wife joined different organisations in Salisbury, and I bought another property out at Two Wells, where I kept sheep and grew different crops. My best crop of oats reaped just over twenty bags per acre. After about twelve years, I sold this property and retired, just doing a little charity work, such as driving for Meals on Wheels, and picking up scrap paper for the Uniting Church.

I was never interested in sport such as cricket or football. My sport was shooting or fishing. Every Saturday afternoon when you could play some sport of some sort, we had to cut chaff for the horses and cows. I bought my first gun from a friend of mine for thirty shillings. One evening at sundown, my brother Arnold and I went down the road, then called the Gluepot, where we found a sheet of water. We sat down behind a boxthorn bush, and it was not long before four ducks came and alighted out in front of us. I had the first shot and got three of the ducks. The others flew off but came back and Arnold got that one, so two proud boys went home with four ducks. My best night of duck shooting was eight ducks.

I was always interested in catching crabs at St Kilda S.A. I well remember going out there with my father and we would get a tub full of crabs in about two hours, then home to cook our catch and eat crabs for several days. I well remember the day I went with a friend to Rogue’s Point, below Ardrossan where we got twenty dozen crabs and cooked them on the beach. That was the best day of crabbing I ever had.

I don’t remember the year it was when I bought my first boat. It was about twelve feet long and my son, Brian and I would go out to St Kilda of a night after garfish and get a nice lot of fish. We also had a net and would set it along the mangroves, then sit and wait for the fish to get caught. The biggest fish I ever caught, that’s if you can call it a fish, was a young shark, nearly four feet in length.

During World War two, my late wife, Vene, met a friend who married a young chap who lived at Renmark. When this couple settled down, we were invited to spend our holidays with them. This young chap had a fishing reach of seven miles of the river and had his drum nets set on the edge of the river. Every evening, we would both go and get the fish from the net.

We also knew some people who lived on a sheep station over the border in New South Wales. My friend, Max and I would spend some time with these folk. One day when the boss was away, we had to go out and count how many horses were in one paddock and how many goats in another, and these paddocks go by the square miles, not acres. One day when six of us men sat down to dinner, the boss sang out, “Where are you Joh?” and in came a big kangaroo and sat down between the boss and I. The kangaroo gave me a look as if he had not seen me before, so the boss cut a large piece of bread for him and out he went on the back lawn to enjoy his bread. One weekend, Max and I took up a new engine for one of the trucks and put it in, was quite a job.

One time when we were staying with Max and Lorna Cornelius, we all went some miles up the river after yabbies. We had four yabby nets, a boat and a copper to cook the yabbies in. It was my job to keep the copper boiling, while Max and one of his sons went out in the boat lifting the nets and bring in the catch. They had to lift the nets every half hour, so I kept cooking all the time. We must have had a wheat bag full of yabbies to take back home. We also went after rabbits of a night time with the spotlight and would get as many as thirty rabbits a night.

Another couple who I cannot forget, the late Rev J Kilmartin and Mrs Kilmartin, who did a big job for me when my late wife, Vene had to have a big operation. They were first at the hospital every evening before I could get there, and they took in some cream every evening for Vene. They took Vene to Mt Barker rest home after three weeks in hospital. After a fortnight at the rest home, they took Vene and Mrs McGeorge to Wallaroo, where they had a house. This gave Vene a chance to pick up and I cannot thank these people enough for what they did. We spent many happy days at Wallaroo.

Another very enjoyable week I spent with my friend, George Giles, we went to Nildottie, on the River Murray. You cross the river by punt at Swan Reach and go south several miles where there are orange groves and vineyards. Here we stayed with Dennis Haye who has a house close to the river. We stayed in the upstairs room and spent all day on the river and at night went after rabbits till about eleven o’clock with the spotlight.

One day when George and I were down the river, we met an aboriginal family and an elderly lady of this family used to pick grapes for Dennis. When Dennis came down at sundown to pick us up, this elderly lady came out for a chat and chat she did as she had been on the wine all day. After a while, we managed to get away home and had our own tea. There were five of us men in theses upstairs rooms and after tea we were just sitting around when we heard a motor car coming along the road. It happened to be the aboriginal family in an old ute, so up the stairs they came and sat with us around the table. The old lady did all the talking, still as full as she could be, and she started to sing. When she sang a couple of lines of “Nearer my God to thee”, she fell off her chair flat out on the floor, sound asleep. Several of the folk picked her up, carted her down the stairs and threw her into the back of the ute and they all drove off to their home down the river. They must have taken a bag of oranges with them as next morning we were one bag short. After this was over, we decided it was time for bed. Dennis and I were in one room and Dennis said, ”Have you ever seen a naked man before? If not, you are looking at one now.” He flops down on his bed and asleep he was as he too had been on the wine. He woke up at three o’clock and said, “Are you awake, Errol?” I said “Yes”. He said, “They are cracking stones in my head, and I am sore all around my ribs.”

I said, “You silly ass, you slept with your cartridge belt on around your ribs.” However, he made himself several cups of coffee and went to work with the tractor up between the vines. He came in for breakfast about seven o’clock.

Another good day we had when four men who were land agents and lawyers came to do some land transactions. There were ten of us for dinner, so the cook and I got the barbeque out and loaded it up with fish, rabbits and chops. It was my job to cut up the potatoes and pumpkin. What a feast we had, all washed down with some good beverage. So after spending nearly a week shooting and fishing, George and I came home loaded up with oranges, fish, rabbits and a wheat bag of almonds and all our gear. We certainly spent a very enjoyable week.

Other very happy times I spent were at Coobowie with my family. Here Mrs Reid, my daughter in law’s mother, has a very nice beach holiday home, so my son Brian and I got the small boat out and go about one mile out to sea and do some fishing. We got some nice fish at times. We also put a net out in the tide at night from the beach and in the morning, we go out and pick the fish from the net. We also go to Pt Giles to fish from the jetty. One night we set up a line out from the beach and caught a huge stingray. Many thanks to Mrs Reid and her family as these were very happy days.

We had lovely times with daughter Rosemary and her family in Canberra. Every weekend we went for a drive somewhere. Canberra has many lovely gardens. It is a beautiful city with so much to see. Had my first plane flight from Canberra to Adelaide which was very enjoyable.

Later years about nineteen eighty four, I sold my home in Goodall Crescent as I was living on my own. My late wife Vene was living in a nursing home and I went to live with my son, Brian and daughter in law, Rosemary in Winzor St. My wife passed away on March 17th 1987. I now am a resident at the Helping Hand at Parafield Gardens.

Well, I think I have come to the end of my story. In my early years, my brother and I got up to some mischief, but I don’t think we caused anybody any harm. My whole life has been spent on the land with different animals and has been interesting and rewarding. My life has also been centred around our church, anniversary times and tea meetings. They were great times.

I hope this story will bring enjoyment or amusement to all who read it.

Yours sincerely, Errol Quick

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