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Western Oz Words: A Conversation With My Grandmother

Pauline Payne, in conversation with her grandmother, hears of tough Australian days that should never be forgotten.

A Conversation With My Grandmother - “Ma” Circa 1864-1969

“Tell me what it was like for you growing up in your era, Ma.”

“Do you really want to know, love?”

“Yes, please.”

“My earliest memories were of Augusta where I was born and lived to the age of five. Augusta is where the Blackwood River runs into the Southern Ocean.

“In those days there were lots of ships wrecked, for these seas were very rough coming around Cape Leeuwin from the Indian Ocean.

“My mother was always watching us children because of the river, where the ships’ wreckage would always be washed in.

“Mother and father used quite a lot of the furniture for our home.

“One day there was a table which we children caught and were using as a boat in the middle of the river. When my Mother caught us she was very angry. We did not play with wreckage again.

“In my fifth year my father was able to lease the Porongurups – a very large range east of Albany. For it to be a legal transaction, there had to be a monetary exchange, so for one shilling, my Father was able to take up the lease. We had to move there by ship.

“My Father ran sheep and had Chinese shepherds to care for them. At the age of 14 I would start out from home with my horse and pack horse to take provisions to them. It would take me a week and I always thought the best smell I ever knew was the cooking pot as I rode into each camp. I would stay the night then move to the next one.

“The best medicines I ever used were Chinese. I had a great respect for them. I have often thought I must have been game because the indigenous tribe of Aborigines was never to be trusted. King Billie was the head man. While nothing had really happened, they would come to the house for flour and sugar but you always tried to keep an eye on them. The Porongurups were their home territory so they roamed freely throughout the ranges.”

“Thank you, Ma; I love to hear your stories. I also think you were very game. The bush must have been very beautiful in those days as it was completely unspoiled.”

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