26 January 2012

Australia Day 2012: Wealth for Toil (William Donald Webster)

For this year's Australia Day (26 January) genealogy blogging challenge, Shelley of Twigs of Yore has chosen the theme 'Wealth for Toil' (words from the Australian National Anthem, Advance Australia Fair).

My favourite unit in the Local, Family and Applied History course was Oral History. For one of the assignments I interviewed my father. Here, in Dad's own words, is a description of the work done by his father (my grandfather, William Donald WEBSTER, son of James Campbell WEBSTER and Ellen BUTLER).
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My father was born in New South Wales, but his family lived in the Cunnamulla area [Queensland] during the late 1880s and 1890s. At Stockyard Creek near Helidon, where the family lived for a while in the early 1900s, Dad worked for a man who used to break in horses, until he learnt how to do it himself. That was his first paid job.

Later he worked for Cobb and Co. That's when he came out west again, working at different Cobb and Co. mail changes. They used to have horses out on the runs, in the paddocks, so that they'd have a change of horses for the mail coaches. His job was to break the horses in, and to keep the supply of horses at every mail change - broken in to harness, and for saddle use. There was a mail change at Barringun, and one halfway to Cunnamulla (at old 'Woggonora', over the river from what's known now as Job's Gate Turnoff), and then Cunnamulla. He would handle about six young horses at the same time, until they were right through to the riding stage.

The mail changes were just a good set of horse yards and a tin hut. They had wells put down for a water supply. In that stretch of the Warrego River there were no permanent water holes, and it was before the artesian bores. They had to have some permanent water, so they had wells for stock and drinking water. There weren't any pumps at first. They had buckets and ropes and pulleys to bring the water up. I remember him saying how there was nearly always a water boy whose job it was to have the tanks filled with water. It's a slow process, filling the tanks one bucket of water at a time! They had the tanks filled so that when the coaches came in, the horses would be given a drink immediately they were unharnessed.

Later my father worked at 'Burrenbilla', which was owned by Rutherford and Company. They had other stations down in New South Wales, and he used to go down to those properties and break in their station horses. After he was married he was manager on various properties. A local stock and station agent lent him the money to enter the ballot for land, and he drew 'Plain View'. [These recollections are continued in Outback Story.]
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For last year's Australia Day challenge I wrote about my earliest document for an ancestor in Australia. I look forward to seeing what theme Shelley chooses for 2013.

19 comments:

  1. Your post has just reminded me that I interviewed my mother for that course back in 1989. I wonder where the tapes are? Was Janis Wilton the lecturer when you were enrolled in the course?

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  2. Yes, Sharon, Janis Wilton was my lecturer. I had the pleasure of hearing her speak at Inverell (NSW & ACT State family history conference) last year. She is just as inspirational as ever! You have reminded me that it is a while since I fast forwarded and rewound my tapes, which apparently helps with preservation. And I only have off-site backups of about 75% of the transcriptions from my recordings, so I must do the others too.

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  3. Thanks for sharing this great story. How wonderful that you got this history from your father.

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    1. Yes Pauleen, I was so glad that Dad could tell me those things about his father. I have found very few *documents* concerning Grandad's work before he drew the block of land.

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  4. Wonderful post Judy, such great details to have from your Dad. I am even more excited now about starting the Oral History unit at UNE that starts in a few weeks knowing that it is so interesting. Janis Wilton is listed as the lecturer, so fingers crossed that is so and I will be learning from such an inspiring teacher. (My great grandmother was born in Barringun. Is there much there now?)

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    1. Thanks Tanya. I'm sure you will enjoy the Oral History unit. Once I'd learned those interviewing and transcribing skills, I used them again in other subjects. For example: for an assignment on changes in domestic technology, I interviewed my Mum and Dad and added their reminiscences to my own memories.

      As for Barringun... I haven't been along that highway for about 20 years, but there wasn't much there then! Is your family mentioned in "The History of Bourke"? I have a copy of "The History of Bourke Surname Index", volumes I to XII (Dubbo Macquarie Family History Society). Let me know if you want me to look up a surname.

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  5. It sounds like I will have to interview someone for the unit, I thought that might be the case. I'm thinking if I have to I will do my Dad who served and was injured in Vietnam.

    I haven't done very much research into my Barringun/Bourke family and have not seen the books you mention above. I will have to track them down. If you have time to look up their surname, Williamson (James and Margaret were my gg grandparents, he died in Barrigun in 1891), pls that would be wonderful.

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    1. Tanya, "The History of Bourke Surname Index", volumes I to XII (Dubbo Macquarie Family History Society), does not list given names - just surname and "The History of Bourke" volume and page number. Here are the vol:page index entries for WILLIAMSON:

      Vol.I, 1st ed: page 100
      Vol.I, 2nd ed: 85
      Vol.III: 175
      Vol.IV: 48, 127
      Vol.VII: 118-119, 137, 189
      Vol.VIII: 224
      Vol.IX: 102, 135, 305
      Vol.X: 36, 49-50, 52, 146, 226
      Vol.XI: 77, 81, 111, 113, 116, 140, 208
      Vol.XII: 10, 49, 127, 170, 212

      No WILLIAMSON entries in Vols. II, V, VI.

      Good luck!

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    2. Many thanks Judy. Now I just have to wait until I am somewhere where I can look at the work itself. I checked Trove last night, and I'm sure you're probably aware of this, but the complete volumes are not held by many libraries.

      I'll keep this safe until the day when I can go to a library that has it. (I reckon that might be in a few years time!) I appreciate you taking the time to look up the index and type all those entries up!

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    3. Tanya, it might be worthwhile sending the list to Dubbo and District Family History Society and asking how much they would charge to photocopy those pages in the original volumes.

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    4. That's a great idea Judy. I will definately give that a go. Many thanks.

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  6. How fortunate to have interviewed your father. Nothing beats oral history. I loved the way you used your father's story about his own father for this post Judy. A Cobb and Co connection is very exciting. I remember learning about Cobb and Co in Social Studies at school.

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    1. I once heard a talk about Cobb and Co. *in NSW* at a family history seminar. It was interesting, but not particularly relevant to my own research. I am ashamed to say that I have not been to the Cobb and Co museum in Toowoomba, but it is on my list of things to do. (Hmmm... I wonder whether that might work as a future 'Genealogists for Families' social event!)

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  7. Oral history! Yes! And why haven't I done any yet?????? And yes, Judy you raise very good points about preservation too. Aaargh...so much to do.

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    1. Alex, I know what you mean about 'so much to do'. Fortunately, for those who don't have the time to do a UNE course, there are some good 'how-to' books about oral history. When I did the diploma (early 1990s) our compulsory reading included Oral History: a Handbook by Louise Douglas, Alan Roberts and Ruth Thompson. Perhaps Tanya Honey can tell us (later) what books are currently recommended.

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    2. Judy and Alex, the text this year is the same as the one you mention above Judy. It is into its 5th edition and seems to be the seminal text on oral history in Australia. If other texts/articles come up as 'must-reads' I will let you both know.

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  8. What a wonderful piece of history to have. I should definitely learn more about oral history. Your post reminds me of all the little bits and pieces my Dad has mentioned about his father's work - and his own. I must get on to that!

    Thanks for joining in again! Now I've got 10 or so months to stew on a topic for next year. :-)

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    1. Yes Shelley, those 'bits and pieces' are great. Sadly, there were many other stories that I did not tape or make notes about at the time. When I try to remember them now, the details are fuzzy.

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