The Ostles of Koorda
Mollie Ostle's Memoir
Mollie Picton-King was born Mollie Ostle at Cowgate Farm, near Newtown, in 1924. When she was four, her family moved to Western Australia. These are her memories
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John Ostle (1863-1927) was the eldest son of John and Rachel (Harrison) Ostle who were respected Quaker farmers in Cumberland. John married Agnes Littleton and they farmed at New Cowper and Cowgate farms near Silloth. They had five children; two daughters, Rachel and Martha, and three sons, John, Richard and Thomas. They were brought up in the Quaker belief in what was a strict but happy household. John held office in the Society of Friends and worked very hard towards their cause. He was also on the School Board of Management at Holm St Cuthbert's School where John and Richard were pupils. There is still a large photograph of him in the hall at the school.
It was expected that the sons would follow the farming tradition, but Richard had a spirit of adventure and a desire to get away from the routine life at home. He went to London, put his age up, and joined the Scots Guards. This shocked his Quaker relatives and some never forgave him for putting on a uniform and taking up arms. The regimentation was strict in the Guards but he enjoyed it. Perhaps he fancied himself in that uniform and said there was great camaraderie amongst the men. He certainly revelled in live theatre, at its best in London, and enjoyed the Music Hall where he heard many of the songs which he sang for the rest of his life. He had a very pleasant, melodious voice and had quite a repertoire, ranging from what we called good music to parodies of some opera arias.
His father, John, became most concerned about Richard when the dark clouds of World War I were gathering. John hastened to London , saw the Guard's commander and informed him that his son had been under age when joining up. Richard was quickly released and returned home to the farm, but not for long. War was declared and, by now, he was old enough to join the services and joined an Artillery Regiment, not with a gun in his hand but, as he had experience with horses and shoeing them, he became a Shoeing Smith or "Smithy", as they were called, and was sent out to Karachi and then to Mesopotamia. So an Ostle became an Ostler, as the name may well suggest.
Prior to going overseas, Richard had met Mary Stanwix, the second daughter of Thomas and Mary Stanwix of Blitterlees Farm, Silloth. Each afternoon he would walk along the road past their house. Mrs Stanwix was usually sitting in the front garden, so he would greet her with a "good afternoon" and walk on. Apparently Mary was working with the cows, further along, so they would talk together for a while. Mrs Stanwix did mention the nice young man who spoke to her as he passed and said that he reminded her very much of a girl she had known called Agnes Littleton. Mary never let on who he was, she was only seventeen years of age, but Mary and Richard were fond of each other and had talked seriously about getting married when she was twenty-one. Before Richard went overseas, he gave Mary a lovely 18 karat gold watch, the only watch she ever had; we still have it and it is working well. The pair corresponded with one another all the time he was away at the war.
The war over, Richard was discharged and, now older and wiser, he was thinking more to the future. He returned home to his parents and eventually took up farming at Cowgate. His sister, Martha, went over to housekeep for him until he married. He would pay a rental to his father but had to buy his own stock and machinery. Mary Stanwix was hard working from a young age. She was well organised and had an eye for business, like all ten of the Stanwix children. They were up at 4am, milking cows, then taking their turn delivering milk, as the Stanwix Dairy supplied the town of Silloth. They also had farm work to do before and after school. At the age of fifteen, Mary was keeping the books and accounts for her father and, by sixteen, was running her own business, buying and selling second-hand furniture. At seventeen, she was able to purchase her own car, which she ran as a hire car (Taxi) with her brothers acting as chauffeurs. Business people were often taken to Carlisle and even up into Scotland on occasion. Once, her brother, John, drove through a flock of Geese and killed one. Unfortunately, they belonged to the Policeman who was demanding that Mary paid for the damage. She asked to see the victim and was told he had plucked and eaten it. Mary told him he could not expect to be paid for something he had eaten and that quashed the case!
Mary Stanwix and Richard Ostle were married at Christ Church, Silloth on April 20, 1921. Where they would marry was a difficult decision, so they decided the fairest way was to toss a coin. Mary won. The wedding was described in the local press:-
The marriage took place . . in the presence of a large congregation . . The vicar, the Rev. R.A. Humble officiated. The bride, who was given away by Mr Brown, her cousin, wore a dress of white satin and lace with wreath and veil. The bridesmaids were Miss Ostle, sister of the groom, and Miss Brown, cousin of the bride. They were attired in saxe blue crepe-de-chene, with black picture hats. Mr Ostle, brother of the groom, acted as best man. About sixty sat down to the wedding breakfast, the guests after proceeding on a circular motor drive. About two hundred guests assembled at a dance held in the evening where refreshments were served and songs and recitations given at intervals. Music for dancing was supplied by Messrs Sim of Southfield. There were numerous presents.
Mary and Richard began their new life at Cowgate, working very hard and confident they would be successful and realize all their dreams and hopes there. Since returning from the war, Richard had been troubled with colds and chest problems which Dr Crerar, for want of a better term, described as "dust on the lung from the war". The damp climate seemed to irritate the condition and this went on for years. The doctor suggested many times that a three month break away in a warm, dry climate would cure it. He suggested places like Australia and South Africa. It was difficult to do this because of the commitments on the farm and the fact that, in 1922, they had had a baby son, Richard, who sadly lived for only two hours, then another son, John, who was born with a hare lip, and, in 1924, a daughter, Mary – always known as Mollie. In 1926, it was decided that Richard should go to Australia for three months. A relative of Mary's mother was farming at Lake Grace in Western Australia and they offered Richard work on their farm for the time he was there. Richard sailed in the ship 'Jarvis Bay' from Tilbury Dock, London to Fremantle. During the voyage, he was befriended by the Finger family, who were returning from a trip to Europe. They were Orchardists from Victoria but their son, Robert, was farming at Koorda in Western Australia and he invited Richard to come and spend a month with him before returning to England.
Mary carried on farming at Cowgate with the help of her two brothers, John and Edwin. Mary arranged for her son, John, to go to Edinburgh in Scotland, where the best surgeons were considered to be, to have his hare lip corrected. Sadly, he died under the anaesthetic (or Ether as they called it then). This was devastating at such a time; it seemed as if nothing was going right for them.
Richard found the Australian climate most beneficial to his health, his chestiness and coughing improved remarkably and he felt better than in years. By now, he was warming to this big country and its people, its casual freedom and way of life. He was fascinated with the different style of farming on such a large acreage, the huge fields, or paddocks as they are called, and the unbelievably cheap land prices. There was an air of excitement and optimism amongst these young pioneers, all fired up with dreams of the fortunes they would make. Most had come from England, from varied walks of life, they spoke the same language, spoke of "home" and the "old country" and eagerly awaited the mail boats from England bringing letters and newspapers, which were discussed readily amongst them. They were hard workers, living rather primitively in harsh conditions, yet their spirits remained high. They were caring people who readily helped one another and would share what they had with those less fortunate around them. They had to organise their own social life and make their own fun; the talents amongst them were amazing. These people were neither slackers nor wingers and we can attribute to them a great contribution in making Australia a great nation.
As Richard's time in Australia was drawing on, he did, as promised, spend the last month with his friend, Robert Finger at Koorda. It was here, when the neighbouring farmer, Thomas Metson, said that he would like to sell out and go off to Cape Town, South Africa, that Richard became interested in making a life in Australia. He wrote to Mary most enthusiastically, saying that, if she was willing to give farming in Australia a try, she should make a sale of stock and machinery and catch the first boat to Fremantle. Bob Finger had offered accommodation until they were settled. Mary agreed and made the farm sale. She travelled, with her daughter Mollie, in the liner "Bendigo" via Cape Town where, for the first time, Mollie saw people of a dark skin and said they were dirty.
It had been a big decision for Mary to make; leaving her home, family and friends, and leaving behind much of her furniture which, after years, she never had the heart to ask for, and the keepers of it believed it was theirs. There was no knowing when they would ever be able to afford to go back to England, or if they would ever see their folks again. There was a lot of sadness they were leaving behind in England too. Australia held for them the hope of a new life and a new beginning.
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I, Mollie (Mary) was four when I came to Australia and I remember little of England, only a few fond memories. I remember, when at Blitterlees Farm, taking a bath in the trough and seeing out into the yard, through the window, Mary Wilkinson's Persian Cat sunning itself on the stone wall; my swing under the oak tree at Cowgate; the beautiful garden, with winding paths, at Miss Fanny Slack's home; our Red Setter dog called Glen. I also remember clearly walking up the gangplank onto the ship at Tilbury, clutching a treasured little wicker basket containing a teapot given to me by a person we called Granny Osborne; I could see the water below and was scared I might drop my basket. I believe, when I stepped foot on deck, I upset my mother when I suddenly said: "We've forgotten Johnnie".
My reunion with my now sun-bronzed father was not enthusiastic. I was, I am told, reticent and shy but I am sure he understood.
After a few days in Perth, we boarded the Mukinbudin train to Koorda; a twelve hour journey, the last forty miles, through the Salt Lake area out from Wyalkatchem, taking three hours. The sleeper laid track through the lakes were not very solid and speed would end in disaster. The engine drivers were in no hurry and they often stopped the train, set their rabbit traps, and would retrieve their catch on the return journey next day. These unscheduled stops were a source of interest to passengers; it broke the monotony and, sometimes, it was to off-load goods or load on stock where passengers would help. Though one had a sleeper compartment, there was very little rest. The constant shunting on and off of carriages and stopping at wayside sidings went on all night and was not done quietly or gently, more like crash and bang stuff, which almost dislodged one from one's bunk. This was a far cry from the Flying Scotsman; but often, at stops, our guard would walk along asking if anyone wanted a cup of Billy Tea.
From Koorda we travelled seven miles down the Bencubbin Road, a winding track through sand and loam country; a winding track where the horse and cart had to continuously dodge around large trees. At the end of our journey, stood Robert Finger's little, wooden, four-roomed house, majestically propped up on wooden stumps, with a thousand gallon tank beside it. One could see the tin roof from a distance, it glimmered in the bright sunlight like a beacon. These houses were sold after the gold rush days in Coolgardie, one ordered them unseen. They were dismantled and each piece of timber numbered, then it was packed and delivered by train to the nearest station for the owner to transport. The re-construction went well as long as one abided by the numbering system but these houses did not always end up looking alike. Some ended up different shapes and some ended up with timber to spare. The first sight of this house must have brought to Mother's mind the lovely farmhouse she had left at Cowgate, and this could have been quite a culture shock for her. My father, in his keenness to farm in Australia, and to have us come and join him, had really not mentioned anything about what the housing was like. The Finger farm was named 'Eton' and one could conjure up grandeous things in mind. We co- existed well but, as Robert was a bachelor, it must have been a strain to him, having three extra in his two bedroom house. However, he never complained about it, became our lifelong friend and our Uncle Bob.
Within days we walked the half-mile or so to meet Thomas Metson and to look over the farm we intended to buy. There was very little land cleared, hardly any fencing, one small dam, two old horses, called Betsy and Sandy, and a couple of pieces of machinery. We were invited into a Superbag Lime Washed Humpy, a type of early house, with Anthill Pug Floor. It did have an open fireplace made with loose rocks and a tin chimney. There were boxes around with the word Kerosene on them, some used as seats, others stacked up and used as cupboards; Mother was puzzled as to what Kerosene was. There was a sapling pole bush timber table and a bed made from saplings too, covered with a wheatbag Wogga. She had not seen the likes of this ever. After discussing the farm business, Mother asked where was the house, she hadn't seen one anywhere, not realizing she was in it. The shock gave reason for her to be seated on one of the Kerosene boxes, she certainly welcomed a cup of tea and leaned back to rest against the wall, not realizing the bag walls were not attached to the down poles. Mother overbalanced, the wall billowed outwards and she found herself outside, having to re-enter through the door. It was well no harm was done and a sense of humour prevailed. It would have been interesting to hear the conversation after they left there. It was when leaving that Mother looked around wistfully saying "this is a real Weylands". The farm was named 'Weylands'.
We were welcomed warmly by the small Koorda community, our nearest neighbours were well established, being there three years before. They had come from Kent, England and they had a family, one daughter my age, which was wonderful; she was my special friend and she still is.
The Bag Humpy House was enlarged and improved upon, flapping walls nailed to down poles and, at ground level, secured to ensure the snakes could not slide under. With proper furniture, crockery and other possessions, brought with us from England, we soon had a very comfortable abode. We learned the meaning of the word Kerosene too, having only oil lamps to contend with. We bought Kerosene two by four gallon tins at a time. These were encased in very solid pinewood boxes which became wonderful storage cupboards in the kitchen and bedrooms and, when painted up, often with a curtain hung on them, they had a lot of character.
In the beginning, we were surrounded by bush land with only cleared areas where paddocks were being created. It seemed eerie at first but, after a time, we began to appreciate the beauty of it, the birds and animals, the wild flowers and, on windy days and nights, the wonderful sound, a whispering it creates through the bush, almost like a song. One thing we never got used to was the howling of the Dingoes at night, sometimes so close to the house it sent shivers down the spine. These predators killed lambs and sheep and even dug under the netting fences of the fowl pen to get at the hens. Many methods of eradication were tried but we were troubled with them for years, until more and more farmers took up land and did a lot of clearing. The Dingoes moved out to more isolated areas but then the foxes moved in.
Once we were settled, Uncles Jack (John) and Ted (Edwin) Stanwix came to Australia to make a new life; they lived and worked with us for a few years and hard workers they were. Each morning, they and my father would sharpen up their axes and go out chopping down trees, clearing the land to make another paddock ready for a wheat crop. As they cut down the timber, they would select certain trees and cut fence posts as they went. We had a post pile like a mini mountain which lasted us all the farming years.
Uncle Jack had carpentry expertise so set about building us a new house, and a fine job it was; we were in seventh heaven to have sizeable rooms and a home with verandahs. Uncle Jack and Ted then claimed the Bag Humpy and were happy to have a place of their own. They also built stables and a cowshed; by now we had a team of horses and a cow named Brindle. The dam had to be deepened and made larger to water our stock, so began the job with scoop and horse. It was a difficult job and was going well until they struck rocks in one corner. Uncle Ted purported to know how to remove them with Gelignite and placed it strategically with fuses, etc. We were ordered way back out of danger's way when he lit the fuse and hastily made his retreat to us. Suddenly, there was a deafening bang and, next thing, we were being peppered with small rocks. Some got as far as hitting the roof of our new house. My father's great concern was that the bottom might have been blown out of the dam and it would not hold water. Thankfully, when the rains came, it filled up and served us well.
In 1928, my sister Betty was born; I loved her so much and no longer felt so alone, wheeling her about in her pram and helping my mother with her. Betty's given name was Fanny Slack, whom I believe was our mother's Godmother, a dear spinster lady whom we visited often in England. She had a gorgeous garden and lived near Brampton. She implored in her letters to Mother that, should the baby be a daughter, to call it after her, always saying "you will never regret it". Whatever she meant by that, we have never found out!
I have vivid memories of the clearing of a large paddock which we called the 200 acres, trees chopped and dragged into heaps until dry enough to burn, watching them burn at night was a wonderful sight, like a magic fairyland lighting up the sky and area around for miles then, at light of day, to go around the white-hot coals and ash, pushing into a heap the remaining branches to burn up yet again. This paddock was the only one on the property with a rocky quartz outcrop and we were hopeful of finding some gold; the glitter was there but turned out to be only fool's gold.
The early farming years were hard, harsh ones for the horse teams and, with summer heat soaring mainly in the 100 and over degrees, Dad would often cease work to spare the sweating horses. He truly loved his horses and cared for them well.
For a time, we had pigs on the farm and we cured our own hams and bacon. One neighbour was a butcher in Durham, before becoming a farmer, so was able to show us the finer techniques of curing, making sausage and black puddings. We were never allowed near the pigs but the piglets were very cute. One day, I was quite turned off pigs for life when some of our little chickens ran through the sty, and one old sow just opened her mouth and mopped up the lot.
It was a happy day when we no longer kept pigs. We concentrated thereafter on being Wheat and Sheep Farmers.
On April 15, 1930, my brother, Richard Mervyn, was born at the Wyalkatchem Hospital and on my father's birthday. The family were thrilled to have a son to carry on the name. Uncle Jack took over the home duties during Mother's absence and applied his culinary skills to the best of his ability. Each evening, we would walk around the homestead bush, gathering dry kindling wood to light the early morning wood stove. At this time, Uncle Jack fenced off an area around the house and I was curious – why? He replied: "To keep young Dickie in". He was reminded about it in later years and reckoned it would have had to be a greater fence than that to keep Richie in! The fence was to keep the rabbits out of our vegetable garden; the seedlings disappeared as fast as they were planted. We could only grow vegetables during the cooler weather when the ground was wet. Uncle Jack also made a garden for me, it was completely wire-netted in to keep the parrots and Galah's from chopping my plants to pieces. I lovingly tended my garden, mainly Geraniums and some creepers, watering it from bath and dish-washing water or carting up a little bucket from the dam. Betty and I are real garden enthusiasts.
Uncles Jack and Ted eventually set out on their own, firstly working a time on farms, then Uncle Ted managed a farm and, after that, bought his own farm at Cadoux. Uncle Jack moved down nearer Perth, buying land and running a poultry farm. They both did very well in their ventures and retired most comfortably. Uncle Jack never married but Ted married a school teacher and they had three children. They loved Australia and never wanted to return to England. They said their life there had been hard and they did not have happy memories of it, though they did keep in touch with their families.
When we decided to change from horse-team to tractor, there was sadness in parting with our good horses but, after seeing them work in extreme heat, it was the right thing to do. We did, however, keep the two originals, Sandy and Bessy; they were now quite old so grazed their lives away. Occasionally, Sandy was harnessed into the Spring Cart to bring home some firewood. For many years, after the ploughing, Mallee roots kept working to the surface, we believing the paddocks had been well cleared of them. We never put reins on docile, trustworthy Sandy; he was a wise old animal too, walking cautiously through gates, stopping to take a look that the cart wheels would not hit the posts, then walk home into the home yard, backing the cart into the wood pile, then just standing there until we unloaded the wood. It was a sad and teary day when Sandy died.
As children, we worked with or around our parents, helping as much as possible, and enjoyed doing so. We loved riding on the machinery at seeding and harvest time, and at wheat carting to the town. At other times, we played under the shady trees or sat in the truck and waved to our parents as they came round the paddock. Mother always brought a good supply of scones and cakes for our morning and afternoon tea breaks, so this was rather like a picnic.
With the departure of horses, we no longer cut hay so the stooking sheafs, hay stacks, and chaff cutting lightened the work load considerably. Betty missed the horses terribly at first; from a young age she made it her daily task to go over to the stable in the afternoon, filled up the feed boxes with chaff, and would wait for the horses to come home after the day's work. She was so small she had to stand up on the feed boxes and would walk along, from one to the other, taking off the blinkers and loosening the collar buckle of each animal, the collars so heavy, they fell to the ground and Dad hung them up when he came home.
At times, we children remained at home when the weather was too hot, we were given strict instructions as to what and what not we could do, and what action to take in certain emergencies. We abided by the rules, fortunately we never had to apply the snake rule but, one day, a slow moving Blue Tongued Bobtail Gonna entered the house, so I swept it away with the broom but it was bent on returning. In desperation, I grabbed a long-handled shovel, scooped it up and walked a long distance before giving it quite a fling into the air. It did hit the ground with a thump and I hoped it was winded. I was pleased to see Mum and Dad had returned home but they were met with bitter complaints about me from Betty and Richie. I had put them on top of a table for safety and, to them, it was all too long a time; had the reptile been a snake, I too would have been up there with them!
We were blessed with caring and loving parents who were devoted to each other, always found time to listen to us, to discuss things, play games, and read stories. They taught us so much, putting us in good stead for all our lives. Mother was so well organised, a good planner, a meticulous housekeeper and cook and a hard worker out in the paddocks also. Father was a kind, hard worker, so caring with all animals. He was a good mechanic and repaired all the machinery. Our parents both had a highly developed good sense of fun and humour. They enjoyed music and were avid readers. No day passed without some amusing thing happening on the farm, if only we had filmed it all, it would have been a great movie. Thinking back to our lives, from early times to the present day, we have so much to thank our parents for.
Betty and Richie were inseparable children; they played happily sharing their toys and games. Sometimes, I felt envious and a little excluded from their fun, being much older. Yet, as years went on, and we were older, that gap was bridged.
My early schooling was with the assistance of a neighbour who had, prior to marriage, been a teacher. She set weekly lessons for me to complete and my parents also listened to me read, tested me on spelling, times tables, etc. Later on, I attended the Koorda School for six months; this was a small school, consisting of two class rooms, with all grades in them. Children travelled long distances each day; some walked, some rode horses, travelled in buggies or Sulky's while others rode bicycles. The bush land around the school was a scene that would have looked good on canvas; horses tied to trees with their chaff bags, the colourful assortment of conveyances, bicycles propped up against trees. During lunch hour, the pupils would be over in the bush tending their animals. My parents felt that a more comprehensive education would be better for us, so I was sent to boarding school at a college in Perth; Betty joined me at a later date. Boarding school was good in that we made many new friends and we enjoyed the team sports, tennis, music lessons and having very strict but dedicated teachers in all subjects. School holidays were always looked forward to, when we were allowed to bring our friends from the city to the farm. They enjoyed joining in with whatever work was in hand. We had our tennis court and golf putting area, no grass, just hard clay, and should one wish a game of golf, it was straight across the paddocks so, one might say, in the rough all the time. If one wished to swim, we got into the dam. Dad made a dingy for Richie and his friends, they paddled around and had a lot of fun in it; The Henley Regatta, so to speak.
In the early 1930's, we experienced a terrible drought and depression in Australia. Wool prices went to an all-time low and wheat crops failed through lack of rain. This continued for several years, dams dried up and water was carted from government dams until they too dried up. Feed was short too, most paddocks had nothing on them so stock had to be sold. Many farmers despaired, those with bank mortgages could get no overdrafts; they owned nothing they could sell or barter. Some just walked off their farms carrying a suitcase, others wished to leave but did not have money to buy a train ticket. Some struggled on, living on trapped rabbits and boiled wheat. We too were budgeting carefully and shooting rabbits and parrots to substitute our diet; we were on the last of our money, the last year of the depression. Then came the good times, the boom times when wool and sheep prices went sky high. The price of wheat had never been better so many great years were ahead and, came the time, we were able to afford luxuries we never had before.
Throughout my father's life, he maintained a keen interest in livestock markets, he enjoyed dressing himself up and attending the sheep and cattle markets at Midland Junction, where he bought and sold stock. He was well known there and had many friends with similar interests. Father told us many times about his Uncle Thomas having his own cattle auction at Aspatria in England and how, as a young man, he would go there with his father, sometimes helping to weigh in cattle. He said that his father and uncle had a disagreement which was never resolved and thought it a great pity that these two proud men could not have sorted out their differences. My father never saw his parents again but, when they went "home" in 1953, Grandmother Stanwix was there but died a month after they came back to Australia. My father did see his Uncle Thomas but he was, at that time, in a very restful slumber but Aunt Hannah thought he was aware that his nephew had called to see him.
We reached a stage of mechanization with large machines and working two tractors cut down time worked during seeding and harvest. No longer keeping a cow or poultry and, as the sheep grazed and watered themselves, it was possible to have time away from the farm. At this stage, we children were towards the end of our school years and our parents realized we would require a home in Perth, as well as on the farm. I had decided on a secretarial career. What excitement when we bought our home in Nedlands and setting it up with new furniture, right down to our own piano. Both Betty and I had learned music; we soon realised that Dad could also play very well but he did not read music. Apparently, in their home they had had an organ, which Aunt Martha played, so Dad gained some knowledge from that. We were pleased to have Mrs Watson live with us; we had known her from early days. She was alone, without a family, and about to retire from her housekeeping position to go onto a pension so she became part of our family. She enjoyed the company of young people and would take charge of things whenever Mum and Dad were away from Perth.
I joined the Commonwealth Government and worked for the Ministry of Munitions, as Cost Officer's Secretary, and remained in that position until I married.
At the declaration of World War II, Dad, always the Royalist, was once again keen to serve king and country. It was agreed with our neighbour, Robert Finger, to share- crop our farm with the help of family during busy times. Dad joined the army with the rank of sergeant, he was too old for overseas service. However, he did a worthwhile job by manning the big guns on Rottnest Island, just off our coast, which guard the waters and entry to Fremantle harbour, should there be an invasion from the sea.
During the war years, our city of Perth was blacked out. We also experienced rationing on certain food items, clothing and petrol and had our books of coupons. We had air raid shelters throughout the city and shop windows were boarded and sand-bagged up. We did have Japanese reconnaissance planes around several times but they did not drop any bombs. Several towns in our north-west were bombed and many lives lost. War years brought many servicemen here from many nations; the Dutchmen from Indonesia and other islands, New Zealanders and many Americans. We also had lots of displaced people from south-east Asia, who had escaped the Yellow Peril, and we too felt nervous about the way they were marching down through countries, fearing we would be next. We listened daily to the wireless and the news from London. Our hearts went out to the people of Britain and what they suffered. We too were saddened when many of our friends lost their lives during that time.
It was towards the end of the war when our friend Bob Finger died He met with a tragic accident in his farm shed. He had been working under his truck and had, for some reason, taken off the two front wheels and used two jacks without putting in safety blocks. The jacks slipped, pinning him down, and he was killed. We had been expecting him in Perth and, when he did not arrive, a neighbour was phoned to go up and see that he was not ill; they found him dead. We were shattered by the news and his elderly parents, in Melbourne, were devastated for he was their favourite son. Some months later, when the business was sorted out, Pop Finger decided to sell the property so we bought it, making our farm larger to 3,400 acres. Until such time as Dad was discharged from the army, Mother, Betty and Richie ran the farm. Betty later became a comptometerist with a large electrical firm in Perth and worked there until she married.
After completing his education at Hale School, Richie returned to farming. He was a popular young man with a wide circle of friends both in the Koorda district and in Perth. He enjoyed life to the full, loved riding fast motor bikes and had a sporty Packard coupe car too; he had mishaps in both. Coming home late one night from town, the car lights dazzled a Kangaroo, it made a mighty leap into the air, landing on the soft top of the car, going straight through it and landing on the passenger seat beside Richie. Immediate battle took place, Kangaroo kicking and lashing out to gain freedom with Richie fighting it off with one hand, whilst trying to keep the vehicle on the road with the other. The dazed Kangaroo made its escape and a battered and scratched Richie came home with the car hood, ripped to bits, flying in the breeze. On another occasion, the family were startled to see a fast-moving General Grant Tank coming, at speed, down the driveway towards the house. We could only think there were army manoeuvres in the area and someone had got lost; but, when it came to a halt, too near our house for comfort, the turret popped up and there was Richie, smiling, wearing goggles and helmet. He had attended an Army Surplus Sale and, as the tank was going so cheaply, he bought it; it had to removed that day. It was, for a time, a novelty; even Dad got a thrill out of it. It certainly cleared all before it, but it was a real fuel guzzler and the cleats did a lot of damage, so it was eventually sold.
In 1953, Mum, Dad and Richie took a sea voyage to England and had a wonderful reunion with family and friends. They rented a house on the Skinburness Road and hired a car for the time they were there. I came over from Germany, where my husband was working for the army, and spent a month with them. Dad took me around all his boyhood haunts and we visited friends and family members. Grandmother Stanwix was living with Aunt Ada so we visited her every day. She had taken a stroke and been bedridden for many years; I enjoyed so much talking to her. She was a great Christian and told me she had read the Bible seventeen times and said it was the only book. My parents loved catching up with their sisters and brothers; they had so much to talk about. They were happy to come home to Australia, feeling somehow this is where they now belonged, but intended visiting England more often in the future. My father died before he made that return but Mother did make two more visits, staying for eight months on the last occasion.
In 1954, Richie planned to marry so my parents felt it time to turn over the farming to him. They would semi-retire and live in Perth but would go to help him during the busy seasons. There were two houses on the farm and Richie set about doing up the one on what had been Bob Finger's farm. He had some furniture in it and bought a Kerosene refrigerator, installed it and set it going. Then he went into town to meet with some of his friends returning home, about midnight, to find, where the house had stood, a lot of smoke, ashes and burning timbers. With wedding plans in place, there was a hasty change of plans for my parents too. They let the newly-weds take over their house so no longer had their home on the farm. Richie farmed on for many years but, came a time, he thought he would like to venture into a different field so, sold the farms and bought an hotel, in the south west area at Bridgetown, and thoroughly enjoyed his new venture.
Mary and Richard Ostle enjoyed their retirement and travelled around the country, visiting places they never had time to see before. They sold up their home in Nedlands and moved to Scarborough, where they had views of the Indian Ocean, and could walk along they beach as they pleased. They had a smaller garden to tend and they enjoyed happy years there.
Richard Ostle had enjoyed good health but, in 1964, was rushed to hospital, early one morning, by ambulance and diagnosed with a burst Aorta. It was very serious and necessitated surgery which resulted in him dying whilst under the anaesthetic. This was a terrible shock to us all and a particularly sad day for Mum. It was her birthday. She never looked forward to her birthdays thereafter, it was a sad and thoughtful day always for her.
Mary Ostle carried on bravely and independently alone for many years. She had many good friends and family around her and the grandchildren were a special joy for her. She spoiled them all and they adored her. The last four years of her life, it was discovered she had an enlarged heart which did, from time to time, cause her to be hospitalised and she passed away in her sleep, whilst in hospital. Something of our world had ended with her passing. We were saddened and missed her so much and, even at our mature ages, felt like orphans, never before being without a mother. She was always there to listen to us when we wanted her advice or to discuss things. I too was hit with the thought that, being the eldest, I was now the family Dowager.
In 1988, the Town of Koorda Historic Society instigated the town create a Pioneer Memorial Park, as an entry into the town. There would be an avenue of trees with name plaques under them of all the early settlers in the district. We contributed to this and were invited to attend the ceremony, planting a tree and unveiling the name plaque to our parents. The school children all came down to watch the ceremony. Each time we go to Koorda, we visit the park and have a photo taken beside the tree, which is growing into a fine looking specimen, towering over us, and we say to it "Mum and Dad, you will never be forgotten".