Mary 1929

John Patrick McQuade (1923-1979)
Mary O’Neill (1929-2016)

Jump down to the list of their children

Mary O’Neill was born on 22 May 1929, the second eldest child of Cyril Herbert O’Neill & Margaret Mary Mowle. John Patrick McQuade (known as Pat) was born 02 Apr 1924 at Annandale, a suburb of Sydney, to Andrew McQuade and Mary Therese Sexton.

Mary grew up at Georges Creek, between Armidale and Kempsey, a place that holds special memories for her.

In Mary’s words:

“I entered the nursing profession at Armidale Hospital in 1947. In that year one of the nurses asked me to go to the railway station and keep her company while she met a cousin of hers. That was where I met Pat McQuade for the first time. We became engaged in 1948, the same year I developed mumps so severely that a doctor suggested I should give up nursing. I travelled to Sydney and boarded with Pat’s family.

Pat and I were married on 01 May1950 at the Catholic cathedral in Armidale NSW. We settled in Glebe, a suburb of Sydney. Pat worked for Union Carbide at Rosebery and was appointed the Works Engineer in the late 1950s.

We had seven children and made them all welcome into the home. The children all went to St. James Primary School in Forest Lodge, the girls went to St. Scholastica’s College Glebe and boys to Holy Cross College Ryde NSW. Pat was the breadwinner for the family, while I became involved with schools and sports activities. As the children finished their school life they chose different professions: Catharine became a teacher, Margaret a nurse, Terry was studying to be a teacher, Helen a nurse, Anne worked in a chemist shop and Peter was a lift mechanic.

During the 1970s I became interested in art and started pottery classes at a technical college. I finished up teaching pottery at St. James School in Forest Lodge. When I retired I took painting classes in Rozelle NSW. This led me to study print making at Sydney College of the Arts in Rozelle. I graduated in 2000 and a great day was had by all of the family. Just before my final presentation I suffered a stroke, and some of my fellow classmates put on my exhibition for me, for which I was very grateful. Happily my health subsequently improved.”

Pat passed away on 24 Mar 1979 after a long illness. Mary had a congenital heart problem and she died peacefully with her family gathered around her on 01 Jan 2016. A few years before she passed away she wrote, very fittingly:

“I am now 83 years old and, looking back on my life, I am grateful for everything that has happened to me. My children and grand children make me very proud that I am their mother and grandmother.”

Photos of Mary and Pat’s wedding, 01 May1950… and with Mary’s sister Monica and brother John:


Mary and Pat, in formal mode; outside their house in Glebe; and with their young family

Mary’s graduation in Fine Arts from the University of Sydney

Mary, examining a Ginko tree, collecting for her art. Below she is seated with her first cousins Estelle and Joan standing; and on her way to the UK.

Pat & Mary’s family:

01. John Anthony (b. 10 Dec 1950, d. 11 Dec 1950)

02. Catharine (b. 26 Nov 1951)

03. Margaret (b. 17 Jan 1953)

04. Terrence Patrick (b. 17 Mar 1954, d. 24 May 1973)

05. Helen Mary (b. 08 Sep 1959)

06. Anne Louise (b. 29 Mar 1961)

07. Peter

Peter with: Cath, Margaret and Terry:

and with Helen:

A somewhat older Anne, Helen & Peter; and of Margaret:

Cath at her graduation, with Mary:

Cath and Mary in Switzerland:

Helen Mary McQuade married David Lloyd Pryke, an engineer, and they have two daughters:

01. Clare (b. 10 Nov 1993)

02. Meaghan (b. 13 Jun 1996)

Anne Louise McQuade married David Ross Doran, a teacher, and they have four sons:

01. Angus Ross (b. 27 Oct 1985)

02. Reese Andrew (b. 13 Jun 1988)

03. Jackson Lloyd (b. 26 Feb 1990)

04. Oliver (b. 20 Apr 1992)

David and Anne at their wedding:

Peter married Catherine Mary Walton, a teacher, and they have four children.

Mary’s memories of growing up in Georges Creek

Clarence, a beautiful place to live


As I sit here at the age of eighty one and look back on my life at Clarence I am amazed how beautiful it all was. The hills are so high they hold the property and the creek in such a way that they seem nestled in and protected. The house is near the road, but can only be seen from the North and South at the last minute when you come round the bends in the road. The creek is a delightful stream as it makes its way around and through the property, with deep water holes and the crossings.

Looking south from the house, with the police station on the left and Mr and Mrs Beusiville’s home and shop across the road.

The Clarence property still carries the name. It is located on the Kempsey Armidale Road, still a gravel road to this day, about 120 km from Kempsey and 75 km from Armidale, located in the lower levels of the Great Dividing Range in the North Eastern region of NSW. It is at an elevation of about 180 metres. It and surrounding properties seem to be used now for dairy farming and holiday rental cabins for people keen on fishing.

Clarence is on the left side of the road travelling toward Kempsey and has Georges Creek running around the main property. This creek, so important in my life, starts way upstream just below Point Lookout at an elevation of 1330m. It ends at an elevation of 134m flowing into the Macleay River, at “The Junction” a few kilometres below our place. Georges Creek drops around 1200m over its 52.6km length.

I was last a visitor to Clarence in 1958 and it was just beautiful as ever. The creek was glistening through the property and the mountains stood in awe of the property just as they did when I was a child. I gave myself time to be with all that was around me.

Since then I have viewed Clarence on many occasion, but only from the outside as a sightseer, including once from a light plane. The last I drove past was 2009. Yes it is still wonderful to see, but there are many changes. There are more buildings on the property now. The home is painted off white, the woodwork is dark red and the roof is painted green. When we owned Clarence it was painted cream and green and had a red roof.

Our home at Clarence

The house at Clarence brings me so many memories in my story, so I will describe it in detail here. The front of the house, with the steps, faces west, the left hand side as you look at the front of the house faces north, and the right hand side faces south.

Front of the house at Clarence with photo taken from across the Kempsey-Armidale Road. The house front faces west. The creek flowed around the left side of the house and the back.

As a child I spent many times in the old house finding my way round. There were lots of rooms as my father’s family was large and they had lived there before we did.

I remember the beautiful front door. It had green stained glass in the top of it and always was inviting. It led into the hallway that ran down to the back of the house.

The living room was a large room to the left of the front door. It was both the lounge room and the dining room. It too had a lovely door, made of solid cedar that opened from the front veranda. It made the room special when it was opened, as the window on the north side of the room, while not large, let in beautiful light to the room. This window also gave a great view out across the creek to the paddocks and the hills. There were other doors for this room, one from the veranda on the north side and one from the hallway. The living room had a fireplace at the back wall and to the right of the fireplace a door through to the kitchen.

There used to be wonderful evenings round the piano. Mum, John and sometimes Dad would play and we would all sing along. Dad would only play the piano when Mum was not present. This used to puzzle me, especially as Dad was reluctant to tell us why he would not play in front of Mum. Some of the tunes I remember were Rose of Tralee; When Irish Eyes are Smiling; Galway Bay; Machushla and Danny Boy.

This is also where the men would listen to the cricket tests from England. Our place was ready in the late afternoon for the night time radio broadcasts. The wood was chopped ready for the fire during the night and the men would stay up all night in the living room listening to the game.

On the right side of the hallway were 4 rooms in a 2×2 arrangement. The first bedroom on the right side of the hall was Mum and Dad’s. It was entered by a door in the hallway. It had a window on to the front veranda, which let in the light. Alongside it to the right was another bedroom, opening on to the front veranda. The two bedrooms other than Mum and Dad’s were where the children slept, though, in summer, we would sleep on the northern side veranda.

Further down the hallway on the right was the other children’s bedroom entered from the hallway, and alongside that was the “Mailman’s room”, entered from the southern veranda. The mailmen would stay overnight on their mail delivery run. The windows on the south side are just as I remember them, though others on the front veranda have changed.

The Post Office, which was built on to the southern part of the veranda, is not there any longer. Mum was the postmistress when we were living at Clarence.

This is a more recent photo of the house from the south side. The old Post Office was to the right end of this veranda. The small building was the “meat house”. The bigger mountain in the background is Mt Brengi.

The house did not have electricity. We had candles in most rooms, though there was a kerosene camp stove in the kitchen and a standard kerosene Aladdin’s lamp in the dining room.

About 30 metres down from the back of the house were the sheds. The first three sheds faced the south. The first was for the corn, which was on the left side of the shed, and pumpkins, gramma (of the pumpkin family) and squash that were kept on right hand side of the shed. The second shed was for the horse equipment and the third one was for storing things and for safe keeping.

At the end of the sheds was the wood heap, which was always stacked with wood for the stove and the open fire; on the southern side were two more sheds. The first one kept the dray and the second was for shoeing the horses. “Horseshoeing” day was a wonderful day. Dad would start early and the fire wood lit. This was one of the important jobs that would given to us as the bellows would have to be kept very hot for when the horse shoes were put into it.

There was a large sandstone wheel set in its water container on the northern side of the shed. It was on this wheel that we sharpened the axes for chopping wood and the knives for the home. We would get very hot while helping Dad and we were pleased when the last horse was shod.

The other part of our property was a couple of kilometres up the road. We called it The Farm, where for a long time two men leased acreage to grow vegetables, and Dad also kept his stallion. Just further up beyond The farm lived the Booth family.

My family at Georges Creek

My family was the fourth generation of William and Johanna O’Neill. My father was Cyril Herbert O’Neill; he was always called Sid. My mother was Mary O’Neill [née Mowle] JP, who was also the Postmistress and housekeeper. Then came along the family of Monica, myself, John, Peter, Terry and Paul.

My father was a man who was gifted in many ways with cattle. Breeding and raising cattle was the main business. He used to muster on horseback and brand them. As well he occupied himself with farming a beautiful vegetable garden, shoeing the horses, chopping wood, and collecting it from out on the property, as well as doing other small things around the house. In other words he could have been classed as man of all trades on the land.

My mother did not ride a horse but she was always involved with housework, and the Post Office and the people, both local and travellers, who needed her.

Front row: Aunty Bunty, Uncle Mick, Aunty Norn; Everyone else from left: Monica, Terry, Peter, Darryl Kirkby (partly hidden), Uncle Noel Kirkby, Peter Kirkby, a friend of Noel (Gordon Delaney), Dad and Mum.

Aunty Eve, my mother’s sister, used to come and give my mother help when she needed it. I can just remember her on a beautiful horse as she would arrive. She told me years later about the policeman just down the road from us who gave her his all weather jacket for when it was raining, and how wonderful she felt as she rode home with it flapping in the wind as she galloped along.


Aunty Bunty, Uncle Mick, Mum, Aunty Norn, Terry, Darryl Kirkby, Mary, Peter Kirkby, Monica, Peter.

The willow trees

Many years ago my Dad planted willow trees near the creek to help protect the creek flats and to feed the cattle when we were in a drought. Dad would climb the willow trees and cut off branches which the cattle would eat. I loved those trees as they always gave a beautiful shade to us as well as feed for the cattle and horses. We had great picnics down under these trees many times through the year. Mum would always pack a delightful lunch for us and we would help with the packing and unpacking of the lovely things she made for us.

We had a pet magpie at home and would you believe that it used to wake Dad each morning; he stood on Dad’s pillow and he would lift his eyelids to see if he was awake. He used to amaze us, as he was so gentle with Dad’s eyes and never hurt them.

When my brother John was old enough, my Dad built him a bird cage in the back yard. I remember it so well. The cage was 2 metres by 1.5 metres, with a dead branch of a tree in the middle and plenty of water containers, bird feeders and nests. My Dad and John caught the birds in the wild and brought them home to the cage. The birds I remember were Blue Wrens, Honeyeaters, Eastern Yellow Robins, Willy Wagtails, Silvereyes, Mistletoe Birds, Red-capped Robins, Finches and Diamond Firetails. Their calls were beautiful and memorable. John had great delight in feeding them and checking on their nests.

I remember playing with John in the hen’s drink tray along the back fence. This was just before we both developed diphtheria. We were both quite ill. I was about three and half at the time. I can remember that experience quite well. The hospital staff were good to us. John was three months there and I spent five months in hospital. We spent many days in the steam tents that covered the cots. This time in hospital had a lasting effect on me. I still can remember Nurse Cossington and how good she was to me.

My horses

When I was a small child, aged about 3, my Dad taught me to ride Mousie, a lovely old horse we had at Georges Creek. When I was very young I would ride with Dad, sometimes for hours. He was a quiet man and would not have much to say. Dad used one of the cattle dog’s leads attached to the bridle to lead the horse so he felt safe for me.

When I was a little older, 4 or 5, I felt safe to ride by myself and what a wonderful experience that was. I remember riding alone each afternoon up or down the creek. I always had a cattle dog with me.

I would explore the countryside and give my horse a drink in the creek, which was majestic for me. I rode different horses. The ones I remember were Hardluck, Wooley, Zing, Mousie, Billy Boy, Midzjury and Chestie.

They were wonderful horses and were easy to catch. I remember I used to ride them with a bridle only. Whenever I did have a saddle, though, I thought I was made.


The families living at Georges Creek when I was a child included the Booths living at the foot of the “Big Hill”, up from us. One of their sons, Jack Booth, had a home and vegetable garden about a mile down the creek.

Mr. Whelan and Bob Ingram leased land from Dad at “The Farm”, up from Clarence and just below the Booth’s place (a descendant of the Booth family still lives there).

The Gilkerson family was next, just around the road up from our home. Clarence came next.

The Police Station was then next across the bridge from us, and on our side of the road. Mr. and Mrs. Beusiville’s home and a shop came next, opposite the Police Station. The Cundies lived just behind them. Of all these only our house, the Booth’s place and the police station remain.

Aboriginal friends

Down at the Junction of Georges Creek and the Macleay River lived the Aboriginals Mr and Mrs Hilton, Mr and Mrs Lindsay and their two children Jessie and Norman, Nelly and Jack Cohen, and Albert Dunn always known to us as Bubbo. He was given that name by my sister Monica when she was little. Monica also gave me the name “Tally”. She got this from a record played at home called “Sally of my Dreams”.

Mrs Hilton had a beautiful garden. Her violets were really spectacular and they grew in two tyres in the middle of her front garden. This garden had a fence around it to keep the cattle out. She also had a walnut tree at the right side of her hut, and she always gave us some of the nuts to eat – they were beautiful.

Mr and Mrs Lindsay did not have a garden. Their hut was built on the aboriginal reserve, as were the other huts of the aboriginal people. The reserve provided quite rugged living for the people there, but at the same time it was lovely and flat.

I loved talking at times to Georgina, an Aboriginal lady who helped my Mother with the children and housework. My brother John and I really loved Georgina. She used to play little games with us and tell us funny stories. There were other Aboriginal ladies and they were good to us also.


Dear old Bubbo, his correct name was Albert Dunn, was an aboriginal man who used to help Dad. He would relate really well to us kids and have his meal out on the lawn near the back door. Sometimes he camped over at the stockyard under a tin humpy and if we were up early enough we would see him half naked with his backside facing where the open fire had gone out, but still had some had some hot coals. He used to tell us stories, and took John and me fishing up the river. The only time I ate perch straight from the river cooked on wire netting over a fire was with Bubbo; it was delicious.

Bubbo and our possum

One day Bubbo came to home with a very young possum he had found. He told us that its mother was shot. We all reared him and he was so beautiful until he became naughty. It was amazing the things he used to get up to. We made him a nest in a box in the bathroom where he seemed to be happy to spend the night, but one morning he was not to be found in the bathroom. Sometime later he appeared in the backyard. We drew Mum’s attention it and she was able to work out that he had got out down the hole where the bath water went.

Another time he got out of the bathroom and went into the mailman’s room, and the first we knew about this was a loud scream from the mailman who thought he had a snake in his bed. Terry was a little boy at the time, he was just walking, and the possum would jump on his coat from behind. Terry would get such a fright. Our possum got up to many tricks so we had to let him go back in the bush. We did love him and enjoyed his tricks.There was a phone call from Armidale one day telling us that Bubbo’s brother had died. I was about 8 and John 6. Mum asked John and me to go to the Junction, where Bubbo was living, and give him the message. Bubbo was on the bridge, not far from home, when we came to it. As we approached him he said, “My brother has died”. John and I could not believe what we heard, but then we realised we were not aboriginals.

Bubbo held a special place in our hearts and I was sad when he died. I always remember him with deep affection.

Bob Byrnes, an aboriginal blacktracker, used to come to stay at home. I remember him sitting at the meal table at mealtime. I suppose this had something to do with him being a blacktracker, as usually the aboriginal people did not sit at our table. His bed was on the southern veranda of the house near where the Post Office was situated.

The “farm” – Mr Whelan and Bob Ingram

The farm was a special place for me. It was a mile up the creek from our home. The earliest memories of the farm are the two men who rented it from Dad. They were Mr. Whelan from New Zealand and Bob Ingram from Gosford.

The farm covered about a quarter of a mile around the creek. On the left hand side of the farm were the fruit trees, followed by the vegetable garden and then came the corn paddock where they also grew pumpkin, squash and gramma. Where the fruit trees were planted there were oranges, green gage plum, and other plums of different verities, peach, nectarines and mandarin.

From Clarence looking up toward the “farm”

The vegetable garden came next. They grew all sorts of vegetables – potatoes, onions, beans, peas, beetroot, tomatoes, rhubarb and cucumber.

Mr. Whalan even grew peanuts. I can still remember gathering and roasting them in the stove at home; we thought they were so tasty to eat. There was another peach tree growing at the farm. It had a flat peach fruit, with a small seed in it and an unusual grooved shape. If I remember correctly it was called a China peach. We certainly enjoyed eating it when it was in season.

When the vegetables were plentiful the men sold them to the green grocers in Armidale. We always had plenty of vegetable as we always came first in getting them. Mr. Whelan was a collector of newspapers, especially from his people in NZ. He used to cut out pictures of people whom he knew and paste them in books that he made. They were 50cm long by 35cm wide and he would paste the pictures with flour paste on each one of them on a backing of thick paper. The books were covered with thick brown paper on the back and front, and it was wonderful what you could find in these very interesting books. I often think of them and wonder where they finished up.

Rastus and “Papa the vet”

Below the “farm” was a very pretty paddock which the creek ran through. Rastus, my Dad’s stallion draft horse, lived in this paddock. He would always come and greet us when we arrived. One day he tore his belly opened on a stump in his paddock. You could see inside the stomach. Papa, who was Mum’s father, came up from their property “Riverview” about 5 miles away towards the coast to stitch and dress the wound. Rastus recovered well. Papa was not a vet but he was very good with sick animals.

Bob Ingram was so good to us kids. He used to entertain us when he came down to our place, while the other men would play cards. I remember the entertainment he used to provide us in the “dark room” (Mum and Dad’s bedroom). We would laugh until we cried.

Bob Ingram and WWII

Bob went to the Second World War, against the Japanese. At one stage of the war he was taken a prisoner by the Japanese and worked on the Burma Railway, and this was where he died. I will always hold a special spot in my heart for him and he made me feel happy when I was with him. He was a brother of my Aunt Mazie. She was married to Dad’s brother, Uncle Pat, and lived at Gosford.

Mr Whelan moved from the farm to take up another position across the creek down at the Junction. This was where he built himself a home and made a garden. He remained there for some years. I was always interested in the way he would protect the new plants. They would have a hat placed over them made from newspaper, with flour and water to make the newspaper stick.

I recall our cheeky behaviour when Mr Whelan’s figs were ripe. We used to climb the tree and steal the figs. Mr Whelan generally knew we were doing this. He used to get very wild with us, but he was never able to catch us. My, the figs were beautiful to eat.

Things I liked to do

Imaginary friends

I used to set up afternoon teas for my imaginary friends and myself in a special place over the creek bank from our home. I found my way down to my special spot along the path that other members of my family had made down to the creek. I really enjoyed myself making mud pies, and setting them in pieces of broken crockery which I had found along the bank. The afternoon teas were very enjoyable times with my imaginary friends and me.

Lantana flowers

I remember picking the lantana flowers and making then into lovely daisy chains, using the colours in an interesting way. This made them so lovely to look at and more interesting to wear. The plants were always a curse to the farmers and were cut out once a year to keep them under control. I was always sad when this used to happen because the flowers were so beautiful when made into daisy chains.

The “scrubs” on Clarence

The scrubs on our property were where we were allowed to go twice a year. They were beautiful places where we used to pick the ferns for the balls that were held in Armidale. Those ferns looked wonderful when they were put together for the trip to Armidale. The scrub was interesting with many different flowers and trees. When we were looking for different things we could pick the most beautiful flower growing in the most hidden places, such as around the rocks or up trees, I used to be so excited about them. It is very different today as you are not allowed to pick things from the bush.

Bubbo used to warn us of being stung by the stinging tree. I was the unlucky one in our family to receive a sting. It did cause me a lot of discomfort until I was treated by having a flower bag turned inside out placed on it. This gave me relief.

The scrubs was a marvellous place for us. We would investigate underneath pieces of rotting timber, where we would find lizards, spiders and centipedes. These centipedes were the largest I have ever seen.


When I was home on holidays the boys would invite me to go rabbit shooting at night. We would get the truck and the guns and off we would go for the night. It was wonderful spotting the rabbits and we would be given the shot depending on who got the previous one, then we would take it in turns to collect the rabbit. We would have to be very careful collecting the rabbit as no one was able to shoot while we were out of the truck.

The “sulky rides”

There was a sulky in the shed over at the stock-yard and we were given permission to play with it. John and I used to take it up the hill from the stockyard. We would get in it and then we would let it roll down the hill and we would see how far we would go. We would have such fun laughing and screaming at one another and egging one another on. The sulky would turn itself around by the time we came to stop. This made me feel wonderful, and still does when I remember that great sulky and what we used to do in it.

Our goat

Dad was able to get a goat for John and me when we a bit older. We had fun with him. We kept him looking good and we used to brush his coat and he looked wonderful. I remember one day we put him into a billycart, with John as the driver. He took off down the paddock and went under the fence but the billycart would not fit. John received some damage to face and neck. That was awful for him, but I could not stop laughing; it all just looked so funny to me.


The milking cows were milked every day and, if the men were away, I would have to do the milking and I really enjoyed the job. These cows were very quiet and I would milk them down in the yard where they were feeding. We generally milked three of them and, when the milk was “separated”, the calves of the milking cows had it to drink. This milk made them strong heifers or steers for the market.

Separating was done by pouring the cows’ milk into the separator, and then vigorously turning the handle. There were two spouts. Cream came out of one and was taken to the house. The left over milk that came out of the other spout was fed to the calves.


I used to love cooking, and cake cooking was my favourite. Mrs Lunn, who lived at Long Flat Station at Lower Creek, was very good at making sponges and taught me to make them just the way she did. Lots of people used to comment on them, which made me feel very pleased with myself.


There were lots of people calling to see Mum and Dad. When there were visitors we would be called into the lounge room, introduced to the people and then be told by Mum that “we would be seen and not heard”. We used to then go out of the room and get up all sorts of tricks. Mum and Dad didn’t know about any of that because they were more interested in their friends.


I can still see the wonderful seasons, summer, autumn, winter and spring and how each season would differ depending on the weather we were having, and whether it was a good season or a drought.

Summer, bush fires and fireflies

The summers were always very hot in our part of Australia. The bush fires were a real problem and my Dad was always ready for them. One summer I was aware of a fire burning close to the “farm” towards Mt Brengi, also known as Mt Wednesday (see picture 1). This was between the house and the farm and on the right hand side as you approached the farm. Dad was informed of it and he told us all to go to the fire, which we all did and fought it until finally it got away on us.

Dad was distressed by the fire. He could not go and examine the fence straight away and thought it would have been burned and need to be rebuilt. When he did get around to it he found that the fence had not been burnt at all. The fence was the same as it was before the fire, with the posts scorched around the bottom of them. Dad said that could teach us a lesson that we had to be more trusting when things become more difficult.
We used to wait in summer for the fireflies to appear at night between the hedge and the veranda on the northern side of the house. They were beautiful to watch as they flew with their lights turning on and off as they fluttered their wings. They are mysterious creatures and only appear at night in the summer time. When we were taken in a car to visit one of our friends we would watch out for these dear little creatures along the cuttings, and those that saw them first were always delighted.

Autumn and change-best time of the year

Autumn was the best time of the year. Everything was changing, and some of the trees were losing their leaves. The flowerbeds were emptying and the vegetable garden was worked over in readiness for the next season. It reminded me of life and death.


Winter was very cold and frosts were heavy and would come up to the back door. John and I, with bare feet, used to get up early to go round our rabbit traps. I remember so well that the creek was much warmer than the land, as we stood in the freezing creek to make our feet warm. Any rabbits we had in our rabbit traps we would bring home, skin them, and put them on a curved wire to dry. When they were ready we would pack them in bundles and send them away in the mail car for sale. This was our special money.


Spring was a beautiful time of the year, with all the new growth on trees and the garden. The creek always looked beautiful as it glistened and sparkled in the sun shine.

Mum’s gardens and other talents

Gardens and trees

Summer was always hot but it bought lovely things. The vegetables were a delight to see at the back garden of our house, tomato, cucumbers, cabbages, beetroot, cauliflower, carrots, onions, lettuce, rhubarb and beans
Mum had a wonderful flower garden. She grew beautiful roses and plenty of other plants for the home. The rose that was always a delight to see was one Mum planted in the right hand side of the front garden. It was always in bloom, and the gold blossoms looked beautiful as they grew up over the veranda. It was called Lady Hillingdon, and I have one growing in my garden at Lilyfield in Sydney.

The garden she took great delight in was down on the flat from the home. In this garden she grew sweet peas for sale to the sellers in Armidale. They were always beautiful when you saw them in large bunches. The trees around the house, the Silky Oaks, Jacaranda, Pussy Willows, the yellow of the Wattle Trees, the Oranges, Mandarins, Lemons and the hedge, which lined the lane on the southern side of the home, were always green.
When the wild cherries were in season we would pick them on our way from the Junction for Mum to make us a special pie with them. We used to wait for the cherries to be in season and were delighted with the result.

Washing day

Washing day was Monday. This was a heavy day for Mum and we had extra work to do so that Mum could stay with the washing. I can remember when I was old enough I used to wash and polish the floors on hands and knees. The hall and the lounge room floors were large, but I used to feel good when I finished them.

Christmas day

Xmas day was a wonderful day of the year. We would help Mum. The Christmas tree would be collected and decorated, the cooking would be done and Mum would have the presents hidden for us. Santa Clause would come in the middle of the night and we would get our presents in the morning. Our place was always happy on this day and we would give some of the presents to those who were not as lucky as we were.

The creek

Swimming – and a snake

The creek invited us for a swim. We went down to the water hole, which was below the house on the northern side and there we would swim most afternoons. I was not the bravest one when it came to diving. I did not like my head under water, so I managed to swim and keep myself away from those who wanted to dive. The noise we made must have been something to listen to when heard from a distance. Laughter, screaming and very loud talking was what we really enjoyed.

We would also go down to the bridge close by to a lovely water hole when the sun was very hot. We would swim for hours as the day cooled off. John and I really loved the creek.

I will never forget one day a snake appeared out of nowhere and swam in the creek. I was terrified that it was going to attack us but it swam away and disappeared.

Blackberries and snakes

There were blackberry growing down by the creek and we would pick them when they were ripe in the late summer. Mum used to make delightful jam and blackberry pies. We used to help her prepare the fruit when she was ready for us and we enjoyed the results.

Lyn and Ivan camping at the creek

John and I used to go and join Lyn and Ivan from Armidale who, when they came down to George’s Creek for their yearly break, always camped down near the water hole where we used to swim. We used to get permission from Mum or Dad to go and join them overnight. We would fish in the early part of the night and then return to their camp where we would tell one another stories. John and I really did enjoy Lyn and Ivan, as they made us laugh at almost anything. We always felt they were like an aunt and uncle to us. It was hard when they would pack up to return to their home in Armidale. John and I really missed them until their return to their camping spot the next year.

Ivan and John (a few years later)

Fishing and shooting

The fishing holes in the creek, which were down at back of the house and further down towards the Macleay River, were special places where we loved to go fishing. The fishing hole down the back of the house was always very special to me. I would collect worms, crickets and scrimps to put on the fishing lines and hopefully catch some fish. I can always remember untangling lines; I must have been good at doing this as I did it for others and myself. There would be great excitement when we would have a fish on the line and this meant that Mum would cook us a wonderful meal.

Dad used to take us down the river in the summer time to fish at night. We would always use frogs to catch the fish and it was wonderful to be present. The frogs would be put on the lines, by hooking them through the back. When you threw the line into the water you would pull it across the top of the water with the frog hopping, and you would see the fish jump out of the water and catch the frog. I was always excited to see the fish catching the frogs and especially when it was my line.

Dad seemed to have a way with stones in the creek and river. When he was with us he would show us what to do, bouncing the stones across the water and seeing how many times they would bounce before they would disappear. We all tried but we could never beat Dad.

When we would go up the river fishing we would take the guns and the revolver to practice our shooting skills. I never forget the day I was practising with the revolver and it nearly knocked me over when I fired it at the branch I was aiming at. I did not try any more as it was too heavy for me to control it.

Another time we were walking to a spot to fish and I became aware that I was stepping over a snake. I got such a fright I could not move. One day I can remember seeing a snake getting into a bag behind the door in the bathroom and it frightened the life out of me. My Dad came with a gun and shot it and then put it on an ants nest. He told us that the snake would not die until the sun went down.

Providing our own meat

My memories of the men killing a young heifer for meat for the home in the cooler months will always stay with me. Dad was the person who would decide on the beast to be slaughtered. She would be brought to the yard early in the day where she would be left to cool off. Late in the afternoon she would be taken to the killing pen were she would be shot in readiness for slaughter. I can remember how I always wanted to help Dad but we could be in the way and had to watch from the outside. One day Uncle Pat, a brother of Dad’s, thought up a way of keeping us occupied. He told John and me to sit on a log with the lower leg of the heifer and massage the joint in the leg and we would get oil coming from it. We were obedient until we realised that no oil would appear. Uncle Pat was disappointed with his instructions. John and I were able to do what we wanted.
When butchering the beast was finished the men hung the carcass in the pen over night. The next day it would be cut into pieces and taken to the meat house, which was in the back yard of the house. The meat was prepared for use. What was kept for fresh meat would be kept in the house and the rest was prepared by placing it in the corn brine where it could stay until we needed the “corned beef”.

Graves and things

There was a grave over the road from the house, and John and I used to look after it. My Aunty Eve, my mother’s sister, told me it was the grave of Mr. Joseph Newell and that he lived in Armidale before he died.

One day in February 1937 Dad received a phone call asking him to go up the river to help find Mr George Bloomfield Waller who was missing and had not been seen for days. As Dad got ready for the trip I was wondering what he would be doing for Mr Waller. I felt worried for Dad. He said goodbye to us, and he did not say anything of what he would be doing while he was away. I missed him and I longed to hear from him, but then this was what he would do any time he was called away.

Mr. Waller was found in the river caught under a log and had been drowned. Dad helped to release Mr Waller’s body, and he and others buried Mr Waller on the riverbank up near Kunderang Station. Many, many years later, my brothers were walking around up the river and they saw Mr Waller’s grave in a peaceful spot.

John Bunt, Peter, Paul and Terry at Mr Waller’s grave


The convent in Kempsey

Monica and I went to school at the Convent in Kempsey when I was only six years old. Monica’s health was not good enough for her to stay there, so Mum brought us home and she hired a Governess to teach us at home.

School at home

We had about three teachers over the next three years, and one I remember is Miss Hartman. Although we used to enjoy school we also used to get up to tricks and were pretty awful to the teachers. I remember one thing of mischief we did was to hide in the blackberry bushes at morning tea time. We would nearly burst our sides laughing and trying to stop so we would not caught; but the teacher always won.

School at the “farm”

At one stage there were more local children to go to the school so Mum and Dad agreed that the house at the farm would be a good place for the school, especially as Mr. Whalen and Bob Ingram had left. We would get up early, have our breakfast, make our beds and with no shoes on we would walk to the farm. We would pick up the Gilkerson children just around the road and then go together. The other children would come down the creek from the opposite direction and we would meet at the farm.

This was a good place to have the school we could not get up to tricks there because it was open space and we did not have anywhere to hide. We spent some good times there and we did learn some lessons.

During this time we used to have lessons on nature and we would get out of the classroom. The trees, shrubs and small plants were very interesting. They had different flowerings and each one of them was different in size. The small plants always interested me. They seemed to stand up to the weather whatever the conditions.

St Ursula’s Armidale

My sister Monica and I went to St. Ursula’s College in Armidale, when the school closed down at the house on the farm. We both spent the rest of our schooling there. I finished in 1944 at age 14 years and then I went supervising the correspondence (home) schooling for two different families on the Macleay River.

The Mail Car and the Mailmen

The mail car arrived twice a week from Armidale and Kempsey bringing the mail and parcels to Georges Creek. Mick Hong was the Armidale mailman and he used to take us to school in Armidale when we had reached that age. We always liked the trip with Mick. He would allow us to put the mail into the boxes for the people living along the road.

The men who came from Kempsey were Mr Fuller, Sid Supple, Mr Kyle, Mr Herb Tout, George Tyne, Clyde Studman, Roy Edwards, Sid Cockle and Don Ryder. At least, these are ones I can remember. Mr. Fuller used to sleep in a hut down the road from home, while the other men used to stay overnight in the Mailmen’s room at the house and return the next day to Kempsey.

Dances, sports days and other gatherings

Dances where held at different locations during the year and we were allowed to go to them when we were old enough. There was a fancy dress ball at Jeogla. John and I decided to go as Pompadours. We ordered our costumes from Sydney and would you believe that they only arrived the afternoon of the ball.

John and I were very pleased with the costumes and we were successful at the ball and gained first prize. Each dance was a success and we laughed and talked with our friends between dances and entertained our partner during the dance. The dances were held at Jeogla, Wollomombi, Comara and Bellbrook. I was recently in Kempsey visiting friends and was given a photo of the children of Lower Creek School in a concert photo I was delighted to see my brothers John, Peter and Terry in the photo.

Mum and Dad would hold a sports day at George’s Creek down on the flat from the house. This occasion was for the Ambulance Station in Armidale. There were all sorts of events for different ages and everyone used to join in and really enjoy themselves.

At night the crowd moved up to the house and the dance would begin and continue until after midnight. We danced on the verandas on east, west and southern sides of the house. We put candle fat on the boards to make them slippery. We were very tired when we went to bed, but we had a very good day and night.

Sports days were held at the Lunn’s property at Lower Creek, about 6 miles down the Kempsey Armidale Road from Clarence. We would have lots of fun racing one another, and having jumping competitions and many other types of games and playing with one another.

Another special day was at Comara about 17 miles further down than Lower Creek and near the tennis courts. There was horse riding, and one time I rode my Uncle Bill’s horse in a special event. I did not win but I really did enjoy the day.

Bellbrook also used to have a special day for horse riding and cattle. There was so much going on and it was so interesting to watch.

Dad always loved his sports, especially cricket. I clearly remember him getting the boys together on the front veranda where they would play a game of cricket. It was wonderful to watch Dad was always the one who came out on top. He would show the boys what the A grade players would do with the bat and he usually finished up with the best score. I was not allowed to play cricket because this was a man’s game.

Dad built a tennis court on the property. It was built over past the bridge on the lower paddock where there was plenty of drainage and level ground. The tennis days were a great success, and people came from the upper and lower rivers to play, bringing their lunch with them.

We would have Mass said at our home once a year and, after everything was done at home, all the visitors would go over to our tennis courts for the day. The day was wonderful for the adults and the children. The adults were given the partner with whom they were to play tennis and we children would play all sorts of other games. We would come together for a very special lunch, prepared by our mothers, which we would eat till our heart was content.

Mum and Dad would often go to a tennis day at Bellbrook, Comara or Lower Creek. They enjoyed themselves very much and sometimes they came home with the prize for the day.

One night they were late home from Bellbrook where they had played tennis. Then we received word they had gone over a cutting on Pee Dee hill. Thank goodness it was the top side of the road as the bottom side of the road dropped a long way. They were all safe, and the only person to have an injury was Dad who had a graze on his forehead. He recovered quickly. I was always pleased when they returned from these outings and had not any more mishaps.


When the droughts were striking the property we would have to conserve the water in the tanks. We did this by winding up water in a bucket from the creek. The windlass (raising and lowering device) was set on the bank outside the back fence, close to the house, with the bucket attached. We would take turns in winding it down to the creek where we would let it fill with water and then we would wind it back up to where the windlass was set up and it would be emptied into a large drum. This was always done late in the afternoon and we used to have plenty of fun while doing this job. Recently watching the TV I saw a man draw water from a waterway just like we did. I was reminded of our water and what we had done many years ago.

Cattle muster

The property was in four different locations Petroy, Mays, Dicks and Georges Creek. Once a year the cattle would have to be brought from Petroy to Georges Creek in readiness for sale at Armidale or Kempsey.

I was interested in what the men had to do in getting ready for the visit to Petroy. First thing they would get the horses ready, with shoeing the horses the first thing done. When that was done they would get their provisions and camping gear in order. It would take them about a week to be ready. There was very little said to us as the rounding up of the cattle was the main concern and was discussed among the men who would be involved in the muster.

One man I was able to remember is Les Davies from Lower Creek who would go with Dad. I called to see him in Kempsey years later and he told me about the muster, the cattle, camping out at night and then bringing the cattle back to George’s Creek. There was great laughter about when the horses went after the cattle. Les told me about one of the bullocks that came down with a mob from Petroy. Within two weeks of being captured and kept in the yard it weighed 930 lbs, a really big beast with large horns. I have a photo of this bullock in one of my albums. I loved listening to Les and he would make me laugh.

The cattle from Petroy would be kept for a few days as others from the property would be added to them and then they would be taken to the sales. My Dad always did very well with his cattle at the sales because he did not overstock. He learnt the hard way when he overstocked in the late 1920’s and a drought followed and he had a hard time getting things back to normal.

More about horses, and rounding up cattle

John and I set up a horse jumping ring on the flat over the creek on the north side from the house. We started with small jumps over small logs and then rising to bigger heights over large logs. We used to have so much enjoyment putting our horses over them and they used to cope very well with what we expected of them.
John and I were given permission to ride our horses down to see Grandma and Papa, my Mum’s Mother and Father, at their home at Riverview about eight kilometres down the creek from where we lived. We were very excited about this ride. We would ride slowly to start with but when we were out of sight of home we would let the ponies go as fast as possible and see who could win. As far as I know we were fairly even with the results. I remember we phoned Mum when we arrived at Riverview and she was shocked hearing my voice on the phone saying, “but you only just left here”. In future we would wait to phone her a lot later so she would not know how fast we rode to Riverview.

One of the days I can remember so well was when I had gone on my own to bring the milking cows in for the night. I was riding Zing, my father favourite horse.

The cows were in the paddock north of the house. They were over the creek, and beyond the creek bank where you could not see them from the house. I decided that I would see if I could round up one of the cows and did just that. I really felt wonderful until I looked up and there was my Dad on the top of the bank. I got such a fright to see him until I saw a smile on his face and he said “not bad”. I was delighted with him. I gathered up the other cows and took them home with a wonderful feeling in my heart. I had proved to myself that I could ride well at last.

Voluntary Defence Corp

During the War years the Voluntary Defence Corp set up a camp at the Junction (of the Georges Creek and Macleay River) to defend that part of Australia. When we were home on holidays from school they invited our family for a picnic with them. We had a wonderful time with all the men. We were taken around the camp and were told everything that they had done. We even went to their toilet. It was built so well, though I was taken with what was written on the back of the door. It was as follows –

This is a little shit house, which is built so neat,
Please control you bung hole and don’t shit on the seat.

When I first read that I laughed till I nearly cried, it was so funny to me. They had use of one of Dad’s draught horses while they were there. Peter Pan was his name and the men used to give him bread to eat and the result was they could not get him to fit in the dray when they wanted to use him. They had to stop giving him the bread and then they would see better results.

My Mum was the Postmistress at our home. During the War she was asked to spot the planes going overhead and to notify the Air Force Department. They would judge if anything was wrong depending on her report.

Clarence from the air

Clarence from the air (via Google), with the house, the sheds, George’s Creek, the bridge where the favourite water hole was located, the flats (field) and the willow trees.

In 1994 friends were out in Australia from Switzerland. Earlier when I was visiting them in Switzerland they took me to see where they had been born and had grown up. I felt I could do the same for them when they came out to our country for their second visit.

We got to know them when they were living in Sydney in the late 1960s. After their stay with us in Sydney they planned to visit their friends at Wingham on the north coast of New South Wales. They invited me to go with them so we would be able to visit my home.

We hired a small plane at Taree Airport. The pilot introduced himself to us and got us ready for the trip. We flew up towards Port Macquarie then inland towards Kempsey. It was remarkable for me as I had never flown so low over that part of my country. It was beautiful and I was able to recognise the properties on the river as we travelled inland. I could hardly believe my eyes when we travelled past the land which my Grandmother and Papa had owned. There is no house on the property as it was burnt down in the 1942, but I could tell where they had lived.

I was only a few minutes from Clarence. What feelings were happening to me and what thoughts were going through my mind? The plane was very noisy so we were unable to speak to one another. The pilot flew around the homestead twice so we could have a good look at it. Memories came flooding back to me and I burst into tears as we circled around viewing the place, remembering the wonderful growing up time I had. It was just as beautiful from the air as it was from the ground and I was left to think about what I knew from the past. The place was different in that a number of sheds had been added. The house remained the same but the Post Office addition was no longer there.

When we left the homestead we few back over Kari, a mountain range. I was again overcome with emotions at the sight I saw.

After crossing the first range of mountains, which I could always see when I travelled by road, the mountains appeared to be in great numbers in all directions as far as I could see. They looked really beautiful and it will be something I will always remember. As we crossed over the escarpment and we flew down on to lower land and Taree Airport was in the distance I was unable to speak to my friends for a while because I had so much going on in my head after such a wonderful trip. I will always be thankful to Pie and Ado for making the trip possible.

And finally

Looking back through my life with all the ups and downs, riding my horse up and down the creek with a dog as company, entertaining my imaginary friends and making mud pies, making daisy chains, looking for the fireflies and all the other things that have come to me and the people I have meet along the way, I add all these things up and they make me grateful and contented with my life.

Family gathering at South West Rocks

Below are photos of a family gathering that took place on the river at South West Rocks in the last weekend of September 2012. This gathering was organised around a trip that Mary made to introduce Liz Kebby and her family to Clarence at Georges Creek where her father Mick O’Neill grew up. There were several branches of the O’Neill clan present at the gathering.

Click here to view photos of the Kebby family’s frolicking at Top Farm,Clarence, Georges Creek.

Two group photos:

A meeting of three first cousins: Liz Kebby on her first visit, with John O’Neill
and Mary on a nostalgic visit to Georges Creek:

Liz with her niece Jenny, sons Sebastian and Kristian and husband Kristian.

Liz with her niece Jenny, sons Sebastian and Kristian and husband Kristian.
Mick O’Neill [website author], on the left, is a second cousin once removed:

Mick O’Neill, Olga Fuller, Gwen O’Neil, John O’Neill with Mary at the house in South West Rocks:

Liz meeting 4 first cousins

Row 1 L: Top Farm at Clarence, Georges Creek
Row 1 R: Liz meeting Mick’s brother Chris O’Neill (from Sydney)
Row 2 L:  John O’Neill with Liz
Row 2 R:  John O’Neill with Paul O’Neill from South West Rocks
Row 3 L: Mary with young Riley O’Neill
Row 3 R: The lazy sunny afternoon by the river



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