52 Ancestors in 52 weeks:Week 1 – Foundation


Barn on Squattleseamere Pastoral Run
(P M Daly Personal Collection)

For: Alica & Liam

Last April I drove past my first home – Squattleseamere on the Woolsthorpe Heywood Road.

There was nothing left. All gone.

Long ago the pastures were replaced by blue gums. The house, or I should I say two houses, had been moved to another life in Port Fairy ages and, I presume, the storage shed just outside the back gate had been demolished around the same time. No woolshed, not even the ruins. No Gloria’s home – the first home along the old Lake Gorrie Road – also moved away to another life.  No McAuliffe’s just down the lane over the road and opposite the reserve for an Agricultural College. Both on the Squattleseamere side of the Eumeralla Overflow.

Both homes long gone.(4)

Google is – the one with Mt Eccles National Park and which shows the overflow]

The barn with the loft above that had been there for at least 70 years and that seemed so stable despite the same lean had finally gone. There was nothing left of my memories of Squattleseamere.  Those few memories that are the foundation of my family stories.

Memories like a morning in late July 1951.

It had been a wet winter so far.

I know this because in Portland Grandpa Learmonth kept the official rainfall records. The rain gauge was in the open in his back yard and we were warned as children to give it a wide berth. Sometimes he reported the  rainfall in the Portland Guardian:

Rainfall Records (1):
30 July 1951 – 37 points
Total for the week – 69 points
July to date – 545 points
1951 YTD – 19.24 in
1950 7 months – 9.86 in

A fortnight later he reported (2):

YTD 21.40 in – which equals the rainfall for the whole of 1950.

If this wasn’t enough of a bad winter on 20 August 1951 in Portland there was snow and at the Cape Nelson Lighthouse there were howling gales, rain, hail and snow. And then the sunshine came.

With such a winter comes tragedy at sea. I can recall Grandpa wrapping up birds in all shapes, still with sand, in lots of newspaper and posting them off. Their condition didn’t matter to the National Museum who wanted the skeletons. Around the end of July 1951 a Giant Petrel was picked up from Double Corner, a White Capped Albatross at Nelson and, sadly, a master no longer of the seas, a Wandering Albatross on Shelly Beach, three feet long with a wing span of eleven feet (3).

“This rough July weather has brought us back to the normal Portland winters that we older hands know so well” recorded my grandfather in his diary 50 years previously. He went on to say “this is the fifty-fourth consecutive day of rain.” (3)

Looking for confirmation of my earliest memories I was
glad to find, firstly, that there was some truth in them and, secondly, that Squattleseamere was some miles inland and therefor somewhat protected from the wind, cold and bleakness when gales blew in direct from the South Pole.

So it was that one morning I remember coming out through the back gate. I had trouble avoiding the puddles as I tried to keep up with my father. Nevertheless, then, as for the rest of his life, whenever he said that he was going around the paddocks, out to check a mill or whatever and would I like to come I always said yes. Even when it was only to open the gates in the wet and cold while Dad remained nice and warm. Or hang on for grim death as he brought in my horse from some remote corner of the farm. This day we walked across the paddock through the wet grass on and up to the wool shed.

My father seemed not to notice the cold and wet. He
was happy and delighted. I had a baby brother he said. I was decidedly underwhelmed at the news. It was, after all, still cold and wet outside.

The woolshed was the worst of our storm disasters. The elm tree outside the dining room fell over in the storm – fortunately not on
the house roof. The roof blew off Lou Sim’s house. A likely tale that I never quite believed because where was the evidence? On reflection, I suppose the barn gained the lean as a consequence of the storm and a lean which lasted for another 70 years and thereby survived the removal of the house and the planting of the blue gums.

Dad and Jimmy Morrisey spent the morning examining the
flattened woolshed. The shed itself was never used afterwards and I can’t remember sheep being on the property once the family moved a couple of years later. The unexpected expense of needing to rebuild a woolshed not long after purchasing the property must have been too costly. And the logistics of managing sheep at a distance from a shearing shed and from yards was also probably too difficult.

I think Dad was happy in the few years he had at Squattleseamere so I shouldn’t have been surprised when I started gathering our family stories that he said would you like to come for a drive. I said yes, of course. But instead of turning east at the end of Dunmore Lane where he had an abundance of cousins he turned west past Squattleseamere and just over the Eumeralla overflow and turned in to where there were two houses close together. But that’s a story for later on.

(1) Portland Guardian 30 July 1951 page 2 Rainfall Records
(2) Portland Guardian 13 August1951 page 3 Rainfall Records
(3) Portland Guardian 2 August1951 page 3 Nature Notes Noel F Learmonth
(4) [There
will be a link to a map on my Paddocks page here in an update at some stage. I remember how long it
took me to do an interactive Google Map of several locations last time I tried
so it may be a while. But my long term idea is to use my Paddocks page and either Google or more likely Landata for maps. There may be quite a few as I
have done a lot of land research over the years and I shall have to think about
how I am going to convert old measurements into Google measurements. So yes,
there was a drought on the Loddon River when I originally took the page photo
over 15 years ago and yes New South Wales is restocking after their floods as I
write so there probably still aren’t many more cattle where I originally took the
page photo.