TALKING HISTORY WITH RAY CAIRNS, BONEO AREA, VIC., AUST.
EDITED TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW WITH RAY CAIRNS 20-10-2010
Refer to the article, “ The Boneo Bradman” on page 46 of the 12-10-2010 issue of Mornington Peninsula Leader and The Cairns Family of Boneo by Peter Wilson.
Ray’s family farm in Fingal was called Maroolaba. Ray is the grandson of the original Robert Cairns and one of the three children (all boys) of “Hill Harry” Cairns and Mary Agnes, daughter of Michael and Mary Cain. Michael’s wife was a Neville; this family lived in South Melbourne and each time Mary Agnes was close to her time, she would stay with her mother’s parents, where medical attention would be available. She would stay there until each child was 10 days old and then catch the steamer to Dromana where Harry would pick her up.
Michael Cain was a carpenter who moved far and wide to get work. After marrying Mary Neville, he went to Moe and also ran a hotel in Gippsland. He later spent time in Adelaide in 1876 when Mary Agnes was born.
Ray went to Anderson’s School (on Anderson’s “Barragunda”) until he was 10 and then attended Boneo School, at Black’s Camp, until (like most children) he completed grade 8 (Merit Certificate). Anderson’s School had a lot of children attending because of the lighthouse keepers’ families. The lighthouse keepers would work part of their roster looking after lights on the islands.
When the surname of a 1950 lighthouse keeper, Munro, was mentioned with the same name repeated in the Rosebud directory, Ray said that a Munro did the mail run to the Schanck in the 1950’s. Letters would be delivered to roadside letter boxes three days a week. However if people wished to post a letter, they had to take it to Rosebud.
(The Munro family had been pioneers at Somerville. See THE WAY WE WERE BY Leila Shaw.)
At Maroolaba, the family initially grew potatoes and hay, which were marketed at Rye and Sorrento with Stringer’s store a major buyer. The hay was cut into chaff and bagged. The family would transport their produce and the boys would ride on top of the load to visit Grandma Cain at Rye.
Keith McGregor grew up opposite Maroolaba and lived there with his wife Mabel (daughter of Robert Adams of McCrae) and was probably about 40 when he bought Jimmy Williams’ fish, rabbit and passenger run to Mornington and extended it to Melbourne in about 1920 with a Ford T van. The interviewer mentioned that Mabel McGregor was assessed on 60 acres of the Adams’ grant (between The Avenue and Parkmore Rd) in 1919. (Keith later sold the run to Mabel’s brother, Bill.)
Some discussion took place about the name Mabel and the interviewer stated that Robert Adams had married a Hopcraft girl (Lime Land Leisure P.99) and brought up the fact that John Hopcraft had been farming land on Mornington Flinders Rd (Melway 190 D7) in 1879. Ray had heard of the family but had not really known them.
In relation to the fact that rate records often did not include information on the occupations of those assessed, Ray said that people turned their hand to anything, at any given time, that would put food on the table, and that many had no permanent job.
As a schoolboy, Ray’s daily chores on the farm included milking the cows twice a day, feeding the calves, cutting wood and gathering kindling, feeding the chooks and collecting the eggs. Like most farms there was a small orchard and vegetable garden whose harvest along with dairy produce and the occasional slaughtered animal put food on the homestead’s table; the distance from markets dictated that most production was of the subsistence variety.
Watering relied mainly on precious tank water but Ray described how a spring, common in the high country, could be opened up. This was how Samuel Smythe, a Flemington tanner, would have provided water for his wattle plantation on Arthurs Seat. A hole about 4 feet by 3 feet would be dug around the soak and this would be boxed in before it could collapse on itself. As the hole was deepened, more (six inch wide, one inch thick) boards would be added until it was about 6 feet deep, at which point a siphon would be put in to water areas lower than the well.
When asked about work on the farm after he left school, Ray mentioned two tasks that occupied much of their time. The first was fencing. The second would have provided much of their meat while eradicating a pest; trapping rabbits. The women were occupied at bottling (preserving) the orchard harvest as well as carrying out all the household chores such as washing and ironing with primitive implements, which carried the risk of burns and scalds. Baking bread was another important task.
Ray then brought up the subject of “Selection”. Hugh Glass, Big Clarke and others had used dummy bidders to perpetuate the squatting era but the selection legislation was designed to overcome this tactic. Before the Crown would issue a grant, a selector had to be in occupation for three years and make certain improvements such as dwellings and fences.
THE REMAINDER IN COMMENT.
on 2013-06-14 07:56:52
Itellya is researching local history on the Mornington Peninsula and is willing to help family historians with information about the area between Somerville and Blairgowrie. He has extensive information about Henry Gomm of Somerville, Joseph Porta (Victoria's first bellows manufacturer) and Captain Adams of Rosebud.