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TULLAMARINE RHYMES, DEATH AT BERTRAM'S FORD, (MANSFIELD, HILL.)

Journal by itellya

DEATH AT BERTRAM'S FORD.

They were leading a horse that they'd sold to McRae
Who lived near St Albans, over Keilor way;
Will Mansfield was driving, his son sitting near;
Stephen Hill,leading the horse, sat in the rear.

Will Mansfield and Stephen were mates at the school,
Spent their free time together as a general rule,
So Will's dad let him come on the trip o'er the river;
But his wife wasn't happy and spoke with a quiver.

With a look at the sky and the storm clouds that loomed
She pleaded, "Bill, don't go now or you'll all be doomed!"
But he reassured her as they clambered on board,
"I've been through deeper water than you get at Bertram's Ford."

Halfway there the sun vanished- came a curious silence-
Then the sky opened up with murderous violence;
The clouds, basalt black,turned day into night
As the three reached Arundel and turned to the right.

"Young Hilly, don't wind that rein round your arm;"
His friend's father said, "'twill bring you to harm!"
Then they ceased their descent, to the right they curved;
The roar of river the horses un-nerved.

But Bill urged them on and into the current;
Soon a horse lost its footing, so swift was the torrent
And the jinker was swept like a leaf in a gale;
Mansfield grabbed for his son who had started to wail.

By lightning above, the ghoulish scene shown,
The three from the overturned jinker were thrown.
Sounds of whinnies and screaming and, "Where are you son?"
And the Grim Reaper's harvest had already begun.

While the Mansfield lad to the murky depths sank
The towed horse's reins dragged his mate to the bank.
The father, now desperate, with a weakening yelp
Gasped, "Stevie, please Stevie, go and get help!"

At first, due to shock, comprehension he lacked
But his friend's father's plea soon made him react;
He mounted and thundered away up the slope,
And Bill dived again; he'd ne'er give up hope.

With the last of his strength, Mansfield surfaced again:
That would have been it- for lesser men.
But for Bill Mansfield, that would not suffice;
His son was worth any sacrifice.

By the time that help came it was far too late;
The son and the father had shared the same fate.
Miss Rowe and her pupils on the morrow
Would share the grieving widow's sorrow.


With William Mansfield and his son,William, was Steven Hill of "Danby Farm" (Melway 5 B3 approximately) and I believe these Mansfields were on the triangular 80 acres of section 15, Tullamarine (the Payne pig farm called "Scone" when acquired for the jetport c 1960)now occupied by the airport terminal buildings and north of Melrose Dr/Grants Lane. This land was owned by John Mansfield (memorial 106 595.)
The building of the Arundel bridge in 1906, to improve access to grantees on the Arundel Closer Settlement had started but, partly built, it was swept away by a torrent, ruining the contractor. A new contractor was found and the bridge was built not long after the Mansfield drowning. Stephen Hill escaped because he disobeyed instructions but if my memory serves me correctly, he was killed in world war 1. The McRaes were involved in the formation of the Oaklands Hunt while on Glenara and were related by marriage to the Mansfields.

The story behind the poem was told to me in 1988-9 by Wally Mansfield, Colin Williams and Gordon Connor, all independently of each other. Somehow, I gained the impression that the father, William John Mansfield was known as John but I have changed his name in the poem to Bill, just in case that wasn't the case. He was the only surviving son of John Mansfield who owned the airport terminal area.

Miss Rowe, the teacher at S.S.2163 (on the north corner of the present Melrose Dr and Link Rd)married Frank Wright who had Strathconnan, if I remember correctly, and was followed by Mr Rogers who (possibly) was the teacher when all the pupils disappeared to the Bone Mill at the end of Wright St one lunchtime and certainly was in 1908 when Colin Williams' head was split open in a playground accident. In 1909, Alec Rasmussen arrived, Saint Alec as I call him.

There are two things in the poem that I am not going to change at the moment. The newspaper article mentioned below states that the lad leading the horse was Phillip Hill but I'm not sure that Phillip wasn't his father. If his name was Phillip, why was S.Hill a pallbearer for the son's coffin? Call the second thing poetic licence if you like. When I was writing the poem, I had The Ballad of The Drover (Fifth Book, i.e. Grade 5 Reader)in mind. The article said that there was no particular flood at the time but I love the bit about the inky black sky turning day into night etc.

The article is on page 3 of the Sunbury News of 20-10-1906. The pallbearers lived near the present airport.The following locations are from Melway.
Fred Wright, blacksmith 5F8; Frank Wright, Strathconnan?; 5 H9, E.Wright,Ted Wright, the wheelwright mentioned in "Broadmeadows Nestles" who may still have been working with brother, Fred, at this stage; Peters Spiers, 101 acres 5 C7; W and A. McNab (Oakbank 4 J9 or Victoria Bank 4 F7), A.Grant, Seafield, 4 K7; T.Nash, Fairview, 5 F6 and 20 acres for dry cows (Broadacres Kennels and Cattery, 4 G4); B.Lane, Gowrie Park, 560 acres, 4 K3; J.Handlon, very old house demolished in the 1970's at bottom right hand corner of 5 G10; A. and F. Wright, Sunnyside or the northern half of Edmund Dunn's old Viewpoint, 6 A 12) and S.Hill(as above.)

by itellya Profile | Research | Contact | Subscribe | Block this user
on 2012-02-01 00:38:39

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.

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