By Estella Evans (nee Bofill) Born at Waanyarra 1900
My grandparents, Martin and Katrina (nee Dromana) originated in Barcelona, Spain. Katrina worked on the cork plantation owned by Martin’s family. Martin and Katrina were married and went to live in London, where they had begun a cork importing business.
By the early 1860’s they migrated to Australia on the vessel “Lincolnshire” with their five year old daughter, Annette. The rest of the children, Henry, Martin, Annie and Mary were all born at Waanyarra.
My Father was Henry, he married Evelyn Mildred Grey in 1894. They had three children, Catherine May, Estella Celia and Harry.
We lived in a lovely house at Waanyarra. Sadly, it is not there now. In my eyes it was the most beautiful stone, Spanish style house. We had vines, lucerne and a barley paddock. My Father did not like the land and sold all but two paddocks. The house was built over a wine cellar and I think there were fourteen steps down and it had two entrances.
In 1914 there was a flood which filled the cellar. We pumped all day and night to clear out the water. The flood was so bad that dead cows and horses were washed down the creek.
My father’s teacher at the Waanyarra School was Mr. Birrell, to whom he paid 1 /- a week for his education.
I remember my school days at Waanyarra very well. Mr. Strange was my teacher. He was very strict. It was said that he was sent to the school to tame the wild boys of Waanyarra. He would take the boys he classed as unruly, hold them by the shoulder, run them from one end of the room to the other, and would say, “Those I can’t bend I will break”.
My sister Katy was also taught by Mr. Strange, he seemed to favour us. He called Katy and I “his beautiful’. In those days we had dark brown eyes. He would call us out in front of the class and ask us to read something, I never wanted to go. Both Katy and I were very shy. He would say to the class “Now I will quote from “The Arab To His Steed”.
The poem would begin with “My beautiful, my beautiful, thou standest meekly by” (we’d stand there scared and embarrassed), “With thou proudly arched and glossy neck, and dark and fiery eye”. Then he’d turn away from us and say to the class, laughing, “When she’s in a temper”. We’d go home and tell our mother how embarrassed we felt and how we hated it. Now days I suppose that would be classed as some type of harassment.
We had wonderful school picnics where prizes were given for running and skipping and games. I won a lovely china slipper ornament in a skipping contest whilst I was at the Waanyarra School.
Our School had a porch entrance with a cupboard in which we kept our books. Inside the schoolroom was the teacher’s desk, a fireplace and cupboards, the walls were painted a sandy colour.
There were about 35 children going to the School when I started there in 1906.
The Post Office at Waanyarra East was run by Mrs. Williams, at least up until I came to Melbourne in 1919. The other Post Office was operated from Jarry’s White Swan Hotel along the Dunolly Road.
The Williams Family lived near us over the creek. Mrs. Williams had a lovely garden. She grew roses, white lilac and cyclamen. Along their side of the creek grew palm trees.
Pearl and Emma Williams were my best friends. Elsie Williams was Katy’s friend.
The creek to me as a child was a real river. Although Dad dug a well we relied on creek water to drink during the summer. We’d purify the creek water by sprinkling ashes in it.
There were a lot of old single men living in the bush in their huts. Mr. Carewickham used to come to our place and wait all day for the baker to arrive. Mum would give him scones and apple pie. Sometimes I would be sent by my mother to give one of the old men some bacon and a few eggs.
Granny Bofill nearly always had bread and butter and grapes for her lunch. We had no citrus fruit. I remember once some people came to Maunders and I thought they must be very wealthy because they came in a car and brought a case of oranges with them. I was given an orange and I made it last for a month. I kept it in its peel in a paper bag and I just ate a little at a time.
The Indian Hawkers stayed in the lane near our place and Strahan’s. Meer Khan and Naran Singh are the ones I remember. Meer Khan was a gentleman. He gave us things to keep our teeth clean. If Mum gave Meer Khan a hen he would make a chicken curry. He made Johnny Cakes and put the curry on them and we’d have some.
Katy and I would sit for hours, poking sticks into the fire whilst talking to the hawkers.
My father was politically aware and would go to meetings in the area. Some meetings were held at the School, I would go with him, but would try to make him promise not to stand up. I was very embarrassed if my Father got up to say his piece. Candidates for election had posters on trees and fences, some names I remember are Barker, Barnes, McKlisick and Russell.
I remember some of the places around Waanyarra as being very beautiful. Lockett’s place had a lovely smell in the dairy. The mud brick and the fly-wire on the windows was magnificent to my eye. There was a separator on a large stump in the middle of the dairy floor. The house was also lovely with the three gables and an orchard with apple trees.
Mrs. Williams’ dairy was close to their house. It was built like a cellar. Three steps were dug into the earth, there was a short passage and the roof was at ground level. The roof was slightly pitched and poles supported the earth which made the covering for the roof.
The Williams’ house was quite beautiful as I remember it, especially the garden.
In the bush behind Fred, and his wife Lillian (nee Pearce), Williams’ house we would gather arms full of Bendigo Wax flowers and Double Wax, which we called Waanyarra Wax.
My grandfather, Martin, imported grape vines from Spain, but during an outbreak of the virus Phylloxera, nearly all his vines died.
Aunt Jane reached her hundredth year in 1963. The following year my brother Harry had a heart attack and died very suddenly. Sadly, my sister Katy died early this year, 1987. She was in her 93rd year.