Granny Smith 1920-1930

I must now tell you of what I remember of Granny Smith. At a very early age I can remember wandering around after her, in her long dark dresses. Granny’s attire didn’t change much over the years … she always wore long dark dresses with long sleeves and fastened to the neck, covered by an apron equally as long.  When the weather was hot she used to say she wore clothes to keep the heat out. As she got older she was able to spend more time doing the outside chores, as there were always animals to care for. Granny’s hair style didn’t change either, always wearing it pulled into a bun on top of her head. She hated windy weather as her long hair wouldn’t stay tidy.

I must have been like a shadow, where Granny went I followed, watching her tend her much loved plants. My mother told me once she could remember me being smacked by Granny, the reason being, as she carefully planted a row of small plants, I followed pulling them out. By now the fruit trees the family had planted on their arrival (1911) had grown into a small orchard. This was cultivated by Granny with a hoe and single furrow plough. Other vacant ground she would plant with whatever vegetables were suitable to the season. Some of the property was fenced and the cows were not as hard to find at milking time. There was always rivalry with the neighbours in growing vegetables of a huge size, Granny and Mr Tucker Sr. (who was a resident of Wattle Tree Rd in 191 2) were always debating who had the largest watermelon, so there had to be a “weigh in” to find the winner, the melon was then cut and shared with the onlookers.
,Granny would take me into the bush for walks. “Let’s go up Stony Creek” as she called it, using the moss covered rocks as stepping stones, now and again resting on a log to enjoy the peace and beauty of nature. The large apron she always wore came into good use wandering further up the creek.  Granny would see something of interest: ferns, orchids or some other interesting plant for the bush house so into the apron it would go.

Trips to the beach were few, however to me a highlight.  Travelling by horse and sulky it was a big days outing, Granny’s favourite place was Boat Harbour as she called it (now Bateau Bay) the small beach off Reserve Drive is still named Boat Harbour on present day maps. The outing was always a tiring one. I can remember the small creek with crystal clear water at what is now Forrester’s Beach, where the horse was given a drink.

Once down near the beach Granny would go and see “Bill the Boatman” as she called him, he had tents and cabins which were occupied by holidaying fishermen. Granny was
a very friendly person and would approach anyone for a chat. Over the years she became friendly with “Bill the Boatman” who would oblige with hot water for our cup of tea. We would wander around the rocky parts of the seashore with a billy can and collect periwinkles. The horse would be put in the shafts of the sulky ready for the return journey. On arriving home the periwinkles had to be washed thoroughly, in clean water then left in fresh water for a few minutes to rid them of sand, following this the billy would be placed on the fuel stove to boil. To finish preparing the evening meal we needed bread and butter, a saucer of vinegar, which was sprinkled with pepper and salt. Next we needed a hat pin (an item Ladies used to keep their hats in place) with which to pull the periwinkles from their shell, and enjoy the evening meal.

Thursday was a big day in Gosford known as “Market Day”.  This was the day we went to the shops. Everything was prepared the evening before because it was a slow trip by horse and sulky. Granny usually drove and often had a list of items needed by neighbours as well. Granny always had a large basket of flowers, these were for the Diocopolus Brothers who had a cafe in Mann Street. (eventually the Orion Cafe, the facade of which is still there, almost opposite the Commonwealth Bank) They would slip a block of chocolate in Granny’s basket by way of thanks, for the flowers.
We always had a pie and cup of tea at Mrs. Gregory’s Tea Room. There were always a few flower pots and lovely flowers around, so Mrs Gregory and Granny had a chat about these and sometimes exchanged slips (yes that is what cuttings were called in the 1920’s). There were no Nursery’s as we know them today, there wasn’t much money about either, so buying plants could not have been afforded.

One place we occasionally visited was as I remember it Mr. Alexander Gollan Nursery. We went with horse and sulky over the railway bridge (now Etna Street) and on this white sandy road to the cottage and buildings where Mr Gollan grew plants for Government Departments. Another name I associate with the nursery was Mr Westlake, the area is now the High School farm, (Henry Kendall) in Racecourse Road, where agricultural students do practical work. This area now overlooks Gosford Golf Course, which I believe was originally Victoria Park.

Shopping completed, we would make our way home, delivering the neighbours shopping as we went. Bonny the horse would be taken out of the shafts unharnessed and put into her paddock.

When necessary Bonny (the horse) would have shoes made for her by Mr Isaac Farrant the Blacksmith in Erina (on the flat, down from the present roundabout, on the left hand side of The Entrance Road). The building had a earthen floor, a forge containing red hot coals, an anvil where Mr Farrant used a large hammer on the red hot metal to shape the shoes. Oh! the foul smell when the shoes were fitted to the horses hooves, I would bury my nose in my mothers skirt.  When I was about 4 years old Granny had a mishap with the sulky. ‘The Erina Shire Council workmen were repairing the road near Howards’ Sawmill, Erina. (about opposite the Karalta Rd Roundabout, but situated on the creek bank) Fairly large rocks had been placed on the road to divert traffic, the wheel of the sulky caught on a rock jolting Granny onto the road, lacerating her head. The workmen carried her into Mrs Howard’s home and Dr James H Paul was called as the gash needed stitches. I don’t remember if we went home then or continued into Gosford.

Granny would not hesitate to turn to the bush if a change of diet was needed. If she needed meat she would sprinkle wheat on the ground to encourage Currawongs (Birds) to feed, then out came the shotgun and with a blast would kill or maim a few, these were quickly collected and prepared for the evening meal as Currawong pie. I remember her peeling the skin & feathers off the birds and removing all the fat as it made the meat bitter. A very prickly bush with pale green foliage and red berries was locally called wild raspberry, these would be collected and made into jam.

When travelling to Gosford with Granny and my Mother by horse and sulky we would sometimes arrive at the Punt Bridge across Erina Creek at the wrong time, and have to wait while the men cranking the mechanism by hand opened the bridge. This was to allow a steamer to pass and travel to the sawmill further up the creek where it would load timber for the return journey to Sydney. Erina Creek was a deep channel during the districts early history and boats had no trouble navigating as far as Howards’ sawmill.  In 1887 when Kirkbys’ came to the Model Farms Estate (on the corner of Carlton Rd & The Entrance Rd) They landed at the wharf on Erina Creek adjacent to where the Woodport Inn is today. (Next door to Howards’ Sawmill). 

In the early 1920s fern cutters would come to the house seeking permission to go into the bush to cut as we called it ‘Giant Maidenhair Fern’(Adiantum Formosum). During the early evening they would emerge with the ferns packed tightly in large hessian bundles then load them onto the horse and dray. I remember that the ferns were dyed various colours and used by florists in their floral arrangements. They were also used in butcher shops to separate the meat displays. Prior to WW 1 ferns were cut and exported overseas.

Granny always had pets and birds of various kinds. I can remember the butcher bird that could whistle beautifully.  There was great consternation one day when a snake tried to make a meal of the canary. What a commotion with feathers and people flying in all directions. Guess what? Out came the shotgun!!

During 1926 a competition was organised by the Erina Shire Hospital Committee to raise funds towards the building of a District Hospital. Incidentally, Gosford District Hospital was opened in 1945 almost 20 years later. Candidates were selected from each district of the Shire. Granny Smith was chosen to represent Matcham District and crowned as the most popular lady of the Erina Shire on the 30th June 1926, at an evening ceremony held at the Gosford Hall, Mann St. On this occasion she received a marble clock suitably inscribed and a bouquet of flowers to the cheers and applause of all present. 
See Newspaper Reports of the Contest Results.

Granny worked very hard on the property, first of all ploughing with the horse and plough, then shaping it and planting it with trees, shrubs and flowers (a tree planted in
1926 is still at the front gate in 2005). There was always a problem keeping the plants alive during hot dry summers so Granny decided to establish a vegetable garden near the creek which made carting the pails of water (from the creek) much easier. Mothers’ suggestion to Granny to “have a spell” was always met with “If I can’t work here, I’ll go home, there’s plenty to do there”. Granny would please herself what she did, when and where.

Granny was always in good health or so she thought. It came as a shock to family and friends when the Doctor diagnosed a terminal illness. For the early part she remained in her own home, however as time moved on she was persuaded to come and live with us.  We always had lots of visitors to the home. When Granny needed constant care during the last couple of months of her life Nurse Syme came and ‘lived in’ to do the caring as Mother was fully occupied with caring for the property and farm.
Granny passed away peacefully in her sleep on 27th October 1930 and was interred at Wamberal along with Henry Daniel who had died on 31st July 1918, so ended 10 years of enjoying my life with Granny. 

The following is an excerpt from the Gosford ‘Times of November 1 930.

Life of Good Deeds

Granny’s love of nature was outstanding; her garden and bush-house being well known for miles around.  There are many of us who have recollections of the house at the end of the road, where she lived so long, one wonders how many had a cup of tea there; how many visitors went away with a bunch of flowers or some special plant; and how many bags of oranges or other fruit in season Granny left at the gate of someone who had none.  Of late years Granny hadn’t been quite so active; and during the last few months her body seemed to grow tired.  though her mentality and faculties were just as keen as ever.  Always a familiar figure at our little public affairs, she will be missed by young and old.
She was indeed a grand old lady.