The Good Old Days of Yore

Mr. S. M. Howie

Albury Banner and Wodonga Express

5 September 1902

Reminiscenees of Mr. S. M. Howie, Usher of the Black Rod in the Legislative Council, written for the Gundagai Times.

In the autumn of 1845 I determined to leave the Qaeanbeyan district and take up my residence at Mannas, whither my sheep bad preceded me, so I travelled thither with my youthful wife, whom I had just married, driving 'unicorn' in a lumbering, old fashioned carriage, only fit to be dragged by bullocks.

After making stopping places of Yass and Reedy Creak, we got to Jugiong (Sheahan's) as another stage.

Looking, in the morning, at Cooney's Hill, I felt that I could not face it with my horses, so I engaged a yoke of bullocks and a man to drive them, to pull us to the top.

All went well after this, considering the difficulties of the road, and we arrived at Mannaa and took possession of our slab and bark hut. Misfortune happened to us by the upsetting of our dray upon a sideling near Bago, breaking our crockery and other articles of domestic use, with which we hoped to furnish our hut and render it habitable.

As the dray pulled up at the door the pole bullocks got loose, the dray tilted up, and the work of destruction in this direction was consummated. Further, the roof of the hub was leaky, and the rain, stained with the bark, spoiled the cherished portions of my wife's wardrobe.

As time wore on I could not get shepherds and so I had to 'take out' some of my sheep, and then my boots, which could not be replaced, wore out, and so shepherding on horseback fell to my lot.

I had to thresh my wheat, wash it dry it, and 'bung' the mill in the evening, and when the shearing time arrived, to pack my wool with a spade.

All these things were borne with becoming equanimity, and, I may say, contentedly, for life was young and its ship had 'youth on the prow and pleasure at the helm’, but when 'fluke' seized upon my sheep I thought it time to seek for 'fresh woods and pastures new', and so returned to the Queanbeyan   district.

This was a change from the 'frying pan into the fire', for catarrh, which was then very prevalent, attacked my sheep, and carried off 40 per night in each flock.

Despite these drawbacks, I have often sighed during my long official life for the return of those ever-to-be-remembered days, with 'each maid a heroine and each man a friend’.

When at Mannas my neighbour was Mr. John Stewart, the celebrated veterinary surgeon, and eventually, M.L.C.

He sold out to a Mr. Gale. The Robinsons were at Coppabella Creek, whither we went once a week for our mails.

Mr. Sydney Grandison Watson was on the 'Edward', I think; Mr. John (Swampy) Hay on the Upper Hume, below the Harveys.

They married two of the Robinson girls. Mr. H. A. Thompson was at Meragle, Mr. James Garland at Tooma, and Mr. (afterwards Sit John) Hay, of the firm of Hay and Ohalmera, at Wallaregang, whence one had a view of Kosolusko and its snowclad peak.

Mr. Love, the father of the well known family of that name, who also married a Miss Robinson, lived on the road from Mannas to Djhindjelloc.

Retracing our steps, we find Mr. Jonathan Goldspink at Bago, Mr. Rutherford at Billapalap (a station of Mr. Hugh Gordon's, of Manar), Mr. John M 'Arthur at Oberon, Mr. Charles M 'Arthur at Nackie Nackie, Mr. Peter Stuckey at Willie Ploma, Mr. Fred Vyner (who also married a Miss Robinson of the family aforesaid), Mr. Rose, and Mr. Rowland Shelley, at the 'Doomut-th', and Mr. Rusden (afterwards Clerk of the Parliaments, Melbourne) at Mingay.

Mr. Rowland Shelley married a Miss Peters, one of two sisters, the highly educated, daughters of a Lieutenant Peters, who in May, 1836, came in the same ship with me and other passengers. There was also a son - Frederic - and he settled somewhere in the district now known as Riverina.

We had in those days fairly rough times of it, but there was an enjoyable sense of freedom about it, and a desire to dispense our rough hospitality, not understood or appreciated by town-bred persons.

'What delight to back the flying steed' and make 'the welkin tremble' with a crack of one's stock-whip!

This reminds me that most singularly I found the address of 'Packer's Ned', the famous stock-whip maker, who lived at Gundaroo in 1836.

 He promised to send me a whip of the old-time shape. to show the Royal personages who lately visited our shores, but to my disappointment, although of an orthodox length, of an enlarged four-in-hand pattern.

Is there a stock-whip of an early date to be had? Jerry Leary, your townsman, mentioned by Mr. Gormly, is always interesting to me as having been associated with me in my early history.

The whole of the family - father, mother, sons, and daughter of daughters, came to Yarrowlumla - Sir Terence Murray's - in the early forties.

Arthur is a well-to-do man near Gunning, where I had the pleasure of seeing him some months ago.

I have lost sight of Johnny and Katherine. In 1891 I was with a Parliamentary party at the Tumut (Doomut-th), and we called at the aboriginal camp at Brungle.

I asked one of the elder of the men if he knew the songs - a copy of which I enclose.

He said yes, and to the astonishment of my fellow travellers, and to the blacks also, I sang them with him.

I have often wondered how they came back to my memory. I have written them down as orthographically as I could, but no white man could pronounce the words with- out so hearing them by a black-fellow.

I was in the Coolalomin caves in the early forties with Sir Terence Murray, but not in those of Yarrangobilly.

He was in the caves, as he says in a letter to me of November, 1839, from Bongongo, where he had cattle: - 'I examined some of the caves of Arrangarran, and found a number of human bones in one of them, and I brought back a skull. This may have found its way into the Museum. It was for years at Yarrowlumla'.

He further says: - 'I never saw any portion of the colony covered with grass so luxuriantly as this; it is a pleasure to see and ride through it'.

This was after the great drought ending in or about July, 1839.

It is to be hoped that this drought will terminate in like manner.

One night we camped at the foot of the Boogong Mountain, famed for the congregation of the moth of that name.

The blacks at a particular time of the year used to make for this place, scoop the insects into a sheet of bark, knead them into a dough, bake, fatten upon them, and come down from the mountain obese and shiny.

A visitation of this insect took place in Sydney about 34 or 35 years ago, and filled the late Rev. Mr. Clarke's church at St. Leonard's.

The swarm could be distinctly heard overhead making its way there.