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  • ID: I10153
  • Name: Ellen Louisa (NELL) BLAY 1
  • Sex: F
  • Birth: 14 JUL 1907 in Marrickville, NSW
  • Burial: 15 JUL 1997 Uralla Lawn Cemetery, NSW
  • Reference Number: 38
  • Death: 12 JUL 1997 in Uralla, NSW
  • Note:
    As told to Jacinta Sinclair I was born in 1907 on July 14th.

    My parents were Harmony A. Blay and Alice May Blay (nee Guilfoyle).

    My first recollection of where we lived was in Gordon Street, Petersham. I had three sisters and four brothers. Another sister died in infancy.

    When I was about six we moved to Haberfield, where, we lived for quite a long time in Dalhousie Street. We went to school at St. Joan of Arc's Convent. The church and school were in one building - divided in school hours by a large folding door. We were not very far from the school and usually went home for lunch.

    For school my sisters Irene, Imelda and Catherine (Topsy) wore dresses - uniforms were not worn then 'til secondary school. The dresses were cotton usually, worn always in the morning with white pinafores trimmed with tucks and "broderais anglais". After lunch at home, we took off the pinafores and went to school in our frocks, nice and clean. For school we wore boots buttoned up over the ankles, black always: then for Sundays or going out we had patent leather strap shoes. I always wanted ankle strap ones, but never got them.

    When my grandmother, who lived with us, took us out, we always had to wear kid gloves, and behave very correctly. We used to go into town on the tram to Anthony Hordens, Mark Foys, Snows and other big shops, all gone now. Lunch in their tearooms was a great treat. She was a very good dressmaker and made most of our clothes. It was a great treat, but we all had to behave very, correctly.

    When the grocer delivered the weekly order, there was always a bag of boiled lollies for us kids in it, as well as at Christmas time.

    We went to the pictures on Saturday afternoon - sixpence (5c) to go in, and a penny to spend. There were lots of lollies to be bought for a penny, or even a halfpenny each. Sometimes, instead of going to Haberfield picture theatre, we would walk over to Summer Hill where each ticket carried a small prize such as a tin teaspoon. or a neck-lace of cheap beads.

    Holiday time for Irene and me meant two or three weeks at Albion Park- where Dad's sister and her husband lived. We had a lovely time there - thoroughly spoilt. They had no children, and we ran wild. They had a farm first, but later sold it and moved into the town. I can still remember Aunt Louisa racing down the paddock to us one day when I was sitting down at a horses heels busy plaiting his tail. She was horrified and I couldn't understand why - the poor horse could hardly get out of the way, he was so old and quiet.

    Every school holidays we all went to the beach or to a houseboat at Cowan. We all learnt to swim there - we would be taken out on the river in a rowboat and simply dropped over the side - strange that we never developed a fear of the water. Of course there were always plenty of adults about if we looked in trouble.

    We had a dog - a fox terrier called "Spot". We could do anything to him but no outsider could touch him.

    We always had a crowd for tea on Sunday nights. It was not unusual for twenty to sit down to tea. How my mother managed, I don't know. When I said we went to the beach for holidays, I didn't meant for a day; we used to have a month, and come home browned and sunburnt.

    Our Sunday -visitors usually included my father's nephew (almost the same age as my father) and family. They lived in Beamish St. Campsie, and had a market garden there growing flowers. We used to like going out there occasionally. They had fowls, turkeys and geese, an we liked getting the geese hissing. We weren't allowed into the fowl yard, but we liked the hissing geese.

    We all did fairly well it school. I never came lower than second in the class. We had a marvelous teacher in fifth and sixth class, Sister Angela. She had traveled a lot before entering the convent and used to make geography and history much more interesting with her stories of different countries. The boys went to the Christian Brothers at Lewisham.

    Now to answer your questions.

    The house at Haberfield was a four bedroom brick house with a big loungeroom, diningroom and kitchen, and an enclosed verandah at the back - and we needed every bit of it. The loungeroom had a beautiful Rorisch piano, and we four girls all had lessons. Irene, the eldest and Imelda, younger than I was, played quite well, but I was hopeless. Our music teacher lived next door. She was a young woman, and her mother - an old dragon - lived with her. They had a couple of men boarders. You could easily get board there for thirty shillings a week.

    After a few years we moved to a big two storey house in Alt Street Ashfield. Both houses had big yards, and in Haberfield there were three fruit trees in the yard - peach, plum and apricot. We used to get into trouble every year for picking the fruit before it was really ripe. One tree I remember particularly, a big Japanese blood plum which we loved. I have never seen such beautiful plums in a shop. "We also had a big strawberry bed and vegetables, which Dad grew - Mum never had time to spare with all us kids - and he also grew some beautiful roses. The boys used to mow the lawn. They were very good to us. We used to think we were badly done by, because we girls had to set and clear the tables, and wash up.

    Dad's nephew, Henry ('Nen' he was nicknamed), had a car. I can still remember it. They were very rare then. I remember it had two seat - the back one being like a buggy seat - quite high - you had to go up two steps to get into it. When they parked outside the house, it drew half the kids in the neighbourhood round. Planes were very unusual. When one came over, everyone went outside to look at it. I never dreamed of going to New Zealand in one.

    We had gaslights in lights in the rooms - no electricity - also a gas stove for cooking. Mum used to heat the old flat irons on it to do the ironing. We had an ice chest for keeping the food cold. The man brought a big block of ice every day.

    Nen Phillips sometimes drove us to Albion Park. We went to Cowan by train and launch. I don't remember how long it took, but we used to love to put the train windows down, usually getting specks from the old steam engine in our eyes. They were terribly dirty old things. The house at Haberfield had a big shed at the back and the laundry was there - and all old wood copper to boil the clothes.

    I only had one year at secondary), school, at Domremy at Fivedock, before money got too scarce for me to slay there. I went by tram to Fivedock. I did the usual subjects - maths, history, English Latin and French. I topped the class in them. I was fifteen when I left.

    I worked in the office of Joe Gardiner's big shoe shop for awhile in the city at Haymarket. It has been gone for a long time now. I used to go by tram, and got fifteen shillings a week - one dollar fifty in present money.

    I loved reading, and learnt more history and geography, and English, which was my favorite subject from the books I got at the library.

    My two brothers' names are on the old Roll of Honour from the First World War. My eldest brother, Frank, put his age up to enlist, and had his eighteenth birthday on the boat going over, and his twentieth on the boat coming back. He was away in France and Egypt. The second brother also put his age up and enlisted. He was on the boat going over, but peace came and to his disgust he didn't get past Capetown, when they were all sent home. He first enlisted at fifteen, but my father went out and had him pulled out to his horror. The second time he got away -just.

    I started writing poetry when we went to Dorrigo. It gave my head something to think of when my hands milked the cows mechanically.

    The main thing I remember about the war- -- I was still going to school. When my eldest brother returned home. We had a huge party - it was file usual thing. He was away three and a half years, and was lucky enough to be wounded. He told the authorities he could drive horses, something he had never done in his life, because drivers got an extra shilling a day. The English people used to call them 'eight shilling a day tourists'. After the war he got a soldiers settlement farm at Tumbarumba, but his health was bad and he died in 1921. He left the farm to mum and we all moved up there later. It was a struggle.

    To go back quite a long time -- The first Blay came to Australia in 1816. He was French, but left France at the time of the Revolution, and went to Ireland where he married an Irish lady and they left Ireland for Australia. A further member of the came out in 1829- his son was born on the way, and was named after, file ship, 'Harmony', poor boy. It was the last ship to carry some convicts to Australia, and had made a number of trips. I believe file diary that his wife kept is down in the Mitchell Library. I remember my father telling me of a stop they made at Colombo. Looking for fresh meat, they went ashore and bought small sucking pig. Alas, when they were going up the gangway it got loose and fell into the water, so their hope of some fresh meat left.

    They settled in Sydney, and he worked on the Lapstone Bridge in the Blue Mountains at one time. He was an engineer. Another member of the family did the Governor of the day some favour, and was offered a grant of land where the King's School now stands. He turned it down - too far from the town - and was then offered land where Petersham now stands, but refused it went to Taralga, near Goulburn, where he built a flourmill and did very well. There are still Blays round Goulburn, and the mill still stands.

    The Roll of Honour with my two brothers' names is - or was -in the Haberfield School of Arts. They were Frank H. Blay and Reg H. Blay.

    I was fifteen when we left Sydney, largely owing to my father's health problems. He was bitten on the hand by are red back spider while going through some papers in an old safe and it affected his heart (no works compensation in those days). The farm was my brothers, Frank; a soldiers settlement farm and not really big enough or good enough for a family. There was a four-roomed house on it, with a verandah in front and we all fitted in, but it was a cold place. The fire was never allowed to go out all winter. Luckily, there was plenty of wood in the paddocks, but I often wonder as I sit in this house, how my mother managed. We had to carry water by bucket or kerosene tin from a spring down the front of the house - no gas or electricity, no tank even. It was beautiful water, and the spring never ran dry.

    I met your grandfather when he and his father came, by sulky, to trap rabbits on the farm. They
    were very thick - and I did not fall in love with him immediately. It was a gradual process - and bear in mind that we saw very few people apart from our neighbours. We milked cows the first couple of years before getting into sheep. We had very good neighbours -everyone helped everyone else. Our wedding was very quiet, from Irene's house in Cabarita. I had a few friends and relations. She and Mick were very good to all olf us.

    For the first twelve months I lived with your great grandmother at Tumbarumba. Her health was very bad and she could not be left alone. Then she went to Irene's to live, and I went with your grandfather to camp with him. He made a huge tent and we were very comfortable. The station people were very nice. Morna was a baby and they had a little girl who loved her. They used to give us vegetables and milk.

    Then after about a year we took a married couples' job on a property at Coolah. That was hard work. Your grandfather worked on the property and I did the housework. There were two men and the owner's wife and a big house, and she was a fusspot - even on Sunday afternoon she wanted fresh scones and small cake for afternoon tea; then the shearers came and I had to make cakes for them, and lots of visitors. For that we got I think, $3 per week. We stuck it out for a few months, then threw it in and got another job round Moss Vale.

    Then I became pregnant and went for the last couple of months to stay at Newcastle with your
    Grandfather's brother and his wife, who were very good to me, while your Grandfather went out west trapping rabbits again - the rabbits were in plague numbers and he did very well.

    The week (Elizabeth) Dawn was born, he came down to Sydney and bought a poultry farm just out of Liverpool. He knew nothing at all about fowls and we had no idea what we were letting ourselves in for. We were lucky enough to have very good neighbors who became firm friends. We managed to learn all about the game and, believe me, there was a lot to learn. Then came the war and he wasn't allowed to enlist because he was in a protected industry. The authorities couldn't get the eggs away, and the price of eggs and fowls dropped drastically, (once Japan came in). Then the Americans arrived and the prices flew up. Your Grandfather had been working in a factory but he was allowed to leave there. I had been running the farm. and with two small children there was no spare time, so I was thankful to have him home again. I was just about done.

    We had to black out all the windows with rugs or anything else, so that no lights showed at night. A big meeting of poultry farmers was called and we told that, from the air the farms looked like military camps, and we could be bombed, and what to do if the Japs came over. We had to get under the tables or beds, with rugs or blankets hanging over the side, once the alarm sounded. Thank heavens we only had to do it once. That was the night the Japanese submarines entered Sydney Harbour. They sank a couple of warships anchored in the harbour, and all night long we could hear trains leaving the Central and other places.

    We had been instructed what to do if the Japs landed. We had to put poison in all the fowls' water - destroy all food possible. It was a very nasty time. We had to be ready to be sent off by bus to the country. Then - I can remember it as if it were yesterday - an American war ship entered Sydney, harbour laden with as many war planes as they could pack on. The planes were dismantled and stored in the ship until they got to Sydney then re-assembled and flown to, I think it was Camden where there was a big army base. I can remember clearly everyone standing on the back doorstep watching those planes, I think they were Spitfires, but I could be wrong. At any rate, there were hundreds flew right over our house and we felt safer.
    I remember too the day Darwin and Townsville were bombed. Very little was told of the damage that was done, or what the casualties were. It's only recently that that was made known. We did hear stories of people being evacuated down through Central Australia by the hundreds though, and it was a very, uneasy time. The American troops started arriving by the thousands and were very welcome, though the Aussies were very jealous of' the fuss the girls made of them.

    We saw most of the war through at Liverpool, Peter was born while we were still there and we then sold the poultry farm and moved to The Entrance where your Grandfather started another poultry farm, first building the sheds. Kevin was born soon after, and we bought day old chicks and reared them. We used to get three lots of seven hundred at a time and they were more trouble than babies.

    I forgot that we went from The Entrance (Tumbi Umbi) to Bellingen, where we lived for eight or more years dairying. Your Grandfather did quite a lot of cattle dealing which he enjoyed, but it meant that I was left to do a lot of milking on my own. I wouldn't have the kids milking. They didn't get home from school until nearly half past four and they had homework to do, and I was very keen to have them do well at school.

    While we were at Bellingen we improved the farm a lot, planting it down with better grass and your Grandfather ploughed up a lot of it and got rid of the bracken fern. I used to take him a hot dinner over the paddock in Golden Syrup tins, so that he didn't have to waste time coming home for his midday meal. It meant a lot of walking taking it over and back. I eventually told him I would have to have a washing machine, which is how I got my first washing machine. It was either get it, or he did the milking on his own. The first few years we were there we had to milk by hand, then when we got a bit ahead I reckoned I'd have to have the machine or he'd have to milk alone, and feed a lot of calves alone.

    When we went to Dorrigo it was to a much better farm and we went in for rearing calves, up to sixty a year, and they got us ahead. We put a lot of work into them and it paid off, though I used to be bruised from my ankles to my waist. We had a gadget that fitted on to the milk can and I fed the calves while he separated the milk. They used to be the pick of the saleyard and brought top price every year at the annual sales. I was even asked to give a talk, on our method, in a farm segment on the wireless one year in a farm talk, which raised my self-esteem quite a lot. Your Grandfather had to admit that I did most of the work with raising them. He used to take our small calves in to the saleyard and buy bigger ones - ours were mostly Jersey calves and he bought bigger breeds.

    You asked -when I started writing poetry. It was while I milked the cows. It took my mind off milking. We had some hectic times getting the calves off the cows - the mothers weren't very keen on their calves being taken away. I have a very crooked finger to remind me of one very upset cow. We had a lorry by that time, and he used to run the calves in and bring the bigger ones home. Then we had to teach them to drink from a bucket until they got used to us and to the car. We were very proud of the fact that out- calves brought the best price at the annual sale every year.

    I used to get up at a quarter past four, and finish after eight o'clock, going all day with very few days, or even hours off. I made all the clothes for the children, cooked stacks of cakes and biscuits and the hours flew, Washing day was a nightmare, but it all got done. I just used to thank God that they were all so healthy.

    Getting to Mass every Sunday was impossible. It was a case of "go when you could". Once your Grandfather got a small lorry for carting the calves, he took us once a month, and different friends in the town used to have the children at different weekends. People were very kind and I was proud of the fact that they were always invited back the following month. Of course, I used to have some, of the town kids back for a weekend, or even just a clay - they used to come out on the milk lorry in the morning, and go home in the afternoon about five thirty or six o'clock. They all seemed to love the day at the farm.

    The nuns came out a few times too. They used to shed half their habits. They had their lunch under a group of trees near the house. I took lunch and afternoon tea down to them. They came and went by taxi, per courtesy, I think, of a Catholic taxi driver.

    I hope you can read this - my hands are freezing half the time and I have arthritis in them. I'm writing this when I am eighty-four and I never was a good writer. I often had to do my homework, all over again when I was at school. It was my very worst subject. Once we left the farm and went to Coffs to live, I used to do a lot of fancywork for Morna and Elizabeth. I think I made most of their fancywork in their glory boxes. Now my hands are too stiff to knit even, or to garden. When we were on the farm I grew almost all the vegetables.

    When we were at Bellingen your grandfather grew acres of potatoes, and getting them out was a busy and tiring job. We were very lucky one year. The frosts were very bad but our, potatoes were up on a hill, and we got top price for them - almost everyone else had theirs killed off by the frost, but digging them and bagging them, then going home to milk, separate the milk and feed the calves was really hard - then I used to make cakes after tea for the next day. Now I wonder how we did it. No radio or TV to sit in front of then. The baker came twice a week and the grocer delivered once a month.

    Father: Harmony Alfred BLAY b: 27 MAR 1874 in Mort St, Balmain, NSW
    Mother: Alice May GUILFOYLE b: 29 MAR 1878 in Crown Rd, Ultimo, NSW

    Marriage 1 Arthur Stanley (STAN) WARD b: 04 SEP 1901 in Balranald, NSW
    • Married: 26 MAR 1938 in St Mary's Concord, NSW
    1. Has Children Living WARD
    2. Has Children Elizabeth Dawn WARD b: 23 OCT 1941 in Newcastle, NSW
    3. Has Children Living WARD
    4. Has Children Living WARD

    1. Title: Blay.FTW
      Source Medium: Other

      Text: Date of Import: Apr 30, 2004
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