Childhood memories of Archibald Rowley

POSSUMS AND PROFIT

Archibald Rowley was the eldest child of Job and Mary Rowley.  On April 17, 1946 he wrote a letter reminiscing about his young life.  Part of this letter is currently held in the South Australian State Library.

Archibald wrote that when he was young the family lived in a two room slab hut on the property of Price Maurice, Castambul.  The property first ran Angora goats from Afghanistan, however the region was too cold so they changed to cattle. (Family stories also mention that Castambul also had sheep as the young boys were later shepherds, leaving each Monday with the sheep and taking food for 6 days.  They would roam as far as Mt Torrens with their sheep, but had to be back each Saturday so they didn’t work on the Sunday.  From Dene Rowley.]

A bullock dray bought rations to the family from the head station.  Archibald wrote that his family grew plenty of vegetables to eat and had plentiful water near the hut. He said that the water looked blue when you looked in. Archibald’s father, Job, had lost the lower part of his arm (from above the elbow) as a young person in a thrashing machine.  However this must not have held him back as he worked as a farm hand and also shot possums and Mary pegged out the skins to dry.  Mrs Harriet Fry then took the skins to market to where they were sold to supplement the Rowley income.  Later, when Archibald was older, he also could peg them to dry and once bought shoes that lasted 2 years with the income.  He comments on the many parties that were held locally and says Mrs Lloyd did the music, keeping the beat with an empty kerosene tin while her daughter Annie sang.

When he started  school Archibald boarded with Mrs Fry (wife of the Headmaster John Fry) for a year and then his younger brother started school.  He said that his mother used to be scared he would get lost going to school so he used to sing and holler so his mother could hear him and not worry.  Once, when Archibald was recovering from measles, his father fell ill.  His mother sent him up to Mrs Fry for medicine.  However, it was cold and wet and the creeks that he could normally jump were swollen.  He had to look for a fallen log to crawl across.  When he reached Fry’s he was wet and Mrs Fry stripped off his clothes and put him into bed with her youngest children, who were in bed with measles.  She kept him a week and sent one of her older daughters down to help Mrs Rowley.

by Jo Shaw

References:

  1. Rowley, Dene
  2. Reminiscences about John Brock Fry, Manuscript 1946.  D Piece (Archival) D 5449(L) [State Library of South Australia]


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