Allan William Angell

Allan was our father and through two letters he wrote long before he died in 1987, I will let him tell his own story here.

My Childhood

I remember quite well the outbreak of World War 1 in 1914, I was then five years of age. I can recall the young men of the district enlisting in the forces and coming home on final leave. On these occasions they were given a send off by way of a grand ball in the local hall, followed by home cooked supper prepared by the towns women.

A diphtheria epidemic swept the corner in 1915. The Tibooburra hospital was overcrowded, there were about twenty tents at the hospital to accommodate the patients.

The hospital at that time had about five beds, the staff consisted of a nurse, a cook, a resident medical officer and as many volunteers as they could get. The R.M.O. at the time was a lady, Dr De Garris. I was a victim of the disease as was my father and an uncle.

The Queensland border gates were locked, a guard on patrol (per horse back), a customs officer stationed at Wompah Gate. No one was supposed to enter Queensland without a health certificate. Any Queenslander did so on the understanding he was not permitted to return for six weeks, even then they had to have a health clearance. Of course it was impossible to patrol the border fence, some chaps would ride their horse to the border, let the horse go and then climb the fence and walk to Tibooburra. Some had contacts both sides of the border and were met with a conveyance. I do not recall anyone having been caught, nor do do I remember if the epidemic ever got into Queensland.

I commenced school in 1916, I was then nearly seven years of age. Prior to starting school my mother, brother and myself were with my father in a tank sinking camp. My father and his two brothers were known as Angell Bros. They were tank sinkers on Yandama Stn. Yandama was a huge property, extending from the Tibooburra common westward to the South Australian border and from Cameron’s corner to Quinyambie to the south.

Although I was very reluctant to start school, after about a week I could not be kept home. I like many others realise now that our school days are the happiest days of our lives.

Nearly everyone had a herd of goats, we were no exception, I was practically reared on goats milk and meat. If it was offered to me today the answer would be no thanks.

In the year 1917 my father bought two milking cows. We thought this was the greatest thing he ever did, not realizing the amount of work they involved. The first year was not too bad, but people wanted to buy our milk, in fact more than we could produce so my mother bought two more cows. It was then that the toil started. My mother would have the cows milked well before breakfast and then my brother and I would deliver about five gallons of milk around town before going to school and all for three pence a pint.

After school we had to hunt the cow yard for calves. This was no trouble while there was feed and water close by, but as the feed began to dry off they began to look further a field and on numerous occasions we would locate them at Mt. Stuart well. Needless to say we would get home after dark as the above named well was at least six miles from the town.

My mother was a very hard worker and I think it was her aim to bring us up likewise and as far as I’m concerned she succeeded.

Apart from milking the four cows before breakfast my mother also baked bread which she sold for one shilling a loaf.

She sold eggs for two shillings a dozen and worked into the small hours of the morning sewing for other people. I have some records of her prices which are very interesting.

My mother’s slogan was “Hard work never killed anyone”, maybe she was right as she lived to the age of 89 years.

1918/19 were a repitition of the previous year. In that time the war ended and a big celebration took place on the night of the 11/11/1918 by way of a huge bonfire and cracker display. Although I knew every rock and crevice in the hills that surrounds the town, in the glow of the bonfire I crashed, I woke up in hospital where I remained for five days, having had concussion.

A dry spell took a hand in 1920. Angell Bros had to cease work and seek agistment for their working stock. They left their bullocks to fend for themselves on Yandama but took the horses to Mt.Poole. In return for agistment my father had to pump water for them as well as station stock. Windmills were only thought of so water was pumped by steam engine and pump jack. The well was called Chinaman’s well at the junction of Bendigo and Mt Poole creeks.

My father decided that we all go and live there until the drought broke which met with my mother’s approval. My brother and I had to walk to Milparinka to school, a distance of three miles each way. There were two other smaller children in our family, a younger brother and Keith Jackson whom my mother reared from a few months old until he was about 14 years.

The drought broke with a vengence. In 1922, five inches of rain fell in 24 hours. We were completely washed out of our camp, so made for higher ground. We ended up at Warattah well that night. My mother carried Keith aged about four and my brother Colin and I took turns carrying what bit of food we had time to salvage. On our arrival at Warattah well where there was a little old stone hut with a beaut big open fireplace, the old pensioner that lived there soon had a big fire going and we were able to dry our clothes and warm up. The old fellows name was John Fahey. He did not have much in the line of food but as luck would have it he did had plenty of meat.

The rain stopped as sudden as it started.

The next day my father was able to walk back to Chinaman’s well and pick up a couple of harnessed horses, fortunately they were on the right side of the flooded Mt. Poole creek. He retrieved some rations and clothes, yoked the horses to a wagonette and arrived back at Warattah well about 10pm.

My mother became ill overnight, apparently from the gruelling episode the previous day.

My father rose very early, he had the horses yoked and ready for a sunrise start to Tibooburra. The track was very heavy, the horses were very weak, it took 5 hours to do 14 miles. The first port of call was the Tibooburra hospital where my mother was admitted for the night. She was home the next day very little the worse for wear.

While all this was happening, the Milparinka and Mt.Poole people were searching for us, many were expecting to find our bodies hanging in a tree or perhaps in the Cobham lake. What a relief when we got word to Milparinka that we were safe.

After the roads dried out and things became normal, Angell Bros were soon back to the tank work. I believe there was very few tanks that didn’t suffer some damage from the heavy rain.

At the beginning of the school year 1923 my brother and I settled into our schoolwork as a matter of course but this time we had only 300 yards and not three miles to walk. Early the same year I had a job as boots or rousabout at the hospital from 6.30am to 8.30am And from 4pm to 6pm. The work consisted of cutting firewood, filling the woodbox at the kitchen door, keeping the yard clean, disinfecting the toilets and running necessary messages. My wage was 7/6 per week.

It was while I was on this job that the first radio came to Tibooburra. Dr Keys returned from his holidays with a huge black box about a metre long by half metre high by half metre deep, there were more knobs, clocks and other instruments on it than you would find on the instrument panel of a light aircraft today. The doctor had every available man for miles around to help make and erect an aerial mast 60ft high. It was made of 4x2 oregon timber overlapped and bolted together.There were so many guy wires that it took a full coil of No 8 fencing wire, approximately 800 yards.

The radio had no loud speakers, all messages were via earphone and each evening there would be a typed copy of the news pinned on the notice board of the three hotels under the heading “Tibooburra Evening News” Everyone was astounded to think something happened this morning overseas and they knew about it that night. Neither did we think that radio in the next few years would be within everyones reach.

I did not carry on with the hospital job the following year. I was now in my 14th year and wanted pocket money which was not readily available from my parents. I started to do any handyman jobs I could lay my hands on, I had a flair for woodwork, I could solder, and mend boots. I used to carve cigar boxes and sell them, I also repaired furniture although my tool kit left a lot to be desired. How well I remember asking my mother to buy me a new saw, one would have thought I’d asked for a Rolls Royce, needless to say I didn’t get one. I scraped and saved and eventually bought my own, a diston panel saw, it cost 15/-. I still have that saw.

I continued in this way until I turned 15 years of age, it was at this time I went into the tanksinking camp with my father. I worked like a slave for about 10 months, I asked my father for a suit of clothes, after a lot of haggling, he bought me a navy blue serge suit with an extra pair of trousers. The cost was four pound ten shillings and I also got ten shillings for Christmas.

Before Angell Bros resumed work after the Christmas / New Year break, I had settled for a job to commence on the 27th January at 30/- per week. After I had worked for 4 weeks I drew my pay, of six pounds. I had never seen money like that I didn’t know what to do with it. It was at this stage I declared my childhood had ended, as I worked like a man then and have done a man’s work ever since.

My Early Life
Written by Allan W Angell

I was born at Tibooburra on 25th November 1909, which marked the beginning of 50 years in the Tibooburra district.

The most notable event I can remember was the outbreak of World War 1. I was then 5 years old, but it sort of became embedded in my mind to such an extent that even now almost 66 years later, it seems like only a few years ago. I could elaborate on my childhood days but I do not think the present generation would be interested so I intend to skip a period until 1927.

In January that year I went to work for the late H.G & P.D. Jackson at Gumvale Stn. The late P.D. was boss. Although I was brought up to do a fair share of work during my teen years with my parents, I am afraid I did not know what work was until I took that job. My wage was 30/- plus keep per week.

The week consisted of 7 days and the hours from daylight to dark. However, I remained on Gumvale for approx. 2 years, something I have never regretted, as later in life I became a grazier. The grounding under P.D.J. stood me in good stead and there was nothing in the pastoral environment of our district that I could not do.

I have seen my share of good times and also some very bad times. It is of this period I will try to relate. It is referred to as the depression of the thirties but I think it really started as early as 1929 and continued for the next 5 years. 1929 and 1930 were really bad as it was a very dry time. I might add that there were no big tanks for water supplies and very few bores on station properties in those days which meant that graziers either had to sell their stock or watch them die and it was mostly the latter.

Work was not available at any price. Despite all this the population of Tibooburra increased.

After the introduction of the dole, people from everywhere congregated in and around the town to try their luck at fossicking for gold. This helped to supplement the dole. Although there were no big strikes they were able to exist by getting the dole, which was 6/8 per week and probably about 2dwts. of gold to subsidise it. Gold was worth about 4/- a dwt. (pennyweight) or 4 pound per ounce.

Although it was heartbreaking to see some of the conditions under which some fellows lived everyone seemed happy. Some only had a swag, a frypan and a billycan. They lived, under a leaning rock or a peppercorn tree. A few of the more fortunate had a tent. There were humpies built of all sorts of scraps, from flattened out kerosene tins, old pieces of corregated iron, bags and old lino, in fact anything that would make a shelter from the 100 degree plus heat.

For all that, everyone got to know everyone and soon became one big happy family. Those who were established were always ready to assist the newcomer by lending tools of trade if possible.

I with other members of my family went gold digging. We, I suppose were some of the lucky ones, we had a home, horses and drays, picks and shovels. We also had two dams equipped for puddling (when there was water) or dry blowers when it was dry. Between us we got sufficient gold to send direct to the mint.

This meant about 16/- per ounce more than the local rate. We later bought other fossickers gold at the local rate, thereby getting a quicker return from the mint as we would send it away as soon as we had 10 ounces. By doing so we were able to keep off the dole.

On several occasions the government granted money for relief work. As funds were limited some people missed out on a job. Once again we were lucky. The work was roadwork and every horse and dray was needed which more or less gave us priority. The wage was 4 pound two and six plus 10/6 for horse and dray. The relief jobs would last about 5 weeks, then it was back to gold digging.

While all this was going on amusements were few and far between. We could usually muster up 10 to 12 couples for a dance on Saturday night. The CWA hall ( that is now) was owned by the proprietress of the Family Hotel. The charge for the hire of the hall was 2 pound from 8pm to 12pm. It often cost each man 4/- and raising the cash was not easy. However, eventually we approached the proprietress and settled for 2/- per male dancer whether there was 8 or 28 which over a period of time would have gone her way.

We had to prepare the floor, this was done by mixing sawdust with minced suet and kerosene. Music was the old button accordian, there was no shortage of players ready to oblige.

Usually we played tennis or cricket on Sundays, very often with 8 players a side aged from about 12 years to veterans of 50 or over. The cricket pitch left a lot to be desired, we would sweep a level strip about where the school now stands. The composition ball which we used, if bowled a bit short had no trouble getting up head high but I cannot recall any accidents. After the first game was over all players would converge on the water bag to celebrate.

There were three hotels. To this day I wonder how they existed. I have seen the proprietor sit outside of his or her hotel hour after hour and not sell a drink. Occasionally a couple of chaps would decide to have a drink, the publican would go into the bar and serve two drinks, wash the glasses and return to his seat outside, sometimes for another hour. Beer was sixpence a 6 ounce glass or 2/- a bottle, cigarettes were sixpence a packet of 10.

During 1934 the population began to decrease, more work became available statewide.

By the end of 1935 gold digging was only a memory.

Tibooburra being a alluvial gold field, there will always be the old gully raker or dryblower scratching around more for a hobby than a living.

With the present price of gold, modern machinery, it could boom again, I believe it will. I also believe there is more gold left around Tibooburra than has ever been taken out.

Allan William Angell is buried in Broken Hill in the same grave as the eldest son Brian Allan.


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