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Oral History Transcript - Ena Ruby Kessey

Oral History recording by Ena Ruby Kessey nee Murphy
as told to her daughter, Halvene Therese Fleming nee Kessey and son in law, Reginald Bruce Fleming.

Ena Ruby Kessey (nee Murphy), circa 1990

I was born on the sixth of September 1908. My parents were Ellen Ruby Bowen and George Charles Reed Murphy. I was married on 29th October 1928 to Halvar Roy Kessey who was born on the first of April 1905. His parents were James Kessey and Mary Jane Press.

My children are:
    James Anthony, born on the 31st March 1930, at Bourke
    Halvene Therese, born on 6th February 1934, at Bourke
    Carmel Rae, born on 18th August 1939, at Bourke
    Penny Patricia, was born on 18th March 1945, at Bourke

I remember living in that house in Tudor Street [Bourke, NSW -Editor]. The house was my grandmother Bowen's, that was the one up towards opposite where Ted Honeyman used to live. I can't remember living with Mum and Dad, I can visualise which house it was, on the opposite side of the street. It must have been when my mother died that we moved to the bigger house. I don't remember living with my mother, it was almost opposite my grandmother's house. I don't know what my brother Jack remembers of it and I don't know if Aunty Ive was married then.

I sort of remember them having the wedding [Ivy May Bowen m. Harry Williams circa 1913 -Editor] at the Wall's Hotel, which was where Jack O'Mara had the bakers shop, opposite Honeyman's Store. I remember somebody took the horse out of their cart and put it on the other side of the hitching rail and then put it back in the cart.

There were a lot of hotels about. When we moved into the bigger house, it was on the corner of Tudor and Wilson Streets. There was a hotel right opposite and it was held by Whittakers, not Jack Whittaker's people, but they were related, I think the fathers were brothers. There was a daughter named Clare, who we were friends with. The other members of the family were older, Her family must have gone to school. We were great friends with Clare and also Clare Hobson, who lived in the same street.

I remember grandmother coming up once, my other grandmother, and wanting to take me back to Sydney and jacking up on that. Her name was Prudence Murphy nee Reed, but I jacked up on going, but she did offer. Yes she did offer.

But after Aunty Ive got married, because Aunty Ive always lived with us. She didn't have a property. Alice was the only one born after they went on the property. Uncle Harry used to go out on the stations and do that sort of work, he had a bullock team. Because we used to get a ride down there, they used to have what do you call it, a wool scour and it was a way down at the weir, and we used to go down for the ride. He must have been pretty good to us. He was not the man of the house. He used to work on a station and only come home now and again. I remember he used to get eggs for his breakfast and we used to love eggs. He always let us dip our bread in it. We must have been terribly young then.

I don't remember Jack Williams when he was a baby, or much about him anyway. Coming on to Pat and Myn, they were part of us. Pat and Myn.

Aunty Ive wasn't at my wedding because she was on the verge of having Alice, and they were on the property then. They drew it you know. It wasn't a soldiers block, it was when Pop Barton drew one (Rainbar), that big one (ballot). They were breaking up the bigger properties. They went out there, and they took all their stuff out on the bullock wagon. I suppose he had to sell that when he got the property. They lived pretty simply, they only had dirt floors, I remember that, and we used to have drives to get the rabbits to help keep everybody. I never lived out there. We used to go out there a bit. When Aunty Ive and all the kids went out there, it left only Ma, Jack, Leila and I in the house. I remember Aunty Min wanting to buy her a smaller house and she wouldn't move. I used to be dying to move. I remember Ma saying one day, " Oh, people who move all the time. Don't pay their rent".

All the rent we had to pay was six shillings a week. It was a terrible old house though, it was big though, that old house, but it had plenty of rooms in it, a great big yard and great big shed at the back. It used to be a bakers shop. There was a bakery, "the bake house", we used to call it, the oven and everything are still there. But the shop was there, it was on the corner, on the corner of Tudor and Wilson Streets.

Then when they pulled the hotel down, I remember when they pulled that hotel down, because we were kids and you know what sticky beaks kids are. It was Whittakers' Hotel, the one that was over the road. And we lived next door to Aunty Liz at this stage, she lived next door to us rather. And Girlie, we were all there, sticky beaking, and someone threw a piece of wood and it hit Girlie on the arm. She had a three corner tear in her arm. I fainted at that stage. Poor Girlie had this great gash in her arm. And after they pulled that hotel down, they put the lemonade factory there. And if ever we wanted a drink of lemonade and we had a raffle, we'd make over to Paddy, Paddy O'Connor, he'd go in for the raffle but he'd give you a drink of lemonade at the same time.

We didn't get much, we never ever felt as though we didn't have much. Uncle Con used to be there pretty often after he got to the shearing stage and when we got big enough to know what was going on, he was very good to us. He'd come home with all the pennies and divide it up amongst us, not only the kids living in the house, but Clare Hobson and all the others from around the place all got their share. And I remember once we all got eight pence and we thought we were made

Aunty Min was working at Rices, and later on she went to Sydney to work, she was working at Sergeants, the shop with pies and things. I think she went to work in the first place to Arthur Blakeleys, he was a Member of Parliament in Sydney and she lived there, and she was really friendly with them all her life after that. But she used to work at Rices in the first place, she was only young. I remember her coming home one night puffing and blowing, she had run all the way home. Old Jock used to live in the shop there. They used to be smoking all this stuff. One of them spoke to her as she walked past, and she took to her heels.

There used to be a lot of Chinese in Bourke then, they used to cut scrub to feed animals and stuff like that. There used to be a lot of them there ring-barking trees. There were a lot of chinamen there smoking the stuff I remember.

You know how there used to be Germans and they were sort of interned, next door to Jock's there was a place where an interned family lived. The kids used to go to school. There was always one in there, in the shop, where we used to have the shop in Richard Street. There were some people there, too, that were interned. The ones near Jock's were named Finney, I remember that name as well as anything. I did see some of them years later, when they got curious about Bourke and came back to look at it. I remember that too.

They blamed the doctor at one stage, Doctor Coolican's father, blamed him for it, reckoned he was always ringing up when he shouldn't have been. Whether they found out he was doing it? He was never taken away or anything, but they did blame him. They used to live over there in Japan.

We had a long way to walk, everyone walked in those days, nobody had cars much. We had to walk to school, it was a long way, more than a mile. You know how far our church is from Tudor Street, we used to take a short cut across the flat. I remember we were always trying to get bamboo whistles off Rices' tree. They had a six foot tin fence, well it looked a mile high to us, we were only little kids. I remember once getting caught and I had skin off my hands where I'd caught them on the fence.

We took all the short cuts, down the lane there behind the Public Works, along by the Punt Cutting. I remember Leila once, she was only little, she wasn't looking where she was going and ran into a post, and howled all the way to school.

The Fradgeleys used to live over the river there and they used to sell goat meat and stuff, you know. The punt was there then and you could go across the river. You had to be pulled across, Fradgeleys had something to do with the pulling the punt across. We used to buy goat meat from them now and again, and it was nice too.

We used to have a baked dinner on Sunday, every Sunday and baked pudding with custard. The baked pudding was made with all the proper stuff, you know, suet and that sort of stuff. And Aunty Ive used to make the custard in a great bowl. I can see the bowl now, and one day I must have been giving cheek, a bit of cheek, she made a swipe at me and dropped the bowl of custard. Oh Gawd! I don't know what she was swiping me for, I don't remember. We never got swiped. I must have deserved it a few times, I think.

We used to, all the kids in the street, used to get out and play Cocky Laurum after tea of a night in the summer time.

I remember once taking Pat for a walk, Pat wasn't very much younger, I must have been a fairly big kid, but instead of going around and crossing at the right place I was cutting across the gutter and tipped the poor little wretch out. I thought those kids were just the bees knees, you know.

They didn't have any Lactogen or anything much at that stage, Aunty Ive used to give them Arrowroot biscuits made soft with milk and they used to love that. She used to buy the biscuits in a tin, THAT big. But you can't buy them like that now, I don't think. They never used to get fed until they were about nine months old, but when they did feed them they gave them bread and gravy, mashed potatoes, and squashed it all up, bread crumbled up and gave them that. Soup, there wasn't any baby food in tins then.

There were no rotary clothes lines around at that stage, we had a line from one end of the yard to the other, and a post to hold them up. I thought I was lovely once when the river was rising and the flood was coming up which it did pretty often. Ma and Aunty Ive went down to inspect it, and I got all the clothes off the line, folded some up and thought I had done a great stroke. It must have been good too, for poor old Grandma. Because it was hard, they had a boiler in the yard, they used to boil the clothes in, carry them in of course, to a sort of a home made bench.

No such thing as having carpet on your floor as I remember, a lot of people had lino, but I don't remember anyone having carpet. We had lino in one room, we used to call it the "front room". At one stage Uncle Con bought us a piano for this front room. And Aunty Ive had a lounge and it was bamboo, it had cushions and things, there were chairs and there was this three seater thing. Any glass ware, any good stuff, was kept on a big sideboard which was made out of real good wood. There were things that belonged to Grandma, there were things that belonged to my mother, who had died a few years before, and things of Aunty Ive's, too.

We had a home made dresser in a big dining room, which had a sideboard, a home made dresser, two machines, a great big six foot table and a mob of chairs and a baby chair. I remember that as well as anything.

And on Saturday all the place was cleaned out like steam, under the baby's chair they used to put a clean bag, in case he tipped his food on the floor.

There was one bedroom, which, Ma and Leila and I shared. Leila slept with Ma and I had a single bed, it was a big room. It had one of those great big chests of drawers, you know, about four big drawers on the bottom, more at the sides, and little ones for your hankies, and a mirror standing up on it. And on the wash stand there was a jug and basin and places for your soap, a jerry sitting on the bottom. The big linen press was in the corner, it must have been a very big room.

They were all sort of in a row. There was what we called the "dining room", where we lived practically, with the six foot table and that in it. Then our bedroom, and then the "front room", and then Aunty Ive's bedroom, which used to be the shop they used to say. She had a double bed, great big cot, another one of those great big chests of drawers and another washstand with all the paraphernalia on it, and a little chest of drawers as well with a mirror and everything on it.

And then off the "front room" there was a veranda and the bathroom was on one side of that which practically closed it in. And the boys bedroom, they used to call it, was around the corner, and it was off this veranda, too. One time, I remember, there were four single beds in there, that was our favourite place for reading. We'd be laying down there and Ma used to reckon we were lying on the broad of our backs. It was the boys room, see, and whoever came slept there.

There was another little bedroom off the back veranda, that was Aunty Min's room. At the stage when I remember, I was curious, there were trunks and what have you there, that had all sorts of gear in them, high heeled shoes and things like that.

And then going from the dining room out there was the kitchen on one side and a little alley way and a little room we used to call the "back room", a hanging safe and lots of boxes and a linen press and what have you there too.

Outside at the back, I think Harry Williams must have put a roof there. It was a dirt floor and we also had a big six foot table there and big stools behind it. We ate out there in the summer time. They'd put everybody's boots out there of a Saturday and they'd all have to be cleaned.

We had a great big stable down the back yard with a feed room off it. Apparently at some time or other, somebody had racehorses there. And it seemed to be miles that we had to climb up to look out the window, which was only a hole cut, it had no glass in it or anything. I used to be scared stiff to go into the feed room, the fowls used to lay in there sometimes and it was dark and I always felt there were snakes.

The lavatory was a great big six by four one, we had to go down to glory.

Between it and us outside, the bakehouse was outside, like there was this veranda with a roof on it there was something there with a dish on, where we used to wash our faces. Another bit of a yard that was fenced off, and then the bakehouse was there. And I remember the dirty clothes bag was hanging up there in that. The bakehouse still had a big counter out of the shop and there was a lot of bags there, I don't know where they came from. They had to go outside for the stuff when they were boiling the washing, which, was hung on these great big lines from one end to the other.

It was a big yard, we had no front yard, but we had a front veranda which was right along and around the corner. When we were kids, that had wire netting on it, I suppose to keep the young ones in. Whoever was the baby would sleep in the cot. Somebody must have slept on the bed on the back veranda there. It was Aunty Ive's favourite spot to read of an afternoon.

Her room was nice but I don't think she had lino on it. It had lino in the front room.

We had a garden then, where our table was with the roof over it, we had a bit of a garden there. There was a lucerne patch, some grape vines, I always thought it was a peach tree, now they are trying to make out it was a nectarine tree. Jack Williams and them.

Jack Williams and them used to go to school with us down the lanes and things when they got to school age. We all grew up like brothers and sisters.

Then when Aunty Min got married she lived in that big house up in Hope Street. She married Syd Honeyman, they had the shop by this time, which used to be Rices. Used to be Rices shop and Syd and Ted Honeyman used to work for Mr. Rice, he was an Auctioneer. It finished up Syd and Ted Honeyman's. I suppose they bought out Ted's share when Uncle Syd died. No, they drew a block, which was Emoh Ruo, so he must have sold his share then to Ted. They went out there to live, while we still lived in that old house.

We still lived in that old house when Ma died. [Some time before that  - Editor] I was in Parkes at school. I went away to school for twelve months, Jack Murphy paid for that, poor Jack.

When I came back I got a job at Hales, Aunty Ive was still with us then. I worked there and then later on Uncle Con got married. Aunty May came then and later Aunty May and I had a bit of an argument. She was trying to make us do things we had never been made do before, so I packed up and went to Sydney, down to Aunty Kate, Leila came too, but only stayed a week. She went home again. But I was there until I got word that Ma was sick and I went home and I didn't go back to Sydney again. Hales gave me my job back. I worked there until I got married. Nobody used to work after they got married then.

When I lived with my grandmother which was next door to Aunty Kate, she had five kids then. Jack was the oldest and the four girls. Phyl was the second oldest one then there was Neela and Marj was the youngest. I lived there with my grandmother and Aunty Lil and Uncle Ted was at the war, and she had Joan, only Joan. The war ended when I was down there then. I remember going in to town with them, everyone was cheering, all the soldiers and sailors.

We used to go to dances and things. Marrickville was our favourite place, although there was a little hall just down the street from where we lived. We used to go there pretty often. Marrickville Town Hall was our favourite place for dancing, and it was only about, I think there was Dulwich Hill and then Marrickville from Hurlstone Park. We used to walk home sometimes, Phyl remembers it. So it wasn't far. I wasn't married then, but I was engaged when I went to Sydney. In 1918, I was only ten and I was always fainting in school, so they sent me down to my other grandmother for twelve months. That is how I remember the war ending. Because I was delicate. Then I went back when I was older, eighteen or nineteen. We used to go to these dances, they were good.

So when Ma took sick I went back home to Bourke. Then she died while I was home and I didn't go back to Sydney, I went to the Oxford to live with the Kesseys. Leila went out to Aunty Min at Emoh Ruo. Leila worked for Mrs O'Mara for a while, I don't know where she was living at that time. She was pretty young and so went to live with Aunty Min when Ma died.

Murphy clan at Locksley Park Retreat, 1995
Back: Jim Fleming, Jane Langridge, Jim Kessey, The Thomas Hull, Bob Hull, Margaret Hull, Mark Hull, Lisa Fleming, Patrick Fleming, Bruce Fleming, Lei Helm
Centre: Penny Kessey, x Murphy, x Murphy, Carmel Hull, Halvene Fleming, Judy Dickson, x Helm, x Helm, Jacqui Bannister
Front: Max Bannister, Peta Fleming, John Hull, Matthew Hull, Emma Hull, Jennie Hull, Shae Fleming