Norman John Walker
3-Norman John Walker was born on 13 Jun 1878 in Westbury, Tasmania and died on 18 Aug 1958 at age 80.
Norman married Florence Louisa Hingston, daughter of Robert Thomas Hingston and Elizabeth Dalton Walters, on 30 Apr 1898 in Longford, Tasmania. Florence was born on 22 Apr 1875, died on 4 Oct 1899 at age 24, and was buried in Oct 1899 in Uniting Church Cemetery, Hagley, Tasmania.
They had one daughter: Gladys.
Norman next married Hannah Louisa Agar on 8 Jun 1912 in Exton, Tasmania. Hannah was born on 1 Jul 1880 in England and died on 28 Feb 1971 at age 90. They had four children:
- John Henry Norman
- Mary Agar
- Norma Louise and
- Ursula Martha.
Norman married Florence Louise Hingston, sister to William. Their only daughter, Gladys, died without issue.
Norman's second wife, Hannah Louise Agar (Louie) was an English migrant whose family had operated a cabinet making business in Whitby, Yorkshire, for several generations. Norman and Louie's family of four arrived without mishap in the smart time of three years and four months, but in the succeeding generation one grandchild was lost at birth, and two through premature birth. Eight grandchildren reached maturity, and there are fourteen great grandchildren.
Of John and Martha's descendants only twenty-five survive, with nine spouses. A meagre total indeed, compared with the three and four figure tallies of other branches.
John's life was greatly affected by asthma. At various times he took up butchering, blacksmithing, and cartage contracting to escape the dusty conditions associated with harvesting and other aspects of farming, and for a period of three months he and Martha lived in Victoria while John attended an asthma clinic. All was to no avail, and "he died a worn out man" at a comparatively early age. He frequently sat up at night during asthma attacks in what would now be called a carver chair. It is still in Jack's possession, together with his watch and bible and a large screw driver, one of two dozen purchased for two shillings at a sale, and his portrait.
The only other thing inherited by Jack from John was the dimple on his chin. This according to Martha, the only person who could remember what John's chin looked like before he grew a beard. John was best remembered as a horseman. People paid him as much as a hundred guineas to train a pair of carriage horses, and Sir Thomas Reibey called on occasion when passing through Exton to "engage his services", He successfully handled stallions which had injured other men, and required the bull to work with the bullocks. Norman didn't approve of the latter practice, "but if you must do it he's best yoked with a stag" — i.e. an animal castrated at maturity instead of soon after birth.
John's daughter Mary and her husband William Kingston frequently spoke of a mare he had specially trained for them as a wedding present. She not only became a legend as the best hack in the district but saved William's life on a pitch dark, stormy night by stopping suddenly as a falling tree crashed past her nose.
Shortly before his death John presented his granddaughter Gladys, with a white horse named Cocky, who was a distinguished member of the family for some years. Long after his death a spot on the Bass Highway by the gate to "Mountain View" was pointed out at the place where Cocky collapsed in fright on suddenly meeting a large circus elephant which was being led along the road by its ear. "The circus wouldn't have been liable if Cocky had injured himself because the elephant was under control, and had a right to be on the road." Fortunately Cocky had soon scrambled to his feet, unhurt.
John was skilled at repairing machinery, including clocks, sometimes filing replacements for worn parts from scraps of metal, and a fine shot with his old flintlock, on one occasion shooting a large snake through the mouth as it reared up in front of him. On another occasion he caused local amusement by attacking an old white horse with his stick under the impression that it was a ghost. It was very late at night, and he was returning from a meeting of Rechabites. The locals also smiled at his habit of signing himself J.O.N. Walker to avoid confusion with other John Walkers. A number of cousins doubted this yarn, but Jack recalled seeing J.O.N. Walker in print on a stallion's handbill, and the late Layton Badcock recalled that John had been popularly known about Exton as Johnathon Obadiah Nahum Walker. Wife Martha and daughter Mary often referred to him as the gentleman of the family, and both Mary and Norman liked to talk about him, always with respect and affection and always calling him "Father". Norman said that he was very seldom chastised for misdeeds that merited a good hiding, but that John invariably flew into a rage if anyone ill-treated an animal, or caused it pain by careless harnessing or handling.
Of John's six grandchildren only Gladys and Zoe were born before his death.
Martha was described by her daughter-in-law, Louie, as the most capable person she had ever met. In addition to reigning supreme as a housewife and farmer's wife she was an extremely competent supervisor of all farming activities, and didn't hesitate to admonish anyone who wasn't putting his best foot forward. After John's death she kept a very close eye on Norman's farming activities, and became something of a holy terror to the hands. One who fancied himself as a bush poet described her efforts in a ballad of which only two lines have survived:
"It's not the skipper that we dread It's the popping up above the hills of Mum's old grey head".
Martha had an impish sense of humour which expressed itself in such pranks as sending a couple of small boys out to capture a bird by putting salt on its tail. Many people, said Mary, thought that Martha's behaviour was a trifle frivolous at times, and that Mary's was more like that of the sober, responsible parent. Mary's favourite example was the occasion on which they had been offered elderberry wine, and Martha had imbibed with sufficient freedom to make the return trip, by horse and trap, an awkward exercise.
For all its trials and tribulations John and Martha's married life appears to have been very happy. So she spoke of it not long before her death to Jack, who had been expressly summoned to talk to her alone. She was bedridden by then, but still bright and alert as she chatted about her father, and her "old man", and talked encouragingly about Jack's future, and refrained from moralising or exhorting, which was a great relief to Jack, who had anticipated something of that nature, but in fact enjoyed an amusing and stimulating talk.
Martha's niece Alma Dawes, an orphan, had been welcomed into Martha's home during girlhood, and remained there for many years, caring for her during the latter part of her life. When Alma married Selby Carswell and moved to "Drumreagh", near Deloraine, she took Martha with her, and Norman's daughter, Gladys, postponed training as a nurse to supply additional care.
Martha died at "Drumreagh" and was buried at Hagley, next to John, in that part of the cemetery that lies behind the Uniting Church. Although forever saddened by her failure to produce a sizeable family, Martha's daughter Mary enjoyed a prosperous life with her husband William Kingston, who owned and farmed "Hawthorn", Exton, for many years prior to his death.
They had begun fairly humbly — "They only had the two front paddocks when they started" — and for a few months early in their marriage William — Uncle Will to the family — worked elsewhere as a farm manager. They also moved for a time to Whitefoord Hills — the wagon bore the title "W. R. Kingston, Dunorlan", to the end of its days — but returned to Hawthorn. Here they throve, steadily extending their acreage to cross the Bass Highway and run down to the Meander River. They also frequently leased land from neighbours on near or adjoining properties.
"Hawthorn" was a mixed farm, with cows the mainstay, but pigs, sheep and horses also figure in the economy, and various crops were grown. It was regarded locally as a property on which the animals were notably well kept, and its cattle and horses met with success at shows.
Zoe early showed considerable artistic talent, studying first at Launceston Technical College and later in Adelaide. Probably her best work was with still life subjects in oils, as this was the area in which she won several awards at exhibitions, but she herself regarded pokerwork as the field in which she came closest to achieving pre-eminence. "It's only a silly little field of art", she said once while recovering from a breakdown, 4 'but I really was somewhere near the top in it". She had worked not only on wood, but on fine silk, pioneering in this and other material. She became lost to family and friends after moving to the mainland, and her whereabouts finally became known only after a chance encounter in Sydney with the late Lay Badcock. Although she had no intention of returning to live in Tasmania, she asked Lay to arrange for the burial of her ashes on her father's grave, and he subsequently carried out her request.
Norman Walker had a chequered career; even as a youngster he was the subject of gloomy forebodings ''because of the way he was brought into the world". A desperate Martha, after eleven years of unhappy, fruitless pregnancies, had finally consulted a Chinese Herbalist; according to the story by mail, in response to a newspaper advertisement. She was then asked to forward a lock of hair for analysis, and this having been done was duly embarked on a course of medicince. The herbalist may have been a rogue, but doesn't appear to have been a fool. A local practical joker — there were usually two or three about Exton — forwarded a lock of horse hair and was advised that the lady concerned would perform more satisfactorily if given regular meals of oats. Whether Norman's safe arrival was due to or in spite of the treatment was queried at the time, and later when things were going badly for him it was charitably suggested that he was the victim of constitutional sluggishness induced by the herbs.
Norman's early life was one of his brighter patches. He throve mightily, not only in physical growth but in general precocity. Martha recalled that he had insisted on being breeched a year or more earlier than was customary, and according to Norman himself at age eight he was sent regularly to the mill at Carrick with a wagon load of oats or wheat, returning with the flour or meal after the miller had retained his customary third. Long before this he had taught a half-bred mare, Topsy, to jump, practising on the slip rails in the cow paddock, and could not remember when he was unable to ride. At age eleven, said Norman, he had attained a weight of eleven stone and was sporting a moustache.
For much of his boyhood Norman would have been virtually an only child in an adult household which included John and Martha, an extremely capable older sister, and Martha's father John Dawes, who lived with them after his wife's death. Peter and Sylvia shared his life but briefly, and he was never heard to mention them, but according to Mary was greatly distressed by Sylvia's death. "She's all cold", he said, puzzled and upset.
As frequently happens when a child grows up with a group of adults, mastery of language was accelerated, and with it confidence and assertiveness in interpersonal relationships. "Cheek, some called it." An anecdote tells of his ordering the then Head Teacher of Exton School out of one of John's paddocks. Norman was then eight, and the teacher, a tall man, was carrying a gun. Scholastically Norman suffered through scanty and interrupted schooling; sometimes because he was needed at home, sometimes because he managed to avoid going. He described himself as the best reader in the school —when there — and the worst speller. For as long as Jack knew him, Norman read regularly and fluently, and loved to discuss what he had read. This applied particularly to the daily paper, which he usually read from cover to cover. But the less said about his spelling the better.
Norman's adolescence was a period of shadow and shine, brightened by the acquisition of a number of skills, shaded by dissatisfaction with some aspects of his lot. At times he was ashamed of his size, wishing for a weight low enough to perform as a jockey; at times fancied himself as a preacher or auctioneer. Some times blacksmithing appealed; but strongest and most lasting was the desire to become a doctor or vet. He spent hours performing postmortems on animals, persisting even when he could "hardly get near them for the smell," and in later life loved to deliver a running commentary as he dressed and jointed a carcase. As he became older he became increasingly interested in doctoring sick animals, later acquiring veterinary texts whenever he could.
All the above vocations involve performance by a central figure before an audience of some description, and anyone genuinely interested in any one of them could have felt a lack of challenge in the day to day monotony and anonymity of farm work.
Norman chafed against parental taboos on dancing and card playing, but didn't attempt to break them. He was allowed to compete at local sports, excelling at stepping the chain, and meeting with some success in equestrian events involving jumping. He liked to display feats of strength and horsemanship at picnics or other gatherings, and claimed to have been the first man to ride a horse over the fearsome steeplechase course at Deloraine — at a picnic. His parents early became worried at his propensity for falling into virtually instant, heavy slumber if sitting or reclining for a few moments during the afternoon or early evening; also by his difficulty in reaching full awareness when wakened of a morning.
Profound slumber was common enough amongst teenagers in the district because their days were long and arduous, but Norman appears to have surpassed his peers in depth and soundness. Many blamed the pre-natal effects of the Chinese herbalist's prescriptions; his parents may well have subscribed to this belief, and treated him leniently as a result.
He does appear to have matured physically a year or so earlier then usual — witness the moustache mentioned above, and could have exhibited drowsy, clumsy behaviour, so often evident during the adolescent growth spurt, at an unusually early age. If so, he must surely have suffered from comparison with less mature and hence more agile lads of like age. Norman outgrew difficulty in waking up of a morning, but was left with the problem of nodding off at the drop of a hat during the day. In adult life he saw himself as a victim of an unidentified malaise which he deplored but was unable to cure. At times he sought medical advice. On the last occasion, in early middle life, the doctor carried out a thorough physical examination and assured Norman that there was nothing wrong. "You're as strong as a horse." Norman then attempted to liven himself up by turning to patent preparations such as Clements Tonic and Krusehen Salts, and by his early forties had mastered the art of remaining awake throughout the day.
During his late teens Norman became increasingly restless. "I'd always be setting off somewhere or other on a flash hack", was his own half-ashamed, half-nostalgic description. "Dirty flashness", muttered sister Mary in a bitter moment. "A problem", John and Martha would have said. They evidently found him competent and reliable in individual tasks with an element of challenge, such as being sent off with a signed blank cheque at age thirteen to purchase a plough horse at a sale, but not so dependable when it came to remembering routine tasks; and there was the increasing likelihood that he would run away from home in search of something more interesting to do. The situation was not uncommon in their experience, nor was the solution they sought.
At age nineteen Norman was married to Florence Louise Kingston, four years his senior, at Cressy. Their only child, Gladys, was born in what later became the dining room at "Hawthorn", probably because Norman was working in partnership with William Kingston at the time. Florence's portrait subsequently hung in that room for many years, together with those of Michael and Sarah and their son John. Gladys was born on 24th July, 1899; Florence died on 4th October 1899 of consumption said to have been contracted while visiting the sick. Her portrait presents a smiling, comely face; two or three of her books survive; her tombstone in Hagley cemetery; memories of a devout and kindly lady. Although he spoke of Florence with affection and respect, Norman never quite forgot that parental encouragement had been a factor in his decision to marry. "The family wanted it because they thought it would make me settle down." He had settled down to some extent, but not sufficiently to dispel rumours that he had neglected Florence to some extent, presumably from over-frequent attendance at sales and other functions.
Norman farmed "Briar Hill", now "Mountain View", where Martha kept house for him. He was regarded as possessing reasonable opportunities for success. "He had a good farm", said Will Hingston, "and Granny stocked it for him". He appears to have done moderately well as a farmer, but to have gained his most note-worthy successes in other fields. As a horse dealer he cleared over a thousand pounds in a year during the Boer War and enjoyed another period of prosperity when he supplied four bullock teams to clear the site for Ashley Home.
The old restlessnes returned for a time, and he decided to try his luck in South Africa. He booked his passage, but when it came to boarding the ship found that he could not tear himself away from home, particularly Gladys. The cabin plan of the vessel was long preserved as a memento of the occasion, serving as lining in a chest of drawers until about 1930.
Norman remained unmarried for over eleven years, not through avoiding the ladies, but because of three or four narrow escapes from embarrassing situations. He was engaged to be married when he fell in love with Hannah Louise Agar, who was teaching at Exton School where her sister, Mary, was Head. Norman didn't jilt his fiance, explained the elders, but allowed her to jilt him to avoid damage to her reputation. Hannah Louise (Louie) had recently rejected a proposal from another farmer, also already engaged, but accepted Norman after a stage managed fit of coughing, followed by the disclosure that he suffered from sore throats and was in desperate need of someone to look after him.
The rejected suitor, who later became a member of parliament, remained a family friend for over forty years, and his fiancee, whom he ultimately married, was a close and life-long friend of Mary Hingston.
Louie had migrated from England as a girl, completed her schooling at Devonport where A. L. Brockett, later Chief Inspector of Schools, was Head Teacher and worked in the Education Department, serving at Beulah, where sister Mary was Head, before moving to Exton. Mary was followed at Beulah by J. A. Lyons, later Prime Minister of Australia.
Louie's previous experience of country life had been limited to a small property near Devonport which her father Henry cleared when not occupied with carpentry, cabinet making, or inventions of various kinds. The property was infested with snakes; a single small terrier, Dot, killed over sixty before being killed by snakebite, and a particularly large one was killed in the dairy. Eldest brother Harry, later second in charge of the Carriage Building section at Launceston Railway Workshops, tanned the skin and used it as a headband. Apart from the snakes, the main danger came from the masses of red hot coals left underground where large roots had been burnt out. It was all too easy for an unlucky foot to plunge through a thin layer of earth with drastic consequences.
The Agar family of eight grew up in Devonport, always regarding it as their home town. The two elder boys were involved in swimming, rifle shooting, boxing and yachting, Louie sang in choirs and acted in local theatricals, and Mary came under notice as a gifted and successful teacher. The eldest son, Harry, achieved notoriety both from participating in a noteable fist fight, and from leaving the Church of England to become a well-known Methodist preacher in surrounding country centres. A daughter, Mabel, also became a teacher and later married Will Lewis, a farmer, of Preston.
Henry took a prominent part in the building, by local effort, of a new hall, and gained something of a reputation as an onion grower, curer of hams, and wood carver. He came of an old Whitby firm of cabinet makers, rose to the position of Deputy Chief Inspector of Furniture for the City of London, proceeded to lead a merry life, and was finally shipped out under a cloud.
One of his inventions, a governor for marine engines, so impressed local businessmen that they formed a small company to finance his expenses on a promotional visit to England. The visit wasn't successful, nor did he succeed in other inventions. Some he did sell: of these one or two were bought cheaply by firms interested in seeing that the items concerned were not manufactured. Only one son, Joseph remained in Devonport, spending the whole of his working life with the Don Trading Company, of which he became Managing Director. Three of the family finally moved to Victoria with their parents, and for that reason Norman and Louie's marriage on 19th April, 1911, took place in Victoria. After honeymooning and buying furniture in Melbourne they commenced married life at "Briar Hill".
"Lou old woman", said Norman shortly after the marriage ceremony, "I believe I'm going to be truly happy for the first time in my life". Things began that way, and continued that way for two or three years. Louie, who had entertained some misgivings as to her adequacy as a farmer's wife, soon found that the role she was assigned differed substantially from what she had imagined, and further that she had been well prepared for it. She was an excellent cook and needlewoman and a thrifty manager; used to attending church regularly, could check accounts accurately, and above all could supply skilled help with correspondence. She sang and played the piano well, and as an actress could produce genuine tears on the stage. She was also a more than competent home nurse.
Norman and Louie's first three children, John, Mollie and Norma, were born at "Briar Hill".
John (Jack, for the first half dozen years of his life), left "Briar Hill" at three and a half years of age, but still cherishes clear and fond memories. Of "working" in the garden with eldest sister Gladys, a half-sister, yet as close and true as any full-sister could have been; of Gladys carrying him to call the cows; of the Lady Companion, Aunt Carrie, sister of Norman's first wife, with her accordion, and of her endeavours at teaching him to sing. The tunes were of a religious nature, and Jack soon learnt to bawl the chorus, "No! No! No!" — tunelessly, according to everyone except Auntie Carrie: ironically, because half a century later Jack was informed that the case load at Launceston Guidance Centre had risen to unwieldy proportions because he had never learned to say, "No!"
Dear, kind Auntie Carrie, beautifully mannered and well-read, like all the Hingstons Jack ever met, and yet with a born country woman's knowledge of farm life, must have been an ideal companion for Louie. As far as Jack was concerned, then and in later life, she was the staunchest supporter of a lad in trouble Jack ever knew.
Jack's most vivid recollections are of Cousin Alvin; in the normal course of events "Eaglehawk" would have prospered under Alvin, and Jack would have been sent there to live and work with him. Maybe Jack somehow sensed this; Alvin would have already known; but fate ruled otherwise. Louie fitted very well into the social life of Exton, making a number of friendships she recalled with pleasure in later life, and was comprehensively accepted by her mother-in-law, whom she greatly admired. She loved her hack, Briar Rose, the last of Norman's thoroughbreds, and her dog, Laddie, who was passed over to William Hingston when the family moved.
Two or three factors contributed to a change in Norman's financial position. One was the loss of a bumper crop of potatoes, easily the best crop he had ever produced. Consigned to Sydney, it was delayed on Devonport wharf by a strike, and much of it rotted. The remnant that finally reached Sydney didn't realise enough to meet shipping and storage costs: Norman was left with a debt of seven shillings and sixpence.
Another resulted from the outbreak of the Great War. Norman had concluded a lease on "Eaglehawk", a property near Kimberley. According to Norman a condition of the lease was that the owner would wire net "Eaglehawk", but with the outbreak of war the price of wirenetting doubled overnight, "Eaglehawk" wasn't wire-netted, and "in the finish the rabbits ate me out". Whatever the owner's version of the wirenetting may have been, there is no denying the grim fact of the eating out. The final blow at "Eaglehawk" was the departure of Cousin Alvin for active service in World War I. Alvin was living on "Eaglehawk", working as manager in some form of association with Norman and Alvin's brother Frank, and could surely have controlled the rabbits to some extent had he been able to stay. For Alvin, enlistment must have meant abandonment of a great opportunity. He had taken the vital first step from farm worker to manager of a property, and had started the clearing required to improve it to something better than a bush run. One of his last letters from "Eaglehawk" to Norman mentioned that 'Frank is about to start work with the disc plough'. In another letter, from the Broadmeadows Camp, Alvin writes that he sometimes wishes he was back on "Eaglehawk".
Norman must clearly have over-extended in the purchase of stock and gear for "Eaglehawk"; and Alvin simply couldn't be adequately replaced.
Although it was conceded that Norman had met with a certain amount of bad luck, his relatives saw pride and laziness as the chief reasons for his troubles. Towards the end he appears to have sunk into a kind of apathy, during which he neglected the stock. A similar attitude was observed in neighbours forced to part with goods and property, with hopes and aspirations. One, not being sold up but having decided that he would have to sell out and start again, was missing when the sale commenced and was found in bed when it was over.
Martha endeavoured to get Norman started again by delivering a stinging reproof in Louie's presence. "She blew Dad up", said Louie to an embarrassed audience of one, and then turning to me in anguish said, "Oh my girl, if he won't work for you and those lovely children, who will he work for". "Mum must have thought she was back on the stage", reflected the audience with a touch of the cynicism which sometimes helps one to substitute a non-committal reply for a more emotional one.
Came the day when Norman went out to meet the bailiffs with a loaded gun, but was persuaded to hand it over to Louie; the law took its course, and the family moved to the outskirts of Launceston. In the course of legal proceedings which took him to Launceston during the last few weeks at Exton, Norman had noticed land near Newnham which he believed would ultimately be subdivided as the city spread. He somehow managed to borrow sufficient money to acquire with a large mortgage, a property which included several acres of land and an orchard, operating in partnership with his wife and sister-in-law. Buildings included a substantial two storey house, an attached single storey house, and a large coach house complete with grooms' quarters.
The plan was to extend and remodel the coach house for sale as a dwelling, remove the attached house to another site on the property, and subdivide the rest for sale as building blocks. All was ultimately accomplished, but only after a period of several years during which the family went through a rather hard time.
Life at Newnham went happily enough at first, at any rate for the children. Louie's sister, Mary Agar, who was Head Teacher at Newnham School, boarded with the family, and her brother, Harry, rented the attached house.
But in spite of several glowing references from persons prominent in rural industry, Norman was unable to obtain a permanent position. Also, although Norman worked closely with "X", a prominent Launceston citizen who was acting as trustee in equity for the previous owner, the projected subdivision experienced one delay after another, and at the end of a difficult three years it seemed that the family would again find itself on the road. At this stage Mary Agar suggested that she should move to a country school, where Louie and the children could live with her in the school residence, while Norman remained at Newnham to salvage whatever might be saved. Mary, Louie and the four younger children accordingly moved to George Town, where they remained for five years. Gladys, who would have preferred to stay with her young brother and sisters, kept house for Norman for a short time before leaving home, first to a position as lady help on a large pastoral property, and later to a very successful career as a nursing sister. Norman visited George Town from time to time, and he and Louie corresponded regularly in affectionate terms; Norman preserved a number of these letters until his death. Meanwhile the subdivision had proceeded, and the mortgage had been reduced to a sum of the order of £300 or less, but by this time Norman and "X" had fallen out, probably because it was becoming apparent that there would be a substantial profit, and each had somehow convinced himself that he was personally entitled to the lot. "X" visited George Town and offered Mary and Louie £300 for their interest, plus his support and patronage in the future, but they declined without hesitation.
From George Town the family moved to the school house at St. Leonards, mainly to enable the family to attend Launceston High School, and remained there for seven years. The move coincided with Norman's decision to take up droving and dealing. He was immediately successful, and was soon in a position to pay off the remaining debt, but "X" refused to treat, claiming that the whole property was his anyway and he definitely wouldn't accept a low figure for it. Owing to a maze of technicalities beyond the layman's grasp the legal position apparently was that either could claim the property if he could get rid of the other, but there was no simple lawful means of doing this.
On one occasion "X" removed tanks, doors and windows while Norman was absent droving; Norman effected rough and ready repairs and sat tight, but in future always carried firearms in the jinker if absent droving for any length of time.
Apparently each opponent feared the other might "burn the place for the insurance", and strove to ensure that he was the one who paid the premium when it fell due and held either an existing policy or a new one. Honours in this comic opera area were apparently about even. The Insurance Company advised each in dry, non-committal terms as to what the other had done, but its officers must have been amused.
Finally "X" mentioned to Norman's brother-in-law, Harry, an old acquaintance, that the thing had been a great worry to him and he would like to see it finalised before he died.
There followed a visit from "XV lawyer. "Mr. 'X' wishes to be advised as to what sum you'd consider in return for vacating these premises", he said, or words to that effect. "Go back and tell CX' this is my circus and ask him what he'll take to get out", replied Norman. "Six hundred pounds", announced the lawyer at the next meeting, "He never thought I had it", said Norman. Norman finally realised enough from the Newnham land to purchase "Ashburn", a property of 1,329 acres situated at Carrick. By then, time had rolled on to the mid nineteen forties and the family had scattered.
Life at George Town had been generally happy, but difficult because Norman had frequently been out of work and unable to contribute a great deal towards family support. At St. Leonards, during the comparatively affluent droving days, life became marked by tension and bitterness, with an ever present fear of unwanted notoriety through physical violence of some description. The family could not reside at "Stainton" because of the insecurity of tenure, but Norman hung on there, cherishing the belief that things would somehow come right and enable him to lay the foundation of a family estate. Relatives frequently urged him to cut his losses, get the family together again, and divert to it money being salted away for possible legal expenses. A number of family squabbles resulted, and intensified when Jack, who had missed the first term at High School after a narrow squeak with a burst appendix, went droving with Norman. Jack enjoyed it, and Louie favoured the general principle, but others feared that it would interfere with his academic career, or health, or both. There was little direct effect on schooling, apart from occasional distress from inability to voice even a word in explanation of undone homework, or from the Principal's message that Mother had rung up "to see whether you were back at school".
Things came to a climax two or three years later in a heated discussion at "Hawthorn" at which Aunt Mary and Norman, Jack and Uncle Will were present and climaxed again three or four years later at St. Leonards, with Aunt Mollie and the whole family participating. Of the eight other persons involved, only three were ever again to speak to Norman, and of these Mary Kingston did so only a matter of weeks before her death in 1947. Gladys, too, had lost contact with him for a similar period.
The family then moved to the school house at Lower Sandy Bay, where Louie and Aunt Mollie lived until the latter's retirement in 1941. They spent the next several years in a cottage Aunt had acquired at Lower Snug, finally moving into Sunny side Rest Home in Hobart.
Right through the difficult years the family received generous, unstinted help from Mary Agar, and gifts of farm produce from "Hawthorn". "Hawthorn" was also a home away from home throughout the major portion of school holidays, except for Jack when droving. On the whole the days spent at "Hawthorn" were supremely happy, with plenty of good food and outdoor activity; socially stimulating because visits to neighbours with Auntie Mary were a regular feature, and mentally stimulating because of the stream of conversation which persisted throughout meal times and sometimes continued into the evenings.
Uncle Will must have exerted tremendous influence on the youngsters by sheer, quiet persistence in well doing. He was a great believer in early rising — "Up in the mornings the first thing", and would normally have the fire alight by half past five, put in eight hours a day in addition to milking, and read or chat until about eleven o'clock. Often as he read, one of his nieces would be seated in his lap, and another astride his neck. He had been their prime favourite for as long as they could remember, and for his part, according to Zoe, was always much happier when they were there. He had done a man's work from an early age. "He ploughed right through the winter he turned twelve, and you couldn't give him a word he couldn't spell", said Aunt Mary. Although a successful breeder of horses he regarded them as chancy creatures — "you never know when you've got them" — and maintained that "the best of all animals is the gentle cow". His cows became greatly attached to him: on one occasion two cows he had sold to a neighbour ran bellowing along the fence as he went by. He was also a great hand with dogs, and was held generally in high regard. "One of nature's gentlemen", said a sister-in-law. "It's fortunate animals that live here", said a neighbour. "The harvest's in, thanks be to God and Mr. Kingston", said the Irish wife of his Irish partner.
Aunt Mary, regarded by many as a bit of a tartar, was extremely versatile, competent at milking and buttermaking, riding and driving, cooking and sewing, raising orphan animals and nursing sick ones. However, she had long since been removed from the milk yard: early removal of his wife from the milk yard was one of the status symbols of a successful farmer.
Aunt Mary made her own soap, bread, and candles, mended the family's footwear, and did minor carpenter's repairs. She loved her garden, particularly her roses, and Uncle Will always made men available for garden work as required. She saw to the pruning, exhibiting with pride a pear tree that bore seven varieties of fruit, and ran the poultry, receiving any profits as personal income, as farmers' wives often did. Generous but forthright, she was unpredictable in conversation; sometimes amusing, sometimes shattering. "This is the man who might have been your father", said she, introducing a former suitor of Louie's to a couple of Louie's children. She could usually rise to an emergency, making a leather boot for an injured dog, and removing a cat's mangled foot with a knife while one of her nieces held him, but put her hands over her ears and ran when the doctor came out after removing Jack's appendix.
After satisfying herself that her relatives could fend for themselves, she left most of her money to the Methodist Church. "Trying to buy herself out of Purgatory, huh", commented an elderly neighbour, "She can't do that because it's no part of the Methodist religion".
Norman's children owed a bigger debt to Mary Agar than they could repay, not only for help related to physical needs, but for skilful teaching, not only in the classroom, but in such matters as gardening, poultry keeping, care of tools, carpentry and painting. Her reputation as a teacher was very high indeed. A Director of Education once told Jack that he knew of only one other teacher in the Department who could secure comparable tone and working spirit in a school, and at time of retirement there was only one other female teacher in the Department in charge of a school of comparable size. She was a great solver of mathematical problems, and a champion knitter, twice winning Australia wide competitions for knitted socks.
Norman remains an enigmatic figure. In the years following the move from "Briar Hill", several near relatives not only saw him as the black sheep of the family, but did not hesitate to hold him up to the young as a bad example.
The mere fact of going broke was a tremendous blow to the pride of a family that had always inclined to the view taken by Tennyson's old style Northern Farmer. A poor man was poor either because his forebears had been too lazy to get together anything to leave him, or because he was too lazy to earn anything himself. If you went broke, there was a very strong probability that you had been lazy. Later he was seen as placing selfish ambition before family well-being. Norman saw himself as striving to set up a prosperous future in which all would share. The essential basis for this, as the same old Northern Farmer said, was property; but in the process of acquiring it the family was having a hard time and responsibilities were being dropped in others' laps. Various matters Norman's family had never heard of before were resurrected from the past as exchanges beccame more bitter: examples of sluggishness; uncontrollable temper; ever-shrewd business deals; amorous escapades; lack of consideration for others; flashness; etc. On the other hand, his references included such terms as sober and industrious, and one, from a former landlord, that he had always paid his rent on time. On the whole they presented him in a very favourable light.
Louie said that whatever people said, he was "a kind man and a considerate man". Cousins encountered while droving welcomed him with affection and respect. But, as Norman himself admitted that charges against him were substantially correct, he remains an enigmatic figure.
Jack, with the possible exception of Louie the person Norman trusted most fully, would suggest that: He possesses a high level of ability in several areas, but was frustrated in an occupation he wouldn't have chosen; He early became convinced that he had somehow acquired habits he couldn't break; wrongly; He was basically both kind and proud, performing such good deeds as drawing horses' teeth for neighbours, or shoeing horses for fellow travellers, always refusing payment. There was no sign of nodding off in the droving days, which could commence at 3.30 a.m. and end after 10.30 p.m.; He was usually a dreamer and an optimist, but also had spells of deep cynicism.
His story is that of a man who somehow scrambled to his feet after being comprehensively flattened, leaving his grandsons Gregory and Gilbert to reach objectives he had hoped to reach in his own lifetime.
These were that each of his grandchildren should receive a substantial legacy from "Ashburn", which by the Grace of God should yet remain intact and within the family. He had been able to do little more than hand on grimly at "Ashburn", leaving not quite enough capital to meet probate, and a will that made it impossible to borrow capital by mortgage.
His two grandsons have loyally brought his wishes to fruition. They now own "Ashburn", which Gilbert has managed from the age of twenty-one, and each of the six other grandchildren has received an eighth of the value of "Ashburn" as at time of payment. The most tangible achievement of the branch has been the acquisition of "Ashburn" and its development. Another, development of the "Ashburn" Polwarth flock, which has secured top price at more than one wool sale.
More importantly, the acquisition of two spouses who have followed in the footsteps of Sarah, Martha and Louie as housewives. Jack's wife Gwen and Gilbert's wife Dawn have also served the community in various areas.
4-Gladys Walker was born on 24 Jul 1899 in Westbury, Tasmania and died on 18 May 1962 at age 62.
4-John Henry Norman Walker was born on 8 Jun 1912 in Exton, Tasmania. John married Gwenneth Cicely Parsons, daughter of Thomas Edwin Parsons and Ruby Rose Percy. Gwenneth was born on 20 Aug 1914 in Queen Victoria Maternity Hospital, Launceston. They had five children: Gregory John, Gilbert Michael, Janet Miriam, Robyn Felicity and Alison Nairn.
5-Gregory John Walker was born on 11 Aug 1940.
5-Gilbert Michael Walker was born on 7 May 1942. Gilbert married Dawn Elizabeth Winmill. Dawn was born on 14 Jun 1956. They had four children: Nairn Lyssa, Kylie Jane, Anita Dawn and Michelle Elizabeth.
6-Nairn Lyssa Walker was born on 28 Apr 1970.
6-Kylie Jane Walker was born on 24 Dec 1971.
6-Anita Dawn Walker was born on 2 Jun 1973.
6-Michelle Elizabeth Walker was born on 19 Mar 1978.
5-Janet Miriam Walker was born on 28 Dec 1948. Janet married Keith Brian Paul. Keith was born on 4 Mar 1938.
5-Robyn Felicity Walker was born on 29 Mar 1950.
5-Alison Nairn Walker was born on 12 Sep 1952.
4-Mary Agar Walker was born on 10 Jun 1913 in Exton, Tasmania and died on 12 Nov 1986 at age 73. Mary married Henry Arthur Winter. Henry was born on 22 Jul 1911 and died on 12 Nov 1986 at age 75. They had two children: Mary Lou and William Henry.
5-Mary Lou Winter was born on 23 Apr 1943. Mary married Harold Johnson. Harold was born on 8 Mar 1920.
Mary next married Donald Graeme Jones. Donald was born on 8 Mar 1938. 5-Wiliam Henry Winter was born on 19 Sep 1946. He served in the Vietnam War William married Cheryl Dawn Kirkham. Cheryl was born on 21 Aug 1949. They had two children: Michelle Ann and Mark Andrew.
6-Michelle Ann Winter was born on 3 Sep 1969.
6-Mark Andrew Winter was born on 21 Jul 1972.
4-Norma Louise Walker was born on 25 Oct 1914 in Exton, Tasmania.
4-Ursula Martha Walker was born on 21 Mar 1916 in Newnham. Ursula married Percy Edwin Parsons, son of Thomas Edwin Parsons and Ruby Rose Percy. Percy was born on 3 Apr 1911 in Launceston. They had two children: Ursula Mary and Edwin John.
5-Ursula Mary Parsons was born on 9 Aug 1940. Ursula married John Tate. John was born on 11 Jul 1940. They had five children: Jacqueline Lee, Mark Andrew, Deborah Jane, Lewis John and Amanda Louisa.
6-Jacqueline Lee Tate was born on 4 Nov 1962. Jacqueline married Shayne Murphy.
6-Mark Andrew Tate was born on 16 Jan 1964.
6-Deborah Jane Tate was born on 2 Mar 1967.
6-Lewis John Tate was born on 29 Sep 1968. Lewis married Josephine Louise Jestrimski, daughter of Donald Hugh Jestrimski and Kaye Vivienne Keeling, on 3 Feb 1996. Josephine was born on 29 Oct 1970 in Launceston. They had one son: Callum Alexander.
7-Callum Alexander Tate was born on 16 Nov 1997.
6-Amanda Louisa Tate was born on 16 Mar 1970.
Ursula next married Colin Maurice Kohl. Colin was born on 25 Jan 1938.
5-Edwin John Parsons was born on 21 Jan 1944. Edwin married Helen Fay Horan. Helen was born on 14 Feb 1948. They had three children: Nicole Elizabeth, Bronwyn Anne and Jocelyn Mary.
6-Nicole Elizabeth Parsons was born on 13 Aug 1973.
6-Bronwyn Anne Parsons was born on 27 Jul 1975.
6-Jocelyn Mary Parsons was born on 5 Feb 1979.