About the author
Schon Bryan, her husband and two grown up children currently reside on the Gold Coast. Schon spent all her early life and into her teens on the family farm at Sprent on the North West Coast of Tasmania.
She left the farm to attend Teachersí College in Launceston and taught for 25 years in the Tasmanian Education department.
For the past 11 years, she has been a supply teacher for Education Queensland and Catholic Education Queensland.
is my story. This is not about my ancestors who were convicts anyway, but about
me. I was born into a family of sixteen siblings. Actually my mother is said to
have given birth to eighteen children but I have no proof of this. It has just
been something spoken about over time. One such story was that my heavily
pregnant mother became squashed between two cows whilst helping in the dairy and
as a result she miscarried delivering a stillborn child. As concerns the other
story I have no idea. However if that were the case, then I am the sixteenth
child and my two younger sisters are numbers seventeen and eighteen in the
people discover that I am one of so many, the usual comment is: Didnít
your parents have television in those days? A
comment that to this day irritates me, because it is so shallow, even if
some people think it amusing. I truly believe that these same people cannot
envisage the truly wonderfully blessed and unique life that only one of a large
family can experience.
mother was someone really special. She was born in 1896 and worked as a
housekeeper for a family in a small rural community called Spalford, less than a
kilometer from Sprent on the North West coast of Tasmania. She married my father
in Ulverstone at the age of nineteen and as newly weds lived in a small house
which was attached to the Church of England in Sprent. A year or two later Dad
purchased the property which he named
Redbourne where I was born and raised. Sprent consisted of a local general
store, a garage, the local post office, a shop where as children we would buy
lollies and ice-cream if we were that lucky and of course a hall where the local
dances and balls were held. Whenever there was a dance or a ball everyone in the
community would be involved in decorating the hall, and someone would canvas the
town in order to find out who would contribute towards the supper. These balls
were the social highlight for the country folks and even as youngsters we were
allowed to attend. There were always prizes awarded to the two best-dressed
women known as the Belle and Matron of
there was the school. It was known as the Sprent Area School and it had been
built to accommodate children from the surrounding districts. It was designed to
teach farming children a little about farm management as well as the usual
classroom lessons. It was a lovely new building in those days and had its own
assembly hall and change rooms. On wet days, I remember as kids we would spend
the lunch hour square dancing in the hall. It was great fun. We were a small
tight knit community, where everybody knew one another.
the age of twenty my mother gave birth to a child almost every year and was in
her late forties when she delivered her last child, my youngest sister. My
fondest memories of her are of the times she worked beside me in our dairy where
every day, before and after school, we milked seventy odd cows together, during
which time she would patiently listen to me rattling off all my facts and
figures for any upcoming school exams. I can never erase from my memory the
talks we shared and the guidance she so gently gave me during these precious
times that I shared alone with her.
think Mum was sixty when we all chipped in enough money to buy her a new outfit.
I remember it was coloured pink. She went to stay with one of my older sisters
in Melbourne and the outfit was for her to wear to the Melbourne Cup. This was
the first time she ever had a holiday, and the first time she ever traveled
outside of Tasmania. She was an extremely hardworking woman, always quipping
that hard work never killed anyone
and lived a strong and independent life well into her mid eighties. She died in
1981 aged eighty five. She could possibly have lived longer, but sadly she never
recovered from a broken hip that disabled her dreadfully.
on the other hand was born in 1893 and died in 1951. He was only fifty eight
years old. I was just fourteen years old. Dad too was a hard worker and was a
farmerís labourer all his life. My distinctive memory of him, was giving me six shillings and
eight pence each time I was top of my class in my exams. This of course was
equal to about one pound over the course of the year. Not that I like to brag,
but I topped every exam, every year, and I suppose today my name is still etched
on the honors board at my old school in gold letters class as dux of the school
in my hey day.
the year Dad died, which was exactly one week before Christmas, he had promised
me a watch if I topped my class. Death didnít really sink in with us kids,
even at the age of fourteen which I was, and the only thing on my mind was if I
would get my watch or not. As it happened I did receive my watch, because
unbeknown to me at the time, my older brother who was already married had been
asked by Dad to purchase it for me. For some reason or other, I was not at
school the day Dad died. I remember he came into the house after checking on
some cows and complained to my mother how tired he was. He went to rest on his
bed. Mum went to check on him at some time later in the day and discovered he
had passed away.
harboured mixed feelings for my father. There were times when he was warm and
attentive. We all loved it when he allowed us to rub salt in his scalp while he
read the evening paper after supper. This was supposed to prevent further
balding. I also distinctly remember one Boxing Day that we all spent down at
Ulverstone beach. Dad was really relaxed and jovial and let us young ones cover
him with sand. To this day I find it strange that I remember that day.
there were other times when it was as though none of us ever existed. He could
be very stern. He was, without a doubt be very strict man, and I have vivid
memories of him taking the strap to my big brothers, who through my young eyes
looked like grown men. I can still shut my eyes and see them all running down
the lane just to avoid him. How we dreaded that strap. It hung next to the big
open fireplace in the dining room next to Dadís chair. It was the same strap
that he used to sharpen his razor, but we all discovered that it had other
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