This is a transcript of the talk Lorna Clayton gave as the guest speaker at the Wyong District Pioneers Dinner on Saturday, 20 October 2001.
At the first District Pioneer Dinner in 1915 one of the speakers was my grandfather William SMITH Jnr.
William SMITH Jnr’s, story commences well before 1915. He was born at McDonald River and at 21 years of age, he rode his horse with all his worldly goods on a pack horse, he came to his property at the corner of Jilliby Road, and Little Jilliby Road. He pitched his tent and on the 11 July, 1881 became a resident of Jilliby.
The Residents were very few at the time in Jilliby, he was the first Smith there and in the years to follow, he became known throughout the Central Coast and beyond as ‘JILLIBY SMITH’.
My grandfather did not have any skills in carpentry and was fortunate to engage one of the few residents who lived there to build him a two-room cabin from sawn timber slabs.
When this was completed he returned to McDonald River and in early 1882 he married his betrothed Many Ann SHEEN at St Albans. Together they rode back to their cabin, Mary Ann riding side-saddle of course. They eventually had a comfortable family home of weatherboards built where they lived for the rest of their lives. Their firstborn was a son Alfred Ernest SMITH, who was my father, then two daughters Mable and Beatrice, which completed William and Mary Ann’s family.
William SMITH Jnr, was a teamster and farmer, he was very involved in the community and played a prominent part in having the school built at Jilliby, which was officially opened in May 1889. The first school teacher was William BALDWIN, he boarded with my Grandparents for 15 years until he married, he continued teaching at the school for a few more years and when he left the school the residents of Jilliby presented him with an illuminated address in appreciation for his services for “nigh” on twenty years. At the bottom of that illuminated address is the signature William SMITH.
He was proud of the fact that he drew the timber for the first building in Wyong. Also he was pleased to have witnessed the arrival of the first Ballast Train to come to Wyong on a newly constructed rail line.
He was also one of the early suppliers to the Wyong Butter Factory, when it opened in November 1907. He was elected to the Board of Directors in 1909 and from 1909 to 1929 he had spent some 16 years on the Board. This could well have been more, however, in 1913 he was not successful in the outcome of a tied vote situation or maybe it could well have been 18 of those 20 years.
My grandparents welcomed travellers and many ministers of any denominations, they had a meal and mostly stayed overnight. One of the travelling parsons told my grandfather a story he liked to relate about coming across a bullock wagon stuck in a creek crossing, the bullock driver was “cursing up a storm” in language not fit for a parson’s ears. The parson tried to pacify the teamster and told him “not to take the Lords name in vain, put your faith in providence son”. “Providence”, came the teamsters angry reply, “He is the laziest so-and-so bullock I have in the team”.
William SMITH Jnr, was a staunch Methodist and helped to establish the Methodist Church in Wyong. At Jilliby he was the Sunday school superintendent for about 30 years, and was a lay preacher for the Church. For about 20 years. He would conduct the Church services at all three places, Jilliby, Dooralong and Kanwal. On some Sundays he would conduct the Church services at all three places, (my sister Thelma told me of this), and would go with him in the sulky if grandma was not well enough to attend.
In 1932 relatives and friends packed the hall at Jilliby to celebrate the Golden Wedding Anniversary of William and Mary Ann SMITH. The residents presented them with a pair of seagrass chairs. The youngest granddaughter presented her grandmother with a bouquet of flowers. The master of ceremonies for the evening was a family friend and well known local identity Darcy ROSE, on the stage he commented on the curly-haired four-year-old’s pretty dress and quick as a wink she lifted the hem of her dress saying, “And pants to match”. I can assure everyone here today, I no longer flash my undies at potential parliamentarians nor existing ones.
My grandfather was slow to anger, he always spoke in a very precise manner, a deliberate delivery. My grandma’s words came at a rapid pace. I recall one day when I was about eight or nine years of age, when I went to stay with my grandmother who had not been very well, whilst grandfather attended a church function. Upon his arrival home I had prepared his afternoon tea and I had just taken the teapot to the kettle on the fuel stove as he came into the kitchen, “BE CARFUL CHILD YOU MIGHT SCALD YOURSELF!” was his great concern. “LEAVE HER ALONE YOU!”, was grandma’s snappy reply, “She is more capable of making a cup of tea than you are, Zillah hasn’t reared a useless girl yet”, and I was Zillah’s number five.
At the church bazaars when afternoon tea was served, the ladies took delight in asking grandfather, if he would like another cup of tea, he would always reply “Yes please, just an eighth of a cup” and the story goes that this would happen three or four times, and he always said “Just an eight of a cup” and they would fill the cup each time. Grandfather liked his tea.
I can remember in the late 1930s my grandfather saying to my mother, “I don’t know what the world was coming to, the girls of today think no more of showing their thighs than the girls of Mary Ann’s day would think of showing their ankles”. I am thankful for my grandfather’s sake that he was spared the sight of a girl in a bikini.
My grandparents, like most pioneers, would have faced many hardships, such as crop failures, floods, and droughts. My grandparents had family sorrows, such as watching their son and daughter-in-law’s first born who lost his battle for life at the age of nine months. The loss also, of a young son-in-law as a result of wood chopping accident. Then they took their widowed daughter and six-month-old grandson back into the family home. Then to live to see their only son, my father, die at the age of 53 years. These must have been devastating times for them, they had great faith in the Lord and they rejoiced with their family in the many good times they had.
Had my grandfather been asked to write a caption for his life, I am confident the epitaph of William SMITH Jnr, may well have been – “I ASKED FOR AN EIGHTH OF A CUP, AND MY CUP RUNNETH OVER”.
Lorna M. CLAYTON