Mason Gwendolyne

A Place in the Bush at Carmel 1920's by Gwendolyne Mason

I was a child when the world was new and beautiful. Right down the bottom of the paddock where the ti-tree thicket grew and the creek meandered through, hurrying on its way, I use to sit so quietly, to watch for “Dilly” my pet duck. She had a “stolen nest”, tucked somewhere among the reeds and rushes. While I watched and waited I’d spy big tree frogs; all green and gold, sitting up on high the blue wrens trilled as they flitted by, bright red breasted robins, spine billed honey-eaters too; the hum of the bees so busily gathering honey dew.

“Dilly” very quietly appears, her nest all hidden, so cleverly camouflaged with feathers and down she’d plucked from her breast, to cover creamy eggs, about a dozen now, then, very quietly she departs to where the creek becomes a pool. Here, dragonflies, red and silver and blue shimmer in the morning sun. There in the water I spied dark grey gilgies and lots of tadpoles, some nearly frogs. So many things to see and do.

Snow white pipe clay to mould things from and leave to set in the sun, take some up to the house to clean the big wide hobs, so white and clean, each side of the open fire place, where on a winters night, when the rain and wind on the iron roof was like music to our ears, with logs aglow, the whole room warmed, the big rug on the floor in front we’d doze before finally off to bed.

Up in the morning bright and early, each one their chores to do, cow to milk, horse to feed, chooks and pigs and calves to feed. Breakfast over, lunches to cut, washed and changed for school, 15 minutes before the bell would ring, one and a half miles to run, can’t be late.

Gwendolyne Mason - Memories of my Early Life

By Gwendolyne May Herbert (nee Mason) compiled in 1982

Before I get too old to remember I am writing down for those who come after what I know of our family background and a little about growing up in the bush at Carmel, previously called Heidelberg.

My father was Ernest John Mason, born 8th November 1876 at Cannington. My mother was Flora Jane Oyston , born 18th January 1881 at Gawler in South Australia. Flora was a mere 15 (nearly 16) years old, when she came to Western Australia from South Australia, as a nursemaid to the family of Mr. and Mrs. J. Overton on the sailing ship S.S. Innaminka, named after a town in South Australia. It berthed at Albany, on the way to Fremantle, on 15th December 1896. Ernest and Flora were married in the Church of England at Guildford on 13th September 1897 or thereabouts. Flora was only 17 years old.

My father’s parents were John Mason and Agnes Melville and my great Grandfather was Thomas Mason, a brother of Benjamin Mason of jarrah timber fame. A number of historical places commemorate the Mason family name such as Mason Street at Cannington – associated with the Mason & Bird Timber company at Mason’s Landing on the Canning River – and Masonmill Road at Carmel.

HERBERT (Bert) tallest, BEVERLY JOHN next tallest standing, VERA ELLEN seated, LAWRENCE ALBERT youngest c1912

My parents came to the vicinity of Carmel about 1906 from Bakers Hill. Dad was a teamster and was also a very good judge of horses, especially draught horses. They had acquired some land at Carmel sometime before this – “six acres or thereabouts” – was recorded on the title deed, bought from a Mr. Fawkes for 25 pounds (50 dollars). By this time they had three children, Herbert Ernest, Beverly John and Vera Ellen. Vera was three years old when they moved to Carmel. Their first house was a timber frame covered with hessian.

Until the First World War the district was known as Heidelberg but it was later renamed Carmel. The school and church was Wesleyan. It was quite isolated in those early years with the nearest neighbours one or two miles away. Dad continued working in the timber mills and was away from home all during the week, arriving home late on Saturday afternoons, often having to bring the team horses with him. My mum and the kids evidently set about clearing the bush so that eventually some fruit trees could be planted. Bullock drawn log teams used to pass through the block with their load of logs for some years until my brother Laurie was around two or three years old. All bread was home made – a sack of plain flour was always on hand, so that it would not be too new – old flour made the lighter bread.

Although I was not born until 1917, I was quite small when I can remember my older brothers going out with their kangaroo dog to get a ‘roo for meat. The dog would run it down and kill it and then come back to show the boys where it was. These dogs were much like greyhounds but were bred to kill a ‘roo and show where it was without touching it. There was always a milk cow or two, a dozen or so chooks and ducks and our lovely, faithful, “all-round” horse, Nancy. We younger children all learned to ride on her and she would be harnessed up to the cart or sulky and off we’d go to visit etc. On Sundays one of us would hop on her back and canter up to the shop at Pickering Brook store to get the Sunday Times (cost four pence (five cents), which used to come from Perth on the midday train. Often the cows would wander off and then one of us had to go on Nancy to find them. The old horse knew every bit of the bush for miles around. Then, when the land needed ploughing or cultivating, the same horse would be used to do all that too. Oh yes, a good “all-round” horse was a great asset in those days.

The kangaroo skins would be pegged out on the wooden walls to dry and then saltpetre would be rubbed into them to cure them. The skins were used for mats mostly as there were not any carpets for the floors – just jarrah boards. If you were very lucky you may have had a bit of lino on the floorboards. The first kitchen I can remember had a floor made from anthill. Crushed up fine and rolled down well, it would set like concrete and could be swept in the same way. There was a Metters No.2 stove – all cooking and baking depended upon that stove, and it was most welcome during the winter to warm our frozen fingers.

Later on my parents had four rooms built by Mr. Frank Wilson Senior. I don’t know when that was built but it was about the same time as the Seventh Day Adventists came to the district. Evidently they had some builders in their community who would have been very pleased for my father to give them the building job. However, he had already spoken to Mr. Weston and decided to let him do the job. Much to Mum’s disgust it was a fairly crude structure which emerged – four rooms, weatherboard and corrugated iron roof, and no linings or ceilings. Mum later lined it all with hessian and lime washed it. Believe it or not, it was very cosy. In one room was a huge fireplace where great logs used to be burned in the winter time. The hobs either side were about fifteen inches wide and always spotlessly white washed with snow white clay carried up from the creek bed which ran through the orchard, and stored under the house. It was so white that we used to clean our tennis shoes with it when we grew old enough to play – that was how white it was.

REPAIRING HOUSE AT UNION ROAD, CARMEL c1926 From L. - R. : HERBERT ERNEST MASON ON LADDER, LAWRENCE ALBERT MASON HOLDING UP GUTTER, BEVERLY JOHN MASON STANDING ON CHAIR. It is not known who the younger children are - possibly Robert Melville Mason on trike, and Gwendolyne May Mason standing in doorway.

Times were very hard and people had very little money. Men worked very long hours for small wages and my dad often slept in the bush when he was log hauling or sleeper cutting. He would lean great slabs of bark stripped from jarrah logs up against a fallen tree and he would sleep underneath. There was no thought of complaining about conditions or the long hours worked. Mum worked just as hard. With no man around to help she had to do everything. Washing was all done in galvanised iron tubs using a washing board and boiled in a big iron cauldron over an open fire outside. Water was caught from the roof in wooden barrels and in summer time, to avoid having to carry water up to the house in buckets the washing would be taken close to the well where it could be easily dipped out. It was unheard of to walk up to the house (from the orchard) without carrying a bucket of water with you. It was many years before we got a 1000 gallon rainwater tank and my mother never had any plumbing in her lifetime. Dishes were washed up in the sink and the dishwater would be used to keep a precious plant alive. All the kids had their allotted jobs to do as we became old enough. Little ones had to feed the chooks and ducks, the next eldest had to tether the calf out while the oldest had the horse to feed and the cow to milk while another would be helping to get breakfast and make the school lunches.

In 1922 I can remember how excited we were when some new people were coming to live near us. Their name was Mr. and Mrs. Alec Mitchell and they had four or five children. Also, around this time, another family by the name of Fernie arrived, and while they lived much further away, we all went to the same school. We all knew each other fairly well and we would think nothing of walking three or four miles to visit our friends.


Yes, they were very hard days – but very clean and healthy growing up days. We children use to make our own fun, building our own toys etc. Two sets of iron wheels and joined with a few boards, a piece of rope to steer with, and we had ourselves a hill trolley. Then on weekends we would go to our cubby house up in the top paddock where we would have a fire and bake potatoes – just put them in the coals for half an hour. We always had salt and pepper in a jar to season them with. When the passionfruit were ripe we would gather them up in our pinny’s (pinafore) or skirt and pinch some sugar and scalded cream and we would have a feast. If you have never had fresh passionfruit with scalded cream and sugar you haven’t lived. Yum!

Ernest John and Flora Jane (known as Jane) Mason had at total of 9 children;
Herbert Ernest born 21st February 1899 died 17th August 1942 (POW – Rat of Tobruk).
Beverly John born 19th May 1901 died 1969 (ex Merchant Navy and W.A. State Shipping).
Vera Ellen May born 13th December 1903 died 26th September 1984.
Lawrence Albert born 26th January 1909 died April 1964 Melbourne (Ex R.A.N.).
Mavis Alwynne born 20th December 1915 died October 1962.
Gwendolyne May born 23rd May 1917 died 29th July 2000.
Ernest Edward born 18th August 1919 died 13th February 1987.
Robert Melville born 9th September 1921 died 15th February 1942 (HMAS Yarra 2 Singapore).
Sadie Olive born 28th January 1925 died 30th September 1928 (only 3 years 8 months old).

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Reference: Article: Supplied by Ross Herbert

Images: Ross Herbert