Dr Mark A Schembri

Dr Mark A Schembri:  BSc (Vet) Hons (I) BVSc Hons (Syd.) MACVS MRCVS MPH (Harvard)

Featured Image: Dr Mark Schembri at Harvard

Sometimes I push the boundaries; and make claims where I might be a bit elastic with the truth? I have written elsewhere about Scone Veterinary Protégés. The association has sometimes been tenuous with the one common factor being me. I’m making similar claims with this tribute to a rising, rising star who I first met at the RAS of NSW RES 1997; the last Easter Show at the old Moore Park site. I was a new Councillor and Mark a brand new undergraduate veterinary panel volunteer. I’ve acted as mentor and referee; most notably for Mark to receive the General Sir John Monash Award Scholarship in 2009. He’s now on the selection panel himself. This is his story in a nutshell.

His list of achievements is astounding to say the least. It’s far easier to provide the following links because it’s just about impossible to write about him without making it a very long list indeed.





The Sub-Warden lives on-site and is responsible for discipline, pastoral care and assisting the Warden.

Dr Mark Schembri was appointed in July 2012. He is a graduate from The University of Sydney with Honours degrees in Science and in Veterinary Science, and also of Harvard University with a Master in Public Health.

Mark has a distinguished record as an equine veterinarian where he also serves as a member of the Australian College of Veterinary Surgeons in Theriogenology. In 2001 he received First Prize for Equine Medicine in the University’s Faculty of Veterinary Science. In 2007 he was elected the youngest-ever councillor of the Royal Agricultural Society and presently serves as chairman of its Veterinary Committee. In 2008 he was appointed to help with the Australian Equine Olympic team for the Beijing Games. In 2000 he was coordinator of the Student Team for the Equestrian Events at the Olympic Games Sydney. For twelve years he was the Veterinary Surgeon Director of Theriogenology at the Agnes Banks Equine Clinic in Sydney. He is presently a veterinarian for the Australian Turf Club and he loves working at the beloved Randwick racecourse. He was a Crown Prince of Dubai scholar in 2001, completing his scholarship at the Dubai Equine Clinic. He was the Australian Equine Veterinary Association scholar in 2004 when he completed sabbatical study at Texas A&M University.

In 2009 he was awarded the General John Monash Scholarship for study in the United States and spent two years at Harvard. His two research projects in the Harvard School of Public Health involved the creation of an educational model to guide epidemiologists and medical professionals on infectious disease modelling to predict outbreak progression and developing a computer-based interaction case study to simulate real life infectious disease outbreaks. At Harvard he lived at Kirkland House, where he was academic and music tutor. He also rowed for Dudley House, and he was veterinarian to the Harvard horse polo team.

He was a championship debater at school and University. He is also a keen musician (clarinet and trumpet) and he was Musical Conductor and Director of the Sydney World Youth Day Orchestra, in which he continues to organise annual Christmas carols and community musical events. In 2001, he presented the World Youth Day Sydney bid to Pope John Paul II on behalf of the youth organising committee. He has also been vice-captain of the Maroubra Surf Life Saving Club Patrol. He has served as a race announcer and commenter at the Surf Life Saving Australian Championships.He is a keen lecturer/tutor in Veterinary Science, Chemistry, pre-medical subjects, and Mathematics, and has taught at the secondary and tertiary levels. In 2011, he was recognised as Educator Partner of the Year by the Veterinary Faculty at the University of Sydney for his teaching.

Mark provides advice on international studies and scholarship applications, and is currently serving on the national selection panel for the General Sir John Monash Scholarship.

Mark lives with his wife Sarah and two year old daughter Abigail in the eastern Denison apartment.

Having achieved just about everything in Veterinary Medicine Mark has just graduated in Medicine and has embarked on a second career in human health at RPA. There’ll be no stopping him I believe.

Dr Bill Howey  BVMS (Edinburgh) MACVS MRCVS GradDipEd

Former Director, Post Graduate Foundation in Veterinary Science

University of Sydney

Former Chairman, Veterinary Committee

Royal Agricultural Society of NSW

Sydney Olympic Park

NSW 2047

+61 4 0868 5296


Rev Bill Clarke

Rev Bill Clarke

Caring minister who also left his mark with music

Obituary: Rev Bill Clarke

Sat, Mar 4, 2017, 05:41


This is the story of my ‘favourite Uncle’ who inspired me to go out and achieve whatever I could.

Featured Image: My Uncle the Rev Billy Clarke keeping wicket to my daughter Kirsty (his great niece) on the back lawn of the Manse at Omagh in c. 1990.

Rev Bill Clarke: Born October 18th, 1924 – Died February 12th, 2017

Rev Bill Clarke, who has died in his 94th year, was a Presbyterian minister noted for pastoral care, empathy for the disadvantaged and sick, and commitment to education. During his long ministry, he served in Dundalk and then Omagh.

He was noted for his healing ministry, which attracted people from a variety of backgrounds. As an educationalist, he served as a governor of several schools in Tyrone and Louth, and as chair of the Western Education and Library Board.

Home wine-making was one of his hobbies. Visitors to his home greatly admired his vintages. He was also a link to the small group who kept uileann pipe playing alive in the first half of the last century. His father William Clarke made one of the first commercial recordings of uileann pipe playing, in 1928. His son was proud to live to see a plaque in his honour unveiled in their native Ballybay, Co Monaghan.

Robert William Wylie Clarke was born just outside Ballybay, Co Monaghan, in October 1924, youngest of three children, two boys and a girl, to Robert William Clarke, a clock-maker and jeweller, and his wife Margaret (née Johnson).

House full of music

The young Bill Clarke grew up in a house full of music. As well as being an uileann piper, Robert William Clarke played the bagpipes in a local pipe band. As a child, Bill Clarke used often listen to groups of musicians play at night in the house which was a meeting place for musicians, uileann pipers in particular.

These were an eclectic bunch, including James Ennis of Dublin, father of piper and folklorist Séamus Ennis, and Br Gildas, an uileann-piping De la Salle Christian brother from Kerry. Tragically, William Clarke died of tuberculosis when his younger son was nine, and the music was stilled.

The Rev Clarke was educated at Hall St National School, Ballybay; the Masonic School, Dublin; and Trinity College Dublin, where he studied English and French. After Trinity, he studied for the ministry, first at Edinburgh University, then at Assembly’s College, Belfast.

Prior to ordination he was a student assistant minister in an Edinburgh church. During that time, he spent the summer supplying the pulpit in parts of the Orkney Islands.

After ordination, he was assistant minister in McQuiston Memorial Church in Belfast. For over 20 years he ministered to the congregations of Dundalk, Carlingford and Castlebellingham.

In 1971 he moved to Tyrone, as Minister of Trinity Church, Omagh, and Gillygooley. Afterwards, he was fortunate to enjoy over quarter of a century of retirement. During much of it, he supplied the pulpit in churches in the Derry and Donegal Presbytery. However, he faced personal tragedy later in life, with the deaths of his wife and only son.

He is survived by his daughter-in-law Kathryn; grandchildren Alice, Adam and Daniel; and sister-in-law Martha. He was predeceased by his wife Alice, and son Liam.

Reverend Robert William Wylie (Bill) Clarke, who spearheaded healing ministry in Omagh dies at 92

Belfast Telegraph: February 14 2017

Reverend Bill Clarke

The Rev Robert William Wylie (Bill) Clarke, a former long-serving minister of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Omagh and a noted educationalist in the area, has passed away aged 92.

Rev Clarke was the father of the Belfast Telegraph’s former Political Editor, Liam Clarke, who died in December 2015.

Born in 1924 in Co Monaghan, Rev Clarke was educated at Trinity College Dublin where he obtained a BA and MA, and was installed and ordained in Dundalk Presbyterian Church in October 1949.

He remained there until May 1971 when he became minister to the Trinity and Gillygooley congregations in Tyrone.

Rev Clarke served there until his retirement in 1992.

He was the first occupant of the new manse at Trinity which was completed shortly after his installation and during his ministry a further extension to the church hall was planned and completed. The church organ was also fully restored.

During his time in Omagh he was officiating chaplain at Lisanelly Army base – standing in for the padre when required – and he was also a driving force behind the establishment of a healing ministry in the area which still continues today.

Rev Robert Herron, who succeeded Rev Clarke at Trinity, said: “Bill had a great empathy with those who were sick or disadvantaged and that may have resulted from his own experience of losing his father when he was quite young.”

Rev Clarke was chairman of a number of boards of governors in the Omagh area and also a member of the Western Education and Library Board for a time.

At one stage he was appointed president of the Association of Education and Library Boards.

After his retirement Rev Clarke and his wife Alice went to live in Eglinton, Londonderry, where Alice died in April 2011.

In his later years Rev Clarke stayed at a nursing home in Ballymena.

During his earlier life he was a keen fisherman and enjoyed boating on the lakes of Fermanagh.

He kept a boat moored near Castle Archdale and he was also a keen shooter.

Another pastime in which Rev Clarke took great pleasure in was making his own wine – and according to friends he was generous in sharing the fruits of his labour.

His father William was a noted piper and one of the first people to make a commercial recording of uilleann pipe music. He also played the traditional Scottish bagpipes and pipers from all over Ireland, and of all traditions, would call at his home in Monaghan to discuss the music.

A clockmaker and jeweller by trade, he died just short of his 45th birthday from tuberculosis.

Rev Clarke’s funeral service will take place at Faughanvale Presbyterian Church in Eglinton tomorrow and he will be buried in the adjoining graveyard.

He is survived by his daughter-in-law Kathryn, grandchildren Adam, Daniel and Alice, and sister-in-law Martha.

Belfast Telegraph

William Clarke: The Ballybay Piper

William Clarke: The Ballybay Piper

This is the story of my maternal (Irish) grandfather William Clarke.

See also: http://www.politics.ie/forum/history/216146-william-clarke-ballybay-piper.html

In the course of making over 50 programmes for the RTÉ radio series ‘The Irish Phonograph’ it has often occurred to me how lucky the followers of Irish traditional music are in some of the fortuitous decisions made many years ago to make recordings of particular musicians.  Some of these recordings are invaluable today, giving us an insight into styles and repertoires which may now no longer exist and examples of playing and techniques from musicians who would only be names to us without the recordings

The story of William Clarke illustrates these points for us, being one of the earliest Uilleann Pipers to make commercial recordings and yet very little being known of the man or his musical background.  The research required to provide answers for these questions for an ‘Irish Phonograph’ programme on his records, allows us a glimpse at life and music as was in County Monaghan at the beginning of this century and provides the material for this article.

My thanks are due to Rev Bill Clarke of Omagh, son of William Clarke and to George McCullagh of Ballybay, friend and pupil of the piper.  Additional information was provided by Louis McElgunn of Lisnaskea, Mrs R Goodwin of Clones, Alfie Dinken of Monaghan and Brendan Breathnach.

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David Howey: Thespian Cousin

David Howey: Thespian Cousin

David Howey was another from Hepple who travelled the long road to success. Although he rarely attended Hepple School he was part of village life but kept somewhat remote by his father and mother. We connected really well at Ackworth School. David started one year after me in 1955. As far as I know he is the only thespian in the family? I don’t think his parents were too impressed with his career choice. I last spoke to him at ‘Kilnway’ with Aunty Ena not long before he took up his position at Philadelphia. He described his career as the ‘Shakespeare Industry’ which was big in the United States. I believe he first became a father at age 59!

David my brother John and I were the three ‘farm boys’ from our tiny village to take off into the big wide world. The propulsion came from our education I believe? Our mothers thought this was a good idea. I’m not so sure our fathers would have agreed?

David Howey

Head: Acting Program

Associate Professor

The University of the Arts, Philadelphia, USA

See: http://www.uarts.edu/users/jhowey

David was an actor in England for 30 years, working with the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre Company, in London’s West End and in innumerable TV series and films. He has appeared on Broadway twice and performed Shakespeare across the USA. During those 30 years, he worked with many of the greats of the British theatre, including Laurence Olivier, Anthony Hopkins, Ian Mckellen, Judi Dench, Trevor Nunn and Nicholas Hytner.

He trained under John Barton and Cecily Berry at the RSC, and taught at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. He is an accredited Associate Teacher of Fitzmaurice Voice Work. He currently teaches classical work in the Senior Acting Studio and voice and speech to the junior Acting majors. He has directed “The Philadelphia Story” and John Ford’s “Tis Pity She’s a Whore” for the Brind School and appeared as Dr Wilbur Larch in the school’s production of John Irving’s “The Cider House Rules.”

In Philadelphia, David has performed professionally with the Arden Theatre Company, Walnut Street Theatre, Bristol Riverside Theatre, the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre, 1812 Productions, Interact Theatre Company, People’s Light and Theatre, Lantern Theatre, the Wilma Theatre and the Philadelphia Orchestra.

“Terrible Hollow”

“Terrible Hollow”

Featured Image: The Widden Valley as it appeared over 100 years ago; and about 50 years after first settlement? The ‘Cats Ears’ in the background are evocative of the valley and Emu Vale in particular.


This is the story of the Widden Valley ‘from the inside’; written and compiled by a former very refined lady resident with the objective purview and competent literacy skills to compile and augment the dossier. She married into the milieu and for many years lived a vicarious pioneering life very different to her Eastern Suburbs of Sydney origins.


Dear Bill,

We must have some psychic connection.   I was just thinking of you and reading the new information on Scone Veterinary hospital, which contains some visual presentation of the Widden Valley, when lo and behold up pops your email with a site for me to open and read.  Unfortunately, when I try to open it I just get the notice from the nursing home’s WiFi saying it won’t download.  I’ll see if one of the nurses can open it for me.

Why my thoughts drifted in your direction is because of your continual reference to the Widden Valley as “Terrible Hollow”.  Yes, the author of ‘Robbery Under Arms’, Thomas Browne, did spend a holiday in the Valley, at Baramul, I believe, and listened and digested stories told to him by the Valley settlers.  Rolf Boldrewood was Thomas Browne’s pen name.

Over the years I have written a few stories that have been published by a Newcastle publishing house, called Catchfire Press.  Some I have written about my early life in the Widden Valley and I have included some of its history.  No, not Doug Barries’.  A couple of my short stories concerning the Valley have been/and are being published in this nursing home’s magazine.  I have deliberately ‘dumbed them down’ as most residents here are very elderly and/or are Dementia sufferers.  I was wondering if you would like to hear about Terrible Hollow from my perspective?

I hope to be able to read, or listen to your email.

My thanks, best wishes and love, Jen.

The story

I wonder if you know the story of the settlement of the Widden Valley?  It was not settled in the first place by the Thompson family, although they had a lot to do with its development.  The first settlers into the Valley were a couple by the name of George and Sarah Simpson at Emu Vale.  Both children of ex-convicts, Sarah was barely 16 years old, and heavily pregnant, whilst George was some-what older.

The year was 1846 when George and Sarah made their way into the Widden Valley.  They came from the Western fall of the Mountains, not from the Hunter Valley/Eastern side.  The Widden Valley was already known to a few people, mainly troopers from the Rylstone/Mudgee districts, who found the entrance to the Valley when on the trail of runaway convicts.  I believe these troopers “discovered” the caves containing the centuries’ old Aboriginal hand prints.

George and Sarah, together with their pack horses and bullock dray, left their home on the Hawkesbury, travelled across the Blue Mountains, and then made their way onto the plateau of Nullo Mountain.  From there they crossed onto Mount Corrigudgy and scrambled their way down the mountain and into the Emu Creek branch of the Widden Valley.  Can you imagine it; 16 year old heavily pregnant girl?

Their first permanent home (most likely a one or two roomed shack) was on the banks of the Emu Creek, in what we used to call the front lucerne paddock, right at the entrance to Emu Vale.  This rudimentary home was extended over the years, but it was washed away in one of the many floods that bedevil the Emu Creek. However it was still standing when three months after their arrival in the Valley, Sarah gave birth to the first of her twelve children, completely unattended by any woman of her kith or kin.  

Down near where their home once stood by the banks of the creek is a graveyard, or cemetery, complete with marble headstones, containing the graves of both George and Sarah, and also those of 2 or 3 of their children who died in infancy.  At least, this cemetery was still there in our time in the Valley. It was surrounded by a tall, iron fence and my husband used to keep the graves weeded and generally neat and tidy.

George and Sarah’s next home stood virtually where the dear little cottage that my husband and I lived in stood.  Most of the Simpson house was pulled down by King Ranch when they purchased Emu Vale, but they left one of the main bedrooms, as well as the bathroom, separate toilet and laundry.  When the first-born Simpson son, also named George, grew to adulthood, and married, he built a home further up the Emu Creek.  This home no longer stands.  Around 1880, George Jnr. built yet another home quite close to the main homestead. This home was still extant when I lived on Emu Vale and was the home for my husband’s offsider, Brian Swords.  Our fencers and rabbiters, Clarrie and Joe lived in what had been Simpson’s dairy.

As I mentioned before, King Ranch pulled down most of what had been the Simpson homestead.  They left a bedroom, bathroom, toilet and laundry.  To these rooms, they added a very wide hallway (7 ft. wide).  At one end of the hall was built a walk-in pantry.  Four new rooms, all quite commodious, were built on: a 2nd bedroom, a sunroom or 3rd bedroom, a very large living room, and a gloriously big kitchen.  These rooms comprised the homestead, firstly for the manager of King Ranch, and after it was sold, and reverted to its original name of Emu Vale, for my husband and me.

Simpsons had been at Emu Vale for over 150 years, when they sold out to King Ranch.  King Ranch brought their Santa Gertrudis cattle there, but Emu Vale was not a successful enterprise under King Ranch’s stewardship, and they sold to Tom Flynn in 1961.  My husband took over as manager, and we stayed there until our son was of school age, even though there was a school at Widden in those days.

But back to the early days of the Widden Valley. The next family who came into the Valley were the Harrises, at Holbrook, right at the end of the Widden Valley.  They intermarried with the Simpsons, of course.  The Harris family arrived in the Valley from the Western side of the Mountains, too.

I think the Thompsons came next, probably from Nullo Mountain.  These three families, Harris, Simpson and Thompson, between them owned most of the land in the Valley in the early days.

Some few years ago now, we attended the Centenary of St. Lukes Church in the Widden Valley. After the church service we had a bring-your-own picnic in the grounds of the church.  The day held some significance for us, as my husband had been a Church Warden at Widden, and our son was baptised there.  St. Luke’s Church belonged to the greater Newcastle Diocese.  It was NOT the family chapel of the Thompson family, as Mrs Valda Thompson used to call it.  Two Simpson descendants attended the service and picnic, so mu husband obtained the keys of the front gate which was then kept locked, in order that we could take them ” back to Emu Vale” as both of these Simpsons had been born there.  We were horrified and not a little upset to see the state of the improvements. Every building was in a dilapidated state, and my dear little cottage was in an imminent state of total collapse, having been completely undermined by a multitude of wombats!  A few tears were shed that day, and we came away greatly saddened indeed.

Emu Vale and the Widden Valley still held a great significance for my husabnd and me.  Not only was Emu Vale our first marital home, it was through descendants of the Simpson family that I first met my partner.  Though not related to them himself, two of his aunts had married two Simpson descendants.  Previously I had mentioned that our son was baptised in Widden Church. One of his godfathers was a Simpson descendant and it is through him and his wife that I first met my husband.

Footnote 1:

I don’t know how “valid” my dissertation is!  I can’t say that what I have written is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

The story of George and Sarah is as accurate as I know it.  It’s just that what I have written may not please any of their descendants, viz. I said that George and Sarah were children of ex-convicts.  This is 100% accurate, but their family story is somewhat less accurate, and has been handed down as such for the following generations.  It’s only quite recent that it is quite comme il faut to have a convict ancestor.

I purposely mentioned very little about the Thompsons, or the Harrises, simply because I know very little about their involvement in the early days of the Valley.  There were other people, too, who lived there in the old days, before A.O and Tom Flynn.

I know you can tell some stories about AO. Ellison, but I would like to tell you a personal one.  We had not long moved to Emu Vale, when my party-line phone rang (long-short-long was our ring).  My husband had just left to ride around to Oakleigh for some reason.  I picked up the phone when a fairly cultured voice said:

“Welcome to the Valley Mrs. E…s, you’ll find living here a bit different to the Supreme Court!”  “Yes” I spluttered, “I suppose I will”, He then went on to say that my husband had just taken a short cut, riding through Baramul, closely followed by a big black kelpie dog.  

“It is a lovely animal, but you can tell him when he comes home that all dogs are shot on sight on Baramul.  If he takes the dog home now I will spare its life this time!”  Poor man, unbeknown to him, his dog had followed him.  I quickly rang Vas Flynn and told her to send the man and his dog home via the road, and not through A.O.’s paddocks.  Dogs were shot on sight on Oakleigh, too.  A.O. Was right in one thing he said though: living in the Valley was very different from my previous existence as a member of the Supreme Court staff!  


Footnote 2:

Other histoire includes the Lee, Tindale, Thompson and Frost families as having provided original foundation settlers in the Widden Valley. These anecdotes vary according to with whom one is communicating? My very good friend the late ‘Bim’ Thompson always told me ancestral aboriginal people escorted the very first ‘white’ tribe into the valley from the Nullo direction. They told them that ‘Widden’ meant ‘stay here; go no further’ in whitefella-speak inferring ‘this is the best place to be’. They were almost certainly right; the pastures are pristine and the water supply permanent although you might have to dig for it at dry times?

Either John or William Lee is/are reputed to have maintained a massive herd of 5000 Shorthorn Cattle in the Valley. It was claimed to be the largest stud (‘pedigree’) herd in the world? Certainly members of the Lee family were some of the very first settlers in the Bathurst/Rylstone/ Bylong/Nullo areas during the early 1800s. They very sharply followed Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth over the Blue Mountains.

Liam Clarke Eminent Journalist

Liam Clarke Eminent Journalist

I thought I should post a tribute to my late cousin Liam Clarke. Liam did more to establish ‘celebrity eminence’ in my close family; probably more so than anyone else? He was undoubtedly extremely brave and courageous during the very difficult times of ‘The Troubles’. Here is his story.

Journalist Liam Clarke ‘a master of words and a good man’

By Staff Reporter

Published 06/01/2016

Mourners at the funeral service for journalist Liam Clarke were told he was more than just “a master with words” – he was “an enormously talented and decent human being”.

The Belfast Telegraph political editor had a rare form of stomach cancer but continued to work right up until his death.

He died suddenly but peacefully early on December 27.

Yesterday friends and family gathered at Roselawn Crematorium near Belfast to pay their last respects to the father, husband, political journalist and Zen Buddhist described by those who knew him as fearless and fair.

He made his name by breaking scores of major stories, and revealed the vast wealth of south Armagh smuggler and senior republican Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy, recently convicted of tax evasion.

Among the hundreds of mourners were First Minister Peter Robinson, Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt, Lady Hermon MP, East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson and Labour Northern Ireland shadow secretary Vernon Coaker.

The service began with Liam’s friend, journalist Hugh Jordan, playing musical accompaniment, and featured Buddhist chanting.

In his eulogy, the Rev Earl Storey said: “Liam Clarke was a master with words. Yet his life and work speak more eloquently than any words even he could write. He was an enormously talented and decent human being – a good man.”

Mr Storey said that Liam was “more than a journalist and that his passing is felt most deeply and painfully by those closest to him and who loved him the most” – his wife Kathryn and children Adam, Daniel and Alice”.

Liam’s journalistic career spanned the Troubles, peace process and the Stormont Assembly. He faced IRA death threats after unmasking Murphy and after the publication of a biography of Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness, his home was raided and he was arrested by police – a move that was successfully challenged by Mr Clarke in the courts.

Born in Drogheda in 1954 to Presbyterian minister the Rev Bill Clarke and his wife Alice, Liam’s political interest came early.

As a pupil at Omagh Academy he and another pupil took a day off school to protest at the killing of civilians on Bloody Sunday.

He became a member of the Workers Party where his journalistic career began on a party newspaper, The Northern People.

He moved to the Sunday News, Sunday World and The Sunday Times for two decades, where he was Northern Ireland editor.

He lived in Ballymena and spent his final four years working for the Belfast Telegraph, where he continued to provide incisive political analysis and exclusive stories.

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A Very Different Life II

A Very Different Life II

I’ve had the complete audacity and taken a great liberty in posting the following vignettes on my website ‘blog’. It’s written by a very special lady. I think I’ll let her tell her story? It’s easier to beg forgiveness than to plead for permission!

Featured Image: The ‘Widden Valley’ which Jennifer Ellis knows so very well

By Jenifer Ellis

A Very Different Life (2)

By Jenifer Ellis.

After Thunderbolt’s death in 1870, at Uralla, in the New England Ranges, at the  hands of the troopers (the local police),  peace and quiet returned to my valley.

It was fertile country with broard acres of farmland situated between the lofty peaks of the Great Dividing Range.  The valley became noted as the nursery of champion racehorses, and early Melbourne Cup winners, such as Lord Cardigan, Posinatus and Spearfelt were born and bred on its fertile pastures.  Another  racehorse of note which came from the valley in the early days was Oakleigh, winner of the Caulfield Cup in 1887,  whilst the stallions Lochiel and Grafton were the champion sires of many of the important winners in the latter part of the  1800s.

However, during the 1920s and 1930s the peace of the valley was compromised once more  when yet another “Bushranger” took up residence in my valley.  This time it was a lady, by the name of Jessie Hickman, who lived a solitary existence in a crude hut at the end of my valley.

Strictly speaking Jessie was not a “bushranger”  at all, as she didn’t rob travellers on the road. From an early age she had been apprenticed to a travelling circus where she learnt rough and trick riding and she became an expert horsewoman, who used her skill on horseback .to steal horses and cattle.  She stole the cattle and horses from the Western side of the Great Dividing Range, and brought them down the mountains and into a set of stockyards which she had constructed near her hut at the end of my valley.  From there  Jessie drove the animals on horseback to the cattle sales at the nearest Hunter Valley town, where she made a tidy profit by selling these stolen animals.  She once offered one of her horses for sale to my husband’s father.  Although it was a superior animal, my father in law declined her offer, as he was well aware of her reputation as a horse and cattle thief!

Jessie was arrested by the police on two or three occasions.  She came up before the magistrates and served a couple of stretches in Long Bay Gaol.

Eventually she became more and more eccentric, and for her own protection she was committed to protective custody at an institution  in Newcastle.  Jessie fretted for her former wild and free bush life, and she died there in the early 1930s.  She was buried in an unmarked, pauper’s grave in the Sandgate Cemetery.  However, a few years ago, a lady of my acquaintance became aware that she was Jessie’s granddaughter.  In 1911 Jessie had given birth to a son, who was given up for adoption, as Jessie realised that life in the wild country was no place for a small child.  My friend, Jessie’s granddaughter, has paid for a small plaque in the cemetery, marking Jessie’s grave.  After much research she has also written a book, detailing the story of Jessie’s life.  My friend herself died a couple of years ago, but not before she had put the record straight and had told the story about her colourful, adventuring grandmother.

My valley is known by a few people for its proximity to one of nature’s arboreal wonders, the small stand of the recently discovered Wollemi Pine.  Although not a true pine tree, but rather of the genus Araucarian, these trees were widespread in both hemispheres during Jurassic and Crestaceous periods, but up until they were stumbled upon in a canyon in wilderness terrain by a bush-walking member of the NSW National Parks, they were thought to be extinct and only existeds as 200 million year old fossils.  Although I have never seen them, it give me a thrill to think that about thirty specimens of these ” dinasaur” trees were living very near to my valley.  Perhaps Jessie had taken note of them when she passed by on her perilous journey with the stolen cattle and horses!

A Very Different Life I

A Very Different Life I

I’ve had the complete audacity and taken a great liberty in posting the following vignettes on my website ‘blog’. It’s written by a very special lady. I think I’ll let her tell her story? It’s easier to beg forgiveness than to plead for permission!

Featured Image: The ‘Widden Valley’ which Jennifer Ellis knows so very well

By Jenifer Ellis

It is close on 4 years now that I have become a resident of Bupa Rosevile.  I came to reside in this Nursing Home in a rather convoluted manner.  I am here now, but perhaps I could write about the valley in which I lived as a young bride.

Although I was born and received my education in Sydney, after my marriage in 1961 I went to live on an isolated farm in the upper reaches of the Hunter Valley.  I had married a country boy who at that time was the manager of a large property, on which fat cattle were grazed, destined for the Sydney markets at Homebush.

Our home was in a valley, on the eastern fall of the Great Dividing Range.  The valley was a beautiful and peaceful place, but its history was anything but calm and tranquil.  In the early days it was the haunt of cattle thieves and bushrangers.  Its very isolation made the valley an ideal hideaway for those desperados hoping to escape the long arm of the law.

Perhaps the most infamous of those bushrangers was the self-styled Captain Thunderbolt.  Born Frederick Ward at Windsor of convict parents, at a young age Ward took to horse-stealing, and was convicted and sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment in the penetentiary on Cockatoo Island, in Sydney Harbour.  After serving less than three years of his sentence, Frederick Ward escaped imprisonment by swimming from the north side of the island onto land near the present-day Woolwich.

From there, Ward, or Thunderbolt as he now called himself, roamed the highways and byways of the New England ranges, holding up and robbing mail coaches and any sole traveller making his way along the dusty roads.  Thunderbolt made his home in my valley, in a cave, high up among the craggy bluffs of the surrounding mountains.  From his cave he had an excellent view of the goings on in the valley.  His particular interests were the horses belonging to the valley settlers.  He stole the best of these, one that was fresh and could outrun any pursuing mounted policeman.  It is to be said that he always left a horse in its place, albeit a tired or sore-footed one!

Living with Thunderbolt in my valley was his unchurched, but faithful wife, who went by the name of Yellow Long.  It was Wintertime in the valley, and cold and damp in Thunderbolt’s cave.  The only warmth was provided by a small fire at the cave’s entrance which offered very little protection against the biting winds that swirled along the sandstone cliffs.  Thunderbolt and Yellow Long huddled together for warmth, but after a particularly vicious snowstorm when the temperature dropped well below zero, Yellow Long became seriously ill.  Thunderbolt realised that she needed medical attention that he couldn’t provide, but above all she needed a place to rest, which was warm and dry.

Thunderbolt carried her on his saddle some sixty miles from my valley, to the nearest hospital, at Muswellbrook.  There, Yellow Long was refused admission, not because of her part-Aboriginality, but because Thunderbolt was a proscribed outlaw.  By this time she was desparately ill with Pneumonia and Thunderbolt knew that he must find help for her.

He carried Yellow Long on his saddle to the cottage of one of the valley settlers.  She was given succour the there, and the comfort of a warm bed, but despite the settler’s careful attention, Yellow Long’s condition worsened, and she died, cradled in the arms of the valley cottager.  She was buried nearby, in a dry, rocky gully by the valley settlers.  How do I know this?  The descendants of these valley settlers were my godparents.

Some twenty or more years later, a man by the name of Thomas Browne came to holiday in the valley.  He was a writer, who wrote under the pen-name of Rolf Boldrewood.  He heard stories told to him by the valley people, and later became the author of one of the country’s best-known and favourite stories, “Robbery Under Arms”.  As the title would suggest, Thomas Browne borrowed from the valley settlers’ stories for the exploits and adventures of the fictitious Captain Strarlight.

It is many years since I left my valley.  I can remember more of my life in the valley, but perhaps that can wait for another time.

Sir Eric McClintock

Sir Eric McClintock

Acknowledge: https://www.muswellbrookchronicle.com.au/story/5313887/tributes-flow-for-sir-eric-mcclintock/

Another highly distinguished figure originally from the Upper Hunter Valley has recently passed away. I think his story is eminently worthy of recording for posterity?  I knew is brother Bernie quite well and also an earlier relative Dooley McClintock who lived in Scone.

LEADING political and business figures have paid tribute to Sir Eric McClintock, a prominent businessman and public servant, who died in Sydney on Tuesday at the age of 99.

The older brother of the late Muswellbrook Chronicle and Hunter Valley News editor Bernie McClintock was a senior adviser to Prime Minister Sir John McEwen and, as Assistant Trade Commissioner in the late 1940s and First Assistant Secretary for the Department of Trade in the 1950s, played an instrumental role in Australia’s trade and commerce policy, including tariff protection.

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