When my great-grandfather moved westward from the New England north-west region of Inverell in the early 1890s to our current property he built a homestead on one of two separate holdings. The property was called Mona and the original house was of mud-brick and cypress pine. This early building was made with the black soil mud found on the property with the bricks formed with the addition of natural grasses and straw. A white-wash of lime completed the décor.
I can still recall walking through the oldest rooms in the dwelling. My great-grandparents kept separate bedrooms across a hallway, each with polished cypress pine ceilings, pressed metal features and large fireplaces. Large French doors opened onto a veranda and wonderful views of the bush. There was an adjoining kitchen with a connecting walk-through to the house – kitchens were always built separately back then because of the risk of fire – while other out-buildings gradually added included a large meat-house, washroom(laundry) with a wood-heated copper and two outside storehouses.
The original cypress pine frame of the homestead and the tongue and groove boards which gradually took over in popularity from mud-brick were hand-sawn from pine that grew on a ridge on the property. The ten-stand woolshed also built by my great-grandfather with the assistance of his brothers and other helpers was constructed entirely of hand-hewn cypress pine. If you couldn’t build something yourself back then you were certainly at a disadvantage and most craftsman who advertised themselves as builders were in the majority self-taught, their skills learnt on the job.
This second picture (below) taken in 1912 shows a load of ‘Mona’ wool off to market pulled by twelve horses. The ‘Castlevilla Team’ as the wool-wagon was known was used throughout our district for the transportation of wool and other produce until the 1950s. The wagon has been restored and is a permanent display at the Boomi Heritage Park.
Sadly the house and woolshed no-longer stand. The buildings were ruined by age and the movement of the land which destabilised house stumps, cracking walls, floors and ceilings. But the house site remains with its towering date palms, ancient bougainvillea and the rotting stump of a lemon tree which I recall picking fruit from up until the 1990s. My great-grandfather is buried on his land. A pioneer, like so many others. For those of you who read my novels, you can I hope, understand where my inspiration comes from. History, our history, Australian history is truly fascinating.