The earliest photo of the homestead, Metavale, can be found in the Queensland State Archives and appears, according to their records, to date to about 1910.
|Metavale - photo in Queensland State Archives|
|Map - Bonzle.com|
Arthur Lord had taken over ownership of Metavale from Mr J R M Mackay by April 1924 according to information in the Courier Mail 11 April 1924. Twenty-two years later a notice appeared in the Queensland Country Life 2 May 1946 announcing that 'Mr Arthur Lord has sold Metavale, in the Cunnamulla district, and after recuperating from a long tussle with drought, will be seeking a smaller property—no doubt in one of the more assured rainfall areas, if he can find any.' When the Lord family first moved to Metavale there had been a number of years with good rain and even flooding. However in the 1940s there had been a prolonged period of drought so the decision was made to move to a property nearer the coast.
Some of my mother's memories are illustrated in the two following photos from Queensland State Archives, though they were taken at an earlier time.
|Dam at Metavale - Queensland State Archives|
|Metavale Bore - Queensland State Archives|
By the time the water reached the house it was cold so in order to have a hot bath a chip heater was installed. Mother remembered: 'We used to gather small pieces of wood from the wood heap to use in the heater. The water was bore water and it was brown.' She then added, 'For drinking purposes we had tank water but it was very precious and you did not dare leave a tap on or dripping.'
|Click to enlarge|
Some of Mother's other memories about living at Metavale included the 'wood stove in the kitchen. It had a big kettle on it all the time' and 'We didn't have a refrigerator (initially). We had a coolgardie safe. There was no electricity so our first refrigerator was a kerosene one. There was great excitement having things cold for a change.' 'Our lights were kerosene lamps and the occasional candle. Hurricane lamps were used if we wanted to move around.' On one occasion a candle was knocked on the floor. 'There was great rushing around to put out the candle which could have burnt the place down.'
Sleeping arrangements often depended on the number of people staying in the house and the seasons. 'In summer we often slept on verandahs as it was cooler, especially if there was an influx of people home from school. That was the beauty of verandahs. We could spread anywhere. We did have mosquito nets in summer, but we didn't always use them. A lot of the place was gauzed in. If we were sleeping in a gauzed area we did not need them but if were sleeping in an unprotected area we did.'
The other essential was, of course, the toilet. 'The toilet was as far away from the house as it could possibly be. It was way up behind the fowl yard, a long way away. It wasn't really very convenient. It had a great hole in the ground which went down forever which was just as well. We did not have the luxury of toilet paper but used cut up newspaper, phone books, whatever was available. If I wanted to go to the toilet at night Michael (Mum's brother) on occasions used to escort me with a hurricane lamp. He used to have to put the lamp down the hole to see that there were no snakes or spiders.'
Mother recalled the challenges of the weekly washing day. 'The wash house was on its own away from the house. It had two big tubs, a washboard and a wood (fired) copper. Dad did the washing every Monday and it used to take virtually all of the day as everything had to be boiled up and washed and hung on the line. Quite an operation. The clothes line was a wire and post line.'
Although Metavale was a sheep station there were also cows to provide milk. Mother described the process of gathering the cows in the afternoon including catching the horse when it was time to bring in the cows. 'It had a bell around its neck so you would know where it was and you would hope it would let you catch it. The paddock wasn't exactly small.' After milking, the cows were kept in a paddock near the house until after milking the next day. There were also 'lots of chooks and Mother kept turkeys and ducks'.
|My mother and grandmother in the garden|
|Front garden at Metavale|
Being so far from town, the family had to be self sufficient to some extent. Mother recalled: 'We only had bread once a week. The mail used to come out once a week. In the end it was was twice a week. It used to come on a Sunday and then if we had to answer something it had to be done then as it had to go back that night. The mail came in a lorry. The driver would go to other properties and then come back. He would bring out groceries and any other things needed. We used to ring up and they would be sent out with the mail.'
|The Australian Government Gazette included tenders for mail run|
|Mother and her doll's house|
There were always animals near the house including lots of dogs, usually sheepdogs but also a couple of family pets. Other animals visited the area. 'There used to be lots of rabbits. We used to see them in the evening or early in the morning. On one occasion a pelican came to the house and caused great excitement ... naturally it did not stay.'
The ability to communicate with the outside world was important. The telephone on the wall was a party line. 'If you were ringing one of the neighbours you would ring, for example, one long and one short or three longs etc.' With a party line other neighbours might listen to the conversation.
The family relied on the wireless for information and entertainment. 'Our big wireless ran on batteries with a big aerial rigged up outside. I remember I would listen to the cricket when Dad was mustering and I would keep all the scores for him when he came home.'
Initially the children had a governess to help them with their lessons which they studied by correspondence. Once they were ten they were sent to Brisbane to attend primary school and then to Sydney to attend secondary school.
Obviously I have never been to Metavale but thanks to the growing number of online resources, my mother's memories and photographs in the family album it is possible to have an idea what living at the homestead was like when my grandparents owned the property.
NB: More information about two of the Metavale images held at Queensland State Archives can be found with the enlarged images on Flickr.
Dam at Metavale