xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Font of Noelage: Donnybrook Revisited.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Donnybrook Revisited.


I am the first to admit that I am not the world’s greatest gardener. Some people plant seeds, I bury them! Despite my failings as a gardener I feel I rate quite highly when it comes to pruning trees and overgrown vegetation, especially when in I am in possession of a chain saw.

My greatest, or most infamous, bout of pruning occurred when we were living in Donnybrook, a beautiful spot about 230 kilometeres south-west of Perth. Armed with only a common old garden saw, I started pruning one Saturday afternoon as Lesley set off happily for the tennis club. When she was leaving she saw me enthusiastically attacking the three small decorative poplar trees that grew in the garden in from of our house and advised me not to cut too much off.

Well, as I cut away and cut away I got carried away and cut away some more. The result was that when Lesley arrived home at about half past six, the three trees were severely denuded of their leaves and most of their branches. They stood there shyly in embarrassed denudation.

Too say that Lesley was not happy would be understating the situation. Not only had I removed the greenery from the front of the house, I had now exposed our house for all to see. It was an old Education Department house that, I had to admit, looked a lot better when the trees obscured the view. To this day, whenever I announce that I am going to do some pruning, Lesley constantly advises me not to cut too much off. However, the good news about over pruning, as I repeatedly told Lesley on that cold Saturday night in Donnybrook, is “It will all grow back again.” And it does.

Actually we recently revisited Donnybrook on the June long weekend celebrating Western Australia Day. Originally, this holiday was called Foundation Day to celebrate the arrival of Captain Stirling and a hardy group of free settlers and English soldiers who arrived on June 2nd 1829 to establish the Swan River Settlement, which is now the pretty city of Perth.

Actually Stirling and his party landed on a very stormy night on the shores of Garden Island, about ten miles south west of Fremantle. It wasn’t till August that he actually declared Perth to be the site where he would found his settlement and claim control of one third of the Australian continent.

Unfortunately, Foundation Day could be seen as an unintended affront to the indigenous inhabitants of the Swan River area. The Noongar people had been living here for about 60 000 years before Stirling took possession of more than 1.8 million square kilometres in the name of King George the Fourth of England. The Swan River Settlement grew to become Perth, the most remote capital city in the world. It is closer to Djakarta and Singapore than it is to Sydney. A few years ago a decision was made to change the name Foundation Day to W.A. Day and I think that was a good thing.

It is a shame that Stirling arrived in early June, because the weather can be very wet and wild at that time. Such was the case on that long weekend as Lesley and I ventured South to Busselton, Donnybrook and Boyanup visiting old friends. The weather was wet, windy and quite cold. However, all of our friends gave us a very warm welcome and wined and dined us in fine style. We spent the weekend talking about the days of yore and how good were all were way back then.

Donnybrook holds great memories for us. I was promoted to Donnybrook District High School in 1975. Lesley and I, together with young daughters Jane and Sarah, took up residence in the Headmasters’ House in January 1975. We obviously loved the place as we stayed there for seven years, leaving at the end of 1981.

We kept ourselves busy. In August of 1975 our youngest daughter, Emily was born and Lesley enjoyed a renewed burst of motherhood. When the football season started in April I became the local sports reporter for Bunbury’s South West Times newspaper. In November I was elected to be the General Manager of the Donnybrook Football Club.

When Emily was about three years old Lesley started teaching music part time at St Mary’s School where Jane and Sarah were students. A year or two later Lesley took on a class teaching role and also developed a magnificent school choir which in 1979 won the choral section at the Bunbury Eisteddfod. An outstanding achievement.

1979 was also the year that Lesley won the Ladies’ Singles Championship at Donnybrook Tennis Club. She was also the club's nominee for the District Sportstar of the Year Award. It was also the year that I became the founding editor of the Donnybrook-Balingup News, a local paper that was distributed around the district each month. Oh, yes, a place of many happy memories.  

And that house that we lived in in Donnybrook? Well, a few years after we left Donnybrook, it was decided the site would be a great place for a well-aged home facility. I have to agree that it was a great site. It was adjacent to parkland on the main highway and about fifty metres behind the house was the Preston River. On the other side was a huge grassy hill on top of which sat a fine old style colonial home. A magnificent view.

Lesley and I went back to that spot on that Monday long weekend. Our house is now long gone, replaced by a very modern looking well aged home facility known as Tuia Lodge. Lui Tuia is a friend of ours. He was a far sighted and energetic Shire President in the 1970s who was largely responsible for the building and ongoing operation of the facility that now bears his name.

What is also gone is the magnificent view across the river to the old colonial farmhouse on the hill. In the intervening 35 years the trees on the far bank have grown, enormously so. So it really is a case of not being able to see the scenery for the trees.

But our house is not gone entirely. It was relocated to 27 Steere Street, which is right across the road from V.C. Mitchell Park, home of the Donnybrook Football Club. In fact, our house sits right behind the goal posts. Rather fitting that it should be there, overlooking that football oval  and clubrooms. I was General Manager of the Donnybrook Football Club for six years. Some changes have been made over the years but the little press box still sits on top of the clubrooms. It was where I sat perched for seven seasons reporting on the footy for the South Western Times newspaper.

I am very happy to know that our old house now has a great view of the Home of the Mighty Dons, where I put in a lot of work and have such happy memories. Not that people now living in our old house get to see much of the football when they look out their windows. The house has a cluster of  peppermint trees growing in front of it.

As we drove off I told Lesley that they needed pruning. She just smiled!

1 comment:

  1. It was such a beautiful place. I was very lucky to have grown up there and of course met my very best friend there on the first day of school in Year One. Thank you for taking us there and possibly thank you for not making too many pruning misdemeanours.

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