Although I had no Aunts or Uncles my grandmother Kay had a younger brother called Claude, who lived in Victoria. He had been a sickly child, missing large amounts of school and slow to achieve the milestones expected of him. As a result he grew up unable to read or write. Sometime in the late 1950s Kay must have had news from her relatives that he was living in reduced circumstances so she dispatched my father to Victoria to find him and bring him back.
This was a big adventure because I was going too and we were to catch the Melbourne Limited Express and travel in a Sleeping Car. Inside the compartment were two fixed sleeping bunks, one above the other. A pull down handbasin with brass face plate, a mirror and varnished timber walls added an element of luxury .
After a night’s sleep we were up early for we had arrived at Albury Station on the NSW/Victorian border. Because NSW and Victoria had different sized railway gauges our train was unable to travel any further. Breakfast at the station cafeteria was eaten before we climbed aboard the famous Spirit of Progress to continue our journey to Melbourne.
The next day saw us on the train to Terang where my great uncle worked on a dairy farm. His room was small and dark and he worked long hours milking and carrying out farm chores. What the farmer thought when my father arrived and demanded that Claude leave with him I will leave to your imagination. I can’t remember if we had a sleeper on the way back but do remember his first night at our home where he must have felt very strange.
Uncle Claude lived with us for many years, first in The Stone Room built from convict brick and then in the Long Room (a converted shed). Eventually Kay bought him a tiny house across the road, hired a builder to add a kitchen and called it Lock Cottage.
Claude did odd jobs around the property, fed the animals when we were away and rode his motorbike for recreation. He was kind and gentle, with a slow drawl and a love of animals, motorbikes and roll-your-own cigarettes.