I is for Ixia and Ilex


These were the pen names used by Ella (my father’s mother) when she wrote for various magazines.  Ilex, I found, is another name for Holly.


Ixia is a Greek word for bird droppings, and is apparently a reference to the sticky sap of the Ixea plant, a South African relative of the Iris.

I read through the various articles trying to get a feel for the person who was my grandmother.  Her description of Christmas Present and Past comes from the 1920s.

Today (Santa Claus) brings works of art and skill – costly and beautiful.  But mechanical motor cars and trains, meccanos, life-like animals and talking porcelain dolls receive no greater welcome … than the wooden rocking horse, Noah’s Ark of ill shaped animals, wooden doll, whose rosy cheeks paled at the touch of water, to the more exclusive wax that the summer heat distorted.

Ella with lamb

Ella writes a rather prim article entitled “Banish Fairy Tales”

To my mind they are foolish and injurious to the young.  Nothing creates fear in a child more than the Unknown or the Unseen; and so long as a child’s mind is filled with elves and goblins … darkness will hold fear.


Something women of her time would relate to are these words from “Homely Talk”.

If we women had less furniture in the home, fewer mirrors to polish, dispensed with the gimcracks, and cut all necessary household articles out of the weekly laundry, we would not allow our home to wreck our health and temper, and absorb our individuality.

In “Children in the Home” “Ilex” Deprecates Modern Trend

The modern child, encouraged by adoring parents, is nowadays first heard and first seen.  The castle .. is now a bedlam of noise and rebellion and temper.  Grandmother prefers to live in a room  rather than share her son’s or daughter’s home.

Ella’s stories of life on the land are interesting but rarely personal.  Here she writes as “Ixia” of the animals in her environment.

During my absence from home a friend undertook to lock my house and take charge of the key.  A week later I opened the front door to meet a procession of eight skeleton chickens staggering towards me… On the floor was a box of soap and the poor creatures had attacked it to allay their hunger.

Hearing a commotion in the poultry yard the other day I suspected a snake but saw a river turtle…I found she had dug a hole, tunnelled it at the bottom and was squatting over it, laying.  When an egg made its appearance her flipper caught it and stowed it in the tunnel.

Windmill by E.M. Price

“The Station Woodheap” tells of the life of the swaggie.

It was known to the swaggies as a sure source of tea, sugar, beef and flour, if they wielded the axe in return.  The “old timer” picked solid pieces that would last and packed his heap neatly.  His modern brother chose those that broke most easily with the back of the axe and threw them on another man’s foundation.

“Drought in the Outback” talks about the lack of preparation for the rain after two year’s of drought.

To our dismay we saw the water running in cascades over the guttering and tanks, and flooding the verandahs and dusty patches that had once been gardens.  In our zeal to catch raindrops we had overlooked the leaf choked guttering and strainers and the dislocated down spouting.  Without waiting to get waterproofs we clambered onto verandah railings, boxes, or anything that gave reach, and clawed at the leaves and twigs that had collected during the past two years.  Almost drowned and shivering with cold, we battled on until we heard the precious water running into the tanks and then darted indoors and got into dry clothes.

Ilex goes on to describe in graphic detail, the horror of drought.

By the next morning a green sheen was visible on the paddocks and before midday the creek overflowed its banks and spread like a huge lake over the paddocks.  With grass up to the horses’ flanks and cattle resting in full contentment under the shady trees, it is hard to recall the scenes of the drought of the long months just ended, and picture the unhappy cattle, whose bones now lie hidden in the abundant grass, tottering with sagging hind quarters across the barren plains, in search of grass; or to drink at the stagnant pools in the river, where hundreds bogged and perished, or fell forward and smothered in the mud.  Hundreds went down on the plains, the merciless sun contracting the muscles of their necks, and torturing their wasted frames.  In the homestead paddocks the posts still stood where special cows had been “slung” and efforts made to save them; but the nearly bleaching bones told of labor lost.  Men were busy skinning; and at sundown the air would be heavy with the odour of putrefying bodies.

Drought by E.M.Price

Some months later, when the station team drew up at the hide house, and loaded up with the last bundles, and when the waggon rolled away over the waving grass plains, one felt a mistiness in the eyes, and a tightening at the throat.  It was the final act in that drought tragedy.



11 thoughts on “I is for Ixia and Ilex

  1. Linda,

    First-time visitor here. I found your “I” entry interesting and the words of your grandmother intriguing. How impressive to not only savor but to share her thoughts with others on your blog. The drought sounded absolutely horrible. I reckon in modern society it’s hard for us to fulling understand such harsh conditions of our grandparents and great-grandparents endured.

    Join me, “Curious as a Cathy” with Art Sketching Through the Alphabet Letter “I” for Iris! Happy a2zing! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The story about the chicken was from The Australian Woman’s Mirror but the others have been cut out of possibly a newspaper with no name or date. She put them all in a scrapbook with her published photos . She was paid for those but only a few shillings.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. An Australian female author what a wonderful find. She had so much stacked against her but she still got published. good on her I hope one day we’ll read about her life in full. What a wonderful role model.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Linda, I have a really strong feeling that I’ve come across your grandmother’s writings on my travels. I might be wrong, but I feel I came across an Ilex and was annoyed because I couldn’t work out who she was. That said, I could be getting mixed up. I read so many stories in the old newspapers on Trove and soak them up like a thirsty, cried-up river bed.
    Best wishes,

    Liked by 1 person

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