Before I sent the email to Denise* I did actually recognise one of the names on the list. It was Turner*. Even though my father died when I was 10 I recall both he and my mother talking about a man called Ted Turner*. My memories are vague but I thought he was a businessman who helped my father set up his own business in the Victorian town of Mildura. I knew he died in 1952 because my mother had kept a newspaper cutting featuring his obituary.
Denise replied promptly, telling me that she lived in Mildura and that her grandfather was Ted Turner. There were also other Turners, including two brothers and his son Hugh*, now aged 93. This was astonishing news because Mildura is where I was born. It is a medium sized country town, current population 33,000 and a thousand kilometres from where I now live.
Before you go jumping to conclusions (I can tell you I did), I will put you in the picture about my parents.
My mother married my father when she was only 18. She had left school early, mainly because her mother was absent earning a living as a housekeeper on outback stations, while she boarded with a family in Roma, Queensland. She followed her mother’s first trade and became an apprentice dressmaker for a while in Charleville before moving to Melbourne to live with an aunt and work at Lucy Seekers. At the age of 17 she was back in Queensland, finding a job as a receptionist in the Victoria Hotel, Goondiwindi. It was here she met Linden, ten years her senior and probably the most exciting thing that had happened to her in her whole life.
His occupation at the time is not clear but electoral rolls show he spent a few years trapping rabbits on properties belonging to the Munro family, for whom his mother worked as a housekeeper. Although he had attended Newington College in Sydney and was given the opportunity to work as a wool classer, he seemed at a loose end. Maybe it was because his father had suffered a fatal heart attack on his own railway station when Linden was six. Possibly mixing with sons of the landed gentry at school made him unsure of where he fitted in the social hierarchy. When he married my mother in 1936 he was a “grazier” which is a quite a step up from trapping rabbits. According to my mother, Linden leased flash cars, owned a racehorse, was for a time a bookmaker and enjoyed dining out and spending money. It is here I will explain why B is for Bill. My father felt the name Linden was a bit sissy for the bush. Maybe Linden the rabbit trapper didn’t quite gel. Anyway, by the time he met my mother he was Bill to all but his closest family.
My parents were fortunate to have the help of my paternal grandmother’s employer, Alfred Munro. With the lease of 3,000 acres near Boggabilla on the McIntyre River near the Queensland border the young couple battled twelve months of drought and watched the sheep die. So they went touring and found a well watered property called Berrigagama, three miles from Tocumwal on the NSW side of the Murray River. Alfred helped them with the purchase and the sheep enjoyed the green grass until they developed foot rot. Alfred Munro purchased the property from them allowing them to move on to other enterprises. Bill was fed up with the land so the next project was a guest house in Sydney, followed by a fruit shop turned into a milk bar – it was a lot of hard work with nothing much to show at the end. Linden came up with the idea of renting a building and subletting it until the owner found out and put an end to the enterprise.
I will never know why they decided to travel six hundred miles to Mildura to set up a business but in 1949 that is what they did. That was two years before their only child (yours truly) was born.
* Names have been changed.