Mum (Enid) was always very proud of her ancestors, their connections with this locality, and this Church. She collected all the information she could about her family’s history and was very keen to preserve it for the younger generations. Given the significance of this area in the family’s history, I’d like to share a little of that with you this morning.
William Gibson Senior, Mums’ great grandfather, and his eldest son Angus (then 21), arrived from Scotland in 1863, and found fertile soil across the road from where we are now. They built a house and sent for Mary, William’s wife, and their other six children, who all arrived in June 1864. That beautiful cedar house has since been moved to the grounds of the school just up the road.
The family cleared land and grew small produce at first. In 1866 they started growing sugar cane, and, the same year, Angus met and married Catherine Martin. In 1868, they set up the “Clydesdale” mill at Hemmant to treat their own cane and that of other growers in the district.
Many Gibson children were no doubt christened in this church, which the Gibsons and early Hemmant residents had built for their needs. Mary, whose maiden name was Macalister, and some other members of the family, are buried in Hemmant Cemetery. Apart from his business exploits, Angus was a lay preacher, and the trustee of the church for 50 years until 1920, as can be seen on the marble plaque on the wall. He also became the Honorable Angus Gibson, MLC, as a member of the Queensland Parliament.
Eventually it was decided that the area had insufficient scope for the growing family and the whole family left for Bundaberg to establish the Bingera Sugar Plantation and Mill in partnership with the Howes brothers.
Elsie Gibson, the youngest daughter of Angus and Catherine, married Herbert (Bert) Westcott in 1916.
Their first child, Enid, our mother, was born on the 10 February, 1918 in Bundaberg. Later came Richard her beloved brother. The family home was at Catumnal, a sheep station near Hughenden.
Mum wrote and told some beautiful stories about her early life and experiences at Catumnal, an example of which you have just heard. Of her own mother, Elsie she wrote, quote “What a pity she was never encouraged to become a writer. Any normal day’s incident could become a wonderful story in Mum’s hands, full of humour, character expositions (sometimes character assassinations), her own asides, and mimicry creating great interest”.
Our mother definitely inherited the ability to be a writer. The short stories she put down on paper include such titles as “A First and Last Experience of Fire”, in which she used quick thinking and bravery to singlehandedly save the Catumnal flock from a raging bushfire. Others were “Gymkhana 1930”, “Race Relations 1923 Style”, and “The Petrol Pinching Episode”. They all give wonderful insights into the life of those times, her family, and friends. If you are interested to have a copy please let me know.
Mum also wrote that “Bert and Elsie had hosts of friends and relatives in the days at Catumnal. There were convivial friends everywhere and frequent passers-through usually stayed the night and no distance seemed too great to prevent tennis parties, cricket matches, swimming when creeks were full, bush race meetings etc”.
It sounds like an idyllic life but of course life on the land had its hardships as well.
Mum adored her father. She always told us how handsome he was. And a very hard worker. He, and most of her family called her ‘Nip’, short for nipper. She was evidently a bit of a tomboy as a child, more interested in being “outside” on a horse, than sewing or cooking.
I am a bit hazy on the details of her education. When she was 4 or 5 it was decided that it would be good for her to spend the hot months of the year at a school in Yeppoon where the weather would be cooler and she could play with other children. So with her mother, and Nell Wilson, her mothers cousin, she attended school in Yeppoon for one summer, but it seems that the rest of her primary education was provided by Nell with the aid of correspondence courses. Mum said that she was much happier learning by correspondence with Nell. Later, her parents bought Riverview, a sheep property not far from Oberon in NSW to get some relief from the heat. Mum attended a boarding school in Lithgow, a very cold place, where the girls were required to take a cold shower every morning. She told us how some girls took umbrellas into the showers which landed them in serious trouble! At Riverview Mum developed a strong bond with her shetland pony, Beauty, and told us how both of them would shelter behind big granite rocks during storms. And how Beauty would put her front feet over the threshold of the kitchen door hoping to get some bread.
Mum also lived with Nell for a time in a house her mother had built in Balmoral, while she attended nearby Queenwood School for Girls. At the age of about 16 the depression bit and she and Nell returned to Catumnal to join the rest of the family, except for Dick who had gone off to boarding school. Riverview was sold as it was unsuitable for sheep. The purchaser was William Arnott of biscuit fame, who had often driven his Rolls Royce down to the river to catch trout and had taken a liking to the place.
I think it was around this time that Mum took flying lessons in a Gypsy Moth, although she never completed her training.
At the age of 21 in 1939 she left Catumnal to join the Womens Auxiliary Air Force. She trained as a morse code telegrapher in Melbourne. Unlike the male enlistees the WAAFs had to pay for their training. She was posted to General Macarthur’s headquarters in Brisbane, and it was there that she took the message that Darwin had been bombed, and in alarm called out the news to her co-workers, only to be told by her supervisor that the news could not leave the room. It was also there that she met a young RAAF telegrapher, Des Fulton, who was 20 at the time. They fell in love, and were married within 3 months, on 17th June 1942. At the time Dad thought he was about to be posted to New Guinea, which created the haste. This never eventuated, but at their 70th wedding anniversary he joked that it was a good ploy anyway! Mum used to joke that she was married under false pretences!
Bill was born in 1945 in Charters Towers. The family lived at Redcliffe while Dad was studying for his Engineering degree. They then went to Coopers Plains and lived in a tent on land loaned to them by a Westcott relative. Houses were like hens teeth to get in that postwar time.
One day Dad was invited to look at an available house in Imbros St, Wavell Heights. There were several other people interested, so he had to take it on the spot without consulting Mum. Luckily she liked it and they happily lived in it for the rest of their lives. I came along in 1953 followed by Louize a couple of years later.
I remember us as children asking Mum to tell us bedtime stories about her life on Catumnal, of which she seemed to have a never-ending supply. We were always enthralled. Another thing I remember very clearly about Mum is her tirelessly taking us, our dogs, and neighbourhood friends on outings and picnics for pleasure, to the beach, or the mountains. We also spent many happy holidays and weekends with Mum and Dad at Grandma Fulton’s house at Mermaid Beach.
When I was about 10 or 11, Mum and Dad bought some land at Morayfield, and cleared it to grow watermelons. As ever, Mum loved the outdoor life and was very hands-on, moving irrigation pipes during the week while Dad worked in Brisbane and we kids attended school or in Bill’s case, university. We and our friends would spend many happy weekends working and playing on the farm. It gave Dad a wonderful outlet for his engineering knowledge, but I don’t think anyone enjoyed the life more than Mum. It was a sad day when we had to sell it after a run of bad seasons. To their credit Mum and Dad, despite the hardships had ensured that we kids all had the benefits of a good education. This was of great importance to both of them.
In 1987, Mum, along with Noella Gibson-Wilde, Nancy Booth, Brenda Martin, Alistair Ward, and Gordon Gibson, led an effort to raise funds from living Gibson relatives for the restoration of this Church, and the Gibson burial plot at Hemmant Cemetery. At the same time a successful effort began to preserve the old Gibson home at Hemmant, in conjunction with local residents.
Mum was a deeply devoted wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother. Married to Des for 73 years, she will now be interred with him, and they will be together again. We her family, relations, and friends will miss her very much, but remember all that she gave us, all that she did for us, and how much she loved us all.
No doubt her wonderful stories will live on and entertain generations to come.
Roger Fulton 12.9.2016