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 -Kiandra Gold

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1896 memoir by Barcroft's father

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May 29th 87

Dear Father


            happening to catch up an old copy of the Bulletin I came across an announcement which surprised me, I saw that Dr McCarthy has immortalised Vi by sending her bust to the Adelaide Exhibition - Queen's Birthday has come and gone once more I was trying to remember what I was doing last year but failed. It gets very monotonous after being accustomed to shifting every week or so. Here is always the change and speculation as to what sort of camp the next will be and besides there is always something going on, but at the farm there is no excitement except to go to Adaminaby on Saturday afternoon.


We are in the middle of winter now. It is excessively cold, a heavy frost every morning, it is cold now the whole day, of course you don't notice it if you are hard at work in the sun but as soon as you go in the shade it is as chilly as possible even at midday. The mountains all round have been covered with snow since the beginning of the month. There was snow on them at the beginning of January and again in May so it is only off them for about four months, hardly that.


I had a pleasant ride today in and out to Adaminaby in the pouring rain - to church. This was a woman's freak. Mrs Commins would go, and asked me and as I can't refuse a lady as a rule I made a martyr of myself. When we got home you could wring the water out in buckets full except from the ladies who drove. After all we were the only ones who turned up - There is one thing we have tennis every afternoon so that is one thing I like about staying here. I am getting rather good at it. I meet a number of good players at Eucumbene at odd times; I have not been over there for about six weeks. I think I must take a trip over next Sunday, existence as we are now would be unbearable as far as I am concerned (of course Mr C rather likes it) but as far as I am concerned it would be very dull but for Miss Marshall, you would not find a better companion in a house to keep you alive. She has wonderful spirits and a terrible girl to laugh. There are five of us in the house and some times we make enough noise for fifty. There is hardly a single meal passes without someone being carried in a dying condition from swallowing tea the wrong way. I am sure I don't know how I managed to make this letter so long for I have no news.


I will give you an extract from my diary for the last fortnight. Got up just as the breakfast was going in, rushed in just as grace was finished, eat two chops, bullied Miss M about the tea being too weak, after breakfast smoke in the kitchen, did plans till eleven, another smoke, dinner at one - eat a plate of mutton, another smoke, more plans, more tobacco till 4 o'clock, knock off, play tennis till tea time, feed my horse, then eat more chops, another smoke, Mrs C and I play young Boyd and Miss M; and strange to say, always beat them, Mrs Commins retires about nine, I put in the time yarning in the kitchen with Jack and the cook (Chinese) till ten then bed - of course on Saturday whole holiday, go to Adaminaby hear the latest yarn from West, the publican (mostly discreditable), then home. On Sunday read the papers all day tennis in the afternoon. This is the programme, except we have cutlets for breakfast occasionally instead of chops, I think I have had beef once only since the spring - How is Granny give her my love and tell her to write and Addie too. I have not asked you anything about how things are getting on but I should like to hear all the same. Don't suppose that I never think of you because I have not written.


Your affectionate Son



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July 16 88

Dear Father


                   it is some time since I let you hear how I was getting on, though I wrote to Granny and Addie not so long since but I have not heard from them for some time. As usual the weather is the all engrossing topic, we have had one very heavy fall of snow and numerous light ones, the snow was on the ground for four days before it began to thaw, and our poor horses got a starving I can assure you. We made a pair of snow shoes and tried our hands at snow shoeing, it must be a grand sport from what I can see of it. We got some awful spills - you will be going along fine, and suddenly your feet will give a jump and shoot straight from under you leaving you on the broad of your back. It is extremely amusing for the bystanders. Things are very dull everywhere now, just the same old routine of work during the week and spending the Sunday at Rosedale.


Last Saturday night we had a high tragedy, when, through a piece of silly foolishness, I was with within an ace of losing my life. It has been a bit of a lesson for me not to indulge in foolish practical jokes. Boydie and I were in the kitchen talking and fooling with Miss B - and young Ted the Roustabout; and I forget what started it, but we said we would both hang ourselves. There was a gamble that they hung the sheep on hanging to a beam with a loose end of rope. I, like a fool, made a slip-knot in it, and, tieing a handkerchief over my face, said goodbye to them all and put the noose round my neck (Boydie was hanging himself with his handkerchief) and let the noose tighten round my throat. Miss B - ran out of the kitchen round to her room. I was swinging, as I said, with the rope pretty tight round my neck, with my weight on my hands; and the last I remember is Miss B - leaving.


Then I lost all consciousness of the outer world, but seemed to be dreaming. I felt no pain, but seemed to be pondering on the strangeness of this world and the people, and what a wonderful thing science was. But gradually I seemed to get a feeling of irritation and tried not to think, but I had to; thoughts seemed to crowd before my eyes like the passing of a train, so quickly that it was a pain to watch them. Then, I suppose, there was a blank; and the next thing I thought of was the Milson's Point boat. I could hear water splashing, and felt her gradually slow off as she drew alongside the wharf. Then I knew something had happened to me. I could see people all round me, and I knew at once I was on the boat and had been struck down by heart disease (Dr Cox told me that I had a weak heart) and I dreamily thought, Well, I am going to die at last; and then the boat seemed to be sinking down, and I could feel the water rush over me and feel it wet on my cheek. There seemed to be some fearful weight crushing my chest in. It got worse and worse, and gradually I woke to the reality that I was lying on the floor with everyone round me bathing my hands and temples, while I was having a mortal struggle for breath.


Oh! It was an awful struggle - ten times worse than the hanging. I would sink back on the floor, and then suddenly be convulsed an nearly sit up in my struggle to breathe; and they told me the sounds I made were something sickening. I felt as if my chest was smashed in with a blow and would not expand - I never want to go through it again. At last I got better, and was able to swallow a little brandy; and got all right after a time - but my neck! I have a rope mark now all round it, and the next day (yesterday, that is) the muscles were swollen like great ropes, and the headache I had Saturday night and yesterday was enough to drive me mad.


After Miss B - went out of the kitchen Boydie took the handkerchief off his neck, and he and young Ted sat laughing at me. Neither of them knew I had been holding onto the rope with my hands; they both thought I had it tied round my shoulders. When they saw me my hands were stretched by my sides, the fingers just moving convulsively. It was very dark, so they could not see that I was hanging by my neck. A last Ted said, "Come on, we'll cut him down," and was very nearly letting me down whop. They made some delay, and Miss B - came back and said, "This is beyond a joke Mr Boake," and still they thought I was shamming; so they cut me down, and it was not till they took the handkerchief off and found I was black in the face, and blood oozing from the mouth, that they found out it was no joke, but real earnest.


I can tell you I gave them a fright. It took nearly half an hour to bring me to. I think a very few seconds would have cooked me. Of course, I suppose I was a dumb fool to put the rope round my neck, but still a fellow often does things without thinking, but they don't always have such awful consequences. I am as right as the bank now, barring a red ring round my neck and a big splotch under my left ear where the knot came - so you need not be frightened; but my sensations were so curious that I wish I could explain them to you more accurately.


Give my love to Granny and Addie, and write soon. I have not heard from you for a long time.


                                                                                Your loving Son



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July 31 87

My Dear Father


            I could not answer your letter last post as I was away last Sunday. I have not much news to tell you - everything is very dull always through the winter. The principal topic of course is the weather which has been simply fearful for the last two months.


We have had snow every week without fail, if we do happen to get a fine day it blows a hurricane. It is bad enough here but in Kiandra they are finally snowed in for the winter. The traffic in and out has ceased for some time with the exception of the mail and last Sunday it could not get in on account of the snow, so now he has to take it as near as he can on horseback and a man comes out from the town on snow shoes and takes it in.


I don't think I ever told you about these before, fancy having to use these in sunny Australia, but in Kiandra and the mountains they are the only means of travelling. They have been able to use them in Adaminaby for pleasure, not necessity, it is great sport. They are about seven feet long, just a Mountain-Ash paling 4 inches wide steamed and turned up at the point with a leather strap in the middle for the feet. They travel at a tremendous pace on falling ground: of course on the level or uphill they can only go slowly. I saw in the Kiandra letter today that there is 3 feet of snow on the level and further up at Nine Mile workings 6 feet; in the drifts this means 20 feet or over.


We get a magnificent view of the mountains from the top of the paddock extending in one unbroken line of white along the horizon - At the same time as I got your letter I received one from Roll Harnett who is in great distress about Vi who it appears wrote to him from Melbourne, where it appears she had a situation or said so. This was the first intimation I had of her leaving home, Addie has not answered my last dated fully two months back. As regards that parcel I had a letter from Miss Steel who is confusing me with one sent last August. I should like you to make a few enquiries if possible as it contains some clothes which I need. I see by the papers that they have started the NS railway also a tramway bill in the house. Things should go ahead now, I know how a railway makes things lively up here.


I enclose a little sketch of the house taken from the Lease Paddock showing the mountains at the back they are not far only about twenty miles it will give you some idea if not much of the place. Give my love to Granny and Addie and the children and write soon.


Your affectionate Son



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