Now Deane can you tell me how long you lived in the Prospect Hill area and when did you move away from Prospect Hill?
I lived in the Prospect Hill area for 62 years, no, yes I have, 62 years in Prospect Hill. We moved away in 1990, came to Victor Harbor so that means that I have been here within a month or so, 24 years in Victor Harbor.
So where was your house located in Prospect Hill?
On a property called “Sunnybrae”, which is section 3410 hundred of Kuitpo which is towards Blackfellows Creek in an area called, well the creek is called Norris’ Creek, in previously, previous to that the property was opened, was owned by the Norris family; two brothers, two bachelor brothers. I can still remember the old ruins of an old cottage that was there, where they camped. There was an old fig tree that was there, I can recall that, none of that is there now of course. Purely because I pushed it away. And an old plum tree down towards the creek I can still recall that. I still remember the heap of rubble which was where the cottage was. And the stone for that they got from the other side of the creek where there was a hill that had quite a rock in it, [repeats] quite a rock in it which later I finished up carting most of it away as rubble tip for various properties around the district, including the base for the second tennis court built at Prospect Hill, which was built after Ash Wednesday, all that base rubble came out of that quarry. Sorry but I did make a few notes about Sunnybrae … As I said that was originally owned by the Norrises, it was then owned by my grandmother, then my father, who developed it, or developed most of it, we went on to finish most of it off, and then myself, okay. We sold that property quite a few years ago now, probably about 8 years ago, okay.
One of the features of that property was, it was that there was some huge, huge red gum trees growing along that creek. When I say huge, 2 or 3 of the stumps were still there when I took the property over and I remember measuring one of them and that was 8 feet across and that’s a big tree. There is still one of those big trees left on the property. I have been told that it is one of the tallest red gum trees in the Mt. Lofty Ranges. I don’t have any proof of that, I was just told that by an employee of the Electricity Trust several years ago. And that tree is big enough, I remember when I was growing up, a horse could get inside the burned out part of the tree and you wouldn’t see the horse, no wait I am wrong, you could see the tail swishing, that’s all you’d see, ‘cause they used to do that on a very hot day. They would go in that tree in the shade, which was a good thing for the horse, wasn’t it? Talking about the big trees, that brings me to those trees that had been cut down. They cut them down and used them to mill for railway sleepers. Of course in those days they didn’t have the modern mills that we’ve got today. They would dig a pit, and there were two pits on Sunnybrae must admit, I filled them in later, which I regret now, but I did. Should mark them shouldn’t I? They would then put a couple of logs across that pit that they’d dug, would put a couple of bearers on there, in other words, a couple of logs, smaller logs and then they would roll the big logs onto the bearers and then they would saw that big log into sleepers using a big cross cut saw. One man up on top of the log and one man down in the pit and that’s the way they would cut the sleepers out many, many years ago. I still recall that there was one of those big logs left on the property, not far from one of the pits when I was younger, I remember that the reason that that was there was that apparently the sledge or however they were carting it down the gully, down on Norris’ Creek got bogged and they couldn’t move, so they rolled the log off and left it there and that was there for many, many, many years until unfortunately one day my father was burning some gorse bushes nearby and a spark got into that log, and finished up and burnt the lot, which was a shame, but that’s how it goes. Okay, so that’s pretty well Sunnybrae. That answered your question hasn’t it?
So can you tell me about what you did in the community around Prospect Hill?
I guess the question is ‘Where do I start?’. Well I guess the first thing that I remember is going to Prospect Hill Methodist Church with my parents. We used to go in a horse and buggy. I still remember the old carbide lights, yeah on the side of it. Now our property was approximately a half a mile, in that language, those days, or the house was from the Blackfellows Creek Road. Where we are now, is at the foot of a tree called Bee Tree Hill, called that because obviously it was a big tree years ago and it had bees in it, so it got named Bee Tree Hill. Then we go further up towards Prospect Hill through or past Wattle Gully, which was the next gully, and that was called Wattle Gully because of all the wattles that grew in that area and after Ash Wednesday those seeds were still there because they came up by the millions. We then used to have lunch with somebody at Prospect Hill, most times the Griggs family, the George Griggs family and then we, my brothers and sisters, when they arrived, we would go to Prospect Hill Sunday School and then back home after that. What was the next…what did you say again?
Telling me about what you did in the community
Oh, I see that’s right, well that ended that. Yeah, I guess its not that I did much then, but that is my first experience of being involved in the Prospect Hill Community. Later on… … … Oh, better go back to Norris’ Creek. I remember my mother telling me years and years ago about a bush fire that was in 1929, I didn’t see it I was only a baby then. And that burnt through the block opposite the farm at Prospect Hill.
Do you want me to deal with the school one now, yes?
Yes, okay. I first went to school at Kuitpo School. Kuitpo School was in the Kuitpo Hall. Kuitpo Hall was built as a result of the community that set up in Kuitpo during the plantation of Kuitpo Forest. I only spent one year at Prospect Hill, I mean Kuitpo. I only spent one year at Kuitpo Hall umm, and just while I am on that, just some of the names that I remember that were in that area were the Pearces, the Jacksons, the Freers, the Brookmans, the Michelmores of course, the Minnies, the Heaths, Pat Johnson. Pat Johnson used to live in what is now know today as Woodcutter’s Cottage in Kuitpo Forest and Pat used to be the bullock driver. I still recall Pat Johnson driving his bullocks around quite close to our house, where the forest boundary was, ploughing fire breaks and he had about. I am not sure whether it was half a dozen or four bullocks, which was quite a feat in those days. Then I went to the Prospect Hill School. The reason I went to Prospect Hill School was because I would be able to pick up the mail from the Prospect Hill Post Office, because there was no mail— and so our mail always went to the Prospect Hill Post Office and that was the reason I think my father decided that it would be better if I went up, so that I could get the mail going home from school. That school was situated just opposite where the Scout Hall is situated today. It was a school; it was a one-teacher school, with sometimes a helper, seven grades. Some of the teachers that I can recall were, Mr. Wydrowski, Mr. Redden, Miss Kaul, Mr. Len Berman, Pam Kimba, June Trenorden and of course Miss Gully’s in there, I missed her out, she was, she was, what should I say, she was a person who had a method of doing things of her own, but she was absolutely dedicated to what she did. One of the things that she did, as we became teenagers, she organised Old Scholars’ social events, so the teenagers around the town could go back still go back to the old school and enjoy social events, which was quite successful actually.
Then moving on from that, as far as community interests and activities go, I guess we go back a far way. I was Trustee of the Meadows Methodist Parsonage for some time and I still remember painting the underground tank there, with some sort of paint you had to be careful about the fumes. I still remember having to get out of that tank very, very quickly ’cause I felt myself going into a daze. Then, following that, I guess that other thing I was involved with in my earlier days was the Meadows Agricultural Bureau where many Prospect Hill people went as well, after a while I was the Assistant Secretary there, and then the Vice President and then the President and I am a life member of that today. I guess the next thing I was involved with that I can recall was the Prospect Hill Progress Committee, which I might add was the forerunner of the Prospect Hill Community Centre today. On that note, that was an amalgamation of the Progress Committee and the Memorial Hall Committee which was built later and they combined and made the centre as it is known today. I was involved there during the building of the W.J. Griggs Playground Project and I can still remember clearing the trees off of that site and it being levelled. Another interest was the Prospect Hill Tennis Club, a Table Tennis Club I believe, I spent some time there as the Captain, the Secretary and the President and I am a life member of that today. I will just mention the Prospect Hill Tennis Club, I was never ever actually a member of the Tennis Club, my wife and my family were of course, our children, but I do know that that tennis court was built by local labour, local people, using horse and scoops to level it out and some of the families involved with that were the Griggs, the Harveys, the Connors, the Pykes, the Milligans, the Lovelocks and the later on I think, no, that was all. Later on they installed electric lighting on the courts and when my wife, Betty-Anne and my children played I think there were four or five teams in the Prospect Hill Club, and unfortunately today, there is no club there anymore. I wasn’t involved with this but I remember when the CWA [Country Women’s Association] was there which was the first hall in the district for social occasions. Prospect Hill had a very active CWA branch, originally a building which was a school down at Mosquito Flat, which is down near Langhorne Creek and I remember my father and a few other people very much involved in getting that school from where it was up and setting it up at Prospect Hill, and that was there up until Ash Wednesday, unfortunately it got destroyed then.
I will just touch on the Prospect Hill Museum while I am there because I was involved in the Progress Committee, which was involved while this was first initiated by Keith Griggs and I remember being told that he had a chat to Pat Connor and a few others about the idea of setting up the old Marshall home as a museum and that was the beginning of the Prospect Hill Museum today. Later on the Prospect Hill War Memorial Hall was built. I guess the next thing that I recall is the Prospect Hill Scout Group, that was formed in 1944 and Keith Griggs was the first leader. We originally met in the Prospect Hill tennis shed, that was a little shed that was built down on the tennis courts of a Saturday afternoon and later we moved up to the shed belonging to Mr. W.J. and Keith Griggs and we used to meet in where they used to keep their car and truck. Every week they would take them out and after we had finished they would put them back in again. Later, there was as far as the group was concerned, the Meadow Scout Hall, which was not being used, was transported from Meadows up to Prospect Hill. Now, originally that hall was the Post Office of the Belair [Corroboree?] of 1936. At that point, I had a bulldozer in those days, and levelled the site for that scout hall and Keith Griggs gave the land for it and later gave that land to the Scout Association, which owns that land today. The scout group continues today and in August 2014 there will be a celebration to celebrate 70 years of scouting in Prospect Hill, non-stop. Just on that I levelled the site for the new community hall, which is built on the old CWA site, same site, after Ash Wednesday. Also built the dam on the Community Association property, down below the tennis courts, also ripped the trench, trenches for planting the trees on the community property on the southern side that was planted after Ash Wednesday. The Scout Hall, that hall was also destroyed Ash Wednesday and there was a new hall built 12 to 18 months after.
Another interest that I was involved with for a while was the Blackfellows Creek CFS, Country Fire Service. Firstly it was set up before I was involved by locals, Bob Morris, Claude Connor, Arch Oakley, and Pat and Pete Connor and I think some other people, oh my father as well. And to start with I think it was on Mr. Morris’ truck or his little utility they put a tank with water in it and later the Meadows Council supplied a hand operated pump to go on whoever’s vehicle it got put on when it was necessary. Later there was a shed built on Mr. Arch Oakley’s property and that’s where the tank used to be housed. Oh, while we were involved in that, while I was involved in that we raised funds and built the extension to the CFS fire shed which became a meeting room, and a shower room kitchen. I levelled the site for that extension of course.
Also I was involved for a while in the Meadows Valley Camera Club, several years actually, and that is still going today I believe, which is fantastic. Just other sites of interest, while I am on that, around Prospect Hill and Bull Creek is what is known today as Bells Cottage. Bells Cottage is in a place we called Bells Gully, which is now all pine forest and it is just interesting and I think it was my grandmother’s brother that owned that property back in those days before it was sold to Forestry SA. The other item of interest around is Blackfellows Creek School. All that is there now is ruins and that was before my time.
Another thing of interest was the Kuitpo School and the Kuitpo Forest. There used to be a saw mill on the what is now Brookmans Road, that all got burnt in the bush fires of 1929 that I mentioned a while ago.
And the other things of interest, I think there is something else in there but there’s not, oh no, continue on from Blackfellers Creek School. I remember some of the Connors attended that school, but also brings me to remember that the block which is now forest today, which is right next to Prospect Hill, used to be known as Maidments Block and I remember when they were felling that block, all the timber on it, clearing it and then burning all of that so that they could plant the pines, that was next to a block that is known or was known as Sweetmans Block which later became the property of Mr. Jack and Lil Connor, known as “Donnybrook”.
Just go back to Prospect Hill Church for a minute, something I’ve just remembered. I’m told that my grandmother who was a very, very strong, strict woman and there was never any nonsense in the Mitchie house. She used to take her 9 sons – she had 11 children – she used to take her 9 sons to the Prospect Hill Church. Following on from that, I have been told by my mother that my grandmother Sarah who was the wife of Charles, she and Mrs. Alec Connor from next door gave the money for the Soldiers War Memorial Avenue in Prospect Hill Church grounds. That has reminded me of something else.
I was also a member of Prospect Hill’s Band of Hope at some stage but that’ a long time ago. Yeah, I guess that’s mainly my involvement in Prospect Hill.
That’s a lot of involvement. My next question was going to be: were you involved in the Community Association and what involvement did you have? But obviously you have answered that. So, I might go back and ask you some questions about the things you brought up before.
First, what was your occupation when you – your main occupation – when you lived [in Prospect Hill?]
Oh, I was a dairy farmer, dairy farmer but I did some earth moving work as well and transport. I guess dairy farmer, earth moving/fodder conservation contractor, we used to do quite a lot of fodder conservation around the district.
Okay and you mentioned that your grandmother was involved in the church, how many generations of your family have lived in Prospect Hill would you say?
Well the Michelmore family first came down on Meadows Flat which is just down from Prospect Hill in 1840 and I have been told by my uncle that when they first came out from England, when they left Devon, or at least my ancestors did, they lived under a big gum tree for a while, while they felled some timber and made a shack to live in. That old fireplace that they built, I can still recall they used to drag logs to the door with horses and then instead of cutting the logs up they would push the logs in through the door, into the fire and as it burned the ends of the logs off, they would just keep pushing the logs into the fire. So whilst it might have saved cutting the wood, they had to push the logs instead. Unfortunately, that building or that property got burned several years ago, because later they built a house there out of stone, but unfortunately it all got destroyed. It is a heritage site though, which is a good thing. And the second part of that question was?
I just asked how many generations of your family have lived in Prospect Hill?
Oh, okay, well my grandfather lived there, and he was the one that came out from England. I never knew my grandfather, he passed away a fairly young man and so my grandmother brought up those 9 children, two children were deceased, which I think was a fantastic effort. And then we lived there and we have still got a son living there, my son went on the property that I lived on for a start after I came to Victor Harbor, but that since got sold and he moved out of the district.
Okay, you mentioned the W.J. Griggs Memorial Park. Can you tell me who W.J. Griggs was?
Oh yes absolutely. W.J. Griggs, Mr. Bill Griggs, William J. Griggs, William John, and was the father of Keith Griggs, Keith John. And the Marshall part of that while I am on it, he married a Miss Marshall and she lived in the old, what is now the museum, she was Mrs. Les Marshall and I can recollect seeing Les Marshall, he was the village blacksmith. Yeah, when you start on this, memories come back.
So can you tell me a bit more about life in Prospect Hill? What is the community like?
Yes, well, in the past – and I am not living up there – so I guess I am not going to go into that because I can’t really give you a fair description, although I am still up there fairly often. But in the past, and it still is to the best of my knowledge, a very, very close-knit community. A very close-knit community with a community spirit and many things happen in Prospect Hill only because everybody pulled together and made things happen. In those days we never had such things as government grants, or grants from anywhere else where you could get money. If we wanted to do something in Prospect Hill well then we had to earn it ourselves as a community and that’s what used to happen. Today it has changed of course, there is much more— There has been more properties built on, more houses they built out there and many years ago, most of the farms through Prospect Hill and Blackfellows Creek, Kuitpo and nearby areas were dairy farms. Dairy farming was probably the main thing, and potato growing; they were probably the two main agricultural projects that happened around that area. It is interesting that today, to the best of my knowledge, there’s only two dairy farms left in that Prospect Hill area; compared with many, many, many years ago. But that’s a sign of the times.
Yeah, I guess really that describes Prospect Hill, always been a very, very caring community and always taken an interest in historical things. Such things as the old flag tree we learned about that a long time ago, whereby the story is that they used to put a flag up the flag pole and send the messages to another flag pole further nearer to the coast, and that would then go out to sea. So people in Prospect Hill could get a message of when there was a boat coming in and they would know when to go down and get groceries or whatever stores they needed to get. That is what I have been told, how much of that is absolute dead right I wouldn’t know but I would say it’s right, okay.
So you were saying before about the Methodist Church, was Prospect Hill a Methodist community? Is it still a Methodist community?
Well I guess it must have been mainly a Methodist community for the community to build a church, because as you know way back in those days, churches were one of the first public buildings that were built in many, many, many places, throughout the world for that matter. Yeah, I guess to answer your question, yes it was mainly but not entirely, of course not. Okay. And was there another part of that question?
Can you tell me the names of some of the landowners from Prospect Hill?
Ah, I will go back as far as I can and I will only come up to probably the last 30 or bit more years ago. I remember that there was the Griggs, the Harveys and they were certainly one of the first ones out there. Just on the Harveys they owned a property where Mr. Ron Lochier, where the Lochiers used to live years ago and they built a cottage down there, our house. Part of that property obviously got sold at some stage by the Harveys or the Lochiers, I am not sure which, and it is interesting that my grandmother bought part of that property and that was always known to me as Harveys Scrub and that it, ironically later on I became the owner with my brother of that property called Harveys Scrub, that has since been sold of course. The Connors, the Milligans, the Nicholls actually, the Nicholls’ base was in Bull Creek, but they did have land that came up into Prospect Hill, and later on Gordon Nicholls built a dairy on that land which is now where Lindsay Gibson lives.
Also on that land at the top of the hill is, is what they called a ”meeting tree”, it is a flowering gum and that was planted many years ago and was called a “meeting tree” when they went out to social functions as I said the church was the only building in there and the vestry was everything was held, the story was that the boys would take their girlfriends home as far as the top of that hill and vice versa and that is where they would part. And I am wrong about the “meeting tree”, it is called the “parting tree”, beg your pardon.
The Pykes came a bit later on, the Michelmores have always been there, the Oakleighs, the Sweetmans, the Maidments, the Mawsons, the Rodgers, Rodgers owned a property which is section 53, which is a property which borders which is now Millighan Road, and this is where some interesting stories about the Aborigines, which we will touch on later. Umm Tom Dixon, the Sheppards, there were two lots of Rodgers, another lot down in what we called Tin Town, well what we used to call Tin Town, that’s between Prospect Hill and Meadows, and down there were the Connors I recall and the Rodgers and the Harveys, another family of Harveys and I still remember that Mr. Herb Connor used to grow tobacco down there, years ago. Later on, oh the Gills, they were there many years ago, the Wallaces a little bit later, Harpers of course, I should have gone back to the very first and that’s the Morrises, which is now called Morris’ Hill, which was late taken up by the Deaners, the Fred Wrights, the Bob Morrises, the Eddie Eckherts, the Cyril Moores, the Kuchels, the Waites, the Longs, Bob Long, the Smarts, the Foggos, the Coads, the Hills, the Hoskings, and later on the Hughes, Palmers, Howards, Zercks, that’s some of the names.
Alright. So can you tell me what you consider to be some of the most important aspects of Prospect Hill’s history?
Oh, I guess some of the most, the things that comes to my mind is in those days of course you used to go by horse and buggy and wagon, down to Adelaide, to get their supplies, that’s a significant thing. I guess I have touched on some of the old spots around, like the Blackfellows Creek School and so on. There is another significant spot in Prospect Hill which is what we used to call the China Wall and that’s situated towards Bull Creek and that is on a property that when I was growing up that used to belong to Clyde Waite; that’s a natural huge, huge rock that resembles a huge wall, that is still there today of course.
I guess the other significant thing that I find about Prospect Hill has been that it has always been such a caring place, with caring people in it, it always has been. A few other things that come to mind are some of the old quarries that were set up purely to build their homes. There used to be a stone quarry out on what used to be the Pyke property. Go back to my own parents which I didn’t touch on before, talking about building houses, they built a house out of, first of all it was a little shack, and then, when my father got married they built a house out of concrete, poured concrete, now the rubble, they used ironstone rubble which is nearby, probably within 50 or 100 metres away from the house, and they built that and then they plastered over that afterwards and that was the house. In those days and pretty well all through the state people built houses out of materials, the natural materials that were there, and that’s what they did.
Yeah, what other significant things about Prospect Hill? Yeah, yes, that’s probably the main things that come to my mind about significant things in Prospect Hill and how they managed in the early, early days, going all that distance which would have taken a day, would have taken a day to go to Adelaide, another day to come back and so it goes on. The Griggs set up a little shop where the museum is today which is where the Post Office is today and that is where the people used to get groceries from when the Griggs’ brought them up from Adelaide, alright. Yep, I think that is the main significance.
So do you know much about the Prospect Hill area before European settlement, for example, the Aboriginal settlement of the area?
Not a lot. Way before my time, Jordan! There is only two things that comes to my mind that relates to the Aborigines. One was and I mentioned about the Rodgers who lived up on section 53 at Prospect Hill, which later became the Milligans’ property and this particular part became Colin Millligans’ property. I remember the Milligans telling me – Max Milligan it was – telling me that he remembers being told of the people that used to live down there. The Aborigines, or some of the Aborigines used to go down there and ask for ‘baccie’ and one of the things they were most impressed with was seeing the steam coming out of the kettle, they found that extremely fascinating. That is one story that I have heard. The other one is that I have heard that some of the other older residents around Prospect Hill that have probably passed on now, they remember when there were Aborigines camping down the Blackfellows Creek area, which is south of Prospect Hill, which leads into Kuitpo colony, which is another story on its own I guess.
The Kuitpo colony just touching on that briefly, that was set up in the Depression to give people work. There was a man by the name of the Reverend Samuel Forsythe, he set that up and that was set up and they catered for many, many people out there, they used to cut wood and various things like that because in those days, wood was a sellable item to the brick kilns and places like that and yeah, I and a lot of other people carted many, many tons of kiln wood down to Adelaide, to Halletts and other companies for their brick kilns, also over to Littlehampton to the brick kiln there, which incidentally is still there today.
Was Blackfellows Creek named in reference to Aboriginal people, do you know?
I would think so. I mean I have, I have never been told, I have never even tried to find out either, to be quite frank, but I would think that would be fairly obvious. And incidentally whilst there was never a community there, there were people lived there, like a few of the names I have mentioned, Connors, Oakleighs, Stones. Connors, Oakleighs, Stones probably were the main ones, way back. I have lost my train of thought here. Yeah it would have been, oh, Blackfellows Creek is still identified, that is what I meant to say, Blackfellows Creek is still identified by the CFS Station, the Country Fire Station, and is still known as the Blackfellows Creek Fire Service and so that name will stick in that area, and of course, Blackfellows Creek itself, flowed in a southerly direction down towards, connected up with what is now known as the Finniss River.
Can you tell me about the early days of Prospect Hill from European settlement?
Not really any more than what I have already covered, I don’t think, not to my memory anyhow.
So what are some of your favourite heritage stories about Prospect Hill, for example, some other community members who I have spoken to like to tell the story of Sarah McHarg or the Deputy Surveyor General Thomas Burke?
Mmm, mmm, yep, yep, we’ve heard all about that and read about that etcetera, etcetera, and now there is a memorial plaque up there to acknowledge that which is a good thing. I am not too sure whether I can think of any other stories relating to heritage apart from perhaps the old quarries as I’ve mentioned where people got their rock etc. to build their homes, and the China Wall, which I’ve mentioned. Yeah, no I can’t think of really anything that stands out, apart from the Flag Tree of course. I can’t think of anything that really stands out.
Okay. Can you tell me a little about the historical figures, the people who you considered to be important to the heritage of Prospect Hill?
Oh, well that would the names that I mentioned a while ago, particularly the first names, the first I mentioned, the Griggs family, the Harvey family, and the Connor family, the Michelmore family; all those families were very much involved in setting up I guess the community of Prospect Hill. There was a family of Harveys there not very far away. Yep, there was that I guess, I guess it was that need for community spirit because, because houses were a long way away, life would get fairly lonely wouldn’t it. So people that lived within a reasonable distance of a horse and cart distance would form communities and that happened throughout the state.
Are many of those families still living there? Are the settler families still living in Prospect Hill?
Oh right. Well, right this day as we speak I think there is only one member of the Griggs family, yes I think there is only one member of the Griggs family. The Harvey family, they have been there up until just recently, but they’ve pretty well all gone now. Michelmore family, there’s only one in Prospect Hill, that’s Chris. The Connors, well there’s different Connors, Lovelocks, the Lovelocks I’ll say are a descendant of the Connor family. Yeah, I guess that’s the main families that are still represented; there’s been a big change actually.
Okay. So I would like to talk about the Ash Wednesday bush fires now. Can you tell me where you were when the bush fires occurred?
Oh interesting. Yeah, we were— Actually I was driving one of the CFS trucks that afternoon, out in Kuitpo Forest, next to Blackfellows Creek because we had a fire there the day before, and we were out there that Ash Wednesday day, that morning putting out stumps, etcetera, etcetera and then while we were out there on the job we got the message to say that a fire had started at McLaren Flat and then of course that fire became the great fire – that Ash Wednesday we all know of. Unfortunately, that fire was heading in, what’s shall I say, it was probably driven by a north wind, it was heading south or a bit more east perhaps and then a south wind came up and of course that gave it a huge fire front and that just blew it straight up into Kuitpo Forest, Prospect Hill, etcetera, etcetera, Ashbourne and all those areas. Terrific fire. Horrific fire. Yep.
So can you tell me a bit more about your experience [with the fire?]
Oh, wait on, experience yeah, right, that’s where we were. Okay that afternoon; first of all we drove down to give some assistance at Hope Forest because that’s where the fire had got to, but then the message was given that we go back home, which we did. I still remember going speedily back up to the Blackfellows Creek fire shed and that’s where we were stationed and then we realised that it was really getting up, coming up our way and so it was a matter of everybody fend for themselves and so I raced off home because we were a bit further down Norris’ Creek. It just so happened that I owned the property next to the fire shed and on the way home I opened up all the gates through the paddocks so that stock could go through from paddock to paddock and not get caught with the fire. Got home, the fire hadn’t got there at that stage. My two sons were there but it wasn’t long before the fire did get there because our house wasn’t any more than probably 100 metres from the house [forest] and so we copped it good and proper. And look, it was only due to Andrew and Stephen who already had the tank and the trailer down there etcetera and got everything ready and were there. It was only due to their, their strength and all three of us, Andrew, Stephen and myself, it was only due to – I would say – the ability of the human body to somehow find extreme energy in the case of crisis to keep going, because we had big trouble with spot fires, and between the house and the forest we had a little horse paddock and you know the horse manure was catching alight and blowing down to the house and we had a strip of garden along the house. Luckily, we had a bit of a gravel track through there, that helped heaps, but we had to keep putting spot fires out to save the house – which we did save it, I am pleased to say. But we lost sheds and a lot of other things and you know that morning we had something like 7,000 square bales of hay stored, that night we had nothin’— well when I said we had none, it was smoldering, we had none that was useful. But thanks to the generosity of many kind people around they gave us some hay to get us through for a few days until we got ourselves organised and of course we lost heaps of fencing, as did many other people, but at least we were able to save our house.
That’s good. [end of audio part 1]
This is the continuation of an interview with Deane Michelmore on the second card. So we’re going to continue with a previous question, which was: can you tell me a little more about your experience about the Ash Wednesday bushfire?
Oh okay. Right, well this will relate to the after effects of Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday affected the whole district and it affected a large, large number of people. Unfortunately there were seven houses burnt in the area and there was two deaths which was tragic. But the after effects I guess the thing that stands out most of all to me is the way that catastrophe. Prospect Hill has always been a community that has worked well together, but that catastrophe certainly pulled everybody together to a much greater degree and one of the things I recall just after Ash Wednesday, there was a few people involved – and Malcolm Slade was one that comes to mind – and organised basically a wake and I think pretty well everybody in Prospect Hill turned out that night, which was held up at the Memorial. It was held on the tennis courts actually and the Memorial Hall. No, I am wrong, not the Memorial Hall because that was fully occupied, it was held on the tennis courts, alright. I guess one of the, one of the good things that has come out of it and the realities in life that there’s always something good comes out of something bad. One of the good things that came out of it was that following that, and here it was a community drive in all again of course, built the large concrete tank up on the hill nearby, next to Flag Tree, Flag Tree Reserve and we put in a, a water system, put in a pump and underground piping to take water and put sprinklers on the roof of what is now the museum. Did that to be able to hopefully never let it happen again, so that we had water there on site and sprinklers on site, because on Ash Wednesday of course we had none of that and so it was, it was tragic, that is something that is good that came out of it.
The other thing that comes to mind is the hall, the Memorial Hall, which didn’t get burned thank goodness. That became a depot for relief purposes and donations of clothing and whatever, that was the depot and a base, and also Jean Harvey, whose house, whose house was burnt down, they lived in the hall for quite some time, until such time until they could arrange to get accommodation back home where their house was, which wasn’t that far from Prospect Hill.
I’ll tell you a little story about, that comes to mind, that my wife told me because during Ash Wednesday when we were desperately trying to save the house, my wife, and children. They got in a car and went into the Meadows Oval and it was that my two sons that told them that they had better do that. I wasn’t home at that point and that was where they were. But a message came through that one of the houses had been burnt and Betty was standing next to the person who owned the house and her husband and got the message that their house had been destroyed and the husband had just, the first thing that he said to his wife was “Did you save my guitar?” Well she did, she took the guitar with her and so that’s an interesting sidelight to Ash Wednesday. I guess another thing because my wife Betty and the family they did not know whether they had a house to go to or not that night but somebody, one of, one of the teenagers friends called Bucko he rode his bike out to check whether the house was still there from Meadows and he was able to ride back and tell her that it was still there, so that was a huge relief.
Just after Ash Wednesday there was a fundraising effort arranged by some locals to raise money to help the people that lost their homes in Ash Wednesday, and despite the fact that those people had had losses they didn’t lose their homes and so they banded together an amateur hour to raise funds for the people who did lose property. And of course, the other thing, because the Scout Hall and the CWA rooms had been destroyed, the community immediately took action and due to a lot of help from service clubs, particularly service clubs, the scout hall was rebuilt, later on the CWA room was rebuilt in the form of a hall and the reason that that got built reasonably early in the piece was that the Wollongong Council from New South Wales, they collected money for the South Australian bush fire and it was Geoff Simpson who was mayor, or chairman of the council at that time and he suggested that that money go to Prospect Hill, so that, that was the biggest part of the money that provided that for, that made that possible, there was other monies put into it of course, as there was other monies put into the Scout Hall besides the service clubs and Wollongong Council but it is just another example of people pulling together, and people helping people in the times of distress, or let’s hope that people help people at all times, but when the chips are down, that is when the best of people come out and that was very much proved on Ash Wednesday.
As I said earlier in the piece there were seven homes destroyed and two lives and that’s tragic. The old school, where we went to school, the Prospect Hill kids went to Prospect Hill School before it was closed, that got burnt. At that stage it was used as a residence, and incidentally the people that lived in that house at the time, they had already had their house destroyed up in the Darwin Cyclone, they come down this way and they live at Prospect Hill and they lost their house again, at Prospect Hill.
Yeah I guess that’s, that is some of the main things that stick in my mind following Ash Wednesday, which is all part of Ash Wednesday, but the big, the big thing that stands out is people helping people and people that weren’t affected by Ash Wednesday helping those that were. It was fantastic, fantastic, and I know that there was scout groups that gave money towards the building of the Prospect Hill Scout Hall. I know that because I was, was involved from day one and I have been involved up until a couple of years ago.
So, so I would say that covers that.
So you touched on it briefly, but how much did the fires impact on Prospect Hill’s built heritage, so its historic buildings and structures?
Oh well it impacted, because the brick building next to the museum that’s there now, which has now been rebuilt that had got burnt, or the stone building it was, beg your pardon. There was part of the wall still standing but everything else had to be cleared away and rebuilt and we were lucky to get enough a very good stone mason who was able to do that because all the sheds that belonged to the Griggs’ from that building further up towards their old dairy which still there today, they all got destroyed. And what was the question again?
How much did the fires impact on the build heritage?
Well that’s the impact,
Destruction, rebuild, community spirit and the fire protection system that was put in which is still there today, I guess they are the main things that standout as to, as to the effects of Ash Wednesday, the outcomes and effect of Ash Wednesday. I guess the big thing that stands out in it all was people helping people, from all over the state and interstate as well.
So how close did the museum come to being destroyed in the fire?
Oh heck, oh, absolutely a miracle how it didn’t get destroyed. There was, I believe, there was, there was a little bit of timber that got scorched, badly scorched, might have even got charred a bit I think, where the museum is today and because there was a building next door to it, it was probably because it was a stone building, not probably, it was because there was a stone building next to it between the sheds and the museum and the Marshall home, because that was stone, that would be I would say the only reason it didn’t get burnt.
Okay. Do you think that following Ash Wednesday more efforts have been put into protecting and preserving the built heritage of Prospect Hill?
Yes I do. Yes I do. Well I guess the water system is one and it has been improved, like the site has been improved. One thing I failed to mention, is the old school house, the old Meadows School which is all part of the heritage property now, that was the school building at Meadows, it then got moved down by the Education Department to their museum at Morphett Vale; it sat there for quite a while. They then decided to disband that museum and luckily, very luckily, we got to know about it and Prospect Hill people made arrangements and we were able to get that hall back again into the district and so the decision was made. As far as I know the Meadows people were very comfortable about it; moving it back to the Prospect Hill museum. That was quite a major task because it is quite a sizeable building, and it is very, very, very tall. It was my son and I that organised and brought that building back to Prospect Hill which meant police, and ETSA and so on, having to lift power lines and all sorts of things, but it happened. And I guess, not guess, I was the one who carted the rubble and who levelled out the site to sit it on and also painted it. The first time it got there it was in pretty bad repair and I still remember painting the roof of the darn thing. It is a very steep roof and from a safety point of view I had a rope tied to myself down to the ground on the other side of the building when I was painting the steep roof, so that if I slipped at least I couldn’t go off and I am glad that rope was there a couple of times I can tell you.
Before the bush fires what efforts were put into protecting and preserving the heritage of Prospect Hill, that you know of?
Oh, oh, before the bush fire— Probably no more than the usual practice of everybody that lived in the districts and I know that the Griggs certainly used to clean up all the leaves, the gutters, the grass and you know generally clean up before the summer
So that if there was a fire at least we had a better chance of doing something with it because in front of the Prospect Hill museum is, is a road; it is a T-junction so there is quite a lot of roadway there which obviously of course helped the, would have helped save the house, like where Keith used to live, it would have saved that without a doubt, would be that road. And, okay the roads don’t stop sparks but they certainly stop the running fire, when it is, it’s interesting what a small patch of bare ground, what it will do, how it breaks the speed of a fire.
And we, we have found that on our own property because we lost of lot of fences, but the fences next to the firebreaks on the south, southern side, those posts or any pine posts were still there, any red gum posts went but they were still there where some other places, was that, the heat was that fierce it actually burnt the pine posts but they say they don’t burn, but when it gets hot enough they do.
So in your opinion do you think Prospect Hill’s built heritage and its heritage stories helped the residents that were affected by the bush fire to recover?
Yes I do. Yes I do. Yep.
I guess what it’s done. What the bush fires has done and all the loss and the tragedy and all the homes, also the two lives that were lost. What it has done is, it’s made Prospect Hill a far better known community within the whole state for that matter, umm, okay, it was, before Ash Wednesday, it was a quiet little town, well known within, within a certain circle but probably not much out of that but err since Ash Wednesday and everything that has happened since, it’s become far better known as, as an example I guess of rebuilding a community.
Okay. Can you tell me more, tell me your thoughts on Prospect Hill today? For example, what are the strengths of the community and what struggles is it facing or does it face?
It is still a very close knit community but I think I would be right in saying it’s not wholly—The whole— Not parts of— the whole community is perhaps not as closely knit as it was many, many years ago. And that’s probably because it has got bigger and it’s probably years ago where families inter-married and so people— Everybody knew everybody. Where nowadays people have come in from outside to Prospect Hill and they moved to Prospect Hill because they wanted to. And I can understand that because it is a great place to live, of course it is; it has fantastic views. Those people, some of those people certainly become very much involved in the community; some not as much, and that, and that’s understandable, they are working, they have got long distances to travel and there is a whole heap of reasons that some communities’ residents don’t get as involved as much as others do, but there— There are quite a few others, many others, that have come into the community and they do get involved. And that, that will, if it is all done in the right spirit that will continue to grow Prospect Hill, or has the potential to grow Prospect Hill. And just on that— and it does relate, I think. Ask the question again, because I don’t want to answer something that’s not in the right place.
It was just can you tell me you thoughts on Prospect Hill today?
Oh yeah, okay. Okay, I think Prospect Hill has got a great future. I think that the Prospect Hill museum has got a great future, I really do and I know it was Keith Griggs dream and vision that it would become an active museum, actually in the stone building that was rebuilt, next to the museum as it is today, at that stage we also built in there a little kitchen area, with a sink and that, so the thinking was, you know, that it could be opened up and it could, the committee or the people responsible could serve afternoon tea and scones and all that sort of thing. I don’t think that has happened very much at this stage but the point is it’s there, it’s built for the future and from, now— Now from an – I won’t say an outside [perspective] because Prospect Hill is my home and always will be and because I’ve got a son up there and I still go back up there frequently, go back up there to the scout group frequently, very frequently over the last umpteen years. Looking ahead, if that is what you are looking for, or my views, if that is what you are looking for, I believe for the whole community centre as a whole, which includes the museum to move forward there needs to be, I won’t say needs, I will say it would be prudent to consider very much setting up a five-year-plan as to where they want to go, what they want to do in the next five years and how they can improve what and then reviewing that every twelve months and tick off the things they have done and deal with the things they haven’t done, in order of priority, and do whatever— and do whatever they can to pull the whole community together and create interest within the whole community; that way it gives a whole lot more support and the community can continue to build.
I believe that there is great potential there but it is not going to happen unless people get involved and unfortunately it happens in many things throughout the state everywhere, all too often the chores get left to a few and what happens, eventually those few burn out and that is when things start to go backwards and I think Prospect Hill needs to make very sure that that they don’t allow that to happen by doing whatever it takes to pulling the community together and keep the interest there and keep improving things. Because the fact is success breeds success and if the community can see an active group in there driving that and doing things, more than they do now, they do heaps now mind you, I think it is a credit to them what they do, I really do and what’s happened in the last, since we left, there’s been some big, some big improvements. The more people see those successful things the more likely they are to want to get on board and I really think that is the aim that the community will need to aim for, from here on.
But as I said before I believe there is a great future there if it can be administered in the best possible way and driven by enthusiasm.
Okay and so do you have any other remarks that you would like to make on Prospect Hill or its heritage before we close the interview?
No, I don’t think so. I have probably missed a few interesting things, there is just so much— I gotta admit that one doesn’t realise until I started to think about this and until you contacted me, all the things that have happened in a lifetime, well not a lifetime yet I hope but up ’til now, put it that way. But we have seen, the changes we have seen, the changes I have seen in my lifetime in the Prospect Hill area and life in general are tremendous and I am going to say this, my mind boggles because changes are happening quicker, my mind boggles as to where it is all going to be in the next fifty years and I would like to think that that Prospect Hill museum will be a very, very thriving enterprise in the Prospect Hill area, forever, but to make that happen we have to keep, and this is another thing, we have got to keep younger people in the system because what happens when you have just a lot of the older people that is when, that is when organisations and museums die because there is no younger people to keep it up, so that’s another priority is to keep younger people and do whatever it takes to encourage them in there.
Well thank you Deane. Well that concludes the first interview for the Sharing the Heritage of Prospect Hill.
Well thanks, thanks for the opportunity. I hadn’t really thought about any of this until you spoke to me but I believe, I accepted the invitation, your invitation, because I believe it’s families of way back, from you know 1840 onwards and the Harveys came out about the same time, that information needs to be kept up there because it gets lost forever which is a shame. Thank you.
Okay, thank you. [end of audio file part 2]
Deane what other information did you want to add to your interview?
Yeah, okay, thanks Jordan. Yes, it wasn’t until after we did the first one that I remembered a few things that I didn’t remember the first time, and they are all part of the history of the district.
I guess firstly, I don’t think that I mentioned about the old original Harvey home, which was where the Harveys first set up when they came into the district. It is situated on what is now Hammersmith Road, previously the property was owned by the Lochier family and prior to that of course it goes back to the Harveys and part of that old home is still standing today and still being used.
The other one I failed to mention was Archie’s Bridge. Archie’s Bridge is on what is now Black Nursery Road, the first creek that you come to after leaving Brookman Road. The story there is that many years ago there was a guy by the name of Archie who had been somewhere and apparently was coming home and he had had a bit too much alcohol and he probably wasn’t clear on what he was doing and he attempted to cross the flooded creek, or flooded bridge and he didn’t make it and finished up got drowned and so my grandmother said, and uncles, used to talk about Archie’s Bridge.
The other one on the map is Wattle Gully. Prior to being Wattle Gully it was, no sorry, its something else on the map, I just can’t remember what it is, but it is Wattle Gully. And the reason that happened was that there was millions of wattle trees there and that leads me into the next thing. The wattle bark industry was a really big industries in the district at that time because there was many, many wattles throughout the district particularly on the lower ground and they used to cut the wattle into lengths, cut it into lengths, strip the bark off it, dry the bark out and then used to go off to the tannery, but before it got there, there was a weighbridge to take wattle bark set up at Echunga and they would take it over to Echunga and from thereon whoever was operating that system would get it to wherever it needed to go. So that was an industry that was quite a major industry in Prospect Hill many, many years ago which is of course not there today. Well, being a native you wouldn’t be allowed to do it anyhow, would you, which is probably a good thing.
The other one is Blackfellows Creek, sorry, Blackwood Gully gold digging. There was only one or two mines. There was only one there that is obvious today and that was over on the property called “Harewood” which used to be, or still does belong to the Sir Douglas Mawson Estate. They didn’t find a whole lot of gold there and so they didn’t continue on but there is the old mine still there.
The other one is the building stone mine on “Woodlands” which is the former Pyke property, that was really good building stone and all the stone in the Pyke homestead that Guerlon Pyke built, that came out of that mine and I believe that’s where a lot of the stone came from for other houses around the district.
Another mine, there was a talc mine down on the Stone’s property down Mt. Magnificent way. I have never actually seen that mine but I have seen the talc that was produced from it. Whether it was actually commercialised, I am not really sure, and I am, I assume it was but I am not really sure whether it was every really commercialised and run as a business or not.
The other one, I think I mentioned earlier that there were two saw mills. One was on Brookman Road. I don’t know the original owner of that property when the mill was built, but I do know that it was my uncle Archie Michelmore, he followed, owned that property after whoever owned it in the first place. I have got a feeling that it might have been Sir Douglas Mawson but I am not sure about that one and that operated as quite an industrious mine, a mill, I mean until there was a fire and it got burnt and that was the end of that.
The other one was out on Sir Douglas Mawson’s property on Wickam Hill Road and I certainly do remember that one functioning and for many, many years there was a huge heap of sawdust there. Actually I carted some of that sawdust away as time went on for other people. Quite a lot of it went over to Wistow way for this guy who was setting up a blueberry farm and apparently sawdust was what he wanted to get the soil right for his blueberry farm. I have never been back to see if the blueberries were successful or not. I would be interested to know.
Then we move on to— Oh, as a matter of interest Christmas Hill Road is marked on the map, which goes from Brookman Road up to Blackfellows Creek Road. The reason that I have always heard that Christmas Hill Road was named was because there were many, many Christmas trees, bushes, Christmas tree bushes there which are natives. They were called Christmas tree bushes because they always flower at Christmas time and there was a whole lot, there was a lot of them throughout the Adelaide Hills actually. But my understanding is how that hill got called Christmas Hill Road.
Go back to Blackfellows Creek – the gold diggings – I didn’t mention them. There were quite a few gold diggings at Blackfellows Creek which is south of Kuitpo, where Kuitpo Colony was, and where the buildings are today. Interesting story I have heard about that and it’s true, because if you go there you can find the evidence. But they built— It was quite a busy gold mine at one stage. They built a huge dam in the Blackfellows Creek to get water for their gold panning. Unfortunately what happened, and I believe it was the first winter after they built it, they built it with flood gates in it, so they could open up the flood gates when they got a flood and let the water through, they could close it and build up the water reserve level through the summer. But apparently what happened, the person that was employed, or was, or had the responsibility of opening those flood gates at the appropriate time, here again the story is that he got on the alcohol a little bit too much and forgot about opening the flood gates and the end result was that they lost the dam and the whole lot went. It has never been re-built. If you go there it is hard to see it now, because it is very, very densely covered in scrub, but I can still remember where you could see the evidence of the bank, where it left the roadside and when it crossed the other side of the hill. There is probably not a lot more that I can say about that. Have I missed anything?
Oh, yeah. There is another mine down there. Further down from where the dam was which is right beside a hill or a mountain, whatever you want to call it, well up the hill and that has a spring in it and that has been running and is still running and when they set up Kuitpo Colony which I will touch on in a minute. They set that up with a pipe running from that spring up the side of the hill, right up to Kuitpo Colony to provide water up there all the year round.
Just touching on Kuitpo Colony, that was set up during the Depression by a Methodist Minister, the Reverend Samuel Forthsythe and that was set up to give people work during the Depression when they couldn’t get work, so that they then had work clearing the scrub, cutting a lot of timber which used to get sold to brick kilns and so on. As time went on they had large numbers there and that is why many of the huts, or cottages are still there and houses. They set up a pottery because they had a good clay deposit. They set up a pottery which worked very well for quite a while and used the supply the Adelaide market, plus others. They also set up their own slaughterhouse, their butcher side of it to supply their own meat. Also, their own poultry sheds – and they are still there today – and the old slaughterhouse is still there today. It was a very, very independent organisation which really served a purpose back at that period of time and later on it was used as a respite centre, I suppose, for people who were alcoholics and they could go out there and recuperate and that served that purpose for quite a long while and I understand it is still serving that purpose but on a much, much smaller scale.
So I think Jordan, I hope, I think that has covered most of the things that I didn’t cover before. Some of these things may have been covered by some of the other people that you have interviewed but if they have okay, but if they haven’t well then I think all these things need to be mentioned otherwise they will be lost forever.
So these are sites that are important historic sites to Prospect Hill area?
Oh, I believe they are, I believe they are and I think it is good to recognise that and it is good to have them mapped, which I have done. I have made up a map out of five different A4 maps and have put them altogether as one big map. And I have also marked the sites on there and so if Prospect Hill people would like a map like that, that’s fine. I think that’s probably pretty well all of it Jordan.
Do you have anything more to add about any of those areas?
No, no I don’t think so.
Unless you get into some of the details like the old saw mill that got burned on Brookman Road. I can still remember, you know, some of the old waste timber round there, had a big old, I can still remember the big old engine then, we used to drive it, could have been a black stone, but I have got no idea because I never to have a close look.
When you say it was burnt, you mean in Ash Wednesday, or another…?
Oh, no, no, no, no, 1929. 1929. There was a fire, which went up through the district and I think I mentioned before it also went up to where we used to live at “Sunnybrae” on the property which is, or what was burned, I remember my mother telling me about the fire over there which is now owned by Forestry SA. Yeah. Oh yes, yes there is one thing talking about fire. On what is now Harvey Road, there used to – down towards Forests office or on the hill just behind it actually – there used to be a fire lookout tower, where guys, or the Forester would go up there frequently, ride his horse up from down the bottom, or down where headquarters are today, which was where Des Derwood lived for a starter, and then Mr. Chalk and now of course, National Parks have got control of it. But they used to go up there every so often and have a look around the district and if they saw something they would immediately take action. Unfortunately, that tower has been pulled down. We had a photo of that tower and at this point I haven’t been able to find it but I am still trying to find it and I have spoken to my sister, because I think she might have one too. But I can remember as kids we used to up there with my grandmother, when it wasn’t used as a fire tower then and climb up that tower which was a great place to get a good view and there is nothing there at this stage. And I believe, I believe that there should be a plaque put up there where that tower was, with a little bit of a description about it because otherwise all these things are just lost forever and to me they’re all, they’re all part of the history of the district.
Alright, if you don’t have anything more to add then we’ll finish the interview.
No I don’t think so Jordan. After you’ve gone I will probably think of something else, that’s me.
That’s alright. Well that concludes the second interview with Deane Michelmore for the Sharing the Heritage of Prospect Hill Project, thank you Deane.