Jack, can you tell me how long you’ve lived in the Prospect Hill area?
All my life, eighty-one and a half years.
Can you tell me, what was your occupation? What is your occupation?
I’m a dairy farmer.
How long have you been a dairy farmer for?
Oh, since I was fifteen. We also grow potatoes, and we grew peas.
Where is your house located in Prospect Hill?
Right next door to the Prospect Hill Church.
How much involvement did you have in community activities? Were you involved in the Community Association?
No, not really.
What sort of things did you do in the Prospect Hill community?
Well I was an avid tennis player, and also table tennis. And, that was my main thing in the community. I was also a scout for a while in this area.
Okay. Were many people members of the table tennis club and tennis club?
Yes, we had, a full team, like an A and B-grade team, and that went on for quite a years from about the forties onto the fifties, sixties.
Was that for the table tennis or for the tennis club?
No, table tennis alone. At first, years ago, it started off in the church. We used to have it in the vestry at the back, and when the community built a hall, it moved up to the hall. And that’s where it grew, because we had more room.
So did you just play against other members of the community, or did you go elsewhere?
No, there was an association.
Can you tell me a bit more about the dairy farming?
Do you want me to go back to the history? Or…
Yeah, that’d be good.
From the start?
When my father started?
Yeah, that’d be good.
Well, when dad came here, the farm was all scrub, and it had to be cleared by hand in those days. And it was two horses, a disc plough, a drubber, and an axe, and a saw, and a wallaby jack. And most of the clearing was done that way, and they would anticipate or try to clear about five acres a year. And ‘course the timber was just pulled together and burnt. The ground was worked with a plough and most [of the] time, I think, a crop of potatoes was put in. But the soil being so sour after having trees on it all its life, they- – -crops weren’t very much. And in later years, when super came in – because there was no super in the days when Dad started – that and the Mount Barker clover was what really made the farming here in this area.
What was the Mount Barker clover?
Well, it’s a sub clover, and once you sow it there, it regenerates every year.
So, what about more recent times with the farm?
Oh, well there’s a lot more variety of rye grass and clover now planted, but the Mount Barker still persists and that – – – it makes really good hay.
Mmhm. Is it just you who just runs the farm?
No, my son and grandsons at the moment, ‘cause the farm has grown from a hundred and fourteen acres to over four-hundred acres here that we own ourselves. And we also rent about four-hundred-odd acres in this area.
How many cattle do you have?
Oh, well there’s about three-hundred dairy cattle, but then there is – – – there’s the heifers, and the other farm we got away from here – that runs beef cattle. That’s down – – -Geranium; two-thousand acres there. And we put our dry heifers and that are reared up down there and then brought home here.
So who do you supply the milk to? Who do you sell it to?
Can you tell me a bit more about life in Prospect Hill? What was the community like? What is the community like?
Well, back in when I was only a lad, the community revolved around the church. There was no other buildings to have entertainment or anything, and everything revolved around the church, and the – – – well, that was my main interest, and always has been, really.
So what kind of activities did people do with the church?
Well, we used to have a – – – the young people – this was back just after the war, the first – – – second world war – we needed a piano. And we had a concert party and the young people would go around to various places like Strathalbyn and towns out around and we collected enough money from the concerts to buy a piano, and that was put in there in memory of the soldiers. And that’s still in the church now.
So were many people in Prospect Hill involved in the church?
Yes, I can remember as a child, there would be about forty children on the platform of an anniversary, and the night – – – in the morning services, there would be between fifty and sixty people attend. And the night service, there would be probably thirty. And it was, you know, that was the main thrust.
That was a Methodist church?
Can you tell me what you consider to be the most important aspects of Prospect Hill’s history?
I suppose the pioneers coming out to scrubland and clearing it to make a living. That would be the main thing, because it was very hard in those days, and the roads weren’t very good, and communication was – – – well, they used – – – they had a flag on the – what they call Flag Tree Hill – and they would know from that, with other flags on Mount Lofty and further around – when the flag went up, they’d know their boat had arrived in Port Adelaide.
So do you know much about the history of Prospect Hill before European settlement? I.e. the Aboriginal history of the area?
No, not really. No.
Do you know about how Aboriginal people interacted with pioneers?
No. No, I don’t.
Can you tell me a bit more about the early days of Prospect Hill, after European settlement?
Well, I think they tried a bit of mining, but that…there wasn’t very much in it, and that ceased. But the Griggs family – they were fairly – – – long before I – – – my father was here – they had a very large orchard, and they used to – – – they had sheep, as well as dairy cows and pigs, and the produce from that used to be taken to Adelaide with a van and four horses. And he, Mr Griggs, employed quite a few people; they had a sawmill there as well that they used to be able to saw out timber. And, well, my grandfather – his father died young – and Mr Griggs took him on at ten and he drove the van and the four horse team to Adelaide with the produce in the van. And they used to – – – when they got to Clarendon, there were spare horses there and they used to hook two more horses on the front to tow the van up the steep hill to get it up on to the top, because it was a bit too much for the four horses. And it was pretty well a full day’s trip to get to Adelaide; they’d start early in the morning, they’d get there, you know, in late afternoon, well then they’d unload and then bring supplies back the next day. And my grandfather said – – – I’ve been told that when he first went the first trip down, where he went into the market, one of the men came out and he said, “Oh, you’re Mr Griggs’ man?” [laughing] and he’s called the other chaps around and said, “Oh, come and have a look at Mr Griggs’ man: a ten year old boy!”
So, as well as that story, do you have any other heritage stories about Prospect Hill that you like to tell?
Well the only thing I could go back to [is] the history of our farm, I know about that. When they first started here, they only had two cows and they had to buy chaff to feed them ‘cause there wasn’t enough feed to really give them, you know, enough feed to eat. And they milked the cows and they made their own butter, and they would rear a calf or so from that. Well then, as the land gradually got cleared, and there was more pasture, the cow numbers increased and then they would rear certain, more calves until, oh, about in 1940 – – – from the forties on, there was enough clear land then to run thirty-five cows, and that was the main income then: the milk. But that varied at time – in the early days, it was made into…the milk was churned into cream, the cream was turned into butter, and the skim milk was fed to the calves, and Dad also had a few pigs, and that went to feed them. And the butter was prepared, churned and made, patted up into pound blocks – all this done by hand. In the summertime, when it was so hot, they used to put the butter in the wheelbarrow, take it down to a well further down the paddock – which was a long way down – hang it down in there overnight to keep it cool, bring it up in the morning, pat it up early and then it went on the service bus to Adelaide where it was…a chap met them there, and they used to take it down to Glenelg and it was sold there. And that went on for, you know, quite a few years until factories started to operate, and prior to the factories it was dipstick measurement. They’d have a can of milk, and he’d just put a dipstick in and measure it, and they were paid on volume. Well then, when the factories came into being, it was fat – – – paid on butterfat. But that’s changed now; it’s butterfat and protein.
Do you have anything more to add about your farm? And dairy farming in the area?
Well, the farm – – – when Dad was there, there wasn’t enough income and he used to get six weeks work on the Council, and that would be with a shovel cleaning out the water tables. That helped him along, but when they first started here, really their living was mainly used to shoot foxes, rabbits, and possums. And the possum skins back then – the brush-tailed possums – were thirty shillings a pelt, which was a lot of money. And he even cut his honeymoon short to come home to possum, and he made enough in three weeks to buy two horses and a plough – out of the skin money. And, I mean, that’s how tough it used to be. ‘Course and then the Depression was on then, and there wasn’t very much money around. But from then on, like after I left school – I more or less had to leave school early to come home, ‘cause Dad had a heart problem and he couldn’t work so much then – and I just worked on a share until I met my wife, and then when we got married. Well we – – – the home here was the original home: I knocked that down, because my mother and father had bought the house next door which was really my mother’s home; she was born here. Then we built a small house here, and that’s been extended twice in our lifetime, until what it is now. The herd now, I went next door neighbours for…oh, quite a few years and managed that place, because there wasn’t enough money home on the farm with two families. And then I left up there, and came home here when Dad got – – – he was too, you know, they were both getting a bit too old to do it all. Then I built the herd up here ‘til we were milking about forty-five cows and that went on for a few years, grew about four acres of potatoes, probably an acre or two of peas, and we used to employ about eight or nine people to pick those peas back in those days, and if you got six or eight shillings a dozen pounds, that was good money. Sometimes it wouldn’t be that much, sometimes it would go a bit higher, and that was really good, but… And that’s how it’s been, well, I just kept milking the same and now the cows all that time, growing those potatoes for about, I suppose, ten to fifteen years. Well, then, when Andrew came home, he was the keen one to go on with the farm. We bought another block at Macclesfield when he came home, and from then on, we just bought three blocks of neighbours’ properties, and ‘til now, we’re up to [a] three-hundred cow herd.
Alright. Can you tell me a little about the historical figures? The people that you consider to be important to the heritage of Prospect Hill?
Well there’d be Mr W.J. Griggs – he would be one; he was a man that really looked to the future of the district itself. He was a great church man and a local preacher; he was the first man, he was the organiser of getting the telephone, and he had the post office at Prospect Hill and the shop, and there was a petrol bowser there as well. And he also was instigating in the forties of getting the power through here, because in those days, it was only kerosene lamps, and hurricane lanterns too, you know, when you went outside. The other thing: my grandparents, they had a shop next door that was a grocery store and – – – so there were two shops in Prospect Hill at that particular time.
How long did your grandparents own the grocery shop?
Oh, probably thirty-five, forty years.
And did they sell it, or did it just close down?
No, they – – – well, when they died, it changed hands. Ross Harper from Clarendon bought it, and it ran as a…well, it was a greengrocer shop as well as grocers then. But it only ran for about – – – oh, four to five years, I would say, and then it closed. And the shop up there nearly, practically closed. It was only sweets and cool drinks towards the finish. And Keith Griggs – that’s the son of Will Griggs – he carried that tradition on, and he was a great man for the community. And he was only in the church, he was organist for, I don’t know, fifty, sixty years I suppose. I’ve taken that job on myself now, but anyway.
You play the organ in the church?
I do now. But, I mean, that’s the thing: one time, when the people were all at the church, it was – – – God was first in their life. But as things have changed, people just don’t put any credence, really, much on that. They can do it all themselves and they don’t rely on God for anything – that’s the way I see. And that’s how the District has gone now, and I mean, the congregation now is down to about fourteen, fifteen, sometimes we get twenty. There is one good thing about it: there were three young girls joined the church last week, in their twenties.
Do you want to talk more about the church now?
Well, back then, we had a resident Minister in Meadows, and the circuit was comprised on Meadows, Ashburn, Bull Creek, and Underwood. And the other circuit was with Clarendon – was Clarendon, Kangarilla, and down that way. But the circuit here, then it changed and it brought in Clarendon, Kangarilla, Prospect Hill, Meadows. And Ashburn went to Strath. But the original one back, years back, was from Clarendon. And the pastor used to ride horseback out here to take the services, as well as local preachers. But at the moment, we haven’t got a resident Minister, because, well, there’s just not enough congregation to afford it. And the same with Meadows, they’re on their own too. But we do have a pastor that come once a week – – – er, once a month, sorry. And the first Sunday in the month, and we have Communion that day when he’s there. But other than that, we – – – well, we have preachers from Adelaide and all around the Hills.
Do you think that being a Methodist community, that really helped to…really help the community spirit around Prospect Hill?
Oh, definitely, and in the old days, when somebody was in trouble, everybody would flock around and help them, but you don’t see that anymore now. And, I mean, the amount of dairy farms that were around within, say, two miles of the centre of Prospect Hill would have been probably thirty-five or forty dairy farms. Now there’s only two!
What’s the name of your farm? Is there a name?
[pause] Isn’t that terrible? [laughs] It’s even got from – – – oh, Glenrobin. And that’s because, that’s not the original farm, but we bought Glenrobin. So we named it. We’ve got a Holstein stud which is runs under that name.
I’d like to talk now about the Ash Wednesday bushfires: can you tell me where you were when the bushfires occurred?
Well, in the morning, when it first started, I went to the fire truck at Blackfellows Creek, but we had all the irrigation watered up the day before here, and I said to my wife, “Don’t leave the house, because you’ll be safe,” ‘cause that paddock was green. And we had a young lad working for us at the time, and he went and got the – – – when it really got bad, ‘cause I was down there fighting the fire, and at the fire shed, we went further down the colony and we could – – – there was a – – – people there, I said to them, “Look, you’d better get out, because you’ll get burnt here.” Anyway, we came from the colony – they wouldn’t come, they stayed in their house. Luckily enough, they did survive. But…we got back to the fire shed, and the fire was coming up both sides of the road, and it was like a steamroller about three or four feet high – just a ball of fire, racing up the paddock, and there was very little feed on it, but it was burning – even burning the dirt, nearly. And then that went through and we followed up behind and we saved quite a few houses. Then we got back here. The police had come in and told Christabell to leave, and he said, “No, you’ll have to leave.” And she said, “Well, my husband said, ‘Stay!’” ‘Course he was a policeman from Adelaide, didn’t know much about the area, because prior to that, the local police had come through and said, “Yeah, you’ll be safe there: stay there.” Anyway, they finished up going into Meadows, and there was people on the Meadows oval, they had petrol in the back of their cars. But, I mean, it was reasonably safe up there, but it would have been better to have stayed here. But we were fortunate our house wasn’t burnt down, but there were several homes up in Prospect Hill that did burn down. And the community – – – there was a small community hall with a library in that, in it up there – that did burn. And that had a historical library in there from the school. And they lost that.
[end of audio file 1]
So Jack, can you continue telling me about the Ash Wednesday bush fire and…tell me a little bit more about your experience with the bush fire?
Well it was pretty horrendous because you were right in the middle of it, and it didn’t actually affect me afterwards. I didn’t have any really repercussions from it, but a lot of people did, but I mean I came back home here and all we’d lost was about a hundred yards of fencing. But I believe that the Lord protected us, and – – – I mean, we – – – we pray to God everyday that He will protect us and I believe that that happened.
So the church is just on top of the hill next to your house…
Yes, right next door, mm.
Was that affect by the fire?
No, no. The fire, it…towards the end of the day when I came home, we went back towards Meadows down to Lower Road, we went down there because the fire was coming up from the northern side. And as we got down there, I said to them, my mate, I said, “We’re going into terrible place here,” I said, “We better turn ‘round and get out.” Anyway, we got down there and it was burning up through the neighbour’s property towards us, and a shower of rain came. And that put the rest of the fire out, and made it a lot easy, ‘cause that was getting on towards 4 o’clock in the evening. But of course the power was off – we had no power to milk the cows, and they just didn’t get milked that night, and then we had to do – – – chase around and get an engine to work the milk machine for the morning’s milking, ‘cause there was no power for about, oh…couple of days when we were without power. So that was a bit horrendous.
So you were saying before that the fire affected other people in the community, could you elaborate on that?
Well those that lost their homes, you know, they – – – definitely, that’s devastation for anybody to lose their house. I don’t know whether I can comment anymore on that, but…but it did affect a lot of people, for sure.
How much did the fires impact on Prospect Hill’s built heritage? So, its historic buildings and structures.
Well, it took – – – well, that wasn’t an historic building, actually, ‘cause it hadn’t been there many years, but it did take a bit of the history away from the – – – the library and that. And the other historical house up there, the Griggs’, did catch alight on one end, but the other unit from Blackfellows Creek, the boys got in there and put that out. ‘Cause when we came through, everything looked okay, and the other building was even standing, and it was all burnt around, so we thought, “Well, we’d better come on and see what the houses are down there.” And we’d not long left there, and it burst into flame.
So…who else from the community was involved in the Blackfellows Creek CFS? Do you know their names?
Oh Graham Usher…Dick Ramsdale…Mervin Smart… Oh…I really can’t think of the names of a lot of the ones…
A lot of the ones in there now are…are newcomers.
Do you thinking that following the Ash Wednesday bush fires, more efforts have been put in to protecting and preserving the built heritage of Prospect Hill?
Yeah, definitely. They put in a sprinkler system around the house and that up there, now. I mean, it wasn’t even thought of back…before.
So…and do you think…following the Ash Wednesday bush fire that Prospect Hill’s built heritage and heritage stories helped those residents who were affected by the bush fire to recover?
For the old ones, yes, I think the older people. But, I mean, since then, Prospect Hill’s changed a lot. We’ve got a lot of new people come in here, people – they wave to me on the road as they go by, but I don’t know their names, you know? There’s a lot of people I don’t know, whereas years ago, I knew everybody.
So how do you think the heritage stories helped those people to recover? Can you elaborate on that?
Probably to get up and get running again, you know. Strive to do their best. I know there was one family that…they lived in the hall up there ‘til their house was rebuilt. And…they were very independent, but, I mean, they did get a lot of help from people. But they were independent, but I think probably the heritage of that was…probably helped them a lot.
Okay. Can you tell me your thoughts on Prospect Hill today? What are the strengths of the community, and what struggles does it face?
Well, I suppose, I’m only really involved in the church, and the struggle there is to get the message out to people, and you don’t find that easy. Majority of the people now, that are in Prospect Hill, are newcomers, and…I think they’re looking to really revitalise the heritage, by what I’ve heard, and I think they’ll keep it going, and probably still delve into things of the past. That’s just my feelings at the moment.
Do you have any closing comments about Prospect Hill?
Oh, the other thing would have been: with the two factories in Meadows, there was a lot of wood carting and quite a lot of people got their living through cutting wood. And it was cut into, what they called, a cord, not a h- …which is a bit more than a ton. And it was cut into about four-foot lengths, loaded on the truck, and then it was taken for the boilers at the factories. And also there was one chap that used to cart a lot of wood to the brick kilns in Adelaide. And that was another income for the people in the area. There was a lot of wood cutting. When I was going to school at Prospect Hill, you’d see probably two, or three, or four trucks a day go past loaded with wood to either Adelaide or…factories.
Do you have anything else to add?
No, I think that’s pretty well all.
Well, thank you for being involved in the interview, Jack.