Can you tell me a little bit more about yourself? How long did you live in the Prospect Hill area?
Well, I am now 96, or just on it on the 23rd, and I have lived there all my life with just a few things, might have been a little while away, perhaps. I lived a little while in Loxton, but no it’s been my home always.
So were you born in the area?
I was born at Echunga, yes that’s in the area.
So can you tell me about what you did in the community? What was your occupation?
Well my occupation was at home because we are talking now about almost a hundred years ago and people had to make a living how they could and I was brought up as a child getting money from catching rabbits, and my mother had a few, or two cows I think and we lived mainly off the land.
So what about your adult life, what did you do in the community then?
In the community I suppose most of my life would have been what all others around the district would have done. For our pleasure we probably would go to a dance, a weekly dance or something, occasionally to church and then most of our…the things we would be doing is visiting neighbours and talking to each other, telling them what happened during the week and some of the things like that.
Okay, so where was your house located?
Well it was located at a place called Blackfellows Creek which was only about 5 kilometres from Prospect Hill and Prospect Hill’s Post Office and Hall and it was, yes that is where it was located.
So how much involvement did you have in Prospect Hill community activities? Were you involved in the community association?
Oh yes. But those things didn’t start to be put together, if I may put this in it will help me to answer the questions I believe. We had a wonderful Postmaster and his father there and he said to me one day:
“Pat we are losing too many things out of the district, things that old implements and axes and things like this” and would I be agreeable with him to help him establish this little museum and I was very pleased to do so.
Okay. So what year was that? Do you know roughly when that was?
That’s a bit hard.
That’s okay. That’s okay. So can you tell me a bit more about life in Prospect Hill? What was the community like?
Well in Prospect Hill we had the old families that lived in a similar situation as we did ourselves, we were heading to farm it, it is good land, but it was covered with trees and other plants, rubbish, bracken fern and so on. So our parents did a lot of hard work in clearing it only with hand tools really, and they did a wonderful job and we all knew each other and we had all these families that had come there over the years for one reason or another and it was a very happy community.
Do you know roughly how many people lived in the community?
No, I have been asked that question many times, but I never fully knew where the community began and ended, so no way I can’t answer that one.
Can you tell me what you consider to be the most important aspects of Prospect Hill’s history?
Well I suppose it had to be preparing for people to be able to make their own living from their own work on milking cows, growing potatoes, keeping sheep that would be the main things.
Okay. So agriculture was a big industry in the community. Were there any other industries there?
Pine forests which were government owned, they put a lot into it, the pines grew up around there and they were milled close by providing work for others and we got on very well with the Forestry Department.
Okay. So do you know much about the history of the Prospect Hill area before European settlement, such as the Aboriginal history of the area?
Learning from my grandmother she said that they used to pass through there in quite large groups, travelling say from Adelaide, or where Adelaide is today through to the River Murray. They used to follow where the birds and animals were to provide their food and they used to come through there, come to the houses and ask for food to help them on their way.
And can you tell me about the early days of Prospect Hill from European settlement, so from 1840s onwards?
No that pretty well sums it up I think because those that came there they only produced their own food mainly. There were certain things that had to be bought and they used to try and earn enough money to buy things like sugar and salt, perhaps and things like that, otherwise they lived off their own properties.
So people were producing their own food were they selling it on to other people or?
Yes, well it came in different stages. The longer they were there the more they could produce and they could start selling. They used to sell food like, butter and vegetables, particularly potatoes back to Adelaide.
What are some of your favourite heritage stories about Prospect Hill, for example some community members like to tell the story of Sarah McHarg and the Deputy Surveyor General, Thomas Burr?
Well McHarg’s story, as it happened in the very early days, made a sort of a few lines to work out where there different heritage was along the road at the top was called the [excuse me for a moment, repeated]…
…it was called, there is a row of hills above where I lived and that was called, it was an English name at the time and it was called Out of Boundary Road or something like that, correction Ridge. Now that was regarded as a survey at the time but later on when the official surveys were done it ran into this previous one and it didn’t match up because the previous one started in Adelaide and it didn’t match up with that one, so some alterations had to be made there, but it has all been straightened out.
Are there any other stories that you would like to tell about Prospect Hill’s history?
I suppose the one about McHarg who was a member of the survey team and he and another family living in McHarg’s Creek, it is called McHarg’s Creek these days, they used to be friendly together, and his daughter, that was quite an event that had taken place at that time. His daughter had left Prospect Hill to go down and stay with the McHarg’s and the very fact that they had no communication between them, she got lost and then died at a place called, today near, Double Bridges, and that story lives on today.
Can you tell me a little about the historical figures, the big personalities that you considered to be important to the heritage of Prospect Hill?
Oh yes, the Griggs family were very important to [Prospect Hill]. They were a good living, honest, hardworking family, that is all the generations that I have known of and they were the real establishment of Prospect Hill.
How many generations of the Griggs family lived there? When did they first come to the area?
About five generations that I can recall. Oh, there are younger generations since that time, but I am talking about down to the one that we all love so very much, it was Keith Griggs in my time. They were all good families.
Can you tell me a bit more about Keith?
Well he went to the Second World War and whilst he was away his wife died and when he came home of course, it was great grief to him. Oh, he heard about it while he was overseas and it was great grief to Keith but he was the sort of man who held his chin up and it didn’t show, but he was the one who wanted to establish the museum as it is there today, but since that time there’s been big changes and the community that is there at the moment doesn’t understand what a pioneer’s museum, does it really mean because it can easily slip away and not be a pioneer’s museum which can be happening at the moment.
Okay, so I would like to talk a bit about the Ash Wednesday Bush fire now. Can you tell me where you were when the bush fires occurred?
Yes I was at my home and I lost all my sheds, all my implements, all my fences, everything but my house, we was [were] lucky in saving the house, which was good, because when you lose your house you’ve lost all photographs, of the children and very, very important things and there was [were] many, many people who lost their homes at Prospect Hill on Ash Wednesday.
Can you tell me a bit more about the fire in general? When did it happen?
Yes, well it commenced at around McLaren Flat and it travelled a way in a south westerly direction quite quickly and made a long line of burning material. The water, the wind changed, pardon me, the wind changed and brought the whole lot of it back over, Prospect Hill being one of the places, because it had such a wide front on it at this time. I had been a fire control officer for quite a lot of years but I had just left it at that time.
How far did the fire spread?
Well it burnt out nearly all of the Forest Department pines and it is rather difficult to tell you what the distance would have been from McLaren Flat. I am not sure of where it stopped and changed directions; it was in the afternoon.
Can you tell me a little bit more about your experience with the fire?
Well at the time I was living at Loxton, my daughter rang me and said that there was a fire out on Brookman Connor Road and so I said I would come straight down, which I did. Now I was on the unit not as an official because I had left that but on the unit for two or three days and then on this one particular day I said no, I am not going, I am scared of what might happen, and so I stayed home that day, and I feel that because of me being at home I was able to save the house.
So, what did you do to save the house?
Oh, well we had some water there and we had it fairly well cleared around it and luck was also another factor [Pat chuckles] and when it came through, through the pines, through the Department of…the…the pines it threw over, my house was only about a hundred metres from the road and the road had a lot of rubbish on it and it burned that first, which slowed its speed down when it hit my house, and we was [were] able to use the water we had there, out of house tanks, to be able to quell that stuff and keep it away from the house, keep it from starting burning on the house.
How much did the fires impact on Prospect Hill’s built heritage; its historic buildings and structures?
Well at this time the museum and buildings connected to the museum was [were] hit there and it had a dreadful effect on it because it burned most of it out, with the exception of the person we just mentioned, Keith Griggs’ house was saved but all, all of the museum buildings and articles that were in it were all destroyed at that time.
So Keith Grigg’s house forms part of the museum, does it?
Yes, it does today, yes.
Do you think that following the Ash Wednesday Bush Fires more efforts have been put into protecting and preserving the built heritage of Prospect Hill?
Ah yes, well…I gave some land at Prospect Hill, or at least call it Blackfellows Creek for a new building to be put there to keep a unit in and since that time the government has taken over and there is everything there now that open and shuts [Pat chuckles), that big fire truck and everything that you would ever wished to be in a place, it is very gratifying to see that and yes, there is a lot being done now.
Are you able to elaborate on what more is being done in terms of protecting and preserving the built heritage of Prospect Hill so that Art Air Marshall House and Prospect Hill Museum or do you think it is just more people are more aware that things have to…?
I do think it is that most people are more aware of the fact of what can happen. Though many years ago they used to get bush fires, but sometimes today we get, for some reason or another, some people have deliberately lit fires, and I can’t comment on why they would ever think of doing such things, but they have done it. But they have been mostly been, been able to be controlled.
So, do you think that the heritage of Prospect Hill helped those residents who were affected by the bush fire to recover and re-build their lives after the bush fire?
Yes, I can’t really recall anybody that it really destroyed their life. Some were fairly well insured and then there were other organisations that provided money for them to restore their houses. So in the long run it was a very unhappy event but I don’t think it made a lot of difference to the place, other than it has improved, by way of the fact of the government becoming so are aware of the danger, that they put a lot more money into it.
Can you tell me your thoughts on Prospect Hill today? What are the strengths of the community and what struggles does it face?
There is [are] very few of the old families or descendants of the old families left there today and because there was a time when people left Adelaide or its surrounds and came out there and bought small properties and they are only strangers to the few of the old residents who are around there. But that is not saying anything against these new people who are there but they, of course, don’t fully understand what has gone on before.
Do you have any closing comments to make about Prospect Hill or about Prospect Hill’s heritage?
Well I can only guess that many of the people who came out there and settled on small blocks and largely had to drive back to Adelaide to get work and many of them sold out again at higher prices but apart from that it is good land, it will produce many things, particularly in the vegetables; it grows good apples and plums and many other things and it will go on and it will progress even further. That’s my idea of it.
Well thank you Pat that concludes the interview. I would like to thank you for being involved. Thank you.