Harry Collinge

Ship name / Flight number: Baradine

Arrival date: 13/05/1927

In 1926, I arrived in Sydney on board of the Baradine, just after my 15th birthday, having traveled from England. Apart from a stepmother in Toronto, Canada, I had little connection with the rest of the world. As many have said, Sydney Harbour is truly a wonder. In those days, there was no bridge, no Opera House, and the population was around 750,000. St. Ives was rural, with orchards, sheep, and cows. Blacktown was barely known, and a car was necessary to reach Palm Beach. Hansom cabs still operated on Bridge Street in Sydney. My initial impression of Sydney was that all the houses had red roofs. I later learned that a German company, Wunderlich, was the sole manufacturer of roof tiles, and red was the cheapest and easiest color to produce.

At the wharf, I was met by a distant cousin who became a friend, though our relationship had its ups and downs, possibly due to my youth. She was much older and married to an Australian soldier from the World War I era, and they lived in Earlwood. I remember Earlwood having only one tram track from Undercliff and a loop halfway up the hill, with only four houses on Collingwood Avenue.

After several days in Earlwood, including a trip to Manly and an afternoon at The Ambassadors drinking tea and dancing the Charleston, I began to adapt. The Ambassadors was a teahouse opened by Stewart Dawson, who imported European waiters for authenticity. I later worked there as a waiter and eventually opened my own restaurant, adopting the same silver service concept that appealed to both the wealthy and those celebrating special occasions.

Then it was off to Bathurst Agricultural College. The journey was a slow trip by train, stopping at every station. Upon arrival, I was met by the secretary in a sulky. This was the first time I had seen a sulky, with its large, rubber-trimmed wheels. The poorer ones had only iron wheels, so having a rubber-trimmed sulky was a status symbol, supplied by the government for the three-mile trot to the college. It was a pleasant ride, unless the horse decided to pass gas in your face—no more unpleasant than the exhaust from today’s cars, which I remember all too well.

At college, I spent a year preparing for a farming career I had dreamed of in England. We learned about wheat, sheep, horses, orchards, and more. The work was rotated, but dairy farming was a constant seven-day commitment. Sundays were for trips to the cherry orchards, gold panning, and walks to Bathurst for coffee and socializing. I remember seeing John Barrymore in a film with early synchronized sound, though it didn’t work well in Bathurst.

Amongst many memories of farming methods, I recall that soon after lambs were born, the males were selected for castration. In those days, and possibly still today, a catcher would place the lamb on the rail, holding its legs apart. The procedure involved the “surgeon” slicing off the top of the pouch, pushing up the testicles and biting them off, then cutting off the tail and applying Lysol or a similar antiseptic to the wounds. As painful as it may sound, I never saw a lamb die from this treatment. There are other methods, but this was the fastest and cheapest. Perhaps I even became the fastest knife in the West?

During my time there, I learned road building, harvesting, and haystack building. The secret to a stable haystack that would last two or three seasons was to build the corners first. We also harnessed the big Shire horses, whose names I still remember: Nugget, Lion, Diamond, and others. I was tasked with helping the shorter workers put on the horses’ collars, which had hooks for attaching various farm implements. Later, I harnessed eight of these gentle giants before breakfast, fed them, and had my own breakfast afterward while working in Trundle for Mr. Simmons.

At last, I was ready for my first paid job outside the college. It was at an orchard a few miles from Bathurst. I didn’t stay there long, as it was a temporary position, but it was the first of over 100 varied jobs I would undertake. At 16, I fell for a girl on a neighboring orchard half a mile away. I could at least wave to her from that distance, which was most exciting.

My second job from college was closer, and I could walk there. To save time, I cut across a cornfield, creating a path through the growing corn. By the time I finished that job, which involved milking cows, making butter, and general farm work, the path I had made became known as “The Collinge’s Path,” leaving a lasting mark in Bathurst.

From Bathurst, I traveled 400 miles to Summerville Siding, where I worked at Kidgery Station for Mr. Lawson. I saw my first emu, experienced scrambled emu eggs, and killed my first snake. I learned to build tanks for water storage, crucial in flat country. After six months, I asked for a raise but quit when denied, prompting remarks about what a “pommy” could do in a big city. Later, I met Mr. Lawson again as a minister at a banquet.

In 1928, I traveled to Sydney, a 27-hour journey during which I had my first beer. I stayed at the YMCA on Pitt Street and was propositioned there, which was unsettling. I worked at Duffy’s Forest, cutting trees for bakers’ wood, and later at a pub run by Snow Flynn, who hated “Pommies.” I kept my origin secret until he found out and fired me.

Down to my last few shillings, I landed a job at Mumblebone Station, 400 miles from Sydney. The station bred Merinos for stud purposes, and still does. I was employed as the “groom,” responsible for milking cows, feeding chickens, cutting wood, and other tasks. Every second day, I had to kill two sheep for the household, a job locals didn’t want.

I had my own horse for going into the sheep run when it was particularly busy, and I used it to find the cows and horses feeding in the home paddock early in the morning while others were still asleep. In winter, this was challenging, especially since the horses were reluctant to work in the dark. The cows were easier, as they were eager to be milked and followed a strict order. I rarely had to leg-rope them, as my soft hands seemed to keep them calm.

The owners, the Katers, had an Italian market gardener who enjoyed making his own wine, and I often helped him sample the crop. There was also a blacksmith on the property, essential in those days, although today a mechanic would be more fitting. After a year, I took a holiday at San Souci, spending most of my time swimming.

Upon returning to the property, I felt very lonely and bought a motorbike. The next day, it started raining and didn’t stop for weeks. Wool had to be carted into Warren on horse-drawn wagons, which created deep ruts in the road. When it finally dried up, the ruts were too deep to ride the bike, leading to further frustration as I had to wait several more months before I could escape back to Sydney.

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