Pioneering Families of Australia



This page is intended to be a "memories" page for those who want to send me a reminiscence from their childhood.  The subject is not restricted, it could be your favourite story about your grandparents, a poem or a pic.  


A place where you can honour your forbearers with a lasting tribute.

Don’t piddle on the mint or the day we lost a Prime Minister


The terrace house in Gower Street, Kensington, Victoria that Grace Elizabeth & John Molloy raised their family in still stands, although now it is very much a part of the gentrification era of Melbourne’s inner suburbs.  During the 1950’s  and 60's it teemed with grandchildren.  Some who lived there with their parents and grand parents for a short while and others who visited every Sunday afternoon.  It was ritual thing, we all went to Nanna’s – we got a decent feed and we got to play with our cousins whilst the aunts and uncles caught up on the week’s events.


The house seemed quite large to me, but having recently revisited, I now understand it was really only 2 room downstairs and perhaps 3 upstairs, with a bit of a lean too out the back.    It had a reasonable back yard for the area and contained a laundry room, vegie garden, paved area and string line clothes line with the prop in the middle.  Not really a lot of room for all those children, more than 20, and the men playing quoits,  and of course it wouldn’t be an authentic back yard of the era without the dunny down the back.  


Fortunately the sewer had already been installed by the time I arrived on the scene, but the toilet was still located on the back fence giving rear lane access to the dunny man and his horse drawn cart.


All those children,  the men of the house and the husband’s of the women meant the toilet was well used, I can still remember nanna’ call as any of us went out the back door – “Don’t piddle on the mint” – do it on the lemon tree”.


The last weekend before Christmas Day was always reserved for the family Christmas gathering.  No excuse would have been acceptable for non attendance.  The food was stupendous with lots of jellies, trifles and pavs for dessert followed by the gift giving - nobody missed out.  


One of the last years that we had Christmas in Gower Street, was 1967, somebody had the radio and the news came through - the Prime Minister was missing!                 Barbara Moore 2009

The Dunny


A dunny is essentially a toilet out the back of a house or public building.  There are basically two varieties, the pit (long drop) or the can.  In either case it is usually smelly hence the reason it is "out the back"  


In the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries, most Australian houses had the toilet strategically placed at the rear of their house, and usually in the garden, to provide access to the "sanitary worker" whose job it was to remove the cans.  


A variety of plants were grown over the building; during the Great Depression the Choko was favoured, it was a prolific producer and a great climber and the fruit, either loved or detested, was a staple diet.  Passionfruit was also a favourite.  


We have all experienced the "long drop", this method is still used today in roadside rest stops and camping grounds throughout the countryside.


Thankfully however the can is now a distant memory.   But as part of the Australian vernacular we now have:-


The dunny, dunny paper, the dunny man, the dunny cart and going to the dunny.

dunny6 Harold Holt - Australian Prim Minister

How many can you remember?

  • The dunny man and being caught when he arrived.

  • The milko and bottle and their horse drawn carts.

  • The prop man with his collection of branches in varying lengths to hold up the clothesline.

  • TV and Radio licenses and handing those items when the inspector arrived and then jumping the back fence to warn the neighbours he was on the way.

  • Hot summers and playing under the sprinkler.

  • The mobile vegie man in his converted bus, you went in the back door, made your selection, paid the driver and went out the front door.  He always had a lolly for the kids.

  • Sixpence in the meter for gas.

  • Threepence and sixpence in the Christmas pudding

  • Washing machines with wringers, mangles on the trough and blue in the copper.  Monday was always washing day.

  • Myers bargain basement.

  • Chooks in the back yard.

  • Sitting on the back fence and watching the neighbours "preparing" the chickens for dinner.

  • Wrestling at Festival Hall


I wrote the above with expectations of receiving a few pictures or anecdotes, but imagine my surprise and delight when in the mail  I received the items which are now displayed under the  Burrowes subpage.Technically, Arthur Burrowes is not related to me, however after his death his wife Wilhelmina became my great grandmother when she married Cornelius Kersley.  Arthur & Wilhelmina had 3 surviving children, Amy, Silvia & Fred and from Silvia's daughter Margaret, now aged 78 and living in Rome (where she has been for over 40 years) I received these items with a note saying,  "My sister gave me these precious documents, as she knew she was dying and my elder brother Fred, was already dead and my other brother Stephen wasn't all that interested.  So that left me.  These last few years I've been wondering who I could pass these documents over to, but realised there were no nieces, nephews etc interested enough.  Imagine my delight when I heard about you compiling a family tree, so you Barbara, are obviously the perfect recipient of these."  


Margaret, they are accepted with great joy and I will ensure they are treated as carefully as they have been for the last 120 years.

One thing I remember is when Cornelius died he left me 125 Pounds, a fortune back then (1950).  Neil was about 16 I think, he spent my 125 Pounds buying me an Austin Car, a tiny tiny Car, it was built in the 30's I think. The day it was to come home half the Street were out the front and along it came, making lots of noise, it got called "The Bomb" . The radiator leaked at times and I always had to carry a large bottle of water with me, the starter did not work and I had to start it with a crank handle. I went dancing a few times a week with girlfriends and we always had to take the crank in and check it in at the Coat Counter. One night on the way to the dance in a lovely pink dress oil leaked out of the steering wheel into my lap, then it broke down. I had it fixed and we kept on taking it to the dances. It broke down again and one night three of us in evening clothes pushed it up a hill in the pouring rain. All this time my brother kept telling me it was a good car. My first car is still in my memory.          Lila Latta (nee Kersley) 2009

If we didn't go to the wrestling, we'd visit the movies.  It didn't matter what was showing we'd go to everything,  Nan said she love them because they showed her places she would never see in her lifetime.  We would walk from Gower Street, alongside the railway line to Newmarket Theatre.  Afterwards we'd walk home, a long dark walk.  We were never nervous, there was nothing to worry about then.  I was more scared when we got home.  Nan's house was spooky at night and I slept in a bedroom up two flights of stairs and at the very back of the house.


Then on a Saturday afternoon there was Footy.  How we loved it.  We could walk to the ground, over the footbridge past the flour mill and into Arden Street, home of the Kangaroos.  We sat in an old wooden stand with all the other old dears with their knitting and picnic flasks and watched North get beaten, week after week after week.

Chief Little Wolf - Wrestler Lila 5

The Dunny - author unknown.


They were funny looking buildings, that were once a way of life,

If you couldn't sprint the distance, then you really were in strife.


 They were nailed, they were wired, but were mostly falling down,

There was one in every yard, in every house, in every town.


They were given many names, some were even funny,

But to most of us, we knew them as the outhouse or the dunny.


 I've seen some of them all gussied up, with painted doors and all,

But it really made no difference, they were just a port of call.


 Now my old man would take a bet, he'd lay an even pound,

That you wouldn't make the dunny with them turkeys hangin' round.


 hey had so many uses, these buildings out the back,"

You could even hide from mother, so you wouldn't get the strap.


  That's why we had good cricketers, never mind the bumps,

We used the pathway for the wicket and the dunny door for stumps.


 Now my old man would sit for hours, the smell would rot your socks,

He read the daily back to front in that good old thunderbox.


  And if by chance that nature called sometime through the night,

You always sent the dog in first, for there was no flamin' light.

And the dunny seemed to be the place where crawlies liked to hide,

But never ever showed themselves until you sat inside.


There was no such thing as Sorbent, no tissues there at all,

Just squares of well read newspaper, a hangin' on the wall.


 If you had some friendly neighbours, as neighbours sometimes are,

You could sit and chat to them, if you left the door ajar.


When suddenly you got the urge, and down the track you fled,

Then of course the magpies were there to peck you on your head.


 Then the time there was a wet, the rain it never stopped,

If you had an urgent call, you ran between the drops.


 The dunny man came once a week, to these buildings out the back,

And he would leave an extra can, if you left for him a zac.


 For those of you who've no idea what I mean by a zac,

Then you're too young to have ever had, a dunny out the back.


 For it seems today they call them the bathroom, or the loo,

If you've never had one out the back, then I feel sorry for you.


 For it used to be a way of life, to race along the track,

To answer natures call, at these buildings out the back.

Carol Williams, April 2009  remembering

Grace Elizabeth Molloy


Nan was a keen fan of wrestling and of Chief Little Wolf in particular.  On a Saturday night we'd travel to North Melbourne Station then make our way to Festival Hall where there would be men outside placing bests, smoking etc.  Inside there was plenty of noise and much the same as outside.  Men walking up and down the aisles trying to place a bet.  There'd be a couple of preliminary bouts and then the main event.  Chief Little Wolf would make his way to the ring with tom-tom music playing, feathered head dress halfway down his back.  Nan loved it and so did I.