Clare Stanley [nee Smith]

This great story was sent to me by Rhonda McCoy, Clare Stanley's daughter. Clare wrote this many years ago and her story gives a great account of life in the early years of the subdivision.


Clare lived on block 23, Warrah Creek, now known as "Homeleigh" and where Jim Harris and family live today. Her father was William Smith, or known as "Boomer". When William died the farm was left to his wife Bessie, and it later passed to their son, and Clare's brother Ron. Ron was known as "Unc", and there are some funny stories about Ron in the "1912 Warrah subdivision" book.


If Clare is well enough, they hope to be at the centenery in September.

Clare Stanley, on the right, at the 1996 "1912 Warrah subdivision" book launch, at the hall. She is with Rosemary, Peggy and Jenny Saunders.



By Clare (Smith) Stanley

Born Quirindi, NSW.  2.11.1922




In my family,  soap making was quite often on the agenda -  the workshop being the copper, then housed in an outside “wash house” where the mutton fat was first clarified by boiling and later strained to remove impurities. Plenty of washing soda was added and on occasions, a small quantity of Eucalyptus was added also. After a few days of drying out and while very soft, it was cut into bars and later blocks and set aside for some weeks to harden up.


The washing was all done by hand, scrubbing with the help of a wash board and the boilable things went into the copper and were hauled out on the copper stick – resembling a broom handle.

Rinsing and bluing was then done by hand and hung on either the clothes prop line or the cross bar type - how many times it collapsed in the wind and had to be done all over again is anybody’s guess !


Ironing was done by the old flat irons, or Mrs Potts style, with the slot on a wooden handle. Plenty of firewood was needed – all cut by hand with a saw and split with the axe to fuel the wooden stoves, which somehow always looked bright and shiny black, following regular hits and lots of brushing with the renowned “Zebra” stove polish. The cleaning had to be done fairly early after lighting the fire or when it was cooling off.


Brass door knobs and water taps of brass were regularly shined up – usually a Saturday job for we offspring – in between hair shampooing and the usual draught of Senna Teas or Epsom Salts, whether needed or not, said to keep one healthy. 


Bessie Smith, May, Ethel, Clare, and Ron, about 1933.

Fresh meat was something of a problem as only “Coolgardie” or drip safes were around.

The home slaughter of bullocks was a joint affair with neighbours – your turn now and I’ll be next.

Ron Smith, with some of the farm pigs.

Sheep and pigs were not such a major effort but all were left outside overnight, strung up in a tree with the aid of a windlass – all were up early next morning to cut the carcass up before the onslaught of blowflies.

The bacon was house cured in a large cask and hung to cure for some weeks from hooks suspended in our kitchen ceiling. Before frying, it was always boiled for a while – just as well with flies and dust to contend with.


When fresh root vegetables were bought they were buried tops and all in the garden, and watered. They kept remarkably fresh when dug up for future use.


Most people tried to grow their own veges, but only limited water could be extended to the garden for use, as there were no hoses. All hand washing water was saved in a kerosene tin and later put on some of the more precious plants, in the cool of the evening.


In later years my father used to cultivate 3 acres with pumpkins, melons & squash, and to defend against lady bird attacks, all were hand dusted regularly with ashes from the stove or open fire.

Peas, melons and potatoes when in season and bountiful crops were there for the taking – provision being that you picked your own !

Carloads including the stock and station agents “Harrisons” from Willow Tree came along.


My Dad was William, but well known as “Boomer”. He used to cut anyone’s hair, at the weekends – no charge.

A chair and a towel had to be taken down to the wash house so no hair would fly around the house. He’d do the door keeping at the dances or balls, and later he was gatekeeper for the Rodeos in Willow Tree.


Card games were never allowed in our house and we never knew the reason.

Euchre nights and cards between family and friends were the trend and must have been a great joy to many.

The wireless was run by batteries and in the early days that restricted it’s use to the more important things like news etc.

Kerosene lamps and lanterns were well in demand- the wicks had to be trimmed off regularly as black soot would build up on them.


Toilets in the form of pits were well away from the houses and black and Red Back spiders were always a threat. Toilet rolls were a rare sight, only seen when visitors were around !

The newspaper would be cut into squares and string attached for hanging behind the door.

Ashes were always on hand to allay the smell – I don’t remember any disinfectants till Pheryle came through at a later stage, but it always seemed to be that if something could be used it was good, for times were tough and there was never much money around.


The old treadle sewing machine at our house would often go till 1 o’clock in the morning, with a kerosene lamp to shed light on the job. Any hand-me-down clothes would be remade to fit, as well as panties, pyjamas, pillow cases etc. 

The opening of the Warrah creek tennis courts, about 1924. L-R, Iris Kingston, Kathleen Smith, Ivy Morrison, and Madge Carter.

When the tennis courts and cricket pitch were formed up it was great. People came from quite a distance, also for the socials which were held in the hall.


Jams, pickles, tomato sauce & relish were made from fruits and veges in season.

Bats were a problem and had to be shot when they invaded at night. Green parrots were also a pest.

Fruit was preserved in the Fowlers outfit.

Pumpkins were gathered by horse and cart once the stalks were hard and dry.

Any with broken skin were fed to the cattle and the good ones were buried in the broken straw in the hayshed. This supply lasted us for many months.

The common or rough skinned lemons were easy to grow and fruited well and being in a sharing kind of community, anyone was welcome to share the excess.


Before and after school we were required to do the milking, plus bucket feed the poddy calves and pet lambs.

After separating the milk by hand, the cream was taken in large steel cans to the butter factory in Quirindi.


The Policeman from Murrurundi used to ride out over the Swinging Ridges, Borambil Creek, and take the census and stock returns and quite often stayed the night at home. We girls were terrified and used to hide under the double bed till we plucked up enough courage to come out, probably to do some chore or other.

We three girls always slept in the double bed, May in the middle.

Mattresses were soft and saggy and we nearly always rolled towards the centre anyway.

Quirindi herald. 1922.

Cattle were purchased on the hoof by butchers from Murrurundi and Willow Tree and were later killed locally. Skin buyers made regular trips out from Quirindi and Murrurundi and when fox and rabbit skins were of good quality, they would be looked at also, as well as sheep skins.




The teachers taught all ages from 7 years to the Blackfriars correspondence pupils.

Two big blackboards were set up on easels, one on each side of the Teacher’s desk in the centre of the room.

In winter, the open fire was a welcome sight.

In one corner a shelf housed nature study items- a blackfellows tomahawk and birds nests. If plants were grown or sprouted for nature study, this was their spot also.


There were no single desks – they were long with lift-up lids and the forms to match were also long (about 2.5 yards).

White crockery ink wells slotted into their own holes at the top of desks. Some of the less ambitious students swatted flies, which would end up in the inkwell – oh horror !


It was always known in advance when the Inspector was due. There would be a great cleanup prior to his visit, and he would often stay on for a couple of days.

He lunched and stayed at the Teacher’s house.

Each pupil had their own mug and spot on one of the two tank stands. There was a tank on either side of the building and on wet days lunch could be eaten on the entrance verandah, other times under a tree in the grounds.


The work benches for the boys were also on one end of this partly closed in verandah. The girls were given a weekly sewing lesson by the wife of the Teacher. She was paid a certain sum, according to the number doing sewing.

First you had to make sample squares of flat seams, French seams, back stitch, hemming, buttonholes, an apron or a petticoat, as slips were then called.

Calico and crash aprons would be worked for entry into the Quirindi Annual Show in latter years. The machines were available, so sewing on Friday was always a good change from lessons. Rounders was always popular and I think it was on Fridays also.


The inter Sports Carnival, held yearly in Willow Tree, brought out the best in marching or running and the “Colonial Bogey” March would be loud and clear for practice.


In latter years the folk of Warrah Creek got together and a tennis court was built in our school grounds. It was between the school and the residence. Schools around the area used it for competitions and the locals could also use it on weekends.


The main entrance to the school was through a hand gate and up the central path. About 3 steps then led to the verandah, where bags were left and hats were hung on hooks. A double iron gate was used by sulky and horseback pupils and a horse yard was fenced off at the back of the play area.


There were two toilets at the back of the play area as well, quite a step from the classroom. I think the boys were caught a few times smoking behind their toilets., then referred to as the W.C. It wouldn’t have been tobacco rolled in cigarette paper, more likely newspaper was used as a substitute !


The Teacher’s whistle summoned “action”- I don’t recall there being a bell.

Each side of the front path were concrete surrounded rectangular beds, and boys looked after one side & girls the other.

But again no hoses were evident, so plants had to be of the hardiest variety.

Escholtzias that seeded and scattered their seeds were always there and the satin orange flowers in the form of a cup were quite pretty.

Sometimes the back area was part of a nature study project and cabbage, beans or radish were produced in the process, if seasons were good and rabbits didn’t invade at night.




Archdeacon Thomas Harrington, of Irish ancestry, used to come out from Quirindi by horse and sulky. Mass was usually said at the Meredith residence but once during Grandma Fitzpatrick’s later life, at our home. He had breakfast and it became known that he was to have 2 lightly boiled fresh eggs, hardly even set !

The Nuns used to come out on a yearly fundraising trip and usually had morning tea and lunch at the allotted homes, always having to eat alone.

When there was an abundance of eggs or home made butter, it was taken to the “Brown Joeys” in Quirindi.

In the early days the fasting was lengthy and so many people took thermos flasks and a bite to eat at the church, before the trip home. But that was not for us !

The altar was tended with fresh flowers and Confessions were heard before Mass.

Altar linen had to be washed and ironed.

Most people sat in their regular seats . The organ was played and sometimes we had a sing along.


Dette and Ron Barwick were married at the home of Dette.

Win Fitzpatrick and John O’Leary were married in Willow Tree and had their reception at Homeleigh, before settling in Singleton, where Jack took over the family butchery.


Bob & I were the last couple to be married in the old Willow Tree church before it was swept away by floods. Our day was 5th September, 1949.


Willow Tree had an annual Roman Catholic Ball and the ladies had to canvass in pairs for cash or food donations for the sit down chicken suppers. Plum pudding and custard usually followed.

They also had to go in on the day and set tables, cut up salads and prepare flowers as well.

A woman was paid to do the washing up on the night itself.

Marie Meredith at the Warrah Creek post office.



The mail used to be collected from Willow Tree Post Office where it had been sorted and tied into bundles with string. The mail contractor would also collect any grocery items and meat from the butchers.

Bread was collected at the bakery where it had earlier been baked and was in a deep double oblong loaf. This was often referred to as a “married loaf”.

The papers in latter years  were also from the bakery and were tied onto the brown paper parcels of bread.

Charges were made for these extra services.

Any mail to be posted was left in the mail box under a stone, it was taken and the other left.

He would go up Dry Creek and further up before collecting any returns or mail to go from Warrah Creek Post office and later to Jack’s Creek on his run. Red sealing wax had to be melted on to any official mail – it was in the shape of a square pencil.


The Warrah Creek Post Office was always a hub of activity.- no covered walkways from the house out to the office. The riding customers could  tether their hacks to the side fence and enter through the front wooden door. If no one was in the office, Marie Meredith could be summoned by jangling the large bell on the front verandah.


The phone would be answered at any hour of the night and for those not owning a phone, a message would be delivered as soon as possible.

Marie seemingly loved everyone and when I look back now on all she achieved and those she helped, I am sad that I couldn’t have thanked her more during her life.

She must have been busy as she always raised turkeys and the “flogging” things at time gave her a chase.

She prepared the Catholic children for First Communion and later Confirmation.

We had to learn the green Catechism off by heart and she would question us and hear it through. She was always available when anyone died and would travel far for the “laying out” of the deceased.

She played for dances and her playing was no mean feat.


Before I went nursing in 1943, she took Dell and I to Sydney to be interviewed re entry and arranged accommodation with some of her relatives  whilst in the city.  She always made the coffee for the Balls and Dances, a dash of mustard bag of coffee grounds and salt made a great brew.

I think it latter years she became a Justice of the Peace.

Ethel, May, and Clare Smith.
Clare, being interviewed by Earl Kelaher at the centenary, Warrah hall.

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Val Seymour | Reply 11.04.2019 06:31

What a wonderful insight to the oldern days written by a wonderful lady the only trouble is I can also relate to these days.

G Bell | Reply 29.10.2016 12:28

Thanks for that information. It is nice to get an insight into where one of your family once lived. I am related to a Jacob Kames Gresinger also known as Jack.

terry mc grath | Reply 10.11.2014 20:10

Really happy to find this site.Clare would be a cousin of my father. Dad was the son of Emily, William's sister.Would love to hear from someone.Terry

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Latest comments

25.09 | 09:36

Absolutely delighted to come across a part of my direct ancestors history about which I knew very little and shall endeavour to find out more
Thank you Prof. A.

23.09 | 22:23

Very interesting Kelaher family history. Impressive number of trained nursing sisters. Jack lent the Copelands a cream horse, Playboy, in 1950's, ridden by Kate

09.09 | 17:58

Wonderfully informative. Thank goodness for Jane and John Atchison's work

06.09 | 14:33

I am Jack Kelaher and I am proud of my pop, dad and ancestors.

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