A look back in time – days gone by

My Grandmother’s Story….

I was born in Ireland at Dungonnell, Crumlin, County Antrim, Northern Ireland on the 5thAugust 1909. I was born at home, Mother had a midwife in attendance, I was 1 of 9 children, having 6 brothers and 2 sisters, Father died when he was 38 years of age.

We had a farm, growing hay- corn- flax- potatoes and turnips. All the animals had to be housed in the winter and fed—The stables, byre, and piggery had to be cleaned out every morning. We milked about 12 cows by hand, the milk was strained and put into large crocks in the milk house, where we had a large butter churn, which all the milk was put in once a week and churned—it was turned by a horse going around outside, with one of the boys driving him—when it came to butter Mother washed and salted it—it was then made into 1 pound pats and put into a box—the buttermilk was put into rundlets, this was taken to market in Belfast by horse and cart, a distance of 20 miles.

The hay was cut, put into small ricks in the field to dry, then taken in on the rick shifter near our home and built into a large pike for winter feed. We loved this time of the year as we were allowed to sit on the back of the shifter to have a ride home. At a young age we had to help with the planting, gathering and bagging the potatoes which we later sold most of. The corn was taken to the mill for flour, we did not buy bread, Mother made soda bread and potato bread, all on a griddle. W did not have meat, only poultry with pigs killed in the winter. We had plenty of fish as we lived on the banks of Lough Neagh, there were lots of fish in the Lough, the fishermen went out every night, they gave us any that were not large enough for market, they were fresh water fish. The turnips were very large and were fed to the animals.

We had to pull the flax by hand, then it was put in the dam for a few weeks, with heavy stones on top to keep it well immersed, it was then taken out to the field, spread out in rows to dry, had to be turned a few times to get it thoroughly dry, then put in sheaves, taken to the mill to be made into linen. We had a large vegetable garden, also a large orchard, we did not grow citrus fruit, but everything else. We always had plenty of fruit and vegetables. We had hedges around the fields—crab apples—raspberries—and black berries growing in the hedges—we also had a shough running at the bottom end of all the fields, lovely clear water—we also had orange lilies and purple rockets growing in the garden—all protestants grew them to wear on their day, the 12th July, called orange mans day, marched on that day—Catholics had their day on the 17th March, they marched wearing the Shamrock.

Old home in Ireland as it is today

We had a lovely home—built of stone, with a large kitchen—Scullery—Pantry—Dining room—Parlor, and hallway downstairs—with 5 bedrooms upstairs. We did not have a bathroom or toilet—had a round tub in the scullery, water was heated and we all had our turn to have a bath on Saturday night. The washing was also done in this tub and put out on bushes to dry, did not have a clothes line. We would go behind the hedge, that was our toilet, sure was cold in winter.

Mother was very strict about us going to Sunday School—Bible class, and Church. When we were small we went in the pony and trap with lovely padded seats to Antrim, a distance of 5 miles—as we got older we had to walk—we were able to take a short cut which made it about 3 miles, and yes we did go every Sunday, winter or summer.

Irish Immigrants arrive in Sydney aboard the Euripides September 1926

I started school on my 4th birthday, had to walk a miles each way—I left school the week before we left Ireland, which was the 23rd July 1926, arriving in Sydney in September, 7 weeks later—We travelled by steamer from Belfast to Liverpool docks, travelling overnight, sitting up. We boarded the “Euripides” ship that afternoon and we had a lot of ports to stop at, we came via Capetown in Africa where we had a few days. We did enjoy the trip, playing deck games—cards—competitions etc—and having a good look around all the ports of call. Brother Tommy did not come with us, he came a few months later.

“Mount Cottage” National School was the school I attended, we were allowed a penny each week to spend, I usually bought ‘bulls eyes’, got 8 for a penny, at the little shop in a house on our way to school.

I think we had a very good time growing up, especially in the long summer evenings, it would not be dark until 11 o’clock at night. We would play outside until 10 o’clock, but it was dark at about 4 o’clock in the winter. I had to help Mother, winding wool and I started knitting when I was 4 years of age.

It was certainly a different life-style when we arrived in Australia.

Aunt Agnes nominated us to come to Australia, costing 10 pounds each person, she, along with her husband and daughter met us in Sydney and took us all to their home in Fairfield—They had arranged to go and live up near Murrundi and sold their home to Mother, where we lived for a few years. We all managed to find positions in Sydney—I worked for Dr. Stanley Hughes, as a receptionist, I lived in with them as it was too far to travel, and they treated me as family. They had 2 little boys who I often looked after when Dr. and Mrs Hughes went out. Mrs Hughes taught me so much, she was really good to me, they even took me on holidays with them. Dr. Hughes got a partner after I was there 5 ½ years, hen they bought a nice home at Edgecliff, they wanted me to stay with them, but I found I did not have anything to do, so I went down town to an agency and got a job as a parlor maid with Lord and Lady Waddell near Bethungra. I was only there a few months when I went to a danc4 in Bethungra, it was there that I met Pop. We were married the next year a t the Randwick Presbyterian Church in Sydney, by the Rev. W Grant on the 17th March 1934. Dr. and Mrs Hughes had our wedding reception in their home for us.

I went to live at “Millhaven” on the land, near Bethungra, and all our children were born at Cootamundra. We were not married long before Harry got ill, had to go to Sydney, he was in the “ Lister’ private hospital for 6 months with ‘Hydatids’, having several operations, and was left with liver problems which eventually made him leave the land—He certainly had a lot of illness in his lifetime, passing away at the age of 67. I am now almost 77 years old and wanted you to know a little of my life

Martha Milliken 1909 – 1990



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