– Probably never had any spending money, but most people could get a feed. And there were food kitchens and those sorts of thing, weren’t there.
– Mmm, not the best things… I can understand the idealism of people who will not ﬁght, who will not take other lives…
– Oh yes, sure, ..
– just as strongly as those who think feel that they’ve got to ﬁght…
– Yes, anyway, that’s a bit by the way, but. .
– It’s interesting though because today a young fellow, an optician or whatever, has never . . . doesn’t know anybody who went to war.
– No, that’s why, if this does ever get to paper, I would like to feel that I could have some input to try and explain what to these younger people, seems quite inexplicable.
– If this ever does this will be a transcript which you have then as a basis, something to work on, to expand these ideas… having sown these seeds… something to work on later. A tape isn’t… a book. Oral material is not written material, but it’s the basis of the writing.
– Yes, it’s the groundwork from which you might get something.
– Getting your ideas down and starting you on a train of thought that you can develop later in print. So it’s a good thing to mention the things that are on your mind, that looking forward you want to stress.
– Yes, that’s a good way of looking at it.
– So there he was, away for how long in the Second World War?
– About 4 years I think.
– And the farm’s ticking along with the neighbour man managing it.
Yes, and very limited resources of good labour and what always seemed to me an extraordinary situation. The govt were paying people to come and cut scrub on Patoka because of unemployment problems, and the good people were going over to get their heads blown off in the war. But that’s how politics or running the country works. I just thought I’d draw attention to that – and there were large areas of scrub cut particularly out at the back of the farm – the area which was subsequently sold at £1acre – the Dome – cut by these contracts, and somebody would have to come and have a look at them, and often they were slow coming so you didn’t know whether to keep the gang there cutting the block before it was agreed to or not.
– Then having cut the scrub was the land developed – or the means weren’t there then – the super and giant discs and so on?
– When it was cut it was just burned and hand-sown, but there was no means of throwing super at it, no aeroplanes, so the real turning point in Patoka was the arrival of techniques and machinery of aerial topdressing and giant discing – giant discing ﬁrst to crush the scrub, then you burned it and sowed it with rollers which were designed to trundle over those sticks which hadn’t burned and the stumps and so forth. There was ash or sticks and rubbish there as a shelter for the seed. It wasn’t like a bare clean paddock. But then you could throw some grass seed out with the roller and the super with this box on the roller, but then you had the aeroplane to continue with the six-monthly topdressing to raise the phosphate level. The seed wasn’t sown by air at ﬁrst, but later on people were more skilful in their ﬂying skills and conﬁdent that they could have a cover.
– How much of your territory was drivable?
– With the right machinery there would be – say, 80%, but there were some steep faces that were totally ungetatable.
– Which were just left in scrub?
– No, but because they were so steep, the ash which had blown over didn’t stick there and so the natural fertility was high enough with the aid of aerial topdressing to keep them up and keep them in English grass or certainly keep them so that you could run enough stock to stop the scrub from regenerating.
That sort of jumped us into 1951 when the Korean war provided the money in the wool – wool was 144d/lb, having been abt 28 or 30, 40d, so that was the third point [giant discs, aerial topdressing and wool prices]. That was probably the most vital thing to record in that period, but when Father came back in 1945, we then had the worst drought I can remember – 1945-46 when the rain was almost negligible, and the rabbits arrived. There was always a rabbiter around, but the plague which really produced them in gigantic numbers was in that period and to give an example of how they proliferated, Father used to catch the odd