Hill End, NSW
My then father-in-law had a sheep property in this historic district near this quaint village in the heart of the central-west 275km NW of Sydney 1,000m above sea-level. Sitting above the Turon River Valley, and surrounded by scenic bush country. The area first made its claim to fame through the 19th century gold rush, where in 1872 wealth from the gold-fields saw the village boom into what was then a thriving city. Following the bust of the boom, and on the heels of the great depression, the 1950′s saw Hill End thrive again.
This time around as a popular destination for some of Australia’s greatest artists. The art culture remains prominent and within a well-preserved gold-mining ghost town, the site is a major tourist attraction. Hill End is an important historical and cultural landmark, drawing thousands of visitors annually. The village of Hill End is on the register of the National Estate and important historical buildings are managed by the Department of Environment and Climate Change as a ‘Historic Site’ of national significance.
We came to settle here to help out on his sheep property. It’s a tale of family and relations. For about 3 months we did our best to support and help out. Our two younger children went to the local one room school-house that still was operating with grades one to 6 as I remember, in rows in one room. Our oldest boy was in high school so need to go to Mudgee by bus every day – a trip of 76 kilometers each way up and down a narrow country road.
This was a very different and challenging experience for all. My wife was a nurse and sought some employment in Mudgee as well which was easy for her but the commute was a killer. Shopping required a trip to Mudgee or Orange for goods. We rented a small bungalow in Hill End to live in – it was different and didn’t really work.
The property was fairly large with sheep everywhere. This vocation was all new to me and I wasn’t adept at the Australian farming practices. I did the best I could to help out on the day-to-day around the place. Fencing repairs, odd jobs, helping feed the sheep as it was in drought conditions. We got our Australian drivers licenses in Hill End – the test involved picking up the local Policeman and driving him to our place for coffee and back to the station – we passed and he got to check out the new locals at the same time.
Access to Hill End is either via Mudgee or Bathurst. There are three main approaches; from Bathurst via Sofala (78 km), from Bathurst via Turondale (69 km), and from Mudgee via Hargraves (74km). All roads, except the Sofala route, are fully sealed now but this wasn’t the case when we lived there – they were dirt roads.
I mentioned family and relations earlier. Things didn’t really work out with us trying to help out and the lifestyle was just too far removed from what everyone had been used to so for the sake of peace and sanity we packed up and headed to Canberra, the Nations capital where employment opportunity awaited.
While this site is more about my wanderings, it wouldn’t be complete without a mention about my children who were with me during much of the time. I wanted to showcase some of our journey’s together so you will see a bit of the family life in the following memoirs. I am very proud of my children and they have been so wonderful to me.
The Australian Protective Service had offered me a role in Canberra – so we were off. We packed up our truck with our possessions and headed south. This was a much bigger city and more in line with what the family had experienced in Canada. Good schools, recreation and stable work for us all. My wife was able to get work nursing in no time. We rented a house initially and awaited our container of furniture to arrive – we established ourselves in Rivett.
With the kids in school life was more routine and activities began. The kids adapted into their new life, school and friends easily and things were looking up. We felt more at home here.
During our time here we manged to live in 4 different residences around the Weston Creek area of Canberra. We moved out of our initial rental place and purchased our own home in Chapman. It had a pool and lovely back entertainment area that saw lots of enjoyment and the kids had fun with their friends. Sports played a big part in the lives in Canada so it did in Australia as well. Kristine was enjoying her swimming and won ribbons and trophies with pride along with netball and some soccer. Shawn was playing ice hockey at Phillip Ice skating rink and played in many competitions along with cricket and soccer.
Summer time allowed for camping down at Bateman’s Bay, checking out the Australian War Memorial, Thredbo Ski area, Great Ocean Road, Echuca, Ned Kelly territory and other journeys to check out Aussie attractions. There were also times to visit with their Australian grandmother in Sydney.
During our time here Jason had an opportunity to return to Canada to pursue his ice hockey dreams. After he left and the twins were teenagers we moved to a villa house in Fisher that was less work due to our busy lives. Later I moved with the two kids to a townhouse in Duffy that better suited our situation.
Jason, North America & Hockey
My oldest son Jason also played some cricket and rugby at Marist Catholic College. Having played Canadian sports of baseball, ice hockey, soccer, lacrosse it was a challenge to adapt to the skills of the Australian sports. He continued his ice hockey with the Australian Team and played with older men. A travelling team from Canada Junior B league in British Columbia visiting Canberra for some recreation hockey during their summer break. After playing against these players the coach offered Jason a place on their Junior B team, room and board in British Columbia and a chance to finish high school there. It was something that Jason wanted to do and his heart was really still in Canada, while trying to make it work in Australia.
It was decided that he could go and give it a try – it would be an opportunity lost if he didn’t at least give it a go. This did cause considerable family anxiety and he was deeply missed but I felt he needed to give his dreams a chance – that view was not necessarily shared. In the end, he did enjoy his Junior B hockey playing throughout norther British Columbia, was noticed by college scouts from Cornell University and was offered a scholarship. He went to Cornell for 4 years, played 4 seasons with Cornell in the ECAC and received a degree and a signed with Detroit Red Wings.
He played in their various minor leagues for a few seasons in Manitoba, Canada and Houston, Texas. His biggest thrill was getting an opportunity to suit up with the Red Winds and participate in their on-ice Stanley Cup celebrations of 2001/02. He was one of only a handful of players from the Northwest Territories and was Detroit’s eighth-round draft pick in 1994. Eventually, he moved to Germany to play for a number of years.
I was fortunate to visit him a few times when he was with the Adirondacks in the American Hockey League and in Germany when he played there. Finally retiring he moved back to Texas where he resides today with his own family. It was a great part of his life.
The growing up years in Australia were good times and it nice to look back on these with fond memories. The shelves are full of pictures and reminders of those younger years when kids enjoyed their fun times. I moved to Duffy with my two children to accommodate our new circumstances. As the kids grew and decided to leave home to branch out on their own my work provided an opportunity for me to move to Sydney.