Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Lance Tiller: Credit Union Christmas Pageant


 Lance Tiller: Credit Union Christmas Pageant

Across 5 decades, and for 40 consecutive years, my uncle, Lance Tiller, rode his penny farthing bicycle in the historic John Martins Christmas Pageant, now known as the Credit Union Christmas Pageant.

 The Penny Farthing was invented in 1870 in England (also known as the High-wheel). The name Penny Farthing comes from two English coins, used to describe the bikes wheels, due to their size.
My uncles Penny Farthing once belonged to a gentleman at Middle Beach, named Samuel Temby. (as an interesting side-note, my Uncle owned the Middle Beach caravan park for several years during the late 1980’s early 1990’s, and I believe my grandfather’s pool table is still there!)

 Mr Temby’s son began to ride the bike around Middle Beach. Later he moved to Mallala, and the old bike was put in the shed, and mostly forgotten.

In the late 1950’s my uncle purchased the penny farthing from the Tenby’s and learned how to ride the bike. Its seat sat 1.5 metres in the air, and one had to run alongside the bike, and use a small step to jump up into the seat!

 It was in Gawler that Lance applied for a position in the John Martin’s Christmas Pageant. In a story shared with me by my uncle, he claims that the members of the pageant drive out to Gawler, and asked him to ride the penny farthing in traffic up and down the main street of Gawler, to prove he had control of the bicycle.
At my parents in Gawler, circa 1965

 It must’ve worked, as he rode in the pageant for many years afterwards, sometimes dressed as a clown, other times riding alongside the English bus.
 Lance only retied after a pageant in the early 2000’s in which a member of the large crowd, dressed in wolf costume, leaped from the audience and slammed into his bike, causing Lance to fall heavily from the height of the seat – an injury as a sixty something year old man at the time, he has never fully recovered from.

 The Credit Union Christmas Pageant has been one of the highlights of my Uncles life, and his face and eyes light up whenever he speaks of it, so I thought, I would share some of his story with you, before father time catches up with him, and his story is forgotten.

Perhaps, one day, I might take up a position with the Adelaide Credit Union Christmas Pageant, and continue my uncles tradition!

The Mallala Museum bought Uncle Lance’s Penny Farthing bicycle and it is still on display as an exhibit.

Mallala Museum, 2013, Penny Farthing Bicycle, Now and Then Mallala, viewed 5 Nov 2017, http://mallala.nowandthen.net.au/Penny_Farthing_Bicycle

Written by Allen Tiller  © 2017

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

The Haunting of Struan House - Naracoorte

The Haunting of Struan House - Naracoorte

 This week we are travelling back down south to just outside Naracoorte, to the magnificent double stories, 40 roomed mansion, Struan House.
Struan House was built in 1875 by the Robertson Family. John Robertson, born in Scotland, came to Australia in 1831, landing at Hobart. In 1838 he sailed to Sydney, where he took up work as an overseer.

Robertson soon took up land in Western Victoria, and increased his property portfolio vastly. He soon had 505 square kilometres of land to his name, and built a vast empire upon the backs of cattle. It is estimated he had 2000 head of cattle, 60, 000 sheep and 500 pedigree thoroughbreds in his vast holdings.

Robertson met Susan Frazer, a young woman also hailing from Johns’ hometown in Scotland, Inverness. Although his social superior, she agreed to his proposal for marriage. With Susan at his side, John made a bid for land around Naracoorte.

Struan house, the one we see today, was the third house built by John and Susan, the first being a simple timber cottage. There is circumstantial evidence that Father Julian Tenison Woods may have visited, or even stayed with the Robertson clan around this time.
 The second house, which still stands today, was built with Limestone, and features sweeping verandas and a large basement, with many rooms, perhaps built for the ever growing family.
 Nearing retirement age, John decided he wanted a much larger home for his family, and spent a few years designing his dream home. He employed architect W.T. Gore, to design it, hiring local hands to build it, and obtaining marble from Italy to dress his ornate fireplaces.

Photo: SLSA: 1890 [B 10016]
The house was christened “Struan” on the 17th of January 1876 by Minister Dugald McCallum. Struan was the seat of the Robertson clan in Scotland. John loved for only four years in the house, before his death. He is buried in the family cemetery nearby.
Susan lived on for another 26 years, passing away in 1906.

The house was left to Alexander Robertson, who continued on with his father’s farming. The house saw visits by such dignitaries as Prince’s George and Albert, upon their Australian tour in 1881. Alexander never married, and the house was left empty. The family sub-divided the land, and sold the house off in 1948.

From 1948 until 1969 the property and house were used as a Corrective Farm for boys by the South Australian Government. The rest of the property was used as a research centre. When the boys’ home closed, the land and Struan house were taken over by the Department of Agriculture.
In 2008 a two million dollar renovation happened at the house.

The house is thought to be haunted by Frances Robertson (nee Fraser). Francis had married Alexander only three months previous to her untimely death. She had recently visited her sick mother in Adelaide, and had also been mourning the death of a niece.
 Earlier in the day, and for some days previously, she had complained of feeling sick, and as she had one many times before, she went to the top of the tower, to gather thoughts and look out over the land, only this time, she wouldn’t return.

 A staff member found Frances laying on the ground, her head brutally mutilated. She had clipped the cornice of the building on the way down, and part of it was sitting alongside her, covered in blood.
Frances, just 29 years old, was found to have died by accident, but over the years, there have been allegations that it may have been murder, or even suicide, but none of these allegations have ever been more than rumours.
Frances was buried in family plot at Struan House.

It has been alleged that Frances haunts the building, with some staff members, and even current workers, claiming to have seen a woman, in a long period 1920’s styled dress, walking through the upper halls.
It is also claimed that Frances will turn on and off lights, and particularly after large functions in the building, will disrupt further goings on by interrupting the power supply, slamming doors and flickering lights – perhaps in protest.
Despite this, the majority of people who have encountered the spirit of Frances have stated they felt calm and peaceful in her presence, and did not think she was a threatening or evil spirit.

Researched and written by Allen Tiller ©2017

 The Haunts of Adelaide on FACEBOOK

Title Photo: State Library of South Australia, 1890, "Struan House", Naracoorte [B 19671], SLSA, viewed 15 October 2017, https://collections.slsa.sa.gov.au/resource/B+19671

1875 'MR. JOHN ROBERTSON'S NEW RESIDENCE.', Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 - 1954), 8 September, p. 2. , viewed 14 Oct 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article77177039

1927 'WOMAN'S DEAD BODY AT FOOT OF TOWER.', Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 - 1954), 29 November, p. 1. , viewed 14 Oct 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article77712370

Maria, C, 2008, Struan House: $2 million upgrade, ABC South East SA, viewed 14 October 2017, http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2008/01/24/2145743.htm

Naracoorte Lucindale, 2017, Struan House, Naracoorte Visitor Information Centre, viewed 14 October 2017, https://www.naracoortelucindale.sa.gov.au/nlcTourism/struan

Seeliger, M, 2013, A History of Agriculture in South Australia, Primary Industries and Regions, South Australian Government viewed 14 October 2017, http://www.pir.sa.gov.au/aghistory/left_nav/dept_of_agriculture_as_an_organisation/locations/struan/history_of_struan

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

This is Halloween… Old Halloween Superstitions and Beliefs

This is Halloween…

Old Halloween Superstitions and Beliefs

Burning nuts on an open fire place is an old Scottish All Hallows Eve tradition. It is used as a divination tool to discover if another person will fall in love with you.
the nuts are placed on the fire, and given names, one for the person asking the question, the other for the person they wish to be with, or have fall in love with them.
 If the two nuts burn nicely together, it is supposedly an indication of true love, but if the two nuts jump away from each, crack, explode or bounce of the fire, it is seen as a bad omen. These two people are not made for each other!
 The Irish once had a similar custom, but three nuts were used, instead of two. The three nuts (usually Hazel Nuts) were put into the fire grate, with two being named as the potential lovers (or a couple already together).
If the nuts popped, jumped or cracked, an infidelity would occur, if they stayed much the same, a mutual respect would be in place, but if they burned together, or burned brightly, a marriage would occur.
Another odd act of potential love divination was for a girl to find a pea pod with 9 perfect peas inside. The young lady would take the pod home and secretly place it above the doorway of the house. The first unmarried man to walk through the doorway would be her future suitor!

 The Irish seemed to have many All Hallows Eve traditional “love spells”, another involved a young lady pealing an entire apple in one strand, she would then throw this long peel over her left shoulder, and when it landed, it would spell out the initials of her future husband!
Another custom, which is thought to have originated in Ireland, was the sewing of hemp seeds to divine a future lover.

On Halloween night, a male or female would secretly make their way to the local cemetery, and at midnight they would sow a handful of hemp seeds, whilst saying the following rhyme;

Hemp seed, I sow Thee; Hemp seed, I sow thee
And him (or her) that’s my true love
Come after me and pou’ thee
Another variation of the poem is:
Hemp seed I sow, hemp seed must grow;
Whomever my true love, come after and mow.

After saying the rhyme a few times whilst sowing the seeds, the asker would look back over their left shoulder, and see an apparition of the person who loves them, cutting the grown hemp with a scythe!
 Another traditional love spell for Halloween, was for a young lady to carry two lemon peels, one in each pocket. Before going to bed that night, she would rub the four posts of her bed with the peel, and then slip them under her pillow. In her dreams that night, her future husband would appear.

One final Halloween love spell – The Three Dishes, which comes out of England. 

Three dishes are to be placed next to each other on a table, one contains dirty water, one contains clean water and the last contains nothing.
The person wanting to know their future, is blinded folded, then led towards the dishes. Whichever dish the person puts their hand in first, decides their future lover.
 The clean water, the person will marry a maiden or master, whichever the case may be.
The dirty water, the person will marry a widow or widower.
The bowl with nothing in it, the person will remain a bachelor or bachelorette…

…and you thought Halloween was all about ghosts, goblins and trick or treating!
Happy Halloween!