Elletts’ Grandma

A genealogist researching your family will advise you that you have two Grandmothers and give you their names.  If you ask anyone else in your family about their Grandmothers than they will tell you a story about their loved ones, referring to them by names such as: Grandma, Nan, Gram, Granny, Oma, Gumbu, Memi, Nne nne, Nonna, Giagia, etc. etc. etc.

The Ellett Story is a great book about the history of the Ellett family.  The book was “compiled with failing memories and rich imagination” in 1994.  It contains genealogy lists and charts, certificates, photographs, newspapers cuttings, convict records, oral histories, and much more.  Thanks to Bev Lambie, The Ellett Story has been indexed and placed on the Casey Cardinia Combined Index.

The oral histories of The Ellett Story caught my eye as it gives an interesting account of a bygone era and what life would have been like in Australia around the turn of the twentieth century.  I especially liked the different recollections of their Grandmas.  Stories that bring back memories and give you a laugh.

Alan’s oral history was written in three parts: The Pioneers of the Bush – about his Sayers Grandparents; The Pioneers of the Koo Wee Rup Swamp – about his Ellett Grandparents; and My Dad Jack, and Others – about his father and his life growing up.  These are some of his recollections of his Grandmas.

Alan was very fond of Grandma Sayers and wrote of her with affection.
“Grandma Sayers stood five foot nothing on her toes, and controlled every man, beast, child and tree within sight of her piercing steely eyes.  Forty years after her death I still look over my shoulder before I leave anything untidy.”

And he missed her after her death.
“All the children married eventually and Grandad and Grandma retired to live quietly in Colac, Grandma surviving Grandad by many years.  I was extremely fond of Grandma and felt her death deeply.”

Alan recalled a funny story about Granma Sayers.
“Grandad Sayers having passed on by this time, Grandma used to spend a lot of time on the farm sorting me out.  Every time I could be found I raked the chips up from around the ruddy wood heap and I reckon there was ten years supply of kindling in stock after every visit.

Most of my childhood was spent sitting at the top of our very highest pine tree, after craftily building a bag tree house low down in the tree.  Grandma spent most of my childhood prowling around the bottom of our highest pine tree, throwing stones at the bag house and calling “Alannnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn.”  Mum never knew where I was, though she waved at the tree every time she came out of the door.

One day when Grandma was looking for me and I happened to be resting inside the sink cupboard, Mum started to open the door to get the soap, she quickly shut the door and did the dishes without soap, and told Grandma she thought I might be in the tree house.”

Bushfires have always been a hazard in Australia and new settlers often had to rebuild their houses.  Even today, with all the emergency warnings, it is a big decision of what you should do.  Alan recalls how Grandma Sayers looked after her prized possessions during a bushfire.
“Grandma used to gather up her children and shelter in a creek with wet bags over their heads.  In one very bad bush fire she made a bundle in a tablecloth of what jewellery and valuables they had, and buried it in the garden before going to the creek.  The fire swept right over them as it jumped the creek.  When the fire had passed, the home was gone, but the valuables were still there, all melted together.”

Alan’s relationship with his Grandma Ellett wasn’t quite the same.  I think because the Ellett grandparents were from a different background so related differently to Alan’s family.
“Grandma was a gentle, kindly soul and seemed to me to be at least fifty years older than Grandpa, and had an air of permanent bewilderment about her.

Grandpa would pound the table and roar for his deck (of Cards), and his dust, which was some form of medication, and Grandma would run around saying’ “Yes’ Yes, Pappy, Don’t get excited,” and I would check for the hundredth time that there was nothing between me and the door.

I didn’t realise until Grandpa died that it was just a game and they played and that they loved each other deeply. On Grandpa’s death, Grandma turned her face to the wall, switched her motor off, and died within a few weeks.”

Religion was a major issue for any new immigrant, as their Catholic or Protestant beliefs followed them to their new country.  How many have heard stories of religions that divided their families?  Alan recalls the bigotry in their family.
“Grandma was also born in Australia, of Irish parents emigrated from Ireland. Grandma’s father was a staunch and bigoted catholic and ordered Grandpa off his property, with the aid of a stockwhip, forbidding him to court Grandma.  Grandma climbed on the back of Grandpa’s horse and left with him.  Such was the wicked bigotry of the time that Father and Daughter never met again.”

Alan is just one oral history that is included in The Ellett Story.  By reading The Ellett Story, you can read more Grandmas’ stories and find out:
– What people did to get through the depression?
– How the war affected many lives?
– What happened to the shoes the cobbler took to fix?
– How rabbits were trapped to feed us?
– What happened when it was old Strawberry’s turn to be milked?
– How to teach your younger sister to talk by making her repeat words – Dad, Dad, Dad, Mum, Mum, Mum, Bloody, Bloody, Bloody.
The Ellett Story is part of our Casey Cardinia Collection so it cannot be borrowed but you can have a read when visiting the Lorraine Taylor Research Room.

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