You’ll never ride it

Chapter 4

Published Dec, 2021

A lifetime on horseback - James Chester Draper at 'Barton Hill', Arthurs Creek c 1907. Jim was described by contemporaries as a superb horseman. Photo credit Draper family

We tried different crops at ‘Barton Hill’.  The name of course came from Sir Edmund Barton, Australia’s first Prime Minister. That was around the time my father and mother married[1].

One crop my father always had was strawberries. He would sometimes send them by train to the Eastern Market or, if a small lot, would sell them at Mernda saleyards. The price was about six pence a punnet. One year we sent ten and a half hundred-weight to the Rosella factory at six pence a pound. Carrots were sold for two pounds a ton for horse feed. We used to pit the potatoes. They were tipped out of the bags into heaps about six feet high and six feet wide and about twenty yards long. The heaps would be covered with straw or rushes and then covered with soil. They were bagged and sold when there was a demand for them. I recall one year when they never reached the price of the bags and were left to rot in the pits.

Sometimes we would cut down bee trees and, if we were lucky, would get a lot of honey as well as a lot of stings. The honeycomb would be strained through a sugar bag. We sometimes exported apples, but seldom got any money back. They were sent to Hull and Hamburg as well as London. Once we got a telegram from London to say apples had brought thirty shillings a case. Our consignment was fifty cases. The returns arrived showing one case at thirty shillings, the remainder pillaged.

Tom and I used to break-in horses. One day Bill Edgington, who worked for Reids, wanted a horse to ride. There was a mob belonging to various owners running in Denny Murphy’s[2] paddock at Streamville. Tom and I yarded them at Lodges. Mr. Lodge wanted us to buy his horse, but we chose one owned by Leo Ryder for six pounds. Mr. Lodge said, ‘You’ll never ride it’. I put my saddle on and got on. It went through two fences of his yard and I rode it home (along Running Creek Road to ‘Barton Hill’). It went O.K. after that. We called it ‘Fire-works’, and we owned it after Bill left Reids.

Mr. Lodge then wanted me to ride his horse. I said, ‘I will for a pound’. He said, ‘It’s quiet’. I said, ‘Alright, ride it yourself’. He said, ‘I’ll give you a pound then’. We were told by my father not to ride it home. We took it home and found it an outlaw, but we soon got it under control. Mr. Lodge got it back, but we never got the pound.

Another one of the mob was Denny Murphy’s. It was wild. I rode it to Glenburn and let it go with hobbles on it, but we could not catch it next morning and finally it jumped from the 640 acre paddock to the 700 acre. I said, ‘We need a horse paddock’ and fenced in about nine acres straight away.

Sometimes we had sheep at Glenburn. One year Rex Reid and I sheared the sheep on a bag cover, using blade shears.  We grew peas and threshed them with a flail. A flail is two sticks about five feet long joined together with green hide. One is the handle, and you belt the pea stalks with the other. The broken straw is strained from the peas by a sieve.

When there was a drought, travelling mobs of starving sheep would graze the roads. One night seven mobs of sheep camped in the Middle Lane. I think they grazed the sheep around the Yan Yean Reservoir at night.

In earlier times, the land around the Reservoir and up to Howat’s Lookout was the Plenty Farmer’s Common, and farmers paid six pence a head per week to run cattle there. The herdsman was Norman McPhee, and the herdsman’s hut was later Edge’s place and now Squirrel’s home. My mother and father used to meet before they married, when they went to the Plenty Farmer’s Common to look at their cattle.

Each year, the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board would put a gate on each entrance to Ridge Road and Cade’s Lane and keep it locked for twenty-four hours, to make sure of their claim to the roads. The MMBW Act describes the land as reserved and says including all roads. From the beginning the farmers would always remove the gates, even though they would have a guard on them. This went on year after year until the 1930s when an agreement was arrived at. However, Ridge Road is not allowed for on any maps, so we live on no road[3]. It is a road, but on private property, as far as the MMBW is concerned.


[1] Sir Edmund ‘Toby’ Barton, GCMG, KC (18 January 1849 – 7 January 1920) was appointed prime minister on 1 January 1901, the day on which the new federal constitution came into effect.  James Chester’s parents, Jim and Blanche were married on 24 December 1900.

[2] Dennis, ‘Denny’ or ‘Dinny’ Murphy was the son of Thomas Murphy from Southern Ireland who lived at Streamville on the Running Creek on the west bank. He had three sons Pat, Jim and Dennis. Jim was upstream from Pat (in the old home) and Dennis was on the east side of the Creek. Each had a family.

[3] James Chester and Beatrice Violet Draper lived at ‘Maranui’, Ridge Road, Yan Yean when these reminiscences were started in 1991.

The Draper family with a horse at 'Barton Hill' c 1922. Photo credit Bruce G. Draper
Jim Chester Draper and visitors in one of the rose gardens at 'Maranui'. Chester grew beautiful roses and regularly won prizes at the Whittlesea Show, as did Beatrice for her delicious jams made with fruit grown in the 'Maranui' orchards. The Draper family has maintained its long association with the show, with Chester's son Robert Draper having been the Whittlesea Agricultural Society President in recent years. Chester would almost always give a freshly picked bouquet of roses to any female visitor to the farm
Jim Chester Draper was one of the organisers of the Back to Yan Yean Celebrations. The buggy (or carriage) was from Chester and Beatrice Draper's Yan Yean property, 'Maranui'. Back to Yan Yean Celebrations, 7th and 8th October, 1978. Photo credit State Library of Victoria
All of Chester and Beatrice's grandchildren were given the opportunity to ride horses and ponies. Chester himself was a highly accomplished rider and continued farm life on horseback into his late 80s. Photo credit Bruce G. Draper

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