James Chester Draper, known as Jim to the wider community and as Chester in the Yan Yean and Arthurs Creek district, was born on January 15, 1905 at Carlton and died at Heidelberg on November 8, 1998 at the age of 93.
Chester came from pioneering families. He was the third eldest of the nine children of James Draper and Blanche Hurrey. His grandparents Charles and Catherine Draper were the first to select land at Arthurs Creek in late 1862, and were the pioneer fruit growers of the district. The ‘Charnwood’ orchards became renowned throughout the Australian colonies and as far away as London.
In 1991, at the age of 86, he started to set down in writing some of his reminiscences. He did this at his farm called ‘Maranui’, opposite the Yan Yean Reservoir. ‘Maranui’ adjoined the property he had grown up on, ‘Barton Hill’. His beloved wife, Beatrice Violet Draper (nee Jullyan, 1906 – 1992) died not long after he began and his children urged him to continue to make a record of as much of his life as he could.
Jim Chester was a great raconteur and would happily sit down in front of an open fire on a winter’s day at ‘Maranui’ and entertain guests with a cup of tea and some amusing anecdotes. When Beatrice was alive there would be a slice of homemade fruit cake too, fresh out of the wood-fired oven (although in the mid-80’s an electric oven was eventually purchased).
He had a great sense of humour, and as you read these reminiscences you will notice a dry, understated wit in many of the observations.
After Jim Chester died in 1998, his son Bruce George Draper spent many hours painstakingly transcribing the slightly illegible and shaky handwriting of an old man who had suffered from arthritis in his last years. It was a labour of love and Bruce made every attempt to be as faithful as possible to the original manuscripts of his father.
Bruce had always intended to publish these reminiscences, however, time passed quickly in a productive and active life, and although he was able to publish other books, this project was never fully completed. After he died in 2020, his daughter Catherine (named after Catherine Draper of ‘Charnwood’) carried on the work to bring these writings to publication.
Some edits have been made for clarity and additional notes have been added for context. The chapter breaks have been created for readability and pace. However, Jim’s own expression and style have been maintained, and it is hoped that those who knew him will hear with fidelity the voice of James Chester Draper reaching out across time to share another anecdote in front of that cheery fire set among the beautiful hills where he was raised.
In memory of James Chester Draper – ‘Gone home’.
C. Ashley, 2022
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