Lake Macquarie History

Interview with Vera Puddy, early resident of Awaba

Notes from an interview with Mrs Vera Puddy (nee Field) at her home at Awaba,

May, 1985.

Her marriage certificate says she was born at Awaba 89 years in September last. She has lived at this old Lake township all her life. She was married at the Union Church, about a quarter of a mile away, in December, 1916.

As a young girl, she remembered the single rail line passing her house not far away. One friend was Clare Johnson. Her father was the local station master at Awaba. There were only three trains a day. Often the two girls would follow the trains on a hand-operated trolley.

Vera's father was George Charles Field and her mother Mary Ann (but called Aunt Polly). When she was a girl, the bush was very thick and still had very large trees. There was much logging, mainly to get timber for mining and rail purposes. Vera's husband used a cross-cut saw and axe.

Some local Aborigines lived on a flat area [which is] now the site of the cricket field. One Aboriginal man was killed by a falling tree in the bush. No-body knows what became of these last Aboriginal people. They were respected.

Nell Southcombe's grandfather, Arthur Jesse Wellard ("Splinter") was an early settler and contractor. He married Katherine Field.

Most of the timber was red and white mahogany, bloodwood, red and blue gum, blackbutt and stringy bark. "Splinter" often spoke of trees whose bark had been stripped for Aboriginal shelters.

Newton ("Bobby") Field and his wife, Eleanor ("Jessie") kept a boarding house at Awaba for fettlers and other railway workers when the second line was being laid. The boarders often had "sing songs", but no one could remember the old railway ballads now.

Vera recalled how the early families relied on bush medicine. The men would bring home sarsaparilla plant for boiling. Jack Southcombe said "The bark of the ironbark tree was good for stomach upsets".

Mr Southcombe mentioned an odd character, Roley ("The Rogue") Osland, a timber contractor, who kept more than one set of books for his transactions with the cutters. "He often rejected some of my props, which were left where they were placed for sale. I learned that Roley would return a day or so later and pick them up for his disposal. Next time props were rejected, I said: 'Well, if this timber is no good' and proceeded to cut it into half. There were no rejects after that".

Mr Southcombe [was a] timber cutter and then miner at Newstan Colliery. He demonstrated the use of the "micky" stick, made from a thin sapling and marked with six-inch notches up to 36 inches to measure the size of timber, small and big ends of props.

One old bullocky, George Buckton, never swore. His favourite saying was By Thunder"! Other non-swearing ejeculations: "By the living Frost". "Beggar it". "Bally, blast the thing". A rondo was sung by men in the cross-saw pits: "Pushem he go, Pullem, he come".