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This website aims to develop case studies of the development of farming practices and attendant transformations of local ecologies of defined blocks of land. Through these biographies of particular plots of land we are developing localised analyses of the wider historical trends in the political economy/ecology of the Northern Rivers.

The story is an edited version of a conversation between David and Jenny McDonald and Jo Kijas on the 19th January 2012.

This story discusses Family history | The Farm | The River | David, Jenny and the Farm | Self-sufficiency and Aquarius | Cattle and floods | The landscape | Other on-farm agricultureBuying and selling land | Poor economic times | Family partnership on the farm | Mill politics, harvesters and cane cuttersChanging methods | ChemicalsMarket impacts and government subsidiesGenerational change and succession | Impact on cane growing | Environmental issues | Politics of cane and the mill | Neighbours

David and Jenny are close to retirement and considering what their options are.

 

David’s grandparents and parents

David: Well my grandparents came here in 1917 from Lismore, ah… they had a property on the outskirts of Lismore right near the cemetery and my grandmother couldn’t cope with it being near the cemetery so they had to shift – so they shifted here. They were Peter and Lillian McDonald. The University’s got it now; it was called Maizegrove. It’s on the bottom of the hill going south from where the uni is, past the cemetery.

Both their families lived there and my grandmother I think was born on the South Coast and moved up when she was a child to Wyrallah. And my grandfather’s family came in, I think it was 1868 or 7 or something, and they lived somewhere around Wyrallah too and they had a farm.

Dairy?

David: I guess so. Well my grandfather actually called himself a cattle dealer. When they came down here that’s what they had, cattle, to start with. But as far as I know everybody is very closely knit and the family’s all intermarried and two brothers married two sisters – it was quite common.

What was your grandmother’s maiden name?

David: Cameron, she was Cameron and her mother was Mathieson. But when her family came out, moved up to here [Lismore], her father died and there were five daughters and the mother set up a school to educate the kids at Wyrallah and I think it became the school at Wyrallah and my grandmother, she was a teacher, she went on from there to be a teacher and used to ride horses around to Wyrallah to Casino and Riley’s Hill to teach kids. And my grand… they didn’t get married until they were 38 or 40 or something because my grandfather was in the Boer War and he was off for a good few years.

So your grandmother still managed to have some children?

David: Yep her first one was born when she was 38. Then three she had; three in three years… She had one, she had my uncle, then 12 months later she had my father and then two years later she had my aunty. Exactly three years.

And so what brought them down to Woodburn, why of all the places?

David: I guess when they were looking for somewhere to move to, because she couldn’t cope with the cemetery, this might have just turned up and it was probably fairly – well – accessible to Lismore because there was boat transport and sulkies and so forth. And all their families lived around here I think still [Lismore]. None of the others moved down here.

What about your mum and dad, what were their names?

David: My dad’s name was Ian, he came here in 1917 and went to school in Woodburn, he was a sort of a primary school kid, prior to that he’d been to school in Goonellabah. He used to walk up and down past from where the uni is, up over the hill to school every day. And when they got here they had to walk to school. Sometimes they used to get a ride with a passing sulky apparently. I think there was only one, there’s just the old original school building when they went to school there was three, three rooms in the tall brick building.

Jenny: Where my library is now [Woodburn Primary]. Yeah it was built in um… 1878 I think. no…

David: We went to the centenary of it you know, 20 years ago at least, 30 years, oh well Dad [Ian] was still here, 40 years ago. And my mother was born in Wyrallah. Her name was Pearl Wybrow, and she was of a Sydney origin. I mean her family came up here for the honeymoon and they decided they’d stay. So they set up in Wyrallah and her father was a blacksmith/coach builder and then when sulkies started going away he got into fixing up cars and they moved to Coraki.

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