17 December 2008

Passing Reminiscences

From the Gosford Times. 22nd of December 1899

Passing Reminiscences

(By Nettle)

What was Gosford like then?
Why a lot better than it is now; more money and less people to share it among. We got something like a price for sticks then, when we loaded the ketches and schooners, till they were as low as it was safe for them to swim to Sydney, with sawn timber or shingles. Then it was no distance to go for it. Why, bless your heart, we had only to go round the back of the mountain at the back of East Gosford and there you could cut for twelve months without shifting camp. Besides there was always two or three pairs of sawyers within cooee, so that when supper was over we would gather round and some rattling yarns were told; stories of the old hands who had to rough it in real earnest. They must have had real grit in them, for they had nothing of what you call luxury. They had corn beef, flour, corn meal and tea and sugar, that’s all – except rum – and they could stand it; their stomachs were as tough as their hides; and when I was a boy all the disputes among mates were drowned in a tot of grog on pay day. Then I heard father say as how the blacks were a great nuisance, not savage, but regular sneak thieves. You could not keep a fowl for them. Why, they would get a fish hook and a grain of corn and a bit of string and fish for the fowls while there was one left. Then of course we didn’t spin yarns all the time. We went down to Venteman’s (?) pub sometimes and had a high old time. But those good old times have gone, and I find it very hard to drop into these new fangled ways that people have today. Most of the old hands have gone too, and most of my old mates have been dead years and years now, and some of them as good men as ever looked through a tumbler. But those good old days suited us. The youngsters wanted the pace a bit faster; so they made it to suit themselves, and we old chaps had to stand aside. But what a day we had when the first steamer came. Why many of us had never seen a steamer before, and we took a few glasses of grog before we could understand how the old tub went without sails. Then came the Black Swan and the Alchemist and the Pelican and all the rest of later days. But what took my breath away altogether was to hear of the railway coming to Gosford. It seemed to break up all the old ideas. Fresh people came to the district; they cut the land up into little bits and called them town lots, away out in the bush where you want a brush hook and a warrant to find them. And then they elected Harry Wheeler Mayor and incorporated the town, and do you know that they kick up a row if you turn your horse or cow out to feed on the street. Bye the bye they are talking of building baths for the people to wash themselves in. Why in my time we just peeled off and tumbled in anywhere. But they seem to be making a different place of it altogether; they are building smart houses to coax the City folk here. But we don’t like to see them gong too fast and we steady these young people of ours as well as we can, but there will have to be a few respectable funerals in Gosford before they have it all their own way. But perhaps it might be best after all, for we old hands must soon pass in our checks. Then it won’t make any odds to it. But I like to think of those dear old days when we had to work well, and got well paid for it.

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