These pages about George and Sarah are split up as follows :
Page 1 : General Info including George & Sarah's known descendants
George and Sarah Arnold at Pericoe in 1939 before they left to live in Sydney.
Extract from the Kate Clery interview with Ilene (Tommy) Umback (nee Laing) - b. 1924 on Pericoe Station d. October 1999 - Interviewed 7 August 1998. Also preesent was Nevil de Costa
Ilene gives a graphic account of the 1938 fire that burnt through Pericoe, Towamba and surrounding district. She tells of the hard life her mother lived managing the family alone while her father drove a bullock team. Neighbours, school days and life on a dairy farm prior to the upgrading by the health department in the early 1930's are vivid in Ilene's memory. Ilene is a woman of strong character. Nevil De Costa, who is interested in the local history of Candelo, offered what knowledge he had of the Towamba area.
NEVIL : And my father was born at Burragate in 1907, his mother was a Tindall, she was a sister to Caroline Beasley and his father was James Manolis De Costa. James was born in Bombala and they moved down to Towamba in the early 1900's. They were married in 1899 at Eden and they moved into the Towamba-Burragate area where a lot of the other Tindalls were. Sarah's father was there with some of the younger members of the Tindalls. The Beasleys were a very prominent family over there. One of the Beasleys was a carrier. Izzy Ryan was a good person to talk to. It's a pity he's gone. He lived at Yambulla, you know. Well, he was born at Yambulla you know. And he even told me the midwife that bought him into the world but I can't remember what her name was. She charged his father one pound to bring him into the world.
ILENE : Well, old Mrs.Arnold, she brought me into the world. Old George Arnold, he was out there (Towamba) he was the baker, I think. But they're all gone now.
KATE : HE HAD A STORE IN TOWAMBA, DIDN'T HE? MOYNA (ROLLO SOUTH'S SISTER) WAS TELLING ME THAT GEORGE ARNOLD SOLD FRUIT AND VEGETABLES, IT WAS JUST ON THE LEFT NEAR THE CREEK AS YOU GO OUT OF TOWAMBA TOWARDS EDEN.
ILENE : Well, there was a factory there, you see. On the corner. Oh, they had lots of things. But they were gone before my time. But my father shifted the Ryan's in from out there on to the dairy at Alexanders'. That was the first I'd heard of them and they were big gawky kids then and I was only so high. But my memory's pretty good. I can remember my fifth birthday, but when you get talking like this your memories come back.
KATE : WHAT YEAR WERE YOU BORN?
ILENE : 1924.
KATE : AND WHERE WERE YOU BORN.....?
ILENE : At Pericoe. Yes.
KATE : AT THE HOSPITAL THERE?
ILENE : No. There was no hospital there then. There was an old dairy farm...do you know Pericoe? The road, when you come past the Station ('Pericoe Station') down Pericoe Hill they call it, and there's a road going up past there, an old dairy, turn to your right. There was a dairy house there, we were on a dairy. One of the fellows that owned Pericoe at one stage, he burnt the house down. That's where I was born. And old Mrs. Arnold, she was the midwife.
KATE : WHAT WAS THE NAME OF THE PLACE YOU WERE BORN ON?
ILENE : It was just Pericoe, 'Pericoe Station'.
KATE : THAT'S WHERE THE ORIGINAL FARM HOUSE IS NOW? NEAR THE PINES.
ILENE : No. That's the station house. This was the dairy house.
KATE. SO YOU WOULD HAVE BEEN SHARE FARMING?
ILENE : Yes. So Mrs. Arnold was the midwife, and we always laugh, it was August, cold, she put a hot iron in the bed and set the bed on fire. And then we shifted from there out to Letts Mountain, and that's where we were all reared. I was the fourth, there were two more born out at Letts Mountain.
KATE : WAS THAT ON THE WAY TO 'FULLIGAN'S'?
ILENE : Yes. Down the steep hill going towards the Wog River. We had a dairy there.
The 1939 Bushfires as told by Ilene Umbach
KATE : WHAT WAS YOUR MAIDEN NAME?
ILENE : Laing. Arthur and Charlie went to Pericoe school, they rode horses. They used to race them home, oh, I suppose they were both old horses, but the one old horse, they had to unsaddle him and leave him to find his way home and he'd have to walk from about Letts Creek. They were beautiful horses in their time. We lost a beautiful horse in the 1938 fire at Pericoe, that was a day and a half.
KATE : THAT WAS A PRETTY BAD ONE WASN'T IT? WAS THAT WHEN WILF INGRAM WAS BURNT OUT, AND 'HAYFIELD.'
ILENE : Yes, Wilf's was burnt out but at Pericoe only one house was lost and that was because....this was Arnold's, old Mrs. Arnold she had a kitchen from about here to the fence, away from the house and it was bark and that was why it got burnt. Between the road and the house there was a paddock of corn, they could have put their stuff out there and it would have been quite safe. But no, they took it out on to the bogged ground and you know what cow dung's like. Once that gets alight, it never goes out. You know, you read books and they call them 'Buffalo Chips' they use it for burning, its the same thing. And that's what they did. Old George nearly got burnt himself. My father finished up getting him out. He wouldn't leave and I remember he got him behind him on the horse and he was about fourteen or fifteen stone and my father wasn't skinny and this old horse carried them out and we all finished down at 'Pericoe Station' in the creek, the flat part of the creek. My mother was a very level headed woman but we could have been burnt to cinders because my father was no good for any bloody thing. He panicked. My mother sent us down to the bridge, the crossing, there was a nice patch of sand and a bit of water and she told us to go and wait there while she shut up the house. And my father came along and bullied in, 'Git down to the rest of the people so they know where they are!' 'Course, we started and got half way and we finished up sitting in a little puddle backing into a big rock, blackberries all over it which burnt off but my mother had a wet blanket which she put over us. 'Course I panicked and I was going to tear out at one stage and she grabbed me by the dress and pulled me off balance and I finished up in the puddle. No, my father was absolutely useless in a crisis. But after the fire went through...the rush of the fire goes through and then the rest burns off steadily. We were able to get through, I had a pair of tennis shoes to start but I lost those, I don't know how I got through the cinders and we were all sitting in the creek and this horse... Charlie had raced him all day and he let him go and instead of keeping him he let him go and of course, you open all the gates for the stock when there's a fire coming and he saw the other horses go down past and he thought he'd go and join them and he got halfway up the hill and the fire clapped him, like that, and he fell and got up again and it clapped him again, twice he was caught in it, and of course, the poor fellow came out and rolled in the sand and the skin all came off him, oh, it was dreadful. And this poor old Mrs.Arnold was there and she was about twenty-five stone, I think, and she said, 'Oh, I'm done,' and she sat in a heap of blackberries. How they got her out of it I don't know but anyway, I think somebody shot the horse. That was how it went. Those things stick in your brain. We had a setting hen and she came off and she collapsed and died and we had ferrets and there was three sheets of tin, one ferret survived in that, there was straw on the ground, one fellow died and one fellow survived. Oh, it was terrific heat! But my brother was riding the horse that got burnt and he raced him from 'Nungatta' or half way to 'Nungatta' and said they'd lost the fire and to make preparations to get things together. That was eleven o'clock and three o'clock it was on the wharf at Eden! It just went straight through. It was that quick. A fellow who lived at Shadrack's Creek, (south of Eden) well he had a pig loose and it ran into the house behind the piano and it got burnt. No, she was a bad show.
KATE : WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR FAMILY AFTER THAT? AND OTHER PEOPLE WHO WERE SHARE FARMING AND DAIRYING AROUND THERE.
ILENE : Oh, we just carried on. We didn't get our house burnt. Well, the Arnold's, they built another house for them and they lived there for a while.
KATE : DID EVERYONE PITCH IN AND HELP?
ILENE : Yes. And they lived there for a while and they went away to Sydney. And the old people died in Sydney. And that family's all gone. Lola came back. That was Frank Arnold's daughter she was about two or three then, the boy was about two or eighteen months old and they went away to Sydney and Lola came back to Towamba and had a look around and wanted to know what was going on, but I didn't see her. That was Frank Arnold's daughter. They were cousins of ours. She was an Atkins, old Mrs. Arnold was an Atkins, and my grandmother was an Atkins and they were sisters.
KATE : WERE THERE DAIRY HERDS THAT WERE LOST IN THE FIRE?
ILENE : Not a lot. They lost some and he would have lost a lot of sheep (Alexander, the owner of Pericoe Station) but he was a useless old thing, he was worse that my father. He had everything and he wouldn't value it and he was that tight that he wouldn't look after it and quite a few of the sheep got burnt but we got a bit of rain 'cause there was a drought before the fire as always, I suppose we got a bit of rain later on and we carried on with the dairying, but we were only share farmers, we never owned anything.
The 1939 Bushfires as told by Lola Arnold Workman (nee Arnold)
ASH WEDNESDAY, 1939
This is the story of four-year-old Lola Arnold who was born at Pericoe and lived through the horror.
The 'Sydney Morning Herald' Wednesday, 11 January, 1939 :
"The Victorian bushfires continue to ravish the country...Bega on the south coast was encircled by flames yesterday. A residence at Pericoe about 40 miles from the town was destroyed, and others are in grave danger."
The 'Sydney Morning Herald' Thursday, 12 January, 1939 :
"The homes of six families were destroyed yesterday in the Bega district. Those whose homes were lost include Messrs. L. King, South, Wilfred Ingram and George Arnold. Mr Arnold lost everything he possessed except the clothes he and his family were wearing. At Pericoe and Towamba 27 men, women and children are homeless. The school building was also destroyed.
Dad was away fighting the fires with other men of the district. We hadn't seen him for several days but we were not too worried about the fires as this was a regular summer happening for Pericoe. We really did not expect it to affect us too much as our home was in a cleared area and quite a way from the nearest bush even though its construction was slabs and weathered timber. Grandfather George Arnold had lived here for more than forty years, on Alf Alexander's dairy farm know as 'The One Mile'. My dad Frank was his youngest son in a family of fifteen children and in German tradition he lived at home to work and care for his aged parents.
I don't remember Dad returning home but Mum tells me that he returned early in the morning of Wednesday, 11 January, from fighting the fires. We all sat around the large table for some breakfast as Dad told the family that there was no hope of stopping the gigantic fire that was headed in our direction so the men had been sent home to protect their families.
It should have been daylight by this time but the sky was black and we could smell the smoke. Dad walked down the long track that was our entrance to the road where there was a large square rock he used as a lookout. From this point he could see the first of the flames heading in our direction. He ran back to the house and told us to quickly get some blankets and he would take my Mum, Joyce, Granny Sarah Arnold, my baby brother Gordon who was just a year old, and me, now a grown up four-year-old, to the river which was just a short distance away. At the river, or creek as it was now because of the drought, we met our neighbours the Galea and Laing families whose women and younger children were sheltering there with blankets to cover their heads from the thick smoke. We settled ourselves on some rock slabs but Granny was a huge lady of seventeen stone with badly ulcerated legs and she could not get down to a safe place in the creek bed so Dad left us and raced back to the house to get a kitchen stool for her to sit on.
After settling us Dad returned to the house where Grandfather George Arnold was trying to rescue some belongings from the house and put them in a cleared safe place further up the paddock out of reach of the fire. Among the goods was my precious Christmas present, a large celluloid doll. The women and children stayed in the river, the fire came over and passed and the house was saved. The fire surrounded us and we could see the flames leaping to the sky but heading away from us. The dress of one of the young Laing girls caught alight and Mum ripped it off her and then took off her petticoat to give the girl to wear. We had wet blankets over our heads so that we could breath. There were lizards and a snake in the water near us and a tiny bird perched in Granny Arnold's hair. It was all an exciting adventure for the children. Dad and Grandfather stayed back at the house to see if they could do anything to protect it.
Then everything changed!
The wind changed and brought the leaping flames back down from the mountain. Sparks caught the willows behind us, and the wild wind swept flames straight towards the homestead. A spark caught the open hayloft where Dad and Grandfather were. From the burning loft it was just a short distance to the house. They tried to save the house but the wind was too strong. A falling limb hit Grandfather and a neighbour dragged him away to safety on his horse.
Mum had told Dad to try and get the suitcase that held the baby nappies and clothes, so he went back into the smoke-filled house looking for it. He grabbed it and was heading out when a ceiling beam collapsed on him, burning his face badly. My uncle Joe had arrived by this time and dragged both Dad and the suitcase out of the flames, just in time to see the celluloid doll explode in the heat and set fire to all the goods that Dad and Grandfather had saved.
Back at the river we were unaware of all this drama but we were horrified to see a fireball hit a horse that was sheltering nearby. It screamed and ran around in circles until the poor thing collapsed in a heap on the ground. This is still a vivid memory that I connect with the smell of bushfire smoke.
Trauma seems to have obliterated my memory of the remainder of that day. Mum has been able to fill the gaps for me. Uncle Joe had taken Dad and Grandfather down to the Alexander's Station house where their daughter Joy, who was a nurse, could attend to the burns. When all the men returned to take us from the creek, Mr. Galea was missing however he had been trapped behind the fire and later returned safely. Alf Alexander's home was spared and he cared for my Dad and Sarah and George Arnold until a few days later when Uncle Bill, who was a police inspector in Sydney, sent a car for them to go to Bondi to their daughter Mary's home. The suitcase that had almost cost Dad his life and thought to be baby clothes turned out to be just my dress maker mother's sewing scraps.
Uncle Joe drove Dad's car and took Mum, Dad, Gordon and me to Wyndham to the Holdsworth home where we stayed until Friday, the 13th. There were twelve children in the Holdsworth family and so very little room for more boarders. Again Uncle Bill had arranged for us to go to Dapto and stay with Dad's brother Wally until we could find somewhere else to live. Dad decided the danger had passed and it would be alright for us to try and get to Uncle Wally's.
Friday, 13th January, 1939
The next thing I remember is being in a car with a man driving (Mum says it was Jim Brownlie, another Uncle), with Dad, his face bandaged, Mum and Baby Gordon, and we were being driven through the bushfires. Trees were alight on both sides of the road and the car was a tourer about 1926 with just celluloid curtains for windows. Mum tells me that many times Jim Brownlie would stop the car and ask Dad if he thought we should go on or turn back. However at Wyndham the crisis had passed and Dad thought it was now safe to take us to Dapto to Uncle Wally's house. With Jim Brownlie driving, we set out early on Friday but as we travelled north we again encountered the fires. The men decided it was too dangerous to stop so the decision was to continue on in the hope that we would soon be through the fires. We were not to know then but Friday 13, January 1939 was the day more than 1000 homes were lost and seventy people (SMH) lost their lives in the Victorian bushfires. The Sydney Moring Herald screamed "Black Friday" and the temperatures were recorded at record heats of 116 degrees Fahrenheit. (46.66 degrees Celsius)
We drove all through the fires, until we reached a hotel in Cobargo, which was still standing in 1995 when I revisited the district. It had stairs! I had never been in a building with stairs and I vividly remember being taken up the stairs where I was washed, put into clean clothes and put to bed. People in the village came to our assistance and provided new clothes from the local shop opposite the hotel. Dad's burns, and baby Gordon's back also burned, received attention. I had escaped with just a small burn on my arm.
With clean clothes, a good meal and a few hours rest we set off again for Dapto. Travelling through blackened country we thought we were through the fires when once again the flames appeared and the men had to decide whether to continue or return. Night was now falling and I remember the look of the whole forest alight in the dark night. Our trip continued until flashing lights appeared on the road at Milton. It was the police looking for us as the hotel at Cabargo had notified them that we were travelling through. We were taken to the police station where we spent the next few days until danger had passed and we could continue to Dapto.
After a short itme there Dad was moved to Goulburn to work and Mum, Gordon and I went back to live with Grandmother Holdsworth at Numbugga. Grandfather Arnold, Uncle Joe and some of our neighbours built a temporary residence again at Pericoe, where we lived until May 1940 when Uncle Bill sent a car to bring the family to live in Sydney.
Grandfather George never recovered from the loss of his home and life in Pericoe and died a short time later in September 1940.
Extract from the Kate Clery interview with Rowland (Rollo) South - b. 1919 in Sydney - Interviewed 17 July 1998
Rollo South came to the area in 1932 with his parents who took up a lease at 'Squirrel's Flat' near 'Nungatta Station'. His family later share-farmed at Pericoe on a dairy owned by the Alexander family on 'Pericoe Station'. They were burnt out in the 1939 fire but remained in Towamba and continued dairying. Rollo had his own dairy farm when new health regulations were imposed on dairies by the health department. These regulations were unviable for most small dairies and many ceased production causing the small butter factories around the district to close, removing a vital source of income for the valley people.
KATE : YOUR MOTHER THEN, SHE MADE HER OWN BREAD..... LIGHTING THE COPPER AND BOILING UP THE WASHING....
ROLLO : When the tanks run dry you went to the creek.....then there was the 'One Mile' that was Alexander's, about one mile from 'Pericoe Station' there was the Arnold's there, they milked about sixty, seventy cows, and there was the home farm that we shared on for just on twelve months...
KATE : WAS THAT ITS NAME?
ROLLO : Yes, it was called the 'Home Farm'.
KATE : WHERE WAS THAT?
ROLLO : That was across the creek from where the old house is....
KATE : 'PERICOE STATION'?
ROLLO : Yes. Across the creek. It's gone now...all covered with pines now. Then there was 'Hayfield' they milked forty, fifty cows there. So when you think back it was mainly dairying in those times. And you run a few sheep or a few head of stock extra. We dairied on 'Daisy Hill' when we went there. We were milking up to thirty-five cows, run two to three hundred sheep, and other dry stock, steers...
KATE : SO YOU'D HAVE SOME ONE WHO WOULD COME AND COLLECT THE MILK?
ROLLO : Eric Arnold had the run from Pericoe to the cream shed at Towamba. That was at the store there, just on Boller's corner there.
KATE : WAS THE BUTTER FACTORY GOING ON THE CORNER OF YOUR PLACE ('FERNY FLAT') WHEN YOU WERE HERE?
ROLLO : No, that had been closed down. They closed all the small factories down and made Pambula the centre. And there was a cheese factory out at Watson's place. That's going out to Letts Mountain.
KATE : DID THEY HAVE A BACON FACTORY AT MERIMBULA?
ROLLO : Bacon factory, yes.
KATE : DID A LOT OF PEOPLE LEAVE THE AREA BECAUSE OF THIS?
ROLLO. The young generation, there was nothing left for them. They had to move out. That only left the old generation until they passed on. That's what had taken place.
KATE : SO THE HOUSES THAT GOT BURNT OUT, LIKE 'HAYFIELD' AND 'DAISY HILL'....
ROLLO : There was ourselves, Wilf (Ingram, 'Daisy Hill') got burnt out, Arnold's, they lost everything, they tried to save......they had a paddock ploughed along side the house and they thought....I don't remember how many they had there....they thought if the house went... they put all the furniture out on the ploughed ground and it even burnt on the ploughed ground. They still lost their furniture. That's with the timber being too close and as the gum tree burst into flames all the sparks would be sprayed out and carried out to all around it.
KATE : SO A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO GOT BURNT OUT DIDN'T BOTHER REBUILDING? LIKE YOURSELVES , DID YOU....
ROLLO : The company Dad was leasing the property off, they wouldn't rebuild again, that left us....we could still have the place at the same rent with no home on it...(laughter). That terminated, that did.......In those times, too, we had our deliveries, the baker, when the vehicles came available, when times improved, they used to deliver the bread right out, round here. There were two bakers came in, Eden and Pambula.
KATE : SO THEY MUST HAVE HAD A BIT OF FUN AROUND THAT WINE BAR?
ROLLO : I dare say there was. Yes. Noisy turn out, so I was told......I'll just mention the mail runs too. When we come here well, Joe Arnold had Eden- Lower Towamba-Towamba and Pericoe. He had that run. Now the run then, Merv Rixon had.....that went from Towamba-Wyndham- Cathcart- Bombala. That was our outlet on our mails.
KATE : AND WHAT DID HE USE, A TRUCK?
ROLLO : They had cars. Joe Arnold had an Essex as far as I remember. Merv Rixon's was an Oldsmobile or a Studebaker and to travel by service, well you had to stay overnight at Wyndham.
KATE : WHAT DO YOU MEAN, TRAVEL BY SERVICE. TO GET A LIFT WITH THE MAIL CAR?
ROLLO : Yes, by the mail car. Now the mail used to leave Towamba, I'm sure Merv Rixon went right through.
KATE : TO BEGA?
ROLLO : No. There was no service that way. That didn't come until about the war time.
KATE : SO THIS AREA WAS MORE CONNECTED TO BOMBALA.
ROLLO : Yes. Our mail went to Bombala and up by train to Sydney.
Updated : 12 Jul 2011
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