Dawn’s heart sings
By Daisy Baker
March 22, 2017
Dawn Kershaw says she cannot believe she has made it to 90, but is quick to point out that she’s not there just yet, with several days until the milestone.
From her light-filled Northborne home, Mrs Kershaw recounts her many years spent singing, farming and travelling.
She spent several of her childhood years in Derby with her family, while her father was the foreman in charge of rebuilding the Briseis Dam, which had been washed away in the 1929 floods.
“There were 100 men working in Derby then and I lived in a shack with my mum and dad, with my older sister and uncle living in neighbouring properties,” Mrs Kershaw says.
Pointing to a photograph of her mother outside, boiling the washing in a kerosene tin over the fire, Mrs Kershaw says that while there was no water or power, it was an exciting place to live.
“I loved it up there, it was very exciting.”
“See this,” she says, pointing to several small figures in a photograph, “that’s me standing next to my dad on top of the completed dam wall in 1936.”
Mrs Kershaw spent the remainder of her childhood in Launceston and Burnie, before she moved to Sydney with her family due to ill health.
“That’s where I spent my teenage years and it was a wonderful place,” she says.
“I was playing tennis, riding horses and going to dances in between looking after Mum after she had a severe heart attack.
“I was also learning how to grow vegetables from Dad. I still love growing my vegetables,” she says, pointing out the window to flourishing rows of corn, carrots, silver beet and tomatoes.
Mrs Kershaw met her husband of 65 years, Doug, through the church youth group in Sydney.
“Finally, Doug and I got a little bit more serious after being good friends for years and we got married in 1951 and we’ve been very happy ever since,” she says.
Shortly after marrying, the couple decided to move back to Tasmania and bought a farm at Tulendeena, with a “terrible old house” and started a dairy farm with 300 cattle.
“We enjoyed our little community at Tulendeena – it was a marvellous group of people. When it came to harvest time in the old days, we all pitched in to help each other,” Mrs Kershaw says.
“We had some good neighbours and when the chips were down, they’d pitch in and help. You can’t beat these small towns.
“We had forty years up there and raised five kids – Tulendeena was their playground.”
She says with the steep and dangerous terrain of the property and the unpredictability of farming life, there were many mishaps and she took two first aid courses and a home nursing class to try and keep up.
Before retiring to Bridport, the Kershaws were asked by the Department of Agriculture if they would trial a variety of dung beetles imported from France to target the cow dung on their property.
Four years later, the Department found there was a concentrated population of beetles on the Kershaws’ farm and soon busloads of farmers came to the property to see and collect beetles
Once retired, the couple toured Australia twice, collecting different varieties of dung beetles with the CSIRO to send back to Tasmania, and these years, Mrs Kershaw says, “were just wonderful”.
She says her favourite memory is singing in choirs with Doug, which began when they were teenagers in Sydney and continued when they moved to Tasmania.
“Music is a wonderful recreation. Doug is an excellent tenor, he sings beautifully,” she says.
“I’m a contralto and I don’t have much of a voice, but Doug’s voice is beautiful.”
Saddened, Mrs Kershaw says her husband had to move into Aminya last October due to a decline in his health, but she says she’s grateful he can be so well cared for close by, where she can visit him daily.
Looking out over the rolling paddocks surrounding her Northbourne home, she says, “well that’s 90 years of life and it’s been hard at times but wonderful”.