From Kamona to Council
By Daisy Baker
April 5, 2017
In the weeks before his 91st birthday, Ivan Whelan has been reflecting on some of his memories of his years spent in the North-East.
Looking down the driveway of his Scottsdale home of more than sixty years, Mr Whelan recounts moving to Kamona with his family at age five.
Their family home was next to the Kamona railway station and he says it was a “fair-sized house”, lined with finely corrugated iron, with no electricity or running water.
“Although our lives were basic, even throughout the worst of the Depression we were never hungry. We milked cow, grew potatoes, sometimes raised a pig and ate rabbits often,” he says.
“We obtained our groceries by train. We would hang a flag at the station, the train would ease, giving a few short whistles and then the guard would lean out and grab the order from our outstretched hands.
“The order would be dropped into the Legerwood store and the goods would be returned to us on the returning journey.”
Mr Whelan says from their family home, he and his older brothers Eric and Ray walked three miles to school, along a cobblestone road.
When their shoes needed repairing, they would walk barefoot and Mr Whelan recalls walking to school one day, very upset, without shoes.
“My brother Ray gave me his shoes to wear and at the time,” he says fondly. “I’m sure I didn’t realise the sacrifice he made and was probably ungrateful.”
Mr Whelan left school several months before his fourteenth birthday and by the time he was twenty, he had worked in a flax mill, laboured on several farms and temporarily worked on the railway.
In his later life, Mr Whelan worked for the Scottsdale Council as a loader driver and grave digger at the Bridport and Ellesmere Cemeteries.
He says one of his favourite memories is the morning his wife Jean was in labour with their first child and they had to make a quick decision to borrow a truck from the butter factory across the road from their house because their family car was in a “sorry state”.
“On wrenching the door open, the keys were in fact in the ignition, which was not unusual in those days, even overnight,” he remembers.
“When I returned the truck, I told one of the workers what I’d done and it was water off a duck’s back – “no worries mate” was the reply.”
Mr Whelan says that when their fourth child was born, they still had no reliable transport and he had to intercept Trevor Horwood as he was loading up his van for the daily bread delivery, to take Jean to hospital.
“When I told him my situation he didn’t hesitate to help out. I jumped into his vehicle and took off to the hospital.”
“The bread was late that day,” he laughs.
Mr Whelan says after retiring for the second time at 76, he’s had more time to reflect on his life.
“My family have always been a little amazed about some of the stories I have told them over the years,” he says.
“I am actually quite surprised about how much I can remember – it all seems to come back to you when you have time to sit back and reflect.”