Neil of the North-East
By Daisy Baker
18 July, 2018
NEIL Auton has called the North-East home for more than 90 years and still lives in Branxholm in a house not too far from where he was raised.
He says growing up in a family of eight children during the Depression and the second world war, things were tough.
“Everybody was poor but we didn’t know it, we were just growing up you see,” he says.
“We always had food to eat and a bed to sleep in.
“We came out of the Depression and things just started to improve, then the war started in 1939 so then there was six years of war.”
Mr Auton joined the army after the war ended, as part of the British Commonwealth Occupational Forces in Japan.
“Here I was, a boy from the bush who’d never been past Launceston and went to the other side of the world for two years,” he laughs.
“It was marvellous, you see because there was no war, it was peace time.
“I did a transport course in Australia and away I went – working over there as a truck driver.”
He returned to Branxholm before his 21st birthday, and started working in forestry, falling trees with axes and planting pines in winter time.
Several years later, he turned his hand to tin mining.
He’s a self-described mining buff and has found several water races and tunnels in the years that followed.
After carting timber for almost 18 years, Mr Auton bought a school bus and drove high school children from Derby to Scottsdale for 29 years.
When he wasn’t working, Mr Auton loved to dance.
He says he won several waltzing competitions and fondly remembers teaching a group of 30 or so local children to dance before a local debutant ball, alongside Jenny Brown.
“For three months I went down on a Tuesday night and I didn’t think they’d get it but then a week before the ball they came together and never made a mistake,” he laughs
It’s through dancing that he met his partner Judy and he says they frequented local dances and balls.
These days, Mr Auton is an avid reader and enjoys gardening, particularly growing dahlias.
Several years ago, he won first place at the Branxholm flower show for an arrangement of his dahlias.
Mr Auton has four children, 13 grandchildren, and at last count, 27 great grandchildren.
“I’m lucky to have my family all around me and to have been such a big part of their lives.”