Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Australian Sojourn – March 2015

Part 12: Gunnedah

NOTE: To start at the beginning of this series, click here.

After my brief but enjoyable visit with members of the McGowan family in the beautiful Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, I boarded a train in Grafton on the morning of Sunday, March 22 and headed south to the town of Wauchope, the closest train-stop to Port Macquarie and the home of my parents.

My time in Australia was quickly coming to an end. My good friend Joan, who had traveled with me to Australia from the U.S. at the beginning of the month and shared some wonderful times with me and my family in the Hunter Valley, in Port Macquarie, in Melbourne (right) and its surrounding area, and in Sydney and the Blue Mountains, had returned to the U.S.on March 20, the day I journeyed north from Sydney to visit the McGowans. And now I had just a week left before I headed back to my life in Minnesota.

With this in mind, my parents and I decided that we'd use part of my remaining time to drive to our hometown of Gunnedah and visit our relatives and friends there.

The drive from Port Macquarie inland to Gunnedah is about four-and-a-half hours. In a previous post I noted that the town Gunnedah is located in the Namoi River valley of north-western New South Wales and serves as the major service centre for the farming area known as the Liverpool Plains.

The town and its surrounding area were originally inhabited by indigenous Australians who spoke the Kamilaroi (Gamilaraay) language. The area now occupied by the town was settled by Europeans in 1833. Through my maternal grandmother’s family, the Millerds, my family can trace its connection to Gunnedah back to the town’s earliest days. For more about the town’s history and my family’s connection to it, see the previous Wild Reed post, My “Bone Country”.

As with my March 2015 visits to both Goulburn and Maclean, my time in Gunnedah was brief . . . but very enjoyable and meaningful. Just days before our arrival, Mum and I made phone calls and I got on Facebook to arrange a gathering of extended family members and friends at the Gunnedah Services and Bowling Club on the evening of Tuesday, March 24. Many of following photos are from that very special evening. Other photos, as you'll see, are from the archives!

Right: My parents, Gordon and Margaret Bayly – Gunnedah, March 24, 2015.

Left: Mum and Dad, early in their courtship, in Gunnedah in the mid-1950s. Dad is in his band uniform.

Above: Standing at right with my brothers (from left) Chris and Tim. This photo was taken in the backyard of our family's home in Gunnedah on the occasion of Tim's First Communion, sometime in the mid-1970s.

Above: With my high school friends (from left) Michelle, Danielle and Jo – Tuesday, March 24, 2015.

Above: Danielle and Jo in 1983. It was during our last year of high school that Danielle, Joanne and I, along with our friends Joy and David, climbed Nobby Rock. Situated north-east of Gunnedah, Nobby Rock was known as Ydire by the Gunn-e-dar people of the Kamilaroi tribe. For more images of our September 1983 hike, click here.

Above: Michelle (at right) with our mutual friend Lisa at my 16th birthday party in 1981.

Above: With my childhood friend David Syphers and his wife Angie.

Above: That's me next to our family's dog, Deano. Behind me (from right) is Dianne and David Syphers, and my younger brother Tim. We'd all been out with Dad collecting sandstone rocks for Mum's garden. I'm thinking this photo was probably taken in the late 1970s.

Above: With my Uncle Michael and his wife Val. Michael is my mother's younger brother.

Left: Michael and Val at the 1991 wedding of my brother Tim and sister-in-law Ros.

Above (from left): Angie, John and Heather Sills, David, me, and Danielle.

Above: Dad with John Sills in the 1950s.

Left: John and Heather at the 1988 wedding of my brother Chris and sister-in-law Cathie.

Above: With my Aunt Ruth, mum's younger sister.

Above: Ruth graduating from the Royal Women's Hospital in Paddington, Sydney, in 1968. Pictured with her are her parents (my maternal grandparents) Valentine (1890-1971) and Olive Sparkes (1906-1997).

Above: Ruth in 1975 with her husband Rex and their children Emily and Greg. Sadly, Rex passed away in 2006.

Above: Angie & David Syphers and David & Jillian Tudgey. Jillian is the youngest daughter of Heather and John Sills. My brothers and I grew up with the Sills family as our neighbors. And good neighbors they were too! David Syphers lived with his family just down the street. He and his sister Dianne were good friends with my brothers and I.

Above: Dad with longtime family friends Gwen, Wendy and Gary.

Gwen and her late husband Ray owned a property, “Fairview,” in the Kelvin district, north-east of Gunnedah, where they raised their three daughters, Denise, Wendy and Diane. I have many happy memories of spending time as a child with the Riordan family on their farm - playing tennis, riding mini-bikes with my brothers (right), and hiking through the nearby Kelvin Hills.

Above: Friends Michelle, Jo and her daughter, and Louise and her husband Russ.

Above: With longtime family friend Jeanette Goodwin.

Above: Jeanette's mother Hazel (left) with my paternal grandmother, Belle Smith (right), and Nanna's sister Phyllis (center). This photo was taken during one of my Great Aunt Phyllis' visits to Gunnedah from Sydney in the 1950s. (For more photos of Aunty Phyllis (1913-1996) and her life in Sydney, click here.)

Above (from left): Heather Sills, Dolores Worthington, Dad and Mum.

Above: Longtime family friends Peter Worthington and John Sills.

Left: Abby.

Right: Noah.

Abby and Noah are my cousin Greg's wife's two children. Greg's a great step-dad to them.

Above: With my cousin Sharon and her husband Ross.

Above: Mum's older sister Fay; Fay's daughter Sharon; Mum; and my maternal grandmother, Olive Sparkes (1906-1997) – Gunnedah, 1980.

Above: Sharon, Jillian and Wendy.

Above: Jo, Mum, Louise and Michelle.

Above: Lots of catching-up among and between the relatives!

Right: Mum with her good friend Rosemary.

Above: Dad, David, Mum, Angie, and Peter.

Above and below: My "bone country."

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Australian Sojourn, March 2015: Part 1 – Brooklyn and Morpeth
Part 2 – Port Macquarie, Wingham, and Ellenborough Falls
Part 3 – Roving Sydney's Eastern Beaches with Raph
Part 4 – The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras
Part 5 – Watsons Bay, Camp Cove and the Sydney Heads
Part 6 – Family Time in Melbourne
Part 7 – The Great Ocean Road
Part 8 – A Wedding in Melbourne
Part 9 – A Reunion in Goulburn
Part 10 – Sydney and the Blue Mountains
Part 11 – A Journey to Northern Rivers Country
A Visit to Gunnedah (2014)
Journey to Gunnedah (2011)
This Corner of the Earth (2010)
An Afternoon at the Gunnedah Convent of Mercy (2010)
My "Bone Country" (2009)
The White Rooster
Remembering Nanna Smith
One of These Boys is Not Like the Others
Gunnedah (Part 1)
Gunnedah (Part 2)
Gunnedah (Part 3)
Gunnedah (Part 4)

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