Mrs Mack of Amberley


After living 84 years in the Ipswich district, Mrs. M. (“Granny.”) Mack, of Amberley (Willowbank), looks back on the past with wonderment at the great changes which have taken place in that time. Mrs Mack celebrated the 95th anniversary of her birthday on April 2, and although she can not get around as well as she used to, she has lost none of her old sense of humour.

Mrs. Mack, who before her marriage was Miss Caroline Dohring, came to Ipswich with her parents way back in 1863, when she was 11 years of age.  Her father was engaged in the limestone industry, receiving a wage of 12/ a week, and to augment the family income she had to go out to work.  She remembers clearly going to the immigration depot on the northern bank of the Bremer River, and being engaged by a miner’s wife, who resided at Redbank. In return for taking the miners their dinner and washing their clothes she was paid half-a-crown a week. She said she had never done heavy washing in her life before, but she “did her best.”

After a few months the coal mine was flooded, and she then went to another position. After four years she took a job at the Volunteer Arms Hotel in Nicholas-street, which was situated where the present Central Hotel now stands.  In 1874 she married Mr Michael Mack, who had a proproperty at Amberley (Willowbank) Mr. Mack was a shearer, and spent a great deal of his time on the Downs and in other sheep-raising districts.

During her husband’s absence, Mrs. Mack looked after their farm at Amberley, and recalls how the blacks (who had a camp nearby) would visit her periodically.  “They were a bit savage,” she said, “and I was frightened of them.”  There were about 30 or 40 aborigines in the tribe, and every three months they passed her house on their way to the Rosewood scrub to hunt wallabies. Every time they passed one gin came in and asked her for bread. She said she gave them one loaf, but in those days the loaves she baked were about three times the size of those the bakers deliver to the front door today. The loaf was then cut into equal parts, and the blacks sat in a circle and ate their share.

After the “feast” they would give a corroboree for her. On occasions they had offered to fetch her honey and eels, but she declined the offer. Once, she said, she was short of clothes props, and asked them if they could get any. Next time they came by that way they brought the props.

Thinking back on the days when there were real transport difficulties, she said times had certainly changed. In her early days people walked from Amberley to Ipswich, taking short cuts through paddocks. She said she often walked to Ipswich, taking a sheet with her, in which she placed the flour, sugar, meat. &c., and carried it home on her back.  Once, she said, she asked a man in a dray for a lift, but he said it would cost 6d. cartage, and she decided to walk.  In those days “everyone was growing cotton,” and she worked harvesting the crop. The rate of pay for picking cotton was a penny per lb.

Mrs. Mack was well-known in Amberley and Ipswich for the quality of vegetables she grew, and up until recently she continued to take an active interest in her garden. In dry times she used a watering-can to keep her vegetables alive.

During one drought, Mrs. Mack said she carted water two miles from a lagoon in a dray pulled by two horses, for 60 head of cattle.  Mrs. Mack was given a new wireless set for her birthday, and she was able to hear a call over the air wishing her many happy returns of the day. She has three daughters, Mesdames G. Headrick and W. Anderson (Esk), and Miss M. Mack (Amberley), and four sons, Messrs. W., C., and N. Mack (Amberley), and Mr. J. Mack (Purga). There are 17 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

This plaque is at Mack Park in Waterford Place WILLOWBANK


Article submitted by David Pahlke and edited by Jenny Stubbs. Information supplied by George Hatchman.


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