Published: September 28th 2010September 26th 2010
Kimbriki public school opened its doors in 1869 and closed in 1972. Sometime in that period my mother was a student there until she left in year six to complete her education via correspondence school. On the weekend I drove my mother back to Kimbriki to attend a school reunion.
I am told that the word Kimbriki in the local Aboriginal language means “water reed”. The area has a population of about 350 people. It was once a thriving dairy producing area. Now, most of the farms are devoted to cattle, horses or are hobby farms. Cedar Vale
My mother grew up at a property called “Cedar Vale”; the original house is still standing, but the farm itself has now been sub-divided. My grandfather, Horace, logged all the timber for the house, had it milled and then got a lot of the building work done by a local builder. That was in the 1940’s.
My mother shared some other memories of her childhood with me while we stood looking at the house at “Cedar Vale”. She recalled that they had moved all their furniture and belongings to the property by horse and cart. The last load she
said consisted of some odds and sods, plus the chooks. The only form of transport the family had for a number of years were horse and cart or Shanks’s pony (foot power). That small, 3 bedroom, house was home to her parents, plus all seven children.
From “Cedar Vale”, my mother and her siblings would walk to the school at Kimbriki, along Stoney Creek Road, which back then was not much more than a dirt track (it is not that much different now to be honest, except the causeways at the seven creek crossings are concreted these days). The one way trip to school was about 5kms. They had to make that trip no matter what the weather. The Boat People
Some of the other students at the school had to cross the Manning River by boat each day to get to school. Once the children had boarded the boat and then reached the farmhouse on the opposite side of the river bank, the adults would wave a tea-towel as a flag to indicate the children had arrived safely and all was well. They would then walk the remaining distance to the school. This group of people
was fondly referred to at the reunion as “the Boat People”. Old connections
At anyone time there were about 20 students attending the school, all being taught at various levels by one teacher. From what I was told, the classes were very well run and effective, with the older students helping the younger ones along the way.
The reunion event was great for my mother to attend and catch up with some old friends. Not only that, it was also very interesting for me because I got a small insight into an era in Australian country life that has now disappeared.
The other attendees at the event were a wonderful, friendly bunch of people from all about the district. It was a great pleasure to meet them. They obviously had a wonderful day sharing old stories and reliving their childhoods. They intend to get together again in nine years time on the 150th anniversary of the schools opening. Many of them when discussing the next get together added comments such as “if I make it that far, that is”. They are not getting any younger.
My mother recognised a lot of the people on first
sighting, which is amazing after so many years. At one stage she asked one gentleman “are you related to Johnny Martin? You must be a Martin for sure”. His reply was that he was indeed related to the Martins; in fact his mother was Johnny Martin’s sister. Another lady asked me if I was related to “Bill Young” to which I was able to reply “yes, he was my uncle”. Family resemblances must be obvious on this side of the family. The same lady told me she had a big crush on my Uncle Bill when they were growing up together. Another woman I met told me she used to have tree climbing competitions in a particular tree in the school yard with another of my uncles. Some local history
The area around Kimbriki and the nearby township of Wingham was occupied by the Kattang Aboriginal tribe prior to European settlement. In the late 1820s Cedar Getters (forestry workers who logged Australian Red Cedar) turned their attention to the Manning Valley. Red Cedar was such a sought after variety it has now all but disappeared from our native forests. The timber was highly sought after for furniture, wood
paneling and construction. Take a look in many homes built around that time and you will find Red Cedar paneling, doors and trimmings, plus furniture items like dining tables and desks.
A large shipping wharf was established close to Wingham to transport timber and other products from the area. At one stage, thanks to the river trade, Wingham was the main centre in the Manning Valley, until it was out grown by Taree.
The area is also famous for the fact that in 1900 a group of farmers managed to capture the bushranger Jimmy Governor in the area north of Wingham. He was wanted for robbery and multiple murders. Governor and his gang had been outlawed and a reward placed on their heads, members of the public were free to shoot them on sight. Dangerous times indeed! More on connections
I have a lot of distant relations in the area, and have connections with families such as the Murrays, Martins and the Youngs. These families still have very strong Scottish roots. They still hold gatherings of the clan and other Scottish type events in the district. My brother briefly attended a gathering of the Murray clan
in Scotland last year and was warmly greeted once he explained our distant connection. My grandfather, Horace, spent a lot of his time working as a bullock driver in this district, plus farming at Cedar Vale, before moving to Taree.
I am told that one of our distant relatives in the area is a well known poet, Les Murray, who has written a lot about the district. Our extended family is scattered all over the district now and like a lot of families we have lost contact with many of our distant relatives.
Events such as this small reunion, hosted at what is now just a small dot on a map, are a very important way of reconnecting people. I wonder how long these reunions will continue. I hope they can all make it back to the next event in nine years time.
There are more photos below