Thanks to Joyce Towner, Sandra Tompkins, Jack Cover, Michael and Anjo Tarte, Phyllis and James Sebastian, Barbara Duff, Daisy Baynham and the Mudgee Guardian for information and photos for this article.

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Portrait of Mudgee and District

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with historical notes by Diane de St Hilaire Simmonds.

A quality coffee table book of 30 colour prints and 6 sepia drawings by renown artist, Judy Kurtz, with historical notes by Diane de St Hilaire Simmonds, all of the Mudgee region, Gulgong, Rylstone, Kandos, Goolma, Wollar, Capertee, Hill End, Hargraves and more.

 

This book also has a beautiful painting of Mt Frome by Judy Kurtz with historical notes by Diane de St Hilaire Simmonds

 

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Cobb & Co Heritage Trail Bathurst to Bourke by Diane de St. Hilaire Simmonds available from: (click)

 

More of Joyce Towner's photo collection of Mt Frome taken by her uncle, Norman Flemming

Mt Frome men in the snow.

No one can resist building a snowman.

 


Young people used to love to climb Mt. Frome






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Mt Frome

 

Mt Frome is about 4klms south east of Mudgee township. It was named after a shepherd, Tom Frome, who got lost in the then thickly wooded mountain. He was thought to have died there, but during a Memorial Service held in his honour, he turned up, very much alive. The mountain is populated with many small farm blocks, with about 15 residences built around the foot of Mt Frome itself. It is Mudgee’s best known landmark. From its summit you can see the whole Cudgegong Valley set out in breathtaking panorama below. The mountain is part of the range that forms Mudgee’s  ‘nest in the hills’.  Mt Frome is about 4klms south east of the Mudgee CBD. Its base runs into Burrundulla, the pick of Mudgee’s lush irrigation area. The Cudgegong River is known to ‘sing’ as it runs under the crossing at Rocky Water Hole. Maybe it sings of old tragedies, maybe it sings of happy family lives. Maybe it sings of the original Wiradjuri people who once camped on its banks, among them known to be Jimmy and Jo Governor, who spent a happy childhood in this area before later tragedies made them infamous. One old settler remembered hearing Jimmy and Jo whistling as they traversed this area as children.

 

On the Sydney side of the crossing is a favourite swimming hole, which can be treacherous. When the old bridge was there, it regularly flooded and a woman and her two children were washed off the bridge in their car at one time. They were saved by a passing farmer, Barry Orth, but their dog was trapped in the car and drowned. Police later retrieved the car at a depth of 30 feet in the swimming hole that has never known to run dry. Not far from the swimming hole is an old weir, where two boys, Wayne (Viv) Goulding and Jason (Klause) Dray drowned. No wonder swimming there now is now forbidden. An old sign is nailed to a tree at the site in memory of the two boys. It reads, ‘In memory of two legends, Wayne (Viv) Goulding, Jason (Klause) Dray, who lost their lives because they were mates. We will always remember the good times lads.

 

Mt Frome is well known for its abundant crops of Lucerne for dairy cattle in the past, and now cattle, sheep and deer. Mt Frome is, of course, a mountain – with the Cudgegong River running around its feet. It is a trig station for Mudgee, with many people seeking to climb to its summit, but permission must be sought from the present land owner at the base of the mountain. It is quite a difficult climb, very steep, however the view from the top is breath taking.

 

The area was originally settled by the Tomkins and other pastoral families and has a rich agricultural and mining history. A limestone quarry was active during The Great Depression and it kept many men employed during those difficult times. The area has a history of farming and irrigation crops, with the Cudgegong River flowing through much of the area. In past days some children attended the Lawson Creek School, which is at the junction of Rocky Waterhole Road and Lue Road, but is now a private residence. This school opened in 1868 on a flood prone site and relocated to the present site in 1902. It closed in 1948.

The Tomkins family have lived in the Mt Frome area since the 1850s. George Tomkins came to Australia in 1855 and went gold digging on the Meroo. Shortly after, he settled at Mt Frome and lived there to see his eight children, 26 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren.

An undated photo of Mr and Mrs George Tomkins was in the Guardian, stating they lived in Douro Street Mudgee, so at some stage they must have moved into town, as many do in their old age. The sprightly looking couple were 90 and 84 years of age respectively in the photo. Mr Tomkins was a native of Worcestershire, England. He came to Australia in 1855 via the sailing ship, the Rose of Sharon. At the end of 1855 he went gold mining on the Meroo, then settled in Mudgee following pastoral and other pursuits. Mrs Tomkins was a native of Cork, England. She came to Australia when she was 18 months old. At the time of the photo the couple had been married 62 years and had eight children, 26 grandchildren and 20 great grandchildren.

 

The Tomkins family still live at the base of Mt Frome: Sandra Tomkins and her daughter Jane and son-in-law Peter running a lucerne farm there. When Sandra and her late husband Paul first came to Mt Frome in 1957, they first stayed at the Tomkins family home at Clydemere, shifting to Melrose later. Melrose was a 90 year old farmhouse the couple restored to raise their four daughters.

 

Joyce Towner, nee Tomkins,  had many happy memories of life at Mt Frome. She also has an extensive photo collection of photos taken by her uncle, Norman Flemming.  Mudgee Guardian journalist, Diane Simmonds, discovered Mrs Towner in July 2001 when the Uniting Church Manse was being demolished in Mortimer Street opposite the now Woolworths, where the Millers’ store is now. Roger Baddeley, from the demolition team, found an old postcard with some old newspaper clippings in the old building, written to ‘Bubbles’ and signed by Al Leader.

 

Mrs Towner used to visit her Aunty Al when she was a girl, driving her horse and sulky from Burrundulla to Al’s home, one of the two semi-detached cottages opposite Mudgee High School in Douro Street (the old home of Mr and Mrs George Tomkins) where Aunty Al still lived with her mother. Mrs Towner used to leave her horse there for the day while she attended school. Alice’s sister, Eva, lived in the other semi detached.

Mrs. Towner used to stay overnight with the aunts to go to ‘Comrades’, a Methodist youth group. Both ladies were spinsters, Eva very prim and proper, according to Mrs Towner.

“Eva walked along like a little statue,” Mrs Towner said.

But Aunty Al was a bit of a larrikin.

“Al was tall and all for fun,” he said. “She was a wonderful person, always laughing and full of jokes.”

Mrs Towner said 16 to 20 young people went to Comrades on Tuesday nights and Aunty Al was wonderful with the young people. She said Al was also a wonderful gardener.

Mrs Towner’s first husband, Len Barnes, was a minister at the Uniting Church where the postcard was found during 1944 to 49.

Mrs Towner and her family all went to Burrundulla School, as did her mother and father, and as did her own children.

Her father owned ‘Hillview’, which included Mt Frome within a property of about 1,000 acres, and included part of the Cudgegong River. The house was about 60 yards up the hill and the river was the boundary between her grandfather and her father’s properties.

“My mother and I used to cross the river on a bridge that was made out of a plank or girder out of the old Mudgee Bridge,” Mrs. Towner said.

“It had a wire tied to two oak trees and you walked on the plank and held the wire as you went.

“I nearly went in backwards one day when I was carrying my baby on my hip, and he pushed against the oak tree that I had to manoeuvre around to get off the bridge.

It was about 12 feet deep under that bridge,” she said.

Mrs Towner said the bridge was put there so the two families could visit each other, and so her mother could practice the piano at her grandfather’s place.

On the other side you had to go over a ‘style’ to get into the grandfather’s paddock. The style was two pole steps and two on the other side.

 There was a brown snake going down to the bridge one day, and on the straining post you held onto, hopping over the style, there was a hole and it always had  a green frog sitting in it,’ she said.

Mrs Towner also remembered a frilled neck lizard often sitting on the style.

“I can remember my father taking me to school over the bridge when it was in flood and the water was lapping the plank,’ she said.

‘When I was nine, there was a banker.’

Mrs Towner said her grandmother lived on Nullo Mountian, where an Aboriginal used to carry the children across the river to go to school.

‘One day he heard there was going to be a corroboree and he was told to stay away, but he went and was speared in the ear,’ she said.

Mrs Towner said her grandmother visited the Morbeys at Nullo Mountain, just before bushrangers came and killed everyone except a boy, who hid under the bed.

She said there were two big gum trees just above the old crossing on the Burrundulla part of the Cudgegong where Jimmy and Jo Governor slept. The trees are still there.

She also remembers 1926, when a Mr Chivers and Mr Edwards were in a sulky and drunk, and they drove into the river and the men and the horse all drowned.

In 1929 the river came down in a nine foot wall of water.

‘Grandfather made grandmother come to mum’s house and he wouldn’t get out, but in the end he had to get out.

“I remember going with a torch in the night just on dark and the water came up to the trellis in our vegetable garden and was touching bunches of grapes,’ she said.

Later, when Mrs Towner was married to Len Barnes and living in her mother’s old house on the river at Burrundulla, they faced many floods.

‘From 1949 to 1956 the river flooded over 29 times and we had to get out of our house each time. One time it took us from 8pm to 2am to get from where we lived, round through Mudgee to my mother’s place on Mt Frome. A policeman came with us in our car.’

Mrs Towner had many happy memories of her school days at Burrundulla School.

‘We had Mr Bisley at the school in my day. In my mother’s day they had 70 pupils at the school and Mrs Horbury was her teacher, and she said you could hear a pin drop, they were so quiet and attentive. We had some naughty boys at school when I was there. I can remember Jim Pirie, Andy Pirie, Joan Pirie, Alice and Daphne and Roy Woolley, Andrew Woolley, Florence Dowel and Charlie Dowel,’ Mrs Towner said. ‘We didn’t use a slate, we had books to write in. Mr Bisley was a very good teacher. He was married and his children went to the school – Lenore, Noel, Hughla and there were two little ones of preschool age, John and Norma. I went to the school until I was about 12 years old and then I went to Mudgee High School, then boarded at the Methodist Ladies College in Burwood, Sydney,’ Mrs Towner said.

Mrs Towner said everyone always wanted to climb Mt Frome and she had some excellent photos of her friends doing just that.

‘We used to go up the side and go down the middle because there were lovely maiden hair ferns and we used to bring them home to mum. We had a lovely garden at home,’ she said.

Sunday afternoon by the Cudgegong.

 

Melrose Park was an early district grant registered in 1835 and purchased by William Bowman, a pioneer born in the colony and one of the first pastoralists who took up land over the Blue Mountains. William was the son of John and Honor Bowman, who were free settlers who arrived from England in 1798. William had one daughter, Ann Catherine, who married Thomas Cadell. They lived on William’s holdings and inherited it when William died in 1874.

 

Local author, the late Elsie Winter, a child of a limestone miner, wrote of living in this beautiful country area in the very early 1900s:

I was the third eldest girl in a family of nine children living... My earliest memories go back to the time we lived at Mt Frome. Our father worked for the BHP company, managing a limestone quarry. Our home was made from bush timber with an iron roof. It had a large open fireplace at one end of the kitchen. As far as we were concerned this could have been a castle. We were free to wander over the hills and fields. At the back of the house in the paddocks, the sheep ambled along with their heads down, nibbling the grass. Narrow tracks all around the hill marked where the sheep had worn the grass away. By the side of the house stood an old apple tree, where Dad hung a rope swing for us. I spent hours on that swing, singing songs and daydreaming. We girls loved to climb around the hill, looking for five-corner bushes. We would pick the edible little berries to eat. Mushrooms were in abundance in season, and we loved collecting them, running all over the paddock, racing each other to get them and be first to fill our billy cans.

 

 

The Cover family have lived at Mt Frome for more than half a century. Jack Cover came from Hargraves, but was born at Grattai. He learnt to shear during the Great Depression and was still shearing at the grand old age of 70. “I stopped when I couldn’t catch them in the pen,” Jack told me. Jack’s old shearing shed is still on the Mt Frome property, just up from the Limestone Quarry that kept 60 men at work during the Great Depresskion. The remains of the Limestone Quarry still show a huge mound of ash behind the sludge from the quarry from a steam engine that burnt the limestone fuelled by the timber off the mountain, which is now denuded almost up to the crown. Jack had many yarns to tell of the Depression days, particularly when he was a slaughterman for Norman Petrie at Hargraves and used to sell the meat from a ‘cutting cart’ around Windeyer and Pyramul. He was also very proud of his army service in World War II at Goodenough Island, Port Moresby, Milne Bay, Lae and the Kokoda Track. Jack told me he used to run 1,000 sheep at Mt Frome before his sons took over and Jack retired to his race horses. He had two famous horses standing at Mt Frome, ‘China Rock’ so called because a lot of Chinese men used to bet on him and they were regarded as solid as the Rock of Gilbraltar for paying their bets, and ‘Rocky Planet’ sired from Lloyd Foyster’s ‘Rocky Kingdom’. Both horses are now buried on Jack’s land.

 

Daisy Baynham remembers when two women saved a herd of cows on Mt Frome. Daisy worked for the Armitage family on Mt Frome when she was just 13, looking after their four children while Mrs Armitage helped out at the dairy. Daisy earned seven shillings and sixpence per week, which was given straight to her parents. She had a half day off each month, when she used to ride home in the milk cart for the afternoon and ride back in it again that night. Daisy said the Armitages were good people and treated her like one of the family. They lived just up the hill from the old schoolhouse on the corner of Lue and Rocky Water Hole roads. Apparently two old ladies from the Rope family lived across the Lue Road from them. About the year 1935, Ted Armitage put 18 cows in a small paddock of lucerne each day to give them a nutritional boost. On one particular day there was a wind blowing, and though the cows had only been in the lucerne a short while, Mr Armitage realised they were bloating from eating too fast – a fatal condition. ‘As Ted rushed to try to get them out of the paddock, he yelled to his wife to get the Rope girls, and they came running across the road to the bulging cows with their hands full of knives,” Daisy told me.  Daisy said the women held one knife in their mouth while they threw another knife at a cow’s bulging tummy. “Pop! It would go, as the wind escaped,” she said, “and the other lady rammed her fist into the paunch and pulled out hunks of half chewed grass.” The women treated all the cows in the same fashion and most of them survived, according to Daisy.

 

A sad and lonely headstone lies in the grass, lost and abandoned at the foot of Mt Frome. It reads, ‘Sacred to the memory of Ann Brookes, died Jan 19, 1864, aged 19 years,’ with the verse, When you see remember me, Bare me in your mind, Let all the world say what they will, Speak of me as you find. Ann’s parents were John and Charlotte (nee Mackay) Brookes of Louee, who were married on November 11, 1843 in the Presbyterian Church. Ann was the eldest of five children. She was born April 23, 1844. Local legend confirmed by Mrs Joyce Towner, nee Tomkins, says that Ann died of a broken heart because she never had a boyfriend. Other stories say she died of a broken heart because she was jilted. Both could be right. Mrs Towner said there were stories that Ann was terribly irrational because of her lack of a boyfriend. Ann’s death certificate showed the informant of her death as Benjiman Bullock (a relative) and witnesses were E.Jerry and E.Riley. Her death certificate said she died of ‘Philgmonous Erysipalis of the scalp’, also known as ‘St Anthony’s Fire’, an inflammation of the skin attended with fever. There was no minister present at the burial, which was carried out on Jan 20, the day after she died. Ann’s brother died of diphtheria the day after she was buried, but it is not known if he was buried there as well. Other members of the Bullock family are buried at the site, although there were never any headstones other than Ann’s, which is a very interesting fact – who put the headstone there and why only to Ann?  I feel there is a lot more to this story than we might ever know.

 

 

 

 


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 Some of Joyce Towner's photo collection of Mt Frome taken by her uncle, Norman Flemming

Joyce Towner's home on Mt Frome. Note the trellis at the front where the floods came up to. Mr and Mrs. George Tompkins are in the middle of this photo.

Tompkins family attending Burrundulla Methodist church.


Tompkins family and friends ready to play tennis.

The tennis court at Hillview, Mt Tompkins property at Burrundulla


The Towner ladies.

Afternoon tea was a grand affair on Mt Frome

A picnic was also quite grand.