Local social history is the warp through which the weft of “big” history is woven. One doesn’t make sense without the other.
Thus the aptly-named Colin Story writes of his new video installation, Between the trees, the European settlement of Walpole and surrounding Districts, that it “weaves the fabric of a community through the telling of stories”.
Revisiting old house sites, and places of significance to the people who have been part of making Walpole what it is today, Colin’s video installation is “a personal journey through the hopes and aspirations of the many people who have tried, some failed, others with success, to make this their home”.
Colin, who hails from the UK and says his “fascination with Walpole was immediate,” has for the last few years been “collating stories, personal memories of many people from the 1930s to the 1970s who have lived or holidayed here”.
He explains how in 1930s Walpole dairy farming in the South West “reached into the depths of the forest”. Climbing off the Nornalup train, “pioneer settlers got out on to a dirt track, and lived in tents until some clearing was under way, and the blocks of land were allocated”.
The installation echoes distant voices of those who led far from still lives. And many of the pioneers’ descendants are still with us. “Frank Thompson who had settled with his parents at ‘Thompsons’ in 1911 — Tinglewood Lodge as it later became known — would appear from time to time,” Colin says. “The Bellangers, from even earlier, in 1909, still have family here. And living on the Deep River near to Landors Gully I was soon to learn of Dr Henry Landor and his encounters with Aboriginal people at Snake Island in 1845.” Colin came to understand there was an “earlier history of ownership”.
Betty Burton: “They had a ballot for the farms. There was a chap who had our farm originally. He got there, saw what he had to do and said to Dad, ‘You can have it’.”
Neville Brass: “It would have been pretty daunting coming down to Walpole with the karris and the undergrowth. You’ve got to admire the tenacity of the early settlers here, the way they worked to make a living out of it.
“It happened a lot in those days. If somebody wanted some roofing iron, and that place hadn’t had anybody living there the last four or five years, we’d borrow some off there. All the farms had a debt on them, and you were putting it nto another property owned by the bank, so it wasn’t stealing.”
Bill Armstrong: “The horses used to pull the mowers, the hay rakes, the carts, everything. We didn’t have a tractor until 1955, a little grey Fergie.”
Dave Tapley: “It was a hard life for everybody. Dad used to work all the time, burning up logs all night, burning the karris. It was a tough life but a good life.”
Pat Burton nee Armstrong:“We knew no better. I was born into that.”
Dave Anning: “We think back and we’d never do it again. If you’d had the brains you wouldn’t have done it then!”
Between the trees, the European settlement of Walpole and surrounding Districts opens at the Walpole Community Hall on Saturday, November 7 at 3.30pm.