On the morning of Wednesday 3rd December, my 17 year old son and I packed my little car with tent, bedding, camera, laptop and some personal effects for a long journey.
Road trips must be in the blood for our family. My parents undertook these expeditions every few years of my life, and I have certainly taken my own children on a few such trips. I love that preparation stage – car service and check, packing baggage as efficiently as possible, clean and vaccuum the car and bring it as close to ‘new car’ status as possible. We packed everything very precisely, worked out where in the car was the home for each item and made sure we could quickly access the things we would need the most. We didn’t need a very early start as we were only travelling 480km on this day, so we set off about 10AM. We were in the city of Adelaide by 1PM.
As I said in an earlier blog, the early white Australian settlers generally took a while to find their eventual home. Often their arrival port was the wrong climate, or already crowded, or just not to their liking. My paternal ancestors in Tasmania had less ground to tramp and/or were convicts with a restricted area, so I find them pretty easily. On my mother’s side, most if not all of them were free settlers on the vast mainland of Australia, and in those early decades rarely settled for more than five years in one place.
I actually live only 15km from the birthplace of my maternal great grandfather, Herbert Dunstall. I have written quite a bit about James Dunstall and Annie McLeod, and Herbert was one of their sons. So practically from my own home I can look around at the scenes they also viewed. Another of their sons, Kenneth Norman Dunstall, died as a baby in 1871 and was buried at Gawler. James Dunstall and Annie McLeod were married in Adelaide, and James was born to the south of Adelaide on the Fleurieu Peninsula. But there isn’t much left of their presence now. If I hadn’t looked up the records I’d never have known they were ever there.
After James and Annie Dunstall died of tuberculosis in the 1880s, their surviving children headed for the minefields of Western Australia, as did some of their cousins which I only located through my DNA test. Herbert, my great grandfather, was one of these. He married an English girl, Alice Head, in Kalgoorlie and they settled in the very isolated mining district of Lake Darlot. Alice ran a boarding house and Herbert purchased a mine. They had one son, my grandfather Kenneth.
One day, I’ll get over to see the town. Wikipedia says it is an ‘abandoned town’ and officially had the name of Woodarra. In the meantime, my intention was to ‘meet’ as closely as possible my grandfather Kenneth, who has always been a shadowy and insubstantial figure to me.
Herbert was killed in an accident in his own mine when only in his twenties, when my grandfather was aged 7. As I set out on this journey, all I knew about Kenneth’s life was that he ended up in the eastern states where he married my grandmother. My grandfather passed away in 1991 so I am way too late to ask him his life’s story, but one of my objectives on this trip was to deduce as much as I could.
So far – about 150km – so good.