Warangesda etching 1883 Illustrated Sydney News

Warangesda Mission 1883

The following account is based on reports of the New South Wales Aborigines Protection Board and entries in the Warangesda Mission Managers Diary. The authors of both sources are white officials and the picture they paint is basically one of contrived good cheer. Never the less they do give some idea of the experience if not what the people at the mission actually felt. The life span of the mission was 1880 – 1924

Records of the Christmas season at Warangesda in the 1890′s show it to have been a busy period.

In the days before Christmas in preparation for the holiday to follow, the people were occupied cleaning up their yards and cottages.  The mission buggy went back and forth from Darlington Point Station, meeting children of the white staff coming home for the Christmas holiday and any other Christmas visitors, as well as picking up the Christmas parcels sent from Sydney which contained food and  toys for the children.  While the men went shooting for game for the Christmas table, the manager as well as attending to his usual duties spent time selecting prizes and planning the sports to be held on Boxing Day and New Year.

By Christmas eve, the church had been decorated with pine boughs and other greenery and a Christmas tree set up by the men. Christmas day was celebrated with church services, Christmas cards were given out and Christmas fare – roast beef and plum pudding (quality unknown) was distributed to the people.  The Christmas period was usually very hot, 108°F in 1892 and 114° in 1896.  In 1892 the awful heat was put to a sudden end in the evening by a southerly buster so severe that it forced the evening church service to be abandoned.10  The 1896 heat was unrelieved, causing the death of one child  – Julia’s baby – probably from heat exhaustion and dehydration.  That evening there was a terrible dust storm “and as the lamp in the church would not burn there was no service.”

Boxing Day was a day of organised sports at the river, but on Boxing Day 1894 many instead had attended the Darlington Point races and were considered unfit for the dancing Mr Nash (the school teacher) had arranged in the school that evening. On Boxing Day 1896 those who did not go to the races “partook of a tea which had been provided by the matron, consisting of fruit cakes, lollies and coconuts which were afterwards scrambled [for].”

The sports usually continued into the next day – 27 December and were followed in the evening by a concert and prize giving.  The next day, 28 December, could be taken up with a cricket match. In 1893 there then followed an exodus of the visitors from Cummeragunja mission who had spent some of the Christmas holiday at Warangesda, as well as Warangesda families leaving to pay a reciprocal visit.

In the last days of the year preparations were made for New Year’s Day and the men cleared ground by the river for the New Year’s Day picnic.  The New Year was welcomed in with “rough music” into the night, and on New Year’s Day, there were more sports by the river, followed by the usual prize giving ceremony on 2 January, so ending the festive season.

This is an extract from Warangesda Daily Life and Events 1994

Men from Warangesda or with Warangesda connections volunteered for World War One. James Smith, Walter Bright, Joe Gotch, Thomas Lyons, Tom and Dick McGuinness, Alex Little, Arthur Weston, Allan Gowans, David Kennedy and John Heland all volunteered for service with the first AIF as did John and Duncan Ferguson, two sons of William Ferguson. David Kennedy over 40 years old, John Heland and Duncan Ferguson did not serve overseas, Dick McGuinness lost his life. The others returned to Australia, in Walter Bright’s case after a period in a German prisoner of war camp. John Ferguson was awarded the Military Medal for gallantry.

Philippa Scarlett 30 December 2013

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