HerStory

Mildred Grace COLLINGS

Also known as: Grace Collings

Born: 4/3/1916

Died: 9/3/2006

Special Achievements:

Grace and her husband Murray co-founded Ringwood station, located 80 miles (130 kilometres) east of Alice Springs.  They moved to the Northern Territory in 1946 to work on Ti Tree and then Pine Hill stations.  In 1953 Grace and Murray took up crown land 80 miles east of Alice Springs and Grace named the property Ringwood.  She was a pioneering woman, building up a home and business on Ringwood station.  Life was very basic in the beginning.  The first family home was a tent with a fire lit at each end to keep the flies away and Grace did the cooking over a campfire.  Murray built the first homestead himself with masonite walls, corrugated iron roof and dirt floors.  Heating in winter was a fire bucket at the end of the bed.  Grace and six-year-old daughter Margaret spent six weeks alone while Murray drove their cattle and horses from Pine Hill to Ringwood.  During this time Grace had no means of communication or transport, just a visit from the closest neighbour 26 miles away once a fortnight to bring some fresh meat.  After the house was built, Grace continued to cook outside over a campfire for nine months waiting for a wood stove to arrive from south.

As well as looking after the home, she cooked for whoever was working on the station, developed an extensive vegetable garden and fruit tree area, reared many poddy calves and horses, helped with the stockwork and started diesel engines manually for power and water along with anything else that needed to be done.

Life on the station during the drought years was harsh, stressful and heartbreaking.  In order to save the herd of cattle they had developed, Murray transported most of the cattle and horses to the south-east of South Australia in the early 1960s.  Grace stayed on at the station for the first six months with six-year-old daughter Judy and one stockman to continue running the station.  Her only contact with the outside world was the transceiver, a weekly mail plane and an occasional visit from a neighbour or traveler passing by the homestead.  She then joined Murray, leaving a caretaker on Ringwood.  After nearly 18 months away, the family and the stock returned to Ringwood once the seasons improved.  Living conditions also became more comfortable when the family moved into the new brick homestead in the mid-1960s.

Grace also supervised both her daughters' schooling until they were nine years of age with lessons sent out by the South Australian correspondence school and a daily session with the Alice Springs School of the Air.

The isolation of living on the station was at times relieved by visitors and travelers passing through and Grace was always ready to make a cup of tea and a batch of scones or a meal for anyone who dropped in at Ringwood.  Animals played a big part in her life and her pet horses and cats helped to relieve any boredom she may have felt.

Additional Information:

Grace joined the Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF) (which operated from 1941-1947) and served in the meteorological bureau in Melbourne (see http://www.womenaustralia.info... for more information on the WAAAF).


Resources

  • Image - Grace Collings at Ringwood Station, early 1990s

    Photo courtesy of Judy Selleck (Grace Collings' daughter)


  • Image - Grace Allen (later Collings) in the WAAAF, 1945

    Photo courtesy of Judy Selleck (Grace Collings' daughter)


  • Image - Grace Collings in the early 1940s

    Photo courtesy of Judy Selleck (Grace Collings' daughter)


  • Image - Grace Collings and family at Ringwood station, 1956

    from left to right: Grace's husband Murray, Grace holding daughter Judy, Grace's mother Lois Allen (nee Knight) and Grace's daughter Margaret

    Photo courtesy of Judy Selleck (Grace Collings' daughter)


  • Image - Grace Collings's WAAAF-issued bag, which she took with her on the Ghan Train when she moved to Alice Springs

    Photo courtesy of Judy Selleck (Grace Collings' daughter)


  • Image - Grace and Murray Collings, 1980

    Photo courtesy of Judy Selleck (Grace Collings' daughter)


  • Image - Grace and Murray Collings on Ringwood station, 1994

    Photo courtesy of Judy Selleck (Grace Collings' daughter)