HerStory

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Mary Ann COMERFORD

Also known as: née Dailly

Born: 22 November 1904

Died: 22 May 1994

Additional Information:

Pioneer of Western Australia.

“Mary Comerford arrived in Western Australia by ship from Scotland, aged 24 years in 1928 with husband James and two small children. They went to Beverley where relatives had settled and were housed in a boarding house. When the lights went out, insects would crawl all over the walls. Mary refused to go to bed that first night and sat up all night in fear of them. It was bad enough arriving at the siding and having to drink out of a “dirty” hessian water bag. These bags kept the drinking water cool.

James was offered work clearing land at Wilgoyne, 28 miles north-east of Mukinbudin. The idea was for Mary and the children to remain in Beverley until he was in a position to send for them. However within a week Mary had gone to the Co-op, purchased a tent, and sent word to James that they were arriving on the train.

Coming from Scotland, the wheatbelt was a far cry from “home” and Mary was many a time heard to say, “If there was a road back to Scotland, I’d walk it”. Another saying of Mary’s was, “Better the devil you know, than like the one you don’t.”

So hence the family’s first home was a tent, which was burnt out, destroying all their treasures they had brought with them. James took up land at Wilgoyne in 1929 and Mary’s next home was a make-do humpy, made of hessian bags, tin roof and bough shed.

Five of Mary’s children, Bernetta, George, Rosemary, James and Phyllis were born at King Edward Memorial Hospital in Perth. Mary would travel to Perth by train, leaving the other children at home in her husband’s care and stay with a relative until her “time” came. She would return home by train with the new baby.

Washing in those days was in tin washtubs, a scrubbing board and a copper, in the open. As well as a Mother Potts iron for ironing, Mary would neatly fold the trousers and sit on them, a form of “pressing”.

Stores were obtained from the Lake Brown store 22 miles away. It wasn’t until the late 1930’s that the family were in a position to travel to Mukinbudin for shopping. Bairds’ and Boans’ catalogues were keenly read and ordered from. Fruit, vegies and stores would also be acquired by rail from Perth and the children eagerly awaited the bag of boiled lollies in that order.

Mary was keen to purchase a Jersey cow. James said “No.” So she defiantly walked the 24 mile round trip to Blackley’s farm and sang all the way home leading her Jersey cow and calf, which was to supply the family with milk, cream, butter from scalded from until a separator was purchased. Mary would sell eggs and turkeys. Poultry was also kept to eat – she would ring (screw) the chooks’ necks, then chop their heads off.

Porridge was common for breakfast and the gristed wheat would be soaked each evening. Dam water was the only source, so Epsom salts would be added to clear it overnight.

Mary sewed and patched by hand before acquiring a treadle sewing machine. She made and remade all the children’s clothes.

Working very hard over the years bringing up a family, Mary knew many hardships, including the death of three of her children. She was always ready to give a helping hand, always having a meal and bed for visitors, whether it be for the visiting Priest or one of the local bachelors.

She was a marvellous cook on the wood stove and with the old hand beater would whip up some delicious sponges. Her melon and lemon jam are well remembered by the children. Mary was a member of the Wilgoyne CWA and Christmas tree organiser.

Mary had a strong devotion to her Catholic faith and the rosary. In those early years mass was celebrated every three months at Wilgoyne. The family would travel in the old truck to Mukinbudin to dance or to the pictures, quite a distance over to [sic] rough roads. All would sleep the night on the back of the truck, then attend the monthly mass service in the CWA rooms, before heading home.

Mary Comerford retired with her husband James to Palm Beach, Rockingham in 1960. She was called to Eternal Rest 22nd May 1994, just six months short of her 90th birthday.”


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