Joe Northover talks about childhood, and his family living in the bush
Denise Cook: So where did you live when you were young?
Joe Northover: Well from all around Collie here but we lived at a place called Duranillin, which is at the back of Darkan there. Darkan too. Stayed at Darkan. On the reserve. They had a big reserve at Darkan. Duranillin was where my father worked on the railways.
Denise Cook: What did he do on the railways?
Joe Northover: He was a fettler, my Dad. And big mob of Noongars lived there at Duranillin. Also worked on the farm not far from where he was born. Cowchers. We also lived down the farm there.
Denise Cook: What was that farm called?
Joe Northover: Don’t know now. We all know that old boss Neil Cowcher. That was his farm but he moved to Esperance. He died poor old fellow. But him and Dad were best mates, friends. I think they were the same age. And from there we moved to Bowelling, just out of Collie again. They closed the gang down in Duranillin then they moved to Bowelling.
Denise Cook: And they moved the gang to Bowelling?
Joe Northover: Bowelling. Yeah. And then we stayed there for a while. I don’t know how long. We all four kids there. Simon was a baby I think. And good fun too in the bush. We all lived in the bush. And eventually we ended up coming to Collie. That’s where we are now. But I was lucky I suppose because when I was young I used to stop with the older fellows too like my grannies. I used to stop with Granny Corbett, Granny Jane, out in the bush. They were living in a big tent. Used to stop with them and Nanna Beat out at Quindanning there. She had the house that belonged to my Pop Simmons. Then then when he passed away she stayed there. I used to go and stop with her. So I stayed in the bush, a lot on the farms with the older grannies and that, they helped rear me, my grandmother Bella. She’s an old woman. She’s passed away. But yeah, grew up here in Collie then. Went to school and that. Oh, Darkan too. But Collie was main place.
Denise Cook: Do you want to tell me, maybe pick one or two of those places or all of them if you want, and just tell me what it was like, what your house was like, or your camp was like, whether it was in the bush or –
Joe Northover: Well I think we could include all of them because they was all close there. The old railway houses like big verandahs on them and you always had the family next to you, all around you so you grew up with all your like your grannies, your aunties, Aunty Betty, she was always with us. Because she was in a mission to start off with but then she come out. She helped looked after us too. She’s still alive. She live in Perth but we love her.
Denise Cook: What’s her other name?
Joe Northover: Her real name Elizabeth McFadden but she is Betty Northover. Yeah, she used to stop with us there, reared us up. And Uncle Raymond was with us. He was for years too. But the houses were they were old weatherboard houses but they was homely. They were lovely old places. They had fireplaces and that. We always had vegie gardens. Dad used to always kill his own meat as well.
Denise Cook: What kind of meat would that be?
Joe Northover: A lot of old bush tucker. Emu, kangaroo and that. Karda and sheep. That’s what I say we used to stay there, on the farm Dad used to work at the farm there. Sheep there. At old Cowchers. And then book up at the shop there, Thompson’s store at Duranillin. And then eventually when Dad retired after a while, many years and we had a big brick and tile house. But when we stayed with our granny, Nanna Beat there in Quindalling, old Vernon and Stan Cowcher, funny old fellow them boys, was old like asbestos house or tin house with old rusty tin. Old toilet at the back. We used to be scared of the toilet because when we were kids it was like a long way and when we got old, went back there to that same place looking, it was only just here. We used to hold a tilly lamp. No torch. Tilly lantern looking where the path is. Then the old Granny Corbett, Popeye Corbett, Kelly, that’s my grandmother’s first cousin, Nanna Bella. They used to take me out in the bush with them. I used to stay with them in a tent. Old canvas tent. They was poison picking then.
Denise Cook: That was?
Joe Northover: Poison picking. Sucker bashing out there at Quindalling and Boddington. We used to go stop with them. I was only a little kid but I still remember it. We used to go into Williams for stores and that and he used to carry me on his shoulders, the old boy. Come Popeye, good old Noongars that was, and very proud old Noongars too. And that old Grannie Harry Kelly lived here in Collie too. He never wear shoes that old Granny, he used to walk barefoot. Hard old fellows they was. But they were good old Noongars.
From: Joe Northover, oral history for South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council, 31 July 2008
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Permission to use this audio recording kindly granted by Joe Northover