Wednesday, August 1, 2012

120th Carnival of Genealogy - Business and Commerce

Business and Commerce is the theme chosen by Jasia of Creative Gene for the Carnival of Genealogy,  120th Edition The challenge is:

Did someone in your family own a small business? Was there a favorite clothing store, ice cream shop, shoe store, restaurant, gas station, etc. that your family frequented? Did you operate a lemonade stand when you were a child? This time around we are going to be researching small businesses and recording family memories of such.

Unfortunately in spite of all of their toil none of my ancestors was rewarded with wealth from commerce. Rewards came in the form of happy lives and healthy families.


Frank Duncan, my maternal grandfather, was the subject of a post in 2009 for the 75th Carnival of Genealogy.  I cannot go past Frank and his efforts at making a quid for this post.


Frank's first job was in the copper mines in  Cobar , in outback NSW. I don't know how successful he was at this venture because he left the mines fairly soon after World War I broke out to join the Australian Army. After an unremarkable tour of duty in Europe Frank returned to Cobar.

On his return  Frank was able, through the Soldiers Settlement Scheme, to gain a grant of Crown land on which he built a house for his bride, Ethel. This plot was a station (very large farm) of 32,000 acres, Elsinore, outside of Cobar.  Elsinore was 40 miles west of Cobar NSW. In 2012 this is a remote area, nearly 90 years ago it was extremely remote. Cobar, the nearest town, was a long carriage ride over rutted, red, dusty roads. Sydney and the coast was 700 km away. Life was tough, there were droughts, bushfires and loneliness.
Frank Duncan at Elsinore
Frank ran sheep on his large property. In 1924 there were 3 horses, 2 cows and 916 sheep ; in 1926 there were 3 horses and 1200 sheep. From photos I have of the farm I can see that they also kept chickens.  Life was challenging on the property; my mother says her father wasn't suited to the hard work required "he was basically lazy". By the time my mother was old enough to go to school in around 1930 my grandmother and the girls moved into town and Frank worked the property and came to town on weekends. Some time after 1936 Frank gave up on being a grazier and gave the property away!
Elsinore wool being carted to town

Poddy lamb and chickens at Elsinore
An interesting venture of Frank's was his catering van, he was the Mr Whippy of the outback.  He drove this van around the countryside to feed the crowds at race meetings and other gatherings. From this van he sold his home made pies (I imagine that my grandmother cooked these - I remember that she made pretty good Cornish Pasties) and the ginger beer he brewed. Mum enjoyed the trips she made with her Dad to these far-flung events.
Franks catering van with Aunty Lil (now 83) behind the wheel
Together with my grandmother, Ethel Jane Pusell, Frank ran a cafe in Cobar; the family lived in a flat above the shop. I am not sure how long this venture lasted or if it was successful.  On my recent visit to Cobar I noted that the shop is now an antique store.

Frank certainly didn't make a killing from any of his business  pursuits. When he and the family moved to Sydney in the early 1940s he took a job driving a van for the Kensington Post Office.

This post first appeared on the Geniaus blog http://geniaus.blogspot.com

8 comments:

Kristin said...

I can appreciate that he got tired of the hard life with 1,000s of sheep but giving away the property! Maybe nobody would buy it? In spite of being described as lazy, sounds like he kept busy.

Jasia said...

I am always fascinated to read about the trials and tribulations of generations before us and how hard they had to work just to get by. What a wonderful story you tell of your grandfather's venture in sheep farming. I'm sure he must have been disappointed that it didn't prove to be very profitable for him but I admire his grit for giving it a try. Thanks for sharing his story and participating in the COG!

Carol said...

Well done, LOVE LOVE LOVE the photos, especially that last one of the catering van. How wonderful it is that you have those.

Nancy said...

I am totally impressed that you have so many photos to illustrate the retelling of this aspect of Frank Duncan's life. Despite being "lazy," he sounded like a real entrepreneur. I wonder if he gave away his farm property because he couldn't find someone willing to give him money for it....

Joan said...

Impress and envious of all of those pictures. Frank was a man before his times --- nowadays, the food trucks are sooooo big -- size and attraction wise.

Great article.

Jessica said...

I just love the way the personalities shine through in this post. That truck is just priceless. What a wonderful post.

Phil Thomas said...

Just found out that my Great grandfather was a blacksmith on this station in 1908. I still have his anvil.

Jill Ball said...

That's fantastic, Phil. Would love to hear more details.

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