Almanac Backyards – Backyard Bliss



Craig Dodson’s article on backyard space caused me to reflect on my own blissful childhood spent outdoors.


With four sisters for company, sport and activity dominated our lives. Born in the 50’s, I grew up on a farm at Gunbower in Northern Victoria. We had fresh air, water and the bush to play in.




There were trees and haystacks to climb, sheepyard rails to balance along, horses  to ride, creeks, channels and the mighty Murray River  to swim in. We rode our bikes to the Island School, rain, hail or shine, two and a half miles away.



After school we had jobs to do. It seemed we were only inside the house for eating and sleeping. We delighted in doing our chores. There was no better feeling than running barefoot in a green, grassy paddock with the wind in our hair. The jobs were fun and didn’t feel like work at all, until the teenage hay carting years came along!



Our duties included feeding cattle, rounding up sheep and fetching golf balls.



Dad(Dick McGillivray) became a golf fanatic when he stopped playing footy. Every afternoon he hit a bucket full of golf balls out into the paddock which we ran to fetch. The front lawn became an ideal spot to construct a putting green. The irrigation channel running through the front yard formed the perfect sand bunker when dry.




Dad inherited his father’s mantra of instilling in children  the need to run. He would often recount the story of  he and his older brother being caught out walking home from school one day. Grandpop(D.C McGillivray) made them run back to school,  run home then doubled the job allocation.




Running was mandatory when doing all farm jobs, even for short distances from the ute to open a farm gate.  The day a Weekly Times reporter visited our farm and complimented  my speedy gate opening skills, dad beamed with pride.




Every night after dinner we would play tennis on the big flat area between the house yard and the shearing shed. Dad and mum also insisted on us hitting against the shearing shed wall where the ball flew off in all directions because of the vertical boards. We  had a netball ring on the big SEC pole.





Every afternoon at school, Mr Lucas honed our sporting skills.  Netball , rounders and peg ball were our favourite games. The District Athletics Carnival was the highlight of the year. We trained for sprinting events, sack races , potato races , skipping, high and long jump.


On Saturdays we played tennis in summer and netball in winter.


When having my own children, the decision of where to live was greatly influenced by the need to provide them with space, dirt, water and fresh air.




Pamela Sherpa


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  1. ‘Those were the days…’ Lovely piece, Pamela, which brought back many wonderful memories. We lacked the mod cons but had the space, the freedom and the creativity to make the most of what did have. Love the photos, too.

  2. The Australia that was. Thanks Pamela. My dad is still playing golf twice a week at age 87. Similar to your dad he took it up in his mid 30’s when too old for footy and cricket, and it has remained a lifetime affliction (and joy). Was golf a winter sport only in Gunbower as in rural SA? The fairways only sprang to life after the April rains. I can remember the May school holidays looming and hoping the rains came and the gang mowers would be needed to turn grass into fairways.
    Grand days that linger in my heart and memory.

  3. craig dodson says

    Pamela, sounds like you had quite the childhood, filled with so many great memories. I can only dream of having that space, but I’m sure we will make our new patch work well.

  4. Luke Reynolds says

    Wonderful memories and photos Pamela. I grew up on a dairy farm and it was either chores or sport all the time. Loved it.
    Currently raising my kids on our 4 acre block, which was purchased for that very reason.

  5. Pamela while I grew up in the city favorite memories were going to our cousins middle camp station 52 miles out on the road to Wentworth.Yep rd the bicycle every where and always playing sport so much healthier than youth now days thank you

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