Background Story & Research
Kerenza grew from stories my dad told me.
Once there was a six-year-old boy who travelled by foot with his mum and dad and brothers and uncle from Adelaide to the Mallee. When they arrived at Hampton Well there was no track to their block of land and so the boy ran ahead with his brother to find the wooden pegs that said number 18, for that was the number of their block. It took a week to cut the five mile track and when they arrived there was just more scrub and no water. That boy was called Lenard and he was my dad. In 1911 my dad’s family took up land in the Mallee.
My ancestors came from Cornwall in 1856 to work at the Burra copper mine. When that closed, their descendants moved to Broken Hill to work in the silver mine. When a dispute occurred with an uncertain future in the Broken Hill mine in 1911 my grandparents travelled to the Mallee where they pioneered new land (so they thought) in a district now called Caliph. Kerenza: A New Australian is fiction but it is inspired by my grandparents’ experiences in the Mallee in 1911.
My dad told me stories about those days growing up in the Mallee, living in tents, clearing the land with horses and chains, making butter, accidents with the plough, getting up at three in the morning to catch the horses, building a house, digging a cellar, and making stone tanks. Taking trips to the Murray River to get fruit and pick up supplies. When the train finally came, which made life easier, and when a school opened.
I also got lots of ideas from my cousins who still live there. I read my uncle’s and aunt’s and great uncle’s memoirs. I asked people for ideas and stories too, the adventure of the well which I think Harry and Kerenza would never forget came from my cousin-in-law, Margaret Wormald. There really were a girl and a boy who dug a well on their farm at about that time.
Find out some facts about the Cornish by clicking About the Cornish.