From our correspondent Garry Reynolds’ online book chapter 15 …
“At age 5, Ben had been literally farmed out from his struggling working class Irish Catholic family in the Milltown area of Bathurst to his tough widowed grandfather living an impoverished subsistence life on a small property at Limekilns, 26kms out of the city. Ben slept on a chaff-bag bed in a four-roomed, wattle-and-daub shack with whitewashed walls and an earthen floor. The young boy helped on the farm herding cows and bagging potatoes and squeezed in an inadequate perfunctory education at a half-time school (the Limekilns schoolhouse, pictured, was sold recently for $804,000).
He led an isolated lonely existence and harbored a desire to make friends as his blacksmithing father only visited him occasionally. Over the next nine years, a crucial formative period in a young boy’s life, Ben rarely got to see his mother or two younger brothers living in town. The suggestion by some researchers is that in later life, he sought solace, companionship and affection from women close to him.
Following his grandfather’s death in 1899, Ben moved back to his parents’ home at age 13 and attended a Patrician Brothers school for about two years. On one occasion with a couple of mates, he was caught stealing watermelons from the Chinese market gardens on the Macquarie River. Being strong Catholics, his father and mother compelled him to repeat reciting the rosary through all one afternoon as a penance punishment.”
Thought of the week “a tough upbringing”
by a humble heritage advocate – November 2021