Friday, 25 September 2015

Percival George Nash OAM - post # 2

I've been sorting out my research and other assorted hoardings and stumbled across this story I wrote about my grandfather.  I can't remember, but I have a feeling it is based on his account of his life as he told it to the Skipton Historical Society.  It does differ a bit from my earlier post but I decided to leave both as they are.

Percy Nash

The eldest of the four children of Percy Victor Nash and Georgina May (Gean) Bunston, Percival George Nash was born on December 21, 1921 in an upstairs room of what was known as "Bryant's Coffee Palace".  Dr Blair Donaldson and Mrs Bryant attended the birth in Linton.

However, it is stated on Percy's baptism certificate that he was born in Skipton.

The Nash family lived in the old family home on the farm, with Gean's parents who were elderly.  Their daughter caring for them until their deaths.  The Bunstons were not rich people, and only had a few acres of land, on which they reared a family of 12.

Percy had one sister and two brothers.  Muriel Gean born in 1923, Wilfred Victor born 1925 and John William (Jackie) born in 1927.

Jackie died as a very young child.  He was chasing Percy outside, along a foot path and through a self closing gate, which closed on him, breaking his leg.  He was in the Skipton Soldiers Memorial Hospital but contracted pneumonia and later died.  It is rumoured that the matron at the time kept picking him up, out of bed, and as a result he never recovered.  He was buried with his Grandparents in the Skipton Cemetery, although there is no mention of him on the headstone.

Percy's first job was cutting or splitting wood at the old hospital, now the home of the Hutton family, where he was asked to put in four hours each Saturday morning, this included cutting the wood and the rest of the time gardening or whatever odd jobs matron could find, for this he was paid 5/- per week.  In winter there was plenty of wood to split and cart to the kitchen door.

When he was about 12 years of age Percy joined the Skipton Brass Band and was a scout in the local movement.

Percy graduated from the Skipton State School in grade VIII and got his Qualifying Certificate, which he sat for in grade VI and the Merit Certificate which was the highest you went to in State School.  Percy said he "was never a brain, but managed to pass all exams and go up a grade each year.  The pupils were lucky to have good teachers, most were strict."

He was late for class one morning, and Miss Daly, the teacher, asked him "why are you late?"  Percy replied "I had a head wind".  She gave him two cuts over the hand and it was a cold and wet morning, too.

He left school on December 21, 1935, his 14th birthday, the day school broke up for Xmas holidays.  His parents had wanted him to go on to high school, but, as times were tough he started working.

That year, as Percy and his father were carting hay from their property at Spring Hill, which Gean had inherited from her father, to Mayfield for stacking, the AMP Insurance agent came along in his car and met up with them coming down the lane.  Percy signed up his life insurance policy out there.  He had that same policy when he died, more than sixty years later.

A few months later Percy had the manager from Langi Willi call to see if he wanted a job Boundary Riding and rabbiting on the station.  He accepted the job which meant riding the wire netting boundary fence with a pack of 20 dogs.  Of course, part of the job was the skinning of the rabbits and the feeding of the dogs.

He left Langi Willi, or was not required any longer, and was offered a job in the Mingay area, milking cows.  However, after riding his bike some 15  - 20 miles and finding he would have to sleep in the stable and eat on his own in the kitchen, Percy politely told the owners he wasn't very interested in that job.

At about the age of 16 he went rouseabouting with a shearing contractor.  The furthest shed away from home was at Omeo in the Gippsland area.  Considering that not too many of the young people in the mid 1930's got past the 30 mile radius of Skipton, this was quite an experience.

When he returned, Percy worked at "Moorallah" for A.B. Chirnside.  "Moorallah"was a 6000 acre station in the Carranballac and Vite Vite area.  Percy enjoyed working here.  Mr Chirnside was a good boss and the other men were "good types of men".  His job here included just about anything, horse riding; rabbiting; looking after stock; milking cows and occasionally some gardening.

War broke out in 1939 and when Australia entered it, the motor mechanic on the property enlisted.  Percy took over his job of looking after the cars and engines, and he did that up to the time he joined the RAN in 1941.

Percy did not play much sport, but loved swimming and diving.  He won a few races at the Annual Swimming Carnivals.  The pool was down on the creek at the end of Wright Street in those days.  This was a big pool, usually referred to as the men's pool, the girl's pool was further east towards the Police Station paddock.  Their changing shelter was on this bend too.

Percy and his sister, Muriel,  were both keen cyclists and won trophies in this sport.  Percy also got third place in the Under 14 boys High Jump and his team came second in the Under 14 boys relay.

Church on Sundays was always a must, especially the morning service, Sunday School in the afternoon, and if the milking was finished up in time, quite often the family drove the horse and buggy to the evening service.  The horse (Tommy) was not used to the lights (gas, from carbine) in the streets and on the buggy.  He used to shy off at the shadows and nearly tip them out.

The family often had sessions around the piano, singing hymns from the Sankey Hymn book.  PV was a very good cornet player, having played in the Skipton Brass Band and the 21st Battalion Band AIF.  He often said he played for King George V who had said to him, "Well done young man".  That was during WWI while the King was visiting the troops in France.  Gean was a good pianist.  As the kids grew older, Percy learned the cornet, while Wilf and Muriel learnt the piano.

Percy enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy on June 12, 1941 but was not mobilised until November 26.  His training was at the Flinders Naval Base and he went to HMAS Milville, a Shore Base in Darwin fuelling ships and guard duty, he was also on fire duty, many houses mysteriously used to go up of a night.  After being there for three months, Stoker Percy Nash was drafted to HMAS Wato on August 23 1942.  Wato was a coal burning tug, and Percy was attached to it for just on 12 months, serving in Darwin, Moresby, Milne Bay, Brisbane and Cairns, doing mostly coastal work, towing barges and ships to dock.  After this stint on Wato he served for about two months on HMAS Golburn doing convoy duty, between Brisbane and Noumea.

Percy spent about three weeks in hospital with infected burns after his legs were scolded.  Because of this he went to Fairmile Base as a Captain's driver and he also did some truck driving.  Towards the end of the war Percy applied for a nautical course at Flinders and was there for five months completing this course.    He was discharged from the Royal Australian Navy on December 6 1945.  Over four years of service.

On September 6, 1941 Percy married Hilda Pearl Smith at the Scrub Hill Presbyterian Church.  Hilda, born on April 14 1922, was the ninth child of 13 of William Horn Smith and Ada May Lawless.  She lived and possibly worked on "Moorallah" at the same time as Percy.  Together Percy and Hilda had four children: Eleanor May (6/3/1942); Ian John (15/3/1946); Garry James Harvey ( 20/9/1950) and Andrew Brent (20/1/1961).

In 1951, while PV and Gean were on holidays in England, Percy and Hilda looked after the family property, "Mayfield".  This meant moving the entire family from "Moorallah" near Carranballac to the other side of Skipton.  The children, Eleanor and Ian, transferred from Carranballac State School to the Skipton State School for the year their grandparents were away.

A few stories came from the second Nash family to living on this property.  Not all of them happy either.  The family pet was hit by a car on the Glenelg highway and was killed.

After borrowing his father's car one day, Percy accidentally left one of his sheep dogs inside.  A couple of days later he was found in the car along with a totally destroyed interior.  This had to be re-upholstered and PV didn't even notice.

In 1953 Percy became on of 12 ex-servicemen who got an allotment on the Langi Willi Soldiers Settlement Estate.  Most of these areas were wide open spaces, paddocks of about 200 acres or more.  People lived in their garages until their homes were built.  Miles of fencing had to be done and there were hundreds of rabbits to get rid of.

It was around this time the Percy became involved in many aspects of community life.  The RSL, Skipton Presbyterian Church, Skipton and District Memorial Hospital, Skipton Youth Club, Skipton Rural Fire Brigade and the Australian Primary Produces union were just some of the local organisations in which he was involved.  Also, at Carranballac he had been secretary of the School Commitee.

At one of the local Debutante Balls, the girls were to be presented to Percy.  As neither he or Hilda could dance very well, they undertook private lessons so as not to be shown up by the younger couples.

Percy became very well known in Skipton town and district for his contribution to almost every organisation. He became a Councillor in the Shire of Hampden, attending his first meeting on February 16 1980 and, from that point on he laboured assiduously to give the distant township representation on all matters affecting its welfare.

However, March 27 1982 saw an end to a great partnership.  After over forty years of marriage, which had seen three wars, the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, man walking on the moon and the introduction of television, Percy's wife and mate, Hilda, died after suffering from heart trouble, aged only 59.

Life went on and by 1983 Percy reached the honoured position of Shire President, and, for his endless service to the community he was awarded the Order of Australian Medal.  It was a popular award, truly earned, and indicative of a great many years of service to or for his fellow men.

Percy's only regret being that his wife, Hilda, was not there to share the award with him.

Unfortunately a threatening illness, requiring treatment, may have cut short this outstanding period of local representation, and in August 1987 Cr Percival George Nash OAM retired from the Shire of Hampden.

In 1986 Percy was forced to go to the Royal Melbourne Hospital for an operation to fix some severe back problems.  He was given a clean bill of health for at least three years and after being in RMH for about a fortnight, Percy had radio therapy at Peter Mac for a month or more.

This operation saw him get just on four years of good health before problems started again.  Percy faced more tests, scans and xrays.  With the thought of losing the use of his right leg in mind, Percy had another operation.  Between the two stages of the operation he caught pneumonia and had a clot in his lung.  It was too dangerous to wait though, so the surgeons completed the second stage of the operation 10 days later.  He left RMH not able to write or walk and given a 50 - 50 chance of survival.  Percy returned to the St John of God Hospital in Ballarat for a week and was then transferred to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital where he was completely helpless, relying solely on the nurses for his survival.  Eventually he got into a wheel chair, then on to a walking frame and finally was able to walk unaided again.

In February 1987, after the marriage of his youngest son, Brent, Percy purchased a house in Skipton and moved into town.

This move into town made it easier for Percy to continue his community service.  Even with poor health he remained on many committees and was seen in church nearly every Sunday.  As his new home was next door to the Presbyterian Church he was able to climb over the back fence, and he did this even when he could no longer walk without the help of a frame.

Percy was the Skipton RSL, secretary five times and president two or three times.  He was also a driving force behind the building of the Skipton RSL Hall.

On December 29, 1946 Percy became a member of the Carranballac Rural Fire Brigade.  He later transferred to Skipton.  As well as being a fire fighter, at Skipton he was also lieutenant and was brigade Captain for a record 25 years.  Included in his term as Captain were the horrific fires in 1977 which saw the Streatham township and Carranballac area virtually destroyed.  For his tireless service to the community and his brigades, the Chief Officer, BV Potter, recommended Percy get the National Service Medal with two clasps.

He was with the Skipton and District Memorial Hospital Committee for over 30 years being president two or three times and secretary for the 33 or 34 years.  Percy was also a Life Govenor of the hospital.  The secretary on occasion for the Mechanics Hall Committee, Recreation Reserve, a member of the Skipton Swimming Pool's original committee and a founding member of the Ambulance Council from February 16 1980, only on account of poor health on August 19, 1987.  He was president in 1983 / 84.

Percy represented the Skipton Presbyterian Church, where he was an elder, at the Ballarat Presbytery for many years.  He was also connected with the Skipton Football Club, both junior and senior, for a number of years.  Here he held all positions president, secretary and treasurer.  Percy was also the secretary on the Silo Committee for many years and was on the Hopkins District Health Council for some time.  He was Chairman of the Shire Bi-Centennial Committee and was the Progress Association treasurer for a year.

Percy was also a foundation member of the Skipton Historical Society and the Skipton Lions Club but, somehow, could not keep up with all the Lions meetings.

Receiving RSL life membersip
From the community and organisations, Percy was honoured to receive several awards.  Life membership of Skipton RSL in 1977, Life membership of Skipton Football Club, 3BA / Ballarat Courier Community Service Award October 1981, Develop Victoria Council Certificate in 1983, the Lions Club of Skipton presented him with two appreciation certificates and their community service award, the Allan J Holding Memorial in 1990.

He never looked for recognition in his community work, but felt it was an honour to be recognised and to have the community show the confidence in him to place him in all these positions.

After a long 12 year battle with cancer, back, leg and heart problems, Percival George Nash OAM died in St john of God Hospital on November 22, 1997 - a month before his 76th birthday.

He was buried along side his best friend and wife, Hilda, in the Skipton Cemetery.

It is rumoured that at the time of his death, Percy was still involved with at least six organisations and committees.

No comments:

Post a Comment