About Jim Low

Jim Low

Jim has written a number of books and articles and developed school learning materials on Australian themes. He is also a respected singer songwriter.

Contact:

If you know anything about the White House Jim would love to hear from you.

His email contacted is: jim@jimlow.net

Website:

If you would like to read more of Jim's work or hear his music you can do so at his website: jimlow.net

 

The White House by the Nepean River (cont.)

© Jim Low 2014

[back]

School teacher Arthur Street was appointed to Penrith Public School in May 1938. He said 'in later years' he became interested in the history of the Nepean Valley. 'Now and again,' he wrote, 'something mysterious or intriguing would present itself. Such was The White House.' When he first took students on an excursion there, 'there were four walls left of a cottage, garden beds and some lime trees'. The walls 'were painted white and visible for miles.' The date of this excursion is not given. In 1967 his interest was roused again when he noticed 'the disappearance of the familiar landmark'. Street asked his students if they knew anything about the building. He received a letter from student Peter Jackson's grandfather, Cecil, who as a child had lived in the white house with his family. Despite renewing his interest and his subsequent retirement in 1973, Street apparently did not return to the white house ruins until early in 1984. This visit, with some members of his Local History Evening Class, resulted in his self-published booklet about the white house of the same year.

Included in Street's booklet is Cecil Jackson's informative letter about white house life, written in1967. The following account of life at the white house between 1916 and 1922 comes from information contained in that letter. I have also used information from interviews with Cecil's sister Helene, also known as Nellie, and brother John, conducted by Street and also included in his booklet. Nellie's married name was McManus and when interviewed she was living in Penrith. No date is given for the interview. However, it took place about 15 years after Street received Cecil's letter, so that would date it in the early 1980s. On 16 May 1984 Street also interviewed John (Jack) Jackson who was living at Emu Plains. Born on 3 June, 1906, he was just about to turn 78.


[remains of dry stone garden retaining wall]

The Jackson family moved to the white house in 1916, just after the start of the First World War. Incidentally, in the same year, the well known Australian landscape painter Elioth Gruner began a three year residence in a rented hut on James Innes's farm. On this farm, a little further upstream at Emu Plains, Gruner painted a number of significant works, including Morning Light (1916) and Spring Frost (1919). These paintings portray a very beautiful, gloriously coloured and productive landscape.

The Jackson family had been living on a farm in Jackson's Lane, Castlereagh. All the children were born there. The farm was opposite another farm where their grandparents lived. Nellie believed that both farms were rented. In 1916 their father rented Tom Galvin's white house farm for five years. The family comprised John Thomas and Eva (nee Wright) Jackson, their four sons and three daughters.

From the outset, Cecil Jackson said that his family always referred to the building which they lived in on the farm as 'the white house'. According to John the real name of the white house was Oakley.

The children 'had a lot of hard work to do there' but they also had 'a lot of fun'. Jobs were done before and after school and on the week-end. These included milking the cows and feeding the calves. If there was insufficient grass for the cows and horses to eat, the children would climb and cut branches from the oak trees for feed. All the children helped with the collection of water from the river. They used a wooden yoke to carry the water in two kerosine tins. They also helped look after the vegetable garden. Some of the water collected was used on this garden. They grew tomatoes, cabbages and melons, as well as fruit trees. Their father also grew tobacco plants.

One of John's jobs was to collect fire wood from the bush. Sometimes the girls collected the kindling. John was also responsible for locking the fowls up each night to protect them from foxes. Their father also set traps for dingoes.

Each Saturday morning Cecil remembered crossing the Nepean River with a horse and cart and travelling into Penrith to do the weekly shopping.


[Nepan River below the house looking north]

When the river flooded, they had to head up to the ridge, and then walk into Springwood to purchase the weekly supplies. John remembered having to carry a bushel of wheat back from Springwood. 'It was very heavy.' Fishing and rabbiting augmented the family's food supplies.


next --->