George Frederick Rich
|Country of Origin
|Date of Birth
|Year of Arrival in Australia
Born in Toronto Canada, our father had a difficult life in his early years as a young boy. His father ARTHUR FREDERICK RICH decided to return alone to England when George was probably the age of six or seven leaving his wife NELLIE CLARK and three sons George, Charles Henry , and Arthur Stuart to follow later.
It is believed Arthur was working on some kind of large trench-digging machine in Canada as shown in one of the early family photographs taken showing him standing next to such a machine. He was often depicted in photographs working with large steam operated machinery. (It is unknown when Arthur and Nellie originally left England and went to live in Canada.)
The family was eventually reunited in London. At the age of twelve years Nellie contracted pneumonic flu which was raging throughout Europe and she succumbed to the disease at the approximate age of thirty-two.
Unable to cope alone with the children now numbering five, Arthur had to temporarily place the three older children George, Charles, and Arthur in a London orphanage. The two younger sons Frank and Thomas Douglas must have remained with their father with some kind of assistance.
It is uncertain how long the three sons remained in the orphanage but they probably did so until Arthur remarried to MABEL ANNIE OAKS. (This marriage later produced two more children Len and Doreen Rich)
After leaving the orphanage, George worked in a London shoe shop. (As depicted in one of the family photographs.)
At the age of sixteen, George decided to migrate alone to Australia. At this time, many immigrants to Australia had to have a sponsor who was prepared to give them work and accommodation for a period of two years. At that time, it was a form of cheap labour for such people acting as sponsors. I was told that George was a free settler and paid 10 English pounds to migrate. The arrangements for his migration was conducted by an organisation known as ‘THE BIG BROTHER MOVEMENT’ and he sailed on the vessel ‘Largs Bay’ to Australia. It is believed one of his uncles generously gave him two English pounds to help him begin in his new life in Australia.
George probably arrived in Australia at Sydney and was transported to the Nambucca District by train. From Macksville he was probably conveyed by horse and cart to a farm in the ‘back country’ of the Nambucca District to an area known as ‘Burrapine’ and this country was still very much virgin bush country. His new employer was a farmer known as John Latham and his wife. (I believe the Latham family children consisted of 3 daughters.)
At this time, it is worth reflecting on the ordeal that George must have been experiencing at the enormous transition he had to undergo. Coming completely alone from the highly developed and civilised city of London, to the wild ‘backblocks’ of a new, and unfamiliar country would have been formidable experience for a sixteen year old boy.
A story he recounted to me as an example of his innocence about life in the Australian bush was when he first saw a large goanna near the farmhouse. He excitedly told the farmer’s wife there was a crocodile in the yard. She simply said, ‘So that’s the devil who has been eating our eggs’, and she promptly got the shotgun and killed the goanna through the open window of the farmhouse.
It is uncertain how long George remained working for the Latham family but I believe it was longer than the mandatory two years. Although he never spoke in great detail of his early life in Australia, it must have been full of hardship, deprivation, and hard work.
Like many of his time, his employer was a poor man struggling to establish viable farming land out of the virgin bush, which meant clearing and fencing his allocated land. His diet was meagre and I remember my Father telling me that almost every day it consisted mainly of eggs. Much of the work George performed would have been spent clearing and fencing the sponsor’s land holdings. I remember my Father telling me stories of camping in the bush and sometimes living off the land by shooting wild turkeys for food, and of the nights when dingoes were prowling and howling around his campsite.
SEE Parts Two and Three