Saturday, 3 August 2013

Visiting Hay in the sunshine

We went on an eight day road trip in early July 2013. It was nearly 3,000kms all up - to Broken Hill, via the Murrumbidgee River and Lake Mungo, then home along the Barrier Highway via Wilcannia, Cobar and Nyngan.

Julie, near Silverton
There’s so much to see out west, from colonial history to even older Indigenous culture and history, from kangaroos, eagles and herds of cattle and sheep to the quirkiness of Broken Hill and White Cliffs. It’s also nice to experience the peaceful, vast emptiness of the outback – out of mobile phone range.

This was my first visit to Hay, where my grandmother, May Queenie Tyson, was born in 1901. Hay is in the western Riverina region of south-west NSW, described in Wikipedia as “the centre of a prosperous and productive agricultural district”.
We drove 170km to Hay from Narrandera on a crisp, sunny winter morning, through very flat country along the Murrumbidgee river. Hay is smaller than I imagined but is busy and lively.

With the kind help of Pat Howard at the public library in Lachlan Street, we found and visited a number of sites in town with Tyson associations. Some descendants still live in the Hay district, including Beverley McGuffick. Beverley is featured in a book Pat showed us - The river people (Cowan and Beard, Reed, 1983).

At the Hay Shire Council building we were kindly shown a painting of “Riverton”, in South Hay,  the home of my great grandfather James Tyson (1841-1901) and great grandmother, Jane Georgina (nee Sturkey). My grandmother, Queenie, and her brother and sisters lived at Riverton as children.

James Tyson was a nephew of the other James Tyson (1819- 1898), the famous pastoralist. The nephew was a wealthy man, having been involved in his uncle’s business, then inheriting some of his estate. The nephew James’ deceased estate file makes interesting reading (the file in the NSW State Records Office detailing his assets for the assessment of NSW estate duty).

We drove to Boon Street, South Hay, at the end of which was the site of Riverton. The original house had been replaced by a new one, with the same name. There is also a B&B on a subdivision of the old block. Even though the house is long gone, I have a precious few minutes of B&W film taken in 1935 (I think) of a family gathering at Riverton, to celebrate my father’s seventh birthday.  

Murrumbidgee River, Hay, 1935. My father, Edwin (foreground).

Riverton, Hay, 1935. Back row from left: Queenie, with Edwin jnr; Rose Tyson; unidentified girl. Front: "Wooz" (Ethel Carr); Alice Tyson with Tom Carr.