The Clyde Steadman Story
This is a fascinating prequel to ‘Rocking Horse Rider’. The book provides the back-stories of the complex characters in the later novel. Clyde Steadman, the youngest son of Sir Henry and Lady Edith Steadman, is educated at Winchester College and the University College London and graduates as an outstanding geologist. He does research surveys in Yorkshire before making a harrowing voyage to Sydney, Australia, on board RMS ‘Osterley’.
A career with the New South Wales Department of Mines’ is interrupted when he is headhunted by William Summer-Hayes to undertake a mammoth project at ‘Summerhaven Park’ in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales. William’s marriage to socialite, Stephanie Hollanday, creates a partnership that will ‘do whatever it takes’ to found a dynasty and build a corporate empire.
A seemingly endless drought and an economic depression in Australia are the background for a story of triumph, disaster, love, loss and great engineering works and art creations. Long sea voyages on iconic ‘White Sister’ ships and the establishment of a philanthropic Foundation bring an unexpected twist in the tale. Characters, who are forebears of the people in ‘Rocking Horse Rider’, come alive and their stories explain how and why their descendants have benefited in the way that they have.
Where a fascination for water leads to swimming lessons and a lakeside development.
In early spring of 1908 when his brother, George, had been packed off to his Preparatory School, Clyde gained a measure of independence he had not enjoyed before. He always completed his lessons early and was able to escape from the Nursery Governess. He began to explore the grounds of Hazeley House estate, as he had never done before. At first it was the formal structured gardens that caught his attention and so he became friends with the Head Gardener, Hodges.
Hodges noticed that the boy was taking a keen interest in the layout of the formal gardens and so he decided to give him an education on how things were done. The grounds included about twenty-five acres of early seventeenth century formal gardens near the house. Hodges told Clyde the history of how they had been laid out and constructed. He pointed out the major changes that occurred over the two and half centuries since the gardens were first established. Then there was a detailed exploration of the trees, shrubs, hedges and flowerbeds that made up the design. Hodges even ventured some botanical names and Sir Henry’s youngest son lapped them up and was thirsty for more.
Hodges described the soil, how it was formed and the chief constituents that were in it. The Head Gardener stressed the importance of keeping the soil healthy and the processes involved in refreshing and renewing it. Clyde absorbed all of this and seemed to have an endless curiosity. When Hodges started explaining how the ponds and fountains fitted into the general scheme of the garden design a whole new world opened up for boy. Clyde wanted to know how the water was made to spurt from the fountains and wash through the ponds in a way that prevented them from becoming stagnant and kept them refreshed and healthy. Hodges began explaining the notion of ‘gravity feed’ to the boy.
“You see, Clyde, water will run naturally downhill. So, if your water source is above the sites you want it to feed into then you have no problems. The water will simply run downhill to where you want it to go.”
“But how does it rise up the fountain spouts and shoot out in the cascades like it does.”
Clyde described this process with a series of hand gestures and Hodges smiled at the impromptu show.
“Well, water is a liquid and cannot be compressed. If you keep feeding more water in behind it, it will force the water in front to be put under pressure and be pushed into wherever it can find a pathway to release. Do you understand?”
“I think so. So, the water is gravity feeding down the hill and then you channel it into pipes in the fountain and force it through them until it finds a release in the fountain spout and cascades out.”
“Excellent, Master Clyde. That is exactly the principle.”
“And in the ponds the water under the force of gravity feeds into the upper end and flows through to the lower end and then drains away.”
“Well done. That is correct.”
“But where does the water from the ponds drain to?”
“It is funnelled through underground channels into the lake.”
“Flowing downhill through the force of gravity.”
“Right again, Master Clyde.”
“But what if your water source is not above the areas where you want it to go?”
“Ah, now then you have a problem, but it can be solved.”
“How, Mr. Hodges?”
“You must lift the water up into a position where it can gravity feed.”
“How do you do that?”
“Well you know how a waterwheel in a stream drives the mechanism in a mill that turns the mill wheel to grind the grain.”
“Well instead of driving a mill wheel the power of the waterwheel might drive a pump which will lift and channel the water to where you want it to go.”
“But what if you don’t have a stream and a water wheel?”
“Then you must use a steam driven engine to drive the pumps that will direct the water to where you want to send it. In London, there are massive engines and pumps that direct waste water through huge underground tunnels and drains it from the city.”
“How wonderful. I would like to see that.”
“I am sure you will one day, Master Clyde.”
When Hodges was busy or away on another part of the estate, Clyde was left to his own devices and inevitably he was drawn to the eighteen-acre lake set in the medieval woodlands of the estate. At first the lake seemed vast to Clyde and he would simply stand and stare at its expanse. The ancient trees came down almost to the water’s edge, but dense clusters of water reeds, that seemed to surround the whole lake, blocked access to the water. As he became more adventurous Clyde tried venturing into the reeds to try and gain access to the water. On one such occasion he became so entangled in the reeds and the water, which fell away sharply and quickly became deep beyond them, that he found himself in a precarious position. He panicked and screamed for help and an estate worker heard his distress and came to his rescue.
When this event was reported to Sir Henry he was not angry. The boy’s curiosity was natural, but if future incidents were to be avoided he knew he would have to take some preventative action. Initially he took Clyde back to the lakeside and together they stood on the edge and examined the waterscape. Sir Henry told Clyde the history of the lake, as he knew it and indicated that it was very deep and fell away sharply from the edges. He believed that this was due to natural depression or ‘bowl’ in the landscape, which had created the lake in the first place. Then Sir Henry asked his youngest son:
“Would you like to learn to swim in the lake?”
“Oh yes, could I?”
“Of course you could.”
“But who will teach me?”
“I will teach you myself, Clyde. However, I think we are going to have to do some work on this lake before we can begin. I have neglected this part of the estate for far too long.”
“When can we begin, Father?”
“Do not be too anxious. We will start work as soon as possible and your first swimming lessons might be in the late spring or early summer. Until then you must promise me one thing.”
“What’s that, Father?”
“You must promise you will not try to wade into the lake again until I have taught you to swim. Will you give me your word on that, Clyde?”
“I promise, Father.”
“Well let’s go back to the house and we will think out what we are going to do.”
In the following days Hodges was summoned and Sir Henry allowed Clyde join their discussions about the improvements to the lake. The meetings took place in Sir Henry’s study and a map of the lake was spread across his desk and the two men and a boy stood around it.
“The first priority, Hodges, is to clear the reeds from the edge of the lake in this area.”
Sir Henry indicated a stretch of the lake’s edge that measured about fifty yards.
“Then the edge of the lake must be filled in and graded so there is a gentle slope into the water and not a sudden fall away into deep water. The sand fill might spread out under the existing trees to create a pleasant sandy foreshore.”
Clyde was interested in his father’s plans and then he heard Hodges expand on the possibilities and he became even more excited.
“If I might be so bold, Sir Henry, what about a jetty here at this end of the sandy foreshore, where small boats could be moored and open up the possibility of boating on the lake.”
Sir Henry looked up at his Head Gardener and realised there was potential for a much more ambitious plan than just a sandy sloping foreshore where he could teach his youngest son to swim.
“Well if we are going to have a jetty, we might as well have a lakeside boathouse as well.”
Clyde chimed in.
“And what about a garden house and a picnic area to encourage Mother and my sisters to come down to the lake?”
Sir Henry and Hodges shared a laugh and congratulated the boy on his forward thinking.
“I think we are going to need architectural help here, Hodges. I get the feeling this is going to be a much bigger project than I first envisaged.”
“So how do you want me to proceed, Sir Henry?”
“You and your men can start work on clearing the reeds and getting the site works done. See how much you can complete before the summer and I will engage an architect to design the pergola, boatshed and jetty.”
“Right you are, Sir Henry, my men and I will design a new roster so we can have workers down at the lakeside each day.”
“Hire some casual labourers from the village if you like, Hodges. I am sure they would appreciate the work.”
“Indeed they would, Sir Henry. I know of some who are desperate for employment.”
“Good, then that’s settled.”
“May I come with you when you go and see the architect, Father?”
“You must, young Clyde. After all you are now an integral part of this project.”
After dinner that evening Sir Henry asked his wife:
“Edith, what do you know about bathing costumes?”
“Well I know what they look like and what they are used for.”
“Do you know where you would buy bathing costumes for gentlemen and boys?”
“I have never really thought about it. I suppose you would be able to secure them in Basingstoke, Farnborough or Reading. Why do you ask?”
“I would like you to buy a bathing costume for Clyde.”
“Whatever for? He can’t even swim.”
“That is just the point, my dear, I intend to teach him.”
“You? Can you swim, Henry? I have never seen you in the water.”
“At school I was a strong swimmer and before I married you I used to swim every summer. I am sure I have not forgotten how to do it.”
Then Sir Henry revealed his ambitious plans for the lakeside development, the picnic pergola, jetty and boating on the lake. At first Lady Edith was silent and a little bemused by it all and then she said:
“I think that is an excellent idea, Henry. The lake has been neglected for far too long and what you have described seems to be an excellent innovation to utilise it more fully. When do you plan to begin?”
“Hodges is going to hire some local men to clear the reeds and prepare the site and I thought I would take Clyde up to London to discuss the designs with the architects.”
“Well, while you are in London you could purchase some bathing outfits for yourself and Clyde. I shall make some enquiries about where the best outfitters might be.”
“I am pleased you are going to support the project, Edith.”
“I am enthusiastic about it, Henry. I have always fancied boating on that lake and picnics in the lakeside pergola would be a summer holiday treat for everyone.”
After a week of planning and great anticipation Sir Henry Steadman and his youngest son, seven-year-old Clyde travelled to London by train. Clyde was wide eyed being in the metropolis for the first time that he could remember. The first stop was at the architectural studios of Alan Munby at number 46 New Bond Street. Here Sir Henry laid out the map of the lake at Hazeley House and Mr. Munby called in one of his assistants, twenty-one-year old James Mollison-Wilson to observe and take notes. The meeting had a profound effect on Clyde. The style and size of the pergola was discussed and then the boathouse and associated jetty was the focus of attention. Mr. Munby suggested a design, which would allow the rowing boats to be floated into the boathouse and he suggested two berths either side of an extended jetty. The jetty he proposed was a little more substantial than Sir Henry had originally envisaged. Initial sketches were made on the spot. Then it was decided that Mr. Munby’s assistant should travel down to Hazeley House to do some on site measurements and confirm the positions of the pergola and the boathouse. Mr. Munby asked if the rowing boats already existed at the lakeside and when he was told they had not yet been secured he said he would design the berthing spaces according to current trends. Young Clyde left the studios with his head full of plans, sketches, measurements and a love of the way architects talked.
At Henry Poole and Company, an old established firm of gentlemen’s outfitters, Sir Henry and his son investigated bathing costumes. The middle-aged shop assistant explained:
“With the Olympic Games starting in July we have had a lot of interest in swimming outfits, Sir Henry.”
“I am not surprised. I believe the Olympic swimming pool will be inside the stadium at Shepherd’s Bush so it will be an exciting spectacle.”
“Indeed it will. Olympic swimmers are going for a slim line, tight fitting neck to knees costume. They are designed for speed.”
“I do not think my son and I will be setting out to break any speed records.”
“No, I suppose not. However, we do have a range of more comfortable and fashionable costumes, which are made up of two pieces. The trunks fit like shorts and a matching shirt is then worn over the torso. The shirt usually comes below the waist and finishes over the top of the trunks.”
“That sounds more like our style.”
“Would you allow me to measure both yourself and your son and then I can show you a range of designs in both your sizes.”
“Thank you. That is what we are here for.”
The gentlemen’s outfitter then measured Sir Henry and Clyde and brought out a range of both single piece and two-piece costumes. Sir Henry eventually selected a single piece costume in navy blue, and guided Clyde into a two-piece costume of trunks and shirt that were designed like a sailor’s outfit. The purchases were wrapped and charged to Sir Henry’s account.
After a brief luncheon of sandwiches, cream cakes and tea in a rather upmarket teashop, the father and son boarded the train for the return trip to Hazeley House. At home, Lady Edith and the girls, who all marvelled at this plunge into the mysterious world of swimming in the lake, congratulated them and admired their swimming costume choices.
James Mollison-Wilson, Mr. Munby’s assistant, called at Hazeley House and was accommodated overnight. In company with Hodges, the Head Gardener and young Master Clyde Steadman, he spent a number of hours measuring the lakeside site and pacing out possible locations for the pergola and the boathouse and jetty. He sat down cross-legged on the sand and drew sketches of the site and a free hand map of how all the elements would be positioned. Clyde watched fascinated and in his imagination he already saw the lakeside, as it would look when everything was constructed and complete. Hodges kept a watchful eye on his new workforce who had already made good progress in clearing the reeds from the designated area of the lakeside. It was all quite exciting.
By the end of spring a fifty-yard stretch of lakeside had been cleared of all the reeds. Many cartloads of fine sand had been brought from a site in another part of the estate and spread out to made a sandy foreshore and a gently sloping gradient into the water of the lake. Alan Munby’s designs for the pergola and the boathouse and jetty had been approved and Mr. Munby asked whether Sir Henry could accommodate his assistant, James Mollison-Wilson, during the construction phase. He stressed all construction projects always went a lot more smoothly when an architect was on site to act as a construction manager and ensure the original design was realised to the specifications and with the required quality. Sir Henry was happy to agree to this and his seventeen-year-old daughter, Jane Mary, was delighted when James Mollison-Wilson appeared on the scene.
Once the reeds were cleared and the foreshore established Sir Henry declared it was time for Clyde’s swimming lessons to begin. They took their swimming costumes and towels and walked side by side down to the lakeside. Construction materials were beginning to be delivered and James Mollison-Wilson was already marking out the sites for the buildings with pegs and string. Sir Henry took Clyde to a discreet location behind the woodland trees and they stripped down and dressed in their costumes. Clyde had never seen his father naked before and was interested in the mature man’s anatomy when it was revealed. For his part Sir Henry could not remember seeing his youngest son stripped down either and he thought he looked well-proportioned for a seven year old. Dressed in their new swimming costumes they enjoyed the walk through the sandy foreshore, which felt pleasant under their bare feet and between their toes and then they waded into the lake water.
Sir Henry was a good swimming teacher. He explained exactly what he was going to do and knew how important it would be to gain his young son’s confidence. At first he supported Clyde as he lay on his back in the water and tried to float. Then he asked him to roll over onto his stomach and supported him while he did a ‘dead man’s float’ as his father described it. Then they went to the shallow shoreline and lay in the water side by side and kicked with their legs. After each kicking session Sir Henry encouraged Clyde to edge deeper into the water, while still holding on to the sandy bottom with his hands and kick again. It was splashing good fun. After half an hour Sir Henry called a halt. As they left the water James Mollison-Wilson asked if he could swim in the lake and Sir Henry said:
‘It is ideal weather to do so, James.”
Sir Henry and Clyde retreated to their discreet spot where their clothes and towels were and they dried off and dressed. James simply stripped naked on the sandy shore and plunged into the cool water. Clyde watched him stroke confidently to the deeper parts of the lake and he hoped that one day soon he would be able to do that too. Reports of the first swimming lesson were given at dinner that evening and everyone was excited particularly Jane Mary who had concealed herself in the woodland and watched it all. She had lingered a little longer to watch the naked form of James Mollison-Wilson both in and out of the water, but she said nothing about that.
As the summer unfolded and swimming lessons continued a large construction workforce descended on the lakeside site and James Mollison-Wilson was displaying excellent skills as a project manager in directing all the activities. He suggested to Sir Henry that a changing shed should be added to the plans. When Mr. Munby was asked for his opinion on this addition he agreed, but went further indicating that both a male and female changing shed should be built. He did a cost estimate and with the construction workers already on site the quotation was not exorbitant so Sir Henry approved. The male changing shed was completed first and Sir Henry and Clyde used it for the first time in the month before the 1908 Olympic Games began
By that time Clyde was swimming competently and he and his father began to experiment with different strokes and design a swimming course in the lake where they could test themselves. Clyde asked if he could go to the swimming events at the Olympic Stadium and Sir Henry was happy to oblige. The spectacle of the bespoke swimming pool built inside the stadium fascinated Clyde and he wondered how the water was put into the pool and them recycled and treated to keep it clean and sparkling. His father did not have all the answers to those questions.
At the end of each hot construction day at the lakeside site, James Mollison-Wilson and any workers who wanted to swam naked in the lake. It was a refreshing end to a day’s toil and a titillating spectacle for Jane Mary who watched from her concealed position on as many occasions as she could. She fantasised about Mr. Munby’s assistant and thought she might be falling in love with him. It was clearly just a seventeen-year-old girl’s infatuation. Unfortunately, Jane acted on her infatuation and approached James after one of his ‘end of the day’ swims. He found seventeen-year-old Jane irresistible and the seduction was mutual.
Lady Edith, searching for her daughter, who had apparently gone missing, found her in the newly constructed Ladies’ Changing Room at the lake. Jane and James were expressing their love as Adam and Eve had done before they were driven out of the Garden of Eden. James Mollison-Wilson was summarily driven out of the Hazeley House estate and subsequent to Lady Edith’s letters, lost his position at Mr. Munby’s architectural studio. Jane was disgraced. Lady Edith would have nothing to do with her; however, her Father was more forgiving and allowed her to stay on at Hazeley House. There was an awkward period of four years before Jane fell seriously ill with rheumatic fever and Lady Edith was reconciled with her wayward daughter. Her Mother nursed her until Jane Mary succumbed to her illness in the June of 1912.
Towards the end of the summer of 1908, Sir Henry and Clyde caught the train to Southampton and ordered the construction of two clinker-built rowing boats and all the fittings they required. These were to be built in Southampton and shipped back to Hazeley House upon completion. They arrived in time for Christmas, 1908.
Where the voyage of RMS ‘Osterley’ is the worst trip of her long service life and Clyde Steadman works for the New South Wales Department of Mines.
Sir Henry Steadman was determined that, in the event of his sudden or unexpected death, all of his surviving children other than George, who would inherit the estate, would be well set up and provided for. He did not wish to see his children dependent on George’s doubtful goodwill. George had already displayed unattractive traits throughout his life and was likely to squander his inheritance into the bargain. Hence Sir Henry and Lady Edith discussed with Clyde, their youngest son, the possibility of making a career and a new life a long way from George’s influence. They suggested America and South Africa as possible destinations to build a career, but Clyde opted for Australia where he thought his geological skills would be in demand and with luck he might make his fortune. Sir Henry provided the funds for a first-class cabin on a steam ship to Australia and Clyde set off for London to make the arrangements. In the end, he booked a passage from London to Sydney in New South Wales on the RMS ‘Osterley’.
RMS ‘Osterley’ was a quadruple-expansion steam engine passenger vessel built by the London and Glasgow Shipbuilding Company in 1909. The Pacific and Orient Steam Navigation Company Limited operated it on the United Kingdom to Australia service. The ship made fifty-nine return voyages and was eventually broken up in 1930, six years after Clyde Steadman sailed on her. During World War I the RMS ‘Osterley’ was used as a troopship by the A.I.F. (Australian Imperial Force) as HMAT (His Majesty’s Australian Troopship) ‘Osterley’. The RMS ‘Osterley’ weighed 12,129 tons with an average cruise speed of eighteen knots.
Clyde’s proposed voyage was a distance of approximately 7,200 miles and given favourable weather the voyage was estimated to last thirty-three days. This included stops, for refuelling and provisioning, at Gibraltar, Marseilles, Naples, Taranto, Port Said, Suez, Colombo, Fremantle, Adelaide, Melbourne and finally Sydney. The ship would actually sail onto Brisbane and then make the return journey in reverse order.
Before the ship sailed Sir Henry and Lady Edith were able to inspect Clyde’s first class single cabin. Lady Edith thought it was cramped, but Clyde indicated he had everything he needed and he didn’t expect to spend too much time in the cabin anyway. When the final boarding calls were made, visitors were asked to leave and the gangways were taken up. The ship’s horn sounding signalled her imminent departure. Clyde Steadman stood on the deck and watched his country of birth and his parents slip slowly out of his sight and his life.
The trip did not begin fortuitously. While crossing the Bay of Biscay very rough weather was encountered and some difficulty was experienced in holding the vessel to her proper course. Many people on the ship were seasick including the young geologist who hailed from Hampshire and had never been to sea before. Clyde’s confident prediction that he would not spend much time in his cabin was rendered null and void very early. He spent a number of days confined to his cabin suffering from the sea malady that lays most people low on their first voyage. Very bad weather was again experienced near Naples. This caused a delay and consequent late arrival of the vessel at Port Said. Clyde felt he had gained his ‘sea legs’ by this time and did not suffer badly from seasickness again on the voyage.
While berthed in Naples Clyde watched from the upper deck as one hundred Italian and Greek immigrants who were travelling as steerage passengers embarked. He was intrigued by their haunted, hunted looks and clearly this decision to immigrate to Australia had not captured their sense of adventure. Even the children looked subdued and held on tight to their parents. The boldest of the people who were embarking were the young Italian and Greek single men, who displayed a form of ‘Mediterranean bravado’ for the benefit of their families who had come to farewell them. Once the ship had sailed Clyde noticed that even these young men displayed signs of trepidation and fear for what the future might hold. He later found out, from a member of the crew, that the Italian and Greek migrants were all proceeding to Brisbane in Queensland, which would be RMS ‘Osterley’s’ final port of call on the outward voyage.
In the Red Sea the ‘Osterley’ experienced one of the severest sand storms of the year. Swarms of locusts besieged the ship and for four or five days the insects lay in a dazed condition on her decks. As Clyde crunched his way across the locust strewn wooden decking he couldn’t help but think of the Biblical stories of the locust plague that descended upon Egypt as Moses negotiated with the Pharaoh for the release of his people. As a scientist and only a moderately committed believer in God, Clyde wondered if what he was witnessing here in the Red Sea was a logical explanation for a seemingly miraculous series of events more than three thousand years ago. He crunched on with his daily walking exercise around the decks.
The heat became extreme as the ‘Osterley’ passed through the Red Sea and Clyde found it difficult to endure. He wondered if Australia might be so hot? Then the ship was swept with the rumour that a fireman, while working in the intense heat of the engine room, had had a stroke and succumbed. A dark pall descended upon the ship. The Captain announced that a funeral service for the dead man would be held on the aft deck in the morning. The ‘Osterley’ slowed and was barely making headway when a sombre crowd of crew and passengers, from all classes, assembled aft. The crew had rigged a tilting platform on a section of railing that had been adjusted for the purpose. The fireman’s body wrapped in a canvas covering was lying on the platform. The Captain conducted the service, which involved prayers and readings, but no music. Then at the appropriate moment the platform was tilted and the man’s body slipped over the side and into the sea. Clyde had been to a full funeral service and graveside ceremony for his sister, Jane, in 1912 and a memorial service for his eldest brother, Harry, in 1916, but this was something else. A man had been buried at sea and it seemed a little surreal.
The voyage across the Arabian Gulf towards Colombo in Ceylon was the gentlest part of the whole voyage. The sun shone and the seas were relatively calm and many of the passengers ventured out onto the decks. First class passengers had the freedom of all the decks. Second, third and steerage passengers were restricted in the areas they could access in their movements around the ship. Walking the decks on a bright morning Clyde encountered a Salvation Army officer conducting a physical training session with a group of about forty boys. The boys looked to range in age from immature teenagers to quite well developed young men. None appeared to be over twenty years of age. They wore shorts only in the Arabian heat and beads of perspiration were apparent on their faces and trickling down their torsos. All were barefoot on the wooden decking. They were focused on the Officer who had their complete and disciplined attention.
Clyde watched intrigued as the range of exercises proceeded. He was reminded of his days of physical training at Winchester College. The boys did various exercises lying on their backs on the deck and then they stood up to perform vigorous ‘star jumps’ and an exercise he recognised from school which Wykehamists called ‘burpees’. Then there were swinging arm exercises and running on the spot. Clyde stood and watched the whole performance, which lasted nearly half an hour. When all was concluded the Salvation Army Officer dismissed the sweating and panting lads and was heading off himself when Clyde sought to engage him in conversation.
“A strenuous workout, Sir.”
“A healthy body, a healthy mind and most importantly a healthy spirit is the regimen for a good life, Sir.”
“Clyde offered his hand and the Officer shook it.”
“I am Clyde Steadman from Hampshire.”
“Pleased to meet you Mr. Steadman, I am Sergeant Watson from the Salvation Army brigade in Essex.”
“And these boys, Sergeant Watson?”
“They are a party of new settlers bound for Australia. They comprise about forty boys. We also have a few domestic servants in the group but they were not part of the physical training session today.”
“They look to be teenagers.”
“The ages of the boys range from fifteen to eighteen years.”
“And are they all Salvationists?”
“Yes, well, they are now. They come from mostly underprivileged backgrounds and the Salvation Army takes them in. We sent these boys to do a short course at the Hadleigh Agricultural College in Essex and then the Salvation Army sponsors them as overseas immigrants. Some go to Canada and South Africa. This group is bound for Australia as you know.”
“Whereabouts in Australia are they heading?”
“Twenty-nine are going to Western Australia and will leave the ship at the Fremantle port. The rest are travelling on to Brisbane in Queensland. Where are you heading, Mr. Steadman?
“I am going to Sydney in New South Wales.”
“To do what, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“I am a geologist. I am going to take up a position with the New South Wales Government’s Department of Mines.”
“Well I wish you well, Mr. Steadman. Now if you will excuse me I have to go and supervise the boys’ showers and I need one myself after exercising in this heat.”
“Good luck to you all in Australia, Sergeant Watson.”
“Thank you, Mr. Steadman and to you too in your new enterprise.”
The ‘Osterley’ was also detained at Colombo through having to load a large quantity of coal, as a precaution, because of the chaotic state of shipping trade at Australian ports. After leaving Colombo the vessel ran into one monsoon after another, with the steamer bouncing about like a cork. While off the coast of the Cocos Islands a consignment of whiskey was dropped overboard for the wireless operators stationed there. Later it was successfully picked up and reported to be undamaged.
The first-class dining room was a separate area from the cafeteria-style space that serviced the second, third and steerage passengers at different times. Steerage and third class passengers ate in the first sittings and second-class passengers had a slightly extended menu for their meals in the later sittings. In the first-class dining room there were ten tables that could accommodate six passengers each and four large round tables for eight people. One of these tables for eight was known as the Captain’s Table and he frequently dined with a rotation of the passengers. When the Captain could not attend, his senior officers represented him. The Ship’s Doctor, Doctor MacLaughlan would also dine at the Captain’s table. On the long sea voyage from Singapore to Fremantle Clyde got to know Doctor MacLaughlan well. On one evening he looked particularly sombre and filled with nervous anticipation. Clyde inquired:
“You do not appear to be yourself tonight, Doctor MacLaughlan?”
“No I am a little tense. I have diagnosed one of the ship’s stewards as having oesophageal cancer. That is a cancerous growth in the part of the alimentary canal which connects the throat to the stomach and I see no alternative but to operate.”
“And I presume that will be a very problematic procedure while the ship is at sea, Doctor?”
“It is downright dangerous, Mr. Steadman, but I have little choice. If we delay until Fremantle, I suspect the man will die anyway.”
“So you are taking a calculated risk?”
“Indeed I am.”
“What are the man’s prospects?”
“Not good I am afraid.”
“When will you operate?”
“First thing in the morning. I am not looking forward to it.”
“Is there anything I can do to help, Doctor MacLaughlan?”
“Keep the young steward in your prayers, Mr. Steadman and I will do my best.”
Steaming south, halfway down the coast of Western Australia, the operation was performed on the steward. Although the growth, which was obstructing his alimentary canal, was removed; the operation was unsuccessful, and the man died. For the second time on what was now becoming a very troubled voyage indeed, the passengers and crew assembled on the aft deck on an overcast and brooding morning. After a similar service to that which had occurred in the Red Sea the young Steward’s body was also buried at sea. A third death on board occurred in the Indian Ocean. Mrs. W.A. Sutton, wife of Colonel Sutton, a passenger on the steamer from London, embarked on the vessel in a very ill state and passed away the day before reaching Fremantle. Her body was taken ashore for internment in Fremantle Cemetery. To complete the chapter of accidents, the ship’s doctor, Doctor MacLaughlan was stricken with acute appendicitis and had to leave the ‘Osterley’ at Fremantle to undergo an emergency operation.
Three deaths on a voyage from London to Fremantle had given many passengers pause for thought. Life was as precarious as it was precious. Here they all were, a company of adventurers, heading off to start a new life, or returning from England to resume their lives in Australia and three people had not made it. Some were motivated not only to complete the voyage, but to seize their opportunities and make the very best of them. Clyde Steadman was one such young man. He was now determined to start a new life in a new land and use his skills to achieve something significant in the future.
Finally, RMS ‘Osterley’ berthed at Princes’ Pier, Port Melbourne. Officers stated that it was the roughest voyage ever made by the ‘Osterley’, after encountering adverse weather conditions practically from London to Melbourne, not to mention all the misfortunes that occurred on the way. The Captain commented that he had never been asked to perform two burials at sea on a ship of this type ever in his career. The ship brought about three hundred assisted British migrants, one hundred and forty-five of whom would settle in Victoria. They were principally land workers.
Mercifully, for Clyde and all the other passengers and crew the trip from Melbourne to Sydney was idyllic and the ‘Osterley’ sailed peacefully into one of the greatest harbours in the world. As they berthed at Circular Quay the passengers saw the embryonic construction phrase of the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge, which had begun one year before. It would take another nine years to complete the steel arched span and Clyde Steadman did not know it at the time, but he would be there on the 19th March 1932 when the bridge was finally opened. That was the furthest thing from Clyde’s mind when he stepped onto Australian soil for the first time.
Clyde found and settled into accommodation in Sydney. It was not quite as easy as finding a suitable boarding house had been in Yorkshire, but he coped. His position in the New South Wales State Government’s Department of Mines was confirmed and he became part of the G.S.N.S.W. (Geological Survey of New South Wales) team. The G.S.N.S.W. was established in 1875 in the Department of Mines. The work of Reverend W. B. Clarke, Geological Surveyor and the father of Australian geology, and Samuel Stutchbury, Government Geologist, laid the foundations for the systematic work of the G.S.N.S.W. and formed the basis for the first New South Wales geological map issued in 1880.
The need for mineral resources for a developing country drove the G.S.N.S.W. to expand its resource mapping, but later its work also encompassed maps for tourism and for construction work such as the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme. Technological developments after the 1920s resulted in the inclusion of geophysics to allow geological interpretations to extend below the land surface. This was the work that particularly fascinated Clyde Steadman. He relocated to the town of Broken Hill for four years and did surveys for gold, silver and copper in and around that area. Then the Department of Mines sent him briefly to Newcastle and then on to Hunter Valley where he was based at Scone. His brief was to look at the potential for further expansion of coal deposits and to survey and map the area. To facilitate his work in the Hunter Valley, Clyde purchased an ‘Indian Chief’ motorbike from a fellow geologist who had decided to upgrade to a motorcar. With its very wide handlebar span ‘The Chief’ was sometimes difficult to manoeuvre, but it was economical and very good at covering large distances quickly. However, on the gravel roads and bush tracks of the Hunter Valley, it was a little dangerous.
Where a potentially dangerous accident sees Clyde Steadman land very much on his feet.
Riding his second hand ‘Indian Chief’ motorbike along the road to Scone in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales, geologist, Clyde Steadman, misjudged a bend on a slippery gravel road. The bike slewed from underneath him and he was flung across the abrasive surface and ended up in a ditch. The ‘Indian Chief’ kept going and crashed into an embankment. The engine cut out, but the wheels continued spinning for a while. There was no fuel leak and thankfully no fire.
Clyde lay still for a while waiting for the pain signals from various parts of his body to reach his brain. There was just the sensation of grazed hands and abrasions beneath his torn trousers, but no excruciating sharp pain that might indicate a broken bone or two. Gradually he tried to get up and again he found there were no alarming signals. When he was eventually able to stand upright and survey the scene it was clear what had happened. He had probably been travelling too fast for the gravel road conditions and had no one else to blame but himself. Still there appeared to be no serious injuries as a result. The fate of the ‘Indian Chief’ was more problematical.
Clyde went across to the fallen ‘Chief’ and thought it was better not to try and get it going again for the moment, so he sat down on the embankment beside the gravel road and wondered what he was going to do next. He didn’t have to wait long for an answer. Driving home to Summerhaven Park from Scone, William Summer-Hayes saw the situation ahead of him and slowed his red Hispano-Suiza H6 to a stop. Instinctively, as William stopped, Clyde stood up and smiled at the person he hoped would prove to be a Good Samaritan. William got out of the car and immediately assessed the situation:
“You came off on the slippery gravel. Anything broken?”
“Apart from the bike, no I don’t think so.”
“Gather up anything of value and I will drive you to my home. I will get some of my men to bring a truck out here and collect the bike. My mechanic will give her the once over at ‘The Park’. If he can get her going again quickly, you can get on your way. If not, you may have to be my guest for a day or two.”
“You are a man of action, Mr.?”
“Sorry, I am William Summer-Hayes and my property Summerhaven Park is just a few miles away off the Scone Road.”
“Well, I have to thank you for your kind offers, Mr. Summer-Hayes. I am Clyde Steadman. I am a geologist with the New South Wales’ Department of Mines.”
They came together and shook hands. It was an inauspicious start to long and very successful association.
“Jump in Clyde. I think you will need a few running repairs yourself.”
“It is mainly cuts and abrasions with a fair bit of gravel rash.”
“We will see you right soon enough.”
The drive back to Summerhaven Park took less than half an hour and when they arrived William immediately gave instructions for some of his estate workers to take a truck and collect Clyde Steadman’s motorbike from the Scone Road. Clyde was relieved when he knew his ‘pride and joy’ was going to be retrieved and hopefully repaired. The Housekeeper performed all the necessary first aid to Clyde’s cuts and abrasions and then William ushered him into the drawing room and offered him a brandy to get over the shock and help him settle down. William joined him with a crystal balloon also filled with the distilled liquor.
“So tell me the Clyde Steadman story.”
“It is quite long and involved, how much do you want to know?”
“Well until the motorbike gets checked over you have nowhere else to go so start where ever you like. The beginning is usually the best place. I am genuinely interested.”
Clyde Steadman gave a brief history of his life so far. He talked about Hazeley House, Winchester College, University, his geological surveys in Yorkshire, the voyage out to Australia on the RMS ‘Osterley’ and his work as a geologist for the New South Wales’ Department of Mines. Occasionally William sought clarification on various points, but honed in on Clyde’s geological work in the Hunter Valley.
“So what are you looking for with your geological surveys in the Hunter Valley, Clyde?”
“Coal. This valley has a number of really substantial deposits and it is all high-quality anthracite and very valuable. The state government is already building the infrastructure in the valley and at the Newcastle port to fully exploit its potential.”
“Fascinating. Correct me if I’m wrong, but as Summerhaven Park occupies a large section of the upper Hunter Valley, I assume we are sitting on top of substantial quantities of high quality coal?”
“Without doubt. I haven’t done any actual surveys on your land, Mr. Summer-Hayes. If I had you would have heard about them, but areas adjacent to your boundaries have been thoroughly examined and the reserves proved. I suspect the coal would not stop at your fence line.”
“Is there any reason why you haven’t done surveys on my land?”
“You own the property freehold and it is gazetted as prime grazing and agricultural land. The State Government is reluctant to venture into such areas when there are lots of coal reserves on crown land, where they have the sole authority to grant mining tenements.”
“And they can’t do that on freehold land?”
“Well technically they can, but they would be reluctant to do so without having a careful consultation with the owners first.”
“So what if I asked you to survey my land for possible coal mining sites?”
“Then that would be a different matter. We would willingly do the surveys. You would probably find you are sitting on top of considerable untapped wealth.”
“Would you be interested in such a geological survey or does the history of your property prevent you from even contemplating it?”
“Not at all. My father had a catchphrase for Summerhaven Park development. He used to say ‘diversify or die’. He repeated it often.”
“He sounds like a very progressive man.”
“Oh, he was. He built this house in 1897 and carried on the generational tradition of grazing Hereford cattle and Merino sheep and having a large acreage of wheat crops right up until the big drought of the early years of the twentieth century. It almost ruined him. He metaphorically escaped by the skin of his teeth. Then he started diversifying his investments so that another drought would not destroy nearly one hundred years of endeavour by his ancestors and he would always have a ‘fall back’ position. He used to say ‘you must always have a saviour’. It was a little play on words that he liked.”
“Is that a portrait of him?”
Clyde pointed to a portrait hanging on the wall of the drawing room.
“It is. It was painted in England in 1920. He would have been seventy at the time.”
Clyde stared at the portrait of John Charles William Summer-Hayes. He was a man of average height and was tending to be a little portly in his declining years. He had a full rounded face and close-cropped hair with a distinctive moustache and goatee beard. His smile was magnetic and inviting and he looked content in his own skin. He was wearing formal race wear: three quarter length grey frock coat with matching waistcoat and black and white striped trousers. The image reflected a man attending the races during Royal Ascot week. He wore grey gloves and carried a grey top hat in one hand and a walking cane with a striking silver handle in his left. He looked every inch an English aristocrat and belied his origins as a very wealthy colonial gentleman.
“So what else did your father get into?”
“He bought a majority interest in the State’s biggest Stock and Station Agency. Then he went into manufacturing. At first it was just manufacturing farm equipment and machinery and then he invested in building cars in Australia under licence from mainly American companies. His biggest investment was in a small shipbuilding yard. It all looked a bit speculative until the First World War broke out and then his companies secured government contracts for the war effort and he became an enormously wealthy man.”
“But no mining involvement?”
“No, I don’t think he ever thought about it.”
“Not even with the coal in the Hunter Valley?”
“I think John Charles William Summer-Hayes would have needed a lot of persuading to dig up parts of Summerhaven Park.”
“So what happened after the war?”
“That’s when he started seriously developing the horse racing and thoroughbred breeding aspects of ‘The Park’. He went to England and Ireland in1920 and purchased two stallions. Then he started buying local mares and breeding them with his own stallions. My sister, Libby, was a treasure in this regard.”
“She is actually Elizabeth, my second oldest sister. She married a Sydney bookmaker and lived and breathed horse racing. She and Dad would sit in this room and discuss breeding horses for hours on end. Libby could recite four generations of a horse’s bloodlines from memory and would suggest possible matings and cross breeding combinations. She is still a pedigree and breeding expert. John Charles adored her. Libby was innovative too; she was prepared to take a gamble on her own intuition about an unproved breeding possibility. We have bred some fine stock over the years. We usually kept the fillies and mares and sold the colts unless we suspected we had something that might turn into a homebred stallion.”
“A homebred stallion?”
“That was Dad’s dream to breed our own Summerhaven Park stallion who would become the best colonial bred sire in the nation.”
“And did he succeed?”
“Well no he didn’t, but the baton has passed to Libby and myself. We are still trying.”
“You said Libby was your second oldest sister. How many do you have?
‘Four; they are all older than me. Enid is the oldest she is a Christian missionary in the South Pacific. Libby you know about. Mae is married to an accountant in Sydney and Veronica was a schoolteacher in Melbourne until she married another teacher who later became a Headmaster. She is now a full-time Headmaster’s wife. Then there is me, the baby boy.”
“So when did you inherit Summerhaven Park?”
“John Charles William died here at ‘The Park’ on the 1st of September 1924. He said he was tired at afternoon tea and went up for a rest before dinner, lay down on his bed and never got up again. He was seventy-four years old.”
“And the whole estate went to his only son?”
“Well, no. He was a very careful and fair man. His will had forty-three clauses and he discussed it with every one of his children before he died. If they wanted his legacy before he passed, he provided it. Enid built a church and a hospital on a Pacific island while Dad was still alive. Half the thoroughbred interests went to Libby. Mae and Veronica got trust funds for themselves and their children after John Charles died. There was even provision for as ‘yet unborn grandchildren’ in those funds.”
“So it was all very amicable?”
“Everyone was really sad when he died, but happy with how they had been provided for.”
“It’s not quite as harmonious in the Steadman family.”
“I thought you said both your parents were still alive.”
“I did. However, no one is happy at the prospect of George getting the Hazeley House estate. After the death of my eldest brother, Harry, in the war; George is set to inherit everything. That is why Sir Henry and Lady Edith are doing their best to set up the surviving children before they ‘shuffle off’. It is a little like what your Dad did.”
“So you are in Australia to make your fortune completely independent of your brother.”
“That is the idea.”
Time seemed to pass unmeasured as the two men talked on about their lives and interests. They were finally interrupted when the estate worker who looked after all the machinery and vehicles asked to see William. He reported that he thought the ‘Indian Chief’ could be repaired, but he would have to order some replacement parts. If they didn’t have them in Scone then they would have to come from Sydney. It might be few days before the motorbike would be operational again.
“You are very welcome to stay here for the duration, Clyde. That is if you don’t have any pressing engagements to get to?”
“No, I am on field assignment until the end of the month, so a few days here or there won’t make any difference.”
“Good. I will be able to show you what Libby and I have done to expand the thoroughbred breeding programme and if you would like to, we can drive out to the western boundary of ‘The Park’ and you can do some preliminary geological survey work.”
“So you might be interested in getting into coal mining, Mr. Summer-Hayes?”
“Oh, I am going to do it, Clyde. You have convinced me it is a logical next step, but it will be a modest project on the boundary of the property. I do not want to be pilloried by the traditional pastoralists.”
“There is no doubt about the Summer-Hayes’ clan. You like innovation.”
“Diversify or die, Clyde.”
“Now I will get the Housekeeper to organise a room for you. Do you have any changes of clothes?”
“Only field work clothes.”
“I will see what I can dig up. You look about my size.”
“I wonder if I might have a shower or a bath?”
“Both available near your room. I will see everything is set up for you. Shall we say seven o’clock this evening for drinks before dinner?”
“Sounds good to me.”
In the two days that Clyde Steadman stayed at Summerhaven Park, while his motorbike was waiting to be repaired, he and William Summer-Hayes became firm friends. There was a ten-year difference between them in terms of ages, with William Summer-Hayes approaching forty and Clyde about to turn thirty, but the similarities between their privileged upbringings and high class education and the structure of their relative families was a little uncanny. It was not all that surprising that they found each other good company.
They drove together, in the estate truck, to the north-western border of ‘The Park’ and Clyde gave a detailed assessment of why it was likely that this area also had coal deposits beneath it. He could confirm it with core drilling and prove and map the reserves given time.
“So we could create a coal mine here?”
“I suspect that if my assessment is correct you wouldn’t bother building a conventional underground mine here.”
“Because you could open the whole area up to an open cut pit and access the resource much more quickly and economically.”
“Would open cut mining be environmentally destructive?”
“For a period, yes, but after you had made a substantial fortune from coal you could rehabilitate the land and restore it. You would probably not get back what you had before, but you would have a very deep hole that might be converted to a fabulous lake and water source. You could then surround that with native trees and create a catchment area that would benefit your property far into the future.”
“You have it all worked out, haven’t you?”
“It’s not my land, Mr. Summer-Hayes and I know some of the negative attitudes to mining that are held by traditionalists in this district.”
“Oh yes we have our fair share of them.”
“If you were serious about innovation and long term planning at Summerhaven Park I know what I would be advising you to do.”
“Diversify or die!”
“It is a good catchphrase.”
The estate mechanic secured the required parts from Sydney and had the ‘Indian Chief’ purring better than it was before the accident. Clyde test drove it up and down the gravel drive at the front of the house and declared it fully functional. Over dinner that night William Summer-Hayes asked Clyde Steadman whether he would be prepared to give up his position at the Department of Mines and come and work for him. The brief was simple. William wanted Clyde to survey the northwestern corner of ‘The Park’ and if the anthracite deposits were proved he was to map it and set up an open cut coal mining operation, which would see shipments of Summerhaven Park coal being carried by rail to the port of Newcastle.
“It is not often that one is prepared to invest money to ship ‘coal to Newcastle’, but this makes perfect sense to me. What do you say, Mr. Steadman? Would you like to join my innovative team?”
“I most certainly would!”
Clyde handed in his notice at the New South Wales Department of Mines and in February 1930 he started working for William Summer-Hayes at Summerhaven Park.
Where a casual encounter leads to an important career opportunity.
William Summer-Hayes visited the nearby town of Scone on an agricultural matter. At the Scone Stock and Station Agents, which was a subsidiary branch of his own company, he was attended by a young man who introduced himself as Lewis Birmingham. Lewis was a newly arrived accountant from Sydney who described himself as a Wages and Salaries Clerk. William was simply passing the time when he asked:
“And what does a Wages and Salaries Clerk do exactly?”
“I hire men to fill local job demands in the pastoral and grazing industry and I manage the wages and salaries of those workers for the clients who seek their services.”
“And how is all that going with the depression and the severe downturn in the industry?”
“In a word, Mr. Summer-Hayes: ‘badly’! In fact, I have just been given a fortnight’s notice and will probably be returning to Sydney where there are even less positions available.”
“So let me get this clear. You hire men and women according to the requirements of a client and then you pay the salaries and wages to those people on behalf of the client.”
“In a nutshell, yes, that’s what I do. Or it is what I am supposed to do if there were any men and women to employ.”
“What sort of workers?”
“Whatever is needed. Shearers, farm workers, stockmen, cooks domestics, gardeners; you ask for it, I source and supply the workers and manage their wages and salaries.”
“Well, young Birmingham, work out your two weeks’ notice, but don’t go back to Sydney. I have a full-time job for you at Summerhaven Park. Come and see me when you can and we will discuss your working conditions, accommodation and salary package. I want you on the job in two weeks time.”
“Are you serious, Mr. Summer-Hayes?”
“Certainly, what, aren’t you serious about being able to do the work?”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“Say ‘yes’ and come to dinner tomorrow evening at Summerhaven Park. There is someone I would especially like you to meet. Do you have transport?”
“Only a bicycle.”
“Too far by bicycle at night. I will send a car. Can they pick you up here at 6:30 p.m.?”
“I will be ready.”
“Of course you will be driven home, or you can stay overnight if our discussion goes on beyond dinner. I will see you then.”
Lewis Birmingham was flummoxed, but he did manage.
“Thank you, Mr. Summer-Hayes.”
His new employer didn’t look back. William just waved his hand in acknowledgement and continued to move forward.
At dinner on the following evening Lewis Birmingham met Clyde Steadman for the first time and they liked one another immediately. As the Summerhaven Park ‘drought proofing’ dream was explained to young Birmingham, he listened with rapt attention and some amazement.
“So you see, Mr. Birmingham, I have already advertised in the Sydney papers and some responses have started coming in. They are sent to a Post Office Box in Scone. What I want you to do is develop a workforce from these applications.”
Clyde gave further details.
“Firstly, we will need skilled bricklayers and stone masons to build the pumping stations and then labourers to do some fairly demanding excavation work and gardeners to propagate and plant ten thousand trees.”
Lewis Birmingham was thoughtful.
“Actually, in the first instance you will need cooks and a domestic staff to provide for your workers’ basic needs and secondly, you will need specific numbers. How many bricklayers and stonemasons? What number of labourers and gardeners? In the current economic climate we will get hundreds, maybe thousands, of applications. We will need initial quotas, which can be revised as the work proceeds.”
“I like the way you are thinking, Mr. Birmingham, now what about your own requirements?”
“I will need an office close to the workers’ accommodation where they can come and see me easily without the need to approach the house. I will pay wages each week from that office, so a strong safe and a substantial cash float will need to be available. Summerhaven Park will also need a postal service of its own so mail can come directly to ‘The Park’ and men and women can send mail from here as well. I suspect many weekly pay packets will be sent to other locations to support families in need.”
“You are thinking ahead wonderfully well, young Birmingham. I think you will agree Clyde that I have employed the right person for this job?”
“I do, Mr. Summer-Hayes. If I could make a suggestion?”
“By all means.”
“If you will forgive my impertinence, I suggest your Wages and Salaries Clerk should be given accommodation in this house. In that way, he can keep us informed of what is happening with the work force and we will have ready access to him to hear his reports and his requirements.”
“Excellent. How do you feel about that, Lewis?”
“It is all a bit hard to take in at the moment. I have so much to do and I still have a fortnight’s notice to work out at the Stock and Station Agents.”
“No, I need you here. Leave it to me I will contact them in Scone and tell them you are going to start here immediately. I will compensate them if necessary. Stay overnight and move your things in tomorrow. In the meantime, I will get the estate staff to find you a temporary office space so you can start work. We may even have to build you a bespoke office when your requirements become clearer. Now is there anything else?”
“Well, Mr. Summer-Hayes I think when we hire workers we should send them a cheque or postal order for the price of a return rail ticket from Sydney to Scone. Then they will know we are genuine employers and they will have a ‘fall back’ position if they cannot handle the work or do not like the environment.”
“A very good suggestion. Anything else?”
“I think Summerhaven Park will need a bus.”
“A bus? Your rationale for that?”
“The men will work hard six days a week. They will want to go into Scone for refreshments and recreation. Some may wish to attend church or mass on a Sunday morning. None of them will have transport. A bus service would help to keep them happy.”
“You have a very wise head on your young shoulders, Lewis. I will get us a bus.”
“A big bus, Mr. Summer-Hayes.”
“Yes, a big bus. Now let’s have some coffee and port and leave further business matters until the morning.”
Lewis Birmingham’s search for an office at Summerhaven Park led him to the old stables, which had been constructed in conjunction with the main house in 1897. After the Great War when William’s father, John Charles William, started expanding his thoroughbred racing and breeding interests they were far too small and an extensive new stables and breeding barn were built further from the main house to the west. The old stables were virtually abandoned and had stood empty for over a decade. A lot of discarded furniture and general junk had begun to accumulate there. The former Stable Foreman’s office was just what Lewis Birmingham was looking for. It was constructed in brick and had a solid wooden floor and good-sized windows on two sides. He asked if this might be his Wages and Salaries’ Office?
Immediately the space was cleared and cleaned and repainted inside for good measure. When Lewis went into Scone to finalise his boarding accommodation and pack his meagre belongings he stopped by the second-hand dealer’s dilapidated warehouse and discovered an Aladdin’s cave of office furnishings. The depression had seen many businesses go broke and close down and their office furniture was simply sent to the second-hand dealers. Lewis selected everything he needed including a good sized, but very heavy metal safe. He tentatively rang Summerhaven Park and sought permission to purchase the furniture. William Summer-Hayes gave the go ahead and said he would drive the estate truck into Scone personally to pick up the furniture and Lewis Birmingham’s personal effects.
Lewis waited until William arrived before he began the negotiations with the dealer over the cost of the items he wanted. William was a canny businessman himself, but he watched with considerable interest as Lewis haggled and said ‘no’ to many prices and then leapt on other offers and closed the whole transaction with a handshake. William peeled off the very few notes he had to pay to settle the account and then between them the penniless Wages and Salaries Clerk and the multi-millionaire pastoralist and racehorse owner worked together to load the truck. They managed everything except the safe, which was far too heavy and then drove back to ‘The Park’. The Housekeeper took care of Lewis’s personal possessions and put them in the freshly aired guest room upstairs that would become his home. The next day a contingent of estate workers went into Scone and brought the metal safe back to ‘The Park’. It was necessary to lay a concrete base for the safe in Lewis Birmingham’s office, but in time, it was duly installed alongside all his other second hand office furniture.
Lewis Birmingham worked late into the night getting himself organised in his new office and was up before dawn to resume his duties. When Clyde Steadman found him the next day they began the nuts and bolts process of working out how large this labour force was going to be. When Clyde described the tasks that needed to be completed Lewis wrote copious notes and did mental calculations. Clyde left to get some lunch, but Lewis worked on and at dinner that evening he produced a rather astounding document for William Summer-Hayes and Clyde Steadman to examine.
“In essence, Mr. Summer-Hayes you are going to have to hire, house, feed and pay a very large work force indeed. The biggest group will be labourers on the dry lakebed excavation. The distance from the main house to the lakebed site is far too great to contemplate a daily commute for the workers so you are going to need a lakeside camp. The workforce involved in building the pumping stations will be smaller and can be accommodated closer to the house. The situation is similar with the Tree Nursery staff and gardeners.”
“I am following you so far, Lewis and I agree with what you say.”
“So what will happen when shearing time arrives at Summerhaven Park? The shearing sheds and shearers’ quarters will be required and cannot be used as workers’ accommodation. Besides, the numbers you could house in the sheds is very small indeed.”
“So what do you suggest as a solution, Lewis?”
“In my opinion the workers should be housed under canvas. A tent city at the dry lakebed excavation site with its own large mess tent and a smaller tent village nearer the house for builders and gardeners, again with an appropriately sized mess hall.”
Clyde was listening intently and considering the possibilities. He added:
“So when the builders move from the completion of the small pumping station here at the house the tent village could be moved to house them at the other two pumping station sites.”
“Exactly! Then when the excavation and construction begins on the great underground chambers and channels the work force can move with the creation of the watercourses.”
“It seems as simple as it is brilliant, Lewis.”
William was concerned:
“But where will we source all that canvas to create our tent city and village, not to mention the big tents that will be needed for mess halls and kitchens.”
Lewis Birmingham looked at William Summer-Hayes and smiled gently.
“We will approach the army directly and buy up all the surplus tents they have left after the Great War. I should imagine we would be doing them a favour taking so much used canvas off their hands.”
“Do you know that for a fact?”
“I have seen the army surplus warehouses in Sydney. They are stacked to the rafters. Believe me creating a tent city and smaller canvas village will not be a problem.”
“What do you think, Clyde?”
“It sounds an elegant solution to me. I assume the army surplus stores have a fair supply of other things we are going to need too. Camp beds, mess equipment and portable showers just for starters. The list is endless.”
“So we are going to create, house and feed a Summerhaven Park workers’ army.”
“I think you are, Mr. Summer-Hayes.”
“So be it then. I think I will need to spend a few more weeks in Sydney. There are some arms I am going to have to twist and a few favours will need to be called in. Will you two be able to get on with the job while I am away?”
“I think we are all going to be very busy.”
William Summer-Hayes relocated to Sydney once again and set up his base at The Australia Club in Macquarie Street. His first appointment was with Vernon Johns Junior and for the first time he saw the preliminary drawings of the three pumping stations and the underground aqueducts. They were impressive to say the least. He signed off on the plans and made arrangements for an architect from Vernon Johns and Associates and the surveyor of their choice to spend time at Summerhaven Park to do the location site drawings so that cost estimates could be prepared.
Then he travelled to Newcastle where signs of activity abounded at Hodgson and Sons foundry and engineering works. John Hodgson showed him around the works floor where obsolete equipment was being removed and new work stands were being installed. The whole place looked fresh and revitalised and the former owner told the new one.
“We are putting your money to good use, Mr. Summer-Hayes. The new work stations are all part of the ‘tooling up’ process for your project.”
“It looks very well and you appear to be busy, John.”
“We have secured a new contract from Kalgoorlie in Western Australia. They are overhauling a number of locomotives, which we built originally and they have come back to us for the replacement parts.”
“Well, that is good news.”
“For you as well, Mr. Summer-Hayes. There will be a small profit in this contract for the company.”
“Couldn’t be better. Now what of my project?”
“My eldest son, Alfred, who is a very fine engineer has left for England where he will inspect the London pumping stations and hopefully gain some copies of the original blueprints. He has a photographic memory. He will see lots of things and he will be able to recall them for us when he gets back. It will help us immensely.”
“I like your planning, John.”
“So when do you actually mean to start?”
“The actual fabrication work might not begin for another six months, but I would like my son, Gordon, to visit your property and look at the logistics of delivering and installing the engines and the pumps. We know we can get most things to Scone by train from Newcastle. However, we will need to know what happens from there. We do not want to build something so big it cannot be delivered.”
“Gordon will be welcome anytime. I have seen the preliminary drawings for the pumping stations and I should have copies soon so he can look at access roads and door sizes when he comes.”
“That is good. It will be important, when we start, to know how many things we can assemble here in the works and how much will have to be put together on the site.”
“I will keep in touch, John. Now I must get on.”
William made appointments with old friends and business associates and finally found a way into the army surplus system. He went from warehouse to warehouse and inspected vast quantities of used tents, of all sizes, stretcher beds and camp kitchen equipment. Eventually he had to bite the bullet so he invited a high-ranking public servant in the Defence Department, Mr. Peter Hollanday, who he knew quite well, to lunch with him at The Australia Club. They discussed William’s requirements for tents and equipment and eventually agreed that a contract could be arranged for a bulk purchase. When all was negotiated, William secured all the equipment he needed with an arrangement for the army to meet the delivery cost from their Sydney warehouses by train to Scone.
As the result of a casual conversation with Peter Hollanday, William also sourced two former army buses, which Peter assured him were not all that old and had been scrupulously maintained by the army’s vehicle division. He said they were simply surplus to requirements and would be auctioned off in due course. William paid what he thought was a ridiculously small price for them, but then this was the depression and demand was low. On a mad whim William sent the buses to a Sydney sign writers and had them both repainted with instructions they were to carry an advertising banner for Summerhaven Park.
When all was done William was about to pack up and head back to ‘The Park’ when he received a dinner invitation to Peter Hollanday’s home. Here he was right royally entertained and met Peter’s wife, Marcia and his only daughter for the first time. She was introduced as Stephanie and she had recently returned from an extended European tour. The evening went splendidly. William Summer-Hayes delayed his return to ‘The Park’ and began being noticed on the Sydney social scene with Stephanie Hollanday as his companion. William said he and one of his estate workers, who was travelling down to Sydney by train, were going to drive the two buses back to Summerhaven Park and he asked Stephanie whether she would like to come on a ‘bus adventure’ and stay at ‘The Park’ for a while? She said yes.
When the two former army buses navigated the gravel drive to the front of the main house at ‘The Park’ everyone who saw them arrive was surprised and impressed. They were painted in the racing colours of the Summer-Hayes’ family, basically white and purple and emblazoned upon their sides were the words Summerhaven Park. If the two buses weren’t a big enough surprise when the stunningly beautiful Stephanie Hollanday stepped from one of them the jaw dropping experience was complete. William introduced Stephanie to the domestic staff, Clyde Steadman and Lewis Birmingham. She shook hands with the staff and warmly embraced and kissed Clyde and Lewis on their cheeks. The Housekeeper was told Miss Hollanday would be staying and she was to be given his mother’s old room, which had not been altered since her death some fifteen years previously. The Housekeeper and the domestic staff worked frantically throughout the day to get the room ready and in a quiet moment the Housekeeper asked if she might order some more modern soft furnishing for the room to cater for Miss Hollanday.
“Ask Stephanie what she would like and then give her anything she asks for. I suspect she might be staying here quite often.”
The Housekeeper smiled a knowing smile that mixed understanding with deference and said:
“Right you are, Mr. Summer-Hayes and congratulations. Miss Hollanday is a very welcome, if somewhat overdue, addition to our household.”
William Summer-Hayes could have taken offence except the Housekeeper was old enough to be his mother and he had known her since he returned from his last year of boarding at The King’s School, Parramatta. She had served the household in his father’s time, so not even a modicum of reproach was required. William just smiled and replied.
“I suppose you are right.”
Construction Commences 1932
Where excavations begin and love is in the air.
There is probably no better state of happiness than having a clearly defined goal, working very hard to achieve it and having people around you who share the vision and are doing their best to realise it as well. That was the situation at Summerhaven Park in the late summer of 1932. The depression and the drought were still praying on everyone’s minds, but they were just too busy to have much time to worry about those situations.
Stephanie Hollanday visited ‘The Park’ regularly throughout the summer of 1932. Her room at Summerhaven Park was completely refurbished following some polite suggestions she had made for changes. In the autumn Stephanie found she was committed to more and more social events in Sydney so it was William who took every opportunity to go to the City to check on progress for his grand ‘project’ and conveniently he spent most of his time in the company of Stephanie Hollanday.
When the Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival got into full swing Libby Cohen (nee Summer-Hayes) urged her brother to come to the races as she wanted him to see a very special filly race. The three-year-old was one of their Summerhaven Park crop by a new and exciting sire they had bred themselves. William was keen and invited Stephanie to accompany him. Libby organised a private box that included excellent catering and a drinks package.
When the striking brown filly named ‘Princess Park’ spread-eagled the field in the Flying Fillies’ Stakes everyone was hugely excited. Libby rushed from the box to lead the filly in and William and Stephanie followed her down the stairs at a slightly less frenetic pace. Photographers from various newspapers jostled for positions to get a shot of the filly. Much to Libby’s surprise it was not ‘Princess Park’ that captured the majority of the photographer’s attention. It was Stephanie Hollanday who was being snapped, looking gorgeous on the arm of one of New South Wales’ most wealthy men and a very eligible bachelor.
Libby Cohen gave an excited and upbeat interview to the racing writers and heaped praise on ‘Princess Park’s’ homebred sire that was called ‘Parkland’. The society journalists and gossip columnists tried for an interview with Stephanie and William, but they politely declined. From that race meeting onwards it became obvious that the Sydney Press had an almost insatiable appetite for the gorgeous socialite and the wealthy, but reclusive bachelor.
Stephanie sensed William’s discomfit with his new status as a darling of the social pages and glossy women’s magazines. She tried to keep him out of the limelight and accepted invitations to upmarket society events and went without a partner. To compensate she spent as much time as she could at Summerhaven Park where the prying eyes and penetrating tentacles and lenses of the press had not yet extended.
As she got to know him throughout the winter of 1932 Stephanie realised that William was in fact a very shy man particularly around women. It was a little surprising. As an only boy with four older sisters it might have been thought he knew a lot about how women behaved and what they wanted. He did not. He was incredibly confident with flighty fillies and mares and could handle a stallion on a chain in the breeding barn without fear. He was also quietly dominant with business associates and estate workers, but only with Clyde Steadman and to a lesser extent, Lewis Birmingham, was he totally relaxed and prepared to let them in a little. Stephanie saw all this and wondered what it was that attracted her so strongly to William Summer-Hayes?
William was ten years older than she was and having been born in 1890 he would have been a perfect age to volunteer for service in the First World War, but he never did. He also never spoke about the conflict, which had taken the lives of so many of his friends from school, with whom he had grown up. He had spent the war years at Summerhaven Park helping to run the estate for his ageing father who was in his middle sixties. As far as Stephanie could find out there had been no girlfriends or long-term partners in his previous life. There were also absolutely no rumours about his sexual proclivities and tastes. William was an enigma and yet she had fallen in love with him. It was hard to judge if he had fallen for her as strongly.
Throughout 1932 the two busiest people at ‘The Park’ were Clyde Steadman and Lewis Birmingham. As one of his earliest tasks Lewis sourced and engaged a Sydney surveyor who had been out of work for some time. He travelled to Scone by train and Lewis picked him up and signed him on as his first appointment in the employment ledger. Immediately Clyde and the new surveyor rode out to the dry lakebed site and set up a base camp. They then spent long, hot days and weeks charting the dried-up beds of old watercourses that had formerly fed into the lake and planned how the beds could be excavated and ultimately joined to make larger streams to carry run off.
Lewis sorted through the ever-mounting applications for work that had arrived as a result of William Summer-Hayes’ advertisements in the Sydney press. As a beginning he looked for young labourers who had wartime experience in the army and would be familiar with a life under canvas and would know a little about setting up tent cities and villages. There was no shortage of suitable candidates. In the first instance he offered jobs to single men whose relocation to Summerhaven Park would cause them the least disruption in their lives. He wrote to twenty likely candidates and sent them each a sixteen-shilling postal note for a return train ticket to Scone. He asked them to make themselves available for interview at the Scone Town Hall in early February.
When William Summer-Hayes was away in Sydney and Clyde was camping and surveying at the lake, Lewis had to make decisions for himself. So he determined to abide by an old adage he had learned as a young accountant:
“When you spend other people’s money, treat it as if you were spending your own.”
With this in mind Lewis approached the Mayor of Scone and explained he was going to have to interview many hundreds of men and women with a plan to employ them at Summerhaven Park. He stressed the workers coming into the town would be a huge boost for a flagging economy and could he therefore have a small room at the Town Hall to conduct the interviews? He stressed this would be an ongoing arrangement for maybe six months or a year. The Mayor was thrilled to hear the news. The depression had created a population drain to the city and now this young man was going to bring people back. He fell over himself to co-operate.
Despite his apprehension when the first interview day arrived, a stream of young men stepped off the steam train from Sydney and made their way to the Town Hall. Lewis was careful in his interviews. He could see the men were desperate for work of any kind, but he wanted men who knew a little about what was going to be required. He asked questions about war service, training regimes and living under canvas. He painted a gruelling picture of the possible working conditions and stressed this would be no holiday camp in the country. Only then did he indicate the wage scale which would include full board and lodging in a tent city on the property. He received nothing but enthusiastic commitments in return.
All twenty applicants were hired and Lewis said they must be on site at Summerhaven Park by the first day in March. He said a postal order for their first week’s wages in advance would be sent to the address they had given to cover their relocation expenses and train travel back to Scone. When all twenty interviews were completed Lewis invited the new employees to the Belmore Hotel where he shouted them all a beer from his own funds while they waited for the train to take them back to Sydney. Twenty happy men rode the train back to the city. They had come with no prospects and were leaving with a possible lifeline of some work beginning in March.
Next Lewis Birmingham used some of his stock and station agent contacts to hire two women who had worked as shearer’s cooks. They both lived in and around Scone and had no hesitation in taking on the challenge of catering and cooking for a working camp under canvas at ‘The Park’. Gardeners were not that easy to find. He wanted to hire experienced men with genuine horticultural experience who could propagate and plant trees. He secured only one. He was a mature aged man from Newcastle, named, Jim Mowbray. Jim was prepared to accept the challenge and relocate to ‘The Park’ and grow and plant trees. When he arrived he asked if anyone had surveyed the property to gather existing native saplings that could be brought back to the Nursery and nurtured. He said this might speed up the planting process. The first few weeks of his employment was spent doing just that and the tree project expanded rapidly.
Once Vernon Johns Junior’s people had drawn the site plans and William Summer-Hayes had signed off on all the designs it was time for a building contract to be let. There were a great many tenders for the work and again Lewis selected a local Scone firm to do the build. When their requirements for skilled tradesmen were conveyed to him, Lewis hired the pre-requisite number. The site for the first small pumping station behind the main house was cleared and building materials began to arrive.
Trucks carried the army surplus supplies, in what seemed an endless line of trucks from the Scone station and on the first of March one of the estate workers drove a Summerhaven Park bus to the Scone station to pick up the first of the ‘The Park’s’ workforce. Their initial task was to set up a small tent village near to the old stables and erect the mess tent. The twenty workers did that in no time and ate and slept under canvas for the first time that night. The next morning they were part of another convoy that ferried supplies to the dry lakebed site and under Clyde Steadman’s direction they set up the first few tents that would become a city under canvas in time.
At the start of spring 1932 William Summer-Hayes and Stephanie Hollanday spent most of October in Sydney and then travelled to Melbourne for the 1932 Spring Racing Carnival. They watched with great satisfaction as ‘Princess Park’ continued on her winning way at Flemington and they saw the flashy chestnut with the film star good looks, ‘Peter Pan’; win the first of his two Melbourne Cups.
When they returned to Summerhaven Park towards the end of November, much to everyone’s relief and excitement they announced their engagement. Stephanie proudly flashed her diamond and sapphire engagement ring. It was made up of jewels that had belonged to William’s mother and he had sent them to a jeweller in Melbourne and given him the commission to reset the stones in platinum and gold, which he did in a striking art deco design. William picked up the completed ring during the Spring Racing carnival and proposed to Stephanie after ‘Princess Park’s” win on Oaks Day. Everyone who saw it could only guess at its value. The ring was to be a Summer-Hayes’ family heirloom and would eventually become a treasured possession of William’s ‘yet to be born’ granddaughter, Olivia. It was planned that there would be an engagement party early in the New Year and it would be held in Sydney and Stephanie thought the wedding would be held at ‘The Park’ in the early autumn of 1934.
The social and gossip columnists went into melt down when they heard the news of the engagement. Editors demanded copy on both Stephanie, the gorgeous socialite and the reclusive multi-millionaire who she was going to marry. Eventually journalists and photographers descended on Scone and Summerhaven Park and started submitting stories based on very few facts and lots of supposition. One enterprising photographer found his way onto the property and was amazed by what he saw. He snapped pictures of the extensive earthworks and building that was going on and he paid a worker to help him get to the dry lakebed tent city where the scale of the project that was being undertaken astounded him. He photographed the site works in detail and verbally described what he had seen to a journalist friend who phoned through the copy to his Editor with a promise of pictures to follow.
Now the story of William Summer-Hayes and Stephanie Hollanday moved from the social pages to the front page. Sub editors had a field day creating headlines that were plays on words about the engagement, impending marriage and the enormous building and earthworks projects that we being undertaken at ‘The Park’. When William saw the papers he was furious and asked Lewis Birmingham to tighten security at the property. This was not as easy as it sounded as ‘The Park’ was huge and access could be gained from any point along its many miles of boundaries. In effect only access to the house and immediate surrounds was protected.
In Sydney the whispering campaign began on the back of the newspaper reports. Both business associates and rivals started asking questions about what William Summer-Hayes was up to? Some who had been at the weekend retreat at the end of 1930 started putting two and two together and began to speculate that Mr. Summer-Hayes was indeed going ahead with the scheme to ‘drought proof’ his property. Bill Reid led the charge and between chomping on his cigars he announced to anyone who would listen:
“Summer-Hayes had fallen under the thrall of a ‘mad hydrographer’ who would ultimately ruin him by pouring his fortune down dry waterholes”.
One newspaper quoted Bill Reid verbatim and William was annoyed about the slur on Clyde Steadman. However, the initial wave of reporting passed and the engagement party became the focus of journalistic attention once more. It was held in late January 1933 in the Grand Ballroom of the Wentworth Hotel and if you weren’t on the guest list then you could regard yourself as not being part of the Sydney social scene. William and Stephanie confirmed to all the guests that their wedding would be conducted at Summerhaven Park in early autumn 1934 and everyone present was excited by the prospect of the social wedding event of the year being held on a country property in the Hunter Valley.