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Rediscovering Ginninderra:

Sunnyside – a small farm beside Halls Creek

In the 1880s Government surveyors began identifying larger blocks of land surrounding the village of Hall for commercial options and market gardens. David Rule, an early pioneer, purchased a block of land in 1886 on the margins of Hall village which had access to the water of Halls Creek and rich, alluvial soil. He paid £17 for 3 acres, 2 roods and 28 perches (approximately 3½ acres).

In 1904 the land was sold to George Southwell, a labourer of Hall. George married Ethel Moon in 1913 and they set up their home in the small pisé cottage, built c.1906 with the help of the Hatch brothers, which they called Sunnyside, just a few metres from the creek. Ethel was a school teacher and taught at Brooklands School from 1903 –1906 and both Ethel and George were members of the Wallaroo Tennis Club which is perhaps where they met.

George developed the land, establishing himself as a poultry farmer, bee keeper (selling his honey by the tin) and an orchardist, specialising in prunus plums, peaches and apples such as five crowns and rome-beauties which he sold by the case from the farm and through his delivery service to the newly developing Canberra suburbs. Like many families they were largely self-sufficient with a milking cow, pigs and a large vegetable garden. Ethel was recognised as a good cook, specialising in jams and preserves, for which she won many prizes in district shows. They had no children but cared for Tom Moon, Ethel's nephew. His father was Ethel's brother Leslie Moon.

Ethel and George were committed to the Wattle Park Church; Ethel with the Ladies Church Aid and George was a lay preacher, commonly known as 'Gloomy George'. A memorial window is dedicated to them in the church. George died at Sunnyside in 1942 and Ethel in Sydney in 1944.

Letter from Phyllis Edwards

Phyllis Edwards is Ethel Maude Moon's niece (her mother being Ethel's younger sister – Elsie Moon born 1882). She wrote these recollection of Sunnyside and her Aunt and Uncle on 30 November 2004

"My mother's elder sister, Ethel Maude Moon (born 1877) was sent as a young teacher to the school which was the first one in the area............ It was while teaching there that she met and married my Uncle George Southwell.... They did not have any children but their nephew, Allen Thomas Moon ('Tom'), was brought up by them at Sunnyside after his mother died when he was very young. Tom wasn't interested in farm life. After he came back from serving in WW1 he married and lived in Queanbeyan, working in one of the government offices in Canberra. Later he moved to Canberra (Griffith) but passed away a few years ago. Uncle George's nephew, Mervyn Southwell, worked for Uncle George and later took over Sunnyside.

When we were young, the area outside the front gate was known as 'The Common' and quite a few used to camp there. They always seemed to be handing out to swaggies – Uncle and Aunty were really generous folks. Uncle George was a lay-preacher at Wattle Park Methodist Church. In those days there was a spring in The Common, not far from the front fence, which they said 'never ran dry'.

When we were young, [Halls] creek was not very deep at all. I have spoken to my sister about this and she also remembers it as fairly shallow and that we used to just cross over and look for turkey's eggs on the other side. That area, on the right hand side of the house, was the orchard. Uncle George grew mostly apples – five crowns, jonathans, rome-beauties and grannys. He sold them by the case and later started a run around the early suburbs of Canberra. He also had a lot of bees. His hives were along the orchard fence and he sold the honey by the tin. They had quite a lot of plums – mostly prune plums and also peaches.

As a matter of fact, the soil must have been really good as everything they grew seemed to flourish and they just had so many ribbons from their show prizes that Aunty used to sew them together and make covers for the chairs. Along the creek were large willow trees – Uncle George used to feed the cows on them when they were short of grass. I remember how I used to like turning the separator and churn for the milk, cream and butter. Aladdin lamps were used in the kitchen and lounge ('sitting room') and candles in the bedrooms. They had fox skins on the floor.

When I was very young, Uncle would meet us at Queanbeyan with the old grey horse, Sailor, and the buggy. Much later they had a Chevrolet utility. Up in the left hand corner of the yard was the pig sty. Dad and Uncle George used to go to the river and camp overnight to fish – I can't remember ever seeing any great catches! The stove in the kitchen was never out. My Dad used to chop a heap of wood every time he went there. My memory is of never-ending cooking, either for themselves or for something happening in the district. All they had for a refrigeration was an old 'drip safe' on the back verandah so I often wonder why the food didn't deteriorate. There were always rows of preserved fruit and jams on the shelves.

While visiting Aunty Ethel at Hall, my mother's youngest sister (Lilah Moon b. 1894) met Jack Gribble, the son of William ('Bill') Gribble of The Glebe and they married. Uncle Jack became a policeman so they lived in Sydney but he still had property in your area. I remember being up there once when there was a grasshopper plague. They were like a cloud, just leaving the ground bare. As I probably told you, there were a lot of yabbies in the creek then and Tom and I left our lines one day when they called us to lunch and unfortunately Uncle George's prize duck got itself hooked on the bait. The farm was just about self-sufficient; Uncle George killed his own meat. I had great times there as a child and even better times as a teenager. Unfortunately my last visit there was when I was 19 years old. I remember it as a 'happy home' – lots of laughter and kindness.

Recollections of Leonie d'Arx, Mervyn Southwell's daughter, June 2019:

'Mervyn Southwell purchased Sunnyside from Tom Moon on 18th July 1946. (Tom was Ethel Southwell's nephew who had come to live with Ethel and George Southwell in Hall as a young child after his mother died.)

Mervyn was George Southwell's nephew, his father John Herbert Southwell being George's younger brother. George and John lived at Woodburn as children with their parents 'Captain' Samuel and Anne (Croxton). The house and land was left to Mervyn after the death of his uncle Earnest Croxton Southwell.

Mervyn and his wife Eileen (nee Goslett) lived at Woodburn where Leonie was born in 1943. They farmed fine wool merino sheep and after a good annual wool clip, and an interest in moving into a more modern home, they moved into Sunnyside and the village of Hall. Mervyn continued to farm Woodburn, travelling out each day.

Leonie remembers a happy childhood at Sunnyside; playing around the house, climbing trees, mucking about in the creek, caring for poddy lambs brought in from Woodburn, munching on mulberries, riding her horse Starlight and pretending to compete in the Redex Trials – all the rage in the 1950s. She attended the one-roomed Hall School, having the same teacher each year - Mr O'Sullivan.

Her mother, Eileen, who worked at Eneagh Hill before her marriage, made good use of the fruit from the orchard, planted by George and Ethel years before. The family had a dairy cow, making their own butter and cream and used the rich soil to grow their own vegetables.

After electricity arrived in the village life became much easier, but Leonie can remember freezing nights in the sleepout, which was her bedroom. The four-roomed home was small but adequate with two bedrooms (one for her brothers and one for Mum and Dad), kitchen and lounge room'.

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