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KHA received a good collection of photos of a workparty conducted by the Canberra Speleological Society back in 1985 from Mark Hallum. The collection can be found at this link: Mark Hallum Collection

Phyllis and Mick Dowling, attended the workparty, invited by a Tamara Binder, Phyllis grew up at the hut for the first ten years of her life as part of the Harris family.

Unfortunately the hut has since burnt down. This photo collection is a great example of KHA volunteer's work and its value to the original owners of these properties.

The following is a transcript of the entry in the logbook by Phyllis on the day.

1.2.1985. Arrived 7 pm after leaving Tumut at 5 pm. What a change from bygone days when the truck with the “loading” left here at 3 am and was lucky if it was here by 9 pm that night. Firstly by heartfelt gratitude to Tamara Binder (14.1.83) who had time to spare I thought for the people whose homes the huts were.

I can assure you it is a very sad feeling to see them falling down, but sadder to see the way some people use, or should I say misuse them. To see writing, sometimes pure filth written all over the walls in one’s loved house, and rubbish (mainly tins and bottles) thrown in the fireplace and scattered everywhere, is very sad indeed. How would YOU like me to write all over your walls and chuck rubbish around your house? I don’t think you would like it very much at all, so why not stop and spare a thought for what was once my home.

This hut, built in 1933-34 as Blue Water Hole house was my home for the first 10 years of my life. Built by my father, Bill Harris, it originally contained four rooms, the living room and bedroom which still stands, and a kitchen and another bedroom at the back. There was a Beacon light fuel stove in the kitchen.

The main supplies came by truck once or twice a year. Early March usually, the winter supplies came in. There was no graded power line road complete with culverts, then. Each creek on long plane was crossed with difficulty.

Sometimes it became necessary to unload a truck, get it out of the bog, and then reload it. Flour was in 250 pound bags, (same size and type is wheat bags), sugar in 70 pound bags. There would be chaff oats, and pollard [fine bran with some flour] for the milking cows and horses. Kerosene in 4 gallon tins as well as other general grocery items. Vegetables were homegrown and excess salted down for cooking in the winter, excess eggs ‘put down’ in water glass [sodium silicate] in kerosene tins also for the winter.

Bread was home-made with yeast coming on a regular order by mail once a fortnight from Melbourne. Milk came regularly from the cow, summer and winter. Those walking from ‘Cooinbil’ to here will find this hard to believe, but that track is the one taken by the truck it came with the ‘loading’. Anything else required had to be brought in on horses from Rules Point. Of course meet was killed here, on the spot as required. Water came via the race, so the well, where it was ‘dipped’ with 4 gallon kerosene tins and carried to the house. In summer, the washing was done in the wash house below the well, a fuel copper was used to ‘boil up’ and get the hot water. In winter, clothes were ‘boiled up’ in a 4 gallon kerosene tin on the open fire and washed under the ‘lean too’ on the back of the house. A bath was taken in a round tub, (in winter in front of the open fire).

Lighting was provided by kerosene lamps and lanterns, there was a gas type clamp that had a cylinder outside which was filled with Shellite (a type of petrol) and pumped up to a certain pressure, the gas or whatever then along a fuel line to the light which was fitted on the wall between the front room kitchen. (This wall only went as high as the door) and lit both rooms. We also had a Coleman pump up light which also ran on Shellite.

Mail came by horseback from Rules Point, Three times a week in summer, twice a week in winter. Eventually we had a battery powered wireless which ran on three large dry batteries and one ‘wet’ battery. To have the wet battery recharged it had to be carried to rules point on horseback, taken to Tumut to be recharged and returned the same way. This was a bit of a ‘hassle’ so my father and Tom Taylor build a ‘water wheel’ above the Devils Bridge and then everyone used it. The nearest permanent neighbours were at Coolamine Plains 3 miles away.

A telephone on the party line which included Currangorambla, Coolamine Plains, Long Plain (now called Cooinbil’) and Oddy’s, (now called Long Plain Rest Hut) as well as here was eventually connected. It was fairly reliable in summer, but the fact that most of the line was strong between tree to tree tended to make it not so reliable in winter. The walls were painted inside with the newspaper or wallpaper. Those done with newspaper we repeated every spring to ‘freshen’ them up. The floors all had lino [Linoleum] on them. When the pattern wore off the lino my mother would paint it with sulphur paint. Soap for washing was home-made.

My father worked as a stockman in the summer, looking after between two and four separate lots of stock, both sheep and cattle from ‘down country’ which were brought here each year for summer grazing. The stock usually arrived in November and were (by regulation) supposed to be out of the area by 24th of May. However our own stock, consisting of between 10 and 20 horses, enough sheep for ‘killers’ a few head of cattle and a couple of milking cows all wintered here. Two or three horses and one milking cow wore kept here in the small paddock at the house and rugged and hand fed. The others survived on their own in the large paddock that runs from here to the Blue Water Hole. (There is only one hole).

In winter, (when their fur was thickest, worth more money, and took less pelts to the pound) my father trapped rabbits. Because he suffered ill health my mother always worked with him and I always went along too, irrespective of weather conditions, and when my sister Shirley was old enough she went too, but she was only three years old when we left here so was not fortunate enough to have had the enjoyable early life that I did. My mother was unable to sew, but we all had and knitted jumpers, Cardigans and socks and balaclava caps, and my sister and I had knitted dresses and trousers.

Besides my mother and father, Shirley and myself, my mother’s parents, William and Sarah Taylor, also lived here with us for a time. At another time, before the outbreak of World War 2, Harold Walsh also lived here, he did stock work, broke in horses, and trapped rabbits.

Despite by what today’s standards, would appear to be a very primitive and hard life, we lived a very happy and rewarding life. While the work was hard, it was easy going and no stress and hassle that the modern day occupation have. We were warm, well fed and no water rates, electricity bills, no noise, and most of all, no rush to get anywhere. In fact it was a very relaxing life. For my education I had correspondence for a year but it really wasn’t a success is being used to being all the time ‘out on the job’ it wasn’t much fun staying home doing lessons. My mind was usually elsewhere, so in desperation I was sent to my grandmother Harris in Tumut to school. I didn’t really dislike school, but as the “kid from the bush” the others really gave me HELL for a while, but I survived.

I have now had a most enjoyable weekend with members of the K.H.A and the Canberra Speleological Society and others in the restoration of ‘Harris Hut’. They have done a grand job. On the half of my mother my sister Shirley and myself I say a big “THANK YOU”. And I hope and pray that the users of this hut just stop and think for a moment of its pioneering past and treat it with the respect it deserves.


Phyllis Dowling (formerly Harris)
Lambie Street Tumut
3rd February 1985. 

Phyllis (nee Harris) and husband Mick Dowling, at Harris Hut photo: Mark Hallum 1985