Farewell Jack Oldfield. The high country lost another of its figures in October when Jack Oldfield passed away. Jack had a long association with the mountains and had links with many huts in Namadgi National Park.
Jack was born in 1916, one of eleven children of Tom and Ada Oldfield. Tom was manager of Orroral Station for the Bootes family and Jack had his early childhood there.
In the late 1920s the Bootes bought Gudgenby and the Oldfields moved there with Tom again as manager of the property. The family lived in the old slab homestead which dated from 1845 and was pulled down in the early 1960s. Jack worked on the land with his father as the Oldfields accumulated a number of holdings.
In 1939 Tom, Jack and Harry Tyrie built Waterhole Hut on Grassy Creek for temporary shelter while the Oldfields were moving stock around some of their holdings. After Jack enlisted during the Second World War, Jack Feaney extended the hut for the Oldfields.
Jack married Dulcie nee White in 1950 (Dulcie herself was a member of a grazing family and made many trips to the snow leases with her father Dan). Jack and Dulcie lived near Naas.
In 1948, Jack with brother Frank (then manager of Gudgenby) bought land at the southern end of Gudgenby and six years later Cec Hopkins of Queanbeyan built the hut for them now known as Franks Hut (or Frank and Jacks Hut). The brothers and their wives used the hut during stockwork and a sheep dip was built nearby. They also used the hut for recreation. In the 1960s the land was resumed for pines and they lost the hut as well.
The brothers still had their nearby Dry Creek lease (9000 acres) and so built Hospital Creek hut as shelter. Jack and Dulcie's son Les helped.
Jack and Frank had the snow lease at Pockets Hut (Kosciuszko) for some years. Grazing in what has become Namadgi National Park, ended in the 1970s, and the snow leases were also closed. Jack and Dulcie moved to Galong at this time.
Jack and his family have had holdings in the Yaouk area and a hut there for many years. Matthew Higgins interviewed Dulcie for the KHA's Namadgi Oral History Project in 1990 and much valuable information (on which the above is largely based) was recorded.
Jack's siblings had lots of connections with Namadgi and the surrounding area, as his sisters married and lived on many local properties, and brothers worked on the land. His obituary in the Canberra Times of 19 October 2004, lists his brothers and sisters as Roma Brayshaw (dec), Iris Curtis, Jean Gregory (dec), Vera Scarlett, Frank (dec), Sheila Rowley, Marie, Bert, Kevin and Norman.
Jack Oldfield's passing reminds us of the relentless thinning of the ranks of those men and women who built the huts of the high country and have left us their mountain story today.
Notes by Matthew Higgins 26 October 2004.