And the song of the saw, I am hearing it yet, has the music of wind in the trees1
My dad, Mervyn Chapman, was a bushman reared on a dairy farm on Chapman’s Island in the Wallamba. At 16 years old he commenced an apprenticeship in fitting and machining in Sydney until WWII when the company was converted to defence contracts and began weapon manufacturing.2
After the war, Mervyn and his family moved back to the Wallamba where he cut fence posts, palings and firewood for use by guesthouses, bakeries and the slaughterhouse. The wood was mainly cut from Mervyn’s 188-acre property at Shalimar. He and his Uncle Bill worked every day except Saturday cutting and delivering a load a day with two loads on Monday.
As children we spent much of our time in the bush and every Sunday mum would pack sandwiches and we would all join dad. Sometimes we were permitted on the delivery trip which included Millikin’s dairy farm, Witt’s slaughterhouse and the Bellevue Hotel. Best of all was a ride on the ferry to Forster.
It was a dangerous job with many young men killed by falling trees. The first cut had to be sufficient to direct the tree when falling, while always alert for falling limbs. After the first settlers cleared the countryside a new generation of bushmen took over caring for the environment. Old growth trees were safe from the saw and timber was chosen to best suit its use such as turpentine for wharfs, cabbage tree for oyster sticks, and off cuts for palings. However, as life changed with modern electric appliances and metal fencing the bushmen as we knew them vanished.
Author: Marilyn Boyd
1 The poetry of Henry Lawson, http://www.ironbarkresources.com/henrylawson/MountainSplitter.html
2 Ancestry.com.au, Anglican Parish Registers, 1814-2011, Hurstville St George.