John Gardiner emigrated from Scotland to Australia in 1920 following his service in WWI where he was awarded a Military Cross.2 In Australia he worked as a sawyer for his friends from Scotland who owned a timber mill at Killabakh – James Thomson Chambers (designer of the Wingham Town Hall) and his nephew William (Bill). John and Bill had been childhood friends and both served in the Cameronians.
After the Chambers sold their mill, John worked for Henry Machin and Sons at Elands becoming the foreman and then manager.3 At this time, a young Christina ‘Ruth’ Cameron was working at the Wingham branch of Machin’s Sawmill. Part of Ruth’s job on a Friday was to ring John in Elands for the weekly log tally. They spoke for seven years before they met face to face. Mervyn Machin decided to play matchmaker and reportedly said to John who had a reputation for being a man of few words:
Merve: “You know Ruth Cameron is a nice lass”
John: “Oh I find her a bit of a chatterbox”
Merve: “Really!? I’ve never noticed – what makes you say that?”
John: “She always asks me how I am”.4
Ruth and John married 4 April 1942 at St George’s Free Presbyterian Church, Castlereagh Street, Sydney.5 They moved to Elands where John also owned the local post office. Ruth fell into running the facility which included a mail service, savings bank, telephone exchange and general store. They had two daughters while living at Elands.6
In 1948, Machin’s Sawmills amalgamated with Duncan’s Holdings Pty Ltd and the couple moved to Wingham in 1950 where John managed this group of mills.7 When John retired in 1966, Duncan’s Holdings treated him and Ruth to a holiday in Scotland as a sign of the respect they held for them both.8
Author: Janine Roberts
1 Wingham Chronicle, 1 April 2009.
2 Ancestry.com.au, UK and Ireland Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960. London, Departure 24 March 1920, “Berrima”.
3 Wingham Chronicle and Manning River Observer, 1 April 2009.
4 Written document held at the Manning Valley Historical Society, John Gardiner and Christina Ruth Cameron.
5 NSW BDM, Marriage Index for John Gardiner and Christina Ruth Cameron, No. 9519/1942.
6 Wingham Chronicle and Manning River Observer, 28 March 2012.
7 Machin’s Sawmill, Wingham, https://www.machinssawmill.com.au/our-history/
8 Wingham Chronicle and Manning River Observer, 1 April 2009.