Auntie Betty lived around the corner from Granny Mac at Number 47 Colville Street with Uncle Ted and son Teddy, who was just five years older than me. Mum was the middle of three daughters and Auntie Mollie the youngest. She married Jock Muir and lived in Sydney during the war years while he was boatbuilding for the services.
The eldest son, William, was killed during the First World War in France. Donald might have been the next son, followed by Dave and then Bob. The whole family were highly skilled tradespeople, from the father as a tinsmith, Don as a plumber, Dave multi-skilled at woodworking, metalwork or engineering and Bob as a woodworker. In the early stages of the war, Don designed and built a Colin Archer style cruising yacht in the yard at Number 14 St. Georges Terrace. I would call in on the way home from school and watch the progress. I couldn’t remember the name for planks and one day when he was working on them and I called them ‘palings’. He couldn’t see the funny side of that.
A classic indication of multiskilling was the day I watched Don hot dip galvanising the mast and deck fittings in a long metal trough filled with molten zinc. He obviously ‘borrowed’ the zinc from somewhere, gave it back when he was finished and, in the interim, had perfectly galvanised fittings for the yacht. The yacht was beautifully built, very much under canvassed and so was quite sluggish under way. He eventually sold it and it went to, and I believe is still in, Hawaii. I had a lovely sail with him and several of his friends one weekend when we went down the Channel, around South Bruny Island and up the outside to home. I still have several old photos I took with my little plastic camera.
Another son, Richard, lived across the road from us in Colville Street for a short while and relied on Mum quite a bit. I think he broke up with his wife at about that time and he died not long after that.
When we visited the McAllisters of an evening, I remember being carried home by Dad and going into our house. When the light went on at Number 7, the floor was covered with cockroaches and they scuttled straight across the room back under the stove where they apparently lived. The two conjoined houses (Numbers 5 and 7) were almost a century old at that time and, with the wooden flooring laid very close to the damp ground and little under floor ventilation, became a haven for creepy crawlies.
It must have taken a lot of firewood to keep the houses warm during the winter, particularly the older homes, but all neighbours had the same problems – lack of room, small backyards and the only heating from a wood fired stove.