Posted in Stories

Catching Rabbits and Looking for Smoke

There is a family story handed down by my mother Madeleine Di Salvia nee: Bailey relating to her parents who were living at Tamworth.  The story was told that prior to their marriage Ines Smith became quite ill, but what the illness was is unknown.  Edward Bailey was not allowed to see Ines during this time so as he rode his horse over the hills around Tamworth every day, catching rabbits to earn extra money, he would look toward Ines’s house always hoping to see smoke rising from her bedroom fireplace chimney.  His simple train of thought was that, if there was smoke coming from the bedroom chimney – then Ines was still alive.  These events would have taken place at some point between late 1906 and the end of 1907, as Ines and Edward were married in May of 1908. My guess would be 1907, which I base on the fact that their relationship had progressed to the stage of such deep love that Edward was driven to checked on the smoke daily.

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During the very early hours of this morning, whilst in that dreamy state before you actually open your eyes to greet the day, I thought of this story and began to wonder what Tamworth was like prior to 1908 when Granddad rode the hills watching for smoke.  I was told by Clive Smith many years ago, that the Smith family property, named Fairfield, was on the western side of the township on the location of the current day airport, which is itself at the top of a very gentle rolling hill.  Clive was the younger brother of Ines.

I toyed with the idea that granddad was riding the higher hills of current day East Tamworth so I bounded out of bed and took a drive up through the suburb.  No matter what street I drove into, none provided me with a clear view of the landscape between East Tamworth and the airport. The small hills of West Tamworth, now covered with shops, St. Pauls Church and housing, all obstructed the view.


I then drove up to the Look-Out but from that vantage point I believe the distance would have been too great to tell if smoke was rising from a chimney, you would have needed a bushfire to pick smoke!  That could only mean that Granddad was not riding in the East Tamworth area.


There are numerous hills around Tamworth but as I found on the drive this morning, only one provided the view of the land around the airport that Granddad would have needed to view the Smith family home. For as long as I can remember, One Tree Hill as it is unofficially known, has been part of the South Tamworth landscape.  I remember riding my bike all over One Tree Hill with it’s upper class homes and gentle grassy paddocks, long before it was covered in narrow streets, light poles and houses, Churches, schools and public parks.  In my grandfathers day the landscape would have been one of Australian bushland painted in grey/browns, yellow’s and green, thick with trees, grasses and birds, and plentiful in rabbits.  On the western side of One Tree Hill looking toward Gunnedah he would have had a clear view of the beautiful, gently rolling pastureland around the airport area.

Had Grandad got off his horse to watch that grey/white smoke silently curling from Grandma’s chimney?  Had he stood in the very place that I stood this morning, were my footprints covering his, both of us looking in the same direction that was needed for him to view the  farm house?  What an intriguing thought this was to me – that a man so captured in his love for a woman would stand in this place praying for smoke exiting a chimney, when I don’t remember him as an overly affectionate man.  However, there has never been a shred of doubt in my mind about his love of my Grandmother.


I don’t have any idea what the surrounding area of Tamworth looked like, except for my memories of climbing over rocks and exploring the stunning Aussie bush of East Tamworth as an inquisitive child of eight or ten years of age.  Our family lived in East Tamworth between 1964 and 1972 and my sisters Kim and Kellie and I had many adventures in those hills.  Grandma did have a number of postcards of the Tamworth township which were taken during the floods of 1907 and I thought it appropriate to dot this story with them to give you an idea of what Tamworth look like around 107 years ago.


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