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Rediscovering Ginninderra:
Mr Alexander (‘Alec’) Shumack

Born: 1882; Died: 1956; Married: Amy [Smith]

Alexander was the sixth child born to Peter (‘Big Pete’) Shumack and his second wife Elizabeth [neé Williams], in 1882. This second marriage added eleven children to the two borne by his first wife Elizabeth Jane [Gillespie]. Alexander married Amy Adeline Smith in 1908 –‘a quiet but pretty wedding’. They left for their future home at Round Hill that evening. Their first child Edna was born the following year, followed by Dulcie (1911), Stanley and Dorothy (1914 – twins) and Joan (1920). Stanley was killed in WWII (1943) – ‘educated at Weetangera Public School and prior to his enlistment worked with his father on the farm’. In 1917 he took up the rural lease of ‘Springvale’ where he spent the rest of his days.

The ‘Weetangera correspondent’ of the Queanbeyan Age recorded in 1924 that ‘George and Alex Shumack have joined the ranks of motorists having recently purchased motor vehicles. (George was then living ‘next door’ at Rosebud Apiary). A year later the correspondent reported that ‘a new residence is being erected for Mr Alex Shumack and it is expected that work will be completed in a short space of time’. Although his father farmed in north Canberra Alex was connected with the Weetangera district most of his life, a well-known grazier, member of the ACT Rural Lessees Association, and a member of one of the district’s oldest families. He died at his home aged 73 in 1956, and was survived by his wife Amy and four (?) daughters.

'Alec leased Springvale, Weetangera, from the Government after it was resumed from Richard Shumack’s son Samuel. Wises NSW Directory of 1936 indicates that he held 1,832 acres and ran 2006 sheep at that time. He was a big tall man with the typical Shumack build, who could be difficult to get along with as he had a tendency to behave like ‘the lord and master of all he surveyed’ as one descendant puts it. His wife Amy [Smith : 1884-1960] was a lovely gentle and sincere lady.

In their early years on the property Alec would go away shearing for months at a time to earn the money to make ends meet. He went on a pushbike and would ride as far as Bourke. During dry times he would ride along the bed of the Darling River because, he said, ‘It was good going’.

To some of his relatives Alec became known as the ‘King of Round Hill’ because he had fought and defeated two of his neighbours when important matters need to be settled. On one of those occasions, George Shumack’s son Will wanted to remove the trees which his uncle Sam had planted many years previously along the fence-line of Springvale and Rosebud Apiary. Alec defended the trees with his fists, but he slipped over, and Will, taking advantage, started to belt into him. ‘B’dad, I got on top of him and was dealing it out to him’ said Alec, when George came down through the orchard carrying a whip, saying ‘Let him up, Let him up’, then the women arrived on the scene and things got a bit excited for a while. But Will didn’t cut down the boundary trees, and they are still there, though the buildings are long gone, and the property is covered by suburban homes, a school, etc.

The other occasion on which Alec Sprang into action to defend the property was when his southern side neighbour fenced well into Alec’s block, saying it was too difficult to put up a fence along the pegged line. Alec disagreed with that assessment of the situation and his version of what happened next was ‘He made a rush at me and I gave him a bit of a poke in the guts and he fell in the creek’.

There was a big room at Springvale which used to be Sam Shumack’s library, but was later divided into two rooms. That room was used for dances held at the house. Alec could play the violin, but wouldn’t play for visitors, so an Edison phonograph was used. When the property was being broken up, nobody in the family really wanted the phonograph, so Bert Vest gave it to Blundell’s farmhouse museum as an item for public display. It now seems to have disappeared. Like the founder of Springvale, Alec loved to read, and had quite a good library himself.

Executors of his estate were Donald Robert Tully of Weetangera and Hector Ian Hamilton of Canberra, graziers. His only listed asset was unsold wool, and the beneficiaries were his widow and four daughters, all being of Canberra except for Joan who was of Sydney'.
[extract from White, p.270]

References

White E. A Shumack family c.1668 – 1992 & connected families. Author published, Sydney, 1993

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