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Rediscovering Ginninderra:
William Winter

Born: 1878; Died: 1947

William Winter was born on the 4th October 1878 in Queanbeyan. He was the 7th of 8 children of John and Jemima Winter. John, his father, had migrated to Australia from the town of Haddenham, in the County of Buckinghamshire, England. John was a "pound" assisted immigrant who travelled out on the "Blenheim" arriving at Pt. Jackson on the 5th July 1855. John made his way to Kentucky, in the New England district of NSW, where he gained employment as a 'mower', presumably a cutter of grass, crops or pastures. After a few years in that area, John made his way to Canberra were he settled on land he selected 'Red Hill Station' (later called Gungaderra, it is still there!), on the Wells Station Rd. around 1857. He married Jemima McPherson in 1861 in Queanbeyan.

As a young boy of nine, William one day tried to jump over some harrows lying upturned in the field, unfortunately he impaled himself. The resulting injury, to his hip led to one leg being shorter than the other, causing him to limp for the rest of his life. Despite this disability he was expected to pull his weight around the farm. At about this time he finished school and worked full time on the farm and driving bullock teams.

John, his father, had his land resumed by the Federal Government as part of the new Australian Capital Territory in 1915. He received £3,600. His holdings totalled nearly 1000 acres, one of largest in the area. His wife Jemima also had land in her name. John retired to his daughter Sarah's property "Ravensworth", Singleton, NSW until his death in 1928. The boys, Joseph, John and William shared the money from the sale to "help them make a start in life" promising to pay the going rate of interest to their father. William is believed to have been the only one to eventually pay back the money owed by him to his father. A letter written by Sam Shumack [Samuel Heber Shumack] to Gordon Winter relates the story of John going to see his sons about the money.

William worked as an "erecting engineer" in connection with sheep shearing machinery, also as an expert shearer and oil engine driver for the Federal Sheep Shearing Company from 1905 to 1910. He continued to work as an expert shearer until the 1930's when the depression hit and work became scarce. William and his brother John bought a Chaff Cutter around 1911 which they hired out around Canberra originally and then later in the Yass-Gunning district until the 1930's. Clem remembers it being parked in the yard at Junee.

He had taught himself how to play the violin and played at local dances. He also taught himself 'Copper Plate' writing and was well known for his ability to make and fix anything. He moved to Yass and bought a property "Kenilworth" and/or 'Kirkton'. The house on the property had 23 rooms including a ballroom. He is believed to have sold it to his sister Bella (Mrs. G. E. Shumack ). He lived there with his first wife Lily McFeeters whom he married in 1902. They had five children, Amos, Sid, Marcia, Alma and Lena. The house required numerous servants for its upkeep and the family led a very comfortable life. Sadly Lily developed cancer of the bowel which eventually claimed her on 30th April 1917.

William continued to live at Kenilworth with the kids and became romantically involved with one of the maids named Helena Blewitt. She became pregnant in 1920 and gave birth to Vida on 2nd Nov. 1920 in Silverwater, Sydney. William followed her to Sydney and married her. They then moved back to Kenilworth and Helena took over the management of the household. Amos the eldest son was 16, Sid 13 and the girls 11, 9 and 5. Around this time Alma aged nine was struck on the leg by a stone thrown while playing 'rounders'. Antibiotics were not available at this time and it became infected eventually requiring bone grafts. Over a number of years and unsuccessful treatments she developed gangrene and was taken to Lewisham hospital to have her leg amputated below the knee this however was unsuccessful and another amputation was performed above the knee, which finally stopped the infection. She was 16 yrs. old by this time.

William owned two sawmills one at Harden and the other at Bethungra. He had an accident at one of the mills and lost two fingers on his left hand (little and ring fingers) which finished his violin playing days. On 7th Aug. 1922 Mavis was born. Six months later William sold his property and they moved from Kenilworth to Prince St. Junee. The property in Junee consisted of four blocks backing onto Duke St. It had numerous sheds and workshops in which William tinkered; fixing things and making things. He was very skilful with his hands. William, John, Amos and Sid and another relative Jack Winter [John Winter Jnr] travelled around together during harvest season with their traction engines and chaff cutters. On 19th September, 1927, a son was born, Clement, giving much pleasure to William who was now 49 years old.

The family home burnt down under suspicious circumstances when Clem was just a baby. William owed money to Mrs. Pratt, the insurance money cleared this debt. William and sons rebuilt the house with timber from the mills and cement rendered it. William was well known for his generosity to his family and employees. David his brother who was sickly and needed help to support his large family (which William often did). He also built Amos a house as a wedding gift with wood from the Sawmills in 1928. He also helped Amos set up an earth moving business, which was unsuccessful. The depression struck in the 30's and work became scarce. William competed for work with John often undercutting William. He managed to get a contract for welding the knobs on the cutters for shears. He made water tanks as well as any engineering jobs he could find.

In 1936 Helena left William and the kids and took up with the Carter brothers (Tom and Leo). She worked as a cook in the Commercial Hotel in Junee for a while then moved to Goulburn where one of the brothers went to Jail. This was a very sad time for the family. Vida was about 16 yrs. old and took on the responsibility of managing the household. She started work at J. S. Taylor's General Store doing very well eventually earning an adult males wage (£3 more) during the war however she lost the job at the age of 21 and decided to move to Sydney in 1941 and got a job at McIlwraths ( grocery chain) at Harris Park.. Clem was 9. Marcie had been housekeeping for various people in Junee including Wiley Smiths, Southwells and the Stantons. She also worked for the dentist who took her on trips with his family to care for the children. She however was having seizures and pains, and was diagnosed as having a nervous disorder. Mavis took her for shock treatment at Broughton Hall in Sydney, which did not help her condition. Mavis met Bob Murray and stayed in Sydney with a girlfriend. Marcie was unable to work for the rest of her life but could not get a pension until years later. Lena suffered from a severe speech impediment from birth and was also unable to work.

Alma was an accomplished crocheter and knitter, on moving to Sydney she worked with Mavis at the "Modern Hand Weaving" textile factory near Central in Sydney during the war. Late 1940 William decided to move to Sydney and look for work. He boarded in Great Buckingham St. Redfern in a boarding house owned by a friend and run by Mr & Mrs. Tucker. He got a job at Clyde Engineering Railway Yards working on the '38' steam engines. Vida went back to Junee at Easter in 1941 and came back with sad tales of the girls unable to cope and suggested to William that he move them and Clem to Sydney. They all moved into a flat in Macquarie St. before moving into a rented house in Hassel St. Westmead. Alma after the war worked at printeries in Parramatta and Sydenham before marrying Tom. William was now 63 and suffering from heart problems. The heavy work at the railway yards didn't help his condition. In 1944 Mavis got married to Bob and two years later Vida married Ken. William died at home in Westmead from his heart disease on 7th Oct. 1947. The Will was invalid because it had not been signed properly causing some difficulties. Amos was executor. The children’s share of the estate £74.9.2 each was used to buy a house for Marcie, Lena and Alma as they were unable to support themselves. It was across the road in Westmead and put in Alma's name. Her husband Tom inherited the house on her death.

[Source: Tony Winter]

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