At 16 I left home in Balgownie to live with my grandmother in Darlinghurst so I could get a job. I had developed into a fine young woman, the change having done me good and plenty of good food and rest. With my honest face and good looks I had no trouble at all. I had no references of any kind. In a few weeks time the housekeeper for Miss Eadith Walker (a millionairess) at her “Yaralla” Concord home interviewed me at the Registry Office in Pitt Street, and in a couple of days I was on my way by train to my first city job.
I was met at the train by the coachman, who drove through an avenue of pine trees down the front drive, about one and a quarter miles, to the large white house overlooking the Parramatta River. It was really a beautiful home. Overseas visitors used to stay there often. Eadith Walker was well-known throughout Australia for her gifts to charity, and to the Red Cross and soldiers from World War I. The garden parties were wonderful and it was thrilling to look out on the garden and see aristocrats moving around. At Christmas time she would come out to our hall and place small gifts at your place, also an envelope containing a cheque for each of us.
All our laundry was taken away and done up for free, our fares were paid to and from Sydney. There were two bicycles for us to ride along the back drive and also a boat that we would use on the river. Miss Walker had her own private jetty. Also a bandstand, where the band would play for the garden parties. We each had a nice room, own bath and toilet and beautiful linen, all monogrammed, and a sewing machine. Also our own maid to wait on us. There were nine maids and a housekeeper.
When Miss Walker went on a trip to England that meant most of the staff were dispensed with until her return. There were four coachman, a laundress and helper, a cook and kitchen maid, two parlour maids, two housemaids and a servants’ hall maid. She also had her own personal maid. About 20 gardeners, two chauffeurs, a butler and a yard man to bring in coal, etc. She also had her own dairy herd of about 30 beautiful Jersey cows. Her own powerhouse and four electricians. Also her dogs’ cemetery and each dog had its own headstone in the garden, not far from the house. There was a beautiful swimming pool, surrounded by a lovely rockery, and beautiful ferns grew all around. It was in her pool that I learned to swim.
In the servants’ hall was our own piano and whatever food Miss Walker had, we had too. Oh, it was beautiful. The meat was delicious and we had three bottles of lager each day for dinner for nine. I have cuttings and cuttings and many photos of “Yaralla” in my scrap book.
I stayed there for 2 years and 2 months. I had a marvellous time there with everything of the best, but as we had to be in by 10:00 pm that meant we had to catch a train from Central no later than 9:40 pm to meet the coachman. It meant I missed out on a lot of night time entertainment. It was so convenient living with my grandma in the city that I did not return to “Yaralla” when I was asked. I did really have a better life in the city and I was nearer to my grandma and sister Maggie.
I got another position at Garcia School of Music, Potts Point, conductd by Madam Christian. She trained all the great singers at that time in Australia (Madam Melba was one)
This is an extract from the memoirs of Doris Euphemia McOnie (nee Evers) written in January 1958 and was passed on to us by Mrs. Small who is Doris' G G Granddaughter.