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Interviewee: Jilly Warren, born 1944
Date of Interview: 6 Aug 2001
Transcription: Catherine Sapir, May, 2006
Jilly Warren is a researcher, writer and amateur historian. She became intensely interested in aspects of the history of Baulkham Hills Shire and is documenting it on a voluntary basis.
This particular area of Rouse Hill, Box Hill and Nelson does not have a written history. We have a history of the Rouse Hill estate and the Rouse Hill and Terry families but we donít have the history of the people who interacted with them and I was mindful that this was necessary. I wanted to make sure that that history wasnít lost so I set about doing that about three years ago in earnest although it had interested me for most of the time I have lived here.
What sort of things did you find when you started researching the heritage of this area?
I found an interconnectedness that amazed me. I didnít realise how many of the local people had known one another really well. They would name their children after their next-door neighbour. They would put the surname of that neighbour in the name of their children so that it meant that they were very close. Their neighbours were their support mechanism, they didnít rely on the authorities or the administration, they relied on one another for help. Iím sure they shared food, and during illness they certainly nursed one another. On those sorts of things, Iím positive that those sorts of things happened. They basically were poor people. There werenít very many rich people in this area. They were farmers. Youíd have the odd store-keeper and the odd blacksmith and later on we had people like postmasters but the greatest majority of people were farmers. One of the most important things was their church, their spiritual beliefs, and that was a wonderful way of knitting the community together. Everyone went to church on Sunday that is when there was a church built. It was the centre for support at all times, it didnít matter what the matter was. If there was something happening about the district then possibly the church was the place where the meeting would be held.
What about the pub, was that important?
There werenít that many pubs in Baulkham Hills. Baulkham Hills was a fairly dry area except for early in the 19th century when we had the Inns. They were rest places rather than drinking places. Certainly in Baulkham Hills anyway.
So you would get off your dusty Cobb & Co coach say and find yourself an Inn and stay the night there would you?
You would quite often stay overnight. If you rode your own horse then you would probably change your horse or just rest it. You certainly would be fed and most inns would have attached to them the facilities for a blacksmith which meant that your horse could be re-shod or the bridles and things on the horses could be repaired.
It does. During my research, which started out in the Rouse Hill village researching the history of one small stone cottage, I started gathering up documentation about land ownership and I came across one piece of paper that said that the Rouse Hill village was actually built on what was once the Vinegar Hill farm. Vinegar Hill was the first insurrection within the colony of NSW in 1804. It was an uprising of the convicts at the two convict farms, Toongabbie and Castle Hill. Now many histories have been written about this insurrection and there is much controversy about the actual site. In 1988 a memorial was put up in the Castlebrook cemetery and with my research into this Rouse Hill village I have been finding more and more maps showing that Vinegar Hill was understood by the colonial authorities to have been further up the road than where this memorial was put in 1988. It was put there as a bicentennial gift from Blacktown Council. As Iíve found it, it is underneath the present day Rouse Hill school and the present day home known as Rouse Hill house.
What do you find so fascinating about this rather obscure event now?
I find it fascinating because I live near it. I pass where I believe is the site of the battle every day. I am extremely interested in an unconsecrated cemetery and Iím actively working and lobbying to have that kept in pristine condition so that one of these days we can find out who these people are that are buried in this cemetery. I have this sort of theory, together with a few other of the local people, that it may be some of the convicts who were buried at the time of the battle - at least 9 convicts, possibly 15 - and if I drive past that I just think about it. I just canít help thinking I wish I knew, I wish I knew and itís almost impossible to prove.
What is it that you find so interesting about Australian history?
We started as a criminal settlement and we became this great nation and it amazes me the difference in the way we behave as people. Weíve overcome that social disgrace to become this wonderful country who believe in helping other people. We believe in the volunteer system. Iím here, Iíll help you, if you need help, Iíll help you.
And this is reflected in the Baulkham Hills shire Ė all these sentiments youíre talking about?
I think so.
You know, we call it the lucky country and Baulkham Hills is the lucky
shire Ė I really think so.
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