' The Ragman's Serenade tells the story of four families- one from North Shields and the other three from Wallsend. It is a story of relationships- The Davis family are up to their eyes in debt - The Stewart family have a daughter who has downs syndrome– The hagarths who’s husband owns a bookmakers shop and his wife is a midwife at the RVI- and the Higginbottom's have a father with the on set of Alzheimer's. How do they cope - read this fascinating story i'm sure you will enjoy.


126. 126

“Now that would be something said Margaret.’


By the end of September 1973 Matty had ten acres of land ploughed and ready. The fence posts were now in and the wires and watering hoses attached to the main supply. Whilst he was working at the factory in West Wayalong Tom had worked like a Trojan to get the fields ready. The plants arrived and all hands were needed to make sure that each plant was placed at the right depth and had at least seven inches above the ground. Row by row they were planted out and watered in. Then the empty orange cartons were placed over each plant to protect them. Of a weekend more posts, hoses and wire arrived. Matty’s dad had sent him all the money that Jackie his cousin had left until the business was established. Tom was receiving his schooling via radio link which meant he didn’t have to travel into Kooringal. It left him more time to work in the field. Two nights a week he went to night school with his sister and Carol Asiamah to do business studies.

The two girls had met two other students whilst studying there. Carol met Jim Bridgewater who was studying to be a doctor. Carol was doing a degree in physiotherapy.

Irene was doing a secretarial course and had bought herself a second hand typewriter so she could practice her skills. It was whilst there that she met Bobby Harrison who was studying journalism. They both started going out together on a regular basis.’

Tom was still getting the attention of Marie Cooper; after school she would come over and help Tom de-sucker every plant so that only the strong cordons grew along the wires. It was a laborious job but it was necessary for the production of good quality wine. Tom went either hunting or fishing on a Sunday morning and returned with a good supply of meat and fish for the freezer. Life at Shieldsland was great, the kids were happy, Jenifer was happy going out and helping out at a community group with Georgie Flannery, she met up with lots of other women and made a lot of friends. Many of them were ex-pats who had lived in Australia over ten years. They all said that they would never move back to England now as they liked Australian life and the opportunism that the country held.


In August 1976 the vines were now established. Twenty acres had now been done and the rootstocks that were planted out three years earlier were now producing fruit. Tom and his father inspected the grapes every day until the time came for the first harvest. Matty rallied round all the help he could get to get the fruit to the hopper where they were crushed and the juice sent to the vats that held the liquid. Sugar and yeast were added to make the alcohol and then after two weeks fermentation the wine was ready to be bottled.

The first bottle that came off the line had a special label. Matty placed it in the cellar on a rack. The first press made 31000 bottles of wines in different flavours. His Shiraz and Sauvignon were selling well and most of the big supermarkets in Australia were selling it. Mick Flannery was now a manager of the nursery on Shieldsland where new root stocks were made and also sold.

Tom was now in charge of production and did all the tax returns and ordering, he and Marie were now engaged. He was having his own house built near the farm. It was another five bedroomed house. Carol Asiamah was now working in Canberra as a physiotherapist having completed a degree course. She was now living with Jim Bridgewater. Irene Davis Married Bobby Harrison they now live Edison Street in east Wagga Wagga. Matty and Jenifer bought them the house. Matty invited Randy Garbutt over after sending him a post card. A letter came back from Formica telling 

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