Grafton and MSO Lower Laurence

To get to our next stop we had to catch a ferry. We lined up on the side of the road and waited. When the ferry was full it would make the journey across the river.

We had a sugarcane truck waiting in front of us so I didn’t think we would all fit but we did. It only took minutes to cross the water then we were in cow country.

I saw a hairy cow. I had only ever seen one when I was in Scotland and I would have thought Australia would have been too hot for them but no there it was.

With my best Scottish accent I told Adrian what I had seen. He of cause didn’t understand me. From the look on his face I am sure he though for a brief second that I may have had a stroke and were slurring my words. Nope, just trying to be funny. It seemed it didn’t work.

I only saw the one so it may have been a pet but the Highland cows are bread mainly for their meat, which is lower in cholesterol than most other cows. We will be heading off to Scotland mid year for a wedding so I may get to try some of that meat.

We stayed at another MSO about 15ks out of Grafton. They used to be dairy farmers and sold off the dairy part of their farm. They still had about 300 hectares of land and a few cows along with 300 chickens. (She sells the eggs to the locals.) The farm was close enough to Grafton to be handy and far enough out of town to be country.

We pulled in to be greeted by the two pet dogs, one with a piece of carpet in his mouth. It seemed it is his favourite thing and he liked to show it off to new people.

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We parked up the van next to the paddock where the young calves were. They immediately came a calling looking for something to eat. I don’t think they were too happy with Adrian not having anything for them.

We made the journey into Grafton the next day. The town is known as the Jacaranda City as the streets are lined with the trees.   Unfortunately we were not there at the right time and the trees lacked their lovely purple flowers.

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Our first stop was the tourist information centre then it was off to explore the town. We started our tour of the town at the Sisters of Mercy Heritage Gardens. The Sisters of Mercy first came to Grafton in 1884 and the collage was buildt in 1929. As part of the garden there are a series of sculptured bronze murals showing the history of the convent and the nuns. I don’t know how many murals there were but they ran along 3 walls.

Just a short walk from the convent is the Christ Church Cathedral. The cathedral was built in 1884 in the Gothic style with towering arches and beautiful stained glass windows.

Just as you walk into the building there is a doll in a wooden cabinet. It is a twin; the other stands high up the wall as you walk into the cathedral.

The story goes in 1883, when the small daughters of the clergyman, Bell and May were told the people of Grafton were trying to raise money to built the cathedral they wanted to do their bit. Each had a small porcelain doll and not having any money they decided to donate one of the dolls to the cause and to share the other. The builder thinking it was a lovely gesture, placed the small doll in the brickwork above the great west doors. The remanning doll was played with by the girls then forgotten over time as they grew up. In 1937 when works was undertaken on the cathedral the wall was demolished. The doll was carefully removed and treated with preservative before being placed back into the new wall. The story continues many years latter when the twin doll was found behind some furniture in the girls family home. Bella and May’s descendants identified it as the other porcelain doll. The family decided to donate the second doll to the cathedral. So in 1984 the doll was placed in the wooden cabinet to greet everyone as they walk through the great west doors.

We had to look hard for the original doll in the wall. If you didn’t know what you were looking for you would have missed it.

Our next stop was the Grafton Regional Gallery. The building was built in 1880 and was originally a doctor’s surgery and residence. The local council purchased it in 1985 with assistance form the Jacaranda Art Society. The gallery hosts major exhibitions as well as showcasing local arts. There was an exhibition on while we were there but I wasn’t a big fan of it. We loved the old building and the courtyard. We grabbed a coffee and took the time to enjoy it.

Our last stop for the day was at Schaefer House. It was the home of Frederick Schaefer who was an architect of the area. He built the home in 1900 in the Federation style and he called it “Kia Ora” which means welcome.

A member of the Clarence River Historical Society (who now looks after the house) met us at the front door. We were free to wander on our own but the historical member seemed to take a liking to me or maybe he thought I was a shady looking person and decided he better keep an eye on me so he stayed by my side. He did tell me lots of interesting things about the house but that meant I didn’t really get to have a good look at everything. There was lots of come over here and have a look at this and just when I started to have a look it was “come on over here and have a look at this.” (Adrian abandoned me to him. Nice. Not.)

The house has some of the original furniture of Mr Schaefer, but the Society members have collected most of the items on display, over time. The Schaeffer House is said to be the oldest museum in New South Wales outside of Sydney as it was started in 1931.   Along with 150 pieces of Wedgewood the house offers a collection of silver, glassware, books and other items of historic interest.

My “guard” and I walked in and out of the different rooms. There were many old photos and maps, toys and glassware to please most people.  The rooms have been set up so visitors can wander through each room and imagine they are back in the early 1900s.

The back of the house offered an interesting collection of odds and ends. There was a Negative pressure ventilator or more commonly know as an “Iron Lung.” There was also a flogging horse with a cat of nine tails, which had come from the local Court House. Not far from that was what looked like one of the first poker machines made in Australia.

What brought back the most memories for me were the firemen’s uniforms. My Grandfather was a fireman and I can still remember him polishing the brass buttons on his uniforms.

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This step back in time is not the only thing the house offers. The house has a research room with over tens of thousands of indexed records and events, together with family histories, births, deaths and marriages. It even has newspapers dating back to 1859 and cemetery records. If a member of your family used to live in the area the society is more than happy to help you research them.

I thought the house was amazing and I would have loved to spend more time there on my own.

At night we joined our hosts for dinner. He cooked the starter and the mains and I brought sweets.   We ate like kings. It was a great night.



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