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Family story covers century in district

Siblings Keith Prigg, Bettine Wills and Roy Prigg are marking 100 years since their parents settled in the district.

ELAINE COONEY February 14, 2014 10:25am

Siblings Keith Prigg, Bettine Wills (nee Prigg) and Roy Prigg are celebrating 100 years since their parents settled in the district.


This year marks the 100th anniversary since the Prigg family moved to the district.

As the Prigg family recalled the simple life growing up on a Fairy Dell farm their eyes lit up.

‘‘We had the best life,’’ Bettine Wills said.

‘‘We didn’t have a much but we thought we had a lot because we had each other.’’

Keith and Roy Prigg and Bettine Wills are the last of Edith and Ernest Prigg’s 15 children in the district.

Their younger sister, Doris Henderson, lives in Melbourne.

Edith and Ernest moved from Colac to Rochester in 1914 when the irrigation system opened and they started a dairy farm.

Bettine recalled her father walking around the land with a bucket slung around his arm throwing fertiliser on the land.

Every morning and afternoon the family would milk 100 cows by hand.

The siblings recalled how they would pace their two-and-a-half-kilometre hike to Nanneella West School to ensure they got there on time.

Roy remembered how he would run to certain trees and the bridge.

‘‘If you saw the inspector outside you’d run like hell to the school,’’ he said.

The school, which closed in 1981, had 40 students from grade one to eight.

Keith said a combined classroom helped the students learn.

‘‘When you were in grade three you were looking at what grade four were doing and when your time came around you knew it,’’ he said.

Bettine recalled the girls getting up to mischief such as pulling each other’s plaits and talking in class.

Punishment would be standing out of class.

‘‘Girls didn’t get the strap. Only boys got it,’’ she said.

The trio laughed as they said Roy escaped a lashing from the strap during his school days.

‘‘I was either good or cunning,’’ he laughed.

Keith remembered the students hiding the strap and one day it ended up in a bird’s nest.

At home the 15 children squashed into a small house until the family bought extra land in 1937.

The boys then slept in a building away from the main house and took full advantage of the freedom.

‘‘Sometimes we’d go on our bikes to dances in Stanhope and Girgarre,’’ Roy said.

Bettine said the family would go to the pictures on Mackay St on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

‘‘I can recollect the baby in the pram and we’d leave her out in the foyer,’’ she said.

At the interval they would run to one of two cafes in Gillies St for a drink.

One of the trio’s favourite memories was a huge gift from an English cricket player.

Along with the neighbours and friends the family played cricket at Prigg’s paddock every summer.

They did not have real equipment so improvised with scrap material from around the farm.

After the cricket player visited the farm and returned to England, a large box arrived at the Prigg household.

It was full of cricket bats and balls.

‘‘They were real leather balls,’’ Keith said still beaming at the memory.

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