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					                                                              Contents

                                                                                                                                      page
1  Introduction ........................................................................................................................ 3
2  Graham‟s early life: 1927 – 1940 ....................................................................................... 3
 2.1 Toowoomba Grammar School: 1927 – 1931 ................................................................ 3
   2.1.1 Rat .............................................................................................................................. 3
   2.1.2 At TGS ....................................................................................................................... 4
 2.2 University and Theological College 1932 – 1940 ......................................................... 4
   2.2.1 UQ and Emmanuel ..................................................................................................... 4
   2.2.2 Accidents ................................................................................................................... 4
3 Thora‟s early life: 1912 – 1940 .......................................................................................... 5
 3.1 Killarney: 1912 – about 1922 ........................................................................................ 5
 3.2 Southport: about 1922 – 1940 ....................................................................................... 5
   3.2.1 Car accident ............................................................................................................... 5
   3.2.2 Overseas trip .............................................................................................................. 6
   3.2.3 In Southport ............................................................................................................... 6
4 Graham and Thora‟s early married life .............................................................................. 6
 4.1 Marriage, living in Goodna: 1940 - 1943 ...................................................................... 6
   4.1.1 Marriage proposal ...................................................................................................... 6
   4.1.2 The wedding .............................................................................................................. 6
   4.1.3 Goodna ....................................................................................................................... 7
 4.2 Living in Kingaroy: 1943 – 1945 .................................................................................. 7
   4.2.1 Jan‟s arrival ................................................................................................................ 7
   4.2.2 Car accident ............................................................................................................... 7
   4.2.3 Judy arrives ................................................................................................................ 7
 4.3 Living in Mackay: 1945 – 1950 .................................................................................... 7
 4.4 Living in Enoggera: 1950 – 1953 .................................................................................. 7
   4.4.1 Rats ............................................................................................................................ 8
   4.4.2 Jan burned .................................................................................................................. 8
   4.4.3 Sliding in the bath ...................................................................................................... 8
   4.4.4 Outdoor dunny ........................................................................................................... 9
   4.4.5 Rolled in the rug ........................................................................................................ 9
5 Family life in Toowoomba: 1954 onwards ........................................................................ 9
 5.1 While at 717 Ruthven St: 1954 – 1972 ......................................................................... 9
   5.1.1 The move ................................................................................................................... 9
   5.1.2 Spilled ink .................................................................................................................. 9
   5.1.3 “J” .............................................................................................................................. 9
   5.1.4 Ice cream .................................................................................................................... 9
   5.1.5 Chooks ....................................................................................................................... 9
   5.1.6 Kirbys ....................................................................................................................... 10
   5.1.7 Kirb‟s creamies: ....................................................................................................... 10
   5.1.8 Wallet tricks ............................................................................................................. 10
   5.1.9 Football .................................................................................................................... 10
   5.1.10 Flowers for teacher ............................................................................................... 10
   5.1.11 Ric‟s rollover ........................................................................................................ 11
   5.1.12 Hungary ................................................................................................................ 11
   5.1.13 Joey ....................................................................................................................... 11
   5.1.14 Car stories ............................................................................................................. 11
   5.1.15 Remembering number plates ................................................................................ 12
   5.1.16 Another accident ................................................................................................... 12
   5.1.17 Photo portraits ...................................................................................................... 12
   5.1.18 Lunch .................................................................................................................... 12
   5.1.19 Ambulance ............................................................................................................ 12
   5.1.20 Burning foxtail...................................................................................................... 12
   5.1.21 The painter ............................................................................................................ 13
   5.1.22 More driveway incidents ...................................................................................... 14
   5.1.23 “Chrispeter Ganter” .............................................................................................. 15
   5.1.24 Milly Molly Mandy .............................................................................................. 15
   5.1.25 Sunday lunch ........................................................................................................ 15
   5.1.26 Pessimist ............................................................................................................... 16
   5.1.27 Packing the car for holidays ................................................................................. 16
   5.1.28 Distributing chops at dinner ................................................................................. 16
   5.1.29 Clumsy .................................................................................................................. 16
   5.1.30 Bathroom priorities ............................................................................................... 16
   5.1.31 “Gut”..................................................................................................................... 17
   5.1.32 Porridge ................................................................................................................ 17
   5.1.33 The Mooloolaba rescue ........................................................................................ 17
   5.1.34 Mum‟s heart attack ............................................................................................... 18
   5.1.35 From Thursday Island ........................................................................................... 18
   5.1.36 Burning hole in trousers ....................................................................................... 18
 5.2 While at Barrymount Crescent: 1972 – 1994 .............................................................. 19
   5.2.1 Barb rescued ............................................................................................................ 19
   5.2.2 Visiting in Holland................................................................................................... 19
   5.2.3 False teeth ................................................................................................................ 19
   5.2.4 Hoorapparat ............................................................................................................. 19
   5.2.5 Another rescue ......................................................................................................... 19
   5.2.6 More trouble on the rocks ........................................................................................ 20
   5.2.7 Baiting the boyfriend ............................................................................................... 20
   5.2.8 Season ticket ............................................................................................................ 20
 5.3 Thora at Nubeena: 1994 – present............................................................................... 20
6 Thora and Graham‟s children‟s lives................................................................................ 20
 6.1 Barb ............................................................................................................................. 20
 6.2 Jan................................................................................................................................ 20
 6.3 Jude.............................................................................................................................. 20
   6.3.1 Jude meets Barry ...................................................................................................... 20
   6.3.2 Tinnie turns .............................................................................................................. 21
 6.4 Rob .............................................................................................................................. 21
   6.4.1 Origin of “Rat” ......................................................................................................... 21
 6.5 Paul .............................................................................................................................. 22
 6.6 Ross ............................................................................................................................. 22
 6.7 Midge .......................................................................................................................... 22




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                                                    Part 4
                                                     Draft 1

Introduction
The earlier three parts of the Skerman history were as follows:

Part 1: Written by Percy Skerman (21/3/1873 – 4/3/1959), it covered the journey by John and
Maria Skerman, some of their children and in-laws, to Australia in the ship Netherby, which
was wrecked on King Island. It describes the early years of settlement in the Brisbane and
Pine Rivers area by John and his son Frederick (Percy‟s father). John established a farm
called Woodlands and Frederick Rockangle, both on the banks of the North Pine River. The
family had strong religious feelings, changed from Church of England to Presbyterian upon
the establishment of a church in the area and were active in local church affairs. Percy took
over the farm on the death of his father and Part 1 concludes in 1908 when he is paid out his
share of Rockangle in favour of his younger brother Joe and sets out to purchase a vacant
block of land near Kaimkillenbun, leaving his wife Wilhelmina (Mina) and daughter Marjorie
in Brisbane.

Part 2: This was also written by Percy. It covers the development of the farm Waverley near
Kaimkillenbun and the growth of the family to nine children. It describes the rigours of early
farming life on country infested with prickly pear, the development and expansion of the farm
and purchase of another, mechanisation, and involvement in church and local council affairs.
The children went to primary school locally at Kaimkillenbun and Brisbane and to secondary
school in Toowoomba, Gatton, Brisbane and Warwick. After retirement, Percy took on the
role of a lay minister, covering absences during the war years. They retired to Dalby, and the
story concludes with the death of Mina in 1951. Percy died in 1959.

Part 3: This was written by Graham Skerman (21/10/1913 – 24/1/1975). It covered his years
growing up on the family farm Waverley, the work done by his father, mother and older
brothers and sister, his own responsibilities and adventures and his schooldays at
Kaimkillenbun Primary School. It concludes as he enters secondary school at Toowoomba
Grammar School in July 1927, even though the history was written in 1964.

Part 4 attempts to fill in the gaps of Graham‟s story from his days at TGS onwards, including
the story of his wife-to-be Thora Purvis. The memories of their seven children were tapped to
provide anecdotes of growing up in the family and were extended to encompass tales of the
children‟s‟ own families. Where possible these memories are written in the first person,
preceded by the story-teller‟s name in italics.


Graham’s early life: 1927 – 1940

Toowoomba Grammar School: 1927 – 1931

Rat
Graham‟s history indicates Skermans at TGS were called “Rat”. Graham recounts how he was
greeted as “Rat” by two TGS students who did not know him, but recognised him as a



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Skerman. Several people in the family think that “Rat” was a reference to the characteristic
male Skerman ears. When there was more than one Skerman at the school, as was the case in
later years with Rob, Paul and Ross, they were given a number, Rat 1, Rat 2 etc.

The true origin of the name however, was revealed by Rob and is discussed in his part of the
family history.


At TGS
Barb: Dad was the only senior at Grammar with a driver's licence and often did errands for
the Masters. He once climbed into the bell tower at Grammar and dropped tennis balls onto
the Master's heads.

Barb: Once Dad went to Crammond and Stark, a Toowoomba department store possibly on
the site of the current Bailey‟s store, and stole something for a dare, perhaps a torch. He felt
so guilty about his action when he got back to school that he returned the item and confessed.
He was given the torch for his honesty.


University and Theological College 1932 – 1940

UQ and Emmanuel
Barb: There are stories that Dad was given £5 by his father at the farm gate which was to
enable him to travel from Kaimkillenbun to Brisbane and to set himself up at the University
of Queensland. (The Uni was at the end of George St in the city in those days. It moved to St
Lucia after the war, the buildings having been occupied by General Macarthur during the
war.) During his time at UQ, according to Joan Skerman, Graham was helped financially by
his older brother Percy.

Graham was at Emmanuel College, the Presbyterian residential college within the University,
for seven years and studied for an Arts degree. Midge: He wrote his letter of proposal to
Thora from there (or, more correctly, letter to Thora‟s father Joe re hand in marriage). The
letter is “floating around somewhere” within the family records. Dad played cricket while at
University, as a member of the Emanuel team.

Barb: A family relative called Jim Sweet, a minister currently in his nineties, remembers
things from Emmanuel days. He once told me that they shaved Dad‟s head right down the
middle and dyed his hair yellow. Presumably that would have been during the equivalent of
Orientation week, so in 1932.


Accidents
Motor vehicle accidents seem to have played a significant role in the lives of several of the
participants in this family history. Graham was involved in some of the early ones. There is
some doubt as to whether he had two or three motor bike accidents while a student at
University or Theological Hall. Paul: One occurred when he dropped his Indian motorcycle at
Bald Hills after getting his front tyre stuck in a tramline. He broke his nose, but as he put it, he
"straightened it up, more or less" - and it was always crooked thereafter. In another case, or
perhaps the same accident as remembered by Barb, he collided in the middle of the street with
something and was thrown across the road and landed under the awning of an hotel.


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Thora’s early life: 1912 – 1940

Killarney: 1912 – about 1922
Thora was born on 30/9/1912 in Killarney, a small town near Warwick, close to the NSW
border. Her father Joseph (Joe) Purvis ran a hardware store there, presumably incorporating a
bootmaking business, for this was his occupation listed on Thora‟s birth certificate.

Midge: Mum was about ten when the family left to set up in Southport. It was a forced move
owing to Joe, known as Pa, setting the bootery on fire one night with a lantern which fell over
while he was working back one night making boots.


Southport: about 1922 – 1940
In about 1922 the family moved to Southport where Joe established a successful hardware and
general store.


Car accident
In about 1933 Thora was involved in a serious car accident. The story has been passed down
through various family members and it seems to have gone as follows.

Jan, with support from Barb: Mum was in her early -mid twenties and was learning to drive.
Her friend, Mary (who is still alive, so her surname will not be mentioned), had just got her
licence. (Alternately, some family members remember that she had not yet acquired her
licence.) The Purvis family were visiting family friends in Killarney for a long weekend. The
Purvis boys stayed with various other friends but it seems Thora and the parents were staying
together with this family.

Thora commented about attending church with her parents on the Sunday morning only to be
told by Mary that they were not doing that but rather going on a picnic. The parents could go
to church! The driver and owner of the car was a nephew of Alwyn Noble's and Mary sat
beside him in the front. Thora and a male friend (not a boyfriend!) were in the dicky seat.
They headed off up a mountain on a dirt road. Enroute, Mary begged the driver to allow her to
take the wheel as it would be her first drive since acquiring her licence. The fellow agreed
eventually. Mary took the second bend too fast and they went over the edge down an incline,
rolling the car. Thora was thrown against a tree and sustained a nasty gash on the left temple.
The male friend by her side was killed. The two in the front seat escaped with a few cuts and
bruises. It was felt that Thora was protected from more serious injury as she was wearing a
thick felt hat with a two inch brim.

She was unconscious for a while and had a lump on her forehead the size of a golf ball.
The ambulance was somewhat delayed as it was attending a maternity case in the area. A
Bush Nurse attended to Thora until a doctor arrived. She was given 15 stitches in the wound
and spent a couple of weeks in the Killarney hospital.

Thora‟s family were told that one person had been killed and one seriously injured, but no
names were mentioned. Thora reports that her brothers Bob and Bill and father Joe drove 30
miles before they knew more details.


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Mary was adamant that she had not been driving at the time. Thora seems to think that justice
was eventually done as Mary had a very sick husband she had to care for in a wheel chair for
some years. The accident put Thora off driving, although she was never nervous as a
passenger in subsequent years.


Overseas trip
Jude: In about 1933 Thora and her mother (known to us as Nanny) went to Ireland and the
UK on the P&O liner Stratheden. After about six weeks on boaed, after visiting Perth, they
did not see land for nine days until they arrived in Colombo. They then proceeded via the Red
Sea and Port Said to London.

They travelled to Ireland and went to Belfast and Dublin, kissed the blarney stone and saw
Killarney. In Northern Ireland they stayed with William and Anne Boyd, from whom mum
and her brothers ultimately received the proceeds form the sale of their cottage, many years
after their deaths.

Mum met a nice young man in Ireland who promised to write to her. She didn‟t ever hear
from him as Pa wasn‟t happy about the arrangements and intercepted the letters. Mum did not
find out about this until many years later!

In Southport
Thora lived with her parents in Young St, Southport. She worked as a clerk in her father‟s
store.

Graham and Thora’s early married life

Marriage, living in Goodna: 1940 - 1943

Marriage proposal
Jude: Apparently Dad had written to Pa for permission to propose to Mum. Having received a
favourable reply, he left Goodna after the Sunday evening service and walked and hitchhiked
to Southport, arriving in the early hours of the morning to propose! Obviously Mum accepted.
After a fairly short engagement, less than two months) they were married on New Year‟s Day
in 1940 in St Andrew‟s Presbyterian Church, Brisbane.


The wedding
Jude: Mum had Aunty Phil (Dad‟d sister) and one of the Anderson twins, I think Nell, as
bridesmaids. Dad had Mum‟s brother Bill and, I think, Uncle Vic, his brother, as best man and
groomsman.

Mum carried a boquet of stephanotis tiberna montana and, I think, heather. Dad surprised
Mum (who wasn‟t too pleased) by having a piper play the wedding march instead of the
music Mum had organised! They honeymooned at Caves House, Jenolan Caves in the Blue
Mountains, in Pa‟s fairly new car.




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Goodna
Graham was already resident at the manse in Church St Goodna as a student minister and they
commenced married life there together.

Barb: The manse was beside the church in Goodna, and both are still there today. Mum
preferred the facilities in Brisbane for the birth of her first child and it was arranged with
Dad‟s friend Dr Watson-Brown that I be born in Turrawan Private Hospital at Clayfield, on
19/11/1940.


Living in Kingaroy: 1943 – 1945

Jan’s arrival
Graham‟s next posting was to Kingaroy, in 1943. During their time there the next two
children arrived. Jan was the first, arriving on 11 July 1943. Barb: My first remembrance of
Kingaroy was seeing Mum in bed with Jan, probably in the hospital. A great family friend
there was Maisie Blue. Jude: Another was Mary McIllhatton whose maiden name was
Campbell, hence my name is JA Campbell ...


Car accident
Paul: While the family was in Kingaroy, Dad joined the RAAF as a military chaplain. Near
the end of his training period he was stationed in Kingaroy and about to be posted to the
Middle East. He was returning from Brisbane in what was called "the service car" (which is
understood to be a RAAF vehicle), which overturned on a bridge, and Dad broke his back.
Another person in the car was killed. This accident is thought to have occurred when Jan was
about three weeks old, so about the end of July 1943. This led to him being hospitalised for
such a time and the injuries were so severe that he was not eligible for posting offshore. Jude:
He spent a considerable time in a Spyker cast, enveloped in plaster from head to almost toe.
Barb: There is a great photo of him in the cast. Graham continued his remaining years of war
service as padre at Kingaroy RAAF base.

Flt Lieutenant Skerman was discharged from the No 3 Initial Training School on 4 September
1945 (according to his WW II Nominal Roll certificate).


Judy arrives
Judy was born on 31 May 1945. Jude: I was induced a week early as the doctor Jean Stoboe
had to go to Brisbane for surgery for cancer – she did not recover.


Living in Mackay: 1945 – 1950
The family moved to Macalister St, Mackay in June 1945. Rob and Paul were born there on
17 February 1948 and 2 December 1949. Jude: I was three weeks old at the time of the move.


Living in Enoggera: 1950 – 1953
In December 1950 the family moved to Dalmarnock St, Enoggera, a suburb of Brisbane. The
older children have memories of life in Enoggera and the younger ones have heard them
repeated, so they also have contributed to the Enoggera anecdotes.


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Rats
Barb: I remember that under the house was dirt and there was a rat problem. There was a hole
which Dad flooded and when the rats came to the surface, he electrocuted them one by one.
(Memory is hazy as to how Graham was able to electrocute the rats without doing the same to
himself.)

Jan: I remember the rat problem also. The wooden case that housed the piano was lying flat
under the house and rats apparently thought it good breeding area. Uncle Vic came over to
help with the project to eliminate them and Dad and he had garden forks ready to pierce the
rats when they appeared.

Rob: The big cleanout under the manse at Enoggera involved the old piano packing case.
Dad's idea was to flood them out, with the hose down one hole, whilst waiting at another hole
(the only one obvious at that stage) with the garden fork. I am not too sure whether he got any
or how many , but I do recall that when the packing case was lifted quite a number (10 or so)
scurried in all directions. The largest was at least a foot in body length plus tail. Dad, in a
flurry, picked up the axe and threw it at the big rat as it ran along the backyard paling fence. It
was an excellent throw, the axe head embedding exactly in the right-angle formed by the
ground and the fence. Unfortunately, (or fortunately for the rat), the axe landed about 3 inches
in front of the escaping animal, which slammed full pelt into the steel axe head, fell over in a
heap, recovered, and escaped to breed another day. Paul: I was less than four at the time, but
have a more vivid memory of the weapon slicing the rat in half! Upon such foundations are
histories written.


Jan burned
Barb: When the family left Mackay, I stayed till the end of the 1950 school year with a family
from the congregation, the Coburns. Jan had a serious accident shortly after moving into
Dalmarnock St. Dad was burning off the rubbish from unpacking when a wind blew up and
burning paper caught onto Jan's frock at the back. Dad is reported to have driven from the
house to Royal Brisbane Hospital in 7 minutes. Jan was in hospital for a month but was
allowed out for Christmas Day.

Jude: I was 5 ½ years old at the time and was left to take Rob (nearly 3) and paul (nearly 1)
over to the neighbours – the Matches family – to be looked after till Mum and Dad came
home.


Sliding in the bath
Midge, Paul: The house had a bathroom which opened off the kitchen. One day Barb, aged
about 11 or 12, was enjoying herself, sliding down the bath and landing with a great splash,
sending water everywhere and making lots of noise. Mum threatened to tell Dad if she
continued, only to be told "I couldn‟t care less!" and Dad heard the goings-on and preceded to
wallop Barb‟s bare behind. Paul remembers being a distant small observer and that there was
a lot of squealing from the other sisters, including the angel Jan! It must have been noisy with
the door open, and even Graham was able to hear it.




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Outdoor dunny
Midge: The toilet at Enoggera was an outdoor affair in the back yard. Jude was not too keen
on this, especially at night, and she would pretend to be sleepwalking and did wee in the
rubbish bin to avoid the trip in the dark. (Being such a young one and not even thought of
then the only recollections I have is hearsay from all youse who were there!)


Rolled in the rug
Jude: During the packing up of the furniture for the move to Toowoomba, Rob couldn't be
found. Luckily he was discovered in a mattress that was half rolled up - fast asleep!


Family life in Toowoomba: 1954 onwards

While at 717 Ruthven St: 1954 – 1972

The move
Jude: The family moved to 717 Ruthven St Toowoomba on 19 Nov 1953, Barb‟s 13th
birthday.

Spilled ink
Barb: When I sat for the Scholarship exam, I had a pot of ink and it began to leak just before
the exam started. I became quite upset. One of the girls, Noela Brandon, lived opposite the
school so she was sent home to get a junket tablet which was administered to me so that I
would be settled for the exam.


“J”
Barb: At South Girls School where Jan, Judy and I went (I was only there for Scholarship)
there was a teacher called Lily Lavercombe. She was a bit of a card and used to laugh that I
had 2 sisters with names starting with "J". She said our Mother must have been making jam.


Ice cream
Barb: Mum made us ice cream every day of the week. It was made mostly out of Carnation
milk which had to be frozen and rewhipped every time she made it! She was also a mean hand
at Heavenly Tart! Jude: On Sundays we had a cardboard carton of cream delivered with the
milk. We usually had tinned peaches and cream.


Chooks
Barb: Sunday dinners were always roasts. I can remember Dad cutting the heads off the
chooks when they were on the menu. I remember a chook without a head jumping around and
fluttering over the fence to Middletons on the corner in Ruthven Street. Jude: I often had the
job of gutting the chooks after they had been dispatched by Dad and plucked by Mum. The
roast was put on by Mum before she went to the 11 am service and vegetables were added by
whoever had attended the 9:30 am service at about 11:30 am.




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Kirbys
Barb: Mr Kirby (on the other side to Middletons) used to get up at 5.30am every morning.
He'd light the fire and put on a cuppa. Several mornings the girls would put on their gowns
and go over to join him. Most memorable for me was the day of an early morning visit to
Kirbys. I knocked to no avail and, since the Skerman children were always welcome, I just
walked in. What a surprise when I walked in and found Malcolm, who was older than me, full
frontal and starkers!

Barb: Mrs Kirby (known as Kirb) was a good cook and taught us how to make creamies and
other goodies. The recipe was later given to the Toowoomba Grammar school for a recipe
collection and, in a minor case of plagiarism, was renamed Graham's cookies. (Graham, of
course did not cook the cookies!)

Jan: The recipe has been slightly changed to suit modern tastes and ovens, and now uses self-
raising flour instead of cream of tartar, the origin of the name “Creamies”.


Kirb’s creamies:
 4 cups of S.R. flour.
 1 cup sugar.
 2 tablespoons of butter.
 1 x 375 g. packet of mixed fruit.
 2 tablespoons treacle or syrup. -
 2 eggs.
 1 cup of milk.

Mix dry ingredients; rub in butter. Make a well in the centre, add treacle or syrup and
unbeaten eggs. Mix well, with the milk, to scone consistency. Add mixed fruit. Add more SR
flour if too moist. Roll or press out as for scones, and cut in rounds or squares. Bake in a very
hot oven. Serve buttered. Jude: These keep very well. We take them n camping trips and they
are still good after 3 –4 weeks.


Wallet tricks
Barb: Jan, Jude and I were friends with the Kirby boys next door, Robert, Malcolm and
Barry. One night we attached a wallet to a string and planted it in the middle of Ruthven
Street and then hid in the bushes and watched with glee as cars slowed to have a look, and at
least one stopped!


Football
Jude: I used to play football with the Kirbys and the three boys, six boys in all! I was asked
by Mum to give it away after I broke my arm under the scrum!

Flowers for teacher
Barb: Paul was pretty keen on one of his teachers, Miss Schefe. One day he arrived at school
with a beautiful bunch of flowers for her. Of course she was touched and when asked where
he got them, he was quite open ... at every house on the way to the South Boys School.




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Ric’s rollover
Barb: Ric Bailey & Jim Garsden were the drivers for the Pathfinders (group for young folk in
St. Stephen's) to join the Harlaxton group one very foggy Friday night. Ric was doing a U-
turn in front of the Golden Fleece Service Station in Ruthven St to collect one of the children.
A car travelling in the opposite direction had no headlights on and collided with Ric side-on
and rolled Ric's station wagon. There were about 7 children in the car, Jude and Andrew Dunn
to name two. Ric visited all the families the following week and Mum said "Come again!" and
so began the wooing of me.


Hungary
Barb: About this time Graham organized the youth group of St. Stephen's to gather and
package clothing etc. for the people of Hungary. The fellowship members had great
gatherings at the house. Jude: The clothes had to be sewn into calico bags and had a list of
contents written in indelible pencil on the outside.


Joey
Barb: Dad was working for Prudential, selling insurance in the area and spent a lot of time
away from home. When he arrived back in Toowoomba he would drive down the dirt
driveway tooting his horn. He invariably had something special for all the children. One day it
was a baby kangaroo which we children reared for awhile. Jude: The kangaroo‟s name was
Joey. Dad had found it on the road where its mother had been killed. It lived for about 6
months then seemed to fret and die.


Car stories
Barb: When Pa Purvis (Joe) died, Mum received an inheritance and bought a black Ford
Customline secondhand, as well as the baby grand piano with the money he left her. The Ford
had striped blinds on all windows. I remember this as the car Ric and I took to the drive-in.

(There has been a lot of memory searching by the boys as to the model and acquisition year of
this significant vehicle. 1958 and 1961 have been proposed. However, Joe died in March
1956, so the car was probably acquired in about 1957 and was a model of a few years earlier.)

Barb: I had my first driving lesson in the Customline. When I slid off the road along Ruthven
Street Sth, Dad suggested I go to a driving school!

Paul: The family had holidays at that time at Burleigh, at Mrs Brinsmead's place. We
travelled with all the family on board, eight people! I remember Dad proclaiming that we
were doing 80 miles an hour at a point between Helidon and Gatton. Mum tut-tutted. Dad
pointed out that the V8 wasn't even working hard at all. Not much later we found out that it
had a blown head gasket or had a cracked head. We only had the car for about three years.

Jude: On one holiday at Burleigh we went to the movies. Paul started vomiting, it turned out
he had appendicitis. He was operated on at Southport hospital. I was banned from visiting him
as I made him laugh, which was too painful for him!




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Remembering number plates
Ross and Paul have good memories for car number plates. Jan learned to drive in a green VW
(NFL-899). This, it seems had been lent to Graham while he was fundraising for the
construction of St Andrew‟s Hospital. Jude can remember Jan driving it to school with a
broken arm when she was in senior at Harristown High- in 1961.

Graham traded the Ford on a brand new 1963 EK Holden Sedan (Reg No NNT-131) which
was blue with a white roof. Paul had his first drive in that car, sitting in front of his father
coming in to Toowoomba from the south side. Curiously, Barry, Judy‟s future husband, drove
the same model and colour Holden, having bought it from his dad upon graduation. The
Holden's successor was the first grey Valiant sedan (NYA 277) which was then replaced by
another Valiant (PIW 165). Judy learned to drive in one of the Valiants and she remembers
that it had a lot more “guts” than the EK!


Another accident
Midge: I have a photo from the Toowoomba Chronicle somewhere with the green Valiant
smashed up when Dad had his last major accident on his way to bowls in Margaret St. (The
number plate was …) On this occasion he chose to veer into oncoming traffic rather than hit
the tail of the car in front of him as this car had stopped suddenly at a pedestrian crossing. He
was in traction for a considerable time. (There is an unusual photo of family members and in-
laws in the lift at the hospital during a visit.) Jude: This was taken in March 1971. Helen and I
were pregnant with Sarah and Catherine (Kate) respectively.


Photo portraits
Barb: During the time at 717 Ruthven Street, Dad was on the road for a large portion of time.
He was selling farm machinery and later, insurance. He carried a good Rolliflex camera with
him and often took family portraits for property people. I remember on one occasion he
married a couple and baptized their five children afterwards.


Lunch
Barb: I love a story about Graham‟s wanderings in the west. He was in the south-west area
and called on a distant relative As they weren't home he let himself in the back door and as it
was lunchtime he helped himself to the chicken in the fridge. One problem...the owner came
home and it wasn't his relative!


Ambulance
Barb: My husband-to-be Ric took most of the children to the ambulance many times during
this period. Dad was away, Mum didn't drive and there was no car. Ric's trips to the
Ambulance for the family were many and varied...falls, cuts, abrasions, a broken limb or two
etc.


Burning foxtail
Jan: That Foxtail! It must have been about 1961 (Jude thinks about 1958). I was washing up
at the kitchen window at 717 and looked up to note that Paul was desperate for a short cut to
complete his allotted task of "getting rid of that foxtail!" Horror of horrors, he had a can of


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petrol in his hand! Big sisterly advice to stop was , of course, ignored, several times. Dear
Paul not only doused the grass with the fuel but then proceeded to light a match.
Great pandemonium broke loose when Dad had to beat out the flames and then continued on
to beat the child! The location was of great concern as it was very near the laundry/ tool-shed
and the copper. Jude: Midge was only a toddler and was also near the fire.


The painter
Rob: Dad was a deep thinker, and did a lot of deep thinking a lot of the time. Much of this
was done whilst driving long distances in outback Queensland - whether in his early years as
a fulltime minister, later(early 50s) selling farm machinery, and still later (late 50s – early
60s) selling life insurance.

Anyway, this propensity to deep thinking led to systematic behaviour behind the wheel.
Unfortunately, such behaviour didn't stop him from having traffic accidents, variously
fracturing his cervical vertebrae, legs, etc in a series of incidents throughout his eventful life.
Accident prone may be a little harsh, but with deep thinking (absentmindedness?), a stiff neck
(car accidents), a sore lower back (from what we now suspect was an hereditary condition
called spondylolisthesis) all combined to produce this "systematic" approach to driving cars.
And this led to the hilarious event which occurred in the driveway of 717 Ruthven Street
Toowoomba.

The car was garaged in a galvanised iron shed at the end of the driveway, which ran down the
side of the house. The driveway was about 50 metres from the front gate to the back of the
shed. The back wall of the shed had wooden cross bearers located right in the centre. Dad
with his sore neck, and all the other prevailing behavioural traits outlined above, got into the
habit of using these cross bearers as his sole reference when reversing out the driveway each
morning. Facing forward, and with never a backwards glance, he would fix his gaze on the
back of the garage and plant his foot, with the next sensory input being the bump as he
crossed the bitumen footpath outside the front gate. He came to pride himself in this
technique, and would explain it's infallibility to concerned members of his family.

And so one day, as all wooden houses do, 717 needed painting. A painter was sought and
found, and commenced the job. He started relatively early, at least for our household, and had
been working for several days before setting up early one morning on the driveway side of the
house where the side of the house steps in a metre or so, above the lily garden. But not so far
in that the two trestles did not protrude into the driveway .....

It was about the time when we kids were getting our bikes out to set off to school, when Dad
set off in the Valiant. The painter was on a plank supported between the two trestles, complete
with brush, a gallon of gloss white exterior enamel, nonchalantly painting the weatherboards.
Dad roared up the driveway totally oblivious of the painter, eyes focussed on the cross-
bearers. Of course Dad couldn't hear the painter's shrieks as the Valiant bore up upon him. He
had a 30 metre run up before he hit the nearest trestle.

The painter had no chance. The momentum of the Valiant carried through to the second
trestle, the plank was dislodged, and the hapless painter was sent flying, and ended up in the
lilies with paint everywhere.




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The ensuing obligatory apology from Dad was quickly followed with a full explanation of the
physical reasons for reversing without looking, with just a hint of an insinuation that the
painter should have known better than to put trestles in the driveway anyway. The look of
bewilderment and disbelief on the painter's face was a memory to treasure.

The painter duly dislodged from his perch, thought he had heard the last of it. But no, Mum
was most displeased with Dad having caused all that paint to be splashed all over her lilies -
not only at the scene of the catastrophe, but, as she pointed out to Dad, there were now white
spots all over her greenery, caused by the carelessness of the painter himself. This extension
of the extent of the situation by Mum was probably a dig at Dad, who had no doubt given the
job to the bloke on the basis of his bad fortunes rather than his expertise with a brush.

Dad, having been thus rebuked by Mother, now proceeded to attempt to correct the matter by
chastising the painter, informing him that Mrs Skerman was far from pleased that the plants
were being covered in white spots, and he would have to do what he could to rectify the
situation.

The painter, by now a totally compliant servant of the Reverend, accepted the instruction
without protest, and acceded to the request. Whether his next move was out of ignorance or
malice we will never know, but I suspect it was the former. The painter applied mineral turps
to all the affected leaves, resulting in the demise of all plants so treated.

Those descendents of our family reading this tale should heed the serious warning that the
described "systematic behaviour whilst driving -particularly reversing " may indeed be
hereditary. Recent incidents involving at least three siblings in the immediate family indicate
there may be cause for concern!

Ross: There was another trait of Dad's re painters - this guy was not a "professional" painter
but definitely some poor guy down on luck that Dad, in his inimitable fashion, gave a job to. I
can remember the lilies and the fuschias having spots of paint on them during this job and
Mum going a little crook, with the observation that there was more paint elsewhere than on
the house. Dad informed the painter that he‟d better get rid of the paint on the plants. Rather
than selectively prune the blemished blooms he meticulously cleaned each leaf with - you
guessed it - turps! After all it was lead based paint in those days. That took care of those
plants!

Still if you couldn't grow plants/lawns in Toowoomba you were really challenged in the
garden department.


More driveway incidents
Midge: I simply had to add a bit more re the driveway that I can remember - the day Hart &
Helen Kennedy were visiting. We were all around the kitchen table when Dad decided he had
to go somewhere, he got in the green Valiant which was parked straight opposite the walkway
between the house and the laundry - focused on the garage crossbars - and ram, bam - into
Hart's car which was only a metre or so behind.

Another time we were mowing and someone (Ross I think) had left the front fence driveway
gates closed after mowing the grass around them rather than reposition them open



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immediately. And ram, bam once again! It took a lot of effort to open those gates, as they
were rarely closed, for obvious reasons!

Rob: The painter was not the only casualty of the systematic garage cross-bar reversing
technique.
One occasion saw the Valiant parked in the driveway, level with the laneway between the
house and the laundry. Hart and Helen Kennedy were visiting and Hart had parked in the
driveway, about two metres immediately behind the Valiant. Yes, and Dad, without so much
of a run-up this time, didn't leave for bowls as early as planned!

On yet a further occasion, this time with maximum run-up, the front gates were mangled.
Ross was dutifully mowing the front lawn, and in doing so had closed the always-open gates
to mow behind them.....

Midge: I am not smiling as I retell these events because recently I did a deep thinking Dad
event and backed into a colleague's car in the school grounds when rushing out to go to my
old school to get something at lunchtime!!! Her car happened to be a Honda Accord which is
not cheap to fix, so I have discovered.

Ross: Glad to see Midge admit to Dad-like traits. I too, am indestructible at times behind the
wheel and do everything by mirrors I guess (to date not much smoke!). One step up from the
crossbars on the garage I guess! And I‟m a deep thinker. I used to think my forgetfulness was
induced by alcohol at the very least but there has been virtually none of that since my June 10
2004 start of the Wesley programme. Recently, after being a little late out of the office
Richard and I left for the carpark - no car! It took me some time and a very methodical
recheck of the day, diary and all, to remember I left it at a breakfast meeting across town (at
the Club in fact) that morning. Tricky (Kate) has now added that to the office folklore and it
wasn't the first time, but usually I remember!


“Chrispeter Ganter”
Ross: Goosey Ganter (also known as “Chrispeter” because of Midge‟s mispronunciation) was
retained in an airconditioned facility for extensive testing after which he bolted in full cry. I
was reprimanded but exonerated of grounds of his tendency to excite himself. There was no
conviction recorded.


Milly Molly Mandy
Midge: Reading in Dad‟s bed was a memorable occasion for me around the early 60's.
Although I could read quite well, I loved to lie with Dad and listen to him read Milly, Molly
& Mandy to me. He used to test my listening skills by mixing the names up. I don‟t think he
got away with it too often though as I would reprimand him. I spend the most time ever with
Dad while in his 'room' at 717.


Sunday lunch
Midge: One Sunday the family was seated around the table ready to hoe into the roast of the
day when one of the boys was feeling hot, so got up to open the driveway window in the
kitchen - only to see some visitors arriving. When Dad heard we had visitors he said “Right -



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you've all just eaten” and promptly invited the visitors to eat the family‟s meals. There were
some hungry mouths to feed on bubble and squeak that Sunday night!

Jude: The family in question were the Beasleys- a Prudential salesman with three rather
gorgeous sons and a little girl. His wife had died a few months before. As a result of this
traumatic experience (surrendering our lunch) we implemented a new policy of licking
anything we didn't want to lose! Midge: Is this why I still always lick the knife and spoon and
everything else?


Pessimist
Barb: I remember when I was first married (1962), Dad came to visit to tell me that Mum was
so crippled with arthritis that she would probably be bedridden before long. Mum was still
doing handwork in the new millennium!


Packing the car for holidays
Midge: Packing the boot (probably of the black Customline) to go on holidays was an
experience to be witnessed! We had to have our gear - one bag only - out at the bottom of the
steps of 717 by a certain time or it wouldn't go. Once this time elapsed, Dad would begin
packing - everything had a place and there was a place found for everything - except for the
year that Jan appeared with her sewing machine! I (then aged about 7) can still remember
going to the toilet for that one last wee before setting off and being so scared of being
forgotten that 'nothing would come'.


Distributing chops at dinner
Midge: Dinner time around the round table at 717 was often eventful. One day, for some
reason Ross couldn‟t eat all of his lamb chops and asked who would like the last one. I
accepted and his way of giving it to me was to put his knife into it and flick it straight across
the table to me. It landed on some gravy on my plate and slid into my lap! – Well, Dad hit the
roof and Ross was taken off to be scolded. I cried and cried and begged Dad not to hit him –
but I don‟t think it helped, though.


Clumsy
Paul: One day Graham was getting a few of his kids into the Bolton's wooden rowing boat at
Mooloolaba , with a recalcitrant old outboard motor. After much effort the motor finally fired
and Dad stepped over the gunwale, and the boat swamped. Rob and Ross and I often refer to
clumsy physical movements with an "Everything OK there, Graham?" interchange, and I‟m
sure we each think of this event.


Bathroom priorities
Midge: Dad had a habit of deciding it was time for a bath / shower when in his room. He
would go to his dressing room (the dump room as we kids called it – a small room lined with
books – where, along with others I was sent to read about puberty, birds and bees etc),
undress, then waltz out through the lounge (with the three boys in their respective corners at
their desks studying) and into the bathroom. Heaven help anyone who may have either been
already on the loo, cleaning their teeth, or taking a bath, because Dad had arrived for his bath!


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Well, one night he walked right in and whoever had been there before had left the terrazzo
floor wet. Dad went slip … his right leg going right through the fibro casing around the
bathtub and Oh! what a mess it made of his knee. I remember there being a great panic but
I‟m not sure if the doctor was called or what the next step was - only that everyone was very
careful to not leave the floor wet again!


“Gut”
Even the mildest of language was out of bounds in the Skerman family.
Midge: I vividly recall the „look and scolding‟ I got from Dad one day at Mooloolaba about
1966 when I was telling a story about some fisherman I had seen using cat gut. Dad took it to
be a swearing phrase.


Porridge
Midge: My first and only real smack on the bare bottom (from Dad, of course) occurred one
morning for not apologising to Mum that I didn‟t want to eat my porridge.


The Mooloolaba rescue
The family was on holidays at Mooloolaba in 1966. Rob, who was involved, has a detailed
memory of this event.

Rob: It was on a bleak day following several days of stormy and windy weather, and the big
seas were beginning to subside. The line of shore breaks were consistently dumping and had,
unbeknown to Dad, created a ledge with significantly deeper water from the breakers to
further out.

A discussion was had regarding the safety of a swim, but it had been several days without
one, so off we went. Dad, ever resplendent in his baggy grey nylon trunks, was first to the
water, and of course without his hearing-aid spectacles.

Next to enter was me, aged about 18, about 20 - 30 yards behind. At this proximity, the ledge
became apparent each time the previous wave washed back before the advent of the next. An
attempted yell to Dad drew no response, and he proceeded to dive under the next dumper.
Coming up on the other side of the wave, he immediately realised he was in strife. Paul at this
point was testing the temperature of the water with his big toe and unaware of the impending
drama about to unfold, with myself halfway between Dad and Paul.

I got to Dad through the next wave, probably 30 seconds later, by which time he was
panicking. I attempted to get my arms under him from behind, but was being clutched at as
Dad‟s panic rose. At this stage I decided a definite crisis was afoot. I yelled out to Paul to
"hasten forth", until I was sure he realised the gravity of the situation. Then I turned my
attention back to Dad, and for a while had to forget the family hierarchy, slapping him on the
face, until he had his focussed attention. I then proceeded to side-kick, with right arm
swimming, left arm under Dad's arm, and my hand under his chin.

Then Paul appeared through the back of a rather large wave, and we each took an arm and
advanced to the inevitable dumper that would herald the advent of firm footing in chest-deep
water. We struggled at this point as wave after wave walloped us and dragged us back into the


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trough. We finally gained the required footing and slowly brought Dad towards the shore. He
had taken in a fair bit of water during all this, and collapsed on the beach.

We could see Mum looking pretty worried, just after we gained the shallower water. Also,
just as we brought Graham from the water a couple of the local lifesavers who were called out
from their work arrived, turned Dad on his side and checked him out. One of these men was
the chemist from Alexandra Headlands or Cotton Tree, and had reputedly made an 80 mph
dash to get there.

All this happened just before (or after, memories vary) the 1966 Skerman Centenary
celebrations at Scarborough, which Dad organised. Three days after the event Mum had a
heart attack, and was considered by most to be fairly frail and in continual danger of another.
Mum has now outlived Dad by over 30 years. Jude: Mum was hospitalised for four weeks
total bed rest at Toowoomba General where I was working. I spent all lunch times with Mum
and she taught me to crochet.

Rob: Helen Skerman (then Dunn) was most unimpressed. Paul and I would have been much
more sensible to float Dad over to Point Cartwright!

Jan: I was on Thursday Island at the time, in my first year of teaching at Thursday Island
High School. I received a telegram (about August I thinks) from Dad: "Phone home Mother
not well. Ertswhile near-drowned Father". This happened short time after the Skerman
Centenary celebrations (July 1966) .Dad had everyone that was still at home very busy with
the centenary books he had printed and Mum was exhausted.


Mum’s heart attack
Jude: One evening in 1966 just after Dad‟s near drowning, my friend Ann Morris (ex PGC
Warwick and at the time doing Med IV at UQ) was visiting Toowoomba. Ann and I were
about to go out for dinner at about 5 pm. Mum was peeling vegies at the sink at 717. Suddenly
she gasped, clutched her chest and fell to the floor.

Ann and I with the help of Paul, (Rob was away, in first year at Emmanuel College), carried
her to her bed and rang the doctor. The family doctor came at about 7:30 pm and gave Mum
an injection, quite a bit of which was spilt on the dressing table nearby, removing the varnish.
“Watch her all night, then bring her to the surgery tomorrow morning!” was the instruction.
After a stressful night lying beside Mum, I took her to the surgery and after an ECG Mum was
admitted to Toowoomba General for a month of bed rest. Dad was eventually contacted later
that day.

From Thursday Island
Jan: About this time also my letters home began to mention the name of “John”. On one
occasion Dad wrote asking “What colour is this bloke, John?” John's reply stated, “What's
colour got to do with it, Bwana?”


Burning hole in trousers
Midge: Dad played bowls several times a week in his latter years – this particular Saturday in
about 1970 he came home with a huge hole burned in his white trouser side pocket, going
down towards his thigh. He had been smoking his pipe as usual, but it must have been a little


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hot when he put it in his pocket to take his turn on the green and it ignited the box of matches
that were also in there! Nobody knows how the fire got put out or what commotion there was.
Mum and I just saw the evidence.


While at Barrymount Crescent: 1972 – 1994

Barb rescued
Barb: While on holidays at Yamba, in about 1973, Ric, Penny and I went fishing on the
Clarence River in a hired boat. Dad was at bowls and Robyn had decided to stay with Mum.
The current took us in the direction we wanted to go, so we drifted and finally fished.
However when we tried to start the motor we could not get it going. There was no fuel as the
owner had forgotten to fill it. Dad returned from bowls and luckily decided to check on us. He
alerted the boat man as it was by then dark and he had to go out in another boat to bring them
in. Ric and I could not beat the tide using oars.


Visiting in Holland
In 1970 Jude and Barry were married and moved immediately to a posting in The
Netherlands. This provided an excuse or opportunity for both sets of parents to have an
overseas trip, with accommodation on the Continent. Thora and Graham visited in 1973.
Barry: I had only met Graham a few times, but had been warned of his clumsiness. Shortly
after their arrival Graham had managed to burn a hole in a sheet (falling asleep while smoking
in bed), knock a vase of flowers flying while walking past and not realise anything had
happened, and to break the sofa in the rented house by collapsing into it from a great height.


False teeth
Barry: During the same visit to us, Graham‟s false teeth broke. He presented the failed fangs
to me with the request to glue them up. As a new son-in-law, I did my best with epoxy resin
which held for a time.


Hoorapparat
Jude: Dad experienced a large amount of equipment failure during that visit. The next item to
cease functioning was the all-important hearing aid. Since neither Barry nor I had any
knowledge of hearing aids, this required a rapid search of the yellow pages and a visit to
Rotterdam to get it fixed. It also required a rapid brush-up of our rather limited Dutch, the
very least of which was to find that the word for hearing aid was “hoorapparat”. Dad felt that
he could be helpful while in the hearing aid technician‟s shop by shouting “Tell the silly
blighter to hurry up!”. Most embarrassing as most of the locals had much better English than
we had Dutch!


Another rescue
Midge: While on holiday at Yamba, in about 1974, Dad was collected by a huge wave which
washed over the rocks at Yamba Point, while he was fishing. He probably did not hear it
coming and was caught looking the wrong way. According to Scott, they caught some good
tailor that day and Dad was definitely more worried about losing a fish than saving himself.
Jim Blaikie and Scott caught him just as he was slipping over the edge.


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More trouble on the rocks
Midge: On the same holiday in 1974, and again at Yamba Point, Ric slipped on the rocks
while decked out with waders, rods etc and he went over near the edge. Barb caught him by
the fingers and Scott & Jim Blakie were on the scene again and retrieved Ric minus his new
red beanie which Jude had knitted for him. Tears flowed, not for Ric but for the loss of the
beanie! Several days later Scott & I found it at low tide wedged between some rocks.
Needless to say that by this stage of the holidays Meg Blaikie had vowed and declared Jim
was not to do any more fishing on those rocks! Jude: I later knitted Ric another beanie.


Baiting the boyfriend
Midge: The first time Dad and Scott went fishing together, at Yamba of course, Dad asked
Scott to show him how to bait a pilchard onto 4 hooks. Dad, who knew perfectly well how to
do it, wanted to see what Scott knew. Acting dumb, Scott, my boyfriend still at this stage,
meticulously demonstrated the procedure with full verbal transcript, school teacher fashion –
only to be told on conclusion, “Not bad!”


Season ticket
Midge: One night after Scott had been dating me for a while, Dad passed him (arriving yet
again) on the internal stairwell at Barrymount. His greeting to Scott was “Have you got a
season ticket to this place?”




Thora at Nubeena: 1994 – present


Thora and Graham’s children’s lives

Barb


Jan


Jude

Jude meets Barry
Barry: In mid 1967 Jude and her friend Kaye took a driving holiday in Jude‟s blue Mini,
going from Toowoomba to Melbourne and returning via Sydney. In Sydney they stayed at the
Canberra (dry) hotel in Kings Cross and arranged to meet Kaye‟s boyfriend Denis, who had
studied chemical engineering with me and my flatmate Bob. Denis organised a night at the
movies and asked Bob and me to come along. I remember that we came in from Strathfield in
Bob‟s old Austin A40 and on the way he ran into the back of a car in front. Luckily, not much
damage was done, and most of that to the Austin, but the two girls in the other car were most



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upset. We arrived at the theatre and met Jude and Kaye and had an enjoyable evening
watching “Georgie Girl”. Later I seem to remember we had a pancake at the Pancake Parlour
in Kings Cross and said goodbye to the girls.

Later that year I spent about three months working and doing courses in The Netherlands and
on return to Sydney was immediately transferred to Melbourne. Jude meanwhile had decided
that she liked the Sydney lifestyle and, with Kaye, got a job at Royal Alexander Hospital for
Children. I made a number of business trips back to Sydney and usually dropped in to see
Denis and his flatmate Mike. I often found Judy (and Kaye) there so was able to re-establish
contact with her. When I was transferred back to Sydney in 1969 the relationship
strengthened, after first displacing Mike! On the trip home that Christmas I offered Jude a lift
in my blue and white EK Holden which she accepted. I first met Thora at about 4 am at 717
Ruthven St, sitting up in bed. I think Graham, if he was home, was sound asleep (probably
snoring!). In April 1970 our relationship was accelerated by my transfer to The Netherlands
for two years. We became engaged, told Shell that two tickets would be needed, overcame
certain resistance to a Catholic connecting with the Skerman family, were married by an
understanding Franciscan and Graham in a joint ceremony in Waverley, Sydney, had a brief
honeymoon on the Hawkesbury and departed for The Netherlands via Rome and Madrid. All
that in six weeks! The two years became six and produced Catherine (Kate) and Boyd.


Tinnie turns
In about 1980 Jude and Barry were camping at Yamba with Catherine (as she was known
then) and Boyd. A small, 3.4m aluminium fishing boat or “tinnie” was a recent addition to the
camping gear. Scott and Midge had joined them and were camping at the same place, known
as Fishing Haven. One day, with the Clarence River running strongly, The group decided to
go fishing. Scott and Midge hired a boat and the Challengers went in theirs. After a while
Jude decided that she wanted to be skipper, so took her place at the outboard. It may have
been her first time in this role, for she could not understand why, when she pushed the
steering arm left, the boat went right! After several minutes of zig-zagging, the Challenger
family found themselves hurtling towards the rocks on the side of the river, with many loud
and increasingly unkind instructions being hurled at her by the deposed skipper! Midge and
Scott could hear them clearly from the other side of the river. At the last minute disaster was
averted, control was reluctantly returned to the original skipper and the deposed skipper
claimed that it was not her fault! Midge reckons that the Challenger boat went very quiet for
quite a while.




Rob

Origin of “Rat”
Rob: I asked Graham the origin of the name, soon after I became Rat 3 on arrival at TGS. It
had nothing to do with big ears.

It was relayed that it originated with the exploits of Uncle Percy, Dad‟s older brother, in his
early days as a border. There was apparently a problem with rats in the school bike shed and
Percy earned a reputation for killing the vermin. Hence the nickname Rat.



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As each successive brother or other Skerman cousin attended TGS, the name stuck, with
defining numerals to differentiate the hierarchy. This tradition was perpetrated for the next
generation. When I arrived at TGS, cousin Ken Skerman was Rat 1 and cousin David was
Rat 2, while I became Rat 3. As a Rat graduated off the top end, the remainder all moved up
in the sequence. When cousin Ken left, cousin Howard and Paul arrived, and the following
year Ross. So we then had the maximum sequence at any one time - David, Rob, Howard,
Paul (same year) and Ross. Rats 1-5. Becoming Rat 1 was quite an honour!

In my case, (and I suspect the partners of a few others), Helen embarked on a (successful)
campaign to eradicate the title once I had left TGS.



Paul


Ross


Midge




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