My Grandfather’s Diary

Dorothy Edwards

Grandfather always kept a diary. It reveals a great deal about his work, his health and his attitude to life. He would stop work at 4.30 in the afternoon, go into the office, and write in his diary. I presume there were many other diaries, but only one has survived.

Frederick Cecil King, who had trained as a nurseryman in England, came to Australia in 1890. He would have been 84 years on 25th May, 1943, but he does not mention his birthday in the diary He first worked for the Pearce Bros, Nursery at Randwick, NSW and in 1903 commenced work at the Woollongbar Experimental Farm as a horticulturalist and experimentalist. However, when he was asked to milk cows as well as do nursery work he resigned and started his own nursery business in Lismore in 1905. Every day of the year Grandfather wrote in his diary about the weather. He was a nurseryman who had trained in England and the weather would have been important for his livelihood.

Some of the transactions recorded in his diary are: "Floral Bride's Shower, 10/6; Bridesmaid's pink asters, 7/6; 3 buttonholes 1/6; Basket of pink roses and gladiolus gratis; self left them at Jones Tea Rooms at 6pm." On the following Friday he decorated St. Paul's Presbyterian Church for "the Nancy Ross wedding." Frequently he records making wreaths or various people and the names of those who ordered the wreaths. On Saturday 6th March "Mr Best" gave him "a packet of pansy seeds" and some time later he records delivering to Mr Best "a box of pansy plants," Apparently it was much easier to get Grandfather to sow the seeds in a box than for Mr Best to do it for himself. He bought bread from "the Daffodil Tea Rooms" and often "fetched home ice". The ice would have come from Newton's Ice Works in Ballina Street. "Loads of wood" were delivered from "Brown and Jolly 8/-", the "chimney (was) swept by Mr Edwards, Crown Street 10/- " Some other incidental expenses recorded were: pair of braces, 4/6; 12 pounds potatoes from Nutts 1/-; new axe handle, 1/3; load of wood, 10/-." In July, Grandfather would go to his customer's home and prune their rose bushes. However, this year "Mrs Long and Mrs Bowers do not want their roses pruned." Every week Grandfather would water the palms at "Crethar's Airconditioned Café" and one week he had to replace a palm. He also "delivered cut flowers to The Vogue." He would have delivered orders by horse and sulky, or he would have hired "Morgan's taxi" to deliver the wreaths to the church, then maybe walk home. Perhaps he had trouble catching the horse, Mina, or maybe he just felt like the exercise.

There is an interesting note for Saturday 3rd July. My Grandmother had written in the diary in pencil, underneath Grandfather's entry for the day, "I paid Dad for bag of pollard 12 shillings". My grandmother must have had her own little pocket-money enterprise – keeping fowls. Grandfather had an entry almost every week about delivering eggs to Mrs. G.B. Sharpe. I presume the money must have been Gran's, but she had to pay for the pollard out of it. She always had sixpence to pay her grandchildren for any little messages that we did for her.

On 3rd November, a "fine, hot day", he records that he fell from a stepladder while pruning the "cupresses" and the "acalaphs" at the Golf Club. He was "…brought home in a car by Mrs Hayley and Dr Longworth and Dr Kellas came and bandaged the knee." His diary entry for the day still stated, "Thunder storms and nice rain at night." Up until 24th November he was still sick in bed, but "on this day (he) got on the verandah for a change." The final entry in this volume of his diary (31st December) reads "raining very heavy all morning. Heavy showers afternoon. Still in bed."

My Grandfather was, at 84, still carrying on his florist and nursery business.