Patrick White's mother, Ruth White, (left) on the veranda of Withycombe with an unidentified friend in 1923.

Mt Wilson in the 1920s and 1930s

Even in this remote part of the world, World War I acted as a catalyst for social change. By the end of the War, the original property owners from 1878-1880 had either sold or had passed on. Of those who had inherited land, three at least made the decision to become permanent residents and attempted to extract a living from the rich basalt soil and moist, cool climate. Some residents continued the pattern of arriving in November, and departing the following April. Guest houses became an attractive alternative for visitors as the attractions of Mt Wilson became more widely known.

For the first time, these resident owners, having survived the slaughter of World War 1, married and raised their children in Mt Wilson. One of those children, Helen Warliker (nee Gregson), captures some of the magic of those times in A Mount Wilson Childhood (1990). In the Foreword she writes: "Life was not idyllic but I think we were privileged to have been brought up in this unique environment, not only because of the beauty of its gardens and seemingly endless expanses of bushland which were our playground, but because of the diversity of people who formed the community".

In his eulogy for Jane Smart in St Georges Church, Mt Wilson, on the 17th June 1995, Peter Valder expressed a similar view: "it seems to me we were lucky to grow up in a magical innocent time in what I feel was the district's Golden Age". He continued: "The roads were not sealed, there was no electricity, no television, most of us did not have radios or cars, so community life flourished. I was especially fortunate that as a pre-school child the Wynnes allowed me, along with the Gregsons, to be taken under the wing of their own remarkable tutor Dorothy Moore or Dollie. We all learned to read andwrite, we sang, we played games, we painted, we made pottery (with Fred Mann), we did leatherwork, we wove things and we took part in small plays".

Lizzie Clark, wife of Syd Kirk, and nanny to Patrick and Suzanne White.

Mt Wilson School had an erratic existence due to fluctuating enrolment numbers. In the 1930s, however, the school opened regularly thereby introducing another stable element to the community along with the Parents and Citizens Association.

Surrounded as Mt Wilson is by bushland, the children of the 20s and 30s had the endless delights of bush picnics often led by Edward Jesse Gregson, Helen's father and a fine amateur botanist. As Helen describes them: "the billy was boiled and some times chops grilled. Then there were the Bogey Holes, a series of dark waterholes overshadowed by rocks - there surely must be a bunyip".

The children also gathered at Windyridge with Miss Helen Gregson, Edward's sister. Here a children's playground was created including the Maypole, the Giant's Stride, monkey bars and a seesaw. Lemon syrup and biscuits were offered as refreshments. Miss Gregson was a great believer in developing a sense of adventure in children.

Another unusual member of the community was Fred Mann who owned Yengo, which he named Stone Lodge. In Cherry Cottage at Stone Lodge he created pottery from the local clays and taught the children skills. On other occasions he generously hosted children's parties. As the children grew there were the joys of riding ponies, racing each other and jumping over logs, and the fun of New Year's Day Sports, initiated by the Country Women's Association.

Meanwhile, fetes and garden parties were a feature of life, especially at Wynstay. Mt Wilson's magnificent gardens were opened to the public to raise funds for projects such as the Village Hall. Suzanne White, Patrick's sister, was a generous contributor to this project.