SCHOOL PHOTO: Uki Public School, 1917. Ella and her friend Ivy are on the horse at the back, second from left.
SCHOOL PHOTO: Uki Public School, 1917. Ella and her friend Ivy are on the horse at the back, second from left. Tweed Regional Museum

Ella, the doyenne of Uki

TALKING HISTORY with Tweed Regional Museum

IN A previous Talking History column about Loder's Store at Uki, we learnt of the budding romance between shop assistant Lionel Mitchell and office worker Ella Womersley. This column, provided by the Uki and South Arm Historical Society, looks in more detail at Ella's life, and her rich contribution to the Uki community.

Part 1:

ELLA Annie Womersley was born on September 18, 1908, and lived at Smiths Creek, Uki.

The Womersley home was popular for entertainments such as euchre tournaments, and a dance was held every Saturday night, with Ella's mother playing either a violin or the piano. People came from near and far to dance the night away on the wide verandahs.

Ella started school at Uki Primary School, arriving by horseback behind an older sister or brother.

During World War I Ella joined the junior Red Cross and while at school knitted socks for the soldiers.

She later said: "I pity the poor soldier who got mine as they were full of knots and holes and lumps”.

Sadly Ella's father, John, died in 1917, leaving her mother with a mortgage and children to raise.

Ella in her winning Scottish costume at a Cudgera Fancy Dress Juvenile Ball in August 1920, aged 11.
Ella in her winning Scottish costume at a Cudgera Fancy Dress Juvenile Ball in August 1920, aged 11. Angus McNeil

To help out, Ella started working as a live-in dairymaid at Reserve Creek and while there attended Palmvale Primary School.

At the age of 12, Ella sat the QC exam. She had to travel to Murwillumbah.

They set off with an old flea-bitten grey horse pulling an old black sulky.

She arrived late and the history papers had already been distributed which sent her into a flap, but the question was on the Magna Carta, which was the only thing she had studied.

Ella managed to pass the QC and her mother felt she needed more schooling so Ella was sent to Lismore High School, where she boarded for 12 months.

After this Ella boarded in Murwillumbah and attended Mt Saint Patrick's Convent School to study Business Principles.

At 16, Ella started work in the office of Loder's General Store, Uki. She later recalled the hustle and bustle of the store and the local characters such as the tobacco-chewing bullockies and the local cream carriers who were regular customers.

Loder's Store.
Loder's Store. Tweed Regional Museum

See part 2 next week.

* Talking History is a column supplied by the staff of the Tweed Regional Museum. It features the stories behind their rich collection.



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