Reliving the determination of farming families

Tracing a family's pioneering spirit

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The enthusiasm for farming after the First World War is retold in a lively account by Denilquin farmer Ian Lea

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Ian Lea proudly displaying a copy of his latest book, a history of the Doncon and Lea families who farmed the Warbreccan Subdivision, near Deniliquin. Photo: supplied

Ian Lea proudly displaying a copy of his latest book, a history of the Doncon and Lea families who farmed the Warbreccan Subdivision, near Deniliquin. Photo: supplied

Family history is important if we are to acknowledge the debt owed to our ancestors and the latest book by Ian Lea adds to the gathering literature of our pioneering past.

Mr Lea is now retired to Deniliquin but he spent his life farming the block his parents Henry and Bessie had taken up from the Warbreccan Subdivison, southwest of Denilquin after the First World War.

His book The Doncon and Lea Families: Early Settlers of the Warbreccan Subdivision is a lively account of the joy and sorrow, success and heartbreak associated with any pastoral venture in this country.

"It is a brief history of what those two families, in particular my parents Bessie Doncon and Henry (Wen) Lea, endured in the 1920s in moving to a new district, the struggle to establish themselves as farmers while at the same time raising a family in very primitive conditions," Mr Lea said.

"Their enthusiasm for being pioneers in a new farming district was soon dampened by crop failures, drought, depressed prices, the worldwide depression of the 1930s and World War Two."

The Doncon and Lea families were two of the original settlers of the Warbreccan Station subdivision and Mr Lea's book has identifed all the other original owners of the subdivision, what blocks they selected, and their struggle to survive with low wheat prices, drought and recession during the early 1940's.

"Researching this book has been a rewarding experience as there was not a lot I knew about my family history," he said.

"It is the book I have always wanted to write and the one which has given me the greatest satisfaction."

Thoughtfully researched, with plenty of family photographs sprinkled through the narrative, the book will appeal to those who are fascinated by our pastoral history.

It should also tempt others who have contemplated researching their own family history as there are many families who have a connection to the land through forbears who took up holdings throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

  • The book, Ian's third, provides more fascinating insight into pioneers of the Deniliquin district. It is available at Deniliquin Newsagency and Bookstore in Cressy St, Deniliquin, or phone Ian Lea on 0418 468 857.
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