Mr William Noble - "A Man of Few Words"

- A School Project by Amy Noble -

William Noble was born on the 10th of November 1873 (one day after my birthday) at Kangaloon. Kangaloon was then a small pioneer farming area. It is in the New South Wales Southern Highlands and is near where the movie 'Babe' was made. Three brothers and two sisters (one called Amy) were also born at Kangaloon. Three more children were born after moving to Bexhill, but these all died at a young age. One of them was killed at the age of six in a tree felling accident on the same day that the family moved to Eureka.

William's Grandparents

William's grandparents, John and Anne Noble had travelled by ship from Ireland to Australia. They arrived in Sydney on July 21, 1841. They moved to Jamberoo and started a farm. It is possible that Caroline Chisholm actually helped them when they arrived in Sydney because she helped a lot of people move to the Jamberoo area.

In 1862 the family and the 9 children they had at the time moved to Kangaloon. They were one of the first families to live there. (This doesn't include Aborigines of course.) They had four more children when they lived at Kangaloon.

William's Parents

William's father's name was also John. He was the first member of my family to be born in Australia. William's mother's name was Isabella McGill. They were married at Albion Park in 1872. They lived for ten years on a farm at Kangaloon, but left in 1882 to move to Bexhill. William was nine years old at this time. Bexhill is on the Far North Coast of New South Wales, between Lismore and Byron Bay.

During the time they lived at Bexhill, at the age of 14, William had to ride through the scrub to 'Eureka' to get his uncle, Andrew Johnston, to build a coffin for his little sister who had died from Diptheria.


In 1889, William's father bought the property called 'Eureka' from Mr William Strong and the family moved to live there. This property had been run as a hotel, and served as a half way point between Lismore and Mullumbimby. The hotel license expired before the Nobles, who were "of the temperance persuasion", took it over as their residence. (My father grew up on that same property and my Grandparents still own the land on which the original 'Eureka' stood. Bottle collectors also still occasionally ask permission to go and dig for bottles on the site of the old hotel.)

On the day that they moved to Eureka, William's brothers Archie and Bob, with their cousins were using their small axes to cut down saplings. Norman, aged six, had been ordered to stay at home, but he later followed unnoticed. He was hiding behind a tree and peering around it when a sapling fell against the tree, slid down the trunk and killed him. Amazingly it seems, this was the only death to occur in the scrub at Eureka, although there were many injuries and "near misses". William narrowly escaped death one day when a tree he was felling came back and caught him. Fortunately for him, he was thrown to one side and was thus saved from certain death.

The name of the property 'Eureka', became adopted as the name of the district after the 'Postal Inspector" allocated a 'Receiving Office for Mails' under this name to William Strong in 1882. When he bought the property, William Noble's father John, also took over the job of Postmaster, and held it for 14 years from 1889 until 1903. William's daughter Isabel, later held the position of Postmistress (including telephonist duties) for thirty years from 1927, until her sudden death in 1957. It is said that her death "saddened the whole district. Epitomising in her own character so much of what was best in the district she was the friend and confidante of all."

Another of William's daughters, Alice, took over the duties for the next two years until the opening of an automatic telephone exchange led to the Post Office being taken over by the local garage in 1959. It has only just closed in 1996 when no one could be found to take over the business.

The Post Office was often under threat of downgrading or closure, and my father remembers the Postmistress quietly telling people when it was "counting month", so that people would make sure they posted their letters at the post office instead of leaving them out for collection by the mail delivery driver. In fact the post office has now closed, but the reason was that no one could be found to take over the business.

William's Life

There were two main influences in William's life - farming and the church. He was also known as a very fine horseman and sportsman - especially cricket. Their life involved working on the farm five days a week, playing cricket on Saturday, and going to church on Sunday.

Of Dairy Farming

The settlement at Eureka was undertaken so that dairy farms could be established. For most of Eureka's history, dairying was not only the cornerstone of its prosperity, but, as a way of life, was woven into the very fabric of the community.

The first dairies were slab buildings, with stone paved floors and yards that were a sea of mud in wet weather. All the work was done by hand - the milking, the skimming of the cream and the churning of the butter. The butter was salted and stored in a keg, which was taken by pack-horse to Lismore for shipment to Sydney. It could be up to a fortnight before the butter was sold in Sydney.

A little factory was built to separate the cream from the milk, and churn it into butter. William, at the age of 17, used a bullock team to haul the timber from Lismore to build the factory. This is a distance of 24 kilometres and takes less than half an hour by car today. The farmers had to wait for the milk to be separated, so they could collect the skim milk to take back to the farm to feed animals such as calves and pigs. This was an important time to exchange news and opinions. The factory served as the social centre and the fountain of the latest views.

With better roads and vehicles, the Norco Dairy Co-Operative was formed and despite a somewhat shaky start, grew to be a national and later an international dairy company.

Of Bullocks and Draught Horses

Bullocks were used extensively by farmers for ploughing and in the dray. Bullocks remained in use for many years, even after the horse had largely supplanted them. Enthusiasts such as Bill Noble ("Uncle Bill") used bullocks as late as the 1950s and 1960s.

Draught horses replaced bullocks as farms and roads improved. The draught horse withstood the mechanical challenge until after the Second World War when the tractor gradually took over. The Clydesdale was the most popular type of draught horse. Many farmers bred their own, and broke them in to work themselves. Today this noble beast is a rarity.

Of The Methodist Church

William's family, and William himself, were very strongly involved in the church. William was noted for "his sterling character, his association with the Methodist Church, and his service to the community."

The original Eureka Methodist Church was opened on 19th June, 1887. (It is interesting to note that the building contract was awarded to a firm of builders who were Roman Catholics.) The only wedding to occur in the original church was of William Noble to Mary Jane Rankin in 1901. William Noble was a member of the first Church Trust, which was established in 1904. In 1935, Myra Noble (my Great-Grandmother) suggested that a tree be planted around the church for each of the original trustees. William Noble is seen in the picture below putting this suggestion into action and these trees are still identified by memorial plaques.

A new, larger church was built in 1905, and is still in use today. Part of the original church is still attached to this building.

A resident of the time Mrs Annie Bell (Collings) recalls of William Noble - "I remember Willie Noble as a Sunday School teacher for whom I had a genuine affection. I remember him driving a dapple grey horse, and coming into the church yard with a flourish. All the Nobles had an eye for a good horse." She also recalls "Those were the days when Sunday clothes were Sunday clothes and were most impressive."

Of Cricket

For many years in Eureka, half the week was taken up with discussing the events of the previous Saturday, and the remainder with speculation on what would happen on the coming Saturday. "The cricket team not only represented its district, but came to be the personification of it." William Noble was a keen cricketer, as were later his sons Norman, Bill and Robert (Bob) who were members of the champion team in 1934/5, and also his grandsons Bruce, Owen (my grandfather), Warren Errol and William.

In 1905, the cricket club got permission to put a concrete wicket on part of the school grounds. The 'Under-Secretary of the Department of Public Instruction' gave permission saying "The lads of this locality are very respectable and the hoodlum species is quite unknown in the neighbourhood." It was 24 years before the wicket was actually made.

Of Death as a Part of Life

Funerals in those days took place from the home. The grave was usually dug by relatives or friends. and the 'laying out' or preparation of bodies for burial was done by local women. Even as late as the 1920s, Mary Noble and her husband William were called upon throughout the district to perform this task.

Memories of My Father

These are stories told to me by the only one of William's children who is still alive - "Uncle Bill". He is now 87 years old but can still talk for hours about his life and stories of the district!