Ruth Binney was born on 7 November 1925 on a farm near Willunga. She was the youngest of four children of Martin Henry Binney and Mary Elizabeth Couchman. She married Alec Baxendale.


I remember if you came home from school, on Saturdays, it was out with the men, chasing mice that ran under the stooks.

I remember horses, the haystacks and Dad getting up early to feed the horses, cutting chaff and then in the harvest, long days hay-carting with the Strouts. There were a lot of quail on the stubble – you’d be walking along and suddenly the quail would fly up.

Thatched haystacks (sheaved hay), the last in the district, Strout’s farm, 1988.

It was a basic small farm. There was a small plot of currants and I remember the men picking currants and drying them. We always had chooks and had to look for eggs all over the place. Sometimes we had turkeys or geese, or pigs.

We always milked cows – you’d come home from school, change your clothes and go and get the cows for milking.

My mother was a very good housekeeper and cook; she loved her flower garden and vegetable garden and used to make lots of jams and preserves. There was a well and windmill for water. It wasn’t easy keeping things alive because, of course, the horses and cows had first preference.

I remember things my mother used to do to keep the butter firm. She would sit the milk, cream and butter dishes in water in a big old meat dish and part-fill it with water. When she put muslin over it there’d be a gradual seep of coolness. Then she’d put it down in the lower part of the cellar on the slate floor.

My mother used to make coffee with separated milk, because it wasn’t as rich. She used to make scones in her busy life just so easily. I remember the smell of coffee and fresh scones, and freshly turned earth.

Ruth Binney, aged 2 years


My school days were from ’31 to ’38 at Willunga School. It was a beautiful stone building with two bigger rooms and a smaller third room. I can remember my first day at school in that little room. Ida Pethick (a monitor) drew an egg on the blackboard and put an “E” in the middle of it. I walked to school with my brother Lloyd. We walked up the railway line. Sometimes we were lucky to get a lift with Mr Delaney who propelled a ‘trike’ along the line to check it. Or if we thought we could get a lift in a car we’d walk down Binney Road and along the main road. It was the Depression and it wasn’t particularly uncommon to see a ‘swaggie’.

Willunga Public School (c.1913)

The roads were really poor, rough. Once my older brother Phil got concussion when the spring trolley’s wheels dropped into a hole and he was thrown out.

Mrs Byrne had a shop where you could buy lunch (delicious pies and pasties, Eskimo pies, iceblocks). She had sweets too – you asked for a penny tray or a ha’penny tray and you’d choose all the various sweets. I enjoyed school. I left when I was thirteen. In my last year I used to hear the little ones read and help some of them with their school-work.

1938. Ruth at Willunga School, 6th from right in back row.

When I left school I went and learned sewing with Miss Isabel Whibley in McLaren Vale. It was my first job and I was paid the great sum of four shillings a week.

Then my father died in July 1939, when I was fourteen, and I went to work in Goode’s Store in Willunga and got paid seven and sixpence a week!

Goode’s Store on the left, next to the Willunga Hotel (Photo from Tony Liddy).

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