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Building a life in Kaimkillenbun

LOOKING BACK: Percy and Mina Skerman raised a family of eight on their Kaimkillenbun farm. Back row: Percy, Graham, Ian and Vic. Front row: Douglas, Phyllis, Percy, Mina, Marjorie and Lloyd.
LOOKING BACK: Percy and Mina Skerman raised a family of eight on their Kaimkillenbun farm. Back row: Percy, Graham, Ian and Vic. Front row: Douglas, Phyllis, Percy, Mina, Marjorie and Lloyd. Jessica Bahr

LIFE rolled on for Percy and Mina Skerman and their family as they developed their selection near Kaimkillenbun.

They hadn't been there long when their first son was born. They called him Lloyd after the famous Prime Minister in Britain, Lloyd George.

A prickly pear selection behind them became available so they acquired it also. True to its name it was full of pear and the selector was required to clear it of the pest.

At this time arsenic pentoxide was used to clear the pear.

It was hard slow work as the dead bush was cut out, stacked and burnt. It was also a health hazard.

This method of work was hardly making a dent in the advance of the scourge.

The authorities were searching for a better method and came up with the Cochineal insect.

Pear leaves infected by the insect were made available to the farmers. Percy Skerman acquired some.

He made himself a coat and trousers of leather and cut a narrow track through the forest of pear.

He filled six kerosene tins with infected leaves fixing them to his saddle and then he rode along the tracks casting out leaves where best he could.

It wasn't until the Cactoblastis was introduced a few years later that the forests of prickly pear began to collapse.

Percy Skerman reflected on how different life may have been if his forbears hadn't experienced a disaster on their voyage to Australia. It was 1866 when his grandfather John and family decided to emigrate.

The Skermans boarded the Netherby at Plymouth in April. They were a family of 13, comprising three generations and they loaded all their foundry equipment on the sailing ship and headed for Brisbane where they were going into business.

By July, they were passing through Bass Strait but ran aground on King Island. All those on board made it safely ashore but the ship quickly broke up and all the equipment the Skermans had brought was lost to the sea.

Arriving in Brisbane they found farming was a better option than being labourers.

So it was on the land that Percy Skerman spent most of his life. The couple raised and educated a family of eight. Church life was important to the family too.

When they came to Kaimkillenbun there were no churches yet built but there were church members in the district so open air services were held but this changed when the hall was built.

Several different denominations held their services in it and Mina played the organ for several.

Percy was elected to be an elder and was ordained and inducted to represent the minister should he be away.

That was the beginnings of his interest in affairs apart from the farm.


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