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Writer keeps rural history alive

HISTORY MAKER: Helen Trustum has a passion for history, which has driven her to write nine books on local history.
HISTORY MAKER: Helen Trustum has a passion for history, which has driven her to write nine books on local history. Patrick Gorbunovs

FUTURE generations of country folk in the Richmond Valley of northern New South Wales will be grateful for the tireless work Helen Trustum has done to record the region's history.

Over the past three decades Helen has written and published nine books of history and is now waist deep in her next one.

Born on a dairy farm at Tuckurimba, Helen married a dairy farmer from Woodburn, just down river, and together they bought land at Bentley, near Casino, where 40 years ago they started a charolais stud.

The cattle continue to breed well in the lush grass on the slopes of the Mackellar Range and Helen has since been inducted as a life member of the breed society.

I try to get it down it before it's all gone - before those who have the stories go, because a lot of history goes with them.

But in between her busy schedule Helen has always found time to write about history.

"My father George Maxwell had a great love of history and was able to put pen to paper and I sort of followed on," Helen said.

"Once you start delving in it gets very interesting."

Now she is working on a book about her own life experiences - like those of growing up at Tuckurimba, and riding a horse to school.

"I love talking to people and I am always looking for local history," she said of her drive to record the past.

"I try to get it down it before it's all gone - before those who have the stories go, because a lot of history goes with them.

"I do it for the future generations, otherwise they might not know what has been going on."

In recent years Helen has organised the Bentley Art Prize. This year is its 30th anniversary and it has attracted 700 entries from as far afield as Bathurst, Tamworth and Toowoomba.

"It's a great community event held in the Bentley Public Hall," she said.

"That's what country halls are for. They are great meeting places. They bring people together but it takes a community to keep them going."

Prolific author

HELEN'S first self-published book, written like most of her yarns in long-hand before being typed and set, told the story of her husband's family history. That was followed by a book on the rural centre of Bentley, before she wrote a book about the Casino Show Society's first 100 years.

My Mother's Memories followed next, telling the tale of how one woman raised four little children after her husband failed to return from the First World War.

On the Cream Run was the next print run, detailing the history of the Northern Rivers dairy co-operative and its sprawling transport network, before the book Sale-o, Sale-o profiled the district's auctioneers, buyers, carriers and drovers.

Old Time Country Halls followed, telling the story of those great community meeting centres.

When the time came to profile all the show societies between Grafton and Tweed, Helen wrote the book It's Showtime, followed by the life history of Spring Grove icon Keith Nelson.

Topics:  author history