As we cross the threshold into a new year, through the flashing blaze of new year resolutions, my thoughts go back to the beginning of 1916. If I asked my Great Grandmother what resolutions she aspired to, upon the dawning of the new year, I am sure the list would not include any of the frivolous and selfish items that form a modern woman’s wishlist. She would not have given a thought to improving her exercise regime or diet. Nor would she have spared a thought for more “me” time or redoing the household budget. In fact, she would have considered the question of resolutions, quite ridiculous and a waste of precious time. Spare time was a scarce commodity for Cis Lyons.
Having said that, I wish I could travel back to January 1916 and ask her anyway. I can only imagine her replies. First and foremost, I know she would wish for the safe homecoming of her husband who was away fighting a war. I imagine she would not have wanted to dwell too much on the subject and the possible outcomes. She would not want to think about the possibilities such as William being permanently maimed or worse still, paying the ultimate price.
My Great Grandmother was not a praying woman, however, if the drought of 1915 continued well into 1916, I think she would have fell onto her knees in desperation. The sugar crops of the Burdekin district were reduced by 100000 tons due the severity of the drought and the situation was further exacerbated by rising costs due to the war. The only crops that survived were those under irrigation and only two out of three of the Burdekin Mills crushed that year.
According to her daughter in law, Vivienne Lyons,
‘Unlike most women, Harriet never did have the luxury of keeping the home fires burning while the men toiled in the fields. Instead, she was on one end of a saw while young Tom Hourigan was on the other. Her four boys each had their own hoe. Even four year old Billy had a miniature version. Her father, rather than being a help while Will was away at war, was forever “borrowing” Tom to help him on one of his own projects. Harriet would often set Tom up on a job only to come back hours later to find him missing.’ ¹
Considering the many hardships that Cis endured during the war years, she may have hoped for more kindness and consideration from her father.
Whilst running a farm almost singlehandedly, Cis Lyons had little spare time to ponder her life during those trying years 1915 to 1918. She had no time to consider resolutions when there were too many pressing tasks calling for her attention. With a farm to run, she had fields to plow, seeds to plant and crops to water. She also had a household to run, chickens to tend to, cows to milk, wood to cut and children to care for. She was spared the luxury of shopping centres and supermarkets that pander to every possible whim and desire. Her life was almost totally void of mechanization to assist in her daily life. She had no choice other than to put her best foot forward.
Cis would also have hoped that Will’s letters continued to arrive from abroad. I imagine that each sulky ride down the lane to the Minehan General Store and Post Office filled her with feelings of both quiet excitement and apprehension. Whilst Will’s letters kept coming, she knew there was hope. However, there was always the lingering fear that a pink telegram, the bearer of bad news, awaited her.
Lastly, I’m sure that if Cis Lyons did secretly harbour any resolutions at the beginning of each new year, the most pressing wish would be that the war will soon end and upon her husband’s return, her life would return to normal.
- Information provided by Jenny Saxby.