Bernice welcomes great-great granddaughter Emerald

FIVE GENERATIONS: From left, Emily Cooper, Allysia Cooper, Bernice Colvin, holding her youngest great-great grandchild Emerald Rose, and Prue Cooper. Photo: Gemma Rostron, Fille & Moi Design.
FIVE GENERATIONS: From left, Emily Cooper, Allysia Cooper, Bernice Colvin, holding her youngest great-great grandchild Emerald Rose, and Prue Cooper. Photo: Gemma Rostron, Fille & Moi Design.

At 92, Nambucca’s Bernice Colvin has welcomed her first great-great grandchild, Emerald Rose, into the world. The admiration of her tiniest new family member was captured by local photographer Gemma Rolston, celebrating the family’s five generations of women.

The age gap between little Emerald and her great-great granny is filled with a fascinating history of how times have changed over the last century. Bernice hopes to share the stories of her own past with her family through a series of memoirs her daughter Prue Cooper from Newee Creek is compiling.  

Bernice was born in a tent near Lake Cargelligo, NSW in 1926, which is quite a contrast to the hospital birth most experience now. Her mother was of French ancestry, raised with maids, servants and wealth.

Bernice as a baby with her father surrounded by the Australian bush she was raised in as a child in country NSW. Photo courtesy of Prue Cooper.

Bernice as a baby with her father surrounded by the Australian bush she was raised in as a child in country NSW. Photo courtesy of Prue Cooper.

“Mum always said that standards had to be kept up, and so they were… in a tent in the Australian outback,” Bernice said.

“Dad was a government bore digger, so we moved a lot as Dad went to new locations. Dad used a water-diviner (a fork and stick), where a person would walk with this special stick until the ends moved showing that water was in that spot (usually near Cacosia trees). The water-diviner was always correct!”

“The Depression did not affect us while we were in the bush, we always had food to eat – rabbits, goannas, kangaroo stew, emu eggs. We once ate galahs….they were a bit tough!

“We ate the best damper, made in a tin-camp fire with golden syrup poured over it, with monthly trips into town for supplies such as tins of powdered milk, tea, sugar and flour.

“But all eating was with strict manners ‘chew well, close your mouth, elbows off the table’ – Owen and I never questioned Mum or Dad, we were brought up when children were to only speak when spoken to,” Bernice said.

Bernice as a baby girl, right, and the tent where she was born in near Lake Cargelligo. Photos courtesy of Prue Cooper.

Bernice as a baby girl, right, and the tent where she was born in near Lake Cargelligo. Photos courtesy of Prue Cooper.

“My childhood was a mixture of freedom and strict etiquette. Mum often said to Owen and me ‘you do not pig it’– as the handsewn tablecloth was laid over the wooden crate for our meals.

“Our clothes were all handmade by Mum using her hand-pushed treadle machine and any trips into town were done in our ‘Sunday best’,” Bernice writes in her memoirs.

The love of the bush has always remained strong for Bernice, who was always an avid bushwalker and loved making time to be out in nature. It’s a passion she has passed onto her daughter Prue from Newee Creek, who spends much of her time trekking through bush tracks as far afield as New Zealand and England, and is not ready to stop anytime soon.