Joan Bull celebrates being 100-years young

Tamworth woman Joan Bull is celebrating her 100th birthday on Friday, and her daughter Margie Rankin wrote this article in tribute to her mother.

Born on 10 th November 1917 at Drummoyne Sydney to Royce Parsons King (known as Roy) and Sybil Angela King nee Sturges – the second of 5 children – all have now pre-deceased Joan.

Joan’s fathers’ family were pioneers in the North West area forming the property ‘Eulourie’ Horton but following a nasty accident on his own property ‘Eungai’ Roy was forced to move to Sydney for treatment so Joan spent her early years living there with the family before they all moved back to Bingara during the depression years of the 1930’s when her father purchased ‘Wendouree’ just a few miles south of Bingara.

Early education was in Sydney. Art was a favourite at school so following the leaving certificate she was asked to attend art class once a week the following year.

This put her in good stead for latter years. Joan contracted rheumatic and scarlet fever at the same time as a child – after many months of recuperation she had to learn to walk again – it was the good nursing care which got her through this period with little or no after effects.

Some of her earliest memories are:

Whilst living in Sydney and travelling to school on the train Joan remembers the building of the Sydney harbour Bridge and was amazed how it came together as the two arches met in the middle. She also recalls walking over the bridge on the day of the opening. Another recollection is prior to the bridge being built – trains and trams terminated at Milson’s Point and McMahons Point. Cars would be carried across the harbour to Circular Quay on a punt.

She remembers driving with her father from Bingara to Sydney and on approach to the Murrurundi Range the car would have to be turned around and reversed up the range from Ardglen to the top – where it would be turned around again to make the descent to the bottom!

Royal Easter Show in Sydney was a must do – Rosella and Holbrook’s sample bags were always popular with real sample products. Joan’s favourite bag was the Yardley. The bags were about one shilling then. After returning to the Bingara area to live Joan loved to ride and used to ride about a mile to collect the mail from the crossing at Halls Creek.

Another time of recollection is riding from Warialda to Bingara with her elder brother Norman after the races – she rode one of her father’s racing mares. It was dark before they reached the Barraba road and a little worried however big brother calmed her by suggesting she loosen the reins and let the mare go – ‘she knew the way’ he said -and she did!

A funny recollection Joan has is the time she drove her baby Austin into the Halls Creek while the men were building a bridge – the car stalled and she couldn’t go anywhere – chivalry was what was needed so the men picked the car up from all four corners and walked it out of the creek with Joan still sitting at the steering wheel.

Tennis was a favourite pastime in Bingara – to have a tanned body in those days meant plastering oneself with strong coffee mixed with a little water – what a sticky mess.

Before Joan married, the district decided a nurses quarters was required to be built at the hospital. A fund raising competition was held over a period of time and the winner would be crowned Queen. Joan was the Queen in 1936/37 having raised the most money. She can’t recall the exact figure. There was a parade in the main street that day with Joan wearing her crown and sitting on the back of a lorry – the chair she sat upon was the mayoral chair which is now in the Senior Citizens rooms in Bingara. That was the beginning of her tireless community works spanning 1936-2014.

Joan married Wilson Bull of ‘Cooringoora’ Bingara in 1938 at St Mary’s Catholic Church Bingara. This union brought 2 pioneering families together within the same district. Joan and Wilson had 6 children – Jennifer, Angela, Charles, Michael (deceased 1969) Catherine and Margaret; 17 grandchildren and at last count – 36 great grandchildren (1 deceased 1996). The marriage of 44 years ended when Wilson passed away in 1981 aged 70 from cancer.

Groceries would come out to ‘Cooringoora’ on the Fays lorry each Friday and the orders were always bulk bags of sugar flour etc. Milk came from the cows and there was always plenty of cream to be skimmed off the top. Butter was home made and each morning was a full cooked breakfast. Joan loved bread and dripping and her father in law, Ernest Bull, was not allowed to have it at home so he’d walk across from the main house to partake with Joan.

From candle light to kerosene lamps to electricity; from using a charcoal meat safe covered with wet hessian – the legs needed to be in a jam tin of water to deter ants – this is what it was like in Joan’s earlier years. Her home made ginger beer would usually result in a bottle or two exploding in the pantry.

Joan was very involved in the community of Bingara. The Royal Far West Children’s Health Scheme was one of her many passions and was president for a number of years. It was Joan’s mother Sybil King who first bought the clinic sister to Bingara in 1939 following the birth of her first grandchild – Jennifer.

Other committees/organisations of involvement were:

St Mary’s Catholic school and church Bingara Pony Club – formed in 1954 and Joan was the first camp supervisor – a position held for 7 years. She is now a life patron.

1957 – Vice president of Torchbearers for Legacy and President of Bingara Hospital Auxiliary for many years. Is a life member of the Bingara Art Group and she formed the first Porcelain Painters Group which she taught up until about 2010.

President of Bingara District Historical Society until 2000 and now a life member. Joan was instrumental in researching much of the Bingara history and was presented with a certificate of achievement from the Royal

Historical Society in recognition. She organised family reunions for the King and Bull families which saw family members travelling from across the country.

In 1986, Joan was elected chairperson for the local Bi-Centenary Celebrations – this led to special privileges – Awarded Bingara Citizen of the Year in 1988; nominated for the Tall Poppy in the Women in Australia Awards also that same year. This was the year Kay Cottee won. Joan was presented with a medallion for her services to the community.

Also in 1988 Joan was invited to attend and meet Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II and His Highness Prince Phillip for a morning tea at the NSW Art Gallery – also attending a breakfast at Circular Quay where she had a good view of Their Royal Highnesses Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana arriving. Another medal presented here.

In 1994 Joan travelled to Canberra where she presented the Bingara Banner to the President of the Senate at Parliament House. The original banner was made by the Bingara ladies and presented to Sir Henry Parkes in Bathurst; the embroidery ladies of Bingara reproduced the banner which now hangs in Parliament House Canberra.

In 1999 Joan was awarded the Order of Australia in recognition of her tireless work for various charities and community work in the Bingara district.

More recently Joan was instrumental in having a working Senior Citizens Association in Bingara and keeping the room open to visitors and locals.

Joan’s passions are her family – children, grandchildren and great grandchildren; history, art and music.

Joan lived in Bingara until retiring to a self-care unit at the RFBI Moonby Retirement Village late in 2016 where she keeps very good health. In fact her GP said she’s bad for business because she’s never sick!!


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