The Coal Yard & other stories

Contributed to Kaikorai - Then & Now by David Still
At 31 Kaikorai Valley Road stood a large two storey dwelling where William Ellis (My Grand Father, and known as Bill) brought up his family, ran his coal yard, shop and the carrying business. Built as a Hotel, it is believed that it never obtained a licence, but was put to other use. Bill bought the property in 1906 from Mathew Morton and sons who, like several others back to 1885 at least, ran a grocery store there. Bill had previously had a small shop in Swanson Street, which is now known as County Road. Behind the big house were the out buildings, essential to the running of the home and business.

31 Kaikorai Valley Road
31 Kaikorai Valley Road
  As well as the wash house with the big copper for heating the washing water, there was the toilet with the pull chain water closet that made every visit an adventure. The toilet bowl was proudly labelled with the brand name “Edina” which seemed to me to be strange title as it sounded the same name as one of my aunts. Perhaps the expression of “visiting auntie” had some reason after all?
The north corner of the house had an entrance into a shop where mainly basics were sold. These were things like matches, candles, clothes pegs, soap powder etc. Of interest to us children were the small bottles of fizzy soft drink. Either Thompson’s or Lanes.
Included in the complex were the stables for the horses, when they were not turned out in the paddock down the road. The floor of the stable was paved with big stones for many years, but new regulations forced the laying of smooth, hygienic concrete. On one occasion Kel went to fetch “Glen” the favourite horse from in the loose box. Glen’s iron shod hooves slipped on the concrete floor. Poor Glen landed on the floor with his back against the stall division and hurt his back quite badly. It took some time for the horse to recover. Further down the valley at the corner of Brockville road was a wool scour that belonged to Sandy Ness and Sons, and Bill Ellis grazed his horses there in the weekends. Young Norman Ellis often had the job of taking the horses to the paddock and bringing them back to the yard on a Monday morning. Here old Glen the horse had another fall and was past help and had to be killed with an axe. Frederick James Still who lived in Greenock Street nearby was trained as a fellmonger and skinned the old horse. The hide was hung on a fence to dry and the carcass was towed up Fraser’s Gully and buried.
At one time there was a sickness for horses going around called strangles disease. To overcome this, all water in troughs for horses were to be treated with condies crystals. The trough at the coal yard was not treated and visiting horses would welcome the pure water. No harm came from this except that there was a water meter on the supply from the council, and the extra horses were using too much water. A visitor suggested to let the tap quietly drip and fill the trough slowly, then the meter did not change. In the early days there were two wells at the yard (one inside the house near the shop and the other up by the drying green) but their use was discontinued.   31 Kaikorai Valley Road
Norman Ellis at the “yard”

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