Hedley, after the Boer War

Hedley Johnson had the misfortune of his ship home from the Boer War arriving in Hobart on a Sunday. His mother, the extremely devout Elizabeth, nee Henningham, prioritised attendance in church over going down to Hobart with her daughters (including Olive) to welcome Hedley home. Hedley seems to have lost no time to set off again, this time to Nightcaps, in the far south of New Zealand. He remained there for nine very dismal sounding years. In 1907 he wrote to another sister, Clara:

“… have read the book … that you sent and liked it very well. Have had plenty of time for reading lately, have been having a lot of snow and have not been able to do much. Could do with a library here, we had to spend three days of last week pretty well in bunk the weather was that bad. Am looking after a mob of sheep that we have feeding on turnips. They get frozen to the ground some mornings…”

(Calvert and Calvert, 64)

In 1911 Hedley decided to return to Tasmania, writing, again to Clara,

“… don’t think there is much in the way of news to send along, there never is or perhaps I might write a little oftener…

“I intend to come home some time this year… will stay on till after next muster … and then take my hook out, so be on the look out for a job for me. Anything will do, I’m not flash…”

(Calvert and Calvert, 64)

He sounds a broken man, surely disappointed by his unheroic welcome home and subsequent years as a lowly shepherd at the dag-end of the world. But Hedley did return to “Tassy” in 1911, and in 1914 he married, a young artist, Mildred Stonehouse. It seems he had already been dilly-dallying around about that for some time too, for already, in 1909 she had sent him the postcard portrait below. Her home, Stratford, was not so far away, across the range, in the Cole Valley, from his own family’s, which was at Castle Hill, near Kempton.

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