As a young historian woman, Judith Dunn would visit Bella Vista Farmhouse and sit with Len Ward, the caretaker and hear his tales. He lived with his dog in a caravan on the property. He loved the estate and kept a vigilant eye on the place and would chase away vandals who might come calling.
One night, there was a severe storm and the caravan was hit by a bolt of lightning, bowling it over with Len inside. He survived but told Judith his knives and forks were melted, welded inside the cutlery drawer! He lived on the property for many years, finally returning to his place of birth, England.
Judith also came from England. She was part of a large family, one of seven children. She was working with an archaeologist and got a grounding in archaeology. Judith wanted further education. However, a family conference was held deciding whether to stay in Hampshire or travel across the world – to Australia.
It was “all stay or all go”. “Go” was the decision! Thinking they’d settle in Perth, they were told there were not enough jobs for such a large family. The ship continued to Melbourne with the same story. The end of the journey was Sydney.
Her parents and the older children got jobs within a week of arrival. No allowance for her to continue with higher education. In six months after pooling enough resources, their first home was purchased in Fairfield.
Judith Dunn remembers sharing a fibro shed out the back with her two older sisters. Her memory of the cold and the snail trails across the dirt floor is still vivid.
On retiring after 25 years in school administration, Judith studied Tourism (Tour Guiding) at TAFE and became Course Coordinator at Baulkham Hills TAFE. Thereafter she began her own business ‘Past Times Tours’ over 20 years ago, taking tours focussed on the history and culture of intra and interstate Australia.
She has been awarded an OAM for Services to History and Heritage, is one of two elected NSW delegates serving the Federation of Australian Historical Societies and serves on nine committees.
Another of her interests is travel. Some years ago, Judith took a 9-month trip back to the UK. All she took was a single suitcase. She returned with a 3 square metre space on a ship which included Victorian artefacts including silver salt and pepper sets, spoons, egg cups and toast racks which are now on display at Bella Vista Farm.
Apart from her passion for Australian history and travel, Judith enjoys daily walks, reading, giving historical library talks and writing books. She has written seven and is now on her eight about North Rocks Cemetery. She’s finding many interesting stories there.
Judith and Greg, another member of Friends of Bella Vista Farm, met six weeks after her arrival in Australia.
They have recently celebrated 55 years of marriage; they have two children and six grandchildren. Every night Judith writes a journal. When she finally stops travelling, she says “I will get vicarious pleasure reading about the life I have led”.
*Friends of Bella Vista Farmhouse would like to meet anyone who has an interest in history and wants to serve the community and would like to become a Friend. Once the Corona Virus has been curtailed, please come and visit the Farm. The usual Open Day is on the 1st Sunday of every month, Cnr Norwest Boulevard and Elizabeth Macarthur Drive, Bella Vista or check the Council website: www.thehills.nsw.gov.au