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TWO TALES OF THE MOUNTAINS


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SIGNS OF THE PAST 

In 1945, when the Leonard family move into ‘Kenton Hall’, an old home on the Mountains, Paul finds the bones of a human hand.

Signs of the Past traces his attempts to uncover the mystery behind this discovery.

His searching reveals that the home was built and occupied by three generations of the Ruttyfyds and Paul must unravel the secrets of all three generations to discover the truth about the hand.

 David Ruttyfyd, the patriarch, was a successful businessman. ‘Kenton Hall’ was the monument that symbolised his achievements. He begins a dynasty in the colony of New South Wales. When he dies of a heart attack in 1908, his mantle as head of the Ruttyfyds is assumed by his son, George. George has fought in the Boer War and goes on to fight as a light horseman in the Palestine campaign of World War One. He is killed in the fighting at Damascus. Robert, the third generation, survives the Western Front, but the mysterious death of his wife becomes the focus of Paul’s search in the climax of the story.

A gripping mystery thriller to the last page. 

BEYOND THE PALE 

The discovery of three skeletons in a cave on the Mountains becomes a detective mystery at a distance of 140 years. A coach carrying gold from Bathurst to Sydney in 1863 is robbed by bushrangers. One of the bushrangers is caught but freed the next day from Hartley gaol by his accomplice. The gold and the bushrangers disappear.

Gerry Whitehall, the owner of the land that encompasses the cave, follows the trail of newspaper accounts, police records, and family letters to piece together the tragedy behind the skeletons. 

In Store Price: $AU28.95 
Online Price:   $AU27.95

 

ISBN: 978-1-921731-89-1
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 296
Genre: Fiction
 

Cover: Clive Dalkins


Author: John Lambert
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2011
Language: English

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AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY

John Lambert was a teacher of history who began writing historical fiction when he retired. This is his fourth novel to be published. 

His stories provide the opportunity to show how the past influences the present and how history illustrates the best, and the worst, of human behaviour. While the characters in the stories are mostly fictional, their actions are closely related to the historical context. History is about people; fiction and history combine to make believable and interesting studies of human achievement. 

John lives on the Blue Mountains and this book is written against the background of his affection for this part of New South Wales.

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SIGNS OF THE PAST

 

KENTON HALL 1945–1951

 

The family moved into the old home in November 1945, just after the war.

There were three children. At nine, Paul was the eldest; William was two years younger, and Lizzi, two years younger again. Their father, Patrick, had returned to civilian life after service in New Guinea. Their mother, Leonie, after four years without the company of her husband, and having had to care for the children in her parents’ home, was looking forward to establishing a true family life.

Patrick had a small inheritance from his own father and, with a loan from the Bank of New South Wales, had found enough for the deposit on the house. There was a delay before the papers were signed but the family moved in anyway. Patrick was an accountant and his old firm had offered him a job immediately he was discharged from the army. His salary would cover the regular repayments on the loan and the family’s living expenses, though there would be nothing left over.

The living expenses included the cost of his weekly train ticket into the city, for the house was in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. He left home each morning at six to catch the express service, ‘The Fish’ as the train was called, and arrived home each evening at seven. It was a long day and the cherished family life was, of necessity, relegated to the weekends. To some extent, the beauty of the surroundings provided compensation, but the children felt their father lived in another world.

The house, which rejoiced in the name of ‘Kenton Hall’, was already sixty years old, having been built as the country house of a Sydney merchant who followed the fashion of having a country home in the Blue Mountains. It was a two-storey stone mansion built on a ridge that provided sweeping views across the plain to the city and the coast. Set well back from the road, behind an impressive front lawn, it provided a rather majestic vista for the passersby.

A long driveway gave access to the front door. Behind the house to the north and west stretched acres of bush. The parts closest to the house had been cleared and featured the old stables from the days before motor cars usurped the place of the horse and carriage. The stables had been stone with a timber roof but only the stone walls and the flagstone floor remained. A relatively modern wooden garage stood at the end of the drive.

During the war the house had been empty while the last surviving member of the Rutterfyds, the family whose patriarch had built it, went off to fight, and die, for King and country. With confirmation of his death, the executor of the estate placed the house on the market, but the furniture and carpets were sold separately. The result was that when the Leonards moved in, the floorboards were bare except for the thousands of tacks that had been used to hold the carpets in place. The carpets had been pulled out but the tacks left. Paul’s earliest memories were of spending weeks removing the tacks, one at a time with a pair of pliers, from the floors of the eight upstairs bedrooms, and the downstairs study, lounge, conservatory, halls and billiard room. The kitchen, dining room, stairs and family room were polished timber; there were no tacks! There were two servants’ rooms, one upstairs reached by a suspended wooden verandah, and the other downstairs tucked away in a corner behind the stairs. These also had no tacks; servants did not warrant the luxury of carpets.

There was one bathroom, off a landing two-thirds of the way up the stairs, which served all eight bedrooms and the servants’ rooms. It contained a large, enamelled, cast iron bath with hot water supplied from a chip heater. At least there was running water, though the pipes, having been added well after the house was built, protruded from the walls. One of the improvements added by Patrick, only weeks after the family moved in, was an electric water heater, which gave instantaneous hot water to the bath and the newly installed shower above it. Nevertheless, the electric unit being costly to run, the shower, and the electric heater itself, were the preserve of the adults; the children had to be content with baths and the chip heater. The chip heater at least had the advantage that it heated the whole room making the twice-weekly bath a lengthy affair which could be enjoyed, especially in winter.

Every bedroom, and the main rooms downstairs, had large open fireplaces, though they were rarely used by the Leonards. Obtaining and cutting wood was a task beyond Patrick’s weekend time span. The house bristled with chimneys where the smoke from downstairs and upstairs fireplaces, which were linked, escaped into the freedom of the mountain air. Each chimney, in brick rather than stone, had its own distinctive pattern for its top section.

The staircase was a major design feature, leading from the foyer inside the front door to the upper rooms. It had two landings, one that gave entry to the bathroom and the servants’ rooms, and the other that gave access to a bedroom slightly smaller than the others. From the second landing, a further four steps led up to the level of the hallway from which doorways gave access to the main bedrooms. The staircase thus had three sections. At each change of direction was a very solid upright cedar post, splendidly carved but effectively obstructing any effort to slide down the banisters. The banisters themselves, also of cedar, were similarly carved. There were grave physical consequences for those tempted to slide.

The central feature of the kitchen was the huge fuel stove, with an oven large enough to take two Christmas turkeys, and mammoth saucepans sitting on its top plate. Leonie preferred to use a new kerosene three-burner stove. In one corner stood a Silent Knight refrigerator, though for the first six months, till they could afford such a luxury, an icebox had to suffice. All food preparation was undertaken on the kitchen table which took up the space of one wall. The pantry was adjacent to the kitchen door, between the kitchen and the dining room.

The billiard room was empty for most of the five years the family lived at Kenton Hall. Only in their last year there could Patrick find the money to buy a three-quarter size billiard table. Paul and William, taught by their father, even with just one year’s experience, became quite competent at billiards and snooker.

Beyond the kitchen was the laundry. Here reigned supreme the copper, containing water which was heated, again by a wood fire, in order to cleanse, once a week, when mixed with washing powder, the pile of family clothes. Next to it stood the hand wringer and the tubs. Paul was regularly awarded the dubious honour of turning the handle of the wringer, thereby removing the water against the pressure of the rollers.

The only other rooms that should be mentioned were the toilets. There were four, in different strategic positions, their location being largely determined by the need to allow the nightsoil man to gain access from an outside hatch. One was at the end of the verandah beyond the laundry, another was off an airlock near the front door, the third was outside the downstairs servant’s room, and the fourth was a freestanding backyard outhouse.

Also freestanding in the backyard was a very large well. All the roof water was channelled into it. The above-ground surrounds of the well were hexagonal, about three feet high, and of stone. Its depth was unknown, at least to the Leonards, because town water was available and the well was not used. There were two very heavy blocks of cut stone that formed a covering. The only time they were moved during the Leonard’s occupation of Kenton Hall was one Saturday afternoon when Patrick, feeling especially curious, used a crowbar to lever them apart and dropped a rope down to test the depth. He ran out of rope and lost interest.

The exterior of the house was most imposing. The sandstone courses, interspersed with large wooden windows, and the brick chimneys rising above the roofline, gave an impression of grandeur. The roof itself added to this for it was slate imported from northern Wales. For part of the southern facade, facing the road and along the eastern side, the upper-storey walls were carried on massive stone arches. Inside the arches was a wide verandah, before French windows opened into the billiard room.

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