Collecting by Caravan

The below article was remembered by one of Nancy’s grand nieces. The cottage and the fireplace in the article were donated to the council. Unfortunately, it was not looked after well and eventually became infested with white ants. This meant that the house had to be knocked down. However, the article below and the family photo show demonstrate Nancy’s love of Australia and of the home that she built.

A Harvest and a Hearth of Stones

MISS NANCY DAVIDSON drives her caravan over all parts of New South Wales, and wherever she goes she looks for a beautiful stone and brings it home. This has been going on for several years, and all that time she has been dreaming of the little house where she would live in between times of caravaning. Now
the house is built. It is set in the bush near Wahroonga, with a brook-or a “crick,” if you have it that way across the grounds.

THE house is called Teribori, which is aboriginal for rainbow, and the garden is being laid out in rainbow colouring of flowers. Starting from the southern end past the ferns, growing in pockets and over rocks there are to be seen the red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet flowers of the prism. Natural trees are left, and leafy paths go round the rocks just as the rocks happen to be. There is a belt of tropical plants that Miss Davidson has culled during her caravaning and a patch of Australian wild flowers. Down in the creek lie some of the lovely stones that the caravan has brought to rest here.
Geologists may give stones high-sounding names such as micraceous schist, but Nancy Davidson is just a natural naturalist who loves colours and shapes and indulges a passion for collecting while she earns her living by her caravan. All sorts of people go [for] trips in the caravan, and many of them have not seen a stone before. Some laugh at Miss Davidson, some help to find a really good stone, others watch her move rocks with a superior air. Quite a number have gone home to build a bird-bath or rockery of stones.
There is a saying, “You can’t throw a stone across the Darling at Bourke.” When Miss Davidson reached Bourke she was determined to find a stone. After much hunting she discovered, as she thought, a stone to throw, but a geologist member of the party scraped it and declared it merely “baked earth” There are no stones to throw at Bourke.

Red Yellow and White

AMONGST Miss Davidsons collection there is a stone from the meeting of the waters of the Cotter and Murrumbidgee, and white quartz from near Collector and Bungendore, lovely smooth pebbles from the River Deua in the Araluen Valley, and quite a family of feet-like stones from the Araluen, with the biggest stone of all nearly two feet long and like a big pear drop-it was the heaviest she could carry. There is a pretty red stone from the seaside place of Merimbula and little stone from Budgewoi, where the caravaner made soup of pippies. Most of the reds and yellows came from the beach at Port Macquarie – Miss Davidson’s birthplace. Her father- Presbyterian minister and Member of Parliament – early imbued her with the love for stones.
Another caravan trip took Miss Nell Holden who wanted not stones, but clays and colourings, for her pottery work, and the volcanic soil at Port Macquarie yielded up oxide and cobalt. When the house at Wahroonga was ready for its fireplace the stones were placed in a pile
and the bricklayer or “brickie,” as he calls himself, was brought in to confront it. He jibbed at the idea of combining stones into a fireplace. Looking at the pile, he said, ‘They’re just stones, wouldn’t you rather have some nice fire-bricks? Miss Davidson threw a bucket of water over them, transforming dullness into glowing colours. ‘My!” he said, “they are stones. I’ve never seen stones like that before. You’ll have to throw a bucket of water at the fireplace every time you have a visitor.”
From that moment the “brickies” turned to their job, and while owner and architect were away fashioned one of the most delightful of fire surrounds that one could see.

A Den and a Home

ALL the fire-box and hearth are of necessity in fire-brick, as stones are liable to explode with heat. In front, the edges of the bricks step regularly into the stones just as the uneven stones demand; all the facing
up to the mantelpiece is of stones in all colours, sizes, and shapes and these meet the wall with the wallpaper neatly trimmed up to them. The mantelpiece of wood has ornaments chosen to emphasise the colour in the stones, there is a blue iridescent bowl which heightens the blue in some stones and a Limoges scent bottle in pink, left from an old dressing-table set of grand mamma’s day, which brings up the pink; there is a grey pewter tankard and a black pot. Beside the hearth an old chair of great-great-grand-mother date is of walnut and marquetry with tapestry cleverly worked by Miss Davidson. All this lovely room is part of the attic floor of the house in the bush. Miss Davidson does all kinds of things, and, as Miss Davidson has many interests and hobbies, the attic room has to be a den as well as a home when her caravan is resting.

Nancy Davidson and Budgewoi Cabin
Nancy (Agnes Gillies Walker) Davidson at her cabin in Budgewoi.

1939 ‘Collecting by Caravan’, The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), 10 July, p. 6. (Women’s Supplement), viewed 13 Feb 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article17596640


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