The Grasby Family

Mr Grasby infront of his charcoal oven

Mr Grasby infront of his charcoal oven

The land containing the present Park was purchased by the Grasby Family from the estate of Billy Pye after his death in 1913.

Joseph Grasby and his wife Beatrice, had four sons, Eric (b 1898 - d 1977), Cecil (b 1898, d ?) Lance (b 1904 - d ?) and Harold (b 1900 - d 1974) and a daughter, Vera (b 1902 - d 1970) who lived all her life in Balhannah, marrying Gus Filsell, who helped start the Balhannah Co-Op. Beatrice was, for a time, President of the Balhannah Methodist Women's Fellowship.

At about the time of World War One a charcoal kiln was operated in a gully on the site. Fallen timber was gathered and cut into lengths of about five feet (1.5 metres) and staked on end on the ground. The stack was set alight, before being covered with leaves and finally earth, so that the fire smouldered away. A hole was left at the bottom of the gully to create a draught. The rate of burning was controlled by airflow through the holes which acted as a damper.

The fire had to be constantly monitored so that it burned slowly, without flaring up. It had to be attended the whole time. Charcoal burning could not be carried out in summer months for fear of starting a bush fire.

When the kiln was opened, the charcoal was sifted through a coarse sieve to separate it from the dirt. It was loaded into bags and then onto trucks for delivery. Care had to be taken that the charcoal was cold enough because of the danger of combustion. It was dangerous to cart.

The charcoal was used locally in each of the blacksmiths' shops in the area. Coking coal was in short supply at the time and charcoal was used as a supplementary fuel for heating blacksmiths' furnaces. Some of it was also used by Charlick's Flour Mills at Mile End. In addition it was used to filter water and cool it, and in hessian cool-safes.

During the Depression, Mrs Grasby and her husband each year provided a Christmas tree, with a present on it for every child in the area. To raise money for the Fighting Forces Fund in the Second World War, local ladies picked Grasby's daffodils and sold them (see newspaper article "A Day Among Daffodils")

After Joseph's death, his sons, Cecil and Lance, inherited the land, later selling it and leaving the district. Harold left his property to his son Les. Les had two sisters, Gloria Oates and Lorna Schubert (later Lorna Hector). Lorna maintained her links with Balhannah, living in nearby Hahndorf. Sadly, Lorna died on October 8th 1996, followed by Gloria on May 19th 2009, aged 84.

Les, Gloria and Lorna also had a brother, Brian who joined the RAAF during the 2nd World War and made the ultimate sacrifice on 10th May 1944, aged 21. He flew 17 missions for the RAAF 467 Squadron in Lancaster bombers as a wireless operator / gunner.

Brian's letters sent home during his time in England have been kept by the Grasby family descendants, and in them he constantly mentioned how much he looked forward to coming home to the farm and Balhannah. This link is to Brian's burial site in Lille France.

(We hope to be able to bring you extracts from his log book, letters and include pictures of his medals as part of our ongoing commitment to the history of the Park.)

Joseph and Beatrice Grasby are buried at the Bonney Flat cemetery, Balhannah.

Les did not marry. He ran the orchard and kept a beef herd on the property. His great interest was in trees and orchards.

He planted the roadside bordering his land with native shrubs and trees, but his greatest pleasure was maintaining and adding to Billy Pye's plantations. In nursery beds under the trees he propagated Orchids to add to his bush garden. These beds are still evident on one of the walking trails.

Les was a very good footballer and won best and fairest at the Onkaparinga Football club a couple of times. In 1953 he played for the Hills Football Association when they won the Southern Championship and the Lovelock Shield.

When Les died in 1990, his sisters felt that it would be a fitting memorial to Les and their family to hand over their property to the Onkaparinga District Council for the recreation of the community.

Lorna and their families were present when the Park was officially opened in 1994.