The Tartan Fleck — a group exhibition celebrating the South-West’s Scottish heritage
Earlier this year, I was honoured to be involved with a group exhibition known as the “Tartan Fleck” — an international collaboration celebrating the contributions made by early Scottish settlers in the south west of Western Australia.
The artists were charged with the task of telling the stories of the Scottish migrants, help them reclaim their identity, and laud their contribution to shaping our modern life by their efforts in the early days.
We were given a loose reign for how we could tell these stories, and who we could focus on, but there was one thing that was consistent between us all — we had to create limited edition prints on paper that was made from vines taken from Margaret River vineyards and processed in Scotland.
Given that my very own father-in-law (Bill Leiper) is proud of his Scottish ancestry, and he knows how to tell a ripper of a yarn, I looked no further than him as my subject.
Over countless cups of tea and many afternoons, I casually placed my recording device on the table, and once he’d forgotten it was there, he spent hours telling stories from the early days. To say life would have been tough back then is an under-statement, and it only increased my awe of the strength and tenacity of the early settlers.
So anyway, I eventually came up with the concept of marking out a map of the early farmers who Bill helped get electricity connected to their farms. Most of the farms were dotted along Miamup Rd — then known as Leiper’s Road — and wrapped around the corner past what is now Juniper Estate and Vasse Felix to Caves Road.
Here is my artist statement that goes with my print, as part of the Tartan Fleck exhibition.
William Edward (Bill) Leiper first arrived in Cowaramup as a six-month-old, and learned first-hand from his Scottish-immigrant father, Robert Bruce (Bob), how to be of service to the community.
“He had a great desire to help people, particularly group settlers walking off properties. He helped them get loans, and getting others onto sustenance. He should have been a lawyer!” he said of his father.
Together with his wife Marian, Bill was the lynchpin in bringing power from just north of the Cowaramup township, across-country and along Leiper’s Road (now Miamup Road), Harman’s Mill Road (now Tom Cullity Rd Drive), and through to Caves Road.
“We had to recruit two farms per mile to be eligible for power. Marian typed up all the letters to the farmers explaining the situation, which she didn’t enjoy much…”
(“I didn’t marry a farmer to be an office girl!” says Marian.)
“We were the only family on Leiper’s Road with a phone. It was installed during the war, and the wire was strung from tree to tree all the way to town. Our phone number was 205.The farmers offered me 15 shillings each to cover our costs but I wasn’t interested.”
The power poles were made from bush poles sourced and processed from the farmers’ own properties, and installed by the farmers using a Fordson tractor and volunteers. The power was eventually turned on in 1959.
“It cost us 240 quid to connect the power from the pole to our house and sheds. Some of the families didn’t have two bob to jingle on a tombstone so we all pitched in an extra 10 quid to get them connected.”
Bill and Marian celebrated by selling their generator at the next heifer sale in March 1959.
My print represents a map of the farmers who were a part of this power roll-out, stretching along Leiper’s Road to Caves Road. Some farms are still owned and operated by the original families today, including the Leiper family which is now a fourth-generation farm.
The families depicted on this map are (from left to right on my print):
* Hick (now the location of Howard Park)
* Leiper (Bill and Marian)
* Leiper (Bob and Marion)
I learned a lot from being involved in this exhibition, and wish to thank, in particular, Frith Crossley, who took a punt on me and invited me to be involved. It was an incredible journey.
The artists in this exhibition were:
Chrissie Heughan International Artisan Paper Maker
❤ Anita Revel
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PPS Wanna buy THis piece? You can!
Original: Framed or matted prints, available via the Tartan Fleck official website.
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