A century of orchard life
BOOK DETAILS ORRVALE FAMILY’S HISTORY
Family history can be a treasure trove of fascinating facts and characters — or it can be a crashing bore for anyone with no passion for the past.
For Orrvale’s Bronwyn Prater, a year of COVID19 lockdowns and restrictions meant a chance to delve into 600 years of her family’s history.
John Lewis talked to the orchardist’s daughter about how and why she published a 300-page book on the Prater family.
Bronwyn ‘Bronnie’ Prater had been dabbling in her family’s history for 30 years, but her time was mostly taken up running her family business Safety Services in central Shepparton.
When the business was sold four years ago, Bronnie finally had the chance to do some serious research on tracing her family’s roots.
In 2018 she began a yearlong online Diploma in Family Studies run by the University of Tasmania.
“I learned how to research, where to look for things,” Bronnie said.
‘‘I learned how to find the records of the ships’ surgeons’ diaries on their trips to Australia.’’
She also learned how to transcribe diaries — written in large script often undecipherable to the ordinary reader.
Bronnie had already traced the roots of the Prater family as far back as 14thcentury England where her descendants once owned the medieval Nunney Castle in the county of Somerset.
But it was the more recent Australian history of the Praters that left her fascinated.
Packing stencils found by her cousin at the family orchard at Orrvale was the spark that Bronnie needed to begin her family history research.
“My cousin got talking to his dad and he said it was nearly 100 years since Grandpa bought the orchard. My cousin said to me ‘I think we need to celebrate this’.
“He looked at me and said ‘you’ve just done this course, so over to you’,’’ Bronnie said.
The result is her 295-page book The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From The Tree - The Praters in Orrvale.
Within its pages, Bronnie uses letters, newspaper cuttings, public records and photographs to tell the story of how the Praters arrived in Australia.
We read of 19-year-old Arty Prater, who was sent to Australia in 1910 as a ‘‘forward scout’’ to take stock of the new country the family was about to emigrate to.
Arty was followed a few months later by his blind father, Will, and mother, Louisa, his two sisters and three younger brothers including Bronnie’s grandfather Tom.
The family took up land at Bamawm near Rochester before Tom signed up in 1916 to serve with the Australian Light Horse to fight in Europe.
Bronnie carefully records her grandfather’s war service, which included the Australian attack at VillersBretonneux and his wounding near the French town of Roisel.
After his return to Australia in 1919, Tom Prater used a Soldier Settlement loan to buy a small orchard at Orrvale in 1920.
More than a century later, the orchard is still owned by the Praters, and Bronnie’s book records the triumphs and trials of four generations as they grew their orchard and their family to the present day.
Bronnie still lives on the family orchard near her mother and other family members in Orrvale.
She had 100 copies of her book printed and has distributed them to cousins and friends. Copies are available at Goulburn Valley Libraries and at Shepparton Heritage Centre.
“I feel pleased that I’ve finally got our history down for the future — for anyone who wants to know how their ancestors lived and how and why they came out here,” she said.