I first met Elvine more than 30 years ago when I joined the Cowra Branch of the CWA. She told me that she had taken my Father Ian Davidson to school on his first day.
That of course tugged at my heart strings.
At that time Elvine had retired from nursing and was living at Billimari. I often visited her there and was amazed at what she had created.
As you all know, she was a fiercely independent woman, opinionated and feisty, but always positive. She was shaped by her upbringing. Born on 21 August 1914 to Albert Thomas Paton and Ada Australia Paton, nee Elliott, she was delivered by Dr Hugh McLaren at her Auntie Annie Hood's home in Macquarie Street, near the present day Martin's Electrical.
Elvine was born 17 days after the declaration of World War 1, two months early and weighing in at 3 lbs 8 ounce. She was a fighter from the start!
And she was loyal. Dr Hugh McLaren delivered her, his son Dr Will later cared for her, and following him, Dr John the grandson has been her doctor.
The family property was Rockview on the Forbes Road, near Back Creek, with the stone home still inhabited today. When Elvine was about four there was a severe drought and her Father dug a well in the bed of the creek and bailed water in a bucket to fill the troughs he had made from hollow tree logs which had been lined with canvas.
Little Elvine had her own bucket and helped her Father. She became very thirsty and before her Father could stop her she drank water from her bucket. She became extremely ill, was taken to town, and was in and out of consciousness for some weeks.
Finally the Doctor very kindly said to her Mother that she could take Elvine home to die.
Her Mother and her Father nursed her night and day, giving her boiled water and whipped egg white with a teaspoon of limewater. The limewater was for her bones.
Elvine had great faith in these old remedies for all of her life. Sometimes I thought that she didn't think medicine had improved much since the First World War. But who is to argue because the boiled water, whipped egg white and limewater saved her life.
Her first outing once she was well again was to be taken to the Cowra Showground to receive an Armistice Day Peace Medal. It is inscribed - Victory. The triumph of Liberty and Justice. The Peace of 1919.
Elvine loved helping her Father on the farm and had to be dragged away at seven years of age to start correspondence lessons from Blackfriars. She was an excellent student and when she was about 11 went to Sydney to boarding school at St Catherine's at Waverley for three years.
Unfortunately, due to the depression and her Father's ill health she came home, continued her education with Blackfriars and then in 1929 when she was 15 neighbours asked her if she would start a small private school.
This she did at Rockview with seven pupils, charging them one shilling per child each week. In 1932 it became the Rockview Subsidised School with more pupils and later the Merriganowry Subsidised School. As well, she started a little shop at Rockview, selling goods that people may have forgotten to get in Cowra.
She cooked and made sweets for the shop as well. And it was nothing for her to ride her horse, Cupie, to Cowra for supplies, a distance of 10 and a half miles, each way.
This was one enterprising young woman.
In March 1937 Elvine married Moreton Horsfall and they lived on one of the Ryan properties Linkworth where he was a share farmer, until World War 2 began.
In 1940 Elvine joined the newly formed Voluntary Aid Detachment 844 Cowra, the VAD. Elvine had done various nursing courses whilst teaching so was very capable when it came to the duties of the VAs. These included two days a week at the Military Training Camp in Cowra, working at the Cowra Hospital, meeting troop trains, feeding the troops and working in the Salvation Army Canteen, knitting socks, scarves, making pyjamas and dressing gowns, changing tyres and doing running repairs on motor vehicles.
This farm girl could turn her hand to pretty much any job.
As well, they had to stay fit so twice a week they met at the Cowra Post Office and had to march to the Chiverton store at the junction of the Grenfell and Forbes Roads and back, led by the Cowra Brass Band.
It is interesting to note that the VAs were not paid. They had to provide their own accommodation, food, transport and uniforms and were under the control of the army.
It wasn't until some 50 years later that Prime Minister Paul Keating said that those VAs who had done 200 days of service in Australia between 1939 and 1945 should be awarded the Civilian Service Medal. Elvine was very proud of her medal, and the plaque now at the entrance to the Cowra RSL's Sub-Branch rooms commemorating Cowra's VAD 844.
Elvine's husband was not medically fit enough to enlist and was sent to work at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory so Elvine transferred to the Blackheath VAD 277.
Her duties there included spotting at the tower at Hat Hill in Blackheath. Elvine recalled that the tower swayed as she climbed up when the wind was strong.
Shifts were four hours at a time. One time she heard a plane and felt that it sounded to be in trouble. She quickly reported it and was very pleased to later learn that the plane had indeed come down in the Megalong Valley but that no lives had been lost.
By early 1946, Elvine's marriage was at an end so she packed up, bought a ticket to Sydney, stood all the way on a troop train and arrived with eight pounds to her name. Her one sibling, a brother, inherited the farm. Daughter Elvine was supposed to make a good marriage. That is how it was in those days.
Within a day of arriving Elvine had a job nursing. She joined the NSW Nurses Association, now the Nurses and Midwives Association. When told by a matron that she was not entitled to any holiday pay she wrote to the Association and they replied that she was. The matron wasn't too happy about that.
Elvine was made a life member of the Nurses Association and delighted in attending their annual conferences in Sydney. Maybe the last one she attended was the year she turned 100. She was feted and of course really enjoyed the attention and recognition.
Elvine had various nursing jobs over many years. As well, she bred little Maltese dogs and travelled when she could to show them. She absolutely loved her dogs, the most recent being Honey who has been a very faithful companion for the last eight years.
Elvine left Sydney in 1978 aged 64 and moved to Billimari.
The Cowra Branch of the CWA was formed on 7 November 1923 when Elvine was nine years old. Her Mother joined her up as a junior member on that day. On her retirement she again joined the Cowra Branch of the CWA. As well she was a member of the Red Cross, and became involved in the Village of Billimari Progress Association, and was Secretary of the Billimari Tidy towns Committee.
Elvine enjoyed her membership of the RSL, the VAs having been invited to join in 1995.
Many of her relatives from around Cowra served in the First and Second World Wars, their names on the Honour Rolls outside the RSL Rooms. None were forgotten and it is only in recent times that she has missed the Anzac Day Dawn Service.
When she was 97 she had a minor car accident when crossing Kendal Street and was charged with failing to give way. My husband Geoffrey appeared for her and the magistrate, upon hearing that she still held a driving licence, immediately dismissed the charge with no conviction recorded.
When she was 90 Legacy in Cowra kindly offered her a flat in Brougham Street where she has lived until last week, along with her faithful Honey.
In reflecting on her life at the conclusion of her family history book which she wrote at 89 years of age she said: In my efforts to provide for myself since I was 15 years old, I have had many varied occupations, met so many people and been in many different situations. Most have been good, some not so good. Always interesting, and I have learned something from all of them. It has been a full and busy life!
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.