Here is the last part of a series of blog posts that is based on a chapter about the Ryder family from my book Connection: Aboriginal Child Artists Captivate Europe. You can find the first part here and the second part here.
‘I must tell you about the trip that my family and I had with David and John. In the morning of 14th September 2019, John (Kalin) and I, George and Anne, and Kerry and Judy, met up with these two ‘strangers’ at Moore River Settlement. We walked around the settlement, talking as we went. George showed John and David a number of his artworks.
After a picnic lunch, we left Moore River Settlement and headed on the backroads to our hometown Goomalling. We first visited the reserve—originally called the Native Reserve—where we were brought up. We took John and David to the places on the reserve we used to play as children. We still visit the reserve regularly; these visits are part of our healing process. We’ve got a long way to go with our healing process, but we’ll always remember this particular visit as an important part of our journey.
We then took David and John to the cemetery, where my father lies at rest. It was a very sad, very emotional occasion. We shared a lot of stories, sitting by the gravesites and having afternoon tea. We talked about a lot of things that my Mother and Father did on the reserve. David then gave us a copy of the book about Carrolup written by Mary Durack Miller and Florence Rutter, a book in which my father is mentioned along with other children.
David told me that Noel White had provided notes about six of the boys to Mary Durack Miller and she had included them in the book. The other five boys were the best known of the Carrolup artists—Reynold Hart, Revel Cooper, Barry Loo, Parnell Dempster, Claude Kelly—so my Dad was amongst real talent. And he was only at Carrolup from January 1950, whilst the others had been at Carrolup when Noel had arrived. I feel so proud of my Dad.
‘Cliff Ryder’s name was appearing on some of the best pictures, and his manual work, at a country show, had been judged the best of any child in the Katanning district. A serious, sincere, boy, he listened attentively to his lessons, always intent on pleasing and doing the right thing.’ M D Miller and F Rutter, Child Artists of the Australian Bush, 1952, p. 49
John Stanton took a photograph of my family with Mary and Florence’s book at the graves of my father and my brother Christopher, who passed away when he was just three months old and now lies next to our father. This photograph is very special for my family.
The photograph was also put on The Carrolup Story, in a blog about our day out. It’s so powerful, this website. It is a place of information about Carrolup, as well as a place of contact for other people, as well as for ourselves.
David and John are not strangers anymore; they are part of our family. They are also part of our journey.
Another phase of our journey will take place in the coming months. Because of the family photo taken of us near my brother and Dad’s gravesite that was shown on The Carrolup Story website, David was contacted by Ellen Spalding from Melbourne who wanted to know if he could put her in contact with our family. Her father, who was very concerned about the way Aboriginal people were treated by white society, had travelled all around Australia in the 1950s (and later) visiting many Aboriginal communities. He had assembled a very large collection of photographs, in part to show the living conditions that Aboriginal people experienced at that time.
During his travels, Ellen’s father had visited Marribank (formerly Carrolup Native Settlement) where he was given a small drawing by Cliff Ryder. Later in life, he had tried to trace our family, but to no avail. He has now passed away and Ellen has wanted to ensure that his wish to have the drawing given to us was made to happen. She has now had the drawing framed in a professional way and will travel over to Perth sometime in the future. It will be such a special occasion, very emotional no doubt.
I want to finish by saying how proud my family were when we learnt that one of our Dad’s drawings was chosen to be on a banner advertising the Berndt Museum’s exhibition Carrolup Revisited at the Lawrence Wilson Gallery, The University of Western Australia, from 8th February to 29th June 2019. We want to thank the staff at the Berndt Museum for making this decision, for providing us with copies of other drawings done by our Dad, and for their kindness and helpfulness during our meeting.’ Connection: Aboriginal Child Artists Captivate Europe. David Clark, in association with John Stanton. Copyright © 2020 by David Clark