Our Very Special Connection: Cliff Ryder’s Family

Four Carrolup boys (From Left: Thomas Jackamarra, Cliff Ryder, unidentified and Simpson Kelly) with their pastel drawing books. Photographer: Vera Hack, 1st February 1950. Noel & Lily White Collection.

‘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.

When John and I developed The Carrolup Story website, one of our primary aims was to connect families of the Aboriginal children of Carrolup with the story and the resources we had related to their family member who had been at the native settlement during the time that Noel White was a teacher at the school.

One way to facilitate such connections was to put up photographs of the Carrolup children taken during 1946-50 and see if family members would recognise their loved one and contact us.  If a person did so and asked for further information, we would send them any resource we had related to their loved one. You can read about this approach and some of the initial connections we made in the first blog we link to below.

One of the initial people to respond was Judy Ryder, daughter of one of the leading Carrolup child artists, Cliff Ryder. A second family connection was made shortly after with Cliff’s eldest daughter Charon. Amongst other things, I sent Charon and Judy a copy of a letter that Cliff had written to Mrs Rutter in 1950, in which he revealed that he had been at Moore River Native Settlement before moving down to Carrolup at the beginning of 1950. All these years later, Cliff’s family were totally unaware that their beloved Dad had also been at Moore River Native Settlement. They hadn’t known that Cliff had been at Carrolup until the early 1990s.

We met with Charon, her husband John Kalin, and their young grandson Treyje at Dome in Bassendean in August 2019. There was lots to talk about. Charon looked through copies of other Carrolup photographs we had and identified her father in several others. She then invited John and I to spend a day with their family at Moore River Native Settlement (also known as Mogumber Farm) and the reservation (where they had spent time as kids) and cemetery (where Cliff is buried) in Goomalling in September 2019. It was a very special day.

David Clark, Charon Ryder and John Stanton at The Royal Historical Society of Western Australia on Friday, 11th September 2020. Photographer: Linda Candy.

Charon and John Kalin later attended my talk on Carrolup at the Royal Western Australian Historical Society in Perth in September 2020.

In October 2019, just a few months after we published our eBook Connection: Aboriginal Child Artists Captivate Europe, we received an email from Ellen Spalding who lives in Melbourne. Ellen asked if I could put her in touch with Cliff Ryder’s family. Her father, Ian Spalding, who was very concerned about the way Aboriginal people were treated by white society, had travelled all around mainland Australia in the 1950s (and later) visiting each Aboriginal community. In the course of his travels, he assembled an extensive collection of photographs to show the living conditions that Aboriginal peoples were experiencing at that time. 

During his travels, Ellen’s father visited Marribank (formerly the Carrolup Native Settlement) where he was given a small pastel drawing done earlier by Cliff Ryder. Later in life, he had tried to trace Cliff’s family, to no avail. Ellen’s mother Barbara wanted to ensure that his wishes to have the drawing returned to the family would happen. She had the drawing framed professionally, and Ellen planned to visit Perth to give the drawing to the Ryder family on Barbara’s behalf.

Well, Ellen finally made it over to Perth last week. And on Saturday, Ellen, John and I travelled up to Mogumber, and then over to Goomalling with Charon and husband John Kalin. Ellen presented Charon with her Dad’s drawing at his gravesite. It was the most incredibly moving occasion and all of us were in tears. I realised that all I had done with John Stanton in relation to our collaborative Carrolup Story project was worthwhile, just to be present at this deeply moving ‘reunion’. And it all started with the posting of a photograph on our website.

Next week, I will post a blog with photographs and video of this special occasion. For now, I leave you with links to nine blog posts relating to that very special family, the Ryders. R.I.P. Cliff Ryder.

> Identifying the Children of Carrolup (09/07/19)

> Carrolup Artist and Father: Cliff Ryder (27/08/19)

> Talking About Cliff Ryder’s Family (29/08/19)

> A Day Out With the Ryder Family (18/09/19)

> The 9th Annual Maali Football Carnival (19/11/19)

> My Carrolup Talk in Perth (15/09/20)

> Our Journey, Cliff Ryder’s Family, Part 1 (23/03/21)

> Our Journey, Cliff Ryder’s Family, Part 2 (24/03/21)

> Our Journey, Cliff Ryder’s Family, Part 3 (25/03/21)

L-R: George, Kerry, Judy and Charon Ryder at the grave of their father Cliff and brother Chris. Goomalling Cemetry, 14th September 2019. Photograph taken by John Stanton.

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