Ronald ‘Ronnie’ Mason Senior was born in Orbost, Victoria in 1945. At the time his parents, Leo Ritchie and Trixie Thomas were on route to NSW. Ronnie’s paternal grandfather, Herbert Ritchie comes from Taree, NSW; his paternal grandmother Mabel Simms, ‘Nanna Bella’, was from La Perouse. Ronnie’s maternal grandfather was George Thomas and his wife was Agnes Patterson. George Thomas was a Gunai man from East Gippsland, Victoria and Agnes was a Monaro woman from Delegate, NSW.
Nanna Bella brought Ronnie’s father down the coast when he was a baby and spent years at Wallaga Lake. Nanna Bella was 102 when she died. She was always working for the Lavis family; she was still picking up pumpkins when she was 70. Ronnie’s father went to school at Wallaga Mission. His parents were always travelling throughout VIC and NSW, often to the Bodalla area, looking for seasonal work, picking peas and beans.
Ronnie spent his early years at the Stanford’s farm on the Tuross River, attending Bodalla School with his brothers and sisters. The family lived on the Stanford’s farm in a shack on the Tuross River bank, ‘…a bark hut really..’. The family later lived in a tin and bark hut at Nerrigundah, built by Ronnie’s father who was working at the Nerrigundah mill. They also lived on Coopers Island, picking. Ronnie’s first job was when he was 15 years old working at Potato Point Mill. ‘….I lasted one week. I then went to pick beans and peas and then worked on my brother-in-laws truck carting wood around, taking the timber to the mill….’.
Ronnie moved to Sydney, but always returned to the south coast for holidays. At Christmas they would go to Bodalla and pick peas, or camp at Potato Point, Jamison’s Point, north side and south side of Brou Lake and Mummuga Lake where they continue to camp today. Ronnie and his wife Vivienne brought their kids back to Narooma to live in 1980. They continue to live and travel between La Perouse and the Narooma area.Excerpt from Stories About the Eurobodalla by Aboriginal People, 2006. Story contributed by Martin Ind from Moruya High School.