Peter was born on 13th December 1936 in London. He lived most of his youth in Limpsfield, Surrey, with his parents Hilda and Harold Paish and his sisters Joan and Frances, (sadly, all have now passed away) and his brother Richard.
He told me of his summer holidays with the family, living in tents and thoroughly enjoying sailing on the Norfolk Broads. He also enjoyed long bicycle riding.
He enjoyed his visits to his Uncle David’s farm in Wales.
After finishing his schooling at Felsted, he did the 2 years of National Service, then worked for a year, mainly on a farm. Shortly after his 21st birthday, he sailed to Australia as a “Ten Pound Pom”, with the dream of owning a farm, despite not knowing anyone in Australia. Later, his dream became my dream.
The ship called in to Perth on the way to Sydney, where he arrived on 20th May 1958.
He had various jobs around Sydney. He worked hard and saved as much as possible, first buying a bicycle, then a motorbike. Finally he bought a “ute”, and, as he wasn’t able to save much money in the city, he could now travel to find work in the country.
He worked for a time at “The Chalet” Hotel at Mt Kosciusko, as an “odd job man”. To earn more money for his farm, he worked at 3 jobs on Christmas Day – as Barman, washer-upper and probably his usual job. As he would have earnt overtime on all 3 jobs, that gave quite a boost to his savings.
From there, he started working in August 1959, for the Snowy Mountain Authority as a Weather Observer, eventually being posted to Spencer’s Creek Weather Station, near “The Chalet”. This was a wonderful occupation,, as in summer the men could ride horses to work, and in winter, they did a lot of skiing on the job. They also had a social life with the Chalet staff.
On the Queen’s Birthday long weekend, in June 1960, myself and 4 other student friends who were staying at the YWCA in Sydney, went skiing at Mt Kosciusko. Peter and I met at the Chalet and I immediately noticed his lovely smile. Peter invited us to the dance being held there on the Saturday night, and he was joined by his fellow weather observers, David Dodd, Sepp Stadler and Don Gower. Peter danced almost the whole evening with me and I thought he was someone VERY special – It was an enchanted evening – I could have danced all night.
When we returned to the “Y”, the other girls asked how the weekend went. My friends replied “Ask Judy!”
By coincidence Peter and I were both at Kosi and then in Melbourne at the same time later on in the year. I was so glad he hadn’t lost my grandmother’s address in Melbourne. There were so many other coincidences over the years, that I’m sure, as the saying goes, “It was meant to be”.
From Kosciusko, Peter went to the Antarctic twice with ANARE (the Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition), – each time for a year. In 1961 Peter, Sepp and David all went to the Antarctic as Weather Observers, and in 1963, Peter and David went back again, both as OIC Weather Observers at different bases.
Peter’s went to Wilkes in 1961. He thoroughly enjoyed the two dog sledging trips he went on. One was to the Vanderford Glacier, which is the picture in your “Order of Service”.
We have come to know some of his Wilkes companions and their wives at the 10 year reunions, and both of us have valued their friendship.
While at Wilkes, he was told that there was cheap farmland in West Australia, so in 1962, he came over to look at the farming here – and contacted me– a great thrill for me.
To look at the farmland areas, Peter bought a small and very slow motorbike which we called “put-put”. He rode it from Perth to Albany then to Esperance and Kalgoorlie looking at farmland, covering 1,288 Kilometres. At Kalgoorlie he was told there wasn’t another train for a week. He said he “had NEVER waited a WEEK for a train in his LIFE!!”, so he put-putted 595 km back to Perth and surprised me at work – a total of 1883km , which, for people of my vintage, is 1,170 miles.
I went to Melbourne to spend Christmas with Peter, before he went to Mawson. My present to him was a phone call to his parents, as he hadn’t spoken to them for 5 years.
Peter left for Mawson early in 1963. One of the expeditioners on board became ill, so the ship called in to Albany (on the south coast of Western Australia,) to put him ashore and waited for his replacement to arrive. My brother Frank drove me down to Albany so that I could welcome and farewell Peter again – wonderful.
I received a letter dated 11th February 1963, written several days after Peter arrived at Mawson, which Peter sent back to Australia on the ship. In it he wrote “I am looking forward to this year very much. Antarctica gets more appealing the more I see of it. It is certainly good to see this wonderful scenery again. I can’t wait to drive a dog team again”.
Peter went on a three-month long dog sledging and tractor trip from Mawson, to the Amery Ice Shelf, and return, skiing a total of 1,390 km (864 miles). This is probably the longest ever skied by one person on a dog sledging trip from an Australian base.
A tremendous achievement.
During this trip, Peter, Ray McMahon (OIC) and Ted Wishart, the glaciologist, went on a 30 day unsupported dog sledging trip along the Amery Ice Shelf to the Lambert Glacier, the largest glacier in the world. This was the highlight of Peter’s time in Antarctica.
Peter constantly skied about 27 metres (30 yards) in front of the dogs to give them something to aim for, with Ray navigating and signalling the directions to Peter. They were the first team to reach the north end of the glacier travelling overland from Mawson.
Peter’s skiing statistics for this trip include:
- Fastest time : 18 km (11 miles) in 2 hours, 3 minutes.
- Best day’s run: 79km (49 miles) in 11 hours.
- Longest run without a day’s break : 435km (270 miles) in 11 days.
I met Peter when he returned to Melbourne early in March 1964. We travelled to “Kosi”, where Peter proposed to me on the top of Mt Kosciusko (which is the highest mountain in Australia at around 7,600 ft.). Speaking of mountains, Mount Paish in Antarctica, is named after Peter.
We were married on 24th of April 1965. During his two years working on farms in West Australia, he realised that he must have a farm where there is a good rainfall.
We bought our beautiful farm, in 1966, in partnership with my father, Chris Wilson, so our partnership was called Paish and Wilson. David has continued using this name for his farming business.
The farm is north of Badgingarra, 35 miles from the coast at Jurien Bay and we called it “Limpsfield”. It is 1,060 hectares (2,617 acres) of rolling hills, with 300 acres of white gum trees, and beautiful wildflowers. Peter mainly farmed merino sheep for wool and grew pasture and wheat crops etc for their feed. One year he won the Champion Ram’s fleece at the Badgingarra Fair.
Until the bank lent us money for a transportable house in 1969, our home for 3 years was the end of a 20 x 60 ft shed, being about 20ft by 10 ft, with corrugated tin walls and high tin roof, louvre windows without flywire and a cracked cement floor, which I covered with linoleum. We had a generator for electricity, a kerosine and a gas fridge and a gas stove (both using gas cylinders) and miraculously, we had a “party line” telephone which the local farmers had erected in 1959 – some people in our area did not have one. We also had two full rain water tanks with water being piped to the inside from one – luxury!
We were very lucky to belong to such a very special community at Badgingarra. Most of the farms had been native vegetation, and they were allocated as potential farmland by the Government over the previous 10 years. Most of us were clearing our farms, waiting for a house, having babies and being involved in working for improvements for the community, such as telephones, electricity and later, the new townsite.
Highlights were when David was born on 6th March 1968, our transportable house arrived on April Fool’s Day!! 1969, and Kylie was born on 11th June 1970 – 10 years since we met, almost to the day.
The farm was half cleared, and recently Peter told me that he considered that the clearing of the native vegetation to sow the land to crops and working hard to make a success of the farm was his greatest achievement, even above his Antarctic experiences.
Peter worked very hard on the farm. One year in the early days, he was doing the seeding when heavy rain was forecast, so he worked a continuous 36 hours on an open tractor. The rain came before he finished seeding. I remember him coming home to me in the shed, with dripping waterproofs on, his fingers all white and shrivelled and his lips were blue.
Peter couldn’t understand how farmers could work all day, play tennis at night and drive for hundreds of miles for tennis matches on the weekends and still be fit to work on Monday. He received the answer at the age of 50. He was diagnosed as being a Coeliac, by which time, (I realise now in hindsight), he was almost dying of malnutrition. His health improved dramatically with the gluten free diet.
One of the worst things that happened at the farm, was on 29th December 2009, when a fire burnt 70% of our farm, and burnt other farms for another 20 miles. Fortunately our neighbours and other volunteers, came from many miles around, to help put the fire out and very thankfully, they saved the house and the sheds.
Peter volunteered for busy bees such as helping make the new Badgingarra Hall possible, helping with the planting of grass for the Bowling green and at bushfires. He also joined in other activities such as coming to the dances with me at the Badgy Hall with Fewster’s band, etc.
He handed over a well-established farm to David, and with the modern research for fertilisers, crops etc, David has continued improving the yields, as well as establishing a business of growing pasture for production and sale of pasture seeds. David is a qualified motor mechanic which has been invaluable to him with his vehicles. Peter was very proud of David’s achievements, as I am.
He enjoyed the times he spent with his family, his parents, Hilda and Harold, his sisters Joan and Frances, and his brother Richard and their spouses, David, Michael and Sandra, either in England, New Zealand or when they visited us.
Peter was very pleased when Kylie was one of two Science students, who won a trip to Antarctica in 1986, when she was 16 years old.
She went to Casey which replaced Wilkes. As a result of that trip she studied Geophysics (gaining honours). Later in Tasmania, she did further studies and became an Environmental Scientist, now working three days a week. Both Peter and I are very proud of her.
If things weren’t going at all well on the farm, Peter would say “Roll on Retirement.” When Peter eventually fully retired, he was able to follow his hobbies of cycling, skiing, sailing and reading books on history.
He didn’t enjoy travelling but, because of his interest in history and especially that of the two World Wars, he did agree to celebrate our 40th Wedding Anniversary in 2005, by travelling to Moscow and then joining a cruise down the Rhine from Amsterdam to Budapest. After that, he went to England to have a reunion with Frances, Joan and Richard, and also many of his relatives.
He enjoyed skiing at Kosi and in Victoria, especially with Kylie, Stuart, Nicola and Alex and occasionally David. One winter, Peter and our friend Margaret, skied from the Chalet, over the main range to the top of Mt Kosciusko and back, which he was very pleased to have achieved, and Margaret was also.
Peter joined the Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club and bought an International 420 dingy, which he could sail single handed and was able to pull up onto the shore each time, for storage.
A few years ago, his brother Richard came out from England and they sailed down to Fremantle Harbour, and around to the small harbour where Kailis’ fish restaurant is, and sailed beside the replica of the Dutch ship, the Dyfken.
He really enjoyed his sailing until he couldn’t pull the boat up the grassy slope anymore.
In a letter written to me in 1962, he said “We get on well together, don’t we?” About 50 years later, as we were on a walk, chatting and laughing together, he again said “We get on well together, don’t we?” We had such a special friendship.
I was very lucky to have him – he was such a wonderful person, kind and loving, he had a delightful sense of humour and a wonderful smile, even near his end. He was a good man, hard-working, very honest and ethical, modest, sensible, practical, always willing to help, tactful, and importantly, HE WAS VERY PATIENT WITH ME – what more could I ask for?
I was very proud of him, as well as all his achievements.
I loved him so much and will have very special memories of our 60 years that we shared, and am thankful that we had 60 years of loving each other.