SS "Wilcannia" 1888
Fawcett coat of arms

Walda Lillian Scholler (nee Fawcett)

Walda Lillian Fawcett was born in Sydney on 27th September 1940, the daughter of Walter Robert Fawcett Jr. (Wally) (1907 — 1968) and Martha Elizabeth Mackay (Mat) (1912—1992).WR Fawcett's three children, Gordon Walda & Geoff The youngest child of three, she had two older brothers, Gordon Alexander (1935 —) and Geoffrey(Geoff) Richard (1938 — ) Her earliest recollection was of a WW ll Plane crash which happened at the top of More Street at Coffs Harbour Jetty. Too little to know much about detail, she recalls chasing her brothers Gordon an d Geoff up the hill towards the water reservoir, to the site of the crash.Fawcett home on Bellinge Rd Coff's Harbour NSW The plane was attempting to land at Coffs Harbour aerodrome but was too low and didn‘t clear the was resting in a Jacaranda tree with the pilot well and truly dazed and the lady home –owner yelling for someone to get the plane out of her tree.
For National Security reasons, such incidents were not reported during the War years. Sometime during that school year, the Fawcett family moved to Bellingen Road, which was atually the Pacific Highway south of Coffs Harbour. The place was once a Service Station that used the old pump–up gauge bottle for measuring fuel. An abundance of exotic fruit trees grew on the property. Their continued production of delicious fruits usually kept Walda and her brothers out of the main house for hours on end, eating , picking and selling billy cans of fruit to make pocket money. All three children had push bikes and getting around the town of Coffs Harbour was easy. Traffic was of little consequence, even with the Pacific Highway right on the family doorstep. The major vehicles to watch out for were the Timber Trucks.
As did her brothers, Walda attended St. Augustine‘s Convent School. WR Fawcett lopping a willow tree at Buccrabendinni In 1949 when her father broke his back in a logging accident, the family had to learn to live on little income. Her mother, Mat, a seamstress, doubled efforts in sewing, eventually taking in sheet repairs from the Hospitals, making and repairing clothing (black habits) for the Nuns at the Convent, and then embarking on a whole new realm of dressmaking... button holes, and dress accessories such as belt and button –making from matching dress fabric.
25 Grafton St. Coff's Harbour NSW With income curtailed, and orders to be picked up and delivered, Walda and Geoff ran the messages on their bikes before and after school. All three children were schooled in Music as their mother played the piano, especially for local dances. Walda and Geoff played the piano and Gordon, the violin. It was Geoff who carried on with a music career. School was no fun for Walda. Her olive complexion and dark, almond eyes seemed to attract the ire of older classmates and if one thought bullying in schools was a new phenomenon , it was not! Further, the Good Samaritan Sisters of the time appeared to have a chip on their habits that they seemed to take out on children of poor circumstance. They were also cruel with the use of the cane. After a threatened caning, Geoff was removed from the School and sent to the Public High School at the Jetty. Walda in Martin Place Sydney 1956
Gordon left Coffs Harbour in 1952, to look after his ailing Grandfather in Hurstville, Sydney. Around the same time and because of problems with her legs, Walda was sent to an Orthopedic Hospital in Sydney where she stayed for many months with plaster on both legs and where she spent her 12th birthday. Gordon came to visit her in the hospital which was in St. Ives, a rural community then, just outside Pymble in Sydney. 20 Stanley St North Auburn Her father still worked in the bush even after his accident and was often times gone for days at a time. During his extended absences, Mat become fed –up with the walking distance between the Town and where the family lived. Carrying food and parcels home became too much. Wally sold the Bellingen Road property, which later became the Akama Motel, and moved to 25 Grafton Street, closer to town. (Little Grafton Street as it was known).
Returning home from hospital to what was now Grafton Street, Walda found the School system hadn‘t changed one bit and she dug her heels in. At age 14, she told her teachers where to go, and walked out of the school determined to better herself by her own work and self education.
For the next two years she worked for Knox Accountancy at Brannock Chambers. Having succeeded in learning touch typing and keeping accounts, it was time to move along. At age 16, she cashed in her holiday pay and purchased a plane ticket on a Butler‘s DC 3, and headed for Sydney – like Gordon, she visited but never returned to the family home to live. By 1959, Geoff had had his 21st birthday and with Walda, the youngest child gone for good, her mother decided to leave Coffs Harbour. Mat quit the family home and moved to a rented house Stanley Street, Auburn (Silverwater), in Sydney. To pay her way she worked at sewing for the Jeannette Underwear Mills in Summer Hill. Wally was devastated when Mat left. They stayed in touch but never saw each other again until Walda‘s marriage in 1961, then again, in 1968 just before Wally passed away.Walda and haus boi in Rabaul TNG In 1959 Walda met Erich Scholler, an Austrian; they later became engaged. He went to work for Burns Philp in Papua New Guinea at Rabaul on the Island of New Britain. Walda followed. She was a “relief” worker, and when office staff took their two–yearly leave, she took over the job. Some of the work was with British New Guinea Trading, New Guinea Company and Southern Pacific Insurance. On their return to Australia, they married in Concord, Sydney in November 1961.Walda & Erich Scholler In–between time, and just missing each other, Geoff decided to go to New Guinea, and he too spent time in Rabaul.
Rabaul is surrounded by active Volcanoes. Earth tremors were a daily occurrence and the smell of volcanic gas permeated daily life. Volcanic ash infiltrated everything. The Citizens lived with it. In 1994, an eruption buried Rabaul in volcanic ash. Later, and still in Sydney, Walda and Erich set up a smash repair business in Lidcombe. Shortly after that, the business moved into mainstream vehicle/insurance repair areas at Emily Street, Mortlake, not far from Parramatta Road. The workshop was next door to the security firm, Metropolitan Security Services, where Walda found full time employment for seven years and Erich obtained the repair work for their Security and Money Moving vehicles. Walda‘s pay was saved in full and never touched thus, in 1966, right on the change–over to decimal Currency, they bought their first home in Beaconsfield Street , Auburn.Volcanoes near Rabaul New Britain
In 1969, it was obvious that Walda could fall pregnant but not carry to term. She and Erich adopted a son, Adam. The oddest thing then happened, some say it is not unusual in the case of adoption,...Within a few short weeks, Walda was pregnant again. In September she had a daughter. There was eight months between the two children. Adam Eric was born in the January 1972 and Belinda Maxine in September 1972. In the December of that year, Gough Whitlam came to power and the Labor Government began making things difficult for employers. It was a time when staff took home more pay than the boss! Eventually, Erich had to put off seven staff, close the workshop, and do some serious thinking. The business resumed with Erich working by himself.
In early 1974, they sold the business; auctioned the contents of their home; bought a 22 ft. Caravan and an old Land Rover; rented their home in Beaconsfield Street, Auburn, and set off with the children on an unknown adventure which lasted close five years. In a later review, it would seem the adventure lasted from 1974 until 1997. 28 Beaconsfield Street North Auburn Their travels took them through Queensland. There they discovered the delights of fossicking on the Anakie Sapphire Fields. Camping in the bushland with Miners‘ Rights (then), they mined for sapphire. Each Winter, like a pilgrimage, they returned to the area often to the same camp site in the bush.
On the second sapphire mining sojourn they were tangled up as witnesses to a murder. Not far from their bush camp, 21 year old John Gilliat killed both his father Ken, and brother, Kevin, with a half–axe. It was July 1975. At this time, Walda and Erich had sold the Land Rover and purchased a Toyota Land Cruiser. The Land Rover fetched an good price from an eager buyer who wanted it for beach work on the coast and because of its aluminium body. With the Legalities out of the way stemming from the capture of John Gilliat and charges laid, Walda and Erich headed for Home Hill, in North Queensland, to stay with friends. From there, they crossed the top via Normanton, down to Cloncurry, up to Mt. Isa and began to head for Darwin. Of course, Darwin had been wiped out by Cyclone Tracy and “tourists” were unwelcome.Mining  at Graves Hill 1975 On the Berkley Highway, in the Northern Territory, Walda was driving and rolled the car in a fish–tailing incident with a Utility coming the other way on the narrow tar–sealed road.. She accelerated and aimed the rig for the sand and stunted brush. The rig connection snapped and landed the entire outfit in the Spinifex on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.Gilliat's camp
The Children, travelling in belted seats, in the back of the Toyota were slightly bruised but unhurt. Erich damaged his shoulder. In the upside–down situation, Erich virtually stepped on Walda who was pinned under the steering wheel, to get to the children. Walda suffered some injury and found it difficult to breath, without pain, for many months after the accident. Luckily, the crash was found by a passer–by, (travellers were infrequent ), the car was righted, and the sorely crushed Toyota Land Cruiser and badly dented caravan, limped into Freweena Roadhouse.
That evening, both Walda and Erich went into a sort of delayed shock. They spent a few days in Freweena and were helped by travelling welders from drilling rigs who carried their entire work equipment on huge trucks.Their camp in the bush With dents knocked out of the Toyota to allow doors to shut, and the caravan curtains flapping in the breeze, a change of itinerary turned them south for Alice Springs. Here they found themselves stuck in the town for six months. Erich repaired both the car and van himself, but the wet season locked them into Alice for six months with no roads open to get out.
Gordon was in Germany, and not living in Alice at the time, so they stay for a short time with Max and Frankie Bongers , Max being the stepson of WRD Fawcett.Accident on the road to nowhere Two weeks before Christmas 1975, Walda and Erich were called upon to give evidence in the double murder trial of John Gilliat, in Rockhampton. They and the children flew from Alice Springs to Rockhampton via Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane and returned to Alice Springs, right on Christmas. The Trial was remarkably short in duration. It took Walda 18 months to get over the ramifications of the murders and John Gilliat‘s trial . The worst part of it all was that the sapphire mining families knew each other and one could not believe it had happened. It plagued her that living in the bush, in such close proximity to the event, and with two killings under his belt, John Gilliat could have turned on the Scholler family. It was a nasty affair indeed.
Walda and Erich continued to travel with frequent trips to the Sapphire Fields. In 1978, they returned to Sydney, sold their home and went back to Anakie to live. Adam and Belinda were old enough for School.The rig For the next twenty years, the family lived in Anakie and built a home and business. It started as Gemseeker Souvenirs. Walda was the Anakie Postmistress for 10 years until 1989. During the early years of business, Erich took work at the Anakie School to tide the family over in the off–season when it was too hot for tourists.
During the first three months of business, Walda never left the property. Walda took up writing and studied externally to James Cook University. This was done by typing assignments, posting them, and receiving the Tutor‘s tape recorded comments by return. She wrote articles for newspapers and wrote all the Tourist Information handed out in their shop at Anakie which, by 1984, had also become a private Information Centre. There was nothing she didn‘t know about the use and running of an old Gestetner duplicating machine . The advent of the Computer for general use, was to come later.Graduation Day The area was isolated. The nearest town for services was Emerald, 42 kms to the east on the Capricorn Highway.
All early material was done on a portable typewriter which graduated to an electric typewriter, then an electronic machine which could save information to a Floppy disk. Sadly for Walda, her saved work was not compatible with a Computer in later years. Writing several books on the Mining of Sapphires on the Anakie Sapphire Fields and the history of the Anakie State School she eventually wrote a novel “Stone Country” with it‘s theme the early settlement of Rockhampton and the discovery of the Anakie Sapphire Fields in 1875, this historical fiction covered the lives of several characters from 1862 through to the late 1890s. It was published in 1996.
Walda the author Erich took up gemcutting and became quite proficient with cutting sapphires. Later, he took on the job of Postmaster, helping Walda in the Post Office. Both Walda and Erich became skilled assessors of gemstones. As the years rolled by, the children attended Emerald High School, a round trip by bus from Anakie of 84 kms a day. Both succeeded with high graduation marks and went on to the University of Central Queensland both receiving their Diplomas.. Around the University years, Walda and Erich bought land in Emerald and built “Emerald Rent–Shed”, a 42 unit storage facility in the town. It was highly successful. Sadly, it all came to an abrupt halt with Erich suffering two mini–strokes and having to go to Brisbane for surgery. This incident was the “slow–down” warning. The Tourist shop and the Rental sheds were sold, and they moved to Hervey Bay and into retirement. After the children graduated from University, Walda taught herself to use a computer. With the advent of the Internet and the easy access to information, she now researches family history.
Page last updated ~ December 3, 2010