Nevillene celebrates a century

Nevillene Harrower celebrates her 100th birthday. 204505_02. Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

By Brendan Rees

Like many other families 100 years ago, Nevillene Harrower and her family worked hard on the land.

Cows were milked by hand before she went to school, candles were used for lighting, horses did a lot of work, rabbits were caught and skinned, and food was home cooked.

“Everything was done by hand,” the great-grandmother of Narre Warren North says, who celebrated her milestone 100th birthday this week surrounded by friends and family.

Born on 10 February, 1920, Nevillene was born in Queenscliff and was raised on a farm in Horfield, northern Victoria.

Looking back, Nevillene recalls the days of playing hopscotch and attending school where one teacher taught about 30 children.

“Schooling was terrible. Hardly did anything for school. We were naughty at school, very naughty,” she says.

“The teacher used to come in gig and horse … we were so happy to get bikes to ride”.

When she took up cricket, her first strike of the ball, she says, sadly hit a calf – “and down she went”.

“I was so upset. Took a long time for her to get up, it was terrible, glad to see it get up”.

Sadly, in 1931, Nevillene’s then two-year-old brother tragically died after being accidentally poisoned. He walked into a shed where his mother Hilda had been milking cows and drank a bottle of spirits-of-salts.

Five years later her father Garnet Keath died of pneumonia, aged 42. Hilda continued to carry on the farm with her young family of seven.

Nevillene left school aged 15 to help on the dairy farm and was granted special permission to obtain her driver’s licence as Hilda could not drive.

She worked the farm until she turned 21 in 1941 – the same year she met her love Don Harrower at the Cohuna Friday night dance. She moved to Melbourne to work at the Melbourne Coffee Palace before working at a guest house on St Kilda Road.

Nevillene returned home to Cohuna in 1946 and married her husband Don after he returned from his duty with the army. The couple had three daughters – Rhonda Okey, Julie Kovacich and Glenda Jeans.

“He was very handsome, he was a lovely fellow, a great loss,” she says, explaining Don sadly died in 2007, aged 90.

In her 100 years, Nevillene says her favourite pastime has been cooking – from baking Christmas cakes to slices with homemade jam, and taking orders for turkeys during Christmas time which she used to hand pluck.

Today, Nevillene, who is a died-hard Collingwood supporter, enjoys attending high tea functions and catching up with friends at the local coffee shop.

To mark her milestone birthday, she received congratulatory letters from Queen Elizabeth II, Governor-General Peter Hurley, Governor of Victoria Linda Dessau, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese.

Nevillene was a member of the Country Women’s Association, the Red Cross for 10 years, and R.S.L Auxiliary and Senior Citizens Club.

She will continue her centenary birthday celebrations on the weekend of 15-16 February in Cohuna with friends and family.


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