Freda Annie Dixon (1908 – 2001) Canberra region pioneer
Freda Dixon was a foundation member of the Canberra Country Women’s Association when it was formed in 1946. Her lifelong interest remained the land and farming with life for the growing children revolving around St Ninian’s church at present-day Lyneham. When the little church closed for a few years, the family used to travel by sulky to the Methodist Church at Wattle Park, near Hall.
Freda Dixon, who died in Yass aged 93, was a foundation stalwart of the Country Women’s Association in the Canberra area, a well-known farmer, noted gardener and one of the last surviving members of pioneering Weetangera family – the Camerons.
With Freda Dixon’s death, her younger sister Heather Shakespeare, herself in her nineties, is the only survivor of the five children born to Evan and Edith Cameron (nee Kilby) who had settled at Weetangera in the 1860s. Freda, with her twin sister Thelma, was born on New Year’s Day 1908, at ‘Land’s End’, the slab home built by Edith Cameron’s parents, Robert and Jane Kilby. The home was named ‘Land’s End’ because that was as far as settlement had then reached.
At the age of six the twins used to walk two miles to the little school at Weetangera and to assure their safe arrival grandfather Kilby whitewashed the trees to guide them along the way. Apart from the farm, life for the growing Cameron children revolved around St Ninian’s church at present-day Lyneham. When the little church closed for a few years, the family used to travel by sulky to the Methodist Church at Wattle Park, near Hall.
In 1926 the Cameron family built a new home a mile closer to Canberra, which was beginning to be developed at that time. The new ‘Land’s End’ still stands today. Freda met her future husband, Oswald Henry Dixon, who predeceased her in 1982, when he drew a nearby soldier settlers’ block and batched in the old slab hut before his marriage in 1936.
The Dixons built a new home on their block from material salvaged from the demolition of old Duntroon. That home, named ‘Kama’, is now the site of Hawker College. For some years during World War II, when Oswald Dixon was serving in the Army, Freda ran the property on her own and successfully brought it through a drought, often having to drive stock daily to the Molonglo River to water. At times this involved putting her small daughter, Nanette, on the front of the saddle or taking her in a springless cart.
The Dixons made a success of farming, but as Canberra developed and land resumptions became imminent, they decided to sell and retire to town in 1963. They settled in Rosenthal Street, Campbell, where Freda’s passionate love of flowers led to the development of a beautiful garden.
She first became involved with the CWA in 1926, as secretary of the small branch that had been started in Weetangera. Then she was a foundation member of the Canberra branch when it was formed in 1946. At one time she was a member of the Hall Cricket Club and also served on the board. With her twin, Thelma, she also played tennis and golf. Freda showed an early talent for drawing and watercolour and went to art classes in Sydney for a time. In Canberra, she joined the Garden Club and the Floral Art Club, enjoying new friendships and outings. While living at Campbell, she also indulged her penchant for travel, making a trip to America and another to Europe and America with her sister Heather. Later, after the death of her husband, she fulfilled a childhood dream by visiting South Africa.
However, her lifelong interest remained the land and farming. She renewed her links with the land when in recent years she moved to ‘Cowridge’, Yass, the property of her daughter, Nanette, and her husband, John Betts. Later, she moved to Gwen Warmington Lodge, in Yass, where she died on December 10. Her daughter, Nanette and her family, a stepdaughter, Patricia, and sister, Heather, survive her.
Image present day St Ninian’s church Lyneham
Another Canberra Pioneer – Robert Campbell (1769 – 1846) merchant, pastoralist, politician and philanthropist
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