Major Harry Worthington GMVC
In July 1919, Harry embarked at Port Said on the Tagus for the journey to the United Kingdom where he enjoyed several months leave. During this period he visited the Royal Veterinary College at Camden in London. As well, in conjunction with his friend and veterinary colleague, Stanley Mountjoy from Kerang in Victoria, Harry arranged another meeting with George Lambert in an English pub. They would have had much in common beyond their Middle East experience.
Lambert developed a great love of horses during his childhood and spent his youth as a station hand in outback Australia. As war artist, he took the opportunity to paint the men and horses that reminded him of home. The Australian light horsemen greatly respected Lambert’s knowledge of horses and his riding skills.
In addition to the common equestrian interests of Lambert and the vets, he would have been a lively dinner companion because the official war historian Charles Bean described 'Lambert, with the golden beard, the hat, the cloak, the spurs, the gait, the laugh and the conviviality of a cavalier'
Regrettably the dinner did not occur and Lambert wrote to apologise. The second page of his letter included a pencil sketch of a mounted horseman. It was understandably a treasured item of correspondence and many years later, Harry’s widow, Ida deposited it with the Australian War Memorial. The letter explained
Dear Major Worthington
Knowing the erratic nature of the artist you will I hope be lenient with me for not having explained before the mix up of the other day when I was due to dine with you & Major Mountjoy. Briefly what happened was this. I was rather vague the morning after our last meeting and I thought that my friend & I were due to meet you at the restaurant. I learned afterwards that we should have called at the Regents Palace Hotel. We reported at the Restaurant several times & finally had dinner there & a bottle of fair wine to console ourselves. I’m awfully sorry & feel rather absurd to have muddled it so.
… I do hope you & the other two shining lights are not clearing out for Australia until I get back to town as I should feel very much upset if I missed seeing you again & making up for the muddle of the other night.
It is likely that the convivial Lambert was not the only Australian to endure some ‘rather vague’ mornings in England as they awaited a birth on a ship for the journey home. In mid-November 1919 Harry embarked on the Ypiringa for the voyage to Melbourne.
Married Farmer: Deniliquin
Harry disembarked the Ypiringa in Melbourne on 4 January 1920 and returned to Echuca. In contrast to his Australian Army Veterinary Corps colleagues, most of whom pursued their veterinary careers either in private practice or government, Harry decided to become a farmer. In a closer settlement land ballot in December 1920 he acquired 751 acres, about 16 miles from Deniliquin on the north side of the Deniliquin-Finley road. It is a matter for speculation as to why a man who had witnessed the misery of the Federation drought would opt for the vagaries of a pastoral career having previously established a successful veterinary practice and more recently enhanced his professional reputation by serving meritoriously in the Australian Army Veterinary Corps. It is possible that he was conscious of the potentially debilitating impact of the malaria infection on his health. A more solitary farming career might avoid the constant demands of clients in a private veterinary practice or the responsibilities of a senior position in government service.
Harry named his property Ramleh and eventually acquired adjacent allotments to the north increasing the area to 1591 acres. The town of Ramleh in Palestine was occupied by Australian forces late in 1917. Harry almost certainly visited the town, now known as Ramla but the personal significance of the place for Harry is not known. Perhaps Ramleh just impressed Harry in the same way it did the war artist George Lambert who observed that
Looking back for a moment one realises the richness of the foothills and the long stretch of agricultural soil that makes up what is known as the Palestine Plain. It was a shock, but an amusing one, to learn that the rich lands about Ramleh and Lud had been for a long time given over to the cultivation of a special kind of barley for a well-known Scottish distillery.
According to family hearsay, on a train journey in the early 1920s probably from Echuca to Deniliquin, Harry Worthington engaged in prolonged conversation a fellow passenger John H Henderson of Warragoon, Deniliquin. At the end of an amicable discussion, Harry asked John H Henderson, twenty years his senior, whether he had any daughters? Indeed he did and in June 1922 the engagement of Harry and John and Alice Henderson’s eldest daughter, Ida was announced. Harry aged thirty-seven and Ida Henderson aged twenty-six were married in Melbourne in June 1923 by Reverend Finlay McQueen who had also presided at the wedding of Ida’s parents at Kyabram thirty years earlier.
Harry and Ida resided at Ramleh and in addition to growing wool, market reports reveal regular sales of fat lambs, sheep for mutton and a few cattle. As well as his grazing operations Harry continued riding as an amateur at race meetings in the 1920s and maintained his connections with Echuca as the Honorary Veterinary Surgeon for the race club and show society. During their years farming together at Ramleh Harry and Ida endured the calamity of the Great Depression, with wool prices collapsing in 1929-30. In the six years 1929-30 to 1934-35 average wool and wheat prices were around half the level they had averaged in the previous seven years. At a personal level, however, a greater tragedy and emotional strain for them was that Ida endured multiple miscarriages, as well as the death of an infant son in October 1929.