Yesterday we said a reluctant and painful farewell (and thank you) to our long-suffering suitcases in a small town called Kapunda, as we made our way from Clare Valley to the Barossa Valley. Purchased at the turn of the last century on Piccadilly in London, this medium sized Cellini brand matching pair had trundled faithfully behind us on dozens of Europe-based holidays, rolling miles without complaint through hot italian streets and long country roads.
It was perhaps unrealistic of us to think their worn-down wheels and much abused zips and handles would see us through Australia too.
Having purchased their successors in a sale in Adelaide’s smart Rundle Mall, the next challenge was their dignified disposal. Not quite as painful as a previous parting with another old and faithful friend (the green 1996 VW Polo), it still took a couple of days to let them go. A drive-in municipal recycling unit wasn’t interested (and to be fair – they didn’t look like a plastic bottle or a tin can) but the ‘op shop’ next door to our breakfast cafe welcomed them with open arms.
An ‘op shop’ ? Looking like a cross between a charity shop and food bank, opportunity shops are a feature of every small town we’ve visited. There’s plenty of evidence of low grade rural poverty even in the busy, thriving, tourist-friendly Barossa Valley.
Opportunity also beckoned the Seppelt family in 1850 when some thirteen Lutheran families emigrated together from Silesia, (now Poland) to escape religious persecution to the newly founded South Australia state, which actively welcomed free religious dissenters and unlike the other, earlier founded states, was not populated by criminal transportees.
The courage of these early settlers is astonishing. Young families endured dreadful conditions at sea for months on end; many were lost en route. On arrival, everything depended on the assorted skills of those travelling: bakers, carpenters, stone-masons, midwives, farmers, working together to survive the heat, the hunger, the dangers of the unknown. No emergency services at the end of a phone to help with a bush fire.
[We saw the aftermath of a bushfire on the Horrocks Highway. For kilometre after kilometre the shrubs and trees were scorched and blackened; small houses reduced to roofless tin-hut ruins; cars burnt out and everything eerily abandoned. Two people died shortly before Christmas in that particular inferno….]
Benno Seppelt was four years old in 1850 and the eldest son of one of these brave immigrants, and at 21 inherited the estate and vineyards in1867 on the early death of his very able and industrious father. He married Sophie, who was born in 1852, who would undergo 21 pregnancies, give birth to 16 full term babies, and see 13 children live to adulthood. Benno died in 1931; Sophie in 1925.
Here is the whole family in 1900. I’m sure it is Sophie (centre – looking not unlike Queen Victoria!) who deserves the Seppelt long-service award. However, there are another contenders, of a very curious vinous kind. Read on….