The Rutherford Family

As you may have gathered from Roslyn's recollections, the Rutherford children would almost certainly have been classed as juvenile delinquents if they had got up to the same pranks in these more sensitive times. These are the most outrageous pranks we heard about.


1. The youngest child, Thelma, got polio as a baby, and was severely paralysed and possibly also brain-damaged. On one occasion the children were playing, and were asked to look after Thelma for the afternoon. They resented this, as she could not keep up with their wild activities. Shortly afterwards one of the workmen heard screams from down the paddock, and when he investigated he found that they had smeared Thelma with honey, and then tied her on a meat ants' nest, in the hope that the ants would rid them of her.


2. The train line to Sydney climbed steeply out of Bathurst station, and on frosty mornings the train sometimes had to take several runs at the hill before it could escape. One Sunday evening the Rutherford children acquired a large supply of soap, and soaped several hundred yards of the track. This held up the commuter train to Sydney in the morning for several hours, and the commuters were all late for work.


3. On the Saturday before some important holy day the children acquired some silver nitrate1 and, sneaking into the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Bathurst, they added it to the holy water. As a result everyone who went to Mass on Sunday had a black cross on their forehead for the next fortnight. The people who were most embarrassed by this prank were the ones who had claimed to have gone to mass, but had no black cross.


1. Silver nitrate was used for treating worts, and was readily available from the chemist, as were many other compounds now regarded with horror as carcinogens. (If you got it on your skin it turned it black, and if you painted the worts regularly with it it gradually burnt them off.)

 © Roger Riordan 2004-2019

Outrageous pranks!