No place like home for far-flung family

WHEN Neil Sproal’s grandparents first moved into a small cottage in Port Fairy the garden around it was large enough for a few dairy cows. 

Exactly 100 years later the cows might be gone, but the garden behind the picturesque home can still fit 50 members of the Sproal family who gathered on Saturday to celebrate the cottage being in the family for a century.

Three generations of Sproals met at 46 Albert Street for a barbecue that had been twoyears in the planning. 

A colourful banner marking the milestone hung from the fence Saturday morning — not that the proud relatives needed any reminding. 

“It was always our goal to keep the house in the family,” Mr Sproal said. 

“My grandparents bought the house in 1913. It was a little weatherboard cottage.” 

Subsequent generations of Sproals have left Port Fairy, some moving as far away as Los Angeles. But the three-bedroom home has become a focal point and a symbol of family unity. 

Black-and-white photos were handed around during the afternoon and Dawn Freeman — at 81 the oldest member of the family — gave insights into the bygone days. 

It was a touching sight, Mr Sproal said. 

“We were elated, it was just fantastic. We pushed on until midnight. Some of the young ones went to Warrnambool to do a bit of clubbing.

“It was so great to get the family together like this.”  

It’s not uncommon for the Sproals to pack their things and take off. There’s a good contingent in Sydney, while Mr Sproal and his wife Cathy live and work in Melbourne. 

But many still call 46 Albert Street and Port Fairy home.

“That’s what I’ve come to appreciate,” he said.

“They move away in their youth and they come back to retire.” 

That’s his own plan when he finishes in his role as principal of a secondary school in Laverton.

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