Sixty years ago, Kenneth Arthur James Trewlynn was christened with exactly the same name as his father with the letters Jnr trailing. But to make life less confusing for the family, and for no obvious reason, he was given the name Pepe.
“Everyone in our family back then was given a nickname,” joked Pepe, a retired boilermaker by trade who has found his niche in life creating Aboriginal artifacts from timber bits and scraps of metal he collects from properties around his hometown of Manilla.
“I’ve made a lot of Aboriginal artifacts – even made a big mailbox in the shape of a cow once. It was made from a 44-gallon drum with a bucket for the head, two plough discs for ears, horse shoes for horns and a big drum with a lift-up lid for the mail as the tail. That sold straight away. I’ve sold a lot of Aboriginal artifacts around Circular Quay in Sydney before moving to Manilla 15 years ago.”
“Dad was born in Tingha and mum in Woolbrook, so we settled for about halfway in Manilla.”
Pepe, who was born in Tamworth but spent most of his life in Sydney, has plenty of family ties in this region, one in particular being well-known Tamworth Aboriginal Elder and mission worker, the late Granny (Florrie) Munro, who was remembered for her community and beyond charity work and had Granny Munro Park in Tamworth namedin her honour.
“I’ve got some great memories of Granny Munro. Dad is her eldest grandson and I’m her eldest great-grandson. Lovely lady who led with the bible and led with the whip,” Pepe jokingly recalled.
“I remember when I was 12, dad put myself and younger brother Bill on a plane to visit her in Tamworth, and he told me to ask Granny how old she was. I did, and she said 86. Thenyears later when I was about 24, I came through on my motorbike for a visit and asked her the same question. Again she said 86, and I said ‘You told me that when I was a kid”. Then she said, ‘Well it must be 87 then’.
“She was one of the first Aboriginal woman to be given the right to vote, and that was back in the 60s. She told me of one prominent councillorwho would look after her and give her a liftto the polling booth. She said to him ‘just because you were so nice and looked after me doesn’t mean I have to vote for you’. She did anyway,” Pepe joked.
Pepe’s love of creating in metal and wood, which he does from his home in North Manilla, blossomed many years ago when he started making trinkets for his wife Trudy. “I’d just look at something, then see something else, and make it.”
He’s already turned out dozens of creations, including bird baths, letter boxes, numerous types of animals – even a five-foot scorpion, and a wooden stock, both of which sold quickly according to Pepe.
“Probably my favourite is making snakes and burning different designs onto them. My son Ashton (14) does a lot of that for me with old worn-out electrodes.I’ve also made a lot of clap sticks, boomerangs and didgeridoos – I’ve even got dad’s old didgeridoo.”
Another passion of Pepe’s is making coolamons which have been used for decades for gathering food, water containers, and even baby beds. “They’re made from big lumps you find on trees. I even found a sappy one once with the holes in it. I cleaned the sap out then donated it as a strainer to a Sydney high school.
“I get a lot of feedback from people who buy my stuff. I reckon they must like what I make or they wouldn’t part with their money. Trouble is though, half the stuff I make, I want to keep. It’s very hard to part with,” Pepe joked.