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Marie AGNES Magdalene ZWAR nèe Borgas (C6.2)

  • Born: 19th April 1897
  • Parents:
    Peter and Wilhelmine Zwar nee Wandke
  • Lived:
    Wirrabara and Caltowie farms, South Australia
  • Died: 12th July 1985
  • Buried:

Detailed biography

The first daughter

Agnes, as she was always known, was born on ‘Heaslips’ farm near Wirrabara on 19th April 1897. Her parents Peter and Wilhelmine Zwar lived there for the first five years of their marriage. Agnes was their second child – she had an older brother Hermann – and she was their first daughter. Her grandmother Magdalene Zwar was the midwife – as ‘Lena’ was for all of her grandchildren, and Agnes was named after her.


When Agnes was baptized ‘Marie Agnes Magdalene’ in the Pine Creek Lutheran Church by Pastor Ortenburger,

“Mum said, ‘I cried all the way to church and home again, and then I slept when I was put in the crib.’” [Agnes to Kevin Zwar 24.8.1983 at her home.]

Wirrabara farm to Caltowie farm

Twenty months later a brother Alfred arrived. The following year the family moved to ‘Kentish’s’ farm between Caltowie and Stone Hut.

Double Tragedy

When Agnes was nearly three years old her mother was expecting their fourth child. Her grandmother Magdalena had come to help with the family and the delivery. On the 8th of April, a day when her mother Wilhelmine was not feeling well and had gone to bed to rest, Agnes and her two brothers Hermann and Alfred went to play among the fertiliser bags stacked in the straw roofed shed about 35 metres from the house. In a tragic accident a bag fell on Hermann and Agnes was trapped up to the waste [Agnes to K. Z. ]. Agnes and Alfred were O K but the bag of fertiliser had broken Hermann’s neck and he died on the spot. Their grandmother Lena had come out to check on the children and furiously dug Hermann out from under the fertiliser and discovered the tragic death of her grandson. None of the men were home at the time.

The shock for Wilhelmine was so great she went into labour and Oscar Traugott Zwar was born the same day. Oscar would only live for 13 days. Agnes had lost two brothers in two weeks. Agnes would now be the oldest child in the family. Her sister Marie came when Agnes was nearly five years old, and another brother Edgar arrived when Agnes was six years old.


“I started school when I was nine years old. I wouldn’t go before – I was going to stay home! I went to the Appila Lutheran School and Jericho was the teacher. I went on my own as far as Lange’s and then went with Carl and Ted Lange to school. Alf started a year later. Jericho was the only teacher. He was cruel. He put the boys over a chair and hit until they’d barely walk. Pinch the girls till the blood almost ran out.”


Albert Nayda lived in an old hut on their farm as a farm worker for many years. He never married. The children liked him. He used to help them with their schoolwork.

Mother and Father

“Mother was always kind and good to us. She tried to help us with lessons and confirmation. When mother needed help some of the Altmann [cousins] would come – like Tillie and Lydia.”

“Father worked from morning to dark. He preferred the blacksmith work to the farm work. He had a licence as a wheelwright and blacksmith.” [Sisters Agnes and Marie].


“We had confirmation after our schooling was finished. Half a day a week, Tuesdays and Fridays generally – it depended when it suited Pastor Ortenburger.” [Marie and Edgar].


“We had jobs round the house. Agnes went to help Mrs Hermann Pech after her husband died.”

“We had lots of cows to milk by hand – about 8 to 12. The horses to feed,” recalled her brother Edgar.

At the same time they helped various families in the district as help was required. The girls had to help with farm work too, like pumping the bellows in the blacksmith, and helping out with the harvest.

“We worked stooking sheaves of hay, loading them, and carting the wheat,” Agnes and Marie told Kevin Zwar.

“We went to church by buggy via the Almond Tree Corner. We never missed Church. We’d go home from Church, change the horses and go to Christenlehre [Youth Bible Study] one Sunday and to Choir the next Sunday. There was no Sunday School as the congregation ran a Lutheran Day School. The children had to read and do their sums in an examination in front of the congregation.“ Edgar Zwar

Agnes boarded with Miss Matthias at Tanunda for three months to learn dressmaking. [Agnes to Kevin Zwar]

A highlight of the year was the Church Picnic, held in the early days down from the Lutheran Church near the Pine Creek crossing.


Some days Agnes would go to Grandfather Peter Zwar who lived alone in his final years – he lived to age 93. He lived on the same property near Wirrabara where Agnes had been born. One task was to boil seven eggs and place them in a rack in the kitchen so grandfather could enjoy a boiled egg each morning for breakfast.

Laura shopping

They did their weekly shopping at Laura, where Agnes and Marie took music lessons on the organ from Mary Dack but soon the teacher moved away and lessons ended.


Alf was the first married. He married Jane Borgas (1924) and they lived on the Zwar farm where Alf had been born near Wirrabara. The following year Agnes married Emil Borgas on 25th June 1925 in the Pine Crrek Lutheran Church near Appila. They lived on their farm near Wirrabara, and quite near the Zwar farm where her married brother Alf now lived on the farm where Agnes had been born 27 years earlier.

Agnes and Emil started the family with a set of twins, Arnold and Thelma, in 1929. Two years later they added another set of twins – Ronald and Lloyd. They now had four children under the age of three years. Then came a well deserved break of six years before Rita arrived in 1937.

The two sets of Borgas twins


The five children of Agnes and Emil Borgas