Life Adventures of a Chippie, Graeme Tosh by Helen Maguire: Book Review

Life Adventures of a Chippie, Graeme Tosh by Helen Maguire: Book Review

Life Adventures of a Chippie: Graeme Tosh, as recorded by Helen Maguire, is a collection of memories, from a lifetime spent living in Armidale NSW.

In Life Adventures of a Chippie we are provided with an intimate view of a remarkable man who valued family and a good honest-day’s work, working with his hands as a ‘chippie’ (carpenter).

Graeme Tosh’s Scottish parents settled on a small farm in Armidale, rural NSW, Australia. In Graeme’s stories we learn about the farming practices of the late 1800’s/ early 1900’s on a small farm in Armidale. From the days of horse and cart, to the first motor cars, we can experience the practicality of the day to day life of a farming family. “So basically we dragged ourselves up” explains Graeme Tosh. The realities of growing up and being expected to contribute to the family farm, with chores before and after school, with little time for study, lead to a satisfying career as a chippie.

Through Graeme’s memories we see the Scottish immigrants experience of rural Australia. It is a unique perspective of Armidale in the first half of the 20th century, including growing up in rural Australia during the war years.

With gentle self-effacing humour Graeme recalls his younger years, his first job, first date and first love. In many ways this memoir is also a love story. Graeme’s wife is the love of his life and his love shines through with every reference to his life partner and mother of his children.

We see the social structure in the small country town of Armidale, with Graeme recalling stories about many of the towns local people, land mark buildings and the building projects that Graeme was involved with.

With loving pride Graeme describes his family and friends. Wonderful experiences travelling overseas and researching new shop fitting ideas. Travelling with his beloved wife and dear friends around Australia.

With stoic acceptance Graeme learns of his cancer diagnosis. With honesty he ponders a life well lived and with little regret.

The beauty of this memoir is Graeme’s ‘can-do’ attitude that pervades the stories. “I believe circumstances work things out and if you’re available to take up the opportunity, it’s not good to miss an opportunity”, Graeme surmises.

I would love to have met Graeme Tosh. His no-nonsense, no ‘shades of grey’ approach to life is refreshing in this time of regulations and what feels like a world gone crazy with rules. Common sense and doing the right thing by other people, was what governed Graeme’s life. Graeme love of family, sensible respect of the land and mastery of building pervades this memoir.


This book is a collection of stories that have been faithfully reproduced by a loving daughter. The voice is, as the author Helen Maguire explains, in ‘Dad-speak’. It is a raw account of a life well lived.

I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in recording the life of a loved one. It is a beautiful gift to be able to give someone; the chance to leave a literary legacy. Helen Maguire captures her fathers memories honestly and evocatively.

If you have lived in Armidale or have family and/or friends who have settled in Armidale, then you will throughly enjoy this memoir. There is a good chance that you, or someone you know may feature in one of Graeme Tosh’s stories!

Furthermore, anyone who has Scottish ancestry or relatives who migrated to Australia in the late 1800’s/ early 1900’s will enjoy this account of the realities of day-to-day life on a small farm.

I am very proud to know Helen Maguire, Graeme’s daughter who wrote his life story on his behalf. This book was given to me to read and review. Should you like to purchase a copy please contact

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