Victoria Park Dictionary of Biography (VPDB)

 DictionaryOfBiogprahy  

The Victoria Park Dictionary of Biography is a resource that aims to tell the stories of the individual citizens of the suburbs within the Town of Victoria Park. In the dictionary you will find interesting, concise and enlightening descriptions of the lives of significant and representative persons in the history of Victoria Park. 

13 Result(s) Found

 Benporath-Frank-Hilton-Western-Mail-Friday-12-November-1915-p.-29-cropped  

Frank Hilton BENPORATH was born on the 17 February 1885 in Kent, England. His parents were George Hilton BENPORATH and Frances Grace LANCASTER. Being born one of 14 children, Frank must have had a noisy childhood. Sadly, but not unusually for the time, seven of these siblings were to die in infancy in England.

George Hilton Benporath was born in Italy in 1844 to Augustus Benporath and Mary HILTON. It would seem that this is where the family tradition of the middle name of Hilton has come from, that is from George’s mother’s maiden name. George was a stockbroker by trade and worked and lived in London. In 1895 George, his wife Frances and six children immigrated to Western Australia aboard the “S. S. Orient”[1]. George continued to work as a stockbroker at several firms on St George’s Terrace after arriving in Perth.

Great-Britain-SS-Orient

Early Life

Frank Hilton Benporath and his brothers are recorded in the newspapers of the times as entering and placing well in cycling competitions. Frank placed third in the Royal Mint Road Race on Saturday 8 October 1904. In this race contestants rode from the Victoria Park Hotel to the Cannington Hotel and returned. Frank’s time was 23 minutes and 52 seconds.

Frank also reached the rank of Corporal in the No. 1 W.A. Battery under the command of Major Joseph John Talbot Hobbs and served in various military units prior to the outbreak of World War I. Frank was also joined in this service by his older brother Clement Wilder Benporath. The following photograph shows the two brothers in their uniforms when they were serving in the Perth Artillery Unit. Clement Wilder is on the left and Frank Hilton is pictured on the right.

Clement-Wilder-and-Frank-Hilton-BENPORATH-in-Perth-Artillery-Unit-uniforms-prior-to-WWI-Courtesy-of-Graham-Benporath

Marriage and Fatherhood

On the 7 March 1905 Frank Hilton BENPORATH married Stella Rose GORMAN at St Brigid’s Catholic Church in West Perth. Stella had grown up in Albany and was the second daughter of Christopher and Bridget GORMAN.

Frank and Stella had six children, the youngest being a daughter, Eileen M. BENPORATH, who was born on 22 February 1914, just months before the outbreak of World War I. Tragically their son named Hilton Alfred, died at the age of just 11 days in 1908.

Frank and Stella’s two remaining sons, Ernest Hilton Stanislaus BENPORATH and Stanley Frank BENPORATH both served in the military in World War II, Ernest in the Army and Stanley in the Royal Australian Air Force.

Benporath-Stanley-Frank-photo-from-The-Mirror-278-December-1946-p.-10

Life in Victoria Park

Frank was an electrician by trade, and it seems it ran in the family as his brother, Clement, after returning from the war, set up an electrical business called Benporath & Sons. It is not known at present if Frank worked on his own or for a company.

Frank and Stella lived for a while in Colin Street, Perth. They moved to Egham Street, Victoria Park (now Burswood) sometime in 1913. At the time of their residence in the street, there were only four other houses. Frank and Stella’s last child, Eileen was also born at their house in Egham Street in January 1914. Stella and her family are listed as living in Egham Street up to and including 1918.

War Service

Frank enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force at Blackboy Hill on the 17 August 1914, just weeks after war was declared and with his youngest daughter Eileen was not quite six months old.

In his service record Frank is recorded as having brown eyes, black hair and being five foot, six inches tall. One might suspect him as being rather romantic given that he had a tattoo of a heart on his left forearm. Perhaps a loving gesture for his wife?

On the 2 November 1914 Frank embarked from Fremantle on the transport ship “Medic”. He saw action with the 16th Battalion and was wounded at Gallipoli. Hospitalised for a short while he was back at the front only to be wounded again on the 4 September 1915, this time with a shrapnel wound to the head. He recovered at hospital in Malta and returned to action on the Gallipoli Peninsula, on the 30 September 1915.

Whilst serving at Gallipoli Frank was mentioned in dispatches[1] for his bravery in saving wounded comrades. The despatch by Lieutenant Colonel H. Pope read:

“To O.C. Post

I have to bring to your notice the conspicuous bravery of 436 Sgt Howard F. R. and 1777 Lce Cpl. Benporath F. H. rushed across 400 yards of open country and rescued a wounded comrade. This was done under heavy sniper fire.

23/8/15          Lt. Macpherson,

                        “C.Coy”

                        16th AIF”[2]

 

Frank served at Gallipoli until the last days of the ill-fated campaign to take the peninsula and the efforts of many hundreds of thousands of brave men.

He was transferred to the 48th Battalion in early March of 1916 and promoted to Regimental Sergeant Major on the 24 March 1916 at Tel-el-Kabir, Egypt. By June 1916, Frank had joined the British Expedition Forces at Marseilles, France.

During the Battle of Pozieres, Frank was wounded for the third time, this time he was suffering a severe wound to the abdomen. Wounded in Action on the 7 August 1916, Frank suffered these wounds for ten days, dying from them on the 16 August 1916. He was 31 years old.

Frank was buried in the Warloy-Baillon Communal Cemetery Extension in the Somme region of France alongside 1350 other brave men and women who died in service to their country.  

St-Joachims-Catholic-Church-WWI-Honour-Board-Courtesy-Silvia-Zanello

World War I Honour Board, St Joachim’s Catholic Church, Shepparton Road, Victoria Park, WA
(Courtesy of Silvia Zanello)

Legacy

In 1918 the Perth City Council renamed many streets in honour of fallen war heroes. They renamed Duke Street to Benporath Street in honour of Frank Hilton BENPORATH.

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Benporath Street sign, October 2020, intersection of Benporath Street and Burswood Road, Burswood (Victoria Park Library Local History Collection)

Three generations of Frank Hilton Benporath’s descendants have also served Australia in conflicts since his heroic service in World War I. His son Stanley Frank BENPORATH in World War II, His great nephew in Vietnam and his great-great nephew Sean has served in Cambodia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

So it was a mighty legacy that the love of Frank Hilton and his wife Stella Rose BENPORATH have left behind and still continues to this day.

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

Lest We Forget

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Family Tree

Frank Hilton BENPORATH

Born: 17 February 1885, Kent England

Father: George Hilton BENPORATH

Mother: Frances Grace LANCASTER

Married: Stella Rose GORMAN 1905, Perth, WA

Died: 16 August 1916 from wounds received in action at Pozieres, France

Children:

  • Ena Gertrude Mary BENPORATH, b. 1907, d. unknown
  • Hilton Alfred BENPORATH, b. 1908, d. 7 September 1908 (11 days old) Boulder WA
  • Stanley Frank BENPORATH, b. 1910 Kalgoorlie, m. 1930 Jessie E. ARMSTRONG, served WWII RAAF (16049), d. 15 February 1984
  • Ernest Hilton BENPORATH, b. 7 May 1916, m. 1932 Ada M WOODS, served WWII Army (WX13662) d. 19 October 1978, Boulder WA
  • Jean Ivy BENPORATH, b. unknown date, m. 20 January 1934 Martin CASELLAS, Highgate WA, d. 25 April 2002, Daglish WA.
  • Eileen M. BENPORATH, b. 22 February 1914, d. unknown
 

 

References:

1904 'CYCLING.', The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), 10 October, p. 8. , viewed 15 Oct 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article25364420

1915 'No title', Sunday Times (Perth, WA : 1902 - 1954), 26 September, p. 1. (Second Section), viewed 15 Oct 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article57795796<="" a="">

1915 ‘Heroes of the Dardanelles.’, Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 – 1954), 12 November, p. 29., viewed 29 Sep 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article37598809

1916 'MENTIONED IN DESPATCHES.', The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), 14 April, p. 7. , viewed 15 Oct 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article26976924

1939 ‘Death Notices’, The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954), 3 April, p. 1., viewed 07 Oct 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page3722443

Australian War Memorial 2017, ‘Mention-in-despatches’, online, accessed 16/10/2020, https://www.awm.gov.au/articles/encyclopedia/mention-despatches.

Benporath, Graham 2020, [family history archive materials on Frank Hilton and Clarence Wilder BENPORATH], unpublished documents.

The London Gazette, Supplement No.: 29455, 28 January 1916, p. 1209, online, accessed 16/10/2020, https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/29455/supplement/1209

National Archives of Australia, World War I Service Record of: Benporath Frank Hilton SERN 1777 : POB Kent England : POE Blackboy Hill WA : NOK W Benporath Stella, Barcode 3074054.

WorthPoint 2020, BRITISH STEAMSHIP ORIENT VIEW OF SHIP & CABIN PLAN 1879, accessed online 16/10/2020, https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/british-steamship-orient-view-ship-206600179

 

Notes:

[1] The S.S. Orient was a British passenger ship operated by the Orient Line. It was built by John Elder & Co. in Glasgow in 1879 (5,386 tons). It regularly sailed between the UK and Australia. Her last voyage was in 1909.

 [1] “One of the oldest Imperial forms of recognition for bravery or distinguished service is when a serviceman or servicewoman was Mentioned in Despatches. A despatch is an official report, written by a senior commander in the field to pass on information about the progress of military operations. Commanders would include in their despatches the names of those deserving attention to their services. Mentions may be for a specific act of bravery or for a period of outstanding service.” Australian War Memorial website: https://www.awm.gov.au/articles/encyclopedia/mention-despatches.

[2] Despatch quotation from Benporath family history document compiled by Graham Benporath, date unknown.

This article was first published in Victoria Park Dictionary of Biography, Town of Victoria Park Library, October 2020. Written by Rosemary Ritorto, Local History Coordinator. 

Frank Hilton Benporath was the 'Local Focus' story featured in the Town of Victoria Park's Remembrance Day commemorations at Memorial Gardens, Albany Highway, Victoria Park on 11 November 2020.  Pick up a copy of his special commemorative booklet from the Library or download a copy to keep here: Benporath, Frank Hilton - 2020 ToVP Remembrance Day Local Focus History Commemorative Brochure(PDF, 3MB)

Cr-Mr-John-Bissett-1995-Official-ToVP-Council-Photographs-for-VPDB-w-e.jpg     

Cr Mr John Bissett, 1995

(Official Town of Victoria Park Elected Members Photographs)

 

City of Perth Councillor and Town of Victoria Park Councillor

 

 

This article is still being researched and written. Please check back soon to read John Bissett's complete entry in the Victoria Park Dictionary of Biography, Town of Victoria Park Library, March 2021.

 

 

 

 

 

Warehouseman, Singer, Hero

 Lance-Devenish-1912-2-Courtesy-of-Muriel-Lane.jpg

Image: Arthur Lancelot Devenish, 1912

(Courtesy of Muriel Lane, Lance’s great niece)

 

Arthur Lancelot “Lance” Devenish was born on the 3 December 1893 in Northam, WA to Arthur and Edith Alice (nee Sanderson) Devenish. Arthur senior was a wheelwright and carpenter. Lance, as he was affectionately known, was the only living son as one was sadly stillborn in 1887. Lance had two older sisters, Edith Maycock and Muriel. Sadly their mother Edith Alice died a few short weeks after Lance’s birth. The three children were placed in an orphanage until their father Arthur could find a suitable place to live in Perth. By 1903 Arthur, his new wife Caroline Elizabeth[1], and his children are living at 48 Leonard Street, Victoria Park.

 

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Growing up Lance is known to have studied at James Street School in Perth and attended Trinity Church in Perth. Lance is also mentioned on numerous occasions in newspaper reports of concerts and musical events, as a soloist of some note.

 

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Lance’s singing talent is not surprising when you discover that many other members of the Devenish family were involved in music, either as professional performers, teachers and also church organists. Professionally Lance studied agriculture and was working as a warehouseman upon his enlistment in the 11th Battalion at Blackboy Hill on 22 August 1914. Lance was six-foot tall, had dark eyes and black hair and was just four months shy of his 21st birthday when he enlisted.

 

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Arthur Lancelot Devenish, unknown date, 

(Source: Discovering Anzacs (website)[3])

 

One of the first to enlist following the declaration of war, Lance had a short two weeks preliminary training at Blackboy Hill, he was part of the first convoy of Western Australian troops to leave from Fremantle on 31 October 1914. Lance arrived in Egypt in early December 1914 and continued his training. “Throughout this period, [Lance] frequently wrote home to his family, telling them of his experiences. In late April [2015] they received a letter from him stating that he was on the island of Lemnos and that he thought great events were about to occur. Days after writing the letter in the early hours of the morning of the 25th of April 1915 [Lance] and the 11th battalion were amongst the first wave of troops to land on Gallipoli. The unit’s field diary records that the men came under heavy Turkish fire as they made the landing at what would become known as Anzac Cove and attempted to occupy the steep surrounding hills. [Lance] was last seen with the men of his company attacking on the left flank of his unit’s line, they had advanced about two kilometres from the landing beach and had reached about as far as many men of his unit would on that day. Many men of that company, including [Lance], were never seen again."

 

Lance-Devenish-c.-1914-1915-Courtesy-of-Muriel-Lane.jpg

Arthur Lancelot "Lance" Devenish, circa 1914-1915

(Courtesy of Muriel Lane)

 

"He was originally reported missing in action and his family faced an agonising wait to hear official news of his fate. In the absence of official notification, his family heard numerous reports about what had happened to him. One soldier wrote to his father, stating that he had heard that [Lance] was in hospital in Malta with a wounded forearm. Soldiers who had fought alongside [Lance] on Gallipoli, reported hearing that he had been taken as a prisoner of war of the Turkish forces and was in a camp near Constantinople. None of these stories could be substantiated, and in early April 1916 nearly a year after the Anzac landing, [Lance] was officially reported to have been killed in action. He was 21 years old. His name is recorded on the Lone Pine Memorial on Gallipoli which commemorates nearly 5,000 Australian and New Zealand servicemen who have no known grave.”[2]

 

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Lance's name on the Lone Pine Memorial to the missing in Turkey.

 

 

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The Lone Pine Memorial to the Missing, Kocadere, Canakkale, Turkey 

(Source: Adam Jones, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

 

Lance’s father Arthur lived at 48 Leonard Street, Victoria Park up to his death in November 1938, with his wife living there after his passing. Lance’s sister Edith Maycock Devenish or May as she was affectionately known, worked at the house as a music teacher prior to her first marriage to Charles Stansfeld TURNER in 1914. In 1919 they had a son they named Charles Lancelot TURNER in honour of Lance who sadly died in 1925. May lost her first husband, Charles Stansfeld TURNER who died in 1926 aged 47. In 1931 May married for the second time, to Richard H. WATTERS. They were to have a son on 9 December 1933 whom they named Richard Lancelot Devenish WATTERS in honour of Lance.

 

Death-of-Charles-Lancelot-TURNER-5-Aug-1925-Fremantle-Hospital-son-of-Edith-Maycock-May-and-Charles-Stansfeld-TURNER.jpg

 

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In 1918 Chapman Street in East Victoria Park was changed to Devenish Street in honour of Lance. In 2014 a tree in Kings Park was also dedicated to Lance’s honour by Catherine With one of his great nieces.

 

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Devenish Street (sign), East Victoria Park, 12 January 2021

(Courtesy of Local History Collection, Victoria Park Library Service)

 

Private Arthur Lancelot “Lance” Devenish of the famed 11th Battalion of the Australian Imperial Force, whom was indeed as official World War I historian C. E. W. Bean would later pen, one “of the flower[s] of Western Australia’s youth” who laid down his life for his friends.

 

Lest We Forget

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Family Tree

Arthur DEVENISH,

Born: 1859 Guildford Western Australia to Henry Thomas Devenish and Amelia TRIGG

Died: 1938 Victoria Park, Western Australia

Married: Edith Alice SANDERSON 1886 Perth, Western Australia

(Edith Alice died December 1893)

Children:

  • Stillborn male, born: 1887 Perth
  • Edith Maycock "May" DEVENISH
    • born: 1889 Northam
    • married (though no official registration found) 1914 Charles Stansfeld TURNER (Charles S. d. 1926)
      • Child: Charles L TURNER b. 1919; d. 1925
    • married: 1931 to Richard H. WATTERS in Perth
      • Child: Richard Lancelot Devenish WATTERS b. 1933
  • Muriel DEVENISH
    • born: 1891 Northam
    • married: 1913 to Herbert H. HOARE in the district of Swan
  • Arthur Lancelot “Lance” DEVENISH, born: 1893 Northam
  • WWI Service Number: 423
  • Killed in Action, Gallipoli, Turkey, 25 April 1915 (declared by Court of Inquiry in 1916)   

 

References: 


[1] No official registration can so far be found with the WA Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, but other records indicate that a marriage may have taken place. She is also listed as Mrs C E Devenish and living at 48 Leonard Street, Victoria Park in the 1949 edition of Wise’s Post Office Directory of Western Australia.

 

[2] Warren-Smith, Debra (Lt Col.) 2019, [transcript of speech given at the Last Post Ceremony of Arthur Lancelot Devenish at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT, on 25 July 2019], Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/AWMemorial/videos/2383059488454780, accessed 14 October 2021 

 

[3] Devenish, Arthur Lancelot (photograph), unknown date, Discovering Anzacs (website), National Archives of Australia and Archives New Zealand, https://discoveringanzacs.naa.gov.au/browse/person/146596, accessed March 2021.

 

This article was first published in Victoria Park Dictionary of Biography, Town of Victoria Park Library, October 2021.  By Rosemary Ritorto, Local History Coordinator.

Arthur Lancelot "Lance" Devenish was the 'Local Focus' story featured in the Town of Victoria Park's Remembrance Day commemorations at Memorial Gardens, Albany Highway, Victoria Park on 11 November 2021. The Town was honoured that several descendants of Lance were also able to attend commemorations.

You can pick up a copy of his special commemorative booklet from the Library or download a copy to keep here: Devenish, Arthur Lancelot - 2021 ToVP Remembrance Day Local Focus History Commemorative Brochure(PDF, 3MB)

 

Singer, Civil servant, Hero

   zoom_GEDDES__CYRIL_ARTHUR__2_-courtesy-of-Faithe-Jones.jpg        [Picture]-Geddes.-C.-A.-Lieut-Sunday-Times-30-May-1915-p.-6.jpg

Pictures of Lieutenant Cyril Arthur Geddes that appeared in local newspapers during the war. (Courtesy of Trove)

Birth and Early Life

Cyril Arthur Geddes was born to Isabel Mary (nee SAYERS) and Arthur Loraine GEDDES in Yea, Victoria on the 28 September 1888. Cyril was one of five children born to the couple. Four of whom were born in Victoria and the youngest, Edwin Cameron Geddes being born in Victoria Park, Western Australia in 1899.

Arthur Loraine Geddes was the son of Captain William Cameron GEDDES who had served in H. M. 96th Regiment and lived for some time in India with his wife Amy Maria HILL[1]. Arthur was born in England however and grew up there until emigrating to Victoria sometime in the 1870s. Records show that Arthur Loraine GEDDES was a surveyor by profession but not much is known of his work during his time living in Victoria. Arthur Loraine GEDDES married Isabel Mary SAYERS in St Paul’s Church, Canterbury, in Sydney NSW on 27 December 1887. Their marriage certificate lists Donald, Victoria as Arthur’s usual place of residence, and the couples’ first four children were born in Victoria.

In 1899 the family is recorded as living at 47 Fitzroy Street, Victoria Park, and the couples’ youngest child was born. The Wise’s Post Office Directory lists Arthur Geddes at two addresses in 1899 through to 1904, one the family home in Victoria Park and the other being 140 William Street, Perth where Arthur’s occupation is interestingly listed as importer. No records can be found of what Arthur imported but he was also known to still be working as a surveyor for the Perth Works Department (PWD).

Tragically on the 14 April 1904, Arthur Loraine GEDDES who was working on the Pilbara railway survey at Marble Bar died. The Geraldton Advertiser reported:

“Arthur Lorraine Geddes, a member of the Pilbarra [sic] railway survey party, who on Tuesday last week made a desperate attempt to commit suicide, died last night at the local hospital. He became quite insane, and with a razor inflicted five wounds in his throat, five in his left forearm, and one terrible gash on the right forearm. He also took a dose of poison. At the inquest a verdict of death from wounds self inflicted whilst temporily [sic] insane was returned.”[2]

Cyril was only 15 years old at the death of his father. Isabel Mary GEDDES never remarried and listed her occupation on electoral rolls for the next twenty years as ‘married’.

Cyril attended Victoria Park State School[3] and his service and sacrifice is honoured there to this day on the school’s honour board, hanging in pride of place in the school’s administration block, where visitors, students and faculty can all see it and reflect.

  zoom_victoria_park_state_school.jpg    zoom_victoria_park_state_school_front.jpg   

Kangaroo Paws, Cycling and Football

Cyril enjoyed many hobbies and was very active in the community, he even took part in the Victoria Park Congregational Church’s Flower Show in October 1900 where he won second prize for his exhibit of a collection of kangaroo paws.[4] At age 15 Cyril competed in a cycling race known as the “Government Messengers’ Road Race’ that was held on Albany Road and ran between Victoria Park Hotel and Hotel Cecil in Cannington and returning to Victoria Park Hotel. Cyril was given a handicap of ½ a minute which was the third best handicap in the race.[5] Heavy rain fell during the race and the road “was consequently in a bad condition”[6], so it is no wonder that 15-year-old Cyril didn’t place high in the race results, his time was not recorded in the newspaper reports.

In 1906 Cyril acted with his sisters and some other friends in “A Schoolgirl’s Romance”, a play put on as part of the Christmas Fete in Victoria Park, organised by the local church that the family attended. The event was officially opened by Lady Forrest. Cyril continued his involvement in the community in various ways throughout his short-lived life, gaining his first aid certificate from the St John Ambulance Association, Victoria Park in 1909[7] and was also noted as a member of the Victoria Park Public Library Committee in 1912.[8] He was also a parishioner of the Victoria Park Anglican Church of the Transfiguration. The church was built circa 1896[9] and it is perhaps here that Cyril’s love and talent for singing was nurtured, as we will later uncover, he was known all over Perth for his talent singing as a tenor.

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Church of the Transfiguration, Victoria Park, circa 1914. Victoria Park Local History Photographic Collection.

Another past-time for which Cyril showed some skill was with a football. A newspaper article from 1908 reports that Cyril chaired a meeting held at the Broken Hill Hotel where it was discussed and put to the vote, the decision of which association that the Victoria Park Football Club should play in that year. The result went in favour of the club playing in the ‘Second Rate Association’ in guernseys of black and white.[10] Cyril would captain the team, and by October the club saw the end of its season with Victoria Park being soundly defeated by Cottesloe in the semi-finals. In their coverage of the game The Daily News, reported that “Cyril Geddes made a decent captain, and was very popular, his sport[s]manship and general good conduct earning him the respect of all the other teams.”[11] At the awards presentation for the club on Saturday 16 October at the Broken Hill Hotel, Cyril was also awarded ‘Most consistent player’[12], and along with several other, he presented musical entertainment that was very well received by those in attendance.

Previous military experience

Cyril served for seven years in the 86th Infantry of Western Australian Rifles (four and a half years as a private and Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO), and two and a half years as 2nd lieutenant)[13] In 1908 as a Corporal, Cyril represented the W.A.I. Regiment in the rifle shooting competition that was held for the ‘Empire Day Shooting Challenge Cup’[14] as part of a team of 40 shooters, Cyril scored 85 total points, being equal 15th with the best score of 101 (out of a possible 105) going to a Private Smith, though interestingly the papers reported that “the scoring was not very good”[15] The cup was between two teams, one from the 18th Australian Light Horse Regiment and the other team being from the Western Infantry Regiment. Competition took place at Karrakatta with the winners being awarded a trophy “presented by Lieutenant Colonel H. W. Schumacher, Witwatersrand Rifles, Johannesburg. It is in the form of a cup, valued at 100 guineas, and in addition silver and bronze commemorative medals and £100 in cash.

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Hat and collar badge of the 86th Infantry Western Australian Rifles.

(Courtesy of British Badge Forum[16])

Career as a public servant

Cyril joined the public service in 1908 and worked as a clerk in the office of the Chief Inspector of Machinery, Perth., and secretary of the Engine drivers’ Board of Examiners[17]

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Singing

Singing played a large part in Cyril’s life. His paternal grandmother Amy Maria HENDERSON[18] was a music and singing teacher of some note in Victoria[19].  Cyril’s father, Arthur Loraine GEDDES, didn’t seem to take any interest in the profession, as he worked as a surveyor. The musical talent was passed to Amy’s grandchildren, Margaret Ida and Cyril Arthur GEDDES. Although there is some record that Isabel Mary Geddes, Cyril’s mother played the piano at some events at which her children participated and indeed taught dancing for a short while.

But it was the return of the South Australian born singing teacher Mr Frank L Robertson, from studies in London in 1908 that would make a marked difference in the life of Cyril Arthur Geddes and the development of his singing talents and musical skills.

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It is not known exactly when Cyril took up singing lessons with the renowned Mr Frank L. Robertson, but by April 1911 the name of Mr C. A. Geddes starts to appear in advertisements for concerts, vocal recitals and solos. With Cyril singing solos or in duos or quartets as a tenor, of some note.

In November 1911 Cyril Arthur Geddes sings to a large audience at the Victoria Park Town Hall for an "at home" held by the Ratepayers of Victoria Park to honour Mr and Mrs Charles Harper, the Mayor and Mayoress of the Municipality. The West Australian notes, "Mr Cyril Geddes' singing of which his district (Victoria Park) is justly proud."[20]

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Cyril is by now also a popular choice for special events held at St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, in Perth where he sings solos and quartets from 1911 on until he departs for war in 1914.

Cyril also sang in 1912 at the Ballroom of Government House for a “Grand Concert in Aid of the Children’s Protection Society and Day Nursery” [21], where he was now being referred to and ranked among "such well-known and popular artists". Guests attending the event, included the Governor, the Premier, Members of Parliament and the Mayor and Mayoress of Perth.

On Friday 25 April 1913, Mr Frank L. Robertson began a series of weekly professional visits to Bunbury and held the first of many Vocal Recitals as the newspaper of the time reported included “a pot-pourri of high-class and popular solo and concerted numbers”[22]

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At this recital, the local newspaper reported that “the tenor of the party, Mr. C. A. Geddes, evidences the possession of a voice of true tenor quality – a rare gift. A point worthy of mention is the masculinity, which is a pleasing contrast to the oft-deplored femininity of vocalists of this class.”[23]

Frequent mention is made in the newspapers of the time of the presentation of a song cycle by Liza Lehmann, a famous English singer and composer, called “Nonsense Songs (the songs that came out wrong) from Alice in Wonderland”. Published in 1908 the “Nonsense Songs” are a song cycle for four voices: soprano, contralto, tenor and bass. Mr Frank L Robertson’s students, including Cyril were well known for their performance of this piece across Perth and Bunbury.

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Cover of the sheet music for “Nonsense Songs” by Liza Lehmann, 1908.[24]

Mr Frank L. Robertson and his students were also well known for performances as a pantomime group known as “The Pierrots”. They were a comic opera.  Pronounced “pee – euh – row”, Pierrot is a male character in French pantomime, who has a sad, white-painted face, a loose white costume and a pointed hat. Once you remember the name and how to pronounce it, you will find him reflected in art of all kinds to this day.

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Child posing in Pierrot costume, in Melbourne circa 1915, by Arthur William Emmerton.

(Courtesy of the National Library of Australia (OBJ142861193)).

Frank L. Robertson’s “The Pierrots” of which Cyril was a key performer were well received by all, with many performance being offered in both Perth and Bunbury. The opening event in Bunbury in September 1913 was promoted thus in the newspapers of the time: “The company have already won a reputation, which in itself is a guarantee of merit. A stronger and more evenly balanced party of singers it would be difficult to find, whilst their ability to produce a peirrot entertainment second to none in humour, brightness, and melody, has been proved. The personnel is as follows – Miss Myrtle Power (soprano), Miss Lily Ross (contralto), Miss Mollie Murphy (soubrette), Mr. C. A. Geddes (tenor), Mr Frank L. Robertson (baritone), Mr Ben Davies (bass), Mr. S. B. Jago (humourist) Mrs Frank L. Robertson (accompanist). The programme will consist of no less than 30 items, including 14 selections from comic opera…”[25]. Robertson’s Pierrot company was also “described as being exceptional from a musical point of view, bright, breezy and complete in every detail”[26]

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Enlistment and war service

Cyril Arthur Geddes enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 18 September 1914, less than a month after war had been declared. he served in 16th Battalion, B Company and embarked with his unit from Melbourne, Victoria on board HMAT A40 Ceramic on 22 December 1914. After some training in Alexandria, Egypt he embarked to join the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, Gallipoli on 12 April 1915.

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16th Battalion colour patch, Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial (RELAWM13307.108)

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Group portrait of the Officers of the 16th Battalion. Front middle lying down is Cyril Arthur Geddes.

 (Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial P05772.003)

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Close-up of C. A. Geddes taken from the above image.

Cyril was first reported Wounded on the 2 May, but by 16 May 1915, he was reported as Missing. What worry must have been on the hearts and minds of Cyril’s family waiting at home in Victoria Park to hear news. There is a telegram in Cyril’s war service file at the National Archives of Australia from Cyril’s mother Isabel Mary Geddes dated 21 May 1915 (time stamped 12 noon) in which she is inquiring of the Defence Department information on her wounded son. It was then 19 days since Cyril was reported wounded, and five days since he was reported missing, yet his mother and family still thought him wounded. Cyril had not been seen since the night of the 2-3 May during fighting that became known as the Battle of Bloody Angle

It was not until the 23 May 1915 at a Court of Inquiry at Gallipoli that Lieutenant Cyril Arthur Geddes was declared Killed in Action on 2 May 1915. Two witnesses reported to the Court the circumstances around the last time they saw Cyril:

“No. 676, Sergt. Horace Stanley Hummerston, “B” Co., 16th Battalion, states :-  About 2 a.m. on 3/5/15, I was in the firing line formed by my Platoon (of which Lieut. Geddes was commander) over the sky line of ridge at head of the gully. The firing line was overcrowded. Supporting trenches were being dug behind it. Lieut. Geddes came up to the firing line and inquired how things were. I told him we were too crowded for digging. He said he would make room and went away towards our left. He came up with two shovels in his hands. After he left me I never saw him again. I made enquiry soon after daybreak but I could not find anybody who could give any information. The fire was very hot and there were many casualties. In a number of cases it was impossible to distinguish one from another. There is a possibility of Lieut. Geddes having been taken prisoner. I consider it more probable that he was killed. (sgnd) H. S. HUMMERSTON.”

“No. 77, Corpl. William Mack, “B” Co., 16th Battalion, states:- I have heard the evidence given by Sergt. Hummerston regarding Lieut. Geddes. I was near by him and corroborate his evidence. I do not think there is a possibility of Lieut. Geddes being alive at the present time. I am of opinion he was killed that night. There was not a man left alive on the ridge towards which he went. It was swept with Machine Gun fire. (SGN) W. MACK.”[27]

Signaller Ellis Silas who also served at Gallipoli wrote of the fateful event that was the Bloody Angle: “At nightfall on May 2, the 16th went into attack again up a hill called the Bloody Angle towards Quinn’s Post, and throughout the night the continued to fight and dig trenches.

“The battalion’s exposure to continual firing made it very dangerous to carry ammunition to them. Again and again volunteers were shot as they scrambled up with heavy cases; others took their places only to fall dead across the boxes they were dragging, or to roll down the steep side of the hill.”[28]

Captain C. Longmore, in his book “The Old Sixteenth: being a record of the 16th Battalion, AIF during the Great War 1914-1918 that was published in Perth in 1929 wrote: “Near dawn on May 3 [1915], the 16th rose out of their trenches to attack the Turkish position about 100 metres away but were seen and met with heavy fire. Their attempt failed and when dawn came their dead ‘lay thickly on the slopes’.

“During that night, men of the Royal Naval Division had been brought in to reinforce the battalion, but confusion prevailed and communication with the 16th became impossible. Attempts to dig a communication trench through the hill failed and throughout the morning the 16th gradually fell back in twos and threes.

“At 6pm the remnants of the battalion were withdrawn. At the landing on April 25, the 16th had been about 1000 strong. Overnight on May 2, they had lost eight officers and 330 men.

“At roll call on 3 May, only nine officers and 290 men answered their names.”

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Photograph of a section of the Gallipoli peninsula, taken in 1919, the red line in the image indicates the gully where some bodies of men of the 16th Battalion were found leading up to the Bloody Angle.

(Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.)

The Geddes Family after the loss of Cyril

After the death of her son, Isabel Mary Geddes continued to reside at 47 Fitzroy Street, Victoria Park which became Berwick Street in September 1918. In 1925 she and two of her daughters moved to Nedlands and resided there until her death in 1943.

Cyril’s sister Margaret Ida Geddes, known as Ida continued to sing and perform at various functions, including an Anzac service in Moora in 1922 where she stepped in at the last minute, and whose voice was quoted as being beautiful[29]. Ida Geddes went on to sing in England and later became a music and singing teacher.

Ethel Geddes married James Roy Braidwood in 1918, Roy as he was known, had played in the Victoria Park Football Club with her brother Cyril. A newspaper report on the event further highlighted the family’s community involvement and beloved status in Victoria Park: “Next week, at Victoria Park, Miss Ethel Geddes, one of a quartet of popular Park girls (sisters of the late Lieut. Geddes), will say “I Will” to Sergt. Roy Braidwood, M.M. who was severely wounded at Gallipoli. The wedding is sure to create considerable interest in the sandy suburb, where the sisters are tireless workers for patriotic purposes.”[30] Cyril’s sister Rose Annie would marry in 1923 but his other siblings, Ida, Edith and Edwin did not marry. According to electoral roll records Edwin worked as a mechanic for many years and died unmarried and with no known children in Glen Forest in 1975.

Legacy

“Victoria Park has indeed contributed some gallant young officers to the army that has made the whole world wonder, notably Capt. (Dr.) Teague, Capt. McMaster, Capt. “Jim” Miller, and Lieuts. Arthur Carse and Cyril Geddes, all of whom gave their lives for their country. Three of these came from the one little street (Cargill), in which nearly every house has (or had) a representative in khaki.”[31] So noted the Sunday Times newspaper on the 14 April 1918.

Lieutenant Cyril Arthur Geddes is commemorated in several places including the Victoria Park State School and the Victoria Park Church of the Transfiguration, honour rolls. On the 6 September 1918 the name of Cecil Street, Victoria Park was changed to Geddes Street to honour the service and ultimate sacrifice of Lieutenant Cyril Arthur Geddes.

Geddes Street begins on Albany Highway, Victoria Park and runs parallel to its namesake’s childhood school. The street then runs along until it intersects with Berwick Street roughly two houses down from where Cyril grew up with his mother and siblings at 47 Berwick Street.

Whilst war is never glorious, the sacrifices made by those who serve to protect freedom and democracy is never in vain, and there is no greater love, than a man who lays down his life for his friend[32].

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, We Will Remember Lieutenant Cyril Arthur Geddes

 

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Footnotes


[1] HILL was Amy Maria’s maiden name, then she married William Cameron GEDDES and later married a man by the name of HENDERSON.

[2] Suicide of Arthur Geddes (father of Cyril Arthur Geddes): 1904, Geraldtor Advertiser (Wa : 1893 – 1905), 15 April, p. 3, viewed 27 Jan 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page28084114

[3] Now known as Victoria Park Primary School

[4] 1900 ‘WILD FLOWER SHOW AT VICTORIA PARK.’, Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885-1954), 6 October, p. 60., viewed 24 Jan 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article33194016

[5] 1904 'CYCLING.', The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), 21 September, p. 8. , viewed 28 Mar 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article25362941

[6] 1904 'CYCLING.', The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), 24 September, p. 8. , viewed 28 Mar 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article25363239

[7] 1909 ‘NEWS AND NOTES.’ The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954), 3 November, p. 6, viewed 25 Jan 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article26241334

[8] 1912 'NEWS AND NOTES.', The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), 3 August, p. 10. , viewed 28 Mar 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article26517610

[9] The Church of the Transfiguration moved to Leonard Street in 1922 and was in service to the present St Peter’s Anglican Church was opened in 1935. The former wooden structure that was The Church of the Transfiguration was then demolished.

[10] 1908 ‘FOOTBALL’, The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1955), 15 April, p. 3 (SECOND EDITION), viewed 20 Jan 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article77258787

[11] 1908 ‘SECOND-RATE ASSOCIATION.’, The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1955), 16 October, p. 10., viewed 24 Jan 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article76821592

[12] 1908 'FOOTBALL.', The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), 21 October, p. 11. , viewed 28 Mar 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article26211914

[13] University of New South Wales, Canberra, no date, ‘Cyril Arthur Geddes’, in The AIF Project, UNSW, online: https://www.aif.adfa.edu.au/showPerson?pid=108816

[14] 1908 'RIFLE SHOOTING.', The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 - 1955), 21 May, p. 4. , viewed 28 Mar 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article76527055

[15] 1908 'RIFLE SHOOTING.', Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 - 1954), 30 May, p. 38. , viewed 28 Mar 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article37562552

[16] The British & Commonwealth Military Badge Forum, accessed online: https://www.britishbadgeforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=4499, 28 March 2022

[17] 1915 ‘CIVIL SERVENT VOLUNTEERS’, Kalgoorlie Miner (WA : 1895 – 1954) 29 May, p. 6, viewed 24 Jan 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article92569229

[18] Henderson being her second marriage after the death of her first husband Captain William Geddes.

[19] Death of Mrs A M Henderson – 1892 ‘The Yea Chronicle’, Yea Chronicle (Yea, Vic. : 1891 – 1920), 2 June, p. 2., viewed 27 Jan 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news_article59947492

[20] 1911 'SOCIAL NOTES.', The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), 18 November, p. 13. , viewed 28 Mar 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article23856899

[21] 1912 ‘Advertising’, The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 -1955), 17 June, p. 1., viewed 21 Jan 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article79897346

[22] 1913 'AN ENJOYABLE VOCAL RECITAL.', Southern Times (Bunbury, WA : 1888 - 1916), 26 April, p. 5. , viewed 28 Mar 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article158868240

[23] 1913 'AN ENJOYABLE VOCAL RECITAL.', Southern Times (Bunbury, WA : 1888 - 1916), 26 April, p. 5. , viewed 28 Mar 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article158868240

[24] A copy of the sheet music for this piece can be downloaded, printed and played from the catalogue of the National Library of Australia.

[25] 1913 ‘THE PIERROTS’, Southern Times (Bunbury, WA : 1888 – 1916), 23 September, p. 5., viewed 26 March 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article158870633.

[26] 1913 ‘THE PIERROTS’, Bunbury Herald (WA : 1892-1919), 23 September, p. 8, viewed 20 Jan 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article87158958

[27] National Archives of Australia: B2455, GEDDES C A, p. 38 https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=4104296

[28] Unknown author 2015, ‘Private Suffers from conditions on Gallipoli Peninsula’, in The Islander Online, accessed online 28 March 2022, https://www.theislanderonline.com.au/story/2953599/private-suffers-from-conditions-on-gallipoli-peninsula/

[29] “Anzac Day” The Midlands Advertiser (Moora, WA : 1907-1930) 28 April 1922, p. 2, accessed 24 Jan 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article156953604

[30] 1918 ‘PERTH PRATTLE’, Sunday Times (Perth, WA : 1902 – 1954), 16 June, p. 14, viewed 23 Feb 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article57993670

[31] 1918 ‘PEEPS at PEOPLE’, Sunday Times (Perth, Wa : 1902 – 1954), 14 April, p. 20. , viewed 24 Jan 2022, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article57991930

[32] John 15 : 13

 

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This article was first published in the Victoria Park Dictionary of Biography, Town of Victoria Park Library, March 2022. By Rosemary Ritorto, Local History Coordinator.

Cyril Arthur Geddes was the 'Local Focus' story featured in the Town of Victoria Park's Anzac Day commemorations on 25 April 2022 which were held as virtual commemorations due to COVID-19 mitigation.

You can pick up a copy of his special commemorative booklet from the Library or download a copy to keep here: Geddes, Cyril Arthur - 2022 ToVP Anzac Day Local Focus History Commemorative Brochure

You can also view Cyril's special tribute video made for the virtual commemoration service on Anzac Day here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VS56xjt66P0

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Cr Mr John Macmillan, 1995

(Official Town of Victoria Park Elected Members Photographs) 

 

 

City of Perth Councillor, Honorary Freeman of the City of Perth and Town of Victoria Park Councillor

 

 

This article is still being researched and written. Please check back soon to read John Macmillan's complete entry in the Victoria Park Dictionary of Biography, Town of Victoria Park Library, March 2021.

Architect, Pastoralist, Public Official, War Hero 

McMaster-Captain-Robert-Thompson-2  

Robert Thomas McMaster was born in Melbourne, Victoria on 29 December 1865[1] his father was Vincent Robert McMaster, also a native of Victoria. No record of Robert McMaster’s mother or siblings has been found at present.

Robert attended Scotch College in Melbourne until the age of 16 when he was articled to well-known architect Michael Egan. He was indentured for eight years learning the trade. Due to a crippling economic depression in Melbourne in the early 1890s, Robert was one of a number of young architects to move to Western Australia, knowing there would be work because of that states gold rush. He joined the Public Works Department for a short while, before opening his own architectural firm around June/July 1892. Tenders for the construction of buildings designed by Robert were being advertised in mid-June 1892 and the announcement of his architectural practice appeared in the West Australian on 2 July 1892.

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Robert designed many residential and commercial properties in and around Perth. His most notable works are:

Commercial

  • Central Arcade – from Murray Street to Wellington Street, Perth, c. 1904 (demolished in the 1920s with the creation of Forrest Place).
  • United Services Hotel – 43 St George’s Terrace, Perth (demolished)
  • Ozone Hotel – 1 Adelaide Terrace, Perth, 1898 (demolished)
  • Smith’s Chambers – 115-117 Barrack Street, Perth
  • Broken Hill Hotel – 314 Albany Highway, Victoria Park, built between 1897-1898

Residential

  • “Tukurua” – Built in 1896 as the home of the Burt family – 7 Rosendo Street, Cottesloe
  • 105 Berwick Street, Victoria Park – McMaster’s own residence, built in 1896
  • 86 Mackie Street, Victoria Park – Residence of Herbert Devenish, and sometimes known as Forrest Farmhouse, built 1896

Family Life

Robert married Emily Frances Helmsley HOLMAN in 1894. Emily was born in Adelaide, South Australia in 1865, and had lived with her family in England for some years before moving back to Australia and coming to Perth c. 1887.

Together Robert and Emily had six (6) children, one Emily Vernon McMASTER was born in 1896 and died after only seven days. The surviving children were Ray Halliday, Alwyn Robert, Eric Frank, Jessie Lorn and Alice Frances Norma (often known as Norma or Nonna).

1st Mayor of the Municipality of Victoria Park and Public Life

Victoria-Park-Municipal-Council-logo

Local government was established in the area we now know as the Town of Victoria Park in 1894 when the Victoria Park Roads Boards was established. “Three years after being declared a Roads Board, with an area encompassing 4,198 acres, 350 dwellings and a population approximately 1,197 persons, Victoria Park was deemed to be sufficiently settled to warrant municipality status, under the inaugural leadership of Robert McMaster.”[2] The Municipality of Victoria Park was gazetted on 30 April 1897. Robert also held the Mayoral office in 1906-1907, and stood as a candidate for the seat of Canning Park in Western Australian state government elections in 1911. He was not fond of party politics and stood as an independent.

Boer War

Robert Thompson McMaster held a strong interest and participation in the defence of the colonies. Whilst growing up and during his studies in Victoria, he served five years with the rank of Lieutenant in the Victoria Artillery. He also served five years as a Lieutenant in the WA Infantry.

When Britain asked her colonies for help in defeating its enemies in South Africa (Boer War 1899-1902), the call was swiftly answered. A total of six contingents were recruited from Western Australia prior to Federation. Each contingent had around 120-130 men and officers. Captain Robert Thompson McMaster was one of the commissioned officers in charge of the second contingent of 130 men (led by Major H. L. Pilkington). Robert had retired from the profession of architect sometime in 1899.

Robert was given his own spirited send-off by the residents and Mayor of Victoria Park at a complementary social on Wednesday 10 January 1900. The Western Mail article of the following Saturday described the event thus:

“At the Town Hall, Victoria Park, on Wednesday, Lieutenant McMaster, a former mayor of the municipality, was tendered a send-off by the residents. The hall was crowded, there being a goodly sprinkling of military people present. The visitors included Messrs. H. J. Saunders, M.L.C., Frank Wilson, B. C. Wood, C. J. Moran, and J. R. A. Conolly, M’s.L.A., J Gardiner and J. J. Holman, and the members of the local council, Majors Campbell and Strickland, and Lieutenants Harris, Inglis, and De Castilla.

The Mayor (Mr. A. G. Russell) presided, the guest being seated on his right. The tables were nicely arranged and the hall decorated with bunting and flags, a fresh appearance being lent by the artistic arrangement of pot plants, etc. A long programme of toasts and vocal music was gone through, being interspersed with refreshments. In proposing the toast of ‘Our Guest,’ the Chairman stated that the complimentary social was tendered to Lieutenant McMaster by the council and residents of the municipality as a mark of their appreciation of his loyalty and patriotism in going to the front. He congratulated Mr. McMaster upon his appointment as first subaltern of the Mounted Infantry. During the speech of the Mayor considerable enthusiasm was manifested, which culminated in much cheering when Mr. Russell, on behalf of the assembly, presented Lieut. McMaster with a beautiful pair of field-glasses and a spirit flask, both being suitably inscribed.

On rising to respond, Lieut. McMaster was greeted with tumultuous applause. When he at length secured a hearing he expressed himself as feeling deeply grateful for the reception given him. Not being a feather-bed soldier, he has thought it his duty to volunteer. Speaking with reference to the condition of the men composing the mounted contingent he said that, thanks to the untiring energy of Major Campbell, they were daily showing improvement, and for the class of work required of them, it would be a difficult matter to find a better body of men than those at present drilling at Karrakatta. Whether they came back or not the residents of the colony would find that every man would be a credit to it, and would do his duty. (Applause.)”[3] There followed numerous other toasts and speeches and several vocal performances were also rendered before the night was concluded with a collection being taken up for the Absent Minded Beggar Fund.

The second mounted infantry contingent (McMaster included) left Fremantle on the 2 February 1900 on the transport “Surrey”. There was much fanfare and patriotic demonstration as the farewelling crowds sang popular tunes of the time to honour the troops.

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2nd W.A. Contingent to the Boer War marching through Fremantle, 2 February 1900. Photograph by Dease Studios, Perth. Courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia (025787PD)

During the war Robert was present at the Engagements of Diamond Hill and Sand River. He received the King’s South African Medal and also the Queen’s South African Medal with six clasps for his service to the British Empire.[4]

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The King’s South Africa Medal, shown here with two clasps, one for service in the war in 1901 and one for service in 1902. Courtesy of WP:NFCC#4 (Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45669300)

Pastoralist and Horse Breeder

Upon his return from the Boer War, and perhaps before, Robert was involved in pastoral activities across the eastern districts and as a breeder of horses of some note. He had established a farm at Merredin and had regular horse sales. He also owned race horses, one of which, a stallion, was named “Barbarossa”. This horse seemed to be quite well known, winning second prize in the open stallion any age competition at the Royal Show in 1907 and in 1909 and was noted in horse circles as a notable sire. During this time Robert still dabbled a little in architecture, as it was between 1905 and 1906 that he designed the Central Arcade (now demolished).

WWI Service

Although having been placed on the retired list from the military following his service in the Boer War, Robert applied on the 1 November 1914 for a commission in the Australian Imperial Forces. He was accepted first as a Lieutenant in the 10th Light Horse then later awarded the rank of Hon. Captain.

Robert was so keen to be accepted in the AIF that he adjusted his date of birth by five years so as to be under the age limit for joining. He stated on his enlistment papers that he was born on 29 December 1870 and was aged 43 years and 10 months. Robert embarked for the front from Fremantle on the 19 April 1915.

What happened next in the life of Robert Thompson McMaster, architect, family man, pastoralist, horse breeder and Boer War veteran was to place the title of “hero” to his name. Robert wouldn’t have been long on the shores of Gallipoli when he was killed in action at Walkers Ridge on 7 August 1915. His body was never found. His name however is listed on the Lone Pine Memorial at Gallipoli.

What memorial plaques don’t say, as Dr Peter Gifford points out in a 2014 Letter to the Editor of the Southern Gazette[5] that the battle in which Robert took part and was killed was the famous Battle of the Nek. In this battle Robert was amongst seven officers and 73 men from the 10th Light Horse to be killed. These “circumstances [are] portrayed graphically and accurately at the climax of Peter Weir’s 1981 film, GALLIPOLI.” [6]

Charles W. Bean, Australia’s official war historian writes of the manner in which the men at the Battle of the Nek died “In a hopeless situation after a failure in communications caused a supporting artillery bombardment to end seven minutes early, the men of the Victorian 8th Light Horse regiment had attacked first, only to be mown down by the massed Turkish rifles and machine guns which the communication breakdown had allowed to move back into defensive positions literally only a few metres from the Australian line.”

“The 10th went forward to meet death instantly, as the 8th had done, the men running as swiftly and as straight as they could at the Turkish rifles. With that regiment went the flower of the youth of Western Australia, sons of the old pioneering families, youngsters – in some cases two and three from the same home – who had flocked into Perth at the outbreak of war with their own horses and saddles in order to secure enlistment in a mounted regiment of the A.I.F.  Men known and popular, the best loved leaders in sport and work in the West, then rushed straight to their death.”[7]

Robert’s service record held by the National Archives of Australia contains a file note that is a “copy of proceedings of a Board of Enquiry assembled at Russells Top. [sic] Gallipoli Peninsula, on the 8th day of August, 1915 for the purpose of enquiring into, and reporting on thirty seven (37) Officers, N. C. O’s, and men of the 10th Light Horse Regiment, reported ‘missing’ since the assault on the Turkish trenches on the Nek, Anzac, on the morning of the 7th August, 1915.” The evidence of Lieutenant Colonel N. M. Brazier stating “After referring the matter to the 3rd Light Horse Brigade Headquarters [a Victorian brigade], he ordered the 10th Regiment which he commands, to assault in 2 lines the Turkish trenches on the NEK, in an easterly direction from our trenches on Russells Top, although at this time, there was a murderous hail of shrapnel, machine gun and rifle fire from the enemy and felt quite convinced few if any, would return. He has personally seen with a periscope, a great number of dead outside our trenches, and has caused the recovery of all those bodies, which up to the present he considers wise to risk further loss of life for.

“He is of the opinion that all the missing are dead, and further from the reports of the wounded who returned to the lines, and from personal observation with the periscope immediately after the assault, that no single individual of the 10th Regiment reached the Turkish trenches. Subsequent to the assault the enemy were seen deliberately firing on the wounded”.[8]

Death

In memoriam for 13 residents from the district, including Robert, a united church service was held at the Victoria Park Town Hall on 24 October 1915. The service had been arranged by the Council and the Mayor, Mr. J. Rushton was the chair. As the West Australian reports[9] “The hall was crowded, and the audience joined with fervour in the singing of the hymns, “Alleluia!”, “O Paradise!”, “Thy Will be Done,” and “On the Resurrection Morn”, to the accompaniment of an orchestra, under Mr. J. Buzza. In an interval the Mayor unveiled a photograph in memory of Captain R. T. McMaster who was the first mayor of Victoria Park.

“The Rev. H. Faull, in the course of an address, said they honoured the fallen heroes for their devotion to duty. These valiant men had heard their country’s call and had responded nobly. A compelling sense of duty and right was surely the noblest and most divine of the human chords, and it was a comfort to think that the fallen soldiers had been faithful to their conviction of right. Their memory was honoured also because they gave their lives in a noble cause – the principles of freedom and humanity, which were dearer to them than life itself. Truly, that hillside, overlooking the landing place at Gallipoli, was a very dear place to all Australians. He could think of no more apt quotation, for the occasion, than Lord Lytton’s words: ‘Farewell, fallen soldiers; though this life be o’er there is another. Lord grant that in the life to come, we may meet once more.”[10]

Left a widow with five children, Emily was yet to face more tragedy, as their son Alwyn Robert, who also served in the 10th Light Horse, returned from the war in 1919, only to die in a tragic accident in 1922 at the age of 23. Emily would also lose her last remaining son[11] Eric Frank McMaster in 1926 aged 21. Fortunately Emily had the company of her two living daughters until they each married. Emily was also a talented musician and well-loved in the community in her own right[12]. She was the music teacher at Scotch College, Swanbourne for 22 years and church organist at her local church in Mt Lawley. Emily McMaster died in 1941 at aged 76 years, she had been widowed for 26 years.

Honoured

Robert Thompson McMaster was honoured in 1918 by the renaming of Hereford Street. McMaster Street, Victoria Park as it is now known, intersects with Albany Highway across from the Town’s Memorial Gardens which honours all local war heroes. A few short metres away from the gardens stands the stately visage of the Broken Hill Hotel, a testament to a bygone era, and a beloved local landmark, a visual reminder of the creative genius of the architect.

 

Lest We Forget Robert Thompson McMaster

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Family Tree

McMaster-Family-tree

References

1892 ‘CLASSIFIED ADVERTISING’, The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954), 22 June, p. 8, viewed 01 April 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3036943

1892 ‘PROPOSED COFFEE PALACE FOR PERTH’, The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954), 9 June, p. 2, viewed 01 April 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3036492

1895 'GOVERNMENT GAZETTE.', The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), 24 August, p. 5. , viewed 08 Nov 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4545698

1895 ‘OUR TELEGRAPHIC BUDGET’, The Murchison Times and Day Dawn Gazette (Cue, WA : 1894 – 1925), 28 December, p. 3, viewed 01 April 2020m http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article233231960

1897 ‘VICTORIA PARK MUNICIPAL ELECTION – MR R. T. McMASTER ELECTED CHAIRMAN’, The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), 21 June, p. 7, viewed 08 November 1919, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3177804

1900 ‘LIST OF OUR CONTINGENT’, The Inquirer and Commercial News (Perth, WA : 1855 – 1901), 9 February, p. 11, viewed 31 March 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article67185849

1900 ‘SEND-OFF TO LIEUTENTANT McMASTER.’, Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 – 1954), 13 January, p. 23., viewed 31 Mar 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article33176641.

1904 ‘PERTH’S NEW ARCADE’, The Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1879 -1954), 25 December, p. 51, viewed 30 March 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page3966947.

1907 ‘THE VETERAN BARBAROSSA’, Sunday Times (Perth, WA : 1902-1954), 3 November, p. 6 (ROYAL SHOW SECTION), viewed 31 March 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article57572681

1909 'HORSES.', The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), 3 November, p. 7. , viewed 08 Nov 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article26241342

1911 'STATE POLITICS', The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), 23 August, p. 8. , viewed 08 Nov 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article26349073

1912 'A FATAL ACCIDENT', The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), 26 February, p. 5. , viewed 08 November 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article23865514

1915 ‘WESTERN AUSTRALIAN CASUALTIES’, The West Australian (Perth, WA 1879 – 1954). Thursday 26 August, p. 8, viewed 08 November 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.new-article26953847

1915 ‘THE ROLL OF HONOUR’ The Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 – 1954) Friday 24 September, pp. 16-17, viewed 08 November 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article37432226

1915 ‘MEMORIAL FOR THE FALLEN’, West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879-1954), 25 October, p. 8, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article26960604.

1932 ‘A PAGE for WOMEN & PERHAPS MEN’, The Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 – 1954), 21 January, p. 27, viewed 31 March 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article38532253

1937 'SOUTH AFRICAN VETERANS.', The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), 20 November, p. 9. , viewed 31 Mar 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article41590919

1941 ‘FUNERAL – THE LATE MRS. E. F. H. McMASTER’, West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879-1954), Saturday 17 May 1941, p. 13, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article47324863.

Battye, J.S. (ed.), The Cyclopedia of Western Australia, Vol. I, Hesperian Press, Carlisle, WA, 1985 (orig. 1912), p. 410.

Bean, C.E.W., The Official History Of Australia In The War Of 1914-1918: Volume II, The Story Of Anzac: From 4 May, 1915 To The Evacuation, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1938, pp. 617-618, 616.

Dease Photographic Studios 1900, ‘2nd W.A. Contingent to the Boer War marching through Fremantle, 2 February 1900, Photograph (025787PD), State Library of Western Australia, https://encore.slwa.wa.gov.au/iii/encore/record/C__Rb3017053

Gifford, Peter Dr 2014, ‘Letters to the Editor’, Southern Gazette, 26 March, p. 5

MILITARY FORCES, WESTERN AUSTRALIA." Commonwealth of Australia Gazette (National : 1901 - 1973) 27 March 1902: 172. Web. 8 Nov 2019 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article232346119>.)

National Archives of Australia, World War I Service Record of: McMaster Robert Thompson : SERN HON CAPT : POB N/A : POE N/A : NOK W McMaster Emily Frances, Barcode 1956099.

North East Medals, The Queen’s South Africa Medal, accessed online 30 March 2020 https://www.northeastmedals.co.uk/britishguide/queens_south_africa_medal.htm

North East Medals, The King’s South Africa Medal, accessed online 30 March 2020, https://www.northeastmedals.co.uk/britishguide/kings_south_africa_1902.htm

Taylor. John J. Dr 2014, ‘Robert Thompson McMaster’, Australian Institute of Architects, viewed 31 March 2020, https://repository.architecture.com.au/download/chapters/wa-chapter/wa-biographies/rt-mcmaster-for-aia-wa.pdf

Thompson, Susannah 2012, Beyond Matta Gerup: a history of the Victoria Park, Town of Victoria Park, Victoria Park, Western Australia, 2013 reprint, p. 28.

VICTORIA PARK MUNICIPAL ELECTION." The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954) 21 June 1897: 7. Web. 8 Nov 2019 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3177804>.

Victoria Park RSL, ‘Robert Thomas McMaster’, accessed 30 March 2020, https://www.victoriaparkrsl.org.au/ 

 


[1] No birth is registered in the Births Deaths and Marriages Victoria database however. Another source, a contemporary newspaper article stating that Robert may have been born in Scotland, also proves unsupportable at present as Scotland’s People, a UK Government agency, does not record a birth for Robert Thompson McMaster either.

[2] Thompson, Susannah 2012, Beyond Matta Gerup: a history of the Victoria Park, Town of Victoria Park, Victoria Park, Western Australia, 2013 reprint, p. 28.

[3] 1900 ‘SEND-OFF TO LIEUTENTANT McMASTER.’, Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 – 1954), 13 January, p. 23., viewed 31 Mar 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article33176641.

[4] The clasps referred to were awarded on the Queen’s South African Medal for various campaign involvement. More information on the different campaign clasps can be found on the website of a company in Northumberland, England called “North East Medals”. https://www.northeastmedals.co.uk/britishguide/queens_south_africa_medal.htm

[5] Gifford, Peter Dr 2014, ‘Letters to the Editor’, Southern Gazette, 26 March, p. 5

[6] Gifford op. cit.

[7] Bean, C.E.W., The Official History Of Australia In The War Of 1914-1918: Volume II, The Story Of Anzac: From 4 May, 1915 To The Evacuation, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1938, pp. 617-618, 616.

[8] National Archives of Australia, World War I Service Record of: McMaster Robert Thompson : SERN HON CAPT : POB N/A : POE N/A : NOK W McMaster Emily Frances, Barcode 1956099.

[9] 1915, ‘MEMORIAL FOR THE FALLEN’, West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879-1954), 25 October, p. 8, <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article26960604>

[10] 1915, ‘MEMORIAL FOR THE FALLEN’, West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879-1954), 25 October, p. 8, <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article26960604>

[11] Ray Halliday McMaster had died in a tragic horse riding accident in 1912.

[12] 1941 ‘FUNERAL – THE LATE MRS. E. F. H. McMASTER’, West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879-1954), Saturday 17 May 1941, p. 13, < http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article47324863>

 

 

This article was first published online in Victoria Park Dictionary of Biography, Town of Victoria Park Library, April 2020. Written by Rosemary Ritorto, Local History Coordinator.

Robert Thompson McMaster was especially remembered as the 'local focus story' that featured in the Town of Victoria Park's Anzac Day commemorations at Memorial Gardens, Albany Highway, Victoria Park on 25 April 2020.

Charles Searl Paterson was the son of Charles Gammie and Hannah Paterson of 558 Murray Street, Perth and later 24 Cargill Street, Victoria Park. Charles Gammie Paterson married Hannah Searl(s) in Perth in 1901.

Charles Gammie was a tramway worker upon his marriage to Hannah and they had five children during the course of their marriage: Charles, Alice, Roy, Gladys and Jean.

Charles and Hannah’s son Charles Searl Paterson studied at the University of Western Australia and gained his Bachelor of Engineering degree in 1925.

The Western Australian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages lists Charles marrying Cathleen T. Matheson in Perth in 1927.

Charles Searl and Cathleen Paterson had three children: Charles Matheson (b.1930, d. 7.10.1943), Jocelyn and Lesley.

Charles Searl took the post of Assistant Engineer at the City of Perth in 1929, and worked there for 19 years. Charles died on the 22 February 1967, after a long illness, he was 65 years old. The Swan River Conservation Board wrote to the City of Perth on the 31st of March 1967 suggesting that the reserve along the Swan River at 201 Great Eastern Highway be named Paterson Park. They made the suggestion as Charles Searl Paterson had been closely involved with the establishment of the headquarters of the WA Ski Association on the reserve. The City of Perth acknowledged the letter stating that the City and the family of the late Mr Paterson agreed that the reserve be named the Charles Paterson Park.

References:

  1. City of Perth, ‘All about 14 – Parks’, City of Perth [date unknown]
  2. Metropolitan Cemeteries Board – KC00027488
  3. WA Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages

 Photo-Pte-Leslie-E-Plummer-Western-Mail-13-April-1917-p.-23.jpg

Private Leslie Edward PLUMMER was born in Korumburra, Victoria in 1893. Leslie was the second of five children born to George Alfred and Catherine (nee WHITE) PLUMMER. The couple’s first three children were born in Victoria, with the first of the last two being born in Perth in 1901. Leslie was five foot six and a half inches tall, had brown eyes and dark brown hair. He wasn’t married and lived in the family home at 21 Fitzroy (now Berwick) Street, Victoria Park. Leslie Edward was a wireman by trade upon his enlistment in the Australian Imperial Force on the 26 June 1915. He was a member of the famed 11th Battalion. Leslie embarked for training at Tel-El-Kabir, Egypt on the ship Themistocles on the 13 September 1915, he was 21 years old. After completing training and suffering several admissions to hospital for influenza, Leslie arrived on the Western Front on the 5 April 1916. He was Killed in Action in France on the 30 May 1916, aged just 22. 

Interestingly, the Coolgardie Miner reported in its edition of 15 July 1916, page 1, that “Leslie Edward Plummer, who was recently killed in France, came from a long line of soldiers. He is a descendent of Colonel Hutchinson [through his paternal grandmother] who fought bravely at the battle of Colloden [sic], and a grandson of the late Lord Horgan, of County Cork [Ireland].”Leslie’s father George Alfred was a civil servant working at the Postmaster General’s Department for more than 20 years and by all accounts was well loved. His obituary in January 1923 stated that upon hearing the news of the death of his son Leslie on active service, he enlisted himself, at the age of 44. 

  

Photo-George-Plummer-Western-Mail-13-April-1917-p.-23.jpg

George did return to Australia in 1918 but his death in 1923 was said to be from injuries received in the war. For more than ten years his three sisters who were then in South Australia with their respective husbands, submitted notices to the Perth newspapers to remember their beloved brother. On the tenth anniversary of Leslie’s death in 1926 they wrote: “PLUMMER – In loving memory of our dear brother Leslie Edward Plummer, killed in action May 30, 1916. As years go by we miss you more. Inserted by his loving sisters, Daisy, Betty and May.”

Plummer Street in East Victoria Park is named in honour of Leslie.

Plummer-Street-sign-East-Victoria-Park-for-w-e.jpg

Lest We Forget

Family Tree

Leslie Edward PLUMMER

Born: 1893 Korumburra, Victoria

Father: George Alfred PLUMMER

Mother: Catherine WHITE

Died: Killed in Action, France 30 May 1916

 

George Alfred PLUMMER and Catherine WHITE [Leslie’s parents]

Married: 24 December 1889, Ringwood, Victoria.

At their marriage, George was a Labourer by trade and Catherine was a servant. Suspect Catherine’s parents were deceased at the time of her marriage as she was aged 17 (based on MCB recorded age at death) and a JP had to ascent to her marriage.

George Alfred PLUMMER, born: 1868 Alexandra, Victoria. Died: 28 January 1923, Victoria Park, WA. Catherine PLUMMER (nee) WHITE, died 5 September 1927, aged 55, Perth WA. George also served as a Private (2621) in WWI, enlisting: 29 June 1916, embarking: 9 November 1916, and returning to Australia: 15 February 1918.

Children of George and Catherine:

  • Sarah Elizabeth
    • Born: 1892, Ringwood, VIC (7715/1892)
    • Married:
    • Died:
  • Leslie Edward
    • Born: 1893, Korumburra, VIC (3290/1893)
    • Married: Never married
    • Died: KIA France, 30 May 1916
  • Daisy
    • Born: 1895 Korumburra, Victoria (22113/1895)
    • Married: Alfred J. ALLARD 1914, Perth (reg. no. 329)
    • Died:
  • Evelyn May
    • Born: 1904, Perth WA (4693)
    • Married:
    • Died:
  • Harold Alfred
    • Born: 1901 Perth, WA (4004)
    • Married:
    • Died: 29 April 1976, Victoria Park, WA

 

Leslie’s Paternal Grandparents:

David PLUMMER and Susannah Hutcheson Horgan DIXON married 1867 Victoria (1061/1867)

  • David was born in London, England
    • Occupation at marriage: Brickmaker
    • Emigrated 1857 aged 20. Occupation was listed as Blacksmith
    • On emigration records, David’s brother Thomas was also listed as coming to Victoria. His occupation was listed as Engineer. They both came on the ship “Essex” from Gravesend, England to Melbourne, Victoria. The ship arrived in Melbourne on 25 July 1857.
  • Susannah was born in the City of Cork, Ireland
    • Occupation at marriage: not listed
    • Widowed prior to this marriage, in 1856
    • Had five children to first husband

 

Children of Paternal Grandparents: 

  • Richard Henry
    • Born: 1862, Victoria (17962/1862)
    • Married:
    • Died:
  • John
    • Born: 1864, Victoria (12096/1864)
    • Married:
    • Died:
  • William Charles
    • Born: 1866, Kennedy F, Victoria (11746/1866)
    • Married:
    • Died:
  • George Alfred
    • Born: 1868, Alexandra, Victoria (6566/1868)
    • Married: Catherine WHITE, 24 December 1889, Ringwood VIC
    • Died: 28 January 1923, WA
  • Sarah Ann
  • Born: 1870 Alexandra, Victoria (20479/1870)
  • Married:
  • Died:

 

Leslie’s Paternal Great Grandparents

Thomas PLUMMER and Sarah ABBOTT

 

Children of Paternal Grandparents:

  • Thomas PLUMMER: Aged 25 when he emigrated with his brother from England to Melbourne, Victoria in 1857
  • David PLUMMER:
    • Born: London England, c. 1831
    • Married: Susannah Hutcheson Horgan DIXON
    • Died: 1918 Korumburra, Victoria

 

References:

1916 'PERSONAL.', Coolgardie Miner (WA : 1913 - 1917), 15 July, p. 1. , viewed 12 Mar 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article86184505

1916 'Family Notices', The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), 23 June, p. 1. , viewed 12 Mar 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article26983078

1917 'ILLUSTRATED SECTION', Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 - 1954), 13 April, p. 23. , viewed 12 Mar 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article37988556

1917 'Family Notices', The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), 31 May, p. 1. , viewed 12 Mar 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article27300469

1923 'Family Notices', The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 - 1950), 29 January, p. 10. (THIRD EDITION), viewed 12 Mar 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article82513641

1923 'Family Notices', The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 - 1950), 5 February, p. 5. (THIRD EDITION), viewed 12 Mar 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article82512872

1926 'Family Notices', The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), 29 May, p. 1. , viewed 12 Mar 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article31927773

Ancestry.com. Victoria, Australia, Assisted and Unassisted Passenger Lists, 1839-1923 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2009.

Metropolitan Cemeteries Board, Perth Western Australia, https://www2.mcb.wa.gov.au/NameSearch/ 

National Archives of Australia, World War I Service Record of: Plummer, Leslie Edward : Service Number - 3103 : Place of Birth - Gippsland VIC : Place of Enlistment - Perth WA : Next of Kin - (Father) PLUMMER George Alfred, Item ID: 4734124

National Archives of Australia, World War I Service Record of: PLUMMER George Alfred : Service Number - 2621 : Place of Birth - Alexandra VIC : Place of Enlistment - Perth WA : Next of Kin - (Wife) PLUMMER Catherine, Item ID: 8019152

Victoria State Government 2021, Births, Deaths and Marriages Victoria, online database, https://www.bdm.vic.gov.au/research-and-family-history

 

 

This article was first published online in Victoria Park Dictionary of Biography, Town of Victoria Park Library, 12 March 2021

Local Volunteer Aid Detachment (VAD) Quartermaster and Secretary for St John’s Ambulance Nursing Division during and immediately following World War I

 

Rafferty-Jessie-Thornton-profile.jpg  

 Jessie Thornton Rafferty, circa 1915

Jessie Thornton Rafferty was born to Thomas and Annie (nee Thornton) Rafferty on the 5 November 1891 in Paisley, Scotland[1]. The eldest daughter and one of six children that was born to the couple.

Thomas and Annie were both literate as they were able to sign their own names on their marriage certificate in 1889, but they worked very hard, as industrialisation took over slowly, many of the occupations available to people were still very physical. Life in Paisley, Scotland was no different with many women working in the textile mills, like Annie Rafferty whose occupation was listed as a ‘threadmill worker’ on her marriage certificate. Thomas worked in various roles but most often within the area of making bricks, pottery and glass. He was a ‘plumbago crucible maker’[2] when he married Annie and seems to have continued in that field in various roles even after he emigrated to Australia.

As her parents were literate, it is assumed that Jessie and her siblings were educated at least to primary school level. But the family was not immune to hard work as we have seen but also tragedy. The couple’s first child, a son named Charles, was born in 1889, only to die the same year. At the relatively young age, it would be said these days, of 41 years, Annie Rafferty died on 15 June 1908. She left behind her husband and five children, the youngest being twin girls, Maggie McKendrick and Jeanie McDonald who were just six years old [3]. Jessie was 18 years old when her mother died and she was left to take over the running of a household, looking after her father, three brothers and two sisters.

Coming to Australia

In 1911 Jessie Thornton Rafferty, her father and five siblings emigrated from Paisley, Scotland, to Perth, Western Australia. They travelled on the S.S. Osterley[4] whose top speed was about 19 knots, the trip at the time taking 45 days.

 EB1911_Ship_Orient_Liner_Osterley.jpg  

The passenger list gives the occupations of the five older members of the family as Thomas Rafferty [Manager], Thomas [Engineer], James [Engineer], Jessie [Housekeeper], Robert S. [Paper Maker]. Aged 22 by the time she arrived in Australia, Jessie is already playing the vital role of caregiver, homemaker to her father and older siblings and mother to her young twin sisters.

20 Teddington Road, Victoria Park

The Rafferty family moved into 20 Teddington Road, Victoria Park (now Burswood) soon after they arrived from Scotland. Records show that they called the modest weatherboard and iron house on the traditional quarter acre block home for more than sixty years.

 PH00025-01-PH90019-Jessie-Rafferty-for-use-in-VPDB.jpg

Jessie and the Perth Nursing Division

Whilst official records such as electoral rolls, list Jessie’s occupation, throughout her life as ‘home duties’, she devoted herself to learning and to the field of nursing.

On the 13 November 1913 a special meeting was held at the Central Fire Station, Perth by the St John’s Ambulance Brigade Assistant Commissioner, Dr William Trethowan. A meeting of ladies who were interested in forming a Nursing Division. Dr Trethowan spoke to the group outlining the aims and objectives. A motion was put forward for the establishment of the Perth Nursing Division of the St John Ambulance be formed which was carried and so the 14 ladies present, including Jessie Rafferty were now founding members. The new Perth Nursing Division was to meet fortnightly at the fire station on Monday nights. Records show that this small gathering was the beginning of a large network of nursing Divisions across the state.

Doctors were assigned to give lectures to the members of the Perth Nursing Division and there were examinations on various topics. In order for a member to be able to wear the badge of the brigade they were required to pass three examinations, which included first aid and home nursing [5]. In late November of 1914, the Perth Nursing Division approached the Army to offer their services to the war effort but were told their services were not required. But the Division pushed on and continued to learn about what was going on in the war through lectures such as those given by Dr Gertrude Mead. Dr Mead was Divisional Surgeon of St John Ambulance and she was a great advocate and help to the Division, giving such lectures as her “Wounds of War”. Three members of the Perth Nursing Division were asked to serve overseas in 1916 for the Australian Red Cross. These nurses were Mrs L Bruce, Misses E Bower and I Evans and they served as Probationary Nurses to military hospitals in England and France. All three returned safely to Australia in 1919.

The Perth Nursing Division also formed a “Comforts Fund for soldiers at the Kalamunda Convalescent Home and the members took it in turns in visiting the Home while all contributed various items to help. In all, life was busy”[6]. Members of the Division fundraised for various causes such as International Council of Women and the French Red Cross. During the time from formation in November 1913 to August 1915 membership of the Division had grown from 14 members to approximately 40. Memberships increased most likely because of the First World War and as Donaldson mentions “during November 1915, Miss Jessie Rafferty was appointed Lady Superintendent to the Ambulance Association”[7]. Which would have lent some good publicity to the work and efforts of the Division. “Maybe to sustain interest there seems to have been Roller Bandaging Competitions and one, recorded on 3 September 1918, was adjudicated by Dr Gertrude Mead. She awarded first prize to Mrs Schwarze, a rose bowl, gifted by Mrs Parker, while the second prize was to Miss Rafferty, gifted by Dr Mead, but there is no record of what it was. Our Jessie was we then see, skilled in the practical as well as the managerial aspects of the Perth Nursing Division.

Jessie and the VADs

Despite the Perth Nursing Division’s offer of assistance being turned down by the Army in 1914, Dr Tymms the Brigade Commissioner requested in February 1916 that a Voluntary Aid Detachment or VAD be considered. By the end of the same month, the St John Ambulance Brigade formed a VAD and asked the Perth Nursing Division to be part of it. Strangely though, nothing official happened until two years later, but eight members of the Perth Nursing Division were already serving at No. 8 Base Hospital in Fremantle. By the middle of 1918 the VAD was finally official and notices went into the newspapers listing Miss Jessie Rafferty as the Honorary Secretary and for applications to join the VAD to be sent to her at her home at 20 Teddington Road, Victoria Park.

 Advert-calling-for-volunteers-to-join-the-Womens-VAD-The-Daily-News-Fri-16-Aust-1918-p.-2.jpg

Advert-calling-for-volunteers-to-join-the-Womens-VAD-WAN-Wed-14-Aug-1918-p.-1.jpg

Work for members of the VAD started at 7am and was very physical work, they had undergone a course of lectures and training in first aid and home nursing but also in cooking for health, laundry work and many had also learned transport and stretcher drilling. The VADs were at first not very popular with nurses and medical personnel as VAD staff had usually only had minimal training when compared to professionally trained nurses but as the years of war crept on, and VAD staff gained more experience, their help was more appreciated by the professional end of the medical field.

Florence_Daisy_Batty_item_5-1.jpg

With the end of the war came an influenza pandemic, and the work of Jessie and her colleagues in the Perth Nursing Division and VADs was not over. The Perth Nursing Division “volunteered their services to the Health Department and 28 members assisted subsequently in Perth and Fremantle Hospitals”[8]. It is not known for certain, but likely given where Jessie lived, that she also volunteered her time and nursing talents to those patients at the Rotunda Hospital on Albany Highway, East Victoria Park (known today as Edward Millen House). In 1919 the State Government took over the Rotunda Hospital from Nurse Elizabeth Baillie and it was administered by the Perth Public Hospital, treating 186 patients for influenza during the pandemic, of whom 16 died [9].

Jessie continued to work for the Perth Nursing Division of St John Ambulance and in their VAD up to 1921 when she resigned, no reason was recorded for her decision in the official minutes.

The Rafferty brothers also serve

Jessie was not the only member of her family to serve her country in the war effort, her three brothers James, Thomas and Robert Scott Rafferty all enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and saw action overseas. James achieved the rank of Lance Sergeant, Thomas of Sergeant, and Robert Scott of 2nd Lieutenant. Thankfully all three men survived the war, with all three brothers returning to Australia. But before James returned he married Marion Cameron, a drapery saleswoman, in the family’s home church of Martyr’s Parish Church on Broomlands Street, Paisley, Scotland.

 Broomlands-Street-Paisley-1905-Martyrs-Parish-Church-on-left.jpg

 Lance-Sergeant-RAFFERTY-James-Dease-Photograh-SLWA-108055PD-for-VPDB.jpg

Jessie’s brother Sergeant Thomas Rafferty enlisted in August 1916 serving with the 11th Battalion, 22nd Reinforcements in France, returning to Australia in July 1919.

Jessie’s baby brother, 2nd Lieutenant Robert Scott Rafferty, was awarded the Military Medal 'At BULLECOURT on 11th April 1917 for gallant conduct and devotion to duty during the attack and occupation of the HINDENBURG LINE. When the order to retire was given he fell back in good order with his men, but seeing a wounded officer in a shell hole near enemy wire he remained until dark and carried him into safety'[10].

 Rafferty-Robert-Scott-SLWA-108066PD-for-VPDB.jpg

Jessie and her family after the War

We know little of Jessie’s activities following her resignation from the Perth Nurses Division of St John Ambulance in 1921, but we do know that she never married and continued to live in the family home at 20 Teddington Road, and to look after her father and siblings. Robert Scott Rafferty took up farming in Bencubbin and Jessie’s other two brothers moved out and started their own families.

Perth-Nursing-Division-from-p.-10-of-Donaldson-2003.jpg

On the 4 August 1933, Thomas Rafferty senior died aged 70 and was buried in the Presbyterian section at Karrakatta.  At this stage Jessie’s two youngest sisters, the twins, were also living at 20 Teddington Road.

Rafferty, Thomas - grave at Karrakatta

In 1940 one of the twins, Jeanie McDonald Rafferty married John McIver in Paisley Scotland. The other twin sister Maggie McKendrick Rafferty did not marry and both Jessie and Maggie lived together for the rest of their lives. The occupations of both being listed on the electoral rolls through the years as ‘home duties’,

Jessie Thorton Rafferty died on the 21 December 1980 in Victoria Park, she was 89 years old. Her sister Maggie McKendrick Rafferty lived another nine years and died on 12 October 1989, she was aged 86. The ashes of both sisters were scattered on their father, Thomas’ grave at Karrakatta and two plaques mark their lives, below the headstone of their father.

Rafferty-Jessie-Thornton-memorial-plaque-on-her-fathers-grave-at-Karrakatta.jpg Rafferty-Maggie-McKendrick-memorial-plaque-on-her-fathers-grave-at-Karrakatta.jpg

 

The Town of Victoria Park honours the life of Jessie Thornton Rafferty, we especially note her care and commitment to her family and the dedication to, and gift of her talents to the Perth Nursing Division of St John Ambulance 1913-1921. Miss Jessie Thornton Rafferty was an amazing leader and a great female role model. We will remember her.

 

Footnotes



[1] Paisley is a large town 11 km West of Glasgow and 85 km West of Edinburgh in Scotland. It is situated on the White Cart river on the site of a rumoured Roman fort. Notable for agriculture for most of its history, the 19th century saw the textile trade boom in the area. Coats cottons came from this humble little town. The famous paisley shawl and paisley fabric pattern were also named for the town. The famous paisley shawl and fabric pattern were named for the town. The popularity for the pattern and shawl increased when Queen Victoria purchased some in 1842.

[2] According to A Dictionary of Occupational Terms Based on the Classification of Occupations used in the Census of Population, 1921, a ‘plumbago crucible maker’ is a crucible maker who makes crucibles from a mixture of refactory clay and plumbago (graphite). A ‘crucible maker’ makes crucibles by throwing mixture of fireclay and grog i.e. , lumps of hard-burnt clay, broken bricks, etc., ground to a powder, with or without a further admixture of plumbago on potter's wheel (a small revolving table), and working it up to desired shape with hands; (ii) makes crucibles by pressing paste into moulds, usually of plaster of Paris, with his hands, using simple pads and other tools; touches up defects, and smooths out roughness and cracks with a knife or smoothing pad when article is partly dry; (iii) presses clay or pug into shape between top and bottom moulds in hand or machine press to form crucible pot.

[3] The twins, Maggie McKendrick and Jeanie McDonald Rafferty were born in 1902, Paisley Scotland (registration numbers: 573/12253 and 573/12254 respectively).

[4] The S. S. Osterley a 12,000 ton steamer built in Glasgow for the Orient Steam Navigation Company. It was named after the country seat of Lord Jersey and is the third of the five such steamers ordered by the company to meet the requirements of the mail contract entered into with Australia. The ship was launched on 26 January 1909.

[5] 1918 'SOCIAL NOTES.', The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), 26 March, p. 6. , viewed 22 Mar 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article27473233

[6] Donaldson, Ruth Gwendoline 2003, Following a Nursing Star: A History of St John Nursing in Perth 1913-1963, St John Ambulance Australia (Western Australia) Inc., Belmont, W.A., p. 7.

[7] Op cit., p. 8

[8] Op cit. Donaldson 2003, p. 14

[9] Thompson, Susannah 2013, Beyond Matta Gerup: a history of Victoria Park, Town of Victoria Park, Victoria Park, W.A., pp. 50-51

[10] Commonwealth Gazette No. 169, 4 October 1917.

 

References

1909 'THE ORIENT'S OSTERLEY.', The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW: 1842 - 1954), 23 January, p. 13., viewed 22 Mar 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15031021

1913 'NEWS AND NOTES.', The West Australian (Perth, WA: 1879 - 1954), 1 September, p. 6., viewed 22 Mar 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article26883970

1916 'TO-DAY'S FIGURES.', The Daily News (Perth, WA: 1882 - 1950), 14 February, p. 6. (THIRD EDITION), viewed 22 Mar 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article80898501

1916 'WESTERN AUSTRALIAN HEROES.', Western Mail (Perth, WA: 1885 - 1954), 6 October, p. 23., viewed 22 Mar 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article37984824

1916 'ST. JOHN AMBULANCE ASSOCIATION.', The West Australian (Perth, WA: 1879 - 1954), 24 November, p. 10., viewed 22 Mar 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article26998187

1918 'SOCIAL NOTES.', The West Australian (Perth, WA: 1879 - 1954), 26 March, p. 6., viewed 22 Mar 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article27473233

1918 'Family Notices', The West Australian (Perth, WA: 1879 - 1954), 14 August, p. 1., viewed 22 Mar 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article27486629

1918 'No title', The Daily News (Perth, WA: 1882 - 1950), 16 August, p. 2. (THIRD EDITION), viewed 22 Mar 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article81367065

1918 'SOCIAL NOTES.', The West Australian (Perth, WA: 1879 - 1954), 20 August, p. 6. , viewed 22 Mar 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article27487308

1918 'Advertising', The West Australian (Perth, WA: 1879 - 1954), 14 December, p. 3., viewed 22 Mar 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article27499107

1919 'Advertising', The West Australian (Perth, WA: 1879 - 1954), 1 February, p. 3., viewed 22 Mar 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article27594012

1919 'Advertising', The West Australian (Perth, WA: 1879 - 1954), 6 June, p. 1., viewed 22 Mar 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article27606929

1920 'Advertising', The West Australian (Perth, WA: 1879 - 1954), 10 January, p. 8., viewed 22 Mar 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article27672980

1921 'Advertising', The West Australian (Perth, WA: 1879 - 1954), 25 March, p. 7., viewed 22 Mar 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article27959828

1933 'Family Notices', The Daily News (Perth, WA: 1882 - 1950), 4 August, p. 10. (LATE CITY), viewed 22 Mar 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article83402917

1933 'Family Notices', The West Australian (Perth, WA: 1879 - 1954), 5 August, p. 1., viewed 22 Mar 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article33310599

1940 'Family Notices', The West Australian (Perth, WA: 1879 - 1954), 26 November, p. 1. , viewed 22 Mar 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article47293865

Donaldson, Ruth Gwendoline 2003, Following a Nursing Star: A History of St John Nursing in Perth 1913-1963, St John Ambulance Australia (Western Australia) Inc., Belmont, W.A., p. 7.

Goodman, Rupert 1991, Voluntary Aid Detachments in Peace and War: the history of Voluntary Aid Detachments in Australia during the 20th Century, Boolarong Publications, Brisbane.

‘Paisley History’, https://www.paisley.org.uk/paisley-history/, accessed online 16/03/2021

Landgate, Map Viewer Plus, accessed online, https://www0.landgate.wa.gov.au/maps-and-imagery/interactive-maps/map-viewer

Metropolitan Cemeteries Board (Western Australia), Name Search, accessed online, https://www.mcb.wa.gov.au/research

Ministry of Labour 1927, A Dictionary of Occupational Terms Based on the Classification of Occupations used in the Census of Population, 1921, United Kingdom, accessed online 19/3/2021, http://doot.spub.co.uk/code.php?value=103

Museum of Perth, ‘Lance Sergeant Rafferty, James’, The Soldiers of Barrack Street: Photographic Portraits by Denis Dease, online exhibition, http://www.thesoldiersofbarrackstreet.com/lance-sergeant-james-rafferty-11th-battalion, accessed 16/3/2021

Museum of Perth, ‘Lance Sergeant Rafferty, James’, The Soldiers of Barrack Street: Photographic Portraits by Denis Dease, online exhibition, http://www.thesoldiersofbarrackstreet.com/lieutenant-robert-scot-rafferty-16th-battalion, accessed 16/3/2021

National Archives of Australia; Queen Victoria Terrace, Parkes ACT 2600.; Inward passenger manifests for ships and aircraft arriving at Fremantle, Perth Airport and Western Australian outports from 1897-1963; Series Number: K 269; Reel Number: 34, accessed online, ancestry.com

National Archives of Australia, RAFFERTY James: Service Number - 6810: Place of Birth - Paisley Scotland: Place of Enlistment - Perth WA: Next of Kin - (Father) RAFFERTY Thomas, Item ID 8025132

National Archives of Australia, RAFFERTY Robert Scott: Service Number – Lieutenant: Place of Birth - Paisley Scotland: Place of Enlistment - Perth WA: Next of Kin - (Father) RAFFERTY Thomas, Item ID 8024451

National Archives of Australia, RAFFERTY Thomas: Service Number - 5076: Place of Birth - Paisley Scotland: Place of Enlistment - Perth WA: Next of Kin - (Father) RAFFERTY Thomas, Item ID 8024454.

Scotlands People 2020, Birth, Death and Marriage Records, accessed online: https://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/

State Library of Western Australia, ‘Post Office Directories’, accessed online https://www.slwa.wa.gov.au/explore-discover/wa-heritage/post-office-directories

Thompson, Susannah 2013, Beyond Matta Gerup: a history of Victoria Park, Town of Victoria Park, Victoria Park, W.A., pp. 50-51

Western Australian State Government, Department of Justice, Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, https://bdm.justice.wa.gov.au/_apps/pioneersindex/default.aspx?uid=6652-1357-6884-3383, accessed online.

 

 

This article was first published online in Victoria Park Dictionary of Biography, Town of Victoria Park Library, 24 March 2021. Written by Rosemary Ritorto, Local History Coordinator.

Jessie Thornton Rafferty was especially remembered as the 'local focus story' that featured in the Town of Victoria Park's Anzac Day commemorations at Memorial Gardens, Albany Highway, Victoria Park on 25 April 2021.

Pick up a copy of her special commemorative booklet from the Library or download a copy to keep here: 

ToVP 2021 Anzac Day Local Focus Commemorative Booklet - Rafferty, Jessie Thornton(PDF, 4MB)

 

 

Raphael-Howard-Stirling-Parliament-of-WA-Members-Biographical-Register-for-we.jpg    

 

 

This article is still being researched and written.

Please check back soon to read Howard Stirling Raphael's complete entry in the Victoria Park Dictionary of Biography, Town of Victoria Park Library,July 2021.

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