Local Identities

The Adventurous Life of Alfred Markham

Even as a lad Alfred John Markham yearned for an exciting life. He dreamed of historic encounters, close calls and adventure. Throughout his life he has had practically all that and has travelled far and wide, seeing and experiencing many things.

In his late teens Alfred Markham joined the 5th. Border Regiment, a militia battalion. He stayed with this regiment for three years in which time he studied hard to gain a commission, so that in 1897, 2nd. Lieutenant Markham was ordered to go to Malta.

CONTRACTED TYPHOID FEVER: But just when this young British officer was set for some of this adventure stuff he had been so madly craving, misfortune befell him and almost cost him his life. Alfred contracted typhoid fever and for a week was on the verge of death. Even when all danger was passed he was so weak and ill that he had to be invalided home to England for six months. This deprived Alfred of the chance of serving in the Nile Campaign under Lord Kitchener. Six months later, when he had completely recovered, Alfred Markham joined up again, and was assigned to a regiment in Crete. From Crete the regiment went to Durban in South Africa. The troopship in which they were transported was the largest ship of any kind up to that date to enter Durban Harbour.

GOT TYPHOID A SECOND TIME: It was not long before the regiment was on the move and they went to Ladysmith and served under Sir George White in the Siege of Ladysmith. Here Alfred got typhoid fever again and had to go back to England for a further six months to recuperate. All sickness gone, he was back to soldiering again and served in Transvaal during the Boer War. When this war ended Alfred, now a Captain, joined the Rifle Brigade and went to Egypt.

GAVE UP SOLDIERING: With no wars in sight for many years to come Alfred began to get restless and his adventurous spirit did not mix with ordinary barrack soldiering so in 1903 he gave up the Army. Alfred’s younger brother was a mining engineer and persuaded him to come to Western Australia and take up the same profession. Alfred stayed at this occupation for several years and then decided to go prospecting for his own gold. During the three years he was prospecting he and his partner struck a particularly “good find” near Southern Cross.

WENT TO SOUTH AMERICA: The craving for adventure was still flowing warmly in Alfred’s veins and he and his brother decided to go to Peru in South America and continue prospecting there. Not long after this they arrived in Peru all ready to put their plans into operation. Financially, they did not do as well as they had hoped, but the trip more than made up for it. Up the upper waters of the Amazon into dense jungle they travelled. There they saw many amazing tropical plants and flowers, beautifully coloured butterflies, snakes, birds and many things that would hold untold attraction for most people. Alfred and his brother also travelled up the Pacific coastline and saw the Panama Canal under construction.

Alfred Markham then decided to come back to Western Australia and go to the Goldfields. On his arrival in Perth he met the then curator of the museum [Bernard H Woodward] who talked him into coming down to Harvey and seeing his orcharding property. When they arrived in Harvey Alfred was so taken with the place that he took up land and has been here in Harvey ever since. He and his wife now live in Young Street in one of the town’s most fashionable residences. So next time you see this dignified old gentleman tending to his well-kept garden and lawns at his home I’m sure you’ll glance at him with an envious feeling wishing that you could have the exciting life that he has lived.

From ‘Know Your Neighbour’ series in the Harvey Murray Times on 24 December 1948 by BJF.