Local Identities

Tommy – and a fine house – for hay

By WR Eckersley, 1977

Settlement of land, of course, was firstly along the coast and many houses were built mostly of stone. The most northerly would be the homestead of Fouracres. Their house is now in ruins but still visible. Mrs Fouracres was murdered by an Afghan who shot her thinking she had some gold planted. The murderer left his horse at Mr Fry’s place in Benger and went on to Bunbury but was caught and hanged.

[Correction: The murdered lady was Miss Leah Fouracre, aged 44, and the accused was a young Cingalese man named Augustin De Kitchelan. The murder took place in 1907 at the Fouracre property, ‘Peppermint Grove Cottage’, at Drakesbrook near Waroona, where Miss Fouracre had been living alone. An inquest into her death revealed that she had been shot before an attempt was made to burn the house down. De Kitchelan was hanged at Fremantle Prison on 23 October1907. (trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper)]

Further south was a stone house occupied by Mr Ephraim Clarke. This house has disappeared and Frank Armstrong now occupies the land. Then there were the Adams family, Piggots, Moyles and Jones at ‘Stonehouse’ in Myalup ‑ it is also now gone. I knew it when it was intact with iron bars on all the windows. Another house in ruins belonged to the Mannings, Williams and Readings.

Ben Piggot’s house at ‘Spring Hill’ is still intact and occupied by a family by the name of Jones ‑ well worth looking at. Then there was ‘Parkfield’, now occupied by Morgan Smith. ‘Parkfield’ was the home of the Roses who made wine there. It changed hands a few times and Tommy Talbot at one time owned it. It came with 2,000 acres and is of remarkable character.

Tommy also bought Logues Brook farm, now occupied by Johnny Jenkinson, also 300 acres at Benger, now owned by Dempsters. His biggest buy was ‘Wedder­burn’, the home of Edwin Rose who for many years was our Upper House Member. [‘Wedderburn’ was originally the home of Dr John Ferguson who later became the Colonial Surgeon. Ed]

A fine house stood there, and it was thought that this would be where Tommy would live, but he pulled some of the roof off and dumped hay into the house. He also bought land at Guildford with a large mansion on it, I asked him if he was going to live there ‑ but no. He told me it was bought to hold stock for the Midland market. Tommy (everyone called him Tommy) was a rough bushman. It was he who said to a stockman one night who complained of maggots in the sandwiches ‑ ‘put out the b …. light’. He told me on the first night of his honeymoon he and his wife slept on the ground in the scrub somewhere east of Geraldton.

He must have had a wonderful brain because he could buy and sell stock at a stock sale, and without making a note, tell the Auctioneer how he stood at the end of the sale. After the railway came in 1894, there was a rapid increase in settlement and stock and Tommy had whole trains of his stock coming from his stations to ‘Wedderburn’.

As a teenager with two other boys, Tommy has been credited with finding the first gold in the State and had his claim stolen from him (this is all set out in a WA book which I think was edited by Sir John Kirwin). Not daunted by his loss, he started in the meat and stock fields and soon owned stations and hotels here and there. Tommy himself had descended from good stock, some of the best in Europe. His full name was Thomas Haldane Talbot. The Haldane family, from which he derived his second name, were some of the elite of Europe. Lord Haldane who was Minister for War in the British Cabinet in 1914 and whom I met when I was in the Imperial Yeomanry, had to resign when war broke out because he had relations in Germany and Austria at that time. When the wealth census was on in the Second World War period, Tommy asked me to fill in all the papers for him and dumped a case of securities and title deeds on my desk saying that I was the only man in Western Australia he could trust.

Tommy lived in Mounts Bay Road, near the end of the Narrows Bridge. I last saw him in St George’s Terrace when he was an old man. We had a few drinks together and apparently he had only two grievances. He had bought a cabbage in Perth and went home in the bus. As he alighted at his house, a car ran into him and knocked him over. He collapsed at his gate and was carried to his bed. His grievances were – one – that the cabbage rolled into the Swan River and was lost, and two – that he could never convince his wife that he had been sober.

I think Tommy will always figure in the history of Western Australia.

From: ‘Tommy – and a fine house – for hay’, Community News, (Coordinated by Harvey Shire Community Committee), 1 October 1977, p. 5