Local Identities

Francis Joseph Becher (1873 – 1947)

By Heather Wade, 2016

Francis Becher was born in Melbourne in 1873, the son of Michael Henry Becher, Canon of St James Pro-Cathedral, Melbourne. He was educated at the Melbourne Church of England Grammar School and then spent five years on the Mildura fruit growing settlement where he studied orchard work and took charge of a large fruit packing shed. In 1896, he moved to the Eastern Goldfields in WA and at one stage was the underground manager of the ‘White Horse mine in Bulong. He moved to Harvey in 1905 and purchased his 37-acre holding, ‘Tweediana’ in Eighth Street, where he grew navel and Valencia oranges. He was employed as the manager of about 300 acres on behalf of absentee owners on the Harvey Estate.[1]

In 1914 the Associated Fruit Growers Ltd built a 60 x 40 feet packing shed in the railway station yard, where 900 cases could be packed every day if necessary. Becher, the manager of the shed, sent wrapped fruit to the local market.[2]

Becher was one of the most prominent men in the district and served his local and the wider community by holding many senior positions:

  • President of the Harvey Citrus Society[3]
  • President of the Harvey Branch of the Primary Producers’ Association
  • In 1911 as President of the Western Australian Fruit Growers Association he was one of two delegates for WA at the Conference of Ministers of Agriculture in Melbourne. During the voyage by sea, Becher was able to put his views forward on irrigation and drainage to an attentive James Mitchell, WA Minister for Agriculture.[4]
  • A director of the Associated Fruit Growers of WA Ltd, Producers Market Ltd, James Street, Perth[5]
  • A member of the Harvey Roads Board and Board Chairman from 1925 – 1930[6]
  • President of the South West Road Board Association[7]
  • A Justice of the Peace for the Wellington District
  • A member of sporting clubs in town and was on the committees at various times of the trotting, football, soccer and tennis clubs
  • President of the Harvey Hospital Committee

In 1930 he stood as the Country Party candidate for Murray-Wellington in the Legislative Assembly but was unsuccessful.[8] At that time his agricultural pursuits on his property were principally orcharding, dairying and grazing.

Both Frank Becher and his wife died in Harvey and are buried there.

Family details

Frank married Antonia Amalie Vetter (1885 – 1968) in Fremantle in 1905. They had five children:

    • Phillipa Frances Becher born in Perth in March 1907, died in South Perth in 1988 and is buried in Harvey.
    • Evelyn Jean Becher was born in December 1907 in Perth, married John Bardolph Round-Turner in 1938. The ashes of Jean, her husband and son, are interred in the niche wall in Harvey.
    • Otto Humphrey Becher was born in 1908 in Harvey. He married Valerie Baird in Sydney in 1935 and died in Sydney in 1977.
    • Winifred Mary ‘Topsy’ Becher was born in Perth in 1911. She married John Edward (later Sir John) Parker in Harvey in 1932 and died in South Perth in 1996.
    • Lena Elizabeth Becher was born in 1917 in Harvey and died there in 1921.

Otto had a particularly distinguished career in the Australian Navy. From the Canberra Times, 17 June 1977:

‘Obituary – Admiral OH Becher.
A former Deputy Chief of Naval Staff, Rear-Admiral OH Becher, died in Sydney on Wednesday, aged 65. Admiral Becher joined the Royal Australian Naval College, Jervis Bay, in 1922. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his services aboard HMS Devonshire during the British withdrawal from Norway in 1940, and a bar to the same decoration as captain of HMAS Quickmatch in engagements against the Japanese.  He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for actions as captain of HMAS Warramunga off Korea in 1952.  Among appointments he held were command of the aircraft carriers HMS Vengeance and HMAS Melbourne, head of the Australian Joint Services Staff, London, Flag Officer Commanding Australian Fleet and Flag Officer Commanding East Australian Area as well as two terms as DCNS [Deputy Chief of Naval Staff].’

For many years a photograph of the Admiral hung in the administration area of Harvey Primary School.


Australian births, marriage and death records, Ancestry.com.au.

Cemetery records on HHO website.

TROVE at http://trove.nla.gov.au/

[1] JS Battye (ed), The Cyclopedia of Western Australia: an historical and commercial review: descriptive and biographical facts, figures and illustrations: an epitome of progress, Hesperian Press, Carlisle, Western Australia, 1985.

[2] Western Mail, Friday 21 August 1914, p. 15.

[3] Davis, EG 1955, ‘History of Harvey and district’, Harvey History Online, viewed 22 Nov 2015, <www.harveyhistoryonline.com>

[4] ibid.

[5] Bunbury Herald, 30 December 1916, p. 10.

[6] Marion Lofthouse & Kerry Davis (eds), Shire of Harvey, Proud to be 100, 1895 – 1995 Centennial Book. Shire of Harvey, Harvey, Western Australia, 1995.

[7] West Australian, 9 April 1930, p. 7

[8] Brisbane Courier, 14 April 1930, p. 7