illustration heading Frederick James Palmer

Frederick James Palmer 1899-1979

Compiled by his daughter Elizabeth (Betty) Graham nee PALMER
(Born 14/01/1928 Kondinin)
January 2015

Frederick James Palmer was a Pioneer Settler allocated land in the first Walpole Land Settlement Ballot on 14 October 1930.
 Tap image thumbnail for enlargement.
Frederick James Palmer was Born in Chester North England in 1899, 2nd November. He was of a middle class family, second child of three. Grew up in Exeter, South England. Won a Scholarship in art, painting and music, also shorthand and gold lettering in sign writing.
Fred Palmer by SS Ballaret Fremantle 1924
S.S. BALLARAT, FREMANTLE, 1924
Fred arrives in Australia.

In 1917, joined the British Army at 17yrs old as a Private, 2 Platoon, A Company. 52 Graduated Battalion Devonshire Regiment, England, and went to France.

He was wounded in 1918. He was shot in the face, lost his speech, so was sent to an Army Hospital for some time to learn to speak again.

He was unsettled after the war and later paid his fare to travel to Australia on the ship S.S Ballarat in 1924.

Fred Palmer and children Betty, June, Jim
FRED, BETTY, JUNE AND JIM
as a baby.

He went to Gippsland, Victoria for a while, then took up Share Farming at Kondinin in Western Australia in the twenties. Met and married Rose Hannah McCallum.

Soon had daughter June, later Betty, born 1928.

The Great Depression came in 1930. They had the wheat farm in the Corrigin area at that time and came and lived in Victoria Park, Perth for a short while.

No work in Perth, even though Mr. Palmer was very qualified. The Government of the day decided to allot men on chance to go onto virgin land down in the South West, in the Walpole area.

First, to clear gravel roads. The land blocks were divided off in the virgin country.

All numbers put into a hat. Mr. Palmer drew a good one, two miles out of the then to be formed small township.

The land was not free. It was to be paid off over the years.

First they were given an axe, mattock, shovel, to start to clear huge karri trees, high wattle trees and others. First they built tents as seen in photos below: ( tap thumbnail for enlargement). All this work took time in a later preparation to have their wives and children who were to later join them as they started to clear some land.


cutting grass with hand scythe

Note in photo, right, Mr. Palmer’s friend using a hand scythe to hand cut his first lot of grass. 


The Government allowed them one cow for each farmer which cost twenty eight pounds – at the time quite expensive to pay for. So they later could build up their herds gradually.

Mum and the three children arrive down later and lived in the tent for some time (photo above right ). The Government allowed each farmer six pounds a month to live on for a whole family, so no doubt they improvised with rabbits, kangaroos and fish.

The Government sent corrugated tin and smooth floor boards to each farmer. Enough to put up a small house of two rooms and to use their own bush upright struts, which they did, and later added a verandah. Later years, more was added on. This first house lasted many years. Side rooms, kitchen added, and dad used his own fallen timbers and smoothed down floor boards with a wide wedge axe, smooth enough for mum to polish them!!

Family had grown, time goes by. Jim is 18 months after Betty. Later Tom 18 months after Jim.

Farmhouse 4 Karri ghosts

New fences now in and even a garden started. The Palmer family is now six in all.

Ron to come along nine years later.

The years go by, clearing the farm, all takes hard work and time, but progress is made. Ghost Karri trees had been ring barked – looked like dead ghosts! 

Just imagine all those big thick tops of those huge trees falling down on to the pastures, sometimes killing man and the cattle or horses.

Even with all this hard work, farmers took time to relax and have a social life when possible.

Palmer horse and cart
Pony and cart: Jim nearest the camera.
Coalmine Beach, 1942
Coalmine Beach, 1942.

We used to go to Coalmine Beach in the horse and cart. We all loved it.

Also, once a year, Swarbricks of Rest Point Guest House would invite the whole district for a day’s picnic and sports day. Races for the men, plus log chopping competitions, and different races for the different age children. It would be a whole day of activity loved by all.

Mum was a great home maker. She and dad would whitewash hessian bags for lining the house walls in different colours. Dad cured cow skins for big rugs for the floor and painted beaut pictures for our walls. Even had a picture dark wood rail all around the living room.

Mum was a beaut cook and could do anything. When times were lean, she used to sell a cart load of cakes and pies etc. to the men’s camp in the district to get money and they always asked for more!!

dresses and umbrellas
Pretty dresses and umbrellas
Mum made us.

She was artistic too. We helped her get white clay from our creek and would make things with it and paint pictures on some!!

Dad was a good builder with his own fallen bush timber and built his own cow and hay sheds himself. Mum and us children milked the cows before going to school. Dad fed the calves and pigs and separated the cream in the dairy shed.

Betty Palmer on heifer with brothers

Dad at one time had piglets as a sideline to use up skim milk from the dairy, and it proved to be extra money to live on.

The years go by quickly. I used to be a tomboy!! I could ride the horses and cows bare back, as this photo shows. 

Mum got sick when I was 10 years old, and was sent to Albany Hospital. She did not get better and later was sent to Wooroloo Sanitarium. After two years away, she was sent home and died the first winter when I was twelve years old. My sister June had to look after us with dad for three years. Then she joined the Army and went off to war. I was fifteen years old then so I had to take over the cooking and washing etc. I had to teach myself how to cook. I stayed doing that until I was nineteen years old and it was not easy. Dad took a long time mourning the loss of mum, whom he dearly loved.

When I was sixteen years old, dad took ill and ended up in Denmark Hospital with bleeding ulcers for six weeks. I had to run the farm and boys. A cow went down with milk fever. I had seen dad do one fix once. So I had to guess what to do. So I got some rag strips and a bike pump. Pumped a certain even amount of air in each of the cow’s teats, and got Jim to tie each one as I pumped. I prayed that it would work. It did after ten or fifteen minutes. It took the pressure off the cow’s spinal nerves – and she got up!! We milked her later and saved one of our best cows. I was so thrilled!!!

In that six weeks, another example was with our best horse who got into the wheat shed. We saved one, but the big one died.

Weekends we had the men’s footie, and girls played hockey.

Gallery–Life on the farm: 

 Tap image thumbnail for enlargement and to scroll through each slide (6).
Among the cabbages
Tommy and Betty amongst the cabbages.
Betty and Jim Palmer with Jersey heifer
Betty and Jim with Jersey heifer.
Cows coming in to milk
Cows coming in to milk.
Milking our cows
Milking our cows.
Stacking hay
Making the hay stack by horse and cart. Fred on the wagon.
Horses used to work on the farm
Horses used to work on the farm.

All my family have now passed away. I remain to tell you of a few things. There is so much more to tell of a loving couple who were wonderful parents to us.

Palmer family

Dad played his violin in the local band at the local dances, along with Paddy Cockrane on his piano accordion, and others.

Mum loved dancing and took us girls along and made our dresses. She could play a mouth organ and do beautiful crochet and knitting and sewing as well as being a beaut cook.

She had card evenings too, but I will leave it at that. All these memories I have treasured up in my heart, till I meet them both again.

These are true memories from their loving daughter, Betty Graham nee Palmer.

(So you would know how we all missed her.)


Elizabeth (Betty) Graham nee PALMER
January 2015


Thank you so much, for sharing this story. Ed.

  Tribute to Ron Palmer (passed away 16 May 2007) published Walpole Weekly: 23 May 2007.
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