Chapter 12: James Miller and Mary Ann “May” Crawford, Evelyn May “Bid”, Robert James “Bob”, Norma Mary, Bonna Jean & Ian Douglas Carbine, Coolgardie, W.A.

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

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1B1A1C James Miller and Mary Ann “May” Crawford, Evelyn May “Bid”, Robert James “Bob”, Norma Mary, Bonna Jean & Ian Douglas Carbine, Coolgardie, W.A.

James Miller Crawford was born on 31st January, 1881 at Durham Ox, Victoria. His mother and father were Ann Elizabeth and Robert James Crawford and their stories are told in earlier chapters.

His parents separated in 1895 when Robert took “Jim” at 15 y.o.a., and his sister-in-law Mary Jane Neale (nee Chenery) and their sons Stanley 5 and Ray 12 month to the West Australian goldfields.  Daughter Dorothy was born in 1898 when they were at Kintore and Coolgardie is recorded as her birth place and Mary Jane Chenery as her mother.


Jim married Mary Ann Beaton at Coolgardie on 2 October 1912. He was 31 years old and “May” was 23.  They had five children: Evelyn May (“Bid”) born 18 October 1913, Robert James (“Bob”) born 7 December 1914 at Carbine with a midwife attending, Norma Mary born 4 December 1916, Bonna Jean born 20 June 1919 and Ian Douglas born 26 May 1923.


The children were all brought up and educated at Carbine with a governess to supervise them. Bob finished his formal schooling at age 14 at the time of the depression and worked at the treatment plant on the Carbine mine for a number of years. He helped at the crushing plant and maintained the ten head battery, retorted the gold to extract the silver content and melted and poured the gold into bars. When tributers took over the operation of the mine, Bob found employment using the Dodge truck to cut and bring in bush timber to fuel the boilers to make steam to drive the winders used to bring the ore carrying buckets from underground. A tributor is someone who works in a contract agreement with a claim owner for a percentage of the mineral output.


The family’s financial position had improved by the mid 1930’s and Bonna and Ian went away to boarding schools in Perth for their secondary education. Bonna to MLC where Dorothy went and Ian to Scotch following in Ray’s footsteps.


Robert, Jim and their mining partner Frank Pimley took up a pastoral lease surrounding the Carbine mine and township in 1912.  They ran cattle initially and had up to 200 head into the 1930’s.  As an adult, Bob became more involved with managing the cattle station activities.  The first truck they had was a Cheverolet 4 cylinder with wooden spoked wheels. Every summer the spokes would shrink and the wheels would have to be taken apart and the spoke inset holes packed with canvas to tighten and support the rim.


The Crest dam was sunk by contractors using a scoop pulled by a team of camels. Later Bob dug other dams using a scoop pulled by a team of five horses.  Eventually the dams were fenced off to keep the stock out and windmills, tanks and troughs were installed.


There were gold prospectors who stayed on after the depression in bow sheds and corrugated shacks on various parts of the station lease and they helped to keep the water up for the stock and reported any problems. They were kept in fresh meat for their troubles. Often, they had no transport and the Crawfords brought them bread and mail from town.


During May every year a well-attended sports day was held at Carbine. Foot running 75 yards to 400 yards races, cricket, flag, gallop and trotting races for horse riders. There were lots of novelty events.  Bow sheds and canvas canopies were set up along the boundary of the sports ground.  A ball was held in the hall in the evening after it was decorated usually with branches of fresh gum leaves and streamers and sawdust was swept into the floorboards to smooth and shine them. By local standards, a lavish supper was served. Bob recalls boiling the milk for coffee in four-gallon petrol tins (the tops cut out and fencing wire attached for the handles). 


It is difficult to write about Jim as for most of his life, he lived in the shadow of his father Robert. No doubt he was very popular and well respected by many on the goldfields, however the press didn’t record his activities other than in relation to his participation in sporting events, his prospecting in the 1930’s and as a member and chairman of the Coolgardie Roads Board after Robert’s death in 1920. 


For much of his working life, he was hands-on in the mine and mining, and in the establishment of the grazing property.  While his father spent most of his time in managing their mines and business such as the bakery, as well as representing the district on the board of the Coolgardie Roads Board, Jim seems to have been a worker.  He didn’t marry till he was 31 years old in 1912, so again unlike his father, he was well established before having a family and possibly more family focused. 


Sun (Kalgoorlie, WA : 1898 - 1919), Sunday 6 October 1912, page 5


By T.T

The; principal event of the week was the marriage at Wesley Church of James Miller Crawford, eldest son of Mr. Bob Crawford to Miss May Beaton, of Kunanalling, the officiating clergyman. being the Rev. H. Fault. Later on. Mr. and Mrs. Crawford left by the express on Wednesday evening, and will spend their honeymoon, in the Eastern States, probably going as far as Brisbane, where a brother of the bridegroom is a doctor at one of the hospitals. The mine employees intend to take a hand in welcoming the happy couple, when they, return to Carbine, and visitors will gather up from near' and far.The bride wore a beautiful costume of -cream silk' with silk lace, cream hat with plume, and she carried a splendid bridal bouquet. Her brides-maids were Miss M. A. Hooley and Miss Dorothy Crawford, while Mr. S. A. Crawford was groomsman. After the ceremony all assembled at the Metropolitan Hotel, where wine was opened, and the usual toasts honored. The presents were many and costly, and will be on view, at the home coming celebration, to be held in the Carbine


This was also further evidence that Myrtle Hooley and Stanley Crawford had a close relationship that culminated in their own marriage three years later in 1915.


Jim and May visited Jim’s mother and family at Mont Albert in Melbourne.  While there, May and Jim wrote in his mother’s journal.  May wrote:


When a bit of sunshine hits ye,

After passing of a cloud

When a fit of laughter gits ye

An yer spine is feelin proud,

Don’t forgit to up & fling it

At a soul that’s feelin blue.

For the minit that ye sling it

It’s a boomerang to you

May Crawford


Jim wrote:


May your life be an everlasting


Jim Crawford


On the 25th Of November, 1920, Jim’s father Robert “Bob” Crawford died.


Throughout the 1920’s there were columns in the various goldfields newspapers called “A Lady’s Letter” and they were where people recorded social activities such as people leaving and returning on holidays as well as “Balls” and social outings.  With most families now having access to motor vehicles, they would go on picnics and visiting other families around the goldfields.  They talk about the Crawford family visiting others and entertaining them at Carbine, picking flowers in season and demonstrating shearing. They all sound familiar; the same sort of entertainment that we experienced in the 1950’s and early 1960s.  The traditional Sunday afternoon “drive”.


When his father died in 1920, Jim took his place on the Coolgardie Roads Board.  There he managed, despite poor government funding, to maintain the town and its facilities. He was active in leasing public resources such as the swimming pool and recreation grounds to private individuals.  The pool required refurbishment, and the developers added a “Sheffield Handicap” track and sports ground. Professional running races, “pedestrianism”, was popular across all mining fields in Australia.  The “Sheffield Handicap” was a race over 130 yards, which most expats believed was the best distance given the extreme heat in the colonies.  For the “natives” (Australian born), they added a circular track for 200- and 400-yard races.  I assume the inside also served for cricket and football.  Both Jim and Stanley had been well regarded “pedestrians” in their youth.


He was also on the board when they arranged for the main street of Coolgardie to be sealed with bitumen and all bike races had to finish there.  Bike racing was probably the most popular sport on the goldfields.  Almost every weekend there were bike races, and given that most of the roads were pre motor vehicle tracks, the conditions must have been challenging.  The goldfields, and Coolgardie in particular, had more bicycles per head of population, than anywhere else in Australia. This was at a time when bicycles were the most popular form of transport. 


In the late 1920’s, as well as the Great Depression, Jim had to deal with drought.


Western Argus (Kalgoorlie, WA), Tuesday 17 July 1928, page 6


GOLDFIELDS PASTORAL AREAS EFFECTS OF THE DROUGHT. Coolgardie, July 3. As is the case elsewhere, the bulk of the lands on the Coolgardie Goldfield are held on pastoral lease. The rainfall registered at Coolgardie last year was nearly 13 inches. For the first six months of the present year the record is only 2.30 inches inclusive of the two showers that fell last week. In 1927 the rainfall was equal to 1300 tons of water per acre or 650 tons per six months (more the first six months). This year we have had only 230 tons for six months, which include what is usually the season for the heaviest rainfall. These figures are merely given as an averaging basis and do not show the actual seasonable distribution, but it is very significant that we have had very little rain indeed during what is correctly regarded as the feed producing time. A trip through the northern portion of this goldfield brought to light a very unsatisfactory state of affairs. The principal holder along the road between here and Carbine is the Kurrawang Company, whose holding surrounds Mt. Burgess. The pastoral area is divided into paddocks, there is a comfortable homestead, and near Mt. Burgess there is a well arranged and cleanly kept slaughter house, where beasts are slaughtered to provide meat along the woodline. The paddocks near the road are very bare at present, even the saltbush and bluebush being scanty. Evidently these paddocks have been over-stocked: but farther to the west and north-west towards Jourdie Hills there is better bush feed as well as dry grass. The company has provided tanks and dams for water supply, so that the situation is relieved to that extent.


But if there are any residents praying for rain it naturally must be the holders of our pastoral lands. There is not much agriculture around here, but it receives attention. The holding of Messrs. R. and J. Crawford and Pimley, of Carbine, adjoins Kurrawang Company's holding on the north, and the pastoral area includes their home town. They also hold now the area formerly occupied by Mr. George Bounsell, of Kunanalling, and Messrs. Halford Bros. have the country toward the Forty-Two Mile and Ora Banda. About a mile from their mine (Car. bine) Messrs Crawford and Pimby have a farm, of which they have cultivated in the past some hundred acres, obtaining there from a highly payable yield of hay. In fact, something over 120 tons of hay is still on hand for the chaffcutter. so that provided rain comes in to make the water supply hoId out the position so far as stock is concerned is not yet serious, although bad enough. There is a fair amount of dry grass about as well as bush feed so that the cattle are not too badly off yet. Mr. Crawford, however, is very anxious in view of the scanty rainfall and regards the position as critical. Owing to the dry season no work has been done on the farm so far this season beyond fallowing which has just been completed. Generally, reviewing the situation. Mr. Crawford has come to the conclusion that it will all become sheep country on these goldfields, and to such an end provision must be made for adequate water supplies. At the stock yard Mr. Crawford was able to show some well-bred horses and milch cows. The thoroughbreds included the wellknown Motherland and her progeny. The young filly out of Motherland proved a very promising animal and is expected to become a good performer on the race track. All the animals were found in excellent condition, slowing the care bestowed upon them in stabling and feeding. A peculiarity in the yard was a little mule, bred from a "Jack" donkey and a light draught mare. The knowing little fellow is fully matured and he looks like an ordinary mule in miniature and is very tractable. He is the delight of the children of Messrs. "Jim" Crawford and Pimley, who put him in a pony trap and drive about the country. At present so far as the mine is concerned, the owners are anxious both having test bores put down. As already reported in the “Miner”, Mr. Crawford did not want to influence the removal of the diamond drill from Coolgardie, but he holds that the Mines Department be equipped with boring plant sufficient to carry out the work urgently required with as little delay as possible.


We are fortunate in having a photography of a young Bob Crawford (Jim’s son) when he was around 14 years old, riding the mule in perhaps 1928 when the article was written.


For most of his life in Western Australia, he worked on and managed the grazing property and mine, and then in the1930’s, when 49 years old, went prospecting again, when gold was discovered at what would be called Larkinville, 100 km away to the south.  There he and Frank Pimley had minor success but nothing like Carbine. 


This was also the time of the great depression, and Jim had turned the Carbine mine over to tributors to work.  That freed him up to pursue the opportunity at Larkinville, and possible sufficient gold to send the two youngest children Bonna and Ian to boarding school in Perth.


The gold industry in WA survived the challenges of the First World War, which saw mining activity and investment decline. However, the Great Depression in the 1930s brought revitalisation to the gold industry with a rise in the gold price and an increase in foreign investment. 

It was the discovery of the largest gold nugget, the ‘Golden Eagle’, in a hole in the road in Coolgardie in 1931 that created a national sensation and saw many prospectors return to WA. It all started when “Mickey” Larkin discovered a new field at Widgiemooltha.  “Mickey” had worked for the Crawfords at Carbine, and he had competed at the Carbine Sports carnival back in 1907.  “Mickie” made his lease application in June 1930, and according to the newspaper report above, Jim Crawford made his application in September.  The field became known as Larkinville. 

Bill Sheehan had previously discovered a nugget at the site, however appears to have found nothing else, so abandoned his claim.  Mickey took up the lease, and his 17-year-old son Jim discovered the nugget in the middle of a road that everyone had been driving over for months.  Apparently, he shouted so loud, miners came running, and found him standing in the road holding the nugget.  There were no scales capable of weighing the nugget, so they rigged up a pole with a 60lb bag of sugar tied to one end and the nugget to the other.  The nugget was heavier than the sugar.  The Larkins refused a number of offers to buy the nugget and sold it to the government for £6,000.

Jim Crawford and Frank Pimley’s lease included what became known as “Crawford’s Gully”.  There had been an earlier rush in the gully, known as the Lakeside Woodline rush”, however this time, Inspector Winzard reported on the 19th January, 1931, that something over £1,000 worth of gold had been found in the gully and that quite a lot of ground remained to be worked.  Peter Bridge in his book “The Eagles Nest” writes, “A slug of 20ozs., found a short distance south-east of Crawford and Pimley’s camp, is stated to have been the largest nugget obtained, and one of 10ozs. was found near the eastern boundary of the leases.”

Peter Bridge doesn’t give much information about Jim’s presence at Larkinville, however he does write about Frank Pimley.  It is insightful in explaining how tightknit the community was: “Frank Pimley was born in Ireland near Belfast.  He came to Queensland around 1888 and to Westren Australia in 1893.  He was associated with the O’Connor, Crawford and Moran families. The Carbine Mine, discovered in 1894, was taken over by the Crawfords and Frank Pimley in 1902.  Carbine Station and other properties were taken up by Crawford and Pimley in 1912.  He married Elizabeth Moran in 1908 at Kalgoorlie.  There were two boys, Francis and Patrick, the latter dying as a 12-year-old.  Frank Pimley died at Carbine Station aged 65 years in April 1937.”  Between the three families; the Crawfords, Pimleys and Morans, they provided the core of Carbine.

On the 5th November 1932 Mr. and Mrs. J. Crawford, of Carbine, left during the week for Perth, where they will be present at the marriage of Miss Dorothy Crawford and Mr. A, Drabble, of Claremont, today.  This was the marriage of Jim’s sister.


In the late 1930’s Jim bought the Premier Hotel at Kunanalling.  Harry Ware, in writing his history of Kunanalling, stated it was in 1942, however records show that Bob Crawford, Jim’s son, was the licensee from November 1935, when he took over from Alice Doyle.  It could be that Jim financed the purchase or lent the money to Bob to buy it.  It was probably fairly cheap as the town was in decline as the Premier Mine was beginning to fail.  By 1931, there were no prospectors left and all government buildings had been dismantled and carted away.  Just as the Carbine Hotel and other main buildings at Carbine had originally been on other mining sites and carted to Carbine, the buildings at Kunanalling were removed and the Premier Hotel built of brick and stone was the only significant building to remain.  Today, in 2020, the walls are all that remain.


In its heyday from 1901 to the late 1920’s it was one of the best hotels on the goldfields.  It was possibly the first to have electricity connected in 1901, when they ran a line from the mine to the hotel.  With ten bedrooms, it was quite large, and with twelve 200 gallon rainwater tanks, they rarely ran out of drinking and washing water.  It had a huge parlor, billiard room, a cellar to cool the beer kegs and a large kitchen fitted with a wood range. A large, brick paved courtyard separated the bedrooms from the hotel.


From 1922 to 1926 the Kelly family took charge of the hotel, and ‘Gran’ Kelly was possibly the first publican in Australia to offer counter meals in the bar and apparently no one was refused a second helping.The Crawford family might have been regulars there, for lunch on Sundays. All of them would have been in their teens, and on Sundays, ‘Gran’ served ice-cream.  The Kelly’s collected ice packed in straw from Kalgoorlie on Saturdays and on Sunday morning churned the ice-cream.


As already noted, Jim was at the hotel with Bob early on the morning of the 20th June when he had a heart attack and died.


The Mayor, Mr. R. G. Moore, last night. Speaking of Mr. Jim Crawford, said he had been

one of the best-known and best-liked men on the goldfields, and famed for his hospitality and good comradeship. Mr Crawford, who had wide mining and pastoral interests, died suddenly at Kunanalling on June 20.



Coolgardie Miner (WA), Thursday 25 June 1942, page 1



On Saturday morning last Coolgardie was different to other mornings-It seemed hushed and quiet as though a God had passed through and left behind a message all can read. Men speak it in passing and many eyes are moist, James Miller Crawford has gone to the land of endless day.  

It appears that Mr. J. M. Crawford suffered a heart attack on Saturday morning, at about 7.30 am., from which he passed quietly the Great Divide. His remains were conveyed to Mr. W. Strother's private mortuary at Kalgoorlie, from which the exceptionally large funeral cortege wended its way slowly to the Anglican portion of the Kalgoorlie cemetery on Monday afternoon last, at 3 p.m. The Rev. Forbes officiated at the graveside. At the conclusion of the last sad rites, the Caledonians played the "Scottish Lament.'' The pall bearers were: Messrs R. Moore (Mayor of Kalgoorlie), Philpots (Chairman Kalgoorlie Racing Club), Brearly (Ora Banda). E. Scahill (Chairman Coolgardie Road Board), F. Coates and W. J. Parks. (Members Coolgardie Road Board). Many beautiful wreaths, floral tributes, and expressions of sympathy were laid on the graveside. The late Mr. J. M. Crawford leaves a widow (May), two sons (Robert and Ian), and three daughters (Mrs. B. Banfield, Mrs. P. A. Moran and Bonna) to mourn their sad loss. The late Mr. Crawford came with his parents in the early days from Box Hill (Victoria), and took up residence in the Kintore district. He was 61 years of age, and spent 47 years of it in the Coolgardie district, first residing at Kintore and finally at Carbine. During his life he carried out many duties, such as mail contractor, hotel proprietor, shopkeeper, farmer and grazier, and the mining industry, which claimed most of it. His father took over the Carbine Gold Mine in conjunction with his late son, Mr. J. M. Crawford and the late Frank Pimley. This mine they held for forty odd years. The late Mr. Crawford was one of the best known and highly respected citizens of the goldfields, especially Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie. and was associated with the Kalgoorlie and Boulder Racing Clubs, for many years. He was also, vice president of the Coolgardie Racing Club, and a member since its early days. He also has been a member of the Coolgardie Road Board for a good number of years. He was associated with foot running & cycling in the hey-days. On Sunday afternoon next, at 3.15 p.m. a special memorial service will be held in the Masonic Hall, in memory of the late Mr. J. M. Crawford,


Coolgardie Miner (WA), Thursday 20 September 1945, page 1

Mrs. J. Crawford of Carbine has had a real re-union of her family recently. Cpl. Bonna Crawford, WAAAF, arrived home on leave from the Eastern States, Fit. Lieut. Ian Crawford, RAAF, was already on leave, Warrant Officer Pat Moran RAAF (Norma’s husband), arrived home on leave for a few days and ex Fit. Sgt. D. Banfield (ex RAAF Air Crew and Bid’s husband) had been home for a few months after his discharge from the Air Force. This was the first time for a long period that Mrs. Crawford had all her sons and daughters together with their husbands and children at home at the one time.

Bob and his wife Grace were also there as they were in partnership with his mother, running the farm.  This may have been one of the last times the entire family gathered at Carbine.

Submitted: May 26, 2020

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