Chapter 13: Robert James & Grace Crawford (Brealey) family

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

Reads: 81

1B1A1C2  Robert James & Grace Crawford (Brealey) family

Carbine, Coolgardie, Western Australia

Bob married Grace Lorraine Brealey on 9th September 1939 at Kalgoorlie.  Grace was born at Ora Banda on 31 August 1915 a mining town just outside the eastern boundary of Carbine Station and 19km from Carbine homestead. She was one of 6 children.


Grace loved the outdoors and sport and was happy to join Bob mustering on horseback.  The Station began carrying sheep when the Halford family from Credo Station to the West, each year, drove their flock through Carbine to Black Flag Station in the east, for shearing.  Lambs were left behind in the trek across Carbine and the arrangement is said to have been that if Bob could catch them then he could brand and earmark and keep them as Carbine stock.  Bob recalled having a well-trained horse at the time. He could ride after the lambs, jump off and chase and catch and tie their legs and the horse would remain standing nearby. He increased the flock by 40 in one crossing. The first serious flock of 1,000 breeding ewes came from a McBride managed station near Leonora and were trained from there, south to Broad Arrow and then driven west through Black Flag to Carbine over several days covering close to 40 km.  Sheep numbers grew to 8,000 in the heady days of the 1950’s when wool fetched one pound (when it was worth something) per pound weight.


Bob was involved in an essential industry and did not enlist during the Second World War.  He did however enlist in the Army Citizen Military Forces (Reserves). Bonna enlisted in the WRAAF and Ian in the RAAF.. Bid and Norma were busy with station activities and operating the Premier Hotel at Kanunulling within the southernmost paddock of the Carbine Station pastoral lease.  They were still running the Hotel in 1942 and Jim and Bob were helping to load and unload beer kegs onto a truck when Jim died suddenly of a heart attack on 20 June.  Probate was granted to his widow Mary Ann Crawford who received all his estate except £200-00-00p bequeathed to his sister Elizabeth Helen Crawford of Mont Albert near Melbourne Victoria a spinster.  The gross value of the estate was £5,987-9-7p (net value £5,409-13-5p) and duty was assessed at £140-4-10).


Bob and Grace’s first son Errol James was born just 2 months later at Coolgardie on 1 September 1942.  Grace’s carefree outdoor life came to a sudden halt after a bumpy winding urgent drive from Carbine to hospital.  Ian Kenneth (Ken to distinguish him from his uncle) was born at Kalgoorlie on 27 December 1943 and Alan Robert followed on 19 April 1945.


The two older boys started their education at Ora Banda school and lived Monday to Friday with the sole teacher and his wife.  A schoolroom was built for them at Carbine and a governess employed to supervise their correspondence lessons at home through later primary years.  The governess was Norma Argus from Mt Carnage Station near Ora Banda.  Her mother Violet Argus (nee Ware) was Bob and his sibling’s governess 30 years earlier.  Her brother was Harry Ware, whose “histories” I have quoted throughout the three generations of Carbine Crawfords.


The Argus girls at Kalgoorlie, Eileen Moroney and Robin provided me with much of the material and almost all the photographs of Carbine and the family.  Their mother Violet (nee Ware) was governess for Jim’s children, and her daughter Norma, was governess for Errol, Ken and Alan, for a couple of years. The Argus family owned the sheep station next door to Carbine called Mt Carnage.


The 3 boys were packed off to boarding school at Scotch in Perth in 1956. Grace missed them during school term. They usually came home by train to Coolgardie except at the end of each year when Bob and Grace made the 1,300km return drive to speech night and a talk to the headmaster. It was usually hot weather on the December drive home with many stops along the way; some at taps along the goldfields water pipeline to soak towels to hang over the open windows to act like a Coolgardie safe and cool us down. A lot of the road was unsealed in the early years. The road from Coolgardie to Carbine is still mostly unsealed.


Bob and Grace were quoted by Marty and Andrew Webb when they were writing “Golden Destiny: The Centenary History of Kalgoorlie-Boulder and the Eastern Goldfields of Western Australia”, published in 1993.  Following is their section of the book:


“Carbine station lies roughly between Credo and Black Flag stations, and like Black Flag, gold played a large part in its history.  Robert Crawford, son of James Miller Crawford of Carbine, helped on the gold mine like young Rodney Parker helped his own father.  Mr. Crawford said, “I looked after the battery, and the crushing.  I helped clean up and shovel the dirt out of the bin through the cracker, and pull it up (to the battery), and (he laughs) I wasn’t paid.”As on many farms and mines around the state and, indeed Australia, sons were expected to “help” without pay, while “men” were “employed” for wages!  Rewards were sometimes a long time in coming to the sons, though the sons themselves say that father would agree to any reasonable request for ready money.


The grandfather, Robert Crawford, had a bakery in Ballarat (Kerang, Victoria) and came to Kintore with his son J.M. Crawford.  As already noted, this was incorrect.  He operated a Bakery in Durham Ox and at Kerang, however they were way north of Ballarat.  In 1902, they were partners with Frank Pimley in Carbine mining lease, and this was two years before W.H. Halford arrived on the goldfields, with his stock and family.  Messrs. Crawford and Pimley of Kintore, held the lease through the deaths of R. Crawford in 1928 (incorrect, it was 1920) and F. Pimley in 1937 (continued under his son also Frank Pimley) until J.M. Crawford’s death at Kanunulling in 1942, when the son , Robert Crawford and his mother took over, buying out Frank Pimley’s son in 1945.  Very little is known of the Pimleys who have now disappeared, though it is said there were other “sleeping partners” in the venture.


A township grew up around Carbine to serve several leases.  Carbine South, Nordenfeldt, Globe, Grafter and Spearmint.  Carbine mine must have prospered longer than most, because a new heavier treatment plant was added in 1915.  Strangely enough, it is said the hall at carbine came from Black Flag, which may have happened if Black Flag came to the end of its profitable gold and closed. The usual government dam and pastoralists’ dams, provided water, and in this case, water for the battery came from a well in the middle of Roweles lagoon, which filled intermittently with fresh water after rain, and stock were watered there.A South Australian company had an option from the 1830s, but the mine went on under tributers until the waretime labour shortage, when it closed.  Robert Crawford described the Carbine mine:


“It was about 500 feet deep, and there were never more than twenty men in tribute at any one time … and not even when Grandpa and Dad and Frank Pimley worked on it.  (Later on the station) they had cattle and there wasn’t much work with them.  Once you got sheep there was more work. Sheep are better because the rainfall is very uncertain, from 3 inches to 7 inches per year, and cattle wouldn’t fatten.  You might have them for years and you would never be able to fatten them to sell.  We had eighteen dams or more, with mills, tanks and 150 miles of fencing … some of the paddocks were 9 miles by 9 miles and the cattle didn’t worry the fences.  It was fairly good in the 1930s and 40s.  We sold our wool through Elders Smith and when we got top price on sale it was 12 pence (about 20 cents a pound!)


By the 1970s costs got high if you employed men on wages … shearing went up, and wages.


We employed Aborigines mainly at shearing and mustering … The old ones you could depend on them, they would stay till you stopped shearing.  They did not live on the station, they came from the reserves around Kalgoorlie, out toward Parkeston and west at Kurrawang mission, or in Coolgardie, towards the reservoir.  They would expect us to go for them each year, and we tried to find the same men each time.


Mother was from Kanunulling and when she and father married, they lived on Carbine right away. ’Bid’ was their first child, Evelyn the second and I was born in 1914, so the house must have been built about 1910 or 1911.  Frank Pimley had a house in the township.

Bert Hansen managed the tributers, and Norman Smith was Secretary of the Adelaide Company who had the option on the mining lease.

Kintore was on the property eventually.  The last land we added to the station was Kanunulling which Bounsells had before, and after that there wasn’t any more to add because we were surrounded by other properties.


It was surprising to find a pastoral station growing hay for feed, though the rail freight rates were not regarded as excessive on wool or supplies.  “They had to buy hay in Kalgoorlie or Coolgardie and cart it out”

“We just risked growing hay if we got a couple of good rains.  No-one else did it.  We wanted to grow it  … we used all horses then, and it was mainly wheaten hay, sowed in May.  Some years you might let it go if you had enough feed … it was only 100 or 150 acre, on the miner’s homestead lease, and we had a chaff cutter driven by an engine.  Stock watered on Rowel’s lagoon on Mr. Halford’s property, Credo Station.  The salt water in the well there didn’t affect the Lagoon”

Mrs. R.J. Crawford, nee Grace Brealey, says the Victorious mine at Ora Banda, which was worked out, closed in 1937 or 1938.  So, it closed before the management lost miners to the war service. 

“I was born in 1915, at Ora Banda in the house where Mrs. Ware lived.  Harry Ware’s mother … my parents boarded there.  My father went to Ora Banda as underground manager, and was later manager, and he moved first to the Gimlet mine when I was about five or six, and thento the Victorious to the manager’s house.  We lived there till the war.  The mine had a lot of ups and downs, and it was closed after the sands were retreated.”

R.J. Crawford remembered the Aborigines finding gold specimens:

“There was good alluvial gold around the mine itself, and a lot in the district … we had some lovely specimens.  The natives would find them, and they weren’t interested in gold so they sold them to us.  … we had some idea of the rate for gold (Mrs. Crawford “The Aborigines knew what gold was worth.)  There were very few parts of the property there weren’t shafts on … small ones.

Ground Lark mine at Larkinville was worked by Crawford and Pimley too, they owned that.  Pimley went down representing Dad when Larkinville was found.  They did a certain amount of dry-blowing.  Bobby Cloiugh was prospecting on Carbine and they took him down and he found the Ground Lark, and with Dad and Pimley backing him, they were partners.  They bagged the ore, in small bags like sugar bags, because it was fairly rich, and carted it to the siding and railed it to Coolgardie to be crushed at the State Battery.  That was the nearest battery.  We used to go down and help them.

We thought we were on good country (on Carbine), salt bush and blue bush, and wattle and plenty of grass if you had good years.  We had 125,000 acre, which was only small for a station.  I expected to stay on the station when I grew up.  I was never off it.  My younger brother Ian came down to Scotch College, and went on to become a dentist.  We had three sons, Errol is a solicitor and Alan a chartered accountant, and the middle son Ken was in partnership on Carbine in the late sixties.  We sold the station in 1970 to Mr. Gensch, who came from Germany to South Australia, and was drilling over there for mining companies.  He has done a lot of drilling for WMC around the district.  When We went back around four years ago, there was dirt pushed everywhere … the mine was on a hill, and that was flattened so the chances are there is an open cut there now.”

Bob was exactly right in his assumptions, as the mine was open cut, apparently worked to its full potential and now in 2020, abandoned and filled with water.  The site records:

“The Carbine Gold Mine is just north of the intersection of the Coolgardie North Road and Carbine-Ora Banda Roads. It is about 60 kilometres north of Coolgardie and 15 kilometres south-west of Ora Banda. The mine is considered low grade for gold values, with occasional exceptionally rich patches.


Gold was discovered here in 1894. The lease at this time is held by the original party of prospectors J. Smith, Thompson, O'Loughlin and Gaffney. Smith was from Broken Hill, while O'Loughlin was a Victorian horse trainer in a former life. Rich specimens were brought to Perth, some of the stone two thirds gold. The mine was offered to a company for 10 000 pounds later in 1894, but the purchase fell through. Rich gold came from the 117 foot level in 1896.


The Carbine Gold Mining Company was formed in 1897 with 58 000 pounds capital to take over the mine. At that time the leases total 34 acres, with 6 shafts from 60 to 227 feet deep, on a lode varying from 20 to 60 feet wide.


From at least 1904 (possibly earlier) Robert Crawford owned the mine. Photographs from 1906 to 1909 indicate the mine employed about 20 men, and regular crushings are reported all the way under Crawford's name until 1933. At this time the mine contains a 10 head stamp mill, rock breaker, 50 h.p. suction gas engine, and a steam winder.


Carbine Mine NL was formed in Adelaide in 1933 to take an option over the mine. To this point the mine had produced 62 000 tonnes of ore for 49 000 ounces of gold. This option was abandoned in 1935, although the company continued until 1941, at other locations in the Eastern Goldfields.


The site is now marked by an old abandoned open pit. Drilling under the southern access ramp in the mid 1990's uncovered gold grades as 180 g/t at 20 metres depth, and 160 g/t at 15 metres possibly from a supergene zone.”


Western Argus (Kalgoorlie, WA), Tuesday 5 January 1926, page 14

One of the brightest and best carried out functions ever held in Kunanalling took place in the Kunanalling Hall, on December 12; in the form of a Christmas tree fete, and fancy dress ball. A large crowd assembled, including visitors from Carbine, Bonnievale, Coolgardie, and Kalgoorlie, and a very enjoy able evening was spent. Great credit is due to the very energetic committee for the way they worked to make the evening a success. The hall was tastefuly decorated by the committee, and a large Christmas tree, heavily laden with gifts, occupied the centre. Santa Claus arrived at 8 o'clock, and presented each child with a little gift, after which those in fancy dress performed the grand march. The teacher, Mr. Crombie, then presented four beautiful books as prizes for the most consistent workers during the year. The successful ones were, in the senior classes, Tom Dwyer and May Beaton, and in the junior classes, Mary Mutzig and Alice Bounsell. Cool drinks, fruit and confectionery were handed round, and later in the evening a very dainty supper was provided by the ladies. Among those in fancy dress were:-May Beaton, Maytime ; Nancy Beaton, Hawaian Maid ; Ernie Beaton, Telegram Boy; Norman Beaton, Grocer; Alice Bounsell, Good Luck; Robin Bounsell, Butcher ; George Bounsell, Golliwog; Biddy Crawford, Spanish Lady; Bona Crawford Forget-me-not; Norma Crawford, Indian Squaw; Bobby Crawford, Jockey; Ian Crawford, Indian; Irene Dwyer, Tulip; Tom Dwyer, Indian Chief; Lorna Fox, Golden Butterfly; Jes sie Fox, Folly; Eddie de Gracie, Clown; John de Gracie, Little Boy Blue; Essie de Gracie, Fairy; Nita Hewitt, Moth; Bid Hunting, Petals; Dave Ware, Cricketer; Jack Ware, Scout; Maggie Ware, Evening Star; Mary Mutzig, Snowdrop ; Eddie Mutzig, Chinaman.

We have photographs of Bid, Bonna and Robert dressed in their fancy dress costumes from this evening.

Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 - 1950), Saturday 1 April 1933, page 14


Happy Days Again  at Ora Banda


Prospectors from over a large area met today at Ora Banda when, after a lapse of 16 years, the Ora Banda sports were revived. Ora Banda, once known as the 'Roaring Gimlet,' is reputed to be the best prospecting district in the State; and is centrally situated in respect to a number of other centres. It was in its heyday 20 years ago. but declined the mines closed, and other shows wove worked out. Now it is experiencing the raining revival. Discovery has been made at Grant's' Patch: there is talk of re-opening the Victoria and Gimlet, and the goldfields water scheme is being extended to the district. The Prospectors' Association decided to signalise the township's new hopes by holding the sports today. On the flat below the townsite today were gathered men from. Coolgardie, Kunanalling, Carbine, Black Flag, Broad Arrow, and Menzies, besides visitors from Kalgoorlie. Almost every prospector now owns a utility truck, and there was a large park of these. Many of these were old and dilapidated. One of the oldest had a push-bike slung on its side. 'That's my lifeboat?' 'explained the old chap who owns the turnout.


Prospectors of Coolgardie and famous fields were meeting again after many years. It was remarkable that in such cases each always says he thought the other must have died years ago. The hand-clasps are hearty and the greetings jocular, and the old friends are still telling the other over a drink where they are working and how many weights or ounces a ton they are getting.  Also, there are new elements gathering. In some groups there is talk of fleeces and tops, indicating the. advent of the sheep to these areas. It is also noticeable that the new generation are as smartly dressed as any city crowd,, a reform that must be credited to the motor car.


As to the sports, there was much barracking for the district champions. Bob Crawford, of Carbine, whose parents are interested in both gold and sheep, won the 75- and 120-yards handicap, and a farmer won the 220 yards handicap. Williams's ass was first home in the 'Goorlie' Cup. A 42-mile cycle race was over the rough roads from Kalgoorlie. and Hudson (scratch) secured fastest time in 2h. 2min. It was noticeable that at this large gathering there was not a single police man, but the utmost order prevailed. The celebrations are being continued this evening at a ball


Coolgardie Miner (WA : 1935 - 1954), Thursday 21 February 1952, page 1

Mi-. R. Crawford of Carbine .station returned home last week. He travelled home via Pantapin where ho visited his sister and brother-in-law Mr. and Mrs. D Banfieid and also brought his mother. Mrs. M. Crawford bacl^ to Coolgardie


In September 1946, at the first wool auctions in Perth for seven years, The top price of 33d. for greasy Merino was secured for a six-bale line of AAA wether combing on account of Messrs. M. A. Crawford and Son, Carbine station, via Coolgardie. This wool was a well-grown spinners' type warp of 64-60's quality, very soft and dry.

By this time, Bob’s brother Ian was studying Dentistry at University and he and Bonna returned from Perth for the Christmas holidays, as did many of the family.

In his 30’s, Bob still regularly turned out for the Ora Banda cricket team. In November he was happy to be the main wicket taker for his team before the game was abandoned.  I guess he was quite happy to have the game stopped because of heavy rain.  A year later, he was not so happy.

Kalgoorlie Miner (WA : 1895 - 1954), Saturday 28 February 1948, page 4

Carbine Road Sound



Ora Banda, Feb. 27.— A party from Ora Banda reached Carbine station homestead after lunch today. They found the going good and covered the 14 miles in 45 minutes. An examination of the road in various places in the Carbine district shows that this artery might possibly be used for the cartage of goods from Coolgardie to the Ora Banda and Grant's Patch districts. The party, which was headed by Mr. C. J. Ware, found no difficulty in getting across to Carbine, but there was a big sheet of water at Brown's Lagoon, where they had to make a deviation. Mr. R. Crawford this afternoon reported that the road from Carbine to four miles past Kunanalling was in good condition except for a few potholes. On Credo station, at Carbine, 105 sheep were drowned. Some of them were found in the branches of trees. On Mr. Crawford's property only about 16 sheep were drowned.

Stream 16 Miles From Coolgardie

Water is still running over the Kunanalling road at a point 16 miles from Coolgardie. The water on the road is 5'ft. deep, but 50 yards off the road it is only 6 in. deep. However, a deviation would be difficult because the approaches are bad. The telephone line on this section was repaired with fencing wire by Mr. Charles Walls, a prospector of Kunanalling. Mr. H. T. Kingdon, manager of Sterling Gold Mines headed a party which reached the company's mine at Kintore from Ora Banda to-day. They found the road in fairly good condition, and there had been no flood damage at the mine. At Kunanalling, Clackett's mine, which is owned by Mr. Charles Bryant and party, was flooded, the water rising to within 60 ft. of the surface. They had broken some ore in the stope but it is now under water. At Ora Banda this morning a working party had cleared the 600-yard strip in case a Goldfields Airways plane was required to land.


Six months later however, they sheared 4,200 sheep and had an excellent 120 bales of wool ready to send to Perth.


Coolgardie Miner (WA), Thursday 16 November 1950, page 1

Big Droving Job

On Thursday last Coolgardie residents saw the largest amount of meat for many a long day, but it was on the hoof. 91 head of cattle were driven from Mrs. M. Crawford's Station at Carbine to Coolgardie yards and then railed to Midland Junction Saleyards. The drovers were Mr. Leo Kruger from Carbine and Messrs. Harry Ware and Darbo Clarke from Ora Banda. As terrific winds blew on Wednesday and only slightly on Wednesday and Thursday they had a very trying time.


Robert, Grace and his mother were obviously enjoying considerable success and invested in a new shearing shed.


Coolgardie Miner (WA), Thursday 17 May 1951, page 1


Mr. and Mrs- R Crawford of Carbine Station entertained a large number of guests to a Shearing and Wool Shed Ball. The occasion was the completion of their new and commodious Wool Shed-Gueusts came from all parts of the compass including Grants Patch. Ora Banda, Creedo Station and Coolgardie. They were soon all enjoying dancing to the traditional Wool Shed music, supplied by Mr and Mrs. Bourke on the Piano Accordion and Mr. Arthur Stanley (Banjo). During the evening darts, quoits and community singing were indulged in and the supper was a thing to dream about and to which the guests did full justice. We understand several guests were home before daylight but some saw the dawn break.


Coolgardie Miner (WA : 1935 - 1954), Thursday 6 December 1951, page 1

Understand Bob Crawford has received a clearance for one day (23rd. Dec.) from Railway Cricket Club to enable him to play for Carbine Cricket Club (of which he is, as everyone knows, the President, Secretary, Captain etc. all rolled up in one). Incidentally the clearance was beautifully written on vellum paper!

In September 1952:

Mr. and Mrs. Bob Crawford, of Carbine Station, returned during the week from Perth after taking son Errol back to school following the holidays. They returned with Mrs. Crawford's mother, Mrs. N. Brearley, of Carlisle. Mrs. Brearley, who was formerly a resident of Ora Banda will stay at Carbine for a few days

Coolgardie Miner (WA : 1935 - 1954), Thursday 11 November 1954, page 1

National Library of Australia


Perth of Mrs.Ellen Brearley. Mrs.Brearley was a native of Ballarat and came to WA about 1900. She first took up residence at Boulde rwhere she married. In 1902 she went to Ora Banda, whereher husband. Gilbert H. Brearley later became manager of the Associated Northern Ora Banda mine. They lived there until about 10 years ago, when Mr Brearley died, and Mrs. Brearlev went to reside in Perth. She has a daughter. Mrs .Bob Crawford, of Carbine Station, living on the Golfields.

Submitted: June 07, 2020

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