Ian and Blanche

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2.2.1 Charles and Mabel (1896-1926) Mabel (-1950)

Charles Gittins and Mabel Murray married in 1896. They had nine children, counting Arthur, and eight grandchildren:

Arthur (1895—ca.1960) m. ca.1950 [name unknown].
Charlie (1898—ca.1987).
Frank (1900—ca.1964) m. ca.1940 Florence MacDonald.
Albert (1902—ca.1987) m. ca.1935 Jean Loovey [spelling?] (Dolores, Shirley, Gayle).
John (1902—ca.1990) m. ca.1940 Maud Williams (Geoffrey,44  Pam45  ).
Ethel (1905—ca.1962) m. ca.1925 Michael Miniter d. 1943
    m. ca.1950 Harold Parsons.
Mae (1907—ca.1985) m. ca.1928 Arthur Horsenell divorced ca.1939
    m. ca.1942 Clen Williams.
Blanche (1910—1988) m. 1929 Ian McRae (Eion, Gwyneth, Graeme).
Ron (1916—ca.1996) m. ca.1940 Ruby Gibbings d. ca.1942 (Geoffrey) m. ca.1945 Betty Gomm (Kaye, Leslie, Kenneth).

Charles and Mabel made their first home in a brick house by the brick-yards, on what is now Albany Highway at the Albany Circle. Charlie, Frank and the twins Bert and John were born in Albany, as was Ethel a few years later.

In 1899 Charles got a job as a length runner [exact meaning unknown] on the railway between Albany and Perth. He built a makeshift house of discarded jarrah railway sleepers near the railway line at a place then called Tingrup (now Wansborough) 75 miles north of Albany, and he and Mabel with their five sons moved to Tingrup in 1904.

The next additions to the family were two girls, Ethel, born in Albany, and Mae, born in Tingrup.

About 1908 Charles and Mabel moved with the family, now seven children, to a farm between Tingrup and Tambellup. There Charles built another makeshift house. Like the McRae house in Meckering, it had walls of bags sewn together, but it attained a higher level of comfort since the bags were stiffened with cement to stop them flapping about and to keep the wind out. One improvement over the previous dwelling: a chimney and fireplace for cooking indoors.

The first few years in Tambellup, until about 1915, were arduous and uncomfortable, but Charles and Mabel saved some money and eventually they had a builder put up a proper house, a corrugated-iron and weatherboard structure including an iron wood-burning fireplace and such decorative features as a stamped-zinc ceiling. The new place had large underground cistern for rainwater, fitted with a pump of the kind nowadays seen as a decorative antique. A later masonry adjunct provided shelter for Mabel when she did the washing and also accommodation for the older boys, who were by this time approaching maturity.

Arthur joined the army in 1915 and served in France. He suffered injury from poison gas, but recovered and returned to Australia in good health.

By good judgement and unremitting hard work, Charles Gittins laid the foundation for the family’s eventual prosperity. But he did not allow the drudgery of day to day existence on the farm depress his kindly and whimsical spirit, nor did he allow it to dampen his interest in the world beyond his immediate experience. He was fascinated with world events. He followed the news avidly as it unfolded in newspapers and periodicals, from which he often read aloud to the family and anyone else who would listen. A skeptic, he habitually referred to "The World News," an Australian weekly of the 20s, as "The World Lies." He invariably accompanied his readings from "The World Lies" with his own version of events, "The Truth." To him, the truth really mattered.

Charles was also interested in the latest wonders of science and engineering. He was quick to appreciated the potential importance of the mechanization of farm work. With the older boys of the family, Arthur, Charlie and Frank, he was using a tractor for farming years before many others in the district. The family’s first tractor was a chain-drive Titan of about 1909.46  Other early machinery on the farm included two trucks, a Dodge and a Rugby—the latter furnished, oddly enough, with separate speedometers for different settings of the gear lever. Belying their appearance of having been conceived by backyard tinkerers rather than by engineers, these vehicles ran reliably at speeds up to twenty miles per hour, and already offered enormous advantages over horse-drawn cartage.

In his spare time Charles liked to play about with ideas for perpetual motion machines, a popular pseudoscientific preoccupation of the period. He tried to make a perpetual motion machine using horseshoe magnets, and his experimental magnets were still turning up here and there on the farm decades after his death there in 1926. He was 64 years old. He was buried at Tambellup.

Mabel did not share Charles’ buoyant temperament. At portrait of her at about 50 is a picture of dreary exhaustion. The iron-gray hair is drawn back in a utilitarian bun, and the features of the round face sag pitiably. Mabel might once have been a cheerful, lively girl, but by middle age she saw only the cloud inside the silver lining. Quick to blame and persistent in censure, she habitually cast herself as martyr and complained unrelentingly off her fate. Because of her lugubrious temperament, family members had to make a conscious effort to give her due credit for her achievements in bearing and lovingly bringing up nine children in circumstances not unlike those of a wilderness camping expedition.

Mabel passed her last years in a small house in the town of Tambellup (G on the map). They were made happier by the belated kindness of her family and also by the practical help and friendship on the part of a girl47  from a farm neighboring the Gittins’ who had just taken a job in Tambellup.

Mabel died in 1950 at the age of 75, and was buried alongside Charles at Tambellup.


Continue reading: 2.2.2 Blanche’s Youth "Hunger is the best sauce."


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Footnotes:
(click footnote number to go between footnote and text)

44. Adopted natural son of Ron and Ruby Gittins.

45. Adopted.

46. The remains of the tractor are located south of the house, between it and the salt lake (see map of Tambellup and vicinity). Source: Graeme McRae.

47. Kathleen Byrnes.