Ian and Blanche




3.3.2 Fulfillment

The Albany area held several attractions over Tambellup. With its relatively mild South-Coast climate and heavier rainfall, it offered opportunities for more intensive farming and for running cattle as well as sheep. Aside from farming, there was also the prospect of fishing at Emu Point and on the South Coast, and the proximity to relatives.

Virgin land near Albany was being offered by the government on attractive terms. Ian inspected the available land with care, test-seeding small patches of the more promising blocks with clover and returning periodically to check the results. In 1950 he selected 500 acres off Albany Highway about ten miles north-west of the town near Green Valley. "Coonawarra" was his for 4000, subject to an agreement to make improvements such as fencing according to a schedule.

Coonawarra, 1957. Gwyneth with baby Ralton, BlancheIan raised three-quarters of the down-payment by the sale of the choice 160-acre parcel of Riverview to Ernie Fairweather. For years Ernie had been anxious to buy this enclave in Moree, and had made increasingly attractive offers. But Ian had resisted, partly, it may be surmised, out of the pleasure of having something Ernie wanted so badly. When he finally accepted Ernie’s offer—3000, a handsome figure for the Tambellup area—it was as if he had at last won a round of debate. Perhaps he rose in Ernie’s estimation, too. As a parting gift, Ernie presented him with a wall barometer set in an ornately-carved frame.

After selling the rest of Riverview, Ian was able to buy the new farm and finance the mandatory improvements on it without going into debt. Meanwhile he leased Gilella to Jim Allen, a tenant he approved of in the first place because he was a Scotsman. Scotsmen, Ian believed, were the best farmers (also the best generals and the best all-round people). In the case of Jim Allen, Ian’s rule proved valid; the Allen family continued to work Gilella until Ian’s death in 1975.

The move went off as planned. The house and sheds and most of the other improvements were substantially in place by 1955. Before the end of the 50s, Blanche had what she had longed for, a comfortable home with a green grass and a pretty garden around it. Ian had a productive farm with good fences and sheds built as square as the one he and George Iddles had put up on Gilella.

Coonawarra, 1960. Ian, Jock with newspaperCoonawarra offered amenities lacking at Gilella, such as electricity, telephone, and a flush toilet, also mail and newspaper deliveries at the front gate on Albany Highway, about a quarter-mile from the house. Ian trained his dog, Jock, to fetch the paper.

Jock also knew how to sing. Ian showed off the dog’s musical talents by crooning lines from a popular song

And love will beeeee

Ours, ours, ouoors.

On cue, Jock threw back his head and let out a plaintive

Ouoors! Ouoors! Ouoors!

Meanwhile the children were going their separate ways.

Eion and Jean with Graeme and Colin, 1962In 1953 Eion went to America to study, and in 1953 he completed a PhD in Physical Chemistry at Florida State University. In 1954 he married a fellow chemistry graduate student, Jean Eagle. The couple had two children and three grandchildren.

Graeme (1957—) m. 1983 Catherine D’Agostino (1956—) (Caitlin b.1986, Matthew b. 1988, Meghan b. 1991).

Colin (1960—) m. 1991 Crystal Travis (1960—)

After leaving High School, Gwyneth worked for a time in the Tambellup Post Office. In 1956 she married Brian Murphy, a serviceman in the Royal Australian Air Force. The couple had three children and two grandchildren.

Ralton (1956—) m. 1983 Kerryn Morris (1955—) (Emma b. 1984, Chad b. 1986).

Noelene (1958—) m. 1977 John Lane (1952—)

Kelvin (1961—) m. 1997 Tracy [Name unknown] (1965—).

Graeme worked with Ian on Coonawarra for a time after leaving High School, but this did not work out well because Ian, like Alexander before him, had become Graeme and Gwenda difficult to please and reluctant to pay for his son’s services. Wishing to make some money of his own, in 1958 Graeme followed a friend’s93  suggestion, "come shearing with me," and the pair worked together as itinerant shearers for three years. In 1961 Graeme bought a truck and went into business spreading superphosphate under contract. In 1964 he bought "Kurrabi," a 750 acre property near Narrikup and about 15 miles north-east of Coonawarra. In 1965 he married Gwenda Temby of Tambellup. The couple had two children:

Jennifer (1972—).

Leanne (1975—).

By the 60s, Ian and Blanche were at last able to relax their efforts on the farm in favor of other interests.

Ian devoted even more of his time to fishing. He often went fishing in company with the Gittins brothers, but just as often by himself because nobody could match his enthusiasm—perhaps mania would be a better word—for that sport. He bought a Land Rover four-wheel drive vehicle and fitted it out for camping expeditions to remote fishing destinations along the south coast.

Both Ian and Blanche joined the Albany Bowls Club.94  Both played at first, but Ian discovered early that bowls was yet "another blooming At the Albany Bowls Club in the 1960s game" he couldn’t play. But Blanche had a natural talent for it and quickly became one of the better players in the Club. Before long she was regularly representing the Club in tournaments.

While he couldn’t play bowls well, Ian certainly knew how to drink beer. "Sandplain," as he was called at the Club, found a comfortable niche in the Club as a volunteer barman.

Through most of his life at Coonawarra, Ian served as the district Fire Captain. Thanks to his alertness and to the rigor with which he supervised the plowing of firebreaks and other fire-prevention measures, there were no serious outbreaks of fire on his watch.

Ian and Blanche kept in touch with their family by letters, mostly Blanche’s. By the 60s, all three children were well launched into their careers.

Eion worked with CSIRO95  at Fishermen’s Bend, near Melbourne, for five years, but in 1963 he and Jean and their two children moved to Murray Hill, New Jersey where Eion had a job as a physicist with Bell Labs.96 

Gwyneth spent a number of years in Malaya when Brian was stationed at there. Later, the couple had postings in Queensland and finally in WA, where in ca.1972 they had a house built in at 3 Doon Way in Hamersley, north of Perth.

Graeme worked throughout the 60s to convert Kurrabi into an efficient farm. To tap into the fresh-water creek97  flowing through the property as a source of water for stock, he built a water distribution system of which the pump and first tank were in place in 1966. In 1969, with belated financial help from Ian ("back pay," as Graeme justifiably saw it) Graeme and Gwenda had a comfortable house built on Kurrabi.

In the late 60s, after almost two decades at Coonawarra, Ian and Blanche decided to retire. They had a small, comfortable house built just off Albany Highway at 25 Lancaster Road, near the Gittins’ place at Rocky Crossing and close to the Bowls Club. They sold Coonawarra and moved into the new place in 1970. Coonawarra fetched $90,000, enough sustain them in modest comfort for the rest of their years.

For Ian, that was not very long. On a 1969 trip to Queensland with Blanche to visit Gwyneth and Brian, he became ill with a persistent sore throat. His condition was diagnosed as cancer of the throat and lung. In his last years Ian’s often impatient and irascible temperament mellowed, and he found peace with himself and his family. He died in 1975. He was buried in Allambie cemetery near Emu Point.

His oldest friend, John Gittins, summed up as well as anyone could: "Well, I reckon Ian was a bloke who knew how to live."

Continue reading: 3.4 Blanche at Lancaster Road

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3. Ian and Blanche (1929-1975) Blanche (-1988)

3.3 Riding the Wave (1946-1975)

3.3.1 Goodbye to Gilella

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3.4 Blanche at Lancaster Road

(click footnote number to go between footnote and text)

93. Eric Slater.

94. Bowls (US bowling on the green) is a game of skill and concentration popular in Australasia with people over about 60. The bowl, an eccentrically-weighted ball in the shape of a oblate ellipsoid, is rolled on a smooth, grassed surface with the objective of approaching close to a small round ball as target.

95. Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.

96. Cited (Fortune, ca. 1958) as "the world’s greatest industrial laboratory," Bell Telephone Laboratories played a major role in the advances in basic science that shaped life and thought in the 20th century: quantum mechanics,* the transistor,* the origin of the universe,* and the laser, among others (starred are items for which Bell Labs Technical Staff members received the Nobel Prize in physics).

97. Napier Creek, the inspiration of the farm name "Kurrabi," meaning in an Australian Aboriginal language, "Creek in the Valley."