Ian and Blanche




2.1.2 Mabel Murray (1875-1950) Background and Youth (-1897)

Blanche’s mother, Mabel, was brought to Australia as a baby by her parents, John and [mother’s name unknown] Murray, in 1875. Mabel was just nine months old when the ship arrived in Western Australia.

Before their marriage, Mabel’s parents were servants in the house of a lord in the north of England. John was a coachman, a position of some prestige since it involved the management of the stables and the maintenance of equipment as well as actually driving the lord’s coaches. A portrait of John seated on a coach shows a square-built man with mutton-chop whiskers and an air of genial authority. His bride-to-be was a lady’s maid, a position calling for dependability and nice manners.42 

The couple were subject to the convention of Victorian England, that once they were married they were no longer eligible for service in a grand household. They had either to seek employment in some less congenial situation in Britain, or emigrate. They chose the uncertainties and opportunities of a new life in Australia.

John became a victualler in the Western Australian goldfields near Kalgoorlie.43  He used a horse-drawn wagon to take supplies to the miners and prospectors during the gold rush of the 1880s. Much of his business was carrying water for the camel teams, which were the chief means of heavy transportation in the arid parts of the state. He operated a water condensing plant at Kanowna, then an important gold-mining center.

In this period the Murrays had [at least] one other child, Eva.

When the easy gold findings petered out, Kanowna fell into decline and with it John Murray’s business. He envisaged switching to vegetable farming in the temperate south-coastal part of the state near Albany, with a view to supplying the scurvy-ridden goldfields with much-needed fresh produce. The time for leisurely planning of the move expired with the outbreak of typhoid in the Kalgoorlie area in 1895, and in that year the family began their trek south for reasons of safety as well as business. They carried their belongings on the wagon and walked the 300 miles to Albany, camping along the way.

By this time Mabel had married [name unknown] Harrison, who’d had a camel team in the goldfields. Harrison died of typhoid, so Mabel went with the family to Albany. She was pregnant at the time and rode some of the way on the wagon. The baby was born in Albany and named Arthur.

The Murray family started a farm four miles out of Albany on what was then called the Denmark Road, now the South Coast highway. The homestead site is on the right side going towards Denmark, 100 yards before the entrance to the dump on the left.

John Murray’s brother, Albert Murray, also had a farm in the area. It was located on Lancaster Road, a mile or so to the north of John’s farm.

Continue reading: 2.2 Tambellup

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2. Blanche Gittins (1910-1987) Background and Youth (-1929)

2.1 Albany

2.1.1 Charles Gittins (1863-1926) Youth (-1897)

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(click footnote number to go between footnote and text)

42. Recollections of Mabel Gittins, about 1941.

43. From a 1980 interview with Bert and John Gittins by J. A. Genoni, published in the "Albany Adveriser."