Monday 11 May 2015

Group Migration to Carnamah in 1915

100 years ago, on 11 May 1915, three families arrived in Fremantle, Western Australia on the steamship Osterley. Dick Robertson, Bob Forrester and John Bowman had all resigned from managerial positions at coal mines in Scotland. They immigrated with their families, during the turmoil of the First World War, to take up Ready-Made Farms in Carnamah.

Although settlement often resulted in friends or family also taking up land locally, this was the only instance of group migration to Carnamah from outside of Australia. The three families heavily boosted an already predominately Scottish population to solidify Carnamah's reputation as the Scotch Settlement.

Dick Robertson had already paid a five percent deposit and after an insepection proceeded with his purchase of the 433 acre Lot M951. John Bowman, Bob Forrester and Bob's son JK went into partnership and as Bowman & Forrester purchased the adjacent 434 acre Lot M950.

After finalising arrangements in Perth, the three families caught the train to Carnamah. They arrived in the darkness of midnight and were met by a man in a spring cart, which after loading up was followed on foot to their new homes four miles out of town. They arrived to dusty conditions after a bad drought the previous year. Water was scarce and the flies were plentiful!

Bowman & Forrester took up another three farms later in 1915. To increase their income they secured contracts doing work on the Midland Railway Company's unsold Ready-Made Farms across Carnamah, Winchester and Coorow (including clearing, seeding, harvesting and carting). In April 1916 they were employing 45 men and had 55 horses and a tractor at work! However, in late 1916 the partnership was dissolved with only John Bowman remaining. JK Forrester had enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and his parents shifted to Fremantle.

The Robertson and Forrester families were closely related with Mrs Robertson being a niece of Bob Forrester. While on leave from France during the war, JK Forrester married Chris Izatt in Scotland. It was probably not known at the time (or possibly even afterwards!) but she was a third cousin of John Bowman, and not once but twice!

After the war JK Forrester, with his bride Chris, returned to Western Australia and in 1920 acquired land on the Carnamah Estate as a soldier settler. Ironically, the Carnamah Estate was the residual Ready-Made Farms which the Department of Repatriation had purchased from the Midland Railway Company! JK's parents, Bob and Effie Forrester, shifted back to Carnamah and once more, the three families were living and farming locally.

John Bowman was the founding chairman and Dick Robertson the first secretary of the Carnamah District Road Board, which is now the Shire of Carnamah. Dick Robertson was the board's third chairman and JK Forrester its fourth. To quote one of their sons, "the old-timers did their civic duty." Between the three of them they served as president and patron of almost every local organisation in the 1920s and 1930s.

In 1932 it was resolved to rename two Carnamah streets. Boojerabba Street became Robertson Street and Woondadying Street was changed to Bowman's Road (now Bowman Street). Later, when the townsite was extended one of the new streets was named Forrester.

All three families farmed locally over three generations and the Bowman family continues into its fourth. 2015 marks a centenary of family, friendship and residence in Australia for all three families, the descendants of whom are still well known to one another. The original members of the three families who arrived in 1915, hyper-linked to their entries in our Biographical Dictionary, were:

[ Note:  I prefer not to write about or profile my own family, however, it has been suggested that I have sometimes done so to the point of under-representation. May this one-off occurrence, in my family's centenary year, balance the books a little.  -- Andrew Bowman-Bright, great grandson of John and Maggie Bowman ]

1 comment:

Dick Johnson said...

Thank you Andrew for the update and for filling in some of the gaps in our knowledge of our forbearers and the other associated families. Our own offspring are keenly interested in the family history and like us, it gives them a deep sense of belonging to their roots.