Beebe nee Woollett in Australia

This article was originally written for my Beebe family history pages.  I feel that it is just as interesting for the Woolletts.  George Beebe married Ellen Woollett and Catherine Woollett, the sister of Ellen, married Samuel Beebe who was the brother of George.  Samuel was my grandfather and obviously Catherine my grandmother.  Much of this is reproduced in my Beebe Family History pages on the internet.

My Beebe / Woollett relatives emigrated to Australia from England on the steam ship "Euripodes", arriving in Albany in March 1924. George Beebe and his wife Ellen (nee Woollett) had six children, all boys. Bill, Arthur, Les, Bob, Albert and Stan. They were all farmers except Albert who worked in various timber mills. Les, Albert and Stan, served in the Australian Army during the war.


These notes were sent to me by Lesley Beebe (wife of Stan). I am very grateful to her.
"The following is some more information of the early days of Stan's parents arrival in Western Australia as Stan remembers it, it may be of interest to you". Lesley Beebe, February 1997.

The Early Years of George and Ellen Beebe - Northcliffe:

"In the early 1920's, the Premier of Western Australia (WA) was Sir James Mitchell who decided to open up the South West of WA for dairy farming. The WA Government recruited migrants from England.

George, seeing this as a great opportunity, migrated to Australia with his wife Ellen (commonly known as Nell) and 6 boys, not aware of the trials that were to face them. With hundreds of other English Migrants, they boarded the Steam Ship Euripodes for Australia and arrived in Albany WA on the 10th of March 1924. From Albany they were taken by train to Perth and then by train to Pemberton, a distance of 920 miles.

On arrival at Pemberton they were put onto trucks and taken into the Karri Forest, a further 20 miles on, which later became known as Northcliffe. They were placed into camps which consisted of tin shacks of two rooms, dirt floors and no windows or doors! Conditions were unbelievable and many of the women wished they had never left England. Toilet facilities were non-existent. George made chairs out of kerosene boxes and beds were a piece of hessian slung between poles. Each day the men were taken out in gangs to clear the forest for house sites. After this, eventually, weatherboard cottages were built and the families balloted for them and gradually moved into a cottage from the camps. Once you had been allotted a house you were on your own and had to clear land for your farm, with none of the modern machinery of today, this was no small task! In fact it must have been rather daunting!

The men were paid 8 shillings per acre by the government to clear the land. Then, as the pasture grew, they were issued with 2 or 3 cows depending on what the pasture would carry. These payments and cows were a debt against you at the bank which eventually had to be re-paid when you were self supporting. By the 1930's many were self supporting but there were many who were disenchanted by the hard life and conditions and walked off the land and went to the city of Perth to look for work. George's determination was such that he was one of the few who stayed and made a go of it, he grew his own vegetables which helped to sustain them. By this time a few shops had been built in Northcliffe, thus other supplies were available. In the mid 1930's, Bill, Arthur, Les and Bob took up land of their own.

When war broke out in 1939 Les, Albert and Stan joined the army and after the war ended Les and Stan took up land and farmed, while Albert went to the city to work. Les eventually left the farm and went to Perth to work at Chamberlains Factory. Stan also went on to sell the farm (a move he still regrets today) and went on to buy a mixed business in Northcliffe which he ran for two and a half years before selling up and moving to Albany to manage a beef farm. His (Stan) wife died in April 1976 and he went to live with Sharon and Tony for a few months and worked for Automotive Investments managing their farms until he retired in 1986. Albert worked in various timber mills in and around Perth until his retirement in 1996. Now in 1997, with only Stan and Albert alive, the Beebe line is slowly dwindling. Albert still lives in Kewdale, a suburb of Perth, and Stan lives in Albany when he is not touring around Australia in car and caravan, a life he enjoys very much!"

The following information has been taken from a fascinating book by J.P. Gabbedy. The book is in two volumes, "Group Settlement - part 1 - Its Origins: Politics and Administration" and "Group Settlement - part 2 - Its People: Their Life and Times - An Inside View". Published in 1988 by University of Western Australia Press, it is now out of print. I obtained my copies by post from Robert Muir Old and Rare Books, P.O. Box 364, Nedlands 6009, Western Australia. With a bit of luck they may be re-printed one day as they are well worth seeking out. Thank you Mr. Gabbedy for your efforts.

Northcliffe, Western Australia

....... Even the nondescript nags of the township had absorbed the carnival spirit. Nearing dusk, the six Beebe kids, who had had the time of their lives all day, were gathered up, placed in their timber-wheeled chariot-cum-cart, and told not to move. "I'm off to find your father", their mother told them.

She soon returned holding her George's arm. He needed guiding - he was as full as the proverbial bull. Standing up in the cart charioteer-like, and steadying himself with the reins, he bellowed: "Giddup Dolly."

The Beebes' hitherto sedate and placid Dolly promptly pigrooted - for the first time ever. George toppled over backwards, hit his head on the tailboard and passed out.

"Leave your father be", Mrs. Beebe ordered. "You drive Bob." And off they went, with Dolly at her regular 6.5km an hour flatfooted amble. George was put to bed, also in full marching order, minus boots, and the kids were admonished to make no noise. Undoubtedly George must have wondered next day about the lump on his head, but he never inquired. His wife maintained a tight lip.

The photo shows Dolly and the cart - the first private vehicle in Northcliffe - with solid karri wheels bound with fencing wire, a karri axle and shafts, all hand hewn timber.

The Beebes' son Les, nine years old at the time, recalled the day (now known as Black Friday) with relish, and the few tastes of beer they had on the quiet, and particularly Dolly's pigrooting. He swore that up till then and thereafter her one bad habit was that if she were left for any time inactive in the shafts, she would drop off to sleep, fall sideways and break one or both of the karri pole shafts. "She wouldn't struggle", Les vowed, "she'd just lie there. And if she was comfortable, the old bugger'd drop off again." Dolly was the joke of the district. No one would take her off the Beebes' hands, and they were stuck with their sedate and somnolent mare.......


........ The new settlers would come to terms with the open-pit toilets, the fleas, the primitive cooking arrangements, the kangaroo stew, even with the brackish water from their soaks........ One thing they could never become reconciled to, however, was the degradation of their first homes, the semi-detached accommodation "paired hut". The private area was 3.3m x 3m. The only partition separating one family from its neighbour was a 2m galvanised-iron screen with a vacant space at the top and bottom. They were virtually press-ganged into this appalling situation. There was no choice of neighbour and no chance of escape.

In terms of human values the settlement of Northcliffe was the blackest single blot on Group settlement administration. There were similar instances in other areas, singly and in small groups, but in Northcliffe the evil oppressed every settler in an entire area. The pity of it is that the State could have faced the expense of doing better, but failed to do so; and the hapless migrants paid the price in lost years among the most fortunate, and utter failure among the rest........


....... W. Bankes Amery wrote scathingly of the accommodation of settlers in the report he submitted to the United kingdom Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs after his visit to Northcliffe in November 1925. Even when only one family was in occupation of a double hut, he wrote, the space - 6.7m x 3m - was not sufficient to allow for the proper care of more than three children. He was never to see paired huts where in one case, on Group 108, eight members of the George Beebe family occupied one half, while Joe Cooper and his wife, with eight children, squeezed into their half.

Almost incredibly, it seems that generally there was complete compatibility. I asked one of the Beebe sons, Les, how they managed at night. During the day, fathers - and often mothers - were out working in the clearing, and the children who were not helping them would have been playing around outside. But at night they were all inside in that antipodean "black hole of Calcutta".

"Mum and Dad took the second youngest in with them in their three-quarter bed", Les told me (Jack Gabbedy). There were two of us to each folding stretcher - 2' 6" wide. My little brother Stan was only six months old - he slept in a grocery box."

One can only wonder how the Coopers, in their commodious quarters next door, accommodated their brood.

"What about day time and meals?" I asked Les.

"The stretchers were folded up against the wall and the baby's grocery box was stored on the bed", he said. "That gave Mum room to move around, and we were shooed out of the hut to play. It didn't take long for Dad and Joe Cooper to build on a rough skillion we used for cooking and dishing up, and then they added a bush table and the two families took turns at it for meals. When it was fine the kids ate outside, sitting on the ground."

I pointed out that in those parts it rained for at least seven months of the year. Les Said:

"If I remember correctly, Dad and Joe had scrounged half-a-dozen sheets of iron and built that skillion lean-to to protect the stove. I reckon, now, that they kidded one of the contract carriers to pitch the sheets from the Northcliffe Store and drop them off in the bush near our hut before he unloaded. The group carter probably picked them up when the foreman wasn't about, and delivered them to Dad. I remember the show Barker - he was the foreman - put on when he saw them in place. "Where did you get them from - you bloody well stole them!" he yelled. "Put them back!" Dad asked him to prove where we stole them from, and then try and get them back, and Barker shoved off.".....


........I believe that George Beebe was the logical spokesman for Group 108. After leaving school he had worked on a large estate near the village of Sittingbourne in Kent, rising from stable boy to head shepherd and stockman. The owner was sorry to lose his services, and told him there would always be a job open for him were he to return to the United Kingdom.

Group 108 was no sooner settled in than, by selection or as a volunteer, he was put in charge of the cow and distribution of the daily yield of milk, with preference to babies and youngsters. Automatically he became horse-master, teamster and ploughman, which positions he retained until each settler received his own horse.

To Beebe, raw linseed oil was a must - a cheap and effective panacea for animal ailments.....

..... Beebe's request for it got nowhere. Foreman Barker, would have pooh-poohed the request, as was his custom. Probably he did no ,ore than tell the senior foreman of it in passing. It seems that he and others among the foremen were either afraid of betraying their own ignorance or of creating precedents.....

...... George Beebe's skills with horses extended to the curing of fistulas. A fistula is likened to an abscess which continues to suppurate but is unable to drain. It usually occurs at the top of the withers from saddle sores or injuries, and also on the upper parts of the fore and hind legs. Prior to the advent of antibiotics, the only cure was drainage. With the heated blade of a sharp knife an incision was made at the lower end of the fistula to allow drainage, following which a bottle of power kerosene (used for killing zamia palms) was poured through the fistula from the primary orifice, presumably for its antiseptic effect. The treatment must have been painful; it was a case of being cruel to be kind.

The Beebe family were not adverse to experimenting on their patients. A spate of blood scouring in calves (acute diarrhea) was cleared up with the drench of a teaspoon of Lysol in a bottle of milk.

"What made you try that?" I asked.

"There was nothing else available" was the bland reply. "It worked."

There was no point in explaining to him that Lysol (carbolic acid) is a phenol type substance extracted from coal tar. Although it was quite useful as a disinfectant for external surfaces its value internally is highly doubtful.

I asked two senior veterinarians what they thought of the reputed cure. They regarded me blankly.

"Don't ask us, we weren't even born then!"


.......Clarie was the local baker. Clarie enjoyed a drink. At times, perhaps because of his arduous and monotonous job, he went "on the grog". The result was soggy bread for a day or two, and the possibility of discovering a bottle top or cigarette butt in the loaf. Locals were understanding, as they usually are in small, isolated communities. They just hung on to the loaf till Clarie returned to normal when it would be exchanged for a fresh, well-baked one. Maude Beebe (nee Foreman) was amused at what was likely to be found in Carrie's loaves from time to time, but she recalled that "his Easter hot cross buns were always delicious - the best I've ever tasted."


...... Leslie John Beebe was the first employee of the Northcliffe Stock and Machinery Depot and around mid-1934 he was approached by inspector Ted Simmons.

"Hey, young Beebe", said Simmons. "How would you like a job as stockman of our Group 109 depot?"

"What's the pay?" was Beebe's natural reply

"Six quid a month!"

"Too-right, Mr. Simmons!" replied the delighted and bewildered Les. "When can I start?"

If to us £6 a month may not seem to be exactly a princely wage, any amazement might be dissipated be a review of Beebe's income to that date. Having left school at age fourteen, he went to work in the following year as a farm hand on the property of a neighbour. For a twelve-hour day, with time off on Sundays between the morning and evening milking, he was paid 5s a week and his keep. The money went to his mother to help out at home. In the following year he had a better offer from Bill Hutchins of Group 115 - the same work, the same hours, but an extra 2s 6d (25 per cent) a week to take home on Sunday, between milkings.

"Mum was tickled pink with the extra half-crown", he told me. "She gave me 9d for pocket money."

Jokingly I suggested that the 9d pocket money made sure of his weekly visit to the pictures, but - no way, said Beebe. He saved it every week until he had 7s 6d, with which he bought the fifteen frames necessary to establish a beehive to accommodate one of the numerous wild swarms which appeared constantly in the bush around his home. Some neighbour then helped him to build his first hive from an old kerosene case. Bees have been a profitable - and non-taxable! - pastime throughout his life. In his retirement, he still maintains about twenty hives based at his home in Belmont, a suburb of Perth.......

...... Beebe's first job was to clear a vacated holding about 6.5km away. He rode his bike out to the vacated holding, caught the farmers work horse, and put him in the cart. He loaded as many implements as he could, threw his bike on top and set off for the depot. Next morning he returned to the holding to load any plant that had been left, and, always with a couple of the older, quieter cows tied on behind, he set off again for the depot. All stock had to be returned, but it was an expensive way of doing it. On the third day he returned to bring in the balance of the stock.

"It was bloody hard work droving on a bike - you were more off than on, and you spent most of your time chasing them on foot!"

There is much more along similar lines in Jack Gabbedy's book, including more entries about the Beebe's. It makes fascinating reading. I have not found any specific mention of the Woollett family name in his books.

 This page last updated 19th June 2004