Butlers 140 years of farming

Thomas Butler was born in Cadamstown, County Kildare in 1820.

He served in the British Army in Afghanistan, Burma and India in the 13th Foot Regiment (#2365) before coming to Western Australia as a Pensioner Guard on HMS Dalhousie 28th of December 1863. At that particular time Thomas and his family would have been just a drop in the “ocean of migration” from Ireland to almost any accepting country.

The United States was taking immigrants at an unprecedented rate into places like Boston and New York and thus  Thomas and his family would have felt very grateful for landing in a far less congested and desperate environment. This exodus from Ireland was triggered by “The Irish Potato Famine”, as the event became known, which reduced the population of Ireland by some 25% in the 7 years, 1845 to 1852.


South aspect. Sandy Butler at original Butler Homestead off Menang Road. (From the house-site the Geraldton Mt Magnet Road is 600 metres to the north and Menang Road is 250 metres to the west)


Back; Mrs Walker, Alex Butler and Olive
Middle; Paddy, Doreen, Gloria ; Front; Little Lenny Walker and Keith Butler

Further, compared to the plight of many of his countrymen he would not have had to slave for mere survival and existence as in Western Australia, Thomas by contrast, was allotted farming Lots #2 & #3 Victoria District Location in Greenough south of Geraldton. This allocation was normal reimbursement for involvement in and contribution to the “Pensioner Guard’s” (EPFWA)
and it in fact this allocation of land started the Thomas Butler Clan’s 140 years of farming in WA.
Thomas passed away at the age of 60. Thomas’s son Patrick had been born in County Cork in 1859 and he travelled to Australia with his parents and eventually continued the farming his father had started. They had also became Teamsters which meant they took on the responsibility for hauling goods from the coast to and as far inland as Wiluna and Lake Way. Patrick married a Miss Susan Kemp who was the sister of another Teamster Dan Kemp who eventually, along with his brother Jerry, took up land at Tenindewa at a similar time to the Butlers. These hardy and wirily frontiersman would travel with bullocks and wagons carting all types of cargo to the developing mines to the east on what was known as the Teamsters Road, This road, after it left Geraldton, traversed through places such as Kojarena and Eradu, with the men no doubt partaking of the comforts and refreshments of its Tavern, and then onto Wolya Soak (Tenindewa) into Mullewa, Yalgoo and onto Mt Magnet and beyond. The trip to Mullewa, of approximately 70 miles (110 Kms) was a three day exercise in which a disproportionate amount of that time was expended on the notoriously arduous and taxing sandplain section between Eradu and Tenindewa.                                        By 1894 the Railway had reached Mullewa and thus only the balance of the business, (ie east of Mullewa and beyond), was then available for contract for the bullock wagons. This too slowly diminished as the line building continued until it finally reached Wiluna in 1907. The Butlers would then have needed to look to other forms of enterprise to replace the lost haulage-business opportunities. This is when, we can surmise, that expanding the fledgling farming operation into land at Tenindewa was contemplated and eventually acted on.


                      Jack Butler

Patrick and Susan had seven children. Two of the boys, Frank and Jack, served in The Great War. (Frank became affectionately known as Sandy) The balance of the family was Tom, Alex and the girls, Rosanne who became Mrs. Joe O’Conner, Nellie who became Mrs. Richie and Lina who unfortunately died tragically while being rushed from Greenough to Geraldton for medical assistance. She was just three years old.

After, WW1 and in 1920 Frank and Jack purchased the farm at Tenindewa with a “Service Loan” they had become entitled to. Most probably they had come to know Tenindewa quite well from an agricultural aspect because of their Teamster work. The Wolya Soak, was such an important stopover for men and horses in the pre railway days, Wolya was essentially ”Tenindewa”. They eventually purchased a property from Mrs. Meadowcroft for 4500 pounds ($9000). The “Repatriation Scheme” or “War Service Loan” paid 4000 pounds ($8000) and they paid the balance. The area they purchased was south of the Geraldton Mt Magnet Road and east of what is now Menang Road. Presently their father Patrick and mother Susan plus two brothers, Tom and Alex, joined them at Tenindewa. However the stark reality was that there was only 500 acres (200 hectares) cleared of the 1500 acres (600 hectares) purchased so it was all long hours and hard, hot and filthy toil for many years but they eventually prospered. Meanwhile their humble settlers-cottage was built on a hill overlooking Tenindewa, south of the Geraldton-Mt Magnet Highway, and adjacent to the Menang Road. After working generously to the cause for some years Tom eventually chose to leave and joined Mr. William O’Brien (father of J.J. O’Brien) at Ardingly and in whose employ he continued until his death in 1942.

Jack on the other hand was not interested in farming so it was agreed that Alex should acquire his equity. In fact Jack by this time had distinguished himself by serving his Country in the 1940-44 WW2 conflict and thus he had the distinction of serving in both World Wars. He peacefully passed away in Geraldton in 1973.

Alex was the only brother to marry and he wed Miss Olive Stone from Northampton and they had 4 children. Paddy was the firstborn arriving while the parents were in Perth in 1927 and Keith arrived later, born in the family cottage at Tenindewa in 1929. Two girls followed with Gloria being born in 1931 and Doreen in 1933.

Extract from Geraldton Express January 26 1922 (this letter was obviously written in (maybe) early December 1921)
From Tenindewa
“My dear Aunt Mary______As it is such a long time since I last wrote to you I thought i would sit down and start because if I do not start now I never will. I am writing to ask you if you would send me a calendar for next year (1922), a blue button and a collecting card, as I think I could collect for you around here. I hope all the little children are getting on well. We have a lovely cricket pitch here now and a lovely tennis court. We have had some awfully hot weather here lately, but today is nice and cool.
The three aeroplanes that landed in Geraldton on Sunday, December 4, on Monday they started their mail service but they had an accident an hour after they had left Geraldton. I suppose you heard about it? It was an awful accident wasn’t it? 
Well I will close, with and love and best wishes to all the little children. Hoping this will find you okay as it leaves us the same. I am your loving niece, OLIVE STONE”

“The Air Accident” refers to the fateful crash at Murchison House Station, Kalbarri of one of Sir Norman Brierley’s  planes on their inaugural run which eventually culminated in Australia’s first Commercial Air Service.

Alex's wife Olive and eldest child Paddy at the original homestead.

Alex’s wife Olive and eldest child Paddy at the original homestead. (As pictured above)

Tenindewa had started to blossom by this time, both commercially and socially, and Doreen Butler (Lindsey’s) story “To Sow the Barley” picks up quite extensively from this point much of the life and times of the district including her education and that of her 3 siblings. All of the Butler children were educated to one extent or another at the Tenindewa School which would have been fairly rudimentary to say the least and especially compared to today’s standards.

At one period the Butlers had land at “Poverty Patch” some 7 mile to the South. They farmed “Poverty Patch” under lease and, also under lease simultaneously, was the property immediately to their west which was formally owned by a well-known and innovative pioneer in Norman Fry. This made them the largest croppers in the district at that time.

By then Grandmother Susan was living in what became known as Grannie Butlers house, a small cottage built especially for her, just about ½ a kilometre to the east of the main Menang Road dwelling. Husband (Grandfather) Patrick had passed away some years earlier (1927) and is buried in Geraldton.

The original farm was called Bunnydale and they then added Redlands, which they purchased form Alec and Kathleen Rumble in 1945. Alex and Olive Butler at that point moved to the new property and into what had been Alec and Kathleen Rumbles home, just on the north side of the Geraldton-Mt Magnet Highway very adjacent to the Tenindewa North Road.

The Butlers like all farmers in this period had progressed from horses to tractors and their first tractor was a second hand Fordson which finally gave out and refused to co-operate. They then purchased a new Alice-Charmers. “Old Alice”, as she was affectionately known, served for many years in many roles including hauling a lorry to the Tenindewa CBH Recieval Point with bagged wheat for a period. (2 tonne or 25 bags of wheat per load) “Old Alice” served them well and completed her work days as a mobile backup-motor for lighting-plant generators including at Clem Keeffe’s on some occasions. Amazingly “Old Alice” still exists and now resides in the good care of Bevin Hamersley at Walkaway as a potential museum piece.


House number 2 just off Tenindewa North Road. It transitioned from small to quite large over time, all the same house.



Kathleen Rumble as a young bride on the verandah of her new home about the mid 20s The house eventually transitioned to the one above. (Note the gate posts in both photographs)

Part of the Butler success story which was shaped by Alex and Frank was that they were shearers as well as farmers and they not only shore their own sheep but many of the neighbour’s (sheep) too. They proved this multifaceted approach to be a positive financial buffer during drought, depression and war. Their agricultural disciplines were diverse too. They grew wheat, oats and barley, milked cows and farmed sheep for both wool and meat.  Trading under PF and AF Butler they continued through until the 1950s when Frank retired to Geraldton in the late 50s. Frank or “Sandy” passed away in 1979*. Alex had in fact predeceased him by some ten years but by then the properties were trading as AF Butler and Sons. In 1959 Paddy and Keith constructed a second dwelling adjacent to what was known as Grannie Butler’s cottage immediately south of the old Rumble home and south of the Highway. This became the home of Keith and his wife Elaine. Elaine was the daughter of Mr and Mrs William Keeffe of Devils Creek and they married in that year (1959). That home still stands and later it was also for many years the home of Jenny, Craig and son Alex. Elaine’s brother, Bert Keeffe, has written extensively about the early history of the Mullewa region but particularly about his family’s pioneering efforts in eking out an existence in agriculture and also, intriguingly, about their narrow squeak with extinction as a family name. This book is titled “The Missing Link”.  Grannie Butler lived on at the cottage for many years and is spoken of with great reverence in Doreen Butler’s story. By then the Butlers had added further land to their holding when they acquired an adjoining property from Mr Athol Rumble, son of Nathan (Nat) in 1970.

The daughters of Alex and Olive were Gloria who married William Cox of Tardun and Doreen who married Brian Lindsay of Geraldton. Both Gloria and Doreen produced offspring and they, grandchildren

Gloria and Bill’s wedding reception actually took place at the Tenindewa Hall adjacent to the Shop. It is one of only two recorded marriages to have been celebrated locally in this way.  It was a joyous event with the entire district and beyond involved. The weather was warm and as it turned out the guests thirsty. Unfortunately, a little like the biblical story of the Wedding Feast at Cannae, the beer ran out! On this occasion however the person that redeemed the situation was a local with an ample supply of wine and who converted, not the water to wine, but many, mainly male, guests from beer to wine.  The repercussions, for good or for bad have become legendry, with the stories still being recounted to this day. One of these stories has it that one effected gentlemen, who shall remain nameless but a very sizable individual by description, was still not fully recovered when the shop opened for business on the Monday. Tom Foster, the storekeeper of the time, a laconic operator to say the least accommodated this man-mountain at the rear of the store and went on with business as usual. During the day a traveling salesman, having visited Tenindewa, arrived at a Mullewa shop and gaspingly conveyed to the proprietor there that he was sure he had glimpsed a dead giant laying at the rear of the Tenindewa Store.

Doreen has authored a wonderful short story on Tenindewa, titled, “To Sow the Barley”, and in doing so has done an immeasurably beneficial service in preserving the history of the area. By coincidence the original Lady of the House on the Tenindewa North Road (Doreen’s childhood home), Kathleen Rumble (nee Palmer) also wrote a similar style but equally valuable story titled “Memories of a Migrant”. These two stories have become the foundation of our history www.tenindewa.com website

Doreen and Gloria taken in the Woolya Reserve

Doreen and Gloria taken in the Woolya Reserve


The girls with their respective husbands Brian Lindsay, Gloria Cox, Bill Cox and Doreen in about 2010

The girls with their respective husbands
Brian Lindsay, Gloria Cox, Bill Cox and Doreen in about 2010


“Old Alice” courtesy Garry Hamersley (photo) in July 2015 at Walkaway

“Old Alice” courtesy Garry Hamersley (photo) in July 2015 at Walkaway

Paddy and Keith successfully ran the properties until the untimely passing of Paddy in 1990. Keith and Elaine had moved to Mullewa to semi-retirement by 1988 and then they fully retired to Geraldton in 2005 where Keith passed away in 2012.

At the time almost right up to his death Paddy was a sportsman. His natural ability in any sport was nothing short of uncanny. He could take on anything but particularly he enjoyed golf and tennis and participated in these with considerable success and enjoyment. But what put him apart as a sportsman was the way he could excel without seemingly raising a sweat and definitely never raising his voice. In lieu of conversation, as he was more a yes-no type conversationalist plus Paddy had a particularly nonchalant whistle that became his identifying trademark. His sporting skills were a trait passed on from his mother Olive, who was renowned for her presence and poise on the Tennis court.

   Paddy’s House 1989   (Same House as above)                                 

Doreen Lindsey (nee Butler) outside same house 1 kilometer east of the store 1950s

Keith was also a sportsman but as highlighted in Keith’s eulogy he did it with a life-long handicap. His dedication to family, farm, football and his Church were inspiring and all the while very few would have known of his health-affliction Infantile Paralysis (polio) contracted at the age of 12. Incidentally Keith missed only one Tenindewa Christmas-Tree in his entire life and it was in that year of illness which he spent in hospital in Perth.

Tennis was a focal point of the Tenindewa district and the Butlers were virtually all involved. This skill and tradition migrated through the generations and in more recent times that skill manifested itself in the daughter of Doreen and Brian Lindsay. Kathy Hancock dominated ladies tennis in Geraldton for many, many years and like uncle Paddy, up virtually, to her tragic and untimely death in 2010

Olive Butler..to the right of the gentleman with the child..1940..Tenindewa Courts

Olive Butler..next to the gentleman nursing the child (ie on his right)..1940..Tenindewa Courts

Meanwhile, Craig Butler, Keith and Elaine’s only child, followed in the family tradition and farmed at Redlands with his wife Jenny (Beattie) until they eventually sold the Butler property in March 2005. “Scourge” as he is known both far and wide managed to by luck or stealth sell the property just in time to avoid incurring the two most devastating and consecutive droughts of 2006 and 2007. Consequently it seems, so has ended, a remarkable 140 years of farming in WA by the Thomas Butler clan.

 Craig Butler 1985

Craig and Jenny also have only one child and he is also Alex. Tantalizingly, after almost two hundred years since the birth of great, great, grandfather Thomas Butler, he, young Alex and the lovely wife Megan remain the potential life-spring for the continuation of that Thomas Butler family name.

Kevin Weir, Tony Critch, Craig Butler and Michael Lynch

Hope springs eternal Alex and Megan Butler (Married March 2017)                                    

Craig Butler passed away on the 8th of May 2022 as a result of the most minor of accidents.
Craig was born on the 14 0f February 1961

Related Articles:

March 19th 1927

Tenindewa Notes (From our Correspondent)
The Mullewa Magnet & Perenjori-Morawa Advertiser

Unfortunately, I have to record the death of Mr. Patrick. Butler, a resident of this district, who passed away last week.
The late Mr. Butler lived here for the last 7 years and it can be truly said that he did not make one bad friend. He was liked and respected and genuine expressions of sorrow were the order of conversations among friends when the sad news of his death became public.


    1. Thanks Grant
      A wonderful comment from a former “Speaker of the House”

  1. Hi do you have any information about the Cream family homestead. I’m a relative of the family.

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