I have had the pleasure of being involved with, or assisting with the writing up of, many of the Tenindewa.com stories since about 2014 (Tenindewa’s Centenary Year) but the Critch story has been late to appear in the list of stories by contrast to other original settlers such as Meadowcroft, Rumble, Stokes, Fry, Stafford and Brenkley.
The catalyst that set each of the above names and others into the Website’s story-list is the book “To Sow the Barley” written by Doreen Lindsay (nee Butler) in 1988. This initiative by Doreen has created a simple but hugely important manuscript that helps paint a picture of the many lives of early settlers in Tenindewa and becomes the springboard for others (offspring) to publish their family’s story .
The first farmers came with, as far as I know, a shovel, pick, a team of horses, a drill with two or ten furrows and a cultivator, such as Arnold Meadowcroft, Alex and Nat Rumble, Harry Stokes, Norman Fry, Leo Critch, Henry Stafford and Walter Brenkley, to take up land around the railway line. So started this [farming] era from1905 on …………
The “Railway Gang” was established long before and houses were built along the line for them (1893). It was [back] then that the little station began to flourish
Doreen (Butler) Lindsay
Further to Doreen’s information, more recently a regular feed of historic newspaper articles featuring Tenindewa have been unearthed thanks to “Trove“. These specific articles cover a roughly 20 year (1910-1930) period and they are now constantly contributing to a further building of the picture of day to day life in the Tenindewa district in that period. These articles emanated mainly from the “Geraldton Express”, a newspaper of yesteryear that was seemingly rolled into the “Geraldton Guardian” in about 1930, and were penned mostly under the slightly intriguing nom de plume of “Our Correspondent” but mostly as “Our own Correspondent”. * (There is a possible explanation (in dark print) as to the two names at the conclusion of this paragraph. What can be concluded in analysis is they are not one and the same person)
As one of his surviving grandsons and having a vested interest in all things Tenindewa something that has always been a nagging is “what happened to Leo?” In as much as Leo Critch was mentioned as an early pioneer in the quote (above) by Doreen Lindsay, reports of Leo’s activities are surprisingly scant in the volumes of “Tenindewa Notes” in the “Express” compared to the likes of his immediate neighbors in the Fry’s, Stafford’s, Stokes, Troy and Oldham families? As it turns out there is, or could be, a quite amazing explanation to the above questions which will progressively unfold in this story, but more of that anon.
His early life however, i.e. pre Tenindewa, has always been more traceable and in summary reads as follows;
Leo was born in Geraldton on the 15th of December 1890 to Francis Henry and Annie (nee Kelly) Critch. Francis Henry would have been a well known name around Geraldton as he was a Town Councilor for a number of years and coupled to this he had exposure via his various portfolios with the “Geraldton Express”. Over about 42 years with that newspaper he held the positions of printer, editor and manager and sometimes two positions simultaneously which would not have been uncommon with fledgling country newspapers.
His eldest son, one of Leo’s brothers in Frank also served a couple of terms with the Geraldton Council.
Annie Kelly (Leo’s mother) was the daughter of Geraldton’s first lighthouse keeper but notably, she became involuntarily conspicuous as a central figure in the conviction and eventual hanging of an extremely high profile member of the Geraldton community in a Mr. Kenneth Brown. Brown, was a prominent member of the Geraldton “establishment” and part of the Glengarry Brown family but most poignantly, the father of Ms. Edith Cowan who is still possibly Australia’s most famous woman politician. Kenneth Brown was eventually hung for the murder of his second wife. Annie Kelly and one of her sisters Alisia, worked for Kenneth Brown as baby sitters and in home help type roles. It was Annie who gave a pivotal piece of evidence in what was the last of three trials that it took to finally convict him. She testified she had seen him in the act of the disposing of the firearm that was used in the crime.
Later, and from a Tenindewa perspective, Annie also had a most unique of double family connection to the famous Tom Moore of Indarra. The Honorable Tom, who spent 35 years in politics and farmed locally, tragically lost his first wife Evelyne (Kelly), Annie’s niece in 1925. Four years later Tom remarried and this time to Evelyne’s youngest sister in Glady (Kelly).
Leo, on leaving Stella Maris School in Geraldton, worked weekdays with Green’s Department Store in Geraldton while working weekends on a virgin block at Tenindewa.
Because of the way things played out for Leo and his family it left a big void in information from the time he purposefully took an interest at Tenindewa in 1904, to when one of his two surviving sons in Kevin Critch, chanced on the place to start farming in 1950. This “geo-coincidence” as it might be termed in modern jargon, is mentioned in another simple book about Tenindewa and written by Kevin Critch titled “On the Road Again” . Kevin, one of Leo’s three sons, explains in that elementary story, it was to his absolute amazement some 3 years after his introduction to farming in 1951 at Tenindewa, that he discovered he was farming on the very land his father had walked off (forfeited) some 20 years previous. Indeed a one in one million chance.
The following article appeared in the Geraldton Express in December 1904
So given that Leo would have been about 14 years old at the time of this declaration (see below) clearly Francis Henry his father, and or his elder brothers, must have been watching this space with some interest and ambition also and possibly, one or all, fronted with the initial financial down-payment ?
The article reads;
“The repurchase of Wolya Estate (Tenindewa) containing 3,514 acres, is subdivided into 5 lots, which are now open for selection under the Repurchased Estate Act. The Lots have a frontage to the railway at Kockatea Gully [Tenindewa] and as prices range from 4 shillings and sixpence to five shillings an acre [about $1.25 per hectare] they ought to be snapped up quickly”
Geraldton Express 1904
So for many reasons there has been no effort made to post a story on this pioneer, Leo, earlier as the Critch mob seemed quite a disjointed and unconnected lot, unlike most of the folk who featured on the <tenindewa.com site>, and thus, there appeared to be very little accessible history and family folklore to accumulate into a worthwhile account . Indeed at the time of the launching of <tenindewa.com> in 2014 which coincided with Tenindewa’s Centenary Celebrations there seemed to be very few locals left who remembered much at all about Leo and his family at Tenindewa!
Two things have surfaced that have alleviated that slightly negative and subjective assessment and they are, in the first instance, the emergence of a member of this scattered Critch mob in a Mr. Bill Critch, Kevin, Barry and Pat (Sorensen) Critch’s first cousin, who materialized in WA in the 1980s. Bill from the United States and a US citizen, was on a quest to gather information regarding the Critch Family Tree in an endeavor to put it into some sort of order and, as he mirthfully suggested, hopefully discover some previously unknown celebratory Critch folk along the way. Bill’s father, William, one of Leo’s four brothers, though born in Geraldton, was the ultimate of global wanderers, who spent much of his life in North America. This fact finding American in Bill Critch, son of Will, had quite an illustrious working life, serving in the American Forces as a pilot and flying passenger jets for Boeing just by way of examples. Late in his career he was in a senior position with Boeing as a 767 “flight simulator” instructor in Seattle.
As is our nature as tribal homo sapiens, Bill became determined to accumulate and establish a Critch history and especially trace the family’s geneses back into Europe. Bill, who became well known and well respected among his Western Australian relatives, was very well resourced intellectually and monetarily and, most importantly, by then was retired. Bill and his wife Marlene travelled the world and particularly the United Kingdom and did many hours and hard yards in municipal libraries and purveying church parish records and alleluia they eventually managed to strike it lucky in Dover England. Unfortunately, for all the Critch clan but especially for Bill himself, that was about as good as it got, as in as much as he established conclusively that Dover was the launching place of the Australian Critch mob and yes, there was absolute evidence of his ancestors activities there, alas, as he tried to dig deeper and push back further into the past, the resulting search was a shattering washout. The conclusion is there has perhaps been a name change some 100 years previous to the beginning of Australian expedition and the solving of that genealogical mystery and discovering our, very distant past, remains perhaps, a work in progress for a member of a subsequent generation.
Ironically and tantalizingly, what Bill Critch did discover or stumble upon was an English gentleman by the name of John Critch who was coincidently on a very similar mission but frustratingly not only did John have a similar washout type result to Bill in as much as he similarly could not trace his family back from Dover either but they (the two of them) could not, despite the best of desperate endeavors, even connect these two Critch families. What Bill did do however was push the “genealogical interest button” amongst some of his Australian relatives.
The second and most exciting reason for renewed interest, particularly in regard to Leo, is the discovery and identification of that unknown author of those dozens and dozens of, previously referred to articles, under the heading of “Tenindewa Notes” and the unmasking of the individual behind this pseudonym “Our own Correspondent”
This litany of articles which spans two decades plus, not only unwinds and highlights for us many of the issues that were the growing pains of a country community in early 1900 but it more especially unwinds for us the very thoughts, aspirations and grievances of the author. These articles can be viewed by clicking on the blue tab immediately above. Now to the name of this clandestine author, this “Our Own Correspondent” reporter, who rarely seems to mention Critch or Critches, apparently has been hiding in plain sight for the last one hundred years and it turns out to be no other than Leo Critch.
This Leo Joseph Critch was named by Doreen Butler in her book “To Sow the Barley” as one of the first farmer pioneers at Tenindewa. He attempt to establish himself on what was called a Conditional Purchase block (a CP block) in Tenindewa starting in about 1910. He had previously worked in the area, east of Tenindewa, on Kockatea Station which was then owned by the Copely Brothers and managed by Mr. Norman Fry at that time. Kockatea Station, immediately south east of Tenindewa was, up until about that time was a substantial lease of about 72,000 acres (28,500 hectares), and was later owned by a Mr. George Shenton after whom, the Shenton Park suburb in Perth, is named.
But the pivotal and absolute piece of evidence linking him to these newspaper articles is also to be found in a book, and this one is written by Leo’s second cousin in Moya Moore. (Moya Morris was her married name) This in-depth book titled “Hearts to Dare” traces her ancestors and their activities in and around the Mid-West from the beginnings of the Colony and thus it includes the Kelly’s’ and it naturally includes Leo’s mother who was one of those Kelly’s’. Towards the end of her book Moya even goes to the detail of what her second cousin Leo Critch got up to in his short life and she writes…*
“About 1911 Leo settled on the farm at Tenindewa, about 80 kilometers from Geraldton on the Mullewa Line. Charlie [his brother] often worked there with him before settling on the Goldfields to seek his fortune. They sometimes contributed news of Tenindewa to the “Express” about activities and people in that area including those of Robert and Tom Moore of Indarra.”
But away from the Kellys and back to the Critches. The entire Geraldton Critch family would eventually consist of, brothers Frank, William (Will), Thomas (Tom) Leo, and Charlie and their sisters Madeline (Mrs. Sonny Collins) Alma (Mrs. Pat Smyth) Grace (Mrs. Bert Collins) and Kathleen who was last born in 1907 and remained a spinster. Sonny and Bert Collins were brothers who married two Critch sisters and were two of the four Collins boys that established Glenburgh Station in the Gascoyne which, is still in the Collins family name to this day. (Refer “Winning the Gascoyne” by R. M. McDonald)
It is worth including at this juncture an article appeared in the Geraldton Express in May 1923 that was in reference to Leo’s second eldest brother, the afore mentioned William Critch. (His son Bill and wife Marlene are pictured above)
Appointment of a Geraldton Young Man
“The people of Geraldton will be pleased to learn that one of the natives of the town, Mr. William Critch, son of Mr, F. H. Critch, of the Express is making his mark in Vancouver, Canada where he now resides. Mr. Critch was recently appointed to the charge of the Spanish Consulate in that great Province etc….”
In reference to the above Will Critch’s daughter, Mary, writes in her memoirs about the period her father spent in Spain leading up to this appointment;
“He frequently wrote home about his admiration for the Latin way of life and the wonderful cosmopolitan atmosphere of Buenos Aires. It was a good life for a young expatriate who was a look-alike for Woodrow Wilson, complete with the Hapsburg chin. Many of his letters were published in the Geraldton Express where his father was now editor.”
As previously mentioned, other than the reference made by Doreen Butler in her book “To Sow The Barley” there is scant evidence of Leo even being in Tenindewa except for a couple of mentions that emanate from another local and invaluable book “Memories of a Migrant” written by Kathleen (Palmer) Rumble and which recorded her arrival at Tenindewa in February 1914 and snippets of her subsequent life there..
Kathleen writes of their arrival at Tenindewa Siding in 1914
We walked down to one of the quaint little railway cottages to get our letters. The [Tenindewa] post office was kept by the ganger’s wife, Mrs. Eves. No doubt we were objects of great interest to the inhabitants. The cottages were built mostly of old railway sleepers stood on their end with corrugated iron on the roof. They seemed very small to house a family–mostly just two or three rooms.
By now we were ready to drive out to our “farm”.
Dad drove old Sandy (who belonged to Leo Critch) and Claude mounted Prince also Leo’s.
Kathleen (Palmer) Rumble
The second reference that Kathleen makes to Leo is in the chapter of the same book where she speaks of Leo and his brother Tom and describes a chapter of the book “We Survive a Tornado”. This event took place one year after her arrival in February 1915 where she describes a terrifying February night at Tenindewa surviving what was almost certainly a cyclone. (there was no technology or protocol to predict or track or indeed name an event of that kind in those early days)
There were two brothers Tom and Leo doing some clearing for Dad. They came over from their camp and played cards during the evening. The winds started to blow fairly heavily and the boys said “Goodnight” and left for their tent. That wind blew so loudly that we could not hear each other speak. I have said our humpy was made of hessian. The sand blew through it and hit us like little darts. The “millar-lamp” was flickering and all of a sudden the roof stated to lift. Cyril climbed up and grasped the jarrah framework and hung with all his weight to keep it down. Cyril was finding it too much for him so my dad sent my older sister and me across to ask Tom and Leo to come back and help us.
It was impossible to walk alone in that howling storm. Gwen and I clung together and somehow made a little progress. All round us limbs were being torn from trees, and crashing down. Fowls were blown down from their perches in the trees. Kerosene tins were flying past us as we blindly made our way to where the boys were camped just the other side of the farmyard. We were amazed to see the spring cart being forced out from the bough-shed where it was kept.
We reached their tent, and called out but could not make ourselves heard. All was in darkness so we turned for home. Just then a brilliant light shot out from the house and we presumed it had caught fire.
We made our way back and discovered that two sheets of corrugated iron had been torn from the roof, and that it was the light that came shining through, that we has seen. You must understand that there was no ceiling to the humpy, as there was also no flooring-just good mother earth. Tom and Leo came in then, they had been sheltering in the scrub that was left standing close to the house. As their tent was pitched right under a huge tree they had realized the danger of it being blown over and had left their tent. They stayed the night with us then. We had just two rooms, four women in one room, four men in the other sleeping toe to toe like sardines in a can. We pulled one bed up against the door as the latch would not hold against the raging fury. It calmed down some time later and the rain began to fall. [Note; Tenindewa had 100mm of rain in 5 days in late February of that year]
Next morning the boys (Tom and Leo) returned to their camp, the big tree had fallen right across. I wonder how long [that was] before it fell that Gwen and I had stood there. We shall never know.
Kathleen (Palmer) Rumble
It is worth noting that many, many years later that this same Kathleen explains in a letter to Mrs. Mel Weir how the connection between the Palmer and the Critch families had endured and indeed blossomed. Kathleen Rumble, as she was then, would have been 94 when this letter was written. Leo’s “homestead” and the Palmer residences would have been about 6 kilometers apart.
52 Liege St
September 8th 1994
Dear Rob and Imelda,
It was nice to get your letter. It brings back old times. Years ago I met Imelda’s mother. Unfortunately my memory of names is not good. At the time she was living with the Critch family in Geraldton.
She had a position in the Post Office.
The Critch family and our family (the Palmers) were good friends. Mr. Critch. (Snr) was the Editor of the Geraldton Express…………..
What was well documented about Leo Joseph Critch, to give him his full title, is his marriage to Mary (May) Malloy of West Wyalong NSW. “May”, as she was affectionately know had been visiting her Aunt Mrs. George (Clara) Williamson of Yuna when the relationship was spawned and they went on to marry in July 1918. Though they missed out on having their vows consecrated in the now famous St Francis Xavier Cathedral in Geraldton, as it was only 3 years into its making at that stage, they did have, what must be seen in hindsight, the wonderful consolation of being married by that very famous architect/builder/priest in Father John Hawes. They were married in the Stella Maris Convent chapel adjacent the Cathedral. Mary Patricia was born in 1919, Kevin Joseph in 1921 and Charles (known as Mickie) in 1923.
Geraldton Express Wednesday 17th July 1918
On Tuesday, July 9th the marriage of Miss Mary Malloy (daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Malloy of Wyalong, N.S.W.) to Mr. Leo Joseph Critch (Forth son of Mr. and Mrs. F. H. Critch of Shenton St Geraldton), was celebrated at the “Nuns Chapel” adjoining the Presentation Convent, Geraldton. The bride was given away by John Kelly sen. (uncle of the bridegroom) and Mr. E. P. Smyth carried out the duties of best man. The Rev. Hawes performed the ceremony. The bride was gowned in a dainty dress of silk, effectively embroidered and studded with seed pearls. The usual veil wreath and veil were worn, and she carried a bouquet of white flowers and ferns.
Miss Grace Critch (bridesmaid) sister of the bridegroom, wore a cream silk coat frock and a cream velvet hat to match. Miss Eileen Kelly (bridesmaid), cousin of the bridegroom, was dressed in a flesh pink silk crystalline frock, relieved with strappings of the same shade, with white, trimmed with tiny pink rosebuds. The wedding ceremony concluded, the bridal party motored to the residence of the bridegroom’s parents where a cake and wine were partaken of, and the usual toasts (not forgetting absent relatives and friends) were duly proposed, and responded to. Many valuable presents were received. The happy couple left for their home at Tenindewa by train the following morning.
Perplexingly, and in reference to the Leo and May’s tenure in Tenindewa, it is known that they, by 1923 at least, had relocated to Undertarra (as it was then referred to as) or Tardun (as it is now known) which is 30 kilometers south east of Mullewa and established a new home or, perhaps given the emerging information, we might say another home?
The evidence for this evolves from a random letter written to a long-time and well known resident of Tenindewa in Mr. Clem Keeffe it reads in brief:
18 Beltana Road
Pialligo ACT 2609
25th May 2001
Herewith is the screed I promised to send you some time ago. Hope you find it of some interest anyway?
My eldest brother, Laurence Percy Eliot, always known as Tom, went onto the property at Tardun, then known as Undertarra about 1923. He was about 19 years of age, having finished school at Scots College not long before.
My father, who had been in the Customs Department all his working life, bough the land as a future for his three sons. When Tom first arrived there he boarded with a family named Critch, who’s land adjoined that of the Saunders’s block to the east. The story is my brother used to ride a grey horse belonging to Leo Critch. At that time the films of Tom Mix and his grey horse were current, so the three Critch children called my brother “Tom” and the name stuck……..
[the land referred to is a few kilometers east of the old Tardun settlement]
Leo Critch and his family walked off their block to the east of Saunders early in the depression. The next owner was Alf Haddy etc…….
Given that Kevin was (on the left) was born in 1921 it would be fair to surmise this photo taken in 1925 and it would also be fair to surmise that Mr. Eliot would not have know that soon after their third child Charles was born May (Mary) was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Leo and his family’s life unraveled stupendously from about the time May was diagnosed by local physicians with breast cancer (1926) and given a very short time to live. She, as one might expect, requested that she return to West Wyalong in New South Wales to see out the remaining few months of her life, close to her Malloy family.
According to his son Kevin’s account Leo found work wherever he could around Wyalong while May lingered on in hospital much longer than the doctors had predicted and it wasn’t until late 1928 that she went to her rest.
However on reading through Leo’s contributions to the Express, Tenindewa Notes, it is clear he spent some of those two years back in W.A. and in the Tenindewa area attending to commitments as best he could given the general economy of the time and his personal situation.
After May’s funeral Leo returned to WA with the children but by now the Tardun farm had been forfeited to the bank due to unpaid debts.
Son of Leo, Kevin, outlines in “On the Road Again” the course of events that followed
I have no memory of my first five years, however, I know that in that time I had many moves in my life, from Tenindewa to Undertarra (now called Tardun). When I was about 5, my mother was diagnosed as having breast cancer and was told she only had a short time to live. She must have spent some time in Geraldton having treatment as I recall living in a house in Waldeck Street and attending my first school, Stella Maris Convent. It seems that my mother wished to be with her family for her last days and also hoped they would be able to help look after us, so very soon after this we left W.A. for Wyalong.
We travelled to the Eastern States by train and when we arrived Mum went into hospital. Relatives and close friends of Mom’s offered to look after us, and we all went to different homes. The Galvin family took Pat, the Duffy family Charlie, and Mom’s brother Dinny Malloy and his wife Kate took me. Mom lived quite a bit longer than expected but in great pain. I didn’t see her very often because I was miles away at the Black Swan Hotel in Wagga Wagga where Dinny and Kate had the Black Swan Hotel. I didn’t see dad [Leo] very often either as he took any job he could find as this was during the Great Depression……….
Kevin recalled attending his mothers funeral in West Wyalong at the age of 6 years and of being grave- side. He remembered that day for the rest of his life…. he continues
Very soon after the funeral Dad arrived [at Wagga] to decide on my future. I was given the option of staying with Dinny and Kate or going back to W.A. with Dad. This was a hard decision for a young child. I wanted to do both, but finally decided to go home with Dad.
It took a week to travel back to W.A. and when we arrived we stayed with Auntie Alma Smyth (Dad’s sister), in Fremantle for a few days while Dad tried to get organized. The farm at Tardun had been sold while he was away because of unpaid debts and we were left with nothing………..
At this point Leo had to make the toughest decision of his lifetime in order to keep his kids healthy and enable himself to find much needed employment.
He was able to place me with my mothers relation, Clara Williamson and her family, at Dindaloa in the Chapman Valley. It was only to be for a few weeks until he could find some alternative. I was there for nearly two years. It was the luckiest break of a lifetime that the George Williamsons took me. Patricia and Charlie were not so lucky and had to go to St Joseph’s orphanage in Subiaco. After being there only a short time, Charlie died of pneumonia aged 5 years……….
What a nightmare those 3 years must have been for Leo. In a snapshot analysis in just that short time he had lost his wife, a son and his livelihood. Leo however did make somewhat of a recovery and by 1931 remarried but his health had been compromised. With his new wife Elsie (nee Woodthorpe) they produced a son, Barry in 1935. This same son Barry recalls his father, Leo, telling him that at the end of that horror period he (Leo) realized that after a half lifetime of slavish toil and constant self deprivation he was now living virtually “with the arse out of his pants and the souls out of his shoes”
The marriage of Leo and Elsie Woodthorpe however was definitely a turning point for Leo’s fortunes in 1929 as this most British of British women who was to become not only a devoted partner for the next 17 years but became also the mother of his third son in Barry in 1935. For Leo, as we know, it was his second marriage but for Elsie it was in fact her third marriage.
It has to be said that Elsie, as it eventuated, was shown to be a women of extraordinary resilience and stamina. She displayed wonderful devotion to her 4 sons, but sadly in a way, what made her so extraordinary, is that she was married to 4 different gentlemen, had sons to three of them and comfortably outlived them all.
Elsie was born in 1885 in England and arrived in WA in about 1905 and was married to a Mr. George Wallace to whom she had 2 sons in Allan and Fred. She worked with George, quite often couriering very valuable items in the bottom of a pram, as George, was a watchmaker who operated out of the Boan’s establishment in Wellington Street in Perth. She was widowed in 1921 when George succumbed to Typhoid Fever.
In 1923 Else met a Mr. Arthur Noble, a farmer at Wagin. They married in 1925 and produced a son Norris or “Norrie” as he was affectionately known. Incredibly Arthur also contracted Typhoid Fever and died after a short illness in 1927.
[Note; There is a road, “Noble Road” in the Wagin Shire named after that Noble family]
As we know she married Leo in about 1929, produced son Barry, and was widowed for the third time in 1948.
Husband four was a Mr. Harold How. They married in 1950. Harold had a son of his own in Ernie and a daughter named Louise. Harold had a successful business making pottery which operated in Wellington Street Perth but again tragedy struck when in 1955 Harold was struck down with a heart attack at their home, in Wellington Street, and died, virtually instantly.
Elsie in true British style bravely soldiered on until she too became ill with a kidney complaint and died just a couple of days after being admitted to hospital in 1962 aged 77 years.
It has to be said that Elsie, as it eventuated, was shown to be a women of extraordinary resilience and stamina. She displayed wonderful devotion to her 4 sons, but sadly, what made her so extraordinary is that she was married to 4 different gentlemen, had sons to three of them and comfortably outlived them all.
Elsie was born in 1885 in England and arrived in WA in about 1905 and was married to a Mr. George Wallace to whom she had 2 sons in Allan and Fred. She worked with George, quite often couriering very valuable items in the bottom of a pram, as George, was a watchmaker who operated out of the Boan’s establishment in Wellington Street in Perth. She was widowed in 1921 when George succumbed to Typhoid Fever.
In 1923 Else met a Mr. Arthur Noble, a farmer at Wagin. They married in 1925 and produced a son Norris or “Norrie” as he was affectionately known. Incredibly second husband Arthur also contracted Typhoid Fever and died after a short illness in 1927.
Misfortune was to plague this branch of the family too as their only son Norrie, lost his wife in tragic circumstances during the period they were managing a property, “Redacres”, for the Williamsons at Yuna. The sad coincidence here is that Dulcie Noble passed away suddenly at home, the very same home (as above) on the very same property that, Kevin and Mary Critch had occupied some 11 years earlier.
(The Critchs’ had lost an infant son in Kevin during the period they lived there also)
Dulcie died of a rare and aggressive kidney disorder with almost no warning. But so it continued, when 11 years hence, Norrie himself was to be struck down suddenly of a heart attack at Albany in 1975 at just 48 years of age and it is almost beyond belief but those two disasters were were followed by another when one of Norrie and Dulcie’s’ two sons, in Rodney, seemingly a perfectly fit healthy young man and recently married, succumbed to an aneurism while delivering machinery to the Thomas family at farm near Mullewa in the early 1980s. He was aged just aged just 32.
Note; There is a road, “Noble Road” in the Wagin Shire named after that Noble family.
As we know Elsie married Leo in about 1929, produced son Barry, and was widowed for the third time in 1948.
Husband number four was a Mr. Harold How. They married in 1950. Harold had a son of his own in Ernie and a daughter named Louise. Harold had a successful business making pottery which operated in Wellington Street Perth but again tragedy struck when in 1955 Harold was struck down with a heart attack at their home, in Wellington Street, and died, virtually instantly.
Elsie in true British spirit bravely soldiered on until she too became ill with a kidney complaint and died just a couple of days after being admitted to hospital in 1962.
But briefly back to the Winchester period and Kevin takes up the story again. (From “On the Road Again”)
Dad remarried in 1931, [actually 1929] they lived mainly at Winchester (now a non existent siding north of Three Springs) until about 1937 when they moved to Chidlow. As well as Elsie’s three boys, in 1935 they together had a son Barry. The farm at Chidlow was a diary farm with an orchard, poultry etc. Because of his health Dad was told to take it easy by his doctor, so he sold the farm and worked for Goldsborough Mort and Co. (now Elders) in Fremantle for a few years as a clerk. When the war finished (1944) they went back to Chidlow to live where he died of a heart attack. (in 1948)
Leo’s 3rd son in Barry Critch, who was born at Three Springs, explains that in the Winchester period he, as a young child, lived with his father Leo and his mother Elsie, his half sister Patricia Critch, his half brother Fred Wallace, another half brother in Norrie Noble and finally when Kevin, another half brother, turned up it was certainly a “mixed and crowded house”. “To be honest” says Barry “It wasn’t a house really. It was more like a tent with a tin roof as it had no ceiling, a dirt floor and hessian for walls” and Barry continues “Kevin turned up during that Winchester period because his time at the Williamsons ended due to a hitch in options for education at Yuna“. Seemingly Leo had decided that young Kevin should move to Winchester for further education where he (Leo) was employed by, what was then a fledgling farmer controlled co-operative that we know today as CBH. Ltd.
Dad lived in a tent in a reserve near the main road, and my bed was a sheet of corrugated iron on two boxes, with a bag of chaff for a mattress, and wheat bags sown together for a rug. This was living at it’s very roughest and toughest. In those days the Government didn’t give assistance to unemployed people so it was a matter of going out and trying to find any sort of work you could, and if you couldn’t get work you could beg, borrow, steal or starve. Lots of tramps were walking the roads every day in search of work, and I used to talk to them when they came to beg for food, and they used to tell me of their experiences on the road. This life was a good education for me as this is where I claimed I became a “Rhodes Scholar”
(A Main Roads Scholar that is)
[Kevin in fact attended 7 schools and finished his education at the age of 14]
We had very little food ourselves but I always tried to get them something to eat. We were camped very near the wheat stacks (bags in those days) and the spilled wheat attracted hundreds of galahs which were considered a nuisance. I had a Daisy-Air Rifle and a shanghai and I could usually get a galah or two in a few minutes, so as a last resort I would offer them galah and tell them how to pluck and cook them. A lot of people where eating galah during the depression……….
At about the this time (1939), though he was probably blissfully unaware, time for Leo was closing in but a few consolation events were taking place that would have very much have gladdened his heart. The first was the marriage of his eldest child and daughter in Patricia to a Mr. Adrian Andrew Olaf Sorenson, an absolute gentleman and of Danish extract, who was at that time working in the gold industry in Wiluna. Pat, as she was often known, but in reality “Mary Patricia” by birth name, was working in a drapery store in Wiluna which may come as a surprise to some in the modern age but Wiluna was very much a boom town with a population approaching 8,000 inhabitants at that time. To give a clearer picture it should be explained that Patricia’s Aunt (Leo’s youngest sister) Kath was the town’s Post Mistress and further, one of her uncles, in Charlie Critch, Leo’s youngest brother, owned a couple of successful gold mines including (Mt Fisher) some miles east of Wiluna in those days. He and Kath also owned a house in Wiluna town. All these facts, quite possibly, go a long way to explain what such an innocent young 19 year old lass was doing so far from Leo and so far from home in a town known more for its pubs than for its churches!
In as much as this union would have been a great joy to Leo, sadly, his poor health constrained him from attending the wedding and indeed giving her away, a task that was fulfilled by younger brother Charlie. The best man was Adrian’s friend in a Mr. George Hayes and the bridesmaids were Patricia’s friends from Wiluna in the McCormick sisters. Charlie Critch is to Patricia’s right in the accompanying photograph (below). Aunt Kath was the de-facto mother, sponsor and guardian angle for young Pat during that event.
The Nuptials took place at Our Lady Help of Christians Church in Wiluna and the presiding priest was Father Jamie Casey.
This union went on to produce 6 grandchildren for Leo and May including Adrian Kevin Sorensen their first grandchild who was born in 1940. The complete Sorensen list was namely, Adrian, Erik, Gillian Christina, Vibeke (Metcalf), Peter and Lynette (Davey).
Tragically Gillian Christina who was born on the 30th of December 1944 contracted meningitis and died on the 30th of march 1944.
With the benefit of foresight we, the reader, know by know Leo has precious little time left on this earth but a second wedding involving his children would have been extra good news for him, regardless. Kevin his eldest son, married Mary Rita Thackray of New Norcia in May 1946 quite soon after Kevin’s release from the military in 1945.
The nuptials took place at St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral in Perth. Mary was attended by her sister Margaret Thackray and Kevin’s best man was an army colleague in Mr. Tom Burns.
The newlyweds moved to a farming area called Yuna at the north end of the wheatbelt to take up residence where Kevin would work for the, very well known and very well regarded, Williamson Family.
The joy would soon turn to utter sadness for all involved and especially for Leo when his first “Critch” grandson in Kevin (jnr.) died just some days after his birth in February 1947. However almost miraculously, given the circumstances, within 12 months Anthony Joseph was born with no complications which very likely consoled Leo by again buoying his hopes and aspirations of keeping the Leo Critch family name on the map.
Leo, despite the fact Yuna was considered a long way from Chidlow in 1948 got to see this surviving Critch grandson but his demise came just a couple of months later.
Leo died on the 23rd of August 1948 at Chidlow and it was reported thus in the Obituary Columns of The West Australian;
Mary and Kevin produced a further three girls children in Geraldine (Eastman), Pauline (Pearce) and Josephine Critch (formally Blatchford)
From Anthony Joseph (Tony) and Judy (Gardiner) there are 4 offspring, Daniel, Penny (Regan), Tim and Jerome who between them have who have produced 14 offspring including a further 5 males with the Critch name to a date.
Barry, Leo’s third son, married Shirley Rimmer in the Anglican Church in Carlyle in 1962. Barry, being some 14 years younger than Kevin and the product of Leo’s second marriage, also spent time working with the Williamson family at Yuna and he also spent some time working with and share-farming for Kevin in his formative years. Subsequent to that (1960) in the heady days of WA’s broadacre agricultural development boom, in which the State was throwing open a million acres (400,000 hectares) a year and that much and more was being cleared for cropping, Barry found himself in the thick of that action operating bulldozers, clearing scrub and building dams, particularly in the Esperance area. He met Shirley in Perth not too long after she had immigrated from England with her mother in 1950. Immediately after their marriage Barry, with his bride, went back to Tenindewa as a couple, working with his brother Kevin for about two years. Barry stayed in agriculture for most of his working life filling various roles with the Western Australian Department of Agriculture as it was then known.
Although Leo had passed on, there would have been a shout from the grave no doubt when Barry and Shirley produce Craig in 1966 and a daughter Kerrie in 1968.
Craig and wife Cheryl (Wright) have produced Josh and Isabel while Kerrie has produced sons Jason and Nathan with all the boys carrying the Critch name giving strong possibilities that this line could be expanded into further generations.
Given that Leo Critch had passed away in 1948 after a lifetime of ups and downs, but with the emphasis being prominently on the downs, one ponders on the ridiculous, and runs the scenario of, “what if Leo came back today”? Looking back we know reading the above he was a product of biggish family who would not have been considered poor or underprivileged given the period that Leo was making his way in life. But unfortunately for him, and I’m sure he came to the same conclusion, he chose agriculture as a profession/way-of-life and he chose to do it during one of the toughest times in the entire agricultural history of Western Australia. Those pioneers not only had to finance the purchase of the land but they had to equip it, establish dwellings and sheds and do all of the above, and more, all simultaneously. Looking back that 120 years, its so obvious now they were ridiculously ill equipped in all facets. There was no history to guide them, no paternal blueprint or role model to copy from and if the cards didn’t fall right and the bank manager was lacking the necessary intestinal fortitude the “settler”, as he was termed in those days, was bound to fail.
To paraphrase a term that Leo might have coined, “They were all on a hiding to nothing”
For the record they mostly did fail. In fact by the end of the 1930’s there were very few of them left in Tenindewa and for that matter in much of Agricultural Western Australia, but yet somehow, a few just hung on and hung on, and of those some eventually clawed their way back. Incredibly, but with thanks especially to technology, modern machinery and access to competitive finance, Tenindewa, and most of the dry outskirts of the WA cropping belt recovered and consolidated to the point that in the modern era these areas have grown as much grain in the years 2010 to 2022 as they have in history.
By way of example and on reflection its worth noting that the Brenkley family, who would be considered one of the most successful pioneering families ever to come to the entire Mullewa district, were also foreclosed on in that depression wracked 1930s.
Doug Brenkley will volunteer that Walter, his father, was given the red card by (probably) the I.A.B in that period. As Doug points out Walter tried desperately to sell on three occasions to satisfy the bank but to no avail. There were just no buyers at any price so Walter pressed on despite the Bank giving him an ultimatum to vacate. The plucky Walter called their bluff time and time again and flatly refused to leave. The rest is history.
[The I.A.B. stands for the Industries Assistance Bank and its beginnings and its present are outlined by clicking on I.A.B.]
As mentioned in the beginning of this story Leo was assisting his father and probably earning a few shekels for himself writing a column for his Editor father at the “Geraldton Express” and many of those stories are to be located on this website by clicking on “Tenindewa Notes” .
Its quite fortuitous that if one scans those stories it is possible to virtually read what was going thorough Leo’s mind in those difficult and desperate times. He as the journalist and representing his fellow “settlers” hits on the I.A.B., he hits on the Railways and he hits on particularly the Road Board (Local Government) time and time again. He virtually takes on the task of “advocate” and “agitator” representing his fellow “settlers” as he terms them in his many, many contributions. From the point of view of a relative (grandson) and as a farmer that has farmed that very same land one can feel the pain incased in the sentiment he verbalizes to the newspaper. To be fair he does express elation and jubilation, on behalf of those “settlers” when those few good times came around.
Further to all of the above, two extraordinary things about building this story has been, 120 years after Leo began toiling the red soils of Tenindewa it has been possible to ferret very pertinent information from both of his sons that survived to ripe ages. Firstly via the late Kevin Critch’s book which is to be read on this website titled, On the Road Again, and secondly by having the privilege of being able to speak directly to his generous and alert 88 year old brother in Barry Critch. Further to this the information gathering and collating of Geraldine (Gerry) Eastman nee Critch (another of Leo’s grandchildren) has along with the Trove website been manna for heaven in linking events and dates etc.
As a final word on Leo and his connection to Tenindewa it is worth noting that in 1948, soon after Elsie and Leo had sold the Chidlow farm he had spent the last days of his life belatedly fixing up his income tax returns. It was well known he had a great mind for numbers (some say an extraordinary mind for numbers) but he was loath to write them down and tendered to keep them in his head. But as a final post script and just how and why, again thanks to Doreen Butler’s data, we see Leo still held land in Tenindewa right up until 1939 which would account for his continued interest in Tenindewa and the continuation of articles to the “Express”.
For the record the land referred to here and owned by Charles Joseph Stafford was also eventually forfeited to the I.A.B by the end of the Great Depression. It was subsequently purchased by one of the “Depressions” great survivors in Tenindewa’s notorious Harry Stokes. It is important to note that Harry must have been one of the “coolest” of operators in the State of Western Australia in the 1940s and by 1950 he is reputed to have owned as much as 60,000 acres (24,000 hectares) stretching from North Tenindewa to east of Mullewa. It is reputed also that the Bank was (by then) keen to clear the decks of these “nuisance blocks” of land from their books as the financial world was waking from its period horror and Harry, who had a big family, was keen to expand and he would just patiently and politely keep offering ridiculously low bids to the I.A.B and others until they capitulated!
As this story alludes a portion of the Tenindewa land belonging to Stokes, which by providence included all of the land originally held and developed by Leo Critch and his brothers, Charlie and Tom, was purchased from the Stokes family by Kevin Critch, Leo’s son in 1955 and, as the story again alludes Kevin had not the slightest knowledge that his farther had owned it. In somewhat of an accidental tribute to Leo, and for the record, that land is still in the Critch name some 120 years after Leo had originally taken it up.
A couple of Leo’s Classics
Leo, it is obvious, had a dry and bushy sense of humour and often adds a touch of the ridiculous. Following are two articles that typify those points.
Geraldton Express; January 10, 1923
The controversial Mr. Wragge
Thank goodness that dry year of 1922 has gone, and now that Mr Clement Wragge* is dead, he has taken all his forecasts for further droughts with him, so we can start this year, even if we do have a dry spell, without anyone saying “Another drought-Wragge says so.”
The best Christmas Tree ever held here was this year organized and carried through by Mrs Joe Stafford. It was held at the proper time-Christmas Eve-the children’s presents being well selected and of equal value, thus giving no cause whatever for dissatisfaction or complaint. As Mrs Stafford took particular care that no adult partook of any refreshments provided for the children, the kiddies thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
The Voluntary Wheat Pool, no responsibility, has not been a means of putting too many plums in Mr Joe O’Brien’s Christmas duff [a flour pudding]. As Joe is the receiver of wheat for the “Pool” at Tenindewa , he is now tired of saying grace “for what I am about to receive etc.” and so is turning it up [ceasing]. When speaking to him re. the loading of wheat, he remarked that “Jack Major wore the hind part out of three pairs of trousers waiting for the wheat to come in last year, and I have worn my boots out running around the farms to see where there is any wheat to load”
It is an ill wind that blows anybody any good. The drought that we have just experienced (and which is still on) has made most of the farmers pick up a boring plant and prospect for water, with the result that many have been successful. Messes. Oldham, Stokes, Rumble and Stafford all have struck good stock water, the first named farmer watering 500 sheep beside (as well as) his working horses, from a well newly found on his sandplain country. For those poor unfortunate individuals who have tried and failed, it is extremely hard to have to pull water 80ft (25 metres), after waiting their turn from the only source in Tenindewa, were there is a windmill over (collapsed) which if repaired, would save time and labour and money to many in the district. I hope our member [of parliament] will read this, for it is an urgent necessity.
Sorry to learn from Mr. Cid Eves, that his brother Mr. Ernie Eves of Walkaway has just returned from Perth, after undergoing a very serious operation, necessitating the attendance of three prominent Perth physicians. Though very weak I am glad to say he is well on the mend. Ernie Eves it was, who carted all, or most, of that high grade ore for Mr. Dorrie Doolette* of Bullfinch fame.
Mr Dan Clifford, late manager for Mr M.F Troy MLA*, died last week. Hard and game old toiler was Dan.
I nearly turned my toes up myself the other day, fair dinkum, only for being hard in the brain box, [thick sculled] I believe I would have gone. Three days before Christmas, I was carting from Mr. Troy’s dam, when going downhill the shafts of the cart snapped off, throwing me out [of the buggy] and the tank of water on top of me. Further than pulverizing my hat, bruising and swelling my head to four times its ordinary size, dislocating 5 ribs and then putting me in bed for two weeks, I am not much worse off.
Note; Leo’s farm was about 5 klm east from Mr. Troy’s dam. The site of the said “hill” is about half way.
* Google Dorrie Doolette for a story in itself
* Clement Wragge was the first weather forecaster in Australia. He was disrespectfully known as “Inclement” Wragge. He died in Auckland on the 10th of December 1923 (google his story)
* M.F. Troy is featured on this website under “People”
Tuesday 2 March 1915.
A real live hurricane visited Tenindewa on Thursday night last. (25th February 1915)
Things began to get lively about 9.00 PM and up to 11.00 PM we had just as full and exciting time as anyone would wish and some very close calls to a funeral occurred. However, they say all’s well that ends well and this is so far as life is concerned.
The wind must have reached 80 miles per hour (130 kilometers per hour) and every building I know of must have suffered. To commence with, Mr. Fry’s new residence suffered by the loss of a few sheets of iron and his late residence, a fairly large iron building, was blown to the ground.
Mr. Leo Critch had his house flattened entirely. Fortunately he and his brother Tom happened to be away for the night camped on a job they were doing. At the height of the storm they left their tent [at the site of the “job] and not long after a huge York gum fell right across it, breaking their bunks.
Mr. Sid Green, the railway ganger, [“ganger” denotes the man in charge of the gang] suffered too. A large York gum fell right across his house, on the portion that the Post Office is kept in, crushing it flat to the ground. They were all in the adjoining room and they lost no time in vacating it and passed the rest of the night in the Railway Goods Shed. The Telephone Room at the same place is now standing wrong end up.
Mr. Stokes had to strain all his muscles to hang onto his house all night.
Mr. Tom Shaw had a very trying time too and had just managed to get his wife, who had fainted, from the house when it turned over.(see note at bottom of page)
Messes Palmer and Johnson also suffered by the loss of [roofing] iron etc. Fortunately Mr. Palmer had plenty of assistance so they managed to hold their roof together. Mr. Johnson and his family had to pass the night under his dray and it rained inches (an inch is 25mm) during that time, but all the outhouses were destroyed.
Brenkley Bros house turned partly over and is uninhabitable.
Mr. Stafford lost all of his outhouses and found some of his iron; some he thinks is down Mingenew way and he is not looking for it. A few sheets of iron came off his residence also. All the settlers suffered to a considerable extent, but a few I have not heard from. The creek is running a banker and the ground is very soft.
Hundreds of York gum trees and others have blown down and in some places acres of trees have been levelled to the ground. It is an ill wind that blown nobody any good and in this case I have heard of a man just closing for a 100 acres (40 hectares) clearing contract and ½ his stuff has been blown over. Anyhow we are not anxious for another blow. It is the worst I have ever seen.
Guardian Note: The storm caused extensive damage to many towns around Geraldton and beyond. Similar stories were received by the Geraldton Guardian from Northampton, Carnarvon, Cue and Mingenew, as well as smaller centers such as Nabewa, Yuna and Tenindewa etc.
2015 Note: Mullewa, according to BOM records received 70 mm of rain from the 24th to the 26th of February and 100 mm for the month: Geraldton very similar: Northampton 100mm for those three days and 140mm for the month and places as far away as Cue with 50mm for the same period. One could imagine rivers such as the Greenough would have run some huge amount of water on that occasion!
Incidentally in roughly same calendar space in 2000 cyclone Steve dumped similar amounts of rain in the area and earlier in the NT and QLD. It was the wettest system ever recorded to affect Australia. (The Tenindewa/Bindu gauge received 100mm from “Steve”)
Guardian Note: Elisabeth (Kember) Shaw was seven months pregnant with her 3rd child Thomas when it happened, so no wonder she fainted. Elisabeth’s young sister, Chris then aged 14, was staying with the family at the time and probably helped Elisabeth through the pregnancy.