The Dunkin Family

Story supplied by Sandra Dunkin - pictured in 2010

Story supplied by Sandra Dunkin – pictured in 2010

Mining in the Blood

Richard Dunkin (snr) came from Maldon, a gold mining and pastoral district in central Victoria. He took up land in the district of Tenindewa Western Australia in about 1909. He was born in Maldon in 1881.

His parents were originally from Cornwall and like many other Cornish immigrants they were miners. Richard’s father and mother came to Queensland in 1872 and a few years later settled in Victoria with other family members. Richard was one of nine children.

Richard senior worked on the Mundaring Pipe Line in Western Australia as a Blacksmith, having learnt this trade in Tasmania on the Breakwater Project in Hobart from the tender age of 11 through to 18.   He later went prospecting for gold in Kalgoorlie with a man named George Valentine, who was about 20 years, his senior. They initially worked on the gold mines before making their way to Mullewa to peg out farming land in about the year 1909. They’d made some money prospecting and were able to afford to lay claim on farming land in the district of Tenindewa.

George Valentine, then 48 and Richard 20 years of age respectively, worked together in Kalgoorlie prospecting for gold in the early 1900’s. They worked on the “Lake View” and the “Star” mines which by 1910 had amalgamated to become one and named “Lake View and Star”. In their time they’d go down about 100 feet or more. They worked on the “Mount Malcom” mine when a vote was taken to strike, which influenced them , and it was then they decided to head off and buy land around Mullewa. Incidentally, it was sometime previous to this (1897) that a large claim was found, by Paddy Hannon. Grandfather Dunkin was in a Kalgoorlie pub and listened to Paddy tell of his ‘great find’ but many claim it was actually his mate who found the gold and Paddy took credit for it. If he’d stayed on the “Malcom”, it may have been a different story….. Instead he went farming with Mr. Valentine. They had made around 7000 pounds ($14000) in gold mining.

North to Adventure

Both camped on what is now the ‘salt flats’. It was later to become George Valentine’s homestead and base. It is 7 kilometres north of Tenindewa on the Tenindewa North Road. At that time, it was a beautiful fresh water soak surround by magnificent York Gums. On the departure of George Valentine it was purchased by the Williamson family of Yuna and then by the Bauer family in 1983 and today is owned by Andrew and Rodney Messina.

Richard Dunkin and wife, Eva (nee Stafford)

Richard Dunkin and wife, Eva (nee Stafford)

Richard married when he was 37, in 1918. His wife Eva Stafford was 28. She was a teacher at Tenindewa school. They married in Armadale Perth. Henry Job Stafford (Eva’s father) had transferred as Station Master in Kalgoorlie to Station Master in Geraldton and then also ventured into farming at Tenindewa in 1908.

Eva Stafford would have been in Kalgoorlie at that same time as Richard although she would’ve been 11 years of age. It’s very possible however the families may have casually met oblivious to what fate lay ahead for Richard and Eva.

Richard and Eva had three children, Marjory, Richard and Mary.

Original Dunkin Farm House

Original Dunkin Farm House (Approx one  Kilometer north east of the current homestead)

The original Dunkin farmhouse was bought down from the ‘Great Fingal mine’ by Jim Latto and re-assembled near what is now a salt lake on the North Tenindewa road. “Dad and I used to wander around searching for old forgotten relics of his parents past. We found the original brass bedhead was still there but unfortunately beyond repair” comments Sandra.

Grandfather Richard continued as a farmer in the Mullewa District for some years. Eva moved to Perth and lived with her sister Ivy and Bill Griffiths in Bayswater. She passed away in 1979 aged 89. Bill and Ivy were the builders and original store keepers at the  Tenindewa Store that still stands. The farm would later become a 10 000 acres (wheat and sheep) and was called Bundanoon. It has remained a most productive farm to this day.


Grandfather Richard died 05/08/1953 in a Perth hospital from complications involving a gallbladder removal. He died of a coronary thrombosis aged 71. “Mum and dad were sitting by his bedside when he quietly slipped away. My dad and his father were about to venture on a journey together, camping and traveling back to Kalgoorlie and Victoria. Dad had said he was really looking forward to it. Sadly, it did not happen. My eldest sister Jan (Patten) has many fond memories of her Grandfather. He was such a gentle quietly spoken man”.

Grandfather Dunkin had a lot of working horses (70) on the farm. One called Captain was the main boss horse and another named after the vet, a Mr Chris Rowan. “Rowan” a big horse, would not let Captain mate with any of the mares. He would kick Captain in the midriff hard, to let him know so.. he used to sort the mares out too if there was any in-fighting. There was a brumby horse, a mare, who had one speed, and that was flat out! It was a smaller horse, who worked harder than most of the others. Sweating all the time and loving it. All the horses had a name and each acknowledged their names. Grandfather would whistle and call out a name and a horse would arrive at the back gate ready for whatever Grandfather had planned. Dad said, they’d get the horses ready for a sunrise start and work a full day until sundown. They and the horses worked hard. “It was what you did in those days”. The vet used to bring out the stallions to mate with the mares. I wonder if he realized Grandfather had named a horse after him. There were always a couple of mares in foal. When Richard (junior) suggested buying a tractor Grandfather was not impressed. Change was not welcome. “Horses worked for me son and they will work for you.” But change was inevitable.  However when Richard Junior returned from his war service lots of things changed.


Grandfather Richard use to speak of the “big annual crow corrobboree”. Mobs of crows would gather from all over the district to sort out boundaries and bosses and other crow politics. Over a few days there would be lots of rowdy crow noises and black feathers in the air. Then they would leave. Mostly, crows have their own places to die. If they can come back there, they will. You rarely ever see a dead crow, nor are you able to kill one intentionally. You pick up a rifle/stick and they’re gone! If you hurt/kill a crow they and their descendants remember the event for generations.

Deprivations of the Day

Generally in those days water was scarce, so to keep their mouths lubricated, a stone was sucked to take away the thirst. Dad was always concerned how little water his father drank. As time passed, land was purchased and cleared. Like with all pioneers, those times were hard yakka with just horses and hand tools.

Young Dick with his Geraldton bike

“Young Dick” as he was always called. With his Geraldton bike

Richard Dunkin Junior was born in 1923 in Geraldton. He was home schooled by his schoolteacher mother until age 9 then attended the Geraldton Primary School from 1932. He stayed with his maternal Grandmother, Harriot Isobel Stafford, in 57 Gregory Street for a period before he returned to  live with his parents, Richard and Eva Dunkin at 155 Fitzgerald St. The Dunkins eventually sold this Geraldton property and moved back to Tenindewa in 1939.

Meanwhile young Dick was making his mark it seemed as he was unceremoniously expelled aged just 14 for striking the History teacher! Consequently Dad and his mate Donald McKillop Ramshaw headed to the farm to learn the ropes. Donald must have been in similar trouble as, seemingly, he was sent out to the Dunkin Farm on a “good behaviour bond”. Richard Snr had offered to steer Don in the right direction. Don was a little older and had a big influence on the younger Richard. The boys earned, in our money, $1.25 a week and that was for both of them! With the coming of World War 2 dad and Don joined the army and dad saw active service in Darwin between1942-1944. Donald however joined the SAS and became a career soldier but sadly never did return to civilian life. He tragically became one of the 339 Australian soldiers killed in action in the Korean civil war which raged between 1950 through to 1953. Dad said he had a vivid dream when Don was killed. Don came to dad in his dream and said “I’m done for Dick”. In the dream Don was sitting on a log covered in blood. That very next morning, dad got a telegram that said Donald McKillop Ramshaw was dead. It was one of many times dad had premonitions however he remained forever, somewhat daunted by this one. Grandmother Stafford would say Dick was “touched by the fey”. (Cornish folklore about the fairies passing-on insight to humans)

The Way to a Mans Heart

Richard married Dolores Pearlene Eves in 1947, the eldest daughter of Grace and George.

“Del” was from great stock as this marvellous couple had become district legends in their own time as a consequence of their wonderful generosity, tireless community service and natural leadership. George was “Road Board Chairman” for many years and very involved with football especially administratively. Grace simultaneously was a powerhouse in the Country Women’s Association both locally and regionally and among other things President of the Guild of the Anglican Church. George’s parents had actually been Tenindewa Town residents also up to about 1910. They left to go farming in the south end of the district at “Illino”

Dick and Del

Dick and Del

Del's Parents, George and Grace Eves

Del’s Parents, George and Grace Eves

When dad first met mum it was at the Nurses Quarters in Mullewa. (Mum nursed in Perth, Morawa and Mullewa) A mate of his was visiting his girlfriend and it was raining at the time so Dolores went out to the car and asked dad to come in. She cooked him tomatoes on toast! Mum went off on nightshift duty but before she did dad borrowed ten pounds ($20) from her. He probably sealed his destiny when he drove in to Mullewa and paid back the 10 pounds the next day! Actually Mum was engaged at that stage but of course, she called it off a few months later.

Dunkin Girls (L-R) Jan, Gill, Bride, Karen

Dunkin Girls

Mum and dad were married in Geraldton. Four daughters were born. (Gillian, Jan, Karen and Sandra (front))

Mum and dad lived on the old farm for a few years until Jan needed schooling. They rented a house from a Mr Bert Bowtell in Mullewa on Stock St in 1954. Dad would travel the 12 miles (18 kilometres) daily, in and out. They then built a new farm-house and moved in Oct 1963.

Mother’s Dream

Mum and dad had been thinking of building their own home and saw a design in the Western Australia paper. The stock firm Elders drew up plans from the original design with some modifications. The house was 42 squares that included 11 squares of verandas.

The house went 3000 pounds ($6000) over budget but luckily dad was advised to keep meticulous accounts and receipts. This turned out to be very wise advice. An extra 1500 pounds ($3000) was paid by the stock firm for the window frames that were put in upside down! Added to this the building was not square initially and had to be re-done. Dad reckons the stock firm only just broke even after the house was finished. Mum and dad drove to Perth to finalize the account. Dad was shown an Elders bill that had blown out by 3000 pounds ($6000). Dad in turn showed his diary of expenses and they also came to 3000 pounds ($6000)! The rep was not happy and his tone abruptly changed. But, fortuitously, it was all correct and above board. The folks were served tea and biscuits and not surprisingly quickly ushered out of the building.

The Dunkin House

The Dunkin House  (post 1975 the home of Lindsey and Gaye White and family and now the residence of Glen and Eliza Thomas)

A Breath of Fresh Air

At the time of building, a chap was visiting the area selling the newest model air-conditioners. Dad and the seller came to an agreement on a lower price using the reason “it would be a first time advertisement for the region”. The air conditioner did a great job keeping the house cool. Dad had a 13.7 KVA power plant in what we called the “engine room”. It cost about 900 pounds ($1800). At night, the bedside lamps were run off batteries and the engine was shut down. Dad had thought of everything.

Harry Stokes and (young) Dick Dunkin 1950’s

Rain water was pumped into the house’s plumbing system and when that ran low, bore water was used which employed a simple switch over system that dad organised with the plumber, who, actually, at the time did not want to do this.

The tanks near the house and around the farm were put in by a Dutch tank builder named Jerry Pennacock. (Jerry later changed the surname to Pannell) Jerry and his Dutch crew built many tanks in the area, some of which still stand. Initially steel pipes were placed underground until polyethene pipes became available.

In 1951 there were record wool prices and dad and his father made 13 000 pounds ($26000), only to lose it all in the next tax bill. Provisional Tax was a killer in those times as it required the producer to essentially pay the current tax bill and pay the next year’s projected income tax bill in advance which virtually equated to “double tax”. That is when they started to use accountants who knew all the tax laws. The initial firm was called ‘National Service’ and that later became “CP Bird” and today is RSM Bird Cameron.

Shearing time was a busy season. It was all hands on deck. Some of the shearers were, Billy Keith, Aubrey Freedman, Cliff Dyer, Percy McCracken, Bob and Ricky Ridley. They were fed well and worked hard and always very respectable around mum.

On Reflection

It was a wonderful place growing up as a child, remembering the Christmas Trees at Tenindewa Hall, mum’s sporting adventures, dad’s great company and exploits and the freedom to roam and explore. They will remain fond and cherished memories.

The property was sold to Lindsey and Gaye White and we moved to Geraldton 10th April 1974. Later, in 1988 they shifted to Perth.

The enigmatic Gaye White and the delightful Faye Keeffe (Neighbour)(Tenindewa Store 1985)

Dad died in July 2011 after residing in Perth for 23 years. Mum now resides in Aged Care at Lady McCusker, Duncraig. (2015) Jan the eldest lives in Geraldton and Gill, Karen and Sandra live in Perth.

****Delores passed away on the 18th December 2020****

Old Identity Passes
Greenough Sun (September 29th 1949)

One of the earliest settlers in the Tenindewa District, the late Mr. G. B. Valentine, passed away in Perth Hospital on March 12th at the age of 82.
The deceased had been in failing health for some time but had been able follow his usual pursuits until he had a seizure on the evening of his birthday, September the 7th. He was taken to hospital but lapsed into a coma from which he did not regain consciousness. His funeral took place at Karrakatta cemetery and was attended by a number of relatives and friends and the most of the latter being old Mullewa identities.
The pall bearers were Hon. C. H. Simpson, MLC, Messrs. R.G. Storey, C.J. Keeffe, R. Dunkin. J. McNamara and J. McCarthey.
The chief mourners were. Mr. and Mrs. Tansley (with whom the deceased had been living) Mrs. Cadman (niece) and R. J. Latto (nephew). Amongst others present who had been closely associated with Mr. Valentine in the pioneer days was Mr. H .J. Stafford late of Tenindewa.
Amongst the floral tributes were Wreaths from the Mullewa Masonic Lodge and the R.A.O.D. with both of which the deceased had been prominently associated.
Mr. Valentine came originally from Victoria bat had engaged in mining activities in various parts of W.A. prior to taking up land near Tenindewa about 40 years ago. [1909] He was a progressive farmer, and a keen supporter of district activities, and had a wide circle of friends. He was one of the original Vice Presidents of the Agricultural Society and his trophy for the sheep section inspired keen competition for some years. His retirement from farming activities some fifteen years ago owing to failing health severed a link with his early associations, but his cheery good humour and his well developed fund of human sympathy will cause his memory to be cherished by his many friends amongst the older residents.


  1. I would like to have some more information about old man Dunkin and if he ever worked with Aboriginals and who were there names and families.
    Thank you,
    Yours sincerely
    Dorothy Papertalk

  2. Not much mention of Dicks siblings but all the same a great record of the family

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