The King’s representative visits Tenindewa

In 1932 Australia’s Governor General was a gentleman named Isaac Alfred Isaacs. He was born in Australia (1855-1948) and was Australia’s first Australian-born Governor General. He was of an English mother and a Polish father, a Mr. Alfred Isaac.

This new Governor General (as he was at the time of this event) was also of the Jewish faith which was also a first and a somewhat surprising placement given the staunchly Anglo-Christian country Australia was at that time. With hindsight, and it has to be said, quite a credit to the young Nation’s leaders*for installing a person whose background would have been very much against the norm for such an appointment at that time. Further Isaacs was the first ex-politician to be appointed to this extremely prestigious post. And finally it is interesting to note also that Scullin the them Prime Minister had to stare down the King (George) to get him to accept the Australian Parliament’s nomination as the first not Brit as a Governor General.

*Technically the appointment was a Prime Ministerial privilege or a Captains Call is it is phrased these days

No doubt as Governor General he travelled extensively throughout his vast region of responsibility carrying out his vice regal duties and by sheer luck we, the Tenindewa Community of Western Australia, have come to discover he was in fact in our very own siding of Tenindewa on Tuesday the 20th of September in 1932.

The train carrying the Governor General, his Military Secretary, his entourage and others had stopped at Tenindewa, most definitely another first; to have a telegram decoded* by the Post Master and, seemingly and probably in a gesture totally obscure to the locals, a little girl from the Tenindewa School saw the opportunity, seized the moment and presented him a bunch of wild flowers.

The little girl at the back and to the left of her mother is Nellie Stafford. They lived about 10 Ks north west of Tenindewa on the banks of the creek there

** All telegrams in those days were transmitted using Mores Code and deciphered and written in long hand by the receiving Post Master.

On Thursday the 22nd of September a telegram arrived at the Tenindewa School and it had been sent from a town some distance to the south, Arrino. That Telegram, the pivotal piece of evidence to this story, survives to this day. It reads:

“Governor General desires express to the little girl who brought a bunch of wild flowers to the Vice Regal train at Tenindewa twentieth his sincere thanks of the gift and of the loyal message which accompanied it”

…………….signed……….. Military Secretary

Esme Williams (Painting by her daughter Jane Etianne) Esme was Nellie’s eldest sisiter

It turns out that the little girl was Nellie Stafford, daughter of Charles and Elsie Stafford who were second generation pioneers of the Tenindewa district. Mr David Williams was the teacher of the school at that time and a little later in fact became Nellie’s Brother-in-Law. Mr Williams, Tenindewa’s longest serving teacher married Nellie’s sister Esme. Nellie went on to adulthood growing up in the district and eventually, married Mr Bill Wheeldon of Yuna and they lived on there in that district for much of the balance of their lives.

A sequel to the story arises when we discover, the telegram could not be decoded at Tenindewa and had to be deciphered at a siding some 25ks further west named Eradu by a Mrs Cream, the Postmistress there at that time. Mrs Cream also received a message from what was then termed the Governor General’s Aid de Camp (or Military Secretary) for her efforts. The letter signed by the Governor’s aid was that of a Captain Bracegirdle. Bracegirdle, a name that seems not to have stood the test of time however he went on to become Sir Leighton Seymour Bracegirdle.

A tragic footnote to this story is that Elsie Cream passed away sometime soon after the described event at a quite young age leaving husband Timothy and 10 children. (7 girls and 3 boys) She was 39 years of age.

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