Walter Brenkley

1892 to 1963

Walter Brenkley was one of the first farmers to take up land around the Tenindewa railway line in 1912.

Walter Brenkley was born on the 9th March in 1892 at 120 Burnley Road Brierfield Marsden USD in England. Birth registered in the District of Burnley in the County of Lancaster in the Sub District of Colne.

It is believed he left school at the age of 14 years and went to work in a Spinning or Weaving Mill his job was to operate and monitor the spinning and weaving machines; he acquired a set of Hamsworth Self Educator books and while the machines were operating satisfactorily he would study his books when they had a fault he would rectify it then go back to his books. It was a fairly dull life and he often commented he never saw the sun from one year to the next; so at the age of 18 he decided to immigrate to Australia.

Walter departed London on 8th November 1910 on the ship Armadale arriving in Western Australia at Fremantle on the 27th December 1910 a very hot day.

Walter’s father John, Mother Mary, son John William his wife Lillian’s and family, son Herbert and daughter Sarah Alice followed on the ship Australind departing London arriving at Fremantle on 4th November 1911. John Brenkley’s father was a Blacksmith.

Back: John William Brenkley, Sarah Alice Brenkley, Herbert Brenkley. Seated: John Brenkley, Walter Brenkley, Mary Brenkley. Photo possibly taken before Walter left for Australia.

Back: John William Brenkley, Sarah Alice Brenkley, Herbert Brenkley.
Seated: John Brenkley, Walter Brenkley, Mary Brenkley. Photo possibly taken before Walter left for Australia.

After arrival in Western Australia it is believed they unsuccessfully applied for land in the Yuna area.

No record could be found of where Walter worked after arriving in Australia however he often mentioned parts of the Chapman Valley area where he may have spent some time; however his brother Herbert worked for the (WAGR) Western Australian Government Railways at Eradu. Frank Cream of Eradu said his father Tim said Walter also worked for a while with the WAGR at Eradu. And would often borrow a horse to ride out to the Conditional Purchase Block Victoria Locations 6064, 6065 which also incorporated homestead locations 8660, 8661, 8662, 8720  the family selection and was allocated on 1st April 1912; the date appears unusual perhaps the Land Allocation Board had a sense of humour. Initially he called the property Walverden Farm no doubt after Walverden Park in England.

Walverden Farm’s namesake in England

Many English migrants who went on the land named their property after English localities.

Note the Rail line went through to Mullewa in 1894; Tenindewa Siding was originally named Wolya then Kockatea finally Tenindewa.

The selection of 6054, 6055 with the four Homestead blocks possibly shows their inexperience as the homestead blocks 8662 and the most of the northern section of 6054 was very shallow stony country and the south west part of 6055 comprised a part of Kockatea Gully with gullies immediately to the north

Walter’s early camp was an the north bank of Kockatea Gully not far from Dead Bullock Well and about half a kilometre west of the present shearing shed; this would have been on Location 6521. Later he had moved to a hut built on a high point on the South West corner of the paddock number 14 we called Stony Flat (south west corner location 8661) on the 25th of February 1915 a cyclone nearly demolished the hut. A Pepper tree he planted remained there until 1978 when flattened by cyclone Hazel.


In June a Horse, harness and a cart were purchased for £15-10-0 later that year they brought a tank for water; boring tackle slush pump etc, axes and other tools.

Unfortunately father John Brenkley passed away on Christmas day 1912.

Note the north, south fence on the west side of Loc 6521 was continued to the southern boundary Loc 6056.

Note the north, south fence on the west side of Loc 6521 was continued to the southern boundary Loc 6056.

Pools on Greenough River going up stream from; Abbawardoo, Yallanubba, Noondamurra, Enangalnoogoo, Etaranya, Gnalbarrawa. Yallanubba was often referred to as a poison pool as stock who drank at the pool died, those that chose to swim there came out with a green tinge. It was probably Blue Green algae.


They purchase their first seed wheat £6 and a seed drill for £3 possibly second hand and an Incubator for £7-5-0 poultry was an alternative source of funds. During 1913 they acquired a stripper to strip the wheat heads from the crop and winnower to thrash the grain from the heads. In January 1914 they received £44-7-9 ($90.00) for the wheat  crop of 270 bushels sold from the 1913 crop. (equates to 7.5 tonne at $12.00 per tonne in modern metrics)

A typical Stripper    

A typical Stripper


On 1st January they acquired Victoria Location 6521 which was much better land although Kockatea gully ran east west through the northern side. See Land location diagram

It would appear the family may have had a hut or camp near the present homestead site close to Dead Bullock Well maybe early 1914, Water has always been important for living in the area with very hot dry summers. Dead Bullock Well is on the South bank of Kockatea Gully the water level is about 2 to 2.5 meters above the Gully bed originally there was a hand operated diaphragm pump with a pipe running out level from the pump over to the road so the dray or wagon could drive under it for the water to be pumped direct to a tank on the dray or wagon.

Dead Bullock Well

Dead Bullock Well

1914 was a drought year however progress didn’t stop and they erected a chaff shed in May; this survived for a number of years used for harness as well. The purchase of axe handles and axle grease was a frequent recurring item.  They also acquired a Sulky and Harness and a Dray this year, also mentioned were repairs to a Wagon.

Christmas 1914: The “Palmer family recent arrivals from England” were invited to spend Xmas with the Brenkley family.

Two wells were sunk on the South side of the creek about 100 meters west of the east boundary of 6521; one close to the creek bed the other about 12 meters south; a wind mill was erected between and a pipe laid over the creek and Brenkley Road to the small paddock east of the house. Both wells were filled with sand during the flood caused by cyclone Mavis 1971. Early in the morning we watched the flood rise at its peak the wind mill also was washed over.


January they purchase a State Implement Plough; this was a bridle draught single disc on each arm; possibly a 6 or 10 discs plough. In September they purchase horse Dolly and in December Black Bess. Their main sales this year were eggs £15-15-6 and Swedes 8 shillings, meanwhile paying £4 for pigs (no indication how many)!

February 24th a Cyclone came through on the recording 35.6mm on 25th 26.7mm on the 26th damaged Walter’s hut on a high point on Location 8720 he had to stay awake all night trying to keep it together. He had planted a pepper tree here which survived growing very large until it succumbed in another cyclone in the 1980s. Over time worn plough parts were unearthed in the vicinity.

Extract from the Geraldton Guardian Tuesday March 2nd 1915

Tenindewa notes.

A real live hurricane visited Tenindewa on Thursday 25thJanuary night last. Things began to get lively about 9pm and up to 11pm 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 as far as life is concerned. The wind must have reached at least 80 miles per hour and every building I know of 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 L Critch had his house demolished 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 had left their tent and not long after a huge York gum fell right across it, breaking their bunks. Mr Sid Green, the railway ganger, suffered too. A large York gum fell right across his house on the portion 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 sheds. 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. Messrs Palmer and Johnson also suffered by the loss of 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 during the time, but all out houses were destroyed. Brinkley Bros’ house turned partly over and is uninhabitable. Mr Stafford lost all his outhouses and found some of the 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 been blown down and in some places acres of trees have been levelled to the ground. It is an ill wind that blows nobody any good and in this case I have heard of a man just closing for a 100 acre clearing contract and half his stuff has been blown down. Anyhow we are not anxious for another blow. It is the worst I have ever seen.

Note: This storm caused extensive damage to many towns around Geraldton and beyond. Similar stories to this were received by the Guardian from Northampton, Carnarvon, Geraldton, Cue, Mingenew, as well as from the smaller centres such as Nabawa, Yuna, Tenindewa etc.

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 probably to help through the pregnancy.

On 20th January 1955 Tenindewa experienced a very intense local thunder storm unroofing the Tenindewa CBH bin which was scattered south towards Mingenew; the Railway Gang equipment shed also went southward, leaves were stripped from many trees during the storm. 102.9mm rain was recorded at Tenindewa Post office store. (For data go to Data and Graphs on BOM site 08120)

Paddy Butler and I were flying a Chipmunk DHC 1 from Geraldton to Perth observing the storm to the east with the clouds showing very turbulent activity we experienced tremendous uplift and were able to reduce the flight time to Maylands aerodrome by 30 minutes.

On 21st June 1915 Walter offered to purchase John William’s share of the partnership as he was living in Geraldton and not interested in the farm as the severe drought in 1914 made finance very difficult and they were seeking assistance from the Farmers Assistance Board (later became Industries Assistance Board)

Walter wrote to Constable McArthur regarding 6 bags superphosphate missing from Railway Good shed at Tenindewa



September purchased Binder from Massey-Harris Co Ltd

Crop seriously affected by rust and only harvested 750 bags wheat sent to John Darling & Son; they hadn’t been paid by 15th march 1916

Industries Assistance Board (IAB) were hard to get support from after repeated request for payments for a Binder, other parts and wages for 8 weeks for a man to cut Hibiscus and Mallee suckers it takes 2 men 10 hours to cut 10 acres; aiming to put in 400 acres in 1916. John Darling wheat buyer paid £129-5-9 instead of£139-6-6 for 983 Bushels 42 Lbs letter written requesting payment that still owing.

Payment received £201-6-0 for 1506 bushels 31lbs wheat grown in  was received on 31st March 1916. Cut 40 ton of hay.


A Binder and Hay Rake were purchased for cutting hay as the Binder worked around the paddock the 5 sheafs were automatically tied then carried in the carrier to be dropped in a line across the direction of travel for stooking as it worked to the centre of the paddock a new line was laid; after the hay had cured it was carted and a hay stack was built. If the hay hadn’t cured properly the stack could over heat, much care was required. One interesting comment from a old timer said the knotters some time didn’t tie properly he would say if the “knotters not knotting” properly fix them

Loaned the Binder to Harry Johnson.

Building a Hay Stack. Bags of Chaff to the front right

Building a Hay Stack. Bags of Chaff to the front right

They acquire a Reaper Thrasher for £52-2-6. They were paid £13 for harvesting done for Leo Critch and £5-13-7 for binding (hay cutting) for Curtis & Felstead. In December a deposit was placed on a Wagon with payment after harvest cost £28-10-0. 2784 bushels 14 lbs of wheat were harvested.

1916 purchased 2 pigs Johnny and Martha. A Sulky was also purchased

Harvested 1300 bags of wheat. From the crop 50 bags were sent to the Flour Mill to grist 48 bushels with the pollard and bran sent back to us with the flour to follow later. The Manager of the mill was very slack by not forwarding weight dockets Walter wrote to Mr Maley a Director requesting he wake the manager up!

Wheat crop produced and first payment March 1917 was £351-17-3. £107-3-10 was received for second and third for the 1915 wheat crop.

November 1916 made application to Industries Assistance Board for the purchase of a wagon however was not prepared to pay more than £50 for a second hand one.

At this date they had cleared 600 acres with 530 acres in crop


Road Board rates were £5-12-6.

Clearing 100 acres 6055 @ £1-5-0 per acre by W J H Rule, Ernest Rule, Arthur Kilgullen

Simplicity engine restored by Clarie Milne on display at Chapman Valley Museum

Simplicity engine restored by Clarie Milne on display at Chapman Valley Museum

July   Tim Cream’s Cattle T5C brand were causing damage to crop

Purchased; mare, Belle and foal for £40. They produced 1568 bushels 43 lbs of wheat receiving £259-14-9 as first payment

December   hail storm 6056 expected 1000bags off 340 acres

Purchased Simplicity Engine 12-10-1917 found  hole in cylinder casting and broken oiler


Sold 5 pigs for £2 and brought 2 ton of chaff for Mare and foal from Mick Loughnan.

Water always a water problem so they had a water diviner look for likely sites without any prospects. They would have used water from Dead Bullock Well initially, There is no record when the 2 wells about 25 feet deep were sunk on the south edge of the creek; a windmill was erected to serve both Wells the water was pumped to a tank over Brenkley Road the salt content would increase over summer; later dam water was provided to supplemented water for stock late summer to mix with the Well water.

In May it was decided to try a new variety of wheat Canberra. In January they purchased a Chaff Cutter for £32-15-0  .

Sold 7 pigs for £11-10. The wheat crop yield was 2537 bushels 36lbs receiving £521-18-4 first payment and a further £179-15-4 in 1919

This year Walter started building 4 room mud bricks house at the present site on Location 6521 initially 2 front rooms then kitchen and back bed room were added and probably the front veranda and a small porch out from the back door, later the back veranda was completed; all the floors were wood. (during repairs and modifications in 1957 we found none of the rooms were square when laid Linoleum)

Later a Store room 12 feet by 12 feet was built using Pisa method using form boards then pouring the mud mixture between the forms.

After we arrived on the scene lattice and canvas drop down blind was added it was cold in winter, the early morning alarm ensured we were awake at day light.  ie dogs wet nose on the face. On a bright moonlight very early mornings the magpies would start singing

I can remember indications of remains of pig yards north of the poultry pen above the original house in hind sight not an ideal location.

Brought new wheat variety from State Farm Nabawa 1 bag each of Bunyip and Comeback

Tim Cream’s cattle branded T5C back in the crop again and threatened to sell same to compensate for damage of £8-7-0

22nd of September application was made for survey of Homestead blocks the four Blocks dually surveyed within 6054 and 6055.


Sold 43 pigs for £109-19-0, 8 pigs to M Troy for £8 and sold eggs for £7-16-9. On March 1st purchase a Cow and calf for £10. This years crop yielded 1226 bushels 38 lbs receiving £802-19-8. n February 153 ewes also 2 Rams from Sewell. The introduction of sheep gave Dingos a source of easy acquired food and many problems for sheep owners who purchased Dog Traps and claimed bonus on dingo 2 scalps 10/- (10 shillings) each and paid for rations for Dog Trapper in an endeavour to control losses.

Sold 1537 lbs wool receiving £84-10-7

On 1st April 1919 acquired Victoria Location 5187 asking for a reduced price to £1-2-6 per acre. While carting grain with the wagon the gate across the road at the eastern boundary of location 4722 (known then as Bindu Road Woolya corner) the corner post was knocked down. The road was very narrow and didn’t allow the team and wagon to turn with a safe margin necessary for a team of horses.

Some times a dray was used to cart the grain to Tenindewa

Some times a dray was used to cart the grain to Tenindewa

Stock list

  • 105  two tooth ewes brand (O/T/B9U)
  • 2 two tooth Rams (B9U)
  • 7 Horses various ages  (one X7O, one LOY, five BY8  farm Brand)
  • 3 sows with 14 young pigs

Later an inventory horses Jumbo, Darky, Bill, Mick, Jim, Ginger, Daisy, Punch, Bob; Cow and yearling steer; A Dray, Wagon, Sulky, Cultivator, Plough, Drill, Binder, Reaper Thrasher, Hay Rake, Engine and Chaff Cutter.

During May, Observed J H Ring throwing sheep over Fence into 6056 ( Ring’s property).

One of the many tasks was riding boundary fences checking for indications of suspicious activity. This became one of my tasks in the in 1940s and early 1950s

Borrowed scrub Roller from T Shaw to roll 200 acres passed the Roller over to Messer’s Bedford and Griffiths 14 June 1920 to do some scrub rolling.


They hired a scoop and a single furrow plough paying A Jackson and J Johnson to sink a Dam. Fenced 272 chains on location 5187

On 7th October 1920 acquired Location 5188 asking for the price to be reduced to £1-17-6 per acre. Big stock 15 horses and 5 cattle

Built a Store room North East of the house using Pisa with form boards it was about 12 feet (4m) by 15 feet (5m)

Walter owned a car 1927 MW.1. which was the wedding car for the Butler wedding.

Walter married May Andrerson from Geraldton and had 3 children.

Walter is pictured with his wife, May Brenkley circa 19??.

Walter is pictured with his wife, May Brenkley circa 19??.

Doug and Jean Foster sendoff April 1985

Share this Post

Leave a Comment