|Country of Origin||England|
|Year of Arrival in Australia||1910|
|Submitted by||Sherryl Stiles|
Frederick Samuel Larter was typical of many middle-class Englishmen of his day. He worked, married and reared his family, living with tenuous employment prospects, but still in relative security for the times, in Enfield, on the northern outskirts of London Ð until 1910, when he sailed from England to Australia, some twelve thousand miles and a six-week sea voyage away. Like countless thousands of similar emigrants from England and Ireland, they no doubt saw a better future ahead for themselves and their large brood of children in the wide-open spaces of the land ‘Down Under’. Their youngest son, Frank, provided some insights into his parent’s reasons for emigrating in his manuscript, “A migrant of 1912: Recollections of England and Australia” : ‘My father, having come to Australia a year or two before us and not become rich, as we had all dreamed he might, the remaining family was sometimes poor. Mother had a great faith that something would turn up, even in the worst of times, and we did survive.’
Frederick arrived in Fremantle aboard the “Otway” on 26th July, 1910, followed by his eldest daughter, Bess, on 1 November 1910. No doubt she was sent on to help care for her father during his early days in Australia. Frederick’s wife, Mary Elizabeth, and their large brood of children arrived in Fremantle on the “Ajana” on 27 July 1912. Frank, their youngest son, was just twelve at the time, and vividly recalls many details of their arrival:
‘It was a rainy day when we came to Fremantle from England. Some of my friends on the boat were surprised that there was rain at all. They had been told that this country was a warm one, a land of almost constant sunshine. We didn\’t feel the cold but I discovered later it was that kind of day when the thin-blooded Australians liked to stay indoors, unless it was a football day. They would bear any amount of rain or cold to stand and watch their own peculiar kind of football.”
Frederick and his large family settled into a rented home in Canterbury Terrace, Victoria Park. Conditions were basic, to say the least, nothing like the comforts they’d enjoyed in Enfield. Frank recalls:
‘Our house in Canterbury Terrace had very little plumbing. The bathroom was a small room added on at the back; its walls were single planks set upright, not overlapped at all; there were wide cracks between each plank for the wind to whistle through. There was a bath of galvanised iron. Water had to be heated in kerosene tins over an open fire and then carried to the bath.”
Hard times followed. The couple’s eldest son, who was with the Wiltshire Regiment, was killed in France soon after hostilities started in World War One. One of their daughters fell pregnant outside marriage. The child was simply brought up as another of Mary’s own children.
Then a massive blow – Frederick himself died suddenly of a brain haemorrhage in June 1917. The family’s finances were never too buoyant, but to lose their father and major breadwinner left them in a perilous position. Another daughter fell pregnant outside marriage. Obviously, Mary’s Victorian morals did not allow for sex education! Somehow, they struggled on in their new country, probably because they didn’t have the choice of returning to Enfield.
In the early 1920s, the form of development known as ‘Group Settlement’ began. The goal was to open up the southern, more temperate regions to new settlers of Western Australia. Their task was to clear the land Ð for which the State Government paid them a subsidy Ð and turn virgin bushland into farms. A good idea in theory, but not in practice! That so many walked off their land is not surprising at all. What does surprise is how many stayed to battle through for many years, trying to eke out a living as dairy farmers or doing whatever work came their way. Their stories are brave, inspiring, tragic and almost unbelievable. They lived under canvas, battling cold, rain, fleas and kangaroo ticks, snakes, heat – all the time clearing virgin bush by hand. Several of the Larter children were Group Settlers: Frank; Hannah & her husband, Tom Stiles; and Lilly with her husband, Arthur Liddell. Florence (Gert) Larter married Keith Mercer and farmed down at Arthur River.
Frederick Larter’s family did survive and thrive. They are amongst the pioneers who opened up this State. He didn’t make his fortune, but he would be proud to see the legacy he left behind if he were here today.