Frank Tapping (1889 – 1963)
Written by Mark Tapping
Frank suffered economically just as much as other local farmers and soon set about looking for game way to retrieve the situation. It may have been that he felt a need to get away from his many brothers and sisters who sometimes seemed to be watching his every move. Or it my have been that an interest in Australia had been originally aroused by talk of his uncle William Cornelius who had emigrated there in the 1860s and of the related Ives family who had also emigrated to Australia. Or perhaps by books he had read such as “Harry Treverton”, a boys’ book about Australia which had belonged to his brother Harry, or “Robbery urder Arms” by Rolf Boldrewood which had came into the family’s hands had aroused his interest. More likely the emigration to Western Australia in 1927 of his wife’s brother John Hall and the encouraging news received from John and his wife provided the incentive. (That year, 1927, also saw the marriage of Frank’s sister Mable to Sydney Edwin Herbert, another ex-serviceman who had been an officer in the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, had seen service in France and who, in fact, had been wounded near Monchy: he was now farming in Upper Winchendon.)
In spite of many obstacles, not least being family objections, a decision was made and steps taken to put this into effect. In 1929 Frank’s much loved month Kate, who at Bedgrove had provided the focal point of her children’s lives – wherever they lived – and who had been unwell for some time, died and later that year Frank, Flo’, Warren, Mark and Jane sailed aboard the S.S. “Hobsons Bay” for Western Australia via Malta, Suez and Colombo.
After arrival in Fremantle a very brief stay was spent in the old “Crystal” hotel in the centre of Perth, in Hay Street where a new “Crystal” hotel has since arisen. The family then moved to join their relatives, the Hall family on a 1,000 acre farm outside Bruce Rock in the Western Australian wheat belt, some 150 miles inland from Perth. It was on this move that the family saw their first “blackboys” – the Western Australian name for grass trees which, in the distance, looked like natives holding spears and which were a feature of the local scenery. The small, primitive farm building near Bruce Rock which was now occupied by both families, was of wood with a rusty corrugated iron roof but with no ceilings so that spots of rust – brown moisture periodically fell on to all beneath including carpets, table clothes and sheets. The land here consisted of large sandy cleared areas among the scrub and mallet (stunned eucalyptus) for wheat with some rough grazing land for sheep. Large sized farms were necessary for wheat growing in this area because of the poor soil and the low yields obtained. Rabbits abounded throughout the district and professional rabbit catchers often visited the farm.
Frank of course wished to settle his family in their own home and at last managed to find employment and accommodation in Latham, a small “bush” village or settlement on the railway line same 200 miles north of Perth. Here a few houses, a garage and a railway siding served as a centre for the collection of wheat in great symmetrical stacks of bags. While Frank worked on neighbouring farms, Flo’ kept house and ran a small restaurant, under most trying and primitive conditions, in part of the wood frame, corrugated iron wall and roof building. Part of the verandah of this house was enclosed with hessian sacking and, in need, was used as bedrooms, bare dirt floor and all. A few lodgers were taken in: accommodation Latham was more than scarce! In addition there was constant heat accompanied by a customary shortage of water, dust, mosquitoes and – worse of all – the ever present flies to contend with without the aid of aerosol sprays which we now use. Other amenities which now make life bearable in the hotter climates, such an refrigerators add electricity to operate cooling fans, were also absent. Latham then was still in the pioneer stage and life was hard on everybody who lived there. Entertainment was what one made oneself. For example, kangaroo hunts from the back of bumping, rackety trucks careering through the bush were a high spot of life in Latham.