Interviewee: Mr Jack Murray
Date of Birth: 13 September1914
Interviewer : Phyllis Barnes
Date of Interview: 10 February1996
Date of Death: 14 July 2002
Synopsis: Lyn Adams
BOHG No: 1996-003
Total Length: 1 hr 11mins 22secs
Jack and his twin Leslie were born in Bunbury on the 13 September 1914. Two sisters were born earlier but both died in infancy. They also had two older brothers, Victor and Robert. Before coming to Bunbury the family had lived at Leonora and Claremont. Their father, Arthur Ernest, was born in Adelaide and was a tailor by trade. Their mother, Ada May Slocum, was from Melbourne. They probably met, and were married, in Leonora.
In Bunbury the family first lived in Zoe Street and Jack’s father worked from there until he set up shop as an independent tailor in Stephen Street. He had eight girls working for him at one time, but when ready-made suits became available he was unable to compete and went out of business. Their mother then took on high school students as boarders. By that time they lived in Tuart Street.
Jack and Leslie attended the State Primary School, first at the Infant School on the north side of the railway line, and then at the upper school in Arthur Street. They did not enjoy school and opted not to go to the high school, ultimately leaving school at sixteen.
Outside school, they basically had freedom of the town, playing around the river, building tree houses and innovating various forms of transport such as racing road trolleys, a canvas canoe, and a land yacht. They created fun for themselves and many children from the town. They did come to grief on occasions, but were largely undaunted. They were adventurous, daring and inventive.
They attended the Congregational Church and the twins sang in the choir.
When the twins left school, Jack began at Haywards, in grocery, but after two years when he was due for a rise in pay, he was let go. Meanwhile Les worked with Oddey the boot-maker, and eventually opened his own boot-making shop in Bunbury.
It was Depression time and Jack was persuaded to join his older brothers in the Yilgarn district. When the oldest brother, Vic, left school, he first went sleeper cutting in Greenbushes and then followed friends to the Yilgarn area where he was assisted in buying a farming property at Bodallin. Bob was also in the Yilgarn as a mechanic where he had a workshop behind the store in Noongaar. Jack boarded with Vic and worked on the farm for his keep. He also worked shepherding sheep for the local store owner, but due to a dispute over pay, both he and his brother Bob were ordered off the property. They both then boarded with Vic, helping him on his farm until about twelve months later when Bob moved to Mt Magnet and where he met his future wife.
Jack continued on with Vic who was doing well on his now thousand acre block on which he ran sheep. About three years later, Vic married. His wife had dreams of a brick house and produced plans for it. Jack agreed to build the house, so as well as working on Vic’s farm, he commenced the project. He made his own bricks and almost completed the house, except for the roof, when he joined up in the Second World War.
Jack began at the Guildford army camp from which he volunteered for training in the engineer division. He learned bridge building and demolition, and road making. From an earlier stint at Rottnest, he then joined with the 7th Army Troop RAE which was sent to York to build a traffic bridge. Jack was the pile-driver. Then six of them were detailed to soil test all the bridges from Guildford to Wongan Hills. The main job of the section was to prepare, in case of invasion, to blow up the Fremantle wharf and the marshalling yards, and then retreat to the hills. Luckily that didn’t eventuate.
They were then sent to Alice Springs for nearly eighteen months, from where they were responsible for refrigeration, water and electricity throughout the territory, and also carried out some building projects.
Jack was transferred to the Second Section Railway Construction Company, Eastern States unit, as the company grader man in Borneo. Then with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force, Jack went to Japan. Their headquarters was only five miles from Hiroshima where the bomb had been dropped six months earlier. They were not told of radiation dangers at the time. Luckily Jack suffered only from fibrositis of the knees due to exposure on the graders. He remembers grading the oval at Kuri Bay for the first Anzac Parade to be held outside Australia.
When discharged in 1947, Jack had six months leave and then went back to Vic’s farm. During the time he worked there, he helped complete the brick house for Vic and his wife. The house was still standing in1996 at the time of this interview.
Ultimately Jack took up a two thousand acre block near Vic’s farm but did not have a house on it immediately. When he married Marjorie Reynolds they bought a caravan which they slept in, and used the room at Vic’s for a kitchen. Later when Bullfinch mine closed down, Jack bought a house from there for their own block. There was no water supply, even initially to Vic’s place, but due to lots of ingenuity over a number of years, Jack was able to gradually evolve an efficient system and catchment.
Jack and Marge stayed on the farm until he turned sixty, when they moved back to Bunbury. He was again associated with his twin and they enjoyed odd construction jobs for family and friends. Both had eyesight problems, Les more severely, but they continued to enjoy each other’s company as twins indeed.
Jack died on 14 July 2002 and his twin brother, Leslie, died on 8 August 2009.