Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The farm boy and the daughter from the manor

John WILKINS grew up on the farm of Thorpe Hall in Peterborough. He later married Eva Elsie THORPE. Was this an upstairs-downstairs romance that stemmed from idyllic romps in classic English gardens?

Rear gardens of Thorpe Hall, circa 1915

Sadly, no. John and Eva did not meet until after they had migrated separately to Australia. Eva's family was from Nottinghamshire and if they had any connection to Thorpe Hall, it was a very distant one. There is no evidence that Eva had ever seen the Hall before she and John made a return visit to the UK in the 1960s.

But there is an intriguing twist to their story. John WILKINS emigrated in 1925 under a State Government scheme to encourage British boys and young men to take up agricultural pursuits in Queensland. Upon arrival, each farm lad was allocated to a local land-holder for employment and training.

What must John have thought when he was directed to travel to Rosemount in the Maroochy River Valley to begin work for farmer Frederick THORPE and his family who had come from England in 1919?

John and Eva (our great-grandparents) eventually moved to Brisbane and (among other employment) traded as retail tobacconists in George Street. But in the 1950s, they returned to the land and took up a pineapple farm at Buderim. On that property they maintained a cottage for Eva's father, Fred, and for a time took care of one of their grand-daughters.

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