The following story was written as a first draft in June 2011 by Walter’s grand daughter Diane Porter with limited editing by Sydney’s great grandson Grahame Thom. If you have an interest in this story, please contact Diane at the email address above.
WALTER WARDLE (1883- 1961)
Walter Wardle, the son of Thomas and Mary Wardle was born on the 4 September 1883 in Auckland, New Zealand.
Walter’s siblings were
William & Henry born Sydney 6 April 1868 died May 1868
Sydney born in Sydney 17 July 1869 – 1956
Evelyn born in Auckland 14 December 1875 – 1972
Minnie born in Auckland 25 March 1877 – 1968
Florinda born in Auckland 16 February 1879 – 1952
Wilfred born in Auckland 27 January 1882 – 1946
Walter born in Auckland 4 September 1883 – 1961
Arnold born in Suva, Fiji 1 August 1885 – 1953
The family travelled from Auckland to San Francisco, California, via Fiji in 1884/85. Arnold was born in Fiji on 1 August 1885 . They remained in the USA for approximately ten years.
A newspaper report in the San Francisco Call in 1895, tells of a shooting accident involving their youngest son Arnold.
San Francisco Call 3 June 1895
FATALLY INJURED. A San Francisco Boy Shoots Himself at Bolinas Ridge.
Arnie, the 7-year-old son of Thomas Wardell, residing at 1914 Powell street, in this City, was on Bolinas Ridge, in Marin County, fifteen miles beyond San Rafael, yesterday, and while descending toward the road he fell and a gun he was carrying struck a tree. The weapon was discharged and the contents of the weapon entered his abdomen, producing a wound which will no doubt produce a fatal result. A physician from San Rafael was summoned, but he could only give treatment that would ease the pain of the little sufferer. At midnight Mr. Wardell was informed of the misfortune that had befallen his son.
San Francisco Call 4 June 1895
SAN RAFAEL, Cal. June 3 — Arnie Wardell, the seven-year-old son of Thomas Wardell of 1914 Powell street, San Francisco, who was accidentally shot by the discharge of his gun, was removed to his home to-day. His condition is critical.
Arnie survived the accident.
In late 1896 their son Sydney, who was living in Sydney, NSW, decided to move to Perth, Western Australia, to look for work, with his wife Ellen and their two children. Then Thomas and family decided to return to Australia and they sailed to Sydney via Auckland, in late 1896 on the SS Monowai. On arrival they found that Sydney and his family had moved to Perth, so Thomas decided to follow him there. But Sydney returned to Sydney before his parents arrived in Perth. His wife Ellen was heartbroken over the death of their infant son Walter in Perth in early 1897. The two families did not meet and it is said that their paths crossed during travel. Thomas and Mary and their six children then settled in Perth.
Walter entered the State public service in Perth, in 1897 and served in the Lands Department. From 1904 to 1908 Walter was stationed at the local Lands Office in Narrogin. His father, Thomas, sailmaker, died on 26 June 1907 in Perth.
The Albany Advertiser of 26 August 1908 reported Walter’s appointment to the position in charge of the Government Land Agency Office at Albany.
“The Lands Office — the local position has now been filled by Mr W Wardell who comes from Narrogin and of whom the “Narrogin Observer” writes :- Mr W Wardell, who for over four years has been stationed at the local Lands Office, has been promoted to the Albany office. During his residence in Narrogin, Mr Wardell was deservedly popular, and advantage was taken of his presence at the football social on Saturday to wish him good-bye and congratulate him on his promotion. In proposing the health of Mr Wardell , the Mayor (Mr. Moss) expressed regret that time did not permit of a more suitable sendoff, but trusted that the guest would take the will for the deed. The toast was supported by Mr. E. B. Johnson (Land Agent) and others, the former paying high tribute to Mr Wardell’s ability as an officer. Mr Wardell feelingly responded and expressed regret at leaving so many friends in Narrogin.”
Later WA Post Office Directories record Walter’s employment :-
1908 Clerk Department Lands and Surveys Perth
1909 Acting Land Agent Albany
1910 Acting Land Agent Albany
1911 Acting land Agent Albany
Walter met Lily Jewell whilst in Marble Bar. She was there with her father, who was painting and renovating the Marble Bar Hotel.
Walter married Lily on the 20 March 1911 at St John’s Anglican Church, Perth. Walter’s occupation was recorded as Civil Servant.
Their first born was daughter Thelma. Then on 18 August 1912, a son Thomas Edward Jewell Wardle was born.
Walter Wardle became Inspector of Lands at Broomehill in 1914. As Lands Officer he had as his means of transport horses and a buggy. He had a coach on the railway that had living accommodation in the centre, a place one end for the horses and a place at the other end for the buggy. Using the old consignment note, he’d put it in the box wherever he was and load the buggy and horses. When the train arrived, the carriage would be attached. He’d be transported to another country siding and the carriage was detached and the next day he’d go about his business.
WA Post Office Directories 1914-16 list Walter at Narrogin in charge of the Government Land Agency.
The family lived at Tambellup for two years, and during this time their third child (Jean Mary) was born. The West Australian of 22 July 1914 reported :-
WARDLE On July 14, at Nurse Lloyd’s Private Hospital, Coolgardie-street, to Mr. and Mrs. Walter Wardle of Tambellup – a daughter. Mother and child well.
Their third daughter Gwendalyn Cavell was born on 24 March 1916.
In 1915 Walter was appointed an Inspector of the Agricultural Bank and in that capacity he served at various centres until 1922 when he became a District Inspector .
WA Post Office Directories 1917-1920 list Walter at Mt Barker. From Mt Barker the family moved to Albany
The family lived at Camfield in Albany during 1919 and 1920. Walter’s son Tom had fond recollections of the house. “It was a two storey place but not that immense. I remember that it had over 100 standard roses out the front. There was also a patch of pampas grass that was notorious for catching your fingers on. The upstairs room had been used as a schoolroom and the marks of the desks, the old iron desks, were still on the floor. There, of course we kept a cow and all sorts of things which were not normal in a township.”
He also remembered a pet sheep that was never shorn, its wool got longer and longer and full of grass seeds, and there were quite a lot of problems with it. They also kept bantams. Tom remembered taking the bantam to school for pet’s day.
It seems the family experienced financial problems. An entry in the West Australian on 19 April 1923, read as follows: Walter Wardle, I will not be Responsible for any Debts Contracted by my Wife, Lily Wardle on and after this date . W WARDLE
Their youngest child Walter Henry was born in 1924.
In November, 1926, Walter was appointed Assistant Officer-in-charge of Group Settlement, a post that he held until 1932, when he returned to Katanning as Branch Manager of the Agricultural Bank.
On 23 March 1927, Lily aged 39 years passed away at her residence at 82 Blencowe St., Leederville, following a miscarriage. She left five children aged from 3 years to 17 years.
After Lily’s death the family moved to rented premises in Subiaco. Lily’s father and his second wife came to look after the family. Tom recalled “That lasted a few months but apparently wasn’t very successful, and then an uncle of my mother came with his wife. But after twelve months it was quite apparent that due to my father’s absence, there really wasn’t much control and there wasn’t much being done for the family. So in his wisdom he decided to place the two youngest girls in the convent at Toodyay, and the churches in those days, although we weren’t Catholics, really did a marvellous job. I think they offered him the residence at school at a very, very cheap rate, which he took. Then my older sister went out to work and I went out to work.”
(Tom Wardle- Oral History Interview 1993 page 24)
The youngest son (Walter), went to stay with his father’s brother Wilfred who lived in North Perth and had four girls, they brought him up.
In December 1929 Walter Wardle and his deceased wife Lily were implicated in the case of a farmer claiming damages from the Agricultural Bank regarding a disputed transaction involving grazing land that was purchased by Walter Wardle in the name of his wife Lily Wardle.
On 14 February 1932, Walter’s mother Mary died in Perth. In February 1934 Walter was a witness at the Agricultural Bank Royal Commission at Katanning concerning Ravensthorpe Farming Handicaps.
KATANNING, Feb. 15 1934 The Agricultural Bank Royal Commission, comprising Messrs. H. Hale (chairman), C. Diamond and S. B. Donovan, heard evidence at the Katanning Court House today. Walter Wardle, manager of the Katanning branch of the Agricultural Bank, in reply to the chairman, said that the Katanning Agricultural Bank district extended from North Katanning to nine miles south of Mt. Barker, a distance-of 100 miles, and from 40 miles west ‘of Kojonup to Ravensthorpe, a distance of 220 miles. There were 865 bank clients in the district, of whom 704 were running 297,790 sheep. The bank had advanced £ 691,264 to settlers in the district. One hundred and sixty-one clients were, without sheep, because the bank had not made advances for sheep during the past two years. In the Ravensthorpe district there were. 43 live accounts and 35 abandoned farms. Rabbits were very bad in the Ravensthorpe district and the season had been poor. Rabbits were also bad at Pingrup and were working westward. Where possible, farms should be netted. The bank had not destroyed rabbits on abandoned farms. With regard to the collection of interest, witness stated that 99 per cent of the interest due in 1928 was collected. Of 53 abandoned farms. 30 had been unoccupied, for more than 12 years, and interest in respect of these was still charged. There was a number of farms which would not sell at any price. Replying to the chairman; witness stated that settlers on the Jingalup repurchased estate were doing satisfactorily. Fourteen settlers on the Pallinup repurchased estate had done well, indebtedness to the bank averaging £ 1/6/6 per acre, the bank being well secured. In reply to Mr. Diamond, witness stated that the number of sheep given by-inspectors on the annual security report could not be taken as authentic. They were computed, from shearing returns and in other ways, but were not actually ‘counted ‘. Continuing, the witness said that Ravensthorpe farmers were heavily handicapped. Superphosphate cost £6 a ton- against £5 in other districts, and the freight on wheat was sixpence a bushel. A witness thought bank settlers would do better if not inspected so frequently. Inspections in many cases arose from queries received from head office. Witness considered that every bank client in his district should run sheep. If the bank started advancing, he would recommend the fencing and stocking of a large number of properties. The chairman stated that the Commission had found that some Agricultural Bank inspectors had farms, and they were in arrears with interest as much as some of the farmers. Witness said he did not think it a good policy for inspectors to have farms under, the bank. The chairman congratulated witness on the manner in which his evidence was presented.
Walter married Sarah (Sadie) Govan McGeachie in 1934. Sadie’s father John McGeachie was the Superintendent of Amalgamated Collieries. Walter and Lily’s daughter Gwen died on 28 October 1935 aged 19 years, at Perth.
In 1935, after the bank was reorganised and staff were removed from the public service, it became a separate organisation, and Walter remained an officer of the bank. For some time he was engaged on special work on light lands and he also carried out special work in connection with Agricultural Bank securities, more particularly in regard to revaluation of holdings.
A report in the West Australian of 26 September 1935 stated :-
Esperance Lands. The members of the Agricultural Bank Commission, Messrs. A. McCallum (chairman), A. Berkeley and C. L. Clarke, will leave Perth today for the Esperance district to inspect that area. Some weeks ago the commission received from the manager of the Katanning branch of the Agricultural Bank (Mr. W. Wardle), who had been deputed to examine the position, a report making recommendations for the reconstruction of settlement in the Esperance district. Mr. Wardle recommended that of the total indebtedness of £718,000, £500,000 be written off and that additional capital up to £100.000 be advanced. These recommendations will be examined on the spot by the Commission.
In 1939 Walter was appointed assistant general manager of the Agricultural Bank, in this position he supervised the maintenance of improvements to properties that he had valued, numbering about 10,000.
Sadie passed away on the 18th December 1941 of 40 Hampden Street, South Perth, aged 41 years.
Walter retired in 1943 at the age of 60 years. He then travelled around Australia. Walter married Gladys, and purchased and operated a grocery shop in State St, Victoria Park and then lived on a farm at Armadale. They later lived in Floreat Park until Walter died on 12 September 1961. He was buried in Karrakatta Cemetery.
West Australian, 21 November 1929
FARMER SUES BANK.
Case for the Defence.
Yesterday the defence was commenced, before Mr. Justice Draper in the Supreme Court, in the case in which Charles Edward Sewell, a farmer, of Cranbrook, is claiming damages from the Agricultural Bank in consequence of a disputed transaction relating to grazing land, formerly owned by the plaintiff at Plantagenet near Cranbrook. Sewell is represented by Mr. H. P Downing (instructed by Messrs. Downing and Downing), and the bank is represented by the Crown Solicitor (Mr. J. L. Walker). Mr. Walker, outlining the case for the defence, said that evidence would be called to show that notice of the bank’s intention to exercise its power of sale of the property, as mortgagee, in view of Sew ell’s ‘ failure to pay the interest due on the mortgage, was twice given to the plaintiff—once in September, 1924, and again in December, 1924. The advertisements calling for tenders for the sale were published in the Government Gazette and in two newspapers. From January, 1925, to June, 1926, the bank endeavoured, without success, to dispose of the property. When an offer was made to Sewell that if he paid up his arrears he would be reinstated, he did not make any attempt to pay, and when the Lands Department threatened him with forfeiture of the leases he did not take any action to protect the property. It would be further proved, continued Mr. Walker, that during the period in question there were many sellers of, land in the Cranbrook district, and no buyers. The trustees of the Agricultural Bank were aware of this fact, and they were also aware that after long efforts to dispose of it had failed, Sewell’s property ‘ was practically hopeless as a selling proposition.
Thus, when Walter Wardle district inspector of the bank at Katanning, made an offer to take over the property and to assume all liabilities incurred on it by Sewell— his debts to the bank, to the Lands Department, and to various rating and taxing authorities — the bank could do no other than accept the offer. When the sale to Wardle was made it meant, in effect, that Sewell was getting the benefit of release from the liabilities mentioned, and thus no hardship was being inflicted upon him, more particularly in view of the fact that he had taken no steps to pay the interest due on the mortgage, or to protect the property when forfeiture was threatened by the Lands Department. Mr. Walker also said that the reason why a transfer was made from Wardle to his wife was that if assistance were later required by Wardle from the bank, he, as an officer of the institution, would be disqualified from obtaining it. The evidence for the plaintiff had done nothing to show that in selling to Wardle the bank was not acting in perfectly good faith. Not the slightest shadow of suspicion had been cast on the bank, which, indeed, had been very forbearing in its treatment of Sewell. The case will be continued tomorrow.
24 December 1929
FARMER’S SUIT FAILS.
Bank’s Action Justified.
A case of interest to farmers was decided yesterday when Mr. Justice Draper, in the Supreme Court, gave judgement for the Agricultural Bank with costs, in the claim for damages brought against it by Charles Edward Sewell, farmer, of Cranbrook.. Mr. H. P. Downing, K. G., with him Mr. A. C. Downing (instructed by Messrs. Downing and Downing), appeared for the plaintiff, and the Crown Solicitor (Mr. J. L. Walker) for the Bank. In giving judgement his Honour said that, the plaintiff claimed that in August 1913, he mortgaged 1,945 acres of grazing lands at Plantagenet to the Agricultural Bank, to secure £200 and interest. In July,1924 he owed the Bank £20/2/7 for interest under the mortgage. In December 1924 the Bank called tenders for the purchase of the land, returnable to Wardle, district inspector of the bank at Katanning. No tenders were received and in June 1926, the bank sold the land to Wardle’s wife for £153/0/7. No portion of the sum had been paid to the bank by Mrs. Wardle, who at the time the transfer of the property was made to her mortgaged the land to secure £153/0/7. The plaintiff averred that the bank did not advertise the sale of the land in a proper manner, that the purported sale to Mrs. Wardle was not a bona fide exercise of its powers under the mortgage; that the bank did not take reasonable precautions to obtain the proper price: that the purported sale to the wife of one of the bank’s own officers was a fraud on the plaintiff’s rights: that the land was wilfully and recklessly sacrificed; and that the bank purported to sell it at a price which was much less than its value. His Honour said the plaintiff and Wardle had poor memories and he was not satisfied with the evidence of either of them. It was clear that some people in Cranbrook saw the advertisement in the Press, inviting tenders for the sale of the land and the news, would probably be spread as gossip. No offers were received for the land until Wardle’s offer of June 15 1926. A mortgagee, was not bound to wait indefinitely until he obtained a price in excess of the money owing on mortgage. The evidence showed that land in Cranbrook was not popular. The plaintiff’s land, unimproved, was of very little value, and in 1922 the Crown, reduced its value from 8/10 an acre’ to 4/6 and, without considerable expenditure in improvements, no one could be expected to make a reason able living out of it. The plaintiff made nothing out of it, and did not seem to have tried to do so. The value of the improvements was not more than £240. A considerable amount of the purchase money was still owing to the Crown. The bank was aware that the plaintiff was a most unsatisfactory client who did not pay his interest, did not keep up the payment of rent and did not comply with the improvement conditions and moreover had put a small amount of fencing on two blocks that were not mortgaged to the bank with money advanced by the bank. He did not say this was done to defraud the bank, but naturally, it did not increase the confidence of the bank in Sewell. The bank adopted its usual methods to obtain a buyer for the land and he thought the bank was wise to take the first chance of a sale of property of this kind which deteriorated in value if allowed to stagnate. He was satisfied that the trustees of the bank were actuated by no improper motives and acted in the best interests of the bank in selling the land and the bank was not responsible for a sale at an undervalue, if it was in the best interests of the bank to sell under all the circumstances. Wardle had no power to sell and could not be regarded as the agent of the bank to make a sale and took no part in the conduct of the sale. He made an offer to the bank in his own name. As an officer of the bank he himself could not obtain moneys on a mortgage given by him over the land to the bank and for this reason the suggestion that the transfer should be made into the name of his wife. Not a penny passed from the purchaser to the bank, but a mortgage was registered over the land by Lily Wardle to secure to the bank the payment of £153/0/7. The amount of plaintiff’s debt to the bank. No rates were paid by Lily Wardle and only a small portion of the rents due to the Crown were paid by Wardle The land was transferred by Mrs. Wardle to a man named Napthali for a consideration of £60. Wardle owed Napthali a few pounds. The land was transferred to Napthali subject to the mortgage to Lily Wardle and the difference between what Wardle owed Napthali and the £60 went into Wardle’s pocket. When Wardle secured the land he proposed to put his son,15 years old, on the farm, but Mrs. Wardle died and he changed his plans. These facts did not make the sale a fraud on the plaintiff’s rights. ‘After carefully considering all the evidence, added his Honour. I have come to the conclusion that the sale was a bona fide exercise, of the bank’s powers under the mortgage and that the plaintiff has failed on all the grounds he has set up.
West Australian, 6 September 1930
HIGH COURT APPEAL.
Agricultural Bank Case.
An appeal by Charles Edward Sewell, farmer of Cranbrook, against a decision of Mr. Justice Draper in the Supreme Court in favour of the Agricultural Bank was heard yesterday by the Full Court of the High Court consisting of Sir Frank Gavan Duffy, Mr. Justice Rich, Mr. Justice Starke, and Mr. Justice Dixon. Plaintiff claimed that in 1913 he mortgaged 1,945 acres of land to the bank to secure £200 and interest. In 1924 he owed the bank £20 with interest under the mortgage. The bank called tenders for the purchase of the land. No tenders were received and in 1926 the bank sold the land for £153, the amount of the liability to the bank to the wife of Walter Wardle the district inspector of the Agricultural Bank. Mrs. Wardle did not pay any part of the sum she owed to the bank but transferred to one Napthali the land for £160, and Wardle after paying the few pounds he owed Napthali got the balance. Plaintiff averred that the bank did not advertise the sale of the land in a proper manner and that the purported sale to Mrs. Wardle was not a bona fide exercise of its powers under the mortgage, and that the bank did not take reasonable precautions to obtain a proper price for the land. Mr. Justice Draper held that the sale was a bona fide exercise of the bank’s powers under the mortgage. Mr. H. P. Downing, K.C.; with him Mr. Frank Downing (instructed by Messrs. Downing and Downing) appeared for appellant and the Crown Solicitor (Mr. J. L. Walker) for the bank. Mr. Downing submitted that Wardle was the real buyer of the land and it was illegal for a servant of the Crown to buy or lease Crown lands without consent in writing by the Governor. It was a general principle of law that a man could not place himself in a position where his interests conflicted with his duty. Mr Justice Starke: If the bank allows the inspector to buy, where is there a breach of duty? Mr. Downing: Wardle’s duty to find a buyer at the best possible price still remains. Mr. Downing proceeded to argue that the bank did not take reasonable precautions to get a proper price for the land. The bank looked after its interests alone. Sir Frank Duffy: The learned Judge has said that the sale was beneficial. Mr. Downing: The bank wanted its debt paid only and ignored Sewell’s interests. No notice was given to Sewell of the bank’s intention to sell. Sir Frank Gavan-Duffy: Your client knew that he was in deadly peril of losing the land and he would not pay £20. Mr. Walker was not called upon to ad dress the Court. Judgement was reserved. The Court adjourned to 10.30 a.m. on Monday.
West Australian, 13 Sept ember 1930
AGRICULTURAL BANK CASE.
High Court Court Dismisses Appeal.
In a unanimous judgement, delivered yesterday, the High Court dismissed, with costs, the appeal of Charles Edward Sewell, farmer of Cranbrook against a decision of Mr. Justice Draper in favour of the Agricultural Bank. Plaintiff claimed that in 1913 he mortgaged l,945 acres of land to the bank to secure £200 and interest. In 1924 he owed the bank £20 with interest under the mortgage. The bank called tenders for the purchase of the land. No tenders were received, and in 1926 the bank sold the land for £153, the amount of the liability to the bank, to the wife of Walter Wardle, the district inspector of the Agricultural Bank. Mrs. Wardle did not pay any part of the sum she owed to the bank, but transferred to one Napthali the land for £160, and Wardle, after paying the few pounds he owed Napthali, got the balance. Plaintiff averred that the bank did not advertise the sale of the land in a proper manner, and that the purported sale to Mrs. Wardle was not a bona-fide exercise of its powers under the mortgage, and that the bank did not take reasonable precautions to obtain a proper price for the land; Mr. Justice Draper held that the sale was a bona-fide exercise of the Bank’s powers under the mortgage. Mr. H P. Downing, K. C., with him Mr. Frank Downing (instructed by Messrs. Downing;) and Downing), appeared for appellant, and the Crown Solicitor (Mr. J. I. Walker) for the bank. Mr. Downing submitted that Wardle was the real buyer of the land and it was illegal for a servant of the Crown to buy or lease Crown lands without consent in writing by the Governor. It was a general principle of law that a man could not place himself in a position where his interests conflicted with his duty. The written judgement of the High Court stated that Mr. Justice Draper was of opinion that the trustees were wise in taking the first opportunity they had of selling, and. was satisfied that they were actuated by no improper motives, and that the sale was a bona-fide exercise of the defendant’s power. The first ground taken for impeaching the judgement was that Wardle was disqualified by the provision of the Land Act, 1898, from purchasing a Crown lease, inasmuch as he was in the service of the Government. This question, however, was not one of illegality which the Court was bound to notice, and in those circumstances, it could not be entertained. The second ground upon which the sale to Wardle was attacked was that, as a servant of the bank, he could not purchase. It was said that he was an officer charged with the duty of acting on behalf of the bank as mortgagee in the exercise of its power of sale, and, therefore, a transaction by which he became himself a purchaser, involved, a conflict of interest and duty which could not be permitted in one whose fiduciary character affected the interests of the mortgagor. In spite of the reference to the duty of an inspector ‘to be on the lookout for possible purchasers in the district,’ there was no finding that Wardle acted for the bank in the matter of attempting, to’ sell the -plaintiff’s land. It did not appear that Wardle actually did anything at all towards the sale of the land. He was not Involved In the Sale. In those circumstances, the Court was not prepared, upon the evidence, to hold that Wardle was really involved in the sale of the land, and occupied such a situation that it was not open to him to become a purchaser. The third ground of the appeal, was that the sale amounted to a wilful or reckless sacrifice of the interest of the mortgagor. It was urged that the mortgagee took no sufficient steps to find a purchaser, and was content to obtain the amount of the mortgage, and did not fulfill its promise to notify the appellant of a tender or offer and did not advertise in a proper manner.
The view which should be taken of such a contention must be greatly influenced by the market value ascribed to the property. In spite of the attack made upon the trial Judge’s findings upon the question of value, a consideration of the evidence showed that they were fully justified. Moreover, it appeared that the district in which the land was situated was not a good one, and that many other properties in it were for sale. The appellants own conduct could not be left out of account, and his failure’ to find the interest owing, which was continued over so long a period, appeared highly significant. Again, the fact that Wardle re sold the property at an advance of £60 strengthened the view that the sale to him was at no great undervalue. In all these circumstances it was impossible to disturb the Judge’s finding that the sale’ was bona fide, and not made recklessly and in disregard of the mortgagor’s interest. The suggestion that notification or advertisement was necessary, although the transaction was by way of private sale, was disposed of by several previous cases, in which the point had been overruled.
The Court adjourned sine die.