Marsh Harrold and Muriel
|Type of person|| Family
Harrold’s and Muriel’s connection with Gawler began in 1958 when Harrold was posted to the Gawler Post Office as Postmaster. Up until October of that year, they had spent 18 years in various country towns in South Australia and the Northern Territory and one short stint living in Adelaide. But they loved the country town life. As Harrold worked his way up the ladder with successive promotions in the Post Office, they found themselves in larger towns. And as their family grew, they also had a need to be near the facilities that Adelaide could provide. So they very specifically targeted Gawler as their next move. It was near to Adelaide, but it was still very much a country town in 1958.
It turned out to be their last move. Gawler provided all that they were looking for and more. After working in the Gawler Post Office for more than a decade, Harrold began to make plans to retire and both he and Muriel decided that they would retire in Gawler. And that meant purchasing their own home, their first, in the town. As a result, there are members of the Marsh family in Gawler today, nearly 60 years later. Two of their daughters, plus the family of one of those daughters still call Gawler home at the time of writing in 2018.
Both Harrold and Muriel were born and grew up in SA country towns. Muriel was born Muriel Edna White on 20th February 1918 at Quorn South Australia, the eldest child of William Thomas White and Ettie White (nee Hunter). Her father’s family, the Whites and the Herdes had lived in the Quorn area from about the time that the township of Quorn was proclaimed in 1878 when land was first opened up for farming. Quorn is situated in the Flinders Ranges about 340 kilometres north of Adelaide and about 40 kilometres north east of Port Augusta. The Whites were English immigrants and the Herdes were German immigrants from Silesia, both arriving in South Australia in the 1850s. Both families owned mixed farms at Pichi Richi, just north of Quorn.
Muriel’s mother Ettie White (nee Hunter) was English - born in Felling-on-Tyne, County Durham near Newcastle to a family of coal miners who migrated to South Australia before World War 1. Muriel’s grandparents William and Elizabeth Hunter lived in the Thebarton-Torrensville district in Adelaide.
When Muriel was born in 1918, her parents were living on and running the White’s family mixed farm near Quorn. When she was six and a half years old, the family left the farm and went to live in Quorn where Muriel started school. Her father took on work in the town, first as a baker, and then as a butcher while still working the farm which was eventually given over to sheep. These were hard times with many setbacks including drought which made many farms unsustainable.
The White family eventually grew to 8 children – 6 girls and 2 boys, but sadly one sister died as a baby. Things were very tough in the years leading up to and during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Their family did not have a lot of clothes or possessions but they did not go hungry – there was always produce from the farm or the bakery. In 1928, Muriel’s father got a new job in Port Augusta working in the Commonwealth Store as a storeman and relieving baker. This was when Muriel was in Grade 5 and she finished her schooling there in Port Augusta in 1932, aged 14 years. She was a good student, with high marks in arithmetic, mental arithmetic and spelling in particular. Her father was very keen that children should spend time outdoors so they played sport from an early age.
In February 1933 the White family moved to Tarcoola, about 400 kilometres west of Port Augusta on the East-West railway line where father Will took over the position of baker in the Commonwealth Store. He baked goods for the town, as well as put supplies on the “Tea and Sugar” train which supplied the east-west railway line towns. Even as a child, Muriel had been expected to help, cutting up the bread dough and sometimes carrying heavy trays of bread to the railway station where they would go on the train. After she left school, Muriel was also expected to help her mother look after the family at home, and several boarders as well. Muriel said “Tarcoola is one of the hottest places in the state.” In summer, the temperature would get to 115 degrees Fahrenheit (over 45 degrees Celsius). “We had no conveniences such as refrigerators or fans.”
The White family loved the wonderful lifestyle at Tarcoola where they made their own entertainment. They were actively involved in organising social events, including dances, film nights and concerts, and they played sports such as tennis and golf. As well as helping at home, Muriel had several casual jobs.
It was in Tarcoola in 1938 that Muriel met her future husband Harrold Marsh, who had been posted to the town’s Post Office – also an important telecommunications office on the east-west line. After a courtship of about 12 months, they got engaged on 15 July 1939. It was a memorable year, as Muriel had celebrated her 21st birthday in February at a party in the Tarcoola Town Hall attended by the whole town – see photo 1. Later that year, the outbreak of World War II was announced in September.
Muriel and Harrold married early the following year at St John’s Church of England in Halifax Street Adelaide on 3 February 1940, just before Muriel’s 22nd birthday. See photo 2.
Harrold was born on 15 July 1910 at Booleroo Centre in the mid-north of South Australia, the third child of Benjamin Marsh and Catherine Eliza May Marsh (nee Vowles) who was known as May. The Marsh and Vowles family ancestors were primarily English. Benjamin was a carpenter and the family moved around many mid-north towns such as Port Pirie, Peterborough, Moonta, Hamley Bridge and Auburn for work. There were 9 children in the family, 8 of whom lived to adulthood.
Harrold obtained his first job after leaving school at 14 years of age as a grape-picker at Auburn near Clare. In 1925, aged 15 he joined the Post Office and went on to have a career of 48 years with the Post Office, completing further training and education to rise to the level of a senior Postmaster. Before going to Tarcoola, Harrold lived in Adelaide with his family and worked in the telegraph section of the Post Office. He was 27 years old when he transferred to Tarcoola, and he was 29 years old when he and Muriel married in 1940.
Married Life – 1940 to 1958
The newly married couple returned to live at Tarcoola for a few years, before transferring to Adelaide in 1943. Harrold and Muriel stayed active in the town, including sport and civic interests. Harrold played a leading role in inaugurating the Flying Doctor service between Ceduna and Tarcoola. See photo 3.
While posted at Tarcoola, their first two children were born. Because there were no medical services in Tarcoola, Muriel had to travel to Adelaide before the birth when she was about 7 months pregnant and she stayed with her mother-in-law at Beulah Park. Judith Elaine was born in 1941 at Kensington and Audrey Lorena arrived two years later. After Audrey’s birth, the family stayed in Adelaide as Harrold had been posted to the GPO as Supervisor in the telegraph office. It was wartime, so the telegraph office was staffed by about 35 women, whereas before the war those jobs were all held by men. Harrold had his work cut out for him as supervisor of all those young women but apparently they thought he was great.
While living in Adelaide Harrold and Muriel purchased a home, but it was wartime and there were problems getting the vendors to vacate the home. They were never able to move into the property so they decided to leave Adelaide and Harrold received his first appointment as Postmaster at Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory in late 1944.
Tennant Creek was a bit of a “wild west” town with very little in the way of services, but very important during World War II following the bombing of Darwin. The telephone exchange had to be staffed 24 hours a day. Harrold and Muriel experienced many challenges including medical emergencies, and joys such as the birth of their third daughter Shirley Lynette in 1946.
In April 1948, they returned to South Australia to live at Maitland on the Yorke Peninsula. They were posted in Maitland for three years. In 1951, Harrold received a new appointment to Laura, where they stayed for two years. Their home in each town that they lived was the Postmaster’s residence, supplied by the Post Office for a rental sum. The home was always near enough to the Post Office that Harrold could drop home for lunch in the middle of the day and when the children went to school, they too came home for lunch each day. Next, in May 1953 they shifted to Quorn just before the birth of their fourth and youngest daughter Lorelie June.
In early 1955, Harrold received his next appointment as Postmaster of the Renmark Post Office. The family was living there during the record-breaking 1956 River Murray floods. Harrold was awarded an Australian Post Office Community Service Award following the floods for his “outstanding devotion to duty”. Based on water measurements up-river, he’d predicted that the water levels in Renmark were going to be much higher than authorities predicted, and with much worse consequences. He showed his data to the water authorities and as a result they revised their predictions and sandbagging was raised to higher levels to protect the town. The award acknowledged that he “During disastrous floods at Renmark during July and August 1956, rendered outstanding service which enabled postal and telephone service to operate efficiently throughout the flood crisis”. Muriel remembers the flood as an “incredible and frightening experience”. Their home, which was in the centre of town in the same building behind the Post Office, was completely surrounded by sandbags. “People had to climb up over them to get inside.” Life was very busy in Renmark, as Muriel worked occasionally sometimes for the Post Office sorting mail or working in the local fruit factories during the fruit-picking season.
Life in Gawler from 1958
In October 1958, Harrold applied for and was successful in achieving a Grade 4 appointment as Postmaster at Gawler. It was to be his final appointment. Harrold loved his job as a Postmaster, and was a very capable, organised and energetic manager. In fact, he had been successful in being awarded a new appointment on each occasion that he applied. Harrold remained in the position of Postmaster of the Gawler Post Office until his death in 1973.
The family spent the years 1958 to 1972 living at 1 Fotheringham Terrace Gawler, a residence owned by the Post Office and rented to the Postmaster. See photo 4. It was a lovely old Australian colonial style house built in the early 1900s, situated on a very large block beside the South Para River not far from the main street of Gawler, the Tod Street Methodist Church and the Gawler Oval. Because it was situated at the very end of the street, it was also the closest house to the Gawler West ford and swing-bridge (on the northern or Gawler central side of the river). The property had plenty of room for a large garden and many fruit trees. The house no longer exists as it was pulled down to make way for a retirement village.
Gawler in 1958 was a quiet country town with a population of less than 10,000 people. It was known for its large number of churches and hotels, and as the location of the historic James Martin railway locomotive manufacturing works. It serviced the large surrounding area of farming communities, and was the southern gateway to the Barossa wine district. Many buildings, shops and homes were long established, very little new construction was happening and it’s fair to say that, compared to today, growth in the township was sluggish then.
What the town lacked in progress, it made up for in community spirit. Gawler’s citizens were very active in its many churches, service clubs, lodges, sporting clubs, school parent associations etc. Harrold and Muriel quickly slotted into community life and became involved with St Georges Church of England, sporting clubs including tennis, golf and lawn bowls, and the Gawler Rotary Club.
Two of their children were still at school – one at the old Gawler High School on Lyndoch Road and the other at the Gawler Primary School. By 1959, the two oldest Marsh daughters had left school and were working. In Gawler, it wasn’t just Harrold who went to work in his office in the old Post Office in Murray Street. On the second floor of the building was the telephone exchange and his oldest daughters Judith and Audrey worked there as telephonists. Those were the days before automatic telephone exchanges. The Gawler exchange was staffed around the clock. After the female telephonists clocked off in the evening, a male telephonist would take over for the night-time shift.
Marsh family members have many fond memories of Gawler in this period of the late 1950s and the 1960s. Whilst home deliveries of some produce was the norm in the those years, for example, milk, bread, fruit & vegetables and some meat such as rabbits, the rest of the weekly shopping was done at George’s Grocery Store in Murray Street where customers were served from behind a wooden counter. Nearby was H.B. Crosby’s, a general store that sold just about everything from manchester, haberdashery, kitchenware to clothing and shoes. Everyone remembers Crosby’s old-fashioned central cash handling system where a handwritten sales docket and the customer’s cash was put in a small capsule that was screwed into a flying fox and sent whizzing across the store to the cashier. Your change and a receipt would then coming whizzing back to your counter. Cox’s Chemist was on the corner of Finniss Street and on the other side of the street was Duncan’s Chemist. At the northern end, near the office of the Bunyip Newspaper was Marchant’s Photo Studio where people would go for formal photographs. Ladies loved to visit Jacob’s Fashions. Brereton’s Jewellers had beautiful gifts as well as jewellery and watch repairs. At the bakery you could buy mouth-watering pies and Cornish pasties, buns and German strudel cake. Near the Old Spot Hotel was Congdon’s Deli where, in summer, we would go to buy a brick of Amscol icecream, and all the town’s children would go there with sixpence to buy a paper bag of mixed lollies. Eudunda Farmers, opposite Congdon’s had a variety of goods. Coles, too, had a penny shop in the middle of the street.
1958 was also the year of the introduction of television in South Australia. Most families were keen to save up the relatively large sum to purchase their own set as soon as they could. Gawler had an electrical goods shop in Murray Street too. The Marsh family purchased their first TV in November 1960, amidst great excitement.
Back then, Gawler had its own movie theatre in the main street near the corner of Calton Road. There were also at least six hotels in the main street and five banks. Two of their daughters ended up working for the Commonwealth Bank in Gawler. Shirl worked there when Alan Redman was Manager and Lorelie worked there when Dave Black was Manager. As for the hotels, it was only in the 1970s that a few of them began to get facelifts and become venues for pub meals.
Our family loved the main street of Gawler. We could walk down the street, meet and chat to people we knew, and pick up our weekly shopping – all completed at a leisurely pace. Christmas was an especially lovely experience in the main street with its displays of beautiful decorations. Back then, Adelaide Road was not the commercial strip that it is now. Nor had the shops spilled out into the streets adjacent to Murray Street like High Street, Jacob Street, Reid Street or Cowan Street as they do now, although there were businesses along the main road at Willaston. For major shopping expeditions, Gawler residents would head off on the train to Adelaide or drive down to the Elizabeth Shopping Centre.
Harrold’s and Muriel’s achievements in Gawler
Harrold and Muriel immersed themselves in town life. Always enthusiastic organisers, they put their talents into a variety of clubs and organisations. Harrold was a Rotarian, and served as President and Secretary and he was also their publication editor for a time. He had an unbroken record of attendance at Gawler Rotary Club meetings. He was a foundation member of the Gawler Adult Education Centre (later TAFE) and a member of the Gawler High School Council. Because his job was based in the main street, he became interested in the development of the town and its main street in particular. He became a Town Councillor on the Gawler Town Council representing the Central Ward from 1965 until 1973. Following the death of Mayor Elliot Goodger in 1968 he served as Acting Mayor for several months until the new mayor Dr. Bruce Eastick was elected and he continued to deputise as Mayor when required. See photo 5.
In the late 1950s, first Harrold and then Muriel became keen lawn bowlers. When the family arrived in Gawler, the Gawler Bowling Club was located on the corner of Jacob Street and Reid Street. Harrold joined immediately but Muriel was still playing tennis and began bowling a year later. Soon after that, in 1961 the Bowling Club relocated to their current location on Victoria Terrace where there was room to expand. Harrold was Gawler Men’s Bowling Club Secretary 1964-67 and Treasurer from 1959 to 1973. He was a skipper in Division 1 in the Adelaide Pennant competition. See photo 6.
During this period, Muriel too became actively involved in many organisations in addition to her sporting interests. They had an active social life attending dances, cabarets and balls. Various organisations such as Rotary, Apex, the Anglican Church and so on, would hold an annual winter ball, usually in the upstairs ballroom at the Gawler Institute in Murray Street. The townsfolk would dress up in their finest evening wear and enjoy a night of dancing and a delicious supper, whilst raising funds for a charitable cause.
Muriel was a foundation member of the Gawler Golf Club at Sandy Creek, and its Club Captain for 13 years, while winning eight club championships.
She took up lawn bowls in 1959, bowling for 44 years during which time she was the Gawler Women’s Bowling Club Treasurer for 7 years (1962-1969) and Secretary for 34 years (1969-2003). She won the State Singles Championship (1978/79), won three State Fours Championships as a Skipper (1973/74, 1980/81 and 1989/90), and in the 1970/71 season became SA’s Champion of Champions (a competition of all the state’s club champions). She won the Gawler Club Championship 15 times between 1961 and 1991, and the club Championship Pairs 10 times between 1968 and 1997. She was a Gawler Division One skipper in the Thursday Metropolitan Ladies Bowls pennant competition and she was also an umpire for many years. Muriel competed in the state team at the national level for twelve years between 1973/4 and 1985/6 and travelled interstate many times. She was a committee member from 1960 to 2003, catering manager from 1972 to 2003 and Chairman of Selectors from 1969 to 2001. In May 2000 she was the first female in the history of the club to be awarded Life Membership. In 2003, she gave up playing but remained a club patron and sponsored the Gawler Club Ladies Pairs Championship every year. In 2004, Muriel’s achievements in sport were acknowledged and celebrated when she became an inaugural inductee into the Gawler “Bunyip” newspaper’s Sporting Hall of Fame. In September 2013, she was honoured by having a green at the Gawler Bowling Club named after her. See photo 7 – Muriel bowling.
Although she had stopped playing netball many years earlier, she continued to be interested in the sport by watching her daughters, granddaughters and great-granddaughters play. The Marsh family has had a very long association with the St Georges Netball Club and the St George’s Tennis Club. For a while, Muriel was Treasurer of the St Georges Netball Club.
Muriel’s involvement in the community in Gawler included being a foundation member of the Gawler branch of the Royal Society for the Blind in 1973. The first meeting of the Royal Society for the Blind committee in Gawler was chaired by Harrold and that committee raised many thousands of dollars for the Society in the next 40 years, during which Muriel maintained her membership.
Muriel was a member of the Gawler Hutchinson Hospital Sewing Auxiliary for 35 years, helping to mend sheets and doctors’ uniforms. They had six machines as well as hand sewers, until the old hospital closed and relocated.
Muriel was also a Gawler Meals on Wheels volunteer, helping to deliver meals for 15 years.
The Marshes were members of the congregation of the Anglican Church in Gawler, attending St Georges Church since 1958. Between 1965 and 1975, all four Marsh daughters married in St George’s church and several granddaughters married there too later on. For many years, Muriel organised a church fete stall to sell second-hand clothes and raise money for church projects. For more than 40 years she was a regular helper on the church flower/cleaning roster and this tradition is continued by her daughters Judith Clinch and Shirley Branson to this day. She regularly ran trading tables to raise money, not only for the church but also for the bowls and tennis clubs.
Muriel was a foundation member of the Gawler Ladies Probus Club and continued attending meetings until 2014.
At the Australia Day celebrations in January 2000, Muriel’s achievements were recognised when she was awarded the Town of Gawler’s Citizen of the Year for her service to the community of Gawler. See photo 8. Muriel felt most humbled by the award and this acknowledgement of her efforts. She said in her acceptance speech that day that for as much as she had done for the community, she had received a great amount of personal benefit in return. She encouraged all its citizens to become involved in their community. She thanked the people of Gawler for the award, and also for those opportunities and benefits provided by the town.
Living in Gawler - 1972 to 2015
In mid-1972, Harrold and Muriel celebrated a special achievement when they purchased and moved into their own first home in East Terrace Gawler East. Harrold was still working as Postmaster at the time. However, purchasing their own home was an important step in preparing for retirement, so Harrold arranged to sublet the Postmaster’s residence at 1 Fotheringham Terrace. Some years later, the Postmaster’s house and several others on the Fotheringham Terrace site were flattened to build the Gawler Community Retirement Village – a project that was supported by the Rotary Club of Gawler and Harrold had helped to raise funds for it.
Photo 9 is of Muriel and Harrold in 1969. Photo 10 is of Harrold in 1972 and photo 11 is of the Marsh family, taken in 1972. – from left Audrey, Judith, Muriel, Harrold, Shirley and Lorelie.
In 1973, Harrold had an exceptionally busy year. The Postmaster-General’s department (PMG) decided that the Post Office building in Murray Street, built in 1867, could no longer service their requirements and they decided to build new modern premises on a piece of land on the corner of Tod Street and Whitelaw Terrace. In addition to his regular workload, Harrold worked with senior PMG staff and the builders to oversee the project and on completion he organised the move into the new building. The new Post Office was officially opened on 29 October 1973. See photos 12 and 13. The old Post Office in Murray Street still stands as an important part of Gawler’s historical heritage. Around this time while Harrold was a Town Councillor, he was also involved in the development of the riverbank park opposite the new Post Office on Whitelaw Terrace.
Two weeks after the opening of the new Post Office, Harrold collapsed from a stroke and he subsequently died in the Royal Adelaide Hospital on 17 November 1973, aged 63 years. He was buried in the Willaston Cemetery. His sudden death was a great shock to all who knew him, and a great loss to his family and community.
Muriel spent the ensuing years as a widow, living at East Terrace Gawler. Her growing family, sporting activities and community work kept her busy for many, many years. See photo 14 of Muriel.
Harrold’s and Muriel’s family eventually consisted of four daughters, four sons-in-law, 11 grandchildren and their partners, and there were 23 great-grandchildren at the last count. Their daughter Judith, her late husband Bob Clinch and their family are Gawler residents. Their late daughter Audrey, who died in 2017, lived in Melbourne with her husband Harvie Hele and their family. Their daughter Shirl and her husband Kingsley Branson returned to Gawler in the early 90s after farming near Kimba for nearly 20 years, and they live at Willaston. Their youngest daughter Lorelie and her husband David Ball and their family live in Adelaide.
Muriel was living quite independently at home until well into her nineties, continuing to enjoy family get-togethers, attending RSB and Probus meetings, visiting the Bowls Club, watching the Crows and Power on TV and enjoying visits to the local pub for meals and a short spell on the pokies. After a fall at home in September 2014, Muriel moved into the Eldercare Nursing Home at Evanston Park. On 19th May 2015, she passed away at Eldercare aged 97 years, and was buried with Harrold at the Willaston Cemetery. Photo 15 of Muriel and her family was taken in December 2011.
Written by L.J.Ball, July 2018
To view the photos please click here.