Farrow John and Emily

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Fast Facts
Type of person Family

Principal occupation Farmers

Farrow Family

Angle Vale

In April 1902, John bought a farming property, on Section 66, in the Hundred of Munno Para (Angle Vale) and moved the family there. Ilma and Grace, the only ones old enough to attend school were enrolled at the Angle Vale Primary School (a Government School) on April 20th 1902. The others with the exception of Mavis and John Jun, each enrolled there as they reached school age. The children walked the two miles to and from school each day.

Then in March 1909, after seven years at Angle Vale, John bought the dairy farm at Gawler River, and the children were officially transferred from Angle Vale School to Gawler Blocks School (also a Government School).

Gawler River

The new farm, four miles from Gawler, bordered the Gawler River, a place of beauty, running water and big gum trees. Being such a short walk from the home, it was an enjoyable place for an occasional picnic lunch. It was probably this beautiful setting that gave the home its name of “Sunnybrook”.

The land was productive. It grew lush Lucerne for the cows. The sheds housed the sulky, the milk-cart and the car plus the winnowing machine. The dairy housed the separator and the big milk and cream cans that John Junior took with him, in the cart, on his early morning milk round in Gawler.

The milking sheds had bails for several cows. Milking time was very early in the morning and again at 3pm, after the various family members had had their early afternoon nap.

The homestead was a comfortable stone building. A wide front verandah extended to a return verandah on either side. There were six main rooms with the largest being the dining room that opened out through a red glass-panelled door onto the side verandah. The red glass door was a beautiful feature of the home and could be seen from some distance along the road – a strong red welcoming glow in the darkness.

The return verandah on the far side of the house was edged with canvas awnings that rolled down in winter to protect the two iron single beds permanently there. Beyond this verandah was the underground tank, the home of Jack Hooker, the mythical character, invented by Grandma, to deter any child who might choose to meddle there.

The house was enclosed with a high galvanized iron fence. In the backyard were the trellised grape vines, the smallish tree that protected the cocky’s cage and of course the shelter for Laddy, the dog. Here, also, was the stone out-building that accommodated both washhouse and cellar. The front garden consisted mainly of geraniums and gaillardias and there were the usual potted coleus plants on the dining room windowsill.

Gawler Blocks School

In 1891, on land between Adelaide Road and Gawler River, the Government established small land holdings for struggling local workers to increase their income, by producing eggs, milk etc. The settlement was called Gawler Blocks and gave its name to the Government school established in 1908 and which opened with an enrolment of fifty children. Today the school is closed, and the area is part of Evanston Gardens. The Gawler Blocks School was already open when John bought his Gawler River farm. This may have been an important factor, in the selection of his farm.

The Farrow children walked daily across the paddocks to their school – probably a good two miles distant. Mavis told how she, as the baby of the group, often tired and was carried pick-a-back style by big brother Murray.

Gawler High School

John saw the need for his three sons to attend secondary school, but not his four daughters, who remained at home to milk the cows. The boys completed the course that the school had to offer.

Farrow Talents, The Sunnybrook Family

It was in the Sunnybrook years that John and Emily’s first grand children were born and so from here on, in this story, shall be referred to him as J.J. (though not to his face).

The Farrows were talented, each with his/her own individual skills and gifts. Brook developed an interest in trotting horses and jinkers, Gawler Girl was one of his horses. Later Brook served in the army, with the title of Major. His family has bequeathed some of his personal army equipment and memorabilia to the Army Archives at Keswick.

Murray commenced Teacher Training with the South Australian Education Department, beginning as a Junior Teacher for one year at the Gawler Model School in 1919. He spent his life from 1925 on as a South Australian School Principal in both country and city schools.

John worked on the farm at home developing his music and sport talent at the same time. He had a beautiful singing voice – a valuable member of the church choir. His name as a tennis player was well known in Country circles.

Marjorie was also a good tennis player. Though not as good as her brother John, she partnered him when practicing on the Sunnybrook home-made court, across the driveway from the house. John won several silver cups in country tournaments, and these were displayed on top the piano in the dining room.

The Farrow piano was a prized possession. It was an upright Grand Piano and therefore bigger than the normal instrument. Marjorie and Grace were the pianists. Both played the organ for church services for many years.

Grace was always considered to be a very good cook. She liked to cook, and the kitchen was her domain. There were none better than her scones and her egg and bacon pie, but her greatest achievement was her paintings. She travelled to Adelaide one day each week for lessons with James Ashton, the most prominent art teacher at that time. Her medium was oil paint on canvas, and she won several medals in London exhibitions. Grace was also adept with the sewing machine and so made the dresses for the women of the house.

Mavis was a general “handyman” being responsible for some of the daily housework. She was important as the car driver, a duty she shared with Marjorie until the latter left home to be married. There were the weekly trips to Gawler to do the shopping, and also church attendances – choir practice and Sunday services.

Sunnybrook’s “highway” to Gawler was four miles of metal road, where through time and use, the loose stones had piled up high on the crown of the road, tempting the driver to cross over intermittently to join the well-worn smooth tracks on either side (even if it meant being on the wrong side of the road) for a smoother more comfortable drive – one that was not so rough on the tyres.

The Farrow car was a 6-cylinder Pontiac Tourer. Its feeble horn, sounding more like the crow of a sick rooster in decline, amused the children. But, when it sounded, it gave them the feeling of importance on the road. The Pontiac was roomy – smart car in its time.

The oldest Farrow daughter was Ilma. She had no formal secondary education at all. She followed her brothers’ homework and their textbooks to lay the basis of her own knowledge and skill, which she enhanced in time, by extensive reading and study. Nature blessed her with a strong retentive memory, the breadth and depth of which was recognized by all who knew her.

Ilma never read fiction, except for children’s stories, which she memorized – all three hundred of them, from various parts of the world. She was a gifted storyteller, a delight for children. She had mastered the art from that she used to advantage in her later employment as a housekeeper.

Grandpa J.J., the head of the family, was very much a conscientious law-abiding citizen. His faith in the Baptist Church stayed with him for the rest of his days. He held office in the Gawler Baptist church for many years and raised his family to become practical contributing members there-of. He also served on the Munno Para East Council 1933-1938.

At home, Grandpa spent much of his spare time in the breakfast room – a long narrow room at the back of the house. It held a large family sized table, a food safe fitted with fly wire and in the corner his desk, where, daily, he counted the milk round money and “entered up” his books.

Grandma ran a side-line industry. Her fowls and the sale of the eggs netted her enough money to provide the little family extras such as family 21st birthday and wedding presents.

Years passed. Murray, Marjorie, Brook, and John had all long since married and left home. Grandpa and Grandma were now in their 70s and needed to retire. The farm and house were sold and in the process of packing up the family goods, no longer wanted or of further use, were conveniently disposed of, out of sight, at the bottom of the old dry well – much to the disgust of J.J. whose protests about the waste of “valuable stuff” greatly amused the family.


Grandpa, Grandma, Ilma, Grace, and Mavis moved to their next home 165 South Road, Edwardstown. The Edwardstown house was on a large block – 70 feet wide and 273 feet deep, on part of section 400.

The building, though old, was large and comfortable with seven main rooms plus a sleep-out and a cellar. The rose bushes in the front garden were an added attraction.

Now, with no wages coming in, Ilma and Mavis sought paid employment, leaving Grace at home as the housekeeper. During this time, Grace was the organist for the Edwardstown Baptist Church and Mavis continued to be the family chauffeur. Approximately six months before Grandpa died, he transferred the ownership of the Pontiac to Mavis.

Ilma became the senior housekeeper for the Family Welfare Bureau Homemaker Service, an organization of twenty-three housekeepers, who ran the homes of World War II ex-service men and women in cases of sickness and emergency. Ilma undertook assignments in over one hundred households in South Australia, some of them in distant country places and often at a minutes notice.

Mavis was employed at Actil an Australian textile factory Manufacturing household Manchester wear.

Grandpa J.J. died at home at Edwardstown on May 23rd1948, aged 77 years, and was buried in the Centential Park Cemetery. Grandma died at home on, November 9th1951 aged 82 and she was buried with Grandpa at Centennial Park. A blue-gray marble headstone marks their resting place.

Largs North

On, September 15th1955 approximately four years after Grandma’s death, Mavis signed a building contract for a home to be built on Lot 157 at 28 Charnock Street, Largs North at a cost of 4,360.00 pounds. The Largs North home was to be a modern three-bedroom brick home comfortable, pleasant, and more appropriate for their needs.

Their Edwardstown home, whose number had long since been changed to 661, was sold on June 22nd1957 for 4,600.00 pounds and was later demolished in the process of industrialization.

Ilma, Grace and Mavis moved to Largs North immediately, but without the blue 1927 model 6-cylinder Pontiac tourer which had been the family car for thirty years.

In her retirement, Ilma lived at “Illoura”, the Baptist Aged Care Home at Beulah Park, where she died on, September 28th1978, aged 82, and was buried in a lawn plot at Centennial Park Cemetery.

Grace died on, April 29th1978, aged 81, and Mavis died on, November 17th1988, aged 82 years. Both were buried in the rose beds at Centennial Park. The memorial bronze plaques of the three sisters have now been transferred to the large headstone of their parents, thus keeping their history together in the one place.

Brook, Murray, and John were also buried at Centennial Park, whilst Marjorie was buried in the Willaston Cemetery.

Today there are no Farrows at Finniss Point, nor at Gawler River, but the Farrow name is commemorated on the marble plaque in the Tarlee Baptist Church and in the naming of Farrow Road at Evanston and on a paving stone in the Pioneer Cemetery at Riverton.

The glory days of Broughton House have passed. On, April 4th1997 a part of the exceptional stone country mansion was sold – reception room, 5 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 7 attics and two and a half acres of garden. It is sad to see it wane after 300 years, but history moves on.

It is now 167 years since Joseph and Charles arrived in Australia. It’s a long time and a long way from Broughton.

Written by: Ailsa Farrow (daughter of Murray Farrow) 2008

please [<https://www.flickr.com/photos/gawler_history/albums/72177720302003939 click here>] to view photos of the Farrow Family.


External Links

FARROW J J T Family Home Sunnybrook
FARROW J J T Family Home Sunnybrook
FARROW Family L to R Marjorie, Grace, Brook, Ilma, Murray
FARROW Family L to R Marjorie, Grace, Brook, Ilma, Murray

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