Wa;ter Francis Duke Yonge in old age

Walter Francis Duke Yonge


"Men of courage. men of sense and men of letters are frequent, but a true gentleman is what one seldom sees. A gentleman has ease without familiarity, is respectful without meanness, and is genteel without affectation."

This quote was used to describe Walter Francis Duke Yonge in his obituary published in the Pittsworth Sentinel in November 1924 - See Appendix 1 for the full obituary. The obituary portrays him truly a gentleman, civic-minded and generous.

He was in many ways the typical ideal of a pioneer Australian of the 19th century. Largely self made, he stuck with farming through thick and thin and was never traduced by the big city or the lure of gold and very much involved in his community. A man who helped build a new nation.


His father Duke John was born at Antony, Cornwall 9th May 1809 and died 10th January 1846 in Alloa Scotland of lockjaw following gunshot wounds.

From 17th November 1836 he was minister of Episcopal Church in Alloa. Duke John married 21st Jan 1840 Elizabeth (Eliza) Anne, daughter of John and Elizabeth Roberts of Plymouth. She was born 31st May 1817 and died 10th November 1903 in Australia. She was instrumental in Walter and his brother Arthur going out to Australia.

Walter was born on 29th October 1844, in Alloa Scotland, where his father was then the episcopal minister. He was baptised on the 15th January 1845. After his father's death, when Walter was aged three, his mother and brothers returned to Devon where they lived with their paternal uncle John Francis Duke Yonge and also for a time at Puslinch, the family ancestral home near Plymouth. This arrangement seemed to continue until Arthur and Walter went to Australia. In a letter written the 20th July 1856 a Francis Yonge wrote to his brother Frederick in New Zealand I must now say adieu. My boys do not come home from France till the middle of next month August. Kenneth [Arthur] & Walter are at home.

On the 3rd April 1851 at Osbournby Lincolnshire his mother married the Reverend William Scott. Although a clergyman, his real passion however was mathematics and astronomy

Scott married a widow Elizabeth Anne Yonge, née Roberts on 8 November 1851. She had three sons by her first husband and the family responsibilities resulted in Scott becoming a mathematics coach (his first interest had always been in mathematics). He built up a useful connections at the university and later published a small textbook on plane co-ordinate geometry.

William and Elizabeth moved to Australia on October 1856 where he became the Astronomer Royal of New South Wales, and there Elizabeth had another family. Elizabeth left her children by Duke John Yonge behind in England.

Youth and to Australia

Walter remained in England, finishing his schooling at Christ Church, a Blue Coat School, London. Blue Coat schools were a very long established public (i.e a private) schools which provided an education for the children of middle classes whose parents had fallen on hard times. Walter being the son of a deceased clergyman who died leaving very little money, was an obvious candidate. The school still exists.

The School record shows:

Walter Francis Duke Yonge was the son of Revd Duke John Yonge, born 28th October 1844, baptised 15th January 1845, admitted to Christ's Hospital from The Holy Trinity, Cambridge, on 20th April 1853 (home address then 5 Causeway, Cambridge). Walter would have started at the preparatory school at Hertford before transferring at about the age of 11 to the senior school at Newgate Street in the City of London [neither site now exists, the school having moved to Horsham in Sussex in 1902.]

The petition for a place at Christ's Hospital was from Eliza Ann Scott, wife of the Revd William Scott, clerk. She reported that her first husband had been a clergyman, of the Church of England, but had died in 1846, leaving her with three young children. She had since married again, her second husband was also a clergyman, but with no living, just a lectureship. She said that he would have nothing to do with the children, and that they were entirely dependent upon their paternal grandmother, herself not wealthy.

Indications are in fact that he was a good stepfather and did help the boys to get established in Australia but that he did not have the financial resources to help them in that way.

Walter was discharged from Christ's Hospital on 15th April 1859, into the care of William Harris Esq of 5 Stone's Buildings, Lincoln's Inn, on behalf of the boy's uncle and guardian, Dr Francis Yonge of Hareston House, Plympton,Devon. It was planned that the boy was to go to the residence of his own mother, Mrs Eliza Scott, who was then living at the Observatory, Sydney, New South Wales.

The letter extract below is also to from Arthur Duke Yonge to his brother Frederick Duke Yonge in New Zealand is undated. It has not been possible to fully transcribe it as it is very fragile and written on very flimsy paper with parts missing and illegible but by its reference to the death of a Mr Pode it is after the 9th February 1857 and before the 26th of February 1857 when his older brother Duke Doughton Yonge sailed on his new ship, HMS Magicienne.

Mrs Scott has sent home to say she should have like have Kenneth sent out to her, so I suppose the little lad is now growing into a great boy, will go soon so Francis and Arthur think it is fortunate and Arthur think she is fortunate in having a house in Australia and knowing all I hear I think they may be right. Boys will each have about fifty pounds a year, which will be a good help to them in any profession. Duke is still .Walter will remain at Christ's Hospital until his education is finished.

In 1859, at the age of 14, after an arduous trip lasting over 120 days, Walter arrived in Sydney on the clipper ship "Blue Jacket" in October 1859. In a newspaper account written in 1915 he stated entitled “Fifty Years Ago” he said “It was not many minutes after the anchor was let go [in Sydney] when my father and brother were alongside.... we walked home to the observatory. This series of newspaper articles gives a wonderful insight into his life and early colonial Australia. She would have carried a mixture of gentry and free or assisted passengers.

See Appendix 1 for further details of the Blue Jacket

The Farmng Life

After obtaining work as a clerk in Sydney for a few years, in January 1862, Walter , then aged 18, headed for Queensland. He gained employment with a Mr H Coxen, working Bendemeer Station, near Yuleba for approximately 15 months. From 1869-1877 with his brother Arthur, Walter (Walter was the junior partner) they leased a sheep and cattle station at Tarawainaba, Goondiwindi. Due to the combined effects of drought, dingoes and prickly pear, the losses they sustained forced them to leave Goondiwindi for the small rural town of Pittsworth. By 1879, they had applied for and received Deeds of Grant, totalling 770 acres, Walter had a 80 acres registered in his name and Arthur 640.

Arthur was left the area in 1885 for another station and then took a very different career path as a banker. It is not clear how his landholdings were resolved but Walter was to remain in farming all his life.

It is also not clear whether the Puslinch Dairy, named after the ancestral family home at Newton Ferrers, Devon, was carved out of the above or was a separate property. It was one of the first registered dairies on the Darling Downs. Now there is only a cement block left where the dairy stood and some of the original pepper trees planted by Walter.


In April 1880, Walter married Lucy Williamson, from Commandel Valley South Australia, who resided with her uncle William Nelson Watson, of "Sunnyside" Southbrook, which is about ten miles from Pittsworth. There exists several letters by William to his middle son, Harold, while on a visit to England. They contain are several not very flattering references regarding Lucy and the Yonge's, wasting her father's inheritance in extravagant living. True or not impossible to say but William certainly seemed to have a down on his niece

The Puslinch Diary

On the day of their wedding, they drove to the property, where in 1886, the brothers had commenced dairying in a small way. Walter was perceived as an innovator in the field. Upon hearing that he had begun milking twice daily, he was considered a faddist. The diary was renowned for the quality of its milk.

In 1888, he promoted the idea of co-operative dairying, but the idea, at that time, did not receive community support. Walter gave his attention to their dairy, commencing a milk and butter business until his death in 1924. The enterprise had begun to prosper but its success was hampered in 1902 by the formation of a co-operative, the Pittsworth Dairy Company and Puslinch was forced to confine its activities to to milk retail only. After Walter's death the dairy continued to be run by the family until it closed in 1939.

The Puslinch property stood within a mile of the Pittsworth Post Office. The house and farm buildings were set upon the crown plateau, and the easy, sloping brim is of rich, choice, chocolate-coloured volcanic soil. The whole of the 130 acres was visible from the homestead, which also commands a view of part of Pittsworth and of a several miles' radius to the north and east.

The electoral role entries for the 1900's up to his death have him down however as a "farmer living at Puslinch".

The School

In April 1882, after the application was made and approved for the construction of a provisional school in the district, It was originally named the Beauraba Provisional School," this part of the district then being known as “Beauraba Homestead Area Walter was appointed as the teacher. Although he did not hold any teaching qualifications, he had impressed an officer of the department as a' sober , respectable man who had the upbringing of a gentleman". Initially he did not remain in the position for long, as the low salary of £80 a year was insufficient for a married man with children. In 1885, he was recalled to the position, remaining there until the evolution of the primary school in 1889. See Appendix 2 for further information on the School.

Other Civic Duties

Towards the end of the 1890s, Walter was a member of the first brass band in Pittsworth. He was to be associated with the band for many years. Driving past the band practice one night, he pulled up to listen. Noting that 'a band without drums is like eggs without salt', he returned one night a few months later with a pair of home made drums, courtesy of a few calves' skins. He was to be associated with the band for many years and in his newspaper accounts of his life he wrote a detailed account of the band and his involvement

When the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows formed a lodge in the district, Walter was made Secretary and he was to be associated with it for many years.

Doubtless he was involved in other active in the community activities including as reported in the Pittsworth Sentinel of 3rd February 1890, he and three others were appointed members of the "Cook Marsupial Board".


Walter died on 8 October 1924, after having been unwell for about a year but taking a keen interest in everything until almost the day he died. It is said he “fell asleep” and Lucy in November 1943. Together raised a large family of 7 sons and two daughters.

The term “fallen asleep” was a term often used by the Christadelphians and it may be significant that one of the Watson's,Guy Nelson Eyre Watson, with whom Walter was related by marriage, was a Christadelphians. The Christadelphians differ from mainstream Christianity in a number of doctrinal areas. They reject the Trinity and the immortality of the soul, believing these to be corruptions of original Christian teaching.

See obituary in Appendix 3.

He left a will. Pittsworth Sentinel of 29th Nov 1933 records the land he owned at his death.

Name of Deceased Proprietor.—WalterFrancis Duke Yonge late of Pittsworth.

Date of Death.— 8th October, 1924.Names of Claimants.—Walter Doughton Yonge and Edgar Eric Yonge both of the same place. Description and Situation of Land.—Portion 69, parish of Beauaraba, and portions 2955 and 2992, parish of Rolleston;

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both in the county of Aubigny, Estate Claimed to be Transmitted.— Fee-

simple.Particulars of Will or Otherwise.—Will dated 4th November. 1919.

Date within which Caveat may beLodged.— 28th December, 1933.

In Pittsworth there was laid in 2002 a 'Signature Path', consisting of bricks bumished with whatever information/pictures that people wanted. These are then set as part of the footpath. For Walter In the right hand corner of the upper right brick, there is a copy of the logo of "Puslinch Dairy, Pittsworth" with "Est 1886" underneath. The wording reads as follows:

Walter Francis Duke Yonge
1844 - 1924
Lucy Williamson
1858 - 1941
And their Children

Walter Doughton (Born 1881)

Louis Watson (Born 1889)
Margaret Ellen (Born 1897)
Katie Elizabeth(Born 1899)
Ronald Eyre (Born 1901)
John (Born 1883)
Richard Alic (Born 1884)
Francis Eustace (Born 1886)

Appendix 1


This clipper ship was built in Boston and was of 1790 tons. Her name, which nowadays applies only to naval seamen, was then a widely-used term for a sailor, and her figurehead showed a man from the waist up dressed in seaman's rig, consisting of a blue jacket with yellow buttons. This was open at the front, revealing a loose shirt and a large knotted handkerchief, while round the waist was a broad belt with a cutlass hilt. A decorated scroll below bore the words "Keep a Sharp Lookout. "

The Blue Jacket came from the well-known yard of R.E. Jackson in East Boston. The Blue Jacket arrived in the Mersey on 20th October, 1854, having made the run from Boston, land to land, in 12 days, 10 hours.

The Blue Jacket on her arrival was bought by James John Frost, of London, and put on the berth for Melbourne as one of the Fox Line of packets, the other two being owned by the White Star Line.

She was designed to stow a large cargo, having a full mid-ship section, but her bow was long and sharp enough for speed.

Blue Jacket sailed for Melbourne on 6th March, 1855, in charge of Captain Underwood, and made a magnificent run out of 69 days. She further distinguished herself at a later date by making the homeward run also in 69 days.

She is described this way in a contemporary account:

This new and beautiful ship was built at East Boston, during the past year, by R.E. Jackson. She is 224 feet on deck, 41 1-3 feet extreme breadth of beam, 24 feet hold, and registers 1,790 tons. Her frame is white oak, the plank and ceiling hard pine. She is diagonally braced with iron, and is square-fastened throughout. The stern is ornamented with an arch of gilded carving, in the centre of which are representations of fruits and flowers. The bow is ornamented with a full-length carved figure of a blue-jacket sailor. In the left hand he holds the American flag, in the right a cutlass. Her cabins, of which she has two, are under a poop deck. The saloon is 40 feet long by 14 wide, painted white, and ornamented with papier maché gilt work; in the centre of each panel is a representation of flowers, fruit and game. This saloon contains 20 state-rooms, ventilated and finished in a superior manner; the furniture, carpets, and drapery in each, being different. Each room has a square window on its side, and deck lights above. The after, or ladies' cabin, is 30 feet long by 13 wide, and contains eight state-rooms and a bath-room. This cabin is a miniature palace. It is wainscoted with mahogany, the entablatures are of rosewood, and the pillars of satinwood. The panels are ornamented with flowers, surrounded by gilt scroll work. The capitals and pedestals are neatly covered, the whole relieved with papier maché cornices and gilt work. The cabin is well lighted and ventilated, having four windows aft, a large, square skylight, and one in the centre, which ventilates the deck below.

A list of free and assisted passengers for a voyage to New Zealand in October 1866 shows that by far the biggest group were domestic servants. A further breakdown shows:

Married couples and their children 30

Single men 44

Single women 92

On a long voyage like that to Australia the conditions must have seemed very cramped

She was abandoned, on fire, off the Falkland Isles in 1869, and two years afterwards a part of her figurehead waswashed up on Rottnest Island, Western Australia, some thousands of miles away from the scene of the disaster.

Appendix 2

Pittsworth Sentinel 11th May 1932

Pittsworth State School

The Pittsworth State School celebrated its fiftieth anniversary on Saturday, the day being beautiful, and the attendance large. In preparation

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for the event the school grounds and the gardens had received special attention, and plots were in readiness for the tree-planting which was to form, part of the day’s ceremonial. Among those present were the Hon. W. A. Deacon, Minister for Lands, Hon. R. M. King,- Minister for Public Instruction, Or. A. C. Krieg, Chairman of the Pittsworth Shire Council, Inspector T; inglis, Mrs. W. F. D. Yongethe wife of the first teacher of the school of fifty years ago, Mr. W. P, Adam (retired) tor 14 years the head teacher of the ' school, Mrs. Adam, Miss C. ■ Hayden' (retired), assistant teacher • for 23 years, Miss P. Adam and Mrs. Jessie Swan, assistant teachers of some years ago, and the following teach ers from other schools, namely, .................. all of whom were original scholars of the school. The Pittsworth School was opened on the 8th May, 1882, under the name of "Beauraba Provisional School," this part of the district then being known as “Beauraba Homestead Area,” the first teacher being the late Mr. W. F.D. Yonge The average dally attendance for the first year was 11. It continued as a Provisional School until 1889, when it was superseded by a "State” School, the average attendance for that year of 38 warranting the change. The average for the, twelve months ended 30th April of this year was 98.5, with an enrolment of 144............. During the time the Pittsworth State School has been in exist

the following .head teachers were in charge - Walter Francis Duke Yonge (1882-83), Florence Mary Elizabeth Hadley (1883-84), Edward' Burgoyne (1884), WalterFrancis Duke Yonge (re-entered the Department and taught from 1885 to 1889), ........The following names were read out as appearing oh the school roll of fifty years ago........Mr. Martin Scott then addressed the gathering and said that they wore assembled there that day in celebration of the jubilee of their State School, and at the same time to show special honour to the first pupils and head teachers of the school. They desired to .tender their congratulations to all those teachers and pupils, who, during the last fifty years, had done so much to build up that high reputation

which the school enjoyed. He regretted to say. that the first and pioneer teacher, late Mr. W. P. D. Yonge had passed to the Great Beyond, but nevertheless his memory was very actively recollected by many who had the privilege of his acquaintance, but more particularly by his old pupils who possessed a valued remembrance of his noble inspiration and valued instruction and example. They were glad to have with them that day Mrs. Yonge who fifty-two years ago had married the late Mr. W. P. D. YongeMr. Scott gave a brief historical sketch of the many changes that had occurred during the past fifty years, referring to the hardships and perplexities of the pioneers, the advent of the motor car, aeroplane, telephone, wireless, talkies, etc., and the improved conditions as evidenced by the wheat dumps in various parts of the district, the production of the largest cheese in the world, etc...........Cr. Krieg referred to the moving of the. school from its old site to a more central position in the town. A. Deacon and the Hon. R. M. King. Mr. King said that the reputation of the school of which Mr. Yonge was the architect was being upheld. ........Mr. Baird, the head teacher of the school, in moving a vote of thanks to the visitors, spoke in retrospective terms. He pictured the opening of the school fifty years ago. There would not be many motor cars there that day.’ He could ■ imagine seeing them

coming up to the school in family drays, and the more wealthy In spring carts. The fence would be lined with saddle horses. Under the box tree there would be a concertina dance. The children took water bottles to school, and he could visualise the boys using the bottles along the road to exercise their markmanshlp. Mr. Baird then spoke of the effort being made to provide a bore, and said that bores, like the well-bred ones, cost a lot of money. Some twenty trees were planted, and to the good fortune of the tree-planters, rain fell on Sunday that will be of great benefit to their growth,

The following are the names of the trees planted, by whom, and by whom to be cared for,' in the order

Mandervillea, Mrs. W. P. D.Yonge

S. Holmes and S. Box.Silky Oak, Shire Council, N. Love day and B. Yonge

Eucalyptus Roslnfera, Walter Yonge

Appendix 3

OBITUARY (as published in "Pittsworth Sentinel" 15 October 1924)

Passing of Mr W, F, D, Yonge

The late Mr Walter Francis Duke Yonge, whose death at the ripe old age of 80 years we briefly reported in last issue, was one of the very earliest, best known and most highly respected pioneers of this district, and was a grand old gentleman in the fullest meaning of the term. Gentlemen of his type are rare - much more so than we imagine - and as one famous writer says, "Men of courage, men of sense and men of letters are frequent, but a true gentleman is what one seldom sees. A gentleman has ease without familiarity, is respectful without meanness, and is genteel without affectation." The quotation can be aptly applied to Mr Yonge for he was truly a gentleman. "Whether treading the flowery meads of prosperity, or tottering on the unpleasant paths of weakness or adversity," one could not imagine the late Mr Yonge being temperamentally effected by either one or the other. His nature could not be other than kind and considerate under any condition of life, and the severe pioneering days, with its trials and privations, had no hardening or detrimental effect on his fine character as a man. The acquiring and accumulation of wealth was not his fort, his natural bent being less materialistic and more philosophical. His good influence, however, was felt in the community for a great many years, and his name will long be remembered and revered when some others better financially circumstanced have been forgotten.

The late Mr Yonge for many years was a contributor to this journal, and his articles on the early pioneering days were always read with great interest. He was a very close friend of Mr D. V. Hannay, who for a number of years was editor of the "Sentinel" and the writer made the acquaintance of Mr Yonge during the first week of his arrival in Pittsworth, and his admiration and love for the deceased gentleman grew as a more intimate knowledge of him was gained. As a conversationalist the deceased gentleman was most interesting, and despite his illness almost to the last was able to enjoy the retrospective pleasure of relating his early experiences.

The late Mr Yonge began to decline in health some twelve months ago, but during the whole of his illness he was particularly bright and encouraged and was pleased to receive visitors, who daily went to see him. He was able to converse intelligently almost up to the time of passing away, and his death was most peaceful. During her husband's illness Mrs Yonge was most unselfish and painstaking and was with him constantly, giving every care and attention in her usual cheerful manner.

The deceased gentleman, who was the third and youngest son of the Rev. and Mrs Duke Yonge, was born in Alloa, Scotland, in the year 1844, and was educated at Christ Church Blue Coat School, London, one of the most select and historical schools in England at that time. He came to Australia in the year 1863 for the purpose of gaining what was for many years known as "colonial experience", and after a brief term in Sydney he accompanied his elder brother Arthur and settled at Tarrawinnaba, near Goondiwindi, where they resided for several years. They left those parts to take up land in this district, the area comprising the country which now extends from O'Dea's to "Puslinch".

This was in the year 1880 at which time the deceased gentleman married Miss Lucy Williams, who resided with her uncle, Mr N. Watson, "Sunnyside", Southbrook. The marriage ceremony was performed by the Rev. H. J. Campbell, of Allora, in the little chapel at "Sunnyside". On the day they were married they drove to "Puslinch" where, in the year 1886, Mr Yonge commenced dairying in a small way.

At this period there was need for a school, and the deceased gentleman took a most active part in the agitation for this necessity. He was chairman of the first school committee formed, and also acted as secretary, and by a strange coincident was the builder of the new school which now comprises part of the head teacher's residence and was the first teacher of the school. He occupied the position for two years, the low salaries paid in those days, about £80 a year, being insufficient for a married man, causing him to resign his appointment. He was succeeded by a Mr Taylor, who is now one of the chief inspectors in the Educational Department.

The father and sons then gave their constant attention to their dairy, and commenced a milk and butter business in Pittsworth that has had an uninterrupted career right up to the present time. The butter trade increased to such an extent that it seemed that the venture would become a most profitable one, but its career was checked in 1902 by the formation of the Pittsworth Dairy Company, and "Puslinch" had to close down its factory, and enter into the retailing of milk. This was a most severe blow to the Yonge family, who had practically initiated the co-operative system of dairying on the Downs. The fault did not lay with the late Mr Yonge, nor could the formation of the Pittsworth Dairy Company be regarded than other but a wise move, as no single individual could have combated the early struggles of the Company and attained the world-wide success it has achieved of recent years. It was an inevitable incident that benefited the community at the expense of an individual.

The deceased gentleman was a member of the first brass band formed in Pittsworth, some 27 years ago, and he made the heads of the two first drums that were made of calf skins. When age made it impossible for him to take an active interest in the Band, he was made a life member as an appreciation for his past services.

For twenty-three years he was secretary of the Bright Light Lodge (Grand United Order of Odd Fellows.), and it was the class of work that suited his temperament and for which he was naturally adapted His interest in Friendly Society work was always keen, and he held to his "post" until death occurred. Two years ago the Lodge honoured him with the presentation of a handsome gold medal. He was also secretary for the Lodge formed at Millmerran of recent years until the appointment could be made from that centre.

The funeral took place on Thursday afternoon last, and was one of the largest and most representative ever seen in this district. Many telegrams conveying sympathy were received from various parts of the State and out of the State, and numerous wreaths were placed on the coffin and grave. The funeral proceeded from his late residence, and the body was taken to St. Andrew's Church of England, where an impressive and short service was read by the Rev. S. Atherton (Rector of Drayton), and a very particular friend of the family, assisted by the Rev. Hassell, while the lesson was read by the Archbishop of Brisbane, who was in Pittsworth for the purpose of Confirmation. The Archbishop had been acquainted of the splendid character of this late worshipper of St Andrews congregation. During the service two of deceased's favourite hymns were sung, namely, "Abide with Me" and "Nearer My God to Thee", and as the body was being taken out of the Church the "Nunc Dimittus" was sung by the choir. The funeral then proceeded to the Pittsworth Cemetery, and was headed by the members of the four Friendly Societies who marched in regalia. Four of the deceased school pupils, namely Messrs J. and G. R. Kirkup, Geo. Luscombe, and J. H. Whittaker acted as pallbearers, in addition to Messrs P. Farrington and Robert Willson. Numbers of Pittsworth's leading citizens, and many also from outside districts were noticed at the graveside.

The Rev. Hassell officiated, and Mr C. W. Arnold was the undertaker.

And so has passed one of the finest characters that has ever lived in this district. He was tolerant, happy of disposition, kindly in thought, dignified in person, a gentleman, and beloved and esteemed by all sections of the community. His name shall long be remembered and indelibly imprinted on the minds of all whose privelege it was to know him.

"There are some spirits nobly just, unwarped by self or pride,

Great in the calm, but greater still when dashed by adverse tide,

They hold the rank no king can give, no station can disgrace,

Nature puts forth her gentleman, and monach's must give place."

At the evening service at St Andrew's Church on Sunday last, the Rev. A. McD. Hassell (Rector), made kindly reference to the late Mr Yonge.

Those left to mourn their loss are: Mrs Reason (Sydney), and Miss Kate Yonge (Pittsworth). The sons are: Walter (Pittsworth), Richard (Sydney), Eustace (Ipswich), Eric, Louis and Ronald (Pittsworth).

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