Fernie Alexander (Alex) Edward

The Fernie Name

The FERNIE name was first used by descendants of the Pictish people of ancient Scotland. The Picts were a group of Late Iron Age and Early Medieval Celtic people living in ancient eastern and northern Scotland.

FERNIE was the name for someone who lived in the lands of Fernie in Fife whee the name can be found since very early times. There is a great number of spelling variations in various documents as scribes did not have a set of spelling rules and spelt according to sounds. Fernie has been spelled Fernie, Ferny, Fearny, Fearney, Ferney, Firnie and Firney.

Fernie Family History

At 34 Peter Fernie went with Elisabeth Oliphant to the Parish of Portmoak in Kinross on Friday 4th January 1822 and completed a Proclamation of Banns. This was a notice of contract of marriage, read out in the Kirk before the marriage took place. Couples or their ‘cautioners’ (sponsors) were often required to pay a ‘caution’ or security to prove the seriousness of their intentions. Forthcoming marriages were supposed to be proclaimed on three successive Sundays, however, in practice, all three proclamations could be made on the same day on payment of a fee.

On Saturday they went to the village of Auchterderran in Fife, where they were married on 5th January 1822. Four years later Margret was first born in 1826 who was given Elisabeth’s mother’s name. Then William was born in 1827 named after Peter’s father. The next pregnancy Elisabeth was expecting twin boys and they waited for the New Year to come into the world. They named their boys Peter and Alexander. At one month old the twins were christened in Portmoak Parish, Kinross. When the twin boys were 7, Elisabeth had twin girls, Ann and Jean. They now had 6 children.

When the twin boys were 21, twin Peter Fernie married pregnant Mary Frew Henderson in Auchterderran on 26th March 1852 and over the following twelve years they had five babies born there; George six weeks after their marriage, Elizabeth, Margaret, Mary and finally Betsy.

At the age of 26, Alexander Fernie left Kinross in Scotland in 1857 and sailed to Victoria in Australia. He met widowed 27 year old Scottish girl, Helen Baker, who had been in Australia a few years with her two children, 6 year old John Millar Baker and 3 year old Helen. Back when they were in Scotland, at 20, she married a James Shaw Baker. After their first born they had a baby daughter Helen who died and they gave their third born the same name. James Baker died on 4th January 1855.


Helen was six months pregnant with Alexander Fernie when they married at his home in Johnson Street, Collingwood, Victoria, on 25th June 1857. Three month later on 12th September 1857 their first child, Peter Fernie was born in their home at Collingwood. Alexander was a blacksmith and wheelwright.
When Peter was 3, Helen had a baby, Jessie but she died. A year later Peter got a sister, Elizabeth Oliphant Fernie. In 1863 baby Alexander was born but only lived for 10 months and a service was held on 3rd March 1863 at the Presbyterian Section of the Melbourne General Cemetery.

Then Margaret was born in 1865 but she died at 11 months and her service was held on 29th January 1866 at the same grave. It is hard to imagine that it could get worse for them, but Jane Anne was born in 1867 and only lived 11 months. Back they went again to the same grave, their third time within four years on 25th March 1868. In 1870 bought another birth, Annie Alexandria. There were now three Fernie children in this family. Helen had a total of 10 childbirths and only half of them survived.

A Blacksmith at 30, Peter Fernie married 23 year old, Eliza Thompson Watkins on 24th May 1887 in Collingwood, Victoria. Eliza was born on 12th (11th) January 1864 in Templestowe, Heidelberg, Victoria. Her parents were Edward Watkins and Elizabeth Thompson.

On 9th (2nd) July 1888 their first child Alexander Edward Fernie was born in Charlotte Street, Collingwood. Peter and Eliza had 3 more children in Victoria; Ruby Elizabeth 1890, Frederick Clifton 1893 and Olive Annie 1895.

Helen lost her husband who died when she was 69 years old. At about the same time, her son Peter and his wife, Eliza and their four children moved to Western Australia.

Five years later when the Fernie family were living in Wood Street, Green’s Valley, now Fremantle, a terrible tragedy struck the family. Peter was 48 and Eliza 41, when their 9 year old daughter, Ollie became very sick. She went into a coma and passed away from a perforated bowel, on her tenth birthday, 5th March 1905.
At Green’s Valley when Peter was 50 and Eliza was 43, they had another baby, Winifred Jean Fernie. Her birth was registered in Fremantle. By then Alex was 19, Ruby 17 and Fred 14.
On 21st September 1907, Peter’s mother Helen passed away at the age of 77.


On 12th March (May) 1912 Alexander Edward Fernie married Margaret Jane Thompson at the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Perth. Margaret was born on 7th August 1888, at Cossack, Western Australia. Her parents, Andrew Stonehouse Thompson and Annie Cave married in Roebourne, Western Australia on 16th March 1881. Alexander and Margaret first lived in Kathleen Street, in what was then known as Osborne that was later changed to the suburb of Swanbourne.

Their first child, Les, was born in 1913. Maggie was six months pregnant with her second child when the First World War was declared on 28th July 1914. Three months later Alan Edward Fernie was born on 22nd October 1914.
Kathleen Street, Cottesloe was a sandy track with only two houses. From their house to the sea was open country where the Light Horse Regiment trained.

Fred signed up with the Australian Imperial Forces on 12th (19th) July 1915. Alex joined up a year later and left for England on 14th September, 1916. Fred left Adelaide on HMAT Geelong on 18th November 1915. Private 1258 of the 32nd Infantry Battalion. In England he transferred to the 23rd Battalion on 15th March 1916. That Battalion arrived in France on 27th June 1916 and entered the front line for the first time on 10th July becoming embroiled in their first major battle on the Western Front, at Fromelles, on 19th July 1916.

Alexander embarked Fremantle on the HMAT Berrima on 23rd December 1916. Private 3153 of the 51st Battalion. On 18th January Alex was so sea sick he spent the next five nights in the ships hospital and had to go back for another night on 5th February. In France, at this time, Fred was also admitted to hospital and then transferred to England with Trench Fever.

It took Fred four months to recover and in April 1917 he returned to France. The very next day Alex’s 51st Battalion attacked Noreuil, an outpost village near the Hindenberg Line. The attack was a success, but the Battalion suffered 239 casualties during the assault and subsequent defence of the village.


A year later, on 5th April 1918, Alex was wounded by shrapnel in his right knee and admitted to 47th Casualty Clearing Station, ‘suffering shell wound’. The next day he was transferred to 22n General Hospital and on 26th April 1918 he returned to duty for a little over a month, then went back to the Australian Field Ambulance suffering Synovitis of his right knee. On 13th June 1918 he was transferred to England and the next day admitted to Bath War Hospital suffering with inflammation of the connective tissues in his right knee. Fred’s Battalion switched to the Ypres sector in Belqium later in 1918, where Fred was wounded on 21st September 1918. The 53rd Battalion entered its last major battle of the war on 29th September 1918. On 11th November 1918, at 11.11 at 11 o’clock, the First World War came to an end. Of those in the 51st Battalion Australian Imperial Force there were 889 killed and 1604 wounds (including Gassed). Alex left England on 12th December 1918 and got back into Fremantle on 18th January 1919 with a bad leg and knee that required further hospital treatment. He was discharged as medically unfit on 30th April 1919. Fred returned to Fremantle on 21st June 1919.

While his father was still in France, young Les started school at Osbourne Primary School, 155 Albert Street, Osbourne. This school opened in 1903 with an enrolment of 17 children in a very rural setting but now it is in high density housing. Maggie was worried how she would get her son home after school but Les came home by himself at lunch time because he thought that was the end of the school day. His teacher was his Aunt Ada (Maggie’s youngest sister) and sadly Les got teased a lot about being a teacher’s pet and ended up having a punch up with a kid who gave him a blood nose. Les changed to Eric Street State School on the corner of Railway and Eric Streets, which is now called North Cottesloe Primary School. This two roomed school was built by 25th July 1914. Prior to the school being built they used the Napier Street Church of England Mission Hall. They had to provide a school in North Cottesloe for the young children for whom the walk to the Cottesloe Primary School on the other side of the railway line, was both distant and perilous.

Before and on his return from the War, Alex worked in the “smallgoods” section of Boans Ltd. In 1919 he left his job, sold his house and bought a shop with house attached on the corner of Napoleon (Forrest) and Railway Streets, Cottesloe. Alex had a horse and cart for deliveries and a sulky for outings. The horse was an ex-trotter and was very frisky. Alex would take the horse and sulky for a run around the block before anyone of the family could get into the sulky.

Special Tenure

A discharged soldier who has obtained a qualification certificate may apply for a block of land in an area set apart for discharged soldiers, on the terms either of the Land Act or of the Agricultural Lands Purchase Act, but with the following modifications :- The Minister may allow payment of the instalments of the price of the land, including the value of improvements, to commence not later than 5 years from the commencement of the conditional purchase; and the price, as fixed by the Land Act (exclusive of the value of improvements, if any, and survey fee), of Crown Lands acquired by a discharged soldier is reduced by one half, and any soldier who, prior to enlisting, was a holder of a conditional purchase under the Lands Act, is not required to pay more than half the purchase money. This latter provision does not apply to land acquired by the Crown under the Agricultural Lands Purchase Act.

Around 1919 or 1920 Fred Fernie (Alex’s brother) bought a property through the Soldier’s Settlement Scheme in Patterson Road, Pickering Brook (which was “Bechelli’s Orchard”). Alex would visit some weekends and he would travel from Cottesloe by horse and sulky to Pickering Brook. His journey would take over two hours. Alex, wanting to be near his brother at the time, so he applied for a place in Pickering Brook, under the Soldier’s Settlement Scheme.

They did a course together on agriculture studies with the “Ugly Men’s School” (a service provided to assist and help returned soldiers and their dependants to settle after the war). Unfortunately their studies focused more on wheat and sheep than on the orchard.

It is believed that ALEX FERNIE is in the centre of the back row, in long sleeve white shirt, arms crossed with the brimmed hat.

In 1922 Alex received a virgin bush block of 23 acres under the “Soldiers Settlement Scheme”. Leaving Cottesloe in January, they arrived by horse and sulky with their furniture at their new property. Some trees had been removed by the Government tree puller. The big trees would have to be dug out by hand with a mattock and shovel, then the roots cut through with an axe. It could take one man three days or more to remove one large tree.

When they moved to Pickering Brook, Les and Alan first went to school at Carilla but later transferred to Carmel School, about 3 miles walk, mostly up hill, including through Wilson and Johns, the neighbour’s properties.

They lived in a tent for the first eighteen months. Then they made a shed from bush timber and the bark from trees. The framework was made of saplings, the roof and walls were sheets of bark about 1.8 metres long and 800cm wide. The floor was white ants nests stamped down which made a floor almost like concrete. Beds were corn sacks stretched between a sapling frame work. This structure later became their cow shed. They worked from early morning till dark, and then Margaret made the children’s clothes at night.

Later Alex purchased a pre-cut timber and asbestos house from Millers Timber and Trading Co. Margaret cooked in the open for six months while Alex and Fred built the house. It was a three bedroom house with a very large kitchen and front and back verandahs. They had a bricklayer build their chimney for the house and on the night that it was finished, a very bad wind storm came through the area and the chimney began to tilt. Unfortunately the chimney had to be pulled down brick by brick and rebuilt. It was winter before they were in their house.

Life was hard for Alex and Maggie in those early days. The clearing was a very slow process, using a horse drawn plough to turn over the soil and levelled with horse drawn harrows. They planted the fruit trees 22 feet apart (about 6.6 metres). It was many years before they would be bearing sufficient fruit to bring in any money. Alex grew vegetables between the young fruit trees; cauliflowers, savoy cabbage, peas, beans and tomatoes were his main crops and they were top quality. Les would pick peas after school and on weekends for which they received pocket money, about sixpence (5 cents) a kerosene tin full.


There were many hardships to be faced in the early days;

The first orange trees to bear fruit got brown rot because they were not aware they needed early spraying.
The first cow got tuberculosis and had to be shot.
Bad hail storms ruined vegetable and tomato crops.
Mud and water swept down the hillside and through the house.
They bought two more cows which needed drenching. While his wife, Margaret held the cows mouth open Alex poured in the medicine into the cow’s throat only to find it went into its lungs. The cow dropped dead.
A cat went in amongst the day old chicks and killed seventy of them. Foxes and hawks were always a constant threat.

Many Returned Soldiers found it very hard to survive until the fruit trees started to bear saleable fruit. It a lot of cases they walked off the land leaving everything behind. Fred found the going very tough as his land was of poorer quality and had a limited water supply in comparison to Alex’s which had a plentiful supply of water all year. So to supplement his income Les bought a Ford “T” truck and started a carrying business taking produce to market and back loading with fowl feed, chaff and anything else that was required. He eventually sold up and went to work for Watsons Supply Stores and became Manager of the King Street Branch. Alex purchased the truck.

Alex and Les’ father, Peter died on 19th March 1940 in Shenton Park, Western Australia, aged 82 years old. Their mother, Eliza died on 3rd December 1943 at Maylands, Western Australia, aged 79 years old.

In true pioneering spirit Alex and Maggie didn’t lose heart and the property is being worked to this day by the third and fourth generation of the Fernie family.

Alex retired and handed the orchard over to his son Alan in 1950. After retiring from the orchard Alex worked as a Barman at the Pickering Brook Sports Club. He passed away on 16th September 1963 of a heart attack at Pickering Brook, while cleaning the floors of the Club. His wife, Maggie died on 4th November 1974 at Bentley, Western Australia, age 86 years old.

Leslie Alexander Fernie married Freda Anne Berle on 24th July 1937.

Alan Edward Fernie married Bernice Victor Lower on 21st January 1939.

Ada Margaret Fernie married Kendrick H. Pattinson in March 1942.

Leslie Alexander Fernie

Leslie Alexander FERNIE
Born. 1913

Married. 24th July 1937

Freda Anne BERLE
Born. 1911

Alan Edward Fernie

Alan Edward FERNIE
Born. 22nd October 1914

Married. 21st January 1939

Bernice Victor LOWER
Born. 27th December 1915

Ada Margaret Fernie

Ada Margaret FERNIE
Born. 7th August 1920

Married. March 1942


Alan Edward Fernie

Alan, from a very young age, experienced many of those early struggles of clearing the land, planting vegetables, growing flowers and raising chickens so they had some form of income while the fruit trees grew old enough to bear fruit.
Early produce consisted of veggies, eggs, flowers and anything else they could sell. The produce was loaded onto a one ton truck and Alex would take it to the markets at Mount Lawley, He would stay the night at Maylands and then travel home the next day.

Alan remembers a time when his mother did not go to Perth for a period of 12 months. Margaret would walk twice a week about 2 miles to the Carmel Station to get their meat and other supplies which were wrapped up in hessian. To supplement the orchard income Alan was to work at Illawarra Orchards, Karragullen for 10 years.


Alan joined the Air Force in 1942, as an aircraft mechanic. He was stationed at Melbourne, Adelaide, Geraldton and Cunderdin. Alan on his return spent another 3 years working at Illawarra Orchard. Alan was respected as a “gun packer” at Illawarra and his position at the grading machine was marked by a plaque bearing his name. This item is still in position at Illawarra today as seen in the following photographs taken in 2011.

Alan and Bernice were to build their home on the orchard, using handmade cement bricks. They did not get married until their home of 3 rooms (kitchen, bedroom and bathroom) was completed. Further rooms were added to the dwelling during the 1940’s as required, it was finally completed in its present state in 1947.

While Alan was in the Air Force, Bernice raised ducks, which she would kill and dress them and Alex would sell them in the Markets on Fridays. The money was used to buy cement which she and the children used to make more bricks. When Alan returned from Cunderdin there was nearly enough to finish building the home.


They carried on with the vegetables, flowers, cows and chickens while more land was cleared for planting fruit trees. They lived in this home for 65 years. Alan and Bernice had four children, Clifton, Jeanette, Beven and Victor.
They all went to the Pickering Brook Primary School which was a walk of approximately two miles for the children.

Bernice Victor Lower

Bernice was born in Kellerberrin on 27th December 1915.

She was the third child in a family of twelve.

She was to start work at an early age, the day after her 14th birthday.

Bernice began work as a cleaner working for the McCallan’s in Kellerberrin. Then for the Mitchell’s in Doodlakine. (Mrs. Mitchell was Mrs. Roberts daughter who lived in Carmel). Bernice later began working for Mrs. Roberts.

It was while Bernice was working for Mrs. Roberts in Carmel and attending the various social functions, she met her future husband Alan.

Her next job was with Kit Thompson, who owned a shop in South Perth. There she was to do the cooking and cleaning. As there was no room in the house for Bernice to stay, she had to live in a little flat down the road. Kit Thompson was Margaret Fernie’s (Thompson) brother. Alan would go down Tuesday and Saturday to visit Bernice on his motorbike.

“Loarings” in Bickley was to be Bernice’s next place of employment where she stayed until she married Alan


Alan and Bernice became involved in the early days of the Pickering Heritage Group. They were very supportive and regularly attended the Open Days.

Beven & Beverley Fernie

In 1959, having left school, Beven Fernie, second son of Alan and Bernice, began working with his father on the orchard.

Beven married Beverley and they had three children.

Alan retired in 1981 and BevEn took over the running of the orchard with his wife Beverley.

In 1987 Beven’s son, Michael joined Beven and Beverley in working the orchard. Although Beven and Beverley still actively worked the orchard, in 2005 Michael took over the general management of the orchard with Beven and Beverley’s help.This is the fourth generation of the Fernies that have worked this land which was taken up by Alexander Edward Fernie in the early 1920’s.

When Alan joined Alex in 1930, the partnership name of A. E. FERNIE & SON was established. This name is still used today as the trading name.

Canvas Packing Bins

Many orchards have now replaced these bins with modern rotary bins

At the back of this photo shows the grader, which carries fruit up a roller conveyer.

  1. A person would stand by the grader and check the fruit traveling up the rollers, removing any damaged fruit as they moved past this point.
  2. When the fruit left these rollers they rolled onto a flat conveyor belt (far left hand side). The fruit would roll along this conveyor belt, passing various sized openings.
  3. These openings ranged from smallest to largest which ran the full length of the conveyor belt.
  4. When the fruit reached its “correct Size” opening, it would roll into a canvas packing bin.
  5. These canvas bins had springs at the end and would drop down as the weight of the fruit filled the bins.
  6. A person would then pack fruit from these bins into packing boxes for various markets.

A front view of the canvas bins where the packers would stand to pack their fruit.

On completion they would place the full box of fruit, on the steel roller stands, shown at the front of this photo.

NOTE: Beverley Fernie, in her wisdom chose to take photos of the bins before they were removed, to preserve this part of their heritage for future generations.

Following their death, and after repairs and maintenance, the home has now been re-occupied by Michael (Grandson), his partner Lea and their children Jessi and Casey. Michael is very proud to be a fourth generation grower in one of the last remaining orchards in Western Australia, still owned and operated by descendants of those who purchased and cleared land under the Soldier Settlement Scheme after World War 1.

Reference: Article: Susan Forbes
Pickering brook Heritage Group Inc


Images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 11, 18, 20 Susan Forbes
7, 8, 9, 12, 13, 14, 17, 19, 21, 22, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43 Bverley Fernie
10 Internet
15, 16, 24, 25 Gordon Freegard
23 Tom Price
33 Pickering Brook Heritage Group
44, 45 Westralian Newspapers