Edward & Mary Owen

Meet The Member!
The Family Of Edward & Mary Owen

Edward and Mary Owen with their daughter Edith, and son Oliver arrived in Western Australia on the “Otago” on June 4, 1886. Originally from a farming family in Berriew, Wales, Edward had been a tailor in Harrow, England, and was also responsible for making the straw “boaters” – hats – for students of Harrow School, a well-known Public School for boys. On arriving in W.A. Edward set up his tailoring business in a shop in North Fremantle. The family lived in Guildford for a time, and in Victoria Park, and at one stage Edward ran a dairy in Cannington. Always mindful of his farming background, Edward encouraged Oliver to look to the land for a living, and in 1893 the family, now with another son, Arthur (1889-1973) took up a grant at Monument Hill, Upper Canning . This was later known as Pickering Brook, but now is in the Carmel postal area. Here the family developed a mixed orchard, and later Edward and Mary ran a guest-house. Edward transferred his dairy to the property, but this was not a great success, although milk was sold to local residents, and also sent to Perth daily on the train. The Moana Café was one of his customers. He also continued to conduct his tailoring business from the property, having quite a clientele among the local timber workers, as well as customers who came up from Perth.

In March, 1897, Oliver married Mary Ellen, the youngest daughter of Henry and Mary (nee Ellis) Passmore. Henry, born in Devon, England, had been a boy sailor. He served in the Baltic, and in the Crimean War, before leaving the Imperial Navy and joining the Convict Service at Dartmoor Prison. He came to Western Australia in charge of 300 convicts, on board the “Racehorse”, in 1865. Mary Ellen was born at North Fremantle in 1872. Her mother died in 1877. Mary Ellen (known as Nellie) and her three brothers and three sisters accompanied their father on many of his assignments. He became well known throughout the State, taking charge of convict gangs building roads in the suburbs of Perth, as well as the York Road and the Albany Road. After being sent to Albany he was successful in working out how to prevent the sand build-up that was damaging the harbour. He also was in charge of the Quarantine Station, and is credited with growing the first potatoes in the district.

On his return to Perth he was put in charge of the dredge “Black Swan” which was used to deepen the channel and repair sections of the so-called “Convict Fence” along the Canning River below the Riverton Bridge. Originally built by convicts in the mid 1860s, it helped keep open the channel that allowed the barges bringing timber down from the Upper Canning area to negotiate the shallow areas of the river. The mill in the ranges was built for Bird and Mason, and Mason’s Mill as it was known was on Canning Location 75. Coincidentally, this was one of the blocks bought by Edward Owen when he moved to the area in the 1890s. After more than four years on the Canning, Passmore returned with the dredge to Perth Water, where he took charge of the dredging of mud from the river, which was used to fill in the low lying areas to make the Esplanade, and the area towards the Causeway that became Langley Park.

Oliver and Nellie’s first child, Gwendolyn, was born at home in 1897. As was the norm, no doctor was present, but a local woman, Mrs. Sullivan, acted as midwife. A son, Leslie Cunliffe, was born in September 1899, and daughters Olive May, in June 1901, and Eva Doreen (known as Pat, or Pattie) in 1903. Two years later Raymond Cecil was born on St David’s Day – 1st March 1905. The sixth child, Mary Ethelwyn (Molly) arrived in March 1911. A midwife, known as “old lady Wallis” assisted with the births of the last two babies. All six children grew up on the family property, helping their parents and grandparents with the orchard chores and with the paying guests who stayed in Edward and Mary’s house, which was built a short distance away from Oliver’s home. The girls also helped their mother in the house. It was a large household, with six children and, at one time, Oliver’s maternal grandparents, Edwin (died c.1905) and Fanny Judge (details unknown) who had migrated from England to join the family. As well, they had a permanent “paying guest”, Miss Ellie Hardey, who lived with them as one of the family. Miss Hardey, the daughter of the Wesleyan Methodist Hardey family who built Tranby House in Maylands, had a slight intellectual handicap, but fitted happily into the Owen family.

As befitting a family from Wales the Owens were staunch Methodists, attending services in early times in a private home, then in the Carmel School, and later in the Carmel Methodist Church. Edward Owen was a strict adherent to the practices of his religion, and did not allow any but the most necessary chores to be done on a Sunday. He also frowned on such pastimes as gambling or dancing. He forbade any play on the Sabbath, and chastised any child heard whistling or singing on such a solemn occasion. However, the work on an orchard and dairy could not always be suspended on a Sunday, and when the Minister rolled up his sleeves to help on one particularly busy day, even Edward was forced to accept reality, even if only on a temporary basis! Oliver was the organist at the Carmel Church, and the family owned an organ which was played as accompaniment for hymn singing at home, as well as for the occasional sing-song.

Despite the hard physical work involved on the orchard, the Owen children enjoyed the freedom of their life in the Hills. Trips to Perth were made by the train, which wound its way to the city via Kalamunda and the famous zig-zag railway line down the Darling Range escarpment. Apart from visitors to the guest-house, the Owens hosted picnics for members of the Perth Welsh community, including an annual New Year’s Day picnic at near-by Shinglewood Flats, and parties of fellow Welsh immigrants regularly made the trip up by excursion train to enjoy the fresh, clear air of the Hills.

The Owen children all attended Carmel School, where Mr. Jackson and the well-known Tom Millar were among the early teachers.

Gwen Owen married Edgar Garland, and they had three children – Owen Edgar (Ted), Lesley and Laurel. Edgar died of war injuries when Laurel was a baby, and some years later Gwen married Graham Ford. They lived in Union Rd, Carmel. Some time after Graham’s death, Gwen built a house on Canning Rd, where she later cared for Oliver until his death in 1964. Nellie predeceased him, passing away in 1953. Gwen lived to the age of 102, passing away in 2000. Les married Margery Fist (died 1994) and they ran the family orchard until retirement. They had no children. Les died in 1980. Olive, who married John Hooper had no children. They worked on the orchard, building a house next to Gwen. John died in 1975, Ollie in 1984. Pattie, who married Jim Sparks in England, also had no children. She was a Nursing Sister, and in 1943, during WW11, was lost at sea when the ship on which she was returning to Australia was torpedoed off the African coast.

The youngest daughter, Molly, married Bill Kirkham. They had three children. Molly is still living (May 2009) in a Hostel in Mosman Park. Ray Owen married his childhood sweetheart, Flora Hewison, daughter of Helen and William Hewison. Helen was the Postmistress at Pickering Brook, and they also ran the General Store. Ray and Flo had four children.


Clive, who married Pamela Annetts, daughter of another pioneering family, Madge and Wally Annetts, and had three children; Helen, who married a police officer, Peter Skehan, and produced four children; Ken who married Audrey Collins (nee King) and had two daughters, and Eric (Ric) who is unmarried. Ray and Flo’s three sons still live on the property. Ken and Ric run the orchard while Clive has taken over the farming property at York which Ray and his sons developed from virgin bush. Helen and Peter are regular visitors to the family property. Flo Owen died in Kalamunda Hospital in 1992, while Ray died in 2003, just a few weeks short of his 98th birthday. All Ray and Flo’s children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren have grown up with a deep love for the Hills area, particularly the family orchard at Pickering Brook – none of the family was happy when the Postal Authorities “moved” the orchard into the Carmel District. At heart the Owens belong to Pickering Brook!

Eulogy Given On Ray Owen By Peter Skehan (Son-In-Law) In January 2003

Ray Owen was born on the family property at Pickering Brook on March 1, 1905 to Oliver and Mary Ellen (nee Passmore), joining elder sisters, Gwen, Ollie, Pat and brother Les. The youngest, Molly was born in 1911. Oliver (Pa) and Mary Ellen (who was known as Nell) had arrived in the district in 1893 with parents Edward and Mary Owen, taking up land, including location 75, to run a dairy and develop an orchard. Edward continued his tailoring business and Mary ran a guest house, with young Ray roped in to help entertain the guests on bush walks, and to deliver milk to local residents, to the rail junction at Pickering Brook, and to the local store. This could be called a labour of love as he would see his childhood sweetheart, Flo Hewison, whose mother ran the Store and Post Office. The two became school-mates at Carmel School, and after a long courtship were married in the Carmel Methodist church in 1933.

Ray was a good student, winning a scholarship to the Narrogin School of Agriculture which he took up in 1919, making an auspicious start by arriving on the back of a motor cycle and sidecar with Pa and brother Les, after a bone jarring trip of 8 hours. Ray enjoyed his two years at Narrogin, particularly the practical work, particularly blacksmithing, at which he excelled. In fact, his teacher suggested to Oliver that he should consider allowing Ray to take up blacksmithing as his trade. Ray often talked about his time at Narrogin, and was thrilled when his youngest son, Ric, followed in his footsteps and attended the College also. Ray’s daughter Helen taped many hours of his memories of his two years at Narrogin, and copies have been sent to the school archives, and some of these stories were printed in the History of the Narrogin School of Agriculture published a few years ago.

Ray’s memory was legendary. Not only could he name all his school mates, but also remember where they came from, and often also their father’s occupation. He could name the dates of certain events, and also the weather at the time, and possibly also the score of a tennis or cricket match. The following anecdote well illustrates Ray’s memory:

When meeting up with a younger “Old boy” of Narrogin a few years ago Ray asked if he remembered “Old Charlie”. This chap responded by saying that he didn’t remember many of the teachers. Ray retorted, “Charlie was a horse not a teacher. His stall was third on the right as you come in.” My memory is nothing like Ray’s so the stall position as I have given it may be incorrect, but I am sure Ray had it right.

From Narrogin Ray won another scholarship to University, studying in 1921-2 for a Diploma in Agriculture. He later returned to part time study graduating with a degree in Agricultural Science in 1934. He lectured in Horticulture at UWA for 6 years, and in 1936 was a foundation member of the Institute of Agricultural Science, which granted him Life Membership in 1985.

Ray worked with the Department of Agriculture from 1924 until he retired from his position as Assistant Superintendent of Horticulture to enter Parliament in 1944. Man-powered during World War 2 Ray undertook studies in the dehydration, preservation, and canning of fruit for the troops. Despite this heavy work load he continued to help develop the family orchard. In 1934 he had purchased an adjoining undeveloped block of land from his aunt, Edith Owen, and with this began a life time of devotion to his own property.

To add to the load of full-time work, part-time study, and orchard work, Ray began to grow vegetables to raise money to develop his block and would often rise at first light and ably assisted by some of the Italian and Yugoslav workers settling in the district, would pick cauliflowers and then deliver them to market before returning to work or University. In the early years he travelled by train, but then invested in an Indian Motor cycle and later a nifty little blue Salmson, a French sports car, which became a well known sight zipping up into the hills- on one occasion Police lay in wait for him, but Ray chose that day to come home by a different route.

For years Ray worked these double shifts, and every weekend, sometimes working late into the night helping Pa & Les with their fruit so that he and Flo could “borrow” the shed to get their own fruit ready for market. As the orchard developed Flo & Ray were reliant on the help provided by their off-spring, particularly when Parliamentary duties called. Today, Ken & Ric run the family orchard, now amalgamated with some of the original Owen holding, with around 50 acres planted with mixed stone fruit, apples and pears. In the 1950s Ray took up a block of some 1800 acres of bushland in the York area that was developed by the family into a sheep and cattle property. This is now run by his eldest son Clive and his son Steve.

With Clive, Helen, Ken and Ric, ably assisted by Pam, Peter and Audrey, Ray & Flo began a dynasty that has produced nine grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren, a family of which they were very proud.

Flo died in 1992 aged 86 years, just a few months before the couple’s 60th wedding Anniversary. Ray continued to live in the family home with Ric until April 2001 when failing health necessitated a move into Carinya Nursing Home in Bicton where he was a much-loved resident. Ray died on January 16, 2003, just a few weeks short of his 98th birthday.

Ray’s commitment to the Community and to the Hills District he loved was immeasurable. He served as a Member of the Legislative Assembly for a total of 15 years between 1944 and 1962. From 1947 Ray was on the Darling Range Road Board, later the Kalamunda Shire

Council for a period of 18 years, including 16 years as Chairman and President. The Shire paid tribute by appointing him the first Honorary Freeman of the Shire in 1966, and Raymond Street and the Ray Owen Reserve and Recreation Centre in Lesmurdie were both named in honour of Ray.


He was a Justice of the Peace for over 30 years, but undoubtedly his greatest contribution was to the Fruit Growing Industry. He was a member of the WA Fruit Growers Association from 1933, serving for many years as Chairman of the Central Citrus Growers’ Council; Chairman of the Stone-Fruit Growers’ Committee; and President of the Executive Committee. He represented the WA Central Citrus Council at the inaugural Australian Citrus Growers’ Federation meeting in Sydney in 1948 and continued as a delegate for 22 years, being twice elected President. Ray was instrumental in the formation in 1965 of the Export Stone Fruit Pool and was a member of the Export Stone Fruit Growers’ Association, and President of both Organisations. He was on the Board of Directors of Producers’ Markets Co-Operative for 11years and was made a Life Member of the WA Fruit Growers’ Association in 1996

From his early years Ray had a love for the bush, particularly the flora and fauna of the District, and for the Hills District, especially the Kalamunda, Carmel and Pickering Brook areas. He had a deep interest in local history and, until a year or so before his death, a prodigious memory, and was often called on to answer queries. Many hours of oral history have been recorded which will keep his memory alive. Ray also loved poetry, particularly Australian Poetry by Lawson and Banjo Paterson. He took pride and pleasure in learning and reciting “The Man from Snowy River”. He wrote several poems for his own enjoyment including, “Foothills”, “Canning Location 75”, and “Kalamunda”. He took pride in compliments on his good singing voice which he attributed to his Welsh ancestry, and often entertained staff and residents of Carinya with renditions of old songs and ditties, some of which might not have passed muster in polite society.

Ray was always a practical man, with an inventive mind, developing tools and machines to help run his orchard more efficiently. He could turn his hand to any task, including building and blacksmithing. In his later years he spent some time restoring an old Clayton & Shuttleworth horse-drawn steam-engine, purchased by his father to run a small saw-mill to cut timber for fruit-cases.

Although restored to full running order, regulations did not allow Ray to fulfil his ambition to have it as part of a machinery museum, but this did not stop him from “getting up steam” in the old machine. However he lent it to the Department of Agriculture’s Avon Research Station, where it is a prize exhibit.

Ray did not “retire” until he was in his nineties, taking an active role in the work of the orchard, although handing over the reins to his sons.

He took on the responsibility of the tree nursery, and his budding and grafting skills were put to good use. Although slowing down and troubled by arthritis he was pruning and still packing a fair case of fruit until age finally caught up to him at around 94 years of age.

At his funeral service in 2003, one of Ray’s poems which he composed many years before, named “Canning Location 75”, was read to the large gathering of mourners:

Canning Location 75

There’s a valley in the ranges,
Some fifteen miles from Perth.
Where scrub to forest changes,
It’s the nicest place on earth.

And midway down the valley,
Beneath the saplings tall.
In ti-tree thick like mallee,
You can hear the blue wrens call.

Nearby the parrots chatter loudly,
And golden whistlers trill.
From tall trees still standing proudly,
 That once looked down on Mason’s Mill.

Wattlers, fantails, robins, wrens,
Birds of different colours, birds of different breeds.
Magpies, blue jays, shrikes and swamp hens,
 I’d find their nests in trees, in bushes and in the reeds.

Beneath thick scrub beside the creeks swampy edges,
Along covered trails the quokkas creep.
At dusk they come out to feed on grass and sedges,
But during the day to the deep shadows they keep.

Sunset, and as the shades grow dim,
And just before the dark.
A blue heron is perched on the top-most limb,
 Of a burnt out paper bark.

A silvery glow in the eastern skies,
Lit by the full moon’s rising dome.
With tired feet I’d climb the rise.
And make my way towards home.

To me it was a joy and a pleasure,
To walk and explore each shady nook.
That’s where I spent my boy-hood leisure,
Near my home at Pickering Brook.

Ray Owen (1905-2003)

Background: Composed 1949 . Canning Location 75 was the third block of land alienated in what is now the Kalamunda Shire. It was taken up by Francis BIRD in 1871 and consisted of 200 acres..2 x 100 acre blocks joined corner to corner with sufficient overlap to allow the creek to go through. Edward OWEN acquired the top block in 1893–stamping ground of the young Ray OWEN..Poem is tribute to his memories of the area…..MASON took up timber concession over whole area. BIRD came in and put up 40 thousand pound (according to local legend)–Land was given as ‘security’ for his money. Timber firm subsequently went broke. Water Supply resumed lower block in 1921..Released in 1935 or thereabouts when Bickley Reservoir closed.


Western Mail Thursday 22 February 1951 Page 6
Darling Range is represented by a versatile parliamentarian who is a home-grown product
Meet The Member!

Cruising past an orchard in the Carmel area on a sizzling hot Sunday afternoon I received a cheery hail from an overheated individual whose main garb was a pair of toil stained shorts. As he could usually serve as a model for what the well-dressed legislator should wear I may be pardoned for having failed to recognise Ray Owen, the sitting member for Darling Range, at first glance.

Raymond Cecil Owen, B.Sc. (Agric.), M.L.A., is a man of many parts. Apart from being the member for the district and a commercial orchardist in his own right, he is chairman of the Darling Range Road Board and of the Central Darling Range Fruitgrowers’ Association. He is also chairman of both the Central Citrus Council and the Stone Fruit Committee of the West Australian Fruitgrowers’ Association and a member of its executive, besides holding office in a number of sporting bodies in his district.

Born and raised on an orchard-his father has been a fruitgrower for half a century or thereabouts – the member for Darling Range superimposed wide practical and academic knowledge on this useful background. He took his B.’Sc. (Agric.) degree at the University of Western Australia and then served as Horticultural Adviser with the Department of Agriculture. In between times he developed an orchard property from practically virgin land and raised a family of four children, assisted most ably by Mrs. Owen.

The Family Helps

All the Owens are good “assisters.” On this particular Sunday, a hot spell had brought the stonefruit to maturity in a hurry and the Sabbath was no day of rest for the Hills orchardists. The Owen family in full strength was busy getting fruit ready for the market. Beneath an enormous straw hat, Mrs. Owen was picking’ peaches, assisted by her 16-year-old son Clive. In the shed the only Owen daughter, Helen, aged 14, was skillfully packing huge Ruby Reds. Clive and Helen are both at Modern School, but in their off-school hours they make a very welcome addition to the labour strength of the orchard.

Even the smaller fry, Ken, aged eight, and Ricky, aged four, were fussing round the shed looking important and carrying case “shucks” to the nailing bench. There was a home-made nail-shaker on this, bench too, which I must describe later for the Mutual Help section.


The Owen Holdings

Ray Owen’s grandfather took up land in this area many years ago and today the member, his father and his uncle, each own adjoining properties. Some of their land was taken up in 1861 as the bullock paddock for Bird and Mason’s sawmill and a wooden tramway ran through the land, on which sawn timber was carried to the Canning River for lightering to Perth.

Ray’s share of the property is 45 acres, which was mostly virgin bush when it came to him in 1934. Today he has 20 acres planted, consisting of eight acres of citrus, an acre of apples and pears, with the balance under stone fruit. All the area may be irrigated by sprinklers and light portable pipes, ample permanent water being supplied by the main drain, a brook running through the property. This is equipped with a 20h.p. diesel engine and 2in. heavy-duty centrifugal pump. .

Peaches and Plums

At the time of my visit the peaches were demanding the lion’s share of the attention–and they got my attention without even demanding it. The brightly-hued Ruby Reds were magnificent, and I would like to have taken a colour photograph of some of the well-laden trees. There were golden-yellow Blackburns too, with pink striping, but the Spinks had passed their zenith earlier in the season.

Ray’s Narrabeen plums were enormous and the quality was as outstanding as the quantity. He had, plums that were over three inches in diameter and weighed up to lO oz. each – big red and yellow brindled monsters that were sugar-sweet and juicy enough for anyone’s taste.

There were trees of Delawares, Ruby Bloods, and Wicksons and over in the neighbouring orchard owned by Mr.Owen, Sen., there were apple trees half a century old that had started as Red Astrakhans and other varieties seldom heard of today but had been worked over to more popular strains.


Ray is a particularly efficient handyman and has a host of useful home-made gadgets that are a credit to his ingenuity and skill with tools.

The Farmall tractor that supplies all the farm power carries the standard toolbar and pneumatic lifting gear, but he also adapted it to operate a home-made “calf-dozer”, a jack-hammer for drilling holes for blasting, and a small spray ‘ outfit for fruit-fly baiting.

His big orchard-spraying outfit is a magnificent job designed to be towed by the tractor, and is also home-made. A 160-gallon Army water tank is the reservoir. This was fitted with baffles when purchased, and was later lined with bitumastic paint to prevent corrosion when using Bordeaux mixture. A Ronaldson-Tippet duplex pump was fitted and driven through an Indian motor cycle gearbox to give a reduction in second gear. Power is supplied from the tractor power take-off per medium of the tailshaft and universal from a Vauxhall car. The axle and wheel hubs are from a Chevrolet and the wheels from an A-model Ford but they carry 9.00 x 20 tyres – rejects from the bus company.


An agitator inside the tank is operated by the pump and the spray is delivered through two hoses and spraying lances.

A pair of neat wheel extensions for the tractor are other home-made gadgets which have well repaid the time spent on their manufacture. Old drill wheel rims were “cut and shut” to the correct size and oxy welded, then drilled to take the lugs/ Strap iron was used to make the attachments with holes which can rapidly be slipped over the four bolts holding the wheel-weights. When the pneumatic tyres slip in wet weather, the lugs afford welcome assistance.

Picking ladders of a neat and highly efficient type are made and used on the property and details of the design are shown in the accompanying illustration. The broad base gives stability and the ladders are amazingly light to handle.

A neat rubber-tyred wheel-barrow took my eye, and I was not altogether surprised to learn that, despite its professional finish, it too was made on the place. It was a copy of an American barrow– Syracuse pattern–and was very light but exceedingly strong, being well stayed with light steel straps wherever the stresses and strains were likely to occur.