Ghilarducci Giovanni (Joe)


Acknowledgement is made for the enormous research carried out by Jenny Keast in 1987 for her publication “Valley of Solitude” from which information has been used in this family history. Also information gathered from an interview between Mary Ghilarducci and Lesley Choules on 22nd August 2014 and other sources.
Researched and compiled by Gordon Freegard

Giovanni Ghilarducci (1884 – 1965), son of Leandro and Salomena (nee Parenti), was one of eight children. Alberto, Gino, Telio, Alfredo, who went to the U.S.A., Pia, who came to Western Australia, and Annunciata, Argentina and Giovanni came to Western Australia in 1927. Giovanni, who married Maria Ghilarducci (no relation) in 1909, had a farm at Toscana, Province of Lucca, where he ran cattle and stud bulls, however, in order to earn more money he had to seek work in Australia. They had four sons, Sebastiano, Giuseppe, Pietro and Luigi.

Giovanni migrated with his son Sebastiano, who was then aged seventeen years to Australia in 1926 seeking a better life. They had no other family connections in Australia so they leased land at Balcatta and grew vegetables for a year before leasing land at Roleystone, in 1931, from Mr. Douglas, who was then Commissioner of Police for Western Australia.

Mr. & Mrs. GHILARDUCCI Snr #1

The family then joined Giovanni in 1930 and his sons, Sebastiano, Pietro, Giuseppe and Luigi worked with him in the market gardens. Their first attempt at growing vegetables was a disaster but they persevered and did so well with cabbages in 1933 that they were able to buy property in Karragullen. When the Millar’s Company sold their timber leases at Karragullen as rural holdings, the family bought a one hundred acre block, later splitting off two blocks. The property was cleared and developed by Giovanni and his sons. Luigi (Loui) used to have to walk from Canning Mills to Kelmscott to go to school, then he got a horse and he used to ride the horse to school. Later after clearing some of the land and planting fruit trees, they sold off some of the land and built a little house. While waiting for the fruit trees to grow they supported themselves by growing vegetables. They all worked together until 1950, when the property was divided between them.

As well as the land at Karragullen, the family set up a “she-oak” timber mill at Kelmscott. They had been cutting timber to supply a beer barrel factory, there was some difficulty in collecting payment for the timber and they were given milling equipment instead. With this equipment they set up the mill on River Road, now Brookton Highway at Kelmscott. The “she-oak” was an excellent wood for beer barrels as it easily bent to the correct shape. The barrels were exported to the eastern states and were also used by the Swan Brewery.

In those days apples were packed in jarrah boxes. There was a half dump flat and a bushel case. There was a huge shortage of boards for the boxes when they opened the mill in 1938, so the decision was made to aim at this market. Priority was to supply the growers with boards for their boxes firstly, then if they had time after they would cut timber for other uses.

The mill was worked by Giovanni and his three younger sons. Sebastiano, the eldest, started an orchard at Karragullen on some land his father had given him. They could only cut down jarrah trees that were marked for felling by the Forests Department who had a base at Carinyah for that purpose.

Several Italians were employed either at the mill or cutting the timber. Osvaldo Carrara was one, he built a shack on the Karragullen property. His family were “well off” in Italy but he had come to Western Australia after accidentally shooting his brother, who lost an eye. Carrara sent the money he earned at the mill to his brother, who attended a special school for the blind. Carrara returned to Italy and was run over by a taxi. The authorities had to ring the Consul in Perth to find out who he was. He had worked for the Ghilarduccis for fourteen years. Others who worked at the mill were Charlie Buckingham, Gino Lippi, Castanino Giorgi, Baile and Pelligrini.

The orchard industry changed from packing in wooden jarrah boxes to cardboard boxes. As this trend became the norm they decided to sell. The mill was sold, after nineteen years to John Mazzegas, who changed it into a hardware business and later sold it to Colli. Early in 2014 Colli moved and the site in now being developed into 48 housing units.

During the depression the price of vegetables dropped and many times produce was returned to the grower. who then had to throw away all that was not used by family or friends. It became so bad that the Ghilarduccis had to let go a Slav, who worked for them at Karragullen. He was only paid ten shillings ($1.00) a week but even this was hard to find. He asked to stay on just for his keep. When things improved he was paid his money.

Social life was very simple at Karragullen. There were dances at the hall and Jack Mavor, helped by Ken Smailes and Bill Ellery, gave the men and boys boxing lessons. Later, the movies came to Armadale and Roleystone.

During the war, Giuseppe and his brothers were manpowered to work for their father. Everyone was very scared of internment. Some men from the area were interned for the duration of the war but there seemed to be no reason for it. Men growing vegetables in an isolated area could hardly be called a threat. The Ghilarduccis began exporting apples just before the war but this virtually stopped in 1939. Things were grim during the war years but they survived by growing cabbages for the army. After the war, the fruit export business boomed and the family built cool stores. In 1950, Giovanni retired, and the property was divided between his sons.

Sebastiano married Giorgina Bertolucci in 1939.

In 1950, Giuseppe married Maria Sgro, who had come to Western Australia from Sicily as a young child. Her father, Fedele, traveled to the U.S.A. four times and was there in 1914, when World War 1 began. All Italians were asked to return to Italy to help fight the war and Fedele returned home, but he was not required to join the army. Fedele was an expert in grafting fruit trees and could have earned good money in Italy but he had itchy feet and preferred to travel. In 1925, after the U.S.A. had closed its doors to many migrants, he came to Western Australia with his eldest son, Charlie. Charlie did some gold prospecting before joining his father sleeper cutting at Williams, where they bought land. The rest of the family joined them in 1928, sailing on board the “Cita di Genoa”, on her last trip before being retired. The family left the property during the depression and came to Perth. Maria worked at Bairds department store before dressmaking for Ezio Luisini. Later she worked for Aherns department store. She met Guiseppe while attending a performance by the first opera company to visit Western Australia after the war. Giuseppe and Maria have four children, Olivia, Robert, Laura and Lisa.


Pietro married Flora Lendio in 1959.

In 1950 Roma Scari started working in Loui’s family’s packing shed, packing fruit. Loui and Roma courted for a couple of years, going to regular dances and married in February 1952. After 2 years their first child, Marlene was born in November 1953, and their second child Steven was born in July 1957.

As a family they attended the Armadale and Roleystone pictures for special outings. Loui worked tirelessly on the family property in Karragullen which is still currently operated by the son Steve and grandchildren Andrew, Chris and Wayne.

Loui loved to travel doing trips to South Africa, Singapore, Bali, Cairns and Brisbane and of course Italy. Unfortunately, following an illness and a fall in 2009 he was in and out of hospital regularly. Sadly he passed away on the 20th February 2011 leaving behind his loving wife Roma, Two children, 7 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren.

Third generation fruit grower, Steve Ghilarducci, says the situation today is a lot different from when his family first settled in Karragullen in the 1930s. With the rainfall average getting less each year, they trialing other stone fruit varieties from California, that are more tolerant to the changing conditions. In 2011, Steve and Chris Ghilarducci along with more than 20 growers from the Hills Orchard Improvement Group, visited California to see these varieties growing in their natural environment.

Steve runs the family company, Granville Holdings along with his sons Andrew, Chris and Wayne. Chris runs the family orchard and in 2011 won the “Young Orchardist of the Year” award at the Karragullen Expo. Steve’s son, Wayne, is in charge of the packing shed and Andrew operates the transport.

The Ghilarducci’s have invested in innovative packing machinery and software pictured above. It enables them to process and pack 20 tonnes of oranges a day. This pioneering Karragullen family of four generations, has succeeded in building a very successful business through working hard over long hours and careful future planning.

Every endeavour has been made to accurately record the details however if you would like to provide additional images and/or newer information we are pleased to update the details on this site. Please click here to email us at We appreciate your involvement in recording the history of our area.

References:                  Article:          Valley of Solitude by Jenny Keast
                                                              Interview with Lesley Choules, City of Armadale Birtwistle Local Studies Library
                                                              Pickering Brook Heritage Group

                                      Images:           1 City of Armadale Birtwistle Local Studies Library
                                                              2, 3, 4, 7 Internet
                                                              5 Roleystone Courier
                                                              6 Danella Bevis