Thorley Richard Harold

Research by Gordon Freegard 2019

Richard Harold Thorley was born about 1888 to Charles Thorley and Emma Robb in Preston, Victoria. The family later moved to and lived in Charles Street, Northam. He attended the Government School at Northam and received a Certificate when they opened the new school in October 1900.

On the 21st June, 1910, Richard in partnership with Alfred Martin and Jas. Watson applied for a mineral lease of ground known as Yannery Creek Copper Mine situated about 35 miles south-west of Roebourne.

Whilst in the Roebourne, Richard Thorley was in charge of the local pearling fleet when a terrific storm hit the area of Whim Creek on the night of 20th March, 1912. The fleet managed to shelter at Balla Balla Creek, however five other luggers were lost including the “Clara”, the “Karrakatta” and the “Karrara”.  It covered an area from Cossack inland to Marble Bar, a distance of 170 miles. With hurricane force winds and 9 inches of rainfall in just 24 hours, the damage was massive. The ship “Crown of England” was broken to pieces with eight men missing. The ship “Concordia” was on the beach intact, and there was a fair chance of her being refloated. The lighter “Steady’ was stranded high and dry on Dupunch Island unbroken. The lighter “Enterprise was broken to pieces and a third lighter, “Ciyo” was sunk in shallow water. The tramway from Roebourne to Cossack was made impassable, the telephone and telegraph lines were blown down and thirty-five feet of the jetty had completely vanished.


The next afternoon Richard Thorley, Hugh McDonald and Captain Erikson headed out aboard a lugger, in gale force winds and very heavy and dangerous seas to try and get to Dupunch Island to ascertain what had happened there as communication had been lost. The lugger had to tack all the way out, and during the passage, the jib-boom became unhooked. Richard managed to secure it after three attempts during which he was almost completely submerged in the heavy seas. On arrival 15 bodies were found and buried.

On the 14th September, 1912, Richard Thorley made an application for a mineral lease in partnership with George Garnet Shaw and H. T. Brown, for ground known as “Kwinana” situated about 18 miles south-west of Roebourne on the Nichol River.

At twenty-six years old he joined the Australian Military Forces on the 11th November, 1915, as a gas engine driver and signed the attestation papers two days later. He was assigned Number 15056 of the 15th Field Artillery Brigade, in the 2nd Reinforcements. They embarked from Melbourne, Victoria per H.A.M.T. A17, “Port Lincoln” on the 4th May, 1916.

In January 1917 his mother received advice from the Military that her son, Driver Richard Thorley, had been invalided to England from France suffering from laryngitis and frost-bitten feet.

Richard returned from service in World War 1 and married widower Laura Anne Thompson on 30th August, 1919. Laura was born in 1890 and on 21st June, 1911, she married Horace Leonard Melville Groom Thompson in Kalgoorlie. They had two children, Ethel May Thompson, was born 29th December, 1911, and her brother, John Thompson (known as Jack) was born 10th November, 1913. Horace died at twenty-eight from Tuberculosis, at the start of the war.

After marrying Laura, Richard (known as Dick) formally adopted the two children and their surname changed to Thorley. The family took up a Soldier Settlement Block on Patterson Road, Pickering Brook which he developed into an orchard growing principally apples. A surveyed road going past his property was named Thorley Road, but it was never formed up into an actual road. This runs N/E from Patterson Rd. not far from its origin at Forrest Road. In 1926 Richard was appointed Justice of the Peace for the Swan District which position he held for some years. He also became involved in the local R.S.L. Sub-branch at Carilla (Pickering Brook). A children’s fancy dress Ball was held at Barton’s Mill and Mr. and Mrs. Thorley had the very difficult task of being two of the judges.


They lived and worked here until about the early 1930’s when they transferred to Kalgoorlie to go gold mining.

In the early 1930’s Ethel caught a coastal steamer up the Western Australian coast to Bali. She often talked about how lovely it was before mass tourism took over.

At some stage Dick contracted Typhoid Fever and survived after a close run with death. Step-son, Jack Thorley became best mates with Les Fernie, the son of another local orchardist. When Richard decided to start a mining venture in the Nullagine area with his step-son Jack, Les was asked to join them. After much discussion with his parents Les decided not to join them.

Jack and Les also went out together quite a lot. Jack had a female relation in Millar Street, Victoria Park, and had asked her to go out with him and also asked her if she knew of anyone to make a foursome. The person she asked lived next door but one and her name was Freda Berle. A little over three years later, Les and Freda were married on the 24th July, 1937, in the Wesley Church, Perth.

In 1935 Dick and Jack struck it lucky S/E of Leonora. The Family story is that a little over three years later they returned and apparently had done very well. they took the gold to the Perth Mint and over three weeks blew the lot on the horses. They did not drink. Jack bought a car and was very free with his money.

Article Kalgoorlie Miner Tuesday 23rd July, 1935


Messrs. R. H. and J. W. Thorley report having cleaned up a parcel of 120 tons for 57 ounces over the plates, with 5 dwt. 8 gr. per ton in the sands – 15 cwt. over all – at the Linden State Battery.

This crushing was won from the Compensator Gold Mine, two miles south-east of the Linden townsite. Originally prospected in October of last year, the mine has already produced 342 ounces from 280 tons treated and is under option to the Goldfields Australian Development Company.

The prospectors have proved the shoot to be at least 90 foot long at a depth of 50 feet, whilst the company are now engaged in sinking a shaft with a view to intersecting the lode – a quartz and schist formation – at a greater depth.

The Linden district generally, displays considerable mining activity, no less than 11 parecls from various sources being booked for crushing at the State Battery.

At present time H. Harris and party are putting through a parcel of 39 tons from an area about two miles east of the townsite on the edge of Lake Carey.

While Dick was in Kalgoorlie mining Ethel stayed on at Pickering Brook, supporting herself selling fruit and cut flowers. She lived and worked on the property till an adult when she did Nursing. Ethel gained a Nursing qualification in Perth and later worked in a TB Sanatorium. She told stories of walking to the Primary School through the bush and also walking to neighbours to borrow books. She had finished School at twelve but had a thirst for reading and knowledge. One of the families she mentioned was the Isaacs family who lived west of the town in Isaacs Road. Samuel Isaacs (Yebble) was the famous indigenous stockman who in 1876, with Grace Bussell attempted the rescue of people from SS. Georgette foundering off S/W WA.

Jack Isaacs was Samuel’s grandson and lived with his family in Toolern Vale in Victoria. I lived 2-3 Km. away and our children went to the same Primary School. My mother was amazed at the coincidence. Later I was privileged to act as MC at a memorial for Jack. He is now buried with family at Leonora.

The Thorley family eventually moved to live in Melbourne in about 1930.

In July 1936 the engagement was announced between their only son, John William to Joan, younger daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Harold Ireland of North Perth.

When Dick, Laura and Jack moved to Melbourne, they lived mostly in and around Brighton. Dick was always mechanically “handy” and had multiple factory and service station jobs. Jack started a business with a small Morris van and transported bolts of cloth to various inner Melbourne clothes and dressmaking sites especially in Flinders Lane. He married Joan and had two daughters, Helen and Diane. He had to get a bigger van, and, later when Helen married Peter Classon, they worked together with two vans. Jack and Joan eventually retired to the Gold Coast where Jack died on 16/01/1999.


Ethel also moved to Melbourne and added a Midwifery qualification to her Nursing at the Royal Women’s Hospital. During the War she did private night shift work at people’s houses and thus met my Eric Victor Mitchell, who was in the army but was recuperating from double pneumonia, a serious condition in the pre antibiotic era. Eric was well educated and had an LLB and MA in Latin and French from Melbourne University. This was a great contrast to Ethel’s largely self-taught education. Their first born, Adrian, was born in 1944 whilst Chris and Vanessa followed at neat two year intervals. Eric insisted on calling Ethel, Julie, and so it became. Their early days were spent in Colac and later the family moved to and stayed at Geelong. Eric died in 1964 of Heart Disease and Julie continued in Nursing till her 50’s as she needed to support her 3 children. Despite her modest start she was obsessed with the importance of education for her children.

Before Eric’s death he and Julie helped support Dick and Laura with housing in Geelong and later at Ocean Grove. Dick died in 1959 from post- operative complications for a resection of Oesophageal (Gullet) Cancer. Laura died in the late 70’s from a chest infection and old age.

Ethel (Julie) Mitchell died 23/01/ 1980 from Cancer of the Pancreas.

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: Pickering Brook Heritage Group
Adrian Mitchell

Images: 1, 5, 6, 7, 8 Adrian Mitchell
2 Internet
3, 4 Gordon Freegard