“Tom” was the eldest son of a family of 10, three boys and seven girls, two being step sisters. At the age of 12 he took over the running of ‘Mumby’ Farm with the help of the workmen, while his father continued as a teamster and carting sandalwood in the Murchison area. His mother Margaret was often found out in the paddocks, helping to sow the crops and tend to the animals.
When he was born, Tom was registered as Thomas Charles Cripps. Norma told the story that this oversight was not discovered until they applied to be married and he should have in fact been Charles Thomas Cripps. His name was legally changed by deed poll and he was baptised into the Catholic Church on the 15th October 1916, three days before they married.
Note: The Certificate of Baptism was transcribed in 2002 and the name of Tom’s mother has possibly been written in error.
Note 2: The change of name by Deed Poll didn’t come about until 11 November 1929 after Charles Thomas Snr had died in 1924 and Tom was left to run Mumby Farm.
Tom had little schooling but when the farm prospered, a teacher by the name of Mr Butler was employed and there was also a Mr Nash. One of these teachers wrote a diary in 1907 while on the farm. This diary is now in the possession of Jenny MacKay, granddaughter of Tom and has been reproduced in the book “Beyond The Horizon – Centenary of Mumby Farm 1894-1994″ by Jenny MacKay.
A fair, generous, but strict man, Tom was a good hard worker and was very thorough and methodical in his work practice. He would always wear a hat and had a pipe in his mouth. He liked show days and loved tending his garden where he grew water melons and vegetables including potatoes, cauliflower etc planting the seedlings in nice straight rows using a taut string between two sharp sticks; depending on the length of the row the surplus string was wound round one of the sticks. This garden necessity was kept in the shed off-season. There was also a lovely orchard where lemons, oranges, mandarins, figs, mulberries and grapes grew well. The hose would be kept running slowly on the fruit trees all the time, throughout the day and night and Tom was always going over to the garden to shift the hose. He also tended to the chooks and ducks with the help of his wife Norma. A typical part of his working day would find him talking to the agents from Wesfarmers or Elders that would come out to visit the farm.
Tom loved his merino sheep, bringing them in from the paddocks for shearing or dipping and tending his stud rams that were his pride and joy. The children loved shearing time as they would play in the bales of bits and pieces of wool, stomping it down while Tom worked on the fleeces. In 1927 the first ewes and rams were purchased from South Australia to form the well-known Mumby Stud Merino Station. Tom was a foundation member and very loyal member of the Northern Stud Sheep Breeder’s Association.
He also loved the Show Days and would enter produce in many events including sheep, wool, grain and vegetables. He won many prizes for his efforts.
Tom rode a white horse called Lavender, and its knee always made a noise. If he rode over to the nearby neighbours farm at Trevenson, he could be heard coming home of an evening. The family knew when he was coming, as they would hear its knees making a noise from out on the verandah. Norma would say, “Listen! That’s Dad coming.”
Tom had a team of horses that would pull the plough around the paddocks and then be hitched to a trailer to cart the shorn wool into town. On the 14th December 1934, at Mumby, Tom was called into court to plead his case “caused to be ill-treated certain horses, to wit, Sam, Pearl, Dandy, Bloss, Don, Drummer, Dick and Polly, contrary to the provisions of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1920, section 4 (a).” His case was heard on the 19th December 1934 and Margaret remembers the occasion well. “Pop was working his team of horses and the collar had rubbed the shoulders until they were raw. He had been treating them by applying Vaseline, but still working them. He had to stop working the horses until the wounds were repaired.” This was a very common thing that used to happen to the teams of horses, depending on the workload.
Whenever Tom went into town (Northampton) on the day the lady in the shop was making ice cream, he would buy 2 shillings worth packed in ice. That would not have been much to go around all the children!! If there was no ice-cream, he would always come home with a bag of lollies instead and tip them out on the floor for all the children. They were allowed 5 each and Dolo the eldest would help hand them out. What a treat!!
The times when the family would all go to town, the children were each given a shilling to spend, when most other kids only got 3d or 6d. (pence).
The steam train would come to the Ogilvie siding twice a week, so on Tuesdays, Tom would go over and collect the mail and any other items that were due to arrive for both his family and their neighbours, the Hazlett’s at Chilmony. On Friday’s, Mr Sam Hazlett would take his turn. Norma (jnr) would often accompany her father on these trips and Margaret would say it was just to get out of doing the work!
All the farmers from the surrounding district would be there to collect their mail too and they would all stop to have a “pow wow”. No doubt the weather was one of the topics of conversation.
In the summer the train guards would sell cases of grapes for the grower’s in the South and it was just ‘heaven’ when Tom bought a case home to his family.
Tom was also very musical and played the piano, the piano accordion and the mouth organ all by ear. Many happy times were spent around the piano singing to the tunes. It has also been said that he could recite the alphabet backwards.
There used to be a racetrack at the back of the Railway Hotel in Northampton. One time Tom went in a race this particular day but as he went around the race course he was running last so he thought he would cut across the paddock and see who won, but then decided that everyone would probably sling off at him if he pulled out so he kept going and ended up winning the race. He had been feeding his horse on wild oats, which must have kept him going, and he came from last to come up to the front and win.
Tom became sick in 1942 and only stayed on the farm for another 3 or 4 years before moving to Geraldton to be closer to hospital. They lived for a time in Gregory Street before buying their house at 120 Shenton Street for £3000.
Norma nursed Tom for 15 years before he died on the 7th July 1958. He is buried in the Catholic portion of the Northampton cemetery.
Stories and memories as told by members of the Cripps family and interviews with Charlie Cripps by Jenny MacKay.
(c) Jenny MacKay 2014
See some photos of Tom in his gallery HERE.