Project Description

Frederick John William COLEY (Fred) was born in Clapham, London on 20 June, 1904. His father, also Frederick John, was an electrician and worked on the Canadian Pacific Railway.

He experienced ill health in Canada and returned to England in 1900 later serving in France during WWI. Fred reminisces about his happy childhood with his brother Bill, violin lessons and family cycling holidays in neighbouring counties before the family migrated to Western Australia in 1920, on the Osterley.

His father took up land under the Settlement Scheme for Returned Soldiers at Marybrook Estate, Location 1413. With the willing assistance from neighbours a shack was hastily erected within four days. They lived there for 15 months until their new house was completed. Three acres of land was cleared for potato cultivation which became the family’s main agricultural enterprise. Their preferred potato variety was Delaware. They erected a small dairy for milking eight cows. The cream and milk was sent to Busselton. To expand potato production, the family bought more land in Marybrook, ideally suited to potato cultivation.

Fred gives a detailed account of early potato production; planting, harvesting, labour, storage, irrigation, fertilisation, pest and disease management as well as potato gluts and price fluctuations. The Marybrook Potato Growers’ Association was established in January 1930 during a severe glut. Fred’s father died in 1935, leaving Fred and Bill to run the farm. Fred married Evelyn Rowena Marsh in 1942. They had two children, Beresford and Jocelyn.

The property was subdivided between Bill and Fred who built a new home for his family. A talented musician, Fred played the violin in a five-piece music group – the Savoy Orchestra – which performed at concerts, balls and various social functions in the district for 20 years. Fred talks of witnessing enormous technological changes over his working life, from horse-drawn crude agricultural implements to bulldozers and mechanical harvesters. Overall he led a happy and independent life with his wife and two children in Marybrook.