SS "Wilcannia" 1888
Fawcett coat of arms

Walter Robert Fawcett (jnr)

Walter Robert Fawcett (Wally) was born in Shoreditch, London, England on 30th. July 1907. He was the son of Walter Robert Deller Fawcett (1880— 1952) and Cora Louisa Carmela Diacono (1878 — 1937) He came to Australia with his parents and older brother, Harold Granville, on the “SS Wilcannia “ arriving here 1909.Walter Robert Fawcett Junior It is thought that Wally had contracted Rheumatic Fever as a child. The family had little if any money when they arrived, and were first heard of as being in Gunnedah where his father, referred to by his initials as WRD, took up sheep work, about which he knew very little. A Londoner, he had no skills outside of horses and city life. Wally had two brothers, Harold Granville (1906—1975) and William Leslie (1917 — 1996) His three sisters were: Eva Louise Sarah (1912—2007), Phyllis May (1912—2008) and Lily (1920 — still alive in 2009).Wally Fawcett (left)& his brothers and sisters Over the years, through farming trial and error, the family made its way up the North Coast of New South Wales and by the time they arrived at, and lived in, Central Bucca, they were Dairy Farmers. This would have been ca 1930. Like most youngsters of that era, the children had basic schooling. Their mother, Cora, was well educated and no doubt saw to it that her children could read and write. It is known Wally had only 12 months of schooling.
The 1930 Electoral Roll shows WRD Fawcett as a Dairyman but Wally and Harold were listed a Labourers. During the early Depression years, Wally worked at the Port Kembla Steel Mills (NSW), shoveling iron ore from rail trucks probably c1931—32. It was around the time, during the his family‘s progression North, that his father sold their Bellingen farm and moved to Central Bucca. Wally rejoined the family.Wally age 28
In 1934 he married Martha (Mat) Elizabeth Mackay at Grafton, in NSW. Their first son, Gordon Alexander, was born in 1935. The family was still living in Central Bucca, and in 1937, Mat made her first of many visits to Sydney. It is not known if she was coping well, as Gordon‘s birth had been difficult for her. Wally‘s mother, Cora, in a letter to her daughter Phylis, in April 1937, wrote that she was none too pleased with Mat‘s absence however, Mat returned to Coffs Harbour. Cora died on 1 December 1937 and in February 1938 a second son, Geoffrey, was born.Wally age 20 Bellingen Again, Mat left Coffs Harbour for Sydney taking the children with her. By today‘s standards, she probably was not coping well at all with two children. She worked for Melba and Sam Maiorana in their fruit shop, located in Miller Street, North Sydney. It was during this time she met Jimmy (Giacomo) Ferrari, an Italian National who owned a health food and sweet shop next door to the Maioranas. She established a relationship with Ferrari. (much later, these shop sites became part of the foundation for the AMP building in North Sydney).
Wally knew about this liaison... He knew what was going on and it distracted him to the point where lack of concentration resulted in an accident to his person, every time Mat went away.Wally age 23 In June of 1940, Germans and Italians were being rounded up by the Government. Ferrari was sent to an Italian Internment Camp...many Italians went, firstly to Long Bay Jail, then on to camps in Orange and Hay. Ferrari was an ex–Italian Pilot who, apparently, was injured in a plane crash during the Spanish Civil War (1936—1939).
When news of the declaration of war reached Australia on June 11 1940, most Italians had been forewarned that Italy would enter on the side of Germany... regardless of one's political persuasion. Even naturalised British subjects were arrested. By 1942 the number of Italians interned in Australia reached a wartime high of 3 651. many were gradually released by September 1944.Wally on his "Whaler" Wally eventually went to Sydney (Lane Cove — Christmas/New Year 1939—40) and stayed there, working for LB Swan at Balmain as a sort of maintenance man on a large property Lyle Brisbane Swan had there. He also worked on Swan‘s boat, “Enid”. Later, he would leave his car in Balmain and travel to Coff's Harbour by train to work at Swan's sawmill in Central Bucca – returning home each fortnight. Wally was fireman and saw sharpener for this steam mill for around 13 years. His position involved arriving at the mill by 5:00am, lighting the boiler and having a full head of steam up ready to pull the whistle for a 7:00am start. Later, when that mill burned to the ground, he sharpened saws for the diesel driven mill at Central Bucca and thence at Karangi mill, — both mills owned by Tom Seccombe. Wally & Mat ball in Coff's Harbour
Many times, metal splinters would enter his fore–arms, and Mat would remove the metal with a razor blade. In September 1940, a daughter, Walda was born, at the Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney. With War raging in Europe and Pacific, Harold joined the Air Force and Leslie went into the Army joining the medical corps as an Ambulance man. The farm was classified as “Essential Industry” and was therefore exempted War service. It was not until much later in his life it was discovered he had eroded heart valves from Rheumatic fever as a child.Wally siting on a box log 20ft above the ground at Buccrabendinni Wally and Mat were living in Lane Cove on the river and were on the Electoral Rolls for Parramatta (Ryde) in 1943. Shortly after this, they returned to Coff‘s Harbour and lived for a year in a rented house in Moore Street, Coffs Harbour Jetty. Wally then bought an ex– motor garage on Bellingen Road and the family moved there. This property consisted of a gigantic shed, with a “house” behind it. It was owned by Jim Baker who had recently passed away and the property was sold by Jim's brother. Wally demolished the shed and sold off most of the materials from it – the remainder he used to build a much smaller shed as a car garage and workshop.
Wally at 25 Grafton St. cat, Mortimer The “house” was in poor condition. Wally repaired it; closed in the back verandah and built a kitchen and fireplace. He built a laundry next to the kitchen and a bathroom next to that, effectively taking up the whole area. He built–in part of the front verandah as a bedroom for his two sons. The front and back walls of this place were falling away from the frame. Wally fixed this using a long wire rope through the roof cavity front to back and pulled the walls in employing a “twitch stick” to strain the cable. One logging incident was a crash when a load of sawn timber on a truck he was driving slipped off the front bolster on a sharp bend just above Charlie Cornish's place on Bruxner Park Road. This sling of timber jammed the bolster and caused the trailer to “track out” The trailer went over the edge of the road pulling the truck backwards somersaulting down the mountain side. He had 40 stitches in his forearm and in his back over the right shoulder blade. It was a 'T' shaped puncture wound. In those early post–War years, Mat owned a piano and played music for country dances, known as “Barn Dances” as they were held in farm barns. Mat being at the piano all night left Wally hanging loose, so he would often “have a few” with his mates, and drive home quite “tipsy”. On one occasion he had misplaced his false teeth. It may be difficult to believe, but Mat convinced him he has swallowed them. Wally was not a drinker. He suffered from hyper-acidity and his stomach turned very sour when he drank beer.
Wally logging on his Property at East Bank Rd Nana Glen In 1949, Wally broke his back in a log “snigging” accident with a tractor. Wally working with Mick Cook Coramba MountainHis spine was plastered in a full torso cast. Even with a plaster cast, he went back to work because couldn't stand being home doing nothing. The plaster stayed on for a year and caused great discomfort. The skin underneath the cast began to degrade and the itch was really driving him mad. He used to try to scratch using a wooden rule and knitting needles. He was most unhappy. It is believed he had "OsteoPorosis" which would explain why his spine fractured the way it did.Mat believed Wally‘s return to work, even in plaster, was to do with money (or rather, the lack of it). It was her take on Wally returning to work. She made him flannels, to cover the plaster and for warmth. Walda remembers one incident where he was sitting on a “grandfather” chair, a cane seated affair with arms on either side. Somehow he slipped from the chair and the back of the plaster hooked on the seat. He was in agony.
To earn extra money, Mat took in dressmaking. She used an old treadle Singer Sewing Machine which her own father had given her as a wedding present. It was tedious work, so Wally converted the machine to electric by adding a motor and foot pedal.the last photo ever taken of Wally, at Mudgee The children thrived on the abundance of fruit growing on the Bellingen Road property. So much so, Mat would complain that they had eaten green fruit and should be given castor–oil. He tried in vain to catch Walda and Geoff, with bottle in one hand and spoon in the other, but they were fleet of foot. He never dosed them with the evil oil. He was not a man given to bad language a seldom if ever swore. He had some quaint sayings though. If you had done something foolish he would exclaim, "Stupid Owl!". He would say, when a person had fouled up, "You Useless Gift!" His Philosophy was, "Don‘t expect too much and you won‘t be disappointed!"
Wally at Slugger Cooper's place Nambucca Heads Mat was unhappy at the Bellingen Road home. Wally tried to teach Mat to drive but her attempts to control a car were spectacularly unsuccessful. She hated the car spares and old vehicle bodies out the front of the house, the morning glory vines that proliferated over fences and generally covered everything in a coat of green leaves and purple flowers. She also deplored the long walk to and from town. After Gordon left home in 1952, Wally sold the Bellingen Road property and purchased a house at 25 Grafton Street, closer to, and within comfortable walking distance to the shops.
As with Bellingen Road, there was a shed at the back of the property and Wally made good use of it as a workshop. (it was moved there from the main street where it was Archie Hunter's blacksmith shop). Mat continued her dressmaking and branched out into dress accessories. Wally bought her larger and stronger sewing machine, and button making devices.Wally's wife and family taken after his funeral, trying to look happy Walda and Geoff could walk to school at St. Augustine‘s, right out the back door, across boards that paved a way through the swamp the ran at the back of the house, and into the school grounds. Gordon never returned to live in Coffs Harbour. Wally in his best clobber in Martin Place, SydneyMat told Wally that when the children were grown, she too would leave. In 1956, Walda left home for Sydney also, never to return. Geoff was working at Hackings Motors and playing in the local brass band and dance Bands. He was the musical genius of the family. Geoff worked for Golden Brothers after leaving Hackings, then worked for Wally for several years before going to work in New Guinea.
In 1959, with Walda now living in Sydney, Mat quit Coffs Harbour and the family home for good. This event devastated Wally. He was never the same again. Wally continued to send Mat money via Post Offices even though he didn't know where she was living at the time.
Walda, now 21 years old, married in 1961. Wally, at his daughter‘s request, came to Sydney to give the Bride away. In a letter to Mat, Wally told her that if Walda was happy, that she should be happy for her too. Mat came to the wedding under duress, because she believed Walda was making a mistake. In mid–1968, Wally‘s sister, Lily, who was also living in Sydney, told Walda, against his specific request not to do so, that her father was very ill and in Hospital in Coffs Harbour. Walda flew to Coffs Harbour to find him in poor condition and failing. In an effort to save his life, she had him transferred by road Ambulance to the Page Chest Clinic in Sydney. Mat visited him and it seemed that, when Wally was lucid and not sleeping from the drugs he was on, they spent a lot of his remaining time talking.
Wally died on 13th August 1968 at the Page Chest Pavilion, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Camperdown. He is buried in Rookwood Lawn Cemetery. Mat died in 1992. She is buried with him.
Page last updated ~ December 3, 2010