Francis Henry William Thomas Winifred Brownrigg Peter Welsh Thomson Margaret Jean Caldow /Hodsdon Frederick Edward Senior James Roger Francis Wyman Clark Richard Robertson Patricia Mae Mulligan Joachim Dido

Biographical Dictionary - Coorow, Carnamah, Three Springs


"Bob" Robert NIVEN

Born 12 March 1899 in Arrochar, Dunbarton, Scotland [28]
Son of farmer Robert NIVEN and Annie MUNRO [28]
He was born at 1:00 in the morning on Ardliesh Farm in Arrochar [28]
Resided with his parents on Ardliesh Farm in Arrochar, Dunbarton, Scotland and later at Tyndrum in Stirling, Scotland [P13]
Arrived in Fremantle, Western Australia on the steamship Orvieto with his parents and twelve siblings on 4 August 1914 [P13]
After a short stay in Perth travelled with parents to their pre-purchased farm in Carnamah [P13]
Resided on Craigend Farm, Carnamah with his parents and siblings 1914-1918 [P13]
Member of the Carnamah Sunday School in 1914 [7: page 238]
Following his father's death in 1918 took over the running of the farm [P13]
Through hard work supported his widowed mother and younger siblings [0: image 04259]
Farmer of Craigend Farm, Carnamah from 1918 until the early 1970s [P13]
Signed the petition in February 1923 for the Irwin Licensing Court to grant a hotel license for Carnamah [10: 9-Mar-1923]
In 1925 he had some of the finest crops in the Carnamah district, some of which were expected to average 30 bushels [9: 9-Oct-1925]
Purchased a 70 sports model Chrysler car through local agent Charles ROBERTSON in December 1927 [4: 10-Dec-1927] [81: 11-Dec-1927]
Member of the Carnamah Rifle Club in 1927 and 1928 [9: 5-Aug-1927] [4: 29-Sep-1928]
Attended Charles ROBERTSON and Winifred M. LANG's wedding and reception in Carnamah on 27 March 1928 [4: 31-Mar-1928]
Attended the farewell to William P. WALLACE at the home of Alf NIND in Carnamah on Tuesday 16 October 1928 [4: 20-Oct-1928]
He was among those who attended the Centenary Ball held at the Carnamah Hall on 26 July 1929 [86: 3-Aug-1929]
     The ball was to celebrate 100 years since the founding of Perth and the establishment of the Swan River Colony [86]
Attended the Plain and Fancy Dress Ball held at the Carnamah Town Hall on Thursday 8 August 1929 [4: 17-Aug-1929]
Won 1st prize for Best Merino Ram at the Carnamah District Agricultural Society's Annual Show in 1929 [4: 28-Sep-1929]
Attended the Grand Ball following the Carnamah Show and opening of Centenary Park on 19 September 1929 [4: 28-Sep-1929]
Attended the Carnamah Anglican Church's Freak Ball at the Carnamah Hall on Thursday 3 October 1929 [4: 12-Oct-1929]
Won 1st prize for a "Merino Ram bred in the North Midlands" at the Carnamah Agricultural Show on 18 September 1930 [4: 27-Sep-1930]
Attended the funeral of "Father of Carnamah" Donald MACPHERSON at the Winchester Cemetery on 14 August 1931 [4: 22-Aug-1931]
Became a member of the Carnamah Masonic Lodge No.150 WAC on 11 December 1931[96]
Had an account with Carnamah blacksmith, wheelwright and general repairers Henry Parkin & Son in the 1930s and 1940s [53]
Advertised in July 1932 that legal proceedings would be taken if timber from a block in Carnamah town wasn't returned [5: 29-Jul-1932]
In January 1934 had eight sheep killed and 22 badly mauled by dogs in his paddock adjoining the Carnamah townsite [5: 2-Feb-1934]
Attended the Dance in aid of the Institute for the Blind held at the Carnamah Hall on Saturday evening 18 August 1934 [5: 24-Aug-1934]
Attended the Carnamah Football Club's Premiership Ball held at the Carnamah Hall on  Saturday 20 October 1934 [5: 26-Oct-1934]
By January 1935 he had donated a block of land to the Carnamah Anglican Church for the site of their future Church [5: 18-Jan-1935]
Member of the Carnamah Golf Club in 1935 [5: 21-Jun-1935]
In mid July 1935 he was a patient and receiving medical treatment at the Perth Hospital [5: 19-Jul-1935]
Sold 35 suckers through Dalgety & Co Ltd in August 1935 - sold 16 for 11/10, 15 for 13/7 and 4 for 12/- per head [5: 23-Aug-1935]
     In October 1935 sold 21 ewes for 6/4, 3 rams for 4/10 and 12 lambs for 8/7 per head through Westralian Farmers Ltd [5: 25-Oct-1935]
Committee Member of the Carnamah District Agricultural Society 1935-1940 [5: 26-Apr-1935] [13] [58]
     Financial Member of the Carnamah District Agricultural Society in 1937, 1939, 1946 and 1952 [13]     
     Donated £1.1.0 cash in 1937 and 15/- in 1939 to the Carnamah District Agricultural Society [13]
     Steward in Charge of the Ring Events section at the Carnamah District Agricultural Society's Annual Shows in 1938 and 1939 [13]
The Dunlop-Perdriau Rubber Co held a demonstration of a pneumatically shod tractor on his farm on 18 September 1935 [5: 20-Sep-1935]
One of twelve who attended the Annual Meeting of the Carnamah District Agricultural Society on 15 November 1935 [5: 22-Nov-1935]
Pallbearer at the funeral of Miss "May" Mary L. LANG of Carnamah at the Winchester Cemetery on 26 November 1935 [5: 29-Nov-1935]
Came 2nd in the Carnamah District Agricultural Society's 50-acre Crop Competition in 1935, with a plot of Gluyas Early [5: 20-Dec-1935]
Came equal 3rd with two other farmers in the Carnamah District Agricultural Society's Fallow Competition in 1935 [5: 20-Mar-1936]
Attended the funeral of Carnamah agent William B. SHERIDAN at the Winchester Cemetery on 27 January 1936 [5: 31-Jan-1936]
Travelled to Perth by train on 4 February 1936, and returned to Carnamah towards the end of the month [5: 7-Feb-1936, 6-Mar-1936]
His bathroom was blown down by a destructive storm that ravaged Carnamah on Monday afternoon 23 March 1936 [5: 27-Mar-1936]
Sold 30 ewes at 18/1 per head and 3 lambs at 15/4 per head through Goldsbrough Mort & Co Ltd on 9 September 1936 [5: 11-Sep-1936]
Sold 37 woolly ewes at 20/10 per head through Westralian Farmers Ltd at the Midland Market on 7 October 1936 [5: 9-Oct-1936]
Attended the Farewell Social for departing postmaster R. Arthur LINDSAY at the Carnamah Hotel on 23 October 1936 [5: 30-Oct-1936]
Travelled to Perth by train on Tuesday 12 January 1937 and a few days later left on a boat trip to Brisbane [5: 15-Jan-1937]
     After an extended holiday in the Eastern States he arrived back in Carnamah on Monday 8 March 1937 [5: 12-Mar-1937]
Vice President of the Carnamah Football Club in 1937 [5: 16-Apr-1937]
Sold sixty merino ewes at a sheep sale held in saleyards in Carnamah on 29 July 1937 [88]
Pallbearer at the funeral of Mrs Eileen Elizabeth WITHNELL on 5 January 1938 at the Winchester Cemetery [0]
During the 1938-39 financial year his mother transferred ownership of Craigend Farm from her name into his name [3]
The farm was 1,640 acres in size and consisted of Victoria Location 7177, and Lots M940 and M1354 of Victoria Location 1936 [3]
Had the telephone connected in 1941 - was telephone number Carnamah-42 [60]
Married "Mary" Bertha Mary MOORE on 26 June 1943 in the Perth suburb of Midland Junction [0: image 04226]
His best man at his wedding was his brother Matthew NIVEN [0: image 04227]
On 10 July 1943 collapsed and had to undergo a serious operation at his sister's St Andrews Hospital in Midland WA [0: image 04230]
Member of the Carnamah Miniature Rifle Club in 1944 [0: image 04587]
Pallbearer at the funeral of Mrs A. J. Louise GERSCH of Carnamah and the Three Springs Cemetery on 24 March 1946 [5: 29-Mar-1946]
Pallbearer at the funeral of Carnamah farmer William Henry WATSON on 13 September 1948 at the Winchester Cemetery [0]
The Carnamah District Road Board and various individuals had been working on getting Carnamah a greater sports ground [7: page 99]
     On 21 June 1950 he offered the Carnamah Road Board 60 to 70 acres of land adjoining the townsite for this purpose [7: page 99]
     The land was given in exchange for 78 acres of Crown land west of the railway and the sum of £500 [7: page 99]
     The Board accepted his generous offer and on 15 December 1952 the new sporting complex was named "Niven Park" [7: page 100]
In 1951 his telephone number changed from Carnamah-42 to Carnamah-42D and in 1958 it changed back to Carnamah-42 [60]
Received electricity at his home from local firm Henry Parkin & Son; in 1952 paid a flat rate of £1.17.6 per month for electricity [53]
The Carnamah Football Club's fifth Life Member [7: page 199]
Casket bearer at the funeral of Mrs Margaret Swan BOWMAN at the Winchester Cemetery on 8 December 1954 [4]
Casket bearer at the funeral of Carnamah farmer Charles William John TURNER on 19 July 1956 at the Winchester Cemetery [4]
Pallbearer at the funeral of Henry PARKIN at the Winchester Cemetery on 28 April 1958 [4]
Bid farewell by the residents of Carnamah at a Farewell Dinner held in Carnamah on 4 May 1973 [7: page 105]
After selling his farm he retired to the Perth suburb of Bedford where he lived with his sisters Margaret and Agnes [P13]
Resided in the Perth suburb of Bedford until his death in 1981 [2]
Died 11 July 1981; ashes buried Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth WA (Presbyterian, DA, 358) [2]

From The Western Mail newspaper, Thursday 9 January 1930:
Country Towns and Districts - Carnamah's Advancement
"Among the first settlers in the Carnamah district were the Niven family, who arrived in 1914 from Scotland, and took up a property near the site of the township under the Midland Railway Company's scheme. In those days the township was of extremely modest dimensions, but in 1926, as a result of its development, 31 building blocks were obtained from the property, which now consists of 1,600 acres, all cleared with the exception of 200 acres of light country. Mr. R. Niven, who manages the farm, has obtained very satisfactory results both with wheat and sheep. He has two brothers on the land at Inering, Messrs. J. A. and T. Niven. Last season the three brothers grew 11,000 acres of wheat."

From The Countryman newspaper, Thursday 10 May 1973:
Drought cheats Carnamah man of 60th harvest, written by George Boylen
    "A drought in 1914 has cheated Mr Bob Niven, of Carnamah, from finishing his farming career by harvesting his sixtieth successive crop. Mr Niven retired recently and it snow living in Perth but last Friday he returned to Carnamah to attend a special dinner arranged by the Shire Council. By no means a Carnamah pioneer, the first settlers were believed to have taken up land in the 1860s, Mr Niven was however, a strong supporter of the town and district. He arrived in the area in 1914 with his parents and other members of the family and settled on a 400-acre block selected in London 12 months earlier. The land was bought from the Midland Railway Company. The company had received big parcels of land as an incentive to construct the railway to Geraldton and overseas and local people were given the opportunity to buy it. The block bought by the Nivens had been partly cleared and had a house on it. Mr Niven senior, who came from Scotland with his wife and children, paid $7 an acre. He was not rich and had decided to come to come to WA after travelling through many parts of the world. He had visited here briefly some years before on a world sailing trip but returned to Scotland and married before being tempted to by the land offer. He got a hostile introduction to farming. The 1914 drought wiped out crops and it took nearly six years of financial assistance from the Industrial Aid Board before the family began to get on its feet. The money, paid at the rate of $11 a month, kept the family going until about 1920 and was then paid back as the farming business improved. "This was one of Premier Scaddan's ideas and it helped keep many men on their farms. Though many may not admit they were even on assistance, they should have been grateful," Bob Niven recalled last week. Now 73, Mr Niven was only 14 when he arrived at Carnamah and the excellent schooling he was getting in Scotland was cut short at the seventh grade. Fortunately, the Scottish schoolmaster he had was a man of experience and besides teaching the usual three R's, he provided an all-round education which was to prove more than useful. Apart from the initial set-back of the drought, the family was stunned by the death of Mr Niven senior, in 1918 at the age of 63. He was suffering from cancer and died on a train as he was travelling to Perth for treatment.
     The running of the property fell on Robert's shoulders, then aged 18. However, he was not alone, and the family which by then numbered seven sons and eight daughters, rallied together and gradually got on top of a difficult situation. The family spirit has continued through the years and today the brothers and sisters are as close as ever. This is in spite of inevitable changes such as some members of the family shifting farming interests to Rocky Gully to take advantage of war settlement schemes and sisters marrying and shifting elsewhere. Mrs Niven, senior, spent most of her life on the Carnamah farm but died in Perth during the 1950s. Mr. Bob Niven married but his wife of 18 months, died in childbirth more than 30 years ago and he did not re-marry. One of the reasons he retired and sold his Carnamah farm was because he had no one to take it on. The Nivens stayed together on the Carnamah property, Craigend, until the 1930s, when the prosperity wheel turned and farming fortunes took a dive. Some of the family went to the goldfields, the only place at that time where there seemed to be any money.
     The original farm was too small and later purchases, mainly of virgin land, increased its size to about 1700 acres. The virgin land cost between $1.80 and $2.10 and acre and it meant that the farm's boundary was up to the Carnamah townsite. In fact, as the town expanded the Nivens and the council swapped a parcel of land so that recreation facilities could be established adjoining the townsite. The sporting facilities, named Niven Park, include an oval, bowling greens, tennis courts, a drive-in theatre and other amenities. Most of the Niven farm, which adjoins the northern boundary of Carnamah and runs along the Geraldton highway [now the Midlands Road], is heavy land, in the earlier years, says Mr Bob Niven, it was treated harshly and successive cropping took a� from it. Subterranean clovers and other pastures were practically unheard of, and on the small farm, every acre was important. Cultivating the soil and sowing the grain was tedious work and six horse teams and small implements operated slowly. Four-furrow mouldboard ploughs were not superseded until well into the 1920s.
     Cars were the innovation which helped country people travel more, though the road system, even in the 1920s was not good. Mr. Bob Niven's first car, a Chrysler, helped make the trips to Perth more comfortable. It was often a two-day trip to the city and if only one puncture had to be mended, you were lucky, he said. From Carnamah Mr Niven had to travel to Coorow, Maya, Pithara and back to Miling to avoid the light country [the sandplain between Coorow and Watheroo]. "We always had two Perth trips a year, usually one would coincide with the Royal Show and the other with the Perth Cup. I remember seeing Lily Pond win the cup in 1923 and I have seen many winners since," says Mr Niven. Things were looking up in the 1920s and a three year crop rotation meant more sheep could be run to help boost returns. "For the first time since arriving in Australia we had money and the whole of the farming industry was prosperous," said Bob Niven. Tractors were on the way and Mr Niven was not sorry to see horses on the way out. He bought his first tractor, a McCormick 1020 with steel wheels in 1925. This was used in the paddocks and later as a stationary engine for many years. Other tractors in use at the time were Ford, Twin City's, Case and Lanz. In spite of primitive machinery and the harsh treatment of the soil, crop yields in the early years were good, said, Mr Niven. In 1919 he remembers harvesting a 10-bag crop and in the 1920s nine and 10 bag crops were not uncommon. Clearing land for initial crop was back-breaking work. He remembers vividly setting to work on the heavy covered salmon, gimlet, york gum and jam thickets with only an axe and says that though he would go farming, if he had his time over again, he would happily turn to modern clearing implements such as bulldozers to do the heavy work.
     Sandalwood was also common in the area but even though the country was fairly heavily timbered, Mr Niven says the bird life was not as plentiful as most people would think. He says that bird and animal life in the region increased as the land was developed. Many of the animals and bird thrived when watering points were established and crops provided easy feed. Bird, such as cockatoos, were bringing good money as pets and farmers were being paid as much as $5 each for them by city dwellers. Wild flowers also flourished with clearing work.
     Kangaroos provided a good source of amusement for many weekends were spent tracking them down. Mr Niven, a keen horseman, recalls the weekend hunts. They were somewhat hazardous, he says, dodging in and out of thickets and trying to get close enough to stop the kangaroos with a blow from a hand-held waddi. Rabbits were not too bad in the early years but built up later. Fortunately myxomatosis took care of them. The prosperous 1920s were followed by the depression and it was not until after World War 2 that the situation picked up again. It was in the 1930s that sub clover began making its mark but the Nivens were unable to take an early advantage of this because their heavy land was unsuitable for most of the varieties. Later varieties were more suitable and the family was able to grow it successfully and run more sheep.  Medics which became available later grew even better on the heavier soils. However, before the sub clovers, native trefoil, or Goldfields trefoil as it was also known, had helped tremendously. The burrs from this trefoil matted the wool [of sheep] and created a problem for farmers but it was still regarded as a wonderful feed, said Mr Niven. He says that the earlier farmers owed a great deal to the Department of Agriculture and singled out the late Dr G. L. Sutton and Mr Gerry Throssell, as two officers who made big contributions to farming. When scientists came up with a solution to the pulpy kidney problem in sheep, farmers had overcome an enormous hurdle. "This made a big difference in our area and farmers gladly attended the department demonstrations in the 1930s to learn how to needle sheep.
     Over the years Bob Niven retained the Craigend property. A brother Jake farmed 12 miles away on the Perenjori road, Alec farmed near Three Springs, Tom at Coorow, two other brothers farmed at Rocky Gully and a seventh worked at meatworks in South Australia. Five of the seven brothers now live in retirement in Perth. Mr Niven is proud of Carnamah and could recollect for hours the good times and sometimes the bad times he went through in his 60-year association with the town. He recalls, the regular race meetings; the 14-mile ride to Three Springs for the dances; the football teams, although he never played; Mr Jack Gabbedy, the manager of the Agricultural Bank in the town; the miners who came through the North Midlands looking for work in the depression days (they dug magnificent wells, often 80 to 100 feet deep and still in use with sides as straight as a die); the 'roo hunts, and bringing the beer in from other towns for big events before Carnamah got its own 'pub' in 1924. "I have no regrets about coming to WA and farming at Carnamah. At times it was tough but we always had the family and were never without a quid in the pocket," he says."

Reference:  Carnamah Historical Society & Museum and North Midlands Project, 'Robert Niven' in Biographical Dictionary of Coorow, Carnamah and Three Springs, retrieved 13 June 2024 from [reference list]

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