Town leader emerged from tragedy

Edward James McCarthy Senior happened to come to Esperance while experiencing bereavement.

In 1892 his beloved wife Isabella Phillips and mother of three died.

Edward had been completing a law degree engaged as an articled clerk in the office of South Australia's oldest and most well-known law firm of Knox and Gwynne established in 1836.

Judge Edward Castres Gwynne was an important colonial figure being a lawyer, legislator, judge and estate owner.

Edward McCarthy departed Adelaide permanently leaving his family two daughters and a new bride, Mary nee Walsh, who would follow later.

In 1895 Edward James McCarthy Junior accompanied his father to Esperance who was keen to establish the township.

His father arrived as manager of the Esperance Adelaide Land Company. Young Edward who became known in the district as Ted McCarthy was strong and dependable.

The tiny settlement was only just forming, the community finding the fishing and inexpensive game a leisurely affair while enjoying a genial climate were also very busy, stores were being built in the municipality and houses going up among the sand hills.

In 1896 the Esperance Land Company built the Bijou Theatre with a two storey dwelling and general store on one side and a house on the other.

Edward McCarthy managed the eastern colony based firms Adelaide Land Company, Adelaide Steamship Company and Sun Insurance.

The McCarthy's had their own company and while specialising in auctioneering, land valuations, shipping and forwarding were doing a lot of building.

A tender submitted by E. J. McCarthy & Co. and architect Thomas Edwards was accepted for the construction of the Esperance Cordial Factory later a licensed brewery.

The brewery had a 40-foot high brewing tower.

As the town bustled the Land Company purchased land lots and built rental dwellings. A timber yard with premises to store timber and iron and a salt works were built.

The salt works were powered by a horse in which a horse was kept moving around in a circle, pulling on a beam which turned cogs and shafting, crushing salt into fine table salt or course butcher salt.

The family company E. J. McCarthy and Co had taken a lease on Pink Lake and crude salt was carted by horse and mule teams to their salt works site just off Dempster Street.

After the turn of the century a shed was built at the Lake edge and the horse works shifted there.

Edward and Mary McCarthy shared the same fears akin to other families with sons away at war.

Many of the Esperance soldiers were related with 19 sets of brothers in the assemblage of 75 close to one quarter of the town's population.

McCarthy's son's half-brothers Edward (Ted) at age 31 joined the Australian Imperial Forces with the Australian Light Horse regiment in Egypt while Richard Joyce (Dick) McCarthy at 19 enlisted and served in France.

The war continued to make families suffer with the loss of so many young men.

On the November 11, 1918 the battle fields in Europe silenced after an armistice was ordered for all hostilities to cease taking immediate effect.

The authorized treaty heralded the end of the warfare which had erupted on the August 4, 1914. On June 28, 1919 one hundred years ago the Treaty of Versailles was signed officially ending World War One and declaring world peace.

The Anzacs had long waits to be repatriated home, many were disabled with physical or emotional wounds and all faced an uncertain future.

An immediate threat was the outbreak of the Spanish influenza. Esperance soldier Eric Heenan aged 18 survived the flu after falling ill on an Australian troopship Boonah carrying over 1000 troops when it became infected with the Spanish flu resulting in casualties.

During the war AIF Light Horsemen Ted McCarthy and Will Orr had crossed paths at a battle and a letter written from Ted to his Father which appeared in the Western Argus on the April 10, 1917 read, "saw Will Orr there, and he reckoned it was a heavier engagement than Romani, where we both were."

Ted McCarthy's letters give first hand and descriptive accounts which offer another way for the country to remember and cherish those who have given so much to their country and contributed to history.

The Orr family suffered the loss of their second oldest son John Orr who was killed in France, brothers, James known as Jim was decorated for bravery while William was one of the fearless Light Horseman.

Soldiers Sergeant Baseden, Corporal Doust and Privates Blake, Jones and Townsend having returned from overseas had finally reached home.

On Saturday August 6, 1919 the group united with their family and friends attended a homecoming function in their honour and were greeted by the Esperance Roads Board with the Chairman Edward McCarthy officially welcoming the boys back.

A way back to normal life for many returned soldiers meant resuming work. Brothers Jim and Will Orr, Ted and Dick McCarthy set about building a house.

The weatherboard house at number 16, The Esplanade surrounded by Norfolk pine trees is still referred to as the Baseden Family residence or the 'McCarthy's' house. Ted McCarthy was the original owner with another two McCarthy family members both reclaiming ownership years later.

The Welkes will no doubt celebrate their 100-year milestone, as they remain in a town that hasn't much to show of its early history.