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William Robert Gillard

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William (Willie/Will/Sol) Robert Gillard (1904-1927) was the elder of two sons of William Edgar Gillard and Ethel May Hill, and he was the brother of my father. He was born in 1904 (probably in April) and died at 22 by drowning in the Swan River, 18 March 1927. In the words of his brother: '... Will died when he was twenty-two.  He was drowned in a yachting accident—just one of those rare occasions—the yacht tipped over and when they came to count heads he was the only one missing'.

In the photo, William Edgar Gillard is holding his elder son William Robert, while his wife, Ethel May (Hill), is holding my infant father, David Michael (born 23 May 1905).

It seems that Will might have been born in Yundamindra in about April 1904, tho his brother David is recorded as having been born in Perth the next year, thirteen months later. Will's grandfather, William Samuel Hill, had brought his wife (Margaret Roberts Hill) and family (children Beatrice, Leslie, Ethel and Mary Elizabeth (Elsie) over from Victoria, in 1899.

Ethel met William Edgar Gillard on the diggings and they got married in 1903, either in Kookynie, according to the book More Lonely Graves of Western Australia, or at St Bridget's Wembley, according to DMG.

Here are Will and Davie, already fatherless, and possibly in Victoria, where their mother had to go to survive.

Will's father died when he was two years old. His mother married again, to Fletcher Hogarth. This may be their wedding photograph. That's Ethel May's father, William Samuel Hill in the centre, with his two grandsons. And I think that's Ethel on our left, new husband, Fletcher Hogarth, logically next to her, and her sister Beatrice Harriet on our right. The other man standing is her brother Leslie, who was well over six feet tall.

David and William are wearing black armbands. Their mother, Ethel May, died around 30 March 1919; so Will was an orphan at 15. The other two children are the twins Keith and Ethel, Ethel May's children with Fletcher Hogarth.

Will had to go to work on a farm, possibly at Trayning, prolly as soon as legally possible, the day after he turned 14 - as was the case with his younger brother. Dave mentions that they had a holiday together: "21: Came to Perth met Will who came down from Yundamindra and we had a holiday together." I think this might be the (only) photographic record. That's Will in the middle, with Dave on our right, and an unidentified chap on our left. If Dave was 21, Will was 22 - the age at which he died, so this is right at the end of his short life.

Here are the lads with the young ladies they holidayed with (still assuming). I've been told the young lady next to David is his first cousin Ellen Raftis (Nell/Nellie.) I have no information about the other people in the photograph - except of course Will, sitting down front, on our right.

Here is the report from the front page of The Daily News of Saturday 19 March 1927. The Western Mail of the Monday following, 21 March 1927, reported that the body had not yet been found, but obviously it must later have been discovered, as there is a grave in Karrakatta Cemetery with Will's remains in it. The death notice was on the front page (as was then the custom) of The West Australian of Wednesday 23 March 1927. Here is a transcription of the story in the newspaper.

Swan River Yachting Fatality

"It was terribly simple. A fairly strong wind was blowing. A 'knock-down' puff came, and we capsized. We didn't know 'Sol' was missing till later, and thought all were saved at the time. We didn't notice there were 13 people aboard until later." said Ernest Angel, skipper of the yacht Arlene, this morning.
Attracted to Crawley Bay by the Venice on the Swan carnival last evening, the crew of the 23ft. cruiser yacht, Arlene, with six young lady friends, were sailing in the vicinity of Crawley Buoy about five minutes to 10 last night, when the yacht was capsized by a sudden and very strong gust of wind.
Aboard the yacht were Baden Harris, of 8 Grosvenor-road, North Perth; Nathan Love, Dalkeith, Nedlands; John Hudson, 74 Parry-street, East Perth; Ernest Angel (skipper of the Arlene), Coronation-street, North Perth; John Burke, 240 Newcastle-street, North Perth; Sol Gillard, 14 Brookman-street, and six young ladies, friends of the crew.

Yachts to the Rescue.

Immediately they noticed the mishap the yachts Theodora and Victoria went to the rescue, and did able work. It appears that after the mishap all the Arlene's complement hung on to the side of the boat. Some of the girls found it difficult to maintain their hold, and as one or two could not swim, their plight was perilous. The members of the Arlene's crew supported them as much as possible, but even then a girl would occasionally float away and have to be brought back to the yacht's side again.
People who were three-quarters of a mile away on the Crawley Beach at the time said they could hear the frenzied calls for assistance. Mr. G. Greenhalgh, of the Crawley Tea-rooms, rendered valuable assistance in rescue operations. When six men and six young women had been taken into safety it was discovered that Gillard was missing. As he was in bathing costume at the time of the accident, and known to be a very powerful swimmer, no apprehension was felt for a few minutes. Some of the rescued ones had the idea that he had swum away for assistance, but his non-appearance quickly gave rise to fears he must have become exhausted and sunk.

Search for Missing Man.

P.C. Bannear was notified at 10.10 p.m. that Gillard was missing. The constable immediately procured a motor car, went to the Harbor and Lights Department's boat near the Swan Brewery, and got Mr. C. Chamberlain to search on the water for Gillard, but without success.
The police launch Cygnet, manned by W.P.C.'s Kinghorn, Pearce, and Lovering, was summoned to the spot. They immediately used their searchlight all over the immediate area, but could discover no trace of the missing man, though they continued to patrol the vicinity until 3 a.m. Meanwhile P.C. Bannear organised other searching operations, and these were continued through the night.
The Sea Scout Troop, which has its headquarters in the vicinity of the capsize, supplemented P.C. Bannear's work. They were promptly on the scene with their boat, and worked until early this morning, resuming again at daybreak.

Sea Scout Injured.

At 10 o'clock this morning Sea Scout Alfred Ernest Bath, aged 17 1/2 years, of Sanderson-street, Bayswater, was assisting to save the Arlene when the centreplate fell against his leg, cutting it badly, and three stitches had subsequently to be inserted. The boat itself was undamaged.
It is stated that soon after the Arlene overturned, the s.s. Zephyr passed within 50 to 80 yards of the company in the water, but though the men shouted, the vessel passed on without noticing them. It is more than probable that the noise of the Zephyr's engines, added to the fact that the steamer was to the windward, prevented those on the I hearing the frantic calls of the distressed yaching party.
The missing man, who was nicknamed "Sol", was a well-built young fellow, and popular aboard the Arlene. Both his parents are dead, but his brother, Mr. Dave Gillard, lives at Kellerberrin.
Dragging operations have been continued by the police throughout the day, but unavailingly.

The Western Mail of the Monday following, 21 March 1927, continued the story, reporting that the body had still not yet been found by then.

The West Australian for Wednesday 23 March 1927 has the death and funeral notices:
GILLARD.—On 18th March, accidentally drowned, William Robert, dearly beloved brother of David Gillard, stepbrother of Keith and Ethel Hogarth. Beloved nephew of Mrs. T. Lynch, late of Trayning. So dearly loved and sadly missed.
GILLARD.—The Friends of the late Mr. William Robert (Sol) Gillard, of the Swan Brewery, Ltd., beloved brother of Mr. David Michael Gillard, of Kellerberrin, are respectively invited to follow his remains to the place of interment, the Roman Catholic Cemetery, Karrakatta. The Funeral is appointed to leave Messrs. Bowra and O'Dea's Private Mortuary, 195 Pier-street, Perth, at 1.45 o'colock, THIS (Wednesday) AFTERNON, per road. Friends wishing to attend the Funeral may proceed by the 2.5 o'clock train leaving Perth. Bowra and O'Dea, Undertakers, 195 Pier-street, Perth. Tel. A4508.
GILLARD.—Members of the above union are respectfully invited to attend the Funeral of their late comrade Mr. William Robert (Sol) Gillard, which is appointed to leave Messrs. Bowra and O'Dea's Private Mortuary 195 Pier-street, Perth, at 1.45 o'clock THIS (Wednesday) AFTERNOON, for the Karrakatta Cemetery. Members are requested to proceed by the 2.5 o'oclock train leaving Perth. G. C. KERR, Secretary, Trades Hall, Perth.

William Robert and his mother Ethel May are buried in the same grave in Karrakatta Cemetery. It's in an area that's been 'renewed', and not only is there no headstone (I'm guessing there never was one, as none of the family graves have any markers) the exact position of the grave is not to be seen, as there has been another burial at ROEC 009. The cemetery records have Ethel May's name spelt incorrectly, as Ethel May Hogartt [sic]. To get this changed, I would have to show them something like birth and/or death certificates.

The 'grantee' of the original plot (which expired 29 Nov 1962) is named as Elizabeth Mary Lynch (aka Mary Elizabeth Hill). She was Ethel May's sister (and known as Elsie - I remember Auntie Elsie) , and had been 'granted' the plot in order to lay to rest the body of her son Thomas Mathew [sic] Lynch, aged 0 years, having died 5 November 1912. And then she was kind enough to allow her sister's Ethel's body to be laid to rest in the same grave in 1919, and then Ethel's son William Robert's in 1927.

This is the death notice that was published in The Western Mail [Perth, WA: 1885-1954], Thursday 31 March 1927, page 2. The same notice was posted on the front page of The West Australian of Wednesday 23 March 1927.

GILLARD.--On March 18, accidentally drowned, William Robert, dearly beloved brother of David Gillard, stepbrother of Keith and Ethel Hogarth. Beloved nephew of Mrs. T. Lynch, late of Trayning. So dearly loved and sadly missed. [The T. is for Thomas, the husband of Mary Elizabeth (Elsie) Hill/Lynch.]

Semi-detached house at 24 Brockman Street Perth today (2022), probably the same house in which Will was living at the time of his death.

References, Links, Acknowledgements

Coate, Yvonne E. & Kevin Coate, More Lonely Graves of Western Australia, Hesperian Press, Carlisle, WA, 2000.

Palmer, Alex, Yundamindra: Its Towns, Mines, People and Station, Hesperian Press, Carlisle, WA, 2006.

Thanks to cousin Adrian Spall, particularly for information about the Hill family, and especially including the death notice. Many thanks also to another cousin, Val Jasper, for the newspaper reports of the drowning.

Garry Gillard | New: 17 July, 2009 | Now: 20 November, 2022