Monday 13 September 2021

Gilbert Parker


Gilbert Arthur Parker, was born on 14 July 1906 in Bristol to Arthur Parker, a commercial traveller, and Helen (nee Burton). Initially the family moved to Liverpool, then to Manchester in 1911, and lived at 17 Hartington Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy. By mid-summer 1922, Gilbert had completed his schooling with good results, having the Leaving Certificate and the University Joint Matriculation Certificate, and an excellent reference from Manchester’s Central Grammar School for Boys.

He was interested in a career in engineering, but his parents could see no future for a young man in England in the 1920s, and enrolled him in the Dreadnought Scheme.

He sailed from England on 23rd March 1923 on SS Euripides and arrived in Sydney on 11th May 1923. Gilbert was one of 58 Dreadnought Boys who arrived, but the Euripides also carried the first 32 Bernardo girls and 110 nominated migrants. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the boys were ‘an exceptionally fine party and created a most favourable impression’ and were ‘amongst the finest types that have yet arrived’. The groups were met by a welcoming delegation and the New South Wales Minister for Labour.

From Sydney, Gilbert and the other new Dreadnought Boys were taken to the Skeyville Training Farm near Pitt Town, west of Sydney. After about two months training there, these boys were sent to farms around the country. Gilbert Parker worked at Morisset for 9 months, but then travelled to Stanthorpe in Queensland. In 1924, he worked at Diamond Vale dairy, on the Diamond Vale Road, east of Stanthorpe. Colonel Jones, the owner of Diamond Vale, was well-known for his upright posture while riding his horse, Gilbert later used him as the example for his sons, if their backs were less than upright. Across the road was the Knight’s orchard. Ted Knight was an English migrant who had arrived in Australia some years before. He had served in World War 1, and had established a successful apple orchard. The Knights were like parents to Gilbert and their close friendship lasted their lifetimes and on to the next generation.

Three years on, Gilbert was working further west in Queensland’s Darling Downs, mostly at Lyndley Hereford Stud, the Jandowie property of (later Sir) James Sparkes, doing cattle work and clearing. He also worked at Meandarra and Kumbia in the years to 1933, with visits back to the Knights in the course of those years. He celebrated his 21st birthday in 1927 at the Sparkes property. He was at the release of the cactoblastis insect that was instrumental in bringing the prickly pear scourge under control. Later in 1927, the Dalby Herald reported Gilbert’s trip to hospital after being thrown from a horse on Bunyan Bros Inglestone property. Apart from that incident, he kept a low profile.

In the 1933 Gilbert Parker was back in the Granite Belt, purchasing a rundown apple orchard at Thulimbah (12 km north of Stanthorpe) and, with the help of Ted Knight, bringing it back into production. In 1937, he married Gladys Esther Chalmers of Woodford. Two sons, John and David, were born. As World War 2 got underway, Gilbert Parker enlisted in the Australian Army and fought with the 25th Battalion in Papua New Guinea, most notably in the critical battle of Milne Bay in August/September 1942.

On discharge in late 1943, Gilbert returned to the orchard, dealing with its challenges and rewards over the next 25 years. He participated strongly in local community and church life, before retiring to Warwick. He died in September 1975, aged 69, and was survived by his wife, who died in December 1990.

 The Dreadnought Boys were to be  future farmers and soldiers – this was made crystal clear to the very first boys arriving in April 1911. Contributing significantly to rural production and serving his adopted country in war, Gilbert Parker was the epitome the Dreadnought Scheme’s ideal.