Major Olaf Murray Walsoe

The first of Sydney Grandison “Grandie” and Isabella Watson’s children to marry was Isobella “Emily” who married George Black from Tarwin Meadows (near Inverloch) in Victoria, in 1871.

Emily was only 20 years of age at the time and George was 38 years her senior at 58. Life at Tarwin Meadows was fairly hard for a young woman and she often referred to it as her “green prison’ (with possible reference to the pasture improvement carried out by George).

George Black died at age 89, on 17 August 1902, he was survived by his wife Emily (1851-1931) who, for a short period, then moved to London and later South Yarra; a daughter, Emily “Maud” Violet (1872-1939) and two sons; George “Murray” (1874-1965) and Archibald McGregor (1875-1943), who in partnership ran Tarwin Meadows as a dairy farm until 1915.

Emily Maud Violet Black married Paul Niels Walsoe and had one son Olaf in 1908.

Major Olaf Murray Walsoe 1908-1977 (Image Jennifer James)

Olaf Murray Walsoe (Hvalso/) Chronology 1908-1977

By Allan Skertchly (26/5/2009)

1908. Date and Place of Birth: 11am 31st March 1908 in a big house Hamburg Germany. Father Paul Niels Walsoe (Danish) ; Mother Emily Maud (nee Black) (Australian)

1913. Saying goodbye to his much-loved Danish grandparents, the family moved to London where they stayed until 1920 when his father went to America and mother came back to Australia; Olaf led tours of troops in London during WW1

1920. Sent as a boarder to Brighton Grammar School Melbourne Australia

Olaf Murray Walsoe aged 12 (Image Jennifer James)

1929. Olaf married Beryl Chapman; One daughter Priscilla, later went to Ruyton Girls School Kew, where Mary went; Beryl was a fashion model appearing from time to time in the new Woman’s Weekly in the late 1930’s

Priscilla never knew her father, Olaf Murray Walsoe, as they divorced and her mother married John Harward McConkey, who adopted Priscilla, and was a wonderful father to her.  He was also Beryl’s solicitor for her divorce and that is how they met.  Priscilla always wondered about her biological father. (Ed Note from Olaf’s granddaughter Jennifer James)

1930. Olaf went abroad with Beryl. Returned from Japan, Canada USA and Far East, to the Great Depression; founded QED Quick Economical Delivery using old motorbike.

1931. Beryl asks for divorce; introduced by Beryl to Mary Bourne nee Skertchly, Photographer, South Yarra, at her studio 24 Toorak Road. Romance blossoms! (In 1928 Mary had married Ronald Edwin Bertram Bourne, one son, Allan, borne as Ronald Beverley Bourne 22 September 1929; much later, 1952, in Geelong, changed name to Allan Ronald Beverley Skertchly by Deed Poll); divorce for both Mary and Ronald; Olaf and Beryl.

Olaf Murray Walsoe (Image Jennifer James)

1932. Olaf moves to Brisbane by boat with Mary, Mary’s mother Katherine, and Allan, and Baby Austin car; first flat at Gregory Terrace, then moved to little house on hill at Hamilton; Founded Murray Goldwin Studios; Olaf married Mary at Brisbane Register Generals’ Office.

1933. Moved to Sherwood-lovely house with grass tennis court; moved  studio from Albert House to 3rd floor corner Edward and Queen Streets over Nat Green Chemist Shop; Received 900 pounds for equipment from Denmark (Grandparents); began production of Exhibition Prints for ARPS membership; Mary Skertchly Camera with very long focal length to cover ½ plate; developed the “Oil Print” technique to intensify chosen highlights; bought Austin 6 car.

The Age, 21st September, 1933

1934. Murray Goldwin Studios now equal to Noel Maitland as no.1 fashionable photographic studio in Brisbane; Olaf taking more and more responsibility from Mary; Mary at home with Allan and granny Bannie (Katherine), pregnant. 

1935. Happy event expected in May/June – Mary lost her baby (stillborn boy) on 24th  April; Mary died 27th  April , her last words being “26 is young to die!” Last memory of Mary by Allan kissing his mother in hospital. Mary cremated at Mt Gravatt Brisbane. Allan and Bannie return by steam train to Melbourne; Sherwood house lease relinquished; fine photographic equipment ‘sold for a song’; Olaf, abjectly distressed, went to Sydney.

1936-1939. Worked at Herbert Small as counter clerk; then at Kodak 279 George St Sydney; Pacific cruises, 8 trips to New Zealand; Got ARPS. 

World War 2 Service

1939-1945. World War 2 NX 70221 Enlisted (Paddington Sydney) 4 April 1940, discharged (Infantry Directorate British War Office, London) 28 June 1946 with rank as Major and MC Military Cross. Wide ranging wartime experiences “Rat of Tobruk”, PNG, London War Office. Olaf took many wartime photographs some of which are published in Bayonets Abroad: 2/13 Battalion AIF (Published Sydney 1953 Waite and Bull) An album of his splendid Middle East photographs was presented to the Battalion after he died. Further military experiences are outlined in Official War History; his PNG work was at the time secret.

Major Olaf Murray Walsoe Awards and Citation

1944. Olaf back from the Middle East briefly visited Allan and Bannie in Melbourne. Olaf thenceforth supported Allan at Trinity Grammar School and Melbourne University until 1950 when Allan completed BSc. Allan visited Olaf in Mosman Sydney several times. Olaf’s modest yacht Wattle 3, sailing. For 20 years there was no contact with Allan

1948. Marriage in Sydney to Margaret Rose McEntee – two daughters, Anna Margaret (1950) and Ingrid Rose (1952); James Jeffrey Pty Ltd Hardware retail shop in Willoughby Road, Sydney for 9 years to 1957 when sold out. (Anna married Wendell Allen Bailey, founder of the Harlem Gospel Choir and Ingrid married Joseph Robert Engel)

1948 -1977. Olaf kept in touch with his father for many years; his mother Maud lived in South Yarra Melbourne until she died in 1939.

1977. Failing health. Olaf died in Concord Repatriation Hospital Sydney after detaching kidney dialysis machine; final visit by Allan and Anna a few days before.

Olaf wrote many detailed sophisticated letters to Allan from 1970 until his death in 1977.”

The following two letters were written to Gregory Downs and Lew Blackmore, who was a grand nephew of the Watson Bros who settled there in 1877. Maude Walsoe (nee Black), Olaf’s mother, was a niece of the Watson Bros and her brothers, Murray and Archie Black visited their uncles on Gregory Downs on many occasions.

Note that the Eddie Watson mentioned in the first letter above was not at Gregory Downs but was one of the brothers from Grandie’s second family with Constance Armstrong who settled at “Merluna” on Cape York. Olaf’s letter to Gregory Downs was eventually received by Lew Blackmore and he replied in October 1976 saying, that he hoped to meet up with him when next he was in Sydney. Olaf wrote again to Lew (as below). We are not sure if the meeting took place and Olaf passed away in 1977. The documents mentioned in the second letter, in Edith Blackmore’s unit, were later deposited with the NSW State Library, then known as the Mitchell Library under Blackmore, Watson, Kinleside families.

Allan Skertchly and Memories of Olaf

Allan Skertchly 1929-2011

An Excerpt from “Brief Encounter with a Great Author-Harry Patterson a.k.a. JACK HIGGINS ‘Master of his Craft’ by Allan Skertchly, Olaf’s stepson.

“By comparison and contrast (with Harry Patterson), I too was born in 1929, but into the middle class, in Melbourne, Australia, also then, as was Ireland, and indeed the world was, in the depths of The Great Depression, when many were unemployed and life for many families was tough. Both Harry and I never knew our fathers. My father ‘disappeared ‘ before I was one year old, leaving me to the ministrations of my young mother, who was in the early stages of establishing herself as a professional photographer, and my grandmother, who had lost her husband in 1915 as a young Lieutenant with the ANZAC’s of Gallipoli fame in the First World War.

By 1934, however, I had a loving and supportive Danish-Australian stepfather, Olaf (Walsoe), and we had all moved to Brisbane where my mother, Mary and Olaf established and conducted a very successful and burgeoning photographic studio – Murray Goldwyn – specializing in family portraiture. I can just remember watching ladies on the staff carefully colour-tinting black a white picture plates before the advent of Kodachrome colour photography. But even this remarkable photographic innovation of wide appeal, in the financially straitened times, was not widely used until after the 1939-1945 war. I still have some of the old colour-tinted plates and, as representations of their subjects, they were more than acceptable. The colour, even now, is still quite life-like.

Compared to Harry Patterson’s privations in Leeds, my then Australian home with an abundance of flowers, trees and tropical fruits, was a paradise.

But my halcyon days of family bliss as a little preschool boy in a nice big ‘Queenslander’ – raised tropical house on stilts – with a big garden, grass tennis court and my own goat, Sally, and goat cart – were very short lived and brought to an abrupt end when my mother died just after a stillborn childbirth in the middle of 1935. Asking where my mother was, I was told ‘she has gone to heaven’. For me, that closed the book on her for a long time.

Mortified, my stepfather cremated his young bride of 25, closed the thriving business, and left Brisbane to then, for a short time, become a social photographer on P & O Pacific cruise ships. I have a collection of his efforts which include fine photographs a New Guinea warriors in full regalia.

With my grandmother, I returned to Melbourne to be raised in the still economically distressing times of the late 1930’s and early 40’s. It was only after the declaration of war by Robert Menzies, the Australian Prime Minister, on September 3rd 1939, that the depression began to be finally overcome and years of buoyant prosperity began and continued for the next quarter of a century.

Although wartime years in Australia denied many luxury items, we were not under significant direct attack, and the population at large enjoyed a quite stable and sufficient standard of living with little or no real privations, unlike those of people living in Britain, let alone the cities of Occupied Europe.

But, although there were many changes and residential moves, and life was not always easy, there was always the continuing support of the rest of the family and my stepfather from afar. He rose to the rank of Major in the war, and won the military cross, MC, for valor in a charge against ‘Desert Fox’ Rommel’s Army as one of the renowned ‘Rats of Tobruk’ in the North African Campaign.

As a photographer, too, Major Olaf Walsoe captured many unique pictures that are now in his regiment’s collection in Sydney. I saw him from time to time on leaves as he went from Africa to New Guinea to London, where he worked in Whitehall as an advisor on jungle fighting tactics. He supported me through school and university and I kept in touch with him until he died.

At the same time as Harry (Patterson) was in the Occupation Forces in Germany, I was training to be a pilot in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve R.A.F.V.R. motivated by my desire to do military service (I had been too young for WW2), become a fighter pilot, as had many reservists just a few years before, and fly Spitfires or Hurricanes in a victorious battle, as had so many who had been R.A.F.V.R. pilots, had done in the Battle for Britain, just a decade before.

Getting into the R.A.F. in the first place, even then, was an exacting exercise. Two days of exhaustive physical and psychological tests and flying simulations.

One such, physical one, of ‘bailing out at 20,000 feet and holding one’s breath for a minute’, as simulated by holding a mercury column up with one’s breath, a test the old Doc said had failed more people than any other single test, I still recall vividly. As were the intense and precise mental and psychological demands of being confronted with an aircraft instrument panel for the first time and noting what the dials read, to interpret what the aircraft was doing in a series of increasingly complex manoeuvres. Then to front a large and impressive panel of Air Force brass for an hour of questioning. The chairman of the panel finally looked directly at me and to my intense pleasure said ‘You’re the kind of man we want. Welcome into the Royal Air Force!’

These days, of course, selection processes for high technology operations are even more demanding. They have to be. It costs millions to train front line combat pilots! And much, much more, for astronauts.

Flying out of Yeadon, the joint Bradford-Leeds aerodrome, as soon as you were airborne you were above Ilkley Moor and the Bronte’s country, of Heathcliffe and Kathy’s Wuthering Heights fame, and then soon high above the Yorkshire Dales National Park and James Herriott’s All Creatures Great and Small rolling green countryside of Wharfedale with all it’s exquisite delights and vistas. I got to know it well from the air.

Seeking out Fountains, Jervaulx, Rievaulx and Ryland Abbeys, and many other notable historic sites, such as York Minster, the largest mediaeval church in northern Europe, me and my Canadian De Havilland Chipmunk climbed, twisted, spun and recovered from stalls, in the pure air over a most beautiful part of England, which had not been much impacted by the Industrial Revolution which had lead to the emergence of such ‘muck and money’ cities as Bradford and Leeds.

And flying training then, as always, has its risks. One of my young colleagues failed to recover from a spin and crashed into the grounds of Harwood House killing himself. Later when I returned to Australia on the Arcadia, one of my fellow travelers was the last member of his aircraft carrier squadron alive. He quit soon after and became P&O’s Pacific Cruises Director.

Sometimes, when flying on a clear day, one could see in the distance the aerial towers of the Fyllingdale Early Warning Radar Towers, perched on the North Yorkshire Moors near the village of Whitby, of Captain James Cook fame.

The prominent radar towers faced Russia and gave the United Kingdom population 3 minutes warning if I.C.B.M.’s (Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles) armed with nuclear war heads were heading Britain’s way! Such possibilities were taken very seriously and many people, such as my then wife, attended Civil Defence courses on How to Cope with A Nuclear Attack.

I left the R.A.F.V.R. rated as an ‘average pilot’ which, had I moved into the R.A.F. permanently, would have meant flying bombers, transports, and doing reconnaissance sorties, all on the ‘straight and level’. No such adrenaline surging flying as in the Battle for Britain or flying as my heroes, pilots such as the German Adolf Galland and the Brit, ‘Bluey’ Truscott, renowned fighter aces, did, for me!”

Allan Skertchly Biography

 “Dr Allan RB Skertchly graduated in 1991 with an Honours degree from the Northern Territory University (now Charles Darwin University).
 In 1950 he graduated from The University of Melbourne with a Bachelor of Science. As a graduate in physics with some understanding of nuclear weaponry he was amongst the first Australians to be of interest to ASIO.
 His first appointment in science was at The Gordon Institute of Technology, Geelong. This was followed by postgraduate studies at The University of Leeds.
 Complimenting Dr Skertchly’s intense studies in the physical sciences he became a reserve pilot in the RAFVR. He also studied economics and sociology externally, becoming one of the first English graduates in sociology from the University of London in 1961.
 Returning to Australia he was appointed an Associate Professor at the University of New South Wales in 1962.
 From an early age, an interest in psychology led to informally attending lectures in the discipline at both Melbourne and Leeds universities. However, it was not until coming to Darwin as a foundation member of the academic staff of the new university, that the opportunity arose for completing a full professional qualification in the discipline, graduating in 1991 with an Honours degree from the Northern Territory University (now Charles Darwin University).
 Upon completing the required supervised experience under the veteran Darwin psychologist, Dr Ted Milliken, Dr Skertchly was admitted by the Psychologists Board of the Northern Territory as a registered Practicing Psychologist in 1998. For some time he enjoyed tutoring first-year psychology students at CDU.
 Dr Skertchly has been the President of the Association of Private Practicing Psychologists (NT) and been on the Board of TEAM Health for the last decade, where he is currently President. And also has been, until recently, Public Officer of the NT Writers Centre.
 Dr Skertchly became a Principal Consultant for Success Management International Learning Resources (SMILE) and undertook, in collaboration with his environmental scientist daughter, Kristen McAllister, (also a graduate of CDU), a number of projects on emergency management for the Northern Territory Counter Disaster Service and Emergency Management Australia.
 These have included studies of cyclone preparedness, critical infrastructure, catastrophe management, the 1998 Katherine-Daly Flood and the Thredbo Landslide. These endeavors resulted in a number of EMA Safer Communities Awards.
 Interest in Aboriginal affairs commenced early on with annual visits to Melbourne of people from the Ernabella Mission in Central Australia. For a time Dr Skertchly managed Aboriginal housing in Western Australia for the Aboriginal Development Commission, preparing several papers on Positive Aboriginal Advancement and traditional Aboriginal approaches to survival in tropical savannahs.
 Overall, along with many other mature-age students, Dr Skertchly has benefited enormously from the presence and resources of our readily accessible and most supportive twenty-first century, Charles Darwin University.
 Qualification as a psychologist was the culmination of a life-long ambition and Dr Skertchly much appreciated the quality of CDU’s programs in psychology.
 Allan succumbed to cancer on 12th April 2011 and his ashes were later placed at Trinity College Melbourne.”

Post Script

Emily Watson’s wedding ring was later to be worn by her great granddaughter Ingrid Rose Walsoe at her wedding to Joseph Robert Engel in 1976. Her engagement ring was also worn by Jean Rosemary Simmons on her engagement to Emily’s grandson “Greg” John Gordon McGregor Black and is now worn, in turn, by Rosemary’ daughter in law Jane Webb who is married to Alistair Gordon McGregor Black. (It is welded to Jane’s wedding ring and to her eternity ring to stop it wearing out).

Maud Walsoe (nee Black) paintings of, Hobson’s Hut; Tarwin Meadows Homestead; and looking towards Tarwin Meadows from Cape Liptrap on Venus bay Arch Rock near the 10 Mile. (from the Black Family collection)


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