From Hooves to Highways

Mrs H Williams



‘Mrs H Williams’ is in the front passenger seat, wearing mourning clothes or ‘widows’ weeds’. She is Annie Williams nee Gallop, daughter of Richard, who arrived in WA in 1829. Annie was born in 1848 and, aged 18, married Harry Williams in 1867. At least nineteen children were born to the couple but sadly, only half survived to adulthood.

Harry, whose parents arrived in 1830 aboard the Rockingham and farmed at Herdsman Lake, was a wealthy farmer and grazier. After a few years at Herdsman he bought Goondalup Farm, 25km north of Perth near Wanneroo (Joondalup, today), and ran a dairy there for five years. He returned to Perth in the early 1880s and established Pear Park, a successful orchard in Fitzgerald Street boasting award-winning pears and grapes, as well as 25 different varieties of apples. Harry was chairman of the Perth Roads Board for some years, and also served on Perth City Council.

Russell Square, Perth, c1914. Courtesy State Library of Western Australia, image 004046d

On 2 April 1907 Harry (62), their oldest surviving son Henry, and some other members of the family, went swimming at Trigg Island. Harry struggled with the current at Blue Hole and climbed out of the water onto the reef for a rest. Henry saw his father in trouble and borrowed a dinghy. Before he could get to him however, Harry was washed off, and a few minutes later found floating, unconscious, in the water. They brought him to shore where he was baptised in his last few, unconscious moments of life, his family kneeling helplessly around him in a sad tableau, praying to God to save him.

Annie, aged just 58 in this photo, was a loving, supportive wife, and a doting mother and grandmother. After Harry’s death their sons managed his many properties and businesses and, as Harry left an estate worth around $8m today, Annie had the means to live very comfortably. She died at her home on Russell Square on 25 November 1918, aged 69, and was eulogised at her enormous funeral as having lived an exemplary life.

Where, what and when

Annie is pictured in the passenger seat of her 1907 Humber, which she bought from The Amstrong Cycle and Motor Agency during the week of 7-14 September 1907.

“With unfailing regularity sales are recorded by the Armstrong Cycle and Motor Agency of the very popular 4-cylinder Humber cars. This week there is shown on page 30 a 10-12hp, 4-cylinder Humber sold to Mrs A Williams, of Russell Square. It is of interest to note the condition attached to the sale of this particular car, which was that it should carry a full load up to York, Northam, and Newcastle and return to Perth in a satisfactory manner. Despite the heavy nature of the roads, this was accomplished with ease, the powerful car being seldom off the top speed. When canopy and glass screen are fitted by the Armstrong Agency to the owner's instruction, this Humber will be a comfortable, all-weather car.”

Western Mail, 14 September 1907

Harry Williams, Annie’s oldest son, is in the driver’s seat. Three of her daughters are in the back: Mabel (21, left), Hilda (15, middle), and Grace (29, right), and youngest daughter Gladys (11) is on the verandah. They are outside Annie’s gracious home at 182 James Street, Perth, on the eastern corner of Parker Street, opposite Russell Square. Leafy, carefully landscaped and genteel in those days, the home was demolished long ago, and On-the-Park Apartments now stands in its place.

Humber (10-12 H.P., 4 cyl.) the property of Mrs. H Williams

Annie Williams’ purchase of her Humber in the Western Mail, 14 September 1907.

Annie Williams’ brand new Humber, “in Armstrong’s Hospital” after it was wrecked on 5 October 1907. Courtesy The West Australian, 7 October 1907.

Annie Williams’ brand new Humber, “in Armstrong’s Hospital” after it was wrecked on 5 October 1907. Courtesy The West Australian, 7 October 1907.

The Williams crash, headlines, Truth 12 October 1907.

On 5 October 1907 Henry borrowed his mother’s car and went to the Northam Show with his wife Emma, their 18-month-old daughter Amy, and a friend. Passing through Guildford on their way back to Perth, he was about to cross the railway at Meadow Street but failed to notice an approaching train until it was almost upon them. He braked heavily and turned the car to the side, but the train hit hard, throwing everyone out onto the ground and the baby into the cattle pit. Incredibly, no one was seriously injured.

The same could not be said about the car:

“After a brief examination all four proceeded to Perth by the train with which their car had collided. The car itself, which was valued at £450, was a complete wreck.”

The West Australian, 7 October 1907

This photo, therefore, was taken in the small, three week window between Annie buying the car in mid-September 1907, and it being wrecked on 5 October 1907.

Henry, who so valiantly tried to save his father at Trigg that day, and so thoroughly wrecked his mother’s new car, had married Emma Taylor in 1897 and, together, they had four daughters. In early June 1911, then 42, he knocked his leg hard against the crank at the front of his own car. He thought little of it at the time, but died a couple of weeks later, on 17 June, from blood poisoning.