Tag Archives: Oaklands estate

Beyond the high society

Directed Study Blog Post 3

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been searching archival records for information about Oaklands Estate and the families who lived there. As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, in the 1940s part of the estate was acquired by the government to build the Warradale Army Barracks. During my search for documents I learnt that this military presence went back much further—it dated back as far as 1914 when the then owner of the property Thomas Currie Taite leased a portion of his property to the Army for use as a camp ground for the soldiers. Reading about this military presence got me thinking about how war affected the people of society who had owned Oaklands Estate.  I wondered if any of them had gone on to become soldiers or been drafted into the war effort. Following this thought I began a search for connections between the estate and the World Wars and I came across an article which caught me by surprise: this article told the story of a man named Tom Derrick.

Tom was born at Oaklands Estate on the 20th of March 1914, his parents worked in the service of the Taite family; he was in fact named after Thomas Taite, the ‘squire’ of Oaklands Estate. He wasn’t the child of the fortunate family who owned the plentiful estate but he spent his toddling years at the property, and reportedly spent his childhood watching the soldiers training at the military campgrounds adjoining the property. His family left the estate and, as Tom grew up, he tried his hand at a number of professions:  he worked as a carpenter, and a baker’s assistant, during the Depression his father helped him to build a bicycle from spare parts and he rode from Port Adelaide to Berri to seek work on the fruit blocks. He reportedly never had any interest in military matters, had no desire to join the defence forces, to be a soldier.

In 1940, with the onset of the Second World War, Tom signed up to the second 46th battalion and joined the Australians who shipped off to war. I don’t know why he decided to go to war; maybe he wanted to protect his family back home, perhaps he was simply answering the call to serve his country, or maybe he remembered those days in his youth of watching the soldiers train at Oaklands.

In June of 1945 Tom Derrick was declared a casualty of war. He was killed at the head of the charge to protect his fellow soldiers.

This story really spoke to me: here was a man who had grown up in the splendour of the estate at Oaklands but who had shared none of its riches. Just a typical Aussie who struggled through life but managed to find happiness. A man who gave his life in the service of his country. It’s so rare to find a story about an average Australian associated with a site like Oaklands, documented history is usually about the rich or the famous, so to find this story about a working family’s son was really something special.


Army News, Darwin NT, 6 June 1945: Page 4

The trouble with names…

Directed Study Blog Post 2

As part of my directed study I have been talking to David Jarman, a local historian who has been gathering oral histories and stories about Oaklands House for a number of years. One of these stories struck me as particularly interesting so I thought I would take an opportunity to share it here:

From their home in England the Kearne family purchased the site for Oaklands Estate sight unseen.  They had been shown its general location on a map and were aware that the Sturt River flowed through the property.

Upon setting out from England they ordered all the materials necessary to build the homestead, outbuildings, and other aspects of the property; they purchased a ship or boat to take their materials to the site of the estate, and they hired a crew to sail the ship and later to assist as labourers and workers on the property.

They arrived in Australian prepared to sail their new ship up the Sturt River to the site of their new estate, unfortunately the agent who sold them the land had neglected to tell them that the Sturt River is little more than a seasonal creek and certainly not capable of accommodating a barge filled with building materials.

Other means of transporting the materials overland were arranged eventually and the estate was constructed by 1844. Interestingly enough, though, many members of the ship’s crew did go on to work on the property; even parts of the ship itself contributed to the homestead’s construction. Until its demolition in 1967 the ship’s bell hung over the back door of the estate.