Wednesday, 11 December 2013


My wonderful father passed away last week.

It was very sudden...but not totally unexpected as he was in a nursing home and very frail.

A recent photo of Dad with me on the left and Wendy my sister on the right.

He achieved a lot in his 82 years. He wasn't a fact he lived and died in Longreach which is a small town in the central west of Queensland. He never left Australian shores.

He probably spent a total of 5 maybe 6 years in other parts...but as I said Longreach was his home and he loved it completely.

View of Longreach 2013.

During the last few years, my sister's and I would take turns to go out to Longreach and spend time with Dad.

 His favourite place to visit was  the Airport where he would look at the display Qantas jumbo jet and more recently the Catalina Flying Boat. He could tell you all about both.

 He loved planes.

The Qantas jumbo jet on display in Longreach

The other 'must' was to take the short trip out to the Thompson River which is just west of the town.
 He loved nothing better than to sit by the river.. light up a smoke.. and take in the view.

The old bridge across the Thompson River at flood

An old photo I found of the Thompson River a dry time.

 Dad was the last descendant of the pioneering Archer family to carry the Archer name in our direct descending line from David of the original Archer brothers.

 He had a brother who passed away some time ago, and a sister who married and has 3 sons but of course they don't carry the Archer name.  Dad had all girls and his brother also had girls.

Actually this is not entirely true...Dad's brother had a son from his first marriage...who being the eldest son of the eldest son was called David after his grandfather and his great great grandfather.
Unfortunately he has cut all ties with the family...incidentally David only has one child and that child just happens to be a girl as well.

There is also one other male Archer but he is not married and is from a different descending line to Dad.

Are you thoroughly confused now?  Hopefully not.

For readers who don't know about the famous Archer brothers.....I will fill you in quickly.

It all started with  William and Julia Archer who immigrated to Norway from Scotland in the early 1800's. They had 13 children.... 9 of which were boys. The first 8 children were born in Scotland, the last 5 were born at Larvik (Laurvig) after they moved to Norway.

David was the third eldest son, and was the oldest to have a son and, as was the custom in those days, became the head of the family and passed that title on to my Grandfather David Archer.

 Julia (nee Walker's) family had interests in Australia so the boys came to Australia to work. To make a long story as short as possible...and still keep your interest....the Archer brothers formed a partnership of sorts and decided that the only way to get ahead in this young colony was to go north from their base in New South Wales and explore and ' take up country' of their own.

Charles Archer, he and his brother William were the first to discover and name the Fitzroy River and surrounding areas.

This they did ending up in central Queensland where the two brother Charles and William first rode over the hills from the South-West...know as the Dee Range and looked down on the mere, and further in the distance the big river which they named the Fitzroy after the Governor of New South Wales.

 The year was 1853.

They called their station 'Gracemere'. This name came about because Tom Archer was the only married Archer brother at this time and his wife's name was Grace. The word 'mere' is the Norwegian name for lake.

In the early days Gracemere stretched about 70 k's in each direction from the house....the old brothers probably never knew how much country they was probably somewhere between one and two million acres.

The boundaries would have been rivers and rangers with the eastern boundary being the sea.

There was one big paddock on the other side of the Fitzroy .....and big mobs of cattle were swam  back and forth.

They started there with sheep they had actually walked up the coast ...but after a short time they realised that the country was not suited to sheep they turned their eyes to the west and went exploring in that direction ...looking for 'sheep country'.

In 1857 they took up ' Minnie Downs ' at Tambo. They then walked 5000 odd sheep out there.

The homestead about 1950. 

Robert, my Great Grandfather, took over the management of  Gracemere from his Uncle Thomas. Robert's father, David was never at Gracemere.

The brothers that managed Gracemere over the years were...Charles, William, Thomas, Colin, James and Thomas again.

Colin arrived in 1855 and managed for only three or four years, during this time he designed and controlled the building of the house. He then went back to Norway and started building boats....but that's another story.

Getting back to my father. One of the things that kept Dad entertained in his declining years was writing. He managed to write 3 books...mostly about his life and the people that filled it.

He also wrote about his childhood growing up on a sheep station/stud outside Longreach... and his many visits with his parents to Gracemere..

Here I would like to take a paragraph from one of Dad's books...where he writes about Gracemere.

"I have known Gracemere since I was a little kid, and it has never lost any of it's charm for me. Imagine a two or three year old kid, who had never seen the sea, being taken through that lovely garden with those enormous trees, to the boathouse and looking out on the huge expanse of water. No wonder it left a life-long impression on me."

An old sketch of the back of the homestead. From left back of main house, kitchen, office, men's quarters. The banyan tree on the left is still there today.

The gracious old homestead still stands proudly on the edge of the lagoon and the wonderful garden  which has been tended by Archer women down through the years,  is today still a thing of beauty, and still tended by an Archer woman.

There is a small hill behind the homestead and on it's top is the Archer family cemetery. Archer's have rested there for over 150 years.

So this weekend my sister's and our family's, Dad's last surviving sibling his sister Clair and her children will return to Gracemere where Dad will be laid to rest.

He will finally be at peace once his ashes are buried there along side his Grandparents....his parents..his brother and his wife.

The family cemetery which over looks the house and lagoon.

As I write this I am struck with the realisation that this is something that is very rare these days.
 I now realise how very lucky we are as a family to be able to know that this is where we will go  at the end of our lives..... if we choose.

Some photo's of my Dad...Colin Mackay Archer.

Dad doing what he loved best...classing wool. 1980's.
As a young man 

Taken at the Archer family 150 year reunion in 2003...Dad and his girls. L to R Wendy, Sandy, Grace and Virginia.

Until next time


  1. Very sorry for your loss Sandy.

  2. Dear Sandy
    Have you ever done a painting of the Gracemere Homestead?
    The images in the book Shelter by Kara Rosenlund are very arresting. The book cover shot caught my eye and really resonated with me. Once I found out, after the book was published, that the image was of Gracemere, I could understand the connection, even though to my knowledge I had never been to the homestead but my family were originally from Mount Morgan and had retired to live back there after I left to live in New Zealand 40 years ago. Gracemere was always a name I heard listening to relatives talk and reminisce when we went to visit when I was a child. That image sang to me even though I did not know of its origin initially. I bought Kara's book on the strength of it as I knew my mother was not long for this world and after her death, I would no doubt never return to those parts.
    If there was ever a chance of having a little piece of that locale with me here in New Zealand, I would be very interested.
    Kind regards
    Karen Tongatama