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Brockman, Edmund Ralph (1828–1908)

by H. Drake-Brockman

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

Edmund Ralph Brockman (1828-1908), farmer and grazier, was born in England, the eldest child of William Locke Brockman and his wife Anne Frances Elizabeth, née Hamersley. He arrived with his parents in Western Australia in January 1830. He was educated at his father's property, Herne Hill, and later at a school begun in 1839 by Rev. William Mitchell in his rectory at Middle Swan. There Edmund met Elizabeth Deborah, eldest daughter of Lieutenant Frederick William Slade, R.N., and his wife Jane, née Thomson, who had arrived from Scotland in 1840. In 1842 Slade left the Swan district to take up a property at Toodyay which he named Glenavon. Edmund married Deborah Slade in the Middle Swan Anglican Church on 18 March 1852, at a double ceremony in which his eldest sister Elizabeth married Gerald de Courcey Lefroy.

At 18 Edmund had taken over management of Seabrook on the Mortlock River near Northam. His father bought the property for him in 1841, naming it Seabrook after 'the salt river', a local designation given to the Mortlock after the discovery of the Avon valley by Ensign Robert Dale and himself in August 1830. The party of four they led together was the first to succeed in crossing the Darling Range to discover the rich hinterland. This expedition was in its way as important for Western Australia as Gregory Blaxland's for New South Wales.

After his father's death in 1872 Edmund moved to Herne Hill, but later bought the adjoining Henley Park which he preferred. He also bred horses at Lyndhurst, near Dandaragan. Like his father he took an active part in local politics; he was a justice of the peace, chairman of the Swan Road Board and twice president of the Royal Agricultural Society. From January 1878 to May 1880 he represented Swan in the Legislative Council, and was a nominated member from June 1887 until March 1889. Again nominated to the Legislative Council on the granting of responsible government in 1890, he retained his seat until 1894. He was appointed to the commission on agriculture in 1887-91 which presented a valuable report. After Henley Park was sold in 1897, Edmund farmed Kenwick, a property near Cannington, and retired to Balmain, a smaller property where he lived until his death at Guildford on 17 September 1908.

A keen sportsman with a sense of family and civic duty allied to a genial and open-handed personality, Brockman failed to preserve his inherited estates. A photograph in the Battye Library shows him in middle life, dressed in smart riding clothes, his good features somewhat obscured by a heavy beard.

His sweet-faced wife Deborah bore him four daughters and two sons; the elder son, Frederick Slade, became surveyor-general of Western Australia in 1915. Born in Edinburgh in 1833 and governess-educated after her parents moved to Glenavon, Deborah was called 'a highly intellectual girl'. She learnt to speak several languages and read widely. After her marriage she published lyrical verse in local papers under the nom de plume 'E'. A memorial booklet of her poems was published after her death on 16 April 1915.

Edmund's brother Henry (1845-1916), settler and grazier, was born on 21 June 1845 at Herne Hill, Western Australia, and educated in England. He received from his father the property of Cheriton, near Gingin, and became a prominent grazier. In 1893-1903 he was mayor of Gingin and represented Swan in the Legislative Council from October 1884 to January 1889. He lost heavily both as guarantor and in speculation in connexion with the Midland Railway, first begun in 1886, and had to sell Cheriton. On 19 March 1874 at St Matthew's Anglican Church, Guildford, he had married Anna Louisa, eldest daughter of Robert de Burgh; they had three sons and three daughters. He died at South Perth on 7 November 1916.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Cross (ed), Journals of Several Expeditions Made in Western Australia, During the Years 1829, 1830, 1831, and 1832 (Lond, 1833)
  • W. B. Kimberly, History of West Australia (Melb, 1897)
  • E. D. Brockman, Poems (Perth, 1929)
  • J. G. Wilson (ed), Western Australia's Centenary 1829-1929 (Perth, 1929)
  • A. Burton, The Story of the Swan District 1843-1938 (Perth, 1938)
  • Commission on Agriculture, Final report, Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, Western Australia), 1891-92
  • Perth Gazette, 26 Mar 1852
  • West Australian, 19 Sept 1908, 8 Nov 1916
  • private information.

Citation details

H. Drake-Brockman, 'Brockman, Edmund Ralph (1828–1908)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/brockman-edmund-ralph-3058/text4505, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 17 December 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

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