52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

52 Ancestors #15 Murray Irwin Willis

Over the last two weeks, I have written about my parents, Ivon Walter Whimpey and Edith Jean Marr.  This week, I am writing about my ex-husband’s father, Murray Irwin Willis.

The documents I have so far for Murray are a transcription of a clipping I have about Murray (I’ve lost the original clipping), death notices for Murray from The Sun 3 July 1964, and Murray’s birth and death certificates.  This is the information I have so far from these documents:

Murray was born 17 March 1931 at Kerang, Victoria, Australia[1].  He was the only child of Thomas Arthur Willis and Dorothea Isabella Sinclair Smith.

Murray died on 1 July 1964 at St Andrews Hospital in East Melbourne[2][3]. His death certificate shows he died of acute nephritis after 7 weeks, and had suffered from diabetes mellitus for 28 years.

He was buried 4 July 1964 at the Kerang Cemetery.  The undertaker was G. Dickson, and the minister was J. Blacker, a Methodist minister.

My next step in my do-over would be to go through my checklist (which I shared last week in my post about dad), and download the additional records I find.  Since I already shared the process in my post about dad, I am only mentioning the records that provided additional information.

Murray was mentioned in an article titled “The Life of the “Seeing Eye” Dogs” in the Age on Tuesday, March 19, 1963, page 13. I first searched Newspapers.com for any articles mentioning Mystic Park between 1961 and 1964, and this article was one of the results.  Since this was a Publisher Extra article, I then browsed the Australia, Newspaper Vital Notices, 1841-2001 collection on Ancestry to find the article.  The following is a transcription of the information about Murray:

One of the great success stories among the blind concerns 31-year-old Mystic Park farmer Murray Willis who lost his sight two years ago

With the help of his guide dog, a black Labrador called Barney, Willis now runs his property with confidence and competence.

Thanks to Barney, and his own resourcefulness, he can again repair machinery, press wool and bring in the cows and milk them.

In my preparation for my genealogy do-over, I have been focusing on “official” documents.  but the most information I have about Murray comes from a “book” his wife Shirley (my mother in law) dictated to me in January 1997.  I am including here just two short excerpts from it.

The first excerpt gives a little bit of information about the farm:

We lived on the home farm in a mud brick house on 400 acre property. Murray’ mother and father (Tom + Dorothy) retired to Kerang.  This property still exists today and the shedding yards etc.  The full acreage on the whole property was 2500 acres both sides of the Murray Valley Highway 800 acres of irrigation 600 acres of cropping land wheat etc, the rest grazing land for sheep.

We had a cow paddock 3 dairy cows which Murray milked for the house.

Murray taught me to drive tractors, milk cows, drive trucks, draft sheep, class wool etc.  Murray was a good mechanic.  He kept all motors repaired.

We had a 12 volt lighting plant for power to house.  Electricity was not on in our area.

When Murray was 13 he use to trap rabbits, sell their skins drying them on fences. bringing rabbits home on push bike for eating.  The money from skins he saved and bought himself 2 farms.  One called Kanes and one called Anguses 480 and 500 acres.

The second excerpt gives a little bit of information about Murray’s schooling, and sporting interests:

Murray went to school at Mystic Park State School then on to Kerang High School.

At the age of 14 he pulled down his first motor engine and reconditioned it very successfully.  His father Tom was very proud of him.   In his teenage years he played cricket for Mystic Park team later to become captain of the team and playing “country Week” top for Northern Victoria at Bendigo.  Top bowler of the year 1952 and a top farmer as well, cropping, irrigating, rearing and topping fat lamb market many times over at Newmarket.


Sources of information

[1] Victoria, Australia Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, birth certificate 4194/1931 (1931), Murray Irwin Willis; Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Melbourne.
[2] Victoria, Australia Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, death certificate 13489/64 (1964), Murray Irwin Willis; Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Melbourne.
[3] “Death notices Willis, Murray Irwin,” (Melbourne) The Sun, 3 Jul 1964; Details transcribed from newspaper on microfilm at the State Library of Victoria. The page and column numbers were not noted

Background of featured image is a photo from Unsplash – https://unsplash.com/photos/th4bqV0PQpI Photo by Luis Poletti