Grandfather James Alexander McMurtrie

At this stage selecting a few persons that have influenced my life, one way or another.  Starting with Grandad, my father’s father, would have been the first older generation male in my life. Living in Stawell, Victoria, Australia at the time of my, say about 3 years of age, when my parents and older brothers lived on our sheep farm at Jallukar, near Pomonal,  Grandad and especially Gran were but occasionally in my life.
Gran sadly passed when I was 4. I remember the affection because I was sad when not allowed to visit her bedroom when she was ill.
Yet, Grandad, living until I was 26, was significant in my life and memories remain strong. I gained a fascination for his electronic bits and pieces stored in his garage, he helped me construct a crystal set radio receiver with a germanium crystal detector, a great experience.

Something like this, no battery, just energy from the received radio signal.
Required a long antenna and a good grounding earth connection.

Undoubtedly, an interest carrying through to my eventual earning a Communications Engineering Diploma and following related career paths. Come to think about it, another vaguely related incident – above their dining room table was a ceiling-suspended light fitting. It was an adjustable height device which fascinated me, So I climbed on to the table to investigate it. For some reason it had no globe but was switched on so, naturally I stuck my finger into the socket, luckily surviving the resulting shock. Mind you, I was about4 years old, a bit too young to start learning about electricity! 🙂

He owned a fascinating old car, a 1930’s Jowett sedan. A unique, possibly the first, horizontally opposed four-cylinder water-cooled engine. Probably a quality vehicle, it had curtains in the rear seat area controlled by cords from the front.
Of course a manual gearbox, “4 on-the-floor” “crash” meaning one had to adjust engine revs each gear change for the selected gears to mesh without crunching. He could not master them easily, would start off and reach flat-out in first, then crunch straight into fourth. The engine revs were then low and without power but it struggled along!
A not so complementary incident was selecting first gear instead of reverse in our farmhouse garage and running into the workbench. Most of his descendants acquired good driving skills, thank goodness. His driving skills were seriously hindered by eye sight issues, Dad would remark that Grandad was “blind in one eye, and couldn’t see out of the other”, not far from the truth in his later years.
I remember the occasion, still no older than 5 or 6, when his car stalled at the bottom of the flooded culvert crossing on the way to our farm, called the “glue-pot”?, maybe 2-3 feet deep. Dad took me along and I actually helped by steering it as Dad wound the engine-starting handle in first gear until it reached level dry ground.
I regret not getting a chance to drive it, but did get to drive his sister’s beautiful little Austin A30 to go to the bakers for bread. (No licence of course!) He rode a bicycle until very late in years, eventually would walk everyday to our place for lunch. The bike became mine eventually, a proud possession.

In my time living in Stawell, he lived on his own, not far from our house. Grew many vegetables, so I occasionally helped with digging and weeding. He ate healthy foods and lived till nearly 90. An interesting eating habit was to chew meat thoroughly, I have the thought about 50 times (?) then carefully placed the remnants on his plate.
I stayed with him several times when Mum and Dad needed to go to Melbourne for family reasons so was familiar with his ways. Fried lamb chop and boiled vegetables were a staple menu. Vegetable soup also, he would send me next door with cooked food, via the fence, to an old woman next door who we grandchildren amused ourselves thinking he had a “girl friend” 🙂 .

Grandad loved clocks and had a particularly fascinating wind-up spring “Grandmother” wall clock with a swinging pendulum, with added extra weights to overcome its tiring mechanism. Would have loved it, but it passed to an older relative who cherished it. Also revered was a painting, print, of a forest scene which also fascinated me, and which I now own. Together with the desk and also a portable writing desk, I am pleased to have some things to remember him by.

A book lover with many books, including several by O Henry, which I later came to read and get pleasure from. He spent much time at his desk, (later finished up in my possession), sitting in an old reclining armchair with an adjustable back locked in the selected position by a metal rod across the rear arms extension. Here he created pamphlets, to be printed up by the local newspaper office, and which us grandchildren would, under sufferance, deliver to letter boxes around the town. A political activist, so to speak, promoting government policy changes to land ownership laws to limit personal ownership and the associated excessive exploitation favouring the “rich against the poor”. A policy based on an English PM strategy which probably didn’t work there either.
Anyway, here I recognize another possible gene transmission which appears in my social media activism for “Truth and Justice”. “Make Love, not War” principles 🙂 Grandad encouraged me, after taking me to a Town Hall public presentation by a visitor to Japan, to write up the presentation and submit it to the “Stawell News” for possible publishing. I recall no resulting glory!
On the “Peace” theme, some years later, Grandad asked me during my employment with the Defense Department, building the Mirage Fighter aircraft, was there any conflict of conscience? I naively replied, if I didn’t do that work, someone else would! Today, I would choose to find less potentially harmful enterprise employment, if possible.

He was not in favour of alcohol, perhaps influenced by two of his siblings becoming alcoholics. Yet at evening meals he would have a sherry, but with water. Reaching the impressive age of 93.

I was really disappointed to be overseas when Grandad died, in 1966. Coming home to the news was a shock. An additional shock was to find his headstone engraved erroneously “Alexander James”!
Details of his early days, as a grandson of a Scottish immigrant, he became a landowner and grazier, as did my father, and provided what became my first home for 5 or 6 years, will be addressed in genealogy sections.

Photos to be added!