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Eileen Violet Squire (1903–1949)

by Brian Wills-Johnson

Eileen Violet Squire (1903–1949), teacher, homemaker, and charity worker, was born on 6 August 1903 at Claremont, Western Australia, eldest of four children born to accountant George Frederick Farmaner and Flora Susan, née Everett.[1] Her family’s ties to the region dated to 1830, the year after the Swan River colony was established, when her great-great-grandfather William Glyde arrived on the Rockingham as an indentured labourer to Thomas Peel.[2] As a child Eileen suffered from infantile paralysis, more commonly known as polio, which ‘rendered her left arm useless’.[3] It did not, however, affect her intellect. At the age of sixteen she sat the Leaving certificate examination and qualified for admission to the University of Western Australia.[4] It was decided that she was too young for university, so she continued at Methodist Ladies’ College, where she was a prefect, for a further year. In 1920 she sat the exam for a second time, matriculating in the same five subjects—English, French, mathematics, biology, and history—and adding the title of dux to her record.[5] As the top-ranking student in history and English in the State, she won the university exhibition in those subjects, which came with a substantial cash prize of £120.[6] She was one of only three MLC girls who went on to enrol at the University of Western Australia in 1921.[7] At university she studied English, history, economics, maths, French, and education (BA, 1924).

A teaching career was an obvious choice. After university, Farmaner taught successively at Mount Barker (1925, where she met her future husband), Northam (1926), Albany High School (1927), and Eastern Goldfields High School (1928) before spending three years in the correspondence classes section of the State’s education department.[8] Under the department’s regulations, women were required to resign if they were about to be married, and she was farewelled by the correspondence school a fortnight before she wed with the gift of ‘a handsome tea service.’[9]

The twenty-eight-year-old Farmaner married at Claremont on 8 September 1931. Her groom was Frank Lester Squire, the great-grandson of George James Thomas Squire, who arrived in South Australia less than three years after the province was proclaimed. Born in Adelaide, he came to Western Australia when his father, Leonard Stocker Squire, found a position with the grocery business Edward Barnett & Co. in Albany. In 1908 the family moved to Mount Barker, where Leonard and a partner had purchased a general storekeeping business from John West and traded as Squire & Young.[10] Mount Barker, fifty kilometres north of Albany, was gazetted as a town in 1899 and quickly established itself as a fruit-growing region with a speciality in apples.[11] During the 1919 Spanish flu epidemic, Frank worked as a messenger boy, delivering medicines to those suffering from the virus.[12] In 1926 he was one of two Squire brothers who ‘packed some groceries into a tin shed, hopefully set up business, and called themselves Squire Bros.’[13]Eight years later, joined by their other two brothers, the business had grown to encompass drapery, millinery, hardware, ladies fashion, and a garage; agencies for Elder Smith, Neptune Oil, Lloyds Insurance, and WA Lotteries; and selling Dodge, Chrysler, and Austin motor cars.[14] Perhaps the new Mrs Squire had a hand in marketing: in one advertisement, Squire Bros. offered anyone who bought two packets of Rinso for tenpence a bonus of one dozen free pegs.[15]

Sixteen months after the marriage, Squire was involved in a motor vehicle accident, with her injuries sufficiently serious for her to be transferred to St. John of God Hospital in Subiaco.[16] At about midnight on 5 January 1933, riding as a passenger in a car driven by her brother-in-law, Albert Squire, she was thrown out of the vehicle as it overturned while negotiating a sharp road bend at Armadale. She suffered fractures to both legs.[17] Her progress was delayed by both her legs having to be broken again and reset and by a battle with septicaemia. It was not until October 1933 that she was sufficiently recovered to return to her Mount Barker home.[18]

Squire’s life in Mount Barker was that of a busy woman deeply committed to serving her community. Her involvement with the Red Cross, District Hospital, Country Women’s Association, Wartime Fund, and Parents’ and Citizens’ Association ‘stamped her as one of the keenest workers this district has known.’[19]As the long-serving president of the Mount Barker Methodist Church’s ladies’ guild, she was the official birthday cake cutter at its twenty-first anniversary and, ever mindful of fundraising needs, sold the cake at threepence a slice.[20]

Life became busier in November 1935 when Squire gave birth to a son, Peter Leonard, at Devonleigh Maternity Home in Peppermint Grove.[21] Her second son, Lester Barry, was born closer to their residence in January 1938 at the newly built eleven-bed Plantagenet District Hospital at Mount Barker.[22] Having young children added to an already formidable load. The family needed the help of a maid because Squire was unable to do some tasks with just one working arm, such as lift the children out of the bathtub. She herself had to take her bath standing up, because her legs were not strong enough to lift her up from a sitting position. But whatever she could, she did. Using an eggbeater, for example, involved her tucking the handle under her chin and using her right hand to turn the blades. She taught herself to knit one-handed, clamping one needle under her left arm and adding stiches with her right hand. Her dexterity was legendary. ‘She designed and made her own clothes,’ recalled her son Barry. ‘I never had any bought clothing, apart from underwear, until after she died. Everything was handmade, even the flies sewn into our khaki shorts.’[23]

Squire thought nothing of driving the one hundred kilometre round trip to Albany, despite having to steer with her elbow so she could operate the manual transmission with her one working arm. Her diminutive size of about five feet three inches (1.6 metres) would not have been an advantage in controlling a large car. ‘It was fun to ride with her, particularly when parking in York Street, Albany. There was the fear that if she didn’t get her feet going to work the accelerator, clutch and brake we could end up in the wide-open gutters that ran down the sides of the street,’ her son recalled[24]

The Squires bought a run-down farm during the war, which had two fruit orchards. Donning a pair of warm overalls, she would climb a ladder to prune the fruit trees during winter and often made jam and mulberry pie from her pickings.’[25] But the war years brought devastating news for the Farmaner family. Peggy Everett Farmaner, Squire’s youngest sister, had enlisted in the Australian Army Nursing Service, attaining the rank of lieutenant. She was one of the twenty-one nurses murdered by Japanese soldiers during the notorious Banka Island massacre on 16 February 1942.[26]

Squire’s damaged legs meant that she could not dance and walked with a slow, stiff gait. But there was a bitter-sweet moment at the end of the war, at the Victory in the Pacific ball in Mount Barker, when the ‘Eileen Squire waltz’ was announced. She and Frank slowly waltzed a circuit before being joined by all those attending.[27] On 8 February 1949, when her two sons were aged thirteen and eleven, Squire died ‘suddenly’ at Mount Barker. This indomitable woman had been felled by an aneurysm at the age of forty-five. In August the following year, Squire Bros. of Mount Barker wound up and was sold to Foy and Gibson. Frank Squire, who subsequently farmed full time, survived his wife by twenty-seven years, dying on 6 February 1976. They are both buried in the Mount Barker cemetery.


[1] Birth certificate 198/1903, Registrar General of Western Australia.

[2] Pamela Statham-Drew (ed.), Dictionary of Western Australians, 1829–1914. Volume 1. Early Settlers, 1829–1850 (Nedlands, WA: University of Western Australia Press, 1979), 127.

[3] ‘The Late Mrs. Eileen Squire,’ Southern Sentinel (Mt Barker, WA), 17 February 1949, 2.

[4] ‘The University. Leaving Certificate Examination,’ West Australian (Perth), 15 December 1919, 8.

[5] ‘The University. Leaving Certificate Examination,’ West Australian (Perth), 16 December 1920, 9; ‘Methodist Ladies’ College,’ West Australian (Perth), 27 December 1920, 3.

[6] ‘News and Notes,’ West Australian (Perth), 24 December 1920, 6.

[7] Methodist Ladies’ College, The Collegian 19 (June 1921), 18.

[8] Carnamah Historical Society and Museum, The Education Circular (1900-1980) compilation.

[9] ‘The Social Whirl and Personal Pars on Prominent People,’ Sunday Times (Perth), 30 August 1931, 13.

[10] ‘Public Notice,’ Albany Advertiser, 8 July 1908, 2.

[11] Susan Groom and John Gates, It Started with Apples: The Story of the Mount Barker Co-Operative Ltd (Mt Barker: Mount Barker Co-operative Ltd., 2009), 6.

[12] Rhoda Glover et al., Plantagenet: A History of the Shire of Plantagenet, Western Australia (Nedlands, WA: University of Western Australia Press for the Shire of Plantagenet, 1979), 351–52.

[13] ‘Know Your Town,’ Southern Sentinel (Mt Barker, WA), 16 March 1934, 1.

[14] Ibid.

[15] ‘Advertisement,’ Southern Sentinel (Mt Barker, WA), 9 March 1934, 1.

[16] Daily News (Perth), 7 January 1933, 9.

[17] ‘Serious Accident,’ Albany Advertiser, 9 January 1933, 4.

[18] ‘Personal,’ Albany Advertiser, 12 October 1933, 3.

[19] ‘The Late Mrs. Eileen Squire,’ op. cit.

[20] ‘Twenty-First Birthday,’ Mount Barker and Denmark Record (Albany), 23 June 1932, 3.

[21] ‘Births,’ West Australian (Perth), 2 November 1935, 1.

[22] ‘Births,’ West Australian (Perth), 26 January 1938, 1.

[23] Lester Barry Squire interview by Brian Wills-Johnson, 12 January 2024, transcript in author’s possession.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid.

[26] ‘Launceston Remembrance Wall, Banka Island Massacre,’ Virtual War Memorial Australia,, accessed January 2024.

[27] Squire interview by Wills-Johnson.

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Citation details

Brian Wills-Johnson, 'Squire, Eileen Violet (1903–1949)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 25 June 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

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Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Farmaner, Eileen Violet

6 August, 1903
Claremont, Perth, Western Australia, Australia


8 February, 1949 (aged 45)
Mount Barker, Western Australia, Australia

Cause of Death


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