Robert Thomas Laurence (1906-62)

(last updated 23 September 2019)

Born at Narrandera, NSW in 1906.

Married Lily Mildred Malcolm (1911-97) at Narrandera, NSW in 1934.


Died at Kempsey in NSW on 26 May 1962. Buried with Lily and their son Malcolm in the Kempsey East cemetery.

Click here for more photos of Tom and Lily Laurence nee Malcolm and their family.

robert thomas laurenceRobert Thomas ('Tommy' later 'Tom') Laurence (pictured on the left) was born at Narrandera in New South Wales on 3 March 1906 and, with his siblings, attended school at nearby Gillenbah where his parents had a small farm. Before his marriage he worked as a labourer and sawmiller and, with his brother William, played for Gillenbah in the Narrandera Football Association's competition including in a semi-final against the Western Stars in 1931 (the same year he served as the Secretary of the Gillenbah Football Club).

On 2 June 1934 he married Lily Mildred Malcolm (1911-97) at Narrandera (Lily or 'Lil' as she was known as, is pictured below on the right). According to the the 'Wilmyer' and other family trees on Ancestry, Lily's parents were Thomas Frederick Malcolm (1877-1951) and Elizabeth Jane Pitt who were married at Narrandera in 1900 and had at least the following children in addition to Lily there: Alfred T. (1900), Unita E. (1901), Francis O. (1904) and Myrtle L. F. Malcolm (1906). An obituary contained in the Narrandera Argus and Riverina Advertiser on 23 July 1951 confirms that Lily's father was Thomas Frederick Malcolm and adds he was born at Daylesford in Victoria and came to Narrandera as a boy where he worked at the Red Gum sawmills. It continued: 'The deceased is survived by four sons and six daughters. The sons are Alfred. T Malcolm and Francis O. Malcolm of Junee. Thomas F. Malcolm (Kempsey), and Douglas E. Malcolm (Narrandera) while the daughters are Unita (Mrs G. Fordham, Liverpool), Lorna (Mrs G. Penny, Newtown), Lily (Mrs T. Laurence, Kempsey), Edna (Mrs J. Spence, Melbourne), Esma (Mrs J. Dale, Narrandera) and Beryl (Mrs G. Cox, Grong Grong)'.

Tom's daughter, Anne, tells us that after his marriage Tom worked for the NSW Department of Main Roads, initially in Narrandera and, after four years at Dolby Downs in the Northern Territory during the war, along the north coast of NSW (the 1943 electoral rolls show Robert Thomas, labourer, and Lily Mildred Laurence living initially at Gillenbah and later in the year at 129 Sea Street in Kempsey where Tommy was working as a sawyer). Anne's memories of these early times were of:

Dad driving a DMR truck and Mum driving the family car with Geoff, Rhonda and Anne (Faye having passed away in 1939 from complications with measles). Campsites at various places where bridges needed repair, probably about six families - Geoff and the other older children went to school where possible, sometimes travelling by bus which passed our campsite or else taken by car. I started school at Raymond Terrace and remember while we were there the river flooded and we moved from tents into a house. From Raymond Terrace we moved on to Kempsey where my parents fell in love with the place and decided to stay.

lily mildred laurenceTom bought a half share in a saw mill at a place called Jerseyville located down river from Kempsey. A few years later the mill was relocated to Willawarrin where, having lived for a time at Seal Rocks, the family also moved to live. The 1949 electoral roll has Robert Thomas, a sawmiller, and Lily Mildred Laurence registered as living at South West Rocks near Smithtown. They were registered as living at Willawarrin in 1954 (along with Geoffrey Neil Laurence, mill hand) and 1958 (together with Geoffrey Neil, his wife Audrey Phyllis and sister, Ronda Alice Laurence, a cashier).

A local tourist brochure, 'Walks in History: Willawarrin', produced by the Macleay River Historical Society, provides a clear indication of how important Tom Laurence and his sawmill were to the town of Willawarrin (a place, apparently, 'famous for horsemen and riding events'). According to the brochure, Laurence's mill provided timber for many of the existing buildings in the town's main street including those at numbers 54 (a house belonging to Harry Dowling and built in 1951), 81 (originally a workshop Tom built to service his timber mill equipment and later leased as a garage) and 79 to 73 (workers' cottages built by Tom to house his employees). Here the strollers are invited to view at number 77 an Illawarra flame tree that was planted in 1966 by Tom's wife Lily, and 71 (the home of Lily and Tom Laurence who had 'brought his mill from Spencer's Creek to Willawarrin in 1949 and employed ten workers'). The brochure continues that Laurence's mill, which was located behind the house belonging to a Josh and Alma Hudson (most likely the parents of Tom's son-in-law, Basil Hudson) cut mostly mahogony and tallowwood. It provided, free-of charge, milled timber for the construction of the town's Anglican Church and the Country Women's Association meeting room which was officially opened in 1964.

Tom Laurence died at Kempsey on 26 May 1962 and was buried at the East Kempsey cemetery the next day. Anne Young recalls her father

. . . as a happy caring man very family oriented, picnics with family and friends on Sundays, lots of fun and games with family and neighbours out on the front street during the evenings, and stayed in touch and was very close to his sisters and brothers and their families. He was a member of the Royal Order of Buffaloes and a Justice of the Peace.

After Tom's death, his wife, Lily Mildred Laurence nee Malcolm continued to live at Willawarrin and later Kempsey where she died on 4 April 1997. She is buried with Tommy and their son Malcolm Bruce Laurence in the Kempsey East cemetery (see the photo below). Anne tells us Lily and Tom had five children:

unit far laurence1) Geoffrey Neil Laurence (1931-2012) who married Audrey Phyllis Chandler (1933-2014) at South West Rocks in 1952. The 'Laurence Family Tree' on Ancestry tells us Audrey was born at Texas in Queensland, the daughter of Charles James Chandler (1907-76) and Doris Elizabeth Gundry (1908-58) who were married at Inverell in NSW in 1931. The Australian electoral rolls show that after their marriage Geoff and Audrey lived first at Willawarrin, where Geoff worked as a mill hand in his father's saw mill, and then at South West Rocks where Geoff worked as a store man and driver. The 1980 roll has them at 24 Gregory Street in South West Rocks along with Dean Anthony Laurence, a cook, and Merryanne Laurence, shop assistant. Geoff died at Port Macquarie in NSW in 2012. According to the Ryerson Index Audrey, said to be 'late of South West Rocks', died at Kempsey in NSW on 23 November 2014. We believe they had three children in all;

2) Unita Fae Laurence (pictured on the left) who was born at Narrandera in 1935 and died there in 1939 aged four years and six months;

3) Ronda Alice Laurence who married Kempsey-born Basil George Hudson there in 1960. The 'Valentine/Dew Family Tree' on Ancestry tells us that Basil's parents were Joshua Valentine Hudson (1904-67) and Alma Miriam Scott (1905-85) who were married at Kempsey in 1926. His paternal grandfather, John Frederick Hudson (1868-1942), was, according to his obituary published in the Wingham Chronicle and Manning River Observer, 'one of the earliest pioneer settlers of the Upper Macleay. Born at Kempsey, he was married there 52 years ago. As a young man he settled at Billybiang, where he took up virgin scrub lands. From there he moved to Hickey's Creek, where he established the now well-known old homestead . . . He was well-known in the cedar trade, and his team of bullocks trekking down the main road to the Greenhill shipping wharf was a familiar sight for many a year. He tcok great pride in his bullock teams and was always ready to talk of their prowess in pulling huge loads over precipitous country' (12 May 1942). At the time of his death, John Frederick was survived by no less than 13 children, 60 grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

Before her marriage to Basil, Ronda had lived and worked (as a cashier) in Willawarrin while Basil lived and laboured at Kempsey. After their marriage they lived for a time at Kempsey before moving to Willawarrin where, like his grandfather before him, Basil was employed as a timber carrier. According to the 'Blandford family Tree' on Ancestry, they had three children.

4) Annette Mary ('Anne') Laurence was born at Narrandera in 1941 and trained as a nursing sister. During the 1960s and early 1970s she served as a Flight Lieutenant in the RAAF Nursing Service where her postings included 3 RAAF Hospital at Richmond in NSW, 4 RAAF Hospital at Butterworth in Malaysia and an attachment with the USAF's 902 Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron in Vietnam. In 1974 Anne married Reginald Bruce Young with whom she had two children. The Australian electoral rolls show Anne, a nurse, and Reginald, labourer, living at 109 King Street in Shortland (a suburb of Newcastle in NSW) in 1977 and 1980. According to the Ryerson Index, a Reginald Bruce ('Reggie') Young, 'late of Shortland', died there on 12 March 2013 aged 81 years (Newcastle Herald, 16 March 2013); and

5) Malcolm Bruce Laurence (1947-94) who did not marry and is buried with his parents in the Kempsey cemetery (see the photo below).

Click here to view more photos of Tom and Lily Laurence nee Malcolm and their family.

tom laurence

Although still to be confirmed, we think this photo of Tom Laurence was taken at the wedding
of his daughter Ronda Alice Laurence to Basil George Hudson at Kempsey in 1960.

grave of tom and lily laurence

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