T.P. Menzies, A South Australian

T.P. Menzies is an intriguing character.

The Warp & The Weft paints a characterful description of Thomas Peebles Menzies an Australian born child of Scottish immigrants. He lived in three Australian states: Western Australia, South Australia,  Victoria, and in The United States of America following The Great San Franciscan Earthquake of 1906. T.P. had many professions in life including: baker’s assistant, labourer, contractor, gold prospector, stationer and hairdresser, master builder, farmer, licensee, and hotel proprietor.

He left The Meningie Hotel for good in 1938 and eventually settled in Dimboola and Goroke, Victoria. There he owned licenses on the imaginatively named Dimboola and Goroke Hotels. On December 3rd 1943, The Goroke Hotel was burnt to the ground, allegedly by an irate lodger; a plumber who had taken up with Menzies’ housekeeper, a single mother with one son of school-going age. T.P. had apparently made his disapproval of these relations known and the alleged arson attack was supposedly retaliation. T.P. retained the Goroke license on and off until 1951. He is believed to have returned to Adelaide after that. Thomas Peebles Menzies died in Adelaide on 14/10/1953 (born 24/12/1876).

The most “curious” note about T.P.’s life as alluded to in The Warp & The Weft is that a few weeks following his mother’s death in 1910 the family home burned down accidentally when T.P. was alone in the house. Considerably more curious given his Goroke Hotel burning down 33 years later. It is not mentioned that anyone was injured or died as a result of either of these two fires but T.P. was present on both occasions. A slight intrigue for those inquisitively minded of us is that T.P. was the victim of home fires twice.

It would be remiss of me not to note that fire in The Goroke Hotel occurred during World War II. At this time T.P.’s two oldest sons Keith (Stewart Keith) and Colin (Colin Kerr) were in combat overseas. Sergeant Stewart Keith Menzies of The Royal Australian Air Force, T.P.’s first born son, is listed as dying on 6/2/1942, age 28. Keith is remembered on a memorial wall in the Kranje War Cemetary in Singapore. Flight Sergeant Colin Kerr Menzies also with The Royal Australian Air Force fought and died in Germany on 17/4/1943, age 25. Colin is remembered in Durnbach War Cemetery, Germany. It is believed that word did not reach the family on the boys’ welfare at these times nor for some time. I can only imagine this would have been a period of extreme stress for a father of two soldiers; both missing, feared dead.

The Goroke Hotel fire also took place directly preceding the devastating Victorian Bushfires of 1943-44. These fires began later in December 1943 resulting in significant fatalities, injuries, losses of properties and land. Whatever the true cause of both house fires I would imagine that the bushfires – their smell, taste, sight, and perhaps touch – in Victoria, and Goroke itself, may have been quite distressing for T.P.

A life’s motif of fire flames around T.P. Menzies.

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