Thomas Lodge and Lillian Murray-Prior

This Thomas Lodge Murray-Prior (23 March 1912 - 26 October 2000) was the 6th consecutive Thomas Murray-Prior. As he was the 2nd Thomas Lodge Murray-Prior, he is referred to in the following as Tom L2. He was born in Brisbane to Thomas Bertram and Lizzie M-P.

Tom L2 lived at the only one of the family's family cattle properties left, Maroon, until he was 7 or 8 years old. The family then moved to Southport where he attended The Southport School. They later moved to the Blue Mountains town of Leura in NSW because it was thought the clean mountain air would be of benefit to his brother Hugh's poor health due to poliomyelitis affecting his leg. Tom L2 attended Leura State School then, when he was nearly 13 years old, The King’s School as a boarder during 1925-29 (at the original site of the school in Parramatta), leaving after he obtained his Leaving Certificate. His adventurousness as a young boy led to an amazing trip with a friend in a self-made canoe down the Nepean and Hawkesbury Rivers, then out to sea and into Sydney harbour: for more, click canoe!

Tom L2's school record reveals the talents which he also displayed in later life. In his leaving certificate, he gained an A in Physics and Bs in Maths 1 and 2, Mechanics and English. Maths remained a love for all his life. He played rugby union, cricket, was in the athletics team, and excelled in both boxing and rowing. One example of his sporting prowess was that in 1929 he rowed as bow in the 1st IV. In his final year of school, he was also a ‘house monitor’ (prefect) of School House, King's original boarding house. When he left King's, his record there was summarised with the comment, 'A boy of good character whom we can recommend'.1)

After leaving school, Tom L2 tried his luck in far North Queensland. His ventures included tobacco farming near Dimbulah with his brother Standish (Narn); tin mining near Chillagoe; and contracting to build the Cooktown aerodrome. None apparently were very successful. He decided to try cane cutting at the Munro Estate cane farms at Pawngilly near Cairns. To travel to Pawngilly, he had to catch the small rail-motor train from Cairns down to the nearest railway station which was a very small station called Mirriwinni.

When Tom L2 stepped onto the platform at Mirriwinni, the only other person there was ‘this very attractive young girl’. He asked her for directions to the Munro estate, but received a very cold stare and she immediately turned away from him. She was Lillian Newitt who had been taught ‘never to speak to strangers’. Another challenge for young Tom L2 but, this time, his luck changed as several years later, on 17 January 1939, he and Lillian Myrtle Kathleen Newitt (16 June 1917-19 April 2002) married in her home town of Babinda.2) She was born in Childers, a sugar town south of Bundaberg, but her family had moved to Babinda to be near her mother's family, the Grummitts. Babinda was the nearest railway station to the north of Mirriwinni; Lillian had been at Mirriwinni because she had been visiting a friend on the day they met on that very tiny railway station. Fate!

Tom L2 was lucky to have meet Lillian on that small, isolated railway station. She was beautiful with a quick sense of humour and a very engaging, warm personality. Her private grief was her difficulty carrying a pregnancy to full term. Five days after the outbreak of World War II, on 6 September 1939, her first son was born prematurely. The couple were living in Upper Barron where Tom L2 was a road contractor.3) Their baby only lived a day, and was named Ian.4) The next year they were luckier, and had another boy, a Thomas A. to continue the family naming tradition.

On 5 January 1941, Tom L2 joined the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) 60 Squadron. Given his talent for mathematics, it was fitting that he became a navigator. He, Lillian and baby Tom went to Cootamundra for his training. The family story is that baby Tom A. learnt to crawl along the bar of the Cootamundra pub! When Tom L2 completed his training and was posted overseas, Lillian and little Tom lived with Tom L2's parents (Thomas B. and Lizzie M-P) and sister Violet at their home 'Birrilli' in Leura. They lived there for the duration of the war.5) There are numerous photos of Lillian and young Tom at Birrilli during this time as Lizzie M-P was a keen photographer and Lillian sent the photos to Tom L2 with loving messages written on the back. When he eventually returned to Australia, the photos came back too. Tom L2 in RAAF photos

Photo [scan again] of Thomas L. and Lillian M-P with their eldest son - called Thomas of course! 6)

Tom L2 had an adventurous war, serving for a time in the South African air force, in the UK, in Europe, in India (Bombay), USA (San Francisco), Dalby, Queensland and Darwin.7) Like his mother,Tom L2 was a keen photographer, and took photos whenever he could, especially in exotic locations like Egypt, and when involved in notable events like a visit from French resistance leader, Charles de Gaulle. He rose to become Flight Lieutenant and in 1943 was awarded the DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross).8) His citation for his DFC explained that he received it because he had 'taken part in many operational missions, the majority of which have been long distance flights over enemy territory and many under difficult and dangerous conditions.' The citation added that his work was 'consistently of a high order' and that he 'always set a fine example' to others.9)

Thomas and Lillian after his award of the DFC.

On 15 January 1946, Tom L2 was formally discharged from the RAAF 12 Squadron after 5 years of active war service. Then followed difficult times, just like many long-time war veterans adjusting to ‘normal’ life. Tom L2 went cane-cutting for a season, presumably in North Queensland.10) It did not help that his elder son had to adjust to having a father present, and that another son had been born in June 1945. The difficulties for all were compounded with the breakup of his parents' marriage, resulting in the sale of the family home 'Birrilli’ at Leura. To add to the problems, his father had moved to Adelaide and died eight months after Tom L2's discharge.

Tom L2 and his family, including his mother Lizzie Kate (Dickie) and sister Vi M-P, made their new home in Southport, Queensland. Lizzie had purchased a 2-story house on a very large block of land in Bauer Street, close to where she used to live and not far from the The Southport School which Tom L2 had attended. Tom L2 drove his mother and possibly Vi from Leura up the Pacific Highway to Southport. It was a long and slow journey for, not only were there very few bridges for crossing the many rivers (this was done mainly by punts) and creeks, but the highway consisted of many winding, unsealed dirt roads once you left Sydney. Spare petrol jerrycans were essential and mechanical breakdowns on the rough roads were quite common. As a result, they occasionally had to camp near the highway on their long journey rather than at the planned towns. Lillian and the boys followed up train.

In Southport, Tom L2, Lillian and their sons lived with his mother until he bought a large newsagency in which both he and Lillian worked. The newsagency had a residence on top and was next to the Southport railway station. This busy station was not only the final destination for passengers but also for sheep and cattle who were offloaded into holding yards before their visit to the local abattoir. The only toilet or ‘dunny’ in the building was out the back near a small chook pen. Upstairs had 2 bedrooms, kitchen, lounge and a verandah which overlooked the railway station, Scarborough Street and the cattle/sheep holding yards. During their final year there, their home was even more cramped as Lillian’s ailing mother, Anne Newitt, lived with them. After T L2's mother died at Southport from cancer in 1949, he sold the business. In c.1950-51, he, Lillian and their two sons moved to Bundaberg, Queensland11) Vi remained in Southport and bought a very large house in Muir Street, on top of a hill with great views.

In Bundaberg, Tom L2 bought the ‘China Arcade’ from relatives of his wife. He soon expanded the business, from not only selling top quality chinaware but also jewelry, clocks and watches, both new and needing repair. He moved the business to a larger and more strategically placed shop in the middle of Bourbong Street, Bundaberg's main shopping centre. Both were very well known and liked in the town and had an active social life: Lillian enjoyed meeting people and was respected as a good housewife who kept her home spotless. Tom L2 especially bonded with those who shared his great love of golf. He would work in the shop five and a half days a week and on Saturday would religiously leave in time to play golf at the 18-hole course at the Bundaberg Golf Club. He was a good golfer. He also played on Sundays, when possible. In those days, enjoying the full benefits of the 19th hole every Saturday and/or Sunday was very common. With no way to measure breath alcohol, there were no laws about its strength. If you did imbibe too much on the occasional Saturday and arrived home a little late but very happy, the chances of losing your driving license was very slim. Why? Because, then, in a relatively small town if you were unlucky enough to be pulled over by a policeman that you didn’t know, you had to pass a driving sobriety test. This consisted of (a) being able to touch your nose with the forefinger of your right or left hand and/or (b) after the policeman had chalk drawn a straight line in the road or with a stick in the dirt, you then had to be able to walk in a relatively straight line. How Tom managed to drive home on a few occasions was interesting. A very good navigator indeed!

While Tom L2 and Lillian enjoyed life in Bundaberg, they also experienced 2 disastrous life events:

1) In 1952, after having settled into their new home in Churchill Street, West Bundaberg, Lillian again gave birth prematurely. Their baby Anne died in Bundaberg's Lady Chelmsford Hospital on 30 July, having lived for not quite two days.12) It was a devastating blow as Tom L2 and Lillian were so looking forward to their first daughter; and

2) One night in 1957, a fire destroyed everything in the China Arcade. Even worse was that they had forgotten to renew the business insurance some 1 or 2 weeks earlier. No payout! Electrical faults commonly started fires at the time.

Soon after the fire, the family, except for young Tom A. who was at boarding school in Brisbane, moved to Cairns. They rented a 3-bedroom house in Sheridan Street for 3 years. They then purchased a 3-bed, 2-level house in Hillview Crescent in the relatively new Cairns suburb of Edge Hill. In Cairns, Tom L 2 used his China Arcade experience from the financially rewarding lay-bys. He started a new high risk/ high return finance business, Country Cash Orders (CCO) by lending money, with appropriate interest, to customers. He issued a ‘Cash Order’ for the amount borrowed. Customers would then use the ‘cash order’ to buy goods (often things like a fridge) at selected Cairns stores. The office was in Alpine Street in the Cairns CBD. Several family members contributed to the operations with loans. Tom L2 sold the profitable business sometime around 1967 to “Barter Credit Card” because he could see how the arrival of credit cards would soon make his business redundant. Lillian also worked to recoup the family finances, both by working in a bakery for many years and by managing a tight family budget. Some time after son Richard left home, Tom and Lillian sold their home in Edge Hill and downsized to a smaller semi-detached house in Holloways Beach, Cairns. During their time in Cairns, both were active in the RSL. Lillian received numerous awards for her work and was known as a big-hearted woman always willing to help those less fortunate.

Photo: Tom and Lillian, 15 September 1960, at a dinner to commemorate the Battle of Britain.13)

Around 1975, they moved from Cairns and bought a house on the beach at Bogangar, Tweed Heads in Northern NSW. There they made new friends and hosted family Christmas lunches in their garage, surrounded by the garden Lillian lovingly created despite the sandy soil. In the early 1990s, they moved to a demountable home in Darlington Park, Arrawarra, just north of Coffs Harbour. Once again, their home was on the beach but, this time, it also had its own 9-hole golf course where Tom L2 proudly managed a hole in one: heaven for him! They also used this secure complex setting as a safe base to travel extensively in their caravan around Australia for many years. Whilst travelling, they picked fruit in many far-flung places. Finally, when in their 80s, they took a 3-week packaged trip through Asia. It was Lillian's first overseas trip and a big eye opener for her. After Lillian had a severe illness in December 1999, Tom became her carer and looked after her very well.

Tom L2 was softly spoken and a very fit man who, for example, if ever he felt a little ‘off colour’, would go for a run or a long walk. He always felt better after. His long battle with myeloid leukaemia finally caught up with him during a visit he and Lillian made to son Richard and family in Townsville. He died in the old Townsville hospital on 26 October 2000, surrounded by his immediate family. He and Lillian had been married for 63 years. His funeral in Townsville was followed by a wake to remember, attended by all his immediate family. His ashes were part placed around a special tree on the Darlington Park golf course and later the remainder was placed in the M-P family grave at the Toowong Cemetery in Brisbane with many of his forebears. Lillian died, with her family by her side, in April 2002 in Coff Harbour Hospital, 18 months after her husband and 5 months after her youngest son Richard. Her ashes lie next to her husband in the M-P family grave site.

Two of Thomas and Lillian's four children survived infancy: for details see the next generation.
For more photos, click on Thomas & Lillian

The King's School, registered no. 1272, 1929
Cairns Post 24 February 1939 p.9.
Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Certificate of Service and Discharge, Tom L2
Queensland death certificate 3163/1939.
The Argus, 26 March 1943, p.3.
Provenance of all following photos: T.A. & M.T. M-P
Tom L2's War records, provenance TA & MT M-P. He is listed in the (British) Forces Air Records as Thomas Lodge Murray-Prior, Aus405024, Pilot Officer, 1943,60 Squadron
The Argus, 26 March 1943, p.3;; Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, 1 April 1943; RAAF service record.
Honours and Awards, Distinguished Flying Cross. Pilot Officer Thomas Lodge Murray-Prior, provenance T.A. M-P.
Tom L2, Personal details, application to join the B24 Liberator Squadrons of Australia, [c.1990]
South Coast Bulletin, 17 September 1952, p.24.
Queensland death certificate 2740/1952
Provenance T.A. & M.T. M-P
  • thomas_lodge_lillian_m-p.txt
  • Last modified: 2021/03/18 18:13
  • by judith