Wednesday, September 17, 2008

William Bourke, sixth child of Paddy & Margaret Bourke.

William Joseph Bourke ( pictured above on the left) was born at Tungamah on April 24, 1884, the sixth child and fifth son born to 41 year old Paddy and 37 year old Margaret Bourke. William was baptised when he was four weeks old, on May 18, 1884. father P.J English officiated, and his sponsors were Mary O'Brien and his uncle, John Mannix.
William, or 'Bill' as he was known, was educated at Tungamah State School and Burramine State School. Like many members of the large Bourke clan, he was a good sportsman, and played for the local footy team.
Bill worked from a young age for H.V McKay, one of the first people to make a successful stripper harvester. His first machine was made at Drummartin on his father's farm in 1883-84, sharing the birth year of William Burke. In 1886 McKay formed a small public company based at Ballarat, but in 1892 the ending of the land boom forced McKay Harvester Co into liquidation. Undaunted,Hugh Victor McKay built up his company again, and by 1895 the initial dozen of a newly designed harvester named 'Sunshine' harvesters were produced.
The severe drought in the early 1900s caused another serious setback to McKay with poor crops reducing the need for his headers. It proved a boon for Bill Bourke, however, because Hugh McKay turned his attention to the overseas market to off load his unsold machines, and decided to send 50 harvesters to Argentina. Sales were so impressive that a large export market opened up, and William Bourke was sent to Argentina as part of McKay's team.
He was back in Australia in 1911 to marry his wife, Priscilla Higgins. At St. Mark's Catholic Church, Devenish, on June 6, 1911, 26 year old William Joseph Bourke married Priscilla Beatrice Higgins, the 25 year old daughter of Devenish farmer Samuel Higgins and Jane Smith. William's occupation was given as 'commercial traveller', and Priscilla's as 'lady'. Witnesses to the marriage were James Bourke, William's uncle, and Margaret Higgins.
William and Priscilla left almost immediately for Argentina. A postcard sent to Bill's sister Bridget from Wellington, New Zealand, on June 15, 1911, says " Dear Bridge, We arrived yesterday after a bad trip. The sea was not so rough but the boat was small and not fully loaded, so you can guess we had a bad time. I never was so sick in all my travels, and as too Prillie. I thought she would die. In fact I felt that way myself. We leave by the 'Tonic' on Saturday morning. No more news at present. Goodbye. Love from Bill. Write soon."
William and Priscilla Bourke spent the rest of their lives in Argentina, returning to Australia for short periods only to visit family. Three children were born to the couple:
* Margarita 'Maggie' Bourke: born February 5, 1913.Married Leif Martens Paterson ( born Bornholm, Denmark, on June 24, 1913). Two children: *Veronica Peterson born February 28, 1948, at Sao Paulo, Brazil. Married Chis Drake, an American, and lived in New York.
- Frank Peterson, born March 11, 1854, at Sao Paulo, Brazil.
* William 'Billy' Bourke: Married Mary Unknown. Adopted a son. Died February 4, 1973, Argentina.
* Vera Bourke: Vera was born in c. 1918 in Argentina. She tragically died in the 1920s when aged about ten years, after being severely burnt in a fire.
William Joseph Bourke died on June 18, 1953, in the city of Bahia Blanca, Argentina. His wife Prilly moved to Sao Paulo to live with her daughter Maggie. She died there on February 29, 1968.

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