Jack James Byrne Kathleen Mary Eason

1919 - 1977

Married 13th May 1941

1924 - 1993

Jack, a twin to Thora, was born 22nd March1919. He was one of eleven children and grew up on his parent's wheat farm at Gaalunungah near Rainbow. The children attended the Gaalunungah State School, travelling by horse and buggy. Later on they used the buggy to go to the local dances. Jack left school early to help on the farm, as was normal in those times.

Jack originally joined the Remounts in 1940 but when they were disbanded he enlisted in the AIF 5th Battalion, 10th Reinforcement the day as he was discharged, the 24th April 1941.

In September 1941 he went to Sydney and sailed from there the same day. Jack spent the war years in Ceylon, the Middle East and New Guinea. His duties included mapping and intelligence, and was apparently part of the raid on Singapore which destroyed enemy boats. During the war years he was also a cartographer. At one point he was offered a promotion to officer but refused as he felt more comfortable as a private. He returned in poor health as a result of the stress and Malaria. Below is the Queen Mary, Jack and the 14th platoon coming home from work in the snow in 1942, probably somewhere in North Africa.

Click to see a letter from Annie to her son Jack just before he went to war


His twin Thora

Gallanungah School, Jack is second from right

Gallanungah School, Jack isstanding second from left.

Jack at left with a friend and Len at right, 1936

In the Army

The Queen Mary

Serving overseas

Kath was born at Footscray, a Melbourne suburb in 11th May 1924. During her childhood she suffered Rheumatic Fever twice and spent a long time in bed. She had a fine singing voice but was unable to pursue singing because of the financial difficulties the family was experiencing. She was also very keen to become a nurse but was not allowed to train because of her medical history. Kath was very flirtatous and had a reputation for stealing her sister's boyfriends! Both pictures were taken in 1942.

Kath worked as a machinist at Newport and Howell in Collins Place, Melbourne for a few months in 1939. She would have been 15 years old. She acquired permanent damage to a finger after it was pierced by a sewing machine needle, however it was only minor damage.

Jack and Kath eloped and married with a JP's permission in 1941 at Scots Church Melbourne. Kath was only 17, but the marriage certificate states her age as 21. Witnesses were J Hutchins (Jean, a friend) and S Anthony (Jack's sister Sylvia). At the time Jack was living in barracks (Wasley Camp) and Kath was living at Cambridge Street Maidstone.

She was driving trucks in the Australian Women's Army Service for 208 days in 1943 - 44, retiring when pregnant with her first child, Carole. Prior to this she had sadly lost one baby early in pregnancy, a boy. She was upset by the nursing staff who acussed her of aborting the baby.

Kath in her wedding dress


In Uniform

Out on the town

Out again





Kath and baby Carole at left. Sylvie (Jack's sister) with baby Dianne at right. Outside 7 Tucker Street Footscray

After the war the family lived in a housing commission home in Henry Street Highett for about six years, Jack working in the Melbourne Sports Depot Kath supplementing the income with partime work in the local milkbar and sewing. Unfortunately Jack missed out on training in cartography, which he loved and had practised during his time with Intelligence in the war. And being a country boy, he did not enjoy living in the city.

It was a struggle for the family financially. As well as this Jack was still suffering from the effects of the war and the marriage was suffering. The couple separated for a time, but still managed to produce four children - Carole, Judith, Johnny (Jack James Jr) and Ken.

The family often spent holidays on the farm at Yaapeet, travelling taking the steam train from Melbourne - a long and tiring journey. Tragedy struck in 1950 when Johnny was hit by a car and died later in hospital, aged 3. Then in 1951 Jack's twin sister Thora died in childbirth. Kath's mother had died not long before this also.

20 Henry Street Highett

Jack and Kath with Carole and Judy.
The boy looks like Ken


In 1953 the family piled their belongings onto a borrowed truck and bravely moved up to Kenmare in the Mallee where Jack worked share farming with Andy Woods (pictured with Carole, Ken and Judy) . These were still the days of wood stoves and kerosine lamps. Later they lived at West Beaulah on the Willian's property. There were now two more children, Cheryl and Trudy.

The family went to live in the old Albacutya homestead in 1955. Kath, a city girl, burst into tears when she saw the state of the house but stoically cleaned out the redback spiders, poured hot water on the bed bugs and made sure the children were well fed and educated. The homestead (see sketch at left) was originally built by pioneer John Coppock, who is buried on the property, in 1846. It is now part of a wonderful pioneer museum at Jeparit.

In 1956 Jack was awarded a Soldier Settlement farm at Pigeon Ponds in the Western District. It was good land but too small to be viable (444 acres). At first the family lived in the wonderful hand hewn wooden pioneer house. This was later pulled down despite protests from Kath and they moved into the Soldier Settlement house located nearer to the road. For about ten years the whole family worked hard milking cows, separating cream, rounding up sheep, dipping, shearing, dagging and tagging.

Andy Woods with, from left, Carole,
Ken and Judy

Albycutya Homestead restored in Jeparit

Armidale Home

Feeding the lambs - Trudy (partly hidden), Cheryl, Ken and Judy

The drought in the mid sixties proved too severe and the Byrne family sold up and moved up to Biggenden in Queensland where they bought a farm an named it Gaalunungah. Unfortunately Jack had a second heart attack and the farm had to be sold. They bought a shoe shop which Jack ran very well - he had prior experience at the Melbourne Sports Depot many years before. But for other reasons it did not do well.

Later they ran the Biggenden local newspaper, printing the foolscap pages and stapling them together in the spare room in the front of their house. During this time Kath completed her nursing aid training.

Kath had wanted to train as a Nursing Sister when she was younger, but was not allowed as she had a weak heart after two attacks of Rhuematic Fever. However, once her children had grown she enrolled at the local hospital to do her Nurse Aid training. (see her 1975 graduation photo left), a job she loved. During this time, in 1974 Kath had a lung removed because of cancer. This did not stop her from smoking for the rest of her life however.

They later sold the paper to the girl that they had working for them and moved to Childers and Kath nursed for a while over there. For a time they lived at Childers and then they bought a caravan and set out to travel Australia.

They reached Melbourne and stayed with daughter Judy and her then husband Roy in East Brunswick. But Jack's heart was failing and he died in Melbourne in 1977, aged only 56. He knew that he would die if he did not have surgery, but he did not want to go under the surgeon's knife.

Left is a photo of Kath and family in 1977, having a drink in Jack's memory. From left, Carole, Trudy, Kath, Ken, Cheryl and Judy

In her later years lived with her daughter Cheryl in Bundaburg and sometimes stayed with another daughter Judy in Kew in Melbourne.

Her health slowly deteriorated and she took ill suddenly in Melbourne and died later at Heidleburg hospital in 1993, age 69. This was a traumatic time as she was in the intensive care unit and was obvioulsy suffering.

A drink to Jack after the funeral. From left, Carole, Trudy, Kath, Ken, Cheryl and Judy

Kath graduates

Grave for Jack, Kath and Johnny at Cheltenham

Children of Jack and Kath Byrne

1. Carole Irene1944. Born 31 July in Melbourne. Married Darryl Frederick Chapman 1966 - div 1981.

1. Judy May b. 1967 (9/2/1967) in Perth WA.

2. Jessie (Fiona) Elizabeth b. 1970 (24/11/1970) in Melbourne.

2. Judith Louise1946. Born 9 Feb in Melbourne. Married Graeme Tuer 1982.

1. Zoe Louise, b in Melbourne.

2. Jonathon, b Melbourne.

3. Johnny (Jack James) 1947-1950 Born Melbourne, died age 3 in motor accident.

4. Kenneth Mitchell 1948. Born 12 Aug (Leo). Married Roselyn.

1. Stephen (son of Roselyn before her marriage to Ken) married Karen 1999 - since separated.

1. Madison (Steve's daughter before his marriage)

2. Peter

5. Cheryl Ann 1950. Born 28 Oct. Married Jeff Bayntun.

1. Brett married Melissa.

1. Brandy Alexandra

2. Savannah Lee

2. Rachel

3. Roxanne

5. Trudy Marlene 1953. Born 11 Sept. Married Colin Albert Ferris (b. 25/2/1949).

1. Bernald Jackson b 24th April 1980

2. Andrew James b. 8th May 1983