Dardanup’s Popular Post Office
by Jenny Golding
Updated: 9 October 2022
The all-important Post Office in any country town is always a meeting place for locals and it’s not always about the mail. “Collecting the mail” means a steady stream of people within and without the building, greeting friends and neighbours, discussing the weather, the all-important stock markets, health, school and sports activities — simply a natural place to keep in touch as a community.
A cheerful, dedicated postmistress or postmaster is key and Dardanup’s Post Office is no exception.
The current Post Office, situated at 1 Charlotte Street, was built in 1895. Mr Joseph Hedley won the contract in May that year to build the Post Office for £399/ 5 / 11. It was opened in early December 1895 complete with latest telegraphic communications.
The building is now in brick and corrugated iron but early photographs show the Post Office in timber. As was traditional with many public buildings in years gone by, it includes a residence. A Federation bungalow, the Post Office is a cherished landmark in the town.
Despite the building’s age, it is not the site of Dardanup’s first Post Office.
The first in the town was officially opened on October 22 1867 and the Postmaster until 1877 was John Maguire. He and his mother, wife and younger brother James had arrived aboard the Trusty in 1842. They were migrants who came out with the Western Australian Company to settle at Australind. It is believed that a room on the front veranda of the two-storey Maguire home in Dardanup, along Ferguson Road, became the first Post Office and there is little doubt that John’s family would have been involved in the management.
The Post Office was one of the stops for the men on horseback taking mail to Donnybrook and Bridgetown, a delivery route later undertaken by coach and then by train.
On 4 December 1867, Jessie Gardiner, whose family had accompanied the Maguires to Australind on the Trusty twenty five years earlier, was awarded the contract to carry mail, Bunbury to Dardanup, and vice versa, twice a week by horseback for one year, for a payment of £38. Jesse had a farm in Ferguson and this income would have provided a significant boost to his income.
Catherine Doolan, daughter of another pioneer Catholic Irish family in the town, was Postmistress from 1878 until 1895. Tradition tells of a cottage, the family home, then at the corner of Hayward Street and Ferguson Road, being used as the Post Office for many years and referred to as “old Doolans”.
George Fee writes in the first pages of his diary that, when her father died, Catherine and the Post Office moved to the Ninety Acre Cottage near the corner of Charlotte and Shenton Streets (now Doolan Street). It is likely the Post Office then moved in 1895, after the end of Catherine’s tenure, to the current Charlotte St site.
Mrs Kate Francis Henrietta Cumming was in charge of the Post Office from 1895 to March 1897 and Miss Mary Pollard from April 1897-1899. J Harris was appointed as messenger.
From 1 January 1900, Miss Florence Rothwell was Postmistress, followed by Elizabeth Bridget Grover from the 1 March 1900 and then Miss Florence Annie Giblett from the 1 October 1900 to the end of May 1903. May Godschall Johnson was in charge from the 1 June 1903 until Ada Anne Giblett became Postmistress from the 24 October 1906.
George Fee wrote in his diary on the 2 March 1923 of answering the family phone at 9.15 to find connection to the Dardanup Exchange. He lists others connected as: Messrs Venn, Buckenara, Brett, Mrs Prout, Miss Cleary, Dardanup Hotel and Mr. Albert Johnston.
In an interview in 1985, Ferguson resident Mr Guy Gardiner, said that mail had been taken by horseback from Dardanup to the head of Ferguson for at least one hundred years on a contract firstly at forty pounds per year. He reported the first mailman as Mr Jim Fowler and later, Mr. Maitland Gardiner, a son of Mr E Gardiner who ran a timber mill between Ferguson and Wellington Mills.
Mrs. Mary Holland was Dardanup’s longest serving post manager, efficiently and cheerfully handling the mail for 46 years, from 1908 to 1954, in a building which means so much to Dardanup and where “collecting the mail” is still part of the social fabric of a robust town.
- Flynn, Norm (editor); George Fee of Roseland – Dardanup – Diaries – 1886 – 1942 (2001), Dardanup, Western Australia.
- Shire of Dardanup, Local Heritage Survey, November2016 – Final, https://www.dardanup.wa.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/sites/105/2014/05/LHS_2016_final-issue_November_2016.pdf. Accessed online on 12 December 2021.
- WA Bluebooks — Postmasters, State Library of WA
- 1955 photo of Dardanup Post Office – National Archives of Australia – NAA K989 51
- The Colonial Mails, Inquirer and Commercial News (Perth, WA : 1855 – 1901), Wednesday 4 December 1867, page 2
- The Dardanup Post Office, Western Mail (Perth, WA) Saturday 6 June 1908, p. 15