Leslie Craig – 1892 – 1966

By Kate Shacklock
Updated: 25 November 2022

Leslie Craig

Leslie Craig, the son of Francis Craig and Hannah Elford Taylor, was born on 23 November, 1892 in York, Western Australia.  He died on 9 February 1966, in Perth, Western Australia.

He married Frances Eileen Boyd (9 June 1896 – 10 October 1974) on 22 September 1917, at the parish church, Clonleigh, Donegal, with the rites of the Church of Ireland. They had four children:

  1. John Boyd Craig, born 8 October 1918; died 12 July 2013
  2. Frank Leslie Boyd Craig, born 14 September, 1920; died 8 July 1998
  3. Anthony Boyd Craig, born 19 November 1921; died 10 August 2016
  4. Phyllis Ann Boyd Craig, born 16 January 1923; died 25 April 2001

Leslie was educated at ‘Miss Bests School’ from age 5 and in 1900 was enrolled at Hale School, George St, Perth where his father had been a boarder. Les finished his schooling at Church of England Grammar School in Melbourne (1909-1911), where he was part of the compulsory Cadet training. The Craig family at that stage highly valued farming /pastoral land in WA and Frank Craig owned several properties throughout the state. After leaving school, Les worked briefly at ‘Golden Valley’, a Craig farm at Balingup WA, and trained in the 7th Light Horse (a Balingup branch of the 25th Light Horse) before enlisting as a machine gun officer aged 21, on 3 November 1914.

Leslie Craig in uniform, 1914

There is a family story of the four sons of Frank and ‘Elfie’ Craig and which ones went to fight in World War I. The following is based on John Boyd Craig’s unpublished autobiography, ‘Heir Lines’:

Prior to World War 1, Frank Craig sent his two eldest sons John (called Jack) and Frank Colin (called Colin) up north in WA to Portree Station near Port Hedland. The two other sons, Gordon and Leslie, were sent to the Balingup property Golden Valley, in south-western WA. When in 1914, Australia joined Britain in war against Germany, the four Craig brothers, like so many young Australian men, were keen to enlist. Young Australian men considered the prospect of fighting the Turks and Germans as a great adventure. When Frank had sent his sons off to their respective pastoral duties, he had done so with the intention of having his properties managed as going concerns. With the outbreak of War, there would naturally be an increased demand for food and clothing, both of which could be provided from raw materials produced on Craig properties. Frank, concerned as to how his properties would be managed if all four sons disappeared overseas, decreed that only two sons could enlist, one from each of the two properties – one from the north and one from the south.

Leslie Craig in Ireland, 1917

The two pairs of brothers tossed a coin or drew straws. In that climate of patriotism, to enlist was to ‘win’. At Balingup, it was Leslie who won the toss. Consequently Gordon, who felt being older meant that he had a natural right to go, had to stay behind and get on with the hard work of running Golden Valley. At Portree in the north, Jack drew the winning straw. Colin however, did not accept the draw with the same grace as Gordon. Instead, sometime during that night, he packed his bag and cleared out from the station altogether. When Jack woke the next morning, Colin was gone; he taken himself off to Perth, hopped onto a ship, and enlisted in England with the Royal Flying Corps.

During World War I, on 7 August 1915 at the Nek, Gallipoli, Turkey, Leslie was shot in the left ankle and had to have the bottom part of that leg amputated, leaving him with a stump above the knee. He was evacuated out to a London hospital, which is where he met Frances Boyd, a nurse there, in 1915. He was almost always in pain for the rest of his life, though he hid it well and never complained. This pain probably influenced his son, John Boyd Craig, to specialise in anaesthetics, and to gift a large grant for research into the relief and management of pain. For his military service, Leslie was awarded the 1914/15 Star, the British War Medal, the Victory Medal, and the ANZAC Commemorative Medal.

Leslie Craig’s uniform and medals, now kept at Hale School, Perth

Leslie and Frances married in Ireland before leaving very soon afterwards to live in Western Australia. They arrived in January 1918, where his AIF appointment terminated on 21 January that year. He found it difficult to continue farming at Golden Valley at Balingup, with its steep terrain. He had no academic qualifications and in 1919, he undertook accountancy through the firm, James Patterson. He later joined James Paterson Accountants in Perth, where he quickly rose to become a partner in 1920.

Leslie Craig & Frances, with her niece Phyllis (‘Preshie’), Lifford, Ireland 1917

Captain Craig acquired the property Prinsep Park at Dardanup, in 1923 under the Soldier Settlement Scheme, to begin a life of farming as his family had done for generations. The Scheme enabled returned soldiers to buy land, but over longer terms and with lower payments. The purchase price of Prinsep Park was £30,000 over 30 years. Leslie found it difficult to manage the farm by himself with his injuries, and hired people to help. Despite his wooden leg, he worked hard on his property and played competitive cricket, using a runner between wickets.

He served in the WA Parliament, being elected to the Legislative Council from 1934-1956 representing the South-West Province. He was also an agricultural representative at the British Empire Exhibition, Wembley, London, in 1924, and president (1937-38) of the Royal Agricultural Society of Western Australia. He and Frances moved permanently to central West Perth in 1951, when their son Frank took over the management of Prinsep Park. In 1966, he was awarded a CMG (Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George) in the Queen’s Honours ‘for public services in the State of Western Australia’.

Leslie and Frances Craig’s book label

Leslie and Frances Craig designed a combined book label (shown left) to be affixed in their books to identify them as the book’s owners.  The labels included the Craig family crest in the middle with Latin words for ‘Live in God and you shall have life’, and plants on either side. Leslie loved Boronia (Western Australian Boronia has a strong smell; left side of label) and Frances (‘Fanny’ or ‘Rosebud’ to Les) represented her Irish ancestry with 3-leaved shamrock (or clover) leaves (right side). Irish legend has it that the missionary, Saint Patrick, demonstrated the principle behind the Christian Trinity using a shamrock, pointing to its three leaflets united by a common stalk.

Les contributed greatly to Western Australia and strongly believed in the value of education. He was very much involved with Hale School in Perth, serving as a board-member from 1940 and chairman, 1957-62. He was instrumental in the school’s relocation to Wembley Downs and in its return to the Anglican Church. The main oval at Hale School was named Craig Oval in his honour. Four generations of Craig boys have attended Hale school.

The Craig family c.1934,
L-R: Leslie (back), Ann (front) Frank,  Frances, John & Anthony (‘Tubby’)