Team effort: the Curtin family and Cottesloe

In 1917 John and Elsie moved to Western Australia where they soon made their home at Cottesloe, first in Napier Street, then permanently in Jarrad Street, between the Swan River and the sea. It was the perfect spot according to John, who in discussing their plans with Elsie to live at Cottesloe said:

'A white, sandy beach for the summer. A healthy spot for us and any additions to us.' [11]

Many Australians have a love of the beach. So did John Curtin. Cottesloe Beach became an important part of his life and leisure, a place where he enjoyed swimming and walks with his dog, Kip.

Families enjoying the beaches along the Swan River and some peaceful scenes of the beach at Cottesloe, are revealed in this 1938 film footage.

Link to video clip

John Curtin was also Patron of the Cottesloe Surf Lifesaving Club [12] and Elsie the patron of the Cottesloe Ladies Surf Lifesaving Club. [13]

Right: Enjoying the sun and sea - Elsie with the children at Cottesloe Beach in 1930 and John Curtin ready for a swim.

JCPML. Records of the Curtin family. Elsie Curtin with Elsie and John at Cottesloe Beach, 1930. JCPML00004/15
JCPML. Records of Peter Curtin. John Curtin at the Beach, n.d. JCPML00225/2

The Curtins also pursued other sports at the seaside home in Cottesloe. John and his son, often played cricket in the backyard. Beyond the vines, the fruit trees and the clothes-line, was a stretch of lawn for a cricket pitch, mowed and rolled for father and son to bat and bowl on.

John Curtin had made a roller out of an old ink drum from the Westralian Worker. He filled it with cement, put a rod through it and placed handles on either side of the drum. His roller served to roll the gravel paths around the garden and also to roll the pitch. [14]

Tennis was also another sport played by father and son in the yard. In a letter to his old friend and colleague Frank Anstey in 1934 John Curtin writes that he had broken his ankle playing tennis with 'young John':

'Back here a few days I was playing tennis with young John when I came down on my ankle somewhat awkwardly and to my amazement found that I had broken it.' [15]

In fact in the 'knock up' on the front lawn, John was playing with young John's mate, young John was having a rest. John senior chased the ball and extended himself too far, then fell over a flower border in the garden. [16]

Like his father young John also played football and cricket for local teams in pennant competitions at the age of 14.

Mrs Curtin and young Elsie preferred music and reading to sport. Young Elsie was born premature and as a child had a number of illnesses that it was thought, prevented her from playing sport. Mrs Curtin did go to the football matches with her husband though. She later told how they went to the football together:

'He was a keen follower of Australian Rules football - he played himself, as a young man. When we were just married he always went to the football on Saturday afternoons and liked me to go with him. I know nothing about football and at first when some point in the game puzzled me I'd ask "Dad" for an explanation.

The Curtin family at home

Above: The Curtin family at home. Elsie and younger brother John with a football, 1925.
The whole family, 1927

JCPML. Records of the Curtin family. Elsie M & John F Curtin, February 1925. JCPML00382/22
JCPML. Records of the Curtin family. John and Elsie Curtin with daughter Elsie and son John, January 1927. JCPML00381/24

The Curtin family at the beach

Young batsman John F Curtin and the backyard cricket pitch

Above: Young batsman John F Curtin and the backyard cricket pitch beyond the grapevines.

JCPML. Records of the Curtin family. View from back door, Jarrad St, ca 1927. JCPML00382/35
JCPML. Records of the Curtin family.The young batsman, John F Curtin, February 1925. JCPML00382/12

John F Curtin, April 1935

Above: Anyone for tennis? John F Curtin, April 1935

JCPML. Records of the Curtin family. April 1935: John Curtin aged 14 and a half. JCPML00004/18

But I found that this was always a signal for him to start a long and involved exposition of the game, delivered in somewhat the same tones as he used later to address the House of Representatives. Necks would crane, comments would be made, I'd shrink down in my seat - and "Dad's" explanation would go on and on.' [17]

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