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This article was first published in the Fremantle History Society Newsletter, May 2022.
On 11th February 2022 Eileen Carmel Mullally passed away at Regis Aged Care, Greenmount, although she had lived most of her life in Bayly Street, North Fremantle.
Bayly Street was subdivided in the late 1890s as a residential area for people working in the vicinity, one of whom was Carmel’s grandfather, Francis Herbert Edwards who worked at the State Implement and Engineering Works nearby. He and his wife Alice lived in a three-bedroom weatherboard cottage and somehow managed to find room for eleven children. One of their sons, Cyril Anthony Edwards, married and moved to Collie with his wife, Gertrude, in 1931. They had eight children; Carmel was born in 1932. The family later moved to York and Bassendean.
Grandparents Francis and Alice Edwards passed away in the 1940s but electoral roll records show that their cottage, which was originally numbered 7 Bayly Street, was occupied by various family members up until the 1950s. Street numbers changed around 1954 and No. 7 became No. 28.
On 17 April 1954 Mr. and Mrs. C.A. Edwards of 28 Bayly St. Nth Fremantle, announced the engagement in the West Australian of their elder daughter:
Eileen Carmel Edwards to James Patrick, only son of Mr. and Mrs. J. M. Mullally, Surrey Hills, Victoria.
Carmel and James lived with her parents in Bassendean for the first years of their marriage, then in 1958 she bought the Bayly Street cottage from her father, where they lived until parting company in the mid-60s.
In November 1963 the greater North Quay area was rezoned for future port use under the then new Metropolitan Region Planning Scheme. Over the next few years the Fremantle Port Authority gradually bought up the houses in the area, demolishing most of them to make room for container and pallet storage yards, until No. 28 was the only home remaining. But Carmel loved her cottage, loved being in North Fremantle and so near to the beach; she refused to leave.The Port Authority tried negotiating for a sale, making her several offers over the years, none of which would have allowed her to buy another property anywhere in North Fremantle. The battle stepped up a notch in 1990 when the FPA served a notice of intention to resume her land to supposedly improve road and rail access to the port, to which she responded “All of the reasons they have given me so far are nowhere near as important as what this house means to me”. She hired a solicitor and lodged an objection with the Department of Land Administration.
Starting to attract a lot of media attention, especially when she painted Help! Save me from Port Authority very visibly along the side of her house, her protest gained much support from friends and well-wishers. The appointment of Kerry Sanderson as CEO of the FPA later that year calmed the situation and in July 1994 Carmel told the Fremantle Gazette “The Port Authority …no longer needed the land and had given up trying to shift her”. She was left to live her life in peace thereafter.
In 2007 No. 28 Bayly Street was listed on the City of Fremantle’s Municipal Heritage Inventory protecting it from demolition or major alterations, a mixed blessing perhaps as it still had only an outdoor toilet. In 2021 Carmel was moved into aged care and her family did sell the house to sFremantle Port Authority. A spokesperson for the FPA stated that it would not be demolished. The Authority would review the site and whether it could be integrated into port operations. Otherwise it would likely be offered for re-use in another location.
Oil storage tanks, sea containers, vacant land warehouses, and the constant noise from freight trains and trucks may not be everybody’s vision of paradise but it was Carmel Mullally’s. She told the ABC Perth in 2019: “I didn’t really do anything, just refused to sell” but what an inspiring example of the power of the individual standing up for their rights, no matter how great the odds.
Newspaper articles, 28 Bayly Street, North Fremantle - Fremantle History Centre
The West Australian Death Notices: Edwards, Francis H. 19.05.1942 Edwards, Alice A. 20.07.1948
WA Post Office Directories
WA Today 15.02.2022
WA Births, Deaths, Marriages
AEC Electoral Roll records
Top photo of Carmel Mullally: Fremantle Focus 1990
See also: the Mullally house.
Garry Gillard | New: 3 May, 2022 | Now: 5 May, 2022