Irrigation stalwart honoured

Jacinta CantatoreHarvey-Waroona Reporter
Youngest member of the Eckersley clan Thomas Underdown, holds the name plaque for Harvey Water's new premises Eckersley House.
Camera IconYoungest member of the Eckersley clan Thomas Underdown, holds the name plaque for Harvey Water's new premises Eckersley House. Credit: Jacinta Cantatore

An irrigation pioneer has been honoured in the naming of the new Harvey Water building.

Last Wednesday Harvey Water unveiled a plaque naming the administration and customer service centre Eckersley House.

Synonymous with farming and irrigation in the Harvey district, the Eckersley name can be traced back to Walter “Roy” Roland Eckersley OBE.

The event was attended by the eldest living member of Roy’s descendants Elsie Wilkinson and his youngest descendant, his great-great grandson Thomas Underdown.

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Roy’s great grandson Richard Eckersley spoke about the pride to have his forebears’ contributions recognised through the naming of the building.

“Although it is a great privilege and honour to have this building named after our family, it is more of a privilege to have the Harvey water irrigation system we have today,” Richard said.

“I remember my grandmother Alice Eckersley telling me once, it’s what she went without that helped us have the farm we have today.”

He also credited Roy’s son Ian, who was one of the driving forces behind the establishment of Harvey Water, the co-operative that acquired the assets and management of the irrigation network in 1996.

“I am confident with the continuing success of the Harvey Water irrigation system that we are in a strong position to continue farming for many generations to come,” Richard said.

In 1911 Roy was appointed by the Public Works Department to survey potential dam sites.

In 1913, Roy returned to England on his honeymoon with new bride Gladys, but WWI broke out and the couple were unable to return to Harvey until 1915.

The young couple initially lived in a tent by the Harvey River.

Roy had a huge bearing on the location, design and construction of irrigation and drainage for the original Harvey Irrigation Scheme.

Roy’s sons Sir Donald Eckersley and John Eckersley both farmed in the district, Sir Donald receiving a knighthood for his contribution to agriculture, and John and his wife Alice’s property is still farmed by the Eckersley family today.

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