Therese and Vincent Cunningham

Therese and Vincent Cunningham were milk vendors in East Fremantle for 37 yrs from 1958- 1995. They traded as VT & TD Cunningham and were the parents of 8 children born between 1958 and 1971.

Vincent ‘Vinnie’ Thomas Cunningham (1931-2010) was born in Ireland to Clontarf dairy farmers, William and Mary Cunningham, one of nine children. His siblings, Marie, Nora and Dolores also settled in Australia. Marie and Nora came to Fremantle in 1953 on the Orion.  Marie married John Warr, of Midland Junction and had three children: Jeffrey, Patrick and Jennifer. Nora married John Murphy, of Co. Tipperary and had four children: Wayne, Sean, Kieran and Janeen. Reference

Vincent also had uncles in WA already -the sons of Patrick and Mary Fagan, who came to WA in 1924 and originally settled in Mukinbudin. The 4 uncles were William Leo, James Francis, Hugh and Patrick (jnr), who sponsored him in 1955. Reference

Therese ‘Terry’ Dolorosa Byrne, the youngest of ten siblings was born in Rathfarnham, Co.Dublin, Ireland. Her occupation was bookkeeper. Reference

Terry first met Vincent in Dublin and they decided that if they were to have a married future they needed to emigrate to Western Australia. Vincent came first arriving on the Otranto in 1955 and Terry came on the Orion in 1956. Terry bought her wedding dress from Ireland and they married on 22 April 1957 at St Peters Church in Bedford Park and lived in Venn St, North Perth, where Vinnie first worked as a barman at the Rosemount Hotel, and then at the King Edward Hotel in Perth.

In January 1958 Vinnie began delivering milk from the Brownes Dairy in Osborne Park to homes and shops in East Fremantle. He first leased the milk round from Brownes then -after 2 and a half years, bought Rounds 105 and 106 and swapped borders with other milkmen until he worked a square of East Fremantle. 

Terry remembers “‘Vinnie said he only wanted to do the milk run for 2 years- but we lasted 37 years” .

In February 1958 their first child Terry was born and they moved to North Fremantle, and then to 63 Glyde St, East Fremantle. In 1960, after both Pat (1959) and Pauline (1960) were born they moved to 99 King St. In 1962, on the birth of Rita (1962) they moved to 86 Glyde St and with the birth of twins James and Billy (1966) they moved to 62 Irwin St. This was also where Donal ( 1969) was born. Their last child Mary was born in 1971, at Woodside hospital, close to their home at 46 Staton Road. 

In those days the West Australian Milk Board had a rule that trucks could not leave the Depot in O'Connor before 1 am at night. Vinnie would start work at 12 every night and return home at 8 am in the morning. In 1975 he delivered to between 400-500 homes on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights and he had a ‘runner’ help him on Sunday nights, when they ‘’collected double’’ (Sometimes this was Doug Harvey from Duke St). In those days people wrote a note which they left on the doorstep with their order or had standing orders. 

Terry ran the business side of the business and looked after all the books and the banking as well bringing up the 8 children. Bills would be delivered with the milk on a Sunday night and after a sleep Vinnie went to collect the milk money the next day. He also took on other jobs occasionally working as a part time barman at the Boomerang Hotel in Bentley on Saturday nights and delivering groceries during the week.

Most of the children and some of the Murphy cousins, worked on the trucks as runners over the years. Son Billy took over the business and has carried on the milk run to local shops, schools and cafes for the last 24 years. (from 1996)

The family were very involved with the local Catholic church-The Immaculate Conception Parish in East Fremantle and the Cunningham children attended the small catholic primary school on King St before going to Iona Girls School and Christian Boys College for High School.

Terry remembers that ‘’The parish during the 1950s and 60s had about  ten families with 80 children between them and that the priests used to come home to play cards on Sunday. Vinnie played golf with the parish priests on a Thursday, the priests ‘’day off’… We were one of the only Irish families here- most of the neighbors were Italian and Portuguese.”’

The family moved to 213 Canning Highway, East Fremantle in the 1980s. Terry and Vincent have 13 grandchildren

After a long, hard working and happy life Vincent died of throat cancer in 2010 at age 79, two months short of 80. 

“Nice tribute to the family and especially Uncle Vinnie who we loved dearly. The party never started until he arrived. He was a small man but larger than life.’’ Nephew Sean Murphy, 2019

Thanks to Terry (Snr) and Billy Cunningham for allowing me (Jo Darbyshire) to interview them on 8 August 2019 and for sharing family stories and photos. Thanks also to Sean Murphy for sharing the contact with the family and his stories of running on the milk rounds in the 1970s.