Love lawn – a tale of destiny

The garden sprinkler, that archetypal Australian symbol, figures prominently in the personal story of immigrants Fiszel and Rachla Epsztejn and their descendants.

On 18 September 1939, Fiszel and Rachla Epsztejn stepped off the RMS Ormonde at Melbourne, arriving shortly after the invasion of their homeland by German forces. Fiszel was the only member of his family to make it out of Poland alive.

In their new life the Epsztejns became Phil and Rachel ‘Rae’ Epstein, engineer and seamstress, and proud parents of Joe and Anna.

In 1943, Phil and a business partner bought Irwin’s, a landscape irrigation business on the corner of Tooronga and Malvern roads in Glen Iris. Former owner Harley Irwin of Canterbury, was an inventor who specialised in garden sprinklers.

A keen inventor himself, Phil modified Harley’s original sprinkler design, but continued to use the casting mould for the pedestal, with its maker’s mark: ‘Harley H. Irwin, manf’, Canterbury. Vic’.

After Phil died in 1979, his daughter Anna took home one of her father’s sprinklers, where it did active service in her garden for the next 20 years. Occasionally, Anna would wonder about the mysterious name stamped across this memento of her father.

In 1992, Anna met and fell in love with Ray Culvenor. A chance conversation with Ray’s mother Joan led to the happy discovery that Ray’s great-uncle was none other than Harley Irwin.

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    Philip ‘Phil’ Epstein
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    A family connection
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    Rachel ‘Rae’ Epstein
Copyright National Archives of Australia 2017