Backward Glance - Jack and Nellie Morgan
  • Friday 21 February 2020

This is a story of a couple whose love endured through the many challenges of moving to a foreign country, raising a family and toiling to build a successful farming enterprise.

Nellie Callen and her brother Frank sailed from London on February 7, 1913 on “The Rangatine” to visit their Uncle Arthur Williams and his wife Olive who had a farm on the banks of the Maroochy River. 

After arriving in Sydney the weather was so excessively humid that Nellie found it almost unbearable so she took a trip up the Hunter River. The boat was small and uncomfortable with rapacious mosquitoes harassing the passengers. However, the journey was unforgettable for Nellie as on the deck of this boat she met Jack Morgan.

Jack was born in Sydney in 1893, one of nine children. Jack possessed a happy disposition and was serving his apprenticeship with W E Smith, Printer, in Sydney.  They were married on July 7, 1915.

When his holidays were due, Jack and Nellie decided to travel to Queensland to visit Nellie’s Uncle and Aunt at Maroochy. They fell in love with every place they visited and were reluctant to return to Sydney at the end of the holiday. They booked on the boat “Aramio” which unfortunately was transporting horses on the deck and the smell was horrific and only Jack was not put off his food!

On their return they dreamt of moving to Queensland and in 1916 they boarded a train to Brisbane then to Yandina, staying overnight and next day continuing by boat along the river to Coolum Wharf. From here they walked the two miles and located the land which had been previously selected by Jack and Nellie’s brother Frank. Jack and Nellie set about building their house close to the magnificent ocean.

Nellie was a small and refined lady used to the comforts and amenities of the large English city but she amazed Jack by loving Coolum – always busy and ready for anything. A good living was to be had from dairying, pineapples, bananas and papaws.

Nellie travelled back to Sydney to Jack’s mother for the birth of their first child William Frank Morgan and although Nellie loved her mother-in-law, she missed Jack too keenly so their next three children were born at Nambour. 

This was no easy task! Nellie had to rise at 3am, board the boat at the Coolum Wharf, walk from the landing place into Yandina and then board the train to Nambour. Even two snake bites did not deter this courageous woman.

In the Depression years, Jack returned to Sydney for work and for the five years he was away, the family earned a small living from the farm. Prices started to increase allowing Jack to return home with a renewed enthusiasm and a new philosophy – “worry gets you nowhere”.

The distance for medical care continued to be difficult. On one occasion Jack had a raging toothache so he walked from Yandina to Nambour to see the dentist. Upon arriving in Nambour he decided to fortify himself with a few rums. When he entered the surgery, he found that the dentist had left for the day and his toothache had miraculously disappeared so he walked back home.

The population was growing and soon there were children nearing school age so the residents of Coolum decided to hold social events to raise funds to build a school or hall.

Horse races were held on the beach with a bookmaker calling the odds and surprisingly Jack’s horse faired quite well despite only having one eye.

Dances and picnics were organised with musical accompaniment by volunteers playing concertinas, mouth organs, a Jew’s harp, musical saws, a kerosene tin with one string and even spoons.

As a result of these efforts and generous donations, a hall was built and the Education Department proclaimed the use of the building as a provisional school.

Jack was instrumental in the formation of the Coolum Beach Lifesavers Club in 1919 and was the first member to commercialise the club. It was 8 shillings a day to patrol the beach and one weekend after twelve hours of collecting, 16 pounds 8 shillings was raised to buy a reel for Coolum Beach.

During their time on the farm they safely withstood three cyclones although Jack told the story that the wind was so strong it blew the feathers off his ducks. They made a success of their farming ventures despite having no previous experience and despite advice from friends who suggested they purchase a bullock to carry the heavy loads of bananas only for it to take to the hills littering the whole paddock with its load.

Jack and Nellie were involved in many community organisations doing whatever they could for the expanding community. In 1946 in recognition of his contribution to the community, Jack was elected to the Maroochy Shire Council. 

Jack has also been honoured for his tireless work by the naming of a park “Jack Morgan Park” in Coolum where the Coolum Beach Library is now located.

The trials and achievements of Jack and Nellie are an inspirational journey to which many would aspire, despite it being difficult to achieve.

Thanks to the Sunshine Coast Council Heritage Library staff for the words and Picture Sunshine Coast for the images.