Interview with: Mary Cordwell
Date of Interview: 13 June 1985
Interviewer: Annie Wall
Transcriber: Colwyn Boulton
Mary Faris Sutton was born in Maleny in 1922. Mary married Alexander Cordwell on 15 December, 1945 and lived on the Mary River near Maryborough before moving to Kenilworth to assist her brother, Burne on her father's farm. She later moved with her husband to a farm across Obi Obi Creek running dairy and beef cattle. Mary and Alex moved to Yandina and Mary then moved to Nambour.
Images and documents on Mt Ubi on Sunshine Coast Libraries Catalogue.
Image: Mt Ubi homestead.
Mary Cordwell oral history [MP3 57MB]
Hassall family history
AW: Mary, you were born in Maleny in 1922. First of all I’d like you to tell me as much as you can about your grandparents, the Hassalls, and how they arrived at Kenilworth, at Mount Ubi Station.
MC: Yes, they had a very hard life, I think, because they were married in Victoria and they had a small son, George, when they decided to come to Queensland. They left Victoria in a buggy and I presume other vehicles with them. But the buggy was drawn by two Arab ponies that were given to them by a relative, I think. No, it might have been a Rowe – the Rowe that Grandfather Hassall worked for. He gave it to them as a wedding present and they had this buggy and one small child when they left Victoria. They travelled up through New South Wales – I just don’t know the direction they took – but they travelled through New South Wales and up to the Darling Downs and they worked on a station called Dandine Station. I think it’s somewhere near Dalby. I presume that the station probably isn’t anymore; It’s probably been subdivided. But they worked there. My mother was born there. My mother always tells me a funny incident that happed when they came up from Victoria – I presume it was passed down to her – but they had all their poultry and everything else with them when they came. A hen went clucky and she sat on a setting of eggs and hatched out these chickens on the trip up.
AW: What, on the dray or whatever?
MC: On whatever it was, yes. I don’t know how long they took to come up, but I would presume about six months, I suppose.
AW: We’re talking about 1850?
MC: Ah, 1889, and then my mother was born in 1890 in Queensland. Then they left the Darling Downs and went to a property down near Moggill. I think they grew fruit trees and small crops there. They didn’t lose their home, but they lost all their crops, in the big 1893 flood.
AW: I suppose Moggill wouldn’t have been a suburb then; it would have been country?
MC: Oh no, it was just an area. Just an interesting little titbit; my husband’s mother and her family lived where the University is now. They lost their home and everything in the same flood. But the Hassalls lived there at Moggill. They lost everything and they were bankrupt. Course their arab ponies – I think they had nowhere to keep them there with a small crop farm – so they had them agisted out; I think somewhere up near Woodford, in that area. Maybe the Upper Brisbane Valley. When the bailiff apparently came to claim everything, because they owed so much money, Granny Hassall was supposed to have pushed the buggy that they came up to Queensland in out onto the road, so that he couldn’t take it. It wasn’t her property while it was out on the road. But from Mogill they came up to Woombye and there Grandfather cut sleepers for the railway.
AW: Would the whole family have come up to Woombye then?
MC: Yes they all came up there. And I think by the time he left Woombye he had five children. My aunt was born down at Mogill and then I presume that the other two then were born around Woombye somewhere. I think they got about ten shillings a week for their pay.
AW: So they really had to start again?
MC: This is right.
AW: Where would they have been living?
MC: Must have had a house to live in but I don’t know – Mum always told me – they only had one pair of boots and of course in those days ladies wore boots the same as men. So Granny used to go to church one week and wear the boots and Grandfather went the next week. And all the girls – I suppose the boys did too a bit in those days – they used to wear pinafores. They were all made from flour bags, course you got those nice calico bags in those days. I think they used to bleach them. Mum’s always said they were lovely little pinnies. It was while Grandfather was loading sleepers onto the truck at the railway, somebody called out to him and said ‘What are you doing here?” And Grandfather said, “Oh I’m looking for a job.” And it was a solicitor he knew in Brisbane. And he said, “Well I might be able to get you one.” And he got – Senator Walker from Sydney had bought Mount Ubi Station – he got him the job of managing it.
Mount Ubi Station
AW: That’s Mount Ubi Station at Kenilworth?
MC: At Kenilworth. Mount Ubi used to be part of Kenilworth Station and it was cut off as Kenilworth Station was subdivided. And they moved out there from Woombye in 1896. They travelled through Yandina and up over what they call the ‘Bottle and Glass’. Well over to Belli, and there used to be a Cobb & Co Change there, and then on to Mount Ubi. I think some of the family sort of road in the coach or buggy, whatever it was they had, and my aunt, Mrs Rowe, always told me that she road in on the front of the saddle with a Mr Hungerford, who came from Woombye with them, to get over to Kenilworth. The remainder of the family of Hassall’s were all born at Mount Ubi.
AW: And how many were there?
MC: There were nine of them – five boys, three girls and then a little still born daughter.
AW: Would they all have been born at home?
MC: Oh yes. My own mother said that they never knew that Granny was expecting a baby until, she said, Dad’d often say, “Now you’ve got to be quiet today, Mother’s not well.” Then possibly the next day they’d be told that they had another brother or sister.
AW: She must have had a fairly easy time perhaps?
MC: Well I think a midwife used to come in. There were several midwives around the district who used to assist at births.
AW: Yes, I saw a Mrs Axe’s name somewhere in the paper. She used to go between Maleny and Gympie.
MC: Oh yes. These were mainly ladies that lived in the area, used to sort of come along, help out a bit.
AW: Maybe friends perhaps even?
MC: Well this is right. Yes I think so.
AW: Well all the children were born. So it was a big family.
MC: It was a big family. I think they were a very close knit family. They were very religious. Sunday was a day of rest and you went to church on Sundays. But they made their own fun.
AW: Going to church on Sunday…
MC: That would be to the Lower Kenilworth Church, when there was a church. Once they built a church.
AW: What would they have done until then? Were there travelling men?
MC: There was a travelling lay preacher, who lived at Montville. And he used to come down once a month or something like that, you know.
AW: Would he go to homesteads and people would come in?
MC: I think that’s what they did, yes.
AW: Can you tell me a bit about the homestead itself?
MC: Yes, the homestead was a rambling sort of a place, because it was three buildings that had sort of been joined together. The back part of it was a long building with a verandah right along the back. And it was about, oh just one step up, I think, onto the verandah. We used to sit up on the verandah and dangle our legs, as kids, over the edge. The men used to come along and sit on there and have their afternoon tea or smoko or whatever, if they were around, see. Course we thought It was lovely to be able to sit there with the men and do it with them. But the men could just sit on there and put their feet on the ground. We used to have to dangle our legs.
AW: They would have been nearly all uncles, wouldn’t they?
MC: Yes, they would have been uncles then, yes. I think they had some men working on the property then too.
AW: What about in the house? Would your grandmother have had help in the house?
MC: Yes, they did, sometimes I think. I know my mother said she could bake bread when she was ten. I think they probably had somebody. I think there was usually a few of the gins. The blacks lived there, lived on Polly’s Island – just in between where the junction of the Obi and the Mary (Rivers) came. They used to live around there and the girls would come and do the heavy work around the place.
AW: When I was talking to you earlier, you mention ‘Old Violet’.
MC: Yes she was much later, I think. I mean there might have been a Violet, because It seemed to be a good Aboriginal name. But Polly I think was the chief one, because that’s how it became Polly’s Island. But they used to do some work when they felt like it a bit, I think. When you’ve got a large family, the oldest ones help the younger ones. But Mum said she could cook and, as I said, made bread when she was ten. They must have had somebody to help out, I think, until the older ones were old enough to help.
For education they had a tutor. Yes, as the boys got older, they always had a tutor. Before that, they used to have a governess. You know like all of them, they’d like some, they wouldn’t like others. And I think the ones that they didn’t like, very soon went.
AW: Tends to happen doesn’t it?
MC: That’s right. Mum used to say that one of the governesses, one night they had fish for dinner and of course, “Oh yes, it was lovely,” until they were just about finished and one of the boys said “Oh did you like the eel you had for dinner?” And she said there was a very quick exit. The governess like it until she knew it was eel.
AW: And what actually were they doing on Mt Ubi? Was it cattle?
MC: There was some cattle. They did a bit of farming, they grew maize and potatoes. But they had the first milking machines on Mount Ubi.
AW: That would have been quite an event.
MC: They got a registered short-horn stud, gradually bought up the cattle for that. They were milked by hand for a start and did all the separating by hand. They used to make butter, and the separated milk of course would feed the calves. Later on they got a steam-driven separator, which was good that they didn’t have to turn it. Then later still they got milking machines.
AW: Did all your uncles stay there or did they gradually move away as they got older?
MC: Well as they married, they sort of went out. But the station was subdivided in 1926, I think. They all grew up as young men and worked on the property. When it was subdivided, they all bought pieces of it, but all their selections were around the homestead block, which Grandfather bought, and they sort of still lived at home until they married. Humphrey started – I think it was Humphrey drove the coach to Eumundi first – and then Jack took over driving. And he drove that coach to Eumundi until they gave up totally bringing the mail, which was only five or six years ago I suppose. He was still driving into Kenilworth until a week before he died, a few months back. He was a marvellous person.
AW: He’d certainly know the road. He would have seen a lot of changes too.
MC: That’s right. But that coach to Eumundi was started 1898, I think. They used to have drivers for it for a start because the boys wouldn’t have been old enough then.
AW: And that was a private enterprise that your grandfather started?
MC: Yes, that’s right. One funny little incident they told me about was the chooks used to roost every night in the trees and everywhere around. This one night this old chook must have roosted underneath the coach. Next morning when it left before daylight from Mount Ubi and got over to Kenilworth Station, this old hen hopped down off the back underneath the coach. She’d been through the river – the coach had been across the river twice before she got there. Whether she was too scared to jump off, I don’t know.
Recreation and leisure
AW: What did the family do for recreation or sport?
MC: Most of them played tennis. They had a tennis court at Mount Ubi.
AW: There’d always be enough people for a game, wouldn’t there?
MC: Oh yes, Mother has always told me that the boys would even have a game after they had lunch. Or if they came in a bit early for lunch, they would have a game of singles if there was only two of them. But Saturday afternoon was always sports day. They played tennis or they played cricket. But it was no trouble to them to ride down there. And somebody told me, I don’t quite know whether it was true, but they said that my Mum used to ride home from Lower Kenilworth at lunch time so that she could knead the bread so that it would be ready when she came home later in the afternoon to put in the oven to bake. I don’t quite know, but I think it would be probably quite feasible.
AW: Yes, cause she would have been able to go across country wouldn’t she, not following the roads?
MC: Yes, oh yes. And see well she used to ride home.
AW: Well your mother must have ended up being a fairly good homemaker?
MC: She was; she was very clever with home things. She wasn’t a public person, but she was a very good cook. She could sew. She used to do some painting. She used to enter one woman exhibits in the shows, that sort of thing.
AW: How on earth did they find time, because you said she did a lot of cooking and baking bread?
MC: Well I think, for instance, there was no television there was no wireless. Night times, if you wanted to do something, you did in your leisure time at night with a kerosene lamp. Although I think they probably had Tilley lights or something like that, as time went by. I know my mother said that the boys bought her the first petrol iron, back from the Exhibition one year. Of course they had beautiful horses; they were descendants of those two Arab ponies. And they used to enter them in all the shows and they were very successful exhibiters. And it’s not that many years ago – I suppose it’s twenty years ago – that one of the last of that line of horses died too.
AW: Must have been a fairly strong line then?
AW: You were telling me about how your mother had a slight accident with one of those irons.
MC: Yes. When we moved from Maleny down onto the block my father bought when Mount Ubi was subdivided, we were living in a little shed which was built mainly to be a cream room for the cream from the dairy, but it had a lean to on it, and we being just three of us, we managed to live in this one room with the lean to on it. Mum was ironing one afternoon and she filled her petrol iron with the petrol out of the bottle and put the lid on it and I presume, put the cork in it, because you didn’t have screw tops in those days, you had corks. And she put it back on the shelf where she had taken it down from, lit her iron and flicked the wax match out after she lit the iron and the head flew off it and flew onto the bottle of petrol which exploded. She had the presence of mind because she had done a course in First Aid and this sort of thing. She grabbed up the kapok – she didn’t think about it being kapok then – but she grabbed the kapok quilt off the bed and threw it over the blazing bottle, anything. And she sort of put it all out with this mattress, but in the process she got her own arms badly burnt. By the time she could get the carpenters who were building the house to hear her, she had got the fire under control. And they got her into hospital, in Eumundi. I don’t remember anything about that or what happened to me even. But she was, I suppose, probably she was expecting my brother. She was probably about six months. Anyway she got her arms fixed at the hospital and the doctors just snipped all the big blisters off and got as much kapok as they could out of her arms. Some of it they had to leave there and the skin grew over. And whenever it was going to rain, these little white spots would stand up on her arms. It was the best weather prophet there was. She could always tell you when it was going to rain. It was never sore. She said they didn’t hurt or anything, it’s just that they were under the skin you see.
AW: And so you and your brother were both born in Kenilworth?
MC: No, I was born in Maleny; my brother was born in Eumundi. I was born in Maleny. They tell me that I was about two and a half pound. I was very very small. Mum always said that nobody knew she was expecting. And quite a funny thing – my second daughter, you hardly knew she was too. So it must have been something in the family.
AW: A family trait. Maybe that’s why the family didn’t know when your grandmother was expecting.
MC: Yes, she was a very big woman. My memories of her – oh she used to knit and crochet a lot and I can remember her knitting. I used to always think oh she was funny because she wore these steel rimmed glasses. Of course I realised Granny was short sighted and so am I. But in those days I didn’t…..
AW: I wonder where she would have got her glasses from? Would she have gone to Brisbane?
MC: I don’t know. I would presume so, yes.
AW: Because it wouldn’t be easy to get glasses in those days, I would imagine.
MC: Either Brisbane or Gympie. They used to go to Gympie quite a lot.
AW: That’d be quite a major trip to undertake?
MC: Well I can remember going to Gympie. We used to start off in the morning. Mum used to prepare breakfast – cant remember exactly what we used to have for breakfast – but we used to have breakfast on the road to Gympie. And then we’d go into Gympie. It was always to go to the dentist. But we’d go to the dentist. Then we’d have our dinner at the café, which was the highlight of your visit to Gympie. And then you’d do a little bit of shopping. Then we’d come home. Of course it’d be dark by the time we got home. Now this is in a motor vehicle.
AW: Right, so you jumped ahead there a few years.
MC: Yes, but we were talking about where you get glasses from. I would think that she would have gone to Brisbane to get them, but I don’t know. I can remember her, she used to either knit or crochet lovely big rugs. She made every grandchild a rug for their bed. She always seemed to have lots of little bits of knitting on the go. And she used to play the piano, she played by ear.
AW: And they bought a piano with them all the way to Mount Ubi?
MC: Well I don’t know where the piano came from, but they had a piano there. And Granny used to go and sit at the piano in the late afternoon and she would just play and play and play until dinner was ready. That’s my memory of her. She could just sit there in the dark and play.
AW: Isn’t that wonderful.
MC: Oh it’s lovely. I’d love to be able to play like that.
AW: And what about your own person memory of your grandfather?
MC: I don’t think I ever got really close to him. He was very friendly and very nice. And it was good when you were out up the paddock, out in the yard helping dip and, you know, it was lovely being with him, but I can think of him either being in his office working on his books or reading his paper. He probably missed nothing, but he sort of didn’t seem to me to join in a lot of things. My memories of going to stay with them….
I was talking about Grandma Hassall. She loved fishing. And she would go off in the afternoons down to the Obi and throw a line in and fish there and probably bring home enough fish for tea. One little incident they told me about was she went fishing this day and caught a turtle and she couldn’t unhook him and she’d forgotten to take a knife, so she led him home up the hill. And then she cut the line out and what happened to the turtle I don’t know. Maybe the blacks had him for tea or something.
AW: What an incredible sight though. I imagine she would be wearing a long dress?
MC: Oh yes, and she was a big woman you know. She always wore a long dress, yes, probably an apron as well. Walking up that steep hill, I can see that. I can imagine that anyway. But she was always very friendly. I cant remember when I was very little, but I can sort of more or less remember going to stay there with them I suppose when I was ten or twelve, or something like that. I was probably more interested in riding the horses, in getting the calves when they were milking, and one time I ended up in the muddy gully because my horse propped on the edge of it. But I can remember cracking Queensland nuts under the nut tree. That’s where Uncles came in very well, because they used to crack a lot for us too. I think we were a bit spoilt.
AW: How would they crack them, just with stones?
MC: Oh no. There was a hammer and a nice stone with a hole in it, that you just put the nut in it and hit it. There were two or three Queensland nut trees there, you just went out and picked them up from under the trees.
AW: Would they have had many fruit trees there?
MC: I can remember oranges and mandarins, so I think they probably had quite a good orchard.
AW: Could you perhaps tell me what Christmas Day was like? Did you ever spend Christmas with the whole family?
MC: Oh yes I think you always went there for Christmas. Christmas Day was a gathering with everybody, at the big long table, all set up with all the Christmas goodies, because turkey or poultry was a luxury then. You didn’t have it like you can have it these days. It was a special occasion thing to have poultry. They always reared their own turkeys. I can remember turkeys running around the yard. We used to have to go to look for turkey nests down the paddock, that sort of thing. But everybody or as many as the family as possible, were always home for Christmas Day.
AW: It would have been a big gathering then?
MC: Oh yes, yes.
AW: With the uncles that were married and so on, it must have got to be a very large Christmas table.
MC: Well it would be yes. I think from what I can remember, as we started a bit older, we sort of had our own Christmas then. As the family sort of grew up a bit, well you sort of had more your individual Christmases. But whether that was because Grandfather Hassall had passed on then probably, and I know Grandma Hassall died in about 1939 I think it was. Grandfather was before that.
AW: Perhaps you could tell me just what the day was like? Getting up in the morning – did all the family gather before opening presents?
MC: That’s something I can’t remember about very much. I can remember we used to have a Christmas stocking, but I don’t think the giving of presents was the greatest part of Christmas.
AW: Not like the commercialism of today?
MC: This is right. I don’t think that it was. If you gave something, it was probably a handkerchief or a pair of socks or something you’d made. You didn’t buy a great deal. Another little incident I remember my mother telling me, that granny used to make or get – I think they used to send away mail order for present – she said she was fourteen when she first found out about Father Christmas.
AW: When she first found out about it?
MC: Found out about it. They had to tell her, because Granny said she couldn’t manage to supply and keep all the things hidden without having some help. So when you think about it, she was fourteen and had to be told that there wasn’t a Santa Claus and they’re four now and they know all about Santa Claus. I think that was the beauty of Christmas. It was such a surprise and so lovely. You had no idea what she were going to get for Christmas and it wasn’t very big, whatever you got. Most times it was something that was made at home, with a lot of loving care, more than something that was bought.
AW: What about the food you ate on Christmas Day? Would your grandmother have spent days preparing food?
MC: That’s something I can’t remember about the food side of it. I know there was always plum pudding with lots of money in it. But I don’t know what happened about the preparation of Christmas at Mount Ubi.
AW: What about your own Christmas?
MC: Well, we used to work away. I can remember helping Mum get Christmas ready. You know, you would either have ducks or turkeys or poultry getting fat for Christmas. I can remember that. And of course you reared your own pigs and you’d get a pig cured during the year and you’d have your hams and bacon. Of course, in those days when you got it cured, all you had to do was hang it up in a cool place and it kept. Not like these days, because you have to refrigerate it once you get it. But we usually had ham. I can remember boiling the ham in the copper out in the backyard. We’d have to kill the poultry, which ever it was, and dress it and get it ready for Christmas. And of course you always made your Christmas cakes before the end of November , or in October if possible. I can remember the first time my brother and I ever had to do anything about killing a fowl. Mum always did this – maybe Dad chopped its head off – but Mum always cleaned the poultry. Anyway this day Mum was sick and she said, “Oh,” she said, “I was going to cook a chook for dinner.” So we were brave, very good we though. We said, “We’ll fix it up Mum.” So we went out and caught this. I think I must have held its legs and my brother chopped its head off. Then we started to clean it. We got it plucked and cut it open to clean it inside. And Vern, as a child he was always a fussy little kid. He didn’t like chickens running over his feet and he didn’t like getting dirty. “Oh!” he says, “Oh yucky poo!” I cant remember him doing that.
AW: How old would you have been then?
MC: Oh, I suppose we would have been ten or twelve, something like that. I can remember milking when we had the farm, learning to milk and milking by hand. Then I can remember we used to have share farmers or a family doing the work. Dad wasn’t very well; he was crippled up with arthritis quite a lot. And then he started doing some commercial travelling for veterinary lines for farms. So he was working up in South Burnett most of the time. I suppose that was the area he was given or something. We used to have a share farmer on there. Except when I was smaller, I didn’t have to do any milking until we were quite grown up. Then my brother and I used to do most of it then.
AW: Now what about schooling?
MC: I went to school at what we call Coolabine Creek School. It was about, I suppose, a mile and a half away. I was one of the early pupils there. When my school years started, the school wasn’t finished and we used to have school in a house on the other side of Coolabine Creek.
AW: When would that have been that you started school?
MC: Oh about 1928, I think. I can’t altogether remember how many pupils there were at this first school. I remember one of the big boys, he threw an ink well at the teacher. That was a little incident. Then we had a very big hail storm one day at school. There was hail everywhere and when we got home Mum and Dad had filled up the ice chest full of hail, but it’d put holes in the roof.
AW: It must have done damage to crops and things?
MC: Oh it would have done, yes.
AW: What about other storms and things? Do you recall any cyclones?
MC: Oh more just storms, I think. Well we called them storms. Whether they were cyclonic or not, I don’t know. But oh, you just had very big thunderstorms in which sometimes you’d get hail, but not to that extent that that one day we had. Some days your teacher would let you out early from school, so you could get home before the storm came, because she could see a storm coming up. They seemed to be more of a regular pattern in those days, than we had early in the day and they’d sort of carry on till getting a bit later each day. You’d probably have a rum of that for a week maybe or ten days sometimes, with a storm nearly every day then there’d be a break.
AW: And then you went away to boarding school. When would that have been?
AW: 1939 you went away, and you went to Glennie in Toowoomba. What made your parents decide to send you there?
MC: I don’t know. Whether it was because my father had had a good education in England – my mother never had that opportunity – and they wanted to give me the opportunity. I don’t really know; or whether it was something to do with my grandfather’s will maybe. I know he left a certain amount of money that came regularly and whether there was something in that that said it was for education or not I don’t quite know why.
AW: How did you feel going away to boarding school? I mean there wouldn’t have been many children from Kenilworth going?
MC: No, no, there was nobody from around our area, although other children soon after went away to boarding school, in different areas. But there was nobody in Toowoomba. For a start it was very lonely, you were very homesick. Course after a while you looked forward to holidays, but then you were always glad to go back. I was always….
AW: What about holidays? Did you always have three holidays a year?
MC: Yes, three holidays a year. We had Easter then you had another one, holidays in July and another – it wasn’t Exhibition, we weren’t on holidays when the State schools had Exhibition holidays – I think it was July, then in September –October, Michaelas holidays we used to call those.
AW: What was your schooling like? Being at boarding school in those days must have been quite different to the sort of education they give girls today. Was it intensely toward homemaking and that side of it?
MC: Now I realise that I probably wasn’t trained for anything by going to boarding school. I think possibly maybe it was a waste of good money, although I think it was sort of like a finishing school that you learnt lots of – well you learnt etiquette, if you hadn’t been taught that at home. Lots of things I suppose you wouldn’t have picked up or learnt by staying at home. I mean I didn’t do a commercial course, I learnt music and I did history, geography, maths, dressmaking. And we played a lot of sport. I was always keen on sport.
AW: And how did you get to Toowoomba from Kenilworth?
MC: Dad usually took me to Brisbane by car and I caught the train up to Toowoomba. Sometimes I caught the train here, but there was a wait in Brisbane for the train going from here to catch the one going to Toowoomba so….
AW: Did you find that your friend in Kenilworth that you’d known for a long time felt any different about you because you were going to boarding school?
MC: No, I think what I found that when I came back from boarding school possibly a lot of them had grown up and maybe moved on. Course I came back during the War too. It was a different environment to what I went away from.
World War II
AW: What about the War then? Did that affect the local area very much?
MC: Not really, there were a few men joined up.
AW: Second World War, we’re talking about.
MC: Yes, yes. But being a dairying and farming area, you sort of had to keep on with that. And any of the men that had gone – somebody else had to do the work, so sort of everybody worked on the farms and round about.
AW: Did there become a shortage of young men in the districts?
MC: Oh yes, yes.
AW: So what happened at social activities then? Did you just carry on?
MC: Oh yes, you carried on. You had your dances and your pictures to go to every week.
AW: And what about servicemen in the area? Because the Coast was quite a big defence area, there would have been a lot of different servicemen up here. Did you ever see any of them out at Kenilworth?
MC: Oh yes. They used to come out on leave. They were always made very welcome.
AW: You’d have dances for them?
MC: Oh yes, there were always dances. You’d either ride in to Kenilworth. There used to be, from the Obi, they always had a bus, which used to go along and you either walked out and caught the bus, or rode your horse out or rode into Kenilworth. Depending on whether the bus was running that night or not. But you rode or walked out and caught the bus to go to the dances.
AW: I think you told me that the English sailors used to come and stay with you?
MC: Yes they were billeted around the area.
AW: And would they come up from Brisbane or from this local area?
MC: No, from Brisbane. They would probably stay for a weekend or however long. My dad was always very friendly, very knowledgeable person of the area and things. He would make sure they were given a tour of the area and shown everything.
AW: Did you hold special functions for these people?
MC: Oh well, there was always a dance put on or something put on you know. It was sort of before the times of barbeques so you didn’t have barbeques, but you’d have picnics and that type of thing. Oh, they were all just so interested in everything that went on as a general thing in the area, you know. They were interested in farming and finding out what you did, so you didn’t have to entertain them a lot.
AW: Was it your father that grew the first bananas in Kenilworth? Would you like to tell me a bit about that?
MC: Yes. I don’t really know a lot. He grew them out on what we call “The Gap”, going towards Brooloo. They transported them by rail down to Sydney. I know he sent beautiful bananas to Sydney and there was a glut and they were just tipped into the Harbour. Somebody was telling me just recently, “Oh,” she said, “he grew the most beautiful bananas I’ve ever tasted.” And I suppose because it was good, rich soil. But this would have been during the First World War. I’m not quite sure of the date. I could look it up. I think it’s in the “HInka - boona” book. But he grew bananas and then he ran the coach from Obi Obi up to Mapleton. Then meet the tram and bring anything else that was needed back down the Obi.
AW: That’s always been a pretty bad road. What was it like in those days?
MC: Worse. (LAUGHS) See it was a man-made road, because there was no machinery in those days. It wasn’t quite where it is now either. It’s always been a bad road or a road that you had to take care on. There are lots of stories about the ones who used to go up to the Mapleton Pub, used to come back down. One chap in particular, he used to hold his whip out of the side of the buggy or the buckboard whatever he was in, and when he couldn’t touch the bank, he knew he’d gone too far over.
Going out to work
AW: When you left boarding school, you went back to Kenilworth and then what did you do?
MC: I was at home for quite a while. My brother and I were sort of running the farm. It wasn’t a profitable thing; we didn’t get paid for doing that. You sort of worked there; you got some pocket money, cash, but you didn’t get paid a wage like they do now. But we like’d it. Then Mr Doyle who had the sawmill – course a lot of his men enlisted and there was a shortage of staff – he finally persuaded Mum and Dad to let me start work in the office there. Course I was eighteen that time, but I still sort of didn’t have any say as to what I was going to do, what I’d like to do. I used to say, “Oh I’d love to do it.” But finally they decided they’d let me go. For a starter I started off doing a couple of days a week. But I used to get up in the morning and help with the milking for a start before I went into work. Then I’d come home in the evenings. I’d probably cook dinner at night then. Instead of going to milk, I’d cook dinner.
AW: What do you think finally talked them into allowing you to go to work?
MC: Oh I think Mr Doyle probably persuaded them. He desperately was in need of somebody to help out. They finally let me go.
AW: What exactly did you do in the office? Can you tell me a bit about the work you did?
MC: Well I did the typing, typing up a load of timber. You’d have to send a copy of what timber was sent on each load. Well just a secretary’s job I presume. Type any letter that had to be typed.
AW: Were there any sections of the work that you couldn’t do because you were a woman?
MC: Well, not because I was a woman. Simply because I didn’t know how. I hadn’t learnt, that was about what it was. I know there was lots of tallying up of the timber and I didn’t know anything about that. But It was always done. Then once it was done, then I could type it all out you see.
AW: Did you enjoy working there?
MC: Yes I did.
AW: How long were you there?
MC: I suppose I was there about three years.
AW: And whereabouts was that sawmill? Was that right in Kenilworth?
MC: Its right in Kenilworth, the one that’s right in Kenilworth.
AW: It’s still there. Is it still operating?
MC: Yes, more as a thinnings mill now. It used to be a hardwood timber, hardwood and pine those days.
AW: Did you notice after the War, there an influx of Europeans into the area?
MC: During the War we had Italian Prisoners of war working in the area.
AW: Did you? Were they brought here?
MC: They were brought there. The farmers had one or two, mainly two I think, because they were company for each other. Because they knew very little English.
AW: How did they get to be there? Did the farmers have to apply?
MC: I just can’t remember; I don’t know how that happened, but I presume that they applied for work, because there was a shortage of manpower.
AW: Did any of them stay?
MC: There were a lot of foreigners. More Yugoslavs, Croatians came over to Imbil area, working in the forestry. And stayed quite a lot of them stayed and settled, and are still near Kenilworth.
But the Italians? I don’t think there were many Italians that stayed, not that I know if, they stayed in the area. I think they were only there while the War was on, while they were prisoners, see. They must have been the better behaved ones. I would think that they would have been the – we called them prisoners of war but they may have been the ones that were interned because they were in Australia.
AW: Being aliens?
MC: This is right. I’m not sure of it, but thinking about it I think that might have been what it was.
AW: It seems a lot of the clubs and things held meetings to have them interned? Do you remember that sort of thing going on?
MC: Well there were none in our area particularly, so I shouldn’t think that there would have been those sorts of meetings in our area.
AW: And did you find that people worked very hard for the War effort?
MC: Well, I think they did, yes. Especially in catering for their own local boys, too. You know because there were quite a lot of them in the Army.
AW: What about your own family? Did any of your family go?
MC: No, no. My brother was…. Well I think he might have been too young, because he was four years younger than I was. And in any case he would have been an essential service. Course I didn’t know Alec in those days, but he enlisted, then he was put out because he’d had rheumatic fever. Not that’s it ever affected him, but because he’d had it, they wouldn’t accept him. I think it’s always been a sore point too.
AW: When did you meet your husband?
MC: After the War at a dance. Oh well, during the War at a dance really.
AW: And he grew up in Nambour?
MC: Yes, his mother used to live in Yandina here, before I first met him. When they were children, they used to live up at Kureelpa. And he went to school at the little Kureelpa School, or the Independent School they call it now.
AW: Well how did you meet him at a dance?
MC: He used to work on a farm down in Obi.
Courtship and marriage
AW: You were just telling me that you met your future husband at a dance, how long did you know each other before you married?
MC: I never thought about that. I suppose eighteen months, two years probably.
AW: And did you go through a courtship type of thing?
MC: Yes, he used to come down, ride down from the farm and see me at nights. We did sort of things as groups of people, you didn’t sort of pair off as much as the young ones do these days. You know, you went to a dance, you went as a group; everybody danced with everybody and it was sort of a happy family. Even though you may have been engaged or you were going with this person, you still went as a group.
AW: These dances, who were they organised by? I mean everybody talks about going to dances in those days?
MC: I haven’t thought about who organised them, but I would say that the local Hall had to have funds.
AW: There would have been like a Hall Committee?
MC: The Hall Committee or the Cricket Club or the CWA, after they were formed – they weren’t formed till 1939 I think it was – but any organisation that wanted to make money.
AW: And they’d put on some supper and things like that?
MC: Yes, oh yes.
AW: What about music? Where did the music come from?
MC: Oh we used to have a band in Kenilworth, a four piece ban, with drummer and a violinist and saxophone and a piano.
AW: Do you remember who they were?
MC: Violinist was… no I can’t think of his name, I can see him.
AW: Did they wear a sort of band uniform or just wear their own clothes?
MC: No I think in those days everybody was fairly formal. I mean you didn’t go to a ball or a dance, and dress just casually. Men wore suits and the girls wore long frocks, if it was a ball. If it was just an ordinary dance, the men still wore suits I think and you wore a short frock possibly.
AW: And how would you get there? By car?
MC: Well as I said before I often walked out from our home out to the Obi road and caught the bus in.
AW: To a dance?
MC: To a dance, yes.
AW: And what about getting home? Would there have been a bus then?
MC: No, you walked home from there with a group. I mean you didn’t walk out on your own. But when my brother learnt to drive the car, he and I used to go together, you see. So he could drive and I couldn’t. You know, we were mobile then. Before that, if you wanted to go out, we used to walk out. It was lots of fun walking. You walked in a group of about half a dozen, because there were other young people around the area.
AW: And what about trips, did you ever go away on holidays?
MC: Yes we used to go – while we had share-farmers on the farm – we used to go down to Dicky Beach at Caloundra. Well it was in between Dicky Beach and Currimundi Lake. We used to camp down there. A friend had a block of land and we used to go and probably spend the six weeks holiday there. We used to have Christmas down there.
AW: And the whole family would go?
MC: Well there was only Mum, Dad and my brother and I. There were only four of us. But lots of other people used to camp down there. And over the times we got to know people in Caloundra too. We used to have lots of fun. I can remember getting terribly sunburnt. We used to fish and swim. Weekends they’d come out and we’d play cricket on the saltpan lake. It was just a happy holiday atmosphere. Where we stayed, the person who owned the block of land – although I think it was the neighbouring block of land, because I know Dad had a block there. It was a perpetual lease or something to that effect. We had a block. But he had a little hut there and a tank on the building and we used to get water. But I can remember Dad getting water from a well out in Currimundi. And I think he said it was a black fellows well, but I presume there are houses all built over that now. When I think about it a bit, I think probably where the Fitness Camp, somewhere around there, might have been – it’s the lower flatter piece – would might have probably where we played cricket on Sundays. I know during the War they blew the little shed and the tank and everything to pieces, because it was on the artillery range, the practice range there. And that of course is where they’re pricking up all the unexploded shells and things.
AW: Did you continue to go down there for holidays during the War?
MC: No, No.
AW: What can you tell me about your wedding?
MC: It was very quiet in comparison to a lot of weddings. It was just my family and Alec’s family. His was a big family, so there was a lot of them. I was married in a street frock, because it was just at the end of the War; there was little you could buy. His younger sister was my bridesmaid and my brother was best man.
AW: You were married in Nambour?
MC: Yes, we drove into Nambour in the morning and I was dressed in Nambour. The reception was at the White Rose Café, which was somewhere around where the SEQEB is now, the shop. It was very quiet. I remember our brother in law, Alec’s brother in law, let us have his little house down at Maroochydore. We didn’t have any transport, we didn’t have a car or anything, so he drove us down there after the reception. I think we had a week down at Maroochydore. We were married the fifteenth of December, so it was only a week before Christmas. And we came back and had Christmas with Alec’s mother in Yandina here. Then we went out home and we went up onto a farm at Maryborough, this side of Maryborough, Owanyilla. We were up there about six months, maybe a bit more, and Dad wasn’t very well. So we went back and we lived in the second house, which used to be the house the share farmers lived in. And our first daughter was born there – well she was born in Eumundi.
AW: At the hospital in Eumundi?
MC: Yes, yes.
MC: Yes, my brother was born there too. So it was there for a long time. There wasn’t a doctor in Eumundi when Susan was born, or when either of the children were born. Will was born two years later round about. In the meantime, my father died. No, he died just after Will was born, I think. Then my mother died just about twelve months later, fifteen months later. So in that time after Dad died – he’d bought a property across the Obi Creek and we moved over there and were working it – and Alec and Vern always worked in closely. You know they’d want to do some ploughing and they’d both hop onto it for Vern and they’d both do it on our side of the creek too. They always got on well together. And we were living over on the Obi – I think will was about eighteen months, Susan was round about three and a half, when Mum died. Then there was seven years before Janice was born and then just under three years and then the twins arrived.
AW: You must have been busy then with all those children?
MC: When they arrived well we had a dairy farm and it was pretty hectic because we didn’t have a school bus. Prior to that I’d had to learn to drive the car so that I could take them out to meet the school but and they used to walk home in the afternoon if I didn’t get out there in time to meet them. Because we’d always insisted that they weren’t to have a ride with somebody they didn’t know. One day our local coach driver, who picked up our cream and brought our bread and groceries out, stopped and wanted to give them a ride home. No they wouldn’t get in with him, not them. They knew him, but they weren’t going to get in with anybody. But they wouldn’t get into somebody else’s vehicle.
AW: That’s good to know.
MC: It was good.
Kanakas and Aborigines at Mount Ubi
AW: Now I’d like to go back a bit, back to your grandparents’ time if I could. You told me that your grandparents had a Kanaka working on Mount Ubi Station. Can you tell me a bit about him?
MC: I don’t know anything about where he came from or anything like that. All I know that old Jacky was working on the property. He was the general rouseabout, you know, he got the wood and he helped with the milking, did the chores. He was a dear little old thing. He was about 5’2” I suppose, and all wizened up.
AW: Do you remember him?
MC: Yes, I can remember him as that, yes. He was always very good to us. We used to like to go and sit and talk to him. I don’t think he told us anything about his life or anything; he would have just talked about what he was doing, because as a child you don’t ask those sort of things. Usually say, “What you doing Jacky?”
AW: Was he on his own?
MC: Yes, he just lived there on his own. I think that they used to cook some of his meals, but I think he did for himself quite a bit.
AW: And did he remain there?
MC: yes, he died in the area, yes. I think he’s probably buried here in the garden cemetery in Nambour.
AW: And you just knew him as Jacky?
MC: Jacky Mandery. Yes. I would say he would have been one of the last Kanakas that were around.
AW: And what about Violet?
MC: Yes, Violet used to work at home. I can remember Violet working for mum. She lived with us for a while, but then I think she used to come from…. Whether she was at Mount Ubi and she used to come out and she’d do the scrubbing and the heavy work.
AW: Was she a Kabi? Would she have been a local tribeswoman or don’t you know?
MC: I don’t know about that. She was a very short and broad person, I can remember. I was old enough – I suppose it must have been after I was at boarding school – because I know I used to make her dresses. And they were more or less the full width of the 36” material, with sleeves put in them, and a neckline cut out. There was no shape in them. But she dearly loved all the bright colours, you know, she loved bright pinks and blues.
AW: I imagine she appreciated you making them.
MC: I think so, yes.
AW: Did you do it for pleasure?
MC: Well I didn’t get anything out of it, because Violet needed a new dress, you made her a new dress.
AW: Did she receive pay for working, would you know?
MC: I think so. I think she got something for working. It would have been very little. I mean it might have been five shillings. I don’t know the amount.
AW: And how long would she have been there? Can you remember when she left?
MC: I remember her leaving and going back up to Cherbourg. I would say that she possibly left while I was away at boarding school. Well I wasn’t interested I suppose to find out the details as to why she left.
AW: Did she go because she was asked to go or made to go?
MC: Well I don’t know that. I don’t really know why she left exactly.
AW: Do you remember other Aboriginals in the area?
MC: No, I don’t remember them. I can remember my mother talking about them, because there used to be a lot of them living around. I think they migrated around. She said when you had a good bunya season, the little piccaninnies would be black and shiny and fat. They’d live on the bunya nuts. And she also talked about them when they camped down on Polly’s Island. They dearly loved to play cards and they’d play cards for money or anything. And sometimes Jacky, or whoever was working on the Station there, wouldn’t get up one morning and they’d go and investigate and they’d find out that somebody had won at cards and taken all his clothes. And this sort of thing.
AW: Did they ever create any problems, that she mentioned?
MC: I think they used to have their fights, but she never ever mentioned anything about it being deadly or anything. She said they were a fun loving lot. She often talked to me about them. They used to make stilts to walk across the river, so they didn’t get their feet wet.
AW: I wonder why?
MC: I don’t know. Whether it was a fun thing, I don’t know. And she said you could hear them from up on the hill and they’d be laughing away – somebody would have fallen off their stilts in the middle of the river you see. So it might have just been a fun thing. I don’t know.
AW: Can you tell me about picnics? Did you ever go on any really memorable picnics?
MC: No, I don’t think we went on any, you know, really memorable ones. We used to go down to the Mary River and have picnics; we’d go over to Kenilworth Station, to Rowes, and we’d all have a picnic down on the river. We’d go down to Polly’s Island and have a picnic.
AW: Usually more than just the family?
MC: Oh yes, you know – I’ve got a photo of a group of us and somebody’s written on the back of it “Mary’s birthday party on Polly Island.” You know, that sort of thing. I think it was usually for some reason that you got together and had a picnic. Although you used to visit on Sunday’s, weekends, you know, you’d visit more than we ever do now.
AW: Would you make prior arrangements to visit?
MC: Well this is something I don’t know, but maybe last time you saw them, you would have said, “Oh well come over in a fortnights time,” or something to this effect. I would think. Although I can remember, we always had a telephone. My earliest memories we seemed to have a telephone. So I presume they possibly rang up and were talking and said, “Come over for afternoon tea” or “Come over for lunch on Sunday”.
AW: So you cant remember not having a telephone?
MC: Well I cant remember getting a phone, but I can remember a phone being at the house. But I don’t know we didn’t have a phone when my mother got burnt. But as I say, I really probably don’t remember that. It’s only what I remember people telling me, because I would have only been about four. But the telephone used to come from Nambour, the line, up to Mapleton and down from what we call the “Telephone Hill” to Kenilworth. And there was a Post Office there, as long as I can remember, but just when the Post Office was opened I don’t know.
AW: And can you tell me about shows, the Kenilworth Show?
MC: Oh well the Kenilworth Show wasn’t in Kenilworth, it was down at Lower Kenilworth. It was in between the Hall and what is now Pioneer Park, on the flat area there. Oh yes, that was great excitement going to the show. I cant remember the preparation of it, but I can remember going and there was lots of things. There was always I think a merry go round there, but you know it would have only been a little one. Oh yes, it was lovely to go to the Show and you sort of prepared for it, you sort of worked up for it you know. It was like school holidays, you counted the days. And it was dreadful when you got a storm in the middle of the afternoon.
AW: And would you take a picnic when you went to the Show or would you be able to get food there?
MC: I think they had sit down lunches, I’m not quite sure of that. But I can remember I used to be very envious because I know a few of the girls a bit older than me had horses and they could ride in the Show. I always had a horse, but you know our horses were work horses, they weren’t show ponies. I know I used t obe very envious of that.
AW: You would have done a lot of riding I imagine?
MC: Oh yes, you did a lot of riding. I’ve still got my mother’s side saddle riding habit too.
AW: Have you really! Did you ride side saddle or always ride astride?
MC; No I always road astride.
AW: You didn’t ever learn to ride side saddle just out of interest?
MC: NO, well ladies had learnt to ride astride by the time I’d come to that.
AW: What about your mother, she obviously road side saddle?
MC: She rode side saddle and always said she preferred to. She rode astride too, but she said she preferred to ride side saddle. I don’t know when she got her outfit, but it’s a very heavy serge and I would say that she probably had it around the 1900s, 1912, ’14, something like that. Because she went to Victoria after the war too, I think. Yes, before she was married, she had a trip down to Victoria.
AW: How would she have got down there?
MC: I think they went to Brisbane and down by boat.
AW: Where would she have got her riding habit? Would it have been made or would she have bought it in Victoria?
MC: I would think so. I would think a dressmaker would have made it in Victoria. When she rode astride at home, she just wore a divided skirt. It was usually a heavier material. But this other one is very, very heavy. You would have needed it for a colder climate, but not for Queensland climate.
AW: It was probably also a bit more formal?
MC: Oh yes, it was a tailored jacket, beautifully made.
AW: It sounds wonderful. Did she tell you anything about her trip to Victoria?
MC: Only that her cousin took her to the Melbourne Cup. They must have been well known people in Victoria.
AW: Were these Hassalls?
MC: Well family, yes, descendants. Willy Stretch was one of them. But they used to take her around. I remember reading somewhere or other that Mother used to talk about her sewing and what she did. And she went here and they went shopping or to the shops. So I think it was like having a holiday with somebody in Brisbane or something, you know, you just went around to everything that was of interest.
AW: What about shopping with your mother? Did she order things from Brisbane?
MC: I think so, yes.
AW: And have them sent up?
MC: That’s right. I can remember – must have been before we had a butcher in Kenilworth – because we used to get our meat up from Brisbane by rail. And it’d come out to Kenilworth, it’d be packed on ice. Yes, on the coach from Eumundi, out.
AW: It seems ridiculous doesn’t it, in a primary producing area to be buying your meat from Brisbane.
MC: Yes, well I remember we used to do some killing, but I can remember getting these big bags of meat up from Brisbane too.
AW: Would it have been corned meat?
MC: Well it would have been corn meat, but I think there would have been some fresh joints. Because it used to be packed in ice and it’d just come up on the train. It probably left Brisbane this morning and it was out at home that afternoon. See it would get up to Eumundi on the midday train.
AW: So when are we talking about, what years?
MC: Oh well, this would be in the ‘30s.
AW: So it could do that trip in the day then?
MC: Oh yes, yes, because they were motor vehicles that they were in.
AW: Mary, I think that’s about it. Is there anything else you’d like to say?
MC: There are probably lots of things I could say, but I can’t think of now.