Interview with: Margaret McCosker (nee Fullerton)
Date of Interview: 12 March 1985
Interviewer: Gillian Pechey
Transcriber: Colwyn Boulton
Margaret was born in 1907 in Brisbane and educated at Glasshouse State School. She married in 1934 at Glasshouse and had seven children.
Image: Glass House Mountains State School Students, 1916.
Images and documents of the Fullerton and McCosker families in the Sunshine Coast Libraries Catalogue.
Margaret McCosker oral history - part one [MP3 400KB]
Margaret McCosker oral history - part two [MP3 44MB]
Home in 1934
McCOSKER: We came home the day we were married, much to the disappointment of the residents of Glasshouse Mountains. And then when we were walking back here it was just a bush track, a bridle path with lantana on either side. I had on my good clothes, so I sat down and took off my silk stockings, they were in those days, no nylon stockings. And got home here and my husband went down to help the two men we had here.
The house wasn't finished. They were so busy. They had bought the other property down below and were so busy getting the cattle in order and making up new paddocks that they hadn't been able to finish the house. Talk about experiences. That first night was a dreadful storm, it was an old shed with rusty iron and holes in the roof and we got drenched with water in the bed. And there were great big rusty spots on the white quilt. Next morning I had to get busy and boil it up, try and get the stain off it. There was no fence to keep the cows out of the yard, no house yard fence so therefore a cow just walked right through with her dirty tail and left a big green smudge of cow manure over the quilt I'd just cleaned. So I did it again.
Anyway I was very isolated for a long time because I had no way of getting in or out of Mapleton. I did attend two C.W.A. functions I was invited to, afternoon birthday functions in on horseback and home again. Apart from a visit from my own parents I saw nobody for months on end.
GP: Did you get a fence around your yard?
McCOSKER: Oh yes I got the fence around the yard after that. And as I said, we made butter in a glass churn. And to keep the cream cool I used to put it down in the well; that kept it nice and cool down there. And I had to, fit of course, help with the cows and that sort of thing.
McCOSKER: We did have men at different periods but unfortunately they were from Brisbane from the Unemployment Service there and the poor things they weren't used to farming or anything else. Apart from that, they were used to city life, and used to going to see the pictures once a week. And one boy he says, "I miss my chocolate." He used to have chocolate once a week when he was home. You wouldn't get any chocolate here.
But they all said - everyone of those nine men – in that year, that they had never had such good meals. See we had home made bread. They always had very good meals. They sat at the table with us. And they also had clean sheets. I also washed their clothes and mended them for them because when they came here, two or three of them, they had no seat in their pants.
GP: And you had children at this stage?
McCOSKER: Yes I had three children and expecting a fourth.
GP: And you helped with the milking?
GP: Did you do all of the cooking?
McCOSKER: Did all of the cooking, washing.
GP: Did you make clothes for the family?
McCOSKER: Everything. I couldn't afford to buy clothes.
GP: Did you have your own sewing machine?
McCOSKER: Yes I had a treadle sewing machine.
GP: What did you cook?
McCOSKER: Well I'd make lots of scones for them and lots of fruitcakes for the weekend, and pikelets, and things, and biscuits. We always had biscuits for the morning teas and afternoon teas. They always had morning and afternoon teas before they started milking the cows. So they were very well fed. And generally a three course meal at night. Always made a big pot full of soup. And we always had milk puddings or tarts, but mostly milk puddings. Stewed fruit. And I made all my own jams. I had citrus jam, cape gooseberry jam, every jam you could think of. Strawberry jam. I made them all myself.
GP: And you grew the fruit?
McCOSKER: Yes, and the peaches. We grew everything ourselves. And we always had a good vegetable garden. And I've seen as many as fourteen different kinds of vegetables growing in the garden at once. So the men had plenty of greens...
Maroochy District Hospital
GP: What were your children doing at this stage?
McCOSKER: I had the eldest one on correspondence. But they were really good. But they were terrified of strangers for a long time. They were terrified, they'd run into the bush and hide under the beds.
I was rather amused, before the first boy was born, I went down to a private doctor. There was no public hospital then. It was run by the Maroochy Shire, I think, the hospital, but you never paid. The Maroochy District Hospital it was.
And we had the public and the private wards. Well the private wards were beyond me, so I went public though I had a private doctor. And the matron there at the time, she said to me, "Oh," she said, "Mrs McCosker I'm surprised at you going into a public ward," she said, "you know you'd be better in a private ward, because you might be in with a lot of coloured women." And I felt like saying, Jeannie O'Grady and the Colonel's Lady were sisters under the skin.
But as it was when I went in there, there wasn't many babies being born and I had the room to myself for three weeks. And then those two others came in and one of them was a coloured woman. She was from the South Sea Islands I think, second generation, and she was an extremely nice woman and very refined. Well of course a lot of white women had very dirty tongues and I wasn't used to that. I did say to her, I said, "Are you aware I haven't seen a woman for nine months? If I went into a private room I'd just be in a little cubicle counting the things on the wall." That just shows you what they were like.
Getting to the hospital
McCOSKER: Another time I went down, she was our third child, I went down when I was seven months pregnant and it was just before we'd got a lad through the Church of England, coming from overseas, to stay with us. It was 1939. We got up a winter morning it was cold in June, weather like this but bitterly cold, half-past two in theft morning, make a cup of tea and toast; Ted went down and got the cows, I went down and helped him milk. Come back, six o'clock, wakened up the two babies, one was fifteen months old, the other was two and a half, and prepared a breakfast. Dressed up all in our best clothes, got on the horse, just got outside the big gate there - it was a cockatoo gate then, a wire one - and the girth of the saddle broke, and we all fell on the floor, the ground. Edward said, "Mummy I'm falling, I'm slipping." And next thing we were all off. Ted was shutting the gate and he saw what was happening and came over. And the horse got me here with his hoof. So we were red mud. The little boys had on white knitted suits and socks, black patent leather shoes, a lovely set, sent from Scotland from my auntie.
So he said, "What will we do?"
"Well," I said, "we'll go on.
We had on our overcoats and they take a lot of the red mud. We can brush it off when we get down to the hospital. We got down to Mapleton and the bus was just left. We missed the bus. So there was a man came through from the Obi and he gave us a lift to the hospital.
GP: What in?
McCOSKER: In his car. Anyway we tied up the horse at Mapleton. Ted walked in. I had the horse with the two kids on it. And got down there and there was a lot of patients ahead of me. And the bus driver from Mapleton came back. He also had the mail contract. And he says, "I can't wait for you today. I've got the postal inspector on board and I have to be in Mapleton by eleven o'clock."
"Oh," I said, "you better go on we can find some way of getting home."
So I was there till about half-past two. And then Ted hailed some man who was coming through to Mapleton in his car. So we got a lift with him. So I got home here about five o'clock in the afternoon.
And there were nine cows present. Fourteen missing. You don't milk a lot of cows then because they're in calf. And I went down and milked those cows and put the children to bed Sitting here at nine o'clock at night and hear this clatter of hoofs and crack of a whip. They'd gone right down four miles away to Gheerulla. And we brought them home. Well we got to bed at quarter past eleven that night. So I said, "Getting up at half-past two in the morning and going to bed at quarter-past eleven wasn't too bad for a seven month pregnant woman." However, she was born, a great big nine and a half pound baby as healthy as could be. It just shows you, those are experiences that make
More on farm workers
McCOSKER: We had an elderly man working here. He was a bit of an alcoholic but he was a good worker. He was well into his seventies, very reliable and a good-principled man. He was a widower, he'd lost his wife and children with diphtheria at Kenilworth in 1913 I think. He went away for a couple of days having a bit of a binge and when he came back he brought this young chap about twenty or twenty-one. Later he said, "I'm going down to work at the Exhibition in Nambour."
I said, "How can you? You've got no money and no clothes."
Because we had to buy his clothes. He had an old suit on, a jacket. He had no seat in his pants either. I patched them up for him. So - bought him. a new belt, a working shirt, denims. He was here quite a while.
McCOSKER: I happened to have a piece of quartz, a very valuable piece gold quartz, in my trunk. And we were talking about gold and I knew that Mr Bell had fossicked for gold so I showed him. It was as big as that finger-nail in it. Anyway we had occasion to go down to Glasshouse Mountains and he was left in charge that day of Mr Bell. Unfortunately Mr Bell was very sick. He said to Mr. Bell, "What about getting out that piece of quartz?" He said, "You'll not put your foot inside that bedroom to get that quartz." It was in my trunk. So the next day I was feeding the children, and I heard this screaming and howling and bellowing- a big commotion down at the dairy. And here they were throwing rocks at each other, the two men. So this went on for quite a while, no cows being milked. One going up one hill and one up the other, and swearing and fighting and throwing these things. So when Ted come home I said, "There's trouble down there. They're throwing rocks. You'd better go and see what's wrong." And he'd been away for over an hour, two hours. So anyway he must have got them quietened down, and they finished milking the cows. And fortunately there weren't too many then, in August this was, so they came up. They were all pretty subdued when they came up for their breakfast. About half-past eight or nine o'clock. Ted said, "We're going over to brush the paddocks over there, clear the paddocks. Colin will stay behind and pick up our smoko and our lunch, because it was too far for the old man to walk home up the hill." So I said, "Alright." So I made up a nice lunch for them, and Colin took it away - billy can, tea, milk and sugar. And they came home at one o'clock and they said, "Didn't you send over the lunch?"
"Oh," I said, "yes," I said, "Colin took it over. He's not there?" And Mr Bell ran down to his shed and he found that Colin had got off with all his money out of his tobacco tin. So he thought, "Oh dear, I'll tell the police that." So he went into Mapleton and contacted the police. They said he had gone on the train that afternoon from Nambour. And he'd borrowed money, paid back a shilling that he'd borrowed. Stole seven pound of old Fred's money but paid back a shilling to the publican. But he'd left the clothes that we had bought him all folded up in a neat little pile way up the bush track. And the lunch was there too, and his brush hook. He must have gone up there and then sneaked along the paddock that way and then walked into Mapleton.
GP: And did he take the gold with him?
McCOSKER: No. But I should have locked that trunk. See I didn't have it locked. Then we had another poor man that came here and he only had half a foot. It was cut off right from the big toe right to the little toe.
He had joined up as a medical orderly in the World War II and he'd been at some sports function the day before they were ready to leave for overseas, and he'd been blind drunk, and the men were having a wood-chopping competition and he put his foot up just as they were chopping and they chopped through his foot. And he ought not to have been sent up here. They should have known that. He didn't arrive on the Saturday. I had his bed all nicely made. And he was very ...he had no seat in his pants either. Oh I thought you're not fit to be on a dairy farm. "Have you ever been on a dairy farm?"
He said, "No, I've never been on a dairy farm in my life."
He'd stopped at Nambour for a drink and got in playing poker.
GP: Would this have been about 1940?
McCOSKER: Yes, 1941. Anyway he didn't come. And on the next day Ted was taking the cream down on the Sunday because it was very hot weather and you take the cream down on the Sunday instead of leaving it Friday to Monday, it'd go sour. So he took it down to Coolabine and I said, "There's someone calling out." And he came up and brought this chap down. And he asked for a basin of water, and a towel and soap. And I said, "Yes - you can have that." And he took his sandshoe off. And my two little children just gave a gasp and got under the bed. It was right across there. I said, "Oh, your poor foot." He said, "Yes I only came out of the hospital last week." But he had good principles and he did do the work.
But unfortunately we had a very vicious bull and the bull got him up a tree. And Ted was in Mapleton and I heard this call, call, call, call, to come for help, right down at the bottom paddock. And I said, "You'll have to wait until Ted comes home. I couldn't go down there with three kids and chase a bull anyway." And the bull had that tree completely ringbarked.
Bringing up the children
GP: What did your children do while you were milking?
McCOSKER: They came down. The eldest one did. Yes we gave him the easy cows to milk. When he was five he could milk. And it was before the fourth one was born, I was seven months pregnant and I had forty-five cows to milk morning and night with Edward's help. And Ted he used to carry in the milk, put it in the separator, separate the milk, and take the milk to the pigs. I had to do the rest.
GP: And the children watched you and played around?
McCOSKER: We used to lock them in the dairy so they couldn't get out. They climbed around in the separator room of course there was no fear of them being caught in any of the machines or anything because we had no machines. They were fond of reading. I used to read stories to them every night.
GP: Where did you get the books from?
McCOSKER: My own books. I had Hans Anderson's "Fairy Tales" and Grimms' "Fairy Tales". Really good books. And they all grew up intelligent children.
GP: Were there any library books available in those days?
McCOSKER: No. Whatever they could get hold of they'd read. Even though Margaret was two and a half Edward was on correspondence and Malcolm was learning off Edward, and she learning off them - she could recite all the little rhymes and everything, in the correspondence books. That correspondence is really a good system, I must say that. Our son's children have all been on correspondence. Now that Sylvia you met here. She's at Sydney University doing her M.A. And she never ever went to a school. They were all doing correspondence.
GP: Did they have "Biggles" and Enid Blyton books?
McCOSKER: Oh yes they had all those. Every book you could think of. And they were walking encyclopedias.
GP: Did you have an encyclopedia?
McCOSKER: Yes, we did, a Harnsworth. And those children could talk on anything.
GP: They were thirsty for knowledge?
GP: What education did you have?
McCOSKER: Well I was born in Scotland. My father was transferred from the Highlands down to Glasgow and I had six months at a school there. And I seemed to be very quick at picking up, because I could read when I was three years of age too. And then when I came to Glasshouse Mountains - it was just a little bush school with twelve children. And we were sort of more or less self-educated.
GP: Did you ever study languages yourself?
GP: Would you have liked to have?
McCOSKER: Oh I wouldn't have minded doing something like that myself. I was interested in nursing. On my eighteenth birthday my first sister-in-law died and left a baby. So my mother had seven sons. All the boys were home, so I couldn't very well leave her. So I practically reared that boy.
Contact with the outside world
GP: Did you have a radio?
McCOSKER: No. Not until we came back here later, in 1956.
GP: Did you get a newspaper?
McCOSKER: We used to get a newspaper every Saturday and I wouldn't go to bed until I'd read it.
GP: What paper was it?
McCOSKER: The "Courier Mail". Or the "Courier".
GP: Did you ever get "The Nambour Chronicle"?
McCOSKER: Not very often.
GP: So that was your only contact with what was happening in the outside world?
McCOSKER: Yes. Well we didn't have a phone.
GP: Did you have any music in your house?
McCOSKER: Yes. We had an Edison Phonograph. The old cylinder ones, with a big horn and a diamond needle you had to keep changing all of the time. And we had ninety-five classical records and the kids; loved them. It was wonderful.
GP: When did you get that?
McCOSKER: Well my mother gave it to me when we left Glasshouse, because we had no music here. So we had that and we used to play it a lot.
GP: So your children grew up with music?
McCOSKER: Yes. They were aware of music, yes good music. So we had that for eight years when we were here and then when we moved to Glasshouse we had a couple of nephews visiting us, and one kicked it off the stand onto the floor and broke some part so it couldn't be repaired. I was sorry about that. There were bands and musical instruments, instrumental pieces. And Strauss and Peter Dawson and all those. I still regret that.
GP: When did you get a radio?
McCOSKER: 1956. We had that for the Olympic Games at Melbourne.
GP: Tell me about your involvement with the C.W.A.?
McCOSKER: Most of the C.W.A.'s closed down over the war years because they had to use their energies for other things. So I joined up in 1948. I was Vice President, down there. And then we came back in 1954 and I joined the Mapleton Branch. It had gone down quite a lot, so, they made me the President and we had thirty-five members.
GP: What did the C.W.A. do?
McCOSKER: Well the C.W.A. was to help women and children in the country. They had seaside cottages for people from the far west. They also got concessions on the railways, and the mothers and children would come and have a holiday at the seaside. Nearly every division had a seaside cottage. They were rented out at a minimum charge.
GP: And they were supported by the C.W.A. raising money?
GP: Did the Government give any support?
McCOSKER: Only in connection with these concessions on the railways. They did give a subsidy on the Housekeeper Scheme. I was Treasurer of the Emergency Housekeeper Scheme for Nambour for three years. They brought in a rule that you could only be an office bearer for three years and then someone else took your place. But previous to that I was seven years Cookery Convenor. They used to have stalls every year and a big contest, and all the money they raised went to the State Conference. We had Branch Level, Divisional Level, and then we went to the State Conference. It was sponsored by the Queensland Country Life, the Australian Dairy Board, and the Gas Companies. Well the money we raised for that went to the Teachers Training Hostel in Brisbane, we practically paid it off, as well as Ruth Fairfax House.
Emergency Housekeeper Scheme
GP: What did being Treasurer of the Emergency Housekeeper Scheme involve?
McCOSKER: Oh, bookkeeping. And it had to be audited at the end of the year. I had to write out the cheques for the housekeepers. The housekeepers started off on award wages at the first. Eventually it increased.
GP: What did these housekeepers do?
McCOSKER: Well when a mother was ill, or having a baby or an operation they'd send out a housekeeper to look after the family. She acted as a surrogate mother to the children.
GP: Who paid her wages?
McCOSKER: Well the Division paid so much and the Government gave a subsidy. For every pound they paid we paid a pound. They could keep them for at least three weeks. And if they required longer they could extend the time. It was a very useful thing.
GP: Did the family have to pay anything?
McCOSKER: The family had to pay what they could, and if they couldn't pay nobody knew about it. It was kept private.
GP: You were looking after this region?
McCOSKER: Yes this Division. It had twenty-eight branches at the time.
GP: What sort of people took those positions?
McCOSKER: Well mostly middle-aged women - reliable people. They had to be reliable. Mostly widows and they'd have experience with children. It was an organization to help anyone that was in trouble. The Emergency Housekeepers Scheme is still going. It was a marvellous thing, as good a project as the Hostel for students. And then they had arts and crafts as well. Hat making and crocheting and anything at all in the craft line. People made lots of lovely things.
GP: Speaking of washing, changing the subject a bit, you've never had electricity, so you've never had a washing machine?
McCOSKER: No. No I have a gas copper. See that big white copper there, and a hot water system.
GP: So you've got big gas bottles?
McCOSKER: Yes the cylinders out there at the tank. And it's very reasonable too.
GP: You'd have had pressure lamps before that?
McCOSKER: Yes we had the pressure lamps and aladdin lamps and pressure irons. Oh they're horrid things to work. Now I have two of them here, I'll just let you feel the weight of them...
GP: Were there any other groups in Mapleton that you were a member of?
McCOSKER: Well I was connected with the C.W.A. and a Dramatic Group. It was really good. We had quite a number in it. The school teachers were in it too. And we had sketches and plays, and songs. It'd last from eight o'clock till midnight They were really good. And one of our teachers she made big murals for a back drop on the stage. It was "Just a Little Street Where Old Friends Meet". The money we raised from that went to charity.
GP: Were there children and adults in that group?
McCOSKER: No. Only adults. It went for five or six years. Then people left the district. It was up to 1961. We also raised money for charities. There was one man killed at the sawmill and left a wife and seven little children. We were asked to show at Montville, at Palmwoods, at Eumundi, and all that money went to his family. And of course there was the Progress Association, I was involved in that for quite a long time.