Interview with: William (Bill) Fullerton
Date of interview: 17 August 1987
Interviewer: Susan Brinnand
Image: Fullerton and Burgess family members at Glass House Mountains Lookout 589, ca 1940.
Images and documents about Bill Fullerton in the Sunshine Coast Libraries Catalogue.
Robert Fullerton was born at Upper Toucks farm, Dunnottar Parish, Kincardineshire, Scotland on October 24, 1869. He was two years old when the lease on Upper Toucks farm expired his parents rented Braehead Farm which was a part of the Dunnottar estate near Stonehaven. Braehead supplied milk, cream and homemade cheese to the Stonehaven townsfolk. Tragedy struck the Fullerton family during these times with many family members dying from illness including Diphtheria. Robert Fullerton’s mother died when he was aged 7.
Robert Fullerton married Isabella Smith on 14 March, 1893 and that time he was working for the North British Railways in Scotland. Realising there was no future for his family in Scotland and he himself with ill health due to the climate enquiries were made about migrating to ‘Sunny Queensland’, Australia. He had seen posters of Queensland depicting a warm fertile land where farming produced great results.
William ‘Bill’ Fullerton was born on 29 December, 1909 in Glasgow. He was Robert and Isabella’s eighth child. When the family migrated with their children to Australia they left a bleak wintery Scotland behind them. They sailed from Tilbury Docks on the TSS Orvieto on 17 February, 1911. The boat trip was the first real holiday this hard working family had ever known. William ‘Bill’ aged 14 months developed measles 10 days after sailing so he and his mother were placed in isolation in the hospital quarters where Mrs Fullerton encountered first class treatment.
The Orvieto reached Freemantle in the warmth of March in the new country. The ship continued on to Sydney then Brisbane where the family disembarked at Pinkenba on April 3, 1911. They were transferred onto the little ship Boko which steamed up the Brisbane River to the immigration home at Kangaroo Point. Once there the family encountered offers of work and had no difficulty with help. Young William ‘Bill’ was accidently scalded during this time and spent a week in the Brisbane Children’s Hospital.
The Fullerton’s moved to a small farm at Wellington Point and remained there growing vegetables and fruit for three years. The ninth Fullerton child Allister was born here. The Wellington Point farm was profitable but Robert Fullerton felt he needed a larger portion of land for farming.
A 160 acre (65 ha) property near Beerwah Mountain was purchased by Robert Fullerton in 1913. In a government ballot opening more land for selection Fullerton acquired Portion 14V 4 kilometres from Glass House Mountains on the eastern side of the Old Gympie Road. The family arrived at Glass House Mountains on 3 June, 1914. The older boys and their father followed a few hours later on a goods train with their stock which comprised of an old horse ‘Dick’, two cows and a calf, a cat and her kittens. Delighted at the beauty of the region Mrs Fullerton named their selection ‘Dunnottar’ as the mountain reminded her of the country they had left behind.
Hard working Robert Fullerton cleared 2 acres of standing timber but when ready to plough poor old Dick the horse died. He set to work and dug the soil by hand with shovel and spades. Shortly after this he planted his first pineapple crop. This crop was to sweep a new era of prosperity into the district. The industrious Fullerton family planted citrus, small crops including strawberries and Rosellas.
Since those early days the Fullerton families have produced and established large scale pineapple and citrus farms throughout the Glass House Mountains district. They have helped shape policies on quota deliveries of pineapples and are a powerful force in the overall enterprise including connectivity to the Golden Circle cannery.
TH: This is Tapu Hartogh for the Landsborough Shire Local History Project, interviewing Mr Bill Fullerton at his residence in the Glass House Mountains on the 17th of August 1987
I would like to ask you some questions first of all about your family background. I’d like to know when you were born and where you were born.
WF: I was born on the 29th of December in 1909 in Glasgow, Scotland.
TH: Can you tell me something about your family background, about your parents and when you came to Australia after you were born? You were born in Scotland, right? Can you tell me something about your family then, your parents?
WF: Well my father worked at about that time he was working in North British Railways in Scotland but he had been for many years farming on property of Greyhead, just near Stonehaven that’s on the east coast of Scotland.
For generations the farms had been in Fullerton’s’ hands - my Grandfather owned that property. Dad decided that he’d have to migrate, first of all he went to America and my mother went with him there.
There was no children in the family then and she didn’t like it and she came back to give birth to Charlie in Scotland. Then very shortly after dad sold out there and came here; he didn’t like it very much. He was interested in migrating because he saw no future in Scotland for his family - none whatever. He was very impressed with a photograph of a man carrying a huge bunch of bananas and that was one of the Lindsay’s. Today a descendant of the Lindsay family is married to my son, Barry. That photograph would’ve been taken in Buderim.
Migration to Australia
TH: So and your parents and eight children?
WF: There were seven children.
TH: I mean seven children, migrated to Australia. When was this?
WF: In 1911.
TH: You were two years old.
WF: I wouldn’t be quite two years old and on that carpet I was certainly about the second of the fifTH: I wouldn’t be two years old until December 1909, so I would be about 18 months old.
TH: 18 months old - you were just a baby.
WF: I’d developed measles on the way out so my mother and I were quarantined in the ship, the whole of the journey.
TH: First class I heard.
WF: Yes, quarantined. Then father he worked a bit on the railway. I don’t know if he owned the property or leased the property at Wellington Point that was down towards Cleveland on what used to be a railway line running down to Cleveland. So they grew crops there and eventually saw land that was open for selection up here. He got interested and bought a piece of property right out near Beerwah Mountain. He bought that property out there and then realised that he was so far from school. The family would have to cross swollen creeks to get to the school so he then farmed this other piece of land which was known as 14, Portion 14B. He applied for it and got that selection which is the old home that we passed, that I took you to visit.
TH: Right and that’s the home - and that’s the Portion that he called Dunnottar.
WF: Dunnottar, yes
TH: Beautiful place
WF: Yes, it was delightful but the point is that it was heavily timbered, there was no area cleared at all. He had to clear all that land and quite unused to these heavy timbers. They were really new chums in it. Dad would never have used a crosscut saw in his life. But he couldn’t have used all of the digging implements, so firstly the land that he developed on that property, he would have dug it up with a spade.
TH: It must have been very hard work because I have just seen the property, it’s just beautiful, surrounded by the mountains.
Settling at Glass House Mountains
WF: He dug them up and then the interesting thing is the horse that he had got he died. Then my mother had a penny insurance policy that developed and matured at least, and she got the money from that and bought another horse.
TH: When, did your father and mother move to this area the Glass House Mountains?
WF: 1914. That’s when he moved up here and lived here, he’d bought the land before that, selected. They had to build a house and he got local man Mr Johnson to help build it and my brother Jim would have helped him. Jim was just out of school but Bob would have been working and Hector would have been working. Jim came up with him and lived up here and they built the little house.
TH: Did he have to buy the wood and the timber that he used in the house?
WF: Yes, but he got it from the Beerwah sawmill. The timber would’ve all come from the Beerwah sawmill. There was a man here a Mr Johnson who had a property out there where he was growing citrus and that property is now owned by Mr George Schultz. Mr Johnson was, a bush carpenter I suppose that is what you would call him and so he helped to build the house.
That house I suppose they ran out of money because they had split slabs and built the kitchen. It had slab walls to it and a little open veranda and that was an amazing place because people came every weekend to see them there. There was an enormous attendance of friends who came every weekend to that home.
TH: Why did they come - just for social life?
WF: Social, well, there was no TV and there was nothing else so thinking that, people did visit each other in those days. Then when the Beerburrum Soldier Settlement came down and there was half a dozen around there. There could be someone there every night. But when the new house was built. They were always promising that they would build a new house like Dad and Dave on our selection. The new house eventually did come in 1928. It was a house designed by the company that was Brown & Broads. They had them all ready to erect homes, so it all had first class timber in that house. In the main bedroom, in the lounge the lining that they cut out of hoop pine specified there shall not be a knot in the timber. Beautiful, smooth timber and with wide spacious verandas. Now my brother Bob, built a table, it had to be built in the room because he couldn’t get it in and I’ve seen up to twenty people having a meal there on a Sunday night.
TH: Really? These people that came to socialise did they play games?
WF: No, no, no, they just talked. They just talked and we kids would listen intently to them talking and some of these men had travelled the world you see. They had been soldier settlers and had been at the war. Some of them had been in the navy and you’d listen intently to their stories and see if they repeated it exactly the same the next time.
TH: Which means that it was your father that had to listen and talk with them.
WF: My father and mother yes and these men would come, particularly at the Soldier Settlement time. Some of them would get out an envelope, an old envelope and a piece of pencil and they’d work out if you got a penny a pineapple or something, how much money you could make out of an acre of pineapples. They would work these out on the back of envelopes, yes they did but they were all hard working people, very hard working.
TH: Was your father spiritual?
WF: My father was an elder of the Presbyterian Church at Wellington Point -
TH: Before you came to Glass House Mountains.
WF: Yes, and my mother was a very Christian woman, she didn’t preach Christianity. She just practised Christianity.
TH: That’s wonderful. Were you brought up in a very Christian home environment?
WF: No. We would have been sent to Sunday school reluctantly. So to get to Sunday School for about two miles walk, we would’ve walked five or six miles out through the bush to catch a horse, make it easier to get down to the Sunday School.
TH: And you had to walk?
WF: We all walked to school, there’s no other way to get to school.
TH: No, I mean to church.
WF: Oh, yes.
TH: In your nice clean church clothes.
WF: Oh, yes, we walked to school. My mother, if there was a church service my mother would have walked every time. We had a next door neighbour, Mrs Murphy, she’d come out as a war bride in 1918 and she always walked down. She went to church and she walked down you see the church would’ve been held in the School of Arts. At that time before there was a church built across there near the Post Office. Where we had the funeral service for Mrs Ferris.
TH: Your father’s occupation was farming.
WF: Farming and mother was just a housewife.
Schooling at Glass House Mountains
TH: She had been a domestic in various places and my uncle on my mother’s side was one of those who had advocated free schooling in Scotland, by the name of Hunter. We find the name Hunter comes up in the Fullerton names there. So he obviously was an educated man and advocated free schooling.
TH: About your early childhood Bill what are your earliest memories of childhood here in Glass House Mountains?
WF: We had an awful lot of fun, we climbed the mountains at nearly every weekend, we would’ve gone swimming in a, a big waterhole on the creek.
TH: You and friends or family?
WF: Family, brothers, sometimes friends but there wasn’t too many close handy. We would mix with some of them and just wonder about the bush. It was a great life and it hardened you up. We would have played games, played cricket or something like that with an old piece of board or something.
TH: I guess with a smaller community it must have been easier to make friends, everybody knew everybody.
WF: Oh well, you would make associates. You know the definition of friends is open to question. There would be acquaintances and associates - you’d associate with them and you knew them perfectly well because you knew their background. You know there’s nothing concealed, you couldn’t conceal anything living in the country in those days…no way.
TH: How old were you when you went to school?
WF: About five, 1914, about 1915 I think.
TH: 1915 you went to school?
WF: Yes. I think my brother Alistair went to school, younger than that to try and keep up the attendance at the school.
TH: Yes I understand that you were rewarded after seven years of schooling without missing one day.
WF: That’s right. Both Alistair and I had attained that record. Seven years without missing a day.
TH: Never got sick once.
WF: No. I was just speaking to someone the other day about the pneumonic influenza epidemic that come through here. It swept through Australia in 1919, with the return of the WWI soldiers. It swept up on us a big death (roll) from that. I never ever got it.
TH: So it was bad but you were very fortunate.
WF: Oh yes, I was very fortunate other members of the family got it and you know, there wasn’t much that you could do about it. They just had to be in bed and you had to attend to them so I was very fortunate not to get that.
TH: I guess there wasn’t much medicine.
WF: No, there wasn’t any doctor this side of Brisbane - correction there could have been one in Caboolture. There was no hospitals.
TH: You had to go all the way to Brisbane.
WF: See my dad at one time, he got pleurisy and he was very sick and spent quite a few weeks in hospital and left this burden on my mother. She had no money and dad went out and worked while he was trying to farm. He went out and worked you know to get some money. Today they call it cash flow don’t they? They call it cash flow but all you were looking for was money.
TH: What was it called in those days?
WF: Well it was to get some money to buy food, that’s all it would be. He would have gone clearing land for a man, Mr Wendt, and that property was on the Old Gympie Road, and he would have helped clear that property. It is now farmed by the (Veer) family but he would have cleared land for him.
TH: Do you remember your first teacher?
WF: Yes, she was a Mrs Hemstock. Her husband went to war and got killed so she left and went back to England and the family of Hemstock’s one son is still in this district. He went to school with me that would be his aunty that taught me in those early days.
WF: But I would have had a short time with Mrs Hemstock. Miss Bygrave who eventually became Mrs Harold Gowen of the Gowen family at Landsborough and in Glass House was there. Then Mr Shapcott came, a young teacher, very young man he was. His people were from Ipswich. He came here and he was here for quite a number of years, a very strict disciplinarian. One who was very keen to develop sport and so we had to help. He tried hard to get an area cleared at the school so we could play sport. There wasn’t any place to play.
TH: What sort of sport would you have played at school then?
WF: We would’ve played cricket and we would’ve played football like soccer.
TH: What would the girls play?
WF: Skipping and hopscotch.
TH: Did they have proper ropes for skipping?
WF: Yes. The Education Department would supply you with those things. Yes and skipping and hopscotch they were very proficient at those type of games. You don’t see anybody skipping today or very little of it you know.
TH: Did you have marbles then? Did you play with marbles?
WF: Oh yes, marbles. I was never any good at marbles but some other chaps were exceedingly good. So you weren’t very keen to play for keeps though. The other thing is of course at that school under Mr Shapcott’s guidance and the children - we just got spades and hoes and everything and we built that tennis court.
TH: You did?
WF: Yes. And I won the first singles championship there.
TH: What did you use for the surface of the tennis court?
WF: Just chipped it and padded it down hard. Yes, it was just dirt but it was a hard surface and I played tennis. As I say Mr Shapcott was very keen to play sport and if it was a winter’s morning and all the children were at school, he would make us play a game of bedlam. You’ve got half of them all lined up this end and half of them are fifty yards apart. We would run and try and catch each other; you had to run and get warm before you went into school.
TH: Did you play flag racing and things like that?
WF: There would’ve been races at the annual breaking up picnic we would have had school breaking up. We would have had races and high jumps and broad jumps, and everything.
TH: Where would you have your picnic?
WF: At school. We had no outbuilding. There was only this little school house you could get underneath it, it was about four feet off the ground. There was nothing, ah, no other building outside so we would’ve built ah, with forked sticks and cross things on it a little bush humpy and every year before the breaking up we would go out and the boys would bring axes there and cut the bushes and drag them in a put a roof on it and have the bushes up the walls.
TH: What was your oldest, student, do you remember?
WF: He’d only be fourteen they left school at fourteen.
TH: Start schooling at the age of five. And what level would that be at the age of fourteen?
WF: Not particularly high, you might have got into fifth grade but you can’t take any notice of grades if you’re comparing them with today because they’re totally different.
When I went to school, in the prep class there was three of us. We started for one year. It was two of the old families including the Burgess family.
TH: Did you make good friends at school? You know your own peer group?
WF: Oh, you would be all friends at school because there was only less than twenty of you. You would fight with some of them. Some of them would snarl at you and you would tease others and go pick on them. Yes, as you got up in your grades you would then have to become a type of pupil-teacher in helping with the younger ones.
TH: You became the assistant.
WF: No they called them pupil-teachers, you’d teach the preps and all that. There was a lot of self-help in the school. We would have been deprived of going onto the higher levels because the teacher just didn’t have the time to teach classes. You see and in those days you had to sit the scholarship. You would have very little chance of passing the scholarship here because he couldn’t coach you sufficiently. You had to go away to Brisbane to sit for a scholarship and of course it was all so very foreign.
TH: Would that scholarship qualify you for university entrance?
WF: No, not for university, for a higher school, yes. Then you’d have to go from there into university. The other game that was played a lot at our school, would have been rounders. That is very similar to baseball. You know you have a base and you hit the ball and then you run to various points. As I say with baseball they make a big song of it, it was just rounders to me, it’s just exactly the same.
WF: Yes well, Americans used the word baseball but it was just rounders; a very good game because there are so many critically involved in it. But he, Mr Shapcott, made - insisted that everybody play sport even the girls. They had to play something, not to stand around in groups talking, he wouldn’t tolerate that for a minute. As I say he was a strict disciplinarian.
TH: What did you do before you went to school in the morning and after school?
WF: Kill time getting there.
TH: An hour to walk to school?
WF: Walking, walking down, yes.
TH: And what would you do coming home, I mean after you got home?
WF: What would we do coming home? We got a piece of newspaper and go down in the swamp and get some scent of a bottle-brush and roll it out and make a cigarette and smoke it.
TH: Really? You’re kidding.
WF: No I’m not, no. But it, it was horrible you wouldn’t get much in it. And of course on the way home you were expected to pick up the milking cows and look for them and take them home. Then afterwards, there was quite a number of them that rode horses to school and Mr Shapcott he designed a beautiful garden at our school. He designed it and then you were allotted about two, three pupils to each bed that you had to look after. It was a magnificent garden but the next teacher to come just allowed to go into disrepute and we just used it as a playground.
TH: What did you plant?
WF: All types of flowers.
TH: What about vegetables?
WF: Oh, there may have been a little bit of vegetables, yes. And we had to - the boys every Friday had to go out and collect the horse manure for the garden. There was plenty of horse manure from the horses there and then, there were the land. The area of the school grounds was not all cleared so we had a bit of a fence around to keep the horses in so they wouldn’t be encroaching on school property.
TH: Walk straight into your classroom.
WF: We only had one little tank for catching rain water. When it was dry we had to walk down to the creek and pick up the buckets of water and take back for use in the school.
TH: You mean for drinking?
TH: You drank creek water?
WF: Yes. I’m about to say, people would be horrified at it. How do you think all of the men out in the bush felling timber got on? Where did they get their water from? They got it out of water holes in the creek and never one got sick. No-one ever got sick from it - fill up the water bags out of the creek. When we first were out working at farms at Beerwah, you may take your bag a water bag of water from home. But when that went out you had to go and refill it out of a creek and nobody worried about it.
TH: Even if it was coloured mud - you know – brown.
WF: It would only be brown looking because of the leaves and that in the creeks.
TH: But you still drank it?
WF: You still drank it, if you are thirsty you will drink it.
TH: Yes that’s true.
WF: Can we break in a little story on this?
And the properties out here the Withers brothers Martin and Darby Wither. I didn’t know them but you hear the stories. They argued and they quarrelled a lot when they were developing this property. And so one day they were working there and they both were reluctant to go and get the water, their billy had run dry. Eventually one fellow couldn’t tolerate thirstiness any more so he went down to the creek. He came back with a billy of water and just left it at his feet and started filling his pipe and his brother came up and was just bending down to pick up the billy of water and the other chap kicked it. He said,’ go and get your own bloody water’. I laughed you could picture that.
Glass House Mountains in the early years
TH: What about your early memories of the area itself, you know the kind of roads you had?
WF: We didn’t have any roads, we had tracks. Wherever the timber went with somebody with the bullocks. What we call bullock tracks and they just wound out through the trees. They just chopped down the trees that were easy to get past and probably there would be a sharp angle around a big tree that was too difficult to fall and so your tracks bent and twisted everywhere.
TH: So there were tracks everywhere?
WF: There tracks everywhere as the bullockies may have got bogged or got too sandy. They would move to another place and so the roads changed a lot. But not the main ones. I think I told you one time before when we were speaking that when I was going to school the main road from coming in from the west up the creek at the Old Gympie Road, the bullock teams went straight behind the school about twenty feet out from the back of the school.
The teacher would lean out and speak to them. Then eventually the school ground was fenced and that put an end to that. We were starting to see the changes that were taking place there. So then the grounds - the school committee would agree and they would have working bees and fell more timber and open up and to try and get a field big enough for football and cricket. So all these little things developed. And it would be many years before one of the later teachers who was very keen on gymnastics, he got a gymnasium built.
TH: When was this?
WF: This would’ve been long after I left school, long after it.
TH: In the 1920s
WF: In the late 1920s they had a very fine gymnasium there, in that building that is still there. But not the gymnasium equipment, you see it depends entirely as to the vocation or the interest of the teacher as to what he’s going to bring into the school you see.
Now Mr Shapcott he was keen but he had parallel bars of his own so he built a frame at the school for us to use. Mr Shapcott could hang head down you see and let go of the rope and land on his feet. So one boy reckoned that was so easy to do he done that but he went straight down on his head.
TH: On his head.
WF: And one of the other amusing things that our school had was, we had big trees all around and there was a koala bear that used to get down. When we were in school he’d get down and wander around.
Contact with local Indigenous people
TH: What about you boys, did you used to climb the trees or were you not allowed to?
WF Oh you would climb but these trees were too big to climb straight barrelled trees. But one WF thing that we used to get and find a great deal of interest was walking through the bush WF and finding the trees where the natives had cut out honey nests out of them.
TH: You mean the Aborigines?
WF: Aborigines had gone up the tree and cut track - foot, toe-holds in each side and you could see them, and these were very prominent at one time.
TH: So there were Aborigines living here at your time.
WF: Before 1940. They would have wandered all of this country, you see they could go down to the coast there and get all the seafood that they wanted - oysters and all types of shellfish and fish. Then they would come here and this country would have had plenty of emus and kangaroos.
TH: Do you know of an Aboriginal camp around here?
WF: I was just yesterday I was one - on one of the bora rings, you know the old sacred bora rings that’s kept in very good condition down here.
TH: That’s where they would have their Corroboree?
WF: Yes, ceremonies, yes ceremonies and it’s all raised up, we were discussing it yesterday, shaped like a saucer. How did they form a circle of raised dirt around it? They had no tools.
Whether they had any one of the men who has a property that is close to it we were there yesterday said, ‘one of the amazing things, while it’s got a big dish in it you might after it rained like this you might see a little bit of water here but never does it hold water’.
You know it’s rather remarkable that you know? You would think that in the wet season there’d be a pond of water but he says it’s never a pond of water.
Swagmen walking the Old Gympie Road
TH: You just saw some of the things that the Aborigines did but there were no Aborigines living around here. I understand you had swagmen?
WF: Yes, swagmen along the Old Gympie Road you see, that’s where they walked those days. And they walked from Brisbane to Gympie.
TH: How did you feel about swagmen?
WF: Frightened of them. As kids we would have been frightened but there was nothing wrong.
TH: Why, why would you be frightened?
WF: Well, because you’re always frightened of a stranger and they would be a little unkempt you know they had long big beards.
TH: Did your parents tell you, ‘don’t go near them?’
WF: Oh no, there was worse danger than that in the bush just going through the bush any old time. No the genuine swagman was just a fine man. Actually there was some of them that were just, loafers but other men were ‘humping the bluey’ it was called in those days, just to go and get work some of them.
TH: So they were mainly looking for jobs?
WF: Oh yes, they were looking for jobs and they’d stop at Grigors and they’d get some food there. Then they’d get some at Coochin and then further on to Landsborough and maybe have to do a little bit - a day’s work at these places - brushing down the undergrowth to get some food you see and possibly a few shillings to live on. None of the swagmen they were not a threat. There would have been some who - wherever you’ve got men there’s going to be some of them that are not good but mainly they would be quite good men and there was no danger in molesting women in those days. Oh my goodness me, girls would have walked three or four miles unescorted through the bush. No one would take any, no-one would believe that it could happen.
TH: So different from today.
WF: Oh they’d, look they have got to drive them all here to school today because of this and it’s so exposed. Those days they would be on a lonely bush road. My sister Ellie and others, they used to go a back road up through there. It was just bush all the way you know and they’d think nothing of it. And I’ve seen girls in my younger adolescent days they would ride horses from way out at Peachester. They would just ride through there even at night time and think nothing of it, unescorted.
TH: Today they all have to be escorted.
WF: Oh yes. It is regrettable, it’s one of the things that one regrets that the safety of the women folk, girls, young girls and that is not as it used to be. I must mention this, one of the other strange things too was, that if a man was working at felling timber and he would have his axe and his maul and his wedges and a crosscut saw. He would never carry them back to camp. He would just leave them there and they’d never be stolen.
TH: Oh really, for the next day -
WF: Never be stolen. Again there may be some exceptions but I know when we were clearing land at Beerwah all your tools over the weekend you just left them in a snake hole or something just close by. Fully exposed anybody could come along and get them but they wouldn’t want to do that. There wasn’t that kind of thing happening. That would be quite unacceptable to anybody, stealing a man’s tools.
Early Glass House Mountains and road development
TH: What about the road here, the main road here in Glass House Mountains, do you remember when it was built?
WF: What you mean the bitumen road now?
TH: No, when it was just a dirt road.
WF: First of all, all roads, a road link like that doesn’t become a road until it’s surveyed.
TH: Do you remember when it was surveyed?
WF: They would have surveyed as soon as people first started selecting this land. So it was surveyed right along there. You would have noticed it when you drove up here it’s on the crest of that hill isn’t it? It slopes down either side so the surveyor’s would make certain that it’s on the crest of a hill.
And so there would be no formation they’d just survey it, same as they surveyed off the reserve for the school, the reserve for the School of Arts, the reserve for the sports ground. They surveyed them off but that’s how far they went until somebody had to go in and develop it.
TH: Do you know who developed it?
WF: Developed what?
TH: The road and these blocks.
WF: Oh no. The council would have eventually prepared the road here.
TH: Right, do you know when it was laid with bitumen?
WF: Oh gosh, it wasn’t that long ago, be back in the 1960’s. That’s not very long for bitumen and it was formed up, it would have been dirt first. They did the dirt first and that would have been a bastard. You see things changed after motor vehicles came into the district, you see there was a difference between the horse drawn vehicles and the motor vehicles.
TH: When did the motor vehicles come into this area?
WF: Well the first motor car in this district would have been here about 1914 - 1915, a fellow by the name of Mr (Ben) had an old Model T Ford; big deal. We bought our first truck in 1928. We have still got it.
TH: That truck? 1928 and it’s still running?
TH: What is the model?
WF: It was an Overland (Crossley).
TH: My goodness, where is it now? That’s an antique.
WF: Yes, well it’s not an antique. What do you call the other ones? There’s a difference there, it’s not an antique.
TH: I don’t know much about motor cars.
WF: Well it was a 13 cwt truck and so we had to carry chains to put on the back tyres, wherever you went you always had this bag full of chains if you got too slippery, or boggy you put the chains on and they would pull you out of a bog.
Yes, you’d put them on and then you started trying to make the roads a little better but it was not always so. You kept persevering with these vehicles and so the roads greatly improved and improved. Then it wouldn’t have been until after World War Two. They would start to see a few trucks carting timber, not very much because there wasn’t any good roads here for them you see.
Interesting thing here the development of this property away out at Beerwah Mountain where you’ll hear the name McCosker mentioned. They had a property out there and so he introduced a vehicle, a very revolutionary vehicle. It was known as the (Lyn/Lin) tractor, it had caterpillar wheels, caterpillar tracks instead of wheels. It was a kind of a tractor, big tractor with a platform body on it, it was a bit too much ahead of its time.
TH: When did it come when did he do that?
WF: That would have been some time in the late 1920’s. He persevered with that but it wasn’t altogether satisfactory. And then Stuart Brothers who are well known in the milling industry in Queensland, they went out and built a sawmill at McCoskers. They put up barracks for the workmen. It was magnificent standard of timber there and so they used a big old traction tractor.
Timber Industry in the early Glass House Mountains 1920s
TH: What kind of timber was milled?
WH. Hardwood timber and Beech and softwoods. You see you’ve got Tallow wood and Blackbutt and stringy bark and that is hard wood timbers and these are enormous like that one I showed you when I saw you yesterday. Well (Willies) own 640 acres of it, one square mile of land out there to the north of Beerwah Mountain and so they would go and cut the timber out of this paddock themselves you see, select it. And one huge red stringy tree they got three logs out for the three bullock teams out of the one tree.
Yes it was enormous, I remember seeing that coming down it was very big all over sixty feet tall. They had bullock teams and so they shifted the big timber and they kept it in a convoy. So if one got bogged they just put two bullock teams on it and pulled that wagon out and they would bring the other up. Of course they always had their block and tackles to get out of troubles. But it was always an interesting thing to watch these men loading the log, putting up their skids, you know to get the log parallel with the wagon. They’d put up the skids as they called it up to the body of the wagon, was only two bolsters at the front, at the back wheels and the front wheels you see, and then they’d put up two men at the side to stop the log from rolling over. Then they’d put a - from the wagon they’d go out underneath here with a chain then come right back over there and then the bullocks would go and that just cantilevered the log right onto the wagon - simple.
But they had to be very careful, you see them making certain they had it in the right way if it was a very big end and a narrow top you had to put it more towards the big end, the chain, so you wouldn’t get the log swinging around like that. So it was always an interesting thing and watching these men snigging the log, logs out of the bush. They would cut a track they would make a slide.
WF: Get a tree that could give them a big wide fork you see, so they would shape it down with their axes. Then they would have a spike, a hook in front of it where they’d put their chains onto it and draw the log onto this and so then the log was not burying into the ground, it was being pulled it’s on, the slide was curved and the snout upwards - get me?
TH: Right, yes.
WF: So it was a lot easier for the timbers to pull it out.
TH: They certainly had ideas in those days.
WF: Oh yes, they knew what to do. Yes and they’d use the dog spikes if they needed to. They would drive it into the log and put the chain onto it, in fact that’s all they would do to pull it along. They had developed a lot of techniques in coming down those rough ranges they had to screw on the brakes on four wheels to keep it. You know the bullocks couldn’t hold it back so they had to see it didn’t run down on top of the bullocks, if they were careless it would. I, will just digress for a minute, you know Eric Jolliffe that writes Saltbush Bill?
TH: Which one?
WF: Jolliffe, he writes, he’s a cartoonist known as Saltbush Bill and he has an offsider and he said, ‘We’ve either got to get better brakes or faster bullocks.’ The wagon was running over the top of the bullocks. There was so much interest on those things watching these skilled men - they were skilled, very skilled. And when they brought the timber down here to the railway line, they were very fortunate here at the Glass House Mountains. There was a cutting through there and a high bank, and so these men would chuck in their logs and they’d have a proportioned out and they’d stockpile them until they’d get enough to load onto the railway wagon. So very fortunate, get the wagon, place the railway wagon in place and then they’d just jack the logs down onto the wagon. They had these little jacks that I show and a special bullockies jack - it was a little spring a very quick working one you see and you just rolled the logs around. And then they used Cant Hooks, they come around like that with a ring in it there and you put that under a log and then you’d put a lever into it and you could roll a big log with it – Cant Hooks.
The remaining Fullerton family 1987
TH: How many brothers and sisters in the family?
TH: Right, seven boys and two girls.
WF: And two girls, yes. Well the elder sister of course married and is living down in Newcastle where her husband worked for Broken Hill Proprietary, BHP.
TH: How many of you are still living?
WF: Four, two are living and two of them are very sick. My sister is in the Nambour Hospital very sick, she’s had a stroke on the right hand side. Hector’s mind has gone completely, Daisy’s had to put him back in hospital. She has to feed him and has to bathe him - he’s over ninety. But it’s pathetic because Hector was a brilliant man, brilliant brain and an avid talker. You never talked to Hector, you listened.
Death of Bill Fullerton’s mother and father
TH: And when did your father die?
WF: Oh, about 1940 - 42, during the war yes, dad died of a heart attack.
TH: And your mother?
WF: She lived a lot longer she would have died somewhere in around 1945 I should imagine. I have the records but I just can’t remember. I’m not very good on dates so I don’t bother trying to remember them. If I want to I can go and check them.
TH: So when you father died who inherited Dunnottar?
WF: We were in at that time my brother Alistair and I had formed a partnership with dad, and become Art Fullerton & Sons, it’s still known as Art Fullerton & Sons. The Art Fullerton is of course Dad so the name was just carried on. We registered dad as a partnership name and so it’s carried on since 1935.
Bill Fullerton marries Jean Shaw from Beerburrum
TH: When were you married?
WF: I was married in 1941.
TH: And whom did you marry?
WF: The next door neighbour’s daughter Jean Shaw, she was born out here, she was born in a Beerburrum Soldier Settlement place. Her father was Hamilton Shaw and he was one of the successful soldier settlers, he’d done well.
TH: So he was one of the WWI soldiers.
WF: Yes a returned soldier, yes he took a property. As I say he was a hardworking man and he was not an educated man, far from it. He had a pretty rough upbringing in orphanages and what have you but he had common sense if you could put it that way and just kept going and going. Well I always admired him he was a good farmer.
Family farming tradition continues
TH Well Bill we were just talking about your family, your marriage and your children. Do any of your sons run any of the farms now?
WF Yes, two of my sons are in partnership with us.
TH: And which sons are these?
WF: Ken and Barry.
TH: Which farms are they running because I understand you have many properties?
WF: Well, we have two partnerships, one is called Fullertons (Elimbah) Company and the other one is called Art Fullerton & Sons. Art Fullerton & Sons properties are in Glass House Mountains and Beerwah and Fullertons (Elimbah) Company is at Elimbah.
TH: It sounds like the pineapple industry is getting stronger and stronger in the family would you agree?
WF: Well it’s very large in the family, yes. Our farming operations, pineapple farming operations are quite big by Queensland’s standards not by any other countries standards.
Farming WWI – Beerburrum Soldier Settlement hardships
TH: What happened to the farm during the First World War, you must have just struggled then?
WF: Yes my father and mother struggled then but there was always a struggle. They had bananas growing, they had pawpaw’s growing, they would have had rosellas growing too. They would have done everything to market these fruits and pineapples, some pineapples. Not highly efficient in the pineapples because they didn’t have the density per acre that they have today. So there was a lot of chipping and weeding. The only weed control was to chip them and cultivate them with horses which was most unsatisfactory. So they struggled on and there was quite a reasonable price for pawpaw’s and pineapples and bananas and that. This was from 1915 onwards.
TH: That carried on into the 1920’s the weed problems and hard times.
WF: Yes well, but now you see then we are starting and coming into the period when there were soldier settlers around growing pineapples. They would have been here around that time. Mr Shaw would have been here in 1917, Mr Murphy would have come in 1918 and there was two or three others around. They weren’t growing much in the way of pineapples those men, Mr Shaw was the first and best of them and he had the biggest production.
TH: We’ll come back to the soldier settlement Bill. Let us go back to the First World War in 1914. What was the general feeling in the community here were they afraid or what?
WF: No but we did have people who were arrested here and of German descent and they got arrested and put into internment.
TH: They were arrested because they were German descent?
WF: Oh yes, and they were looked upon as spies. It was spying, they thought.
TH: Did you know these people?
WF: Oh yes.
TH: What’s their names?
WF: Oh, I’m not going to give you those names. No, I wouldn’t. I know their names and I wouldn’t give them but there was cases where they were. They asked their children to be photographed, you see it was to take their photograph but you always find there was one of the mountains behind it. There were cases where it was proved that they were doing surveillance work for the Germans, particularly for the German Navy.
TH: Yes well I read in the book ‘Fullerton’s’, about a professor from the University of Queensland who bought some people up here to survey and they found out later on that they were spies.
WF: Yes at that stage in that development just before 1915 and during the war too there was a lot of business people investing in Brisbane who had bought properties out here. They wanted to set up and did set up farms. There was Kaiser of George Street who had Kaiser Music Shop and there was Kemp of Saxon Company who produced galvanised iron. They were a big company Saxon and they had a property. Then his manager Kemp had a property. Another chap, they used to shoot the ibis for eating them. They were terrible and then further out along the road we had McWilliams of McWilliams Wines. They had a property too. These people all thought they could do something with the farms, they just wanted to have this outside interest. Then another property, he was the editor of the Moreton Bay Courier. He had his son working on the farm but they didn’t do any good with these farms you see.
TH: Well not when the war broke out.
WF: You see, my brother Roy at sixteen years of age managed this farm for Kaiser, K A I S E R The farm was called ‘Karina’ after his wife’s name you see. A strange thing, in those days every property had a name and even the soldier’s named theirs.
TH: We still see it today don’t we?
WF: Not, not now, not farming here, no you don’t. Only the sheep and cattle properties have names - oh, the big broad acres have names but not these little horticulture farms. They don’t have a name any longer.
TH: So what happened to these properties during the war?
WF: Oh well they just hung on to them, they hung on to them and in later years they would have deserted them then. They couldn’t make a living and they were losing money on them so the farms were just abandoned. That one I was telling you about, that Kaiser farm my brothers, Hector and Bob bought that property and farmed it very well. It was a very good property. The one that was owned by Kemp (Sales/Thales) had bought that and developed it but eventually sold that. What was the other ones? You see a man by the name of C.R. Wilson was a land developer and he had a magnificent house on there by those standards in those days. It was known as Orchard Belle. They also had a property out along the Gympie Road was known as ‘Te Ate’. That was it I think he came from New Zealand. So from here just from past the school, right up to the Gympie Road, he had all of that property surveyed off on both sides of the road and sold it. He sold it as big blocks and a lot of people didn’t like him because he did develop that land.
TH: What about this is in the First World War when you were asked to black-out?
WF: No, we were asked in the Second World War and I was supposed to be a fire warden in that time and I went out to tell people to turn off their lights.
TH: Right this would be in the Second World War.
WF: Yes and I would just keep on with that. I got part way along the road and I said, ‘you stupid mug, what the hell are you doing out here? People have gone to bed anyhow’. Oh, it was too silly for words but no, in that time we were very conscious of the fact that a lot of the young men had gone off to war.
TH: This is the Second World War?
WF: Many men from the First World War.
TH: First World War, right. Did you have any of your brothers’ join up in the First World War?
WF: My brother Bob, when he got old enough, the others were too young. Hector was in the Mercantile Marine and then Bob was refused because he had flat feet. You know they only took the cream of the men to begin wiTH:
WF: And then as they were taking him, Bob would have only reached France in 1918.
Industry in the area post WWI
TH: And then he had to come back.
WF: No it was a couple of years before he got back and then he took up a Soldier Settlement block and very successfully farmed that with Hector helping him.
TH: So you didn’t really feel the war in this part of the world.
WF: No I don’t suppose we actually did feel it. They were very patriotic then on the night that the Armistice was declared in November 1918, they had a terrific celebration down here at the School of Arts that night.
TH: I understand that your father had a lot to do with that
WF: Yes, dad organised that, yes. You could hear the whistle at the sawmill up at Beerwah blasting away, you could hear the bullock bells ringing.
TH: So everybody rejoiced in the fact that the war had ended?
WF: Oh yes they did rejoice, got away from that strain which was terrible when it was on. Yes they did rejoice. And then of course the men started coming back and resumed as normal. That’s a thing that I didn’t tell you about, every night when the men had unyoked their bullocks they would put bells on at least half of them so all night long there was bells chiming everywhere and they had the Condamine bells and they could be heard at least a mile away, they were magnificent bells.
TH: So is that just to warn people?
WF: No, no, so they could go out and find them in the morning Oh, you see cows, your cows, your horses they all had bells. You didn’t just turn them out you had bells to be able to locate them the next day.
Beerburrum and Elimbah Soldier Settlement State Farm
TH: So you knew where they were. What about the Soldier Settlement?
WF: Well the first settlement started up it must have started about 1917. The first soldiers were coming back and they decided they’d have them grow pineapples.
TH: It was a State decision wasn’t it?
WF The State, yes. And so they set up a, a farm at Beerburrum known as the State farm.
WF Everything was owned by the State in those days, they were socialistic and socialised The WF set up had to be State owned and they set it up to train soldiers how to grow pineapples.
WF: Then they brought their supervisors - a fellow by the name of Mr Rose from up in Woombye with the knowledge of how to grow pineapples. He would ride around the settlement advising them of course that they had to get in pineapple planting material, they had to have horses for ploughing and all that type of thing.
TH: What, what pineapple planting material did they have in those days?
WF: Yes well the same type, the smooth leaf cayenne that they’ve got today.
TH: There’s also rough leaf.
WF: Yes, rough leaf, there would have been a little bit of rough leaf, not much because when the soldier settlement started the production started coming up. The government then built a cannery at Bulimba, it was known as the State cannery to handle this fruit from the Soldier Settlement and it was a modern cannery. They put in the Ginaca pineapple peelers. It was quite a good cannery but of course it was destined to be a failure because it was state owned you see.
TH: Some of the soldiers left their farms.
WF: Oh the soldiers left their farms when they got to find their own plantation. You see they referred to it as a Soldier Settlement Scheme. In actual fact today they talk about rehabilitation so that's all it was you see. You just held them in the country areas to keep them out of the city where they may have had problems with them you see. And some of them, as I say some of them did alright and their families are still here in these districts. They are even from Beerburrum still the descendants of the families that took over the soldier settlements blocks. But they condemned the land as being unsuitable for pineapples and all of it, you know political goings on about that. The soldiers were given about 23 to about 30 acres in a block of land and there were grants, I think it was about 625 pounds not dollars, pounds. And then they built a little house for them, there’d be a four roomed house.
TH: Who built the houses, the state?
WF: Well, there would be a contractor go out, you know there’d be carpenters or anyone that could use a hammer and saw would’ve said, ‘I’m a carpenter’. They would go build the houses for them, you see and so some of them weren’t of the very best construction. Some of the quality or rather the soldiers who had a little money would’ve made it a bit better their home than they were originally designed. The original design was quite a simple one but some weren’t lined. Then some of them would buy the lining to put in the house which all had to be tongue and grooved pine and so they settled down comfortably many of them.
Beerburrum became a very, very big settlement, of course it had its big general store, it had a butcher shop, it had a bakery, it had a blacksmith shop and the nearest hotel was Beerwah Hotel. So there would be a lot of congregation on the railway platform at Beerburrum for men going up to Beerwah to have a few drinks with their mates. But that went on and I think that the town built a tree-lined street in Beerburrum and the trees are still there, some of them. So at that stage I think someone said that at a certain time there would be about a thousand people in the street at Beerburrum on a Saturday morning.
TH: So when did the soldier settlement end?
WF: It didn’t actually end Tapu because as I said there were men who still stayed on the farms, see what I mean. Just so long as they were there then they were able to buy their farm.
TH: When did the government stop allocating land for soldiers?
WF: Now there was a lot of arguments that they owed them money. You had to pay the government back the money that had been given to you. So they just refused to do that if they walked off they couldn’t do anything about it. Then gradually we see the homes being removed and being sold to people and pulled down and rebuilt somewhere else. There’s still a few of them around here. Gradually it declined and declined and when it actually finished? It would be hard to say when it actually finished because they still have this general store down here at Glass House Mountains which originally was built as a State School to service the soldier settlement in Glass House Mountains you see. Which was part of the Elimbah - Beerburrum Soldier Settlement, it was just embraced by that name, Beerburrum Soldier Settlement.
TH: That must have been built in 1917, when they first started.
WF: No, no it would’ve come later into this district. You see Beerburrum was the first and then it built up and it was built in the long, wrong locality – ridiculous. It was built more than a mile away from the railway so everything had to be carted here and then eventually they decided that they’d make it better. They would bring it in and rebuild it this side of the railway line. It didn’t do any good it was still under the state ownership you see and it didn’t do any good. Eventually somebody else did decide they’d sell out the whole lot of it there - state owned coalmines, state owned farms the lot.
TH: What period are we speaking about here?
WF: Ah, that would be getting up into the 1930’s.
The first shop opens in Glass House Mountains 1916
WF: Yes it would be late in the 1930s. Yes because we used to do taking of the shops then. You see we were looking at 1939 as the start of the Second World War.
TH: Yes, that’s right. What was the first shop here in Glass House Mountains?
WF: The one in the Glass House School of Arts.
TH: And who ran that store?
WF: Well, originally Mr Jones who owned the general store in Beerwah. He got it and it was taken over by lease from the School of Arts Committee. Then Mr Padgett bought Mr Jones out and Mr Padgett ran that. He had a man manage this one down here. Billy Smith was his name and sometimes he’d come down and open it up when there was a dance on, you know sell sweets and bits and what have you. And then Mr Grieves took over, worked for Mr …… and he offered them this shop down here. They set up and they opened it every day, you know, five and a half days a week then.
TH: And when was the store put in the School of Arts?
WF: When it was built.
TH: In 1916 too?
Acquiring basic necessities
TH: Before that, where did you do your shopping?
WF: Beerwah, Caboolture, Nambour
TH: And you would take the horse, carts?
WF: I think we went by train.
WF: We had the train service. All the women folk would’ve made their own bread, they would have made their own butter and so you had it all. You would order your meat if you didn’t do any killing. Some may have killed their own farm produce but in other ways you grew your own vegetables. But there was other groceries you bought. There was a big company started in Brisbane known as the Queensland Pastoral Supplies and they would take mail orders. So you would write down and get a month’s groceries and they would come up on a huge packing case you see, what you ordered. You buy your flour which would be bought in 150 lb bag and sugar would be in a 72 lb bag, you’d buy a bag of potatoes, a bag of onions. You wouldn’t go in and buy these what do you call them ah, ready and prepacked stuff you know. Not just a 7lb bag - you didn’t need that you had to buy it for a monTH: And then there was tins of treacle, there would be tins of jam and tins of golden syrup.
TH: So it really was bought in large quantities.
WF: Yes, well you bought a, a 7lb tin of golden syrup and that would be used a lot, you know.
TH: I understand that some people used to have these sacks you know, of flour bags to make clothes.
WF: I think that’s over stretched a bit. I do know of cases when the wife used to patch a shirt.
TH: But they didn’t actually make a dress out of a bag?
WF: No, not to my knowledge. I wouldn’t have known of anybody that actually used packing material or a sack. Although that reminds me that the flour bags were white but they had a big red patch, you know brand on them, which you couldn’t take out. So you may have, would have used the clean parts of that to patch clothes and the men’s trousers and what have you. The women folk were quite good at needlework and sewing. Then eventually when Mr Grieves got his bread they could get baskets of bread sent down on the morning’s train from Nambour - fresh bread. And he used to get quite cross. I was going to say to you that he was worried about the dogs cocking their legs up against these baskets. They did you know. Mr Grieves used to get angry about these dogs wandering around you know.
TH: Were there many dogs wandering around, wild dogs?
WF: Oh there’s always dogs, there’s plenty of dogs around, yes. But they wouldn’t always do it but anybody living close handy had a dog. That went on for many, many years until there was a little shop here which was built after (Grieves) took over the shop. So the man that took that - eventually took that over, the second one, he built the bakery and so we got baked bread here.
The local butcher
TH: What about a butcher?
WF: Yes we had butchers.
TH: When was it, when did you have your butcher shop here?
WF: It would be about 19 - well we had the butcher at Beerwah and he would deliver to here. Used to deliver to our place up there and delivered, trucked. It was a little model of a vehicle that came out and very popular and sold well, and it had four wheel brakes. That was the big deal in that one you know and it was very fast. I know that it was rough roads for the man that was doing the delivery he would go like the wind. As fast as you possibly could to get up the hill spinning and twisting all the way. They would deliver the meat and then sometimes when they’d have them here down at Beerburrum they delivered it on horse back with a basket, basket on the pommel of a saddle.
TH: Who was the owner of the first butcher shop here?
WF: In Beerburrum it was Dave Bulcock and down here - now let me get this - Morris I think might have bought the first butcher shop here. It wouldn’t have been very successful. He wouldn’t have had the money nor did he have a cold room or anything like that - you get me? He wouldn’t have had the cold room but then the Pitts opened up the shop here in Glass House Mountains. They had the butcher shop at Beerwah and they had a butcher shop here.
TH: When was this?
WF: Oh, this would’ve been in the 1930’s, 30’s all the way through the 30’s because things changed. Then as I say we were getting close to the Second World War - get me? The population had increased and the shops were quite good then and telephones came.
1st telephone in Glass House Mountains
TH: When did the first telephone come to Glass House Mountains?
WF: I’m just trying to remember. It must have been somewhere in 1928 – 29. There was only six then that came into the district.
TH: That was during the Depression time?
WF: Just coming up to the Depression. But we were alright you see when they had the farm we wouldn’t have been greatly affected by the Depression. So we had a single wire, hang it from tree to tree and that what you call it a turn and it was a very good telephone
TH: What was the number of your telephone?
WF: Our one up there was 204.
TH: Was that your first one?
WF: That was Dad’s number, yes.
WF: Yes, the one down here at the shed is 202 - they’ve still got that number, it’s 969202.
TH: How did they work out what number to give to you?
WF: Well the Post Office took 201, the next one 202, and the next one took 20 – correction. It would be number one, and number two, and number 3, and number 4. It is only in later years that we would have got the multiple numbers. You see ours would be 4, my brother was number 6.
TH: Which brother is this?
WF: That number is still over there in that house but it is 206…..969206 you see. It would have come in when they put in the exchange you know, automatic exchange. They put up multiple numbers and then there was two of them who had the phones. Moffat’s had it, I think they would have been 3. What would Shapcott’s number have been because we were 4, perhaps the Shapcott’s were 3. 4 were Burgess out at Grigor’s old home there you know, where the bank was? That number would have been 5. My brother lived further on out then and it was 6 and perhaps Moffat’s was 7. I know Moffat’s took theirs out, they wouldn’t carry on with the phone.
TH: Why was that?
WF: Oh, just the money, they got a bit expensive.
TH: Was it expensive then in those days to keep a telephone?
WF: Not as much as it is today. See we pay around $50 a quarter for rental now - a whole years operation wouldn’t have been $50 then. So it was the development that caused the telephone to increase, increased in a tremendous amount here now. See there are all underground cables and everything now.
TH: Everybody has a telephone today - well not everybody but the majority do.
WF: I was amazed down here one day at the Post Office to see the stack of new telephone directories for this district.
The Pineapple Industry
TH: Would you know, about the pineapple industry, you’re the special man for that? Would you know about the introduction of pineapples to the Glass House Mountains?
WF: Well there was a Mr Gayne who grew pineapples and there was a Mr King. Now when we say they grew them there would be rows about 20 or 30 feet long, you get me? There would be in so many hundred plants, there wouldn’t be much more than that. There was a Mr Archie King and he claimed that he once took a dray load of pineapples to Brisbane to sell them. You know that’s a long way to go?
TH: Do you know when he did that?
WF: That would be before the war before the First World War. That would be when we came into this district. Now there would be a lot of people growing pineapples. Somebody asked me this question just the other day. If my dad was the first person to grow pineapples, he was not - that would be wrong, quite wrong. Dad would have been one of the first people in this district to be fully dependent on a farm, you get me? He wouldn’t, he didn’t have a lot of pineapples. We only came here in 1914 and by 1917 the soldiers’ were growing pineapples, you follow me? So you see there’s not much space between the private grower and the time the soldiers started having pineapples growing. See Mr Shaw that I was telling you about my father-in-law. He would have been here in 1917, by 1919 he would have had pineapples you see? It takes about two years.
TH: Did the soldier settlement growing pineapples affect you?
WF: Yes well - affect it - we were all under the control of private canneries and at that stage there was about farms I would have to check. I’ve got the figure somewhere but I think there was about eighteen canneries in Brisbane you know, some of them exceedingly small We had the big one at Hargraves down at Manly, we had Fishleys out at Bald Hill, we had the Victoria Cross Preserving Company at Woolloongabba, then we had the State cannery at Bulimba and there was Butts at Zillmere. I can’t remember names of the others because they were quite small.
TH: Which of these canneries did you sell your produce to?
WF: Whoever would take them, they wouldn’t tell you what they were - when they wanted them, they wouldn’t tell you when they were to have the - what price you would get for them - as I said we were completely under their control and they gave a very poor service.
WF: When my father was selling to the canneries it was about 1921. He possibly had enough, he possible sold before that but there was a few attempts made by people here. There was a Mr Ben who got an order from one of the canneries - he and Mr Wilson.
WF: They would have set up and so went down there with a load of pineapples, you knocked the top, tops off them and brought them back again. You bought the tops back home - and you would have been paid cash for them. They had a very small operation and didn’t go on very long. And so all the pineapples in those days were sent to the cannery with tops on. If you wanted the pineapple planting material you asked the cannery to send you out a railway wagon of these tops and in the summer months those tops got heated and they would all ripen. They would be stinking by the time they got back and they’d be 90% of them would be rotten. But that was what a lot of growers did they received their tops back that way. That would be the start of their planting material you see. And Dad was promised one shilling and nine pence a case for them you see.
TH: That’s how it was sold - cases?
WF: Cases, that was a tropical pineapple case at that time and that would have held about - what - 56 pounds of pineapples.
TH: That’s how many pineapples?
WF: That would be about eighteen to twenty one pineapples in each case.
TH: For one shilling?
WF: And nine pence and you didn’t get paid that was worse.
TH: That’s hard work for such little money.
WF: Oh well, and then you see I got a cutting that Dad had taken out of the paper and I preserved it. There was a complaint that the soldiers hadn’t been paid for their crops of twenty eight thousand cases of pineapples. They were paid four shillings but the Soldier Settlers got one shilling a case more for their pineapples than the private than the civilians got. The soldiers weren’t paid.
TH: This was around the 1920’s, early 1920s.
WF: 1920 up to 1924, yes.
Railway strike of 1925
TH: Right, what happened to the railway, the rail strike in 1925?
WF: Oh well yes, that did hold that up but there wasn’t a tremendous amount of pineapples in those days. My brothers, Hector and Bob, they had to cart their pineapples down to Brisbane and there would be a few others but not too many. They would have I don’t know who or what just let them rot I suppose. It may have been in a period when there wasn’t many pineapples too don’t forget. I’m not very conversant with that actual time of the year they had that strike but it was quite a lengthy strike if I remember.
TH: Yes, it was a week or two. Your father planted just the smooth leaf pineapple?
WF: No, he had some rough leaf. But only a row or two of them not, not acres.
TH: Why did he sort of concentrate on smooth leaf?
WF: Well, they’re more popular and you get better crops and you cannot only process the smooth leaf pines, you cannot process the rough leaf pineapple.
TH: So, now I know why.
WF: There is a market for it, as they claim they’re a lot sweeter. Now when I went to school there was a farm up here by school teacher Mr Shapcott. He was in partnership with his brother in the farm and they had quite a lot of rough leaf pineapples but to sell them, you had to send them to the markets you see.
TH: Do you remember when - was there any particular year when the market was especially bad?
WF: Every year. You would be bad at the peaks of the crop season you see. You got the summer crop and then the winter crop but in between crops you could get quite a nice price for them. You know you could and you would be paid. You didn’t make a fortune out of it, you didn’t even pay income tax. You know the farmers around here wouldn’t have paid income tax in those days, no way in the world. But they survived and they expanded, this is the important thing you see, all of this development taking place, taking place, people clearing land and you see the result. You would hear explosions day and night of people clearing the land you know, they’d blast the stumps and the logs.
TH: How did they blast the stumps and the logs?
WF: They bored a hole using an auger and bore a hole into it and then filled it up with gelignite. Then put a primer on with a detonator in it and safety fuse and then light it, and run for the lick of your life and get behind a tree. Bang up she’d go and blow the stump - shatter it, all you wanted to do, shatter it so you could put a fire into it and it burns it out very effectively. I claim it’s one of the best ways because the fire is working while you’re away doing another job.
Committee of Direction (COD) of fruit marketing – farming hardships
TH: Was there some kind of co-operative here in Glass House Mountains when you first came to help you sell your product?
WF: No, no, no. You had to buy your own fertiliser direct from Brisbane. You would buy your own fodder, you had to buy - there wasn’t much in the way of chemicals because there wasn’t any chemicals in those days. But it was in 1923 that the growers were then - you could see, you can detect they were looking to be organised, follow me? And so about that time too - I’ll jump the gun here a bit if you don’t mind, the C.O.D. came into existence. Called the Committee of Direction of fruit marketing. That was about 1920 - no 1924 I think the C.O.D. come in. So that then became the mouth piece for growers to deal with the canneries, get me? -
TH: Oh the C.O.D. became the mouth piece.
WF: Yes, the C.O.D. then was the organisation that dealt with the cannery. Not very effectively for the canners who were a law unto themselves. As I say even then they would wait to the last minute before they would give a price. Your fruit would be harvested, starting harvest before they’d tell you what price you were going to get for it. Then if they didn’t want it, they didn’t take it.
TH: Made it really very hard for you.
WF: Oh, in 1938 we had started our farm out at Beerwah and Alistair and I were working that. In October of 1938 word just came through the cannery they didn’t want any more pineapples. So we tried to send them to the southern market. We got, the account sales there. I think they’re about two and six pence a case is all we got from them. The next door neighbour he just put them into a cart and backed it and threw them down in the creek.
WF: Yes, I have very, distasteful memories of private canners, so I’m biased.
TH: You would have had a period from 1914 to 1938, - more than twenty years of farming pineapples.
WF: Yes, but I wasn’t farming in 1914. I didn’t farm - I left school in 1924 when I was 14. I wanted to get a pair of working boots and working pants and a flannel shirt and a hat and go out on the farm. That was my ambition and I’ve been there ever since and a lot of young fellows have done the same.
Pineapple Sectional Group Committee
TH: I understand you were a member of the pineapple sectional group committee.
WF: Oh yes, for a long time. Yes, from 1958 up until 1985.
TH: Oh, just recently?
WF: Yes. I only got out of that in 1985 - 27 years.
TH: Do you think that during your time in that committee, you have helped?
WF: Do you want me to boast?
TH: Go ahead.
Golden Circle Canneries emerge
WF: Yes, I did, it did help. I helped yes, because we were a committee. You see you’re jumping a bit ahead of it. The big important thing that happened in the pineapple industry was in 1947, when the Golden Circle Cannery came into existence, become established. Then it started taking over the pineapples and things were totally different you see. They have become our rural control operation.
TH: Would you say when the cannery came into the scene the pineapple industry, pineapple farmers or whatever you called they became more confident in the industry?
WF: Oh absolutely, No question about that, no question. And so I was on there when we used to have these schemes. There was Duthies who owned Victoria Cross Cannery and they’d been in the processing industry a long time. They’d bought at bargain rates the defunct State Cannery at Bulimba, you see. They got it very cheaply and they ran it and they were the big cannery. There was Hargreaves, there was Fishley and I think there was another one, maybe Butts Canneries. So we had an agreement with the three of them through the Pineapple Sectional Group, called the Canners Agreement. They got a percentage of the crop. It was a bit inequitable, in as much in a year of low production they still got that percentage which kept them viable. The Golden Circle Cannery didn’t but in a year of higher production they only took what they wanted at that percentage and the Golden Circle Cannery had to take the rest. Progressively they all went out of business until the only one was the Golden Circle Cannery left. Their reason for that is that they were not co- quality conscious, they didn’t put up a very good article so when Golden Circle came in with a very strong quality control they had an excellent article and excellent brand name, the others couldn’t match it.
TH: Who owns this Golden Circle Cannery?
WF: The growers.
TH: All the growers.
WF: It’s a co-operative.
WF: It was originally established through the C.O.D. and in 1964, after a lot of agitation, we got it changed from there because the C.O.D. executive there would only be a couple of people on that that who were suppliers to the Golden Circle Cannery. That then become very big and then when we bought in the rationalisation plan in 1968, that was the stabilising influence in the pineapple industry.
TH: So you would say that in 1947 pineapple became a commercial success.
WF: It improved, it improved.
TH: Big improvement.
WF: A big improvement, a very, very big improvement and there was the expansion taking place - there was expansion taking place in Yeppoon, in the Mary Valley and those places - Glass House Mountains would’ve only been one of the very small centres. Palmwoods, Woombye, Nambour would have all been big loading centres. Mary Valley was a big one and then Yeppoon and they decided because there was expansion taking place in Yeppoon that they would build a cannery at Koongal opening in 1953. An absolute disaster, it didn’t work. And so, after a lot of bickering and going on they decided, well it’s cheaper to send their fruit down here to Brisbane. It can go from the central cannery at Northgate than it was to process it up at Koongal. Then the State Government decided to set up a cannery board to set up a cannery in Cairns and my brother was the trustee of the subscribers at that time.
TH: This is brother Jim?
WF: Yes and so they opposed that and got legal opinion, a counselled opinion as they call it and they said that you cannot under the cannery agreement use that money to set up a cannery up in Cairns, so they beat the Government.