Doris Leach

Interview with: Doris Leach (nee Tilney)
Date of Interview: 17 April 1985
Interviewer: Amanda Wilson 
Transcriber: Colwyn Boulton

Doris Annie Tilney was a daughter of George and Annie Maude Tilney, nee: Fletcher, early pioneers of Conondale area. The Tilney's moved to Conondale in 1909, from Stanmore near Woodford, where they had been residing with Mrs Tilney's family. George and Annie Tilney had a dairy on their farm located on Harper's Creek Road. Doris married a Mr Leach of Landsborough and had an older sister named Alice Martha, who was called Daisy, twin brothers, Oswald Ambrose Tilney and Edgar John Benjamin Tilney (Ossie and Eddie) and a younger brother named Irvine Raymond Tilney, who was known as Ray. The Tilney family had a holiday residence in Caloundra, which is where Ray grew up.



Doris Leach oral history - part one [MP3 29MB]
Doris Leach oral history - part two [MP3 29MB]


Images and documents of Doris Leach in the Sunshine Coast Libraries Catalogue.

Image: Tilney family of Conondale, ca 1930. Mrs Doris Annie Leach, nee: Tilney and her brother Eddie (Edgar John Benjamin Tilney).



Family background

AGW Mrs Leach, if you could just tell me a little bit about your father, cause I know your father came from Woodford. What was your father’s name?

LEACH: George Tilney.

AGW: And do you know when he was born?

LEACH: No, I couldn’t give the exact date, but I could find it out.

AGW: Did he originally come from Conondale?

LEACH: His people settled in Brisbane on the southside. I saw the old home when I was about seven year old. It was almost, but not quite, opposite the South Brisbane Railway Station.

AGW: And your father was born in Brisbane was he?


AGW: Where did your mother come from, do you know?

LEACH: Their family were Woodford people.

AGW: So your mother was born and raised in Woodford. Do you know roughly when your parents came from Woodford?

LEACH: My father came to Woodford to live and bought a property at the end of Stanmore Road. There was only one house further on, that was the Nonmuses. And from then on he went up the mountain on the Postman’s Track. It was very steep. Mother always insisted that we got off the horses and led them up this steep track.

AGW: This is from Conondale?

LEACH: Going from whichever way we went, from Conondale or from Woodford.

AGW: This Postman’s Track went right over the mountain?

LEACH: Went right over the mountain, yes.

AGW: I only thought it went up from Conondale up to Maleny.

LEACH: No, not Maleny, it went to Woodford.

AGW: It went to Woodford? Oh right, so I got that totally wrong. I was reading the other day about ‘Gaffer’ Ambrose Tilney, now is that your father?


AGW: Who was that then?

LEACH: That’s my grandfather, they called him ‘the Gaffer’. But why they called him ‘the Gaffer’? I think it was only a nickname.

AGW: I was also reading a little bit of history about Woodford - it mentioned a Tilney as a blacksmith, do you know if that was your father or your grandfather?

LEACH: It could be an uncle, he was a wheelwright.

AGW: That probably would be it. So your father and a brother of his moved to Woodford?


AGW: So there’s a lot of family history in Woodford.

LEACH: His name was Ruben, Ruben Tilney.

AGW: And he was the wheelwright.

LEACH: He was the wheelwright, yes. My father, he had inclinations that way. He set up a blacksmith’s shop at Conondale, forge and all.

AGW: Was that before you were born.

LEACH: Oh no, no, I came over as a baby to Conondale.

AGW: Did your parents marry in Conondale or were they in Woodford?

LEACH: No, no, no, they were married in Woodford.

AGW: Then they left Woodford and came to Conondale.

LEACH: My father had a property, when they were married he got a property. That was at the end of Stanmore Road. Cause he was at the end, he gathered the cream from Nonmuses and he used to drive into Woodford with the cream and he was a very thin man. Never put on - but he had great pride on how he could eat a dozen eggs at a time and things like that. And this goes to show what happened on the road. These two old spinsters, they used to come out and meet him with tea and scones on the road. Half-way in, his mother-in-law lived - that was Mrs Fletcher - she used to have a hot dinner cooked for him. He was met in various places with a cuppa or that sort of thing, took them all, never said no to anything.

One day he got ill, I don’t know what was wrong, but he was too ill to drive the cream cart so Mother had to do it. I forgot to tell that when he got home Mother had a good hot meal cooked for him as soon as he got home. Mother had to drive the cart. When she found all the goodies that were coming his way on this cream run that he was doing - well after that he never came home to a good hot meal.

AGW: So your father had a run of hot meals along the road when he was doing the cream run?

LEACH: He was spoilt, he was spoilt right, left and forward.

AGW: He’d have been a bit of a character I’d say?

LEACH: He was quite proud. He boasted he could eat a dozen eggs and not feel any different. He wasn’t fat; and I was taller than him.

AGW: Do you remember when your parents moved from Woodford to Conondale?

LEACH: I’d be a baby. About eighty years ago, close on eighty years ago.

AGW: Roughly 1910 or 1909 something like that they would have made their move. So when you moved to Conondale did you have a house to move to?

LEACH: There was a house on the property that my Dad bought where we moved in first. He built the home that you have the photo of and the home that was already there, it was converted into a barn and the front veranda served as bails.

AGW: Do you know whose property they bought?

LEACH: That would be Slack’s property and he bought another place. The place that he built the home on that I gave you the photo of, that was Tim Ahern’s.

AGW: Tim Ahern’s and that is in Harper’s Creek Road? And Slack’s property, is that also in Harper’s Creek Road?

LEACH: Yes, that was, they were two different properties, one each side of the road.

AGW: You were telling me that he built the house out of timbers that the ants wouldn’t eat. Could you tell me a little bit about that?

LEACH: Bloodwood, bloodwood and cedar and they won’t eat Bloodwood and Beech. The floors were all Beech and all the posts were Bloodwood.

AGW: He built that house all by himself?

LEACH: Yes, with the help of his two sons who were about - oh they’d be about eight year old then. Because I’d be two or three, I’d be two year old anyway.

AGW: What were your brother’s names?

LEACH: Oswald Ambrose Tilney and Edgar John Benjamin Tilney.

AGW: Edgar?

LEACH: Yes, they called him Eddie.

AGW: So that was Eddie and Ossie the twins? And they helped your father build the house?

LEACH: Yes. Mother had eight births counting the birth of the twins as one. The children that she lost were the fair ones of the family.

AGW: When you say the fair ones of the family....

LEACH: My father was very fair; he had very blue eyes and he was fair and the children that took after him were the ones mother lost.

AGW: The weaker ones?

LEACH: No they weren’t weaker. One was playing, they were playing red Indians around the fire and he fell into the fire. And one got rheumatic fever. Her first child was a little girl, her name was Lily. She was driving a horse and sulky, the bit broke in the horses mouth and the horse - no control over it and it bolted - and the sulky was capsized. The baby was killed, Mother tossed out.

AGW: So your mother was driving the sulky?

LEACH: The bit in the horse’s mouth broke.

AGW: Were you born then?

LEACH: Oh no, I’m the second youngest.

AGW: So your mother lost how many children?

LEACH: Four.

AGW: So how many children survived?

LEACH: Five.

AGW: What are their names? That was Eddie and Ossie and yourself.

LEACH: My sister’s name was Alice Martha but she would insist on calling herself Daisy and she was known as Daisy all her life. My Dad used to call her “the dumpling” when
LEACH: she was little. She was the one that led the pack horse up to Witta when they decided to start dairying. And I believe when she came home she used to lay down on the horse’s neck and go to sleep.

AGW: Just on the rocking on the way down, just sort of the rocking of the horse?

LEACH: I think her horse bumped into the horse that had the pack saddle on once and I believe she got a kick. See the horse with the pack saddle didn’t like another horse bumping into it’s tail and it kicked up.

AGW: And she was asleep was she?

LEACH: Yes , and she was lying down asleep and I believe she got a kick that way.


AGW: Well I was hoping you would be able to tell me a little bit about life on the farm. I understand you had a dairy farm a Conondale.

LEACH: My father had a dairy farm. He decided to give up dairying and he sold most of the dairy cows. But we still had a few that needed to be milked so we used to make cheese.

AGW: When was that, do you know?

LEACH: I was still a girl, about seven or eight. Oh no, I’d be older, I think I’d be a bit older but I remember taking over making this cheese. We had the big vat that belonged to the separator and we put rennet, and something else - I can’t remember the name - for colouring. You cut up all the curds in squares, you drain the whey off and then when all the whey was drained away from the curds they went into a special press for it. But we’d lost the screw top for the press so my Dad made a round cap of wood that fitted into the top of the press and what we did to get the proper pressure to make the cheese go together - we’d put a bit 3 x 2, it might have been ever stronger, under the end of the wash-house and hung a bag of stones on it. Well I did anyway, hung a bag of stones on the end, I used to be making this cheese.

AGW: And this is to press the moisture out of the cheese?

LEACH: Yes, press that cap down into the mould. Oh you had to put cloth around the cheese first, then you pressed it down. My first batch wasn’t pressed enough so the next lot, I decided I’d give it the works.

AGW: And this is where you piled all the stones on?

LEACH: I piled all the stones and lifted the end of the wash-house.

AGW: You levered the whole thing up?

LEACH: A great big wash-house.

AGW: Did your father sell out?

LEACH: He sold the cattle and he went to live at Caloundra.

AGW: So it would have been roughly about 1914 when you were making cheese then? If you were about eight.

LEACH: No, I would have been older that that.

AGW: Would you?

LEACH: I think I must have been older that that. Because when the cows were being sold - that photo that you’ve got here - (shows photo) that cow that I had my arms around the neck of, she was my special cow. She only had three teats and people came and would insist on buying my cow. So she was sold.

LEACH: She was a pet of a cow, she was sold and the money for her my mother put in the bank for me and I think I was given another cow. What was I given? - a black and white cow, in place of her.

AGW: So right back when you were young before you went to school, you were brought up on the farm weren’t you?

LEACH: No, before I was school age, I think, four and a half really, I went to my grandmother’s to go to school.

AGW: And where was your grandmother’s?

LEACH: She was the house that was half-way in on the Stanmore Road that my Dad used to go to for dinner.

AGW: So you first went to school in Woodford?

LEACH: Yes, well not Woodford, it was Stanmore really, belonged to Woodford.

AGW: Can you remember much of that school?

LEACH: Oh yes, I can remember quite a bit about it.

AGW: Do you want to tell be a little bit about some of your memories?

LEACH: I won’t tell you about the first bit.

AGW: So how long did you go to school at Woodford?

LEACH: I was twelve months there. And holiday time our parents would come over with a horse or my cousin, Lily, her parents might have bought a horse. But Lily used to tell me, “I’m older than you, I’ve got to ride first, you’ve got to sit behind.”

AGW: And this is coming over the Postman’s Trail to Conondale from Woodford?


AGW: What was the name of the school you went to at Woodford, do you remember that?

LEACH: Stanmore School.

AGW: Just Stanmore School?

LEACH: It was a proper school.

School at Conondale

AGW: Then you went to Conondale, what school did you go to there?

LEACH: We didn’t have a school at first. There was my brothers of an age that they badly needed schooling. My father and I think Sirls, they wrote to the Education Department and they promised if we provided a place for the school teacher, they’d send a school teacher. And my father provided desks and a blackboard and wooden seats. Sirls did the same. Sirls lived about three miles away from the homestead. They did the same.

AGW: So they also provided seats etc?

LEACH: Also George Ahern, he’s the grandfather of Mike, he did the same. The front veranda, he gave half of his front veranda. And those who were old enough rode. Each different place had the teacher for a week.

AGW: So the teacher would stay at your parents place for a week?

LEACH: No she’d stay at whichever home provide the school.

AGW: Didn’t you have one at your place?

LEACH: My father built the first school at Conondale and I think most all of the time we boarded the teacher.

AGW: You boarded the teacher when there was a school?

LEACH: When there was a school.

AGW: But before you had the actual school building, when you had the three-was school?

LEACH: The teacher stayed at our place during the week that she taught there, she stayed at Sirls during the
week that she taught there.

AGW: Was it very far for you children to ride to get to school, say when it was at Sirls place?

LEACH: About three miles to Sirls and to Aherns, it would be close to five miles.

AGW: Was it only the children in those three families that went to school or other people as well:

LEACH: Well, whoever was old enough to ride. See my cousin, Elsie and my brothers they were the older ones, early teenagers then. They rode to the school and I remember I had to sit on behind the saddle on the horse, but they gave me a cushion to sit on after that.

AGW: So you all had different ages, you would have only been about five, and then you said your brothers were in their teens, so the teacher taught you all the same lesson or did she take you individually?

LEACH: Well I think the older ones of her pupils they had to be taught basic learning like reading, writing and arithmetic. They learnt enough to get by in life but they weren’t so very well educated. And then of course in my case, I started from a very early age, I had school at a very early age and I went through till I was thirteen years at the time. When I was thirteen my mother sent me to High School at Wynnum.

Boarding school at Wynnum

AGW: So you boarded in Brisbane then?

LEACH: For twelve months. At Greene’s High School. How we came to be associated with Greene’s High School: Mrs Greene used to come - they had a house at Caloundra and of course we got to know them.

AGW: Because your father had a house at Caloundra?

LEACH: Yes, and in those days we travelled by the “Koopa” to Bribie and then Maloney’s used to run a boat from Bribie through to Caloundra.

AGW: What was the “Koopa”?

LEACH: The “Cooper” was a bit flat bottom boat that didn’t draw much water. I think it could go in water not much deeper than four feet. And I remember once when I was travelling with my teacher to come back for holidays, then Miss Greene they came to Caloundra for their holiday and I came with them. I remember once something exciting happened one side and everybody ran over that side and the Captain quickly got them back. He said, “You’ll capsize the boat!” She didn’t have much hold in the water. And he chased them all back again.

AGW: Well where did the “Cooper” leave from?

LEACH: From the wharf at what would they call it?

AGW: In Caloundra?

LEACH: No no, the “Koopa” didn’t come to Caloundra, it only came to Bribie. It drew in at Redcliffe, took the passengers on at Redcliffe and it went as far as Bribie and then back to Brisbane. And what’s the name of the place in Brisbane at the end of Queens Street? It was between Queens Street and The Valley. There was a wharf there. You went to Redcliffe first, Redcliffe is on the way, and it went to Bribie. That was the end of it’s run. And it came up the Brisbane River to just before you go to The Valley - I can’t think of the name of that place. Any rate the building that was built there when I went to Art School and my mate, Miss Pilkington, her father built that, and he built the museum - at least he didn’t build them, I mean he was the architect.

AGW: Architect. This is a Mr Pilkington, so you knew him.

LEACH: I didn’t know him but I knew his daughter.

AGW: So how would you get from the end of Bribie Island to Caloundra?

LEACH: Maloneys’ they ran a boat, it’d be a fairly bit boat. I suppose it’d be 30 to 40 foot long, something like that.

AGW: This boat was just for passengers or did they take produce?

LEACH: Yes, it used to collect everything. They used to collect everything, people and passengers. I remember once when we were on this boat, they went through a shoal of mullet. They were that thick they nearly pulled the boat up, cutting the mullet, the propeller.

AGW: So once upon a time there used to be a lot of fish out there?

LEACH: That was in the Bribie Passage. And we had to do something with the milk from the cows that didn’t get sold when father left off dairying and then of course when they dried up, they were allowed to keep their calves; and cattle just had to be gathered and dipped you know.

AGW: So you really went into just the cattle business then?

LEACH: Yes, sold cattle. And cattle went wild on the mountain.

AGW: Which mountain’s this?

Charlie Flesser

LEACH: Where old Charlie Flesser lived. My father’s property went up to the top of the mountain too.

AGW: Right so you were in face a neighbour of Flesser then? Did you ever know him?

LEACH: Oh yes, knew him well.

AGW: Did you? Have you got any stories about Mr Flesser for us?

LEACH: He was the one who cut out a boat out of a log and before the floods started he went and cut everybody’s fence that went across the Mary River, put his boat in the Mary River, and went right through to Maryborough with it.

AGW: In the flood?

LEACH: Yes, in the flood.

AGW: And he cut the fences so he wouldn’t go through the fence?

LEACH: Oh he didn’t want to get tangled up with fences. He cut peoples’ fences.

AGW: So everybody expected a big flood?

LEACH: Most every year.

AGW: What was it like, were you cut off at all?

LEACH: Well you’d know the flood was coming because the rain’d be building up and that.

AGW: What time of the year was that?

LEACH: Well I heard somebody say they never saw a March go by without rain.

AGW: So it was usually around March that the big floods would happen?

LEACH: Oh, we had our droughts too. When the droughts came we had to cut oak trees along the creek to feed the cattle. And the creek dried up and the catfish only had water holes.

AGW: Which creek was this?

LEACH: Tom Harper’s Creek. Dried up to water holes and I remember going and trying to catch a catfish in amongst the weeds and I’ve still got a deformed finger.

AGW: It bit you?

LEACH: No, they’ve got spikes to their back and they’ve got spikes to their side fins and one went into my...

AGW: Oh they’re poisonous aren’t they?

LEACH: Yes, it hurt.

Early health treatment

AGW: When you got sick, when you needed medicines and things like that what did you do?

LEACH: Cracked hardy.

AGW: You were hardy?

LEACH: We cracked hardy.

AGW: Yes, what’s that mean?

LEACH: Oh, you didn’t run off to a doctor everytime you felt off-colour.

AGW: So there were doctors around?

LEACH: No. Eventually there was a doctor at Maleny but not in the olden days.

AGW: So Maleny was the nearest doctor in the early days?

LEACH: Brisbane.

AGW: Brisbane, that’s a long way? Did you use many herbs or old home remedies?

LEACH: Not really.

AGW: You were telling me that your father was bitten by a snake one night and your mother had to nurse him. Do you know what your mother would have done for the snake-bite?

LEACH: He came in, he was foolish really, still cracking hardy, I guess, he went for water. After he was bitten by the snake he went and got water, see he was building this new home then. And Mother had fallen through the floor, she’d cracked her stays. She’d taken all the laces out of them to repair them and I think she had a very sore face too. She was cracking hardy and she was far from well from this fall and Father came in - he used to often call her “Missus”, I believe he called her Missus at this time. He said, “I’ve been bitten by a snake, Missus.”
And then he fell down unconscious and she had to find where the snake -bit was.

End Side A/Begin Side B

AGW: Your father had been bitten by a snake and your mother was looking to find where the bit was?

LEACH: And with these stay laces that she’d unlaced out of her stays she tied a tight ligature around above the knee. Then she cut where the wound was and she tried to get it to bleed but the blood had congealed and gone curdly. She couldn’t get it to bleed, it was quite a while before she could get it to bleed. She made his leg bleed as much as she could then - he’d come round then. He’d gone unconscious and he’d come around. Then she made him walk up and down on it to keep the leg bleeding. And she had to support him and poor old Mother...

AGW: She probably had a few cracked ribs from falling through the floor?

LEACH: I don’t think she cracked ribs but she had a pretty bad bang on the face I think. All the side of her face was swollen, her jaw was swollen. So you can imagine how she felt to be saving Father’s life which she did.

AGW: So the pioneers of the early days were pretty hardy people?

LEACH: They had to crack hardy. That’s what I mean when I said we cracked hardy.

AGW: When you were telling me about her stays you mean the old fashion corsets women used to wear.?

LEACH: She always wore corsets and always looked very neat. As you’ll see in any photo, she always had a very neat trim figure.

AGW: As girls did you wear corsets like that?

LEACH: Oh I might have started doing it.

AGW: And then the fashion trends changed?


AGW: That would have been very interesting for a farmer’s wife to be running around all dressed up.

LEACH: She always dressed very neat.

AGW: So with medicines and things like that, you wouldn’t go to the doctor unless you were really sick?

LEACH: You’d have a hot lemon drink for a cold, things like that.

AGW: Have you any other good remedies?

LEACH: We didn’t really get that sick.

AGW: What would you do if somebody broke their leg?

LEACH: We didn’t break our legs.

The Postman's Track

AGW: I’m interested to know about the Postman’s Track, I’ve heard a lot about it.

LEACH: Well, it was so steep. There wasn’t a track - to save going up a very steep part they brought things that they had to go just straight up the middle of a hill where the horse had to snig things or anything like that. But to save going up a hill and down again there was a track that wounded round on a part. A man was driving cattle; one cow got poked off the track and she rolled right to the bottom of the mountain and I believe she was going end for end before she hit the bottom. And it was that steep.

AGW: And you used to get off your horses and walk them down there would you?

LEACH: Mother always did it. Her horse as soon as he got to the steep part he stopped and turned his head and looked at her as much as to say, “Come on, hop off.” That’s if a horse could talk.

AGW: The track, I envisage that it would be roughly be up where Schultz’s Road is at the moment, up the end of Conondale.

LEACH: I wouldn’t know where Schultz’s Road is.

AGW: Well the end of the valley there, where you’ve got Adhern’s Road that goes up. Did the postman come up across the back of Wootha?

LEACH: After you left Adhern’s place you went nearly a mile before you hit the Postman’s Track.

AGW: In which direction?

LEACH: I should imagine it’d be west. And then you must have travelled almost two miles along the top of the mountain before you went down again. You went down into Nomnuses place.

AGW: On the other side?

LEACH: On the other side.

AGW: Did you go to Maleny often when you were a child?

LEACH: No, not really. When I was older I went to Maleny often.

AGW: Was it a big town in those days?

LEACH: No. Tytherleighs was the main building there. My mother dealt there and I remember going with he and always when you went to pay your bill you were handed, the child was handed a little packet of hard-boiled lollies.

AGW: This is at the drapery is is?

LEACH: Oh, it was for everything, they supplied everything. I remember my mother going to pay a bill, and I think it was for sugar and she’d been billed twice for it, and she went
LEACH: to question this. And she found out after that one bag of sugar was missing and they didn’t know who had got the bag of sugar so everybody had it on their bill, extra.

AGW: So every person had to pay for it?

LEACH: Oh, a lot did, they did. But mother didn’t.

AGW: They were paid three-fold probably for that one missing bag of sugar.

LEACH: She found out later that’s how that happened, that it had been put on everybody’s bill. It’s been put on extra on her bill and she went and questioned it.

AGW: What sort of things could you but from the shops?

LEACH: Oh, you could buy anything really.

AGW: Living down in Conondale like you would have had your own milk and cheese and butter?

Bread making

LEACH: We used to make our own bread at first. I can remember I used to make bread. My auntie, the mother of Lily, that one that I went to school with, she was the best bread maker of anybody that I know. She was very proud - she had a special yeast bottle. She was very proud of her ability to make such good bread. I could never make bread as good as her. And I went to her place one day - I was a teenager then - and she’d done some washing and she dropped these clothes on the sofa. I sat on the clothes and I thought what lovely soft clothes to sit on. The next thing I felt the edge of the dish of bread come up and hit my leg. I’d sat on her bread that had risen up above the edge.

AGW: Did you make the yeast or did you but it?

LEACH: We made lemon yeast, you had to have a ripe bottle to start it. And always a little bit of the yeast was left in the bottle for the next time. But you took two spoonfuls of sugar, two spoonfuls of flour and juice of a lemon and that was all mixed with warm water till it flowed nice and free, not too thick, I mean not too thin I should say but just so it’d flow nice and free so that you’d pour it into the bottle. And you had to keep that bottle warm.

AGW: For how long?

LEACH: Oh till next day. Wrapped it up well.

AGW: And you’d cork it?

LEACH: Yes. And if it was good yeast, if you didn’t watch out and you didn’t tie the cork down, the cork’d shoot out and the yeast’d hit the ceiling.

AGW: Then you’d have to start all over again.

LEACH: That’s if was a good bottle.

AGW: How much of that yeast would you use when you were making a batch of bread? That would be your whole batch?

LEACH: What you did - you put your flour in a dish and the first start was to make a hold in the middle of the flour and stir your yeast into this hole. And you let that sit for a while, you had to keep everything warm and then later on you got more warm water and you worked the yeast right through everything. You rolled the bread up into a sponge, had to work everything through thoroughly. Then you sit it somewhere nice and warm, as my auntie had done, that’d all risen up above the top of the dish, what I’d sat on. Then when it got to that stage you took it, worked in again, cut it into loaves, put your loaves in a tin, let them rise.

AGW: What sort of ovens did you have?

LEACH: Just an ordinary wood oven.

AGW: A slow combustion stove or just a wood stove?

LEACH: Oh no, we didn’t have anything flash like that in those days. The first stove that I remember was an oven set in bricks and the fire was beside it.

AGW: Did you make bread most of the time, every week?

LEACH: Until the cream carter, we made bread till the cream carter worked from Conondale and took the cream from Conondale and then we got bread from Maleny, from the baker.

AGW: So there was a baker in Maleny?

LEACH: That was later on in life.

AGW: Would you know roughly when that was?

LEACH: No I couldn’t say actually because we went to Caloundra to live and we did have a baker there.

AGW: What sort of things did you but from the shops?

LEACH: Flour, sugar, clothing.

AGW: Did you make your own clothing?

LEACH: My mother did.


AGW: Your mother did, she made it for all of you?

LEACH: Just about. She was good at making dresses.

AGW: She sounds like she was a very talented woman.

LEACH: My father, when the war was on, I remember him doing a picture of the “Emden”. And the sailor, it was a photo he did it from, the sailor on the deck of the “Sydney” sinking the “Emden”; and he raffled it for the war.

AGW: Which war was this?

LEACH: It would be the First World War. And he decided to do a painting of our home, Mother was a great gardener and of course you only suggest colour in a painting. I mean you don’t go and paint each flower separate do you? When Mother looked at his painting, no flowers that she loved so much, she got to work herself and she put red dobs all over it and tried to paint these flowers.

AGW: Over your father’s painting?

LEACH: Ruined his painting.

AGW: Cause he hadn’t painted her flowers in?

LEACH: I don’t think he’d got to that stage. But he’d had painted flower of a suggested colour, not painted individual flowers, that’s what Mother did. Wasn’t Father mad when he saw it! He’d gone to a lot of work on getting the house right but to come and see all these red dobs and mother trying to put in her flowers that she loved so much. She was a great gardener.

AGW: Did you ever do any gardening?

LEACH: All my life I’ve had a garden, even when I was a small child I can remember taking some cuttings of herbs, flowers and going down the orchard and making a little garden of my own. And I got them to grow too. Mother came down and saw some nice chrysanthemums and dianthus and that I’d established and she dug them up and took them back and put them up in her garden. She did.

AGW: When you moved to Caloundra...

LEACH: I didn’t like Caloundra much.

AGW: Why was that?

LEACH: I loved the animals.

AGW: You missed the farm?

LEACH: I used to come back to the farm. My brothers still stayed on at the farm. They did a lot of wood work, like scrub felling and they took out contracts and the house was their headquarters. I’d come back and clean the house up for them. Their method was - I think there was five bedrooms upstairs - their method was to use one bedroom until it got too full of newspapers and what have you, then they’d move into another one. And I remember once the bedroom at the top of the stairs, it was just chock-a-block full of papers and all the what have you. I made a big bonfire outside and gathered everything that I could think of, to put on it. The fire was burning nicely, I went round for a last look and I thought they were spent cartridges I found. I cleaned out a big set of shelves and I thought they were spent cartridges and I gathered then and a few other things, took them down to throw on the fire. And do you know what I’d thrown on the fire? A heap of detonators. And luckily before they went off I was standing up. From my hips to my ankles was blood from all the bits of caps that had...

AGW: Had blows up? So what were the detonators for?

LEACH: They’d use them for dynamite.

AGW: What for though? To blow up stumps?

LEACH: Probably.

AGW: And this is Ossie and Eddie that were living at home. Was there much timber getting going on in the area in those days?

LEACH: Yes, there was a man came to ask could he take some timber from the property. My father had a fairly tall cedar tree that he was very proud of, growing on a flat beside a creek. The first thing this man did was go and cut his cedar tree down and he was that mad, he told him to get, he wouldn’t sell any more timber to him.

AGW: Was there much cedar still left in the hills in those days?

LEACH: No no, in the olden days they came and cut the cedar down and what they couldn’t take they left the logs laying in the scrub. It was only cedar and pine that was taken at first. And Minchentons, they were our next neighbour, they lived next to the reserve.

AGW: This is the forest reserve?

LEACH: Where the racetrack was. They lived next to the reserve. He had what we call Joe’s Mountain. It was Joe Minchenton and he worked a bullock team from a scrub on this property and that used to come past our place. It was beyond our place but it was never fenced in. What grass was there, our cattle used to use it. But he took the pine our of the scrub, rain forest. And he wasn’t a very good bullock driver and when he got to the hill next to our place his bullocks used to jib on him.

AGW: What’s that mean, they wouldn’t go?

LEACH: They wouldn’t pull up the hill for him. And I remember coming down - I was only a kid - to help him drive these bullocks up the hill. And between two of us we got them up. I got near the front and I, you know, smacking them and telling them to go. I was only a kid at the time.

Horse riding

AGW: So you were really good with animals?

LEACH: I used to break in all the horses on the place later.

AGW: Did you ever do any show jumping?

LEACH: Only once.

AGW: Where abouts was that?

LEACH: In Maleny.

AGW: How did you go in that?

LEACH: Well somebody couldn’t get a rider for their grey horse, they had a grey pony to go in the jumps and they couldn’t get a rider. I’d been breaking in horses then. I rode so that if that horse didn’t jump I wouldn’t have come off, so I rode with long stirrups. Anyway this man asked could I ride his horse and I said yes. He said, “It’s a grey pony.” And a little while after somebody asked would I ride his grey pony and I said, “I’ve already promised to ride it. Yes,” I said, “I’ll ride it, I’ve already promised.” I didn’t know but I’d promised to ride two horses.

AGW: So what did you do?

LEACH: I didn’t know at the time, and the first pony, he was going to shirk the first jump and I wouldn’t let him; I made him go over but he’d spoilt it and he tipped it. But he knew that I wouldn’t stand any nonsense from him. If I’d have ridden that horse first I’d have made him do a perfect jump because after that he didn’t try to shirk. He took all the jumps quick but he tipped the first. I found out that I’d promised to ride two horses. The second pony was a good honest little horse, he took every jump clean. The people that had the first pony - they come and tore strips off me. They said I lost that to them on purpose. And I’d just ridden each horse to the best of my ability. They put a boy on for the next time. That horse wouldn’t take a jump for that boy, he went round every one. He found that he could do what he liked with the boy. He was going to do it with me; that’s why he spoilt his first jump. My uncle, that’s the wheelwright, he was a great horseman, keen on horses. My father wasn’t but he was. He said, “Now you’ll never see her out of the showground after riding a winner.”

AGW: The second one you rode won?

LEACH: It won, it did a clean jump all round. It was a good honest little pony and never shirked; took it’s jumps clean and good.

AGW: You would have had to been good with horses in those days because you were depending on them all the time.

LEACH: I loved riding that much that I think I was more on a horse’s back than I was on my own feet. I used to catch the horses out in the paddock and I’d always come home. I’ve written an article and it needs re-writing, it’s just I wrote it for something to do. I had nothing to do when I first moved here. Of the earliest things I could remember. But I don’t know whether you’d like to read it. It got to be re-written, commas put in the proper places, cause I just went through as I thought of things and it’s from the very first things I could remember and there’s a little bit about the horse that used to be my pony. But it’s my brother’s pony to go to school, that was when the war was on. And in it he was too small to put the bridle on, but this pony was so quite all you had to do was take his mane and he’d lead wherever you wanted him to.

AGW: So you didn’t ride with a bridle?

LEACH: Oh no, he wanted to go to school, he wanted to put the bridle on it to go to school but he was too small, when the horse held his head up, to put the bridle on. So he’d take him by the mane and let him to a log so that he could stand on the log to put the bridle on. As soon he got on the log this pony - he has a mind of his own - he’d put his head down and started eating grass. But he wouldn’t go away, he waited there. I don’t know how long but when I came to my brother he was in such a rage he had tears and all of what-have-you running down his face, crying with rage.

AGW: Is this Ray?

LEACH: Yes, Ray, he’s four years younger than me. And the worst things he could think calling Sandy was, “Sandy, you German, you Hun.” Course everytime he got up on the log to put the bridle on, Sandy’d put his head down. When he got down to put the bridle on, Sandy’d put his head up.

AGW: Talking about horses and transport, can you remember when the first cars came into the area?

LEACH: Our horses were frightened of them.

AGW: Were they? So some of your neighbours had motor vehicles?

LEACH: They never got over it.

The Berliot car

AGW: Did your father ever get a car?

LEACH: No, not really. My brother got the first motor buggy that was sold in Caloundra and he learnt to drive the first buggy there. Then he went to Brisbane and got a Berliot car. And I’d had friends who were trying to teach me to drive a car at the time. Coming home with this Berliot. They had difficulty keeping it on the road, because you had to pull the wheel so quickly on the motor buggy. And they were making such a mess of it I said, “Would you like me to drive?”

AGW: This is your brother’s?

LEACH: My brother and the other person who went down to buy the... So I drove the car, they worked the gears and I drove the car. I hadn’t had that training for quick movement and I remember we had to some around and under a bridge and I followed the car tracks of the car before me perfectly. Then I decided when I got to Caloundra that I’d keep driving the car but my brother was so jealous of me touching the car, I had to give it up.

AGW: Did you have to have driving licences in those days?

LEACH: No, I used to drive around Caloundra without a driving licence in this big Berliot.

AGW: Were there many houses in Caloundra in those days?

LEACH: Oh just a scattering.

AGW: That must have been in the 20’s was it?

LEACH: I’d still be a teenager at the time.

AGW: Was it before the war?

LEACH: Oh no, after the war. No when the war was on my brother was just too small to put the bridle on the horse. My older brothers, I think they were sixteen at the time of the war, one of them was talking about enlisting. See they were six foot at that age. And the war ended.

AGW: Right, so they didn’t have to join up.

LEACH: No. They were talking about enlisting, course they were too young really to know what they were talking about really. And then there’s a very humorous side to my brother’s life.
When they got married they married sisters.

AGW: The twins did?

LEACH: Yes. I don’t think Ossie was married at the time but Eddie was married and I had worked up a dairy farm for them. When the war was over the price of cream went up and they decided they’d come back and dairy. But there weren’t enough milkers on the place and I’d watched out for good buys in cattle and I’d go and see these and see if they were a good buy. They’d pay for them and I’d collect them.

AGW: So you were virtually running the farm?

LEACH: I ran the farm until it was up to 30-odd in cattle and they decided to take over.

AGW: Was your mother living in Caloundra?

LEACH: They were living at Caloundra. I sort of stayed on and helped them with the farm and Bill my brother was the only one married then. And he was - the Councillor got him to do some road-work that badly needed doing. The road gang was in Maleny at the time. The Councillor that got him to do it, that was Roderick, Manny Roderick, we called him. He started boasting that my brother had done with a pick and a wheel-barrow than this gang had done with a horse and cart. Something to that effect.

End of interview