Interview with: Edward McCosker
Date of interview: 12 March 1985
Interviewer: Gillian Pechey
Transcriber: Colwyn Boulton
Edward was born in 1905 in Perthshire, Scotland and educated at Commissioners Flat School.
Image: Road between Mapleton and Montville, ca 1908.
Edward McCosker oral history [MP3 19MB]
Settling at Mapleton
GP: When did you come to Mapleton?
McCOSKER: Fourth of June, 1931.
GP: And why did you choose this place?
McCOSKER: Well I didn't have much money and I enquired all round for places for sale and anything within my range, anything of going concern wasn't worth having. I looked at places down Highworth, in fact one place I looked at was where the Sub-Normal place is now. I looked around here. I heard about this chap Johnson, I met him. I liked the look of the place. It was all in the raw but it was something you could make something of. As I said, it was on the understanding they were going to put a road in in a very short time but they didn't.
GP: So you bought it because you were told a road was coming in?
McCOSKER: Yes, well there was to be a timber road put in and I believed it. If I hadn't believed that was coming in within a year or so I probably wouldn't have bought the place.
GP: Are you glad you bought it?
McCOSKER: Well I often wished I hadn't. As years went on, we like the place - good place to live. Never made a fortune.
GP: Did you find out about it through the paper or were there real estate agents in those days?..
McCOSKER: No, I'd gone through the real estate agent, and I just.. I just met this chap himself, in a boarding house.
GP: Was the land cleared at that stage?
McCOSKER: There had been a few acres over the other end cleared. An Indian had a bit of cultivation and a shack there. It was fallen into disrepair and had no cultivation on it except a few odd trees. This chap that had bought it, when he sold it to me, cleared a strip of scrub and planted grass. That was the basis of the starting of a dairy farm.
GP: You had to clear some of the land yourself then?
McCOSKER: We had to follow it up. Lantana, groundsel ...
GP: And how did you deal with that?
McCOSKER: Grubber and brush hook in those days.
GP: No 24D?
McCOSKER: No, unfortunately. Oh, arsenic pentoxide. It was good, it was effective but it was dangerous stuff to use – if you got it on your finger nails it burnt them off.
GP: Did you have cattle or horses at that stage?
McCOSKER: I didn't own anything at the time, only a horse down at Glasshouse. I had to clear the land then bought the cattle. I had to put up fences and a shack.
GP: So when you cleared it and put the fences up you then got the animals?
McCOSKER: I bought animals then. Well I had the horse first.
GP: What did the horse eat? Was there some grass?
McCOSKER: Well there was enough. See there had been grass, it was rough. When I first came here the place was thick with cape gooseberries. You could pick them up by the bucketful.
GP: Where did they come from?
McCOSKER: If you felled an acre of this scrub country, any of this scrub country, no matter where you went, they'd come up straight away. I don't know whether they were introduced in the first instance or whether they're a native of Australia. I think they were introduced from overseas. They'd come up wild. First burn, the first year after the scrub burn, cape gooseberries came up.
GP: Did you pick them?
McCOSKER: Oh I picked a few. A couple of cases of them.
GP: Did you do this clearing on your own?
McCOSKER: I had to, yes. When I came here there was another are a just fallen, I had to burn that and grass it. Sow grass seeds.
GP: You bought grass seeds?
McCOSKER: I had to buy the grass seed.
GP: And where did you live when you first came here?
McCOSKER: I lived in a tent down the bottom there. Down the bottom of the block for about six months, until I split slabs so I could put a fence up. I split slabs and built the place just down the hill. It was all work from the ground up, split the posts, split the slabs. [Barbed wire was used]
GP: Did you cook on the open fire?
McCOSKER: Oh yes, had a camp oven, cooked on that.
GP: What did you eat?
McCOSKER: (LAUGHS) Same as everybody else. We didn't live on wallabies. We used to bake the odd damper a bit. That was the only way, oh you'd get a loaf of bread occasionally. The camp oven was a good thing, you could do roast beef in it - anything really - corned beef.
GP: Did you grow any vegetables?
McCOSKER: As soon as ever I got a chance I got a bit of a garden going. Didn't do much gardening till I built the shack. When you get a new burn like that you put in a bit of corn, and beans, pumkins and that sort of thing, it's new soil and it just grows like mad.
GP: Then you got cows to milk?
McCOSKER: Yes, dairying. We built a dairy and a shed. Pretty crude but it was effective. Buy a separator.
GP: Did you have a milking machine?
GP: How long did you milk by hand?
McCOSKER: Right from the start. We bought a milking machine just before Edward got married, 1963.
GP: So how many did you milk by hand?
McCOSKER: We started milking about twenty and got up to thirty. But eventually before we got the machine we were milking up to sixty.
GP: I noticed in the paper that milking machines were invented much earlier.
McCOSKER: Oh we knew about them yes. Oh yes, milking machines were in for a long while. We had no generator, no electricity. We didn't have the money to buy those sorts of things.
GP: And the cream that you got, what did you do with that?
McCOSKER: Take it away by pack horse, first down to Coolabine. The neighbours used to cart it for a little while, fora year or so because they were dairying down there. Sometimes they’d take it through to Mapleton, to meet with the tram there. Then when they left I started carting cream down to Coolabine.
GP: Where was the nearest butter factory?
McCOSKER: Eumundi was our butter factory. That was a branch of the Caboolture.
GP: So when did you stop milking then?
McCOSKER: About 1969. We went into beef cattle. We had a good herd but we couldn’t have power to get cooling apparatus, and they were getting more and more particular in their grading of butter. They had to keep their market. It cost $2,000 for a refrigerator then. And apart from that it didn’t pay the milk carriers to come out from Maleny.
GP: So rather that go somewhere where you could get power to do all that you decided to change to something else?
McCOSKER: At that time if we’d have sold out we wouldn’t have got much for this place. To have bought a place that was viable, that we could work on, well it would have been too expensive for us. We didn't have the money to do it. So when I went out of dairying, for a while we were rearing vealers, fostering them with the cows. Yes well then we did that and then we went in for passion fruit at the same time. They were the best paying crop we had. While we were dairying, pigs were a very profitable sideline. Because it cost me practically nothing extra. You would use your waste milk, and then every time you burnt a new patch, because you were always clearing new land, you'd plant corn and pumpkins. That first time over corn grew very well. What we grew from a new burn would keep us going with the pigs till the following year.
GP: How much land did you clear over the whole fifty years you’ve been here?
McCOSKER: Well, in new ground, we wouldn’t have cleared more than fifty acres, for the simple reason each of the three blocks had been partly cleared and had gone back into regrowth, so we followed that up, cleaned some of that up.
GP: Did you ever sell timber?
McCOSKER: Yes, it was one thing that kept us going after we came back from Beerwah. . There were three case mills in Mapleton and you could sell all the young flooded gums, for soft wood cases. We sold millions of feet. Oh they chased you for the timber. It kept us going for years and years.
GP: Were there more people in Mapleton then than now?
McCOSKER: There was more active farming, more young people. Course now there's lots of retired people, wealthy people. The school's grown. We had a fruit shop, a blacksmith's shop, a baker’s shop, a butcher and a big sawmill and three case mills. So it was a very prosperous little place in the early days. When I first came here, you could go to a dance in Mapleton, the first dance I went to, I didn't know anybody, I danced with a different girl every dance. That's what it was like. It was a very popular area for dancing even for years after we were married. There was a lot of work on the farms for the young people. Lots of farms were self-supporting. It was all citrus.
GP: Did you go out much?
McCOSKER: Oh I went to a dance occasionally. The main object was to get the place going. Get married.
GP: Where did you meet your wife?
McCOSKER: Well I think we sort of grew up together. Both Glasshouse Mountains people. I went to a sports at Glasshouse one day and nearly broke myself buying soft drinks so I could see her on the stall. I was sixteen then.
GP: So you knew what you had in mind when you came here?
McCOSKER: Oh yes.
GP: Did you join any clubs or groups in Mapleton that you went to regularly?
McCOSKER: No I was too busy working seven days a week. There was tennis and football and cricket. They all had their sport. There were quite a few people there. It was quite an active sporting community but I never joined any of those. It was too far away for one thing. And my main object was to get the place paying and get established.
GP: Later on when you were established did you join any groups?
McCOSKER: I joined the Progress Association and the School Committee when we had children. That was much later though.
GP: What was the Progress Association doing at that time?
McCOSKER: Well it was always a very strong Progress Association; there were lots of forward thinking people there. It was concerned with the development of the district. It was the official organisation for the C.O.D. It was the Mapleton Progress and Fruitgrowers Association.
GP: What did they do?
McCOSKER: Well you had to be in an Association like that. You were a member of a Pineapple Group Committee or a Passionfruit Committee. See they were all farmers. Their object was the interests of the farmers and progress of the district. They built the hall in the very early days. (Mapleton Hall)
GP: And you were involved in the School Committee. Did you have to raise money for the school?
McCOSKER: Oh yes. Raise money, and look after the interests of the school, just like any other committee. See the P.& C. now, anyone can join up In those days you just had the School Committee and they had all the say. Nowadays the whole community can join. They can all have a say. In those days you just had Office Bearers and School Committee and they were answerable to the Education Department.
GP: How did your children get to school?
McCOSKER: When they first started they had to be on correspondence for quite a long while. We went to Beerwah for twelve years. By that time the children were big enough and the road was good enough, and we had a vehicle, so the children started going to Mapleton School. The Schoolmaster at the time said he was leaning over the verandah waiting for the McCosker children to come up the road so he could get an assistant teacher. Through our extra four.
GP: Did you have to drive them to school?
McCOSKER: We used to drive them part way or all the way. We took cream three times a week. And we'd go for groceries and meat.
GP: There were no buses?
McCOSKER: Oh no. It was a very bad road. It wasn't Queen Street like it is now