Interview with: Jack Browne
Date of interview: 28 March 1985
Place of interview: Pomona
Interviewer: Annie Wall
Transcriber: Colwyn Boulton
Jack reminisces on his school holidays at Kenilworth Station. He attended Eumundi State School and played cricket and football travelling by train every Saturday to play against other schools. He remembers holidays at Emu Crossing or as it is now known Peregian. His family would travel by bullock wagon with tents, double beds, stretchers, cupboards and clothing everything they needed all stacked up. He recalls the bubonic flu and diphtheria outbreaks and the school closure due to outbreaks of measles, chicken pox and dengue fever. Tom talks about working the bullock teams with his father and also about building spider bridges over the Mary River. Tom also talks about the capture of Johnny Campbell.
Image: Mary River on Kenilworth Homestead Station, 1907.
AudioJack Browne oral history - part one [MP3 1MB]
Jack Browne oral history - part two [MP3 10MB]
Jack Browne oral history - part three [MP3 56MB]
Begin Tape 1/Side A
BROWNE: I was born on the 3rd October 1912. My earliest reminiscences are of old Grandfather Gridley buying a poddy calf off my father and mother and she wouldn’t take any money for it so the old fellow pushed a half-crown piece under the verandah rails to me. I can remember that as though it only happened yesterday and I must have been only two-year-old.
The next memory I have, Eddy and Bob Gridley and Arthur and Tim Best and Arthur and Walter Dyne, Charlie Daniels and Horace Sanderson went to the War. Old butcher Best at Yandina put on a picnic and I couldn’t have been more than two because I was born in 1912 and the War started in 1914 and they were amongst the first to join up. Horace Sanderson didn’t get there till three or four years afterwards. He was too young; and anyway by the time he got there it was over. But that’s another story.
I can remember Eddy Gridley had me up on his shoulders and Charlie Daniels threw a lump of watermelon skin at him and he ducked his head and I was sitting on his shoulders and I copped it. I can remember copping that watermelon skin in me face. That’s something that’s stuck in me mind for years.
After that I just grew up and went to school. The only period in my life other than that I can remember is my association with that old bullock there. And I’ve already written that story. It’s been published in the ‘Cooroy Rat’ if ever you want it.
AW: Could you tell me about your home in Eumundi? Where you lived and what the house was like?
BROWNE: Well my father built this house before he was married with the intention of working the timber. When the timber was finished he intended to pass on to where there was more timber. He also took up a selection at Brown’s Creek, no connection with us. And it was part of the Jarra Estate, which was loaded with pine and cedar and beech and all the exotics. Anyhow they were cut and sent away and then he went contract hauling for the sawmills, around Verrierdale and Doonan, all around Eumundi and the Cooroy Range. The longer he lived there, the bigger the timber got. They’re still cutting timber there where he was hauling – different class of timber of course. They’d only take the best them days, but they’ll take anything now. Then the Forestry took over the Crown Land and preserved them, and allowed them to – you know – indiscriminate burning-off to kill out a lot of timber.
Anyway the result was that as the family grew, the house grew and they built a new Methodist Church in Eumundi. Previous to that they were using the old Drill Hall. It was built by the Salvation Army. They bought that and when they built the new Church this Drill Hall was for sale, so the old man bought it and attached it to the old house. It become a cottage and this other room at the back and a landing in between; the steps went up onto that. That was home that I remember when I could first remember.
AW: Did he build it himself of did he contract other people to do it?
BROWNE: Oh no, the Old Man couldn’t drive a nail. He could drive an axe and that sort of thing.
AW: But he owned the house himself?
BROWNE: Oh yes he owned six acres of land there too. But anyway I think a person called Lofty Dundas built the house and then when this new addition was put on, an old chap called Donnelly, he did that. I can remember him working there meself. Then up to 1922 the Old Man stopped in Eumundi. Kenilworth then was sold. It was a station previous to that
AW: Kenilworth Estate?
BROWNE: No, it was Kenilworth Cattle Station run by the Isaac Moore estate. They owned Kenilworth, Stantons and McAuley’s, (otherwise known as Jimna and Barambah Stations). Matter of fact they still do. The Homestead now is run as a tourist attraction by Jimmy Rowe and his wife. And they had the cows, bulls and the calves and the weaners there. When the weaners became old enough to be topped off, they were branded and doctored and sent up through Little Yabba. They’d get to Stanton and McAuley’s the first day and topped off up there and branded and that’s the last they’d see of them. Barambah and Stanton's they were out of
BROWNE: Maroochy Shire, but Kenilworth Station, most of it was in Maroochy Shire.
AW: And that’s where you moved to then?
BROWNE: The Old Man did. I was still going to school. I went out there at holiday time and though it was the greatest place on earth. Didn’t know too much about life in the rough those days. Dingos were very prevalent. Never a night went by they weren’t howling. They frightened hell out of me.
AW: A lot of people have said that it’s a very scary noise, makes their hair stand up.
BROWNE: Oh, well to a kid of ten-year-old – especially when you’re out on your own.
AW: Did they trap or shoot the dingos?
BROWNE: Oh yes, yes. They were a menace to the calves, but now they’re protected. They can’t shoot them in Kenilworth now; the Forestry won’t allow it. They kill a lot of vermin too. They do more good than harm the poor old dingo.
When I first went to Kenilworth for the school holidays… see, the Lower Kenilworth previous to that was all open to selections for dairying and farming. A lot of them people come from Cedar Creek, down near Enoggera in Brisbane – Sims and Suttons and Pickerings and McGinns – they all come up and took up selections. There’s a lot of Pickerings and a lot of McGinns, and a lot of Sims. Anyway they’re all intermarried. Never talk about anybody at Kenilworth, you’re talking about their relations. Purdons, Pearces… anyway that was all closer settlement. They had a hall there, Lower Kenilworth Hall they call it now. Some people call it Gheerulla, which is wrong; it’s Lower Kenilworth.
And then you get up to John McGinn that was the last. You’re on the boundary then of Kenilworth Station. There was a great big gate there. You went through that gate and you never saw another fence then till you get right up to what they call the four hundred-acre paddock. The four hundred-acre paddock I must explain belonged to Mt Ubi Estate. That was Edith Walker’s Estate really, and it was another cattle station. They come and took up land at Kenilworth and part of it was up the Obi way, to Coolabine Creek. They had this four hundred-acre block between another private selection and Kenilworth Estate: there was exactly 400 acres in between. That was the southern boundary of Kenilworth. You go right through there; you
BROWNE: wouldn’t see a fence or a gate or anything, not even a house, only the homestead. When that was thrown open for selection, there was a road, fenced, and farms were cut up into blocks.
An Uncle of mine, Uncle Ernie Nichols, he had a selection up the road a bit further, a place called Cambroon. It was rotten with pine and the old man was running out of good timber and thought it a good opportunity so he went out there. Ernie Nichols bought a bullock team, got somebody to drive it for him and they started hauling this pine there. The Old Man stopped there till he sold the bullock team.
Well in 1926 it was, when I left school I rode out to Kenilworth to offside for him. I was only thirteen at the time. The day I left Eumundi to ride out there on me pony I met about twenty-four bullock teams between Eumundi and Kenilworth.
AW: All hauling timber?
BROWNE: Yes. Either coming in with timber or going out with an empty wagon. Kellys had seven teams; the Pearce boys had three. Every Tom, Dick and Harry had a bullock team them days. My first memory of Eumundi going to school was the big sawmill that was opposite where the Imperial Hotel is now. Caplick Park, where the butcher shop used to stand, there was a big mill there, Etheridge’s Mill. If there wasn’t one team coming into that mill, there was one going away from it. The street was waiting with teams either to go into the mill or go into the railway yard with logs. That’s all you knew was bullock teams. There was two hotels, two grocery shops, two butcher shops, post office, two banks.
AW: So it was a much bigger town community than it is now?
BROWNE: Yes. Oh, quite a bit, and about a hundred and sixty-three kids going to school, the primary school which wasn't bad.
AW: Did you enjoy school?
BROWNE: No, hated every minute of it. I was lonely without the cane actually. I used to get it every day. Sometimes I deserved it and sometimes I didn’t. I used to talk too much.
AW: What part of school did you enjoy? Did you enjoy any of it?
BROWNE: Oh football and cricket, football mainly. A bloke there, teacher called Bob Chapman he took a great interest in the kids. He was a footballer and he liked cricket. He schooled us up pretty well and every Saturday we used to go down to Yandina or North Arm and play cricket with the other schools.
AW: How did you get there, when you went to Yandina?
BROWNE: On the train. Trains were running then. We’d get off at North Arm coming home. Old Bill Darwin used to be a reporter for “The Nambour Chronicle”. Didn’t matter if we won or lose, we’d tell him we won and he’d print it in “The Chronicle”. Can always remember talking to old Bill.
AW: They must have been fun then, those days with all your friends.
BROWNE: The teacher we had, he was pretty strict. The lady teachers, or assistant teachers – except Bob Chapman, if he thought we wanted the cane he’d give it to you himself – but the lady teachers had the habit of writing on the slate “talking” or “swearing” or “fighting” or something and send us up to the head teacher. You’d finish up getting about six cuts across the hand in front of the whole school. It had a little bit of a demoralising effect on kids, but it didn’t worry me much.
Schoolwork should have been very, very easy to me because I have a good memory, but I never tried. My head was that full of cricket and football and shanghais, and bow and arrows and Red Indians and Robin Hood yarns, you know, school was second placed. In those days there was no secondary or junior standards or senior standards. It was just State School then. If you passed the scholarship that entitled you to a course at either the Nambour or Gympie High School. You had to be pretty smart to get them.
AW: After school would you go off with your mates and play with bows and arrows?
BROWNE: That’s all we had in mind. They’d give us spellings to learn; we could learn them coming to school. Well we were always that late coming to school, we had to run to school to get there on time. Well we had no time to learn the spelling.
AW: Did you make your own bows and arrows and shanghais and things?
BROWNE: Oh yes, everything was made. Made by hand. Swimming in the creek, the Old Man took us down one day to teach us all to swim and when we got near the creek we started stripping off and dived in, and he went home in disgust. He said to Mum he said, “Me teach them little beasties to swim. They can swim better than me.” He didn’t know we’d been in the creek.
AW: Who were your mates? Who were your best schoolmates?
BROWNE: Oh all of them, everybody. I had no enemies.
AW: You didn’t have any extra special friends?
BROWNE: Gridleys, I suppose.
AW: Did you have chores to do at home before you went to school?
BROWNE: Oh my word, my word. Yes, I had to – the old lady up the hill, I had to take four of her cows out about a mile out to a paddock, put them in a paddock and come back. Run down town with a little cart and get three others neighbours’ bread and meat. That’d be for about six pence a week each. This is the way we bought our football gear, save this money up and buy a guernsey and boots and everything.
AW: Did that money also go towards your train trip when you went to Yandina or did the schoolmaster provide that?
BROWNE: No, no, those fares didn’t matter. You could go to Yandina for about two pence. Half the time the old guard used to say, “Get on there you kids. You get in the back of the carriage here,” and that’d be it.
AW: And after school, did you have chores again after school?
BROWNE: Oh yes, same again, had to go get the cows and get some wood. Saturday morning it was a case of go and get wood. I had to get the small wood and the other brother’d get sticks and the two big brothers they had to go and chop the heavy stuff. We got a crosscut saw and got it sharpened somehow and used to run off blocks. It was a never-ending task, cutting firewood. Because Mum never had a self-heating iron; she had these old ‘Mother Potts’ and ironing day there had to be about a dozen of these irons on the stove and the wood’d be stoked in there like a furnace. It would’ve been all right if we could have got some iron bark or something. Anyhow a sawmill come close to our place then, a second sawmill. It come down alongside the Butter
BROWNE: Factory, and it made it a bit easier. They all happened since I started school the Butter Factory and that second sawmill.
The butter factories
AW: Do you remember the opening of the Butter Factory?
BROWNE: Oh yes.
AW: Was it a special day in the community?
BROWNE: No, no, no. A special day for the “cockies” because they had to bring cream in from Kenilworth and all round Doonan, Verrierdale, Yandina, Eumundi, North Arm up on the Ranges, Cooroy and all round the place. There were coaches coming in there. Especially Kenilworth, they had fifty dairies out there. They had to come and drop all these cans on the wagon at the railway and they’d either go to Gympie or Caboolture.
Eventually they built a factory at Cooroy. Wide Bay come and built a factory at Cooroy. That was the first one. I don’t know if it was for spite or for good business, but Caboolture came and built one then at Pomona; then one at Eumundi; one each side of it. Then they had three factories then to do the work of one. None of them actually progressed very much. They were all right for a while but price beat them. Butter was down to about 6 1/2d a pound at times; 9d during the war; 3d a pound, for pigs; you know it wasn’t much that’s three cents a pound for bacon. You can’t credit it today. Oh yes, there’s been a bit of progress made in the place.
Anyhow whoever closed the Butter Factories down, we felt very crooked. I don’t know who it was, I think it was old Joh. I reckoned he must have released at least 7000 people from slavery. It’s the only industry in the world where a man’s got to take his wife and kids to work to earn their living. The only bloke that’d take on dairying, he’s just too stupid to do anything else. I liked it, I did a bit of dairying. I liked the game, it’s a lovely life, but it’s slavery. You’re there seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year.
AW: When you were at school did you ever go on any school excursions?
BROWNE: Oh yes we used to have school excursions to Sandgate. I don’t know what they were meant to do. They were trying to promote Sandgate and they put on these free school excursions. Mum, she used to go down, but she’d go into
BROWNE: Brisbane and make it a shopping spree. Come out to Northgate and go down to Sandgate and back. We’d catch the train home at Northgate.
AW: Did all the schools go together?
BROWNE: From Gympie to say Nambour; then Nambour to Caboolture. We’d go down on different stages; get a trainload. It was mostly used as a shopping spree, which I think was why it was designed – one for the kids, and, two for the commercial visitors.
AW: And in your childhood, do you remember any family holidays?
BROWNE: Oh we used to have beautiful holidays. When I was a kid the Old Man worked in the Verrierdale – Doonan area, that’s where he was hauling. And that was about halfway between Eumundi and Coolum Beach. That’s where Peregian is now. Emu Crossing is its right name. That’s where the shallow water occurs there in the swamp. And you can see Little Emu Mountain just up on the way.
We’d get the bullock wagon and the Old Man would put two saplings on top of it and nail 6x1s across that or spike them – he wouldn’t nail them. Oh there’d be tents and double beds and stretchers and cupboards and clothing – everything you wanted – stacked up. The boys’d be on their ponies. That’s the eldest brother, I was the fourth, there was three older than me. Two of them had ponies, one had the Old Man’s horse and I’d be sitting up on the wagon, I was pretty small, the first time. The last time I was about eight I suppose.
But he’d go down and cross the swamp somewhere near where the bridge is, going across Stevens swamp just at Peregian, between Peregian and Coolum, only north a bit, where the old military bridge was. It’s still there the remains of that old military bridge. The army used it during the war. The water was about that deep going through there. (Two feet). Bullocks have a good drink. Old Man had a yoking-up yard there and he’d unyoke them, leave the wagon there, unyoke the bullocks; or take them back to where he wanted to grass them and unyoke up there. The boys’d have the wagon unloaded onto the ground. The Old Man had the poles already there and they just chucked the tent over. There was two ordinary tents, a fly and a bell tent.
BROWNE: We’d be there for the six weeks holiday. Not a soul, nobody at Coolum. Not a soul, they used to call Coolum Green Hills. The beach was Coolum, but where Coolum is now, the town, they called that Green Hills. Going up the Yandina Road somewhere near where the service station is now, there was a homestead there belonged to people called Perry-Keene’s and they had a bit of a shop there. You could go there and get flour, sugar and condensed milk and camp-pie and that sort of thing. They didn’t keep general merchandise but if you got stuck for food you could go there. We never really needed food. There was ugaris on the beach like gravel. We had old cord lines – you wouldn’t catch anything today with them – but we’d have an old cord line that we were using, mainly for catfish. We’d go down there and hook a couple of ugaris on and throw in and get a bream like this you know.
AW: And then cook it and eat it.
BROWNE: Oh Mum’d fry them up. Ugaris, we’d get them, and pop ‘em into the camp oven and get ‘em nice and hot and when they were cooked they’d pop open and then we’d sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper on them. When they were cool enough you’d put a fork along and cut that black bag out of them – that’s their intestines – cut that out – and the rest of them – oh beautiful. The old Abos used to get fat on them. They didn’t bother, just cook and eat ‘em.
AW: And were there Aborigines there, at Coolum, when you went
there on your holidays?
BROWNE: Oh there were a few there. Talking about Aborigines – can just remember, that was the last time. Every year the Abos used to come over from the Burnett area. They’d travel over the coast, which was Noosa, but they wouldn’t go straight in, they’d stop at Eumundi. One, two or three hundred of them and they’d bring over as many as they could carry of bunya nuts. They’d get them from the Bunya Mountains and they come to – (I don’t know whether you know where Nurse Luke had a hospital, at Eumundi, - a Maternity Ward it was –it’s just down below the by-pass in the old road). Well over the back you’ll see a lot of bunya trees growing – well that’s how they got there. These Abos, they’d come there and they’d camp.
Then they’d send a scout over to Noosa to see if it was all right to pay them a visit. And they’d do a bit of bartering you see, these fellows from out the back’d have spurs of
BROWNE: hickory trees, boomerangs, and lance foot spears and all this sort of thing. And they’d come over and exchange for… coastal Abos could sell them oysters and soft stuff that they had cravings for. But they'd have to stop there and they'd plant these bunya nuts in this clay and cover it up.
They'd get over to Noosa, once it was okay to go and they'd do their bartering. Then they'd get stuck into these oysters and ugaris and fish, have a great tuck in. They'd be skinny when they went over there. It wouldn't be long before they'd get nice and fat and shiny. Then they'd start fighting over them. Somebody might have got a bottle of grog or some gin might have been playing up and they'd be scrapping over her. Then the Kabis would send them home, that's the Noosa tribe. They would have big dogfight and send them home.
They'd come back to this bunya thing. By this time the bunyas would be starting to shoot. An erbo will never eat that shoot inside a bunya seed, they cut it open and they always take that out and throw it away. And that's the reason I've never eaten them meself. I don't know why, I couldn't tell you why, they said it's no good. But there must be something wrong with it. I’ve never eaten them. A lot of people do. I love boiled bunyas, I used to cook them in cornmeal while I was with the Old Man and the bullocks. It was good. He didn’t like it much, it used to blacken the water and used to try to eat the fat off it.
Anyhow that’s how them bunya nuts got into that paddock down at Lukes. But after that they got a bit sophisticated. Plenty of bunyas growing around here at the time. Then they started working it out and they grew them themselves here. I think the coastal Abos didn't want the bunya nuts so they didn't bother bringing many. So they come then and they camped under the gum trees just where they present day Butter Factory is at Eumundi now. And that's the last time they came. I can just remember them coming here. This great heap of them, they just appeared one afternoon, camped there, and sing and corroboree and dance around
BROWNE: They never had any money, thank goodness cos if they got onto some grog there'd be trouble. But there was never any trouble. Next morning they'd be gone again.
After that they opened Cherbourg Mission and they never come back again. Which I think was a terrific shame. They should have let them people come over, because living in the inland absolutely free of salt they weren't as healthy as robust as they should have been. A pygmy is only a pygmy
BROWNE: because he's got no salt in his diet. You get a young pygmy that’s never tasted salt and give him a handful he’d eat it like – chew it just like eating coconut.
I’m glad to see that they knocked out this stupid idea of knocking the young fellow’s front teeth out. They used to do that in their initiation ceremonies. Beautiful teeth they had. They’d knock this great big front tooth out. One time you’d never see an erbo without that tooth missing. Not now they don’t do that to them. They got to submit to that and not even cry. A young lad about twelve.
Holidays at Coolum
AW: When you were on holiday down at Coolum, in the evenings did you have a campfire and sing alongs? How did you keep yourself amused?
BROWNE: Oh yes, Mother was a great – she was a Sunday school teacher. Sixty-eight years in one Sunday school at Eumundi, Superintendent of a Sunday school and in that time she reared eight kids. I don’t know how the blazes she done it – went to Church every Sunday. Oh she’d sing along, she had the old accordion.
Oh we had great time. There was always somebody with us we wouldn’t be on our own. Everyday somebody’d ride in, bank manager from Eumundi or someone – they’d ride down. There was that big bell tent you see and all they had to do was roll out their swag and they’d be right. They’d come and have a swim and a good feed of fish and that, go fishing. L A Cooke would come down with his greyhound dogs and chase kangaroos. We’d get on our ponies and get after them. Oh yes, we had great times. Copped a bad storm once, oh gee it was a beauty! Oh, we survived it.
The Old Man dug a hole just down at the swamp about twenty feet away from the water’s edge, little hole about four foot deep and about so square and the water’d filter through the sand, beautiful water. We’d have to go down and get two kerosene tins. Full everyday, bring it up to camp. Mum’d go down there and do the washing. Then he had a hole dug up on the hill, about that wide and about that long and so deep and he had these bars, iron bars over it. And that was the fire and she’d do her cooking on that.
End Side A/Begin Side B
AW: Let’s get back to the hole, the size of the hole?
BROWNE: Well, we’d just dig this hole and light the fire there and night time it’d burn down to a heap of ashes and next morning when you’d get out you’d just chuck a few dead leaves or twigs on it. The Old Man used to blow it with his hat, you know. Next thing you know you got a flare in the middle. It never went out, that fire. Even when it rained it was good, he’d chuck a sheet of iron over it and it would be going next morning.
AW: You mother must have had a very tough life with eight children?
BROWNE: No, it wasn’t that tough.
AW: Well, busy?
BROWNE: I tell you what, a lot of people don’t believe this, but it’s right. She had an aged aunt, Salvation Army lass she was, narrow-minded at that. After Mum had been married about six months she come up for holiday for three weeks and she stopped twenty-three years. Nobody wanted her. She was too narrow-minded: nobody could put up with her. Salvation Army bigoted. Everything had to be according to the book of the Salvation Army. If it wasn’t there was hell to pay. I used to give her a bit of cheek. She didn’t like me much, but that was mainly me own fault I suppose. She did a lot of work, poor old thing, her intentions were good. She was all right in that respect. She kidded herself as a nurse and she was rough as bags! Oh she was all right.
AW: How did your mother cope with children got sick or anyone got injured in the family, did she have access to health services?
BROWNE: Oh no, no. Dr Penny in Nambour was the closet and Dr McLeod in Gympie was the other. I can’t remember, I was only eighteen months old I suppose. The diphtheria epidemic was on, a bad one. The kids were dying. And anyhow, she didn’t know but I got a temperature. She jumps on the midday train, her and I think the Old man was there that day. We went up to Gympie, only because the train suited. And she’s up around here somewhere (Pomona) and this chap comes through and he says, “I understand there’s a diphtheria child here somewhere.”
Mum says, “Well this boy here’s not too good.” He had a look and, “No, he’s got it alright.” Like, other boys were carriers but I wasn’t, I was a reactor. He said, “He won’t last till you get to Gympie.”
She said, “What can I do?”
BROWNE: He said, “Well I can do a lot for your.” He got out his little black bag and give me a needle, what they used to call anti-toxin and that was old Dr Leod. I can thank him for me being here today. I wouldn’t have made Gympie, he said. I was there for about a fortnight, I don’t remember that.
AW: It must have been hard when there were a lot of children with such a disease?
BROWNE: And the next serious thing that come up was that bubonic flu, oh it was crook.
AW: When was that?
BROWNE: Oh just after the First World War. Soldiers brought it back from the War and then they got the itch. It was frightful. That was something the soldiers brought back too, poor fellows. They couldn’t help it, they were suffering it all the time. We survived the bubonic flu, but this itch…No cure for it. Oh we were scratching! This old auntie I’m telling you about, she thought she was going to play hell. She got us into a tub and tipped about half a bottle of carbolic into it. She said, “That’ll cure the itch.” Oh, it nearly brought my extremities off! I jumped out of that tub! I poured a bucket of cold water over myself to get rid of it. It turned out there was a very simple cure: just mix up some sulphur and lard and rub it on the itchy spots and it used to just get under the skin and next thing, you know, there would be big white lump and then it’d be red – in your sleep you’d be scratching – smear over this stuff, I tell you what you got on the pig too, you know sulphur smell, it was terrible. By gees it cleared up the itch.
AW: Did all the members of the family get that?
BROWNE: Everybody. Yes, not only members of the family, everybody in town was scratching. Then we got a lice plague too. A lot of those things come back from the War. Trenches must have been terrible, trench warfare.
Then we got the other epidemics that went through – dengue, measles, chicken pox. School closed down; it was down to about ten pupils I think, one hundred and sixty odd kids. It closed down for six weeks.
AW: What was that from? Just the measles and chicken pox?
BROWNE: Measles, chicken pox and dengue all at once. Once you got it you had to be in quarantine, you weren’t allowed to go to school so it got that way that the old teacher closed it – I
BROWNE: think he got it himself. Closed the school down, had to start all over again when we got back. They used to send our lessons home to us. He was pretty conscientious, old G.H. Cooke, not like the second bloke who used to give the cane all the time. But, al, we’d just look at them, and push them aside and go and play marbles. More fun than learning lessons. No teacher there to tell you what to do.
AW: Do you remember the home remedies that your mother had for odd things?
BROWNE: Well everybody here a while back, a few years ago, were looking for castor oil bottles. I told them, I said, “There’s a stump out in the paddock in the back of our house at home” – I don’t know where it is now, it’s been burnt off, knocked off. I said, “If you can pick it up find the hollow, there must be a thousand castor oil bottles there.”
And this bloke said, “Why?”
I said, “Well I never let them get empty.” I said, “Every time a castor oil bottle come into the house, as soon as I spotted it I’d pinch it and put it down this hollow stump.” Cripes I hated that stuff.
AW: Used it for everything?
BROWNE: Oh, you got a spoonful every Friday night whether you wanted it or not. It’s not even good for what they tell you. The doctors won’t recommend it, nobody recommends it, terrible stuff to take. I reckon the bloke that invented that had a hard childhood, I’ve no doubt about that.
AW: Were you very close to your father as a child?
BROWNE: I was about the closest of all the family, except the girls.
AW: Yes, and he spent a lot of time then with his children?
Working with the bullock team
BROWNE: No, he didn’t. He didn’t have the chance. We were living in Eumundi and he was living at Kenilworth, like he was camping out there. But I was off-siding for him, so I was there from the time I left school in 1926 till he sold the team in 1933 pr. “34 I suppose. I was there everyday. A lot of time I needn’d have been, but I was there just in case I was wanted. Never knew when he wanted me to go out with him. That was just at the time of the change over from bullocks to tractors and trucks. We used to snig logs and haul them to the mill. We also hauled sawn timber from Kenilworth to Imbul and dropped them in there to Myers and Lutton’s Mill,
BROWNE: which became Lutton’s Mill afterwards. And they had the big dressing planes there. They could turn 4x1 pine in T.N.G. (tongue and groove) or casements or noggins you know, all that sort of thing, cause they had them big planes. Middleton’s used to send their own sawn timber there. Either that or into Eumundi and down to Brisbane. We used to haul the sawn timber. I didn’t mind that much; it was all on the road through. I didn’t like roadwork. If I was in the scrub snigging it was all right. Long, as the Old Man wasn’t too close. Allowed me the opportunity to swear at the bullocks. If I swore and he was listening, he’d go crook.
AW: Would you like to tell me what a day was like working with your father?
BROWNE: He was always a fanatic for getting up early.
AW: Early? You mean like four or five o’clock?
BROWNE: It’d be breaking daylight. Held get up and light the fire and boil the billy and have breakfast. And then he’d go off and get the bullocks and I’d be left in the camp to do up the lunch. He’d get up there and kick the bullocks around and they’d start feeding you see. He’d leave them graze there for quite a while, say half or three-quarters of an hour. Then he’d bring them home and yoke them up. In a big hurry of course, we were a long way from home: we wanted to get home – that day. Sometimes we’d have to go up towards Conondale – first day you’d spend going up and snigging the logs and the next day you’d have to come home with a loaded wagon. The first day was a big day and the second day wasn’t so hard. We got to camp out on that particular night. We wouldn’t be in the humpy, you just put a sapling up and chuck a tarp over it and camp under that. Fill it up that high with ferns, or grass or something, and put the mattress on. Plenty of dingos and wild pigs about; you wouldn’t worry about that. The old dog used to get a bit fright. He wouldn’t go. He’d come over on my side and I didn’t say anything, I knew the poor old fellow was frightened. Dingos’d attack him, and those pigs, they were nothing to – you had to watch them closely. They were dangerous.
AW: Well now we’ve yoked up and…
BROWNE: Yeah, then we’d go off to – if we were working locally, like Walli Creek, we’d take off up there in the wagon and get there about ten. We had a big team, only because it was river crossings involved. Never yoked up less then about thirty-four bullocks. Thirty-six was a good team. Well when
BROWNE: we got up there, we’d split it into two teams, that’s sixteen each and we’d go up and bring down two fairly big logs. That was our first snig. And then I’d go and get the billy can and boil the billy and he’d go back with one team and get another log and that’d be the load. By the time he came out, I’d have the billy and when we were ready for lunch we’d put the teams in the shade, and have a meal. After lunch we’d just pull these logs onto the wagon, chuck the skids on and everything else.
AW: You’d use the bullocks to pull the logs onto the wagons?
BROWNE: Oh my word. As I say when I left that job and went working on a timber truck I realised what work was. The bullocky doesn’t do any work at all. The heaviest work a bullocky does is lift the yolk over the bullock’s neck or chuck a skid up onto the load or something like that. They were a sapling about that thick and about, oh I don’t know how long they were, about three and a half axe handles, if you can guess that. An axe handle’s two foot six so that’ll be round about ten feet, I suppose. That’d be the heaviest they’d do. The Bullocks’d do all the yakka. Even if a log come on the wagon too far forward, you just put a chain on it and drag it back a bit. Then we’d head off for town. Half the time it’d be downhill. Doesn’t matter where you went from Kenilworth, you were coming down the river, coming down the creeks or something. Nearly all downhill.
Now and again you’d strike a bit of steep country. Then the big team would be a bit of a nuisance because the front bullocks’d be trying to get home, to get unyoked and they’d pull the back fellows off the road, have to watch them. As we were going from Kenilworth to Brooloo, over what they call the Gap road, I’m talking about the old road, it was very very narrow. Coming up the corner there the front bullocks – you had to have them to pull the load – and they’d be pulling the back fellows off the road all the time. That’s where he was good, (indicated painting of ‘Bowler’) he was the pin bullock. We had other big bullocks there for pins, so you could whale (whip) them all into corners. Had to get on inside the team every time you come to a corner. I often wondered how he got on when he met another team. He used to meet them, he’d pass somewhere along the road. It must have been a bit hard on the Gap.
AW: And how much would your father have earned then for say a days work?
BROWNE: Well I can tell you how much he’d earn, but I can’t tell you how much he got, because the money was very, very
BROWNE: scarce. Now hauling logs, you’d get about three bob a hundred. Well now, pine, he’d bring about twenty-eight hundred. It’d be worth about a fiver to bring a load down to the mill.
AW: You’re talking about feet are you?
BROWNE: Superficial feet. I’ll tell you what though, the Depression was on – they think this is a depression, it’s not a depression at all – this is great in comparison. But you couldn’t demand any money because the Mill had to cut the timber and they had to send it down. Then they’d have to wait. People that bought the timber had no money. They were sweating on borrowed time or borrowed money or something like that. They were paying interest. You might have say four or five hundred pounds, (You’d know what a quid is?) you might have that on the books but you’d have to wait six months to get half of it sometimes. It was a struggle all the time. I know when the Old Man died, I was going through the books with Mum and the Mill owed him four hundred and eighty quid and he never ever got it. Well now four hundred and eighty quid them days, you cold own a Studebaker car; you could have the best car on the road. Course the Old Man’d never have a car, he wouldn’t have it.
AW: Was it hard to exist then when you weren’t being paid?
BROWNE: My word it was, it was very hard to exist…
AW: Because it was a big family.
BROWNE: Oh well, once the boys started working, that relieved them a bit but – there was commitments too. You still had to pay rates and all those sort of things, wheel taxes for the bullock wagons.
AW: Did you ever have the people that were on the road looking for work? Did they ever come to your house?
BROWNE: Oh yes, not to Kenilworth– that was off the beaten track. But Eumundi, you could look down any time of the day on the road – like we lived at Eumundi along the Kenilworth Road – we could look down at the railway, but if there wasn’t a swaggie walking along the line, they were walking along the road. Swagmen. Some of them liked the line, some of them liked the road. And they could walk the railway line. If they got on the Eumundi Range and the old train had a banker on it and they were going very slow, they could just
BROWNE: grab on the side and stand on the brake lever and they’d get a free ride up the Range. When they started to get a bit of speed up, they’d have to step off but if they were young enough, they’d climb up into the wagon and stop there until somebody kicked them out. Because they didn’t care what they done. They’d go to Gympie and the old cop’d catch them, a railway cop and he was a stinker. All he got out of it was the pleasure of getting them put in jail for a couple of days. And they had not money so they finished up chopping the old copper some wood or something, while he had to feed them. I think old Tex Morten sings about that, and he was caught by old “Wingie” (nickname). Quite a lot of people were.
AW: Of course they didn’t have the “dole” then. They had sustenance wasn’t it?
BROWNE: Pittance. Seven shillings and sixpence a week.
AW: And that was for a whole family?
BROWNE: That was for man. I don’t know about his family. Most of the Swaggies never had any family. They never took to the road, they stopped at home and got unemployment relief or sustenance. But the Swaggies that used to come by looking for jobs, they’d be transients. Some of the old Swaggies, of course, they didn’t want anything; they just wanted to exist. They weren’t looking for work at all. But there was quite a few genuine blokes. I know one fellow he used to go up North Queensland, cutting cane every year. And he’d make good money too, fair money and before he left he’d gamble it all away. He’d have to jump the rattler back again. That was just a wasted exercise in my opinion. He could have brought a decent living even then. But Kenilworth was all scrub them days, not the place itself – Kenilworth Cattle Station was forest – but all the ridges and that were all high with scrub, full of pine timber. We were waiting for the day the forestry released it and when it did come, Billy Doyle got a contract. That’s the chap in the Mill now. And out of the royalty they allowed him – the timber was only growing about a mile and a half from the Ill – and out of that royalty they allowed him seven shillings and sixpence a hundred. That was two and six to cut it, and two and six to snig it and two and six to haul it. That was quite close. A chap from here went over and offered to do the lot for two and sixpence and Bill Doyle had him on. I said, “You’ll regret this Bill.” He said, “Why?” and I said, “You can see yourself making five bob a hundred out of this, but you won’t do it next year.” Soon as they know that you’re doing this for two and six a hundred, they’ll cut you down.” They did all right.
BROWNE: Now this bloke, Hughie Napier he was, he had a Thornicroft truck, he come over there. He was going to cut it and snig it and haul it. He had a bullock tem, Thornicroft truck, he had cutters from here. They went in and got all the handy timber and then he went broke. Next thing you know Billy Doyle was paying 15 shillings a hundred royalty. They pulled him right into gear. I said, “I told you so.” I said, “Now if you’d stopped at seven and six and give the cutters two and six – they were only getting nine pence at the time – if you’d given them two and six, they’d have stopped with you forever. The bullockies would have stopped with you forever for two and six and the hauliers would have done the same.” I said, “There’s enough work there for everybody. Why did you let one man have it?” He said he didn’t even know. “I don’t know,” he said, “I’m regretting it now.”
I said, “Well you should have known better.”
AW: Now apart from working with your father on the bullock team, what was your first paid job?
BROWNE: Well I tell you what. I was in the camp doing nothing; there was nothing going on. Must have been just after rain or something. There was no work. The Old Man didn’t come out for a week. There was a chap building a big house up on the hill just above me for Humphrey Hassall, a bloke called Dick Caddell. He come from Corroy here – young Caddell his grandsons there now – and he come down and he said, ‘Do you want a job, Brownie?”
I said, “Yeah.”
“Come over here,” he said. “Have you got a bar and shovel?”
I said, “No, nothing any good.”
“Oh, I got plenty.”
And he gets up and he got all these pegs. He said, “There you are. I want round holes, about that round,” he said, “and two foot three deep. Go your hardest. Dig those post holes.” He give me tow and six a blooming’ posthole for them. I thought I was made. It gave me an outfit of clothes and patent leather shoes. I thought I was somebody.
AW: Quite a young man!
AW: What about your wife? Where did you meet her?
BROWNE: Oh, actually at Kenilworth.
AW: What, at a social function?
BROWNE: No, she come from Eudlo or Ilkley. She come to work for the woman who was living next door. She had a couple of young babies and she come to give her a bit of a hand. And that’s how I met her.
AW: Did you know her a long time before you got married?
BROWNIE: No, I didn’t know her at all.
AW: Before you got married?
BROWNE: Oh yes, yes. Things were bad, things were tough. By that time I was out with a bridge contractor, a Main Roads bridge contractor, building bridges. We were over on the Brisbane River, camped in tents and that all. Not much good getting married under those conditions, stinking of creosote…
AW: So you knew her for quite a long time?
BROWNE: Oh yes.
AW: When you met her and took her out somewhere, where would you go and what would you do?
BROWNE: Oh, Kenilworth to the Hall, pictures, dances, that’s abut all; Kenilworth Show, Imbil show. But you couldn’t go far. I was working for a cockie. I had to milk cows and she was doing the same. You had to be there between milkings. It wasn’t much fun, bad time those Depression times. I don’t want to remember them at al. Nothing here – nothing today – to compare them with.
AW: What about your wedding? Were you married in Kenilworth?
BROWNE: No, married in Brisbane.
AW: In Brisbane. Do you remember that?
BROWNE: Yes, yes, Albert Street Methodist Church. It was very quite, there was only about half a dozen of us there.
AW: And did you go away for a holiday?
BROWNE: No, couldn’t afford those things then.
AW: Did you stay in Brisbane then or did you come up to Kenilworth?
BROWNE: No, I was working over at the Mary River then. Just out of Ipswich, a place called Wenora. That’s where I was building the bridge and then we went there for a while, then we came back.
AW: What about your children? Were they born at home?
BROWNE: We eventually came back to Kenilworth and I took on a farm, half-shares there.
AW: Share farming?
BROWNE: Yes, didn’t gather any moss but oh, it was somewhere to live. Three children were born there at Maleny Hospital.
AW: So you took your wife up to Maleny?
BROWNE: The doctor used to come down from Maleny to Kenilworth and everybody that got crook went to Maleny. Nambour’s a bit too far away. It was either Gympie or Maleny or Nambour. He used to work at Maleny so the doctor come down twice a week, Dr Pyror.
AW: So you’d make the decision a few days before the baby was due to take her up to Maleny to the Hospital?
BROWNE: Waited till the thing was starting and reckoned we might move and hot the ambulance and that was it.
AW: So you went by ambulance to Maleny?
BROWNE: Yes. I left there then and worked at Eumundi again for a while, and then come to Kin Kin. It treated me very well, Kin Kin.
AW: You were telling me before that you built one of the first spider bridges?
BROWNE: I did!
AW: Can you tell me about that?
BROWNE: Well you hardly know they existed now but that was at the Three-Mile Crossing above Kenilworth going towards Maleny. On the far bank.
AW: Is that over the Obi?
BROWNE: No, over the Mary River. At the far bank we laid a bed log and out on this side of the channel, we laid another one, a big bed log and then put two girders on top of these, flattened on top. And then they got two bigger logs and put one each side of it; it had to be very straight. Well then we put a bit of a run-up onto it and that was the first spider bridge. It was quite good as long as you didn’t try to drive over it. If you just went onto it and let the car roll, it would go. Anybody that started to steer, they’d get trouble. Or small motor cars didn’t track. The standard gauge in a motor car them days was four foot eight and a half. It was made to suit that. But most people got out of trouble, they just let the car go. Well that was good. It did service there for quite a few years. The river had a sweep in it and the channel was down there at the southern bank and there was a spider bridge. Then there was a screening of gravel and sand on this side. Well, as the floods progressed – we used to get them pretty awful in them days – another channel come out between the bridge and the bank on this side? So it looked as though we were going to build the spider bridges all across. The second one, we went down the stream for 150 yards, where thee was a lot of trees. Pretty high solid bank on each side and they put stringers across there, in between the trees. And that held it. We found out that originally that if you put a decking on a bridge, it’ll wash away. It’ll float away or it’ll leave a hole in the middle where the water churns up. A bridge doesn’t wash away, it floats away, even though it’s iron bark. There’s one of the trees, it’s still there. The approach to it was better, it was hard gravel, it wasn’t loose sand, it never washed away. But that served its purpose right up till the time when the new road was built, that’s the present road now where they built a bridge over the Yabba creek, Little Yabba. Then they built another one over the next river crossing at the Four Mile and as far as I know it’s still there – no it’s not, they built another modern bridge – down stream a bit. It’ll be still there just the same. If there’s another bridge there, they don’t use it. Well then they went on to Leiliefetts, up the Obi, up the Mary River to Conondale and they drove piles and built them properly.
Then dual wheels come out. Now the spider bridge is no good, dual wheels couldn’t work on them. So some smart bloke got the idea instead of putting the curves on the outside, to put them on the inside. Ane the cars and trucks could go across the dual wheel could hang over the side. Didn’t matter about them, as long as they were on the bridge. That bridge is still in operation. It’s pretty hard to get off that one once you get on. The Obi creek, of course she’s a pretty hard fast running stream and they built modern
BROWNE: bridges there. I don’t think there’s too many spider bridges being used today.
AW: I believe there’s one somewhere up there, that they’ve just built the other bridge on the top?
BROWNE: Oh well yes, that’s the one at Conondale, no Obi Obi. But the last one I was on was operational was up at Cedar creek. That’s only a culvert, a little one. There’s another one up on the Mt Speck going up to Lake Bolooma up in north Queensland. It’s still in operation. That’s just a big tree cut in half with a band saw. It was about that wide, with a gap in between. You just run across it, you don’t know it’s there. Anybody’s little car might go through it but wouldn’t want to, cause it’s a long way down the bottom.
Begin Tape 2/Side A
AW: You were going to tell me about Johnny Campbell, apparently your mother knew him or knew of him?
BROWNE: My mother knew the chap that captured him, called Johnny Griffin. He used to knock about Yandina quite a lot. And he told my mother that Johnny Campbell was captured at a place very close to where the Tewantin Cemetery now stands. Now ‘The Gympie Times’ cutting I have here says it was Goodchap Estate. Well now that could have still been Goodchap Estate. I’m not sure of that. But it’s a long way from the Goodchap Estate as we know it today.
Johnny Griffin reckoned that when he (Johnny Campbell) come to the mob over at Goodchap Estate, he was told to go away and they’d send food to him. They didn’t want him about the place at all. Obviously a ruse to get him on his own so they could capture him. He went back, him and his gin that he’d pinched off somebody, back to Tewantin Cemetery or somewhere near there. And that’s where Johnny Griffin over-powered him, overtook line and they tied him up and they stretched him out on this clothes-prop. And they carried him down the street from the direction of the Cemetery down to the wharf at Tewantin. That’s where the people all came out to look at him, coming down the road.
So if he was captured at Goodchap Estate, he’d be on the other side of Lake Doonella. And I can’t see how they’d be carrying him down the Tewantin main street on a clothes-prop. If that was the case, he must have been captured somewhere around the back, near the old slaughter yard or the Cemetery.
AW: Were people frightened of him?
BROWNE: Oh yes. Everybody was terrified, especially girls and women. And a lot of men too. I don’t know if it was fully founded – I think it might have been – but different stories I heard about him. He saved a man’s life once. And he had no
BROWNE: idea it was Johnny Campbell that was looking after him, or he would have thrown a bit of a panic.
AW: Where was that?
BROWNE: That was somewhere around the area that Campbell frequented which was rather large you see. His district extended from way up above Gayndah and out west to Namango and down to Caboolture and right up the coast up to Bundaberg. He got around. He was on foot too most of the time, although he was an excellent horseman. He was a good man hone bad, that’s what actually happened to him. That’s as much as my mother could tell me about it. She reckoned Johnny Griffin told her this and I’d be inclined to believe Johnny Griffin because he was the man that actually over-powered him, took him. And he handed him over to the police. They took him to Gympie and he eventually come back. I think he was tried at Ipswich. He had the preliminary hearing at Gympie, but I think the criminal charge was contested at Ipswich and he hung at Brisbane jail.
AW: Now you’re going to tell me the story of your pin bullock.
The story of a bowler: A true story
BROWNE: In 1901 in what is called ‘the Big Drought’ by old hands around Yandina and Eumundi, Bowler was born. Bowler was a hereford bull calf. Aunt Hannah found him standing, looking very forlorn and sad, beside hes dead mother who passed away giving birth to him. She carried him home, made up a titty bottle and gave him a drink of milk. Bowler became a family pet straight away.
A few cows were kept around the house and fed on wild sorghum which grew in the swamps as they dried up. A few bales of lucerne hay were kept on hand as well to feed the milk cows. The milk form these cows was poured into big vats and placed on the stove to scald. Then it was put in the milk safe to cool in the early morning when the heat is much less intense. Then the cream was skimmed off to be made into butter later. The milk that was left still had a reasonable amount of cream remaining. Bowler was given a bucket of this milk twice a day, so you can imagine what a hefty calf he grew into.
He had the run of the whole homestead yard and if anyone forgot to latch the gate or door, he’d be in the kitchen getting himself into mischief. However he was everybody’s pet and all the family claimed to have gad a hand in rearing him. But I think Aunt Hannah had the most to do with him. In due course the drought broke and there was grass everywhere, kangaroo, paspalum, and couch, and Bowler grew into a big calf. One day he received a terrific shock, he was put into the yard, tied up and castrated. You see he was not a pure-bred Hereford, he had a bit of Shorthorn in him and was not considered for stud purposes. After the doctoring, he grew bigger than ever.
When he was about four years old he was brought up to Eumundi where my father was a teamster. He was broken into the team and, being a very intelligent bullock, adapted himself very quickly. He could work any position on the team – he was very good in the lead, the body, the pole or the pin. I should point out that the pin’s the most important place in the bullock team, being the pair in front of the polers. The pin bullock had the responsibility of wheeling the team round bends and therefore kept the wagon on the road instead of cutting corners and going over the side. So being a pin bullock he was always let go very quickly when unyoking.
Bowler had been working some years when I made his acquaintance, I was about three years old with three older brothers. As soon as Bowler was unyoked we would run down and pat him. He would put his head down so that we could scratch him about the ears and horns, while he stood as meek and mild as a lamb. When the rest of the team was unyoked, we would grab hold of the hair on his ribs. Being a Hereford he had plenty of it to grab hold of, and he would lay down and let us all climb on his back. Dad would open the gate and all the bullocks would go down to the paddock with Bowler following them. Dad would always leave the gate open into the paddock. There were no stray cattle on the road in those days. They were too expensive and valuable. When all the bullocks were in the paddock, Bowler would go no further. We would dig our heels in hes ribs, flog him with our old rag hats, but he would not budge. No matter what. He would stand up for awhile and then he would lay down. And try as we might to make him get up, it was never any use. So we would get off him, give him a pat and after a while he would get up and shake himself and head down the creek for a drink. We would shut the gate and walk home.
I must add that Bowler was also a favourite in the team. There was never any whip marks on him. I don’t know if it was whether he never did anything wrong or just that Dad was frightened of what Mother or us kids would say. But he was always without a blemish. Alas the day came when he got too big and fat to work in the team and he was mustered with the other bullocks and driven up to the house paddock, the area of which was about six acres. He would stand and look at the other bullocks that we yoked and watch them go away. He would go to the gate and stand there a long time. The other boys would go to school and I would be left on my own with Bowler. I would pick a big bunch of sweet potato vines and pinch an armful of lucerne to take down to the slip rail fence and call him. He would stop there as long as I would pat him and stroke him. Little did I know that I was shortening his life by feeding him. He grew fatter and bigger than ever and was as round as a ball.
One day Mr O’Brien came with his tripod and camera and black hood and took some photos. Then the Rev. J. Moorhouse, Methodist Minister, came and rigged up his stand and painted a picture of Bowler. The day my Grandfather and Uncle came on horseback and drove Bowler away, created a big hole in my life. My Grandfather was a butcher and as Bowler had already lived to a ripe old age, I suppose this was the best way really but I couldn’t see it that way at the time.
This is the story of Bowler. Mr Moorhouse gave Mum the painting of Bowler framed about eighteen inches by twelve. As I had always loved this painting, my Mother gave it to me before she died. But there was no place to hang it in our house, so I gave it to my sister who always admired it, although she had never known Bowler. Unfortunately a big storm at Toowoomba unroofed their home and the painting was destroyed. My daughter has recently painted another one from a photograph that Mr O’Brien gave to my mother. It is now framed and I will never let it pass out of my possession.
End of interview