Robert George Breton

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Date of Interview: 4 June 1987
Interviewer: Amanda Wilson
Transcriber: Felicity Nappa

 

Mr Bob Breton, who grew up on the dairy farm, which his father selected, in 1891, at the foot of the Blackall Range, near Peachester. At an early age Mr Breton began clearing the scrub to make way for grazing pasture, for the family’s dairy cattle. He later became a record breaking, professional axeman.

Image: Robert G. Breton and Ernie Ehlerth in the Teams Chop Exhibition for the Duke of Gloucester, Brisbane, 1934.

 

Audio

Robert George Breton oral history - part one [MP3 44MB]
Robert George Breton oral history - part two [MP3 44MB]
Robert George Breton oral history - part three [MP3 5MB]

Transcript

Breton Family Pioneer History 1890s

AW How did you end up being here in Peachester in the first place?

It’s a long story, father came through here before the railway.

AW When was the railway, can you remember?

Came through Beerwah?

AW Yes.

About 1890, approximately. It will be recorded in the Peachester Pioneers, (1889). He passed through here coming to Coochin Creek rafting grounds, Campbell’s rafting grounds, delivering theodolites and instruments for survey and mining, to Gympie Gold Fields. He travelled through by pack-horse.

AW And how did he end up way off the mainline, because most people would have been going through Landsborough, wouldn’t they?

There were various timber camps along the way. Logging camps. Now, this doesn’t incorporate what they were doing here, these timber camps. They were gleaning the cedar and beech, on a licence, which was derived from the Government at the cost of approximately two pounds ten, or five dollars, per annum. They had licence to go in and cut timber in the forests. I think most of it is written there in my timber article (See p.11 "Peachester Pioneers")

AW So it was in the early 1890s that he first came to the area?

No, before.

AW Before then?

Before then, because there was some time lapse. As I was trying to tell you in the beginning, he travelled through delivering these instruments, to the various logging and survey camps on the Blackall Range land he came through this area of Peachester. If you read those articles there that have been written regarding it; R.T.G. Breton; you’ll read there that he came to Mrs. McCarthy at McCarthy’s Chute. She said, being a Victorian era woman, she wouldn’t have a man stay, because her men folk were out on logging. So she directed Father to Mrs T H Brown, her daughter. Her conditions were the same. So Father crossed the flooded creek on debri and went along here and meet Mr Read, who was living next door to block 50V, the block that my father finally selected.

AW This is down here in Peachester.

Yes. Down on this property next door. And Mr Read met Father and said, "Why don’t you select land here?" Which ultimately did occur. But Father went back to his mates in Brisbane, Conrad Maiss and Albert Ostwald, and told them there were trees there two hundred feet high.

AW So, they were all very impressed.

The funny part that struck them afterwards, you were never told how to get rid of them, to clear the land. But the courage they exhibited was tremendous, because there was no industry, there was not railway, there were no roads. Only the logging road, coming from, off the Blackall Range, through McCarthy’s Chute. Pit sawn timber at the bottom of McCarthy’s Chute was loaded on the bullock drays and taken to Campbell’s rafting grounds at Coochin, Rafting grounds on the Bribie Passage, for export shipment from there.

AW What distance is it from McCarthy’s Chute up here at the bottom of the Range, to the Rafting grounds at Coochin Creek?

The distance?

AW That would be twelve, fifteen kilometres?

It would be closer to fifty.

AW Really? That far? And they took those by bullock through all this countryside?

That is the reason why they pit sawed the timber. To eliminate the knobs and the excrescences, and cut them into planks, two feet wide, one foot wide, one by one, two by two, whatever, to facilitate the handling. So they could be loaded straight on board ship.

AW So was it the timber that attracted your father to this area, or was it just being able town his own land?

I think the ultimate aim was land. You must appreciate, when they selected the block, they went to the Lands Department; in those days the terms of selection were thus. You selected your block by number, at the Lands Department. In Father’s case, it was 50V, Maiss selected 38V and Ostwald selected 67V.

Land Selection 1890s

They had then a contract of five years in residence, clear five acres, erect a habitable residence and then you could own the land, for the princely sum of half a crown an acre, which was the purchase price of the land in those days. A pair of working boots could be bought for half a crown.

AW What would half a crown be in today’s currency – 1987?

Twenty five cents. But, when you consider the hardship they endured, it was an enormous price to pay for your own efforts.

AW A lot of people would have been killed, probably in the process.

A lot of people balked at it, and left it.

AW So when did your father actually select the property?

1891

AW So, did he take up residence then, do you know?

I think there’s a confusion there with the actual purchase of the land against the selection of the land. There were five years difference, that haven’t been allowed for in that recording of Peachester’s History.

AW What about what he told you? Did he ever tell you anything about it?

Yes, he referred to it as, they all did, all the original free selectors, when they finished their five years, they said after they had done their five years, they termed it "convict period?"

AW Your father called it his "convict period?"

He called it his "convict period," because they were deprived of all amenities and all the good things of life. I think they should have had a medal, viewing them from where we stand today, they should have been given a medal for doing it, not being charged for their enterprise. Just my opinion.

AW So, you were telling me the other day that your father went back to Brisbane, after he had selected the land and then came back up here.

After he got title, he went back to Brisbane, after he had selected the land and then came back up here.

After he got title, he went back to Brisbane where he conducted a school of languages, being fluent in seven languages. He also played the Cello in the Brisbane Municipal Band.

AW When he got title, that means he had done his five years?

He had then previously executed his five years in residence and did the necessary to have ownership

Marriage - Mathilda Rehren

AW When did your father move back to the land?

From that period of time, he married Mum and they came back in 1904.

AW So your father married your mother in 1904? What was your mother’s name?

Mathilda Rehren.

AW What nationality is that?

My Grandfather came from the Hautes Mountains in Germany, and Mum was born here.

AW Now your father was an educated man?

Yes. He had quite a lot of experience. Unfortunately I didn’t glean all that he had, all that he knew. When you are twelve years of age, you don’t pay a lot of attention to your parents. You know more than they do or think you do. And I didn’t pay attention to the music and the languages and all the languages he tried to cram down our heads.

AW So he spoke other languages?

Seven languages in all. I heard him converse with a Russian, and I heard him converse with a Frenchman. My father was born and educated in Germany and had travelled extensively, having lived and worked in the countries of the languages he spoke. The freedom of Australia appealed to him and he settled here permanently.

AW Were you impressed when you were a boy?

Oh, at his ability at playing the violin, whatever, yes. Mother was a musician as well. Mother was a top pianist. Father used to play the violin and before they had the piano here, Mother played the concert zither. It’s an instrument, I think it’s an Austrian Instrument.

AW What does it look like?

Like a harp type of thing, but it sat on the table. There’s a particular table here still with the sounding board underneath it. To help it to vibrate.

AW Was it flat?

Yes, flat.

AW Well, it must have been very hard for these two refined people to live out in the virgin scrub.

Yes, they weren’t farmers to begin with. You know what I mean, but the whole scene was for rural development at the time.

AW So everybody really was just learning.

That was the only avenue open to go. There was no culture really, unless they went to the big cities. They were Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Brisbane was in its infancy.

AW So your mother and father came back to Peachester in 1904?

Born in Peachester 1909

My brother was born in 1907, and I was born in 1909.

AW Whereabouts were you born, here or in hospital?

I think mother went to Brisbane to her mother. I think that was the fact. Yes, she went there with my elder brother too. But he unfortunately got killed with a logging accident, you’ll read that in the book as well, in 11932 (9th December 1932) aged 25 years. (p.12 & p.34 "Peachester Pioneers")

AW So, he wasn’t very old when he died.

It was a hard time, but still these things happened in those days. There were many accidents and nothing could have saved him, because he was instantaneously killed.

AW What are your earliest memories, as a child, in Peachester on the farm here?

Dairy Farming

That father commenced dairying, in approximately 1913, I think it was 1913 he commenced dairying, and built up from there to a degree.

AW What sort of cows did he have?

Well I think everyone, or most people commencing, started the cheap way. He had a mixed kettle of fish, Brindles and some Herefords, but not a lot, only a dozen. In those days you could start dairying with a cow-yard and a separator on a stump. That’s a fact. You had no roof over it, that’s the way you could start.

AW So, you were only four years old when he first started the dairy.

Yes, but I remember them starting and him separating the milk and taking the cream and it went three times a week.

AW Where to?

I know he was sending to Caboolture Butter Factory, but I think initially he sent to Cooroy, I’m not sure.

Like when the railway was through to Cooroy and they’d put it on the train, without any refrigeration. If you have ever been in Beerwah, at the height of summer, with the sun shining on the railway tracks……

AW It would get hot.

It would be that hot.

AW So how would your father get the cream cans into Beerwah to the railway station?

Well, the cream carrier, with a wagon and four horses.

AW Oh, you had a carrier?

The cream carrier would come as far as three miles away, approximately. You would deliver it there, either by slide, packhorse, or whatever; that’s how you’d get it there. Then the carrier would pick it up, and he was our connection with the railway then. The carrier would come three times a week, pick up the mail, deliver the mail on his return journey. The book will also illustrate the fact how Veritz, the first cream carrier, tested the cream at Peachester, at the mill site.

AW Why did he test it, why didn’t the co-op test it? Was he an employee of the co-op?

I daresay he was, apparently he had some knowledge, he tested it there.

AW He would be testing it for the butterfat?

Yes. Then in approximately 1922, they decreed that we should have a dairy, eight by eight, to keep the cream in.

AW In the cream cans?

In the container, wherever you had it, and it would have to be ventilated at the bottom with gauze and at the top with gauze, to keep the cream in a better condition. And periodically the inspector came to see that you were keeping things clean. The rule book said, wear white pants and white shirt. Amusing to read some of the old regulations. It said white pants, white shirt and wash your hands between cows. Well, most people did that anyway. I have seen on TV, where this fellow went to milk the cow and you couldn’t get anything dirtier. Well, that might have been the exception to the rule. Most people treated it with respect. The food that they were eating.

AW I was going to say, they would be eating it themselves too.

We have a joke going that if you didn’t take milk in your tea, you didn’t wash your bucket or your hands.

Family home

AW So when you were a young boy, where did your parents live, did they have a house on the property?

Yes, quite a good house, by standards.

AW Was it a pit sawn house or a slab hut.

A lot of it was pit sawn. The floor of the main building was pit sawn beech, and the walls were slab. The roof was shingles.

Aw Do you remember your father adding onto it?

Yes, he added onto it. He put an additional room on with a tongue and groove ceiling. A tongue and groove floor and it was quite a good addition. Added on in about 1920, approximately. It was quite a good home, as far as homes went those days. But nothing palacious, but it was a good building.

Lighting

AW What did you do for lights?

You had kerosene lamps and later on, that was actually after I got married, we still lived in the old home, in 1935 we had pump lights.

AW When you said "pump lights" do you mean still kerosene?

Yes, with a gas mantle. We had three of those, one in the kitchen, one in the lounge room and…

AW Did you ever use carbide lights?

Some did, but we never had carbide lights. They were considered dangerous.

AW I’ve never seen a carbide light and I don’t quite understand how they worked.

They are quite a simple arrangement; they worked with the water and the gas. The carbide is put in and a double cylinder sort of a thing and the gas emanates through the jet. You light the gas.

Aw Did they have a mantle in them?

No. They were a naked light. The ones I have seen, they were naked light and they were nearly like a blowtorch.

They were regarded dangerous?

They were regarded dangerous, because where there were children and the like. I have seen them. There were a lot used out in the West, but we never used them here. I have seen them. We had a lantern for the bails and, if you went to a farm and you saw a lantern, you’d say, "He’s either late at night or very early in the morning."

That was another joke that was passed around. He’s got a lantern in the bails, so he must get you there before daylight or keep you there after dark.

Planting of fruit trees

AW You were also telling me the other day, when you were born, your parents carried on with the tradition of planting a tree.

Oh, they did that.

AW What did they plant for your birth?

I think they planted a macadamia and for my brother, they planted a mango tree.

AW Are they still there?

They are still there today. But the white ants have got to them, got to me too! They got to the macadamia, but it’s still going all right.

AW The macadamia is about seventy eight years old?

Yes, and the mango tree would be eighty in a couple of weeks.

AW Does it still giver mangoes?

He’s not a good producer. He’s an enormous tree, I think he would be eleven foot girth. He’s a cherry mango and when he gets fruit on, they are beautiful to eat. No strings, they are sort of basic to a Bowen mango type of thing: they are that colour.

AW That’s unusual because usually the Bowen mango needs tropical environment.

Yes, well that may be the reason why they are not bearing profusely. Now, on that particular spot where the old home was, on the ridge, the citrus trees produced heavily, extremely well. The loquat tree used to bloom and he’d have huge fruit, he’d only grow one or two loquats on, they were as big as a hen’s egg. They were remarkable and the mango tree seldom bore fruit.

AW But when they did?

It was excellent. There was another plant that used to have nothing. The macadamia tree, he grows the largest macadamias, which I’ve seen, some refer to them as Queensland nuts; this fellow has got more Queensland than nut. He has got a huge shell, you’ve got to get a vice to break them and excellent eating, they are just the same kernel as in another nut, but the material round it is enormous.

AW Mention the coffee trees and grinding your coffee.

Oh yes, Dad was very self sufficient. One thing that after his death it was realised, how much he had left for us.He died when I was twelve and he had mangoes, guavas, plums, pears, citrus trees of all the variety

AW He planted all of those?

He planted those and where the retrograde step was, where his orchard was, when he left to go away to Brisbane, after the initial five years. He planted an area of orchard, I think it was about ten acres or five hundred trees or so, on one side of the creek. On the other side of the creek was equally as much, and they were attracted by borers and neglect in those seven years of absence.

AW So he thought he was going to come to bearing trees?

Well, I don’t know what he thought. He never mentioned that part, but there was the fact, that there was sufficient left to give us abundance of fruit during the season, because peaches and whatever, come on at various times. He was very, very right in what he had done and I am still doing the same today. I’ve planted a new lot, well since we have been developing the non-chill peaches and plums and what-have-you, they will grow here now and produce. That has been developed.

AW When you say the non-chill, you mean the ones that are suited to this environment instead the colder environment?

That’s right. And he always had a dream of producing a vineyard, grapes. He had the basis of it going, he had a thousand plants, planted at the time he died, of various wine making grapes.

AW How did they grow here?

They grew well, but they were still in the seed bed. He had bought the cuttings and planted them and he died. But the hardship of the time contributed to his death, because he sent twenty two cases of oranges for five shillings and tenpence and they hadn’t paid for the cases or the cartage. These were the hardships that people meet in those times. The young people cannot conceive this, they do not understand why there was hardship. He had a bad heart and he carted those on the slide for two miles to put it out for the cream carrier to get. Just imagine the lifting that was entailed with twenty odd cases. He took two trips with the horses and slide and when he came to the creek, it had eighteen inches of water in it and he said the fruit will get wet, so they unpacked and carried the cases singly over and repacked them when he got to the other side. Of course he did say if it was an Australian doing this, he would drive straight through and let the bloody things get wet. I would, not have carted them all over there and repacked them and did all that. I would said, well the water should have been clean and if it isn’t, it’s unlucky and drove straight through. But those are just a few items of hardships that were there. Then the droughts were on, as they are today, but I do believe that today we get through droughts better than we used to then. With regard to stock and production, I believe that.

Diseases of cattle

AW In those days there would not have been as many diseases, would there, that would affect your stock?

I think that is a fallacy, because when Mr Ostwald started his herd, next door, (you will find the recording of this in the book) he was left with two or three heads.

AW From how many?

From his milking herd, I do not know whether it was thirty or forty.

AW What did they die from?

Redwater. No one had knowledge of the cattle tick in those times. It was a mystery. But if you’ve read the book, "In Solomon’s Mines" you’ll read about Redwater there. When Umbopa went on a trek to find King Solomon’s Mines and he inoculated his bullocks with blood, taken from animals who had recovered. They did not know why, but there were antibodies in those bullocks and they transferred the blood into the other bullocks and they always selected the animal that had recovered there from.

AW Did any of the farmers in this area try that theory?

Well, I don’t know if they knew of it. I only read that after my children were going to high school and they had the book "King Solomon’s Mines" for a feature. I read that there then. They were in knowledge of what was on, but they didn’t know why they were doing it, like so many things. But they may have known why, I do not know, but that is what did transpire those times. But here, it was in 1935 I was dairying here, quite a while and Mr. Ostwald had gone away for an overseas holiday, and they came over and said that twenty heifers had died in the paddock, we don’t look at our dry cattle every day as you can understand. They said there were twenty heifers dead in the dry paddock.1935 this occurred. I was afeared for my cattle and I went down to Brisbane and saw the Department of Primary Industries ( I think it was the Department of Agriculture in those times, I’m not sure), but they said they would send a man. The Vet, Corrie, I think was his name and Dr Francis (he was a botanist) they said, "It’s unusual for animals to die in that short space of time, sick in the morning, dead in the evening." I told them, the next day, I would meet the train, they were catching the train from Brisbane, 8 o’clock and I met them at 9.30 a.m. at Beerwah and brought them to the farm. There was a cow sick, almost dead.

AW This is on your property?

No, one of the neighbours and we did an autopsy, I opened up the cow and there it was, Redwater, the spleen in the cow passes over the rumin and lies across, (it’s a purple arranged thing), the vet cut it open and it had disintegrated to such a consistency of raspberry jam and it looked like it.

AW And this is just from ticks?

Yes. Caused because the white and the red corpuscles in a beast have lost their balance. All our blood is made up of a percentage of white and red corpuscles, and when the tick attacks there is a, I don’t know what you call it, an organism attacks the red corpuscles. Why is it called redwater, the kidneys and the spleen and all those purifying organs, are trying to dispel the waste and can not get it away, and that is why the water becomes red. It is an involved business but there it is. It was through the introduction of a strange tick, brought by the timber getters. They unyoked in their paddock and the ticks fell off and got on the cows and gave them this change of tick, which brought the organisms. The cattle that brought it, the bullocks, they were immune. Redwater never affected them, because they had an immunity and that very immunity is what’s mentioned in King Solomon’s Mines, Umbopa and his team of bullockies used at that time. Just to transfer that organism, that would combat the other one.

AW So farmers are always up against terrible odds really.

Oh yes, but that doesn’t make it any less inviting to be a farmer. It’s a challenge all the way. A bank would not lend you money on a herd of cattle; (that’s movable security), because you could have them today and not tomorrow. Some disease could strike, or something, but we have overcome the tuberculosis during my years in dairying. We overcame brucellosis herdisclan and it is amazing what they have done with technology in regard to the farmer and animal husbandry. There is an improvement all the way, although sometimes, it is obscure, you don’t see what you are doing. You say, "What’s this and what’s that?"

AW When you were a young boy, was it just accepted that you were going to take over the farm and become a farmer?

No.

Crohamhurst School

AW Do you think if your father hadn’t died so early that you would have become a farmer?

Well, I don’t know. It was a challenge, you see, when Father died, what’s to do? That was the way to go. That was the only avenue open to me, I had no education, so I had to go and work.

AW But you went to school.

I went to school, certainly, but only basic things, like what you would get in Primary School.

AW Whereabouts did you go to school?

Crohamhurst School. It was opened in 1913, you’ll find that in the book.

AW When did you actually start school? In 1913 or 1914?

Could have been ’14.

AW When you were five? Would have been 1914. So, Crohamhurst was a very young school when you started?

Yes, my brother was one of the original pupils, he was two years older.

AW What was your brother’s name?

Waldemar.

World War 1914-1918

AW Do you remember when World War 1 started?

1914. I sort of remember, but…

AW Do you remember any men from the district going off to War?

Oh yes, I remember that the Dwyers went and the Hedges’ boys went. They were next door. Harold and Norman Hedges went and Jack Francis and Alf Francis all went to the War.

AW So, there were a lot of men from this district that went to War?

Oh, yes, a lot went. Some went to Gallipoli.

MB All their names are in the Peachester Hall, on the Roll of Honour board.

Jack Francis went through Gallipoli and lived. He said it was the greatest waste of life that ever you could imagine. The Turks were entrenched on the mountain and they decreed the Australians go in and take them. They were expendable, they just let them go, they had no chance. And still they got through.

AW This is when you were a boy, you remember this.

I remember them coming home and talking about it. Jack Francis has worked for me, carpentering, years ago and he was the man who said he had never seen such terrible stupidity. Of course that was executed and military mistakes are buried.

AW You were probably too young to really fully realise what it was all about.

That is exactly right. I would have been, how old? Seven, eight, nine whatever.

AW The end of 1918, so you would have been nine. Do you remember when they all came back?

Well, you wouldn’t because there was no wireless.

AW Do you remember the men coming back to this actual district?

Oh yes, coming back and were gun-happy and I remember once, the only time in my whole life I have seen a koala killed; it was by a returned soldier. He wanted something to shoot at, so the koala wasn’t offering any resistance, he sat up in the tree, and he shot him.

AW That’s terrible.

Yes I thought it was.

AW So you think going off to War made these men gun-happy?

I think so, yes. For a time. They got over it afterwards.

AW Did you have big celebrations in the town? You would remember that as a boy, wouldn’t you?

Peachester. My parents did not go because of Father’s health, I think. Mother played the piano there several times, but it was a very big effort to get there, because you would ride your horse and one thing and another.

AW Peachester was a long way really?

Peachester was a good way away. Beerwah’s much further because of the rough state of the road and the mode of travel being walking, horseback or horse drawn wagon.

AW Was there a Soldiers Settlement Scheme at all in the area, that you know of?

Glasshouse Mountains and Beerburrum.

AW Was there? Do you remember any of the soldiers moving into the area?

Most of them failed.

AW So you do remember?

I do. I remember their failures. I remember riding through there looking for cattle and their abandoned clearings and one thing and another, "oh, that’s the Soldiers’ Settlement."

AW Did they come straight after the War or was it a few years after?

I don’t think it was a long time, I think a couple of years had lapsed. The War stopped in 1918, the settlement was…..

AW So that would have been in 1920?

Yes, approximately.

Coming of technology – radio, telephone

AW You were telling me also the other day, the first radio broadcast that you can remember was in 1922 and that you used to have radio parties.

’22?

AW Or did you have then before then?

It wasn’t a party, you have the idea wrong there. It wasn’t a party, it was an evening conducted for the local church and we walked four miles to hear the wireless. The chap by the name of Barr, from Maleny, brought his wireless down and it took two men to carry the batteries in the box.

AW They were so big. And the wireless stood in the corner with a great trumpet like horn. It stood up six foot tall and blared into the room, static mainly.

AW Did you have a crystal set? I’ve heard of people, you know, they used to have milk jugs and they’d put the crystal set in it, so it would resonate in that.

My Grandmother did that with the crystal set.

AW Did your Grandmother live in the area?

No, she was in Brisbane.

AW So, did you have a radio out here on the farm?

Only after it became popular, we had radios. After we were married. About 1935 we had radio.

AW So, before then there was nothing?

Not a lot, no.

AW What about the telephone?

Telephone, no. Telephones came as far as the Mill. The Grigor’s Mill at Peachester, for many years that was where we would have to go if there was an emergency.

AW That is a long way away.

Not so far now by car, but in those days, it took quite a time owing to the nature of the road and horse transport.

AW If you had an accident here and you needed a doctor, where would you go?

Well, you wouldn’t go to the telephone. The first doctor we knew of, was Dr Sampson at Maleny and we went to Maleny.

AW So, how would you go?

Horseback.

AW Up McCarthy’s Chute?

Yes.

AW How long would it take you to ride to Maleny?

Well, it depends on the horse and depends of the hurry.

AW Say for example, when your father died? He was very sick, you told me.

Yes, he died. Doctor Sampson had gone and Doctor Stark was there. And my brother went for the medicine and that would take about an hour and a half, I suppose. Take an hour and a half to go in and collect him and come back. They were rough times, they were hard times. But I think you survive; you survive because well, survival is what we are all about, isn’t it? When you drive on the road today, it’s the luck of the draw, isn’t it?

Food Supplies

AW Yes, it is. So in the old days, there were no shops or no local shops, what did you do for food? You said your father grew fruit.

Basically, your fowls and your dairy supplied a lot.

MB You bought a bag of sugar and a bag of flour and made your own bread, didn’t you?

Oh yes, that was part of it. That was accepted in those days that you either baked your damper, or your bread. Also we caught good Cod in the Ewen Creek, headwaters of the Stanley River, and shot pigeons, scrub turkey and wallabies in the bush.

AW When you bought supplies you’d buy flour and sugar and tea?

All that by the bag.

AW Where would you buy that from?

From the store in Beerwah. It would come out with the cream-carter.

AW Can you remember the name of the store?

"Crouch"

AW How far is this going back, this is when you were a boy?

Yes, that was before Father died. "Crouch" was the first storekeeper in Beerwah. Then came "Whitmee," then the man that is there today, "Wimberly."

AW Only three different storekeepers.

He kept most things. A bit of harness, a bit of drapery, a bit of everything that you required.

MB Another point about those early stores, they sent out once a month, a man from their store came to the farmhouses and took a big order.

Swagmen

AW So you had travelling salesmen, you could call them really. Do you remember when the tinkers used to come through? You know people, the pots and pan man. Did you ever have any funny characters like that?

Not really. Not here, we are off the beaten track here. They may have passed through Peachester and Beerwah, but not here. They were sort of swagmen types of fellows, that came through with a pair of tin snips and a soldering iron to fix your pots and pans and you would give them a shilling or two and a bit to eat and they would move onto the next farm.

AW This is before your father died or after?

They were about then. Those sort of fellows. And swagmen were numerous.

AW In the early '20s?

Oh yes. In the early times the swagmen were very numerous, they were looking for work, and moving through. Oh yes, you met all sorts on that. But, today of course, a man can live in comparative luxury if six of them had the dole in the one house. In those times they got six shillings, or sixty cents a fortnight, I think, to provide them with flour and basic needs, and they could not collect it unless they moved on. If they ollected it at Landsborough Police Station, they would have to walk onto Kilcoy or Nanango.

AW Why did the swagmen have to move from town to town?

I think that was to indicate to the authorities that they were moving, looking for work. Proving that they were moving on, looking for work.

AW So, that this is in the early ‘20s, still?

Yes, and right into the ‘30s. In 1935, I travelled to Kingaroy to buy a pair of draught horses for the farm, and I was driving a utility and I picked this swagman up. He stopped at the roadside and he had left Kilcoy and was making for Kingaroy or Nanango, one of the two. He left me at the horse sale and he said, "No, I have to lay low for three days, so I’ll do some washing and have a rest-up." He was grateful for the ride but he said, "I’ve got to lay low until my time is right to go and collect again.’

AW Were they generally nice people?

Oh yes. Some were journalists. I met one journalist once on the trip. Telling me he used to report for a paper in Fleet Street, London. Others again, but this fellow…

AW When was that?

When was it? That would have been in the late ‘20s.

AAW I have heard of a very famous journalist that travelled around Queensland in the late twenties.

Well, he came. Father was dead and we were cutting scrub on the creek and we had Father’s silver watch (we didn’t carry it, Mother decreed that we would lose it, so we put it on the log with our dinner and billy can and everything) and this chappy came along. He said, "Which way to Peachester?" We came out from where we were working and spoke to him and Wally said, "He’ll pinch the watch if we don’t keep an eye on him." So he went over and put the watch in his pocket. But he was nobody really bad and we boiled the billy, and I can recall him saying, "Sausages at one and tuppence a pound!" he said, "and bacon at one and three, how do they expect us to live?" And he had an enamel plate and he fried the sausage and the bacon on the plate and I said, "Why don’t you have a frying pan with a handle?" He said, "Because it takes up more room and is heavier." See, they travelled light, they only had a blanket or two.

AW So he supplied his own food, but he just had lunch with you?

Yes. He had lunch and told us he was journalist in London. He said, "Now they say you can’t get lost in a big city," he said, "You can’t either, because you have got someone to ask directions." But he said, "Here, you can get lost." I think I agree with him.

AW That’s true. So you met lots of different interesting characters, just walking through?

From time to time there was an old chap used to come through selling combs and soap. He’d call in.

AW Did he have a horse or would he be on foot?

He had a horse and he had a pack. Of course you can carry a fair bit, a few combs and one thing and another. Sewing needles and bag needles and numerous things he had. Mother never examined all that he had , but she bought a card or two of needles, I think tuppence or something. That was just what happened those times.

Farming and timber getting at a young age

AW So after your father died, you had the responsibility of running the farm yourself. You and your older brother.

My brother and I, yes.

AW So his selection, it was freehold by that stage, wasn’t it?

Yes, that’s right.

AW You didn’t have to go out and clear l the land under his selection rights?

No, but we had to clear the land just the same, because there was very little cleared land left after seven years. After he left.

AW So you had to clear it so you could dairy?

What you see here today is what we actually cleared after his demise. Simple as that.

MB You still cleared one or two patches, after we got married, there are still patches of scrub.

AW So, your father died in 1922. So you went into the timber getting business?

Mainly timber cutting and assisting the timber getters.

AW You were just twelve years old?

Well, there was a little bit of time there between twelve and fifteen. It’s not long. Then I actually took to the bush in conjunction with my brother, he started off at a very early age. I milked the cows and looked after the farm and he went out working. Seven shillings and sixpence a week

Bridge building with brother Walde

AW He would bring that money home?

Yes, he was getting keep. His first job was on a place at McCarthy’s.

AW Up in Maleny?

Up on the Blackall Range, and he got seven and six a week to milk and clear the land. He may have been out about six months and he came home and he got another job. I don’t know exactly where, I think it was with a chap down the river. But anyway, he was there a while and then his ability as a workman was evident, he was a big fellow. The first bridge was built here.

AW On your road?

On the road. The first bridge was built and my brother did most of the axe work. He was sixteen. You will see in that book there. He was sixteen at the time.

AW What is the name of that road, the actual name of that road? Is it Crohamhurst Road? (Here, both Amanda Wilson and Bob Breton are looking at a map of the Shire).

Well, you may be confusing the issue by saying it is Crohamhurst Road. Here, that blue line is the bitumen road, you came down here, downhill through the bends and one thing and another and the Observatory, this is the Observatory. You come to this part of the road and the creek is down here. And that road goes round to there, that is the old McCarthy’s Chute Road. That is where the bullock teams brought their timber through to the rafting ground. Now there is a newcomer, Mr Alec Pustay, who has gone onto McCarthy’s Chute Road behind our block and the Council decreed that his address would be Crohamhurst Road. And I said, "You are losing a very valuable piece of history, by calling it Crohamhurst Road. I agree that, that portion there it the first creek, Sandy Creek or Crohamhurst Creek as it is now called, that part now be called Crohamhurst Road. From there on, McCarthy’s Chute Road because it’s a three chain stock route. And if that is lost, which it looks like going to happen, (I’ve actually got a chip on my shoulder over this one) to the Councillors, I’ve said, "Do not call that Crohamhurst Road because it isn’t. It is the McCarthy Chute Road." This is a link with the past.

AW It is.

Now this road in here, which you followed and came in on our road, I have said to them, "I have lived here since I was born here and my son lives here, that is Breton’s Road."

AW So everyone in the area calls it Breton’s Road?

Yes, they should do if they don’t. But there is no official sign on the road, but this is not Crohamhurst Road, this is Breton’s Road, into here. Because my son Wally goes in there, I go in here.

AW Where is the creek? Is that on your road?

This creek is down, just down here, the Ewen Creek.

AW So which is the first bridge that your brother helped build?

Sandy Creek is down here. No, the first bridge he learnt his trade, was this bridge here on Ewen Creek when he was sixteen. And when he was seventeen we built at Sandy Creek. Round about that time, we built that bridge together and then we built three others in the Shire. (Refer to picture p.29 of "Peachester Pioneers).

AW The bridges that are over the creek now, are they the original bridges?

They are the bridges.

AW That you and your brother built? He was seventeen and how old were you? How older than you was he?

Two years.

AW So you were fifteen years old?

Well, approximately.

AW So they are 63 years old, those bridges roughly?

You can appreciate that the Council did one bridge and they never had sufficient money to do the next bridge. So several years went by, it would be two or three years. I think he was 19 when we built the 48 footer on Sandy Creek, and then we built two culverts on McDonalds Road, just those sort of thing happened. I just can’t tell you exactly, but they were built.

AW They are interesting bits of history that you, yourself created.

They are still in use today.

AW They look very solid.

They will be solid for many years to come. But of course, then again, we had the selection of all of the best of the timber.

AW On this property here?

Not necessarily this property, wherever. It was the custom then, whether it was legal or illegal. But we would go into the Crown Reserve and we felt we had licence to go there to get the best timber. For the building of the bridges. And I do believe it was lately contested by the Forestry Department, through the Council. The Council decreed you go in there and get what you want. Apparently there was a bit of a shemozzle between the Council and the Forestry Department.

AW Was this in recent times?

No, well in relatively recent times it would have been forty years ago.

Felling timber

AW When you first starting working in the timber, how did you drop the trees? Did you chop them?

We generally cut the front in with the axe and backed them down with a peg and raker crosscut saw. We used a peg and raker saw or just an ordinary peg. There was a difference in saws. But a peg and raker saw has cutting points and sawdust raking teeth.

AW Pulls all the sawdust out of the way.

Which is loose.

AW How would you cut it by yourself? Prop the other end up?

You would put a dummy in. Which constitutes a light stick and it just does that.

You put it through the hole of the handle. It gives you a back swing and it keeps the end from flapping up and down.

AW So you don’t get your saw stuck?

Of course there is a lot of explanation regarding the set and riding the clearance and all the rest of it in the saw, like it is too difficult to describe. People are not interested in that anyway. No one is interested in that. That is quite a technical part, there was such a thing of having an axe, when you cut a level top on a stump. If you have an axe that is long and thin like that, the position presents itself, when you come with your handle, you will hit your knuckles; because if the tree is seven foot across the stump, you are trying to keep the stump level, your axe has to be ground in such a manner, there is your axe and if the end is an inch chisel, when you put that chisel on it allows your knuckles to be clear of the stump. That is a fact.

AW And that is only something you have learnt from experience?

Oh no, that was actually evolved by bushmen. You can see the position, there is your handle and your knuckles are on the same plane as your handle the handle of your axe is only two foot six long. If you chop and you are using a badly ground axe for the job, you consequently hold your hands away, because you do not want to take the skin off them. And you end up with a slope cut right away. The further you go, that’s a long twenty inches through it, and if you slope the cut you can make him into a twenty four. Of course you can, because you are going across.

AW So there are four more inches that you didn’t really have to cut?

Or more, it depends. The squarer you are, there is always the fact that everything has got to be square. When you are a competitive axeman, if you keep that level and you keep that one level, (at a 90 degree angle to the block) you are only penetrating twelve inches of wood of fourteen or whatever the case is.

Competitive wood-chopping

AW You eventually became a competitive axeman, didn’t you?

Oh yes, of course needs make you do that.

AW How did you get into competitive chopping competition?

That is quite simple. The local show puts on a competition. They put up some prize money, in those days it was generally ten pounds. Five pounds for the underhand and ten pounds for the standing blocks. (Refer p.34, "Peachester Pioneers").

AW So when was that, when was your first show?

1930. I competed in Maleny in 1930. The year before I had seen the axe men there. I reckoned I could do that, and when they put on the prize of ten pounds, and it was five shillings to nominate. It had got to be borne in mind, ten pounds represented, three dairy heifers. Like the young axemen today say, we are cutting for a hundred dollars. And I said "We got more money in my day, relatively." They said "You didn’t." I said "Yes, we did, how many dairy heifers can you buy for a hundred dollars today?"

AW Cannot even buy one?

You can’t. I said "You will have to fork out three hundred to four hundred dollars to buy a reasonable dairy heifer. In my day you could go to the top breeder and buy the pick of his herd for five pounds a head, in those days." He may have reserved one or two of them, then you can have a go at the rest. The pick of his herd. And consequently it was a great incentive.

AW So you went off to Maleny, with your axe in your hand?

On horseback.

AW Did you take a special axe?

Oh yes. A racing axe is an axe that is ground to penetrate.

AW Did you especially regrind one of your working axes, or did you go and buy one?

Sometimes you would work with them and if you found the balance right and found it suitable to you; it just depends on circumstances and anticipation. I think they all were more or less working axes, later on Plum Axe made a special racing axe, when the sport took on so well throughout Australia. Tasmania had so many hundred axemen, Victoria had hundreds of axemen, New South Wales had hundreds of axemen. See, the bush was being developed by axemen. I only noticed this the other day, when I was Steward at Maleny Show. The boys have got great physique, they have got great axes, but they lack the experience of the bushmen.

AW So that, you can tell that they are not out there every day working in the bush?

With the bush. Like when it comes to a block, that is 16 inches in diameter, their ability to penetrate that block is limited. I am not taking anything away from them being goog triers and axemen. But they are not the experienced bushmen. They don’t work it in the right manner. So long we have been with chain saws since 1952 we have been with chain saws.

AW So the art of the axe is a thing lost?

It is not lost, but it is not adhered to. There are some who know all about it and others are too young to have found out. In particular, I am speaking about one young lad of about twenty one, 12 stone, perfect physique. And I said, "My word, you made hard work of it."

AW This is at Maleny?

Yes. He said, "Yes, it is hard." I said, "You worked it wrong." Of course there is a way to do things and there is a way not to do them. If he were my friend, I would have told him; he wasn’t interested in knowing what I knew. So I didn’t tell him.

AW You tried to win every time?

Most of the time, yes. Times your health wasn’t up to it, you might have the flu, you might have sprained your foot or you have cut yourself with the axe or something has happened. But I have had some very good wins. But I really believe that I didn’t give myself a fair go.

AW What do you mean? You didn’t practice?

Well, visualise this, thirty five miles ride, leave at daylight and ride thirty five miles carrying two axes and step off at Delaney’s Creek and perform.

Or, when I competed in Brisbane Show, get up at four o’clock in the morning, milk sixty cows, jump in the utility and go to Brisbane and be ready to chop at half past ten. You would want a constitution like a horse. I did win, I had my share of wins, but I never gave myself a fair go. I didn’t achieve my full potential as an axeman, I will say that and I am not saying it for an excuse. I am saying it because of circumstances, I didn’t achieve the full ability I had. There were plenty of men, that I have met recently, or in the recent years, that have acknowledged that. But they are getting few now, my age group has thinned out, there’s no doubt they are going. They are over Jordan.

AW So when you first went to Maleny and the first competition chop that you went in, was it mainly other farmers or were they professional axemen?

Some were timber getters, some were following the circuit, as it were, because you will get that; men follow the circuit before the Brisbane Royal Show. This was July, 31

st, Brisbane is on August, starts about August the 8th usually. There were McCarthy brothers from New South Wales there, Manny McCarthy.

AW This is in Maleny?

At the Maleny Show and there was Jack McCarthy, his younger brother. Manny is still performing, or would still perform. They barred him from Sydney Royal, he’s 85 and they won’t let him in.

AW Really, oh dear.

Yes. In 1981, I was invited to go to the Super Veterans’ Competition, in Sydney. I was 72 and I got word that asked me to come to Sydney to compete in the Super Veterans, and Manny McCarthy is seven years older than I am, he would be eighty five now. The year after I had been there, when I was 72, they had the competition again. I didn’t travel down to it. An elderly chap from New Zealand competed and he died within twenty minutes, and so, in their wisdom, and I think they are right, they said, no, they would not tempt the older fellows to have ago.

AW I was going to say, that would be the biggest danger, having a heart attack.

Yes, well this chappy collapsed twenty minutes afterwards in the dressing room and he was dead.

AW How did you go in your chop?

I went very well. But the distance wasn’t long enough.

AW You are better over a long distance?

Well, it was only a ten inch block, but in my younger days, I preferred the larger blocks. My best performances were always in the marathon (Butcher’s block) two feet six inches diameter, chopping with a partner. (Refer p.46 "Peachester Pioneers").

MB Yes, he is!

And I had to give a start of eight seconds, it’s like giving so many yards in fifty yards, you can’t get up. You know what I mean.

AW This is in the standing block?

No, it was underhand, which wasn’t my speciality anyway.

AW What is your speciality?

Standing block.

AW Why didn’t you go into the standing block?

They only had the one event, for the Super Veterans.

AW You would think that the standing block would be easier for veterans.

But there it is. That is just something that happened. I only went there for sort of, well to meet the old timers. I cut third, but that isn’t good enough.

AW I think it is.

But I made a lot of friends, travelled throughout Australia during my forty years of competition. I would not have seen Australia without it.

Aw So, you actually did the circuit for a time?

We went to Tasmania together (with wife Mabel Breton) in 1957. There were seven carnivals over there and Tasmania was the most supported by Government as a tourist thing, Tasmania gives their axemen full credit. Here, in Australia, in Queensland in particular, in New South Wales, they don’t even give a broadcast of results in the local press of what their local axemen are doing. That is a fact.

AW That is a pity because I think woodchop events are very exciting.

Robert G. Breton and Ernie Ehlerth in the Teams Chop Exhibition for the Duke of Gloucester, Brisbane, 1934
Robert G. Breton and E. Ehlerth in the Teams Chop Exhibition for the Duke of Gloucester, 1934

Use of springboards in tree felling

MB You never see it on TV now.

I was Ring Steward in Brisbane. One time, an English tourist lady came up tome and said, "Why isn’t this given to the people? Why isn’t wood chopping advertised and spoken of?

"This is wonderful down to earth thing." But nothing at all, and then I wrote something for the announcer to read out for the public, why you climbed the tree with a springboard.

The reason for that being, when we cleared the land originally, this is what the old timers did, before the springboard was invented, they put a scaffold up and stood on it. And someone then put a plank in and a hole in the tree and stood on it and carved the tree and cut the front.

AW Why do you go up so high on the tree?

To eliminate the butt raised, the spurs, the thick part.

AW So you do not have to chop through all that sappy wood?

Look, observe a tree and you will see when you are standing near him you cannot get near him for his roots anyway. So you have got to clear that to begin with, so they made a scaffold. But now with a springboard, the higher from the butt you go, the freer the wood.

AW Do you mean it is easy to cut?

Yes, the chips would fly. Wood is curly where the roots are, or around near the butt. That is the reason why, and it was evolved through time and became so, and in 1947 Keech Casting, the axe manufacturers of the Keesteel Axe, said to the then champion axeman, George Parker, "We want to evolve a springboard shoe". And they went out into the bush with a chap by the name of Crookshank, I think, George Parker and somebody else, and they designed, and George Parker cut holes in trees, and in four hits, devised a springboard steel shoe that

would grip in four hits. Make a hole in the tree with a level floor, four good hits with an axe deep enough to hold your weight and that will take your springboard clip.

AW I understand springboards have a little metal ridge underneath, on the end, that you stick into the tree.

No, they don’t have it underneath, they have it on top. As you put the springboard in, it bites and the clip gets hold of the wood right inside.

AW You are taking a real chance aren’t you, if you don’t do it properly. Did many people fall off?

Oh they have fallen off. I suppose you’ve fallen down walking haven’t you? Very few get hurt. Axemen are fairly skilful. A lot of men, they subconsciously will throw that axe aside, doesn’t injure them anyway. I think you are conscious of that danger all the time. I have only known of one accident with the foot being cut badly, with an axeman in a competition. But it seldom happens because, well, they know what they are about.

AW So in the old days, they used to have springboard races as well, did they?

Tree falling?

AW Yes.

Not in the old days, it is still on at the Brisbane Royal, Sydney Royal, Melbourne Royal and Adelaide Shows now.

AW So did they put a pole in the ground?

They put a pole in the ground and there was a block on top.

AW And they had to get up and chop it through. So you were a competitive axeman, for how long?

Forty years, throughout Australia.

AWA That would have kept you fit.

I was always fit. I am still fit now. I would say that I could, well, like I said to you before, I could penetrate a log, a big log, just equally as fast as a lot of those boys. Because of the ability that I have acquired over the years. That is not said boastfully. I could do it. But I do think that you have got to look after the bit that is left, you don’t abuse it. Like when you go away from these things, your muscles recede to a marked degree and I have found rheumatics and those sort things get onto you when you get older. I know I can do it.

AW You are still working aren’t you?

Yes, I still look after the farm.

Early clearing of land, introduction of weeds and pests

AW I would like to get back a bit more, about the timber getting. When you were out there and you and your brother were clearing all the logs on the property. Were you at the time concerned about clearing trees from really steep slopes, where erosion is and things like that?

Or all you could think of is that you had to get rid of the trees so you would haves more dairy land?

Well, there is scrub country, or softwood scrub country and hardwood country. All the creeks and gullies are filled with vine scrub. The ridges are filled with hardwood. The most fertile soil is the scrub soil. Now all the river banks and all the creek flats, were scrub. You fell them, you brush the underbrush first, then you cut the other trees. You leave it lie for four months, three to four months, put a fire through it, immediately your ground is clear. You could either sew grass seed, which the pioneers did, they sewed grass seed, this is where they introduced the cattle tick. They got some seed from Mexico, I believe, and it contained ticks or their eggs. They were immediately transplanted from there to here. This is a bit of a bone of contention with regard to outland here in Australia, we were free of noxious weeds, and feral animals.

They introduced every thing that was rotten. They introduced a cattle tick, they introduced lantana from India. They introduced noxious plants out of gardens that went wild and all feral things go like mad. They introduced the rabbit, they introduced the fox, they introduced mistflower, they introduced groundsel, they introduced lantana, they introduced every damn thing that is noxious. They introduced the blooming cane toad as late as ’35. Which today, has destroyed most of the game fish in the creek, that is your eel and your codfish. Because they will bite at the first frog that swims across it. And the cane toad is a poisonous gentleman. The big cane toad has got poison glands behind his shoulders and I believe the poison is called digitalis. It will kill your dog, I know a lady in the locality that had a dozen chooks, and a cane toad died in the water trough, end excreted the poison and killed the whole lot of her chickens, and her laying fowls, in one or two days, they died.

AW So, when the pioneers cast their seeds?

They then planted pumpkins, corn, and it was generally to augment their food supply. The pumpkins they ate, or gave them away, or sold them or whatever. And the corn they fed to the pigs and cattle, ground it for their horses, whatever. Maize would grow and there was such a thing as a walking stick corn planter. I have one here, it’s over sixty years old. And you put in approximately three or four pounds of maize seed or corn seed, you can use bean seed or pumpkin seed, whatever you are wishing to plant. All you do, it’s like a walking stick, fully laden it weighs about ten pound. And you walk along and stab.

AW Push it into the ground.

Into the ground. At the bottom of the container there is a hole, that you can make it bigger or smaller, depending on the seed you are planting, and it will let go three to four seeds only. As you released the spring, it comes back and shuts the hole. You step on the loose dirt that you made, to tramp it down a bit. And then you got to the next one, and the next one, and wherever you see a likely spot, that will grow something, you move left and right, if there is a big log, you must circumnavigate the log and you keep on planting. You can plant up to seven, eight acres in a day, walking about with this walking stick. It is a really good invention. They planted cotton in the Briglow country with it, acres and acres of newly felled land was planted with cotton. And it gave a cash crop. That was what we used to find in the early times, the cattle did well, the calves and heifers on this completely virgin soil, it would have all the nutriments in the grass.

AW So everything grew really well after that first burn.

Yes. Because as we know today, we didn’t know then, but nematodes were the things, that are evident in the ground and your fell fire (first burn) killed them, and there was nothing to attack the new growth until afterwards, the re-established themselves and when we went to plant pineapples or something else, we found they were infested with this. And you can tell if the ground contains nematodes, your lantana roots and wild tobacco roots have got nodules or lumps of infection on them.

AW So when you were pulling the logs out, how did you get them out? Did you have a bullock team?

No, I worked for a man. We had a couple of blokes that were here in the district, there was Hancock and Gore, bought the timber and applied their contract hauling. Your friend Jack Ferris hauled the timber for this house, in which we are living, built in 1940.

AW Oh, did he?

He was working for Sallaway Brothers at the time.

AW From Maleny?

Yes. I think it was Sallaway Brothers and he hauled the log for the house and this one log, from which the weatherboards are cut off, for this house, was sixteen feet in length and twelve feet six inches, in girth. He remembered it after so many thousands of logs that he handled in his life. When we had the Centenary of the Landsborough School, or some jubilee, he mentioned it to me, that it was a remarkable looking piece of wood. It was too.

AW So, that is what you made all your weatherboards out of, for this house.

The mill sawed it out, yes. But that is just in passing. In your land development, your hardwood, when we sold our hardwood, along came Mr Bautel and Mr Stewart, to haul the timber out for Hancock and Gore and we started cutting timber. We refrained from letting out the cutting. We wanted the cutting.

AW So when your father first died, you and your brother decided to get somebody in to clear the land, then decided that you could do it.

Well, Mother advertised the timber and tried to sell it, because that was an avenue to raise some money. Needless to say, they only took the pick of it. But then again, she did sell it.

AW Was there still any cedar or beech on the property?

Oh, a couple, a couple of trees of that variety, but not a lot. They seemed to die if you isolate then from the scrub they seem to die because, well they are a scrub thing. They will not live in a colony. I believe the Forestry Department has tried this.

Put in a grove of cedar, and after fourteen years they died. That is a thing that, reafforestation, it has got to go back to it’s natural setting.

Reafforestation

AW Do you believe in reafforestation?

Yes, I have a hundred acres of natural reafforestation here. I’ve cut through that hundred acres, oh, three times in my life time.

AW So you would just go in and selectively log it?

Well, if I can. At the moment there is a very little ready for harvest. You could say that. As opposed to in another twenty years, it will be a good crop, for someone to get. I think posterity needs that. If everyone had that opinion and left that land, which isn’t the best of land, it’s generally steep and what have you, but that is just my opinion. I think the Forestry Department does a good job, all the areas of forestry they have around here they do a good job, it must be the cost, that they don’t police it enough. Because if you thin your trees, there is always a sickly tree, there is always a damaged tree, there is always the borer infested tree. If they were eliminated, the good ones would do better. It think it is a cost factor comes in.

AW So you believe that your crop, as in your forest, need to be tendered?

You can promote it by looking after it. If you get a lightning strike, if you get some mistletoe, get rid of them. Because mistletoe actually promotes itself, because it is on the tall tree and the seeds fall down. They are sticky seeds and they will land and get on the next fellow.

AW What does mistletoe do to the tree?

If you have seen the devastation of mistletoe you will understand. Mistletoe is a parasite, it will grow on the sap of that tree. The whole limb will die and he will take over the limb and there he is.

AW Will it grow on any sort of tree?

No, there are various types of mistletoe, there is the big broad leaf mistletoe that grows on the box trees and others. But the hardwood trees, they have an elongated mistletoe, it is a long droopy arrangement and they cause a great callus to come on the end, of the limb. The limb will break off and they will take possession of the tree. If you have got a tree that has got well say, twenty five mistletoes on it, he will die. They will kill him eventually.

AW They’ll take his sap blood

They will take his life away from him. Then they die of course. But they over do it. Just like we do with the soil.

AW That is what I wanted to talk to you about, about soil conservation. Do you think farmers in their old days, didn’t really realise what they were doing when they cleared or felled?

You have got the picture wrong. The banks didn’t realise what they were doing. The banks don’t realise what they are doing today.

AW In what way?

A person is committed. I feel strongly on this point. A person is committed, through debt. You hear the wise person say "Why did so and so on that lease in the west, overstock it to this damn degree?" Because, he is not wanting to do that. But circumstances forced him to. It is the circumstances that forces a person, and in most cases, I don’t say in every case, it could be a family member, maybe his wife or his family get involved and they have to have extra money. They borrow extra money, to assist. Or they might be going to be promoted by someone, someone will come along and say, most people are gullible, "I can promote your interest, I can promote your income by so much listen to me and borrows this money and we will make Heaven on earth for you." My word they do!

AW You are saying, nine times out of ten the farmers were over committed so they had to do it because it was revenue?

Well they did. They did it unconsciously, they over cropped the ground and then they ploughed at the wrong time, and on this coastal belt, erosion is there. Because you get such hellish rainfall. I’ve prepared land for oats, my neighbour did this; he prepared paddock for oats down on the creek. We got an enormous cyclonic flood in June and it washed all the top soil off the whole flat.

AW Do you think farmers have realised the dangers of over cropping?

I think they do. But by the same token, you take the people that are going broke today, have you noticed that with the farmers situational over the country? They don’t want to do that. The price of machinery, nothing is relative to the cost of the machine. Do you realise that most farmers, I don’t say all, but most farmers, are receiving less than the basic wage? A lot of people cannot see this. They say, "But look he is wealthy. He’s wealthy. He’s got all that land." You only are wealthy when you realise your asset.

AW That is when you sell it.

When you sell it, that is realising your asset, when you sell.

AW That is what I was going to ask you about next, about land subdivision. What do you think about all this primary producing land being subdivided and having houses on it?

But you cannot do much about it. But there it is. We will speak about a thing, as a cane farmer around Bundaberg. As you know sugar had bee very bad. There was an opportunity for him, for closer settlement. So he said "I will cut it up into ten acre blocks and sell it, and he got out of his dilemma, and had enough to retire on. His neighbour down the road and then suddenly the Councils or the Government decreed that that was cane producing land, it could not be sold. So he is stuck with his bundle.

AW So it was bad management from the very beginning.

It is bad management by authorities that we have got. And all these weeds and all these adverse things packed on us, so it is nobody’s fault, they say it is nobody’s fault; but it is. It’s someone’s fault somewhere along the line. When you see Maleny, they were dairy farming. You take the elderly people, Dehmichens, I think it was, names don’t matter. They were out Witta, they had pioneered it and done all and a wise gut came along and offered them "x" amount of dollars or pounds. Then he went into subdivision. He gleaned all, what the old fellow should have had. He just got enough to get out and get a house in Caloundra and retire and die unhappy. Die unhappy because he had left what he had developed. And then next bloke came along, the developer, and the Council leans to the developer, because he has got the means to develop.

AW This is in recent times?

This is as recent as now. You see, the chappy goes along and you say now, "Well Dad and I worked like blazes here all our lives and Dad’s dead and he doesn’t worry. Righto, so I will sell real estate, and he becomes a developer over night. He is wealthy. But the farm has gone.

Free masonry

AW When did you join Masonry?

1946. That would be over forty years ago.

AW Is there a lodge in the area?

Quite a few lodges in the area. Locally, there is Kilcoy, called Hopetown, Woodford, Tibrogargen, Landsborough and Maleny Lodge, they are all within driving distance, very easy access. I have enjoyed my association with Masonry and I find it a great benefit for character and the meeting sand the activities they promote, promotes friendships. Although Masonry has a great philosophy of brotherly love, it is my personal observation that it’s very difficult to alter human nature. Masonry will endure no matter what the opposition. It has been with civilisation since King Solomon’s time, which is quite a while ago. I think we have been guilty of keeping our business to ourselves. Masonry has promoted many good things, but hasn’t claimed them, but today, in the recent two years, Masonry has promoted I think they call it, the "Chair of Geriatrics" at the University of Queensland. They are going public this month or next month, I do not know when, but I read somewhere where they had lodged the public appeal. They want to raise several millions and I do not know the amount, I could not tell you exactly the amount the Masons have contributed, but we are still working on it. That’s about all that I can give you on that. But Masonry, as I said before, does not alter human nature. People will be people irrespective, but we are not concerned with religions. Although religions are concerned about us I believe. But we don’t ask a man his religion.

AW When you were younger, were you aware of MasonicLodges being in the area? Like when you were a young boy, when you were about twelve?

I wasn’t then, but later on I discovered that the generosity of Masons came across very markedly.

AW How would you know men were Masons? Would they talk about it, because in the old days it was very, very secretive, I understand.

Dad didn’t talk about it, but I was told. I said, "My word, when I was a boy we were generously treated." The chappy came and he gave my Mother a couple of quids worth of goodies for the family because we were hard up. "Oh yes, that is his duty," said my friend, "That’s his duty, he is a Mason.

AW So then you got interested.

That promoted my interest to a great marked degree, because he was a big jovial sort of a bloke. You would not have known that he was a Mason, as he doesn’t advertise it. In those days, more than today, they were very secretive about what they were. I don’t know the reason really, because the secret‘s a myth. More or less it’s a myth.

AW You always hear about them riding the billy goat in the hall.

We have two actually. In case you fall off!

AW In case you fall off?

Yes. In case you fall off and you get at the one end that is not as wild!

AW Stories like that just intrigue people more. What is it all about?

It is not a joke. We keep the chaff in that room. There is a lot of study in Masonary, if you wish to become a prominent individual in Masonary, you hadn’t got to be a dope.

AW You have got to read a lot.

You have got to learn quite a lot of stuff. Ancient History. See, Masonry dates back to King Solomon’s time. Masonry was developed in the 17th Century, or really revived ion the 17th Century in England and we have gone from there. Royalty have been members. They haven’t thought it derogatory to their dignity to exchange sceptre, for the gavel. In other words they have promoted it and it has gone on, you wouldn’t know who was a Mason, there are hundreds of them about. Hundreds of them, like I said before, human nature, you don’t alter it. I’m going to boil the billy now.

Conclusion

Mr Breton (Snr) had bought 38V from C Maiss in 1902 while Bob Breton (Jnr) bought 64V from S Harden in 1939. Mrs Breton (Snr) died in 1941, just after the family moved into the new house on the hill.

In 1935 Bob Breton married the Crohamhurst School Head Teacher, Mabel Simmonds from Brisbane, and they raised a family of four children - Barbara, Doris, Walde and Robert. They all attended the Crohamhurst School.

Crohamhurst State School pupils with head teacher Mabel Simmonds, 1930
Crohamhurst State School pupils with head teacher Mabel Simmonds, 1930

Peachester Branch of the Country Women's Association at a Christmas gathering, 1962
Peachester Branch of the Country Women's Association at a Christmas gathering, 1962

Biography/History: Back row, L to R: Pam Walker, Ivy Cahill, Grace Hodgens, Mrs Torrens Snr, Bev Torrens, Nessie Pratten, Eileen Hadwell, Lil Walker. Second row: Dulcie Kropp with children, Mabel Breton, Aggie Strong, Eileen Ulrick, Gwen Walker, Mrs Holmes, Ivy Page. Enid Macdonand and Mrs Turner were responsible for formation of Peachester CWA in 1945.

Barbara became a teacher and married Charles Rider, who was at that time Head Teacher at Peachester School. They have a grown up family – Catherine, Kenneth and Marguerite. Catherine, pre-school teacher, recently married Alex Heaton who works with the Taxation Department.

Doris, also a teacher, married Max Guldbransen, now a horse trainer of Mt. Beppo. Their family is Jill, Desmond and Shane.

Walde is a builder and with his wife Lesley and son Scott live on the property beside his father, in a house once occupied by Wilhelkm Albert Ostwald (Snr) on Portion 67V. He has three children by his first marriage, Walde, Daniel and Vanessa. Walde (Jnr) and wife Barbara have a daughter Taronara and a son Cory who are the first great grand children for Bob and Mabel Breton.

Robert is a qualified teacher of the electrical trade at Bundaberg T.A.F.E. College. He married a teacher, Zita Peron and they have a family of four – Julia, Robert, Stephen and Angela.

By this year of the Bi-Centenary, 1988 Bob Breton has lived continuously on his father’s selection for all of his 78 years. He is the oldest resident in Peachester still working the property his father selected in 1891.

Interviewee additional information

Crown Land Selection Application 1891

Licence to occupy an Agricultural Farm. 1891

Property Description, Portion 50 V, County Canning, Parish of Durundur, 1891

Proof of Fulfilment of Conditions of Selection 1896

Declaration of Residence 1896

Bailiff’s Report on Land Selection 1896

Certificate of Fulfilment of Conditions of Selection 1896

Application to Purchase Portion of Land underlease 1897

Receipt of Issue of Deed of Grant 1897

Interviewee biographical information sheet

Name: Robert George H W Breton

Maiden Name: N/A

Date of Birth: 10 August 1909

Place of Birth: Brisbane

Mother’s Name: Mathilda Rehren

Mother’s Date of Birth: 20 September 1873

Birthplace: Brisbane

Father’s Name: Robert T G Breton

Father’s Date of Birth: 12 August 1850

Birthplace: Stralsund, Germany

Mother’s Occupation: Dressmaker/Musician/Housewife

Father’s Occupation: Chemist/Music & Language Teacher/Farmer

Date of Marriage: 12 August 1935

Place of Marriage: Brisbane

Name of Spouse: Mabel Simmonds

Occupation of Spouse: Head School Teacher at Crohamhurst School

Names and Birth Dates of Children:

1. Barbara

2. Doris

3. Walde

4. Robert

Locality (ies) in which interviewee grew up: Peachester

Names of Educational Institutions attended: Crohamhurst State School