John Ferris oral history - part 2

John, who in his own words, “was born with a bull-whip in my hand”. He grew up in an area known as Pointon’s Pocket. His father was a Bullock Driver and he also became a Bullocky at an early age

John Ferris oral history - part 2

AW So he didn’t have to go all the way up through Peachester?

JCF Didn’t have to go up the other way and back to Peachester.

World War One

AW Before you were talking about 1919, in Maleny. Can you remember when the First World War started?

JCF Oh yes, we were only kids then.

AW Were people scared?


AW Because it was too far away?

JCF Yes. They weren’t scared, they were all probably sorry to see the young fellows going. My word! There was a big response then, everybody went. A lot of them never came back.

AW So, we lost a lot of farmers?

JCF A lot of young fellows from Woodford never came back.

AW What else? Anything else of a big event happened in the early days, say pre 1920s?

JCF Nothing much, only hard work. That’s all we got.

Railway Strike 1927-28

AW What about when in 1927, there was a lot of union problems, you said that in 1927 the timber industry, the bottom fell out of that.

JCF That’s when it started to go flat.

AW Can you remember when there was a big railway strike?

JCF In the year 1927, the Railways had gone out two or three times and it went out again in 1928.

AW So, that would have affected you, being a bullocky trying to get your timber to the railhead, wouldn’t it?

JCF Oh yes, but they didn’t last long. Then, 1928 they went out on strike.

AW What were they striking for?

JCF Better conditions or more wages, I couldn’t just tell you now what it was. Anyhow, Bill McCormack was the Premier of Queensland. Labor Premier, and he said “You’re out now, stop out”. and he sacked them all. They were out for about three weeks. He advertised the jobs were there if they wanted them and they nearly trampled on one another in getting there to get the jobs.

AW The same union men?

JCF They nearly trampled their mates to death getting there to get the job.

AW That’s interesting, it’s very similar to the Joh situation with the S.E.Q.E.B. Everybody was up in arms about Joh doing that, but a Labor Premier had done exactly the same thing in 1927-1928.

JCF Yes, Bill McCormack was Labor.

AW Very similar, isn’t it?

JCF Oh, they did. Now they were all up in arms what Joh’s done to S.E.Q.E.B. here, yet Ben Chifley put the Army in, down in Victoria.

AW When was that?

JCF There was a National Coal Strike, when he was Prime Minister. There was a coal strike down there and the Union wouldn’t go back, so he put the Army in. That was a Labor Prime Minister.

AW Can you remember what year it was roughly?

JCF I don’t know just when. I think that must have been around 1949, because I think Old Menzies got in, in 1949. When Menzies went ahead and an election, Chifley went out and Menzie’s mob went in. The liberals went in.

(There was a National Coal Strike from 27th June to 15th August, at a time of rapidly rising prosperity throughout the community, black-coal-miners struck in all states. The strike began in N.S.W. mines. The miners claimed a 35-hour working week and certain long service leave arrangements. During freeze Trade Union funds used for the strike, and eventually sent troops to work open-cut mines.) Ref: Modern Australian Documents 1939-1970. By F.K.Crowley.

AW That’s after the big coal strike?

JCF But Chifley brought the Army in and yet they were kicking up a row about Joh doing it here.

AW Let’s talk about the people back here in the country. Were they very politically orientated, were they worried about what was happening in politics in the city?

JCF Oh no, they never worried much.

AW Did they grumble much when there were strikes?

JCF No, they never worried much.

AW Why was that?

JCF In the country, people will survive a long time than the city people will.

AW Why? Because they’ve got food?

JCF Because you can go around your neighbours and one will help the other. They grow nothing down there.

Bankfoot House

AW So, Jack you came back to the Glass House Mountains in 1966, after being away from some years.

JCF We used to just come flying visits to her people.

AW So Mary’s mother still lived here at Bankfoot house?

JCF Oh yes, she lived here until 1963.

AW She must have been a very old lady.

JCF Eighty five and a half when she died. Mary’s father died in 1946 and old lady lived here on her own until she passed away on 21st December, 1963. Her last Christmas was 1962. We used to go down to our daughter every Christmas, because we never saw them, they were down in New South Wales. We used to go down because we would have seen the rest of the family all year. The last couple of Christmases we went down and had it with them. But we stayed and had Christmas with the old lady in 1962. Although she was still getting about, at that age, it would be any time. So, anyhow, we stayed that Christmas with her and then we went down and had New Year down there, in N.S.W. and Ruby, our second daughter, she came up and stayed with her grandmother, she and her husband. Then they took her back to Brisbane for a few days and that’s when she got crook. They put her into P.A. Hospital and she never came out, she was there for eleven months.

AW SO you bought the house off Mary’s older brother who had inherited it?

JCF Of course, the old lady was there on her own and started farming up the road.

AW Who’s this?

JCF Her son, Mary’s eldest brother started farming up there. And he was going to have a big probate payout, so she finished up giving it to Bill. He had the place valued and he paid gift tax and all that, wasn’t done illegally. He took the place over in 1952. But she reserved the right to live here, while she lived. Of course after she passed on, he didn’t want the old place so we got two acres surveyed out and we bought it off him.

AW So, that’s why you moved back up here?

JCF We had it for two years before we moved here.

AW So had you retired then when you moved up in 1966?

JCF I was retired when we moved up here, but I was two years off retirement when we bought it and we used to only come up on weekends to clean the place up, we had some lantana and rubbish to clean up when we came here. The place was over grown.

AW Mary was telling me that some old hobos had probably been in here too.

JCF Yes, Bill used to always come down here with them on Saturday nights. There used to be a lot of campers down here on the creek on the camping ground, they’d come up here and he’d come down here kicking them out. It was going to end up getting burnt down, that’s what was going to happen.

AW Were they young people or were they old?

JCF Young enough, or old enough to have better sense. They were a damn nuisance.

AW I wonder if they realised it was such a historic house.

JCF But of course, there was never a fence along the road there, you see, when the old house was on the front there, you could step off the verandah onto the road.

AW Straight out onto the road?

JCF Yes, Well, they pulled it down, they never fenced it, they just run the fence into the corner of the house here and the corner over there. That was all opened, and they used to just come in. They’d drive up there and hop out. They weren’t in the house, but they would have ended up breaking in. There was a mob of kids who broke in here one time, but the Police got them, they got the things back, they only gave them a caution. But they were the locals. When we bought it, I ran a three-barb wire fence down along the line there. Temporary stake fence, iron stakes.

AW Just to let people know somebody new was here.

JCF It’s a funny thing, if they had to get through a fence to come here they wouldn’t bother.

AW So, was that common in those days, in the late sixties, of a house left unattended, people would just break in and use it?

JCF They never broke in and used it, but they used to on the verandahs. They would have ended up breaking in.

AW Would that have happened in the old days?

JCF Oh yes. There used to be occasional break in but very, very seldom. Now, way back sixty years ago, at night time out here nobody ever locked a door and in the summer time they never even closed the doors.

AW And you’d never worry about people stealing things?

JCF No, nobody every worried then. And if you went anywhere, you could just pull up anywhere along the road and camp alongside of the road, nobody would interfere with you. I wouldn’t do it today. When we first started going down to see our daughter down in the Blue Mountains where they were living, we used to camp along the road at night, just pull up and throw out a mattress and lie down alongside the car and go to sleep. When you were driving along at night, you’d see different people camping along the road. I wouldn’t do that now.

AW Why not?

JCF They’d cut your throat. There are some damn rotters about today.

AW So you think our values have changed a lot?

JCF I don’t know.

AW What went wrong?

JCF I can’t say why, but all they think about now is destruction or anything like that. In the olden days, the young fellows used to get up to mischief. They’d change a signboard on the road, or they’d go and pull all the bows out of a yoke or something like that. Today, they’ve got to smash up everything.

AW So, they’ve taken it on one step further from just having fun, to being destructive.

JCF Destructive now, before it was a bit inconvenient at times for the bullockies, but it was only clean stuff. Today it’s got to be destructive. The Forestry spent $18,000 up here on the look out. And they opened it somewhere in the beginning of Spring. It was a nice job, and the first Christmas, first New Year’s Night the damn louts did $1,200 worth of damage. Smashed up everything.

AW What I am trying to work out is why are we different, what has happened to the generation, because we all come from the same pioneer stock. Where have our values changed along the way?

JCF A lot of it today is the parents. They’ve got no control over the kids. The kids tell them what to do. They won’t control them. In our days, we did what we were told, not what we liked. But today the kids tell the parents what they are going to do.

AW But don’t you think that comes back to the parents in the first place not being strong enough in taking their children in hand?

JCF That’s right.

AW Where have the parents learnt that from? Havn’t they learnt that from their own parents?

JCF Oh well, I don’t know how it’s come about, but that’s the whole trouble, the parents are the trouble. There is no parental control in the home.

AW What about in your generation, you had your grandparents around you in most cases and a big family. Do you think maybe the fact that there’s just these small families, mother, father and two children and no grandparents, nobody to help them. Do you think maybe because there are these isolated families these days that we don’t have the back up of the big family group.

JCF I don’t know about that.

AW Because I was just thinking, Mary was telling me about how you’d sit round and you’d listen to your grandparents telling you stories about how it was when they were children. So, with grandparents around, that would leave the parents time to go and do their work and the children are still being supervised by adults. I’m just trying to work out, maybe that’s why it’s different, because nowadays we don’t have grandparents around and older relatives around.

JCF We never had grandparents either when we were up there.

AW No, but you were in an interesting situation, because your father was an original selector, so you were pioneers out in the bush.

JCF Now, I was eighteen before I went to a dance without asking my Father if I could go.

AW Were you scared of your father?


AW You respected him?

JCF I respected him, and if he said I wasn’t to do anything, I didn’t do it. I wasn’t game to do it. Mary was the same, she never went anywhere without her father’s consent.

AW So parents used to take you everywhere?

JCF Yes, the parents were bosses in those days. It never did us any harm. There was a chap about my own age and I was speaking one time down at the Morayfield School Centenary, in 1973, and we were talking about how the louts go on today. They are worse now than what they were then. He said to me, “God, if we went on like that when we were kids, we wouldn’t be game to go home”. And he was right too. If we went to school and we got the cane and we went home and told our parents that we got the cane that day, we would get another hiding. But not today.

AW So there’s not enough discipline?


AW What about respect, do you think they do not have that respect for other human beings?

JCF No, the kids havn’t got the respect for the aged today that we had. When we were kids, if we met an elderly person, we always addressed as Mr. or Mrs. But today, when kids see you, they say, “G’day Tom.” “Hello Bill”. It’s all the same.

AW So, you think they should be taught…

JCF They should be taught manners. There is no discipline in the home today, that’s my opinion. Of course, there’s very few alive today that will agree with it.

AW I noticed on the questionnaire I gave you, you wrote that in the olden days, you had freedom.

JCF What I meant by that was, we had the law and we abided by it. But today, the damn politicians are always bringing in and then when you’re just starting to get use to that, they scrap it.

AW So, they are making it so complex for people?

JCF Yes, it’s all confusion today. You just get pushed about by too many blooming politicians. And they don’t practise what they preach. They are screwing you down and they are throwing money around as if they are picking it up, off the street. Look at the way they are all gallivanting around the world.

AW If we go through another depression do you think that will change?

JCF No, they won’t change their habits. They’ll change ours, not theirs. That was one thing during the Depression, the politicians never hung around the world, they didn’t have the money. No, I’m a bit like the bloke who flew into a strange country, when he got off the plane he was walking across the tarmac and he met a man and he said, “Hey mate, you got a government here?” He said, “Oh yes” He said, “Well, I’m against it.” So I’m a bit like him.

AW You were telling me, when you first moved back here to Glass House Mountains, you became interested in the history of the Shire and you became a member of the Landsborough Historical Society.

JCF Yes, I can’t think of when that was.

MF Mr. Hobbs took us up and the next meeting we joined.

JCF Yes, but what year?

MF I don’t know.

AW Well, how many years after you moved back here, because you moved back here in 1966.

JCF I bought it on the 21st December, 1964. That’s when I took the place over. I retired at Christmas and we moved up here on Boxing Day, 1966, and I’ve been here ever since.

AW We are trying to work out when you started going to the Museum.

JCF I can’t remember when it was, when we joined up there.

AW What I was more interested in was why you were interested in the history?

JCF Well, I had a sticky beak in what the old people were doing.

AW Did you go out and interview anybody like I’m interviewing you now?

JCF No, we never went out interviewing anybody, we used to just go up to the museum.

AW Did you go and talk to them?

JCF Some of them did, the President used to go around collecting things. Old relics and that. We used to clean them up and took them up there.

AW And you’d index them and put them into special shelves.

MF I did the indexing and the filing.

AW So, Mary did all the indexing and the filing. What did you do? You cleaned the articles and fixed them up.

JCF We all had done cleaning in the first place. Then when we got things up, then we started filing them. Another chap, Ray Tilney and I, did a bit of carpentry work.

AW So that was in the late 1960s.

JCF Oh no, it would be later than that, in the late 1970s.

MF We went there for somewhere to go to. I think we gave it away somewhere about 1980. The old legs got that bad that we couldn’t do anything, so we gave it away altogether. We used to go up every Tuesday.

AW You’ve done such a wonderful job down there.

JCF The others helped until they opened it. We used to go up three days a week, some odd weeks, four days. We used to be up there at eight o’clock. We’d take our lunch with us, and we wouldn’t get home till five or after. Mrs. Maroney and the others used to come and help us. We didn’t do it all.

AW Then there would have been a lot more pioneers alive then. Did you have any old people coming in that would be telling you stories?

JCF Odd people used to come in.

AW Did you write any of them down?


MF All their names are written in the visitor’s book.

AW What about their stories though, are they just in your memories?

MF Know how to file up and say how old a thing was and why it was used and everything else. We had to write all that up, that’s all in my books here.

AW That’s very good. All that’s been done. Who was the President when you joined?

JCF Percy Reynolds, poor fellow died of cancer, he was a marvellous President. He used to get around and get things and all that.

AW Was he from a historic family from the area?

JCF No, his parents were both from Woombye. And then of course when Perc went out Stan Stutt was elected President then.

AW Was Dave Hankinson ever a President.

JCF Perc Reynolds was Stan Tutt’s brother-in-law. He married Stan’s sister.

AW Stan’s still President, isn’t he?

JCF I Think he is still President.

AW Do you remember Dave Hankinson?

JCF Yes, I knew him well. Hankinson and I spoke the same language! We were bullockies. Yes, his father was a bullocky and Dave followed on for a while.

AW Was he the same age as you?

JCF No, he was about ten years younger, wasn’t he?

MF Yes, he was younger than us.

JCF Ted Hankinson, I think was four months older than me.

AW Did you ever know the Hankinson’s from your early days in Maleny?

JCF Oh, yes, I knew them. Dave was a great help. He was in the Historical Society and of course he was a Councillor. Perc and Dave did a lot of carpentry before we joined up. Then Dave sort of had other business doing so, he sort of gave the work away. So I went in helping Perc and when Perc got sick, Dave came back and he and I worked together for only a very short while and he took a terribly bad heart attack and he couldn’t work anymore.

AW Must have been good when the two of you were working together, if you had both been bullockies.

JCF Then Ray Tilney took in then. He was a member of the Society, but he came in working full time with me then. He and I did a lot of carpentry work up there.

Aborigines at Pointon’s Pocket

AW I would like to talk to you now about Pointon’s Pocket. You said when you first went up there, there were a lot of aboriginals about. I am just trying to work out in the early days, were there actually many aboriginals living in the area?

JCF Oh yes, there were quite a few.

AW Can you remember their tribes?

JCF No, I couldn’t tell you that.

AW Did they talk English, or did they talk in their own language?

JCF Oh yes, they used to yabber away. You could understand them. They were civilised, they weren’t treacherous or anything. And they were dressed, they were all clothed. The government used to give them a hand out just before winter every year. Give them clothes and that, they used to walk into Woodford, out around our way, to the Police Station and get their rations.

AW And what would their rations be?

JCF Clothing, some flour and a bit of sugar and that. They used to live a lot off the land.

AW How did the selectors treat the aboriginals?

JCF No trouble up there.

AW Because you hear stories of further out west where they used to poison the flour and things like that.

JCF They did up the Kilcoy area years ago. Eighty years ago, might have been a hundred years ago. There was a mob that came over from the other side of Gympie. They got over the Range there and they were a bit of a nuisance according to what I can understand; they wanted some flour and the station gave them flour and they poisoned it. That’s a back lash because they got home and killed a lot of white settlers and that.

AW So, do you remember your parents or your uncle talking about aboriginals, talking about situations like that where other people had poisoned them?

JCF The old chap, before he was married, never had any trouble out there with the blacks.

AW Did you ever know any of them personally?

JCF No, I was too young. The Governments rounded them all up. As far as I can remember, they rounded up the balance of them, somewhere around the beginning of 1908, and took them over to Brambah. (now Cherbourg).

AW You would have only been seven years old.

JCF I remember when they were all talking about it. The parents were talking about it. And they took them over to Brambah which is now Cherboug. That was the silliest thing they ever did. If they had left them alone, the blacks and the whites and the piccaninnies, to all grow up together, there would have been no hatred. But now, you see, they were over there getting fed and everything; not working. And the whites have to work and pay taxes.

AW And also they’d been taken away from their tribal land, so they’d lost all their legends?

JCF Yes. Of course there’s a lot of hatred amongst them.

AW When you were a boy, did any of the aboriginals tell you any of their legends?

JCF No, of course I was only young. When Dad selected he built the house up on a hill and right at the foot of the hill was the big bark hut that old Alf Pointon built, when he went in there timber getting.

AW Was that on your property?

JCF No, it was just outside. When they ran the line along, it was just outside on the road. It wasn’t on our place. Anyhow, when he left years before, the station-hands went out there mustering the cattle, to bring them into dip. They used to camp in it, but they used to chase the blacks out first and then they’d camp there.

JCF When Pointon moved out, the blacks moved in and when the station hands wanted to used it for two or three nights, they used to chase the blacks out and they’d use it. When they went out the blacks came back in again.

AW Was Pointon still living there when your parents moved in?

JCF No. He’d gone thirty years before or more.

AW So, the aboriginals that were about, weren’t really all from one tribe, they’d just been moving from town to town?

JCF Yes. Anyhow they used to camp there. About twenty of them camped in there, it was a terribly big hut that old Pointon built. We were up on the hill, just above it. We used to hear them yakking around in the night down there. Us kids used to be frightened.

AW Were you? Did they carry spears and boomerangs?

JCF Oh yes, they had boomerangs. They used to carry a nulla nulla, because they they used to get a kangaroo and eat it. They used to live pretty well off the land. They used to go into Woodford and get some flour and that occasionally. They used to cadge off the white settlers.

AW Did any of the cow cockies have problems with them?

JCF They never had any trouble with them. Of course the whites never interfered with them, they never interfered with the whites.

AW You just think it’s a pity that they drove them there in the first place?

JCF They’d come to you occasionally and want a bit of tucker, and you’d give them something, and away they’d go. But it was the silliest thing that the Government ever did when they segregated them. If they’d left them alone they would have been alright.

AW Were there many aboriginals up in the Yandina area when you moved up there?

JCF No, they were all gone years before. Of course we didn’t go up there till 1926.

AW What about gold Jack, did you ever go gold fossicking?


AW Because everybody says Chinaman’s Creek up at Kenilworth is pretty famous.

JCF They used to do a bit of scratching around down there and get a bit of colours, nothing special.

AW You call it colour?

JCF We used to call them colours, just a couple of spots.

AW Is there anything that you can think of that I haven’t mentioned that you think is important, that we should record for the history of the Shire.

Local Government Councillors

JCF I don’t know much about this Shire. I do know the Councillors in the olden days, they did it for the good of the district. Now they are like politicians, they’re doing it for what they can get out of it. They get a hundred dollars a meeting now. For her father…

AW This is Marys’s father?

JCF Yes. He got a shilling a mile one way and his dinner.

AW And all the rest of the time he put in as a councillor was his own time?

JCF If the Council ordered him to go on inspection, he got paid for that, but now they live down there and get paid for it. They won’t like me saying it, but it’s true.

AW Do you think that they could make Local Government better, as in making the council better?

JCF Oh yes. They are getting a lot more service done now, but of course there is a lot more settlement and a lot more rates going in. But they get it now, a few years ago they rose it to $100 a meeting. Well, there’s the General Meeting and then there’s Finance Meeting and all those different ones. If they get $100 for every one, they’re not doing too bad.

AW You should tell your local councillor.

JCF Now, my old Dad, he was in Caboolture Council for a couple of terms, but it was too far away and he was losing too much time.

AW What was your father’s name?

JCF Charlie, Charles John Ferris. He used to go from Pointon’s Pocket, till he was ten miles out of Woodford, and they reckon that it was sixteen miles from there to Caboolture and that was twenty six miles he had to go down and come back. He used to get a shilling a mile and of course he had to get more than Mary’s father, because he had twice as far to go. But he used to start off a lot earlier in the morning too. He used to leave home before daylight!

AW So, did your father take his position as a councillor very seriously?

JCF Oh yes. He looked after the things while he was there but he only put in a couple of terms then he gave it away, he lost too much time.

AW So, he could get on with his farming?

JCF Times have changed now. They get paid for everything they do now, and paid well.

AW When they moved the Council from Landsborough to Caloundra, do you think that was a good move or not?

JCF No, I don’t think it was a good move.

AW Why don’t you think it was a good move?

JCF We weren’t here then. That was before we came here.

AW Why don’t you think it was a good move?

JCF Well, it’s all down that end, on the Coast, whereas at Landsborough, it was more in the centre of the Shire. Now, see Conondale people have got a terribly long way to go down to the Council if they want to see anything down there. Whereas, in Landsborough, it wasn’t far for the Caloundra people to go up there and it was much shorter for people to come over from Conondale or from here. Now we’ve got a terribly long way to go if we need anything down there.

AW Do you think we’ve got a progressive Council at the moment?

JCF That’s a matter of one’s own ideas.

AW You don’t think we have a progressive Council at the moment?

JCF They’re getting along on it alright. They won’t like me saying my ideas, but I think that the moneys being spent where the votes are.

AW It seems that Landsborough has got a bit of a problem, because the majority of the Shire is in rural area but the seat of the power is in a residential area. You’ve got Kawana and Caloundra down there, they’ve got a lot of councillors.

JCF That’s right.

AW Do you think that in the future Landsborough will split or will they have to move their Council Chambers again?

JCF They’ll do like they did down the South Coast. They’ll run a strip up and make one big Council of the Sunshine Coast.

AW So it will become a city?

JCF And then they’ll put what’s left of Landsborough and Maroochy together and make on out of that. I reckon that’s what they’ll do. See, down the South Coast, they’ve made on City Council along the coast, right along the coast and they’ll do the same here.

AW Of course, you probably know this, but the National Party has been mooting this for years, since the 1940s, to have the Sunshine Coast declared a City. I know that from reading the Nambour Chronicle. It does make sense. Well, thank you very much for letting me interview you Jack.

JCF I don’t know if I’ve told you much.

AW For a person who’s never heard anything or known anything about how to use a bullock team, you have explained a lot.

JCF Might be a few things in there that the politicians and the councillors won’t like.

AW But that’s your own personal opinion and you’re entitled to it.

JCF Yes, I don’t say that, that’s what should be done, but that’s my opinion.


John Charles Ferris turned 100 in 2001 and was still living in Bankfoot House

Biographical Information


Date of Birth: 8th June, 1901

Place of Birth: Roma, QLD.

Mother’s Name: Catherine Jane Duggan

Mother’s Date of Birth: 1st November, 1869

Birthplace: The Wallum, near Bollon, QLD.

Father’s Name: Charles John Ferris

Father’s Date of Birth: 28th September, 1867

Birthplace: Victoria

Mother’s occupation: Home Duties

Father’s occupation: Timber Cutter/Getter, Bullock Driver

Date of Marriage: 19th February, 1925

Place of Marriage: Methodist Church, Red Hill, Brisbane.

Name of Spouse: Mary Isabella Burgess

Occupation of spouse: Nanny/Home Help

Names and birth dates of children:

Clementina Jane 2:1:1926

William Charles 12:6:1927

Ruby May 30:3:1929

Edith Rose 2:9:1932

Kevin John 26:10:1936

Locality (ies) in which interviewee grew up:

Glass House Mountains, Pointon’s Pocket (Cedarton), Woodford.

Names of educational institutions attended:

Commissioner’s Flat School. (Peachester)

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We commit to working in partnership with the Traditional Custodians and the broader First Nations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) community to support self-determination through economic and community development.
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