Dulcie Kelly

Dulcie was the daughter of Oliver Birrell, the Caloundra Lighthouse Keeper from 1918-1931. Dulcie lived on isolated Moreton Island until her family moved to Caloundra

Dulcie Kelly

Interview with: Dulcimer (Dulcie) Olive Kelly (nee Birrell)

Date of Interview: 7 April, 1987

Interviewer: Amanda Wilson

Transcriber: Felicity Nappa

Dulcie Olive Kelly (nee Birrell) was the daughter of Oliver Birrell, the Caloundra Lighthouse Keeper from 1918-1931. Dulcie lived on isolated Moreton Island until her family moved to Caloundra to begin lighthouse keeper duties.

Image: Jean Mackay, Claire Byrne, Dulcie and Alice Birrell at the Caloundra House tennis courts, ca 1927.

Images and documents about Dulcie Kelly in the Sunshine Coast Libraries Catalogue.


Dulcie Kelly oral history - part one [MP3 44MB]

Dulcie Kelly oral history - part two [MP3 44MB]

Dulcie Kelly oral history - part three [MP3 22MB]

Dulcie Kelly oral history - part four [MP3 22MB]


Part One

AW: Mrs. Kelly, when did you move to Caloundra?

Just after the Great War.

AW: Around 1918?

Well, it wouldn't be earlier because the War was over.

AW: And why did your family move to Caloundra?

Because we were only temporarily at Cape Moreton Lighthouse, to wait for Mr.Edlundh's retirement.

AW: So, your father, was a lighthouse keeper.

And a signalman and a telegraphist.

AW: You said you had to wait when you came from Moreton, did you live on Moreton Island, before you came to Caloundra?

Family lighthouse connections

Yes, for about eighteen months. We were waiting for Mr. Edlundh to retire. Before that, my Father was in charge of Facing Island Lighthouse, Gladstone.

AW: So, Mr. Edlundh, he was the previous lighthouse keeper.

For many years, the only one.

AW: He was the first lighthouse keeper, in Caloundra?

Yes. I don't know how many years, at least ten.

AW: What was your father's name?


AW: Oliver Birrell?

Yes, from Keppel Bay.

AW: Is that where he was born?

That's where my Grandfather worked as a sea pilot.

AW: So, that sort of work is in the family?

Oh yes, definitely, my Grandfather was a sea pilot from England. He was a dapper type of fellow, he had a lot of children, a lot of sons. I've got a photo of them too.

Moreton Bay schooling in World War One wartime

AW: Can you remember, living on Moreton Island?

Oh yes, but only details of a child.

AW: Can you tell me a little what it was like?

Well, my Father was quite happy there, he was happy anywhere where he could see the sea. My Mother didn't like it, and we didn't unpack everything, because we knew we were going to Caloundra. So we used to live with a lot of things that we'd gathered up at the time, and stored the rest away. We didn't have a comfortable home.

AW: And where did you live?

In the Government house, the one in that picture that you saw; that was our house with "Our House" written on it.

AW: How many houses were there?


AW: And were they all for the Lighthouse Keepers?

Yes, they were for the Lighthouse Keepers.

Down on the bottom where there were other houses, there were children there and the school had about nine or ten pupils. As I wrote in an early article I did for Don Henry, I don't know where they all came from, they had no horses to ride, so they must have been local, down at the bottom.

AW: So did you go to school at Moreton?


AW: So, you remember bits of that?

Well, our teacher was Miss Heeny. And she was a redhead. I do remember her, because she was emotional about her soldier at the War. Every afternoon, we would sing her a love song, which I have in the dear old book, here. The only time I've ever discovered it. It's so old, it's called, "Farewell, Farewell, My Own True Love".

AW: Do you want to sing it for me?

No, not now. The words are: "Farewell, Farewell, my own true love. How can I bear to leave thee. Oh a sad farewell I give thee." Then by the time we got to that, she'd be crying and we would all be crying, because the teacher was upset. We knew what she was crying for, vaguely.

AW: So even as children, you were aware of what war was all about?

I don't think I was really. I can't remember great ships passing by or war signals or anything. Oddly enough, Moreton Island wasn't a great place for that sort of thing; I don't know why, but Caloundra was. The signal station for Caloundra was up on the hill with all the gun emplacements that you've seen there. It seemed, oddly enough, more important, because Caloundra was closer to shipping.

AW: So Caloundra, even in the First World War had signal stations, did it?

Not signal stations, but we seemed to be more aware of it. I believed, that Mr. Edlundh was a bit persecuted, and so was his son Charles.

AW: Why was that?

Because he was an arrogant German and proud of it, and so was his son. He said, "You'll all be waiting on us after this is over", and he was ostracized. And the lady, Mrs Lamb, up on the hill in the finest house, up on the dress circle, she was supposed to signal to ships passing by surreptitiously,

AW: This is in Caloundra?

Yes, and she was ostracized too.

AW: So people in Caloundra believed she was a spy?

Yes, but nothing was ever done about it. Nothing has ever happened. It all sort of was just local gossip.

Life at Moreton Bay

AW: So you just remember all this as a child when you first moved here?

Yes, just aware of it. And as for the first Mass, it was held at Mrs. King's Boarding House. She would give free board to any Parish Priest of any Parish, who would come and perhaps Baptize children or whatever they could do in Mass and what few Catholics would be there. The Beasley's I think. I'm not sure. There must have been a few.

AW: You’re on Moreton Island, so you and your mother were expecting to go to Caloundra. Did you have any other brothers and sisters?

My sister was there, she had to be, she too was young. But she didn't absorb any of it. Although she's dead, she couldn't have told you anything about Moreton Island, she absorbed nothing, she hated it.

AW: Did you like it?


AW: Why?

Because I seemed to absorb it from my Father; he loved the sea. I'm my Father's daughter. Oddly enough I do believe in that. My Mother had Phyllis, that was her child, her body and everything went into that girl. My Father, everything went into me, I have his long arms, his legs, his skin and his thinking.

AW: So your sister's name is Phyllis?

Yes, Phyllis, named after Phyllis Alice, my Mother. But I'm alone now, because they've all gone. It hurts. No, we used to play with the other children, there must have been boys, but I can't remember anything, personal relationships, whatever and I think the big house, we didn't visit much.

AW: What’s the big House?

The Head light?keeper.

AW: Who was the Head light?keeper, can you remember?

I think it was Mr Byrne; he left very quickly after we were here. Mr Byrne, he retired to Brisbane and Clare Byrne is still alive. She's married of course, she's Sir Clarence Byrne's sister. And I don't know her condition now, I feel she could be failing, she's in a home.

So Sir Clarence Byrne's father was the Head lighthouse keeper on Moreton?

Yes, and he'd been in the Navy. As far as I know, Betty Bell's new book, which is just out, mentions Moreton Island's Lighthouse Keepers. It's called "Flying Fish" perhaps," Mermaids Never" or the other way about.

AW: So, when you were on Moreton, were you excited at the prospect of coming to Caloundra?

I think so. I think we were waiting to come to a better school, a better life, and more people. We were very lonely, we must have been. My Father worked at night. I couldn't play cards, I don't think.

AW: Did you have any radio or any entertainment?

There was no radio invented, not for years. And there was no entertainment except cards, or talk. I don't remember talking much at our house. See, at Caloundra we talked a lot and we were more sociable. People came, we were the head people, we had the Lighthouse and the Post Office. We didn't have to just invite them; they just came through the door. But at Moreton, there was nothing. Sundays meant nothing. I can only remember my Father taking me as helper to get coloured sand; it's in the lounge, one bottle. And he used to fill these big containers from the lighthouse, made of beautiful glass and curved. There was a great big fat one we didn't bring from Caloundra, it was too heavy, and I don't know what became of it.

AW: So he did those just for ornaments?

To fill in time really, he was very proud of his coloured sands. They were better than Noosa.

AW: And these were sands from Moreton Island?

Yes. It was our pleasure, his and mine, I suppose, to go looking for more sands; that would be big excitement, "Dad, Dad, here's one we haven't got." I can remember that.

AW: Sounds like it would be very isolated.

Very isolated. The Government Ship, "Matthew Flinders" would come once a month. But it didn't bring us many treasures, not like it did at the end, with meat and corned beef and that sort of thing. It was very limited.

AW: So you didn't have sweets as a child?

No ice-cream, no chocolates, nothing like that. We got away from all that sort of thing. We ate a lot of sausages I recall, sausages and pies.

AW: Would your mother make those?

Well, she had to, you see you couldn't buy them, there was no shop.

AW: What sort of oven would she use?

A stove.

AW: This is in the Government house?

Yes, a wood stove. We had a big pan. I do remember we had a lot of sausages.

AW: How did you get out to Moreton Island?

On the "Matthew Flinders" from Brisbane. We travelled free of course. We were put off there, Betty Bell wrote of a jetty, but she is wrong, there was no jetty. There was nothing. We got off on the lagoon side, walked ashore, two draught horses and a big wide sled, we rode on. That's all we had to ride on, we had to sit down on this sled and make believe. We couldn't put many on the sled because the horses couldn't pull it. They had to pull it up off loose sand, poor things. They were draught horses.

AW: So were the houses very far back in from the sand dunes and the lagoon?

They were on the hill. There could have been one down below; I can't place it in my mind.

AW: How many lighthouses were there on Moreton?

Five. Well, there was Kamparoora, there was the Wodsworth's one. You have to say them to remember now. Kamparoora, was a small skeleton lighthouse, it was wood. It got burnt down eventually, the Wodsworth's. Jessie Wodsworth and her husband, they were the nearest. She went to school, but she was much older, so she couldn't have been at school with me.

AW: So each light had a person who was responsible for it?

No, shift work only. It had to be kept wound up. It was some kind of a light that you had to keep winding it up to go. Two light keepers run it now. It's still important that two run it. Number one and number two. A Mr Ward now runs it. He is a nice man, he loves it. I wrote the poem to the Whale Watch. We were told to watch in the early dawn to see the whales. So we climbed to the Lighthouse, the timeless tower forever standing guard on the bay, and that's where they watched for the whales. First a few came; it's all in the poem, and then some more came.

AW: You used to watch whales as a child?

Yes, the Whale Watch. Twice they go heavy; they need to go, but when they come back, they are light?hearted, they're free. They are like salmon. They gambol, strut, wash and build up a lot of games and go down to resort now and see the people, they go down there, they just stayed around Moreton.

AW: When you say the Whale Watch, even in the old days, say, early 1900's?

It was interesting, that's all. It was something to look at. "Here they come, here's a lot coming". And they'd see the civilisation; they’d pause a while and they go round the wild wall, as I wrote.

AW: The wild wall?

The wild wall of Moreton Cliff. And they'd gambol and go on there and throw their weight about. Then they'd move on and after a while, another school would come, and then it was time, they'd finish for the day. Then perhaps another dawn. We were told to come in the dawn, you see, so they were there. Then they'd go back to their camp down in the little cove down below where they were cooking, and that's the end of the poem. It's time to tell about what they've seen. That went over very well; it was published in the little newsletter, and they had a whale on it. They printed what I wrote, but that was all.

AW: So, as a child you saw lots of whales off Moreton?

Yes, and sharks. We were never allowed to bathe in the sea.

AW: Why not?

Oh no, you wouldn't let children bathe in the ocean because it was very, very wild. We never bathed in the ocean, ever.

AW: So you would swim in the lagoon?

We'd swim in the lagoon. I can remember a lovely one just near the beach, so it must have been that one. We were safe there, nothing could happen to us. It was just a lagoon, so we could swim there, the boys and girls, we had little bathing togs. Then we'd play our games of imagination, pirates ? pirates we were. We gathered ammunition and all that sort of thing. Couple of years later that cove was still exactly the same, no different today. That cove after fifty years or more is still exactly the same as I remembered it.

AW: That must have been lovely.

I was so pleased. I said in the article I wrote, "I was happy. It had not changed our little run?away thing, it was just the same. Driftwood, caves, rocks, oysters and nothing else not a footstep". But now of course, it's a good few years later, it will be a bit, but not much; this is where Moreton Island.

Life in Caloundra 1918

AW: When you first moved to Caloundra, it was around 1918, 1919, your father took over from Mr. Edlundh, running the lighthouse. What were actually your father's chores?

The lighthouse was run by navigational standard, "On" at sunset and "Out" at dawn, so he had to do those things regularly. He had to put the light "on" at the time of sunset and get up in the dawn, even if he went back to bed again. He had to get up at dawn and put it out. There might have been some deviation in winter. Then he'd have to check the rain gauge, which is a rain gauge organised to catch the rain fall and put that in great log books.

AW: So this were all his chores as a government official?

That went on every day of the week, there was no day off. He had to look at the sky and check the clouds and report anything about it. It was closer to the mainland you see; on the mainland you got closer to warn a coming depression, coming in on Low Island, veering south. He would be one of the first to plot the cyclones.

AW: So your father also, part of his job was weather forecasting.

He was everything, yes, everything. Everything about running a lighthouse and they were in log books so he could go back to them and account for himself. That he did it, and he did it. He had very spidery, very decipherable handwriting. And then there was the Post Office opened at nine o'clock.

AW: Did you ever work in the Post Office?

No. He wouldn't let me.

AW: Why not?

I wasn't educated enough. You had to be able to handle change, I still can't. But I could answer the telephone and take telegrams down.

AW: So there was telephones in Caloundra in 1918?

As Jean said, there were only four. That were the Hotels.

AW: Which hotels?

Hotel Francis, (Rookes), Kings Grand Central, Tripcony's, and I think somebody else fairly responsible in the town.

AW: And there were only four telephones?

Yes, for quite a while.

AW: So how were the phones connected? Was it a manual exchange?

An old fashioned exchange with shutters. Down would come a shutter and a ring and by the shutter you would know who it was, because underneath the shutter was number four, King's.

AW: So, King's Guest House phone number was number four. Say I wanted to ring up; I was ringing from Hotel Francis.

Number eight became Mr Rinaldi, and Mr Eaton, I think, was number six. We had a lot of calls to Wamuran, because that's where he came from.

AW: Where’s Wamuran?


AW: So what would you do, if you were working on the phone exchange and you were putting Mr. Eaton's phone call through to Wamuran?

We'd ring Landsborough.

AW: And then what would you do?

Landsborough had a proper exchange for ringing country phones, but we'd get onto them. They could speak to Wamuran alright. And we would speak to Bribie or whatever else was trunk line, Caboolture particularly, and Nambour to get a doctor or something. We could get through.

AW: But what would you do?

You'd just ring up and you'd talk to Mr. Walsh.

AW: Who was Mr. Walsh?

The postmaster at Landsborough.

AW: So he ran the exchange in Landsborough?

He was more important to Landsborough, the source of refreshment room stop for trains, the source of getting transport to Maleny. Those were two places serviced by cars.

AW: So Landsborough was a very important town in the early 1900's.

It was a refreshment stop; it was a stop to go to Maleny and to Caloundra and lower Bribie and all that. The next stop of importance of course was Nambour. But the train was very important, it brought the mail.

AW: Now with the mail, you'd also know all about the mail, because you worked in the Post Office, your father ran the Post Office.

I've got a little mail bag downstairs, a small one for registered letters. It's a little one because you'd only perhaps have two in it. It still had to go through the process; we were given a lot of sealing wax, my Father would light and drip the sealing wax onto the bag where it folded, and then he would get the government stamp, which had Caloundra on it and the date and "prank" hold it there, it branded it.

AW: So, that was the way of sealing Caloundra's mail?

That was the most effective thing that they ever invented. It was more effective than whatever they do today.

AW: Why’s that?

Because you had to forcibly break that seal to get into the mail bag.

AW: And if it was broken?

It had been tampered with, which it never was, never. Can't they use these things again? There's no question that if they would be tampered with, they'd have to break that seal. It was held down; it was that big a splash.

AW: As big as a fifty cent piece?

Oh yes. Because it was raw sealing wax, it had to go on the middle of it. Spread about that much and you'd have to smash it, which you did with your little hammer, and we'd open the mail and we'd have sorting boxes just like they would in the small exchange, like everyone else. And people would come in and while he was on the phone, they'd know. They practically ask him, "There's my letter, there it is, in number K ? Kings” But he wasn't allowed. There was a little trap door and he wouldn't let them through. They had to wait for him; he was very strict. They could go in, in fact, but we weren't that casual.

AW: How much were stamps in those days? Say the early 1920's for example.

Two pence, as I recall. The war time stamps were four pence.

AW: First World War or Second World War?

Second. I've got yards of envelopes from the Second World War; they went up to sixpence and all that, but not for a while.

AW: So, at the Post Office, I always have this picture of the person on the exchange, knowing everybody's business, because they connect all the phone calls and stuff like that.

Caloundra Lighthouse Duties 1920s

They could if they liked to do so, yes. But as far as my Father was concerned, he was a man of integrity, couldn't have been better. He talked about nobody. He never let the side down, he would walk over glass bottles to open the Post Office on the day, and he only had one half day on any holiday off, no matter what, except Christmas Day and Good Friday.

AW: And they are the only two days of the whole year he had off?

Yes, that's right.

AW: He would still have to light the light, wouldn't he?

Well, that went on forever, that's part of the penalty you accumulate. It's like a baby, you've got to. But he could sleep in the front room and the light on the flagstaff made the flagstaff white in the night. If he ever woke up and couldn't see the white flagstaff, he would spring to life; it meant the light was run down or out.

AW: Can you ever remember the light going out when it was really a crucial moment. Would you like to tell me about that?

Well, that was my other favourite story of the past, because he did save the AUSN, the passenger ship BOMBALA, from the fate of a cyclonic death at sea. She couldn't have survived, she was only a small vessel, but she was a freighter and passenger vessel, and she had left because she had to keep the schedule, I suppose, at night, on the last of the cyclone, so it was continually stirred up with spume everywhere. She could not see, she could only do by feel and she left the bay, and she passed Bribie Lighthouses, got them alright and she was heading for the buoy, but she couldn't find it.

AW: Now what's the buoy?

The buoy is the one that guides the ship. You must have seen ships come to Caloundra, down from Brisbane, and there's a buoy there near Bribie. You turn sharply, that's where it turns.

AW: And then they come inland and go west?

No, they go north. They come from the city there and then they turn sharply at the buoy, which is closest to Caloundra, there. It's only less than half a mile away. Then they turn round and if they are going north, they go around at Caloundra Headland, there. There's Moreton Island over there, they don't go that way, not unless they are going to Sydney. But she was going north.

AW: So there's a special channel they have to get in.

Oh yes, it's the North/West Channel, I forget the name of the other one. It's over near Tangalooma. They are using it more now because it's been deepened, I only heard the other night. It was deepening, the channel, and seeing to it more for shipping. I don't know where the big new ship went out, the Island Princess; I don't know which channel she went.

AW: What about the Bombala, they were out there and a cyclone.

Well, my Father woke up, I don't remember how early, but it was after ten o'clock, it was this wild and cyclonic night. We were all in fear it might get worse, but it was getting a wee bit better. And suddenly he woke up in the night and after ten, he saw there was no light. Of course, being taught to do something quickly, he sprang up and looked out and saw the wild sea, the wild water, the scudding clouds and the wind howling; and he suddenly remembered the Bombala; I suppose that was training too. He added up the time, she was near coming. She was at night time, and so she should be coming at any time within the next hour. So he rang on the phone, he woke up the people on the four exchanges. It's all he could do. Unless he went up to the back where there was a house. I can't remember him going except ringing up and saying urgently, "The light is out and there's a ship coming. Will you bring any lantern you've got, bring every lantern you've got or any one you can pageant. Come straight up to the lighthouse now." And they didn't argue, they were just men of action.

AW: They all got out of bed in the middle of the night?

They put on, not plastic raincoats, they put on their mackintoshes and they went out in the rain and the wind and they brought two lanterns each, and we had two, I suppose. There seemed to be six, nine, I think nine lanterns, was all we had. Anyway, they had to get them up the lighthouse. They went up the lighthouse and emptied the lighthouse's face up there, and hung them in a neat row facing the sea, didn't turn them up then. And then he couldn't check on anyone; there was no one to check on, see you couldn't ring up anyone. It was action there; he had to do it himself. So suddenly he saw it coming, he saw the lights rising, above the lights of the headlight, on the boat. And he knew that it would be in a trough of the waves every minute and rise up again. It hadn't sunk. It was ploughing, and he saw it go past Bribie, which were lit, and then would they turn? That was the vexing question. The men were up there. If she couldn't see the lighthouse in the spume and the rain, would she be able to turn or would she go straight forward and crash onto the reef outside Bribie, which was what the Anro Asia did, and stuck there and she would break up in the sea that was running. Anyway, she was lucky. So, it was with bated breath I suppose, they all waited and she turned. It was a wonderful moment for them all.

AW: They’d been successful.

They'd been successful. She'd seen the glimmer of light and she turned sharply and went safely with the waves instead of against them. Well it was with them all the way, really, even harder because they were broadside on her, so she was rolling more. But she passed, so the men came down, it was midnight, and my Mother was making the tea. We were told to get out of the way, we two kids, there were no others, only my sister and I, "Get out of the way, help your Mother." My Mother cut a lot of bread up for toast, and boiled up the kettles, the two kettles we had and made everything ready for when they came down. They had hot tea, they were cold and wet, but there was no point in them undressing, they had to go home. After we had the hot tea and toast and spoke about it there was nothing else to say. They all went home. My father stayed up all night, in case. The next day the sea was calm, as it always is, after it's done its damage, it was calm, it was dirty, but it was calm. So we knew everything. The only other thing he heard that day was the complaint that came from the Captain of the Bombala, about the shocking state of Caloundra's light. Yes, that was a complaint. And of course it went through the right channels and my Father had his report prepared, all ready and verified, so instead, he got a commendation written by the government people in the town, navigation, for his resourcefulness in the line of duty.

AW: So when was that? How old were you?

I would say I would be about six and a half.

AW: So that was only early 1919?

No, it would have been a bit later than that; I would have been a bit bigger. Not much though. Anyway, I suppose anyone could take a stab at ? 1921 perhaps. I wasn't old enough to remember all the details. One of the ones would have been Tom Maloney, Mr. King of the boarding house (King’s Grand Central Boarding House), Frank Rooke of the Mail and the other one would have been one of the people down the road.

AW: They would have helped your father with the lights?

Well, they were responsible people; they could verify what they did. There was no way that he could be charged with neglect. And he could not fix that light in the night; he needed the daylight to fix it. He never at any time shirked duties, so he had a good record.

AW: Did that often happen? The light going out?

Yes it did happen every year or so, not too often, fortunately. Then he could fix it; it had done no damage or given no damage.

WW1 Naval Fleet passes Caloundra

AW: You were telling me before about the end of World War One, when the Naval Fleet passed Caloundra.

That was the other occasion that interested me. I'm using that to explain why I think such a lot of the flag and get so upset arguing with people who say we need a new flag. We might need a new flag after this generation is all gone. Then they can please themselves, but not yet, it is not time yet to change the flag we all grew up under.

AW: Well, what's the significance of the fleet going past Caloundra?

Well, because they were the Mother Land and that was the First World War when we were more patriotic. And the thought of the King sending what was left of the great fleet of England including the Admiral Lord Jellicoe himself, who practically won the war at sea. He was on board the "New Zealand", the leader of the fleet and they were to call at every capital of Australia and New Zealand to thank the Colonies for their support and help in the Great War. And it was a command from the King, which would have been King George.

AW: Well, what did it look like?

Oh, grand. Just like that phone book there, the leader of the fleet, at this day, the 75th Anniversary. A wonderful sight. I think about five to seven ships, all in exact Navy ritual. The biggest one first, the Admiral, one, two, three down to a small destroyer. All in correct line on the dot of time, where they were due. Of course, the school was closed so that we children could come.

AW: It must have been exciting when they turned to go into the channel.

Well, we hadn't been recognised up till then. They waited until they came to the nearest point of Caloundra to answer our signal; they saw the flags. But ritual must make them do whatever they do, so it's got to be ritual. So we didn't hear anything. My Father was a bit aghast; what had he done wrong, maybe he'd spelt the flag wrong or something and I'm milling around in tears.

AW: Why were you in tears?

Sudden patriotism. That was it. Suddenly it was terribly important, the King. That's all I thought about, the King had sent this fleet to say hello to us and we should recognise it. And we had done our part and there was the flagstaff laden with little flags. "Come on Kid, Q,Q, get the name rack." I remember him saying "Q,Q, bank". The flags were in little cubicles and had to be undone. I feel he had done most of it himself but being a bit frantic, he needed help. They wouldn't all go up on the flagpole; it would take some doing with the wind. Anyway they got up and he did it right. "Welcome to Queensland". We were the only one to do that because we were the only one with a light keeper who had flags, apparently. It was our job to do it.

AW: So, did they give you any response?

Yes, definitely. Dr. McLeod, of the "Forceful Tug", said when I asked him, that they would have answered in kind. But my other informant said they would have dipped the flag. So, I don't know which, but they answered.

AW: So you don't actually remember.

I don't know what they answered, but dipping the flag was sufficient. They would have answered in kind, he said, but he could have been wrong. Anyway, my Father sat down once that was done. He sat down exhausted and mopped his brow and it was all over. We went back to school.

AW: So all the school children, you had the day off school to go and watch the fleet go past.

Schooling in Caloundra: Early years

There weren't many school children, I can tell you. There would be about ten. And they didn't all show much interest, even Jean can only remember it vaguely; she didn't have interest, patriot. Only me, I'm in tears.

AW: Who’s Jean?

Jean is Jean Mackay, the one I'm speaking of, who knows more than me and she's a year older. But her memory of the local scene is better than mine and also of Maleny and Landsborough and Mapleton where she grew up.

AW: So getting back to Caloundra...

That was an occasion that I remember more than most, because the Admiral was on board and he was the most important Admiral they had ever known, like Churchill. He was on board and he saw our flags, and it was our flag at school, the next day I looked at it with new respect. We had a flag; the chosen boy put it up each day on our little flag pole. But he was told by the teacher, "You must never let it touch the ground, never let it touch the ground. And never let it get dirty, wash your hands". See, it was important, even then, but instant patriotism came when it was personal, I was helping say hello to the Admiral.

AW: Getting back to Caloundra, when you were at school, you were saying there were only about ten children at the school.

Yes, if I can find that picture, which must be in the other room, it was in Verney's house?

AW: It was in Verney's house?

Well, it's got another picture of Verney's house in it and the school and something else I wanted to show you.

AW: Was the school actually held at the same place where it is at the moment?

Exactly. Those big trees outside and later on the second school came beside it, the second one.

AW: Can you remember when that was built?

Not in my time; when I left Mrs. Taylor was teacher. My teachers were: Mrs. Cavandish, she's in the picture, Mrs. Miriam Costello, now Westaway and Mrs. Taylor.

AW: They were teachers?

They were our teachers.

AW: What sort of things did they teach you at school? Do you remember your school lessons?

Simple things, arithmetic. We'd stand up for arithmetic. I hated that, I was never any good at it. And geography, which I liked better.

AW: When you said you stood up; they'd make you stand up?

For arithmetic, yes.

AW: Why’s that?

I don’t know whether we stood up for the ones who weren't very good at it. But I seemed to be standing up all the time. I never did too well on arithmetic, to this day it's a nightmare to add up things, and my phone bill takes me days to sort out. But that was all, and we used to have little gentle things like sewing and hem stitching. That was nice, I used to like that, it was peaceful. And we used to have the word 'teacher' or 'Caloundra' on the blackboard and see how many words you could make out of it. That was interesting, I still like that. See how many words you can make out of one name, like teacher or Caloundra.

AW: Did your teacher use a text book? Or did you work from a text book?

We didn't have many books, we had a reader. A reader of the day and a map and perhaps parsing.

AW: Did you do much on World affairs and Geography?

No, we were not taught World Affairs at all. But I remember, I idly wondered to myself why we needed so many high up people like: a Governor, a Prime Minister, and a Governor General. Why couldn't one do it or rather one less.

AW: You asked yourself those questions when you were a child?


AW: As children, did you question the values of your parents? Do you remember being rebellious at all?

No. We were not rebellious, none of us. Parents were to be respected and obeyed. We could cry and plead, fair enough. But mostly you did that to your mother, interceded like the church. You interceded through your mother. I wasn't the only one. Mr. Sykes was a man like that, and so was Mr. Rooke, and so were a few others. Men of principle, blameless men who also had authority in their own home. My Mother couldn't do anything without Dad's consent. My sister and I could do nothing without having my Father's permission.

AW: So your father was very strict?

Well, "he who must be obeyed". And we weren't the only ones; we were all much the same. The Maltman family were under the jurisdiction of their father. So were the Mackay's and the Clarke's, the Tripcony's. Their fathers were the head of the house. And we didn't need to question, no one ever ran away from home. Anyway we had no money, but even so we would be allotted our school, little bits of money that was necessary. And threepence a week, risen to sixpence later.

AW: That was your pocket money, threepence a week?

Threepence a week.

AW: And what would you buy with your threepence?

We didn't buy anything, we stored it in our money boxes and mind you, people were kind to children. Many a two bob came my way, I earned my little bit of living by filling coloured sands for the public. I had a thriving business under the house. And I filled junket tubes and test tubes with coloured sands and set them on a base. They were most attractive, nine pence.

AW: How old were you when you had your little coloured sand enterprise?

Sevenish and eightish.

AW: So this is 1920?

I would have an example in the Post Office. I was really very cluey. A big and a small one. And the price, "Caloundra Sands", in school‑girl hand, and people would buy them.

Tourism in Caloundra 1920s

AW: So there were lots of tourists in those days?

People with money.

AW: Why would they come to Caloundra?

To get away from it all, as they do now to Lizard Island. They were men under pressure, Archbishops, doctors and clergymen.

AW: And where would they stay?

King's Grand Central, or the Hotel.

AW: Or the Francis?

They were happy at King's Grand Central. They were nearer the beach and it was homely. The Rooke’s were stern.

AW: What do you mean by stern?

Well, they didn't try to interest their guests in good fun or anything; they didn't help them to be entertained. Nothing happened at night, no doubt. Anyway, the bath house, in the very early days was outside, in the woods.

AW: This is at the Hotel Francis?

Yes. But only for the first year or two. There was a natural water spring there which they bailed up into a fantastic shower. People would cross the road and go to that with their bathing things on or under their arm and they'd have a shower, but of course it was cold. So it didn't last long, something was done about it.

AW: How would you, in the old days, get hot water?

Big iron kettles were always kept full. We all had two big kettles and we had a wood stove. And the iron kettle; there were two kettles, one for quick boiling to make tea and light lunches and the big iron kettle to fall back on. It was always kept stoked.

AW: And you'd have a bath.

In a tub, because everybody else did. The tub was upstairs in the winter and downstairs in the summer. It had more uses in the winter. But downstairs was O.K., we'd have a big tub.

AW: So you had a two storey house?

No, one, it's in that photo; the house.

AW: The house was on stumps.

Big enough to have a room underneath, such as a wash house and a tank. The Post Office was in the third bedroom.

Dulcie contracts Polio

AW: So you were telling me that your schooling was interrupted.

By polio, between nine and ten.

AW: So you contracted polio?

I wasn't the only one. There was a rash of it. Nambour had quite a few cases. And I was a good case for it, because I was a poor eater. Full of energy and wild things I wanted to do, but food was not one of them. Food, good food was not one of them, milk, cheese, eggs and honey, none of those. I'd barely touched them. My Mother had to fight to get me to eat a good meal.

AW: So, did you get very sick with polio?

Oh yes. I was threatened with TB; that's how it affects you. So therefore I don't know which the worst was. I couldn't use my left arm and that sort of thing. I just didn't grow, but I picked up once I turned puberty, because I seemed to pick up from then. Mind you, also I was older and my Mother needed to have a long holiday, she was waiting on me hand and foot. My Father sent us to Cairns on ship. I was to have my sixteenth birthday on it, and by this time I had finished wearing the brace.

AW: So you had to wear a brace from when you were about ten years old?

Oh, a horrible brace, it was heavy and ungainly and cruel. But my Mother invented a boxy thing to tie me up in, linen from the lighthouse, beautiful linen it was.

Part Two

AW: So you loved to stand on the balcony?

I loved to stand on the balcony, and be wind swept; I would think of myself; "She was windswept". I was always a journalist in heart, you see, always writing something. She stood there windswept, what I was doing, was just staring out to sea.

AW: You must have had a very good view over the township.

We had a marvellous view, out of this world. And it was a comfortable balcony, you just lent on it, like a ship. It was comfortable and perfectly safe, you just lent on the rail, not like some lighthouses, you didn't lean on any rail on Moreton Island, you just practically got up and went flat, it was tough. But Caloundra lighthouse was like you saw, a rail all around, once you got up, there was a little trapdoor this wide (indicates 250cm), I hated the trapdoor, because underneath it was darkness and spiders. But you'd have to go down it to get down.

AW: Was there a ladder or a staircase inside the lighthouse?

A wooden staircase, straight up and down, you clung to it, it aimed at the trap door. When you came to the top you'd push it open, hoped it would stay open, and not crash on your head, and you'd clamber out into the safety, but it was always a bit tricky. Visitors would squeal with fear when I'd take them up, but I got very disinterested in what they did, I was told to take them up the lighthouse and that I did. Then I'd open the door and they'd go outside and I wouldn't go out with them. I didn't like all these people. But I was the one he'd fasten on, "Take these people up the Lighthouse, I've promised them."

AW: This was your father?

Yes. People would come, "Can I go up the lighthouse? I've promised somebody I'd take a photo?" "Where's that squib, she'll take you up." I was always down the back yard doing something, hiding I think. But I'd have to go, because you obeyed. And that's all I'd do and filled my sand; I would be down there for quite a long time. When I got sick and that, I had to rest, I didn't do it anymore.

AW: So you didn't go to school when you had polio?

Oh, I couldn't. I was useless.

AW: How would you go to the doctor? Would you have to go all the way to Brisbane?

No. I went to Nambour.

AW: Can you remember the name of the doctor in Nambour?

I didn't have to go, doctors came to Caloundra.

AW: There wasn't actually a doctor in Caloundra?

No, there was no doctor. But there was nothing they could do for me, just a question of getting strong and fighting against it, four years I lost. Four years of my life.

AW: So you had four years of having to wear these big braces?

Well that was the worst of it. It was heavy. It was designed badly, Doctor Mein didn't know his trade so much in those days, and he tried and told them to build me up. I was taking cod liver oil. I remember the ghastly cod liver oil they had to buy for me. My Father was always frugal. He decided that I might as well get the real thing, a dugong washed up on the beach.

AW: What did he do?

Well, it was dying. He got the dugong and cut pelts and portions off it and boiled it up in the copper boiler, which stank for ages. A dugong is a very powerful smelling fish; it is one of the most fishy things of all. And then the oil was put into bottles and I was rubbed with it hot. This he read somewhere; it was marvellous. So, "he who must be obeyed", I was rubbed with this, for which they called me, if I ever did make school, "Fisho".

AW: So you smelled fishy.

Admiration for Miriam Westaway

You could smell it a mile off, no matter what I wore. So I wasn't very happy. I prefer to put that in the class, as has been, because I can't see anything very happy about it, except that I worshipped my teacher. That was Mrs. Miriam Westaway; she was not only good looking, but she had personality and she laughed.

AW: Is she one of the Westaway's from the Caloundra Road?

Yes, Westaway Towers is named after her, she's a Councillor, Landsborough Councillor, or was, in her heyday.

AW: She was a councillor? A female councillor?

Yes, the only one, and she had plenty to say. Miriam Westaway, councillor. Her daughter is in charge of the Caloundra Hospital, first nurse, first Sister. Oh, she was a very powerful person.

AW: Who’s that?

Miss Miriam Costello then. I adored her.

AW: Is this the nurse?

No, that's Mrs. Miriam; she's still alive in a home in Buderim.

AW: This is Miss Westaway, your teacher?

No, she was Miss Costello, but she married Bill Westaway.

AW: So, she wasn't one of the Westaway girls?

No, she was a Catholic girl from Brisbane. Her first school.

AW: The children used to ridicule you because of this oil your father...

That's all, they could smell me coming and smell me passing, I wouldn't blame them. I could smell myself.

AW: So this is when you were a teenager?

No. Eleven, twelve, thirteen I was recovering. Fourteen I was out of my brace.

AW: Were you ever allowed to go swimming when you had your brace?

Not much. I spent a lot of time on the verandah in the summer, with a homemade hanging thing. What do you call it, a swing to hang from, to stretch you? Hanging there as long as I could, that would stretch me, you see, dropping my bones down. It was a good idea; the rest of it was on a board with the blanket over it, with no pillow.

AW: And you had to sleep on a board?

Well, I had to have the board on a hard horsehair pillow, and at night, a hard bed. It didn't do me good. They couldn't do what they can do now, they operate. They operate on cases where the spine is affected. They put something in it, they put a plate. Nothing could stop the bend, with me. And time only makes it worse, that's why I had good innings until I was fifty.

AW: Did the children ostracize you at all?

Up to a point, yes. I was different. Anyone who is different, you were different.

AW: And why was that, because it was such a small community?

Oh well, perhaps a dozen at the most. If there was anyone else to ask to dance, for instance, as I grew up, they'd ask them. The kinder ones would ask me, but the ones that were out to attract or to enjoy them would ask Alderdice or Jean or Doris Clarke, or someone like that. If anyone was asked to compete in games where you had to run for your life, I would be sure to fall over. They didn't ask me, it used to hurt, because I was a kid. And those things would hurt, so I grew inverted. More inverted than I should have been. Looking back on it, it was my only chance to come out again, was to feel more like myself, be a bit more like a pretty girl, I did have the face at least.

AW: So in Caloundra, when you were a young girl of sixteen, what would you do for entertainment?

Well, being the hub of things, the people would come to us. They'd come up at night, Tom Maloney was a great one for visiting at night and he brought Dick Cotton, who was one of the Westaway's men, and they two would come up and play cards with us. Not my Father, he was so anti‑social that he would stay in his office, reading, preparing for tomorrow. We'd take his cup of tea into him. But if the men felt like it, he would welcome them into his office; never would he come out of that office. Don't ask me why, that was his way.

AW: What about dances?

Well, they were held in Maltman's Hall.

AW: Whereabouts was Maltman's Hall, do you know what street?

Just about fifty yards down from King Street and I think Mackay Street, whatever is off King Street and the school, just near the school. The hall was there on the highest part of his ground, right on the street, an attractive hall he built. As Jean said, come to think of it, he was a very progressive man. He was just a bullock driver and uneducated. But he had good hands and could foresee things that others didn't see. He was the first one to open a little shop on the beach.

AW: Which beach is that?

Bob Maltman’s Kings Beach Store 1923

Kings Beach. He opened one with no windows, but shutters. When he was open for business, he'd open the shutters.

AW: What sort of things would he sell in his little shop on the beach?

He sold everything necessary for being at the beach. We didn't have sun burn cream in those days, we probably had Vaseline and vinegar and things like that, whatever he considered necessary. And he would have chocolates and lollies, boiled lollies, and soft drinks. You know, to this day I remember those soft drinks. He couldn't have ice-cream, he had no ice. But as I said, he was a brain, he'd think of something he could sell, whatever everyone asked for; if he didn't have it, he'd get it next time. He was a good fellow. His wife didn't help. I don't think anyone helped him because it was his weekend work.

AW: So, he gave up bullocking?

Well, he gave the bullock driving over to his son, Ned, who hadn't got his father's gumption, but he was practical enough to drive a bullock team. She mentions it as his “Ned Maltman's bullock team", that would have been after his father stopped being a bullock driver and turned himself.

AW: What’s Mr. Maltman's first name?


AW: When did Bob Maltman start up his little shop at Kings Beach?

When I was about eleven, I'd say.

AW: So that's about 1923?

Things happened about 1923 or 1924. They built Caloundra House soon after that. That was up and coming by then. And his little shop on the beach was well patronised because we took to the beach more on afternoons after church, as I said, there would be church in the morning and that was quite colourful. Somebody used to worry about Caloundra being destitute of religion for the children's sake. The Catholic Church wouldn't come into it, too high and mighty. The English Church and the Presbyterian weren't interested, there was only one that had the nous, the go‑ahead to come and give us religion.

AW: Who was that?

Methodist. And they came, three parishes on Sunday, not every Sunday, they couldn't do it. Probably once in every three or four weeks or it might have been once a fortnight, in Maltman's Hall. Before that they held a service in the school. The little school.

Class distinction in early Caloundra

AW: And would all the families go?

No. They were very unreligious, most of them. Only we, middle class ones, the ones around the hill went. I don't know why, the snobs never came.

AW: Why not?

I don't know, I mean the snobs were the ones on the high hill.

AW: Who were the snobs?

Mrs. Beasley, the Lewis', Mrs. Lamb, the Green's and the McGill's, don’t ask me how they all lived. They all lived very well apparently.

AW: Did they have any children that went there?

Yes, they had four daughters who lived that lonely man less life; pathetic daughters. Violet Beasley who never married until she was quite old; lovely little woman. Mrs. Lewis' girls, Joy and Glory, those poor girls had nothing. Mrs McGill's daughter, Jean McGill, she never married. See, they had no men.

AW: There was men in the town, but no eligible bachelors.

No eligible bachelors. There were only two.

AW: Who were they?

The Hon A.M. Campbell, but he was old. He lived in a little house up near the police station, Hotel Rooke place up that way. He lived a quiet life, but he was an eligible bachelor.

AW: So there were no young boys?

Only the Richie's and Clarke's, and they were very young, they hadn't yet built up to manhood. And they married one another.

AW: So there was definite class distinction?

The Clarke's, Tripconys and Richie's, practically married one another in desperation. Mrs. Rinaldi was a Tripcony and Clarry married one of the local girls I think.

AW: Who was Clarry?

Clarry was the one that was in Vance Palmer's book, the good looking one.

AW: What was Carry’s surname though?

Clarke. He had four brothers, and they all survived, but one got killed in the war, I think, Second World War. One got drowned, Jack, who is buried at the cemetery at Caloundra, a nice fellow, and Jim, might have been the one you heard of. I don't know what became of Jim; he married a local girl. The Godwin's married into it too. Young Doris Clarke married George Godwin. Evelyn Godwin married Cochrane whoever he was. She figured in the reunion, she got the cake. Three years ago, they had a Caloundra Reunion, I can show you those photos, we are all in it, including your Ray Tinley, standing in it with his beard. We had a lovely reunion, good fun, but we all wore our jacket names with our original names and they couldn't believe who was who. None of us could believe it.

AW: How was that, going back and seeing somebody that you haven't seen since you were a child?

Shock! Shock! And suddenly remembering that you must look the same to them. No kidding. Little Dudley Cannon, the Cannon's, the oldest ones I could remember, where we got milk from in the bush. Little Dudley Cannon, that little man over there, with a rather oldish face, you know I just couldn't believe it. And Ray Tilney, not Ray Tilney, big goofy Ray, you know sort of all angles with nothing to him, suddenly a presence. The Richie boys, both grandfathers. But none of the other ones, they have died off early I'm afraid. Young Verney, he was an optician in town, he was lovely, but he died. His brother's still alive though, or his nephew, and is a Vet at down at Redcliffe. You see, they haven't all moved away.

AW: So Caloundra has a lot of the old families still there?

Yes, still hanging around the local scene. Like Stan Tutt and that, he's interested in Landsborough. Something he does in Landsborough, for the museum. As far as I know, he runs a museum in Landsborough. The Westaway's have moved to Redcliffe. They haven't left the north coast. Dudley Cannon lives at Mooloolaba. The Sykes have spun out Gympie way, they are still up there. In fact, Trevor Sykes was going up to see his old brother, Edward. And his father, who was so strict and tough said, "I never saw your father smile", he said to me at the reunion. And I said, "I never saw yours". Same thing, they didn't. He came up to me because he saw I was a Birrell. He said, "Where did you used to go on that pony of yours?" I said, "Aah, if it was once a week, I was going to my music lesson".

AW: You had music lessons?

Off Mrs King, as I said, she was the most well‑known name in Caloundra.

AW: So, this is Mrs. King of King's Grand Central?

Miriam King, she taught music and she could play well herself, and she'd play for the local picture show sometimes, or she eventually played for the dances and her offsiders were me, whom she taught. And Jean, who knew how to play a bit, and Gertie Alderdice, who was quite a good pianist.

AW: So you would occasionally play music at the picture theatre?

No, I didn't play for the pictures, because you had to play pieces with running horses and at that, she was good. She'd play the horses, she'd play something, I couldn't have done that. But I became very adept at playing waltzes and she could play the hard music, and Gertie Alderdice could play it, but Jean and I were a bit tough to get on with, but we managed.

AW: So did you ever play piano at any of the local dances?

Yes, that was where we did play. There was no other music. Should someone have a violin or a piano accordion, they were welcome to come and join us. But mostly it was just piano and nobody minded.

AW: And who would turn up?

Oh, visitors. "There's a dance on tonight. There would be things on", the late Mr. Renaldo would say, "Coming to the dance tonight?" He loved to dance, so he would dig up people; he'd bring them from anywhere he found. He'd bring up visitors too, and they'd have a ball, dancing around the place. There would be supper.

AW: Did you get all dressed up?

Yes. My word. We would have our dresses for the dances. Remember how they were made by a McWhirters and pinned together.

AW: No, what's that?

Well, you ordered by catalogue. And your measurements, you put your measurements in, and your material and two colours, in case. And it came back in the post all pinned up into the shape you asked for.

AW: What, so you wouldn't actually get a finished garment from a mail order?

Some of it was tacked.

AW: Really? I always understood that mail order, you just send off and you get the finished dress back.

Oh no, it wouldn't have worked you see, you had to be able to alter it. So some seams were tacked, like the collar, you know tacked. But mostly the hem would have to be elastic too, no it was pinned.

AW: And would you use a treadle machine?

My Mother used to sew them up, she had a treadle machine. It was her trade, a dressmaker in the years when she was young.

AW: That would have been handy for you then?

Oh, she made all my clothes. She made what she could of my things. She mended the sheets and all that. She made my Father's coats, that coat he had on that we made of crash from the lighthouse.

AW: What’s crash?

Purchasing clothes in Caloundra

A strong corduroy thing, suitable for a coat. She'd reinforce the collar with something, don't ask me what, something tough. And it was a nearer collar. That saved him wearing a tie, because he hated ties. She would make two or three of these coats, a best one, a second best and one in the wash. He was always tidy as a postmaster, always in one of these coats without a tie, but you see, nobody noted it was buttoned from here to there. Poor thing would make those coats for him. His trousers he'd have to buy somewhere. We had this man who would come round, a haberdashery man. Did I mention that one? The man that would come round, the trader, with a van, he sold everything from needles to.....

AW: So this is later, much later in the twenties.

No, it wasn't much later. It was early.

AW: How old would you have been?

Under fifteen, I suppose. It must have been before that again.

AW: So that's about 1926?

The dates will elude me. I wouldn't have been walking around much for those four years. It was either before or after I was ten, so it could have been before. He would come round and sell his dresses, and we'd buy them; everybody would buy off him. It was such a wonderful thing to have some clothes, some we'd buy. Even father would let his hair down and buy something too. Buy socks and things, and maybe buy his trousers.

AW: So there was no clothing store in Caloundra?

None whatever.

AW: What about Tytherleigh’s?

Yes, but they were in Landsborough.

AW: So when did Tytherleigh’s move to Caloundra?

Oh years later, after we left.

AW: So you left in 1931, so it was after that?

It might have just started.

AW: So there were really no clothing stores?

None. We managed to get things through the post and our mail order catalogues and by going occasionally to Landsborough, which had a sort of shop there and occasionally to Nambour, but that's all and Brisbane of course. Some of us would get to Brisbane, we were the lucky ones, and we’d go twice a year.

Transport to Brisbane

AW: And how would you get to Brisbane?

At first we'd go in the Koopa and in boats.

AW: And alight at Redcliffe?

No, we went to Brisbane.

AW: Directly to Brisbane?

No, we went to Brisbane, from Caloundra to Bribie on the Koopa.

AW: Alright, the Koopa was a small boat just between Caloundra and Bribie?

No, the Koopa was a big boat.

AW: How would you get to Bribie Island from Caloundra?

In either Tripconys boat or Tom Maloney's boat.

AW: How much was it to go over?

Oh it was very cheap. I used to give Clarry two shillings, I remember it one time. Mostly we went in Clarry's because it was more comfortable. It was the Grace or something like that, or the 'Grace‑Doreen'.

AW: This is Clarry Clarke, is it?

WW1 soldiers return to Caloundra

Yes. The Tripconys first. I think Mr. Tripconys would have done it. He was a very active man, he ran the first store. And he lived on the flat and he had a big house, and it was to his house and property on the flat, where we had the big coming home party for our three soldiers, all day.

AW: This is World War One?


AW: Can you remember that?

Yes in a way. I would be pretty young then, but I remember that we were all there and it was very important. There were great big kettles boiling and councillors from Landsborough and Nambour came and were welcomed officially home. Member of Parliament came.

AW: And who were the three soldiers who came home. Do you remember their names?

Yes. Douglas Tripconys, they were all late in the war, they didn't go early in the war; they were too young. Vivian Rooke, Mr. Rooke's second son and Edan King, Mr. King's second son. Will King was the first, he was a hard worker, they couldn't have spared him. But Edan went; he was rather flashy and good looking. And they all came home unscathed, minor ailments perhaps, but all came home in one piece with their uniforms, thin, a bit war torn, but otherwise just glad to be home. And you'd think they'd won the war of course. Honour upon honour was bestowed on them.

AW: Caloundra’s heroes.

Caloundra's heroes, there were only three of them. They were the only ones who went, and as far as I know, they all came home. It was a happy occasion. A member of the parliament personally thanked them and hung something on them. Food passed by all day, and games, billy tea and it was a fine day. I can remember the occasion vaguely. There were lots of flags, lots of goings‑on and Mr. Tripcony was host.

AW: Can you remember, was Sir Leslie Wilson living in Caloundra in those days?

No, I think he came after my time, but he was well known and loved. He had the lovely home at Dicky Beach or Moffat Head, which was there for many years.

AW: That was there while you still lived in Caloundra?

No, I don't think so, no. Abel Smith was there, no. Mr. Leslie Wilson came before the Second World War. We were in Brisbane by then, a long time. I don't remember when he came but he was very popular wherever he went. He had a son called Peter Wilson, who was very much the other end of Caloundra; he used to go to either hotel. He didn't stay at any places like boarding houses; after all he was a Governor.

AW: He had Currimundi House built, didn't he?

He had it built to his own design. It was lovely; everyone loved to look at it.

Sourcing essential living needs in early Caloundra

AW: Going back to when you were still living at Caloundra, you didn't have a drapery? Did you have a butcher?


AW: What would you do for your meat?

Well, Mr. Eaton came. Mr. Eaton gets mentioned many times, you know, even in the photos, he's in the photos. Yes, he existed, but not until the last three years.

AW: So that would have been around 1928?

Somewhere in the late twenties, Mr. Eaton came, a butcher.

AW: So what would Caloundra residents do?

He might have come in four years before we left, but no more. We had an order form. My Father would ring up in the morning, three times a week and order from the butcher there, who must have been a pretty patient man.

AW: Where? Landsborough?

In Landsborough, we had a big sack, like a mail‑bag. I think we used our mail‑bags. And there might have been two. I think we had a breathing thing, like a sugar bag, yes, sugar bag, which would bear our name on it, actually, others would be too, with our name Birrell, Post Office. And our order would go along the lines, so many pounds of sirloin roast, we loved sirloin roast that was Sunday dinner. The minister might be coming. We had to have a sirloin roast to live on, but mostly it became a beef stew. Then, we had a lot of sausages, two pound of beef sausages, didn't have pork. Then we would have mince or something we could turn into mince, I suppose we had mince then, and some steak, rump steak.

AW: So, every meal had meat in it?

Fish was our own effort. Our Father would go, he had big fishing lines. He may have had a rod, but he didn't use it. He went down to the rocks to fish off the rocks at Kings Beach, and he was very lucky; there was also plenty of fish in those days. He'd catch big snapper and squire, sometimes flathead. Or he had the boat; he'd go and catch flathead, bream and whiting. That's how we had a row boat.

AW: What about your vegetables, where would you get those from?

We'd grow those,

AW: Grow all your own vegetables? What about butter and cheese and milk?

Butter had to come, but we'd make our own butter too. We had a cow. We'd save the milk in shallow basins. I don't know what became of the basins. So, they'd get more cream, and the cream was good cream; it was a good cow. And we'd skim off that cream two or three times, and we'd make butter, but it wasn't much butter.

AW: So that was one of your jobs, was it?

Oh, I suppose my sister and I were young enough to attend to that; I was let off a lot of times.

AW: What would the other residents of Caloundra do?

The same thing.

AW: What about the snobs?

They were really handicapped greatly because they lived in an isolated area. They may have been helped by the hotel, Mr. Rooke would have to provision his hotel, and they lived on his street, more or less. And he was a good man; he may have helped them get their butter and that, because we didn't.

AW: So most people would have made their own butter?

Yes, it takes a while to make butter; we couldn't make much. You know five meals a day, remember, and butter scones and visitors and all. We'd go through a lot of butter. We must have got at least two pound a week from Landsborough, which we would keep in wet bags.

AW: Where would that butter come from?


AW: And was it wrapped up in a wrapper as we do today?

Yes, it was square in a wrapper, it hasn't changed.

AW: So it was a one pound pack?

One pound pack, no more. It would come from Caboolture Butter Factory and we would put it in our safe, which we had to buy. You couldn't really make a good safe, you had to buy one and over it would be a wet sack that you kept pouring water over. It was under the house in the draught, from the sea. We never had any trouble, nothing went bad.

AW: Nothing ever melted?

Oh yes, the butter nearly melted, but it didn't melt. You could always put butter on the table in a dish decently, even in the hot weather.

AW: What about entertaining? Were there any occasions when you.

The party goers, the party goers had to have the one thing, a piano.

AW: Did you have a piano at your house?

Sleath’s Music House

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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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