Ted Low

Ted talks about this life in Yandina

Ted Low

Interview with: Edward (Ted) Low

Date of Interview: 9 March 1985

Place of Interview: Yandina

Interviewer: Caroline Foxon

Transcriber: Heidi Scott

Edward Anthony Low was born on Guy Fawkes Day, 5 November 1902 at the old Low Family home built in 1894 by his parents, John and Louisa Low in Yandina. His grandparents were James and Christina Low, pioneers of Yandina and George and Jane Bury, Pioneers of Mooloolah and Nambour. He married Nurse Alma Bade in Nambour in 1929 and settled on the family farm on Dunethin Rock Road. With the move into Yandina, Ted worked for the Maroochy Shire Council and then for the Main Roads Department as a foreman and became one of the first owner/driver truck operators. Low's Lookout at Coolum was named after Ted because he took his workmen there for lunch when working at Coolum.

Alma Lilly Bade was born on 10 April 1908 at Gatton. The Bade family left Ma Ma Creek to come to Nambour. Her mother Nurse Bade established a nursing home in Rosemount Road and over a thousand babies were born there. In 1927 Nurse Alma Bade along with others nursed diptheria patients in the Isolation Ward which was to become the Nambour Hospital the following year. Nurse Alma Bade married Edward Low in 1929 and settled on the family farm on Dunethin Rock Road. Alma was a member of the Christian Women's Temperance Union, the Baptist Church, the Women's Guild and the QCWA. Alma also enjoyed being a member of the Yandina Order of the Eastern Star and the White Shrine of Jerusalem. Along with friends and family she worked to support the building of the Edmonds Memorial Hall in Yandina.


Ted Low oral history - part one [MP3 58MB]

Ted Low oral history - part two [MP3 11MB]

Image: Ted Low in the 1970s.


Begin Tape 1/Side A

Family's move to the Maroochy District

CF: Ted, you told me you were born in 1902 in the Low house that is still standing in Dunethin Rock Road at Yandina. Perhaps you could tell me something about your grandfather, James Low, and his part in opening up the Maroochy River area.

LOW: Yes, he came to Moggill from England or Scotland in about 1866, and then he moved to Brisbane. He got bogged with a bullock team in Brisbane, in Queen Street, then moved onto Mooloolaba where they met Pettigrew. Pettigrew had the pitsaw there and he used to saw the red cedar that Petrie used to bring down the river to cut it into pieces to send back to Brisbane. And they came out and James Low and Grigor bought the "Tarshaw". It was a paddle wheel steamer. It used to go four miles an hour, was the top speed. If they saw mackerel sky they'd make straight to shore.

CF: What was mackerel sky?

LOW: Mackerel sky is a kind of a lumpy sky, like in round pieces, you see it like up in the sky all in little bits joined together like a freckle in the sky, it used to rain within twenty-four hours. And of course they used to have a bit of a joke about it, they said if the westerly winds blew from the north, it always did rain. So they came to Mooloolaba and they were operating there. I don't know what he was doing there, but they had the Post Office there and they lost two of their children, so they moved, considered Mooloolaba very unsafe, unhealthy place.

And they moved to the south bank of the Maroochy River, that was ordered by the government to have the Post Office there at the south bank of the Maroochy River. That was Dunethin Rock. Dunethin got its name through ... they wanted to milk some cows, and get some milk, so they had to build a stock yard of course. Well, they built a stock yard, of what is known as this cockatoo fence. You build it with only an axe, you put the forks in, cross them, and put the rails up without any trouble or any other machinery, any other bars or shovels at all.

CF: Oh, so it's all just made with wood.

LOW: All just made with round saplings. And they sent one of the boys up one day to see how they were getting on, these black fellas, and they come back and he said they hadn't done a thing. So that was Dunethin.

CF: Dunethin Rock.

LOW: He had a selection there, they took up a selection there on the Maroochy River and they sold it to a chap for three hundred and sixty-five each, pounds. I think it was nearly three hundred acres in it. So it was all standing scrub. So then they decided to come further afield, and the little steamer that used to bring the stuff up, used to come the river as far as Low's Wharf. They called it Low's Wharf, that's the street running off the highway, Dunethin rock turnoff, right to the river. And he used to bring the supplies right up to there yoked up.It was deep water, now it's all silted up, but he used to bring those supplies there and my dad would take three or four bullocks with a slide and bring the stuff up to the Dunethin Rock House, Hotel, or Boarding House, whatever, they had everything there. They sold everything from beer to stamps and everything.

CF: How many people were living in the area then?

LOW: No, there was nobody living there, no one at all. So that's the way they got their produce round. They carted their water on a ship's tank - big square tank that they called ship's tank. They came off the ships and it'd hold about six hundred gallons. So they carted their water the same way. And while I'm talking about it, they had a ship's tank at the Lemon Tree State School, Lemon Tree School, that's halfway to Nambour, and the ship's tank was there. It was called Lemon Tree because there was a lemon tree grew up between the steps, and they thought, well this was the name of it. But anyhow, going further afield, the Lows come  further up the river when they moved from Dunethin Rock, and Dad, he established a Post Office in Yandina.

CF: Round about when would that have been Ted?

LOW: That'd be about 1970 I think.

CF: 1917.

LOW: 70.

CF: 1870. Right, yes.

LOW: 1870, yes. Yes, 1870 it would have been. And they built a shop there and when Cobb and Co.'s coach came through, of course that stopped the river boat. But it came through and came through fast this year, and the old highway right through the stock route, to Gympie.

CF: This was Cobb and Co.'s coach?

LOW: Cobb and Co.'s coach. And they used to have a change of horses there when they came through and they'd gallop them from the next day, the horses would be tired and they'd change again. This is the way Cobb and Co.'s coach went along. But they used to bring supplies up and everything they brought up, like bottles or cases or anything, they never went back, they were all, they just left like they do at Thursday Island. Still they take their full loaded stuff up there and the empties, any timber over or anything they'd dice it. Into the dump, they won't bring it back.

Well they were doing that here and Lows had a lot of bottles from the Hotel and they buried them over there in the paddock, the old homestead, upside down. I think they must have sent them back because I dug for them once and they couldn't find them. It was the real old beer bottle, and they were very heavy bottles.

CF: Would have been good to find, wouldn't they?

LOW: They were much like the champagne bottle of today, but I could tell the difference between an original beer bottle and a champagne bottle because by the bottom and the weight of it. Although they were made very much the same and people think they are the same but they're not. Only the experienced, you would know the difference. So I have one under the house, the old beer bottle that was very interesting  to people  and to try to compare the difference they didn't see any difference until I pointed it out. But they were all hand blown all bottles. This was the first year that bottles weren't blown, was 1903 according to a book I had in there.

CF: So they all did look very much the same?

LOW: Yes, they did. And they had little caps on the top was put on after they were blown.

CF: Right.

LOW: But the machine bottle had a seam, and you felt the seam down the side of the bottle and you knew then it was a machine bottle and it was produced since 1903.

CF: Right.

LOW: But the Lows sold everything there and of course they went on to, James Low, he went on to get a school when he came to Yandina, and all those letters that I've got there, it proves that he was the one that started the Nambour School.

Building of Yandina School

CF: Yes.

LOW: Nambour did not have a name, it was Petrie Creek, it was all known as Petrie Creek, Nambour, till many years after the school had started. So Nambour took the credit of the centenary with taking it to Nambour which was hardly fair, but they took the old building - which was made of slabs and things - and so it didn't matter much. Yandina wanted a much more better school than that. So Yandina decided to build a house for the teacher first, and he used to have the school on the lounge room. So that's how ... it was the very early days and then when they did build the school, they built it on the road and they had to shift it after all, from the road. And it still stands up there, that building.

CF: Where was the first one? How close to where the school is now?

LOW: It was part of the school. It's one of the first bits you go to when you go in.

CF: Yeah, that was the building they moved.

LOW: That's the one, and they turned it round later on to face the north because it always faced the west.

CF: Oh right.

LOW: So it was there and ...

CF: And was the building always on that spot or was it further down the road?

LOW: No, it was just opposite when they first built the first one. On the road. And they had to shift it just back a bit.

CF: Right.

LOW: Now all those camphor trees and that were planted by different ones of the school. There was Rupert Dyne, he planted one, he's gone but he was the oldest in the district at the time. Lived here all his life and the sister was next and I'm the next. So it's many years since we've had all those things. And all those trees, I used to know who they were all planted by but, they were little camphor trees and they grew up and they got seeds on them. And when I was going to school, later in life, after they flowered and had seeds on them, I took three or four, half a dozen seeds home to plant and we planted them over there and each one of those at the old home, it means one of the family had planted.

CF: Really, amazing.

LOW: I know the one I planted was the first one when you're going in. The next one didn't do too good because it belonged to the sister and we used to have our calves in there and hers used to get broken down all the time, she didn't have a good fence to look after it. So that was that, and as for going to school, and this old stunt about girl fever was ...

Family background, farming and childhood

CF: Well actually just going back a little bit your grandfather, how many children did he have in his family?

LOW: Right. Oh, I couldn't tell you altogether but he had, Willie, Aggie, Bob. He must have had five or six.

CF: Right, and you father was John, John Low.

LOW: John, yes. He was the eldest.

CF: And who did he marry?

LOW: He married Louisa Bury.

CF: Right. Was she from the Nambour Bury family, was that George Bury's daughter?

LOW: Yes, yes. Oh not George Land Bury. George Bury was the grandfather's name, but the young George it wasn't him, he was one of the latest and so there was nine in our family, and it was a funny thing, a chap come one day with a bunch of ripe bananas and he offered my mother the bananas for sixpence. The price of a pot of beer. And she said she couldn't afford it. And that's how good times were then.

CF: Yeah, well with a family of nine that was quite a lot to support wasn't it?

LOW: Yes, and they had enough to pay for. But that's the way things were.

CF: Where were your family living then, did they stay at the house on Dunethin Rock Road?

LOW: Oh yes. We stopped there, and we went down on  to the farm, the three boys, and we started to grow cane and dairying and general farming to keep on going. I was about twenty-five before I had twenty-five pounds.

CF: Gosh, perhaps just before we get there we'll talk about when you went to school. You would have walked into school would you?

LOW: Oh yes. We'd leave home of a morning and carry the cream we were dairying over at the house here then. We'd carry the cream to the station and consign it away to Caboolture, walk on to school, and then on the way back we'd pick up, carry the empty tins to bring them home again, the empty cans. When we got to school of course, we had a good time there, we were all more or less bare-footed - there was only one or two had shoes on. They were all bare-footed, and we used to play all sorts of games even to the bushrangers.

CF: How did you play bushrangers?

LOW: Well we'd chase one another till they got caught.

CF: Oh right.

LOW: And we'd run for miles. And at dinner time, after dinner, or after morning tea, the morning  break, we'd come out and the wallabies would be there picking up all the pieces of bread.

CF: Really.

LOW: Yes, there were plenty of wallabies then. Then we'd go to try to catch them, we never ever caught one though.

Low's school days

CF: Too quick.

LOW: And this old school teacher, Mr Broe, he came there and as far as this girl fever's concerned, the boy that was sitting near the girl was asked some question and he stood out, and all the rest of this line of boys stood up. The school master didn't know what was wrong with them, but he was right.

CF: Just a bit of a joke was it?

LOW: Oh it was true, it was true, they had this girl fever business on all the time, and if a girl touched their bag, they'd throw it up and say the air so many times before they'd have it, come down again.

CF: Bit scared of girls were they?

LOW: Yes, oh yes. The whole class, they all stood up when the boy near the girls stood up. He couldn't understand what the dickens was wrong. He thought he's come to a place, he didn't know where he was, he's come from Mudamuckla or something. And he was a pretty stern old fellow, he used to play a tin whistle to go up the steps and we all had to march to it and because he had the canes too. We had them tricked, we could put rosin on our hands and when the cane hit, it split the cane.

CF: Did you ever get caned Ted?

LOW: Oh every time. I got blamed for a terrible lot things that I didn't do, but one special occasion was they put bees wax between his book, in his book, and leaves. And he'd tear it when he went to open them. I got about six cuts for that because I was the only bee keeper. I donated bees you see and they knew it, so I got well dosed for that. Another time me cousin pinched all the tools, rakes and hoes and threw them in the creek, and I got blamed for that again. He used his ply over me every time.

CF: Had it in for you did he Ted?

LOW: Well he reckoned that I was the only one that would do it.

CF: Oh, did you have a reputation, did you?

LOW: So that was that, that was school days for you. And when it come to breaking up, well it was a day of days. Instead of having bread and cockies joy all the year ...

CF: What was cockies joy?

LOW: Syrup, golden syrup.

CF: Oh right, yeah.

LOW: We kind of got used to the cockies joy. It was just as good as anything else, anyhow we all lived through it. And when it come to breaking up day it was ham and by-joe was it a day, it was a day of days. We'd have these ham sandwiches, we'd be hanging around for dinner before it was ready. And between races and that, we'd a thripence for  win a race, yes a thripence for a win a race ...

CF: It was like a sort of sports day was it?

LOW: We had a good day as well, and then it'd come on tea and we'd have tea there too as well, and have the concert in the school after that again, in the school. And I remember Don used to dress up as a black fella, I can still see him, singing, "Way down the Swanny River". And of course this Broe, he believed in swimming. So we used to go down the back where we called Payne's Wharf, the back of the school grounds, and swim there. It was full of devil fish, and I don't know whether, exactly whether it got its name Payne's Wharf from the pain that the devil fish inflicted on some of the swimmers, but I would never put me foot  ...

CF: What are devil fish Ted?

LOW: They're a little striped fellow about six or eight inches long, and they've got spikes all on them, and they hurt like billyo and if you get stung in the day time, it won't stop stinging till night fall, and if it's in the night fall, it won't stop stinging till morning. It's a painful thing and they used to cry like anything, some of them. I'd never put my foot on the ground. Course I could swim, but I remember the day there was one poor bloke, he was out there, he'd gone down once and when he'd come up again the school master singing out, "Who's game to go and get him?" He wouldn't go in himself, so I dived in and he nearly drowned me. He clawed that much, you know, fright, good job he was only about twelve foot from the bank, I got in all right.

CF: So Mr Broe taught you all to swim did he?

LOW: Yes, he used to make us go swimming. And it was good, we had good times there for swimming, but I could swim well.

CF: Were you a bit of a hero then for saving the boy?

LOW: Oh no I don't think so, there was nothing more said about it. It just passed off as though it was another sunrise. Yeah so we had a good time at school.

CF: How many pupils would there have been at the school when you were there?

LOW: There would have been about fifty.

CF: Fifty, and were you all in one big room?

LOW: Yes, and all in separate forms and classes, and they used to catch these horse flies and put them in the ink pot wells. They don't know anything about those ink wells today.

CF: No of course not.

LOW: And the old type of scratches that we used to have to write with.

CF: Would you have had books and paper to write on in those days?

LOW: No we had slates.

CF: Slates, yeah.

LOW: Slates and pencils. And when it come a holiday we had to wash all the slates and clean it all up to put them all away, so that was that. I was always lucky , I was second top for most of the time in my class but the chap that was smarter than me, he used to think out loud, and I used to hear him and I'd beat him to it. I was second. But he was a very smart fellow. And he thought out too loud at times.

CF: You'd catch on.

LOW: Well then I don't know whether there's much more to say about the school grounds, but what we had and how we worked around here and there.

CF: Do you remember how many teachers you would have had there?

LOW: Only two.

CF: What Mr Broe and ...

LOW: Probably Miss Steggall.

CF: Oh Miss Steggall, that have been Winifred Steggall?

LOW: Yes. Yes she'd probably be there, and then later on we had another one, Bob Chapman.

CF: Bob Chapman.

LOW: Then we had Miss Chapman and Mary Chapman, they came all in after but they weren't there the early stages of it.

CF: Winifred Steggall, she would have been a pupil teacher would she?

LOW: Yes, oh yes.

CF: Did you used to give the pupil teachers  a hard time? One day they'd been a student and the next day they were a teacher. Was it very hard?

LOW: Well I never took much notice of them, at the time. But they were good but he was pretty sudden with his strap.

CF: This was Mr Broe was it?

LOW: Yes. Another bloke before him was Les Sommerville, Jack Sommerville and he had a strap and it used to curl up and put in his pocket and bring it out. But they didn't spare the stick or the strap those days. And there was more good kids than there were bad kids in those days. They know what they were going to get if they didn't do the right thing.

CF: What sort of lessons did you have there? I mean you would have had English and Arithmetic, what other sort of things did you have?

LOW: Well I got a little book outside to show you.

CF: Would you have done Art, like painting?

LOW: No.

CF: No. Do any music?

LOW: No, no music, no art, no nothing.

CF: You would have learnt writing.

LOW: Oh yes writing.

CF: How did you learn that, would you have been using the old scratch pens?

LOW: Yes, yes we had nothing else to write in, we only had the slates, that's all.

CF: And would you have done that on slates or did you have books?

LOW: On slates, no, no books, not the early days. There were no books at all. I was going to say I didn't like going to school myself.

CF: Why was that?

LOW: Oh the old bridge that was there was pretty worn and rough and I thought if it was burnt down it would be a good idea, I wouldn't be able to go to school. I won't say that I did it, lit the thing on fire but a Mr Ensbey come along and he was a lay preacher, coming to meet some people at the English, the Church of England here, that still stands here. And they were waiting for him to come along and he was a lay preacher and he decided to put it out. So he had a new hat on, he got off his horse and he got hat fulls of water and he put the fire out, I seen him put it out. And the last hat full he fell in the river.

CF: He saved the bridge did he?

LOW: Then he had to go on to church, and you see the long necks on the women and that, "Where the dickens did he sleep last night, the Minister?". So that was that.

CF: Tell me your father died quite early, he died in 1914, so it would have been your mother just trying to keep a family of eight or nine going, how did she manage?

LOW: Well we had a dairy you see.

CF: Was the dairy where the house was?

LOW: Yes, we had it at the house for a good while. Then we took it down onto the big block down the river, Caboolture paddock. And dairyed there when we were farming, growing cane and that, and that helped out a lot. But someone tried to sell it to apply for state relief, but in those days you'd get state relief, but at any time that you made good you had to pay it all back again, that was the conditions. So she said if that's the conditions they're not having nothing to do with it, and so we didn't get the state aid at all. But I got a job quite early in life, five shillings a week, milking cows and keep. I had about twenty cows a night, and have to get them in and all that and never get done till late, nine o'clock of a night, I didn't get so much schooling as what was needed but it seems as though we picked up enough without that because ...

CF: How old were you when you left school?

LOW: Third class was the highest class, those days, one, two and three. You're in it or you're out of it.

CF: Yeah.

LOW: So there was only the one teacher until he got another one.

CF: What you would have been about thirteen or so when you left school would you?

LOW: Oh yes, I left at about, I think you had to go till you were fourteen.

CF: Fourteen, yeah.

LOW: But I think I was, be about thirteen, I think I left a bit earlier.

CF: Because it was very hard, did the family, did you ever manage to have holidays or anything like that when you were at school?

LOW: Oh yes, well earlier before my dad died we never missed. We used to go to Coolum.

Travelling to Coolum

CF: How would you get there?

LOW: Go down by Coulsen's boat to Coolum Creek, then ride the bullock wagon and to Coolum. And he'd put saplings over the top of the old bullock wagon and make a level box at the top of it. We'd all get up there on top of all our gear and everything and go down to Coolum. And he was cutting pine at the time down at Coolum, so this Donald, the black fella, he used to go and get "giddla" when he got down there. He had a beehive up a tree and he'd go up with his old black curls  to unstop the smoker, the pipe like and that's all he had. He'd be practically naked up the tree at the beehive, and he'd leave it there every year. He'd cover it back with chips, put his hand in and take honey out. But before he done that, he'd get someone to, or he would get a sheet of bark on the bottom down under the tree, and he'd drop the cones onto the bark, I can remember that well. And he'd go there every year, he'd go and get  "giddla".

Experiences with Aborigines in the area

CF: Did Donald live down at Coolum?

LOW: No he was a house boy for the Dad and Mum.

CF: Oh right.

LOW: He's a good bloke too, he got a bit flash one time and he started to wear boots wherever he could get them, you know and  we pelted him one time with wet cow dung while he was sleeping. And he'd get after us. He got up, we knew dash well he had to put his boots on. And we were off, so we run away from him but, and we got down under Grandma Low's bed, and he said, he come in and he's gonna get these kids alright. But she said: "Knowing them, they'd never come there".

But they'd quietened down quickly, the black fellas. They'd get a bad temper up for a start you know and then they'd quieten down and they'd forget all about it. My dad says never walk in front of a black fella. Walk behind him, because he's kind of, temperamentally he could swing round and hit you and kill you anytime, because they change their mind quickly.

CF: Were there many aborigines around there when you were a boy?

LOW: No not so many, they were scattered you know, there was a few camps, but no they were scattered. And down on Caboolture paddock they were there. And when we went we rigged up our house on the same place that they were camped, where the site was, and they'd been missing for goodness knows how many years away from it, and the fleas nearly killed us. Fleas were stopped in the ground for that long. So they always had dogs you know.

One bloke, a big fella, Matty Davis, they took him to England as prime, a wonderful looking black fella, the best looking black fella they could find, him and his wife on show, showing them in England. When they bought him back they let him go and he went straight back to the Caboolture paddock, and a few nights after, he belted his wife. Every full moon they belted them, you know  and give them a hiding and make them sing out, so that was the way they  lived.

CF: Was that a bit before your time?

LOW: Oh that was before my time, yes. But I could hear them nearly from Yandina, the way they used to squeal in the full moon.

CF: Did Donald come from this area?

LOW: Yes, he was here, he was here all the time. I don't know whether he was born here or what, but he was a local and he was a very good fella. Like must have caught him pretty young you know, to teach him to talk right. And he used to break in all of Dad's young horses. The Dad used to breed horses, race horses. And they used to race them at Albion Park and so forth. They'd pay ten pound for them, for a race horse. And he had to direct them in, this fellow, Donald, and he'd learn them to lead, and take them down to Coolum and put them in the soft sand and then he'd put the saddle on and get on them, and they couldn't buck.

And they'd ride them about on the soft sand until they finished what they called bucking, and they were all right without knocking them about. The sand would give when the horse went to buck, you see. And the horse got that way later on, on the hard ground he'd be afraid to go because he'd buck again, so the horse wouldn't buck. There used to be some nice ponies too for sale every Sunday morning. You'd see them coming with their sovereigns in their bag you know. All paid by sovereigns. And they'd be rattling them. The Chinamen of course they done well on the sovereigns. They used to rattle them and wear all the gold off them to keep the dust and as a matter of fact, they used to file their sovereigns, and take a bit of gold off each one. And they'd keep it and trade on it later on.

Chinese and Gypsies in the area

CF: Were there many Chinamen in the area, can you remember?

LOW: Yeah, there was a mixture here. There were even Gypsies. Gypsies used to come to the Yandina School.

CF: And how would the Gypsies travel through the area?

LOW: By cart and horses. Old carts and we'd know when they come along and well, they'd tell your fortune or anything at all you know.

CF: Yeah.

LOW: They were real tricks, and they used to come round the school and sometimes they'd talk when we were there or having lunch and tell who was hungry and all they'd get was a sandwich of cockies joy. That was the food as we all used to have pretty well.

CF: Yeah. Would they stay in the area for very long?

LOW: Yes a week or so, and then they'd move on further, just travelling all the time. And making do where they could pick up food and where they could pick up a bit of money to buy some. I don't know how they do it, but that's it.

CF: Yeah, and you said there were a lot of Chinese in the area. Were they living in the area?

LOW: Yes, scattered, there wasn't a lot, but when I say a lot if there's one or two, there's a lot against five others, six others you know. That's how it is.

CF: How would they live, what were they doing?

LOW: Oh they were just kind of farming and growing stuff, you know the best they could.

CF: And how do people feel about them do you remember?

LOW: Well I don't think there was much they could worry about, I can't tell you, but just that they were Chinese that's all.

CF: In those days was it people would have thought they were very different, would they?

LOW: Yes, everybody seemed to mind their own business in those days, they never worried about the other fella, unless they were in trouble. They used to have dances galore in those days, in the Alhambra Hall.

Entertainment-Hall used for dances and picture shows

CF: Where was that?

LOW: Oh a little hall near the hotel, opposite there. It was a little one, they used it for picture shows and everything. And when the pictures came in, and of course a sixpence to go to the pictures in those days. And they'd used to have a hall full. But they used to have dances in it at times, and Charlie Annas was a German, and he was MC and he'd say "Gentlemen select your partners for a dance and we'll be starting soon directly after a while."

CF: Soon directly after a while. (Laughs)

LOW: Yes.

CF: Did you used to go along to the dances?

LOW: Well I didn't in those days, I was too young for that. That was the early part of it and I used to knock around ... we used to come into town to see the ninety-nine in. That was one of the greatest things that happened.

Mail delivery by train

CF: What was the ninety-nine?

LOW: That was the mail from Brisbane at half past eight.

CF: Oh right, yeah.

LOW: Ninety-nine down, they call down you know. They say down to Brisbane a lot, but it's up to Brisbane and down elsewhere. The railway authorities all call up to Brisbane all the way. Everything's up to Brisbane, all down otherwise, so it was ninety-nine down and they used to be there till ... And another time this nine o'clock in the morning, it used to come through and they'd call it the quarter to nine o'clock and it used to run about twenty to nine or something.

By the time it left Yandina it was nine o'clock sometimes, especially one morning. They used to have the Post Office at the station and a little man hole, you know like a little hole to look through, and Charlie Ernst, if he saw Bill Backen coming down he'd be asking for mail. Bill Backen looks in and he says, "Any mail for Backen?" And as he did he hit him on the nose, through the mail box, through the mail door. Course that started a fight as the train came in and that train was twenty minutes late that day. The engine driver and fireman and all the crew got off to go and see the fight on the platform.

CF: Was a bit of entertainment was it?

"Black plague" in Yandina in the 1890s

LOW: Yes it was a bit of entertainment . Speaking of  railways of course, I mustn't forget the black plague. When it was being built from Nambour to Yandina, the black plague it was known as ... it killed forty employees and the doctor and his wife.

CF: This was back in the 1890s was it?

LOW: Yes, and they're all buried inside the Yandina Cemetery.

Building of the bridge at Yandina

CF: Really.

LOW: There's a big gap there with nothing on it, and everybody wonders why there's not been anybody buried there, and that was where it was, mass. They dug a big mass hole and a mass grave. That was the black plague.

So anyway I was talking, working with one chap, Dennie Dwyer, and he told me of an incident that happened to him. When they were building the bridge they had their camp this side of the bridge, and they had tables of course and this old publican. When he moved over, Gustav Sommers, had a lot of fowls, and the fowls used to go over and get on the table, and they were getting crook with them. So when they come home for dinner one day they were there, the fowls were there, this Dennie Dwyer threw a stone and knocked one and killed a rooster. Well he went and told the publican or somebody , the publican got to know who killed the rooster, and he got the police up, and the police - their barracks were at Woombye then- horse parade, only horses and he had to come up by horse.

So he came up with a horse to see about this rooster and they discovered that ... He said, "You killed the rooster?" And the fella said, "Yes I did. It was mucking up on our tables." And he said, "You killed the rooster, now we've got to do something with you, can't take you down to jail in Woombye on this horse because it won't stand another man on, it'd buck." So he said, "I don't know what to do with you, since you killed the rooster, the only thing I can do is lock you up in the pen with the fowls for the night and let you go in the morning. He said, "I'll do that." And he done that. So he had to take the rooster's place in the fowl pen. The fella told me that himself, that was true.

CF: Yeah, isn't that amazing.

LOW: Yes, it's a big thing that railway, the building of the bridge. The cement used to come up from Brisbane and then come onto a smaller steamer and go down to Neddy Brown's Wharf, if you know where that is, that's at the rocks just down the river. That's as deep as they could bring a big punt. Had it all loaded with cement for the bridge. And the unloading of it, they unloaded one too much and the punt up ended and half the load went in the river, that was the end of the cement. They used to have to get out by bullock wagon from there and go right up through North Arm, cross over there, across the creek, through the creek. Then come down Yandina, where you get this bridge over here.

CF: That was a big trek.

LOW: And to put the first pylons in for the bridge, the water was all pumped out till they got clear where the pylons were going, you had to blow the rock to get the pylons in you see. And the people come from everywhere, Gympie and everywhere for bags of fish that was in the last pothole, and they all lived on fish for weeks there. There was no rain, must have picked a drought time. The next lot of pylons, well they've been in there those two, those four, since the railway was built and some of those piles have been in since the railway was built too. But they're still running over and they wonder why the bridge falls down some times. It's because the age and the time that it's been in is enough for it.

CF: Who would have told you the stories about when the bridge was being built? where would you have heard about it?

LOW: Oh my mother. She's got a lamp, she had a lamp. They had a camp on both sides of the river, and the big camp on the other side threw all the lamps away when they moved away and she went and picked one up, my old grandmother and gave it to my mother. But she was there when the road was coming through.

Yandina during World War 1

CF: Tell me what was it like in the town during the First World War? You would have still been at school then yourself I suppose.

LOW: Oh that's pretty late in life, Dad is getting a bit established then.

CF: Did it make much difference to the town, did a lot of men have to go away?

LOW: Yes, they all went away. Our School of Arts was built in the War time. On the first  two occasions of a welcome home it was opened so that would have been 1917, '18. And that's as old as that School of Arts is.

CF: Right.

LOW: So we know then about how it was.

CF: Yeah. Did any of your family go away to the War?

LOW: No, none of our family, oh yes, brother Jim did. He went to the Airforce. The oldest brother died when he was about fifty, so he was dead. No not fifty, yes, oh he had a bad heart that's right. And I couldn't go anywhere because I had a double hernia.

CF: Well you would have been pretty young during the First World War wouldn't you?

LOW: Yes, yes that's right. It's the Second World War I'm thinking of.

CF: Did it have much affect on the town?

LOW: No, nothing at all. The roads were just the same, there was no bitumen roads or anything in the early days. An old chap, the name of Potts used to ride a grey horse and he was overseer. And he used to ride around and he used to have a horse and dray to do the roads and they used to go into the people's paddock and pick up stones by hand and nap them into the holes as well. That was the earlier stages and then they came round to ... they bought a truck, a Morris and they drove that around for a while. That was later, that was '32.

Working on farm

CF: Before that after you'd left school and you were working, where were you working?

LOW: Always stop on the farm, I was on the farm all the time.

CF: Yeah, and that was the family farm.

LOW: And all the pay was sent into my mother's name.


CF: Right.

LOW: And all the profits and she sometimes gives us a tenner or so out of it and we'd go to Ipswich when we got paid. We'd go to a country town there in Ipswich. We had some good times there, it was real country town. And we were there when their first Winter Garden was built in Ipswich.

CF: That was a theatre was it?

LOW: Yes, and it's been pulled down since. But that was many years ago.

CF: When you were older then and you were working on the farm, is that when you were going to the dances was it?

LOW: Yes, we used to go to all the dances here then in the earlier days and have a good time alright because we used to knock round every night, we'd come into town, to see the train in, the ninety-nine in. And the platform would be full, and the train would stop for the first ten minutes into Yandina, and they had ...we used to all have a bit of fun. We used to go pinching watermelons, and then one bloke would sneak up and see the owner was in the church and if he was in church we'd go down to the patch. I remember that well, that was the bigger blokes in my gang, wasn't me.

CF: Oh no, of course not.

LOW: It was the other fellas that used to do that. So we had watermelon and everything and the girls and boys too in it you know, they're all the same all having fun, laughing and joking and going on.

Travelling to Nambour and meeting future wife Alma

CF: And when did you meet Alma, Ted, how long had you known Alma?

LOW: Oh three years I think it was about, three yeas before I met her, met her at a dance one night, in Nambour.

CF: Oh down in Nambour, right.

LOW: Oh yes, the place was going ahead when I met her.

CF: How would you get down to Nambour?

LOW: By horseback. Yes and sometimes I'd catch a train if I thought it was better that way. Train to Nambour and then walk up about a mile and a half to where she lived. So we used to go to dances and pictures and stuff, go to place and that was that.

CF: How many times a week would you manage to get down to Nambour?

LOW: Oh twice a week.

CF: Oh right, yeah.

LOW: Yes, and she kinda popped the question on me you know. That's the one thing she did.

CF: Oh she did did she?

LOW: She was getting ... she reckoned I was getting a bit long winded.

Farm work and life

CF: Decided it was time.

LOW: So I decided then after a while to have it on. And we went down to the farm and lived on crab and fish, and if the fish, ... and if the meat didn't come, she say "There's no meat come today you'll have to go and get some fish." And I'd take a plug of gelignite down and throw it the river. I'd better not put that on the tape.

CF: What was that?

LOW: Throwing gelignite in the river to get some fish. Blow them up.

CF: Oh well I suppose if things were desperate.

LOW: So we would just get good fishing. One day the plug didn't go off and I got in after it. I remember that, that was I dried it out on a stump and it went off next time.

CF: Wasn't it dangerous?

LOW: It was dangerous, but I never thought of the danger those days. Used to ride horses, and break in horses. I was on a horse one day, breaking it in and it was going straight for a two rail fence and I thought well that will stop it, it didn't, it jumped over the top. I fell off and let the horse run away with the saddle on. That was one experience I had with horses. They're poor old things, you know, They had to work hard in the cane farm and the scufflers and one thing and another. You had to have two of them, one at each end so that you change horses at every end you see.

CF: What were scufflers?

LOW: A thing with tines on it that used to loosen up the soil. Just about two or three inches deep.

CF: Did you have a fair bit of cane on the farm?

LOW: Oh we'd only grown about twelve acres at that time. Yes and it was big enough for us because we had to check the lot.

CF: Were you working the farm by yourself or were your brothers?

LOW: No, the brothers were there. Yes and we had droughts and the cattle starving. We had one of the finest crops of corn ever grown on the scrub land, new land in a drought, and we cut it all down for the cows and when the cyclone come we lost all the cattle, it got flooded just the same. You can't win a fortune and make do well.

CF: Were you very close to the river, did you get flooded very often down there?

LOW: No we didn't get flooded at all, we'd be half a mile from the river. I suppose with three hundred and sixty acres you see, it a pretty big area. Then I had the boat and we used to go fishing, net fishing and all sorts to make ends meet and what with living off the farm it didn't cost us much in money to get anything more than only a bit of bread, and meat if we wanted it, because we had everything else. We had fowls and eggs and everything, honey.

CF: Oh you'd started your bees then had you?

LOW: Oh yes, I started them when I went to school.

CF: Oh really.

LOW: I knocked off, I knew where there was a native bee in the school ground, the back paddock was all bush. I went to school and I took a little tommy hawk with me and I chopped it out to put in a box. I wagged it from school, it was the only day, I never wagged it again. I had eaten me dinner before nine o'clock, and I had to wait till it was time to go home to make things all right.

CF: Was it Donald who taught you how to rob the bees nest?

LOW: Who?

Relationship with Aborigines

CF: Donald the aboriginal.

LOW: No, he didn't learn me, he was only, he was gone by then. The Government got a bit smart and sent them up to this place further.

CF: Oh up to Cherbourg, to Brumba.

LOW: Yes. Yes they sent them up there, gathered them all up, they didn't want to go but they had to go of course. And they put them in these houses and then Billy Berlin, a relation of ours, of the wife's, from Brisbane, him and his wife, they just got the church to get a lot of presents ready, you know to go up and give them. When they got up there, there was nobody in the houses, they'd all gone bush again. So Cherbourg ended up like that. They burnt all what they could in  firewood in the house, and they cleared out and lived in the bush again. The old primitive way again. So that was that mob, and that's the end of the black fellas.

But we had old Lucy, she was a bit of a toff, she had, any dress used to suit her, she'd put it on, and she was a bit of a toff. When she was a baby her mother took her across on a raft, down further down the river, because there was a crop of corn on the other side and they thought in those days, the niggers, as you read in "Tom Petrie in Early Queensland" that anything and everything belonged to them, that they found and they could see. So they were going across the river to get some corn, and this blast from a shotgun on the other fella farmer's side her and she got one pellet in the eye and that's how she come to be one eyed Lucy. So that was that. Lucy was a trick, she used to eventually work at the hotel, I don't know what she used to do there, but she was there. And she used to come over to our place and knew the Dad well, boarding her house, her home was near one of the calf beds that the Dad had and her's was the next one you see. One night she come home, she'd had a couple of beers and she was trying to get in with the calves. She couldn't get them all out. So Dad had to go and tell her she was in the wrong humpy.

So she was talking to the Dad one day and of course, in those days we'd get a big bunch of crackers for a penny from Japan, oh there'd be a hundred crackers for a penny or tuppence. And I said to the sister I said, "You lift up Lucy's dress and I'll light these crackers and put them underneath." And I did, you ought to see it, she jumped about six foot high, but I was well clear when she come down. And Dad reckoned he'd catch me and he was laughing too much to catch me. Poor old Lucy, she was a hard case.

But Donald was a very good fella, he learnt when it come to mushroom catching of a morning. Mother would say, "Go on you kids out here with the saucers and get some mushrooms. It's the rainy season." And there were always plenty of mushrooms over there at the old home. So Donald would come round. "Look what mushroom we got." "That no good." He'd know the poisonous ones. He'd only have the certain colour ones, so he watched us like that, and when we were playing anytime he'd get on a stump or climb up a tree and watch us. If anybody would have touched us, he'd have been down.

CF: So he looked after you all.

LOW: He was a good fella. But nearly all the windows over there were broken, he broke them. He'd tap on them of a night when the Dad was away, and he tapped on them till they cracked.

CF: Why would he do that?

LOW: He want a sixpence, to get a pot of beer. She'd have to throw a sixpence under the door to get him to clear out. So he'd go away then when he'd had a pot of beer, but they used to get in a bit of trouble if they had too much beer, the blacks. Very aggressive like and one thing and another. Jack Corrigan, a chap in McNab's store when he first started in Yandina, seen him outside the window and he poked his tongue out at Donald, and all of a sudden Donald hit him right through the glass, and hit him on the nose, cut his own wrist and he would have bled to death only for looking after him. But the doctors in those days were few and far between. Dr Penney was one.

Doctors in the district

CF: You wouldn't have had any doctors up in Yandina then would you?

LOW: No, we only had Dr Penney, and this was later in life.

CF: And he'd come up from Nambour would he?

LOW: He'd come from Nambour with his buggy and bells on his horses. They'd be ringing all the time on the horses, ringing. He'd come up and he'd charge five pounds to come to Yandina, but you had to be mighty sick before you'd ever get a doctor. And there was only the two doctors. And the other one was Malaher, and he was another doctor there. A chap got bitten by a black snake down Woombye, and he come up - he used to chew tobacco this fella - and he'd come up and he told the doctor he'd been bitten by a black snake. And the doctor said "You'll be alright, no need to touch you, you'll be alright." He said "But ain't you gonna do something?" He said "No, you go back and see and I'll bet you the black snake was dead." And it was dead, he'd killed the black snake. He chewed that much tobacco. That was a true story too.

Early married life during the Great Depression

CF: So did you stay on the farm for very long after you got married?

LOW: Oh a year or two wouldn't we Al?

ALMA: What was that Ted?

LOW: We were on the farm a couple of years after we were married.

ALMA: Five years.

LOW: Five years. Butter got down to sixpence a pound in the Depression, and you  only milked the cows that gave you the most milk, and cheques, if you got a cheque for five or ten pounds from the factory you done well.

CF: Yeah, course it was '29 you got married wasn't it?

LOW: Yes.

CF: Right at the start of the Depression.

LOW: They were pretty small cheques, you know there's no doubt about them, but we had to make do, we done well. We had fruit and vegetables and fish and crabs.

CF: That's what kept you going, yeah.

LOW: We didn't care much about the rest of the world.

CF: You didn't think about going on relief or anything like that?

LOW: Oh there was no relief. If you had to go on it, the dole or relief in those days, you had to work it, you had to work so many days.

CF: And you had to work on your farm of course.

LOW: Yes, so we didn't go on there at all. I got a job on the Council, and I was there for thirty-five years.

Working for the council and Main Roads department

CF: When did you join the Council then Ted?

LOW: That'd be about '34, about 1934. And I joined the Council and got a job there and then later on I got, truck driver for the Main, M.R.D., Main Roads Department.

CF: Right.

LOW: It was the first Main Roads truck in the district.

CF: How did you actually get your licence? Had you already had it before you joined the Council?

LOW: Oh yes, yes I had a licence. I got the job as two  cubic yard mechanicalist. It was a Morris Commercial and I went down in the morning and collected the one for the Maroochy Shire, and in the afternoon a chap from Linville Shire came and got the second one.

CF: And these were the first Council trucks in the area?

LOW: This was the first one in the district, in Queensland. They never went in for that, they used to hire other people's trucks.

CF: Oh I see, right.

LOW: And this was owned by the Main Roads Department.

CF: What sort of area were you working in? Did you have to go very far?

LOW: Oh all of Yandina, Eumundi, Kenilworth and Nambour a lot of times. A big area.

CF: Which roads were they building then in the thirties, which ones were they working on?

LOW: Well they were working on the Eumundi Road, I think they had relief men on it, that's North Arm, Eumundi. That was a bad strip there, that had always been all fulled up sawdust and corduroy biggabeans.

CF: Oh it was pretty rough,

LOW: It was pretty rough alright. So that was one of the first roads and I camped at North Arm. But the first roads put down for bitumen were a piece at Montville and a piece on the Coolum Road.

CF: When would the first bitumen roads have gone down?

LOW: That was the first section of the Landsborough Road.

CF: Thirties, in the thirties would it have been? Forties?

LOW: Yes, about then. Yes and the one on Coolum was being done and we lived on this side of the river, and the quarry was on the other side and a powder monkey, Barney, I forget what his name is, he was a powder monkey and he let the shots off and he lost all the metal. It blew right across into our farm. So Dummy Knowles, as they call him, he went up to the road, singing out he shout, "You're fired!" He's a mile away from the fella, but he saw all his metal go and his explosives. So my brother and another chap was on that spreading the metal by hand.

CF: By then you'd actually moved into Yandina, hadn't you?

LOW: No, we were still the river.

CF: Oh right.

LOW: Yes, still down on the river.

CF: When did you move into the town here?

LOW: Oh here was about, what was it?

ALMA: We've been here fifty years in February, 1936 I think it was.

CF: About 1936, yeah. Did you always have a truck when you were working for the Council.

LOW: No I had a utility. But we started off in the old dray and horse and you used to have to come in and feed the horse of a morning early before you'd work. It was a big horse, and you had a dray and you had to tip it up yourself. There was no mechanical business it was just man power. And it used to hold about a cubic yard of rock or whatever was required to be carted. So that was the earlier part and then when we got a truck he was a toff then.

CF: So this was the foreman was it?

LOW: Yes, the ganger.

CF: What was his name?

LOW: Charlie Marsh. He was a ganger and we'd go off to do work for Main Roads and Council in a primitive way with a old mattock and shovel and pick, hard work, no easy work those days. And you had to work nine hours a day. No morning tea or morning smoko. The engineer went past and he was gonna pull up, they told me afterwards that he could have sacked me for that. You couldn't eat, just dinner time and that's all.

CF: And how much would you have been earning a week?

LOW: Three pound eight.

CF: Three pound eight a week. Yeah.

LOW: Yes, that was a week. But some of the relief men were getting more that had big families you know. They only worked four days a week and went for their pay on Friday.

Contact with various nationalities

CF: Were most of the gangs relief men?

LOW: Pretty well. There was all relief men in my day. In the earlier stages they made me a ganger once, he did, and he had another gang up at Cooloolabin. And I said, "There's a bloke in that gang", I said, "won't work. He lays down along side the drain all day talking to the men. He won't work." He said, "Well sack him." I said, "You better go down and sack him." He said, "Why?" Well I said, "I think he's a bit of a pug", I said, "I'm not gonna have him on." So he stopped on. Oh they used to drift along, there was all the sorts in the world. There was every Germans, Italians from both ends of Italy. There was one lot of Italians were very bad to get on with, and the others were pretty good. There was one troublesome mob, I don't know what sort they are. And then the Austrians and Englishmen. Had the whole lot of them working for me once.

CF: Was it very tough being a ganger?

LOW: It was, you see you've got to be for the men or for the job for the boss. And to be both it's pretty hard, you had to be very careful to be for the men and for the boss, because it could become very difficult when it came to deciding on anything.

CF: What sort of problems would you have, what sort of things could happen?

LOW: Well they used to get ... an Italian said one time, "I'll kill you if you don't shut up, if you don't look out." I never heard for two days, and then when I did hear it, I went and sacked him I put him off. I said, "You're sacked." So he went into the engineer and he said, "Ted Low sacked me", he said, "I didn't mean what I said." And the engineer got frightened of him because he was Italian, you know and they get pretty fast with their draw you know, their gun and things, knives. Well I said, "Well you go back now and tell the engineer." And the engineer said, "You tell Ted to put you on again." Well he told me this I said, "You go tell Ted to put you on again." Well when he told me this I said, "You go tell the engineer this, when I sack a man, he's sacked and that's the end of it." We  were ready for him, the whole gang of us was ready was ready, the big gang of us. They were all watching this fellow. He put his hand in his pocket and I thought he was going to draw something out, but he didn't, so that was the end of him. But you met all sorts. Hard to get on with some of them. The best was a Swede, he was a good bloke to get on with. But we had them from all over the states, all over England, Ireland, the whole lot of them.

CF: Did you have a lot of Italians in the area at that time?

LOW: No not a lot, only one or two here and there. Wasn't many Italians here. They were up north in the Innisfail area, they were very thick up there. But they were cunning they used to get, about a half a dozen of them would bog in and buy a farm. Well that would be your farm at first when they paid for it. And there'd be no income paid no income tax or anything see, it all went as wages. Then the next fellow'd get his turn, eventually the whole lot of them, all six of them had farms. And they never paid a penny tax to the Government.

CF: So they'd sell them to each other sort of thing would they?

LOW: They'd work for nothing, for each farm. Just for keep until it was paid for. Well you wouldn't catch the Australian doing that. They wondered why the Italians had most of the farms, but this was the reason why.

CF: Did people resent them for that reason?

LOW: No, they just let them do it and they even sold to the Italians. He was pretty good the Australian, he never worried a dash about it. He just let them have it, and have their own land that's why in Innisfail, it was mostly Italians that owned the whole place. And different places up there.

Effects of World War II

CF: When you got into, or through the Depression and then the Second World War started, was there more of an effect in the area than the First World War had been?

LOW: Oh well there was a lot in this means that they were all digging dugouts in their houses, house blocks in case of raid you see. They all had dugouts, we had one up here, just the back fence here.

CF: Oh you'd move into Yandina by then, yeah.

LOW: Yes. That was War, and they wouldn't take me for the War because I had a double hernia. They didn't want any trouble, you had to be a first class man to go to War.

ALMA: Not only that, you had to keep on with the roads out here.

CF: So you kept on with the  roads?

LOW: Yes, I kept on with the roads.

CF: Did it get very busy then, was there more or less road building during the War?

LOW: Well I did more maintenance then I anything. They didn't have enough money to buy anything, do anything with much. It was all maintenance, and just patching here and patching there. That's the way they were going then, they never started road building seriously till later in life. Had a couple bits down to see how they would go but that's all.

Nature of Main Road's work and roads worked on

CF: What was it like when they were building the Bruce Highway back in the early days, were you involved in that?

LOW: Yes, out there at North Arm, I wasn't building it but we were still on maintenance then and the other gangs , Lou Davidson, had a different contracts or day wages jobs. And they were going ahead, still spreading by the shovel load.

CF: Yeah. Done by hand

LOW: Yes.

CF: How did they build it, did it come up all in one go or they built bits and pieces?

LOW: They built two miles on North Arm, Eumundi. They'd go somewhere else and build a bit more, just the worst patches they were picking out.

CF: Oh right.

LOW: As they could afford it. There was  pretty wild parties. They used to have a cook on the duty camp like, to cook for meals for them and that's how they got on with it, they'd dog in on these meals.

CF: Was it pretty hard work, working on the roads?

LOW: In those days it was very hard work. With a shovel and that, pick and shovel that was very hard work, my word it was. It was a terrible job, your back would ache something awful with it.

CF: What was some of the toughest jobs you had to do? Which would have been one of the hardest sections you had to work on in your time?

LOW: Well they would be all practically the same you know, there would be no good ones or bad ones. Course they all amounted to the same thing, pick and shovel and your quarry work. Well what I was on was more or less Coolum ... I'd been on roads right down to Caloundra, everywhere working. Every road everywhere, and more or less on a maintenance job you know, because they're pretty boggy on the roads those days and they'd get bogged anywhere.

CF: Did you have to work ... did you work on bridges at all?

LOW: Yes, maintenance of course. Poisoning and so forth. It was all culverts, we do it to all the culverts and everything and pipes. And we did all that. Yes it's pretty hard you had to use the broad axe and square the timber for the bridges. It was a full time job.

CF: What was the feeling like, you know with the men working on the roads?

LOW: Well they accepted it you know, as a part and parcel of what they had to do, they never growled much, you were lucky to have a job and be able to do it.

CF: Yeah. And how long were you actually working then with the Main Roads?

LOW: Oh, I was with Council for about four years. Must have been thirty years.

CF: What you finished about 1950 or so did you?

LOW: No I never finished till, oh gee, oh yes, it would be '56 or something. Yes about that.

CF: And were you a ganger right up till the end there?

LOW: A foreman at the last. I worked on Main Roads jobs, took on contracts for the Main Road, and Obi Range and all the rest of them. I widened the Obi Range it was just a track and I widened all that, blew all the corners off it. Oh yes, and one day, I'd tell them to look out for death adders up there, and one day a bloke came up with a death adder on his shovel. And he said, "I've caught another lizard for you to look at." (Laugh) I said, "You kill that lizard as quick as you can, that's a death adder." And he had hand not too great inches off it, you know on the shovel. So they used to climb up and get stuck in the drains, you know in the big banks, rock banks, they'd follow the drain up then when they got to the drain. We were cleaning the drains out that's how we caught them.

CF: Would there be a lot of accidents in the road work, was it dangerous?

LOW: No, not very, nearly nothing, because horse drawn vehicles and all that, we were too slow and they got time to get out of one another's road. Very few or no accidents. It was not until the motor car came in that the accidents started.

CF: So in later years there were more accidents were there?

LOW: Yes, oh yes, then they doubled up then. You'd do a piece of road up and they'd speed on it then. No control over the old Model-T and all the rest of it they had those days. They were pretty wild looking machines.

CF: How about for the men working on the roads, was it dangerous work?

LOW: No, because you could see everything coming, nothing happened. Only one chap died from a heart attack that I remember. But no they had jackhammers and all the ...

CF: I heard you worked on the Doonan Road, was that a tough one?

LOW: No, it wasn't too bad, I done that section from the new bridge on, down the first hill, Misery Hill.

CF: Why was it called Misery Hill, do you know?

LOW: Because  it was one that the bullock wagons used to have a terrible job to get their load up, and they called it Misery Hill. They used to spell the bullocks halfway with a load because it was long, a very long climb to keep the bullocks under his power you see. So they had to spell them up.

CF: So the roads through there would have made a big difference to that.

Cobb and Co's in the area

LOW: Oh now they've lifted the grade altogether, a difference altogether, it was steep before. It was Misery Hill. It's like this Cobb and Co.'s coach going down out to Gympie, it used to take the miners' money, miners' gold from Gympie, take down the bullion, and bring it back in sovereigns to pay the men. And when they were out here somewhere, two men robbed it, robbed the coach and they put the money at the foot of a tree, so they said, but when they come back to get it, it wasn't there they couldn't find it, so it looks like they're still up one of those trees out here on the old coach road.

CF: Yeah. So it's been quite a change in roads from those days.

LOW: You see, this other place, Fairhill got the road, the coach road because as it got populated and the trains were running, they done a long trip in Cobb and Co.'s  coach that way, and they followed more to the railway because there was more custom, and that is why they used the Fairhill Road, on the second round for this Cobb and Co.'s coach.

CF: Oh, so it changed then.

LOW: Yeah, that's how it got changed. This was past our place just straight up here, because there used an old blacksmith's down here.

CF: Oh off old Gympie Road here?

LOW: Yes. Old Sandy Meldrum, he was the blacksmith over here for the horses and he lived just across the street. And he was the one that went down to the pub, and they'd rose the price from sixpence to sevenpence a pot, and he went without a fortnight, and the publican sent word to him to come back. So he came back, it was the first beer strike in Queensland, it was won.

CF: Classic.

End of interview

Sunshine Coast Council acknowledges the Sunshine Coast Country, home of the Kabi Kabi peoples and the Jinibara peoples, the Traditional Custodians, whose lands and waters we all now share.
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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