Sunday 29 December 2013

Search for Sorensen's Inn

A discussion held long ago with Mrs Betty Stone put a notion into the back of our minds to one day seek out the site of her great grand-parent's old wayside hotel.  A few years back, Betty instigated a project to place a plaque beside the road between Mareeba and Mount Molloy to commemorate the life and works of Gabriel and Doretta Sorensen who kept a road side shanty hotel and staging house for those travelling between Port Douglas and the mineral fields.  The couple had met on the Hodgkinson goldfield and were married at Kingsborough in 1878.  A few years later, with two small children in tow, they opened their shanty style Public house, known as the Ten-mile, at the base of a small hillock  near the Big Mitchell River and not far from Carr Creek.  They ran the wayside hotel for about twelve years and closed it after the railway was completed to Mareeba in 1893 taking much of the traffic off the road.  Four more children were born to the couple while they were at the hotel and one of their children was Betty's grand-mother.

The annual bushfires had pass through the area and the district had seen some early storms that had greened the place to a park-like state.  So, with a lazy Sunday without any prior plans, the intrepid trio of Duncan, Robert and myself, decided to head down to Mount Molloy to seek out the site of the old pub.  After a phone call to our old friend Betty for final directions, it was off on another little adventure with the first stop being the plaque attached to a rock beside the road.  We then drove slowly along the road looking closely at the small hills before choosing to start our search at a hill that was so small we almost dismissed it.  Our choice turned out to be very fortuitous as we were to walk straight to the site.

As soon as we stepped out of the vehicle, we liked the look of our selection and the spirits of the ancestors, cunningly disguised as March flies, swarmed to greet us.  Thank goodness for the Aerogard!  Within a hundred metres we came upon the first sign of a structure, being a slab of old concrete but certainly not old enough to be the site we were looking for.  A little further on around the hill, we came upon several rows of small concrete slabs and it soon became apparent that a Main Roads camp and depot had been built here nearly fifty years ago when the new bitumen road was constructed down to Mount Molloy.  A sense of disappointment came over us as we realized that the old hotel site may have been bulldozed if this was the correct area.  This feeling quickly became a certainty when we came across the remains of a very old rubbish heap.  The large number of pieces of old green beer bottle and crockery made it obvious that some structure had occupied this site back in colonial times.  The Main Road dozer had cut right through the rubbish heap and where the little hotel would have been positioned, now sat a row of old concrete slabs of small accommodation blocks.  All remains of the hotel would have been pushed away long ago.

We searched through the rubbish and then the general area but could find no other evidence of the hotel other then the small lagoon that had supplied its water and the nearby course of the old road that would have once brought the travellers past the front of Sorensen's old wayside Public house.  Looking over the area from the site of the shanty pub across to the old road and down to the small lagoon, it was obvious that we would have no hope of finding any remains of the grave of Sorensen's eldest child, Mary Drucilla Sorensen who died there of diphtheria at eight years of age in February 1888 and was buried in an unmarked grave not far from the house.  Although unhappy in that we could find little of the wayside hotel, it was a great day out exploring our heritage and to celebrate, we call into the Emerald Creek Ice Creamery where we blew our diets with a calorie-laden ice cream and an iced coffee to die for.
Site of the Ten-mile public house

Thursday 26 December 2013

Heritage North

The general feeling at the recent AGM of the Heritage North association was that the changes made to the groups' format in the pervious year had not had the desired outcome.  Many who once attended the regular meetings missed the social interaction with members of other historical societies and the lack of regular meetings had the unforeseen consequences of the closure of the groups' newsletter due to not having regular quarterly reports from the member Societies.  This tended to defeat the very purpose for which the group was formed.  It was decided to return to the old structure of the organization along with more emphasis on training sessions at the meetings.  The one workshop the group held earlier in the year was a great success and this showed its real value, if we can find the personnel to manage the group.  The next meeting will be held in Malanda on February 22 with the Eacham Historical Society as the host.

Sunday 22 December 2013

Eacham Football History

In early 1985, Mr Martin Grandelis, who had just arrived on the Tablelands to take up the position of Principal at the Upper Barron School, was asked to take the minutes of a meeting of the Eacham Junior Rugby League.  This was the start of a long involvement with the Junior Rugby League and his interest in its history was sparked shortly afterwards when he and several students were cleaning out the storeroom at the school and came upon an old rugby league shield.  Over twenty years later in 2008, Martin began his study with the result some five years later being a book on the local junior football league entitled, 'A History of the Eacham JRL 1969-1999, the first thirty years'.  At the recent launch in Atherton, at an impressive event in the Merriland Pavilion, Martin told the crowd of a couple of hundred football fans how more than 500 people had shared their experiences and old photographs which along with detailed records of the League, enabled him to put the story together.  Mayor Tom Gilmore of Mareeba had the honour of launching this large 600 page volume with its 825 photos.  The book details the champion teams and Grand Finals triumphs along with the controveries and upheavals of that first thirty years and it also records the growth of the professionalism in this junior sport.  Although I won't be in a hurry to obtain a copy as I was a soccer playing boy in my younger days, I found that many of my cousins and school mates appear in the book.  A truly impressive work of local history that could find a place in the home of any local footy fan.

Friday 29 November 2013

North Qld Mining History Association

The last quarterly meeting of this mining history group was held in late October at the Herberton Mining Centre with about ten members in attendance.  After a quite a lot of business from the pervious meeting was sorted out, Ivan Searton presented the information he had obtained from the Qld State Archives on the old Tinaroo Tin Mines and then spoke on the history of the Tinaroo Freehold mines.  Also of interest was the news that Col Robinson was working on a study of the old mining dredges that worked on the tin fields and up at the Palmer River Goldfield.  Hopefully there will be a book about the dredges in this.  In order to build up a register of the district's pioneer mining families, it was decided to begin gathering records from the old schools of the local mining towns that would hold lists of names.  This would also be useful in tracing the movements of the families from one mining area to the next as well as been helpful to those working on their family histories.  The meeting closed with the news that Graham Byrns has a large number of old papers on the districts mines which he is willing to donate to the Association.  After the meeting, I viewed the small archive that is been built up at the Centre and it already appears quite impressive.  The next meeting will be held at the same location on the first Saturday of February.

Cairns Historical Society

As this Society is not having monthly meeting at the moment, I called into their new centre at the old Grafton Street Post Office building to pay my membership and catch up with happenings.  It was good to see this temporary centre now up and running although due to staffing problems, the centre is not open on Saturdays which makes it difficult for some members to access the Society.  It is hoped that it will be opened for at least one weekend a month next year.  Sadly, the Annual General Meeting was held at the ridiculous time of nine o'clock on a Friday morning which made it almost impossible for many members to attend.  I hope there was little business to attend to at this year's meeting as this attitude will make finding new people to sit on the committee difficult.  This years Society Christmas party is also a little different as it is a cruise about the inlet on the Sunset Harbour Cruise boat, although I hope the limited number of seats will not be a problem.  I look forward to a better year in 2014 with some normality returning to the groups operations.

Douglas Shire Historical Society

While chatting with Society doyen Mr Noel Weare the other day, he brought me up to date with happenings at the Douglas group.  Like all the history groups at this time, they are winding down for the year although the elections for the newly re-formed Douglas Shire Council has brought up a few concerns for the Society about the change back from the Cairns Council.  Along with their research on the Port Douglas cemetery, the Society has decided to start a new project to develop a guided walk through the Mossman cemetery to view the more historic graves.  The groups annual Melbourne Cup Luncheon for this year was held at Sassi's Cucina in Port Douglas.  This event is important as it is one of the Society's major fund-raising events for the year.  And to end the year, the members Christmas party is to be held at Mojo's in Mossman.  The Society appears to have had a very successful year.

Mareeba Historical Society

The Mareeba Historical Society reported another successful year although health problems amongst members slowed things a little this year.  The Significance Assessment project is coming to a close and the committee is waiting to see the final results of their efforts and to what use it could be put.  A sub-committee of some four members was put together to compile and organise displays for the approaching centenary of the beginning of World War One. Something that all the Societies will need to think about during the coming year.  And to finish this Society's year off, the Xmas BBQ is again organised to be held at Helen's place.

Thursday 21 November 2013

Malanda School Book

After some two years of research, Mr Malcolm Brown has seen his impressive book on the history of the Malanda State School completed.  This book entitled 'Malanda State School; A School in the Rainforest' was launched in the library of the Malanda State School during their recent centenary celebrations.  This fine publication also covers the history of the many smaller schools of the local area where the children were sent by bus into the Malanda School when they were closed.  A complementary CD was also produced with all the class photos that could be found as there was no way in which the hundreds of photos could have been put into the pages of the book.  The book is a credit to Mal's dedication to the school where he was the Principal for fifteen years from 1979 through to 1991.  Sadly my father, who attended the High-Top section of the school in the early 1950's, was missing from the book's list of teachers as he also taught there for nearly a year after completing his National Service after Teachers College.  Still this large 175 page volume is a great addition to the recorded history of the Eacham distict.

Monday 21 October 2013

Eacham Historical Society

Things have been very quiet about the Eacham Historical Society of late with many members away on vacation at this time of the year and things at the Millaa museum also slowing with the tourist season winding down.  Even business at our annual stall at the recent Rocky Creek VP Memorial Day being quieter than usual with some of the members on duty there suggesting that it might be better if the stall was moved to the annual Mareeba Warbirds Show.  It was also decided at the last meeting not to attend this year's annual Yungaburra Book Fair owning to changes that were made to the event's format which made things difficult for the Society.  With the cancelling of the Malanda Expo event this year, the Society has had only two public displays this year.

Tolga Historical Society

An invitation was received to attend the 20th anniversary celebrations of the small Tolga Historical Society. Some seventy members and local history buffs gathered at the Tolga museum on a clear spring morning to meet up and enjoy the little ceremony to acknowledge this modest milestone.  A brief history of the group was read out and Judith Snelling put together a small booklet for the day telling the story of the Society's development.  Mayor Rosa Lee Long and Society doyen, Lottie Hastis was invited to join in with the cutting of the birthday cake.  As a ex-member of this group, it was pleasing to see them still operating after so long when other small Societies in the district such as the Ravenshoe and Dimbulah groups died so quickly after they were formed.

Cairns Historical Society

The big move out of the old School of Arts building is almost complete.  Little is left now to move across to the old Post Office building but the great upheaval will continue for a little time yet as some kind of order must be made at this new centre before any resemblance of normality can be achieved and the general business of the Society can be recommenced.  To farewell the current museum, after more than thiry years of service at the School of Arts building, a special Open Day was held with members, friends and volunteers invited to take a tour of the place and share memories with the indomitable Mr Les Sim.  It looks like all will be sorted out before the approaching date of the annual general meeting.

Thursday 15 August 2013

Dora Creek Dray Road Expedition

A message came through from a colleague down at the Douglas Shire Historical Society, Mr Noel Weare who was concerned about the recent damage that had been done to the old Port Douglas to Thornborough road.  He was worried that the old stone pitching on the Granite Gap (also known as the Dora Pass) section at the end of the Hann Tableland had not been correctly recorded.  As he had never documented that piece of the old road and he thought he was beginning to get a little long-in-the-tooth for climbing into the mountains, he thought we might like to organize an expedition to check the condition of the road and record the old stone pitching.  Duncan didn't need to be asked twice, especial as he wanted a challenge to put his new four wheel drive vehicle through.  So after a quick ring about, a car load of history buffs was heading down to Mount Molloy to meet up with Noel and friends coming up from the coast.  Soon the team of seven historians were on the road out to Fonthill Station.

The intrepid adventures
It was sad to see the condition of old Fonthill homestead.  It appears to have been many years since any permanent resident had occupied the homestead and the older building was looking very derelict. Fortunately, the old road had been gazetted and was still recognized as a public thoroughfare and is also a part of the National Horse Trial so we were able to drive through the station and across towards Dora Creek where the old road turned up into the hills at the end of the Hann Tableland.  For those of us who had never travelled into this area before, a real shock was install as we crossed into Southedge Station.  We broke out of the forest country of Forthill into the huge valley plains that the developer George Quaid had cleared with a team of large bulldozers back in the 1980's when he built his dam.  The Google Earth imagines just don't capture the full scale of this enterprise.  One can not use hectares to describe the clearance, you have to use square kilometres, so vast is the area.  I suspect that very few people realize the extent of these cleared valleys, hidden behind the hills on the other side of Lake Mitchell.

We made a stop at a small isolated hillock beside the track and climbed it to get a view of the landscape.  The bulldozers had destroyed all trace of the gazetted road and no effort had been made to restore the pathway, so we hoped the landowners would not be upset as we followed the track towards Dora Creek.  Somewhere nearby was the supposed site of the Round Hill aboriginal 'dispersal' but little was recorded of the event.  We continued our journey and turn into the Dora Creek valley and up pass a half-dozen freehold farming blocks near the site of McDonald's old farmstead and wayside shanty hotel.  The track quickly deteriorated as we climbed up towards the Gap.  The lighter vehicle soon became stuck on a particularly steep pinch which showed the folly of trying to put a dray road through the Granite Gap.  Little wonder this road was only used as a pack-track for the horse teams while the heavy drays went the long way around the Hann Tableland to get to the Hodgkinson goldfield.

Only about a hundred metres from the stuck vehicle, we came across the first piece of stone pitching and a little further on was the most impressive segment of the stone work.  A true example of this fine
old craft which has weathered the past one hundred and thirty-five years remarkable well.  After photographing the stone work, we wandered on up the road towards the Gap which turned out to be further than it looked.  Duncan and Jack continued on to the top while the rest of the party had a break and discussed the history of the road and the possibility of having this section heritage listed.  Then it was back down to have some fun getting the stuck vehicle off the steep pinch.  On the way back out, we startled one of the occupiers of the farming blocks who was concerned as he had begun to burn off without realizing we were behind him.  After a late lunch at the site of McDonald's old establishment, we then drove back out of the area, crossing the cleared valley to hit the main road beside the little bridge over Oakey Creek where we parted company with Noel and headed for home.  The end of an interesting day's adventure out exploring our local heritage.  
Climbing the old road up towards the gap.                                                         Some of the old stone pitching.

Wednesday 14 August 2013

Other Yasi Book

'A Frail Farewell', which tells the story of the cyclone Yasi experiences of Cardwell's old folk, is the title of the publication now available after its recent launch in Cardwell by award-winning Townsville Bulletin editor, Mr John Andersen.  Written by historian and broadcaster Dr Jacqui Murray, the book is a touching and poignant document on how these people, many of them dependant on high levels of care, were failed by the government authority.  Bundled into buses to escape Yasi at the last hour, they were driven down to Townsville where they were laid on mattresses on the floor of a school hall.  Despite the horrors they faced, their stories are beautifully told by the old folk and exquisitely written up by Dr Murray.  A Frail Farewell is an important historical document and a 'must read' for anyone with an interest in cyclone Yasi, Cardwell or aged care and is available from the Cardwell Historical Society.

Saturday 10 August 2013

Gordonvale Wartime Book

The folk down in Gordonvale at the Mulgrave Shire Historical Society have recently published a new book on their wartime history.  The book entitled 'Gordonvale and the 503th Parachute infantry Regiment' was launched at their end-of-year break up meeting at the old Mulgrave Rambler Station to a near capacity audience by local Councillor Steve Brain.  This publication details the progress of the only U.S. Parachute Infantry Regiment to train in Australia from the establishment of a camp outside town and their training through to their interaction with the Gordonvale community.  This volume is an interesting addition to the study of the North's wartime history.  You can purchase a copy from the Gordonvale museum.

Tuesday 6 August 2013

Chillagoe Alliance's New Museum

A good crowd of about eighty history buffs recently attended the opening of a new museum at Chillagoe.  The Chillagoe Courthouse Heritage Centre was opened by Mareeba Magistrate Tom Braes and Mayor Rosa Lee Long along with other dignitary in an event which gives new life to this long closed facility.  Dr Ruth Kerr gave several history talks on the Chillagoe mining industry and on the Mungana Scandal of the 1920's.  Mrs Mary Bolam and the members of the Chillagoe Alliance group worked hard to bring this project to completion after watching this old building sitting empty and unused for decades.  This new display gives a view of Chillagoe's history through the eyes of the local justice system.  The courtroom has been refurbished with artefacts and historic photo panels telling stories from police files.  Another great addition to this town's heritage infrastructure for history enthusiast to visit.

Eacham Historical Society

The new format for this year's stall at the Malanda Show turned out to be a great success.  Having a table displaying artefacts along with the usual photo display attracted a lot of attention and having the books on one of the new freestanding display stands help to greatly increase the merchandise sales.  The museum reported an enormous increase in the numbers of visitors coming through the door as the tourist season got into full swing and Ed reported on the amazing success of the Society's new Facebook site which has seen more than twelve thousand visitations in its first six months.  The recent meeting of the Society saw a discussion on the future of the 'Tin Field Memoirs' manuscript that the late Glenville Pike gave to us and it was decided to assist Mal Brown with the publication of his book on the history of the local schools.

Wednesday 31 July 2013

Cairns Historical Society

The great upheaval at the Cairns Historical Society is continuing with both the museum artefacts in the store rooms and the research library books been boxed up for the move across to the temporary centre at the old Post Office building.  I attended a recent afternoon tea for volunteers in the old postal building where the Management Committee explained the plans for the operation of the Society during the period of the renovations to the School of Arts building.  There may not be enough room for a museum display area but there should be sufficient space for storage of the artefacts and for the history research centre.  Sadly, the turmoil appears to have affected this year's Society show display which could only be described as pitiful.  It was an embarrassment to be on duty at the display this year and it seem such a waste of a great opportunity to publicize the changes now happening.  It appears the Society will need to be out of the building by late September, so the next couple of months will be hectic and then it will take some time to set up again.  Hopefully they will have things sorted out in time for the annual general meeting in November.

Thursday 25 July 2013

Douglas Shire Historical Society

The folk at the Douglas Shire Historical Society must be congratulated on the presentation of their newly built internet website, the end result of which is very impressive and a great improvement over the original site.  At a recent heritage event, I found myself talking with a member of this group who informed me of her ambitious project to research the history of that districts old farm machinery.  I wish her well.  She also spoke of the Society's project to begin a database on the graves in the old historic Port Douglas cemetery.  It was pleasing to see that they are continuing to publish local history bulletins with the latest by Ken Keith on the building of the St David's church.  Good to see this group coming back to life after their long slow period.

Watsonville Pioneer Women Day

The annual Pioneer Women's Day was held recently at the small community shed in what was once the Main Street of Watsonville.  The crowd on the day was down a little on previous years but those in attendance enjoyed the usual bush poetry and songs from Sing Australia and the bush lunch.  The women that were featured this year were from the Borghero family.  Two of whom, Grace and Peg, took over their father's transport and taxi service in the early 1920's and were the first to introduce motor vehicles into the local service before moving their business down to Mareeba in the 1930's.  The members of the tiny Western Progress Association must be congratulated on their efforts to organize this heritage event each year and they announced a future project to erect interpretative signs at local historic sites of significance about Watsonville to ensure they do not disappear and be forgottem.  It was good to look over the crowd and see about a dozen members of my historical society in attendance and I will certainly be back next year.

Wednesday 24 July 2013

John Atherton Memorial Day

After many years of planning, Mareeba historian Mrs Elwyn Troughton saw her memorial event to commemorate the centenary of the passing of the pioneer Mr John Atherton come to fruition.  I was lucky enough to be among the forty guests who were invited to attend this small private event held at the Atherton family cemetery at Emerald End.  A number of descendants of the Atherton family were present to hear the many tributes to the man after whom the town and Tablelands were named.  Even though there were a couple of long-winded speakers who bored the audience halve to death, (never let a churchman near a podium) it was an enjoyable day for local history buffs.  The local Lions Club organized the catering and Mrs Troughton launched her booklets on the Atherton family history.  It was good to hear that the owner of the private property on which this burial ground is situated is to make a Trust park for the cemetery.  It was a pity that the event wasn't open to the public as many local history buffs stated later that they would have liked to have attended the event.

THeN Meeting

The last meeting of the Tablelands Heritage Network (THeN) was held at the delightful Ravenshoe Mountains Institute with a good turn-up of about eighteen representatives from visitor and heritage groups from across the Tablelands.  The meeting Convenor, Gwyneth Nevard introduced Ms Suzanne Gibson from the Cairns museum who was the guest lecturer at this meeting and who conducted an excellent discussion in regards to all aspects of carrying out oral histories.  The morning closed with a tour of the adjacent Ravenshoe Visitor Centre and it was interesting to hear of their plans for the future of that Centre.

Atherton Family History Group

Gwen and the members of the small family history group at the Atherton Library were pleasantly surprised with the wonderful success of their recent researching workshop.  Some fifty family history buffs from all over the Tablelands attended the series of free lectures conducted by the professional genealogist, Mrs Judy Webster which was held at the Atherton Library.  The talks covered the fields of using indexes and strategies for researching relatives who had vanished or were the family 'black sheep'.  The final lecture was on the usefulness of the many internet website which is now available.  I only made it to the last of the three talks which covered the many useful internet websites for genealogical research and found the information presented most helpful.  Speaking afterwards with others who had attended, I found a general agreement that all had learnt something of value which would help them with their study of their family trees.  I recommend Mrs Webster's lectures to anyone interested in this field of history study.

Thursday 27 June 2013

Mungana's Shit and Scatter Hotel

The group of tried friends sat about the campfire to unwind after a hard day spent out in the Chillagoe heat and dust exploring the long abandon site of the old Girofla village.  Little is left now, with more then one hundred years having past since the township disappeared into history.  Its residence having moved the few hundred metres down the railway line into the new town of Mungana when that mining town boomed during the early years of the twentieth century leaving only a little rusting metal and broken glass to mark the site of the old village.  As the light of the campfire dimmed and the cold beer eased the discomfort of sore feet and sun burnt faces, Chillagokid spoke of the old days when the great Girofla mine and its nearby smelter promised bright days ahead for the little community.  All gone now like the eccentrically named 'Shit and Scatter Hotel' at whose bar none alive today would be able to recall having quenched their thirst.  Yankee Dove looked up from the flames, 'What a strange name for a hotel'.  'Oh there, I can fill you in on that' said Farnortherner, 'a tragic tale, that one'.

The shanty hotel was originally named the Cosmopolitan Hotel and was owned by one, Mr McGillicuddy but its unofficial name stuck after the events of the evening of the 6th November 1901.  About 11 o'clock that night, a shy servant girl named Hannah Tracey was gunned down by the morose coward, Richard Henderson.  It appeared to be a miserable case of revenge on part of Henderson because the girl refused to comply with a request he had made of her.  The twenty year old Hannah, known as Annie, had come out to Australia from County Killkenny, Ireland and was working at the hotel as a domestic servant.  A couple of evening earlier, Herderson had asked for a crib but she knew he wasn't going on the night shift and she told him he did not require it.  The six foot tall Henderson, who was known to be prone to take offence without cause became adusive, so much so that he hurt her feelings and she retired to her room weeping and another servant girl finished cutting the men's lunches.  Henderson was turned away by Mr Atherton and nothing more was thought of the incident.

Then on the Wednesday night, he again approached the girl while she was filling the tea cans of the men going on shift and asked for a crib.  Annie said 'you don't want to go to work'.  A young fellow named Evenden took his can from the girl and move to leave, at the same time Annie turned away, when Henderson stepped in front of her and at point blank range, fired a revolver hitting her in the right breast.  Evenden was in the passage and seeing what occurred, went for Henderson and hitting him on the jaw staggered him but recovering himself, Henderson covered Evenden with the revolver.  Fortunately the weapon misfired and Evenden got out of danger.  A group of men from the dining-room carried Annie inside and Constable Hoy quickly appeared and asked the Chinese cook where Henderson was.  The constable and a man named Myers went after him but Henderson was pointing his gun at the two and told them to keep back.  Hoy left to fetch his firearms and Myers watched Henderson but lost him about Lindsay's building.  A party of six men then went along the rail line for a mile searching the camps but could not find him.

When Henderson next appeared he was about fifty metres from the hotel and walking straight up to the front clicking his revolver.  Someone called upon him to put up his hands.  He replied, 'I am going to do it now', and lifted up the gun and shot himself in the head.  Simultaneously another shot rang out from the opposite side of the street hit him in the thigh, fire by a man named Bert Roberts who thought Henderson was going to fire at him when he put up the revolver to shoot himself.  Henderson fell and the crowd rushed him.  He died twenty minutes later where he fell while all round him, leaning on rifles, stood his pursuers, watching him.  The following day, his body was encased in a rough board coffin and buried without ceremony.  As for the poor victim, Annie suffered for six days before passing away in the presence of her brother who had rushed up from the Mulgrave railway where he had been working as a navvy on its construction.  She was engaged to be married to a miner named Thomas Stewart and the men of the town raised 60 pounds for them but after her death they refused to have her buried in the same cemetery as Henderson.  They used the money to organize a train to take Annie and 120 of the towns' folk into Chillagoe to bury her there and paid for a headstone.  And the name of the hotel, that night it was said everyone in the corrugated-iron walled hotel when the shot was fired 'shit themselves and scattered into the darkness'.  So eventually became the name of the establishment, the Shit and Scatter Hotel of old Girofla.
The site of the old hotel today           Hannah Tracey's grave          The Shit and Scatter Hotel

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Eacham Historical Society

At a recent meeting of the Society, a long and lively discussion was held concerning the circumstance of the great flood of 1967 and its local effects.  It was decided to begin a project to collect articles, memoirs and photos of the big floods that has inundated the tablelands.  The group held a Sunday fieldtrip down to Koomboolooba dam which started with a visit to the little museum at the Ravenshoe Visitors Centre and the Jidabal Cultural Centre with a later stop at the Tully Falls Lookout before a picnic lunch at the dam.  To ease the storage problem at the Centre in Malanda, Ed looked into building some high shelving which is progressing well.  The Society has also published a number of history bulletins on Mr James McCabe's story of his time teaching at the Beatrice River School during the mid 1920's and the difficulty he had relating to the bush people and the harsh damp environment.  The little competition been run on the group's Facebook site has attracted a lot of interest and has shown the members just how popular this site has become.

Sunday 14 April 2013

Tobacco Industry book

Historian Mrs Marjorie Gilmore and her co-author Mr Bob Veness have produced a wonderful study of our local tobacco industry with the recent publication of their 326-page book, 'Smoke and Mirrors; The rise and fall of the North Queensland Tobacco Industry'.  I joined the large crowd of some three hundred people who attended the recent launch of this book at the Mareeba Heritage Centre with Mr Ron Blundell as MC.  Old industry stalwart Mr Remze Mulla, who spent his whole life involved with the tobacco officially launched what he believed to be one of the most comprehensive book ever written on the topic.  This large book covers much of the social history of the industry from its first days in 1929 through to the last crop grown in 2004.  Unfortunately, it concentrates on the Mareeba and Dimbulah districts and scarcely touch on the many other areas where tobacco growing was started such as at Mary Farms and Watsonville.  The staff of the Centre had organized a fantastic event with great catering and the one thousand copies of the book that was printed were almost sold out at the launch, so if you want to buy a copy, you may need to wait for the re-print.  This subject holds a special interest for me as my paternal grand-parents tried to start a tobacco farm on Tinaroo Creek Road in the early 1930's but lost everything due to the hardships of the Great Depression.

Wednesday 10 April 2013

Douglas Shire Historical Society

Having not heard from the Douglas Shire Historical Society for some time, I called in to the Court House Museum in Port Douglas and found their Society doyen, Mr Noel Weare on duty at the front desk.  During a long chat, he brought me up to date with happenings at their group.  They had just completed a project to repaint their museum for which they obtained finance of $6000 and it has left the building looking clean and tidy.  Their Society was also publishing a local history Bulletin again after quite a long break without an editor.  The latest written by Dr Jonathan Richards on the Native Police activity in the Port Douglas dictrict.  Other projects they are undertaking entail collecting information on the dozens of hotels that have operated in the district over the years and the renewal of their aging internet website.  But like all the Societies, they too are struggling with the problem of finding new and younger energetic members and with the eternal problem of finance.

Monday 8 April 2013

North Qld Mining History Group

On a wet Saturday afternoon recently, more than twenty mining history enthusiast gathered in the research rooms of the Mining Centre in Herberton to formally constitute the new North Queensland Mining History Association inc. (NQMHAI)  This new organization aims to record the history of the North's mineral fields, mines, mills and smelters, prospectors and miners, starting with the tin and goldfields on and about the Tablelands.  After the business of starting the group was dealt with, Mr Ivan Searston gave an excellent presentation on his research into how the histories got the site of the original tin discovery by James V Mulligan at Herberton so wrong beginning with Robert Logan Jack's misreading of Mulligan's journal.  Mr Donald Walker who was named the inaugural patron of the group, then spoke on how he came to be in Herberton as a young man and gave a brief description of the tin industry from that time to its collapse in the mid 1980's.  For more information on the association, contact the Herberton Mining Centre.

Saturday 6 April 2013

Cairns Historical Society

Things have slow-up at Cairns due to the planed renovation to the School of Arts building which is to take place later in the year.  As this will cause great upheaval as the Society will have to vacate the building, the Management Committee has taken the rather extreme course of suspending all general meeting until further notice.  Monthly bulletins and the newsletters will still be published as normal but the gift shop is to be closed down.  The Management Committee will still meet to attend to the general business of the group although it could be well into 2015 before the Society gets back to normal.  Until then Les will organizes informal monthy get-togethers for the active members on the old meeting nights to keep everyone up to date on happenings within the group.

Friday 5 April 2013

THeN Meeting

The last meeting of the Tablelands Heritage Network (THeN) was held recently at the Atherton Chinatown complex with Rhonda Micola as the host.  A large crowd from the district's heritage groups and information and visitor centres attended with the day beginnng with a behind the scenes tour of the Hou Wang Temple.  Local archaeologist Mr Gordon Grimwade gave the gathering a presentation on the heritage interpretation systems at the site which is becoming very professional.  The next meeting will be held up at the Mountains Institute in Ravenshoe on Friday 14 June.

Thursday 4 April 2013

Atherton Family History Group

Gwen and the folk at the Atherton Library who conduct a little family history group have been very busy and have already drawn up a draft schedule for this year.  This includes reports from colleagues on their recent research trips and a workshop session on solving genealogical research problems.  They are also planning to have meetings with sessions on how to organise and present your family history and telling stories of very good or very bad ancestors.  The group are also planning to have an outing down to the Atherton Pioneer Cemetery and is hoping to obtain offers from visiting specialist to be guest speakers at various meeting.  This group assemble at the Meeting Room in the Atherton Library on the first Thursday of the month in the morning at 10am.  For more information on the group, please phone Gwen on 40434787 or call into the library and pick up an information sheet.     

Sunday 31 March 2013

Interesting New Book

Mrs Patsy Coverdale recently published her book 'North Queensland in Black and White - A social history with stories, views and archaeology'.  Now nearing eighty years of age, Mrs Coverdale while a child growing up surrounded by tropical rainforest and sugar cane country, had developed a strong interest in the Aboriginal people who lived near her home in Redlynch, Cairns.  She was beginning to learn a few thing about their lives and legends and she also remembers Mr Xavies Herbert, the celebrated author visiting her home back in the 1950's.  In the mid 1980's, she enrolled at the La Trobe University to study sociology and then followed a decade of irregular visits back up to the Far North to document the stories she heard during her childhood and to interview older local people for her manuscript on the relationship between the indigenous people and the white settlers.  An appealing book for those interested in learning a little about the lifestyle, myths, pre-history and history of the local indigenous rainforest people.  Mrs Coverdale's book was nominated for the 2011 National Seniors Australia Phillpotts Literary Prize.

Thursday 28 March 2013

Glenville Pike's Early Writings

While yarning about the campfire the other evening, the conversation got around to the subject of the very early writings of the late Mr Glenville Pike.  Farnortherner decided to 'Google' Glenville to get an idea of just what he managed to get published during his teenage years.  His autobiography only briefly examines his very early literary efforts and it was a surprise to find the quantity and quality of his early writing.  Mr Alex Vennard, who at that time edited a children's section in the North Queensland Register newspaper and the Townsville Bulletin under the pen-name 'Maurice Deane', enrolled Glenville in his column as a member of the Golden Rule Club in March 1936 while he was just at the age of 10 years.  He went on to write many letters to this column over the following six years and it was here that Glenville had his first short story 'The Captive' published in September 1936 under the pen-name 'Ivanhoe'.  In May the following year he had published a longer story about a dog entitled 'Gyp to the Rescue' which was printed in two parts.  But it was March 1938 when he had published his first serious venture into historical writing with a novelette that was serialized called 'Forbidden Territory'.  It was written with the help of his mother and was set in 1840 and concerned the pioneers and Aborigines.  This ten part serial was followed up with a sequel in December of that year entitled 'Into the Unknown' which ran through to February 1939.  In May 1940, while still only fourteen years of age, he hd an eighteen episode story entitled 'A Lonely Land' published as a serial.  Later at the age of sixteen, he had a five chapter serial entitled 'One Good Turn' published in May 1942, before the 'Children's Corner' column was wound down to make way for extra war news.  A great apprenticeship for a literary career that was to last seventy-five years. 
Teenage Glenville at his writing desk


Wednesday 27 March 2013

Deighton River Expedition

A call was received from Welcome Station in mid-January stating that a bush fire had just burnt through the eastern side of the property.  This call was promptly answered by the intrepid adventurers, Duncan, Robert and myself.  We quickly organized a trip, packed up our gear and together drove the three hours up to Laura and then out to the Station to explore the area about the Deighton River.  It had previously been noted on an old geological map where the position of the track to the Palmer River Goldfield, the Douglas Track (also known as the Hells Gate Track) headed across from Cooktown to the Deighton River and beyond.

With station manager and fellow history buff, Bruce Burns and local Shire Councillor, Allan Wilson who also has an interest in the district heritage accompanying us, we headed across the stricken and grassless property to the Upper Deighton area.  Our party drove as far as practical before unloading a couple of four-wheelers and doubling-up, we headed up along the river.  With maps, aerial photos and GPS, we located the old crossing of the Deighton which traverse over an island in the river.  After crossing we soon found a blazed iron wood tree on a nice high flat of several acres which would have made a very convenient camping ground and then headed up past the supposed location of Owen's Public House.

By way of a small saddle, we crossed over a low dividing ridge that ran down to the river bank and of which was the most obvious pathway for the Track.  We soon found a deeply compacted pack track about a metre and half wide and approximately ten centimetres deep heading across the hill slopes above the river for several hundred metres towards the hills.  We followed the remnants of the Track towards a ridge which we thought was the most obvious place where it would climb into the hills.  After we lost all trace of the path, we returned to look for signs of the old pub site but to no avail.  All that was found after an hour or so searching over the area with metal-detectors was an old stone axe and several sugarbag trees.  No metal artefacts at all, not even a piece of broken glass was found.  We then crossed the river to the area we believed should have been the site of Christies Camp but found no evidence of it.

After nearly 140 years, little trace is left of the tens of thousands of men and pack horses who would have camped at this crossing on their way to the great gold rush.  Kathy (Bruce's better half) then joined our party for a late lunch by the river and several of us risked the crocodile hazard and cooled off in one of the water holes before heading back across the station to the homestead.  It was good to settle down with a cold drink after a rather disappointing day but an interesting one all the same.

We had better luck the next day when we hiked five kilometres up along the Little Laura River on the old dray road to Palmerville and found the iron work remains of an old dray.  What happened here to the dray will always be a mystery.  A topic which was discuss over a cup of coffee and biscuit with the local publican before we said goodbye to Bruce, Kathy and Allan and headed towards home.  The trip ended with a quick look about the Crocodile cattle yards where we found some erosion which we supposed was all that remained of the Douglas Track where it crossed the Laura River and made its way towards Quartz Creek and on up past Hells Gate.

This latest trip into Welcome Station did not accomplish all we set out to do, namely to find some remnants of the old Owen's Public House and Christies Camp but it was still good to catch up with the folk there and to enjoy another weekend exploring our northern heritage.

The flat about Owen's pub site

Water hole in the Deighton