Margaret Isabella Silver and Malakoff Road State School

Margaret Isabella Silver, first teacher at Malakoff Road State School 1913

Bella Silver in 1914 and 1925

Malakoff Road State School's first teacher Miss Bella Silver (left) with a friend most likely at Pialba, Queensland, about 1914; and on her wedding  day in September 1925 to John Alexis Dobbs Coker.

By Warren Nunn

WALTER Chamberlain was a determined man; so too were his neighbours and friends _ solid citizens like John Condon, Fred Campbell, John Tomkins, Stephen Wallace, John Hoefler and John Hunter.

Farming life in the early 1900s on the Darling Downs was relatively kind to these men and their growing families but providing education for their children was a far more difficult proposition.

It was a strain for the few who were prepared or able to afford to board children in the nearby towns of Dalby or Bell.

It seems strange now but 90-odd years ago travelling even a couple of miles daily was an arduous task for adults, let alone children.

Dirt roads, roving stock, the inherent dangers of the Australia bush; all these things concerned fathers and mothers alike.

Lobbying for a school building

From the public record of correspondence, it seems that Walter Chamberlain, whose property, Singer Dalla, was on Malakoff Road, north of Dalby, was the driving force behind a "building committee" lobbying the Queensland Education Department for a state school.

He was committee secretary and his first letter, dated 1 July 1912, read:

    "I shall be obliged if you will please furnish me with the conditions under which the Govt erect and maintain country schools. Full and detailed information is solicited, more especially with regard to the following points:
    (a) Number of children necessary to warrant the erection of a school.
    (b) Nearest distance of proposed school to any existing school to warrant erection.
    (c) Lowest age of children permitted to attend school."

So began the process by which the tiny one-teacher Malakoff Road State School came into being.

Malakoff Road State School students 1927

This image of the Malakoff Road State School taken around 1927 was provided by Mrs Helen Wilson, nee Campbell. She identifies the following people from left, John Hoefler (with bike), Heather Maynard (with slate ... possibly), Audrey, Daphne and Gladys Wormwell, riders Isabel and Helen Campbell, unknown, unknown, Ed and Alice Clifford and unknown. (Unknowns could be: A. Reid, Gordon and George Maynard or R. Twidale)

School days re-imagined

Malakoff Road State School sketch

Based on the 1927 image, artist Chris Souilijaert created this line drawing of children at Malakoff Road State School near Dalby, Queensland.


There's nothing that special about Malakoff Road but it represents so many other small schools that flourished for a time but disappeared when modern transport and economies took over.

But Malakoff Road is special to Dobbs, Silver, Bauer and Nunn families, because Margaret Isabella Silver, was its first teacher. It was special to her, too, because on 2 December 1913, Malakoff Road was where Miss Silver began her teaching career.

Life was never easy for Miss Silver boarding with families and having to move on to another district for the next several years. Born in Millmerran, about 160km (100 miles) from Malakoff Road, she was to teach at several other schools before being posted much further north to Central Queensland in 1923.

Even though the Malakoff Road school was approved and built within 18 months of Mr Chamberlain's first letter, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that the transition from idea to reality was not a smooth one.

What's in a name?

Even settling upon its name wasn't easy because two options -- Plain View and Hillside -- were unavailable. It came down to a choice between Cattle Creek and Malakoff Road.

Initially, the area did not have the required 20 school-age students until a new family with three children arrived.

Families represented when the school first opened included Campbell, Condon, Chamberlain, Tomkins, Wallace, Hoefler and Hunter.

It must have been a special day and exciting time for everyone that December when Miss Silver opened the school and held the first class.

Dairy entries

Her private dairy reveals she only arrived at Malakoff Road the day before, so she would have had little time to prepare. She appears to have boarded with the Condon family.

She recorded only a couple of entries in her diary of her time at Malakoff Road School.

They were:

    December 1, 1913: Travelled to Dalby & out to Malakoff Rd.
    Dec 2nd: Opened School.
    Dec 2nd-15th Taught school.

She was at Malakoff Road at least three years.

In the records that remain which are held at the State Archives, Runcorn, Brisbane, several letters in her handwriting give some insight to school life.

The first of her letters, dated 29 January 1914, gives details of a meeting for the purpose of electing the school committee.

The committee members were: Stephen Fountain Wallace (Chairman), John Condon (Secretary), John Joseph Hoefler (Treasurer), John George Tomkins, John Hunter, John Young Black, and Fredrick William Campbell.

Some improvements

In a letter to the education department, Miss Silver wrote asking for "enough iron to put on the west side and half way up the north and south sides of the school".

"The committee are willing to erect the same free of cost, if it is provided." The iron duly arrived and, on 25 May 1915, she again wrote to advise that the committee had completed the task.

Earlier, in January, Miss Silver requested gardening tools which were sent to the Dalby Railway Station. The consignment included 1 rake, 1 hoe, 1 fork, and 1 coil of 'K' wire netting.

Malakoff Road State School building at Dalby Soccer Club

In 2005, the Dalby Soccer Club was using the old Malakoff Road State School building. Note the large beer company sign.


J D Story, the department Under Secretary wrote that:

    "Your attention is directed to page 12 of the 'School Garden' which deals with the care of tools."

One can only wonder at how weatherproof the building was because after a storm in November 1915, Miss Silver wrote a letter advising that rain blew in damaging maps and pictures on the walls.

She also wrote that: "It also beat in so much that the children had to stand in the centre of the room to avoid getting wet."

It must have been a wild thunderstorm common at that time of year.

The following year a problem arose with horses getting into the area underneath the school, so a request was made for 25 yards of netting.

School days end

The school was closed in the 1970s but those who did attend naturally have varied memories of Malakoff Road.

There was no highway where the Dalby-Bell road now runs past the old school site.

In fact, it was on the black soil that school sports days were held.

One constant "observer" of all that happened at Malakoff Road was the enormous white gum that stands to this day.

Building now a boozer

The Malakoff Road school building was still in use in 2005; by the Dalby Soccer Club as its "refreshment" area.

Adorned with a large Fourex (Queensland's iconic brewing company) sign and badly in need of a coat of paint, the building that once housed eager young scholars was being put to a completely different use.

That situation could not have been further from the minds of those who were there in 1913 for the launch of the building for its original use.

How things change...

Malakoff Road State School site in 2005

Image taken in 2005 of the site where the Malakoff Road State School once stood. At the time the word 'school' was just legible on the sign.


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Boolburra school

The rise and fall of education at Boolburra

By Warren Nunn

In 1874 when the railway bridge was being built over the Dawson River at Boolburra, the Queensland Education Department was approached to provide schooling for locals.

A Mr Sinclair Sutherland wrote (31 July, 1874) offering his services, saying, in part:

I have had some experience as teacher in the British Army having had a junior class in the regimental schools at Aldershot and Devonport. I have not passed any examination in Queensland but in the urgency of the present case, place my services at your disposal till the appointment and arrival of a permanent teacher.

Building the bridge was a time-consuming task and the workers and their families accounted for a good-sized community.

A letter dated 12 June 1874 from a William Robertson, noted that £55 had been raised by subscription from 41 people and that a committee of five had been appointed to act as trustees.  They were: Messrs William S Robertson, Robert Tait, William Reid, James Mulvany and James Duffy.

In a letter of 26 July 1874, Robertson advised that £67 had been placed in the savings bank at Gainsford to the credit of the Board of Education in trust for the establishment of the primary school at Dawson Bridge (Boolburra).

Robertson wrote:

The committee will guarantee that thirty pupils will be in regular attendance.

In a letter of 5 September 1874, Sinclair Sutherland wrote:

I have the honour to inform you that I opened the provisional school at Dawson Bridge on Monday, 31st August, 1874. The first days attendance numbered 27. Having received several applications from parents of children unable to attend the day classes to open an evening class I did so on Tuesday evening 1st Sept. Will you kindly inform me whether the children attending this class are to be included with the day scholars and if the Board will allow books, etc, for their use. Those at present attending the evening class are fair readers; but are backward in the other branches; and I have only one fourth and one fifth book in the school.

Queensland's school number 202

Approval had been given for a provisional school to operate and so Boolburra became the 202nd public institution for learning to be opened in Queensland.

There was no school building at this point but rather a disused building from the rail construction was made available as Mr Robert Ballard, the railways’ chief engineer on the project, was to write in September 1874:

…there is a certain bark humpy, also a cook house of a similar construction unoccupied at the Dawson which the Rail Department is willing to place at the disposal of the Board of Education, and that I have inspected these buildings and can see no objection to them being occupied.

Sinclair Sutherland wrote on 30 September 1874 that there were now 49 kids attending day school.

By November, the committee was suggesting that the school would need to be larger than planned because of the number of pupils and that the cost would be £600. They also proposed a house for the teacher.

In December 1874, after William Robertson had left the district, A K Pennyquick, the new secretary, wrote:

I have to reply that the sum collected is £80 pounds and that this amount is all we expect to be able to raise. This would with the government grant amount to £240. We can erect a school here to suit the requirements of the place, weatherboarded and shingled for about £120. This would leave a similar sum for the dwelling house. The school house can be erected of similar material. The steam saw mills 7 miles from here delivers timber at 23/6 per 100 feet and a chapel large enough to suit for a school for 70 scholars but having no flooring or verandas has just been erected and completed for £83. Studs and weatherboards of hardwood and the roof of Hobart town palings. The difference in cost would be the addition of the 2 verandahs, windows and flooring which could be all done at the cost of £120 pounds.  This township is at present large and a great many inhabitants in the neighbourhood which rises from the railway works now in full operation. When the railway extension is open beyond the Dawson River, in about 18 months, a very small population will only be here, not sufficient I am of opinion to maintain a school for the reason that the country in both sides of the Dawson River is unsuitable for any sort of (indistinguishable word) being all scrub and most part bad soil and bad grass, the community at present is entirely made up from the number employed in the railway works. I have therefore from these explanations to leave the matter in your hands hoping you will do the best for our interest. A school and house of the sort referred to could be put up in a few weeks by carpenters on the ground here and if you can give us plans for buildings to suit for the number of scholars at the figure named. They could be erected without delay.

This letter was extensively annotated by a department officer and included the observations:

A provisional school is now in operation at Dawson Bridge and if the facts are as (Mr P) the writer states, such a school would suffice for the requirements of the place. It would be folly to erect permanent and costly buildings for the use of a population which is certain to melt away in 18 months. It would not be desirable to incur any considerable expenditure in the erection of buildings.

Flooding takes everything

Boolburra railway station
This scene shows how devastating flooding was at Boolburra. The railway line runs between the tank and the other buildings. The tank was needed to supply water to the steam locomotives. This image is from 1954, long after the school building was removed. It was situated beyond the station.


Boolburra apparently is an Aboriginal word meaning big water which, looking back, is entirely accurate knowing how the area floods.

Sinclair Sutherland sent the following telegram dated 4 March 1875 to the secretary, Board Education, Brisbane:

School house completely under water everything lost escaped with life only. W.D.S.Sutherland.

In a letter dated 15 March 1875, Sutherland wrote about the flood and requested school materials.

In April, Pennyquick wrote:

from the disastrous effect of the late flood at the Dawson, the majority of the inhabitants (subscribers to the school) have left the place and are now settling at Herberts Creek 5 miles below the Dawson (at Edungalba) and at the 7 mile township, (Duaringa) 7 miles beyond the Dawson where will be permanent stations for the Great Northern Railway whereas no station will be at Boolburra.

In July 1875, Pennyquick  sent telegrams seeking plans for the school for the contractor.

By March 1876 there seems to have been a move to build a school at the 7 Mile (Duaringa).

Pennyquick wrote:

With reference to the erection of a school at the 7 mile with the funds subscribed at Dawson Bridge, I wish to add that it is quite evident a temporary place is all that is requisite at 7 mile. The railway is being extended at so rapid a rate that it will be beyond that place in a few months - the platelayers are beyond there already. For the time being the largest number of children will be located there (7 miles) and it might be more desirable on that you arrange for the transfer of the teacher from this place to there - as after this week the people will be well nigh cleared out of this place.

By August, the idea for a school at the 7 Mile fell through “for want of anyone there taking interest in the matter”. Also, James Duffy who by this time was secretary wrote:

the subscribers are anxious to know if their money will be returned by the board. The teacher, Mr Sutherland, had also gone. The old building is sufficiently good for the temporary purpose - we had it repaired and cleaned since the flood.

End of days forecast

Some correspondence from Ballard dated 25 September 1876 refers to only 18 children in the neighbourhood and that the population “is not permanent”.

He wrote:

I may state that the existing population there appears to be still lingering in consequence of the works in progress at the bridge. I am of the opinion that when the bridge is finished, or in about 12 months, Boolburra will become a thing of the past

Ballard was right in one sense but it took more than 12 months.

In March 1877, Duffy again wrote seeking a provisional school be established saying that fees from the temporary/unofficial one by Miss Mary Ann Simpson weren't sufficient to support her.

On 13 August 1877 the provisional school was approved and Miss Simpson appointed teacher.

A Mr/Miss D.Celvant (name indecipherable in original) was the second teacher followed in March 1879, by Mrs Mary Matson, recently widowed and with four children, appointed on a salary of £60. By December she had resigned and Annie Kehlet was appointed in her place.

From 1883 until 1914 when ill health forced him to retire, Patrick Murtagh was charged with the education of a couple of generations of young country children.

The money raised for a school by those railway workers who first lived at Boolburra had to be refunded. Those who remained had to go through the process again.

They succeeded and a letter of 26 October 1892 gives details of the contractor, Francis Holmes, who built Boolburra School for £98 2 shillings and 7p. (Holmes also built other public structures such as the Emu Park railway station).

Information on this is in various letters from the then school secretary, John Nally.

Miss Maude A Gallagher replaced Mr Murtagh to be followed in 1915 by Clara Torrens and Daisy White, and in 1917 by Elsie Jelbart and Amelia Ridgway.

In 1920, Belindea (an unusual spelling) May Walsh took over, and was replaced in 1922 by Eileen Delaney.

Teacher-student dramas

In 1917 there was a significant incident at the school when an irate Mrs Cagney, of Avondale Farm, marched into the classroom, confronted the teacher, Miss Jelbart, and demanded she apologise for calling her son, Norman, a liar.

Mrs Cagney then wrote a letter of complaint to the department.

Miss Jelbart’s defence was:

Norman Cagney denied misbehaving and I was satisfied until his sister informed me that he was misbehaving. He then admitted his fault and then made use of the expression complained of and I punished him also for telling the untruth. Nor is it the first time he has been punished for this same fault. His mother told him to tell me to apologise to him and I refused. Mrs Cagney then came to me, at the school and in the presence of the children demanded an apology to her son and she abused me. Her manner was threatening also. Under the circumstance I could not apologise. In a way I feel sorry for the remark, but he really deserved it. Norman informed his schoolmates that his mother was going to make me apologise. The children have been told to disobey me in school and have been impertinent beyond endurance. To be candid, that family - the first people with whom I boarded - since I left their place, have done their utmost to make everything unpleasant for me, which is the outcome of bitterness. Accommodation with them was not suitable and I informed Mr Denniss, Inspector, of it and he advised me to leave.

It was a most unsavoury situation which had a quiet ending when Miss Jelbart resigned soon after to be married. The file was marked with the comment that “no further action is deemed necessary”. Young Norman had obviously abused Miss Jelbart and copped a whacking.

Ray Dobbs related the following story about Norman which may be the incident which led to the showdown between Mrs Cagney and Miss Jelbart.

Going home after school one afternoon we found a koala up a tree. Norman found a long sick and started to poke it to make it cry. Just then the teacher, Miss Jelbart, came along on the other side of the railway line and yelled out at them. Norman took no notice so she started to cross the railway line so they took off. It did not help, as at school next day we copped the cane

Accommodation woes

When Miss Delaney left in October 1923, she warned the department of the poor state of accommodation:

My present place of abode is rather rough. Until this year I was two miles away from the school and only that I was leaving I am afraid I would not have removed. Just recently I found out if my successor disapproves of where I am there is another woman will take her (or him) quite close to the school. I beg of you to keep this private as if the Boolburra people found this out if would be hard on me. In these little places one has to keep very quiet and only think.

Where Miss Delaney stayed is not clear because when Miss Margaret Isabella Silver arrived to replace her, she boarded with Charles and Elizabeth Dobbs.

It could be assumed that Miss Delaney had been boarding with the Dobbs family and that she was recommending her successor board with Miss Duffy. She wrote that she had previously boarded “two miles from the school”. This was possibly with the Cagney family at Avondale farm.

If the accommodation were unsatisfactory, Miss Silver did not complain in the two years she stayed there. In fact, she ended up falling in love with the young man of the house, Alex Dobbs. She was paid a salary of £180 and in that time had to deal with low attendance, floods and epidemics. The worst was in August 1925 when mumps, influenza and measles swept the district in what was a cold, wet end to winter.

In a letter to the department over the dwindling number of pupils, Miss Silver, wrote in May 1925:

I have to honor to inform you that that the enrolment is now eleven, so I trust that the average attendance for the future will be over 9. The low enrolment for January and February was due to two pupils having left school and one being away on a holiday. The latter has returned and one new pupil has been admitted.

The school was in its death throes when Ivy McLeod replaced Miss Silver for the remainder of 1925. Gladys Kidd took her place in 1926 and was appalled by the living conditions at Miss Duffy’s.

Fight for survival

In a letter dated 29 January 1926, which dealt with low attendance, she also noted:

My accommodation here is very far from satisfactory - it being very rough. Should the school close, I would like a similar one on the Central Railway Line within easy reach of my home centre Emerald as my aged father and mother there reside.

A few days later, the department received a letter from the school’s honorary secretary, Mr Arthur Goodwin:

Miss G.F.Kidd advises me that she has wrote you that she cannot stay here as a teacher and that she had wrote to that effect. I don't know if Miss Kidd told you that the place she was staying at was unsatisfactory. I admit it is not the best place in the world but it is the only house here that would take a teacher in so we had no choice in the matter. I do no wish to leave here. I have a wife and nine children so it would be a big expense for me to shift. I am only a working man so you will see what a shift to me would mean and if I have to shift it would mean that school would never open again as 5 of the pupils are mine.

Obviously fed up with the situation, the next day Miss Kidd sat down and poured her heart out over the situation:  

I feel it my duty to write again, relative to the accommodation which I am forced to contend with here, and, as this is the only available place, I anxiously await your instructions. The accommodation is very dirty and I am unable to sleep at night on account of bugs. The food (cooking and eating utensils) are also far from clean, and one cannot fancy any food here such filth and dirt exist. How the late teacher (Miss McLeod) stayed here for 3 months I do not know. The place is also over-run by dogs and cats, which are fed at the same time and place as I am supposed to do. I trust you will treat this matter confidentially and urgently, as it is very hard for me to put up with these conditions and the secretary here agrees with me.

Damning report

A few weeks later, District Inspector F. Baker, came to Boolburra to see where Miss Kidd was staying. His report was damning and included the following statements:

The matter was discussed with Mr A Goodwin, the parent most deeply interest in the continuance of the school. He informed me that there was absolutely no other place except Miss Duffy's. Accompanied by him, I visited Miss Duffy's place and was shown the room allotted to the teacher. It is large enough, but it did not seem clean, from what I could gather, I believe it to be infested with vermin. Miss Duffy is a woman of very low intelligence; in my opinion, she is mentally sub-normal and I was informed on what I conceive to be very good authority, that she is the mother of two or more illegitimate children.
Finding: Miss Duffy's place does not provide suitable accommodation for Miss Kidd or for any other teacher. Though on the day of my visit the total number of pupils was present, the average attendance does not warrant the continuance of the school.
Recommendation: That the school be closed, and that the present head teacher, Miss Kidd, who is a worthy servant of the dep't, be transferred to some school on the Central Railway. If no head teacher has yet been appointed to Blackwater it is recommended that she be appointed head teacher of that school.

Within weeks, the school was closed and by August 1928 the building was removed from the site, purchased by James J Duffy for £20.

It was the end not only for the school but also, symbolically, to a community that 50 years previously saw a substantial future for the area.

The town plan was laid out but the area was flood-prone and it was destined never to be the riverside village that someone envisioned it could become.

NOTE: I'm happy for anyone to reproduce this information. It is my own work and I would appreciate a credit thus - Original work of Warren Nunn,

Boolburra school buidling
Boolburra school building.
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Growing up at Boolburra

Ray Dobbs: How I remember my growing-up years

Ray Dobbs
Ray Dobbs.
Raymond Dobbs
Ray Dobbs as a baby.

Looking back some 60 years I think how lucky we were; a family with not much money but a lot of love; no car, no TV or radio but had happy times; always something to do.

We had very few toys, mostly the ones we made ourselves; a piece of board, four treacle tins; two bits of wire and a piece of string and you had a car. We built roads all around the creek bank.

As we got bigger, we had to do jobs on the farm; taking the cows to the paddock, a job we liked as most days we got a ride home in a car with one of the farmers. It was wonderful not having a car of our own.

Then we had to be feed the calves, up to 60 which used to take up a bit of time.
We all learnt to swim in the river and most hot Sundays we spent there.

Then the tennis court which gave more social contact with the neighbours who came in on a Sunday. A lot of very happy times were had.

Christmas times with cousins

Christmas was the best time of all with seven cousins coming then. With no children to play with near us, it was a wonderful three-four weeks but very lonely for the weeks after.

But childhood days soon slip by; soon you are a teenager and more work was to be done.

Granddad Dobbs passed away, Mavis left home to go to a job in Biloela, June and I had to do more, there were miles of fencing to rebuild by hand (no drills) and June got married and moved on. In the early fifties I left to make my own way in the world.

Looking back I don’t think I’d like to change my childhood. We learnt a lot children don’t get today.

Family tensions

All the early ones to take up land were Irish and from the North and South, so there were fights on all the time. Old lady Duffy  (North) lived on her front verandah all day and watched everything that went on.

Davey Walsh lived over the river and came to get his mail at our house. But as soon as he appeared, she would start to yell out to Walsh. Her husband Jim would dash out; jump on his horse and go to meet Walsh.

Phil Kelly, who lived in a small hut, would got out and join in the fun. He used a walking stick. This day he got between the two riders and Duffy said, “get out of the way or I’ll run you down”. “Try it,” said Kelly. Duffy charged him, Kelly up with his walking stick poking Duffy in the midriff knocking him off the horse. The old lady was yelling her head off but the fun was over for the day.

Putting things to bed

Charles Dobbs
Grandad Dobbs

Grandad brought a new bed and it came up on the train. Phil Kelly was there. It was a new type and had cross webbing under to stop the sagging. He poked it with his walking stick and said to Grandad, “Charlie, that’s the best buck-jumping machine I ever saw.”

Grandad gave everyone a fright one day coming up to get his mail in the sulky. The horse was a bit flighty; he had just crossed the railway line when the railway inspector started up the engine on his trolley. The horse took off around the corner on one wheel and headed for the river.

Everyone started to follow expecting to pick Grandad up in a heap but he had managed to stay in and keep the sulky upright and run it into a gum sucker and the horse quietened down.

Read the newspaper report of the event.

Another story about Jim Duffy…

One day after lunch he was having a shave, the mirror hanging on the wall when a black face appeared in it. He gave a loud yell and turned around and threw his razor at the window. He pulled on his shirt, went out to his horse and took off going in the opposite direction to the black.

Timber for the bridge

Near the end of 1941, they started on the Dawson Bridge about four miles from home. All the timber came by rail to here. Pop used to cart small things out and also do the pay run, as they could not cross the river. After Christmas it got too wet for trucks to move and he had to do more; the old Dodge used to love mud.

A road gang moved in and started to clear the trees (no D9); it was all done by hand. Some very large trees took days to dig out. Quite a few of  this gang came from Bilo and returned there after the War.

In the middle of 1942 a large gang arrived from the west. The CCC with lots of trucks, rollers, tractors and two large graders; there was two train loads and about 80 men. They took most of the day to unload and also a big bridge gang set up near the range. The Dawson road bridge was finished so that gang shifted off. Being Main Roads, the gangs left were CCC men.

The CCC (Civilian Construction Corps) which was made up of private contractors and anybody who the army did not want, you were just put in these gangs.

As the roads were getting finished a fencing gang was started. With some very hard placed to dig holes, they had to blow them. The crows were very bad in and their hundreds nearly driving the men mad.

One day they had some holes to blow which were in the shade. So they had lunch there and they all left lighting the charges. As the crows flocked in there was a big bang, dozens of crows were killed and dozens could not fly. There was no more trouble with the crows; after that they gave the gang a wide berth.

ArmyTrucks1942Army convoy Boolburra 1942. Could be Grandma Dobbs standing near the gate with daughter June.

War years

Things changed in 1940 for us; large convoys of army vehicles and a big flood all in the first four years. First the flood – 1942 – the river rose up high so we all left. The furniture, etc, loaded on to box wagons on the train, also Mum, June and James; they were to live in them for the next two weeks.

Pop, May and I stayed to clean up; we had chooks to take out, a cat and a few other things. We had a horse and a two-wheel trailer which was loaded. May wanted to go out on the bridge to rescue a poddy calf which was truck there as there was cattle coming down by the dozens and getting caught; the water was live waves.

Pop saw the water starting to break over the other side of the house so sent Mavis with the pushbike down the line and he and I with horse and wagon took off through the bush. The water was 2ft 6ins deep and running, I was carrying the cat in a box over my shoulder. It was a bit hard as I was only 12 and not real big but we got through  and only a few chooks got drowned. The water did not come into the house, so saved a lot of cleaning up.

Then came the sandflies

After the flood the railway line over the river was a mess, hundreds of yards washed away. In one place the line was stood up like a two-rail fence. Then came the men to repair; two or three gangs about 200 was camped near home, the sandflies were bad so two men with wheelbarrows were given the job to collect cow pats and had a large heap at the railway crossing so each man could fill his smoke tin going to work.

With three gangs there a friendly rivalry went on who could get their trolleys on the line first, who could get home in the shortest time, which went on all the time. In the afternoon you heard a yell and a lot of cheering, you knew someone had copped it.

Later on in 1942 the army started to move the Australian front with over 30 trucks which amazed us with their size. Then a few weeks later the Yanks with larger ones, tandem drive, also semi-trailers; we just stood and looked. One day 14 trucks and jeeps with three big semi-trailers arrived.

BoolburraRailwayStationBoolburra Railway Station, near the Dobbs family home, during one of the many flood events. 

There was 4ft 6ins of water in the river. They spread out a tarp, drove the jeeps on, pulled up the sides, and floated it over. The jeeps and small trucks went like that then they pulled their winch trucks through as each one got over they were got going so they could be used. Last came the semi-trailers.

We thought they would wash away but a few ropes set up to hold them there was no trouble. It took them about five hours and they were ready to travel next morning.

A bottle of beer

There was an ammo dump about 14 miles from home and the Yank in charge used to call in home and get a drink of milk. He was very good, would get anything you wanted from Rockhampton; also Pop a bottle of beer (as it was not available to the public). Pop used to do a lot of things for them.

The bombs going to the dump used to travel in cattle trucks on the trains; whole train loads. One night Pop and a friend were talking to the armed guard while the train took on water. They asked did he have an empty shell. He said no but would soon get one; poked his gun in the air and fired off two shots; they were tracers, so everyone could see them.

We had a pony very frightened of guns; he was still jumpy next morning and for days. Any noise he would jump. A lot of funny things happened in those years, it would take too long to write them all out.

Harold Cagney

As told by Harold… 

Going home after school one afternoon we found a koala up a tree. Norman found a long sick and started to poke it to make it cry. Just then the teacher, Miss Jelbart came along on the other side of the railway line and yelled out at them.

Norman took no notice so she started to cross the railway line so they took off. It did not help as at school next day we copped the cane. Norman was always a bit wild buying a motorbike. He took his sister for a ride. A large bank of dirt was across the road which

Norman tried to jump only to crash. His sister came down on the bike and carried the burn marks on her seat for the rest of her life.
Back in the 1800s there were blacks camped on both sides of the river.

This story was told by Tom Cross: One of the young blacks on the town side got a liking for a girl on the other side so would sneak over just before dark. This afternoon he was half way between the camps and the bridge when he was spotted.

The whole of the camp took after him. This afternoon one of the local lads had walked over the bridge just reaching the end as this chase started.

He thought they were after him, he took off, the black lad had crossed the river and was running through town like a flash; the local lad was no runner, but broke all records that afternoon.

Stinking chooks

As Grandma kept a lot of chooks and ducks, under the hall was the place for them to lay; only about 15ins off the ground. Someone small was sent under to clean out the eggs sometimes. A nest was made and when a dance was on they started to bust, sending up a nice stink.

One day a bird died under there and a lad was sent to get it. On reaching it he said, “Come on you bugger, you are not dead, you only think you are.” Pulling the bird up under his nose he yelled out, “Shit, it stinks!”

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Jean Silver to Alex Dobbs

Jean Silveer (nee Vokes  
 James Silver's widow
Jean (nee Mary Jean Vokes)

Chermside Hospital Ward G-5-East
Dear Alex and James,
I read the Courier every day about the rainfall but do not see where you have had much rain. How is it, are you getting any. You do a lot of growing I believe. You would find it hard making a living if it's dry. I often think of Bell, she was always so nice to me and she never complained. What crops have you in just now, or are you going in for only cream and cattle. It may be a big lonely sometimes but mixing with different people especially those that whinge and are never satisfied can get on your nerves too. I am getting my wireless sent up. It is so quiet in this room G beds and all old and not very interested in anything. Have you got wireless or television. It seems all the rage, I manage to get a look at the television sometimes but it is all nonsense and crime. I suppose you are too tired at night anyway. Do you cook all your own food also it must be boring. Is there anything you would like me to send you both. Let me know. Bye, bye for now
Yours sincerely
Jean Silver
NOTE: Jean the widow of Bella Dobbs' brother James Silver

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Eva Silver to Bella Dobbs 1966

120 Whitmore St
Dear Bell & All,
Glad to get your letter & find you all well; also that you have had good rain & the country & Jim's crops doing well. We had a surprise last week, Janet rang to say she was appointed to the Spastic Centre at New Farm. She arrived home last Wednesday & started there on Thursday. She says she will like the work & seems pleased to be home again. She did apply for that position, I know she had but didn't think she would get it. We had a nice shower of rain this afternoon, just enought to freshen things. There was a heavy hailstorm in T'mba about M.D. today. I am enclosing a cutting of the Courier-Mail. When I saw it I wrote to the Secretary asking for a few particulars. I received the enclosed so you will see what it is all about. At first I thought it would be nice to go along; but now I feel sorry I can't make it. I have replied to the letters also stated where owing to ill health you wouldn't be able to attend. I don't suppose we know too many now. It meant my leaving here Friday & not getting back till Sunday. Jack wasn't interested. Mrs Schaumberg & Vera are down. Also Elsie has beeen in Bne 3 weeks. She wasn't well so came to spend a few weeks with Jean her daughter. Mr Schaumberg is very thin & frail, I thought Vera didn't look too bad. Everyboy much the same I think. Haven't heard from Ella yet. George's two sisters are coming down tomorrow (thank goodness) they are staying at the Canberra for the week. Hope your Dr is back, it's not quite the same going to another xx xx xx ever so nice. I hope you are all well. Look after yourself Bell & all the best. Please excuse this scribble, I'm in a hurry I want to get it posted today. By, bye. Love to all. xxx xxx loving sister Eva

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