The following account was compiled by Mary MacDonald who sadly has passed away leaving Don her husband who currently resides in the Atherton region.
Before Mary left the area she gave this transcript to Margaret Bukbardis for safe keeping. Mary's account is below:

The following is Mary's account written in July 1959. It has been edited and modern styles and formatting have been used.
To view Mary's manuscript exactly as she wrote then download the pdf. Download scanned .pdf version of Mary's manuscript.
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The district known as Clare is situated on the Northern bank of the Burdekin River, about twenty-two miles up stream from the coastal town of Ayr, and extending as far as Steepy Bank, and at its widest part, back about five miles from the river bank. In the middle and latter half of the last century it was the most suitable place to have a testing station, post and telegraph office on the state telegraph line which came from Townsville to the south. This line came through Woodstock to Clare, and then crossed the river a little way down river on the Ayr side of the post office, and from thence continued on south. At this time the only buildings were the telegraph office, a residence for the post master and a dwelling for a P & T linesman. These buildings were on the main road which went from Ayr to Reid River, and then on to Townsville and Charters Towers. Also, this was a centre on the main stock route. Cattle from western areas were untracked at Reid River, then brought "on the hoof" through Clare, crossing the river nearby, and thence on to Bobawaba, where they were again trucked to the Merinda Meat Works near Bowen.

Cobb & Co. coaches ran between Charters Towers and Ayr, and a mail coach between Ayr and Reid River three times a week. Towards the end of the last century a hotel was built, The coaches changed horses there, and travelers could, if necessary, stay overnight, or partake of a meal and/or refreshments – and if one can believe all the tales told, the “refreshments” were quite often strong and liquid: one elderly gentleman tells that when he was a little lad returning by coach from boarding school at Charters Towers to his home near Ayr, he used to be given into the charge of the Post Mistress, as it was considered “not fitting” for one of his tender years to stop at “The Pub”.

The first Post Master was a Mr. Swan. He and his family lived there for many years, and when his two sons grew up they followed pastoral pursuits on selections further up river, and Swan’s Lagoon is named for them. About this time a few people grew grapes round about Mona Park area and marketed them in Ayr and Townsville.

If one believes in such things, Clare even has a ghost. Legend has it that in the very early days there lived on the river bank up towards Steepy Bank an old Chinaman who had a small market garden. Thereabouts, too, was another old man, who lived by some unknown means, but who did keep a few goats; relations were not cordial between these two men, and when an altercation arose over the doubtful fate of some of the goats, things became really torrid, and ended up with the Chinaman’s mortal remains being flung into the river. What followed has been lost or forgotten – maybe for the best – but old stories have it that the Chinaman’s ghost was seen on the river bank. However, in view of lack of evidence, it seems much more probable that he is peacefully tending his vegetables in some Celestial garden.

Another interesting feature of early Clare, and one that has left remains considerably more substantial than a ghost, is “The Old Wall”. This is across the river from the Clare settlement, but still within the area. About 1860-70 a man called Bobby Towns lived there and ran a few sheep; within his holdings was an almost perfectly conical hill, and from this he took stone to build a wall right round the hill, and at night the sheep were herded within this walled area as a protection against wandering blacks with a partiality for mutton. Traces of the wall are still in existence, but what became of the man is not known, although some elderly residents submit that the name of Townsville is in some way connected with him.

In 1901 the Federal Government built a telegraph line which it ran along the railway on the opposite side to which the State line was built and this latter then fell into disuse, so that the Postal Department buildings were removed from Clare, leaving the hotel as the only building in the area. At irregular intervals small boats from Townsville arrived at Barratta Creek and Plantation Creek with supplies for the district, and returned with sugar, and the main passenger traffic was still by Cobb & Co. coach. Occasionally there would be opposition to Cobb & Co. usually in the form of four wheeled covered wagons, pulled by four horses. The horses were changed at Mona Park and again at an isolated yard between Clare and Reid River. The trip took about eight hours.

Woodhouse is a large cattle station and the Clare area was incorporated in a part of it. Mona Park, on the Ayr side of Clare was for many years an outstation of Woodhouse. This station was originally the home of the Cunningham family; a grandson is at present owner of, and resident at, Strathmore Station on the other side of the river. Another member of the family – Harry Cunningham – is remembered with gratitude by many a Returned Soldier as it was he who founded the Scartwater Station and Trust.

About 1890 an old man named Mack Kloas occupied Mona Park, and he seems to be remembered chiefly because he used to push a wheelbarrow to Ayr for supplies.

There is evidence that the Powers that be must have had some idea of Clare developing further, as a town site was planned, complete with named streets and land cut up into housing blocks &c. – and although it lapsed, it was to cause considerable embarrassment some fifty odd years later. When the Ayr tramway was built, the coast road was opened and coaches went to Townsville direct.

For a number of years then, Clare seems to have slipped back to the quiet peace of the bush, with no sounds to disturb it other than that of the occasional drover mustering cattle. Then came a few – a very few – hardy souls who took up selections and eeked out a precarious living in one way or another. Time slipped by, and the world writhed in the agony of the 1914-18 war. But the fields of Flanders were a far cry from this peaceful spot an the bank of one of Queensland’s loveliest rivers, and it was touched but lightly. Some of the few settlers slipped quietly away, and what became of them is not known – perhaps there is, somewhere in France, a little bit of soil that is “forever Clare.”

In 1923 the Granshaw family, having been dairy farming near Ayr, moved out to a selection at the top end of Clare. Here they were pursued by misfortune – drought, flood and fire taking constant toll of their resources, until a final disaster in the loss of their entire herd in an outbreak of pleura-pneumonia, forced them to relinquish their holding in 1927 and take up another nearer to the centre of Clare. Here they cleared the land and burnt the timber to make charcoal, which they sold to cane farmers in the Delta area for use in the suction gas engines which at that time worked the pumps drawing the water from the river for irrigation purposes. They also sold cord wood to the sugar mills. In this way they earned a living and got their land cleared in preparation for general farming.

At this time there was at Glady’s Lagoon a man called Single who bred horses. It is probable that some of the many brumbies in the area owe their existence to this original stock.

By 1921 the hotel had passed through several hands, but was now owned by a Mary Slattery, who, though unlicensed, was yet able to supply the needs of her relatively few customers. In 1927, elderly and alone at the time, she went out to look for her wandering goats, and herself got lost in the tall spear grass that abounds in Clare. She was found, but succumbed to a combination of exposure and poisoning caused from infected grass seed infestation. After her death, the hotel was removed to Ayr and re-erected next door to the Buffalo Lodge Building, and is still in use, but not as an hotel.

On the river bank there are six graves; one surrounded by a wrought iron fence. It is said that five of them are those of natives, and the fenced one that of the Post Master Grey’s daughter. Stories of how these people came to have their last lonely resting place on the river bank, in unhallowed ground, are many and varied. Such being the case, it is better to let them sleep in their present state of peaceful obscurity.

And so the years passed until once again the whole world was plunged into the holocaust of war in 1939. but this time it was very different. For one thing it was much nearer home, and with the sparsely settled and vulnerable north to be protected, and the necessity for jumping off bases, training camps &c., there was a tremendous influx of military, air and naval personnel around Townsville and Charters Towers. Gone, too, were the days when fighting men were expected to live on bully beef and plum and apple jam. The Government, the Army, the people – all had become vitamin conscious. Fighting men must have vitamins – vitamins come from vegetables – therefore fighting men must have vegetables! People from Ayr took up odd blocks of land about the Clare area, and they and those settlers still remaining cleared, ploughed and planted madly; practically everything that would produce an edible root or a green leaf was grown and sold under contract to the various fighting forces, and in particular to the American Army. Prices paid were good, and some growers made sufficient money to establish themselves successfully in business in towns and other areas towards the end of, and after, the war.

Wars, thank God, come to an end, and with the silencing of the guns comes the cessation of feverish activity. But before this came to pass, Clare was settling down again, and after the first spate of success, the novelty wore off, and the vegetable growers gradually became fewer and by 1943-45 only the Grandshaw family was left to farm in Clare.

A quietness settled over the area, and once again cattle grazed peacefully and the great wedge tailed eagle was able to look down from his tall poplar gum tree and survey his world, now, for the most part, undisturbed.

Then one day in 1945 there came to Clare a Very Quiet Man – soft spoken, kindly. A Mr. Hugh McNee, an officer in the Department of Agriculture and Stock and a returned serviceman. Who was to tell – he, probably least of all – that from that visit would develop a scheme which would involve the Federal Government, the State Government, the Lands Department, Main Roads Department, the C.S.I.R.O. – Agriculture and Stock Department – in fact, directly or indirectly, practically everyone from the highest down to the most junior of the taxpayers; would bring together men and women of all classes and creeds, from far away countries and all parts of the Commonwealth and continent; from the Army, the Air Force and the Navy? Mr. McNee came – he saw – and he was struck with the potentialities of the area for tobacco growing. Thus was set a new course in Clare’s history.

Mr. McNee and another Departmental Officer conferred with the then Director of Agriculture, Mr. C. J. McKeon, and obtained permission to grow a small experimental tobacco crop, and arrangements with the Granshaw family resulted in the first Breeze brick barn being built on their farm, and a very small area of tobacco was planted, harvested and cured. This was sufficiently successful to encourage them to enlarge their experiment, and four acres were planted in 1947. This yielded three tons of good leaf, and was so successful that the Agriculture and Stock Department moved the idea of opening up the area for Soldier Settlement. The State Government became interested, and in 1948 leased ten acres from Mr. Granshaw, built two more barns and a bulk shed, and planted five acres of tobacco under the supervision of the Agriculture and Stock Department. In co-operation with the C.S.I.R.O. experiments and variety trials were carried out.

An Inspector from the Lands Department was called in, and he and Mr. McNee closely studied the whole area from Steepy Bank to Mona Park, and suggested that it be cut up in blocks of 100 to 120 acres, and each farm to pump water individually direct from the river. From there the scheme snowballed to fantastic proportions. The Irrigation and Water Supply Commission was drawn in, and the great Burdekin River Authority Hydro-Electric and Flood Mitigation Project came into being with a sizeable offshoot in the Burdekin River Authority, constituted to control the development of the project through the several interested State Government Departments. The purpose of the main project was threefold:-

(1) The conservation of water for the generation of power.

(2) The conservation of water for irrigation.

(3) The mitigation of flooding.

The whole scheme was to be undertaken in three stages. As only the first directly affects Clare, it is unnecessary to mention the others in this narrative. But in parenthesis, itmay be of interest to readers to know that only Stage (1) has been completed and that plans for the remaining two have lapsed, though no doubt safely pigeon-holed for future reference when time and money permit of their being put into operation.

Stage 1. was the building of the George Weir, channels and drainage systems to serve 63 farms at Clare, together with those of Millaroo and Dalbeg. The various Departments and Authorities co-operating for the scheme’s implementation were:-

Coordinator General’s Department – design and construction of the Burdekin Dam &c.

Irrigation and Water Supply Commission (I.W.S.) responsible for the whole of stage 1. development works and all the irrigation and drainage works.

Department of Main Roads for much of the preliminary work, buildings of access roads, clearing &c.

The State Electricity Commission and the Townsville Regional Electricity Board in co-operation for the supply of power.

The Agriculture and Stock Department for soil surveys and tests and experimental work on agricultural production on the soil types in the area.

The C.S.I.R.O. for insecticides fungicides and similar problems.

The Agricultural Bank for Finance.

In late 1948 the State Government resumed all land from Steepy Bank to Mona Park with the exception of approximately 150 acres which the Granshaw family retained. The land was cut up into farm blocks varying in size from about 40 to 60 acres, and provision made for a town; plans were laid for irrigation channels, drainage ditches, access roads &c.

The Clare Soldier Settlement had been born.

In January 1949 the peace of the river bank was shaken by the crash of falling trees and the rumbling of heavy machinery as the Main Roads Department moved in in force with great bulldozers, ditch diggers and all the other paraphernalia associated with clearing, road building and so on.

The first ten farms opened up were at the Mona Park end of Clare, and were balloted for in April 1949. Successful applicants were allowed to take possession as from 1st July of that year. In addition to clearing, the Main Roads Department constructed all buildings on these farms. These comprised a bulk shed, three barns with brick fire boxes and a “house;” this latter was an unceiled, unlined, prefabricated, second-hand Army hut, about thirty-eight feet by twenty feet overall, and comprising one main and two very small rooms for bedrooms, a living room and a very small kitchen. There was no provision for sink, laundry, bathroom or plumbing of any kind, and it was completely devoid of cupboards. Nor was it weatherproof. As an afterthought, a galvanized iron stove recess was stuck on one end – putting one unpleasantly in mind of a malignant growth: the original idea was that these houses should be used for a few years by the farmer, as temporary accommodation until he could build his own home, and then used as barracks for the seasonal workers. However, on inspection by a Union Official they were condemned immediately as being substandard for workers’ quarters.

At this time, there was at Clare, where the old post office had been, a sizable camp for the Main Roads and I.W.S. workers and staff. The wife of one of the I.W.S. employees, a Mrs. Anderson, built a shed from second hand iron, stuck a counter across the front of it, and opened a general store – known from then on to all and sundry as “the Store.”

It was about this time, too, that the previously mentioned embarrassment over the old town plan for Clare became evident. When the relevant Departments came to re-subdivide the area into farm blocks &c. they became involved in all sorts of strife over the old allotments and streets. Apparently, blocks were listed on paper as being both in existence and the property of some persons or other whose identity and whereabouts were a complete mystery. How the difficulty was finally overcome, I have not had the temerity to find out – sufficient that to all intents and purposes it was, because work in the area proceeded apace.

The crop grown in 1949-50 by those first ten settlers – under unbelievable difficulties (not the least being that water was not available until September 1949) – was an outstanding success, with terrific yields and good prices paid for the leaf. This was probably because it was an excellent growing season and the crop was grown on virgin soil. Whatever the cause, the effect was galvanistic. An aura of prosperity and glamour was given to the area and tobacco growing: - that it was a phantom boom was a sad, but true, fact, as the settlers and those who subsequently followed, were to learn to their bitter cost. These first ten settlers, of whom Mr. Mcnee was one, were Stage 1. settlers.

In 1950 a further twenty farms were made available to settlers – Stage 2. from this stage, and until the change of policy, and the supply of second-hand huts being exhausted, similar houses were built under sub-contracts. The original cost to the farmers (stage 1.) for these houses was in the vicinity of ₤750, but increased yearly with each subsequent stage group. At the beginning the season promised to be equal to the 1949 one, but in November came heavy storms culminating in ten inches of rain in a little over twelve hours. The already well watered crop became completely waterlogged, and about three-quarters of it was lost. Arrangements had been made for about one hundred Greek and Italian migrants to come to Clare to work on the farms during the tobacco season.

Without warning one Sunday morning farmers were notified that they had arrived and were awaiting collection in Ayr. What a stir that caused: Farmers tore madly into town – found the men dressed in heavy European clothes, with no gear, no money and no English. Arrived back in Clare – in pouring rain – people scurried hither and yon, begging, borrowing, and all but stealing, beds, blankets, cooking utensils, hurricane lanterns &c. The Store was opened and practically emptied of its contents. Meanwhile, the unfortunate migrants, looking more dazed and miserable every minute, stood around, or just plain huddled. Then the rain really started. It fell out of the sky in solid sheets – and pushed the tobacco down in the process. Two days later there was no crop and no migrants. They, to their infinite relief, had been returned south under Government protection. The farmers sat on their doorsteps and watched their season’s work droop into nothingness. Tobacco is the most expensive of all crops to bring to harvesting, and it is a shattering experience to watch it die by inches, and to know that one has borrowed so much money which will not be repayable.

In 1951 an additional twenty or so farms were occupied. (Stage 3.) Up to and including 1951 Arsenate of Lead was the standard treatment for insect pests which attack tobacco – particularly the caterpillar known as “Looper.” This year was a good growing season, and although looper infestation was heavy it was successfully held in check with the use of arsenic. The crop was harvested, cured, and for the most graded. Hopes were high. Then the blow fell. The residue of arsenic remaining on the leaves was discovered to be too high for public safety, and practically the whole crop was condemned and destroyed under Health Department supervision.

In 1952 the use of arsenic was banned by law, and at that time Dieldrin was still in the experimental stage and unavailable to the farmers. Looper ingestation was becoming increasingly heavy, and as no effective substitute for arsenic was known, a goodly proportion of farmers were eaten out.

Up to this time part of the Capital Improvements and Machinery of the farms had included spray lines for irrigation. By now, however, costs had risen so steeply that farmers were unable to purchase spray lines within the limits of finance available to them, so the furrow method of irrigation came into use.

Because of drought conditions, the slow pace of building of irrigation channels, and the periodic acute shortages of water in the river at Steepy Banks – Clare, the Authorities could not improve the blocks to the same standards as those of Stage 1, 2, and 3., and there was considerable delay over the blocks for Stage 4. However, they finally agreed to make available a number of unimproved selections, and a ballot was held in February 1952. the successful applicants (about twelve) then took up these totally unimproved blocks under a Special Lease Tenure, which was effective until such time as the Irrigation Commission found ways and means of ensuring a sufficient and constant supply of water for everybody. Until water was available the settlers had to “dry farm,” or take what water was left after stage 1. 2. and 3. farms had been served. The only consolation they had was exemption from the payment of a water right - ₤150 per annum. Also, within the Agricultural Bank’s financial limits, Stage 4 farmers were allowed to carry out their own improvements as they wished, with the exception of the barns. These still had to be erected to a specification drawn up by an engineer with little or no knowledge of farming and even less of the requirements of tobacco curing – with the obvious results that these barns(designed without allowance for proper ventilation) proved wholly unsatisfactory and involved the farmers in additional personal expense in order to make them workable.

1953 was a season which saw changes in production methods. For the most part the fire-box method of heating the curing barns was done away with in favour of oil burners. These had been in the U.S.A. for some years but this was their first use here. There were a few mishaps at first – burners incorrectly adjusted with the subsequent smoking of leaf; one farmer was unfortunate enough to have all three barns burnt down. Also, Dieldrin was now on the market and proved a very successful insecticide. By now, as a result of insect infestation, loss of crop through arsenic, and other causes, several farmers had already been forced to abandon their farms, and seek a living elsewhere.

The 1954 season was a good one from all points of view, in spite of getting off to a bad start with a severe outbreak of blue mould. Prices reached an all time high, and a world record was created. Clare then suffered an invasion. All the salesmen in Queensland must have converged on the area; every day settlers were being urged to buy motor cars, tractors, insurance, electrical gadgets, stocks and shares – in fact, any and everything that could be bought and sold. But this prosperity was too good to last.

The 1955 crop was about on par with that of the previous year. Everyone had visions of catching up on the bad years and hopes were high – only to be dashed as prices fell very steeply at the first sale of the season, and became progressively worse at each subsequent one.

1956 season was a year of severs cyclonic wind and hail storms. The big brittle tobacco plants were a sitting target and were torn to shreads. These storms were frequent, but localized, and a few farmers escaped damage completely and harvested their crops. Others, less fortunate, suffered damage of varying degree, whilst some were completely wiped out.

In 1957 nematodes were very much more prevalent than at any time previously, and as a result crops suffered considerably. This was probably aggravated by the fact that farmers had used up all suitable virgin soil and were attempting to grow on marginal and shallow soil. Also, leaf miner, which up to this time, had not been regarded as a major pest now suddenly assumed practically plague proportions; it was also discovered that they had built up a resistance to all known insecticides, and even bi-weekly aerial spraying, plus between time baiting by hand, was quite ineffectual.

In 1958 the crop was reasonably good, but leaf miner infestation was worse than ever, resulting in the loss of many thousands of pounds. Then, before the crop was fully harvested, cyclone “Connie” hit Clare and wiped out all unharvested leaf, damaged large quantities already cured and stored in bulk sheds, and even some that was already on the selling floor at Brandon. Not a single farm escaped damage to crop and/or building.

By this time a considerable number of farms had been abandoned over the years. The valuation of these farms had then been written down by half or more, and they had been sold to other Ex-servicemen and some to Italians. It is an interesting fact that in spite of the lower valuations &c., after two or three years these new settlers are in the same financial difficulties as everyone else – some becoming so hopelessly indebted that they to have had to give up and abandon their farms.

From the first day he took up residence on his block, the farmer has been beset with difficulties sufficient to badly bend, if not break, the spirit of the most hardy. The ordinary difficulties of climate, drought, flood, and fire, and to a lesser degree, insect pests, the farmer is prepared for, and takes in his stride; but so many Government and semi-Government departments involved, the morass of red tape surrounding him is positively incredible – and frustrating in the extreme. It may truthfully be said that these various Departments may co-operate, but they surely do not co-ordinate.

Another problem that has beset the Authorities and the farmers is the prevalence of nut grass in the area. At first it was only in small isolated pockets, but the coming of heavy machinery into the area and the maze of channels and drains have spread this menace until now the infestation has reached alarming proportions. Scarcely any farm is free of it, and those along the river bank itself are completely infested. Nut grass not only affects the growing and curing properties of tobacco very adversely, it makes the production of most other crops difficult. In the case of potatoes, particularly, the losses are very heavy. As yet no way has been discovered to destroy nut grass on a commercial scale, and the pest is continuing to spread further with each passing year.

Also from the beginning, and in spite of good tobacco crops and early good prices, the farmer has had no guarantee that there would be any money for living and/or necessary improvements to houses and so on, as all tobacco crops were grown under lien to the Agricultural Bank. Therefore, in order to get some sort of personal income and security, farmers have grown all types of crops in the “off” season – that very short growing season from March to July – August. Everything had been tried; tomatoes, cabbages, carrots, melons, cucumbers, potatoes, pumpkins, peanuts, cotton, grains, and during the last few years, beans. But without the service personel, there are not sufficient people in the north to absorb the products, southern markets are for the most part uneconomic, and in the case of cotton and grains, the farm areas are not sufficiently large to make these crops really payable. Added to which, nut grass is becoming an ever increasing hazard. Potatoes and corn (in small areas) are still fairly widely grown, but the instability of the markets makes them an extremely risky venture. Beans are the most successful. They grow splendidly here, but this area alone, could, I think, supply practically the whole eastern half of Australia. In one weekend in 1958 over sixty tons of beans left Clare for southern cities – with the result that Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne markets were glutted and the price dropped to fourpence a pound – and that only for those that sold. Under contract seed beans are grown for various seed merchants, but prices are relatively poor, and from planting time it is often twelve months before payment is made.

With all, and in spite of, this unceasing and soul shattering struggle for existence, the Civic development of the area grew slowly but surely. The first step came in 1950 when some of the Farmers formed themselves into the Burdekin Co-operative Traders Limited and with plenty of enthusiasm to make up for their almost complete lack of capital, took over from Mrs Anderson, The Store. Bread and meat for the community were brought by the mailman from Ayr three times a week and distributed therefrom. It later acquired the Shell Company Agency for fuel and some insecticides. Admittedly, during the wet season, and without refrigeration, the bread and beef were not always as good or fresh as housewives would have it from choice, but nevertheless, it was much better than nothing, and the service was duly appreciated. In this year also, the Clare branch of the Country Women’s Association was formed at an inaugural meeting held in the I.W.S. Mess on 28th November. Mrs Crowther, the President of the Northern Division presided. Also in attendance were the President and members of the Ayr branch, and several visitors from other branches in the Division. There were eighteen members and the late Mrs. Tiller was the first Branch President. Since that time membership has fluctuated considerably owing in a great measure to the transient nature of the population; it has been as low as fourteen, and as high as sixty, but in the last three or four years has settled down to a fair average of thirty.

In the vicinity of the old post office the I.W.S. had a worker’s camp and prefabricated administrative buildings and staff quarters.

In 1951 it made available a hut for the use as a post and telegraph office with a public telephone and one sub. connected to Ayr. This post office was in the charge of Mrs. G. Mole; in 1954 Mr. Mole built, mainly by his own efforts , a two-storey brick building as post office and residence. This was in the official town site, about a mile back from the river bank. They still have the post office and in 1954 farms were connected by telephone. They suffered severe damage in the 1959 cyclone, when the whole upper storey was demolished. Mr. Mole was away at the time, and Mrs. Mole and her assistant, Mrs Nichod, having valiantly stayed at the switchboard in an effort to maintain contact with Ayr, escaped with her infant daughter with only seconds to spare.

In 1951 electricity was through Clare, and those farms on the river bank were served, but it was over two years from then before reticulation was expanded much further, and over four years before it was complete in the area. Also in 1951 Mr. and Mrs. James Stevens, whose people had a bakery and café in Ayr, put up a concrete block bake house with a wood burning oven. How much that first bread was appreciated can only be guessed at. It was quite an undertaking for a young couple relying solely on their own efforts, and without any mechanical aids, because at that time, apart from the farming community, there were probably upwards of one hundred employees of the I.W.S. and a goodly proportion of these had wives and families. When electricity came to the area they installed electric burners and were also able to bring into use other aids, such as electric mixers. But two of the unsolved puzzles of the area are:- “how does Bernice find the time to run her home so efficiently?” and “when does Jimmie sleep?”

In 1952 the Q.C.W.A. instituted proceedings to have a Baby Clinic Sister visit the area regularly. At that time the main difficulty was a place to house the clinic, and it was not until 1953 that this became an established fact. This very necessary service to the community is still in operation, and, it is pleasant to state, under much improved conditions.

In 1955 the township, known as Claredale, really came into existence. Mr. Roy Taylor, a mechanic employed by the I.W.S. resigned his position, built a garage and workshop in the township and commenced in business in September of that year. Another employee of the I.W.S., Mr. Malcolm Chalmers, also resigned his position and built a small combined shop and residence, where he conducted a mixed business. He sold out in early 1958, and the business is now managed by Miss M. Suffren. It has been expanded to carry newspapers, local and overseas papers and periodicals, fruit and vegetables &c. and is a very great acquisition to the district. The group of pastoralists who control all butchering business in the whole of the Delta area, erected a butcher’s shop, which they leased to Mr. Arthur Birkett, and housewives were able for the first time to buy meat locally if they so desired.

All this being so, the Authorities thought it possible we might need a little discipline in place! Accordingly, a residence for a police officer, together with a detached lock-up (which is all of eight feet square.) was built. Police Officer Eric Horriben commenced his duties in October. To the time of writing the lock-up is still in its state of virgin purity as far as occupancy goes, but Mr. Horriben’s other duties and his general c0-operativeness make his a welcome presence in the community.

The first school for the area was a provisional one started in a prefabricated hut put up in the playground of the official school site in 1950. it had twelve pupils in charge of Mrs. Paul, whose husband was a soldier settler and was herself an ex-teacher. In 1952 the first wing of the State School and the Head Teacher’s residence was built and occupied. Year by year it grew as more people came to the area and more and more children reached school age. Now it is one of the largest country schools in the Burdekin Delta, with four teachers and an enrollment of one hundred and thirty children; a school bus service brings children from the Steepy Bank end to school. Three years running it was the proud winner of the Shield for the Combined School Sports. It has a very active Committee, whose efforts are responsible for its being so well equipped with a very good library, and playground facilities which include a swimming pool and dressing sheds.

At first, Church services of the various denominations were held how, when and where possible – often in Bulk sheds, and even for a time, in the Butcher’s shop. However, in 1952 the Roman Catholic Church purchased the old R.S.L. Club room from Ayr, and it was removed intact to its permanent site in Claredale. In November of that year it was blessed and consecrated “St. Kevin’s Church” by Monsignor Kelly, who also celebrated the first Mass therein. It had an Alter which could be completely shut away, and the building was made available for use as a Hall, becoming much in demand for all public and community affairs, until the erection of the Community Hall at a later date, when it reverted to its special function as a Church. Father Garvey, from the Parish of Ayr, was the first officiating Priest.

Under the guidance of the mother parish of Ayr, and of its Rector, Canon D.Thorpe, the Anglicans of the district erected by voluntary labour, and free of debt, a Church Hall. In May 1955 it was blessed and brought into use by His Grace, the Lord Bishop of North Queensland, the Right Reverend Ian Shevill, and given the name of :St. Catherines.” At that time, the curate attached to the parish was the Reverend Father George Tung Yep, and he it was who, for the greater part, officiated at the services held there.

In October of the same year the foundation stone of Scot’s Presbyterian Church was laid by the Moderator of the Queensland State Assembly, the Reverend R. H. Crowe; the building was completed and brought into use for both Presbyterians and Methodists in 1956. the Presbyterian Minister in charge was and still is, Mr R. Painton, whilst Mr. Tom Scarlett looked after the welfare of the Methodists.

1956 showed a continuance in pattern to the previous year. Firstly, the I.W.S. moved into its new Administration buildings and later in the year machinery sheds and barracks were built, to be followed then by the building of several houses for its married staff.

With the removal of the camp from the river bank and the opening up generally of the township area, it became imperative for the store to move also. So the cement brick building now in use was erected – very largely by the voluntary labour of the Shareholders – and the business transferred thereto. Unfortunately, owing to a variety of circumstances – contributing factors being lack of capital, loss of business with the very considerable decrease of population, and some regrettable early mismanagement – this business eventually became more of a liability than an asset to the Shareholders. Finally, in 1958, after various meetings between all the people concerned, it was taken over by Mr. R.McMullen, who runs it in conjunction with his general carrying business.

In 1956 a meeting of the ex-servicemen in the area decided to form their own branch of the R.S.S. & A.I.L.A. and the Clare sub-Branch came into being with Mr. T. Thomson as its first president.

The idea of having a Community Hall in the area had been mooted as far back as 1951, but it was not until now that satisfactory arrangements could be made between the Ayr Shire Council and other interested bodies. In the later part of 1956 the Ayr Shire Council erected a very nice Hall. This building was nearly completed when in December one of the cyclonic wind storms flattened it like a pack of cards. This was a sad blow to the community, especially as a gala opening ceremony had been arranged. The Clare Branch, Q.C.W.A. is the custodian of the Hall, and it arranged a ball for the opening which finally took place in September 1957.

1956 also saw the introduction of aerial spraying to the area. This proved a great boon to farmers; a tiger moth plane was used and a vacant piece of ground near the town levelled to become the runway. Mr.McMullen handled all the business arrangements, attended to the refueling of the plane and mixed the poisons. The first pilot was Mr. Dick Young; he sold his interest to Agricultural Aviation Pty. Ltd., and they sent Mr. V. Barnes as pilot. In 1958 it was found necessary to have two planes for part of the time, and Mr. R.Maxwell was then co-pilot. To meet the growing needs of the community the I.W.S. made available in 1957 their Red Cross/Ambulance hut. This had a central waiting room with a room at each end suitable for use as a surgery. From then on Clare has been visited each fortnight by Doctor Constable of Ayr, and in October 1958 a Dentist equipped the other surgery and commenced regular visits. Quite recently, a hairdresser from Ayr has started to visit Clare each Monday afternoon.

In addition the area now boasts quite a number of organizations, including various farmer’ committees, a Film Club which shows pictures on an open air screen once a week, and a Dramatic Society. This last, under the very capable direction of Mrs. Kieth Perry-Peddle, wife of a Water Officer, has put on several variety shows and two three act plays, all very successful and dependent wholly on local talent. The Dramatic Society is now merged into the “Burdekin Players” and incorporates Millaroo as well as Clare people. They have erected a good stage in both areas, and all props and scenery are made by the members. Mrs. Perry-Peddle’s latest production “Wild Goose Chase” was entered in the Centenary Drama Festival, and gained second place in their one, sharing this honour with Mount Isa. Also built mainly by voluntary labour are two tennis courts and a club house. One court has electric light and night tennis is popular.

All these years the Project proceeded more or less according to plan. By July 1954 there were seventy farms, of which sixty-three were occupied and served with water. This involved twenty-three and a half miles of channels and there were two pumping stations; the channels were all concreted and had a maximum capacity of thirty-five cusecs. By 1955 thirty miles of drains were also completed. Although the Gorge Weir had been completed in October 1953, it did not affect Clare in any way until early December 1957. By that time water had been stored up behind the weir, and from then was released at a rate of forty cusecs, or twenty million gallons, a day, thus ensuring for the first time a sure and sufficient supply of water for the Clare tobacco farms. The building up of the town area, and all major local construction work in Clare was completed by 1955-6. the road from Ayr through Clare and on up to Millaroo and Dalberg was completed and sealed; also one lateral road from the main road to Claredale; other roads in the area are gravel.

Easter 1958 saw the great flood. Fantastic rainfalls in the Burdekin catchment caused the river to rise very fast and very high. Never in the history of the present settlement had it broken its banks, but when word came through from Dalbeg that it was forty feet and rising at the unheard-of rate of fifteen feet an hour, the Engineer in Charge decided it was time to act – and fast. Every available bulldozer and tractor was mobilized – men filled sand bags and by these means all lateral roads and entrances to farms were blocked off and built up to the level of the irrigation channel – some six or eight feet higher than the road running parallel to the river bank. The same procedure was carried out in the back roads in order to afford some protection for the township should a breakthrough occur. Some families were hastily evacuated from the more vulnerable parts and given shelter in the Community Hall for the night. The men patrolled the levees and the women kept up a constant supply of hot tea, coffee and toast at various strategic points – and the children had a wonderful time! Still the river continued to rise, and the roar of its seething swirling waters could be heard four miles back from it. It broke the bank, and the main road became a waterway. But the levees held – probably due to the unceasing vigil of the men. Just before dawn and quite suddenly the water level began to fall. By eight o’clock it was all over, and blue sky and sunshine made it impossible to believe that the night had been one of great anxiety. Those who could went on a tour of inspection and the reason for the sudden fall became apparent. There had been a break through just up from Steepy Bank, where the river makes a sharp turn. Here the road was pilled six feet high with debris, and as far as the eye could see it was possible to follow the way of the flood; whole trees where wrapped round other trees, and not a sapling or a blade of grass was left standing; suspended about ten feet up in the branches of a tree was the body of an unfortunate steer. This break through carried the water through the country behind Clare and on to the Barrattas. It undoubtedly saved Clare from inundation, and probably Home Hill from being washed right off the map.

As may well be imagined, Clare presents an amazing cross section of humanity. Government, semi-government and farm labour was drawn to a great extent from the migrant intake; There were men from Greece, Italy, Yugo-Slavia, Holland, Germany and the British Isles to mention only a few. Some were married and had their families with them, but mostly they were single men. Language presented a major difficulty, but eventually was overcome. The Soldier Settlers, of course, were drawn from all the fighting forces, and came originally from all parts of the State, and indeed, the whole country. In the general shuffle of people brought about by war, some had met and married girls from places far removed from their own home, and from all walks of life. There were W.R.A.A.F.S., and W.A.A.F.S., - W.R.E.N.S. and W.R.A.N.S., Transport Drivers, ex-school teachers, University graduates and daughters of the land and a goodly sprinkling of nurses. But in Clare they came to a common level and purpose. That, to stand by their menfolk and help in every way possible. This they did in no uncertain manner; they drove tractors, spent weary hours picking up sticks after clearing; side by side with the men they planted, hoed, chipped and suckered the tobacco, strung it for curing, and then took over the grading. All this they did with aching backs and cheerful unconcern, and at the same time running their homes under the most difficult conditions – taking time off occasionally to pop into hospital for another little Aussie. It is fitting here to put on record what the community regards as one of its major highlights. On the 25th June in this centenary year 1959, well liked and respected Soldier Settler Lew Whitfield and his popular young wife, Ruth, became the proud parents of the first triplets to be born in the area. The baby girls, Vicky Lyn, Heather Margaret, and Judith Anne are a mighty contribution to Queensland’s best investment.

Looking back over the years, it is amazing in this push button age to think on the situations faced up to by these twentieth century pioneers. Ordinary amenities such as bathrooms and refrigerators were regarded as luxuries. Indeed, when the first two groups of soldier settlers mooted the question of them to the Agricultural Bank at a meeting held in Clare, they were told by the then Inspector, in no uncertain terms, that they were unnecessary luxuries and not for people of “our class” – O shades of Democracy! Even the extremely large work force in the area were provided only with showers (cold) in outside, extremely draughty 6′ x 4′ shower rooms – in the case of married quarters, attached to the equally draughty wash house – one to two huts. As for the Soldier settlers, - well, their’s was usually made by nailing a six foot wide strip of Hessian round the tank stand – when erected. A protection from indecency, no doubt, but hardly from the weather. If one was lucky enough to live beyond sighting distance from neighbours, one could indulge in the luxury of a bath in the open, but that was sometimes fraught with unease. I remember on one moonlight night when I was luxuriating with as much of me as possible within the confines of a twenty inch tub, becoming conscious of eyes watching me from beside a nearby gum tree. It was only a kangaroo, but it would be difficult to say which of us was the more startled. Washing was done in anything from kerosene tins upwards – and the acquisition of cement tubs and a roof over them was looked upon as the epitomy of luxury. Many – indeed most – of these early difficulties have been overcome. With the coming of electricity, washing machines, electric stoves, &c. have considerably eased the burden of the housewife. Bath or shower rooms of some sort or another have been added to the houses. The heavy domestic drudgery is past, but the women still pick and pack tomatoes and beans, (no mean feat in the tropics.) and the stringing and grading of tobacco is still almost exclusively carried out by women.

Nevertheless, during the ten years since the inception of the scheme it has become increasingly obvious that Clare is NOT a suitable are for growing tobacco. This is borne out by the fact that round about 1921 two people at opposite ends of the area tried unsuccessfully to grow it. This was cigar tobacco, air cured in sheds and sent to Victoria for sale, where the buyers stated it was “unsuitable leaf” and paid such poor prices that the venture lapsed. For the most part the distance and instability of markets makes the production of vegetables both risky and uneconomic. So, all concerned, both Authorities and Settlers alike, are faced with a tremendous, and to all intents, insoluble problem. History is never finished, and if to date ours has been, and is, a mixture of joy and sorrow, laughter and tears, and perhaps some small measure of achievement, that is life, and life is but living history. In measure of time, Clare is in its infancy; that it has turned out to be a problem child to its parents and all concerned is tragic but undeniable. Whether it will recover from its growing pains or sicken further and so die no-one knows – we who live here least of all – we can only hope.

Mary acknowledges the following people for assistance in researching the facts:

  • The Irrigation Commission, Mrs. T. Hibberd, and Mr. S.Bailey for statistical details and the use of photographs relative to the Burdekin Project.

  • To Messrs. Parker Snr. Cussens and Granshaw and Senior Citizens who made it possible for me to compile the early history.

  • To all Presidents, Secretaries, Trades people, citizens and settlers who so patiently answered my questions.

  • Last, but not least, to my husband for his guidance and assistance throughout.