Some of us have the privilege of meeting and getting to know our grandparents. I was fortunate to meet all four of my grandparents and to get to know each one, to some extent, even from afar. This story is about my maternal grandfather, whom I met and spent time with as a child. I thought I knew him.
But did I really know him? Who was this man I called Pop? What kind of life did he lead?
How well do (or did) you know your grandparents?
My maternal grandfather was 66 years old when I was born. Donald William Beaumont, “Pop” to me, was an old man. At least, I thought he was old.
I was seven years old when he died, but I can clearly remember the day of his burial and how I felt that day. My brother and I were not allowed to go to his funeral. We had to stay at home, in the care of a neighbour. I wanted to say to my mother: “I’m sad too. I will miss him, just like you. Can’t I come?” Of course, I didn’t say anything. Children didn’t question their parents’ decisions in those days.
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The man I knew as Pop
I can still see my grandfather’s grey wispy hair, deep-set pale blue-grey eyes, prominent nose and dimpled cheeks. He had a kindly, clean-shaven, face. He didn’t wear glasses. When outside, at all times Pop wore a hat. Similarly, he always wore front-buttoning shirts with a collar and long sleeves, long trousers belted at the waist, laced leather shoes and socks.
It mattered not whether he was off to work on the farm or around the house, or going to town, this was his dress code. When he dressed to go to town, he wore his “good” shirt and trousers, and added a necktie. On special occasions he wore a suit and tie. He took pride in his appearance, although he was not always in step with the latest fashion!
In stature Pop was very tall. I estimate he was 190 cm (6 ft 3 in) in height. He towered over his petite wife Flora (“Nan” to me), who was just 159 cm (5 ft 2½ in). I remember him being painfully thin. He had long limbs, huge hands and long well-worn fingers. His gnarled hands and fingers were indicators of a lifetime of hard manual labour.
Pop was never in a hurry. In all situations, he acted and reacted in a measured, dependable manner. Even his gait was slow and (given his height) somewhat giraffe-like.
My grandfather was a man of few words. He spoke only when it was necessary. He and Nan never quarrelled (at least not in my presence). In fact, I don’t remember ever hearing Pop raise his voice. For such a reserved person, the archetypal introvert, Pop must have found it difficult when I pestered him with my endless questions! (I was an inquisitive, talkative child.)
Pop loved listening to the radio. Without fail, he tuned in to the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) news bulletins in the morning, at midday, and in the evening. As well as the news, Pop tuned in when international cricket matches were broadcast by the ABC. The radio would be on all day on those occasions! I remember exactly what my grandparents’ radio looked like and where it stood in their home. It was a battery-operated, floor console unit that took pride of place in their diminutive lounge room. At times, when the reception was poor, Pop would lie on the linoleum covered floor close to the unit, so he could hear the broadcast.
Before the advent of television and the internet, people like my grandparents who lived in rural Australia depended on the radio to keep them abreast of international, national and local news and sport. Unlike folk who lived in urban areas, they didn’t have access to daily newspapers.
To relax, Pop would make his way to the squatter’s chair on the front verandah of his home. Here his head found the cushioned headrest, his elongated body curled into the chair’s canvas sling, his arms slumped on the armrests, and his legs rested astride on the chair’s timber leg supports. Here he would often take a late morning or afternoon nap. I learnt not to disturb him.
Pop smoked cigarettes, the kind you roll yourself. I used to watch the process, with great intrigue. First, he would take a piece of cigarette paper from its packet and lay the paper flat on the table. Then, with the fingers of his right hand he would take a small amount of loose tobacco strands from a pouch and place it in the middle of the cigarette paper. After distributing the tobacco evenly along the length of the paper, he would use the fingers of both hands to roll the paper neatly around the tobacco. Last of all, he would pick up the roll, bring it to his mouth, lick the gummed strip at the edge of the paper, then run his fingers along the roll to make it stick.
A countryman all his life, Pop kept a dog, a well-trained cattle dog. (I can’t remember its name.) Wherever Pop went, it followed. Except inside: It was not allowed to come into the house. Oh, how Pop loved this animal, and (from what I observed) it adored him.
These memories of my grandfather span a brief period of his life. Although I didn’t realise it at the time, I knew very little about the man I called Pop. What I now know about him, I have learnt in recent years, as I researched my mother’s life story and delved further into her side of my family tree.
What follows is a synopsis of what I have discovered.
NOTE: A list of the references I used in preparing this story is found at the end of the post. Specific references are numbered and displayed throughout the text in brackets, thus: [X].
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My grandfather’s birth family
Donald William Beaumont was born at Dundee on 17 November 1884. Donald was the fourth of ten children born to Thomas Bloomfield and Mary Ann Elizabeth Beaumont (nee Tancred). His was a big family. (I have just one brother, so I do not understand what it would have been like to grow up in such a big family.)
Dundee (later renamed Deeford), Donald’s birthplace, was located on the banks of the Dee River, 5 kilometres from Wowan. Wowan, 80 kilometres southwest of Rockhampton, later became the main town of the Parish of Dundee. Donald spent his early childhood at Dundee before the family’s move to Westwood in the late 1880s.
His paternal grandparents lived nearby, as did his many uncles, aunts and cousins on his father’s side of the family (Donald’s father was one of ten children). Donald’s paternal grandparents, Alfred and Emma Beaumont, were among the first European settlers in the Wowan district of Central Queensland. They arrived in Australia in 1853 as “assisted immigrants” from Colchester, in Essex, 83 kilometres (about 50 miles) northeast of London. According to the ship’s register, Alfred’s calling was “shepherd”. 
Donald’s maternal grandparents were also immigrants from the United Kingdom. His grandfather, it seems, was Irish, his grandmother English. John Deas Tancred, a widower, married Mary Ann Quinn, a spinster, at the Wesleyan Methodist Church, Albert Street, Brisbane, on 25 February 1858. At the time of their marriage, John, a squatter, was living at Taroom; Mary Ann was living at South Brisbane. Eventually, they settled in Rockhampton.
Donald’s mother, Elizabeth Mary Ann, was the couple’s first child. She was born on 3 February 1859. The Tancreds went on to have three more children: John James (born 19 November 1860), Alice (born 8 March 1862) and William Frederick (born 7 May 1864). Of these three, only John survived to adulthood (he died on 29 January 1904, aged 43); Alice died at 5 weeks, William died at 6 days. Thus, unlike her future husband Thomas Bloomfield Beaumont, who came from a large extended family, Elizabeth grew up in a small family, of just four persons. (I can relate to that.)
Unlike me, Donald did not have the privilege of meeting, getting to know, or spending time with his four grandparents.
His maternal grandmother, Mary Ann Tancred, died at Rockhampton on 14 October 1876, 8 years before Donald was born. She was just 45. Donald’s paternal grandfather, Alfred Beaumont, died when Donald was one year old. Alfred, 61, died at Dundee on 29 December 1885. Alfred’s widow, Emma, outlived her husband by 22 years. She died at Westwood on 4 August 1907 when Donald was 22. She was 74. The fate of Donald’s fourth grandparent, John Deas Tancred, remains a mystery. I haven’t been able to trace his movements after 1879 nor can I find a record of his death. (It’s one of those family history puzzles I’ve yet to solve.)
I suspect Emma Beaumont was the one grandparent Donald knew.
Grandma Beaumont (as Donald would have known her) lived first at Dundee, where Donald was born and spent the first few years of his life, then at Westwood, where Donald and his family lived from the late 1880s until 1915.
Emma was just 19 years old when she made the long (four-month) trip from England to Australia and, during the voyage, gave birth to her first child, Thomas Bloomfield (Donald’s father). Her new life in Australia would not have been easy, given the harsh living conditions she endured, her husband away with his bullock teams for weeks, even months, and raising ten children, mostly on her own!
I wonder how much Donald knew about his Grandma Beaumont’s early life.
Emma grew up in England, married at 18 and migrated to Australia a year later. She spent a couple of years on her own in Sydney with three children before moving to Central Queensland to be with her husband. She and Alfred lived for a few years on Calliungal Station (a huge pastoral lease southwest of Rockhampton) before Alfred bought land and they settled at Dundee. After Alfred’s death, Emma moved to Westwood, along with her sons and their families. During her time at Calliungal and Dundee Emma witnessed several unsettling incidents involving local Aborigines and the police, and even had a close encounter with Fagan , the district’s bushranger.
Mrs Beaumont remembered when Fagan and his gang were at Dundee and was saved by a domiciliary visit from that gentleman and his colleagues by the intervention of Mr C Moller, senior, who at that time kept the Dundee Hotel. Her husband was away then. 
Donald’s grandmother died and was buried at Westwood. Today, her body lies in one of many unmarked graves in the hard-to-find and somewhat neglected Westwood Cemetery.
The Westwood community held a memorial service in her honour at the United Protestant Church, Westwood, on Friday 10 August 1907. The Rev Sampson Stephens, of the Anglican Church, came from Rockhampton to conduct the ceremony. It is said he preached a very impressive sermon. The church was draped with black and a very large number of people attended the service.  I’m sure Donald (aged 22 at the time) would have been there.
The Westwood years
Donald and a number of his siblings attended Westwood State School. The school opened on 26 August 1872, making it one of the oldest schools in the Rockhampton district. Here, Donald learnt reading, writing and arithmetic, and discovered his sporting prowess. From an early age he took to cricket, which became one of his lifelong sports and passions.
Not unlike many parents of today, Donald’s mother accompanied her children to school. They would have walked from their home to the school, some distance away. I assume the round trip took quite a while. One day when Elizabeth took the children to school, the family’s hired help went missing. Concern over the young man’s safety meant the police had to be notified. The local policeman went in search of him.
A young man named Geo. Lawrence has been reported lost in the bush by Thos. Beaumont, a carrier, resident at Westwood. Lawrence was left at Beaumont’s residence to dig in the garden while Mrs Beaumont was absent taking the children to school on the morning of September 20. It is surmised that Lawrence left to bring in a milking cow, and got lost, as he is said to be a stupid [sic.] man. Have left to search for him. 
When Donald was 8 years old, in 1893, the family moved from Westwood to Barcaldine.
I’m not sure whether Thomas and Elizabeth (Donald’s parents) intended to stay there permanently, but it seems the couple and their (then) seven children lived in Barcaldine for a short time. Thomas purchased a small cottage, of iron and timber construction, comprising four rooms and skillion. It was one of numerous cottages in Barcaldine located on the northern side of the railway line. Not long after the family moved into their new home, in February 1894, disaster struck.
Elizabeth was home alone with the children; Thomas was away with his teams. Around 11.00 pm, when Elizabeth went to light a candle in one of the bedrooms, “the blazing head of the match she was striking broke off and struck a mosquito net”. The net caught fire, which rapidly spread to the calico lining of the room. Elizabeth frantically tried to stop the fire, but the flames were too much for her. Donald’s oldest sister, Emma (14) awoke on hearing her mother’s screams and helped rescue the other children, including Donald.
The eldest girl, who is lame, and aged about 12 [sic.], hearing her mother’s cries, hopped into the children’s room, and after some delay in forcing the bolt, as the key had fallen from her grasp in her hurry, heroically dragged out several sleeping children, and barely saved them. A lad named ” Jimmy ” was found to be still in the burning building, and the noble girl hopped into the house and dragged out her brother, her efforts resulting in several bad burns to herself. 
In just a few minutes the whole house was engulfed in flames, and in 10 minutes the roof fell in and the iron and wooden walls collapsed. The family escaped with their lives, but lost all their material possessions, bar a rocking chair. The house and contents (including a piano, sewing machine and all their furniture) were uninsured. It was a terrible setback for the family.
Thomas, Elizabeth and family returned to Westwood.
Pop never spoke about his childhood. Of course, I was too young to be interested in or even think to ask him about his early life. What else, besides the Barcaldine fire, happened to him, or his family, that I don’t know about? For example, was Donald bitten on the foot by a small brown snake when he was 14? Or was it one of his brothers? I can only guess.
A lad named Beaumont was bitten on the foot on Friday last by a small brown snake. Fortunately, he was near home and his father immediately applied ligatures to the leg and cut out and sucked the wound. The boy was then taken to Mr Wills, who cauterised the incision. In consequence of this prompt treatment no symptoms of poisoning supervened. 
The “Mr Wills” who attended to the Beaumont boy’s snake bite injury was not only the Westwood State School headteacher, but also the district’s doctor, dentist and midwife. Clearly, he was a man of great ability. Samuel Joseph Wills held the position of headteacher, Westwood State School, for 24 years, from 1879 to 1902.  His headship covered the period Donald and most of his siblings attended the school.
Donald’s family, members of the Anglican Church, worshipped at Westwood’s United Protestant Church. At Westwood, it was the church used by all the visiting Protestant ministers. It appears that Elizabeth, Donald’s mother, was one of the stalwarts of the church.  She was also a supporter of the Temperance movement.  (Perhaps this is not surprising, as I’ve discovered that her father, John Deas Tancred, had a problem with alcohol.) The Beaumont children attended and were actively involved in the United Protestant Church Sunday School. [11, 12] Elizabeth appears to have been a member of the United Protestant Church committee for a number of years. As a young adult, Donald was a member of the committee too, in 1907, perhaps longer. 
Donald was probably 12 or 13 when he started work.
He spent most of his early working life assisting his father Thomas, a carrier based at Westwood. Here was history repeating itself. Just as Thomas assisted his father Alfred, Thomas’ sons Charles, Thomas junior and Donald assisted their father Thomas, beginning their working lives by transporting goods via teams of horses from Rockhampton and Gladstone to centres in central Queensland as far west as Longreach and as far south as Banana.
It’s not surprising that Donald had a lifelong love affair with horses. He grew up with horses, lots of horses. They were his family’s “tools of trade”. From an early age, Donald learnt to ride and care for horses, and I’m sure many a horse became his friend.
Donald’s father, Thomas, and Donald’s uncles, Alfred junior and Alexander John, kept and bred horses – work horses (for the teams) and racehorses. As soon as he was old enough, Donald acquired and bred his own horses, including two or three racehorses.
From as early as 1888, records show that Donald’s father Thomas entered a horse (“Barmaid”) in a Westwood race meeting. By 1910, both Donald (now 25) and his father entered horses in Westwood’s Annual Race Meeting. Donald’s older brothers were the jockeys. Charles (28) rode Donald’s grey mare “Huntress” and Thomas junior (27) rode his father’s brown gelding “Master Varden” (the latter gained 3rd place). Donald’s horse was unplaced. [14, 15]
Evidently, Donald had a close relationship with his two older brothers, Charles and Thomas junior.
After all, there were just 3½ years between Charles (the oldest) and Donald (the youngest). They worked together and played together. All three were involved in horseracing, competing in country race meets as small-time horse breeders/owners/trainers and amateur jockeys, and all three were active members of the Westwood Cricket Club. [16, 17]
All three brothers, especially Thomas, were keen athletes. Thomas competed in many country sporting meets, with much success. For a time, Thomas captained the Westwood 11s.  Donald was a fine batsman and all-round cricketer. Donald not only played the game, but also helped run the cricket club. For example, in March 1907, Donald (22) and another club member were masters of ceremony at a ball put on by the Westwood Cricket Club.  Perhaps my grandfather was not quite as reserved as I thought he was!
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It must have been around this time (1907) that a young woman, Flora Jane Balchin, came to live at Westwood. Here Flora found work as a live-in housemaid. Although Flora was born at Manly, New South Wales, she grew up at Mount Morgan. Flora was the fifth of eight children born to English immigrants James and Julia Tryphena Balchin (nee Knight) who came to Queensland and settled at Mount Morgan.
On 26 April 1911, Donald William Beaumont (26) married Flora Jane Balchin (24) at the Beaumont family home, Westwood.
Rev Joseph Addison White, of the Church of England, conducted the ceremony. Donald was the first of his siblings to marry. He chose his brother Thomas (28) as best man; Donald’s sisters Elizabeth Ellen (“Bessie”) (24), Hannah Jane (16) and Beatrice Maude Caroline (“Beattie”) (10) completed the bridal party. Donald and Flora chose Thomas and Bessie as their witnesses.
For several years after their marriage, Donald and Flora made their home at Westwood.
In 1912, Donald and his father Thomas bought land – adjacent prickly pear blocks – at Rannes, about 104 km (65 miles) southwest of Rockhampton and 67 km (42 miles) south of Westwood. Taking up a landholding was a new venture for them, and a risky one, given the land was undeveloped and prickly pear infested. According to the terms of their lease agreements, they were obliged to clear the land of the weed pest. Indeed, it took at least 20 years for their land to be rid of the dreaded prickly pear. I’ve written about this in Prickly pear and its nemesis: A plain grey-brown moth (November 4, 2019).
Donald and Flora, and Donald’s parents Thomas and Elizabeth, moved from Westwood to Rannes in 1915.
It was a significant move. After all, Thomas and Elizabeth and their family had been residents of Westwood for the best part of 20 years. Five of the couple’s 10 children were born while they lived at Westwood. The Beaumont family was well-known and well-respected in the district. They had been involved in all spheres of community life – the school, the church, social, cultural and sporting activities – as well as running a successful carrying business. The Westwood community came together on 27 February 1915 to give them a public farewell.
Mr and Mrs T Beaumont and family, who are leaving Westwood to reside at Rannes, were entertained at a social in the School of Arts on Saturday evening last. Mrs Stanley and Mrs J T McLaughlin acted as hostesses, and despite a storm in the afternoon, about eighty residents attended. Good music was supplied by Mr A Gordon and Mr N Thomas acted as master of ceremonies. Songs were rendered by Mrs H C Stevens, Misses Beaumont and Stanley, and Messrs Cook, Stevens and J Beaumont, and a recitation by Mr O Stanley. During the evening the Rev B S Hammond, on behalf of the residents, presented Mr Beaumont with a silver-mounted pipe in a case, and a morocco tobacco pouch, and Mrs Beaumont with a silver cake dish and silver rose bowl, on an oak stand. He referred to their long residence in the district and Mrs Beaumont’s good work in connection with church and charitable movements, being always the first to lend a hand in every good work. He wished them all happiness and prosperity in their new home. Mr Beaumont expressed thanks for the nice presents and kind words and said that the gifts would always be a treasured possession in his house. Splendid refreshments supplied by Mrs Tierney, were handed round, when dancing was kept going merrily till midnight when the singing of “Auld Lang Syne” brought a most enjoyable evening to a close. 
The Rannes years
Donald and Thomas – ever so resourceful – built their own houses on their respective properties. Donald’s house, the one I remember visiting, was a high-block timber dwelling with a galvanized iron roof, wide verandahs on three sides, a kitchen and dining area at the back of the house, large central living room, two or three bedrooms off the living room, and an upstairs bathroom. An enclosed verandah on one side served as an additional bedroom. There was an open laundry and a galvanized iron enclosed shower room under the house.
Donald and Flora called their property “Woolein View” after nearby Woolein Creek (a tributary of the Don River at Rannes). Thomas and Elizabeth called their property “Mons”, after the first major battle of World War I. The Great War (as it became known) commenced on 28 July 1914 and continued until 11 November 1918.
By the time the family moved to Rannes, the war in Europe had been raging for about 7 months.
Three of Donald’s brothers volunteered for military service during The Great War. All three were single at the time. Thomas junior (32 years 1 month) enlisted first, on 11 January 1916. Charles (34 years 11 months) enlisted next, on 31 March 1916. Alexander (“Alec” as he was known, 23 years 4 months) enlisted last, on 20 October 1916.
Messrs T Beaumont, junior, and G and A Fraser, who have volunteered for active service, were entertained at a smoke concert on Tuesday night last at Mrs Lawe’s Hotel. The Rev B S Hammond presided and there were about thirty present. After the loyal toast, the Chairman proposed the guests, who, he said, had answered the country’s call for men and were going forward to do their best in the fight for liberty and freedom. He presented each with a leather body belt and the balance of the subscription in cash and hoped that the war would soon be over and all our boys be back among us again. Messrs S B Leishman and J T McLaughlin supported the toast which was drunk with the usual honours. Each of the guests returned thanks for the kind things that had been said and for the useful present and hoped they would come back again. 
In the meantime, the union between Donald and Flora produced two children. Harold Donald was born on 17 October 1913; Evelyn Maud (my mother) was born on 14 January 1916. Evelyn’s birth at the Mount Morgan Hospital took place just days after Flora’s brother Henry and Donald’s brother Thomas enlisted in the war effort.
Both Henry and Thomas were close siblings of Flora and Donald, so their departure would have weighed heavily on Flora and Donald. I’ve written previously about the relationship between Flora and her brother Henry, and Henry’s war service, in Henry’s World War I postcards to Flora (September 11, 2015).
Ironically, while all three of Donald’s brothers were deemed fit for overseas service, all three ended up being discharged from the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) on medical grounds. Thomas was discharged on 6 December 1916, Charles on 30 October 1917 and Alexander on 8 May 1919. For each one, the circumstances were different.
The fate of Donald’s brothers: Thomas, Charles and Alexander
Private Thomas Beaumont, of the 52nd Battalion, left Sydney on 20 April 1916, bound for Egypt. Not long after arriving in Egypt, Thomas came down with influenza. It was serious enough for him to be hospitalised at Suez, on 24 May 1916. He spent the next couple of months in hospital, with chronic bronchitis. Thomas continued to lose weight (at enlistment he weighed only 9 st 5 lb or 59 kg) and became severely weak. By July 1916, he was assessed medically unfit for active service. He was sent home to Australia, arriving in Melbourne on 3 August 1916. He was discharged on 6 December 1916.
Thomas arrived at Rannes on 12 December “in a sickly and depressed condition”. Three days later, at his parent’s home, he took his own life. Elizabeth, Thomas’ mother, found his body.
I will never know – I can only guess – what impact Thomas’ suicide had on Donald and Flora. Thomas and Donald were the closest of brothers: Donald must have felt Thomas’ death most bitterly. In later years, whenever my mother spoke about her uncle “Tommy”, I always sensed her fear – that someone else in the family might do the same one day.
Fortunately, neither Donald nor Flora were alive when their youngest son, Allan, 59, took his own life in similar tragic circumstances. Of course, my mother Evelyn, who was very close to her brother, was utterly devastated. I don’t think she ever got over her brother’s suicide.
Thomas’s name is included in the World War I Honour List at Westwood. For more about Westwood’s War Memorial, read Remembering Westwood’s first Anzac Day ceremony (1996) (April 22, 2017).
Private Charles Frederick Beaumont, of the 26th Battalion AIF, saw active service in France. On 27 April 1917, at Bullecourt, he received gunshot wounds to the buttocks and leg. He spent a couple of weeks in a field hospital before being transferred (on 13 May 1917) to the Lord Derby Hospital, Winwick, England. His wounds to the intestine and rectum were serious and did not heal satisfactorily. Consequently, Private Charles Beaumont was sent back to Australia, where he was discharged on medical grounds on 30 October 1917.
After the war, Charles took up dairy farming in the Rannes district. He never married. Charles died on 1 June 1932, while a patient in Rockhampton’s Tannachy Hospital. He was 51. For 12 months prior to his death, he battled liver cancer and associated exhaustion.
Lance Corporal Alexander (“Alec”) Bloomfield Beaumont spent his 2½ years in the AIF as a driver for a field company of Engineers. He did not see active service but served his time in England. His problem was “defective vision”. Indeed, his first application for enlistment was rejected on the basis of his “weak eyes”. (I remember Uncle Alec always wearing glasses with very thick lenses.) Despite his disability Alec must have done a good job as he was promoted to Lance Corporal some 6 months before he was discharged, on 8 May 1919.
After the war, Alec married, and he and his wife Ivy (nee Wallace) raised four daughters. For many years, he carried out farming in the Yeppoon district. Later Alec joined the staff of the Postmaster General’s Department, where he remained until his retirement. Alec died on 23 June 1978. He was 86.
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At Rannes: Raising a family and working a farm
By 1919, the war in Europe was over. The year began well for Donald and Flora as they welcomed another child into their family. Thyra Grace was born on 20 January 1919. She was a beautiful baby and gave her parents much joy. However, their joy was short-lived, because little Thyra Grace died unexpectedly on 19 April 1920. She was just 15 months old. This sad chapter in Donald’s and Flora’s early married life is the subject of A lock of hair: A treasured keepsake (January 20, 2018).
Happily, my grandparents Donald and Flora went on to have two more children. Leslie Stewart was born on 22 May 1922 and Allan Thomas was born on 6 August 1924.
When Donald and Flora moved to Rannes the family was still using horses, and a horse-drawn buggy, as transport. My mother often told me how she and her brother Harold rode their ponies to school. The school was about 3 kilometres (2 miles) away. The children, like Donald, learnt to ride a horse from a young age.
It must have been the early 1930s when Donald bought his first car, a 1926 Chevrolet. (The Chevrolet was one of the most popular General Motors makes. It entered the automobile market with the sole target of competing with the Model T Ford, and ended up doing much better than anticipated!) I presume it was second-hand, as I don’t think the family would have been able to afford a brand-new car.
During the 1920s Donald commenced dairy farming. By the 1930s, he had about 100 milking cows and ran a successful family dairy. The children helped with the milking, before and after school. In those days, the milking was done by hand. It was a laborious, time-consuming business, seven days a week. Donald took the cream by road to the Rannes railway station from where it was transported by rail to Wowan for processing at the Wowan butter factory.
By the mid-1930s, my grandparents’ property, like so many others in rural Queensland, was clear of prickly pear (Prickly pear and its nemesis: A plain grey-brown moth). It meant that Donald could use the land for cultivation.
Like many other farmers in the fertile Dawson Valley, Donald took up cotton growing. In those days, before the advent of tractors, Donald prepared the ground using a horse harnessed with a plough. My mother told me her father used the turning space at the end of the rows for growing watermelons, breadfruit or rockmelons.
My grandfather, and my uncles, continued to grow cotton on their Rannes properties until the early 1960s. I know, because I remember picking cotton during holiday visits to Rannes. There were no harvesters – you picked the cotton by hand. Cotton-picking is awfully hard work, back breaking, and if you don’t wear gloves (as I didn’t) your hands end up scratched and sore. You would walk along the rows filling a bag tied around your waist, then empty your bag into a sack bag at the end of the row. Finally, the cotton was packed into huge bales, of about 2 cubic metres, for transport by rail to the cotton ginnery in Rockhampton.
As a young man and for most of his adult life, Donald was strong, fit and athletic.
He worked hard and for long hours, but still found time to relax and pursue his sporting interests. Donald was a keen and natural sportsman: a gifted cricketer, fisherman and horseman.
As a resident of the Rannes district, Donald played competitive cricket, as he had done when living at Westwood. It seems that Rannes had a representative men’s cricket team from the early 1920s, although Donald’s name appears first in cricket reports of 1930. [22, 23] In 1930 Donald turned 46! It seems he played competitively up until the hiatus caused by World War II (1939-1945). [24, 25]
Donald continued to play cricket well into his sixties. In 1947, at 63, he was still getting good scores with the bat. By this time his son Leslie, now 15, was playing competitive cricket in the Rannes team alongside his father. 
Fishing was both a passion and a pastime for Donald. At Rannes, whenever he had the opportunity, Donald would cast his line into Woolein Creek. The creek was within walking distance of his home and property “Woolein View”. The good thing about fishing is that it has benefits for the whole family. Donald would catch cod, jew, perch, gar or bony bream, any of which made a nourishing meal for the family.
Donald taught my brother Bevan how to fish. Whenever Bevan came to visit, which meant most primary school holidays, Pop took him fishing at Woolein Creek. In Bevan’s words, “Pop took me to the creek down from the house”. Pop showed my brother how to look for sleepy cod under the water lilies, at the end of a lagoon. Bevan recalled Pop using “little perch” on the line to catch gar fish. Like his teacher, my brother developed a lifelong love of fishing.
Donald’s life revolved around horses.
In 1935, for example, he and several other Rannes district residents formed a committee to organise a camp draft in the district. They agreed to conduct a rodeo and camp draft at Rannes on Saturday 21 September 1935, in aid of the ambulance and the school. The program they organised included an open camp draft, ladies’ camp draft and a maiden camp draft, and it culminated in a ball at night. 
In his later years, Donald’s love of horses led him to breed racehorses again. They included Glen Lyon, Osmond and Woolein Lad. At first Donald had them compete in country race meetings, at Baralaba, Thangool, Jambin and Theodore. [28 – 30] Later, he took them to Rockhampton, where they had a number of wins at Rockhampton’s Callaghan Park racecourse. It appears that Donald raced Glen Lyon and Osmond between 1950 and 1952, and Woolein Lad in 1953 and 1954. [31 – 35]
As I child, I was not aware of just how much these horses, and their success at race meetings, meant to my grandfather. I remember that an exquisitely framed photograph of the finish of a horse race hung proudly on the wall of my grandparents’ lounge room, but I did not understand its significance. Now I realize that it must have depicted one of Donald’s three horses winning a race at Rockhampton’s Callaghan Park. For Donald, that would have been a major achievement.
My mother Evelyn, a dressmaker, told me that her father Donald had her make his jockeys’ silks. As a racehorse owner, he had a unique set of silks for his jockeys, the jockey’s uniform incorporating various colours and shapes (circles, stars, squares and triangles) and patterns into their design. Evelyn told me that making a jockey’s silks was not an easy task, given that she had no pattern to go by (after all the design was a one-off).
Ill-health eventually prevented Donald from continuing his interest in horseracing. But he never lost of his love of horses. I’m not sure when the following photograph was taken, but I remember my grandmother always had a framed copy of it on her dressing table. I suspect it was taken not many years before my grandfather’s death (in 1958). My Aunt Dulcie wrote on the back of the photograph: “Pop loved this horse”. I wish I knew its name.
Donald’s first major bout of illness came in early 1944.
The diagnosis: bowel cancer. As a result, Donald and Flora travelled to Brisbane where Donald would undergo surgery to remove the tumour. At the time, Evelyn, who had joined the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF) in 1942, was living and working in Brisbane (read My mother’s years in the WAAAF (Part 1): Brisbane). Evelyn always remembered visiting her father in hospital and the staff teasing her and calling her “Sergeant Major” (she was wearing her WAAAF uniform). Of course, Evelyn was delighted to see her parents again and spend time with them but was greatly disturbed to learn of her father’s illness. Donald was 59 at the time.
Donald and Flora remained in Brisbane for several weeks after Donald’s operation and, during that time, as Donald regained his strength, Evelyn took her parents on several outings. I think it was their first stay in Brisbane. One of the places they visited with Evelyn was the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary at Fig Tree Pocket.
Because of her father’s illness, Evelyn applied for a transfer to Rockhampton. She wanted to be closer to her parents, who lived about 2 hours’ drive by car southwest of Rockhampton. Happily, her application was successful. Aircraftwoman Evelyn Beaumont took up her new appointment at Rockhampton on 23 April 1944. For more, read My mother’s years in the WAAAF (Part 2): Rockhampton (April 22, 2019).
My mother Evelyn was always close to her father.
After all, given the premature death of little Thyra Grace, Evelyn was Donald’s only daughter. Not surprisingly, he was very protective of her.
In December 1934, when Evelyn contracted typhoid fever and had to be hospitalised in Rockhampton, Donald and Flora were beside themselves with worry. Evelyn nearly died. Just 5 years earlier, in September 1929, Donald’s youngest sister, Beatrice (“Beattie”) died suddenly after contracting typhoid fever. Beattie was just 28 years old. I’ve written previously about these events and the aftermath in A Deadly Disease: Rannes, Queensland, in the 1920s and 1930s (March 26, 2020).
Given the number of reported cases of typhoid fever in the Rannes district in the 1920s and 1930s, Donald and Flora suspected that someone in the Rannes community was a typhoid carrier.
Donald took the initiative and requested council health officers test all residents for typhoid bacilli. Testing confirmed the Rannes “carrier” theory. But the news was devastating for the Beaumont Family. The tests showed that a member of Evelyn’s extended family was a carrier. The person was extremely upset when told, realizing that he/she was responsible for passing on the disease. He/she was also very angry and, in Evelyn’s words, “had a big fight” with Donald, given he was the one who called for the testing. I guess it was just so hard for the person to accept that he/she had caused the family – and others – so much harm and heartache.
I’ve often wondered how Donald and Flora felt when their daughter Evelyn joined the WAAAF. Evelyn enrolled in the WAAAF in Brisbane on 17 September 1942. She was 26. Just one year later, on 21 September 1943, Evelyn’s youngest brother Allan, 19, enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).
Given the sorrow and disappointment Donald and Flora experienced as a result of their siblings’ participation in World War I, I’m sure they would have been concerned for the well-being of their adult children Evelyn and Allan when they joined the war effort in World War II.
It seems that Donald’s surgery in Brisbane in 1944 was successful.
He returned to Rannes, resumed work, and (after the war was over) continued playing competitive cricket, went fishing and took up breeding horses again.
With the birth of my brother in 1946, Donald became a grandfather for the first time. Over the next 11 years, he welcomed three more grandchildren into the family. His youngest grandchild was just 1 year old when Donald died.
Of Donald and Flora’s four surviving children, three married. Harold, their first-born, married Dulcibel (“Dulcie”) Anderson on 24 May 1937. They had no children. I’ve written about my connection with Dulcie and Harold in Auntie Dulcie and the Bung-in Cake (April 14, 2016). Evelyn (my mother) married Lieutenant William Edwin Proposch on 26 March 1945. They had two children (my brother and me). Leslie, Donald and Flora’s second son, married Englishwoman Margaret Bryan, on 8 March 1954. Their union yielded two children (a daughter and a son). Donald and Flora’s youngest son, Allan, never married.
Because my family lived at Rockhampton, as children my brother and I saw a lot of our maternal grandparents.
My brother and I spent many a school holiday at Rannes with them. Also, Donald and Flora used to come to Rockhampton from time to time, on business, for medical check-ups and procedures, and (each year in June) to attend the Rockhampton Agricultural Show.
The Rockhampton Show, the biggest exhibition of its kind in the district, coincided with Carnival Race Meetings at Callaghan Park. Donald was interested in the cattle, produce and machinery on display at the Show, and he had horses competing in the Carnival Races on a number of occasions.
In March 1954, my grandparents made a special trip to Rockhampton to see Queen Elizabeth II and her husband the Duke of Edinburgh. As part of their Australian tour in 1954, the Royal couple made a short 40-minute stopover in Rockhampton on 15 March. The population of Rockhampton increased from 40,000 to 60,000 as citizens from far and wide came to catch a glimpse of the Royal visitors.  My mother Evelyn, along with several neighbours and friends, camped out overnight near the Rockhampton Town Hall, to gain a good vantage point when the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh arrived for the mayoral reception the next day. According to my mother, on the day of the visit, Donald and Flora also positioned themselves near the Town Hall and Donald held my 8-year-old brother on his shoulders so he could see the Queen.
In April 1954, Donald and Flora came to Rockhampton to meet and spend time with my “other” grandparents. My father’s parents, Charles and Elsie Proposch, were visiting from Melbourne. My parents organised for our extended family (my parents, my brother and me, Donald and Flora, and Charles and Elsie) to spend a week together at Mulambin Beach, near Yeppoon. Although I was only 3 years old at the time, I have flashes of memory of the rented beach house where we stayed.
The man pictured in these later photographs is the one I knew as Pop.
I remember staying with my grandparents when they lived at “Woolein View”. I also remember staying with them after they moved to Rannes. Sometime after their son Leslie married (in March 1954), Donald and Flora moved from the house Donald built on “Woolein View” to a much smaller residence in the township of Rannes. I believe the “new” house was once a railway lengthsman’s cottage. Although it was a small dwelling, it had the advantage of being next door to the home of their son and daughter-in-law (Harold and Dulcie), who would keep a watchful eye on them. Around the same time, it appears, Donald’s cancer returned.
My grandfather, Donald William Beaumont, died on 7 July 1958 after a long battle with cancer. He spent his final days at Tannachy Private Hospital, Rockhampton. My mother Evelyn recalled her father’s last words to her: “Write a cheque for your mother.” My grandfather loved Flora, his wife of 47 years, and was concerned for her welfare to the very end. Clearly, given his death-bed request, he was the one who looked after the couple’s finances throughout their married life.
The mortal remains of Donald William Beaumont, Pop as I knew him, were interred in the North Rockhampton Cemetery. Flora, my grandmother, who outlived her husband by 23 years (she died in December 1981), is buried beside him.
According to all reports, my grandfather was held in high esteem by all who knew him.
If only I had known him better.
Halberstater, Ivy. (Undated). Thomas Beaumont, Elizabeth Beaumont (nee Lizzie Tancred) and their Family. Unpublished article. Note: Ivy Lorraine Halberstater (nee Beaumont) died on 19 June 1998, aged 83. She is buried in the Rockhampton Memorial Gardens.
World War I Service Records. National Archives of Australia. (Website).
Newspapers & Gazettes. National Library of Australia. Trove. (Website).
Family History Research Service: Historical births, deaths and marriages. Queensland Government. (Website).
Photographs and anecdotal information from the Beaumont and Proposch Family archives.
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