Who would have thought that a story about my great-grandparents and the house my great-grandfather built on “Mons” would create so much interest and add to my Beaumont Family history?
Thomas Bloomfield Beaumont and Elizabeth Mary Ann Beaumont (nee Tancred) were my maternal great-grandparents. They were also the owners of the grand two-story house Thomas built on their property “Mons”, at Rannes, in Central Queensland. The house was their family home for over 20 years, from 1915 to 1937 (or thereabouts), when Thomas and Elizabeth sold their property and moved to Yeppoon, a small coastal town in Central Queensland.
Five years ago, I published on my blog Mons: Whose house is that? (November 27, 2016), the story of my great-grandparents and their various houses, including the one my great-grandfather built on “Mons”. I concluded the story by asking the question: What became of the house on “Mons”? I confessed I did not know. The house was not there in the 1950s when, as a child, I visited my grandparents at Rannes. Hoping for an answer, I asked if anyone knows what happened to the house on “Mons”.
I now know the answer.
But, more importantly, as a result of my story, I’ve met a second cousin I didn’t know existed and I’ve learnt quite a lot about another branch of the Beaumont family tree.
NOTE: A full 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 [X].
Thomas and Elizabeth Beaumont and “Mons”: A brief recap
During their long marriage (of nearly 62 years), Thomas and Elizabeth Beaumont lived in at least five locations and five different houses. After their marriage in 1878, they lived first at Dundee, then Westwood, Barcaldine, Westwood (a second time), Rannes and, finally, Yeppoon.
Of Thomas and Elizabeth Beaumont’s ten (10) children, five were born during their time at Dundee. Dundee (later renamed Deeford) was located on the banks of the Dee River, 5 kilometres from Wowan. Eighty (80) kilometres southwest of Rockhampton, Wowan later became the main town of the Parish of Dundee. Their other five children were born during the two periods in which the family lived at Westwood, between the late 1880s and 1915. Westwood is located about 50 kilometres southwest of Rockhampton. The Beaumont Family spent the best part of 20 years at Westwood.
Thomas Bloomfield Beaumont, like his father Alfred before him, was a carrier. From his base at Westwood, he transported goods via teams of horses from Rockhampton and Gladstone to centres in the central part of Queensland as far west as Longreach and as far south as Banana. Thomas’s three oldest sons – Charles, Thomas junior and Donald – assisted their father in his carrying business.
In 1912, Thomas (father) and Donald (son) 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 both of 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).
By 1912, Donald had married. He was the first of Thomas and Elizabeth Beaumont’s ten children to wed. Donald, 26, married Flora Jane Balchin, 24, in the Beaumont Family home at Westwood, on 26 April 1911. Donald’s brother Thomas attended Donald as best man, and Donald’s sisters Elizabeth Ellen (“Bessie”) and Hannah Jane attended Flora as bridesmaids. Donald’s little sister Beatrice Maude Caroline (“Beattie”) was flower girl.
For the first few years of their marriage, Donald and Flora made their home at Westwood. The couple’s first child, a son, Harold Donald, was born at Westwood on 17 October 1913.
In 1913, Bessie, 26, the fifth-born of Thomas and Elizabeth Beaumont’s ten children, wed. Bessie married Alfred Thomas Brown in the Beaumont Family home at Westwood, on Monday 14 April 1913. Bessie’s brother Arthur Alfred Bloomfield Alexander (“Alec”) was the couple’s best man and Hannah Jane, Bessie’s sister, was bridesmaid. Bessie and Alfred made their home at Valentine Plains, near Biloela, about 150 kilometres (93 miles) south of Rockhampton.
In 1915, Thomas and Elizabeth and family, and Donald and Flora, moved from Westwood to Rannes. I’ve written in detail about the Beaumont Family’s time at Westwood and their subsequent move to Rannes in Donald William Beaumont: A grandparent I thought I knew (January 19, 2021).
Thomas (father) and Donald (son) built their own houses on their respective neighbouring properties. 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. Donald and Flora (my grandparents) called their property “Woolein View” after nearby Woolein Creek (a tributary of the Don River at Rannes).
Donald’s house, the one I remember visiting as a small child, was a high-blocked 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. The toilet (“dunny”) was a pit latrine about 20 metres walk from the house.
My mother, Evelyn, and her three brothers spent their childhood and early adult life in this house. Evelyn was born at Mount Morgan on 14 January 1916, about 11 months after her parents Donald and Flora and 2-year-old Harold moved from Westwood to their new home at Rannes.
But what of the house Donald’s father Thomas built on “Mons”? What was it like? And what became of it?
These are the questions for which I sought answers.
Another source of the Beaumont Family history
In January this year, I was contacted by Megan Bourne, granddaughter of one of my grandfather Donald’s sisters, Hannah Jane Lewis (nee Beaumont). Megan found my story about “Mons” and my great-grandparents Thomas and Elizabeth Beaumont when she googled “Swetenham”, one of the given names of her late father and paternal grandfather. “Swetenham” is not a common name.
Megan and I share great-grandparents (Thomas and Elizabeth Beaumont), so we are second cousins. Megan’s father was the late Kenneth Norman Swetenham (“Ken”) Lewis, Hannah’s third child, born on 17 May 1923. I remember my mother speaking about her cousins Dawn, Joyce and Ken Lewis, but I knew nothing of their families and later lives.
Megan and I met in February. We shared stories and photographs of our great-grandparents, grandparents, parents and siblings. Megan showed me a booklet her father Ken authored and had printed for the family in 1993. Inside the booklet’s front cover, I found these words: “Dedicated to Emma Marion Beaumont 1833-1907: A pioneer woman of outstanding courage and dignity”. Emma Marion Beaumont was Ken Lewis’s great-grandmother.
Emma Marion Beaumont (nee Collins), 19, along with her husband Alfred Beaumont, 28, and Susannah, Alfred’s 2-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, came to Australia as “assisted immigrants”, arriving at Sydney on 19 March 1853. They came from Colchester, 83 kilometres (about 50 miles) northeast of London, in Essex. During the voyage from England to Australia, on 20 January 1853, on board the ship “Bussorah Merchant”, near the Cape of Good Hope, Emma gave birth to the couple’s first child, a son, Thomas Bloomfield. Alfred and Emma chose the name “Bloomfield” after the ship’s Superintendent Surgeon, D. Bloomfield.
I’ve written at length about Alfred Beaumont’s wife Emma, my great-great-grandmother, and the part she played in my grandfather Donald’s life, in Donald William Beaumont: A grandparent I thought I knew (January 19, 2021). Emma’s mortal remains are buried in an unmarked grave in the cemetery at Westwood, the town where she spent the latter years of her life.
The booklet Megan showed me is her father Ken’s contribution to the Beaumont Family history. Written in the form of a memoir, it contains many interesting stories, photographs, illustrations and anecdotal information about Thomas and Elizabeth Beaumont (Ken’s grandparents) and various members of their family whom Ken remembered from his childhood or came to know well.
Indeed, Ken Lewis’s memoir provides the answers to my questions about the house on “Mons”.
In his memoir, Ken gave a detailed description of his grandparents’ house and revealed what happened to it. But more about that later.
Tom and Hannah Lewis and family
By January 1916, the month in which my mother Evelyn was born, the war in Europe had been in progress for 18 months, with no sign of an end in sight. Many eligible Australian men had already volunteered to join Australia’s contingent supporting Great Britain and its allies on the battlefields of Europe.
During 1916, three of Thomas and Elizabeth’s sons enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). Thomas junior (32 years 1 month) enlisted first, on 11 January 1916. Charles (34 years 11 months), their oldest son, enlisted next, on 31 March 1916. Alec (23 years 4 months) enlisted last, on 20 October 1916.
In that same year, Hannah Jane, eighth-born of Thomas and Elizabeth Beaumont’s ten children, wed. Hannah, 21, married 2nd Lieutenant Thomas Swetenham Lewis, 26, in Brisbane on 17 April 1916. Lieutenant Lewis was a serving member of the AIF, having enlisted at Rockhampton on 27 October 1915.
At the time of his enlistment, Thomas (“Tom”) Lewis, had been living in the Rockhampton suburb of Koongal. He gave his occupation as “well borer and engineer”. Tom, a British citizen, was born at Hope, Wrexham, in north-eastern Wales. Before coming to Australia, he served in two cavalry regiments of the British Army – the 11th Hussars (2 years) and the Denbighshire Hussars (1 year). After migrating to Australia, he worked as a well borer in central and western Queensland.
After her marriage, Hannah returned to “Mons”, Rannes, where she lived with her parents for the duration of the war. Her husband departed Brisbane on 21 October 1916, en route to France, via England. Lieutenant Lewis was to spend the rest of the war at various locations in France (La Motte, Boulogne, Le Havre, Rouen). During one battle, he received a gunshot wound to his back, and had to be hospitalized.
In the meantime, Hannah gave birth to the couple’s first child, a daughter. Olive Dawn Lewis was born on 24 July 1917. Cousins Evelyn Beaumont (born 14 January 1916) and “Dawn” Lewis were destined to become the best of friends.
As soon as the war ended, Tom wanted his wife and child to join him in Britain. After all, he hadn’t seen his young wife for two years, and he was yet to meet his daughter. He arranged for Hannah and Dawn to take the first passenger ship from Australia bound for England.
Although the war was over, Lieutenant T S Lewis remained in England. After the arrival of his wife and daughter, he took four months’ leave from the army, from 15 March to 14 July 1919. He joined Hannah and Dawn at the home of his parents in Wrexham, north-eastern Wales. While on leave, Tom worked for the engineering firm Powell Brothers’ Cambrian Iron Works based at Wrexham.
Tom, Hannah and Dawn Lewis returned to Australia in January 1920. Following termination of his military service on 21 April 1920, Tom joined Hannah and Dawn at “Mons”, Rannes. On 30 April 1920, Hannah gave birth to the couple’s second child, another daughter, Joyce Dadyne.
Around that time Tom and Hannah moved to Baralaba (38 kilometres west of Rannes), where Tom took up a small prickly pear block and built his and Hannah’s first home. However, after battling the prickly pear infestation and the seemingly never-ending drought, Tom gave up the farm.
The family moved to the Yeppoon-Emu Park district. In 1923, Tom and Hannah welcomed a third child into their family. Kenneth Norman Swetenham (“Ken”) Lewis was born at Rockhampton on 17 May 1923. In 1925, Hannah gave birth to a fourth child. Gwenneth Maud was born on 13 January 1925. Tragically, little Gwenneth died a year later, on 7 February 1926. Tom and Hannah were heartbroken.
In 1925, Hannah’s youngest sister, Beatrice (“Beattie”) married Josiah Hindmarsh Elms, of Brisbane, at St Paul’s Cathedral, Rockhampton. Emma, their oldest sister, was bridesmaid, and Josiah was attended by their brothers James (best man) and Alexander (groomsman). Two nieces of the bride, cousins Evelyn Beaumont (9) and Dawn Lewis (7), were flowergirls. 
In the meantime, Tom gained employment with the Postmaster-General’s Department (PMG). He began by building a telephone line from Clermont to Springsure. For a time, he was employed as acting postmaster, Yeppoon Post Office. From 1 October 1926 to 1 March 1928, Tom served as the postmaster at Rannes.  While living at Rannes, Hannah ran the Rannes general store (which, I believe, was attached to the post office) and the children attended Rannes State School.
During this period, cousins Evelyn Beaumont and Dawn Lewis saw a lot more of each other. They attended the same school. At the Rannes State School end-of-year concert on December 3, 1927, Evelyn (11) and Dawn (10) sang “I Don’t Want to Play in Your Yard” as a duet. At the same event, parent and local postmaster Tom Lewis and headteacher Miss A L Stuart gave vocal solos. 
In April 1928, Tom and Hannah and their three children moved to Carmila, where Tom had been appointed postmaster.  Carmila is a small town in Central Queensland, 244 kilometres north of Rockhampton and 65 kilometres south of Sarina. The Carmila Post Office was an adjunct to the town’s general store, so Tom’s role included running the general store.
I know my mother Evelyn visited the Lewis Family at Carmila on a number of occasions, to spend time with her cousins Dawn and Joyce. They were quite close. Indeed, when Dawn married Milo Cadman Maynard Courtney at Mackay on 27 March 1937, Evelyn was one of Dawn’s bridesmaids. 
In 1939, due to Tom’s ill-health, Tom and Hannah Lewis sold the Carmila General Store and Post Office, which included a number of agencies and the mail service to and from Upper Carmila Creek. 
A year later, after a brief stint of farming and grazing at Elalie (near Clairview, south of Carmila), Tom Lewis returned to Carmila to take up the position of cane inspector, Plane Creek Mill (Sarina). He replaced Mr K Stupart who had enlisted for military service (it was wartime again).  Tom and Hannah later settled at Dalrymple Heights, west of Mackay.
On 16 May 1942, Tom and Hannah Lewis’s second daughter, Joyce, married Lawrence Belgium Kluver. The couple settled at Mackay.
In that same year, on 9 October 1942, the Lewis’s 19-year-old son Ken enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). Like his father before him, Flight Lieutenant Ken Lewis wanted to contribute to Australia’s war effort. Based in England, Ken was attached to the Royal Air Force (RAF) 15th squadron.
In 1945, Ken was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for “skill and fortitude in operations against the enemy” (so reads the citation). [8, 9] Flight Lieutenant Lewis was discharged from the RAAF on 25 September 1945. He returned to the Mackay district.
On 17 May 1947, at Mackay, Ken Lewis married Betty Loadsman. Betty’s family lived at Orkabie, a coastal town near Carmila.  Ken and Betty later settled at Clare, near Ayr, in the Burdekin district of north Queensland.
About the house on “Mons”
Ken Lewis, grandson of Thomas and Elizabeth Beaumont, remembered his many visits to his grandparents at “Mons”, Rannes, and the couple’s magnificent home. Although he was very young when his family lived at Rannes (from late 1926 through to early 1928), in subsequent years Ken spent many a school holiday with his grandparents at Rannes.
Years later, in his Beaumont Family history write-up, Ken provided a detailed description of his grandparents’ house (the one Thomas built on “Mons”) and stories about its occupants (Ken’s grandparents, uncles and aunts – those who still lived there during his visits).
According to Ken, the high-blocked house was huge. Upstairs it had many bedrooms (probably six) with a verandah all the way around. In summer, the “boys” (Ken’s uncles) used to move their stretchers onto the verandah and sleep there (where it was cooler). Ken’s Aunt Emma, (Thomas and Elizabeth’s oldest daughter, the one with the wooden leg), would also sleep on the verandah during the summer months – in a double bed with a mosquito net. He wrote, “We [he and his siblings, I presume] were intrigued by the wooden leg hung from the bed post at the foot of the bed but were too shy – or well-mannered – to ever ask any questions!”
As well as the bedrooms, the top floor featured a “parlour” – a room used to entertain guests. It contained good quality cane furniture and a Beale piano, with candleholders that folded back or out. Ken recalled this room being used for “sing songs”, usually on a Saturday night, when friends would “drop in”. Elizabeth (“Nan” to Ken) would play the piano “in a mechanical sort of style, for she was only an average pianist and only played with music”.
Apart from occasional use of the parlour, the top floor of the house (“upstairs”) was reserved for sleeping. It was where you went to bed at night-time. In the morning, after you made your bed and tidied up, you got dressed and came “downstairs”. According to Ken, his grandmother introduced and enforced very strict “house rules”, which everyone took very seriously. One of these rules was that you didn’t go “upstairs” during the day unless instructed to do so. That is, apart from the women of the household who went upstairs to clean, dust and collect the washing.
Upstairs, there was no toilet. The toilet (an outside “dunny”) was a long way from the house, so during the night the women used chamber pots. These had to be emptied each morning (thankfully for Ken, not something he ever had to do).
The ground floor of the house (“downstairs”) comprised the kitchen, dining room, living room, bathroom and laundry. As Ken recalled, “Downstairs was where it all happened.”
The kitchen was huge. Most meals were served in the kitchen. The family sat at the large table which had forms either side and chairs at either end. The chairs were reserved for Thomas and Elizabeth (“You didn’t trespass by sitting on one of these,” wrote Ken), while the rest of the family sat on the forms.
A polished black cast iron “Crown Dover” stove took pride of place in the kitchen. This very large wood stove was set in an equally large stove recess. A sizable copper hot water tank with a brass tap on the bottom and a hinged lid on top sat on top of the stove, over the firebox. All the cooking pots were enormous and made of cast iron. On bread-making days, Ken recalled the tins of dough rising in the heat of the recess, awaiting the time when his grandmother put them in the oven for baking. On ironing days, the women of the house heated the Mrs Potts irons on the stovetop.
Near the stove recess, a door opened to the “outside”. Beside the doorway sat a big wooden box, piled high with billets of split wood – fuel for the greedy combustion stove. It was the responsibility of the men of the family to supply the firewood and (according to Ken) his grandmother made sure the supply was always ahead of the demand!
Outside the kitchen, Thomas built a large “bush house”. The structure consisted of a bush timber frame spread with wire or wire netting covered with the dense foliage of a creeper. The area underneath was always cool. It was watered regularly in the summertime to lower the temperature and raise the humidity.
A charcoal cooler, about 6 ft (1.8 m) long and 4 ft (1.2 m) wide, stood in the centre of the bush house. The cooler comprised an outer box made of hardwood and an inner galvanised iron box. Charcoal filled the space between the two boxes. The cooler operated on the principle of evaporative cooling, the charcoal kept wet by frequent watering. In lieu of refrigeration, the family used the cooler to store milk, cream and homemade butter, among other things.
The dining room, located next to the kitchen, was large and “quite formal”. Elizabeth used the dining room when the family had visitors for “dinner” or “supper” (that is, lunch or the evening meal) and on Sundays, when the whole family sat down together for the midday meal.
The dining room led to the living room. Ken described it as “a wonderfully cool and comfortable living area, liberally surrounded on three sides with ferns, both hanging and [planted] in the ground”. Comfortable chairs – mostly homemade and of various designs – and Thomas’s squatter’s chair comprised the seating in this room. Megan (Ken Lewis’s daughter) remembers her grandmother (Hannah) telling her how Thomas and Elizabeth kept the living room cool during hot summer days. They hung hessian from floor to ceiling with a tray of water at the bottom. The hessian absorbed the water so the hessian was constantly wet, raising the humidity and lowering the temperature.
All of the rooms on the ground floor had tamped “ant bed” floors. The earthen floors were made from crushed ant or termite mounds, carefully levelled, and covered with Ormonoid, a water-based bitumen waterproofing material. Ken recalled that his grandmother always kept the floors “scrupulously clean”.
An orchard surrounded the house. It consisted of a great variety of fruit trees, mainly citrus. Sweet potatoes grew throughout the orchard, supplying the family with potatoes and greens (the tips of the sweet potato vines). The house garden included a “chook run”, which supplied enough eggs to meet all the family’s needs and poultry (when required) for Sunday lunches.
The house was set back about half a mile (800 metres) from the “main road” (at the time a simple dirt track connecting the townships of Rannes and Banana). Thomas and Elizabeth’s son Charles (“Uncle Charlie” to Ken) built the “front gate” at the entrance to the property near the main road. It was a massive double gate mounted between two high posts with a log cap. Ken recalled: “The gates were of hardwood finished with an adze to a near perfect finish. All joins were morticed and tenon and secured with a wooden peg. There was no metal of any kind in the whole structure.” Ken described the gate as “a work of art”. Thomas and Elizabeth were very proud of it, and were only too pleased to point out its features to all visitors to “Mons”.
Neither the house nor its surroundings (as described by Ken) were there when I visited “Mons” in the 1950s.
So, what happened to this magnificent house?
In Ken Lewis’s account of the Beaumont Family history, I found the answer to my question. (It came as a big surprise.)
In 1937 (or thereabouts), when the aged Thomas and Elizabeth, and their daughter Emma, left “Mons” and moved to Yeppoon, they took their house with them! Well, not the whole house – just the top floor. They had the top floor removed – piece by piece – and rebuilt at Yeppoon.
Here, Thomas and Elizabeth lived until the end of their days. Elizabeth died on 27 February 1940, not long after their move to Yeppoon. Thomas died four years later, on 6 July 1944.
Thomas bequeathed the Yeppoon house to his daughter Emma, who continued to live there until 1970 (or thereabouts), when she moved to Rockhampton. Emma spent the last few years of her life at the Eventide Aged Persons’ Home, Rockhampton. She died at Rockhampton on 11 August 1974, aged 94.
I visited “Aunt Emma” at her Yeppoon house (and later at Eventide, Rockhampton) with my mother on a number of occasions. I remember the Yeppoon house. It was low-set, relatively large, but not at all grand. I would never have guessed the origin of that house!
The fate of the property “Mons”
I am uncertain as to the year my great-grandparents Thomas and Elizabeth Beaumont left “Mons” and moved to Yeppoon. I doubt it was 1937. In November 1938, the couple celebrated their diamond (60th) wedding anniversary. According to newspaper reports of the event, the couple still lived at Rannes.  I believe their move to Yeppoon may not have taken place until 1939. After all, their house on “Mons” had to be dismantled at Rannes and reconstructed at Yeppoon, and this would have taken considerable time.
In the meantime, their son Donald, who owned “Woolein View”, took over the management of his parents’ neighbouring property (“Mons”).
Donald and Flora Beaumont, my grandparents, had three sons: Harold Donald (born 1913), Leslie Stewart (born 1922) and Allan Thomas (born 1924). On 24 May 1937, at Theodore, Harold married Dulcibel Eileen Leinster May (“Dulcie”) Anderson, of Thomby.
After their marriage, Harold and Dulcie settled at Rannes. Their large house block was located next door to the Banana Shire Council office building. From here, Harold operated a petrol and diesel distribution centre and, twice a week, he conducted a mail and goods run from Rannes to Banana and Theodore, a round trip of 130 miles (210 kilometres).
I’ve written previously about Harold and Dulcie, a special uncle and aunt of mine, in Auntie Dulcie and the Bung-in Cake (April 14, 2016).
By the late 1930s, Donald and Flora’s second son Leslie (“Les”) was old enough to assist his father on the farm. Donald grew grain crops and cotton, raised dairy and beef cattle and ran a dairy. According to Ken Lewis, Donald operated a modern well-equipped dairy, one of the most up-to-date in the district.
In 1954, Les (31) married Margaret Bryan (19). The ceremony took place at St Barnabas Anglican Church, North Rockhampton, on 8 March 1954. Les’s younger brother Allan was best man and his sister-in-law Dulcie (Harold’s wife) was matron of honour. Les’s sister and brother-in-law, Evelyn and Bill Proposch (my parents), hosted a small reception at their Simpson Street, North Rockhampton home.
Les and Margaret met at a dance at Banana, where Margaret was working on a dairy farm. Margaret, an Englishwoman, came to Australia on the “£10 pom” immigration scheme, which was operating at the time. She said, “I came for the novelty of it – it was an easy way to travel.” Then she met Les and stayed.
Not long after Les and Margaret married, Donald handed over the management of his two properties (“Woolein View” and “Mons”) to his son Les. Donald was unwell: The bowel cancer, for which he had surgery in Brisbane in the mid-1940s, had returned. Donald and Flora left their home on “Woolein View”, where they had lived for nearly 40 years, to make way for Les and Margaret.
Donald and Flora “down-sized”. They moved to a small cottage in the township of Rannes. They took over a former railway workers’ cottage located next door to the house where their son Harold and daughter-in-law Dulcie lived. I remember many visits to my grandparents when they lived in this cottage. It is where I spent time with my grandfather in the latter years of his life (read Donald William Beaumont: A grandparent I thought I knew).
In the early 1960s, Les and Margaret decided to build a house for themselves on “Mons”. They chose to locate their new home on the same site as that of Les’s grandparents’ former home. In the meantime, Les and Margaret renamed the property “Tarrawonga”, an Aboriginal word meaning “mating place of pigeons”.  As I recall, Les and Margaret and family moved into their “new” house (actually a composite of a couple of buildings they purchased and moved to the site) in the mid-1960s.
Clearly, the house Les built on “Tarrawonga” was not at all like the grand house his grandfather Thomas built on the same site 50 years previously.
I’m not sure exactly when, but about 15 years later, Les and Margaret left their property and moved to far north Queensland. Surprisingly, they gave up farming to try their hand at professional fishing. Their two adult children, Linda and John, joined them. For a number of years, Les and Margaret had caretakers manage their Rannes property. However, in the 1980s they sold “Tarrawonga”, choosing a life on the sea over a life on the land.
Certainly, the sale of “Tarrawonga” marked the end of an era.
The property today
In 2018, my husband Tony and I revisited Rannes. We drove past my grandparents’ former property “Woolein View” (it was sold soon after my grandmother’s death in 1981) and “Tarrawonga”, the property that once belonged to my great-grandparents.
We stopped by the main road near the entrance to “Tarrawonga”. I could see the house (Les built), and the road leading to it. As Ken Lewis recalled in his account of “Mons”, the house block is about 800 metres from the gate near the main road exit.
As a child, I visited my uncle, aunt and cousins here many times. I knew the place well. My uncle and aunt were proud of the improvements they made to the property. They re-established the chookrun, kept a few horses and raised a small number of beef cattle. Aunt Margaret built and maintained a productive vegetable, herb and flower garden. She planted fruit trees and ornamentals.
Uncle Les worked the land. He was a dedicated, hard-working farmer and, whenever I visited, he was always preparing the soil and planting or harvesting crops of some kind. During the early 1960s, on several occasions, my brother and I hand-picked cotton for Uncle Les. He always hired a number of eager young cotton-pickers from the district during the picking season. My brother and I (two city kids) were “extras”.
As I took in the scene before me, my heart sank. The property was not at all like I remembered it. Clearly, it was drought-stricken. It looked like a wasteland.
The land was devoid of vegetation, apart from the odd sucker and scattered weeds. There were no crops, no grass, and almost no trees. The dry, bare ground was littered with stones. There were no cattle, indeed no animals of any kind, and not a bird in sight (certainly no mating pigeons).
Last of all, on the metal gate at the entrance to the property, there was a weather-worn sign that read: “PRIVATE PROPERTY. ENTER AT OWN RISK. OWNER”.
NOTHING GOLD CAN STAY
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
Robert Frost (1874-1963)
Lewis, K. N. S. (1993). Untitled. Family history (booklet). Publisher unknown.
Queensland Government. Births, deaths, marriages and divorces. Family history research service. Online: https://www.familyhistory.bdm.qld.gov.au/
National Archives of Australia. Defence Service Records. B2455, LEWIS THOMAS SWETENHAM, Item ID 8198905.
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