Little Libraries

What is a Little Library?

Little Libraries are small waterproof spaces you provide, in any shape or size, to hold books. Old Microwaves are ideal for this, but your imagination can come up with some other suitable container. They’re positioned so people can safely access them from the street. However, they cannot be placed on council owned footpaths but just inside your boundary is OK- On your garden wall for example.

You might also see them in a corner store, doctors’ surgery or café.    Samford and district has a growing number. They are an invitation to share the joys of reading within your community as well as a great way to meet people.

Little Library books come and go; no-one needs to check them in or out. People simply take what interests them; when they are done, they can return or exchange them or pass them on to friends. What could be simpler?

If you have any book(s) that you think others would enjoy, You can place them in any Little Library that you see as you walk around the town.

If you are interested in making and sharing your own little library and want information you can contact us at the email below and we can advise you on how to make one.

All our Little Libraries are made of creatively recycled materials as you can see in the photos above.

The Community Library Samford can assist you with filling your Little Library, refresh or replace books when necessary. You can also list your Little Library with us to promote the Library Trail.

CHEESE PLEASE – By Mary Mageau

© Mary Mageau

Another short piece from Mary Mageau – one of our best and most regular contributors – all about a simple day out.


A bright morning promised a warm, sunny day – we both needed a break – so what could be better than to head off in the car for a day away. We have been discovering unfamiliar back roads and byways as we explore the rich history of our small regional towns, while enjoying our beautiful Sunshine Coast scenery.

‘Where do you want to go today, Sally? It’s your turn to decide.’

‘Let’s head for the upper end of the Mary Valley. I would really enjoy a drive through the dairy farming region as I have never seen this part of the country before.’

My partner took up the suggestion. ‘The town of Kenilworth could be a great place for lunch. It’s been years since I was there and it isn’t too far away – located about 60 km west of Noosa. Someone told me there is a cheese factory there. We’re both crazy about cheese so this might be a good place to take a look around.’

It was decided and off we went. This lovely valley is home to the Mary River, meandering through a landscape of rolling hills, neatly planted fields of vegetables, and many majestic old shade trees. Three large farms in the valley are stocked with herds of Holstein Friesians, Brown Swiss, and Jersey cattle. All of these cows were roaming peacefully through the fields, browsing and grazing in their lush paddocks. These particular breeds have been selected for the various characteristics they contribute to creating the perfect milk. Since the early part of the twentieth century, the Kenilworth Dairies’ farmers follow on in a rich history of dairy farming in this region. Many agree that the milk produced here is of the finest quality nation-wide.

The small and vibrant town of Kenilworth came into view and sure enough, a large complex, named Kenilworth Country Foods, was discovered on the edge of town. Poppa’s Café offered alfresco dining under spreading shade trees. This led to a covered courtyard lined with an impressive larder of timber shelves. Mouth-watering, delectable sauces, pickles, chutneys, and jams were all on display here.

‘Let’s each pick up a bottle or two from the larder first, before we sample the cheeses.’

I dropped a mixed berry jam into our shopping bag as Sid selected onion jam and peach chutney. But it was the variety of cheese, yoghurt, mousse, and the homemade ice cream that left us spoiled for choice. Heaven!

After tasting an array of fabulous cheese samples, we each selected our choice of packages from the cold cabinets. The shopping bag grew heavy with wedges of mature cheddar, a soft cheese flavoured with coriander and sweet chilli, another filled with bush pepper and lemon myrtle, and finally a complex and mature Malling Red. A Devonshire tea followed by coffee treated us to the perfect lunch, and a different picturesque road led us home again.

During the next few days we joined friends for drinks and a catch-up chat, and I arranged a cheese platter as our offering. It looked so attractive I asked Sid to take a photo of it before we ate it all. Pointing his camera and leaning over the platter we laughed as he said, ‘Say, cheese.’ Snap went the shutter. The cheese is long gone now but we have a lasting memento of our Mary Valley day out.

A Hold-Up. By Mary Mageau.

“Bailed-Up”, by Tom Roberts

A Hold-Up

A beautiful autumn morning greeted four passengers as they waited near their Cobb & Co coach. It was a new model, pulled by a team of four powerful horses.
    ‘Good morning folks,’ the driver summoned the waiting group toward him. ‘Bring your baggage forward for Jess to stow on the roof rack. I have five names on the passenger list but only four of you are here. Has anyone seen our other passenger?’
    ‘Here she comes around the corner of the station house.’ All heads turned to look at a slender, young woman dressed entirely in black. Smiling she acknowledged the driver with a nod. Then she approached Jess and offered him her small, shabby valise.
    ‘You are Mrs Fiona McCall?’ She nodded. ‘You two ladies will board first then the gentlemen will follow. We must be away now, so we can reach Stanum well before sundown.’ With a flourish he signed his travel book and noted the date: 5th May, 1874. Taking the reins he commanded the horses to move forward. The coach was on its way.

The passengers settled comfortably as two of the men opened books and began to read. Fiona admired the scenery as the coach lurched along through a mixed forest of shrubs, grey and spotted gums and the occasional towering tallowwood tree. The other woman passenger smiled at Fiona as she spoke quietly. ‘I am Mrs Mabel Prentice, on my way to visit my sister and her husband. She has taken a bad turn and could use some help with the housework and the bookkeeping she does for their apple orchard. Where will you be leaving the coach?’

‘I am Fiona McCall, staying in Stanum with my Aunt Elizabeth. She has a shop there and could use my help.’

‘You are dressed in widow’s mourning clothes, Mrs McCall. Have you lost a family member?’

‘My husband, Iain, and I were married two years ago. He died from a riding accident only a few months into our marriage. I still cannot forget it.’

‘I’m so sorry to hear this. Please accept my condolences. I buried my husband several years ago, and much time is needed to recover from the loss of a loved one.’

‘Your words encourage me, Mrs Prentice. Stanum will be a good place to begin again. A new school has been built in the little town and I may find a way to help the teachers or work with the children. Since the tin mine was opened, my aunt’s shop is becoming very busy, and she needs a helper. I hope your stay with your sister will be a happy one.’

After lunch the coach grew quiet as the party moved on. The countryside formerly filled with trees and native shrubs began to change. Fewer trees were sighted as huge rocks and boulders now filled the land. On a distant horizon, a massive pile of giant stones and tors appeared. One of the men aboard pointed to this monolith and enlightened the travelers as to its name.

‘This amazing rock formation is Donnelly’s Castle, named after old Ned Donnelly, the first early settler of the area. It makes a perfect hideout for the infamous “Captain Thunderbolt,” the bushranger leader of an outlaw gang. Thunderbolt knows every inch of this country and has never been apprehended by the law. Let’s hope we don’t meet him today.’

Both women lapsed into silence and their journey continued peacefully until a small group of mounted men appeared from nowhere to encircle the coach. ‘This is a hold-up,’ was loudly shouted and the coach slowed to a stop. Everyone grew uneasy, when one of the passengers spoke out, ‘These riders are bushrangers, thieves and robbers. Give them what they want and they will leave.’ The coach door was pulled open and a wild looking man holding a pistol thrust an old cap toward the men.

‘Fill the cap with your money and valuables and be quick about it.’ The three men emptied their money and watches into the cap. Mrs Prentice took off her gold earrings, her locket, and two rings. She filled the cap, and passed it to Fiona who added her loose coins, and her gold stud earrings. She passed the cap back to the man.

‘I see your wedding ring. Put it in here now.’ 

‘You will not have my ring.’ She spoke with quiet determination then folded her hands in her lap.

The man pointed his pistol directly at her forehead and the coach travelers heard a click as he prepared to fire it. ‘The ring, right now!’ he snarled.

 ‘No,’ she answered, lifting her  right arm to touch her forehead, her heart, her left and right shoulders, tracing the sign of the cross while looking straight into the barrel of his gun.

A shout came from outside. ‘Everyone, out. Mount up. Troopers are following us!’ The man snatched the cap and backed away from the door. As the travelers watched from the coach windows, the group of outlaws rode away at breakneck speed toward Donnelly’s Castle.

The coach driver appeared at the door. ‘Is everyone aboard safe? We should all step outside for a moment and steady ourselves before we move on. By heaven, I never thought I’d come face to face with Captain Thunderbolt himself! His men only got away with your belongings and a strong box filled with cash for the bank. I am sorry for your losses but at least no one was shot or injured.’

When the passengers climbed aboard one of the men took Mrs McCall’s arm. ‘You are a brave little woman, and you are fortunate that you weren’t shot.’ As the coach pulled away for the final leg of its journey, Fiona ran her fingers over the smooth gold band of her precious wedding ring. Oh Iain, whenever I feel your ring on my hand I am comforted. I know you are with me and will care for me all the days of my life. Nothing will ever take your ring away from me.



Captain Starlight

The word, bushranger, was first used in Australia in 1805 to describe the criminals who attacked travelers and stagecoaches along the roads. Bushranger gangs grew from the rise of escaped convicts, to the colonial-born sons of the poor who wanted an easier life than mining or farming offered. Bushrangers often adopted flamboyant names: Captain Thunderbolt, Captain Starlight, and Captain Moonlight. By 1830, Jack Donahue was deemed to be the most dangerous in the country and was known by all as, the Wild Colonial Boy.

Bushranging happened all over Australia while Van Diemen’s Land (later known as Tasmania) produced the most violent ones. Hundreds of criminals roamed at large in the bush, farms were given up, and the army was finally brought in to round up and capture these men. As the years passed, an increasing push of settlement, a greater police presence, better rail transport, and the telegraph, made it difficult for bushrangers to evade capture. Among the last of the bushrangers was the Kelly Gang, led by Ned Kelly and captured in Glenrowan, Victoria in 1880. By early 1900 the scourge of the bushrangers had all but died out. They live on today in Australian folklore, immortalized as  part of a long history of men that rose to fame such as Robin Hood and Dick Turpin in England, and Jessie James and Billy the Kid in the United States.

  We have our own family bushranger story that has come down through Constable Charles King. As a member of the Queensland Mounted Police, King captured Captain Starlight who was armed and well mounted, after his escape from a prison in Rockhampton. Constable King and a black tracker followed Starlight on horseback for hundreds of miles, moving through harsh country, flats and scrub-lands. Though the journey was a difficult one, King always got his man. He described Captain Starlight as ‘A vain fellow of graceful manner.’ As the lock-up for prisoners was in a secure back room behind the police station house, it was expected that the constable’s wife would cook for any prisoners as well as her own family. King’s wife, Holly, was pleased when Captain Starlight complimented her on her fine cooking and particularly enjoyed her scones. Such was the life of a colonial policeman. 

Elephant Heaven – By Margie Riley

Margie Riley, has just had the most amazing present from her son – and I really do mean amazing! You can read all about it in her account of this most incredible present she received in which a number of family memories were raised and then a visit to an elephant sanctuary to finish it all off.


Elephant Heaven.

Some of you will know that my son, Tom, took me on the trip of a lifetime as a present for a Significant Birthday I celebrated some eighteen months ago. We went to Thailand and Singapore a couple of weeks ago; the main purpose of the trip being to visit the Thai–Burma Railway where my father and a much-loved uncle were unlucky enough to become POWs of the Japanese, along with hundreds of thousands of others. Both these remarkable men survived the ordeal, in fact my uncle lived until he was ninety-two. How anyone endured the suffering and then managed to re-enter society, apparently unscathed, is beyond me.

However, this story isn’t about them, although the pilgrimage was. Unbelievably, we were the only two on the scheduled tour through Matt McLachlan Tours ( ) so we had our wonderful guide, Pongsin Yingchatdeshokull (no, I have no idea how to pronounce his second name) and the driver, Mr Arbon, to ourselves.

The day after our visit to Hellfire Pass, two war cemeteries for British, Australian, Dutch, US and Canadian casualties, the ‘Weary’ Dunlop Museum and the JEATH (Japanese, English, Australian, American, Thai and Holland) Museum, Pongsin suggested we visit more uplifting places. Therefore, in the morning Mr Arbon drove us to Erawan National Park——famous for its nine cascading waterfalls of pale aqua-blue water and foot-nibbling fish which live in the pools. The fish did nibble, but I didn’t much care for it as a big one was a bit rough. Wimp. We were exhorted to ‘Beware the Slippery’ (and slippery the rocks and submerged trees were), also to ‘Beware the Muggers Lurking Among the Tourists’. We did as we were told, though Tom had to heave his mother out of a rock pool.

We had a delicious lunch at a roadside café where Pongsin had pre-ordered things for us. He’d remembered Tom had said he liked Pad Thai, so that’s what he received; I had chicken and rice. The dessert was banana fritters—universally and unsurprisingly loved by the Thais—and ice cream. We washed it down with beer for Tom and the most delicious ‘lemon’ juice, which I think was a lime juice concoction. I am not a beer drinker, but downed about four in the nine days we were away. There’s something about being in a tropical climate to bring on a thirst.

After lunch we piled back into the van and I continued my habit of ‘sleeping around Thailand’ which Tom, bless him, recorded for perpetuity.

Next stop was the Kanchanaburi Elephant Haven situated on the banks of the River Kwai ( There were dogs, cats, a rooster, chooks—including a clutch of week-old chicks—and the pachyderms. We sat in the shade and waited until it was time for the afternoon bath. There was watermelon for sale at the haven and I learnt why they saved the skins as I watched them piled into wicker baskets. There was an elephant in a shelter opposite our shady spot and she wandered over to some flimsy rails with a narrow pathway on one side, and another rail on the other. The rails are simple, just the one rail, standing a metre or so high and supported on posts quite a distance apart. A reasonable height for ducking under.

The basket was placed in the pathway and we were invited to feed the elephant some of the skins. She knew what was in the basket and we were encouraged to feed her with cries of ‘Don’t worry, no danger‘ from the man in charge. I never learnt if he had been a mahout in a previous life, but he obviously loves his current role at which he excels. He is adept at squatting which, with my dodgy knees, I envy; he has a permanent happy smile and shows off his random gappy brown teeth. Betel nut? When he learnt we were Aussies his eyes lit up and he said: ‘Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, oi, oi, oi,‘ and ‘Winner, winner, chicken dinner‘! In fact, as Australians we were welcomed everywhere we went, it was most gratifying.

Soon other elephants joined the one I’d made friends with and were fed by us and other tourists visiting the sanctuary. One of the elephants had cloudy eyes and I asked her handler if she was blind. ‘Yes, she blind,’ he replied as he gently encouraged her across the compound and down the river bank for her swim. We didn’t see her again. The other girls were just as greedy as the first one and ate an enormous amount of fruit and other roughage; for example, they don’t just eat bananas, they eat the stems of the hands too.

Then it was mud-bath and swim time.

We followed the elephants along a well-worn path leading to a very muddy patch, made muddier for them by the addition of gallons of water. A small Thai boy in the group indulged in the mud play as much as the animals did. The elephants use the mud as pigs do, to keep cool and to deal with various irritations; they squirt it over themselves with their prehensile trunks. Some of the tourists enjoyed the mud too—particularly some Russians who were burnt to a crisp, they would have rued the exposure later on—we, however, abstained. I am happy we did; there are gallons of urine held in an elephant’s bladder. And talking of roughage, there is also a huge amount of excrement all over the place. I never thought to ask if they use it to fertilise the grounds, but there is enough for many gardens.

After they’d played in the mud for as long as they wanted, we all ambled off to a small beach on the River Kwai’s banks. Our fearless leader continued with his ‘Don’t worry‘ and ‘No danger‘ to reassure us. I was never in the least bit apprehensive, despite the size of the girls. ‘Big bum‘, he said to Tom as they wandered along behind one of the elephants. I asked another of the mahouts if one of the cows was pregnant, ‘No, just fat,’ he responded with a wide grin. He told me if she had been pregnant her belly would have been rounded beneath her rather than out at the sides. He also told me, when asked, ‘No, no bulls here; they cause too much aggression.’

I emphasise the elephants are free to come and go as they wish. No chains, no ropes, no sticks, no goads: simply freedom.

We reached the river and in we all went (careful not to drink the water which was soon dotted with floating elephant dung). They love to wallow, just as you will have seen on film, and suck up the water to spray it over themselves and anyone within range. We scratched their ears, bellies, backs, rumps, foreheads etc—but no-one even attempted to climb onto one of them. That is not what they are there for; they have been rescued from trekking and work camps and now live a life of leisure.

One of the cows wandered over to a bit of the bank which overhung the river. She excavated it a bit and lay down on the mud she’d exposed. As she lay there she farted long and loud. ‘Engine starting,’ said our mahout. However, the flatulence might have triggered the mud- and sand-fall which startled and initially buried her. Two of the other cows rushed, as much as an elephant can rush, to her with much trumpeting and snorting, inspecting of the bank, the dirt-fall and general inquisitiveness. They converse with deep rumbles—though I think the trumpeting was for danger—and there was a lot of rumbling going on until the three of them decided the bank was safe again.

After a while we all made our way back to the compound where we fed them more fruit and grass. I gazed into the eye of one of the huge creatures and I swear she looked into my soul. They are gentle, amiable, peaceful and generally calm. Their skin is leathery and firm, their legs hugely wide, their toenails cream-coloured (but where are their toes?), and their trunks are multi-purpose. Trunks are used for smelling the food, manipulating it into the right position for placing in the mouth and for reaching out to the eager, generous hands which feed them. The end of the trunk is quite damp—mucous-y I suppose—and incredibly flexible. They are dextrous animals. Visitors are asked not to approach them head on, nor to approach them from directly behind, not to put food into their mouths—in other words use your common sense.

One of the cows is sixty and the youngest a mere slip of a gal at thirteen or so. Please be assured that these animals are loved as we love our animals and the sanctuary relies on visitors to enable it to purchase more cows to provide them with a restful and comfortable life. If you plan to visit Thailand, I thoroughly recommend a visit. And take the sunscreen.

Our amazing visit came to an end all too quickly. It had, as Pongsin must have thought, erased some of the horrors on view the preceding day. It was the highlight of a trip full of wow moments.

A Review Of Isabel Allende’s “The Japanese Lover”

Our resident book reviewer (Angela Galvin) has just given us several book reviews, so the start the ball rolling, here is the first of them.

The Japanese Lover, By Isabel Allende – A Review

I spent a lot of my adult years not reading anything written by women because the stuff I had read lacked depth and colour – or if they had depth and colour they waffled on and lived there instead of getting on with the story. Then someone gifted me a copy of ‘A Portrait in Sepia” and my mind was changed for ever.

Keeping the descriptions of people and places tight and in small chunks then moving effortlessly through the narrative to the next snippet – so you build a complete picture over the course of the book – is Allende’s particular genius for me.

This is another wonderfully compelling story by Allende. A historical account of two families through the turbulent pre and post-World War ll years, the story of a young woman coming to terms with a dark past, three love stories and a brutal poignant account of old age.

I couldn’t put this one down and read it over two nights. The characters are contemporary and believable, the setting is beautifully described and the story is a gem. Keeping the descriptions of people and places tight and in small chunks then moving effortlessly through the narrative to the next snippet so you build a complete picture over the course of the book is Allende’s particular genius for me.

The Bunya Pine, By Richard Carroll

The Bunya Pine

Before the arrival of the white colonists, the bunya pine was of significant importance to the Aboriginal people of South-East Queensland. Despite its name, the bunya pine (Araucaria bidwilli) is a conifer and not a true pine. The genus name Araucaria has its origins in the word Arauco, an area in Southern Chile where the monkey puzzle tree (A, araucana) grows. The second part is named after the botanist John Bidwill the first “scientist” to describe the tree in detail. The first whites to see the bunya pine were escaped convicts in the 1820s. According to Constance Petrie in Tom Petrie’s Reminiscences of Early Queensland 1904, her grandfather, Andrew Petrie, first discovered the tree and gave some specimens to Bidwill who sent them to England where the tree was named after the botanist, rather than Petrie.

The bunya is endemic to Queensland, being found in the south-east of the state and in two small stands in the far north. The tree is thought to have a life span of 600 years; it occurs naturally on basaltic soils and in areas where the annual rainfall is greater than 1000 mm. The conifers are considered to be very ancient with relatives dating back to the Jurassic period, 175 million years ago. The tree can grow to a height of 45 metres with a diameter of 1.5 metres while the branches form the shape of a dome.

Every three years, the bunya pines produce an abundant crop of nuts packed into a cone bigger than a man’s head, and capable of cracking the head if it happens to interfere with the cone’s descent when it eventually falls from a high limb. Roasted in the coals, the nut is delicious and the Aboriginal people loved it. The Aborigines considered the “bon-yi” as they called it as sacred. When a multitude of nascent cones appeared on the trees, messengers were sent far and wide to invite everyone to a great feast in the Bunya Mountains and the Blackall Range. Each tree was owned by an individual and no one else was allowed to harvest the nuts; the “owner” would climb the tree using a vine and toe holes cut in the trunk though Tom Petrie said that the Aborigines would never have cut a tree and only used a vine to climb. People came from as far south as northern New South Wales and north to Bundaberg, numbering 600 to 700 in the Blackall Range but perhaps in their thousands in the Bunya Mountains. The nutritious nut was eaten either raw or roasted, though it was not the only food eaten during the festival.

Paddy Jerome, Jarowair elder and Bunya Mountains custodian, underlines the importance of the Bunya Mountains and the bunya pine to the Aboriginal people:

The Bunya Mountains, that means our Mothers’ breast – Boobarran Ngummin. This is a very sacred place. To us it is equal in status to Uluru. To all the tribes of South-East Queensland and Northern New South Wales it has been very significant, in fact for thousands of years, perhaps 60,000 years and that’s a long, long time. Our people would gather at the Bunya Mountains from these areas. It is very important that we get the right perspective on these gatherings. Some people think it was just to gorge on bunya nuts. No, it was very deeply spiritual arousing of ceremony. We went to suck the breast of our Mother, who gave us this, the spirituality that was so intense that it was part of our bearing in this country, our Mother Australia, the Earth. We are sucking the breast, sucking the milk, the bunya nut, from her.

The festival was a huge celebration featuring corroborees, exchange of news, trade, marriage arrangements and fighting. Popular belief held that the Aborigines were cannibals and would feast on those who died in the fights or from disease and old age; some people went as far as to say that they made sacrifices as well.

There seem to be few written accounts or legends about the bunya; the only legends found were presented by John Mathew in Two Representative Tribes of Queensland, 1910:

The Rivals

The Bonyi (bunya) and the Kuloloi (cypress pine) being rivals, at one time had a great fight…Then they began to fight and Bonyi speared Kuloloi low down, hence all its lower branches are like spears. As for Bonyi, it was speared high up, which accounts for the lower part of the stem being clear of branches to this day.

The Revengeful Lover, or How the Nicks Came on the Wild Plum

There was once a Bonyi that fell in love with a dainty little tree called Kulvain, which bore a bluish-black fruit like a plum. So he went to Kulvain’s father thinking he had only to ask and the girl would be his and he said unceremoniously…[ The father refuses and Bonyi is enraged] Bonyi then slashed away at Kulvain’s father, and that is why the fruit of the Kulvain is marked all over with nicks at the present day.

The widely available scientific details about the bunya pine are indisputable for the most part. That the bunya is ancient seems beyond doubt; however the facts concerning its evolution are contentious due to the difficulty of obtaining exact information from fossils. Tests done on the nut show it to be a rich source of carbohydrates, and therefore confirm its importance as a seasonal food source to the Aboriginal people. Scientific knowledge of the bunya is of great help to westerners in a pragmatic sense. Yet the doors are closed on the metaphysical aspects of Indigenous knowledge, which are deemed beyond the realm of scientific endeavour and therefore of little significance. Perhaps the most important document concerning Aboriginal contact with the bunya is Constance Petrie’s recording of her father’s experiences. His eyewitness account of the actual festival is of great value as a historical record, though there may be some inaccuracies due to Petrie’s memory of events.

There is much more scientific information than Indigenous knowledge regarding the bunya. It could be argued that westerners are obsessed by detail and that we have the technology and means to satisfy our curiosity. Science is only interested in instrumental values and the benefits that can be gained from knowing something scientifically as opposed to the Aboriginal people who venerate nature for its intrinsic value as well. The dispersal of the tribes and clans led to the demise of the bunya festival towards the end of the nineteenth century. Aboriginal knowledge and tradition was handed down orally from generation to generation; the destruction wrought by the colonists on Aboriginal society has meant that much knowledge has been lost. Much Indigenous knowledge is secret, only available to initiates and therefore beyond the reach of westerners.

Copyright: Richard Carroll

Landscapes Remembered – A Short Story By Mary Mageau

Mary Mageau, one of our most productive contributors has ventured into a completely new area in the following story – she has tried the paranormal for the first time, and if this story is anything to go by, then she has found one of her many strengths – Read on and you shall see.

Landscapes Remembered

Last night I dreamed again of Coleraine.

In my waking memory its image is fleeting, but I still recall a sign near the long driveway, displaying its name. Set in acres of open range with its blazing floral gardens, and the elegant homestead with sweeping verandas on three sides – what could the dream signify? It has aroused such an aching within me I’d better talk to Geoff about it at breakfast.

My partner is a successful vet who specializes in large animal diseases. Geoff travels the length and breadth of the countryside, helping station owners and breeders with their livestock problems. Occasionally when I’m free I join him on these trips. We both love the Australian outback—so vast and empty—such intense colours—The Dry Lands.

‘Geoff, I had a strange dream again about a place called Coleraine. I looked up the name on a search engine and found that Coleraine is a large town in the Irish county of Londonderry. In Gaelic, its name means, nook of the ferns. There is a town by that same name on the Glenelg Highway in Victoria and another in Itaska County in Minnesota. But none of these places seem to fit into my dream.’

‘Gwen, what a coincidence! I was just going to tell you that I’m leaving again tomorrow morning, to visit a remote station. Can you come along with me?’ Geoff had that open, hopeful look on his face I loved so much. ‘I’d really appreciate your company as we’ll be away for several days. And by the way, the place we’ll be visiting is called, Coleraine.’ I could barely contain my excitement as I replied, ‘Absolutely, I’ll join you. I have a deadline to meet on a piece of writing, but I’ll bring along my laptop and work on it at the station. Oh Geoff, this might be the place I dreamed about.’

We packed that evening and found ourselves on the road just before sunrise. On the second morning Geoff remarked, ‘Our destination isn’t that far away now. We should reach the outside gate of Coleraine in a few more minutes.’ I squeezed his hand with excitement.

No sign marked its dusty road. We followed an endless track until I experienced a hint of recognition as we passed a windmill. Excitedly I cried out, ‘Geoff, after this hill crests, you should catch your first glimpse of the house. It’s very large and elegant. There is a circular drive filled with flowers near the front door. In its centre is a fountain set in a small reflecting pool.’

But as we reached the hill top, only the run-down shell of an old house appeared below. It was unpainted and the large verandas had been removed. Neither a flower nor a fountain was in sight. The working sheds scattered behind it were all in the same state of disrepair. I was in shocked disbelief as we reached a dusty circular drive and pulled up near the front entrance. The entire homestead looked dilapidated and uncared for. What could have happened here to change things so drastically?

‘Gwen, I’m sorry to disappoint you but this can’t be the house you saw in your dream. It may have been splendid long ago but it’s recently seen some hard times. Let’s get out and find the station owners. Don’t fret, sweetie – we’ll still have an enjoyable time here.’

As we walked toward the entrance a woman’s voice called out, ‘Welcome to Coleraine! I’m Mary O’Neil. Bill and I have been looking forward to your visit.’ A tall raw-boned woman appeared, held out her arms and gave us each a big hug. I warmed to her immediately. ‘You’ve been on the road a long time and I’ve got the jug boiling. Come on in for some morning tea and let’s get acquainted.’

When we entered the kitchen a strong, burly cattleman put out his hand. ‘Gwen and Geoff is it? I’m Bill, and you are both welcome.’ As we tucked into Mary’s country-style cooking he shared their story. ‘Two years ago this property came on the market and it was in our price range so we grabbed it. The house isn’t much to look at but there are acres of prime grazing land. Mary and I run several hundred head of cattle here on agistment.’

Mary added, ‘Thomas Hanlon built the original house in 1882 for his wife Marie, and their five daughters. It must have been grand in its glory days. Everyone regarded it as the showplace of the district.’

‘And what happened to the house since then, Mary?’ I asked.

‘After the fire of 1895, the back of the house and most of the verandas had gone. Two of the Hanlon daughters perished in the flames. The rest of the house was saved but the family was so destroyed by it all, they just upped stakes and walked away.’

‘Finish your tea, Geoff, then we’ll saddle up.’ Bill rose from the table. ‘One or two of my steers aren’t doing so well and I need the advice of a vet.’

‘Let’s have a look at them.’ Geoff left the table, took out his medical bag, and the men departed. Mary and I cleared the table and washed up. “What do you plan to do with yourself, Gwen, while I carry on in the yard?’

‘I brought my laptop together with some work. Can you set me up at a table next to a power point, Mary? I’m finishing a piece of writing that’s due next week.’ As soon as I had settled down Mary moved outside to weed her vegetable garden.


Time flew by until I heard the clock chime three. Geoff and Bill had returned. The first scent of a baked dinner wafted through the rooms. We all met in the dining room for afternoon tea, and Mary’s buttermilk cake covered with rich chocolate icing.

‘Geoff is a good vet, Mary, and he put my mind to rest. The cattle will be fine and some antibiotics will fix up the steers that worried me,’ Bill explained. ‘Now we can all relax.’

‘We eat just before sundown,’ Mary told us. ‘Bill and I turn in early because we get up with the chooks. After your long drive you might enjoy a quiet evening too. And we also found something I know you will both enjoy looking at.’ Mary passed a ragged cardboard folder toward us. ‘Not long ago Bill found this, covered with dust, on the shelf in a back shed. When we opened it, we discovered several pictures that probably belonged to the original Hanlon family. In a few days the Charleville Historical Society is coming to collect them, but before they go you’ll both find these old photos interesting.’

As Mary removed three sepia-tinted photographs my hands suddenly began to shake. Why did I feel a sudden sense of apprehension? Bill passed the first picture across the table to us.

‘Look at this family all gathered in the parlour. Thomas Hanlon and Marie are seated in the centre. She’s such an elegant woman in her lace trimmed dress and pearl necklace. Standing behind them in a semicircle are their five daughters. They were such beautiful girls.’

Suddenly Geoff exclaimed, ‘Gwen, look at this daughter, the third from the left. She is the exact image of you.’

‘Why she could be your twin, Gwen!’ Mary called out in amazement. I looked carefully at her and had to agree that our likeness was uncanny.

‘If you rolled your hair back and pinned it away from your face you could be this young woman.’ Bill remarked.

Mary added, ‘Turn the picture over, Bill, as there are names written on the back. The date, 1890, is inscribed on the front of the photograph so this picture was taken before the fire. There is a list of names on the back, written in a darker ink. Most likely these were added later. Read aloud what it says, Bill.’

‘The names start at the left and move across. Emma, Fanny, after her name it says RIP, Georgina, also RIP, Edith and Margaret. It seems that Fanny and your look-alike, Georgina, must have both died in the fire,’ Bill nodded toward me. ‘On the next line it identifies Thomas Hanlon and Marie Hanlon.’

Mary took up the next picture, a smaller photograph in a slim oval frame. It featured a young man dressed in full military uniform, mounted on a horse. Mary read from the back, ‘Lieutenant Patrick O’Neil. Isn’t he handsome!’

‘We’ve kept the best for last.’ Bill held up a large photograph of Coleraine, taken from the road in front of the house. I cried aloud as there it was—the elegant white house behind a floral bed. In the centre of the circular driveway was a two tiered fountain.

‘Geoff! That’s the house I saw in my dream. It’s Coleraine, exactly as I dreamed it.’ Then for no reason I burst into tears as Geoff came to my chair and put his arms around me.

‘It was only a dream of something that happened long ago. Let it go, Gwen. What is really important is that you and I are here with Mary and Bill, these two wonderful people. Thanks to you both for sharing your pictures with us. Perhaps the time has come to close the folder now and put it away.’

My composure returned and sometime later, we enjoyed a delicious dinner over a bottle of red wine we had brought along. We all had a good laugh over Bill’s tales of his early days as a cattle drover. After the table was cleared and the dishes washed, Bill and Mary excused themselves. ‘Breakfast is on at 6:00 tomorrow morning. We’ll see you in the dining room.’

The night was so peaceful we decided to step outside to admire the sweep of stars spread above us in the shining heavens. The Milky Way traced its meandering ribbon of white through the darkness, as far as the eye could see. All this beauty took our breath away. It was a perfect end to the day.

I never dreamed of Coleraine again: not the station surrounded by acres of open range, with its dilapidated old house and dry, dusty roadway, or the beautiful white timber home with its floral gardens and gracious fountain. Yet I know that in the distant corridors of time past, many years ago I lived in Coleraine. It had once been my home.

Mary Mageau © 2018

Vanity Fair – Book Review By Angela Galvin.

Our resident book reviewer – Angela Galvin, has just given us a review of an old, but much loved book, Vanity Fair by the splendidly named author, William Makepeace Thackeray.

Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray

Spurred on by the recent miniseries of this book I decided to read it again after many, many years. I remember thinking the first time I read it ( I might have been 17?) that I didn’t think very much of it. 

First up I read this over Christmas where I read lots of simple “Feel
Good”  novels with bright covers and simple stories, or engaging spy thrillers, and the odd biography – none of which have overly effusive prose.

William Makepeace Thackeray – wow – getting used to your writing style and the language took literally chapters for me.  Fortunately I had seen the first installment of the television miniseries so I got the gist of it pretty quickly.  

Funny thing I actually didn’t recall any of the story from my first reading – maybe at 17 I just couldn’t be bothered deciphering it. 

Once you get passed the weird spelling – the story is quite a lark. The main character Miss Sharp is both likeable and revolting.   

You can’t help thinking that WMT was the Monty Python of his day – poking fun at all the institutions and class structure – while writing a book to appeal to those very people. 

If you haven’t read it it’s worth a couple of hours.  

A Welcome Stranger – By Richard Carroll

The straps of my backpack dug hard into my shoulders as I trudged zombie-like in the sweltering heat. I was hitch-hiking across the island of Crete and had been dropped off in a small village miles from anywhere. A number of houses and sheds nestled the main road, but motorists hardly seemed to notice their presence as they rushed by in a cloud of dust and roaring motors without a sideways glance. I walked to the outskirts until I found a spot on the road where cars could pull over, and dropped my load to the ground with a sigh of relief. A low stone wall and a few sparse shrubs provided the only shade, but it would have to do because my legs felt like jelly and refused to go any further.

After several hours under the relentless sun, I was beginning to wilt and thought I’d never get out of the place. It was slow going trying to get a lift in Crete as there were few cars. And those that did come, hurtled past me, unstoppable express trains. The village seemed to be asleep, the population swallowed by the imposing stone walls of their houses, the only sound the constant thrumming of countless cicadas.

A movement in the shimmering air caught my eye. Coming down the street from the centre of the village was a woman, clothed in black from head to toe. She was middle-aged, the olive skin of her face bore the marks of the elements and the passing of time. She was carrying something in her hands, maybe a tray I thought, covered by a spotless white cloth.

Imagine my surprise when she came directly up to me and offered the tray accompanied by a torrent of incomprehensible Greek. I had no idea what she wanted until she lifted the cloth to reveal a loaf of freshly-baked bread, whose rich aroma filled my senses, evoking the image of my uncle’s bakery and the smell I adored as a child, of loaves direct from the oven. A block of Feta cheese, tomatoes, olives and a bottle of orange juice decorated the tray. I was flabbergasted. As I took the tray I tried to thank her with my few words of Greek, but she waved me away, turned on her heel and headed back the way she had come. Still in a daze, I sat down to my feast, famished. I unfolded my knife and cut the bread. Food had never tasted so good.

I was deeply touched by the generosity of this unknown woman who had gone out of her way to be kind to a passing foreigner, especially so in my case as I had long hair, a bushy beard and dusty clothes. More than 40 years after the event, I still recall this moment of kindness with great humility and endless thanks. To know there are selfless people in our troubled world kindles joy and hope for the future.

The Theft of the Caledonia – 1831 Moreton Bay Penal Colony – By Richard Carroll

This is not the Caledonia, but it is a schooner drawn in 1831, so it gives a good idea of the boat in this account.

The news that convicts had seized a schooner and escaped swept through the settlement to reach convict Sean Kelly’s ears in the hospital where Dr Cowper had come to treat the Irishman’s freshly-flogged back.

Fellow inmates had informed Sean that Commandant Clunie was a strict disciplinarian albeit not to the point of Logan, and circumstances had improved since he had assumed command. Sean certainly hoped so; a shiver ran up his spine as an image of the previous commandant lying bloodied by a creek flared involuntarily before his eyes.

The doctor broke into Sean’s musings, hovering over the bed. His breath, stinking of rum and tobacco, washed over his patient in a foul tide. Sean wrinkled his nose and turned his head.

“Doubtless you are yet to hear the latest news, Kelly,” Cowper slurred, swaying on his feet. “Eleven prisoners have stolen the schooner Caledonia, right from under Clunie’s nose!” he howled like a dingo, slapping his knee gleefully, tears coursing down his cheeks.

The Caledonia had traveled north to salvage the ship America, which had foundered on a reef at Loo Island in proximity to the Tropic of Capricorn while on a voyage from Hobart Town to Batavia. The schooner had called in at the Bay to recover one of the America’s boats and the commandant had gone to check the veracity of the request.

“Clunie went over to Stradbroke Island where the schooner was anchored off Amity Point,” continued Cowper on recovering. “When he landed it was too late to visit the boat and besides, the pilot and two of the three island soldiers were drunk as lords. Oh, I must say, it is so hilarious. During the night the boat from the America arrived carrying a greater contingent of convicts than usual to row because of unfavourable winds. Figure you that in the middle of the night they dug a hole under the wall of the hut, rowed out, oars muffled, to the schooner in the pilot’s boat and overwhelmed her crew. The Caledonia set sail, sending the crew ashore in the pilot’s boat before the commandant awoke. The thieves retained the schooner’s master as none of the escapees could navigate, although two were mariners. You cannot imagine the state of apoplectic agitation of our poor commandant. From right under his nose, no less,” he repeated, taking a swig of rum from his flask. He danced a quick jig, almost falling on Sean.

“You have to admire the audacity of it, to be sure,” Sean commented.

Sean learnt the full story some months later. As had happened with Walter Scott, Dr Cowper had taken a shine to the learned, spirited Irishman and they had become friends.

“You would not credit it, Sean,” the doctor began one day, still sober at this early juncture. “Word has come that Browning, the Caledonia’s captain, has survived and landed in Sydney. He caused quite a stir as everyone believed him dead for certain. He says the pirates forced him to sail them to Savi in the Navigation Islands in the Pacific where they hoped to stow away on one of the American whalers that regularly call into the island for stores and water.”

“A solid plan, to be sure” Sean agreed, barely showing interest, his spirit floating like a ship on a breeze-less ocean. What did he care about the antics of his prison-mates?

“Yes indeed. They weren’t long at sea, according to Browning, when the trouble began and six convicts attacked the other five, supposedly settling old scores from Moreton Bay. At any rate they shot one and threw his body into the sea then gave the others a choice: jump overboard or be shot. Hardly a choice. Ha. One man pleaded piteously for his life: they shot him anyway. Unfortunately, they only managed to blow off a couple of fingers and scorch his skull. So they picked him up and threw him over the side. The poor creature grabbed a rope and hung suspended in mid-air, dangling above the waves. The killers produced a knife and cut the rope.”

“Jaesus, Joseph and Mary.”

“They went ashore in New Caledonia to fill their water barrels and had to fire muskets at a large group of hostile natives to keep them at bay. When they quit the island, the killers left behind another man, who the natives presumably ate. They sailed on past the New Hebrides to the Navigation Islands where they set about scuttling the Caledonia. The absconders were about to dispatch Browning along with his vessel when natives unexpectedly boarded the schooner and escorted them to the island’s chief. This good man took to the captain straight away and declared him to be under his personal protection, while the bolters said they were ship-wrecked sailors. Browning was eventually rescued when the English whaler Oldham stopped at the island.”

“Well, well. Talk about the luck of the Irish, even if the gentleman is not from the Emerald Isle. What has become of the runners?”

“Somehow Browning got aboard the Oldham and told the captain of his experience. The boat’s crew caught a convict named Evans and brought him aboard the whaler in irons. The natives sheltered the three remaining felons, refusing to give them up. As the Oldham put to sea Evans escaped by jumping over the side, surely to drown as a furious tide was running. The Oldham fell in with the American whaler Milo bound for Sydney so Browning changed vessels and came home. What do you think of that, my friend?”

“I cannot say I applaud the murders which are a matter of course between some of the brutes imprisoned here. However, I do salute the fact of their escape as would most in this place. And I am most happy that the enterprising Captain Browning did not become a further victim.”

“Ha. I guessed as much coming from such an accomplished escapee as yourself.” Cowper shook his head. “Incorrigible Irish nincompoop.”

Copyright: Richard Carroll.

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