19. The Opening of Emu Park – Journal Entry 31st Aug 1970

When it is considered how the early residents suffered from enervating fevers, which required a healthy and bracing climate to restore people to their former vigour, it is remarkable that the townspeople were so slow in obtaining access to a seaside resort.

How Emu Park was first discovered is not very clear, but it was certainly not much known before 1867.

About that time, four men took a trip to the coast for fishing and shooting. Three of them were Messrs R Hewitt, A Matthews and J Phillips. The identity of the fourth is not known at this time.

Mr Matthews owned a small vessel with which he traded between Rockhampton and northern ports. It is quite likely he knew something about the bald hills, that now form Emu Park, from sailing along the coast.

Mr Matthews, by the way, was the brother of the clever actress and singer Miss Julia Matthews, who, when asked her nationality on one occasion, said she was an amalgamation. Her father was Scottish and her mother was Irish. She was born in England and brought up in the colonies.

Mr Phillips was the father of Mr H Phillips, fruiterer on East Street, and he came to Rockhampton in 1861. He worked for the Bulletin proprietor, Mr R Ross, who owned Cawarral station. Those connected with the station must have known of the existence of what is now Emu Park, but did not make that knowledge public.

The party of four referred to above, were found fishing and shooting by Mr Ross who summoned them for trespassing and disturbing his stock. He had them fined. It is supposed that one of the four men wrote to the Government.

As the people of Rockhampton had made an application for a township on the sea coast, a commission was formed and consisted of Captain R M Hunter and Messrs T Macdonald-Paterson, James Atherton, William Pattison, Henry Jones, William Davis and probably one or two others.

Mr R Sharples, who had previously been to the coast, was asked by Captain Hunter to go with him. The reason was that the Captain had a different opinion from the other members of the commission, and believed that the bald hills, from which they were looking, were to the north of Cawarral Station. The others thought the hills were to the south. The party was thus split in two, each going its own way on horseback.

The upshot of it all of this was that what is now Emu Park was discovered and reported on to the Government. The first land sale took place in about 1869 or 1870.

A considerable time elapsed before any buildings were erected there, but people went to the locality for picnics and on holidays. They camped under the trees in what is now the Botanic Reserve.

Emu Park was generally considered to have been discovered by Mr Hewitt. He evidently had a hand in it as the town was first named Hewittville.

A large number of emus and marsupials in those days were to be seen in the combes of Emu Park, but they were soon shot off by so-called sportsmen from town, whose only idea of sport is to destroy.

Mrs R Pearson was induced to put up a boarding house at Emu Park in 1871, and Mr J Brown, who took great delight in the place from the very start, also built a house.

Mr Alexander Grant built on the side of the hill above the Grand Hotel. Where that hotel now stands was the site of Mrs Pearson’s house. Mr E Macaree also put up a cottage. A mail coach was run every week for some years by Mr R Hewitt, the return fare being £1.

Very early in the history of Emu Park, Captain Little built a cottage not far from Tanby Head, known as Tanby Hall. It was a lovely spot, but decidedly lonesome. Captain Little is dead, but he has a daughter living in Marlborough. In about 1873, the late Mr P Downer built what is now a portion of the Emu Park Hotel, and after a year or two he was succeeded by Mr Hugh Fulton. Since the advent of the railway, which was opened on the 22nd December 1888, the picturesque little township had considerably increased in size.

Mr Morris was the first man in Emu Park (perhaps 70 years ago) to go to the islands in a dinghy and bring back oysters and fish. He sold them in Emu Park. He then bought a small boat called Annabel and then later bought a boat which he named Crete (because he was a Cretan) which was large enough to carry about 40 passengers. He took people on cruises and fishing trips.

The passengers on the Crete would go over to the Peak Islands on weekend trips, find turtles that came ashore to lay eggs and turn them on their backs so they wouldn’t run away during the night. The next morning they would set the turtles on their feet again, scramble on the turtles’ backs and get a free ride out to sea, jump off the turtles and swim back to shore again.

The history of the Crete is a fascinating one. It was made in New Zealand, originally a sailing boat, and was owned by a man called Lucas who lived on South Keppel Island. Apparently a convict from New Zealand managed to escape and came across to Australia in a boat, landing in Yeppoon. People believe that the Crete could well have been that boat, which was subsequently sold to Lucas, and that got beached at Emu Park sixty years or so ago. It was sold to Mr Morris who repaired it and used it for his fishing trips. Later on, Mr Morris fitted a Wilson engine onto the Crete. The boat sits on land and will probably never be put to sea again.

The Pine Beach Hotel was originally a boarding house and Grand Central was the name of the hotel which is now Mrs Mac’s newsagency. The Old Imperial Hotel, which was between Blue Bird Cafe and Green’s Hardware Store, burned down in 1925. There were a total of four hotels in Emu Park: the Riviera, Pine Beach, Imperial and Grand Central.

Mrs Large’s shop was originally a post office, facing onto Patterson’s Street. Beggs owned it. Jimmy McDougal, Ronny McDougal’s father, rented it for a shop after the post office shifted to its present building.

The cafe next to Mrs Large’s shop served meals and sold groceries. Patterson seemed to have been the original owner. Then a series of people owned it, but one man committed suicide over the shop. Apparently he was losing money and one day in desperation he cut his throat in one of the back rooms of the cafe. About that time a family of Greeks were waiting on his doorstep to see whether he would sell his shop to them.

Mrs Mills’ house used to be a Haberdashery run by a Miss Henni Powers. She also sold soft drinks, biscuits and lollies and was very popular with the children.

Leight’s second-hand shop was once a grocery shop run by Mrs Mills’ father, Matt Rhine.

Mr Mills, Mr Billy Mills’ father, owned what is now Buehows. They sold groceries and served afternoon tea.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • Click here to go to Home
  • Click here to read this post online
  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series
  • My mother interviewed many long-term residents as part of her research into the history of Emu Park.




17. Public Speaking and History – Journal Entry 28th Jul 1970


Many months later, the following year.

Goodness knows what
the date, round about
28th July, 1970

My dear Cynthia,

Thanks for your letter – it makes good reading. Your life is not exactly dull. Goodness knows what news I can give you to come near the cake and pot story.

The weather, yes the weather is always a good starter. Had rain today after a long dry spell. Things were really dry and crisp, but not as bad as out west. Out west is a drought and has been for the past so many years. You hear stories of people selling out their tiny farms and looking for steady jobs. The wool industry is packing up. American meat standards are shooting up – you probably know that most of Australia’s beef and mutton go to America.

What else – general house cleaning and cooking etc. is held on Thursday; this is something new I’ve hit on and a friend who is deaf, or very nearly, comes and helps me. She is so quick in everything and usually pitches up with bunches of freshly plucked herbs and aubergines. Then at 11am more women pitch up and we have a yoga session together, then lunch. Quite pleasant and then I have a fairly clean house.

I’ve been for a Forum meeting – public speaking for housewives it seems. It was good. Very nice to see most of the women take the rostrum and deliver short speeches. Even I got up and said a few words. I was told that I should have prepared my speech by the critic. Told her I didn’t mean to speak but couldn’t resist after hearing a couple of remarks made by previous speakers. “Wot to do,” I said. “If I feel strongly about something,” I said. “Stay quiet?” I said.
“Oh no,” she said. “You don’t have to,” she said.
“Then you’ve probably frightened other women from speaking off the cuff,” I said.
“Oh I hope not,” she said. She (the critic) was a very attractive spinster who worked on a farm during the day.

Then there is this discussion group I seem to have attached myself to. They are a gang of rather rich housewives who think up a subject, get some expert to talk on it and ask questions to get a bit of general knowledge. The meeting tomorrow is on Child Psychology.

I’m also trying to get a picture of Emu Park’s history. Started 80 to 90 years ago. This is the place we live in. It is fascinating. Will probably send you a copy of what notes I put together if and when I do so. In the meantime, I interview the old folk who have lived all their lives here. Remarkable memories some of them. Not much history I grant you, but the men who were here seemed to have had character. There were seven oystermen in 1912 and bags of oysters in their shell were sent out by rail practically everyday. Now only private oyster picking takes place and that too very little.

About 60 years ago a prisoner escaped from New Zealand on a sailboat and landed in Yeppoon (12 miles from here). He either sold or used the boat to go to the coral islands to get fish and oysters. However, this is mere conjecture. He sold the boat to a guy who owned one of the islands and who then managed to ground the boat in Emu Park. A Mr Morris (an oysterman) bought it, repaired it and called it The Crete. He made money by taking people to the islands and back. Many people even got married after such a trip. As many as 40 packed into the boat. Overnight visitors to the islands would catch lurking turtles, turn them onto their backs and when ready for a ride would turn the turtles right way up, hop on to them and be taken out to sea. Imagine a beach full of turrrrrned turrrtles.

In between all this speaking to people I’m trying to learn to make tarts, play the guitar (yes, still), swot up my arithmetic and keep house. Wot a life. Johnny goes to Sydney next week and to Canberra the week after for interviews. Let’s keep fingers crossed.

I got on to a farm which sold me avocado pears. My word Cynthia, I ate them till they came out of my ears. The season is just about over now – sadly enough.

People have been very kind to me. They always give me things like strawberries, and cabbages, and lettuces and clothes for the kids. Living it up?

Much love from all of us to all of

KarenProfileCircle120 Links

  • Click here to go back to the home page
  • For email followers click here to read this post online
  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series