Douglas Shire Historical Society to launch new publication

Douglas Historical Society to launch new publication

On Monday 15th February at 3pm at Mossman Library, the Douglas Shire Historical Society will be launching their latest publication entitled, “Raindrops and Sugar Crops – Tales from South of the Daintree” edited by Pam Willis Burden.


This invitation only launch will be hosted by Division 10 Councillor Julia Leu.


The book contains edited extracts of 31 oral histories recorded with residents of Mossman, Shannonvale, Daintree and Mowbray between 2006 and 2009.  The participants have contributed their rare and precious old photos to illustrate their stories.


At 142 pages, it is a sequel to the very successful “Port’s People” based in Port Douglas. Also by the same author: “Remembering the Douglas Shire” All participants have been invited to the launch, But they do not know who else is in the book.  PLEASE DON’T LET THE SECRET OUT.  No one has seen the book yet apart from the printers.


These stories are testimonies to a way of living that no longer exists.  Ironing with a petrol iron.  Doing your homework by kerosene light.  Playing cards outside at night because the street light was brighter than inside the house.  Riding a horse to school through floods.  Cutting sugar cane by hand.  Out-of-work men camping under Foxton Bridge during the Depression.  Being sent away as part of the stolen generation.


These are tales of living in an agricultural area, of seldom visiting Cairns because Mossman had everything - department stores, a cinema, basketball courts, travelling shows, churches, a hospital and dances.  People explored the mountains and swam all year round at beaches and in the creeks.  Port Douglas had died, no one lived there and there was no tourism until the 1980s.  Interviewees went to school at Mowbray, Miallo, Rocky Point, Cassowary and Daintree as well as St Augustine’s and Mossman.  They had to leave home for further education before the High School was built in Mossman.


The Aboriginal people weren’t allowed to speak their language.  Italian and Yugoslav immigrants couldn’t speak anything but.  Growing up and working surrounded by a different culture was very difficult, and their stories describe how they coped.  Some Italian men were sent away and interned during the war, others built air-raid shelters after bombs were dropped in Miallo and Daintree.


People interviewed include
- Members of pioneering families of Daintree, Mowbray, Shannonvale and Mossman
- descendants and immigrant settlers from Italy and Yugoslavia
- the only pineapple farmer in Mossman
- a former Matron of Mossman Hospital who did pioneering work on the Daintree Ulcer
- two Aboriginal ladies who grew up in the Daintree Mission
- an evacuee from Thursday Island who settled in Mossman, then joined a travelling snake show  (not able to be at the launch)
- the originators of Dreamtime Tours at Mossman Gorge
- the former CEO of the Douglas Shire Council (since sadly passed away)
- indigenous people who were exempted early from ‘under the Act’ and whose parents bought farms in Daintree
- the founder of Karnak Playhouse in Whyanbeel
- 3rd generation funeral directors, since retired
- workers who installed the first process computer at Mossman Mill
- the primary fund-raiser for the Mossman Olympic Pool
- the grand-daughter of the founder of Mossman’s Photo Play Theatre, who will be flying from Brisbane to join us at the launch.


Unfortunately, since this has been such a long project and time has passed since some recordings were done, one participant has passed away and three or four are not well enough to attend the launch.


This project has been supported by grants from the Douglas Shire Council and Cairns Regional Council’s Regional Arts Development Fund.


The Society is grateful that at our third attempt, the Queensland’s Government’s Gambling Community Benefit Fund paid for the printing of the book.  Also, Mossman Bowls Club funded the purchase of a microphone.


The Oral History Association of Australia has always been a staunch supporter.


We are very proud that original recordings and transcripts have been accepted into the Heritage Collection of the State Library of Queensland in Brisbane for future historians to access.  Nothing beats the experience of actually hearing someone from the past tell his story.


Copies of the book are available from the Mossman Newsagency, Whileaway Bookshop in Port Douglas and the Port Douglas Court House Museum.


The Douglas Shire Historical Society operates the Port Douglas Court House Museum with volunteer attendants.  It will reopen after annual holidays in mid-March on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays between 10am and 1pm.


The Society has erected Historic Photoposts in Port Douglas and Mossman to form a Heritage Walk.  Accompanying brochures are available at Tourist Information Centres and the Mossman Library and Council office.


For further information, please contact Pam Willis Burden phone 4098 4900, mobile 0418 960 888 or