Pioneer of the Rex Range Road recognised



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Members of the May family at the memorial with Councillors from Douglas Shire Council and Mareeba Shire Council. Image: supplied.

For the past 71 years, the Rex Range has provided a vital connection between Mossman and Julatten and this week a lookout memorial was unveiled to honour its pioneer.

And at an on-site ceremony, Charles May’s descendants from across Australia shared this moment with pride.
In 1926, May, from Mossman, strongly advocated for a new road over the range to replace a horse track known as the Mossman Short Cut.

The Rex Range between Mossman and Mount Malloy, which is used today, wasn’t completed until 1949 and was sealed with bitumen in 1982.

Douglas Shire Council Mayor Julia Leu said the new memorial lookout was a collaborative effort coordinated by the Douglas Shire Historical Society and jointly funded by the Douglas Shire Council and Mareeba Shire Council, with help from the May family.

“The Douglas Shire is so lucky to have a community that values its history and is tenacious in its quest to make sure we don’t forget important people and moments of our past,” she said.

“Council celebrates its uniqueness and we’re proud to have supported this project through our Micro Grants Stream and by hosting this ceremony.”

The memorial is located towards the bottom of the Rex Range Road.

History of The Rex Range and Charles May

The Mossman to Mount Malloy Road, otherwise known as the Rex Range, has European origins extending as far back as 1925, with the use of a horse track known as the Mossman Short Cut.

The Mossman Short Cut climbed a long ridge from Shannonvale in the South Mossman river valley, bearing slightly east of an old Aboriginal walking track.

During 1926, a new route for a road over the range from Mossman towards Julatten was promoted by May.

The initial route which May recommended, climbed the mountain spur of the Cassowary Range and was advocated by both the Douglas Shire Council and Woothakata Shire Council (Mareeba Shire Council of today).

A lookout on this track was named “May’s Lookout”, to compliment the energetic advocate.

The Main Roads Board initially costed the range road at £130,000 (approximately $228 million today).

Distracted by the Barron Falls Hydro-Electric Board project and various mining projects, it wasn’t until 1936 that Mareeba Shire Council and Main Roads Commission assumed responsibility for a major part of the road.

Construction was halted in 1939 due to a lack of funding.

Threats to the region during WW2 saw the Bump Road (Bump Track in Mowbray) mined with explosives to avoid inland access in the event that Japanese beach landings might occur. With this came a renewed sense of energy to complete the Rex Range.

The Hon. H. H. Collins, Minister for Agriculture, officially opened the road on 2 January 1949, naming it “The Rex Range” in honour of R.D. Rex, the ever-persevering Chairman of Douglas Shire who, together with Cr. J.J. Meehan, represented the Mareeba Shire Council, who were present on the day.

The ceremony took place at the top of the range section now known as Lyons Lookout, overlooking the Mossman sugarcane fields below.

The Charles May Lookout is located towards the bottom of the range as it is the last part of the Rex Highway that has a view of the Cassowary Spur, part of the original route he recommended.

Thanks to the Douglas Shire Historical Society for the historical information.  

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