After about two or three years in Roma Dad applied for and won a transfer to Ipswich, about half an hour by train to the east of Brisbane.  I realised years later that this was part of a long term strategy for moving up the promotion ladder.  It took years to accomplish and the lesson wasn’t lost on me.  So early on I learnt something about how big organisations work.  He had started off in the Railways in Rockhampton after he came back from the War in the communications branch which he had left when he had enlisted.  In the  late twenties he had transferred to Brisbane, presumably to be closer to the centre of things, where the Railways was run from, as well as to be close to Nana, which Mum would have wanted as she saw her mother getting older.

After some years there he transferred to the traffic branch which gave much better chances for promotion, out of the strictly technical communications branch. Then he took the transfer to Roma, in charge of an important country centre.  This was a promotion but there was another benefit:  he was choosing to leave the big smoke to go to the bush, and thus getting brownie points for being a good public servant, taking the rough with the smooth.  The promotion back to Ipswich  put him in a key position in the busiest centre outside Brisbane and,  soon, as the War in the north gathered pace, it became by far the busiest in the State.  Hundreds of thousands of American and Australian troops, and huge quantities of  military materials, were routed through Ipswich.  Another attraction of Ipswich was that it was not far from Brisbane and to the sources of work and education which Dad was planning towards.

We lived in East Ipswich, just around the corner from one of Mum’s younger  brothers, Uncle Paddy, his wife Aunty Kath and two children-Kevin, about five years older than me, and daughter Connie, a few years older again. Their presence was, of course, another appeal of the new town, especially for Mum, who was very close to all her brothers.  But also, Dad didn’t see much of his own brothers but he got on well with all the Breen, and was much admired by them because of his practical sense.  And it was good for me.  Because of the age gap, I didn’t see a  great deal of brother Brian, who, while we were in Roma and also in Ipswich, attended boarding school in Toowoomba at the De La Salle brothers at the famous Downlands College.  Mainly attended by the sons of squatters, it was really too expensive for my parents but, as on other occasions, Mum apparently was very effective in arguing  a case for reduced fees.

So now I had cousins a few hundred yards away with whom I could spend a lot of time.  By then I was well into learning the piano and Connie was a good pianist too.  Apart from playing in the spacious yards of our homes we also spent a lot of time with music and singing.  Most Saturday or Sunday nights the families would gather at one of the houses-more often at the Breens-and we would have what we  called a singsong, but which I realise now was the translation into a new environment of the traditional Irish ceilidh. Quite often other relatives or friends would come visiting and everyone was expected to do something-sing, play, recite poetry, take a turn at dancing.  I soon learnt to sight-read the music quite a bit and it’s a facility I still retain, while I’m no good at playing by ear.

I used to walk to school up a long street which went past Limestone Hill, one of Ipswich’s main features, to the school.  Several others used to walk that way too, and I remember one of them-Dicky Bird-probably because he was smaller than me and had such a funny name.  I did well at school, the East Ipswich State School, in all subjects and an event occurred which has stayed with me all that time.  One day it was essay writing time-I must have been about 8 or 9-and the teacher, a lady whom I liked, set the class at work, and then took me into another room and gave me a writing book and a table looking out onto the veranda  and told me to write a story about whatever I liked.  I realised that it was a big honour.  I don’t remember much about the story except that it was 24 pages long and was about a family called Mainwaring.  I remember spending a lot of time on the name.  It had an enormous effect on my confidence and I have thought ever since that I could write myself out of any spot.  It was while we were in Ipswich that I started a correspondence with another teacher, Miss (Marge) Pederesen who had taught me in Roma.  That correspondence continued until I left school and I remember she came to visit us when we were back in Brisbane.

One day I decided to wag it from school.  As I remember I was generally happy at school but there must have been something bugging me.  Our house was on stumps about a metre and a half off the ground-not very tall but enough to hide under.  Wasn’t a very imaginative hidey hole but it was the best I could think of.  So I snuck under there on one side of the house and managed to stay unnoticed till about eleven o’clock. But Mum  came down the stairs and saw me.  I don’t remember there was much trouble-she kept me home that day and sent me with some sort of trumped up note for the teacher the next day.

It was about that time that Brian was  wanting to join up.  The  War had been on for about two years and he was nineteen or twenty.   My parents wouldn’t agree. It was a big issue in the family and he was very upset about it, so was my mother.

I don’t remember much else about Ipswich then but it was a happy time, except for Mum’s health which was always poor and I remember there, too, her anxiety stricken face as     she lay on a pillow in her bed, with a vinegar soaked towel wrapped around ice across her forehead.  She liked the social life but it seems she used to screw herself up for an event and after it just collapsed.  There was nothing in those days that could be done, no pills, so she  suffered from it till the day she died.

Another thing I remember from Roma was the announcement of war-on the wireless, of course, it was all the-the only-go then.  We had a big cabinet wireless – the cabinet was made of wooden veneer, very grand, and I’m pretty sure it was a Breville brand.  Of course, I didn’t know what the war was all about, though I was keen to learn, but I remember Dad, very serious, sitting nearby.

I remember from the  radio also listening each weekday to a  famous serial ‘The Search for the Golden Boomerang’, which triggered a big interest in Aborigines.  I suppose there were  some around a country town like Roma but I don’t recall any.  The theme music was from Tchaikovsky’s ‘Swan Lake’, and the sponsor was Hoadley’s Violet Crumble Bar-very delicious and a favourite of mine.









One thought on “Ipswich

  1. Don’t know where our dreams come from, but I had a dream last night about you moving – it was a mess, nothing in boxes or bags – things everywhere. That prompted me to see if there was anything on the Internet. I was interested to read of all the things you have done and your achievements, but was particularly interested in the Irish connection. My ancestors are all Irish except my father’s mother who came from Austria or Germany – the borders have changed and I haven’t been able to find out very much about her family as her mother died when she was eight and all the records were lost.

    As you know my maiden name was Roche – lots of them in Ireland and originally they came from Normandy, but lost their lands when Cromwell invaded Ireland. All dad’s uncles and aunts left Ireland in the late 1800’s as they were poor Irish and Dad’s uncle was on the verge of being arrested for causing problems for the landowners.

    Mum’s name was King and her mother’s Mahony from Cork – as were Dad’s family. However, the most interesting history comes from Mum’s grandmother’s family – Hurleys. They were heavily involved in the IRA (Frank Hurley was killed by the Black and Tans) and his sister, Anna was president of the Cum na bHan in Bandon, Cork – Michael Collins attended meetings at their house in Laragh and this was a safe house. I have a letter from Frank when he was in Wormwoods Prison in London.

    Have written a book on the Roches and am in the process of completing a family history of the Kings – includes Mahonys and Hurleys. Also have edited a book on my primary school and our church, St Matthews, at Loganholme.

    We are both retired from full-time work, but I do bits and pieces, although my writing and crafts are important. After you left POM we want to Rabaul where Colin got a job teaching plumbing at Malaguna Tech and after working for a short time for Warner Shand, Solicitors, I got a job teaching secretarial studies at Tavui Secretarial College, which was replaced by Rabaul Secretarial College in town, much bigger and the leading secretarial college in PNG at that time. It is now Kokopo Business College as the Rabaul College was destroyed in the 1994 volcano.

    We had two boys in Rabaul, Brendan (food manager at Mater) and Nathan air conditioning technician managing GC Council’s air conditioning) then moved to Madang where I was in charge of secretarial studies and Colin started the first sheet metal course in PNG. Our daughter Joanne (pharmacy owner at Moolooaba) was born in Madang and we moved back to Australia in 1981. Colin had a few different jobs and I gained employment with TAFE and received my degree in teaching in 1992. We had two more children in Brisbane Kieran (electrical business at Gold Coast) and Tracey (PE teacher at Cleveland High). Also have 8 grandchildren.

    So, that young, naive, country girl who worked for you all those years ago has had a full life with more years to come doing geaneology, writing and crafts.

    Warm regards

    Mavis Host –


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