The blue house folks

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - LOOKING BACK -

The David­son fam­ily his­tory in the Moss­man area is colour­ful ev­ery bit of the way, as Pam Wil­lis Bur­den dis­cov­ered when she went to get the run­down from Max.

Adistinctive blue high-set house in John­ston Road has been home to Max David­son for over 50 years.

It was built for Naughton Buchanan, the well-known Moss­man wine mer­chant, and Max’s fa­ther W. J. David­son bought it in 1954. Max and fam­ily moved in when his fa­ther died in 1961, and have kept his fa­ther’s pre­ferred red and yel­low shin­gles along the front.

Max’s fam­ily con­nec­tion to the sugar industry goes back to his Scot­tish-born great-grand­fa­ther, W. A. David­son se­nior, who owned Pem­ber­ton Grange sugar mill in Bund­aberg in 1886 with Fred­er­ick Buss.

Grand­fa­ther Wil­liam Alexan­der David­son ju­nior was known as Tiny be­cause he weighed 17 stone (108 kg).

He came to Miallo in 1936, work­ing on the rail­ways for the Moss­man Mill.

Ma­ter­nal grand­fa­ther Jack Pasch was the butcher at Miallo, work­ing for Den­ford and Gro­gan’s Moss­man Butcher­ing Com­pany.

The shop was on the site of Dar­ryl Gor­don’s present busi­ness. Jack would bring or­ders from Moss­man on a push trol­ley along the Mill’s rail­way line. He de­liv­ered around Miallo and Rocky Point twice a week on a pack­horse, with bread in corn sacks on the horse’s back and meat in a strong straw bas­ket across his lap.

W.A’s el­dest son was Max’s fa­ther Wil­liam John David­son, born in 1897. He cut cane each sea­son by hand from 1909 till 1958, ex­cept when he was away at the two World Wars. This is prob­a­bly an Aus­tralian record. He never wore shoes and could strike a match on the sole of his foot.

Max’s mother Winifred, nee Pasch, bore Max and two daugh­ters, Daphne and Au­drey. She told Max that the am­bu­lance was a con­verted cane trol­ley and if a lady wasn’t ready to have her baby when she got on, by the time she’d en­dured the 14 mile trip to Port Dou­glas Hospi­tal, the very rough track helped things along. Max was born there in 1927.

Their Miallo farm spanned 45 acres on Ruther­ford Road, and the home­stead was built by J.J. Ri­ley, just af­ter he built Moss­man Hospi­tal in 1930. Dad worked on Char­lie Chris­tensen and Au­gust Bo­chow’s farms as he cleared his own land.

Wil­liam sold the farm at Miallo in 1945 and moved into Moss­man, con­tin­u­ing to work as a cane cut­ter.

Max went to Tho–rn­bor­ough Col­lege in Char­ters Tow­ers af­ter at­tend­ing school at Miallo and Moss­man, and in 1942, be­gan em­ploy­ment for two guineas (two pounds, two shillings) for a six-day week.

He worked on Mr Wel­lard’s cane farm, which is now Marano’s, and be­cause trac­tors were com­man­deered by the army, they used three draught horses.

Dur­ing the war, Max re­mem­bers see­ing hun­dreds of planes fly­ing in for­ma­tion from the Table­lands to bomb the Ja­panese at Kokoda. At 4pm he’d see them com­ing home, some­times with the rear gun­ner dead.

Dad was in the full-time home guard at Rocky Point and had to re­port on ship­ping and air­craft move­ments. His group was called the VDC, Vol­un­teer Defence Corps, af­fec­tion­ately known as Very De­cent Coves, and they lived at the Rocky Point School.

On Sun­days, with the Pitt and Ah Wong boys, Max would roam be­tween Wonga and the Dain­tree Heads and find ra­tion boxes, can­is­ters of but­ter, choco­lates and bis­cuits on the beach.

Ev­ery per­son had an Iden­tity card, and be­cause most of the men were away, teenagers like Max could be sent by the gov­ern­ment to work any­where. He went to Mag­netic Is­land to pick pineap­ples.

Max bought his In­ter­na­tional four-ton truck in 1944. It’s still in his shed. He last drove it about 10 years ago.

It cost £750 and his house in Alchera Drive cost £350 in 1946. The build­ing needed ren­o­va­tion and his wife Velma held up the hur­ri­cane lamp for Max to paint the walls at night af­ter work.

Elec­tric­ity was con­nected from the Moss­man Gorge hy­dro scheme in 1948.

When Max was cane cut­ting, he wore sand­shoes, which he had to re­new ev­ery 6 weeks. He never wore gloves.

In those days he’d plant ev­ery three to four years. Now it’s ev­ery 10.

Cane farm­ing is eas­ier now with mech­a­niza­tion, but he thinks it’s less prof­itable. He used to earn £20 to £30 a ton and a new trac­tor cost £3000. Now the price for sugar is not much more, but a trac­tor costs $60,000 plus ex­pen­sive fuel.

Max be­came a well-known cat­tle breeder, op­er­at­ing a Brah­man stud un­til 1992, when he sold his land on David­son Road to Dr Lan­sky.

Max’s daugh­ters Va­lerie, Linda and San­dra still live in the area, and his grand-daugh­ter Re­becca con­tin­ues the fam­ily tra­di­tion, work­ing in the sugar cane industry.

Max David­son. In­set: Max with grand­daugh­ter Bec and daugh­ter Lin out­side the dis­tinc­tive house in Moss­man

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