The blue house folks
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