It’s been a winding road
PPaul Lucas was the oldest of five children, the son of a butcher. Born in Burnie, Tasmania, he found himself at the University of Hobart studying Economics in the early 50s.
“I had a terrible first year at uni so I hitchhiked home, quite despondent,” Paul said, “planning to work with my dad in the butchery.
“But my mother convinced me to go back, which I did, and ended up passing my degree with some distinctions.”
Paul’s first employment was in Canberra with the Commonwealth’s Bureau of Agricultural Economics as a Research Officer.
“Canberra was a much smaller place in those days, with a population of just 27,000.”
Paul met and married Anne, had two daughters and moved to Sydney to join BHP, which he says “was bigger than the government back then”.
He spent many years learning all about steel, spending time in Newcastle and Port Kembla. He ended up in the sales department, selling steel to shipyards, large construction companies and car manufacturers.
“It was not so much a sales department as a rationing department – making sure that the various customers could be supplied with just enough steel as it seemed we could never produce enough.”
After a few years with BHP, Paul moved into working for a variety of smaller steel merchants both in Newcastle and Melbourne, finishing up leaving the last employer to “make a living on his own”.
Anne and Paul bought a milk bar in Eltham, a suburb of Melbourne, where they built the business up, working 7 days a week, 12 hour days.
“After three years we sold the business at a good profit and the family took a long caravan trip up the east coast but we only got as far as Rockhampton.”
Back home in Melbourne, Paul wondered what he was to do, so he contacted one of his former steel industry employers who took him back.
By the late ’70s Paul’s two daughters were off his hands so Anne and he decided to move up north. “We came to Cairns as there was a small caravan park for sale, but that didn’t appeal but a guy told us about a small motel in a little town called Port Douglas.”
Paul and Anne bought the 8-room business, the Port Douglas Motel, in 1978 and built the business up until 1981, when Anne got very ill.
“I went mowing lawns in 1982 and all the time Anne was getting sicker and eventually died later that year,” he said.
Paul started to buy and sell land around Port and Mowbray and in 1984 he met and married Ruth Audley, a nursing sister from Mossman Hospital. “We got married and went on a 12 month caravan honeymoon right around Australia,” he said, “and when we returned, we built a house here in Port.”
By 1986 Paul had established Port’s first book shop, Books Etcetera, in Macrossan Street where The Little Larder is now. Port Douglas was thriving – it was “the Skase era”.
“Then came the pilots’ strike and we were hurt really badly and I decided to close the bookshop down in 1991 and that same year I was elected to the Douglas Shire Council.,” he said.
When asked what his most significant achievements were during his 13 years on Council, Paul brought to mind several projects that came to fruition at that time. “I was instrumental in establishing The Clink Theatre,” he said, “which was great as I was a member of the Port Douglas Players and we would have to put on productions all over the town.”
Prior to The Clink opening, theatrical productions were held in the old Shire Hall, in The Tin Shed, the Sheraton and at QT when it was Rydges.
“The old Mossman Courthouse came up for sale, so the Doulgas Theatre Art Group bought the building, including the cell block, for $600 and it was relocated to its present site in Mowbray Street.”
And why was it called ‘The Clink’? They ran a competition and the winning entry came from a retired London stage director, Joe McCollum.
Other achievements of Council whilst Paul was an elected member included the establishment of the Port Douglas Community Sports Complex which caters for Australian Rules, Rugby Union and Netball.
Three other major infrastructure projects were also undertaken at that time – the reconstruction and sealing of the road to Cape Tribulation, the development of new Shire Offices in Mossman and an upgrade of the sewerage system for Port Douglas.
In 2000, Ruth passed away after 16 years of marriage. Paul decided on a change of scenery and a quieter life away from Port.
He moved to Wonga Beach where he spent 11 years and only recently left the responsibility of a large garden and moved to a unit back in Port.
At 84, Paul looks back on a busy and productive life.
He maintains a keen interest in politics, sport and the stock exchange.
His motto for a good life – “eat, drink and be merry”.
Paul Lucas today. Inset: on his graduation