It’s been a wind­ing road

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - LOOKING BACK -

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

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