LOOKING BACK: DAVE EGAN
Dave Egan, some may say, has a polarising personality, but his dedication to the Douglas Shire cannot be debated, as Moya Stevens discovered
Dave Egan’s early years were spent in Gordonvale, living with his grandmother and eventually going to boarding school at St Augustine’s. The mates he made there stood him in good stead in years to come.
“I used to spend my holidays with my friend Bob Crimmins at his parents’ house in Mossman,” Dave said, “and Bert Crimmins, Bob’s father, was the local undertaker.
“Bert taught me to drive and it was with him I saw my first dead person,” he said.
“Old Mrs Crees had passed away and Bert asked me to come along to help him with things – and I was only about 15.”
It was his regular visits that made Dave see Mossman as a good place to settle once he had finished his panel beating apprenticeship in Cairns.
In 1963 at 20 years old, Dave took up lodgings at the Post Office Hotel with two other young men, Warren Jenkins and Johnny Lancaster. Dave started working for Marano’s at Miallo as a welder and after eight years he continued his trade at the Mossman Sugar Mill.
“I started worked during ‘the slack’ (the off season for harvesting and processing sugar) when they were extending the plant and putting in a new boiler,” he said, “but when the season started, the married men got the jobs first.”
Dave took on various jobs during the season including driving the delivery truck for Jack and Newell’s General Store and picking fruit in Shepparton.
Work at the Mill continued and when Dave was eventually employed through the season, he was to be found behind the wheel of a Leyland Beaver truck which collected bins from around the district and brought them back to the Mill for processing.
The Mills used to harvest cane for some of the growers and provide transport.
“On our busiest day I did 13 runs of 20 ton bins from Rocky Point – that was 26 trips.”
During this time Dave pursued his sporting passions, rugby league and basketball.
“We used to play basketball on courts that are now the library carpark in Mill Street and when the wet weather came we would play in the Shire Hall.
“I seemed to be able to jump higher and slam dunk in the Hall whereas there was no way I could do that on the asphalt outside.
“I think I made the Mill’s day when I resigned because I was very involved with the union movement,” Dave said, “as I was Shop Steward for the 30-plus tradesman at the time.”
“I did an Ambulance course and got a job at the Atherton Ambulance Station so I left the Mill and Mossman for a time.
“I had learned the bar trade when Mr and Mrs Dobbins owned the Exchange Hotel, where I had moved my lodgings to, and worked for them during the season.
“Jenny Baldwin taught me all about how to serve and bottle beer – which is a bit of an art.
“The Dobbins had several hotels, one in Mareeba, one in Tully and of course, the Exchange, and I would be sent wherever I was needed.
“I was in Tully so long I ended up playing rugby there under the coach, Ray Laird, who later played for Australia.”
While in Mareeba, Dave met his future wife Gloria and they took up managing hotels in Mackay, Babinda and eventually took the lease on a hotel in Bemerside, just north of Ingham.
By the mid ’70s the Mossman Sugar Mill was expanding and the then chief engineer, Bill Harper, asked Dave if he was married.
“Apparently he thought that if I was married I would be better behaved,” Dave laughed, “and went back and I stayed for about 10 years.”
In the meantime Dave and Gloria built a river-side home in Mossman and started a family.
Dave’s employment at the Mill came to an end again, and he and Gloria took the lease of the Shell Service Station at Craiglie for a short time and was offered the lease of the Caltex station at South Mossman.
“One of my school mates, Bernie O’Shea, was the Caltex fuel distributor and he offered me a reasonable deal so we took it.”
The business of running a services station is very demanding and was encroaching on family life with children, Ashley and Justine, so after seven years they sold the lease and Dave pursued another line of work.
“For four years I had the mail and bread delivery contract for north of the Daintree and I drove up there three days a week delivering both mail and bread to all the residences up to and around Cape Trib.”
One of the strong threads throughout Dave’s life is his involvement in and commitment to the Mossman community. He had been an office bearer for the local football, basketball and bowls clubs, and worked tirelessly fundraising for them.
In the early ’90s when Dave was elected to Douglas Shire Council. “I ended up on the Council for 14 years, Deputy Mayor for 10 years, and among the projects that give me some pride are the undergrounding of power in Front Street, the establishment of George Davis Park, the new Shire offices and the Bike Strategy.
“Oh, and I also fought hard to ensure there was no fluoride in the town water supply.”
Dave was president of the North Queensland Local Government Association and the North Queensland Local Authority Waste Management Advisory Committee. He represented Douglas on the North Queensland River Improvement Trust and was the North Queensland representative on the Trusts’ State body.
“We kept the serious issues such as ghost netting, plastic bags and tyres percolating in their minds,” he said.
“I decided to let go of the ropes back in 2008 but I feel strongly about politics and I would consider going back on to Council as I believe I still have a lot to offer,” he said.
Dave continues to contribute to the community through his involvement with The Sharks Rugby League Club, the Show Society and the Mossman Bowls Club and he maintains an interest in The Exchange Hotel.
“I still play pennant bowls and love the opportunity to meet people and represent the district,” he said.
“I have had a much longer life than I thought I would have – there must be someone ‘up there’ looking after me.”
I decided to let go of the ropes back in 2008 but I feel strongly about politics and I would consider going back on to Council as I believe I still have a lot to offer
Dave Egan. Inset: The Alex Rally Shield, 1998 - Alan Almond, Dave Egan, David Burke and Nick Bianco