A gen­tle­man of Ju­lat­ten

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - LOOKING BACK -

Born in Grafton and still hold­ing on to his NSW her­itage (by wear­ing blue dur­ing State of Ori­gin games), Wally Gray has spent the vast ma­jor­ity of his life in Queens­land.

“I was the old­est of eight, and if any­one got into trou­ble, I was the one who copped it,” he laughed.

His fam­ily moved about, liv­ing in Coffs Har­bour and Bris­bane, and set­tled even­tu­ally in Cairns where they ran Rhonda’s Ham­burger Café in Spence Street.

“I still know how to cook a good burger,” Wally an­nounced, “but I ended up do­ing by boil­er­maker’s ap­pren­tice­ship with the rail­ways in Cairns.

He re­calls work­ing along­side men who ended up mak­ing their mark in Cairns – Bill Ful­ton, Tommy Pyne, Keith De Lacy and Kevin Crath­ern to name a few.

Wally was a keen sports­man and played three codes of foot­ball, played for the Queens­land side in soc­cer and is a Life Mem­ber of Cen­trals Trin­ity Beach AFL club.

He mar­ried Mau­reen, the sis­ter of one of his mates, in 1960 and af­ter a few years in Cairns they took over the Post Of­fice Ho­tel in Mossman in 1973. “It was bloody hard work, seven days a week,” Wally said, “and we bought up our four chil­dren there which was dif­fi­cult too.”

Wally and Mau­reen raised Chris­tine, Pe­ter, David and Caro­line.

Wally tells how, in those days the Mill work­ers would be paid in cash and on pay­days the pub would be packed.

“The wives would come in and col­lect some money from their hus­bands, go do the shop­ping and join their men later, with the kids,” he said, “and it was a real fam­ily place.”

He still re­mem­bers some of his bar­maids who were “great work­ers” – Mary Cowe, Marie Swind­ley and Bev Gwynne – who, when the bar wasn’t busy, would help Mau­reen with the iron­ing.

Wally got in­volved with the lo­cal com­mu­nity and par­tic­u­larly the Mossman Sharks rugby league club and he even ran for Mayor but missed out by 76 votes.

“We bought 75 acres in Ju­lat­ten in the mid ’70s, put a car­a­van on it and we would es­cape the pub with the kids,” he said.

“I re­mem­ber a mate com­ing into the pub one day say­ing that our car­a­van had been stolen,” Wally ex­plained, “and my daugh­ter Caro­line, about 14 at the time, and I jumped in the car, drove up and sure enough, the van was gone.

“We went to the Mt Molloy po­lice sta­tion to re­port it, and thought I’d pop into the pub for a quick one, telling Caro­line to stay in the car.

“While I was in the pub, Caro­line ran in to say she had just seen the van be­ing towed along the road to­wards Ma­reeba, so we rang the cops and jumped in the car af­ter it.

“The cops joined in the chase, even shot at the ve­hi­cle but it didn’t stop.

“I knew he couldn’t get far be­cause one of the wheels only had three nuts on it and as pre­dicted, the wheel came off just out of Bi­boohra.”

The end of the story is that not only did the Grays get their van back, but the man, who had lit­tle chil­dren in the back of the car dur­ing this en­tire or­deal, had been wanted for steal­ing and other more se­ri­ous mat­ters.

By 1979, Wally and Mau- reen sold the ho­tel and built a house on their land where they ran cat­tle as they “are re­ally coun­try peo­ple at heart”.

Wally ran a heavy ma­chin­ery and slash­ing business too and started get­ting in­volved in the lo­cal Ju­lat­ten com­mu­nity.

“Ju­lat­ten was full of lovely peo­ple – ex­cept for a few,” Wally laughed.

The fam­ily helped out on a va­ri­ety of com­mu­nity events such as the Bushy Creek Sports Club’s an­nual triathlon.

“It used to start with a run from Mt Molloy, then a bike race, more run­ning and would end up a horse ride to Geraghty Park but the last one was held 24 years ago.”

Wally was in­stru­men­tal in the de­vel­op­ment of the Geraghty Park fa­cil­i­ties and the bar in the main hall is named af­ter him – Wally’s Bar.

He was on the Ma­reeba Coun­cil from the early ’80s to the mid ’90s, worked on the Elec­tric­ity Board, Lo­tus Glen Cor­rec­tional Cen­tre’s Pa­role Board, the Cairns Port Author­ity and many more com­mu­nity ser­vice groups.

Ear­lier this month, Wally was pre­sented with his 50 year ser­vice plaque from the Ru­ral Fire Ser­vice of Queens­land at the High­lander Ho­tel. He be­gan his as­so­ci­a­tion with the ser­vice dur­ing his time in Cairns with the Gor­don­vale brigade, then Mossman and later with Ju­lat­ten.

His in­volve­ment with the Ru­ral Fire Ser­vice ex­tended to camp­ing out at In­n­is­fail af­ter Cy­clone Larry, help­ing with the clean-up.

Mau­reen and Wally still en­joy their life on their Ju­lat­ten prop­erty, although now only 15 acres. They have 10 grand­chil­dren and 13 great grand­chil­dren.

He jok­ingly says that he cred­its his happy life to “do­ing what his wife tells him to” but it ap­pears that his de­vo­tion to fam­ily and his com­mu­nity ser­vice are at the heart of his hap­pi­ness.

Any­one who has a bar named af­ter him must have cer­tainly earned re­spect, ad­mi­ra­tion and ap­pre­ci­a­tion from his com­mu­nity.

Hav­ing been a boil­er­maker, pub­li­can and cat­tle­man, Wally Gray’s most out­stand­ing achieve­ment would be his com­mu­nity ser­vice, as

dis­cov­ers.

Wally Gray to­day at his home in Ju­lat­ten. In­set: Wally and Mau­reen’s wed­ding, 1960

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