LOOKING BACK: COL ANDREASSEN
Colin Andreassen’s gruff exterior belies a warm-hearted, hardworking man with many a story to tell, as Moya Stevens discovered
Colin Andreassen takes pride in telling of his 80 years living and working in Douglas. Colin’s Norwegian grandfather, Severin Berner Andreassen, landed in Sydney in 1885 and soon moved to Far North Queensland where he worked initially on the construction of a bridge just north of Cooktown.
Severin bought a boat in Cairns and became involved with cargo transport between Port Douglas and Cooktown.
“He leased Snapper Island, collecting beche de mer (sea slugs) and ended up serving as a councillor on the Douglas Council for years,” Colin said.
Colin’s father, Severin Berner Jnr, also served on the council and grew cane in the Mowbray Valley. “There were seven children in my family and we went to the Mowbray school and I suppose you could say I did cause a bit of mischief,” Col confessed.
Col would turn the hands of clock forward when the teacher wasn’t looking and they “got out of school early – sometimes an hour early.
“My mate Jack Connelly and I took off early one morning and herded up some wild horses and put them into the school’s tennis court,” Colin laughed, “and the horses went crazy and broke down all the fencing around the court.
“The teacher, Jack Daniels, came along and, well let’s just say, we got heaps of cuts from the cane,” he said.
According to Colin, he would get lots of cuts from the teacher, in fact he recalls he was in trouble “every few days”. To add insult to injury, the teacher would tell Col and his mates to gather up some lawyercane for their ‘cuts’.
“We would get three widths of cane and we names them Boris, Horus and Morris,” he laughed, “and they all hurt the same but I would laugh when I got the cuts.”
Col left school at 14 and, after working on farms around the place he received from his father 9ha which he cleared and planted cane on.
In 1961 Colin married Grace Hansen and by 1965 they had their first crop of cane ready for harvest, which was all but destroyed by a thunderstorm.
Later he bought 20 acres from his brother who had inherited the family cane farm when his parents retired.
Colin became involved with heavy machinery and, in the ’80s was instrumental in the development of residential allotments at Cow Bay, the building of Quaid’s Dam, filling and levelling the Sheraton Resort land, construction of the Daintree to Cape Tribulation sealed road and construction of the Bloomfield Track.
“I had three trucks and a loader and we had trouble with the greenies, so we had to have guards on our equipment and worked stopped often,” he said, “but they were good days – we worked in rain, hail and shine.”
The day came when the track was to be officially opened, and Colin’s job was to ensure the track was clear for the official entourage.
Although Colin was reluctant to give too many details, he explained that he was on his loader, checking the road and came across a car wreck which he picked up and put on the back of the truck following him. Then he came across another car which was ablaze and also put that on the back of the truck. He had to get rid of the wrecks before the official convoy came through so he dug a hole in the road and buried the two vehicles. He still refuses to say exactly where they were buried but the official ceremony to open the track and the dignitaries’ drive along the route went unimpeded.
Colin was contracted for many years to maintain the road, and owned a motel at Cow Bay and a fruit orchard ‘over the river’.
In 1995 Colin and Grace moved to their new home at Port Douglas Views, Miallo, and Colin took over the con- tract to run the Daintree Ferry.
“There were some challenging times with the ferry,” he explained, “with floods, sand build up and vessel repairs and maintenance.”
“In 2006 the sand build up was so bad we couldn’t run the ferry, and there was a dispute between two contractors about the dredging,” Colin said, “and we would get stuck in the middle of the river for up to three hours some days.
“We got abuse from all the users every bloody day and council wouldn’t sort out the problem and we ended up closing the ferry for three days.”
Slowing down was inevitable for Colin and soon he found himself involved in the Mossman Bowls Club and taking overseas trips.
Colin and Grace had four boys, one of whom tragically died after a road accident, but enjoy the company of their six grandchildren.
Col’s list of destinations includes North America, New Zealand, South East Asia, Tahiti and China and a cruise from Singapore to Cairns.
“I really enjoyed the cruise – not so much the places we stopped but the people I met,” he said, “and I am looking at doing another one, maybe to New Guinea.”
My mate Jack Connelly and I took off early one morning and herded up some wild horses and put them into the school’s tennis court
NEXT WEEK IN LOOKING BACK: Who is this intriguing lady?
Colin Andreassen at home today. Inset: Dredging the Daintree, 2006