The Courier-Mail

Bus boss kept city mov­ing

DUN­CAN JAMES POL­LEY Coach com­pany founder Born: June 24, 1930, Gympie Died: July 23, 2015, Gympie

- DOT WHIT­TING­TON

MEN­TION the name Pol­ley in Gympie and ev­ery­one will say “bus” – whether it be a school run or a stream­lined coach tour­ing Aus­tralia.

Over al­most 60 years, Dun­can Pol­ley built his fa­ther’s sin­gle school bus busi­ness at Tin Can Bay into a dy­nasty – 28 school runs car­ry­ing 2500 stu­dents a day, and a tour com­pany that can claim to be the long­est-run­ning in the na­tion.

Dun­can was the son of Roland and El­iz­a­beth (Betty) Pol­ley, Bri­tish im­mi­grants who had come to Aus­tralia with their par­ents.

His fa­ther ar­rived in 1909 and his mother from Scot­land in 1912. They ended up as neigh­bours at New Cleve­land Rd in Tin­galpa, Bris­bane. Roland was share farm­ing at Too­goolawah when he and Betty mar­ried.

They later moved to Har­risville, Cleve­land and then to Gympie, where Roland had a cream run. It was while they were here that Dun­can was born, join­ing three broth­ers, Don­ald, Roland and David.

Later the fam­ily moved to Rock­hamp­ton and then to Thorn­lands and another three chil­dren were born – Bob (who had a twin sis­ter, Janet, who died in in­fancy) and Neil.

The fam­ily then set­tled on a prop­erty near Brooweena, west of Mary­bor­ough which they named “Kil­dare” be­cause it re­minded Betty of her na­tive Scot­land.

The fam­ily was poor, liv­ing in a hut un­til a house was built and then build­ing yards to es­tab­lish a dairy farm.

As school was too far away, the boys were en­rolled with the Pri­mary Cor­re­spon­dence School, although they pre­ferred work on the farm to school­work. They helped their fa­ther clear the scrub and build fences and, in open sea­son, trapped pos­sums and sent their skins to Bris­bane to earn some for cash.

Dun­can didn’t pass Schol­ar­ship, which ruled out agri­cul­tural col­lege, so he stayed on the farm.

His fa­ther was sickly, hav­ing been gassed in the trenches dur­ing World War I, and the doc­tor rec­om­mended a move to a dryer cli­mate so Kil­dare was handed to share farm­ers.

In 1947, the fam­ily moved, with their dairy herd, to Sara­mac Downs at Wal­lum­billa.

Dun­can was charged with tak­ing the cat­tle. He drove them into Woolooga and put them on a train. The new farm meant there was a lot more work to be done build­ing milk­ing sheds and clear­ing the land.

In 1954, his par­ents sold the farm and moved back to Gympie while Dun­can moved into an old butch­ery in Wal­lum­billa and worked sink­ing dams, build­ing fences and cart­ing logs for the sawmill, be­fore be­com­ing a plumber in Roma.

His fa­ther, mean­while, had bought the bus run be­tween Tin Can Bay and Gympie, which op­er­ated three days a week for shop­pers, work­ers and stu­dents.

It was while vis­it­ing his par­ents in Gympie that Dun­can met the Ma­son fam­ily at the Gospel Hall. Be­fore his de­par­ture he asked if he could be pen­pals with their daugh­ter Valda, who was 13. She looked for­ward to his letters and Dun­can waited for her to grow up.

In 1956, Dun­can took over the bus run from his ail­ing fa­ther and his ca­reer in coaches and tours be­gan.

In 1959, he added a sev­en­pas­sen­ger Volk­swa­gen Kombi van to the fleet and set off tak­ing a group of wid­ows to the Jacaranda Fes­ti­val in Grafton.

It was un­fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory for Dun­can who had never op­er­ated a tour in his life.

Nev­er­the­less it was a suc­cess­ful out­ing and it wasn’t long be­fore another trip de­parted for three days at Spring­brook Na­tional Park.

In 1960, the Kombi was re­placed with a Tempo Mata­dor and the tours con­tin­ued. Tin Can Bay’s grow­ing pop­u­la­tion also meant in­creas­ing fre­quency of the bus run to six days a week.

The other big event of 1960 was that he mar­ried Valda and they moved into the home he had built for them in Tin Can Bay. It had a com­bus­tion stove, bed, bath, ta­ble and chairs, an un­sanded wooden floor and pack­ing cases for cup­boards.

Many a night was spent paint­ing and fix­ing their first home and they soon wel­comed the first of their seven chil­dren, a daugh­ter Sher­ryl.

As the fam­ily grew, so did the fleet of buses.

Dun­can bought his first bus in 1962. At £5000 it was a huge risk for the fledg­ling busi­ness but by 1964, he had added another to the fleet.

To meet re­pay­ments, he be­gan con­duct­ing reg­u­lar week­end tours, be­gin­ning with a trip to Alice Springs. It was so suc­cess­ful that by 1968 he was able to pur­chase his first coach, a 45-pas­sen­ger Den­ning he named Gympie Gold­liner. In 1969 he set off on his first tour around Aus­tralia. It was for 43 days at an all-in­clu­sive cost of $660 a pas­sen­ger.

By 1972, the fleet had out­grown the de­pot in Tin Can Bay and it was time for Dun­can and Valda to move into the heart of Gympie.

The new premises had a shed large enough to ac­com­mo­date 10 ve­hi­cles and a main­te­nance bay, where their buses and ve­hi­cles from other com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing the fire brigade, could be ser­viced.

In 1973, a 49-seat coach named Cooloola Star, in recog­ni­tion of the fam­ily’s Tin Can Bay her­itage, was added.

Dur­ing the ’70s, there were many camp­ing trips through­out Aus­tralia with tours orig­i­nat­ing in Syd­ney, New­cas­tle and Can­berra and trav­el­ling to tourist hot spots in­clud­ing Tas­ma­nia and Western Aus­tralia.

The growth of Pol­ley’s tour­ing busi­ness, com­bined with up to 10 trips each year to the North­ern Ter­ri­tory, meant a new coach was added to the fleet al­most ev­ery year for the next decade. In 1976, Dun­can and Valda con­sol­i­dated their busi­ness in­ter­ests af­ter buy­ing the long-es­tab­lished Lewis Broth­ers, tak­ing on another four ve­hi­cles and a de­pot.

That same year, they also de­cided move to Gympie.

Dun­can had been a Widgee Shire coun­cil­lor for five years but the move meant he had to give up the po­si­tion.

He had a keen eye for tourism po­ten­tial and was in­stru­men­tal in the con­struc­tion of the Big Pineap­ple ser­vice sta­tion on the high­way and also the duck pond park­lands at the south­ern end of town.

In 1999, the Pol­leys took de­liv­ery of Gympie’s first wheel­chair ac­ces­si­ble city bus. It was a sub­stan­tial up­grade on the town ser­vices and an in­stant hit with pas­sen­gers.

The Pol­leys tour di­vi­sion grew again with the pur­chase of Sun­tour Hol­i­days in 2001.

In 2002 Dun­can was di­ag­nosed with prostate can­cer. As his health de­te­ri­o­rated the busi­ness was even­tu­ally passed to son War­ren.

Dun­can found it hard to re­tire but eased back slowly, en­joy­ing his veg­etable gar­den and never los­ing sight of his faith. He was thrilled when his ex­tended his fam­ily came from Mackay, Perth, Tas­ma­nia and New Zealand to see him.

Dun­can is sur­vived by Valda, his wife of 55 years; his chil­dren Sher­ryl, Mark, Robyn, War­ren, Chris­tine, Jen­nifer and Miriam; 25 grand­chil­dren and four great-grand­chil­dren.

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