// you’re reading...


Archeologist Karen Murphy talks about Mill Point and books – Page 3

Life and death at Mill Point...

READERSVOICE.COM: By what route and means would their supplies have arrived at Mill Point?

KAREN MURPHY: Most of the supplies would have arrived from Brisbane via the steamship the Culgoa.

It would have supplied the township at Tewantin and surrounding areas, as well as the settlement itself.

RV: What sorts of accidents occurred at the sawmill at Mill Point?

KM: Although the steam-driven equipment at the mill was described as the latest technology, that didn’t stop it from being dangerous.

On a cold July morning in 1873 the men had just finished their breakfast and were standing with their backs to the boiler to warm themselves and have a smoke.

They noticed a bulge in the boiler moments before it exploded. The five men were injured – Phelim Molloy had one of his feet blown off, his brother Patrick was scalded, Charles Long was killed instantly, Joseph White had his leg blown off and was seriously scalded, and Patrick Tierney was also badly scalded.

The doctor was called immediately from Gympie and arrived several hours later, but it is likely there was little he could do for the badly injured men.

Three more of the men died of their injuries over the following week at Cootharaba, and the fifth Patrick Molloy died of his injuries a month later in Gympie. All of them were in their twenties.

There had been another boiler explosion in Maryborough earlier that year (in which a third Molloy brother had been killed).

This lead to an official enquiry which resulted in regulations being put in place about the operation of boilers and licensing those who could operate them.

Details from the cemetery records also reveal other accidents including such descriptions as “accidentally killed by log” and “injuries at Cootharaba sawmill”.

Other men who died may also have had work-related conditions including “rupture of intestines” which may have been an untreated hernia condition aggravated by heavy manual labour.

Not only was it dangerous for the working men but also the children – one ten-year-old boy was killed after his left leg was torn from his body by a timber wagon.

RV: Can you describe the tramways and how they would have transported logs to the mill from the hinterland?

KM: The company built over four miles of tramway inland from the mill to bring the giant logs in from the forest.

The tramway was built on raised earthen mounds through the swamp, enabling teams to work continuously, even in wet weather, bringing logs out of the forest to the nearest point on the tramway.

Logs were loaded onto carts using a winch on a trolley, anchored to the tramway sleepers.

Horses pulled the carts, each carrying a four ton log, down a steady gradient to the mill on the lake shore.

RV: What sorts of trees did they cut down and how tall or old would they have been? Are there any left?

KM: The timber that they were felling was what today we would call “old growth forests”; they would have been growing for centuries.

They were focussed on the softwood species of trees including red cedar, white cedar, cypress and kauri pines. One worker described the majesty of the forests in 1883 in a letter back to England – “Anyone who has not seen the Australian scrub can have no idea of its grandeur; the timber seems endless….”.

Of course the timber wasn’t endless and there are no trees of the size they were cutting down left anywhere in the district today.

RV: How was the timber transported from the mill to other towns?

KM: At first the timber planks were transported to the Gympie goldfields by bullock dray along the Cootharaba Road.

This was not very successful due to the rough road and the steepness of some sections.

They built a wharf beside the mill so they could load the timber onto punts.

The partners designed and built flat-bottomed paddle-wheel boats called droghers to tow the punts of sawn timber from the mill, through Lake Cootharaba and Lake Cooroibah to Colloy, near Tewantin.

They also bought the steamer – the Culgoa – to transport the timber out over the Noosa River bar and down to South Brisbane where they also set up an office and another mill in the mid-1870s.

The owners, McGhie, Luya and Co, distributed and sold their timber from their timber yard in South Brisbane (which was located close to today’s Goodwill Bridge).

They often had full page advertisements in the Post Office Directory (the Yellow Pages of the day) of various timber products including doors, window sashes, joinery, mouldings and architraves.

Most of the timber from Cootharaba would have serviced the Brisbane market, and a lot of the timber would likely be found throughout old Queenslander houses and public buildings in Brisbane even today.

-continued next page