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George Royes remembered by Bill Moody



A Tribute to Georgie Royes by Bill Moody







From a tape sent to Paddy Royes in memory of her husband George who died 18 Apr 1990 recorded by his cousin Bill Moody. Transcribed to text by Glenda (Weatherburn) Pollard. We are not sure of the spelling of some names of people and places.

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George, in hospital you told me that I was the best medicine for you, and I hope now that this tape will be some good medicine for you, Paddy in this time of grief and loneliness.

I guess that George and I were more intimate than just being cousins, I think we were very, very good friends. Of course, we grew up together. He grew up in Mareeba and I grew up in Herberton, until I moved to Mareeba when I was 15 ‘cause I couldn’t get a job in Herberton. By that time George was working at Jack & Newell’s in the drapery department and my first job was in the office as cashier.

But even before then, when we were about 5 or 6, I would go to Aunty Barbs (Barbara Dawson nee Moody) and Aunty Minn’s (Mary Jane Royes nee Moody) sleep over at Aunty Minn's, and that's where George and I really got to know each other. He would come up to Herberton also and have holidays with us up there. In those days we’d go up into the hills in Herberton, we were great walkers and it was nothing for us to walk out to Wondecla or up to Moomin and go up to the dam from whence the water was reticulated to Herberton. We’d fish, we’d play cowboys and Indians. At times we would go up into the mining area. We knew the owner of the Ly-ee-Moon, which was a tin mine.

We’d help the blacksmiths with the bellows. Whilst he sharpened the tools, we would go and help the whim horse bring up the buckets of metal from underground. Sometimes we’d go down in the bucket maybe 50 feet or 60 feet, depending on what shaft they were working. We would plug in dynamite down the holes. The miners would never let us use the detonators, and then we’d come up in the bucket again, just prior to them igniting the dynamite for the explosion to release minerals and then they’d bring them up next morning. We’d always take a cut lunch with us and over the fire, brew tea, and we thought it was great fun that we could talk with the miners. I remember O.T Lempriere, T. H. Kelly and Tony Newton. We always called them Mister, but they were great days. We’d go tin scratching in the, Great Northern Mine. We’d take our tin scratching dishes up with us, we’d probably finish up with a 2lb Uncle Toby’s Oats tin of alluvial tin, then we’d go down to T.H. Hunter with O.T. Lempriere and see which one would give us the best price. It invariably ranged between 1 shilling and 6 pence ha’penny and 1 and 6d farthing, and we’d sell our tin to them, depending on which was the higher price. We’d get 15 shillings, which in those days was pretty good going.

Whenever I went to Mareeba for a holiday, I used to delight in going down to George’s home, because Uncle Bert had made him a billy goat cart. I don’t know what the name of the stinker was, as a matter of fact I think it was ‘Stinky’, but he had a magnificent set of horns. He was aa docile animal. We’d harness him up into this cart, go down into Granite Creek, get loads of sand, because Uncle Bert at that time was putting down a concrete base for an aviary, and also a concrete floor for the laundry. In those days George had pigeons and also had double bars, silver eyes and a whole host of other little coloured finches. I remember too that the rats were problems around the food so at night time we’d go down with a pea rifle and rat shot and see how many rats we could knock off. George and I were pretty good with a rifle and then later on of course we’d go out duck shooting with our Uncle George [George Moody], and we’d pick up a brace of ducks. I think that that sort of being accustomed to weapons at that tender age stood both of us in good stead when we joined the Army and Air Force respectively, because you gained an idea of discipline and also manual handling of arms.

In primary school too, George played football, that was Rugby League, for the Mareeba State School. He was probably the most brilliant half back they ever had, and the best goal kicker. I played for Herberton. I played front row and because of my light weight they invariably made me rake. We met Mareeba on many occasions, not only in Herberton but also in Mareeba and Atherton, but Mareeba was the top team. Of course George went on and played in the Juniors and Seniors later on and he was accredited as being one of the best halfbacks in North Queensland. I only had a fight with George once. I don’t know how it happened, but I remember he said something and I took exception to it and I went up to him and I gave him a little playful punch in the stomach. It must have been harder than I thought it was, because during the next three minutes I probably had the biggest hiding in my life, and I can remember Uncle Bert standing on the sideline sooling him on. I remember crying bitterly because he really hurt me, but I still remember how that night after I had been patched up a bit, we were as right as rain, and were the very best of friends next day.

And it was about that time too that George got his first bicycle. It had no gears on it, but I can remember the ton of fun we had learning to ride it and then finally being able to take off down Granite Hill and up the other side, over to the old home where Gran Moody lived in. Sometime later, we got a bike in Herberton too, but there of course the ground is not as good as in Mareeba, which is much leveller then Herberton is, but we had a ton of fun nevertheless.

When I went to work permanently in Mareeba, my father bought me a 4-speed bike, and George by that time had a 4-speed bike also, but his had the external gears. Mine were a Sturmey-Archer internal. George’s bike was much lighter than mine. But I remember time and time again how after work on a Saturday afternoon, we worked till 1 o’clock then, and we’d get on our bikes and we’d bike up to Mareeba, up to Herberton, up over the range, it took us about 4½ hours. In those days of course there was no bitumen, it was dirt road all the way and by the time we got to Atherton, after pushing up the bluff, we were just about jiggered and then of course we had The Great Dividing Range that took us up another 900 feet to about 8 miles out of Herberton, But invariably we got there in good time - at 5:30 pm - for a hot bath and Nana Moody invariably put on a roast beef and Yorkshire pudding dinner or a good stew and dumplings dinner. But we looked forward to those sorts of trips because again we were together, and we had a tremendous amount of fun going up into the hills again.

I’ll never forget the weekend that we went up, Gordon Ingram came up with us too, because he was a good friend of George’s. The three of us pushed up to Herberton, after work on a Saturday afternoon, because we wanted to catch the train from Herberton out to Ravenshoe, on the Sunday morning, because the Church of England church was being dedicated in Ravenshoe by the North Queensland Bishop [this was 15.11.1937, Bishop-Rt. Rev. John Feetham, D.D.]. We had a good ride in the train of course and there was a picnic lunch at Ravenshoe after the Church had been dedicated. We didn’t get back to Herberton until about 5 o’clock at night, and Nana Moody had another magnificent typical old English dinner for us, and then we had the long ride back to Mareeba. I think we left Herberton at 8 o’clock at night. We each had the lights that operated of the front wheel, the dynamo lights. They were fairly bad of course, and what with the great rocks in the road and the washouts and all the rest of it, oh and it was bitterly cold because it was mid winter. [The Church Dedication was in November, but the Foundation Stone dedication was in July??] We got to the top of the range and on the way down my chain broke. We finally wrestled a piece of wire off one of the fences nearby and linked my chain up with this bit of wire. I think we got back to Mareeba, must have been about 2 am in the morning, I think. Now I’ll never forget that ride as long as I live. It was bitterly cold and of course we had to take our time with, wire on the chain kept on breaking, how the hell we ever made it, I’ll never know. But that was the sort of fun we had in those days, and one can sit back now and think of it as fun. I guess they were little things and yet today as I sit back and think of George and the good times we had, they’re well worth remembering. And since it gave him a tremendous amount of joy to help me remember them, I hope that you can obtain some solace from what I am telling you now.

Now it’s back to Mareeba again and I remember that old Billy goat cart, and it could seat three of us at the same time, and so we’d get in and sometimes Helen (Royes) might come with us or sometimes my brother John (Moody) who was younger than I am by about 13 months. We’d get up to Yee Sing, he was the great Chinese herbalist - he sold everything from chocolates to condoms, to fruit and vegetables to firecrackers. But I can remember to this day what 6d would buy at that shop. His lolly counter would be at least 12 feet long, and it would have been 3 feet wide, and for 6d you could get 1 bulls eye for a farthing, you could get one aniseed ball for a farthing, you could get one jumbo for a ha’penny, you could get a packet of P.K’s for a penny, you could get some all day chews for a penny, and so on and on. We’d have enough muck, a greater variety than one would ever see today. For sixpence it would keep the three of us going, maybe two or three days. But that was the joy of being able to shop at Yee Sing’s. And he would send around two of his underlings to the various homes in Mareeba with fruit and vegetables every Tuesday and Thursday morning, and not one Christmas went by when Aunty Barb and Aunty Minn would get from Yee Sing one of the stone jars of ginger from China - from Shanghai or Canton or from Peking - but they were tremendous delicacies.

Of course Yee Sing used to get something from us too because we’d go fishing down into Granite Creek and there they had the biggest boney brim that I have ever seen. We’d use fly hooks, if we had enough money to buy a fly hook, or we would bend a pin, put a bit of bread on it, and we’d catch these boney bream. I guess they maybe half a pound each, but they’d be a good ten inches long and about four inches wide and about an inch thick. You couldn’t eat them, but Yee Sing used to give us either a bag of lollies or he’d give us threepence or sixpence, depending how big the fish were and how many we caught. He had a 44 gallon keg with brine in it, and these fish would go directly into that, and after about a fortnight or so, he would tell us they had just had one of the greatest delicacy that a chinese could ever enjoy, and that would be pickled boney bream.

Apart from being a great sportsman, George was also a great dancer, and I remember the time he said to me ‘Gawd blimey you don’t know what you’re missing. You had better come and we’ll teach you to dance.’ So Helen and George and George Iggulden, who also worked at Jack & Newell’s, and Joyce Iggulden and I got together at the Iggulden’s home. I think they started off with one of Victor Sylvester’s 70 revs a minute if that’s what it was, gramophone records, and they tried to teach me the waltz and the quick step and the foxtrot and all sorts of things, but I was bloody hopeless. I’m even hopeless today unless I can dance with Jan, or when I can do a foxtrot to a jazz waltz and I can swing into a quickstep particularly if I have had a couple of scotches, but with anyone else I am absolutely hopeless. And if I am dancing with someone else and they put on a foxtrot and the music stops and you clap, and then they start off on a different tune, I’ve got to ask them what’s this, ahh, and they tell me and then I try to pick up the step from there, that’s unless of course I’ve had a couple of scotches, when I can do anything to the music.

But they were the sorts of times when we made our own fun. And, of course I’m talking about now, when George and I would have been 16, and he became the fashion plate of Mareeba. We could get relatively cheap long trousers in those days, made to measure by a company here in Brisbane (? Cliff Rake and Roussel ?), and George would do all the measurements and send it down in self measurement form. I’ll never forget my first set of bags, George had been in them for some time, and there was a start in this fashion of 24 inch bottoms, so I got a 24 inch bottom with a permanent turn up on it and pleats and belt of the same material and front pocket and side pocket and 2 back pockets and all sorts of funny things that I had no knowledge about. I thought they were rather big at the bottom but George went one better and he went to 26, size 26 bottoms and he finished up with a pair of flairs 30 at the bottom, and you couldn’t tell whether he was wearing shoes or sandals or whether he had no shoes at all. But these were the bags as he called them that he’d always wear to the dances, and of course at that time you’d be going up to Atherton and he was the hot shot , there was no doubt about it, and he was a great dancer. I don’t know how much the bags cost us in those days but they we’d get 10% off and then I think we could spread the cost of the bags over maybe ten pay’s so they really didn’t break us at all. George would order two pairs for himself whenever he put an order in, but I remember that my first pair lasted me for so long that he told me it was about time I got another pair. I still remember the type of material. George liked stripes. I didn’t like stripes, I don’t know why, so I always went for the more conservative type, at least that was what I was told. I was a conservative type of dresser.

Another thing I remember about the Royes’s household where the great meals that I had there, particularly at night time. The favourites were donuts with great big holes in the middle and syrup, no not syrup, Serup. George always called it serup, and we’d sit down of these things cooked in fat. I don’t know whether it was the taste of the Serup or the Serup and fat, but I can remember we invariably finished off that meal not with a cup of tea but with great big enamel mugs that Aunty Minn always had, because Uncle Bert of course was a great tea drinker and it seemed that he passed that on to George and whenever I went there to me also. But one finished up with a great big extended belly but a warm feeling inside.

I am chopping and changing around because all these fits and starts it means I have either finished the scotch I’m on and I’ve gone to replenish, or I’m trying to think of something else that is pertinent that you might find amusing or you might find it sort of food for thought. But whatever it is I’ll just ramble on and on until I come to the end of the tape or I run out of steam. When you get this tape and you play it you might get periods of music. We don’t have a new tape and rather than wait for the shops to open to go and get a new one, the music that you hear will be from a Theatre Restaurant that Jan ran as a fund raiser and activity for the church. It went on for three nights and the three performances were sold out, 130 people every night put in $8 and I forget how many thousands of dollars, well not thousands, but maybe $2500 or even more and that was netted for the church after all the expenses had been paid. But people thoroughly enjoyed it and I think this will become an activity later on. So, if between my talking you get strains of music you will know what that’s all about, and you will say he’s too bloody mingy to go out and get a brand new tape so I won’t have any interruptions.

Well, now we’re back to Herberton because George is one of these fortunate people who have so many sisters and of course I guess he knew about the facts of life at a very tender age. But I remember one day we were up in the hills, we’d been working the bellows for the blacksmith, sharpening the drills and something came out about girls and George said aw there’s not much different to us except they seem to have a peach between their legs. I guess that being the elder brother then of three brothers - no, two brothers, because Peter wasn’t born - that I only had a very faint idea of what he was talking about. And it wasn’t for about another 25 years that I knew what he was talking about, believe it or not. In any case. He told me once and in Mareeba when I was on holidays there, that it was about time that I started sowing oats. Maybe I was 15 I don’t know but looking back I guess that might have been something that I should have investigated so maturely, still what we did in those days and what I think about now were the sorts of things that make me feel at loss.

I did not see George very much after we joined up. We were together in 51 Battalion, in a platoon in Mareeba of ‘A’ company the headquarters of which were in Atherton and the battalion headquarters were in Cairns. And so I think we might have been 17 going on 18 when we enlisted in 51 Battalion, we did camps in Cairns, we did camps in Mareeba, and then of course when war broke out in 1939 we enlisted, and George went off to the Airforce and I went off to do my Commission and then it wasn’t until 1946, sometime after June when I was discharged, when I came back home to Mareeba that I met you (Paddy). And if I remember rightly you and George were in Aunty Minn's main bedroom of the family home and something came up, I still remember the day you mentioned something about the fruits of love, and we had a good old laugh about it. I think after that, Jan (Janet East) I were married in October, 1947. It must have been some time after that, it was before Phillip was born, and that would have been maybe 2 or 3 years later, maybe 1950, that we came up and we met you again. I think by then you were In your own home just opposite aunty Minn's old home. By heavens that’s going back a long time isn’t it? That’s what 40 years. And yet I can remember some of that and some of our association in great detail and yet ask me what happened yesterday, or a fortnight ago, or ask me something else and my mind is completely blank. But as I grow old Paddy, it seems to me that the simple things of life are the more important and these memories that I’m mentioning to you now, are the memories that are long lasting, and very, very dear to me.

I enjoyed going back to Mareeba very much whilst my mother and father were alive, and then after that when my mother was still alive. I would go for long walks and the place I’d go into by push bike but it seems to me that memories came back if I walked instead of going by car. And those memories of Mareeba and of the times gone by and the good times that I had as a child and as a teenager, and then finally as an ex-serviceman in later life, are the most important of the lot. Because when family comes one has a different sense of priorities and also responsibilities.

Presently, [son] Phillip and Pearl with Lyn, Tricia and Jessica, well they live only about 2 minutes away from us. And [daughter] Vivien and Alan with Jessica who is 4 and little Joe who is just 9 months old live no more than 20 minutes by car, so we are very fortunate indeed. And they our grandchildren have added a new element to our lives because we see them so often. And we’re able to go out and enjoy their company and we know that they enjoy ours, because periodically they come and sleep over with us. Jan still is vitally concerned with this amateur Theatre group, St Luke’s Theatre Society. As a matter of fact, she has a problem at the present time - they’ve got about $15,000 accumulated funds that they don’t quite know what to do with. The Society supports a girl over in Bangladesh, who is only eight, and who has already suffered loss of home through floods. They have commitments to many other charitable organisations. And so, at the next Annual General meeting they are going to determine what we are going to do with some of this money, apart from giving away to charity, how they can further support the church. Jan’s been Madam President now for going on ten years or more, and she’s been a member for thirty years.

And of course, I still have this consuming interest of mine with migrants and refugees. That’s lasted now for eight years, and still going maybe three days a week. And many of the school teachers at the migrant settlers have been using some video tapes that I have produced with migrant teachers, with Vietnamese teachers, with Vietnamese, Nicaraguan, Polish and Columbian children, and with Polish, German, Dutch, Vietnamese, Nicaraguan, Argentinians adults in assisting them in English. We put interviews on tape that I had with them on video, and some of the teachers use these to support their studies in higher degrees to English as a second language which they must have if they wish to go on teaching migrants and refugees of adult age. Some of these tapes well, six that I know of found their way to Oxford and at least eight of them have found their way to Macquarie University. So it gives me a real feeling that even in retirement, well it’s not even in retirement, that in retirement that some of my past experience, particularly in the Army, I know that’s where I came of age and I think that’s where I matured, can be put to good effect.

I better take a breather and another slosh of this scotch which is pretty good. It’s been bottled in England and I think it’s Mackintosh’s and I do enjoy a Scotch on ice with water.

I’ve made a few mistakes, but I’ve come to the end of them, but I don’t know what I’ve said to you previously, but I’ll go on talking because I always enjoyed talking to you. You had a sort of humour that always appealed to me and I enjoyed your accent.

Jan goes on a trip to Western Australia in May for 14 days. Originally, we had both planned to go on this trip by bus across the Nullarbor, because Jan wanted to see Mundrabilla, which was the sheep station that her mother and father owned. It’s in the middle of the Nullarbor plains, and this bus trip, which pulls up every night at motels or something similar to that, but a good accommodation, so that you’re not constantly on the bus nonstop from Port Augusta over to, uhhhmm I forget where it is, maybe Kalgoorlie. But each day you do maybe 300 or 400 or 600 kms but at least at night you pull up to a shower and a good meal and comfortable accommodation. We were then going to do a bit of touring down and around Albany to see the wildflowers and then come back Indian Pacific.

But in the planning stage, two friends of mine from Canada, with whom I’d been fishing up on Fraser Island, told me that they’d made a booking at Kununurra, on the Ord, in far north Western Australia and two friends of theirs were also going but there was a limit of five as to who could go on the trip. They were going fishing for fifteen days. Well immediately that sort of clicked with me, so the arrangement now is that Jan will go to Perth with her sister-in-law, who is a widow. Tom, Jan’s brother died about eight years ago and Jan cossets her around because Dorothy does a tremendous lot of work for her with the Theatre Society. So they are going off together and I go to North West of Western Australia on this fishing trip. Jan comes back about the end of May and I take off at the end of July getting back about mid August.

I go by Greyhound up through the centre of Queensland to Katherine then head direct west to Kununurra where I meet up with this group of four people, we spend the night in Kununurra, then we fly to our fishing grounds in the Hargreaves River by float plane five hours away. We spend ten days there fishing for barramundi, queen fish, bass, all sorts of fish that you get up in Far North Queensland on the reef. Unfortunately, most of the fish that we catch we will release because it’s a restricted area, no more than about fifty people a year get in there fishing. It is sacred ground to some of the aboriginal tribes, so I guess at least some 150 people who have been fishing in that area because it has only been recently opened up. Well, when I say recently opened up, maybe over the last two years. So, I will belong to an elite clientele. Of course, it’s going to set me back a couple of thousand dollars for ten days, but, as a Phillip our son said, and as Vivienne said, ‘Well, if that’s what one desires at your age of life, go to it,’ and Jan of course is accomplishing one of her desires when she will be going back to the area that she was born into and she will see some of the country that she has never seen, because she was too young to remember it. She’ll have good company and she will meet friends over there with whom she went to school at St. Hilda’s at Southport.

Getting back to the amount of fish we can bring out, there are limited deep freeze amenities where we’re going into because only five can go in at a time. So I guess we’ll eat all the barramundi and bass that we can eat on the Hargraves River and probably just bring out one or two fish that I’ll be able to use overnight in Kununurra and Mt Isa because on the way back it’ll take me three days and I guess even deep frozen fish won’t last that long. Although it’s supposed to be good tourist country and these buses of ours and the Australian attitude towards tourists seems to be of a lackadaisical sort of nature and so I have to spend an extra night in Kununurra and Mt Isa to get back to Brisbane. But at least instead of spending two full days and two full nights on the bus I’ll be able break it on the way back. In any case I don’t mind bus journeys. I can sleep at any time and I don’t over eat and I like to have a beer at these long stops and I guess that I am still so small that I can still curl up on a seat and a half, and they tell me that the buses aren’t overloaded at that time.

Now that break was whiskey time for Bess and also recharge for me.

It’s 5 o’clock on Sunday the 22nd of April. I’m going to march with our local branch on Wednesday. I could go into the city with the big march but it’s such a hassle to get in there and get back home again. I guess if I were honourable enough, I’d march with 15 Battalion, which was my Battalion during the war. But from about half past nine in the morning until about half past midday or one o’clock, with so much noise and bustle in the city, then one has to get back to the reunion on the southside. Look, it’s truly not worth it, whereas here I can go to the service at quarter to seven and get home for breakfast after the service and then go back to the local R.S.L. branch for a beer or two with local friends of mine. If I come home to watch the march, it starts about two o’clock and seems to me that that’s more preferable there’s no rush and bustle.

I don’t know if you know but our son Phillip, who’s 40 I think next birthday, has had some world acclaim. He left his Agricultural Science degree with 1st class honours. He was up in Darwin with his wife when Cyclone Althea hit the place, but fortunately he and Pearl, I call her Leivonnaisia that’s our address to her at their wedding ceremony, and that’s Dutch for the sweet one, were here with us, he was doing his Masters degree at the time. He went back but the only thing that was left standing of their home was the bathroom. The neighbour next door had taken his car to his home and put it under cover, but his own row had been very severely battered, but eventually the car came back here and Phillip transferred from Commonwealth Primary Industry to State Primary Industries and that’s when he finished up in Mareeba. But he’s gone on to very important things because he’s had numerous trips overseas. He took out a worldwide acclaim with a fellow scientist here in Brisbane, for an under forty award of a joint paper, which they had to present in Brussells. When they did a tour of Research stations in England and Scotland before returning to Australia. Since then he has been asked or was asked by the Papua New Guinea Government to go and do research at Mindi, which is the wettest station in Papua New Guinea. It rains every day of the year, at least a inch, and so it’s recordings are over 360 inches a year. He told of his experience there. He met this rather peculiar women who was 40 years of age, who was doing research for Papua New Guinea Government, but he said her laboratory was like a Joss house he said. There was nothing in it except some joss sticks and a ramshackle old bench, with an out of date microscope. She locked her door every night and outside were a couple of boxes. Phillip said he wasn’t game to open his door unless he communicated with this woman who was about 40. So, for the seven days that he was there, he says it was almost hell because if it was not raining then he was beset with these dogs and also with this woman. He said what she didn’t know about scientific investigations and soils was beyond all understanding. Finally he got out and returned to Australia. He was able to extract soil samples and he tells me they’re still doing some research on them, but it has proved of benefit through his application towards his grant’s do. Well then after that he was invited by mainland China government and he went to Beijing for a fortnight and spent time there presenting papers to eighty scientists from around the world, and then spent one very memorable trip on one of their trains. Fortunately, he said with someone who could speak the lingua franca of the places. And he said he was upsetting too new with some of the smells and some of the foods that he should have eaten, but he arrived back safely and soundly with only one bag of stress internally. He is still pursuing his PHD studies as well as he can with the staff that he has, eight scientists, but he still tells the funny story of the day that he was promoted to Supervising Scientist and the 1st pay packet that came out he went around to the team individually and said it’s on me tonight at the local hotel at Saint Lucia. Well they all lined up and he put fifty cents on the counter and that was the net result of his promotion with added responsibilities with greater contributions towards Mr Keating and also to the Superannuation fund and they still laugh over this to this day.


Linked toWilliam George Moody, MC, MBE; Veronica Catherine Reynolds; George Herbert Royes

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