Gladys Mildred Tully (1931-2011)

This section is organised according to the generations of my mother’s family (Gladys Tully). Initially my focus for this website is to concentrate on who were the first ancestors to come to Australia, why and when. As I gather more stories I will add them under their birthnames.

Mum wrote the beginning of her story so I will include it here.

Today’s date — Monday, May 1 3th, 2002.

I was born in the city of Townsville in north Queensland in the year 1931 on the 28th August, probably in the evening sometime, but I am not sure about that. I was born at a Nursing Home at what was then called Ross Island which was in south Townsville. The person attending the birth was nurse Walsh. Mum had a hard time with my birth, and she nearly died.

At this time, I had two older sisters, Betty, and Pat. At the time I was born I think that my family lived at Melton Hill, in the city [ or town which it was then.] My father, James Henry Tully, worked in the Railway, and he owned an INDIAN motorcycle and sidecar. There are photos somewhere of this motorcycle, which I have seen. The first house I have any memory of is a house in which we lived at Mundingburra Townsville. I have been told that at that time my grandmother and my great grandmother lived in the suburb of West End. They were in the habit of walking to our home in Mundingburra, which was a long walk indeed. I know, because later on in my life, I and my husband and family spent twelve years in Townsville, and I know that I would not have liked to walk that far myself. I think that people were made of sterner stuff in those days.

I remember some parts of the house very clearly. There was a verandah at the front and running down one side of the house. On the side verandah there were two sets of French doors. At night we sometimes — played a game we called “How Green You are” We would hide something from one of us, and that person had to find the object. To let them know if they were way off or close to the hidden object we would either sing loudly if they were close, and the further away they would get, we would sing softer until they found the object. We had some great times doing this and many other games.

The house was about five steps above the ground. Betty, Pat and I used to sit on these steps and put rags in our hair to make it curly, even though we already had wavy hair. Mum was never happy about this and I remember she always told us to take the rags out. I think that it was mostly Betty and Pat who used to do it because I don’t think I would have been old enough.

I remember we had sewerage in Townsville and a flush toilet which used to be downstairs at the side and towards the back of the house.The bowl of the toilet was much the same as it is now, but there was a type of brass [ I think it was brass] cover over the place where now the water begins in the bowl. I think that must have been something to do with the smell. I don’t really know, but this is my guess.

Probably Townsville about 1937. Gladys and Betty.

We went to school at the Mundingburra State School on Ross River Road and I must have been in the early years of school because Pat had to look after me. How I remember this is that we used to sit on a narrow bridge at the back of the school and wait for the catholic kids to come out of school, [the catholic school was adjacent to our school] and then try to hold the bridge. Something like soldiers I suppose. However, one day I was pushed off the bridge and cut my knee with my chin. [ I still have the scar at the age of seventy-one. Pat was frantic and told me to tell mum that I had tripped over on the track on which we used to walk home from school through Anderson Park, and through what is now called Mindham Park, I think. Of course, it was a lot different in those days. A lot more bush, but quite safe.

The Towns which dad travelled to while he worked in the railway were Townsville, Hughenden, Bowen and Cairns. Betty[born 8/1/28, Pat [born 20/7/29] and myself [born 28/8/31 were all born in Townsville. Then we travelled to Hughenden where Jim [born2/8/33] and Suzanne [born 29/7/35] joined the family. Of course, I remember nothing of those years being so young but when we went back a second time I remember it well, and treasure the memories made there.

We were in Townsville when Daphne was born on 19/7/37, so that would have been the time of which I have spoken above. I remember that there was a hotel [ since burnt down a few years ago, but was still standing when my husband Thomas Anthony Tagney, and our third child Susan [ the other two, Debra and Garry were already grown and living their own lives] went to Townsville to live in 1978.

I remember the name of the hotel was the “Royal Oak” and dad used to have his drinks there. We lived two doors away from the Sun Theatre near to the joining of the Ross River Road, Queens Road and Charters Towers Road. One day mum had to go out for something, and left Pat and I in charge of the then baby, Daphne. Pat and I thought it would be okay if we went to the pictures [which are now known as the movies] so we sneaked next door [but one] and the people who owned the place, their name was Felt, let us in because they knew us well. However when we arrived home we got the belting of our lives because Daphne had somehow got hold of the Johnson’s baby powder and nearly smothered herself. You can imagine that we never ever did anything like that again.

Sun Theatre Townsville

Sometime between Daphne’s birth and George’s birth we moved to Bowen where George was Born on the 29/3/39, and Arthur on the 25/11/40. I remember when Arthur was born, and Aunty Lil told me that I had a lovely baby brother I stormed out and down the road telling all and sundry that I was not going to live in a family with eight kids. How terrible. I had a thing about myself even in those days.

However, Jimmy, Susie and I had some great times there and in Hughenden in later years. We used to walk out to Queens Beach, and up to “Nanny Goat Hill” we used to call it, where a big “Stinker” used to live [that is a male goat, and I can tell you that the word stinker was very appropriate. We used to crawl into the big drains and watch the swallows build their nests and generally have a ball. I remember once we walked out to a little shop near the railway station and pinched some lollies from the shop-keeper. In those days if you were caught you were given a good kick up the bum and allowed to go on your way, most probably telling your parents also. I remember living on what was called the salt pans in a white house, which we called it at the time and we still call it that now. There was a skating rink in the street behind our house and we used to go over there and roller skate. A couple of us were pretty good but I think that I was mostly on my bum instead of my feet. I can also remember having a doll which I used to take under the house which was about five steps off the ground. Perhaps there were upheavals in the house and I escaped to there, I don’t really know.

When we lived in Bowen we lived in four houses which I can remember. Besides the white house, we lived in a little house near the Salvation Army, to which mum used to go for Home League, which was a gathering of all the ladies of the army. I used to go out with Aunty Lil and play the tambourine outside the hotels, and the people would give money. The house we lived in then was almost on ground level with a tank outside for the water. On a very cold day mum sent me for a shower. I put one foot under the water, and knew this was not for me, so I started to call out so that she could hear me ” now I am washing my arms, now I am washing my legs” and then the icy water hit me from the back. She of course knew what I was up to so in came the water and mum saying, ‘now you little bitch have a bath.” She was never a polite woman.

I also remember dad finding a nest of baby mice in the drain on the roof. I was devastated when he poured boiling water over them to kill them. Apparently, he could do that but not strangle them. They were rough days for me. The next house we lived in was near the Bowen hospital, [we used to call this one “Bell’s house” because someone called Bell owned it. It was a high house with three or four Bowen mango trees in the yard. We loved mangoes and used to climb up and pick the fresh mangoes and eat them there. They were the good times too. By this time, I had developed a very bad temper, and I remember chasing Pat around the yard with a fork. I seem to remember throwing it at her and it sticking into her leg, but I am not sure that part happened. It may have been wishful thinking. There was also a girl about my age living next door and I remember her showing me a beautiful piece of filigree work from Thailand. It was a necklace. It was so beautiful, and she gave it to me. Of course, I took it. Children put no value on things. It was so pretty and when she said I could have it I took it. Some time went by and then it was taken away from me, but I have never forgotten it, and have always wished for a piece like it.

I also remember being in hospital in Bowen, I do not know why or what the illness was, but I remember I was in a bed on the verandah, with a fabric screen around me. When I wanted to go to the toilet, they  brought a pan to my bed: I did not know how to use it and I sat on it backwards and peed right over the end of it. I was most embarrassed. I can remember my two cousins, Billy and Kevin Hansen, Aunty Lil’s two boys, tying me to the bed on the verandah. If this had anything to do with why I was in hospital I do not know.


The fourth house we lived in was towards the railway station and up a hill, although I could not describe it here, I remember it well. We found it very spooky. It was a high house and very dreary I think it frightened us, and we made stories up about ghosts, and frightened ourselves nearly to death.

I think that Arthur was still a little baby when we went to Hughenden again. We lived in a tin house of two stories. That sounds flash, but the bottom story was a large kitchen with a cement floor, I rather think that it was once a farm house and the shearers were fed there. There were lots of cattle and sheep stations around Hughenden. The stairs to the top floor went out, then a small verandah which housed the bathroom with just a shower, and then back to the door of the upper floor. I remember there was a dining room, with a bedroom beside it, and then through to the sitting room and a couple more bedrooms I think. There could have been a front verandah also, but I can’t remember if there was. [to be continued]

All through our lives, dad was away from home a lot, being on the engines, and I think dear mum must have been very lonely. When we were living in Hughenden this second time the army had a settlement [can’t think of the right word] yes, I can, camp, army camp. I can’t remember the name of the camp, but I remember that Pat went out there and sang at a concert. I was pretty upset that I could not go. Maybe I will remember the name of the place later. Just up the road from our place [ the house we lived in was on the other side of the river to the town] there was a house of ill repute [a brothel in other words]. One night mum and I had been down in the kitchen, and we were just starting up the back stairs with a kerosene lamp [we had no electricity] when out of the dark stepped a big black negro soldier. Mum and I nearly died. He was after Mae’s place [the prostitute]. He was the biggest and blackest man I had ever seen. Mum told him where to go [directions, I mean] and off he went. Mum and I scuttled up the stairs and locked the door.

We had so many adventures in Hughenden I don’t know where to start. The river was mostly dry, but when the rains came, and the water came down the river bed, it did not just trickle down, it came in a high wall of water, with trees, sheep and any other detritus which was in the way of the flood. We could hear it coming for miles. Just up from our house there was a bend in the river and a creek called Station creek. The water would come around that bend in a great wall, it was very frightening. Sometimes Jimmy, Susie and I used to play across the river on the high bank, which was on the town side of the river. The bank of the river on that side was eroded away in places, leaving a sort of gully or gullies running down from the top to the bed of the river. We used to get hessian bags and slide down the gullies. One day we were doing this and heard the river coming down. Like all children, we had to have one last slide-down before we raced home across the dry bed of the river. That day we just made it. I think we shook with fright for a week. If you have ever visited Hughenden, you will know that the Flinders River is quite wide there.

In those days the sheep and cattle were driven down the river bed by the drovers. We used to play in the river bed and make cubby houses by digging holes in the sand under the rubber trees which  grew by the hundreds in the river. The drovers had horses with them, and one day when we were playing in the rubber bushes, the horses from the drovers’ herd came galloping along and over our hiding places, crashing about all over the place. However, we lived to tell the tale but I have an idea that mum never knew about most of the things we used to do. About a mile up river from our house there were two Chinamen’s gardens. One was on our side of the river and one on the town side. The three of us[when I say the three of us I always mean Jimmy, Susie and I used to go and steal oranges from their trees. One day Susie ate so many she was pooing crushed oranges. Susie says she was not, she was vomiting them. Never mind, one of us is right. Mum used to give us an old frying pan and a bit of meat and we would go and have a picnic in the river also. I suppose an orange episode happened on that adventure also.

Flinders River flooding at Hughenden 1930s

I also remember that dad made me go to school over the flooded river. They used to have a giant iron dinghy, heavy as lead and a man used to row people across during the flood. Anyway, dad made me go, and off we went. We ended up about a mile and a half down the river on the other side. I was so terrified that I don’t remember much about it. But I do remember that in the afternoon the man would not take me back because he said that it was too dangerous, and I had to stay with friends of ours on the town side. If I remember their name I will insert it later. I sat on the bank for a long time. I really did not want to stay away from home and l didn’t like the father neither, because one day a bird attacked me, and when I screamed he caught it and pulled the head off it. McBride, that was their name.

A black & white photograph showing a series of sanitary pans spanning the Flinders River, Hughenden in the 1940s – 1950s. Because this was prior to the building of the Ernest Henry Bridge, the pans were put in place to allow people to cross the river when there was too much water to walk on the ground.

Many things happened in Hughenden that I still remember, it must have been the most impressionable time of my life. We had people called Crawford who used to live behind us and to one side, and just up the road were people called Ferguson. Fergusons used to keep pigs, and one day I saw the father [I suppose it was the father kill a pig for eating. He stabbed it in the neck, and the pig ran around squealing until it fell down dead. Then they poured boiling water over the carcass and scraped off the bristles. They also had pomegranates [I don’t know if that is how to spell it, but that will do me] growing on a vine in the front yard, and we used to eat them. Either Crawford’s or Ferguson’s had an old horse called Stringy. It was called Stringy because it had a condition in its foot called String something. It was pretty old and could only just walk. I mounted it once and it was so high up I can’t remember how I got off. We also had a dog, a blue heeler cross. I think, its name was Rozzie. We did love that dog. One morning I went in to the kitchen and told mum that there was a stiff dog lying in our front yard. It was Rozzie of course and he was dead.

We also had an air raid shelter in our front yard. A big hole in the ground with a piece of iron across the top. We used to play in there as well. We had chooks, and a lovely little lamb which was left behind when it was born during the drover’s run along the river. We fed it with a bottle. I don’t know what happened to it, but I can guess. The world was our oyster in those days, I must say the best days of my entire life. We were so happy and free. I remember that one day there was a reptile on top of a lamppost in front of our house, and we rushed in and told dad that there was a big snake up the pole, and he came out and shot it with his rifle. He was a very good shot in those days. Anyway, it turned out to be a goanna, but it used to eat the eggs and the chickens so it was no loss as far as dad was concerned.

I remember being very sick when we lived in the house across the river. I had some sort of dysentery. I used to sit at the door of the kitchen, and dearly wish that the toilet, we used to call it the dunny wasn’t a mile away, which it seemed to me to be at that time. Once my brother Jimmy and some friends of his were having a swim in Station creek and I was there too. They were swimming in their shorts, so I thought that I would go for a swim too.  So, I peeled everything off except my singlet, tied that through my legs and dived in. I was such a wimp. I wondered why they looked funny at me, after all I was just one of them.

I’ll just jot down here the people I remember from across the river. The Fergusons. The Crawfords, the Greens, our milkman whose name escapes me for the moment. He had a utility from which he used to deliver the milk. I remember we went turkey shooting with him once. What a rough ride, through the paddocks over humps and bumps, but we did manage to bag a turkey or two. One day the three of us were in the big pipe which carried the drain water from the top of the river bank on the town side down to the bed of the river. We were in the pipe when we found a one-pound note, probably lost by some drunk who had camped the night there. We thought that we were made. We went to the main street, walked into a café and ordered steak and eggs. They brought it to us, and we scoffed the lot plus a milk shake. I don’t remember quite what happened after that, but the man probably told dad what had happened and we, mostly Jimmy, copped a belting. Poor Jim, because he was a boy he copped most of the hidings.

While we were living in that house Gordon was born. I don’t remember much about him except that he was a baby in the pram. Perhaps I helped to look after him at times, but I really don’t remember.

We moved from that house to another, which was on the other side of town, nearer to the school, the railway station and the hospital. We had four or five goats at this house and I remember a couple of their names. One who we called Peggy was a brown, white and black, and then there was another we called Whitey. I can’t remember the other names. Behind our house was nothing. I think that the house was on the very edge of the town. We must have had a gate in the back fence because we would let the goats out in the morning and then round them up each afternoon. We all drank goats’ milk. I remember that this house was similar to the one we had in Townsville in that it had a sort of detached kitchen. Between the rest of the house and the kitchen there was a sort of verandah, enclosed, where we used to eat, and then the kitchen behind that, a huge kitchen. I can’t remember if there was a sort of walkway across to the kitchen or if it abutted the verandah. Also, looking from the front of the house, it had steps from the right side of the verandah into the yard. The house was about five steps [or stairs] from the ground, as was our Townsville house. It was while we lived here that mum had her tenth child, Jeannette. By this time Betty and Pat had gone to Cairns to go to High School. Grandma and her second husband Walter Smith lived in Cairns, and both stayed at her house with them.

229 Draper Street Cairns with Martha Smith on the front steps.

When we were living on the other side of the river, dad got a bike from somewhere and I had to ride it to school. Because the war was on, there was no rubber to make tubes for bikes or for anything else for that matter, except for essentials, so he got a piece of rope and wound it around the wheel! covered it with a tyre and made me ride it to school. It was terrible. It was as heavy as lead and I was so skinny, it was probably as heavy as me. I walked to school pushing the bike. So, then I didn’t have to ride it anymore.

While I was at school in Hughenden, an air force fighter plane landed in the showgrounds or a paddock near the school, so nearly everybody ran up to see it, a very exciting time. I think it was a “Wirraway” but I am not sure. Because the war was still going and was coming nearer to this country, [Darwin had been bombed, and there had been a couple of attempts at destruction in the Sydney harbour by submarines of the Japanese navy], Dad put in for a transfer to Cairns to be nearer to his mother, even though no one was supposed to go to Cairns because of the danger. Anyway because of the extenuating circumstances, he was allowed to go, so that is how we came to be in Cairns.

I did not want to leave Hughenden, I had friends there, and I was going to be in a concert all dressed up as a rabbit. I was looking forward to that. I think I was just starting to emerge from my shell. I really did not want to go to Cairns. I did not tell anyone at school that we were going because I thought somehow that I could stay behind and be in the concert. But it did not happen, I had to go. I was devastated. That was in about April of 1945, I was not yet fourteen and was in what was called Grade 7 in those days. All girls were supposed to do “Domestic Science” when they reached Grade 7, but because we left Hughenden before the rail car had arrived in Hughenden with the “Domestic Science” car, [a railway carriage which was set up with requirements for cooking and sewing] I had to do history and geometry with the boys. [that is why I can’t cook].

I didn’t mind school and it didn’t bother me that I was in a class with boys. As far as I was concerned they were the same as me. [except for one part]. The only thing that bothered me was that I didn’t  have a set of geometry tools, and I had to borrow them from the boy next to me, and was always getting into trouble for not being finished on time. I think I would have gone to school for the rest of my life except for the lice. I was in a dreadful state. We all had lice in Hughenden, and mum was at her wit’s end trying to get rid of them. We all had thick hair, and the lice loved it. We had our hair done with kerosene every week-end, and the others seemed to eventually get rid of theirs, but the little beasties seemed to love my hair, and try as mum might, my head remained a haven for the little devils.

Betty and Gladys probably about 1945.

I passed both my Scholarship and Intermediate exams and went on to high school. In those days if a student passed scholarship, they were entitled to two free years of high school, if they passed both the scholarship, and intermediate, they were entitled to three years. Other than that, students had to pay for their education after Grade 7. Totally. Things have changed a lot since then. It must not be allowed to go back to those times. In the sub-junior I still had lice, and sometimes I could see them jump on the desk. I was mortified but was determined at that time to go on with my education. However, my head was so bad, at the end of the year I had great sores on my scalp, and my head stunk, it was very bad, nobody who hasn’t been in that position can understand. Mum cut all my hair off except a bit at the front which I wouldn’t let her touch and put ointment on the sores. The holidays passed and the sores and the lice went, but my hair had not grown, so I would not go back to school. How stupid of me. I was always a very shy child, and of course I could just see them laughing at me. So that is how I ended my school days.

Gladys in the centre. A day out with friends. Cairns about 1948.
Gladys third from the left.

Mum encouraged me to get a job which I did. I applied for a job at Samuel Allen and Sons as office girl. They employed me, and I stayed for about one year or so. During that time, I went from office girl, to invoice typist, and then to the Accounts Dept. adding up invoices on an adding machine for the accounting department. At that time Samuel Allen and Sons was a very large firm, with shipping, electrical, and hardware, and also grocery wholesalers. From that job I went to a motor cycle business. Here they were agents for Royal Enfield motor cycles, an English machine- I liked that job. It was very laid back and easy going and I think the people there liked me.  

However, during this time my father threw me out of the house, because I stood up for my mother. I remember, mum and I were in the kitchen at the table, and Suzanne was in the dining room. Dad came in from somewhere outside and threatened mum. I got up from my chair and went around in front of mum and told him not to hit my mother. Meanwhile Suzanne was behind him and she picked up a chair or something and hit him. It did not hurt him or anything, but he looked at mum and told her that it was either him or me, so out I was thrown. I don’t remember much of the bit after that, but I think that my clothes were thrown out into the yard. I don’t know if I had a suitcase, but I somehow got over to Betty’s house at North Cairns I stayed there for a while, but Max got angry because he said I was taking up too much of her time, which I probably was, so I had to go.

I really could not afford to pay board because wages were a pittance for underage girls in those days, so I went to stay with Pat and Ron, but they did not want me, so I was a bit stuck. I met a girl who worked at the “Blue Bird” café in Abbot Street in Cairns and we were talking about things and I told her my story. She asked me if I would go with her on a working holiday along the coast stopping here and there and working. As I felt that there was nothing in Cairns for me now, I decided to go along. Mum got me on the train as under fourteen, even though I was eighteen, I looked like a child [As a matter of fact later on when I went to a dance with a young fellow, he was asked who was the school child he was with] Nita said we would have to call in and see her mother and father in Ingham [I had never heard of the place] for a week, so I went along with that. And there I was in a strange town filled with dagoes who couldn’t speak English, and sixteen miles out of town . We stayed at Nita’s farm [they grew sugar cane] for six months and at last the parents must have thought enough is enough, so we had to look for jobs and when we did get jobs we were taken into town.

I had asked Nita when we were going on our trip, but she said that she had met this fellow and was not going to go any further. I boarded at a boarding house on Cartwright Street which was run by an elderly couple, Mr. And Mrs. Ridge. They were a very loving couple, and very good to her girls who stayed there. I thought a lot of her. And now starts the next part of my life.

Date: Fri Jul 12

Gladys in front of Ingham Post Office 1949