Not just any small town

Max Bannah's jacket design. Supplied.

By Phil Jarratt

In the world of books, self-publishing can be a thankless task, in which the list of jobs you need to complete to get your creation to market often seems never-ending.

But Boreen Point retirees Sylvia and Max Bannah have succeeded where so many others have failed, and they have created a book of local history that is informative, entertaining and beautifully produced. Author Sylvia and Max, the jack of all trades behind the scenes, admit this five-year labour of love became an obsession, but then, all books do, and it is only when you can see the joy they bring to others that you know that the hard yards and heartbreak that went into your creation were truly worthwhile.

Launching Boreen Point … not just any small town at The Appolonian Hotel last month, Sylvia said: “Max and I approached a publisher of local histories who was happy to take it on but we would have had to hand over the manuscript, with its 400-plus illustrations and not have any input into the look and feel of the book. After exploring other options and missing out on a grant to cover its publication, we decided to do it ourselves.

“This involved Max taking care of the design and layout using a complex program with which he was unacquainted. As happens with most skills in Boreen Point, one person’s shortcomings can be complemented by another’s expertise. And in this case, recently-arrived residents Angela Blakely and David Lloyd guided Max through all the challenges the program presented, and were on hand to help whenever he got stuck.”

Sylvia also recounted how, in true community spirit, The Appolonian Social Club and the pub itself chipped in with trivia and music fundraising nights to help cover the print and other bills, so while it was the drive of the Bannahs that got the job done, it is a book the entire small community can own.

She continued: “When I started looking into Boreen Point’s history at the beginning of 2017, I had no ambition other than to satisfy my own curiosity about the place that our family had been visiting since the 1980s, and to which Max and I retired in 2012. I was vaguely aware of bits and pieces of the history through the Eliza Fraser monument and visits to Mill Point, and through this lovely old hotel … I was also aware that our camping trips had taken place within the Cooloola National Park and that the small stone tools that we came across on the Sandpatch had been left there long ago by First Nations people.”

While the book covers pre-European history, it’s primary focus is on the 150 years since timber and property baron Frederick Goodchap selected the land that is now the town.

Said Sylvia: “There are many ways Boreen Point’s story could have been told. For the most part, my version follows a chronological path as it seeks to track ownership by just a small number of people in its first 70 years, and show how they used it, why it took so long for a small settlement to emerge and become a township in 1954, and how it developed into the place that we know today.”

One of the little-known stories about Boreen that Sylvia tracked down (and which fascinated this reader) was the inspiration that poet, author and conservationist Judith Wright drew from it.

As Sylvia told the launch crowd: “While Boreen Point may have been typical of many small towns, it was far from typical in the inspiration that its people and the environment provided for one of Australia’s most loved and admired literary figures, Judith Wright and her playwright husband Jack McKinney, who were regular visitors to their holiday house in Vista Street from 1953 to the mid-60s. While Jack wrote a play about the salt-of-the-earth characters he met here, Judith wrote numerous poems, short stories, a memoir and letters.”

In her autobiography, Half A Lifetime, Judith describes her first impressions of Boreen: “A little village of nine or 10 houses and a general store, all delectably perched on a lake shore above a pink and white sandstone cliff.” Judith, Jack and their little daughter Meredith had intended to camp, but instead rented Snuggle Inn, a newly-built cottage of tiny rooms, “like a toy house made of the sand around it”.

Soon they had bought their own, which they named “Melaleuca” for the paperbarks that grew around the lake. Here they found Boreen Point was “a good place to write in, no telephones, no proper roads, no bus except the daily school bus and the weekend tourist bus that held maybe 10 or 20 tourists”.

Judging by this, former librarian Sylvia’s first book, Boreen Point is still a good place to write. Illuminated by former animator and illustrator Max’s design, maps and caricatures, her stories leap off the page with a love for her adopted home that is evident in every sentence.

Boreen Point … not just any small town is available at all good bookstores, and at Noosa Village News.