Home-made village history

The people of the book. L to R front row: Bill Barry, Dan Purdie MP, Fay Wiggins, Kent Hartshorn. Kathy Lynch, Phil Connard, Cr Maria Suarez. Back row: Sue Fingleton. Fay Rimmington, Yvonn Astill.

By Phil Jarratt

A rain-bomb was predicted to arrive at any minute but nothing was going to dampen the enthusiasm of the Verrierdale pioneer families as they gathered at their beautiful tongue and groove community hall to celebrate the launch of a history written by the community, for the community.

I previewed History of Verrierdale 1860-1960 in these pages a month ago, but I hadn’t seen the finished product until last weekend.

It’s a little beauty, all the more to be treasured because it is almost entirely the work of the descendants of the settler families, working alongside more recent arrivals who have also embraced the village’s rich and previously untold history.

Of course, Sunshine Coast Council helped to fund the print bill and, following some pressure from the cheekier pioneers, Ninderry LNP MP Dan Purdie agreed to cough up for some other outstanding bills, but by and large it was 18 months of self-funded hard yakka for the group assembled by editor Kathy Lynch and her husband Phil Connard, long-time residents who’d gone looking for a local history and found there wasn’t one.

As Kathy told the launch crowd: “We started this project at an Australia Day gathering in this hall last year, not really knowing how we were going to get a book done, so we just talked about it to the audience that day and asked how many people would be prepared to help.

“Suddenly there was a sea of hands and we had our core team. Over many cups of tea and a few drinks, we got this book together.

“There wasn’t very much information around about the early Verrierdale community and how it came to be, but we looked high and low through the various websites and archives and books until we began to find our story.”

Within the core team of five who helped Kathy and Phil research and write the book were two descendants of important settler families.

Fay Rimmington’s grandparents Robert and Lizzie Butler arrived from England in 1913 and took up 320 acres, where they cut timber and ran dairy cattle, later supplying cream for the Eumundi Butter Factory. Later, Fay’s father Frank moved from dairy to banana growing and small cropping. Her early memories include riding her horse to school.

Fay Wiggins was one of five children of Ted and Thelma Lynch who arrived in Verrierdale in 1943 and grew bananas, pineapples and paw paws, as well as keeping dairy cattle and pigs. Ted later expanded his interest in beef cattle and crossed breeds for better results.

A resourceful and hardworking couple, Ted and Thelma used to split fence posts together, and as a young girl Fay also became proficient with the crosscut saw.

Former Maroochy Shire councillor Kent Hartshorn was also part of the broader team, and could claim his own settler stock, having been born in Verrierdale soon after his parents Fred and Win arrived in 1954 to start farming. There being no house on the property, Kent and his two older brothers got their first taste of Verrierdale life in a 24 x 12 foot packing shed.

As the formalities drew to a close at the Verrierdale Hall, former students of Verrierdale State School (closed 1963) were asked to come forward. Half the audience got up.

Then Kent Hartshorn called for the telling of tales from the legendary past, promising there would be free beer to follow.

A little old lady stood up and nervously told how she and her sister had gone to a fancy dress party at the hall in blue crepe paper dresses their mother had made. Finding form now, she added: “But that’s nothing compared to my Uncle Frank, who went to a New Year’s Eve party here dressed as a baby. He borrowed a bed sheet from his mum and made a nappy, then he went down to the creek behind their house and smeared mud all over the back of the nappy and down the back of his legs. Apparently it caused quite a stir.”

Huge applause and the flood gates had opened.

While blokes vied for the microphone to recall having to push the family ute up the big hills to get to the Saturday night pictures in Eumundi, it was time to slip out the back, Jack.

If you’re interested in obtaining a copy of History of Verrierdale, email VerrierdaleHistory@gmail.com