As Brisbane grows into a city of enormous geographic size, whose sprawling borders meld imperceptibly with those of its urban neighbours in Queensland’s southern demographic growth corridor, the distinctive character of Tymboo’s chronicle as a fragment of S.E. Qld social history resonates all the more strongly for us today.
My great uncle, Roy Gittins, inherited Tymboo from his parents Norman and Hannah, who, in turn, inherited the farm from the original owners, Thomas and Agnes Gittins, who gained proprietary rights to the property in 1869.
Roy Percival Gittins and his siblings were all born at Beaudesert, the regional town centre. Ivy Constance was born 17th June 1901, Roy born 29th August 1902, Leslie Norman, born 19th September 1904, Ursula Lily, born 14th September 1910, and Dulcie May, born 8th January, 1912.
Ivy, Roy, Les, Ursula (affectionately, if paradoxically known as Girlie into adulthood) and Dulcie were the surviving children of Norman Gittins and his wife, Hannah (nee Rogers Wright).
Ivy, the eldest, was my grandmother and married to Alfred Ernest Bayly, from Lauriston on the far bank of the Logan. Roy inherited Tymboo and effectively managed the farm before passing the property to his sons, John and Anthony.
Prior to his death in 1987, aged 85, Roy noted, “I have three nieces, each one the only girl in her family.
Irma, now Mrs Morris of Brisbane and the eldest of the three girls, is the only daughter of my sister, Ivy, and her husband Alf Bayly.
Ivy also had three boys, Frank, Dick and Jack.
Delma, now Mrs Gooding of Dalby, is the only child of Ursula and Ernie Harley of Southport. Pamela is the only child of Leslie and Nyria Gittins and is now Mrs Moriarty of Marrawah, Canungra. My sister, Dulcie didn’t marry.”
Roy Gittins wrote these thoughts in August 1984 as the opening passage of his recollections of growing up at Tymboo station and his life as it developed into maturity. These facts are sketches of the many memories he must have had of his immediate family relationships and the rural community he belonged to.
I hold a related, if dissimilar outline in my head. Growing up at Indooroopilly in Brisbane, the bus I’d take home from school in the afternoon would run along the ridge of Swann Road, Taringa, from where, looking south as the bus headed down a steeply sloping street on its route, I could clearly make out Mt Lindsay and the surrounding peaks clustering around the NSW border. Tymboo was situated in the landscape immediately to the north of these ranges, watered by the Logan River.
Over the years, I’ve romanticised the idea of Tymboo in my mind, located as a place of rich imagination as much as in the geography of the Upper Logan. This response to place has been based on a mixture of vivid childhood memories and more recent research.
My childhood memories of Tymboo were largely of events where Roy’s extended family gathered to catch-up with the past and the present. There was a special sensation associated with finally arriving at the Tymboo entrance, the rattle of the car crossing the cattle grid and following the drive to the homestead. One large picnic was convened on the river flats so that the kids had the opportunity to swim. The guests’ cars initially assembled at the homestead before the caravan of vehicles slowly made their way through the system of gates separating paddocks towards the river. In particular, I recall our uncle Ern Harley, while Mayor of the Gold Coast, arriving in his enormous white Pontiac, with auntie Girlie by his side, waving through the car window.
These memories were heightened by short holidays spent at the property with Roy and his wife, Sylvia and my cousins, John and Anthony in my early adolescence, when my appreciation for the atmosphere and the reality of the place grew considerably. I have strong memories of waking at dawn on cool mornings and hearing the curlews calling sinuously through the mist rising off the river paddocks. We chased the rapids falling around smooth rocky outcrops in the Logan and sunned ourselves on the river’s sandy banks. These are great memories.
Roy took great pride in his stewardship of Tymboo – meticulously maintaining its timber front gates and ensuring the entry road was regularly graded.
Sylvia carefully cultivated the gardens around the homestead, with an enormous bougainvillea spilling over the side gate leading to the kitchen, a fernery to one side of the old house’s front veranda, while a mango tree threw deep shade in the centre of the lawn beyond.
The source of most information contained in this history derives from Roy Gittins’ biographical notes and in so many ways this chronicle is based on his life story. He wrote, both from the perspective of wishing to assemble an historical account of the property he grew up on, inherited and expanded, while incorporating personal recollections of his life experiences. In turn, I’ve added information found during research into the history of the Gittins family, from the time of Thomas Gittins’ arrival in Brisbane in 1862.
Over a century later, Roy wrote about his life at Tymboo in response to a request from Delma Gooding, following a family gathering at Tymboo in celebration of Roy’s 82nd birthday in 1984. The family assembled for lunch in the front garden and Roy accompanied a group on a walk around the farm’s outbuildings – principally the original dairy, cattle race and holding yards. Each yard-rail and fence post had been hand-adzed and Roy’s account provided a vivid insight into the unremitting hard labour that characterised farm life prior to mechanisation and the broad availability of mass-produced components. Roy’s stories scored details into my consciousness, as fresh, immediate thoughts.
These were the memories of a life lived to full capacity, from a man who remained taciturn, yet full of thoughtful reflection in his later years.
As we walked, he spoke about his recollections of aspects of family history and these thoughts have been incorporated into his narrative.
The day also elicited memories from my father, Frank and his sister, Irma of visiting Tymboo in their youth with their mother, Ivy – Roy’s elder sister. The thoughts they shared with me that day and afterwards have also been incorporated into this account.
The history of European settlement of S.E. Queensland reflects the layers of inter-generational evolution and growth that help to explain how private holdings like Tymboo came into existence. The more I researched the history of colonisation in this, the most intensively-settled region in the state, I realised that many rural properties changed ownership numerous times before the end of the 19th century, let alone to the present day. This process of evolution was usually associated with property holdings becoming dramatically reduced in scale. Appreciating this fact makes the unbroken association of the Gittins family with Tymboo over 150 years all the more remarkable.
An example of this process of change can be effectively illustrated by a glance at the history of one of the original squatter’s runs in the region, nearby Jimboomba. The station had already changed hands twice before being purchased by Andrew Henderson in 1851. At the time, Jimboomba was described as consisting of about 24 square miles. Queensland Country Life, of 25 June 1900 suggests that the free-holding of Jimboomba was 4,000 acres. By 1908, a change of government policy saw the property being divided into three large share farms, with 500 acres surrounding the old red cedar homestead. Following the death of James Henderson in the 1930s, the property was subdivided and sold with the exception of the homestead block.
In 1823, John Oxley sailed north from Sydney to inspect the coast around Port Curtis (now Gladstone) and Moreton Bay as possible sites for a new penal colony. At Moreton Bay, the exploratory party found a broad river mouth and proceeded to navigate its lower reaches, naming the river after Thomas Brisbane, Governor of NSW. Oxley returned in September 1824 with soldiers and established a temporary settlement at present-day Redcliffe. By early December the settlement was transferred to the area currently recognisable as the Brisbane CBD, but still known as Moreton Bay.
In November 1825, Governor Brisbane appointed Capt Patrick Logan as Commandant of the convict colony at Moreton Bay. It was March 1826 by the time Logan reached the settlement aboard the Amity. He found conditions there quite primitive and embarked upon a building program, overseeing the design and construction of a hospital, barracks, stores and a mill, which remains standing on Wickham Terrace. Logan undertook these structural and administrative improvements with great effectiveness, including the planting of wheat and maize in an effort to adequately feed the colony. However, even in his own time he was widely considered a brutal and tyrannical overseer of his convict charges.
Logan was also a tireless explorer of the region and during journeys of discovery south, he found rich potential grazing land between the border ranges and the coast. He also found the southern ocean entrance to Moreton Bay, now known as the Southport Broadwater. Logan named the McPherson Range, and also Teviot Brook.
The entrance to Tymboo, of course, exists on Teviot Road.
Logan died in 1830, after setting out to explore and chart the headwaters of the Brisbane River.
It’s thought that Logan was killed by local Aboriginal people, the Turrbal, as they defended their traditional homelands from European incursion.
Under the ‘Crown Lands Act’ of 1836, prospective settlers could, for a ten pounds licensing fee, virtually take possession of enormous tracts of land belonging, in English law, to the Crown. In 1839, when the transportation of convicts ceased, the town of Brisbane was no longer classified as a penal colony.
Due to Logan’s glowing accounts to Governor Brisbane of the high suitability of land in the Logan valley for grazing, the region was particularly attractive to established pastoralists in NSW seeking to expand their interests. From 1840, graziers started to bring their herds of sheep and cattle north, overland across the New England tableland towards the rich coastal plains via Cunningham’s Gap, taking possession of property as literally, squatter’s runs.
When free settlement in the Moreton Bay region was lawfully permitted in 1842, Edward Hawkins, acting as an agent on behalf of Henry Suttor of Bathurst, NSW, established an enormous grazing run of approximately 50,000 acres extending from the coast to the Logan River. Hawkins had established his own herd while working for Henry Bayly at his property, Beaudesert at Mudgee, NSW. At the time, part of a manager’s salary was generally paid in livestock and consequently, Hawkins named his new Queensland run, Beau Desert, after his former employer’s property. In turn, Henry Bayly had named his holding after the Paget family estate in Staffordshire, England, because the Bayly and Paget families’ histories had become intermingled in the mid-eighteenth century by descent and marriage.
Hawkins’s herd also incorporated stock he was managing for Suttor, whom he was related to by marriage. A depasturing licence was issued to Suttor in 1842 and in 1844 was transferred to Joseph Phelps Robinson.
The property was then managed by his cousin, William Duckett White. Robinson’s younger brother George joined White on the property in early 1849.
Two years later they began negotiations to purchase Beaudesert station in partnership. Robinson withdrew and in 1874, White became the sole owner and retained ownership until 1885.
In 1859, Queensland established itself as a separate colony from NSW and in the same year, Brisbane was declared a municipality with a population of 5,000. The new colony was faced with a huge range of responsibilities and the requirement for community infrastructure and services. The government vigorously promoted the new colony in Europe, seeking immigrants to work as labourers on the establishment of infrastructure and farming. Large numbers arrived by ship from England, Ireland and central Germany through the 1860s, many of whom were poverty-stricken in their home countries and were lured with an assisted passage and the prospect of employment and the means of subsistence. Consequently, a significant colony of German-immigrant farmers became established on the north side of the Logan.
However, legislation was passed in 1860 making the provision of ‘land orders’ unconditional to individuals who had sufficient capital to pay for their own passage. Thomas Gittins made use of this facility by his arrival in Brisbane as a passenger in 1862, aged 23. Thomas Gittins was born, 21 September 1839, in London to Frederick James Gittins and Elizabeth Shrimpton.
Upon arrival, Thomas was engaged as a clerk by local merchant, John Markwell. Possibly Markwell may have advertised in the London papers for an educated young man of ambition to act in this capacity.
Isaac Beecham Markwell and his wife, Mary Ann (nee Harris) Markwell, accompanied by their children, had arrived in Moreton Bay in 1849, on board the Chaseley, apparently in the possession of capital of a few hundred pounds. Markwell was a tailor and completely inexperienced in agriculture. However, the Markwells invested in land at Bulimba, which Isaac attempted to farm unsuccessfully for the next three to four years. After this time, he and his brother, John, initiated a general store-keeping business at Bulimba, which in time became a prosperous enterprise. Later Isaac replaced John in a business partnership with draper, and fellow Chaseley immigrant, William Grimes of Warwickshire. Their tailoring and outfitting establishment of Markwell & Grimes was located in Queen Street, Brisbane, the city’s main retail thoroughfare. It’s likely that Thomas Gittins was actively involved in the administration of the business.
John and Georgina Markwell and their family lived at Moorlands Villa, also referred to as Moorlands Cottage, on the site of the mansion, Moorlands, constructed in 1892 for the Mayne family and now incorporated into Brisbane’s Wesley Hospital. The original house was described in the Moreton Bay Courier, 9 February 1861, as being:
situated on the bank of the river Brisbane, 2 ½ mile from the City of Brisbane; containing eight rooms, detached kitchen and servants’ bedrooms, stables and coach house; with a large garden well stocked with all kinds of fruit trees.
Through his connections with the Markwell family, Thomas had been introduced to John Markwell’s niece, Agnes, to whom he became engaged. As noted in The Courier, Marriage Notices, Thursday August 31 1863,
“On the 30th August at Charlotte St Brisbane, by the Rev. B Dixon, Thomas Gittins, Esq., son of Frederick James Gittins, Esq., of London, to Agnes Rachael, second daughter of Isaac Markwell, Esq., Brisbane.”
The Logan district was surveyed by an official government party in the same year and subsequently named the Logan Agricultural Reserve, an area of approximately 500,00 acres. Legislators determined that the big pastoral leases close to Brisbane needed to be subdivided into smaller properties that could sustain the more intensive agriculture required to support the capital’s growing population.
These moves resulted in the ‘Crown Lands Alienation Act’ of 1868, allowing for the opening of leasehold land for freehold selection. Under the requirements of the Act (which was enormously unpopular with the influential leaseholders), the Government could resume up to eight square miles of land from any leasehold run, making it available to selectors. Some leaseholders circumvented the Act by turning all or part of their lease into freehold property.
After completion of his education, Isaac’s son, James had begun farming at Bulimba with more success than his father. After six years there, James purchased a block on the Logan River, called Ingleby, later known as Cedar Grove, on which he planted sugar cane, which was sent for crushing to the Logan Mill. The balance of his property was utilised for grazing and he focussed on the establishment of a herd of short-horn cattle, which was later transferred to a property on the upper Logan.
This venture was initiated and financially backed by his father and undertaken as a partnership between Isaac and sons with significantly more investment than any business previously inaugurated by the family. The venture resulted in the growth of the herd to nearly a thousand head.
Through James’s efforts and his father’s financial support for the enterprise, the Markwells became established as graziers, with a pastoral selection at Tanah Merah, south of Brisbane. Isaac Markwell amassed considerable landholdings, in locations now known as Brisbane CBD (Charlotte, Ann and George Streets), South Brisbane, Long Pocket (Indooroopilly), Enoggera, Milton, Auchenflower, Toowong and Cedar Pocket near Veresdale on the Logan River.
His death notice was published in the Brisbane Courier on 26 April 1879 and The Queenslander on 3 May 1879:
MARKWELL.— On the 24th April, at his residence, Bowen-terrace, Isaac Markwell, aged 60 years.
The Markwell family were clearly prosperous and influential by this time and it’s likely they helped to establish Thomas and Agnes Gittins on Tymboo following the financial recession of the mid-1860s.
It’s interesting to note that Thomas Gittins took up his property in the same location as his brother-in-law’s property at Cedar Grove.
When Thomas Gittins first came to Tymboo in 1869, he lived in a slab hut near the river for access to water. It’s quite possible that Thomas and Agnes may not have taken up residence together on Tymboo in 1869. Agnes gave birth to fourteen children, beginning with Frederick in 1867.
Their fourth child, Charles, was born in 1871 and appears to have been registered as a Brisbane birth. Their first child registered as a birth in the Upper Logan was young Thomas in 1872, three years after Thomas Snr had taken up residence at Tymboo.
At the same time, the community around Tymboo was also growing. The Beaudesert township evolved from the subdivision of part of the original Beaudesert station, which occurred in 1874. The Shire of Beaudesert was established in 1879 with the passing of ‘The Divisional Boards Act’, allowing for the provision of local government within the Tabragalba Divisional Board (TDB). By 1880, Beaudesert had a store, hotel, blacksmith’s shop, saddler’s shop, post office and the office of the TDB, the forerunner to the Beaudesert Shire Council.
Cotton had been the first commercial crop grown in the Logan River region as a direct result of the American Civil War leading to the cessation of the American cotton-growing industry. However, sugar was to become the staple agricultural enterprise in the area by the mid 1870s, as illustrated by James Markwell’s endeavour at Cedar Grove.
John Davy and his brother-in-law, Francis Gooding, began to grow sugarcane in the area around 1865 on their plantation, Beenleigh, named after a family property in Devonshire, England. The men opened their own sugar mill five years later and in 1884 they established the Beenleigh Rum Distillery. The Gittins and Gooding families became connected through the marriage of Delma Harley and Trevor Gooding in the mid twentieth century.
In the late 1880s, S.E. Qld’s agricultural base was devastated by significant flooding of the Logan and other rivers, with a major flood covering the sugar fields under two metres of sand in certain locations and a catastrophic flood in 1887, when the Logan was more than a mile across in places. These naturally occurring disasters and the subsequent downturn in the sugar market in the later part of the decade led the Qld government to promote dairying as the most sustainable agricultural industry in the region, particularly in relation to supporting the growing population of the town of Brisbane.
In response to the flooding of the Logan, Thomas and Agnes moved from their original slab hut and built a modest house further up the hill, probably prior to 1875. By this time, Thomas and Agnes had five surviving children in William (6), Charles (4), Thomas (3), Arthur (1) and Norman, born 2 September that year.
Thomas noted that the local children, including his own, were growing up without education. He started a class in a room at his own home in 1875. Thomas brought his initiative to the attention of the Education Department (or its equivalent at the time) and he received an appointment as a State School teacher. Local residents supported Thomas’s endeavour through the contribution of funds and labour and erected a school building which opened as the Teviot Junction Provisional School on 13 September 1879 with 12 students attending. Thomas taught until 1884.
By way of contrast, Beaudesert Provisional School opened in 1882 and was upgraded to a State School in 1887. The Teviot Junction State School closed in 1899 with 19 students. The school buildings were later purchased by Norman Gittins and relocated to Tymboo and to another property at Pine Creek, Canungra.
It’s evident that Thomas wasn’t a farmer, having started teaching the local children only six years after taking up his selection and then spending the following nine years in this professional capacity.
Possibly, the couple may have let the property for agistment purposes to their in-laws, the Markwells or other more established neighbours, until their son, Norman began to manage the property. It’s also plausible to consider that Agnes may have been the fortunate recipient of financial support from the Markwell family through inheritance or the provision of income.
The family lived in the old slab house until 1912, when the Tymboo homestead was built by German immigrant, Fred Klumpp with assistance from his brother Jack.
The family clearly prospered, as Roy notes.
“When I was small we had two ‘state boys’ working here – Jim Maclin and Fred Nixon, who signed on for four years. At one period we had a maid working in the house, Daisy Hurford.”
“Ivy, Les and I had a governess for a short time – Ruth Lawton from Canungra, later Mrs George Franklin, as the (local) school was closed before we were old enough to go.”
Thomas and Agnes acquired two adjacent houses at Manly, one facing Stratton Terrace, where they resided, which would have provided extraordinary views across Moreton Bay. The other house was at its rear, fronting Kingsley Terrace.
They left Tymboo and retired there in 1898, while their sons, Norman and Arthur initially leased the property together. Shortly after, Arthur purchased land at Helidon and farmed there.
Roy described his grandfather Thomas, as,
“…a typical English gentleman with a short white beard and when he went out to catch the train from Manly station, he always carried a stick or umbrella.”
Thomas Gittins’ death was noted in the Brisbane Courier, 24 February 1926:
GITTINS, Thomas – On February 9, 1926, at his residence, Stratton-terrace, Manly. Aged 86.
Agnes Gittens’ funeral notice was published in the Brisbane Courier on 21 April:
GITTINS.— The Friends of the late Agnes Rachael Gittins, relict of the late Thomas Gittins, are respectfully invited to attend her Funeral, to move from her late residence, Stratton-terrace, Manly, This (Saturday) Afternoon, at 4 o’clock, for the Bulimba Cemetery.
Thomas and Agnes had clearly retired in considerable comfort, without having to sell their country property at the time of a severe economic depression. Thomas had clearly not been a businessman or an active grazier like his Markwell in-laws. It seems likely that one or both of them may have been the fortunate recipient of an inheritance prior to their retirement.
Norman married Hannah Wright from nearby Cedar Grove in 1900 and they had five children, Ivy, Roy, Les, Ursula and Dulcie.
When Brooklands School opened 3 October 1910, Ivy, Roy and Les were three of the original 17 pupils.” Roy noted that they had to ride to school three miles through O’Neill’s paddock. He and Les rode double back, while Ivy had her own horse.
Ivy proceeded to Moreton Bay Girls’ High School to complete her education. Moreton Bay Girls’ High School (later, Moreton Bay College) had been established on Bay Terrace, Manly West in 1901 by two sisters, Alice and Ann Greene, catering for boarders and day pupils.
It’s likely that Ivy lived with her grandparents during her secondary education, while Roy and Les both left school at fifteen to work the farm with their father.
Following the devastating floods of the previous two decades, the region suffered crippling drought in 1902-03, resulting in significant herd losses and further economic downturn. These events were followed by a major flood in 1903, when the Logan village bridge was washed away. Coming at the tail end of the 1890s depression, these were dim days on the Logan.
The region continued to evolve in character when Octavius Stubbs purchased a property that had previously been a timber reserve known as Graham’s Siding, outside Logan village in 1913. Three years later, Mr Stubbs advertised the subdivision and land sale as 10 acres for 170 pounds. The suburbs were beginning to encroach on rural life.
In 1921, Norman bought Clare, a paddock on the Teviot Ck from Lumley White, a purchase he was very proud of. In 1925, his sons, Roy and Les left Tymboo and bought land at Flying Fox, Canungra where they started a dairy together.
The young men invested all their savings of I,000 pounds and about 30 cows between them. Their days consisted of forest-clearing and the construction of fencing while maintaining a dairy – all extremely hard work. After two years, the brothers dissolved their partnership. Les started a dairy on his own land and built his own bails and cattle yards and later constructed a house. Roy placed his Canungra dairy on half shares in 1927, at which time he returned to assist with the running of Tymboo. The Canungra dairy operated on this basis for 27 years until 1965. For the two years Roy spent establishing his farm at Canungra, his father maintained dairy operations at Tymboo with the help of Girlie (Ursula), Dulcie and Colin Gilbert, a cousin. Colin was considered to be very reliable and a hard worker, who helped to keep the farm in good order.
At that time, Norman built the cattle dip at Tymboo with Colin’s assistance and it remained in good working order until the 1980s.
After returning to Tymboo, Roy operated the dairy with the help of hired labour for ten years until 1936. This period was concurrent with the Great Depression. Obviously the family’s ability to continue to prosper at this time was the result of close bonds, the ability to compromise effectively and the application of considerable hard work.
However there was always time for relaxation and socialising
In Roy’s own words, “In those days we didn’t go out much as horses were the only way to get around. We would go to church at Maclean once a month. The minister arrived there the night before, either by horse or horse and sulky and he would go to Cedar Vale church for a 2.00 o’clock service the next day.”
“In my young days, I hadn’t played any sport, but we had a tennis court that had to be kept in order as it was used occasionally and was quite popular on Saturdays, where we had many tennis parties.”
In 1936 Roy returned to Flying Fox, Canungra and focussed on improving his own property. Norman then built a cottage on Tymboo and put the dairy on half shares, which continued until 1943, at which point the dairy was closed and the property turned to cattle breeding.
With the advent of World War II, Roy enlisted in the local Light Horse at the age of 39, at which time he was still unmarried. He endured a period of internment by the Japanese Imperial Forces as a POW at Changi, where he miraculously survived and was discharged on 18th January 1946.
My father, Frank told me that, following his war experience, Roy demolished approximately half of the homestead and the old tennis court. As Roy didn’t mention this in his own account, we can only imagine why this occurred. However at one particular family gathering at Tymboo to celebrate Roy’s 82nd birthday, both Frank and his sister Irma were discussing the old house and how it differed significantly from its current form. They both confirmed that the façade of the original homestead had ended where the mango tree in the front lawn then stood.
Norman and Hannah purchased a house on the Southport waterfront in 1946 called Rhyl, where they went to live in retirement.
Roy bought Tymboo homestead from his father and in the same year also bought Clare from him, before marrying Sylvia Bagnall on the 15th October 1949.
Sylvia was the daughter of Rose Ann and Timothy Bagnall who were among the first settlers in the Pine Creek district. They made their home at Tymboo.
Hannah Gittins died in 1949 aged 72.
Noman Gittins died in 1956 age 82.
Roy and Sylvia had two sons, John and Anthony, both of whom married in 1983. John to Beryl Davidson and Anthony to Gaye Walker.
Roy had purchased additional adjoining properties, one of which John now lives on with his family. Anthony and his wife, Gaye and family continue in residence at Tymboo.
Based in part on an account written by Roy Gittins, 1984.