Monday, 18 April 2016

O is for Ordinary and Ooralea #AtoZChallenge2016

My theme for the AtoZChallenge is exploring the Walker family . Thinking about the family I realised that they were around in Mackay, Queensland in the early days of settlement so I have decided to discover some snippets of early Mackay as it relates to this family and others in my family tree. I hope you enjoy the journey.

Today's post is about Ordinary - ordinary people and ordinary lives. As I thought about the post for O in the #AtoZChallenge the word ordinary came to mind. The Walker family were certainly ordinary people, Alexander and Mary Jane came to Australia as free settlers, farmed and raised their three daughters with little or no fanfare. They become involved with their local community, with the local Church of England and local businesses.

Their three daughters, Florence Elizabeth, Frances Helena Margaret and Georgina Louisa married local men and started their families in and around Walkerston, Mirani and Marian. The Marian Bakery and General Store was conducted by Paul and Florence Elizabeth Poulson until the early 1920's when they took up land at Mt Pelion. Florence was well known in the district for her fancy cakes.

So you see the family was ordinary and led ordinary lives - by this I don't mean to be disparaging, far from it, they overcame difficulties and Mary Jane's daughters lost children at a young age, managed to lead lives without apparent scandal and as my mother often said "...they got on with life because that's what you do..." 

I come from strong female stock and I think that the Walker family was also strong. Mary Jane left Dublin to travel here by herself, certainly her sister Elizabeth was already her in Queensland, but I think that traveling alone in 1870 was very different to me hopping on a plane and traveling to the UK. My life now is so very different to their lives in the late 1870s and at the turn of the century. 

Perhaps because they survived, farmed, ran businesses and became part of their communities makes their lives not ordinary but extraordinary.

Now for Ooralea ...

Ooralea, formerly Planlands, is eight km south-west of central Mackay. It was formally named in 1999 and the origin of the name is from a local aboriginal word meaning "Kangaroo Park".
Its north-east area is bounded by the Bruce and the Peak Downs Highways, and it was there in 1866 that the Mackay Turf Club secured a grant of land for a racecourse. The railway to Marian and Finch Hatton ran parallel to the Peak Downs Highway, and the Planlands station was opposite the racecourse entrance. 

The Club raced in 1868 but later lapsed. It was reformed on May 1st, 1872 and in 1972 the Mackay Turf Club held its Centenary meeting, accepting 1872 as the foundation year

The racecourse's most notorious event was a riot between South Sea Islander indentured plantation workers (known then as Kanakas) and European inhabitants at the Boxing Day race meeting in 1883 [2]. The paper by C.R. Moore about the riot and the conditions that led to the riot is certainly well worth a read to gain further insight into race relations in early Mackay.

The first aeroplane to land at Mackay caused a tremendous stir.  Hundreds of people turned out to see the "Flying Machine" at Ooralea Racecourse on 17 September 1920.  The airmen, Lieutenant A.W. Murphy and corporal G.R. Simpson were on a tour of Queensland promoting a Peace Loan at the end of World War 1.  Over their three day stay in Mackay, $74,000 was subscribed to the Loan.
Google Map, showing racecourse and Mackay airport

It was ten years before Mackay Airport was established, and the site was the choice of Captain Ronald Adair, the founder of Queensland Airlines.  He landed his Avro bi-plane at Ooralea in 1927, the only landing ground available.  With J. H. Williams senior, he inspected the town common and marked out a landing strip with calico, then flew his plane from the racecourse to make the first landing on what was to become Mackay Airport [3].

[1] Pioneer Pageant. Mackay, QLD: Pioneer Shire Council.

[2] Moore, C.R. The Mackay Racecourse Riot of 1883,, viewed 18 April 2016

[3] viewed 18 April 2016


  1. When I first found my ancestors were farmers I thought, how boring! I will never find anything on them. But then I found we are lucky in Canada to have a couple of agricultural censuses. They tell quite a bit about our farming ancestors... how big their land was, how much land went for certain crops or orchards, how many steer, pigs and cows, how many bushels of wheat or pounds of lard, how many yards of flannel, how much maple syrup they produced. Also about their house, one story or 2 and what it's made of.
    Some of my UK ancestors I found in Herd Books and newspaper accounts of ploughing matches.

  2. I love genealogy! Happy atozing!

  3. I come from a long line of interesting ordinarys.