Thursday, 21 April 2016

R is for Rupert John Higham and Racecourse #AtoZChallenge 2016

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.

R is for Rupert John Higham (also called John), my 2nd cousin twice removed, the third son of William James Higham and Frances Helena Margaret Walker. Rupert was born at Walkerston on the 5th July 1907.

John and his brother Clary successfully bought a farm at Mt Pelion in 1932 from a Mr. Robinson and were wished success in the Mt Pelion District notes in the Daily Mercury of the 8th March 1932.

Trove tells us that in February of 1935 Rupert won the chocolate waltz at the school dance at Mt Pelion. Doesn't that sound scrumptious?

1935 'DISTRICT NEWS.', Daily Mercury (Mackay, Qld. : 1906 - 1954), 23 February, p. 5. , viewed 20 Apr 2016,
Rupert married Violet Jean Henderson Allan (Jean) in 1936 probably in Mt Pelion. Next, I came across Rupert in Trove selling land in Finch Hatton in January of 1949 and noticed that this was from The War Service (Sugar Industry) Land Settlement Act. So did that mean Rupert had served in WW2?

1949 'Advertising', Daily Mercury (Mackay, Qld. : 1906 - 1954), 5 January, p. 4. , viewed 20 Apr 2016,
From the National Archives of Australia's Record Search I found the following in the World War 2 enlistments:

HIGHAM RUPERT JOHN : Service Number - Q215340 : Date of birth - 05 Jul 1907 : Place of birth - WALKERSTON QLD : Place of enlistment - MACKAY QLD : Next of Kin - HIGHAM VIOLET

I wonder what sort of war Rupert experienced, where he served and what was he like after the war, another quest for future research.

Rupert obviously took up further land and farmed in Finch Hatton as he is mentioned several times at meetings of the Cattle Creek Mill  at Finch Hatton during the 1950s.

Now for Racecourse ...
In 1885, the Mackay to Eton railway, via Racecourse, was opened, and in the following year, Racecourse sugar growers succeeded in establishing the Racecourse Central Sugar Company Ltd. The company's new mill, two km west of the racecourse, began crushing in 1888. 

My grandmother often mentioned the Racecourse Mill having uncles and cousins who worked at the mill at different times. I believe her younger brother Claude was apprenticed at the mill but I may be confused.

Mackay was hit by a large cyclone in 1918 which caused significant damage throughout the region and again my grandmother mentioned the storm. The Racecourse Central Mill was devastated as evidenced by the photo below.

Racecourse Mill after a cyclone in Mackay, 1918, John Oxley Library, Picture Queensland - State Library of Queensland: digital image collection


  1. Things have come up that keep me from commenting on every post I'd like to, but just know I am reading your posts and enjoying them.

  2. Same here Dianne and Helen. There is so much to read and so little time.

  3. Me too. What Dianne said. Gosh - wasn't that mill absolutely smashed up. What a shame. Imagine turning up to your workplace and it looking like that. You would be devastated wouldn't you?

  4. It's a shame the cyclone destroyed the mill. Devastated indeed! I've been drawn into your history, and what fun it must be to connect the stories your grandmother told to the historical documents surrounding the people and places. Thanks for sharing!