Tuesday, 28 March 2006
Mayse Young OAM
Tonight I wish to pay tribute to a great Territorian, Mayse Young OAM, who passed away last week. Mayse Young was born in North Queensland 93 years ago. Her father was a ganger on the railways who worked extensively throughout North Queensland. Mayse grew up in what could be described as tent accommodation with outdoor cooking, dirt floors and no mosquito nets, generally living an itinerant type of lifestyle. Some of the towns where Mayse lived in her early years and where she managed to take advantage of some primary schooling were Proserpine, Tully, Innisfail, South Johnstone and Home Hill. Mayse’s family travelled from job to job, mostly by horse and wagon and later by truck. Mayse’s parents were George and Eveyln Dowling. Times were very tough and Mayse did not even have a pair of shoes until she was 11 years old.
In 1927 George and Evelyn decided to move to the Northern Territory, when Mayse was just 13 years old. They headed out in a Ford one-tonne ute and a dodge motorcar from Camooweal following the stock route. That was an extraordinarily lonely trip. The isolation during that trip could not have been greater. The drovers in those days must have been the loneliest people in the country. On arrival at Maranboy in the Northern Territory, George did not have any trouble finding work on the railway line and Evelyn kept the home fires burning.
But in 1929 work dried up and George and Evelyn decided to take the family once again interstate. They headed south to Alice Springs, down through Port Augusta and across the Nullarbor and eventually on to Perth. This travel of course in those days took a number of months. Unfortunately, the prospects in Western Australia did not meet the family’s expectations at all, so they slowly worked their way back up north through Broome, through the Kimberleys, over to Wave Hill and back to Katherine. The family had been on the road for nine months when they set up camp on the Katherine River. At that time the Dowlings renewed their friendship with the well-known O’Shea family. Tim O’Shea advised George and Evelyn that it was a pretty good idea at the time to buy the Pine Creek Hotel, which they did.
During this time Mayse, with her siblings, developed a wide range of bush skills. They made friends with the local Aboriginal kids and their lives changed from itinerants to publicans. Mayse learned how to make beds and set and wait on tables. She did washing and ironing and became a damn good barmaid as well. It was a thrill for them to sleep in a bed and they actually had a stove to cook on. After years of camp fires and carbide lamps the hotel seemed a fantastic place to live. Mayse’s brother Ted provided support to his parents. He drove the hotel truck collecting stores and generally fulfilling an important job around the pub. The meals at the hotel were complemented with fruit and vegetables locally grown by the Chinese market gardeners.
It is interesting that Mayse wrote a book. She said she could never remember being bored or lonely in Pine Creek. Mayse went on to own cattle stations, becoming an avid pastoralist in her own right. She had problems during the war and lived quite an exceptional life. The family eventually disposed of their interests in the pastoral industry but they always maintained a constant interest in the hotel business. Over the years I have come to realise that the Territory has many unsung heroes, barely remembered now because of time. (Time expired)