From Bundu to Outback


From Bundu to Outback

Tim Hughes severed his ties with Rhodesia in 1962. In those days pilots navigated by the stars to cross the Indian Ocean flying at night. The four day trip from Johannesburg in a propeller driven Constellation made an overnight stop at Mauritius due to bad weather and then onto the Cocos Islands, Perth, Melbourne and finally Sydney.

He took a train to Brisbane. The next morning he was back with Eleanor.  After lots of hugs and kisses, Tim took back the driving seat of his blue VW Beetle. Tim proposed at their favorite picnic spot at Heifer Creek on the way to Eleanor’s home at her parents farm.  She accepted.

From Bundu to Outback

Months slipped by as Tim and Eleanor made wedding plans. A labourer’s job in Brisbane didn’t match his qualifications.

He got a job as a Temporary Field Assistant at the Research Station at the boom town of Biloela. Work at the Station from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday, assisting the plant breeders, was pleasant enough. He soon began repairing farm machinery too.

At the end of their day-jobs, two or three of a team would drive to Callide Dam to haul 50 kg cement bags, usually until midnight.  Tim, twenty-four years old, could pick up two bags at a time and nearly double his earnings by working his second job without a partner.

Early in 1965, he transferred to the Brigalow Research Station as the Manager. Eleanor was pregnant with their first child.

Entertainment at the Station was practically non-existent other than visiting work friends. Watching TV at a mate’s house was popular but did cause some friction. Tim and Eleanor decided to buy their own black and white television set made possible by Uncle John Millard’s generous wedding present of £100.

One afternoon Eleanor, driving home with the children on a gravel road, suddenly saw a plane landing on the road heading straight for her. She successfully left the road and avoided a collision.  Tim was watching from a hill, pointing to the neighbouring cattle station air strip.  To make amends for giving Eleanor a scare, the crop sprayer took her husband for a joy-ride.  The plane only had one seat so Tim squeezed in alongside.  The Director in Brisbane would have had a fit! Eleanor was glad she hadn’t realized it was a one seater.

With so many young couples on the station, babies arrived frequently. Tim managed to get approval for four dairy cows. Fathers penned and milked the cows.  Children often went with Tim in the VW Country Buggy to muster the calves.  “Daddy, do the frog squirter!” Tim would press the windscreen washer control and, with the windscreen down, jets of water would wet surprised faces. (Tim always refilled the washer-reservoir with rainwater.)

The station had a large resident python in the machinery shed, which kept down the rats.  As a practical joke, someone draped it over Tim’s desk just before he got back from lunch.  But Tim just helped the python out of his window.  A few minutes later he heard a gun shot.  The newly appointed farm-hand excitedly showed off the big snake he had just shot. One of the old-hands said, “You rotten sod!  You’ve killed our pet python!”

Towards the end of 1969, Eleanor was pregnant again.  Her doctor advised her to have the baby, her third child, at the Brisbane Mater Hospital. She went to live with her parents the last three months of the pregnancy.

Tim,  sad and lonely, drove eight hours north to his job and an empty house. The Public Service Department would not recognize his English agricultural qualifications and was content to keep their Brigalow Station manager as a temporary field assistant. For seven years, without success, he had applied to be upgraded.

Did he want his children traveling one hundred kilometers every school day on a corrugated dusty road? Sometimes the Dawson River flooded and cut off the road for days at a time. Every summer hay fever made his life a misery.  When he went to the beach he was cured. He decided to find a job at the coast—anything!

The University of Queensland advertised for a farm manager at their Redland Bay Research Station. He could see that it would be a great place to work and a wonderful locality for his family. There was nowhere on the 42 acre farm that didn’t have a sea view!

Tim enjoyed managing the farm. Students grew any crop that could be grown in Queensland because it was frost-free.  The farm hands were all older than their new boss. Tim was more skilled in the office and workshop.

The family kept a dairy, laying hens and a vegetable garden.  The children shared the chores and the fun. The calves became their pets and when eventually sold, the children received the cash.

Tim worked there for 31 years.  Now retired, he still lives near Redland Bay with Eleanor, windsurfs and repairs wheel chairs for Rotary.

Redland Bay Agricultural Research Station, Queensland

Tim Hughes, Manager of the nine thousand acre Brigalow Research Station moved to the coast to manage  the forty two acre University of Queensland’s Redland Bay Agricultural Research Station January 1970.

In Tim’s manuscript,  Matambega and Son, he fully chronicles his life in Australia.  I have only sketched it very briefly because the blog is about Rhodesia. I would like to thank him for the privilege of the free use of his manuscript and a very enjoyable correspondence over fifteen months.