Some Memories Of Willowburn

My association with Willowburn began on April 9th 1918, my father's birthday, and the day we left our house in Stanthorpe to travel by train to Toowoomba. we arrived on the Sydney mail train during the afternoon, for these were the days before the Kyogle line was built to give a direct service from Sydney to Brisbane, and travellers from Sydney still had to get out at Wallangarra and change into Queensland's narrow gauge line, the train still being called the 'Sydney Mail'.

We did not go out to Willowburn immediately as we had to wait for the furniture to arrive by the slower goods train, and be unpacked. We spent a few nights at the Imperial Hotel in Ruthven Street while waiting to move in, going out by hire car each day to the house to arrange where the furniture was to go. I was six years old at this time and had my seventh birthday later in the month, celebrating it by planting a magnolia tree in the garden of our 'new' home.

My father was James Edward Fancourt McDonald, who had been born in Castlemaine, in Victoria in 1875, the son of a Scottish surveyor and his Australian wife. In those days Queensland was considered, 'the coming State', so the surveyor brought his young family there in 1879 and bought a 12 acre block of land at Rocklea, building a comfortable house on it and leaving his wife and young family there while he went surveying the wide lands that were being opened up. That family home had been burnt down before I was born and the land is now part of a huge industrial estate with many factories on it but along some of the boundary lines can still be seen several fine trees, grown from seeds sent from different parts of the world and distributed to members of the Queensland Acclimatisation Society, to which my grandparents belonged.

Fancourt McDonald and his sister and his four brothers were all clever children. They won government scholarships at a time when only 50 scholarships were given in the whole of Queensland, these being granted to the 50 children, both boys or girls, who came top in the scholarship exam. In due course, Fancourt and one of his brothers travelled down to Melbourne University to to medicine, for at that time the Queensland University did not have a medical school. At Melbourne University he met his future wife, Olive Williamjs, a Castlemaine girl, the daughter of a Welshman, Edward Davide Williams, the local member of parliament.