By Brian Murphy ( 1984 ) Like many of our forefathers, this man was not born in Australia. He was born in Knockboy,Co Waterford, Ireland on 26 January 1911 to good Irish stock and, like all Irishmen, he was proud of it.
But commonsense prevailed when he realised there was little food and few prospects for the young.
Perhaps also too, permanently embedded in his mind, was his sister's dress that he was forced to wear in his earlier years by his concerned parents, because of Irish superstition that fairies steal baby boys. Ireland was a simple country and its people lacked education and an understanding of the realities of life.
He departed that land on the 28 May 1929 at age 18, tearfully farewelled by parents and family he was never to see again, and sailed on the good ship 'Esperence Bay' for those new horizons of which he dreamed. On his arrival in Australia he was greeted by the initial years of the Depression but his innate determination shone through as he immediately began his search for work even if it was against the odds.
This bloke was a good worker and found work easily around Kingaroy in Queensland as a farm labourer and contract fencer, then later at Monto where he first met a young teenager Ethel Joyce Daniels, second daughter of Herbert Eli Daniels who owned the farm he worked on. He was taken by her smile and easygoing nature but she had plans to leave the bare mud floors of the farmhouse behind and flee to the city. He moved on after a few years and tried cane cutting in North Queensland. This was back- breaking hard work but it was to lay the foundations for his empathy for the worker and hardened his body for the war years that were looming.
In 1937 he moved back to Monto and Herb Daniel's farm but Ethel had since grown up and moved to the bright lights of Brisbane where she worked as a waitress in the Shingle Inn cafe in Edward Street. He followed her and 'accidentally' ran into her outside the cafe and asked for a date. After a short romance he married her on the 5th March 1940 aged 28 and she 19 at the Petrie Terr Baptist Church next to Lang Park, only one month after he had signed up for service in World War II. He enlisted in the 2/5th battalion whilst cutting cane in Atherton in Nth Qld after a recruitment officer visited town looking for volunteers and travelled to Melbourne to train with the Victorian 2/5th Battalion because Queensland was too slow in forming a battalion and like all young men at the time felt it was his duty and besides Irishmen like a good fight.
In March 1940, the 2/5th sailed for the Middle East for what he hoped was a short battle and a quick return to his beloved Ethel or Joyce as she preferred. This was not to be unfortunately, and he was embroiled in continuous conflict in Africa, Crete and Greece until 1942. During those years he fought against every nation that had become the enemy- Italians, Germans, Arabs and French. The Battalion came home that year to defend Australia against the Japanese who were on our doorstep and after some jungle training and a short home leave, they were off to New Guinea and more fighting - 1868 days of duty with 1202 outside Australia - before finally being discharged in December 1944.
During that highly successful period, he refused medals that had been honestly earned and commissions that had been offered for valiant service in combat. He felt they were unnecessary. His only war wound was a rejection of religion - "What God would allow man to die in such agony?" he asked. His battalion still toasts Paddy at their annual reunion in Melbourne recalling one episode at Buna when, as artillery observer, he rang Headquarters end asked in his thick Irish brogue,
"Where are the guns?", "Buns?" queried the Commander. "Guns, you silly bastard. Stop thinking of your guts and direct the guns." "Do you know who you are talking to, soldier?" roared the Commander. "Do you?" he asked. "No" came the reply. "Good" said our man.
Civilian life was very hard at first due to the restlessness endured by all returned soldiers but his work ethic shone through once again and he was trained as a French polisher by the government under the returned soldier retraining program. He bought a house with his war wages and the first child of his six children was born- Michael John. Another house was needed soon after as Rodney William and Pamela Ann followed and a small house at 29 Lima Street was purchased. Extensions were added later with the birth of Brian, Peter and Noel Anthony. That home was to be the nucleus of many happy years for him and Joyce as they raised their family and secured their future.
He saw a need in the suffering of the working class during those years and threw himself into unionism, firstly as a shop steward at the XXXX brewery where he now worked, then as a union organiser, and finally in later years as union State Secretary and Federal President. He was a born leader in Unionism, converting a nearly bankrupt Liquor Trades Union into a Queensland union showpiece and the A.L.P. recognised his efforts and awarded him life membership in 1984. The workers loved his honesty and his ability to highlight and champion their needs to management. The current Premier of Qld Peter Beattie was at that presentation at Lima Street as a cancer ridden Irishman stood proud and tall and received his award in honour of his achievements.
This was one award he truly wanted and he was particularly proud of the fact that he had encouraged and sponsored a young solicitor to join who was to become a Labour Premier. Peter did not let him down as in 2001 he was to become Queensland most popularly elected Premier winning the election in a landslide vote to Labour. The Liquor Trades Union named their building at Spring Hill after him in 1985 in recognition of his work, an honour few of us will ever achieve.
His union days had their moments though, with one tongue in cheek quote about, "The working man needing his beer after work before taming the angry tiger in the kitchen", making all the major newspapers in the country and upsetting many a liberated women. But his attitude in trying to stop the practice of young topless barmaids being hired in hotels rather than mature aged women was a true reflection of his respect for women in general. He successfully argued in the Industrial Court that a mature woman should not be jobless because her breasts had no longer the bloom of youth.
He loved his six children and during those years he worked hard to secure them all a good education and to achieve more than his year 3-education level in Ireland all those years ago. He was a great provider often walking miles to buy Xmas poultry or to buy shoes for them because he could not afford transport. Many a time as they sat in front of television at Lima Street there would be a shout of "the books!"' and six children would scatter to their rooms to study their school- books. They all reached tertiary level of education as he envisaged and he was proud of their achievements.
Our average bloke died of cancer on 21 September 1984, aged 74, and with his restored faith in his church comforting him. He certainly did not die the way he wished to die . "I want to be shot in the back by a jealous husband" , he often lamented amid much laughter at family gatherings at Lima Street or Joyce's frequent picnics in parks all over Brisbane.
Many Australians may have had a life as fulfilling as this average bloke, but personally I think my Dad was a hero and typical of a True Australian and I loved him dearly.
Notes: John migrated to Australia on board the "Esperence Bay" from Southhampton England via Malta arriving in Brisbane on the 22 May 1929 aged 18. John and Joyce married in the Baptist church Hale St Petrie Terrace,Brisbane witnessed by William Grant (Bill) Davies and Herbert Eli Daniels. John and Joyce are buried at Mt Thompson with their daughter Pamela Anne close by.
Notes from Certificate of Marriage 5th March 1940 Minister Henry Ebenezer Saunders Baptist Church Hale St Pertrie Terrace . John Joseph Murphy ; Soldier AIF of Showgrounds Flemington Victoria Age 28 Ethel Joyce Murphy ; Waitress of Sheriff St Petrie Terrace age 19 Witnesses ; William Grant Davies and Herbert Eli Daniels As Joyce was under 21 consent was given by her Parents Herbert Eli and Alice Ethel Daniels of Old Cannindah Via Monto Queensland
He was then aged 28. John was in the AIF at this time. AIF discharge certificate #116443 states that John enlisted in 2/5th Aust Inf Forces on 22 Oct 1939 and served on continuous service for 1868 days, of which 1202 were outside Australia. BC # N541 DC # 96566 MC (COPY) AIF # QX3607.
"An Average Bloke" by Brian Murphy, written and a finalist for 100 Australians story competition held in conjunction with the 1988 Bicentenial celebrations. Also published in"Generation"Quarterly journal of the Genealogical Society of Queensland,December 1995.
'Dreams Don't Always Come True'
By Brian Murphy ; 2007.
Ethel Joyce ( Joy ) Daniels 1920 - 1989 In today’s world everyone expects to live their dreams. We are well educated and live in a healthy economy where opportunities await us all. We are exposed to technology that enhances our lives at work and at home in many ways. A world where we can save and travel to the loneliest or more glamorous parts of the planet and indulge ourselves in our wildest dreams if we so choose.
Let’s spare a thought in these good times for our mothers and grandmothers, for the women of yesteryear. Women born into a world that did not offer to most a high school education, appliances, high fashion and women’s liberation to assist them but still coped. A world where they were expected to raise a large family with little or no help from technology, without parents to assist and a husband who was hell-bent in keeping them ‘barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen’. They too had dreams but not of foreign places, more simple dreams and unlike today, few had their dreams come true.
My mother, Ethel Joyce Daniels, was one of them and she had a dream when she was young but, like many women in her era, life got in the way. Her dream was to live a glamorous social life of dining and dancing and forget her humble beginnings in the Queensland bush and it was like a fire that burned inside her all her life.
She was born to Herb Eli and Alice Ethel Daniels on the 19 March 1920 in the Queensland town of Kingaroy. The Daniels were not wealthy and struggled as farmers to make ends meet. They lived in a small hut on their property and lived a simple life that revolved around dirt floors, hand washing, small crop farming and making ends meet. Clothes were styled from flour bags and feet never felt the comfort of a pair of shoes when she was a child.
Joyce and her sisters, Doris and Daphne, were expected to support their mother in her daily farm duties and they toiled from daylight to dark in all weather conditions. Her brother Elijah and father Herb did the hard yakka around the farm with the help of the odd farm labourer. One of those labourers who helped Herb fence his property in the mid 30s was a tall good looking Irishman who was 10 years older than Joyce. His name was John Joseph Murphy who had immigrated to Australia by himself at the age of 18 .
He was looking for a better life than the hard superstitious life of Ireland where he was forced to wear a dress for the first five years of his life because his parents believed that the fairies stole baby boys. John took a fancy to Joyce and took her to the odd country dance at Kingaroy until he moved north to Ingham for a better income cutting sugar cane. She was 16 at the time and ready to fulfill her dreams.
The girls were sent to local schools at Kingaroy and later at Monto when the family moved there but receiving an education was difficult as it meant a 10 mile ride on horse back to the school when they could attend, weather and farm work permitting. So a good education was never going to be the answer to help her find those dreams so she would have to find them herself. She had become tired of the hard work doing daily chores and the constant struggle by the family to pay for food and basic necessities.
To help her through those tough years, Joyce dreamed of a life of excitement, bright lights and glamorous clothes whereas her sisters were content in the country. Joyce wanted the life the big city of Brisbane offered. Her parents could not help so she saved a little money doing some waitressing in Kingaroy and caught the train to Brisbane where her uncle, who owned the Shingle Inn, offered her a job waitressing there. It was 1939 and she was 19 years of age and ready to live her dream.
John Murphy had returned to the Daniel’s Monto farm that year to work for Herb again but more importantly to see Joyce who he had taken a fancy to years before. He was disappointed to find she had moved to the ‘big smoke’ but decided he too might also move to Brisbane.
Joyce was only just discovering life as a single young lady when, one evening after she left work, she ‘accidentally’ ran into John Murphy outside the Shingle Inn. He acted surprised to see her and found the courage to ask her out and they spent some time together at dances and walking the streets of the brightly lit city at nights. Her dreams were beginning to come true until news came that Australia was at war with Germany. Her dream had to take a back seat as the country mobilised and John quickly enlisted in October 1939 and asked her to marry him before he left for overseas service.
They were married at the Petrie Terrace Baptist Church opposite what is now Lang Park on the 5th March 1940.
After a short honeymoon in Brisbane, John was off to war. She put her dream on hold as she waited the outcome of the Second World War.
Her husband was gone for over 4 years and she continued to work at the Shingle Inn while he was away. Many a ‘sweet talking’ Yank presented her with chocolates and silk stockings and she even met a few at a local dance but romance was out of the question because she was married and faithful. The temptation for the glamorous life they offered to Aussie girls must have been almost overwhelming; with their swing bands and dance routines and many succumbed but not Joyce.
By the time John had fought all the enemies of Australia, (German, Japanese, Arabs, Italians and Vichy French), serving overseas for 1202 days, he returned home in 1944 exhausted and ill. No time then for her dreams now as he was ready to start a family and the first Michael John was born in 1945. Within 10 years she had 6 children, Rodney William, Pamela Anne, Brian, Peter (too tired now for middle names) and Noel Anthony. It was the ‘baby boom’ years when everyone felt secure after the difficulty years of the war and rationing. The daily war casualty death notices ceased and the population wanted to celebrate our freedom after winning the war and the peaceful life on offer.
John took time to re-settle and after several jobs finally found good health and his peace at the XXXX brewery at Milton. While he worked a pattern of shift work throughout the late 40s, 50s and early 60s Joyce became the anchor at home. They had decided after a short stint at their first home in Fortitude Street Auchenflower in Brisbane, to move to a bigger house that 3 children could live comfortable in. Within 5 years extensions were needed at the new house in the same suburb, 29 Lima Street, to house the final three and she settled into a daily routine much like the farm days.
In those early years of motherhood, there were no washing machines and few appliances. The fridge required ice that was delivered to the door as was the milk, bread and fruit. Children needed clothes that were worn by the eldest first then passed down over the years until they wore out. Buttons were sown back on at night before bed and patches put on torn shirts and holes in shorts and dresses. Vegetables were cut up and peas taken from their shells daily. Clothes were hand washed after boiling in the ‘copper’ and ironed from the stove. Shoes were repaired on a metal shoe stand under the house and fathers cut hair with a basin on the child’s head to keep a straight line.
Xmas was a tough time as only the well-off could afford toys so for us it was always new clothes as presents and a Xmas tree was just out of the question. She set up a survival list of daily chores as well as being out of bed by six (or when babies demanded it in the early days), preparing breakfast and lunches for the school kids, and dressing them before seeing them off.
Then the beds had to be made or stripped (if there had been unfortunate accidents or wet dreams), floors swept, dust and vacuum the house; mop the floors; polish the dining room floor which was the only room with exposed natural timber; do the washing in the huge ‘copper’, a large vat which was heated by gas and would boil the whites in hot water before putting them through the metal wringers, (a process I can remember well, especially the soapy smell of the freshly washed sheets that had been boiled in the copper and the fact that brother Noel’s arm got caught in the wringer and he still bears the scars today); hang out the clothes with the old wooden pegs; prepare lunch for those at home; see to the fights between the young ones; bring in the washing; see the visiting vendors- baker, ice-man in the early days, the fruitier and a visit to the butcher and grocer and then back home to start preparing the evening meal. This process of meal preparation included shelling the peas, cutting up the vegetables, cutting the meat and placing it in pots on the stove.
The school kids would then arrive home so it was then a change of clothes from school uniforms, prepare some afternoon tea (that usually included some biscuits she had cooked during her busy day), and a glass of milk, and supervise homework. This remarkable woman then dished out the evening meal, washed up and then did some ironing and sewing. Finally at nine o’clock, she would drag her weary body into bed and fall quickly to sleep to prepare her self for the next day unless, of course, there was a sick child who needed attention throughout the night.
Even when times became better as John was promoted and were able to buy some appliances, she still worked from dawn until dark with the daily routine of preparing children for school, cleaning and washing but vacuum cleaning becoming a daily ritual once that appliance became available.
Living with six children in a small four- bedroom house was also no fun. She kept the peace when her vigorous children wanted to play while her shift working husband tried to sleep during the day and generally held the family together. He suffered from sleep deprivation as he was woken up so often by us playing. It was never on purpose but children played all the time in those days and we would quickly forget that the front yard bordered on his bedroom window. We called him the ‘white flash’ as he raced out of the bedroom on a hot summer’s day in his Bonds undies and singlet and chased us with his strap. She would tell him when we had been punished sufficiently and he would retreat into the room and close the door. No time for her dreams here though as by time she took her exhausted body to bed to meet the demands of a ‘pre liberated women’ husband, there was no time for her at all.
As the years went by, the children grew up and took up the slack on her demanding routine a little and did their jobs. Cleaning the Venetian blinds, sweeping, polishing the floor, cleaning windows, burying the scraps and left overs in the garden and burning the rubbish were some of the chores on offer and we all had to take some. Gardening, of course now was our focus, and each year she would prepare the garden for snapdragons and we would plant them in rows and weed around them. She never failed to have an annual display in that garden to raise her spirits no doubt. The lawns were also ours as dad did not have the time.
One of my regular jobs was ‘the shop’ as it was called but basically it meant walking around to the local shop on Lang Parade daily with a net bag and a shopping list and purchasing a few items. It was not a popular job with my siblings so I went more than most, but I was aware that a few pennies left over could be spent on lollies (if we had the money to pay that is or else it went on her weekly account until John gave her the house-keeping money) and she never became angry with me for spending it.
I think she appreciated my placid nature as I seldom argued with her about going whereas my siblings would want to argue about whose turn it was and debate who did it last time. It was only two minutes around the corner and I made that journey hundreds of times over the years.
She also hated buying herself a packet of smokes, as it was not acceptable to her generation for women to smoke cigarettes openly, so she didn’t want to ask for them but I didn’t mind asking the shopkeeper. It was her only link at this stage of her life to the glamorous life she craved as a young lady. She smoked in the toilet at home though so we did not witness her vice and it was also time out from her busy schedule. All of my trips to the shop included smokes for Mum and she was dead at 69 from lung cancer because of that habit, although like all good smokers in those days, she denied it to the last. Today’s smokers are well aware of the risks.
She was now living in the 50s and things were improving. My memories of the 50s are of a dreadfully boring and colourless world although very snug and secure because of the safe environment our parents had set up. No colour television then, just the daily serials on the radio when Dad and Dave ruled the roost and Greenbottle played havoc on his teacher. We had to be cleaned-up and completed tea as dinner was called then before we were allowed to sit in front of the wireless as radio was known.
We were a close family in that we shared our clothes as pass me downs, got each other birthday presents and sang ‘happy birthday’ to each other annually. The 10 mile round trip to Milton State School was completed together and the teachers all knew our family as the first 3 were great achievers. It was so good to go to the tuckshop on a Friday and have Mum hand over a hot dog to you.
We had our holiday each year at Kirra on the Gold Coast in the early days. We would catch the dreary old steam train down to Coolangatta, past the very hills that I now live in at Mudgeeraba. All the kids were full of excitement as we left the railway station in Griffith Street and walked several miles along the beach to our flat at North Kirra. Some of the names are still there such as Two Views and Yarrum, but most flats have disappeared to be replaced by unit blocks. They were great holidays because we spent two weeks surfing, walking on the beach, gathering shells, watching fisherman drag in catches of migrating mullet onto the beach and, generally, we rested.
Joyce was the financial manager. She was given an allowance each week to keep the house and from that she also had to save for holidays. Money was always the centre of attention and arguments between her and dad. One year at the coast, after she was unable to come down with all the family because Peter had chicken pox, by the time she had arrived John had spent the holiday money for two weeks in one. An almighty argument meant that we were fatherless for the second week as he returned to Brisbane.
They were mostly good friends though and excellent parents in that the children came first. Her only luxury was the cigarettes. It was her link to a more glamorous life as depicted in television advertising in those days.
After her last child was born, she suffered severe liver problems as a direct result of the birth and was given only a short period to live, but Joyce had other intentions. She desperately wanted to live to enjoy her grandchildren and secure the family home. After all the years of hard work she was not going to quit now and she still had her dreams to fulfill. The family were very concerned and Uncle Kevin came to support Dad who had all but written her off after the medical advice given. With the help of a newly appointed specialist at the Brisbane Women’s Hospital though, she was given one of the first operations on the liver of its kind in Australia and survived.
She quickly recovered and after the pressures of the demanding role of motherhood had eased as the children grew up and her children took over many of the household duties, Joyce found other interests. She became a member of the Gardening Association, the First Toowong Boy's Scouts ladies committee, school tuck shops and community groups. Everyone knew her as a kind, caring person who always considered others first. It was amazing that, without any formal education beyond primary school, she became Treasurer of these organisations and never faltered in presenting her annual reports accurately.
Then came the grand children and she would often have them over to stay, giving them small gifts as she loved them dearly. Family picnics became the new focus and were a necessity in her mind and everyone was expected to be there. John, however, never really recovered his patience after the war and never wanted to have a good time as such. His role by now with the Union Movement was Federal President of a Union so it meant that bright lights and good times would have to wait for Joyce yet again so she kept on dreaming.
When John finally retired, she asked that they move and start a more social life than they had lived over the years but he was reluctant to leave the family home. Indeed, he stayed there and lived a quiet life with Joyce at his side until his death in September 1984.
After recovering from her grief, she quickly sold the house and moved to Kenmore in one last dash to live her dream and announced to the family that it was time ‘to see the inside of every restaurant in Brisbane’.
The family were all married and with young children so we did not respond at all and her dream began to flicker until her life ran out on Boxing Day in 1989 and for this I am truly sorry as we loved her dearly. She was never to fulfill her dreams.