El Arish North Queensland

Places, Faces and Events of an Historical Soldier Settlement town

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Vegie Patch at the School

Two new vegie patches have been built and are being developed.

Our Postal Service

A postal receiving office was commenced on 16 November 1921 at El Arish, then Maria Creek Soldiers Settlement, via Innisfail.  War Pensions were paid from the office.  The name of the Receiving Officer is not known but was probably J.B. Wheatley.

The History Station


 So ... What do we get up to at the History Station?

Great Morning Teas each Friday at 9.30 am with scrumptious freshly baked goodies from the Ladies all with a bit of history thrown in.

The El Arish History Station Museum is housed in the old Railway Station on Chauvel Street, El Arish. 

It contains a collection of the town's documentary history and operates under the auspices of the El Arish Community Sports and Recreational Association Inc.

Come and join us!  All welcome.  Being totally self-funded coin donations towards our fund raising is always appreciated at these events.

Much More to Come

This site is going to be growing on an on-going basis.  Much is still incomplete as we are still researching and compiling content.

But we hope to add a few things soon such as a "Job Board" and "Swop & Buy", so we welcome any suggestions and would really appreciate your feedback on the site so far.

What year(s) were you a pupil or teacher at El Arish?

We are compiling a collection of old school photos.  Have you got any to add?

Take a look at what we have so far, with very great thanks to Asko Keto!

Click here -  Students 1970, 1972

To add a comment just click on 'comments' below.

In the Far North - Crown Areas to be Opened

"Early Action" - BRISBANE, January 17.

Early action is to be taken, by the Lands Department in agricultural development of North. Queensland, and in this direction extensive tracts of country, suitable for dairying and closer settlement generally, will be made available at different periods throughout the coming year in the Atherton, Cairns, Herberton, Innisfail and Mackay districts.

 1935 'IN THE FAR NORTH.', Cairns Post (Qld. : 1909 - 1954), 18 January, p. 9, viewed 18 November, 2014,

1929 Cairns Post


The State member for Herbert (Mr. P. Pease) has forwarded the following letter received by him from the Minister for Agriculture.

“I have to acknowledge receipt of your communication wherein reference is made to the banana industry generally, and the growing of that fruit particularly in North Queensland. Your representations on behalf of Mr. J. Daveson, of El Arish, who is interested himself in banana growing, and who has been good enough to offer assistance at any time if an officer of this department versed in banana culture, visits the district with a view of discussing banana cultivation with the growers of El Arish, have been noted.  I have to inform you that  I haye caused arrangements to be made for Mr. Stephens, an officer of the department, stationed at Cardwell, to proceed to El Arish at a early date, and to visit the owners of the plantations there with a view to giving advice on the cultural methods to be followed in the production of bananas.”

The foregoing has caused some satisfaction amongst the banana growers of the El Arish district, and the advice given them by the officer in question will be thankfully received and faithfully applied.

Harvard/Australian citation

1929 'BANANAS.', Cairns Post (Qld. : 1909 - 1954), 16 March, p. 7, viewed 16 November, 2014,

Townsville Bulletin 1928

 EL ARISH  Cane Growing - 1928

Here the growers are returned solders;  they produce some 30,000 tons of cane annually. The bulk of the harvested cane is sent to nearby rail road stations, whence it is derricked from small to big wagons and railed to the Tully for milling. The prevailing rainless weather has enabled the harvesting and cultural operations to proceed without interruption. Badilla is mainly grown. H.Q.426 and an easier quantity of other kinds was noted.  Some cane stubbles have produced too long. Lack of money to clear the fields of its encumbrances so as to permit the use of the plough has been the major reason for this. More land is being brought under the 'plough 'annually. In some instances the cost of   production and work of the back breaking type could be minimised by drawing the scattered field-logs together, or, better still, right off it, thus permitting the judicious and timely use of light interspace implements. Obviously much depends on   proper plant selection. Farmers should exercise the greatest ot care when selecting their seed. There is overmuch leafscald in the area. H.Q. 42C is seriously troubled with this, and Badilla is to a lesser degree. Two stools of brown rot were located; bananas, like cane, are also affected with this complaint when grown adjacent to certain kinds of stumps in new scrub land. Weevil borer damage was bad in parts. Larvae of the big top moth borer were noted. Rat injury was more severe along creeks. Lime — a small quantity of burnt coral has been used, the result will be watched with interest.

1928 'EL ARISH.', Townsville Daily Bulletin (Qld. : 1885 - 1954), 10 November, p. 9, viewed 16 November, 2014,

Lost a Leg - Digger's Story

A Settler's Point of View - 1921

MARIA CREEK.   written for  For the "Post" and "Herald"

When on my way to the usual frolic at Cairns on Saturday nights (the cinema), I chanced the other week to meet one of my one-time Non-Com. mates in the A.I.F., and was as pleased as he at the meeting. Over a "here's luck" we exchanged views regarding the weather, and my friend remarked, "I noticed a part lately in the morning sheet, stating the roads about Innisfail were disgraceful. I guess that was but mildly correct. But that correspondent was afraid to say what even an army parson would have shouted: 'the roads and streets are damnable.' "Why !" he said, warming up, "they are worse than our bush tracks out at Maria Creek Settlement, a district just being opened up. I have just come up from there, he explained, "I am on one of the blocks of 50 acres more or less."

On hearing this I was greatly interested, as I had heard several disparaging statements from soldier settlers, and others who claimed to  know the country, or had been down to look the ground over. So I eagerly questioned my companion, and this is the result.

"They say that soldiers are born," said the Corporal, "but take it from me, the settler isn't manufactured of wood, cloth, and glue either. For by the powers, a genuine man has his work cut out to rise out of a rut, even on the repatriation farm scheme. This scheme, per repatriation ruling, is not at all bad. On paper it looks rosy.

In practice, it has darn big drawbacks, lots of red tape, and the same amount of actual work has to be done to get a return as the free selector had to do in former years. But it has its good points that strongly appeal to the man who wants to settle.

Look you ! 10 acres cleared and planted out of 50 or more; house erected, and a small amount of stock and tools ! £625 to work on !!

Seems good, doesn’t it ?  But get down to tin tacks.    

Each block has £625 allotted to it, not each owner. See the point?

Well, the first go off is, certain portions are thrown open, say at Maria Creek. The successful applicant is notified from Brisbane that he has drawn a block, and that he must fulfil the conditions within three months. This is in January, and the wet season is on, so he decided to wait till March before inspecting it.

He turns out in April and gets to Innisfail; gets a baptism of mud as he boards a juggernaut at 4 p.m. on a Wednesday evening. This juggernaut carries him by 5.30 p.m. as far as South Johnstone, quite 8 miles, where a riot of "souped up navvies," "chinks" and "steak a d'oyst" is taking place; only they call it getting a ticket; all one class on this line; so the settler rubs shoulders with the crowd, and they start off again about 6 p.m. in a beautiful drifting rain, which lasts till he gets to Silkwood at 9 p.m., a whole 22 miles from Innisfail per tram line!

Here he steps boldly off the train into 6 inches of slush, to be met by no one; and nobody can tell him of any accommodation. Then while he is putting his hand out to feel if he's awake, off goes the juggernaut on a side line, leaving him to wander in nature's aisles until he falls over a six by two hut, in which he coils himself up till morning, when he finds he has camped in the brand new railway station of Silkwood, and sees before him the main camp of the north coast railway construction.

Now he meets quite a decent lot of chaps and finds out many things, amongst them being the fact that other settlers came on the same train, but had taken the precaution to inquire from the supervisor by letter, as to who would likely meet them and see to their simple wants. These had a cold collation, followed by a mug of hot cocoa at the ranch, and were given a shake down by the "souped up" navvies' friends. But anyhow after a 2/- breakfast at the ranch, he makes tracks for the Settlement head quarters, 4 miles along the construction. And such a road! Knee deep in slush, and swarming with leaches! On the way he notices a couple of clearings, with some fair plant cane showing, and as he stops to look at one block, the occupier gives the information: "fell it, logged up, holed it and planted it myself; made £5 a week over expenses on the job since September to last month; sold the log timber off the clearing for £40, got 20 of that, and the rest goes to the credit of the block. They start my house when the roads are fit to haul on. I reckon to get 40 tons of cane off this patch next year as stand over cane; and if they'll let me, I'll have 15 acres more next season; but you see they only guarantee to cut 10 acres off each block, and we have to get a mill permit to plant more than 10 acres."

With a grunt at the news, the settler passes on to the office, and gives his particulars. He is, shown his block, and finds 10 acres down and being planted. "I say" he stutters, "I wouldn't have felled that part of the block; that side line is more suitable." He is promptly told, "you never notified this office of your intentions, and the specification calls for 10 acres, cleared and planted, there it is, on the handiest part, and in the cheapest way I could get it done. The falling cost £60, logging up and burning off £100, holing and planting £130, plants £43, owing to bad haulage, £18 for fencing, and £26 for chipping. There's a credit of 18,000 feet of log timber, at 2/- per hundred as royalty, to come off that, leaving a debit of say £350 against your block. Had you signified your intentions, and that you would arrive by a certain date, a frontage advantageous to you could have been selected, and the work done by you at the rate specified."

"Well, what about my allowance of £625 for improvements," he asks -- another jolt! "This debt on the block is part of your £625, which represents your working capital; and which, when you sign the mortgage, becomes available for improvements on your block."

In a disgruntled humour, he again mooches off, looking for "eats," and finds again there is no provision for accommodation at the settlement, and he gets a meal at the State farm employees' mess, a sort of ranch, presided over by the wife of one of the permanent staff, and as supplies are limited, owing to bad haulage, he gets little variety, but a wholesome meal, served tidily.  

Then while he ruminates and chews the situation over in his mind; debating as to whether he is had, sold, misled or misunderstanding, he goes back to his last night's resting place, as the settlement H.Q. store has but little in the way of food supplies.

Still another shock awaits him as he must put up a cash guarantee for all orders, at the railway construction store, and also for meat and bread, and if he is short of the "ready," the fact that it takes about 7 weeks to get the sustenance allowance through, is very comforting.

Right there his mind is made up. He wavers, and finally slings it up -- without notifying the H.Q. and is later forced to surrender his claim to title; or, he proves he is a pioneer, and tackles the job, thus becoming the man on the land, the backbone of his country.

This then is the experience of lots of would-be settlers, who desire to available themselves of the repatriation scheme. Of course, the financial and wise headed one goes and looks at the blocks before he ballots, but Tom, Dick, and Harry haven't the cash, so have to depend on maps and theories. Wise-head writes the supervisor for information regarding accommodation and transport, consequently has less roughing it. He also is there himself, to point out, and work on, the portion of his block most advantageous for clearing, etc, and so avoids raising a howl, when his own indifference to conditions -- act of parliament, weather, or labor -- cause him to be saddled with a badly planted area, half eaten out by wallabies or cattle, and a heavy debt that should have been half asset.

What’s that?  The land poor, thin, and no standing power?  I guess your informant must have been one of those whom the South Johnstone mill declined a permit for more acreage; so as to enable the mill to cope with the increase as mooted by the Maria Settlement. You see, even we are limited to 10 acres on account of the capacity of the mill, and lots of South Johnstone land is still being got ready and is nearer than we are.

Our land at Maria is not a whit different from any other good land in the north, and ranges from light red to deep brown soil, from sandy loam to black soil ridges, and is from 8 inches to two feet deep on the few blocks now being cultivated. The cane looks well, where it is tended well, in spite of a most tremendous wet season out here. What? They picked out good blocks and settled them first to boost the settlement. Aren't you twisting a bit?  See here friend, that's simply ridiculous. Some blocks with cane on them have been thrown up by their owners simply because they lacked stamina necessary in a settler; who must always be a battler. The look of the place during the wet season, and the difficulty of getting supplies owing to transport troubles and silly strikes, broke the backs of several progressive men, and others; like the case I have illustrated, never tackled it. But once the transport difficulty is settled by the Queensland Railways, this place will most certainly eclipse the Mulgrave lands completely.

Well, friend, you are off to the pictures, and I have a deal in fowls pending, so I'll say au revoir. I may be one of the slowcomes, but I'm settling at Maria Creek, and so we parted.  

1921 'MARIA CREEK.', Cairns Post (Qld. : 1909 - 1954), 18 July, p. 2, viewed 27 November, 2014,

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