Mount Morgan is rich in history and charm. It has an abundance of places to visit and people to see. Within its boundaries Mount Morgan has something for everyone from locals born here and new locals that move here, to travellers just passing through.
One extremely versatile citizen of Mount Morgan is Maureen May Cooper (nee Johnson) who was born at
the Mount Morgan Hospital on the 4th of September 1937. Maureen’s grandparents settled on Johnson’s
Hill which is how it got its name. Her parents had seven children, five boys all younger and one other girl older than Maureen. She attended Struck Oil School at four years of age and still remembers hearing the mine sirens in World War Two. “People would have to go down the bank and into a big shaft to keep safe at these times”.
From Struck Oil School Maureen went on to the Mount Morgan State School on a truck with seats at each side owned by Mr Bowden. “I did nothing but fight with other kids because they were always teasing me. I was a bush kid and mum used to put rags in my hair instead of ribbons” Maureen recalls. One of the teachers, Annie Lester (not sure of spelling) took Maureen under her wing. She’d make Maureen go get her tea each lunch time so she wouldn’t fight. “She was good” Maureen says with a wistful smile. Being a pretty fast runner Maureen enjoyed school sports days. Mrs Lester called Maureen over to her on the bus one morning and put nice checked ribbons in her plaits and took the rags out. She never got picked on that day.
After finishing her primary school years, Maureen furthered her education at the Mount Morgan High
School until she turned fourteen years of age. She was then sent to a dairy farm near Dululu. “All the
kids got sent out to work when they were young. I went to an uncle and auntie’s farm, milked cows and
did general housework”. Maureen also spent time working for Emma Trott’s Newsagents in East Street.
She’d get up early to do the papers for the paper-round boys to collect. (The Newsagents and the hotel next door to it were burned down in a street fire many years ago). Being a house-maid at the QN and a waitress and barmaid at the station for Queensland Rail in Karanda, Northern Queensland were two other positions of employment this versatile lady experienced.
Maureen’s sister spent a lot of time with her mum but Maureen was more often found chopping wood
or riding horses with her dad. “I loved climbing trees and getting up there with the frilly lizards. I’d climb up the cockatoo tree (got its name because of all the cockatoos that used to land there) and build a cubby up there for myself”. Maureen also enjoyed prospecting on their property at Golden Gully, enjoying the times they found specs of gold there.
Not being one to like indoors Maureen couldn’t stand being in the kitchen cooking. Her mum and sister did
the cooking and she did all the sewing which included making clothes for the family. Her oval-framed
wedding photograph holds pride of place on the wall in her home and displays her excellent sewing talents in the beautiful wedding dress she made herself.
Maureen met her husband Alfred (a timber cutter) up north when she was eighteen. They came back to the
Mount and were married on the 26th of May, 1956. Not only did she make her own dress but she made
all the bouquets herself as well. Floristry and Crafts were two more passions that Maureen excelled in. She completed a floristry course in Melbourne then worked her floristry business from her home and is proud of the arrangements she has made for many weddings around Mount Morgan. She also has done flowers for many of the Woolley’s girls in Rockhampton. Maureen also enjoyed her time making and preparing flower
arrangements for Brian and Carol Glover (Fitzroy Funerals).
Maureen and Alfred had four sons and she has nine grandchildren varying in ages, between four and twenty
When Maureen and her husband parted company, her children were still young. She did floristry and craft
work for long hours to help get them through school, especially because they had an interest in continued
education after high school. “I did a bit of everything and made a lot of wedding things. The heart autograph books were always very popular and I sold many of these in Melbourne. I made bed dolls and sent them all over Australia. There were orders for those in many different places”. In 1994 she helped her son Steven in the hardware store for nine years. “That was hard yakka” she chuckled.
When asked about some of the crazy things Maureen had done, she laughed as she recalled swimming with
crocodiles. “They are slow on the land but are fast in the water. One chased my dog into the water once”
she recalls. Clearing land by hand at their virgin farm in Innisfail she remembers vividly falling in stinging nettles, getting ulcers from leeches and “scrub itch just by sitting on the logs”.
Milking fifty cows by hand was never easy but was made easier once they purchased a milking machine. She also remembers jumping out of an old FJ her husband was driving, at sixty kilometres an hour down Julatin Range. The brakes failed and she forgot the caravan was on the back of the car when she jumped. It took a long time for the bruising to heal but eventually Maureen fully recovered from the ordeal.
In future issues of People in Profile it is hoped we can continue with extracts from Maureen’s remarkable life. As always, it just isn’t possible to fit so many interesting years into one article.
In future issues of People in Profile it is hoped we can continue with extracts from Maureen’s remarkable life. As always, it just isn’t possible to fit so many interesting years into one article. Please let the girls at MMPAD know or phone me on 0438135213 if you have a person in mind that you feel should be recognised for their positive aspects of life. Until then, stay safe, stay positive and most of all stay happy.
- Profile and photograph by Heather Quarry, supplied to the Mount Morgan Argus -