Over the last two weeks, I have been away on holidays. Part of our wanderings through Western Queensland have followed the family history trail. In trying to retrace the life and times of William Lyons, I felt a need to go back to where his life began.
As we head west of Rockhampton, we marvelled at the interesting terrain, where the earth is infinite miles of flat golden grasslands, inhabited by families of fat and happy bottle trees, grazing cattle beneath a clear blue cloudless sky that encompasses the earth like a huge expansive dome. As we meandered over a range of mountains, we entered the Dawson Valley where John and Mary Lyons settled with their growing family in the mid 19th century.
The first time I had heard of the town of Banana was when I read it on my Great Grandfather’s War Records. My excitement rose as we neared the town, however, one would only visit if one had a purpose, as I did. It is a tiny western village where the crows cry louder than any other form of life, but indeed it is where the life of William Lyons began. Apart from the appearance of one or two cars other than our own, one could be forgiven for expecting a team of bullocks to appear amidst billowing clouds of dust on the horizon at any time.
John and Mary Lyons lived in isolation on a property in the area, so I imagine the only purpose for Mary to be in Banana on 4th of March, 1873 was to give birth to her eldest child. Her husband was often away for weeks at a time, so possibly he took her into town on a bullock dray to be attended by a local midwife.
Once I took some photos, as proof of our visit, we kept driving, until we reached Dalby where we stayed for the night. My mission in Dalby was to find the Memorial for Lieutenant Hanly who lost his life in Gallipoli. My Great Grandfather led one of three unsuccessful search parties to retrieve his body. Like my Great Grandfather’s search 102 years ago, mine too was unsuccessful. I know that a memorial was established my the town of Dalby, however, it is not at the Anzac Memorial (below).
On our return home, we visited a town on the Darling Downs called Toogoolawah which is where William and Cis Lyons lived with their three children Ron, Kev and Jack, before moving to Minehan Siding in North Queensland. I am very fortunate to have in possession a cheque book dating back to this period and one cheque but details the purchase of a cottage at McConnel Street, Toogoolawah.
Now Toogoolawah, amidst verdant rolling hills, is much larger than Banana and we drove up and down its streets without finding McConnel. However, I looked up Google Maps and discovered it to be a little distance from the town centre, behind the skydiving field. Back in 1909, at the time the family purchased their new cottage, travelling into town in a sulky would have been no quick ride. The old end of the street which still sports two or three houses that could have been home to my family is a tiny dead end lane. In recent times the street has been extended in the opposite direction through an area of acreage lots. It is still “out in the sticks”.
Like Roma and Dalby where they previously resided, Toogoolawah was home to a Light Horse Regiment which perhaps was based near to where they lived.
In retracing the steps of our ancestors, one can only imagine how they lived more than 100 years ago. As we passed through the dry and wooded country of the Dawson Valley I tried to picture the Lyons family living so far from their neighbours, let alone a town, and with the constant threat of local aborigines. Even thirty years later, as William and Cis established their lives on the Darling Downs, life was still not without its hardships. By learning about the lives of those who lived before us, we can be thankful for our lives today. We can appreciate the advancements in technology and modern conveniences that so many of us take for granted. More importantly, we can ensure that the memory of our ancestors will continue to survive.