G'day! My name is Marg Chittick, and I live in the Sunshine State (Queensland) of Australia. I am a mature - not giving anything away! - person, with varied interests. To name a few : horse riding, hiking, camping, swimming, writing (poems and kids' stories), drawing and painting, flying aeroplanes (although I haven't done that for some time!), people, nature, animals, and dog training. I am a dog obedience instructor with the R.S.P.C.A., Fairfield, Queensland.
I was born in Corinda, a southwest suburb of Brisbane, Queensland in an old hospital which has now become a private home. My earliest recollections date way back to when I was three years old. This was the period just post World War 11 and everyone was trying to regain their lives. Times were hard for families, and we struggled on very meagre savings and one very meagre wage. So, when I turned 6 years of age, my father accepted a position of lighthouse keeper in Queensland, and the family moved to the lightstation on Moreton Island in Moreton Bay.
Moreton Island is one of a series of sand islands built in Moreton Bay over a period of many millions of years. Some 2 1/2 billion years ago, a series of mountains west of Brisbane were much, much higher than they are now; in fact, some were about 2 kilometres high and snow capped. The air wasn't particularly pleasant - and conditions which included the various ice ages, winds, volcanic activity - all combined over this time to reduce the mountains to their present size and to pour the silt and sand from their reduction into the Bay. Sand built up and formed the islands as we know them today - Bribie Island to the north, Moreton Island, North and South Stradbroke Islands, and various minor islands - including the infamous St. Helena Island which was a convict prison during the early days of Brisbane. Another island - Peel Island - became the home of lepers when the Government of the time deemed it necessary to segregate these people - and others whose skin conditions or state of health could not be properly determined.
So we spent a very enjoyable year on the lightstation on Moreton Island. Late in the year preceding our arrival the ship Mariettadale went down on Smith's Rocks to the north of the island. And during the year, an officer was lost off the ship John Oxley, which used to carry supplies weekly for the light keepers. We met the wild horses on the island - a mixture of blood stock and heavy horses, the dingoes - native dogs of Australia which are presumed to have come over the land bridge between Papua New Guinea and Australia during the last ice age, 12000 to 6000 years ago. We also met some not so nice native animals - like a 10 foot plus python which was in the throes of swallowing an almost fully grown goat. My mother took a lot of persuasion before she would let us out alone in the bush - on our own - after this incident!
It was during this year that we experienced our first cyclone. My memories are of extremely high winds, mountainous waves, and unsecured items being lifted and carried away by the wind. Looking south along the main beach, we could see huge waves thrashing their way up the beach, and at the light itself, we could feel the spray from the surf below. I recall my father on top of the old chook house, trying to fasten part of the galvanised iron roof which was flailing in the wind. As he tried to nail it down, the wind took over and lifted it again. Time after time he belted at nail and roofing until finally - it was fastened. After a sort, that is! The chooks inside were squarking unhappily as they blew around. We kids would have loved to have played in the wind, but Mum wouldn't let us go out.
It was on this Lightstation that those of us who were of school age were introduced to the Primary Correspondence School. Mum was determined that our education wouldn't suffer..... and she made sure that everything which could be learned by rote was. I hated it at the time, but by now I certainly appreciated the effort she put in to ensuring we all learned! Best thing ever about correspondence was that, so long as the work got done and sent off regularly (weekly books), then we could have time off. And so it was that two or three mornings weekly were devoted to school. The rest was ours!
We learned to fish, to explore, to sail kites, to read the wind, weather and tides. Above all, we learned to work together as a family, to play together, and to discuss any manner of things. My parents also introduced us to the joys of books - and thanks to the Mission to Seamen, we had an abundance of those. I still love books to this day.
North we headed after a year - a family of four children by this time - to the tropical sandy island of Low Isles, which is one of two coral islands set in a beautiful lagoon a half day's boat run from Port Douglas, North Queensland.
The trip was very lengthy - we were carried in the Department's vessel Cape Leeuwin. She was a well-worn ship, having spent many years as the supply ship for lightstations in Queensland. We really enjoyed this trip as children, because the whole crew utterly spoiled us. We even learned to splice ropes, tie special knots - and we listened ad infinitum to the only record the crew had -On Top Of Old Smokey - and which they played and sang to nightly. We also had movies on board, or 'pictures' as we used to call them. A large makeshift screen was rigged on the port side of the after deck, and off duty crew (it was amazing how many could be off duty at these times!) and we children would snuggle down and watch old films. We were fed with lollies, much to Mum's dismay. She would ask the crew not to feed us, and they'd nod, reply "Yes, missus", but would continue to slip us these lovely lollies. Ah, those days!
On Low Isle we were introduced to the Great Barrier Reef, to shell collection, and some nasties - like the ugly and poisonous stone fish, and the beautiful yet deadly lion fish, also called the butterfly fish. Unfortunately, tourism was becoming big business in the North, and boatloads of tourists began coming to the islands. Some tourist operators would just drop the tourists on the reef without explanation of the beauty and fragility of the reef, and little information about the nasties they might encounter. Many, many times we as a family went on the reef after the tourist boats left and turned back the rocks and dead corals which were the homes of myriad creatures. It was saddening for us. Now, however, tourist operators are very careful to give proper information, to point out the dangers and to educate people as to the beauty, fragility and the resources of the reef.
We also had some sad moments here - we lost one of our dogs to a fit, and another died of old age. And the beautiful bird commonly known as the painted pigeon, for its brilliant colours, would sometimes - for no known reason - fly into the lighthouse, stun themselves, and become food for the innumerable sharks which seemed to know just when to appear.
One year here - and off again on transfer to Archer Point, 10 nautical and 18 land miles from the historical town of Cooktown on Queensland's north Coast. Cooktown is famours for its connection with Captain Cook, whose vessel Endeavour had a mishap with a reef east south east. After lightening the vessel by throwing over heavy cannon and other unwanted goods, the vessel's hole was plugged using sail and other matter, and the ship sailed into the large river on which Cooktown now stands and which bears the name of the ship. The ship was mended, and the botanist(Sir Joseph Banks) and crew were able to gather specimens of fauna and flora for study. They also had some close but productive encounters with the original Australians, who indicated to them some of the foods they used for food and for medicine.
We children, now one extra with a younger brother, had a great time here. We learned to ride horses, got fractured arms and sore limbs, came across some large crocodiles (which we did NOT tell our parents about! We also had adventures which we still relive to this day, as great memories in quiet times. I recall one such incident where I, with a broken left arm in plaster, and my brother, went to a creek known to us as The Swamp. Now, down stream from our favourite spot, a deep hollow which we entered thanks to a bountiful root system, there were reports of large crocodiles taking the cattle belonging to stockmen Charlie and Abe Lee, the owners of Greenhills Cattle Station. We kids were forbidden to go there. However, our favourite spot was also where we got almost pure white clay, which I used for modelling. So, one day shortly after the monsoons had left and the creeks were dropping, my brother and I walked to this hollow. We entered and I began the task of filling my sugar sack. I looked around, intending to tell my brother we'd had enough, when I saw behind him what to me was a huge crocodile. I let out a yelp and motioned for him to look behind himself. He did - and my brother used me for a ladder to exit the hole - then left me there! Luckily, my yells and shrieks got to him and he returned for me. His excuse? He 'thought I'd be able to get out'!! Needless to say, we left the clay behind and didn't tell Mum!
Another thing of fascination for us were the horses and cattle. We used to try to ride the cattle, but they were pretty bony on top where it counted, so we shifted our interest to the horses. Now, these horses were pretty wild and had the cunning of animals which seemed to know when they were going to be captured for work. At least - the stockmen had the devil's own job trying to catch them. However, for us kids it was a different matter. The horses would come to us. We figured that if they were silly enough to come to us and ask for petting, then we'd give riding them a go. Only a few bucked, rather desultory at that. One mean grey took a dislike to my brother, but would let me on him. And we'd catch newly broken horses, ride them with just a rope around the muzzle for 'bridle and reins', and neck rein them for direction - and to stop, we'd just jump off.
Abe Lee, one of the stockmen mentioned before, caught me under the belly of a big grey stallion, keeping out of the sun. I'd do this often - he was a gentle old soul. Not so, said Abe to my mother. He's a killer - get her out of there! So I was made to leave my friend, and as I did so, the grey saw Abe and charged. The change in that horse was like lightning.....one minute he was gentle and docile with me, then next second his ears were flat, his teeth bared, head down, and charging downhill full gallop for Abe, who hit his truck running. After a short bit of snorting, rearing and general bad behaviour, the stallion came back to me as I was going down the hill at my mother's insistence..... and calmly followed me down with his head over my shoulder, blowing through his nose at me. A sook! There was another big black stallion who hated the grey. If they ever met, the fights were pretty bad. However, I got on with both in spite of the warnings of my parents and the Lees.
Four years later saw us transferred to the Dent Island Lightstation in the Whitsunday group of islands on Queensland's central coast. I think this was the best lightstation of all. My father was head lightkeeper here, with one other keeper. The lighthouse was built over a cliff and looked directly west across Dent Passage to Long Island and South Molle Island. The sunsets were frankly spectacular - I think our views were worth a billion dollars. We lived in century old houses until new ones were built for us. Every year, when the island festivals were on, we were always invited to attend - on various boats, and invariably did. I was to miss out, however, in the last four years of my education, because I was sent ashore to a boarding school.
I left this boarding school having passed Junior (equivalent of year 10), and went nursing in Mackay. After about a year here, I went to Cairns where I was a nurse for a further two and a half years. Itchy feet sent me home again - but this time to Corinda, where my mother was living with my Grandmother and Aunt. Mum had left the lightstation after having had a particularly nasty fall and had broken her right leg badly. No more lighthouses for her!
I worked as a governess to three small children on a sheep station, 'Wilga', sixteen miles out of Goondiwindi in Queensland's south west. Then as a nurse in a nursing home in Brisbane until I was offered two positions for which I had applied - that of a hostess (now flight attendant) with Ansett ANA, and the Queensland Police Department. I chose the police. The work and training was very interesting - completely different from anything I'd experienced before. I still recall, with warming cheeks, my Senior Sergeant having to explain to me in explicit detail what certain (obscene) words meant. I'd walked into his office and said "Senior, what does .... and .... mean?" I still haven't lived that down! This omission in my training was because our male instructors had felt uneasy of using such language to we females, and the police woman brought into give us the information had not gone into the language nor the offences arising..... because she didn't like using it!
I left the Queensland Police after 4 years, 11 months and 6 days - but I'm not really counting! I had applied for admission to the Commonwealth Police and was accepted. This Force later became Australia Police, and later still, the Australian Federal Police. I served under the three names until I retired, medically unfit, in 1986.
About a year before I retired, I became involved as a founding member of the group P.A.C.T. (Protect All Children Today). We formed in Brisbane in 1985 as a direct result of a meeting held by all interested parties in the latter part of 1984. The group is still strong today, and supports children and families in stress because of abusive situations. It's a pity that such a group must exist, but whilst the various forms of abuse are committed on children and whilst children are afraid to come forward, there will always be a need.
Looking back, those were good years. The service brought with it a lot of tension, a great amount of paid and unpaid overtime, rheams of paperwork, and a great sense of camaderie not usually found else where. They were indeed good years.
I have been a breeder of Siamese cats over a period of 25 years and have bred blue, lilac, chocolate, and the tabby points. I've really enjoyed breeding under the name "Yerindi". I've shown over these years and won many trophies, including best of breed, best of show, best kitten, best litters, and the best exhibit at the Whiskas first International Show held in Brisbane; I've also stewarded, been Chief Steward several times, and have organised and run shows. These were really happy times, and I met some wonderful people and enjoyed the experience of working with many interstate and international judges. At present I do not breed but would like to again in the future.
For 8 years until 1997 I have been firstly a Bushranger guide then a Go Bush Volunteer with the Brisbane Forest Park. This is a park of 28500 hectares of bush, some forestry - some water catchment, and some national park. There are some very beautiful areas within this Park and it's all so very close to Brisbane; just 30 minutes out of the city! There's an information centre, a world class restaurant, and Walk-A-Bout Creek. The latter is a display of animals to be found in and around the waterways, and are used as an education material. The Park also runs the Go Bush programme - Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring. There are so many activities, half day, full day, night, camping, billy teas and dampers, children's activities, wildlife information, free activities (weekends) - all designed to introduce people to the environment, how to work in harmony with it; and most of all, how to enjoy the bush without destroying it. These were certainly some of the most interesting years of my life! I got to work on so many different activities and convened many of them. I was privileged to meet people from all walks of life and all lands around the world, and was able to share with them and to learn from them.
I a currently a volunteer with the R.S.P.C.A., Queensland, and manage their Thrift Shop at Sherwood, Brisbane. I've been there for six years. Until just recently I was also a dog obedience instructor with the Dog Obedience and Behavioural Centre - for a period of four years. I particularly miss not being 'on the field' as they say, with the dogs. It's quite a thrill to see the handlers, who come in hoping for miracles (sometimes), leave after completion of a course with the confidence to go out with well behaved dogs. All types of dogs, from the pampered purebred to the well loved little Heinz variety, have benefitted from the well constructed classes which are offered by the School. For those of you who live in the south east Queensland area - you might like to contact the Chief Instructor and founder, Ruth Fox, on (07) 34269928 for information and enrolment for the next classes. For those of you who are wavering - go on! You'll have a wonderful and rewarding time.
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