The Burys at Beerwah

Artefact made by Angelo Capone in Cowra 1942

(From the collection of Rosemary Ann Watt (nee Bury))

My parents, George Donaldson Bury and my mum Gwen had three Italians working on their pineapple farm in Burys Road Beerwah.  There were others possibly when my paternal grandfather came and stayed with us and helped work the farm. His name was also George Bury and I think a few “Land Girls” also worked the farm at times. Mum said the men did general farm duties i.e planting & chipping/ weeding pineapples. My Dad was one of the first to grow tobacco in that area too. My Mum said that the men always called my paternal Nan “Madame” and called my Mum “Mistress.”

Nambour.Angelo Capone & Nicola Serracino. G.D.Bury's pineapple farm. Bury's Road Beerwah.

Angelo Capone and Nicola Serracino on the Bury Pineapple Farm Bury Road Beerwah

(from the Collection of Rosemary Ann Watt)

Mum and Dad always spoke fondly of the men: Angelo Capone, Nicola Serracino, and Vincenzo Arenella. They were young single men in their 20’s.  Mum and Dad were especially fond of Angelo so we have often wondered where they went after the war or if they returned to Australia as migrants.

Dad built a hut for the men to live in. The hut had “push up” windows and one of their horses liked to poke its head through the window and would terrify poor Vincenzo.   They shared their meals with the family, except for Sundays which was their day to do with as they wished, I guess. Mum said they could attend church as long as they were accompanied.  In those days, Mum and Dad only had a horse and sulky and it was rare that they both left the farm at the same time.  There was a family who lived in Beerwah, by the name of “Biondi” with whom they all shared a friendship. Descendants of the family remain in the Beerwah area.

Mum remembers that every so often a van would come around to the farm with any provisions the men might need.  I expect it was a government van.

The men would kill a chicken for their Sunday lunch and Mum said for some reason, they always cooked them intact, except for feathers and head.  Nicola always liked to suck a raw egg from the shell with his breakfast.  My Dad always kept bees and Mum said they hated them and if a bee flew around them they’d lie flat on the ground to avoid it. They were often spooked by the call of the curlews in the evening, when they first went to the farm.  It must have been such an alien existence to them, initially.

I was a baby at the time the Italians lived with us and it’s amazing how one is influenced by very early memories. To this day I love to hear Italian spoken as a language and love the music. Even though Angelo & co had left the farm when I was a small child, memory must remain imbedded. Mum said that the men loved children. She recalls the day the men were leaving the farm.  Vincenzo was nursing me and the contents of my nappy ran down his shirt. She said she was mortified but he laughed and laughed and said, “Look Mrs, last one”.

I have two precious mementos from Angelo.  The first is a letter that he had written from Gaythorne. The letter is written after he left the farm and is dated 11.2.46.  In the letter Angelo mentions “Ann”, which is the name I was known as in infancy. He also asks after Jean and Beverley, two of my cousins who often visited the farm. Angelo wrote, “I should very much appreciate if I could see her (Ann) again.  Her clear image live, as it always will live in my memory”. (Letter from Angelo Capone to Bury Family) The other memento was an artefact Angelo had made while at Cowra, which he hand carved with a 6 inch nail. When he left us, he presented it to my Dad. It always sat in pride of place on every desk my Dad owned, until his death in 2010.

Nambour.George D. & Rosemary (known as Ann) Bury. 1945. Pineapple Farm Bury's Road, Beerwah

George Donaldson Bury and Rosemary ‘Ann’ Bury, Bury Pineapple Farm Beerwah 1945

(from the Collection of Rosemary Ann Watt)

Another interesting story about the war was the TC McIntyre’s Sawmill in South Brisbane. My mum Gwen Matthews was from Diddillibah but during the war went to work  in a sawmill which manufactured prefabricated huts for the USA Airforce. The company was run by two brothers and when mum left to marry, she was rolled in a heap of sawdust, as was the tradition. One chap named Dudley made her wedding cake and when I was born, the staff had made a lovely timber cot for me. The Sawmill closed down after the war.

Gwen Matthews working at McIntyre’s Sawmill manufacturing prefab huts for the USA Airforce 1944

(from the Collection of Rosemary Ann Watt)


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