The Borelands had a POW

Maria Elena

You’re the answer to a pray

Maria Elena

Can’t you see how much I care?

To me your voice is like the echo of a sigh

And when you’re near my

Heart can’t speak above a sigh

I was only a little girl but I have a clear memory that  our neighbours, The Borelands at ‘Ben-Dor’ Yelarbon, had a POW. There were two brothers who had that farm.

My dad Gino Rodigherio had a tobacco farm at Yelarbon but dad couldn’t get POW labour because he was Italian.  He was naturalised but there was a lot of fear in those days after Mussolini declared war.  Our neighbour, Mr Scerecini was interned even though his son was called up for service in the Australian army.  Internment made it very hard for the wives left behind as there was no social services in those days and none of us had extended families to help us out.


Tobacco Growing at Yelarbon near Texas 1931

(John Oxley Library Negative Number 181901)

Mr Boreland had a dairy farm and would bring over a POW who I think was called Eduardo* to talk Italian with Mum and Dad.  He was a good looking young man. I found out later that this was against the rules, but no harm was done in giving the POW an opportunity to mix with other Italians.  It was just the way country people were in those days.

My other memory of that time was of an Italian who was known as Paolo but we called him “Errol” after “Errol Flynn”.  We thought he was a POW but he was in hiding from the Australian army as he was AWOL.  Or so we were told. We didn’t know this at the time. He wasn’t found out until some Italians came down from Ingham to grow tobacco and they recognised him.  He even managed to get clothing from the general store without coupons.  He was working on some of the tobacco farms and when he would visit he would pick up my brother’s guitar and play it.  Paolo loved singing and even today when I hear the song “Maria Elena” I think of him.  It is such a clear memory I have.

A friend remembers that when they were getting POWs, she said to her dad, “I hope we get an opera singer”.  Italians were well known for their beautiful singing.

During the war dad kept himself to himself.  Of course the police came to search our home but they didn’t find anything, not that I am sure they knew what they were looking for.  Dad was a quiet man and the police sergeant had a quiet word with dad and told him to keep out of sight.  I think they knew about the internments and knew dad was a good man and that is what dad did.  He kept busy with the farm and not with all the other goings on.

When I reflect back to those days, there was a lot  going on with Italians in our district during the war.

My husband Darryl and I owned and operated the general grocery store in Yelarbon from 1945-1988. With the Italian population in the district, abandonment of rationing and ease of access to continental small-goods post war, we were able to cater for the shift in consumer demand toward Italian food. Romano cheese, salamis, mortadella, coffee as well as cartons and cartons of Nanda’s pasta became staples on our shelves.

Zita Hutton (nee Rodigherio)

Texas. Huttons

Hutton’s Foodland in Yelarbon

(John Oxley Library Negative number: 4961)


*Records indicate that Oreste Gelosa, also was billited with the Borelands.



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