Tag Archives: Q7 PWCC Elizabeth Street Kenilworth

Nicko’s Baskets

Anthony Brown reminisces about the Nicko and Pasquali who lived on the Brown farm via Kenilworth 1944-1945:
I remember Mum saying, “Boy can they eat!” They ate meals with us and were part of the family. Mum did all the cooking, she was a fantastic cook. Nicko and Pasquali slept on the verandah with my brother Craig and myself. My sister slept in her own room inside the house. The beds were canvas stretchers with a coir mattress (husk of coconuts). They were supplied with their own blankets which I recall were dyed red.

Nicko’s Baskets

(photo courtesy of Sharon Pearson [Brown])

The red coloured clothing was supplied by the army and was plentiful. The red dye came out in the wash tubs.  In those days you carted water from the creek and a wood fired copper was used to wash the clothes.  The clothes were wool and I remember them only wearing long trousers.

In those days, neighbours helped each other out.  There were two creek crossings into our farm which kept getting flooded.  The POWs from EV Kirk’s farm helped our two pick up rocks from the farmers’ paddocks to put in the creek crossings to dam the water way in preparation for concreting the crossings.  My dad contributed his POW workforce which meant he paid the wages for the job.  Another farmer paid for the cement and the council supplied the trucks, overseer and equipment such as a cement mixer.  The 1956 floods washed away the top of the causeway they made.

Our two POWs were different in nature.  I was 12 years old, and through my eyes, Nicko seemed more like a farmer and Pasquali more a ‘towny’ type.  Pasquali seemed more low key and spoke better English than Nicko.  My sister Dolores remembers that Pasquali sent a letter to us after they went back to Italy. She was nine years old at the time and thought Pasquali was good looking.

Nicko was short.  I was 5 foot six inches when I was 12 years old, and much taller than Nicko.  His record states that he was 4 foot 11 inches.  Once when a bag of potatoes came down from the Maleny butter factory dad kept them up in the dairy which was a way from the house.  Dad measured out about 40 pounds of potatoes and gave them to Nicko to take home; it was about 1 km from the dairy to the house.  Nicko took over ½ hour to get home with the potatoes.  When Nicko arrived home, he said to my dad as a way of excusing his lateness, “Mr Brown, you up there.  Poor Nicko down here.”  Dad was 6 foot tall and Nicko was 4 foot 11 inches.

Pasquali and Nicko helped in the dairy; milking morning and night.  So the farm routine was early to rise and to bed by 7pm.  On the farm, we had 32 volts electricity.  They did other jobs as needed.  Dad sent them down to brush away the rubbish from near the dairy.  He wanted the area cleaned up from the side of the hill leading down to the creek.  They cut down mum’s cumquart tree and left the other trees standing.  I remember Dad saying “The only tree you chopped down was the cumquart tree!”  It had prickles so I think they thought it was a rubbish tree.  The tree recovered and is still there on the farm today.

Nicko told Dad about his capture, “I flee! I flee!”  He was the more industrious one and made baskets from the lawyer cane.  One of the things they were required to do during their captivity was to learn crafts to keep them occupied.  I had the feeling that Pasquali was more of an academic as he didn’t seem to do too much of the physical work.

One of the baskets made by Nicko was called “The Egg Basket”.  It was used by to collect the eggs laid by the hens. My sister Dolores remembers that Nicko also made a laundry basket; used for collecting the clean clothes.  She also remembers how they loved their spaghetti and taught my mother how to cook it.  The first time mum made it, the big boiler was chockers with spaghetti.  One of them said, “We cook in copper next time.”

The Italians were always referred to as generally as ‘Dagos’ but I never knew why. At the time, I didn’t know if it was a term of endearment or derogatory.

Their names were Pasquale Mastrantonio and Nicola Fantetti and the records indicate that they came to the farm of AA Brown on 3rd August 1944.

My daughter Sharon has two baskets made by Nicko; a fond reminder of those days during the war.

Local History, the Lock Up and Musical Soirees

Q7 Staff

Q7 PW Control Centre Kenilworth and Staff

(from the collection of Kenilworth Museum, donated by Tony White)

The Q7 PW Control Centre in Kenilworth is a well-known landmark. Situated on Elizabeth Street, Margaret and Tony White called the property home from 1993 – 2015 and operated it as a Bed and Breakfast. Margaret White’s interest in local history extends to her researching the history of the building. “The house was prefabricated in Brisbane and erected after the establishment of the Kenilworth town.  The area was ‘Kenilworth Station’ and after the owner Hugh Moore died, the area was gazetted as a town. It was one of the first houses built on land purchased at auction by Patrick Sharry in 1921. The Sharry’s operated it as a boarding house which was disproved of by Mrs Duggan, mother-in-law and financer for the Sharrys.  She took possession of the house and converted it into 3 – 4 flats. Mrs Duggan’s daughters Mrs ER Fritz and Mrs MA O’Connell were bequeathed the house which was then leased as Q7 PW Control Centre during the war. The Purdon family were the next owners, followed by Kevin and Gloria McGinn then us. Now it has a new life as a family home. The L shaped area under the house was known to be the ‘lock up’ for POWs, most likely caught for fraternizing with the local girls. The house is across the road from the local Catholic Church and the prisoners used to come to church and stand at the back and at the sides in their red ‘pajamas’.  Some of them biked in from Cambroon to attend church”, Margaret reminisces.

And there were many other stories about the house and the time when Italian Prisoners of War worked on farms in the Kenilworth district. “We often received visits from people who had a connection to the house: ex Army staff, families of ex Army staff.  I did also hear that at least one Italian ex-prisoner came back for a visit. The driver was Mr Thomas Dwyer, a Caloundra local and the Army staff were referred to as ‘officers and gentlemen’. We also had a visitor who happened to have attended the autopsy in Gympie of a Kenilworth POW who had drowned in the Mary River.  The locals and prisoners were having a picnic on the Mary River at the end of the war when the Italian drowned.  He was buried in Gympie and his remains were transferred to Melbourne” relates Margaret.

Local historian Lenore Meldrum recalls that living next door to the centre were her aunt and uncle.  They often talked of the Italians attending mass with the locals  but also about welcoming the Italians into their home: “Aunt was a skilled pianist and my cousin tells me that it was not unusual for the men (both soldiers and Italians) to come to their home on a Sunday evening with their musical instruments and join in a sing along around the piano”, Lenore relates.

Other Kenilworth memories collected by Kenilworth & District Historical Assn. Inc. for publication in The Mary Voice include that of Ivy Loweke as retold by her daughter Margaret Pickering: “Arthur Hughes* accommodated two of the Italian detainees, who worked on his farm (near Moy Pocket) on the Gheerulla to Brooloo Road. Normally, detainees were kept in pairs and monitored. They were fed and accommodated.  Dave Ower also accommodated two detainees. Dave’s farm was between the farms of Cope Loweke and Arthur Hughes. Cope Loweke declined having detainees on his farm, because he had two daughters (Thelma and Ivy); and didn’t feel it would be appropriate.”

*NB Guido Crocetti and Giuseppe D’Ambrosio were assigned to Arthur Hughes at Moy Pocket. 

George Pearce also remembered the Italian POWs in the Kenilworth district and recounts this memory in Ducks on the Noosa River.   The Leo mentioned is most likely Pantaleo De Carlo (farmer from Vernolle Lecce) who went to work at DE Pearce’s farm Oakey Creek, Eumundi 25th May 1944 together with Salvatore Maci  (farmer from Squinzano Lecce).