Malanda Show : 100 years of dairying on the Atherton Tablelands

This weekend the people of Malanda and surrounding areas of the Atherton Tablelands will be gathering for the 100th Malanda Show. The first Malanda Show took place in September 1916 on land belonging to pioneer dairy farmer James English. This first show was an ambitious undertaking considering that the first settlers had only arrived in the area in 1907 to take up land grants ahead of the coming of the railway which reached Malanda in 1910. Many of the original settlers were dairy farmers from the Northern Rivers in N.S.W. and dairying was the primary occupation once the rainforest had been cleared.

Land clearing in preparation to farm at the Wieland family farm at Kulara, Queensland, 1913

James English owned a dairy farm at Goonengerry on the Richmond River but the place was too small to keep his large family and he jumped at the opportunity to purchase cheap land at Malanda. He bought land for himself and for his oldest son Patrick. Once land was cleared Patrick brought their stock from Mullumbimby, droving the cattle to Tallebudgera then transporting them by train and ship to Cairns. When land from Patrick's block was resumed for the town and railway he was compensated with additional land and a one acre town block across  from the railway station. The English family used this block to build a hotel, officially opened as the Malanda Hotel in December 1911.

Hotel Malanda, ca. 1936 after extensions were built in 1917 and 1928

Hotel Malanda, ca. 1936 after extensions were built in 1917 and 1928

The first Malanda Show proved to be a great success as reported in the Cairns Post of 8 September 1916

One thousand people attended the show on the second day. The gate takings were £9 first day and £26 second day. The grand parade was splendid. 142 head of dairy stock parading. Mr Jas. English exhibited 70 head, comprising shorthorn, lllawarra, Jerseys and Ayrshires : Foggin Bros., P. J. Donaghy, E.L.H. Styles, Geo. Waugh and others exhibited in Illawarras, while E. H. Heale and W. C Abbott showed strongly in Jerseys. Styles showed his string of Guernseys also. The show was absolutely the best dairy show yet held in the north. Chisholm gave some great riding exhibitions: 80 individual horses showed. The open hunters' contest was particularly good, eight horses competing. The committee worked well and got everything off to time in satisfactory manner and deserved great credit for the first show. The show ball was held at night and proved a bumper success, 70 odd couples attending. The show should come out about £100 to the good. The show closed with a fine exhibition of buckjumping on horses, mules, and English's famous buck jumping bullocks, Snowy, Smiler and Smoker.

The war effort was not neglected in this first show with a display by the local branch of the Red Cross Equipment Guild which had been formed to make equipment for treating wounded soldiers. The exhibit is described in the Northern Herald.

One of the chief hall exhibits at the Malanda Show was a display of manufactured articles by the Malanda centre of the Equipment Guild. The articles comprised crutches, folding table, extension chair, with leg rest, and camp stool. Considering the Malanda centre has just been formed they deserve the greatest praise for so quickly bringing their work before the public, and the exhibit was much admired by all those present. To the Prince family (one of the pioneer families of the Malanda district) a big share of the credit for starting this centre is due. The family is well-named as their generosity has most certainly been "Princely." In addition to providing machinery and workshop, the timber has been found by Mr. Prince and his sons have done great work in getting the log timber cut up, also Miss Prince has helped the Guild by practical work, as well as collecting funds, and assisted by Miss Johnson is now engaged in trying to put the Guild in a financial position, so that they can purchase canvas, bolts and other items necessary to turn out the finished articles.

John and Mary Prince

John Prince and his family were among the early pioneers in the area and in addition to dairy farming they moved a sawmill from Atherton to their block adjoining the Malanda Falls Reserve. One of the first commercial jobs for the sawmill was cutting timber for the Malanda Hotel. The Prince family operated the sawmill from 1910 until 1920. Son Steve Prince was a keen amateur photographer and took many photographs of the mill and the huge logs they handled.

Sawmill near Malanda Falls

Before refrigeration the main export hope of the Atherton Tableland dairy farmers was butter. A butter factory had opened in Cairns in 1904 but trouble with an unreliable cream supply dogged the Cairns factory. In 1909 William Abbott opened the Golden Grove Butter and Ice Works on his Golden Grove estate outside Atherton. This small operation soon inspired the dairy farmers of the district to establish a cooperative factory and extensive debate on the location of the factory and the name of the cooperative took place. Factory sites were suggested at Atherton, Tolga, Rocky Creek, Carbeen, Yungaburra and Malanda. Eventually a site at Mazlin Creek near Atherton was chosen and the new Golden Grove Butter Factory opened on 28th April 1914, which was declared a holiday in the Tinaroo and Eacham shires.

Opening of the Golden Grove Butter Factory in Atherton, Queensland, 1914

A branch factory was established at Malanda in 1919 and by 1923 the Malanda factory was so successful that all manufacturing operations were transfered from Golden Grove to Malanda. Milk sales from Malanda began in 1942 and soon milk from the Atherton Tablelands was supplying Cairns, Townsville, Ayr, Mt. Isa and even Darwin and Alice Springs, with the cooperative boasting the world's longest milk run. In 1979 a cheese factory was opened at Malanda, taking over from a smaller factory at Millaa Millaa that had been producing fine cheese since 1965.

The Malanda Show website has been archived in Pandora.

Useful publications in the Library's collections include The show men's story : Malanda Show 1916-1991 ; Malanda : in the shadow of Bartle Frere and Cows in the vine scrub : a history of dairying on the Atherton Tablelands.

Simon Miller - Library Technician, State Library of Queensland

 

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