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John Edward (Jack) Desmond, Glenusk Siding on the Jerico & Blackall Line, 1913-14

Queensland built a number of development railways in the first half of the 20th Century, including one out of Blackall. The line has now gone, but the Blackall Historical Society has information on at least one of the navvies who helped build the line.

Jack Desmond arrived in the Blackall area early in 1913 and wrote back to his family in the UK on 10 March 1913, as the edited extract below shows.

Dear Sister

I received your letter quite safely this morning and was very pleased to hear that you are all quite well.

We have arrived quite safe up in Queensland 900 miles from Brisbane and I have started work 8 hours a day on the Railway. It is rather hard work under the conditions as it is horribly hot. The sun has made my arms very bad, it has taken the skin off them and it makes them very painful because I can hardly bend them. This is the hottest country I have been in up to now, what with the Mosquitoes and the Flies I can tell you we are having a lively time. We are living under canvas right up in the bush so you can see we do not get the Most Dreaded of Persons Calling here on Mondays saying "Rent Please" -- the Landlord I mean.

We do not have anything to pay thank goodness, that is one blessing, but we have to pay extra money for food such as butter. We cannot get any under 1/6 per lb and everything we order has to be pounds, we cannot get 1/2 lb of anything. 9d for a tin of milk, 4d a lb of sugar. The bread is the same price 5d per quarter.

We have our stores come up in the train 3 times per week so we have to make a standing order with the baker and the butcher and we have to order on Fridays enough grocery to last all the week. So when we give the order in on Fridays for the things we get them on the Monday morning.

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