Rich farming history celebrated in print


Howard Salkow

Senior Journalist

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Author Ken Keith with Douglas Shire Mayor Julia Leu at the launch of 'Cattle, Cane and Cedar … Early farming in the Douglas Shire'. IMAGE: Credit - Douglas Shire Council.

THERE is something special about a new book, especially when it’s about the history and the people of the Douglas Shire. The shire has inspired many writers over the years and their work has been quoted and sourced in numerous literary circles.

And the latest book about the shire is the informative and superbly illustrated Cattle, Cane and Cedar … Early farming in the Douglas Shire, which has been researched and written by members of the Douglas Shire Historical Society.

The book – according to authors Ken Keith, Belinda Peters and John Anich – provides you with an historical journey from traditional living off the land in pre-agricultural times, through the efforts of settlers who arrived in the shire in the 1870s to the 1890s, to seek a living from nearly cleared land, and then to the people and their farming practices and equipment used in the first decades of the 20th Century.

There are many names with supporting photographs which will be well known to many in the shire, along with a pictorial account of the progression of farming implements, including the introduction of tractors from horses and horse-drawn implements. 

What eventually became a labour of love for the authors, it all began in 2013 after an idea emerged to photograph old farming equipment and store the information in a data base. This was the start and endpoint at the time.

“We must have visited 30-40 properties to see what was lying around in sheds or in paddocks, or even gear that had been pushed over the creek bank,” said Ken Keith.

“However, at our 2015 Christmas dinner, it was decided we could do more and this is where we launched the idea of writing the book.”

In the introduction, the authors write that in 2015, the Douglas Shire Historical Society included agricultural history as a key target in its three-year plan.

“So we decided to add to the bare bones of equipment some flesh, the practices the equipment was used for, and blood, the people who used the equipment to make a living from agriculture in those early years.

“This rural industry story is only part of the cultural heritage of Douglas Shire, but we think an important part.”

Keith said the book has been well received as many like the idea of learning about the history of farming in this area.

The book was launched in early December last year and the first print run of 300 was quickly sold out and a further 100 are now available at the news agencies in Port Douglas and Mossman and at the Court House Museum in Port Douglas. It is also available online if you email infodouglashistory.orgau.

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