List of Claude Morris' Poems
  A Grave Situation    
  A Rum Complaint    
  Commercial TV D.T.s    
  The Draw-Back    
  The Eucalyptus Cutter    
  The Legend of Angel Creek
  The Run-up    
  The Shooting Of Sam McHugh    
  The Topaz Trail    

Biograghy of Claude Morris


The biography of Claude Morris takes a nostalgic and humorous journey through his life pausing briefly by the roadside, the campfire, the creek crossing and the flooded river, as well as at the old pubs and staging posts but mostly just somewhere in the bush. Claude was described by his children as a kind and generous man, hardworking and honest, sensitive and thinking. His humour and wit were part of their daily lives and his great character is easily recognised in his work.

The journey begins in Watsonville his birth place and takes you to Kulara, Millaa Millaa, Tolga, Bowen, Cardwell, El Arish and finally to Gordonvale where he retired in 1971. On the way you will meet people, animals and you will visit old towns of yesteryear and packers’ tracks but mostly you will visit the bush.

Claude Morris was born in Watsonville, North Queensland at the end of 1908. . Watsonville located about 80 miles (130 kilometres) south west of Cairns on the upper tablelandswas a small tin mining town established in the 1890’s and supported four hotels. After the turn of the century it began to decline and the few dwellings that remain are not original. . Claude’s boyhood was spent in the town of his birth just a stone’s throw from the encroaching bushland that he grew to love and though most of his adult life was spent with the Queensland railways he was seldom far from the scent of gums and wattle.

His childhood associations with mining people left a deep impression of their goodness and uncomplaining acceptance of conditions that the generations of today could hardly understand.  The story of the poem The Legend of Angel Creek maybe taken as a memorial to the miners and their wives of Claude’s parent’s generation, some may find it hard to suppress a tear when realising the conditions that were endured and for the passing of one of the many heroines of the era.

Claude’s opening verse in the book, ‘The Legend of Angel Creek’ is:-
Pause and try the flavour
Of stories written here.
Most of them should bring a smile,
Or perhaps a tear.
They were written not for money,
And rewarded I will be,
If they bring you half the pleasure
That their writing brought to me.

To begin before the beginning Claude Morris’ paternal grandfather, George Morris was a gold prospector who moved from gold strike to gold strike. He was a heavy drinker, so The Pioneer was dedicated to him and to Claude’s many friends of the 1960’s and 70’s who scoured the old mining town sites collecting the antique bottles from the old rubbish dumps.
Where Angels Trod Is a serious work which paints a picture of hardship not understood today, for his mother and those brave women who preceded her.
A Town That Used To Be . describes Watsonville his birth place, also this descriptive ballad brings to life many old mining township sites that were reclaimed by the bush when the minerals ran out and the towns were abandoned.
Cicadas At times the bushland around Watsonville is filled with the high pitched singing of tens of thousands of cicadas anyone who spends time in the bush will identify with this poem.
The Old Bischoff Mill This site on the Walsh River was a popular spot for social gatherings of the towns people of Watsonville and surrounding district particularly for bush picnics which included swimming and races.
The Road To Irvine Bank This road he travelled many times as a child but it is a vivid description of the many bush roads of that era in North Queensland. It was included in the historical publication ‘Irvinebank’.
The Helping Hand A humorous account of an incident that occurred during the 1918 cyclone the effects of which were felt as far inland as Watsonville, the farmer’s name was Bob Miles.

In all Claude’s lifetime he has never left the state of Queensland and only three times did he visited Brisbane. The first occasion was in 1916 when at the age of eight, . his mother took him to say good-bye to his eldest brother Will who had joined the army and was departing from Brisbane for France to fight in the great war. Early in the morning and carrying their luggage they walked from Watsonville to Herberton, a distance of some miles through the bush. A rail line to cairns had been completed in 1910, so they were able to travel by train to Cairns where he recalls they arrived at about 6.30 pm. In those days there was no Bruce Highway and no rail route from Cairns so they boarded a small mail boat the ‘Bingera’ which took them to Brisbane.

In 1921, the Morris family moved to Kulara, where he finished his schooling while still only thirteen years of age. For six months he joined his father working on the roads with a pick and shovel but exchanged that job for one at Golden Grove the butter factory in Atherton, and rode eight miles (thirteen kilometres) to and from work each day on a bicycle instead.

Shades of Old Kulara Deals with the legend of a ghost at Petersen’s Crossing on the Baron River at Kulara on the Atherton Tablelands. This piece was included in a historical publication about Yungaburra a township situated three miles (five kilometres) from where Kulara used to be.
Old Kulara During the 1950’s the Barron River was dammed and the little township of Kulara was submerged by the waters of Lake Tinaroo, the consequence of the dam. This short poem was included in the booklet ‘The Pioneers Speak’.
The Fading Track Was the old packer’s track from Cairns to Herberton on the Atherton Tablelands. The Bore Pocket Track part of Robson’s Track passed through Kulara. This poem was written for the Eacham Historical Society and was included in their publication ‘Yungaburra’.

In 1925 when Claude was just sixteen, he joined the Queensland Railways as a lad porter.. His first post was Mareeba, where he met a young Gordonvale girl whose name was Florence Minus. Her sister was suffering with T.B. and her family had moved there for her sister’s health. For six years he moved around, first to Yungaburra then Cairns and finally to Millaa Millaa. In 1931 Claude and Florence were married in Atherton . and lived in Millaa Millaa until 1936 where two children Daphne and Donald were born. He was very involved in the local community and was the centre of activity. He was secretary of the local cricket, football and glider clubs, he was a great sportsman, an outstanding footballer, lightning on foot, and an excellent batsman and bowler, so it was natural that he was an active member of the football and cricket clubs. His interest in sport has never waned, even when sitting in his armchair was as close as he could get to the game. Also, Claude edited the local paper ‘The Millaa Millaa Times’.

. In 1933 controversy had arisen over ‘body line bowling’, and as a keen cricketer he was very interested, so much in fact, that with a rail pass in his pocket he went to see a test between Australia and England that was played at the ‘Gabba’. Douglas Jardine was captain of the Poms and Harold Larwood was the body line bowler. In spite of Don Bradman disappointingly England won the test. Claude arrived home with some change out of £10 ($20) which he’d taken with him.

The Drawback The hero in this actual account was Jack Wood of Malanda.
Ghost Train In The Sky Was written for the Atherton Historical Society at the request of Af Stewart, (ex Kulara) who worked in the railways as a shunter. In 1964 the branch line from Kairi to Millaa Millaa was closed and the rails removed. This poem was read by Ian MacNamara on Australia All Over and was used during ‘The 100 Days of Steam’ held in Cairns in 1991 to commemorate 100 years of the railways in the Cairns district.

In 1936 he moved back to Mareeba but for only four months, then on to Tolga 3 miles from Atherton. He was a porter there till 1940 when he transferred to Bowen. Whilst in Tolga he continued to play sport, particularly cricket, and began writing poems and ballads. His sense of humour and his affinity to nature shines through all his work. To pass the time between trains he took up snooker and Snookered was the result on many happy hours spent in the billiard room at Tostivan’s Railway Hotel which is no longer standing.

At that point in time Atherton and Tolga were each trying to claim the title of capital of the tablelands. Atherton was the larger town with many more amenities, but Tolga felt that a rare island platform from which branched the Millaa Millaa line should be considered as a plus. Anonymously he sent a poem simply called Tolga to the newly opened 4AT radio station to which anyone who had a ’wireless’, would listen at every opportunity. Cass Tostivan was most upset and some gentleman in Atherton was blamed for the derogatory remarks about Tolga. The Yorkshire comedian Stan Holloway was one of the big stars on radio in the 1930’s and his two records ‘Albert at the Zoo’ and ’Sam and his Musket’ were played often. Claude borrowed Stan’s accent and style for Tolga and another poem The Athmaizing Adventures of Noah also not in the book. The latter was entered in a competition advertising Athmaize (Atherton Maize) which was a company that had just formed. In the publication he used the non de plume of ‘Cow Yard Kate’ and wrote other pieces as well.

A 7 year old boy was in the Atherton hospital suffering with meningitis the short poem From A Hospital Bed was inspired by that child.

By 1938 the rail route to Brisbane had been constructed and this time he journeyed by rail because his daughter  needed urgent specialist treatment. The few days there were spent visiting the museum, art gallery, botanical gardens and lone pine in addition to doing some exciting shopping.

During the war years as a night officer he spent three years in Bowen. They were tense busy hard working years as Bowen was a Catalina base and the Battle Of The Coral Sea was fought in 1942. During the winter of ‘42 always around midnight the air raid sirens sounded as Jap planes were sighted on several consecutive nights. One night the siren sounded twice because of the Catalina base, the wharf, the power house and the railway station Bowen was a sought target. During these years there was little time for anything but work and related activities. The Bruce Highway was mostly impassable so munitions, stores and troops were all carried by rail. The congestion was unbelievable and only a railway man of that era could appreciate it as it was. Recreation was a walk through the sand hills where rod fishing was excellent off the rocks at King’s Beach.

The Man From Bowen River Is his only reference to that town it is a light hearted look at the folklore that Queensland never had.

The years in Bowen did nothing for his nerves and he decided to move his family into the country to Longford Creek half way between Bowen and Proserpine but now it has reverted to it’s former name of Eden Lassie. Once again it was the bush and he was back amongst the gums and wattle, the curlews and the dingos.

He purchased his first car, a 1928 model a ford utility for £80 ( $160) and a boat with a motor for £40 ($80). There was no registration to pay as the car was only run on farm roads, rather rough farm roads at that. Petrol was rationed during the war so the car was converted to kerosene. There was no muffler and of course as was the case with all cars of that era it needed to be cranked by hand and top speed was forty miles an hour (67 kph). So equipped, camping, fishing and exploring the Longford and Gregory rivers and the offshore islands became routine every free week-end.

The car and the boat gave him a freedom he’d not known before. Now he could travel miles in a relative short time and it certainly was better than walking or cycling. When every nook and cranny of Longford Creek had been explored he turned his attention to the Gregory River. This meant a short trip in the open sea. Gloucester Island was not far away on the other side of Gloucester Passage and on the southern exposed coastline were numerous reefs, lagoons and beaches which at that time were almost unblemished by human footprints. Claude with his children on board often braved high and dangerous seas in craft quite inadequate for the journey undertaken but his sense of adventure and his optimism always won the day. His first craft the Osprey was constructed of timber, and was only fifteen feet (4.6 metres) long. Believe it or not, it’s engine was that of a three wheeled ‘Nero’ car, probably the only one in Australia. It seemed always to have something wrong with it’s ‘magneto’. At that time England was coping a barrage from Germany as Hitler was bombarding London with his new much feared V2 rockets. With tongue in cheek, Claude renamed the craft the V2. The V2 was eventually sold and it was replaced with the ‘Grey Goose’, an awkward cumbersome nineteen footer (5.8 metres) which was painted grey. It had an Overland car engine to drive the prop. His third craft was the ’Dawn’, a seventeen foot (5 metre) open wooden flattie with a 2 horse power motor with a chain which continually flew off. When the tides were high it was a three mile walk across a salt pan carrying all the camping gear, consisting of a tarp, carbide light, fishing bags and cast net, water and food, and very little bedding. Looking up at the vast expanse of the sky at night would prompt him to ponder the mystery of the universe and expound his theories. It was a time of family togetherness and no one minded the hard ground or the lack of table and chairs. It was our first time that Claude’s children had an opportunity to really explore the real bush and they thank him for those happy and carefree days before they had to grow up. Longford creek seemed to be a place of flood and drought. One week flood and the rest of the year drought and in honour of his farmer friends at Longford Creek The Changing Country and The Coming Of The Wet are very apt. While at Longford he composed Sunset Bay and put it to music using a Hawaiian guitar which he played by ear. He was very good on the mouth organ and could play the button accordion as well.

He was back in Tolga from 1949 to late 1952 when he took up a position as relieving Station Master in Cairns with the intention of exchanging this position with an equivalent one in Cardwell. This did not eventuate so he spent five very hard working years in Cairns and it was 1957 before he gained a post at Cardwell by the Sea. For ten years he served the railway as Station Master there and it was again an adventurous life in boats, and fishing, camping and exploring were when ever possible, his recreation. Cars and boats had improved a lot since the Longford days but Claude still managed to own one particular craft that tended to head under the wave rather than over it. He spent his time on Hinchinbrook, Garden and Gould Islands and the waters in between, which quite often . were anything but still. He had a number of friends who would brave the elements with him and Cardwell was another good time in his life. He befriended a hermit -  beachcomber Bert Dawson, who had a very unique shelter and garden on Gould Island and The Beachcomber’s Dream was composed for Bert. Fisherman’s Lunch, Campfire, and Just Plant A Tree, are all tuned into that time in his life and if you ever sit for awhile on the beach at Cardwell you will understand why.

1967 found him as S.M. at El Arish away from the sea but only a few miles from Cardwell as North Queensland distances go. His nautical days ceased at this time and he began to take a great interest in trekking back to his beloved bush and inevitably collecting rocks, minerals and antique bottles gave him a good reason to be camped under the sky on the bank of a creek. The track eventually led to O’Brien’s Creek which was just beginning to yield Blue Topaz in great quantities. Winter At O’Brien’s, Daybreak and Nightfall are descriptive of these years.

In 1971 at the age of sixty-two he decided to retire and spend the winters in the bush chasing the ’big blues’ and made many trips to O’Brien and Elizabeth creeks. During these sojourns in the bush Claude and Flo had made a host of stalwart friends of all ages, creeds and political persuasions and during his retirement a steady stream of kindred spirits beat a path to 8 Digger Street Gordonvale which was his address at that time. These early years of his retirement were his most prolific, and when he was not working with his beloved rocks or out in the bush he was sitting at his desk composing his poems and ballads he decided he had enough for a book. Quite typically well known publishers were not interested so in 1975 the first edition of 1,000 booklets was printed by a Cairns firm. As these booklets made their way into people’s homes and the poems into their hearts a new era in friendships began by phone, correspondence and often in person.

Bob Bloodwood in his smoko time column in the NQ Register printed many and a letter duly arrived from Slim Dusty requested permission to record Commercial TV D.T.’s. Slim put it to music and it was released on his album ‘The Things I see Around Me’, again on his ‘100th single’ and still again on an album of selected works.

After his first publication he continued to compose ballads and as his stock of booklets was low he entrusted the publication of a hard covered book to an English firm. 1,000 more books eventually arrived one of which found it’s way onto the desk of Sir Collin Roderick, professor of English literature at the James Cook University. He was greatly impressed and wrote a review. He wanted Claude to appear with him and the book on Townsville TV but retiring Claude declined.
Trouble Brewing Was selected by Jim of Bandy Bill and Co. fame and was recorded on the album ‘Modern Day Swaggies’ his best known piece A Grave Situation has been published several times by others and this includes a high school text book ‘Appreciating Poetry’ and the ‘Penguin Book of Australian Humorous Verse’, by Bill Scott. Many pieces were written for historical publications and have been included in those books. Frank Dempsey included Campfire previously mentioned in his book ‘Old Mining Towns of North Queensland’ and Canecutters Sunset was written for a book that Dempsey was writing on the life and times of the canecutter sadly frank died before he competed the book.

The Fading Track, Where Angels Trod and Old Kulara all mentioned previously have all been included in historical publications. Gums of Riverstone for Jan Alley’s ‘Riverstone’ a history story of the Alley family of Gordonvale and Statue In The Street for Port Douglas are another two that have been included in other books.

.The time came when he felt that he could no longer venture into the bush. He wrote O’Brien’s Creek Farewell. Anyone who visited the Mt Surprise Topaz fields would remember ‘John the Pom’ who lived at John’s Folly on the banks of Elizabeth Creek. When John died Vale John Mowser was Claude’s tribute to his friend. Another tribute Bob Bloodwood Farewell he wrote for RG Pearce of the Smoko Time column in the North Queensland Register. Over the years Bob had included many of Claude’s poems in his column and given Claude’s work such good exposure.

His second edition depleted and another pile of poems and ballads in his desk drawer encouraged Claude to publish a third collection and ‘The Legend of Angel Creek and other ballads’, a revised edition embodying the old and the new came into being. His books have travelled far and wide and brought him many new friendships with the latest book a new wave has begun with special thanks to Marco Gliori and friends.

After 1993 Claude didn’t do a great deal writing but An Aid Mislaid was too good-a-true  happening to leave untold and Where Curlews Call, begged to be put down. The Eucalyptus Cutter (not in the book) written in the latter part of 1992 is a true account sent to him by a reader of his latest edition.

In between and filling the gaps is a wealth of verse to be appreciated. It is always interesting to learn which particular piece appeals to a reader, it depends on understanding and affinity the reader has with the subject.

. He reached his 84th year on the 27th December but his wit and humour is as it ever was. He suffered from Parkinson’s which is disabling to say the least but his daily life was made easier by the support and care of his loving wife and friend of 62 years, Flo who was 86 on the 8th January 1993.




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The Legend of Angel Creek by Claude Morris