Through some stories we may learn a little more about the history of our area. 

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Isabella Wright nee Bryce
Born 8/11/1914 - Died 15/312000

Story by
Desley Malone

(Maleny Historical & Preservation Society)

Isabella Bryce was born on the eighth of November 1914 to Benjamin Bryce and Priscilla Bryce (nee Bridgel).  She was the first of three children, delivered by a mid-wife in the old homestead (now 'Phyllis's Erowal Cottage'.)
Isabella found love late in life and married the late Morden Wright at the Uniting Church in Maleny on 1st August 1982.

Isabella grew up on her parent's dairy farm.  She was devoted to her parents from very early on.  She said, "Well Dad was blind and I used to help.  When I was only 4 we had to take the cream to the butter factory on a packhorse.  Dad couldn't see, so I was on front, on the horses neck and I made sure to pull the reins to guide the horse to the factory."  Isabella's father was blind from aged 21, but he continued to work the farm and show cattle with the aid of his children.

At the age of nine she rode her horse in the first Maleny Show, and got "Best Girl Rider" and a whole boxful of ribbons.  She has also competed at the Show in the Pavilion many a time, with needlework, jams and also her own vegetables.

She learnt to play the piano when she was eight and has played at many a church function as well as for her family.

Isabella went to Maleny State School, until she was fourteen, when she took up farming to help her father.

Isabella has tirelessly devoted herself to many of the community organisations and has held office in all areas - from President - to Secretary and Treasurer.  Some of the organisations that Isabelle has been involved in include the Maleny Senior Citizens Club, the Country Women's Association (CWA).  She was also involved in the CWA Younger Set.   This organization started in 1936 but disbanded during World War II.  Other organizations included, The RSL Women's Auxiliary, and for over 50 years she was involved in the Branch Section of the Red Cross.  Isabella held office as Treasurer of Maleny Scouts and was also Beavermaster District Association Badge Secretary.

She assisted the Scout and Guiding movement for over 16 years whilst also working as the Convenor of the Maleny Calf & Cattle Sales.   Here she served many a sandwich and cake with tea and coffee to the truck drivers, cattlemen and buyers.  She was also a member of the Maleny Horticultural Society, the Uniting Church Ladies Fellowship and the Presbyterian Ladies Guild.

In 1999 Isabella was made an Honorary Member of the Maleny Preservation & Restoration Society in recognition for all that she has done to preserve Maleny's history.

As a Member of the Maleny branch of the Queensland Sub-Normal Children's Welfare Association she started a Riding For Disabled School.  She started in the early 1970's and in 1974 the Rotary Club of Maleny banded together and built the ring for the safety of the participants.   Pony Riding for the disabled it continued until the late 1980's.

The Bryce sisters (Isabella & Phyllis) won the Radio 4NA community services award in 1977.  She was also named "Citizen of the Year" at Caboolture in September 1999.  Phyllis and Isabelle both gained an M.B.E. and an O.B.E. around 1984.

For many years she always helped with the Christmas Celebrations in Maleny as well as C.W.A. tea and pie stalls.

Isabella donated the old milking machine and other dairy items including some old cream cans from her family's farm to the Landsborough Museum.   These items were thought to have been from around the 1916 era.

(Photo Left:  Isabella Bryce pictured with former Premier of Queensland, Sir Joh Bejelke-Petersen.)

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After running a successful dairy farm for many years she then switched to beef cattle.  Isabella thought nothing of adversity.   She stated, "We had a big cyclone here one Christmas Eve.   A lot of farmers wouldn't go out to milk but I went out and milked the cows.  They were a bit toey because of the wind, but we got the milk and separated the cream."

When Isabella purchased a farm over at Montville in 1958 she wrote to the council asking for a gazetted road on the property to be opened, so the cattle could be brought up and down the big hill on the property.   The council's response was, "No we're not spending any money on it, if you want a road to bring up the cattle you have to brush the track yourself.   Undaunted, Isabella sighted the road from the bottom to the top and the track was brushed.  Now that road is the access road down to Baroon Pocket Dam.

Isabella and Phyllis nursed their father and mother for many years.   They continued the dairy farm, after their father's death in 1944 they moved to beef cattle only.  The farm house at the time was situated where the Erowal Retirement Village is now.  Isabella lived in this house until 1976, when they decided to build a brick house adjoining the homestead.

Isabella recalls the day it was moved to its present site in Bryce Lane.

"It was really sad that they had to move it out of here but there was no other place down in the paddock anywhere, so the Historical Society said "we'll move the old house".  It went over quite successfully. Everybody was laughing at Harvey Bryce and saying, "It'll all be in pieces all along the road."  Harvey said "I'll handle it."  Anyhow he got it over the road.  He did a wonderful job."

In 1978 Isabella and Phyllis decided to do something which was much needed by the community.  When asked at the time Isabella said,  "We donated the land because we wanted to help the elderly".  She continued to explain,  "We were offered a lot of money by various people but thought it would be selfish to take it.  We wanted to give the land to the Maleny Community.

When the house was removed from Erowal to Bryce Lane it took a team of hard workers only half an hour to move the house over the road.  The only alterations required to be done to comply with the building code and cyclone proofing was that two collars or ties in the roof.

The roof when constructed in 1904 was one of the earliest forms of trusses and the framework in mortice and tenon.  The building has withstood many a strong gale without structural damage.   When the house was built it was built in two stages, the first stage had Red Cedar window frames and a hand planed VJ wallboard.   The second stage was more modern and had silky oak window and door frames and Machine planed tongue and groove boards.

Photo right Isabell with Tom Malone & Lloyd Larney.

The Maleny History Preservation & Restoration Society took up the challenge of restoring the Homestead.  It is planned to be open to the public as a representation of how people lived at the turn of the century.  The plans show the tour room cottage which will be furnished with many of the original items, which Isabella donated to the society to be displayed in the house.

They originally donated 16 of their 28 hectare property to the Maleny District Committee of the ageing about 1978.  The Committee was unable to finance the project so the sisters donated the land to the Uniting Church through the Committee.  The Centre for Retirement Living took up the project to build a retirement village in the memory of their parents.  The two Bryce sisters continued to live on 10 acres next to the village.  Isabella was still milking six cows a day to feed their two calves.  Isabella had a dog called Lassie which was given to her by Harvey Bryce as a companion after Phyllis passed away in 1987.

Isabella finally moved Wattle Lodge, Erowal on February 15, 2000.

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