Through some stories we may learn a little more about the history of our area.
Ian William Neilen
1939 - 1999
By Desley Malone
Ian William Neilen was born in Brisbane on 27th July July 1939. His middle christian name was William after his maternal grandfather, William Kirk who had died 5 years before his arrival. His parents, Nellie, Henry & older brother Bruce (2 years 2 months) were living at Maleny on the dairy farm at Balmoral. They had no electricity, the cows had to be hand-milked and the cream was taken by packhorse to the rail at Eudlo and grain was carted back. The little boys had dogs, farm animals, their childhoods were carefree and happy. The world was in turmoil with WW11, but the farm was isolated, news was censored and scarce.
Ian was very different to his older brother. He had dark hair like Henry, whereas Bruce was fair. Bruce had a dominating nature, Ian was more easy going and happy to follow his older brother. Nellie & Henry had trouble understanding Ian, he could communicate with Bruce, but no one else could understand him. Henry told us how when Bruce & Ian were youngsters, there would be an occasional low flying war plane overhead. One day, they got Henry’s 3O3, dragged it outside, loaded it, one lifted it up and the other pulled the trigger at a low flying plane. Fortunately they missed!!
When Ian was about 2 or 3, (not long after my arrival) Nellie & Henry employed a share farmer on the farm and we shifted to The Knob, now known as Eagles Nest between Maleny & Landsborough. Henry bought a truck, then another and he started carting locally.
When Ian was 6, he would have started school, he had me his sister and triplet brothers. Nellie always remembered how helpful Ian was with his younger siblings. He used to change the triplet’s nappies, give them bottles and helped feed them. I’m not sure, but he could have started school at the Bald Knob School as I know that Bruce attended this school for a short time before the family shifted to Landsborough/Balmoral Rds by 1947. Most of his primary schooling to scholarship was at the Maleny State School in Cedar Street. He went to school on the bus, which was also the cream truck. I really can’t recall too many of Ian’s misdemeanors at school, today some of his school class mates are locals and recall him fondly. I know he joined the Maleny Cubs and Boy Scouts when he became of age as Bruce had done. Ian’s childhood was in the shadow of Bruce. They were always catching snakes and swimming in the Obi, the latter was forbidden. We used to have the best Guy Fawkes nights. Bruce & Ian piled rubbish all year and every November it was lit. We had crackers and sky rockets galore, all the neighbours came from miles around, it was a huge event. We could never understand that the occasion was banned and later realised it was because at that time of year, half of the countryside used to be burnt out. We built cubby houses and carted half the house into them, it was a competition to have the best cubby!
The family always had house cows, this number increased and the cream was sent to the factory.
There were pigs and calves to feed, dogs, Bruce & Ian trapped and sold parrots and there were always guinea pigs running hither & thither from the dogs. Henry and Allan O’Connor always took a kid with them on the trucks to wherever, there was always plenty happening. When Bruce went away to boarding school, Ian took over the milking, helping in the vegetable garden and looking after the animals.
Adam Gould used to do odd jobs for Henry around the house & paddocks and I remember he had a violin.
He bought it to show us kids one time and offered to teach Ian to play it. Ian had several lessons, I remember him practising “Suwannee River”, it was so woeful. Ian never did make any progress with his violin lessons. I remember Henry got Adam to dig the hole for the septic tank and we had ducks at the time. The triplets threw the ducks on top of Adam at the bottom of the hole. George Svenson was another workman Henry employed. He cemented under the house which stopped the boys from building dams and roads during the wet season, he also built the new house over at the farm.
At the end of Ian’s primary education, Nellie & Henry decided that he would benefit more from an institution that offered a farming background, so they decided to send him to the Gatton Agricultural College. I remember taking him there for the first time with Bruce’s stern warning that he’d die slowly from starvation within the first month. He had suitcases of new clothes and uniforms, school books and enough food to feed the college for a month. It was a pleasant surprise to realise, with the passing of time, that the food at Gatton was in plentiful supply and Ian never did suffer from hunger as Bruce had done at BBC. Ian wrote home every week, his letter was censored as they all were in those days and I remember the excitement when his weekly letter arrived.
The local farmers used to offer the boys work which they eagerly accepted, as it was a means of earning pocket money to sneak off into Gatton to go to the pictures (movies). They got caught but instead of punishing them with whacks across the backside, they were given huge physical tasks to complete, like digging out big tree stumps or digging holes and having to fill them in again. They were grounded for weeks. Ian never forgot this punishment and was reminded of it for many years after every time he drove past the College.
I remember coming home from school one afternoon when Ian was in his second year and Nellie & Henry weren’t home. They had to leave for Brisbane as the College had phoned to say that Ian had been rushed by ambulance to the Brisbane Hospital. They feared polio, but he was diagnosed as having meningitis. (Inflammation of the membrane lining of the brain and spinal chord caused by infection). He was critically ill and hospitalised for weeks. Nellie always said that it took Ian years to recover from this.
After completing his Junior education, Ian returned home to the family business. Bruce was an apprenticed plumber and Ian found himself busy helping with Henry’s truck business which was thriving. As soon as Ian got his licence at 17, he used to pick up pigs & calves, deliver feed to the farmers, deliver water, pick up molasses and fuel - the trucks were never idle. Henry bought more grain and it was hammer-milled in the shed at home which was enlarged. Bruce & Ian both did this, I remember Keith Humber operating the hammer mill too. It was noisy and they used to get covered in flour. The milled grain was mixed, put into hessian corn bags and the bags had to be hand stitched. Rats & mice were a problem and if ever anyone came across a carpet snake, they’d bring it home. One could count the rats in the snakes as they lay along the rafters, high in the shed. Henry always had guns and Bruce & Ian used to shoot the rats with 22 caliber rifles with rat shot. They set up targets on 44 gallon drums in the paddock and we all became quite skilled marksmen.
When Ian came home from Gatton, he’d learnt how to kill & dress a sheep. Pauline can remember Ian skinning and preparing the meat for the deep freeze. I wonder if this was the same sheep that had jumped through his bedroom window?
I remember one time when Nell & Henry were both away (this didn’t happen too often), Ian was target shooting and a kookaburra landed on a fence post some distance away. He took a shot at it, never expecting to hit it. The kookaburra fell straight to the ground. We kids were shocked, horrified. Ian knew how angry Henry would be when he found out. So we agreed not to tell him. Many years later he was told.
There often used to be bushfires in the Conondale Ranges, Maleny used to be smothered in smoke. The trucks used to be in Conondale a couple of times a week picking up pigs, calves & cattle. John Oxenham has told me on several occasions about how Ian arrived to pick up calves from their farm many years ago. Ian couldn't get the truck gate open, he picked the calves up one by one and heaved them over the top of the truck sides into the truck. He was amazed by Ian's strength. One time during a bushfire, Ian found a big carpet snake that had been run over on the road. He threw it into the back of the truck. When he got home, the snake tried to strike him as he got out of the truck door.
He eventually caught it and tossed it into the shed.
Our neighbours the Middlestadt’s (they had 4 boys) sold the farm next door and Jack & Ivy Dudley & family moved in. The family had lived in Maleny previously on a farm on Mountain View Rd and Ros was in my High School class. Ian met Rosalind and they married very young in 1958. Ian was only 18 and the first of their six children, Henry Allan (Allan) was born later in the same year. Diane Jennifer was born in 1961, Julieanne Elizabeth in 1962, Suzanne Jeanette in 1963, Brian Dudley 8 years later in 1971 and Joanne Linda (Linda) in 1977. Ian, Ros & Bruce bought two adjoining farming properties on Landsborough Maleny Rd where Ian, Ros & family lived for many years before moving into a bigger home on Macadamia Drive in Maleny. The properties had 2 houses, Bruce & Marcia lived at 1051 and Ian & Ros at 1063. The house they lived in in Maleny has now been demolished and rebuilt. Ian continued to drive for Henry and eventually bought his own truck, a 1418 Mercedis and started driving interstate as Bruce was doing.
Ian & Ros continued to live in Maleny until 1973 when the family reluctantly decided to shift to Redcliffe to be closer to the transport depots. For many, many years, 3 brothers (Bruce, Dick and Ian) worked together - driving the continent. Picking up a load in Sydney and ending up in Darwin, Port Headland, Gidgealpa, Adelaide, Mt Isa - to wherever the load was for. Getting a load back to Brisbane wasn’t always easy.
Julie remembers how, as each kid got old enough, Ian would take them with him on trips and over the years they all travelled extensively with him. She remembers how much they used to look forward to going with him, although now she realises what a hard life trucking was. Ian worked very long hours to provide for his large family and it seemed that with each passing year, he found the goal posts had been placed further apart.
When Julie was about 9, Ian got a load for Adelaide and it was her turn to go with him.
She was so excited as she’d never been to South Australia. She was amazed at how straight the dirt roads were with an occasional bend. She was awe struck by the flat and sandy landscape, with little vegetation. Ian made the trips so interesting and educational for his kids, he told them what the farmers were planting, how they harvested and what the miners were mining. Another time she went to Wollongong to drop off scrap metal. They returned to Sydney to pick up a load for Brisbane and returned via the New England Highway where Julie saw Thunderbolt’s Rock and Ian told her in great detail all about the bush ranger Fred Ward. They called in to the Uralla Cemetery to see his grave.
Ian would arrive home from a trip, wash his truck and check for mechanical problems. Have a sleep and he’d leave for the next trip. He rarely took time off from work. When his kids were teenagers, he purchased a small boat to go fishing. If a load was held up, he’d go fishing.
He knew where and when to catch the crabs and biggest fish, he loved fishing. He enjoyed playing a game of cricket or ball with his kids and in his later life he always found time to play with his grandkids. He was always a kid at heart and had an easy going nature.
He bought home animals he’d found along the way, Julie remembers a hare, two emu chicks and an echidna. She was told that Ian chased the adult emu while Dick caught the chicks.
Wish I’d been there to witness that!
Ian had a couple of accidents over the years. One was at Jackass Creek, at Kybong when he hit a hole in the road which tore the axle off the springs. His load of steel pipes tipped over into the creek. Another time he was fully loaded with timber for Port Hedland, WA. He came home before he left and left from Maleny on the Booroobin Rd. Negotiating a sharp corner on the narrow dirt road just a few kms from Maleny, the trailer tipped on its side. He lost the load, his trailer wasn't too damaged and after a couple of days he set off again with a different load. One other time he was on the Newell Highway near Moree when a woman in a car did a U turn in front of him. He was fully loaded. He couldn't stop, he ran off the road and it was some weeks before his truck was repaired.
When Ros went to hospital to have Brian, Julie remembers that Aunty Pauline stayed to look after Allan, Diane, Suzie and her. Ian took time off work and was home. Pauline went into the toilet and discovered a large snake in there. She can still recall Pauline’s piercing scream of terror. Pauline insisted that Ian kill the snake as she knew it’d return if he scared it away.
Ian had a brief spell in the late seventies when he decided to try a different line of work while still in contact with the truckies - a Golden Fleece Service Station at Burpengary. Sadly, Ian & Ros’s marriage ended bitterly at this stage after 22 years. He missed being a truckie, he missed his truckie mates and he found it difficult to settle down. He realised the mundane 6 - 6 job after being a truckie for so long was unsatisfactory, so he bought another truck and took off again........
The next 4 years were very lonely in Ian’s life. He continued to drive, lived in his truck and cut contact with most of his family. This was a very low time in his life. I used to cut his hair, he continued to visit us in Maleny and I always had a rainbow cake whenever he arrived. He hated having to tarp his loads, eventually his trailers were pantec which no longer needed to be tarped.
Eventually, in the late 1980’s, he bought a block of land in Old Peachester Rd, Beerwah and built a 2 storied home that was his pride and joy. His youngest brother Graeme and his family built their home on the block next door and the two families spent many happy years living beside each other. He met Deidre Smith, slowly he found meaning and a future and they spent many years together. He took Dee with him on trips all over Australia.
Gradually he pulled his family back together. He delighted in being a Grandfather and nothing thrilled him more than to see his pool full of grandkids. He had a dog, Yogi, a huge dog he adored and he referred to him as his “little boy”. Ian bought a new red Mitsubishi Lancer which he enjoyed as a runabout for when he got home. Rarely did he want to go anywhere far when he got home, he just wanted to stay put. Allan, Lenore & Family stayed with him for a while after Allan left the Air Force, Brian moved in for a while too after they left.
Ian’s love of fishing never waned, but he knew he couldn’t fish and have a “blow” at home as he referred to time off, so he bought another truck. A Kenworth with a Detroit GM motor which he drove for many years. This truck was eventually traded in on another Kenworth with a Cummins motor. This was his last truck.
Unfortunately this last truck
was one too many.
Ian died of a massive heart attack, loaded from Melbourne for Brisbane, while he and a mate were changing his truck tyre north of West Wyalong, NSW (west of Sydney), on the morning of 7th December 1999.
His funeral was held at the Uniting Church in Maleny on 15th December. Many of his trucking mates in their huge rigs provided a convoy to escort him to his final resting place at the local Witta cemetery, near his parents and brothers, Bruce and Dick.
Toby, as he was nicknamed, was very popular and respected among his trucking mates, a true professional, clocking millions and millions of kms during his 43 years of truck driving. Sadly, his life was cut short at aged 60, before he had the opportunity to retire and spend time with Dee, as they’d planned the next grape season (from Robinvale, Vic) to be his last..............
Today, Ian has 12 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren. Sammy Sue, Chloe, Akira & Ella-Beth.
I know how proud he’d be of his family if he was alive today.
By Desley with reminiscences from Allan & Julie, April 2009 Maleny.
the naked city there are a thousand stories in the
us your story.....