Douglas & Mossman
While Jack & Newell are most enduringly associated with Herberton,
on the Atherton Tablelands,
the firm’s early success was also due to its business interests
in Port Douglas.
In 1880, the very same year Willie Jack opened his first store in Herberton,
he and mining partner John Newell also opened their own wharf at Port
the time, Port Douglas was just three years old in European terms, but
it was already a busy trade centre. Port’s rapid growth was due
its position as the coastal terminus for the ‘Bump Road’ –
the first viable transport corridor linking the busy mining fields of
the Tablelands with 'down south’ buyers and suppliers, via coastal
an Aboriginal trail, the Bump Road ran from Port Douglas to Rifle Creek,
near Mt Molloy. Until the opening of the first section of the Cairns to
Kuranda Railway in 1891, most Tableland goods were moved over the wharves
at Port and hauled over the Bump Track by teams of bullocks, mules or
Newell and William Jack were especially reliant on regular transportation.
As tin miners and retailers based on the Tablelands, they needed to get
their tin OUT and their retail supplies IN.
base in Port Douglas was a business necessity.
the Bump Track
resident Walter Mullavey was born in Port Douglas in 1914, and has lived
his whole life in the Douglas Shire.
says his grandfather joined the Palmer River gold rush back in the 1870s,
mining with John Newell for a time, before returning to his family trade
as a bullocky.
in the early 1880s, John Newell needed someone to get his tin down to
to listen to Walter Mullavey
--- or simply read the text below
John Newell found tin in Herberton and he had the tin but he had to
get it to Port Douglas to ship it out. Therefore he got in touch with
my grandfather to come and he started with two bullock teams working
in Herberton bringing tin to Port Douglas.
said to my grandfather, ...it is hopeless you coming one way
empty, you can take my tin down and bring goods back up and I’ll
start stores all the way along, from Port Douglas to Herberton...
and that’s what he did.
And that’s what my grandfather had, goods from Port Douglas up
to Herberton and tin back to Port Douglas. "
to listen to more of Walter Mullavey --- talking about the carting
business in the 1880s
1908 Beche-De-Mer Royal Commission
1908 the Queensland Parliament established a Royal Commission to:
into the Working of the Pearl-shell and Beche-de-mer Industries and
Report regarding the Best Means of Securing the following objects, namely:
--- (1) The Working of the Pearl-oyster Beds in such a manner as to
avoid depletion, and to make the industry regular and permanent; (2)
The Scientific cultivation of Pearl-oysters and the probabilities of
success in that direction; and (3) The possibilities of encouraging
White Divers with a view to their gradual substitution for Aliens in
that capacity; and regarding any other matters or things relevant to
the working of the Pearl-shell and Beche-de-mer Industries’’
also known as sea cucumber, trepang or sand fish, lives amidst coral reefs
in warm, shallow waters like those of tropical North Australia. In the
late 19th Century, they were much in demand in China and South East Asia,
for cooking and medicinal purposes.
On Saturday, 11 July 1908, Mr R.P. Tunnie, the Manager of Jack & Newell
in Port Douglas, gave evidence to the Pearl-shell and Beche-de-mer Royal
He told Commissioners Captain J. Mackay and Mr G.H. Bennett that the firm
supplied the fishermen going out to the reefs and also traded Beche-de-mer.
His evidence provides an intriguing insight into the early coastal business
of the firm and also of the character of Far North at that time.
Read the Royal
Rise of Mossman
Queensland Government’s decision in 1885 to choose Cairns as the
terminus for a rail link
the Tablelands and the
was really the death knell for Port Douglas
Far North’s coastal hub.
1891 the railway had reached Myola, near Kuranda, and by 1893 it had reached
Mareeba. Freight to and from the Tablelands was
soon redirected to Cairns, reducing Port Douglas’ wharf business
to local trade.
for Jack & Newell, sugar cane was finally proving commercially viable
around Mossman, 15 kilometers to the north west. In 1897, the Mossman
Sugar Mill crushed its first cane. The crop would soon take over from
dairying, rice and fruit growing as the mainstay of the district’s
& Newell moved with the times. By 1901 they had opened a general store
in Mossman, and set about supplying the needs of a growing sugar town.
CLICK to see
what Jack and Newell were advertising in 1901.
to see the interior of Jack and Newell in Mossman, c 1920.
Jack & Newell’s business strategy was
to recognize the cycles of the local economy and match
billing practices accordingly.
In the case of their Mossman store, that meant accommodating the annualized
payment system of the cane industry.
Walter Mullavey’s family were cane farming in Mossman in the 1920s,
farmers had to wait for two years to receive their final payments for
a cane crop. In the meantime, they still needed to feed their families
and service their farms, which is where Jack & Newell came in.
as they did on the Tablelands for tin miners, Jack and Newell in Mossman
allowed cane farmers to book up goods and pay for them when they received
their cane payments.
to Listen to Walter Mullavey --- or simply read the text below
you came and got whatever groceries or whatever you needed and you got
an account every month, they never expected any money until the final
pay for the sugar. "
Because you plant your cane in May, June, July, it takes twelve months
to grow then you cut it, and then you’ve got to wait another twelve
months to get your final price…your final money … and this
is where it made it hard for a lot of new farmers, especially foreigners
who came in from Italy and there was a couple from Russia and Poland
… and that’s how they operated. "
Nearly everybody could get credit there, nearly anybody. "
Than Any Bank
Jack Crimmins was doing the accounts for Jack & Newell’s in
this time Jack & Newell’s business was even more entrenched
in the cane industry. Their billing practices still reflected the payment
cycles of the cane industry but the firm also
had made arrangements with the local Cane Growers Co-operative.
Jack Crimmins says for the most part, Jack & Newell would work with
farmers having difficulty clearing their debts, and were content to wait
out bad years.
But if a farmer was proving reluctant to pay their bill, Jack & Newell
could arrange for payment directly from the farmer’s cane payments,
before it went into the farmer’s bank account.
If a farmer walked off their farm, as many did in the history of the industry,
Jack & Newell would take over the farm in lieu of the debt.
to Listen to Jack Crimmins --- or simply read the text below
were better than any bank, they stood them from one crushing to the
next. Once the cane pay finished, well there was no more payment for
the cane farms for six months. Jack and Newell would book them up for
12 months and wait for the next crushing to start. There were a couple
that didn’t like to pay and they would take what they’d
called a 'lien' out on their cane payments, if the cane farmer signed
the paper, just like the cane cutters, and the mill would then take
so much out of their mill pay and pay their bill. But that was only
a couple, two or three of them.
But Jack and Newell ended up by owning a couple of cane farms because
they went broke and couldn’t pay their accounts. I know they owned
two cane farms when I started there.
if I am someone who hasn’t paid my bills and Jack and Newell takes
over my farm, do I get kicked off the cane farm?, does it get sold?
"I don’t know
originally how it happened how they ended up with the two cane farms,
whether they got kicked off .. I think they just walked off and left
the two farms and then Jack
and Newell would put on somebody to lease it .. lease it out to them.
But it didn’t happen too often because they had patience. They
just waited and waited for cane farmers to come good and pay their accounts
and they were better than any bank, I know that for sure … they
never charged any interest, the account would go on for six months and
there was never any interest charged."
And do you feel that without Jack and Newell more people would have
left the cane industry in this part of the world?
on the cane cutters
North Queensland, sugar cane was harvested by hand, right through until
the late 1950s.
Cutters would arrive in the Mossman district in time for the harvest in
May, June or July, stay on the farms and work, then depart
when the cut was complete, usualy by November or December.
& Newell wanted to service the cutters, but it had a problem. The
cutters did not come into town during business hours, as they were working
a six day a week job; and more importantly, the firm was reluctant to
extend credit to itinerant workers, who could leave town without suffering
the consequences of an unpaid bill – unlike the locals.
firm developed a payment system to accommodate the needs of the cutters
and the needs of their business, known as an order or a 'lien', as Jack
Cummins and former Jack & Newell bookkeeper Joyce Anderson (nee Evans)
to listen to Jack and Joyce’s comments ---
or simply read the text below
Before the crushing started every year, the cane cutters would sign
an order that gave the cane growers (association) permission to take
their groceries out of their pay. They’d sign this order at the
beginning of each crushing, and each week the accounts go up to the
cane growers, the cane growers would take their account out of their
pay and pay Jack & Newell. "
I was cane cutter and I didn’t want to sign that order, could
I come to Jack & Newell?
would say so yes
Jack: Anybody will take cash!
was there any suggestion that if you didn’t sign the order, no
No .. but there’d be no groceries because they were all coming
and going in those days, you couldn’t trust them coming and going
because they’d be here one week and gone the next week see, so
you didn’t give them accounts. So they had to sign their order
so Jack & Newell could get paid "
it gave security to Jack and Newell, because the cane cutters were so
In 1981, Jack & Newell’s in Mossman was sold to the Cane Growers
Co-operative. These days
operates as Mossman Home Hardware,
and the interior of the premises still retains
built by Jack & Newell.
Before the days of cash registers, Jack & Newell’s cashier worked
up in the upstairs office, and staff at the retail counters would send
cash and dockets up for processing via an old flying fox system.
According to Kevin Marsh, they used to put the cash in a cup and fire
it like a shanghai (sling shot) to the office upstairs. At Mossman, the
cashier had three separate lines coming in, one each from the drapery,
hardware and grocery sections of the store.
the sight of small cups of cash whizzing overhead, on three separate lines!
Retail would certainly have been a very different experience. Joyce Anderson
says you had to be very organised.
& Newell used this system at their Mareeba, Chillagoe and Herberton
stores as well, but the practice was phased out during the 1950s, when
small adding machines were developed.
none of the old Jack & Newell cash carriers still exist; however if
you pass Charters Towers, drop into their local museum, where you can
see an operational Lampson Aerial Cash System.
information about Port Douglas and Mossman