Beechmont Pioneers

Rankin home on Beechmont, 1904. Ernie Rankin, Mrs George Rankin (snr), WT (Bill) Rankin, Elsie Rankin, Nell Rankin, Ted Berry (Pitt Sawyer). Photo taken by Bob Marsh and used courtesy of Canungra Visitor Information Centre and Rankin family.
Rankin home on Beechmont, 1904. Ernie Rankin, Mrs George Rankin (snr), WT (Bill) Rankin, Elsie Rankin, Nell Rankin, Ted Berry (Pitt Sawyer). Photo taken by Bob Marsh and used courtesy of Canungra Visitor Information Centre and Rankin family.

Originally from Bundaberg, the Rankin family first selected land on Beechmont in the late 1800s, moving to the area early in the next century.

George Rankin (Snr), his wife Maria moved to the area with their teenage sons Ernie, Edgar, George, Bill and school age daughters Elsie and Nell in 1903.

They were hard times.  Much of Beechmont in those days was native forest, huge gum trees and scrub land and the family worked hard to make their home from local timber.

Along with their cousins, the Sharps, the family intended to grow and can fruit in the area.

They planted and grew stone fruit which bore large amounts of quality fruit, but the fruit fly was devastating and it soon became clear that this plan would not work.

Eventually, Edgar travelled to Northern New South Wales and saw similarities to the Beechmont landscape.  He realised the thriving dairy industry in that area would also flourish on Beechmont.  

The family set to work, clearing forests and scrub and planting grass seeds for future herds.  At first they planted paspalem but the grass was not suitable for the area and eventually someone brought kikuyu runners up to Beechmont, which is primarily what is grown on the mountain today.

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When the land was ready the Rankin family went to New South Wales to collect the first of their dairy herd.

They bought their dairy cattle from Alphavale stud in Lismore, droving them through Numinbah gap and up the side of Beechmont.

The extended family worked the dairy, the children helping out as well.

A carrier came from Gilston to collect the cream cans.  He would leave home on Monday morning, camp overnight and take the cream cans home on Tuesday.

On Wednesday he took the cream to Nerang Railway Station where it was loaded on a train to Tweed Heads, a boat to Murwillimbah and then by train to Byron Bay Butter Factory.

From 1905 to 1907 several families moved to Beechmont from the Richmond River region of New South Wales (including the Camerons, Slingsbys, Garlintons and Moffatts), bringing with them quality dairy cattle. 

Edgar Rankin later married Fay Finch of Canungra.  The couple worked the dairy farm ‘Lillianvale’ until it was sold to Mick Veivers.

George Rankin (Snr) was also a pioneer of the macadamia nut industry in Queensland.

He planted macadamias on his Beechmont property, shipping the nuts around the world as far as Hawaii.  

Today, Phil Rankin is the only remaining descendant of George and Maria still living on Beechmont.

Phil and his wife Lou ran the Rankin family dairy farm until deregulation affected the industry.  Today they enjoy living in the family home which was built in 1923.

As Robert Longhurst describes in Taming A Plateau:  A History of the Beechmont District, “The Mountain was effectively transformed in less than two decades into a prosperous dairy region.”

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About Keer Moriarty 98 Articles
Editor, journo, social media manager and tea lady with Canungra Times.

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