Written by himself at his residence 20 Malcomson Street North Mackay.

I was born in DURBAN Natal, South Africa, on 24th April 1890.  My Mother was Elizabeth Brough, born in Goathland Yorkshire England about 1870 and came to South Africa and was married to James Brunton Milne.  He was of Scottish decent but was born in Natal, South Africa.

His Mother was a Brunton, of the famous Brunton Flour Mill organisation.  His father was a John Milne from Scotland a migrant to Natal S.Africa. (Writers note: From information in the Archives at Petermaritzburg Natal, this is incorrect. His father was Andrew Milne but the summation is correct.)

My first recollection was that of living at 15 Noble Road, Durban in a cottage at the very back of an allotment in Noble Road.  About the year 1896 my father went to America. Menominee Michigan and then to Canada.  He had a sister who married an American and my Mother had a brother George Brough  who lived in New York.  Shortly after my father left, he was followed by my Mother and her two children, myself and sister Isabel.  First staying with her parents in a village named Goathland in Yorkshire.  I remember first going to school here and after a short stay went to America and stayed in Michigan with my father's sister Rachael.

We must have been there about a year.  I remember a very cold winter and a lot of snow and a warm summer. I must relate an experience at school there. It must have been after the 4th July holiday as the first day there, the teacher was handing out flags that the children had contributed to decorate the school for the occasion and not knowing the circumstances presumed she was just giving out flags and after observing different hands going up for a flag, decided to put up my hand and received a flag.  This bought a fight after school by the boy who really owned the flag given to me, but possession was nine points of the law and I retained the flag. 

However, after some time in America we returned to Durban with an increase in the family - a brother whose name was Alec.  He was killed by lightning about 15 years later.

I left school at the age of 16 and was apprenticed to the Engineering trade and was transferred to a Sugar Refinery under construction being erected for Huletts Sugar Refineries on the south coast a few miles south of Durban.  I stayed on as a Shift Engineer after they got going.
I was always interested in the Motor Vehicles and did some time with a leading Garage in the town prior to leaving for Australia in 1913.  I might mention that I also worked in a Sugar Mill at Reunion - The Reunion Sugar Estate about 10 miles south of Durban.

My Father was a Blacksmith and Farrier and after returning from America he was given in charge of the Stables on Musgrave Road of the Tramway Co. 

The trams in Durban at this time were all horse drawn - single deckers and about the time of the Boar War, they were transferred to the Harbour area known as "The Point". 

The trams here were double decker as the roads were very flat. 

Before the Boar War was over, about 1900, he had a job as blacksmith for the Esperance Sugar Milling Co. at a place called Umzinto about 50 miles on the south coast.  From this mill house I went to school in Umzinto riding a donkey about 5 miles from home. 

On arriving at Sydney from South Africa, I worked for Bennett & Wood assembling bicycles staying there a week getting enough money to ship to Brisbane.  In reply to an advertisement for a Motor Mechanic to open a garage in Mackay I qualified for the position after a 3-4 week trial as to my ability.  This was at Howards Ltd of Adelaide St., and arrived in Mackay in the latter end of 1913 with all the tools and machinery, and was able to install all the machinery before the building was complete. I now refer you to the attached printed account of my activities during this stage.
(Mackay Mercury - "Mackay's old cars and who owned them").

Dr. Stuart Kay you will note bought a Cadillac and he was very friendly with Mr. & Mrs. Marriott who was manager of Lamberts Ltd and during my tutelage of Dr. Kay in driving, I met the Marriott family and staying with the Marriotts was a Miss Lillian Davis from Nebo that worked in Lamberts.  On one occasion Lillian had stay with her a sister from Nebo, Annie Davis whom I was introduced to and on an occasion I would be invited to stay with the Marriotts at their beach house at Blacks Beach along with some of their other friends.  On such an occasion I became very much involved platonically with Annie and we were married on 6th October 1914 the marriage taking place in the Davis home at "Braeside" Nebo.

After being about 5 years in Mackay I with Annie and 2 daughters paid a visit to my parents in Durban in 1917 and returned in 1918 after the first war.  While in Durban I was employed at the Natal Cane By-products Distillery as a fitter and turner.  Here they produced a product known as Natilite which was 100% alcohol made up of about 70 % Metho and 30% Ether.

I had considerable experience with this mixture in Motor Cars before working there and after, and can vouch for entire satisfaction after a thorough clean out and re-adjustment of the engine. 
I was fortunate to get the position of Head Mechanic to the Durban Fire Brigade which I held up to returning to Mackay.  This was in 1918 after Armistice.

On arriving back in Australia we were held up in Brisbane because of the Spanish Influenza.  I had brought about 30 Avocado seeds kept in damp sawdust and owing to the hold up, left quite a few in Brisbane that was given to Mr. ... at Wynum.  After getting a ship to Mackay, we were sent on to Townsville in quarantine and were there for about three weeks.  During this time I managed to get from the cook a fruit case and some empty cans and when landing in Mackay came ashore with a lot of young Avocado Trees that were finally distributed all around the district and claim to have introduced Avocadoes into Queensland.

A Brother-in-law Jack Arnold, had purchased the Motor Business in Brisbane Street, that I was featured in in 1913 and went into partnership with Jack Arnold.  He eventually sold out to a Wall & Schivers and I went into business on my own account in a small shop in Sydney Street about opposite to Marsh & Websters.

During this period I took into partnership a Mr. Lew Rose. This was about 1921 and bought back into the Garage in Brisbane street, under the name of Milrose Motories.  Shortly after this I bought out Mr. Rose' share and formed a Limited Liability Co.  This was followed by moving from Brisbane St to Wood St into the old Star Theatre purchased from J.J.Davis my Father-in-law.  The premises in Brisbane Street was rented from Mrs. Hines.  What I bought was all the machinery and this was moved to the Star Theatre.

Jack Davis, my Brother-in-law came into the business and was a major shareholder in the early period of the thirties.  He bought my share and I established an Engineering Factory on property I owned at 20-26 Malcomson Street North Mackay. After patenting a Cane Planting Machine, that I named "Cutter Cane Planter" patent No. 25348-30, and manufactured these right up to 1962, I sold the plant patent rights, machinery, all jigs and patterns, together with all stocks of Planter Parts to E.&C. Etwell of Walkerston and the property to C.B. & S.E. Milne (son Colin)

During the period from 1930 to 1962 I made application for various patents, some of which are as under:-

  • A rudder for small boats to enable them to reverse without a gear box.
  • A sugar cane rake to remove trash after taking the cane off to allow the drill to be cultivated.
  • A device to allow an easy change over to suction gas on a car so driven.
  • A  device where a full control of twin engine Cruiser could be controlled from the Bridge.
  • A two speed Automatic forward and reverse gear box for cars, similar to that used today.
  • Various changes in design on the Cutter Cane Planter.
I built the first radio receiving set in Mackay in 1923 and also had a dealers broadcasting licence - 4BM

I experimented with Morse or Spark transmission in 1916 from information received from a Mr. Jack Lovell who worked for Mr. Gerrymire Michelmore. He was a wireless operator in India before coming to Australia. At that time a cokerer was used as a rectifier. The Crystal and Cats Whiskers coming in shortly after.

In 1915 I made an electric interrupter for an X-Ray set belonging to the District Hospital. Dr. Hopkins was Resident Doctor at that time. While I had the X-Ray plant I and Jack Lovell with a Morse key experimented with spark transmission. At that time I was employed by the Mackay Motor Garage Co. in Brisbane St. and lived in Nelson St. next to the Lister Hospital. From this house I took aerial photos of Mackay in 1915 with the aid of a Box Kite. (Note: He made both kite and Camera using a lens from Germany and the picture now hangs in Mackay City Council Chambers).

© 2007 Olive McLeod. All rights reserved. This  material may not be reproduced, displayed, modified or  distributed without the express prior written permission of the  copyright holder. For permission, contact

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