7.10.3 Thomas Frank Jillett

7.10.3 Thomas Frank Jillett                       1913   - 1992            


Thomas was the third son of Edward Frank Jillett and Flora Kathleen Cameron Jillett (nee Christison)
and he was born 5th March 1913, in the original “Greendale” homestead and all his life had an
enduring love for his place of birth.

His early childhood was spent with the aboriginal tribe of the Wadjabangai from whom he acquired
his great knowledge of bushcraft.  This was to serve him well during the life he had chosen, once enabling
him to rescue, by tracking, a lost two year old who had wandered into dense scrub.
Another time he tracked a cattle duffer into town following the truck’s tyre marks.

After completing some primary education at  “Greendale”, he and his brother Jack (Tuffy) attended the Church of England Prep. School in Toowoomba, and for the rest of his formal education went to Church of England Grammar School in Brisbane.  Following this he was employed as a jackaroo at “Thylungra” eventually being promoted to sub-overseer.  Due to his father’s failing health, he returned to “Greendale” as an overseer, becoming at the age of 27, manager of both “Greendale”and “Gartmore” stations, in Queensland.   

With the outbreak of World War Two, he endeavoured to enlist, but due to his essential position in the grazing industry, he was prevented from serving in the armed forces.  With the threat of Japanese invasion, he joined the Australian Defence Corps, and was instructed in guerilla warfare and spent many nights away from home.  An air raid shelter was built and preparations were made for a scorched earth policy.

Work was doubly hard from lack of man power during this period, but being a practical man, employed Eve as a fox-baiter by having her drag a freshly killed sheep skin behind the sulky and to drop fox bait while on the way to family Sunday picnics.

After the war, in the 1950’s there was a period of intense activity and danger due to the series of bushfires, one with a front of 150 miles.  It was not uncommon for him to be away from “Greendale” for a week at ta time organising and fighting these fires earning him the title “The King of the Bush Fire Fighters”.

In 1956, between January to October, trouble in the shearing industry involved him as an organiser for the grazier’s stand against the Australian Workers Union, travelling as far away as South Australia to employ shearers to work on black listed properties.  Threats of violence to him and his family forced Tom to carry a side arm for protection.

Tom was well noted for his Animal Husbandry, Management and Horsemanship, being able to yoke and drive 19 draught horses to cart timber from “Gartmore” to “Greendale”.

A man to whom his word was his bond, he believed in being firm but fair with his men.  Many is the man today who had his start on “Greendale” and who were helped into a successful life by Tom’s example.

Tom’s knowledge of sheep enabled “Greendale” wool to attain top selling price in the 1963 Brisbane Wool Sales.  His introduction of Egelabra rams in 1941 has ensured that “Greendale” wool is still now highly respected.  Angus cattle brought to the district by Tom caused much mirth with the local wags, but he had the last laugh as any stray black cattle on the common automatically belonged to Tom.

Forever a practical man, when faced with the problem of Tetanus infected ground, he devised the first portable sheep and cattle yards, a measure soon adopted by others in the district.

During the 60’s when wool prices were high, he invested not in his comfort, but in the properties by refencing, building a new shearing shed and sinking large dams ensuring that “Greendale” has been watered even in the worst droughts.  Thomas and his family acquired Hughenden Station in 1964.  It was sold to E. Masterson, in June 1969.

The homestead which Tom said did not earn any bread and butter came last, while the run was kept in pristine condiditon.

Not content to be a leading grazier, he fully involved himself in the local community serving on the Tambo Shire Council for many years as Councillor and Deputy Chairman.  He also served on the hospital boards of both Tambo and Blackall, acted as assistant stipendiary of the Tambo District Race Club, was a member of the Queensland Turf Cluf, Tattersalls Club, Blackall Club, Charleville Club, Brisbane Club, the Tambo Masonic Lodge and was patron of Tambo Rugby League Football Club.  He even managed to find time to fish with the Moreton Bay Game Fishing Club where he caught the world record Turrum.
Thanks to Ann (Jo) Jillett for the information.

Thomas married Eve Wastle 18th April 1939, and they had 4 children.  They divorced May 1978.
He died 5th September 1992 aged 79 at Tarragindi, in Brisbane.

Thomas married Roseann Smith (nee Tomlinson) in 1979, aged 66.

Ruth Roberta Jillett   

Ian Thomas Christison Jillett                  
Heather Christine Jillett                      m Gordon Frost 
Prudence Ailsa Jillett                         m  Bart Brands

Just for a moment consider the life lead by Eve Wastle, from her own words, delivered to a conference in August 1988.

“Pioneering in the “Thirties”

Some personal anecdotes, delivered on 11th August, 1988 at “Miegunyah”, “Queensland” Women’s Historical Association” Jordan Terrace Bowen Hills Brisbane.

Dear Madam President, Miss Campbell, members, friends

I have always been very much aware, theat the “Q.W.H.A.”’s most important function, is its emphasis on “history”, therefore it was with some reluctance, that I agreed to give these personal anecdotes of some of my experiences, out west, (actually the Tambo district, Central Queensland) in the “thirties”.  I fear the only research I have been able to do, is my own memory.  I expect you have been hoping for a learned treatise.  I do hope you will not be disappointed.

Some of my friends and acquaintances here today must excuse these repetions, my apologies.  I am so happy to see some good friends, especially the ones I worked with here, for some years.  Thank you for coming.

Filled with missionary zeal, after completing my nursing training at the Royal Brisbane, and Lady Bowen Hospitals, I was appointed to the staff of the Tambo District Hospital, in charge of the operating theatre and maternity wing.   Tambo is situated 32 miles nort west of Charleville and 60 miles south west of Blackall, with a population of a fluctuating 400 to 500.  Tambo is an old town, at one stage it had 9 hotels, was a repeater station for the “Inland Telegraph”.  Readers of Mary Durack’s “Kings in Grass Castles” will recall the Duracks road from “Thylungra” Quilpie, to register their lands at the “land Court” in the 1800’s.

The hospital was staffed with a resident doctor, four trained nurses, and nurses aides.  We were kept very busy, as due to the deplorable state of the roads, which had originally been wagon and coach tracks, the town and country folk sought medical assistance at the local hospital.  Quite major surgery was performed, with good recovery rates.  You can imagine my dismay on my first morning on duty to discover the instruments were sterilesed on a primus stove, and all bowls necessary for surgery were boiled up by me in a wood copper, in the yard!  I anticipated dire results as I had been trained so thoroughly in sepsis, but I am pleased to report in my two years, no wound broke down, and no patient succumbed.

After two years at the hospital, I married a local grazier, whose family had been in the district for quite some years.   “Greendale” was purchased by the Jillett family in 1878, there has never been absentee landlords, during those 110 years and at present my eldest daughter Ruth and her husband manage the property.

I had temendous admiration for my father and mother-in-law.  They were true westerners.  He, came, at the age of 18 years, after leaving Scotch College in Melbourne, with 50 Chinamen, to put down a dam.

He camped out with the men for six months and never saw a European, existed on salt beef and damper and the vegies the Chinese grew.  Indicidentally the Chinese put down the dam, removing the soil with baskets on their shoulders.  After all these years the dam still holds well, and is a wild bird sanctuary.

My mother-in-law drove a four in hand, from Hughenden to Tambo, six months pregnant and with two small children, her only company an aboriginal boy.  She was well versed in all the crafts, she endeavoured to teach me the art of candle making, (my candles never stood upright), soap making, (my soap always turned on itself) and when immersed in in waterleft a white scum and no suds.  My jams and preserves improved over the years and I learned to cope with snakes, bush fires, mice, rats, grasshoppers, dust storms, that many of you have experienced also.

Two days after returning from our honeymoon, the cook was rushed to hospital and I was confronted with an enormous doble ovened wood stove, an enormous piece of meat and an enormous knife, and discovered I was to prepare meals for 11 hungry men!  In my own home, I had never cooked for any more than six family of average appetite.  My first attempts were disastrous, but I learnt to cope with a 6am breakfast, always porridge, and cooked meats of different ways, smoko 9am gem scones, tea cakes etc, cooked by me, lunch 12md curry grill etc, smoko 3.pm brownes, biscuits, also cooked by me, and dinner 6.00pm, soup roasts and vegies and desserts, either milk puddings and dried fruit in the summer and boiled and steamed puddings in the winter.

Laundry was also one of my chores, up at 4am, huge big wood copper out in the back yard, clothes lines sustained by wood props which invariably fell down on a windy day.  My husband, his two brothers and two jackeroos all wore moleskins, and they had to be scrubbed clean on a scrubbing board, with a scrubbing brush, a time consuming job as they were always covered with saddle grease.  I loathed mole skins!  The ironing was done by sad irons on a wood stove.

Inevitably, my nursing skills were called upon and many occasions and during World War 11 I was “manpowered” by the Army for emergency at the Tambo Hospital, consequently most of the Tambo folk always called me “Sister”.

I separated milk, made butter, tended poultry, the huge garden and the homestead, which was double storied and 66 squares.

World War 11 erupted and our men enlisted. My two brothers-in-law could not wait, until they were 18 to do so and were in the “Forgotten Eight Division”.  They were both taken prisoner at Singapore.  The younger one just disappeared after being transported to Borneo, and the other one, the “Burma Road” and hell ship to Japan to work in the salt mines.  He survived to return home and is now sadly a mental and physical wreck.  Poor Ned (Arthur).  Our only hope of news was to ring the steward at the “Blackall Club” each night at 10pm to hear the news as the radio was just constant static.  With petrol rationing our car was put up on blocks.  Our son was eight months old before I went into Tambo which was only 16 miles away, consequently the only vehicle used very sparingly was a utility.  By this time I had acquired 3 small children, so on Sunday, the sulky and horse were prepared and our only outing away from the homestead was a trip around the dams to look at the toughs and the water.

Needless to say we also combined pleasure with business as at the back of the suly, a freshly killed sheep skin was dragged and it was my duty to throuw out poison fox baits.  My husband joined the VDC and was called on for duty.

After the “Fall of Singapore” we had three evacuees, an English woman of 26 and her two small children who came to us after witnessing horrifying experiences.  I had been in correspondence with Joan, (she had been hospitable to my two brother in law) we had a full house, with my reunited in-laws returning after the bombing of Darwin and Townsville, and after the    Battle of the Coral Sea, my own sister with her young baby.  Air raid shelters were built, scorched earth policy discussed (dams and bore drains to be poisoned homestead to be burnt down and all the shed).  My husband had grown up with aboriginals and was aware of good caves in some trap rock country on the property. We were all to ride over and live in these caves, provision was made for basics, seeds, salt, tea, flour etc, in the event of a Japanese invasion.

We all felt “If Freedom is still left we are Rich”.

The wethers on the property were drenched for worms when necessary, and that necessitated the men camping out some 30 miles away.  I was never able to cut a sheep’s throat for meat so whilst the men were away, we lived high on turkey geese, ducks and chooks.  I must tell you about “Dawn” a wonderful retired sheep bitch.  One had only to sharpen the butcher knife on a steel and she would run down the killers, which were the sheep we used for meat.  We also had an old wether a “Judas” sheep called Tony, who would also bring the killers up into the sheep pen.

Of course our children all had pet lambs and they taught them to lead, mouthed them for a bit, rode them and jumped them over hurdles at the sheept shows which were held each Saturday afternoon in the tennis courts.

This interesting account provides an insight into the difficulties of living in the 1930’s at Greendale.

Children of Edward Frank Jillett - Thomas Frank Jillett
Tom and Eve Wedding
Ann Jillett

An original contributor to the Jillett Family Tree, and thanks for your help with this website.
Return to Edward and Flora Jillett