LOCAL LEGENDS: The Ryall family sawmill.
LOCAL LEGENDS: The Ryall family sawmill. Janette Jenyns

Tapestry of Ryall family a rich one

BILL Ryall's story is as much about his parents and grandparents as it is about himself.

For no-one's story is theirs alone, our lives are woven together with those of our family to form a tapestry created from shared laughter, toil, celebrations and tears.

Such is the story of Bill, who was born in June, 1928.

In 1930 an advertisement in a Sydney paper drew the attention of Bill's father Alfred; 2309 acres of light forestry country was for sale at Columboola on Queensland's Western Downs. On viewing the property, Alfred and grandfather William decided that it would be ideal to run sheep.

The whole family moved to the new property, 'Kentucky' and for Bill and his younger brother Peter it was the start of a great adventure.

Eking out an existence on the land in those early days was hard and not everyone succeeded.

Bill's father was determined to thrive and continued to buy up neighbouring properties until the family holding exceeded 13,000 acres and ran up to 3000 sheep.

Bill grew into a man with his mother's thirst for knowledge, his father's love of the land, and his grandfather's creative flair.

He had always enjoyed manufacturing tools and equipment, much like his grandfather before him.

In his youth he built many labour saving devices for use on the family farms.

One year he presented his father with a special Christmas gift - a portable post holing machine built from surplus parts from around the farm and painted bright yellow.

He set up a centrifugal pump to save the back breaking job of bailing out the plunge dip.

Used at shearing time to treat lice on sheep, the residual arsenic-based dip had to be emptied by hand before Bill's contraption was invented.

Later, as a husband and father of three, Bill built the device that would lead him away from sheep and cattle and towards what would be his life's passion.

Using the 18 horsepower motor from grandfather George's 1923 Buick, Bill set up a small sawmill.

It was a simple machine utilising two circular saws, the breaking saw was three foot in diameter and the other, known as the running out saw, was two foot six inches.

They were set on a 1.5 inch shaft threaded at both ends.

The little home made sawmill proved to be very productive.

With the help of George Hart, Bill produced sawn timber for a new three stand shearing shed and a set of sheep yards, designed by Alfred to hold 400 sheep.

Next he built a new home for his family. Constructed from cyprus pine and ironbark, this new house was built on the site of the old homestead.

Some of the biggest weatherboards, measuring 7 by 5/8 inch really pushed the little mill to its limits.

By 1957 Bill had designed a bigger sawmill and was selling his timber locally.

The bulk wheat shed in Miles, guide posts and surveying pegs for the shire council and new housing in the local district all utilised Bill's timber.

His business grew and by the 1970s Chinchilla cyprus pine from Bill's sawmill was being used for a new housing estate in Toowoomba.

House lots of timber travelled to the north coast for building, and Bill began to stockpile studs and battens on land he had bought in an industrial estate in Caloundra.

Soon Bill's cyprus pine was being used to build new, architecturally designed homes at Noosa.

Unlike plantation pine, this western timber was resistant to white ants, as one builder told Bill, "There's no need to clean up a building site after plantation pine. White ants will do it for you.”

In the Ryall family tradition, Bill was providing a good living for his family.

He still worked long days on the farm, then drove his truck loaded with timber on weekends. Up and down the coast, Bill's timber was carted - to Gympie and Tewantin, south to Nerang and Macleay Island and as far west as Charleville.

His wife Nita, waiting late in the night for Bill's return, would hear the distinctive sound of the truck turning off the highway a good 10 miles from home.

It was a Commer Knocker with a two-stroke diesel engine and according to Nita, sounded like nothing else on earth.

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