Saturday, August 10, 2013


Ron Erle's paternal Great Grandfather Carl Kreiner and family. 

Part 2 "OCTOPUS" 
Ron Erles paternal Grandfather Frank Grainer and his gold field enterprises.

Ron Erles father Ron Albert Grainer and the Mt Mulligan mining disaster.

Part 4 "OUTBACK" 
Ron Erle and his unlikely career start in an industral soundscape.

Part 5 "PYRAMID"
 Ron Erle gets serious about music.

Ron Erle is seen and heard everywhere.

Ron Erle makes a major career decision.
Ron Grainer's life in England and Portugal
 with a year by year review of his music compositions.


While the details of Australian composer Ron Grainer's music career in England are quite extensively described online link to Rons early life in Australia has always been something of a mystery.

There was one intriguing passing mention in a 1966 magazine interview about Ron building fences in the Australian outback for an uncle but few other clues have been given.

This chronology focuses on those previously unexamined years, looks at events in Ron’s family background and while only a basic outline obtained mainly from public domain sources such as historical newspaper articles it does reveal a number of quite surprising incidents and situations that make Ron’s later achievements appear all the more impressive.

Correction and expansion on the information collected here is welcome but if possible reference updates with as much source material detail as possible.

Because this history is more or less a pioneering effort subject to the revelations that usually appear after going public it should be regarded as only a working draft and not the final word on any of the topics covered.

When the end of "The European Years" section is reached hopefully any factual mistakes, late night typos, default text formatting problems and awkward sentences will have been corrected.

Please note that while part one of the blog concerns itself with the sometimes excessively wilful male side of the Ron Grainer family tree this is only because information on the maternal line is not currently available [to the writer of this blog anyhow]. 

The quiet achiever female side usually didn't make the papers [for better or for worse] in the dramatic manner of the three Austrian born Kreiner [later Grainer] brothers but they were obviously a harmonising and energy balancing influence that contributed greatly towards the recognition, development and maturing of Ron's music talents.


Coat of Arms Tirol, Austria

Carl Wilhelm Kreiner, the paternal great grandfather of Ronald Erle Grainer, was born in the central European country of Austria on 12th January 1819 [0a]

The birth place of Carl is given in Cairns Historical Society document 17855 as “Canington Austria [Karten]”. However a Wikipedia article indicates “Karnten” is merely the German pronunciation of “ Carinthia” the southernmost Austrian state [of nine such divisions] A Google search for ‘Canington” only brings up locations in Western Australian or Canada.

Carl married Alouisa [nee Largar] on an unknown date sometime around 1835 at an unknown location that seems most likely to have been Kematen in the the Western Austrian state of Tirol the birth place of their four children, Aloisa jr [1847], Simon [1849], Carl jr [1851] and Fritz aka Frank] [1853]. [0b]

Grainer family legends say Carl came from a gypsy racial background and his occupation was generally believed to have been that of a carpenter a trade apparently followed by Carl's eldest male child Samuel up to the last working period of his life.

The birth years given for the Grainer children may not be accurate as official documents are not reproduced on the family history web sites which are currently the only source of information. 

In his 1913 statutory declaration for Australian citizenship Samuel Grainer [previously Simon Kreiner] gave 26th October 1846 as his birth date and what appears to be "Klackenford" Austria as his birth place. This may be a mishearing or misreading of "Klagenfurt" the capital of Carinthia [aka Kematen]. 

The Kreiners appear to have a family tradition of naming at least one of their children after a still living older member. This can create confusion for researchers especially when a newspaper article does not mention the age or middle name of the Kreiner being written about.

1855: On August 28 1855 the 6 member Carl Kreiner family boarded the 258 ton "Steinwarder" at Hamburg with 101 other passengers. The boat arrived in the South Australian port of Adelaide on 19th December 1855. [1a] 

Although the Kreiner family is listed as having 6 members in the newspaper shipping notes the official records only mention Carl [41] Louise [39] Wilhelm [6] and Fritz [1].and the age given to Carl clashes with his supposed 1819 birth date.

It is possible Carl and Aloisa were attracted to this area of Australia because of the large percentage of German immigrants already settled there.

The Kreiner's first child to be born in Australia was Johann Henry Kreiner at Happy Valley on the 1st May 1957. Johann's birth was followed by Amelia at Stuart on the 22 May 1859 both birth places being suburbs of the city of Adelaide.

The circumstances for the Kreiner family at this time are not known but financial problems may have caused Carl to sell two bullocks, the property of another farmer, at a cattle yard in April 1861 

It was a foolish impulsive action as he was soon arrested. On August 17 1861, the judge, taking into account his previous record of good character, only sentenced Carl to 18 months jail with hard labor. A ruling that could have been a lot worse with terrible consequences for his young family of six children as such an offence allowed for a jailing period of 8 years. 

According to the Adelaide Police Gazette Carl Kreiner was due for release from the Dry Creek Stockade on 11th September 1862.

On the 6th July 1863 the Kreiner's seventh and last child Mary Beatrice was born at Reynella with the birth registered at Morphett Vale both Adelaide suburban addresses.

1864 - 1871 Another blind spot in the Kreiner story. The only known fact is sometime in this period most of the family moved, with mixed results, to Clermont in Queensland. The family name morphing into "Grainer" by the early 1870s. 

According to a declaration made on his 1913 citizenship application Samuel Grainer supposedly lived in "Flagstaff" during this family relocation -  it's not known if this address refers to the Victorian gold mining area of that name or Flagstaff Hill a suburb of Adelaide. However by 1870 Samuel was definitely living around Clermont with unfortunate results for all concerned as his wild colonial boy attitudes earned him a years jail for horse stealing. 

Charlie and Frank Grainer did not appear to have learnt any lessons from their fathers or their elder brothers periods of incarceration. In January 1873 they were both convicted of horse stealing in the Clermont district [crime committed November 1872 - Samuel was also arrested, in December 1872, for his involvement in the act]. 

This time the judge was not so lenient giving each brother a sentence of four years with hard labour.  As Samuel is the only Grainer mentioned in the Queensland State Archives index of prisoners sent to the severe St Helena Island Moreton Bay prison [two convictions] Frank and Charlie were probably housed in the main Brisbane jail at Petrie Terrace.  

While the sentence seems excessive from a modern perspective it should be noted it was not unusual for that period. In April 2012 an Adelaide auction house offered for bidding a Beechwood Court of General Sessions ledger rescued from a incinerator. The book revealed that on 1st August 1871 at the age of 15 future Australian folk hero Ned Kelly was sentenced to three years jail with hard labour for horse stealing and receiving. 

Carl meanwhile appears to have left his errant offspring to suffer the consequences of their wrong decisions and settled into a productive farming existence.

Carl's name first appears on the Clermont electoral roll of 1876 - submissions for which closed December 1875 - with an address of "Leasehold Douglas Creek". 

There are no surviving electoral rolls covering the years 1869 - 1874 for the Clermont district so the Grainers may have arrived earlier then available documents indicate.

An obituary for Mary Rolfe [nee Mary Beatrice Grainer - ed] [1b] states Mary born 1863 "came to Queensland in her teens" - presumably with her birth family.

1876 Carl was praised in a Rockhampton newspaper for being the first on the local market with a splendid crop of "about a ton of peaches and a good quantity of grapes", both crops grown on his property at Sandy Creek two miles out of Clermont  [2]

1877: Carl changed his Clermont electoral address - [Dec 1876 closure date - to "freehold Sandy Creek" and his electoral name to "William Carl Grainer" his son Henry having joined him with a "residence" at "Sandy Creek".

1879 Carl’s son Charlie appears to have been highly regarded by one of Northern Australia’s most prominent early explorers.

 “On August 15 Logan Jack, Government geologist, led a party compromising C Grainer and J J Macdonald, two [aboriginal] boys and ten horses. It made north and west to the site on which the township of Coen was soon to be established and then to the site of future Ebagoola and back to Cooktown on Oct 3 1879   [3] 

24 years later Ebagoola would be the location for the tragic end of Charlie Grainer's life. 

1883: Henry Grainer left Clermont.

In 1884 Charlie moved into the Clermont district with a “residence” at Copperfield. and appeared in a local newspaper [4] praising in a guarded way the benefits of a deafness cure by one Professor George Raymond. 

"I, the undersigned, desire to notify to the public of Clermont that I was under Professor George Raymond's treatment with deafness and noises in the ear of four years standing and wish to state that he has done me a considerable amount of good.

I was as "deaf as a post" (with one ear) as the saying goes before I placed myself under his treatment and now I can hear distinctly the tick of a watch with one ear and with the other ear I hope I will soon be able to hear equally  as well.  I can honestly testify to him being a skillful artist, and am very sorry that I could not remain a little longer under his treatment for I firmly believe if I had he would have restored to me my hearing completely. 

Circumstances would not permit me to remain any longer so I really could not continue any further under his operations but Mr. Raymond has given me sufficient medicine which, if judiciously used, will probably restore to me my long lost hearing altogether. I am pretty well known so no one will find any difficulty in getting further evidence of the valuable truth of this statement, I am, Sir, etc.  

CHARLES GRAINER working for Mr Rolfe, Mount Eagle Station, Clermont July 4 1884"[5]

1889: Carl moved away from Clermont leaving only Charlie living at Douglas Creek. By the 1891 electoral roll year which closed Jan 17 1891 Charlie had also left. Carl never appeared on the Clermont roll again.

1893: Carl Wilhelm Grainer died on the 13 March 1893. A Grainer family tree stated Carl died at "Mont Eagle Station West of Clermont" but it is more likely to have been "Springvale Station Mt Eagle Clermont" an address Samuel and Henry Grainer were listed at in the 1901 Queensland Post Office Directory.

1893 In the roll that closed 10th December 1892 Samuel, the first born male child of Carl and Louisa became the last of three sons to take up residence at Clermont. His location was given as “Springvale”. 

1903 It is not known what disappointments Charlie Grainer experienced in his personal life between late 1890 and early 1903 and why he didn't ask for help from family or nearby mining friends. In an occupational environment not unfamiliar with acts of violent willfulness the manner of this elderly prospectors death at the Ebagoola gold field on or around Feb 3 1903 was decidedly unusual.  

According to statements presented on the 12th February 1903 at the Ebagoola courthouse it appears Charlie left a note telling fellow prospectors camped alongside his tent not to go looking for him. Charlie then wandered one and a half miles North West into the Ebagoola scrub before building a cremation pyre out of scattered ground timber then after firing its edges he climbed into the center of the raft of flame and lit a stick of dynamite strapped to his forehead. 

The discovery of some remain fragments a couple of days later was followed by a flurry of paragraph headlines in newspapers along the East Coast of Australia as far south as Tasmania. The obviously contributed North Queensland Register write up conveyed the shock and distress of the Ebagoola township.  

"Charlie Grainer, a well known old northern miner ...  was inclined to be reserved owing to being very hard of hearing but no one had ever heard him complain. He was strictly honest and a very patient and persevering prospector but of later years he has experienced a very heavy run of bad luck. No one seems to know if Charlie was short of money but if such was the case he could always have obtained from any of the business men here anything that he wanted." [6] 

It appears the real motive for Charlie's death may not have been income related. His estate which eventually passed to his brother Frank was revealed to be of quite considerable value although it is not known if it consisted of  non cash assets such as land title deeds.

Newspaper speculation about Charlie's death was followed by an official inquest which confirmed the no suspicious circumstances verdict - apart that is for the Wicker Man flavour of it all! 

The inquest did not take into account the bad living conditions at Ebagoola at the time, the dwindling food supplies, the hostile social group interaction and the four self engineered deaths in the preceding two years as well as the regular distribution of rot gut liquor amongst miners. 

There were a number of reported cases of typhoid fever due to sanitary conditions at the site. There may also have been cases of tinnitus [ringing in the ears] an overwhelming crises if it affected someone like Charlie who was already hard of hearing.  

Thirteen days after the discovery of Charlie's remains "The Morning Herald" newspaper from Rockhampton published an historical feature entitled "Remarkable Horse Stealing Case" -  the more widely distributed "Capricornian" re-published it on Feb 28. 

This article detailed the full circumstances leading up to Charlie's previous four year jail term for horse stealing at Clermont in 1873. It is not known if he had been made aware of  the stories imminent publication before his death. 

The psychological effect of Charlie's actions on the extended Grainer family would have been profound but in the true spirit of the outback life went on. 

Eighteen years later a member of  another generation of Grainers would find himself in a front line position for offering emotional comfort to the traumatized families of a community suffering from the effects of a much larger explosion and fire.

 His son would grow up to earn a reputation for "Making Tunes We Can't Forget" and the man "Who Made Britain Whistle".  

One of those tunes would be the theme for the long running BBC Science Fiction TV series Dr Who. A reoccuring plot device for this program is that when a doctor "dies" there is a dramatic visual effect. Modern versions of this sequence from the death of the ninth doctor, Christopher Eccleston, onwards have eerie similarities to the events of Charlie Grainer's death in 1903. 

This is especially noticeable in the images used for the departure of the tenth Doctor David Tennant.

In 1910 Charlie's older brother Samuel Grainer was still living at Clermont  when his application “to occupy about twenty acres alongside his selection” was made to the Rockhampton town council on the 11th September and he may have remained in the area until at least 1913.

On Feb 1 1913 Samuel applied to become a naturalized Australian citizen giving as his previous addresses "Flagstaff 20 years" and "Clermont 40 years". This request was granted to him on 21st February 1913.

The still living members of Carl Grainer's family would have been shocked to hear that on 28th December 1916 the town, and many of the locations familiar to Carl, Samuel, Henry and Charlie such as Sirius Street and the Leo Hotel, was caught up a catastrophic flash flood fed by a cyclone. 

65 people died in the deluge which left as a bizarre relic of its force three pianos stranded individually in the branches of local gum trees. An event commemorated in 1980 by the installation of a fiber glass replica of one such piano in a suitable vegetation setting. 

*This travel blog photo's source is TravelPod page: Rubyvale to Calen; back towards the coast
Samuel Grainer died in Cairns on 1st February 1917 - it is not known if he had been in Clermont for the 1916 trial by water. Samuel's occupation was given as “carpenter" and although now a naturalised Australian citizen at the time of his death he was going by the name of "Simon Krinar” [7]

[[0a] Frank Grainer family history document
[ob] Frank Grainer family History document
1a] South Australian Register Adelaide 20.12.1855 p2
[1b] Cairns Post 19 August 1946 p5
[2] Rockhampton Bulletin 12th December 1876 p2.
[3] “Gold of the Palmer” Central Queensland Herald, Rockhampton 19.3.1936 p61
[4] Rockhampton Morning Bulletin 21st July 1884 p6
[5] This is Carl Grainer Senior
[6] Ebagoola Notes North Queensland Register 23 March 1903 p14
[7] notice of transmission of property cp 28.8.1917 p1

Part Two "OCTOPUS''

Fritz Kreiner [later Frank Grainer] aged approximately two years of age, arrived in Adelaide South Australia with his parents and three siblings on a migrant ship from Austria in December 1855. No clue to his personality appears on public record until 1864, two years after his father Carl Kreiner’s one and only term in a jail cell.

1864: In late December 1864, at the age of 11, Frank Kreiner topped his third class with the highest score for mental arithmetic. A talent for manipulating numbers his grandson, composer Ron Erle Grainer, was to share to a considerably greater degree.

The South Australian institution that awarded Frank this recognition, Mr and Mrs Leslies Alberton / Queenstown school, followed a syllabus of seven subjects. Scripture, Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, Grammar, Geography and History. The fourth category was split into normal, probably slate written arithmetic, and mental arithmetic.

1873 Frank’s early scholastic promise was undermined nine years later by his [previously described in part one] four year imprisonment for horse “appropriation”.

1878 Any wild colonial boy impulses Frank still had after his incarceration were probably knocked out of him on 9th February 1878, the day he was attacked by three Chinese coolies who objected to his insistence on right of way on a cattle droving track. After beating him with bamboo sticks one of the coolies shot Frank twice in the chest and once in the right hand. Frank thought his time had come, His “my last words’ statement to police showed a sense of drama that also could be said to have manifested much more fully and artistically in the music talents of his grandson Ron Grainer.

1880 Apparently calmed down by his near death experience at the hands of “the celestials” and one assumes his earlier term in jail Frank seems to have cut his losses and moved on. In the Queensland electoral listing that closed 1st January 1880 his electoral division address and status were given as “Cook [North Queensland], Bald Hills, 6 months residence”.

There are no surviving Queensland electoral rolls for the years 1872 - 1876 and prior to those years the records are incomplete.

1883 – 1885 In the roll that closed 8th February 1883 Franks location had changed to “Walsh River” in the district of Palmer and remained as such for the next three years.

1886 On the 15h June 1886 Frank married Jane Burshall and lived with her at the Wrotham Park cattle station which he was then managing.

There is a possibility Frank may have been managing a Wrotham Park outstation and not the entire property.

1887 Frank and Jane’s first child, Frank [jnr] was born in October 1887 at Maytown.

1889 Sometime around the year 1889 Frank and Jane Grainers family moved to Limestone a conglomerate term for the closely situated North Queensland mining towns of Groganville, Queensborough and Harbord.

1890 Frank and Jane’s second child Joseph was born on 23rd February 1890. He only lived four months and 8 days but his short life was commemorated by a tombstone in the Limestone Cemetery.

A North Queensland historical society guide to the Limestone cemetery misspells the surname of Joseph and his parents as “Grainger” as in “Percy Grainger” the Australian experimental musician.

Sometime during the year of 1890 Frank and well known North Queensland identity Paddy Grogan formed the business partnership of “Grogan and Grainer”.

Grogan and Grainer’s first QPOD listing [1891] based on information provided in 1890, was as “J Grainer [Grogan and Grainer]”.

1891 In April 1891 Grogan and Grainer purchased for 500 pound the Good Hope gold mine. Their listing in the Queensland Post Office Directory for 1891 also includes the occupations of butchering, store keeping, building contracting and construction but within these undertakings are doubtless many other activities.

While all the G and G wheeling and dealing was going on Frank’s family was adding new limbs as well. On7th July 1891, The third child Ronald Albert Grainer was born at Limestone, an event that would, a generation later, introduce an unexpected direction, music composition, into traditional Grainer clan occupations.

By the 20th October 1891 Grogan and Grainers involvement in the daily business and mining life of Limestone had grown to such an extent they were affectionately described by the Cooktown Courier newspaper as “an octopus enterprise”.

1892 replaced by just “Grogan and Grainer” which continued until the 1895/96 directory year when this apparently successful firm dissolved. Perhaps like the settlement of Limestone at the end of the 1890s decade, it had reached the end of its usefulness.

1893 saw the birth of the 4th child Linda at Limestone.

1895 Frank added the Miners Home Hotel to his list of things to organize around Limestone in 1895. After 1896 he gradually transferred this license to Jos P Murphy.

1896 Frank became a butcher during 1896 and the fifth child Darcy Albert was born at Limestone.

1897 Frank’s ongoing friendship with Paddy Grogan resulted in the opportunity, on the 5th March 1897, to join the management commission for the Hodgkinson District Hospital a prestigious position of high public trust. Frank returned to store keeping during 1897 / 1898. By 1899 the Miners Home Hotel had been fully transferred to Jos Murphy.

                                             Frank Grainer family Thornborough c1903
left to right Darcy, Linda, Frank, Frank [Jnr], Jane, Samuel, Ron Albert, Mary

Frank Grainer and family relocated to the nearby settlement of Thornborough around 1899 where their 6th child May Jane was born then their 7th child Samuel Ernest in 1901.

1903 On 28th February 1903 Frank was not doubt highly embarrassed by the publishing in the widely read "Capricornian" newspaper of historical information about his 1873 horse rustling conviction especially as he appears to have applied for a position of membership on the Woothakata Shire Council around this time no doubt encouraged by his friend Paddy Grogan a member of the board. Any potential scandal appears to have been averted as Frank attended his first council meeting on the 5th May 1903.

1904 The Grainers 8th child Eva was born at Thornborough in 1904 followed by 9th child Vera in 1906.

1907 On the 12 July 1907 the Morning Post announced a prospectus had been issued for the Union Syndicate Limited a new gold mining company with four directors one of whom was Frank Grainer. The company was to acquire 25 acres of gold mining lease on the old union line near Thornborough.

1908 In January, the same year that the Grainer's 10th child, Donald, was born at Thornborough Frank filled for the bankruptcy of his Thornborough store with liabilities of 2463 pound.

1909 on the 20 May 1909 the Cairns Morning Post newspaper advised that the Wolfram store of Frank Grainer had burnt down.

1910 The Grainer's 11th and last child Harold was born at Thornborough in 1910.

1911 After 13 years of service Feb 4th 1911 was Frank's last attendance as a member of the Hodginson Hospital Board.

1912 On March 15 1912 Frank took a 100 oz gold bar from his company owned Flying Pig Mine at Thrornborough into the Mareeba assay office. 

On the 3rd June 1912 Frank made the last appearance of his nine years as a Woothakarta District councilor. 

The death of Frank Grainer on the 20th June 1912 was announced in the Cairns Post of 22th June 1912 . 

On the 1st July 1912 at the monthly Woothakata Shire meeting the council expressed its loss of their friend and fellow councilor Frank Grainer

Paddy Grogan died on the 27th December 1918 from injuries sustained on Christmas Eve when his horse apparently shied while he was chasing bullocks on his property, South Edge. Paddy's obituary mentioned his long association with Frank Grainer.

All photos courtesy Cairns Historical Society

Part Three "'EXPLOSION"

Mount Mulligan is situated at about 16* 50S 144* 50E  in the south-east corner of Cape York Peninsula a hundred kilometres west of Cairns. Mount Mulligan stands in the broken hilly country west of the divide fifty kilometres north of Dimbulah. Forming the western watershed of the Hodgkinson River for sixteen kilometers Mt Mulligan dominates the Hodgkinson valley with its awesome red escarpment." [01] 

"The average rainfall is below one hundred centimetres and the normal temperature range about from 11*C to 33*C. In a region quite monotonous in appearance the mountain is an overwhelming landmark. Although only four hundred meters higher than the valley fronting it, the mountain’s vertical eastern face runs apparently endlessly into the distance, giving an impression of vast, dominating bulk.” The mountain is composed of mesozoic sandstone and conglomerate layers ... and is quite distinct geologically and visually from its surroundings." [01]

"The total coal reserves under Mot Mulligan can never be known but an early estimate was eighty four million tonnes". [01] 

The Grainer family were involved in the North Queensland coal mining settlement of Mount Mulligan from its earliest days and future father of a composer, Ron Albert Grainer, through his job as local post master, shared to a unique degree the trauma that devastated every family of the community in 1921.
In June 1911 the Grainer brothers [presumably Frank Junior, Ron Albert, and Samuel Junior] helped government geologist Mr Ball in his eleven day investigation of reports of substantial coal deposits at Mt Mulligan with tests continuing throughout 1912

In June 1912 Ron Albert Grainer took over running the family store at Thornborough after his father Frank’s death. 

On May 19 1913 the first sod was turned on the construction of a railway from Dimbulah to the Mt Mulligan coal mine site. In August 1913 a township site was selected about half a mile to the north of the mine entrance.

In February 1914 The Grainer brothers were amongst the earliest business people in the new settlement. The Cairns Post reported ”Messrs Grainer Bros temporary store is being erected at the coal mine" [03] 
Later photos indicate the permanent Gainer store was erected away from this first location. A wise decision in retrospect given the event of the 19th September 1921.

On April 22nd 1914 Frank's widow Jane Grainer paid 101 pound for town lot no 9 at the first Mt Mulligan land auction [04] 
The Cairns Post later reported “Though only a little over two months since the government land sale of town allotments when the place was a wilderness this township is assuming quite large proportions There are now in the course of erection and nearing completion twelve substantial buildings, Thorpy’s Hotel, Doyle’s Hotel, Grainer’s Store [etc]. ” [05]  
                                   Post Office /  Grainer’s Grocery /  Drapery /     CafĂ© /       Hotel                       

The water for the Mt Mulligan settlement came from a dam built on the table top of the mountain. Frank Grainer [junior] apparently helped in the dam’s construction. John Hay in his book about the Palmer River gold field recalled a visit to the dam. “Tom “Skeeta” Fletcher showed us the way Frank Grainer jr and Gwen Mullavey had packed the cement and tools up the summit and across the plateau by packhorse when construction was commenced”. [06]

Peter Bell described the settlements unusual situation “Mt Mulligan was a distinctive town because it was concerned entirely with coal mining which was conducted nowhere else in the North. Situated at the terminus of a railway branch line Mount Mulligan was “the absolute dead end” attracting no incidental travelers or diversity of commerce".[07]

At an undisclosed date in 1916 Storekeeper Ron Albert Grainer took over the position of Mount Mulligan Post Master from Federal Hotel manager T Dillion. [08]

                                                                                         Ron Albert Grainer 1920 front row standing 3rd from left white shirt

By mid 1920 Ron Albert Grainer and Margaret Clark [born at nearby Woodsville] appear to have been engaged. On 19th July 1920 Margaret had been given a work place farewell at which Ron A acted as her representative voice. It is interesting to read how her musical skills were acknowledged in the newspaper write up.

On Monday night a representative gathering of Mt Mulligan representatives met in Hansen's Hall to bid farewell to Miss M Clark who has severed her connection with the company [assumed to have been Chillagoe Limited the owners of the Mt Mulligan plant in 1920]. Mr. T. J. Evans, in a neat speech, presented her with a silver mounted dressing case in a purse of sovereigns. Mr. R Grainer responded on behalf of Miss Clark".

"Miss Clark will be greatly missed by one and all. Her sweet and sunny nature and, at all times, her service as a musician and, in many other ways, have been willingly and cheerfully given. Miss Clark left by Tuesday en route to Charters Towers where she will spend a short holiday before returning to her home at Kingsborough.” [09] 

   Blacksmiths shop which stood outside the mine entrance

On 19th September 1921 the mine that was the reason for the towns existence exploded. The disaster was later determined to have being caused by an ignition of the ever present coal dust.

"The danger in coal mines consists in coal dust resting on the floor and other surfaces in the mine, often inches deep, but not susceptible to ignition by a naked flame. If an explosion occurs in contact with this dust it is self  perpetuating raising the particles in a cloud which moves outwards from the explosion centre with a resultant shock wave travelling at the velocity of sound around 330 metres per second". 

"If this moving cloud of suspended particles, called the pioneering wave, is ignited by the  flame of the originating explosion it may itself explode and a coal dust explosion is underway. The explosion of the dust is self perpetuating raising before itself a wave of particles which instantly explode". 

"From a distance of about  100 meters from the origin the following explosion wave travels relatively slowly and does little violence but if conditions permit it may accelerate and overtake the pioneering wave. The result is a wall of flame hurtling through the mine at velocities which may exceed 1000 metres per second. The temperature at the explosion front may reach 900C". [10] 

"A miner caught in the path of a coal dust explosion could be affected in three possible ways; the blast wave can lift loose objects in the mine such as tools, skips, timber and loose rock or coal, and hurl them before it as projectiles; it may also transform men into projectiles, throwing them against stationary objects. The high temperature of the flame front may cause burning of the skin or the surface of the lungs. All but four or five of the men killed at Mount Mulligan had been extensively burned". [11]

For some time it was rumoured a miner had been disintegrated by the blast and his ghost seen in the reopened tunnels. It would be five months before the suffocated body of this 75th and last accounted for victim, George Turiff, was found in a monkey shaft where apparently he had taken shelter after escaping the disasters first effects. [12] 

Years later a young Ron Grainer would most likely have been told the ghost legend by other Mount Mulligan school children. This may have stimulated his early interest in magic and unusual phenomena mentioned in a 1969 newspaper interview. [13] 

The first newspaper reference to Ron's father, Ron Albert Grainer, as Post Master is contained within the write up on the immediate aftermath of the mine calamity.

“The pressure of business is so great that the telephonists are compelled to remain at their post from early in the morning to all hours of the night and the post master, Mr. R A Grainer, is now confirmed to his bed. Inspector Arnold arrived today from Cairns. The telephone has not been idle for a moment during the last three days. [14] 

The social effects of the mines crises were far reaching.

"There is no accurate record of the number of people living in Mount Mulligan in 1921 but, keeping in mind the normal day to day fluctuation common in North Qld  mining towns  careful examination of available figures suggests a population of about 350. About a third of the adults in Mount Mulligan died in the disaster. 40 were married -  21 of their wives lived in Mount Mulligan - and 35 of them were survived by dependent children: 83 in all [15] 

“A school had opened in August 1915 and by 1921, with two teachers and 74 pupils, was bulging from its tiny classroom". [16] 

This implies that virtually every child of school age at Mount Mulligan, at that time, lost a family member or knew a family that had suffered a death. 

In perhaps a public vote for the hope of better times in the future one young couples wedding plans were not cancelled because of the community crises. On 27th September 1921, eight days after the explosion, Ron Albert Grainer and Margaret Clark were married in St Johns Church of England in Cairns on 27th September 1921. 

“Mulligan has become a quiet little town since that awful Monday morning the 19th of September where so many of our fine townsmen and comrades were hurled into eternity in a few moments. Although we who are left will try and keep things going our mates will be sorely missed." 

"Mr. R A Grainer seems to be looking very pleased with himself since the happy event [his marriage] [18]  There is no one in this town could or would have received a more hearty reception than this young couple only for the sad event which cast aside all joy and pleasure. I'm sure all will join in wishing him every joy and happiness.” [19] 

The main social result of the mine disaster appears to have been an influx of new residents.

“The impression gained from all sources is of an immediate major evacuation of the town with a slow reoccupation within three or four weeks. But the temporary exodus from Mount Mulligan was followed by a steady permanent departure; in the months following the explosion a great number of the town’s residents left never to return. Not only the miners families were affected - within months the mine manager, both teachers, the station master, the butcher and the licensee of the ‘top’ hotel had left and been replaced.“ [20] 

Header map [edited] from book Peter Bell “If Anything Too Safe – The Mount Mulligan Coal Mine Disaster of 1921” James Cook University of North Queensland second edition 1994. All photos from Cairns Historical Society archives.

[01] Peter Bell "If Anything Too Safe" 2nd Edition 1996 page 3 edited text
[02] Hugh Borland “Pathways of Yesterday” series Cairns Post 5.6.1941 p9
[03] Mt Mulligan Notes 16 Feb 1914 p7
[04] Cairns Post 25 April 1914 p4
[05] Cairns Post 30 June 1914 p2
[06] John Hay "The Palmer River Legacy" Watson Ferguson and Co Moorooka 1998 p74
[07] Peter Bell "If Anything Too Safe" 2nd Edition 1996 page ?
[08] Joan Frew “Queensland Post Offices 1843 – 1980” p361 / Qld Post Office Directory 1916
[09] Cairns Post 27th July 1920 p3]
[10] Peter Bell "If Anything Too Safe" 2nd Edition 1996 page 35 edited text.
[11] Peter Bell "If Anything Too Safe" 2nd Edition 1996 page 35 edited text.
[12] Peter Bell "If Anything Too Safe" 2nd Edition 1996 page 47/48
[13] "Composer Beats"' The Australian 11.11. 1969 p6
[14] ”Fifty Six Bodies Recovered ”The Brisbane Courier 22.9.1921 p7
[15] Peter Bell "If Anything Too Safe" 2nd Edition 1996 page 87 edited text.
[16] Peter Bell "If Anything Too Safe " 2nd Edition 1996 page p23
[17] Peter Bell "Alas It Seems Cruel" p34 disputed statement about not rebuilding church until 1947 deleted
[18] Births Marriages Deaths Ancestry Com
[19] Mt Mulligan Notes Cairns Post 19.10 1921 p6

[20] Peter Bell "If Anything Too Safe" 2nd Edition 1996 page 93

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