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Celebrating the life of Dawn Magarry on 10 April 2024: a dedication by Del Richards, author and long-time friend

Del Richards | Guest Contributor

Dawn was born at Kingaroy in Queensland. Her father served in the Great War in France along with the Gallipoli Campaign. He lived to come home.


During World War Two, her home town of Kingaroy proved vital to the War effort as many rural producers grew ‘Navy Beans’, the familiar product we now know as “Baked Beans”, for the US armed forces then stationed in Australia. To this day, there is still an address to be found on “Navy Bean Road”!


Arnold Magarry, who at this time was not featured in Dawn’s life, grew up in Killarney on Queensland’s Southern Downs, and built a foundry with a partner named Hall.


When war against the Japanese was imminent in 1951, Arnold, who held the rank of Sergeant in the Toowoomba Regiment, and his sibling Ron, joined up in time to fight in Malaya. However, at the Brisbane port, Arnold wasn’t allowed to board ship and was deemed as being more essential at the Foundry.


Ron went on to be highly decorated for his encounters against the Japanese on the Malay Peninsula. He was forced to surrender along with the British Forces when they capitulated to the Japanese at Singapore. Being a high ranking Officer, he was a leader in the hell-hole that was Changi Prisoner of War Camp


In the late forties, Arnold and his partner (Mr Hall) headed for Cairns to build a foundry in Cairns. That began with buying an ex-army shed from the Atherton Tablelands and transporting it to Hannam Street in the Portsmith area of Cairns. After 70-plus years, the building still stands to this day.


In early 1950 Dawn with two girlfriends, Joan and Dulcie, who were in their late teens, ventured from Kingaroy to Cairns and stayed in residence along The Esplanade.


In due course, Dawn and Arnold met and were married in Cairns on the first day of December 1951. Life was fairly basic in those early days. They had four children in seven years. Dawn related that she took those four offspring to the “corner store” each week, and on the second weekend they shared the use of the company vehicle to go further afield and purchase larger household items.


As the years passed, Dawn always was a leading light with her bird records, publishing notes in the Bird Observer’s magazine and Birds Queensland up until this last decade or so. It was in this manner that many birding people first heard her name. Dawn was an avid letter writer with news from down south and overseas.


In the late 1970s Birds Australia tabled a very thick volume with five years of records, located on the map of Australia, sent in by hundreds of observers travelling the country. There was one record of one sole Gouldian Finch observed in Queensland along the Leichardt River south of Burketown.


The same exercise was repeated in the 1980s, and the only records, largely, were submitted by Dawn around the Georgetown area. Thus began a 25-year long pilgrimage over the cooler months, only to find the records dwindled to a mere trickle over the years. The last Gouldians that Dawn observed were with her son Graham, on 15th April 2015, south of Georgetown


There was a vehicle accurately named “Daffodil” that featured faithfully in the Magarry’s lives for a couple of decades – a yellow Toyota HiAce: she went around Australia at least once.


In the 1990s, North Queensland became a mecca of birding – the Maggarys, the Squires, John Crowhurst, Andy Anderson: and Keith Fisher was available at Sunbird Photographics in Cairns as a contact. Dawn and those mentioned had the joy of witnessing an interest grow into an industry.


Dawn opened her home to this author who underwent much surgery in Cairns over many years. She had an under-rated sense of humour. When greeted at the front door in the evening, there was a doormat with the words emblazoned “Oh no, not you again”! I know that it was only a joke – just as well….


All of my many memories at 27 Heavey Crescent, Whitfield, remain of the Highest Order.


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