Life Story Of L. J.




Chapter One

I am Leslie James Brisbane who was born in Tambo on the 6th February 1924. I was the first son of Thomas Edward Brisbane - born in Laidley 1893, son of Kitty Brisbane - and Amy Brisbane, who was Amy Ivy Agnes Catherine Teys - born in Cheshire 1901, second daughter of Sarah and Alexander Teys. Alexander Teys was a well known Cobb & Co coach driver of the 1900’s. I started school at Tambo in January 1928 and lived there until I was 7 years old. During that time my Father worked on Lansdown Station. The workers on the station called me ‘Mick’ and my brother Lindsay, who was 3 years younger, was called ‘Pat’. Those nick names stuck with us for the rest of our lives. Then Dad moved to Sandgate in 1931. Arriving in Sandgate, we joined our cousins on my mother’s sister’s side. I became friends with my cousin, Doug Forbes, who was about 18 months older. I started school at Shorncliffe State School. After a bit of trouble from me playing the wag because I didn’t like my teacher, I started at Sandgate School in 1936, where I went till I left in 7th grade. When I was 12 years old I went to work as bail up boy on Spencley’s warm milk dairy at Bald Hills. My job was to get the cows and prepare feed for the boxes - generally get the cows ready for milking time. After milking, I washed and cleaned up. I worked there until I was about 14 years. Then I went to work for Mr Hawkins at Gympie Road, Bald Hills, who later sold to a Mr Guy of Blockside and Ferguson. I remained there until I was about 16 years old. After leaving there, I worked at Brown and Broads ply mill at Newstead. My father -3-

joined the army in 1939. As he was too old for active service, they put him in the Garrison on Moreton Island. Before joining the army, he was a ganger on relief work. His gang consisted of married men and single men. Married men without children received 2 days work, married men with children, 4 days and single men, 1 day’s work. These workers built most of the roads around Nundah and Sandgate and the retaining walls around the seafront of Sandgate. Before the Hornibrook Highway and Eventide were built, there was fabulous fishing around that waterfront area.


Chapter Two

Anyway, I was sitting on the verandah one day thinking whether to go for a swim or not when Doug Forbes arrived to see if I had any comics I could lend him. We sat talking for awhile and then Doug said: “Mick, Let’s join up!” I said, “I am not 17 until February.” He said it was not hard to put up your age so I said, “I will see.”. I said I had better ask Mum. He said: “Don’t do that, she will knock you back”. So we went up to see my other cousin, Roy Willshire, who was older than us both. He said OK so we went up to Military Recruitment at Spring Hill, filled in forms and went for a medical all on the same day. The year was 1941. It was lucky the doctor who gave me my medical was Dr Shellshear from Sandgate—my Father’s repatriation doctor. He said to me, “Are you sure you are 18?” I said I was born in 1922. We then went to the South Brisbane Town Hall (HQ Fortress Eng). We were issued our uniforms, rifles and gear, then told we had 24 hours leave to let our families know. Then we were to report to Fort Lytton for training. I thought, “Here goes, I have to tell my mother now.” After about a week’s training, we had some good news - I didn’t think we were going to have our needles and vaccination for small pox. The needles and vaccine didn’t affect me because I had been working with cows and I was partially immune. Doug and Roy were very sick and could hardly move their arm for a couple of weeks. We did another two weeks training and were told we would be given weekend leave. We all lined up in front of our tents for inspection as our Sgt Major inspected our mattress folding and -5-

blankets which had to show three neat folds to the front. Anyway, someone’s was wrong, so our tent’s leave was cancelled. We finally got leave for a weekend two weeks later. When we came back we were told we would be leaving for Thursday Island. There was about twenty men altogether. We sailed on the tourist boat, “Marrella”. It was a terrific trip, stopping at Townsville, Cairns and Portland Rds. There we changed boats as the “Marrella” was too big for the Torres Strait. I think the boat was called the “Alagna”. On arrival, we joined the existing garrison. Me and Doug remained on Thursday Island. Roy Wilshire was sent over to Goode Island as he was now a Lance Corporal. This was in about August, 1941.


Chapter Three

On Thursday Island, we worked on building light emplacements and laying cable across the island for communication. From doing this, I suffered a severe case of sunstroke. One day, we were down in the town and we got talking to this bloke and he said he was a tattoo artist. So Doug said: “Let’s get some done!” We went with him to the 49th Battalion Camp. He showed us all the different things he could do. Doug picked out the Australian emblem for his upper arms and a heart and dagger through for his fore arms. As he did this the chap put the transfers on his arms. He then started the tattoo. He had his bottle of different coloured inks and his pen was like a pencil with about eight or ten needles on the end of it which he would dip into the different colours. He said to Doug that he would have to wait about a fortnight to see the results. He then looked at me and asked me what ones did I pick out — I said, “None; I don’t want any.” Doug looked at me and said he thought we were both going to have them done. I said: ‘I am not!’ Doug’s arms, over the tattoos, all peeled but in about three weeks they cleared and the tattoos were real good. Doug wouldn’t talk to me for about a month. On December 7th, 1942, we had just sat down for breakfast when the island C.O. came to the door and said, “ I have an announcement to make — we are now at War with Japan! They bombed Pearl Harbour; all Japanese on the island have been interned; civilian population will be sent back to the mainland as we are on a war-footing.” Now we manned the search lights 24 hours-a-day. We worked six hours on and six off. I was an engine driver and friendly with the -7-

cook back at the camp. He asked me if I would like to be his assistant. I said yes because it got me out of the shift work. Things overseas were getting bad. First Singapore fell with the whole of Australian 8th Division captured. The Philippines surrendered with General McArthur escaping to Australia. Japs invaded New Guinea. The 49th Battalion were sent from Thursday Island to Port Moresby from where they went over the Owen Stanley Range to stop the Japs. They joined with another Battalion and defeated them at Milne Bay. In the mean time other battles were going on at Rabaul, Bouganville, Wewak and Shaggy Ridge. Next Darwin was bombed, doing a lot of damage and sinking a lot of ships in the harbour. There was a raid on Townsville, then a big raid on Horn Island where we had built an air-strip which would be later one of the main defence points from which fighters and bombers took off in the Battle of the Coral Sea. After the war, we heard that the Japs wouldn’t bomb Thursday Island because of all the Jap graves there. The CO lined us all up and asked for volunteers to go into training to join the paratroops. So both me and Doug volunteered. They said first we would have to join the AIF. As I was still under age, I had to get my parent’s consent so I wrote to them, explaining what they had to do and waited for their reply. The reply I got was not what I expected; my mother had written to the army and said I had put my age up when I joined up and never had her consent. So they sent me back to Australia and released me on leave without pay for three months until they decided what to do.


Chapter Four

I worked at a top security chemical factory at Deer Park, Melbourne, staying with people at Footscray. We went to see the Caulfield Cup that year; it was run a Flemington. I thought I might be able to see the Melbourne Cup run but I was ordered to report to Caulfield Race Course for allotment to a unit. Here again I received my refresher needles with one extra one which was a real beauty— Cholera—which was stuck into your chest muscle. From there, I was sent to the Engineers Training Centre at Kapooka near Wagga for a sixteen weeks training plus eight weeks of bridge building. After awhile, I took up boxing and did really well and became the white haired boy of the CO of my Training Battalion. Next the Engineers Battalion that had been in the Middle East arrived back. I was attached to the 2/13th Company. In the meantime I got a letter from my mother saying that my younger brother had locked himself in a cupboard and lit some paper. He died from burn injuries. I put in for compassionate leave which was refused because I was on transit to war-footing training. So I said to myself, ‘I will try to get home by myself’, not realizing the consequences. I got a lift with a driver that I knew into Wagga where I jumped the rattler on a goods train that was leaving for Sydney. I wasn’t found at the terminus. I managed to jump another one, too, just outside Newcastle. Then I got another one to Clapham Junction in Brisbane. Now all I had to do was get to Sandgate. I don’t remember how I did it I worked at a top security chemical factory at Deer Park, Melbourne, staying with people at Footscray. We went to see the -9-

Caulfield Cup that year; it was run a Flemington. I thought I might be able to see the Melbourne Cup run but I was ordered to report to Caulfield Race Course for allotment to a unit. Here again I received my refresher needles with one extra one which was a real beauty— Cholera—which was stuck into your chest muscle. From there, I was sent to the Engineers Training Centre at Kapooka near Wagga for a sixteen weeks training plus eight weeks of bridge building. After awhile, I took up boxing and did really well and became the white haired boy of the CO of my Training Battalion. Next the Engineers Battalion that had been in the Middle East arrived back. I was attached to the 2/13th Company. In the meantime I got a letter from my mother saying that my younger brother had locked himself in a cupboard and lit some paper. He died from burn injuries. I put in for compassionate leave which was refused because I was on transit to war-footing training. So I said to myself, ‘I will try to get home by myself’, not realizing the consequences. I got a lift with a driver that I knew into Wagga where I jumped the rattler on a goods train that was leaving for Sydney. I wasn’t found at the terminus. I managed to jump another one, too, just outside Newcastle. Then I got another one to Clapham Junction in Brisbane. Now all I had to do was get to Sandgate. I don’t remember how I did it but I managed to. I arrived too late for the funeral but my family was pleased to see me. They thought I was on leave. My brother Pat who had joined up was also AWOL at home. My Father was on leave also. My Father, Pat and me went up to the Seaview Hotel in Sandgate for a beer together. As soon as we opened the gate when we came home, two Provost Army Police came out from under the steps. They grabbed Pat and asked him if he had a leave pass. They knew he never had one. Then one asked my father if he had his on him and then me. I said I was on leave from Kapooka in NSW and it was inside the house. I was thinking of going through the house and running out the back door as there was a lane at the back of the house but he said not to worry about it as we have the one we want. Pat was sent back to his training camp and as he was a only a couple of days overdue, he was let off with a fine. All this was about a week since I had left Kapooka. I -10-

had been very lucky up till now. I didn’t know what to do. A couple of days later we decided to go to the pictures, so my sisters, Jean, Joyce, Mavis and me caught the train down to Sandgate from Shorncliffe. When we got off the train there were Yanks everywhere. Anyway we got to the Bon Accord picture show and watched the movies. After, as we left, I met someone I knew. I stopped to talk to him. The girls went ahead. They said they would wait at the Post Office corner for me. I said to the bloke I was talking to that I had better go as the train was due soon. When I looked to where the girls were, they were being pestered by four yanks. Every time they moved, the yanks walked in front of them. When I came up, one said, “Yeah, what do you want?” I said, “I want you to get away from my sisters and leave them alone.” The leader of the bunch said, “Is that so?” and came up to me, so I gave him a big push. He staggered back, tripped a bit on the kerb, and kept falling backwards, finally falling back and hitting his head on the silent cop, - a round lead thing they used to have in the road to control the traffic. He lay there as if he was dead and the other three clustered around him, so I said to the girls, “Quick, let us get out of here,” so we all ran over to the station. The next thing we knew, there were about eight yanks came through the door straight towards me. One of them said, “You hurt one of our mates,” and before I could move or do anything, one had me in a crucifix hold and one on each side of me had my arms. One said, “So you are waiting for the train, are you? Well, we will make sure you catch it. We will put you right in front of it.” I don’t know if they would have carried out their threat or not because just then the American Military Police arrived at the station and told them to let me go and get back to camp as it was after curfew. My luck was still holding out. After that we went home to Shorncliffe that night. The chap I pushed over, I met again on Morotai Island. His name was Curly. He recognised me when we were lining up for breakfast. His crowd went on the invasion of the Philippines. We went to Labuan. Next day, I went down to Sandgate to look around. There, I met a mate who was on leave. We were sitting in the park talking when, suddenly, two Provosts came up and asked us for our leave passes. I -11-

was out of luck because I didn’t have one. He asked my name and I told him, “Mick Brisbane.” He didn’t believe me so he said, “Show me your dog tags,” which I had round my neck. “Oh, so it is right,” he said. They took me into the Holding Centre which was in Ann Street. Then they questioned me regarding what unit I was with. I told them I was in Kapooka Training Camp; it was no good lying to them. I was then put on transit back — next stop was Victoria Barracks, Sydney — a terrible place with little narrow cells, no light, only faint electricity and a very small exercise yard where only ten people were allowed out at a time. After about two weeks of this, I was sent back to Wagga.


Chapter Five

Here at Wagga I was held awaiting Court Martial. We were in tents in a compound with barb wire and searchlights all around us. It was in the middle of winter. Our beds were only palliasses filled with straw on the ground. We had six blankets each and two men to a tent. To keep warm, we put our beds together and made the blankets into an envelope. My trial finally came up about three weeks later. My lawyer was a Lieutenant. The three judges were Colonels from Kapooka camp. My lawyer said owing to the circumstances of my taking off, I would probably get off with a fine. When the prosecutor read the charge, it was absconding from transit to a battle zone, which was a very serious charge. My lawyer did nothing hardly to fight the case. They found me guilty and sentenced me to twelve months detention, nine months to be suspended and three months to be served at Tamworth Detention Camp. Arriving at the camp, I was allotted a tent sharing with another chap. I can’t remember his name. I will think of it later on. Next to me were two real villains, John Skidmore and Angus Inness. As soon as we arrived, they came over and asked me had I managed to get anything in. I said, “No,” as they had stripped searched us and changed our clothes. It was an easy camp. All we did was clean up round the place, play a bit of football and do a bit of boxing. That’s who shared my tent; it was Gill Allen, who was the NSW Welter Weight Champion. He showed me a lot about boxing. All Skidmore and Innes did for most of the evening was practice -13-

two-up with two pennies. They go me to practice with them. After a time, I became pretty good spinning up to 10 heads without a tail. One day after I had been there about a month, one of the guards asked me if I had done any tree felling. I said I had as I knew he took a group out timber getting for a local sawmill. He said I could go with them. Next morning at about 7 o’clock, he came and told me and four others to come to the main gate where there was a truck waiting with three blokes from the next compound in it. Away we went, up to the forest behind Tamworth. We worked till about 3 o’clock, cutting down the trees, trimming them up and leaving them for the sawmill to pick up. On the way back , the guard pulled up at the Pub and gave us 10/each to spend. He said to only take back cigarettes or tobacco and papers. I didn’t smoke so I bought ready rubbed tobacco and paper because I knew I could swap the cigarettes I made for whatever I wanted. This went on for the rest of my time at Tamworth.


Chapter Six

From Tamworth, I was sent on transit to Sydney Showground. When we arrived they checked us in, issued us with uniforms etc., checked our needles and then issued us with a leave pass up till 6 o’clock. We had to check in to the guard on the gate. As we were going out the gate there was a two-up game on and guess who was at it— Skiddy and Innes. They came over to me and said, “You have a spin. The bloke running the game won’t let us because he knows us.” With that they went over to the other side of the ring. My turn to spin came around and I staked five dollars that they had given me. I had told them I hadn’t had any practice. Skiddy said, “You will be alright, as long as you remember how to position the two pennies on your fingers.” Here goes: first spin, a head and tail, second spin, head and tail. I knew I was spinning too high. Next spin was heads. I went on to spin eight heads after the third one. I pull out ten dollars and I finished up winning about one hundred dollars. I gave fifty dollars to Skiddy but he said to keep the lot as they had had a good win betting on the side. What Luck! About four days later, I was called up before the transit officer. He said I was going to join a unit based at Toorbul Point in Queensland. When I got there I found out it was a West Australian Unit, C.O.R Feild PK 2 Port Construction. I fronted up to the CO. He said, “You have been in a bit of trouble at different times haven't you. You better behave yourself here.” Instead of drill, the unit was training in building a jetty. The Sgt asked me if I could swim and how was I in the water. I said I liked to swim and liked the water very much. So he -15-

said to put on this gas mask and try it out. The hoses on it were connected to an air compressor. After awhile I got used to breathing in it. Next, I had to go into the water and test it under water. It worked well with plenty of air. The pressure kept the water out of the mask. So we used to use air drills underwater to fix the cross braces to the piers that were driven in by a pile driver. I got on real well with everyone in the Unit. Next thing we knew there was going to be a big parade on the Strathpine Air Strip. We had to march to it from Toorbul which was a fair step. When we got there, there were thousands of men, Yanks as well as Australians. McArthur and Blamey took a salute as we lined up. McArthur addressed us and said, “All you men will soon be somewhere in the Pacific driving the Japs back to there homeland, winning back the ground we have lost to them. So good luck men.” About a fortnight later we found ourselves boarding a boat bound for a place unknown. It was a terrible trip. I slept on the deck most of the time as it was stinking hot in the holds. Next thing we knew we were disembarking at this wharf. There were ships and men everywhere. They were all Yanks up until we arrived. As we were getting off the ship, I said to one of the Yanks, “Where are we,?” He said, “You are now on the tropical paradise island of Morotai. We had to go and set up our camp on a little piece of the Island. The Japs had been all pushed back to the far end of the Island and kept in a pocket. They had no ammo, or so it was thought, and no ships, so they couldn’t leave. The Yanks used to drop them a bit of food now and then. After we were there about a week, Captain Punch, our OIC, called me up. He said, “Brisbane, you are pretty good in the water, I believe, so I want you to join a team being trained in underwater demolition if you are willing. “It isn’t compulsory,” he said, “It is entirely voluntary.” So I said, I would like to try it out. I didn’t know what I was letting myself in for.. Next day, we boarded a PT boat and went over to a little island nearby. We just had our back pack that included about a week’s rations. As we landed, we were met by our Instructors, two Yank Marine Sergeants. There were about thirty-two of us from all different -16-

sections, some Americans from different units and some Sailors. After being shown a camp site, the Instructors told us we wouldn’t be spending much time in it. They told us that the course was of a week of intensive training consisting of unarmed combat, underwater demolition and removing obstacles. Next day, we were split into groups of four sections who had to train against each other. While some were in the water training, the others were being shown the technique of unarmed combat. We never got much rest at all. We were shown how to set the explosive and to use the new oxygen supply cartridge which was carried on your back and held in your mouth by a hose with a nose clip on your nose. Anyway, after six days, we went back to our Units on Morotai a lot fitter. When I arrived at my Unit, I had to go and see our CO who congratulated me on completing the course. He then said there was a boxing tournament coming up and asked if I would be interested in competing. I said I would. It was to be in a few days time. I weighed in at 10 stone 12lbs and drew an opponent from an aircraft carrier anchored off the Island. I found out that he was a Golden Glove winner from New York, so I thought I would be in for a hiding. The night came. There were four matches and ours was the fourth - with three minute rounds. As we came out to start the match, a big tropical storm hit. We couldn’t even see each other, never the less hit each other. Needless to say the match was called off. I thought, “Thanks for that. Someone must be looking after me.” Things were starting to warm up for the invasion of the Philippines and Borneo. We heard that an underwater demolition team had been killed at Tarakan, either a premature explosion or the Japs lighting oil lines in the Bay. It turned out it was some of the crew I had trained with. A couple of days later, Pat, Jack and myself were told to collect our gear and report to a Yank Camp at the other end of the Island. Here we were taken to an LSD or Landing Ship Docks where we were shown the Sea Mule which we had to handle. It was five pontoons wide, each one four foot square as near as I can remember and about -17-

eight of them long. It was driven by a large Chrysler motor and it had a propeller with a radius of about three feet. A day later we were woken early in the morning and told to get on board the LSD. There was troop movement everywhere. The seas outside were full of ships. There were planes taking off from the carriers and returning. Next thing we knew we were underway. There were all sorts of ships everywhere. After a while some went one way and others a different way with still more ships going in another. We found out later that the invasion of the Philippines took place and the invasion of Balikpapan and we were heading towards Labuan to build a wharf. As we stood off shore, the small rocket-firing torpedo boats went in and fired their rockets and then the destroyers. The bigger ships were shelling from out to sea. Then the planes came in strafing and bombing. You couldn’t see the land on the island for explosions. Next thing I heard was our call to get ready to start the motor on the sea mule. I hit the starter and you wouldn’t believe it, it wouldn’t start. Next thing I knew was the officer in charge bellowing to get that thing out. Before I knew what was happening they flooded us out of the dock into the sea as I was hitting the starter trying to start the motor. Suddenly, it was started and we were on our way. We could see the island and the site where we were shown to go. As we reached the entrance and were about to enter, I saw a couple of white streaks on the deck. Next we heart the pop, pop of a woodpecker machine gun which was firing from a wrecked barge on the opposite side of the entrance where we were headed. We didn’t have long to wait before a plane flew over it and dropped two bombs on the barge and the gun was silent. We continued in and tied up to a small jetty. I said to Pat and Jack, “I don’t know what's going to happen now.” The invasion on the open side was all quiet., except for a few shots and bomb explosions inland. I said to the boys, “Let’s go and have a look around to see what's left of the town, but don’t touch any doors and watch out for trip wires.” Everywhere we went, it was all wrecked. Later we heard that a couple of infantry chaps further inland had opened a door in a house and they were killed by a booby trap. I am not sure when our unit arrived. I think it was the next day. -18-

We set up our camp at the end of a causeway that led down to where we had to build the wharf. Our unit commander called me in and said we had to start unloading the ships in the bay. Next morning we took the sea mule out to the first frigate and they started to load it. They piled on the crates which turned out to be supplies of food and gear for the units on the island. This went on for weeks and included logs and timber for building the wharf and machinery and equipment. Next the flood lights were installed and we started work on the wharf. The job I got to do was boring the holes in the braces for the piles. Most of the work was under water. We used a gas mask with air fed from a compressor. One night, while the construction was taking place, there was a commotion in the army tents a bit away from the wharf. Next minute two of the tents went up in flames. As the men inside ran out, two Jap officers were cutting them down with their swords. Then there was firing everywhere. We had extinguished the flood lights but never had our rifles with us as it was supposed to be safe with the Japs bottled up on the West side of the island. As this was going on I was still in the water where I had been working. The thought that went through my head was, “I wonder how far it is to swim back to Australia.” After awhile the lights were put on again and the area was declared safe. All the Japs had committed suicide by holding grenades to their stomachs. The Australian causalities were fairly light - three killed and a few wounded. One of the chaps I knew from Sandgate was among those killed. Our Second In Command was slightly wounded. The wharf was finally completed. After an easy time for awhile, I was told I had to take the sea mule, with a pile driver and timber on it, up the Pasquale River in Borneo to Beaufort where we had to build a jetty for the workers to cross. It was a nice trip up the river. There was jungle on each side. When we finally arrived at our destination there were some Aussie soldiers already there guarding an enclosure containing a group of Jap Geisha girls. From memory I think there were about ten. They had been set up in this beautiful temple. There was a bit of a railway line with a couple of carriages. One contained invasion money — notes and -19-

shillings which consisted of 2 shillings, 10 shillings and pounds. After the jetty was completed we were told we had to take some Jap prisoners back to Labuan with us. There were four of them, all officers. We had six guards on board. The Japs were tied hand and foot. We were glad to get back without any trouble. On arrival back at Labuan, we had an easy time for a couple of weeks. The wharf was in operation. One morning on parade, the OC said they were asking for volunteers for the occupation forces. Me and Pat decided to volunteer with a few others from the unit. We were put into a special training unit to show us how to handle the Jap people. I was there about three weeks when one of the Sergeants said they wanted to see me a HQ. On arrival there, the OC said my discharge point was up and I could go back to Australia and be discharged or continue with my training for the occupational force. I had no hesitation in saying, “Give me the trip home.” I was lucky because my unit never went to Japan. They went to Rabaul. Pat contracted a very bad case of Malaria which he never got rid of and it affected him until he passed away from it several years after he returned home.


Chapter Seven

On arrival back in Australia in 1946, I was put into camp at Wacol and within a week I was discharged. The interviewing officer said I would be suitable to be employed on the tramways as a driver or conductor or assistant in the building trade. I put my name down for a carpenter’s trainee course but was told it was full. He said there was a vacancy for trainee bricklayers. While waiting for the course to start, I had numerous jobs, including working on the wharf as a storemanpacker. Me and Doug Forbes had some funny experiences there. There was this chap who had a little passage into the bond wall where they store the spirits. He had bored a hole through the wall into the back of the kegs in which they stored the whiskey. He used to siphon it out and then put a plug in the hole. He was eventually caught. Another time we were sitting down having lunch and I pulled a bag of wheat out of the stack. Though a space in the bags, we could see all these cardboard boxes. I said to Doug, “Let’s shift a few more bags and see what’s there.” We got to the boxes and opened one. It was packed with nylon stockings. We were considering hiding some so we could smuggle them off the wharf but just then about four or five security men arrived. I said, “Look what we found in the wheat stack. We just shifted a bag to sit on.” Doug later on got involved with some chaps smuggling stuff off the wharf. They had some loose planks on the wharf and they would come in underneath in a boat. The chaps on top would lower the stuff down. It was known later that if you contacted Doug, he could get you anything from a pack of needles to a steam roller. -21-

My next job was clearing scrub on a property at Springbrook. The wharf job had finished . Wharfies took over from the Storemen and Packers Union. When we finished at Springbrook, I came back to Sandgate. The old man had put in to go on a dairy share farm owned by Romeo Lahey on Mount Lamington Plateau. So the whole family went up to help. Jean who had been nursing at the Princess Alexandria hospital gave up her job and came up to help. She brought with her a friend, Joan Wagner. We were milking about sixty cows by hand. One day when we went down to milk, we found two calves dead and a couple badly bitten so I decided to catch the dingo responsible. Taking the lights and liver out of the dead calf, I hung it on a small track under the boundary fence that the animals used to use. I put two traps under the bait so that the dog would have to jump to get at the bait. Next morning while we were milking, I heard yelping from where I had set the traps. After we finished milking, I went to the traps and here was a big black and tan dog, so I got a good solid hunk of wood and bashed it on the head. Later on I skinned it and pegged out the hide on the barn wall. That weekend, old Romeo came up for his usual inspection. First thing he did was storm over to the hut where we were having dinner shouting about who killed that dog. I got up and went out and said, “I did it; it was killing the calves.” He replied, “I don’t care if it kills the lot. I won’t have any animals killed on my property as I am in the process of having it declared a National Park — just you remember that!” After about three months we had a terrific storm, the backlash of a cyclone that had hit the coast. It washed out the road up the mountain. The old man said he knew what we could eat for meat, so we set a trap where there was a hole in the fence going into the garden which had been destroyed by the storm. Anyway, we caught a bandicoot. I said I would let it go as I was hoping for a scrub turkey but the old man said he had eaten them before when he was kangaroo shooting out from Tambo. So mum cooked it up. It was quite nice, a cross between a chicken and veal. -22-

We were getting desperate for flour, tea and sugar, so I decided to ride my way down to Canungra. I went as far as the big landslides. I knew I couldn’t get past them so I decided to pick my way down the mountain side. Picking my way, I finally reached the valley. I then followed the creek to the town where I picked up the supplies. It was quite a load for the horse. I asked around trying to find out how long before they would have the road opened. One of the workers said it should be open for temporary use in about three days. Going back up the mountain, I followed the road where ever I could. I finally got back up to the farm without a great deal of trouble, so we had food again. The old man got very sick and mum found a shellback scrub tick behind his ear. She got it out and he was very sick for a few days but then he came good. A month or so later, I received notice that my application for trainee bricklayer was to commence in about three weeks time. I went down in the bus which goes up to O’Reillys Guest House, as it was running again. When I got to town, I caught a train to Shorncliffe. I asked my Aunt Maudie Willshire if I could stay with her for awhile. She said there was plenty of room. Jean and Joan left the farm and went up to stay on Joan’s father’s farm at Fordsdale. Joan asked me to come up and stay for a couple of days. I had a good time. I played table tennis at night against the local chaps and they got real mad because they couldn’t beat me. We used to go spotlighting eels in Heifer Creek and jew fishing with Joan’s father in the afternoons in the creek that circled the farm. Joan’s mother used to cook them in cream and onions.



Chapter Eight

When I went back to Shorncliffe, I started my course at Stafford in a big warehouse building at the Tram Terminus. We had two instructors. We would build walls in all different bonds in lime mortar, then knock them down, clean the bricks and then start again. We were in this school for about three months. Next we went up the hill from the school where we were put to work building Housing Commission houses which were cavity brick low set. Some were tuck pointed; others were round jointed brick on edge inside walls. They were having trouble placing us in outside jobs as there was not a lot of brickwork going on. After about six months I was finally placed with a man who was a trainee himself. He was in partnership with a chap who had served his time at Mt Morgan mines. So I started my bricklaying with Bryan Roberts and Cec Lewis. They had one other trainee with them, Stan Leekim, later known as just Stan Lee. We finished up real good friends. I wanted to finish my training before me and Joan got married but Bryan said that to get my certificate would take about 2 years. So we decided to get married in the new year on the 26th January 1948. We went over to the church manse at Seven Hills and were married by the minister. When we told the family, they were surprised, to say the least. I was getting bricklayer’s pay because Bryan was subsidised by the government. The first job I worked on was a brick house in Palm Avenue, Sandgate. We had four to do for Bill McMara, a builder in First Avenue, Sandgate. The next was on Sandgate Road, then Barclay -25-

Street, Deagon. All were mostly the same design. When we finished them, he got us to do fire-proof walls in 9 inch brick in maisonettes on the beach at Brighton. Me and Joan moved into a flat on the beach at Sandgate called Portvale. There were three flats and four rooms. They were good people to get along with. I had been playing football with Sandgate Rugby League since 1946. We were playing Cribb Island, Normandy, Caboolture and Albion. I am not sure of these teams. Later on the Police Clubs and Kilcoy came into the round. There was a bit of animosity between the Sandgate Rules Club and the League, so at Portvale we formed an indoor basketball club which we called the Portvale Rovers. We used to play in the Sandgate Town Hall on Saturday nights. There were about four teams— a Rules, Zillmere, us and I can’t think who the other team was. Later on in the year we combined in a Sunday fixture with a strong league; we called ourselves Sandgate-Nundah Rovers. As we were with the Northern Suburbs team, we played against Ipswich, Hamilton (which was really Valley), Normandy, Wharfies and other teams I can’t remember off-hand. It was called shift workers league. We went on to win the premiership. It was about this time that me and Joan had a great sadness. It was our son’s 2nd birthday so we decided to take him to see a Walt Disney movie that was showing at the Bon Accord Picture Show. That night I woke up about 2 o’clock because Tommy was tossing around. I got up and went over to him and he was just covered in sweat. I felt his head and he was red hot. Next door to us was a Doctor. So I went over and woke him up. He had no hesitation in coming over to examine Tommy. He said I had better ring the ambulance straight away. I said we hadn’t got a phone so he said he would go home and ring them. Within ten minutes they were there. They took me with him up to the children’s hospital. The doctor there said there was something very seriously wrong and they would have to do a lumber puncture to try and find out what was wrong. I didn’t know what that was. He said they take some fluid from the spine and test it. After they did this I accompanied Tommy up to the ward. He was tossing around and -26-

burning up. The doctor was also there. The result of the test came and the doctor said Tommy had a particular viral meningitis. He lived for about another hour and passed away about 6 o’clock. Now I had to go and break the news to Joan. What a tragedy - a beautiful young boy full of life - one minute, the day before, playing golf with me on the sandbanks out in front of the flats, then this happens - 2 years old on his birthday. I don’t think we will ever forget him. We moved out of the flat on the beach and moved into a share house with a couple of friends. It was on the sea front, still on Flinders Parade. It was at this time I was approached by Jack McKeering to do some work. He said he wanted to lift a house and build shops underneath. The house, which was known as ‘The Laurels’, took up a whole block of land from the main street, Fourth Avenue, Fifth Avenue and Clift Street. Jack lived on one corner and one block was leased by a BCC shop. It was a massive big house. The plan was lift it and put offices in the top and shops underneath in the front . There was a slope on the footpath so we had to lift it about eleven feet at back to give us enough height at the front. Next we had to pour foundations and build 9” dividing walls in brick. The front wall was 13” to hold fill for the front two shops, one each side of a ramp going into the house. While we we’re doing the brick walls which were cavity brick, the carpenter was putting on the iron for the roof. I had put- log holes in the wall for the scaffolding. I was pulling it down when I noticed the wall was starting to lean out. I called out to Reg, the carpenter, to stop. What had happened was the weight of the iron had caused the rafters and ridgeboard to sag and push on to the top plate which was bolted down to the brick walls. Reg was in that big of a hurry to get the roof on before the weekend. We got a series of jacks and pushed the sag out of the ridge and as we did so the brick wall came back to right. The next thing Reg had to do was to put in these cross braces to strengthen the rafters. I filled in the put-log holes and we had no more trouble. We were lucky we didn’t lose the whole front area. As the shops were just about completed, Jack McKeering came to me and asked if I would be interested in helping with the renovation -27-

of an old building at Shorncliffe. I said, “Yes, which building?” He then said it was Morven. I said, “Oh, the old haunted house. When we were kids going to school we used to hide in it and frighten other kids.” Anyway, I went up to meet the fellow who I would be working with. He was a painter with his old father and an Italian labourer. The parish priest was there and I was introduced to them. Father O’Rourke was the priest and Bill Pashley was the painter, the chap in charge. The house was in a shocking state. A lot of the slate roof had fallen in because the battens had rotted away. It was beautiful slate from England. It was given away. Some of the walls had deteriorated badly because of water damage. With these we cut out the damaged parts. The walls were just dirt mixed with lime and cow hair on bamboo lathes. It was about an inch thick. I filled the repairs with cement plaster and then set it with white set. This was all done after the new roof went on. Inside the rooms were fireplaces that were removed and bricked up. Something happened while I was removing a brick arch to fill in the hole in the wall. I had an old scotch chap who was a real good plasterer helping me. Just as I knocked out the last key bricks, Bill poked his head through the hole and all the bricks fell on him. He wasn’t badly hurt, just badly stunned. He had a few minor cuts and bruises. His job mainly was to fix all the plater fancy work around the columns and architraves. Next, we had to concentrate on the ceilings which were done by a fibrous plaster contractor. In the meantime all the balustrade and rail had been ordered from Healy Brothers to put on the front of the verandah of the building. Next, we got a plan from the council for an eighty person septic tank which I had to build in 9” brick. It consisted of a holding tank with a baffle board and a large filter tank filled with 2” stone aggregate. On top of this, there were split earthenware pipes levelled up so the water would flow evenly along them and spill evenly over the sides. I’m not sure now but I think there were six in-lines the full length of the filter. After the water went through the stones, it was fed into soaked trenches. All up, I think I worked on the job for about twelve months. I also did the brickwork on the school beside the college. By this time it -28-

was in operation. The head in charge was Brother Coffey. The foundation stone was blessed by Archbishop Dugion. I did more brickwork for Father O’Rourke after this on a school building behind the Sacred Heart Church in Sandgate. About this time when I completed the school for Father O’Rourke, he told me a Father Henry from Clontarf would like to see me, so I went over. He asked me if I would be interested in doing some brickwork on his church. I said, “Any job is a good job.” While I was working on the church, he came up to me and said he was running a sweep on the Melbourne Cup. I said yes and finished up winning it. When I came to work the next morning he told me and gave me my winnings. It was five pounds. It was all in 2/pieces. I was happy to carry it home. Joan wasn’t real happy when she had to carry it down to do the shopping.



Chapter Nine

We lived at Boondall at the time. The chap across the road had stacks of melons growing. There was one monster near the fence. Next morning when I woke up it was on the kitchen floor. I said to Joan, “How did that get there?” She said, “I went over last night and rolled it across the road and down the drive. I had a bit of trouble getting it up the steps.” She was about eight months pregnant at the time with Trissie (Patrice). At that time work was very slack. There was an ad in the paper from a bloke who had chickens for sale—200 for a quid. As we had a big shed and fowl run at the back of the house, I said to Joan, “We will buy them, fatten them up and sell them to a shop dressed.” She wasn’t keen. She said it would be a lot of work. One thing I didn’t allow for was the water rats. There was an old piece of rusty iron in one corner and they had the end of their tunnel under it. Of a morning when I came down to feed them I would notice a few feathers in the corner. About a week later there was a dead chicken there. So I went over to see what caused it; that’s when I saw the hole. I went and bought a couple of rat traps, baiting them with pieces of the chicken. I caught two rats. Then I pulled up the iron and dug up the hole and buried some wire netting around the area. I had no more trouble with the rats. One other day I went out and here was a dead chic hanging by its neck in a crack in the garage door with a butcher bird over it. I finished up selling about 130 dressed chickens at about four months old to the grocer at 4th Avenue, Sandgate. I never made much on them. -31-

One day I was up at the Seaview Hotel with Pat, Doug, Ronnie Smith and Alf Baker when these two well dressed blokes came in. After awhile they came over to our group and asked us if any of us would like to be in a movie as they were going up to New Guinea to make one and they wanted some knock around Australians as extras. As they were leaving the next day, they said to be up there before 10 o’clock tomorrow. They then left us. We were talking about it and none of us were interested. We thought they were kidding us. Later we found out that one of the men was Charles Chauvel and the other was Chips Rafferty. I forget the name of the movie now but it was a real big one made in the highlands of New Guinea.* Work was getting very slack again so we answered an ad for a share farm outside Imbil on Bella Creek. It belonged to Hec Sinamon and Tom Shadford who had bought it off Bill Lowe. We got the job and had to start right away. On arrival at the property we found a well-setup dairy and house, a six unit milking machine and a good strong yard with a dip you could run the cows through when required. We had to milk about a hundred cows, separate the milk and send the cream to Pomona Butter Factory. After we were there for awhile we had a bad run. There were about three cyclones come through in a couple of months. We couldn’t get the cream out because there was twelve creek crossing between us and Imbil. Not only that, the Mary River was in flood, so we had to stir the cream every day. When we finally got it out to the factory we never had any downgraded which was real good. After this we finally left the farm and came back to Sandgate. We got a rented house at Sandgate. I started work with Bryan Robert again as he was doing squash courts. We did about three, one after another. After work slacked again, I heard that they would be wanting bricklayers for a big job at Roma, building the abattoirs. I knew the contractor who had the job. I rang him and he said the wages would be very good but I would have to go out there to be put on as a NSW contract gang had the contact for the bricklaying. He said he would contact his job supervisor to make sure I would be put on. I talked it over with Joan and she said she would go up and stay on the farm with her mother and family. So Ron Smith and I loaded my old -32-

utility and headed for Roma. We took Joan and the three kiddies to the farm and continued on to Roma.

*Walk into Paradise (1956) directed by Lee Robinson and produced by Chips Rafferty was shot in the highlands of New Guinea. The film had originally been offered to Charles Chauvel to direct by the French production company.



Chapter Ten

The old truck went like a beauty. The road from Condamine to Roma in those days was only sand which was well looked after. On arriving at Roma it was late in the afternoon so we camped on the river bank at the edge of town ‘til we could find accommodation . Next day we went over to a hotel as you come into Roma. It was the Club Hotel run by a lady by the name of Ducky Frame and her son, Doug. We told her why we were there, to work on the new abattoirs, so she said we could stay there. Next day we went out to the site to see Kervin’s supervisor and he said there has been a hold up in the work as they hadn’t been able to get enough water from the bore and they had to start to drill again. He said it would be probably three or four weeks before brickwork would be starting. I said, “What a mix up.” So me and Smithy went back to town and told Ducky about the trouble. She said there was another bricklayer staying in the hut at the back of the Hotel, so I went out to see him but he was at work at the new ambulance station. I went to see him at the station and that’s how I met Jack O’Brien, a champion old fellow. Later we were to become good friends for years. Any way Jack said the contractors were coming up later in the week and they might give me a job. A couple of days later, Jack introduced me to the men. They were the two Barclay Brothers (Ian and Don). I was later to do a lot of work for them. Anyway, they said I could start right away. After we finished at the Ambulance Station, I went out to the abbatoirs site to see what was going on. -35-

The supervisor said the brickwork should be under way in about two weeks. That afternoon, a ringbark contractor was looking for men. The pay was alright so I said I would give it a go. He said it would be about ten days work. The boss was from Redcliffe. The job was about 20 miles out of Roma. On our way to set up camp we called into the station to pick up some meat. It was about half a sheep. The cook for us was an old aboriginal dingo trapper, well-known in the area. We started ringbarking at daylight. There was six of us. We used to spread out in a line with about ten paces each side of each man and you did the trees in your strip. We worked till about 6 o’clock. When we got back to camp, the cook had cooked some of the lamb. He had boiled it up in an oil drum he had picked up from the station. It looked alright except for 1/2 inch of oil floating on top. After we skimmed the oil off, the lamb was alright. This work went on for three days. I developed a carbuncle on my forearm and a big one on my leg. I busted the one on my arm with a twig from one of the trees when I brushed against it. Later it became infected. Trev, the boss, said I had better to into Roma and see a doctor. So me and Smithy went back to the station and picked up my ute that we had left there. We got some petrol from them and left for Roma. The track to town was pretty rough. About half way along, the ute suddenly stopped. We got out to have a look what was wrong and found a stick had flew up and knocked the bowl off the carbie. It was a little glass bowl that caught the petrol as it came through. We went back along the track and searched for the bowl, finally finding it. The wire cup that held it on was only slightly damaged, so we managed to get the bowl back on full of petrol. After a few turn overs, we were underway again. By this time my arm was throbbing and I was feeling very sick. On arriving in Roma, we went straight round to the doctors. He took me straight in and lanced the two carbuncles. The one on my leg had quite a few heads. I still have the scar. I was thinking to myself: “Ringbarking (quite an experience) - I -36-

only hope the bricklaying starts soon as winter is coming on and Roma is a very cold hole indeed.” Smithy had been talking to a station hand and he said they wanted workers to pick up wool as the shearing was in full swing. So he said he were interested. Next day, a chap came into the bar and asked to see Ron Smith. Smithy was there so he came over. The bloke said, “We will come back and see you later.” Ron told Doug Frame that he might have a job picking up wool at a station. Doug said, didn’t he know there was a strike on and there was a mob bashing up scabs who were taking jobs, so he better watch out. Smithy wasn’t worried as he had not taken the job. About 5 o’clock that evening we were playing wall quoits. The board was hung near the door. Next thing, I was collecting the quoits off the board and getting the score when in the doorway was this big south sea islander. He said, “Where is this Ron Smith? I want to see him.” Doug slipped down and whispered, “Quick, shut the door.” I pushed it but the big fellow had his foot against it so I shoved it with my shoulder. Next thing I heard him scream out and I saw blood streaming down the door jamb. So I opened the door and this chap had his fingers in the crack at the back of the door and when I slammed it, it had jammed his fingers and nearly cut three of them off and badly squashed another. Smithy was forgotten and his mate ran him up to the Roma Hospital. I heard later he was taken to the Dalby Hospital where they amputated some of his fingers. He never came back to Roma. Doug’s Uncle, who was a detective in Roma, came down to investigate. He said it was clear it was an accident. Next week, the brickwork started on the abattoirs.



Chapter Eleven

I used to go out to the abattoirs on the truck with the gang from New South Wales. There was about ten brickies and labourers. It was about 6 o’clock when we left town. There was frost everywhere. When we got to the job, we were frozen. It used to take ‘til we warmed up to get started. The bricklayers had a system - corner men and line workers. I was one of the line men because I was a stranger in the gang. The walls were face bricks outside, cavity commons inside. They were fairly long. Corner-men built their corners and ran a few bricks each side, then lifted the lines. Line-men worked from a tingle which was a slotted piece of tin placed along the course of bricks that had just been laid. Each man had to lay his section. If you didn’t finish your section by the time the line was lifted you could find yourself a few courses below the others. Each man got paid according to the number of bricks laid. This is what is called piecework. I tell you, it taught me to be a fast bricklayer. I worked there for about a month. Some of the carpenters lived at Sandgate and they were going home for a long weekend. So I asked the boss for the pay that was due to me and decided to get a lift with them back to Fordsdale as Michael’s 5th birthday was coming up and he had started school at Fordsdale. I decided not to go back to Roma so I went into Gatton to rent a house for us. I couldn’t get a reasonable one in Gatton because potato picking was at its height. We finished up getting one in Laidley. One day, when we were in Gatton, I noticed a building sign on a block of land in the centre of town. The builder had a sign up which -39-

said Gatton Shire Hall and Civic Centre to be erected here, to be built by George Day and Son. As soon as the as the site office was opened, I went to see the boss who was Ross Day, son of George Day. I asked him if there was brickwork on the job and he said, “Yes, plenty of it.” He said the contract had been let to Tommy Shepherd. So I thought I would keep an eye on the job and see him when the bricks arrived on site. A couple of weeks later bricks started to arrive on the job so I went to see Ross. He said that Tommy Shepherd, the foreman, would be on site next Monday. On that day I came up about 10 o’clock. The foreman was there and I knew him. It was Jack Kettleton. He said I could start the next day and help him get the job organised. One section of the foundation was trenches about 12ft deep and the sides had to be shored up. We were starting laying bricks on the shopping centre side which had offices upstairs. The deep trench side was council chambers and library. There was a clock tower in between. One day I was helping the labourer put bricks around. His name was Len Sippell. I was out on the footpath and this chap who was passing said, “Didn’t you play football in Brisbane?” I said, “Yes, over a year ago.” He then said, “How would you like to play for Gatton?” I said it would be a bit awkward to get to training as I was living in Laidley. He said, “We will find you a house to rent in Gatton.” He said there was a game on against Glenor Grove on Sunday, if I would like to try out. I turned out. The Gatton team was a fairly big set of forwards. I said to the coach, who was the man who saw me at the Civic Centre, that I had always played hooker. “That’s alright,” he said, “we haven’t got a proper one.” The game became pretty hot after awhile but the opposition wasn’t too strong and we won pretty easily. Ron Zarskie said to me after the game, “You are in pretty good nick for not having played for a year.” The brickwork got started. There were only three of us, Jack, Terry Hess and myself and labourer, Len Sippel. I was down in the deep trench laying a 13” common brick base which had to come up to within 3ft of the top and then turn into a 9” wall. Anyway, I was having trouble dodging over and under the struts holding the side -40-

stays, so I started knocking one of the lower and one of the next out while I laid 3 x 4 courses of bricks. But to my dismay Ross Day happened to look down to see how I was going. He nearly had a fit. He roared out, “Get those props back immediately and then come out and see me,” which I did. He started to rave about how I had endangered myself. I said to him that was my business. He said if I continued to do things like that he wouldn’t have me on the job. I said to him, “I don’t work for you. I work for Tommy Sheperd.” He called Jack Kettleton over and told him what had happened. Jack was a real quiet chap and all he did was listen and nod his head. Ross then said, “I will get Tommy down from Toowoomba to look into this.” I said, “You are making a big deal out of this for nothing. If you want the bricks laid down in them trenches you will have to get the struts placed different.” Then I went over to help Jack and Terry on the other section. Later, Ross had some of his men work out a different method of strutting. Our next game of football was against Laidley. When I ran onto the field all the women and some men started booing. They found out I lived in Laidley and signed on for Gatton. It was worse when we beat them. After the Civic Centre was completed, I stayed on in Gatton. We rented a house opposite the showgrounds. I had quite a few approaches for work. My first job was a shop opposite the Civic Centre for a Mr Thompson. My brother was my labourer. I was approached by a young chap who wanted a job. So I put him on as I had a lot of work coming up. I started him on filling in along the line foundations and as he got better, along the line in common work. Ken Sticklan was his name. He later turned out to be a fair bricklayer, if a bit slow. He had a friend looking for work. His name was Derek. They were both Seventh Day Adventists. I told them I would employ them as long as they didn’t bring religion on the job. If they did I would sack them straight away. Our next job was a town toilet block as the sewerage was coming to Gatton. I had work coming in all the time. There were concrete floors for outside toilets and toilet blocks for shops and hotels. I also had to build a weight bridge office and stables, also a potato washing -41-

shed for Jack Zischke. Later I was to build a big stable and dwelling at Allora. It was known as Panorama Stud. Getting back to work in Gatton: we did a toilet block at the Gatton Race Course; a school for the Catholic Church and a Church of England Church with the minister’s manse also. The Church was an unusual A-frame construction. I built numerous houses all around the area and also a lot of Housing Commission homes. My next big job was the Laidley Shire Hall. I advertised for bricklayers from Brisbane and finished up with two good ones. I had another job in Laidley, bricking in under the Nun’s Quarters for a junior school. After working around Gatton for about two years, I had an approach from Tommy Thomas, General Foreman for Barclays and Son, to price brickwork on Gatton Agriculture College. I did so and got the contract at $25 a thousand which wasn’t a bad price. The first job was to build a house for the man in charge. Next we started on the dormitory buildings— there were three of these— then a separate contract for T Hutchison and Son. This was the Auditorium and Vet School. I had that much on as I was doing Allora, travelling up and down to watch progress, as I had Jack O’Brien and Owen Wagner in charge up there. I put a young chap on called Ray Muckett and another one, Viv Mengel, to help with the college work in Gatton. As work was getting behind, Jack Hutchison asked what I thought of bringing brickies up weekends to catch up. I said, “We will try it out,” so we advertised in the paper. A bus would leave City Hall for brickies interested in weekend work on the Gatton College project. They must be qualified brickies and must work the full weekend. We used to load the bricks by pallet onto the floors and as all work was between columns, I used to plum the lines for both skins of bricks, inside and out, also mark the brick gauge to finish heights of window sills. Some of the bus travellers were hopeless, arriving with a garden trowel. I expected each man to lay 600 bricks which was one bay each day. If he did that and went on to the next bay he got paid extra. I could do between 800 and 1000 bricks myself. This was only on the -42-

dormitories ‘til we caught up. A couple of the good tradesmen stopped with me on the other two buildings. We finally completed Allora and the College to my relief.



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