Richard Dempsey Dunne: an early Mackay identity

Mackay Genie Gossip No 71

Richard Dempsey Dunne was one of the early company of pioneers who settled in the Mackay district shortly after it was discovered and opened by the late Captain John Mackay.

Richard Dunne came to the district from his native Ireland in 1867 at the early age of 25 and was engaged for some time as a jackaroo around Broadsound. This was a time when station life was rough and ready and those who followed the work of establishing cattle runs had to endue hardships that tested their stamina and courage to the utmost. Mr Dunne was at home amongst stock and soon became noted as a fearless rider and successful amateur at the local race meetings.

When cane growing was attracting people to Mackay, he came to this district. He soon received an important appointment with a Melbourne company that had erected a sugar mill at Palmyra. Subsequently, he was sent to Fiji by the same company, and on returning to Queensland took up land at the Barrie (Estate) on his own account, where he engaged in sugar growing until he established the Model farm in the same district. He retained this property until advancing years caused him to retire from strenuous work.

He married Miss Aitcheson soon after coming to Mackay. The wedding ceremony took place at the residence of the late Mr JC Binney, another well-known Mackay pioneer. Mr Dunne took an active interest in every movement that was organised to advance the sugar industry. He had considerable technical knowledge of sugar manufacture, and as a practical farmer was equally familiar with the cane growing side of the business.

In 1895 he was listed as a magistrate at Eton, Mackay (see The Brisbane Courier Monday 19 July 1895) but in 1896, for some reason, was taken off the list as a Commissioner of the Peace.

His facile pen was used in defence of the industry whenever he felt it could with advantage be employed, and in this connection it might be stated he was a valued contributor of “District Notes” to the Daily Mercury for many years. He was a sterling pioneer, a progressive primary producer and citizen, an ideal parent and a loveable friend.

On Saturday afternoon after running in the cows as usual at the homestead of his son-in-law, Mr James Porter of North Eton, Mr Dunne lay down for a rest. He took ill and was moved to Mackay for medical attention. He died in the Mater hospital shortly after, in the early hours of Sunday morning. His life flickered out quietly, causing no pain or noticeable depression of any kind.

He was buried in the Mackay Cemetery on 15th June 1929 aged 86 years.

(Adapted from his obituary which appeared in the Daily Mercury. See also the Townsville Daily Bulletin Wednesday 3 July 1929.)

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