Born:        Abt., 1844 (Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England)
Died:          1 April 1930 (Mackay, Queensland, Australia) Aged 86 years.
Buried:      2 April 1930 (Mackay Cemetery, Church of England Section)
Marriage:  29 January 1879 (Church of England, Mackay) to Jane CUMMING 
Religion:    Church of England


Mr. E. Denman

By the passing of Mr. Edward Denman, Mackay has lost one of its oldest and most interesting personalities, and the sugar industry one of its staunchest and ablest supporters.

Deceased was born in Nottingham, England, 86 years ago, 58 of which had been spent in this district.  During his long sojourn here, the late Mr. Denman had never found it necessary to see a doctor, and despite his burden of years, enjoyed normal health and was able to move about until a couple of months ago, since when he had been confined to his bed.  The end came peacefully shortly after midday on Tuesday.  Deceased was conscious at intervals almost to the last.

Possessed of a self-reliant spirit, Mr. Denman as a young man, enlisted in the Army with the 2nd. Buffs., and was stationed successively at Malta and Gibraltar.  After his return home, he went to Canada and found employment with a firm doing business as wine and spirit merchants.  He remained a couple of years and moved further afield to South America and at Demerara (British Guiana), entered the employ of a big sugar  company as field overseer and works manager.  Thus, early in his career did young Denman become acquainted with the sugar industry. General experience in the cultivation of sugar cane only served to whet his appetite for a more intimate knowledge of the industry and he resolved to strike out for himself.  At that time, sugar-growing in Australia had become an attraction to adventurous young men in the Homeland.

Before emigrating, Mr. Denman returned to England to see his people.  Prior to this, he had received a letter from a brother who had come to Australia stating that he was leaving for Cleveland and from there he was making for a goldfield; but that brother had never been heard of since that time.  Eventually, Edward Denman at the age of 28, boarded the sailing ship, Light Brigade, and set out for this Southern land.  One of his shipmates was Mr. Alex Grant of this town.  After a voyage of three months the vessel reached Keppel Bay.  On arrival at Rockhampton, young Denman heard of the rush to the mining field in the Clermont district and joined in the search for hidden wealth but before long he decided to get in touch with sugar cultivation and came across to Mackay.

His first occupation in the district was at Payne's Mill at Dulverton of which he was placed in charge; but he did not settle there and went to Inverness, another small mill.  Still not satisfied, he followed up his long cherished desire to strike out for himself and bought the land at Etowrie which still stands in his name and which he has held for 36 years.  With the exception of three acres which he sold for school reserve purposes two years ago, no portion of his original farm has been sold.

Edward Denman's Headstone at the old Mackay Cemetery
(Glen Hall Collection, August 2004.)

From Inverness he went to Etowrie. One of his first acts was to have a road cut by blacks from Etowrie to Nindaroo to Richmond.  He was one of the first white men to settle in that locality.  Shortly after going out there he and Mr. Frank Bridgman were appointed Protectors of Aborigines in the district.  For the first few years on his settlement, Mr. Denman grew maize as there was no mill in the vicinity.  The maize was packed on horses and sent to Devil's Elbow at the top of the river and from there sent overland to Clermont.

As soon as Nindaroo mill was erected he supplied can to it.  This factory was owned by Paget Brothers and the farmers received 9/- a ton for their cane.  A couple of years later the price rose to 11/-. Mr. Denman's first crop was 1800 tons, his second 2400, his next 4800, and the fourth 6000.  The following season there was no market, Paget Bros. offered him a price, but he said he could not harvest the crop at that figure so he burnt it. - 5000 tons.  Subsequently he became a supplier to a mill at Habana owned by E.M. Long.  He has also supplied Meadowlands and Farleigh as well as other mills.  At this time, the farmer was getting 15/- a ton for his cane, which was all grown by black labour.  Mr. Denman's previous experience in South America stood him in good stead, still he worked hard till about 1916 when he retired from active life and different members of his family carried on the work.

In addition to growing cane, Mr. Denman took a very great interest in all matters pertaining to the industry and his reading and long practical experience caused him to be regarded as an expert.  He and Mr. E.B. Swayne were chosen as the first representatives of the district at the Pioneer River Farmers Association.  Mr. Denman was also a foundation member of the more recently formed Pioneer River Farmers and Graziers Association.  He attended several agricultural conferences at Gatton, Bundaberg, and Brisbane as representative of the cane section and his views were always received with great respect.  In those days delegates to conferences paid their own expenses.  

Mr. Denman was closely associated with local authority work, with which he made himself thoroughly acquainted.   His sound knowledge of all such matters was made evident at Pioneer Shire Council and Harbour Board meetings.  He was a member of both bodies and for a term was Chairman of the Pioneer Shire Council.  

He kept in touch with the sugar company which he had served in Demerara and supplied the directors with descriptions of his associations with that body.

Sir Algernon Aspinall corresponded frequently with him and offered him a position on the Council of the company, but owing to advancing years, Mr. Denman declined the offer; nevertheless as long as he was able he wrote to Sir Algernon of his early days in Demerara.  

He was married in Mackay to Miss Jane Cumming, eldest daughter of the owner of Richmond Mill.  The wedding was celebrated in the Church of England which at that time, was situated in Sydney street near the site on which Molloy's Hotel is built.  The couple celebrated their golden jubilee of their wedding last year. 

Mr. Denman was of quiet disposition, of a studious turn of mind and a great reader.  He never followed racing but he loved a good thoroughbred.  His love of his native country was deep and sincere, and he was a great believer and supporter of trade within the empire.  His love of country led him quite naturally to become a member of the Society of St. George, of which he was an ardent and consistent supporter for many years.  

Mr. Denman has a sister (Mrs. Applebury), living in Hull (England).  He also leaves a widow and six sons; Messrs. E.M. Denman (Cloncurry), and W.R., C.A.L., L.C., A.C., and R.E., all in Mackay and settled on the land.  

The funeral took place  from Holy Trinity Church yesterday afternoon and was very largely attended.  The burial service at the Church and at the graveside was performed by Rev. M.D. Collins.  The ritual of the Society of St. George was read at the graveside by the President of the Society (Mr. E. Eldridge Smith), who also made a touching reference to the admirable qualities of the deceased.  The pall bearers were Messrs. W. Fordyce, C.E. Ford, H. Swanson, L. Murray, A. McDonald, and D. Clark.  The coffin was draped with the flag of St. George.

Wreaths were sent by the following firms and public bodies: Directors of the Farleigh Sugar Milling Association, Pioneer Shire Council, Directors Anvil Stores, Chairman and members Harbour Board, Bierne Ltd.


The Mackay Daily Mercury, Thursday, 3 April, 1930.

Other Sources:

Kerr, John. (1980).  Pioneer Pageant. Mackay, QLD: Pioneer Shire Council.

Mackay Cemetery Burial Register, Mackay Family History Society.

Queensland Pioneers Index, 1829-1889

Queensland Federation Index 1890-1914.

If you can supply any further information or photographs on the above please contact us by EMAIL.
Glen Hall



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