There is one thing I love about digging around in Local History collections and that’s the random artefacts that you turn up. I mean, we’ve got random photos of the area and phone books that list the property names and types of farms in the area. Today while looking for something to write about my eyes came across a most memorable box for the staff here at Oakey Library.
The box says nothing more than “Edward Cooney Collection Box 1”, which sounds innocent enough. We first came across the box several months ago when a patron came in looking for information for their family history. With our healthy curiosity we opened up the box to have a look inside. Old school book, marbles, correspondence, Death notices and other paperwork filled our gaze…… and one tiny little brown box.
We were all wondering what sort of curio could be stored in this little box; a school tie pin? a medal that Edward had won? One wag (who shall remain anonymous) jokingly said “It’s his teeth!” Now we had all read the label “S. H. Andrews Dentist Russell Street Toowoomba” but let’s face it who would keep the box their teeth came in, let alone the teeth… Well the Cooney family did.
And so here we are several months later and I thought the teeth would make a great yarn, all I needed now was to flesh it out a bit and discover who Edward Cooney was. Digging through the box I found out that Edward’s family owned the “Willowview” Farm near Oakey, and that Edward himself lived to be over 100. I found an envelope from “Darling Downs Co-operative Bacon Association Ltd.” and an official extension for 34 ¾ years for the lease of “Prickly-pear Selection No. 3670A” in the Dalby District”.
Well, reading this I thought to myself, I know about the Prickly-pear problem and the Cactoblastis Moth solution that was eventually used but had never come across the term Prickly-pear selection. A Prickly-pear selection was a selection of land, which was leased for 25 years, on which the prickly-pear must be eradicated during the period of the lease.
While digging up information about this I came across the Queensland Historical Atlas entry which has an image of prickly-pear removal at Kingsthorpe.
Also there was a recipe for prickly-pear jelly:
Recipe for Prickly pear jelly
Pick prickly pears when deep purple. Use LONG BBQ tongs to pick and long sleeves to protect against cactus thorns. Half of a large grocery bag is enough to start with. Wash pears well – hold each pear with tongs (NOT fingers). Cut in half with sharp scissors. Fill a large pan no more than half full. Cover with water and boil until pears are soft and mushy. Run the pears through a ricer, food mill or force them through a sieve. Strain juice through cheesecloth. Combine in a large pan:
3 cups of prickly pear juice – 1/2 cup of lemon juice – 1 pkg pectin
Bring to a boil – add 4 ½ cups of sugar – bring to a boil again and boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and skim the froth off for nice clear jelly. Pour into jars and seal with melted paraffin.
And so I come full circle to where I started. After all, it doesn’t matter if we’ve got the “Cooney Falsies”, have some Prickly pear jelly and you won’t need them.
See you next time.