Edward Thomas (Jolly) MILLER, b. 13th December 1918, Boulia QLD, d. 12th January...


Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame and Outback Heritage Centre


Edward Thomas (Jolly) MILLER, b. 13th December 1918, Boulia QLD, d. 12th January 1991, Redcliffe QLD

About this object

Eddie Miller was born at Boulia on 13th December 1918, the second of six children of Edward and Ellen Miller. He was educated at the Boulia State School, leaving there during the depression, at the age of 13, in order to help his father Ted Miller with his mail run between Boulia and `Glengyle' Station via Bedourie.
Eventually he took over the Bedourie mail run from his father in July 1941 and kept the contract for 34 years. Eddie made great personal sacrifices to ensure that the mail and loading always got to Bedourie and surrounding stations, even if it meant being away from home on Christmas Day. It was almost unbelieveable at times how he got to his destination with the atrocious road conditions during floods.
People who have had no experience of this lifestyle would not understand the hardships associated with the many frustrating hours Eddie spent stuck in bog holes, wet to the skin and covered in mud; trying desperately to keep the flies, mosquitoes and sandflies at bay. These conditions would be hard enough to endure on a full stomach, let alone thinking about the half packet of Sao biscuits and a vintage tin of Camp Pie which were the only occupants of the tucker box.
During one wet season, when the Georgina River was very high, Eddie had to boat the mail and rations across to `Glengyle'. He was taking a cook to commence work at `Glengyle', and upon arriving at Bedourie the cook made a "bee line" for the pub. When Eddie finished unloading there and loaded the boat, then went to collect the cook, Eddie was very annoyed to find the cook "very much under the weather" as the saying goes. Eddie knew that the manager's wife at `Glengyle' did not like drinking or drunks on the place. When the cook tried to climb into the rocking boat, he slipped and fell into the river, giving Eddie and his mate Eric a "helluva job" getting the cook back into the boat, but they finally delivered a stone cold sober cook to `Glengyle'.
Eddie's run, Mail Service 276, took over two days for the outbound journey and over 20 hours for the return trip:
Thursday - Depart Boulia 2.30pm - Arrive Bedourie 11.00pm
Friday - Depart Bedourie 10.00am - Arrive `Glengyle' 12.00 noon
Depart `Glengyle' 7.00pm - Arrive Bedourie 9.00pm
Saturday - Depart Bedourie 7.00am - Arrive Boulia 3.30am
Prior to taking over the mail run Eddie had completed his carpentry apprenticeship. He also had his own transport business between Boulia and Dajarra as well as cattle transports between stations in the Northern Territory, Western and south western Queensland. He was much in demand for this work, being a very hard worker, completely trustworthy and dependable. After Eddie's marriage in 1946 to May Rayment of Jundah, their Boulia home was always open to those in need. People from out of town knew a welcome awaited them.
Eddie often helped the caretaker of an outstation, who lived alone, to kill a beast. On this particular occasion Bill had a dozen very toey cattle nearby. When Eddie's mail truck arrived, Bill asked Eddie to climb up a tree while he drove the cattle under. The cattle had just settled when Eddie called out, "Which one, Bill?". The cattle went like greased lightning. Bill's reply was unprintable, and there was no fresh meat for the Miller household that week.
Mail-contracting was not a job for the faint-hearted; many were the times Eddie had to partly unload his truck to get out of a bog and then carry loading up to dry ground and reload by himself. Bogs, gates, washouts, duststorms, corrugations, and breakdowns were all part of the job, but Eddie was blessed with the perseverence and dedication to take them in his stride and his happy disposition earned him the name "Jolly" Miller.
A sense of humour did not go amiss, either; as one old mail man said when asked by a female passenger, a Nursing Sister on her way to Birdsville, how he knew where the road was (they were caught at night in a duststorm), he replied that when he got onto some good going (such as a claypan), he knew he was off the road.
Eddie was a loyal supporter of his hometown. He gave unstintingly of his time transporting cattle free of charge to and from the stations to the rodeo ground. He gave the same support to the fledgling golf club, providing free transport for loading. Due to pressures of work and rising labour costs, Eddie sold his transport business in 1976 and secured more congenial employment for his later years. When Eddie relinquished the contract it was never renewed, and Bedourie has since been without a weekly mail service.
The positive side to the mail contractor's function in the outback was his role as the vital link in the bush telegraph; extending and conveying the latest news bulletins, being the general repository for people's whereabouts and movements, acting as courier between stations - a retentive memory was an essential ingredient. In the loneliness of the outback, mail day - especially for the women - was a red letter day.
The arrival of the mail man was a two-way morale boost; their delight at this contact with the outside world gave Eddie the satisfaction that made the enless miles worthwhile. These were the days when shopping was done by catalogue from the big city stores. The joy of receiving letters from loved ones and from children at distant boarding schools is something that city folk will never know.
Today's environment does not breed men like Eddie Miller, so next time you receive a letter, spare a thought for the mail contractors who contributed so much to what we now call communications.
In recent years Eddie and May spent their annual holidays at Redcliffe where Eddie enjoyed watching his favourite sport, cricket, on television. Eddie Miller died at Redcliffe on 12th January 1991 and was buried there. He is survived by his wife, May, and sisters Thelma, Dot and Lil. His brother Roy and sister Kath predeceased him.

Subject and Association Description

Ancestors: Grandparents - Catherine & James Ahern, Caroline & Edward Miller
Parents: Edward John Miller married Ellen Ahern
Siblings: Katherine Caroline, Roy Francis, Thelma Ellen, Dorothy Jean and Lillian
Married: 27th April 1946, Boulia QLD
Spouse: Alice May Rayment
Resided: 1918: Boulia QLD

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