DRIVING FORCE: Gold Town founder Brian Bourke has died aged 89.
DRIVING FORCE: Gold Town founder Brian Bourke has died aged 89. Contributed

TRIBUTE: Colourful Gympie business founder a larrikin

BRIAN Bourke will be remembered as hard working, honest, with a wry sense of humour, a larrikin, good bloke, teller of yarns but mostly as a loving husband, family man who was proud of his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Brian was born on August 9, 1930, in Murwillumbah where he spent most of his early life. He often told yarns about tough times in those years, growing bananas and the colourful characters around the Tweed and later, cutting timber around Amamoor and Kin Kin.

The family moved to the Gympie area while Brian was still a young lad. With not a lot of time for social outings in the early days, Brian told many stories of shared times with the Mahon family. Their larrikin exploits as young lads led to a lifetime friendship across two generations. It was through this friendship that Brian met his beloved Frances in the early 1950s. Frances Ross, a nurse at the Gympie General Hospital, was born in Kingaroy to Fanny and William Ross in 1930. Local dances and swimming in the river provided the opportunity for romance to blossom. Frances and Brian were married in October 1951.


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In 1951, Brian worked in the forestry cutting timber. Frances joined him in the Amamoor forestry camps and huts. A year later, Frances gave birth to twins, Charmaine and Alan, in 1952. Life was harsh for a town girl with small babies in those early years. Frances told of the sound of dingoes in the bush and no real amenities to wash nappies.


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Understandably, they made the decision to move to share farming with the Tremeer family at Blunder Rd, Glastonbury. Brian joined his timber cutting mate Merv Butler and his family on neighbouring Tremeer farms. The twins started school at Scrubby Creek district school and in 1957, Sharon was born to complete the family. The family moved to Nambour, and then back to Glastonbury. Brian and Frances bought their own farm which they developed into Sharlan Jersey Stud at Mary's creek. Brian and Frances worked the farms side by side and became well known in the Gympie farming district.

When their three children left school and began work, Brian and Frances retired from farming and moved to Gympie town in 1973. Frances took up a job as a nurse in Gympie Hospital, first in emergency and then in pathology. Brian worked for Batson's Garage as a tractor salesman, then tried truck driving for Prongers before moving to Nestle.

It was in 1975/76 that Brian found his niche as a driving school instructor, founding Gold Town Driving School. His family still hears the comment, "Mr Bourke taught me to drive" wherever they go in the community. His students characterise him as kind, helpful and patient.

Brian and Frances were both keen on fishing, spending many good times holidaying and fishing with mates and their family at Tin Can Bay. They travelled Australia before settling back in Gympie.

Unfortunately, both began to experience health decline in their 70s; Brian with heart difficulties and Frances with cancer. Sadly, Frances died in 2010. Brian was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease at 78 years but was determined to stay in his own home which he loved and of which he was proud. Their home was a welcoming place to an extended family including lifetime friends and their children's friends. It was a place of celebration of weddings, births and other milestones. It was a place to come for a cuppa and a yarn with Bourkey and Frances.

While poor health meant Brian didn't get out much in the past 10 years, he stayed in touch with the local gossip and told of past exploits with old mate John Shepherd who came to visit weekly.

On September 10, Brian passed peacefully in his own home in the care of his daughter Sharon Bourke and family friend Maureen Redpath.

At 89, he is survived by his two daughters and their families, his son's family, Alan (deceased), nine grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

Brian was adamant he didn't want any fuss or a funeral. He wanted to acknowledge and thank the wonderful people who have helped Sharon to support him to stay in his home in the past 10 years. Brian is now at peace, remembered lovingly by family and friends.