By Jen Gourley
SPOILER ALERT: This story contains certain revelations about Santa.
Nev Ferrier, Mayor of the Banana Shire, and long-time Dululu resident, shares his Christmas memories with us.
When Mayor Nev Ferrier looks back at his childhood, what stands out the most for him is the freedom of those days. He spent his first 12 years at Capella on a farm, before moving with his family to an irrigation property in Dululu, a place he still fondly calls home.
His childhood memories are of pony club and riding horses everywhere. “There was terrific freedom,” recalled Nev, “and not a care in the world.”
Neighbours counted on neighbours back in those days, even when it came to grooming. Nev remembered the community getting together to cut each other’s hair as barbers and hairdressers weren’t easily accessible, and he laughed and cringed thinking of his father roughly cutting his hair with a pair of hand clippers.
Nev doesn’t just have memories of his dad Ron’s ‘horrendous’ haircuts. One particular memory of his dad at Christmastime makes him roar with laughter.
“They used to have a big thing at the hall, must have been a Christmas tree night sort of thing, you know. Santa Claus would come along. And I was about eight when I realised it wasn’t Santa Claus. It was Dad because I recognised him by his shoes,” laughed Nev. “Dad used to wear a sort of distinctive pattern on his shoes. Yeah. Really buggered up my … Santa Claus was gone.”
Despite a pair of shoes stuffing up young Nev’s Father Christmas fantasy, Christmas was a happy time for the Ferrier family. Some years they would travel to see relatives in Rockhampton for Christmas, a long trip from Capella in the late 1950s, early 1960s, taking six or seven hours over gravel, red soil and corrugated roads, with all the windows wound down as there was no air-conditioning.
Other years, they would stay home to be with immediate family and friends. Christmas gifts were usually practical, Nev said, things you wanted for your ponies, or a saddle, for example. But one gift, rather painfully, stood out for him. “Bloody pushbikes,” Nev said. “I remember a fixed wheel pushbike. Oh my god. We had a hill at Capella… Now I could ride a bike but this bloody fixed wheel… like you had no brakes on your pedals. It had handbrakes, you know, if they’d work. But if they didn’t work, you had no brakes. When a fixed wheel pushbike came roaring down the hill, it wasn’t a great ending, I can tell ya,” Nev said with a rueful chuckle.
He also remembers many stormy Christmases, regularly wiping out their electricity, and giving out stubbies to the men who would come along to restore the power.
Fast forward to Christmas 2021, and we don’t know yet if there will be a storm playing havoc with the electricity, but Nev does know how he’ll be spending the day. Wrapping up what’s been a very busy year at Council, Nev’s last day at work will be on Christmas Eve, then he’ll spend Christmas Day at home with his wife Esmay. Nev’s 91-year-old mum, Shirley Ferrier, will be away visiting her daughter in Redcliffe, but Nev and Esmay’s twin sons and their partners will be visiting, along with some very loved grandchildren (they have four grandsons and one granddaughter). Who will cook the Christmas dinner? “Esmay. I don’t cook,” laughed Nev. “No, she’s a real good cook.”
So, the Ferriers’ Christmas this year will have lots of delicious food thanks to Esmay’s talents in the kitchen, the air-conditioning will be on, and loved ones will be around – sounds like a wonderful Christmas to me.