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Dillon Family

The Dillon Family quilt panel was worked by Elaine Zendler (nee Dillon). It depicts Jack and Ivy beside the Dillon Road sign, with produce from the farm. Jack and Ivy’s descendants, the joy of their retirement years, are recorded at the bottom of the panel.

This remarkable family of achievement has a long family history within its archives, stretching back to the Danish Sölling Dynasty, founders of Royal Copenhagen Pottery, on John’s maternal side.

John (Jack) Dillon was the second of eight children born on the 23rd February 1916 to his mother Petra and father Albert Henry, who was a carpenter and market gardener at Nambucca Heads, Coffs Harbour. No doubt it was this carefree life which gave young Jack the love of the land.

On completing his schooling at Nambucca Heads he spent some time working on the farm and at odd jobs throughout the area before setting off, in his late teens, exploring various parts of north Queensland, at times working on tobacco farms and enjoying living the free and easy life of a single man.

After returning home to Coffs Harbour he was nearly 23 when he attended a dance at Lowanna where he was to meet his soul-mate for life. At the age of 16 Ivy May Wilson was also at the dance and before too long it was clear to both families that here was a couple who would spend their lives together. When Jack approached Ivy’s father asking permission ‘for her hand in marriage’, he was told in very clear terms that “she is far too young. Wait a while.”

Ivy’s father and mother, Arthur and Ada Wilson ran the local Co-op store at Glenreagh, just outside Coffs Harbour and she was their only child, born on 8 May 1923. Arthur also has a team of bullocks and operated as a timber-getter, bringing in the huge logs from the surrounding hills. He had been fitted with a wooden leg after a previous accident and sadly, Arthur was tragically killed when a log rolled on him, not too long after Jack’s request and Ivy still just 16.

In 1940, shortly after Ivy’s seventeenth birthday, she and Jack married at the Anglican Church, Glenreagh on 1 June. Managing a sawmill in Coffs Harbour and living in a small cottage on site, their only child Elaine (now Zendler) was born on 15 April 1945.

The couple by now had purchased a 20 acre farm at Coffs Harbour and set about establishing a banana plantation, only to see it wiped out in the 1949/50 cyclone which devastated the area. A firm believer that education in a larger city would be more beneficial to his daughter, the property at Coffs Harbour was sold and the family moved and operated a General Store on the corner of Eton and Sleith Streets Toowong, with Elaine commencing school at Milton.

Selling the business, Jack was appointed Section Manager for McLaren Brothers at the Roma Street Fruit Markets and the family moved to Canberra Drive Ashgrove, where Elaine attended the Oakleigh State School.

Working with bananas and fruit at the markets, the call to go back to the land became too strong and Jack’s search for a property led him to The Gap, where on 21 October 1952 he purchased an area of 50 acres from Bill Proctor at a cost of £500.

Within a month he had cleared the property and purchased 317 suckers of the prime Cavendish banana variety from Ray Kratz, Shire Councillor of Coffs Harbour and President of the NSW Growers Association. Ivy, who kept detailed, wonderful diaries of events, recorded that planting started on 22 November ’52.

Work was hard and the days long with over 26 acres being under cultivation and between the banana trees, crops of beans, tomatoes, watermelons and other vegetables were grown, with many late nights cleaning and packing for delivery to the markets. Good help was always in short supply – though a number of locals often did part-time work.

Being aware of the need to have an assured water source on hand, a huge dam was designed by Jack and the Water Commission and on completion held a total of 2,750,000 gallons and is the biggest dam ever constructed in the district. Jack’s success with the farm, which he and Ivy called “El-Palma”is legendary with the B.B.C. making a documentary on the farm workings.

With ‘Open Days’ and ‘Field Day Demonstrations’ by CSIRO and DPI, the pinnacle of success came in 1959 when Jack took out the Royal National Show Centenary Medal for their competition on ‘water harvesting’.

The citation reads –

For Dam Construction
Correct Usage of Irrigation Equipment
Correct Water Storage
Feature – Prevention of soil loss or erosion with contour drainage.

Photographic evidence shows that in late 1960, 20 bunches of bananas from the El-Palma property were delivered to COD and weighed in at one ton. Working the farm to 1971, Jack spent time preparing the wickets for the Valley District Cricket Club and keeping the park area clean in Yoku Road Ashgrove. Jack also worked with Maurice Napier in Real Estate in the area for seven years and became well known to newer residents, before retirement in 1980.

Gradually selling off sections of the property and building a new home in what became ‘Dillon Road’, Jack and Ivy moved back to Coffs Harbour until her passing in 1996.

Jack then returned to The Gap to live with his daughter Elaine and son-in- law, Paul Zendler. He took a keen interest in his three grandchildren Susanne, Vanessa and John and their spouses. Jack enjoyed the activities of his four adored great-grandchildren, Madeleine, Jack, Amy and Isabelle.

He was to pass away peacefully on 25 September 1999 and following a service at The Gap Anglican Church, was laid to rest with his beloved Ivy in Glenreagh Cemetery Northern New South Wales.

Source: Reflections 1, Memories of The Gap, © Copyright 1999 by Richard Speechley

 

  • Banana Harvest

    An exceptional bunch of bananas from the Dillon Plantation weighing in at 100 pounds.

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  • Banana Plantation

    Jack Dillon in mask and protective clothing reading to mist spray his banana plantation, October 1962.

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  • Bananas at Brisbane markets

    Consignment bananas at Brisbane markets, from Dillon’s Planation, The Gap, late 1960, 20 bunches weighed one ton.

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  • Bananas for Market

    A truck load of Dillon’s bananas ready for Roma Street markets, February 1957.

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  • Competition Award R.N.A.

    R.N.A award for Dillon Farm for water conservation and harvesting.

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  • D.P.I. Field Day

    Field Day conducted by he Department of Primary Industries at Dillon’s plantation on 28th April, 1961.

     

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  • D.P.I. Field Day

    Field Day conducted by Department of Primary Industries at Dillon’s plantation on 28th of April, 1961.

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  • Dam Construction

    Ivy’s mother, Ada Wilson, and uncle, Jim Pritchett, helping with the concrete pour to the construct weir in Dillon’s dam spillway.

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  • Dam Construction

    Dam Construction October 1956.

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  • Dam Construction

    Ivy Dillon inside the dam during Dam Construction in October 1956.

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  • Dam Construction

    Jack Dillon inside the dam Dduring Dam Construction in October 1956.

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  • Dam Construction Site

    The gully in July 1956  prior to dam construction. The track visible in the foreground was the forerunner to Dillon Road.

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  • Dillion property

    Concrete water tank on top of the south west ridge of Dillon’s plantation, circa 1962, used for gravity fed irrigation.

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  • Dillon banana plantation

    Dillon’s western plantation, 1965.

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  • Dillon Dam

    Dam constructed in Dillon Road by Jack Dillon. Taken from a helicopter by Noel Jackson, 1987

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  • Dillon Dam

    Jack Dillon in October 1956, during the construction of the massive water storage dam.

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  • Dillon Dam

    Department of Primary Industries Field Day at Dillon Dam, April 1961, with 100 people attending. The Visitors’ cars are parked below the dam.

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  • Dillon Dam 2016

    The property and dam was owned by the Dennien family in 2016.

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  • Dillon Dam 2016

    Members of The Gap Historical Society and Dennien family members celebrating the 60th anniversary of Dillon dam’s construction in October 2016.

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  • Dillon Family

    Isabelle’s great grandfather and his brother Iaan, and Isabelle’s grandmother under the Dillon Road sign. Dillon Road was named after Isabelle’s great grandparents John and Ivy Dillon.

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  • Dillon Home

    “El Palma”, the first home of Jack and Ivy Dillon, photographed in April 1953. The construction of the house was began in 1952 with the couple living in the garage during construction.

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  • Dillon Plantation

    Fully loaded 1949 Ford fighter on the Dillon plantation.

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  • Dillon plantation

    A proud farmer displays the fruits of his hard labour. on the Dillon plantation.

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  • Dillon plantation Clearing

    Left: Beginning clearing of the Western portion of the Dillon plantation, April, 1955.
    Right: Clearing of that portion completed, October 1956

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  • Dillon Plantation Western side

    The Western side of the Dillon plantation with irrigation in operation, late 1950s.

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  • Dillon property

    Dillon property photographed around 1956.

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  • Dillon property

    Beginning of land clearance for the second and largest portion of Jack and Ivy Dillon’s banana plantation in the western valley of his property, August 1955.

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  • Dillon Road

    Current Dillon Road – Payne Road area circa late 1950s taken from the Low’s property. Pointer’s house and poultry sheds are in the centre of the picture and the wall of Dillon’s dam is visible beyond there. Port of Jack Dillon’s banana plantation is on the centre left. Other banana plots on land leased from the Proctor and Cotton properties are behind the Dillon plantation and to the right of Pointers house. Low’s house is in the centre extreme left.

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  • Dillon’s Dam 2007

    View of Dillon’s Dam in 2007; the trees planted by Jack Dillon in the 1950s are mature.

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  • Dillons Dam

    Dillon’s Dam in April 1957. The dam is full for the first time since 22nd December 1956.

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  • Dillons Dam

    Dillon’s Dam with Weir completed in December 1960. Jacaranda and pine trees beginning to grow around the dam.

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  • Ivy Dillon

    Ivy Dillon harvesting tomato, August 1956.

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  • Ivy Dillon with Watermelons

    Ivy Dillon preparing watermelons for market, Christmas 1955.

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  • Jack and Ivy Dillon

    Jack and Ivy Dillon in 1986.

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  • Jack and Ivy Dillon

    Jack and Ivy Dillon in 1955 at Michael and Mary Crocker’s wedding

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  • Jack Dillon

    Jack Dillon stands proudly beside a loaded paw paw tree.

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  • John Dillon

    Aub O’Hara and Jack Dillon weighing “El-Palma” plantation bananas at Brisbane Markets in the late 1960s.

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  • Pasture Improvement and Water Harvesting Competition

    Pasture Improvement and Water Harvesting Competition prize ceremony invitation from the Royal National Agricultural and Industrial Association of Queensland.

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  • Paw Paw Crop

    Abundant paw paw crop on the Dillon plantation.

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  • Pump House

    The Pump House at Dillon’s Dam in October 1962.

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  • RNA Water Harvesting Award

    MR J.A. Dillion, winner of class 2 RNA Water Harvesting Award, August, 1959

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  • RNA Water Harvesting Field Day 1

    RNA Water Harvesting Competition Field Day, 1961, at J.A. Dillion’s Banana Plantation, Payne Rd, The Gap. Invitation Cover.

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  • RNA Water Harvesting Field Day 2

    RNA Water Harvesting Competition Field Day, 1961, at J.A. Dillion’s Banana Plantation, Payne Rd, The Gap. Invitation Detail

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  • View from Dillon Farm

    View of The Gap, Moggill Road, Dillon Road area, from the top of the mountain on Isabellle’s great grandparent’s farm, mid 1950s.

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  • View of Rifle Range

    Looking north to the Rifle Range from Jack Dillon’s water storage tank.

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  • Water Tank

    Completed and filled 20,000 gallon water tank at the top of Dillon plantation in February 1962.

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  • Water Tank construction

    Construction of the concrete water tank on the Dillon property in February 1962.

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  • Water Tank construction

    Construction of 20,000 gallon tank at the top of Dillon plantation to gravity irrigate the banana crap. The tank was constructed by three Dutchmen in February 1962.

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2019-12-10T08:20:04+00:00
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