SISTER ACT: Nell, Mary, Kate and Rose Lynch, with the tools of their trade.
SISTER ACT: Nell, Mary, Kate and Rose Lynch, with the tools of their trade. Contributed

The Gympie sisters who put local bushmen to shame

"The Australian bush, and Queensland probably in particular, has produced many heroines, who have faced dangers, privations, and adversities with stout hearts.

In the great work of pioneering they took a very big part.

They played the game right through and were worthy of Victoria Crosses, which did not come their way, but posterity is the gainer in the worthy sons and daughters which have succeeded them.”

So reads a report in the Queensland Times of Ipswich in 1920.

A recent writer gives an instance of what muscular women of late years have done.

Near Gympie, Mary and Maggie Lynch were familiar figures driving their bullock teams.

Afterwards the girls went wood cutting round about Kilkivan and Nanango, and Mary won a wood-chopping contest against all of the men who entered.

The Lynch sisters were brought up on their father's farm at Glastonbury, near Gymple, and as he had not the money to employ labour, Mary and Maggie did the work for their earliest years.

They were tall, powerful women - as strong, if not stronger, than the average bushman.

Irish immigrant Cornelius Lynch selected land near Gympie in 1872 and married Ellen Flynn in 1879.

It seems that their cattle died during an infestation of tick fever and Cornelius was forced to return to timber-getting.

Producing five daughters before the first of his seven sons, Cornelius taught the oldest daughters the timber trade

The tall and strongly built girls quickly made a success of the trade, competing successfully for contracts against the men in the business.

Much credit should be given to Ellen, who gave birth to fourteen strong children between 1879 and 1902.

The Lynch sisters gained public attention when, becoming well known for their timber cutting skills, they were asked to appear and give demonstrations at local shows and other public events.

Their appearance in the Kingaroy Show was reported in the Cairns Morning Post in 1908.

"The big and popular feature of the day at the Kingaroy annual show (says the local "Herald”) was the wood chopping contest by the Misses Kate, Nellie, Mary, and Rose Lynch.”

"The ladies entered the ring in sensible working garb, being officially escorted.”

"Their logs were prepared previously by the men folk competitors, and having taken their places they, chopped with fine swinging blows and keen rivalry, whilst snapshots clicked and the crowd watched quietly and keenly every cut.”

"As Miss Mary's log toppled over, and Miss Nellie's followed the crowd burst into the ring like a deluge.”

"The girls were overwhelmed with congratulations and. cheers were given right heartily. It was some time before they could reach their dressing-room.”

"The exhibition was a most novel, honest, and attractive event, and would make a fortune for an entrepreneur.”

The timber-cutting partnership of the Lynch Sisters was eventually disbanded when Rose, Mary and Nell were married.

Tony Matthews in his book True Blue Queenslanders describes the sisters as exceptionally hard working and also proud and self reliant and that they lived in the men's camps under canvas without any kind of modern conveniences, yet the life the sisters lived in the bush did in no way reduce their femininity.

Early male timber-getters and selectors remember them as being attractive, handsomely attired in their Victorian dresses.

The sisters were also very intelligent, 'real ladies' as one pioneer described them.

The Lynch sisters have been included in a list of the most significant people in Gympie's history by the Gympie branch of the National Trust.

The list will be narrowed further for inclusion in a book to be published next year for Gympie's 150th Anniversary.

With competition including James Nash, who made the original gold discovery at Gympie, former Prime Minister, Andrew Fisher, and Major General Sir William Glasgow on the list, the Lynch sister's inclusion in the final selection is not certain but if chosen they would be worthy inclusions

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