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Life-long bonds forged in sweat

Cane cutter Terry McKeough (left) and derrickman John Day, of Broadwater, preparing for tomorrow’s cane industry reunion in Broadwater.  
Cane cutter Terry McKeough (left) and derrickman John Day, of Broadwater, preparing for tomorrow’s cane industry reunion in Broadwater.   Jay Cronon

WHEN cane cutter Terry McKeough arrived home after a day at work his skin was black from head to toe. Only his eyeballs glowed white.

He was only a 15-year-old boy when he joined his first cane-cutting gang at Broadwater. It was not a job for the faint-hearted.

The men worked from dawn until dusk and had to contend with rats and snakes in the fields.

During the hotter months the cane exuded a sticky molasses-like substance, which mixed in with the black ash on the skin and attracted stinging bees.

The hard work formed strong bonds in the gangs. Mr McKeough worked in a gang that cut together for 18 years.

In 1974 the last sugar cane crop was harvested by hand, and Mr McKeough worked a harvestingmachine for another decade.

Many of the cane cutters haven’t seen each other since 1974 and tomorrow they will come together at the cane-cutters’ reunion at the Broadwater Community Hall.

Haulers, derrickmen and boat crews who worked in the Broadwater area will also join their old comrades.

Some are travelling from as far afield as Moree, Mildura, Brisbane and Far North Queensland.

The reunion has been organised by Mr McKeough and his cane-cutting mate, John Day, of Broadwater.

The men are expecting nearly 300 people tomorrow and are hoping for fine weather.

Cynthia McKeough, like many other wives in the area, has been cooking up a storm to help feed the troops.

Her contribution includes a date and caramel slice and pumpkin scones, which will go down a treat with a hot cup of tea.

REUNION DETAILS

Meet: 10am.

Venue: Broadwater Community Hall.

Who: All cane cutters, derrickmen and boat crews who worked in the Broadwater area prior to the introduction of mechanical harvesting.

Wives and partners most welcome too.

BBQ lunch: $10 per person.

Refreshments: Coffee and tea provided, BYO all other drinks.

Memorabilia: Some cutting knives, photographs, etc.



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