This is Linda’s story told in her own words
My name is Linda Jaques. I was born in 1953 in Zanzibar, an island off the coast of Tanzania in East Africa, which was known for its slave trading. My father of Scottish descent was born in India where he grew up and became a lieutenant in the Ghurkhas. He returned to England with his father who was a Major in the British Army when the independence fighting became a concern but sought opportunities to go back to the colonies and found work in a shipping company in Kenya. On the boat trip out, he met my mother, of Welsh, English and French heritage, born in Egypt, who was going to Kenya to visit her brother. They married, and spent a few years in Mombasa where my sister was born. The job then took my father to Zanzibar where I was born. My father then found work in Kericho up in the White Highlands of Kenya, working for Brooke Bond Tea. My husband, Nat Jaques was born in Arusha, Tanzania in 1951. The Jaques family left England after World War II during which Nat’s father had been a bomber pilot in the RAF and had survived being shot down. They came to East Africa to fly planes to spray for locusts they then settled in Tanzania growing coffee and pyrethrum and flying the family Cessna.
After leaving school, I enrolled into the nurse training program at the Middlesex hospital in London. I had just completed my first year and was home on holiday when I accompanied my family on a visit to my uncle (my mother’s brother, the same one she came out to visit when she met my father, so he was the instigator in two relationships) in southern Tanzania. On the way, we visited friends in Arusha. At a dinner party there I met the young coffee grower who stole my heart. I always say I grew up on tea and then married coffee and to prove that I could be a good coffee wife I had to climb Mount Kilimanjaro which is only 19,340 feet! Mount Kilimanjaro could be seen from Nat’s bedroom window in Arusha and it has always been an icon for him. When they grew up, he encouraged both our sons to climb it, which they did, so all four of us have climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.
Although Nat and I were a couple, I returned to England to complete my training, seeing him once a year when I took leave. I became a registered nurse and have now nursed in three continents – England, Africa and Australia. After getting my qualification, I found work in a hospital in Nairobi and Nat and I began to plan our wedding. One month before the wedding date I was on the way to work a night shift in a tiny yellow mini when a bus doing 70mph on the wrong side of the road simply ran over the car and crushed me. Fortunately, two doctors passed by the scene of the accident and they carefully put me in the back of the station wagon and drove me to the local hospital, where I was supposed to be on duty. I had many broken bones, including my pelvis, and my recovery took many months, but I pulled through and danced at my wedding. Although it was a difficult and painful time, I am grateful for the insight it gave me into what it feels like to be a patient. That accident made me a better nurse. I was the Clinical Nurse in charge of the Palliative care unit at Mareeba hospital for some time and I also worked as a community nurse for the Blue Nurses. I believe it was my experience as a patient that help me understand my patients and being honoured to receive ’Citizen of the Year’ award in 1995 in recognition of my nursing. I have some distinct scars on my right shoulder. When people ask me what happened, I tell them I had a fight with a leopard. It sounds more exciting than a bus!
When we were finally able to marry, Nat and I settled into the coffee plantation in Arusha, Tanzania. Not long after however, the border between Kenya and Tanzania was closed due to clashes between the two countries. We had to become totally self-sufficient as no goods could come into Tanzania. I had to learn to make everything – butter and cheese. We had our own pigs – Pinkie and Perky. We waited until they had ‘porkies’ and from them I learnt to make bacon, ham and sausages! We fished and shot wild game to feed ourselves and our workers on the farm and I had to sew our clothes and furnishings. Then the Tanzanian government began to nationalise properties owned by ex-patriot farmers giving them 48 hours to leave. They started at the south of Tanzania and took a number of dairy farms and then ate all the cows leading to a milk shortage. When they got to our region where there were a large number of ex-patriot farmers, the government realized they could not actually run the farms so the nationalisation stopped but we remained economic hostages because we could not sell as no-one would buy property in such uncertain conditions. Our coffee crop was huge and prices at a world high, but we could only sell it to the government curing works and were taxed at 90% . So, we had to leave. Australia was a frontier country like Africa so we decided to relocate to Australia. After a 12 month wait we were finally accepted for immigration into Australia, basically on my nursing qualifications because they were not interested in Nat’s farming qualifications. This is ironic since with his knowledge and expertise he pioneered the coffee industry here in Australia.
The only Airline that had flights to Australia was South African Airways but they did not sell tickets in Tanzania due to apartheid so on 1 November 1978 we flew to Mauritius, hoping to get an onward flight. But there were no flights to Australia until January! My parents were in Perth visiting my sister who had just had a grandchild number one. Unbeknown to me, my mother had injured her chest in Mauritius and on examination they found she had breast cancer so my father was able to get us special circumstances seats in different parts of the aeroplane. We were contacted by the airline to say we had seats and to get to the airport. It wasn’t until I saw my fathers’ face that I knew something was wrong. My mother had a mastectomy the next day and I nursed her back to health. My parents eventually returned to Kenya and Nat and I began our search for a place to follow our dream – growing coffee.
We bought a Ute and a piggy-back camper working our way across Australia. We came to far north
Queensland because this area is in the ‘coffee growing’ latitude. We arrived in Cairns in the 1979 Wet: one of the most active cyclone seasons on record. Cyclones Peter and Kevin dropped a lot of water on Cairns and we found ourselves in a place where the streets were torrents of water! This was not something that we had seen before! Land prices were more expensive than we had anticipated so we went back to Brisbane where I nursed at the Wesley hospital and Nat found work as a real estate agent. We had seen a piece of land in Mareeba and eventually our application for a priority special lease was granted as the writing was on the wall for the tobacco growing industry and we were welcomed with the vision of a new industry. We returned to start clearing land and establish a coffee nursery. We felt so at home in this great country we became Australian Citizens in 1982.
It takes 5 to 6 years for a coffee tree to produce a commercial crop so we lived in the piggy-back camper, and tin sheds as we cleared land and planted coffee trees. I nursed with the Blue Nurses and Nat picked up work where he could between working on the coffee and building the sheds and processing plant. In 1980 Nat’s brother and his wife joined us in the business, they arrived to stay in our half-finished house the day I left hospital after giving birth to our first son. In Tanzania we had had 300 workers to pick coffee. So Nat put on his thinking cap and with a draughtsman and an engineer at NQEA the ship builders in Cairns, the world’s first Coffee Harvester was created. Our second son was born in 1983. By 1986, we had 100 tons of coffee on the trees waiting to be picked when ‘the recession we had to have’ hit Australia and our bank foreclosed. The interest rate was 22%. Our request for time to harvest the crop was refused and the property was sold at a liquidation sale. We stayed on as managers for 6 months before circumstances forced us to leave.
Not long after however, we were able to secure a loan and purchased our current property on the banks of Emerald Creek. I returned to nursing full-time to bring in an income and Nat worked where he could as he built up a second plantation. Nat was offered a job as coffee consultant by a Gold mine in Irinanya, West Papua to teach the natives how to grow, harvest, process and roast coffee, which was quite a challenge as there were no roads so he had to be dropped in by helicopter. He had equipment made here in Mareeba and shipped to West Papua. He was very popular in the villages when he organised piped water, first time they had had water from a tap.
In 1995 the trees were growing well with a beautiful flowering indicating a good crop when a Fruit Fly was found in Far North Queensland. There was not one coffee bean on the plantation only flowers as it takes eight months for the coffee bean to develop but the DPI insisted on spraying and killed all 50,000 trees on the plantation. It took 15 years of Court battles and appeals before the courts found in our favour and we were compensated. Legal costs took the bulk of the damages but we were able to build some accommodation on the farm with the payout.
Once the coffee plantation was established, we looked at add-on services. The World’s first Coffee harvester, Coffee Shuttle One does a great job and the wet factory processes the coffee by ferment ting, washing and drying the coffee, getting it ready for the removal of the next two skins. It takes 6 kilos of red coffee cherries to get 1 kilo of green beans which is then roasted and packaged. We started a coffee shop on the property selling our coffee. Our eldest son Jason joined the business and helped build a restaurant and coffee centre which is open 7 days a week 364 days a year. He built an Online shop which sends coffee all round the world, shortly after Rob, our youngest son also joined the business. Last year we had 85,000 visitors to do tours of the plantation, take flights in the Gyrocopter or Microlights or alternatively have a ride on Segways. Both Nat and Rob are pilots and instructors.
We went back to Africa 2 1/2 years ago and actually stayed at our old plantation home which is now a tourist resort with its beautiful setting of the crater lake in the front and views of Mt Meru and Kilimanjaro, all of which we had to leave behind. There was not one coffee tree left on the plantation.
Today, Nat and I are so proud to have both our sons in the business ” Jaques Australian Coffee” which is a family owned Australian business and we have just been presented with our fourth grandchild. We are also very proud to be unique as one of the only farms that grows, harvests, processes, roasts, sells beans and ground coffee in packets, coffee liqueur and nespresso compatible pods and also coffee by the cup. Our coffee dream was finally fulfilled here in: Mareeba.
Janet Greenwood Operations Manager
Janet commenced work with the Mareeba Heritage Centre in July 2016. She had the vision to create this project and was instrumental in acquiring funds and putting the right people in place to bring this project together. Janet is passionate about community engagement and development.
Mick Hay Announcer (Mareeba 4AM & Innisfail 4KZ)
Mick has worked casually in radio for 30 years at a number of stations including 4LM, 4GC and 4KZ whilst also working for Telstra. He joined the 4AM team taking over the Breaky Show full time in July 2014. Mick enjoys living in tropical North Queensland after growing up in Innisfail and staying in areas like Thursday Island, Normanton, Mount Isa, Cairns and Mossman. In his spare time, Mick likes to go camping, do a bit of fishing and he enjoys the great outdoors.
Angela Musumeci Volunteer Project Officer
Angela was born in Mareeba but like most young people left to pursue a career in Corrections and then Community Services. On retirement, she returned to her home town and is happy to be contributing to progression and preservation.
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