Backward Glance: The Roy family – fruit growers of the Sunshine Coast
  • Wednesday 24 May 2017
The Roy family were pioneers of citrus growing on the Sunshine Coast. 

 
Four generations of this family were involved in the largest citrus farm industry in the Palmwoods district from 1908 till 1984. Their land is now a part of residential land estates and many families live on their old orchard lands. 

Roys Road, Palmwoods is named after this farming family. 

There is a memorial cairn in Palmwoods situated on land once a part of the Roy holdings which was cut off when Montville Road was realigned. 

The plaque on the cairn reads, To the memory of the Roy families who through four generations 1908 to 1984 pioneered the citrus industry in this district, built the parklands and later handed it over to the Maroochy Shire Council for the enjoyment of everyone. They were also the original founders of the Golden Ripe Citrus orchards on 350 acres surrounding this park. They opened the Suncoast juice factory in 1980, at that time the only privately owned juice factory outside the capital cities. April 1994. 

The first ‘through fruit train’ from the North Coast to Sydney and Melbourne commenced in 1919. This was an important change as the fruit growers were then able to get their produce to the larger southern cities quickly so the fruit did not spoil in transit.

Farming has all but disappeared in Palmwoods, but for many locals who worked in the Suncoast juice factory or in the fruit packing sheds on Roy’s citrus farms memories would be many. 

There was a large farm out on Roy’s Road off Landershute Road which was owned by orchardist Charlie Roy. Roy’s farms included the areas of the Old Orchard Estate and their farms extended up towards the Palmwoods School. 

The family was also very community minded. Gordon Roy was a Councillor for Maroochy Shire and Jessie Roy was acknowledged in Maroochy Shire Centenary celebrations with an award for her contributions to the shire which was met with a standing ovation by the community.

Young brothers Harry, Gordon and Jack Roy moved to the Coochin Creek district in the early 1930s arriving on horseback. Later they managed a 37,000 citrus tree orchard on 248ha as well as a turf farm. 

The Roy family of Coochin Creek worked hard and grew lemons and Washington naval oranges for three generations. They also had a jetty in the lower reaches of Coochin Creek with frontage to Pumicestone Passage where the packed fruit could be picked up from Roy’s Jetty and taken by boat down Pumicestone Passage to the markets in Brisbane. Today tourist boats pull up to that same jetty.

The industrious Roy brothers made a road from their property at Coochin Creek to Beerwah. This dirt road crossed creeks through isolated low lying rough mulga scrub to reach Beerwah on the main highway. The Roys built spider bridges to traverse the creeks and water ways so they could transport the fruit by rail to Brisbane. The Coochin Creek Fruit Co-Operative, established in Beerwah in 1936, was adjacent to the Beerwah Railway Station and it was here where the fruit was loaded onto the goods trains.
Today Roy’s Road crosses the Bruce Highway not far from Beerwah. 

A little cemetery closer to Beerwah on Roys Road is where early members of the Roys pioneering family rest. The three Roy brothers contributed to the building of Roys Road, which bears their name. They struggled with the everyday hardships familiar to many farmers. 

In 1998, when ex-politician Wyatt Roy was eight, their homestead burnt down following an accidental kitchen fire and, one year later, the Roys lost three years' worth of fruit in a single hailstorm on the Coochin Creek holdings.

In 2017, land sale signs displayed along the Bruce Highway show development is coming ever closer to the Coochin Creek and Bells Creek area. 

Road signs with a horse silhouette can also be seen beside the Bruce Highway. These caution the modern traveller to be aware of wild horses nearby. 

The brumbies of Wild Horse Mountain ran in big mobs of up to 50 in the 1930s and 1940s. Descended from horses gone astray they were plentiful between Beerburrum and the shores of Pumicestone Passage. A few wild horses still remain in the great stands of pine forest which were once very isolated areas. 

The name Roy’s Road and the signs on the highway remind us of days gone by, when things were very different on the Sunshine Coast.

Thanks to Sunshine Coast Council’s Heritage Library Officers for the words and Picture Sunshine Coast for the images. 

In 2017, we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Naming of the Sunshine Coast. For more information on this milestone anniversary visit www.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au/fifty

Image captions:
Hero image: First fruit train to Sydney and Melbourne at Woombye Railway Station, 1919.

Carousel images:
Image 1: Palmwoods residents Richard Roy pictured with his wife Jessie Roy nee Spackman, ca 1950.
Image 2: Lester and Bronwyn Roy composting Meyer lemons growing on the Roy family farm near Palmwoods, ca 1985.
Image 3: Richard Noel Roy son of Charlie Ray in the driver seat of Charlie Roy's T Model Ford at the Palmwoods fruit packing sheds operated by citrus growers R N Roy and sons, ca 1980.
Image 4: Golden Ripe modern packing shed under construction at Palmwoods, June 1971.