My purpose in writing this is to tell the story of our family, trying to separate the facts from the fiction, as passed down from generation to generation.
The story began in 1874 on the Palmer River goldfields, where my Great, Great, Great Grandfather, also named William Rickards, met my G-G-G-Grandmother, Elizabeth. They were the original settlers on Bethrick, which was originally a sheep raising property. Their story is told in the trilogy of books, 'Palmer Gold', 'An Australian Ranch' and 'Carly and Sam...Will and Effie.''
I will endeavour to relate the rest as told to me by my Great Grandfather, Samuel Rickards. Unfortunately, Samuel died just a couple of years ago at the ripe old age of ninety-seven. In his younger days he knew the original William and his son Will, who was his father. It’s a pity he couldn’t have lasted a few more years to help me with this story. As it stands, I’ll have to rely on my memory of the many tales he used to tell me, both when I was a youngster listening in awe with mouth agape I should imagine, and later as a teenager, before I left the family hearth to find my own way in the world.
Samuel was old when first I knew him. To me, at such a young age, he appeared ancient. He would have been in his mid seventies then, which I suppose you could call ‘old’ when you are only young yourself. In all the time I knew him he didn’t seem to have aged, except in the last year of his life, but I suppose that could be said to be in the eye of the beholder.
As was the custom with all the first-born sons, Samuel lived on Bethrick all of his life, until failing health forced my father to take him in to a Nursing Home in Dalby for the last few months of his life. His own son, Raymond, my Grandfather, my father’s father, was the ‘black sheep’ of the family, but more about that later. He was killed during the Korean War in 1952, many years before I was born.
When Samuel’s wife, Mabel, passed away with cancer at the age of sixty-eight in 1973, only three weeks after my parents’ wedding, he moved out of the homestead into one of the cottages with his two unmarried daughters, leaving the homestead for my newly-married parents to move into. There are three cottages on Bethrick besides the homestead, which were occupied at various times by one or other of the married sons and daughters, or the married ringers.