Friday, April 25, 2014


 Teaching the sport of springboarding
 In Germaine Greer's book 'White Beech - The Rainforest Years' (Bloomsbury 2014) we are given a remarkable historical account of the timber getting industry in South East Queensland as recalled by Bernard O'Reilly of 'Green Mountain' fame and the dangers associated with the use of the springboard which came to be used because trees were unable to be cut down from the ground owing to their flanged or buttressed trunks, a characteristic of many rainforest trees. The springboard is made of light wood, four foot long and a foot wide and it has at one end a steel tip which is inserted into a horizontal slot cut into the tree and "on this narrow rocking perch the settler swings his razor-edged axe, sometimes twenty or even thirty feet from the ground, then as the tree begins to go, he must descend swiftly, bringing not only his axe but his springboard."(O'Reilly) Many lost their lives or were seriously injured in the process. As Greer explains, "the O'Reilly boys all at one time or another sustained terrible injuries from their own axes. Ped and Herb both severed leg tendons; Pat buried his axe in his abdomen; Norb stitched a cut on his leg with needle and cotton.' By way of variation on the self-injury theme, Mick fell from his springboard and was impaled on a spike."
The wood chopping events held at Agricultural Shows across Australia are a reminder of these timber industry pioneers.

 White Beech timber from the rainforest tree Gmelina leichhardtii (Lamiaceae) It is 'highly resistant to decay in ground contact or in persistently damp or ill-ventilated situations' and in the early 1900's it was used for building frames, as well as flooring, lining, mouldings, joinery and cladding.'
'There is now no White Beech timber to be had anywhere' (Greer)

By Ashley Sewell
Department of Natural Resources Queensland, 1997

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