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Maurie & Edna Richards of Buderim

March 1, 2020
buderim ginger building old photo

Maurie & Edna Richards are both 93 years young. In November 2019 they marked seventy years of marriage. Edna claims that for at least thirty of those seventy years he had another mistress, the Buderim Ginger Factory.

Maurie reminiscences over those years when he was on call twenty-four hours a day in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. His job was to service the machinery that sliced and diced the ginger, mixed and cooked the jams, moved the ginger around the building and loaded the drums on to trucks. He even built a machine to crack macadamia nuts.

From Mapleton Primary School Maurie attended Nambour Rural School. He had learned to fix machinery on his father’s farm but he learnt much more “on the job” at the Nambour Sugar Mill and Palmwoods Sawmill.

The Buderim factory never stopped. There was a staff of sixty. Local farmers wanting to supplement their incomes worked the night shift. Buderim in those years was a quiet country town with farms where most of the ginger was grown.

He recalls Geoff Shrapnel, the Nambour accountant, who was manager and the secretary, Doris Marbech. Both are credited with the factory’s success.

The company joined with Warrys of Maryborough to produce the Merrybud brand.  In season, two to three tons of strawberries might arrive daily; women worked as sorters. Cans on conveyor belts filled up with fresh strawberries, syrup with a colorant. One batch would be 200 cans; roughly 1000 cans were produced daily. Mick Mead was the best jam maker.

The local police would often arrive saying there had been complaints about trucks blocking the street. As well, at peak times, tourist buses delivered hundreds of visitors a day.

Ginger is seasonal and only available for two months of the year so it needed to be stored. The crop arrived in bags by trailer or truck. It was weighed and washed and put into fifty-five large, brine-filled concrete vats, each held twelve tons.

The factory made crystallised ginger, ginger in syrup, ginger marmalade and sliced and diced ginger. Forty-four gallons drums were used for export.

In the 1970s it was obvious that more space was needed. Land at Yandina was acquired and the new factory was opened officially by Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen in 1980. It was time for Maurie to retire.

Maurie & Edna both come from Sunshine Coast farming stock. Maurie’s ancestors were the two Smith Brothers, the first Mapleton selectors; they became successful citrus growers. Both sets of parents grew citrus at Palmwoods and then retired to smaller farms at Buderim.

Their one daughter Pam vouches for their resourcefulness and community involvement. Together they built their first home. They ran the Saturday night pictures in the Buderim Hall without payment from 1955 to 1962. Maurie volunteered his photography skills at the local primary school’s annual fancy dress ball.  He fixed machinery for neighbours. They can truly look back on very busy and full lives.

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