View of a sugar mill in the distance with a forest covered in the background

News of the Day

Warwick Daily News, Monday 11 July 1938, page 1

£10,000 damage. Outbreak of Fire at Mulgrave Central Sugar Mill. Large Number Of Men Thrown Idle

CAIRNS, Sunday.—Damage estimated at £10,000 was caused by a fjre at Mulgrave Central Sugar mill at.Gordonvale on Saturday night. The fires began in the engine room, but the water supply at the mill, which is the biggest in Queensland, was insufficient and the fire brigade from Cairns, 12 miles away, had to be requisitioned. The firemen made a good save, the blaze being confined to the engine room. The mill itself is valued at £300,000.

Sparks from an oxywelding plant operating in No. 4 mill falling into an oil sump beneath the driving wheels are believed to have caused the outbreak. More than 400 cane cutters will be out of work until the mill is repaired, which will take about three weeks.

Flames leapt from the oil sumps 20ft. to the ceiling and in a few minutes the whole of the driving platform was ablaze. A man operating a welder received burns on the arms, but sprang to safety when the gases from the well door suddenly ignited with a tremendous flare.

When the fire broke out workmen, rushed to quell the flames with emergency hoses, but they could not stop the fire. The men then concentrated on confining the blaze to the machinery section.

With the arrival of the fire engine from Cairns three lines of hose from the mill reservoir were brought into play, and about midnight the fire was extinguished.

At daylight today men began clearing the debris, and it is hoped to have the mill running again in three weeks.


Richard Blackwell was a pioneer settler in the Gordonvale area. On 18 October 1879, took up land in the Mulgrave River area known as Plain Camp, near where Gordonvale is now located. He reportedly made a gift of part of this land for the establishment of the Mulgrave Sugar Mill. The Sugar Works Guarantee Act of 1893 provided for the erection of approved Central Mills on a government loan if farmers mortgaged their land as security. After the principal and interest had been met, these Central Mills were to be handed to the growers as Cooperative Mills.

The Mulgrave settler's organisation evolved from a meeting held at Tom Mackey's farm, at which Richard Blackwell was in attendance. A provisional directorate was formed with Mackey as Chairman. The original memorandum of the Association of the Mulgrave Central Mill Co Ltd dated 14 November 1893, was registered in Brisbane 20 April 1895. Signatories to this included Richard Blackwell. The nominal capital of £40,000 was increased to £60,000 in 1896. The Mulgrave Central Mill enterprise proceeded rapidly, and Richard Blackwell was one of the first directors of the Mulgrave Mill.


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