Chronology of El Arish

1918 – a destructive cyclone hits Innisfail and surrounds on March 10th and it interrupts the surveying work recently begun in the El Arish area.

ww1 returned servicemen1919 to 1920 – Francis Paxton Martin begins as the supervisor of the Maria Creek soldier settlement, later naming the town El Arish, after a meeting with the soldier settlers. He served in Egypt in the 6th and 2nd light horse divisions. He is assisted by W.J. Cooper, secretary of the soldiers settlement. 

A newspaper article states that the “soldier settler scheme” at Maria Creek commenced 1st August 1920.


  •  24th March – applications closed for 20 portions to be made available.
  •  18th July – 35 blocks are taken up, 4 blocks in August, including the school block, #52.
  •  8th November – there are 50 settlers in residence and 15 wives.
  • 16th November – the postal receiving office commences at El Arish, then , via Innisfail.  War Pensions were paid from the office.  The name of the Receiving Officer is not known but was probably J.B. Wheatley.
  • 19th November – report by education dpt. Inspector F.P. Baker states that “the north coast railway has just reached the settlement, and a railway station and post office are being established.”
  • Mr. C. Harding, lands department surveyor finishes his survey in El Arish, as does Mr. Whish, railway department surveyor. Their two names are combined to name “Whing Creek”. Mr. Harding’s wife Myrtle gives her name to Mt. Myrtle, south of El Arish. Basil Kelly, who was on the surveying team, also gives his name to “Basils Peak” on the west of El Arish.


  • the railway line between Innisfail and El Arish opens on the 18th December 1922, and the station and the station masters house are built. The line from Cairns to Brisbane is not yet finished.


  •  1922-El Arish School Queensland30th May – the first day for El Arish State School, under the principal Mr. William Henry Hennessy. There are five students – Harold James Martin, David Bruce Martin, Beatrice Isabel Dear, Violet Mabel Dear And Margaret Emma Dear. The nearest school had been Silkwood, 6 miles away and was too far for El Arish children to go. A second teacher was appointed in 1928.



  • In March 1922 there are 60-odd returned men on their holdings and in December there are 78.
  • 2nd December – the “Maria Creek post office and store” burned down overnight. The building was owned by the lands department and occupied by Mr. Mclennan.


December 8th – Premier Ted Theodore opens the Daradgee Bridge (or Daraji in some railway records) completing the Cairns to Townsville section. Construction of the bridge had begun in 1919. In December there are 83 settlers.  

Stephen Theodore (politician)

grower in Tully by 1923 becoming the Director and Chairman of the Tully sugar mill. In 1950 he was a banana farmer in Tully. In 1900 he married Margaret
  • November 5th – Tully Sugar Mill begins its first crushing season which runs until the 16th January 1926, crushing 32,075 tons of sugar cane and yielding 3,946 tons of raw sugar.


  • El Arish State School has 50 students.
  • The begins on April 19th. Mr.J.F. Steine is the president of the Maria Creek Canegrowers.
  • The Dear family build the El Arish hotel.
  • 1928 – January 1st – the only existing hall in El Arish is destroyed by fire on New Year’s night. It is owned by the Dear family and may have been in Chauvel Street near the hotel.



The State member for Herbert (Mr. P. Pease) has forwarded the following letter received by him from the Minister for Agriculture.

“I have to acknowledge receipt of your communication wherein reference is made to the banana industry generally, and the growing of that fruit particularly in North Queensland. Your representations on behalf of Mr. J. Daveson, of El Arish, who is interested himself in banana growing, and who has been good enough to offer assistance at any time if an officer of this department versed in banana culture, visits the district with a view of discussing banana cultivation with the growers of El Arish, have been noted. I have to inform you that I haye caused arrangements to be made for Mr. Stephens, an officer of the department, stationed at Cardwell, to proceed to El Arish at a early date, and to visit the owners of the plantations there with a view to giving advice on the cultural methods to be followed in the production of bananas.”

The foregoing has caused some satisfaction amongst the banana growers of the El Arish district, and the advice given them by the officer in question will be thankfully received and faithfully applied.

Harvard/Australian citation : 1929 ‘BANANAS.’, Cairns Post (Qld. : 1909 – 1954), 16 March,

  • August 20th – three blocks of land are purchased at auction, for the purpose of building a recreational hall.


RSL Hall El Arish

RSL Hall El Arish

  • the El Arish RSL memorial hall is officially opened at a cost of £600. The farmers north of the Walter Hill range have been levied one penny per ton of cane to assist with the building fund. A large children’s fancy dress function is held, along with a dance.


  • May 1st – the Tully Sugar Mill control and management is transferred to its suppliers and F.N.King of Jaffa and J.C. Proctor of El Arish are appointed to the first board of directors.


“Early Action” – BRISBANE, January 17.

Early action is to be taken, by the Lands Department in agricultural development of North. Queensland, and in this direction extensive tracts of country, suitable for dairying and closer settlement generally, will be made available at different periods throughout the coming year in the Atherton, Cairns, Herberton, Innisfail and Mackay districts.

1935 ‘IN THE FAR NORTH.’, Cairns Post (Qld. : 1909 – 1954), 18 January, p. 9, viewed 18 November, 2014,

  • St. Anthony’s Anglican Church is opened in Chauvel Street. It is a private home today.
  • Approximate year of the beginning of the Tully to Cairns rail motor service. According to Angelica Giesel …“there were 11 trips scheduled each way … including trips on Sundays … each…took at least four and a half hours.”


  • September 11th – Gordon Foxover has the successful tender to build the Granadilla Road State School. The amount is £368.10ˢ.


  • Saturday June 12th – the Tully Mill locomotive line, or tramway, 2 foot gauge, opens in El Arish at a cost of about £65,000. A large function is held at Hogans Creek and families are taken around the entire “loop” on open wagons with seats, and a picnic was enjoyed by all.


  • The original El Arish State School building is still in place. It was advertised for removal in the 1939 Cairns post and is eventually sold and thought to have gone north somewhere.


  • The older children in El Arish go to rural school in Tully and the trip takes up to one and a half hours each way.


  • The construction of the Cenotaph is well underway and the Anzac Day ceremony is held there.


  • El Arish State School has 160 students.


  • March – Cyclone Agnes hits El Arish


  • The Methodist Church in Wilson street is opened and Reverend Thomas is the minister. It is a private home today.


  • The Golden Jubilee of the El Arish State School is celebrated.


  • The rail motor is taken off the line.


  • February 1st – Cyclone Winifred


  • El Arish State School has 109 students and the 75th year of the school is celebrated.


  • March 20th – Cyclone Larry hits, crossing the coast at Kurrimine Beach.


  • February 2nd – very destructive Cyclone Yasi hits between Cowley and Cardwell.


  • April 25th. Anzac Day at the RSL Memorial Hall – We honour the Prisoners Of War on the Burma Railway with a display of prints by Englishman Jack Chalker. He was a lifelong friend of Weary Dunlop, and the paintings depict conditions and medical practices in the camps. The prints were very kindly donated and compiled by John and Dii Dunlop.


  • April 18th – The grand opening of the project “El Arish Salutes Its Generals”. The Federal Government “Centenary of Anzac Grant”, kindly facilitated by Bob Katter and his staff, allowed us to build and erect six signposts, each with a photograph and biography of “our” Generals. The posts were handmade by our local blacksmith Brent Cook. General Sir Harry Chauvel’s sign stands at the History Station on Chauvel Street.
  • 2015 – April 25th, Anzac Day. We had an extraordinary attendance for the centenary of Anzac, about three hundred people, and the Dawn Parade and breakfast were both very special social occasions. David Martin, son of Francis Paxton Martin from Wodonga came along with his brothers and sisters. He made a wonderful speech and framed presentation to the committee of a copy of his father’s medals and memorabilia.

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