This is Giacomo and Grazia Bombardieri’s story, told by their son Angelo.

I am Angelo Bombardieri.  I was born in Mareeba on 28 December 1943, the third of 4 children born to Giacomo and Grazia Bombardieri.  This is their story.

Giacomo Bombardieri was born in 1901, in Tirano the province of Sondrio in Northern Italy.  He lived in Roncaola a small village in the Alps. Like all young men in Italy at that time, my father had to serve in the Italian army.  He spent 3 years with the national guard, known as the Alpini, in the mountains.  When he finished his national service, he decided to emigrate to Australia.  My father never spoke about why he left Italy. I believe he was looking for a better life and for opportunities to help out the rest of his family in Italy.  He came to Australia by boat.  The first port of call was Freemantle Western Australia but my father did not disembark until he landed in Brisbane in 1924.  He then travelled to Ingham in Far North Queensland, I believe by train, to start work in the cane fields. He stayed in Ingham for six months before travelling further north to Redlynch where he also cut cane. He applied for naturalisation and received it in 1929 after being in Australia for 5 years.

After his naturalisation, my father came to Mareeba where the new crop, tobacco, was being planted.  He and a partner bought a block of land in Dimbulah and began planting tobacco.  Tobacco was a tough crop back then.  They had to cart water to water each plant and all labour was manual.

My mother was born in New York, United States of America in 1911.  She lived there with her parents who had emigrated from Sicily, for 8 years.  She was one of the younger siblings in a group of 8.  In 1917 her parents returned to Sicily to live after her father was injured in a work incident, leaving some of the older siblings who were married and settled in America. As a girl, my mother was in charge of caring for her parents so had few opportunities in Sicily.  At 28, family friends with members in Australia suggested to my parents that they should marry.  They corresponded for some time then, without meeting one another, were married by proxy, in Italy.  My mother came by boat in 1939 on one of the last ships to make the passage before World War 11 and joined my father on his farm in Dimbulah.  When she arrived in Dimbulah my parents renewed their vows and celebrated their marriage.

Because my father had renounced his Italian citizenship and was a naturalised citizen of Australia, he was not interned during the war like many Italian immigrants. This did cause some disquiet amongst the group who could not understand why some men were interned and others were not.

Over the next 5 years, 4 children, 2 boys and 2 girls were born.  It became clear to my parents that the farm would not be sufficient to support 2 families, so my parents sold the farm to my father’s partner and my parents began share-farming for a farmer in Emerald Creek.  The property was upstream along the creek.  It was the second last farm near the hills.  All my childhood memories are of Emerald Creek and the Emerald Creek School.  I did my last years, grade 7 and 8 at that school before it was closed down in 1957.  I finished the last term at the convent school in Mareeba.

Conditions for sharefarmers were tough.  I remember we did not have electricity and had to work by candles and lamp. My mother worked alongside my father planting seedbeds and looking after the plants as well as all the household tasks that had to be done without electricity.  She made all our clothes.  When I left school, I worked for my father on the farm.   We then moved into a house in Mareeba when I was about 15 years old.  That was the first time we had electricity.  There I found work, first at Lawson’s Sawmill and then later at Jack and Newell’s, the General Store in Mareeba.  My father continued to farm as a share farmer although he lived in town.  My older brother and I would help, usually going out before going to our jobs and then in the afternoons and on weekends.  We also had casual farm work on other farms. My father share farmed on a farm along Tinaroo Creek Road and I farmed with him.  I would ride my bike out to the farm and stay there and then bike back in to Mareeba.

My father never did buy another tobacco farm.  He did look at a few but my father was anxious to have one that could support the families my brother and I would one day have. He never did find one.  Neither of my parents returned to Italy.  I am not sure why, but they never did.  I think it was unusual for that generation to travel for holidays.  I have not gone to Italy although my brother and sister did travel there and visited Roncaola.  We write to our relatives in Italy and America but I have never met them.

People have often commented to me that we ‘had it hard’.  But in those days, we did not know what ‘hard’ was.  It was what you did. There were no planting machines so you stood in the muddy drills and bent down every 1 ½ feet to plant a tobacco plant.  It was what you did.  In Mareeba my brother and I were able to join with other young people and play sports, mainly rugby league and basketball.

Angelo’s father developed a good reputation for curing tobacco in the barns and after he retired he was often called out by farmers to watch over their barns while curing took place.  He would sleep in the sheds overnight.

I remember my mother coming to the tobacco stringing sheds. She would always be singing while she strung and the family would join in.  Her favourite song was ‘Mamma’.

And who can forget the yearly trips to the beach with other families and to the grape farms in Herberton.

My father died when he was 72 years old in 1973.

After losing my father and with all the children having moved away from the district, living close to the church and having good friends made life a little more bearable for my mother.

Mum passed away in 1982.  She was 71 years old.

Janet Greenwood

Janet Greenwood - Operations Manager

Janet commenced work with the Mareeba Heritage Centre in July 2016. She had the vision to create this project and was instrumental in acquiring funds and putting the right people in place to bring this project together. Janet is passionate about community engagement and development.

Ventures Online

Ventures Online - App & Online Project Design

We are a local app design company located right here on the Atherton Tablelands. Drop us a quick email and we will help you analyse what a new or improved app might mean to your business.

Angela Musumeci

Angela Musumeci - Volunteer Project Officer

Angela was born in Mareeba but like most young people left to pursue a career in Corrections and then Community Services. On retirement, she returned to her home town and is happy to be contributing to progression and preservation.​

Al Kirton

Al Kirton - NQ Radio Group General Manager

Since the age of 20, Al has been part of the radio industry working at stations 4VL, 4CD, 4RO, 2ST, 2LT, 3BO, 4ZR, 4VL (again) 4KZ, KOOL FM, 4AY, KIK FM & 4AM. Al’s former roles have included announcer, salesman, sales promotion manager, sales manager and part owner. His interests include bushwalking, cooking, music and 4 wheel driving.

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