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Community & Business

1 June, 2022

Bid to protect mango tree

AN application to list the last remaining mango tree in Byrnes Street with the Queensland Heritage Register is being submitted by the great grandson of the man who planted it more than 80 years ago.

By Robyn Holmes

The mango tree in Byrnes Street which is the subject of an application to the Queensland Heritage Register.
The mango tree in Byrnes Street which is the subject of an application to the Queensland Heritage Register.

History buff Michael Musumeci has started the application process which he hopes will result in the tree being protected for future generations. 

While the tree, located in the median strip at the intersection of Hort and Byrnes Streets, is not under immediate threat, the recent changes to the main street has prompted Mr Musumeci to act as there is no guarantee that a future council would not remove the tree. 

According to Mr Musumeci, the tree was planted by his great grandfather, Rex Connelly, who is considered as one of Mareeba’s pioneers. 

“The tree not only has a rich cultural history for my family but also because my great grandfather planted this iconic tree for a sign of friendship to all within the community,” he said. 

“It is believed the tree was to bear fruit for the children and continue like all the others, that have now been removed, to create shade and be a part of the beautiful scenic look these trees could give to the visitor and locals. 

“The tree was also a sign of friendship between the many cultures of people who lived and worked within the township and it was to also be a beacon of peace and tranquillity for all who sat under it and enjoyed the tree for what it is. 

“Many years ago, Byrnes Street wasn’t so stringent with bitumen, white painted lanes, lines and grassed concrete edges.

 “The centre trees at the time were subjected to goats that would roam the streets of Mareeba and, of course, some drivers’ antics were also a concern, but this tree somehow survived all that. 

“These days many of the iconic large trees that stood proudly making our township one of the shadiest and the envy to our visitors are all but long gone - victims to ‘progress’ and the way our towns have embraced the concrete and bitumen worlds of traffic management.” 

Mr Musumeci is pleading with the heritage register to protect the tree and has explained the history in a detailed application. 

“I am pleading for this tree to remain standing and represent all of the Mareeba pioneers for their fortitude and a sign of thanks from them to the people of Mareeba today,” he wrote. 

“This tree is the last remaining original landmark of the pioneer times, when the main street was an unsealed roadway that carriage and horses would transport people. 

“The Mareeba history beckons to be told. A town that sadly has not been able to spend funds on its rich history via information boards, or historical telling, as the town has gone through many ups and downs. 

“This tree does that and has lived through the ups and downs and deserves to remain standing free from threat of removal in the future.”


Family dedicated to building a strong community

IN the early 1920s, Rex Connelly (pictured) with his wife Murial Ivy and children Mary and Rex Jr “Buzz”, lived at 311 Byrnes Street for many years. Ivy worked at the Mareeba Hospital, and their children grew up and also worked in Mareeba. 

A pioneer family, just like many other families that struggled and did it hard all through their lives. 

Money wasn't the greatest asset but building a strong community was. 

Rex founded the Mareeba Tennis Club and worked as a locomotive driver at the railway. 

He spanned a career with the railway and was a member of many committees and community groups within the township to ensure Mareeba was growing and progressing. 

In the 1940s, he was also a member of the local militia and billeted his home to serving American and Australian servicemen during the Second World War. His house still stands to this day. 

After the war, Mary (daughter to Rex) married Jack Howe in 1946, an Australian Army Sergeant. 

Jack, who did two tours in New Guinea during the war years, later settled in Mareeba and was a staunch RSL and community member. 

In 1953, tragedy struck when Rex Jr “Buzz” with the drowned in the Barron River in Kuranda after suffering a cramp whilst swimming. 

The Connelly family dedicated their lives to Mareeba and are all buried in our Pioneer cemetery.

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