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Community & Business

22 April, 2021

Borghero family produce colourful cast of characters

THE Borghero family has produced gold miners, publicans, Australia's top rodeo clown, Australia's first female taxi drivers, teachers, soldiers and plumbers, but when asked what made him proudest of his relatives, Atherton's Lawrie Borghero joked it was "their breeding ability."

The two surviving siblings from Victor and Flo Borghero's family of 10 children, Lawrie Borghero, Atherton and Elva Ebrington, Cairns, welcomed around 60 relatives from all over Australia to a reunion in Atherton last month.


THE Borghero family has produced gold miners, publicans, Australia's top rodeo clown, Australia's first female taxi drivers, teachers, soldiers and plumbers, but when asked what made him proudest of his relatives, Atherton's Lawrie Borghero joked it was "their breeding ability." 

On the 100th anniversary of his mother's birth, her living descendents numbered 8 children, 37 grandchildren, 66 great grandchildren and 6 great great grandchildren. 

Lawrie Borghero said he keeps meeting new family members over Facebook and operates on the proviso, that if someone's name is Borghero, they are related to him. 

Keen to keep younger generations in touch with their ancestors and their fascinating history, the Borghero family organised a family reunion last month.

Around 60 relatives travelled to Atherton from Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland to celebrate with the oldest remaining family members, Lawrie Borghero and his wife Ros, of Atherton and his sister Elva, who now lives in Cairns. 

From the beginning, these red blooded Italians have been adventurers and pioneers. Born in 1794, publican Antonio Borghero and his wife Anna lived big, raising their 12 children - 6 boys and 6 girls at their hotel in Ronco Scrivia, 20km north of Genoa.

Their eldest son Francesco made his mark in the church, entering the Archdiocesan seminary of Genoa in 1830 and became the first missionary for the Society of African Missions and founder of the Catholic Church in Nigeria and Benin. 

He came home to write and teach philosophy and theology, eventually becoming the Spiritual Director to the Seminary of the Sons of Mary Immaculate, where he was entombed beneath an alter dedicated to his memory after his death in 1892. 

Revered by the people there, his life is celebrated annually on the anniversary of his death. But 11 kids is still a lot of mouths to feed, so it is not suprising that many of them made the decision to seek new lives elsewhere. 

Several migrated to South America and the USA, but 2 sons, Tommaso (Louis) and Emanuele (Manny) chose Australia, sailing here on the Helige Ludwina in 1855.

Naturalised in a ceremony in Clermont in 1868, Manny was a the owner of a watering hole in Charters Towers from 1864 - 1874, no doubt making some good money after gold was discovered there 1872. 

Within a few years, his brother Louis was also following in his father's footsteps, as a licensed retail spirit dealer, living on the Palmer, Cook and Hodgkinson gold fields from 1878-79. The brothers developed a pattern of finding gold, selling it and buying a hotel. 

Meanwhile, Louis' Irish bride to be Ellen Keenan, daughter of a soldier, was on her way to Australian shores on board the Fiery Star. They were married at Peak Downs in 1864 and together they followed the mining fields through Queensland. 

Legend has it that Louis discovered the first reef of gold at Ravenswood and Ellen was by his side to break a bottle of champagne across the flywheel and christen the lease "Enterprise." 

The couple sadly lost two children in Charters Towers and Ellen died of nephritis at only 39 years of age in Port Douglas. The Borghero brothers finally settled in Watsonville and held the license of the Albion Hotel there. 

Manny was buried there in 1885 and Louis moved to Mareeba and died there in 1907. In an act of romantic audacity, Elizabeth Jack eloped with Louis and Ellen's son Emanuele in 1888 and they married in the Hermitage in Brisbane. 

The Jack family travelled on horseback to Herberton from Port Douglas around 1880 and Elizabeth's father James qualified as a JP before he and wife Martha became storekeepers in Watsonville.

The newly married couple came back to Irvinebank where Emanuele worked as a dairyman and a packer and ran a carrying business between Irvinebank and Herberton, while serving on the Walsh Shire Council, the Jockey Club and hospital committees in his spare time. 

Elizabeth moved to Mareeba after Emanuele died in 1924 and in a beautiful gesture, her son Vic pulled the family house down by hand, carted it to Mareeba by bullock wagon and rebuilt it near the river in Walsh Street. 

Their daughter Grace caused a sensation when she became Australia's first woman taxi driver in the early 1920's. She and her younger sister Peg decided to take on their father's carrying business and updated his horse and buggy with a 4 cylinder Chevrolet that cost 300 pounds. 

Hardly anyone had ever even seen a car back then and no-one knew how to drive one or fix one. It took Grace three days to learn how to operate the contraption and then she kept on driving taxis for the next 30 years, eventually moving the business to Mareeba, taking on mining jobs and adding a second car.

Soon after the sisters took on ambulance work and during the war had an official pass into the airport to ferry passengers and troops. They met 51 trains per week and never had a single bad debt over 3 decades.

Florence May Murphy married William Victor (Vic) Borghero in 1920 and they spent their lives in Irvinebank, producing 10 children along the way - Florence May, Lesley, Blanche, Victor, Herbert, Morrison, Jenet, twins Elaine and Elva and Lawrence. 

Vic worked as a tin dresser at the mill and died just before his 53rd birthday, leaving a 46 year old Flo to care for 6 children alone. 

She moved to Herberton where she took in ironing and washing to support her family, but sadly the younger children were temporarily made wards of the state. 

Once she got her babies back, the Herberton Sisters of Mercy wanted the children to go to the convent school and as Mrs Boghero couldn’t afford it they supplied the uniforms and books and no fees were paid.

Flo worked tirelessly for various Herberton associations and her efforts were recognised in a valedictory article in the Cairns Post when she moved to Cairns in 1954, so Lawrie, her youngest could start an apprenticeship there  

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