John Ely migrated to Australia from England in 1869. Twelve years later he found work in Gympie where he married Mary Ann Irwin. John and Mary Ann moved to Gympie Terrace from Gympie with their baby son, Joe, in 1883. They purchased a selection of land that faced Gympie Terrace and was bounded by what are now Thomas Street, Edward Street, and Mary Street. Much of the land in the area was swampy so they chose the best part and let the rest default back to the government so that they did not have to pay the rates of 4 pence per acre (which would amount to about $14 today).

They built a large family home – what must have been one of the first buildings in what is now Noosaville. Two more sons, Edward (Ned) and William (Bill), are believed to have been born in the home. Sadly, a daughter, Margaret, died as a baby.

After John died in 1905 the family land in Gympie Terrace was split three ways amongst the sons with 3 blocks at the front and 2 blocks at the back running through to Mary Street. Bill, a butcher in Tewantin, sold his section, which included the original family house, to the Massoud family in 1908.

Annie Eley's Shop

 Annie Ely in front of her cafe on Gympie Terrace with Ethel Ely, Mr Hale and Mr Arnold, late 1920s

Ned Ely and Annie Durham married around 1915 and continued to live in Noosaville. Ned was a professional fisherman who also used his boat for tours on weekends. Annie baked cakes and pies which were sold door to door and at social occasions. During the First World War, Annie was employed as the cook at Laguna House, the large boarding house at Noosa Heads. Their eldest child, Leonard, was born in 1918. He would often help his mother, selling her baked goods door to door with a large box strapped to his back before he upgraded to a billy cart to transport the pies and cakes. Annie later set up a shop.

Ethel Crop

Ethel Ely and the ‘Tree of Knowledge’, early 1930s

As a young adult, Len continued to help out at his mother’s shop, as well as prawning and fishing, and fitting up putt-putt boats in his spare time with plans to hire them out. But in the middle of World War II, at the age of 24, he joined the armed forces and sold his boats.

Ned and Annie Ely’s second son, Vivian, also enlisted during World War II and served as a Flying Officer with the Royal Australian Air Force. In April 1945, Annie received notice that Viv was missing following a mission over Germany. The war in Europe ended the following month. Sadly, Vivian did not return.

Maisie Monsour, Viv Ely K.i.a. World War 2 Kathie Massoud Nee Kros

Maisie Massoud, Viv Ely and Kathie Massoud (nee Kross), early 1940s

Len bought his boats back after returning from the war and set up the business, O Boat Hire, which he ran with his wife, Betty: initially hiring boats at 25 shillings a week (or about $350 a week today) and selling bait and tackle. He sold up in 1974 but O Boat Hire continues to run on the river today.

Ely Park is named after this pioneering family and features the weeping fig tree once referred to as the ‘Tree of Knowledge’ by the early locals.

Ely Park Fig

The “Tree of Knowledge” in Ely Park, 2019