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Hector Le Gay Holthouse (1915–1991)

One of Australia's most prolific popular historians, the Queensland writer Hector Holthouse, has died at his home on Bribie Island, near Brisbane. He was 76.

He was a third-generation Australian and the author of 30 books, most of them about Queensland history.

Hector Le Gay Holthouse was born on April 15, 1915, in the family's farmhouse on the Darling Downs. By his own account, his childhood was spent milking cows, poisoning prickly pear and riding a half-wild horse to school each day.

At 18 he left the farm, trained as a sugar chemist and worked in the sugar mills of North Queensland. It was about this time he developed an interest in the State's history and started contributing stories to magazines, including The Bulletin.

After war service with the Army Education Service, he joined the staff of the then Brisbane newspaper The Telegraph. He later became that paper's chief Supreme Court reporter and a lecturer in journalism at the University of Queensland.

In 1969, he gave up journalism and turned full-time to books. His first and probably best-known is still in print. River of Gold tells the story of the Palmer River gold rush, during which Cooktown grew to a 94-pub town with a hundred tons of gold recovered in 10 years.

His most popular book was 'Spose I Die, the ghost-written story of an Englishwoman's experiences on a remote cattle station in the Gulf country.

The woman, when a young wife, found herself alone at the homestead, her husband out mustering and their first child due. "'Spose I die" was her instructions to an Aboriginal maid on what to do with the baby should its mother die in childbirth.

One fellow writer recalled Hector Holthouse yesterday as "a quiet fellow, a rather shy man but tall and well-built". Another recalled his books as being written "in a style which turned frontier history into real, warm personal experience".

For most of the last 20 years, Holthouse lived on Bribie Island in a house he largely built himself.

He is survived by his widow, Sybil, a sister, Lorraine, and a brother, Maurice.

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'Holthouse, Hector Le Gay (1915–1991)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 20 May 2024.

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