A small page turns in Beaudesert History

Laurie Harbort
Laurie Harbort

Obituary – Laurie Theresa Harbort.

By Gregory Harbort.

IN 1922 Joseph Morris took over the Massey Harris farm equipment agency in Beaudesert. 

Shortly after, he was followed by his sister Josie. She was a graduate from Stotts Business College and looked after the clerical side of the business, also doing local income tax returns around town.

Their father William had been a Scottish immigrant and a successful gold miner in north Queensland.

It did not take long before Josie gained the attention of local dairy farmer Edward (Ted) Yore.  At this time the Yore family was an established and respected family in the district.  His father, John Thomas Yore had taken up a farming selection at Cryna in 1896, serving on the directorate of the Logan and Albert Dairying Company and was one of Beaudesert’s first councillors.

Josie and Ted married in 1926, taking up residence at the Yore family farm at Cryna.  Their fourth child, Laurie Theresa was born on December 21, 1936.

Prior to the introduction in 1944 of a bus run, Laurie was a familiar sight, riding her horse Dicky between Cryna and Saint Mary’s School in Beaudesert.  It was during her time at the school that she developed an aptitude for the English language and composition.  This was encouraged and enhanced while at the Star of the Sea College at Southport in her secondary school years, with a First-Class Pass for English.

Laurie had dreamt of becoming a teacher, but pragmatism won out, and she became a clerk-typist with the Queensland Transport Department in 1953. It was also at this time that she became an enthusiastic member of the National Catholic Girl’s Movement. Her other dream of being a writer continued, however.  With a cause in her heart, notepad, and pencil in hand, Laurie launched herself into part time, independent journalism.

She soon built a modest following, having articles published in southeast Queensland and northern New South Wales.  By 1958, she was receiving offers to become a full time journalist. She politely declined, having married Tony Harbort, and believing (like many women of the time) that married women should not work full time.

Their romance was a quintessential one of the era.  In 1955, Laurie and her sister Frances attended a dance at Jimboomba Hall under the watchful eye of their cousin and chaperone, Brian Yore.  At the end of the dance, Tony asked Brian for his permission to see Laurie again.  After a three-year courtship the couple were married at Saint Mary’s Catholic Church in Beaudesert.

The initial years of married life were spent working the Yore family farm at Cryna.  In 1962 Tony and Laurie purchased a mixed dairy and small crop farm near Gleneagle, on the banks of Cyrus Creek, off Veresdale Scrub Road.  By the early 1970s the couple had five children and gave up the tiring dairy lifestyle. In 1976 they left Beaudesert for Miles, on the western Darling Downs.

For most of her married life Laurie continued to write to some extent.  Readers of the Catholic Leader during the period 1955 to 1980 would fondly remember the Uncle John’s Children’s Page. What most people would not know is that the ubiquitous Uncle John was the pseudonym of Beaudesert’s own female writer, Laurie Theresa Harbort, during a time when women writers were rare. 

In 1980, after 25 years being “Uncle John” Laurie ceased writing for the newspaper.  In the years following, when offered a Catholic Leader after Mass, she would modestly (and perhaps smugly) respond, “Oh, I used to write for them, they still send me a free copy in the mail.” Laurie’s literary endeavours, however, continued.  She wrote and published a string of short stories and articles and was shortlisted for several literary prizes.

The cessation of “Uncle John” in no way diminished her love of children.  She worked as a pre-school teachers’ aide at Drillham State School, followed by five years as a teachers’ aid at the Holy Cross School in Miles, and then a further five years as a part-time teachers’ aide at the Miles State High School.  By 1995 she had withdrawn from paid work but started tutoring children in her home after school.  Her husband Tony often joked that the children did not come for lessons, but for freshly cooked pikelets and strawberry jam.  She was also committed to religious education, gaining a Diploma in Catechetics in 1992 and in 2006 receiving a certificate of gratitude from the Catholic Education Office for 15 years of service.

After caring for her ailing mother Josie at Wongaburra, Laurie undertook pastoral care training to help others.  This would be further supplemented by training in indigenous health and aged care.  In her later years she became a regular and much-loved volunteer at the Miles Carinya Hostel, Milton House Respite Centre, Miles Hospital and St Vincent de Paul Society.  In 2023 she was awarded associate lifetime membership to the Society in recognition for her years of service.

Laurie Theresa Harbort (aka Uncle John) died peacefully in her sleep on January 24, 2024, at Toowoomba General Hospital. 

We would like to thank her for the joy and love she gave to children of all ages throughout her life and her small contribution to the history of Beaudesert.

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