CHAMPAGNE TIME: Keith and Cicely Dunbar, of Eli Waters, will celebrate their 50th Australia Day on Saturday.
CHAMPAGNE TIME: Keith and Cicely Dunbar, of Eli Waters, will celebrate their 50th Australia Day on Saturday. Alistair Brightman

Celebrating five decade Australia Day milestone

"I LIKE to say I came to Australia with a wife, two boys and $75. Fifty years later I have a wife, two boys, a daughter-in-law and a granddaughter and $3 in my pocket," Keith Dunbar said with a laugh.

For the Eli Waters resident and his wife Cicely, both in their 83rd year, Australia Day on Saturday is a five-decade milestone.

They first set foot on Australian soil in 1968 to begin a new life, with Keith a member of the Tasmanian police force.

London-born navy officer Keith and Shropshire-bred post office clerk Cicely first met when they were 17 after their siblings were engaged.

"They never married, but we sure did," Keith said.

It wasn't until the couple were 26 that they tied the knot and moved to the Scottish highlands for Keith's posting while he sailed on submarines.

 

Keith served in the navy 12 years and submarines for 10 of those. This is his last ship.
Keith served in the navy 12 years and submarines for 10 of those. This is his last ship.

Before long, the Dunbars' first son, Stuart, was born into a fierce winter and Cicely was left with a three-month-old babe alone while Keith went to sea.

"We had rented this house in the highlands because they didn't have marital quarters in the barracks and even the coal man wouldn't walk up the hill,'' Cicely said.

"I had to strap the baby to me because there was no one else to leave him with and trudge down the mountain in knee-deep snow for the coal.

"Our water froze and I needed to venture outside in the snow to get to a natural spring I discovered and fill up a bucket.

"I would cry, laugh and cuss of course. I mean the baby thrived. The place had 18-foot ceilings and a small coal fire. It took half of the winter to even warm up the room."

Stuart was three when Keith retired from the navy after 12 years and moved back to England to join the police force.

They chose Bedford, where they had their second son, Andrew.

"It was the perfect distance in between both our parents and far enough to have our own life," Keith said.

 

Keith and Cicely Dunbar pictured at their wedding.
Keith and Cicely Dunbar pictured at their wedding.

Working in vice, he would stake out brothel houses.

"The brothels catered to certain nationalities and what gave them away sometimes was the men would go in to do their business and come back out and line right back up again.

"You should have seen them scatter when we radioed in a raid - there were people flying out the windows."

Keith spent two-and-a-half years in Sydney in the 1950s while he was in the Navy.

"It was a cross between a cowboy town and a big city in those days and it was great. When I had frost on my eyebrows I would say 'it's not like this in Australia."

Cicely said she got sick of him complaining and eventually gave him the ultimatum to "shut up or put up."

While looking into the windows of Tasmania House in London Keith was approached to talk about immigration.

As fate would have it the Tasmanian commissioner of police was there at the time on a recruitment drive.

"When he heard I was a policeman his eyes lit up," Keith recalled.

After five years working in Tasmania the family moved to Melbourne, where Cicely became the manager of a post office and Keith managed an industrial company.

When their children were grown and they had 13 years in Victoria under their belt, the Dunbars decided they wanted their own small business.

 

Keith and Cicely Dunbar of Eli Waters with a painting of the Maclagan Store where they worked.
Keith and Cicely Dunbar of Eli Waters with a painting of the Maclagan Store where they worked. Alistair Brightman

"One of the ideas we threw around was buying a post office," Cicely said.

While Cicely was away at a conference in Adelaide, Keith bought a post office in rural Queensland out of a classified ad in the Country Life newspaper.

Cicely came back to find they were the proud new owners of a store in Maclagan with a population of 76 people.

"The only thing she asked was did it have flushing toilets," Keith said.

"The only blot on our wonderful time in Maclagan was two weeks after we moved our youngest son at 22 was hit by a car in a hit and run."

Andrew suffered an acquired brain injury and was hospitalised for the next three years while the couple tag teamed on trips to Melbourne and running the store.

"The community really closed around us," Keith said.

"When we moved him up to be with us there weren't any ramps at any of the buildings. Andrew and I ended up on our backs trying to bump down the pub stairs one night and two days later they had a ramp there.

"We really loved it there and still get invited back to events."

However, Cicely said they were a long way from a doctor and decided that considering their age it was best to retire to Hervey Bay.

"Andrew also lives here in assisted living with a 24-hour live-in carer," Cicely said.

"We took care of him here for a while but unfortunately we have gotten too old.

"We are hugely involved with the local Probus club and the Hervey Bay Bombers AFL club here.

"Australia has been very good to us. We love it here, it is so beautiful, and we might pop some champagne to celebrate this 50-year milestone on the weekend."



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