Francis Rodwell (Rod) KEARY

KEARY, Francis Rodwell

Service Numbers: 1194, 1609
Enlisted: 13 July 1915, Chermside, Queensland
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 10th Light Horse Regiment
Born: Beaudesert, Queensland, 29 January 1887
Home Town: Boonah, Scenic Rim, Queensland
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Station manager
Died: Tractor accident, Toogoolawah, Queensland, 30 December 1954, aged 67 years
Cemetery: Not yet discovered
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World War 1 Service

13 Jul 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, SN 1194, Chermside, Queensland
4 Oct 1915: Involvement Private, SN 1194, 11th Light Horse Regiment
4 Oct 1915: Embarked Private, SN 1194, 11th Light Horse Regiment, HMAT Mashobra, Sydney
22 Nov 1915: Involvement Private, SN 1609, 10th Light Horse Regiment
22 Nov 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 1609, 10th Light Horse Regiment, RMS Mongolia, Fremantle

Nature's Gentleman

My name is Betty Robertson and I think of Francis Rodwell (Rod) Keary as one of the nicest men I have ever known. My father, James Egan, also served in WWI and after the war, purchased a dairy farm on the banks of the Brisbane River, 5 miles east of Toogoolawah, a small country town in south-eastern Queensland. Mr Keary, a bachelor at the time, owned the neighbouring farm and he became a great friend of my family.

I think he was a station manager in the Beaudesert/Boonah area at the time of his enlistment in the 10th Light Horse Regiment in July 1915. Mr Keary knew a great deal about horses and was a great horseman so I was not surprised to learn he joined the Light Horse. Unfortunately, he was wounded in Egypt and returned home in 1917.

His farm was managed mainly by a married couple and although Mr Keary was not there continuously as he sometimes left to go droving, because there was only one house on the property, he had to construct some sort of a shelter for himself. We children were quite fascinated by it and tended to call it "Mr Keary's humpy". As it is over 80 years ago that I first saw it, my memory of it is a bit hazy but I know it was very, very basic - perhaps a tarpaulin erected over a small space and that most likely he did his cooking (mainly corned beef and potatoes for a main meal) over an open fire just outside his living area. I loved to visit him there and probably he didn't mind living that way too much as the accommodation during his droving days would not have been much better. I recall that he told the story of waking up one night in his "humpy" with a black snake crawling over his chest.

If he was working in one of his paddocks that was visible from our place, my mother would make up a billy of hot tea and fresh scones or cake tied up in a tea towel and I would take it to him and sit by him while he ate. Also he sometimes visited for a meal.

He seemed to really like spending time with us children and taught my three siblings to swim. I am 5 years younger than my youngest sibling and much more interested in horses and riding then swimming and that is where my dear friend, Mr Keary, had so much in common.

Having contracted whooping cough at about 8 years of age, I had a long convalescing period not being allowed to return to school, and Mr Keary would take me riding, he on his big tall bay, Boomerang and me on my small cream pony, Taffy. I don't know what we talked about on these rides - maybe we didn't talk at all as he was a very quiet man, but I do recall one day Boomerang suddenly coughed and my friend said "Oh, dear - I think Boomerang has whooping cough". To a small child, that was very funny.

When I was old enough to manage a spirited horse, he lent me a lovely bay he'd named Spark (it's mother was Gleam) that he had bred himself and I was absolutely in seventh heaven. I had never ridden such a beautiful animal.

He would always ask if I would like to "help" him drive his dairy cattle to the neighbouring dip which was on a property about 2 miles away, said property being the historic Cressbrook Station settled by the McConnell family. For me, this was a real red-letter day. There was nothing I enjoyed more.

My father and Mr Keary were really great friends and on the occasional Sunday when they could take a day off working the farm, Mr Keary would visit and my father and he would relax in their squatter's chairs in the cooler downstairs area of our home, legs up on those big long arms and yarn for hours. I remember one day my father suddenly saying "Don't move, Rod there's a black snake under your chair". It had crawled in from the garden. Did Rod move - I don't know.

Mr Keary married quite late in life an equally lovely lady, May Burnett and they had three children all of whom have done well in life and of whom their father would be justifiably proud. With great pleasure I remember that when he became engaged, he and his fiancée decided to have what would be called today a barbecue on the banks of the river. To my utter delight they invited me along and what I recall most was how he buried cobs of corn in the coals and ashes of the fire, then generously anointed them with butter and pepper. Believe me, it was delicious.

This delightful friend of ours had the most wonderful wit - very dry and very Australian. He would have us kids in fits of laughter, or silent with wonderment with his colourful bush stories which we never quite knew whether or not to believe.

Sadly, Mr Keary was killed when his tractor rolled on him while he was ploughing a paddock. It was his wife May who discovered him and she had to run a mile to call for help, to lift the tractor off. In true Rod Keary fashion, that dear man was making jokes right up to the moment that tractor was removed from his body. When the tractor was lifted from his body, he said "Thank you, gentlemen". An ambulance was called and he was rushed to hospital where he died from extensive injuries, while being examined by a doctor. By that time I was 26 years old and when my mother relayed this awful news, I was absolutely devastated. I felt part of me was gone too.

I will never, ever forget Francis Rodwell Keary and when I accidentally discovered this website, as there is no one left but myself who could tell about this part of his life, I have taken the opportunity and feel honoured to be able to write about one of nature's gentleman.

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"Found by wife on land near Toogoolawah. Farmer pinned by tractor 3 hrs., dies

TOOGOOLAWAH.— An elderly farmer lay critically injured beneath his overturned tractor for three hours yesterday before he was found by his wife. Rushed to Kilcoy Hospital after he was freed by neighbours, he died while a doctor was examining him. Killed was Francis Rodwell Keary, 67, married with three children, of Fulhamvale, via Toogoolawah. Keary was ploughing a property on his paddock all day yesterday. At 4 p.m. his children spoke to him and walked a mile to their home. When her husband had not returned for dinner at 7 p.m., Mrs. Keary went to look for him.

Still conscious

She found him pinned beneath the overturned tractor. Her husband was still conscious and told her the tractor had overturned a few minutes after the children left him. Mrs. Keary ran a mile to her home to telephone neighbours and an ambulance. Neighbours lifted the tractor off Mr. Keary, but he had received fatal internal injuries." - from the Courier Mail 31 Dec 1954 (

"IPSWICH: A 67-year-old farmer died in the Kilcoy Hospital last night after he had been trapped under a tractor , for over three hours. He was Francis Rodwell Keary, father of three children. Toogoolawah ambulance bearers, rushed him to hospital but he died while being examined by a doctor. Keary suffered severe internal injuries, contusions and burns to the right leg and hip and lacerations to the left leg. His wife ran a mile to telephone neighbours and the ambulance after she had discovered him pinned under the tractor shortly after 7 p.m. Keary, who was conscious told rescuers that the tractor had rolled down an embankment, pinning him underneath shortly after 4 p.m. His children saw him ploughing on his property near the Brisbane River before 4 p.m., yesterday. Fulham is near Toogoolawah." - from the Warwick Daily News 31 Dec 1954 (