A RARE piece of Mackay history, more than 100 years old, has been unearthed at East Point.

Bianca Wheatley, 10, was swimming at low tide when she pulled the bottle from the sand and washed it off.

What emerged was a Codd glass bottle engraved on the front with sticks of sugar cane and the letters FLC and the word Mackay. A marble, incorporated in the bottle as a stopper, in keeping with the design, was still intact in the neck of the bottle.

 

Bianca Wheatley with the bottle she discovered.
Bianca Wheatley with the bottle she discovered. Zarisha Bradley

The Beaconsfield girl's mum, Dianne Wheatley, went online to find out more and was thrilled to discover its history and possible value, although 10-year-old Bianca hadn't thought her find was anything particularly out of the ordinary.

Mrs Wheatley believes the discovery was a bottle used by Mackay cordial manufacturer Louis Fernand Collet who ran a business in Mackay in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Mrs Wheatley said children used to smash the bottles after drinking them to play marbles, so it was rare to see it in one piece, especially after years of cyclones.

 

An interior photograph of Fernand Collet's softdrink factory. Fernand Collet is standing to the left presumably with his children. The photograph of his factory shows it was a fairly small family concern, of bush timber and corrugated iron construction with hand operated machinery.
An interior photograph of Fernand Collet's softdrink factory. Fernand Collet is standing to the left presumably with his children. The photograph of his factory shows it was a fairly small family concern, of bush timber and corrugated iron construction with hand operated machinery. (Karen Lamb collection)

According to the website mackayhistory.org Mr Collet and his wife, Ines Dubois, lived in Shakespeare Street and raised four children in Mackay.

Born in 1858 in Port Louis, Mauritius, Mr Collet had travelled to Australia in 1881, at 23, to join his uncle Jean Gallanty in Mackay. The website says he secured a job in the sugar cane industry but was also listed in the postal directories as the manager of the Mackay Salt Company in 1900, a post that he held for about the next seven years.

By 1907, Fernand had moved to Peel Street where his family lived for 12 years. He operated an aerated water business in that area.

1907 Mercury report

The Daily Mercury published an article about Fernand Collet's re-entry into the "aerated water business" in the newspaper on October 31, 1907.

It placed his cordial factory in Milton Street, describing the building as a "large, roomy structure 80ft by 20ft and noting the "big, aerated water machine (Barnett and Foster's), connected to a Ryland's bottling rack, and capable of turning out "60 dozen of bottled stuff per hour". The room also contained equipment for generating the gas required for the aerated waters.

"The drinks that Mr Collet so far manufactures comprise... Lemonade, ginger ale, horehound, hop beer, ginger beer, kola, soda, lemon squash, fruit squash and other cordials," the report said. "Mr Collet was in the soft drink line some years and the success that followed him then seems to be associated with him still, for he states that the support he has so far received is of such a satisfactory nature that he intends enlarging the factory to almost double its present size..."

A 1910 advertisement in the Mackay Daily Mercury states ... "his long experience in the trade, combined with up-to-date machinery, enables him to manufacture all kinds of Aerated Waters of the highest order, at a moderate price. All his beverages are perfectly pure and made in accordance with the Pure Food Act.

"Try his Ginger Ale, Ginger Beer, Hop Beer, Lemonade, Kola, Cider, Fruitine, Dandelion and Sarsaparilla, and you are sure to be satisfied".

From a sign visible in a photograph of the factory, they also produced Horehound, Cherry Cider, Pineapple Cider, Limette and Cocktail.



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