Below These Mountains

Book Details

Below These Mountains: The Adventures of John Henry Mills — Pioneer Photographer and Gold Miner
Lyall Ford — Click here to learn more about the author
Celloglossed on 1/S Board 265 gsm
Page Size:
240mm X 175mm
No. of Pages:
No. of Photographs:
Bibliography, End Notes and Index
First Published:

The Story

“In his latest work, Below These Mountains, Lyall Ford who has become a very polished author of family histories, has proved that truth can be much more fascinating than fiction. Below These Mountains chronicles the adventures of John Henry Mills, the author’s great grandfather, described as a pioneer photographer and gold miner.

It is a story however, for a readership far beyond the boundaries of the extensive family which has since sprung from the 1882 marriage of John Henry Mills to Mary Ann Louisa Ricketts.

Lyall Ford has the knack of bringing to life the many identities whose paths met with those of J.H. Mills and the reader can feel the varying emotions of hope, fear, despair, love and sorrow which encompassed them as they strove for security and independence in the face of daunting obstacles confronting them in the rugged grandeur of an untamed bushland.

John Henry Mills lived a remarkable life. He saw from beginning to end, the birth, blooming and then decline of the mining township of Mount Britton. In his amazing career as a pioneer photographer he captured and bequeathed to posterity a graphic record of the world and the people of his day.

Lyall Ford has also captured for posterity an engrossing picture of life on a gold field and, with it, those enduring qualities of mateship, courage in adversity, faith in the Almighty and love of family which have all contributed to the fashioning of the Australian character of today.”

Terry Hayes, Historical Columnist — Mackay Daily Mercury


From the Author

John Henry Mills emigrated from England with his parents in 1865 at 14 years of age. Tragedy struck the family before the ship had berthed, thus providing a traumatic start to their new life in Australia.

After a few years experience as a policeman, John Henry became a professional photographer when the colony of Queensland had been in existence for only 13 years and photography was a relatively new art requiring great expertise. He travelled widely around Queensland with his partners William Boag (Boag & Mills) and Albert Reckitt (Reckitt & Mills). As a result he has provided today’s generations with a remarkable photographic record of Queensland as it was at that time. The quality of the photographs, not just in the setting up of the scene and the posing of the subjects, but in their longevity, is something to be admired.

Reckitt & Mills left Mackay in 1881 to join the rush to the newly discovered Nebo gold field. The township that sprung up on the site was named Mount Britton. John Henry became a professional goldminer and beekeeper in addition to continuing to provide a photographic record of life on a gold field.

He married Mary Ann Louisa Ricketts in 1882 and they raised a family of six children there under very harsh conditions. He often had to treat a seriously ill or injured family member or neighbour with the limited medicines and bush remedies at his disposal. On several occasions he assisted with the digging of a grave and then conducted the burial service — for his own child on one occasion.

All the time the unceasing quest for gold continued with more heartbreak than success, but the lure of gold and his love for Mount Britton kept him there long after other prospectors had given up. His long-suffering wife also tolerated incredible hardships in this harsh environment. He eventually succumbed to the inevitable and the family moved to Mackay in 1908. He died peacefully in 1919.

He lived at Mount Britton for the whole of the township’s existence, so in tracing the history of the Mills family a significant part of Mount Britton’s history is covered.

It can only be to our benefit to know and understand their trials and tribulations, as most of ours would seem trivial by comparison.

John Henry Mills and his wife and children should be acknowledged for their fortitude and courage. They were true Australian pioneers.

Lyall Ford