On Sunday, 24th November last, another of Brisbane’s pioneers, and one who might be said to be one of the landmarks of the Australian wine trade in Queensland, passed the great divide – viz., Mr. David Joseph Childs, of Toombul Vineyards, Nudgee, Brisbane. He was born at Stringstown, near Bridgewater, Somersetshire, England, on 25th March (Lady Day), 1844, and arrived in Queensland (then known as Moreton Bay, NSW) in January, 1849, with his father and mother (Mr and Mrs. Thomas Childs), in the well-known sailing ship “Fortitude”, from which Fortitude Valley takes its name.
Quoting from “The Australian Tropiculturist and Stockbreeder” of December, 1895, I am indebted to that journal for some portion of the early history of young Childs, who apparently from his earlier years was familiar with agricultural life, his father, Mr Thomas Childs, having been a yeoman of the old sturdy English country stock, farming his own state at Stringstown, and is said to have been attracted by a glowing description given of Queensland by Dr. J. Dunmore Lang.
After arrival, Mr. Childs, sen., settled down to farming pursuits to a farm known as “Beulah”, where now stands the Brisbane Gas Works, young Childs meanwhile receiving his education from the various schools of the day – Scoot’s James’, the Rev. Mr. Mowbray’s, and Mr Carvoser’s. After gaining experience, Mr. D. J. Childs appears to have started what is known as the Toombul Vineyard at Nudgee, in 1866, an ideal place for a home, situated near the celebrated Nudgee water holes, and in the very centre of some of the best land around Brisbane, and which may be regarded as the centre of the pineapple industry; here the deceased gentlemen had resided up to the time of his death, and where his genial temperament and hospitality always welcomed a visitor, whether his mission was business or of a social nature.
The year 1866 is not looked upon to-day as having been an opportune or favourable time for starting such an enterprise, as it is generally regarded as a year of financial disaster; but young Childs once having made a start, did not falter, but stuck firmly to it, and realised the reward of his perseverance later on. Mr. Childs was fortunate, it is said, in his selection of the block of land, which appeared to have been well adapted for the uses of a vigneron, and he gave close attention to the selection of the best vines for his purpose; amongst his favourites it is said are some of the old well-known kinds, such at White Pineau, White Hermitage, Iona, Espar, and Isabe Ilas, but it does not appear that he depended solely on his own production, as his enterprise became enlarged, and he had to draw supplies of grapes elsewhere, notably from the Roma district, which is considered one of best of Queensland districts for the for the growth of vines. Meanwhile, Mr. Childs had acquired a name for his sweet and dry wines, including champagne, and his cellars at Nudgee always carried heavy stocks of all classes of the wines he produced, and he did his full share of pioneering the Queensland wine trade, as with a healthy ambition he submitted his wines to outside competition after he had exploited successfully the Brisbane exhibitions; he also won awards at Earl’s Court and at the Franco-British Exhibition, so that Mr. D. J. Childs may be regarded as the father of the Australian wine trade in Queensland. He is also credited with the invention of what is known as a temperator–an ingenious contrivance for lowering the temperature of the must during its first fermentation in the vats, and it was spoken highly of by the experts of the day.
Coming to the social side of his life, in 1879 he married Miss Lucy J. Deagon, daughter of Mr. W. Deagon, who in those days was a notable of that little “Brisbane by the Sea”, Sandgate, having been Mayor of Sandgate in the year that the railway was opened between there and Brisbane, and I note also that he built the Sandgate Hotel, and no doubt gave his name to the well-known suburb of Sandgate – namely, Deagon.
Mr. Childs was a member of the first Nundah Divisional Board, with which he was connected some seven years. In 1878 he became Justice of the Peace, and the same year he was elected Worshipful Master of the North Australian Lodge of Freemasons, and was elected a life member of the Parent Lodge in 1894, and in that phase of his life it will be sufficient to say “he was a Mason”.
Mrs Childs survives her husband; all the children are living – two sons and seven daughters. His elder son, Mr. W. L. Childs, has made a study of the wine trade, and is carrying on the business under the old name of D. J. Childs. The younger son enlisted in the A.I.F. when only 18 years of age, and was passed, and has been reported wounded on two different occasions, and is now convalescent in England, and his family now hope that it may not be long before they may welcome him back as a “worthy son of a worthy father”.
The funeral of the deceased gentleman took place on Monday, the 25th November, the burial being at the Nundah Cemetery; it was largely attended by all classes of the community.
Source: The Australian Brewers’ Journal, December 20th 1918, page 125-126.