One of Mount Morgan’s living legends has to be Freda McDougall (Dicinoski). Born in Wowan in 1934, then raised on a farm in Dululu among cattle and cotton, Freda was embarking on a memorable life journey. In her early years, Freda and her brother Neville would milk cows before heading off to school. “Our sisters didn’t milk cows back then” Freda says with a chuckle.
The family had their own tennis court and children from around the neighbourhood loved joining them for a game of tennis on a regular basis.
At approximately eleven years of age, Freda became interested in playing the guitar and as far as she remembers, she was self taught but her interest was ignited by an Aunt who lived near by. Freda and Neville both had an interest in playing and learning to yodel. Anybody that knows Freda would be aware of her beautiful yodelling style. She learned to yodel by listening to some of her favourite records. Shirley Thoms’s music had a great influence on Freda’s style which is still evident today. She has won numerous awards throughout Central Queensland, with her yodelling, country singing and gospel performances.
Freda remembers with a smile her twelfth birthday. She received an old 78 record (very new at the time) of Buddy Williams singing, Where the White Faced Cattle Roam. The cost of this priceless record was two and ten-pence.
At fourteen years of age Freda was to enjoy her first competition concert. Wearing a white satin, black fringed cowgirl shirt and black skirt made by her mother, and a pair of black jockey boots her dad cut down then painted, Freda performed a Shirley Thoms classic called The Story My Daddy Told Me. This was at a Wowan Ambulance Concert and Freda was very pleased she won first place. She was also a Deb at the Rural Youth Junior Farmer’s Ball when she was around sixteen years of age.
Losing her mum in 1949 when still quite young, Freda left school after year seven, to help her dad by taking on the role of mother figure to her brother and three sisters. Freda says “he was a wonderful father” as she reminisced about times they’d shared as a family. Her dad came from a circus family background, and would take Freda and her siblings to all the circus performances possible.
Early in the 1950s Freda took on a new role in life when she started nursing at the Mount Morgan Hospital. She combined nursing and playing country music when time permitted, enjoying the chance to perform at special occasion events and morning teas. Neville and Freda shared their love of music and performing (guitar and singing) until Neville lost his life in a tragic drowning accident in 1955. “He had two offers to play cricket that day but decided to go to the river” Freda said as she thought back to that sad time.
Freda married a Mount Morgan local (Ron McDougall) who was a boss of the CEB’s Clearing Gang at Dululu. They had two wonderful children (Rhonda and Gary). Being out on a station, Freda never had a driver’s license, but did have her learner’s permit twice.
Back in the days when cars had no seatbelts, she always worried that her baby daughter would fly through the windscreen if she hit anything so she never pursued the idea of taking it any further.
Freda was co-founder of the Mount Morgan Country Music Club that ran for nearly five years. She has also spent twenty two years with the Horse Sports (many of which she was barmaid). “I’ve never had a drink in my life” Freda laughed. She has been with the Show Committee for approximately eleven years, and The Frail Aged for thirty two years, as well as helping with various other groups around Mount Morgan. Freda is a true asset to the town and has a large folder of documentation that proves it.
Ron bought Freda a Magnum guitar with a blue strap in January of 2003. It was the last present she ever received from her husband before he was admitted to hospital.
When Ron died, Freda found solace singing and playing her loved guitar. Sadly it went missing on New Years Eve last year. When asked how she felt about it, Freda replied “Even if the man had come and left it at a hotel or anywhere, there would be no questions asked.” She just wants to have the last gift from her husband back with her.
“I’ve had plenty of offers for guitars. It is very nice of people that have helped” Freda said of all the offers that came locally and from overseas to get her a new guitar. Friends bought Freda a new guitar and although saddened by the loss of her beautiful Magnum, she is very impressed with her new one and its lovely mellow sound. Freda thanks her friends for the kind gesture.
There is much more to Freda’s life that one article just can’t fit in. Freda is a true Mount Morgan Spirit that loves people, and hopefully the chance will arise where more of her wonderful life can be shared with others at a later date.
- Profile and photograph by Heather Quarry, supplied to the Mount Morgan Argus -