Richard Matthews Hyne

The Hyne Timber story starts in 1864, some five years after the separation of the State of Queensland, when Richard Matthews Hyne arrived in Moreton Bay aged just 24 years old and with a young wife, a child, a box of carpenter’s tools and a burning ambition to succeed in his new country.
Humble Beginnings


After five years in Gympie, he, his wife and growing family were looking for a more settled life, so he sold up once again and moved further north to Maryborough, then the second most important town in Queensland, and a prosperous port for the developing Wide Bay region.

By the early 1860’s there where several timber mills in Maryborough. R.M. Hyne, using his knowledge of the building trade, saw new opportunities in this expanding timber business and in 1882 he started the National Sawmill on the banks of the Mary River. The Maryborough Chronicle reported: “Mr R M Hyne has established in Maryborough a sawmill which could stand comparison with the best in the colony”. He raised finance for the mill from his own savings, from overdraft accommodation with the Bank of New South Wales and various family members. It is reported at some stage that he was asked whether he had a family crest, to which he was supposed to have replied; “If I ever had a family crest, it surely must have been an overdraft rampant over a mortgage quiescent.” He had chosen his site with good judgment, as Maryborough was well served with magnificent stands of the Maryborough hardwoods; Blue Gum, Spotted Gum and Iron Bark and, as well, Hoop and Kauri Pine.

Log transportation was primarily by water where rafts of pine and punt loads of hardwood logs were drawn from loading grounds on the Mary River, Tin Can Bay and Fraser Island. Through up until the 1920’s, snigging and haulage of logs from stump to the log dumps was by bullock wagon. Weather conditions governed the rate of harvest; in the wet summer months, mainland roads were turned into quagmires, whereas the sand tracks on Fraser Island became firmer and more trafficable.

At the end of winter, bullocks would be in poor condition because of frost-bitten pastures, leaving bullocks too weak to work and teams were generally turned out to find feed wherever they could until spring rains came and brought new grass. Mills would concentrate their log haulage from after Easter (the end of the wet season) until about the end of August (the end of winter), building up stocks for the future months. By 1900, Hyne & Son had more than 50 teams of bullocks working to keep their mills supplied. 

Railways were just beginning to open up the district but, for transportation of sawn timber to the emerging markets in North Queensland and South Brisbane and Sydney, ocean transport was the only option. Opposition companies were sufficiently well funded to have their own ships, leaving Hyne at a great disadvantage in relying on whatever tramp sailing ships were available.

In 1884, RM Hyne made his move into shipping when he acquired the small 77 ton schooner “Agnes”. Two years later he had what proved to be, literally, a windfall. The schooner “Mayflower” built a year earlier in New South Wales, was wrecked on Lady Elliott Island (off Bundaberg), whilst en route from Sydney to Kimberley Gold Fields in north-western Australia, loaded with a full cargo of colonial stores. Her crew was rescued, and she was declared “a total constructive wreck” and put up for auction by the insurers. R M Hyne made the only bid, and subsequently floated her off and brought her to Maryborough with cargo intact. There she was slipped and inspection revealed the damage to be minor and easily repaired. She sailed for Townsville with a full load of timber some three months later.

So he finished up with a full cargo, a fast sailing ship (she sailed Maryborough to Cooktown in 6 days), which undoubtedly helped to put the company on its feet allowing them to compete effectively and to guarantee on-time delivery of customer orders. For 30 years she carried the company’s timber products up and down the east coast of Australia, servicing ports from Townsville in the north to Sydney in the south until eventually the developing rail network and the cost of operating shipping rendering her redundant.

R M Hyne was a man of great energy and practical ability. He was Mayor of Maryborough and served for some time in the Queensland Parliament. He was of liberal outlook politically arguing for “removal of all obstacles and to give to all equal opportunities for progress”. In 1890 he introduced a Women’s Suffrage Bill, the first in the nation intended to give the vote to women, a move which was ultimately defeated in the House. He moved successfully for the formation of a Department of Forestry and the replanting of forests. He supported the 8 hour day, believing that the employer would benefit from having intelligent, well-fed and healthy workmen rather than tired, overworked and ill-treated men. He unilaterally introduced the 8 hour day in 1890 in his Maryborough mill, even though his competitors were working nine hours + per day.

Records show that the company went through good and bad times, cycles of boom years and recessions, major floods and rebuilding, oversupply in markets and low prices, depletion of resources and government inactivity.