Bob and Joan Allen in their garden in Western Avenue today (photograph by Victoria McGuin)

Bob and Joan Allen in their garden in Western Avenue today (photograph by Victoria McGuin)

It began with a phone call. Robert (Bob) Allen wondering if writer Victoria McGuin had heard of the last cricket match to be played in Montville back in the 1990s. From there came stories of Great Walks, house flipping and a near-death experience on the ocean.

by Victoria McGuin

Robert (Bob) Allen loves cricket. The demise of the sport in Montville is clearly a disappointment to him. “There used to be regular cricket matches on the village green, it was an oval, but when they moved the road, it cut our ground too much in size.

“A lady called Mrs Glover had ten acres where the Montville Sportsground is now. She donated it to the Village Association but I’m not sure what happened with it in the long run. We set up the cricket there until someone said the area was substandard and we were turfed out to make way for a soccer field.

“Before we left, we held the last cricket match in Montville in 1989. It was ‘Montville’ versus ‘The Rest’.” Robert shows me the list of names, many long-standing locals who shaped the town.

For some reason, Robert’s name is on the list for ‘The Rest’. “I’m not sure why that happened,” he says, “And look at my score – shocking! I was usually a good player.”

Robert and Joan Allen have been part of the Montville fabric for many years, buying land, renovating properties long before the ‘flipping’ craze, and even shaping the landscape.

“It was the early ‘90s and myself and a few others became aware that Montville needed more than a shopping village to entice visitors. A walk from Lake Baroon to Kondalilla Falls seemed a good start.”

The Montville Village Association accepted the idea and a group with skill sets to help, started planning.

After financial contributions and much red tape, Bob, Bryan McLennan, JOhn Taylor and John Watkins were able to plot a course. “We had to do a lot of faffing around, and Judy Pippin, a Montville local, managed to get hold of a group of ‘work for the dole’ people to help.

“I had a team of boys working on the track. It was quite funny as they thought it would be a breeze but I certainly kept them going. One fella said, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’.”

Bob recalls the track had to be wheelchair accessible, “over creeks and gullies…we did it all, got it working, and then Council came out and said, ‘Oh, you can have steps now’!”

The Great Walk is a testament to the tenacity, vision and perseverance of many people, but there is no doubt Bob was one for the driving forces.

We look through a memory album Bob’s daughter recently collated for him, and see photos of a busy life, much of it involved in sport, land, and renovation. “It began a long time ago. I’d been on a dairy farm with a partner, milking cows, and I didn’t enjoy it.

“The farm had a brilliant house on it, set high on a hill and I thought I could make something of it. I built a huge fireplace, sanded the floors, improved everything possible. When we decided to sell, a fella who came to look at the farm ended up buying it because his wife loved the house!”

Bob worked in real estate for three years before buying the farm so he regularly attended auctions and began to buy and sell property.

Bob and Joan met and married in Mornington but eventually moved the warmth of Noosa. “I couldn’t believe you could swim in winter!” However, they soon felt it was a place to holiday but not to live and moved to Montville.

“It used to be just Misty’s, the post office and a service station where the newsagent is now. We were living in Balmoral with views from Caloundra to Double Island Point, but it was too windy for me! We sold up and bought in town opposite the hotel where there was a big gallery.

“Joan used her four-year diploma of needlecraft skills and opened a shirt shop in the space. She designed and cut, and found brilliant sewers to make up.”

Joan’s shirts sold all over Queensland and interstate for 13 years – it was, by all accounts, a very successful business.

The couple also built the landmark Montville Chalet on the main street in the late ‘80s before finding three acres in Western Avenue with a house on it.

“Council had extended the village precinct and we were able to split it into four sections. My son built our house which is just right for the two of us.”

After Montville was a joint winner of the Tidy Town award in 1993, Bob and Joan became Tidy Town judges for two years. “They paid us to travel around, visit towns and have morning tea. They even flew us to Thursday Island. It was fun for a while but the driving got too much.”

As I climb into my car, Bob casually shares a memory from their property buying days.

Joan Allen in the canoe that gave out in a storm

Joan Allen in the canoe that gave out in a storm

“We were looking at buying on the Solomon Islands. Joan and I were on a little canoe with our guide, William, when a storm came in. The rain was horizontal and we had no idea where we were.

“Joan looked at me and said, ‘William’s stopped rowing!’ I looked up and William was slumped, accepting inevitable death. I thought, what would our kids do? So I told him to keep rowing and made the decision to head into the storm.

“After what seemed an eternity we saw a light – there were people out looking for us. One of the local women gave Joan a massive hug when we climbed out of the canoe. We decided not to buy after that!”

Bob and Joan survived, much to the relief of their children: daughter Debi, a farmer and breeder of Connemara ponies, and two sons, Scott and Ross, who are both builders.

I drove away, thinking I had only just scratched the surface. The dedication from Bob’s children in his memory book says it all: he has lived a lot, read a lot, dreamed a lot, and fitted a whole lot in between. With a wonderful woman by his side.