Richard Lunn

Richard “Dick” Lunn was born in Sheffield, Yorkshire on 19 March 1871 and came to Australia with his family aged 12, settling in the Maroochy district and later Nambour.

He sailed around the world in square-riggers and after 10 years, signed off in Cairns. He liked the district and he and his mate Trilby walked down the steep Bump Track and arrived in Mossman in 1899, and stayed.

He was the first man to enlist in any war from Mossman and served in the Boer War from April 1900 until March 1902.

Then he settled in Mossman, became a sugar cane farmer in the Bamboo area and married Pollie “Dolly” Hobson from Lancashire.

In 1909 the couple moved to town and Dick became the ’licenced victualler’ of the Post Office Hotel

Previously named Tattersalls Hotel and owned by Mrs Pauline Carstens, later Mrs Thomas Weldon, Dick probably changed its name because the Mossman Post Office was built next door as he was taking over in 1909.

Dick saw the need for a large building that would accommodate the growing population of Mossman. So he built the Coronation Hall next door, named for the coronation of George V, grandson of Queen Victoria, who succeeded Edward VII on 10 May 1910. The Coronation was to take place on 22 June 1911.

His hall was torn apart in the March 1911 cyclone but he quickly set about having it re-erected and it was open for business in June.
Port Douglas & Mossman Record 6 June 1911.

1911 was a busy year for Dick, with his son Phillip Sydney (P.S). being born on the kitchen table of the Post Office Hotel on 9th August, said Annette McArthur, PS’s daughter.

Dick was a Councillor, sitting on the Douglas Shire Council between from 1911 until March 1913.

He was very keen on the new craze of moving pictures and in June 1912 with Ernest C. Hannaford, who had a photographer’s studio further up Mill Street, he arranged for picture shows with their own ‘apparatus’ in his hall. Charles May, the local butcher was also attached to the partnership.

They named their enterprise the Northern Photo Play Co and on August 17th 1912 showed a number of films including “Love and Friendship”, a very popular drama.

Ever the entrepreneur, Dick introduced the first car to Mossman, a 1914 Model T Ford, and realising the popularity of motoring, opened a garage in the front of his hall. As well as selling and repairing cars, he became the agent for the International Harvester Company and then Fordson tractors, and also sold tyres, spare parts and petrol. It was quite common for mechanics and butchers to run picture shows in country towns because they already had access to generators.

For many years, Mossman’s first garage in front of the hall had hand-operated petrol bowsers.

“Mr. R. Lunn, who owns a Ford motor car, was able to resume communication between here (Mossman) and Port Douglas yesterday. The only other motor in the district is owned by Mr.Kratina, the mill storekeeper, who however is disposing of it in Cairns, to which place it will be shipped this week.”
Cairns Post 15 June 1917

During interval at the pictures, patrons drank in his pub with Doll keeping an eye on consumption. When she thought enough had been drunk, she winked at Dick and he started the films off again.

Dick bought part of the Port Douglas hospital after its facilities were moved to Mossman in the 1930s, and from its timbers built a large home called ‘Sylvania’ on the corner of Mill and Thomas Streets, near the Mill. Unfortunately it burnt down after he died.

“He was tall and dignified and loved ballet music and Souza marches and Gilbert and Sullivan and she was very short, almost square I used to think.” said their grand-daughter Annette McArthur.

“And he wasn’t very popular initially because everybody else would come to town in horse and sulkies or riding a horse and of course this car would backfire and scare all the horses and they’d rear up. But eventually other people decided they might like a vehicle as well, so he just started up the first Ford dealership.”

On 29th September 1925, Dick Lunn relinquished his ‘within licence’ of the Post Office Hotel to Hazel Browne and concentrated on running the Photoplay.

“In Mossman trading circles the word "Lunn's" stands for a lot. It means the local theatre and picture show, the big garage and Ford sales shop, also the place where the tractor and motor owner may secure all he requires in accessories, tyres, tubes, oils and free air. In fact the Lunn family, including its genial head, Mr R. Lunn, as one of the oldest families on the Mossman, know what the Mossman people want and nothing is too much or too little for them to handle. They have linked their fortunes to Mossman and the link is a strong one.” (Cairns Post 29 Oct 1929)

In 1929 Dick Lunn was the ‘authorised Ford Motor dealer’ and also sold tractors. His phone number was 25.

“AVIATION    MOSSMAN, October 2S.  The excitement caused last week by the 'plane from Cairns circling the town and dropping mail, was mild compared to that which reigned on Monday when airman Butler landed his Avro-Ayian on the specially prepared ground at the rear of Mr. Lunn's residence. A local lad, Mr. James Connolly, came as a passenger from Cairns, and so enjoys the distinction of being the first to land from a 'plane in the district. Mr. Phil Lunn was the first Mossman passenger to make the ascent, and he was followed by a young Italian lady (a visitor to Mossman).”
Cairns Post 2 Nov 1929

Dick was heavily involved in the community and was the inaugural President of the RSL as well as being active in Rotary and the Masonic Lodge.

“A LITTLE BREEZE. A letter was read from Mr. R. Lunn, Mossman, in reference to the proposed building of a Shire Hall at Mossman. The writer stated that he did not consider the hall he owned was not sufficient for the requirements of the district. He was prepared to let the Council inspect his books. The only night he had a full house was on the occasion when "Wings" was screened. On 34 nights during the year he was able to let the hall, but when the cost of license and lighting was taken from this there was no profit. The letter concluded stating that when a hall like the one in Innisfail was built costing £25,000, the writer would be pleased to rent it.”
(Cairns Post 17 Dec 1929)

Dick was against the building of a new hall and obviously tried to show that it would not be financially viable. He had been a Shire Councillor between 1911 and 1913. The Shire Hall and offices were built in 1936.


“Mr. Richard Lunn, having disposed of the Mossman Garage business has to request that all accounts outstanding be paid at once. Otherwise legal proceedings will reluctantly be taken.“
(Cairns Post 12 Oct 1935)

Unfortunately on 30 Nov 1935, Dick’s only daughter Ailsa Bright passed away in Brisbane. She was the wife of a dentist and it’s thought that his chemicals may have caused her death.

In 1946, Dick Lunn sold his Photoplay picture show to Far Northern Theatres and retired at the age of 75.

“A vote of thanks and appreciation to Mr. R. Lunn for his generosity over a number of years in making the hall available gratis for farmers meetings, was carried by acclamation. Thanks were also expressed to the new owners, Northern Theatres Ltd. for their offer of the use of the hall in the future.”
(Cairns Post 27 Nov 1946)

In 1953 Dick’s son PS opened a large new garage and lubritorium next to the court house in Front Street.
Cairns Post 15 Sept 1953

Dick’s wife Doll was also an energetic worker for the community. She had four boarders at Sylvania as well as working for the Red Cross, St David’s Ladies’ Guild and running the Candy Bar and ticket office at the Photoplay. She was the first President of the Women’s Auxiliary of the Mossman RSL.

Their son PS inherited their energy and vision. In his early days he was often the projectionist at the Photoplay. He was apprenticed to his father learning to be a motor mechanic, and took over his father’s garage business and Ford dealership in 1935. After he returned from the War serving in New Guinea, he reopened the garage, and also had a business repairing radios there.

He built a large new Ford showroom in Front Street which opened in 1953 and he was awarded a plaque signed by Henry Ford II for 50 years continuous service as a father and son business. In his own right, PS was presented with a bronze plaque for 25 years service in 1975 from Ford Australia. Phil was a member of Mossman Rotary, the Chamber of Commerce and the Mossman Bowling Club, was a life member of the RSL and was awarded a 50 year jewel from the Port Douglas-Mossman Masonic Lodge.

Dick died April 2 1960, aged 89.
Doll died at the end of 1964.
Phil died on 5 July 2001.


Cairns Post APRIL 4, 1960.

BY George Davis, solicitor of Mossman from facts supplied by Phil Lunn, his son.

Mr Richard Lunn died at Mossman in the early morning of Saturday, April 2, and with his death, which occurred just after his 89th birthday, there passed a man who had had a colourful life and one of various interests.

As a sailor in his younger days he had sailed practically all round the world in the square-rigged sailing ships of those days. He saw active service in the Boer War and during his 60 years of residence in the Mossman district he carried on cane farming and hotel-keeping. He introduced the first motor car to the district, set up Mossman’s first garage and also pioneered the district’s first motion-picture theatre.

Born at Sheffield, Yorkshire on March 19, 1871, “Dick” Lunn (as he was best known) came to Australia with his parents at the age of 12. Living first of all in the Maroochy district, they later went to Nambour, where his father, Mr John Lunn became engineer, and later manager, of the Nambour sugar mill. Mrs Lunn senior died while the family were at Maroochydore, and Mr John Lunn died at Nambour shortly after retiring from the mill managership.

Evincing an early liking for the sea, Dick Lunn began his first sea-voyaging in the small sailing ships which plied between Maroochy and Brisbane. At the age of 19 he joined the merchant marine, and in his 10 years of that service he saw most of the countries of the world, including Great Britain, Japan and other eastern countries, and also North and South American. While in the merchant marine he attained the rank of second mate, a certificate of competency being issued to him by the Lord of the Committee of Privy Council for Trades on January 14, 1897.

The late Mr Lunn left the sea in 1899, signing off in Cairns. He and a mate named Trilby decided on a ‘walk-about” between ships, and they came to Mossman walking over the old “Bump: road. Mr Lunn took a liking to Mossman and settled there, his first employment being as a labour overseer employed by Mr. Sam Johnston at Drum Sara sugar plantation.

With the outbreak of the Boer War he enlisted from Mossman in April 1900, he being thereby believed to be the first man ever to enlist from Mossman in any war. He saw service with the 4th Queensland Infantry Bushmen, and on return from service he came back to Mossman in March, 1902. From that time onward he remained at Mossman.

In 1902 he bought a cane farm property in the Bamboo Creek district, and while farming he was married to Miss Dolly Hobson. After some years on the farm, the Lunns came to Mossman township where they took over the Post Office Hotel. Mr Lunn then embarked in the picture theatre business and built Mossman’s first picture theatre. He received an initial set-back when, just before the building was completed, the 1911 cyclone struck the district, causing the theatre structure to collapse. The structure was re-built, and in the same year Mossman saw its first picture programme. The running of the theatre was a joint venture, in which the late Mr. Charles May and Mr. Hannaford were interested jointly with Mr. Lunn. The theatre was opened in the early days of motion pictures, when, before the introduction of electricity, acetylene gas and lime-light were the only means of illumination.

In 1914 Mr. Lunn went into the motor garage business, and brought the first motor car – a model “T” Ford ‘ into the Mossman district.

About 1926 he relinquished the hotel business and moved over to a new residence, “Sylvania”, and he continued with the garage and motion picture business. Mr. Hannaford had retired from the latter business some time earlier, and ultimately Mr. Lunn also took over Mr. May’s interest to become the sole owner.

In 1937 he went out of the motor garage which was taken over by his son Phil, and in 1946 he disposed of his motion picture interests to Far Northern Theatres. Since then Mr. Lunn has lived a retired life at Mossman.

In 1954 Mr and Mrs. Lunn took a trip to England, and Mr. Lunn, who was a keen Dickens enthusiast, revisited many of the places mentioned in the various Dickens works.

The late Mr. Lunn took a keen interest in local affairs during his life at Mossman. He was a foundation member and office-bearer in the Mossman Sub-branch of the R.S.L. when that sub-branch was formed in 1918, and his interest was subsequently retained with the post of honorary auditor to the sub-branch which he continued until 1948. He was also for a time a councillor on the Douglas Shire Council and also held a term as Master of the Port Douglas-Mossman Masonic Lodge.

A large attendance at the funeral which moved to the Mossman cemetery on Saturday afternoon testified to the esteem and affection in which the late Mr. Lunn had been held, and in his memory as an ex-serviceman, members of the R.S.L. acted ad pall-bearers, while an ex-servicemen’s guard of honour was formed outside the church and later at the graveside. Masonic Lodge members also paid their tributes at the graveside. The last rites at St. David’s Church of England and at the graveside were carried out by th Anglican rector at Mossman, Rev. A.R. McFarland.

The deceased is survived by his widow, Mrs Dolly Lunn, by two sons, Richard Greville Lunn and Phillip Sydney Lunn, and by five grandchildren. There are also surviving him a brother, Arthur Lunn (Corinda, Brisbane) and a sister, Mrs. Miriam Dickens (Sandgate). A daughter, Ailsa (Mrs F. Bright), a brother, John, and a sister, Charlotte, predeceased him.