Sir George Francis Reuben Nicklin KCMG, MM, LL.D. is a name that is firmly stamped on the Sunshine Coast but for the residents who knew him, it was simply “Frank”.
There were many aspects to the man – soldier, farmer, lobbyist, politician, sportsman and all-round good bloke.
He never lost sight of his agricultural roots or his love for his community – Palmwoods and the Sunshine Coast. There were few events during the 1950s-1970s that didn’t have his name on them.
When the Kenilworth councillor and aspiring Maroochy Shire chairman, his friend Eddie De Vere, mentioned the idea of re-naming the North Coast region the Sunshine Coast in early 1966, Nicklin responded: “I think you are on a winner.” He supported the concept from the beginning.
Nicklin was born in Murwillumbah in 1895, and in 1910, moved with his family to Beerwah to help his father, a former newspaper proprietor, on his banana farm.
He enrolled in the army at 21 and after serving with distinction on the Western front – Lieutenant-Colonel Nicklin was awarded the Military Medal for bravery – returned to Queensland in 1919 and bought an eight hectare pineapple farm at Palmwoods under the soldier-settlement scheme.
In 1921, he married Georgina Fleming from Beerwah (she died in 1960), but they did not have any children.
During the 1920s and Depression years, Nicklin’s farm succeeded where many failed and his involvement in many state and local fruit growers’ associations, usually as an office bearer, led him to Country Party politics.
One resident later recalled that during the 1920s and ’30s, Nicko, as his team mates knew him, “strode as purposefully and successfully” on to the cricket arenas, the tennis courts and into the lifesaving conference rooms as he did in later years through the Queensland Parliament. His regard for sport was completely dedicated and has left an indelible mark on the sporting records of the North Coast.
“How Frank Nicklin found time for his numerous sporting commitments will never be fully understood but he threw himself with gusto into the North Coast Lifesaving movement.”
Nicklin was first elected to Murrumba in 1932 and remained there until 1950, when he became the Member for Landsborough.
He was respected for his “honesty of purpose and character”.
In 1941, he became party leader and despite losing five elections while Queensland opposition leader, became Queensland Premier in 1956, a job he held until sickness, likely stemming from being gassed in the trenches as a young man, forced his resignation at 72 in January 1968.
Earning the nickname “Honest Frank” he had a knack for “saying ‘no’ in a very pleasant manner” and although he could crack the whip, was widely considered a personable leader who always had time to listen.
Ultimately, he presided over the most tranquil decade in 20th century Queensland politics. Sir Thomas Hiley eulogised, “whatever was accomplished from 1957 to 1968 was largely due to his leadership and to the force of his example. He showed real wisdom and sound judgement” while the Landsborough MLA and later premier Mike Ahern said, “Sir Francis Nicklin was an extraordinary person and in the best sense of the term, he was a man of the people.”
Frank Nicklin died at Sundale in Nambour on January 29, 1978, aged 83 years. Sundale had benefited greatly from his interest and generosity right from its beginning and Nicklin Lodge, where he spent his latter years, was named for him.
This “distinguished citizen of Palmwoods” was honoured in 1979, with the opening of the Sir Francis Nicklin Memorial Clock which still presides over the town.