When Alison and Terry Ray first saw the Old Cotherstone Homestead up for sale and removal in their local newspaper 40 years ago, they both knew it was nothing short of a "calling".
The old homestead was originally owned by the Rolfe family and station on their Cotherstone cattle property, near Dysart. The property is now owned by the Sibson family.
Upon their inspection, the Rays realised the heritage-listed homestead possessed the ideal country living that their young family was looking for at the time.
"I saw it advertised in the CQ News, a house for sale and $4800 for removal," Ms Ray told the Queensland Country Life.
"We owned 17 acres of vacant land in Emerald, and I suggested to Terry that we go and have a look at it.
"We loved it, of course, and then I took the building inspector of the time from the council up with me to make sure there were no white ants or dry rot, but overall, it was what we had dreamed of owning."
Terry grew up in Townsville, and with no rural-background, ended up in the livestock department of Landmark, formerly known as Dalgetys.
He moved to Emerald in 1970 and later met the love of his life Alison, who hailed from Capella.
Known for his entrepreneurship, Ms Ray owned and ran the Emerald Kennels and Cattery.
The young couple married in 1972, on December 17, and celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this year.
"We got married in Mackay, and had $20 when we got back from our honeymoon in 1972, and it's because we didn't have any money, anything we had, we valued," Ms Ray said.
"Terry believes the best people live in central Queensland, he never wants to leave."
After being successful in purchasing the homestead in 1983, the structure then endured a long 100 kilometre journey by truck, to its final resting place in Emerald on the Central Highlands.
What was originally the spelling paddock for cattle at the Emerald saleyards, the Rays purchased a 6.8 hectare block of the land in 1983 as well, for a total cost of $27,000.
"It was also good to have the acreage when the boys were growing up, because they'd bring their mates over all the time and one of the boys rode motorbikes," Ms Ray said.
Ms Ray said the main structure arrived smoothly and at no damage.
"We brought it down from Dysart, at a time when we were stony-broke, so we had to borrow the money to do it up," she said.
"Our children were only one, two, and three when we moved the home to Emerald, so it was difficult in navigating a young family during that time as well.
"It cost us about $7800 to put the bearers, which were spotted gum off the property, underneath the house.
"We had a builder come in and part time and do a bit of work, but we did the dirty work and carted rubbish to the dump, because we weren't skilled in the trade."
Ms Ray described 1983 as really a wet year, which she said actually allowed them to focus on renovating their home.
"I remember Terry couldn't travel out anywhere to go to work as a stock agent, so we decided to fill all the horizontal tongue and groves with space filler," she said.
"We had it painted by a professional painter and it's only been painted once since then in 40 years, so it's held together beautifully.
"Another benefit is the way the roof is designed, you're not getting the weather in on the timber."
Perched a few kilometers outside of the Emerald CBD, the homestead is now a hidden treasure.
Alison and Ray find themselves in a five bedroom, heritage-listed homestead that boasts six bathrooms, several living spaces, and verandahs that wrap around three sides of the home.
With a growing family, the Rays decided to expand their living spaces.
"Years ago, our verandas used to go right around the homestead, but we thought it was a bit of a waste of space, so we've since put in several new bathrooms, two bedrooms and an office," Ms Ray said.
"We only really live out on the front veranda anyway."
When the Ray family first moved to Emerald, their block of land had only one tree at the front.
Ms Ray said they'd since planted Australian natives and figs - which they like because they are very low maintenance.
"We planted some trees, but a lot of seeds were dropped by birds, and I just let anything grow really," she said.
A house extension was also built onto the main homestead in 2002.
It became a part of Ms Ray's bed and breakfast business, which she ran for 11 years.
"I always wanted to have a bed and breakfast when I retired and I thought it was a good thing to do at the time because a couple of the boys were still living at home and it was extra space for them too," she said.
"The bathrooms were renovated when we did the house extension for the bed and breakfast as well.
"We actually shifted the kitchen and the kitchen was a little detached, so if there was a fire, there wouldn't be as much damage.
"We knocked down two bedrooms to put the kitchen in place."
Today, the extension to the house now serves as a men's corner for Terry, where his passion for rugby, race horses and country races decorates the walls of the building, with photos of his prized wins and horses featured.
As you walk into the Ray family's home, you are hit with a sense of nostalgia and tradition as antiques and treasured items attract your eye.
Whether it be the 90-year-old telephone exchange, an old barbers chair, or the old sewing machine, these antiques highlight their vintage passion.
"I've been gathering furniture over that time. I love all things old and I especially admire the history that comes with it," Ms Ray said.
"I'd love to know where it came from, who pre-loved them, how they departed with them - were they broke and had to sell or did they not like it anymore?
"The telephone exchange for example - what post office did that sit in and who sat at it?"
Photographs of the family's travels over the years and paintings, done by Alison, feature on the many walls, which fill the old homestead.
"Myself, and our children have traveled over the years, and I've been to many different countries such as India, Peru, Bolivia, Columbia, and of course Africa, where I've completed 19 trips since 2002, attending to Our Rainbow House," Ms Ray said.
"Most of our furniture inside the house we have picked up at auction sales.
"Some of the treasures come from the Hughenden dump."
It's fair to say, the Old Cortherstone Homestead is far from any modern home, but that's how the Rays want it to be.
"I think automatically when you walk into a country home, you feel at home," Ms Ray said.
In 2019, the homestead served as a backdrop for Terry and Alison's son, Duncan's wedding.
"The boys have all had their birthday celebrations here and one of our boys, Duncan and his partner Anna got married in the garden in 2019," Ms Ray said.
Within the timber walls of the Old Cotherstone Homestead is also Ms Ray's Our Rainbow House charity headquarters, which was established in 2009.
Not only does this beautiful homestead serve as a home for our family, but also as headquarters for Our Rainbow House - a school offering education for orphaned and vulnerable children in Zambia.- Alison Ray, Cortherstone Homestead owner
Several of the charity's volunteers spend time working at the homestead, where they provide vulnerable children in Zambia of southern Africa, with improved life chances.
Since 2002, Ms Ray has travelled to Africa more than 19 times, with early next year marking her 20th trip to the Lusaka, Zambia village.
It's there, at the village, where the charity opened a school for 51 orphaned and vulnerable children in 2012.
Our Rainbow House continues to improve the lives of many children.
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