In today’s fast-paced world it is hard to believe that Gunnedah once had a cordial factory, with those who grew up in the 1950s and 60s remembering Cushan’s Cordials with great affection.

Christmas was always a treat with a crate of cordials and a keg of ginger beer from Cushan’s added to the festive cheer of most families.

When Joseph Luke Cushan and his bride Charlotte Bryant arrived in Gunnedah from Maitland via Tamworth in 1877, they chose a site near the town’s then main street to launch their cordial works.

Although others moved from the flood-prone Maitland Street and adjoining lower Marquis and Elgin Streets to higher ground, the Cushan family stayed and five generations later they were still operating their large cordial factory from the spacious warehouse in Elgin Street.

Taking a break during the busy cordial delivery schedule. Pictured is a J&E Cushan’s truck with Alston Cushan Snr sitting on the running board and his younger brother Bert standing. This photograph would have been taken in the 1930s.

The Cushan family’s Australian story began when David Cushan migrated to Australia and settled in Maitland in the early 1800s. Joseph Luke Cushan was the only boy in a large family of girls and he and his wife Charlotte, raised a family of 10, who all went on to become highly respected citizens, including John Luke Cushan who served as a Gunnedah Municipal Council alderman from 1886 to 1891.

Another son David Bryant Cushan sadly perished on the killing fields of France during World War I. He was sent to Gallipoli with the 13th Battalion in October 1915, remaining there until the evacuation in December that year. He then served in France with his unit but received gunshot wounds to his neck and back on February 4, 1917, and was admitted to the 12th Field Hospital before recovering in hospital in England. He returned to France in late May 1917, re-joining his unit in Belgium where he was involved in continuous fighting and was mortally wounded. He died from his wounds at an Australian Casualty Clearing Station on July 13, 1917. The lad from Gunnedah was buried far from his home in the Trois Arbes Cemetery at Steenwerk, France, and is remembered on the Gunnedah Cenotaph and the Stations of the Cross in St Joseph’s Catholic Church.

The Cushan family became deeply entrenched in the town of Gunnedah, the link with the district consolidated by the marriage of their offspring into well-known local families, including Le Cussan, Smyth, Kelly and Pike – Beatrice Cushan married William Le Cussan, while Leah Cushan married Bert Le Cussan and Linda Cushan married Henry Pike.

A cordial delivery arrives at the Curlewis Hotel.

The cordial making business started from a low base with equipment described as “primitive” but flourished over the years, until Cushan’s Cordials became one of the best-known cordial producers in the state.

Joseph Cushan was also an identity in the racing industry, his highly successful stable numbering hundreds of thoroughbreds over the years. One of the best-known was Old Clo, which won a City Tattersalls Cup as well as cup races in the north before it was sold and taken to England to again race successfully.

Second son George was an outstanding jockey and in the first five years of the stable’s entry into the sport, he rode 150 winners. His career as a horseman ended after a serious fall at Narrabri and he then took over as stable foreman. George Cushan ventured into bee keeping and employed a dozen or so Chinese men to work on his tobacco and vegetable farm across the river. George passed his knowledge on to a young Mev Goodwin, who started with about 40 hives and after leaving school at 15, gained extensive knowledge working with George, who eventually sold his bees to the keen young beekeeper. Mev Goodwin went on to join a co-operative set up by Tim and Bert Smith in Queensland where Capilano Honey was born. With Mev’s Sydney connections, he was involved in setting up the first NSW branch of Capilano Honey. George Cushan also taught Mev how to handle a shotgun and how to box. George Cushan died in 1960 at the age of 74.

Patriarch of the Cushan clan in the Gunnedah area, Joseph Luke Cushan (1851-1923) and his wife, Charlotte Ann Cushan (1855-1948) with their 10 children.

Joseph Cushan died at St Vincent’s Private Hospital in Sydney on March 7, 1923, three weeks before his 72nd birthday, while his wife Charlotte lived in Gunnedah until her death, on December 30, 1948, at the age of 93.

After Joseph Cushan’s death, eldest son John (Jack) and his wife Elizabeth became proprietors, trading as Cushan’s High Class Cordials and then Cushan’s Progressive Cordials until a name change in 1971 to Gun Soft Drinks when the two branches of the Cushan family operating separate cordial works merged.

The Cushan name was perpetuated by John Luke Cushan – who died in 1949 at the age of 74 – and his three sons Alston, Bert and David.

Viv Cushan was manager of the local works for many years. In his youth, he was a leading middleweight boxer in the north west and his bouts with local champion Hubie Hinton helped establish Hinton as one of the most promising young boxers in the country. Viv Cushan was also prominent in greyhound racing as an owner, trainer and administrator, initially in live coursing and then in mechanical hare racing. Full Blend, a winner of more than 50 races, was one of the best in the north west and was the grand dam of Chief Havoc, the most famous greyhound in the world in the 1940s. Viv Cushan died in 1966, at the age of 74, the same age as his brothers Jack and George.

Cushan’s Cordials horse and cart delivery.

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