David Keir still enjoys working as a furniture maker
David Keir still enjoys working as a furniture maker Warren Lynam

Head out past Maleny and you might find Mr Fix-It David Keir

TO FIND David Keir, you drive out of Maleny, past ducks in a front yard, through the gap he cut in a hill years ago, past a dairy farm straddling a road and hills striped with avocado trees, to where the bitumen ends, past the brick house, through the gate, and past a sawmill sinking under bush and a rusty machine facing the same fate.

And then you round a corner and hit the brakes at the foot of a wooden ramp reaching out from a small timber house.

At the top of the ramp in a wheelchair waits David Keir with 83 years of history, one leg, a short term memory which plays up occasionally, and a friendly hello.

David has lived on this land all of his life. It has been in his family since 1906.

He still has a letter, dated November 22, 1906, that his uncle wrote to his sweetheart just before he was due to pick out his block nearby, asking cheekily if she would come up and keep house for him.

The house David grew up in is long gone, a victim of termites, and his son's house sits around the same spot now.

David built the house, his own house, in 1953 from timber cut and milled on the property. He still has the receipt from when his wife bought the bath for 24 pounds - and still has the bath.

David and Anthea were married for 38 years. He met her father, noted botanist William Douglas Francis, through a mutual interest in trees while running the sawmill, and got to know Anthea when she was a teacher at a local school.

Anthea died 23 years ago from breast cancer and to speak of her loss still upsets David.

"Thirty-eight years and two arguments, and that was about going to meetings. Not an ounce of malice in here."

Fifteen years ago he suffered another major trauma when his left leg had to be amputated below the knee following complications from minor surgery.

He has an artificial leg - as a tiger snake discovered years ago when it tried to bite him. The leg, long since retired, bears a nick where David cut the poison out.

Working the sawmill was too tough on one leg. Woodwork fills the void.

David has a workspace at the end of the front veranda but leaves the chair there and walks down a short flight of stairs on his artificial leg to his real workshop in what was the carport.

"I can stand for about three minutes at a time," he said.

Using timber left from years of milling, he makes small boxes, calendars, hobby horses, bedside drawers, cupboards and tables.

"I'm happy as long as I can do my woodwork. I love doing it," he said.

He works from 7.30am to 4.30pm daily.

It keeps his mind off other things, like an aortic aneurism which could burst and kill him at any time.

David gets some home help to stay in his house and has no plans to see out his days anywhere else other than the property on which he has spent all of his life.