Lamington National Park, Bribie Island, Tweed River Tragedies

Lamington National Park

Historic Facts about Bribie Island

Old Time Tweed River Tragedies




So far even the locality of Queensland’s National Park is known only to a few Queenslanders.

       From the top of Observatory Hill in Brisbane on a clear day, the residents can see far away south and southeast the cone shaped peaks of Mt. Flinders and his satellites, and far off on the horizon the towering summits of Mounts Mitchell and Cordeaux guarding Cunningham’s Gap, the lofty summit of Mt. Barney, the great parapet shaped rock crest of Mt. Lindesay, and mountains of all shapes stretching away until they are as mere cloud masses on the horizon.

       Between Mt Lindesay and Tambourine Mountain, away towards the coast at Point Danger, is a lofty range averaging 3500 feet, with peaks rising to 4000 feet. That is the McPherson Range, which divides New South Wales from Queensland, and the top of that range is what forms the great National Park, the south side looking down into New South Wales, the west side into Queensland. The park extends from Canungra Creek to Running Creek, a distance of about 20 miles, and includes 12 permanently running streams on the Queensland side, all of them with many beautiful small or large waterfalls, cascades and cataracts.

       Neither the word park nor plateau is at all applicable to that region, as it is neither one nor the other, there not being 300 acres of level land on the whole area, which is so far estimated at nearly 50,000 acres. But the surface contour of vast undulations and tremendous ravines in no sense lessens the charm and beauty and fascination in the noble purpose to which it has been devoted. On the contrary, that remarkable contour has intensified the fascination and indefinitely multiplied the attraction.

       One area of 47,6000 acres of dead level country covered by dense jungle would have no attraction for anybody except the botanist and the entomologist. To the majority of people the monotony of such an area would be horribly depressing. The McPherson Range is shaped like a giant comb, with teeth five to seven miles in length, the actual rim of the comb not averaging more than 200 yards in width. The rim looks down into the valley of the Tweed, and out upon the ocean from Point Danger to south of Cape Byron. The great teeth are represented by vast spurs which all run out into Queensland, with a general height of 3,000 to 3,500 feet, divided by magnificent ravines from a maximum of 3500 feet at the outer points, and gently tapering or attenuating far away into the summit of the range. Between those spurs descend the beautiful streams that finally reach the valleys of the Logan and Albert, the Coomera and the Nerang. And each one of these mighty spurs ends abruptly in a sheer precipice that forms a commanding rock balcony from which you look out across the wonderful country within a radius of a hundred miles.

       At the southwest end of the Park is Running Creek, and Canungra Creek fronts the northeast border. And the whole of the Park, from the bottom of all the ravines to the higher points of the Range, is covered by dense gorgeous jungle quite as rank and tropical and luxuriant as the great scrubs of the Atherton Tableland, or anywhere else in North Queensland.

       Probably the first man who traversed that McPherson Range from end to end was Surveyor Roberts, employed by New South Wales to run the boundary line between the two States in the year 1864. “Roberts Plateau” takes its name from him. He ran the line all the way along the top of the Range, looking down into the Tweed Valley and he very wisely got all his names from the Tweed River and Albert River aboriginals. The face of the Range on the Tweed side consists of very steep jungle covered ravines, divided by great bare rock fronted precipices up to six and eight hundred feet. The whole valley of the Tweed lies below you in one majestic panorama, every part visible from Point Danger, south to where the river rises in the splendid range dividing it from the waters of the Richmond. That range junctions with the McPherson Range, not far from the head of Christmas Creek, and runs eastward towards Cape Byron., whose dark cliff fronted rock, most easterly point in Australia, stands there grim and silent, defying the savage surge as on that far off day in 1770, when Cook gave it the name of Admiral Byron, an ancestor of the immortal poet. And there, too, in splendid isolation towers the great peak of Cook’s Mount Warning (“Walloombin”), very conspicuous from all parts of the summit of the National Park.

       Cook intended it as a warning beacon to future mariners against the reefs of the coast between Cape Byron and Point Danger. It stands out about eight miles from the range dividing the Tweed from the Richmond, and only about ten miles from the McPherson Range. There are two or three points where an ascent could be made from the Tweed Valley to the National Park, but they are all steep.

       In old times, the Albert and Logan blacks, when going to the Tweed, crossed the Range somewhere on the head of the Albert, but in going to the Richmond, they went through a big gap beyond Running Creek, possibly the “Grady’s Gap,” through which it is proposed to take the railway. It is a singular fact that there was only one language (“Yoocum Yoocum”) spoken from the Clarence River to the Logan, with sundry variations, and then you crossed the Logan into quite a different dialect, called “Cateebil.”

       Queensland is the proud possessor of the most splendid National Park in Australia, and I say this with a full knowledge of the scenic attractions of all the other States, for I have seen them all except those of South Australia.

       New South Wales has her National Park, her Blue Mountains, caves, waterfalls, gorges, precipices, Kuring-gai Chase and Hawkesbury River.

       Victoria hasher lakes, Mt. Buffalo, the Dandenongs and the Grampians, the Federal Caves, the Mitchell, Mathinna and Lodore Falls, but the Queensland National Park eclipses them all in variety and grandeur of scenery. On the 12 streams flowing from that Park into Queensland, there are at least 50 waterfalls from 10 feet to 500.

       The astounding wealth and variety of trees and plants, tropical in their luxuriance, far surpass anything in the other States. There is a splendid view of the ocean, which is only 20 miles away, and all the coastline for 120 miles.

       On the land side the view extends over Queensland for at least a hundred miles, West, South, and North. A walk in places of three, or four hundred yards will give you a complete change of scene. The view from the two sides commands a magnificent picture of a large and intensely picturesque panorama extending over two States. The climate is perfect, and the soil is as rich as any in Queensland. When that Park is given easy access, has good places of accommodation, and clear tracks to all the wonderful lookout balconies, it will certainly be the show place of Australia.

       A tourist might traverse that park, ramble up one ravine after another, and ascend to waterfall beyond waterfall, and every day for at least three months, he would behold something new and fascinating.

       The reader doubtless wonders how he is going to get there. Much discussion has arisen on this subject, and I hold very decided opinions as an old and long experienced bushman who has special personal knowledge of the National Park. The main traffic to the park should go over the Government railway to Beaudesert and from there via Kerry, to the foot of the range of Stockyard, a distance of 18 miles from Beaudesert, over sound excellent country. This road crosses the Albert at Kerry, and then follows a picturesque course up the river to Stockyard Creek. A long easily graded spur runs up the right hand side of Stockyard Creek to the summit of the McPherson Range, in the centre of the park, and lands you on top of a splendid lookout on a patch of open forest on top of a mighty cliff, an ideal spot for an accommodation house commanding a vast expanse of glorious scenery.

       A selection has been partly cleared there and is under grass, forming an excellent paddock for the horses of those who ride up. At present there is a narrow track from the foot of the range to the summit, made by the Reilly brothers, at their own expenses. I feel fairly certain that track runs up the easiest ascent that is likely to be found in the National Park, and an excellent track could be made from bottom to top for a couple of thousand pounds.

       Reilly credited me with walking all the way to the summit in an hour and a half, and a horse will easily carry a man or woman up or down as the track is today. A light line of railway from Beaudesert to Stockyard Creek could be constructed cheaply. And this track lands you in the centre of the National Park, and from there at present, on Reilly’s own track, you can ride direct across to where you look down on the valley of the Tweed.

       It is a region of glorious streams, and waterfalls, and great ravines, and towering mountains, and splendid unbroken evergreen jungle; and of beautiful birds, many with great voices, including the clear metallic note of “Ding Ping” the bell bird, and the haunting call of the lyrebird. It is nature at its best, and in the afternoon comes the savage lightning of the afternoon thunderstorm.

       In the ravines a reverberation of that appalling thunder sends a tremor through even the grey old solid rocks that have stood there on their dark foundations sternly defying the awful tempests that have swept across them since the far off Morning of the World.



Bribie Island is coming rapidly into the limelight in recent years, and emulating Venice in rising like “another Sea Cybele fresh from the Ocean,” not with a tiara of proud towers and gorgeous palaces, but with dainty cottages and proud villas, and the quaint romantic cubby houses and architectural “cosies” of those who escape from the madding crowds’ ignoble strife to listen to what the wild waves are saying, and the incessant sobbing of the sea, and the voices of many winds playing Eolian music on the harp  of grey gums and brown bloodwoods, and white barked Melaleucas, and sombre cypress pines, and hear Kendal’s “Wail in the Native Oak” along the margins of the ever melodious sea.

       In some old records it was always mentioned as “Bribie’s Island,” the name coming from a man who escaped from the Penal Settlement in 1834, and was kept and cared for by the Bribie blacks until 1842, when Brisbane was thrown open to free settlers, although the great majority of the convicts were removed in 1839.

       About 1844, James Bribie, whose correct name was Briby, came to reside near Brisbane, and built himself a bark humpy near the present Hamilton, at a spot called “Mooroo-Mooroolbin” and started to make cane and rush baskets like those made by the Bribie Islanders, and continued at this work until he died in 1862. That was the story told to me by Durramboi, in 1875. Unfortunately no one seems to have issued a Death Certificate in Brisbane for anyone remotely named Briby from 1856 onwards, or buried in Queensland, a Briby from 1837 to 1856, the only and nearest death being of a William John Bride. There is nothing like a good yarn.

       The other and more likely origin of the name is from Borabbee the native bear, the name of a legendary fierce black warrior leader from the days when Bribie blacks overawed their mainland compatriots in warlike prowess.

       In my many interviews with Tom Petrie, he did not mention the origin of the name, but he discussed freely the days when he endeavoured to establish an aboriginal settlement at the “White Patch” which the blacks called “Taranggeer,” and where a highly intelligent Government subsequently surveyed a township! Petrie could not induce the blacks to stay there, and finally threw over the whole business as the Colonial Secretary of the day treated the blacks too meanly, and Tom was always a loyal friend to the aboriginal. His reports are still available, being official records.

       Bribie, originally, in addition to the aboriginals, was chiefly inhabited by wallabies, kangaroos, snakes, and five varieties of frogs, estimated at ten millions. The aboriginals belonged to a tribe called “Joondobarri” who spoke a dialect called “Dondoo,” in which the negative was “Nhulla,” and when Flinders landed there in July, 1779, there would be about 600 on the island. They were a fine althletic and warlike race, and a terror to the mainland blacks. From the sea they drew unlimited supplies of fish, dugong, turtle, crabs and oysters, the chief vegetable supply coming from lily roots, and seeds, yams, and the bulbs of orchids. Their weapons were the hand spear, “Carree,” the boomerang (“bargann”), the nulla, and the narrow shield.

       Bribie Island, “Yarroon,” emerged into the light of history in that memorable July of 1799, when Flinders, the immortal navigator, rowed up in his whale boat to the part now known as “Skirmish Point.” Taking Flinders’ own report, the transaction there was not creditable to himself and party. Some misunderstanding arose, although the blacks were friendly, and the boat backed out from the beach. The blacks ran out in the surf to try to induce them to return, and were fired at, the first Queensland aboriginals ever shot by white men, though Cook fired some small shot at a couple of Cooktown blacks.

       Flinders went over to the island of St. Helena, Noogoon, landed there, went across to the mouth of the Brisbane River, named the Fishermen’s Islands, missed the river, went back to Bribie Passage, which he called the Pumice Stone River, and beached his sloop to be cleaned on the beach of the White Patch. While this was being done he went away with some of his men and landed near the site of the present Donnybrook, walked across to Beerburrum, ascended that historic mount, went across to the east side of Tibberawaccum (“Jeeborngaggalin”) pronounced it inaccessible, and returned to White Patch. He was, therefore, the first white man who ever ascended one of Cook’s Glass House Mountains, named by Cook in 1770, or 29 years before Flinders.

       In Bribie Passage, he shot 18 swans, and saw his first dugong, which he took to be a species of sea lion, and saw a dugong net with strands an inch in circumference. He fired three musket balls at one, and Bungaree, a Sydney black, who accompanied him, threw his woomera spear at another. The old spherical musket ball of those days would not have gone through the hide of a dugong.

During his stay in Bribie Channel, from August 20 to 30, Flinders had a friendly interview with the Bribie blacks, the Joondoburrie, who sang musical and pleasant songs. He records three of the men’s names, which were Yeewoo, Yelyelba, and Bomarrigo. They wore hair belts round their waits, hair fillets on the forehead and upper arm, and their canoes were made from sheets of stringy bark. Their huts of tea-tree bark were 12 to 15 feet in length, and many were in three sections facing each other, with one fire serving all three. In one hut they saw a fishing net quite as well made as if done by a European seine maker.

At Woody Point he found a large net 84 feet by three feet, stronger than any European net, and this he calmly appropriated, leaving only a tomahawk as compensation. At Bribie three of his Scottish sailors danced a reel to amuse the blacks, who were apparently not very much impressed.

History is silent about Bribie for another 24 years, until Surveyor General Oxley, on his return from Port Curtis, ran in with his cutter Mermaid, and anchored opposite Toorbul Point. Among a lot of advancing blacks was one white man who proved to be Thomas Pamphlet, who on December 2, 1823, piloted Oxley into the Brisbane River, which he had seen when trying to make his way south towards Sydney or Port Macquarie.

Pamphlet was one of four men who had been driven off the coast of Illawarra, out of sight of land, and thinking they were south of Sydney, came north until they landed on Morton Island. The other three were Parsons, Finnigan and Thompson, but Thompson died on the way and was thrown overboard.

The Morton Island blacks treated them well, passed them to the Amity blacks, who took them across in canoes and landed them on the north side of the Brisbane River, from whence they finally reached Toorbul Point and Bribie Island, where the blacks treated them very generously, although the shooting by Flinders must have been well remembered by the elder men. On the day after Oxley found Pamphlet, his mate, Finnigan, appeared, on Toorbul Point, and Oxley sent the whale boat to bring them over.

Both Finnigan and Pamphlet had seen the Brisbane River, and both went with Oxley to show him the locality, the honours of discovery being equal. Pamphlet had been five months with the Bribie blacks, spoke of them in high terms, and left them regretfully. All those four castaways were liberated convicts, and apparently rather rough types, as the three who survived were frequently quarrelling, and one of them tried to kill the other. It is remarkable that Oxley, in his journal, makes no mention of those two men who showed him the Brisbane River, and we are entirely indebted to a young man named Uniacke for an interesting narrative of Pamphlet and Finnigan and their life among the blacks. They saw fights and corrobborees and acts of cannibalism, also a fight with spears between two men in a 24 feet ring, where one killed the other.

Uniacke says the main camp was at the White Patch. Several men were killed in one general engagement, and were roasted and eaten by their own tribe. Yet those cannibal wild men treated Pamphlet and Finnigan probably much better than they deserved.

Following Oxley came Lieutenant Murray with the soldiers and convicts in 1824 to start a settlement at Redcliffe, which they left in the following year, giving as a reason the prevalence of fever and ague, and the first hospital at Brisbane was for the fever and ague patients from Redcliffe, but subsequent information showed the real reason to be the hostility of the blacks who killed two soldiers and five convicts.

Bribie looms once more on the horizon on May 4, 1842, when Andrew Petrie went through the passage to Caloundra on his way to Wide Bay and the Mary River, the “Monoboola,” to bring back Durramboi, who had been 14 years with the blacks. The party were piloted by Bracefell, an ex-convict, 12 years with the blacks, who called him “Wandi,” one of the names of the dingo. In after years he was killed while felling timber at Goodna.

In a map of 1845, drawn by Robert Dixon, I find that Caloundra was Point Wickham, Deception Bay was Caboolture Bay, North end of Bribie was Point Hutchinson, Coochin Creek was Kerchar, Elimba Creek was Patter Creek, Burpengary Creek was Cuthbertson Creek, South Pine was Eden River, and Bramble Bay was Hoy’s Inlet. Toorbul Point was then regarded as the probable future commercial seaport of a Northern colony, and such was Dr. Lang’s opinion in 1846. He took the liberty of slightly changing a passage from Virgil:

There is  a place, Australian squatters say,

Within the long expanse of Morton Bay,

Where Bribie’s Island forms a sheltered port,

To which a future navy may resort.

This beautiful dream has not been realized and Bribie Passage so far shelters nothing but dugong and stingrays, while Toorbul Point is occupied exclusively by a marine summer residence of our aesthetic young friend, George Markwell. This word Toorbul is a misspelling of “Turrabool” and “Churrabool,” the name of the dialect spoken by the old tribes from there to Brisbane. That was the language spoken by Mr. Thomas Petrie.

Toorbul, Turrabul, Churrabool, were names of the old tribe who once inhabited Brisbane from the river to the island. The old tribe is long extinct. In 1880 there were only three blacks who spoke Jindooburri, and two who remembered a fraction of Churrabool.

The last of the Jindooburri included two brothers Wityee and Cangando, known to the whites as Bob and Adam Clift., and a fine type of woman well known as “Alma,” who lived on Bribie and had seven children to a white husband. Those were the last of the Jindoburri, and with them the race and language became extinct.


Old Time Tweed River Tragedies

       The Tweed River Heads is now a favourite spot for holiday railway excursionists, who wander round the beautiful rocky headland of Point Danger, or fish off the rocks, or disport themselves in the clear waves that break on the sandy beaches, or take a boat and row up the secluded romantic channel of Terranora Creek. The scene has changed there since Bob Muir, of Benowa plantation, on Nerang Creek, and myself swam our horses over the Tweed Heads on our way to the Clarence, in 1870, just 37 years ago.

       I was a robust youth, “as smooth as Hebe’s  unrazored lips.” The only resident at the Tweed Heads at that time were McGregor, the pilot, and a Customs officer, a small, very dark man, whose name I forget. We met his wife at Marshall’s, mouth of the Brunswick River, on her way to join him. The Tweed was then nearly all standing scrub. A trip up the river today from the heads to Murwillumbah reveals some picturesque scenery, and patches of dense primeval scrub still remain untouched.

       There were some dismal tragedies in the early days of the pioneer timber getters who were cutting cedar there onwards from 1845 or 1844.

       These men lived precarious lives, for the blacks were numerous and hostile, mostly tall, powerful fellows not much troubled by fear.

       I can recall, from 1870, one named “Billman,” who stood six feet six inches in height.

       One of the early timber getters gave an account of the murder of two timber getters named Phemy and Collins, in the end of 1845, on a creek still called “Murdering Creek,” not far from Murwillumbah.

       These two men were said to be friendly with the blacks and to have quarreled with a third mate because he would not allow them near the camp. Possibly they were held responsible for that mate’s action or there was the usual trouble over women, the most fruitful cause of the murders of whites by blacks throughout all Australian history.

       Subsequent information from friendly blacks revealed that the men of the tribe had a usual preliminary discussion, with some for and some against the proposed murders, and as usual, the most determined men prevailed.

       When the murder was determined, a friendly black named Wampee crept away secretly to warn the two sawyers, and earnestly advised them to go away in the boat. The advice unfortunately was unheeded, and Wampee went away for a short distance and watched the subsequent tragedy.

       It was a very easy business for those silent footed savages to sneak on to white men unobserved, especially in scrub country. When they arrived at the pit one man was fixing an iron dog in the log, and the other was sharpening the saw. A black named “Cararra” (the black cockatoo) struck the man at the log with a nulla, and knocked him into the pit. He rose and called to his mate and tried to get to the other side of the pit, but was struck by another black and killed.

His mate ran towards the boat, but was speared through the back and killed.

Then Wampee walked up and advised the others to put the bodies in the sawpit and cover them to protect from the native dogs.

One of the other blacks resented this, and accused Wampee of warning the whites, the result being a fight with malice. The dead men were not found for three or four days afterwards, and the man who was speared was placed with the others in the sawpit, which was then filled up and covered with logs.

There were only between twenty and thirty white men on the river, and three or four women, and they knew if this murder was unavenged their lives would be worth nothing. Half the men promptly agreed to start on an avenging party.

On the way, they met a big blackfellow, whom they at once handcuffed to Paddy Smith, the biggest man in the party, and induced him to act as guide under pain of death if he were false, and a promise of a good reward if faithful.

       On the second day at dusk in the evening they saw the fires of the blacks, where they were camped in an open forest “pocket” in the scrub. The party quietly concealed themselves and waited for the dawn. It appears, however, that the captive black’s father and mother were in the camp, and must have known he was caught by the whites, for they believed he was killed in revenge for the murder of the savages, and so just at daylight started to raise the death wail for their supposed dead son. This was too severe strain on the son, whose suddenly aroused strong filial affections prompted him to give one warning call which he probably knew would cost him his life. The blacks vanished in a moment, and the only one shot was an old woman.

       The sawyers had no appreciation for heroic self sacrifice of their captive, and every man of the party fired a bullet through him. They overlooked the fact that he owed no allegiance to them, and that he had a sacred right to protest against being compelled to be treacherous to his own people, and especially to his own father and mother.

       The blacks went across through the Big Scrub to the Richmond. The intermediate Brunswick blacks informed the Richmond sawyers, about twenty of whom met the party, and shot men, women, and children, but the actual murderers were not there at all, and never were punished.

       For at least two years, the Tweed sawyers kept the blacks away from their camps and sawpits, which were usually close together.

       After the murders, the sawyers made up in parties of form 4 to 8 or 9, and one stood sentry with a gun, while two men felled a cedar or worked at the sawpit. Cedar getting was a risky business in those days on the Tweed and Richmond, as it was afterwards on the coast rivers of Queensland.