Our Military Forces
Australia’s First Service Abroad
The Pioneers of the Service
It was not until 1884 that we got the Defence Act,
which placed Queensland at the head of all military
organisations in Australia.
In the 1880s, and for many years later, we were all
separate “colonies,” with six different and very widely
differing systems of defence.
Australians had, of course, smelt powder very much
earlier than in the Great War of 1914-18; earlier than in the
Boer war; earlier than in the historical campaign, in which
Colonel Richardson led a New South Wales Contingent to the
Soudan, authorised by and provided for by William Bede Dalley,
when Lord Loftus was Governor of the colony.
I have an idea that Lawyer Chubb, of Ipswich – the
father of Mr. Justice Chubb – once made an offer of volunteers
for service abroad, and I am quite sure, from reading the old
“Courier” files, that he was associated with Light Horse in
Queensland some seventy. If he made such an offer, the
question is whether it was before or after a force of
Australians went off from Sydney to fight in New Zealand
against the Maoris.
That was in the early sixties; but I remember well, not
the departure of the troops, but a family incident connected
with the Waikato campaign. And it may be remarked here that
our friend, the poet schoolmaster, George Vowles, had cleared
off from school in Queensland, and manfully played his part in
the war at about the age of 16 years.
In the early sixties our family lived at my birthplace,
Oaklands, Appin, on the Woollongong Road, 43 miles from
Sydney, where, about three-quarters of a mile of oaks were
planted in about 1824 by my great grandfather, an East India
Company’s officer, who had received a big grant of Illawarra
land (vide McCaffrey’s “Pioneers of Illawarra”). We had an
uncle, Jack Browne – a tall, handsome, and wild devil- in the
Maori War, and he was killed at Waikato. The news of his
K.I.A. came pretty late one night, when my older brother Billy
and I were in bed. Jack Browne was very fond of children and
we loved him. After we had been told the bad news, we were
left alone, and I whimpered a bit, but Billy was quiet.
“Billy, aren’t you going to cry?” I said, and he replied, “Not
now, I’m sleepy. I’ll cry in the morning.” We hear of the easy
tears of childhood, but children do not quite appreciate the
long separations of death. I think we may say that the
contingents to New Zealand in about 1860 saw the first
despatch of troops from Australia to take part in “active
I did not know them well until 1881, but the Queensland
Volunteers had been a well conducted organisation many years
before, and in my time there were as unattached Majors Godfrey
Geary, Richard B Sheridan (afterwards Postmaster-General of
Queensland), Charles Lilley (later Sir Charles, and Chief
Justice), Ratcliffe Pring (later Mr. Justice Pring), H. C.
Stanley (later Colonel Stanley of the Artillery, and Chief
Engineer of Railways), Henry Milford, and E. E. Smith. Those
were all brainy men, and would have been splendid war leaders
of citizen soldiers. The organisation of the force was with a
small headquarters in Brisbane, units at Ipswich and
Toowoomba, and “Coast Corporations” at Maryborough, Bundaberg,
Rockhampton and Mackay. The commandant was Colonel George
Blaxland, who had been an officer in the Imperial Service, and
was a schoolteacher at Toowoomba when he received the
appointment of commandant. Blaxland was a soldierly man and
popular, but when it came to reorganisation he had to make way
for a more modern and more experienced commandant.
He was brusquely treated, but in later years a
Parliamentary Committee reported very favourably upon him, and
he received a compensation of a couple of thousand pounds or
so, and a pretty fair civil appointment. It was tardy justice.
In 1883 Lieutenant Colonel E. R. Drury,, C.M.G.,
(general manager of the Q.N. Bank) was commandant until the
arrival of Colonel George French (afterwards General George
French) for the organisation of the Queensland Defence Force.
The brigade major, who was really chief of a sort of
general staff, was a capable officer of the Royal Artillery,
whom we now know as Colonel R. A. Moore, until recent years
Chief Police Magistrate in Brisbane. He had been an instructor
of artillery in Ireland, and was the brains of the force.
The Infantry Staff Officer was Captain Charles McCallum, formerly of the 23rd Royal Welsh Fusiliers, who had a very sad ending, and the paymaster was Major Mellish, also an Imperial Service man, a splendid old veteran of the Wolseley school, who had served in the Ashantee campaign.
Another fine soldier, an artilleryman, was my very old
friend, Sankey, the father of Colonel Sankey, for so many
years associated with the volunteer section of the Defence
On the staff also were Lieutenant-Colonel John
McDonnell, Under Secretary of the Postal Department, and
father of Dr. Aeneas McDonnell, of Toowoomba, who for a term
had been commandant.
Major W. H. Snelling, an old “Courier” man and
“Reuter’s” representative in Queensland, the father of Mr.
Snelling, General Manager of the Q. N. Pastoral Company, and
one of the principals in Martin Snelling & Co. We also had
Major J. H. Adams, a grim old soldier, who ran the supply, or
commissariat, as we termed it, formerly of the 72nd
Foot, and Captain Geo. T. Weale, a surveyor, whose widow many
years later was on the “Courier” staff.
The Artillery was under Colonel E. R. Drury, C.M.G., as
the brigade commander, who was succeeded in turn by Colonel
Henry C. Stanley, father of Mr. Talbot Stanley, Mrs. Victor
Drury, and other well known Queenslanders, and Colonel J. F.
G. Foxton, C.M.G., V.D. Major Ernest Webb was a battery
commander, and in the Garrison Artillery was Captain F. C.
Bernard, late of the 56th Foot, and who was
Governor of the Brisbane Gaol.
Captain M. B. Gannon was in the Ipswich battery. The
engineers were commanded by Major Geo. H. Newman, who had an
important post in the Department of Justice, and with him was
Captain J. B. Stanley, a keen and clever officer, whose sons
have won distinction in civil and military life, one being
Colonel R. A. Stanley, D.S.O. a distinguished officer of the
great war, and another Mr. J. H. Stanley, Under Secretary of
The First Regiment, the old Moretons, was commanded by
Charles Stuart Mein (later Mr. Justice Mein); the 2nd
regiment (Darling Downs) by Major Richard Godsall, the father
of a family of well-known sons and daughters at Toowoomba,
with whom was captain C. J. A. Woodcock, later chief clerk in
the Home Department in Brisbane.
In the Coast Corps, Lieutenant-Colonel A. Feez commanded at Rockhampton, the father of Messrs Arthur and Adolph Feez, the well-known lawyers of Brisbane. Colonel Feez was a very capable man, a wonderful musician, who could sit at the piano and play bright accompaniments to his own brilliant whistling. He sang also, but the whistling was the joy of the old mess at Lytton. On an occasion during manoeuvres he vainly shouted a command, but a high wind was blowing, and his officers could not hear. He became impatient, but with no better result, and then the commandant called to him, “Whistle it Feez!” Feez had the “Officers’ Call” sounded, and told his officers what he wanted, and he didn’t whistle it.
At Mackay I did not then know the command, but W. B.
Hodges, later a major of Mounted Infantry, seemed to run the
Bundaberg we had Major William Bligh O’Connell (a relative of
Sir Maurice O’Connell), who was later Minister for Lands; and
as a captain, F. B. T. W. Koch, for many years a bank manager,
and now a retired Colonel, whose four sons were in the thick
of it in the Great War.
The Maryborough command was with “Nick” Tooth, Major
Nicholas Tooth, later a member of Parliament.
The cadets were under the command of Major Reginald H. Roe, M.A., who was for many years afterwards a conspicuous worker, and his junior officer was Crompton, M.A., William Crompton, I believe, also a Grammar School master, and a fine Latinist. Colonel Roe helped to lay the foundation of a spirit of devotion in the old Queensland force, and in the Commonwealth force, and it came out in the big war in which the Old Boys did the Old School much honour. And his own family was not without a distinguished record in the world-shaking events.
Surgeon-Major of the force was Kevin Izod O’Doherty, who had
been transported as a treasonable Irishman! Of him, I have on
other occasions written much.
association with the Queensland volunteer forces was as a
journalist in the old mess at Lytton. Each night during
manoeuvres glittering mess uniforms were worn, and there was a
warm spirit of camaraderie. Queensland had some fine men
serving her in those days, and the camps, as the periods of
annual training, were great social affairs. The Press devoted
much attention to the work done, and it was no unusual thing
for me to ride to town by 11pm, with my copy and back to
Lytton for the night, with a 5 o’clock turn out next morning.
Some of us were young, and all were serious. Where are now all
those good souls whose name I have given? Nearly all have
crossed the Great Divide. Of those men of the old school only
three or four survive – Colonel Moore, still young, smart, and
debonair, Colonel Koch, taking his ease in the afternoon of
life at the beautiful seaside, Redcliffe, and looking quite
fit for a campaign; Eldridge Smith, at Mackay, one of the most
accomplished of Queenslanders in military as in civil life,
and I have no information about Crompton, who left Queensland
years ago for England. The rest have gone; but they did good
service for Queensland. Perhaps “they builded better than they
came under the Defence Act of 1884 with the idea of forming a
defensive organisation, with a wider scope, and a more
intensive system of training than was possible under the old
volunteer Act. Colonel French, the new commandant, was Irish,
but not related to Field Marshall Lord French, a tall,
strapping man of middle age, and with a very considerable
family. He made his home in the two storied brick building
which now serves as part of the Queensland headquarters
office, and soon became, with Mrs. French and their young
folk, closely identified with the social life of Brisbane. The
eldest daughter married Dr. “Ned.” O’Doherty, and was left a
widow with a family. Colonel French went from Queensland to
New South Wales as Commandant there, and later was promoted
Major-General and knighted. He was a keen soldier of equable
temperament, and under the Defence Act, which was the outcome
of his recommendation; Queensland took the lead in Australia
in military training. The greatest tribute to Queensland’s
system was to be seen in the reconstitution of the
Commonwealth General Staff after the Great War. The following
were some of the higher appointments on the staff and
generally: Inspector-General. Lieutenant-General Sir Harry
Chauvel; chief of the general staff, Major-General Brudenel
White; Adjutant-General, Major-General Victor Sellheim;
Quartermaster-General, Brigadier-General John K. Forsyth;
Chief Staff Officer of Artillery, Brigadier-General Coxen, and
Brigadier-General Phillips with him; Chief Staff Officer of
Engineers, Brigadier-General Cecil Foott; Military Secretary,
Brigadier-General Thomas Dodds; General Officer Commanding in
New South Wales, Major General Brand; and Officer Commanding
Troops in Tasmania, Colonel Dudley White. Every one named, and
the biggest of the staff appointments of the Commonwealth are
covered, was a Queenslander. It is not to be supposed that
Queenslanders had natural aptitude above the officers of other
States, but it is contended that the remarkable circumstances
of the Commonwealth General Staff were attributable to the
Queensland defence system established by, as he then was,
Colonel French aimed at compulsory service, not a comprehensive system, but a method of ballot, as in France at the time, to ensure the establishment of the force being brought to and maintained at its full strength. A Bill was drafted on those lines, and, as on a later and more serious occasion, there was some talk of the evils of conscription. WE did not then quite understand what a shelter the cry against conscription would be in later years to young gentleman with Arctic feet. It was never assumed that any eligible man calling himself an Australian would avail himself of such a shelter. In 1884 the argument was that compulsion was not necessary, that in time of stress every Australian would spring to the call for his services.
Queensland Parliament watered down George French’s scheme of
organisation and took out the real soul of compulsory service.
Only the dry husk remained. That was a provision that in the
event of any unit of the defence establishment not being
brought up to strength by voluntary enlistment, it should be
filled up by a ballot amongst single men, and widowers without
children between the ages of 18 and 40 years. The regulations
under the Act laid down the conditions for a technical
“efficiency,” and the Commandant and his staff set about the
selection of officers and non-commissioned officers and a
system for their special training. The establishment was soon
organised and then began a steady process of elimination and
substitution. Examinations were fairly stiff, and in later
years became very stiff. So much the better. It was there that
the elimination process began.
factor in the establishment of a fine spirit in the Queensland
Defence Force was the Commandant. He was recognised as a good
soldier, as an earnest man, as one who did not worry even his
own staff, and he was a worker. Classes, each lasting a month,
were held at Victoria Barracks for officers and
non-commissioned officers, with men of the Permanent Artillery
(regular soldiers) as a cadre. We began work at 6 am and went
on until 8 am; then from 4 pm to 6 pm; and then lectures,
topography, and general theory of evenings. Some men who could
spare the time devoted the whole of every day for a month to
the training. It was a “hard go.” The examinations followed,
both written and practical, and they certainly were severe. We
gloried in that. I worked intensely for my examination for
captaincy, and had the pleasure of getting well over 80 per
cent, (honours) in my written, and “very good” in my
practical; but it represented fully three months of careful
and persistent work. In those days men gave their time
ungrudgingly and devotedly – more time than they really could
afford. I say this with great pride: that I gave to my country
about 22 of my best years organizing and training officers and
men – the best I had in me. As much time was given to the
defence organisation as to my private work. We were paid a
certain amount, and what I received might have been paid for
the keep of one horse. That is only an illustration of the
spirit, and I am sufficiently immodest to glory in it today.
Scores of men, busy in civil life, and battling along for
bread and butter, did the same. Some one a few days ago said:
“What thanks did we get?” Happily, I was able to say that we
were not looking for thanks. We knew that the day would come,
when, in Australia or elsewhere, we should have to fight, and
it was our job to be ready, and to have others ready. Many of
“The Old Brigade,” have gone on the long journey – few,
indeed, are left. Yet I venture to say there is not one who
regrets, what he has given to Queensland and to Australia. On
the other hand, the feeling was of pride in a fairly
successful service. That was the spirit put by John French
into the force which he created in Queensland, and it was
carried on by, perhaps sometimes in spite of, his successors.
The scheme of
Colonel French was to wipe out the volunteer system, and to
make the force wholly militia or partially paid. That was
opposed by many of the old volunteer officers, and notably by
Colonel. A. J. Thynne.
carried too many guns for the Commandant, and the scheme was
again modified so that those who desired to serve without pay,
and with an easier qualification for “efficiency,” might
continue as an organisation. It was a sharp disappointment to
French. He thought the volunteer idea would soon blow out,
that men would not serve without pay while their friends drew
so much a day; but he reckoned without his A. J. Thynne. The
militia and the volunteers kept up a friendly spirit though
some of our “cub” officers would sometimes speak of “those
dam’ volunteers,” and an occasional volunteer would rub it in
about “patriots who would not serve their country under six
bob a day.” Personally, I didn’t see much difference. We were
all Mother Carey’s chicken’s, though French had the impression
that one section of the chickens’ “was ducks.”
difficulty cropped up later, when we were all expected to go
into khaki. Thynne’s men, the ordinary volunteers, put it that
they were intended to be a distinctive element, and the
Scotsmen- for we had a very fine Queensland Scottish-
absolutely refused to be solaced at the prospect of losing
their kilts. But then came the effort – successful, too, in
the end- to destroy the so-called “National” regiments – the
Queensland Scottish and the Queensland Irish. What a wonderful
turnout those two regiments made, the Scots in all the glory
of their kilts and tartans and pipes, and the Irishmen, whose
uniforms were green facings held some of the most magnificent
specimens of manhood in the world.
men – generally a lot of young clerks, shop assistants, and
the like, but athletes – could march rings round them all.
George Arthur French arrived and got to work, his chief helper
of the new regime was Major Charles Hamilton Des Voeux, of the
Bengal Staff Corps, later Major General Sir Charles Hamilton
Des Voeux, of the Indian Army.
before the coming of Major Lyster as brigade major and
practically chief of the little staff. Des Voeux was a
brilliant soldier, an untiring worker, warm hearted and
generous, but when he came here first he had the impression
that, as in the English and Indian volunteer forces, all
officers should be men of means, and of some social
distinction. When the former lieutenant of a Highland
regiment, John Sanderson Lyster, came into the force as
brigade major and chief of staff, Des Voeux became infantry
left the Army and came to Australia with General Fielding for
the inspection and rough survey of the route of McIlwraith’s
Transcontinental Railway from Roma, I think, to the impossible
Point Parker on the Gulf of Carpentaria. After the completion
of that work, Lyster became official secretary – and also
private secretary – to McIlwraith. He was a keen worker,
methodical and capable. He and Mrs. Lyster became shining
lights socially, and his position in the new force was soon
settled. Lyster could never be deemed inspiring to Australian
soldiers, but he got on, and, ultimately became commandant
here, and later, chief of the staff in New South Wales, until
such time as the almanac came against him, when he was
retired, and in the early days of the Great War got away to
When Colonel French went to the command in New South Wales, and to major general’s rank and a knighthood, there came to Queensland as Commandant Major-General John Fletcher Owen, of the Royal Artillery, a very brilliant little chap, who was later Governor and Commander-in-Chief at Malta. He was a keen, unassuming soldier, who kept the traditions going. Of course, French had established the very best staff men – Major E. Druitt, R.E., as Engineer, S.O., and Grieve, a brilliant “gunner,” as Artillery S.O. Both were in the front rank with scientific soldiering.
Grieve was succeeded by Major Landon Dealtry Jackson, R. A., a very fine soldier, and a fine scholar, who kept up his work at Greek. He married Miss Georgie Drew, a daughter of W. L. G. Drew, C.M.G., chairman of the Public Service Board, and a sister of Mrs. J. O’Neill Brenan. Jackson was in command of troops in the Clermont district at the time of the big strike in 1891. An incident may be mentioned to illustrate his character. Bill Hamilton, later President of the Legislative Council, after a term as a Minister of the Crown, was a strike leader, but one of the best influences in the country for order. He was devoted to his cause and to his comrades, and when some of them were in Clermont lock up, he brought in their meals. Everyone respected him; but there came the day of his arrest. Mr. R. A. Ranking was the special magistrate in the district; and, when bail was refused for Hamilton, Major Jackson went in and offered a cash bond of £2000 – his own bond. It was refused, and Jackson, though he felt deeply that a bad thing had been done, could not make a song of it. He always respected “Bill” Hamilton.
Later we had a
Major McClintock and Major Chads – as infantry staff officers
– but that is getting down to later days.
Gunter succeeded Owen as Commandant, but did not quite catch
the Australian spirit. He had also to contend with the rather
apocryphal story that he had been accepted here on a
misunderstanding. The story was that the Queensland Government
thought it was getting the writer on Tactics of the same
surname, and didn’t discover the mistake until it was too late
to remedy it. I don’t put my endorsement on the story as being
the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
The Queensland Parliament- Officers and Staff, Great and Lowly – A bit of Mount Coot-tha History –The Hansard Staff
Presidents of the Legislative Council in my earlier days on the Brisbane papers were Sir Joshua Peter Bell, Mr. J. F. McDougall, of Rosalie Plains – a cousin of my father- and Sir Arthur Palmer.
The Pressmen, though sometimes meeting the President of
the period, were more closely in touch with the officers of
the House. Daniel Foley Roberts, referred to in an earlier
article, was Chairman of Committees, and a very tactful and
capable Chairman he was. On occasions Mr. John C. Heussler was
Acting Chairman. Mr. Heussler was one of the kindliest of
Queensland representative men, a good businessman, but loathe
to hurt the feelings of others.
A sharp debate had taken place in Committee, and when a
vote was taken the “Not Contents” carried their point. “Those
of that opinion,” said the Acting Chairman, on the proposal
that words proposed be omitted stand part of the clause, ‘Say
Content” – and there was a shout of “Content”; “otherwise Not
Content,” when there was a roar of “Not Content.” Ineffably
placid, but sympathetic, Mr. Heussler looked at the
“Contents,” and announced the vote thus: “I’m afraid the Not
Contents have it!”
The ingenuous expression of his own view quite restored
We had some difficulty in the Legislative Council in
hearing, though some of the members then were more easily
comprehended than 40 years later, and I vainly battled in
“Political Froth” in the “Queenslander” for a sounding board
over our gallery.
Sir Joshua Peter Bell was sympathetic; McDougall was
inclined to be helpful, but Sir Arthur Palmer would have none
of it. He thought the Pressmen would be better out of the way
altogether, at Kamscharka, or some other cool place. At any
rate there was a limit on the number allowed into the Gallery,
and I’m not quite sure that even at that time there was not an
inclination to have us fumigated. We were just tolerated in
that rarefied atmosphere of much dignity, not a little wealth,
and, to do the hon. gentlemen justice, a fair amount of
brains. We had, however, always a most wise counselor and
friend in the much esteemed “Clerk of the Legislative Council
and Clerk of Parliaments,” to give him the official title,
Henry Wyat Radford.
Mr. Radford was New South Wales born, and, I think,
first saw the light of George’s River, near Sydney. We often
spoke of the old place, for my own born home was on the upper
waters of George’s River, on what was known as Tug-a-roy Creek
(frequently pronounced Tugger-rye), which in turn led to the
King’s Falls, where the Woollongong road crosses, and then up
to the Cataract River, from one of the great gorges of which
comes Sydney’s chief water supply. Radford’s people were
soldiers. They moved up to the New England district, and we
had an old story that in the bushranging days there Henry Wyat
Radford, as a kiddie, had a smell of powder. The story runs
that the house of his family was attacked by bushrangers,
probably the Jew Boy’s gang, and there was some warm firing;
and that a hole was cut in the floor and the little chap
lowered into the cellar per rope and basket. I did not hear
the story from Radford. He was rather austere in his official
capacity and with strangers, but very kind and helpful to
Mount Coot-tha or One Tree Hill was his hobby, and to
the reserve he gave most devoted service. He was a trustee and
hon. secretary of the trust, and was the prime mover in the
tree planting on the way up and at the top of the hill on the
cleared space. A drought came, and the young trees were
apparently doomed, but Radford carried buckets of water up the
rough, steep ground from the creek, and kept things going. The
trust was too short of cash to get an engineer’s survey of the
road up from the gates to the old One Tree, and Radford laid
off the track, and no engineer could have done it better.
At one time there was talk of selling part of the
reserve, but Radford fought the idea tooth and nail. Surely
his name should be commemorated in that great open space, of
which we are all so proud. “Radford Road” is suggested as the
name of the road up from the gates. It is alliterative, but
that does not matter. I feel sure that the Greater Brisbane
aldermen will do some courtesy to the memory of one who did so
much to preserve to us and to improve the Mount Coot-tha Park.
Radford lived at Holly Mount, adjoining Cromer, the
home of the W. L. G. Drews and Cromer is now the home of the
William Grave family, who are so well known to me and to all
“Diggers,” from the great work done for returned soldiers and
their families. Henry Wyat Radford has gone where all good men
go. As an old Pressman, I’m glad to make a little tribute to
his memory, for he was always a good friend to us of the pen.
The Clerk Assistant was the Hon. Charles Holmes a’ Court, a son of Lord Heytesbury. This peerage was created in 1828, and the first peer was “a distinguished ambassador, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland etc.” The family was originally a’Court, but the second baron took the Holmes surname with his wife. “Charley,” Holmes a’Court was one of the least assertive of men. On coming to Queensland he saw something of bush life, but drifted into the Public Service or Parliamentary Service, and stayed there, despite his having been admitted to the Bar. Later he succeeded A. L. Bernays as Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, a much more profitable job, and when it came to his retirement at the age limit he went over to live in the British Isles. He was very keen on mining, but had not sufficient knowledge of the fauna of the country to distinguish a “wild cat” when he saw one, and accordingly vainly put much good money into “holes in the ground owned by liars.”
We were together in later years in the Phoenician tin
mine at Mount Amos, near Cooktown, a venture which had been
warmly recommended to me by the late Dr. Robert Logan Jack as
worth trying. We got splendid trial results but the mine was
patchy, work was unsatisfactory, and we threw in the sponge,
but with a mutual determination to get going again some day.
The Usher of the Black Rod was a singularly imposing
office, and borne by a distinguished gentleman, who wore a
dress coat rosetted at the back, black silk “knickers,” black
silk stockings, ornately buckled shoes, and an unconquerable
air of dignified superiority. He carried a wand, and, so far
as I could ever gather, his duties were to usher in the
President with, “Gentlemen – the President!” to follow out
that dignitary lest someone should kidnap him, and to sit in a
form of modified grandeur just within the Chamber, lest some
unshaven and unshriven Pressman should obtrude, himself
between the wind and the nobility of members of the Council.
Now, the Usher of the Black Rod was F. R. Chester-Master, who
absolutely filled the bill. He had been in the Army and in the
bush, and he certainly would have been an asset in the “swank”
section of any Parliament.
In the Legislative Council, messengers, especially
those knowing chaps of the good old retainer order, were much
more esteemed by some of the “heads” of the Legislative
Council than were the Librarian or the “Hansard” staff, and,
to be sure, the Pressmen were “no class:” at all. One may,
however, well remember the messengers Kelly, Lane, and Timms.
Kelly was a smoothly cultivated, independent Irishman. That is
contradictory. Of course it is – didn’t I say he was Irish?
Lane was a dear old chap, and in after years in his retirement
many a pleasant yarn we had over the old days in his charming
garden on Lutwyche Road. Timms also was a good man, and his
son soldiered with me in after years, and was on the
Instructional Staff. They were all inclined to be very civil
to the newspaper men – provided that we knew our places. With
all humility, we often didn’t.
The Parliamentary Librarian, Denis O’Donovan, C.M.G.,
was a grand man of the grand manner. He had been educated
abroad, and spoke Italian and French fluently, and German
pretty well – so a German friend told me. I heard him on a
great occasion address an Italian festive gathering in the
Botanic Gardens, and in the flowing terms of Dante, who, after
all, first lifted his language from the current of “vulgar
tongues.” O’Donovan was a trained librarian, and very much
under the rose, he at time contributed scholarly, polished and
extremely dull articles to the “Courier.” A monument to his
industry and skill was the catalogue of the Parliamentary
Library. It was one of the “show” things of Brisbane when
distinguished strangers came here, and Parliament showed an
appreciation of it, if I remember rightly, in a tangible way.
As a journalist, I have always admired the Queensland
“Hansard”, because of its wonderful fidelity, and as a
shorthand writer of sorts I have always taken off my hat to
those wonderfully skilled chaps whose flying pens are like the
old instrument which “can’t lie.”
Whether “Hansard” has improved I cannot say, since I very rarely hear the debates which it reports; but if it has then it must be driven by a wonderful team. Who amongst the old time journalists is there who does not remember the great team which was led by our old friend, D. F. T. Jones, in 1881?
The names are those fine scholars, some of whom
succeeded, some of whom succeeded in politics, journalism, or
at the Bar; and it must be borne in mind that “Hansard” was
established by a brilliant English journalist and author,
William Senior, “Red Spinner” of the “Field.” Senior set a
high standard, and he gathered around him men not only of
great skill in taking a verbatim note or condensing a speech
in Committee, but of high mentality and personal worth> It
was once said that there was a finer aggregation of brains in
the “Hansard” gallery than on the front Treasury Benches.
Probably it was true; but in the Press Gallery the
intellectual luminosity was even greater!
D. F. T. Jones, as stated, had been editor of the “Courier.” In the editor’s room today there is a gallery of presentments of some of the ablest men in Queensland history, men who, apart from the strife of party politics, have helped mould the better and truer side of our State. At the head of them is the picture of D. F. T. Jones, with his deep set eyes, his rather straggling black beard, and his strong earnest face. When Senior returned to the Old Land, Jones took over, and he had with him later John Gilligan, H. Willoughby, J. G. Drake, Robert Nall, G. E. Langridge, D. G. Ferguson, Jack Scantlebury, and a class of cadets, some of whom bear names well known in Queensland.
Jones may or may not, as principal shorthand writer,
have had control of Lawrence (“Larry”) Byrne or L. J. Byrne,
who was shorthand in charge of Select Committees. I am not
sure. Jones was a scholarly distinguished man, but his health
was not good, and ultimately he retired to his home out at red
Hill, and his place was taken by John Gilligan. It is not at
all strange that Gilligan also was a “Courier” man, and he did
work for the “Courier” just before his death a few years ago.
L. J. Byrne also was a “Courier” man, a very fine,
kindly soul, who saw much sorrow in this world of ours, though
he was always a good worker and a splendid citizen. Willoughby
was a round , pleasant looking chap with an eye glass, and his
shorthand was the most wonderful I have ever seen – small and
as though copper plated. J. G. Drake was a leader writer when
I was editor of the “Observer”” as a morning paper. He later
went to the Bar, to the Senate, and to Federal Cabinet, and
then to a post as Queensland Crown Prosecutor and Acting
Judge, and his son has followed on at the Bar. He is still
hale and well, and the only one of the old team now living,
with the exception of Ferguson, who is a Justice of the
Supreme Court in New South Wales. Nall also was leader writing
for the “Observer” in addition to his “Hansard” work, and he
later moved off to the Sydney “Daily Telegraph” as sub editor.
Langridge was an Englishman who left “Hansard” to take over
the “Courier” Gallery work, then to the Rockhampton
“Bulletin,” and afterwards – well, I don’t quite know. D. G.
Ferguson was also a writer for the “Courier.”
In the Legislative Council were several sections – the
pure merino or squatting representatives, the Liberals, and a
few men of a particularly fine type, who were not at all keen
on party politics. A few of the Pure Merinos I knew well. Sir
Joshua Peter Bell – but he wasn’t Sir Joshua Peter then – was
a splendid type of man, and his death in 1881 was tragically
sudden. He was what is known as a man of “full habit,” and had
a good deal of financial worry through heavy expenditure at
Jimbour, a few bad seasons, and low price of wool. He was
driving in Queen Street in a cab with Mr. Dixon – father of
Dr. Dixon, of Brisbane – manager of the Bank of Australasia,
when he suddenly fell forward unconscious. He was taken into
the chemist shop of Mr. Moses Ward, and an attempt at
restoration was made, but Sir Joshua did not regain
consciousness, and in a very little while passed away. He was,
perhaps, too liberal to be quite a Pure Merino, but he filled
the bill socially. A great man was Sir Joshua Peter Bell.
Another of the Pure Merinos was William Graham, who later joined the firm of Morehead and Co., now Moreheads Ltd. He was also a splendid type – tall, handsome, and cheery. His sons are well known at the Bar in Brisbane, and a grandson also adorns the profession, a good cricketer, like his father and his uncle. One of the sons is W. E. Graham, a very fine writer as well as lawyer, and whose abandonment of poetical writing is a matter much to be regretted.
I did not know George King, another of the
squattocracy, but I knew intimately William Frederick Lambert,
of Berkelman and Lambert, the owners of Listowel, a very fine
sheep property on the upper reaches of the Blackwater which
flows down – when it does flow – to Adavale, and so on by
Emudilla to the Bulloo. Lambert was an Irishman, and Listowel
is an Irish name. In the bad seasons he lost everything, and I
believe died a very poor man. Such was the fate of many of our
John Frederick M’Dougall was also a fine man, who left
good men to follow him, and he was uncle of the later Charley
M’Dougall, of Lyndhurst, Warwick.
B. D. Morehead was a merchant as well as a Merino, and
I have already had my say concerning him.
Thomas Lodge Murray-Prior was of the purest Merinos, and again a handsome and cultured man, with a beautiful home at Maroon, out from Boonah. Murray-Prior on an occasion showed his resource by driving his own bullock team to Brisbane, and more than holding his own with a “bullocky” who derided his polite words of encouragement to Strawberry and Bluey and others at a nasty crossing on the way to Ipswich. He was the father of Mrs. Campbell Praed, the novelist, of Hervey Murray-Prior, a barrister and of other good Queenslanders. When he came to Parliament he always wore a frock coat, light trousers, and a top hat.
Gordon Sandeman was a good racing man, like many
another squatter, and he left many very warm admirers in
Queensland when he went off to live in England.
Then there was Joseph Capel Smyth (“long Smyth”), McIlwraith’s squatting partner, a quiet man, but a very capable station manager.
Of course there was James Taylor, “the king of
Toowoomba,” to whom Queensland had been good, and William
Henry Walsh, who stood to politics much as did Randolph
Churchill, a democrat as to his head, and an uncompromising
conservative in his heart. Walsh was a very fine speaker, but
not suited to political life. He loathed a humbug. He owned
several stations in Queensland, was one of the Burnett
pioneers, and his family, which includes Mr. A. D. Walsh
(manager of Dalgety & Co., Brisbane) is honoured
individually and collectively in Queensland.
Conspicuous amongst the Liberals and others of my time
in the Upper House were some able men, but they have gone
where we must all go – all but one. The survivor is James
Colishaw, who, in 1881, was a tall, straight man in his prime,
well informed and sincere, but an infrequent speaker. He had
great influence in those days in the Press and outside.
E. B. Forrest was perhaps a Tory. He was in later years
a member for Brisbane in the Legislative Assembly, and went
out on defeat by Mr. M. Kirwan, the present Minister for
Works. A fine type was E. B. better known in the Assembly as
“Pom Pom.” I first knew him when he was chairman of the
election committee of John Sinclair, who was Mayor of
Brisbane, and ran against, and was defeated by, William
Brookes in a by-election for the city. A warmer hearted,
kindlier man than E. B. Forrest I have ever met, and he was a
very able businessman.
Then there was James Gibbon, of Tenerife, better known
as “Corner Allotment Jimmy,” because of his inclination to
speculate in corner allotments of the city and suburbs. Gibbon
was an imposing figure and a man of very strong commonsense;
but he was never near enough to the people to be at all
George Edmonstone was one of the most interesting figures in the House, a man of considerable attainments, and who had filled many public offices in Brisbane. He was one of the older generation, that is reckoning as at 45 years ago.
conspicuous in the history of Queensland may be mentioned –
the Gregory brothers, A. C. (afterwards Sir Augustus) and T.
F. They were the well-known explorers, and their names are
linked with the history, not only of Queensland, but of
Mr. Denis O’Donovan, the librarian, was particularly careful, and he trained up the present librarian, Mr. John Murray, in the way he should go. Very few, except those associated with Parliament, know the present occupant of the important and responsible post. The job calls for extreme diligence and wide technical knowledge. It’s just the sort of job, thanks be, into which a member of Parliament cannot pitchfork an ignorant supporter. John Murray is a big, quiet, studious man. He does not pretend to be obliging, but he is one of the most obliging and helpful of Parliamentary officers. Ask a fair thing of him, and no trouble is too much for him in giving it. I have many, many kindnesses to acknowledge – but her is rather averse from praise, and we’ll let it go at that. When I knew him first, back in the 1880s, he was a tall, slight boy, with dark hair and red cheeks, and it says much for his personal qualities that he was acceptable to O’Donovan, who was a keen judge of humanity. John Murray came to Brisbane with his people when he was in rompers, but Mark Twain on an occasion said that one of America’s greatest men at a period of his life was absorbed by the problem of the easiest way to get his toe into his mouth. When Murray left school he went to the Library. He has seen all the modern tomes come to the shelves, and there is not a volume he does not know. “Mr. Murray,” a member will say, “there was a record of seismic waves in Western Siberia some years ago, I would like to look up something on the subject.” Before the member could say, “Have one yourself!” there is presented to him a full record of the creeps and the oscillations, and a clear account of earthquake waves generally. Murray soon became the right hand man of O’Donovan. Quite fittingly he succeeded the great man under whom he was trained. I looked up the librarian’s salary the other day, and blushed. Queensland should be ashamed to pay so absolutely inadequate a sum to so adequate a man. I beg to draw the attention of hon. members to the position – a man of great mentality, and highly trained for a position of great responsibility, receiving the salary of a clerk! It is not a political matter – another Ministry gave the Government Botanist, a man of world wide reputation, Frederick Manson Bailey, £200 a year! (Mr. Murray’s salary was substantially raised in the session of Parliament following the appearance of this article).
Mr. Murray had
once a very interesting assistant, Cornelius Moynihan, a poet
and controversialist, and somewhat of an orator. He has gone
to his rest. He came from, or, at any rate, lived in Kenmare,
in Ireland. Killarney he knew through and through, every
shadow on the lake, every bush and stone, including the
Blarney Stone. He wrote and published a lot of verse, and one
long poem was “The Feast of the Bunya,” which dealt with
conspicuous figure in our Legislative Assembly in the early
1880s, and for many years earlier, and many years later, was
Lewis Adolphus Bernays. Very often Pressmen were upside with
him, but I never had the least trouble. If any papers were
wanted, I did not go to the messenger, but sent a polite note
to the Clerk of the House. In return came every help and every
courtesy. Personally I liked him very much. He was a
scientist, a King’s College London man, had studied as a
chemist in the laboratory of a distinguished brother,
Professor A. J. Bernays, of St. Thomas’s, who was then an
analytical chemist in the Midlands.
The father of
L. A. was the well-known Dr. Bernays, a professor of modern
languages and literature at King’s College. L. A. was created
a C.M.G., but he thought more of his F.L.S. and his connection
with some of the best plant life societies in the world. He
was a charming man, but not the sort one would dare to call
“old chap.” He had read very widely, and had a live interest
in the industrial affairs of the world. He always tried to
persuade himself that he was democratic. In his head he may
have been mildly Liberal in politics, but in his heart he was
True Blue Tory.
Yet no member
of Parliament could ever suggest partisanship or prejudice in
favour of his friends. L. A. Bernays was never reserved in
advice to Speaker, Chairman of Committees, Ministers, or
There was May,
and there were Standing Orders, and there was the swift and
unerring view as to the proper constitutional course. He had
his friends, warm friends, both in the House and out of it. He
was strong willed,, and I liked him for it; and he was
inclined to be dictatorial as a man must be who knows things
and has to give guidance to others.
He was the
guiding intelligence of the old Water Board, and some of the
institutions, or operators of “utilities” in Brisbane, owe
much of their present success to the firm foundations which he
helped to lay.
He came to
Australia in 1852, and to Brisbane in 1860, when he took
office as Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, and organised the
work of Parliament, basing it on his 1852-59 experience in the
New South Wales Parliament.
left members of his family well known in and out of Queensland
– a well-known lawyer of Toowoomba, a well-known railway
engineer, and the very well known present Clerk of the
Legislative Assembly, who well fills the paternal shoes.
– Mrs. Ernest Webb, Mrs. Gore of Yandina, and Miss Jessie
Bernays, who lives in Sydney.
Who remembers Frank Ivory, once a Burnett squatter, a member of the Legislative Assembly, then after the “bad timers” clerk assistant to Mr. Bernays? He had been a fine horseman, and when I knew him in 1881, he lived out in Leichhardt Street, about 50 yards north of Brunswick Street, in a stone cottage. Many a good talk we had about horses.
Lyster was a clerk, before he became Secretary to the Premier
(McIlwraith) on his way to a job on the military staff; and
the Sergeant-at-Arms was Mr. Robert Douglas, a very imposing
old gentleman, whose job was to announce: “Gentlemen – Mr.
Speaker!” to close the Bar of the House – not the refreshment
bar – during the checking of a division, and to remove unruly
members if ordered by the Speaker to do so. Mr. Douglas was a
very kind soul, but, like all other officers of Parliament,
very cordially disapproved of the general run of newspaper
men, and especially of the frivolous “Political Froth” in the