Land and Survey Department
The Ways of Dummying
A Side Line in Typewriters
Standing Up to the Minister
Cattle and sheep stealing since the very early days
have been accomplishments of land settlement, and the
historian of big and little steals has abundant material ,
equal in importance, though perhaps not in romance, to the
Great Bowen Downs case, which “Rolf Boldrewood” drew upon so
largely in “Robbery Under Arms.”
But land dummying has been closely associated with
thefts of the public estate as well as of live stock. In the
days when Sir John Robertson said that the primary equipment
of a free selector was a bullet mould and a beef cask, the big
man “dummied” and the small one ate his cattle. The mould was
to make the bullets to shoot the steer or heifer, and the cask
was to hold the salted down beef. Now, I have, since my mind
was able to philosophically distinguish between mine and
thine, always regarded the land dummying process as lower in
the moral scale than cattle or sheep stealing. The cattle
“duffer,” or his friend who devotes himself to sheep, is just
a plain thief. The gentleman who bags the Crown’s land is not
only a thief and a participator in fraud, but a procurer of
thieves, perjurers, and of common frauds but somehow amongst
land dummying people a breach of law of land and of moral laws
was seldom appreciated.
In 1881, the Lands Department was in George Street in
the office now occupied by the Railway Commissioner. The Hon.
P. Perkins the Minister worked hard for the department, but
some strong opponents of his rough and ready policy kept him
out of the next McIlwraith Government. Charles Hardie
Buzacott, who then controlled the “Courier,” practically
forbade his inclusion. Of course, P. P. was the head of
Perkins and Co. Ltd., and a keen business man. Mrs. Perkins
was a very charming woman, and Mrs. Brownlow Cole was her
beautiful and no less charming sister, and there was a
considerable Perkins family of handsome lads and lassies.
Hector was an interstate cricketer, played the flute in the
Liedertafel Orchestra, and was a warm hearted, generous chap.
The eldest daughter was Mrs. Seymour Allen. I have lost run of
them all except Mrs. G. W. Gray, of Eldernell, who is still a
Brisbane resident. The late Mrs. W. G. Power, wife of the Hon.
W. G. Power, M.L.C., not long gone to her rest, was a sister
of Mr. Perkins.
Edward Deshon was Under Secretary for Lands in the
1880s, and later Auditor-General. He was a capable man, had
seen service as an officer in the Imperial Army before it was
an Imperial Army. He saved his Minister from many
administrative mistakes. Just recently he went to his rest,
one of those Englishmen who put the finer influences into
Australian life socially as well as in public service. On an
occasion I had to see the Minister, Mr. Perkins, in connection
with some criticism which had to be answered, and I knew
nothing of the case. Deshon was sent for, and asked if he had
seen the hostile article. He said he had. The Minister then
said, “Well, Browne will write a reply, so please give him any
information you may have.” The Under Secretary answered: “The
only thing I can tell him is that the statements in the
article are perfectly true, and that the conclusions of the
writer are exactly what I warned you would be formed.” Mr.
Perkins was angry, but that did not mend things. Deshon was a
man who absolutely ignored anger. With him it was a question
of right or wrong. The Minister looked to me as though I
should pull him out. I said: “If the thing’s true the less we
say the better,” and reluctantly Perkins agreed. Later he said
“That d…. Deshon! But it is better to have men like that about
you than thieves and vagabonds!” The term “thieves and
vagabonds” was a favourite with the Minister.
Mr. Deshon was followed as Under Secretary for Lands by W. C. Hume, who was a surveyor and a Commissioner on the Darling Downs, stationed at Toowoomba. Hume had, I fancy, been in the Royal Navy. He was a very fine type of man, and a capable administrator. On his retirement he went to England, his own country, and being under the old Public Service Act, drew a pension. So far as memory goes, I believe he was connected by marriage with the Gregorys.
came Francis Xavier Heeney, the son of Dr. Heeney, who came to
Queensland in the early days. When I first knew him, F. X. was
a clerk, but probably chief clerk. At any rate, he was chief
clerk in 1883. It was in the order of things that Heeney
should become Under Secretary, and so in succession did W. J.
Scott when Heeney was appointed to the Land Court, and the
same order of succession went on, the chief clerk, P. W.
Shannon, becoming the permanent head of the department. He
also went to the Land Court, where he is today. I remember
him, a very refined and charming lad, as a supernumerary clerk
in 1883. He had the brains, the strength as an administrator,
and the personal qualifications for high office. In saying
that, I must revert to W. J. Scott, one of the most capable
Under Secretaries who ever served the Government of
simply unshakeable when it came to a question of principle in
the department. Shannon was a much younger man, and indeed,
the years sit lightly upon him still. He is a splendid
illustration of what our Queensland training can do; but then
there must be material at the back of the training, material
which includes a temperamental fit ness to direct and to carry
responsibility. Mr. Shannon is, of course, still in the
service, and we sometimes have a talk. He knows Queensland
from A to Z and the land settlement conditions perfectly, and
is just the same bright young fellow that I knew forty years
ago. P. W. Shannon has the true Celtic sense of humour. It
must be very helpful to him in his work, and long may he
continue that work with his keen sense of the right thing, and
the grace of courtesy that is so characteristic. Shannon was
the last of the old school to become Under Secretary, and we
will leave it at that.
J. S. P. Bourne, one of a well known family, in later days was Commissioner at Maryborough. Colonel Bourne, D.S.O., who was adjutant, and later in command of a Regiment of Light Horse in the Great War, and now an Inspector of the Bank of New South Wales, is a son. Then there were Bennett, of Bennett’s Bridge, and R. S. Hurd, afterwards a Police Magistrate at Eidsvold and other places, and who a little while ago wrote a series of very charming articles, with illustrations, on experiences during a visit to England. William Watts, afterwards Land Commissioner in Brisbane, was also there, a tall, hefty chap, who played a good game of cricket. G. H. Salisbury, another of the staff, was well known in musical circles, and sang the principal tenor music in oratorio and other musical productions by the Brisbane Musical Union. Those were the days when McRobbie sang the principal bass music. H. D. Brennan was a youngster at the time, and saw considerable advancement in the Public Service, becoming Commissioner of Taxation, and as a young man “went west,” when there should have been for him many years more of such good and faithful service as he gave. His brother, “Jim” Brennan, the head of the Parliamentary “Hansard” staff, I have known since he was a bright lad, and he too is of the type which gives of the best to his work.. And that reminds me what a splendid lot the young “Hansards” were, those who were cadets in the days when I was a young editor – Charlie Bernays, Regulation. Earl, R. Morris, and W. F. O’Carroll. Bernays, the present Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, and of the Parliament, of course, was still at Grammar School when he took to shorthand work.
were sons of a very old friend of mine who was accountant of
the A.U.S.N. Co., and later to the Queensland Meat Export Co.
The he went to Rockhampton, and fell away from grace by going
into Parliament. Like father, like son, for steadfastness,
honour and ability.
of the Lands Office was D. D. Hausmann. What a fine fellow he
was, and what a good musician, a basso cantante or heavy
baritone, and ever ready to help in a good cause. I suppose he
was a good accountant. At any rate, he was a good man, and not
a few of the old hands today affectionately remember him. From
time to time I meet some of the old Lands Office men who were
always pleasant to meet when Government office “rounds” had to
be done, however close they may have been with official news.
J. R. H. Lewis, one of the wisest of us, was usually able,
however, to break down the barriers. Before he went up to
Government offices he would carefully look through the cables,
Sydney or Melbourne news, or for anything important from the
country. If he wished to see a Minister or Under Secretary, or
any other of the great personages, he sent in a mysterious
message – “Lewis wishes to tell you something.” When he went
in he would say: “Don’t mention it outside, old chap, but
Russia has grabbed a big area of Manchuria”; or “This is
private, of course, but we have news that Johnny Jones, the
head of Barnacle and Perewinkle, at Cooktown, shot himself
today, and there may be some sensational disclosures.”
Officials like to have early news. It adds to their
importance. When an Under Secretary is told that the Duke of
Plaza Toro has run off with the Grand Duchess of Humpybong, it
is a great point of prestige to say: “Yes, I had that
privately from the Press yesterday morning!” But, generally,
we were very good friends with the Government officials, and
sometimes, if it didn’t impinge upon the prerogatives of the
“heads,” we got tips as to the news.
those days were not typewriters. The clicking machine was not
known. Few of us forgot J. E. Burstall, or C. F. Thompson, and
the last named had a wonderful tenor voice. He was a draftsman
in the Pastoral Occupation or Survey Office. His voice was a
dramatic tenor, robust and of fine quality, and he had a great
power. One night he sang with the Musical Union, under
Jeffries, and in the famous “Sound an Alarm” in Judas
Maccabaeus, who played the fiddle, and sometimes tympani, in
the Union, and wrote reports on big musical events for the
“Courier,” was enthusiastic. The audience was positively
thrilled. The singer didn’t take advantage of his great gift.
I don’t remember his singing again with the Union. In his
voice there was greatness. The pity of it! It is the same in a
sense with Mr. “Ted” England, of the Main Roads Department, a
good comrade of the big war, who sang the bass music in the
“Messiah” last year. I have followed up opera work since my
young days, and have heard many of the great bassos. I say
that England’s is the finest voice I have ever heard, and I
doubt if there is a singer living who can get the thrill that
he gives in the glorious “Why Do the Nations So Furiously Rage
Together?” That I have said many times, but after all, “Ted”
England knows his own business best.
The survey work of Queensland has been pioneering in a true sense. The trigonometrical survey was in many ways rough and arduous, but it was done in country well settled, and over which the lines of earlier men had been well determined. One does not belittle the work of Mr. Hoggin and those associated with him in that highly scientific job in saying that the old hands of the department cleared the way. I well remember Starcke, in the Cooktown area; Wood, in the Central District; Robert Austin, Fred Charlton, the Benwells at Townsville – Hugh had been in the Royal Navy, Edward Bevan, Carr Boyd, J. V. S. Desgrande, Gwynne at Herberton. H. H. S. Russell, who went to the Johnstone River, Andrew Paterson – a brother of T. Macdonald Paterson, J. D. Steele, out at Cloncurry, George Phillips, W. R. Unsworth, Twine, of Roma, and many others. These were really the pioneers, and their names should not be forgotten. Some of the department heads, such men as Gregory and McDowall – each of whom filled the post of Surveyor General – knew well the rough side of things; and others, too, were staff surveyors in the field. I don’t wish to be invidious when I mention such men as “Jack” Steele, and Charlton as being amongst the best in the land. Of course, there were many like them, but I happened to know them particularly well.
on the country at Bell, then known as Cattle Creek, it was
pleasant to drop in upon J. D. Steele, and up in the Degilbo
country, when the run was taken over business the Government,
I was privileged to enjoy the hospitality of Charlton and his
cultured, devout wife at the old homestead. In passing, it may
be said that a newspaper man meetings all classes, and in
Australia, taken all round, or elsewhere, it would not be
possible to find better types than the qualified surveyor. I
speak of, say, 30 to 40 years ago, and I hope the personal and
intellectual standards have not been lowered.
Surveyor-General in the early 1880s was William Alcock Tully,
an Englishman, I think, but who came here from Tasmania, where
he was engaged upon Government survey work, Like other “heads”
in those days, he was of the grand manner – tall,
distinguished, and not at all approachable by strangers.
Happily, he did not survive to the period when Jack was
encouraged to regard himself as being as good as his master,
“and a d… sight better.” One may visualize W. A. Tully through
a little story of the French. Of course, all my readers
understand French, but, as a special favour, please let me put
it in English. Monsieur, leaving the theatre, said to an
attendant: “Please call my servant.” The attendant said, “But,
Monsieur, we are all brothers now!” Monsieur replied: “The
call your brother!” In his department, Tully would have no
(emphasis, please) nonsense. In the old days he had to resist
a lot of pressure. He did so, as Mr. Perkins might have told
us, “without turning a hair.” He would be a bold Minister who
would attempt to dictate to Tully in his job, and a much
bolder one who would try to work a “squeeze.”
After W. A,
Tully came W. M. Davidson, also from Tasmania, and the husband
of one of the Hull daughters, who belonged to a well-known
Tasmanian family. Mrs. Davidson was an accomplished musician.
In the old days, I saw something of the Davidson family. One
daughter is the wife of the present Surveyor-General, Allan
Spowers, another married Dr. Wilton Love; and of the sons,
Leslie became a lawyer, and Guildford that good doctor who
practices at Sandgate, and is a keen shot and an artist in the
sport of Izaak Walton. The family was musical, but the mother,
one of the sweetest of women, sang with an infinite charm.
After Davidson’s retirement from the post of Surveyor-General,
Mr. A. McDowall was appointed, and he has a well known son in
Brisbane, Dr. Val McDowall, whom I knew up in the Laidley
district, in pre-war days, and for a little time we were
together overseas, when the big struggle was in progress.
McDowall pere was a lover of field sport, and was a beautiful
shot. He was also a good horseman, and followed the Brisbane
hound in the days of Gawne Echlin, and afterwards of Adolph
Feez, as master. McDowall had a brilliant horse by Lord Lisgar
and bred, I think, by Michael Durack, at Moorlands, near
Rosewood. The horse was light and needed plenty of room, and
he flew his fences in a great steeple chasing style. One day,
out near Oxley, Reginald Whipham was riding him in a fast run,
when he struck heavily, and threw a complete somersault. The
horse was uninjured, but I had to pull up and get Whipham
round and then home on his own chestnut Whalebone, ridden on
the day by Aynsley Elliott.
retirement McDowall went to England to live, but made a visit
to Queensland only a few years before his death. He raced a
horse or two at Ascot, when he was settled here. He was a man
of the open air, and he often expressed a wish to be back in
his old job as a staff surveyor, with a good horse for country
meetings. McDowall also did not like Brisbane. His sympathies
were with Toowoomba, and naturally so, for there he had close
friends of his own type, and in the winter there were always
some quail to be picked up, and he loved to shoot over dogs-
with a really good brace of pointers – just as “Harry” Hyne
does at Maryborough and John O’Neill Brenan down in this
little latitude. It was exit McDowall and enter Allan Spowers
– the son-in-law of Davidson – the recently retired
Surveyor-General, who looks almost as fresh and well as he did
as a youngster 40 years ago. It may be added that I met the
Davidson family mostly at the little Oxley home of Mrs.
Leontine Cooper, who wrote regularly for the “Courier” and
“Queenslander” and taught French in some of the schools.
Mr. E. J.
Bennett was in the early 1880s chief draughtsman of the Survey
Department, and he was the Bennett’s Bridge man, not J. S.
Bennett, of the Lands, who lived out Coorparoo way. Scarr was
another of the staff, one of an old Australian family, and
himself a very fine bushman. Then there was Fox, whom I knew
not quite so well, and also dear old Robert Hazelwood Lawson,
who in later years became chief draughtsman, but who turned
Queensland up to become chief electoral officer for the
Commonwealth in Melbourne. Lawson was an old Brisbane Rowing
Club man, one of the Lawsons of the Burnett, a nephew of John
Sargent Turner. Lawson was a prince of good chaps, and always
very helpful to newspaper men. Hugh Macintosh and he were
great pals. I used to row in the same four as one of his
brothers at Townsville, and knew well his other brother, the
banker. Hugh Macintosh rowed a good oar, and got wonderful
condition. He used to be an absolute ball of muscle, and still
turns out smiling, smart and debonair. To digress, it may be
said that another of the physical wonders of the day was
“Frankie” Baynes, a little heavier than Hugh Macintosh, but
isn’t it time that these chaps began to widen at the girth and
shorten their steps? Are we all so jolly young? I remember on
occasions getting some information from Daniell of the Lands,
E. N. Daniell, who was very keen on cricket. And Fred James
was a hard and powerful man, with fair whiskers, and flowing
moustache, who drove in a high dog-cart a descendant of the
famous Marshland Shales, which George Borrow described in
“Lavengro” as “the best in Mother England.”
The James boys
didn’t go to Government jobs, but went in for surveying work
on their own account, and the name stands well in the A.I.F.
And there was a draughtsman named May. H. S. May, a pal of
mine, a sporting Englishman, who wore a flower in his button
hole, a horseshoe pin, a fancy waistcoat with silver buttons,
and velveteen cord breeches. He was a smart little chap, and a
great authority on either the races or cricket; but his
“insular prejudices” were sometimes wearying. Australia could
not raise horses or cricketers, as could old England. May
always rode a good hack, perfectly turned out, and he had a
couple of horsey English pals named Ryland, who had enough
money to pull along, but who passed out of my ken. All old
horsey birds will remember them, and May, too.
Another of the
horsey cult was A. V. Thomas, whom I have seen ride in a
steeplechase at Eagle Farm, as we then called Ascot. And by
the same token Adolph Feez, Dave Benjamin, and “Sam” Harding
also rode in it, and Harding won on old Warrong, owned by Tom
Brown, of Blythedale, a good bay with a fair turn of foot and
a safe fencer. “Sam” Harding was a well known Victorian
amateur rider over fences, a son of the original Elias
Harding, a brother of Elias Harding jnr., of Ipswich, and an
uncle of Silas Harding, who, in his day, was one of the most
brilliant of our polo players, and who comes to Brisbane
occasionally- as he did in August last- to help with the horse
sections at the Exhibition. The horse was “named for” Warrong
station, which lies between Crystal Brook and Mount Moffat,
and where I spent a very comfortable night during the police
chase after the Kenniffs. I was out on that Kenniff job for
the “Courier,” and a fairly rough job it was. But to get back
to A. V. Thomas. He was an artist, and still is, I hope, and
did a lot of very clever black and white stuff for “Bobby”
Burns when he ran “Punch” and “Figaro.” Quite in recent years
he has done good work for the “Queenslander,” black and white,
with racy horses and bullocks with a turn of speed also. A
“cutting out” picture by A. V., I remember well, and it ought
to be preserved. He could also draw a buckjumper in remarkably
good style, but of course some “Old Bushman” would rise up to
criticize – as if all men mounted and rode and all horses
“took to it” in the same way. A. V. Thomas lived out at
Coorparoo, a clever, nice, chap, who had seen a lot of “rough
stuff” in the old days in the West.
to Hugh Macintosh I should have mentioned that he was a topper
at football. Did he not represent Queensland against New South
Wales in the first intercolonial Rugby Union match? And a day or two
ago I met another of that splendid team, my old friend, Boyd,
who was in the railways, and then in the Immigration Service,
and later with the A.M.P. Society. Boyd is a great amateur
gardener, and probably one of the best authorities we have on
carnations. He reminded me that we first met in about 1883,
out at a dance at Mrs. Leontine Cooper’s at Oxley, when the
Davidson and Pratten families were in great force.
I should have
remembered, in referring to surveyors, that Mr. Pratten, sen.,
was a surveyor who did a great deal of work about Brisbane in
pretty early days. He had a splendid family, some of whom did
well in the Public Service. I remember Tom, and Frank, and
George, and Miss Pratten. Tom Pratten was a fine athlete. He
represented Queensland in Rugby Union, and was a very good
runner, up to, say 220 yards. He had a very responsible job in
the Railway Department, but his health broke down, and though
he went away to London and Paris for treatment, he “Went West”
while still a young man. He was extremely popular. The best
race I ever saw him run was out on the Toowong ground, when he
failed, as he was bound to do, to catch “Jimmy” Anderson, who
had a 4 yards start. “Jimmy” Anderson came from New Zealand,
was the idol of the crowds in intercolonial football, and
still is an active and smart looking youngster.
“Do you remember Jim Beal?” That was rather a familiar way of naming the Government Printer of Queensland; but it was from a very close old friend of that august official, a dear young fellow of 88. I well remember James Beal, the Government Printer. He was, of course, a much older man than I, but there were several reasons why we became very good friends. In the first place, he was friendly with my old friend and singing master, “Toby” Bushelle, who was a son of Madame Wallace Bushelle, and therefore a nephew of Vincent Wallace, the composer of “Maritana.” In the second place, he was very fond of music, and knew a good deal about the old operas. In the third place he was a fine oarsman and sculler, or had been, for he had given up regatta contests before my time in Brisbane. In the fourth place, he was Government Printer, and was a very great help in allowing a peep at “Hansard” proofs when there was a gap in our copy. In the fifth place, he was the best of good fellows – capable, conscientious, warm-hearted. James Beal was a typical Cornstalk, standing well over 6ft, straight, muscular, and full of energy. I know only one of his family, formerly the Under Secretary of the Queensland Treasury, and now Auditor General. At the Treasury he never seemed too busy to give a newspaper man the benefit of his knowledge of public finance and his wonderfully keen judgment. It is nice to meet sons of our old friends who are distinguished and who worthily uphold a good name.
Now another of
the older chappies, and who lived for many years after the
shadow of James Beal had ceased to fall across the Government
Printing Office portals, was P. R. Gordon – Patrick Robert, I
believe he was christened. When I knew him first he took a
little snuff, which was a Scottish habit, but as his family
grew up they chaffed him out of it. P. R. Gordon was a finely
educated man and brilliant, in many ways. He made the Stock
Department in Queensland, and to back up his scientific
knowledge he had a great deal of practical experience. P. R.
G. wrote a great deal for “Courier,” and “Queenslander,” even
from Lukin’s time, and he kept it going practically up to the
time of his death. He was one of the originators of what is
now the Royal Agricultural etc. Association of Queensland, and
he wrought for it until his great peace came. In later years
of his life he reported the fat cattle and the sheep sections
of the Exhibition for the “Courier” and “Queenslander.” He was
a fine judge of both and in horses he knew more than a little
about Clydesdales. A regular Scot – big-hearted, musical, and
with a keen sense of humour.
Something must be said about the Stock Department, apart from P. R. Gordon, that is, if the department really could have been thought to exist without him. He had a deputy chief inspector whose name was de Villiers, and he had staff which would be regarded as ridiculously small today. Gordon was here for the battle against scab in sheep, a disease which did tremendous damage, and which was caused by a small insect parasite; and he was here for the greater part of the campaign against pleuro-pneumonia. In both cases drastic action was necessary, and it is fortunate that Queensland had so determined, though tactful, a man for the position. He was a good musician and a good writer on musical subjects. Two sons I knew well, the younger, Lennox, having command of a battery of field artillery.
Gordon’s assistants is with us still, a very old friend of
mine. W. H. Beck, who for many years was in charge of the
quarantine stations at Indooroopilly and Lytton. Mr. Beck came
to Queensland in the Queen of the Colonies in 1865, and Mrs.
Beck came out in 1862, that being before her marriage. Many
interesting stories he has of the old days – one of the old
sort loyal, zealous, and a true pioneering type. He was for 43
years in the Stock Department, and it seems absurd to think
that anyone should consider him past the period of usefulness.
place in the early 1880s for some of the newspapermen was the
museum. It is suggested by more or less ribald folk that it
would be an appropriate place for some of the newspapermen of
the day- a sort of permanent refuge after long years of strife
and toil. The museum building was that now occupied by the
public library. The director was Charles W. de Vis, a very
scholarly man, and a specialist in snakes. He told me that the
brown whip snake was the most poisonous of our land reptiles.
I suggested the death adder, saying, “Lots of people have
recovered from the brown snake bite. Can you tell me of one
recovery from the bite of a death adder?”
Mr. de Vis
said that was a slovenly proposition from the scientific point
of view, and he was not aware that “lots of people had
recovered from the brown snake bite,” Further, there were
records of recovery from death adder punctures, and my
assumption was without scientific justification. Associated
with the director was Henry Tryon, later Chief Government
Entomologist, a very clever and hard worker. I gave him a fine
specimen of the jabiru, which I shot on the Kipper Ring marsh
down Redcliffe way, and the museum wanted another. I spent a
day on the marsh trying to get near a splendid male bird, was
afraid to go into the open after him. I had a sporting
Martini, which had been sent from England to “Bill” Livesey,
of the “Courier,” and knew that the bird would be mine if I
got within 200 yards. Just before sunset the jabiru rose, and
I risked a shot on the wing, the bird going directly from me,
and was successful. The distance stepped pretty carefully was
28.4 yards. Unhappily I could not get the specimen up to
Brisbane in time for skinning and setting up in the full, and
it was with reluctance that the taxidermist handed it over for
articulation. For years these were the only specimens of the
jabiru in the Queensland Museum, an earlier having been
discarded. The taxidermist was Edward Spalding, the collector
Alexander Macpherson, a splendid type of Scot. Later A. Alder,
the best taxidermist I have known, and a painter of no mean
order was employed, but for many years he worked privately,
rejoining the museum staff in later years. Mr. de Vis was a
student, Mr. Alder a keen practical man, and they didn’t seem
to blend. The Botanical Department was in charge of the
Colonial Botanist, F. M. Bailey, F.L.S., a man of world wide
fame, to whom as Colonial Botanist, Queensland paid £200 a
The first Government Department I visited in Brisbane was the Mines. John Flood took me round, and introduced me to Edward Deighton, the Under Secretary, and to others, including my very good old friend, Glen Cameron. Edward Deighton had married a Miss Nelson, sister of a very well known writer and journalist, J. D. Nelson, who was father of Deighton Nelson, of the Bank of Australasia. With Nelson, snr., I had done a bit of Latin and English literature. He was a very brilliant man, and left a considerable family of very charming people, one daughter being the wife of Wilfred Gale, who was manager here of New York Life Assurance Co., and later returned to England to be one of the heads of the Royal Exchange Assurance Co., in London. Edward Deighton was a big, imperturbable man, a fine scholar, and a very effective writer. The Mines Office was facing North Quay, about on the site of the present city police station, a low, rambling sort of building with some fine old fig trees, making their eternal litter on the graveled paths.
Later Deighton went over entirely to the Works and Railways. In 1881, he was Under-Secretary for the combined departments of Works, Railways and Mines.
was chief clerk, and later Under-Secretary. He begins to age a
bit, but is taking life in a philosophical way at Sandgate.
What a very beautiful tenor voice he had, great sweetness and
power. The wonder is, does he remember the old days when I
lived at Sandgate, and we sang part songs from the time we
passed through the Normandy tunnel. The line through to
Central was not then built. Roma Street was the metropolitan
station, and we went out by the Normanby, through Victoria
Park, and then by way of Mayne and Albion.
Under-Secretary for Mines is Henry Marshall. We called him
Henry when he was a young clerk in the department, and so I
call him still. He was then a fair, rosy-cheeked youngster-
but, bless us, he is still young.
Glen Cameron, Henry Marshall, and Francis Curnow were of the best to the newspapermen, and the old brigade will have kindly remembrance of them. But then it happens that I am one of the very few of the old brigade left – probably Barton, Morley, and I are the only men of the literary staffs of 1881 who survive.
of the department was R. Robertson, who lived out at Toowong,
a Paisley man, and he left a family in Brisbane, including a
son who, for a good many years, has practiced here as a
Department chief draughtsman – and, I think, he was the only
one – was A. Nixon, still here, though more or less crippled
by rheumatism. He was a very able officer, and typical of the
Old Country engineering men.
Architect of the days of which I write was F. D. G. Stanley,
whose home was “Ardencraig,” Toowong, and he was the architect
of the splendid Queensland National Bank building in Queen
Street. F. D. G. was a brother of Colonel H. C. Stanley, who
was Chief Engineer for Railways, and lived up in a big
paddock, now a closely settled part of Toowong, in a very
charming house which later became the home of Mr. W. J.
Architect had with him Mr. George Connolly, a very fine
looking fellow- tall, robust, and with a flowing red beard,
like that of “bold, ruddle-bearded Drake,” of whom William
Blocksidge so vividly wrote in “The Salving of the Golden
Hind.” Connolly was a fine athlete in his young days, and a
fine horseman. He became Government Architect, and his
retirement was a great loss to the service. Not long ago I sat
with his brother in the members’ stand of the Q.T.C. at Ascot,
a man of wide experience in Queensland, who was north at
Cooktown in the early days, and did much Public Service
pioneering. His life has been full of incident. The surviving
Mr. Connolly is a tall man, also distinguished in appearance,
and was one of the cultured, determined young fellows who came
here with a desire to be of use in the world.
was a draftsman, and a well-known bicyclist in the days of the
old high wheelers. Later he became an architect, as did also
another who was a junior draughtsman in 1883 – Henry Atkinson,
now Atkinson and Conrad, a son of Paul Atkinson, the well
known organist, and a brother of Miss Fanny and Miss Jane
Atkinson – both well known singers who took unto themselves
husbands and settled down in England. The men in charge of the
Government buildings, under the Government Architect, of
course, were J. Ferguson, and E. H. Alder, both of whom I
remember well. Certainly they did the State some service, and
the principal clerk was J. H. B. Crawford, “Jimmy” Crawford, a
very popular young society man who was once described as the
most courteous of the young bloods and the best dancer. Not
long since I first met him, after many years. Like the rest of
us, he is showing the smitings of the years and their touches
of snow, but was still bright and active.
Commissioner for Railways was A. O. Herbert, who was a close
relative of a former head of the Government in Queensland, and
who became Sir Robert Herbert. A. O., as he was called, was a
very difficult proposition for the Government roundsmen, but I
knew him privately and got on well if I had to see him for
information. Probably other roundsmen, say the good old Henry
Haggard, had some of the benefit of my facilitation of access,
though he had many personal friends in the sanctified
atmosphere of Civil Servicedom. Mr. Herbert had his home out
at Milton, a good old-fashioned building with a large area of
land and some beautiful trees. He was a most amiable man,
though a strict disciplinarian. Where would such men be in
these days of job control, when not even a policeman can be
removed because he happens to have the luck of a job in the
union? Certainly the public servants of 1881 would not have
allowed the ship to be run from the foccusle rather than the
clerk of the Railway Department was Francis Curnow, a very
generous, capable, man, a close relative of Curnow, who was
editor of the “Sydney Morning Herald.” He became Commissioner
in course of time.
On an occasion of an accident to one of George Bashford’s construction trains, I was posting off to Ipswich for information, and took in my pocket a note from Mr. Curnow to railway men generally, asking them to “facilitate inquiries.” By the way, as I went up to Ipswich that day I had as a fellow passenger one of George Bashford’s staff, a chief accountant, I think – George Seabrook, the manager today of the Queensland Deposit Bank. How very gently the years seem tot ouch him, but, of course, he was very young in the days of which I write.
A very prominent man in the railways was E. P. Tregurtha, who, by his name, should have been a Cornishman. I remember that Tom Pratten considered him as almost super-human in the matter of accounts. My chief interest in him was through horticultural sympathies. He was a very learned man in plant life, better, perhaps in many ways than a botanist. A botanist can tell us the name and general habits of a plant, but the amateur gardener knows how to nurse and feed it. The two may be likened to the doctor and the mother of the child.
The railway builders of Queensland have done great things. In my early days here most of the building was by contract, and we had some very fine men who were contractors. O’Rourke and McSharry I have written of already, and their memories are cherished in Queensland; but there were others whose names are writ large upon our history.
George Bashford was mentioned recently, and he was very well known, especially about Brisbane and Ipswich, and he also built some outside lines. Baxter and Saddler took on some bigger work. Mr. J. V. Saddler had started life in Australia in the Bank of New South Wales, but he became associated with the Millars, and then started out on his own account. For many years he lived in Melbourne, and had considerable pastoral interests, besides being connected as director with several public companies.
Mrs. Hirschfield, of Brisbane, was a Miss Saddler. John and William Thorn were also railway builders, and John Thorn was for some years associated with “Jack” Annear, who afterwards represented Maryborough in the Legislative Assembly. The Thorns and Annear were connected with the building of the Maryborough Gympie line, and were conspicuous on the day of opening. A large party went up to Maryborough by steamer and to Gympie by train, and as stated on a previous occasion, my special companion on the trip was the late P. O’Sullivan, M.L.A., father of Mr. Justice O’Sullivan.
The day at Gympie was fairly wild, and one of the incidents which live most clearly in my mind was William Smythe, M.L.A., jumping on a table to propose a toast. William Smythe was a very prominent and successful miner at Gympie. I did the report of the opening of the line for the “Observer,” of which I was editor, and Carl Feilberg did it for the “Courier.”
Who the contractors were for the line to Roma I do not remember, but Tom Brown, of Blythedale, had an interest in the job, and probably Gargett. After O’Rourke and McSharry separated, Terence Ahern joined the first named, and they did some very good work; but Ahern I have referred to in the memories of the North.
Another great pioneer was Aitchison Overend, of Overend Bros., a splendid citizen, and one of the whitest of “white” men. He settled down at Bowen Hills later, building himself a big wooden house, but then he bought Cintra, and pitched his tabernacle there.
A splendid type, too, was George Wilcox, one of the big men of Queensland engineering and contracting. When the first contractor for the wood paving of Queen Street threw in the job, Wilcox took it over, and caused a sensation by substituting for men with picks to break up the street, big teams of bullocks with great ploughs. The place was ripped up in no time – the triumph of the modern over the archaic.
At a much later period came John Robb, the man who built the line over the Cairns Range, a stupendous work, over which he lost a lot of money, mainly because of the loose bargain which he had with the Railway Department.
The Robb Arbitration Case will be remembered by many of the present day, for its hearing was a great event. Robb put up an enormous claim, and in the Arbitration proceedings, Sir S. W. Griffith represented the Queensland Government. I was fourteen days on the shorthand report of the case, while others, some of whom are still with us, piled up big cheques over a couple of months. On my first day, and I was out of practice, I had to take Griffith on a discussion of engineering quantities, the proposition being the cubic contents of a wedge. I was no mathematician, and Griffith had a great turn of speed, when he got going. I had an hour and a half of it, and during the day dictated my turn to a typist. It seemed that there was a big heap of the stuff, and I asked Peter Robertson what pace Griffith made. “Up to 170 or 180 words to the minute,” I was told. In the proofs, Sir S. W. Griffith made three alterations, and not one of them a salient. It is the best bit of shorthand work I have ever done. But I don’t contend that it was all verbatim, as it was supposed to have been. When I found Griffith beating me I started to condense him, as one does in “writing up” a speech as it goes along. The tip is a good one for young shorthand writers: never let a man get away from you; if he beats you for speed boil him down until you are with him. The great thing is not to lose the sense of a speaker. But, by the beard of the Prophet, it is sometimes pretty hard to catch the sense. Often it is not there. It was a long and bitterly contested case, and Robb’s claims “went to the mountain.” The lawyers employed made a very big thing out of it, and so did the shorthand writers. I had, as stated, only 14 days of it, and my cheque for something over an hour a day ran to £120. The money was to me very acceptable, as things were bad in the 1892-94 period, and I know that my literary work in 1893 landed me only £120.
Queensland, in the very early days, had adopted the narrow gauge system. The idea was to open up the country as soon as possible. It was sparsely populated, and there was very little money available, so our pioneers went for the best they could get. That was adhered to when McIlwraith came into power with the £3,000,000 loan, and Ballard, so well known in the Central District, was the apostle of the quick, cheap, far-reaching lines. An old “Punch” cartoon- Bobby Byrnes’s Punch- summarized and made luminous the policy of the day. It was Ballard as the knight, and in the background a setting sun. The tag was “Away to the Setting Sun.” Approximately that was the design, though I speak from memory of an event of 45 years ago. Probably not many today remember the cost of some of our Western railways , though others were built on the low cost plan only a few years ago. The estimate was about £1500 a mile. Of course we had cheap and efficient labour in the olden days, good hard going navies at from 7/- to 8/- a day. Many of them were able to save a bit and took up land under the old system, which gave homesteads at 2/6d per acre, payable 3d per acre per annum. Many a fine Queensland home was established by an 8/- a day navvy, and sons and grandsons now annihilate space, and anything that gets in their way, with their motor cars. Some of the lines were built with very little formation, the sleepers just laid in skimpy earthworks with some earth ballast, then the rails, and the job was done. Of course, the lines were not built for speeding up. Probably the Dalby people will remember that the line from the dear old town out to cattle Creek, now called Bell, was built on the surface system. I believe it cost about £1500 a mile. McIlwraith had some doubt about the ultimate value of the cheap, narrow gauge lines, and he was a far seeing engineer. It was at his request that I started a controversy in the “Observer,” then a morning paper, as to the wisdom of continuing the light line policy. The public did not bite, in other words there was no public declaration for a change of policy; and today we have the greatest mileage of lines of any Australian State, and the greatest blister in the working of our lines. And the blister will continue while the Railway Department is over-manned, and on the “go-slow.” It is all because politicians look for votes instead of for good and economic results. The biggest politician we ever had in Queensland, Sir Thomas McIlwraith, did not disdain to hand over the whole job to the Commissioners- and the Lord help the politician who tried to interfere with them.
Often, no doubt, it is wondered what Henry Stanley, who was Chief Engineer for Railways in the early 1880s and for long after, would have thought of present day conditions. It is probable that with the permanent way in its present state he would have had serious doubts as to the safety of fast trains. We must not forget, however, that he held office when some of the light surface lines were worked, and also in later years, that on many of the lines the official maximum speed was set at 12 miles an hour. On the line to Degilbo, when I was out that way reporting on Degilbo, Ideraway, Wood Millar, and other areas for the “Courier,” the official pace was 12 miles an hour. hat was because the permanent way was being starved. We skipped along quite merrily between stations, and the train staff and passengers were given lots of time at the wayside places to talk about the weather. The journey, however, took the prescribed time table period.
The deputy Chief Engineer was Thornloe Smith, who was, in his later years, a member of the Legislative Council. He was a tall, dark, heavily bearded man, and with a great waving mane of hair. He was, like Stanley, a personage. He was in the Toowoomba district for many years, and was much esteemed there. Thornloe Smith was a very fine engineer, to strangers “ a particularly haughty and exclusive person,” but he was always very kind to newspaper men, courteous and helpful, and with a very exalted idea of “the mission of the Press.” Perhaps it was not generally known that Thornloe Smith was himself a writer. He had something in the way of a diary, which, if available, should prove very interesting. Like W. L. G. Drew, he occasionally wrote to the papers. And speaking of Drew reminds me that in a letter to the “Courier,” he was probably the first in the country to point out that an excess of exports over imports was not necessarily a sign of prosperity.
The Principal Assistant Engineer was T. H. Annett, an Englishman, who had been out here many years, and later, became Chief Engineer. He was a very able man. To some of the old hands it may be remarked that he was one of the syndicate, formed by myself, who bought from the Rev. John Sutton, the Redcliffe town area, which extended from the jetty to the creek south of Orient House, and back to the main Woody Point Scarborough road. Another of the syndicate was D. S. Thistlethwaite, also of the engineering staff of the railways. It may be explained that the estate had been cut up and partly disposed of when we took it over.
Mr. George Phillips was one of the best of Queenslanders and a pioneer of the Gulf of Carpentaria. All newspaper men knew him – a man of great ability and high professional reputation, but always ready for a chat or a joke, and never failing when information was required. On occasions I have had to tackle him about some important matter- a Gulf of Carpentaria port, a railway to Burketown, the value of steel sleepers on the Northern lines, cheap surface railways, or a water supply for Brisbane drawn from Stradbroke Island. He was always ready and one had only to sit down and write. Mr. Phillips really dictated the article.
Quite recently reference was made to the work of Ballard in pioneering the cheap surface lines, but really George Phillips did more than Ballard, both in propaganda and in practical work. He was, I think, a Staffordshire man, but came to Australia as a youngster, and had his schooling – as he often proudly said – with the famous Dr. Wools, through whose hands many eminent Australians passed. He was very young when he joined a the Queensland Government service, and for a good many years later on was head of the railway surveys. The he went into practice on his own account, as a civil engineer, and was for some time member for Carpentaria in the Legislative Assembly. All that sounds rather biographical; but it is not generally known that George Phillips was on several exploring trips with William Landsborough, notably in the opening up of the Diamantina country – the river being “named for” Lady Bowen – and the estuary of the Norman River. Landsborough and Phillips were real Gulf pioneers. Mr. Phillips, on the building of the railway from Normanton to Croydon, was confronted with the white ant problem. It was said that the termites would use the ordinary wooden sleepers as toothpicks, and those who know the Gulf insects really pardoned the exaggeration. So a scheme of steel sleepers was designed, but my friend, Mr. R. W. Southerden, an associate of Mr. Phillips, tells me that the steel was not to circumvent the termite but for cheapness; but why spoil a picturesque story merely for the sake of historical accuracy? I have never seen one of those sleepers, but understand that they were not altogether a success, though they have been spoken of in Egypt with some favour for desert railways.
Mr. Phillips was a keen advocate of the Stradbroke Island source for the Brisbane water supply, and he put up a big fight for it, despite its disfavor with a certain visiting man, one Hazon, an American. The great points about the Stradbroke supply with him, were the good quality of the water, the vast quantity available, and the practicability of a completely uninhabited watershed. No dirty homesteads and dead cattle there to pollute the source as in another place.
George Phillips, or “G. Phillips, C. E.” was a frequent writer to the “Courier,” and on many subjects, and he was an authority on aboriginal ethnology. His later days were spent at Sandgate, and there his advice on many matters was sought. He was a splendid Queenslander and a splendid Australian, and he was one of the Northerners of 1865, when a man who was white all through had great influence.
The Chief Draughtsman, R. H. O. Roericht, I have already referred to; but one of the engineering draughtsmen for a good many years was J. Gartside, whom I knew in the early days of the Queensland Defence Force, and who rose to a Colonel’s rank in the infantry of our service. Colonel Gartside was a studious and capable officer, and did much in the building up of Queensland, as an example, both in efficiency and discipline, for the rest of Australia. He died before getting fairly into middle years, but his memory is preserved in the orderly room of his old regiment.
Another of the men who gave much to his country, N. Bell, also was a draughtsman. Another was G. Prosdocimi, one of the Italians who came over here in the late 1870s, and the early 1880s. “Pros,” as he was familiarly known, was quite a respectable artist, and some of the old deluxe railway carriages were decorated by him. The little drawing room of my old home, “Garryowen,” at Mount Coot-tha gates, was also decorated by him, and the ceiling was very beautiful; but alas, when I was living in England, the whole place was blotted out by a bushfire. Prosdocimi had with him a compatriot, Thomas's, also a draughtsman, an Italian noble in fact, and Tomassi was a very capable chap. Both have gone on the long journey. The last time I saw Tomassi, Italy had just entered into the Great War. “Viva Italia!” he called out, and I responded, “Viva Italia, sempre!”
And another of the Italians was Toni – Francesco Toni, an engineer, a wonderfully clever musician, whose songs are highly regarded in London and in Europe, and a genius in finance. In his time he had been an opera impresario in Italy. He was married first to a sister of the wife of Mr. Justice Mein, and secondly to a very charming English lady. He has some sons, fine Australians, footballers, and one a brother “Digger.” Toni left Queensland with a bicycle tube patent, made money in London, and, as an engineer, went out to the West Indies to report on a Government railway. Money was needed to put the line into working shape, and money was the one thing which the Government did not possess. Now Toni offered to find the money, reconstruct the railway, put it on a paying basis, and sell it back to the Government. Agreed to with cheers. Both he and his syndicate, and the Government also, made quite a good thing out of the transaction. Now he is in London, arranging for capital to develop certain Australian interests, good things and big. Many a time he was at our sing-songs at the old Press Club in Brisbane, in days which ran to the atmosphere of Bohemia – and we sang and sang. I wonder does he remember:
Qui, mori la Gilda, maga,
Sotto il nome di Menzaga;
Qui mori, nel suo pallore,
Per l’amor d’un trovatore!
Why should one forget W. A. Cross, the resident engineer of the Southern and Western Railway – an alert, determined, bearded man, who came from a distinguished line of naval forbears? And there was the locomotive superintendent, H. Horniblow, who had a sad triumph on one terrible occasion. The rolling stock of the department had been allowed to run down, including the locomotives, and Horniblow had reported and reported – well much as the superintendent does today, I suppose- on the efficiency and danger of the engines. Then came a shock! A couple of the old worn out boilers burst their sides – perhaps with laughing at the ineptitude of the whole outfit, and there was a lot of damage, with inquiries by a Commission, just as would happen today. But public feeling was aroused, and the terrifying explosions were heard, where a capable and honest official’s strong protests fell on, not deaf, but unlistening, ears.
Later, R. T. Darker got to higher rank, a very fine man, whose name is honourably borne today in Ipswich.
A. Prewitt was a clerk in my early days. I’m not sure that he was not a stationmaster out West. However, he became one of the heads, until he retired, and went up Cairns way, I think, to gather in heaps of shekels.
In the audit branch was Tom Pratten and C. S. Green. Also there was E. Frost, who still abides with us as a taxation expert and auditor, and is the father of that very fine musician, Miss Gladys Frost. But Mr. Frost, when I first met him, was a young bridegroom, and Mrs. Frost a charming bride. Where was Septimus Davis at the time? I cannot remember. He came to my mind first a good many years ago, and he certainly was a liberal patron. He became chief of the Railway Audit, and then, one day – just a few years ago – the old gentleman, who counts years by the almanac, suggested that he should take a rest. That was very hard for an active man, and full of energy; but the gentleman with the almanac pulled out an “Act in such case made and provided,” which said that when a man has become efficient in his job he must get out. Years of loyal service! Nonsense and humbug. Who cares for years of loyal service? And so pensionless, and with the doors slammed in their faces, out on to the world go men who have given all their best years to the service of the State. An intelligent Chinese one day said to me: “I suppose they get plenty money – plenty rob Government!” And I said: “Not here, Wong Tai.” And Wong Tai replied, “Alle same too muchee dam fool!” Perhaps so, Wong Tai, perhaps so. The question is whether Queensland is getting of the best of her sons and daughters for the Public Service. May the Lord help those young people when they are no longer young, if they are of the best. If they are not they will help themselves.
When I came to Brisbane in 1881, in addition to Crown Law or Justice Department officers already mentioned, the Chief Clerk, and Accountant was Alfred I. Cooling, who remained in the department for many years, a good and steadfast worker, and with him was a smart young fellow, W. H. Carvosso, later Registrar of the Supreme Court – still a smart young fellow, as of course we all are. It has often been a matter of conjecture with me why we don’t grow older. To be sure, young fellows speak of us with scant reverence as “fogies,” and so on., but I think it would be safe to back W. H. Carvosso of today to be a more efficient umpire for a Test (cricket) match than 99 out of every 100 of the young blades. He was a good cricketer and a good citizen, and his brother, one of the best of our medical men – capable, staunch, and true- Dr. Arthur Carvosso, who shone at tennis, and now engages in desperate struggles with a small “sitting” ball in what no doubt also is a wonderfully fine game- golf. The name, to many people, suggests Italian descent, but that’s wrong. It is Cornish. One illustrious Cornish family was Carvossa, and even that, with the feminine finale, was not Italian. However, one might as well wrestle with Welsh as with Cornish names.
Mr. William Bell was a prominent and very important officer of the department. In later years I called him Pooh Bah – not to his face, of course, for I did not know him at al intimately, but I knew enough of him to class him with the best of the fine officers of the Queensland Public Service. The reason for the name of Pooh Bah was that Bell held many offices. He was Principal Registrar, Prothonotary – a mighty fine and exalted office, whatever it might be – Registrar of Joint Stock Companies, Principal Registrar in Insolvency, Registrar of Friendly Societies, and Clerk of the Peace –whatever that might have been . Now with £500 a year in each office – but why worry, Bell didn’t get it. His official comprehensiveness was, however, beaten by a sergeant of police out at Augathella, who had fourteen different jobs, and his pay was about 12/- a day. Of course the honour of many offices compensated for paucity of pay, only that it didn’t. And Pring Roberts had one of the first jobs, having become a full blown solicitor, as Chief Clerk and Deputy to all the jobs of Mr. Bell.
We don’t worry very much about sheriffs or sheriff’s officers in Queensland. Like watchmen crying the time, they are rather out of date. Yet Queensland sheriffs have been very important personages. The first that I remember was Arthur E. Halloran, whose sons, Alfred and Arthur, I had known in the North. As stated on an earlier occasion, Sheriff Halloran was born to be a very dignified and exalted public officer, and he was also the father of Mrs. G. V. Hellicar, of Mrs. Armytage of Melbourne, and of Mrs. Perrin, and the first and the last of these were the mothers of “diggers,” and young Perrin a relative, who married Madge, the charming daughter of John L. Woolcock, made the supreme sacrifice in France.
Another and much later sheriff was Phillip Pinnock, who had been Police Magistrate in Brisbane. Pinnock was an able magistrate , and with him, the present Chief Police Magistrate, H. L. Archdall, had his beginnings. It was the vogue amongst the reporters to chaff “Papa” Pinnock, and sometimes to annoy him – perhaps very often; but he was a splendid man of the old cultured school. And he could ride, and box, and handle a four-in-hand.
The Under Sheriff was Mr. H. C. Thompson, or more familiarly, “Harry” Thompson. who had seen something of pastoral life. He was never really a Queenslander, and in later years he shook form him the dust of our land and went to that of snows and sunless days. Thompson married a daughter of Arthur Martin, who was a sister of Mrs. Walter Snelling, and of Mrs. Walter Scott, of Tarameo.
And in the office were John Gallagher, tall, reserved, and warm hearted; “Jim” Cain, who was by way of being a Brisbane dandy in his young days; and John Gallwey – good old John- who later became Under Sheriff. John Gallwey was a warm hearted, broad shouldered, deep-chested man, with a very gentle nature, and he was a boon companion of George Byrne, barrister, who had all the brains and charm of personality to have been one of the greatest in Queensland history.
Gilson Foxton was also a Sheriff, and also was for many years Government Resident at Thursday Island.
In those days another who was to become Under Sheriff probably had a keen interest in the great things in which he is still so well known – polo, literature, the drama. Three cheers for Arthur Hoey Davis, “Steele Rudd,” of “On Our Selection,” and many other works, a brother scribe, a keen dramatist, and in his day a topping polo player! And may his shadow never grow less. When I knew him first he was lanky and rather self-conscious youth in the Sheriff’s Office. Davis, or “Steele Rudd,” as he is better known, has not deserted Queensland or Brisbane. He was for a time ring steward at the Royal National Association Show, and he knows a bit about a horse. At a recent show a young lady rider was inclined to sniff at some direction given her by the steward. I was writing up the section for the “Courier,” and said to her, “Do you know who that is?” She answered, “No,” and it seemed to imply “and I don’t care.” I said, “It’s Steele Rudd.” She nearly fell off her horse. Then I, said menacing, “And he’ll put you in a book.” At which she trembled, but soon took an opportunity to get near him, and say in the most deferential way: “And where do you want us to go, Mr. Rudd?” I’m not quite sure, but if it had been any less courteous and urbane, I should have fancied that there was a suggestion that all lady riders might, so an’ they pleased, go to Paraguay.
Connected with the District Courts were some very interesting men, and at the head of them was His Honour Judge Paul, who was most unfortunately known as “Georgie” Paul. It implied certain familiarity, and also affection. Now, affection to wards a public man is not worth a tuppeny click of the finger. However much he may be loved today, however popular he may be, he will do something right tomorrow, and those who thought they were in for a “pull” will curse him, and then sooner or later the dear, wrong-headed, rotten-hearted public, will crucify him. To be sure, a familiar address of a man doesn’t mean that he is really popular. In the early 1880s, whoever heard of Mr. Samuel Walker Griffiths, or later, Sir S. W. Griffith? It was always “Sam” Griffith, and up in the Mackay district, when he was keenly opposing the continuance of Kanaka labour, a common toast was “Darn Sam Griffith!” I heard Sir Samuel on an occasion tell that story either in the Legislative Assembly or in some big speech outside. Yet “Sam” Griffith was not popular in the ordinary sense, and that is why he continued and ended as he began, with the respect of every one. He never played to the gallery. But “Georgie” Paul could not avoid popularity. He was built for it. Had he been a politician that smile of his and his comedian’s face would have swept the country. And then he would have been deserted and left, if he had the necessary qualification of poverty, to draw the old age pension. It was popularity that kept Judge Paul from the Supreme Court Bench.
Others to become judges of the District Court were, as formerly stated, Granville Miller and Noel. The last-named was a brilliant lawyer. And, by the way, the retired Mr. Justice Real was in the early 1880s, a Crown Prosecutor of the District Court, but “those were the days when our beards were black.”
The Registrar was Henry Bramston, whose brother was one of the big officials of the young Government of Queensland, and became Sir John Bramston. John Bramston and R. G. W. Herbert built a house out near the Brisbane Hospital, and it was called Herston. It is a combination of the “Her” in Herbert, and the “ston” in Bramston. Henry Bramston, I think, had been in Parliament; but he was a public official by temperament, and, in a sense, by compulsion – a tall man, with a rather ragged red beard already turning grey when I came here. He was a clever chap, and, I am sure, a very nice man for any job.
The Registrar at Ipswich was Michael O’Malley, and who could forget him, with his warm heart, his cheery manner, and his great ability? Later on he was one of the Public Service Commissioners, and I was a neighbour of his when he lived in Church Street, Toowong.
At Toowoomba, the Registrar was also a well-known man, but of quite a different type, and Englishman of the bluest of bloods, tall, slight, fair bearded, and very distinguished in voice and manner, J. A. Boyce. Later, he came down to Brisbane and, I think, was a Police Magistrate. At any rate he was well fitted for the job, for he had a great tact and knowledge of men and affairs.
And at Warwick was C. A. J. Woodcock, “Charlie” Woodcock, who from his great stature and avoirdupois, was known as “Tiny” in the old Defence Force, in which he was a captain. He was a fine singer, and a very active and sincere religionist of the Church of England. Quite a merry soul was “Charlie” Woodcock, and with a love for amateur theatricals. I last saw him in the “Mikado” when he played the name part with profoundest dignity. Dr. Fred Paul was Ko-Ko, Pascoe Stewart (Lord Lamington’s private secretary) was Nanki Poo, Bob Armour Pish Tush, Mrs. (Major) Robertson and Miss Lena Vallely two of the “Three Little Maids from School,” and my own better half was Yum-Yum., and sang and played it with – just so, of course. And I was Pooh-Bah, and Caflisch, who conducted, transposed some of the baritone music for my light and exquisite tenor. (NB. – That’s the only puff my singing has ever had in the Press – a lovely opportunity.)
William Thornton was Collector of Customs in the early 1880s, and, like his contemporaries in other branches of the Public Service, a very fine type. I knew him very slightly, and rather kept out of his way for the reason that he was supposed to have a proprietary interest in the “Courier.” His home was at Kangaroo Point, which divided with Toowong the honour of being the most “select” residential locality. However much I should like to give some history of Thornton’s life in Queensland, I must abstain, for these notes are memories, and not designed to be historical. And on that point a little story may be given. A few days ago, as the tale was told to me, three of my friends were discussing the Memories and the author thereof, and one said, “He has a wonderful memory,” to which the other cynically added, “Yes, a wonderful memory for things that never happened!” Very unkind; but fortunately the quip is as old as Sheridan – not he of the Customs Department in Thornton’s day, the Bingham Sheridan, but the Brinsley Sheridan.
And, talking of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, who, before going into politics and attaining Cabinet rank, was sub-collector at Maryborough, when I wrote of him some months ago it was not with the knowledge that he had a grand-daughter in Brisbane. I had the honour at a very pleasant “sit down” afternoon tea to be placed next to a lady, who told me I had been writing of her grandfather. The lady is the wife of Professor Stable, M.A., of the Queensland University. It is pleasant to know that Queensland has members of the family of one who was so distinguished a citizen.
T. M. King succeeded Thornton as head of the Customs – the father of Reginald King, a lawyer, and a member of the State Parliament, and also of Mrs. P. A. Blundell, wife of the managing director of Queensland Trustees Ltd. Of Thomas Mulhall King I wrote on an earlier occasion. He went from the Customs to the job of Commissioner for Railways, and was a capable administrator.
And King was succeeded by Irving, W. H. Irving, who, when I knew him first, was with Sheridan at Maryborough. Irving was a New South Wales man, who had been droving and squatting, and just drifted into the Government service. He was born, I think, near Campbelltown, and about 100 miles from my village, Appin.
The Landing Surveyor – whatever that mysterious title may have meant- was W. G. Chancellor. Now, I knew Mr. Chancellor, and occasionally we foregathered because he knew a good horse, and rode one, though in later years, the 16 hands of good staunch Queensland blood, like its kind master, was getting “a bit long in the tooth.” How naturally one drifts into the horsey phrase. Mr. Chancellor lived in a well shaded house in Vulture Street, South Brisbane, where some friendly bunya pines kept off the glare of the sun in those hot days of 40 years ago. The “Landing Surveyor” was a small, wiry man, with reddish beard, and he turned out very smartly. My heart warmed to him because he carried a thronged hunting crop. Now, with people who know what’s what, a hunting crop without a thong is as bad as a ready made evening tie, and almost as bad, though not so difficult, as eating peas with a knife.
And another friend was Fred. Taylor – always tailored most perfectly, and with a white top hat, an eye glass, and smart grey whiskers quite up to the standard of a good type of Londoner. Fred. Taylor was a relative of the Hon. James Taylor, and he had a son in Brisbane who is, or was, with the Queensland Trustees, and flourished a cute pen upon racing topics. Fred Taylor had certain prejudices. One was against insurance canvassers, and it was the delight of William Henry Kent, who had Tattersall’s Horse Bazaar at the corner of Albert and Adelaide Streets, and who erected Kent’s Buildings there, to send unsuspecting and enterprising insurance men down to him. Of course there was always an explosion, and threats to send for the police, and in the afternoon Kent and I waited to hear the story from Taylor himself. And, of course, the poor insurance man always had much worse of the encounter.
J. C. Kent, who became a deputy to the Collector, was a very fine type, a relative of the Jondaryan Kents, I think, and he lived over at West End, in a very charming well- verandahed old house. He was a member of the Brisbane Rowing Club when the shed was on the South side, opposite North Quay, whence it departed down the river in one of our floods.
Another well-known man was on the statistical side of the Customs, J. A. Bale; and there was William Trimble, one of an old Brisbane family, and my very esteemed old friend, Thomas E. Ham.
H. H. Grenfell was a strapping fine fellow, and E. M. Hart – tall, beautifully set up, and with a mass of wavy hair was probably the best looking of all Brisbane’s young men.
Bartley, too, was there – “Dick” Bartley, a son of Nehemiah Bartley, and a nephew of Sir E. Barton, Federated Australia’s first Prime Minister. Bartley died young, and his widow later on married an old comrade of mine, well known in the early days of the Mounted Infantry, Thomas Price, formerly of the Rifle Brigade in the Imperial Service. Price was a clever and gallant soldier. James Bartley, however, was the better known in the Customs Department, part of it in fact for many years. James Bartley was a conspicuous figure in the Customs Service for many years, a brother of Nehemiah Bartley, and in the 1850s he married the sister of Mrs. Andrew Seal, the mother of Miss Pauline Seal, of Toowong. Another old Customs man was Mr. H. E. Ashley, who was in the Distillery Department, a friend of W. L. G. Drew, and of Commander Heath.
Then there was D. K. Killikelly, an Irishman, of course, and probably descended from Brian Boru, as all good Irishmen are. Killikelly was and is connected with half the peerage of Ireland, and I say “is” because down Clontarf way, on the Humpy Bong Peninsula, he independently runs his own little home. A daughter of his is Mrs. W. H. Robinson, who last returned to Brisbane with Mr. Robinson, who had been transferred from Perth to be Collector of Customs in Brisbane, not that there is much new in that job for him. And there was another Customs man whom I must not forget – Matthew Armstrong, not the police inspector Matthew Armstrong, but a very fine souled citizen of Queensland, who lived, when I first knew him, out on the Logan Road, about half a mile beyond the Five-Ways, but it was remote in those days when the bus did not go beyond the Gabba.
To be sure, there were many others, men whom I knew well, but most of them were youngsters – my good friend, Green for instance, who probably knew as much of Customs statistics as any man in the Commonwealth, and one of the Bliss boys. Most of who I have mentioned long ago “cleared” for the ultimate port, saw the great spread of white sails overhead and around, and swept – please God – with a ready pratique over the shimmering seas until taken in hand by the unfailing Pilot.
The Customs Department was not confined to Brisbane, for our far flung line of coast has many ports, and every port a Customs House. But we had also a particularly silver-lined Border Patrol, which dealt with remarkable cleverness with cute border smugglers.
Parry-Okeden had been in the Border Patrol. In my time the Chief of the Border Patrol was Mr. Augustus Dorsey, a son, I think, of Dr. Dorsey, of Ipswich, and brother in law of Sir Joshua Peter Bell, and of Robert Grey, who was Under Secretary of the Home Department and later Commissioner for Railways.
The patrol included several sub-inspectors, about half a dozen constables, and a lot of black troopers. It was, in effect, a police organisation
I had nearly forgotten a Customs man whose job was important, though I don’t quite know what, and that was Honeyman, a very fine type of Englishman. Mr. Honeyman was always hard at work, and struck me as a very capable officer, and he was an excellent judge of wine. Seeing the quality of wine so many of us have now – for our sins- to drink, I trust that Mr. Honeyman, if he survives, has found a good brand of spirits, whisky or brandy, or even the homely and very convincing rum.
Who didn’t know G. F. Sandrock, of the Customs at Bowen? What a splendid fellow he was; and N. Burkitt, who was at Bundaberg, and later on, if I remember correctly, at Cooktown.
Of others, I have already written – R. J. Hartley, at Cairns, one of the fine sons of a good old puritan parson; J. W. Knight, at Port Douglas, whom I lately saw tucked away under the turf in God’s Acre at Toowong, and I came back to town with his “digger” son, Alger, whom I knew when he was in petticoats at Cooktown; Bartley Fahey, Sheridan, and E. R. N. McCarthy, of Mackay. The McCarthy family lived at Kangaroo Point. The father had been in the army and played the violin, and another son, Justin was in a bank at Cooktown. I knew him up at Cooktown. E. R. N. McCarthy was a personality, a tall commanding chap, while his father and Justin were not above average height. How names and faces slip out of one’s mind! It is a long time since I have thought of the McCarthys. They were very reserved people who never quite came to our Queensland way of easy familiarity, and yet they were warm hearted, good citizens of this state.
In a way associated with the Customs department was the Excise, the job of keeping check on the product of the distillery, where every gallon of spirit produced gives so much revenue. We had several distilleries in the early 1880s, some up in the Mackay district, one, I think, at Bundaberg, one out on the South Pine, known as the Normanby, and later came a very fine rum producing plant at Beenleigh.
Mackay rum, “the real Mackay,” was popular with lovers of fire water. At Mackay there was a splendid way of taking it. A jointed stick with branches shooting upwards from the joint, was secured, and with the main stem left for a length of about 9 inches, and the branches cut to an inch or so in length, something like an egg beater was produced. Then a mixture was made of rum, sugar, a squeeze of lime and cold water, and the stick, known as a “swizzle” stick, put into the glass, the end taken between the hands and rolled smartly too and for about half a minute. Then the mixture was taken internally, and, one may hope, gave immediate relief. The drink was known as “rum swizzle.” The Excise men had nothing to do with “swizzles” except unofficially.
The Chief Inspector of Distilleries was Fred. Darvall, F. O. Darvall, jun., a very well known Brisbane man, and one of a very well known Brisbane family. On an earlier occasion I have written of him. His staff was in various parts of the State, but the only one in the very old days whom I knew well was W. E. Burrell, a very charming Englishman, whose son, Mr. A. C. Burrell, of Burrell, Fenton and Co., is better known than was his father. W. E. Burrell lived for a good many years on Kangaroo Point. He came from Norfolk by the Young Australia in the early 1860s, but had been in Victoria earlier with his father. Mr. Burrell knew Captain Heath as a midshipman in the Navy, and also Mr. W. L. G. Drew, who later became a Royal Navy Paymaster. On reaching Brisbane he settled on Doughboy Creek at Hemmant, with the Gibsons, and other of the fine colonists of those days. A reserved retiring man, Mr. Burrell was not much in the public eye, but those who knew him well appreciated his fine qualities.
Captain Heath was head of the Marine Board – Commander Heath, R. N., who lived out on Norman Creek, near the crossing on Lytton Road. The old home, a big rambling place with plenty of verandah space, saw much that was bright in the way of entertainment. The Heath family was big, with a lot of girls, and, so far as memory goes, a couple of boys, one at any rate, a George, named after his father. The old home is now a gracious resting place for elderly ladies, an endowment by Mr. and Mrs. John Wienholt, whose main object in life seems to be to make the lives of other humans and of all God’s creatures brighter and better. Out at the old Norman Creek place many sweet, good women, who spent their young womanhood in pioneering Queensland with their men folk, have found a refined, cheerful home in the evening of their days – and many of them might have been classed with Essex Evans’s “Women of the West.”
“The red sun robs their beauty,
and in weariness and pain,
The slow years steal the nameless
grace that never comes again;
And there are hours men cannot
soothe, and words men cannot say-
The nearest woman’s face may be a hundred miles away.”
But what has all that got to do with the Marine Board? Captain Heath, as he was called, was chairman, and there were four other members – Messrs. Hart, Wilson, and Beattie, and Captain Brown. Frederick Hamilton Hart was a member of the Legislative Council, the head here of Gibbs, Bright and Co., as his son Fred was later. He was a brother of Graham Hart, the solicitor, and was a warm-hearted, genial man, who had made his house in Alice Street, in a very comfortable brick cottage, just above the Masonic Buildings. Many years later when I was living in town, I had the use of his old stables, which opened on to Margaret Street. Much of the old building was of cedar – built in the days when red cedar was used for all sorts of rough purposes . William Wilson also was a member of the Legislative Council, and was the head of a mercantile and insurance business, and representative of the Adelaide Milling Co. His home was Wilston, the old dominating place above Newmarket railway station, later on bought by Major Cahill, formerly Commissioner of Police, and now occupied by him. Wilson had two sons and a step-daughter, Miss Coutts, who married Jack Wilson, and afterwards lived up at Caloundra. Ah me! Wilston was a merry home in those old days, with all its generous hospitality.
Francis Beattie was connected with the Fire Brigade, had a hat shop in Queen Street, and was member for Fortitude Valley in the Legislative Assembly. He was a burly British democrat – with Tory written all over him, body and mind- a less compromising man, less elastic in thought and sympathy, and less inclined to depart from ways and conventions, than any man in the political life of Queensland. But for that matter nearly all strong men are, or become, Tories. We have never had a Labour leader in Queensland worth his salt as a steadfast man, who did not break away from the narrowing, peddling little “platforms” and become a Tory. A big man – mentally big – knows that at the back of all Socialistic schemes there is repression, the very negation of freedom, and with provision for unlimited and cruel violence to break the spirit and the will of all who dare oppose the dictatorship. Now all the great revolutionary movements have their centre in an autocracy, in a despotism, in a tyranny, but the very heart and spirit of Toryism is in freedom to work out a human destiny, liberty within the ordinary laws in the home and in association with our fellows, the right of every soul to work out its own salvation. Thanks be that the law allows me to be a Tory. Of course that may soon be altered. We may find some grimy, scrubby looking Red Bolshevist at the head of affairs some day who will “deal” it out to all Tories, and indeed all people who wash themselves and keep clean and are counted with the hated “capitalist class.” We know the way. “Put 'em up against a wall and shoot 'em " And then the clock of civilization will turn back its hands.
Francis Beattie posed as a democrat, but he was an uncompromising lover of liberty. So I class him as a Tory. And it was the same with Sir Charles Lilley. Political names are taken sometimes so that we may be distinguished from other folk whom we do not like. Francis Beattie was a very honest man, good and charity loving. His big body held a big heart. His strong, stern face was stolidly English, and he rarely smiled, and I don’t think I ever heard him laugh; yet he was no kill-joy, but loved good companionship and good cheer.
Also on the Marine Board there was Captain W. B. Brown, who was the popular master for years of one of the smartest clippers on the run from the British Isles to Australia, the well-known Corinth. In later years he was Lloyd’s surveyor, and many a man in the news sections of Brisbane papers have gone to him, and not in vain, for information on shipping matters. He was one of the most genial and hospitable of men, a splendid sample of all that is best in the British Mercantile Marine. Hats off, please, to the British Mercantile Marine – not the Sinn Fein Walsh type or the Communistic Johansen type – and to the memory of Captain W. B. Brown! Out at Kelvin Grove, Captain Brown had a delightful home, and included under the roof was a ballroom. Now a ballroom is not just built in for show, and out there many’s the merry night has been passed in good, old-fashioned dancing. Of course in those days other dancing was old fashioned. We have just entered upon the era of skirt-dancing, and one may be pardoned for stating the historical circumstance that the bright and charming daughter of Captain Brown was one of its earliest and most captivating exponents in Brisbane, the public spirited and charitable lady whom we now know as Mrs. Mason-Beatty. But when I first knew W. B. Brown she was a kiddie – and I’ll not say how long ago.
Captain Brown of the Marine Board, with the chairman, represented the technical side; indeed Captain Brown could sail rings round the R.N. member, though for the last-mentioned he had a profound respect. A brother of Captain Brown is “Stevedore” Brown, who gave a son to the Empire in the big war, and another brother is the beloved of all “Diggers,” Padre Brown, a guide to thousands and a friend of all.
In connection with the Marine Board was captain Cecil S. Fison – the Examiner in Navigation and Deputy Shipping Master, I find on official enquiry was his official title. Captain Fison I had known “longa Cooktown.” He was a burly man, studious, very well educated, and came from distinguished English stock. He was a very reserved man, but that was temperament. I cannot say that I knew Fison well. Only his intimates could say that, but I always found him courteous and helpful when I had to see him in connection with my “Courier” work. The shipping master was A. J. Manson, whom I knew very slightly.
Captain Heath, Commander R.N., was also Portmaster. The secretary of the department was Edwin Westaway, a good Queenslander, who did not a little in the building up of this part of the British Empire. And the junior clerk was – well, who do you think? Samuel A Pethebridge! That is the same “Sam” Pethebridge who later became Secretary to the Marine Board and Secretary to the Department of Defence on the establishment of the Commonwealth Forces. While here he was in the Naval Brigade, with that wonderfully fine citizen, Commander “Willie” Weatherill, still with us, and praises be, with good little Barnett, who up Stanthorpe way lately passed over to the great rest; with Commander “Tom” Bond, D.S.O., another of Australia’s keen, competent, and devoted sons; with Pretty, who was the manager here of the South British Insurance Co., and who, though no longer with us now, gave a gallant son to the Empire in the Great War; and with that warm-hearted young-old comrade, Stuart Cameron, who did his very big “bit” also in the Great War. Others there were whose names do not occur for the moment. What a fine lot they were, and under Townley Wright and Walton Drake in succession, as naval commandants, they did great work. Well, when the Great War came, “Sam” Pethebridge was tied down. It was impossible for him to get away, but later on he was chosen to administer much of the territory taken from the German in New Guinea, and elsewhere, being appointed a Brigadier-General, and later on raised to knighthood, Sir “Sam” Pethebridge, K.C.M.G. I had just come back to Australia when the news of his death was received. It seemed just cruel – but a lot we know of that sort of thing! I got the first of the bad news from a mutual friend and dear comrade, General “Jack” Forsyth, C.M.G., another Brisbane boy, who then was Quartermaster-General of the Commonwealth Forces, and had commanded a brigade in Gallipoli and in France – one of the old 1st Division, A.I.F. It was a sad day for us; but we had our work to do, and “Sam” Pethebridge had done his. Sir Samuel Pethebridge was a Brisbane boy, and his connections were Brisbane folk. He was a well educated young fellow at the outset of his career in the Government service, had been brought up in refined and loyal surroundings, and he was devoted to Federated Australia. Down in Melbourne he was laid to rest in 1918, and may the grass grow green over him – one of the warmest-hearted, devoted, and capable of Australians.
While down about the wharves and the rivers one remembers men of the pioneers of the Harbours and Marines Department. A. W. D. Nisbet was chief engineer – in the position now held by E. A. Cullen, who was only a youngster in the days of which I speak. Nisbet was a Scot, an exquisite in dress, and was thought a good deal of by McIlwraith, himself an engineer. He was succeeded, I think, by A. W. Jardine, who had formerly been at Rockhampton. But the assistant engineer in chief was Major J. B. Stanley, who was in command of the Queensland Engineers in the Defence Force, and whose sons have “made good” in this State of ours. Stanley was extremely punctilious as a civil engineer, a brainy man, and of good driving power, and he was a capable soldier.
The chief draughtsman was Thomas Hutchinson, who commanded the Field Engineers. A very old friend was B. Wagenknecht, a gentle natured man, very much absorbed in science, and singularly kind and unselfish. Another young officer was G. F. Elliott, whom I had known in connection with the harbour works at Townsville. Mr. Elliott is still with us young looking and active, as of course he should be. Captain C. D. Burns, the superintendent of dredges and dockmaster, was a splendid son of the sea, a firm but very warm hearted Scot, whose widow, one of the dearest of good women, lately passed away. He left with us a son – whom I remember well as a brilliant footballer, and who is one of the heads of one of the biggest Australian banks – and three daughters, whom I know – Mrs. Barnes, Mrs. “Jack” Mowbray, and Miss Martha Burns, who is so well known professionally, and in literary and philanthropic circles. Captain Burns, before entering the Government service of Queensland, was Marine Superintendent of the old A.U.S.N. Co.
There were also the Sunners brothers – Captain W. T. and captain Edward, the one on the Octopus and the other on the Bremer dredges. These were fine men, martinets if you will, but loved by their crews. Mr. Warren Weedon, also was in the department, but in what capacity I do not remember; but Mr. Cyrus Williams was one of the engineering staff.
The department of the Hydraulic Engineer was in some way attached to Harbours and Rivers, at any rate it was housed in the same building where we had at the head of affairs Mr. J. B. Henderson. Henderson came here from Victoria, where he had been employed on water supply work, and his coming synchronized with the taking up by the Government seriously of boring for artesian water. We had not anything very elaborate in the way of survey of the artesian areas, but a good deal was done, and Henderson could make a big practical result from a little scientific knowledge. It was he, I think, who first impressed on the Government the fact that the artesian supply of water was not inexhaustible, and should be conserved. Henderson had a beautiful home on the North Quay, and his daughter married one of the Pikes, of Pike Bros. I think the Pikes came from the country in England, were in the Government service when they came here, and just drifted into business. They, however, proved their capacity as business men. It is only a few years since J. B. Henderson went West – big-hearted and capable, and a tremendous worker. With his help, I compiled a series of articles for the “Courier” on artesian water, and learnt so much from him about the subject that the knowledge even now often comes in useful. What a lot of things there are about which a newspaper man can’t help learning a little. But I had nearly forgotten J. H. Baynes, who was in the Harbours and Rivers, and that would not have done, for he was one of the well known.
It is a case of other times and other manners in the Postal Department. The work today is greater, but there are more people to do it; we have the telephone system, which, in 1881, was not quite adopted here as a commercial possibility, and in places in the West we have aerial mails. Of all these blessings the telephone is the greatest; but that depends upon the point of view. The telephones were a great blow to the business of the cabmen. Instead of Brown calling a cab and spinning round to talk with Jones, he used the telephone. A George Street cabby was asked how he was doing, and he replied: “We’ll all have to give up. There’s nothing doing since they got those darn spakin’ machines!” However, the speaking machines came and they stayed, and tough they do fray our nerves occasionally, it is hard to say how we should get on now without them. When first houses came into use, the wife of the cave dweller, contemplating the innovations, said: “Androcles, I don’t know how we have done so long without them!” The post office will store up our letters and parcels to teach us patience, and the telegraph section still holds messages until they seem dated back to the days of the polka and the midday dinner, but as a rule they are not so bad.
B. D. Morehead was Postmaster-General when I came to Brisbane in 1881, and he was referred to under the head of politicians, and John McDonnell was Under Secretary. Morehead was succeeded by Archibald Archer, a worthy member of a distinguished family – tall, with a flowing grey beard; a tolerant man of even temper, but of strong will, and a very good speaker. He was one of our big party to the Bunya Mountains , when McIlwraith made a fine speech at a Dalby banquet, and the idea of a railway right out to the mills where Samuel Grimley and his brothers were interested, was first discussed; when Willie Webb, of Daandine, shot a fine plain turkey; and when Harry Ensor was guide mentor, and friend to us all, and drove McIlwraith and some of the “heads” with a dashing four-in-hand team from Jimbour.
Archibald Archer had a brother Alexander, who was inspector of the Bank of New South Wales in Queensland, and who went down in the wreck of the Quetta; and another brother was Thomas Archer, who was Agent-General for Queensland, and, I believe, the father of William Archer, lately deceased, the well-known historian, dramatist, and critic. Archibald Archer I knew ell, and firmly believe that Queensland never had a finer Parliamentary representative. He was a very high minded man. Many of the Archer family remain in Queensland, and so much the better for Queensland. One thing about Archer always struck me as a youngster – his warm affection for McIlwraith; but then McIlwraith was a man for whom most of his associates had the warmest regard. That is rather getting away from Post Office matters and Post Office men, and so many of the men were worth remembering. I don’t think we had any women in the G.P.O. in those days, but they flocked in with the telephone. Some of us resent a man’s voice on the telephone from Central. Perhaps the girls are better at the job; perhaps we think the man ought to be out in the West with cattle and sheep, or in the North clearing scrub. Jobs there are which seem designed for women, and “Number, please,” is one of them. The only trouble is that at tea drinking times – about 11am or 4pm – there seems to be with women at Central a peculiar elusiveness which cannot altogether be attributed to sex. It’s the tea!
Colonel John McDonnell, V.D., Under-Secretary to the Postal Department, was referred to when dealing with our military system. John McDonnell came from a very distinguished Irish family, and in Queensland he was one of a small circle of very distinguished men who laid the foundations of our civil and military services. Like most Irishmen, he was rather a martinet. He was so in soldiering at any rate, but he had the warm regard and confidence of General Sir George French, and indeed, of all who were associated with Item. For a time, as I have said, he was acting as Commandant of the Queensland Defence Force, as well as Under Secretary to the Post and Telegraph Department.
The Superintendent of Telegraphs was A. D. Matvieff, an Englishman, of Russian descent on the paternal side, but before his day was E. Cracknell, a very earnest, capable officer. Mr. Cracknell used to live in South Brisbane, and Cracknell Road was named “for” him. He had one daughter, whom I knew very well, Mrs. P. P. Agnew, wife of the P. P. Agnew, who was post and telegraph master at Southport, and ultimately in that job at Dunwich, a clever artist and musician, who wrote his own plays, painted the scenery, and played the part of the funny man to perfection. Phil. Agnew was a son of a Church of England parson, well-known in Sydney in the old days. he general inspector of the North, and, later on, chief manager in Brisbane, was R. O. Bourne, an officer of great ability; a warm-hearted, good man, and one of a well-known Brisbane family. He is no longer with us, but many will remember him.
In the olden days newspaper men were in much closer touch with the postal and telegraph officials than they are today, and it was often my job to see Mr. Bourne to arrange for a special run over a wire. If one went, say, to Roam, to do a big meeting, there was always a proper arrangement to get the report through, and Mr. Bourne would even go so far as to arrange for a messenger to take copy from the meeting place to the hall. I suppose people are just as good today. And, talking about Roma, I had a very warm friend there in Mr. O’Brien, who went later to Maryborough, and there died – one of the finest types of an Irish gentleman that we have had in Queensland.
The superintendent of mails in my young days was R. T. Scott, later Sir Robert Scott. I knew him first down at Humpybong, where he had one of the few houses on the Peninsula, near Scott’s Point. Scott was a splendid officer, and a man whom no one could flurry. He moved up in our own postal department, and when federation came he transferred to the Commonwealth with the rest of the department, but went to Melbourne as deputy Postmaster-General, and took with him Justinian Oxenham, and later Charlie Bright, and other capables among the younger men. His organisation of the postal service of the Commonwealth was recognised, and Robert Scott became Sir Robert. His later days, on his retirement, were spent in Brisbane, and, on occasions, we met and talked over the days that were and the days that were to be. He rained the same imperturbable, sound thinking, and clean souled Robert Scott, who, in the early 1880s, used to holiday at Humpybong, and trip it up and down by way of Sandgate and across Bramble Bay.
Another very fine officer was, in the early days, the chief clerk, F. E. Salisbury, whom I did not know very well; but I knew very well indeed J. W. Lawry, who then was the accountant of the department. Mr. Lawry was a very handsome man when I knew him first, with a great wealth of wavy hair, and a gentle, kindly manner. He was conscientious almost to a fault. I doubt whether any man has given his country more loyal service.
And then George Buzacott, a brother of Charles Hardie Buzacott, was correspondence clerk. He proved a very capable administrator, when, later on, he went to the head of the department, but was always rather a puzzle to the roundsmen of the newspapers of that period. Mr. Buzacott would adopt the “Mum’s the word” attitude all through a persistent course of inquiry, and then, when the reporter was going off in despair, would give a gentle hint about something, and that something usually turned out to be a very important news item. I remember Mrs. George Buzacott, who now lives down at Redcliffe. In the first place she was the sister of my friends, “Jack” and Walter Woodyatt; in the second place, she was principal soprano soloist with the Brisbane Musical Union for many years; in the third place, she was a harpist, which had a special appeal to me; and then she was a courteous and most charitable lady.
The heads of the Post and Telegraph Department whom I have named formed a most excellent team, and, young as he was in those days, our recent Deputy Postmaster-General, Mr. J. M. McConachie, could tell us all about them. At any rate he grew up in an official atmosphere that could not fail to have its effect on his career. He was with honourable capable men.
It seems not long since Mr. Burkitt was in charge of the Brisbane office of the department, but time has flown. It is over 40 years. He was one of the capable, assuming men who moulded the life of the Public Service.
And, perhaps, better known here, for Mr. Burkitt had a transfer from Brisbane, was his assistant, J. D. Reeve.
Then there was F. L. Crosby, after whom Crosby Park, at the Albion, is named, a man who drove into town with a smart dogcart and a good mover in the shafts. And quite a young fellow was F. O’Dwyer, who left the service at a time when his services were most valuable. He is in Brisbane still, hard working because he does not believe in rusting out, and full of buoyant energy. How absurd it seems pitching out these highly trained men!
Some one said the other day: “Didn’t you know McMahon, of the Excise Department?” Of course I did, a tall, well educated man from Tipperary, who came to Australia as a youngster to go in for cotton growing. Instead he went gold mining and lost his capital. Then he came to Brisbane, and 42 years ago had been in Queensland for 25 years. I knew him after he had ceased to knock about pioneering in this happy land, and had practically taken over the Excise work. Really he organised the department. Downstairs at the Customs, Mr. McMahon had a regular museum, including wonderful stills, which his officers had found in various places. Perhaps the best work done by John McMahon in Queensland was in connection with the Pure Food and Drugs Act, which he practically drafted for Dr. Ham, who was Commissioner for Health at the time. Personally Mr. McMahon was smart and spruce looking, and, like many of the young fellows from good families from Ireland, was very conservative. He believed in the command of the ship from the bridge, not the foccusle. And with him was another young Irishman, who is still smart and going strong, Frank Magillicuddy (pronounced Magilcuddy), who was also a friend of Killilkelly and others of the fine men who helped run the various departments.
William Woolcock was another of the young fellows in the old days, a brother of Mr. J. L. Woolcock, the well-known barrister and Parliamentary draftsman, and now Mr. Justice Lukin. Mr. Woolcock spent many years in Rockhampton, and has fathered some splendid Empire material.
Then there was “Bob” Stiller, whom I knew in 1881, when his folk had a place down at Humpybong, and he was one of the best known of the young fishermen who used to spend their holidays with the Hobbs family on Reef Point, at Scarborough.
W. A. Uhr was one of a well-known Queensland family, a brother of Reginald Uhr, who was a Police Magistrate in the North, and of another of the family who was in the police force.
G. H. Knowles, whose son, G. S. Knowles, O.B.E., M.A., LL.M., is second in the Federal Attorney General’s Department in Melbourne, was a clerk in what was termed the “Tape and Sealing Wax Department,” and later went to Warwick, and Toowoomba, where he was regarded as a public institution. Mr. Knowles was a man of great energy and remarkably good judgment. People seemed to regard the Post and Telegraph Department, where he was in charge, as a very helpful friend.
And F. C. Lea was in the Post Office then. In those days he was a black-bearded athlete, not long out from the Old Country, a great player and coach of Rugby Union football, which he practically established in Brisbane, a splendid runner, and mighty hard to stop if he got away with the ball. Hail, Fred Lea, the father of a “Digger,” and one of the best friends the “Digger” has in the whole of wide Australia. We older chaps remember much that he did for Rugby Union football in Queensland, how successful he was as the sole selector of our representative teams for years and years, and how sweet and clean he kept the game. He still looks fresh and well, younger, physically, than many a man at forty, and always there when a deserving “Digger” wants help. Did I say a “deserving ‘Digger”? I think Fred. Lea’s inquiry is whether the chap is a “Digger”; if he is, then, prima facie, he is deserving.
J. T. Fowles, also of a very well-known Brisbane family, was one of the younger fraternity, and also A. C. Boden, who, while fit for any job, physically and intellectually, has gone on to the retired list. Carl Boden was a smart young fellow in the early 1880s, and he married the younger of the daughters of Mrs. Bell, whose old home was on Bramble Bay, near Woody Point. He was fond of fishing and boating, and about the mouth of the Pine and Hayes’ inlet it was very seldom that a good basket could not be landed, while off the reef at Woody Point, back north a little of it, there were some fine spots for squire. Young Carl Boden and his friends knew all of these. Many’s the good day at shooting on the Kipper Ring marsh, or after kangaroos out Dr. Bancroft’s way at Deception Bay, that his brother in law, Fred. Bell and I have had. Mrs. Bell was a charming lady of the old school – courtly, sturdy, brave and hospitable. Her daughter, Mrs. Minto, lives at Woody Point, but the old home has gone, and the old park like land has been cut up into seaside allotments. I remember the day when a cyclonic storm struck the place and did damage to Mrs. Bell and her home, landing the buggy well up in the branches of an old fig tree.
W. Q. Markwell, afterwards of Markwell Bros., was also a Post Office clerk, and there must have been many others from time to time who have gone from my mind.
Then there was in the Postal Service George E. Parminter, who afterwards became paymaster of the Defence Force, and later paymaster at the Government Printing Office, where he will be remembered as having broken down the system of the employees having to wait until Supply was passed before they received their wages – “waiting cheerfully” for a month or six weeks. He passed out only a few years ago, but leaving a good “digger” representation to carry on his name, and one to have made the supreme sacrifice.
C. E. Bright, or “Charlie” Bright, was a young clerk, but he is now one of the “heads” in Melbourne.
Some of the men in the telegraphic operating room I knew well- Cosgrove, de Gruchy, J. E. Ramsbotham, who was in Cooktown in my time, and a good old friend, W. A. Willmott, J. B. Thondley, one of the Thondleys of the Albion. J. D. Murphy, a very bright and capable officer, G. A. Augstein, and George Diggles. The last-named is a son of Sylvester Diggles, ornithologist, artist and musician – a man who did not a little to elevate the social life of young Queensland, and to make the world acquainted with our birds. George Diggles was for many years “on the counter” in Brisbane. How many thousands of messages had he taken in – messages of hope, sorrow, of birth, marriages, and deaths, of despair, and of moral victory. But the officer “on the counter” becomes automatic; he counts, and even reads, but he does not know. When last I saw George Diggles, tall and alert as ever, he was doing money order business. Many of the old faces of 40 years ago are there no more.
Queensland had even in those days a widespread postal system, with regular offices in all the considerable towns. Travelling, sometimes for the “Observer,” and later for the “Courier,” I met many of the postmasters, but only a few are remembered by name.
Walter Woodyatt, shortly after I came to Brisbane, had a transfer to Gympie, and took there his banjo, or whatever it was, and his general atmosphere of culture. Later he joined the Defence Force, and I knew him with many of the fine men who came along from Gympie – Colonel Patterson, Colonel Ferguson, Colonel Reid, Major Steele, a brother of my old friend “Jack” Steele, now taking his ease down Southport way, “Jimmy” Hood, smart and alert – and then the younger generations, including Vivian Tozer, and a slight, good-looking fair boy who was named “Willie,” and whom I later named “Plain Bill,” but whom you, dear reader, must address as Senator Sir William Glasgow, K.C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., etc., etc., (Minister for Defence), and he won it all by sheer mentality, good training, and great force of character.
Walter Woodyatt was one of the Gympie “push,” one of the best loved and most esteemed.
At Mackay there was D. Browne, who later retired on pension and came down to Brisbane – a tall, spare, bearded West of Ireland man, and a kinsman of my own. He was a Roman Catholic, as members of his family in Brisbane are. Browne was a very fine fellow, and a red hot Tory.
At Townsville was E. G. Grose, who was a wonderfully well-informed man, as we say, but very reserved. He has one son whom I know, and who was, until lately, in Brisbane, one of the “heads” of the Bank of New South Wales, now in New Zealand.
And at Adavale was A. J. Skinner, who had big stores, and who flourished greatly when the little town on the Blackwater was the main passing place for stock between the Warrego and Cooper’s Creek. Mr. Skinner was a big man with a big heart, and a regular Westerner for hospitality.
P. P. Agnew was at Beenleigh, and T. Brayford at Beaudesert. My best memory of Mr. Brayford was during the big floods of 1887, when I was down in the Logan area for the “Courier.” He rode out with me from Beaudesert as far as Mundoolan, when I made a dash to be the first man through to Beenleigh.
The postmaster at St. Lawrence was T. Illidge, one of a well-known Brisbane family, and he was afterwards at Gladstone and in the North, I believe. In later years he has been resident in Brisbane, and I have often met him for a talk over old days.
A very fine interesting man was Thomas Plunkett, of Tambourine, whom I later knew as member of Parliament, tall, fair-bearded, and handsome, and a sort of unofficial governor of his neighbourhood. He was a staunch country representative, and he helped materially in the work of establishing dairy farming in Southern Queensland. One of his sons is a very active leader in all matters affecting the dairying industry, and others of his family are still in the Tambourine area, well-known and esteemed.
Then at Veresdale was V. Hinchcliffe, who lately went from us, also one of a very fine family who helped to well and truly lay the foundations of Queensland.
And William Drynan was postmaster at Logan Village or Village of Logan as it was called. I knew him, but not so well as I knew his brother, Andrew Drynan, who was a grazier, a fine judge of a horse, and kept a good one or two.
On one trip to Stanthorpe, I met Captain T. L. O’Mahony, a distinguished looking Irish soldier, whose widow, a very gracious lady, was in later years postmistress at Sandgate. Their family included Max; my old comrade (he was just a boy in South Africa), Colonel Frank O’Mahoney; Mrs. (Colonel) Hubert Harris, the widow of a gallant soldier, my dear chum, who was k.i.a. in Gallipoli while commanding the 5th Light Horse Regiment; and Miss O’Mahoney.
Ernest W. Smith, another of the Telegraph Department, made his start in life in the reading-room of the “Courier,” through which some very brilliant men have passed, and which is still giving recruits to regular journalism. And Mr. Smith has still a tender spot for the old establishment. He left the “Courier” to enter the Telegraph Department, and became an operator. He was an operator for very many years until he was passed out under an Act which says that a man, no matter how fit, must make room for a younger generation. Mr. Smith is young looking and active, and was lately Mayor of Sandgate.
We had no regular Weather Bureau in the early 1880s. That was left over until the coming of Clement L. Wragge, a scientist and genius generally. He builded himself a picturesque home with wonderful gardens out on the Taringa heights, where Mr. Rothwell now reigns in the serenity of the hills and trees. We had, however, a Meteorological Department, with Mr. Edmund MacDonnell as Observer. Mr. MacDonnell was head of the Flavelle, Roberts and MacDonnell firm of jewelers and goldsmiths, or whatever may have been the name of the firm. He was Irish from the North, a man of high thinking and discreet manner and withal of fine public spirit. I knew his family well, and the youngest daughter is now the wife of Captain Curtis, formerly Naval Commandant of Queensland. One son was a surveyor, and another a handsome and lovable chap, H. F., was a moving spirit in amateur opera, and for years was connected with the Harbour Board at Mackay.
We had about half a dozen first-class observation stations, and – so the records show- 170 second and third class. So it will be seen that the office of Meteorological Observer held by Edmund MacDonnell was no sinecure. Of course many Queenslanders today will remember the tall, distinguished looking chief of the department and chief of the big firm, which still goes strong today, under a somewhat changed name. Edmund MacDonnell was one of our intellectuals, and under all his dignified reserve was of the kindest hearted.
Who was head of the Department of Public Instruction when I came to Brisbane I cannot remember, but shortly after I joined the “Courier,” Archibald Archer was there. Already I have had a say concerning Archer and his brothers, and his nephews. But mention was not made of the fact that one of the nephews was E. W. Archer, who was member for Capricornia for many years in the House of Representatives. What a very fine man he was. I thought at one time that he would have been a good leader of the anti-Socialist forces in the Queensland Parliament; but it was not to be. Archer was defeated ultimately by my old friend, William Guy Higgs. And while talking of Higgs, it may be said that he was an alderman of the City of Brisbane while editor of the “Worker,” and that he was supported in his run for the Council by the “Courier,” for in those days the snaky head of politics had not entered into the Eden of our civic life and strife. And when Higgs came to take over the “Worker” editorship he was given a dinner by journalists, and the “Courier” representatives were our present chief, J. J. Knight, poor George Keith, who has gone where all good newspaper men go, and the writer of these Memories. Have things improved? I wonder.
However, to get back to our education. The Under Secretary was one of the finest scholars and keenest administrators that we have had in Queensland, J. Gerard Anderson, M.A., a tall, bearded, cultured Scot – by no means an “Unspeakable Scot.” He was a reserved, keen man, who worked hard and expected every one else to do likewise. And he was particularly careful as to the type employed as teachers – both men and women. The heads were all highly trained, brainy, and of refinement in speech and manner. I don’t say that we have not such men today- men like the President of the Teachers’ Union; but is the general standard maintained? The shocking “twang,” and the ungrammatical phrasing of our language reflects itself in the children. Oh, I know what I’m saying, and a score of names of teachers might be taken out of the list of 1882 with a definite challenge to the department of today to produce their superiors in a like number.
Gerard Anderson was a splendid man, a devoted violinist, and just the type of loyal Queenslander would like to see at the head of our educational system. Please do not think I am “throwing off” at the present head, Mr. B. J. McKenna, whose attainments I honour, and whose friendship I prize- a man who has had the rough with the smooth in Queensland pioneering, and has come through the ordeal with wide sympathies and a great desire that the public instruction of the State, which he loves so well and so loyally serves, shall be second to none.
Mr. Anderson’s office staff was small, less than a dozen all told. The chief clerk was John F. Sloan, who married one of the Misses Davidson, of North Quay; and he was a wonderfully clever chap with a brilliant pen. His “digger” sons are well-known Brisbane men.
And J. B. Hall was the accountant, a man who occupied other offices in the Public Service with distinction, notably that of Under Secretary for Justice. He was a great citizen and a fine public servant.
So was E. T. Trundle, who was one of a pioneer family.
Kelsey Voller was another, a brother of a well-known architect and cricketer, and there was Willie Telford, who, I think, held out longer than the others, because he was younger. He was a fine horse master and rode a very handsome chestnut which, in the matter of style and turnout, was quite fit for an afternoon in the Row.
Of the inspectors I knew in those days only D. Ewart, the chief, D. McGroarty, John Shirley, and R. N. Ross, the last-named slightly.
Mr. Ewart was a man of wide experience, a splendid scholar, and a tiptop disciplinarian. He was as keen upon the tone of a school as upon classification.
Mr. McGroarty was temperamentally more breezy, but he, too, insisted upon the building up of character in the schools. And he had “a way wid him,” as have most educated Irishmen, and he would have no Cockneyfying of the English that we should be trying to build up in Australia.
Of John Shirley, later Dr. John Shirley, D.Sc., whom I knew best of them all, I have spoken on an earlier occasion. His influence on the schools was splendid, as it was upon our life generally in Queensland. He had one of the finest minds I have ever known – a scholar, a scientist, and a gentleman. In later years he contributed the “Science” column of the “Courier,” and lectured frequently on literary and scientific subjects. One may visualize the perfect State grown up from schools dominated and instructed by men of the type of John Shirley.
Before going ahead it may be said that I seem to have some antipathy in the matter of the Queensland State Schools. I have. Now that is not a “Courier” expression of opinion. I know the good work which the schools do, in part; but many years ago, the Roman Catholics saw that a purely secular education would not “fit the bill,” and they saw that worse still was a travesty on religious teaching by people who laughed at what is commonly called religion. I believe that teaching is a vocation, not a profession, as a revered master of morals, a well-known Roman Catholic chaplain, put it to me during a recent talk. At any rate, we see that the Church of England a good many years ago followed the Roman Catholics with its denominational schools, and the Presbyterians and Methodists have joined in the procession. Every year there is an expansion – not a great one, but an expansion – along the noble lines laid down by our Roman Catholic brothers, and some day the religious bodies concerned will point out that they are saving the pockets of the general body of taxpayers, who have less in the way of accommodation and fewer teachers to provide. That also is purely a personal expression of opinion; but those who love their land and who recognise the urgent demand for a higher moral tone seriously will take these remarks to heart. Unconsciously, perhaps, but surely there is an ever increasing feeling that it is by education of the right sort that we can hold off the shadow of such things as were seen in the French revolution, and the blasphemous orgies of murder and outrage which put Bolshevism grinning like Timour-Mammon on a pile of bones on the steps of the Kremlin. What a chance for men to work for education with a soul in it, so that
“…many a darkness into the light
And shine in the sudden making of splendid names.”
A friend said to me when these articles were current in the “Courier”: “Why not stick to your Memories, and let be controversial disquisitions?” Well, let it go at that. Yet remembrances have their lessons, and disquisitions are the expressions of them. And my friend said: “Tell us something about the old teachers.” The injunction will be regarded in so far as my knowledge of our school teachers goes. Inclination suggests stories of Peter Airey, when he was a teacher up at Bundaberg, and delighted a lot of us with his “P. Luftig” poems in the “Sydney Bulletin” and the “Worker.” He is not one of the old brigade of teachers, and it is a very sad thing that he did not stick to his original job, and ultimately become qualified for a future Press memorist’s notes. He was well placed as a teacher. It is lamentable to reflect that he became a politician. And he was not an ordinary sort of politician. He was a controversialist of the first order, and many of his speeches, when a keenly critical Labour Oppositionist, were worth going miles to hear. Then he rose to cabinet rank and prospered, and the bite went out from his fighting deliverances and the luster from his rhetoric. It’s astonishing how success modifies a democrat.
Lately he has been farming, and combines fruit growing with journalism. One may picture him on the farm “singing down his pines” (pineapples), and so far as I know his journalism is a prolonged hymning of the praises of cooperative marketing. All very fine and very useful; but Peter Airey, the poet, is to me much more important, a Virgil instead of a herdsman; and as a schoolmaster, well, he is the type the country wants – straight, honourable, cultured. Sometimes one notes that he is up to his eyes in controversy and defending himself! Queensland knows him too well to worry about any attacks made upon him.
And Australian boys in Peter Airey’s school would learn to speak English, and correctly, for one thing was always noticeable in his speeches – he spoke perfect English perfectly. One thing as a journalist I must say of him: no matter how busy he was on a heavy night in Parliament, no matter how keenly the “Courier” had applied the caustic to him, he met men of the old paper courteously and, as a rule, kindly. When he gave up school teaching for politics, it was a loss to the boys of Queensland; and now he seems to have given up politics while he is still full of vigour, and fire, and fight. Is there no room for such a man in the political scheme of things?
When I first knew Anthony St. Ledger, I thought he was a brother of a namesake who won a big mile race at Newcastle, New South Wales, when I was a lad. He had 40 yards from me, and beat me, as an old trainer put it “be the shake of a fut”! Later, he won many distance runs. Anthony St. Ledger was the same straight, well set-up supple sort of chap. He was a tenor soloist at St. Stephens’ Cathedral years after, and I remember his being there one Sunday morning when I sang Mercandante’s “Salve Maria,” with Raimund Pechotsch conducting. Anthony St. Ledger was a good musician, and when very young had a State school out on what we know now as Annerley Road. It was Boggo Road then. That was in 1883. He did little in the way of writing, and then went for the Bar, and practised in Brisbane for some years. Then he went for the Senate on the Liberal or anti-Socialist ticket, and had a handsome win, downing my friend William Guy Higgs.
St. Ledger was, and still is, a very charming speaker. He, too, knows the English language, and knows how to speak it. Why is the Education Department not attractive enough for such men as Airey and St. Ledger? Probably the pay is too small, and, besides, there’s the glamour in politics; and, the worst of it, it doesn’t soon wear off. It sometimes occurs to me that Anthony St. Ledger, “the Saint,” his friends call him, fancies that he is creeping up in years, but, of course, that’s an amiable sort of self-depreciation not at all characteristic of a politician. But I must get on to other men of the teaching profession, some who stuck it, and others who didn’t; but these two, Airey and St. Ledger, are attractive subjects, and I don’t like leaving them. Yet there are other pebbles on the beach; probably there are the “long-neck’d geese of the world,” who, when they are mentioned, come along “hissing dispraise,” but this we must bear in mind: that the two men were in the vanguard of political change – one a professed Labour man, the other thinking he was “as good as.” But where are they now? Their eyes are open, and they found their political gods had not only feet of clay and hearts of mud. Airey and St. Ledger serve in a wider and altogether bigger faith.
Another pedagogue ran wild politically and graduated in the Labour movement of William Lane, talked himself into Parliament – and was never happy until he got back to school teaching. That was C. W. H. Reinhold. He was out at Ashgrove when I first knew him, and I am not sure that he did not take over from Brunton Stephens. At any rate, Brunton Stephens out there had taught the young ideas how to do sums and say Latin roots and prefixes, and explain the physical geography of the Islands of the Aegean. Reinhold was one of the mildest revolutionaries I have ever known. He could not go far with that creed; in the first place, because he had a fine brain, a kind heart, and a sense of justice. Yet Reinhold went out of politics with a cry in his heart for his fellow men, and his hope that some day the world might see – each man find his own in all men’s good, and all men work in noble brotherhood. Still, he believes in a sort of Esoteric Socialism and regards as practical a better world on another social and economic system; but the world is ever changing. We must be patient.
Sydes was another of the old teachers – J. P. Sydes, who had his school up Bundamba way. He was, like St. Ledger, very young to be a h.t. (That means head teacher). He was a brother of my very dear friend, “Ned” Sydes, who won distinction at the Ipswich Grammar School and at Melbourne University. By-and-by he read for the Bar, was admitted, practised – and became a politician. That’s the way with so many of them. But, thanks be, he did not get into Parliament. So he practised at the Bar and wrote a bit, and then, one day I heard that he was going into the priesthood. He was always a devout Holy Roman, a fine, clean-souled chap, and the Church seemed to me much better for him than politics. Many’s the hour we have had together talking of subjects sacred and profane, and he was a keen humorist. Then he disappeared and came back one day in his own quiet way as a Jesuit priest, a real pukka priest, and pukka in Hindustani means “the dinkum thing.” To be sure, we talked then many an hour, and the queer thing was that he had not changed save as to sacerdotal garbing, and he had just the same old keen humour. “How does it feel to be a Jesuit priest,” I asked. I was a major when he went away. “Just the same as being a Colonel,” he replied, adding: “Well, it just feels comfortable.” And I went over the St. Stephen’s to hear him preach, and then the same old thought came along: “Why do these men give up school teaching?” Fr. “Ned” Sydes was a fine Australian, with a fine spirited national outlook – the blue ensign of Australia, studded with stars, and in the upper “post of honour” – what? The Union Jack of our Empire. He went to the Big War as a chaplain, and made the supreme sacrifice. All I can say and all that he would like me to say, is R.I.P. Faithful, loyal, and loving soul.
At Bulimba was D. T. Lyons when I first knew him, and later he was Major “Dinny” Lyons, who was always in request at camp “smokers,” with his masterpiece, “How Bill Adams won the Battle of Waterloo.” When referring to the Defence Force of the old days, I said a lot about Major Lyons. He was a wit, and he could put a little sting in some of his repartee, and it was a cheerful thing to start him with Major George Lease Vaux, of Roma, on some point of military etiquette.
Major Lease Vaux came from Roam to Indooroopilly, where he was h.t. for a good many years, and we were close neighbours. He worked hard in his school, but he gave his heart to the Defence Force. Many a week he put in literally teaching the young idea how to shoot, and he was a fine instructor. A funny story is told about his examination for the rank of major. He was an indifferent horseman, and was asked: “Upon which side of the horse do you mount, sir?” He did not reply as some one else did: “On the outside!” but gravely said: “On the side nearest to me.” Upon that there was a laugh; but later on in South Africa we learnt the wisdom of getting up from the sheltered side. And why should a horseman walk around to put the left foot in the stirrup? Both horse and men should be trained to the mounting from either side. I know that I learnt it as a kiddie, and my horses have always been broken in to it. Many good stories might be told of my old friend and comrade, Lease Vaux, who was sometimes irascible and a terror for discipline, but they must for the present remain in the minds of a lot of the more ancient school.
Probably the best known of Queensland primary school masters was J. S. Kerr, at which we were pleased to call the Normal School. I’m not quite sure that it was not intended that the school should be a sort of model. We have heard of Model Schools in other places. The Normal was never a pleasing name because it half suggested that all other learning factories were abnormal. Often one would like to think that they were so regarded.
The Normal School was on the corner of Adelaide and Ann Streets, where a High School of sorts at present turns out elegant lasses and sturdy lads, to go later to typewriting or to shops, or to some other sphere of well paid and attractive independence. The grounds were never attractive. No room was given for the boys and girls to play in their respective compounds, and all day long there was the unpleasant association with unpleasant people in unpleasant streets. The grounds were rough, stony, and untidy.
Today even there is no sign of any aesthetic feeling. As for Mr. Kerr, I knew him but slightly, but he must have been a fine man, for all his old successful pupils said so. I have never heard anything of the unsuccessful. Besides, Mr. Kerr has spanked various embryo Premiers of the State, if there be such a thing as an embryo politician. Sir Robert Philp and many others said great things of the old head of the Normal. To me he was always a sturdy looking Scot for whom boys had a lot of respect, and scores of Queensland’s best men passed through the old Normal in his time. And lots of the best women too, but in another division, for Miss Berry – Miss Margaret Berry – was the h.t. of the girls’ school.
She is still spoken of affectionately by the girls, who, of course, but had the honour of a better acquaintance with her sister, who was over at Kangaroo Point. Yes, in the early 1880s, the Normal was well served by Miss Berry and Mr. Kerr. They were of the rather old-fashioned type, and managed to educate many of the pupils to a sense of duty as well as in the formalized subjects. Both had been trained in the Old Land, and Mr. Kerr had all the best qualities of the Scottish dominie, and Miss Berry was from the other side of the Channel –“acrost a sthrip av wather and over the hills” – a fine type of an Irish woman, but probably English blooded in the main.
On occasions I went to some of the outer schools in the modest Suburbia of the early 1880s, perhaps as a guest, perhaps to write something for the “Courier.” At Bowen Bridge was John Henry Maynard as head teacher. He was a man of Devon, from Tavistock, and he was trained at South Kensington for the teaching profession. He could not have done very much, however, in the Old Land, for he came to Queensland as a lad of 19 in 1864, and intended to go to the ordinary Civil Service. He passed whatever educational test there was, but Randell McDonald was then, I think, Under-Secretary for Education, and he sensed a valuable recruit for his service, and young Maynard was sent to the schools. He opened the first school at Townsville in 1869, and as I was there nine years later, we were able, after I came to Brisbane, to talk over many of the Northern identities.
Mr. Maynard was transferred to Bowen Bridge in 1873, and at that school served for 38 years. Happily he has left a considerable family with us, and one, a “digger,” is in the Education Department head office in Brisbane. Mr. Maynard, snr., trained thousands of Queenslanders, and was a faithful and capable headmaster. What a service to the country! Compare it with the service of the politician, with moderate brains and no education to speak of, but who governs, or represents those who really govern. I feel, in making comparisons, very much inclined to quarrel with Browning’s:
All service is the same with God-
With God, whose puppets, best and
Are we; there is no last nor first.
Another of our very fine men was Bevington, of Sandgate, W. J. Bevington, who began life in the “Courier” office; and how many more of the good old school graduated in the good old shop?
Bevington would have made a splendid journalist, but he left the “Courier” reading-room and joined the Education Department. That was, according to departmental records, in 1875.
And of the splendid years of his service, 28 were spent as head of the Sandgate school.
My first knowledge of him was down at Hemmant, before he went to Sandgate. He was a friend of the Gibsons, later the Gibsons of Bingera, and in that area there was a splendid brotherhood, including our old friend Burrell, later of the Customs and Excise Department, of whom I formerly wrote.
The Gibsons thought a lot of Bevington, and knew how to honour the school master. These two men, Maynard and Bevington, helped to lay the foundations of such good character as we have in our people today. They were pioneers in the building of the nation, and they made their sacrifices. Virtue is its own reward, but it is none the worse for an uplift in the bank account. The best of our State school teachers, with all their years of training and cultivated mentality, used to receive less pay, and perhaps do so today, than a wharf labourer. May all school teachers, men and women alike – even the young folk who slouch round the schools and speak Cockney English – be “thrice blest,” like those :”whose lives are faithful prayers- whose loves in higher love endure.” Those quoted words are my favourites from “In Memoriam,” and will be found in the closing verse of Section XXXII, which sounds like a sermon text or an Act of Parliament.
I should have mentioned that when Mr. Maynard joined up at the Normal School, Rendall was h.t. and Fewings, of whom I wrote long ago, was a contemporary assistant teacher. Fewings, it will be remembered, was trained for the Church of England, was an old associate of the Revs. John Sutton and Thomas Jones, and on arrival in the country, expressed to Bishop Tufnell a preference for a school career. How do I know all these things which are not in books? With those men I talked, over 40 years ago, and I remember.
I do not couple J. A. Canny with any other of the teachers, for, in my heart, he is canonized- one of the finest intellects, one of the greatest masters of English (and he was Irish), one of the most lovable of the men who have helped in the building up of mind and morals in our country. When I knew him first, he was at Warwick, h.t., of a big school, and he was not only a fine teacher, but a lover of literature. Of course, he was a great reader, but he read the right sort of stuff.
And the present holder of the blue ribbon of the Department of Public Instruction, the Under Secretary, Mr. J. B. McKenna was, I think, one of his pupils. Only lately I heard that McKenna had been trained in part by Canny, and ever since I have thought highly of him. It always seemed to me that the Canny influence was wholly for good – it suggested love of one’s fellow-man, loyalty and staunchness to ideals, sacred or profane, love of country, and not one littleness in the contemplation of all the great things that go to make an empire.
Canny was a charming lecturer on literary subjects, and, as I said on a much earlier occasion, I heard him make, on a St. Patrick’s Eve at the Irish Association, one of the most beautiful little speeches it has ever been my good fortune to hear. He had then become an inspector of schools.
And one thing I’ll never forget was his pleasure when I reminded him that in the Church of England we every Sunday expressed our belief in “The Communion of Saints.” He confided that his favourite Saint was St. Colomb. In later years, a shadow passed over the beautiful mind, and his death was inexpressibly sad. But that was only in the passing through the Valley of Shadows. Beyond for Canny a bright light shone. How do I know? I reply with an assertion: the most important things in life are things which we cannot prove. Perhaps that does not appear to be a complete answer. It is if you take it the right way.
My first remembrance of Mr. F. C. Papi was at the Toowoomba school for boys, in about 1883. It was a great pleasure to meet so fine a scholar, so honourable a gentleman, and that is using the word in the old-fashioned sense – well bred, cultured, conscientious. Of all the nations, apart from our own British groups I love best the Italians, and the Danes, Latins and Nordics. Very often in Australia we have a gravely wrong impression of the Italians, as we judge from those whom we meet in towns, men from the Mediterranean cities, not the splendid children of the agricultural centres. How should we like a visiting Italian to judge us from the general crowd he would meet in Brisbane, at the street corners, on the wharves, at Spring Hill or in some of the peddling trades which we call “dealing?” For my part I should like my country to be judged from the stalwarts in the Lockyer districts, the Darling Downs, the Burnett or Dawson Rivers, growing cane on the scrub lands of the North, or maize on the Atherton Tableland, or out on the western sheep or cattle station, or in the timber getting industry. Let us judge the Italians in that way. In our North there are many of them, good citizens of this Commonwealth of ours, whose children go to our schools, play cricket and football, and become good Australians.
Papi was one of the best, but it was queer to find an Italian not long in the country head master of one of our big schools. His brother was a great friend, a fellow student, I think, of Cardinal Ceretti, the Papal Delegate, and Ceretti is of that fine type which one finds so often in Northern Italy. One heard various tales of our Papi’s education. “For the priesthood,” one would say, and another “an Italian advocate,” and another “the editor of a great Italian paper.” Whether any one of these was correct, or all of them, or none of them, I know not. To me Papi was, as I have said, a scholar, and he was a scientist, and altogether a lovable man, and a great example for the young Australians, so many of whom he taught. He married a Britisher, a most hospitable lady, who did much philanthropic work in Brisbane, and there were a daughter and son. The last mentioned I know well, a partner in the law with my old friend, Hugh Bergin, a cricketer, rower, and a good all-round chap. He is, temperamentally and otherwise, a Britisher, and more of the English type at that. I back Papi, solicitor, to justify my estimate of the British and Italian blend. And it may seem peculiar, but in Italy to be a Britisher is a passport to all good people. Between Britain and Italy there are strong links of mutual love, which no paper treaties could ever smash. Please let me apologise to young Papi for dragging him into the limelight, but it is one of the penalties of being an example – not a shocking one.
Mr. Christopher Hurworth, who, in my time, was head of the Valley, or Fortitude Valley School, was trained in England to the teaching profession, and came to Australia in 1874. His first appointment here was to German Station. How many of the younger generation know anything about German station? It was the site if the old station, established about 85 years ago by a band of German missionaries, who came here to carry the glad tiding to our aboriginals, and to teach them the methods of European civilization. We have with United States of America today members of those old families – Wagners, Hausmanns, Franzs, Rodes, and others, all intermarried with Britishers, and leaving a stock of worthy citizens, of whom Queensland may well be proud.
Some of my best friends are Wagners. Five of the family I knew in the Great War, and one of them, my pay Geoffrey, has the much-coveted Military Medal for gallant service in France. And his brother, Leslie, a well-known Toombul cricketer, was also in the A.I.F., but now sleeps the long sleep in the God’s Acre at Nundah. And there is another brother, Fred. Wagner, my neighbour for some years – for I lived on the old mission site – and his uncle, my old comrade, Captain Wagner, who is a head teacher in one of our schools. And Franz descendants were also, until very lately, my neighbours, gentle and reserved ladies; and the Rodes are about also.
It was funny during the War when some one wanted to change the name of Wagner Road, and the question was asked: “What about the five Wagner boys who are fighting for our Empire?” Now the Wagners, beloved reader, are more English than I am, and quite as much British as either you or me. And it was proposed to change the name of Rode Road, but then someone explained that the Rode family was French, and went over into Germany at the time of the religious persecutions in France. And the Hausmanns – well, one of our finest Queenslanders is grandson, and men of the Hausmann name are of our best.
I well remember some of the old mission buildings, 43 years ago, when I and one or two old pals used to go to Nundah per waggonette on Friday nights, and on the Saturdays shoot duck or snipe, according to season, all day long on the swamps near Nudgee Road, and sometimes we met people with the old German names – just as our King had before the war- and I well remember the late Mr. Andrew Wagner, then a young fellow, and one of the finest of Australians.
What all that has got to do with Mr. Hurworth, I don’t quite know, but it is “all along of” his appointment to the school at German station. Later on, German station was dropped, and the place became Nundah. Now, the particular spot of which I write is Toombul, and one of the most delightful of Brisbane suburbs, with the beautiful open spaces, and the long, wide acres of blue couch being covered with more or less attractive residences.
From German Station, Mr. C. Hurworth went to the Valley, and there, under himself or under his supervision, were trained thousands of bright young Queenslanders. At the time of which I speak, Mr. Hurworth had a son, Edward, a teacher at the Normal, and he will have had, come April, 51 years service under the Government of Queensland. His present job is editing the “Education Office Gazette,” Not only is there the hereditary teaching instinct with the Hurworths; we have it also with the Bevingtons. When I wrote of Bevington, of Sandgate, I might have included his distinguished son, now one of the Inspectors of the Department of Public Instruction. Heredity is a wonderful thing. One might well take off a hat to a member of a long line of school teachers. In China, the profession is the most honoured and best paid. Here it is so well paid that some of the best men get out of it. But scores of the best remain.
Mr. Walter Richmond was a well-known teacher in the early 1880s, another Englishman by the way, but I knew him better in later years, when he was at Westbrook, on the Darling Downs, and had to control the young incorrigibles who were sent to him as State guests. Nearly all boys going to him left for good and useful careers. He had a wonderful appreciation of the boy character, and the boys had from him the deepest regard and respect. It was just the same with Wassell, at Lytton. Both men turned scores of the young scamps into fine, reputable Queenslanders.
Walter Richmond was a brother of Richmond, who was in business for a good many years on the Edward Street front of the “Courier” building, a staunch English family.
Hercules Smith, at Toowong, was another of the good English type, a martinet, but with a fine knowledge of the nature of lads, and I have had through my hands, in soldiering, many of his old pupils.
“Where were you at school?” “Toowong, sir.” “Under Hercules Smith?” “Yes, sir,” and, with a smile, “we learnt discipline there.”
Toowong school , on the hill overlooking St. Lucia Reach of the River, Glen Olive, and the intervening spaces, was conducted as a school should be- plenty of fun during recess, but when at work, no nonsense. I lived near the school at one time, and can truly say that the lads were well in hand.
And my friend Vowles was at Allenstown, near Rockhampton, and an old friend, Stephen R. Foote, formerly of Cooktown, was either at Port Douglas or Townsville, the first named, I think- a smart man with a big mind, and a son built upon the paternal mould. And Mr. Foote also was trained in England.