The Old Wild Days
Nerang and Tweed
Cairns Herberton Railway
Dalrymple, Johnstone and Hill
Hard Fighters and Hard Drinkers
Marvelous, beyond the power of the mind to grasp it all, is that amazing panorama of 53 years, when one looks far back into the past and beholds that ever-shifting scenery, that great panoramic dissolving view represented by the pioneer settlement of a new country being transformed from a primeval wilderness to the conditions of modern civilization.
And what splendid characters there were among those old pioneer men and women, true heroes and heroines as ever adorned the page of history.
Beautiful were the mutual friendships, the unselfish hospitalities, the mutual self-help, the general cheerfulness with which all difficulties were faced and overcome.
And there were some original characters among these pioneers, a few of whom we shall pass across the screen in this article.
On my arrival in Brisbane in 1870 by the West Hartley No. 2, Captain James Holden, my first night was spent in the Steam Packet Hotel, kept by Harry Biggs.
On the first evening, Holden and myself went to a theatre in Edward Street, next to an hotel kept by Lenneberg, who was also owner of the theatre. While standing a moment at the door a man and a woman passed in, a very handsome woman, who was pointed out to us by Scott, of the Post Office as the widow of Palmer, then recently hanged for the murder of Halligan, the gold buyer.
From Bigg’s Hotel I went to a big stone house kept by Mrs. Phillips, on the bank of the river, at Russell Street, South Brisbane.
In after years it was occupied by Sir J. P. Bell.
Mrs. Phillips had two very handsome daughters, Lydia and Kate, and Lydia married Gore Jones, the barrister of today, and she, too, is alive and well.
The hotel on the corner opposite the previous Hardgrave’s Buildings was the Royal Mail Hotel, kept by Johnny Graham, two of whose daughters in after years married the late James and the present William O’Connor, of Wynnum.
Cobb and Co’s mail coach started from Graham’s hotel for Beenleigh and Pimpana, which was then the terminus. It was driven by “Flash Harry,” who, like all Cobb’s drivers, was an artist with the “ribbons.” He was a good-looking fellow with dark curly hair and beard, very vain, and had an idea that he was specially created, and not born in the usual fashion.
At Beenleigh we had dinner at an hotel kept by Michael Tansy, who afterwards went to Taroom, on the Dawson. Pimpana consisted of a store kept by Lenneberg and an hotel by Drew. Among the visitors was a tall broad-shouldered fine man named Shelley, who was starting a sugar plantation on the Coomera. He married one of the daughters of Binstead, the Coomera timbergetter, splendid girls of splendid parents, Binstead being a very powerful man, 16 stone of hard flesh and muscle.
Shelley had corduroy trousers, silk shirt, a red sash for a belt, and a formidable looking Bowie knife, so named from Colonel Bowie, the inventor.
He became at once my ideal type of heroic brigand. A pugnacious little red-headed man insulted Shelley, who promptly picked him up and threw him out in the road as if he had been a dead rat.
Another visitor was Jim Cockerill, a real wild man, who lived on the border of the big swamp beyond Nerang.
The solid fact told of him seems incredible, but it was well known to all who knew him.
He was a genial, honest settler, consistently sober, except when he came in sight of a public-house.
It is a solemn fact that, in the last mile, if the pub were in sight, he would arrive there as much excited as if he had had two or three rums of whiskies. And after the first glass of spirits you could give him cold tea, or sarsaparilla, and he would not only not detect the fraud but actually become as “tight as a fiddler’s dingo,” to use a quotation from the backwood’s Iliad.
Another freak was an eccentric Hibernian gentleman from near Pimpana. He would always take off his hat when he heard a rooster crowing, and after each crow he would repeat the words “Mel- na- ho- ya –slaun” the rooster being supposed to speak pure Irish.
Any old Irishman can translate it for you, as it is an ancient Irish classic.
After a few whiskies or rums, he would mount a stump, or a log or a chair, wave his hat, give a wild yell that was said by him to be the war cry of Brian Boru at the Battle , and then he would drift to the blarney stone and sing
“There is a stone there, whoever kisses,
Oh, he niver misses to grow illoquint,
Tis he may clamber to my lady’s chamber,
Or become a mimber of Parliament”
He claimed to be a lineal descendant of “Bold Billy Brennan,” the Dick Turpin of Ireland, and nobody cared to dispute the claim!
Robert Muir, of Benowa, was one of the first two men who took up selections on the top of Tambourine, named from “tambreen,” a yam that grew there, but the blacks called it “Wang-al-pong,” “Wang-goolbo,” and also “Calboon,” the name of the lyre bird.
He drove Sir Samuel Griffith to the top in a light buggy, with two splendid ponies, the first vehicle on Tambourine, and he drove at such a pace that Griffith told me afterwards that he had grey hairs when he came back!
Muir was a very expert driver, apt to be reckless, and in his last drive, with his son Peter, he was trying to get through to Brisbane, when the Logan and Albert were flooded, and he drove into a flooded gully, where the culvert was washed away, and he and his son and the two ponies were drowned.
None of the Muir brothers could swim a stroke, and though the son was a good swimmer, a heavy overcoat was too much for him, or one of the ponies may have kicked him. That gully is the one within a few yards of the present Stapylton Railway Station.
Muir was once manager and sugar boiler of Captain Hope’s sugar plantation at Ormiston.
In his early years he learned sugar boiling in Jamaica, and rum making in St. Croix, where the best rum in the world was made, and he taught me sugar boiling at Benowa in 1870.
He and his brother Matthew drove the first vehicle that ever went through from the Logan to Casino. It was covered by two-horse wagonette, and they went by Mount Lindsay, Unumgar, the Beantree Crossing, and Kyogle. That was in 1866. That track was ridden over by me, from Grafton to Ipswich, in 1874, accompanied by R. W. Buchanan, a Brisbane produce merchant, who married a handsome Miss Michael of the Bald Hills.
At least three men were drowned at that “Beantree Crossing,” a deep wedge-shaped creek with steep banks 20 or 30 feet in height.
In 1870, where Nerang township stands today, there was only one resident, a man named Hutchins, who had his wife, and a man known as “Old George,” supposed to be her father.
Hutchins supplied most of the rum used on the river, and did nothing else.
There were two timber-getter mates, big, powerful men, Bill Thompson and Jack Barrett, and Jack was sent over by Bill with a couple of three gallon kegs on a packhorse to get three gallons for cash.
They drank rum out of pannikins in those days, but it was genuine rum.
Jack could only get two gallons each, and he reported accordingly.
“Oh, holy Moses, what the – two etceteras – is the good of two gallons of rum among one of us!” And there was no joke intended.
When going along the coast from Nerang to the Clarence, in 1870, Muir wanted to call and see the Guilfoyle brothers, who had just started a selection on Cudjen Creek, where Robb’s mill stood in after years. They were the Guilfoyles from Double Bay in Sydney, where their father had a nursery.
On the edge of the scrub we met a tall aboriginal named “Billmin”, who stood 6ft 6in. He was a hermaphrodite, always by himself, for the other blacks were afraid of him. He showed us the track into Guilfoyles’s and then went away towards the sea. We came out on the clearing, where about six acres were felled, partly burned off, and planted with fruit trees. The house was of slabs and string bark, but there was nobody in, so I followed a small track down a slope to a tea-tree swamp, and met a man coming up with a bucket of water, wearing only a shirt, with no boots, pants or hat. That was W. R. Guilfoyle, afterwards for many years Director of the Melbourne Botanic Gardens.
He had heard of my being up Mount Warning (“Walloombin”) and said he intended making the ascent.
He stayed all night on the summit to see the sun rise, and wrote an eloquent account for the old “Illustrated Sydney News”.
That view from Walloombin is worth more than the climb. It recalls Ruskin’s ideal mountains at the supreme cathedrals of the world, with their giant grates of grey rock, their payments of white cloud, their clouds of singing streams, their great snow alters and the vast purple and blue vaults traversed by the glittering stars.
Along the coast, at a creek called Moball, a horseman was seen coming towards us. He rode straight into a quicksand, and horse and man actually disappeared for a couple of seconds. The horse got a foothold, and managed to plunge out, where the quicksand was shifting, and when we rode up to him he was a white as a sheet, and shaking with the shock. I never saw a man so scared, and no wonder. As a proof that he was right under, he showed us the quicksand in the rim of his hat; an apparently incredible thing, but the fact was there.
One of the old Tweed settlers was Johnny Boyd, a once well-known timber getter.
He had been out looking for timber, and walked across from the scrub to the beach, carrying an American axe, and he saw the hull of a vessel, keel upwards, on the shore.
He walked over and tapped it with the axe, being astonished at hearing an answering tap from inside. He cut a hole in the vessel, and out of that came two shipwrecked Frenchmen, who had been breathing the imprisoned air.
That also seems incredible, but it is a solemn fact, well known to old Tweed people, and I heard Boyd repeat the story in Pilot Macgregor’s house.
In 1866, Surveyor Roberts ran the boundary-line between New South Wales and Queensland, starting from Point Danger to Mt. Lindesay and the Southern border.
He started to rise at a point he calls “Woodjee,” only a couple of miles from the Cape, and thence from places he called Bilinga, Moolamba, Boolologang, Teemanggum, Talganda, Tomewin, Boying, Thumberrigan, Wyberba, Mt. Cougal, East and West Peaks, Thillaman, Biby, and Mt. Merino.
His line is measured across the crest of Mt. Lindesay, so that one half one half is in each State, and he is honourably distinguished by adhering to the aboriginal names.
53 YEARS AGO – SOME PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS COURIER 7 JULY 1923
The Brisbane people, whose knowledge goes back no farther than 30 years, can have no idea whatever what the city resembled 53 years ago, at the time of my first visit as a youth of 17, when “smooth as Hebe’s, my unrazored lips,” though my weight was eleven stone. Still, less can they know what the original site of the city was like in the first of the penal days.
When the settlement was transferred from “Humpy Bong,” the name given by the blacks to the deserted, or “dead houses” left behind, the landing was on the spot where the Customs House stands today.
All the site of Brisbane was covered by thick timber and heavy undergrowth, with patches of scrub, and all over the site of the Botanic Gardens, right round the river, was thick, heavy scrub, with magnificent pines, beautiful bean trees, splendid tulip woods, and red cedars, also a fair share of the stinging tree. There the scrub turkey built her mounded nest, the wonga cooed in the tree tops, and a hundred other birds warbled their melodious madrigals from morn to dewy eve.
What a thousand pities that splendid jungle was ever sacrificed, for it would have made the grandest natural botanic garden in the world. There was very thick scrub on both sides of Breakfast Creek, down to the edge of the river, and back for some distance.
All South Brisbane frontage was also covered by dense scrub, the ridges at the back, away up to Highgate Hill and Dornoch Terrace being timbered by light forest, with thick undergrowth, and it was thus when I shot two small grey wallabies in 1870, on what is now Dornoch Terrace, and they were cooked at Johnny Graham’s Hotel.
The original site of Brisbane, even as seen by me in 1870, was not attractive.
A dirty, muddy mangrove creek started from where the new Town Hall is being built, or even from the old Grammar School, ran down along Adelaide Street, past where the Gresham is, turned away eastward across Queen Street, and thence down into the river, where the punt stands today at the foot of Creek Street.
That was the creek in which young Petrie drowned. Where it crossed Queen Street there was a little overhead bridge for only foot passengers, and the vehicle traffic went round by Eagle Street, so named from an eagle’s nest in a grey gum tree there in the penal days.
Another dirty muddy mangrove creek started up near Queen Street, joined by one small branch from where the Commissioner of Police is today, then ran down the present Albert Street to the river at the end of Alice Street. Albert Street was a most unlovely spectacle, the whole area being a muddy mangrove swamp swarming with frogs, whence the name of Frog’s Hollow was derived.
It became in after years one of the most disreputable parts of Brisbane, but those days have gone, and large warehouses stand on the site of “Fairy Maggie’s” establishment and the one storied abodes of many young ladies’ seminaries, whose revelries would have rivaled those of “the Menads round the cup, which Agave yielded up, in the weird Cadmean forest.”
Brisbaneites today are familiar with the famous fig tree at the junction of Creek and Elizabeth Streets. That tree grows from the site of a waterhole where the boys of the 1860s bathed. It was their favourite “bogie hole.”
In South Brisbane, another mangrove creek started from one end of the present bridge, continued right along Melbourne Street to Vulture Street, finally heading where the West End tram terminus is today.
An “old hand” named Barrett took me up there to show where gold was got in 1854, about 10oz. There is gold there still, and will yet be found.
Along from Melbourne Street, between Grey and Stanley Streets, and up to near where our friend Gaffney dispenses the potent potheen of his valiant ancestors to wild Hibernians and fiery Scots with heather in their hair, was an almost continuous swamp from which three small creeks ran into the river, spanned by culverts at Hope, Peel, and Russell Streets.
At the corner of Stanley and Russell Streets, the Royal Mail Hotel was kept by the genial Johnnie Graham, whose two little girls of that time became in after years the wives of William and the late James O’Connor, brothers of the well known Denis O’Connor.
Opposite Graham’s hotel, a man named Paulovitch kept a
Store, a tall, dark man of distinguished appearance.
On the bank of the river, at the foot of Russell Street, was a big stone house, kept by a Mrs. Phillips, who was Mrs. Paulovitch, but was usually called by the name of her first husband.
She had two handsome daughters, Kate and Lydia Phillips. In after years Lydia married Gore Jones, the present day barrister, whose father was the famous Gore Jones, a barrister of Brisbane’s early days.
He will remember a little episode in which he and I were engaged when staying together in that year 1870. The butcher next morning asked Mrs. Phillips if two of her boarders had gone insane! It was supposed that he referred to Jones and myself!
Jerry Scanlan’s Hotel was away down Edward Street, opposite Menzies boarding house. Duncan kept the hotel on the corner.
My chief companion was a youth of my own age, named Scott, whose father was Under Secretary in the Post Office, and was afterwards knighted.
I had the pleasure of meeting two of his daughters in Sydney six months ago.
Scott and myself had a swim in Charles Le Brocq’s baths, went to see Bird and Taylor’s “Great American Circus,” opposite the Victoria Hotel, in Elizabeth Street, on land vacant today, where McLean afterwards had a blacksmith’s shop.
At night we went to Hussy and Holly’s Excelsior Minstrels in the Victoria Hall, where the present hotel stands. We have not improved on those minstrels today.
We went to a theatre in Edward Street in Edward Street, on the left side, not far from Elizabeth Street, and next to an hotel kept by Lenneberg senior.
One day I was introduced to Arthur Macalister, the Premier in two Ministries, and as I was a nephew of Robert Meston, who was a great friend of Macalister, he invited me to a run down the bay with a Parliamentary party on the following day. It would be a real pleasure to describe that trip and the people I met, but that is another story.
We went in the Government steamer, Kate, Captain Page, across to near Peel Island and back round St. Helena. Very clear is my recollection of three ships in the Bay, the Flying Cloud, La Hogue and Corinth.
I even remember the tonnage of the Flying Cloud, as given to me by her Captain, L. Owen, who was on board the Kate.
If I am wrong with 1100 tons, there is room for correction.
A man who was here in 1870, and only came back today, would not recognize any part of Brisbane. He could hardly be persuaded it is the same place. Such is the rapid evolution of the Australian city.
This article is written entirely from memory, which has so far never failed or misled me, so the reader can accept it with confidence.
JOHNSTONE RIVER ADVOCATE 4 JULY 1923
This history of the story of the Cairns railway is now told you for the first time. It is an amazing narrative, but being told by a writer who was one of the chief conspirators, from start to finish, it can be regarded as perfectly authentic.
The question to settle was the best sea coast start for a railway to Herberton.
The suitability of Herberton as a terminus was never in question.
There were three rival ports engaged in the combat, which was long and strenuous and with a war to the knife spirit worthy of the gladiators who fought before Nero in the Hippodrome of Olympia. There only three seaports concerned, Mourilyan Harbour, Trinity Bay and Port Douglas.
In 1881 and 1883 we knew there was a vast belt of magnificent rich scrub land on the Tableland between the seacoast and Herberton.
We knew that Herberton was a district rich in minerals, and we gladly and honestly believed it was destined to be a permanent field.
And we all were satisfied that the mining wealth, and the glorious prospects of the Herberton country, made a railway to the coast an imperative necessity, apart altogether for any possible and probable virtue in what is now the Atherton Tableland, that marvelous belt of rich and splendid basaltic jungle covered soil, stretching from the Barron south across the watersheds of the Mulgrave, Russell, Johnstone, Moresby and Tully, to the Herbert River.
The three rival ports were situated nearly equidistant from Herberton, so that so far as distance was concerned they were practically on equal terms.
There had been no railway survey and no one could possibly say what would be the actual length of a surveyed line from either of the three ports to the town of Herberton. Likewise no one knew anything whatever of the engineering difficulties, or had the least idea of where the most easily surmountable of the Main Range was situated.
When the rivalry started in earnest, there were dozens of amateur engineers who started up in a single night, like Jobah’s gourd, and scores of amateur bushmen who claimed an intimate knowledge of the whole Range from base to apex, though they had never been over a foot of the area. Only a very few old mature bushmen could tell you confidentially where the Range could be ascended as easily as a staircase, but they could never remember where the wonderful ascent was situated, until they had at least a pint of rum.
Cairns relied entirely on the depth, capacity, and safety of the harbour.
At first no one knew if the best route was to be up the gorge of the Barron, along the ravine of Freshwater Creek, or up the valley of the Mulgrave.
It was quite certain that Cairns did not care a cent where it was to go, so long as it started from Cairns. In that case it could go through a tunnel in the Bellenden Ker Range and up the Russell behind Mt. Bartle Frere, and zig zag up the Tableland if there were no better route available.
The route of the railway, and the cost, were as nothing to the three contending rival ports so long as it started from Mourilyan, Cairns or Port Douglas. Nothing else weighed a pennyweight in the balance.
Port Douglas had the weakest claims. As a port, it was only an open roadstead, with no protection from any direction and there was no evidence whatever of any likely easy ascent of the Range, either up the Mossman or the Mowbray, the only two possible routes.
Cairns had most faith in the track up the gorge of the Barron, via Stony Creek to the Barron Falls, but that looked a wildly improvable route for a railway, to the ordinary citizen, and a very ugly problem to a surveyor or engineer.
The strongest advocate of the line from Mourilyan was John Macrossan, Minister for Works in the McIlwraith Ministry. It is quite certain that Macrossan meant the line to start from Mourilyan, unless there were some impossible obstacles in the way, but he was singularly unfortunate in the methods he adopted. Instead of sending qualified surveyors and engineers, guided by competent bushmen, to carefully examine the face of the Range, he asked Christie Palmerston to make an exploring trip from Herberton to the coast. Palmerston had no qualification whatever, except that he had been out about two years in the scrubs at the head of the Mossman and Daintree with a scrub black named “Toby” as an escort. He had no knowledge of surveying or railway engineering, and any opinion he might form with regard to a feature survey, or the general contour of the country, could be worth nothing whatever to a surveyor or engineer.
So Palmerston’s report went into the waste paper basket, and then Macrossan instructed Inspector Johnstone, of the Native Police, to make a flying trip from Herberton to Mourilyan.
Instead of starting from Mourilyan and working his way up the likeliest parts of the Range to the Tableland, he started from the other end, came down without knowing where he was coming out, got entangled in the teatree swamps of the Moresby, and had considerable difficulty in reaching Mourilyan at all, having a very unpleasant experience towards the end of his journey.
In any case his opinions were of no more value than Christie Palmerston, so his report also went into the waste paper basket.
In the meantime much valuable time was lost by the advocates of Mourilyan, and Cairns had been making the most of all available opportunities.
At an early stage Port Douglas realized that it had little or no hope, and the whole battle raged almost entirely between Cairns and Mourilyan towards the last of the campaign.
Mourilyan was in no sense an adversary to be despised. There were very strong vested interests in Mourilyan, and many influential men interested in the Johnstone River. The Queensland National Bank was largely interested, and the Catholic Church selected 15,000 acres of Johnstone land, quite a legitimate and very wise far seeing transaction.
This much is certain, that if Macrossan had wisely and promptly engineered the route from Mourilyan, with a competent surveyor and engineer, the railway from Herberton would be running to Mourilyan today, and Cairns would be out of the whole business.
The Surveyor would almost have certainly have found a track from Mourilyan to Herberton, and probably an easier and much less dangerous track than that from Cairns, and far less expensive.
But Macrossan’s opportunities were wasted on Christie Palmerston and Inspector Johnstone, and the last chance was gone when he went out of office with the McIlwraith Ministry on March 13th 1879, and then the Griffith Ministry came in, with William Miles, “old Billy Miles,” as his friends called him, as Minister for Works and Railways from November 13th, 1883 to August 22nd 1887.
When Macrossan returned to office on June 13th 1888, with the defeat of the McIlwraith Ministry, the railway question was settled beyond reach, and the first section had been opened for 7.37 miles to Redlynch, on the 8th October, 1887.
It is certainly not known to the public that Griffith was not in favour of the Cairns Railway, and that he was very wild with Miles for promising to construct the first section of ten miles How and where that promise was given, and under what peculiar circumstances, will only appear.
That promise was the cause of considerable friction between Miles and Griffith. Griffith dreaded what he saw would be the awful cost of the second section from Redlynch to the Barron Falls, and in fact he was doubtful if the construction was possible. In this belief he was supported by more than one of the railway engineers.
But Miles had given his promise, and the stubborn old Scot refused to retract, even although it came nearly costing him his seat in the Ministry.
And this is the story of the promise. Miles had gone on a visit to Townsville, and Cairns and Herberton decided to send a deputation to urge a decision with regard to the railway, and call for tenders for s first section of which the working plans and specifications were ready.
At that time I was Chairman of the Cairns Divisional Board, being chairman for two years.
The deputation from Cairns included James Kenny, a member of the D. B. Archie Forsyth, then engaged in cedar cutting business at Atherton with Burns, Philp, and Co., and Herberton sent a gentleman named Moffitt, nephew of the late well known John Moffitt, a mining celebrity in the North.
The deputation appointed me leader, to do most of the talking for them. Forsyth and Kenny had charge of the timber section to show there was a supply of red cedar, crow’s ash, bean tree, walnut, pencil cedar, and other timbers on the Atherton Tableland to last something like 300 years, and Moffitt was prepared to prove that the mineral deposits of the Herberton country went down to the center of the earth, and were practically inexhaustible.
Part of my mission was to show Miles that the fate of North Queensland depended on his verdict, that the starting of that line would immortalize him and hand down his name to posterity, associated with the authorship of the most picturesque, most remarkable, most valuable, and most profitable railway in Australia, if not the world!
That deputation was armed to the teeth, with every available weapon, and did not forget very much.
The interview with Miles was in Buchanan’s Hotel in Townsville, but old Miles reserved his decision until his return to Brisbane.
Now, Griffith’s hostility to the railway was well known to me, and I very seriously advised my mates that unless a promise of a first section could be obtained from Miles before he reached Brisbane, the Cairns railway would probably never be constructed.
So Kenny and Forysth went back to Cairns, and Moffitt and myself came on to Brisbane with Miles on the steamer. Moffitt was a very amiable, very reserved man, and rather shy, so he left all to me, and never even spoke to Miles on the way down.
While the steamer was anchored at Broadmount, Miles solemnly promised me to call for tenders for the first ten miles, and he made it in the presence of Moffitt and the Captain of the steamer.
On arrival in Brisbane, I wired the joyous news to Cairns and Herberton, and received enthusiastic telegrams congratulating me on the success of my mission.
Miles and myself had been three years in Parliament together, on the same side of the House, and for over two years I was Whip to the Griffith party, so that Miles and myself understood each other.
The telegrams all appeared in the Brisbane papers with complimentary paragraphs and some chaff for myself on having “so successfully cornered Miles, and got the promise of that ten mile section of the Cairns railway.”
So there is clear evidence that but for my coming down with Miles and securing that promise, the Cairns Railway would not have been constructed.
Most certainly Griffith would have left it alone, and it would never have been built by Macrossan on June 13th, 1888.
SPECIALLY WRITTEN FOR THE “ADVOCATE.”
The Johnstone River of North Queensland represents a larger area of highly fertile soil than any other river in the State. On the East coast of Australia it is paralleled only by the Richmond and Clarence Rivers, and even their splendid lands were not as rich as those of the Johnstone, covered as it was for countless ages by dense luxuriant tropical vegetation, that grew, and fell, and decayed into a mould that was really a compost heap of manure mixed with the mineral salts of years, those great jungles grow and reproduced themselves, and fell and became soil; and the beautiful wild flowers bloomed and vanished, and the birds of gorgeous plumage and sweet voices sing and reveled in all the glories of the primeval vegetation uncared for, unseen and unknown by mankind, except the wild Stone Age savage, who for unknown ages roamed through these tremendous solititudes, and lived and loved, and sang his wild songs, and hunted and fought and died, taking his food from day to day merely from the hand of Nature, and not cultivating a single flower, or one food producing plant.
Thus he lived hand in hand with Nature only, while afar off, across vast oceans, the mighty empires of civilized man rose and fell, and the great ancient cities of Karnac, Babylon, Memphis, Alexandria, Persepolis, rose to unimaginable splendour, and declined and perished, and were mercifully covered by the sands of the desert.
As the Johnstone River blacks were in the days of Babylon, whose Hanging Gardens fell far short of the gorgeous splendour of the tropical jungle, so they were the same when Captain Cook sailed along northwards inside the Barrier reef, in that memorable year 1770, when doubtless some of the Johnstone blacks, gazing from the headlands, saw with fear and wonder, that mysterious white winged ship, like a gigantic pelican, passing away along the Eastern horizon, and vanishing into Eternity.
The first white man who saw the Johnstone River is probably not recorded, like so many others who were the first to discover certain localities, without recording them, and so for ever have remained unknown.
But the first man to proclaim the existence of the river was Sub Inspector Robert Johnstone of the Native Police, when he was searching that coast for survivors from the Barque “Maria” wrecked on Maria Reef off Hinchinbrook Island, on her way from Sydney to New Guinea, with a large party of prospectors in 1872.
One boatload of refugees reached Cardwell, among them being the late Kendall Broadbent, for many years the zoologist and taxidermist of the Queensland Museum, and William Tate, for many years a teacher of public schools.
The captain had behaved badly by leaving the vessel soon after she struck, taking the long boat and only four men, but they were all killed and eaten by blacks at Tam O’Shanter Point, named from the vessel that took Kennedy’s unfortunate expedition there in 1848.
Nine men on one of the rafts landed near Mourilyan Harbour of the present day, and they too were killed and eaten.
Another raft landed towards Point Cooper, and those on board rambled away north to near the mouth of the Mulgrave and were rescued.
The Johnstone River blacks acquired a worse record than those of any other part of the Queensland coast.
Johnstone and his ten black troopers were out with George Elphinstone Dalrymple’s North Coast Expedition in 1873, and he piloted Dalrymple to the mouth of the river on the 4th October, the river carrying two to eight fathoms for fifteen miles, the fresh water appearing at eight miles.
Before Dalrymple saw the Johnstone it had been navigated by a man named Phillip Henry Nind, then a well-known sugar planter on the Logan River, and for a time member of Parliament for the Logan.
Nind was cruising along that coast with four men in a whaleboat, looking for sugar land, and he saw and entered the river, but Johnstone had been there before.
With Dalrymple’s party as allies, Nind went back on the river; he and Johnstone and Dalrymple navigated the south branch for ten miles. They passed what is still known as “Nind’s Camp”, the site of it seen by me in 1882.
Johnstone and his troopers, when away on a tour by themselves, reported a good site for a camp at the junction, on the site of the present town of Innisfail, which was for some years called Geraldton, but the name was changed to prevent confusion with the Geraldton in Western Australia.
With Dalrymple’s party was Walter Hill, the botanist, who was the first curator of the Brisbane Botanic Gardens to which he was appointed in 1854, and held the position to the date of his death.
Hill was enraptured with the richness of the soil, the glorious and gorgeous vegetation, and the apparently vast extent of the available area of fertile land, which he estimated at half-a-million acres, of which 300,000 was available for sugar. He regarded it as “the most valuable discovery in Australia.”
Allowing for the excessive enthusiasm there was an excuse for some extravagance in a description of the first impression made by a sight of that wonderful region. Hill measured a red cedar which was 23’ 6” in girth at three feet from the ground, or nearly eight feet in diameter. He took away a specimen of a new wild banana, 30ft in length and 3ft 6in in the girth.
They named and navigated “Nind’s Creek” for seven miles, and saw a great number of blacks with rafts made of three logs of the stems of wild bananas, tied with lawyer vines. While one black, a very big man, was swimming across the river, he was taken down by a crocodile, while Dalrymple was looking at him.
One would think that the blacks, with their knowledge of crocodiles, would avoid all such unnecessary suicidal risks, but the fact remains that they incur these insane dangers frequently, and at times with fatal results.
An old black, crossing the Russell on half a dozen wild banana stems, was taken off by a crocodile not thirty yards from my boat. An aboriginal woman, standing in knee deep water, was cut in two by one snap of a large crocodile, who took away one half and came back for the other, to be killed by the crowd of blacks waiting for him with woomera spears, of which about twenty were driven into him simultaneously. They then cooked and ate him, and regarded the account as settled.
Dalrymple, Hill and Johnstone cut a track through to one of the hills, taking three hours to go two miles, and had a magnificent view.
Dalrymple named the Walter Hill Ranges, in honour of Walter Hill, and Mounts Maria, Annie and Arthur from members of Johnstone’ family.
He named the Basilisk Range from H.M.S. Basilisk, and Flying Fish and Coquette Points at the mouth of the river from the two cutters used on the expedition. He also named Banana Island in the middle of the river and gave the length as 300 yards.
He gave the name of Perry’s Point to the north head of the Johnstone River. He reported finding very fine fire clay and excellent slate, apart from fair gold prospects in at least two places.
He predicted a payable gold discovery in future years somewhere in the adjacent country. A considerable quantity of alluvial gold was found on the upper Russell not far from the Johnstone, and was worked for years by white men and Chinese.
Christie Palmerston found gold in the Russell above the falls under the basalt.
All that Dividing Range is gold bearing, from the Herbert River north to the Bloomfield.
When Dalrymple and all his party, Nind and his four men, returned to the mouth of the river, they camped on Coquette Point, where Hull, the fisherman of the expedition, caught a lot of big silver bream and other fish. His name is borne to day by the Hull River which runs into Rockingham Bay.
From the Johnstone, Nind and his men went away South, and Dalrymple’s party started North, discovering and entering the Mulgrave River on November 18th, 1873, naming it from the Earl of Mulgrave and the Russell from Lord John Russell.
With the departure of Dalrymple, Johnstone and Nind, came a blank period until the arrival of the first timber getters in 1874, and a great quantity of splendid cedar was shipped from the Johnstone.
Among these pioneers were two men named Stumn and Schou, who, if my memory is correct, were the two first homestead selectors on the Johnstone.
Among the first cedar cutters was Terence Ahearn, who afterwards went to the Daintree to cut cedar, and was badly speared in an attack by the blacks, one spear going through his left lung; but they got him to Cooktown to Dr. Korteum, and he recovered.
In after years he became a well-known railway contractor in South and Central Queensland, associated with O’Rourke and McSharry.
Those cedar cutting pioneers on the Johnstone had to face some very dangerous malaria, and a schooner lying at the mouth of the river loading cedar lost four men, including the first mate and the cook, who were buried on Flying Fish Point, beside several other white men who died with a fever which had some of the symptoms of the West Indies. With the clearing of the jungle, and the burning of masses of decaying vegetation, the fever rapidly disappeared, until today the climate of the Johnstone is just as healthy as any part of the east coast of the North. The pioneers frequently suffered by not being careful with the quality of the food they ate and the water they drank, or the situation of their camp. In the jungle was an abundance of game, including the scrub turkey, the scrub hen, whampoo, topknot and crested pigeons, while the Torres Strait pigeon could he shot in substantial numbers during the season.
Wallabies were also very numerous, and those tough old cedar cutters occasionally sampled a cassowary. Fish were plentiful in all the waters, so that good fresh food was always in abundance, if they only tried to get it.
My first visit to the Johnstone was in the end of 1881, going there in the Victory with Captain Lawson, and we landed on Coquette Point on the morning that Patrick William Kerr, with eight kanakas went up the river to cut scrub on what is now the Innisfail Plantation, the first ever cut on the Johnstone.
My first meeting with Kerr was when he was a counter hand in the store of my brother-in-law Alexander Cameron, at Maclean, on the Clarence.
Kerr took up one of the first 160 acre homesteads on the Johnstone.
We went ashore and entered a very comfortable hut where an old gentleman was seated on a chair, addressing another chair as if it held the Speaker, and the scene was Parliament. That old gentleman was Thomas Henry Fitzgerald, who was Treasurer in the Lilley Ministry in Queensland from November 23rd 1868, to Jan 27th, 1869. When we called he was slightly suffering from fever and imagined himself once more in Parliament, but he recovered himself and gave us a pleasant welcome, being a polite and courteous man, a surveyor by profession. In that Lilley Ministry which lasted from 25 November 1868 to 3 May 1870, there were three Postmasters-General – T. B. Stephens, Dr. George Richard Gore, and John Douglas, who was finally appointed Agent General in London. Macalister was Minister for Lands.
JOHNSTONE AND HILL
10 DECEMBER 1923 THE DAILY MAIL, BRISBANE
In addition to Dalrymple’s own very complete report of that North-East coast expedition of 1873-4, there were two other highly interesting reports sent in by Walter Hill, curator of the Botanic Gardens, and Robert Johnstone, Sub-Inspector of Native Police, both being included in Dalrymple’s party.
Walter Hill was our first curator of our Botanic Gardens, being appointed in 1855. In that year he went to the South Percy Island with Strange, the botanist and four other white men, three of whom went ashore with Hill and Strange, leaving Maitland, the master, on board the ketch, Vision.
An aboriginal named Deliapee also went ashore. Four of the white men were killed by the blacks, and only Hill and Deliapee got back to the ketch.
Hill told the story to me two or three times, but it was never quite clear what actually did happen on the evening of October 14th 1855, but Strange, Spurling, Stack and Gillings were never seen again. At the subsequent enquiry, Hill said that he say Spurling’s dead body lying floating in the mangroves, and Deliapee waving his shirt to the Vision.
But we are wandering away from Dalrymple. After he had examined the Daintree and Cape Kimberley, and named the heights of Dagmar and Alexandra, the Thornton Peaks and Palmer Range, also “Wyambeel” Point, at the mouth of the Daintree, from the blacks name for a canoe, he sailed away for the Endeavour River, entering Cooktown Harbour on October 25 in time to see Captain Saunders and the Leichhardt entering with 70 diggers, Howard St. George, A. McMillan, and all the rest of the official party, bound for the new Palmer diggings.
On the 28th he went some miles up the Endeavour River, and on the 31st the whole party left in the Leichhardt for No. 2 Barnard Island, to camp there until the arrival of a better vessel to replace the Flying Fish, and Coquette, which had been found to be too small and unsuitable.
At Cardwell, he chartered the schooner Flirt, and on November 14 anchored near Johnstone’s camp, on Dunk Island.
Johnstone was camped on the lower Herbert with a detachment of Native Police when ordered to join Dalrymple at Cardwell. At that time he had been out along the coast north of Cardwell, looking for the wrecked men of the brig Maria, and had seen the river which bears his name today, so he acted as guide to Dalrymple along that coast.
It is interesting to read his own and Dalrymple’s independent reports of one particular scene they both saw on the coast opposite Double Island, about 14 miles north of Cairns.
Dalrymple says: “In every camp along the beach for two miles was unmistakeable evidence of wholesale cannibalism; heaps of human bones and skulls were found in each camp, and in some were roasted and partially eaten bodies beside the fires at which they had been cooked. Lumps of half-eaten human flesh were found in the gin’s dilly bags. These people are of the most ferocious expression, and are large and powerful men.”
Of the same scene, Johnstone says: “I saw a mob of blacks coming toward us, yelling and brandishing spears, poised on the woomera, each with a bundle of spears in the left hand. I saw at once they intended to attack us, and prepared accordingly. We found the flesh and part of the skeletons of four men they had eaten, and the cooked flesh stowed away in dilly bags for food. The blacks here have splendid canoes, made from solid cedar logs, neatly dug out, with outriggers, and capable of carrying 15 or 20 men.”
In 1882, just nine years afterwards< I met that Double Island tribe, “Mauggooloo,” and they told me the cannibal feats seen by Johnstone and Dalrymple was on the bodies of a party of white men, washed ashore from, presumably, some shipwrecked vessel, and not blacks at all.
Johnstone’s journal mentions that Dalrymple at the time was very ill with fever, a bad leg, and had cold. He said he had fallen across a hatchway and was afraid he had broken a rib. Dalrymple was so ill in the Russell River that fatal results were expected.
Henceforth I shall confine this narrative to the journals of Johnstone and Walter Hill. Johnstone was a very expert rifle shot, one of the best in Queensland, and equally good with the shotgun.
On that trip he did his first shooting on the South Barnard, bagging a lot of Torres Strait pigeons, and his first Victoria rifle bird, of which he says: “The shading of the colours of this glorious bird baffles my power of description.”
He was especially not aware that McGillivray, of the Rattlesnake, shot the first known specimen, of that rifle bird, Phtilaris Victoria, on the same island in May 1848. The Barnard Islands were named by King of the Mermaid on June 21, 1819, from his friend, Edward Barnard.
Blacks were very numerous on the Johnstone in 1873, and Johnstone had no affection for them, as he saw too much of what they had done to the shipwrecked men of the Maria.
When on the river on October 10 he records: “I went up the river and found a large mob of blacks collected to oppose us so we dispersed them. In the afternoon I found the blacks closing in on the camp and dispersed them. In the morning they came out below the camp and challenged us, so I dispersed them. On arrival at Coquette Point, the blacks were there so we moved them on.”
That is the brevity which is the soul of eloquence. No waste of language in Johnstone’s reports on the blacks.
In brevity they are not excelled by Colton’s Lagen or the Laconics of Pausanias the Spartan.
But Johnstone had good reason for some of his gentle “dispersals” and requests to “move on.”
The blacks of the Johnstone River behaved badly to the Maria men, and Sub-Inspector Robert Johnstone, of the Queensland Native Police, was taking no unnecessary chances with treacherous, hostile, scrub blacks, who could make good practice with the woomera spear at a hundred yards.
And yet the Russell blacks a few miles north behaved well by Tom Ingham and his party, and took good care of them until they were rescued; but Tom and one of his mates had red hair, and that was the saving clause.
On the South Franklyns, Johnstone “shot eight scrub hens and enough pigeons to supply all hands. They also got a lot of cocoanuts from some of the only trees known then in any part of Australia, first seen there by the Rattlesnake people on June 19, 1848.
During one of my visits there, when camped on the South Frankland, I found that some worthless vandal had recently cut down one of the grand old trees to get a few nuts. He had called there when passing in a fishing boat, and I was sorry it was not during my visit, as the cocoanuts would have disagreed with him. On Rocky Island, a small rough island in Trinity Bay, Johnstone shot 43 Straits pigeons, and on December 20, on one of the Barnards, they shot 83 Straits Pigeons, and Johnstone got six Victoria riflebirds. Close to the site of the present Innisfail, they measured a giant fig tree, 160 feet in circumference, at 3 ft from the ground. The largest measured as seen by me was 146 feet, on Freshwater Creek, seven miles from Cairns.
Johnstone, on December 11th, got 22 pigeons on the Franklands, and a load of cocoanuts, for which his black troopers climbed the trees.
He got a remarkable mummy on the Mulgrave, on December 2, “a woman about 5ft 2in, squatted on her haunches, her hands clasping her face, the body well preserved, and even the eyes perfect, the ears, fingers, toes, and muscles all showing as in a person dead from hunger.”
He must have shot about a dozen crocodiles, including two in the Mulgrave.
On November 10, when passing a case of ammunition from the boat to the cutter, a sea struck the boat, the case went overboard, and was lost beyond recall, so he had to get more from Cardwell.
In the Mulgrave he shot black ducks, pigmy geese, redbills, pigeons and scrub hens.
These Straits pigeons come down annually from New Guinea in countless thousands to breed on the Queensland coast, on the islands from the Hinchinbrook North to the Flinders Group.
They are larger than a tame pigeon, with a handsome white and blue slate plumage, very strong and swift fliers. They nest on the new trees on the islands, and fly off each morning to feed on the fruit trees of the mainland, returning to the islands from about 3 o’clock to near sunset. They have a most mournful voice, a monotonous moan, and when they are gathered together, the noise is deafening and horribly depressing.
On arrival from New Guinea, they are out of condition, but soon fatten, and is then a dainty diet, much superior to the tame pigeon, but the flesh is not white as that of the wonga, which is not found north of Mackay.
The late J. A. Macartney told me he had seen the Straits pigeon as far south as Broadsound, and that was quite a surprise. They would be a few stray birds out of their usual latitude, like the occasional stray crocodile that came south to Sandy Strait.
On November 25, Johnstone, Walter Hill and eight troopers, started from the Mulgrave to ascend Bellenden Ker, returning on the 28th. He only records one altitude of 2100 feet, and is strangely silent thence onwards.
In 1889, the year of my first ascent of the whole of the Bellenden-Ker Range, the blacks of the locality showed me where Johnstone camped on the summit of Mount Toressa at 2000 feet but he never got beyond that. Besides being a dead shot, Johnstone was a first class bushman in either scrub or forest country.
With Walter Hill’s journal we step into the domain of the botanist. He was a remarkable man, well-known to me personally for a number of years, very reserved, somewhat taciturn, with a thorough knowledge of his work, and all the essential enthusiasm.
The late F. M. Bailey, Queensland’s great botanist, had a high opinion of him, and was satisfied the Botanic Gardens had never been the same since Hill’s time. Hill was both a botanist and scientific gardener, and was a man very much understood. He was the botanical collector of Dalrymple’s expedition of 1873, and made a valuable collection, besides discovering a number of new species, including the scrub ironwood named from him Myrtus Hilli.
He was a hard-headed, practical Scot, and all his descriptions of the Johnstone, and other rivers, his account of the quality and probable extent of the timbers, have all been verified as amazingly accurate predictions. He brought down 33 samples of soil, he collected 469 specimens of shell, representing 37 species of land shell including 23 Helxi and 90 Searabacus.
BACK IN THE FIFTIES
STORIES GRAVE AND GAY
HARD FIGHTERS AND HARD DRINKERS
DAILY MAIL 21 JANUARY 1924
In my previous article, there was mention of a notorious aboriginal called Dimdahli, hanged in 1834 on the site of the present Brisbane Post Office. Here is some information not hitherto published. It was taken down by me from the man who captured Dimdahli and got £25 pound reward.
His name was William Baker Tomkins, always known as plain William Baker. When known to me, from 1878 to 1881, he was a well-known farmer in the Rosewood Scrub, where he afterwards kept a hotel near Walloon. Both he and Mrs. Baker were fine, genial, hospitable people, and great favourites. His narrative, taken down by me in 1878, is now before me, and in after years, when he was dead, it was clearly corroborated by his widow, who added one or two items, being present at the time when Dimdahli was arrested.
Dimdahli was accused of the murder of 13 whites, including Gregor and Mary Shannon, and two sawyers, on the Pine River. He was also charged with spearing a German missionary named Hausmann, at Humpy Bong.
His reputation was so bad that any outrage in any direction was promptly placed to his credit. All efforts at capture were failures, even when a reward of £50 was offered.
Dimdahli was a Bribie Islander, of the tribe of “Jooaduburrie,” and if he had remained on Bribie, among his own people, or kept away in the scrubs of the Blackall Range, he would probably never have been captured.
But he came in to Fortitude Valley, and was stripping bark for the settlers, going under the various names of “Jimmy Donald,” “Wikou,” and “Brown.”
But the other blacks knew he was the terrible Dimdahli, and one of those, “Woomboonggoroo,” a Brisbane black, told Baker, who enticed him in and gave him work stripping bark. Then he went straight to Sneyd, the gaoler, and asked for assistance. Sneyd said it was useless, as a reward of £50 had been offered in vain. But he sent two constables, Downes and Frederick, who went in plain clothes, carrying a halter, as if looking for horses.
At the right moment, Baker, a tall powerful man, caught Dimdalli suddenly by his mass of long hair and pulled him back, calling to the constables: “This is the notorious Dimdalli.”
The constables seized him, put on the handcuffs, and tied his legs with the halter.
This was alongside Massey’s brickyard in the Valley, and Massey’s dray was requisitioned to take the black to the lockup.
Baker hauled him to the dray by his feet, and Dimdahli made one tremendous spring and nearly got clear, but Frederick hit him across the nose with a pistol, and then he remained quiet.
Both Mr. And Mrs. Baker were among the crowd who saw him hanged. It was a gruesome scene. A hangman was brought from Sydney, and he allowed too much of a drop, the result being that Dimdahli came down with both feet on his coffin, which was underneath, and the hangman put all his weight on his shoulders, so that instead of the neck being broken, he was actually strangled. A large mob of blacks was on the Flagstaff Hill, and they and Dimdahli called loudly to each other.
His last request to them was to “kill Baker and Woomboonggoroo,” “Gneen nurwain billarr, baiginn Bakeram, Woomboonggoroo, wacca weereppie.”
“You throw the spear, kill them both so they never come back.”
He came out on the scaffold wearing dark tweed trousers, blue twill shirt, and a handkerchief round his neck.
Mrs. Baker told me she was paid the £25 under the archway of the old barracks, then used as a courthouse, the money being paid by Brown, afterwards Usher of the Black Rod.
The two constables got £3 each.
A well-known settler in the Ipswich district was Robert William Le Grand, a genial humourist of the first water.
He called his place, not far from Blantyre, “Wooyimboong.”
He was on a wedding tour in France and Germany in the year of the Paris Exhibition in 1861.
He noticed that porters and sailors threw small trunks and boxes in all directions, so when he came to Queensland, he had a special box made to stop that sort of thing. Amongst other things that box held a piano and a suite of furniture, and required all the ship’s company to handle it.
When it arrived by river steamer at Ipswich, in the old “Settler,” Captain Mellor, a whole dray and one team were required to take that box to “Wooyimboong.”
On arrival there it was too big to go in at any door, so he put it down and built a house over it, and on my first visit his sister was sitting inside the box, playing the piano.
He had an eccentric Teutonic neighbour named Jasper Coop. During one of my visits Coop came over to tell Le Grand that he had received a letter from his brother in America. He said that his brother wrote the letter from “Nyejirk,”, but had since gone to “Shakky-yahgoo,” suggesting at the same time that Le Grand would know these places. Le Grand admitted that though he knew all America as well as he knew every acre of Wooyimboong, Coop’s two cities pulled him up with a round turn. The fact that Le Grand has never seen any part of America was only a trifling detail.
“Vell, den,” said Coop, “never you vas know your shography.”
At this stage I suggested that Coop’s two cities were New York and Chicago, and Coop said: “By shingo, dis shentlemans vas know his shography; he vas right!”
And so the mystery of “Nyejirk” and “Shakkyyahgoo” was solved.
On another occasion of a visit, Le Grand and myself were eating grapes in the vineyard when Coop strolled up with a tomahawk in his right hand, and a wild and warlike look in both eyes.
Foreseeing trouble, I moved gently near to Coop, to be very prompt with the favourite left hander of Jem Mace on the “point” if there was any movement with the tomahawk.
Coop said: “Missa Le Grand, de peoples de vas say you call me de biggest schoundrel in dis country, an never I likes it!”
Le Grand, cool as a cucumber, in a friendly fatherly voice, replied, with deep earnestness: “No, Mr. Coop; no man in Queensland would dare to say you are the biggest scoundrel in this country!”
And Coop smiled, and said: “Ah, vell, ven you ‘pologise like dat, never I minds it!”
And he went away quite happy, eating a big bunch of grapes.
Le Grand had another neighbour – a Hibernian gentleman whom we shall call Casey.
Casey had two freak pigs, one a black sow with a white ear, and the other a white boar with one black ear.
Those two eccentric porkers occasionally rambled over to fraternize with Le Grand’s pigs, and one day he got the two in a crush, painted the sow’s white ear jet black, and the boar’s black ear he painted white.
Then they went home to Casey, who gazed at them as if they were two uncanny ghost pigs.
He and Mrs. Casey lay awake most of the night, regarding the pig mystery as indicating some dire domestic calamity wrought by a malicious “leprechaun,” or by some vindictive enemy placing them under the dreadful spell of “Drimial agus gthorial!”
Then Casey remembered that when on his last visit to Ipswich he saw a woman with a red petticoat, and three crows flew over his head on his way home.
And Mrs. Casey had found a blue bug and a red flea in the bed, so how could you wonder at the pigs changing their ears!
The troubled Casey went over next day to Le Grand, and thus addressed him: “For the love of hivin and all the saints, Le Grand, come over and see my pigs, and tell me which is thee sow, and which is the boar, for they’re both bewitched, and have changed their ears, an’ its an evil day when an Irishman don’t know his own pigs! Come over an’ see if it’s the pigs are mad, or mesilf an’ the old woman is mad! May the divil fly away wid the pigs!”
Le Grand calmly told Casey to let his pigs run loose, to come over to Le Grand’s pigs, one of which is believed to be really a witch, and responsible for the transformation of Casey’s sow and boar.
He said he would put an effectual spell over his witch pig, but Casey was not to come near while the spell was working!
So Le Grand yarded Casey’s freak porkers, and spent an hour removing the paint from their ears with turpentine, and sent them home restored to their original perfection.
And Casey and the wife next Sunday prayed fervently, out of gratitude for “Le Grand’s miracle!”
And Le Grand told Casey that he had shot his witch pig with a small piece of wax candle, and had the body burned to ashes, but he informed me that the witch pig, or the pig he killed in the usual way, made some of the finest bacon he had ever cured!
There is a tributary of the Mary River called “Brandy Creek,” and here is the origin of the name.
Back about 1874, there was not much population on the Upper Mary, only a few rough timbergetters, a combined solitary pub and store.
Every man had a boat, chiefly made of red cedar, plentiful in those days.
There were only bridle tracks, or timber tracks, through the scrub, and there were rough roads to the interior, or the sea coast.
Among the timber men at that time were two known as “Racehorse Jack” and “Jimmy the Snob,” good men with the axe and crosscut saw, but not to be trusted alone with beer or rum.
From New Year’s Eve to New Year’s Day, they had been holding high festival, and drinking the healths of all their friends and relatives, with a few extra toasts thrown in.
Then they put some rations and a case of brandy on their boat, and started for the camp, six or seven miles up stream.
By that time they were both on the verge of delirium tremens, and the brandy finished the contract. Two days afterwards the blacks found the boat at the mouth of a small creek, three or four miles below the pub.
“Jimmy the Snob” was lying at full length, dead, in the bottom of the boat, and “Racehorse Jack” was lying with his head over the side of the boat, black as an aboriginal, and stone dead. Those two dead men must have drifted up and down with the tide, and passed the public house in the night.
Heavy rain was falling all the time, and the brandy and exposure were too much for them. The boat was taken up to the pub, and an inquest was held on the bodies.
It was a very hurried verdict by a coroner’s jury, of whom about three were sober. They returned a verdict of “Found drowned,” though neither of the men had been in the water, and the coroner said, “Yes, gentlemen, they were drowned in ‘Brandy Creek!”
And “Brandy Creek” it remains to the present day.
The late Bartley Fahey, M.L.C., was once Collector of Customs at Cooktown.
While there a big bully insulted him one night at the “Great” Northern Hotel.
Fahey demanded that the bully go down with him to the beach and fight it out. So both went, and it was the night of the full moon. Fahey’s friends warned him that the fellow “stripped like a bullock”, and was dangerous.
Fahey merely smiled, for he had in him the blood of a hundred Irish kings, and a pair of hands that could have been used to break road metal.
RECOLLECTIONS OF THE FRASERS
Were all the tragedies enacted In Queensland, since the first white men settlers on the coast, published collectively, they would make an amazing volume.
History has only recorded a fraction of all that happened and even much of that fraction has been dismissed with a brief chronicle, whose brevity left no clearly distinguishable picture on the mind of the reader.
Among those so far unrecorded by any book or newspaper was the wreck of a barque called the Thomas Lord, lost on the Queensland coast in the year when Captain Wickham was Police Magistrate, and W. A. Duncan was Collector of Customs.
The late Hon. T. L. Murray Prior, father of Mrs. Campbell Praed, the novelist, told me that Captain Wickham married Annie Macarthur, of Sydney, her sister, Elizabeth, marrying Phillip Dudley King, and her sister Kate married Patrick Leslie, the first squatter in Queensland.
W. A. Duncan came from Donside, in Aberdeenshire, his family and ours being only three miles apart.
I remember Tom and William Fraser, two fine old Highlanders, who were expert players on the bagpipes, and could dance the sword dance, the Highland fling, and the reel of Tulloch like two champions.
William lived away out on the Ipswich Road, not far from the Rocky Waterholes. The old house and the tall pines trees are still there, but the grand old couple, who were living there in the sixties (1860s) and seventies (1870s) have “vanished trackless into blue immensity.”
Alas! We are but as bubbles in the foam on the surface of the illimitable ocean of Eternity.
In the years 1874 and 1875 I was manager and sugar-boiler of Dr. Waugh’s sugar plantation “Pearlwell,” having succeeded John Buhot, the first man to make sugar in Queensland, on April 24, 1862 in the Brisbane Botanic Gardens.
William Fraser was only a mile away, and it was a real joy for me to go over and spend an evening with him and listen to his fascinating stories of the past, some of which were taken down by me, and among them is the astonishing story of the Barque “Thomas Lord.”
The Frasers were men who were afraid of nothing on the face of the earth. On their arrival in Queensland in 1844, their first engagement was with Charles Archer on Durundur. Those were the days when the blacks were not too reliable, though Heavens knows they had many grievances to avenge.
Fraser was on Kilcoy station on the day after the poisoning of the blacks by two of Mackenzie’s shepherds, who poisoned a lot of flour with arsenic. Fraser told me he counted 28 bodies, but said that was not all.
On one occasion he was in charge of Durundur homestead, and Thomas and David Archer were about two miles away washing sheep, a mob of blacks came in, the warriors coming over the creek, and the old men and women going round.
The men stood on the fence, chewed the ends of their beards and spat them out, with many a hiss, and burr, and “wooh-wooh,” not friendly signs, but they evidently were not intending murder, or the women would not have been there.
Mrs. Tom Fraser, Mallon, the gardener, and two of Mallons’ children, were with Fraser, who went out with a gun and the blacks went away, killing a bullock as they went, and leaving the carcass untouched.
A blackboy named “Neeca” had gone round to Fraser, and harangued the blacks, advising them to go away.
“Neeca” in after years, died in the service of George Raff, at Caboolture.
Two weeks after this episode the blacks went to Gregor’s station and killed Andrew Gregor and Mary Shannon.
Gregor’s brother, a clergyman, was drowned in a waterhole between Brisbane and Sandgate.
Fraser was at Amity Point in March 1847, and helped to bury the bodies of the drowned, including Mrs. Gore, who was washed ashore still breathing, and was confined on the sand. That was at the wreck of the Sovereign on March 11. Fraser said that they had, in many cases, only legs, arms, and heads to bury, from bodies cut to pieces by the sharks. The Sovereign made three attempts to get over the bar, and then the main shaft broke, and left her at the mercy of an angry sea.
Now we come to the tragic story of the Thomas Lord. One day a shipwrecked sailor walked into Brisbane, in charge of an aboriginal woman from Toorbul Point.
The warriors were afraid to come, and they knew the white men would not hurt a woman. They came to Brisbane by way of Breakfast Creek and the Valley.
On the following day the captain came in, also in care of another woman, and he and the sailor stayed at Macadam’s Hotel in Queen Street.
When Captain Wickham asked them where the others were, the captain said, “All murdered at Murrimcootchie”, the river beyond Caloundra.
The blacks called it “Maroochie,” “Murrimcoochie,” and “Mooroocochie,” all names of the swan, the last from “Mooroo,” the nose, and “Coochie,” red or “red nose,” common name of the swan, whose bill is red.
Fraser volunteered to go out in search of the others, and he was accompanied by two men, named Strange and Richard.
Strange was a naturalist, and he and three others were killed in 1854 on the South Percy Island, only Walter Hill, and Captain Maitland, and an aboriginal escaping.
A captain of a vessel anchored in the bay, told Fraser to go on board and tell the mate to give him anything he wanted, but the mate refused without an order, and so they had to go back to Brisbane. Finally, they reached Toorbul Point, where the blacks told them the white me were all “bong” (dead), except “boolah makoron yanman Maginchin,” two white men who went to Brisbane!
Then the courage of Fraser’s mates evaporated. In the morning Richard stayed in the camp, refusing to go on, and Strange continued for a short distance, but returned to Richard.
But the stern Highlander, with the invincible courage of his clan, was built on different lines, and he went along the coast, accompanied solely by four Toorbul Point aboriginals.
Beyond the Maroochie River they found the body of a sailor, dead only for a day, quite naked, except for a rope around his wrist. He had a set of false teeth which Fraser took back to the captain, who said they had belonged to the boatswain.
Another body was found near that of the first. On the way back they met a party of blacks, one of whom had the captain’s watch over his shoulder, the back of the case gone. The blacks felt Fraser from head to foot.
At that time Fraser had acquired a considerable knowledge of the blacks, and could speak a little of their language. He was also wise enough to go unarmed, and take no firearms. They would be his death warrant. One black had a dilly bag full of American dollars, about 400, and these and the captain’s watch, were exchanged by the blacks for a dozen fishhooks, a deal to satisfy even the most canny Scot.
Fraser also got the captain’s pocket-book with a draft for £500 on a London bank. He also got a miniature of the father of the ship’s doctor. It was set in gold, and the captain was specially anxious to have that.
Fraser got safely back to his two mates, comfortably camped at Caloundra, and they all returned to Brisbane.
The captain told Fraser to keep all he found, except the miniature and the bank draft, but the honest Scot handed everything over to captain Wickham, and that was the last he heard or saw of them.
He and his two cautious mates, who took no risks, received the same reward of £10 each.
The Thomas Lord had been on a voyage from Sydney to China, in ballast, and was wrecked somewhere off the Queensland coast.
The survivors reached the coast somewhere between the Maroochy River and Noosa Heads.
The blacks told Fraser that all the whites had been killed, except the captain and the sailor. Why they were spared was not explained, possibly because they had a fancied resemblance to two dead blacks who were relatives of some of the living.
That was the reason that Davis, Bracewell, and Baker were spared.
When the captain of the ketch Aurora, was killed by the Bribie blacks, Tom and William Fraser went down in the Customs boat, with Dr. Ballow and Thornton, the then Collector of Customs.
They found the captain’s body lying naked on a lot of oyster shells on the first small island in Bribie Channel.
They buried it in a grave on Toorbul Point. Is there anything marking the site of that grave? The blacks had taken the sail away, and tried to burn the ketch.
When Gregor and Mary Shannon were killed, they were both buried by William Fraser. He told me that Mrs. Shannon’s three children were taken away by the blacks and returned, safe and sound, with an old aboriginal woman after having been well cared for.
On the Obi Obi flats Fraser met a black with a gun, which had belonged to one of the wrecked men of the Stirling Castle in 1836, and took it away from him.
He was present at the launching of the first vessel ever built in Brisbane, a schooner called the St. Helena, which left for Sydney on May 15, 1847, and was lost with all hands.
He knew all the people concerned in the murder of Cox, at a hotel on Kangaroo Point, in 1848. All the evidence taken at the inquiry has been read by me, but Fraser had a lot of unpublished facts.
It was a murder that has no parallel in Australian history.
A timbergetter named Cox, from the Tweed River was staying at the hotel, where the cook was a man named Fyfe. Cox and three others were seated at the parlour table, playing cards, and a dispute arose. One of the party took up a heavy pair of old time brass snuffers, and threw them at Cox, the projecting sharp point, used for poking the wick, entering the brain, and killing him on the spot. It was an unfortunate accident, where certainly no murder was intended.
There were two easy ways out of the trouble, but those three men, in an uncontrollable spasm of fear, conspired to place the guilt on an entirely innocent man, the unsuspecting Fyfe, the cook, and they succeeded so well that they sent him to the gallows, and he was hanged in Sydney.
Fraser told me that Fyfe was not even in the hotel on the night of the tragedy; that he came home just before daylight, and that a woman could have saved Fyfe, who was so chivalrous that he faced death rather than disclose her name.
SOME STIRRING INCIDENTS
CONVICT DAYS RECALLED
DAILY MAIL 1 SEPTEMBER 1923
It is wise for young men and women to keep note and scrap books, and record any interesting and instructive facts which they will find very useful for reference, and be a source of pleasure in after years. This article is written in the hope that those authentic records are to be of interest among those to whom they are not readily accessible, and that the brevity, which is the soul of eloquence, will appeal to them.
In 1874 it was my lot to meet in Brisbane a man who claimed to be a grandson of the author of that remarkable book, “Paul and Virginia.”
He had the name of his famous grandfather, James Henry Bernardine de St. Pierre, and a note of that was made by me very promptly. He came to bid me goodbye, on leaving for the Palmer Diggings, where he became one of the many splendid fellows who died there with fever.
The first Police Magistrate of Brisbane was Captain Wickham, appointed in 1842, with a salary of £300 and a free house.
He had been for years the captain of H.M.S. Beagle.
He was present at the first Brisbane land sale, where 13½ acres were offered at the upset price of £100 per acre, and realised £4637 10s.
The value of that area in Brisbane today would make the Treasurer smile if he had it for sale.
What is called “Spicer’s Gap” in the main range, plainly visible from Spring Hill, was named after Peter Spicer, who was superintendent of convicts at Moreton Bay, from 1824 to 1839, the entire convict period of 15 years. He was a son of Captain Peter Spicer of the Royal Navy.
“Cunningham’s Gap” bears the name of Alan Cunningham, the famous botanist, who discovered and named the Darling Downs. The mountains on each side are Mitchell and Cordeaux, known to the Cateebill speaking blacks as “Coonyinirra” and “Niamboyoo.”
The first hotel in Toowoomba was called the “Seperation Hotel,” the spelling being a little out of gear, a building erected with stone brought from the foot of the range. It was renamed the “Royal,” and is still standing, but no longer a hotel.
Travellers on the Toowoomba line pass a station, the old “Western Creek,” where in the fifties (1850s), a lady called Sally Owen kept a famous pub.
Back near Marburg of today was an open forest space known as Sally Owen’s Plains, where she kept her horses and cattle.
There were several small kegs of rum distilled on Sally Owen’s Plains.
It was great stuff, that Sally Owen’s “potheen,” and there still are three living Ipswich men who drank that stimulating elixir of barley, and said that it was far better than the rum of today. And this is mentioned, because that was almost certainly the first illicit still in Queensland, and it was never discovered.
In the year 1848 a dairyman named John Slack had all the Woolloongabba country as a grazing paddock for his cows, and that one dairy supplied Brisbane. Toady it would not supply one street.
Vulture Street, South Brisbane, is probably the longest, closely inhabited street in Australia. An old fellow, who had walked nearly end to end in search of somebody, was asked by another searcher at the river end, “Where is the other end of this street?” “Well, I dunno, mister, but in my opinion it must be somewhere down about Beenleigh.”
The first hotel at Laidley, when Pitt and Bonnifant held the station in 1850, was kept by James Fletcher, and his widow, a fine old lady, still kept it in 1876, when I was captain of the Laidley Hunt Club and editor of the Ipswich “Observer.”
At Grantham, called “Bigges’ Camp” in the early days, a Frenchman named Douvere kept a hotel in 1843. That was the squatter Bigges, who built a big wool store at Cleveland, intending the place as a seaport, from which a line would run direct to Ipswich, and so ruin Brisbane. The walls of that store are now the lower story of the hotel next the main Cleveland railway station.
There were at least two years when Ipswich had a larger population than Brisbane. The first hotel in Ipswich was kept by a man named Neal, and it was built by William Vowles, one time mayor of Ipswich, and grandfather of the present Dalby politician.
A once well-known man anmed Uhr, member of a well-known New South Wales family, was killed by two aboriginals not far from Ipswich. One was “Warkoon Jimmy” and the other “Tee-wadlee Tommy.” Warkoon was “left-handed,” –tee was the eye, and -Wadlee was bad, a bad eye, meaning blind oof one eye. They came up on each side of the camp as he came out, then speared him, and threw the body in the river.
In Ipswich, what is known as “Bennett’s Corner,” one of the best in the town, was sold to martin Byrnes for 32s.
The first cones of Bunya pine sent to London in 1846 realised £10 10s for each in Covent Garden market.
Surveyor Oxley died at Sydney on May 25, 1828, and is buried at North Shore. J. T. Bidwill, after whom the Bunya is named, died at Tinana Creek, near Maryborough, in March 1853, and Surveyor Burnett, who found the Burnett River, died at Brisbane on July 18, 1854, and was buried in the old Paddington cemetery.
The murder of 19 people on Will’s station, Cullina-ringga, on the Nogoa, happened on October 17, 1861, and the murder of the Fraser family of nine, the tutor, and an old shepherd, happened at Hornet Bank station, on the Dawson, in November, 1857.
Gilbert, the naturalist of Leichhardt’s Expedition, was killed on the Nassau River, on June 28, 1845. In recent years the old blacks showed me the tea tree flat where it happened.
Andrew Gregor and Mary Shannon were killed by the Pine River blacks, in 1846. Captain Owen Stanley, of “Owen Stanley Range” celebrity, died at Sydney in 1850. F. Strange the naturalist, and three other men were killed by Percy Island blacks on November 18, 1854, and Stevens, the botanist, was killed at Maroochy in 1866, by an aboriginal afterwards known to the whites as “Captain Piper,” who in after years died from drinking poisoned rum.
The first Queensland editor, when the “Moreton Bay Courier,” started on June 20, 1846, died at Cleveland on October 22, 1861. His name was Arthur Sydney Lyon, said to be a genial and amiable man.
The foundation stone of the first South Brisbane Bridge was laid on August 22, 1864, and on my visit to Brisbane in 1874, on a few of the piles were standing, and all vehicular traffic was done with a wooden punt pulled with a hand rope. The steamer Gothenburg from Port Darwin to Sydney (Captain Pearce) was wrecked off Bowen, on February 25, 1875, there being 105 drowned. Putwain, the diver, recovered all the gold, about 2500 oz.
The first white man killed by the blacks on the Darling Downs was named John Manuel. It happened on Eton Vale station, where he was speared by a black out on the run, and galloped home with the spear sticking in his body. The story was told to me by the late Christopher Gorry, a fine old Ipswichite, who was with Manuel when he was speared, and thought the date was about 1852.
When Major Lockyer was camped up the Brisbane River in 1825 he tells us that “emus were running about all night, making an intolerable noise.” The noisy visitors were the stone plovers, usually known as the grey curlew. The emus never move or utter any sound in the night. The only two day birds that call at night are Flinders cuckoo, and the scrub hen, megapodius tumulus, of North Queensland. One of the flycatchers, Musicapidae, will chirrup in the night during the laying season. This does not include the waterfowl that feed at night.
In 1852 there were 300 Chinese shepherds on the Darling Downs, in charge of 3,000,000 sheep. The first lot came in May 3, 1850, so they must have been ordered before gold was discovered, and therefore the justification was not the exodus of the white shepherds to the goldfields. Some of the early squatters made a special effort to introduce Indian coolies but that was promptly refused by the Secretary of State, Lord Normanby.
The Etheridge goldfield was discovered by the men sinking post holes, when erecting the telegraph line. The navies riot in Brisbane when they besieged Government House, was on September 11, 1855.
The foundation of the Brisbane Masonic Hall was laid on July 10, 1871, and the Grammar School was opened on February 1 of the same year, Governor Blackall having died on the third of the previous month.
There were two disasters in 1865, the burning of the Fiery Star on Good Friday, and of St. Mary’s Cathedral on June 29. One of my old schoolmasters, named Ronald, had a daughter, Mary, lost in the Fiery Star. She was a handsome girl, with beautiful rich auburn hair.
Our annual mild or sever visits of influenza recall the year 1847, when hardly one family in Brisbane escaped, and seven out of 10 families in Melbourne had to suffer. It passes over Australia periodically, and is evidently the only “kink” in an otherwise perfect climate.
The first Darling Downs fossils of the Diprotedon and other extinct specimens of the giant animals of ancient Australia, were found in King’s Creek in October, 1842.
Captain Logan, one of the rulers of the Moreton Bay penal settlement, was murdered on November 16, 1830, at a place well known as “Logan’s Creek,” between Ipswich and Esk. He was found buried, face downwards in a grave, not more than 2ft in depth. There was subsequent clear evidence that he was killed by his own men. He was the most severe of all the rulers and the convicts sang and cheered half the night on the day the news of his death arrived at the settlement.
The most popular of the superintendents was Lieutenant Gorman
The reader will be interested in knowing that during the whole of the penal period in Australia there were 40,000 convicts sent to New South Wales and Tasmania. The year 1840 ended the penal years with the last vessel which bore the suggestive name of “Eden”. The period lasted from Phillip’s landing with the first fleet to 1840.
Now that this State is on the border of a great cotton boom we may recall the London “Times” on December 8, 1859 saying that Queensland produces the best cotton that is sent to Manchester.
BITS OF HISTORY
GRAVE AND GAY
PICTURES FROM THE PAST
DAILY MAIL 1923
The late James Tyson was staying at the time on Pilton station, on the Darling Downs, and a young lady from England, in quest of a position, was staying at Hennessy’s Hotel.
She made no effort to avoid expressing her opinion on the vast superiority of English people over Australians, and the general absence of politeness and culture among “Colonials” generally.
So that some joker at the hotel told her that James Tyson, the millionaire squatter, was in need of a housekeeper, as the last one had married the manager, who had a salary of a thousand a year, and that Tyson himself was an eligible bachelor, all of which was pure fiction.
But the lady wrote to Tyson, offering her services, and the joker posted the letter. Then he wrote to a Pilton friend, who sent the lady a letter, signed “James Tyson,” offering her £120 per annum.
She promptly started for Pilton by the first train, and there being no buggy to meet her, she drove out in the hotel vehicle, called at the Pilton homestead, and sent in her card. A message came out that Mr. Tyson was not to be seen, so she sent in her own letter, or the bogus letter signed “James Tyson,” and Tyson came out to have the conundrum explained.
The final scene was the departure of the lady for the railway station, in the Pilton buggy taking her return fare and a cheque for £5as some compensation for her wounded vanity! She left for Sydney in the next week and never returned; but Tyson was not known to be the victim of a second joke of the same kind.
Sir Thomas Mitchell, on his exploring trip into South Queensland/ in 1846, had among his party, a Hibernian gentleman named Felix Maguire, who had the singular gift of locating water in his dreams, then waking and going straight to the spot. He did this on at least three occasions, but of course skeptical people, who never believe anything outside their own experiences, would be satisfied that Maguire found the water on the previous day, and brought in the dream story so that he might be credited with supernatural powers. Evidently Mitchell believed him, and Maguire may have been a genuine “geonancer” after all, but it was a precarious method of finding water.
The late Robert Mackie, of Fairy Meadow station, on the Condamine, was in 1864 managing “Old Warroo” station for Thomas Fitzgerald of Sydney.
He was alone at the time, had just killed a bullock, and had him partly skinned when an aboriginal, a very strong man, walked coolly up without taking the least notice of Mackie, who was a powerful, active, athletic man, and started to cut a roast off the carcass with a sheer blade he was carrying. Mackie caught him in a wrestling grip, so as to disarm him, but the black proved to be a formidable antagonist, and the result was for a time very doubtful, until Mackie threw him and took the shear blade. The black was then allowed to rise and walk savagely away.
In the middle of the night, Mackie was asleep in a slab and bark hut, and unaccountably awoke when lying on his back, to see the light of a star through the roof where he knew there should have been no opening. In a second he was out of the bunk and in the middle of the floor, and in the next second a 12ft black brigalow spear was stabbed through the centre of the bunk and into the ground. Then Mackie promptly fired his revolver at the light of the star through the roof and remained awake until daylight. To go outside would have been folly, as he might have been speared the moment he opened the door, and there may have been a dozen blacks around the hut waiting for him.
Evidently the black was wounded, as next morning Mackie found blood on the roof and ground, and the brigalow spear was still impaled in the bunk, and the earth beneath. Either the black was able to walk off, or he had mates who carried him away.
When Bligh, of the Bounty, after the mutiny of Tofua, reached the Australian coast, he must, before crossing the Barrier Reef, and while far out at sea, have seen the great granite mountains towering skyward beyond Weymouth Bay.
As he neared the shore he saw a small rocky island, and ran the pinnace into the passage between it and the mainland of Cape Weymouth. On the inner side of that island, which is a rugged mass of granite rocks, he found a beautiful stream of splendid water, and there he took in a full supply to continue the voyage.
While on that island one of his men was insolent, and Bligh threw him a sword, and drew his own, telling him it was necessary to see who was master. The mutineer knew Bligh to be an expert swordsman, so he promptly apologised, and gave no more trouble.
There is a wonderful, and magnificent, view from the small rocky hill on that island seaward, far out across the Barrier Reef and small islands, and landward to a vast amphitheatre of glorious mountains, valleys, and ravines; a wondrous, romantic panorama that for expanse of scenery and variety of shapes and colours can have but few rivals in the world. The reader may understand my thoughts when seated on a rock beside that stream, which is fed by a permanent spring, looking at the beautiful spot where Bligh and his men were camped, and where he watered the pinnace in which the mutineers had set him adrift.
In recent years, two white men, beche-de-mer fishermen, were speared on that island, and both were killed.
Among the earliest surveying ships on our vast coast was H.M.S. Fly, Captain Beete Jukes, who was out from 1842 to 1846.
The Fly people, unfortunately excited the hostility of the aboriginals at nearly every place they landed, and of course, that left a bad legacy of ill-feeling against the next white men who came along the coast.
At Cape Direction, Bayley, the boatswain, was one of those who went ashore, and he was so badly speared that he died on the third day.
That cape is a most romantic spot, with the most eccentric granite forms ever seen by me on any part of the coast.
Jukes writes of the Cape Cleveland blacks as “well made, active men, erect, free, and graceful, with good faces, and soft vocalic speech.”
In Wickham’s River, now the Burdekin, they were “tall, athletic, bold and confident, one man with a Nubian-like face.”
During a visit by me to Cape Cleveland, in 1881, accompanied by Edwin Norris, in the yacht Maude, a broken 4 pounder cannon cast iron ball was picked up on top of the Cape, among the rocks, one of several others found there and assumed to have been fired from some passing vessel, whose people regarded all aboriginals as legitimate targets.
As the Fly record mentions the shooting of aboriginals at Rockingham Bay, Cape Melville, and Cape Direction, it is probable the Cape Cleveland people received some cannon practice.
They quote the Cape Direction men as “tall and well made, with high, square foreheads,” and the Cape Melville blacks as “tall, well-limbed, upright men, with short curly, hair.” There are still some of these types of men left in the Cape York Peninsula.
The Fly visited Pandora’s Pass, where the Pandora was wrecked on August 29, 1791, when Captain Edwards was returning from Tahiti with some of the mutineers of the Bounty. There were 38 men lost in that wreck.
When Bligh passed Torres Strait in 1792, in the Providence, with breadfruit from Tahiti to the West Indies, Flinders was one of his midshipmen.
Captain Portland was with them in the “Assistant.”
When Flinders was at Point Parker, in the Gulf of Carpentaria, in 1841, he saw three blacks, who were 6ft 3ins.
He found and entered the Flinders River on July 23, and the Albert on July 30, sighting the Plains of Promise on August 4.
He mentions the terrible hurricane at Port Essington in 1839, when 12 men of H.M.S. Pelorus were drowned. He saw sweet potatoes there twice the size of any he had ever seen in South America.
In the year 1836, two interesting Quakers, named Backhouse and Walker, came on a visit to Brisbane, which then “consisted of the houses of the Commandant and other officers, the military barracks, and the barracks for the men prisoners.” Those two very observant, intellectual, educated men, reached Sydney from London in the barque Science, on September 3, 1831, so they had nearly five years in Australia. They went to Moreton Island, and saw the blacks fishing with porpoises, and were present at a corroboree at Amity Point.
They ate a purple-white beery from a bush on Moreton Island, and said it was the “most agreeable native fruit tasted in Australia.” It is the Myrtus tennifolia of the botanist, and the “Midgin-gooranooran” of the old blacks.
They saw the women pounding the root, “bangwal,” and roasting it in small cakes, which “tasted like a waxy potato.” They wore reed necklaces and ornaments of melon shell, and nautilus.
The single girls wore only a very small apron. The name of that was “jaggijaggi,” but the Quakers recorded no aboriginal names.
They quote a highly amusing experience in Sydney. A Sydney Quaker merchant had received 402 gallons of rum and 116 of gin, from his London house instead of money, spirits then being frequently used instead of coin in Sydney. The Quakers’ religion forbade him to have any dealings with spirits of any kind so the whole of the rum and gin was taken out in a cutter and emptied into the harbour. One of the casks slipped, picked up a lot of salt water, and righted itself. The owner of the cutter lying alongside took out a dipperful, tasted a sample, and spat it out with the remark, “I call this real, brutal, blinkin’ murder.” The two Quakers remarked, “Verily this is a new thing under the sun!” That is about the only humorous sentence in their book.
In the history of the old Brisbane gaol there is a remarkable incident that ought to be dear to the heart of Conan Doyle, and all spiritualists.
When Stevens, the botanist, was killed in 1866 near Mooloolah by three blacks, one known to the whites as “Tommy Skyring” was arrested and held for trial until he was anxious to be hanged, as he could neither eat nor sleep. He had actually given himself up to the police, and asked to be hanged as the ghost of Stevens repeatedly came and looked over his shoulder, until the fear of it became unbearable!
He actually died in gaol, worn out to a state of emaciation, his death due to starvation and want of sleep. Whatever mystery is in the tragedy, the plain fact remains a certainty.
In my reference to the first Queensland editor, Arthur Sydney Lyon, who died at Cleveland Point on October 2, 1861, no mention was made by me that he not only started the Moreton Bay “Courier” on June 20, 1846, but he also started the “Free Press” in 1849, the “North Australian” in Ipswich on October 2, 1855, and the “D.D. Gazette” on June 11, 1858.
The “Free Press” was a squatters’ paper, and was for a time edited by my uncle, Robert Meston, father of the present Mrs. A. K. Cullen, of “Arddeudeuchar,” Warwick, and Mrs., Paterson, of Toowoomba.
He was at the time owner of Morven station, of New England. No copy of the paper appears to be available.
Mrs. Paterson is now 93 years of age, and her brother, Frank Meston, is 85 and still breaking in his own horses on Rivertree station.
The Japanese earthquake recalls a fairly sever shock of earthquake in Brisbane on December 14, 1861, and two others since then. There was one in 1848.
How many people know that the French started a settlement at Albany and abandoned it before Major Lockyer arrived there with his gang of convicts?
When Captain J. Lort Stokes was out on our coast in the Beagle from 1837 to 1843, he had a cook who had come through an amazing experience. The cook and two Negroes were the sole survivors on a small vessel that had capsized, and three men being imprisoned in the hold, where they could have lived until the pent air became too foul to breathe.
They managed to bore a hole in the bottom and thrust out a stick with a handkerchief which floated in the breeze. Fortunately this unique flag of distress was seen by a passing vessel, which sent a boat and crew, who cut a hole big enough for the cook and two Negroes to come through.
We shall proceed to ramble away down to the Tweed in the days when the white man first occupied the site of Brisbane, under somewhat unhappy circumstances. We shall start from the south side, where a mob of wild blacks are camped, men of the Coorpooroo-jaggin tribe, of South Brisbane. We have mangled the euphonious “Coor-poo-roo,” with accent on the poo, to what we call “Cooparoo,” which means nothing.
We pass the “Jeeparra” tribe at Eight Mile Plains, the “Yeeroomopan” of Brown’s Plains, the “Warillcoomburri” of the Logan, the Goonoorajalli of the Albert, the “Balloong-alli” of the Coomera, and the “Talgalburra” of Nerang, all gone hence into the Eternal Silences.
The Nerang blacks called the river “Been-goor-abee,” their word “Neerang” being the name of the shovel-nosed shark. In the “Wiradjerie” dialect of New South Wales it was the word for “little.” Nerang was first inhabited by civilized man when the cedar cutters went there in 1845, or the year after they went to the Tweed.
My first visit there was when a youth in 1870, or 53 years ago. Bundall Plantation, owned by Mort. Holland, and Miskin, was just formed, and “Benowa” was just in course of formation by my brother-in-law, Robert Muir, who had with him two of his brothers, Matthew and David. His first crushing season was in that year, 1870, in a 4-horse mill, with a battery of round pots, and draining boxes instead of centrifugals.
Beyond Nerang there was no white man living along the coast before reaching the Tweed Heads.
In 1871 Muir had a one roomed weather board shingle-roofed house, erected on the north slope of Burleigh Head, about 150 feet above sea level. That was the origin of that headland known as “Burly,” from the first building ever built on Burleigh Head, and many years passed before there was another. The original name, rugged rocky burly front, and it was spelled “Burly” when named by Roberts, the surveyor, in the year he ran the boundary line along the top of the Macpherson Range, the line that divides Queensland from New South Wales.
“Roberts’s Plateau” bears his name today.
By whom, and on what authority was the name changed to Burleigh? They might as well have called it “Mount Cecil,” the old family name of Lord Burleigh.
By the blacks it was called “Jayling” and “Gumbelmoy,” one the word for black, and the other the name for rock, literally the “black rock,” the headland being chiefly black basalt.
The Tweed blacks called a rock walloom, hence the name Murwillumbah, correctly Murroo-walloom-ba, or “the face on the rock,” from a remarkable outline of a human face on a rock in that small hill on the east side of the town, thus murroo the face, and walloom a rock, the terminal bah being an adverb of place meaning “there,” so the whole name means a face on the rock there, or “the place of the rock face.”
Tallebudjerie is a compound word of tallee, fish, and budjerie, good. That word budjerie was brought here from the old Sydney dialect by white men, and has gone all over Australia.
The early blacks thought it was a white man’s word for anything good, and so adopted it with that meaning.
When the black pointed to the creek and said to the surveyor, “tallee budjerie,” he merely meant “good fish,” literally “good fishing there,” and he was right, for in the early days it swarmed with bream, whiting, gar, flathead, and mullet, with splendid oysters along all the rocks, and in the bed of the creek where there was no sand.
In 1870, or 53 years ago, the blacks gave me “Talgalgan” as the name of the creek, that being also their name for Lord’s Creek, at Southport, in each case being from “tal,” the stomach, meaning a creek, waist deep at low tide.
Tallebudjerie was always a safe creek to cross, there being no quicksand for which the next creek was always notorious, especially at the mouth. That creek is Currumbin, with strong accent on “um,” the word being the old blacks’ name of the quicksand.
One man, Jack Williams, lost his life at the mouth of Currumbin. He and his horse went down into the quicksand as if the whole earth swallowed them, and both came up on the bar, drowned.
The student of history will recall that Persian general who is said to have lost ten thousand men in the quicksands of Lake Sarbonius.
Matthew Muir had a very narrow escape at Currumbin, his horse going down in the quicksand, and being washed out to the bar, where he got a footing in shallow water. Muir was washed out of the saddle, but luckily got hold of the tail of the horse, which brought him safely ashore. As he was unable to swim a stroke, that tail saved his life.
On the advice of the blacks, Robert Muir and myself, on our way to the Clarence in 1870, crossed in the bend of the creek half a mile above the mouth, where the bottom is firm, and that was where the coaches and buggies crossed in after years.
There was no thought of Southport in those early days, and all that coast, from Nerang to the Tweed, was just as in the year when Cook passed along. Those isolated rocks, standing out on the beach, just beyond Currumbin, the blacks called “Gillama-beljin,” the g hard, as in all my aboriginal words.
On reaching Cape Byron, 45 miles farther south, the blacks gave me the same word for the isolated rocks off the Cape, the meaning in each case, being in the same dialect, equivalent to our word “orphans,” and meaning rocks without any father or mother. Cape Byron was itself “Gurimmbie.”
At the Tweed Heads, in 1870, the only resident was Pilot Macgregor, a fine old sea captain, until in the end of that year there came the first Customs officer, a little man, with an immense beard and long moustache, and quite satisfied that he was capable of running the Universe if ever the Creator desired a holiday.
He stopped Muir, and demanded to see the contents of his valise, so as to be sure he had no dutiable goods, and I rode quickly on towards Terranora Creek.
He called loudly to me to come back, until Muir warned him that I was deaf, and more or less daft, and would be as likely to shoot him as not, so, he allowed me to go in peace.
That, then, wild, rocky, romantic headland, which Cook called Point Danger, has lost much of its ancient glory. The blacks called it “Booningba,” from booning, the animal we call the porcupine, and bah, the usual adverbial affix denoting place, or “the place of the porcupine.”
It was so named from a porcupine once found there, the largest the blacks had ever known.
The scene beheld there today bears a melancholy contrast to that of 1870. That old headland, with its once lawn like spaces at the base, its clumps of beautiful trees, covered with base to apex with glorious trees, bushes, flowering plants, and creepers, celestial and terrestrial orchids, ferns, and arum lilies, bordering the river on one side and the ocean on the other, down on to the old grey rocks, where-
The trees sloped downwards to the edge and stood
With their green faces fixed upon the flood.
And the receding tide left deep sea green rock pools full of splendid fish that could be speared from the edge or caught with a line.
There are still the eternal glorious surf, the vast ocean, and the white beaches, the grand peak of Mt. Warning, “Walloombin,” the majestic Macpherson Range, and the highest peak the blacks called “Tooragoon” (the dead woman), from an aboriginal woman who died there suddenly, long ago, from heart disease.
And you look out on that rough rocky, lonely island Oxley called “Turtle Island,” known to the blacks as “Joong-urra-narrian,” because ‘Joong-urra,” the pelican, danced on those rocks and corroboreed.
And in fancy you see Oxley going up the Tweed in his whaleboat in 1823, to be followed in 1828 by Captain Rous, of the “Rainbow,” the first warship in Moreton Bay. He and a crew left the ship in a whaleboat, went south along Moreton Bay until he came to where Southport is, and first saw that Stradbroke was an island. He had a copy of Oxley’s chart showing the Tweed River, so he went out over the Southport bar, and steered direct for Point Danger in the distance, entered the Tweed and must have gone up to where Murwillumbah is today. Then he returned to the Rainbow, named Stradbroke Island, and sailed for Sydney, discovering and naming the Clarence and Richmond on the way down.
Just behind Burleigh is a very deep lagoon no blacks would ever swim in, for it was the home of the “Bunyip,” and certainly when Davy Muir and myself were camped near it one night, we were kept very much awake by diabolical sounds which might have been made by some old bear, or two old bears, “boorabee,” having a fight.
Cudgen Creek has its name from the red clay with which the blacks painted themselves. The old blacks told me there was once a dark cave in the face of Point Danger, where the sea, “Toomgun,” made a terrific noise in heavy weather. They called that cave “Moy-nogumbo,” or the “Black Dog,” and say it was shattered by a flash of lightning.
Away up the Tweed near Murwillumbah, is “Murdering Creek,” the “Kirrim Kirrin” of the blacks, where two of them, “Cararr” and “Murrin,” of the Tal-gye-gan tribe, killed two sawyers named Phemy and Collins.
BLACK MAN TO WHITE SETTLEMENT
IN THE JUNGLE TIMES
WILD MEN’S DOMAIN
BEFORE OXLEY CAME
We look far back into other years, to the days when the shore of what is now Queensland was untrodden by the feet of white man, when wild in woods the naked savage ran, before sailors from England, or Dutch or French or dark Iberius, had loomed with their white-winged ships on the blue horizon of the vast Pacific. The whole great Australian continent yet lay as it had lain for measureless ages, far beyond the range of the knowledge of civilized man.
And through all these ages seemingly long in Time, but next to nothing in Eternity, the great Australian continent slumbered peacefully, the shores washed by the surrounding oceans, its bosom covered by primeval forests in which the birds sang, and the wild winds played Aeolian melodies as they do today, and shall continue to sing and play while trees and birds remain.
Then arises the question, to which we shall probably never have an answer – was the Aboriginal here in the days of Egyptian, Assyrian, and Grecian civilizations, or was he here thousands of years before these ancient civilizations ever came into existence?
Was the aboriginal throwing his woomera spear, and boomerang in the days of the
Flying Mede – his shaftless broken bow,
The fiery Greek – his red pursuing spear?
Or far beyond those Medsian and Grecian warriors, beyond all annals of recorded civilisations, Busiris may have been marshalling his Memphian cavalry, and the first Pharaoh driving his brazen war chariots, when the aboriginals were netting dugong in Moreton Bay, singing corroborees on the shores of Stradbroke, or hunting wallabies, on the Enoggera Ranges.
The later Gerard Krofft, for many years chief scientist and director of the Sydney Museum, said he got a fossil human tooth from the Wellington caves, evidently contemporaneous with the Diprotodon.
If the aboriginal was here with the Diprotodon then he was here many a thousand years before the appearance of any civilisations recorded in human history.
And when his time of final departure has come, and it is not far off, all the memorials of his existence will be the spears and shields, woomeras, nullas, boomerangs, and dilly bags in our museums, and when they have decayed in the natural course of time, the last lone surviving relics of the vanished race will be the stone tomahawks.
And that aboriginal race which we have displaced by the sole aid of the brutal law of the strongest, in reality, represents, with infinite pathos and awful significance, the fatal and inexorable and humiliating mutability of all human existence.
They have no storied urns or animated busts, no marble temples, no Pantheon or Coliseums, no wondrous halls of Karnak, no temples of Isis or Jupiter, no Pyramids of Cheops, or Cyphrones, or Mycerinus, but they have outlived all the ancient architectural races, although their camps were mostly constructed with “roof of air and walls of wind,” and their dead bodies went back into mother earth, and vanished in oblivion.
And now we shall, with the fairy aid of fancy, sketch a picture of the Brisbane River and Moreton Bay, before the white man appeared upon the sylvan scene.
There is no need to draw upon the reports of Oxley or Lockyer, or any other early writers.
The Brisbane River presented almost exactly the same appearance as every other river on the East Coast, from the Hunter River, to the Pascoe River, in the Cape York Peninsula.
Where Brisbane stands today, was covered mostly by scrub, very thick on the site of the Botanic Gardens, where the tulip trees, “Maginnchin,” gave the aboriginal name to the Brisbane River. All the footage of South Brisbane was thick scrub, through which flowed three or four small creeks, draining the swamps at the back, and all the northern slopes of Highgate Hill. In the recent sewerage excavations in South Brisbane, the workmen had too good reason to know the tracks of those dirty little creeks of black mangrove mud.
In North Brisbane the largest creek started about the old Grammar School, ran down and formed a waterhole, partly, on the site of the new Town Hall, and ran thence down Adelaide Street, and turned thence across Queen Street, and into the river at the present Creek Street ferry. It was a dirty, muddy, mangrove creek, crossing Queen Street, with an overhead footbridge when I first visited Brisbane, in 1870. In that creek, a brother of Tom Petrie, a splendid young fellow, was drowned, and also one of John Petrie’s children.
Where the fig tree stands today, at the corner of Creek and Elizabeth Streets, there was a waterhole where the boys used to “boogie,” which is a pure aboriginal word for bathing. A small creek ran down Albert Street into the river at the Alice Street ferry, through a most unlovely mangrove swamp known to all the early settlers as “Frogs’ Hollow.”
There were patches of scrub in all the ravines of Spring Hill, and thick forest and undergrowth covered the rest. Victoria Park was open forest, and the creek there was a favourite camping ground of the blacks. Thick forest and undergrowth, and small patches of scrub, covered all Fortitude Valley and down to Breakfast Creek, the “Yuoggera” of the blacks, where there was a splendid scrub covering all the area at the mouth of the creek on the south side down to the edge of the water at the point the blacks called “Garranbinbilla,” the name of the vine interlacing the framework of their camps.
Fraser, the botanist, in 1828, when he came from Sydney to fix the site of our Botanic Gardens, said of Breakfast Creek: this place is noted for its gigantic timber and the variety of its plants. There he got the first specimen of the bean tree, the Moreton Bay chestnut, Castanospernum Australis, and he also found a native cemetery, represented by hollow logs filled with the bones of blacks of all sizes.
THE WILD LIFE
Here and there the blacks crossing the river or fishing in bark canoes, gondol, made from broad sheets of stringy bark, jeelgann. Active athletes climb trees with the vine and the stone tomahawk, in search of “coopee” the possum, and “cooroy” and “Boorabee,” the native bear.
In the forest a band of hunters are in pursuit of “gnoorooin” the emu, and “gooraman” the kangaroo. In an open pocket of the forest a band of boys are practicing with small spears and nullas, at whirling discs of bark.
Young men are throwing the return boomerang, and a group of old men are seated in the shade, discussing the deeds of their early days, and watching the boomerang throwing with critical, eyes. A band of fishermen with the heart shaped towrow nets, are closing in a circle , on a shoal of mullet, on the sand beach of Mooroo-Mooroolbin, where the seawall stands today. Groups of women are weaving striped baskets from the pink and green swamp rushes, “Yekkabin,” or making reed necklaces,calgirrpin, while the young girls are bathing in merry bands in the river. Everywhere, joyous, wild, free life, man and beast, and bird and tree, in primeval innocence. Man himself in the midst of peace and plenty, free from any sort of toil, and radiant with the physical health and vigour which make the mere daily life a perennial source of joy.
We shall step into a canoe, “coondoo,” and “gondol,” and paddle down the river. On both sides is the magnificent primeval forest, untouched by the hand of man. Tall, dark, majestic kauri pines tower above the other vegetation. Splendid staghorn and elkhorn ferns cling to the stems and branches of many trees. Glorious orchids are flowering on the trees and rocks. The air is heavy with the sensuous odour of many flowers. Flocks of gorgeously plumaged and noisy parrots, “beearr,” revel among the bloom of the forest wattles, or the blossoms of the beantrees. Groups of solemn pelicans, “joong-wira,” stand on the sandbanks, or fish in crescent lines.
Ducks rise before us in hundreds, and noble swans, “neerung,” rise from the water, and leave a four line track with feet and pinions on the surface. The mangroves bend with the weight of countless blue plumaged, red billed, porphyrio. Very beautiful is that river border of dwarf and giant bright and dark green mangroves, the guardians of the banks. Black cockatoos, “cararra,” with their strong beaks, tear open the dead wood for the white grubs, and great flocks of white cockatoos, “kyarra,” whiten the tree tops, or pass overhead to some feeding ground. Great black eagles, “boodarr,” circle overhead, and a swift sparrow hawk, with amazing speed, comes with a rush from a tree top, and strikes a black duck, “narr,” dead into the river, severing the jugular vein.
In the dark scrub, the turkey, “wahgoon,” watches for her young one’s birth from the womb of the mounded nest; and the speckled wonga, “goolooin,” repeats his monotonous “coo, coo, coo,” from some umbrageous bower, where his mate sits coyly beside him, and probably goes to sleep. Grey old bears, “Cooroy,” crouch in the forks of trees, and thousands of flying foxes, “geerammon,” hang pendulous from a hundred trees. A wild man stealthily climbs a tree and stabs some of them with a 16ft three pronged spear. The wild women dive in the lagoons for lily roots, “jimboor,” dig yams, “lahn,” in the scrub, or pull the edible fern roots, “bangwal,” from the swamps.
At Coonoolpin, now Lytton, two small pathways, “coolgan” and “tumbarr,” down to the river, and on the beach is a tall powerful black, with a long spear, “candi,” and a kangaroo net, “meerboon,” and beside him a tall woman, whose neck is encircled by an elaborate reed necklace, “kieerbin.” Four men are hauling the fish net, “moondeen,” capturing a lot of mullet, “andaccal.” An old man is seated on the ground, with two dry sticks and some timber, creating fire, “tahloo,” and “geera,” while five or six other men are singing an old song and keeping time with two boomerangs, “bargann.”
We reach the mouth of the river, the north head of which was called Boorennba, from boovenn, the whiting, and before us are the Andaccah Islands, of the old blacks, in a time to come, the “Fishermen’s Islands” of Matthew Flinders.
We go across to the island of Noogoon, the St. Helena of today, a beautiful island covered by dense, luxuriant jungle, with an encircling broad belt of dark green mangroves. Why, oh, why, was that splendid natural botanic garden ever desecrated by the axe? The eastern point was Decamillo, the name of the dewfish, and the west was Coojung, the groper.
In the early days, the first botanical collector on Noogoon got six specimens of new plants never seen since.
Two aboriginals killed three white men there in 1854.
In January, 1868, the first superintendent, John Macdonald, started to fell the first 10 acres to receive some plants from the Brisbane Botanic Gardens.
Away eastward were the long blue outlines, the low hills, and white sand dunes of Minjerribah and Guvorgannpin, the Stradbroke and Moreton Islands of today, inhabited then by healthy, happy athletic races, now no more.
We land at Goompee, the Dunwich of today, and see a crowd of wild, fish eating aboriginals of the Coonool-cabalcha tribe, speaking Coobennpil. They lived on fish, turtle, “milbeer,” dugong, “yung-an,” crabs, “weenyam,” oysters, “keenying-urra,” and fern root, “bangwal.” They had also opossums, wallabies, and kangaroos.
We go north to Guoorgampin, the Moreton Bay of today, and see the Booroogoomeerie tribe conjointly fishing with the porpoise, “yulu,” in shoals of mullet, catching them in their hundreds. Their picturesque island stretched away north for 25 miles to Boogaramin-calleem, Cape Moreton, with magnificent sand dunes and a whole chain of beautiful lakes, one mile in length, and covered with wild fowl.
Now we return to the valley in what is now Victoria Park, and listen to a corroboree of 600 wild men and women, assembled there from the river to the Cabulture, and the shores of the bay. And we stand on the summit of “Woomboonboroo,” our Spring Hill, and see afar off the towering summits of the Main Range, the great rock crest of Lindesay, and the peaks of Barney and Flinders.