The Terrible Tragedy of the Pearl, Northern Christmas, Cape York Peninsula, John Nairn, The Peruvian Tragedy

The Terrible Tragedy of the Pearl

Northern Christmas Eve

Cape York Peninsula

John Nairn

The Peruvian Tragedy












In our special edition last night we reported on a terrible tragedy that occurred below the Victoria Bridge at five minutes past five o’clock.

        All traffic having been stopped on the bridge, the small steamer pearl left the Queen’s Wharf for the Musgrave Wharf, South Brisbane.

        The vessel carried a large complement of passengers. Accounts vary as to the number on board, but it was thought it was between 80 and 100. The flood water was at the time running fairly strong, but not strong enough to interfere greatly with the handling of the steamer.

        On the journey across the Pearl steamed down the river a short distance in order to pass between the steamer Normanby and the Government steamer Lucinda. The Pearl, in avoiding the Normandy, was carried by the current broadside on to the anchor chains of the Lucinda. The Pearl suddenly capsized, and it is thought that she was almost cut in two by the force of the collision. In a minute or two after the first contact, all the passengers were struggling in the water.

        It is not known how many of the passengers were saved. A number, it is known, succeeded in scrambling up the anchor chains of the Lucinda, and others were rescued by boats, with which the river near the scene of the accident was in a few minutes alive. Up to the present, only 34 have been accounted for; but there may easily have others rescued.

        It is feared that more than one half of the number of the unfortunate people on board the Pearl have been drowned.

        The accident was witnessed by a large crowd of people who were in the vicinity of Victoria Bridge and William Street at the time. A rush across the bridge was made by hundreds of people, and as the news of the accident spread rapidly in South Brisbane and the city the people flocked in thousands towards the Bridge to gaze on the scene of the unfortunate occurrence.

Earlier Reports

        The hands on board the Beaver and other vessels in the vicinity immediately threw overboard all the forms, life-saving apparatus, and, indeed, anything that would float, but this act of thoughtfulness, timely as it was, was unavailing, for the awful suddenness of the catastrophe placed those unfortunates who were victims almost beyond all human aid. As an instance of this, it may be mentioned that those at the dry Dock saw no people in the water save two little boys, who were floating down on a form, and were quickly rescued. Save for these, and the groups of sorrowing relatives and friends, there was nothing to show that an accident had happened.

        At the end of Sidon Street, about ten minutes after the catastrophe, a body floating feet uppermost was observed at the dredge which lies there.

        Willing hands quickly seized it, and all efforts were made to restore animation. Dr. William Kebbell was present, but the unfortunate woman was past all human aid. She was conveyed to an empty shop opposite the Dry Dock, and placed on a stretcher.

        One of the females, a young girl, who was rescued by the Lucinda’s boat, was carried into a Stanley Street shop, where the work of revival was vigorously prosecuted. Her lips were black, and her face discoloured, but she was quickly brought round, and taken to her home in West End by a relative who was at hand.

        The Lucinda’s boat picked up several persons. Reckoning those who jumped from the sinking steamer on to the Lucinda’s decks  and those rescued from the water, there were twenty-eight, which included several boys, two elderly women, and the girl rescued above.

        The lessee of the Ernest Street ferry and others who willingly plied with his boats, also did excellent service. Five boats were out from this ferry. One succeeded in rescuing ten, another eight, and a third two.

        The Pearl was seen drifting past Bulimba Ferry about 7 o’clock, apparently broken in half. No one was seen on the remains of the steamer, but several hats were observed floating near the wreck.

        The gloom which inevitably attaches itself to so gruesome an incident is somewhat brightened by the readiness with which help was extended, and the despatch which characterized it. At the time the work of clearing the bridge was going on apace. Presently a man sitting on the top of one of the girders of the new bridge shouted to those below, and immediately all the rowing boats in the vicinity put out, while the steamers at work at the debris literally flew under the bridge to the scene of the catastrophe. In the meantime, however, craft lying nearer to it were among the debris and floating people, and rendered all the aid that could be given.

        The scenes at the river ends of the streets and on the wharves were of the most painful and affecting nature. Men looked anxiously as the rescue vessels returned practically empty, women wrung their hands frantically, and moaned aloud with the grief which weighed them down, while children looked eagerly for their parents or brothers and sisters, and it is feared many looked in vain.

How the News was Received

        When the news was received on the southside, the scene was a terrible one. Women and men came running down to the Ernest Street and other ferries, sobbing and crying. A great many seemed quite beside themselves with grief. There was the terrible uncertainty as to whether their loved ones were onboard, and as fresh arrivals came over the bridge and by other means managed to cross the river, there were many scenes almost too pathetic to see.

        At the Garden Ferry, the only relics of the disaster that were found were the women’s hats and a few articles of personal attire. Even there, there were within half an hour anxious enquiries.

        One of the saved passengers, when interviewed by one of our reporters as he was landed at the Ernest Street ferry, said that the moment the boat struck he leapt clear. He was drawn under by the current, and passed two little girls without any power to help them. He was picked up when opposite MʿGhie Luya’s by a ferry boat

        There can be no possible doubt but that the escaping steam from the boiler and furnace killed many on the lower deck. Two of the bodies recovered near the Dock were almost black, and bore traces of severe scalding. One woman who was picked up by Mr. Lewis, the proprietor of the Ernest Street Ferry, was also perfectly black from steam and coal dust.
List of Saved

        So far as could be ascertained last night from exhaustive enquiries, the following were saved:-

Misses Geraldine and Maud McGroarty, daughters of Mr. McGroarty, inspector of schools, who were picked up near the Earnest Street Baths by a boat.

        Miss Mary Lehane, daughter of Mr. Lehane, licencee of the Boundary Street Hotel, rescued by a rope thrown from a steamer.

        Miss Mary Cain, Jane Street, West End, rescued by a rope thrown from the Lucinda.

        Miss Isabella Braidwood, Jane Street, West End, rescued by a man holding on to a lifebuoy near the Railway Wharves, and taken on board a boat.

        Mr. Frederick Ballinger, traffic inspector, who swam as far as the Dry Dock and got ashore there.

        Mrs. Priest, wife of Mr. Priest (of Messrs. Priest and Kennedy), rescued by a rope thrown from the Lucinda.

        Mr. W. O. Lamond, Morehead and Co.

        Mr. Bell booth, Queensland Trustees.

        Mr. C. H. Briggs, Brisbane Newspaper Company.

        Mr. W. Hucking, G. T. Bell and Co.

        Mr. William Wilson, Yeronga (Apollo Company).

        Messrs. Finlayson (2).

        Mr. Geddes, senior, Toowoomba, father of Mr. T. Geddes, postmaster, Melbourne Street, who was picked up near Pettigrew’s wharf.

        James Chard, master of the Pearl.

        Tate, fireman of the Pearl.

        Mutch, engineer of the Pearl.

        Mr. Arthur Loseby, wharf labourer, Spring Hill.

        Mr. P. L. Williams, of Teneriffe, picked up off the Gardens.

        Mr. J. Fitzmaurice, picked up at Gardens Ferry.

        Mr. Peter Dowd, Government Printing Office.

        Mr. James Wassall, son of Inspector Wassall, Lytton.

        Mr. E. Owen Rees, manager Equitable Insurance Company.

        Mrs. B. Brooks.

        Mr. Alex R. Henry, son of Mr. R. D. Henry, Ernest Street.

        Mr. Leslie Walter Groom, son of Mr. Groom, M.L.A., Franklin Street.

        Mr. David Kerr, son of Mr. R. Kerr, Little Jane Street, West End.

        Mr. Gurney Henzell, Coorparoo.

        Mr. T. Sythers, Geological Museum.

        Mrs. Jarman.

        Deck hand of the Pearl.

        Mr. W. Ellis, Queensland Trustees, who was at first reported missing, has since been heard of.

        R. Alford, Yeronga.

        L. Pardon, Survey Office.

        James Wilson, South Brisbane.

        T. Brock, Wynnum.

        It was rumoured that two boys were picked up out of the water, clinging to a form, and that a young lad named Phil, who formerly worked in the publishing dept of the “Boomerang” office, jumped from the Pearl on to the Lucinda and did not even get wet.

List of Missing

        It was a matter of the greatest difficulty to obtain information with reference to those who were missing after the accident, but it is believed that the following were on board the Pearl, and they have been reported as missing-

Son of Mrs. O’Sullivan, aged 9 years.

Mrs. Best.

Mrs. Messenger.

Mrs. Gould.

Mrs. Wilson.

Miss Ida Newman, teacher of dancing, Coorparoo.

Mr. S. Chorlton, Longlands Street, Woolloongabba.

Mrs. A. B. Benton, Cordelia Street.


Miss Louisa Barnes, Boggo Road.

Mrs. Harper, corner Gray and Russell Streets.

Mr. McCorkindale late president of the Coorparoo Shire Council was with Mr. Ballinger at the time of the accident. He said to Mr. Ballinger, “Good-bye; I cannot swim. Remember me to my wife.” He then disappeared, and Mr. Ballinger did not see him again.

        On the body of the woman found at the foot of Sidon Street was a receipt, given apparently that day, to a “Mrs. Harper,” and is signed by Mrs. A Warner, bedding manufacturer, Roma Street. The body is that of a woman apparently between 25 and 30 years of age; about 5ft 4in. in height, slightly freckled, and with prominent teeth. The dress was black, and laced boots were worn. On the body was a lady’s silver Royal Waltham watch and lady’s Albert chain, with tassel pendants; a silk handkerchief, with deep-coloured embroidered border. Her body is awaiting identification at the establishment of Messrs Kenny and Dietz, undertakers, Stanley Street.

        S. Chorlton formerly kept a temperance boarding-house in Stanley Street, South Brisbane, more recently has been at work engineering. It is supposed that he elft North Brisbane by the Pearl. A pocketbook, evidently his property, has been found in the river containing railway pass bearing his name, from Brisbane to Ipswich; also memorandum concerning iron work on the Countess Street bridge, which is counter-signed by Chas. Sutton for J. W. Sutton and Co. Mr. Chorlton was a well-known resident of South Brisbane for many years.

        Under “Missing” also will come the name of Mrs. A. B. Benton, of Bentwood, Cordelia Street, South Brisbane. Mr. Benton is a well-known citizen, employed at Perry Bros, Queen Street. Mrs. Benton was expected home at about 5 o’clock, but it is reported that nothing has been heard of her since the accident.

The Ferry Traffic

Today’s Arrangements

        The Colonial Secretary has handed over the ferry traffic to the control of the Mayors of Brisbane and South Brisbane, and has placed the Government steamer Miner in their charge. It has been arranged that the steamers Alice and Miner would resume ferry traffic at 6 o’clock this morning, running between Queen’s Wharf and the Musgrave Wharf.

The Captain’s Statement

        James Chard, Captain of the steamer, Pearl, states that he was crossing the river between the steamer Normanby and Lucinda, following the usual course, when an eddy got hold of the vessel, and before he had time to go astern, she got across the chains of the Lucinda, and crashed in two.

The Fireman’s Story

        The fireman of the Pearl, Tait, was interviewed while standing on the Musgrave Wharf. He stated that the first thing he knew of the accident was hearing the Pearl crash broadside on to the Lucinda. Within ten seconds of the accident, he was in the water, struggling for dear life. He looked around him, but could see nothing. The Pearl must have sunk a few moments after the collision and the passengers who were able to swim had been carried downstream with the current. He did not hear anyone scream, and had in consequence arrived at the conclusion that the majority of the passengers went down with the vessel. There were four men employed on the Pearl, but he had not heard whether any of them besides himself had been saved. Tait, who is a good swimmer, struck out for the shore, which he reached in safety.

The Steamer Pearl

        The Pearl was a wooden screw-steamer of ten horse-power and forty-one tons register, gross. Her dimensions were: 58.7ft long, 15.1ft beam, and 5.1ft depth, and she was built in New South Wales in 1883.

        She had been engaged in the river trade, and between Brisbane and Redland Bay, and was formerly running between the city and Humpybong.

        The vessel was built with an upper and lower deck, and was licensed to carry about 120 passengers in the river.

        Constable Gregg, of the Water Police, who was in charge of the wharf at the time she left on the fatal trip, says that she had between seventy and eighty persons on board at the time, which would be but a moderate load, but most of these were on the upper deck.

        She was in charge of James Chard, her master, who has had many years experience on the river.

        At the time of the accident, she was running in conjunction with the Alice and Young Mat, and plying between the Queen’s Wharf and the Musgrave Wharf. Like most of the river steamers, she was supplied with life-saving apparatus, in the form of seats with oildrums lashed beneath them; but the catastrophe was so sudden that, although many of these were seen floating down the river, very few of them, so far as is known, proved a means of saving life.

Personal Narratives

Leslie Walter Groom

        A young man named Leslie Walter Groom, son of Mr. Groom, M.L.A., living with his brother, Mr. L. E. Groom, of Franklin Street, South Brisbane, was among those of the Pearl’s passengers who were fortunate enough to get on board the Lucinda. Mr. Groom states that on the way across, the Pearl was almost bumping into the Normanby. The Captain gave orders to stop the engine, and this order was obeyed. The engine was not started again, and the Pearl was carried down with the strong tide towards the Government steamer.

        The engineer sang out to the Captain, “Look out Jim, you will be on the Lucinda.”

        Captain Chard thereupon gave the order, “Stern,” and just then the Pearl bumped into the Lucinda amidships.

        Young Groom was standing beside a companion named Alex. Henry, and the latter said, “We will have to swim for it.” The Pearl seemed to be lifted up by the anchor chains of the Lucinda. Henry jumped into the water, and Groom crawled along the bottom of the vessel for a few yards, and succeeding in getting over the side, caught hold of the bumpkin of the Lucinda and sprang on board that vessel.

        Groom says that about thirty people, nearly a dozen of whom were women, were successful in getting on board the Government steamer. Several of the Pearl’s passengers clung to the Lucinda’s chains, and were rescued by being dragged on board.

        The excitement on board the Pearl was terrible, and Mr. Groom said it was heartrending to hear the cries of the people as the steamer capsized. The whole occurrence was over in a few moments. Then nothing was to be seen of the doomed vessel, and few persons could be seen in the water near the place; those who were fortunate enough to get clear of the vessel and rise to the surface being carried quickly downstream. Mr. Groom estimates the number of people who were on board the Pearl at between ninety and 100, and he is afraid that at least half the number have been drowned.

Miss Braidwood

        Miss Isabella Braidwood, who is employed by Messrs. Grimes and Petty, had a very narrow escape from losing her life.

        She was taking a holiday yesterday, and in the course of the day accompanied a friend, Miss Louisa Barnes, residing with her parents at Boggo Road, into the city.

        They were returning home by the pearl, and were standing on the deck when the steamer collided.

        Miss Braidwood, as the Pearl turned over, was thrown into the water well clear of the sinking craft.

        She sank more than once, and was then carried down the river. When nearly opposite the railway wharves she caught sight of two people – a man and a woman- who had hold of a lifebuoy. She called out to the man to save her, and he succeeded in catching hold of her, and keeping hold of her until she secured a firm grip of the lifebuoy, to which she held on until rescued by a passing boat.

        She did not know the name of the man who caught hold of her as she was being swept downstream, but thinks he was a seaman, and a passenger on board the Pearl.

        The middle aged woman who had hold of the buoy, and was being supported by the man referred to was elderly, and seemed to be exhausted; and was in all probability the woman who was brought ashore, but too late to admit of anything being done to restore consciousness.

        Miss Barnes was never seen again by her friend, and up to a late hour last night had not returned home, so that it is feared she has been drowned.

The Brothers Finlayson

        Mr. Malcolm Finlayson gives the following account of his experience on the steamer:- “I should think about seventy people were on board. I stepped on about a minute before the steamer started. With my brother William, I was standing between the seats on the bridge deck, talking to a Mr. Lavers, sen. Some person standing near remarked that the Pearl would collide with the Normanby, which was anchored in mid-stream, but I answered that it looked very as if she would strike the Lucinda.

        Soon afterwards, the Pearl struck broadside on the Lucinda, and within a few seconds rolled over and disappeared.

        I was thrown into the water, and upon rising to the surface, clung with two others, to a large seat. The form went down with our weight, and upon my rising to the surface a second time I was the only one left clinging to it. As I floated past the stern of the Lucinda, my brother William, who had climbed up the bow of the vessel, threw a rope out to me, but I was unable to catch it. I drifted down to near McGhie, Luya, and Co.’s wharf, and was then rescued by a steam launch.”

        Mr. William Finlayson states that Mr. Lavers did not get on board the Lucinda, and he did not see him after the Pearl went down.

Four Girls Rescued

        Four girls, scholars at the Convent School, who reside with their parents within a stone’s throw of each other in the West End, were among the Pearl’s passengers. Their names are: Mary Lehane aged 13 years, daughter of the licencee of the Boundary Street hotel, her cousin Mary Cain, residing in Jane Street, and Geraldine and Maud McGroarty, daughters of Mr. McGroarty, school inspector, also residing in Jane Street. The girls were in a group on the deck when the collision took place. They rushed forward and the girl Lehane took hold of a seat, and kept a grip of it after she was precipitated into the water. A rope was flung to her from a vessel – she thinks it was the Lucinda- and she was thereby rescued. The girl Cain was successful in catching on to the Lucinda’s anchor chains, and was speedily taken on board that steamer by willing hands. The sisters McGroarty clung to each other as the Pearl collided, and went into the river together. Geraldine caught hold of a piece of wood that was floating past, and bravely supported her sister Maud, who was clinging to her, as they were carried down by the current. The sisters were picked up by a boat when a little below the Ernest Street Baths. Last night the four girls were suffering no ill effects from their trying experience.

A Sad Case

        It was a pitiful tale which Mr. James Wilson had to tell. He was found in a South Brisbane boarding-house, pretty well overcome by the affliction which had come upon him. A few kind neighbours were at hand seeking to administer such consolation as their hearts gave out for the distressed.

        Mrs. Wilson, who had some shopping to do, met him at the Queen’s Wharf. The couple left the Queen’s Wharf, and the steamer’s head was put towards the south side. There were two boats lying on the other side of the river, the Lucinda and the Normanby, at no great distance from each other, and the steamer Pearl set out to go between them. She attempted to cross between the two vessels. Mr. Wilson said that in his opinion the Pearl went completely wrong, and he told the Captain that he would not get clear of the Lucinda. Seeing the danger he caught hold of his wife, and held her up when they found themselves in the water. Another lady also clung to him, but both were carried down by the stream. Wilson tried all he could to save his wife, but without success, and she sank before his eyes. The occurrence quite prostrated him, but when some neighbour brought in four children, their ages ranging from 3 to 8, whose mother had been drowned in the accident, he readily consented to take charge of the. Their mother (Mrs. Harper) had recently come for Gympie.

Another Statement

        Mr. A.R. Henry, one of the survivors, said that all went well until they got to the steamer Normanby, which they passed immediately astern. When the collision took place, he dived off, and swam to the Lucinda’s boat, which had been put out. When the Pearl sank he saw a number of people struggling in the water, but he did not notice many school children.

Statement of Mr. Briggs

        Charles Herbert Briggs, clerk in the “Courier” office, stated that he left Queen’s Wharf in the Pearl at about 5 o’clock. He considered there were about 100 passengers on board.  The steamer went upstream, and turned to cut the stern of the Normanby. In doing so, the captain appeared to miscalculate his distance, and had to allow his vessel to drift downstream to clear the Normanby.

        In doing so, he got too much sideway on with the current. When the captain discovered his position he ordered the engines to reverse, but the space being too short the vessel crashed into the bows of the Lucinda.

        The Pearl was lifted up by the current into the chains of the Government steamer, throwing the starboard side completely under water. She immediately became filled, and within the space of about half-a-minute, sank. The passengers were panic stricken, and had no time to free themselves from the awning of the sinking steamer.

        As far as he could judge, the vessel was cut clean in two. He saw the danger approaching, and went across to the port side, and dived overboard. When about forty yards away he turned and was just in time to see the last of the Pearl go down. He swam down the stream with his umbrella and bag in one hand, and guided himself with the other, and was picked up near the Dry Docks by a ferry boat.

        He afterwards assisted in landing one woman and four men who had been who had been swept down the stream after him. In his opinion about thirty were saved. The passengers were nearly all full grown people, very few children being on board. The majority of passengers were on the upper deck of the steamer.

Mr. William Huckins

        William Huckins, an acct in the employ of Mr. G. T. Bell, stated that he went aboard of the Pearl in company with Mr. Briggs.

        All went well until rounding the stern of the Normanby, when Mr. Briggs remarked to him that the thing was being cut pretty fine. He concurred, and immediately afterwards the danger with the Lucinda became plainly apparent. The moment they were fully clear of the Normanby the engines, which had been previously stopped, were again put in motion, but the vessel drifted rapidly port side on to the Lucinda.

        The danger was apparent at about thirty yards, and as the engines were stopped, the passengers must have realized the position. When within about ten yards of the Lucinda, he rushed after Mr. Briggs to the side, and saw him jump overboard, but he himself remained standing on the bulwarks. At the time of the crash the passengers were huddled together. As soon as he saw the hopeless condition of the steamer he jumped overboard, and followed Mr. Briggs down the stream, eventually being picked up by a ferry boat. He considered that about forty passengers went down with the steamer.

Experiences of Yeronga Residents

        Through the kindness of a gentleman resident at Yeronga, who communicated with us by telephone, we are enabled to furnish the following interesting particulars:-

So far as can be ascertained, all the Yeronga people who were on board have been saved. Amongst those on the Pearl at the time of the accident were – Messrs E. O. Rees (of the Equitable Insurance Company), Richard Alford (Alford and Co.), L. Pardoe (of the Survey Office), William Wilson (of the Apollo Candle Company), all of whom were rescued from the water.

Mr. Alford climbed on board the Lucinda before the Pearl went down, escaping without much difficulty.

        Mr. Rees, on finding that the steamer was going down, dived overboard and surfaced up near the funnel; avoiding that, he had some difficulty in getting clear of the wreckage. Eventually he drifted down the river and was picked up near  McGhie, Luya’s wharf by a boat that had put out by a boat.

        Wilson was struck on the head by some part of the vessel and does not know how he escaped, but he rose to the surface, and was eventually picked up by the same boat that saved Mr. Rees. He had a very gruesome experience. When he was in the water he saw an object floating by which seemed likely to afford support, and he tried to swim to it. He was not able to stem the current, but presently it drifted near him, and he then saw that it was the body of a man, which sank within a few feet of him.

Mr. Pardoe, after swimming for a while, found one of the steamer’s deck forms floating near him. He got on to it, and then noticed a boy about 14 years of age close by, whom he pulled on to the form also. Together they drifted down the stream, and before long a boat came to their rescue. At this time Mr. Pardoe noticed a woman floating not far off, and directed those in the boat to go to her rescue. A couple of life-buoys were thrown them from the boat, which then left, and, after rescuing the woman, returned to take them off the form. By this time they had floated near the coal wharves, where they were taken off the form and pulled ashore in the boat.

The accounts of all the rescued persons agree that as soon as the accident had happened, boats shot out from all directions to aid in the rescue work.

Efforts to Rescue the People

As already stated, the accident had no sooner happened than the river teemed with boats and small steamers seeking to pick up the drowning passengers; but very little could be done.

The men on the various ships in the river were quickly on the alert. Amongst these the crew of the Merrie England, in the Dry Dock, did all in their power, and the watch on board the gunboats lower down the river.

Mr. Petherbridge and Mr. Cyrus Williams, on hearing the news, pulled off from the Port Office Wharf to the Midge, and, picking up Captain Drake, they went down the river to Kangaroo Point towing a dingey. They passed a dozen forms buoyed up with oil drums, also a great quantity of wreckage, but nothing was seen of the people. Afterwards the Midge steamed up almost to the scene of the accident, but without having observed anyone in the water.

Pilot Craven, in charge of the steamer Pippo, who had spent the afternoon at the work at Victoria Bridge, receiving the alarm that the steam ferry boat had capsized, at once gave orders to clear away all lines and go to the rescue; but being unable to get clear, sent the boat with three men. The steamer afterwards went down to Kangaroo Point, keeping a sharp lookout, but saw nothing of the Pearl’s passengers.

The Pippo is under orders to start at daylight this morning to make search down the river for any bodies that may have been cast ashore.

Coxswain McIntosh, of the Laura, states that while his crew were engaged hauling on the wreckage around the bridge, his attention was drawn to the accident, and he at once summoned his men to jump into the boat and pull off. On reaching the Lucinda he found a woman – Mrs. Priest – in the last stage of exhaustion, hanging to a rope from the Lucinda, whom he was just in time to rescue. He then took off a man who was hanging to one of the stanchions of the Lucinda’s paddle-box. He looked carefully about but could see no more persons.

Story of an Eye-witness

Mrs. Jewell, wife of Mr. V. Jewell, cabinet-maker, residing next door to the office of the “Freelance” newspaper, South Brisbane, who is not in good health, had spent the afternoon on her veranda fronting the river. She had been greatly interested in the steamboats crossing and recrossing the river, and more than once had she told her husband that an accident must occur in the passage between the Normanby and Lucinda. To quote her own words to a correspondent of the “Courier”: “It was about 5 o’clock, or a few minutes after, I had been watching the boats plying between the north and the south sides, when all at once I noticed the steamer Pearl make to the opening between the steamer Normanby and the Government steamer Lucinda, and all at once something seemed to get out of gear, and the boat dashed broadside on to the Lucinda’s bows.

The shrieks and screams startled me, and made me feel sick and giddy; indeed, I feel so now, and never shall I forget to my dying day the sight of the poor creatures perishing before my very eyes. I called my husband to see if he could render any help.”

Mr. Jewell said: “I rushed out of the workshop on hearing my wife scream out. I saw the accident; the shrieks were fearful for a moment. The boat was against the bows of the Lucinda. I saw a few people jump, and it seemed to me glide (they were so quick) from the Pearl to the Lucinda, then the boat gave a turn and slid on her side, the steam hissing. Dozens of people slipped off as she turned, and were swept under as she sank. To picture what happened is almost impossible; so quick was the scene that I could hardly realize that so dreadful a catastrophe had taken place. I saw about twenty persons, men, women, and children fighting with the debris in the rushing waters, and sinking from exhaustion.”

The Harbour-master’s statement

Captain Mackay, Harbour-master, states that he proceeded at 9 o’clock in the Laura to assist in clearing the debris lodged around the piles of the bridge. Finding the Laura’s masts were too tall to pass under, he was reluctantly compelled to cut them away.

He arrived on the scene of operations at 2pm., and after dropping the Laura’s anchor upstream to hold her in position, he secured the services of the Chance and Undine, who, under his direction, were moored one on each side of the Laura.

Two piers were cleared under Captain Mackay’s directions.

When the disaster occurred, at the moment the collision seemed imminent, Captain Mackay’s attention was arrested by one of his crew calling out, “My God! There’s a ferryboat sinking!”

Captain Mackay states: “Simultaneously to this, I saw the unfortunate steamer go down stern first, her bows standing straight up, and only a whiff of steam, when her boilers touched the water, marking her disappearance. The ill-fated Pearl was simply hurled by the force of the rush of the water on to the Lucinda’s anchor-chains, which stood out like bars of iron, and heaved her clean over.

I immediately cut the Undine and the Chance adrift from the Laura, and placing several men under the charge of my coxswain sent them away in the whaleboat, which I am happy to say succeeded in saving three persons. The Pearl must have turned over and over, and numbers must have been scalded to death.”


A young girl, who is fatherless, had been to visit her mother, who lies ill in the hospital. She was one of those saved, but on being brought ashore she burst into tears, and between her sobs, told that she had neither friends nor relatives to look after her. Needless to say she was not long friendless.

The case of the lad Morren, who was amongst the saved, is especially distressing. He had been with his father and sister attending his mother’s funeral, and was returning to his home at Manly with them. His father and sister are numbered with the missing. Morren is about 14 or 15 years of age.

A wharf laborer named Arthur Loseby, of Spring Hill, was one of those on board. As the vessel sank, he was under the awning, but managed to extricate himself, and get to the surface. While swimming about he got hold of a woman, whom he supported for a while, until the master of the Pearl, Captain Chard, who was also in the water, put a lifebelt around her. The woman was saved. Loseby, when swimming ashore, got hold of an old man, and assisted him into a boat, afterwards getting in himself, and being landed at the Dry Dock.

A man named Gibson, in his hurry to get into a dingey to go to the rescue, fell and dislocated his ankle, besides seriously injuring his joint. He was conveyed to Dr. Fisher’s surgery, where his injuries were attended to.

Police Reports

It being necessary to remove the telephone and telegraph wires from Victoria Bridge in consequences of the unstable character of part of the structure, direct communication with South Brisbane was cut off last evening.

Police reports were, however, forwarded to the Roma Street station. Constable Corfield reported that about 5.05pm, he was on duty on the Musgrave Wharf. The Constable saw the steamer Pearl leave the Queen’s Wharf, North Brisbane, for Musgrave Wharf, South Brisbane, with about seventy passengers on board. She was steered in a vertical direction for the south side, and when about 100 yards from the south side she was drifted by the current against the bow of the Lucinda, which was anchored in the river.

Instantly, as the Pearl collided with the Lucinda, she turned completely over, and her passengers, numbering about seventy, were left struggling in the water. The Pearl rose to the surface again but she soon broke up, and part of her floated down the river. Boats were lowered from the Lucinda, and put out in all directions to the rescue of the passengers, and in this way about thirty were saved. Captain Chard, who was in charge at the time, and W. Mutch, fireman on board, and all the members of the crew were saved.


        Mr. W. Stephens, M.L.A., a former member of the Bridge Board, was busily engaged yesterday in regulating traffic from the south side of the river. When the passenger traffic was stopped on the bridge, he made application for the steamer Beaver to ply between South Brisbane and the city, but the application was not granted, on the ground, it is believed, that the vessel was not at all suitable for the purpose.

        Mr. Stephens, on his own responsibility, placed the steamers Alice and Pearl on the ferry service, and it is said that he warned the master of the latter vessel not to run between the Normanby and the Lucinda, but to cross the river below where the Government steamer was at anchor.

        It was at the instigation of the Mayor of South Brisbane (Mr. Luya), that yesterday morning the bridge was reopened for passenger traffic, after having been closed for a time.

        A notification appears to the effect that the Colonial Secretary has handed over the ferry traffic to the control of the Mayors of Brisbane and South Brisbane, and that the traffic would be resumed between the Queen’s Wharf and the Musgrave Wharf at 6 o’clock this morning.

        We are indebted to Mr. W. Stephens, M.L.A., for his courtesy and kindness in lending our representative a buggy, in which he proceeded to Wynnum and interviewed Messrs. C. Briggs and W. Huckins, a report of which appears in another column. The train service to Wynnum would not result of returning last night, and as soon as the circumstances were made known to Mr. Stephens, he promptly had the champion trotter L. Jeannie in a buggy and our reporter on his way for the desired information.








        A son of Mr. T. M. King, Under Secretary to the Treasury, appears to have had a narrow escape. He boarded the Pearl on the trip before the disaster and was ordered off. He did not, however, leave the boat. Had he done so, he would certainly have been in the disaster.

        It has been ascertained that Miss Maud Robson, who was reported in this morning’s “Courier,” missing, was not on board the Pearl.

        Our correspondent at Wynnum telegraphed last evening as follows: ‘In connection with the disaster to the Pearl, most painful anxiety is felt here as to the safety or otherwise of the people who are usual passengers by the three evening trains from Brisbane, and who have not yet arrived. Those saved from the Pearl, and who have arrived here, are Messrs. James Wassell, Thos Brock, Bell, Booth, and Lamond. Amongst those supposed to be drowned is Mr. Harry A. Jarman, son of Mr. E. Jarman.’

        There is no information yet to hand as to any one missing from Cleveland or Wellington Point.

        When the accident occurred, two boats at once put off from the Commercial Rowing Club shed as smartly as possible, and succeeded in rescuing two men, one of them a coloured man who had lost his wife and two children. The other was floating in one of the eddies. One of the boats was manned by Constable J. Deevy, who is a member of the club, and Messrs. W. B. Carmichael, R. Macalister, and J. Fury; the other by Constable Foley, also a member of the club, and Messrs J. H. Williams, A. Dennis, and A. Burton, all being well-known oarsmen. The boats were club pleasure skiffs.

        The death of Harry Jarman, eldest surviving son of Mr. R. E. Jarman, will leave a blank in a large circle of estimable young fellows who have done much in the Cadet movement in the Defence Force and in amateur theatricals. He had a lifebuoy when the steamer went over, but handed it over to his aunt – who was saved, saying to her, “Here, you take this and save yourself, I’ll be alright.” That was the last seen of him. Much sympathy will be felt with his father, Mr. R. E. Jarman, who is at present away in West Australia, and with Mrs. Jarman, who is a resident of Wynnum. Harry Jarman was about 21 years of age, and was in charge of his father’s saddlery business at the corner of Adelaide and Edward Streets.

        Hugh Kerr Morren, who was drowned while returning from the funeral of his wife, was a well-known resident of Manly, and leaves a large family of young children. He was a dairyman, but it is understood was in receipt of remittances from England. He was a well-educated man, and was well connected.

        Miss Grace Yorston, who was expected home last evening, has not been heard of up to this morning at 8.30, and it is feared that she may have been one of the unfortunates who were onboard the Pearl.

        Among those reported to be missing is Mr. William Percy Hall, of the Marine Defence Force Dept, who, it is feared, was on board the Pearl. He left his occupation about a quarter to 5, and it is believed started for his home on Mertons Road, South Brisbane, but has not since been heard of. He is 22 years of age, about 5ft 8in in height, slightly built, of fair complexion, with a light moustache.

        The Commissioner of Police particularly requests that any one who can give information as to persons supposed to have been on the Pearl, or who were rescued, will communicate with his office.

        The girl Martha Morren, who was on board the steamer with her father and brother, was not drowned, as at first supposed, but got ashore, and joined the Wynnum train at Vulture Street.

        Reginald Pickering, aged 18, in the employ of Messrs. Thynne and Macartney, solicitors, was one of the saved. When the Pearl struck the anchor chains of the Lucinda, he was near the man at the wheel on the lower deck, and as the vessel heeled over he climbed up to the side which was out of the water. He could see very little at the time, owing to the escape of steam, but just before the Pearl sank she seemed to rise up, and he was able to catch hold of the bumkin of the Lucinda. He thinks that when the Pearl broke in two a good many people were killed, some by being crushed against the Lucinda’s bumkin.

        Young Pickering had a narrow escape, his legislation being grazed. He climbed on board the Lucinda, without being wet. Mr. Crowther, of Messrs Wilson and Hemming, and a Mr. Steel were near Pickering at the time of the disaster, and the former is known to have been saved.

        Messrs. A. J. Crowther and B. P. Brown, who were among the persons on board the ill-fated Pearl, state that when the Pearl struck the Lucinda’s cables, she rolled over, her masts facing upstream. Most of the people on board ran down the incline into the water. They state that in their opinion, the Pearl should never have gone in front of the Lucinda. They further state that when the Captain saw the approaching danger, he seemed to lose his head, and gave the order “stern!” just as the Pearl was passing the Lucinda’s bows. They are loud in their praise of Captain South and the men of the Lucinda, who treated those rescued with every attention in their power.

        A report was circulated this morning that Mr. Connah, of the Treasury, had lost two of his sons. It seems, however, that both boys just missed the boat. Mr. Connah’s daughter crossed in the boat on her trip immediately preceding the disaster.

        No bodies have been found this morning. Instructions have been given by the police that so soon as any are found, they will be taken at once to the morgue on the Queen’s Wharf, and when identified, will be allowed to be removed by relatives.

        Inspector Wassell, of Lytton, had crews out at daylight this morning patrolling the banks of the river.

        Mr. Charles Clibborn, aged 15, who was reported among the missing this morning, now turns out to have been never on the boat at all.

        Captain Almond has sent two rowing boats to the mouth of the river to search for bodies. People living along the banks of the river have been warned to look out for bodies.

        In the list of the missing must be included the wife and two children of a coloured man, whose name we have not been able to ascertain, but who was picked up on the paddle-wheel of the Lucinda.

Additional List of Saved

R. Pickering.

A. J. Crowther.

B. P. Brown.

Thomas Brock, of Wynnum.


Additional Names

The following are the names of three who have been reported as missing, in addition to those mentioned in our report on page 5:-

Mr. H. E. Williams, Pastoral Butchering Company.

Mr. H. C. Morren, Manly.

Miss Grace Yorston.

Mrs. Worthington.

Mr. H. A. Jarman.

William Percy Hall, Merton Road, South Brisbane.

Miss Brand, Edward Street, off Boggo Road, who with a friend, went shopping yesterday afternoon. Her friend was saved.

Mr. Lavers, Merton Street, fruiterer.










        A search among so far unpublished manuscripts revealed the following account of one of my Christmas Eves, written on the following day, when the scene was all before me.

        On the day before there was a visit from Louis Severin, Mayor of Cairns, who, unseen by me, picked up one of my guns and pulled the trigger to see how it worked, “not knowing it to be loaded,” as usual, and the ball went through the weatherboards, and, by a hair’s breadth, just missed potting one of the men in the survey camp of Monk and Amos, who were then surveying the Cairns railway over the range.

        After Severin left, three wild blacks, who had been to see me before, came wading across the Barron – only a couple of feet deep there at low tide – and brought me a piece of quartz they called “joboor,” with half an ounce of gold in it, and the arrangement was made for them to come on the third day and take me to the source of the gold.

        They never returned, and three months passed before learning that all three had been shot on the following day, on the sea beach near the mouth of the Barron, and all ever seen by me were two of their skulls, one of which is now in the Brisbane Museum. The scoundrel responsible calmly told me what he had done, just as he was going on board a steamer at Cairns, on his way to America, and was informed by me of my genuine sorrow for not having the news on the previous day when he was passing my place on the Barron, as his journey might have been suddenly interrupted. So far that rich quartz reef has not been located, but one day it will be a prize for somebody.

        That morning on the Barron River began my visit from a packer named Guilfoyle, who came out of the scrub leading a little chestnut mare that had been interviewed by a crocodile in the river, in sight of my house. Down the front of both shoulders were the terrible scars made by the saurian’s forefeet. As the mare had struggled to escape, she was torn on both flanks in such an awful fashion that I told Guilfoyle to take her away and shoot her, and this was done.

        This same Guilfoyle was afterwards killed in a row in a shanty, near Herberton, by another packer named Hogan, whose sentence was death, commuted to life imprisonment. Curiously enough, this Hogan was once swimming the Barron at the spot where Guilfoyle’s mare was mangled, and a crocodile tore his horse from under him, leaving Hogan to swim ashore, a feat he performed in the fastest time on record, being so paralysed by fright when he reached the shore that he could hardly walk up the bank.

        There had been heavy rain for a week, and the Chinese on Freshwater Creek were flooded out. Their fowls were roosting on trees, and their pigs were loose in the scrub.

        Excited Chinamen were rushing round with their pigtails flying out on the winds, and using language that was fortunately unintelligible.

        My sole companion was my Chinese chef de cuisine, Jan Yin, and on this night he slept in the kitchen. A hundred yards away were the white tents of surveyors Monk and Amos

“Eatee too muchee man. Master, you shoot him dead two time! Holy God! No more; me long Hongkong! Wooooh!”

        As crocodiles were common enough at that time, and some animal near the kitchen was making a grunting noise very much like the dread denizen of the river, I took the rifle and fired from the end of the verandah, taking merely the line of the barrel. Then came a loud squeal from the supposed crocodile, and a frenzied yell from Jan Yin, who opened the kitchen door and sallied out with a candle to pick up the dead. Lying in a pool of gore was a very fine, fat pig that had escaped from some flooded stye. Then Jan Yin laughed in a manner never heard by me before nor ever since. He bled the pig, took out the interior, and had a supper of fried liver, after which he went to bed and dreamed of a forty foot red dragon with iron teeth, hauling him into a blood spattered cave, strewn with the bones of Chinamen!

        Then my mediations were resumed …Before me was the black river, covered with driftwood and the wreckage of the scrubs, rushing by, in gloom and terror, to the ocean, the trees in its course bending before the resistless rush of waters. The rain fell in sheets and cascades, one desolate, pitiless torrent from the open windows of heaven and the broken up fountains of the Great deep.

        And the black darkness was palpable, like that of a vault, or the awful mantle the avenging gods spread over Jerusalem on those last days so magnificently described in Croly’s “Salathiel.”

        Among the Alpine solititudes, Byron beheld such a night as this, and it inspired his “Dream of Darkness,”

“A sea of stagnant idleness,

Blind, boundless, mute, and motionless.”

With what passionate fervor must blind old Milton have prayed for-

“Holy Light! Offspring of heaven first born,

Or of the eternal co-eternal beam.”

But here came fancy! Beautiful angel with the opalescent eyes and rainbow colored wings! She took me with her through the sunlit fields of air, and drew back the lace curtains from the sapphire Temple of Dreams!

        There is the lonely timber getter camped in the dreary scrub. He recalls soft visions of departed days, and mourns over lost hopes and baffled aspirations. Anon he quaffs a pannikins of hot rum, and ponders over some new method of wedging the ends of hollow logs, so the timber merchant may cheerfully accept them as solid timber! For the old Adam is still going strong in all branches of the human family.

        Behold the pioneer selector in his solitary hut, wrestling in grim fight with a half cooked fragment of salt beef. He may be a classical scholar, and sits there communing with the old Greek gods, or reciting passages from Homer, but his chief thought is probably how he is going to bluff the Crown Lands Ranger, and obtain a certificate without fulfilling conditions.

        And, lo! Here comes “Harry, the mailman,” riding like Paul Revere, splashing through rain and darkness with confused noise and Dragon, had got him into the cave and started to cut him from the foot end!

        Then came the excited yabber of three Chinamen, who called to enquire if Jan Yin had seen any stray pigs. This was about midnight. Jan Yin woke in a Berserker rage, and demanded to know if that took the people of that ranch for pig stealers. Then the three Chows got mad, and myself, foreseeing a protracted dispute, lighted a foot of fuse attached to three dynamite cartridges, and threw this puissant combination within about ten yards of the three visitors.

        In due time there came an explosion like the trump of doom, followed by a truly awful silence. The three visitors rose, and went silently home by various routes, falling over everything in the first hundred yards. Jan Yin crept back into the kitchen, and sat all the rest of the night in silence beside the dead pig, not quite sure if all the outside world was burnt up.

        Next morning when he heard my explanation, he laughed his pigtail loose, and assured me that the three visitors were blown over the fence, an idea that struck him as the funniest thing in Chinese annals. A Chinaman’s humour is a little peculiar.

        Jan Yin was quite unconscious of the comic element in his fiery indignation over being suspected of pig stealing, when he knew the dead pig behind the door was the property of one of the visitors.

        On that night the Barron rose 20ft, and next morning was a sweeping waste of furious yellow water, half a mile in width, traveling 12 miles an hour, and carrying everything before it to the Pacific. The echo of the Barron Falls, on the breast of Mount Williams, resembled the dull roar of an advancing storm. Along the far bed of the river – the dry bed of ordinary days- magnificently foliaged trees stood in the rush of waters; tall, beautiful Leichhardis, erect and graceful; the smaller trees bent until their tops rested on the surface of the river, the dark green scrub that fringed the banks gazing serenely into the awful maelstrom-

“Resembling ‘mid the torture of the scene;

Hope watching Madness, with unalterable mien.”

From the far off jungle of the Upper Barron came two giant cedar logs, torn and scarred and shattered, in that awful journey through gloomy gorges, beneath overhanging rocks, whirled helplessly towards the dreadful precipice, where the gulf yawns abysmal, and the foam covered waters shriek in their agony, like lost spirits in the Dantean Hell!

         Then one terrific plunge into the “Shademanthine darkness and the Tartarean gloom,” and thence onward to the ocean, to be thrown on some lone sand beach, and be for ever at rest.

Type of all human life! Along the river of Existence, through youth to age, in gleams of sunshine in storms and darkness.





        The reader is asked to look for a few minutes at a map of Australia, and particularly at the map of Queensland, where he will see one of the most remarkable and least known portions of this continent. That is one of the greatest peninsulas in the world, the end, terminating in Cape York, being the most northern portion of Australia.

        The 15th parallel crosses the centre, and at the junction of that and the 125th meridian, on the west coast, is a small “York Peninsula,” occasionally confused with the great Cape York Peninsula of the east coast. The base of the latter may be regarded as a line from Normanton, at the bottom of the Gulf of Carpentaria, eastward to Mourilyan Harbour, on the east coast, a distance of 350 miles. Northward the Peninsula gradually contracts to 300 miles at cairns, 250 at Cooktown, 200 at cape Melville, 135 at Cape Direction, 75 at Cape Grenville, 50 at the south side of Newcastle Bay, and abruptly to 10 at the head of that bay, and thence about 14 miles in width to Cape York.

        The length from Cape York to the bottom of the Gulf of Carpentaria is about 500 miles, so that the Cape York Peninsula represents about 100,000 square miles, or 20,000 more than the 83,603 of all Great Britain, and a little more than three times the area of Ireland, with its 32,600 square miles.

        Traversing the Peninsula, from Cooktown to Cape York, is the overland telegraph line, which runs along the watershed of the rivers running to the Gulf, and on the west side of the Dividing Range. Of all the Australian coast, that east side of the Peninsula from the 14th parallel north to Newcastle Bay is the least known.

        The Jardine brothers, in their memorable expedition from Rockhampton to cape York in 1864, travelled on the west side, and much too far towards the Gulf, their track taking them down among boggy claypans and a labyrinth of creeks. The unfortunate Kennedy in 1848 kept too far to the eastward, and involved himself in rough granite ranges and dense tropical jungles. The Jardines and Kennedy should have gone along the divide on the tableland at the head of the Gulf rivers, along the track selected for the present overland telegraph. That would have kept them clear of the swamps and creeks of the one side and the dense jungles and rough ranges of the other. One may say it is easy enough to see all that today, but not so easy in the days of the Jardines and Kennedy, who had everything to learn.

        The late Dr. R. L. Jack, in his two expeditions along the Peninsula from Cooktown to Cape York, went along the east side of the Dividing Range, reaching the sea on the occasion at Temple Bay, where he signaled the Piper Island lightship, and got his mails, left there by passing steamers, posting his own mails for the south.

        On the night before he reached Temple Bay he camped in a little valley on the head of a creek which runs into that bay. On the next day, when marching to the coast, he passed a wild blacks’ camp, partly roofed with sheets of copper, accounted for by the copper sheathed hull of a wrecked barque found lying on the beach, but no one was visible. On reporting it at Cooktown, the Collector of Customs, the late Bartley Fahey, went up by sea to examine the hull, and found it to be the remains of the barque Kate Connolly, which left Cairns three years before with a load of cedar, was caught in a cyclone and disappeared with all hands, leaving no known trace, until Dr. Jack found the hull on the shore of Temple Bay, three years later.

        The ship Maitland, also loaded with red cedar, was caught in the same storm, and vanished, with all hands, somewhere off Cairns, a few of her logs being washed ashore on Hinchinbrook Island.

        Many small rivers and creeks run off the west side of the Peninsula into the Gulf of Carpentaria, and among these are the Gilbert, Staaten, Nassau, Mitchell, Coleman, Holroyd, Kendall, Archer, Watson, Embley, Batavia, Ducie, Skardon, and Jardine Rivers.

        How those old Dutch navigators left their tracks in the Nassau and Staaten Rivers, Cape Keerweer (“turn again”), and in Pera Head, and Duythen Point.

        Nearly all the Peninsula west of the telegraph line is open forest country, timbered by box gums, grey gums, ironwood, casuarinas, bloodwood, and tea trees, with no very large trees.

        Occasionally there are small, isolated patches of scrub in which, much to my astonishment, was one of the worst stinging trees of the east coast scrubs. When Captain Pennefather went some distance up the Batavia River in H.M.S. Pearl, in the seventies (1870s), he reported about “a million acres of land suitable for sugar growing.”

        He was completely deceived by the dense scrub that fringed both banks, and which in most places, is only 50 to 100 yards in width. Had he landed and walked half a mile inland he would have found that the country was not such as would attract the experienced sugar planter, though good grazing land, that may one day be proved to be highly suitable for certain crops.

        The Batavia is a considerable stream, navigable for small steamers for at least 20 miles. Where the wire crosses, at the Moreton Telegraph Station, the Batavia is a glorious stream of fresh water, equal to any in Australia, running over pure white sands, the banks bordered by narrow belts of gorgeous jungle, in which you hear the long, fond, musical call of the magnificent Cape York rifle bird, and the mournful “cahweeah” of the great macaw, which appears to be a black cockatoo until you shoot him. You will find he has a splendid slate coloured crest and no markings on the tail feathers, and he has a long curved bill and sharper point than that of the black cockatoo. The large bronzewing pigeon was common in the open forest, and the plain turkey goes north at least as far as the Ducie River. The emu goes all the way to Cape York, but Jardine told me he never saw a kangaroo within 60 miles of the Cape.

        When walking across from the head of the Ducie to the Moreton Telegraph Station in 1895, accompanied only by an aboriginal, Gnootaringwan, about six miles from the station, a large fat plain turkey was seen crouched in the shade of a bush, sheltered from the severe heat, no more than 25 yards away, and we carried that turkey into the Moreton station, where Derrig and his three men, myself and Gnootaringwan had a Witellian banquet on the following day.

        Before leaving the west side of the Peninsula, let me take the reader to a small tea tree flat, and a small lagoon on the Nassau River, between the Mitchell and the Staaten, where on one fatal night Leichhardt and his party were camped, and, in a midnight surprise attack by the blacks, the naturalist, Gilbert, was speared to death, and next day they buried him in a lonely grave, near that lagoon, and left him there, and went on their long journey to Port Essington. And the tea tree flat and the lagoon are there today, just the same as on the night that Gilbert died, and the birds sing their requiems, and the spectral winds play their Dead March on the mournful trees, as heretofore, now, and for evermore.

        Now we go hence to that wild, weird, romantic east coast of the Peninsula, with its wonderful Barrier Reef, unparalleled in the world; its dense, dark, tropical jungles, with their glorious foliage, resplendent with beautiful wild flowers, in amazing variety, musical with the voices of sweet singing birds of brilliant plumage, and dark, jungle covered ravines, running far up to attenuated pyramids, between the mighty spurs of tremendous, granite mountains, rising to 3000 and 4000 feet. That granite range starts north of Princess Charlotte Bay, and continues for nearly 200 miles. From any point of that range you look away eastward across the Barrier Reef and islands, and far out upon the deep blue sea beyond a magnificent and wonderful scene, that defies all the melodious eloquence of the poet, and all the scenic painting genius of the artist.

        The mountain scenery is unutterable splendid and sublime. On the head of the Pascoe River is one mountain the blacks call “Camboolgabann,” down whose tremendous thunder scarred and rugged granite front there rushes a glorious cataract that falls 1600 feet, clearly visible, especially in wet weather, from the decks of vessels passing Weymouth Bay.

        Rising from the mouth of the Pascoe to a height of about 3000 feet is a gigantic mountain, or, rather, one long tremendous ridge of enormous granite rocks, piled in dreadful confusion, with not a sign of a tree, or plant, or blade of green, to relieve the awful somber solitude of that vast Cyclopean pile, that looks as if upheaved from some tremendous subterranean quarry in a battle among the earthquake demons in the dreadful morning of the world! Apparently that astonishing mountain is inaccessible, except by a party with the outfit essential to cross the innumerable granite chasms. It would be a dangerous climb.

        That mountain looks down on the Pascoe and Weymouth Bay

        At dead low water the mouth of the Pascoe can be crossed on foot, and that was where Kennedy crossed in 1848, when he left at Shelbourne Bay, started north along the coast, and found the east end of that awful mountain, away to seek the relief vessel, and finally only death for all except the aboriginal! And just about a mile and a half from the mouth of the river he had left eight of his men at a little creek at the foot of a small scrub covered hill, where six died and Carren and Goddard were rescued by Jacky and boat party.

        The reader may imagine my thoughts when walking over where Kennedy crossed, and standing on the spot where the six men died, and hearing the birds call just as they were heard by those doomed explorers back in the vanished years.

        And away out across the bay, when standing on the beach, you see in the distance, about 600 yards off Cape Weymouth, the small, rough granite island where Bligh landed and watered his boat, and called it “Restoration Island.” Those are some of the historic scenes which you could look down on from any elevation on that terrific granite mountain, which R. L. Jack called “Mount Carron,” the name of the botanist of Kennedy’s expedition, when he saw it from the north side, on his way to Temple Bay, the only bay ever seen by me where the nautilus shells come ashore without being broken. There is something remarkable about the tidal freaks in that Temple Bay.

        The two most astonishing capes on the Peninsula are Cape Direction and Cape Melville, the latter easily displaying more savage grandeur, romance, and awe inspiring scenes than any other on the Australian coast. Cape Raoul, in Tasmania, was a small rain squall to a cyclone by comparison. That sea coast, from Cooktown to Cape York, has charms the traveller, given the leisure and the facilities, will find nowhere else.




        There died last month at Atherton, on the Barron River, North Queensland, one of the rapidly decreasing old pioneers whose experiences and adventures can never be repeated, for the conditions of those days have changed and can never return.

        John Nairn was a tall, powerful 6ft 2in., Highlander, a type of the men who, with two handed broadswords and wild battle cries, charged down the Pass of Killiecrankie under the eyes of Claverhouse; or the fiery Gaels who followed the banner:

‘Of him who led the Highland host

Through wild Lochaber’s snows,

What time the plaided clans came down,

To battle with Montrose.”

        Nairn was once well known to South Queensland Caledonians as an excellent piper, dancer, and athlete. He never travelled anywhere without a long cavalry sword and a set of bagpipes, with the rampant Lion of Caledonia displayed on the banner. Both sword and bagpipes saved his fate on more than one occasion during a terrible journey in North Queensland.

        Nairn and two mates started from the Palmer River on a prospecting trip. They worked across the head of Sandy Creek and over to the watershed of the Mitchell, thence easterly on to the range at the head of the Daintree. One mate had turned back at the St. George River, reached Oakey Creek and died there. The other mate died of fever on the divide between McLeod’s Creek and the Daintree.

        The blacks had been hostile for half the journey, and spears were thrown even while Nairn was nursing the dying man.

        The sound of the rifle was the requiem of the dead digger. To save his mate from being eaten by the blacks, Nairn covered the body with a pile of dead timber, in which it was reduced to ashes.

        Then the solitary son of Scotia started on his lonely journey through the wild unknown scrub covered ranges between him and Port Douglas.

        From the top of a cliff on the coast range, he saw away to the eastward the 3000 feet granite cone of Peter Botte, and the savage granite covered summit of the Heights of Alexandra, rising 4000 feet between him and the ocean. Then he followed the crest of the range southward to avoid the Daintree. He kept the blacks at bay with the rifle until his last cartridge, and then threw the rifle over a precipice.

        Thence onward he had to keep to the cover of the scrub, the blacks following, but keeping at a respectful distance. The woomera spears were useless in the thick scrub, and the blacks were not desirous of close quarters with Nairn’s naked sword. His rations ended a day after his mate died, and thenceforth he had to eat anything available.

        He dared only sleep an hour or two in the middle of the night. He was partly delirious with fever, and half maddened by the torture of the stinging tree. The blacks followed mercilessly on his track, and he could hear them calling each other in the scrub in a complete circle. One day he came to an open space about 200 yards across, and the blacks closed in for a final opportunity. His first impulse, caused by the weakness and general misery of his condition, was to let them come in and finish him.

        With a sudden inspiration he threw up the bagpipes, and started to play that famous old pibroch, “Up and waer them a Willie!”

        The blacks had never heard music like that, and in their terror stricken imagination it appeared to be the awful voice of a Devil Devil, too diabolically terrific for the myall mind to even grasp by the tip of the tail! The result was that some of them fell over a precipice, and the rest started for Central Australia.

        Nairn never saw any more of that tribe, but he met a fresh lot on the second day when descending the range.

        The bagpipes scattered this band like an explosion of dynamite. But alas for the noble instrument that oft had sounded the “war note of Lochiel,” and the “Pibroch of Donuil Dhu,” for an evil scrub rat, in the silence of the night, ate half the bag, and Nairn sadly threw his once puissant but now useless pipes into a deep pool at the foot of a water fall on the head of the Mosman.

        Thence to the coast, he carried only his trusty sword, and met no more blacks until he walked by a party of about 50 spearing fish on the beach a few miles north of the mouth of the Mosman. An old gin saw him, the old gin who, it seems, in all tribes, never to go to sleep, and she yelled to the men. For a sick man, Nairn made wonderfully good time for the nearest scrub, and he never left it all the way to Port Douglas, where he spent three months in the hospital in the process of recovery from fever and starvation. He never afterwards overcame the deadly hatred created towards the blacks by the tragical horrors of that terrible trip.

        In 1882 Nairn went out with me on the Barron River, where we lived in bachelor quarters while he erected the first part of my house.

        Those were the days when the grunting roar of the crocodiles was heard nightly from the river, and the wild blacks were satisfied to look as us from the top of the range. Nairn stalked a crocodile that was lying asleep with his mouth wide open – a common habit- and at ten yards range fired both barrels of shot guns down his throat and killed him.

        He was nearly killed on one occasion by a wounded cassowary, weighing over two hundred pounds. Senior Constable Brown was with him, and he told me that, during the struggle for some minutes, there was only a whirling mass of Highlander and cassowary in a cloud of leaves, dust, grass, and bushes, until one powerful kick threw Nairn against a log, and broke one of his ribs. Then he rose and killed the cassowary with a sapling. I had one kick from a wounded cassowary, and have still a vivid remembrance.

        When Nairn left me he went to Brisbane in 1883, with a desire to visit the South Sea Islands, and McIlwraith sent him as Government agent on the first vessel, which chanced to be the Borough Belle, commanded by Captain Belbin. It was a memorable voyage for Nairn.

        Another labour schooner – the Lizzie –(on which Julian Thomas, the “Vagabond,” made his memorable trip) had preceded the Borough Belle on a visit to the island of Ambryn, and distinguished herself by taking forcible possession of two recruits, a transaction that afterwards involved a protracted official enquiry.

        The Ambryn natives, like all other savages, were minded to be avenged on the first white man available. Then came the Borough Belle with Belbin as captain and Nairn on board.

        When they went ashore they received an extremely hostile reception, causing them to flee for safety.


Only God can tell how many unhappy shipwrecked human beings have passed into the maws of ravenous sharks, or the even more merciless maw of the remorseless insatiate sea, on the east coast of Australia, from Wilson’s Promontory north to cape York, since captain Phillip, Hunter, and King, landed at Sydney Cove, in January, 1778.

        A detailed history of all our marine tragedies of that period would be one of the most dreadful volumes ever written by human pen. Britons, Frenchmen, Spaniards, Dutchmen, all contributed their victims to awful record. To the questions how many were eaten by sharks? How many were drowned? How many perished from exposure? And how many reached the shore and were killed and eaten by cannibals? There is not now, and never can be, an answer from the Eternal Silences!

        One of the most melancholy, most tragical and most terrible of all the wrecks, was that of the barque “Peruvian,” bound for China from Sydney, with a cargo of hardwood, in February, 1846.

        On board were Captain George Pitkethly, Mrs. Pitkethly, Mr. and Mrs. Wilmot, infant and nurse girl, J. R. Quarry, and six year old daughter, the captain’s brother, who was first mate, John Millar, the sailmaker, the carpenter, the cook, James Dicks, James Gooley, James Murrells, James Wilson, an ordinary crew, and two West Indian blacks. The captain, officers, and apprentices, were all from Dundee.

        The only man who was finally saved from the wreck of that vessel was James Murrells, and for his account of the wreck, and his subsequent experiences, we are indebted to Edmund Gregory, the now retired Government Printer of Queensland, who published, in 1863, an account of all that was obtained from Murrells when he was brought to Brisbane, from North Queensland in that year.

        The Peruvian left Sydney on a Friday – the sailor’s unlucky day –and on the following Friday, she ran on the Minerva Reef, just before daylight. The two boats were launched, and immediately smashed up. All around the doomed ship were jagged rocks, and merciless breakers.

        The captain’s brother was the first who was drowned, being carried away in the remains of the second boat.

        The others constructed a raft of masts and loose spars, with a mast in the centre and a raised platform. All the provisions they could get were a few tins of preserved meat, besides one small keg of water and a bottle of brandy.

        The women and children were first placed on the raft. The intention was to remain with the wreck for a few days to either try and build a boat or improve the raft, but the raft broke away and drifted westward, helpless at the mercy of the winds and tides, with twenty-one souls on board.

        For forty days that raft drifted through scenes of horror such as baffle the imagination.

        They mutually agreed not to draw lots to decide who was to be killed and eaten.

        Each got one tablespoon of preserved meat daily, and the water was measured in the neck of a glass bottle. They caught a few birds, drank their blood, and ate their flesh. Once they saw a sail, but the vessel passed on without seeing them. James Quarry was the first who died, and they took his clothes off and threw the body into the sea. It was at once torn to pieces by the sharks, which followed them day and night. Quarry’s child was the next to die, and that too was thrown to the sharks.

        They caught a rock cod with a line baited with a piece of rag, and that was divided and eaten raw. Then Mrs. Wilmot’s baby died, and went to the sharks, next the other little girl and then Mrs. Wilmot herself.

        Others followed one by one, and were thrown over to the tigers of the deep. A leg was cut off one of the dead men, lashed to the end of an oar, and used to entice a shark.

        A snare was placed on another oar, so that a shark would have to go through it to reach the bait. He ran into this, and the carpenter killed him with an axe. This shark was cut up and eaten raw.

        They caught another in the same gruesome fashion, cut it in strips, and dried it in the sun. Finally, they reached the Barrier Reef, and got over it with some difficulty.

        Two days after this, they sighted Cape Upstart, and in three days more were washed ashore at the base of Cape Cleveland, only seven being left from the twenty-one who left the wreck.

        The other fourteen had gone to the sharks. The seven were the captain and his wife, James Gooley, George Wilmott, the sailmaker, a boy, and Murrells. They made a fire with a magnifying glass and a piece of rag. Their first food was some of the dried shark boiled in a meat tin. For a few days they lived there on rock oysters, but these were poor food for starved people. Wilmott and Gooley finally died on the bank of a waterhole, well known to me, as I camped there for two days in 1881.

        The sailmaker, Jack Millar, found a black’s canoe, and started away in it, but he only reached the next little bay, where he died of starvation. The others were a fortnight on shore before the blacks arrived. The neighbouring tribe had seen some meteorites fall towards the coast, and marched there to see what was there, as a meteorite was supposed to indicate the presence of hostile blacks. In this case, they found the tracks of the boy, and ran them to where the captain’s wife was camped.

        One remained at a distance to watch the mysterious strangers, while the third went away and brought 20 or 30 more. When the Captain and Murrells came into camp, the wife told them of the blacks coming, but they were incredulous until she went outside the hut and said, “Oh, George, we have come to our last now; here are such a lot of wild blacks!” Poor fate persecuted unfortunates! They had apparently only escaped the sharks, and survived the awful horrors of that raft, to be devoured by cannibals!

        The blacks were just as afraid of them until they advanced and felt them from head to foot, and found they were human like themselves.

        At night an old man slept between each couple to keep them apart. Next day the blacks fed them on lily roots and fish, and wanted them to corrobborie, but they were not in corrobborie condition. However, they sang the hymn “God Moves in a Mysterious Way,” etc., and the blacks were much astonished, as they could hardly fail to be, seeing it was their first religious service.

        It appears they sang hymns and read the Bible every night in the cave where they were camped. Surprising is the number of people who, in the face of death, become violently pious, and resume the old Adam as soon as they are perfectly safe!

        The Cape Cleveland and Mount Elliott tribes were present, so the latter decided to take the boy and Murrells, while the former took charge of the captain and his wife. The boy was too weak to walk, so a big powerful black assisted him on is shoulders with a leg on each side of the neck, as they carry their own children, and walked off with him as if he was a piccaninny. At the first camp the blacks dressed themselves in the clothes of the whites, some with their legs in the sleeves of a shirt, and others with trousers tied around their necks!

        They used the leaves of the Bible to hang in their hair! For two years these wrecked people lived with the blacks and were kindly treated.

        Then the captain and the boy died, the captain’s wife surviving him for a few months.

        Murrells continued with them for fifteen years more, living between the Burdekin and the present site of Bowen until discovered by the whites, who formed the first station on the Burdekin in 1863. But for him, no human ear would ever have heard of the fate of the lost Peruvian.