It was in April 1881 – April 18 as a fact – that the new Theatre Royal –
then new- in Elizabeth Street, was opened. An impression exists, and I may have
helped it, that the Montague – Turner Co., gave the opening performance. The
question arose lately in connection with my discussion of the Albert Hall,
afterwards the Gaiety Theatre, and I looked it up in the “Courier.”
It was J. L. Hall, “Johnny” Hall, who opened the house with the farcical
comedy, “Our Girls,” and he played “Captain Gingah” with incomparable humour.
The company were the Marsh sisters, Sam Poole, A. C. Boothman (of the heavy
melodramatic type), and, I think, Lancelot Booth, a poet, journalist, and “dam
Miss Lily Thynne read the prologue or opening “Ode.” It may be mentioned
that the lady was not one of the Colonel A. J. Thynne family, but a bright young
actress and daughter of a well-known theatre manager of the period.
Richard Newton in the “Courier” had rather a sneer at the “Ode,” the
“Observer” spoke of it very kindly, but the author is to this day under the veil
of anonymity – and there let him rest.
But so that people of today may know what the people of the early
eighties (1880s) had to stand in the way of “Odes” I will give it with all its
still blushing imperfections thick upon it:-
Before our mimic art’s exposed
I ask permission for a word or
In compliment to old and
To let some rhyme on this
First- to all ‘neath this new
A kindly welcome to the drama’s
And humouring the critic’s
We’ll only say, “We’ve done, the
best we could.”
If you are pleased we humbly
rest your debtor,
Gladly thinking, “Nothing could
Here we will try with new and
By night, to chase the day’s
That wisdom may relax his
And with our folly be “a boy
And business men, to “loss and
May lose their troubles, “Only
Parliament, leave “cross
benches” in the rear
For peace upon our friendly
“Care kill’d the cat,” well then
– come here and quaff
The doctor’s enemy – “A hearty
The lights and shadows of the
Of the great globe’s reflected
on the stage;
And through all change of scene
or customs past
The faults and virtues of the
world still last,
Our honor’d task to show its
For struggling virtue draw the feeling
A letter from Adelaide told me that in noticing the opening of the
Theatre Royal in Brisbane by “Johnny” Hall and his company, I omitted mention of
Maggie Ford, the principal broad comedy element with Mr. Hall. The plea is
guilty, but it was a slip. Maggie Ford was very clever, of the old singing
chambermaid type, and she occasionally shook us up, so much indeed that one
critic said that her method in a song rather “savoured of the music hall.”
Today, girls might even take their mother to hear the rowdiest things Maggie
Ford ever gave us. Music halls, of course, in the old days were what we now call
vaudeville shows. They were considered not quite respectable. With Victorian
airs and graces we had the old Dickens idea of the modest maiden who should not
be shocked – a violet by a mossy stone, in the Wordsworthian way of putting
And that reminds me – rather I looked up the “Courier” file to find out
names – that Miss H. Browne and Miss Greenlees were also with “Johnny” Hall in
addition to those formerly mentioned, and Russell also, and John Hesford.
The “Courier” spoke of the interior of the new theatre – the same little
Royal that we know today – as of “graceful dimensions and elegant designs,” and
said also of the orchestra that “all the available talent has been secured.” Our
available talent for theatre orchestras was then very limited. Probably good
instrumentalists would get £1 a week, or 5 /- a night, to supplement the incomes
from their ordinary employment.
As to contemporary performances, I wrote in 1881 some “notices” of the
Kelly and Leon opera performances at the Town Hall, and especially good was
“Girofle-Girofla,” with Emma Wangenheim, Lucy and Amy Fraser, Hettie Croucher,
Edward Kelly, Edwin Lester, Stewart Bolton, Martyn Hagan, and Dignan, and Fred.
Eugarde’s orchestra. Emma Wagenheim was a tremendous success in the brilliant
“See how it sparkles, this drink divine,” the famous “champagne song”; but I was
to hear it again a year later and under different circumstances. It was at a
Band of Hope entertainment at St. John’s schoolroom up in George Street. Various
youngsters played their pieces, and some recited, and then the chairman, a
stern, uncompromising “abstainer,” announced: “Miss Kitty Munro will now favour
us with a song”. A saucy minx, probably just in her tees, bustled up to the
piano, raised the screw seat, fluffed down, banged some pretentious chords, and
then came the introduction to “See how it sparkles!” And the young imp sang it
with all the joyousness of a canary, and all the abandon of Emma Wangenheim –
trills, shakes, runs, and everything- and the audience applauded wildly. The
chairman was probably shocked, but he had a sense of humour, and when the quiet
came, he just said: “The child does not understand the occasion.” But the child
was hustled home and spanked. Her family had not anticipated the contribution to
the programme. That kiddie, and I often laugh over it all; but I must not say
too much, for she is my wife!
In 1881, we had nothing in the way of a theatre until the enterprising
syndicate built the Royal. The old School of Arts, where the Queensland National
bank now stands, was not going when I first knew Brisbane, nor was the Bijou,
which flourished in Edward Street. near Exchange Hotel, and had seen some
notable people. We had only the Town Hall until the days of the Royal, and we
all know how little space there was for an audience.
Southall and Treacy came along and built the Albert Hall, in Adelaide
Street, for a company, but they were interested in it as part owners. Richard
Southall was well-known as an alderman, and as Mayor of Brisbane, a very good,
honest man; and Mr. Treacy was his son-in-law.
It was in the Albert Hall that Wilhelmj, the violinist, appeared when he
visited us, and it was there also that we had the first display of the
phonograph, as we then called it, by our old friend, Professor Pepper, if I
remember correctly, with a lecture on good old Polytechnic style. It was also
there that Professor Denton, a very brilliant American, lectured on “Geology.”
What a wonderful lecturer! Geology, under Denton’s exposition, was not a dry
scientific subject. He opened up to us the history of the earth as though it
were some marvelous book. Later, he died up in New Guinea. He was a rather
small, spare man, but his voice was musical, and his lectures were most
Many concerts , too, were given in the Albert Hall in the days when the performers were not named in the programmes. Amateurs did not get personal publicity. It would be: “Song (Sentimental), Lady Amateur”; or “Song, ‘The Vision,’ Gentleman Amateur.” And the papers in their reports put it that such-and-such an item was delightfully rendered by a lady amateur. We go for a little more publicity now. What would the censor morum of years ago have said to an illustration in a paper showing some of our lady amateur swimmers, or even the swimming girls of some of our schools. Gosh!
Percy St. John, who later built
and ran the Empire Theatre, produced at the old Albert Hall, at Christmas time,
in 1887 – but it was then known as the Gaiety Theatre a very clever pantomime,
and took a hand in it himself. I’m not sure that he was not the Dame. I remember
going to it before getting on board ship for England, where I then intended to
settle; but Australians have a way of becoming homesick. We call it nostalgia
when it affects soldiers. It is the call of one’s own land.
At the Albert Hall or Gaiety
Theatre, whichever it was at the time, we had some very fine performances of
comic opera with Emelie Melville, Gracie Plaisted, that most wonderful tenor
Charles Harding (a New Zealander, as was Phillip Newbury) and many other very
fine artists. It was at the Gaiety Theatre also that I last heard Theobold
Vincent Wallace Bushelle, or “Toby” Bushelle, one of the finest of bassos, and
who travelled for a time with the Carrandini Concert Company. Bushelle, as
stated earlier, was with me on the “Observer” when it was a morning paper. The
theatre later became a vaudeville house, then the storehouse for the parcels
post, and later was absorbed by the spread of the great Finney, Isle and Co.
In the old days we loved the
negro minstrels. Even in 1888 in London, it was a delight to go and hear the
Burgess and Moore Minstrels – somewhere up in Oxford Street, I think. “Pony”
Moore was a wonderful little chap, the father-in-law of Charlie Mitchell, who
fought a draw with John L. Sullivan in France in 1888.
Here, shortly after I came to
Brisbane, John Liddy, a capable and experienced manager, had a company running,
including Billy Sweatman, R. McDonald, W. Horace (“Billy”) Bent, H. Shannon,
Beaumont Read, and Maggie Glendenning, the last-named a very effective soprano.
Bent was a mighty clever little chap; and Beaumont Read was an alto male whose
voice, though an unnatural sort of thing, was inexpressibly sweet and
sympathetic. I remember in the programme “Kiss Me to Sleep,” “Pretty Blue Eyes,”
“Bells of Memory,” and some of the older stuff, cleverly harmonised, such as
“Write Me a Letter from Home.” These minstrels were all white men, and mostly
American. They had a wonderfully good quartette, and their voices meant real
music. They had peculiar enunciation, a form which belonged to the American
minstrel cult, but, with all that given in, their singing was a treat.
Later, John Liddy took over
regular theatre management, and I remember well that he always had the sympathy
of our chief sub-editor, E. J. T. Barton, because he would never allow any
grossness in companies, no matter how boisterous the plays might be. Bent,
Beaumont, Read, Shannon – gone; all of them gone years ago. Dear Reader, does it
ever occur to you that we are getting to the period which youth considers for
itself an impossibility – getting old.
Kangaroo hunting is not meant,
nor fortune hunting, though we have had a good deal of both, but hunting with
what Mr. Jorrocks always termed ‘ounds.
In early days in Brisbane, long
before my time, there was, I think, a pack in which D. T. Seymour, afterwards
Commissioner of Police, was interested, with others who were very Irish or very
English, and wished to graft on to Australian tastes “the sport of kings” (again
Roma in 1877- 1878 also had a
pack, but concerning its operations I can only speak from talks with the older
generation and from what I have read from time to time.
The Hunt was started by R. W.
(“Dick”) Stewart, J. Nutting, and David or “Dave” Benjamin. These were all young
bloods of Western squatterdom, and, as stated in earlier “Memories,” Dave
Benjamin owned Tongy and Boatman stations.
E. J. Stevens was connected with the sport, also Reginald Whipham, and, I think, W. E. Parry-Okeden. Nutting was the master, and Benjamin the whipper-in. The Hunt did not sport pink, but otherwise was very smart, and in social events were tremendously fashionable with guests from Brisbane. My very dear friend, Mrs. Reginald Whipham, who was a girl at the time, has told me a lot about the Hunt and all the joyous occasions connected with it, but I had to run down Mr. David Benjamin the other day for a few dates and things. It seems queer to write of him as David Benjamin. Old Westerners spoke of him as “Dave,” and the abbreviation continues.
E. J. Stevens, however, has told
me some of the story of the Roma hounds, and he ought to have known a bit about it, for he bought the hounds
in Melbourne, 10 or 12 couples, and arranged for their despatch to Roma. I know
that the first Hunt Club Cup was won by Mr. Benjamin on the bay Hollyhock, a
horse with plenty of pace and a good “lepper.” That was in 1877 – quite a good
way back, friends, but the gallant rider is still smart, and, like another very
estimable personage, “going strong.” The only time I saw him ride was in a
steeplechase at Eagle Farm, now Ascot, and he ran second, I think, to “Sam”
Harding, who took Tom Brown’s fine old bay Warong to victory. Mr. Harding was a
brother of the late Elias Harding, of Ipswich, and there uncle of “Si” Harding,
who was a very fine polo player, and keeps up the family name at Ipswich, coming
down to Brisbane at times to judge horses or to act as steward.
A fine family the Hardings, and the father of “Sam,” and his Ipswich
brother was Elias Harding, who was well-known in Victoria. I remember that in
the Eagle farm steeplechase was another rattling fine horseman, and the “daddy”
of our polo playing in Queensland, Mr. Adolph Feez, but he had a sour,
ill-schooled horse, and was not in the finish.
Talking with Mr. “Dave” Benjamin over the old days, he told me of a very peculiar horse deal which he had when out at Roma. He wanted something very good to fences, and had heard something of the horse Vivian, which won a principal jumper’s prize at the Sydney Show, and wired to a friend: “Buy Vivian for me for £50 if good enough.” Horses were cheaper in those days, even than now. A reply came back that Vivian had been secured, and he was sent overland by way of Cunnamulla with a drover’s outfit, which was the usual plan for getting horses from place to place over long distances. When Vivian reached Cunnamulla, Mr. Benjamin received a request from a man whom he knew that the horse might be left with him for the Cunnamulla Steeplechase. That was agreed to, and Vivian was in the Southwest for some time. Then he was sent on to Roma, and, on arrival, his owner was astonished to find him a very common sort, “as poor as wood,” and there was general disappointment. But that was not all. When Vivian – or what purported to be Vivian – had been well rested, and got some feed into him, his owner took him out and gave him a run at some fences, but, as Pat. Moylan would have put it, “The divil a lep would he lep!” Patience , persuasion, everything was tried, but never a rise. “I didn’t know what to make of it,” said Mr. Benjamin, “but my friends insisted that there had been a mix-up, Vivian been sent away somewhere, and another horse passed on to me. However, I had a brute almost worthless for my £50, and perhaps some one else got a good horse.”
At Gayndah, there was also a hunt, in the days of the pioneers of the
Burnett. Members sported pink and had some exhilarating runs. One of the prime
spirits in the Hunt was the late W. R. Parry-Okeden.
Mrs. Porter of Coolum, was so kind as to send me an old photograph of the
Brisbane Hunt taken at the Royal Mail Hotel at Goodna, and I am sorry it cannot
be reproduced here, though it appeared in the “Courier.” The master was Mr.
Gawne Echlin, and amongst the followers were Mrs. Adolph Feez, formerly Miss
Kitty Molle, and mother of “Billy” Feez, the captain of the champion polo team
of the State. Mrs. Feez was an accomplished and fearless rider to hounds, and
was always well up with her husband, when, in later days, he was Master of the
Another lady follower at the time was Miss Carlie Yaldwyn, daughter of Mr. Yaldwyn, P.M., and now the wife of Colonel Dudley White, living in England, and others were the charming daughters of Richard Newton. Mr. Adolph Feez is there; Mr. “Matty” Goggs on the grey; “Jack” Alexander; Ernest Baynes, President of the Royal National Association; Brabazon Howard, Cyril Lambart, and others. On the extreme right of the photograph is Dr. R. B. Scholes, and Mrs. Porter, who sends the picture, was his daughter. Most of the Brisbane Hunt will remember the little daughter of Dr. Scholes; at any rate, Mrs. Porter has not forgotten them. Another picture and a better one of the Hunt was taken at “Claremont,” Ipswich, and some of the copies should be in existence. It would be interesting to many to see a reproduction in print. How is it that Brisbane has gone out of hunting, and polo, and hurdle racing? On the Darling Downs polo flourishes; and so it does in the South, with various Hunt Clubs in Melbourne, and hurdle races everywhere save in Queensland. Surely it will not be suggested that we have lost our nerve.
How many residents of the Valley, or general racing men for that matter,
remember at one time, we had the Fortitude Valley Racing Club? My old friend,
Mr. J. Lloyd, who, like some others, is looking the little the worse for a go of
rheumatism, and is familiar at the gate of the Member’s Stand at the Q.T.C.,
will not have forgotten, for his father, an Irishman of Welsh descent, was one
of the committee. Mr. J. Lloyd, sen., long since gone to his rest, had an hotel
in Brunswick Street, and was as good a citizen as he was a sportsman.
In November, 1887, the Valley Club held a very successful meeting at
Eagle Farm, with the warm-hearted and public-spirited John Heal as judge, Nat.
Corrigan as starter, and a big committee including J. H. Fitzgibbon, one of the
cheeriest and most scholarly of men, Aaron Wakefield, and S. Pole, the printer,
with one of the Ruddle boys as secretary. It was a hospitable committee as well
as a sporting one. The principal handicap, worth about £80, was won by McGill’s
Proctor, with Moorlad, by Fenman (imp.), second. Moorlad was owned by Adam
Black, a successful Gympie man, who had a fine property near Beenleigh – I think
Muir’s old place, Benowa. A Corinthian race was won by Eclipse, by Nemo, ridden
by his owner, Mr. John Finnie, of Drayton. John Finnie was a very fine horseman,
and I remember a win by him on another occasion, of which my old comrade,
“Pegasus” Smith, then sporting writer for the “Courier,” had some quite nice
things to say. The hurdler, Pantomime, was ridden by Mr. A. T. Thomas, of the
Survey Department, also a very fine amateur rider as well as artist, and I fancy
Mr. W. Ruddle also had a mount. Certainly Mr. Graham Haygarth, “Hermit” of the
“Courier,” was in the saddle, at any rate for a little while. He was on Dan
Trihey’s – usually called Dan Tray- Inspector, but the horse put his head down
just after the start, and, throwing a few “intricate leps,” got rid of his
rider. I had a great fancy for the Westminster horse, Nabocklish, but he gave
his followers a much worse fall than Graham Haygarth’s. We had a trotting race
too; none of your mile sprints, but a solid three-miler, and all horses were in
the saddle. The winner’s name I do not remember, but he carried nearly 14.0. Nor
do I remember the time, but probably it was something under a quarter of an
hour. At any rate, there was time to go and have –no, not a cup of tea – and
then see the finish.
We had a racing club at Oxley also in the early eighties (1880s). The course was near what we then knew as the Rocky Waterholes, and a jolly good course it was. I remember my first meeting there about December 1881. It was a great day. Racing in Brisbane now is a business or an over-refined amusement, with grandstands and tea-rooms, and lawns with wonderful flowers, palatial buildings, and all that sort of thing; and Maurice Baldwin, and E. J. Lawrence, and O. H. Hooker, the presiding geniuses of splendid organisations.
At Rocklea we had a bough shade and a bar, and if gentlemen differed on
the merits of horses, or upon a dog fight, or the weather, and the crops- well,
they and their friends were not denied a bit of elegant (more or less)
diversion. Who the officials were, I do not remember save that one of the
Greniers, of Oxley, was starter. All the Greniers were good horsemen. A mare,
called Nancy, by the Sydney Tim Whiffler, won a couple of races, and “Watty”
Blacklock rode John Finnie’s Eclipse, a son of Nemo, to victory for a £10 prize.
Other good men were there too, and “Tom” Brayford, later of Beaudesert and
Brisbane, was represented. Probably the best Mr. Brayford ever had were Sir
Anthony, a high class horse and Zamia, a bay mare which won a Brisbane Cup.
Zamia’s first race (and first win) was at eagle Farm, now Ascot, a Selling
Plate, and she paid a dividend of £60 odd, and I had a ticket on it, one of the
three tickets I have had on the totalisators in my life. James F. O’Brien bought
her later, and was owner of her when she won the Cup.
From Hughenden, I had a letter from an old Northerner, who is very
complimentary – made me blush in fact- asking me for the pedigree of the
Queensland bred Wheatear, the winner of the Sydney Derby in 1881. The job was
rather difficult, but ultimately I found the pedigree tabulated by the late Mr.
Graham Haygarth, “Hermit” of the “Courier.” The colt was by Epigram (imp.) from
Wheatsheaf (imp.). Epigram was by Blair Athol from Ellermere, by Chanticleer –
Ellerdale, Chanticleer being by Irish Birdcatcher and Ellerdale by Lanercost.
Wheatsheaf was by Thormanby from Greta, by Voltigeur. Epigram sired many good
winners in Queensland and New South Wales, including Lease Grand, from Legend,
the winner of a Sydney Derby when owned by Mr. J. P. Jost, and a Melbourne
champion race. Wheatsheaf was bred in England in 1870, and imported as a
yearling by Norman D’Arcy. Her first foal was Whisker, by Laureate; then
Warhawk, by Lord of the Hills; then Waterloo, and then Wheatear. The two last
named were to Epigram. She had at the same compilation of the pedigree a two
year old full brother to Whisker, and a yearling colt by Melbourne, the last
mentioned being well-known later as a winner of many good races. Wheatmeat,
owned by Mr. James Williams, of Tent Hill, near Gatton. In the Sydney Derby won
by Wheatear, there was a field of five, the favourite being Mr. J. White’s
Monmouth, a “brother of the mighty Chester.” Wheatear raced under Captain
Osborne’s name. The second place was secured by Mr. F. Wentworth’s Sardonyx,
with Mr. Mayo’s The Gem third. At the same meeting, but on another day, Wheatear
won the Member’s Handicap, beating Primrose, the winner of the Suburban
Handicap; but the Queenslander had to be content with second place on the same
day in the Craven Plate to Mr. C. G. Baldock’s Wellington, a good five year old.
As a youngster, I rode occasionally for Mr. Baldock in Riverina. Now, I think
that is all that need be said to show that Wheatear was a very high class colt
and a really well-bred ‘un. He was bred at the Grange, near Ipswich, by his
owner, Sir Joshua Peter Bell.
One drifts into racing remembrances. The first Queensland Derby I saw run
was won by Mr. J. P. Bell’s (afterwards Sir Joshua Peter Bell) Legerdemain, a
big raking bay or brown mare by Epigram from Legend. She was ridden by Burns, a
clever horseman of those days. Mr. J. Finney’s Silverhair, by Fireworks from the
Auk, ridden by our old and esteemed friend, “Watty” Blacklock, was second, and
Mr. J. W. Johnston’s Petrel, by Old England-Stormbird (Myers), third.
Legerdemain started odds on, I think, and won very easily. The time was given as
2min 49sec. A few days after she was beaten in the Mares’ Produce Stakes by a
bay colt called Detective, by Melbourne-Daphne, owned by that very fine
sportsman, Mr. J. S. Jessop, who, for some years in later days, was M.L.A. for
Dalby. The Derby prize money was a sweep of 7 sovereigns, each for starters (and
there were, I believe, only three of them), with 150 sovs. added, second horse
to get 20 sovs. and third 10 sovs. from the prize. The Derby was, therefore,
worth £141. Rather different from today. But the Queensland Cup at the 1881
meeting was for a sweepstakes of 3 sovs. each and £150 added. This was won by J.
P. Bell’s Cadmus, by Epigram-Cadeau, a little bay scarcely more than a Galloway,
carrying 6.12. Adam Black’s very fine horse, Moorlad, by Fenman (imp.) was
second, and McGill’s chestnut Proctor third. At the same meeting the famous old
grey Zanco, then owned by Mr. J. P. Jost, won the Royal Plate of 50 sovs. It
will be remembered that it was with Zanco that William Ruddle made his name.
Wildash, of the Warwick district, had owned Zanco in his palmy days, and the
gallant grey was a sort of public idol.
Lately at Ascot I met an olde friend Mr. W. Blacklock, I suppose better
known as “Watty” Blacklock, and Mrs. Blacklock, and we had a talk about old
times, when he was a very little chap and I was a young newspaper editor, mixed
up in racing, with Mr. William Henry Kent, of Tattersall’s Horse Bazaar, a
plucky speculator in city estate, and really the originator of the Royal Bank of
Queensland. I was talking with Mr. Blacklock about racing in Brisbane, and I
think he said I had first seen him ride at Dalby about June 1881. At any rate
that is about correct. The fixture was then known as the Northern Downs Jockey
Club meeting, and it lasted over two or three days. Those who know Mr. Blacklock
now- sturdy, fresh-faced, but with the “flour-bag” showing in his hair – will,
perhaps, be surprised to know that he rode at 6st. 10lbs. and at that weight he
won the Dalby Town Plate on John Finney’s black mare Galata. “A brown mare,” I
said. “No,” he replied, “she was black; a good mare, by Goldsborough from
Modesty.” Well, he is younger than I, and we must let it go at that. I was up at
Jimbour for the races, but could only stay one day there, as it was necessary to
get back to Brisbane.
In the Town Plate Galata beat Bell’s (after Sir Joshua Peter Bell)
Warhawk, and Jim William’s Melbourne, the latter being ridden by my very good
friend James Hughes, then a fashionable jockey. Melbourne was a very high class
horse, and sired much good stuff in Queensland, including William’s Wheatmeat,
from Sir Joshua Peter Bell’s imported Wheatsheaf. Warhawk also was a fine horse,
and both were giving a lot of weight to Galata, then only a youngster. I
remember well how “Watty” Blacklock handled her, and the little chap rode like a
tradesman. Years afterwards I fancied his mount, My Love, in a big race in
Brisbane, and John Finney said, “Have a bit on her.” I did so, and the dividend
was £12 / 10 / 0. A peculiar horse at the meeting was Bell’s Cadmus, a little
bay chap referred to already. Afterwards he became tricky and a bolter, but as a
two year old he promised well, and won a couple of races at the Dalby meeting,
in one of which he carried 5st 10lb. The big race of the meeting of the Northern
Downs J. C. Handicap, was won by Bell’s Warhawk, ridden by Harry Walsh, with
Melbourne second, and Finnie’s Eclipse third. I forgot to ask “Watty” Blacklock
if he rode Eclipse in that race.
Now a lot of people think that racing causes deterioration. Mr. Blacklock
has been known to me for 46 years as a rider, trainer, and owner, and I can say
that I have never heard any one in the game speak of him except with the warmest
respect. A good citizen and a good sportsman; one who has always known his
business, and stuck honourably to it. And Dalby of those days – well, it was a
merry place with a fine pioneering spirit; but the Dalby folk are still good,
though many of the old names have disappeared.
It was a coincidence a few days after meeting Mr. Blacklock, I met my old
friend Mr. James Hughes, in Queen Street, and we had another pleasant little
talk over the old days. As a jockey riding at very handy weights in 1881, he was
known as “Jimmy” Hughes. Later on he trained some good ‘uns, and I am sure that,
had I ever been inclined to bet or even take a ticket on the machine Mr. Hughes
would have given me “the oil” when he fancied one of his horses. He looks well
and cheery, but naturally he still grieves the death of his fine son. However,
as I told him long ago, the book is not closed.
Others chapters are to be read. The first race I saw him ride at my first
Q.T.C. meeting on May 24th, 1881, when he was third in the Sires’
Produce Stakes on “Jim” Williams’ (of Tent Hill) Detective by Melbourne. On the
same day “Watty and “Dick” Blacklock rode the first named landing the Selling
Stakes with Mr. J. Finnie’s New moon, by Newbould. On that day and the second
Sir Joshua Peter Bell, who had not then been knighted, took the cream of the
programme with Lord Clifden by Lord of the Hills, Legerdemain by Epigram,
Waterloo by the same, and Warhawk by Lord of the Hills. Lord Clifden was from
Legend, the dame of Lease Grand, a Victorian Champion Race (3 miles) winner, and of Legacy, a
brilliant mare owned by Mr. J. P. Jost. Waterloo was from Wheatsheaf, the dam of
Wheatear (Sydney Derby), Wheatmeat, and others of good repute. Harry Walsh was
the first rider for the Bell stable, and at the meeting in question was on a
winner or two. Later he went to India, and, on returning, took stables and
started as a trainer with some good patrons. His son followed on and handled a
few good horses. I am sure that all lovers of good sport and of good sportsmen
will join in wishing my friend, Mr. “Jimmy” Hughes, many happy days. He was a
good citizen as well as a good sportsman.
Mr. W. J. Robinson, of Racecourse Road, Southport, wrote me in reference
to “Memories” of the Oxley races of 1881, saying: “Having lived between Oxley
and Rocklea, I first came to live at West Oxley in 1864, and did not leave that
district until 1875. Your valued notes, ‘Oxley Races,’ confuses the location of
clubs that raced respectively at Oxley and Rocky Waterholes. The first race
meeting that I remember at Oxley was held in 1873. The races were held at Mr.
Benn’s hotel. They started from opposite Benns on the main Ipswich Road, and
after going about 150 yards, turned to the left and went behind some paddocks,
finally coming out on main Ipswich Road between Oxley Creek bridge and Benn’s
Hotel, which was the finish post. They ran the same direction that they do in
Melbourne, (left hand to the rails). The first meeting that I attended there Mr.
Benn ran a splendid type of thoroughbred named Veno, and a better class I have
not seen since, but he had a penchant for savaging anyone within reach, and had
to be kept muzzled. At that meeting Mr Garbutt of Cleveland, had a good horse
named Ad Valorem. Johnny Graham, of Graham’s Hotel, had Johnny Smoker, and the
Greniers had a useful horse in Logan. In those days the Greniers were the
largest landed people in the district; they owned a square mile of the best
grazing property there. At that meeting were the four Greniers – George, Luke,
Frank, and Leichhardt – all now passed the great divide except Luke. The
Freneys, of the Plains, later sawmillers, John and Frank Moffatt, of Oxley,
Catchpoles, Robinsons, Humphrey and his brother William, of Sherwood, the
Berrys, of sugar fame, now Chelmer, Tom, Robert and James, the last named now
Major Berry, the Donaldsons, Robert and William, ‘Bob’ Donaldson had three sons,
and the eldest, John, was the beau ideal of a horseman and amateur boxer; George
a quiet man; and the youngest Sam, a good sport, and has left sons who follow up
the game. William left a lot of sons, who mostly go in for trotters.
John Moffatt, mentioned before, is C.P.S. at Oxley, and could supply
fuller details. Another fine family were the Sinnamons of the Rocks, who always
had good horseflesh, but now go in for Jersey cattle. Now for Rocky Waterholes
(Rocklea). The races were run right-handed, same as at Ascot. The course was at
the back of the Crown Hotel, then kept by Tom Matthews and his wife, both very
popular. The course ran through Funkner’s paddock, and back to starting point,
the last 100 yards being uphill. The chief race that was contested by Benn’s
Veno, Ben. Powell’s (Ipswich) Shakespeare, and, I think, Tom Tickle’s Pretender.
There was also a Farmer’s Race, the winner having to pull one ton.
Rocky Waterholes in those distant days was a live place – two general
stores, Hoelscher’s and Kelly’s, butchers, blacksmiths, and wheelwrights, and
surrounded by prosperous farmers One notable visitor at that last meeting was
William Baynes, father of Mr. Ernest Baynes, President of the Royal National
Association. Much the same persons attended both meetings. Taking Sherwood as
the apex, these three townships formed a right angle triangle. During the
construction of the S. and W. railway, from Ipswich to Oxley, the navies used to
attend the races, and have differences with the locals. That district has always
been law abiding, even as today. There are hundreds of old Oxley residents who
are now represented by the third generation, as practically all the old folk
have crossed the divide.
Mixed memories – The Annie Books
“Halek” Nicholson- The Gympie
Work of Sylvester Diggles – Warwick to Stanthorpe
It will have been seen that in
the “wheeling up” of my Memories published from week to week over a period of
two years in the “Courier,” that it is practically impossible to get them into
chronological accord, or to pull them together into distinctive chapters.
Historians work on a well ordered system. What I have written as Memories have arisen from time to time, and often
upon suggestions. Hence the mixture. With patience the reader will be able to
link things up where desired, forgiving me, I hope, for not having in the
earlier days of the articles visualized the book now produced.
In the early months of 1881, a sharp controversy took place between
Bishop O’Quinn and Mr. Arthur Hunter Palmer, afterwards Sir Arthur, who was then
Colonial Secretary. It arose from the claim that the then head of the Roman
Catholic Church in the colony for Government aid to the Church schools. The two
rather peppery gentlemen soon “got to holts,” in a controversial sense, of
course, and the correspondence, each publishing his letter after its receipt by
the other, was remarkable for the absence of any endeavour to hide the pungency
under the politeness. After a prolonged battle, the prelate notified that the
correspondence, in so far as he was concerned, was at an end, and his last
letter wound up with characteristic Irish good feeling and good sense. He said
that the Catholics knew before the last election Mr. Palmer’s opinion respecting
their claim, but voted for him, and were another election to take place he
(Bishop O’Quinn) was sure that they would do the same, because they regarded the
Colonial Secretary, though he was opposed to what they regarded as their
“rights,” as one of the ablest and most straightforward men in the colony. “And
they believe also,” Dr. O’ Quinn went on, “ that you are one of the large body
of enlightened men who are open to conviction, and they hope to have you on
their side in getting a monetary vote for education .”
Now, you little men of today, with your narrow personalities, what do you
think of that for a wind-up to a really warm battle? And Palmer replied
graciously enough, and the two good men continued their mutual respect.
“Were there no Queensland women in your early days?” asks a very friendly
correspondent, meaning, of course, that I had very little to say of the
womenfolk of 46 years ago. Now, surely, it is not expected that I would write
memories of any women of 46 years ago! As a fact, our women were not so
prominent in the public eye as at present. The papers did not record their
doings. Hostesses were hostesses in the best sense of the word, and we had all
our little gaieties; but as a rule the women stopped at home and darned their
“Do you remember ‘Josie’ Hancock’s wedding?” the correspondent above
alluded to, asks. Of course I do. She was married at St. John’s and probably a
handsomer couple than the doctor’s daughter and her captain McCallum never
entered the old church. St. John’s was crowded, so were the grounds, and the
parsonage, walks, and lawns, and there was a big “overflow” in George Street.
Colonel Moore (then Major) was best man, and he was backed up by the Wilsons,
and Gilbert Primrose, and Romilly, the barrister, whom I last saw in 1888 in
London. The bridesmaids were two of the beautiful Blakeney girls and Miss
Bernays (now Mrs. Gore) and Miss O’Reilly and the two young daughters of Mr. and
Mrs. George Harris, Edith and Evelyn. Miss Edith Harris became Mrs. Con. Taylor,
and later Mts. Lumley Hill, and Miss Evelyn married “Dick” Casey, who was a
member of Parliament later, and at the time owned a station out on the Barcoo,
one of the advance guard of the young Victorians to bring to Queensland their
money and their brains.
It was a great turnout. I have searched the papers for descriptions of their dresses and so on, but not a line was there. Nowadays we would have a column setting out in detail; the garmenting of the bride and bridesmaids and of all the bride’s female relatives, and of the guests. Not even the bride’s wonderful wedding kit was described, nor her “going away” dress, nor any of those things which are now written up with great taste and skill by a small army of woman reporters who know all about their jobs.
But I always remember that I was a pioneer of dress descriptions when,
for the “Observer,” as a morning paper, Mrs. William (Dr.) Lyons wrote up a
full, and particular account of the dresses at the Queensland Cup meeting.
Whether that is anything to be proud of, I am not quite sure. Opinions may
differ. I know that some reference was made to the garbing of the stately
daughter of a very prominent bank manager, and, whatever may have been the young
lady’s point of view, the father stormed at me. With all his good qualities of
head and heart, he was at times irascible. He said to me, “What the devil do you
mean by putting in the paper what my daughter wore? I wonder you didn’t say what
we had had for breakfast?” Other times other manners! Perhaps if he was living
today, he would assail me because of neglect in not chronicling some domestic
“small beer.” However, thank goodness I pioneered something.
The massacre of the Annie Brooks party at Booker Island off the coast of
New Guinea, was brought to my mind recently by an old Northerner, who asked me
what became of my old friend, Auguste Naudin. In my notes on the Cooktown time,
I mentioned that Auguste, with his partner and compatriot, Chambord, was killed
at Basilisk Island or at Milne Bay. My last word from him was a letter, written
shortly before his death, and it was to say that he was at the time collecting
at basilisk Island, and had a good collection from the mainland at Milne Bay and
the neighbouring islands. He expected to leave for Queensland in about two
months, by which time he hoped to have a very big collection. Auguste recounted
the story of the ketch Annie Books, saying that the Booker Island natives killed
the whole of the shore party, including Foreman, Purdie, Hastings, Campbell,
Jeffrey, McRae, and two Chinese. With the exception of Hastings (the skipper)
and one Chinese all were on shore curing fish, when the natives, who had
pretended to be friendly, rushed and killed them. Hastings and one Chinese put
up a big fight, and the Chinese shot three of the natives. Shortly afterwards,
Naudin and Chambord were murdered. They were a good type of adventurous
Frenchmen, and Chambord, who was a baker, had been in business at Cooktown.
Naudin had kept an hotel at Cooktown, but gave it up to go collecting in New
“In your notes on school teachers,” said Mr. Wm. Kelso, M.L.A., “you did
not mention Nicholson, the author of ‘Halek.” My reply was that I had not
mentioned Brunton Stephens either with the head masters, though he had been a
“head” in the Department of Public Instruction, and both in turn had been at
Ashgrove. But both are mentioned when dealing with the literary men of the
State. Nicholson and I were very friendly. It was to me that he first confided
the romance which gave him his wife, who survives him, and is now living out at
Northgate. Perhaps I may tell the story? “Halek,” it may be observed, became
known soon after its publication to many European readers, chiefly to the
symbolists, or the lovers of poetical allegory. Later the book came to the
notice of a European lady, who was so impressed that she translated it into the
Swedish language. She wrote to Nicholson on the subject of the translation, and
a correspondence began, and it continued for a long time. Ultimately the lady came to Queensland
and met the author. Now, “Halek”
Nicholson was a man well up in years, with a flowing great beard, but
picturesque and distinguished. The lady from overseas, instead of being an
elderly blue-stocking, was young, fresh-looking, charming. The correspondence
between these twain had been entirely platonic. Just formal at first, but
ripening into a friendship; but when they met –well, they came up to my room at
the “Courier” and confessed. They had been married! Not long afterwards the
health of “Halek” Nicholson broke up, but he had not only a loving help-mate,
but the tenderest and most skilful of nurses. We often met, and it is perhaps my
privilege to say that the declining years of one of our most inspiring writers
were made happy by the devotion of the gentle lady.
Kelso also said: “Did you ever see Nicholson’s little book of humorous
sketches?” Yes, I had seen it, and we talked over Pat’s experiences at shooting
an alligator. Knowing that the brute had a tough hide, Pat explained that he
sighted the rifle to a hundred yards, but the deuce a bit did the creature move.
He then sighted it to 200, to 500, to 1000 yards, but he could not penetrate the
hide; and he concluded by saying that to kill an alligator, one needed a rifle
sighted to 5000 yards. That is typical of “Halek’s” quaint humour. Peace to him
and to all good men, and comfort to the good lady left to a lonely widow-hood
life in this strange, but not unfriendly land.
Of course, we all know Tiaro, even if we do not know Maryborough, though
the “pleasant country village,” as Sir Charles Lilley once spoke of the city of
the Mary River, looks upon the Tiaro people as mere provincials. Once upon a
time D’Arcy Ogden and Miss Beatrice and a barn-storming company were doing
certain “smalls,” and they dropped in upon Tiaro with “East Lynne.” D’Arcy Ogden
was a type of actor now seldom seen, the tragedian who loves comedy and often
makes it. He was a clever man, high-minded, with a full brain, and usually an
empty purse. Should we ever forget the Maryborough “Chronicle’s” criticism of
the “East Lynne” performance? It was written, I think, by Theodore Wood,
formerly a big sugar planter in the palmy days of which Mrs. Lance Rawson so
charmingly writes. “The play,” wrote the critic, was performed in seventeen
acts, the stage being only four feet deep, affording no room for changes of
scenery. The only scene was a brilliant bush landscape, in which bananas and
ring-barked eucalypti figured numerously. Lady Isabel carried her child on the
stage and laid him down to die at the foot of a gum tree. Later, she herself
died under a clump of bananas, in distemper. Everybody said the landscape was a
vast improvement on the unromantic bedroom scene and sincerely hoped that the
actors did not find the floor damp.” Poor old D’Arcy Ogden; poor old Lady Isabel
of the many sorrows; poor old “East Lynne!”
In these days, when cross-continent railways are talked of as gaily as if
we had sixty instead of six million people, it is sometimes well to recall the
old schemes. Before McIlwraith had his big concrete proposal upon which General
Fielding reported after a tour through to Point Parker there was the
“Queenslander” expedition, with Ernest Favenc as leader, and Spicer Briggs as
surveyor. John Douglas, an ex-Premier, also had various schemes for financing
railway works, and shortly after I came to Brisbane, Gresley Lukin put up a
proposal; out west to Cunnamulla, thence south to the Queensland frontier, and
designed to link up with a New South Wales system, running north probably from
Bourke. When in the North I had my own scheme, evolved after Favenc and Briggs
returned to Cooktown from the “Queenslander” expedition. It was a line across
the southern hinterland of the Gulf of Carpentaria from Cooktown, and then
sweeping west and north. It would tap a lot of good country, and Cooktown could
easily have been made a very good port. Besides, there was in the air, though we
took it at the time as more or less electioneering window dressing, Charles
Hardie Buzacott’s great idea of the Torres Straits mail service, which
materialized about March, 1881. In about May of 1881, John Murtagh Macrossan ,
the Minister for Works and Railways, was again in Cooktown where he was very
popular, and crystallized the scheme as a way to open up Cape York Peninsula and
the Gulf Country. I supported the scheme in the “Observer,” but the “Courier,”
in Feilberg’s brightest and best style, chloroformed it so that it never woke
again. The “Courier” took it that going to a banquet Mr. Macrossan naturally
desired to give his hosts some comforting words. I looked the article up
recently, though I remembered the sense of it. It was said: “And if he did use
the word transcontinental in a strained and inappropriate sense who should blame
him?…Mr. Macrossan wished to comfort his old friends and admirers.” Since then
we have heard nothing of the big Cooktown scheme, but why not?
Gympie in its flowery days had two good papers, the “Times” and the “Miner.” The first named was the senior and it survives. It lives up to the reputation which that good Australian, Jacob Stumm, made for it. Mr. Stumm, in later years, was member for Lilley in the Federal Parliament, and then when another election came along he had to go out because some narrow, pernicious, wicked, law was introduced barring men of German origin. Some of the best of Australians and Britishers were barred, and had out late King Edward, of cherished memory, been here, he also would have been barred. I love to have a tilt at this sort of thing, and why not, seeing that Jacob Stumm had three sons in the war – two were with me- and his son-in-law is Senator Sir William Glasgow, K.C.B. etc. The Gympie “Miner” was run by Bourcicault, formerly of the Rockhampton “Argus,” a fine type of man, and a brother of Dion Boucicault (note the difference in spelling), the famous actor and playwright, and therefore an uncle of “Dot” Boucicault, also a well-known actor.
I wrote for the “Miner” occasionally, as for many other papers in
As I have spoken of the “Times,” it may be added that the editor is Albert Stumm, a brother of the former editor-proprietor, who was also in the State and Federal Parliaments, and who, personally and otherwise, was “one of the best.” Albert Stumm was on the “Courier” staff, and sub-editor of the “Observer.” He had a wonderful memory, or one would suppose so. Ask him the European population of Java, and he would say 12,794. Ask him the greatest ocean depth, and he would say 7 miles 36 chains 12 links, or would put it in fathoms. Wonderful! It was not necessarily true, but satisfying. But we who he so often chaffed had our revenge. One day he was doing some racing notes, and he certainly knew sufficient of a horse to say that it had four legs- one at each corner. A young wag gave him a paragraph that “the bay gelding Socrates had been sold to a Hughenden buyer for stud purposes.” And it was duly printed. We all remember Albert Stumm – like his brothers, warm of heart and true as steel.
In the old days a newspaper man was, as today in fact, on all sorts of jobs, and an editor, if necessity arose, got round to some of the Government offices, or interviewed a magnate or a potentate, or even a second-rate sometimes. Once, when I was editing the “Observer,” I heard Dr. Purcell had cured a case of tetanus, and, knowing the good doctor well, I went to see what there was “to it,” as the Canadians say. The case was one of a girl about 12 years of age, living with her parents near the Clarence. She had trodden on some glass, and badly cut her foot. In eight days in the early morning, there was a twitching near the wound, and by afternoon it had spread so that the whole body was affected. Dr. Purcell put the girl under chloroform and kept her unconscious for several hours. Meanwhile he cut the ball of the great toe into the bone, where a hard formation, a cicatrix, I think it was called, was cut away, and a small quantity of puss removed. Then there was treatment of the patient with chloralhydrate and bromide of potassium, and a quick recovery. I remember asking Purcell if the case was unquestionably one of tetanus, and he said it was, and I remember his adding, “and well developed.” Now that is over 40 years ago, and I do not wish to commit Purcell’s reputation to the whole of the circumstances et out, and perhaps I have forgotten something, but I believe the salients are there. The case caused a good deal of interest at the time, and Mr. W. J. Morley may remember it, for I think it was he who saw Dr. Purcell on behalf of the “Courier.” However, later on, Dr. Albert Muller, now of Sydney, successfully treated a case of tetanus, and reported it fully in the Australian medical paper. So far as I remember from reading, he went for chloroform – probably to check the tetanus twitchings, and followed it up with other treatment. Medical men certainly will remember Dr. Muller’s case, but I do not know if Purcell’s was officially reported. Two of the sons of my good old friend, Henry Muller, went to medicine, and with great success. Albert, after taking his degrees, was medical superintendent for a good many years at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney, and then began a very fine practice in Elizabeth Street of that city. Dr. Percy Muller had a big practice at Lismore, and later went also to Sydney. They were two of the finest young fellows I have ever known, brought up in a good Christian home, and steadfast workers from their very early school days. They were also in the long line of marked successes from the Brisbane Grammar School in the time of Reginald H. Roe, M.A., of whom they always most affectionately spoke.
Mr. and Mrs. Henry Muller had two other sons, and also a daughter, who is the wife of Mr. Jackson, a well-known land owner and scientific farmer in the Clifton-Nobby district. I often have in mind the cases of tetanus referred to, and of later years have had them banged into my memory, for two of my dearest friends have lost lads through the development of the disease after accidents.
It is over 44 years since the railway from Warwick to Stanthorpe was opened. Most of the public men who took part in the ceremony and festivities have gone the long journey, but I met one friend the other day, a railway man, too, who was there. He asked me if I remembered it at all. Of course I did, and Leigh reported it for the “Observer,” though the name of the “Courier” representative has passed from me. The Mayor of Stanthorpe was Mr. W. A. Noble, and the member for the district de Poix Tyrrell, both very fine citizens, who had known Stanthorpe in the days of the tin rush.
J. F. G. Foxton was also a prominent man, a young and handsome chap. Later, of course, he was Colonel Foxton, C.M.G., V.D., commanding the Field Artillery, the head of a big firm of solicitors, a member of Parliament, and Home Secretary and Lands Minister in succession. At the railway banquet he proposed “The Press,” and it was responded to by Mr. J. W. Pillar, who was editor of “The Border Post and Stannum Miner,” and, I think, was the founder of the paper which has run along through all these years with a very honourable reputation. Mr. A. Meston also replied.
The line was opened by the Colonial Secretary, Mr. Palmer, afterwards Sir Arthur, and the members of Parliament included Mr. J. R. (afterwards Sir James) Dickson, who represented the Opposition, and very tactfully at a period when political feeling was bitter. Present also were Heussler, Pettigrew, and Buzacott of the Legislative Council; and of the Legislative Assembly, Jacob Low, George Thorn, William Miles, W. Kellett, W. H. Groom, Jacob Horwitz, Francis Kates, Fred. Cooper, S. Grimes, R. Aland of Toowoomba, Francis Beattie, Archie Meston, and “Billy” Rea of Rockhampton, one of the extremists of the day. Of the Assembly members, no fewer than eight were of the Opposition, and if there was outside the banquet speeches a little propaganda, well, who should complain. The rule was that on such occasions party politics were taboo. That was just a matter of good taste. Our taste in that respect has been vitiated.
The line was built by Messrs. Gargett and Thomas, contractors, and the distance covered 40½ miles. For the record I find that the first section from Warwick cost £10,000 a mile, and a second section £6000 a mile, so it was not a cheap railway. The ruling gradient was one in fifty. It took three and a half years to build the line, and it was a fairly tough job. The culminating point, 3030ft., was then called Maryland. Now, I suppose, it is The Summit. Stanthorpe was given at 400ft lower, and Warwick 1530ft. lower.
The Stanthorpe people made merry on the occasion of the opening with a band, a procession, and, of course, many speeches; but had they only known what the future had in store for Queensland they would have rejoiced greatly because of a special circumstance – the railway completed cost £50,000 under the departmental estimate. We don’t do things in that way now. I would back Mr. Larcombe and his merry men to run £50,000 over the estimate, and we should be lucky to get off at that figure.
I had forgotten to say that Mr. Palmer, as the Government representative, made a modest and patriotic speech, but his apology for the absence of his colleagues was characteristic also. He said that the Attorney General was “endeavouring to take a short cut, and that was what had kept him.” The quip was happy and greatly enjoyed.
In those days, New South Wales had promised to extend its railway system to Wallan-garra, but that did not eventuate for many years. Ultimately the systems were linked, that is, linked as far as is possible with different gauges, and Brisbane and Sydney shook hands over the iron road. But the railway did not bring prosperity to Stanthorpe. For many years the town was decadent. Then someone started fruit-growing there, and proved what wonders could be done on the sandy-looking soil, and there came a recovery. Stanthorpe is one of the most wonderful of Queensland’s rich districts. The poor looking sandy and stony forests, stringy bark a lot of it, might at one time have been bought at half a crown an acre; but I have seen orchards there selling a few years ago at £100 an acre. To be sure that was before the days of the fruit fly, though Stanthorpe is now going top “swat that fly.”
“Why have you not given us some memories of the
frozen meat trade?” said Mr. David Trail just lately. I know something of the
early days of this trade, and even saw the first, and, I think, the only ship of
live cattle from Queensland to the United Kingdom. They were loaded at Bulimba,
Mr. Ralfe, or Relph, being the promoter or manager of the undertaking. The
cattle were rather rough handled, being hauled on board with the aid of a steam
winch and a rope round the
In 1881, Malcolm McEacharn, after Sir Malcolm, and the firm with which he
was connected, McIlwraith, McEacharn and Co., first demonstrated what could be
done with frozen meat, but did not follow up the trade. The coming of the
British- India steamers and the establishment of certain meat companies,
however, developed the idea. Swallow and Ariell, of Melbourne, went in for a
form of food packing which at one time was expected to improve the situation of
producers of wheat and flour. They made “beef biscuits,” 40lb of beef to 60lb of
best flour. The material was put up in 20lb tins, to be sold at 3d per lb., but
that, too, dropped out when it failed to win approval in England. However, my
old friend, Mr. T. Fauset, with his partner in the firm of Clark and Fauset,
came to Queensland, I think in the Merkara, in so far as Mr. Fauset was
concerned, and they soon put a different face on the engineering side of the
problem, which, after all, was the principal point, Mr. Fauset, in the
“Courier,” not long ago, gave some of the early day experiences. And Trails Ltd.
have done their share in pioneering, and some day the history of the frozen meat
trade may be written.
It was in the middle of 1881 that the meatworks at Queensport were opened
up, and the site is still occupied for the original purpose. Several Pressmen
were taken down to the works on a small steamer and shown over. A very complete
plant had been installed for meat canning and a freezing chamber was being
built. A Haslam “dry, cold air” machine was on the spot and to be put into
operation when the building was ready, and this was supposed to be a rather
daring experiment, as the Bell-Coleman process was the more known. I do not
think it was contemplated to send fresh meat overseas from Queensport, but cold
storage was considered necessary for the local trade. The works were able to
treat about 50 head of cattle per day. The enterprise was in the hands of the
“Queensland Freezing and Food Export Co. Ltd.” Later Queensport passed into the
hands of the Baynes Bros., who continued the work and who had some good
contracts with the Netherlands India Government for army supplies, and the salt
beef sent up to Java in casks was of splendid quality and splendidly
A great feature at the time of the visit of the Pressmen was the seam of coal under the grounds of the former residence of Mr. Charles Coxen. The coal was reached by a tunnel from the riverside. It was of fair quality but there was not much of it. Later on I took my old friend W. H. Peacock, the discoverer of the Great Barnsley seam in England to inspect it with the idea of exploiting it, but he held that the country was took disturbed, and I and my friends followed his advice and wisely so.
The old Coxen home was later on
bought by Lady McIlwraith, but it is doubtful if there was any profit in it.
Queensport was the first regular establishment on the Brisbane River for dealing
with meat for export, but of course, we had a good deal earlier works at
Redbank, but more for boiling down.
Perhaps I should qualify what I
wrote of a shipment of cattle by a Mr. Relph, saying that this was the first
attempt to send beef “on the hoof” to England. Since writing I remembered that
in 1881, and after I had come down to Brisbane, William Hann, the well-known
explorer and owner of Maryvale station, near Townsville shipped two prime
bullocks by one of the new British-India line for England. How they arrived or
whether they arrived at all, I cannot now say. Perhaps some old bird with a
better memory or with more interest in the shipment can tell us. I do know that
Relph’s shipment was disastrous.
A correspondent asked if I remember the opening of the railway to Sandgate. Why not? As a fact, reference was made to it in earlier memories and to George Bashford, the builder, and to other things. A great point was an address to the Colonial Secretary, then Mr. Arthur Hunter Palmer, from sub-contractors and men on the job. That address would well stand printing again. It is a lesson to employers and to men. The subscribers spoke of “our highly respected employer, Mr. George Bashford,” and they meant it. They followed the Bashford contracts, and most of them saved their money, made homes chiefly on farms, and their children and children’s children stand up today as good Australians, and, I hope, call the sturdy navy forebears blessed. The sub-contractors and men had been with Mr. Bashford on the Ipswich-Brisbane and Dalby-Roma extensions. And, I remember, that when Mr. Palmer (later Sir Arthur) shoveled earth into the barrow and went to wheel it away it was found that some practical joker had locked the wheel with wire. Mr. Palmer gave the contractor what Sergeant “Tommy” King would have put as a “blankety look,” and not “a piercing gaze.” And the Mayor of Sandgate, who proposed the toast of Parliament, said that altogether the country could not find better men, though some of them were “of doubtful character.” (Laughter) Then George Bashford later on explained that he landed in Brisbane 14, or was it 15, years earlier, “without a fraction,” and had his first job with a butcher to groom a horse and clean the stable, and he said, “I wasn’t going to be chamber-maid to a horse, and cleared out on the tramp to Ipswich.”
In passing it may be said, on
the authority of the late Colonel H. C. Stanley, Chief Engineer of Railways,
that the Sandgate line cost £4300 a mile. We couldn’t build a main road for that
E. R. Drury, at the luncheon,
proposed “The Ladies,” and said, “At the seaside we see more of the ladies”- and
a roar drowned out the rest of it. But, of course, he did not mean it that way,
for in 1881, when ladies went a bathing, they wore long and rather clingsome
gowns, except in France; and as for mixed bathing – who would mention so
horrible a theme?