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 bad” actor.
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
mimic art’s exposed to view,
permission for a word or two,
compliment to old and honor’ed use,
To let some
rhyme on this occasion loose.
all ‘neath this new Thespian dome
welcome to the drama’s home;
humouring the critic’s carping mood,
say, “We’ve done, the best we could.”
If you are
pleased we humbly rest your debtor,
thinking, “Nothing could be better.”
Here we will
try with new and ancient wares,
By night, to
chase the day’s engrossing cares,
may relax his “labor’d brain,”
And with our
folly be “a boy again.”
men, to “loss and profit” tied,
their troubles, “Only step inside.”
leave “cross benches” in the rear
upon our friendly benches here.
the cat,” well then – come here and quaff
enemy – “A hearty laugh,”
and shadows of the shifting age.
Of the great
globe’s reflected on the stage;
all change of scene or customs past
and virtues of the world still last,
task to show its virtues clear,
struggling virtue draw the feeling tear.
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
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
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
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 beautiful prose.
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!
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. establishment.
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.
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.
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 –
hunting is not meant, nor fortune hunting, though we have had
a good deal of both, but hunting with what Mr. Jorrocks always
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 Mr. Jorrocks).
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 Hounds.
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
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
memories – The Annie Books Massacre-
Nicholson- The Gympie Papers-
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
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 socks.
“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
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
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 Guinea.
“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
“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
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
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
I wrote for the “Miner” occasionally, as for many other
papers in Queensland
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 horns.
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 prepared.
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.
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.
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
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?