Steels Rails, McIlwraith, RNA Show, Courier Editors, Conclusion
Origin of a White Australia
Marcus Clarke Memory
People and Events
It may not be generally known that there was a very strong effort in the
early eighties (1880s), to secure the introduction of labour from British India-
The impression amongst the advocates of such immigration was that Kanaka
labour would in course of time become very scarce, and, further, there was doubt
as to the Kanaka being as efficient as the Indian. Most of my political friends
were at the back of the movement, though, as one who strove in the North to
secure the stoppage of Chinese immigration, I am glad to say that I was not
brought to favour the Indian coolie.
With the Kanaka, it was different, though, through the neglect of more
than one Government, the history of that “black-bird catching” business was
blood-stained and sordid. The Kanaka was tolerated by the Conservatives as
commercially indispensable, and by the Liberals- with some notable exceptions-
as a sort of necessary evil, or evil necessity.
In 1892, I worked as a journalist in a campaign for the extension of the
period of Kanaka employment, and we got it through, but with federation , the
sugar industry happily became white.
Sir Samuel W. Griffith had in that year entered into a coalition
Government with Sir Thomas McIlwraith. The coolie immigration had got so far
that an agent was appointed in British India, probably to represent the
Government in conforming to the conditions required by the Government of India;
but something happened. Public fear, even dread, had been awakened. This had its
first public expression- apart from Press comment- in a meeting promoted by
William Brookes, who was member for North Brisbane and the head of the
well-known firm of Brookes and Foster.
Mr. Brookes, as stated on a former occasion, was an English Radical of a
particularly eloquent and fearless type, and present day believers in a White
Australia have a lot for which to thank the early day Liberals or Radicals of
On the coloured labour question, as on the convict labour question, they
were absolutely uncompromising. They did not preach the brotherhood of man with
one voice and the exclusion from Australia of potential industrial competition
with another. The advanced Labour man in Brisbane- or the “Red Ragger,” at
any rate- says, “Of course, we are all brothers”; adding, “but we love our
coloured brethren at a distance!”
William Brookes and the old-time Liberals were 100 per cent White
Australia men, though they were all generous in subscribing for Christian work
amongst coloured people- the “heathen in his blindness” and in his own land.
It was impossible to divest the meeting of party political colour, indeed
it would not have been reasonable to expect to do such a thing; but for some
present were there only for political purposes. The men of the early eighties
who were inclined to coolie labour considered that a tropical country could not
be developed by white labour. They were perfectly honest, and many of them not
personally interested, but it seemed queer that a Government, of which John
Murtagh Macrossan was a prominent member, should do anything to encourage the
immigration of coolies from India. Mr. Macrossan , before his entry to
Parliament, had led the anti-Chinese immigration movement in North Queensland,
and he was not likely to favour the Indians.
Mr. Brookes was in the chair at the meeting, and the principal resolution
was proposed by William Widdop, to the effect that the appointment of an
immigration agent in British India to introduce coolie labour, was opposed to
the higher interests of Queensland. Mr. Widdop I spoke of in connection with
mining here in the early eighties. He was a fruit merchant, with a pleasant home
at Clayfield, when that suburb was almost “out in the bush,” and he made and
lost a lot of money in Gympie mining. In many respects he was McIlwraithian in
sentiment, but he drew the line at Indian labour. Another speaker was Robert
Jaeschke, the editor of the German paper, and a partner of my old friend
Isambert, M.L.A. for Rosewood.
Another was Mr. (afterwards Sir Arthur) Rutledge, and Mr. Wm. Miles was
there with a few words, and had quite an ovation. Personally, the meeting did
not worry me, as the editor of a paper owned by prominent members of the
Government, for I had told them that if they authorised coolie labour, their
defeat was certain. And so it ultimately came about. But the Indian immigration
scheme was not developed. The Government of India found some reason for not
approving of the movement of its people to Queensland, and probably the
Queensland Government was quite glad to get out of the business. He would be a
bold, even reckless, politician, who would today pin his faith to a policy of
satisfying our demand for labour by bringing in Indian coolies. Which reminds me
that the Australian Government or Governor of 1818 was opposed to Indians coming
in. When my great grandfather sold out of the Honourable East India Company’s
Army and came to Sydney with shiploads of goods and, as the historian pits it,
over £20,000 in cash, he brought from Calcutta a retinue of his Indian
servants. Governor Macquarie packed them back again. That may have been the
first assertion of the White Australia policy.
As stated earlier, it was the arrangement initiated to get coolie labour
to Queensland that temporarily settled the McIlwraith Government, and not the
Steel rails or the Miles v. McIlwraith cases.
On the other hand, several old-timers have assured me that McIlwraith had
made no definite declaration for coolies. Well, I worked very keenly for John
Sinclair when he ran for North Brisbane, and knew something of the preparation
of his address. He was the McIlwraith candidate, and I have looked up the
address to make sure. It contained the following:- “I am opposed to coolie
labour, and very strongly resist its introduction into Southern Queensland. I
cannot, however, close my eyes to the fact that in reclaiming for cultivation
the waste land in the hot and humid climate of our Northern coast, great
difficulty is at present experienced by the settlers in getting European
labourers. I therefore am unwilling to take the responsibility of retarding the
progress of settlement by prohibiting the introduction of coolies for temporary
purposes. But I would strictly confine this class of labour by Act of Parliament
to work connected with the growth of sugar and other tropical products.”
So far so good. Mr. Sinclair was defeated for Brisbane on the coolie test
by Mr. Wm. Brookes, and by some 350 votes. But what was Mr. S. W. Griffith doing
at that time? In Brisbane he inveighed against the establishment of a servile
class; but at Cooktown in the early months of 1882, shortly after the Brisbane
election, he said he considered Indian coolies as a class not desirable, but if
it could be shown that they were necessary to develop any particular interests
in certain parts of the colony, they might be admitted under proper safeguards.
With whom did the term “A White Australia” originate?
So far as I remember, it was with Sir Samuel Walter Griffith.
Sir Samuel coquetted, as at Cooktown, with the question of coolie workers
from India, and, after the coalition with McIlwraith, he agreed to the extension
of Kanaka labour for a fixed period; but in his heart, he never desired the
establishment or continuance of any servile class in this Queensland of ours.
At Townsville, when on a Northern tour with William Miles, Mr. Griffith,
as he then was, hedged again on his Cooktown statement. There he said we should
first try to make this colony like Great Britain, the country by which it had
been founded, “but failing that we might try another experiment.” That
doesn’t sound like hedging, but rather like insistence. However, he went on
“He would do all he could to make it a White Colony, and if it going to be
black, he would leave. But he was not prepared to go so far as some, who said
that no man should be allowed to employ a black servant.” The salient of this
reference is the “White Colony.” From the words sprang the frequently used
“White Queensland,” and from that spread the greater geographical expression
of “A White Australia.” In later years the phrase was used by Parkes and
Deakin; but my history is sound as to its use in the North in 1882 on the
inspiration of Griffith’s words: “A White Colony!”
Francis Kates, of Allora, was practically the originator of the method of
closer settlement of the Darling Downs by the repurchase and subdivision of
estates. In the session of 1881, he moved that £500,000 should be placed on the
loan estimates “for the purchase of arable properties on the Darling Downs.”
The Government of the day, of which I was a supporter, opposed the motion on the
ground mainly that settlers up that way did not want land in farming areas. Some
plausibility was given to the contention from the experience in connection with
what were known as the Allora Exchange Lands. These lands had been
re-transferred to the Government in exchange for outside areas. I remember that
Mr. Perkins, Minister for Lands, in replying to the motion of Mr. Kates, said
that only a few thousand acres of Allora lands had been taken up in two and a
McIlwraith, as well as Perkins, spoke against the motion, but it was
carried by 19 to 15. It may be remarked that in nearly all cases, the Darling
Downs repurchases have worked extremely well; and it was rather a poetical
justice to see a few years later the very same political heads following on the
lines of Mr. Kates’s proposal in September, 1881. Francis Kates was a very
highly educated and cultured man, a fine speaker, and intellectually had no
superior in the Legislative Assembly. I had many talks with him about the
repurchase scheme, and it may be remarked that he always opposed loading the
country with debt to build the railways to “the setting sun,” and other
fanciful localities, while there were vast areas which should be made available
to close settlement, and which already were served by railways.
One morning, about July, 1881, I was in the old “Observer” Office at
the corner of Edward and Adelaide Streets, when Mr. Perkins, the Minister for
Lands, drove up in a hansom, and called out to me to “come up to the land
sale.” I went up, and we saw realised on behalf of the Crown some £28,000, in
about 28 minutes, for blocks which now would fetch £150,000. The upset prices
ran from about £120 to £150 a foot. The firm gave £150 a foot. The site was
soon built upon, and one of the old names abides there, for the establishment of
Chapman and Co. stands upon it. William Young, a pastoralists and owner of Mount
Larcombe, when it was a sheep station, got a couple of blocks at £144. Mr.
Young lived in Brisbane for many years, his house being on a pretty knoll facing
North Quay, just beyond the Helidon Spa Co.’s works. Lumley Hill and Patrick
Perkins were also buyers. It may interest some of the younger generations of the
families to know that the total of the Edwards and Chapman purchases was just
under £7500. Fancy buying land at that figure today! Yet the firm did much to
make the added value.
The papers in 1881 discussed Bishop O’Quinn’s successor, or rather
his prospective successor, with the utmost freedom. Even the ultra-Protestant
“Evangelical Standard” took it up, and with some warrant, perhaps, for an
irresponsible nobody had trained his coat, and said the great desire was for
“a red hot Irish ecclesiastic,” who would “lead the Irishmen on to
victory.” What that meant I am not quite sure. Perhaps the irresponsible
nobody didn’t quite know himself, but it was defiantly rhetorical. The Roman
Catholic community was very angry, and one of the number wrote asking what was
the objection to Dr. Cani, an Italian, or Dean Murlay, of Rockhampton, a
Frenchman, or Father Tenison-Woods, an Englishman, or Father McNab, a Scot. And
it was asked also whether it would not be an impertinence to the Holy See to
suggest an Irishman, especially as the Archbishop of Sydney was an
Englishman – Archbishop Vaughan, finest type of English gentleman and a most
polished orator. But the Holy See was not “taking any” of the “red hot”
school, and appointed the saintly Father Dunne, of Toowoomba, whose life was a
beautiful lesson, and who was loved by all people. Even the turbulent Protestant
element took off its hat and reverently saluted Bishop Dunne. And when he was
called to his rest and his reward, the Roman Catholics were given by the Holy
See another steadfast son of the Church, but also a great Australian, His Grace
Archbishop Duhig, who knows no sectarian bitterness, but who may fairly be
written as “one who loves his fellow man.”
Now let me say a little about a very sharp controversy which took place
at about this time concerning the shortage of clergy in the Church of England in
Queensland. Bishop Hale had made a tour of the Western country, and was very
much impressed by the conditions out there; but he couldn’t get money, and, as
he said, he could not expect his clergy to live in the trees and eat grass. Some
one was very angry, and wrote angrily to the papers saying that the parsons
should go out and preach, and that money would come, but he objected to
bargaining for stipends and all that sort of thing. “Money has given us empty
churches,” he said, “unread Bibles and mere professional teachers.” The
papers did not quite take that view. The “Observer” bluntly said it was the
cry of the man who wished to dodge his responsibilities, the man who thought
more of spending his money on a spree in town, at the races, and the opera, than
supporting his Church.
The other day, I looked up the old “Courier” files to see what
Buzacott, O’Carroll, Feilberg, and Co., had to say. The good old paper went
trenchantly for “people who desire to get religion on the cheap,” which was
described as “unchristian and destructive of the vitality of the religious
Again, it was said that the clergyman who assumed family responsibilities
must be assured of a stipend, and that £200 a year was too little. I think an
“adequate stipend” was spoken of, and the impression conveyed, if we put it
in the words of today, that £200 a year for an educated man with a family was a
“starvation wage.” By the way, I have not heard that the clergy have yet
started a union. What an opportunity for an energetic organiser! All these
matters show, as I have said, how freely we talked and wrote of religious
Government, and even of each other’s religions.
Somewhere or other, I have been told the story of the cabby who, when
asked how business was, said “Bad, and it’s all because of those dam
spakin’ machines.” The “spakin machine” was the telephone. In the old
days, when men had to talk business, one or other took a cab, and was driven
round to the meeting place. When the telephone came in, the cab was not so much
required. Now that we have just got in Brisbane to the automatics or “them
rheumatic telephones,” some one calls them, let us have a look at the
initiation of the machines in this city.
I refreshed my memory by a talk with Mr. F. O’Dwyer quite recently, and
there’s little connected with the postal, or telegraph, or telephone
departments that he doesn’t know.
It was in 1881 or 1882 that Bell, the American telephone inventor, came
over to direct our installation. I well remember the opening day. The ceremony
was in the little exchange room fronting the lane from Queen Street to Elizabeth
Street, and amongst those present were the Postmaster-General E. D. Morehead,
Colonel John McDonnell, Under Secretary; Matvieff, Superintendent of Telegraphs;
F. O’Dwyer, who was in charge of accounts; Starke, the mechanician; and some
others whom I just now cannot name. The Exchange opened with 32 subscribers, and
the Colonial Secretary’s Office- Sir Arthur H. Palmer’s – was No. 1,
Colonel E. R. Drury’s was No. 2, and the office of the General Manager of the
Queensland National Bank was, and today is, No. 3.
Fred. Watson and his sister were in charge of the office, and Mrs. Welch
controlled the South Brisbane branch. What a service that of the Telephone
Department has been! Perhaps it developed irritably and a peculiar form of
complaint, which we may put in English as “suppression of Language.” As a
fact, we had to suppress our language because words suitable to some occasions
were – forbidden. At any rate, there would have been a risk of their melting
Very few now living remember, or ever know, how Sir Thomas McIlwraith
received the news of the hoisting of the Union Jack on New Guinea. The story is
told me by Mr. George Ross, of the Summit, near Stanthorpe. He says that
McIlwraith and a party, headed by Mr. Patrick Lillis, were out inspecting the
proposed route of what was then known as the Kilkivan branch, and had met a
train at Gootchie Flat. They boarded the train, and, just as it was about to
start, the station master, Mr. Charles Laugher, for many years later station
master at Tweed Heads, reported a call on the telegraph line. “It was the
memorable telegram,” says Mr. Ross, “from H. M. Chester to Sir Thomas
McIlwraith, stating that the British flag had been hoisted and New Guinea
declared a British possession.” Sir Thomas read out the telegram to the
bewildered party, for they did not know what had led up to the incident, and he
was exasperated at their lack of appreciation. He called out, “Dammit,
gentlemen, can’t you see what this means?” and at last it dawned upon them
that they had been called upon to join in the genesis of our connection with
what His Grace Archbishop Duhig has termed “The Land of Mystery.” Sir Thomas
called for cheers for the Queen (Victoria) and the new country, adding that
Queensland was now the holder of New Guinea. At Tiaro, when the train stopped to
drop Mr. Tom Price, the member for Wide Bay, there was more cheering. Alas! The
British Government was perturbed by the German cry for “a place in the sun,”
and refused to ratify the annexation. However, we divided up with Germany,
formally annexed our part, which we called Papua, and in the whirligig of
chance, are the administrators of the whole of New Guinea.
People who read these Memories only occasionally discovered omissions
which did not occur. For instance, I was lately asked why I had not mentioned
Frank Daly in referring to journalists. If my memory serves me correctly, I had
something about Daly’s work, especially on the “Queenslander,” in
association with Cecil Gasking, the artist. Daly then wrote under the name of
“Fidelio,” and both his prose and jingle were very bright and scholarly.
Occasionally he wrote serious little bits of verse, gems too, and they certainly
are worth collecting. He collaborated also
with Monty Scott on the “Boomerang,” and did a lot of work for “Bobby”
Burns on “Figaro,” which paper survives under the editorship and management
of Miss Clayton, the daughter of a very gallant soldier, who served for many
years in India and trained many of the older generation of our Queensland
Frank Daly was one of the most modest of men, but he took great delight
in his work. I was once asked by a newspaper manager about his ability, and I
said that if ever editing a paper again, two men I would surely secure- Henry
Burton (“Occam’s Razor,” formerly of Newcastle, England, “Weekly
Chronicle”) and Frank Daly. A friend tells me that Daly now lives out Corinda
way, is approaching four score years, but still sings his rhymes before putting
them on paper. That last was a queer old habit. “These things came singing
into my soul,” said another writer many years ago. It was so with Frank
Daly’s muse. I have often seen him tramping up and down in the old
“Queenslander” room in the present “Courier” building, and humming away
to get his thoughts flowing into his easy jingle. Hail, Frank Daly, of the
gentle nature and the heart full of warm comradeship! You are not often seen by
the newspaper men of today, but you are not forgotten. In the old files of the
papers, there are many of your treasures of prose and verse, and some day I hope
they will be rescued from present obscurity.
We were talking – some of us “Old Birds”- the other day, of the
genesis of the Brisbane Stock Exchange, and of the time when we had also an open
Mining Exchange, which held its calls at night. That was when Gympie and
Charters Towers were turning out heaps of gold, and when speculation caught us
up, and very ungently cast us down. Some one said that the Brisbane Chamber of
Commerce initiated the exchange idea, but I find that it was way of a commercial
‘Change with the “I’ll buy with you, sell with you, talk with you”
The Chamber of Commerce was then a small and inconsequential affair, not
like the powerful organisation embracing our bankers, insurance managers,
merchants and all big traders and masters of industry which Mr. R. H. Tanner,
the secretary, has evolved from smaller things. At a meeting some 44 years ago,
with Mr. Theodore Unmack in the chair, Mr. R. D. Neilsen moved, “That it is
desirable that the rooms of the Chamber of Commerce be thrown open for the
convenience of the trading portion of the community during certain hours of the
day for the purposes of an Exchange.”
Sydney and Melbourne had their Exchanges, and why not Brisbane? Carried
unanimously; but I do not remember that we ever saw the development of the idea.
Merchants of not, nor did they in those days, meet to buy and sell. Later on,
they developed the commercial brokers like Davis and Rees, “Jim” O’Brien,
Cardno, White, Neill Macdonald, and others, who secured buying orders and
fulfilled them. Merchants Saturday in their offices as they do today, with
breaks, perhaps, for morning or afternoon tea. But, as I think of it, the breaks
in the old days were generally for something a little more exhilarating than the
brew of the gentle leaf of China or India or Ceylon. Java was not then in the
sun with her material help for the cup that cheers, but only very slightly
inebriates. Our brews were more potent. Prohibitionists may not regret, but
temperance people will rejoice, that we have become a soberer and more
I am reminded that at the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce meeting at which
Mr. Neilson’s resolution was carried unanimously, there were, besides the
chairman, T. E. White, Henry Donkin, C. M. Paul, Nat. Howes, Barron L. Barnett,
Marks (probably the manager of Hoffnung’s), E. W. Walker, William Williams,
Smith (of W. H. Smith and Sons), and, of course, “the mover.” Where are they
all today? Now, all these men were pioneers – pioneers of finance, trade, and
industry. When it comes to writing the history of the Chamber of Commerce, let
us hope- indeed, we may be sure- that they will not be forgotten.
Wybert Reeve was a very fine actor. In “Diplomacy” he was splendid.
With the co-operation of the Johnsonian Club, he gave a benefit for the wife and
family of Marcus Clarke. I mentioned the circumstance to a younger man, a
Philistine, and he asked: “Was that Marcus Clarke of the big warehouses in
Of course it wasn’t, and it seems rather awful to have to say it was
Marcus Clarke the writer who died in Melbourne young and poor, and who had
married a daughter of John Dunne, the actor, and set about raising a family.
Have you heard, you younger folk, of “For the Term of His Natural Life” or
“His Natural Life” as the picture fiends have made it? Marcus Clarke was the
author of that book. He was also a flaneur, wrote ephemeral but bright stuff,
and a lot of clever jingle. He also wrote the rather overloaded Introduction to
Gordon’s collected poems. Know who Gordon was? Of course you do; he wrote
“Bush Ballads and Galloping Rhymes,” including “How we beat the
Favourite,” “The Sick Stockrider,” “The Ride for the Wreck,” and a lot
more, and at the time of his realised fame shot himself, and sleeps by the sea
at Brighton, near Melbourne.
When I returned from overseas in 1918, there was staying at the Federal
Hotel, in Melbourne, a daughter of Marcus Clarke, a rather well-known actress. I
was able to recite to her some of the verses attributed to her father. One was a
clever skit on Gordon’s work, a mixture of absurd jingle and heroics relating
to the doings of one “Mark Clancy.” Perhaps some others will remember it.
Mark Clancy apostrophized his page:-
hither, come hither, my little foot page, and tighten the girths for me!”
never a word said the little foot page as he louted low on his knee.
he’d drunk of the wine of the foaming Rhine, and was far gone on the spree.
And when Mark Clancy made his remarkable leap,
compared with which that of the escaped Mameluke at the Cairo Citadel would have
been merely a trifle, we had:
ho, without! Did you hear that shout,
was it the driving rain?”
the fair Lady Isabel, “Surely it is a bell,
heard it, I thought, very plain!”
And then the tragic ending:
found his body next morning, but there wasn’t a sign of his soul;
the drunken old porter he said to his daughter, as he scratched his obfuscated
some poor wight who’s been tight overnight,
broken his neck in a hole!
However, the Wybert Reeve- Johnsonian Club benefit
realised a good sum to help the widow and the kiddies of the brilliant Marcus
Clarke, and that was important.
A discussion arose during the currency of these Memories concerning
Wilhelmj, the great violinist, who was declared at St. Petersburg and Vienna to
be the greatest living? I have given a little in earlier pages about the
Wilhelmj concerts. However, people may like to hear more of so great a musician.
He was a very big man, over 6ft in height, and weighed about 15 stone. I saw a
good deal of him while he was here, and a fine, pleasant soul he was. He was a
German and, I think, of Polish and Hungarian descent. His fiddle was a
Stradivarius, which had been through only a few hands, and the varnish was quite
fresh looking. A French collector had offered it to Joachim and Vieuxtemps, and
the last named, in refusing to purchase, said it was “as hard as wood.” But
Wilhelmj loved it, and his father, Dr. Wilhelmj, bought it for 3000 thalers.
first master was Conrad Fisher, and he afterwards studied with Ferdinand David,
who was a favourite pupil of Spohr. He married a niece of David, the Baroness
Liphardt. Wilhelmj’s concerts in Brisbane were but poorly attended, but they
were a great treat. He played at the Albert Hall, in Adelaide Street. Generally
I like fiddlers, and enjoyed the company of Kubelik, when he was here, a most
cheery and capable young man, whose soul was in his music, that is after his
wife and kiddies, then for away in Europe. Kubelik could do wonders with his
fiddle- imitating birds and getting all sorts of weird effects, but that was
only in private. Of all I have heard, and so far as remembrance goes, give me
Kreisler, Wilhelmj, and Kubelik, in that order.
very old friend, Mr. T. H. Dougherty- a very fine violinist, well known on
concert platforms and in the Brisbane Musical Union, wrote to me from Henderson
Street, Bulimba, after the appearance of my Wilhelmj article. Mr. Dougherty’s
letter will be appreciated by those whose memories go back a good part of 50
years, and, of course, by the younger generation, aw well.
said: “I will not apologise for liking your vastly entertaining memories
touching fiddlers, but rejoice the more to find you are of somewhat like mind to
my own, in the appreciation of the one musical instrument, when well played,
that captures all listeners. I, too, heard the great Wilhelmj in the Albert
Hall, and shall never forget the splendid rendition of the Kreutzer Sonata by
him and Max Vogrich, husband of Alice Rees, the well-known soprano of Victoria.
I was introduced to Wilhelmj by Mr. A. S. Bean after one concert, and permitted
to see and lightly touch his famous Strad. Violin, which he assured me was
valued at a thousand pounds. While I was looking at the famous instrument, he
clutched it by the neck. After a concert, a small party of us took him to the
Johnsonian Club, Adelaide Street, where he inscribed his name in the visitor’s
book, and played us a simple sketch, and reminded us that as we no doubt saw
that, altogether he was a foreigner, he spoke English grammatically. Kindest
regards for auld lang syne.”
Allan of Braeside
O’Connors of Oxley
A picturesque figure in the pastoral and political
life of Queensland was William Allan, of Braeside.
He was also in the Queensland Scottish Volunteers, with A. C. Grant,
Fraser, the railway engineer, John Stevenson, Jack Wilson, “Bob” Fraser, and
some who are still here and going strong, and I had a son of his with me in the
old Moreton Mounted Infantry, when I commanded a section, which was the
equivalent of a troop in the Light Horse.
William Allan owned Braeside, somewhere between Warwick and Dalveen, and
had a flock of black sheep. This flock was a pastoral peculiarity, and some of
the pure merinos held it to be a pastoral outrage, but William Allan was able to
get a tip-top price for the wool, and he had suit lengths made from it for some
of his friends. He was a bon viveur, musical, good-looking, and a general
Mrs. Allan had been a Miss Mate, of Tarcutta, on the old Sydney road,
between Yass and Albury, and I remembered her and others of the family when, at
the mature age of 14, I was travelling with a mob of brumbies from the Upper
Murray. The Mates were very rich people, and had a store as well as sheep
stations, and we bought some mutton, flour and other “tucker” there.
But that all leads up to William Allan’s appearance in political life.
He was in the firm of Morehead and Co., as a side line, and great pals with E.
D. Morehead, John Stevenson, and others, including that finest of all “The Old
Colonial School,” Harry Bracker, who still is with us, and still one of the
greatest of our judges of cattle and horses. I’ll digress to say, long live
Harry Bracker, once one of the most dashing of Australian horsemen, and still,
as always, with a heart of gold.
But to get on, Francis Kates, the Allora miner and landowner, had
resigned from the Legislative Assembly, where he was a sort of independent
Griffiths supporter, and had again been nominated. Allan was nominated also; and
for the seat, Darling Downs it was in those days, there was a great battle. All
the Griffith influence, and all the Groom influence- which was a greater thing-
were with Kates but Allan’s personal popularity gained him the day, and he
landed at the top of the poll by some 70 votes. He was nominally an independent
Government supporter, but in fact a keen and able supporter of McIlwraith.
Some of the opposition to William Allan was not over scrupulous; indeed,
it was unscrupulous. One prominent Downs paper referred to what it termed a long
conference between Allan and the local head of a certain Church. Of course, the
meaning was that Allan was out to secure the Roman Catholic vote. That
suggestion was obvious enough; but a writer in the “Evangelical Standard”
came out with rather a sneering reflection upon Sir Thomas McIlwraith, because
he had given a modest subscription to the Bishop O’Quinn Memorial Fund. The
complaint was not that the subscription should not have been given at all, but
its modesty was the subject of the sneer. Now, McIlwraith, though not a rich
man, was the sort of warm-souled Scot who subscribed to everything; but his
assailant suggested that he was not very liberal to his own church and its
minister. This brought into the field the Rev. J. F. McSwaine, who suffered
neither fools nor bigots gladly. Mr. McSwaine, as a minister of the church which
McIlwraith attended, went out with a flail, and he unmercifully, though
verbally, thrashed the writer of the “Evangelical Standard” letter,
asserting – what everyone knew- that Sir Thomas was a good supporter of the
kirk, and a generous giver.
I happen to know that Francis Kates was very perturbed over that phase of
the campaign for darling Downs, for Kates was not only a very keen and capable
business man, but was well included in the old-fashioned term of gentleman. He
would not hit below the belt though at times a pungent critic, and I happen to
know also that William Allan thought much more highly of him after their
political tussle than before it. And to be sure, Allan also played the game.
That same game is a good thing. Only lately, I showed a gallant war comrade, a
good Scottish minister and a fine scholar, a little thing written by a
gentleman, deceased, named Horace- his other name doesn’t matter. The little
thing is in the “Vita Practica,” and it runs:
pueri ludentes ‘rex eris’ aunt
course, dear reader, you understand that probably better than I, but perhaps not
so well as the Rev. Scott Macdonald, M.A., who will tell us that an
interpretation is “But as the boys say in the game, ‘Play the game, and be a
It’s astonishing how the old books such as our
Bible, our Shakespeare, and our Horace bristle with quotations!
But it does matter that “Play the Game” has the respectability of
A newspaper man who reads, or has read at all, knows that many of what
are now regarded as slangy terms have quite respectable origin. Once in the
Legislative Assembly, when I was doing “Gallery Notes” for the
“Courier,” Lesina had greatly provoked John Leahy, who, as everyone who knew
the Hon. John will readily understand, retaliated in no kid-glove style. With
other things he said that Lesina deserved to be “fired out” of the Labour
Party, and then Lesina essayed a rebuke, saying that “fired out” was a
vulgar term, and that so great a lover of literature as the Hon. John should
employ language more in keeping with his official position and his reputation
for literary taste.
Next day I was able to make a literary deliverance of which I was proud.
In parenthesis: We writers really strut a little when we think we have produced
“an accomplishment.” I quoted from the Shakespeare sonnet which begins:
loves I have of comfort and despair.”
The hit was in the last line of what in the
Petrarchian sense is known as the sestette, which runs:
whether that my angel be turned fiend,
I may, yet not directly tell;
being both from me, both to each friend,
guess one angel in another’s hell;
this shall I never know, but live in doubt,
my bad angel fire my good one out
Needless to say, John Leahy was very delighted when
he read the “Gallery Notes.” He had a Shakespearian justification, and
Lesina was buried in tumultuous confusion. The reader may marvel and say,
“What erudition!” But no. Still a newspaper man, if he lives long enough and
has read a little, will occasionally have thrust upon him an opportunity to
improve the shining hour.
Forty-six years ago, or very nearly, we were all very excited over the
Brisbane regatta. It was not only an ordinary regatta. There was a prize of £100
for a professional sculling race, though Mr. R. H. Roe, then head master of the
Brisbane Grammar School, a very experienced Cambridge oarsman and one of the
founders of a crew rowing here, objected to the big prize, or a prize at all, as
he did not think it would encourage our young fellows in the actual exercise and
Only lately I saw an old programme of the events of the day. In the £100
sculling race, there were three starters- Elias Laycock, Solomon of Sydney, a
very fine sculler, and our own Harry McLeer, a splendid specimen of humanity.
Laycock made a race of it, though he might easily have won by a furlong; but
McLeer was out of it, mainly, as I remember, through fouling another boat up
near Hogan’s sawmills. The principal fours was won by the Commercials,
composed of C. Myers, Dennis O’Connor, Phil. Hardgrave, and Tom O’Sullivan,
and young F. Midson, a nephew of Mr. Arthur Midson, as coxswain. Myers, who
probably weighed under 10.0, was bow. He was a dentist, and wore a flowing red
beard. Dennis O’Connor, one of the best known of Queensland rowers and now
chairman of the Queensland Brewery Co., was No. 3; Phil. Hardgrave, a solicitor,
son of John Hardgrave, one of the best known of Brisbane pioneers in his day,
was No. 2. Hardgrave was also a keen footballer, as was his brother Fred., and a
great all-round athlete. I saw him in Queen Street recently, still straight, and
of splendid physique. The stroke of the crew was Tom O’Sullivan, who for some
years stroked the Commercials in many a hard tussle, and with O’Connor,
Foster, and my dear old friend, “Jack” Devoy, behind him. The Brisbane crew
was composed of Hugh Macintosh, J. Burrell, J. T. Fowles, and J. A. Beal; and
the Kangaroo Point Club was represented by L. M. Bond, Fred. C. Lea, E. M. Hart,
and T. M. Bond.
Some of the Kangaroo Point men also rowed in the “under 20” fours;
and in this event also, and, as a representative of Kangaroo Point, the late
Major-General, Sir S. A. Petherbridge, our good old Queenslander, “Sam”
Petherbridge, who was the first secretary of the Defence Department on the
accomplishment of federation.
The amateur sculling race was won by Tom O’Sullivan, who had been
coached by Laycock. Ernest Winter and R. Larard were also starters. Winter was a
great enthusiast in sport, stroke of many winning crews, sculler, boxer, and a
good man to his fences in the old days of the Brisbane Hunt Club. Larard was the
first to commercialize the Helidon Spa Water, in which enterprise he was later
joined by Gilbert Primrose, a cousin of Lord Rosebery. A brother of the sculler,
Mr. S. Larard, was afterwards secretary of the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce, and
is now out at Charleville. Others of the youngsters in the fours were Williams,
who many a time stroked winners, A. C. Boden, R. F. Phelan, Henry Marshall
(Under Secretary for Mines), W. R. Curnow, R. W. Southerden, Richard Francis,
and Hector Perkins. What a splendid lot of material for a crack eight!
A correspondent gave me lately some names of well-known officers of the
Queensland Scottish Rifles which were not mentioned in the reference to William
Allan, of Braeside, in connection with that fine regiment. The names are of J.
Mackenzie Lees, well known in connection with Queensland banking and now on the
Commonwealth Bank directorate; Bannatyne, a barrister; W. Robertson Strong,
chartered acct, and a brother of the Rev. Dr. Strong of Melbourne; and Dr.
McSwaine, who was chaplain to the force. All of these I remember well, with the
exception of Bannatyne, and I don’t know whether he survives, but with the
exception of Mr. Mackenzie Lees, the others have gone on the long journey. Of
Mr. Mackenzie Lees, I could and would like to write quite a lot, but he would
prefer that I should not. At least it may be said that no man of Queensland is
held in greater esteem and affection by those who know him. My correspondent was
able to sign himself “A Foundation Member” of the Queensland Scottish.
The remarkably fine school, established by Mrs. O’Connor at Duporth,
Oxley, is now only a memory or part of the history of Queensland. Much of the
best of Queensland’s womanhood was trained there, soundly educated, and with
characters impressed by the best of precept and example. In all good schools
there is a public opinion, a sort of public morality. The liar and the sneak has
no place in the ranks of a well-disciplined juvenile democracy, whether of boys
or girls. That is where the character of a country is built. One occasionally
meets a Duporth girl- a girl on whose temples little touches of silver gleam,
and round her grown men and women who, quite ridiculously of course, call her
mother. I have never met a Duporth girl who has not retained her respect for the
old school and love for Mrs. O’Connor and her daughters.
My introduction to Mrs. O’Connor was in 1881, at a school entertainment
given in the old Presbyterian Hall, which stood just below the Wickham Terrace
Presbyterian Church, and which was utilized as a school of sorts by various
masters. I rather fancy that the Bowen House School had its genesis there.
However, to the entertainment by Mrs. O’Connor’s pupils. It had some bright
features, but included scenes from Shakespeare’s “King John.” Now, to a
blasphemer like myself, Shakespeare on the stage- excepting the comedies- is
almost invariably a trial, and “King John,” with its long speeches, is
perhaps the most trying, to me, of the plays. Don’t let there be any mistake.
In reading I know and love “King John” and all the rest of them; but, alas,
I haven’t the Shakespearian spirit for the stage. It’s a good job that so
few are in the same mould, a good job for Mr. Allan Wilkie, to whom all honour.
The school entertainment from which I have wandered had as an addition a
presentation of prizes. Among the girls who received very charming books and
other things were-but no, that wouldn’t do, as it’s 46 years ago, and who so
unchivalrous as to say that the sweet girl he knew in the early eighties could
ever be on the wrong side of 40. Once a dear young thing asked: “Major, can
you guess my age?” And the discreet reply was: “No, my dear, but you don’t
The O’Connor family was distinguished apart from the scholastic side.
Mr. O’Connor pere was an officer of the Australian Joint Stock Bank, which has
become the Australian Bank of Commerce, in the days when Henry P. Abbott was
manager for Queensland. Mr. O’Connor was more inclined to science than to
finance, and we knew him as a valued contributor to the “Courier” and to the
“Queenslander,” for many years. He did much to put Queensland folk on the
right side in the matter of scientific fruit growing, and he was especially
interested in educating us to a proper appreciation of the mango, not the
stringy, parsnip flavoured thing, at which many of us turned up discriminating
noses, but the really beautiful coloured and luscious dessert mango.
Mr. O’Connor also was one of our keenest and best known ichthyologists.
He took the Ceratodus, our Burnett “salmon,” to England, having had the
honour of being the first to land our remarkable lung fish alive in the British
Isles, and he brought to us from Java the domesticated gourami (Osphromenus
olfax). We seem to have allowed the gourami to slip; at any rate, we never hear
of it. It is a very handy thing about the house in Java, but the report that it
runs about the yard and feeds with the chickens is not correct. It is kept in a
tank, and is an ordinary gilled breather, not being able to live out of water.
When the Dutch, or Chinese, or Japanese, or Javanese, or British Indian,
or common or garden variety of Britisher thinks some fish would be mice for
lunch, the cook goes to the tank and lifts out a gourami, fresh and fat for the
grill or the pan or for the baking dish.
Mr. “Tom” O’Connor (of Alexandra Headland) whom we know today as
the lord of the Maroochydore manor, is a son of our old scientific and banking
friend, and spent a good many years in the Survey Department. He is a surveyor,
at any rate, and largely through his energy, Maroochydore and neighbourhood have
been converted from a beautiful wilderness into a beautiful seaside resort, with
sufficient of the wilderness left to preserve the charm.
Another of the family of whose acquaintance I had the honour was Miss
Janet O’Connor, who had been a schoolmate of Dame Nellie Melba, and was dearly
beloved by her distinguished friend.
“In the world, there is no girl more lovable than Janet O’Connor,”
said Dame Nellie Melba, though for years they had not met. For the “Courier”
I had gone down to meet Melba on her arrival, via Vancouver, on her first visit
to Australia after she had set the bells of the world ringing out her fame.
The dear woman was to have gone south by steamer, but she flatly refused
to go beyond Brisbane, saying that she would take the mail train on to Melbourne
and so be with her much beloved father a few days sooner. I had had my Press
talk with her, and the agent of her impresario had told her of the arrangements
for her journey on. Melba, however, dictated other arrangements. The result was
that rooms were taken at the Gresham Hotel, and a carriage on a train from
Central set apart.
It seems so queer now that motor cars, even so few years ago, had not
entered into our scheme of transport things. It became my privelege to escort
Melba across from the ship to the railway station. We had suffered in Brisbane
from drought conditions. The night was dark, and along Taylor’s and
D’Aguilar Ranges ran the long red lines of bush fires. A sticky sort of rain
had fallen, and the air was moist and heavy. However, I safely piloted the great
lady across the wharf, over the mud and tinder space, over the rails and to the
dingy railway station.
What Melba said and what she did during the little trudge is the business
of no one but herself, but I may say that as she landed and walked quietly over
to the station, there was a touching little revelation of her love for her
native Australia. Ever since that moment, I have understood that she is like
other Australians – intensely devoted to the land of her birth.
Soon the train arrived at Pinkenba station, and in it was Miss Janet
O’Connor to meet her friend. Melba simply sprang into the carriage, threw her
arms round her friend, and there was something perilously near to a breakdown.
Perhaps, one should not write these things – but Melba belongs to
Australia, and why shouldn’t we know something of the softer womanhood under
the luster of the great artist. At any rate, there it is.
Brisbane Wool Show
Late in 1881, we were all very excited, and the cattle men especially,
over the success of a shipment of frozen meat, 150 tons taken from Sydney by the
Orient liner Caronne and landed in England in splendid condition.
The passengers, about 150, and the crew, were fed from the meat all the
way across. The process of refrigeration was the Haslam dry air. We had visions
of feeding the meat hungry people of the British Isles from our millions of
cattle and we are still struggling for the trade. But the Argentine and other
South American herds had not then been established to compete with us and to so
often beat us. Our principal fear was of the United States competition; but the
people of the United States had grown quicker than their herds, and they import
a great deal of beef for their own dinner tables.
Often I think that the history of our frozen meat trade is worth written
fully, and I know of no one more competent for the job than our old friend, Mr.
T. F. Fauset, of Clark and Fauset, for those two very fine engineers were with
the earliest to make a success of fitting ships to carry beef and mutton from
Queensland to London.
Mr. Fauset, on an occasion, reminded me of the formation of a company in
the North, with headquarters at Hughenden, for the purpose of exporting meat. I
remember it well, and the real promoter- not a “promoter” in the bubble
company sense was Mr. Robert Christison, of Lammermoor. Mr. Christison
represented a company which had £50,000 subscribed in England, and ready to
begin operations about the middle of 1882- so the report ran – but as a
condition precedent to the start he laid it down that there must be taken up
locally 15,000 shares at £1 by stock owners in the district, who should also
guarantee to sell their drafts of fat stock to the company for a term of five
The company offered for prime bullocks 12/- and for prime cows 10/- per
100lb. Sheep were to be supplied on the basis of 7/6 for prime wethers of 55lb.
I do remember what became of the enterprise, but I have seen a list of the
persons who agreed to sell their stock and to take shares. They included Hays
and Bundock of Richmond Downs, A. Rourke, of Dotswood, W. Marks, of Dalrymple,
J. Thompson, of Mount Emu, Christison Bros., of Lammermoor, R. Stewart, of
Fairlight, R. Gray, of Hughenden, E. R. Edkins, of Mount Cornish, James Anderson
of Manuka, M. M. Chisholm, of Moselle Downs, Harris and Elliot, of Landsborough
Downs, W. H. L. Thornton, of Tower Hill, and H. Van Homrich, of Landsborough
Downs. I had left the North when the project was developed, and perhaps some old
Northerner could tell us what became of it.
On a trip to Roma with McIlwraith in 1881, we found much interest in
yards put up at Bungil Creek for entraining cattle to Brisbane. A shortage of
trucks had been reported- we were not perfect on the railways even in those
glorious days- and the owners of cattle there were talking of travelling them
down by road. That would have meant, as it does today, a loss of time and
condition. Later on, trucks were provided and some good bullocks from Euthulla
and Durham Downs were sent to Brisbane, and we took a good deal of interest in
them. They were well aged bullocks, and went up to 900lbs, but had caught a good
season, fattened quickly, and the meat was a good bright colour and well
In those days, and I suppose it still is so, the butcher did not care for
the dark meat, and with an old English remembrance, he looked for the little
graining of fat throughout it. One old chap, who was rather lean, and perhaps
not over scrupulous, sold a lady a chunk of some sort of “top side”- I hope
the technicality is all right- and pointed out the sinewy threads as the
“marbling of fat.”
It was of this same Brisbane man that the old story
was told over 40 years ago, and has just seen a revival. A chance customer went
to his shop and said: “A pound of steak- if it’s tender.” The butcher
said, “It’s tender as a woman’s ‘art!” The customer replied, “The
give me a pound of sausages!”
I think the entraining of stock at Bungil did not continue very long, and
that the yards were moved back near Roma town. A friend lately told me he saw
some “real old scrubbers” entrained at Roma “with horns as long as
The importance of wool is, of course, recognised as much today as it was
45 years ago, perhaps even more, for Australia’s progress, even her solvency,
depends upon our production of fleece. Yet we do not incline to sheep or wool
exhibitions except as sections, and in a small way, at the Royal National
Association. As we develop more sheep studs and regular stud sales, probably the
specialized exhibitions, as in the South, will be more popular. Queensland, to
be sure, has so wide a fling of sheep country that it is not an easy matter to
get one general show, nor have we the port concentration of New South Wales or
At the 1881 show, we had quite a number of Southern wool growers, from as
far away as South Australia and Tasmania, but the Queenslanders did very well
indeed. Our chief exhibitors were Marshall and Slade of Glengallan, J. D.
Macansh of Canning Downs, G. Clark and Co., of Talgai, Hodgson and Ramsay of
Eton Vale, C. B. Fisher of Headington Hill, Darling Downs and Western Land Co.
(Jimbour), and Gore Bros., of Yandilla. All of these were representative of
Darling Downs flocks; but we also had Whittingham Bros., and Davidson, of Alice
Downs, in the Barcoo district.
Marshall and Slade won a double championship, and their exhibit was
described by the late P. R. Gordon as the most valuable of all six fleeces
ranging from 10½lbto 14lb, with a total of 73lb., a fine combing wool. Gordon
and Co., of Yandilla, landed first for ewe fleeces. Much interest was taken in
the Alice Downs wool for it represented the beginning of the influence of the
young Victorians, with brains and capital, who came to Queensland to teach us
scientific pastoral work, and that meant sub-divisions, provision of water, and
the production of a high-grade wool.
It was suggested to me that I should look up the report upon the wool
from the Messrs. Whittingham and Davidson, and I have done so. The writer was P.
R. Gordon, but he would have thrashed out the situation, perhaps, with Hermann
Schmidt and one or two others of
the very experienced wool men; though Gordon was no small judge of wool, as we
knew it in the early eighties.
It was stated that Alice Downs wool was from sheep bred on the station
for many generations, so that some idea might be obtained as to the effect of
high latitudes and the herbage of the great slat-bush plains on the wool.
“This wool is deficient in character,” it was said, “and in this respect
resembles the best Cape wools, but that, perhaps, can scarcely be attributed
either to herbage or climate. There is certainly no deficiency of yolk in it,
nor is it wanting in softness or elasticity, and it may be classed as good sound
medium combing wool. If it may be taken as a fair sample of the wools of the
north-west of Queensland, it would appear a waste of money to invest in
wool-washing machinery there. Wool of that description certainly will be best if
placed on the London market in the grease.”
It will interest Mr. A. H. Whittingham to read that report upon the Alice
Downs wool grown by his father and uncle when he was a small boy and knew much
less of the science of wool production that he knows today.
The question of selling in the grease or scoured was distinctly
controversial even in those days, and before we had out Barcaldine way, either
the bore water for the scouring of the wool or the railways to carry it to port.
Scouring today is a very different thing from the rather rough and ready way of
the early eighties.
the subject of scouring, an incident may be mentioned. In 1894, I was out at
Winton during a serious strike reporting for the “Courier,” and referred to
the much-debated matter of shearing wet sheep. It had been said that the
pastoralists would not shear damp sheep because of the danger of combustion in
the wool; and I remarked that as “most” of the stations out there scoured
their wool it would not matter if it was “as damp as a wet sponge” when
shorn. “Most” should have been “many,” but there was the deuce of a row
about it. Some one behind the scenes objected to the possibility of there being
two sides to a penny under any circumstances; but not very much damage was done.
to the wool growers of 45 years ago suggests many interesting things. It has
been shown that in “high latitudes” and on “the great salt-bush plains”-
which are sometimes there and sometimes not- we grow some of the finest wool in
the world; but then, again, on the high lands of the Granite Belt, up Stanthorpe
way, where the winters are severe and the rainfall pretty good, and plain grass
the principal fodder, we grow wool just as good.
is really pleasant to know that the Slade of Glengallon of 1881, can with his
son still top a Brisbane market with wool, that the Ramsays of Eton Vale (now of
Harrow), still grow good stuff on the Darling Downs, as well as in the
north-west at Oondooroo, that Jimbour wool is still known to buyers, that though
Yandilla has seen many changes good clips still come from parts of the old run,
and that the name of Whittingham continues to be known and in the forefront of
our pastoral industry and in a hundred other directions, and well honoured in
the affairs of our Commonwealth.
far in these “Memories,” I have had but little to say of William Baynes, a
member of the Legislative Assembly, a well-known grazier, with big interests in
the Burnett district, and the founder of Graziers’ Butchering Co. Hw left a
well-known family, and a surviving son is a very dear friend of mine, Mr. Ernest
Baynes, the President of the Royal National Association of Queensland. Ernest
Baynes was a fine athlete, especially in rowing, and he was one of the
straightest riders amongst the members of the old Brisbane Hunt Club. He is a
fine judge of live stock, and especially of horses, and with much of the direct
“no dam nonsense” way of his father. William Baynes was a strong supporter
of the McIlwraith Government, but at certain points he drew the line. When
McIlwraith was keen on coolie labour for tropical agriculture, and said he would
be sorry to see white men working in the cane fields, and when Griffiths was
temporizing, William Baynes came down in Parliament with a statement which could
not be misunderstood. He would support no Government, he said, on the coolie
question, and would wipe from the Statute Book the laws relating to coloured
labour. He was also keenly opposed to proposals that certain railways to be
built should be left to private companies, or to a nebulous private company, to
work. Now, McIlwraith, for all his good qualities, was a strong, self-willed
man, and a bit of a bounce, but he couldn’t bounce William Baynes, and so
respected him. William Baynes was a fine looking man, always had good horses,
and the love of good animals, and good horse mastership were born in the bones
of his sons.
Steel Rails Case
Absolute Clearance for McIlwraith
An episode in Queensland life arose from the Steel Rails Case.
In 1880-1881, it was the political subject above all others. It was
political in that the Premier of Queensland was assailed in the Legislative
Assembly by the Leader of the Opposition with charges of connivance at
corruption, if not actual participation. I was in the North when the matter was
first mentioned in Parliament, and up there we were a strong body of
McIlwraithians. The Douglas-Griffith element, however, had its following, and
Griffith, or “Sam” Griffith, as the young barrister and potential political
leader was called, formulated the reports concerning McIlwraith’s honesty and
the country’s honour and pocket.
The seriousness of the case first came to my mind on an occasion when I
had gone down to Townsville from Cooktown. I was present when two men,
afterwards well known in politics – and later on the Supreme Court Bench- were
discussing it. It was at the home of Mr. J. K. Cannan, then manager of the
Queensland National Bank at Townsville; and the men referred to were the late
Sir Pope Cooper, and Mr. Justice Chubb, then plain misters. Both were
McIlwraithians, and became, in succession, Attorneys-General in McIlwraith
Governments. Their attitude, I remember, was that the charges were based on a
little of coincident circumstances built up by informants of Mr. Griffith, who
were prejudiced politically or personally desirous of “getting even.”
The originator of the charges was secretary to the Agent-General of
Queensland, who was later dismissed, and the principal mouthpiece of them had
been a colleague of McIlwraith in the Macalister Ministry in 1874. Cooper and
Chubb were, however, a little uneasy in their minds because they considered
Griffith too high-minded to publish accusations unless he believed them, and too
astute to be easily deceived. However, I am going ahead of history somewhat in
saying that Griffith at the outset put it clearly that he made no charge against
McIlwraith, but later said he considered the evidence showed that McIlwraith had
connived at a fraud.
Thomas Hamilton had originated the charges, but he was very much
discredited, and when asked why he had not protested when he saw that the colony
was being practically robbed, set up the plea that he wished to live a quiet
The Brisbane “Telegraph” – then strongly Griffith or Liberal, and
violently anti-McIlwraith-was moved to say that Mr. Hamilton was a “silent
witness to nefarious transactions.” And of Mr. Hemmant, upon whose petition
the charges were placed before Parliament, Mr. William Coote, in a remarkably
dispassionate review of the whole case, said: “I do not know if the personal
animosity of Mr. Hemmant towards McIlwraith- bitterly exhibited when in 1874 the
latter gentleman left the Macalister administration, in which Mr. Hemmant was
Colonial Treasurer- still operated to warm his patriotism, and warm the energy
of its display.” Thus we get to certain elements which, if not damaging the
claim of bona fides, would generally be taken to have in them some measure of
Despite the original disclaimer of Mr. Griffith, there could be no
mistake as to the meaning of the charges. I was not in Brisbane for nearly a
year after they were first made public, and so rely upon Mr. William Coote for
their general interpretation.
Mr. Coote said: “It is the first time in Queensland that a serious
imputation of personal corruption, or a connivance at fraud, has been made
against a Minister of the Crown, and that Minister the Premier and Treasurer of
the colony, by any one, much less by a leading member of Parliament, himself an
ex-Minister and ostensible head of the Opposition.”
It would require much space to set out the charges, but it may be
sufficient to say that they alleged that the purchase of steel rails for
Queensland railways had been made at a price so far above market level that the
colony had lost £60,000, and that a further loss occurred over the shipping of
Something circumstantial was given to the allegation by the fact that the
firm of McIlwraith, McEacharn, and Co., were the contractors, and the
McIlwraiths were brothers of the Queensland Premier. But the circumstances were
loaded up with statements apparently damning, but which were absolutely blown
out. For instance, the purchase on account of the Queensland Government was
15,000 tons of rails, and Mr. Hamilton said: “Mr. Leonard Cooper, an
ironmonger in Leeds – a gentleman who enjoys the confidence of the executive
engineer, but who was previously unknown to the office in any capacity- made a
contract with the Barrow Company for 5000 tons of rails at £6 per ton, and
another with the Moss Bay Company for 10,000 tons at or under the same figure.
In both cases, they were bought on the Queensland specification- an unusual
one…and Mr. Valentine, one of the proprietors of the Moss Bay Company,
distinctly informs me that he understood the rails were a direct purchase for
the Queensland Government.” Mr. Griffith poke of Mr. Cooper as “an iron
merchant or broker in a small way.”
The rails were secured by the Queensland Government at over £9 per ton;
but it was distinctly proved that within a few months, there had been a rise on
the market equivalent to the difference, and that the prospects were that prices
would not come down. But the Moss Bay and the Barrow Company absolutely denied
that they had any such transactions with Cooper; it was proved that Cooper was a
well-known iron trade operator whose transactions with two big firms engaged in
armour plate making alone ran from £300,000 to £400,000 a year; and whatever
might have been the price of rails some months earlier- and the Barrow and Moss
Bay Companies had sold at from £5/7s to £6- one contract of 20,000 tons was
made at £9/2/6 a ton, and synchronizing with the tenders for the Queensland
15,000 tons, which ran from £9/18/6 to £12/10/-. The well-known Haslam
Engineering Company was the lowest tenderer, and some of the greatest iron firms
of the United Kingdom had submitted prices.
And Mr. Griffiths was generous enough to say that the managers of the
firms were above suspicion. But there was the strong belief that the rails
tendered for by the Haslam Company had been bought by Mr. Andrew McIlwraith in
1879, and though all the evidence went to show that there was nothing dishonest
in the transaction, to say nothing of corruption, it was a circumstance which
helped those who were building up on suspicions. And the executive engineer for
Queensland at the Agent General’s office was a small holder in the Haslam
Company, and a relative by marriage of Mr. Andrew McIlwraith. These things did
the case of the Premier of Queensland much harm, though evidence clearly showed
that suspicions of collusion were unwarranted.
Mr. Hemmant, by petition, brought the case as presented to him by Mr.
Hamilton before the Queensland Parliament. Public excitement ran very high, and
fires were lighted in men’s hearts which had in them a good deal of
unworthiness. Mr. Griffith honestly expressed a hope that the charges would be
disproved. Those who remember Sir S. W. Griffith and his passionate love of
country and of justice will readily believe that his expression was sincere; but
he was confronted with direct and circumstantial evidence which was of a
peculiar damaging nature. Having put his hand to the plough there was no turning
back, and all through every point was beaten out with great acumen and forensic
skill. The pity is that upon the overwhelming disproof of some of the
allegations Mr. Griffith did not recognise the futility and the mischief of
proceeding upon discredited evidence. He, however, had the circumstantial
evidence, and he had not then learnt how impossible it was for great English and
Scottish firms to be parties to flagrant and small corruption. On the other
hand, it must be admitted- and we view things now freed from our strong party
bias, from the influence of strong affection for McIlwraith, and with a correct
perspective- that the relatives of the Queensland Premier in the United Kingdom,
who were party to the Steel rails Contract, should, under all the conditions,
have divulged themselves. A politician’s dealing with relatives on behalf of
the country which he serves may be ever so free of evil, bit it should be
conspicuously in the open, if at all.
The charges submitted to the Queensland Parliament in the Hemmant
petition were referred to a Select Committee. That was in July, 1880, and
official records show that the allegations were that a contract had been
improperly entered into with the Haslam Engineering Co., for 15,000 tons of
steel rails, by which a loss of £70,000 had accrued to the colony.
It further alleged that undue advantage had been give to McIlwraith and
McEacharn, ship owners and brokers, the former a brother of the Premier, in
contracting for the freight of these rails, as well as for the passage of
immigrants; and that the Premier and the Colonial Secretary were owners of
shares in several of the vessels under charter to the Government. It may be
added that the association of McIlwraith and Palmer with the ships were as
trustees under marriage settlements, and that this part of the petition formed
the basis of the great case of Miles v McIlwraith, which went to the Privy
Council and resulted in a victory for the Premier.
Mr. Griffith had endeavoured to secure a Royal Commission to be appointed
by her Majesty the Queen- all Royal Commissions have the Sovereign authority-
but Mr. Macrossan, the Minister for Works, moved for a Select Committee, and
that was agreed to. Mr. Griffith was one of the Committee, with Messrs. Dickson
(later Sir J. R. Dickson) and Peter McLean with him, and the Government side was
represented by Mr. Archibald Archer, chairman, and Messrs. Perkins, Macrossan,
and Morehead. The Committee was not agreed on the general bearing of the
evidence, but it was agreed that there should be a Royal Commission, and this
was, in due course, appointed, and its report was an exoneration of McIlwraith,
and more or less a political victory for him; but it was politically a Pyrrhic
The Government of Queensland nominated to the Royal Commission for the
Steel Rails inquiry in London Mr. George King, of Gowrie, near Toowoomba, who
had been for many years a member of the Legislative Council, but with commercial
as well as pastoral experience, and was generally recognised in the Colony- as
Queensland then was- as a man of the highest honour, sans peer et sans reproche.
The secretary of State for the Colonies, the Earl of Kimberley, had been asked
to nominate a second Commissioner, and he selected Mr. Frederick Waymouth Gibbs,
came the general subject of the matters for inquiry and the instructions issued
on behalf of the Queensland Government by Mr. (later Sir Arthur) Palmer, who was
the Colonial Secretary.
some detail of these I have gone to “Hansard,” July 5, 1881, vol xxxv, p 2.
Though in Brisbane at that date, I had not arrived here when the subjects for
inquiry were drafted. Mr. Palmer (or Sir Arthur), referring to the report of the
Select Committee of the Queensland Legislative Assembly, said the Commissions
had been prepared “to admit of the fullest investigation being made into the
charges, direct and implied, made by Mr. Hemmant, and reiterated with much
greater force and distinctiveness by Mr. Griffith (later Sir S. W.) in the
Legislative Assembly on November 17, 1880: “He said now that…there was a
preconcerted arrangement, and that he believed that the Colony had been most
shamefully plundered by a ring of speculators in the London office, and he would
now say more, and would say it, with a full sense of the responsibility of his
position, that he considered, upon the evidence, that the Premier connived at
it…he would repeat that the evidence showed that the Premier had connived at
Commission, referring to the association of Mr. Ashwell, the Consulting Engineer
to the Agent-General, with the Haslam Company, said there was no evidence that
he had exercised any favoritism, but that there was concurrence with the view of
the Select Committee that no one holding shares in a contracting company should
hold the position of Consulting Engineer.
the question of the allegations concerning freights, the Commission reported:
“The further evidence obtained in this country proves conclusively that no
favoritism was shown to McIlwraith, McEacharn and Co., either in regard to the
contract for freight or in regard to the relaxation of the condition as to full
cargo ships, and that Mr Ashwell did not interfere as alleged by Mr.
“We find that the charges brought by Mr. Hamilton against the Agent-General
and Mr. Ashwell, of favouring the firm of McIlwraith, McEacharn, and Co., are
proved by the evidence to be unfounded.” This was in reply to a question as to
whether the business of the Government had been fairly conducted. Then came what
was the most important of all the findings, and this may be given in full from
the report, as it is a matter of historical concern: “Lastly, we come to the
charge against the Premier contained in the remarks to which we have been
instructed to direct our attention by Mr. Palmer’s letter. As we have already
gone into all the circumstance of the contracts for rails and freight in detail,
it becomes unnecessary for us to do more than record our finding on this charge.
We beg to report that, having carefully considered all the evidence taken before
us, we find that there was no preconcerted arrangement in the matter as alleged
in the remarks aforesaid; that the Colony has not been shamefully plundered by a
ring of speculators in the London office; and that there was no such ring of
speculators; and that the charge of connivance brought against the Premier is
whole findings as to the Steel Rails Case were explanatory of much that had been
alleged, and distinctly unfavourable to the allegations of Mr. Hemmant and Mr.
Hamilton in other respects. As to the Premier, Mr. McIlwraith, there was an
Queensland Parliament was opened at noon on July 5 with the usual ceremonial,
and in the Legislative Assembly, at 3.30pm., after the formal business, the
report of the Royal Commission was presented by Sir A. H. Palmer. The
exculpation of McIlwraith had leaked out during the forenoon, and I got my tip
about it for an “Observer” special at about 11 o’clock on the day. The
situation had caused intense excitement and the Legislative Assembly was packed
early in the afternoon. The Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, the late Mr. L.
A. Bernays, C.M.G., F.L.S., read the report, and there was an adjournment of a
week to allow members to study it.
Hume Black, of Mackay, had moved the Address in Reply, and Mr. Henry Palmer, of
Maryborough, had seconded it, and, when the House met again, Griffith moved an
amendment to the Address by way of an addition to a reference to the Steel Rails
Case as follows:- We have had under our consideration the evidence given before
the Commissioners appointed to take evidence in England on the matters referred
to in Mr. Hemmant’s petition, and are of the opinion that in making of the
contracts for the supply and carriage of rails specially referred to in that
petition, the interests of the Colony were subordinate to the interests of
this there was along and bitter debate. The amendment was noting more nor less
than an impeachment of the competency of the members of the Commission, for
against their characters even politicians would not dare breathe a word. It was
there, looking at the matter after 44 years, and judging with the perspective of
that intervening period, that Griffith made his mistake. The whole of the debate
from the Opposition point of view was covertly an attempt to prove that the
Commission had ignored the evidence.
Mr. King, in addition to being chivalrous and honourable, was
a man of singularly clear vision, independence of character, and
unusually discerning, while Mr. Gibbs was a distinguished English lawyer, a
Queen’s Counsel specially selected by the Secretary of State for the Colonies.
The continuance of the attack was purely political. A Royal Commission to take
evidence in England had been asked for, and pressed for, by the Opposition, and
that same Opposition not only would not accept the finding, but sought to show
that the report was the work of incapables. The public sympathy swung
unmistakably to McIlwraith.
Archibald Archer, of Gracemere, who was member for Blackall, came down with an
amendment on the amendment of Mr. Griffith. It was to the effect that, while it
was undesirable to express an opinion on the working (general working) of the
London office pending a further enquiry, “we are glad to congratulate your
Excellency on the fact that the charges made against the Premier have been
proved to be completely unfounded.”
was proposed to omit certain words from the amendment of Mr. Griffith, and a
vote was taken on the question, in the usual form, that the words proposed to be
omitted stand part of the question. The division was as follows:-
20; Messrs. Griffith, Dickson, McLean, Garrick, Thorn, Thompson, Kates, Rea,
Miles, Rutledge, Stubley, Bailey, MacDonald-Paterson, Aland, Macfarlane, Foote,
Grimes, Groom, Beattie and Fraser.
27: Sir Arthur Palmer, Messrs. McIlwraith, Perkins, Feez, Macrossan, Pope
Cooper, O’Sullivan, Stevens, Lumley Hill, Simpson, Stevenson, Lalor, Baynes,
Sheaffe, Weld-Blundell, H. Palmer, H. Wyndham Palmer, Norton, Scott, Kingsford,
F. A. Cooper, Black, Low, Hamilton, Meston, Price, and Archer.
Archer’s amendment was adopted on July 20, and that ended the Steel Rails Case
attack on the Address in Reply was led by Mr. (afterwards Sir S. W.) Griffith,
with a very long review of evidence; but all the forensic skill of the able
lawyer could not turn the views of many people from the findings of the Royal
behalf of the Government, Mr. John M. Macrossan made one of the most effective
speeches ever heard in our Legislative Assembly; but it was “with the gloves
off.” Mr. Macrossan did not spare the leader of the Opposition, and he had not
only a downright way of hammering facts home, but he had the verbal incisiveness
which enabled him so to speak, to rub controversial salt into the wounds of his
adversaries. Meston was the only Opposition ma to go over to vote with the
Government, and he stood by the Royal Commission. To be sure our old friend
Archibald Meston could not repress his facility in quotation to point a moral
and adorn a tale, and he said of those who had placed accusations before
Griffith in ‘the most plausible and alluring from,’ that they were men:
in the art to deepen scandal’s tints
all the kind mendacity of hints,
mingling truth with falsehood, sneers with smiles,
thread of candour with a web of wiles.
Stevenson made a rattling good speech on the occasion, and a new member, Oscar
de Satge, spoke, but did not vote. De Satge was one of the purest of the old
pure merinos, and rather felt that he was conferring an honour on Parliament by
becoming a member. He put all the blame for the trouble on the Minister for
Works, Mr. Macrossan, and that brought up Archibald Archer, who understood the
de Satge foibles, and laughed off the attack on Macrossan by saying that he felt
sure that capable Minister would go away and forever hide his diminished head.
de Satge was one of the first to put sheep on Carandotta, which is away in the
north-west, at the back of Camooweal somewhere. To the surprise of every one,
Lumley Hill supported McIlwraith, convinced and satisfied by the report, but he
made a ferocious attack on Mr. Hemmant, and later on ran the “Observer” into
a libel mess- out of which it was mighty hard to get- by an attack in a letter
and footnote which appeared in the paper.
the Assembly, Lumley Hill had the shelter of privelege. When he took his strong
statements outside, Hemmant went for him and shook him up. The attacks on
Hemmant, and especially a counter-attack, dealing with his business transaction
with the Agent-General’s Office, roused the ire of his very warm friend, Mr.
J. R. Dickson (afterwards Sir J. R., a Queensland Premier and a member of the
House of Representatives). Mr. Dickson was fluent of speech, and he bitterly
assailed members of the Opposition. But many of us lived to see the lion and the
lamb lying down together, and all the old bitterness of the Steel Rails Case
under the years which level down our scorn and cover up our little enmities.
McIlwraith Government was defeated in the following elections, but not as an
aftermath of the Steel Rails Case, but upon the continuation of the South Sea
Labour trade and the proposals to secure indented coloured labour from British
India. The relationship of McIlwraith and Griffith in and out of Parliament was
marked by extreme bitterness; but much of that has already been the subject of
“Memories.” It is pleasanter far to refer to the rapprochement of these
really great men, and that occurred in 1892 to the intense astonishment of those
who were not aware of the great events which were on the Queensland horizon.
a fact, the shadow of the financial crash of 1893 was upon it. The disastrous
floods could not be foreseen but there were premonitions of the hurricane
retribution which was to fall upon the people of Australia. It was not that the
country was anything but inherently sound, but because the people had entered
upon and long continued, a policy of a boom caused by the expenditure of loan
money instead of devoting themselves to the economic development of the colony.
little later on, the policy was colloquially but truly described as one of
“Borrow, boom, and burst!” Perhaps some of our politicians will remember
that history has a habit of repeating itself. Today we are borrowing
extravagantly and taking our labour from industrial production to Government
jobs. Politicians are vote buyers. They will be pulled up with a round turn one
of these days. McIlwraith and Griffith, it was hoped, by uniting, could divert
the storm; but the storm was not only for Queensland, but for all Australia.
They formed a strong Government. Griffith and his followers, on account of
representations made, agreed that the kanaka labour for the sugar industry
should be extended for 10 years, and strenuous efforts were made to secure
greater production and land settlement. The coalition did not even defer the
crash, which had more than a local origin. However, the two men who had fought
so bitterly were content, for what they hoped might well serve the country, to
bury their animosities.
Hardie Buzacott and E. R. Drury had much to do with the meeting of the two
leaders, and when they met, they were left to talk. The only story of that
meeting that is reliable is this: McIlwraith rose and said: “Griffith, there
is every reason why we should lay aside our differences, and pull together to
restore confidence abroad.”
had in mind the English and Scottish people who were becoming “panicky,” and
would not renew their deposits in the banks. Griffith said: “I am quite
prepared to put aside all personal feeling and work with you for the good of the
colony.” “Then,” said McIlwraith, “the past is past>” And Griffith
replied, “Yes, let it rest.”
did not then shake hands, but did so some days later after a conf with
colleagues and the formulation of a general policy. How do I know all this?
Well, I had it from a very close friend who was a very close friend of
McIlwraith, and who got the story of the meeting from him. To mention it now is
not just pure gossip. It comes appropriately at the close of the recapitulation
of the Steel Rails Case. It illustrates the futility of human fume and personal
bitterness as between public men. Political fate took in hand these two really
great leaders and wiped out their antagonisms. But they were men above
littlenesses or the fume of little minds when there came the great call for
sacrifice and devotion.
Coincidence in Names
Scholes of Goodna
with the blacks
During the currency of these
“Memories” in the “Courier” a group of more or less old Queenslanders
stood bareheaded at a Toowong graveside, and saw placed to rest all that was
mortal of Richard Newton.
tall, well-set-up figure, the handsome face, with its closely trimmed beard
after the Vandyke style, the steadfast grey eyes, kindly but fearless, the
convincing but infrequent smile, and the well-modulated voice- all these are
things of the earth, but not earthy.
know, however, that there was something more, something quickening, keenly
sensitized, eternal. That was the spirit. His soul is marching on.
years ago, Richard Newton was only known formally; but “Dick” Newton was
familiar and always affectionately regarded. From his articles in the
“Courier” a couple of years since, we all know of his struggles in
Queensland. Sugar and sheep failed him, and ultimately he found himself in his
beautiful home overlooking the wide stretch of Redland Bay, but with no income.
many other of our pioneers, he was paving the way. We who came later walk on the
easy road. He had done something in the way of fugitive writing for the
“Queenslander,” and it would be strange, he thought, if he could not with
his pen, make bread and butter for his wife and the kiddies who had
“arrived.” So he approached his friend Lukin, who gave him regular work on
the “Courier” and “Queenslander.”
It was £6 a week- worth about £14 a week under present
conditions. At any rate, it was a godsend to the man of fine education and high
mentality, who had soldiered abroad, and spent his money in developing
am the only living contemporary of Newton on the “Courier” literary staff
today, for my old friend and colleague, Charles Melton, “Nut Quad,” was in
the composing room when Newton wrote and reported for our paper. We stood
together to pay a little tribute to a comrade who has put a “half double” at
the foot of his copy. Forty years ago there would have been hundreds of friends
at Newton’s funeral- but he outlived most of them. I said to his son- a
gallant and distinguished comrade in another phase of life: “They are all here
today!” They, too, are sleeping on the crests and in the slopes of the Toowong
God’s Acre, which catches the first kiss of the morning sun and at eventide
takes the later shadows.
best general work on the “Courier” and “Queenslander” was in reviews,
musical and dramatic notices, descriptive articles, and occasional bright
leaders. One of his many acceptable articles was “A Day with the Devil.” It
was not an interlude with a great fallen angel, or even with a grotesque
monstrosity with hoofs, horns, tail, and pitchfork- merely an account of a
day’s operations with an ingenious machine which hauled out stumps and pulled
down trees, and was known as a forest devil.
great article which made him famous, “Suspended Animation,” has been wrongly
described as a hoax. It was not intended as a hoax, but as a quasi-scientific
bit of imaginative writing. It was not assumed that any one would take it
seriously. But there was a basis of scientific knowledge in it. We know that
certain hornets place in their nests of clay, spiders which have been stung to
unconscious inertia, and we know that the digger wasp similarly treats the grub,
lays his eggs in it, and leaves it in suspended animation as fresh food for the
young. I was in Cooktown at the time “Suspended Animation” was published,
and even there we had a thrill.
old friend Eiche- an Englishman – the auctioneer, wired South and offered
himself as a subject for experiment. Newton also wrote a hostile pamphlet
against the McIlwraith land grant railway scheme- and killed it. No doubt
Hardacre’s “Gridiron” campaign helped in the slaughter. Then, during the
bushworkers’ strike in 1891, Newton had in the “Courier” a stirring
article entitled “Phlebotomy or Rosewater.” He, like many others, had
believed that the bush workers meant it when they threatened a capture of the
Queensland Government by revolution.
the work of “Dick” Newton which I admired most was when he was appointed
trustee in the estate of a young Englishman who had come to Queensland with some
money, and prospects of a lot more, and who was, by a couple of men of some
business standing and social exaltedness, treated as a stranger and taken in.
On a rotten sort of deal, the new chum had paid a big deposit , but had
realised the character of the speculation and wanted to cry off. His
“friends” would not have it so, and they ultimately put him through the
court. As trustee, Newton discovered the whole of the circumstances of the
sordid affair, and I think it was Mr. Justice Real who did the rest. There was
an order for the cancellation of the contract, a return of the deposit, payment
of costs by the polite chevaliers of industry, and- annulment of the insolvency.
I hope that now, though no longer young, that Englishman remembers the firm
courage and uncompromising honesty of Richard Newton.
Newton was a courteous gentleman of a good old school. He taught his
family to be good sports, to ride straight, and to go straight in this crooked
world of ours. He was a lover of sports, good at cricket, and owned some tip-top
racehorses in his day, including Balfour. Queensland was good to him. He came
here almost an invalid; for years it was thought that his life was to be very
short; insurance companies looked at him askance; but under our bright skies,
and in our wonderful atmosphere, he lived an intensely busy and active life and
died in his 85th year.
I saw him in England in 1917 during the war, looking fresh and well, and
naturally proud of, but particularly reserved, concerning the distinguished
service of his son, Frank, Colonel Newton, C.B.E., D.S.O., with the Australian
Cavalry in Palestine and beyond. Richard Newton, too, was good to Queensland. I
don’t know whether he has left any money or lands, or houses; but he was a
fine example to the younger generation of the days of his activities, and to
those of his blood he has left an honoured name. And so, Farewell!
After the article on Dr. Doherty and his wife, “Eva” of “The
Nation” a correspondent wrote as “A Loyal Britisher” in rather a
flattering strain upon “breadth of vision” and things of that sort, and he
asked under what circumstances Dr. O’Doherty was exiled. I had better give
this piece of important and, to me at any rate, very interesting page of history
in Dr. O’Doherty’s own words. In 1849, the last year of the great famine in
Ireland, while following his studies, he visited Cork Fever Hospital, and the
heart-rending sights he saw there caused him to become “a rebel.” In that
year the famine to a great extent passed away, but the evictions remained.
Perhaps I had better quote him in the first person:
“I, with half a dozen other enthusiasts, started a paper, calling on
the people to save their harvest. The harvest was a good one, and there was
enough food in the country to save the life of every Irish man and woman; but it
being exported to meet the demands of the landlords, while the people were being
left to starve on the soil. I indicted one leading article for the paper
referred to- and never wrote another in my life- appealing from the depth of my
heart to the people to save their harvest. For this offence I was, after three
trials, convicted and sentenced to be exiled for 10 years.”
That is just the story, and, of course, every one would like to know
where I got it from. Well, it was published in the “Courier” about the time
I arrived in Brisbane, and John Flood, who had been on the “Courier” staff,
showed me where to find it.
The irony circumstances: Thirty years after Dr. Kevin Izod O’Doherty
was exiled for this one and only leading article, James A. Froude in the
“Nineteenth Century” and a writer in the “Contemporary Review” were
following the O’Doherty lines- Englishmen both and neither even prosecuted.
The world was widening!
Under the heading of “A Call from Ireland” we printed extracts from a
letter with comments, of course, from Gawne Echlin of Drinagh House, Wexford,
Ireland. Probably it will be considered that my comments are like Bernard
Shaw’s Prefaces to his plays- meaning in volume.
The letter said: “My good old pal, Jack Alexander, sent me a
‘Brisbane Courier,’ last week, and it made me very sad to read about dear
old (Dr.) Scholes, and brought before me the good old times and the happy days I
spent with him when he was medical superintendent at Goodna.” My friend adds
that he hears from Dr. Jackson and “Jack” Alexander, who sends him an odd
“Courier,” which is very welcome, and read from beginning to end. Gawne
Echlin hunted the Brisbane hounds in the late 1880s, as already mentioned. On
returning to the Old Country, Echlin (a brother of Captain “Dick” Echlin, of
Brisbane, also a fine rider to fences) haunted the Ripley and Knaphill barriers
for six seasons, the Screen barriers for a season, and finished up by hunting
the West Surry Staghounds also for a season. This probably is a record as I know
of no one else who has hunted hounds in England, Ireland, and Australia.
Gawne Echlin adds, “I have done a lot of hunting since the Brisbane
days, but I really think I enjoyed the Brisbane Hounds and dear old Pilot more
than any hunting I have had since.”
The horse, Pilot, was typical of the steady English hunter, but not fast.
He was true as steel to his jumps, knew as much about the game as a man, and I
saw Gawne Echlin win a high jump with him at the Brisbane Exhibition, probably
in 1890. Pat Moylan described Pilot, with true Irish brogue, as “a very
intrikit (intricate) lepper.” And Pat Moylan, after a long spell of training
gallopers in Brisbane, has made the long journey. He was “off-sider”
generally to Gawne Echlin with the Brisbane Hounds and would run the drag,
easing the fences for some of us, act as whip and at a stretch as kennel
huntsman. It will be remembered that when Gawne gave up the hounds he was
succeeded as master by Mr. Adolph Feez.
Gawne’s letter from Wexford says, “Kindly
remember me to any old friends you may drop across. I am afraid there are very
few left now.” Well, there are a few, and this may be taken as the delivering
of the message and greeting from far-away County Wexford.
While on personal subjects, reference may be made to a letter to the
“Courier” asking why I had cut out Mackay from my Memories. I replied that,
though I had put in a few hours on occasions, at Flattop Island, I had never
been at Mackay. Mr correspondent said to a mutual friend: “But I know people
who knew him there.” It is a case of mistaken identity through a remarkable
coincidence in names. A good many years ago, there was a Reginald Spencer
Poysey-Browne at Mackay. He died under tragic circumstances at his farm, a
little distance out from the town.
Though my parents were unable to endow me with wealth, they gave me the
names at Christening of Reginald Spencer, and the last mentioned as a family
name; but it must be distinctly understood that I am not the man who died at
On an occasion my friend, Mr. “Jimmy” Orr, of the Stock Department,
rang me up and asked if I wished the registration of my brand at Mackay
continued. I said I had no brand registered, and he replied, “I thought not,
but thought that it might have been your father’s brand.” Who the Mackay
Browne was I don’t know. He may have been a relative of some sort, for the
family is numerically strong. In England, there was the well-known racing
authority and started, Spencer Browne.
In 1888, I was living in England when he was appointed starter to the
Belgian racing clubs. One day I went to see the editor of the “Sportsman”
with some notes on Rugby Union football in Australia as an English team was
about to visit this happy land, and sent in my name. “Come in old chap,”
said the editor, with what seemed to me a very familiar tone. I went in, and he
stared; but we pretty soon got to an understanding – and I sold my articles.
The racing man had the family weakness in respect to the sport of the gee-gees.
I hope the unhappy Spencer Browne had not to bear the responsibility of my many
iniquities, and I hope not to bear any of his. And it may be added that one day
I asked Mrs. Reginald Whipham, who had lived in Mackay, if she remembered my
namesake. She did and added that he was a much older man than I but that she and
many others had been confused over the names.
The secretaryship of the Queensland National Association – now with the
well deserved prefix of “Royal”- was for the 1881 Exhibition in the hands of
Mr. F. M. Lascelles, who had gained experience under that very fine organiser,
and most courtly gentleman, Mr.Jules Joubert. Mr. Lascelles was a slight,
intensely energetic man, who knew a thing or two about exhibitions, and he had a
council of wise and devoted men. At the head of the council was Mr. John
Fenwick, whose name is with us still in the firm of Fenwick & Co., the
well-known wool brokers and stock and station agents. When I came to Brisbane,
the firm was Fenwick and Scott, and then Fenwick and Macgregor. The Mr. McLeod
joined in, and soon took over the active management.
Mr. John Fenwick was a fine citizen. He was always well turned out with
an invariable flower in his buttonhole. He inclined to music and painting, but
the great work of his life, apart from his business, was Masonry. Not being of
the craft, I cannot quite say to what dizzy heights he did not rise in that most
estimable order, but I know that he was a real Panjandrum, and held in great
esteem. He was president of the National Association in 1881, or chairman of the
council, and it was he who made the formal request to the Lieutenant-Governor
(Sir Arthur Hunter Palmer) to open the Exhibition. I was not reporting on the
occasion, August 10, 1881, as I was the full blown editor of the “Observer,”
then a morning paper, but I was there in a hallowed circle- one of the select
who were favoured with special invitations. To be sure, we had not the present
great building, with its spacious pavilions, which Mr. G. M. Addison gave us in
later years, nor had we anything approximating the Ernest Baynes grandstand,
where the opening ceremony now takes place. We had the old wooden building
facing the Bowen Bridge Road (or is it Brunswick Street at the point?), and the
Lieutenant-Governor drove in his carriage, drove in at the wide gates with a
clatter of horses and a swish of wheels and was received with a salute from a
guard of honour of the 1st Queenslanders - in their red tunics- under
captain Macfarlane, who went to his rest only a few years ago.
Sir Arthur Palmer personally did not like ceremony, but he was
representing the Governor and the Queen, and- well, dam’ it all, sir, things
had to be done properly. And it may be remarked that in the bluff Sir Arthur
Hunter Palmer, Queen Victoria had no more loyal or honourable representative in
these wide-flung spaces of the Southern Seas. He was attended by Captain
“Corney” O’Callaghan, A.D.C., and there was a really gay assemblage. It
may be said that the Governor of the day, Sir Arthur Kennedy, was away to Sydney
to meet his son-in-law, Admiral Lord Clanwilliam, who was in command of the
squadron with the Royal Princes Edward and George.
It was the sixth annual exhibition of the association, and in two
previous years there had been an expansion of ideas through the coming of
exhibits from the International Exhibition held in Sydney and Melbourne. On this
occasion, Queensland stood more by her own resources. Sir Arthur Palmer had no
sophistical compliments to pay. He was an experienced pastoralist and pioneer in
New South Wales and Queensland, but he did not undertake to teach his maternal
grandparent to suck eggs. He said, “the exhibition mania had been running hot
for the past few years, and he thought it was nearly played out.”
Of course, he referred to the big exhibitions in the South and their
overflow to Brisbane. The only thing in the way of a compliment was not
particularly generous. He had been through the various sections on the previous
day, he said, and “the council had nothing to reproach itself with.” In
about seven minutes, the affair was over with cheers for Sir Arthur, who looked
as though to say: “Don’t be silly!” The guard of honour was the smartest
turnout I had seen of the Queensland Volunteer Forces.
Those who remember the 1881 exhibition do not talk very much about “the
good, old days.” In live stock, we had some good stuff, but very little of it;
but those workers who devoted their time to its organisation had laid
foundations, and were building up.
I remember Mr. Slade, of Glengallan, with a very fine Shorthorn bull,
Royal Purple 1st, and Mr. Macansh, of Canning Downs, was represented
by some good Bates Shorthorns, and “Harry” Bracker won a championship with a
very fine young bull, Master Butterfly, which he had bought from John Fales, of
Duckenfield Park, near Maitland, New South Wales. That was my first meeting with
Mr. Bracker, but I knew him well by reputation as a horseman, and particularly
as a dashing bush ride- a hard one to follow, and a good one to lead, or words
to that effect.
Only the other day we stood together at Bowen Park, studying the
Shorthorns, and noting that Mr. W. B. Slade still was able to show us champions.
What great work such men have done for Queensland in building up the
flocks and herds. It scarcely seemed 46 years since they were at the Brisbane
Exhibition with their good things in stud stock- and they have never looked
back. It is good to remember that men like Slade and Bracker have seen the
splendid results of their work and are with us yet.
Only a little while ago, when Slade wool topped the Brisbane market,
nearly all the old hands had memories of the old studs at Glengallan, and also
of the Clark studs at Talgai. Captain Chauvel, of Tabulum, was well represented
in the Hereford section- that was Captain Chauvel who commanded the New South
Wales Lancers in Northern New South Wales and the father of General Sir Harry
Chauvel, and other well known Queenslanders.
In sheep, C. B. Fisher’s stud was represented, and there were good
merino types shown by Bell and Sons (Sir Joshua Peter Bell being one of the
“Sons”), by Slade of Glengallan, by George Morris Simpson of Bon Accord, and
by Macansh of Canning Downs. Mr. Slade is the only studmaster of the lot who is
left to us in Queensland. Mr. P. R. Ricardo, afterwards Colonel Ricardo, showed
some Romney Marsh sheep, which I fancy he had at Franklyn Vale, but how they or
their crossbred stock fared, I do not remember.
The blood horses were not strong in numbers- and we do not get a very
strong class even in this year of grace- and Laureate, the sire of some good
racing stuff, won the blue. Others who had blood stock in were Messrs. W.
Kellett, Eugene Monahan- who judged in classes where he was not represented- and
J. P. Jost. All were racing men, Kellett being well represented at all times,
and he was especially well represented when he managed the Grange for Sir Joshua
Eugene Monahan went North and West, and had some good horses, while J. P.
Jost anchored in Brisbane- indeed it seemed that he had always been anchored
here- and had some really first-class horses racing. Two of his grandsons are on
the “Courier,” sturdy young fellows, with the firmness of character of J.P.J.
and a lot of his love of sport.
The draughts were few, but Loch Fergus, the champion, 4 years and over,
was a good one, and has left his mark. Mr. J. H. Delpratt, of Tambourine, had
the best colt under four years, and had a good eye for a Clydesdale in later
years. Until very late years, Mr. Delpratt was steward in the draughts section,
and is much missed. A kindly gentleman-using the word in the true sense- and a
pretty old colonist. He was for over 40 years master of Tambourine; but the call
came which comes to us all, and he has joined the great army of Queensland
pioneers who have laid down their burden.
In 1881, we had no great establishments for the preparation of hams and
bacon and other of what the Americans call “hog products.” Those of us who
could afford it ate York hams and English bacon, and to the epicures of today,
or gourmets, let me say that in the early 1880s, ham was a favourite item at
well done suppers.
It was first cooked in the ordinary way of boiling or baking- and a baked
ham one seldom sees in these degenerate days- and thin slices were given a sharp
turn over the fire in champagne and served hot. With it, of course, the wine was
a good brand of “Bubbly water,” tough, at times, and especially at oyster
suppers, we took as a beverage a very delectable “black and tan” champagne
and stout made into a shandy gaff. I wonder if that sort of shandy gaff is known
to the folk of today.
But to return to the Exhibition. A few people were curing and turning out
pretty fair “farm” stuff, together with smoked and rolled beef. Nor had the
days of the butter factory come to us, preceded by the travelling dairies
instituted by Colonel Thynne when Minister for Agriculture. Butter was made on
the farms, and William Marshall, of Cedar Creek, secured first prize (vide
“Courier” report), and Mr. David England, of the Pine River Settlements, a
well-known owner of some good cattle, had to take second place.
A feature was the display of Mr. B. Skinner with Moreton Bay turtle soup
and other delicacies in tins. The turtle soup industry promised to become a big
thing, but Mr. Skinner died.
Of course, on the opening day of the Exhibition, we had a big crowd-
11,875 during the day; on the second day, 5533, and on the third, 2076. We must
not compare the figures of 1881 with those of today, when we can point to crowds
of 75,000 or 76,000.
And now for a last remark. The “Courier” said: “One of the
principal sideshows was Dan Sullivan’s refreshment booth!” The same Dan
Sullivan kept an hotel where the “Courier” building now stands, a good soul,
and to his memory let us “turn down an empty glass.”
Newspaper men in the 1880s fell into all sorts of jobs, but seldom fell
down on them- which is an Americanism, and we all hate Americanisms, especially
when giving evidence before Royal Commissions on the “fillum” business.
On an occasion, I had to report a football match- Rugby Union- and hope
that the work was decently done. Some sub-editors like to send to a job of the
kind, just for the sake of freshness, a writer who has no technical knowledge,
claiming that general readers get something better than from a man who knows all
about the game; and between us, beloved reader, sub-editors-may their shadows
leave them- sometimes don’t fret. We had on the “Courier” in the late
1880s a very brilliant chap named Peter Robertson, a New Zealander, who had been
on the Rockhampton “Bulletin,” and came along to Brisbane when the
“Courier” had a vacancy. Robertson was primarily a music critic, and was a
good man at dramatic work, also a tip-top shorthand writer, and occasionally did
a very charming leader; but of athletics he knew nothing. He had seen a cricket
match, and was horribly bored- and no wonder, if it was on present day lines-
and had once reported a boxing match, which made him quite ill; and he was much
upset when he was allotted an “Intercolonial” football match. Vainly he
protested, the sub-editor saying: “Oh, you’ll pick it up all right, besides
I’ve no one else to send.” So Peter went to the football match, and wrote a
column. In one place he said “So and so picked up the ball and ran away with
it; but he was seized by several opponents and thrown violently to the ground!
The police did not interfere.” The report was very funny, and the sub-editor,
very pleased, said: “I knew you would do it alright!” The football
authorities, however, were very angry and tremendously outraged at the blasphemy
of the game, waited on the editor next day, and made a strong protest. Peter’s
picturesque fancifulness was not requisitioned for future matches.
Of course, football is in the air, the game, not the implement? A couple
of years ago we had an English “Soccer” team here, and I went, for old times
sake, to see them play our Queenslanders. We hear a lot of nonsense from
base-job soldiers about “Pommies,” but the English “Soccer” chaps were
just types of young fellows of the Old Land. How did we compare with them either
physically, in dash, in cleverness, or in knowledge of the game? Well, I’m an
Australian, one of a family which reckons seven generations in the land, and
about the Englishmen? Suppose we put it that they are representative of our
forebears. Even Americans do that. Rather a neat idea. At one time, I hadn’t
much respect for “Soccer,” or, as it was known in later years, the
“British Association Game.” In youthful days we played it, village against
village, with no special rules save that the team which got the ball home won.
In England, in 1888, we were discussing the merits of the various games,
when John Voelcker- a cousin of my old friend and neighbour, Fred. Heussler, of
Eagle Junction- chemist of the Royal Agricultural Society of Great Britain, and
a one-time crack mile runner, said, “Come with me on Saturday to the Surrey
grounds to the charity match, and you’ll see a game of ‘Soccer’ as it
should be played.”
Accordingly, I went, and we saw Oxford and Cambridge combined play the
Corinthians, a team of English amateurs who did a lot of touring. It was a
treat- beautiful, fast play, and like that of our own boys in that there was no
“dirty” business, except when a player rolled in the mud. In my young days,
I could give and take hard knocks, but a football player who tries to hurt or
injure another has in him too much of the brute element. He should devote
himself to boxing, with a referee strict on clean play.
However, I have always spoken highly of “Soccer,” or “The
Association Game,” ever since.
A little while ago I was talking football with my “Digger” friend,
Leacock, who lived near me at Toombul and was doing some referee work. I said
that I had never seen the beauty of “Soccer” until I saw the Oxford and
Cambridge combined play the Corinthians on the Surrey grounds in 1888. Leacock
said, “And Somerset played Surrey a turn of Rugby Union on the same
afternoon.” “Yes,” I replied “Were you there?” “Yes,” said
Leacock, “I was one of the Corinthians.”
Now my fiddle is to play a different tune. I wrote in the Memories an
article under the heading of “Houses of Sadness” and two places of sadness
to me are the prisons and the mental hospitals. Perhaps some day we shall do
without prisons, have no question of human being punishing human being, and work
out our own destinies by love and moral suasion. Seriously it may be doubted if
punishment qua punishment effects any good, though a gentleman of philosophic
fame and various other peculiarities has warned us that to spare the rod is to
spoil the child. How would it sound- a plank in a new political platform, wiping
out all punishment? One advocating that might be sure of a big constituency of
“crooks.” It is possible that the solution of the criminal problem,
especially in the case of congenital criminals, is an operation on the brain.
But some of the more startling crimes are committed by people who, before the
event, we would gladly have shaken by the hand; perhaps after the event we would
more gladly do so. One thinks, of course, of unwritten laws, and those
peculiarly involved circumstances of life in which it may be a crime not to
commit a crime. But even if we dispensed with gaols, with the wiping out of
punishment, or if we substituted in the case of habitual criminals the lethal
chamber for the gaol, we still would have the mentally afflicted. How many of
such afflicted are victims of our conditions- drug addicts and alcohol addicts,
and how many sufferers from derangement caused by disease or accident? To go
through a gaol or hospital for mental cases means an awful awakening. Knowing
that, I have never been on St. Helena.
Many years ago, Captain Townley, when Superintendent there, asked me down
for a week-end. I gave the real reason for my refusal, saying: “No, I
shouldn’t like to see so many of my friends in prison clothes.” The feeling
was probably that attributed to John Bradford, who was ultimately burnt at
Smithfield, on seeing some criminals going to execution: “There, but for the
grace of God, goes John Bradford.” To be sure, he was not burnt because of
But I have been through the Brisbane Gaol, in the days when Captain
Frederick Bernard was Governor, and not only in the old place at Petrie Terrace,
but in the “new gaol,” out at Boggo Road; and I have been through the place
which at one time was Woogaroo, but now called Goodna, at the inspiration of
some one who didn’t know the meaning of the word.
And that reminds me that close enquiry is not always wise. Only over at
Gallipoli, during the fearful blizzard of November, 1915, one of the watchers in
my brigade reported the discovery of some writing, a notice posted up in the
Turkish lines, which were about 40 yards from our front line at the top of Wire
Gully, and the front line was just 22 yards from my headquarters.
With commendable promptitude, we sent for an interpreter of Turkish and
after studying the notice for some time, he solemnly
gave us its purport. It was not an uncommon thing in tortuous trenches,
even in our own. It ran: “This way to the latrines!” The aboriginals have a
very gross interpretation of “Goodna.”
A journalist, and especially a young one, is fond of thrills. On an
occasion, W. H. Ryder and others fitted me up with the somewhat unattractive
jacket and cap in which unhappy people- we call them unhappy- are garbed when
about to be hanged. The coat was really a straightjacket, with muffled concerns
for the hands, and the cap was hideous. Then my feet were strapped together, and
round my neck was placed the hangman’s rope- a thin, strong cord, well waxed,
and soaped, and as pliable as an Arizona lariat. It was horrible. It is much
less distressing and much less horrible to face an armed party and take what is
coming when the commander of the squad gives the signal.
I could say something of this phase of life and death, but I saw it as a
soldier, not as a journalist, and probably readers would not be thankful for a
But both at Petrie Terrace, and at Boggo Road, as a journalist, I have
seen people executed. The sight is not edifying. One story is of Boggo Road. A
very pretty woman of loose life, really only a girl, had gone up to Rockhampton
with one of those worthless brutes who, while living on the hire of the
poor creatures, shockingly ill-use them. One might he knocked her down and
kicked her to death- a young girl of decent parentage. He was tried, convicted,
and hanged. The last scene was out at Boggo Road, a dull, rainy morning,
sufficiently depressing under happier circumstances. After the execution, when
the body had been lowered into the coffin, a little grey, bent man stepped
forward and looked closely into the dead man’s face. The old fellow chuckled,
turned on his heel, and quickly walked out. He was the girl’s father.
A newspaper man sees lots of things, and after the first execution he
begins to doubt the wisdom of capital punishment- but in war? Well, in war there
are breaches of the rules in which death should be sure. An Australian soldier
deserted at Ypres. He was caught and betrayed a Scottish companion. The
Scotchman, being of the British Army, was shot; the Australian was spared, to
return to this land.
The Governor of the gaol put me in “according to plan,” and closed
the door. We had arranged for one minute. In half a minute I began to feel it,
and to long for the light, but pulled myself together, and sang: “Salve,
dimora casta e pura!” from Gounod’s “Faust,” and before I was through
with it, the door swung open. An hour in there for a man without steadfastness
and without knowledge of the term of the “cells” punishment would probably
suffer horribly. I went out to tea with Captain Bernard and his devout
“Plymouth Brethen” wife, later wrote an account of the experiences, and in
the “Courier,” of 1883 the reflections would be found.
My old friend, Dr. R. B. Scholes, was Medical Superintendent at Goodna
when I first went through the place. He worked hard to avoid depression, went
out as much as possible, and once referring to a large number of cures, said:
“If it was not for the cures, I should go mad myself.” All the old hands
will remember Dr. Scholes. He succeeded Dr. Pat. Smith, who succeeded a very
clever and very genial English medico, Dr. Japp, who married a sister of William
Lambert Fowles, and aunt of “Birtie,” Percy, Edgar and William Fowles, all
of whom grew up, and some of them probably, will grow old in Brisbane.
Scholes had a captaincy in the Field Artillery, and was a member of the
Brisbane Hunt in the days when Gawne Echlin, and later, Adolph Feez, hunted a
really good pack over a drag, and sometimes up at Ipswich after a dingo.
We had been up for an afternoon’s cricket at Goodna, the “Courier”
team, I mean, and a jolly good team it was. We had Robert Burley, Jimmy Hamson,
Dave Wall, Jack Fitzgerald (afterwards a member of the Government in New South
Wales), Harry Cox, and others, not forgetting a slight, fresh-looking, and fair
young fellow, just back from England- our present Brisbane Newspaper Co., chief,
J. J. Knight. We could pretty well hold our own with Goodna, and Goodna was by
no means a bad side.
That day, or probably the next, I went on rounds with Scholes, and the
first case we saw in a padded cell was a man, naked as at his birth, and very
nervous. He had just come out of a paroxysm, and was inclined to be apologetic.
He was very glad, however, to see Scholes, and said, quite sensibly, “It was
the worst attack, I think, Doc., that I have ever had.” “Yes, old chap,”
Scholes replied, “I’ll send in Blank with your clothes, and I think I’ll
give you something so that you may get a sleep.”
We had not the merciful morphia in general use in those days. At the
doctor’s house, I met a gentlemanly old chap, who had been editor of a
newspaper in the North. We talked for a little while, and then he said:
“Good-bye, doctor, I’ll come down tonight,” and was gone. Scholes told me
the man’s story. It was a combination of malaria and the bad-grog habit which
led to his being placed in restraint. “But now,” said the kindly doctor,
“he is quite right mentally. He comes down at night for a game of whist and a
peg before going to bed, and he does a little clerical work. I can’t turn the
poor chap out.” And he didn’t. The poor old chap died there, and a few folk
saw to it that he had a decent burial. I may mention that the patients were very
much interested in the cricket matches at Goodna, and some of them played and
some of the crowd were intensely parochial. They hated to see Goodna lose, and
plainly showed disapproval of my rapid scoring on the part of visitors.
I remember well the day on which Scholes was sentenced to death. He had
long suffered from the heart, and one day he came down to Brisbane, and was
examined at the Home Secretary’s Office by two brother medicos. After it was
over, he said quite quietly, though he was rather pale: “Well, they give me
six months- but an option for12 months.”
Ryder asked: “What does that mean?” Scholes answered: “They say
that, if I give up the pipe and the glass of grog, and keep quiet, I may go
12months; but if I go on with the little comforts, six months will see me
out.” Ryder, looked distressed, and put it: “And what are you going to
do?” Our friend smiled and said: “Well, I think we will have our quiet
little evenings, our games of cards, our smokes, and our night caps to wind up-
and the six months to do it in. After all, it is quite a long time.” Ina
little more than six months, the gentle soul of Richard Scholes went for its
judgment. We shall be happy, dear chaps, and chapesses, if we go out with as
clean a life to our credit.
In response to a request, I gave some particulars of the severe spear
wound received by Dr. Jack when on his geological exploration work in Cape York
Peninsula. Time after time blacks were caught in the act of stalking the
geologist’s little party, and just as often they were warned and allowed to go
Dr. Jack says: “I may have been in error in letting the treacherous
savages go, but shooting a naked unarmed man, however justifiable the act may
be, is plainly suggestive of murder to my mind.” Then the inevitable happened.
Dr. Jack told me the full story at Townsville, and certainly he carried an ugly
scar. It is better to take the story from his reports to the Mines Department-
“I arranged that the night was to be divided into four watches by the stars.
Macdonald had finished the first, and I the second; Love, who had been sleeping
in the same tent with me, had been on guard for about twenty minutes (about half
past one o’clock), and was rounding up the horses about 200 yards from the
camp, when suddenly I felt a spear crash through my neck a little above the
shoulder blade. To reach me, it must have passed over the space where Love had
been sleeping till he was roused to take his watch. I Saturday up and was in the
act of reaching for my revolver, when a second spear pinned the canvas stretcher
from which I had just lifted my head. I fired a shot, and called on all hands to
turn out…I attempted to pull out the spear, which was about 8ft in length, and
the thickest I have ever seen, being nearly an inch in diameter, Its barb (which
I have preserved, was of quarter inch iron, 7in long, and the thickest part of
the spear, about 6in beyond the barb, was tight fixed in my flesh. Not knowing
whether or not we were to have the satisfaction of seeing our enemies face to
face, and resolved to bear my part in their reception should they come, after
hastily satisfying myself no important blood vessel was involved in the wound, I
carried the sheath knife to Macdonald, and ordered him to set me free, by
cutting into the spear through my flesh…to cut the spear, which was of very
hard wood, might have taken a few minutes of time, and the integrity of a little
bit of flesh might have been very dearly purchased had the blacks resolutely
followed up their attack.”
Then we get a characteristic bit of Dr. Jack. He says: “After the rough
surgical operation, I felt rather faint for a few seconds.” The blacks were
beaten off. Dr. Jack says very little more of the episode, just this: “For
some time the wound was very painful. My head had to be laid down for me when I
went to rest, and lifted for me when I wished to get up, and I had to be lifted
into the saddle.”
Later, Dr. Jack’s party rejoined Crosbie and party, and Crosbie dressed
and poulticed the wound. It was a ghastly rip in the flesh, and though the brave
Scottish scientist frankly admitted that shock to his nervous system “was
greater than I could have believed, a healthy man could have suffered from what
was, after all, only a flesh wound,” he generally made light of it. He was
more concerned about Crosbie, who “suffered martyrdom from earache.” Well,
that’s the last about Dr. Jack, and the blacks.
Before leaving, I wish to say what a splendidly enduring man he was. Very
quiet, of charming personality, and with a keen sense of humour, he and his
companions in that Cape York Peninsula trip had a time of intense hardship and
danger. Fancy the official intelligence which sent a party out exploring in that
country in the wet season.
And while on the subject of the aboriginals, it may be mentioned that
during the period when all Australia was thrilled by the news that women
survivors from the wreck of the Douglas Mawson in the Gulf of Carpentaria were
held captive by the blacks, a Sydney letter came asking my views as to the truth
or otherwise of the story. To the correspondent I said, as the lady cook in
England said to her mistress when asked about her religion: “I’m a
Of course, not an agnostic, as some one said later, probably with
impressions of the Stadium in his mind. Simply, I don’t know.
The surviving woman and her girl and baby were there or were not; but
that didn’t sound very satisfying. If asked what I would have done in view of
the many and conflicting reports, I may say that I would have offered a reward
of £500, or even £1,000, for the settlement of the question or the recovery of
the survivors, assuming that there were survivors. But aboriginal stories are
The late Inspector Harvey Fitzgerald, whom I knew so intimately in
Cooktown, and later in Brisbane, told me some of his experiences when enquiring
into the Mrs. Watson tragedy at Lizard Island, off Cooktown, in the late months
of 1881; and his official reports related the earlier yarns of the blacks just
as he gave them to me. Certain prisoners were made and taken out to Lizard
Island. They said that Mrs. Watson shot one of her assailants dead and wounded
two others. Certainly there were two wounded men.
Then the story went, the blacks killed the two Chinese who were with Mrs.
Watson in the camp and ate them. They also killed Mrs. Watson and her baby, cut
them in pieces, and threw the pieces into deep water. The yarn was mostly lying.
One Chinese were killed, it is true, and one wounded, but Mrs. Watson with her
baby, and the wounded man, escaped, as I have said in an earlier chapter, in
half of a ship’s tank- which is now in the Queensland Museum- to another
island, and there perished from thirst.
Inspector Fitzgerald said that the black prisoners rehearsed the whole
performance for him, but he was too keen a man and knew the aboriginal
too well to accept all that was said or done.
With the incident fresh in my mind, I hesitated to accept the story of
the Douglas Mawson survivors, but the way to have tested it, would have been to
offer a reward and encourage the experienced bushmen, or the “beachcombers,”
to try it out. In three months, we should have known all about it.
Writing of the North, it may be added that it is not generally known that
James Venture Mulligan’s reports of his first expedition to the Palmer were
contributed to the “Queenslander,” in 1873-1874, and were reprinted in a
Guide Book in 1875. Dr. Jack speaks of Mulligan’s “pre-Wordsworthian
contempt for mere scenery, which bored him almost to the point of
incoherence,” but the discoverer of the Palmer as a gold field had his own way
of putting things. Of Palmerville, he said: “Due north to the coast range,
close at hand, the range of sandstone capping is irregularly broken into by
creeks and gorges, whilst in a parallel line south, at the back of Thompson’s
Range, is horrid to look at, and really I think looks worse than it really is.
On the whole, looking at the numerous bush fires and darkies’ signal fires,
which show so well this calm morning, the scene is a little shocking, though
pleasing.” The old “Queenslanders” contain practically all of Mulligan’s
of the “Courier”
from 1846 to 1919 and after
The “Moreton Bay Courier” was established in 1846, and in 1861, its
name was changed to the “Brisbane Courier,” which we know today, and on
which I have served with a few breaks for journeying overseas, since 1882, a
period of about 45 years.
It is a long time, but it does not seem long. That is rather a reversion
of the reply of the insurance agent to the man who was considering the wise
course of taking out a policy. “Why do married men live longer than single?”
The reply of the agent was: “They don’t, but it seems longer!”
The years have sped in my busy life.
It seems only the other day that Mr. Charles Hardie Buzacott, after I had
done some “casual” work, sent for me, and made me a very liberal offer to
join the staff. William O’Carroll then was Editor, Carl Feilberg sub-Editor,
and Mr. Buzacott was Managing _Director, and laid down the lines of policy.
The Brisbane Newspaper Company has been good to me, and I think I may say
that I have given it loyal service. The original “Courier” was founded by
James Swan, a printer who had been in the composing room of the “Empire” in
Sydney, when that paper was in the hands of Henry Parkes, afterwards one of the
most distinguished of Australian politicians, and T. W. Hill and J. Power, both
of whom put in many years on the “Courier” in my time, had “frames”
there at the same time. In later days, the world went very well with Mr. Swan.
He made money and was called to a seat in the Legislative Council, but he was
always of the old Radical School.
The first Editor was A. S. Lyons, a well-educated Sydneysider, who had
been interested in the pastoral industry. The second Editor was William Wilks, a
scholarly man, whose portrait appears in this volume and indicates strength and
The old “Courier” files show that in his time, the paper had in it a
literary “touch,” but we have no record of the writers. However, it is
pretty safe to assume that the Editor wrote the leaders. In later years there
was an exception, when Charles Lilley, afterwards Premier of the Colony and
later still, Chief Justice Sir Charles Lilley, wrote leaders and did law
After Wilks came, with one exception, the Editors whom I have known. Ten
of them I served under, and Theophilus P. Pugh I knew in years after he was
Police Magistrate at Beenleigh.
Thus I may count him in with “Courier” Editors whom I have known. But
if we include George Hall, the brilliant “Bohemian” of the “Telegraph”
in the 1880s, who was Editor of the “Courier” for a period. I knew a dozen
of them, and in relation to each, there are pleasant memories.
T. G. Pugh was Editor 1859- 1863 and was in that position when the
“Courier” became a daily paper. Mr. Pugh was a straight-from-the-shoulder
writer, and on one occasion when it was found that New South Wales was hot
giving the new colony of Queensland its financial due, the “Courier” came
out with a very caustic leader headed, “Stop Thief!”
My old friend, Charles Melton of the “Queenslander” literary staff,
and who is in his seventieth year of service with the Brisbane Newspaper
Company, presented a boyish enthusiasm when speaking of T. P. Pugh. When I met
him at Beenleigh I found him a smart well-dressed little chap with a very keen
mind, but with horticultural rather than literary tastes. To be sure, the two
make a very pleasant, and not infrequent combination. George Gissing may be
quoted as a case in point. Pugh was for sometime member of the Legislative
Assembly for North Brisbane. Of his appearance before the Supreme Court for some
real or imagined offence by the “Courier,” I have written in an earlier
chapter. His portrait given was taken in his younger days, probably when he was
editor of the “Courier.” After Pugh came R. Belford, who had been on the
“Queensland Times,” but of whom I have no other record.
Mr. D. F. T. Jones succeeded Pugh as Editor. He has been mentioned
earlier as head of the Parliamentary “Hansard” when I came to Brisbane- a
tall, bearded man as will be seen by his portrait, scholarly and a very fine
Mr. Jones was quite of the English journalistic school, though his
forbears were mainly Welsh. I have not been able to get the exact period of his
service as Editor of the “Courier,” but it would be after 1863, and probably
before the coming of William O’Carroll. He lived on Red Hill in a bright
cottage, vine-embowered, and with a delightful garden, not far from St.
Bridgid’s Church and over the road, but on the higher level from where
Wishart’s stores were for many years.
William O’Carroll succeeded D. F. T. Jones, the date of his coming into
the Queensland literary firmament I cannot give, but I have seen a photograph of
an illuminated address presented to him on his retirement from the Editorship in
1869. He rejoined the staff later, and served until 1883. Mr. O’Carroll came
to Queensland on one of the immigrant ships, and under the auspices of Bishop
O’Quinn. He was not satisfied with certain conditions after his arrival, and
wrote a series of articles in the “Courier” criticizing the authorities and
also Bishop O’Quinn’s organisation for bringing out immigrants. The good
Bishop was very displeased with the articles, but the “Courier” people were
very pleased with O’Carroll’s literary method, and secured his
services, first as a contributor and later on the regular staff. Mr. O’Carroll
is also referred to in an earlier chapter. He was a man of strong political
views with a Conservative pose of mind, a very straightforward and independent
man with the inflammable temperament of the Celt and with its inclination to
sentiment. He had a great love for Scottish poetry and for Scottish songs. Mr.
O’Carroll was about middle height and of slight, even frail physique, but he
had wonderful vitality. His portrait is very good, the domed forehead, and
scanty hair, the prominent Celtic nose, and the rather straggling beard of the
Dickens style. He was my first experience of a “Courier” Editor, and it was
a happy one, though William O’Carroll was somewhat of a taskmaster. On the
illuminated address spoken of above were portraits of the “Courier” literary
Carl a Feilberg, Editor “Courier” September 10th, 1883 to
October 29th, 1887 when he died, was a literary genius, a picturesque
and rapid writer and a great worker. He was born in London but was of Danish
extraction. Before settling in Brisbane, he had been on the papers at Cooktown
and Maryborough. A man of about middle height, bearded as shown in his portrait,
and he wore glasses, a necessity which was less frequent in the early 1880s than
it is today. Feilberg was a good comrade with his staff, and on Sunday
nights-every second Sunday- he had some of us over to his house and with Mrs.
Feilberg, who was a charming hostess with a wonderful wealth of beautiful hair,
gave us a very happy time. The death of Carolus was a great loss with the
“Courier” and a great grief with the staff. The name Carolus was given him
by Francis Adams, the poet and essayist, in a clever appreciation published in a
short lived little paper of the magazine type brought out by Adams and others.
William Kinnaird Rose, Editor “Courier” January 1888, to November 12th,
1891, was a distinguished war correspondent as already stated, but the portrait
given shows him in the infantry kit of the Queensland Defence Force with which
he held a captain’s commission. He was a Scottish advocate or barrister, had
been as stated earlier was correspondent for the “Scotsman” with the
Russians against the Turks in the 1876-1877 war, and after leaving Queensland,
was war correspondent with the Greek Army in the war against the Turks. Rose was
a tall, breezey chap with a flowing red beard, and he was a picturesque figure
walking down Queen Street of a summer afternoon, his beard dividing and blowing
back over his shoulders. He wore a light coat and slacks, the coat unbuttoned
and showing a bright blue cummerbund about 9 inches deep, Distinctly he was a
personage, a very bright writer, and a very cheery companion. He abhorred
dullness, and sometimes late at night when the centre of a merry party, he would
suddenly remember his paper, start up- but sit down again with the remark: “It
will be all right; Barton the ever faithful is there.” Now Mr. Barton was the
Dr. F. W. Ward, editor “Courier” January 1st 1894 to
November 12th, 1898, was one of the keenest and most devoted of
newspaper men who, as already stated, had graduated through the Primitive
Methodist Ministry. He was above middle height, of fairly heavy build, and as
the portrait shows, had a great flowing beard of deep copper red. Dr. Ward was a
worker who put his paper first and expected everyone else to do the same. Before
coming to the “Courier,” he had been editor of the Sydney “Daily
Telegraph” as he was later upon leaving Brisbane. He did much through the
“Courier” to develop agricultural settlement and production in Queensland,
and his watchword was “Service.” Dr. Ward was in later years editor of the
“Telegraph” in Brisbane and the first President of the Press Institute.
Mr. C. Brunsdon Fletcher editor “Courier” December 25th
1898 to April 4th, 1903, after a brilliant school and college career,
qualified as a surveyor and practised his profession in Queensland for some
years. He was one of Dr. Ward’s “finds” and joined the staff of the
Brisbane Newspaper Company as a contributor to the “Courier” and later
became regular leader writer for the “Courier” and “Observer.” On Dr.
Ward’s retirement from the editorship, Mr. Brunson Fletcher was appointed to
the position and, like his predecessor, was a keen newspaper man and a great
worker with a scholarly literary method and a fine knowledge of Australian and
1903, Mr. Brunsdon Fletcher was offered and accepted the position of Associate
Editor of the “Sydney Morning Herald,” and in the later months of 1917, was
appointed Editor. He took to the “Herald” the good experience and practical
training in newspaper work obtained on the “Courier.” He is the author of
valuable works on the Pacific. Mr. Brunsdon Fletcher is above middle height,
slight but as “hard as nails,” and has stood the test of long days in the
field on Queensland surveys as in burning the midnight oil as Editor of a daily
paper. Mrs. Fletcher is a daughter of the late Sir Arthur Rutledge, K.C. who did
much for the political life of Queensland and at the Bar.
E. J. T. Barton, Editor of the “Courier” April 5, 1903 to May 5, 1906, went
to the Brisbane Newspaper Company, when little more than a lad, being then a
shorthand writer and earnest student. He became Chief Sub-Editor when Feilberg
took over the Editorship, and office records show that he was Acting Editor for
a couple of months in 1887, from June 1891 to December 1893, and again for a few
weeks in 1898.
Barton was a most devoted worker, extremely painstaking, and cared for the
“Courier” as for his own conscience. He was a very religious man always, and
though he had sometimes a pretty swift team to handle in some of us in the old
days, I may say on behalf of the element which caused him occasional disquiet,
or perhaps a chronic disquiet, that he always had our respect. We knew that he
was sincere, charitable in word, and in deed, often the victim of too plausible
humbugs, but never unresponsive to a call for help. With Mr. Barton it was not
whether a man deserved help, but whether he needed it. He lived out at
Paddington in a pleasant cottage with big weeping figs shading it from the
smiting suns of our summer afternoons, and at times, I have called there for him
on Saturdays when we used to ride out to the hills and have a quiet day. They
were, to me, very happy days. And it was the same with Walter J. Morley who,
with one or another of his hefty boys, loved a day in the hills. Barton and
Morley were lifelong friends, and when I knew them first spent their leisure
time in sailing, and had their own comfortable little yacht. Mr. Barton is still
actively engaged in journalism and church work, and philanthropic work
generally, and he will leave the world sweeter and better than he found it.
J. Knight was Editor of the “Courier” from May 6, 1906 to June 3, 1916, and
is now Chairman of Directors of the Brisbane Newspaper Company, as stated
elsewhere. Serving under Mr. Knight on the company’s papers, it is impossible
for me to say all that I would like to say of his service, in our long
comradeship while I was reporting with him, writing leaders on the
“Observer” when he edited it, and doing general work and leaders at times on
the “Courier” from the time he took over the control. In my dedication of
this volume, I refer to his work for his papers and for the State, but much
might have been added descriptive of his untiring zeal and personal pluck in the
developments of civil aviation.
Knight has been responsible for a valuable work “In the Early Days” and
other historical publications and he shaped and edited and made into a coherent
volume Nehemiah Bartley’s “Opals and Agates.” Under his guidance, the
“Courier” and associated papers have made unparalleled progress and on
modern lines for he has not only literacy ability and experiences but also
technical knowledge possessed by very few in Australia.
the older days, Mr. Knight with his family loved bush jaunts in a smart sulky
and pony; then came the motor boat stage, and then the motor car, and our chief
has always been his own expert. Mr. Knight is above medium height, clean shaven,
and resolute of face as shown in his portrait, and in younger days delighted in
athletics and music, not an uncommon blend of qualities.
Macgregor was editor of the “Courier” June 4th 1916 to June 14,
1919. He came to the company from the Sydney “Daily telegraph” as Associate
Editor and “took the chair” when Mr. knight became Chairman of Directors.
Mr. Macgregor was the second “Courier” Editor to go to the “Sydney Morning
Herald” as Associate Editor. He is a keen practical journalist, a keen
controversialist and of wide knowledge. Tall and robust with the strong blood of
his Scottish ancestry, Mr. Macgregor has wonderful vitality and an abounding
love of work, with side lines in rose growing and poultry raising. He has a fine
son, Bruce, a “dinkum Anzac,” who represented the “Sydney Morning
Herald” for some years in London and is now back on the staff of the paper in
Sanderson Taylor was appointed Editor of the “Courier” on June 15, 1919, and
at the time this was written, was still in that position. Born in England, Mr.
Taylor had his first newspaper experience on the Sydney “Daily Telegraph.”
He joined the “Courier” staff in 1890, and his more conspicuous work was in
musical and dramatic criticism and in law reporting, the “Courier” reports
being taken by the authorities as official. In June, 1916, he became Associate
Editor. Mr. Taylor is recognised as a writer of perfect English, which is
something in these days of slip-shod work. As in the case of Mr. Knight, it
would be easy to say many pleasant things of the present Editor, but like the
Chief, he is not “looking for compliments” from one of his staff. Mr. Taylor
has a son who served in Egypt and France from 1915 to the close of the Big War,
a journalist not only of promise, but of achievement.
outstanding names in the history of the “Courier” are Gresley Lukin and
Charles Hardie Buzacott.
in his time had been Editor-in-Chief, but they had under them men who
practically if not always, were nominally Editors. Both Mr. Lukin and Mr.
Buzacott have been referred to on occasions in this volume as managing partners
of the Brisbane Newspaper Company. They were high-minded men, and their services
to Queensland should never be forgotten. Mr. Lukin made the “Queenslander”
well known throughout the British Empire, and he set a very high literary
standard to the best writers of the day, being employed on both “Courier”
and the weekly newspaper. Mr. Buzacott placed the “Courier” to the
forefront, but unhappily had to dispose of his interests after the financial
crash of 1893. In political, as in literary life, and in the pioneering of
newspapers, he made a reputation greater in value than much gold and when he
went to his rest, it was with the consciousness that he had done the State some
Charles Melton tells me that George “Bohemian” Hall was at one time Editor
of the “Courier.” I had not known that. The period would probably have been
after O’Carroll’s temporary retirement in 1869. I regret I have not a
portrait of Mr. Hall to include in this volume.
closing the chapter.
have borne with me for two years in the “Courier.”
letters came to me in appreciation, and some made me blush. A few kindly critics
guided my wandering feet into the rigidly correct path of historical perfection,
or as near to it as I have attained. Some have sent me welcome reminders with
their corrections. The wonder to me and to many of my friends is that there was
so little to correct. To be sure I killed off one good chap who wrote to say
that he was alive, and when we met, he would show me that he was also kicking. I
made him a Lazarus of my next modest budget.
nothing have I set down in malice. My great joy in it all has been the giving to
the present generation a little appreciation of women and men who made easier
the way, whose courage and devotion should be enshrined in the memories of us
all. My regret is that so many have been unmentioned.
that I have written is from memory. Occasionally I refreshed remembrance at the
fountains of the “Courier” and the “Observer,” or at the Supreme Court
I have wandered into disquisitions on morals, economics, education, religion,
and music. Those parentheses will be taken for what they are worth, but they
represent the convictions of one who has seen a good deal, travelled somewhat in
other lands, and thought a little, and whose mind and body and deepest
sentiments are Australian.
gratefully acknowledge the goodness of the Brisbane Newspaper Company in
permitting publication of the “Memories” in book form. The noble head of a
great Church said to me when the articles were ended, that there should be
sufficient interest in them to ensure the financial success of a book.
Characteristically he added, “I will do my share.” And he did it, and to His
Grace Archbishop Duhig, I offer my sincere thanks.