A. and F. Gregory Explorers
Children and Australian History
of Australian Exploration
The Gregorys, Augustus C. and Francis T. were English born. On an earlier occasion in these “Memories” it was mentioned that in the old days the bulk of the exploration of Australia was done by English, Irish and Scotch, and that the native born did not display much keenness for the job
The Gregory brothers, however, came to Australia when small boys, and
they must have had the instinct for exploration in their blood. What their
forebears were the history available does not say, with the exception that their
father was a lieutenant in the old 78th Highlanders. To be sure he
must have had more than a dash of the spirit of adventure, or he would not have
come out to West Australia with his young family in 1829.
In the matter of development the great State of West Australia was then
scarcely known. It was, at the best, a potential pastoral region. The early
settlers had no unpromising country – as the knowledge of those days went- and
only those whose ears were “reverberant of things to be” could have pictured
the great wheat producing value of the wide and empty spaces. Yet those who
believe in the transmission of qualities rather than in the development by
environment will incline to say that the three sons of Lieutenant John Gregory
took their keen desire to look beyond from their father. But they were readers
of African and Polar Exploration, and the great wildernesses of West Australia
would naturally appeal to them.
It may be mentioned here that there was another brother, Charles, who,
with A.C. and Frank, made an exploring trip in 1846. I did not know him, nor
indeed did many in Queensland, for he remained faithful to the West when his
brothers came “over to (the Queensland) Mesopotamia to help us.”
Now to Queenslanders of the younger generation the Gregory brothers are
but little known children. Lately, to try out an idea, I spoke to various school
children about Australian exploration. From what I gathered our explorers were
as little known in the schools as some of our so called democrats would have the
valiantes of our nation who won Trafalgar and Waterloo. The children knew a
little about Leichhardt – one said “he was the bloke they named Leichhardt
Street after”- and more about Burke and Wills, but nothing of Landsborough,
except that it was “a town near Gympie,” and a sweet little Legislative
Assembly of about 10 confidently assured that she knew all I was talking about
when I said” Did you ever hear of the Gregory brothers.” She replied:
“They are the men who made the powders!”
One may ask what has become of our friend Meston’s Geographical
History? Perhaps Queensland youngsters are taught something of Australian
exploration, and I was unfortunate in those I catechized. My young friends were
“wise to” Peary and Nansen; two of them knew a little of the great sad story
of Scott and his fellow heroes’ one was well acquainted with Amundsen’s
glorious dash for the South Pole, and one at least had heard of Douglas Mawson.
He was described in a counter query: “Wasn’t he the bloke that the blacks
caught?” remembering the recent loss in Gulf waters of the Douglas Mawson
steamer and the report that some of the survivors were in the hands of the
I would that our children were carefully taught to reverence those heroic
souls who laid the wilds of Australia open to us all.
Weary and wasted, worn and wan,
Feeble and faint, and languid and low-
He lay on the desert a dying man,
Who has gone, my friends, where we must all go.
Perhaps some of the kiddies have heard of Adam Lindsay Gordon, from whose
tribute to Burke and Wills I quote – for its sentiment, nit its alliterative
tricks. The Gregory brothers faced the great uncharted spaces – brave, modest,
capable, intellectual, young fellows, clean in wind and limb, in body and soul.
Perhaps some day we shall have “Journals of Australian exploration”
condensed into narrative form, with a desire to interest our young folk in the
history of their land, rather than in “Comic Cuts” and dubious picture shows
– not that I do not find a lot of our picture shows educative and edifying.
Augustus and Frank Gregory were the joint authors of “The Journals.”
Copies will be found in the Parliamentary Library, in the Public Library (I
hope), and in a very few private houses. Of course, we don’t go in
systematically for school libraries. If we did there might be some risk of the
youthful mind being diverted from the mysteries of how “from a given point to
draw a straight line equal to a give straight line,” or “to describe an
equilateral triangle upon a given finite straight line.”
Practically, “Journals of Australian Exploration” are the only
valuable records of the work of the Gregory brothers. We may find in the tomes
of “Hansard” some valuable speeches from Augustus and Frank, but the history
of these truly great men has yet to be written.
“He was born in Nottinghamshire, England, in 1819; came out to West
Australia in 1829; and died in Brisbane on June 25, 1905.”
To that we may perhaps add, “He lived, worked, suffered, and died,” for that is the history of most of mankind. I don’t include some of our modernists, who toil not, neither do they spin. At the age of 22, he entered the Civil Service of West Australia, and in 1846 began the work of exploration.
If this was intended to be history, I could give some short account of
his work; but that will surely be done by some one else at some other time. He
led two expeditions in “the West,” and then came to Eastern Australia. Under
the auspices of the Royal Geographical Society, and accompanied by Baron Von
Mueller, he led the well known expedition in 1858 to do the ordinary work of
exploration and to search for traces of the Leichhardt expedition, which was
swallowed up by the earth or by the waters some seven years earlier. This
expedition did some excellent work, and A.C. and his brother Frank, were made
gold medallists of the Royal Geographical Society, a very great honour – or
very great recognition indeed.
In 1859 he was appointed Surveyor-General of Queensland, surveying being
his profession, and he held the position until 1879. He was created C.M.G. in
1874, and K.C.M.G. in 1903. As a journalist I met him often. He was a
wonderfully fine talker, and especially on science subjects, though, to catch a
phrase which Brunton Stephens used, in literature he “knew what’s what.”
He was a great reader of science, literature, and the “Scientific American”
was a delight to him. As a surveyor he had to learn a few things about the sun
and the stars, and he talked beautifully of the stars. They seemed to him to be
smiling friendly children, and I gave him some little pleasure, I think, when I
put him on to “Windclouds and Star Drifts,” not a dry treatise, dear reader,
but the beautiful poem of Oliver Wendell Holmes, and the great explorer stopped
on the first reading at the words:
Is this cloud that, blown athwart my soul,
Wears a false seeming of the pearly stain
Where worlds beyond the world their mingling rays
Blend in soft white…
He then talked for ten minutes on “worlds beyond the world”- but I
had to get back to the “Courier” with an article on a garbage
“destructor,” which he had invented for the Toowong Shire Council, or we
might have been talking still.
I often pictured a close similarity between Oliver Wendell Holmes and A.
C. Gregory – the same clear view, the same purity of soul. This is said from
the circumstance that Gregory “spake evil not even of evil doers,” and put
the great things of life above all personal interest. It was my job to interview
him when he received his K.C.M.G. He was very modest about it, but was too
sincere a man to pretend that he did not appreciate the honour. It was a great
thing for his soul. Men after a lifetime of good service for others and for
their country sometimes will seem to stand in a mist of disappointment. They
will say: “ But have I really served; have I been of use?” Then there will
come a clear and inspiring shaft of thought: “Yes, I have done a little.” It
may come from a word in a book, the hand clasp of a friend, the look of
gratitude in a tear dimmed eye; but it comes and it is above all that money can
buy. That is, perhaps, how Augustus Gregory felt when he received from his
Sovereign the high recognition of great Empire service. “Yes,” he said, and
his voice trembled a little, “It is very nice. I sometimes thought that, after
all, my work was of very little account. It seems that others regard it well. It
is all very nice.”
I wrote a good deal of the dear, good man at the time – in the
“Courier” 1903. He was a good speaker, and made always carefully thought out
speeches. That which he had to say was worth listening to. He was no windbag.
His service to Australia was really great, and his personal character as well as
his work should be made known to our young folk, for the average youngster loves
to find that a great man was a good man. I could write pages about Sir Augustus
Gregory and then feel that not enough had been said, nor well enough said, to
even approach the measure of his great qualities.
Frank Gregory, like his older brother, was a small chap, but sturdily
built, and capable of great endurance. He was born in England in 1821, and died
at Toowoomba on October 24, 1888. With his brother he gained much experience in
the earlier expeditions, but in 1858 organised an exploration party of his own
to examine the country between Gascoyne and Mount Murchison, W.A., and he
returned to civilization at Adelaide in July, 1861.
In the same year, with his party, he narrowly escaped a disaster on the
Northwest coast, but capable leadership and great courage turned the expedition
to success, and valuable discoveries were made. In 1862 he came to Queensland.
He had been for a time Surveyor General of West Australia, and in Queensland he
did much of the survey work of the Darling Downs. He was appointed to the
Legislative Council in 1874, and was quite a good speaker and a very wise
counselor. He succeeded Morehead as Postmaster-General in the McIlwraith
Government. I did not know him as I knew Sir Augustus Gregory, mainly perhaps
because he was a Toowoomba man, and there was not so much opportunity of talking
with him. He was more identified with what is termed the social life of
Queensland than his brother. Yet when there was occasion to see him on Press
business he was invariably very kind, though there may be a little reservation
as to his regard for the Press. In those days we were distinctly conservative in
journalism, but Mr. Frank Gregory seemed to think that a good English magazine
was all the reading necessary concerning current events. Like his brother, he
was a daring explorer, and in the years ago, men were living who spoke both of
his dash and bravery . The Gregory brothers would never bow down before a
difficulty. Long waterless stages and often acute physical suffering were just
incidental to their life’s work. Frank Gregory married – Sir Augustus was a
bachelor – Marion, the daughter of Mr. Alex. Hume of Toowoomba, in 1883.
Queensland Bureaucrats – Prominent Public Service Officers – A Clean souled Gentleman – Teaching a Minister a Lesson
The Government officers in the early 1860s were the salt of the earth. The senior men were wrapped in impenetrable mantles of dignity and conscious superiority; their jobs had in them the elements of esoteric mysteries. The young fellows – with the bank clerks- were the dandies of the period. A few young lawyers and other professional men were shaken into the lump not as a leaven, but as something inescapable; but who so representative of the social consequence of the community as the moustached and whiskered exquisite of the Lands or Survey, or Railways or Works, or Education?
I remember that “Bobby” Byrne had in his “Punch” a sketch of a
very beautiful young man unburdening himself to a pal. The b.y.m. was describing
the meeting in Queen Street of the political head of his Department, who had the
“qualified” impertinence to bow – or something pf the sort. To be sure,
the Public Service man has to go to a decent school, has to pass weird
examinations to show that he is fit to write a minute or frame a despatch or
perform the mysteries of a surveying or architectural draughtsman. He has
refining associations in his schools and colleges. It is essential that he shall
know tennis, drink afternoon tea without tilting it into the saucer, and keep
his nails out of mourning.
The Minister is different. He is “nascitur,” not always “fit.” I
often wonder what Ministers think, if they ever think, what their permanent
officers think of them. But, after the Minister learns to abjure old habits, he
becomes quire companionable –that is, if he is caught young, and the Public
Servant may even make an associate of him.
A very distinguished head and a rough type of Minister some years ago
were great friends. The head was asked about, and he said: “Blank is a bit
rough, but he is the most conscientious Minister I have ever served; he is a
clean souled gentleman.” That was pretty high, when we remember that the
Minister had been a blacksmith, and still wore rough hands. It will not be
thought, of course, that our Public Servants are bounders or that their
Ministers are of the rough house type. One may be permitted to conventionally
patter at their expense. What are they there for?
In 1881, Arthur Hunter Palmer, later Sir Arthur, was Colonial Secretary.
The title was used for Herbert when he came out here to establish our
administrative system, and to teach Sir George Bowen “what’s what.” Later
it was changed to Home Secretary. Demos had relentlessly stridden many times
through portals which were so austerely reserved, and when he is not there –
and sometimes when he is – we call the Minister “Mick.” Had one used such
a familiarity in the old days, when Michael O’Reilly was the angel of the
flaming sword at the Colonial Secretary’s Office, there would have been
immediate danger of an apoplexy. One did not – a newspaper man I mean – as a
rule, see Mr. Palmer on Press business. He did not like newspapers or newspaper
men, especially those who criticised the Government, or wrote flippantly of
Parliament. We were “administration (with a particularly big, big D)
scribblers,” and the Colonial Secretary thought we were normally either drunk
or desiring to borrow a shilling to get into that condition. Certainly his
little peculiarities of temperament and speech were often chuckled over in the
papers. I am always tempted to write columns about Palmer, and yet I revere his
memory – a straight, honest, and capable man. But he could not conceive of a
newspaper being decent. His own brother, and later a member of Parliament, wrote
sketches and stories for the “Courier” and “Queenslander,” and that was
rather a grief; but one day, when “Dick” Newton, a club mate, who was doing
some job (the polite young reporter now calls it “an assignment”) for the
“Courier,” he said: “Hullo, Palmer!” Picture Pooh Bah having to say:
“How de do, little girls?” to young persons. Palmer glared, swallowed twice,
and then with a storm in his soul relied: “Hello, Dick!”
When I had to see him – I was an editor, perhaps a rather cubbish one
– I would never wait after the very tick of an appointment. Nor would I be
deferential. Michael O’Reilly used to be horrified, but young men on jobs with
those who are scarcely inclined even to be tolerant should never give an inch.
If a Minister or anyone else is rude, go back and write up his manners – or
lack of them. If he doesn’t absolutely mark you as a forbidden thing, and your
paper generally will see to that, he will be civil.
Pressmen had always s good friend in Robert Gray, who was a big bug
socially, as well as officially. He was a son of Colonel Gray, was born at Port
Macquarie in New South Wales, bred up in Queensland, mainly at Ipswich, and
married a daughter of Dr. Dorsey, a sister of Lady Bell, of Jimbour, who was the
mother of J. T. Bell, whose early death was so great a blow to his native State
of Queensland. Robert Gray was sometimes a little brusque, but we knew him, and
there was always this: he did not keep reporters waiting in draughty passages in
the winter, or on blazing verandahs in the summer. He was one of the kindest men
I have ever known, beneath an occasional hectoring way. The Colonel
Secretary’s office was a little old building between George Street and William
Street, the site now being covered by the Executive Buildings. There was an
entrance from George Street, by a sort of lane between St. John’s School and
the Police Commissioner’s office. The main entrance was from William Street up
a flight of stone steps. That was not frequently used; indeed Michael O’Reilly
rather discouraged the use, because “Misther Pallmer” was pleased to come in
by that way. Later the building was occupied by the United Service Club.
Robert Gray, in 1889, passed to a much better paid job. He became one of
the three Railway Commissioners when McIlwraith decided that the Railway Service
should be free of political and official jobbery. Mathieson and Johnston came
from England, the first a railway traffic man, Johnston an engineer, and Gray
went in as the experienced staff administrator. It was a strong team, but
changes came, and Gray became sole Commissioner. It may be worth remembering
that it was McIlwraith, one of the strongest men we have had in Queensland, who
decided to clear the railways from the trail of political appointments or
“pull” in working. Our strong men, or those who masquerade as strong men, of
today might very well follow the McIlwraith example, that is if they can bear to
sacrifice the joy of bestowing patronage and favours.
Gray hit things off very well with Mathieson, but with Johnston there
were occasional jolts. On a later day, and after a change of Government,
Johnston became rather impatient of restraint, and there was almost a defiance
of a certain well understood matter of policy. Gray longed for the touch of a
strong man’s hand, and said to his colleague: “If McIlwraith was here he
would straighten you up p.d.q.” – or words to that effect.
Ultimately Mathieson went to New South Wales, Johnston returned to
England, and Gray was left as sole Commissioner – but, with the dissolution of
the scheme of three, political pushing crept back into the department, and there
it is today.
The Chief Clerk of the Home Department was W. H. Ryder, a Canadian born
and a fine type of the capable civil servant. Physically he was like one of Du
Maurier’s colonels – the younger folk will not remember the artist’s great
work in “Punch,” not even that he was the author of “Trilby.” Ryder was
a polished, courteous man, with a good deal of strength of character.
as Under Secretary, was of very great service to his successive Ministers, and
Ryder trained up in the way they should go a fine staff of young officers,
including the present Under Secretary W. J. Gall. Of course, Gall was, in my
early days of Government offices, probably not promoted beyond the pinafore
stage, but I remember him quite a good many years ago as Ryder’s understudy.
He was then “Willie” Gall, a fair haired good looking young fellow, and what
he did not know about the Home Department was not worth knowing. The other day I
saw a smart looking medico, and a friend said: “A very clever and careful
young doctor.” I asked the name, and the reply was “Gall.” When I heard
the name I said: “But why was it necessary to ask you that? Of course his
name’s Gall.” There was no mistaking it. He is the son of “Willie” Gall,
who used to be a fair haired lad in the Home Office. How the years fly!
accountant of the department was P. A. Kob, tall, rather stoopy in later years,
and an inveterate smoker. He was one of the best, lived out at Albion on the
hill near the Holy Cross Convent, and had a host of friends. One of the heads in
the earlier days was G. L. D’Arcy, who, on his appearance alone, would be
executed by the Bolsheviks as an aristocrat. D’Arcy was a good officer and a
man of very fine temperament. His sons carry on the name, and long may it
course, there were others; but the most important man at the office, when Palmer
was away, was Michael O’Reilly, usually so unflinching, but from whom I could
get anything – except permission to go into the sacred presence of the
Minister without sending in my name. “I know your people,” said Mr.
O’Reilly, the first day we met. “You’re like them, and that’s no
compliment. And I know the Lindseys of Hollymount.” I said nothing, but we
were friends for years. Good, kind, quiet, communicative Michael O’Reilly.
That’s all contradictory, and so it describes him. May the green turf rest
lightly upon him.
1881 we were not doing very much in the way of immigration, but after the coming
of the British-India Mail Steamship Co., a very good type of men, women, and
young folk came to us. The earlier immigrants, Dr. Lang’s splendid staunch
Nonconformists, Jordan’s less Puritanical but scarcely less worthy nation
builders, Bishop O’Quinn’s devout and industrious Roman Catholics,
Randall’s steady capable farming people – all these laid the foundations of
this State as the newcomers did of the older settled parts of Australia.
would Queensland have been without the immigrants – and they came to us in the
middle 1880s sometimes at the rate of 20,000 a year. When it was settled that we
should have an inflow of people from overseas, McIlwraith started out with an
idea of 10,000 a year, and very well considered and effective provision was made
for reception, accommodation and distribution. The old Immigration Office was a
red brick building upon which was imposed later a weird medley of unspeakable
stucco and other bricks, and the place has become the home of the Department of
Agriculture, the present fine buildings on Kangaroo Point being provided for the
new –comers. We had an Immigration Board, with W. L. G. Drew, C.M.G., etc as
Chairman, with Sir Ralph Gore, J. McDonald, Commander G. P. Heath (late R.N.),
Dr. Hobbs, and Dr. Prentice as members; and Gore as Immigration Agent. Later the
Board was wiped out and Parry-Okeden and then O’Neill Brenan in succession
became the chiefs with responsibility direct to the Minister.
conspicuous member of the staff was C. C. Horrocks, who, I think, had been in
the Army or in the Diplomatic Service. He was a quiet, capable, man, over whose
later years was spread a cloud of terrible grief. He died, really, of a broken
heart, but under the lashings of fate he never whimpered.
Immigration Department practically administered the South Sea Island labour
recruiting. Perhaps some day I may relate some of the incidents of that murky
business. The pages of history are stained with blood letting cruelty, and at
times gleam with a splendid heroism. What chapter is more wonderful than that of
McMurdo, stranded on a coral reef with a cargo of recruits – South Sea savages
– and by great determination and masterful domination saving them all? Poor
Willie McMurdo – with is fragile, crippled form. McMurdo had in character, the
braver and better part of it, much that was reminiscent of Byron’s work at
chairman of the Immigration Board, Mr. Drew, was also Auditor-General, and later
chairman of the Public Service Board. It is not necessary to add to what I have
already said about W. L. G. Drew – an old Blue-Coat (please pronounce it
“Blukit”) school boy, a naval officer of recognised merit, and a firm,
courageous administrator. With him in the Audit office he had G. C. Horstmann,
who later established himself as an accountant, and was succeeded by his son
“Willie” Horstmann, and his grandson, now head of the business, while one
grandson, one of “Willie” Horstmann’s boys, made the great sacrifice in
the Big War.
of the staff was Robert H. Mills, who was well known as a Musical Union
baritone, a prominent Freemason, and after leaving the service, an alderman of
there was Harry Imrie, a cultured earnest man, William Thomas and J. H. Dodds, I
did not known so well’ but Reginald Miller, one of the Audit Staff, was a
“pal o’ mine” and a fellow member in those days of the Johnsonian Club.
there was J. A. Peterson, an Englishman, also; and startling stories were told
of his ability with figures. I have been told that he could run up three columns
of figures at once. Willie Hobbs, a son of Dr. Hobbs, was also on the Audit
Staff. Willie was a tall and hefty youth who would scale a good 15 stone when
out of training. One day I was out riding, and my girl companion was on a raking
chestnut, Larrikin, a son of Yattendon. Willie was riding a smart little brown
contribution, well known at Redcliffe and Scarborough 44 years ago. My companion
was light and fragile, and Willie said to her: “Why, you look like a tom-tit
on a round of beef!” And the retort was flashed: “And you look like a round
of beef on a tom-tit.”
Willie went to the long sleep, long long ago – but the little lady, still
young and merry, will not have forgotten the story.
there was J. C. Ham, one of a well known Queensland and Victorian family, who
was also a baritone in the Musical Union, and a big attraction at fashionable
concerts. His brother, formerly of the Customs Department, is an active worker
for all good things out at Northgate, and we often meet; but J. C. Ham, like
nearly all his contemporaries – all but one, I think – has “gone West.”
one about whose arrival I am sure is Mure H. Robertson. Of course he was but a
bright young officer in the days of which I speak, and he keeps his youth, and
also the traditions under which he was trained. Drew had no use for an audit
officer who was not capable, fearless in duty, and absolutely appreciative of
his duty to the public. How Mure Robertson filled the bill during his long
public service, those who best know his work can say. His early official
associates were men of honour and ability. I hope my bouquet thrown to him in
all sincerity will not be deemed too flagrant when I say that he is worthy of
the old school and the old office.
Jordan, the Registrar-General of the early 1880s – 1883, at any rate, for I
lately saw his signature below that date – passed his time between Parliament
and the Civil Service. He was a peculiarly capable man, with a vast capacity for
work, and without being particularly narrow he was of the Puritan type. Yet he
was never ashamed of the immigrant navies whom he brought out for our railways,
not even when beer and boisterousness marked certain phases of their resistance
to official control. Jordan was above middle height, and in my days, slight,
grey, and heavily bearded. Like nearly all of the Puritanical type, he was
fearless, both physically and in spirit. I remember well three of the type –
Henry Jordan, Peter McLean, and Robert Bulcock. They never feared the blusterer.
Though they were political enemies of McIlwraith, he had a very soft spot in his
heart for them all.
Theophilus Blakeney, of a very well known legal and judiciary family in New
South Wales, was deputy Registrar-General, and ultimately succeeded Jordan as
Registrar. He was a big, strong man, with a family of beautiful girls, and had
been well known in cricket and rowing; but in later days it was a case of
“drat them rheumatics,” and he went to and from his office to his home on
the hill at South Brisbane in a hansom cab, or his own well horsed waggonette.
Weedon also was on the staff, and took his own turn as registrar-General- one of
the good old school of scholarly and well trained men. Of course there were many
others, but I did not know them well, except R. B. Howard, or “Brab” Howard,
who later on was Chief Protector of Aborigines, and now in Fiji. Howard was a
good bushman, and knew the West from Cooper’s Creek up to the Gulf of
Mylne, a great man in Freemasonry, was Deputy Registrar at the Real Property
Office, and became one of the Public Service Board. He was also a South Brisbane
resident, with a beautiful home, “Dunira,” later the home of my old
Cooktown friend, W. H. Campbell, M.L.C., and still occupied, I think, by Mrs.
Campbell. With him was J. O. Bourne, whom people still called “Joe” Bourne,
who married one of the daughters of Dr. Hobbs. I often met my old friend Bourne,
who, in his younger days, was a good athlete. He is still “one of the boys”
and his name is well represented on the Empire’s battlefields where he fought,
and fought successfully, with our backs to the wall.
there was T. H. Dougherty, who played a first violin in the Brisbane Musical
Union, and on my recommendation did some remarkably fine contributions to the
“Courier” on music, as well as the criticisms of concerts – scholarly,
brightly written articles they were.
there were Harry Haseler and Frank Pratten, but they were mere lads. It is
pleasant, however, to meet them occasionally, good officers, and good chaps, but
through “the bludgeonings of chance” they do not look so young as they did
40 odd years ago.
the early 1880s the Treasury offices occupied part of the site of the present
Treasury buildings. The old buildings had done service in pre-separation days
– that is, the big two storied building, with its semi-detached annex – as
barracks and quarters for the red-coats. The open part of the area was grassed,
and a bit of practice cricket was played there at times. Often it has been my
job to call on the Treasurer, and to stand out on the northern verandah
gossiping to one or another of the officials, or to a Press colleague –
Haggard of the “Telegraph”, or perhaps Fielberg of the “Courier,” – up
thereto discuss some knotty points with McIlwraith or Dickson. Of the Treasury
Staff E. G. Schlencker is the only one left of the officers I knew in 1881, and
he until lately served as Receiver.
E. B. Cullen I referred on an earlier occasion. F. O. Darvall was a tall,
florid, raw boned Australian, who was a good cricketer and a capital shot in the
field, with a special weakness for the rise of a snipe on the flats at Mayne in
Oct or Nov. He left a considerable family of sons, one of whom, Major Darvall,
of the Militia Artillery, married a Miss Morehead, but died young, as his father
did. Another son was Colonel “Joe” Darvall; another is a lawyer at Boonah;
and another served in the Big War, and has a rattling good position with one of
the great engineering firms of the United Kingdom. I saw him last in St.
Paul’s London, in 1917, with Cassiday of Dalgetys’ and they were having a
little respite from the mud of Flanders and the attentions of the hun.
also I referred to a little time ago. T. S. Hickey was an excitable Irishman of
great literary “attainments” – I believe that was the word – at any
rate, he was a Latinist, and I have heard him and George Thorn pelting each
other with Virgilian phrases. He was quite a friend of mine, but said one day of
my “Courier” work, “It’s very nice, very nice, and I wonder you are able
to do it so well, seeing that you, like all newspaper writers, have nothing at
all decent in the way of education.” Then he went on to tell me that all
newspaper men should be obliged to “qualify, like barristers and doctors.”
And I replied: “Then you would cut out John Flood?” Hickey buckled up at
once saying: “No! No! Of course I wouldn’t – cut out John Flood –“ Now
he absolutely reverenced Flood.
Matthews was a brother of Canon Matthews, married a Miss Fowles, a sister of
William Lambert Fowles, M.L.A., solicitor, who was the father of the generation
of the Fowles family so well known in Brisbane, with William Lambert Fowles,
late Under Secretary of the Treasury and then Savings Bank Commissioner, at its
head. “Jack” was a born nigger minstrel. He clerked diligently, but regarded
all time spent otherwise than blackened up and singing plantation songs as time
wasted. One day he “put on the burnt cork,” in the office, and was doing a
“turn,” when in walked the dignified and severe “permanent head,” W. L.
G. Drew. Later in the day, during the very formal interview, Drew said,
“Perhaps you are wasting your talents, Mr. Matthews (“No, no!”), and it
might be better if you resigned from so unworthy a position here (“No, no!”)
and won fame as a nigger minstrel.” (Sobs) I do not guarantee the sobs, but it
was a very wilted “Jack” Matthews who came out fully expecting to receive a
request for his papers.
W. Connah became Under Secretary to the Treasury and later Auditor- General. He
was a genial, kindly soul with a keen sense of humour. When the Morgan- Kidston
political combination was formed and Queensland given a very strong and capable
Government, Kidston went to the Treasury. He was a very able man, but had
“come up,” as they say in the Army, and was not particularly concerned in
the observance of official dignity. He would take his coat off to work, and
order such immensely important people as Under Secretaries about as if they were
ordinary humanity. One day Connah was in his room; it was blazing hot, and a bit
stuffy. Kidston said, “Put up that window, Connah.” Connah didn’t even
turn a hair, but touched the bell for the messenger. That very important person
arrived, and stood waiting orders. Connah said: “The minister wishes you to
put up that window.” Kidston saw the situation, and at once said to the
messenger: “Don’t mind; I’ll do it myself.” And he did. Kidston told me
the story one day when he was describing his breaking in to official routine;
bit it was Connah who told me a sequel. When the messenger had gone out the
Minister said: “Should I call you Connah or Mr. Connah?” The Under Secretary
said, “Oh, don’t worry about the Mister – that is if you feel friendly’
but you had better call the messenger Mister.” Then Connah explained that
dropping the Mister was usually an appreciated informality, adding: “If you
don’t want to put a man on an equal footing you call him Mister.” And
Kidston said, “Yet you call me Mr. Kidston, but Maxwell (of the Burke) and
others call me ‘Wullie.” It took some time to explain that in private
intercourse it would be Kidston, or even “Wullie,” but that officially it
had to be Mr. Kidston. The little talk ended by the Minister saying, “All
right, Connah, but next time I want the window up don’t call the messenger,
I’ll fix it myself.” Despite all that, there was never a keen friendliness
between the Minister and the Under Secretary, and when Kidston found one whom he
considered would make an Under Secretary quite to his liking Connah got the move
to the job of Auditor General, which was a better job. Kidston saw to that.
to the Treasury was the Government Savings Bank, at the head of which I first
remember Thomas W. Wells., a model civil servant – courteous, punctilious in
duty, and in every sense reliable. He lived out at Toowong, and was passing rich
on £400 a year, with the official title of accountant. It will be remembered
that in 1881 £400 a year was quite a big pay. Wells had, I believe, some
banking experience; at any rate he was considered a safe man.
down a list of officers of 1876 and 1881 there are many familiar names, but few
of the bearers survive.
J. Trundle, still going strong, is a son of our old friend Trundle, who was
manager of the Commercial Union Insurance Co. With Tom Welsby’s help he
founded the Brisbane Gymnasium, was a well known athlete, and interstate chess
player, and no mean fiddler – or violinist, if the word is better liked.
Trundle has five sons and a daughter, and three of the sons helped – as the
“digger” says- in the smiting of Fritz and Jacko.
there was Fred. Hely, a nephew of the judge, now Colonel Hely, who was one of
the smartest of our artillery officers. He beat his sword into a pen, and until
lately had a post in the Savings Bank. Though – because of “youth and
inexperience”- not getting off to the big war, he was worthily represented.
there was Alfred Nightingale, who joined the Savings Bank service in 1860, and
was one of the good salaried men in the early eighties. He was a very fine
authority on the early days, and was a Humpybong pioneer. It is good to know
that some of the old boys of the Treasury and the Savings Bank are with us
still, and it may be observed that “Charley” Miles came along in the Savings
Bank after Wells had gone from the service. There was another Savings Bank man
who ran back to 1874, and who later became an engineering draftsman in the
Railways Department, Ernest G Barton, always rather slight physically, but keen
and energetic. Yet the old faces are going – soon all will be gone. I don’t
think any public department in Australia has been more ably and more loyally
served than the Queensland Treasury.