THE BLACK POLICE IN QUEENSLAND
REMINISCENCES OF OFFICIAL WORK
AND PERSONAL ADVENTURES IN
THE EARLY DAYS OF THE COLONY
BY EDWARD B. KENNEDY
“Far as the breeze can bear
The billows’ foam, survey our Empire.”
I venture to think that the following account of some of my early Colonial experiences may interest the British Public, and also my old friends of those days.
The first, because everything connected with our Colonies has excited unusual interest since the opening of the South African War, and Queensland, Great Britain and Ireland’s youngest and perhaps most progressive possession, has, together with her sister Colonies, come nobly and grandly to the front at the Call to Arms.
The second, because these reminiscences, slightly to paraphrase an old song, will remind “Old bushmates of days that are past,” of “Sunny days- our later Queensland toast.
The two pen-and-ink drawings speak for themselves, but a pathetic interest is added to them from the fact of their having been executed by the hand of the late Sir Frank Lockwood. During a visit home, connected with business, I mentioned to him, then Mr. Lockwood, that I had got along fairly well with the black “boys.” Also, that having visited New Zealand for a few days, I had been informed that the Maoris were “now quite civilised.” The result was that I received the two humorous illustrations bearing the artist’s remarks which appear at p 266.
I am indebted to Messrs. J. Spiller, P. Mennell, and Hubert Garroway for many of the photographs of “The Black Police of Queensland” which have been reproduced to illustrate this book. Those referring to the 1860s are from originals given to me in those old days; old pictures which I have never thought would reproduce, but in my publisher’s hands they have come out as clearly and truthfully as on the day they were first taken.
The photographs of Chillagoe, District of Cairns, I insert to give an idea of what some portions of a rocky barrier in Queensland are like, for I have never been so far north. Chillagoe lies some thousand miles northwest of Brisbane.
This district is famous for its stalacite caves and waterfalls; one of the latter, named “The Barron,” has a fall seven hundred feet.
Though in two or three cases I have not given the real names of certain individuals, and in one instance, have altered the locality of a district, yet the incidents throughout these pages are my own experiences. Where I quote, I mention the fact, as in Chapter XI. As stated, I heard the account from Blake’s own lips.
So I launch my story of the Land of the Queen, where I spent some of my earliest and happiest days.
EARLY DAYS IN QUEENSLAND
Early days in Queensland – Colonial Experience – Somerset Land Sale- “Tickets for Soup”- Visit to a Cattle Station- My Friend the Parson- Tame Blacks- A Sable Orator- A Glance at the Duties of the Queensland Native Police- The Gentleman “Cabby.”
Queensland has nobly come forward, together with her sister Colonies, to fight for the old country during the present war; and as I have lived there for some years during the period of her earlier history- she separated from New South Wales in 1859, whilst I landed in Moreton Bay in 1864- I feel that I may offer at the present date a few notes concerning the history of the Colony during those early days and further place on record certain incidents and experiences which befell me, especially during the time which I served in the more northern parts of the Colony in the Native Mounted Police, or “Black Police,” for by this name the force was often known. In the reminiscences, I by no means rely entirely upon memory, for I still retain my old Queensland diaries, together with some official papers connected with the force in which I served.
I will describe this force, together with the life I led in it, more fully in subsequent chapters, and though I have some of my old Slater’s diaries to fall back upon, yet I can remember without external aid many scenes, incidents, and names of men, connected with those days better than I can sometimes call to mind events of last week and people’s names of later periods. I take it that the simple reason is that a “new chum,” having landed in a new country and not long out of his teens has every incident vividly and lastingly impressed on his memory.
It is obvious that great changes have occurred in this go-ahead Colony since the 1860s. Civilisation has made enormous strides, and a vast extent of country, especially the coast line extending right up to the Gulf, is now under tillage. Most of this was formerly waste land.
During the many years that I have been at home, I have so often been questioned as to the area of Queensland, and what the life was like, that I will endeavour to put into writing answers to these and other questions, which, in all important details, will apply to the present year of Grace.
It is not an idle boast to state that Queensland is one of the largest of the British Colonies, possessing as it does an area of 668,000 square miles- five times the size of the United Kingdom. The Colony comprises the whole northeastern portion of the Australian continent. It may also be remarked that some of the settlements in the interior are over 600 miles from the capital, Brisbane. This will give some idea of the extent of country within her limits.
The population on December 31st, 1867, was 100,000, and on December 31st, 1899, 512,604.
When the emigrants first came out under the agency of Mr. Jordan, labour was in great demand- in fact, for a longtime the supply was not equal to the demand, so large were the orders from the country. Some of the emigrants brought money with them, and commenced business in the towns, so that houses and land rents advanced, and buildings were put up; but the temporary prosperity- for so it could only be called- which existed at the time, was mainly due to the expenditure of borrowed capital in the construction of public works. Many of these public works were certainly of doubtful necessity, but any permanent benefit, with a view to consolidating the Colony, and giving inducement to the people to settle on the lands, was scarcely thought of. Those who attempted farming at that time were ruined- not ruined from natural causes, but because the land laws of that period obliged the farmer to spend all his capital at one fell blow in purchase money and fencing.
Emigrants still poured in with every ship, but latterly, during the 1860s, and shortly before emigration was stopped, of what class? Chiefly the refuse and scum of London and the manufacturing towns, who landed on Queensland shores totally devoid both of capital and character. I think I saw the biggest lot of roughs landed in a port north of Brisbane that I had ever seen in my life, trooping out of a ship. They were no sooner ashore than they formed rings in the one street of the township and stripped to fight; whilst in the bars of the settlement, they relieved the inhabitants of their watches and money, merely to show their proficiency, however, and “how it was done,” for they immediately returned the spoil to their owners. One man told me it was a very interesting experiment, but “paltry easy, ‘cos, you see, ‘taint pocket-pickin’; you carries your paper money and watches on your belts.”
About the time that influences such as these were in themselves injuring the Colony, the Government supplies were suddenly stopped by the failure of the Agra and Masterman’s banks, followed by the suspension of the Bank of Queensland, which caused the failure of numbers in both town and country, not only crippling the Government, but causing thousands to lose appointments, and suddenly stopping almost all the salaries. A reckless system had been going on of working on credit, and, of course, all this was sufficient and more than sufficient to bring on the serious consequences which ensued, and in Brisbane there was even an attempt at a bread riot. It was the old story of a new country, and when the smash came, the Colony found itself with a numerous unemployed and destitute population, a variety of expensive public works unfinished, an empty exchequer, and a heavy debt.
However, the tide turned at last, no matter how sluggishly, and a slight change for the better took place. The check had the effect of inducing many persons to reduce their indebtedness before undertaking fresh liabilities, and thus producing a sounder and more healthy state of trade.
The facilities which the insolvency laws afforded for applying the “white-washing” process in an easy manner encouraged the growth of a class of “mushroom traders,” without capital. This evil cured itself, and people found that it was not always safe to run into debt without being able to pay.
Some progress, too, was made in farming, and it soon proved, by repeated experiments of the most conclusive nature, that Queensland could grow sugar as well and better that the West India Islands, wheat as well as Chili or California, and cotton as well as the southern States of America.
Thus it was evident that the best way to secure the future prosperity of the country was to apply the lands of the Colony to agricultural purposes, and by a liberal land law to induce the people to settle on these lands; thus giving a start to a settled population who, by growing sugar and cotton, wheat, and ordinary farm produce, would save many thousands of pounds sent annually out of the Colony for these articles.
This conviction being energetically advanced by the Press led to the Government passing an Act, which has been superseded by better ones since. This first Act, however, was the first real movement towards redeeming the land in the settled districts from the squatter, and applying it to more profitable purposes; also many miles in the district, some of them set apart for railways, were proclaimed as open for free selection for agricultural purposes.
I think it is hardly necessary to follow up the growth of this grand Colony. Suffice it to say, what every one should be aware of, that Queensland has made giant strides since those days of struggle, and now bids fair, from being the youngest of the Australian colonies, and so favoured by nature, to take a strong lead, especially in the direction of tropical productions.
[I expressed my decided views, shared by all sugar-growers of tropical Queensland, against the present labour policy of the Commonwealth with regard to that crop, in the following letter published in the British Australian of 31 October 1901:
“Sir,-I have followed with interest certain statements in the daily papers connected with the struggle which is now going on in Australia between those on the one hand who wish to retain their sugar plantations as a going concern by means of the coloured labour which they have always employed, on the other by individuals who know but little of the practical working and inner life of the canefields.
How many of these, whose object, if carried out, would spell ruin in the Queensland sugar industry, have ever tried their hand at ‘trashing’ cane themselves in the northern parts of that Colony?
I mention that portion because I was there myself for some years during the sixties, and into the seventies, and growing sugar. But better than my own small experience, I prefer to quote remarks exchanged between myself and one of the greatest and most successful pioneers of sugar in Northern Queensland, Mr. John Spiller, whose plantations were only divided by a river from that of mine and my partner’s, and with whom I have been staying lately in England. We had seen it proved that planting and hoeing cane was deadly enough work for white man, but trashing!-this proved the ‘dead finish.’
It is, of course, an old story for planters, but let the ‘New Chum’ endeavour to picture the following description: A dense jungle of Bourbon or other canes. Overhead, anything from 120 up in the sun. Inside, a furnace of shade, with not a breath of air; but worse was to follow, for every leaf that one tears away of ‘trashes’ liberates a host of invisible spikelets of some description, which fasten upon the skin and set up a horrible irritation.
This subtle dart pierces even the clothing which is worn in those latitudes, but it touches not the velvety epidermis of the naked Kanaka, who laughs at such work, and is as much in his element in this suffocating prickly thickets as he would be were he sporting instead in the river near by.
One case in point will suffice, and can be proved up to the hilt, were proof required. Some forty white men, diggers out of work, came to the plantation of my friend and asked for a job at anything. The place was full up with hands, and they were told so, but were also informed that they might as extra men try ‘trashing’ if so inclined. They jumped at the chance. ‘What! Pulling off leaves and good pay for it!’ But in a few days out they came and begged for any other job in the world. They then exposed their arms, chests, and backs, and wished further to exhibit their legs. Their whole bodies were in a state of inflamed eruption.
There is no exaggeration in these statements, and let any one deny them who can.
Now, ‘Australia for the White Man,’ is a good and sound enough motto, generally speaking, but let an exception be made on plantations, which, by the employment of coloured labour chiefly, can thus only be made to pay at all. I say, chiefly, because, after all, is not one white man required for every three blacks? Do not by a mistaken policy ruin the sugar pioneers of the grand Colony of Queensland. Spoil not your ship for want of a penn’orth of dark paint!
E. B. Kennedy.”
It was during the sixties that a great rush was made by both large and small capitalists to buy Government land. These allotments were situated in towns and their suburbs, also on the coast and inland districts, often where there was no sign of a settlement, but where the Government surveyors had been at work, and the land subsequently advertised for sale. Sometimes, after selling the land, the Government would desert the site of the settlements which they had put up to auction. I give a case to exemplify this. On April 4, 1865, the first sale of Crown lands for the new settlement of Somerset took place in Brisbane. Somerset lies on the eastern side of Cape York, the most northern point of Australia, about eleven degrees south of the equator. The lots offered, seventy in number, were all town lots and were bought up with great eagerness at a very great advance on the upset price, which was fixed at £20 per acre. It averaged £149 per acre!
Such was the excitement in connection with this sale that two old squatters of my acquaintance came hurrying out from England to be in time for the bidding, for was not Somerset to be the coaling depot and chief place of call for the Torres Straits line of steamers, and to be a free-trade port into the bargain?
And the result? Shortly after the sale, and before anything further was done, the Government shifted the port of call to Thursday Island and entirely dropped Somerset, owing to the fact, so we were told, that the harbour of the latter place was unsuitable for ships, which fact, one might think, could have been discovered before the sale. I have the names of all the purchasers, seventy in number, self included, and should be very glad to know whether any one holding title deeds of this Somerset Crown land sale could afford any information in the matter. It was indirectly owing to this rush for land which caused me to sail from England at the time I did, for one of the squatters before mentioned, whom I knew, suggested we should travel by the same ship. So we came out in one of the grand full-rigged clipper ships of that period, making the run from London to Moreton Bay in eighty-four days.
I cannot say that my first experiences on arriving in Brisbane were encouraging. I had brought out the usual “tickets for soup,” better known as letters of introduction. The first one which I made use of introduced me to a pecuniary loss- a debt which I have long since “written off.” My idea of what constitutes a gentleman is thus summed up- a man who acts fairly to his fellow creatures- who, in fine, “plays the game.” No matter of what his birth or parentage consists, that man is a gentleman. But the “new chum” in any Colony often finds that his old country opinion is quite old-fashioned and erroneous classification. For all that, when he has once been bitten at an early age, provided that the wound is not deep, it will do him good and make him more careful all the rest of his life.
My case can be stated very shortly. Armed with my letter, I was received most kindly and graciously by him to whom it was addressed- a man of good old English birth. One evening at dessert, he turned to me with a benevolent smile.
“A splendid chance is just open for a young man like you to advance me a few hundreds, for which I pay you a good interest, and, besides, give you a mortgage over the whole of my vineyards.”
Here was indeed a good opening. I rose to it! Jumped at it! Signed and sealed the matter then and there, and the next day strolled in to a solicitor of the town, with the intention of leaving the rest of the business in his hands.
“Well, you are a young soft! Why in thunder didn’t you come to me before you ‘parted’?” he stormed out, when he heard my story. “You have not got the first mortgage, I know for certain, and I doubt if you’ve even the second.”
So it proved. I received some small interest paid irregularly; at length this ceased, and I stand a loser to the end of time for the greater part of my first investment. So I put away the rest of my “tickets,” and determined to go up country at the first opportunity. As luck would have it, I made the acquaintance of a genial squatter at the Queensland Club, who asked me to stay a few days on his station, which was situated some miles from Ipswich. Together we proceeded, doing the first part of the journey by steamer up the “Brisbane,” or, rather, the “Bremer,” River, as it is called above the capital, and the latter part on horseback.
This was my first experience on a cattle station, and I spent a most enjoyable time in the society of my host and his family in their beautiful broad verandahed house, covered as it was with gorgeous creepers; the gardens teeming with fruit and vines. Kangaroos, which every new hand wishes to shoot, were plentiful, and I killed two fine ones the first day I went out with a sort of revolver rifle which was lent me; but I found out that, though my friends were glad enough that I should kill plenty, yet they did not want any portion of those marsupials, not even the tails, so I shot no more. I remember that the old squatter was extremely pleased that I always cleaned his rifle, for he said that his experience was that “new chums” never took any care of his weapons.
Returning to Brisbane, I became associated with a young parson, who had had some experience amongst the blacks of Victoria, but knew nothing of the Queensland aborigines. So, as I wished to see “blacks at home,” having so far only met with a specimen or so on a station, or the ever-present town loafer begging for “baccy,” we decided to ride off together and find a camp of natives, who, we were informed, were peaceably disposed and partly civilised, in the neighbourhood. Starting early one morning down the Sandgate Road, on two sorry jades which we hired from some livery stables, we reached the encampment by midday, following the course of a river according to the instructions given to us.
My companion was an individual who combined the qualities of modesty with manliness, a pleasing combination in any country. He informed me during the ride that he had only lately arrived in Queensland, but that he hoped to remain some time, and that his object was to go amongst the blacks of the Colony, and, by first learning what he could of the language, endeavour to gain their confidence and try to do them good in various ways, in which also a little knowledge of medicine that he possessed would prove helpful. Since writing this, I hear that that grand missionary, the Rev. Chalmers of New Guinea, has been killed in a tribal war in that island; a man who was beloved by all who knew him, by every one who had read the incidents of his life, and the reason I mention him here is because my companion, in our quest of the black fellows’ camp, stated that he was going to take Chalmers as an example of how to approach aborigines at the outset; thus, not to commence by preaching or tuition, though a modicum of this might follow when confidence had been established and the language mastered. In fine, that the system which had been pursued in the part of Victoria with which he was acquainted had only ended by the black fellows learning everything that was taught them like so many parrots, with the result that no lasting good was effected, so he intended trying another plan.
When we arrived at the camp we received appalling proof that some of these statements applied as much to the Queensland as to the Victorian black.
Men and women, clad for the most part in scanty old skirts, came running out to greet us, and it was at once evident that the appearance of my mate in his clerical attire had caused great excitement. A black fellow’s eyes are everywhere, and he takes in everything at a glance. The natives guessed rightly that I was a new arrival in the Colony, and as my companion had approached the camp by another route to mine, they probably thought that we were unacquainted with each other. At all events, a black fellow came up to me, as I happened to be the first up, and placing his hand gently on the bridle of my horse, nodded his head in the direction of my friend, with “That fellow priest?” I agreed; upon which, sinking his voice to a mysterious and hoarse whisper, he proceeded-“Budgery. That fellow like it put on shirt over trousel, get a top o’ waddy, and yabber ‘bout debil, debil;” which, rendered in plain English, reads-“Good. That man puts his shirt on over his trousers, gets top of wood, or pulpit, and talks about devil, devil.”
Before I could make any remark upon this new and startling manner of describing a preacher, the whole mob of blacks, who had been listening to the information vouchsafed me, commenced to dance about with joy at having a parson in their midst; and we soon found out the reason, for my instructor, signing to the others to be quiet, struck an attitude, then turned to his reverence with an air of pride and satisfaction, and thus addressed him: “You give mine tixpence mine say lorsprer tin commands budgery quick all same white fellow,” which meant “Give me sixpence, I’ll say the Lord’s prayer and ten commandments splendidly quick as a white man does in church.” Then, without a moment’s hesitation, he rattled off like lightning, as far as we could follow him, a page or so of the Church Service, throwing in a few responses here and there. The parson looked grave, as the black, the very second he had concluded, held out his hand for sixpence, and, upon the coin being refused him, evidently considered tha the had not spoken his piece fast enough, for he called up another member of his tribe, saying as he pushed him forward, “This fellow cabon quick one shillin’.” “This man very quick, one shilling.”
The last fellow was throwing himself into an attitude and filling his lungs preparatory to a violent effort, when I gave them sixpence each to “move on.” This, however, was taken without any show of thanks, and they observed that they always had more for repeating their lessons. Then, seeing that we were obdurate, the first orator approached close to my companion, a happy thought having evidently struck him, and putting on a dignified expression said, “See mine yabber along big fellow hat?”
The fact was that in those days the custom was still prevalent amongst certain of the older members of a congregation, upon entering a church, to put up their tall hats and say a little prayer into them. The blacks had witnessed this ceremony, and, I believe, were honestly endeavouring to please the member of the Church present by showing him that they were well acquainted with his doctrine.
An old and battered tall hat had been produced, for the blacks often sported this article of attire when entering the towns, but we told them to drop it, and ended by examining the weapons and possum skins with which the camp was strewed, eventually buying a few curios for which we doubtless paid an abnormal price, but there was not much of interest in the collection.
The parson was sad as we rode homewards; he said that this mockery of religion was evidently kept up by low white men who wished to make sport of these wretched black fellows. And subsequent experience proved to me that these half-tamed, loafing blacks were of little account, being lazy and given to begging for money, which goes at once in drink, though it is against the laws to supply them with liquor.
When we parted, he told me that there was evidently no field for him amongst the specimen natives around the towns, but that he should go amongst the wild blacks. He was a good man, but if there had been a hundred as earnest as he was, little or no good would have come to their efforts, as subsequent experience amongst the aboriginals proved to me.
I saw something of blacks on the stations later on. These men were not contaminated by the vices of a town and proved useful enough in a way, but they could not be depended upon for regular work. Admirable as they were for tracking lost cattle or strayed horse, and for shepherding, being well fed and cared for at the same time, yet they had a way of suddenly disappearing when most wanted, sometimes for good, at others for weeks at a time.
There were exceptions to this, and they have been known to stay by their masters and remain faithful for years; but as a rule, they are restless, and often have proved treacherous by bringing up members of their tribe to the station, when at a given signal, they have suddenly fallen upon the white men, and in this way, murdered whole families. The native Mounted Police are then quickly on the spot, follow up the miscreants by the trail they leave behind, and punish them according to their desserts.
These police consist of a force which is spread in small detachments over the out-lying districts. There are some six or more black troopers, or “boys” as they are called, in each detachment, with a white officer in command.
Barracks of a rough but comfortable nature are placed in certain centres a long way from each other, and the duties of the force consist of patrolling stations within their districts and ascertaining whether the owners of these have any complaints to make in connection with the aborigines; also to seek for any one who may be lost in the bush-in fact, to protect the settlers generally. All the “boys” are picked trackers, they are well horsed, and are supplied with uniform. These uniforms are discarded when on the warpath, then their costume consists of a brown skin and a belt. As weapon, they each carry a carbine.
I came across one of these small contingents on one occasion at an out-station, and accompanied them on their patrol for a few days, and though no incident worthy of record occurred on this occasion, I found the free and roving life so fascinating that I determined then and there that I would some day enlist as a member of the force. Later on in my Colonial career, I found my hopes realised, and the later pages of this journal are almost entirely devoted to my experiences whilst serving in the Native Mounted Police of Queensland. So I will say no more on the subject now.
We have all heard of the man who landed on a distant shore with the proverbial half-a-crown in his pocket; I found him, though not in such a state of impecuniosity as he described his condition to be when he first touched the shore of Queensland.
Curiously enough, It proved that I knew all about his early career by report. My acquaintance with him happened in this way. There were a few hansom cabs in Brisbane when I arrived there; and one day I was lounging on the verandah of one of the hotels, “The Queens,” I think it was called, when a very spruce cab was driven up and the-cabby I was going to say-but rather the officer who drove it jumped down, took out the well fed horse that was in the shafts, led it into a shed nearby, rubbed it down, washed, dried, and fed it, then tied it up under the shade of a tree and proceeded to keep the flies off it with a whisk which he produced from the cab.
These proceedings, coupled with the appearance of the driver, were so unlike anything I had seen in Piccadilly, that I determined to go for a drive.
As for hailing such a Jehu, so gross a proceeding never entered my mind. On closer inspection, I saw that he was a good-looking man of about thirty, though the lines on his face betokened some years of a hard life in a hot country. With the exception of a well-kept moustache, he was clean shaved and dressed in an immaculate suit of white duck. I should have put him down as a retired military man, but it proved that he had belonged to the sister service.
“How much to Breakfast Creek?” I asked, as I patted his horse.
“Oh, anything you like,” he answered with a pleasant smile. “I see you like the mare, and ‘Kitty’ wants to stretch her legs, I’ll put to and then you jump in.”
It did, and the mare, at the sound of her master’s voice, fairly flew into her collar and raced down that Breakfast Creek road in a manner that set me thinking, for it was my first, and what proved to be my sharpest, experience of a hansom cab at the Antipodes. I Saturday tight and smoked, as we bounded over ruts and roots of gum trees, for the roads were too new in the sixties to be entirely level. The mare never broke her trot the whole distance. At length, when one of the wheels was in a straight line with a huge stump, I was thinking of making a suggestion in a loud voice, for we were creating a great wind, when the trap was flung open and a beaming face appeared as the driver roared out “stand by.” I had just time to see that the off wheel had cleared the stump by about half an inch, when I was thrown partly off my seat as the mare was brought up suddenly on her haunches, to a full stop at the gate of the little hotel.
True to my home instincts, I asked, “What is the fare?”
“Oh, damn the expense,” was all the answer I received; and then, jumping off his perch. He resumed, “I’ll just see to old Kitty, and then I’m going to shout,” which means, to those unacquainted with Colonial slang, “I’m going to stand drinks.”
So I stepped into the bar, and was presently joined by my driver, who, after calling for refreshments, said:
“You see, I love that mare, she’s all in the world to me. I don’t often send her along that pace; she wanted to go, so I let her rip. I only carry that whip for show. What did you come out for? I see you’re a new hand; you’re right to be under the old flag.”
However, he did not wait for an answer to his question. It was evident that he wished rather to speak of himself, for he continued:
“My name is Payne-Jack Payne-I was a junior officer aboard one of Her Majesty’s ships at the siege of Sebastopol. The I left the service, and after a lot of ups and downs, worked my passage out here and came ashore at Moreton Bay, with two shillings and some pence in my pocket, all in coppers-what I had cleared, in fact, the night before landing, at nap. Then I sawed wood at a Brisbane boarding-house for a week, and so got free rations. After this, I helped a ‘bullock puncher’-anglice bullock driver-with his team far up into the back blocks; landed at a fine station, and there broke in horses for a couple of years or so. Ah! He was a grand old boss I had there. I turned out some fine ‘buggy cattle’-horses to draw buggies- for him too, and when I left he gave me one of them. Yes, I made some dollars at that place,” he concluded, with a sigh, as he drained his glass.
“A pity that you did not stop on,” I suggested.
“So it was,” he agreed, as he eyed me keenly. ‘Fact was some of the young hands there were a bit jealous; they thought a lot of my riding though.” Then, after a pause, he went on, “I don’t mind telling you, it’s thundering hot, thirsty work breaking in horses, and perhaps I lifted my elbow once too often, but I was always ‘right’ when I had a horse in hand. Ah! It was a cruel blow to the whole station when I told them I must go. Then I turned cabby down here, and mean to stick to it as long as I can make enough money to keep Kitty and myself.”
Meantime, I had been racking my brains as to where I had heard my companion’s name before, and now it suddenly all came back to me, so first giving him my own name, I told him that I had seen his in a private journal, coupled with the phrase, “I never heard of him again,” and that he had served in the same man-of-war as my brother.
“Done with you, old man, so I did,” he shouted, as he jumped off the bar counter, where he had perched himself the better to watch his mare through the window. “Shake hands- have another- now for a good old yarn.”
But we did not stay long, as I had to get back to the hotel, to which he drove me leisurely, as I had begged him to. He had no false pride about him and would not accept a brass farthing for his services on this occasion. However, it was made up to him afterwards, for a friend and myself subsequently took him and his cab on several trips into the bush. These were over execrable roads where he had chiefly to walk his Kitty, at a note (£1) a day. We went for the purpose of collecting birds, specially seeking the “Rifle” bird of Paradise. These picnics were most enjoyable under the guidance of such a good-hearted fellow as he proved himself, especially in the care and affection he bestowed on his horse. Finally, I may repeat the wording of the old journal, that after I left Brisbane, “I never heard of him again.”
Concerning Social Matters
Industry of the Settlers
Trip to Moreton Bay
So far I had made no serious attempt with regard to cutting a line for myself in the Colony. Perhaps my first experiences had exercised a certain amount of prudence in the matter, and I argued to myself that if a man loafs for a period amongst the right sort of folk, he picks up many hints which are sure to be of service to him in the days that follow. I found that every one was most hospitable and kind, and that without introductions being presented to them- probably because of that fact.
I enjoyed most pleasant times at Government House, the then Governor being the late Sir George Bowen. Amongst others, I met here many of the squatters and wool kings of the Colony, men who showed hospitality of the free and hearty nature which specially obtains in Australia; and, later on, under Governor Blackall’s régime friends and myself had the privelege of accompanying him in his “specials” up country; also of exploring Moreton Bay and the numerous creeks in the Kate steamer.
As a set out, “Colonial experience,” was thus rendered both easy and fascinating. Besides this, during spare hours, I used to pay visits to the poorer class of settlers around the town, and to the richer farms of fruit and vegetables in the neighbourhood. The industry of the smaller settlers, at the time of which I write, consisted chiefly of growing fruits of the earth for the local markets. Their log houses were rough, and roofed with bark or zinc, as were, in fact, most of the houses of Brisbane and other towns; but their soil was virgin soil. Many a settler, both in southern and tropical Queensland, owed much to Mr. Hill, who was then curator of the Brisbane Botanical Gardens and also to the Acclimatization Society, for his success in cultivation, owing to the advice he received, and the consignments of suitable plants and trees which were sent him from these institutions.
One of the best sources of information, especially to a new-comer, consists in his studying the local newspapers; and a letter which I read in the Brisbane Courier sent me off to an old established fruit farm at Boggo Road, near Brisbane, where I saw fruit grown by the acre. The letter read as follows:
Pines. “I send you the result of my twenty years’ experience of the uses and value of this delicious fruit. First- pineapples can be preserved at a cost of 5s per dozen for exportation to any part of the world. Second- the juice from one dozen of pineapples will make three bottles of rich, pure, wine, worth 1s 6d per bottle. The fruit, after taking away the juice will make six pounds of jam preserve, and the peels alone will yield three bottles of cider. Third- sixty pounds of pineapples (about three dozen), at a cost of 5s, will yield one gallon of alcohol, worth (at least) 17s, giving a net profit of 4s per dozen. Brandy manufactured from the pineapple is far superior in flavour to brandy made from the grape; but the common still now in use is unsuited to the successful conversion of the pineapples into alcohol, as there exists a deleterious acid in the pineapple which the common still cannot extract.”
The writer of this letter evidently possessed the secret of extracting, for the best proof, that of taste, assured me that his brandy was a nutty liqueur of delicious flavour. His idea, he told me, was to form a company.
Excellent pines were selling at the time of which I write at 3d a dozen.
The Queenslander was a weekly newspaper which I took in during my residence in the Colony. It was established in 1866. I sued sometimes to have my little “say” in it, and lately, the editor published a letter from me, concerning the “Palmer.” This is a tropical fish, and as there was a discussion in a Queenslander of 1901 as to the origin of the name, I settled the matter by sending a letter to the editor giving my reasons for so naming the fish, and stating that I had the honour of being the first to effect his capture with rod and salmon fly, which letter he printed.
Amongst other excursions I went with a shipmate of mine to Moreton Bay on a camping-out expedition. My last experience of living under canvas had been whilst shooting around the Paarl- Cape of Good Hope- in 1863. But each Colony has its own little, or rather important, way in connection with tent life, so that on this occasion, I gladly availed myself of the services of one “Pablo,” a Malay fisherman who knew every yard of the bay. We started in a rowing boat from the Brisbane wharf, and dropped down the river during one of those bright July days that occur during the unrivalled winter of Queensland; we rowed until the mouth of the river was reached, then up sail and steered for King Island. Here we made a large fire and rigged our tent under the lee of a scrub, close to high-water mark. The might was bitterly cold.
The next day we made Dunwich. This is an establishment kept up by the Government for old shepherds and other people who can no longer help themselves. From there, we eventually made our point, and a long sail it was, to “Flat” rock in the southern channel. Here we had excellent sport with hooks and lines, for in three hours we pulled up some two hundred large schnapper, also two groper-one of these latter weighed forty pounds.
Whilst camped in another part of the Bay, we received a visit from the chief warders of the convict island of St. Helena; they had made us out with their glasses and brought a most acceptable present of butter, eggs, and milk, from the superintendent, Mr. McDonald, who keeps the convicts employed cultivating cane and making sugar.
Before we left the Bay to return home, we paid a visit to H.M.S. Blanche, which was anchored there, by the invitation of her captain, and spent a most pleasant time, as one always does on board a man-of-war.
So far chiefly amusement, and it occurred to me that it was high time to ask oneself the question- “Why come eighteen thousand miles and more, simply to gad about and amuse oneself?”
The question was answered by my mate after we had returned to Brisbane. “Let us go north,” he said, “and look about.” No sooner said than done. We were both free agents, and packing, which requires much forethought and brain work at home, did not trouble us a little bit. It consisted of throwing sundry “slops,” as ready-made clothing was called, into a couple of leather bags, when we took the first steamer bound for the northern ports, my first advance towards entering the Native Police, though ‘twixt this and then I experienced a bit more. Colonial experience. I will first repeat more fully the “why and the wherefore” of the corps of “Black Police.”
Fuller description of the Native Mounted Police
More Colonial Experience
“Australia has been won by a hundred years of bloodshed.”
So I have heard more than one old squatter aver, and there is truth in the statement. The aborigines in all countries naturally fight for their rights, so in Australia they treated the first white men as enemies, and began by murdering inoffensive shepherds.
We Britons, with good reason, determined to develop and populate this magnificent island continent, and as time went on we organised a force of Native Mounted Police in the new Colony of Queensland, for the purpose of protecting outside settlers from the raids of the blacks.
These troopers were drawn from various tribes which inhabited the more settled districts. They were commanded by white officers, and distributed in small squads in various outlying parts of the country.
The barracks for the officers were built of logs and roofed with bark. The troopers, or “boys,” as I shall continue to call them, had “gunyahs,” or huts, of their own outside the main building. These gunyahs were practically sheds of bark open to the air all round, for a native catches cold, or even consumption, if he has to sleep in tents or under the white man’s roof.
As I served in the force during a portion of the early sixties, I will endeavour to describe as accurately as possible the sort of life we led, and the duties we had to perform.
I have nothing so thrilling to communicate as fights with bushrangers; for those lively gentry confined their attentions to the older and richer parts of the Colonies; but of adventure and incident, I had my fair share, and will here set down my experiences. At the same time it will be obvious to any Queenslander of those days that some episodes connected with the doings of the force cannot be published. Events happened which were unavoidable, and the “boys” got beyond control in certain circumstances. There was a special instance of this when an officer of theirs was speared to death. This event happened not many miles from our own camp, soon after I joined.
By the way, this poor fellow met his death owing to his own want of judgment and experience, for he had formed his camp on the edge of a dense scrub, the most dangerous of all situations. Had he, for want of a better place, pitched his tent inside the thicket, it would have been safer, as spears and other wooden weapons cannot be wielded to any advantage in such a place.
The blacks rushed the camp at daylight-the “boys” were asleep as usual, and their officer was speared in his tent.
It must be borne in mind by those who are not “in the know,” that these half-civilised natives, now turned into troopers, were enlisted from different tribes, and for that reason, the white man who commanded them was safe, as all tribes were and are practically at war with each other, and not only was he safe, but I can say that a strong feeling of friendship was engendered between master and man. This was the more marked when in the wilds of the bush, and completely cut off from civilisation; the “boys” would not only protect their officer from hidden danger, but would also thoughtfully provide him with little luxuries in the shape of fish or game.
But I am bound to admit that they failed, in spite of all warnings, in one important matter; they would not keep watch at night. In spite of the best intentions, a few minutes after supper would find them stretched around their tiny camp fires buried in a profound slumber, their heads under the blanket which each man carried on his horse whilst patrolling.
Before entering the Police, I had been through a very usual experience incidental to “new chums,” which I will touch upon lightly. I was first drafted on to a sheep station, which was situated some miles inland from the township of Gladstone, to do some “foot rotting,” but, however interesting and intellectual an occupation this might have proved, I was never able to judge, for soon after I had set to work in paring sheep’s diseased toes, the station “bust up.”
After this I helped to “overland” cattle. Here was rather more excitement in watching round the fires at night, and endeavouring to avoid hostile meetings with the blacks. One incident, however, in connection with this overlanding I must not omit to mention, if only to prove that a man should not be waked up too roughly. We had lit the fires as usual one night round the cattle to prevent their breaking away. “An old hand”-anglice, old convict-whom we dubbed Jonah, had been watching at one of these fires, and had then fallen asleep. During the day we had seen many tracks of blacks, of whom Jonah stood in special dread.
A new chum, who had lately joined our party, in going his rounds, had thought it a great joke to paint the face of the sleeping beauty with a bit of burnt wood. There was probably a spark left in the fire stick; anyhow, Jonah, on feeling the touch, sprang to his feet yelling “Black fellows!” whipped out his revolver and shot the young joker. The ball went through the fleshy part of his thigh, and we had to invalid him to the nearest station, some fifty miles away.
Since witnessing this near approach to a tragedy, I have always endeavoured to wake any one gently, even in the old country, so strong is the feeling imbued within me to “Let sleeping dogs lie.”
Having arrived at our destination after some two months of crawling work, we found that the cattle we had charge of were going to be seized by the agent of a Bank, for an overdraft, we presumed, but did not stay to enquire, and having received our pay, we dispersed.
Before we had got rid of these cattle, rumours had reached us that most promising gold diggings had “broken out” in the neighbourhood of Maryborough, a coast township situated between the twenty-fourth and twenty-sixth degree of south latitude, and whilst casting about for something to do, after being paid off, we found that these rumours resolved themselves into actual fact, for we learnt from reliable men, travellers who had lately been in the Wide Bay district, that a great rush had set in to the spot indicated. There is a great fascination in the term “diggings,” especially was it so to one, like myself, who had never been on them. It meant gold, and though I had no thought of procuring any of the precious metal amongst a rush of old diggers, still I should surely see it in its native state.
The chief line of coasting steamers of the time belonged to the Australian Steamship Navigation Company. I made many trips in these boats during my sojourn in Queensland, and thus became acquainted with the genial and worthy skippers; a photographic group representing four of these officers, I still possess: Captains Chatfield, Champion, Cottier and Quayle.
Therefore, rather than miss a chance of seeing gold being mined, a friend and myself placed our small amount of luggage on board one of these boats, and prepared to do our small share and “rush” with the rest. The steamer was crammed, and we had to shake down as best we could for two or three nights.
Having completed the sea part of the journey, we took horses, another friend joined us, and together we proceeded, as recorded in my journal of the time.
THE DIGGINGS- GYMPIE CREEK
The Diggings- Gympie Creek
Descriptive of Gold Mines and their Working
“A Roll Up” – John Chinaman
The Surgeon Rushed
The Gympie Creek diggings, situated on and about the Mary River, and, roughly speaking, about one hundred miles from Brisbane and fifty from Maryborough, may be looked upon as the richest gold field that up to this time has been discovered in the Colony, and “breaking out” as they did during a periodof most severe commercial depression, in 1867, these diggings may be said to have almost entirely saved Brisbane from utter insolvency; but for their discovery many of its business men would have gone into the Insolvency Court, whereas they have now branch stores on the diggings doing a thriving trade.
When these diggings were some few months old, I visited them in company with friends- there were then from nine to ten thousand men on them. We started from the interior of the Burnett district, during one of the hottest and driest summers that had been known there; our entire journey, therefore, was a very hot and dusty one, but taking into consideration the dryness of the season, we found the country both well grassed and watered.
Sometimes our track took us over barren ridges growing stunted iron-bark trees, and covered with stones, with here and there pieces of quartz cropping up; sometimes through tracts growing silver-leaved iron-bark and stunted blood-wood, sure signs of good country, whilst the “flats” looked amazingly green in contrast with the surrounding country; here the grass and the common fern grew luxuriantly, reminding one of a park in the old country, until, looking up, one sees the beautifully green and shady swamp mahogany and “apple” trees, when any distant dreams are quickly dispelled. We also passed through scrubs growing gigantic pine trees. The whole of the road, from beginning to end, was several inches deep in white dust as fine as flour, which obliged us to carefully wash our eyes every evening for fear of “sandy blight.”
Approaching nearer to the diggings we found more bare ridges, growing gums and iron-barks of a great height, and as straight as arrows. Crossing the Mary River, which we found at this point to be a beautiful running stream, whose banks were fringed by luxuriant vine-scrubs, we came upon the first sign of a digging. This was a hole, resembling a grave, sunk in a gully; the earth thrown out was yellow, but the hole had been abandoned, evidently proving in miner’s slang, a “duffer.” All the gullies also within ten miles of the diggings proper showed signs of having been tested; often hundreds of feet below us a heap of reddish earth would mark the spot, like a distant rabbit burrow.
On arriving within some four miles of the diggings, we heard that we were in the neighbourhood of a new “rush”! It being our first visit to the diggings, we wondered whether diggers actually ran across on these occasions; for we could hardly fancy that were even gold the object in view it would be sufficient to make a man run up and down stony gullies, thermometer standing at one hundred and twenty degrees, carrying pick and shovel. We, however, met parties of men walking along off the track, as though nothing unusual had occurred; but subsequent experience showed us that this apathy was only manifest after men had been constantly disappointed by false rumours, and that when the report was verified, they ran as hard as they could, often in their hurry leaving behind blankets, “billies,” picks, and everything, and continuing day and night till the golden spot was reached.
We met a few disappointed diggers returning, but they are always to be found on the best diggings. After quitting some sandy ranges, we came down on to a flat, gullies from other ranges on our left running into it, and thus running out quite shallow. It was at the tail of one of these gullies that we first saw four claims were marked out by means of stakes driven in at the four corners of each claim. Two men were resting in the first hole we looked at, which was only two feet deep. All the other holes in the gully were in the same state, with the exception of one, but this one, at the very tail of the gully, was down twelve or fourteen feet, and a crowd of diggers were round its mouth; these were waiting for the owners to “bottom,” i.e., reach the description of earth which contains the gold, and we were afterwards told that old diggers from the other Colonies frequently made mistakes on these diggings, going right through the bottom, for the auriferous soil differs altogether on different diggings. In this case, some of the earth was carried off in a sack to the nearest water-hole and washed, but was found only to contain the colour, and after trying other claims with the same result, this gully was abandoned.
From this spot to the township, we passed numerous deserted claims, looking like graveyards, with here and there small water-holes the colour and consistency of pea-soup, rendered so by the quantities of dirt that had been washed in them; drays were encamped in all directions, with numerous tents, many of the latter showing their New Zealand origin, by bearing the name “Hokitike Hokitike” upon them. Women and children were cooking; the only men we saw here were stragglers in red shirts and long boots, and a few cutting bark from the iron-bark trees.
Ascending to the summit of a hill, we found ourselves in the town, and at one end of a very long street; and though little more than two months old “Nashville” looked larger than most of the coast towns, and certainly presented a most lively and animated appearance. Stretching along the side of a deep gully it looked something like a foreign town on a great market day. On each side of us trees were being cut down, or their topmost limbs lopped off by a black fellow. Bark humpies, tents, and even flag-staffs were being erected, while many of the houses were of two stories, and shingled- a brass-plate on one bearing the inscription of “Surgeon and Accoucheur.” We learnt that the sites for the shops were secured by payment of £4 for the first year, then, if the digging turns out a success, these sites are offered for competition.
Some little was down the street we came across a gully running right across it and terminating in the main gully, and so closely had the smaller one been worked on each side of the road, that barely sufficient room had been left for a dray to pass between the shafts, which were in many cases sixteen and twenty feet deep. A little temporary shed was erected over the mouth of each shaft; this shelters the man who is winding up the buckets of dirt which his mate fills at the bottom. Each shaft had a large heap of dirt round its mouth, and these were being gradually carried off by one-horse drays to the Mary River, there to be cradled and washed; these drays were earning £3 to £4 a day. We accompanied one dray with its precious load to the river, about a mile distant, passing on our way amongst endless tents and bark humpies, whilst holes were being sunk in every direction. Passing through a few yards of thick scrub overhanging the river, we found ourselves on its banks, at this part very steep. As far as the eye could reach, both up and down the stream, we saw one long line of diggers washing the dirt and rocking their cradles, the water perfectly yellow from the process.
The dray we had accompanied was backed to the brink, and its load tilted down a channel cut in the bank, being thus deposited at the feet of the washers who are usually mates of those who work the claim. All was being carried on with the utmost regularity and decorum, each claim having so many feet of the river to wash in. We counted about thirty drays near us going and returning. Two men and a boy were engaged washing the particular heap that we were interested in. One of them had a long trough filled with water in which he raked the dirt backwards and forwards with a stick, another used the cradle while the boy had the tin dish.
The cradle was placed at the edge of the water, and with short strokes rocked quickly to and for. The upper part being a sieve allows the small stuff to fall through on to a lower shelf, but keeps back the pebbles, and, as we had an opportunity of witnessing in this case, many a plump nugget, which the “cradler” picked out with the most provoking coolness, and carelessly threw into a pint pot at his feet. The boy was occupied in washing the “tailings” of the cradle-“tailings” means the dirt which has undergone one washing and examination. These were washed in a tin dish by its being gently waved round and round in the water till everything is washed out, excepting the gold, which, owing to its weight, remains. We had selected this washing, as the dirt came from a very rich claim, turning out as much as eight ounces to the load, and gold was worth at this period £3 8s an ounce at the Commercial Bank, the only one at the diggings at the time.
Some of the diggers on the Creek were “stacking their dirt,” ie. heaping up a great quantity before carting it to water. We saw one ordinary looking heap which an old digger valued at about £1,000, yet no gold could be seen in it, till washed; but on passing these heaps after a shower of rain, the gold will frequently become visible.
True diggers are a fine set of men, and quiet and orderly as a rule. They always like to see fair play, and have certain rules amongst themselves, which they adhere to most strictly. While they have money, they live on the very best of everything. Their slang is peculiar, and their expressions quaint.
I was one day gazing down a dark shaft, wondering whether any one was there, and as my eyes became accustomed to the gloom, I saw there was a drive at the bottom, and fancying I heard a noise, asked, “Is any one down there?”
“Only a buck rabbit digging a hole for his self,” was the answer, in which I omit a word, referring to the buck, extremely expressive, but scarcely parliamentary. Having received this answer, I was thinking of retreating, when my digger backed out of his hole, and threw me up a nugget with “Not so bad, mate.”
One can hardly understand such confidence displayed towards a total stranger, but in many other instances, I noticed the same trait in their character. This nugget was followed by another, and I returned them by descending his rope. There was barely room for two of us, four feet by two being the proportion of the shaft, and twenty-four feet deep. I was permitted to crawl into the drive and pick out some dirt; and having the luck to find a small nugget weighing about 5 pennyweights, was allowed to retain it. This man was clearing £30 or £40 a week; but from the very short acquaintance I had with the work, I am satisfied alluvial digging is tremendous fatigue- at the bottom of a deep shaft, lying in a hole which just fits one, and picking the earth away with a few inches of one’s face.
In the bottom of the gullies some of the digging was very hard, and we watched a man with his pick working at the rock in a shallow trench, and working steadily too; and on returning the next day he had made but little progress and found no gold, but je persevered and was at length rewarded.
Some remarkable cases have occurred at Gympie of gold-finding. One gentleman, connected with the Government, went there for a holiday, commenced digging, and shortly afterwards turned up the monster nugget of these diggings; it weighed considerably over eight hundred ounces.
It is astonishing with what rapidity the bakers, butchers, and storekeepers flock to the diggings, and we found them not only supplying all the necessaries of life, but also most of its luxuries, and at Gympie nothing was expensive. We stayed at one of the public-houses that was being built, and though too soon for beds, yet we lived as well as we could have done in any town, and as there were no mosquitoes, we managed to sleep very comfortable with a blanket on the ground.
Even at this early period of its history Nashville boasted of a café de Paris and a billiard table. Every evening the town presented a very gay appearance, from the numerous lights hanging from shop fronts and trees on each side of its long, straggling street.
But the night par excellence was Saturday night; the whole length of the street was so full of diggers that we could hardly move at all, and what with singing, swearing, fighting, drinking, bargaining for loaves, beef, and sausages for Sunday’s dinner, the noise was tremendous, while every public-house was crammed with men discussing their various finds, and shouting in the double senses of the word, with “here’s luck,” “here’s fun,” “here’s my opinion of you,” or “to show there’s no coolness,” etc., while they frequently paid for drinks with small samples of gold. In one house we came upon a huge Italian singing selections from the Operas to a delighted audience, who, though they could not understand the style of singing, judging from the remarks they made, evidently appreciated his fine voice.
We entered a music-hall shortly afterwards (one shilling entrance), heard some good songs and recitations, witnessed some fair boxing, and the best step dancer that we had ever before seen performing to the lively tune of two fiddles. On a digging, one often comes across a really good professional, who, failing to be successful in digging, makes money by the exercise of his profession. One favourite vocalist of the diggers used to make his £1 or so a day by “fossicking,” ie., digging here and there, but going to no depth, and at night he attracted crowded houses by his singing.
But what interested us a great deal more than any other branch of the diggings were the quartz reefs, and it is chiefly on the extent and richness of these that the permanency of a digging depends, for good reefs will last for very many years before they are worked out. On the alluvial diggings (dispersed among the quartz reef) men that we knew had worked out their claims and could not get others, but the owners of a good reef may be drawing gold from it for a very long period.
What are known as a “poor man’s diggings” are alluvial, while the reefs require capital to work them.
A gentleman with whom we were acquainted was part owner in one of the richest reefs at Gympie, the “Lady Mary” reef. His shaft was near a deep gully, and he informed us that he first struck the reef by noticing the pieces of quartz lying in a peculiar position in the bank of this gully, and “pointing” in one direction; his shaft was about twelve feet deep, and while we were there it was not being worked, as there was no quartz crushing machine on the diggings, and it is useless to heap up more than a certain quantity of quartz before a machine arrives.
The law in this case is, that a digger must “shepherd” his claim up to twelve o’clock every day- he must be on it, whether working it or not- if he fails to do this any one can “jump” it; by registering the claim, this can be avoided. This shaft was a large open one; two easy drops, and we were at the bottom of it, but not prepared for what we saw. On a sheet of bark being removed, we were failry transfixed with astonishment; the slab of quartz disclosed to view was about a yard and a half long, and about two yards deep. These were not, of course, its natural boundaries; it might go for miles in length and several yards deep, but this was the extent laid bare. This quartz was of a very white description, thus contrasting strongly with the gold, which was scattered all over its surface, chiefly in specks the size of two or three pins’ heads, but sometimes in patches as large as a pea. There was scarcely a square inch of quartz without gold in it. On a piece of the quartz being chipped off, we found the gold inside as thick as ever. So slow were capitalists to believe in the richness of these reefs, that four months after this only one crushing machine had made its appearance on the ground, and this could only crush about thirty tons a week; and many diggers were actually for weeks crushing their quartz by hand in iron mortars. Some specimens of quartz that were shown us were so rich, that after being cracked by a blow, the piece would not separate till it was twisted in two, the gold inside holding it together.
Money can be made in various ways on diggings, apart from digging; but I would warn any one from taking shares in a Quartz Reef Company without great care, and ascertaining every particular by himself direct. On the other hand, a great chance is sometimes lost; a visitor to Gympie was offered a share in a reef for £5 before it was opened; he declined. The reef was opened the same afternoon, and so very rich was the quartz found to be, that he could not then have purchased a share for £100.
Many men did well at the commencement of these diggings by carrying, driving cattle, and sheep, butchering etc but like the diggings themselves, these were soon overdone.
The Government have been latterly forming roads, laying out the town, and extending the telegraph to it. Gympie, though rich, does not extend over a great extent of ground so far, and hundreds have found there is no room, and have had to turn back. Some have been waylaid and murdered by the blacks for the sake of the miserable clothes they have on. One man, having been stripped of his clothes, appeared at a station we were staying at. He had plastered his body over with mud to protect it from the sun.
All the Chinese diggers were chased off by the Europeans during our stay- they numbered six hundred. It certainly was a funny sight to see.
“Roll up, roll up,” we heard roared all through the camp, and at once celestials were flying helter-skelter, taking flying leaps over claims, sometimes into them, when they would be dragged out by their pigtails and cuffed on again. At first they started laden with buckets, pots, bedding, and other gear; gradually this was cast aside as they whirled along with an incessant jabbering, which was only equaled by the oaths and shouts of the pursuing party. Those who had coiled up their pigtails got off easiest, but when that appendage was flying behind, the owner sometimes came to grief, as the waggling tail was too tempting. The Chinese mob eventually out-distanced their pursuers, but “not the six hundred.”
And there was yet another “roll up” after this, in which a professional man nearly lost his life, the surgeon before mentioned, he of the brass plate. A digger who had broken his leg in two places was hauled up from the shaft and lay groaning on the bank; his mates did their best for him by putting up boughs to shield him from the sun, whilst one of their number started off as hard as he could run for the surgeon; but presently this messenger tore back to the group and shouted out:
“The doctor won’t come unless he’s paid first.”
“Won’t he?” rose with a yell; and “roll up” went through the camp with a roar, as every man, with the exception of those left to guard the claims, together with their big dogs, made a rush for the brass-plated house. The doctor just received a warning in time, but showed a further ignorance of the digger nature by firing with a shot gun in the face of the advancing mob. This infuriated them to such a degree that they replied with revolver shots at every window and door of the surgeon’s house; but when they at length broke in, they only found an innocent apprentice, his master having bolted out of the back door.
When the situation was understood, the young medical student was carried off with the utmost kindness, he tended the wounded man till he was well, received a handsome reward, and, furthermore, so pleased the diggers that they set him up as their special doctor.
When we next looked for the house of the brass plate we only found ruins.
A Colonial newspaper stated in May, 1868, that there were within the small area comprising the Gympie gold field, no less than forty-two reefs being worked, and over four thousand ounces of gold were sent down every fortnight to Maryborough, and quoting from the British Australasian of may 9, 1901, I find that the total yield from the Gympie field to the end of 1899 was about two and a half million ounces. The value of the gold produced nearly eight and a half millions pounds sterling.