The Genesis of Toowoomba, Helidon Spa, The probable fate of Leichhardt

The Genesis of Toowoomba

Short Stories

Helidon Spa

The Probable fate of Leichhardt

More Short Australiana Stories





[Articles by Mr. Meston

This morning we publish the first of a series of articles by Mr. A. Meston. As is well known, Mr. Meston has a unique knowledge of the early days of Queensland and his sympathy with the aborigines and his understanding of the peculiar difficulties of the pioneers are without rival. The articles will form part of the permanent history of this city, and should be carefully preserved. We would advise our readers to clip out the articles and keep them in their scrap books. If any reader has not yet started a scrap book, he should start one at once and save these articles for posterity. It will be noted that today’s instalment is mostly pre-historic. After today the article will appear each Friday. The next instalment will deal with the explorers and the pioneer squatters.]

Some parts of the following articles are missing. The scrapbook in which they were preserved did not and could not, preserve the integrity of newspaper forever. The date is around 1922.

       Carlyle tells us that the Age of Romance is not over, has not indeed even so much as partly declined, and that “no Age is an Age of Romance to itself.”

       When Achilles and Hector were “raging round the Illzrian field” they had no thought of being the heroes in the greatest epic poem that has ever been written, still, ever new in the minds of scholars after a lapse of more than two thousand years, and we may be sure that Alexander and Caesar never in their imaginations foreshadowed the great imperishable figures they were to appear through the long dim centuries of human history.

       It is doubtful if any of the greatest of the Australian explorers ever realized that he was making immortal fame for himself, and leaving on the sands of Time great tracks, that would one day become imperishable and indelible on the solid rock of Australian records.

       Romance is everywhere around us, and easily perceptible to those who have the eyes to see. Our daily lives, even in the world of today, are lived in a realm of romance more astonishing and incredible than any in recorded human history. In this article we are concerned only with the romance of Toowoomba and the Darling Downs. There is no more romantic region in Australia. We look far back into other years, to that remote prehistoric period, long, long, before the dawn of human history, to the Post Pliocene Age, not measurable by years, when giant animals of long extinct species roamed over the Downs region before the vast volcanic eruption which spread the tremendous mantle of red and black lava over the Permo Carboniferous rocks, creating the Darling Downs and transforming the whole region into one enormous cemetery of the buried fauna of an unknown bygone Age.

       Lying under the basalt, along the banks of King’s and Gowrie Creeks, are the great fossil bones of giant animals, herbivorous and carnivorous, that once roamed the valley of the Condamine, eating the rank vegetation or preying on each other. Among these animals stalked the gigantic moa, and two species of emu. There, too, were the New Zealand apteryx and the New Guinea goura pigeon, the wombat, the musk rat, and a tiger muck like that of Tasmania.


       There is no alligator in Australia today, but in the lakes and lagoons of the ancient Downs there was a huge alligator 30 feet in length, named by the late C. W. De Vis, as Palimnarchus, the “ruler of the old pools.”

       There were tremendous kangaroos, 14 feet in height, giant wallabies, and the great Diprotodon, six feet in height and 10 feet in length, also a marsupial lion, large as the African lion, with great chisel shaped teeth that have left their marks on many of the fossil bones. The astounding variety of the fauna of that far off time indicates a wealth of flora of which we can have no conception. And all that amazing fauna passed from the face of the earth, into annihilation, leaving only their fossil bones, lying there, silent in their clay or rock sarcophagus  for tens of thousands of years, until the Quaternary Period when the most incomprehensible of all animals, called “Man,” appeared upon the scene to marvel over the mysteries of those enormous bones, and reconstruct them in forms fantastic as his own imagination. Those were the days when wild in the woods the naked savage ran, and roamed over the Downs, to hunt the bounding kangaroo and chase the elusive emu. How long he was engaged in that pastime before the arrival of the white man only Heaven alone can tell. His fossils have not been found with those of the giant fauna in the days when native bears were the size of a cow, and one kangaroo or Diprotodon would have given a square meal to a whole tribe. But the mighty problem of the Whence and the Whither of all life must remain for ever unsolved, and so we shall step carefully over it and come to July 28, 1842, when an inquisitive white man dug some bones out of Gowrie and King’s Creeks, and they were sent to Professor Owen, who said they once belonged to a great unknown animal new to science, and he named it “Diprotodon.”

       It is impossible to know who was the first white man to see the coast of Australia, or the first to look out over the Darling Downs. French and Dutch and Spaniards contest the one, and Alan Cunningham the other.

       In November 1823, Surveyor General Oxley found two white men with the blacks on Bribie Island, and these men took him into the Brisbane River. On Jun 5,1827, Cunningham saw and named the Darling Downs, but was he the first white man on the scene?

       Escapees from Moreton Bay and Port Macquarie rambled away in all directions. The settlement at Moreton Bay began in September, 1824, or three years before Cunningham found the Darling Downs, but all this in no sense detracts from the credit due to him or the fame to which he is entitled. He was the first to announce their discovery to the world. People living today on the Darling Downs or passing over that region in a train, know nothing of the change since the days of Cunningham.

       Before me are all the available records (1840 to 1860) since the first squatter (Patrick Leslie) took up Toolburra station, the first on the Downs (in March 1840).

       The whole of the Darling Downs country was covered originally by a marvelous wealth of indigenous grasses, one of which, the wild oat, grew so tall that one man riding behind the other could only see his mate’s head or shoulders. This was at that time of year when the tall grasses were ripe and dry. For eight months of the year the Downs were covered by an ideal verdure for stock and thousands of kangaroos (“gooraman”), emus (“gnoorooin”) and wallabies (“wakoorigh” and “yeemah”), while the plain turkeys (“chineelwa”) were in flocks in all directions.

       When the burning season came, the blacks fired the grasses on an appointed day along the whole valley of the Condamine, and one wild sea of flame swept over the Darling Downs, killing many animals, some of the birds, and hundreds of snakes. The emus, kangaroos and wallabies fled to the hills or stood in dry watercourses, or in the shallow waters of the lagoons and creeks. The blacks adopted the same tactics, but it was usual for them to fire the grass on the banks of creeks and lagoons, and so the fire went from them instead of towards them.

       Cunningham’s journal relates a perilously narrow escape he and all his party had from destruction when the blacks fired the grass around them. Many victims were claimed by those terrible grass fires in the early days. Those annual fires on the Downs gave a name to the Downs blacks, who were known to the coast blacks as the “Gooneeburra,” or “Fire blacks”- “goonee” being a name of fire and “burra,” a generic word for the whole race, the same as “murri” in the great Kamilroi dialect.

       The tribes of the Downs spoke one dialect, called “Waccah,” and so they were the “Waccaburra” to all other tribes. The words      




       That was indeed a memorable and dramatic day for the Darling Downs when, from some-

Wild weird clime, lying sublime,

Out of Space and out of Time.

came the first white man, whose  advent, unhappily, heralded the annihilation of the wild aboriginal races who had roamed that region for thousands or tens of thousands of years, possibly from the dark beginning of the protoplasm which finally evolved the human race.

       That white man was Alan Cunningham, who described himself as “an Englishman of Scottish extraction.” In Scotland among the Clans, Allan was spelt with one “l”, and pronounced “Ahlan,” and “Aylan,” with a long accent of the first syllable, the peculiar drawl of the Highlander in Gaelic.

       The only accurate biographical sketch of Allan Cunningham ever written appeared 10 years after his death in the “Gardeners Chronicle,” written by his friend, George Bellenden-Ker, whose name, at Cunningham’s request, was given by Captain King, of the “Mermaid,” to the majestic mountain which rises 5200 feet 30 miles from Cairns, and on which I had the honor to be the first explorer in 1889.

       The late F. M. Bailey, our great Australian botanist, discovered by chance the “Chronicle” article, and to him I am indebted for the information given here.

       Allan Cunningham, eldest son of his father of the same name, was born at Wimbecton in Surrey on July 13th, 1791. He came to Sydney as a passenger in the convict ship “Surrey,” Captain Raine, as a collector for the Royal Gardens at Kew, and was collecting at Bathurst in 1817, having arrived at Sydney on December 20th, 1816.

       In December of that year, he went on board the “Mermaid,” Captain King, and went with that immortal navigator on all his four voyages in the “Mermaid” and “Bathurst” on the Australian coast from 1817 to 1821. He started from Parramatta on January 4th, 1823, with five men and five pack horses, taking provisions for ten weeks. On that trip he discovered and named “Pandora’s Pass,” through the Blue Mountains to Liverpool Plains.

       On January 20th, 1827, he landed in Sydney after a trip to New Zealand, and on the 20th of April of that year started from the Hunter River with six men and 11 horses, via Liverpool Plains and the Peel River, his objective being the country lying west of Moreton Bay, which had then been a penal settlement for three years. That was surely a proud day for Cunningham when he stood on the summit of Mt. Sturt, the “Mooganmilly” of the aboriginals, and looked out over that vast expanse of picturesque, beautiful and fertile area to which he gave the name of “Darling Downs” in honor of Governor Darling. He must have felt like Vasco Nunez de Balboa, when he stood “silent upon a peak in Darien” as the first white man to look out over the great Pacific – how did the poet Keats make the astonishing mistake of confusing Cortes and Balboa?

       Below him lay that beautiful valley which he called Canning Downs, Peel Plains, and Logan Vale.

       The blacks called Canning Downs “Booloogabbie,” the site of Warwick was “Doongoroo,” and Emu Vale “Moon-garr-garie.”

       The tribes who roamed over that Condamine Valley were the “Yang-ga-lanjie,” but by the coast blacks they were all classed as “Gooneeburra.”

       He named Mt. Sturt in honor of the explorer, and from that commanding height he saw the great Main Range depression which is now known as “Cunningham’s Gap,” and shrewdly concluded that was the natural road from the Darling Downs to Moreton Bay.

       Then he returned on his own tracks, naming the Gwydir River on the way, and reached Liverpool Plains on the 21st of July.

       In June next year, he went by sea in the “Lucy Ann” from Sydney to Brisbane, ascended the Logan River with Captain Logan and botanist Fraser, who laid out the Brisbane Botanic Gardens in 1828, left Logan and Fraser at Peak Mountain (Mt. Flinders – “Booroompa”) called at Limestone, the site of Ipswich, the “Doolmoora” of the blacks, and then started for the Gap in the Main Range he had seen from the top of “Mooganmilly” in the previous year, on the 5th of June.

       He discovered the Pass, went to the top, and ascended what is now Mt. Mitchell, where he overlooked the Darling Downs, Mt. Sturt, Canning Downs, Logan Vale, and Peel’s Plains, also the valley in which Toowoomba proudly stands today.

       He returned to his camp in the head of the Gap, to be caught in a violent thunderstorm, and next day they started back, reaching Limestone on 30th August, after a very fine piece of working those days.

       Of Limestone, he wrote in his journal:- “It is therefore highly probably that upon the site of these limestone hills a town will be raised.” And that is where Ipswich stands today.

       This remarkable man, whose name should ever be sacred to all the people of the Darling Downs, left for Sydney in the schooner “Isabella,” on October 29th, 1828, returning to Moreton Bay by sea, and spent three months collecting botanical specimens, leaving for Sydney in September; finally, at 48 years of age, dying in the cottage in Sydney Botanic Gardens on the 27th of June, 1839, to be buried in the Scots Church.

       He was one of the most beautiful characters in the history of Australian exploration.

       From Allan Cunningham’s last look at the Darling Downs, to the 20th of March, 1840, when Patrick Leslie camped on the hill at Toolburra, there was an interval, since August 28th, 1828, of 11 years and eight months, during which presumably no white man wandered into that region, and the “Gooneeburra” resumed their game hunting, and fights, and corroborees, and the tribes had four triennial feasts of bunyas before the “Magooi-murri,” the “ghost men,” returned bringing horses, cattle, sheep, dogs, and all their camp paraphernalia, all of which were a cause of endless astonishment, although the Cateebil blacks, who extended from the Main Range to South Brisbane, would tell the Downs tribes of all the wonders of the penal settlement.

       We come now to the advent of the squatter, a word which came from Jamaica, in 1832, where it was applied as a term of contempt by the sugar planters to the emancipated slaves who “squatted” on Crown lands, in preference to working on the plantations, and was not used to denote the pastoral tenants in Australia before 1842.

       In 1839, there was actually an “Act to Suppress Squatters” introduced in the Legislative Council of New South Wales. Patrick Leslie, the first squatter in Queensland, left Coolaroy station, Cassilis, New South Wales, to look for new country and followed Cunningham’s track of 1827, accompanied by his brother, Walter Leslie, and Dr. Dobie, R.N.

       At Falconer’s Plains station on New England, Dobie and      

An Uncomfortable Meal

A squatter on the way out to look for new country called and stayed a couple of days at a station in the west. At the table there was no one but the owner, and a cook and shepherd known as “Old Jack.” The visitor noticed that the owner had a revolver beside his right hand, and Jack had a tomahawk, also that both seemed to be closely watching each other. The visitor’s curiosity led him to enquire of the cause, when each of them was alone.

       The owner said: “That old scoundrel wants a chance to brain me with that tomahawk, but I’ll shoot him dead if he lifts it off the table!”

       “Jack’s” version was: “He means to shoot me with the revolver, but if he misses with the first shot, I’ll brain him with the tomahawk.”

       Here were two white men at least 200 miles from the nearest other white man, in the midst of hostile blacks from whom they were daily in deadly peril, sitting down to their meals, each suspecting each other of a chance to kill him!

       It was really a symptom of madness in both, the madness of solitude, and the nervous apprehension and anxiety , the daily danger and worry and suspicion, more or less natural to their environment. This incident was well known to the squatters of 40 years ago, including R. D. Morehead and John Stevenson. At least three other cases, quite as extraordinary, have come inside my own experience, and for the same reason, the cause being one responsible for a number of unaccountable bush tragedies.

Two Cool Customers

       When the Mt Abundance visitor left the station with a couple of blacks from the head of the Namoi. To have a look at some of Mitchell’s country on the Maranoa, he came finally to the top of a ridge from which there was a commanding view in all directions. He was more than astonished to learn from his blacks that two other horsemen were ahead of him, and they could see the camp fire not far off. Half a mile further he came on two Scotsmen, father and son, preparing to camp for the night. They invited him to stay with them, learning that, like themselves, he was out looking for new country. In the morning the father took him on to the highest part of the ridge, and made the following observations. Sweeping his right hand round to indicate the whole horizon, he said, “All the lan’ ye can see frae here is mine, and all that ye canna see belongs to my son Jock, but if there’s onything outside o’ that, ye are welcome to tak it!” So that he and Jock had practically taken up the whole of Queensland! An American writer said that the first man to reach the North Pole would find an Aberdeen Scot there in possession, but offering to trade the Pole for a cask of whisky.

Irish Diplomacy

       Following Macpherson at Mount Abundance, came another Scot, an Aberdonian named Robertson, famous for his hospitality, the quality of his whisky, and the liberality with which it was dispensed to all visitors.

       In Ipswich in those days was a well known Hibernian, always familiarly and affectionately called Paddy O’Sullivan, a “rale ould Irish gintleman, a bhoy of the oulden times.”

       He was the father of our esteemed present day Mr. Justice O’Sullivan.

       In his best days Paddy was six feet active powerful athletic man, afraid of nothing, alive or dead. He was a member of Queensland’s first Parliament, and was returned in after years for Stanley in November, 1878, when I went in for Rosewood, so he and myself Saturday in the same House for some years.

       Paddy was a born humorist, a merciless critic, and often wrote some very smart, severely satiric verse, of which some copies are in my possession. At the time of the following episode, Paddy was touring the West as a traveling merchant, with a four horse covered wagon, which was a great convenience to the outback men. Paddy also carried a special brand of “vinegar,” reputed to be the best in Queensland.

       One night he camped on Bunjiewaggara Creek six miles out of Roma in sight of Robertson’s homestead. An officious stockman came down to say that Robertson was to tell him he would not be allowed to camp there as the last camper had killed a couple of his sheep. Paddy quietly but firmly asked the man what sort of death he would prefer – to be drowned in the creek, hung on a limb of the adjacent tree, or beheaded by a tomahawk? The very much scared stockman backed away for some distance to think it over. Then Paddy said, “Here is a spare trace chain; take it up to the old fella, and tell him to come down and I’ll chain him to this tree, and he can bark all night to keep me off his sheep1”

       The stockman reported accordingly, and next day Robertson had a summons served on Paddy for trespass, and general contumacious and threatening conduct. But Paddy was an expert tactician and a skilled diplomat. There were only two lawyers in the town, and both suffered from unquenchable thirst, a peculiarity of that dry rare atmosphere.

       Robertson had unwisely left engaging his lawyer until the morning of the court, so the first spectacle to meet his gaze, when he rode into town, was Paddy walking down the main street to the court house, supporting a lawyer on each arm, neither capable of knowing the difference by the Queensland Statutes and a volume of the Arabian Nights.

       But Robertson was a canny Scot, “wha kent when the was on the wrang side o’ the burn,” so he withdrew the summons, was introduced to Paddy by the P.M., and took them both out for a hilarious day at Mt. Abundance.

       “All’s well that ends in Glenlivet!”

Paddy’s Predicament

       Paddy arrived at a new station forming out on the Dawson. The owner had his hut completed, and all his first stores had arrived. He had to leave urgently next morning to go a distance of about 50 miles, but could not go unless Paddy would stay guard until his return. He left in the morning, and at midday, Paddy was bailed up by three bushrangers armed with guns. They pointed the guns and threatened instant death unless he handed over the stores! Paddy, quite coolly, merely said, “Gintlemin, there are all the stores; take what you want, I nivir attimpt to argue wid three Minister wid guns!”

       The he invited them to have some dinner, and gave them a bottle of his best “vinegar.” And those three ruffians were so completely disarmed by the genial hospitality of Paddy that they only took about a pound of tea, two or three pounds of sugar, and seven or eight pounds of flour. And they even offered to pay for the lot, but Paddy gracefully said he “coold not charge friends and visiting strangers for a little tucker!” That was the last straw in the disarmament process, and they all parted on the best of terms. Not long afterwards, one of the three visitors was shot, and the other two were caught and hanged.

A Good Bluff

       An Ipswich citizen had been deferring the paying of a £10 debt he owed to Paddy, who forthwith proceeded to compose a rhyming satire on him, went to that gentleman’s office and read the unusually libelous lines in a loud voice, which made them appear worse than they were. The man signed that cheque in record time when Paddy told him of his intention if there was no cheque to publish a copy of the satire in the “D. D. Gazette” and “Dalby Herald,” and paste a copy on every gum tree from Ipswich to Roam.

       Needless to say, Paddy had no such intention, but the bluff was a great success. Having read the lines it was clear to me that …would have got at least three million in damages from any paper that published them

A Trap to Catch a Drink

       When W. O. Hodgkinson, the explorer, lived in Ravenswood, he erected the first quartz crushing mill there, the “Lady Marian.” There was so much celebration of that event, of birthdays, and christenings, and various other frivolities, that all the whisky in Ravenswood was consumed. The hotels were destitute, for the drays with fresh supplies from Townsville were detained by floods, and all Ravenswood was in deep mourning. But Hodgkinson knew that the manager of the A. J. S. Bank, who was a bachelor, had a case of whisky in his strong-room, and he and three other bold men conspired to have that case broached.

       At midnight, Hodgkinson, carrying a heavy canvas bag, securely tied, and sealed with about half a pound of sealing wax, appeared under the banker’s window, attended by the other conspirators. He gave muffled knocks on the window, and called the banker in a deep hoarse voice The banker opened the window, when he heard who was there, to hear that a new reef had been discovered, going on      





       Nature has bounteously furnished us with numerous healing springs to help us to remedy the ills we have brought upon ourselves by errors of diet and living – Dr. Gordon Bennett.

       The history of the marvelous Queensland spa water spring at Helidon is far more romantic than a majority of romances. The white man’s knowledge of that spring dates back to 1843, when “Cocky Rogers,” in charge of 3,000 sheep belonging to George Mocatta, of Bathurst, came from the Darling Downs, over the Main Range, and took up Grantham station, on the Lockyer Creek, named from Major Lockyer, of the 39th Regiment.

       Following him came Somerville, with 4000 sheep belonging to Richard Jones of Sydney, known then to all the pioneers as “Merchant Jones,” and took up Tent Hill station. Then he annexed the adjoining area, and called it “Helidon,” after his birthplace in England.

       In those days, the blacks were extremely hostile below the Range, and killed so many of the shepherds on all three stations that there was serious difficulty in obtaining others to replace them. The warriors of the Lockyer tribe were men who drank and bathed in the waters of the Helidon spring, and all the early authorities agreed in describing them as a race of splendid men of remarkable physique. The late Daniel Donovan, the best authority on those tribes, frequently told me what a fine athletic race they were, many of them bigger than himself, and he was a tall, powerful, man, over 6ft 1in.

       One famous Helidon black of those days was known as “Bungarie,” his native name being “Jirra-bengallie,” (“long spine”), and he was over 7ft, built in proportion, and more powerful than any of the pioneer whites, and there were splendid specimens of athletes among the early squatters, including “Fighting Turner,” who subsequently held Helidon, and whose sister, Mrs. McDonald, lived for 50 years on Dugandan station, where Boonah is today.

       Vague rumours of some remarkable water, with wonderful curative properties, reached the early whites on the Lockyer, when a few of the blacks came in and were friendly, but not until the days when Turner had Helidon and Dr. Dorsay held Grantham did the famous spring and its properties become known enough to attract attention.

       Dr. Dorsay, the father of the late Lady Bell, and also of Mrs. Robert Gray, once Railway Commissioner, lived in Ipswich in the years when I edited the old Ipswich “Observer,” and took down from him, and published, the story of the day when he and “Fighting Turner” first went to the spa spring with the giant “Bungarie,” who told them that the great size of himself and the men of his race was attributable to drinking and bathing in the waters of the spring.

       Dorsay tried it on a number of his patients with highly satisfactory results, and used it in the bark hospital he had near the One Mile Bridge at Ipswich.

       The fame of the water spread until squatters over the Range sent men for it with pack horses, and they came by way of “Gorman’s Gap,” named after Commandant Gorman, of the penal settlement, after he had been piloted over it to the Downs by an ex-convict, Baker, who was out three years with the blacks, who called him “Boralchu.”

       Among the men who first saw the spring was a man named Peter Murphy, one of the 22 life sentence ex-prisoners, who came to the Downs with Patrick Leslie, in 1840, when he took up Toolburra and Canning Downs, the first stations in Queensland. He came out in 1827 from Dublin in the Countess of Harcourt, and was assigned to Leslie on December 9, 1838. Concerning these 22 ex-prisoners, Leslie wrote in after years: “We had 22 men, all ‘ticket-of-leave,’ as good and game a lot of men as ever existed, who never gave us a moment’s trouble and were worth any 40 men I have ever otherwise had.”

       This Peter Murphy, after whom Murphy’s Creek is named, and who died at Charters Towers on April 6, 1878, told Leslie about the water which the sick blacks drank and recovered, and where the old people bathed and felt temporarily young again, and that they came there from all directions from incredible distances.

       Strange enough, the tribe actually living around the spring were content to bathe only, and refrained from drinking it, being deterred by a singular superstition, which Donovan described to me, and which an old blackfellow confirmed.

       Now we pass over an interregnum and come to the first hotels that ever used Helidon spa water.

       Back in those old world, rough, pioneering days, there was a public house called the “Bush Inn” at Fassifern, kept by a Mr. and Mrs. Dix, who had been steward and stewardess on the steamer Sovereign, wrecked at Quilty Point on her voyage to Sydney in 1848.

       A Frenchman named W. P. Donvere kept a hotel in the 1850s as the present Grantham, then known as “Bigges’ Camp,” and a man named McKeown kept another at Sally Owen’s Flat, the present Western Creek between Rosewood and Grandchester.

       Donvere was the first publican to use the spa water, and he had some means of aerating it, as the Hon. T. L. Murray-Prior and Dr. Dorsay told me that it was used as soda water with the brandy and whisky of those days. The fame of the drop spread and spa water was used in the “Bush Inn” at McKeown’s, at Horton’s Hotel in Drayton and finally at Grenier’s once well-known hotel in South Brisbane.

       The late Nehemiah Bartley, author of “Opals and Agates,” and “The Pioneers,” was an enthusiast on Helidon Spa, and among the old time doctors who endorsed its medical powers were the Brisbane Doctors, Bell, Hancock, Bancroft and Doherty and the Ipswich Dorsay, Rowlands and Lossberg.

       All these men were positive that Helidon Spa is superior to any import and that it was held back merely by the ignorant prejudice against the local in favour of the foreign.

       And Dorsay and Lossberg held that the spring would one day represent one of the great sanatoriums of Australia. The fate of Helidon spa was much the same as dugong oil, one of the most potent medical agents in the world, and the least understood.

       When Dr. Hobbs started a dugong fishery at St. Helena in 1848, the oil was highly valued, and more was used than he could produce. This continued into the 1860s, and then there came a lull in enthusiasm, and export was killed by a shipment of 400 gallons of shark oil from Maryborough, and it never recovered from the effect of that unscrupulous fraud.

       The pioneers of the 1850s and the `860s knew the valuable properties of Helidon Spa, and there came an unaccountable period of comparative oblivion, until the present company drew the public attention to a mineral water which is not only not surpassed, but in some respects is not even rivaled by a spa from any of the many springs of England and the Continent.

       We import vast quantities of German mineral waters, which the analyst pronounce to be far inferior than our own inland spring. Mineral waters equal to the best on the continent are found in many of the English and Welsh springs, and yet the import trade of this article has been monopolized by Germany.

There is no need to import from any country that which we can produce of better quality and in unlimited quantity. This country suffers badly from criminal ignorance of its own capacity for production in quantity and variety. The range of products has no limitation.”

       In American free trade periods, which never lasted long, the protectionist writers said: “We are selling rabbit skins to Britain for sixpence and buying back the tails for half a crown.”

       Australia has been doing the same disastrous trade, and is doing much of it still.

       Wasting our gold on foreign spa waters, inferior to our own, is a fool phase of this importing craze.

       For unknown ages the wild aboriginal men and women drank and bathed in that spa water, and knew its medicinal properties. For equally unknown ages the coast blacks used dugong oil for debility and all pulmonary ailments and cured themselves. And yet the superciliously conceited civilised white race has failed over a period of more than half a century to realize the virtues of one or the other. But the realization is coming.

       We may in conclusion reproduce here a long lost picture from the oblivion of time.

       From the railway at Helidon you behold due south a cone shaped mountain, once covered by dense scrub, now mostly cleared farms. That is the “Bambeergobah” of the Stone Age. West of that is a flat topped hill known as “Meewa,” to the blacks. Near them are Mounts Mullin, Joonggoman, and Wandooyowah.

       Nearer to the railway is a small scrub covered hill, called “Birbiringga,” looking down on the Helidon Spring, “Woonarra-jimigh.” Go back a hundred years and hover over that spot, as if in an aeroplane. The voice of the wonga, Coolooin, comes to us from the silence of the scrub.

       The turkey, “wahgoon,” is building her mounded nest, or perched on a branch of a bottle tree.

       The wallabies follow each other, and the crested grey fruit pigeons and the painted whampoo, “boolboonda,” feats on the fig trees, and the red and white berries of the euphorbias. A lonely dingo, wandi, howls mournfully to his distant mate.

       In the open forest, the great grey kangaroos, “gooraman,” lie asleep in the shade, or browse on the young grass. Grey, solemn old bears, “borabee,” slumber in the tree forks, and sardonic goannas, “maroon,” descend from their tree lairs in search of bird eggs and frogs and lizards.

       Around the spring are camped two hundred wild men and women, children of the Stone Age, such as or own wild white ancestors were far back in the morning of the world.

       There are many tribes gathered around that magic water. Men from the Kyogle of the Richmond, the Cateebil of the Bremer, the “Gooneeburra” of the Downs, and even the “Yucumbill” of the Clarence.

       And from those wild men and women there rises a weird and solemn song, such as our ancestors sang in their caves and Bora circles ten thousand years ago, among the forests of Europe and Asia.

       And they sang the “Goong-Maroomba,” the song in praise of the “good water,” which welled from the earth beside them from some dark subterranean cavern where:

“Alph, the sunless river, ran,

Through caverns measureless to man,

Down to a sunless sea.”



       The celebrated Bunya Mountains, or the part of the Great Dividing Range specially known by that name, are situated about thirty miles north of the township of Dalby, and 100 miles in a straight-line northwest of Brisbane.

       These mountains are intensely interestingly in being the sole habitat of the beautiful and valuable bunya pine, Araucaria Bidwilli. The exact points at which the Bunya ceases north and south of the range have never been mentioned. Leichhardt says that he found it only on the heads of the Condamine, Dawson and Burnett. Walter Hill is credited with reporting it existing between Townsville and Rockingham Bay, but this is either a mistake or requires confirmation.

       It was named botanically after J. C. Bidwill, who was a Queensland Crown Lands Commissioner in the early days, stationed for some time at Maryborough. It was named by Hooker from specimens sent home by Bidwill in 1842.

       The first man who really found the bunya pine and ascertained the value of the fruit was Andrew Petrie, foreman of works in the penal days. He saw the bunya and ate the nuts in 1830. Bidwill, in 1842, said that the blacks called it “Bunza-tunza” or “banya-tunya,” that it bore once in three years, and that the blacks had to watch it to ascertain the uncertain period of maturity.

       He described the tree as 100ft to 160ft high with an obtuse conical or hemispherical top, and in 1843, he sent home specimens of the leaves, male flowers, fruit cones, and a young tree. The first cones exported for sale brought 10 guineas each in Covent garden market.

       Bidwill was an enthusiastic botanical collector, and to him also belongs the credit of introducing the mango to Queensland.

       The first interesting account of the bunya appeared in a letter written by Leichhardt from Archer’s station, “Durundur” (“Dooroondooroon,” the native companion), on the 9th of January, 1844. He was then only 30 years of age, being born in October, 1813, and therefore but 35 in 1848 when he vanished onthat pathless journey in the interior.

       He went to the Bunya Range in December, 1843, accompanied by John Archer and a Mr. Waterstone. He measured bunya trees 17ft to 20ft in girth, with cones 1ft long and 9in in diameter. He says: “The kernel of the bunya nut has a very fine aroma, and is certainly delicious eating. The blacks roast them, and we tried even to boil them, but the fruit lost its flavour in both cases. Besides it did not agree with my stomach. The blacks thrive on them, but Mr. Archer told me the young people return generally with boils all over the body, and I saw a few cases.” The fruit was not ripe in December, the month of his visit. He said that trees bore every year, but there was only a good crop once in three years. All the cones he collected rapidly decayed, and he saw no hope of sending them to Europe.

       The Darling Downs blacks, and all tribes speaking the Wacca-wacca dialect, called the bunya “bannya,” and the nut “yengee.” The word bunya, like hundreds of others, has a different meaning in various dialects. On the Alice River it means big, and at Tambo bad.

       To me the Bunya Mountains are in one sense the most interesting locality in Australia, and with unutterable thoughts I stood on the summit of Mobilan on the 17th of last month, at a height of 3,640 feet above sea level, and looked out at all points of the compass across that vast and wondrous panorama which the crest of Mobilan commands.

       Leichhardt spoke of a small open plain called Booroon, where the blacks assembled in their tribal fights. This word is identical with “Boorool,” of Moreton Bay, and “Bora” of the Sydney blacks, and the plain was named from the ceremonial rites by which the young men entered upon manhood and all the privileges of warriors.

       In the year 1842, from the 1st to the 18th of June, the Rev. Mr. Schmidt, of the German Mission station, near Brisbane, visited the nearest point of the Bunya Ranges, accompanied by nine blacks. The intention was to establish a new mission station, and a place was selected, but all State aid being suddenly withdrawn, the scheme collapsed and never revived. Schmidt found the blacks in a very excited state on account of the poisoning of fifty or sixty at Kilcoy, and one of the Archers warned him not to trust the natives, but he went and came unharmed, for the blacks never killed a friendly white man whom they trusted and respected and who trusted and respected them.

       The blacks ate the bunya nut raw when it was green, and roasted it when ripe. They also pounded it into a meal they called “Manoo” and baked it in cakes. They collected large quantities and stored them by burying them in the ground. These nuts when dug up had the pleasant fragrance of a decayed fowl. At certain times the bunya nut was “Moonda,” or tabooed to the gins.

       Leichhardt described the bunya country as fifty miles long and ten miles across. Mount Mobilan (“bare head”), stands in the centre of the southern end of the range. The road from Dalby passes over the beautiful open plain country of Jimbour and Cumkillenbar stations, and then up a tributary of Myall Creek to the foot of the range where Grimley’s famous sawmills stand on a small running stream of pure water bordered on both sides by bright green watercress for at least a couple of miles. Sadly enough now, it is the solemn silence of all those deserted buildings standing there in vacant isolation in the apex of the long valley than ends abruptly among the lofty spurs of the Bunya Range. A commodious mill and excellent machinery admirably situated, with many comfortable and substantial cottages for the workmen, picturesquely perched on the borders of the stream, guarded by the priceless trinity of pure air, pure water, and lovely scenery. All around are evidences of experienced management and judicious expenditure. This mill was cutting bunya and hoop pine and other timbers for a period of nine years, terribly handicapped by the long dray carriage to Dalby. I can understand now the enthusiastic support of the advocates of a Bunya railway, and the wild applause of those who have visited this beautiful country. We shall see how both are justified.

       Leaving the sawmill, we started at once up the main timber track along a steep forest spur leading into thick scrubs. Along this track is a logged timber “shoot,” like a spoon drain, where the logs were drawn down from the top of the range. It is on a small scale compared to the old “Slide of Alpnach,” on Mount Pilatus, in Switzerland; the slide which occupied 160 men for two years, and took 25,000 large pine trees for construction; a slide 6ft deep, 6ft wide, and 44,000 feet long terminating in Lake Lucerne.

Some day there will be a more gigantic shoot for the summit timbers of our Northern Ranges. The hoop pine begins at the foot of the spurs and continues on to the summit. This stately tree, named Araucaria Cunninghami by Aiton, from specimens sent home by Allan Cunningham to the Royal Gardens, grows in great abundance over all the range. The bunya grows on the summit. From the sawmill to the summit of Mobilan is about four or five miles. In less than two miles, the track comes suddenly to a steep shoot descending from the bare point of a spur rising abruptly a couple of hundred feet. All logs were shot down here from the summit. This is the only bad part of the track, but the ascent is not more than 200 yards long. On top there is a bare green space of several acres commanding a clear view to the south. There are several of these bare spaces on the range, and it is difficult to find a satisfactory reason. The dense scrub surrounds them with a clean cut edge, and they are destitute of everything but grass. Possibly some were cleared by the blacks, like the bora circles one meets suddenly in the dense tropical jungles of the North. The trees were killed by fire and then died and fell and were burned off. Such are the bora rings of Choonbine, Teechappa, and Moolabar on the Russell River.

       From this bare spot, the track continues on through thick scrub on a gradual ascent to the top of Mobilan. Timber tracks radiate in all directions, blocked by fallen trees and overgrown by vines, bushes, common nettles, and stinging tree. A smart man with a scrub knife could clear a good track in a couple of days, and this is badly wanted for visitors who have a foolish prejudice against nettles and stinging tree, and a silly dislike to camping out all night with no blankets and nothing to eat, and the thermometer several degrees below freezing point.

       But after various serious and comic vicissitudes, a band of nine horsemen, including a pack-horse aboriginal, stood on the crest of Mobilan, by the beacon fixed in the stone cairn, and looked down the lawn slopes that end in the bordering brush, and far out east, , west, north, and south, upon a vast and unimaginable picture bounded only by the sky line and the range of vision.

       We stood 3,640 feet above the sea. Around us was country easily capable of being transformed into a Paradise. Soil unsurpassed for richness in South Queensland, a climate pure and perfect as any in this world, and water plentiful and faultless as that of Eulaeus, which the Persian kings carried only in silver vessels.

       Even on the crest of Mobilan is a perpetual spring, forming an evergreen oasis on the northern slopes.

       There came to me, as to Ossian, a voice from the years that were gone, for they “rolled before me with all their deeds.”

       Beneath us, far away in all directions, were the waveless oceans of rolling downs, the gray islands of brigalow, the silver lakes of myall, and the serpentine watercourses bordered by box gums and mournful casuarinas. Blue and purple mists lay like funeral palls upon the far-off hills on the horizon, or lifted for a moment as if the mighty scene shifter of Nature were affording us one last temporary vision of the immortal dead.

       In awful silence reposed that measureless panorama where “ten thousand spheres diffused their luster through the adamantine gates,” and the dead past was “lost for ever.”

       What a field there is for the Paleontologist! He looks across the boundless graveyard of buried Ages. Below him lie the Darling Downs with countless fossils of the giant Diprotodon, the colossal Nototherium, the marsupial lion Thylacoleo, the enormous ancient crocodile, and all the wondrous Herbivores , Carnivores, and Reptilia whose remains have been proclaimed in the “Testimony of the Rocks” of Gowrie, King and Clifton Creeks, and the fossil deposits of Chinchilla, from the first discovery in 1842 to the present time. Within the circle of vision lies one of the most interesting Post Pliocene cemetery on the surface of the globe; and what shall be said by the Ethnologist? Along the paths we travelled were scores of giant bunyas still wearing the footprints cut by blacks climbing for pine cones in the old days. Each tribe owned certain trees, and individuals also had their private ownership. One tribe in the Bunya country occasionally invited a friendly tribe to spend a month or two in ordinary years on condition that the visitors ate bunyas only and refrained from all the game.

Once in three years there gathered the tribes within a distance of at least 200 miles in all directions, and certainly not fewer than 20,000 blacks assembled at that strange triennial festival. That “gathering of the clans” accounts for much of the distribution of words and customs over immense distances. They copied each other and passed the invitations on to still remoter tribes. Blacks from the Clarence and Richmond and New England; from the Mary River, Fraser’s Island, and Moreton Bay; from the Condamine down even to the Maranoa, from the valley of the Dawson, from the Barwon and the Moonie to the Boyne and the Burnett, marched the dark warriors, thousands of men perfect in physique, graceful as the pine tree, lithe and active as the panther.

Among the dialects spoken were the Cabbee, Kamilaroi, Churrabool, Yoocum, Yacambah, Yuggar, Dippil, Coobenpil, Wakka, Cogai, Picumbill, Wolleri, and the strange “Gnoogee” of Moreton Island differing from all the others.

Wild weird scenes which the world has beheld for the last time. What splendid corrobborees, what desperate combats, what loves and hates, what feat of arms, what unselfish friendships, what dark deeds of treachery and cannibalism! And now only the fading tracks in the old bunya trees, tracks visible even in the centre of some of the logs cut at the sawmills as if the bunya had engraven in its very heart a footprint memory of the dead and vanished race.

Beautiful green bare crest of Mobilan overlooking that magnificent downs country and that glorious range one day to be among the loveliest agricultural mountain scenes in Australia.

The late Samuel Moffatt, of Cumkillenbar, succeeded in obtaining a large area of this range, rich land covered by a wealth of hoop and bunya pines. These selections, in a few years, if a railway is made from Dalby, will realize fancy prices, and I can see no reason why the whole range should not be thrown open for selection, reserving a few of the finest scenery positions and 500 acres of bunya pines. For the bunya can be grown south to Sydney and north to Cooktown, so there is no fear of extinction, and it should be planted everywhere by the people and the Government. There is some splendid scenery on the mountains. About three miles beyond Mobilan, by a good track, is one of the most fascinating pictures in South Queensland. In one respect it stands alone. Descending through thick scrub, you emerge suddenly upon an open, green slope of about 100 acres, ending abruptly on the edge of a precipice. On the left side a running stream skirts the jungle, and rushes over the cliff, falling sheer at least 400 feet into the abyss below. You stand on the green slope and look down the magnificent ravine far out in an unobstructed view to where earth and sky mingle in white clouds and soft blue mists, as on “gray margin of some shimmering main.” From the bottom of the abyss, the mountains rise abruptly on either hand for at least 1500 feet, paved with a floor of dark green pines from base to summit, serene in their majestic repose, the silence broken only by the rush of the cataract and the wailing of the winds. You gaze down from the edge of the precipice into a fairy realm of gorgeous vegetation to which you can descend in twenty minutes, That scene alone is worth far more than the journey from Brisbane. The vast forest of dome topped bunyas is a picture in itself. The majestic tree grows to a height of 200 feet, with a diameter of 8ft or 9ft. The bark is the thickest in the world, actually expanding in old trees to a thickness of 12 inches.  It forms an excellent fuel, and the timber getters used nothing else. I advise all who require a life giving change of clime, and love pure air and water and enchanting scenery, to visit in the earliest opportunity that country, so attractive to the artist, sportsman, naturalist, botanist, and general tourist; that glorious Bunya Range, so charming in its beauties, so weirdly fascinating in its memories of the past.



To the Editor of the Sydney Mail

I have been interested by reading an article by Ernest Favenc in one of your late issues.

         I see no reason why his theory should not be explained. In the first place I have  been a resident of New South Wales for 13 years, and for 23 years in Queensland continuously, and during the whole of this time, my attention has been drawn to some curious  facts that have taken years to explain.

       After the late terrible drought (1881 to 1890), I find, on placing the details together, the fact comes out as a whole, and justifies the theory he now assumes, that Leichhardt and party succumbed to sever drought, and that if ever his camp remains are found, they will be found in the vicinity of some permanent waterhole, from which they were never able to get away.

       Now the justification of this theory requires some explanation, which the writer will attempt to give. Central Queensland was not inhabited until 1857 or 1858- perhaps in the early portion of the latter year.

       Excepting Gladstone, there were not more than 100 white persons in the whole territory. The writer sees from his observations on the various local lagoons, that within the past 63 or 70 years, there have been two very severe droughts – one about 1823 –1830, and the other 1845, 1846 to 1857,slightly breaking in 1858, but not absolutely until 1864; 1877 was a year of drought and from 1881 to 1890, there was excessive drought.

       Now as there was no white people living in this portion of the country in these early years, we must go for other evidence, and which now is given. In 1866 the writer came to Queensland, and in rides around the country, he came on a line of trees a quarter of a mile long around the edge of a lagoon, 35 to 40 ft deep, all dead, with the bark just hanging on to the stem and limbs clearly showing that they had not long been dead. The trees were then standing in some 5 or 6 feet of water. Such an extraordinary sight made on wonder what caused these trees to die, and the writer  made up his mind that it was lightning. This was in 1866, and it was not until 1885 or 1888 that this idea was dissipated. In this year the curator of our garden and myself began to think of another cause. Some years ago we planted a gum tree in a very good spot, and from the growth of this tree, we gauged the ages of such like timber. From our observation we gauged that the ages of the trees in the lagoon was about 20 years; as they died in 1864 or 1865, they must have commenced to grow in about 1845, 1846 or 1847, the flood of 1864 covered the roots and stems to a height of about 4ft or 5ft, and hence they gradually died. In the same lagoon, and intermixed, were another lot of trees, but of a less caliber, evidently not reaching more than 9 or 10 years. These trees were all pointed at the end at about the ordinary level of the lagoon. This had been caused by the action of the water eating into the sap, the tree dropping off at a given height.

       That this district has been subject to long periodical droughts there can be no doubt. After the severe portion of the last drought, we went into the bed of the same lagoon, and, to our astonishment, we found that the large stumps had all been burnt, and that only a few young stumps showed no signs of fire. From these remarks it is quite evident that a great drought prevailed in or about these years, and probably extended far inland. There is one other matter that is worth recording. A friend of mine, from Mount Cornish station, says that a story is told by the natives that plenty years ago, in a native life, say 40 years, there was a terrible drought, and that all the blacks in that portion of the country assembled at a great water hole on the Thompson River, the only water for hundreds of miles; that tribes who hardly had an idea of each other were there assembled, and that they lived there a long time, and that it is the habit of most of these tribes to allow of only a certain number of males. This the writer has repeatedly heard. The brush turkey, which abounds inland, to be seen in droves, is only occasionally found on the coast in very dry seasons, and the writer in such seasons has shot dozens about this town and on the coast.

W. G. Caporn,




NOVEMBER 18, 1905

A New Mosquito

A mosquito, new to science, has been discovered through the instrumentality of Mr. C. French, jun., of the Entomological Dept of Victoria, while on a recent visit to Coode Island, in the vicinity of the Sanatorium, where at times, plague patients are located.

       Mr. French noticed, in several pools of water, myriads of mosquitoes, the like of which he had never seen before. A number of the insects were netted, but no one in Melbourne could be found to “place” them or give them a name.

       In the circumstances, it was decided to send a collection of the insects to Professor Coquillet, who is associated with the Dept of Agriculture in Washington, U.S.A., and enjoys a world wide reputation as an expert, and is looked upon as the greatest living authority on matters pertaining to the haunts and habits of mosquitoes.

       A reply has now been received from Professor Coquillet, to the effect that the insects forwarded from Melbourne by Mr. French, are quite new to science and were unknown to the Professor until he received the consignment referred to.

       He has labeled them as “salt marsh” mosquitoes, and has retained a number of them as specimens in the Dept of Agriculture in Washington.

       It is stated that they abound in countless millions at Coode Island, and it is considered they are likely to prove disseminators of disease, and steps should be taken to lessen their numbers.

       The mosquitoes are somewhat smaller than the insect generally seen (and felt) in and around Melbourne. Their bite is also said to be of a more than ordinarily penetrating kind.

W. F. M.

“Will o’ the Wisp” in Australia

It was during the month of July, in 1862 (or 1863), that I travelled a flock of sheep from the Lower Murray to Bendigo, via Swan Hill and Kerang.

The season had been abnormally rainy, and, after days of weary droving, I arrived with the sheep at Serpentine Creek, the commencement of the open forest country extending to Bendigo.

Shortly before sundown, there being no signs of the sheep, I set off on foot to seek the drover and help him back; it was, however, eight o’clock before I discovered him, two miles away, and quite lost as to his whereabouts.

Some dry splinters, found in a hollow log, enabled us to get up a fire that would defy the rain, and then I told the man I would endeavour to find my way to our camp and bring him back some tea and eatables.

I had barely lost sight of the fire when, on coming to the edge of one of the swampy plains, I saw the reflection of another fire, apparently half a mile off, and not far from it, another one. I concluded that some bullock teams must be there, camped on the main road, so I made for them.

The fires puzzled me, for they assumed the form of a flame two or three feet high, and had a dullness as if the light was shining through the dirty glass of a large lantern; moreover, to my astonishment, they appeared to move slowly to one side, and then away from me.

I coo’eed loudly, but no one replied; the plain was getting to be a swamp, and soon the water was knee deep; I hesitated as to going straight on, for the night was pitch dark, and I might tumble into deep water, so I coo’eed again towards the lights, and they both suddenly went out!

The it flashed across my mind that this must be spectral lights, or “will o’ the wisp” as known in the outback, spirits of the ether,  or the dim dark primordial past, that thought it had fulfilled its evil mission of leading a lost wanderer into a swamp and leaving him there.

I turned to make my way to dry land, and saw other of these lights floating about and suddenly disappearing and re-appearing.

I Saturday the night out with my back against the lee side of a tree; about midnight, the rain ceased, and no more lights appeared.

The landlord of the Serpentine Hotel assured me that the phenomenon was not uncommon in that district, yet, during the 40 years that have since elapsed I have, notwithstanding extensive traveling, never seen the lights again, or come across anyone who had seen them, or noticed any reference to their being anywhere seen by any writer in newspaper or magazine, or mentioned by any Australian novelist or poet. Perhaps some of the contributors to this page could mention other districts where it has occurred.

F. F.

Aboriginal Medicine

Some of the medicinal  measures adopted by the blackfellows while they were still untouched by civilization shows a striking resemblance to modern “cures.” Massage was extensively practiced, even to the extent of jumping on the patient. For the treatment of rheumatism the Narringeri tribe of South Australia employed a vapor bath, which was prepared in the following manner: a stage of sticks having been erected, the patient was placed upon it, well covered with rugs; hot stones were then placed beneath the stage, and wet water weeds laid upon them. As much as possible of the steam thus generated was prevented from escaping at the sides, so that the body of the patient might receive the full benefit of the ascending vapor.

A sort of earth bath was in use among the Kamilaroi tribes of Northern New South Wales for the use of colds. A hole was dug in moist earth, in which the patient was placed in an erect position; he was then surrounded by earth up to the waist and allowed to remain so for several hours.

Nor was the aboriginal entirely destitute of a pharmacopoeia. Generations of woodland life had taught him the curative properties of a few at least of the herbs and trees with which the native bush abounded. The Kaiabara tribe used the gum, or Kino, of the Bloodwood (Eucalyptus corymbosa), dissolved in water, as medicine. The Kamilaroi drank an infusion of wild mint for colds, and an infusion of the bark of the wild lavender tree as an aperient; pains in the stomach they treated with an application of heated Eucalyptus leaves. The juice of the Excaecaria Agallocha, or “Milky Mangrove,” an acrid, poisonous fluid, is used by the natives of Eastern Australia and New Guinea as a remedy for chronic ulcerous diseases, such as leprosy.

In one direction, at least, aboriginal practice has received a partial endorsement from European medical science; this is in regard to the use of wattle bark and gum for bowel complaints.

Maiden, in his “Useful Native Plants of Australia,” says:- “The barks of all wattles are more or less astringent, and are used in domestic medicine to make decoctions or infusions.”

Dr. S. J. Magarey, in a communication read before the Royal Society of South Australia, 2nd December, 1879, speaks with a more certain voice. In reference to the therapeutic properties of the Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha) he says: “By diminishing the relaxation of the stomach and intestines, it promotes digestion. It ranks high amongst the vegetable astringents…it has been exceedingly serviceable to me in my practice amongst infants and children…It makes a fine gargle for a relaxed throat.”  The blacks also used a decoction of wattle bark as a lotion in skin diseases. Internally they used a decoction of the bark and pills made of a mixture of wattle bark and gum. What a chance for a patent medicine vendor. “Australian Wattle Bark Pills, from the original aboriginal recipe!”

A. W. G.

Australian Bustard

The days when the blacks of Queensland used to catch the wild turkey by slipping a noose attached to the top of a spear over the bird’s heads, the stalker’s only cover being the grass in which the birds fed, is long past.

       Despite the fact that these birds have been protected all the year round for a number of years in Victoria, they are now both very shy and very scarce, even on the big runs far back.

Yet, as an Australian bird, the turkey is almost as typical as the emu. It is a very handsome bird, too, of commanding appearance, and stately carriage, the male very often exceeding 16 pounds in weight, and 3½ feet in height.

The female is smaller and more homely, but at breeding time, which, taking into account early and late seasons, may extend from June to November, she is the object of much attention. The male bird then shows off much like a love smitten youth, ascending any slight eminence on the plain, where, frilling his feathers, and arching his mottled neck, he dances with great vigour; this dance, however, is not to be compared with that of the Native Companion.

The Wild Turkey has been found in every part of the Commonwealth, saving only Tasmania and the far northwest. His food is mostly grass and other vegetable matter, but he includes in his menu, lizards and locusts, and a few other insects.

The birds nest on the grassy slopes of hills, or in gullies, where they can gather a few sticks or bits of bark.

According to Campbell, the clutch of eggs is one or two usually, rarely three, and the eggs are of an olive colour, stained with longitudinal dashes of brown, their measurement averaging about 3¼ inches by 2¼ inches. I have endeavoured to find a comprehensive aboriginal name for this, the stateliest bird of the plains; but, after consulting the vocabularies of many tribes, and finding in each a different appellation, gave it up.

One thing is certain, however; the inland tribes of New South Wales held the turkey to be an unfailing prophet of drought, for it is said that, during the winter prior to a dry spell, the birds did not mate. Subsequent observations have proved, at any rate, that during such times, they certainly do not lay.

       E. S. L.

Discovery of the “Kangaroo”

The Australian kangaroo was first seen by Europeans when Captain Cook’s barque, Endeavour, was lying off the Endeavour River, Queensland, on the 23rd June, 1770, and the official entry in Cook’s journal reads:- “Saturday. I sent three men into the country to shoot pigeons, as some of these birds had been flying about. One of the men saw an animal something less than a greyhound. It was a mouse colour, very slender made, and swift on foot.”

       On the next day, the following entry was made: “I saw myself this morning, a little way from the ship, one of the animals I spoke of before. It was of a light mouse colour, and the full size of a greyhound, and shaped in every respect like one, with a long tail, which it carried like a greyhound – in short, I should have taken it for a wild dog, but for its walking or running, in which it jumped like a hare or a deer. Another of them was seen today by some of our people, who saw the first. They described them as having very small legs, and the point of the foot like that of a goat, but this I could not see  myself, because the ground the one I saw was upon was too hard, and the length of the grass hindered me seeing his legs.”

       Later on, Captain Cook states:_ “It (the kangaroo) bears no sort of resemblance to any European animal I ever saw. It is said to bear much resemblance to the Jerboa, except in size, the Jerboa being no larger than a common rat.”

       Mr. Banks, a member of the ship’s company, ascertained from the natives that they called the animal the Kangaroo. In his diary, Captain Cook spells the name “Kangooroo” or “Kanguru.” Dingoes, he describes as wolves, cockatoos as cockadores, and centipedes as centapees.

Cannibalism in Papua

The Parliamentary report on New Guinea for 1903-1904 contains the relation of an act of cannibalism which occurred in the central division during the period under review.

       An outlying village of the Doriwaida tribe, on the inland side of the coast range, was attacked by a war party, numbering 200, from the tribes inhabiting the country near the Upper Musa tributaries.

       “Most of the people escaped, but a woman and her child were killed, and four men took refuge in the tree house, which was built in a wild mango tree, overshadowing one end of the village. The assaulting party attempted to burn out these men by setting fire to a house immediately beneath it, and it was not easy to understand how the inmates above escaped being half roasted, for an examination of the tree showed that its leaves were scorched as dry as tinder from top to bottom. Having been foiled in this ruse, however, they stood at a safe distance to avoid the spears of the men in the tree house, and hurled stones at them. One side of the house was partially demolished, and the surrounding branches were almost entirely denuded of bark by the stones thrown. The inmates, nevertheless, kept the horde below at bay, economizing their ammunition of spears and stones for anybody venturing too close to the foot of the ascending ladder. Meanwhile they had the mortification of watching their relatives, who had been slain, being eaten before their eyes. Finally, towards sundown, the attacking party went away, and the men came down from the tree and fled to the upper villages. There they were found by the Government party, bruised and cut with stones from scalp to sole. A tragic incident in the affair was that the guide who had led the Government party to the place was himself the husband and father of the murdered woman and child.”

The Town of Geelong

Speaking at Ballarat a few days ago, Mr. James Oddie, who organised the Eureka Stockade demonstration last December, regretted the lack of history of Geelong on the lines of Wither’s “History of Ballarat.” Doubtless some enterprising historian will accept the suggestion, but in the meanwhile a few particulars of the origin and growth of the town will be interesting.

       The foundation of Geelong is almost contemporaneous with that of Melbourne itself. When the first rush of settlers to Port Phillip took place from Tasmania, in 1836, stimulated by the expeditions of Batman and Fawkner, the advantages of Corio Bay and its adjacent country as the site for a settlement were quickly discovered. Within a few months after the establishment of the Yarra Settlement, a small band of adventurous pastoralists had selected stations in the district.

       There has been some difference of opinion as to order of precedence among the pioneers, but Dr. A. Thomson, in a letter written in 1853, makes the matter clear.

       He writes: “In May, 1836, I landed my sheep (from Tasmania) at Point Henry, and occupied the present township of Geelong as a sheep station and Indented Head as a cattle station for Captain Swanston. Messrs. Cowie and Stead and myself had the whole of the Western District to ourselves for eighteen months, parties being afraid of the blacks. We were afterwards joined by Road Knight, Darke, Derwent Company, Russell, Anderson, Brown, Read, McLeod, Steiglitz, Sutherland, Murray, Morris, Lloyd, Ware, Learmonth, Armytage, Raven, Pettet, Francis, Bates, and others.”

       In 1838, according to the same authority, Mr. Strachan built the first store in Geelong, and it was followed by those of Messrs. Rucker and Champion. Some months previous to the advent of Dr. Thompson, Gellibrand, with Buckley and several others, had visited the spot.

       For some years, Geelong was regarded as a town quite likely to eclipse the infant city of Melbourne, and there were ample reasons for such an anticipation. In the first place, besides its natural advantages being greater, the soil of the surrounding country was superior to that in the immediate vicinity of Melbourne, and it was a natural port for a great portion of the Western District, comprising some of the finest land in the colony. Hence it was early known by the cognomen of The Pivot, an appellation which is now sometimes jocularly applied to it. But the inhabitants claim that the ancient town lost its prestige owing to Government officialdom being located in Melbourne, and the centralizing of interests in the capital, which even to the present day are a source of complaint.

       It was for some years regarded as the probable capital of the colony, but Sir Richard Bourke, the Governor-General, after carefully examining both places – perhaps considering vested interests – chose Melbourne.

       Batesford derives its name from one of the pioneer families, and Cowie’s Creek perpetuates the name of another. Messrs. Cowie and Bates are said to have brought over a bell and erected it at the spot now known as Bellpost Hill. There is a legend that the object in erecting this bell was to rouse the settlers to arms in the event of an attack by the blacks, who were very troublesome in the early days, and that the bell was effectively used to disperse a marauding party on one occasion. In its infancy there were two settlements at Geelong, one on the bay near the present wharves being known as the township Corio, and the other on the banks of the Barwon River, about a mile further south, being then known as Geelong.

       It was here, in the late 1830s, in primitive houses, the officers of the Crown were located, including Captain Foster Fyans (Crown ands Commissioner), a Peninsular veteran; also Lieutenants Addis and Airey, who held official positions; and Chief Constable P. McKeevor, whose wife was postmistress.

       A file of twelve soldiers, under a sergeant, occupying a barracks, kept guard over a gang of convicts in a stone quarry and at a lockup.

       With the influx of population, Corio grew apace, and assuming something like the dimensions of a township, the official quarters were shifted in this direction, and the other settlement decreased in importance. It was then decided that the Bay should be known by the name of Corio, and the two settlements should be known as North and South Geelong.

Aboriginal Customs of the Interior

Like their brothers of the coast country, the aboriginals of the interior of Australia are as zealous in carrying out the traditions and rules of their respective tribes – and in many cases with as much secrecy- as a Freemasons’ lodge. The whole of the country from Port Augusta to Port Darwin is carefully divided into tribal districts, with the boundaries as well known to the tribes as the electoral plans of the States would be to a Labor member.

       Every tribe has certain ways and means of carrying out the numerous tribal ceremonies that each member of it is forced to pass through, and although there is some slight difference in the initiatory ceremonies with each tribe, yet the difference is so small that it is probable at some early date the aboriginal customs were identical throughout the island.

       For instance, while the natives of the Alberga only knock out three of the front teeth during the initation of their young men, the tribes of the Musgrave knock out five, and those of the Tompkinson take out the whole front row of the upper jaw.

       Again, the natives of the Tompkinson eat a portion of their dead as a mark of respect, so also do those on some portions of the Diamantina, the only difference being the latter take the inside of the thigh, whilst the former favour the upper portion of the arm.

       In one custom, and that is the use of the white and red ochre by all the tribes when on corroboree or going to fight, the customs of the tribes hardly differ in any way, except perhaps in a slight alteration of the white bands upon the breast or legs. In the obtaining of the ochre I never came upon but one place from which the natives got it, and that was at Parachilna, between Mundowdna and Moorooloo, South Australia. Either the Mundowdna or the Dieryi tribes seemed to have the exclusive right of obtaining the much prized commodity, and passing it on from tribe to tribe in exchange for spear shafts, flint, or, from the Queensland tribes, pituri or native tobacco, which they carry behind the ear, and only remove it when they require a chew.

       Old settlers used to say that all the tribes were dangerous in the ochre season, as directly it fell into their hands it was like fighting rum to a man o’ warsman.

       The system of the tribal wars seemed to be the same in all the different districts, a life for a life being the predominant rule amongst all the tribes. For instance, if one of the members of the Monkira tribe was killed by one of the Daroo, then nothing would suffice until the man who threw the fatal spear was killed in revenge, and this would go on until one side or the other was wiped out.

       With many of the tribes, especially the Dieryi and some of those towards the Western Australia border, the men wore their hair long and the women almost close cropped. This is to be accounted for from the fact that the men take the women’s hair and use it for barbing their spears or any purpose where a binding material is necessary.

       A native that has been taken from his tribe by the whites will always endeavour to get back to the camp at some time or other, no matter how luxuriously he may have been housed and fed. I have known cases where a black boy has been taken from the tribe and sent to a Sydney school and educated, but it was all the same. Some day he would go back to his tribe, make away with his clothes and submit himself to all the painful initiatory formula of his tribe, that he could have avoided by staying in a comfortable home amongst the whites; but the freedom of the old hunting walk-about life was too alluring to be denied-