THE MYSTERY OF LEICHHARDT
WHERE AND HOW HE DIED
“World’s News” readers will remember two articles by me on Leichhardt some time ago, describing his explorations and the locality and manner of his disappearance.
Those articles apparently excited far reaching interest, as letters have been received by me from all parts of Australia, New Zealand, Hongkong, Newfoundland, America, London, South Africa, and India, asking for fuller details or the dates of the previous articles. When those articles were written, all my records were not available, but they are now in my possession, including and original and important letter written to Hovenden Hely by Lance Skuthorpe on August 22, 1865, a letter given to me 20 years ago by the late Captain J. B. Mann, who was a member of Leichhardt’s second expedition and with him for eight months. Readers are asked to consider that my researches into the history and fate of Leichhardt have extended over 40 years, with access to all that has been published by anybody who knew anything about the subject, and the unique advantage of careful and systematic inquiries among all aboriginals in the Leichhardt country, as far back as 1875. We have to remember that in the aboriginals alone we are solely indebted for any information at all concerning the fate of Leichhardt, and that not one of the search expeditions threw the faintest light on the question. A. C. Gregory, with whom the subject was afterwards often discussed with me in the eighties (1880s), in his search expedition of 1858 found nothing but a Moreton Bay ash marked “L” at a point which he reported as “80 miles beyond where Hely said the whole party were speared by the blacks.”
But Gregory overlooked the fact that Hely had not located that last camp of Leichhardt, and was a long way from it when he turned back. The search expeditions of Landsborough in 1861 and Walker in the same year, discovered no traces of Leichhardt. There was only one man who would have settled the whole problem if fate had not been against him. That man was Roderick Mitchell, a Crown Lands Commissioner on the Maranoa in 1851. The New South Wales Government asked him to lead a search expedition, but, most unfortunately, he died before the organisation was complete, so the leadership was offered to Hovenden Hely, in a letter from the Governor, on September 25, 1851. Hely proposed that the party consist of “six good, hardy men, frontier bushmen preferred, and two aboriginals, with 15 horses and 15 mules, the latter to come from the A. A. Company, and a very complete outfit of stores, firearms, and ammunition.”
Mitchell had reckoned on a period of five months, in which eh would have gone seven or eight hundred miles beyond Mount Abundance, and back again. Hely prepared for a journey of nine months, perhaps 11, and at starting he had Boyd Horsburgh, Surgeon J. W. Drysdale, who had been out with Sir Thomas Mitchell when he discovered the Victoria (Cooper’s Creek), three other men, one of whom was replaced at Surat by Richard Walker, and a strong, active, ticket-of-leave man named Sandy Macarthur. Drysdale was to act as surgeon and also collector of specimens in botany and natural history. Hely’s official instructions were to go north, to the Peak Range, in expectation that Leichhardt had gone that way to recover a lot of stores he had buried in 1847, when he turned back from the Mackenzie. That was a wild goose expedition, which Hely wisely decided on discarding, after a conversation with Frederick Isaac, a squatter at Gowrie Station, on the Darling Downs. Isaac was the last white man with whom Leichhardt stayed on his way west, and he told Isaac that his intention was to go west to the “Victoria” of Mitchell (the Cooper), run it up to the Alice, try to find the Gulf watershed, and then go due west for the west coast of Australia. And that was exactly the course that Leichhardt started on.
An old shepherd at Mount Abundance told Hely that he was with a flock of sheep when Leichhardt passed, and “went straight for the setting sun,” or due west. Hely sent his stores to Brisbane by sea, and went overland to the Darling Downs with the mules and horses.
After leaving the Downs he was first heard of on the lower Condamine, 70 miles from Surat, and 110 miles from Mount Abundance, so he was that distance away south of Leichhardt’s track. What he went there for is not quite apparent, except to see a man named Walker, recently from Mount Abundance, who told him that two wild blacks came in to the station and said that the white men and their horses and mules were all killed by the blacks, ten days’ journey west of Mount Abundance, or about 200 miles. That story was strictly correct, as all subsequent evidence proved. Leichhardt and his party were killed on the apex of a pyramid, whose sides were 250 miles, the corners of the base being Surat and Taroom, 112 miles apart. And that apex is on Elizabeth Creek, really the head of the Langlo River, which runs into the Ward, and the Ward into the Warrego, a little below Charleville, all country familiar to me.
Hely was unfortunate in striking a year of drought and finding dry sand beds and rushes, where Sir Thomas Mitchell reported big waterholes in the Maranoa full of fish. He had two Maranoa blacks who spoke the “Cogih” dialect of the Maranoa, and so enabled him to communicate with the wild blacks so far as he went.
Skuthorpe spells it “Coogi,” and Ridley spells it Cogai, the three pronouns, I, thou, and he, gnia, inda, and yerango, being found by me to be common from the Balonne and Maranoa to the Warrego. The reader is asked to give special attention to the following exact copy of Skuthorpe’s letter from the original in my possession:-
August 22, 1865.
My dear Hely- Yours of the 16th instrument., only reached me yesterday. I have been often at a loss why you never showed to the front when so many statements were being made respecting Leichhardt.
I never see any Melbourne papers in this very isolated place, so that Gideon Lang might have told the ladies that he found Leichhardt and I none the wiser. But, as you have questioned me, I can satisfy you. Lang never went in search of Leichhardt on the Maranoa. He and his man, Walker, during their sojourn at Surat, were solely employed in taking up country for sir Charles Nicholson. That was in poor Roderick Mitchell’s time, and there was no talk of Leichhardt until long after Mitchell’s death.
I was the first who gleaned the information from the blacks, as at that time, I could speak the “Coogi” dialect fairly well, at least well enough to understand the blacks. I repeated to Whitty and Bagot what I heard and I understood they wrote to you and that it caused you to later your route. It was then, and is still, my opinion that had the two blacks guides we provided you with proved faithful, and not deserted you at such a critical time, you would have found the remains of the lost party on “Bunderaballa” Creek.
What makes me so confident is that, in all my yarns with the blacks, they never deviated from the one story, not only as to the time of day, but even to the position of the men when attacked. My informants were not only the domesticated blacks at Surat, but others who had come in lower down the river. Walker never saw the Maranoa, except at the confluence with the Balonne, at Ogilvie’s, until he accompanied you there, and Lang’s country was more to the north and west, as the reputed drought at Mount Abundance deterred any run-seekers going in that direction.
When Roderick Mitchell left Surat for Sydney to undertake a search for Leichhardt, neither he nor I had heard of “Bunderaballa,” and that was long subsequent to Gideon Lang being there.
Believe me, my dear Hely,
L. H. Skuthorpe (Lance Skuthorpe).
Hely met blacks who told him through his interpreter that all Leichhardt’s movements had been watched all through his journey, just as all the other explorers were watched, and they gave him an exact description of Leichhardt and all his party, including his two blacks, “Billy” and “Womai,” one with a long beard and the other barefaced, being only a youth. Hely saw the tracks of several very large bullocks, and the blacks told him they were some of Leichhardt’s cattle, which were all picked specimens.
He had 50 bullocks, 20 mules, and six horses, when leaving the Downs in February, 1848. The first mention of “Bunderaballa” as the scene of the tragedy was made to Hely by a ten year old blackboy, and then they met a woman with a piccaninny, and she pointed northwest and said the whites were killed seven days’ journey, about 150 miles, and she pointed to Hely’s guns and saddles, as the same she had seen at the fatal camp. On or near the Warrego, he got another woman who said they were four days’ journey from the spot, and then an old woman gave more particulars, and guided Hely by a short cut to what she said was the scene of the murder, and said that all the relics had been washed away by a flood. She said she had not seen any of the guns and saddles, as the men would not allow the women to go near the place. She also told Hely where two of Leichhardt’s camps were situated, and he actually found both just as she directed , and at each was a tree marked “L” with “XVA” inside. Hely took this to mean the 15th of April, but it was actually Leichhardt’s 15th camp from Mount Abundance, which he had left on April 5, and in those 11 days he had gone about 160 miles. Hely was then within 50 miles of the actual scene of the tragedy, but he never reached there as the blacks deserted him, and he turned back. At each of Leichhardt’s two camps, Hely saw heavy saplings, on which the packs had been placed to keep them off the wet ground, the tent poles and forks, and even the forked sticks and cross-piece in front of the fire, many bullocks droppings, but no signs of any tracks, which had been washed out by the heavy rains.
Hely went some distance beyond where he saw Leichhardt’s last camp, but saw no more marked trees. His blackboys told him, before they deserted, that the blacks would not show him where the murder was committed or the bones, saddles, and guns, as they were sure Hely would shoot them and their friends, as an act of vengeance. Fear of that also caused his own blacks to desert. Hely heard the story from a number of independent blacks, chiefly women, who were more reliable than the men, as they had nothing to fear, and they all told exactly the same consistent story. Hely concluded that “of the truth of the reports I have not now the slightest doubt. The manner and cause of the murder has been told, and corroborated in every particular by so many, that there can now be but one opinion on the matter.”
That was also the emphatic opinion of Skuthorpe, as shown by his letter. Twenty eight years after Leichhardt’s death, the Warrego blacks told me exactly the same reports they gave to Hey and Skuthorpe, and they gave the same to the pioneer bushmen and squatters on the Warrego and tributaries. The “L” tree seen by Gregory in 1858 was marked by Leichhardt where he turned back from a flying trip to the north, looking for the Gulf watershed. The blacks told me he took only one white man and a blackboy. The murder was on the night he returned to the base camp. The blacks had been following the party for six or seven days and, mustering in hundreds, they formed a big circle round the camp, and closed in and rushed it at the first streak of daylight. Only one shot was fired and one black killed. The mules and horses were all in hobbles, and easily killed. The bullocks were afterwards killed in detail, from time to time. That is the sum total of all available evidence from then to the present time. To myself, it is a certainty that Leichhardt and his party were killed at that camp on what the blacks called “Boonderrabahla” Creek, a tributary of the Langlo.
THE OLD PIONEER- A BLAZER OF TRACKS
Vanished forever in the mists of Time, rackless into blue intensity,” like Carrie’s La Perouse, are the lives of hundreds of the splendid men who blazed the tracks through the unknown Australia of the early years. The men who, in Essex Evans splendid poem on the Pioneers, went their lonely ways alone, and died unknown. They died, so many of them, in vast solitudes, in the silence of the great plains, or the dark shadows of the dense jungles, requiemed by the howl of the mournful dingo or the wail of the stone plover; and they lie there, where no grave was dug, and there were no funeral obsequities, and no mourners, silent, unknown, and unrecorded, where the dead men lie, the great debt we owe them to remain forever unpaid even by gratitude or remembrance.
But a few of these old warriors still remain, still standing, like venerable giant trees, with some yet green boughs, silhouetted on the sky-line of History, where so tremendous an area has been swept bare by the fire of Time. Some were men who, like Gfirabeau, “climbed and climbed, gluing their footsteps in their blood,” but stood at last on the summit of success, shaking their glittering shafts of war in triumph. Others slipped on the precipices, or fell by the way, but they were brave men, who did brave deeds, and too true is it that the race is not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong.
Among the old living pioneers yet known to me is John Norman Brennan, now living retired in a cosy cottage in Bundaberg, Queensland. His life, like that of so many of the pioneers, would read like some wild romance.
The types of men are changing with the ever changing environment and the advance of settlement. The squatter, shepherd, shearer, fencer, shingler, timber-getter, and bullock-driver of the settled districts of today are different types from those of the men, even in my early days, over 50 years ago. It is difficult to give people of the present time any definite picture of the men of the past, or avoid taxing their credulity by narrating incidents in the general life of that Australian Heroic Age, especially in the life of the pioneers.
Froude said Carlyle’s “French revolution” was photography by lightning flashes. Pictures of the pioneers cane be little more than glanced at during flashes of lightning, or as something just seen through a glass darkly.
Brennan was born in Singleton, New South Wales, of Irish parents. When 5 years of age, his father died, and his mother, when he was 15.
When 9 years of age, he was sent out as useful boy to a man named Samuel Cohen, a wheat grower and carrier near Scone.
If Cohen was a Jew, he was the only Jewish farmer and bullock-driver on record in Australia. The Semitic gentleman usually shie, with great agility, away from ploughs and drays, and hoes, and long handled shovels. They ruin his health and happiness.
After a year on “Kosher” wallabies, Brennan went to a man named Tom Parker, at Wee Waa, Liverpool Plains, and with him made two trips with mobs of Tom Cook’s cattle to Turonville, and one mob to Maitland. He then went with a man named Sutcliffe, to a station on the Cox River, named Gunindaddy, owned by Lloyd, of Sydney, and managed by Dobbin, and took a mob of 2000 sheep to Homebush, Brennan being then only 11 years of age, their only companion being a Scottish collie dog, named “Smut,” an animal with more intelligence than the average present day politician.
The sheep were fat and travelled slowly. They had to swim the Kholo, but there was a punt at the Nepean. Sutcliffe and Brennan carried their swags and tucker, replenishing the last from time to time on the journey. They had no tent, and on wet nights slept under a blanket stretched on three sticks in form of a tripod. They headed the Parramatta River, passing Blacktown, where Rev. Samuel Marsden started a farm and school for the blacks in 1795.
Brennan’s clearest recollection of Sydney is that of a large number of red-coated soldiers who could have been the 39th Regiment. They then went back to Newcastle, and by horseback to Burburgate station, near Gunnedah, where the Superintendent was Oscar de Satge, who in after years was the owner of Wolgang station, on the Peak Downs, and M.L.A. for Clermont, in the Queensland Parliament, the one before my own appearance there as member for Rosewood.
Sutcliffe and Brennan took another mob of 2300 fat sheep to Homebush, on horseback on that occasion to the Kholo River, where the horses were left until the return. Sutcliffe went back by sea, leaving young Brennan to find his way, at 12 years of age, back overland, picking up the three horses at the Kholo River, and thence alone across the Bulga Range, with the horses and the collie dog.
A drover named Jack Timmins, aided only by two dogs, took mobs of fat cattle to Maitland and Homebush, travelling on foot, crossing on the latter journey the rough Bulga Range, where at one spot only a single bullock could pass a steep rock at a time, taking two days in the ascent, water very scarce in the dry season, men occasionally dying of thirst with water only a hundred yards away.
Picture the 12 year old boy by himself on that long track, in charge of two horses, the lonely camps at night, his dog lying close beside him in fear of the dingoes, which were howling in all directions, the weird solitude of the bush, and overhead the awful silences and the eternal stars!
On arrival at home he was sent out to search for some of his mother’s horses, which were lost, and he was away for five days, camped out alone. He found the horses, took them home, and had just put up the rails of the paddock, when he saw a funeral party returning. Seeing his nine year old little brother among them, he asked him where he had been, and the child simply answered, “We went to bury mother!”
His mother had died while he was away for her horses, leaving an orphan with a stepfather named Sutcliffe, with whom he had made the two trips with sheep to Homebush. This man wanted to bind him for five years to Dick Everingham, who kept a public-house in Gunnedah, then a town of half a dozen houses. Brennan was to look after the horses, and be generally useful. But he had a very decided will of his own, and while Sutcliffe and Everingham were inside preparing the agreement, Brennan took off his coat, swam the Namoi, and started a walk to New England, to find an older brother, somewhere near Armidale, the brother who in after years was taken by a crocodile in the Cloncurry River, in North Queensland. He had only a shilling – but no one would charge the boy, then barely 15 years of age, for rations or a place to sleep – till he reached Bobbygulyan station, on the Peel, where a buckjumper was throwing all hands.
Brennan said to a youth beside him, “I could ride that horse!’ The youth called to a man named Baker, “Hey, mister, this cove said he can ride that horse!”
Baker said the “cove” would have him as a present if he could stay on his back. Young Brennan promptly mounted, being a very artistic youth in the saddle and a born horseman, and, though the four legged warrigal performed in great style all round a big yard, and was then let through the gate to do another star performance outside, Brennan remained in the saddle, and received an ovation from the spectators.
The riding so impressed Baker that he at once presented him with the horse, and engaged him to go overland with him to Rockhampton with a mob of horses – a long and risky and rough journey in those days- travelling via the Moonie and the Balonne, past Mount Abundance station, taken up by Macpherson in 1847, the place where Leichhardt wrote his last letter on the 4th of April, 1848, near the site of the present Roma, and thence northward to the Mackenzie, crossing at a spot near where Griffin murdered Cahill, a crime for which he was most justly hanged, and he went to the gallows wearing a dress suit. Fate allowed me, in after years, to hold his skull in my hands and examine it carefully. Phrenologically, it was an unusually bad skull. It was then in possession of a well-known Rockhampton doctor.
From the Mackenzie, Baker and Brennan went to Roderick McLennan’s station, Apis Creek, and Baker sold 15 horses to McLennan. Not more than a mile from the head station, two men named Christie and Craig kept a store, a public house and butchers shop.
Christie was Frank Gardiner, the notorious bushranger, and he and Mrs. Christie, the Mrs. Brown of his earlier years, lived in a slab and bark cottage away from the pub and the store. Craig and his wife lived in the pub. All the buildings were built of slabs, with roofs of bark, from white and gum topped box and iron bark, all stripped by the blacks. All drinks at the pub were a shilling. Craig and his wife were in charge of the pub, and Gardiner attended to the store and butcher’s shop. Brennan says he remembers him as a man about five foot eight inches, 11 stone in weight, with a long beard and whiskers which concealed most of his face. He was very courteous and obliging, and a general favourite with everybody.
He had a handsome black horse which excited young Brennan’s imagination. That was the famous “Darkie” which Gardiner had ridden when a bushranger, and taken with him to Queensland. It is incredible that Gardiner deliberately took three such very probable chances of discovery as himself, Mrs. Brown, and darkie, on a road to and from a diggings traversed by all classes of men, from all parts of Australia.
Brennan says the first discovery was made by two Melbourne Jews, who recognised Mrs. Brown, and they promptly divined that where she was located, Gardiner was not far away. This clue onve given, another man recognised “Darkie,” and finally knew Christie to be the famous bushranger. That was the man who went to Sydney, to inform the police and get the reward, and Detective McGlone was sent up to effect the arrest.
The next time Brennan saw “Darkie” was at the place where he and Baker were camped, 11 miles out of Rockhampton, and the police stopped there to have dinner, having “Darkie” and Gardiner in charge. The arrest of Gardiner was a painful shock to all who knew him, especially to the diggers of the Peak Downs. It is quite certain that Craig, who was Gardiner’s partner, never had the least suspicion that he was the ex-bushranger. Craig died three years after of brain fever, while erecting a new public house 8 miles from the old Apis Creek pub.
Brennan saw Mrs. Brown many years after, as cook and housekeeper at Bambandle station, then owned by Fox, on the Isaacs River, next Leichhardt Downs. When Gardiner was liberated, he went to San Francisco, and started a liquor saloon. Finally, in a saloon row, he shot some fellow through the wrist. This man returned and shot Gardiner dead. Mrs. Brown had died in New Zealand years before. Detective McGlone, who arrested Gardiner, died in san Francisco. He once kept an hotel in Sydney at the corner of Pitt and market Streets, and married the widow of John Gibbons, once partner with Randall in a well-known firm of railway contractors, Randall and Gibbons.
Randall’s Terrace, at Newtown, Sydney, was built by Randall.
Gibbons camp, on the Darling Downs, was named for John Gibbons, when he was engineer for Peto, Brassey, and Betts, who built the first railway for Queensland, Ipswich to the Little Liverpool Range, costing £110,500 per mile. The first railway in New South Wales cost £40,000 per mile, the first Victorian £38,000, and South Australia £28,000.
Baker and Brennan left Rockhampton to look for new country on the Barcoo, in 1862, went out across the Dawson and Nogoa, crossed the Main Range, and went west to Barcoo waters, returning down the Ward to the Warrego, and on to Cunnamulla which at the time had one house, a public house.
Mr. A. Meston writes as follows:
Sir,- Your correspondent J. T. L. Bird knows exactly what he is writing about, and is not at all likely to be mistaken. The doctor and the mariner to whom he refers, knew Griffin intimately, and were hardly likely to mistake the head of a Chinamen with a bare poll and a pigtail for that of a white man with a thick head of hair and a long fair beard.
On one of my visits to Rockhampton, probably 1889, I was staying at the Leichhardt Hotel with Dr. Spiridion Candiottis, the Greek medico from Clermont, and Captain Townley, who was then Sheriff of Queensland.
On the previous night, Captain Townley invited the doctor and myself to go and see a man hanged in the morning, and we went to the execution of the man who had murdered his wife.
Mr. Bird will remember the case. It was a gruesome scene, as the victim was wearing a white jacket, and the rope severed the jugular vein, with such results as the reader may imagine!
On that evening the doctor who owned Griffin’s skull invited Townley and Candiottis and myself to come over and see him, and he produced Griffin’s skull, and told us the whole story, of which I made notes, and which was identical with that told in yesterday’s “Courier” by Mr. Bird.
I have written the story of Griffin’s crime on two occasions, the last being for Mr. W. L. O Hill’s book “Forth Years in North Queensland,” and I gave Mr. Hill a photograph of Griffin for illustration. Griffin was the chief character in the book “Lost for Gold,” written by an Irish lady, Miss King, sister of the Hon. H. C. King, one of the Speakers in the Queensland Assembly when I had the honour to be member for Rosewood.
What promises to be the most comprehensive work yet written on the Australian aborigines is a book which Mr. A. Meston has been engaged in for the past twenty years, and which he hopes to complete within the next two years, the publication being undertaken by a firm of London publishers. This book is likely to have an interest, beyond the philologist and the ethnologist, and include all the reading public who take an interest in any phase of the history and description of the aboriginal races of Australia.
A brief outline of the design will afford some idea of what the work is likely to be included in the book (which is to be profusely illustrated) will be an ethnological map of Australia, the first ever attempted, showing, as far as possible, the distribution of the tribes, the dialects, the customs, and the weapons.
There will also be, for the first time, a history of the evolution of the boomerang through all stages, showing the locality in which it began as a two-handled round club, onwards through various transition across a wide area to where it finally culminated as the light return boomerang of the east coast of Australia.
The evolution of the woomera and woomera spear will also be described, and the localities in which all the various weapons were used. It appears Mr. Meston holds the belief that aboriginals are just as distinctively Australian as the flora and fauna of our island continent, and that it is useless looking to the weapons, the customs, or the language, for any affinity with other existing races of mankind.
He ridicules those philologists who base misleading hypotheses on the similarity of isolated words, as that would connect the aboriginal language, with nearly all the languages of mankind.
He holds that all modern languages have brought down primitive words from remote antiquity, and that all primitive languages, however widely separated, originated under practically identical conditions, were begotten of the same emotions, in the same association of ideas, and therefore had many words in common with each other. He finds aboriginal words equivalent to others in Greek, Hebrew, Indian, Latin, Italian etc.
Mr. Meston says that the meanings of some aboriginal words are lost in extinct dialects, others are so misspelled as not to be recognizable, and some names in each State were brought from far distant localities, and there is great difficulty in tracing their origin. Some cannot be traced at all. He thinks there should be a public register book of all names of rivers, towns, railway stations, mountains etc and that the meaning should follow the name on maps and in postal and railway guides and gazetteers.
Fire making and method of cookery are included in the chapter on vegetables and animal foods. The superstitions of the blacks and their pastimes, methods of fighting, systems of healing, curative plants and gums, physical training, social customs, riddles, songs, corrobborees, love of children, kindness to the aged, are in one section, which includes a complete description of a bora ceremony in three different parts of Australia. The book will also include a grammar and vocabulary of one dialect.
All this is but a vague outline of a book which in some respects will doubtless be the most interesting and comprehensive yet published on the subject, as the author’s experience of forty-two years among all types of aboriginals, wild and tame, his knowledge of their language, his familiarity with the use of their weapons, complete knowledge of their character, and extensive experience over a wide area, enable him to write with authority on every branch of Australian ethnology.
One chapter deals with the ancient fauna of Australia, the probable changes undergone since the Paleozoic period, the physical peculiarities of the Australian continent, and the relationship to the adjoining islands of New Guinea, New Zealand, Tasmania and Norfolk Island.
NATIVE NAME FOR THE BRISBANE RIVER.
Mr. A. Meston, Protector of Aboriginals, writes the following interesting communication in response to your inquiry concerning the aboriginal name of the Brisbane River.
The Moreton Bay blacks had no generic name for river. They gave a name to every reach and bend, and every spot with which any remarkable incident was associated.
The Ipswich blacks, “Cateebil,” tribe, speaking a dialect called “Yuggara,” – from “Yuggarr,” the negative- called all running creeks by the name of “Warrill.”
The Brisbane River, Moreton Bay and Bribie Island blacks called Brisbane “Maginnchin” and “Gneen yanman Maginnchin?’ (Are you going to Brisbane?) would be understood by the old blacks from Nerang Creek to the Mary River as indicating a visit to Brisbane only, the name being restricted to that locality.
When on a visit to Brisbane, as a youth, in 1870, the old blacks gave two different pronunciations of the word. The mainland blacks called it Maginnchin, and the Stradbroke people “Meeannjin.”
Unless Mr. Thomas Petrie, now the oldest living Queensland settler, and the best living authority for fifty years on the Brisbane dialect can tell us the meaning of “Maginnchin,” then the origin is lost beyond recall.
In my book on the aboriginals, I shall save many of the old aboriginal names, as many as possible, and fortunately I have kept a record for twenty-five years.
A few of those around Brisbane will interest many of your readers.
The scrub where the Botanic Gardens are situated was called “Binbilla,” and the point at Breakfast Creek, so long the home of Mrs. George Harris, was known as “Garran-binbilla,” both names referring to the interlacing vine used in building camps.
Breakfast Creek was called “Euoggera,” and when this name was sent to Sydney Lands Office, the u was unfortunately taken for an n, and our waterworks have been erroneously called “Enoggera” to the present day.
The present Bulimba was “Toogoolawa, and the name “Boolimbah’ was applied to the small hill between Bulimba and White’s Hill, which was known as “Numcarran.
Mount Gravatt was called “Caggara-mahbill,” from “caggara,” the porcupine.
The word Woolloongabba should be “Wooloon-cappemm,” from Wooloon (whirling), and Capemm, (water), literally whirling water. The word “wooloon,” in the Ipswich dialect, became “woogaroo,” a whirlpool or whirlwind.
The word “Booroodabin” should be “Booroothabbin,” which Mr. Tom Petrie informs me was the Brisbane blacks’ name of the forest oak. Nundah was the mouth, and Namboor was the tea-tree. Tingalpa should be “Ting-al-tah,” with accent on first and last syllables. “Ting-al” was fat, and bah was the adverb there, indicating the place of fat. The Brisbane tribe, ranging from Brisbane to the Caboolture River, was named “Boobbera,” and that on the south side was “Coorpooroo-jaggin,” from whence the name Coorparoo, which should be Coorpooroo, with accent on the poo.
The tribes in North and South Brisbane spoke two distinct dialects.
Some of the old aboriginal names of places around Brisbane are very euphonious.
I may return to this subject on a future occasion.
To the Editor,
Sir, - In reply to your correspondent in this morning’s “Courier,” regarding the native name of the Brisbane River, it is rather surprising that no one on board the Lucinda on Saturday was in a position to furnish the information. The Brisbane river was known to the tribes along its banks as “Magenjie,” or the “Big Flowing Water.” Brisbane, the site of the Moreton Bay Penal Settlement, was known to the tribes of the Mary River (Mononcoola) among whom Durramboi spent so many years, as “Magenchen,” the place where the white men – ghosts- the “Makrommi sit down.” This is but another instance which should emphasize our regret in not having adhered more generally to the aboriginal names of places.
I am, Sir, etc.
Brisbane. 6 August.
Sir,- In answer to the question put by a correspondent of yours as to what was the name of the Brisbane River before Oxley discovered it, it appears that in 1823 Oxley named the river in question, and two years later Major Lockyer traversed it as far as Mount Brisbane, and his records, dating seventy six years back, give the names of the creeks as we know them now – namely, Norman’s, Breakfast, Oxley’s, and Bremer’s. It is doubtful whether natives have ever given distinctive names to rivers, for the simple reason that each tribe knows little of the river’s course beyond their own territory, and each tribe would use a different sound, or word, to describe the same river, as witness Mr. Stanley’s experience in his journey up the Congo, in Africa, where the natives are far ahead of our Queensland aboriginal both in language and arts. It is noticeable that G. C. Stapylton, the surveyor, when surveying the road from Brisbane to Limestone (Ipswich) calls Oxley’s Creek “Canoe” Creek, and this some fourteen years after Lockyer’s survey. It is also peculiar that neither Lockyer nor Stapylton have recorded the presence of the “Seven-mile Rocks” in their surveys. After all it is, perhaps, scarcely correct to say that Oxley discovered the Brisbane River at all, because it was the unfortunate man, Pamphlet, who met Oxley at Toorbul Point, who told him of the river, and, but for that meeting, its presence might have remained undiscovered for some considerable time, for Oxley’s being at Toorbul Point points to a probability that he was intent upon exploring Cook’s “Pumice Stone River,” as that passage was charted.
I am, Sir, etc.
G. W. M. H.
Toowong. 6th August.
From Alice Hope Watkins, Killarney:
I see that “Ballandean” is said to have been called after two settlers, Ball and Dean.
This is wrong! Ballandean was called after a place in Scotland by a Scotchman, Henry Nicol, who was a pioneer squatter there in 1852. My mother, Miss Meston, was visiting there in 1855, when she met my father, A. K. Cullen, who was then gaining “colonial experience” there. They were married in 1857, and I can just remember being carried on horseback from our station, Boonoo Boonoo, to visit Miss Hope Nicol, my godmother, at Ballandean. The derivation from “Ball and Dean” doesn’t even sound right. The first symbol is “Bal.”
[The “Times” Gazetteer has no reference to any Ballandean in Scotland. Ed.]
From T. J. Watson, Toowong-
Perhaps the origin of a few aboriginal place names have been more discussed than that of Baramba. Regarding its meaning as given in The Courier Mail, I may mention that according to John Matthews, author of “Two Representative Tribes,” who received his information in the vicinity of Baramba some 70 years ago, the native name of sarsaparilla is boraboranbin (accent on the first and third syllables). The name may be a contraction of that word. The word buran, to my personal knowledge, means boomerang, and the same word, slightly differently accented, means wind. I may mention that the gentleman who first had charge of the Baramba aboriginal station after the removal of the natives from Deening Creek to that place, informed me that the blacks said that the name was “Buranda,” meaning “place of wind.”
Regarding the meaning of “Toowong,” the name is not derived from the call of a bush pigeon, as asserted in a recent issue, but from the call of the Koel cuckoo. This bird is still a fairly frequent visitor to this locality (West Toowong), and its peculiar call could recently be heard by day, and occasionally by night.
BARCOO- A river (310 miles) in Western Queensland, flows into Cooper’s Creek, which empties into Lake Eyre. On October 1, 1846, Sir Thomas Mitchell called it the ‘Victoria,” because “the river seems to me typical of God’s providence in carrying living waters into a dry parched land…With deep sentiments of loyalty I have given to this noble river the name of my most gracious sovereign, Queen Victoria.” Captain Wickham R.N., (afterwards first Police Magistrate in Brisbane) had already bestowed the name Victoria on a river in the Northern Territory, so, on the recommendation of Mr. E. K. Kennedy, (second in command of Sir Thomas Mitchell’s expedition), the native name of Barcoo was retained.
ABARCCORAH- A lake and pastoral holding in the Shire of Aramac, a native name meaning “hunting ground for wild fowl.”
BARKE- A railway station near Mount Morgan; native word meaning “crooked creek.”
BEECH MOUNTAIN- A spur of the Coomera Ranges, and a mountain holiday resort (Beechmont, 15 miles from Nerang) between the Coomera and Nerang Rivers; named in the timber getting days after its beech trees.
BEENLEIGH- A prosperous dairying town on the South Coast line, 24 miles from Brisbane; it was one of the early sugar growing districts. The name was given first to a sugar farm on the Albert River, by John Davey, “in memory of my native village in England.” Floods in the Albert River, and later the needs of the railway, caused the site of the early township to be changed twice, but each time it retained its name Beenleigh.
BEERBURRUM- One of Cook’s “Glass Houses,” also a township, 40 miles from Brisbane, on the Gympie line, a native name meaning “parrot.”
BEERWAH- Another of Cook’s “Glass Houses”; also a township, 47 miles from Brisbane; the native name “Birwa,” means “way up in the sky.” The mountain is 1780ft.
ARMYTAGE CREEK- In the Tamborine Shire, named after an early settler on the creek.
ARVONBETA- Area in the Chillagoe and Woothakala shire (North Queensland) named by Atherton Bros in 1887 from the native name of the locality “Arvon,” and “beta” meaning granite. There is a Bocumbeta – granite hill in the same locality.
ARTHUR’S SEAT- Peak, 1200 ft high, in the Herberton Shire; named after Arthur Woodward, who showed the country to Franklin Lawrence, of Woodleigh.
ASCOT- Suburb of Brisbane, also railway station and racecourse; named after the famous racecourse in Berkshire, England. In England the name is pronounced As-k’t; in Queensland it is pronounced As-kot.
ASHWELL- State school and settlement near Rosewood, named by Mr. E. Ludlow, a local resident, after Ashwell, in Hertfordshire, England.
BELLISSIMA- The old home of the Lahey Bros, at Canungra, 548 miles from Brisbane, named by the late Francis Lahey about 1860, after the “Bellissima,” one of the old Black Ball line vessels; a Latin word meaning “Very Beautiful.”
BELYANDO- A river (205 miles) tributary of the Sutlor; also the name of a local authority. Sir Thomas Mitchell discovered the river on August 10, 1846, and gave it the native name.
BENARCIE- A range of peculiar formation between Tiaro and Glenbar. The native name was Boonar-gie; then the tail off the “g” was dropped and the “g” became a “c”.
BENARKIN- A town on the Yarraman Creek railway, 112 miles from Brisbane; it was the native word for a blackbutt tree.
Sir,- Regarding “Curious Scholar’s” query (Courier Mail 28 September 1935) as to the place name Tiaro, its etymology and history, the following may be of interest. On a map of Queensland of early issue, the name was spelt “Tyro.” The name is a corruption of the native (Kob-bi) word “dhau-wa” or “tau-wa,” which is an adjective means withered, and in this instance as a noun means “dead trees.”
At the time of the first settlement by whites, it was the locality of a community of Kobi blacks known as the “Dau-wa-burra” which, being liberally translated, means “dead tree people.” The place is historical in that it was the head of navigation for the boat by means of which Petrie, Russell, Joliffe, and Wrottesley, discovered and explored the Mary River in 1849; it was where the same party reclaimed from the blacks the “wild white man” James Davis, who was known as Duramboi, and it was the site of the first white settlement – Eales’ sheep station – in the Wide Bay district.
I am, Sir, etc.,
F. J. Watson,
MESTON’S WILD AUSTRALIA
The performance by Mr. Meston’s aboriginals yesterday afternoon at the Breakfast Creek Sports Ground attracted a numerous gathering of people. The intense heat rendered the position of the spectators a somewhat uncomfortable one, and apparently the performers found it more than sufficiently warm. Both, however, met on a new footing.
The aboriginals appeared in the open, and the spectators therefore had an opportunity of seeing them under more natural circumstances than when they appeared on the stage of a theatre. Despite the hat, the change of the scene of action was an advantage.
The dances, spear throwing etc., of Meston’s blacks fitted in more harmoniously with the open air than the confined limits of a theatre. The programme which they went through yesterday was a decidedly interesting one, and had the events been marshalled more closely together, would have merited warm praise. The different items were watched with an interest which at times became very keen. As the performers were arranged in different parts of the ground for various events, the spectators found it necessary to follow them. There was accordingly a continual shifting of the populace. At one time there was a stampede towards the racing track; at another, men, women, and children, ran helter skelter to the shores of the lagoon on the opposite side; and at other times they congregated in a wide sweeping ring in the centre of the oval. The continual movement of the people added to the liveliness of the scene, which for the most part was very animated. As the comparative handful of natives moved from one part of the ground, they were followed by a long train of people, who ran in pursuit with all the eagerness of blacks themselves following an unfriendly tribe.
The programme consisted chiefly of corrobborees, boomerang throwing, spear throwing, racing, and swimming and diving in the lagoon. The spear throwing was excellent, and so closely did the spectators crowd around the performers that they were often in want of space to throw their weapons safely. While the contest was limited to the piercing of a mattress which had been set up as a target, there was no danger, and the natives fairly riddled it with perfect freedom. Impelled with the great force of muscular arms and woomeras, the spears pierced the thick space of the mattress almost as if it had been a sheet of paper. The boomerang throwing was an event which could have ill been spared from the programme. Some of the performers hurled this bird like missile to a great height. Unfortunately the track of the boomerang was not always as securely gauged, and unwise spectators who crowded too near narrowly escaped making a practical acquaintance with its effects. One young man was struck on the head by a truant weapon, and received a nasty scalp wound. This was apparently the only casualty. While the swimming events were in progress, the banks of the lagoon were lined with people who followed the dexterous feats of the blacks with a very lively interest. The performance, which on the whole was a very interesting one, closed at a suitable hour.
THE QUEENSLAND ABORIGINALS
The Worker has received a copy of Mr. Archibald Meston’s open letter to Mr. Horace Tozer on the question of the preservation and improvement of the Queensland aboriginals. The letter takes the form of a pamphlet, and contains much information. The most eloquent and telling paragraph in the letter is the following: “It seems well to consider here our ‘debtor’ account with the aboriginals. Queensland has so far, alienated about 10,000,000 acres of freehold land, and leased about 300,000,000 acres for pastoral occupation. For the first we have received about£6,250,000 in cash, and for the leased land we receive £332,800 annual rental. Since the year of separation, 1859, or ever since 1842, we have not expended £50,000 for the benefit of the aboriginals, and have never since then, or before, paid them a single shilling in cash, clothes, or food, for even one acre of land. And why? Because they are too weak to compel justice, and we are too unjust to accord it without compulsion.
BOOKS FOR THE PEOPLE
Meston’s “Geographic History of Queensland”
Some books are organic. You feel that if you divide them in two they would bleed. Other books are a mechanical conglomeration of inorganic elements. If divided into a hundred parts, each part would remain intact and unimpaired.
The “Geographic History of Queensland” belongs to the latter category. This work is neither a history nor a geography. It is neither a text book nor a book of reference. In some respects it is everything; in other respects it is nothing. It is everything in so far as it contains an enormous amount of facts relating to Queensland; it is nothing inasmuch as the facts are presented without any sense of proportion, and without any attempt to organise them into a living and organic whole. Professor Clifford once defined science as organised knowledge. If the definition is a correct one, Mr. Meston’s book is one of the most unscientific ever published.
But despite its unscientific character, the book is inmany respects a valuable one. It contains a large amount of information which perhaps nobody could have collected but Archibald Meston. Who but Archibald Meston would place on deathless record the fact that an aboriginal threw a cricket ball at Clermont 146 yards on the 2nd of January, 1872?
With loving care, Mr. Meston has collected thousands of curious facts which but for him, might have remained forever in the silent depths of oblivion. He is more an antiquarian than a scientist or a historian. He is the Captain Grose of Queensland. One might almost say of him what Burns said of Grose:
Of Eve’s first fire he was a cinder,
Auld Tubal Cain’s fire-shool and fender
That which distinguished the gender
O’ Balsam’s ass;
The broomstick o’ the Witch of Kodor
Weel shod wi’ brass.
Mr. Meston has the defects of his qualities, but in his own special line he stands supreme.
The book is a strange mixture of dry facts and eloquence. Sometimes we have pages of dry scientific nomenclature without any attempt to explain them to the general reader, and sometimes we have pages of the most flowery eloquence ever written by the pen of man. After a page or two, dealing in a jointy manner with the Psephotos pulcherrimus, the Pitta strypilaus, the Aquila audax and other things, we come upon a passage like the following:
“Eternity is throned on these dark rocks among the wild whirlwind of waters, and speaks to you in solemn tones of the Past and the Present and the Evermore.”
Now, I humbly confess that that passage is too much for me. I cannot represent, in imagination, Eternity with a capital E, throned on dark rocks, or on rocks of any kind! I cannot imagine Eternity speaking in solemn tones of the East, the Present and the Evermore, all with capital letters by the way. Eternity and Evermore are synonymous terms. If, therefore, Eternity is in the habit of talking about the Evermore, Eternity is exceedingly egotistic and ought to be ashamed of itself. In his description of Queensland scenery, Mr. Meston is frequently sublime. But he evidently forgets that there is only a step from the sublime to the ridiculous, and he sometimes takes the step.
In spite, however, of its undoubted defects, the book has much to recommend it. It is a perfect mine of information. No doubt, as the author admits, the information is “largely scattered, like gold in an alluvial field.” But it is there, and it exists inlarger quantity than in any other book on the subject. The history of Queensland has yet to be written; indeed, it has yet to be made. But the future historians of this young nation will owe a debt of gratitude to the brilliant, and in some respects, unique, author of the Geographic History of Queensland.
The following passage is a fair sample of Mr. Meston’s eloquence at its best:
“Scene from the Summit of Bartle Frere
Human voice or pen can give but a faint idea of the abysmal gloom of that tremendous solitude. We were surrounded by a world of clouds, even the rocks within a hundred yards above and below us but faintly seem like tombstones in the morning mists. Never before did I experience the same sensations. Rising over all was man’s senses of his own unspeakable insignificance. It seemed as if I had been suddenly ushered, like Ulysses, into the realms of death,
Where side by side along the dreary coast,
Advanced Achilles’ and Petroclus’ ghost.
In fancy the spectral clouds assumed the shape of some Tiresias rising from the awful shades. The lighter mists were driven by the winds swiftly along dismal avenues of enormous vapours, moving slowly onward, black as night and silent as the voiceless grave. Imagination pictured the solemn phantoms of departed ages stalking gloomily along through colonnades of majestic clouds. The pale kingdoms marshalled their mournful ghosts. Once only, and for a few brief seconds, did we behold the dark form of Wooroonooran, through a wind divided chasm of rolling clouds, apparently far above us, a vast black shape revealing itself, and disappearing again in the realms of gloom. And once only did the clouds lift like a mighty curtain from the mountains to the north, displaying gigantic shadows resting in the umbrage of the peaks, and myriad columns of snow white vapours shooting upwards from the ravines below, as if we stood over the abode of Lucifer, and in the nether depths
All hell unloosed
Its mounded oceans of tempestuous fire
And when the sunlight came with all the varied glories of the dawn, and clouds became “red, yellow, or ethereally pale,” and radiant rainbows spanned with their curving splendours the many hued abyss; and, for a few moments we stood the centre of a hundred sunsets, lost in the magnificence of all the splendid shapes and colours of the wondrous God created dome which overarches this mysterious earth.”
The book is well-printed, well bound, contains upwards of 200 pages, and is to be sold at 3s 6d. All who are interested in the genesis of Queensland, in its geological formations, its geographical divisions, its plants and animals; in the strange manner and customs of its aborigines; in the origin and development of the pastoral industry; in the discovery and extension of our gold fields; and indeed, in everything that a patriotic Queenslander ought to know, will find the Geographic History of Queensland a veritable encyclopedia.
Sir,- Your correspondent, “Bobsiv,” was apparently in a facetious mood when he wrote to you on the subject of aboriginal names of Queensland fauna.
His contribution certainly added to our levity. The word Budgerygah, which he says is the common name of the beautiful ground parrot or “love bird,” is a mutilated version of the Kamilroi word geejoriga or gijerriga, the syllable ga meaning “head.” It was applied to “small green parrots” and to two stars across the Milky Way near Scorpio. Boodjerree-ga is a Sydney blacks’ word that was used for drawing attention to something good. The meaning “Shake tree” given by “Bobsiv” for Koo-ka-burra has no connection with this word than “Bobsiv” has with the present revolution in Manchuria.
The notes of this bird are mostly ka and koo, and from these it takes its name in most dialects. There are variants such as ka-ka-burra, koo-koo-ra-ka, and wa-koo-ka.
Burra means tribe or people, and koo-ka-burra means the koo-ka tribe or people.
I do not know why “Bobsiv” should be pleased because the word dingo has displaced the word warrigal. Dingo is the Sydney blacks’ word for the native dog. Warrigal is the word for the dingo in a number of New South Wales dialects, and it even extended to Queensland. It was used by the whites for anything wild.
Penang-galoom, or, as it should read, Penoong-barloon, the first syllable meaning “ear” and the second “dead,” is, according to “Bobsiv,” a word for death adder. The components of it are from different dialects, and the word itself is probably part of the mixed word-coinage of Baramba. It does not appear as a word for death-adder in any of the dialects recorded in standard publications.
“Bobsiv” made the good suggestion that the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides should be taught the aboriginal names for birds, animals, and reptiles. I would also acquaint them with the aboriginal astronomy and their quest for water in country that is waterless to white men. Trees, plants, animals, birds, insects, and the Diamantina frog yielded their secrets of water supply to the aboriginals. Many a white man has died of thirst near or in the shade of a water tree and in the presence of birds that are good indicators of water. But beware of the kangaroo, wallaby, dingo, emu, crow, or kooka-burra as indicators – they may be miles from water. Place your trust in the friendly diamond birds, zebra finches, pigeons, galahs, and cockatoos, and they will show you the way to water that is near by. Geese flying low are also good indicators. Follow the flight of the birds at sundown, because then it is almost invariably towards water.
I am, Sir, etc.
L. A. Meston.
Bardon, December 12.
FRASER ISLAND BLACKS
RAID ON WHISKY
CAUSE OF THE RECENT TROUBLE
The Maryborough Chronicle of October 6 gives some details of the trouble at Fraser Island aboriginal settlement, in addition to those already published in the Telegraph. It appears that Mr. Purvis, having made preparations for a grand corroboree to honour Lord and Lady Brassey’s visit, went off to the Sunbeam on Sunday evening and at 8 o’clock the party started for the shores in two boats. There were in the boats, Lord and Lady Brassey, Earl of Shaftesbury, Mr. du Burgh Persse, Mr. H. J. Hill, Mr. Albert Brassey, M.P., Captain Boult, and several officers of the Sunbeam.
As the boat approached the shore, it became apparent that matters were not proceeding in the manner arranged, and as it was found that many of the aborigines were drunk, Lord and Lady Brassey and their guests returned to the Sunbeam. The Chronicle, continuing the story, says:
After the party had left in the boats, Mr. Purvis went up to the camp, and proceeded to enquire into the cause of the extraordinary turn of events. Some of the drunken boys adopted a menacing attitude towards him, but supported by the well-known Paddy Brown and a few other sober boys, he was able to suppress any attempt at open violence. He soon discovered that immediately after leaving for the Sunbeam in the afternoon, Percy, a half-caste, in whom he had implied confidence, backed up by a few others, had broken into his (Mr. Purvis’s) cottage, and, securing two gallons of whisky, his private property, had drunk it and served it out to the other blacks until it was all gone. As they had not had a taste of alcoholic liquor for seven or eight months, a little went a long way with them, and the camp soon became a pandemonium. Mr. Purvis found his cottage filled with drunken blacks, who had smashed his clock and some crockery, and done other damage. On entering, Percy, the half caste, who had served out the drink, made a rush at Mr. Purvis to strike him, but was prevented by Paddy Brown and others from doing so. After a while the blacks were cleared out of the house, and Mr. Purvis then locked up his things.
At about 1 o’clock on Monday morning, in fulfillment of his promise to Lord Brassey to report himself, Mr. Purvis, with the assistance of 12 of the boys, who had become more sober, launched the whaleboat over the sands, and started for the Sunbeam, and on the way met Captain Boult and a boat’s crew coming for him. It appears that Lord and Lady Brassey and others were very anxious about the safety of Mr. Purvis on shore with the blacks, and as the night wore on they found the feeling of suspense so great that they dispatched the boat with instructions to Mr. de Burgh Persse J.P., who went with Captain Boult, to see that he was brought off to the ship, if he would not come of his own accord. Mr. Purvis, therefore, spent the rest of the night on the Llewellyn. After daylight he expressed a desire to return to the settlement, but was prevailed upon by Lord Brassey and others not to do so.
Lord Brassey put his views in writing, and Mr. Purvis accordingly followed His Excellency’s advice, subsequently returning to Maryborough in the Government steamer Llewellyn. Shortly after his arrival in Maryborough on Tuesday, Mr. Purvis received the following wire from Mr. Meston: “Return at once to settlement with constable; stay there until my arrival. Coming tomorrow.” Mr. Purvis had made arrangements to go to Pialba by Tuesday afternoon’s train, and thence to Fraser Island, but Mr. Meston arrived by the mail train, accompanied by his son, Mr. Harold Meston, from Durundur Aboriginal settlement, and altered the arrangement. Mr. Purvis subsequently indorsed the Chronicle that Mr. Meston saw him, and suspended him from all duties pending a report from him, and a full inquiry into the causes of his leaving the settlement. Mr. Harold Meston will take charge of the settlement in the meantime, and with his father, went to Fraser Island, on Wednesday afternoon, via Pialba.
The Chronicle also learns from Mr. A. Meston that on Tuesday, Paddy Brown and some other blacks pulled over the Woody Island, and sent him a telegram, stating that all was going well at the camp.
MR. MESTON’S MISSION
Mr. A. Meston has returned from the Cairns district, where he has been collecting summer fruits and plants on the mountains. He was accompanied by Mr. Harold Newport, of the Kamerunga State Nursery, and the most important part of the mission was the search on the Bellenden Ker Range. Mr. Meston comes back with 92 kinds of summer fruits, including the magosteen, samples of which are 3¼in in diameter. All the specimens are carefully preserved in formalin. The native nuts also had attention, and 297lb weight of nuts and seeds have been brought down. Among the nuts are two which form the sole food of the Bellenden Ker tribes during the wet season. Of the seeds there are 750 of the mangosteen ready for planting, exclusive of fifty taken and planted by Mr. Newport at the Kamerunga State Nursery. The collection was done from the foot of the range to the summit, a height of 5000 feet, and in addition to the fruit and nuts, Mr. Meston has returned with numerous specimens of herbs and trees, many of them of a curious nature. A collection was also made on the Malbon, Thompson, and Graham Ranges, on the former of which Mr. Meston secured a nut unlike anything he had seen before, and testing much like the Brazilian nut. He also had some samples of gum which is most plentiful, and which should be useful in the making of varnish. It burns readily when lighted and gives off a pleasant odour. It is proposed to distribute the seeds so gathered among the public gardens and leading horticulturalists and the specimens will be placed before the Colonial Botanist. During the seven weeks on the range, heavy rain continued for three weeks, and intermittent rain was experienced at other times, except for two weeks, which was the only fine spell there was. Mr. Meston regards the expedition as much more important that the previous one in which he was engaged.
TO THE EDITOR
Sir,- It is exceedingly gratifying to find that Mr. Meston intends making another excursion to that very interesting but almost unknown part of Queensland, the Bellenden Ker mountains. It says very little for the enterprise of Queensland that this important district should still remain so little known. The description of the hasty visit paid this wonderful district by Mr. Meston with Mr. Bailey (our veteran Government Botanist) and a few others some years ago was so full of interest that it is surprising that no further exploration has been attempted. A properly equipped party of qualified men should at once be formed to thoroughly examine this almost unknown part of Australia, which is only a few days distant from Brisbane. Mr. Meston, on his cursory visit, discovered the mangosteen, which Mr. Bailey named after him, also other fruits; but as they were collected at the wrong time of the year they had lost their vitality.
Mr. Bailey, during the short time he was on Bellenden Ker, discovered upwards of 100 new plants; he also observed a variety of magnificent timber trees. From their glowing description, one would imagine they had discovered the garden of Queensland. Traces of minerals, including gold, were met with. No one call tell yet what hidden treasures exist in this unexplored land. On the top of one of the mountains, known only to one man, was found an enormous crater; in any other civilised country, steps would have been taken immediately to follow up this important discovery, but nothing was done. It is said that the Mount Morgan mine is the vent of a volcano. What if the great crater on Mount Alexander should prove another Mount Morgan? There may be craters on other mountains, and crater lakes like those at Herberton.
A few years ago, a small army of Australians hurried to South Africa to fight our enemies the Boers, and it is said that some are now eager to take service with the Japanese to fight our friends the Russians. Cannot some of these valiant and energetic spirits engage in the far more creditable work of Australian exploration? What is wanted is the formation of a strong and competent party, each man picked for some special excellence, enthusiastic, determined, and industrious, not given to loafing, drink, or any other vice, but who will work hard and intelligently. The party should include a botanist, a geologist and a naturalist. Now comes the question of cost. Probably there are in Queensland one or more rich and patriotic men who will, if appealed to, supply the necessary funds; if not, there may be in New South Wales or Victoria. The work is Australian, and need not be confined to Queensland. I may quote two instances illustrative of the interest taken in our colony on the other side of the world. Some few years ago, the University of Cambridge supplied funds to Mr. Colville, a graduate, to enable him to visit Queensland and study the life history of the ceratodus, and subsequently sent Mr. Graham Kerr, with an assistant, to South America to study the life history of that rare fish, Lepulosire. It took a year to accomplish their work. Dr. Paul von Ritter, a wealthy German, paid the expenses of Professor Richard Semon, of Jena University, to visit Queensland and perform similar work to that performed by Mr. Colville. Mr. Semon, finding one season insufficient to complete the study of the ceratodus, returned to the Burnett district the following year, spending the interval in visiting North Queensland. Thursday island, New Guinea, and Java. He described his travels in a very interesting book, “Life in the Australian Bush,” and several other works, all of great scientific value. The entertaining and energetic professor is now travelling in South America.
I am, Sir, etc.
Oxley. 8th January.
THE DEATH OF NELSON
A SQUATTER’S REMINISCENCES
OF SIR HUGH
An old Queensland squatter, who knew the fate of Hugh Nelson for 45 years, has supplied “Truth” with the following interesting reminiscences.
Nelson was born at Kilmarnock, in Scotland, on December 31, 1835. He was 18 years of age when he came to Queensland, in 1853, with his father, the Rev. Dr. Nelson, who went to Ipswich as clergyman of the Presbyterian church. I remember when old Griffith, Sam’s father, preached the opening sermon in the first Congregational church in Ipswich, young Nelson was one of the audience. His first intention was to engage in mercantile work, and he started as a clerk in an Ipswich firm.
I next met him on the Condamine about 1866, when he came to wind up the affairs of Binbian station on Inglewood Creek, six miles from the present Condamine township. Binbian was in charge of a man named Solomon Wiseman who was bailiff for the mortgages. Nelson promptly sacked Wiseman. Many years afterwards, when member for Murilla, he was returning by train from Sydney, and a fellow passenger said, “Pardon me, is not your name Mr. Nelson?” Nelson pleaded guilty. “Well, my name is Solomon Wiseman.” “You are not the Solomon Wiseman who is now the Broken Hill millionaire?” asked Nelson. Wiseman pleaded guilty. If Solomon had not been sacked from Binbian, he might have remained an overseer all his life. This man was the son of the Solomon Wiseman who gave his name to Wiseman’s Ferry, on the Hawkesbury River, and was a very well-known celebrity in the early days. He is mentioned in Judge Therry’s celebrated “Reminiscences.” Therry called on Wiseman in 1836, on his way to Maitland. Solomon had then been five years contracting to supply the convict road gang with rations and making £3,000 to £4,000 per annum. Therry says, page 121, “His coming to the colony had originally been caused by a difference of opinion with the Customs House officers in the Isle of Wight and as to the mode of landing spirits and cigars- his opinions being favourable to the night time as best suited his purposes.”
However, Solomon turned out a fine hospitable honest old chap, but could never overcome his dislike to education. He had four sons, of whom Binbian Solomon was one. He gave each a flock of sheep and a herd of cattle, but they all failed. Finally Solomon junior struck a patch in Broken Hill and became renowned for wealth.
Tatka station on the Moonie was one of the first stations held by Dr. Nelson, followed by Wanambilla, Malara, and Myra. The old doctor left Ipswich and went to Toowoomba about 1866, remaining there until he died. The largest Nelson property, and Sir Hugh’s oldest home, was London, four miles from Dalby, with nearly 40,000 acres of freehold. Nelson married a daughter of Duncan McIntyre of Toowoomba. Duncan had been the Presbyterian parson whom Dr. Nelson succeeded. He had given up preaching and resigned his position to enter on worldly business. Nelson only had one between, who died in Ipswich about 35 years ago. Hugh was always a very quiet, inoffensive, unassuming man, calm, reflective, deliberate, and methodic in all his ways. Uniformly good tempered, he was very slow to anger, but when once thoroughly roused, his wrath was something to remember. I once saw him in a white rage, and had no desire to see it again. He was one of the best wool and sheep classers and judges in Queensland, and the wool of his sheep always commanded the highest price.
He was always a regular smoker, preferring long stemmed pipes, of which he usually had a sheath or two on the premises. He was a most amiable man in social life, proud of his home and family, and dearly loving a joke.
One of his favorites was a story told of two drunk Hielanmen, one of whom had fallen and was unable to rise. The other was too full to help him, so he said: “I canna lift ye up, Donal, but I can lie doon beside!” and he did.
When contesting on election, a tough old Scotchman named Alexander, of Kogan, wrote to Nelson to say he would “vote for him if he would buy all his wethers at 7s 6d per head!” Nelson promptly advised him to take his wethers to blazes as he “wouldn’t give tuppence for them under the circumstances.”
Though partial to a glass of good whisky, he was a temperate man, and free from all cant on that or any other subject. I admit that at one election he and I walked arm in arm down the main street of the Condamine township, and the street was barely wide enough for the occasion. With or without well-known=hisky he was always a gentleman. He was a man who did generous acts without the slightest desire for mention in any quarter. Many a man he helped quietly with a few sheep or cattle, or a loan when required, and he was a very lenient and generous creditor. The opinions of the people who knew him best were shown by returning him to Parliament with flying colors during his absence in Scotland. He was member for Northern Downs in 1888, just 30 years after he arrived in Queensland. On one occasion the people were collecting money to get a State school at Condamine, and Nelson gave £5. Finally, there was a deficit of £15 in the necessary amount, and schoolmaster Guppy wrote to ask Nelson what he was to do. Nelson simply wrote back and enclosed a cheque for £15. Nobody ever saw him in a hurry. He went in to do all his work with the cautious and dignified stride of an old emu going to water. When a Minister of the Crown or Premier, he was equally calm and deliberate, but his work was always done. Between him and the fussy breed of men there was the same difference as between the quiet hen who lays her egg in silence and the one who struts around the yard and cackles for half an hour without laying at all. He was not the kind of politician who hungered for newspaper paragraphs to advertise him. He was a true and loyal friend. His private and political career was unsullied, his death a distinct loss to Queensland.
ROCKS FOR ROTH
A BOOMERANG BANG
SPECIMENS SOLD TO SYDNEY
THE PROTECTOR PAID £450
The cause of the row over Dr. Roth’s ethnological specimens is but faintly understood by the public, and is so far involved in more or less confusion. As the question is likely to arise again in Parliament it seems well to give sufficient, reliable information on which to form a definite opinion. When Dr. Roth was appointed Protector there was a clear understanding between himself and the Government that all curios, weapons, and aboriginal specimens, collected by him during his period of office, were to be the property of the State. That understanding was made secure by an agreement which is still in existence, and available when required. There was no ambiguity in the business, and it was referred to on, at least, two occasions by the Minister when passing the Estimates. It was also publicly acknowledged by Roth when being examined before the bar of the Legislative Council in 1901. In “Hansard,” page 1137, October 8 of that year, he said: “Another portion of my work is to collect ethnological specimens for the Government. My collections, of course, are to be considered the property of the nation.” In “Hansard,” page 777, October 16, 1903, Mr. Foxton stated: “An arrangement had been made between the Government and Dr. Roth, that a certain collection made by him of aboriginal curios and weapons were the property of the Government. A certain portion of the collection remained in Dr. Roth’s hands because it was necessary for him to be constantly referring to it in the course of his scientific work. None has been disposed of to my knowledge. They were kept in a separate department in the Museum.” On the same date in “Hansard,” Mr. Bell said: “Dr. Roth informed me that it was thoroughly understood departmentally that the collection of the curios was the property of the Government and also that he had never sold a single curio in his life.”
On page 7 of his own recent report to the House , he states: “I deny ever having sold any ethnological specimens that were not my own property to sell, and when the present Minister for Lands informed the House that I had never sold a curio in my life, he spoke the absolute truth.”
But Dr. Roth disingenuously forgot to mention that Bell had made that statement two years before, when Roth had not sold his collection. From all this, the public will doubtless conclude that all the collections made by Roth during his term of office were the property of the State, and that Dr. Roth never sold any of his collection. That was also the assurance given to the House by Minister Bell in the recent debate. The public are aware that Dr. Roth, in his defence report, took shelter behind the mistake made by Mr. Lesina in crediting the mistake to the Sydney Curator, instead of saying that the information came from the Curator, and the telegram from Mr. Norton’s Sydney manager, and left Parliament and public and press clearly under the belief that he had sold nothing to the Sydney Museum up to the present time.
And Roth certainly created this impression in face of the fact that the whole of a valuable collection, collected, according to even his own public statements, for the Queensland Government had been sold to the Sydney Museum, and was then in the possession of that institution. The first telegram from Sydney stated that Roth had sold over 2000 specimens to the Museum, but the Curator could not give any other information until after the meeting of the trustees on the 7th of the next month.
Since then, Mr. John Norton, M.L.A., proprietor of “Truth,” has made full inquiry at the Sydney Museum. Not being at all likely to leave any question in a state of doubt, he sent the following wire to this office from Sydney Parliament House last Wednesday: “The Museum Curator states that a collection comprising weapons, implements, ornaments, skulls, manuscript notes, to fully enumerate which would he a formidable task, was sold to the Sydney Museum, for £450, the collection stated by Roth to be his private property.”
This will be a shock to the public and Parliament, and probably even a surprise to the Hon. J. T. Bell. To prove that this collection sold to the Sydney Museum for £450 was not that which was collected for this State in official time, may probably be the heaviest contract Roth will ever have to face. We are given to understand that the Brisbane Museum authorities clearly regarded Roth’s collection as their property, and that the Museum officers and trustees have been for some time aware of the sale, and hold very emphatic opinions on the whole business. It is also alleged that they hold a doc in Roth’s own writing, which may show that this particular collection was the property of the Museum, and, likewise, there is in the Police Department, records a still more decisive agreement which is said to prove that the collection sold to the Sydney Museum, and all other collections of Roth, were to be the property of the Queensland Government.
It is somewhat remarkable that Mr. Etheridge, the curator of the Sydney Museum, came to Brisbane, and stayed with Dr. Roth at his private residence for some time, not having his visit mentioned by the press, and not fraternizing, as might have been expected, with any or all of the Brisbane scientists, including such men as De Vis, Bailey, and Tryon, who were doubtless surprised at the mysterious secrecy of Mr. Etheridge’s movements. There is now reason the believe that Mr. Etheridge came up here to examine Dr. Roth’s collection, fix a valuation, and purchase for the Sydney Museum. Why all this secrecy, and why has Dr. Roth withheld all information from the press and his department? Why his extraordinary avoidance of the whole subject in his recent report to the House? Those, and all other questions concerning this remarkable business, can only be answered at a full official enquiry. The urgent need for such an enquiry on the earliest date is clearly established. Dr Roth’s report on himself, a laudation of his own merits, and attacks on members of Parliament and other people merely asking for information, is not sufficient in any sense. A much more qualified and impartial tribunal is required, and we shall be surprised if that tribunal does not procure some startling revelations.