"Old 'Timer" writes:-Re yours of 13/2/30 in Mr. F. Ord's account of "The West," Mr. Michael Costello's life of John Costello is quite correct. After John Costello sold Cawarral station, he started for the Limmon River with 1500 heifers from Taldora and Mulbinyara. I did the trip with him and his son Michael in 1884. He often told me how the J.C. originated. He cut the J.C. in a tree on the bank of the waterhole while the billy, boiled.
(By John E. Bennett )
John Costello was born in Yass N.S.W. almost exactly one hundred years ago. He was the son of Irish immigrants who came out here at the height of the gold rushes. At the age of twenty-five years John Costello came to Queensland as a Western Pioneer taking up land on the Warroo Springs between the Parco and the Warrego. Unfortunately, then, as now, water was scarce in these regions, and John Costello and his family trekked northward s away from the drought and the troublesome natives. But they went from bad to worse. According to Michael Costello, who has told the story of those days, "As he and his party went or the country became drier and drier. Stock got poorer and poorer, and at last, after four months of travel had to be turned back." When the weather broke they started again, with nine men and John Costello's wife, family and parents, with all their cattle and household goods. They took up land on the Bulloo River at the end of that trek and the eldest girl, Mary, was the first white child born on the Bulloo. It was here that the fortune first favoured them. Cattle and horses grew ridiculously fat and the first mob for overlanding was soon ready, John Costello, himself, drove the first mob overland to Adelaide, South west through much the same country as that which had nearly killed Sturt, without the loss of a single beast. Despite the fortune that came to him in his new prosperity, Costello continued his exploratory journeys, seeking always new grazing lands into which to extend his activities, and shortly, the urge to travel set them up on land on Cooper's Creek, where the second daughter, Ellen, shared with her sister the distinction of being a first white baby born in a district. Here they had several brushes with the natives and once Costello was nearly killed. In 1868, depression pervaded the State and Costello took up more land on Cooper's Creek, stocking lightly several stations. Into this district he was followed by several pioneer families, the Tullys, Skehans, Hacketts and Mammonds. He had land on the Diamantina also. Incidentally, a town in the West, referred to by Barcroft Boake, the poet, takes its name from Costello, etching called J.C., from the initials he cut in a tree on an early journey upon the site on which the town later stood. An innocent story has it that the tree marks his grave, but that is not so. The urge to move came upon him again and he sold his western holdings, determined to trek overland to Rockhampton, using wagonettes to carry the gear. They travelled this via Adavale (now Quilpe), Charleville and Roma, whence Costello went ahead to take up two holdings, one near Gladstone, "Annandale," and one near RockHampton, "Cawarrai," which they made their home for some years. Here to their other worries were added dingoes in thousands, which invaded the huts at night and were poisoned in hundreds. Later on he acquired the station known as "Lake Nash", out beyond Cloncurry, whence Cost
Vale— John Costello.
They sleep, many of our pioneers, the men who have pushed the vanguard further out and further on, the men who have opened up this wonderful bush land and made the inhabiting of the vast continent a recognised fact, without any recognition of their real worth. We must be a strange people or perhaps like the remark passed by King Henry to the messenger who reported to him the death of Earl Percy— ' I trust I have within my realm five hundred such as he.'
There passed away at his residence, Tocabil, on Sunday, February 25, in the person of Mr John Costello, one whose name is worthy of a place in the annals of this country, not only as an explorer and pioneer, but also as a humanitarian.
Born on his father's cattle run at Yass, New South Wales, nearly 85 years ago, Mr Costello started his early boyhood amongst horses and cattle Of rough exterior and hard knuckles, with a strong and hardy constitution, he was specially fitted by nature to perform the work that he undertook, and to do it well. Starting out in the early sixties to take up land in the unknown and unexplored Cooper's Creek country he camped for a week on the site where Parkes gold rush afterwards broke out. He also travelled over the rich fields of Mt Morgan and Broken Hill on his overland journeys with cattle many years before their great mineral wealth became a reality. To use his own expression ' I was too lazy to stoop down and pick it up.'
To give any details of exploits and adventures, of his exploring expeditions, once finding a supposed permanent water hole dry, and having to push on over a hundred miles through the bush to the neasest water on a knocked up horse, not reaching it till three days days later, with not a drop to drink and under a scorching tropical sun ; of his being five hundred miles from the nearest dwelling ; his food supply giving out; having to get sustenance from reptiles baked in ashes, or anything else that an inhospitable bush could provide ; of his encounters with hostile blacks carrying the marks to his dying day (one in particular being a hole in the top of his head where the skull was knocked in by a missile aimed by a savage), would be too long for an article such as this. On one of his excursions while the black boy was boiling the billy for the midday meal he carved his initials J C. in the bark of a tree. Tears afterwards other bushmen were expioring, thinking they were the first white men there, discovered the tree, and all kinds of conjectures arose. It is memorised in Barcroft Boake's Poetical Works
The following two verses are an extract :
Hands white without a blot,
Told us that he was not
One of the ' vulgar.'
What can those cyphers be
Two only, J and C,
Carved in agony
Deep in the mulga.
Now, wind across the grave,
Tuning a sultry stave,
Drearily whistles :
Stirring those branches where
Two silent cyphers stare
Two letters of a prayer :
God's Son's initials.
At the J. C. there now stands a flourishing township named Canterbury.
The funeral took place on Monday 26th February, and his body now rests in the R. C. portion of Hillston cemetery. R I P.
Photographed: Jul 2017 by Nicholas Fletcher
Names in cemetery order
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