W. R. O. HILL
“FORTY FIVE YEARS
(Published in 1907)
BRISBANE IN 1864
Brisbane was not a very attractive city in 1861, with unformed streets, atrociously kept shops, and houses few and far between, but we were all nevertheless agreeably astonished, as we had been led to believe that we would have to land in dense scrub, and be immediately attacked by wild blacks and huge snakes! Bullock teams frequently blocked the thoroughfare, and the rough free-and-easy style of the bushmen greatly amused us. After landing, I went to the General Post Office for letters, and to my astonishment found it run solely by an elderly lady, a Mrs. Barney, widow of Major Barney, one of the Commandants of the penal days in Brisbane, without assistance of any kind.
On landing my sole belongings consisted of a surfeit of useless clothing, the remnants of my poor flute, and eighteen shillings and threepence in silver. I certainly had my land order, said to be worth £18, but this my landlady, Mrs. Newman, of “Devonshire House,” George Street, appropriated for my few weeks board and lodging.
I often “whip the cat” when thinking of the result had I taken up eighteen acres of land then available in the vicinity of the Valley or Milton. But wiser and older settlers never dreamed of the future of Brisbane. The Petries might have all been millionaires.
My brothers got a job at once droving sheep, and Cecil, as the reader will learn later, was murdered by the blacks. Stanley, after holding important positions for many years as Clerk of Petty Sessions at Maryborough and Rockhampton, was induced to speculate £1,000 in Mount Morgan.
His interest, when the mine was floated, was 6,700 shares, and the balance for £15 cash. Stanley died about three years ago in England. His luck was not permanent, for when he had made a fortune, and was going home to take up a title belonging to the family, a title long lying dormant, he fractured his skull in Rockhampton, the result being the wreck of a splendid constitution, and on his passage to the old country, he lost his wife overboard in a most mysterious and lamentable manner.
I came to Queensland consigned to the care of Colonel O’Connell, who, on the day after my arrival in Brisbane, drove me round and introduced me to all the leading families, who were very few in those days.
Being naturally a little gifted in the musical line, I had good times and met people who were friends to me all their lives, and I would specially mention the “Littles,” Douglas, Austin, Harris, Manning, Bell, Gray and others.
I was very proud of my athletic achievements in those days, for at the sports given by a detachment of the 50th Regiment, then stationed in Brisbane, I annexed the high jump, five foot four inches, the flat jump, eighteen feet six inches, and pole high-jump, nine feet seven inches, in All-Comers’ events – fairly creditable performances by a lad of seventeen years of age.
Was nearly engaged by Patrick Mayne to teach his young daughter the piano. He asked me out to his place for a couple of days, and I rattled off some lively airs to the entire satisfaction of the family, but although he made me a very good offer of £1/15/- a week, with board and lodging, and a horse to ride, I had not the assurance to accept the offer, much as I was tempted, simply because I played entirely by ear and did not know a single note of music.
After spending a very happy time in Brisbane for about two months, and finding my credit exhausted, I was glad to accept an offer by old Bell, of East Stowe, near Gladstone, to go up with him and get colonial experience.
This old squatter was the roughest diamond ever met by me before or since. I went by steamer to Port Curtis, and from there helped to drive a mob of rams to the station, a distance of 18 miles, enjoying the novelty amazingly.
During my stay at East Stowe, I learned to ride, drive, shear, and all the other work of a sheep and cattle station. After a year there I got a billet at Milton under Ed. Mullet, and while there became quite a proficient horseman, and got a salary of 15/- per week.
After a few months at Milton, to my astonishment and joy, I received an official letter informing me of my appointment as a cadet in the Native Mounted Police, with instructions to report myself at the headquarters near Rockhampton without delay. Needless to say, I promptly responded, and two days after receiving the appointment was en route, via the Calliope, Mt. Larcombe and Raglan.
Old Mullet was very disgusted at my leaving Milton, after having, as he said, just broken me in to be useful, but the rise from 15/- per week to a salary worth nearly £200 a year was not to be ignored.
THE NATIVE MOUNTED POLICE, 1863
On my arrival at the Native Mounted Police Headquarters, 14 miles from Rockhampton, I found the force under the command of J. O’Connell Bligh, with G. P. M. Murray and A. Morriset next in rank.
There was a staff of fifteen officers (15), one sergeant-major, three (3) camp sergeants, and forty five (45) black troopers, together with over two hundred good useful horses, mostly the O.C. brand.
The force was run on very different lines from what followed the reorganization.
A lieutenant, cadet, and sergeant, with eight or ten “boys” would start on patrol in a given direction, remaining out two or three weeks, and another detachment would start two or three days later in a different direction.
They traveled on an average from twenty-five to thirty miles a day, calling at different stations, and giving any troublesome blacks an occasional lesson.
A Native Police Officer’s life in those days was worth living. The squatters hailed their advent with delight, and killed the fatted calf in their honour, for well they knew the presence of the troopers in their locality ensured peace and security, and relieved them of constant anxiety for their sheep and cattle.
The old talk about dispersing the blacks, and wiping out tribes indiscriminately, is a fallacy, for I am in a position to assert that I never knew an officer to allow a shot to be fired unless in extreme necessity, and then only when the blacks were caught red-handed.
When getting into the routine of the work, an order was received by the Commandant, advising that “in consequence of a contemplated reorganization of the force,” the services of about nine of the junior officers were to be dispensed with.
The then Colonial Secretary was our steadfast friend, and he intimated that every one of the officers so dispensed with would have preference in the first openings in the Government Service. Well and faithfully he kept his word, for most of us afterwards were given billets either as a Police Magistrate or C.P.S.
I rejoined the force a year or so later, so shall reserve further remarks re the Native Police for another Chapter.
Shortly before leaving the Police, I was present when poor Bligh had his nose kicked nearly off while docking his favourite horse’s tail. It was a terrible disfigurement, and worse too by reason of happening on the eve of his wedding day. The Maryborough people in 1864 presented Bligh with a sword for his services with the Native Police.
I was lucky in obtaining a billet at once with the Archers of Gracemere, a lovely place, seven miles from Rockhampton, splendidly managed by their nephew, S. Yorgensen. For some time my work was to accompany Patterson’s buyer to the cattle station, and draft out one hundred head of fats every fortnight. I had to drive them into Rockhampton, having often to swim the Alligator Lagoons.
Once to my sorrow we put the cattle over first, strapped our clothes on the saddles, and drove the horses over. We then swam across with only our hats on. The horses pranced gaily off along the road towards Rockhampton, and were only pulled up at a selection three miles on. Picture the naked riders scooting after the brutes, in a blazing sun, and then having to stand behind a tree and explain our predicament to a lady! It was too ridiculous.
Before delivering the cattle, I received a cheque at the rate of five pounds per head, which I duly paid into the credit of Archer and Company.
There was no loafing at Gracemere during working hours, but the evenings were enlivened by music and boxing, which were the favourite pastimes.
The Jardines, Salmond, Shaw, Willie Walker, Risien, Cross, and Ned Kelly, were all there in my time.
Occasionally when coming in from work, Conrad the butler would come to me and say, “Mr. Archer’s compliments, a dance at So-and-So in Rockhampton, sir. Your horse and clothes are ready,” and off I went, a ride of eight miles home about five a.m., a plunge in the lagoon, and to work feeling fit for anything.
One evening we were turning somersaults over a small hay cock on the lawn, when William Archer, a big heavy man, just for fun, quietly jumped over it, slipped and landed on his knee – an unfortunate accident that caused him years of expense, trouble, and pain.
Poor old Crooks, a very old friend and dependent on the Archers, had one hobby in training pointers. One imported thoroughbred after a severe course of training, showed such cleverness that Crooks invited a lot of Rockhampton sports out to see him work. On the eventful day the party went in search of quail, when the pup magnificently pointed – at a grasshopper! Crooks broke his gun, and left off training pups.
While at Gracemere, F. Byerley persuaded me to try and study surveying under him, but I did not take to it kindly, and while with him in Rockhampton, accidentally met Jack Larnach, Manager of the Australian Joint Stock Bank, who offered me a billet to go up to Reedy Lake Station, on the Upper Burdekin, to take charge and manage for the Bank.
He told me that I would probably be there about five weeks, and I was to get £100 for the job, and £1 per day for every day after the expiration of that time. I jumped at the chance, and two hours after receiving the offer shipped on a coastal boat, with my written instructions in my pocket, a cheque book (my first), and only the clothes I wore. I never saw the balance of my wardrobe again. I was at Reedy Lake nearly two years.
STATION LIFE – REEDY LAKE, 1865
On my arrival at Bowen in 1865, it was then a flourishing town, and the new jetty just completed. Bowen was then the depot for all the pioneers who were pushing out towards the Flinders and other new north-western country.
I purchased a good horse from G. E. Dalrymple, and rode alone up the coast road via Salisbury Plains, Inkerman, and Burdekin Downs, being most hospitably treated by all the squatters on my route.
I was five days on the way and found Reedy Lake, a beautifully situated place on an immense lagoon usually covered by wildfowl, but the station was virtually void of improvements, and with no comfort of any kind. I had to look after six thousand old ewes on country totally unfitted for sheep, one hundred and sixty head of cattle, and about eighty horses.
I wonder what one of the Station Managers of the present day would have thought of the improvements and station plant as I found them, with not a paddock on the run, the wool-shed a tumbled down back place, and no convenience of any sort. I had to improvise a wool press by sinking a hole in the ground and dumping wool into bales with heavy rammers. This reminds me of a comic incident. I had a young fellow named Jack Howe working for me as “general useful,” and one day when we were shearing he was busy dumping wool, when he was often annoyed by the magnificent beard he wore, and finally got mad about it, and sang out to me, “Boss! Shy us over a pair of shears; I’m going to send my blooming wool home.” Thinking he was only joking, I gave him a pair, when, to our astonishment, he clipped his beard short off and dumped it into the bale with a fleece of wool! It would astonish the people who opened the bale!
My shearers were a rowdy lot who talked fight, and often got it, if you only suggested that sheep “should be shorn, not butchered!” One of the rowdiest was Macpherson, the “Wild Scotchman,” who took to bushranging after he left us, and shot Willis, at the Haughton, shortly after.
I had three shepherds in charge of 2,000 sheep each. They had to be armed with a Terry Rifle and Colt’s revolver, as the blacks were always on the aggressive. Even my hut was loop-holed to fire through, and we found that very useful.
Although my billet for a young fellow of twenty was a good one, it hardly compensated for the rough life, fever, blight, and the constant danger from blacks who infested the “Basalt wall,” a peculiar formation running for miles parallel with two running creeks, the Fletcher and Sandy, both of which abound in fish, especially the former. This wall was a veritable stronghold for the blacks, who, realizing the security it was, were very bold and daring. No horseman has been known to cross this wall, and even on foot it was both difficult and dangerous.
During my stay on Reedy Lake, I had one of my shepherds killed and lost a number of sheep, many of which were driven away in mobs of fifty at a time. I can safely say that life was never safe, and the only wise thing to do on seeing a black was to shoot, and shoot straight, otherwise he would certainly spear you. I had several very narrow escapes.
I remember a miraculous escape Stuart and his English bride had on a day’s drive from Southwick, not far from Reedy Lake. They were camping under a big tree, and a storm coming they shifted to under the wagonette. In a few minutes the tree was struck by lightning and fell across the exact spot they had recently vacated.
I suffered very severely while on Reedy Lake from sandy blight, and had to remain in the dark for over a week, suffering fearfully. The only relief came from large hot tea-leaf poultices. I am thankful my eyes are so good today after the trials they have passed, and no medical advice available.
MY BROTHER CECIL’S MURDER, 1865
About the time I received intimation of the sad end of my dear brother Cecil.
It seems he had recently been appointed an Acting Sub-Inspector in the Native Mounted Police, and was stationed on the Upper Dawson.
Shortly after joining he was out on patrol with the overseer of a neighbouring station, to disperse a mob of blacks who had lately been committing depredations, and the party were camped at night near a scrub, with no suspicion that the blacks were anywhere near them. They even had a blazing fire.
They were standing around when, without warning of any kind, a shower of spears came into the midst of the camp and my poor brother was killed instantaneously by a spear that went through his heart.
The overseer’s wrist was broken, and several of the troopers were badly wounded.
Although my father was at this time in Brisbane, no official intimation of the sad event was ever sent to him by the Government, and were it not for my brother Stanley, then a clerk in the office of the Commissioner of Police, who went up to the scene of the tragedy and erected a fence around the grave, so far as the Government cared, he would have been left forgotten, and his death and even the locality unrecorded.
MY FATHER’S DISASTER, 1863
I may here digress a little to mention that my father, mother, and two sisters had recently arrived from England, and were bound for Sydney when they unfortunately decided to call at Brisbane in the hope of seeing us.
The catastrophe which followed made a sad alteration to their plans.
When the ship “Queen of the Colonies,” which brought them out, anchored at Moreton Bay, my father went on shore with the Chief Officer, a boat’s crew, and the husband of a woman they were going to bury, my father intending to read the funeral service.
On their return to the ship after the burial, and when nearly under the stern of the vessel, a squall suddenly sprang up, broke their oars and drove them out to sea.
Imagine the grief of my mother and sisters when no tidings of the castaways were heard for fourteen days, and all hope of their recovery was given up, and search abandoned. But my mother clung to a last hope, and, being a personal friend of Sir George and Lady Bowen, enlisted the latter’s sympathy, and through her the Government were induced to try again.
A small steamer was sent up the coast to the north, and eventually found the castaways on the main beach near Caloundra.
They were all in a pitiable condition, nearly naked, terribly sun-burnt, and half starved.
My father’s health and eye-sight suffered so severely from the exposure and mental agony he had gone through, that he was compelled to resign the post he had traveled so far and given up so much for, and decided to remain in Queensland, where after a few years he became totally blind.
When my father was found, my two sisters were married the same day to two fellow passengers, one an army man, and the other a naval officer, each of whose names was “Charlie,” and both eventually were Police Magistrates in Queensland.
Their names were Eden and Rich.
Only a few weeks ago I was shown a tree near Caloundra, with the initials of several of the castaways, my father’s included, plainly discernible.
One remarkable coincidence in this sad affair was after the party had been a few days perishing on shore, they resolved to try and launch their boat, having improvised oars, but were capsized by the breakers and thrown into the sea where it was alive with sharks, which devoured the husband of the woman they had recently buried, his horrified companions looking on, helpless to assist!
MY SECOND EXPERIENCE IN THE NATIVE MOUNTED POLICE, 1866 – 1868
I remained in charge of Reedy Lake until it was sold, when I applied for and got an appointment as Acting Sub-Inspector in the Native Mounted Police, at this time under the Commissioner of Police, Mr. D. T. Seymour.
I was first ordered to the Yo Yo Creek barracks, forty miles from Charleville, a queer feature of the creek being that after a heavy fall of rain it came down in a solid high wall of water, and woe betide any unfortunate who happened to be camping too near its banks.
In the hole near our camp we caught cod with a piece of red cloth for bait. They were fine fish, weighing from fifteen to sixty pounds.
My mate was Harvie Fitzgerald, with whom I have had many friendly bouts with the gloves, and remember, in honor of a projected visit of inspection by the Commissioner, making a plum pudding which should have been a wonderful production, seeing it contained about thirty eggs, plums and currants in galore, and heaps of all the other necessary ingredients. I kept the gins busy boiling it for three or four days, but when I turned it out, alas! It was literally hard and heavy as a cannon ball, for unfortunately I had used rendered fat in lieu of suet, which was unprocurable. “Hills’ duff,” was a byword for a long time afterwards.
I was transferred under Gilmour to the Paroo-Bulloo, near to what is now Thargomindah, and had to patrol the border and down into Fort Burke on the Darling.
On one of my patrols I had occasion to arrest an old offender, a noted black who had evaded capture for over two years. A squatter named Cooper busied himself very much about this boy, and reported me for shooting him, asserting that he could produce the bones.
I was temporarily suspended, and ordered to headquarters at Charleville. A squatter named Ralston rode one hundred and fifty miles to wire to the Commissioner, saying. “Surprised to hear Hill accused of shooting ‘Toby,’ I have him at my station, and can produce him any time!” This spiked Mr. Cooper’s gun and when his famous “bones” were examined they were found to be those of cattle and sheep.
If wisely handled the Native Troopers were as easy to manage as children, but their officer must be firm, and at all hazards fulfill any promise made to the “boys,” no matter whether to give them a bob, a nip of whisky, or a flogging.
When stationed on the Paroo, I had occasion to send my Orderly, “De Lacy,” for the mail, and he returned intoxicated. Next morning I ordered a full dress parade, called De Lacy to the front and said:-
“De Lacy, what did I tell you if you ever got drunk?”
“A flogging, Marmie,” replied De Lacy, and he was ordered to take off his jacket and shirt, and I then handcuffed him to a verandah post.
I noticed him pick up a piece of stick, and hold it between his teeth. I then twisted a stirrup leather and laid on a dozen as hard as I could. De Lacy uttered no sound, nor moved a muscle, and when the flogging was over, saluted, and never after showed the slightest sign of animosity. This was the boy I mentioned before as a great athlete, as he could jump six feet in height easily, and over twenty in a long jump.
He could speak English fluently, and I remember once he was out after horses and met a white man who said “Arrah! You been see him yarraman belongin’ to me?”
De Lacy replied: “For goodness sake man speak English. I can’t understand that lingo!”
Another good trooper was “Vick,” as amiable a boy as ever I had. You could trust him to nurse a baby, but one act will show how the savage instinct will come out in the aboriginal.
Once, when coming home from patrol, “Vick” was carrying a little boy piccaninny about four years of age, whose father had been deservedly shot, and I was riding about fifty yards behind, when I was horrified to see “Vick” ride up to a tree and knock the poor little chap’s brains out!
I galloped up to the bloodthirsty wretch and knocked him off his horse with my hunting crop, in fact I was within an ace of shooting him.
I then handcuffed and made him walk back to the camp.
Next day I said, “Vick, what for you kill that piccaninny?”
His reply was, “I couldn’t stand him, Marmie, he spit in my eye!”
Vick got a flogging he never forgot.
At this time, February 1868, the Duke of Edinburgh visited Brisbane and, probably as a salve for the unmerited annoyance I had been caused, I was appointed second in command of an aboriginal escort formed in his honour.
Captain Henry Brown was chief, and I had twelve troopers, mostly corporals, picked from the different police stations, all grand looking men averaging nearly six feet, while some were over, and all matchless horsemen.
We did our best to outvie the white escort, and succeeded too, for the Duke himself told me he had never seen cavalry anywhere with such splendid seats in the saddle.
Mr. Brother-in-law, C. Eden, having been a shipmate of the Duke in the “Clio,” introduced me, and he apologised for taking me for a half-caste officer; and no wonder, seeing how dark I was from wearing a forage cap in the blazing sun.
He was very kind and affable, and before he left Brisbane, stood godfather to my niece Beatrice.
After leaving Brisbane the Duke was shot at at Clontarf, in Sydney, on March 12th, 1868, by O’Farrell, and I often wished that if the deed was to be, it had been in Brisbane, when I might have had a chance of either distinguishing or extinguishing myself.
This escort was not too easy a business, for I had to be with the troopers from daylight until often after midnight, ride for hours in a cloud of duct, and then dance half the night, but I enjoyed it all.
When the Duke’s escort was disbanded, I applied for promotion, and on being informed that there was no opening, I tendered my resignation, got rid of my gorgeous special escort uniform to a new officer, Nolan, who appeared next morning in it when calling at the Commissioner’s office, where he was promptly told to take it off at once and wear the uniform provided by the Government! This had a depressing effect on the gorgeous warrior.
My ride on the Paroo probably established a record, for it meant two hundred and eighty three miles in three and a half days, or actual traveling of thirty nine hours, and this I did accompanied by my Native Orderly, De Lacy.
My instructions were to arrest a notorious bushranger and horse stealer named Sweeney, who had taken to a new line of earning a living by touring the country with two pack horses, selling liquor to the shearers and dam makers, causing trouble and much loss to the squatters.
My warrant was only for Queensland, and as Sweeney got notice I was on his track, he made for the border, knowing I could not arrest him if he got over. He had a long start and beat me by only a few miles, so I determined to get ahead of him at Bourke, on the Darling, to have my warrant backed, and so probably catch him there.
Making a long detour on one of the big plains I got ahead of him about forty miles from Bourke, and once there I had my warrant backed for New South Wales, and told De Lacy to watch at the outskirts of town for our man when he came in.
That night I was at my hotel and De Lacy walked in.
I said, “What the d…. are you doing here? Why are you not attending to my orders?”
He replied, “All right, Marmie, I watched him come in all right. He hobbled his horses and planted his swag, and then I saw him go to an old humpy – he there now.”
De Lacy had the sense to bring in the horses and swags.
I got the Sergeant in charge, and he and De Lacy and I went to the humpy.
On opening the door, I found the place was an old bakery with a large brick oven, and after flashing my bull’s eye about, saw a pair of boots sticking outside the oven door.
We promptly lugged Mr. Sweeney out, and he gave us no trouble, merely observing “the game’s up.”
My trip back with the prisoner was a new experience. De Lacy got hurt jumping for a wager in Bourke. He was a champion jumper, and could clear his own height of five feet eleven and a half inches. I had therefore to escort Sweeney down to Toowoomba alone.
We had to camp two or three nights at very questionable bush pubs, so I had him handcuffed to myself all night.
It was sometimes both amusing and ridiculous in the night when he would say, “Mr. Hill, sir, I’m going to turn over,” as he felt rather dubious about the revolver I had strapped on to my other wrist.
I took my time bringing the prisoner back, and landed him safely in Toowoomba gaol, to my intense relief.
I was much assisted in this long journey by the kind way the squatters all supplied me with good fresh horses, and gave me every assistance.
While at Bourke, I met that splendid athlete, Vessey Brown, and witnessed a unique cricket match.
Brown challenged the Bourke Eleven at single wicket, provided they allowed him his two nephews, the Walkers, to field for him. Brown was to use a pick handle. He won the toss and went in to bat, but as it was an afternoon match and they could not bowl Brown out, he retired, and the Eleven gave him best.
These so-called “riots” at the time, caused the authorities much anxiety, and great preparations were made to deal with them.
Hundreds of Government officials were sworn in as special constables.
Batons made expressly were supplied, also white calico sashes to distinguish them from the mob, making them look very like undertakers’ assistants.
One night the alarm was given that a mob intended sacking Government House.
The Artillery were stationed at the gates under Godfrey Geary and Harry Webb, and it was only by a merciful act of Providence that they did not blaze into a mob of specials who were hurrying up in anything but order to the rescue!
Poor old Bob Gray was hit with a pebble to the forehead, and a streak of blood ran down his cheek, and this same mark of glorious war was left on for at least three days, for Bob was proud of that blood!
The ladies were most sympathetic, and there was an amateur ambulance at Bob Little’s house, George Street.
One night Police Magistrate Massie got on the top of a cask near the bridge to read the Riot Act, when a stone was thrown by a boy in the rear of the crowd and hit him fair in the eye.
The Commissioner at once shouted, “At the double! Charge!” and charge we did with a vengeance, driving the mob before us into the pubs and shops, and then routing them out again.
A company of specials charged behind the police, but got separated, and very promptly divested themselves of the obnoxious calico sash and mixed with the mob.
One night the general manager of a bank, E. R. Drury, came to the lock-up with his hands secured by handcuffs, and stated that three or four old fossils had pounced on him as he was going into the private door of his bank, whipped the irons on, and hurried off for fresh victims.
Two elderly gentlemen “specials” were told off to guard the approach of the lane leading to the Government Stores. When the trouble was over, the officer quire forgot these two patriots, who remained on guard fully twelve hours after the other specials were dismissed, to the great amusement of a crowd of small boys!
I was in the Police at this time, and was told off on special duty to spy the movements of the supposed ringleaders, and had several narrow escapes, the baton I carried up my sleeve nearly giving me away, but fortunately I was a pretty fast runner and did a gallant sprint!
The riots soon fizzled out, and no bones were broken, but later on several fires were started in different parts of Brisbane, and these kept us constantly on the alert.
I forgot to mention that two of the most energetic specials were C. C. Carrington, armed with a hooked stick, and Long Gardiner, armed with a huge Maori war club.
I verily believe that if a few of the larrikin stone-throwing boys had been caught and whipped, there would have been little or no trouble with the adult portion of the so-called “rioters.”
Next morning I met his Lordship, and said, “What about the church on the hill, my Lord?”
His Lordship laughed and replied, “You have me there, Mr. Hill.”
A fearful catastrophe happened while I was living with the Warden, whose cottage, a mile from town, was surrounded by ironstone boulders.
It was my usual practice to sit at one side of the table, playing chess with Hackett, my back being against the bark wall of the room.
The evening in question was my choir practice night, and while in town a very violent storm came up.
A lawyer named Stables was caught in it, took shelter in our cottage, and sat in the place I usually occupied.
An elderly woman, old Hackett’s housekeeper, being very much frightened, was also sitting in the same room.
Stables had only been there a few minutes when the house was struck by lightning. I was running home in the thick of it, and when I reached our fence, was met by the old German orderly, Willhelm, who gasped out, “God’s sake, come quick! Fire run out of door, all killed.”
I rushed in and beheld a terrible spectacle. Hackett was lying on the floor unconscious, his housekeeper in a similar condition, and poor Stables underneath the table, stone dead.
When I helped to pull him out, he felt as if all the bones in his body were softened, as they actually were.
Hackett recovered in a few hours, but the woman, who swore the lightning had passed through her feet, died from the effects some weeks after.
Poor Stables left a widow in Gympie, where she eventually married the present Sir Horace Tozer, her third husband, the second being Robert Lord, once M.L.A. for Gympie.
RAVENSWOOD GOLDFIELD, 1870 TO 1874
When I arrived in Ravenswood in 1870, I found a rule that all reef claims striking payable gold- that is, paying three pounds per week per man over wages, - were obliged to hoist a red flag, so to my surprise, on arriving on the top of the hill going into Ravenswood, I noticed scores of red flags scattered about the hills, making the place look as if it were on the spree.
My new boss, T. R. Hackett, seemed glad to see me and invited me to share his camp, an offer I gladly accepted.
The work at this time was particularly heavy, and how we got through it I hardly know, for we had to hold court and transact office work in a tent twelve feet by eight feet, so just imagine our discomfort, particularly in the hot windy and rainy weather.
However, we survived it, and felt all the more the benefit of the new commodious buildings when they were erected some months after my arrival.
The Warden and a noted miner noted Macrossan were deadly enemies, and this enmity culminated in Macrossan horse-whipping the Warden, a feeble old man, in the muddy bed of the Elphinstone Creek, before the bridge was built.
I was at the door of the Court House and, seeing a disturbance, ran down the hill and fought my way through the mob, and capsized Macrossan into the sludge.
I then got the Warden into a pub, and sent for the police.
Macrossan was shortly after arrested, and the local Justices asked for an absurd £1,000 bail, which was given by a notorious shanty keeper named Annie Smith who, in consequence of this, was chaired round the town shoulder high by an admiring mob of half drunken sympathizers.
The final scene saw Macrossan fined £30 at the District Court, Townsville; it made for him a name very popular among certain class of miners.
It was my privilege to be intimately acquainted with the late lamented Bishop Quinn, a man who never forgot or neglected to return any act of civility or kindness.
In 1870 he was visiting Ravenswood, and I went out to drive him into town. We had to pass an old Masonic Hall where the Church of England people were holding their services, pending the erection of a new church.
As we were passing, the Bishop asked me what building it was. I said, “Our church, my Lord, but the white ants have taken possession of it.”
“Ah, Mr. Hill,” said his Lordship, “you ought to be up there,” pointing to the Roman Catholic church, which was a commodious building in a commanding position on the top of the highest hill on Ravenswood.
That night a terrific storm passed over the town, wrecking the Roman Catholic church, and leaving our poor ant-eaten edifice intact.
Next morning I met his Lordship, and said, “What about the church on the hill, my Lord?”
His Lordship laughed and replied: “You have me there, Mr. Hill.”
A fearful catastrophe happened while I was living with the Warden, whose cottage, about a mile from the town, was surrounded by ironstone boulders.
It was my usual practice to sit at one side of the table playing chess with Hackett, my back being against the bark wall of the room.
The evening in question was my choir practice night, and while in town a very violent storm came up. A lawyer named Stables was caught in it, took shelter in our cottage, and Saturday in the place I usually occupied. An elderly woman, old Hackett’s housekeeper, being very much frightened, was also sitting in the same room. Stables had only been there a few minutes when the house was struck by lightning. I was running home in the thick of it, and when I reached our fence, was met by the old German orderly, Willhelm, who gasped out, “God’s sake, come quick! Fire run out of door, all killed.”
I rushed in and beheld a spectacle. Hackett was lying on the floor unconscious, his housekeeper in a similar condition, and poor Stables under the table stone dead. When I helped to pull him out, he felt as if all the bones in his body were softened, as they actually were. Hackett recovered in a few hours, but the woman, who swore the lightning had passed through her feet, died from the effects some weeks after. Poor Stables left a widow in Gympie, where she eventually married the present Sir Horace Tozer, her third husband, the second being Robert Lord, once M.L.A. for Gympie.
A very stirring event happened two years after my arrival at Ravenswood. At Charters Towers a butcher named Trevethan raised the price of meat, and this the miners resented. The main camp was then at Millchester, where the shop was situated.
One Saturday night, November 2nd, 1872, the mob made a long rope fast through the gable of the shop, and pulled the whole structure bodily into the road. Three of the ringleaders were arrested and taken to the lock-up at Charters Towers, a distance of two and a half miles.
That night an armed mob of several hundred men marched up from Millchester, and demanded the release of the prisoners.
Warden Charters, in charge, went home to his country residence, sick, but P. M. Jardine and Warden J. G. McDonald were equal to the occasion, and by their tact and good judgment prevented a very serious riot.
I may mention that in reply to a request by telegram, Warden Hackett sent me over from Ravenswood to the Towers, post haste, with all the available police to assist, but they were only five.
The prisoners, after a long parley, were let out on bail, the “lady” who bailed them out receiving the same honour as did Annie Smith when she bailed out Macrossan at Ravenswood.
All day on Sunday and the night following things looked very serious, especially as all the pubs were forced by the mob to keep open and supply free drinks.
On Monday morning the men were brought before the Court, which was held in a pub.
Before the Court opened, fully three thousand men were congregated in and around the Court House.
When Trevethan rode in to give evidence, before he was off his horse, the mob rushed him, and were it not for Inspector Clohesy, Trevethan’s brother Alf, myself and others, he would assuredly have been killed there and then.
On his way round to the Court House he was struck several times with bottles and stones, and before I could stop him drew his revolver and fired point blank into the crowd, wounding two or three men.
Then came a serious fight, and it was all we could do to get him out of the mob, and not until he had been seriously maltreated, and were it not for the late Bishop Quinn, who harangued the mob and temporarily quietened them, Trevethan would have been lynched.
The mob were determined, and had a rope ready.
When the Bishop was walking over with the police to the lock-up, with his umbrella over Trevethan’s head, a Ravenswood constable had a horse ready, and as soon as the police got Trevethan into the lock-up, rushed him out through a back window and off to Ravenswood.
Finding their prey gone, the excited mob wrecked the lock-up, and finished up with a terrible night’s orgie.
A hundred specials were sworn in, and paraded on Sunday, but the only action they had to take was to endeavour to ward off sundry rotten eggs and other offensive missiles that the crown amused themselves by pelting at them.
A large force of police was sent up from Brisbane and other towns, and many of the ringleaders, who had been quietly spotted during the disturbance, were afterwards arrested, tried and severely punished.
Trevethan was fearfully knocked about, and it was more than his life was worth to return to the Towers.
Many readers will remember that splendid amateur athlete, Dave Scott, one of my earliest and best of friends. We were also rivals, and though he could beat me in one hundred yards, I invariably led him home in one hundred and fifty yards. Many a pound I made backing him to jump over his pony (fifteen hands) with the saddle on, and this Dave could do with ease.
A professional sprinter named Green came to Ravenswood, and pestered Dave to make a match. We finally persuaded Dave to run him, and we backed Dave for one hundred pounds.
There was great excitement about the match, and Green went into strict training, but Dave never bothered himself a bit, saying, “Green was not worth it.”
The run was one hundred and fifty yards, and on the day it came off there must have been fully one thousand men, among whom heavy bets were freely laid and accepted. Green appeared in the pink of condition, wearing nothing but green silk drawers, but Dave strolled out of the Bank in white trousers and sand shoes. There was a good start made, and Green led for one hundred yards, and then Dave came with his famous sprint and left the great professional twenty yards behind. I was delighted, having pocketed over one hundred pounds.
No less than forty‑two licensed pubs, or rather one should call them “shanties," were at one time in full swing, within a radius of three miles. Such was the case on Ravenswood in 1872, and most of them doing a roaring trade.
The police had tough times, and often had to chain men to a big log outside their tent while they went down town again to quell some fresh disturbance.
One night a huge miner, Pat Meehan, was chained, but shortly after arrested again carrying the log, which weighed three hundred weight, on his shoulders. He was made to carry it back, though I do not think he was charged with larceny of the log.
Here is a case tried before me at Ravenswood. It was an action for the recovery of thirty pounds, the amount of a dishonoured promissory note. I asked the lawyer to produce the document, which was handed up to me and I could hardly restrain a shout of laughter. I handed it back to the lawyer, and asked him if he had read it? He said, “Oh, yes your Worship, it is perfectly in order."
“Read it again, please," I said, and he collapsed on reading, “Three months after death," etc.
As the defendant was in Court very much alive, I had to non-suit the plaintiff, whose wrath was terrible. I forget how it was eventually settled.
In 1872, I was married on Ravenswood, and returned there some years later as Police Magistrate and Warden.
I will pass on to my next position when promoted to P.M. and Warden at Georgetown, Etheridge Gold Field.
Before leaving Ravenswood, the people wished to give me some recognition for past services. Some wanted to give me a purse of sovereigns, others a watch, but at a public meeting to consider the matter, my old chum, E. J. Finch, suggested that those who wished to give a purse should do so, the others to do as they liked, the consequence being that both parties tried to out vie each other, and I was the lucky recipient of a fat purse of sovereigns, and a very handsome watch and chain. Included in the list of subscribers to the purse was an anonymous donor of fifty pounds.
One night at Ravenswood I had my nerves severely tested. Walking in just before dark from Hackett's place, where I was living, to my choir practice, I passed the corpse of a Chinaman laid out on a piece of bark and covered with a sheet, his mates having left him there until they brought a coffin. On my way home again the night was pitch dark, and I remember thinking to myself how silly some people were feeling scared when passing or touching a dead person. Believing I was just at the locality of the dead Chinaman, and running along briskly, I fell literally on the top of the corpse, who gave a distinct grunt and a shudder. I rose in about the fastest time on record, and candidly admit my feelings were not too cheerful; but I braced myself, struck a match, and pulled the sheet off the face of the corpse, when, to my astonishment and temporary terror, the dead man sat up and said, “Whaffor?”
I raced black to town, got the police, and on our getting close to where the corpse should be, we met him strolling along with his shroud under his arm!
I never was lucky in my mining speculations, and missed one sure fortune on Ravenswood. I was the happy owner of a one‑fourth share in the Day Dawn, but being quite full of paying out wages week after week, I jumped at the offer of one hundred pounds from a friend, and thought I had done splendidly. This claim was soon afterwards abandoned as being a duffer, when the original shareholders, having scraped together a few pounds, tried their luck in it again, and soon afterwards struck the Day Dawn reef.
This interest would have been worth some thousands to me annually, and even now, after the lapse of so many years, is worth a mint of money.
GEORGETOWN, ETHERIDGE, 1871‑5.
Before leaving Ravenswood, I settled my first mining case, a very serious one, involving a very heavy issue, the verdict being for some thousands, and there was no appeal.
Although my promotion meant a substantial increase of salary and allowances, yet I found I was considerably a loser, for the C.P.S. in the early days pocketed all the fees, and from 1868 to 1874 mine amounted to over five hundred pounds a year above my salary.
Sending my wife South, I travelled to Georgetown via Reedy Lake, Mytton's, and Carpentaria Downs, and found the road very long and dreary, hardly meeting a soul after leaving the Burdekin. When crossing the river I had a narrow escape, but got out of it after the whole of my new and carefully packed belongings had been about a quarter of an hour under water.
I had to camp, a day or two with big Ned Cunningham at Burdekin Downs, when Mrs. Cunningham acted the good Samaritan and fixed up everything neatly for me.
In due course I arrived at Georgetown, which I found to consist of one long sandy so‑called “street,” with houses, mostly of iron, scattered here and there. The field abounded with what on any other would be payable reefs, but not one was touched unless it would return at least one and a half ounces to the ton, the reason being the abnormally high wages and high price of necessaries.
A dreadful mining accident, attended with fatal results, happened shortly after I took charge of the field. A fine strong young miner had put charge of dynamite into a drill hole and a few minutes after, thinking the fuse had gone out, he went back to see what was wrong, when the charge exploded, blowing the unfortunate fellow half way up the shaft, but in spite of his terrible injuries, the flesh being burned completely off his arms and part of his body, he actually came up forty feet on a rung ladder, difficult to mount at any time, and died a minute after he reached the surface.
All necessaries were charged for at famine prices. The miners could get board at the pub for one pound a week but usually spent more in liquor. Their wages were four pounds a week.
I had one good trip to the Woolgar, via Gilberton, accompanied by Sub‑Inspector Urquhart, who would recollect the splendid fishing we had on the way. The Woolgar was, without exception, the hungriest place I ever struck, without one redeeming point. The two days I was forced to remain there gave me a terrible fit of the blues.
To kill time at Georgetown we used to get up amateur performances, and I recall one supreme effort that takes the cake, and deserves a place in my memoirs. I forget the name of the play, but Sub‑Inspector Urquhart was taking the part of a Captain Jones, and had to be shot by myself, who was the “villain." An aspiring young lady actress, Miss C, was engaged to Captain Jones, and had a pathetic part, especially when she comes suddenly on to the stage and discovers her prostrate lover apparently in death agonies. For hours at rehearsals I had endeavoured to teach, the young lady her business. She was to scream and fall in a faint across her lover's body. The last rehearsal went smoothly and fairly well, but on the eventful night, before a crowded hall, after I had shot the Captain,
I noticed him shaking convulsively, not in death agonies, but with laughter. He evidently knew what was coming. Miss C was pushed in from behind the scenes, and walked in a slow stately way past her lover, her eyes upturned as if in an ecstatic mood, drawled out the words, “Captain Jones‑and dead!" The audience simply shrieked, the curtain fell suddenly, and Miss C abandoned all thoughts of going on the stage.
At another performance we gave I entirely overlooked the fact that our drop curtain was made of white calico. The hall was dark, the stage lighted, and my wife was amongst the audience. I was arranging a tableau, and in the act of placing a girl's head in position was shocked to see our heads appear on the curtain gigantically enlarged, and looking as if I were about to embrace the young lady! It was some time before order was restored.
I was relieving Warden Ramsay, who returned when I had just put in twelve months at Georgetown, and was transferred to the Palmer, but before going there, obtained a well earned three months' holiday. Unfortunately during part of that time I was laid up by a terrible accident which will appear in the next chapter.
MY WORST ACCIDENT.
After two months in Brisbane and Sydney I thought of a trip to Ravenswood and Charters Towers to see some old friends.
H. H. Barton kindly gave me what he considered a good hack, to go from Ravenswood to the Towers, but this peerless steed proved to be a vicious brute, very thin skinned, and so got badly girth‑galled. On my return trip I put the girth round his shoulder, but he resented this and promptly bucked me off. On remounting he repeated the performance, and threw me a clean somersault, striking me in the middle with his head as I was falling. The brute then galloped off towards Ravenswood, which was fourteen miles distant.
A man who was with me asked if I was hurt, and I said “No," so he galloped after the horse, but when I tried to get up my limbs were apparently useless, so I dragged myself off the road into the shade of a tree, where I remained half ‑unconscious for about four hours, when Barton came out post haste with a buggy and drove me to his house.
A doctor examined me, and I heard him say I “had only a few hours to live!” I remember regarding this remark as somewhat comical, for I certainly did not feel very bad, and was suffering no pain except when I moved my legs.
About a week later Mr. E. H. Plant kindly drove me down to Townsville, where I stayed with my old friend, Fred Raines, whose kindness I shall never forget. My wife had arrived from the South, so I was in good hands.
The day after my arrival at Townsville I was thoroughly examined by Drs. Ahearn and Frost who could come to no conclusion on where my injuries were located.
I spent two months on crutches, but my splendid constitution pulled me through, and I eventually got all right.
About six years later I was in Sydney when, just for curiosity, I got Dr. Morris to examine me, and he found the pelvis bones had been fractured, and he told me it was simply wonderful how I had ever pulled through. He said I should have been bandaged round the hips at once.
I have never felt any ill effects from this accident since.
THE PALMER GOLDFIELD, 1876 to 1878
I relieved Warden Coward in April 1876, and my camp was at Byerstown, half way between Cooktown and Maytown. My staff included a C.P.S., three white orderlies, and three black trackers, with a liberal supply of useful horses. My principal duty was compelling the Chinese to take out miners' rights, which cost ten shillings annually.
The wily Chinkey tried every dodge to evade payment, and would have you if possible with spurious gold. I had on several occasions to round up and arrest mobs of from one hundred to one hundred and fifty, escort them miles to my camp, and then draft them out like sheep, retaining their swags until they found the ten shillings. Sometimes we were kept up all night by small mobs coming to the camp to redeem their property, which the C.P.S. had duly docketed, giving the owner a duplicate ticket.
I carried a long light chain on a pack horse with seventy‑five pairs of hand‑cuffs attached, so I had “accommodation " for one hundred and fifty, and on camping we opened one part of the chain, and secured the lot round a tree.
We were often on duty away among the ranges, two or three weeks at a stretch, rounding up the outside camps and scooping in revenue, most distressing work for both men end beast for we had to travel for miles up the bed of the Palmer River in a gorge between ranges, struggling over boulders, and the heat terrific. We were rarely free from fever, and I had sometimes to lie down in the dust on the main road., shivering like an aspen leaf for an hour or two, and after this came a raging fever which generally made me quite delirious. We were in frequent peril from the blacks, who were constantly all around us, ever on the alert, and a very savage cannibal lot they were. We had invariably to keep a strict watch all night when camping out.
A clever swindle was perpetrated while I was on the Palmer, by a very knowing old offender who was very smart, but not smart enough for old Tom Clohesy. This man procured an unused one‑hundred cheque book, and having provided himself with red braid, a pen and bottle of ink, he rigged himself up as a Warden's Orderly, stuck Chinamen up on, the road and issued to them what they took to be genuine Miners' Rights, receiving ten shillings for each. He victimized over sixty unsuspecting Celestials, and then rode to Cooktown, timing himself to catch the steamer going South, but Clohesy was one too many for him, and nabbed him just as the gangway was being pulled in.
As Wardens we were often wrongfully accused of cutting off the Chinamen's tails, but I remember when the then Premier was visiting Cooktown, he had to cross a hand bridge, and was amazed to see three genuine pig tails, recently cut off, hanging on each side of the hand‑rail, but this was the work of some of the anti‑Chinese Cooktown larrikins.
My billet was a good one, but it was well earned when I tell you that during the nineteen months I worked on the Palmer, my collections for Miners' Rights and business licenses alone amounted to the respectable sum of £5,707.
It was killing rough work. I was the first Warden to visit the Hodgkinson (Thornborough).
My chief orderly, Bill Norris, afterwards orderly for years at Charters Towers, and I, swam the Mitchell River in high flood, having before starting stopped a mob of about two thousand men at Byerstown, who were waiting for the river to go down so as to rush the field. I told them I would bring back an authentic report of the rush in three days, and I did.
I reported “a rank duffer," and this induced a majority of the men, who were awaiting my report, to return from whence they came, and thus probably I saved a lot of starvation and misery.
I might shock my readers by selecting many terrible scenes I was eye witness to during this period, but one or two will be sufficient.
A very eccentric judge called Blake visited Roma years ago, and once, when on circuit, he stayed at a local hotel, during a very dry season when water was an expensive luxury. There was an open tank at the back of the house, with a little water which the hotel‑keeper was religiously reserving for drinking purposes. The first night the Judge arrived, at about 10 p.m., a splashing was heard at the back of the house. When the hotel‑keeper ran out he was horrified to see the Judge luxuriating in a bath in the open tank! When expostulated with the Judge said, “You need not kick up such a devil of a row, for I am not using any soap!"
Gambling was an awful curse on the Palmer, and Chinamen would be fleeced to their last penny, and then have to resort to crime. We did our best to stop it, and made several very exciting raids on the gambling houses. The black troopers took infinite delight in this sort of work, and it was very funny, after a big haul, to see the troopers lugging sometimes six or eight Chinkies in each hand, and holding them by their pigtails! One night I reserved for myself the duty of tackling the “Boss," a man I wanted badly. When we made our rush, I vaulted over the heads of the crowd round the table, gripped my man, and we both went down underneath the high gambling table. All the lights went out, but I stuck to him, and got a hitch round the leg of the table. Someone kicked me on one ankle and put it out, making me a cripple for a month. On the night in question nineteen of us captured over sixty. When we escorted the lot over to the camp, I had to be carried, like a cavalry officer, on the back of a big trooper. Next morning I fined the lot ten pounds each, giving my kicking “Boss " friend the extra privilege of contributing fifty pounds. All the fines were paid.
One morning all hands were down with fever. The Hon. Hewitt was paying me a visit and kindly offered to milk my cow. About an hour later he came to me with half a bucket of yard deposit, and himself covered with the same material from head to foot! I asked “What's up, old man?” Hewitt said, “Look here, Hill, I've never been so ill‑treated in all my life! that beast of yours is no lady."
“Did you put the leg rope on I said?" What rope he replied.
It transpired that he put the cow (a not too quiet one either) into the bail all right, and sat down to milk her between her hind leg! Hence the catastrophe! There is a fine field for the reader's imagination to picture exactly what happened
One night, during the time a large number of people were camped at Byerstown, waiting for the Mitchell to go down, and also for my official report, I was sound asleep in my tent, and awakened by an awful scream. Norris heard it too, so we aroused the camp and some of the Police, and after a time found an unfortunate woman lying on the ground in a small tent, with her right arm chopped completely off above the elbow.
The wretch who did it was never found, bit I believe that the woman eventually recovered.
A man was stabbed through the heart by his mate G, without the least discoverable provocation, and a storekeeper who lived not far from my camp was butchered, and his store ransacked by the blacks.
Scores of other exciting incidents made life on the Palmer active enough, and serious enough, and one had always to be prepared for emergencies.
I often met Jack Hamilton, who was practising as a medico. He had a private hospital at Maytown, and a story is told that a bully came a long way to punch Jack, but he caught a Tartar, got an awful thrashing, and had to go into Hamilton's Hospital to be cured, and pay Hamilton to cure him of the effects of the thumping he gave him!
Early in 1877 I visited Warden Sellheim at Maytown. His camp was a mile from the township, and the first morning there I rode with him to his office, and on the road we met a constable who was riding out with the sad news that Sub‑Inspector F had just shot himself. We went at once and broke open the door of the poor fellow's office, to find he had discharged a rifle into his mouth, his head being blown to pieces. I noticed two holes in the iron roof, one of which was made by the bullet, and the other we found out afterwards was made by a piece of the skull being blown clean through the iron, as I found the piece on the roof.
Another sad scene I witnessed when about to camp at the bottom of the hill. Our horses were all unsaddled when we heard terrible cries, and. saw a man staggering down the hill, several blacks chasing him, but Norris, Vick and I were soon in full cry, and a few of the Myalls lost the number of their mess. The man had a spear through him, and though we managed to extract it, he died shortly afterwards.
Passing from grave to gay, let me here relate a laughable fish yarn that actually happened to W. O. Hodgkinson, the late lamented Crown Minister, explorer, politician, editor, and versatile writer.
My camp at Byerstown was situated on the top of a steep bank overhanging a small creek, which after heavy rain was full of large bream. Hodgkinson, who had tried his luck in this hole before, arrived at my camp late one night, when we were all away on patrol. After having tea, he threw his fishing line over the bank, and was soon rewarded with some palpable bites, but not being able to hook anything, he gave it up after a time, rebaited his hook, and left the line set.
Early next morning, on going to secure a prize, he found the creek was dry! The bites had come from small sand “goannas!” Re Hodgkinson's exploring, I was at Georgetown when he made his famous start to explore the north‑west country, from Cloncurry to the South Australian boundary in 1876. Tremendous preparations were made, and excitement and whisky ran high when we were wishing the party bon voyage. After a month or so of privations, the party reached what they had hoped to find a magnificent stretch of splendid country, which they decided to christen the “Oswald," but instead of finding new country, the poor travel‑worn party arrived at a well-appointed station with a comfortable house, piano, tennis court and plenty of bottled beer! We did not hear much about this particular trip afterwards, but they traced the Diamantina to the border, and went from the Cloncurry mine to Lake Coongi in South Australia, the whole journey lasting from April thirteenth to September twenty‑seventh, 1876.
The party included W. Carr‑Boyd (“Potjostler"), Kayser, Norman Macleod, and a black trooper named “Larry.” Hodgkinson wrote a very interesting report of the expedition.
Townsend, the officer in charge of the Native Police camp at the Laura, was a character, a good‑hearted “fool-to-himself” sort of fellow, and many a long, rough ride we have had together, as I was authorised to requisition his detachment when on any special or urgent duty. We frequently passed hordes of Chinamen heavily loaded, in single file, carrying goods to the Chinese merchants at Maytown, and I have seen them carry over two hundredweight on a bamboo across their shoulders, under a blazing Palmer sun, twenty miles a day. They often collapsed and died on the road, and we had to gallop on to find their mates, whom we had actually to force to bury them off the road!
Townsend had three fine dogs in his camp, christened J.C., (Jesus Christ), H.G., (Holy Ghost) and V.M., (Virgin Mary), and when these animals died he had good fences erected round their graves, with headstones inscribed “Sacred to the memory of," on the lot! Probably these extraordinary graves are still in existence.
Only for the influx of Chinamen the Palmer would have given profitable employment to thousands of Europeans for many years.
The hordes of Celestials, at one time about twenty thousand, absolutely worked out the bed of the river. The amount of gold obtained by them was enormous, and thousands of ounces of gold were taken back to China privately, as one of the Boss Chinamen told me he sent home at least one thousand ounces a month for some considerable time, and I believe him.
Just to show how easily gold was got on the Palmer, I was in my office one morning when a European miner came in for a Miner's Right. He told me he was going prospecting, and next morning the same man came to me and asked if I would put a bag into my safe for a time. He said, “It's a few specimens I got yesterday in about three hours." He said he was up a gully looking for his horses and found that one of them had kicked a large stone over, disclosing a nest of nuggets. I asked him how much he got, and he replied, “Weigh the lot, sir, please.” And I did, an found the lot weighed one hundred and seventy‑nine ounces three pennyweights, the smallest piece weighing seventeen pennyweights.
The nuggets were lovely to look at, all water worn and of the most fantastic shapes. One “beauty" was exactly thirteen and a half ounces.
When the banks decided to open branches at Maytown, I had the whole staff of four banks camped with me for two or three days. The managers were Alfred Halloran, Cecil Becke, Paddy Shields, and McClardy, all old friends. Each brought three of four assistants, so the party of fifteen made things hum, also a considerable hole in my larder and store of medical comforts. It paid me well though, for not only had I a very good time, but it seems one of their pack horses, loaded with tinned meats and other luxuries, knocked up about ten miles from my camp, so they left the load a bit off the road for anyone to appropriate. Needless to say, Norris and a tracker were soon away and secured the lot.
My work having been so severe, and the continual attacks of fever telling at last on my constitution, I hailed with delight my transfer back to my old home at Ravenswood, as Police Magistrate and Warden.
Before leaving the Palmer the Chinese gave me a tremendous send‑off, letting off a cart load of crackers, but whether for joy or sorrow at my departure is still an unsolved problem.
Before closing my Palmer experiences, I venture to reproduce a local song I composed and sang at a charity concert in Cooktown. It “took well, and gave pleasure to all" in those days:
THE PALMER LOCAL.
It's about two long years ago,
To the Palmer goldfield I came,
I tried all I know to get hold of a show,
But my trying has all been in vain.
Of “Protections” I've had quite a score,
And I've worked at them all with a will,
Now my knuckles are sore, from the raps at the door,
I have guv at the office of Hill
To the Palmer I must go,
But I'd very much like to know
Whether when I get there
I'll be ordered to wear
A long pigtail‑Oh, yes‑or Oh, no!
First I go to obtain Miner's Rights,
Next implore him the Chinkie to chase,
For a dozen or more, with bamboos galore,
Paddy whacked me for cutting their race.
Isn't it hard to come home from work,
With no gold, and disgusted, forlorn,
To find that the beggars have been in your tent,
And that all of your tucker has gone
Now the Warden has white men and black,
Most terrible cavalry too;
He rounds up the Chinkies, his black boys enquire,
“Where license belonging to you?
What for you baal license have got”
No savey belongin' to me
You turn me out pouch, you money have got!
Or we'll handcuff you up to a tree."
Then the Chinkies will snivel and cry,
“No more shillin', no chow chow have got!"
But the Warden from practice knows better than that,
And “no saveys” a lot of such rot.
With one hand he seizes the tail,
With the other in the pouch has a hold,
He knows 'em so well, and from instinct can tell,
Where the beggars have planted their gold.
Soon the P.M. up here will be Mr. Chuck Lum,
C. P. S., Mr. See Wah Ah Nee
And the Mayor of this town‑Mr. Mayor, do not frown
Will be Mr. Ah Hong Chong Ah Lee;
Police Inspector Ah Pod will command,
Messrs. Ah Hong, Chong, Pong and Ah Lin,
While the duplicate churches will find nervous cures
In the Revs. “Ah Fat" and “Ah Thin.”
Now the moral contained in my song
You will find in this verse of my lay,
So listen to me, and, I'll bet you'll agree
With the words I'm just going to say
If the Chinamen quickly arn't chased
From crowding in herds to our shore,
The language of Englishmen, Irish and Scotch
Will be banished from here evermore.
RAVENSWOOD GOLDFIELD, 1878 to 1882,
When I returned to Ravenswood after four years absence, I received a hearty welcome from many old friends and found the field wonderfully improved and all prosperous. Two or three crushing mills were constantly going, and also extensive up-to-date crushing plants.
I felt like returning home again, and took up my old labours of love as Church warden and Choir master, and interested myself in the various, charitable institutions.
Having a good C.P.S. and Mining Registrar, Samwell, I found my work comparatively easy, more especially after the gruelling I had experienced on the Palmer.
I omitted in Chapter Thirteen to give an account of a rather hazardous trip to Townsville. The Officer in Charge of the Gold Escort refused to take some parcels of gold for the reason that they were too large to be packed, one lump in particular weighing one thousand seven hundred ounces, and the refused to have it broken up. Warden Hackett equal to the occasion, hired a horse and cart, and sent me down in charge of about twelve thousand ounces, and the Warden’s two German orderlies, Kayser and Willhelm, neither of whom could ride.
We had to camp out one night a mile from the Haughton pub, about half-way to Townsville, and of course we kept watch all night. Warden Hackett thoughtfully sent a mounted constable, Gillanders, to assist us as he was slightly nervous. Unfortunately, Gillanders had to pass the pub, and sampled too much liquor, so about midnight, in my watch, he galloped furiously up to camp, and was within an ace of losing his life; in fact, my finger was on the trigger of the rifle, but luckily I got a glimpse of the uniform, or I would certainly have fired. We got to Townsville without mishap, but on our arrival at the door of the lock-ups, where we had to deliver the gold, Orderly Kayser pulled up short in front of the door to show himself off; the driver resented this, whipped his horses up, and ran his shafts into Kayser’s steed, which at once landed his rider on his head, to the intense amusement of an admiring crowd of policemen and onlookers.
Having to take back a large number of notes for the banks, I packed them in front of my saddle, and rode through to Ravenswood in the day (80 miles).
Before leaving Townsville, I placed Kayser in charge of the return escort, and gave him a parcel which he carefully guarded and duly delivered, but little did he suspect the parcel contained only unwashed clothes.
MS. STEFFAN'S MURDER AND MUTTERS CAPTURED DOWN A SHAFT.
Here is a reliable account of the dreadful murder of Mrs. Steffan, by a German named Mutter, and hi capture down an old mining shaft. Many garbled versions of the affair were given from time to time.
A German named Mutter was boarding with a countryman named Steffan, and they lived in a small cottage on the main road to the Donnybrook.
One day, after dinner, when the old man was at work in his garden, Mutter insulted his wife, who retaliated by slapping his face, and the wretch walked back to Clisbett's Store, bought a big butcher's knife, and a small bottle of schnapps, which he drank to get Dutch courage, walked back to Steffan's house and stabbed the poor old woman twice in the ribs, in the left ear and eye, twice burying the knife to the hilt. The husband hearing a scream rushed in, only to catch his poor old wife in his arms as she was falling. I was passing the house on duty with “Vick," my black tracker, and got into the house only just in time to hear her gasp out the words, “Mutter, Mutter."
I coo-eed for help, and several men arrived, one of whom I sent at once for the doctor, another for the police, and in the meantime, after putting “Vick” on to Mutter's track, I did what I could to try and staunch the flow of blood from the wounds, but she died before the doctor arrived.
About half an hour later, a man came galloping up with the news that they had seen Mutter disappear down an abandoned shaft, a mile away, and I jumped on my horse and quickly got to the place to find a crowd of excited miners and two constables at the mouth of the shaft. It was at this time nearly sundown, and as I knew these shafts were connected by drives, and also that Mutter had been working in some of them, I feared he might give us the slip, so I promptly borrowed a revolver from one of the constables, and I was lowered down a shaft eighteen feet deep with a rope, an d when I got to the bottom, I noticed an underlay going down at an angle of one in eight and crawled in, but finding it pitch dark, returned and sang out for a candle, when a shower of them came down, so I crawled back again on my hands and knees, the candle in my right hand, and the revolver stuck in the breast of my shirt.
When about eight yards in, my hand touched something foreign, and this was the knife, which Mutter had buried up to the hilt in the loose earth, the blade and part of the handle, thickly covered with fresh blood. Feeling sure of capturing Mutter, I prepared by sticking part of the candle on top of the knife, crawling on my elbow, and holding the revolver in my right hand. In a few yards I sighted the murderer, who was crouched and shaking like a man with palsy. I covered him with the revolver, and said, “Move, you … and I'll Pot you." He mumbled, “All right, I come.” Then I was in a fix, as the shaft was so narrow that we could not possibly pass each other, and up to this time I was not aware that Constable Murphy (now M.L.C.) had crawled down after me to give assistance.
Seeing a glimmer of light some distance down, I made my prisoner crawl backwards, and when I got him there, found we were in a shaft fifty or sixty feet deep. I made Mutter keep his hands up, and the Constable searched him.
Whilst doing so, a rope came dangling down, and I heard voices from above call out, “Let us pull him up, sir," but fearing lynching business, I got the constable to crawl back the same way we came.
Mutter followed, and I brought up the rear, and when we reached the eighteen feet shaft, I tied a rope round Mutter's middle, and clasping my arms round his neck, we were safely landed on the top.
Then the fun began, as the crowd of infuriated miners wanted to tear our prisoner to pieces, but fortunately the Sergeant and other constables had arrived, so after a tussle with the mob, we got our man away from them, and into a cart.
When passing the scene of the murder, and before any one could prevent him, the poor half demented old husband rushed out, clambered over the wheel and was tearing, biting, and clawing Mutter like a wild cat, so that it took three of us to remove him by force. Mutter was a tremendously powerful man, and though his height was only five feet four inches, he measured forty‑eight inches round the chest. When I returned the revolver to the constable, I found it was empty. Nice sort of weapon to face a man like Mutter with!
Mutter was tried and convicted by Judge Shepherd at the Circuit Court, Townsville, chiefly on my evidence.
The doctor who had held the post mortem, ignored his subpoena, and cleared to England. Mutter was sentenced to death, and duly hanged in Brisbane Gaol, but a fearful bungle was made of the execution, owing to the rope being thin, and hardened by frost on a bitterly cold night, and the hangman giving it an unusually long drop, Mutter's head was pulled off, and was rolling away until Inspector O'Driscoll put his foot on it.
I suppose the Government thought the action I took in this affair was part of my multitudinous duties, consequently no notice was ever taken, except by the Judge, who evidently thought I had performed a duty somewhat out of the common.
THE ETHERIDGE AGAIN, 1882.
Was left in peace at Ravenswood for four years, and having a comfortable home, flattered myself I was a fixture, doing fairly well, and hearing of no complaints, either from the heads of my departments or the miners. From this fair dream I was rudely awakened by receiving orders to proceed to Georgetown, without apparent rhyme or reason. It may have been that the part I was forced to take against the miner Macrossan, whose exploit in horsewhipping Warden Hackett I have already related in a previous chapter, had something to do with my removal.
This transfer meant more to me than would appear to outsiders, for it meant breaking up a comfortable home and taking my wife, young child, and all my effects to a place considered then out of the pale of civilisation.
We also had to face an overland journey over vile roads for three hundred and fifty miles, apart from the heavy loss of a forced sale. And this was my reward, for the killing work I had gone through in the preceding years.
I had serious thoughts of resigning, and though many influential friends fought hard for re‑consideration, Minister Macrossan was unrelenting; so I had to make the best of a bad job, and smile and bear what I thought a gross injustice.
A teamster wanted eighty pounds to convey my belongings, but at the last moment I bought a team of six good horses, with dray and harness for one hundred and twenty pounds, and arranged with the man I bought them from to drive it to Georgetown for thirty shillings per week and his tucker.
This spec turned out well, for not only did I travel up in comfort, but on my arrival at Georgetown, and before the harness was taken off, I sold the lot, clearing one hundred pounds on my bargain. One route was over a road unused for years, so we had to cut our own crossings over numerous rivers and creeks.
The trip, however, proved very enjoyable, as we had fine weather and plenty of grass all the way. Having riding and pack horses, some of the party would ride ahead, fix the camp, and pass the time fishing and shooting until the teams caught us.
The whole way up there were plain turkeys, pigeons and fish in abundance. We took with us a good goat to supply milk for the baby, and found her a great boon and little or no trouble. About halfway up, we arrived at Mytton's place, and these very old friends warmly welcomed us, and we had a three day's delightful spell. We all arrived safely at Georgetown, and ever after talked of our three week’s trip as a prolonged picnic.
On my arrival at Georgetown I found my quarters consisted of an old tumbled down bark pub, which had also to serve as a Court House and 0ffice, but in spite of its outside appearance, we very soon made it homely and comfortable, though living was terribly expensive, as the following will show.
Soon after we were settled, I sent to Townsville for some goods, such as flour, tea, groceries, etc., the invoice price of which amounted to eighteen pounds, but the carrier took nearly three months bringing them up, and his charge for carriage was forty pounds!
The Government allowed all officers three shillings per day extra to cover the additional cost of living.
I found the Etheridge little changed since my previous visit, the exorbitant cost of every kind of necessary retarding the progress of the field to an incredible extent.
Our life was rather quiet and free from exciting incidents, or even any variation, save an occasional trip to Gilberton and the Woolgar, but fishing was remarkably good, and that was an oasis in the desert. One incident here is recalled to memory, and is worth relating. An election was on at the time, and a man named … was sent as Presiding Officer to the Woolgar, where the population did not exceed fifty. When the ballot papers were brought into Georgetown to be counted, they had increased to nearly one hundred. The Presiding Officer, I need hardly say, got free board and lodging for a considerable period.
My Ministerial Chief, having evidently relented, I was only kept in exile in Georgetown for twelve months, and then, to my entire satisfaction, I was transferred as Police Magistrate to Cairns.
CAIRNS, 1884 to 1886.
I was the first Police Magistrate appointed to Cairns, where I had also to act as Polynesian Inspector. I found the town in a wild and primitive state, but evidently progressive, as many buildings were being erected. I was fortunate in securing half an acre of land on the beach, and on this I built a good house which was afterwards sold to R. A. Kingsford, once M.L.A. for South Brisbane.
The principal plantation was Hambleton, started in 1882 by Swallow and Derham, and that employed four hundred Kanakas and one hundred Chinese.
Swallow and Derham expended a capital of about ninety thousand pounds before the got a penny in return. The machinery was up to date, and light tramways were run through an estate which only a few months before had been a dense scrub.
The Kanakas and Chinese were not a harmonious crowd, and the Chinese often gave us serious trouble.
At an election time in Cairns, when the local police were very busy, a serious strike at a critical time was reported, and something had to be done at once.
I therefore enlisted the services of the water police, who were armed and mounted on quiet nags. They proceeded to Hambleton, where it was necessary for me to arrest forty Chinamen, but when marching them away, a mob of two hundred, armed mostly with cane knives, attempted a rescue.
With the assistance of a lot of European mill hands, we stuck to our men and bagged a few more, and when we had them secure in a large store room, it was necessary for me to go and pick up and attend to the wounded Chinamen, several of whom I badly hurt, mostly by the Kanakas, who sided with us and belted the Chinkeys with sugarcane and waddies.
One Chinaman was dead, but this was expected, and we knew exactly how he met with his death.
Some time after this, five Chinamen got lawyer Barnett from Cooktown, concocted a yarn, and laid an information against a Hambleton employee named Fitz… for wilful murder of the Chinaman. They one and all had the same story, that they had seen Fitz… strike the deceased on the head with a crowbar. Knowing the accused was perfectly innocent, I gave the accusers plenty of rope, and the affair ended in the whole five of them being arrested and charged with wilful and corrupt perjury, tried, convicted, and severely punished.
One of the roughest journeys I ever faced travelling over the range from Cairns to Herberton.
On Christmas Eve of 1885, the heat in Cairns was one hundred and seven in the shade, with a deluge of rain falling‑twenty one inches being registered in the thirteen hours‑when an urgent telegram came ordering me to start at once to Herberton to sit on an election case, the Herberton P.M. being the principal witness.
When I got up the range, I had to travel through eight miles of dense scrub. The track was only ten feet wide. The hundreds of packhorses constantly passing made it like the very worst devil-devil country and awfully boggy.
The eight miles took me four hours to travel on a good horse, and when I reached the top of the top of the range and got through the scrub, I found the climate delightfully cool and fresh, a truly marvellous change from what I had experienced a few hours before.
I liked Herberton, and would have been very pleased but for the plague of “rats." I left a good boots outside my bedroom door to be cleaned, but never sighted one of them again. The “rats” got them.
Here is a little business that required very delicate handling.
One of the most widely known women in the North was “Maggie the Stag," a lady I had often imprisoned for various terms both at Cairns and Ravenswood.
She was a splendid cook, and when sober, could command two pounds per week anywhere. One Sunday night I was in church playing the organ, when in the middle of a hymn I happened to look up the aisle, and to my horror, saw Maggie in the middle of the church wildly waving her hands and calling at the top of her voice, “Ah! ‘ill at the Horgan!” Constable Orr happened to be in church, so I stopped the hymn, walked straight up to Maggie, and merely said, “Outside,” when, to my astonishment and relief, she slowly backed out. Constable Orr and one or two of the congregation followed her. I returned to the organ and finished the hymn, accompanied all the time by the sounds of deadly combat raging outside.
I was very nearly losing my life at Cairns. Edwards, a very decent fellow when sober, and a clever surveyor, was so often brought before me that at last, for his own sake, I had to send him to gaol for three months, hoping that forced period of abstinence would be for his benefit.
One morning, after his imprisonment had expired, he came into my office, decently dressed and perfectly sober. I told him to be seated, when he commenced the conversation by saying, “Hill, you have ruined me eternally. I have had to mix up with criminals, and am a done man." I said, “You forced me much against my own inclination, to imprison you.”
He said, “I'm going to shoot you." I said, “Don’t talk rot, man." He replied, “by God I am,” and pulled out a bull‑dog revolver, fully loaded.
I said, “with that thing. Why it wouldn't kill a fly; let me see it," and greatly to my relief he held it out, when I snatched it out of his hand and threw it out of the open door into the sea, which happened to be near enough at high tide. He then fought like a demon, using his teeth and nails, and were it not for Sergeant Owens, who was in the next office, and rushed to my assistance, I would have fared badly. We had at last to knock him senseless with a ruler. The poor fellow was raving mad, and had to be put into a straight waistcoat and sent to Goodna- another brilliant man ruined by drink. I had a previous experience with him at night. When at the back of the house on a very bright moonlight night, hearing a fearful scream, I rushed round and saw a stark naked man standing in front of my bedroom frenchlight, which was wide open, wildly waving his arms. The verandah was eight feet from the ground. I rushed at the man, and threw him clean over the verandah rail into the garden below, and jumped over on to the top of him yelling for help. Tom Behan and Hobson, my nearest neighbours, were soon on the scene, and we had an awful job to overpower and tie up the man, who turned out to be poor Edwards in the horrors. I had to send for the police, who had all their work to convey him to the lock-up.
We had a lively lot of young bachelors at Cairns, Ernest Milford and Bob Sturt being the leading spirits. Some evenings, when we were comfortably settled at home, a tribe of them would arrive, ransack the house, lay a table in a most grotesque manner, and then cover it with all sorts of luxuries. Some of them would then go round amongst the neighbours, collect all our available girl friends, and finish up with a dance on our wide verandah. These were genuine surprise parties and enjoyed by all.
I was transferred to Springsure after spending two very pleasant years at Cairns.
One very dark stormy night after a day in which I had a long tiring court case, my friend, Surveyor Munro, came in with the news that a man working for him had been shot by another of Munro’s men at his flying camp in a scrub sixteen miles from the main camp. There was no alternative but go, so I had to get the Doctor and Sergeant of Police and start on what proved to be a terrible ride, most of it through dense scrub, with no proper track, and the night was pitch dark. Once the Doctor yelled out that he was “lassooed by blacks!”
A lawyer vine had pulled him off his horse, and I several times nearly came to grief in the same manner, but owing to Munro’s wonderful pilotage we got to the camp and found the wounded man with a bullet in his chest. He was a huge Irishman who persistently refused to let the Doctor touch him, so we had to use force and hold him down while the Doctor successfully got the bullet out. He was taken to hospital and finally recovered.
It appeared that during the night, Pat blackened himself to look like a blackfellow so as to frighten the Chinaman cook, who rushed in to Munro’s young assistant, Grensell, who was asleep, and yelled that the blacks were rushing the camp. The young fellow went out, and seeing a dark object, fired and shot Pat, who never again tried any more practical jokes.
I wanted to try a dry climate, and got it in real earnest, for I arrived at Springsure in the worst of the terrible drought of 1886.
I relieved J. G. McDonald, who kindly let me his house, the only one available, for the modest rental of two pounds per week.
It was heartrending to see usually lovely country a dreary desert. Many pioneer squatters were totally ruined, losing everything, as well as their many years of energy and toil. It was pitiful to see the starving cattle and sheep dying by the hundreds, and all the muddy water holes filled with dying animals.
I have seen the poor sheep often literally eaten alive by hawks and crows, but when the rain came-alas! Too late- it was miraculous to see the whole face of the country covered in three or four weeks with wild flowers and herbs of all varieties-feed in abundance, but very few stock to eat it. The pioneer squatters were men deserving of better luck.
The squatters in the Springsure district were a splendid lot of people, and extremely hospitable, and my stay at Springsure was made very pleasant by their uniform kindness.
The town was often very lively after the shearing and lambing seasons before the drought, but when the branch line was opened from Emerald it virtually ruined the place, for all the old hands, instead of knocking down their cheques in Springsure, mostly preferred to go on by rail to Rockhampton.
When the branch line was in course of construction, the contractor ran short of funds, leaving hundreds of men unpaid, and many of them actually starving. It looked serious at one time, as the men took possession of the train and defied us to shift them, saying they would get food if they had to sack Emerald. However, I humoured them and agreed to take them to town, but as many of them were under the influence of drink, excited and fightable, I thought it wise not to take them into Emerald, so quietly got all the police on to the engine, and when we got about five miles on the road had the engine unhooked, and left the lot of them, about sixty-five, in the bush!
However, we soon returned with tucker and the welcome news that everything was settled, and money available to pay their wages, so the trouble was happily ended.
My health still continuing bad, and Springsure climate for twelve months having no good result, I applied for and got six months extended sick leave on full pay, stipulating that should a place that would suit me be vacant during that period, I would get the preference.
I sold off again and went South with the family. Finding an idle life not to my taste, and being informed the P.M. at Charleville, Colonel Moore, was going to England on extended sick leave, I agreed to waive nearly four months of my leave, so settling my family in Brisbane, went to Charleville, to see if that climate would suit my health.
Before leaving Springsure I was presented with an address beautifully done entirely by an old lady, Mrs. Barnett, her first attempt at anything of the sort, considered a work of art, and now one of my most treasured testimonials, of which I am the possessor of no less than thirteen.
GAYNDAH, 1888 TO 1892
This town is one of the oldest in Queensland, and a truly rural spot, with a perfect climate, and situated on the banks of the Burnett River, a fine running stream of pure fresh water. My lines here were cast in pleasant places, as there was very little litigation. I held a multitude of billets, and give a list.
Officially I was:
1. Police Magistrate;
2. Gold Warden;
3. Clerk of Petty Sessions;
4. Acting Land Commissioner;
5. Land Agent;
6. Registrar of the Small Debts Court;
7. District Registrar;
8. Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages;
9. Savings Bank Officer;
10. Commissioner for Affidavits;
11. Agent for the Curator of Intestate Estates;
12. Electoral Registrar; and
13. High Bailiff.
Socially I was:
1. Church warden;
2. Superintendent of the Sunday School;
4. President or Secretary of most of the charitable and sporting institutions.
To show what might happen to a Government Officer holding such a variety of offices, I shall relate a comic experience I had in Gayndah.
An intending selector applied to me as Land Agent for a piece of land, but his application was informal and useless, so I rejected it. He was very indignant, and at once reported me in writing to my boss, the Land Commissioner-myself. I duly replied officially, telling him that the Land Agent (myself) was a particularly good and efficient officer, and that his action in the matter complained of was perfectly correct! I heard no more about it.
While at Gayndah I had to visit Paradise Goldfield, Biggenden, Mount Perry, and Eidsvold officially periodically, but affairs were very different from what they became later. The Clerk of Petty Sessions’ fees and emoluments made his billet worth considerably more than that of his superior officer, the Police Magistrate; and liberal travelling allowance made an officer comfortable, contented, and independent, as he should be; but now a days, the unfortunate public servant has numerous billets piled on to him with no extra pay. He has to rear a family and keep up a position with no chance of saving, and nothing to look forward to in the future. The repeal of the Civil Service Act of 1863 in 1868 was an act of madness. It was my luck to stick to it, as otherwise I might have been penning these memoirs in Dunwich.
I found Gayndah with a most salubrious climate, and rapidly lost all signs of the asthma which I had contracted at Cairns in the wet season. During the four years stationed there, finding there was so much travelling to do, I located my family in Maryborough, paying them a flying visit when on my way from Biggenden to Mount Perry.
I drove a very good pair of ponies the whole time of my stay at Gayndah, and could shoot out of the buggy or leave them standing anywhere until the following rather sensational accident, which fortunately ended with little or no damage.
I was on my road to Paradise, and when going through a dense patch of scrub saw an immense eagle-hawk on a tree nearly over my head. Without thinking, I pulled up the ponies, got my rifle and put a bullet clean through him; but imagine my fright when he fell on my ponies’ backs, flapping his huge wings! Not even my well trained quiet ponies could stand this sort of treatment. They gave a squeal of fear and bolted for their lives, but as luck would have it I had the reins twisted round my leg, so I managed to keep them on the road, but never tried shooting out of the buggy again.
A very sad affair happened during my time in Gayndah. After a heavy flood, a bright lad and general favourite, H. Wilson, went to spend the evening with the Maltby brothers, who had a selection three or four miles from Gayndah. After dark a messenger came to me reporting that poor Herbert was drowned in Maltby’s creek.
At this time I had a very good kanaka named Sam, and took him with me and went down to the creek, which was running a banker and icy cold. The night was pitch dark, and Sam, who was very fond of Herbert, without hesitation plunged in and was under water fully a minute. He came up for breath, and said, “All right, I’ve got him.” Diving down again, he soon appeared with the poor boy, who I could see at a glance was dead. I carried him up the bank to Maltby’s house, and worked all I knew for fully three hours to resuscitate him, but with no success. I then had to go in and break the sad news to the poor mother- the most trying part of this sad affair.
Life at Gayndah would be rather monotonous were it not for the exceptionally good fishing, including fresh water mullet averaging from two to four pounds, caught in the season in thousands on hooks baited with green moss.
The yearly carnival brings together socially all the Burnett people from many miles around, and there is a high old time.
The following amusing story was freely circulated about Maryborough, and it is perfectly true.
A Bishop of the Anglican Church was staying with the local Rector, and after one Sunday morning service His Lordship, who was devoted to children, took one of the rector’s little girls on his knee, and the following conversation was overheard:
HL: “Have you been to church, little one?”
LG- “Yes, my Lord.”
HL.- :Haw, haw, good little girlie, you surely cannot-haw-remember the text?”
LG.-“Oh, yes, my Lord.”
HL.-“Haw, haw, how wonderful! What a clever child-haw-let me hear it, dear-haw, haw.”
LG.-“Flipperty Flop, Flipperty Flop”…
His Lordship dropped the child as if she had suddenly become red hot. The kiddy had interpreted as “flipperty flop” the Bishop’s peculiar manner of uttering certain words in Church, being probably half asleep at the time!
I left the old place with regret, quite satisfied, however, that the services of a Police Magistrate were no longer required. Gayndah was left in charge of the senior Justice of the Peace, a most wonderful man, who at the present time, though over ninety, is a marvel of activity and the leader in all the Gayndah festivities. This is my old friend, John Connolly, one of the truly “grand old men” of Queensland.
I met a splendid specimen of a bush parson, Canon …, at Gayndah, a man I can only truly find one suitable name for, “God’s Good Man.” He is still the hero of the following comic adventure. He was holding a service in the wool shed of one of the western stations, when a big coarse bullying fighting man kept persistently trying to annoy the parson by filthy remarks, and interrupting the service. At last … got tired of it, walked up to the bully, quietly remonstrated with him, and told him if he did not desist he would find some method of making him. This the bully evidently anted, for he said, “What will yer do? That … coat saves your hide.” … took the obstructing garment off and hung it on a nail, walked up to the fellow, and said-pointing to the coat-“There’s the parson; I am the man; put up your hands!” Only one round was fought, but when that was over the bully’s mother would hardly have known him. … did not get a scratch, but that is not surprising when we know he had been the champion heavy weight amateur boxer at Oxford, was about six feet three and a half inches, and weighed between thirteen and fourteen stone.
Here is a story against myself. I was Superintendent of the Sunday School at Gayndah.
One Sunday Bishop Webber came to see us, and was catechizing the children. The little ones were in front, and I was just behind them.
After a time, he said, “Now, I have a simple little question to ask the very little ones in the front seat only, only the little ones mind you! “Who were the sons of Noah?”
No reply for some time, and at this stage I plead guilty of a little prompting. Then a little tot’s hand went up with great energy, and Webber said, “Oh, I am glad you know it, little one! Well, little one, who were they?”
“Shem, Ham, and Eggs, my Lord,” was the astonishing reply. His Lordship said, “Oh, very good! Very funny! But I see Mr. Hill not far off behind that!” Readers will remember the good Bishop’s “hah, wah, wah” style of speech.
Only one of the men shot by Trevethan was seriously hurt, but he afterwards recovered.