RICHARD SYMES ALFORD
MEMORIES OF YEARS GONE BY
and other items
By Richard Symes
I have written down some recollections of early days and parts of my own
history together with a few anecdotes. I hope that as a whole this production
will prove readable. As I am not a professional writer but have done my best, I
hope the readers of these lines will not be too critical but make allowance for
My father and mother were married at West Maitland, New South Wales, by
the Rev. W. Stack, on Wednesday, the 7th of August, 1839. My parents,
both of whom were English born and bred, left in the "Paterson', near Maitland,
New South Wales, in July 1842, arriving at Brisbane, then part of New South
Wales, during the same month. They were accompanied by a daughter two years old
and a baby girl, two months old. The baby was christened at Brisbane by the Rev.
Mr. Handt. At this time there could not have been more than five hundred people
in Brisbane, all told, for it is on record that three years later (1845) the
population of Brisbane was only 829.
After a short stay in Brisbane, they left for the Darling Downs, arriving
at Cambooya in July or August 1842. The Chief Government Officer then was
residing at Cambooya. My mother, Mrs. Arthur Hodgson, and another were the first
three women on the Darling Downs. My two sisters, then babes, probably were the
first white children on the Downs.
After a brief stay at Cambooya, my parents returned to “The Springs,”
afterwards called Drayton. Thomas Alford, my brother, was born at Drayton, on 11
October, 1844, and was one of the first children born on the Downs. They resided
at Drayton continuously from about August 1842 until the year 1852 when they
removed to “The Swamp,” afterwards called Toowoomba. At this particular time,
there was only one other building at “The Swamp,” and that belonged to old Joe
On 22 July 1852, my brother Harry was born at Toowoomba, being the first
white child born there. When he was christened by the Rev. B. Glennie, it was
recorded in the register of the Church of England that the birth took place at
Toowoomba, although at the time it was called and known as “The Swamp". My
parents, by this act, and by always heading their correspondence “Toowoomba”
gave the place the name by which it is now known. The name is the blackfellows
for the place, from whom my mother heard of it.
About the year 1853, my parents returned to Brisbane where my brother
Willie and I were born on 16 October 1854. My father carried on the business of
commission agent and horse salesman, his office and yards being at the corner of
Queen Street and Albert Street, just opposite the Australian Hotel, looking at
them from Queen Street. About 1856, they left Brisbane again and proceeded to
Pikedale station beyond Warwick, where my father had charge of the sheep.
Rabbits were then running loose at Pikedale but were confined to one big rabbit
warren. They must have afterwards died out for nothing was heard of them in
About the year 1859, a final move was made to Toowoomba. From that time
until his death in 1884, my father carried on an auctioneering business at
Toowoomba, firstly at the Argyle Sale Rooms and Yards, in Ruthven and Margaret
Streets, just opposite the present Club Hotel. Subsequently, he bought land in
Russell Street near the railway gates and built yards and a wool room
On Saturday, the 8th of January, 1884, my father died. On
Thursday the 12th October 1905, my mother died at Toowoomba.
Some of the earliest residents at Drayton were Thomas Alford and family,
Edward Lord and family, Dr. Armstrong and family, Dr. Glissan and family,
William Horton, J. H. Harvey, Messrs. Rutledge, McCleverty, Handcock, Peak,
Favenc, Perkins, William Crawford, Rev. Benjamin Glennie.
Some of the earliest residents at Toowoomba were Alfords, Boultons,
Taylors, Grooms, T. G. and E. W. Robinson, S. G. Stephens, Dent, Partridge, Mrs.
Reardon, Jones and Crane, Joe Wonderley, the chemist, Peter Gentle, of Horse and
Jockey Hotel, Shuttlewood, William Berkman and Andrew Walker, both storekeepers,
C. E. Walker, Royal Hotel. The local butchers were Martin Boulton, John Little,
and F. Patterson. Solicitors were Gustavus Hamilton, J. Wickey Stable, John
O’Cock, Henry Boyle. The doctors were Stacy, Sachse, Callan, Burke, Armstrong.
J. Leigh Becker and Edwin Roberts who were the successors to Dr. Stacy after his
death in 1867.
The first clergymen of the Church of England at St. Luke’s Church were B.
Glennie, V. F. Hansome, J. R. Thackeray, A. Harte, and F. C. Jagg.
Mr. J. D. Larkin was the builder and contractor. Richard Godsall worked
for Larkin and in his spare time he
built a two storied building at the back of St. Luke’s Church in Harries Street.
The place was put together entirely with half bricks which had been broken and
discarded at Larkin’s yards. I believe this building is still intact.
The first lots of horses and sheep sold at auction at Toowoomba were sold
by Thomas Alford at the Argyle Sale Yards at the back of the sale rooms of the
same name which stood in Ruthven Street, Toowoomba, just opposite the then
Queen’s Arms Hotel (Fraser), and nearly opposite the same spot where the present
Club Hotel stands. The Queen’s Arms was the leading hotel at the time. The Royal
Hotel however ran it close for popularity.
About 1862 Thomas Alford bought the land alongside the railway gates in
Russell Street and he built a wool room and horse sale yards there. These were
sold for removal in 1908. T. G. Robinson took the Argyle sale rooms and yards
after Thomas Alford vacated them.
After the death of Thomas Alford in 1864, J. W. Grimes carried on the
same business in the same premises in Russell Street, but he afterwards removed
to premises nearer the bridge.
Mr. Martin Boulton’s butchers shop and private residence were in Russell Street
on the west side of the bridge just alongside the bridge. His piggery was on the
opposite side of the street where the pigs used to run loose.
In 1864, my brother Tom, bought half an acre of land from Mr. James
Taylor, at the corner of Russell and West Streets, for £50. This was a very high
price at the time. The brick cottage now standing there was then built by J. D.
Larkin. My mother and family resided there for years and it was in this cottage
that my mother and eldest sister died within a fortnight of each other in
Although very young at the time, I remember the first Parliamentary
election at Toowoomba when W. H. Groom and J. C. White opposed each other. The
former was the democratic candidate, while Mr. White was the nominee of the
Squatters’ party. The German vote on the Middle Ridge went solid for Groom and
decided the vote in his favour. Of course there was great excitement, Groom and
his right hand man, Handcock, were both carried shoulder high on chairs (no
light job in the case of Handcock, for he was a man of great size and probably
weighed twenty stone.)
Joe Wonderley’s chemist shop in Ruthven Street up near to James Street,
was the rendezvous for bank managers and other leading men whose pastime was
gambling by the aid of cardboard racecourses and toy racehorses, assisted by
Adjoining the grounds of St. Luke’s Church, was the Horse and Jockey
Hotel kept by Peter Gentle. Just opposite was the first Post Office, and
alongside, the Darling Downs Gazette Office and Bank of New South Wales, the
Post Office being the corner building. W. D. Byers and F. Grisbrook had the
Darling Downs (D.D.) Gazette. This was a busy part of town in the early days.
St. Luke’s Church always stood where it now is. Originally it had one roof.
Later on a right wing was added, then afterwards a left wing. During week days
it was used as a school. The headmaster of the school was James Wood, who was
succeeded by J. D. Ridley. Two of my brothers and I were in daily attendance at
Robert Dexter was the Town Clerk. He was succeeded by J. Flynn. The surveyors were J. Binstead, G. T. Weale, Hugh Swan, Fred Warner, and Fred Lord, and also J. J. Greer, the latter being dubbed Civil Engineer as well.
Robert H. D. White was the first manager of the Bank of New South Wales. C. G. Alford entered the service of this Bank at Toowoomba on Wednesday, 23 July 1862. Afterwards, when the Bank premises were erected nearer to Margaret Street, the manager was Daniel McAlpine with Blair Kerr as accountant.
Mr. Kerr was a good hand at
repairing pianos and harmoniums and used to put his spare time in that way.
Later years, the manager of the Bank of New South Wales was J. T. Walker, with
C. G. Alford in subsequent.
Gilbert Elliott and
Frederick Rawlins were the Police Magistrates at different periods. A. E.
Douglas, who married Miss Rebecca O’Cock, was C.P.S. J. C. White was
afterwards Police Magistrate at Warwick.
The Australian Joint Stock
Bank opened a branch at Toowoomba in June 1866, with Mr. J. Kearsey Cannan as
manager, the bank office being immediately opposite St. Luke’s Church. H.
K. Alford joined the service of this bank at Toowoomba with Mr. Cannan, as
junior clerk, on Tuesday the 26th June 1866.
Darius Hunt was the editor
and proprietor of the Toowoomba Chronicle, his office and residence being in
James Street, near the Swamp. The paper got down to a very low ebb, only one
sheet being published. In this state it was purchased and taken over by Mr. W.
H. Groom, who made a rapid change for the better.
Mr. Thomas R. Boulton , who
had just sold his station, Clifford, on the Dawson, started to build an
up-to-date hotel at the corner of Ruthven and Russell Streets. Before the place
was half finished, Mr. Boulton’s funds ran out, nothing more being done to the
place. It was then called Boulton’s Folly. Later on the property was purchased
by the Queensland National Bank who pulled down what Boulton had put up and then
erected a fine building in which the Bank now carries on its business.
Race meetings were held annually at Brisbane, Ipswich, Toowoomba, and
Warwick, in that order, the same horses competing at each place. A Miss Dickson
travelled around with a string of four racehorses. Zenobia and Kildare were two
of them. It was said that Miss Dickson used to sleep in the stable with her
favourite horse. Her career ended at Toowoomba for her horses were taken over
for a debt. The names of some of the other horses racing in those days were –
Billy Ruddle’s “Premier” (the champion of the lot). Ruddle is now living in the
Valley, Brisbane. Ruddle used to ride the horse himself and nearly always won.
Larry Flannery’s “Nonsuch,” Johnny Driscoll’s “Centipede,” “Ta Tal” a light
coloured chestnut, badly mouthed, who used to take the bit between the teeth and
bolt three or four times around the course before he could be pulled up – this
usually happened before the race began, consequently he had to retire from the
contest. Then there was Jimmy White’s “Young Stranger,” William Kent’s
“Jibboom,” Bill Thompson’s “Miss Pittsford,” Wonderley’s “Fanny,” Annand’s
“Tippletumtip.” “Premier” was a very quiet old stager when at the post. “Miss
Pittsford”, on the other hand, was a most excitable animal and always came to
the post wet with sweat. She was a real thoroughbred to look at. Hurdle races
each day were always included in the programme. Dick Hopkins (now of Wellshot
Station) used to ride his own horse “Nimrod,” and won nearly all the hurdle
races in his year. Another year Charley Glissan’s horses “Kilbride” and
“Barkaway,” with one of the Glissans in the saddle, won both hurdle races at
Toowoomba. Benjamin’s big cart horse sort of an animal, ‘Banana,” was another
success over the jumps. The day’s racing always wound up with a Hurry Scurry,
post entrance. At one of the Toowoomba meetings, Mr. C. G. Alford of the Bank of
New South Wales, then a lad, entered his old mare “Norah.” He rode her himself,
winning the Hurry Scurry against twenty-one competitors. It was a proud victory
for the rider and his young brothers. Old Jimmy Nathan, the bell man, at the
race meetings, created a lot of fun between the races by the way he cleared the
dogs off the course.
Mr. James Taylor was a
conspicuous figure about Toowoomba. Always an early riser, he would turn out at
daylight with long boots up to his knees and go down the town amongst the
butchers shops etc. Later in life he had a fine hackney named “Garry” which he
would ride in the early morning sitting in a well padded saddle. No matter what
the weather was like, Mr. Taylor was always out and about amongst his men at
Barnes, the father of two
members of Parliament, used to drive the mail coach from Ipswich to Toowoomba up
the Main Range, through the old Toll Bar. Toll had to be paid by everyone riding
or driving through those gates. Barnes was a first class “whip” and it was said
that he could drive almost any number of horses harnessed together. All the grey
harness horses about Toowoomba (17 of them) were harnessed and coupled to the
coach, but Barnes was unable to drive them, although he sat on the box seat
holding the reins. I suppose he thought “discretion to be the better part of
valour,” and gracefully retired.
Mr. E. W. Peechy carried on
the business of timber merchant at Toowoomba and later on he took his relative,
R. J. Rotton , as a partner in the business. Mr. Rotton was an expert at
handwriting, being able to imitate any handwriting. On one occasion, Mr. H.
Spiro, who kept a large store at corner of Ruthven and Margaret Streets,
Toowoomba, made a bet of £1 that Rotton could not imitate his signature without
him being able to detect it. The bet was accepted by Rotton. Spiro, who wrote
with his left hand, and wrote a difficult signature, retired to a private room
where he signed his name and after carefully examining the document, he placed a
very small ink spot on one corner of the paper. Rotton was then given the paper
with the signature on it, also another piece of paper of exactly similar
dimensions. He retired and made an exact copy of the signature. He did not
overlook the small ink spot in the corner so he placed one on his document. The
papers were handed to Spiro, who was obliged to admit that he could not tell
which was which. He had depended on the small ink spot, but he found one on both
pieces of paper. He lost his pound.
Another instance of the
capabilities of this clever penman. Tommy Ross, the teller of the A.J.S. Bank,
heard how Spiro had lost his money and he openly boasted that he could not be
taken in by a forgery. Thereupon Mr. Rotton got the permission of Mr. C. G.
Alford to forge his name to a £1 cheque drawn on the A.J.S. Bank. Rotton wrote
out the cheque and forged the signature of C. G. Alford to it. He then handed it
over the counter to Tommy Ross who cashed it without a moment’s hesitation. When
Ross was told that he had cashed a forged cheque, he did not believe it. He was
chaffed unmercifully about this little affair for some time afterwards.
Another banker, James Wood,
an officer in the Bank of New South Wales, was also a good penman. He played a
joke on a fellow officer, the teller of the Bank, Miller by name, who wore
spectacles. Wood went round to the customer’s side of the counter, got a blank
cheque and a stamp from Miller and retired. He then filled in a cheque for £1
and forged the signature of Miller to the cheque. Once again he came round to
the customer’s side of the counter, and presented the cheque to Miller to be
cashed. Miller remarked that he had no recollection of drawing the cheque.
Anyhow, said Wood, I got it from a chap in the street and I want the money for
it. Miller gave him the money without further demur. Later on Wood explained the
whole thing to Miller who felt and looked a bit taken back at being so easily
The first hospital at
Toowoomba stood in Russell Street nearly opposite the railway gates. The old
Bank of Queensland carried on their business in the adjoining building when it
suspended payment. Mr. Henderson was the local manager. This Bank had a branch
at Roma, but there was no Telegraph Office at Roma in those days. When the Bank
stopped payment and closed its doors, word was sent to Mr. Benjamin at Condamine
township that the Bank had closed. He started immediately for Roma riding a good
horse which enabled him to do the trip in very quick time.
He went at once to the Bank
of Queensland where he had a credit balance of £50, or thereabouts and drawing a
cheque for the full amount, demanded gold in settlement. The Bank manager
informed him that he had nothing like that amount of gold on the premises, in
fact had little or no gold. This was unfortunate for Mr. Benjamin, and when he
saw there was no chance of withdrawing his money from the Bank, he informed the
manager that the Bank had suspended payment and no doubt he would get advices to
that effect by the first mail. Of course there were business people in Roma
holding the Banks notes which they were glad to get rid of at any price. We
understand that Mr. Benjamin bought up a large number of them at a very low
price, large numbers being sold for five shillings and half a crown. Other
people bought up all the notes of the Bank at low prices and made a lot of money
out of the deal when the Bank afterwards paid twenty shillings in the
Arthur Lloyd was the first
pound keeper at Toowoomba. He died in the sixties (1860s) and his widow, Hannah
Lloyd, conducted the Pound for many years afterwards.
The leading storekeepers
were Limmer and Rees, afterwards Limmer, Rees and Robinson (E. W. Robinson).
They were succeeded by F. H. Holberton & Co., then came Fullarton and Rooke,
from Melbourne. Mr., afterwards Reverend, T. V. Alkin, opened a private school
at Mrs. Patterson’s boarding house in James Street. Mr brother Willie and I were
two of his pupils, also Harry Thornelow Smith. Mr. Ernest Marwedel and family
came to Toowoomba about 1867, shortly before Mr. Alkin arrived. Dr. Carr Boyd
carried on a private school in Margaret Street east of the bridge. The Stumms
and Horns were very early residents on the middle ridge. I remember seeing
several hundred chinamen passing through Toowoomba marching two and two like
animals into Noah’s ark. I think they were off to Talgai gold diggings, near
Warwick, which were then being worked.
I left Toowoomba before I
was 14 years old and started to work with my brother Tom at Coochin Coochin on
Sat, 1st Aug, 1868. The Coochin Coochin head station was then at the
lower end of the run distant 37 miles from Ipswich.
The head station has since been removed higher up the run. Thomas Alford
had just finished taking delivery of the property from the late manager, H. H.
Elliott, who had with him on the station, John Haygarth and Fred Bennett. Mr.
Elliott was, I think, managing for a Bank; he was there for three years. Before
Elliott’s time the place belonged to John Carden Collins for three years, and in
1861 and 1862 the place was owned by L. C. Lester. Some of the CLC and LEL
brands of cattle were on the run when I was there. The owners in my brother’s
time were Scott Henderson & Co., of Sydney, Thomas Littlejohn being the
There were about 3,700 head of shorthorn cattle on the property and the
price paid was about £2 per head for the cattle. The run as leased from the
government and although the area was only about 90 square miles, we had at one
period about 7,000 head of cattle on the run. The long open plain country
carried long foxtail grass and for the three years of Elliott’s management, he
never burnt any grass, believing that it was an unwise thing to do. Foxtail
grows about four feet high and carries a very nasty barbed seed. Shortly after
by brother went to the place, he burnt this old foxtail, selecting a windy day
for firing it. The fire wanted no wind for the stuff burnt like tinder. The fire
came down the flat over creeks and fences at the rate of four miles and hour.
The flames were as high as the trees and the smoke so dense you could not see
fifty yards away, Fences were burnt down on all sides and the fire burnt for
several days. This was the first fire for three years on a lightly stocked
The Teviot Brook which runs through Coochin Coochin runs out into a swamp
just above where the old station used to stand. In flood time the fish used to
get stranded in this swamp and as the waters subsided, the bigger fish, such as
mullet, were left on the short grass. We went out and gathered in the fish
It was not at all uncommon to find English bees nests in the trees, in
fact it was quite a common thing to do. Nearly every hollow tree had a bees nest
in it. I have also seen an English bees nest suspended under the limb of a big
gum tree with lovely white comb. I have also found the bees and their honeycomb
in a low bush. Honey and butter mixed together and spread on nice fresh bread
was an every day meal with us.
Our neighbours were the Priors at Maroon. The Hon. Thomas Lodge
Murray-Prior was then the Postmaster-General. He sued to sign his name in full
on all the official postal announcements so that his Christian names were well
known. The other neighbours were Arthur Wienholt at Fassifern, Mrs. McDonald and
family of daughters at Dugandan. A new chum, well connected in England, named
Dalton, was living with the blacks on Fassifern, and he appeared to enjoy life
as a blackfellow going about with them in a state of nudity and living the same
life as the blacks.
There were no selectors about in those days, all the runs being held
under long lease from the Crown. The majority of the fat cattle from the Logan
went to Tindals Ramornie Meat Works. Ipswich was the post town for Coochin
Coochin, the mailman with his pack horse arriving on Sunday morning to find his
spare horses all ready yarded up waiting for him. From Coochin, he went on to
Maroon and Unumgar, and returned the same way. The Dugandan scrub was a solid
four miles through without a break, situated between the Peak Mountain and
Dugandan. One-armed Watkins was the manager at Peak Mountain station where sheep
were then depasturing (1868).
Accompanied by a black boy, I took two draughts of fat cows from Coochin
to the Town Marie Meat Works which were in charge of Carl Staiger and situated
on the Bremer River a short distance below Ipswich.
Up to the year 1870 private race meetings were held on the Logan, each
station owner taking it in turn about to give the entertainment. In 1869,
together with my brother Tom, I attended a gathering of this kind at Tambourine
where Captain Williams presided. Representatives were there from all the
surrounding stations. There was a day’s racing. Both my brother and I had mounts
on horses which we had brought with us from Coochin, but our horses suffered
defeat. I remember Ernest White riding his favourite roan horse Teazem in the
hurdle race, riding in a four pound saddle.
There was also a paper chase, but the fences were too high; nearly all
the horses got stuck up at a three rail fence near the homestead. Campbell
McDonald got a spill off his horse “Mischief.” His pants got badly torn in the
fall and to the dismay of the onlookers, he began to tear them off. It turned
out that he had a pair of breeches and boots underneath the pants.
Frank Coulson was there with his once famous racehorse “Colonel”, and old
snow white animal with both fore legs heavily fired. That is an operation done
with a hot iron passed across both sides of each leg below the knee in order to
strengthen the sinews. Next year (1870), the races were held at Nindooimbah, de
Burgh Persse of Tabragalba being the host. He was then a bachelor and had
borrowed the Nindooimbah head station for the occasion. Two days racing were
held and dancing at night till the small hours of the morning. It was an
expensive entertainment, so much so that no one else cared to emulate Mr.
Persse, and it turned out to be the last private race meeting held on the
The invitations to the guests were not confined to the Logan station, but were extended to Brisbane and elsewhere. I was there with my brother Tom. On this occasion we were both successful in winning races. I rode and won the maiden plate with “Popgun,” while my brother rode Harry Barker’s horse, “Manfred,” and won the hurdle race with him on each day. De Burgh Persse rode in the hurdle race on the first day but his horse fell and threw him off at the first hurdle and he retired. The racehorses were stabled in the big old woolshed on the side of the hill.
Amongst the visitors I remember were Ernest, Albert, Duckett, and Willie
White, Harry and Eaggie Barker, D. T. Seymour, E. A. Ranking (now P.M. at
Brisbane,) Dick Curtis, Campbell McDonald of Dugandan, Tom Prior of Maroon,
Frank Coulson of Bromelton, and Arthur Robinson of Beaudesert.
Before coming to the Logan, T. Alford resided at Mondure station near
Nanango, and year after year, he brought to Nanango races a good hurdle horse
which he rode, and we were hardly ever defeated. On one occasion, there were
only three horses competing and they kept together the three miles over nine
hurdles – a blanket would have covered the horses at any part of the race.
Approaching the last hurdle, T. Alford shook up his horse and got over the
hurdle half a length to the good and maintained this advantage to the end of the
race; the other two horses ran a dead heat for second place.
T. Alford once rode W. F. Digby’s chestnut horse, “Blazes,” at the
Ipswich races. The horse fell at the second last jump but was quickly mounted
again and came in second.
When about 15 years old, I was sent from Coochin with a black boy as
young as myself, to Nanango to bring down 75 head of cows. We met the cattle
just beyond Nanango on the Mondure road, where they were coming from, and there
took charge of them as well as two cattle dogs which followed us after the
station hands had left, which they took the opportunity of doing when the dogs
were out of sight hunting kangaroos. The black boy and I brought these cows and
dogs safely to Coochin without a loss, passing on route, Nanango, Tarameo,
Colinton, Cressbrook, Esk, Tarampa, Grandchester, Franklyn Vale, Normanby,
Fassifern, and Moogerah.
Some cattle had been purchased at Euroombah on the Dawson for Coochin Coochin; the delivery had to be taken at Nanango by hands from Coochin Coochin. Jack Eyre and Jack Inglis , two rowdy and frolicsome chaps, were despatched to take delivery. Arriving at Nanango a few days in advance of the travelling cattle, the spare time was put in by Eyre and Inglis by matching their droving horses against local animals, and by some clever handicapping, Eyre and Inglis won a race with everyone of their old screws of droving horses, even to the slowest packhorse. The races were run from one public house to another, a distance of a quarter of a mile.
G. C. Watson, the surveyor, surveyed the lower end of Coochin into small
farms. Later on, a features survey of part of the run was made by R. D. Graham,
whose outside lines took in all the best of the land as well as a double
frontage to the water-courses. The whole of the land within Graham’s outside
lines was then purchased at auction at the upset price by T. Alford for the
owners of Coochin. In this way, the place was secured in one solid block. In
1872, the old head station was pulled down and a new building was erected
further up the run opposite Minto Crags.
During the latter part of Dec 1872, I left Coochin Coochin and joined the
staff of the Bank of New South Wales at Brisbane, early in January, 1873. Mr.
Alexander Archer was the Inspector and Manager. Mr. Edward Denny Day the
Assistant Manager, and Mr. J. C. Cribb the Accountant. One of the first jobs I
was put to was the sorting and taking down the numbers of dirty old Bank notes
and cancelling them a nasty smelly job it was. I was then put on the Exchange,
when I had to call on every bank in town with notes and cheques on other Banks.
At this time, the only Banks in Brisbane were the Bank of New South Wales, the
Queensland National Bank, the bank of Australasia, the Australian Joint Stock
Bank, the Union Bank of Australia, and the Commercial Banking Company of
On 24 May 1873, I attended some amateur foot races in the Botanical
Gardens in Brisbane. One of the races was open to all comers, a distance of 440
yards. Along with my friends, L. G. Board and Alexander Pritchard, and others, I
entered for this race. A good runner named Stacey, said to have been the best
runner in Brisbane, also entered. He came to the starting post dressed in
running shoes and tights, while I contented myself with removing coat and
waistcoat and boots, and then tucked the bottom of my trousers inside my socks
and ran thus. I had not prepared myself in any way for the foot race, nor had I
even been out on a walk. There were about eight competitors in the race, and
when two thirds of the distance was run, there were only two of us who had any
chance of winning. Stacey was leading by several yards, but as we gradually
neared the winning post, I overhauled him, winning the race in the last few
strides by a foot or two. It was a most exciting finish, and the newspaper the
next morning described the race as being cleverly won at the post. The prize was
a silver cup which was afterwards presented to me by the Hon, D. F. Roberts on
the grounds, where he remarked that he was always glad to see an amateur beat a
At this time, the old General Post Office was still standing opposite the
Bank of New South Wales. It was a one storied building with a verandah.
About August 1873, I was removed to the Toowoomba Branch of the Bank of
New South Wales, as Ledger Keeper. Mr. J. T. Walker was the manager there, L. G.
Dixon the Accountant. I remained in the service of the Bank of New South Wales
until 31 October 1874, when I retired to take up the management of Gwambegwine
station near Taroom for the owners of Coochin Coochin, to whom the place
belonged. Cheffie Minter and a black boy rode with me from Toowoomba. We went by
Dalby, Juandah, Rochedale, Carrabah, and Taroom.
Mr. H. T. Macfarlane was my predecessor at Gwambegwine, and I took charge
of Gwambegwine from him. During my residence there, I delivered 600 female
cattle to Mr. Andrew Scott of Hornet Bank station, and they were taken out to
the Hughenden district to stock up Maxwellton station for Mr. Scott.
I also mustered and started away with three or four hundred bullocks
bound for Coochin Coochin. I went with them through Palmtree Creek station,
Taroom, Carrabah, and handed them over to James O’Neil, the Taabinga stockman,
near the Auburn River. Taabinga station had just been purchased by the owners of
Coochin Coochin. I was curious to see the place, and after handing over my
bullocks, I rode on to Taabinga through Cadarga, Boondooma, and Burrandowan,
taking two days to do about 115 miles. I remained about one day and then
returned to Gwambegwine.
I made one trip to Hawkwood, going by Taroom and the Auburn. My mission
was to make some inquiries about some Gwambegwine cattle, which had made over to
that run. Old Mr. George Hooper and family were then residing there.
About October 1875, I was removed to Taabinga station near Nanango to
take charge of it. Mr. C. R. Haly, the former owner who had just left, had
resided at Taabinga for about 18 years. He had both sheep and cattle on the run.
He removed the main part of his sheep to Glenhaughton near Taroom. When I took
over charge of the place, there were about 3500 head of cattle and about 4000
sheep, and about 200 horses. I think the prices paid were £6 per head of cattle,
10 /- per head for the sheep, and £5 per head for the horses. Mr. Haly was a
great believer in salt for his stock. Sheep, cattle, and horses, were give salt
liberally, salt troughing being placed on different parts of the run, and
Liverpool salt distributed. It was said tha Mr. Haly also dosed his children
every morning with a teaspoonful of salt.
Kangaroos and wallabies were very numerous on Taabinga when Mr. Daly left, and he fully realised the harm they were doing on his run. He made experiments to stop their increase, by making pitfalls at intervals along the fences, but he did no good whatsoever. We always had good kangaroo dogs with us and they killed a few. I have seen eagle hawks swoop down and Corporations Law the head of young kangaroos until they kill them. A female kangaroo, when pursued by dogs, will sacrifice her young by pitching it out of the pouch with her paws. In this way she is able herself to escape. Other kangaroos will make for logs and jump over them, and in this way check the progress of the pursuing dogs. Finally the old man kangaroo will run into a waterhole as a last resort. He is then a dangerous customer. He will get into deep water up to his neck and any dog that comes within his reach will be embraced with his forepaws and ducked under the water and held there until drowned.
If the old man kangaroo is bailed up on land, or in shallow water, he
will try to embrace the dog with his forepaws, and after taking a good grip, he
will rip open the dog’s stomach with his hind legs. I once saw an old man
kangaroo bailed up when he steadily raised himself erect, and throwing his head
back more and more as the dogs approached him, until finally he balanced himself
on the point of his tail, both hind legs were off the ground.
I remember losing a young kangaroo dog at Taabinga. It was the first time
she had been out with the dogs; she was only about six months old. We never saw
that puppy again for nearly six months, until one day we were riding over the
same ground where she had been lost, when to our utter astonishment, this puppy,
now a full grown dog, joined the rest of our dogs, greeting them most lovingly.
Even the mother appeared to recognise her long lost puppy. She was in splendid trim for running,
yet sleek and fat. It was interesting and amusing to watch her catch frogs and
grasshoppers. But it was when she started after a young kangaroo that she showed
off her paces. She travelled like a streak of lightning, and had killed and
disemboweled the kangaroo before we came up to her.
Kangaroos had become so numerous on the stations that efforts had to be
made to get rid of them. We experimented in various ways. We decided on
organizing shooting battues, and invited some of our neighbours and idle hands
from Nanango, with their guns, to join in the effort to destroy. We found the
ammunition, and several double barreled breech loading guns. On arrival at the
spot where operations were to begin, the men with guns were placed about 100
yards or more apart, standing behind tall trees, the men being placed in
crescent shape, with a hollow in the centre. Half a dozen horsemen then rode out
some distance and spread out, covering a mile or more of country, and then
gradually closed in towards the guns.
In this way some hundreds of kangaroos increased their speed, and then
followed the reports of scores of gun shots. In most cases, the excitement of
the men was so intense that the shooting was very faulty, and when the drive was
over it was found that the execution was trifling. One man threw his gun away
and started throwing sticks at the kangaroos which came right up to him. We found
that it was no use persevering in this direction.
Another experiment was tried. We built a large stake yard, the stakes
were about nine feet long standing on the ends against a rail. This was built
alongside a long line of fence which formed a wing on that side. For the wing on
the other side, we fastened two long strips of unbleached calico to trees and
saplings for a distance of two or three hundred yards. When the yards were
completed, we placed a number of blackfellows, about twenty of them, with their
nulla nullas, a short distance from the calico wing, giving them instructions to
close in behind the kangaroos as we drove them along. About six of us on
horseback then covered a large area of ground some distance away from the yards
and then gradually closed in. When we reached the wings of the yards, there must
have been at least four hundred kangaroos within our grasp, but alas! the
leading kangaroos declined to enter the gateway to the yards and began to turn
back. This had the effect of turning the whole mob. Then the fun began.
Blackfellows, men, horses, and kangaroos all mixed up together. Kangaroos began
to jump over the horses, others crawling underneath. We kept on closing in
towards the yards, and finally landed about forty of them. While the heavy gate
was being placed across the opening, I stood at the opening, when an old man
kangaroo, after making a tour of the yards, came straight for me in order to
clear out. As I stood my ground, he bounded clear over my head. A young kangaroo
tried to follow the old man kangaroo, and made a spring to bound over my head. I
put my hand above my head and stopped his flight by flinging him back again to
the yard. After the gate was placed in position, the blackfellows entered the
yard with their nulla nullas to slaughter the vermin. The blackfellows had a
very exciting quarter of an hour before the last one was knocked over. I saw one
of the kangaroos with a nulla nulla clean through his ribs, a portion of the
wood being on each side. In this condition he went once round the yard before he
dropped dead. We tried another drive from the other side of the yards but this
resulted in failure too, only a few being yarded. The blackfellows, however, had
another exciting time of it. One old man kangaroo ran the gauntlet, passed six
of them; each threw a nulla nulla but it was not until the sixth man threw his
nulla nulla that the kangaroo was floored. It was an exciting few minutes.
At this time, kangaroos were being got rid of in the Warwick district by
shooting one by one. George Glissan and two young men had been very successful.
He was offered a bonus of one penny a scalp to come to Taabinga, and as he saved
the skins of the old man kangaroos and sold them at a good price, the penny
bonus would give him an additional profit. He accepted the offer, and it was he
who initiated the system of stalking and shooting kangaroos on the Burnett which
proved the means of exterminating the vermin. Glissan’s example was followed by
others, and then came a bonus under the Marsupial Act and the business of
shooting kangaroos became highly profitable. Scores of young fellows made a
really good living at the business. As many as 20,000 kangaroos were destroyed
on Taabinga alone and similar numbers were destroyed in the same way on Tarong
and Burrandowan, two neighbouring runs. Taabinga initiated the system along with
The plan adopted by Glissan and his boys was as follows. When the
kangaroos were sighted in the distance, the horsemen dismounted, and the horses
were used as cover by making the horse walk beside the man, the fore legs of the
horse and the man’s legs being side by side. When within killing distance, the
horse was stopped and the gun fired across the horses’ back or under his neck.
When the kangaroos were new to the business, the mob would not clear out until
five or six were shot dead. Large numbers were shot in one day by each man.
After a short time, less numbers were shot in the day as kangaroos became more
cunning and the mob would clear out after the first shot had been fired.
Finally, when the kangaroos became a bit scarce, they had to be taken at long
range and rifles were used. The biggest numbers were shot by moonlight. The
horse was used at night just the same as during the daytime for stalking, but
much closer shots were got. At night time, the sight on the gun cannot be used
without being made more visible. Some people would make a white chalk line along
the barrel of the gun; others would attach a piece of leather over the muzzle of
the gun, a hole of course being cut out, for the barrels to pass through. This
piece of leather was left long enough for two ends, an inch or two long, cut in
the shape of a V, and when fixed on the gun it resembled the ears of a horse.
The sight was taken through the butt of the ears. To avoid losing it, it was
fastened with a piece of string to the gun.
At the head of the creeks on Taabinga and Tarong runs are the celebrated
Bunya Mountains, on the summit of which is Mount Mowbullan. With some friends I
once ascended these mountains, and Mount Mowbullan, the latter being the highest
point, and is a small bald hill, very stony but well grassed. From the top of
this spot, the view is magnificent, being a perfect panorama.. The open plains
of the Darling Downs are clearly to be seen away to the south and to the north
is the timbered country of the Burnett. The dense scrub on the top of the
mountains is very beautiful, huge
Bunya trees and monster stinging trees with their irregular trunks diverging low
down into narrow ridges like upheavals, between two of which a man could hide
himself from sight. The Bunya trees in some instances were seven or eight feet
in diameter and the same girth, without a branch, for a height of thirty or
eighty feet’ thence upwards some of the thin branches spread out like an
umbrella. The Bunya tree can always be recognised at a distance by the shape of
the top, being shaped like the top of an open umbrella. One great Bunya tree had
fallen and was lying there like a great wall, five feet high and thirty or forty
feet long. To get the fruit off these erect trees, the blackfellow uses a long
vine resembling a half inch hemp rope. This is passed around the tree and then
fastened loosely around the body of the blackfellow. He then places his feet
against the tree and by slackening the vine with a sudden jerk of his hands,
sending it higher up the tree, he gradually climbs or walks up the tree until he
reaches the branches which he then makes use of. The blacks used to come in from
all parts to these mountains when the fruit season was on, making quite a
carnival of it. The beautiful cedar trees of immense girth had mostly been
felled and after being branded with an axe, left there to rot. Then there were
the lovely fern trees and orchids, also vines hanging from tree to tree; amidst
it all were the numerous birds, the wonga pigeon, the whip bird, and lots of
others. Altogether the surroundings were really grand. On the northern side is a
waterfall running on to the Burnett. This place had shortly been visited by the
Duke of Manchester. On the Dalby side we found water cress growing in beautiful
spring water. Opossums and squirrels were very numerous at night time. This
place is well worthy of a visit by anyone with leisure time.
I had one trip to Gympie with horses which I took over there for sale,
passing through Nanango, Manumbar, and down Glastonbury Creek.
On Burrandowan, there were a number of brumbies (wild horses) which came
across to the Taabinga side occasionally and we took the opportunity of shooting
all we could of them. It was good sport. I had a pea rifle which always did some
execution if the horse was struck in the right spot and that was behind the
shoulder exactly midway between the wither and the under girth. A fatal shot
could be easily seen at a distance by a few staggers and immediate discharge of
blood from the mouth and in a few moments he was dead. We kept them off Taabinga
in this way. Occasionally a scrub bull would make its appearance from the other
side of the Bunya mountains. These we shot down with the pea rifle, the ball
entering behind the shoulder, but nearer the brisket as the heart lies much
lower in cattle than it does in horses.
I attended a private race meeting at Gayndah one year, travelling by
Nanango, Barambah, Boonara, Boonbyjan, and Ban Ban. This was probably in 1878.
J. J. Cadell’s horses were the principal winners, “Battle Axe” being the best of
Another trip I made was from Taabinga to Mondure through the scrub at the
lower end of the run. I also travelled from Taabinga through the bush to
Boondooma, thence to Proston, Wigton, Mount Debateable, to Gayndah.
About May 1883, I left Taabinga after assisting my brother Tom to bring
his family from Coochin Coochin to Taabinga. At Brisbane, I was joined by my
brother, Willie, and we boarded the steamer going North. When we reached the
jetty at Bowen, I was amused at the manoeuvres of the native blacks who put off
from the shore in their frail canoes the moment the steamer got to the jetty.
The blacks, two in each canoe, came alongside the steamer when the passengers
began throwing threepenny pieces overboard. One of the blacks would immediately
dive and catch the coin before it had gone very deep; the other black was all
the time bailing the water out of the flimsy bark canoe. They declined to dive
for pennies, I suppose because they could not readily be seen in the water. It
was a very amusing performance. We passed Townsville and on through the
beautiful coast scenery to Port Douglas, where my brother and I landed and
proceeded by coach to Herberton, a two day’s trip which could have been
accomplished in one day if so desired by the mail contractor.
On the trip, we amused ourselves by counting the pack horses and wagons. I remember the numbers perfectly well. There were 333 pack horses and mules and 150 wagons. We observed that the mules were made to carry one hundredweight more than the horses. This was particularly noticeable on the return trip from Herberton when the load was made up of tin. One small bag contained one hundredweight. On the horses there was one on each side of the packsaddle, but in the case of the mules, a third was placed across the top of the pack. These pack animals had some ugly looking loads to carry from Port Douglas; amongst them were boxes of various sizes. The wagons travelling from Herberton appeared to be empty, as no loading above the guard iron could be seen, yet in most cases, there were five tons weight on the wagons.
Just before our visit to Herberton, there had been trouble between the
miners and the Chinamen. The miners had ordered all the Chinese to retire four
miles from the town. From this we gathered that the miners objected to the
Chinese having any other occupation apart from being gardeners. The Chinese,
being a law abiding race, retired, everyone of them with the exception of the
cook employed at the Queensland National Bank, the Manager, Mr. Stephenson
having promises to protect him.
The miners, knowing that this Chinese had remained at the Bank, put an
advertisement in the local newspaper to the effect that this man must leave the
town by a certain day. Upon the day specified, the miners rolled up at the Bank
in full force and demanded quittance of the obnoxious cook. Mr. Stephenson had,
however, sought and obtained the protection of the local Police Magistrate, and
the Police, who were in the manager’s office when the miners arrived, the doors
of the office being opened wide so that the miners could see the occupants.
After a somewhat heated argument with Mr. Stephenson, the miners decided that
discretion was the better part of valour and they had to retire without
accomplishing the object of their visit. This incident happened only a short
time before our visit to Herberton, and was related to us by Mr. Stephenson, who
invited us to have dinner with him on Sunday, which we accepted, and we enjoyed
an excellent repast prepared by the very same Chinese cook.
On Sunday afternoon, we rode out to Evelyn station about four miles away
and spent the afternoon with Mr. Henry Halloran, the manager, a gentleman we had
known for many years.
We returned to Port Douglas by coach, and joined the northern steamer again, going on as far as Cooktown. At Cooktown, we spent the evening at Mr. W. V. Ealston’s private residence (he was the manager of the Queensland National Bank there). My brother Willie and I parted company at Cooktown – he went on to Maytown to take up the management of the Queensland National Bank branch there, while I returned by steamer to Townsville.
From Townsville, I went by
train to Charters Towers, where I purchased two horses and an outfit for the
road. Next day I journeyed out past Burdekin Downs station on to Dotswood
station, the manager being Mr. A. H. Glissan, formerly of Drayton, an old
friend. The most striking feature about Dotswood head station, to my mind, was
the beautiful mandarin orange tree which was then fully bearing and a pretty
site to see, the largest tree of the kind that I have seen. Next morning I went
west passing Southwick station, Nulla Nulla, Maryvale, Cargoon, Reedy Springs,
Mt. Emu Plains, Wongalee, and reached Hughenden about the middle of May
A telegram awaited me there,
from the Hon. James Taylor, offering me the management of the Mount Marlow
station on the lower Barcoo River. This offer I accepted by telegram and
continued my journey, next day going south via Hughenden station, Lammermoor,
then across to Cameron Downs on the head of the Thompson River, which river I
followed down to Muttaburra, all rolling open downs country the whole distance,
not a tree to be seen except the coolibahs on the watercourse. Evidence of a
very dry season were seen on all sides. I continued following the Thompson until
I reached Westland station, then I travelled east and struck the Barcoo River at
Ruthven station. I followed the Barcoo to Louisa Downs (a portion of Mount
Marlow) on to Mount Marlow, where I arrived towards the end of May 1883.
This run, including Louisa
Downs, comprised 1400 square miles of country with the Barcoo River running as
near as possible through the centre. There were about 17,000 mixed cattle on the
run. A few days after my arrival, we began to muster and deliver 2000 female
cattle to Messrs. Lumley Hill & Durack. These cattle were delivered to
Durack who took them away west to stock new country in Western Australia owned
by himself, and also Lumley Hill. I heard afterwards that owing to the drought,
these cattle did not reach their destination for nearly two years. All the old
hands left Mount Marlow immediately after these cattle were got away, and I had
to start business with a new chum named Longton, and another young fellow named
Thompson from the Brisbane River.
Before Bill Perrier left the station I got him to draw out a plan of the country giving the names of the different land marks and the water courses, and with this document, I was able to explore the run.
Welford Lagoon telegraph
office was about three miles away on the southern boundary of the run (Powell’s
Creek). Shortly afterwards, Currie and Heagney opened a store and public house
there. W and J Whitman had the leading store at Windorah (Stony Point), L. E.
Ashby being the manager, and “king” of Windorah. David Ordinance had just given
up the management of Welford Downs. He was succeeded by George Stephens
(Staines), Fullerton was at Retreat. J. W. Raven was at Albilah, and Angus
Urquhart was at Ruthven. Royds was at Emmett Downs, Davis at Highlands, and
Wiley at Bimerah.
Shortly after taking charge
of the place, a telegram came from Mr. Taylor asking if I could muster 2000
steers if he sold them, as Mr. Lumley Hill wanted to purchase. To which I
replied that if delivered in two draughts, I could manage it. The sale was made,
the purchasers being Hill and Douglas, for their Rosebrook station on the Mayne
River (Diamantina). Mr. A. B. Douglas came over to take delivery from me in two
draughts as arranged.
After this delivery, we put
down our tools and let the cattle and horses rest. The steers sold to Hill and
Douglas had to be counted at Rosebrook, so I went over there accompanied by
Warry Taylor. We went through Welford Downs across to Jundah on the Thompson,
thence across to Farrar’s Creek (Diamantina), passed Connemarra and Tally Ho to
Rosebrook on the Mayne. This was a most unpleasant trip owing to dry weather and
heat and shortage of drinking water. We saw the cattle branded and returned to
The country and surroundings
on the Barcoo were entirely different from anything I had been accustomed to on
the coast and to me it seemed like being in another world. The timber was all
stunted in growth, the water thick and muddy, yellow in colour, the soil loose
and soft on the ridges. Instead of one channel to the watercourse, there were
numerous channels, especially in the river. There is the main channel and
billabongs which make up the smaller channels. The timber is chiefly of the
brigalow species such as mulga, brigalow and boree. At first, I was unable to
distinguish one timber from the other. Coolibah grows along the main
watercourses. Then there is the needle bush with sharp pointed leaves which make
you jump if your leg brushes against them when riding along. The “Dead Finish”
is a hard, tough, crooked timer, of short growth like the rest of the timber. It
will not give way if you come against it, and your pants will get torn. This
sever drought continued until 1884, and we lost half the herd. The losses on
stations above and below us were heavier. We put most of our working horses
together and sent them over to Tocal on the Thompson where a piece of country
with fair grass and water kept them in good heart and they stood to us when we
wanted them after the season broke. During the last two months of the drought,
we deserted the head station, and camped in tents on the banks of the river
alongside a big waterhole. The cattle died in hundreds on the river frontage,
mostly through bogging, but a number of them died on the flats from sheer
poverty and exhaustion. Three of the waterholes had over 500 head of cattle dead
in each of them, several holes with two or three hundred dead, and smaller holes
with lesser numbers. Some of the smaller holes you could almost walk around on
dead cattle without touching the ground. I always carried a revolver strapped to
my saddle, and many a bad case was put out of its misery by a bullet.
The remnants of the herd
consisted chiefly of male cattle and motherless calves (poddies), most of the
grown female cattle had succumbed. It was a pitiable sight to see the villainous
crows perched on the backs of living helpless bogged cattle, and having pierced
a hole in the hide, eating the flesh away piecemeal. Dingoes could also be seen
eating the same live cattle when helplessly bogged.
A main road passed along the
Barcoo through the centre of Mt. Marlow. The carriers, when passing through the
stations, got the credit of helping themselves to beef and mutton. On one
occasion I discovered evidence of this on the run. While riding along not far
off the road, I came across a dead beast which had apparently died a natural
death. I was curious however, and made further investigations. Dismounting I
took the fore leg of the beast in my hand and dragged the carcass over to the
other side, and to my astonishment, the hide on the underneath side remained on
the ground. Upon making a closer scrutiny, I discovered that the brands had been
cut off the hide and removed, also the ear mark and all the meat from that side
cleaned off to the bone. The upper portion of the beast had been carefully left
alone. Such was one of the methods adopted by the western carriers to secure
meat free of cost. After this incident I was not inclined to be too friendly
with these teamsters, and later on, when two or three of them travelling
together with their teams and about 100 head of bullocks came on to the run and
camped for several days in one camp, I served them with written notice to move
on. Grass and water at this time were very scarce. My notice was not heeded. I
then got a couple of hands with me and started from the head station at dawn of
day, having put our horses in a small paddock overnight, and proceeded to the
spot where the men were camped. We easily found about thirty of their bullocks
away from the roadside, and further off the road than the prescribed distance.
We drove those bullocks to the head station yards and impounded them. Written
notice was then sent to the owners that unless poundage fees at the rate of five
shillings per head was paid, the bullocks would be driven on to the Isisford
pound, 75 miles up the river. No notice whatever was taken of my letter. That
night, two hands were sent to sleep across the slip rails and all loose rails
were firmly wedged. During the night, the noise of bullock bells awakened the
men who saw the bullocks moving away, and on reaching the other side of the
yard, they discovered some rails down and a couple of the bullocks outside. The
rest of the bullocks were prevented from getting out and the rails fixed up
again. Of course the bullock drivers were at the bottom of the business,
although they kept carefully out of sight.
Next day, the same two men
started off with the bullocks towards Isisford where they were to be impounded.
They camped that night at the Eight Mile Yard where a repetition of the previous
night’s work occurred. The teamsters once again tried to get possession of the
bullocks, and they would probably have done so had it not been for the ringing
of the bells. Next morning the paddock was searched in vain for the horses- they
had been let out. One of the men started off on foot driving the bullocks on
towards Isisford, the other man returned to the station for fresh horses. I met
this man on the road and went on after the bullocks myself. On the previous day,
I had sent a telegram from Welford Lagoon to the Poundkeeper at Isisford, asking
him to come and meet the bullocks and take them off our hands.
During the temporary absence
of the two men from the yard, someone had been there and removed the whole of
their saddles, bridles, and packs. The tracks of some horses were picked up and
followed into an adjacent scrub where a fire was still burning and the remnants
of the saddlery were discovered. It was a clean burn for only the iron work was
left. The station hand who followed the tracks, gathered up all the buckles,
bits, stirrup irons, and iron work, which he afterwards used as evidence against
the men. During that afternoon, the Isisford Poundkeeper met us and took charge
of the bullocks which we were glad to get rid of.
The carriers came along and
claimed their cattle, but they had to pay the Poundkeeper about £30 by way of
poundage fees. The carriers then started off on their return trip. They had not
proceeded many miles before a policeman overtook them and arrested them on a
warrant which had been issued at my request, charging the men with having burnt
the saddles etc. Both men were locked up in gaol for a few days and were put on
trial before Mr. H. B. Gough, P.M., who committed them to their trial in the
District Court. They were then let out on bail. The Attorney General in his
wisdom, decided not to file and bill and the men got off without trial.
The casual working man on
the Barcoo consisted of the real scum of the earth. These men travelled with
riding horse and pack horse from one township to another, stopping at the
intervening stations for a few days work, and as they demanded and got at the
rate of £2 per week, they seldom stayed longer than two or three weeks, when
they would give a week’s notice.
Only men cooks can be got,
the majority of them are no good. One of my cooks, when clearing away the tea
things, seized the table knives in one hand and rushed at me in a most savage
manner because I told him that so long as he was servant of mine, he must do as
I wanted. “Servant!” he shouted, “I am not your servant!” “What the devil are
you then? I asked, “I am your Help!,” he replied.
Another beast of a cook got
on the drink and just when he should have been preparing breakfast, he came
along to the back door of the dining room, stark naked, and demanded some grog.
I had none on the place. In any case he would not have been given any. He then
showed fight when I seised him by the arms and bundled him outside neck and
crop. Further trouble was prevented by Longton coming along and taking him off
to the hut where he was locked up.
Flies are one of the
greatest curses in the West, where they appear in the summer months in millions,
the common house fly being the worst of the lot. Then there are the sand flies
and the March flied. At night, the mosquitoes are in full force; only cheese
cloth will keep them out, mosquito netting is not fine enough.
The horses and cattle have a
bad time of it with the common house fly. Cattle are driven in large mobs from
the scrubs out into the open country where they all stand together in one big
mob, their tails going all the time. In this way, the flies are driven off.
Mustering the cattle when the flies are bad is made easier for they are found in
big mobs and outsiders that have been missed for months are gathered in. Horses
may be seen in various sized mobs walking one behind the other, the head of one
horse being against the tail of the other. After a time, the leading horse stops
and this brings them all to a standstill, when they pair off head and tail, one
protecting the other. from the flies with his tail. The unfortunate horse
without a tail is friendless and stands alone. The heads and eyes of the horses,
after a time, become irritable, then they begin rubbing against trees; the hair
comes away, then a bit of the skin. At this stage, of course, the flies increase
their energies, the sore gets from a small thing to a big one, and in some cases
you will see a sore as large as the palm of your hand underneath the horses’
eyes. The paddock horses will come to the yard of their own accord in the early
mornings in order to stand with their heads in the smoke from fires which are
made from green bushes to hunt the flies.
Mankind is also worried by
the same fly and various methods are adopted to keep the enemy off. A small bush
carried in the hand and used freely is one way; others smear their faces with
castor oil. The best plan is to get some black netting and make a veil to pass
over the hat and round the neck, elastic top, and bottom. The swagman will
fasten bits of string to his hat to the end of which is attached small pieces of
cork; these dangle about his face and keep the flies in check.
The Belyando Spew is what vomiting is called. It is brought on when you are in the best of health just through a fly lodging on your lip or in your mouth when you are eating your dinner.
The Barcoo Rot is caused through the unhealthy state of the blood. A pin scratch will fester into a big sore which will often leave an underlying mark.
Sandy Blight is common
enough and makes its appearance without any warning. Your eyes may be well
tonight, but in the morning they will be bad with the Blight. I was taken this
way myself when about twenty miles from the head station, and I had to ride home
through the bush alone. A most unpleasant ride, I can assure you.
The small sand fly is worse
about the watercourses. The March fly is nearly as large as a blow fly. It
lodges itself on the horses’ belly, and it stings like a stab from a knife. The
horse you are riding will take himself over a low bush and pass the bush between
his legs. In this way the March fly is shaken or brushed off.
When the heat is at its
worst, the thermometer often runs to 120º, and higher. Small birds often drop
dead from heat.
The redeeming feature of the
Western country is the beautiful climate in the winter, and luxurious growth of
grass in a good season. Horses and cattle and sheep are simply rolling in fat.
The Mitchell grass which grows there to perfection is one of the best and
hardiest grasses anywhere in Queensland, and fattens stock up splendidly.
The soil is soft on the
ridges; a horse will sink below his hoofs even in dry weather and in wet
weather, the ridges are very boggy. Sometimes weak animals will bog and die on
ridge country after heavy rain. More than once I have followed tracks, after
heavy rain, on ridge country, of a kangaroo and pursuing dingo, both tracks
being easily seen. After a short run, the kangaroo’s remains clearly show that
the dingo had caught his prey.
In flood time, the water
spreads over a wide stretch of country, the country being flat. On the lower
Barcoo, which is several hundred miles from the head of the river, it sometimes
happens that the river will come down a banker without one drop of rain locally.
I saw this happen at Mount Marlow. We crossed the river in the early morning and
mustered a big mob of cattle, bringing them back to the river in the afternoon.
When we crossed in the morning, the river was dry, but in the afternoon, there
was water half a mile across. You could kick up the dust alongside the flooded
water. A heavy storm must have fallen about Tambo, the head of the river several
hundred miles away. This is an instance of the danger of people camping in the
channels of a river for the sake of some feed for their horses. Of course we had
to let the cattle go, and wend our way up the river to the adjoining station
Albilbah, where we crossed in a boat and swam the horses to the other side.
The country is mostly very
flat where the watercourses are located. The consequence is that there is
difficulty at times to tell in which direction the creek is running; this is
especially so in scrubby country. You may find yourself going up the creek
instead of down, merely because a branch of the creek has joined on just where
you thought you would cut off a bend in the main creek. It is always best to
keep an eye on the drift wood about the foot of the trees which indicates the
direction the creek is running, the driftwood of course being on the upper
I was once stuck up by the
muster hands when we had a big yard full of cattle with several hundred calves
to brand. The men had been drinking grog overnight and were unfit for work.
Three of them declined to work and were paid off. Three of us then had to put
through about 500 head of cattle and brand about 300 calves.
A friendly traveller
informed me that the man in charge of a big mob of travelling cattle, which were
travelling up Powell’s Creek, was picking up some of the station cattle and
taking them along with him. A telegraphic message was sent by me from Welford
Lagoon to Blackall, asking for a policeman to be sent to investigate
After allowing sufficient
time for these cattle to get over the boundary of the run, I went after them,
overtaking them a short distance on the neighbouring run. The man in charge
denied of course, having, to his knowledge, any of the Mount Marlow cattle, but
after riding through his mob we discovered about six head bearing the Mount
Marlow brand, which I claimed. Riding in front of these cattle, which kept
together, I stopped in front of them, the remainder of the mob passing on,
leaving me with the station cattle, which showed no inclination to go with the
mob. As I took the cattle away, the man in charge remarked that he was now that
number short in his mob, evidence to my mind that he had deliberately made up
his numbers when going through the run.
The policeman was waiting
for me at Welford Lagoon, but, of course, he had arrived too late.
I attended a race meeting at
Isisford, racing a horse called “Dynamite,” which I bought from Mr. J. W. Raven
of Albilbah for £100. He won a race for me and was afterwards raffled for £100,
so I came out of the investment alright. H. B. Gough was Police Magistrate at
Isisford; Richard Frost had the hotel; Harry V Geary was at Portland Downs; R.
A. Hopkins at Wellshot. All of these, and many others, were at this race
meeting. Later on, a race meeting was held at Welford Lagoon. I was lucky enough
to pick the two horses, “Highlander,” and “After Dark,” that won the double
event, and won about £25. There was only one bookmaker, and he thought so little
of the chance of these two horses winning that he laid the bet three or four
times over, a most unusual proceeding and somewhat risky to say the least of it.
After the horses had won, of course, this bookmaker saw that he was landed in a
hole for he had pledged himself to pay £25, four times over. He got out of the
difficulty by tearing some leaves out of his book and repudiating all the bets
except the one made to me. There were some strong words, but all the same, he
never paid anyone but me. Of course the man should have been taken by the neck
and pitched into the nearest waterhole.
Just before leaving Mt.
Marlow, I had an opportunity of selling a small buggy which I had on hand.
Unfortunately the pole and crossbars were away at the blacksmiths at Albilbah
Station, 45 miles up the river. In order to complete the sale, there was no
other course open to me but to ride up to Albilbah and bring the things back on
horseback the next day. I rode to Albilbah and next day returned with the pole
and crossbars, having carried them on my shoulder all the way.
A surveyor arrived at the
station one afternoon with his man-servant in attendance, their mission being to
mark out the boundary line between Mount Marlow and Albilbah. The surveyor and I
had known each other for many years, but as he approached me, I could see that
something was wrong with him, for he made rambling remarks and failed to
recognise me. He did not show any signs of drink; he appeared to be perfectly
sober. His man-servant informed me that he had been drinking heavily at Blackall
and Isisford, and was suffering from the after effects. The surveyor, in a
confidential tone of voice, informed me that a policeman was following him up.
He took hold of my hand and placed my finger on the back of his neck to let me
feel the spot where he said that a bullet had struck him, which had been fired
by the policeman. He was wearing a white helmet hat, and had a saddle pouch in
his hand. Suddenly he started off at a brisk walk down the hill in the direction
of the river. After he had gone some distance, I ran after him asking where he
was off to, and he replied that he was off to the Commercial for a game of
billiards. After bringing him back to the house, he calmly stood under the shade
of a tree with his helmet and saddle pouch, whispering to me that he was in
Later on, I took him to the
bedroom, shut the door, and sternly informed him that he was again in gaol. He
appeared to be quite satisfied and while kneeling on the bed, which was
alongside the window, he put his arms on the window sill and began talking to an
imaginary crown outside, one of whom he asked if he could “dance the cadence.”
Shortly afterwards, he went off to sleep. The next morning, he was in the same
state of health. His man-servant took charge of him for the day. I was out on
the run all day, and on my return at sundown, I found him quite recovered. He
greeted me in a friendly way, addressing me by name. He declared that he could
remember all that had happened, and he could call it nothing but an
Next day I went with him to
the boundary of the run, and showed him the starting point for his survey line.
He had only a prismatic compass with him, and with this instrument, he essayed
to run the line while on horse back with the assistance of his man-servant. As
the line went through a dense scrub for some distance, and over the top of a
high mountain, his work when finished was unreliable and inaccurate. He returned
to the station in a few days and announced the completion of his work as far as
a “precipitous mountain” and could go no further. Of course, his survey was
perfectly useless and had to be done over again. Needless to say, he received no
payment for his labours. The poor chap died some months after, and I believe his
widow put in a claim for payment for the work.
One of my trips from Mount
Marlow was to Adavale, travelling up Powell’s Creek, through Gooyea and Milo. At
Adavale, the coach carried me to Charleville and on to Dulbydilla, which then
was the terminus of the railway line. I took the train to Toowoomba, and after a
stay of only a few days, I started with McHugh the butcher, for Brisbane, thence
by steamer to Rockhampton, and by train to Barcaldine, coach to Isisford, and by
horse to Mount Marlow. We then mustered and delivered about 150 fat bullocks to
McHugh, which went by Blackall to Mitchell, where they were trucked to
One day, riding near the
main road up the Barcoo, we noticed some bullock tracks making straight away
from the road. We followed the tracks for three or four miles, when they
branched off to the neighbouring run (Ruthven); a bit further on, we came to the
camp of some bullock drivers with their horses and bullocks on splendid grass
and water. A thunderstorm had lately fallen there, and these chaps having
discovered it, were making the most of it. They had been camped there for a week
and evidently intended to stay on. As they were off our country, we left them
After a residence of three
years at Mount Marlow, I retired about September 1, 1886. Just before leaving
the station, I purchased about 250 head of the station bullocks, the ages being
none under six years. We put together a really first class mob, having been
lucky enough to pick up with some old bullocks that had previously been missed.
With the assistance of two hands, I started off for the Sydney market, via
Immediately after leaving the run, we ran foul of three or four different mobs of travelling cattle, all going in the same direction, and all within a few miles of each other. In order to get clear of the whole of them, we pushed our mob along, and went a long stage of 18 miles which put us ahead of the lot. Corrie Macdonald’s mob from Cork station was the last mob we passed. After this, we saw no more travelling cattle.
Leaving the Barcoo at
Retreat station, we crossed over to Kyabra Creek, which we followed up to Kyabra
station. We then left Kyabra Creek, and then went on two or three long dry
stages to Norley and Mount Margaret station s, and reached Thargomindah in three
weeks, a very quick trip. From there, I sent a telegram to Pitt Son &
Badgery, at Sydney, ordering trucks to be sent to Bourke for us to be ready on a
day named three weeks ahead which meant an average of twelve miles a day.
At Thargomindah, there was
only one Bank, the Commercial of Sydney. I was unknown at this place, but I
ventured to ask the manager to cash my cheque for £5. This he refused to do,
with the remark that he had been “slipped up too often.” With a doleful and
downcast countenance, I was passing the leading hotel when the landlord ( a
gentleman now holding a leading position in Parliament), accosted me and asked
what was my trouble. When I explained to him, he at once offered to cash my
cheque, which he did for me. He proved a friend in time of need and I often
repeated the story.
We crossed the Border below
Hungerford, and went in through Fords Bridge, arriving at Bourke in time to
claim our railway trucks. We lost no cattle, and travelled the distance, 520
miles, from Mount Marlow to Bourke, in the record time of six weeks, or an
average of 12½ miles per day
When crossing the bridge over the Darling at Bourke, we had, like other drovers, to get the assistance of a small mob of milkers to give us a lead. The use of them for half and hour or less cost £1, but it was money well spent. These milkers were being constantly in use for this purpose, and had become extremely knowing. It was really amusing to watch them. As they approached the bridge, they would hang back, shirking the job, but the moment they put their feet on the bridge and saw the big mob following, off they went full gallop. When safely over the bridge, they would stop short, and sharply turn the corner and come to a dead stop, letting the big mob pass on.
Having secured the trucks by
telegram from Thargomindah three weeks in advance saved us any delay and we
loaded the cattle immediately. Several other mobs had arrived at Bourke a week
and ten days before us, but not having ordered the trucks in advance, they had
Our cattle we sold at
Homebush and fetched top prices.
I forgot to mention that the
two men I had with me, stuck me up on the long dry stage between Kyabra Creek
and the Bulloo (Thargomindah), demanding higher wages, as they saw by the pace
that we were travelling at, that instead of a trip of ten or eleven weeks, it
was going to be only six weeks. Of course, I had to agree to their demand.
After banking the proceeds
of the cattle, I went on to Melbourne and there saw “Arsenal” win the Melbourne
Cup on Tuesday, 2 November, 1886. “Trenton” was second, with “Silvermine” third.
Needless to say, my money was not on the winner.
Upon returning to Toowoomba,
I arranged to purchase another lot of fat bullocks off Mount Marlow. This time
it was 500 head.
From Toowoomba, I went to
Taabinga station and there purchased for Mount Marlow station, the blood
stallion “Mameluke” and six saddle horses. I engaged John Kendall and another
man to go with me. The saddle horses were only newly broken in and gave us some
trouble at first. We travelled out by way of Burrandowan, Boondooma, and on to
Taroom, through Hornet Bank, Mount Hutton, Forest vale, Nive Downs, and Tambo.
We left the Barcoo River at Tambo, and went across to Terrick Terrick station.
From Terrick, we went due west across country. I had a steel file in my saddle
pouch and with it we cut the wires of each fence that stood in our road. Only
the three top wires were cut. To the three bottom wires we fastened a piece of
sapling and made the horses jump over. A panel’s length of the bottom wire was
used for patching up the fence. When we struck the Barcoo again at Louisa Downs,
we found it in a flooded state and after reaching the Mount Marlow head station,
we were informed that in consequence of the flood, no mail had been received for
three weeks. From Terrick Terrick to Mount Marlow by the way we travelled was a
distance of about eighty miles.
The 500 head of bullocks
were then mustered and we started off with them taking the Adavale road on this
occasion. We followed up Powell’s Creek through Gooyea and Milo on the head of
the Bulloo River and then past Adavale. We then went through Gumbardo and down
Beechal Creek to the Paroo River, which we crossed at Eulo. Then we went on
through Tinneburra station, crossing the Warrego at the Cuttaburra. We crossed
the New South Wales border at Barringun, then on to the Darling River and
Just after passing Adavale,
we discovered a case of pleuro in the mob, and from then on until we got to
Bourke, we had fresh cases showing out each day. These sick cattle we dropped by
the roadside, where no doubt they died.
Wet weather had set in which
made matters worse for us. From my previous experience of the bridge at Bourke,
it was risky to put the cattle across it owing to the slippery state it would be
in, so we decided to swim the cattle over the Darling River. The river is about
100 yards wide about there. We spread out our cattle and forced them into the
water. They swam splendidly, just like a lot of ducks. The leading cattle were
too slow in climbing the bank at the other side, the result being that the
cattle behind were compelled to turn and swim back again. There were only three
of us with the cattle. John Kendall was successful in getting to the other side
with his horse, so that he was able to look after the lot that had crossed while
two of us were left with the remainder of the mob. It was now sundown and
raining. After fixing up camp for the night, I left the cattle with my mate and
started off with blankets and tucker for Kendall on the other side of the river.
Crossing at the bridge, I worked my way round to Kendall, leaving my packages
with him, and arranged for Kendall to have his mob in sight the next morning so
that we could see his mob over the river. Next morning we got the remainder of
the cattle over the river, all except about fifteen head. These we took to the
bridge and got them over, but not without most of them slipping down on the wet
The man with the horses had
his instructions to follow us to the railway trucking yards where we intended
camping for the night. Kendall and I got the cattle to the trucking yards and
fixed up our camp, but there was no sign of the man with the spare horses,
blankets and tucker. We had the night to ourselves, watching the cattle turn
about. We had to stick closely to our two horses, but “man proposes and God
disposes,” for alas! the horse that was tied to a tree broke away owing to a
gust of wind blowing sparks and smoke from our fire over him, giving the poor
animal a great fright. Next morning at daylight, I left Kendall with the cattle,
and went off on foot in search of the lost horse. I found him amongst some other
horses, but failed in my efforts to catch him. Then I walked off, making for
Bourke, a distance of a couple of miles. Being wet weather, I gathered mud and
loose grass on my boots, making my journey very laborious. Having reached the
township, I hired a horse and saddle, and picked up our lost horse on the return
to camp. Fortunately the lost man with the packhorses had turned up during my
I was anxious to get rid of
the cattle, but was doomed to disappointment, as advice came from Pitt, Son
& Badgery, that trucks for only half the mob had been sent along, the market
at Sydney not being good at the time. That afternoon, we trucked half the mob.
The leading cattle were sent away as they had given us the most trouble. With
the remainder we started to travel up the Bogan River to Nyngan. The wet weather
continued and the roads were in a heavy state. Anyone who has travelled much
with cattle, will have observed that each beast has its own particular position
in the mob. The same cattle are always to be found in the lead when once they
have settled down, likewise to the right, to the left, and to the tail of the
mob, the same cattle are to be found, each beast having its own peculiar place
and mates. Our mob without the leading cattle, was like a ship without a rudder;
the consequence was that we had considerable work to make them draw along. After
a day or two, new leading cattle were broken in and we had less trouble.
A few days before reaching
Nyngan, when the third man was on watch, half the mob was allowed to get off the
camp. Fortunately we picked up all of them next morning, some distance back
along the road. It was a great relief to me to see the last of these cattle on
the trucks, for the trip had been a troublesome one. One of the brutes actually
jumped on the top rail of the fence of the trucking yards and there balanced for
a few seconds, and finally the heavier part of him proved to be on the outside
of the yard, for he fell outside and we saw him not again.
The Sydney market had not
improved so the agents there consigned half our mob to Melbourne. I went with
the Melbourne portion. The nett returns from the whole 500 head just about
cleared me with nothing over for my own labour and hardships. Kendall took
charge of the horses and travelled them overland from Nyngan to Taabinga, a long
lonely trip, by himself.
After this disagreeable
trip, I decided to leave droving alone, and try my luck at gold mining at
Croydon, a very unwise step, it turned out.
I left Brisbane by the slow old steamer “Victoria,” on Wednesday, 7 September, 1887. It followed the coast to Thursday Island, thence to the Gulf of Carpentaria, where we transshipped into a small river boat and followed the sinuous course of the Norman River until near Normanton, where we landed and were taken the rest of the journey by waggonettes to the town of Normanton. Next morning, we got inside one of Cobb & Co’s coaches bound for Croydon, reaching our destination after two days’ very uncomfortable travelling. Just a fortnight from Brisbane. The coach was overcrowded, six passengers inside, three on the box seat, and one or two on the dashboard with a rope stretched across for feet to rest on.
The weather was hot and
sweaty, the roads terribly dusty. At night when we arrived at the stopping
place, the passengers looked like blackfellows, being covered with sweat and
dust. There were two mules in the pole and three horses in the lead. The whip
was kept on the mules pretty freely to make them keep pace with the horses in
front. Our coachman, when taking a short cut off the road, ran the coach into a
tree and broke the pole. After replacing the broken pole with a sapling tied up
with a clothes line, we finished our journey without any further mishap. The
deep ruts along the road were covered to the level of the road with fine dust (
as fine as flour), the result was that neither the coachman nor anybody else
knew when we were going to drop into a deep rut. We used to get there without
any warning and the inside passengers had a bad time of it, occasionally being
shaken from the seat to the roof of the coach.
After a stay of several
weeks at Croydon, and foolishly investing money in some of the mines, I returned
to Normanton by coach, thence by steamer to Brisbane.
Early in the year 1888, I
paid a second visit to Croydon, going by steamer to Normanton as before. This
time the wet weather was about, and the coach was unable to travel. Two of my
fellow passengers deputed me to buy horses and saddlery for three. I made the
purchases from a bullock driver and we drew lots for the horses. Mine proved to
be a piebald which was about the best of the three. We started off riding and
did the trip to Croydon in about three or four days.
I stayed there for
about two months and during that
time, I went down the shafts of a number of mines, some with the aid of a bucket
and windlass, others by ladders fixed to the sides of the shafts. One shaft I
went down about two hundred feet, the ladder being made of saplings and fastened
very loosely to the side of the shaft which was exactly perpendicular. I went
down very comfortably, but on the trip up, I began to tire when about two thirds
of the trip had been accomplished. I rested for a moment, and then began to
realise that, if I fell, it would be about 150 feet. I started off again, going
very carefully, feeling all the time that the ladder was more rickety than
before, so I went more steadily, remembering all the time that it was a deep
fall below. Finally, I grasped the top of the shaft and got clear of it with a
big sigh of relief.
I left Croydon with two horses, and rode towards Georgetown, on my way to Charters Towers. I went through Georgetown, then across the Stockman’s Range down to the Einasleigh River, through Carpentaria Downs, Hillgrove, and Dalrymple, to Charters Towers.
Here I sold my turnout for
just what it would fetch. I took the train to Townsville, and steamer to
Rockhampton, where I stayed for a few days during which time I went out to see
Mount Morgan with C. G. Alford, E. K. Ogg, and J. T. Y. Tilbury. Later on, I
returned by steamer to Brisbane.
While at Croydon, I saw a
contest between a white and a black man, at high jumping. It was a closely
contested match and well worth seeing, for the jump that was cleared must have
been a world record. They started at five feet and went by inches up to six feet
two inches, which both of them cleared. At six feet three inches, both of them
failed, and it ended up in a drawn contest.
I also saw a stand up fight
at the back of Temples Hotel, just off the main street. An insurance agent had
made some offensive remark to a leading storekeeper whilst the latter was in the
company of his wife the previous evening. Meeting next day at the hotel bar,
words led to blows and a challenge to fight outside eventuated. I arrived on the
scene just as the battle began. Both combatants were stripped to the waist, only
a singlet covering the upper part of the body. Both had friends standing behind
them as seconds, one of whom was the editor of the local newspaper, and upon a
policeman arriving upon the scene to stop proceedings, this editor announced
that he was a justice of the peace and that he would take responsibility.
They fought for several hard
rounds, the scientific boxing of the storekeeper told its tale and the insurance
agent was knocked out. After the fight, the newspaper man was accosted in the
street by the editor of the opposition newspaper. They were not the best of
friends, but the new comer ventured to enquire about the fight. He got a short
reply, and after a few hot words, these two got to blows, and when the policeman
turned up, he arrested the editor (who was not a justice of the peace) and let
the other fellow alone.
After being quickly bailed
out, he proceeded to his office, and within a short time, he had the whole of
the details of the fight, at the back of the hotel, published in large type,
giving the names of all who had taken part in it. The paper was a
After my return to Brisbane,
I went to Taabinga, which had just been sold by my brother Tom to Mr. Arthur
Youngman, of Melbourne. I remained there until after the delivery of the station
and stock to the new owner. When I returned to Brisbane, Mr. Alexander Archer,
the manager of the Bank of New South Wales, gave me the job of reporting on
their station Gulnarbar, near St. George, and also to take charge of it for a
short time during the illness of the manager, R. Underwood.
There was a severe drought
during the time and the cattle were beginning to die of poverty and through
bogging in the waterholes. There were some large lagoons on this station which
were covered with wild fowl, chiefly black ducks. There were some good sportsmen
at St. George, so I arranged with them to bring their guns and small boat for a
shooting expedition. They killed a number of the ducks and scared a number away
from the lagoon.
My brother Willie was then
the manager of the Queensland National Bank at St. George. My brother Tom had
just started a business in Brisbane as a stock and station agent, and on my
return from Gulnarbar about the end of October, 1888, he induced me to take over
the business from him as he had just been appointed Pastoral Inspector for the
Queensland Investment and Land Mortgage Company. My office was in Power’s
Building adjoining the Town Hall. I have continued that business for just twenty
years, but my office is now in the Courier building, having removed there about
On Saturday, 2 December,
1893, I married and now have three daughters. The two eldest are attending Miss
Burdorff’s school, and the younger one attends the state school at Yeronga,
where we have resided ever since my marriage.
During February, 1893, there was a record flood in Brisbane, being fifteen feet higher than any previously recorded flood. On Thursday 13 February, 1896, there was another big flood, but not nearly as big as the 1893 flood. This flood will long be remembered by the writer, for I was on board the S.S. “Pearl” when she sank in the Brisbane River. The River being a banker and the bridge considered unsafe for traffic, it was closed up and passengers were taken backwards and forwards in ferry boats of which the “Pearl” was one. About 5pm, I was on my way home, and boarded the “Pearl” at the Queen’s Wharf. Passing up the gangway just in front of me was a kanaka, his wife, and daughter, all well dressed and evidently comfortably off.
Near the other side of the
river, and only about thirty yards from the wharf on the South Brisbane side,
the S.S. “Lucinda” was anchored, and there was also another smaller steamer
anchored in a line with the “Lucinda” only about thirty yards higher
To reach the South Brisbane
wharf, our steamer, the “Pearl,” had to pass between these two anchored
steamers. Just as we approached the “Lucinda,” the captain of the “Pearl” gave
the order to “stop her,” believing, no doubt, that there was enough speed on to
take us to the wharf, and probably there would have been but for the strong
current which had not been taken into consideration.
The captain was at the wheel
and I and others were sitting under him on the lower deck at the bow of the
steamer. We began to see at once that the strong running flood waters on our
broadside would prevent us getting past the “Lucinda.” Sure enough, just as we
got half way past, the keel of the “Pearl” struck the anchor chain of the
“Lucinda,” and the bowsprit of the “Lucinda” struck the top deck of the
The keep of the “Pearl” ran
onto the anchor chain and in an instant she was on her side. We sprang to our
feet and pulled ourselves on to her side and stood upright. The next moment, the
stern of the “Pearl” went under water, the bow shot in the air, bringing us
abreast of the bowsprit of the “Lucinda,” which I embraced with both arms and
The steam from the submerged
steamer escaped and surrounded me in a cloud of it. The “Pearl” then sank out of
sight underneath me. I swung myself astride across the bowsprit and remained
there for a few minutes, quite dazed. The whole incident was so sudden that no
word was uttered by anyone, not even an exclamation for a woman or a child. When
I recovered my senses, I crawled along the bowsprit, and dropped aboard the
“Lucinda” without a wet spot on me. I then gave some assistance to pull on a
rope, the end of which had been caught by a man in the water.
While we were hauling him on
board, we saw another poor old bald headed man drowning underneath us. He was no
swimmer, his hands being flung wildly about his head. The next moment the end of
a nine foot rail struck him on the forehead and out of sight he went. A number
of the passengers who could swim escaped with a good wetting, but about twenty
lives were lost including the kanaka, his wife, and his daughter. No doubt the
kanaka was an expert swimmer, but he probably lost his life through trying to
help his wife and his daughter. I suppose that there were about one hundred
passengers on board at the time of the disaster. I lost my umbrella, newspaper,
and parcel of boots. Needless to say I have no recollection of parting with
Now and again I attended the races at Ascot, but only once had I a good
stroke of luck. Along with Charles and Alfred Ogg, I reached the course shortly
before the first race started. The horses were taking their preliminary canters.
We were all closely watching the horses before deciding which horse to back.
Before I had come to a decision, my two mates had fixed an old “Boscobel” and
their money went on him. Shortly before these races, I had been advised to back
a mare called “Monkshood” in her next three races. Twice she had lost and this
was her third race. I looked for her and she appeared to be in the best of
condition; moreover, the boy riding her had a whip and a pair of spurs. This
decided me to take a ticket on her on the Totalisator. The race was run and the
finish was a very close one. As the horses flashed past us, I noticed
“Monkshood” make a splendid final effort, but when the numbers were hoisted, her
number was underneath another one- only two numbers were put up. Of course, we
thought that the mare had run second. My mates and I went off four our lunch,
when I was feeling annoyed at my bad luck in losing the race by a trifle. After
lunch, we returned to the Totalisator and we found to our astonishment only two names on the board viz
“Beauvoir,” and “monkshood.” To make sure of a win I took a ticket on “Beauvoir”
for the run off. The run off was won easily by “Monkshood,” and I lost ten
shillings on that event, but I had still to draw my winnings on the first race.
The dividend proved to be £27 / 15 /-, which I carefully pocketed and looked
pleasant for the rest of the day, notwithstanding that I had lost £5 of it
trying to strike another winner.
On returning home, I handed twelve sovereigns to my wife as her half
share of the day’s outing, as she had given me five shillings to invest for
When a small boy at Toowoomba, I went with my brother Willie to see the
circus. The morning newspapers had announced that anyone who bought a front seat
ticket would be entitled to a chance of winning a new silver watch which had
been bought for presentation. At the door we were given a ticket with the same
figure stamped at each end of it. The ticket was then torn in half, one half
being placed in a box at the door, the other half we kept. Just before the
performance began, the box was well shaken up and deposited in the centre of the
ring where all could see it. A little girl from the audience was then asked to
draw out one ticket, and this ticket happened to correspond with my number. I
lost no time in stepping forward to claim the prize, not waiting for an
invitation to do so. On examining the watch afterwards, I found that it was a
very old one, with a discoloured face and a broken hand. However, I sold it next
day for thirty shillings. I heard afterwards that a new watch had been purchased
for presentation but one of the employees effected an exchange for his old used
As an instance of how I was taken down by a man who “lived on the game,”
it was after one of my road trips when in Sydney. Along with a friend, I went to
see some sports, and between the acts we were attracted by a crowd standing
around an individual who was holding forth and showing his skill. This fellow
had in his left hand a small felt purse, and with his right hand he appeared to
throw five sovereigns into it, one at a time. He then closed the purse and
offered to sell it and the contents for two sovereigns. Finding that no one
seemed inclined to accept his generous offer, he emptied the purse and repeated
the operation. This time he made a set at me, probably noting my sunburnt hands
and face, and riveting his eye on me just as he appeared to throw in the last of
the pieces of gold, he gave me a knowing wink remarking “I only want a start.” I
was soft enough to believe that the man meant what he said, and that for once,
the five sovereigns would be there. I gave him my two sovereigns and took the
purse with its contents. From the outside I could feel what appeared to be five
sovereigns, but, on opening the purse, to my disgust, I found five farthings.
The onlookers enjoyed the joke.
Some years ago, when a young man was out herding cattle at Glenhaughton,
he climbed a tree to help kill the time, when he slipped, and in falling, his
leg caught in a fork of the tree, and there he hung by his leg. Some time
afterwards, he was found in that position, quite dead. There was evidence that
he had tried his best to cut off his own leg at the knee with his pocket
A very old colonist related the following incident to me. We shall call
him Mr. Luke. An employee of Mr. Luke went with him from the Darling Downs to
the Dawson, where he took up some new country and named it Bungabar. The
employee, Grey by name, was a good worker and could turn his hand to any sort of
work. Most people have some sort of a hobby. This man’s hobby was collecting
horses and reselling them at an advance in price. One day a traveller arrived at
Bungabar with a lame horse. He was on his way west to inspect and report on some
new pastoral country. He wanted another horse to take the place of the lame one.
As Mr. Luke had none to spare, he suggested that Grey should bring in his horses
After a good look at each one, the traveller selected the best looking
one in the mob and he asked the price. The mare was a thoroughbred and a real
good sort, and eighty guineas was the price. The traveller agreed to buy her if
Grey would take his lame horse, being taken for the remainder of the purchase
money. The traveller took his departure and then Grey began to sell off the rest
of his horses converting them into cash. About a fortnight after the traveller
had left, Grey gave notice that he wanted to leave the station. He was a good
hand and Mr. Luke did not want to part with him. He asked if he wanted an
increase in his wages. Grey replied that he was satisfied with his wages and his
work, but he said, “I may as well
tell you in confidence, that the thoroughbred mare I sold to that traveller
belongs to the Chief Inspector of Police at Drayton from whom I stole her. The
traveller is nearly due to arrive at Drayton on his return. The mare will at
once be recognised and the Police will be after me.”
The day after Grey had taken his departure from Bungabar, a policeman in
plain clothes arrived at the station, and said to Mr. Luke “You have a man
working here named Grey?” “No,” was the reply, “I had, but he left here
yesterday morning.” “You don’t say so,” said the policeman, “why it must have
been the very same man I had dinner with yesterday on the road.”
The horse stealer had meanwhile slipped along passing through Dalby, but
carefully leaving Drayton away to the left, and on to Leyburn. On reaching
Leyburn, Grey pitched his camp on the creek a short distance from the Hotel.
Later on, he could be seen reading the newspaper by lamplight in the coffee room
of the hotel. Shortly afterwards, Grey observed the landlord of the hotel
speaking in an undertone to a stranger, both looking hard at him. Immediately
they were out of sight, Grey rose from his seat and went around the front of the
hotel. Two horses were tied up at the fence which belonged to the stranger, who
proved to be a policeman in pursuit of Grey. The policeman had left his revolver
strapped to his saddle. Grey quickly mounted the horses and lead the other one.
Some one rushed inside the hotel and informed the constable , who hurried out
shouting after Grey, telling him that he was taking away his horses. The cool
reply came back, “I know I am, but I will leave them for you near Goondiwindi.
In the meantime, you can have my horses which are hobbled out on the creek. Good
Nothing more was ever heard of Grey.
Two bushmen named Mathew and Thornbury were staying the night at a bush
public house, when they went to the creek for a bathe. On the way they met a
blackfellow with half a dozen nice fish. They bought them from the blackfellow
for one shilling. The blackfellow then retraced his steps and never went near
the hotel. After their baths, Mathew and Thornbury decided to have a joke with
their landlord at the hotel, with whom they were both well acquainted. They held
up the fish with great pride and asked the landlord how it was he never caught
any of them. “How on earth did you catch those fish,” said he, “I have tried
over and over again to catch them, but have always failed.” Thornbury explained
that he and his mate were expert swimmers, one of them diving into the water and
smartly swimming after the fish, would lay hold of them by the tail, and with a
sharp jerk, fling them on the bank of the creek. Mathew and I often catch fish
in this way, he said.
The publican believed the story for he could not understand how otherwise
they could have got hold of them “I never heard of such a thing being done
before,” he said, “why, if I try to hold a live fish by the tail in a tub of
water, I cannot hold him.” Thornbury then explained that it was the peculiar
twist they gave the tail that enabled them to do it. Drinks all round at the
landlord’s expense followed.
Mt friend, T. Macdonald Paterson was a Scotchman to the backbone, and the
bagpipes had the same effect on him as they had on most Scotchmen; they make
them excited and lively. One day I was sitting with him on his verandah. It was
after we had finished tea, and it was moonlight. Suddenly the bagpipes began to
play just across the street. Paterson was on his feet in an instant, calling me
to follow on. I went quietly inside the house and got my hat; he went off bare
headed. Walking leisurely along, I reached the spot where the bagpipes were
squeaking, and two men were dancing the Highland Fling with the greatest
enjoyment. I looked around for my friend Paterson but he was nowhere to be seen.
After a time, the dancers tired
themselves out and when they ceased dancing, I discovered to my astonishment
that one of the dancers was Paterson himself. He and his wife enjoyed a good
laugh at my expense later on.
In the early days, one of the Queensland Judges was noted for his
eccentricities. It was not uncommon for him to fall asleep on the Bench whilst
trying an important case. Eating butter wholesale was a weakness of his also.
His habits were unclean, he being careless about washing himself. A good story
used to be told about him.
He stayed the night at a bush public house after a long dusty ride in a
dry season when water was extremely scarce. The water for the public house had
to be drawn some distance in a wooden cash fixed in the fork of a tree. This was
the only water on the place. Shortly after everyone had retired for the night,
the landlord heard a noise as of some animal had got into his precious cask of
water. When he got to the cask, he saw the Judge enjoying a bath inside the
cask, and when remonstrated with, he replied, “It is alright, don’t get excited,
I’m not using any soap.”
A gentleman once saw a well dressed lady riding on to a racecourse. She
was decked out in all her finery, looking very attractive. He exclaimed, “By God
painted!” The lady overheard the remark and she replied, “Yes, painted by
The following strange occurrence is worth recording here. A visitor from
Queensland put up at one of the leading hotels in Sydney. The place was full,
and when he went down for his dinner, there were only a few vacant seats at the
table. Shortly after he took his seat, a stranger came into the room when only
one vacant seat remained, and that was alongside the Queenslander, which he
secured. A conversation was entered into between the two of them, the stranger
informed the Queenslander that he had only that day arrived in Sydney from
England. He said he had come to Australia to search for a long lost friend who
had gone out to Australia many years ago. The Queenslander told him that as he
had lived all his life in Australia, perhaps he might be of some assistance to
him, if he would mention the name of his lost friend. The name was willingly
given to the Queenslander, who appeared to be greatly astonished. “Do you know,”
he said, “that I am the only person in Australia, except the principal himself,
who can give you the information you are seeking. Your lost friend is a very
close friend of mine, who is known in Australia by quite another name. In strict
confidence he gave me his real name, (the name you have just mentioned). It is a
remarkable occurrence that we should have met in the way we have done. I can
give you the assumed name and address of your lost friend.”
A young fellow aspired to be an auctioneer, and while travelling on the
road with bullocks, he thought the time opportune for practising the work. When
he was left alone with the cattle and they were on a good bit of grass, he tied
his horse to the tree and got into one of the branches and began to hold forth
as follows: “Now then, gentlemen., what shall I say for the beautiful white
bullock? Five pounds, thank you Sir, five, five, five-ten, all done at five-ten,
no advance.” When a deep bass voice from under the tree called out “Knock him
down, you fool, he ain’t worth half the money.” The aspirant to wielding the
hammer quickly scrambled out of the tree to find an old swagman sitting quietly
under the tree.
If bank managers of the following description are permitted to go to
heaven, then there is a chance for most of us.
The Bank held a mortgage over a cattle station, the owner of which
desired to add to his herd by putting on some more bullocks. He held an
interview with his bankers, and the manager consented to his buying four hundred
head of bullocks, to be paid for with a promissory note falling due at the
Bank three month after delivery of
the bullocks, and the manager promised to honour the bill when it came due. The
bullocks were purchased on the terms mentioned, but the vendor did not give
delivery until he had got the assurance of the bank manager that the bill would
be met on maturity. The bullocks were then put on the purchaser’s station, and
paddocked there, the vendor taking the purchaser’s promissory note at three
months in settlement. What happened? Not long before the three months expired,
the Bank took possession of the station with all the stock including these
bullocks, and when the promissory note was presented for payment at the Bank, it
was dishonoured. The vendor never got one penny of the £2000 purchase money nor
had he any redress against the Bank. I knew this man, and often conversed with
him about this business. He took to heart the heavy loss he had suffered and for
years he tried to get some compensation from the Bank, but without result. He
died a few years afterwards, and I am certain that this loss hastened his
The same Bank held a mortgage over a large Butter and Cream Factory which
had been established for some time. The local dairymen had always received
prompt payment for their cream supplies at the end of each month, and confidence
was established. The Bank, in its wisdom, decided to foreclose on the factory,
and waited an opportune moment for doing so. That time arrived a few days before
the payments for the month’s cream feel due, and just when all the farmers’
cream was inside the factory. The Bank took possession before the end of the
month and got all the advantage of the unpaid for cream. The farmers were left
lamenting and suffered the loss of a month’s cream.
Another Bank in Brisbane held a mortgage over a large butchering
business. The firm had been in business for many years, and its reputation was
good. This firm decided not to buy any more stock unless the terms of payment
were a Bill at four months. This firm at the time was the only large firm of
butchers who were able to make large purchases of cattle. Vendors on all sides
agreed to their terms and large purchases were made. When they had bought a very
large number of cattle on bills, the Bank stepped in and took possession of
everything. The result was that Promissory Notes to the tune of about £30,000
were never paid. The vendors lost heavily, some of them losing from £2,000 to
£4,000. Finally the Estate paid at the rate of two shillings in the pound.
Such conduct on the part of Banks should, in my opinion, not be allowed.
An Act of Parliament should be framed and passed to protect creditors in cases
of this sort. The property purchased should be held to be the property of the
vendor and held in trust by the purchaser until actually paid for.
Another instance came under my notice where a vendor was let in through
the smartness of a Bank manager. A draught of fat bullocks was despatched on the
roads for southern markets, Melbourne being their destination. When the mob had
gone two thirds of the journey, advice came back to the owner that the man in
charge was drinking and neglecting his work. Thereupon the owner followed after
and overtook the cattle near the Victorian border. A few days afterwards, an
agent from Deniliquin brought along a buyer, and a sale of the bullocks was
effected. Just at this time, the race for the Melbourne Cup was to be run, and
the vendor of the bullocks hastened off to see the race. Before leaving, he
arranged with the agent to place the proceeds of the sale to his credit in the
Bank. The purchase money was handed to the agent who placed the money to the
credit of his own account in the first instance, and after deducting his
commission, he sent his cheque for the balance to the credit of the vendor at
his bank. It turned out that the agent’s account had been largely overdrawn for
some time, and the money from the sale of these bullocks squared it off. Later
on when the agent’s cheque, which had gone to the credit of the vendor came back for payment, it was returned
The vendor never got one penny, and suffered a loss of about £2000 on the
Dingoes are often very numerous and very troublesome on cattle stations.
They travel about the country in large numbers but after a few weeks they
disappear, only a few remaining. They are most troublesome when the young calves
are about in the spring of the year. A cow will hide her calf in the long grass
and will leave it there while she goes off to the creek for a drink. During her
absence the calf is attacked and killed by native dogs. Sometimes there are big
losses in this way. When three or four dingoes get together, they will attack a
half grown beast, especially if weak and unable to get away. Eventually the
animal is worried to death.
In flat and timbered country it is generally a good plan to carry a
compass, for it is not too easy to find your way about if the sky is overcast,
even old bushmen get bothered at times. If no compass, it is a good plan to let
the old horse have his head and he will take you home. Some horses are past
masters at this business.
While written these memoirs, I can look back to over twenty years
continuous residence at Brisbane, in business all the time. During that long
period, I have not at any time been out of the city for a longer period than
twelve continuous days.
Briefly speaking, the following are some of the trips I have made outside
of the city. Under instructions from Senator J. T. Walker, I went to inspect and
report on Mount Ubi estate on the Mary River, above Gympie, a property that Mr. Walker held a mortgage over. I went
by train to Eumundi on the North Coast line, thence by horse through Kenilworth
station to Mount Ubi. The homestead is very prettily situated on a rising piece
of land overlooking the Mary River. A few gold miners were in the vicinity of
this property and were getting small lots of gold, enough to make a living out
of them. I discovered that all the female cattle had been removed off the place.
I returned to Brisbane and then proceeded to Esk where some large lots of cattle
were being sold by auction. The missing cattle from Mount Ubi were amongst the
lots to be sold and I stopped the sale of them. They were then taken back to
Mount Ubi. Shortly afterwards, Mr. Walker took possession of the property and
stock in accordance with my report. He has worked the property ever since, and
it has increased very much in value owing to increased settlement.
Mr. Eddington, of the Bank of New South Wales, gave me instructions to
inspect forty or fifty shorthorn bulls for the Bank at Maroon station (Prior’s
estate) beyond Boonah. I travelled by train to Boonah thence by horse to Maroon.
I stayed one night at Maroon, inspected the bulls next day, and returned to
Boonah in time to catch the train. About 40 bulls were purchased and sent out to
Brighton Downs cattle station on the Diamantina River.
Hon. John Leahy of the Australian Estates Company instructed me to proceed to Mr. F. M. Bowman’s freehold on Coochin, Denelgin by name, and make a report on it for Mrs. Onslow of Camden Park, New South Wales. One of the Mr. Onslows accompanied me by train to Boonah where we were met by Mr. Bowman Jnr., and driven out to Denelgin. I saw some of my old haunts on Coochin as I passed along. Passing right by the spot where the old Coochin Coochin homestead used to stand. I went all over Denelgin the following day and then returned to Brisbane on the third day. I had several trips to Beaudesert and Birnam Estate, which was at that particular time being kept up by two of my step children Ivan and Clara Warner.
Our Christmas holidays with the family have been spent at the seaside,
such as Wynnum, Manly, Cleveland, and Southport. We have also made trips to
Redcliffe and Sandgate. My wife and I spent the Christmas holidays one year by
taking the train to Southport, thence by coach along the main beach to Tweed
Heads, from there by steamer to Murwillumbah, where we put in one of the hottest
nights I have ever experienced. We returned by the same route.
Another of our journeys was by train to Tweed Heads, on by steamer to
Murwillumbah, and by train, past Byron Bay, Lismore, to casino. We left the
train at casino station and went to casino township which was over a mile away.
We returned the same day to Byron Bay. After a day’s stay at Byron Bay, we
Another of the honeymoon trips was to Sydney by train. We stayed two or
three days, being accommodated at my brother Charley’s house, “Ardath,”
Darlinghurst. We heard Christmas carols sung on Christmas Eve for the first and
only time. We returned to Brisbane by train.
Yet another Christmas trip with my wife was by steamer “Oroya,” to
Sydney. We put up at the Hotel Metropole during our stay in Sydney, and we had
Christmas dinner with my brother Charley and his family at Glan-Y-mor, Neutral
Bay. We took sll the beautiful tram rides about the Sydney suburbs, and also
took the train along the Illawarra line, travelling to its terminus, Bomaderry,
on the Shoalhaven River, which we afterwards crossed in a coach, and had our
dinner at the hotel at Nowra. Before leaving Nowra, we walked to see the
celebrated suspension bridge over which we walked. The same afternoon, we
returned by train to Kiama where we stayed the night. We saw the great Devil’s
Blow Hole on the beach. This is a very pretty little town which is built right
on the main ocean. We returned to Brisbane on the steamer “Ortona.”
Previous to this I had made two trips to Sydney with my brother Willie,
going to and for in charge of gold, the property of the Royal Bank of
Queensland. On my first trip, my brother Charley was living at Randwick. The
second trip they were living at Neutral bay, not far from the ferry. I look back
to all these holiday excursions with great pleasure.