Our Military Forces
Australia’s First Service Abroad
The Pioneers of the Service
It was not until 1884 that we got the Defence Act, which placed
Queensland at the head of all military organisations in Australia.
In the 1880s, and for many years later, we were all separate “colonies,”
with six different and very widely differing systems of defence.
Australians had, of course, smelt powder very much earlier than in the
Great War of 1914-18; earlier than in the Boer war; earlier than in the
historical campaign, in which Colonel Richardson led a New South Wales
Contingent to the Soudan, authorised by and provided for by William Bede Dalley,
when Lord Loftus was Governor of the colony.
I have an idea that Lawyer Chubb, of Ipswich – the father of Mr. Justice
Chubb – once made an offer of volunteers for service abroad, and I am quite
sure, from reading the old “Courier” files, that he was associated with Light
Horse in Queensland some seventy. If he made such an offer, the question is
whether it was before or after a force of Australians went off from Sydney to
fight in New Zealand against the Maoris.
That was in the early sixties; but I remember well, not the departure of
the troops, but a family incident connected with the Waikato campaign. And it
may be remarked here that our friend, the poet schoolmaster, George Vowles, had
cleared off from school in Queensland, and manfully played his part in the war
at about the age of 16 years.
In the early sixties our family lived at my birthplace, Oaklands, Appin,
on the Woollongong Road, 43 miles from Sydney, where, about three-quarters of a
mile of oaks were planted in about 1824 by my great grandfather, an East India
Company’s officer, who had received a big grant of Illawarra land (vide
McCaffrey’s “Pioneers of Illawarra”). We had an uncle, Jack Browne – a tall,
handsome, and wild devil- in the Maori War, and he was killed at Waikato. The
news of his K.I.A. came pretty late one night, when my older brother Billy and I
were in bed. Jack Browne was very fond of children and we loved him. After we
had been told the bad news, we were left alone, and I whimpered a bit, but Billy
was quiet. “Billy, aren’t you going to cry?” I said, and he replied, “Not now,
I’m sleepy. I’ll cry in the morning.” We hear of the easy tears of childhood,
but children do not quite appreciate the long separations of death. I think we
may say that the contingents to New Zealand in about 1860 saw the first despatch
of troops from Australia to take part in “active service abroad.”
I did not know them well until 1881, but the Queensland Volunteers had
been a well conducted organisation many years before, and in my time there were
as unattached Majors Godfrey Geary, Richard B Sheridan (afterwards
Postmaster-General of Queensland), Charles Lilley (later Sir Charles, and Chief
Justice), Ratcliffe Pring (later Mr. Justice Pring), H. C. Stanley (later
Colonel Stanley of the Artillery, and Chief Engineer of Railways), Henry
Milford, and E. E. Smith. Those were all brainy men, and would have been
splendid war leaders of citizen soldiers. The organisation of the force was with
a small headquarters in Brisbane, units at Ipswich and Toowoomba, and “Coast
Corporations” at Maryborough, Bundaberg, Rockhampton and Mackay. The commandant
was Colonel George Blaxland, who had been an officer in the Imperial Service,
and was a schoolteacher at Toowoomba when he received the appointment of
commandant. Blaxland was a soldierly man and popular, but when it came to
reorganisation he had to make way for a more modern and more experienced
He was brusquely treated, but in later years a Parliamentary Committee
reported very favourably upon him, and he received a compensation of a couple of
thousand pounds or so, and a pretty fair civil appointment. It was tardy
In 1883 Lieutenant Colonel E. R. Drury,, C.M.G., (general manager of the
Q.N. Bank) was commandant until the arrival of Colonel George French (afterwards
General George French) for the organisation of the Queensland Defence
The brigade major, who was really chief of a sort of general staff, was a
capable officer of the Royal Artillery, whom we now know as Colonel R. A. Moore,
until recent years Chief Police Magistrate in Brisbane. He had been an
instructor of artillery in Ireland, and was the brains of the force.
The Infantry Staff Officer was Captain Charles McCallum, formerly of the 23rd Royal Welsh Fusiliers, who had a very sad ending, and the paymaster was Major Mellish, also an Imperial Service man, a splendid old veteran of the Wolseley school, who had served in the Ashantee campaign.
Another fine soldier, an artilleryman, was my very old friend, Sankey,
the father of Colonel Sankey, for so many years associated with the volunteer
section of the Defence Force.
On the staff also were Lieutenant-Colonel John McDonnell, Under Secretary
of the Postal Department, and father of Dr. Aeneas McDonnell, of Toowoomba, who
for a term had been commandant.
Major W. H. Snelling, an old “Courier” man and “Reuter’s” representative
in Queensland, the father of Mr. Snelling, General Manager of the Q. N. Pastoral
Company, and one of the principals in Martin Snelling & Co. We also had
Major J. H. Adams, a grim old soldier, who ran the supply, or commissariat, as
we termed it, formerly of the 72nd Foot, and Captain Geo. T. Weale, a
surveyor, whose widow many years later was on the “Courier” staff.
The Artillery was under Colonel E. R. Drury, C.M.G., as the brigade
commander, who was succeeded in turn by Colonel Henry C. Stanley, father of Mr.
Talbot Stanley, Mrs. Victor Drury, and other well known Queenslanders, and
Colonel J. F. G. Foxton, C.M.G., V.D. Major Ernest Webb was a battery commander,
and in the Garrison Artillery was Captain F. C. Bernard, late of the
56th Foot, and who was Governor of the Brisbane Gaol.
Captain M. B. Gannon was in the Ipswich battery. The engineers were
commanded by Major Geo. H. Newman, who had an important post in the Department
of Justice, and with him was Captain J. B. Stanley, a keen and clever officer,
whose sons have won distinction in civil and military life, one being Colonel R.
A. Stanley, D.S.O. a distinguished officer of the great war, and another Mr. J.
H. Stanley, Under Secretary of the Treasury.
The First Regiment, the old Moretons, was commanded by Charles Stuart
Mein (later Mr. Justice Mein); the 2nd regiment (Darling Downs) by
Major Richard Godsall, the father of a family of well-known sons and daughters
at Toowoomba, with whom was captain C. J. A. Woodcock, later chief clerk in the
Home Department in Brisbane.
In the Coast Corps, Lieutenant-Colonel A. Feez commanded at Rockhampton, the father of Messrs Arthur and Adolph Feez, the well-known lawyers of Brisbane. Colonel Feez was a very capable man, a wonderful musician, who could sit at the piano and play bright accompaniments to his own brilliant whistling. He sang also, but the whistling was the joy of the old mess at Lytton. On an occasion during manoeuvres he vainly shouted a command, but a high wind was blowing, and his officers could not hear. He became impatient, but with no better result, and then the commandant called to him, “Whistle it Feez!” Feez had the “Officers’ Call” sounded, and told his officers what he wanted, and he didn’t whistle it.
At Mackay I did not then know the command, but W. B. Hodges, later a
major of Mounted Infantry, seemed to run the show. At Bundaberg we had Major William Bligh
O’Connell (a relative of Sir Maurice O’Connell), who was later Minister for
Lands; and as a captain, F. B. T. W. Koch, for many years a bank manager, and
now a retired Colonel, whose four sons were in the thick of it in the Great
The Maryborough command was with “Nick” Tooth, Major Nicholas Tooth,
later a member of Parliament.
The cadets were under the command of Major Reginald H. Roe, M.A., who was for many years afterwards a conspicuous worker, and his junior officer was Crompton, M.A., William Crompton, I believe, also a Grammar School master, and a fine Latinist. Colonel Roe helped to lay the foundation of a spirit of devotion in the old Queensland force, and in the Commonwealth force, and it came out in the big war in which the Old Boys did the Old School much honour. And his own family was not without a distinguished record in the world-shaking events.
The Surgeon-Major of the force
was Kevin Izod O’Doherty, who had been transported as a treasonable Irishman! Of
him, I have on other occasions written much.
My first association with the
Queensland volunteer forces was as a journalist in the old mess at Lytton. Each
night during manoeuvres glittering mess uniforms were worn, and there was a warm
spirit of camaraderie. Queensland had some fine men serving her in those days,
and the camps, as the periods of annual training, were great social affairs. The
Press devoted much attention to the work done, and it was no unusual thing for
me to ride to town by 11pm, with my copy and back to Lytton for the night, with
a 5 o’clock turn out next morning. Some of us were young, and all were serious.
Where are now all those good souls whose name I have given? Nearly all have
crossed the Great Divide. Of those men of the old school only three or four
survive – Colonel Moore, still young, smart, and debonair, Colonel Koch, taking
his ease in the afternoon of life at the beautiful seaside, Redcliffe, and
looking quite fit for a campaign; Eldridge Smith, at Mackay, one of the most
accomplished of Queenslanders in military as in civil life, and I have no
information about Crompton, who left Queensland years ago for England. The rest
have gone; but they did good service for Queensland. Perhaps “they builded
better than they knew!”
Queensland came under the
Defence Act of 1884 with the idea of forming a defensive organisation, with a
wider scope, and a more intensive system of training than was possible under the
old volunteer Act. Colonel French, the new commandant, was Irish, but not
related to Field Marshall Lord French, a tall, strapping man of middle age, and
with a very considerable family. He made his home in the two storied brick
building which now serves as part of the Queensland headquarters office, and
soon became, with Mrs. French and their young folk, closely identified with the
social life of Brisbane. The eldest daughter married Dr. “Ned.” O’Doherty, and
was left a widow with a family. Colonel French went from Queensland to New South
Wales as Commandant there, and later was promoted Major-General and knighted. He
was a keen soldier of equable temperament, and under the Defence Act, which was
the outcome of his recommendation; Queensland took the lead in Australia in
military training. The greatest tribute to Queensland’s system was to be seen in
the reconstitution of the Commonwealth General Staff after the Great War. The
following were some of the higher appointments on the staff and generally:
Inspector-General. Lieutenant-General Sir Harry Chauvel; chief of the general
staff, Major-General Brudenel White; Adjutant-General, Major-General Victor
Sellheim; Quartermaster-General, Brigadier-General John K. Forsyth; Chief Staff
Officer of Artillery, Brigadier-General Coxen, and Brigadier-General Phillips
with him; Chief Staff Officer of Engineers, Brigadier-General Cecil Foott;
Military Secretary, Brigadier-General Thomas Dodds; General Officer Commanding
in New South Wales, Major General Brand; and Officer Commanding Troops in
Tasmania, Colonel Dudley White. Every one named, and the biggest of the staff
appointments of the Commonwealth are covered, was a Queenslander. It is not to
be supposed that Queenslanders had natural aptitude above the officers of other
States, but it is contended that the remarkable circumstances of the
Commonwealth General Staff were attributable to the Queensland defence system
established by, as he then was, Colonel French.
Colonel French aimed at compulsory service, not a comprehensive system, but a method of ballot, as in France at the time, to ensure the establishment of the force being brought to and maintained at its full strength. A Bill was drafted on those lines, and, as on a later and more serious occasion, there was some talk of the evils of conscription. WE did not then quite understand what a shelter the cry against conscription would be in later years to young gentleman with Arctic feet. It was never assumed that any eligible man calling himself an Australian would avail himself of such a shelter. In 1884 the argument was that compulsion was not necessary, that in time of stress every Australian would spring to the call for his services.
However, the Queensland
Parliament watered down George French’s scheme of organisation and took out the
real soul of compulsory service. Only the dry husk remained. That was a
provision that in the event of any unit of the defence establishment not being
brought up to strength by voluntary enlistment, it should be filled up by a
ballot amongst single men, and widowers without children between the ages of 18
and 40 years. The regulations under the Act laid down the conditions for a
technical “efficiency,” and the Commandant and his staff set about the selection
of officers and non-commissioned officers and a system for their special
training. The establishment was soon organised and then began a steady process
of elimination and substitution. Examinations were fairly stiff, and in later
years became very stiff. So much the better. It was there that the elimination
One great factor in the
establishment of a fine spirit in the Queensland Defence Force was the
Commandant. He was recognised as a good soldier, as an earnest man, as one who
did not worry even his own staff, and he was a worker. Classes, each lasting a
month, were held at Victoria Barracks for officers and non-commissioned
officers, with men of the Permanent Artillery (regular soldiers) as a cadre. We
began work at 6 am and went on until 8 am; then from 4 pm to 6 pm; and then
lectures, topography, and general theory of evenings. Some men who could spare
the time devoted the whole of every day for a month to the training. It was a
“hard go.” The examinations followed, both written and practical, and they
certainly were severe. We gloried in that. I worked intensely for my examination
for captaincy, and had the pleasure of getting well over 80 per cent, (honours)
in my written, and “very good” in my practical; but it represented fully three
months of careful and persistent work. In those days men gave their time
ungrudgingly and devotedly – more time than they really could afford. I say this
with great pride: that I gave to my country about 22 of my best years organizing
and training officers and men – the best I had in me. As much time was given to
the defence organisation as to my private work. We were paid a certain amount,
and what I received might have been paid for the keep of one horse. That is only
an illustration of the spirit, and I am sufficiently immodest to glory in it
today. Scores of men, busy in civil life, and battling along for bread and
butter, did the same. Some one a few days ago said: “What thanks did we get?”
Happily, I was able to say that we were not looking for thanks. We knew that the
day would come, when, in Australia or elsewhere, we should have to fight, and it
was our job to be ready, and to have others ready. Many of “The Old Brigade,”
have gone on the long journey – few, indeed, are left. Yet I venture to say
there is not one who regrets, what he has given to Queensland and to Australia.
On the other hand, the feeling was of pride in a fairly successful service. That
was the spirit put by John French into the force which he created in Queensland,
and it was carried on by, perhaps sometimes in spite of, his successors.
The scheme of Colonel French was
to wipe out the volunteer system, and to make the force wholly militia or
partially paid. That was opposed by many of the old volunteer officers, and
notably by Colonel. A. J. Thynne.
The volunteers carried too many
guns for the Commandant, and the scheme was again modified so that those who
desired to serve without pay, and with an easier qualification for “efficiency,”
might continue as an organisation. It was a sharp disappointment to French. He
thought the volunteer idea would soon blow out, that men would not serve without
pay while their friends drew so much a day; but he reckoned without his A. J.
Thynne. The militia and the volunteers kept up a friendly spirit though some of
our “cub” officers would sometimes speak of “those dam’ volunteers,” and an
occasional volunteer would rub it in about “patriots who would not serve their
country under six bob a day.” Personally, I didn’t see much difference. We were
all Mother Carey’s chicken’s, though French had the impression that one section
of the chickens’ “was ducks.”
Another difficulty cropped up
later, when we were all expected to go into khaki. Thynne’s men, the ordinary
volunteers, put it that they were intended to be a distinctive element, and the
Scotsmen- for we had a very fine Queensland Scottish- absolutely refused to be
solaced at the prospect of losing their kilts. But then came the effort –
successful, too, in the end- to destroy the so-called “National” regiments – the
Queensland Scottish and the Queensland Irish. What a wonderful turnout those two
regiments made, the Scots in all the glory of their kilts and tartans and pipes,
and the Irishmen, whose uniforms were green facings held some of the most
magnificent specimens of manhood in the world.
Yet Thynne’s men – generally a
lot of young clerks, shop assistants, and the like, but athletes – could march
rings round them all.
When Colonel George Arthur
French arrived and got to work, his chief helper of the new regime was Major
Charles Hamilton Des Voeux, of the Bengal Staff Corps, later Major General Sir
Charles Hamilton Des Voeux, of the Indian Army.
That was before the coming of
Major Lyster as brigade major and practically chief of the little staff. Des
Voeux was a brilliant soldier, an untiring worker, warm hearted and generous,
but when he came here first he had the impression that, as in the English and
Indian volunteer forces, all officers should be men of means, and of some social
distinction. When the former lieutenant of a Highland regiment, John Sanderson
Lyster, came into the force as brigade major and chief of staff, Des Voeux
became infantry staff officer.
Lyster had left the Army and
came to Australia with General Fielding for the inspection and rough survey of
the route of McIlwraith’s Transcontinental Railway from Roma, I think, to the
impossible Point Parker on the Gulf of Carpentaria. After the completion of that
work, Lyster became official secretary – and also private secretary – to
McIlwraith. He was a keen worker, methodical and capable. He and Mrs. Lyster
became shining lights socially, and his position in the new force was soon
settled. Lyster could never be deemed inspiring to Australian soldiers, but he
got on, and, ultimately became commandant here, and later, chief of the staff in
New South Wales, until such time as the almanac came against him, when he was
retired, and in the early days of the Great War got away to England.
When Colonel French went to the command in New South Wales, and to major general’s rank and a knighthood, there came to Queensland as Commandant Major-General John Fletcher Owen, of the Royal Artillery, a very brilliant little chap, who was later Governor and Commander-in-Chief at Malta. He was a keen, unassuming soldier, who kept the traditions going. Of course, French had established the very best staff men – Major E. Druitt, R.E., as Engineer, S.O., and Grieve, a brilliant “gunner,” as Artillery S.O. Both were in the front rank with scientific soldiering.
Grieve was succeeded by Major Landon Dealtry Jackson, R. A., a very fine soldier, and a fine scholar, who kept up his work at Greek. He married Miss Georgie Drew, a daughter of W. L. G. Drew, C.M.G., chairman of the Public Service Board, and a sister of Mrs. J. O’Neill Brenan. Jackson was in command of troops in the Clermont district at the time of the big strike in 1891. An incident may be mentioned to illustrate his character. Bill Hamilton, later President of the Legislative Council, after a term as a Minister of the Crown, was a strike leader, but one of the best influences in the country for order. He was devoted to his cause and to his comrades, and when some of them were in Clermont lock up, he brought in their meals. Everyone respected him; but there came the day of his arrest. Mr. R. A. Ranking was the special magistrate in the district; and, when bail was refused for Hamilton, Major Jackson went in and offered a cash bond of £2000 – his own bond. It was refused, and Jackson, though he felt deeply that a bad thing had been done, could not make a song of it. He always respected “Bill” Hamilton.
Later we had a Major McClintock
and Major Chads – as infantry staff officers – but that is getting down to later
Colonel Howell Gunter succeeded
Owen as Commandant, but did not quite catch the Australian spirit. He had also
to contend with the rather apocryphal story that he had been accepted here on a
misunderstanding. The story was that the Queensland Government thought it was
getting the writer on Tactics of the same surname, and didn’t discover the
mistake until it was too late to remedy it. I don’t put my endorsement on the
story as being the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
The Queensland Parliament- Officers and Staff, Great and Lowly – A bit of Mount Coot-tha History –The Hansard Staff
Presidents of the Legislative Council in my earlier days on the Brisbane papers were Sir Joshua Peter Bell, Mr. J. F. McDougall, of Rosalie Plains – a cousin of my father- and Sir Arthur Palmer.
The Pressmen, though sometimes meeting the President of the period, were
more closely in touch with the officers of the House. Daniel Foley Roberts,
referred to in an earlier article, was Chairman of Committees, and a very
tactful and capable Chairman he was. On occasions Mr. John C. Heussler was
Acting Chairman. Mr. Heussler was one of the kindliest of Queensland
representative men, a good businessman, but loathe to hurt the feelings of
A sharp debate had taken place in Committee, and when a vote was taken
the “Not Contents” carried their point. “Those of that opinion,” said the Acting
Chairman, on the proposal that words proposed be omitted stand part of the
clause, ‘Say Content” – and there was a shout of “Content”; “otherwise Not
Content,” when there was a roar of “Not Content.” Ineffably placid, but
sympathetic, Mr. Heussler looked at the “Contents,” and announced the vote thus:
“I’m afraid the Not Contents have it!”
The ingenuous expression of his own view quite restored good humour.
We had some difficulty in the Legislative Council in hearing, though some
of the members then were more easily comprehended than 40 years later, and I
vainly battled in “Political Froth” in the “Queenslander” for a sounding board
over our gallery.
Sir Joshua Peter Bell was sympathetic; McDougall was inclined to be
helpful, but Sir Arthur Palmer would have none of it. He thought the Pressmen
would be better out of the way altogether, at Kamscharka, or some other cool
place. At any rate there was a limit on the number allowed into the Gallery, and
I’m not quite sure that even at that time there was not an inclination to have
us fumigated. We were just tolerated in that rarefied atmosphere of much
dignity, not a little wealth, and, to do the hon. gentlemen justice, a fair
amount of brains. We had, however, always a most wise counselor and friend in
the much esteemed “Clerk of the Legislative Council and Clerk of Parliaments,”
to give him the official title, Henry Wyat Radford.
Mr. Radford was New South Wales born, and, I think, first saw the light
of George’s River, near Sydney. We often spoke of the old place, for my own born
home was on the upper waters of George’s River, on what was known as Tug-a-roy
Creek (frequently pronounced Tugger-rye), which in turn led to the King’s Falls,
where the Woollongong road crosses, and then up to the Cataract River, from one
of the great gorges of which comes Sydney’s chief water supply. Radford’s people
were soldiers. They moved up to the New England district, and we had an old
story that in the bushranging days there Henry Wyat Radford, as a kiddie, had a
smell of powder. The story runs that the house of his family was attacked by
bushrangers, probably the Jew Boy’s gang, and there was some warm firing; and
that a hole was cut in the floor and the little chap lowered into the cellar per
rope and basket. I did not hear the story from Radford. He was rather austere in
his official capacity and with strangers, but very kind and helpful to
Mount Coot-tha or One Tree Hill was his hobby, and to the reserve he gave
most devoted service. He was a trustee and hon. secretary of the trust, and was
the prime mover in the tree planting on the way up and at the top of the hill on
the cleared space. A drought came, and the young trees were apparently doomed,
but Radford carried buckets of water up the rough, steep ground from the creek,
and kept things going. The trust was too short of cash to get an engineer’s
survey of the road up from the gates to the old One Tree, and Radford laid off
the track, and no engineer could have done it better.
At one time there was talk of selling part of the reserve, but Radford
fought the idea tooth and nail. Surely his name should be commemorated in that
great open space, of which we are all so proud. “Radford Road” is suggested as
the name of the road up from the gates. It is alliterative, but that does not
matter. I feel sure that the Greater Brisbane aldermen will do some courtesy to
the memory of one who did so much to preserve to us and to improve the Mount
Radford lived at Holly Mount, adjoining Cromer, the home of the W. L. G.
Drews and Cromer is now the home of the William Grave family, who are so well
known to me and to all “Diggers,” from the great work done for returned soldiers
and their families. Henry Wyat Radford has gone where all good men go. As an old
Pressman, I’m glad to make a little tribute to his memory, for he was always a
good friend to us of the pen.
The Clerk Assistant was the Hon. Charles Holmes a’ Court, a son of Lord Heytesbury. This peerage was created in 1828, and the first peer was “a distinguished ambassador, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland etc.” The family was originally a’Court, but the second baron took the Holmes surname with his wife. “Charley,” Holmes a’Court was one of the least assertive of men. On coming to Queensland he saw something of bush life, but drifted into the Public Service or Parliamentary Service, and stayed there, despite his having been admitted to the Bar. Later he succeeded A. L. Bernays as Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, a much more profitable job, and when it came to his retirement at the age limit he went over to live in the British Isles. He was very keen on mining, but had not sufficient knowledge of the fauna of the country to distinguish a “wild cat” when he saw one, and accordingly vainly put much good money into “holes in the ground owned by liars.”
We were together in later years in the Phoenician tin mine at Mount Amos,
near Cooktown, a venture which had been warmly recommended to me by the late Dr.
Robert Logan Jack as worth trying. We got splendid trial results but the mine
was patchy, work was unsatisfactory, and we threw in the sponge, but with a
mutual determination to get going again some day.
The Usher of the Black Rod was a singularly imposing office, and borne by
a distinguished gentleman, who wore a dress coat rosetted at the back, black
silk “knickers,” black silk stockings, ornately buckled shoes, and an
unconquerable air of dignified superiority. He carried a wand, and, so far as I
could ever gather, his duties were to usher in the President with, “Gentlemen –
the President!” to follow out that dignitary lest someone should kidnap him, and
to sit in a form of modified grandeur just within the Chamber, lest some
unshaven and unshriven Pressman should obtrude, himself between the wind and the
nobility of members of the Council. Now, the Usher of the Black Rod was F. R.
Chester-Master, who absolutely filled the bill. He had been in the Army and in
the bush, and he certainly would have been an asset in the “swank” section of
In the Legislative Council, messengers, especially those knowing chaps of
the good old retainer order, were much more esteemed by some of the “heads” of
the Legislative Council than were the Librarian or the “Hansard” staff, and, to
be sure, the Pressmen were “no class:” at all. One may, however, well remember
the messengers Kelly, Lane, and Timms. Kelly was a smoothly cultivated,
independent Irishman. That is contradictory. Of course it is – didn’t I say he
was Irish? Lane was a dear old chap, and in after years in his retirement many a
pleasant yarn we had over the old days in his charming garden on Lutwyche Road.
Timms also was a good man, and his son soldiered with me in after years, and was
on the Instructional Staff. They were all inclined to be very civil to the
newspaper men – provided that we knew our places. With all humility, we often
The Parliamentary Librarian, Denis O’Donovan, C.M.G., was a grand man of
the grand manner. He had been educated abroad, and spoke Italian and French
fluently, and German pretty well – so a German friend told me. I heard him on a
great occasion address an Italian festive gathering in the Botanic Gardens, and
in the flowing terms of Dante, who, after all, first lifted his language from
the current of “vulgar tongues.” O’Donovan was a trained librarian, and very
much under the rose, he at time contributed scholarly, polished and extremely
dull articles to the “Courier.” A monument to his industry and skill was the
catalogue of the Parliamentary Library. It was one of the “show” things of
Brisbane when distinguished strangers came here, and Parliament showed an
appreciation of it, if I remember rightly, in a tangible way.
As a journalist, I have always admired the Queensland “Hansard”, because
of its wonderful fidelity, and as a shorthand writer of sorts I have always
taken off my hat to those wonderfully skilled chaps whose flying pens are like
the old instrument which “can’t lie.”
Whether “Hansard” has improved I cannot say, since I very rarely hear the debates which it reports; but if it has then it must be driven by a wonderful team. Who amongst the old time journalists is there who does not remember the great team which was led by our old friend, D. F. T. Jones, in 1881?
The names are those fine scholars, some of whom succeeded, some of whom
succeeded in politics, journalism, or at the Bar; and it must be borne in mind
that “Hansard” was established by a brilliant English journalist and author,
William Senior, “Red Spinner” of the “Field.” Senior set a high standard, and he
gathered around him men not only of great skill in taking a verbatim note or
condensing a speech in Committee, but of high mentality and personal worth>
It was once said that there was a finer aggregation of brains in the “Hansard”
gallery than on the front Treasury Benches. Probably it was true; but in the
Press Gallery the intellectual luminosity was even greater!
D. F. T. Jones, as stated, had been editor of the “Courier.” In the editor’s room today there is a gallery of presentments of some of the ablest men in Queensland history, men who, apart from the strife of party politics, have helped mould the better and truer side of our State. At the head of them is the picture of D. F. T. Jones, with his deep set eyes, his rather straggling black beard, and his strong earnest face. When Senior returned to the Old Land, Jones took over, and he had with him later John Gilligan, H. Willoughby, J. G. Drake, Robert Nall, G. E. Langridge, D. G. Ferguson, Jack Scantlebury, and a class of cadets, some of whom bear names well known in Queensland.
Jones may or may not, as principal shorthand writer, have had control of
Lawrence (“Larry”) Byrne or L. J. Byrne, who was shorthand in charge of Select
Committees. I am not sure. Jones was a scholarly distinguished man, but his
health was not good, and ultimately he retired to his home out at red Hill, and
his place was taken by John Gilligan. It is not at all strange that Gilligan
also was a “Courier” man, and he did work for the “Courier” just before his
death a few years ago.
L. J. Byrne also was a “Courier” man, a very fine, kindly soul, who saw
much sorrow in this world of ours, though he was always a good worker and a
splendid citizen. Willoughby was a round , pleasant looking chap with an eye
glass, and his shorthand was the most wonderful I have ever seen – small and as
though copper plated. J. G. Drake was a leader writer when I was editor of the
“Observer”” as a morning paper. He later went to the Bar, to the Senate, and to
Federal Cabinet, and then to a post as Queensland Crown Prosecutor and Acting
Judge, and his son has followed on at the Bar. He is still hale and well, and
the only one of the old team now living, with the exception of Ferguson, who is
a Justice of the Supreme Court in New South Wales. Nall also was leader writing
for the “Observer” in addition to his “Hansard” work, and he later moved off to
the Sydney “Daily Telegraph” as sub editor. Langridge was an Englishman who left
“Hansard” to take over the “Courier” Gallery work, then to the Rockhampton
“Bulletin,” and afterwards – well, I don’t quite know. D. G. Ferguson was also a
writer for the “Courier.”
In the Legislative Council were several sections – the pure merino or
squatting representatives, the Liberals, and a few men of a particularly fine
type, who were not at all keen on party politics. A few of the Pure Merinos I
knew well. Sir Joshua Peter Bell – but he wasn’t Sir Joshua Peter then – was a
splendid type of man, and his death in 1881 was tragically sudden. He was what
is known as a man of “full habit,” and had a good deal of financial worry
through heavy expenditure at Jimbour, a few bad seasons, and low price of wool.
He was driving in Queen Street in a cab with Mr. Dixon – father of Dr. Dixon, of
Brisbane – manager of the Bank of Australasia, when he suddenly fell forward
unconscious. He was taken into the chemist shop of Mr. Moses Ward, and an
attempt at restoration was made, but Sir Joshua did not regain consciousness,
and in a very little while passed away. He was, perhaps, too liberal to be quite
a Pure Merino, but he filled the bill socially. A great man was Sir Joshua Peter
Another of the Pure Merinos was William Graham, who later joined the firm of Morehead and Co., now Moreheads Ltd. He was also a splendid type – tall, handsome, and cheery. His sons are well known at the Bar in Brisbane, and a grandson also adorns the profession, a good cricketer, like his father and his uncle. One of the sons is W. E. Graham, a very fine writer as well as lawyer, and whose abandonment of poetical writing is a matter much to be regretted.
I did not know George King, another of the squattocracy, but I knew
intimately William Frederick Lambert, of Berkelman and Lambert, the owners of
Listowel, a very fine sheep property on the upper reaches of the Blackwater
which flows down – when it does flow – to Adavale, and so on by Emudilla to the
Bulloo. Lambert was an Irishman, and Listowel is an Irish name. In the bad
seasons he lost everything, and I believe died a very poor man. Such was the
fate of many of our pioneers.
John Frederick M’Dougall was also a fine man, who left good men to follow
him, and he was uncle of the later Charley M’Dougall, of Lyndhurst,
B. D. Morehead was a merchant as well as a Merino, and I have already had
my say concerning him.
Thomas Lodge Murray-Prior was of the purest Merinos, and again a handsome and cultured man, with a beautiful home at Maroon, out from Boonah. Murray-Prior on an occasion showed his resource by driving his own bullock team to Brisbane, and more than holding his own with a “bullocky” who derided his polite words of encouragement to Strawberry and Bluey and others at a nasty crossing on the way to Ipswich. He was the father of Mrs. Campbell Praed, the novelist, of Hervey Murray-Prior, a barrister and of other good Queenslanders. When he came to Parliament he always wore a frock coat, light trousers, and a top hat.
Gordon Sandeman was a good racing man, like many another squatter, and he
left many very warm admirers in Queensland when he went off to live in
Then there was Joseph Capel Smyth (“long Smyth”), McIlwraith’s squatting partner, a quiet man, but a very capable station manager.
Of course there was James Taylor, “the king of Toowoomba,” to whom
Queensland had been good, and William Henry Walsh, who stood to politics much as
did Randolph Churchill, a democrat as to his head, and an uncompromising
conservative in his heart. Walsh was a very fine speaker, but not suited to
political life. He loathed a humbug. He owned several stations in Queensland,
was one of the Burnett pioneers, and his family, which includes Mr. A. D. Walsh
(manager of Dalgety & Co., Brisbane) is honoured individually and
collectively in Queensland.
Conspicuous amongst the Liberals and others of my time in the Upper House
were some able men, but they have gone where we must all go – all but one. The
survivor is James Colishaw, who, in 1881, was a tall, straight man in his prime,
well informed and sincere, but an infrequent speaker. He had great influence in
those days in the Press and outside.
E. B. Forrest was perhaps a Tory. He was in later years a member for
Brisbane in the Legislative Assembly, and went out on defeat by Mr. M. Kirwan,
the present Minister for Works. A fine type was E. B. better known in the
Assembly as “Pom Pom.” I first knew him when he was chairman of the election
committee of John Sinclair, who was Mayor of Brisbane, and ran against, and was
defeated by, William Brookes in a by-election for the city. A warmer hearted,
kindlier man than E. B. Forrest I have ever met, and he was a very able
Then there was James Gibbon, of Tenerife, better known as “Corner
Allotment Jimmy,” because of his inclination to speculate in corner allotments
of the city and suburbs. Gibbon was an imposing figure and a man of very strong
commonsense; but he was never near enough to the people to be at all
George Edmonstone was one of the most interesting figures in the House, a man of considerable attainments, and who had filled many public offices in Brisbane. He was one of the older generation, that is reckoning as at 45 years ago.
Two others conspicuous in the
history of Queensland may be mentioned – the Gregory brothers, A. C. (afterwards
Sir Augustus) and T. F. They were the well-known explorers, and their names are
linked with the history, not only of Queensland, but of Australia.
Mr. Denis O’Donovan, the librarian, was particularly careful, and he trained up the present librarian, Mr. John Murray, in the way he should go. Very few, except those associated with Parliament, know the present occupant of the important and responsible post. The job calls for extreme diligence and wide technical knowledge. It’s just the sort of job, thanks be, into which a member of Parliament cannot pitchfork an ignorant supporter. John Murray is a big, quiet, studious man. He does not pretend to be obliging, but he is one of the most obliging and helpful of Parliamentary officers. Ask a fair thing of him, and no trouble is too much for him in giving it. I have many, many kindnesses to acknowledge – but her is rather averse from praise, and we’ll let it go at that. When I knew him first, back in the 1880s, he was a tall, slight boy, with dark hair and red cheeks, and it says much for his personal qualities that he was acceptable to O’Donovan, who was a keen judge of humanity. John Murray came to Brisbane with his people when he was in rompers, but Mark Twain on an occasion said that one of America’s greatest men at a period of his life was absorbed by the problem of the easiest way to get his toe into his mouth. When Murray left school he went to the Library. He has seen all the modern tomes come to the shelves, and there is not a volume he does not know. “Mr. Murray,” a member will say, “there was a record of seismic waves in Western Siberia some years ago, I would like to look up something on the subject.” Before the member could say, “Have one yourself!” there is presented to him a full record of the creeps and the oscillations, and a clear account of earthquake waves generally. Murray soon became the right hand man of O’Donovan. Quite fittingly he succeeded the great man under whom he was trained. I looked up the librarian’s salary the other day, and blushed. Queensland should be ashamed to pay so absolutely inadequate a sum to so adequate a man. I beg to draw the attention of hon. members to the position – a man of great mentality, and highly trained for a position of great responsibility, receiving the salary of a clerk! It is not a political matter – another Ministry gave the Government Botanist, a man of world wide reputation, Frederick Manson Bailey, £200 a year! (Mr. Murray’s salary was substantially raised in the session of Parliament following the appearance of this article).
Mr. Murray had once a very
interesting assistant, Cornelius Moynihan, a poet and controversialist, and
somewhat of an orator. He has gone to his rest. He came from, or, at any rate,
lived in Kenmare, in Ireland. Killarney he knew through and through, every
shadow on the lake, every bush and stone, including the Blarney Stone. He wrote
and published a lot of verse, and one long poem was “The Feast of the Bunya,”
which dealt with aboriginal themes.
The most conspicuous figure in
our Legislative Assembly in the early 1880s, and for many years earlier, and
many years later, was Lewis Adolphus Bernays. Very often Pressmen were upside
with him, but I never had the least trouble. If any papers were wanted, I did
not go to the messenger, but sent a polite note to the Clerk of the House. In
return came every help and every courtesy. Personally I liked him very much. He
was a scientist, a King’s College London man, had studied as a chemist in the
laboratory of a distinguished brother, Professor A. J. Bernays, of St. Thomas’s,
who was then an analytical chemist in the Midlands.
The father of L. A. was the
well-known Dr. Bernays, a professor of modern languages and literature at King’s
College. L. A. was created a C.M.G., but he thought more of his F.L.S. and his
connection with some of the best plant life societies in the world. He was a
charming man, but not the sort one would dare to call “old chap.” He had read
very widely, and had a live interest in the industrial affairs of the world. He
always tried to persuade himself that he was democratic. In his head he may have
been mildly Liberal in politics, but in his heart he was True Blue Tory.
Yet no member of Parliament
could ever suggest partisanship or prejudice in favour of his friends. L. A.
Bernays was never reserved in advice to Speaker, Chairman of Committees,
Ministers, or ordinary members.
There was May, and there were
Standing Orders, and there was the swift and unerring view as to the proper
constitutional course. He had his friends, warm friends, both in the House and
out of it. He was strong willed,, and I liked him for it; and he was inclined to
be dictatorial as a man must be who knows things and has to give guidance to
He was the guiding intelligence
of the old Water Board, and some of the institutions, or operators of
“utilities” in Brisbane, owe much of their present success to the firm
foundations which he helped to lay.
He came to Australia in 1852,
and to Brisbane in 1860, when he took office as Clerk of the Legislative
Assembly, and organised the work of Parliament, basing it on his 1852-59
experience in the New South Wales Parliament.
Mr. Bernays left members of his
family well known in and out of Queensland – a well-known lawyer of Toowoomba, a
well-known railway engineer, and the very well known present Clerk of the
Legislative Assembly, who well fills the paternal shoes.
Daughters also – Mrs. Ernest
Webb, Mrs. Gore of Yandina, and Miss Jessie Bernays, who lives in Sydney.
Who remembers Frank Ivory, once a Burnett squatter, a member of the Legislative Assembly, then after the “bad timers” clerk assistant to Mr. Bernays? He had been a fine horseman, and when I knew him in 1881, he lived out in Leichhardt Street, about 50 yards north of Brunswick Street, in a stone cottage. Many a good talk we had about horses.
John Sanderson Lyster was a
clerk, before he became Secretary to the Premier (McIlwraith) on his way to a
job on the military staff; and the Sergeant-at-Arms was Mr. Robert Douglas, a
very imposing old gentleman, whose job was to announce: “Gentlemen – Mr.
Speaker!” to close the Bar of the House – not the refreshment bar – during the
checking of a division, and to remove unruly members if ordered by the Speaker
to do so. Mr. Douglas was a very kind soul, but, like all other officers of
Parliament, very cordially disapproved of the general run of newspaper men, and
especially of the frivolous “Political Froth” in the “Queenslander.”