At this particular time an incident occurred in the legislative council which acted as a damper on the ardour of Brisbane town residents and had the effect of reviving what afterwards became an annual prize fight – Brisbane against Cleveland Point. The colonial secretary, in course of a speech remarked that Brisbane could not long be the commercial town for the district in consequence of the bar, which he said, prevented vessels of any size going up the river; and that the magistrate had already received instructions to fix a site for the new town.
When it considered that these utterances were untrue, and were made just prior to a sale of Moreton Bay land we can readily understand the feeling of the struggling settlers. The effect of these remarks was such only as could be wished for by a man who had selfish and singular interests to serve. There is no doubt but that the colonial secretary used his position to favour Cleveland Point . And this big bid had its results with the speculating public, for at the land sale which followed the allotments at Ipswich brought high prices after spirited competition, while for those in Brisbane there was not even a bid!
Had this been all perhaps the people could have soon lived the thing down; but on the top of all other injustices came the announcement that the vote of £820 set down on the estimates or building a goal at Moreton Bay, together with that of £1000 voted towards the erection of a Custom house, had been withdrawn, because “it is not intended to make the port a free one but only one of entrance and clearance”.
Even the South Brisbaneites who wished to have letters and newspapers sent over the river, or a branch office established there, were refused this small request, although they were promised that “ if they were willing to pay 1d. extra postage the matter would be taken into consideration”. The primitive approaches to the two ferries were dilapidated and positively dangerous, but not one penny of the ferry dues would the Government allow to be expended on them.
The old convict barracks were nearly tumbling down on the heads of those who occupied them, but they might fall if they liked – the rent must go undiminished into the coffers of supremely selfish New South Wales. How encouraging in effect were these miserly proceeding on the men who were struggling almost against hope to make a future of the place!
Naturally at the withdrawal of the grants referred to, they became indignant, and on the 19th of November they held a " public" meeting to discuss the situation Captain Coley (the builder of what is now regarded as the oldest house in Brisbane, by the way) occupied the chair. As a result a petition was drafted protesting against the remarks of the Colonial Secretary, and also against the action of the Government in withdrawing the two votes, while they pointed out in simple but unmistakable language how the memorialists would suffer if the Governmental views held respecting Moreton Bay were given effect to. And this is the satisfaction they got :-
'Sydney, 29th December, 1846) - I am directed by his Excellency the Governor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 21st instant, forwarding the petition from in habitants of North and South Brisbane, praying that the Customs and other Government establishments may not be removed from Brisbane, and in reply to inform you that whenever the site of the Custom house for Moreton Bay is to be decided upon the representation of the memorialists would be taken into consideration."
As this question of Brisbane v Cleveland Point was repeatedly brought forward we may give a few of the reasons advanced at the time on behalf of both places. Those favouring Cleveland alleged that besides the bar, which in itself was a very great obstacle, there were a vast number of flats, upwards of fifteen miles in extent (!), through which it would be necessary to clear a passage. It was estimated that such a work would take sixty years to accomplish, and would necessitate the expenditure of £60,000.
Again, all the wool grown in the district had to be shipped by small steamers or sailing vessels at an expense of 10s. per bale; while if a township were formed, where ships could receive the wool direct for London, this heavy tax on the woolgrower would be removed, together with about an equal amount in freights for supplies.
In the face of such facts it was urged that Brisbane could never become a shipping port, and that consequently for the sake of a few rents received from the Government buildings the Government should not subject the squatters to an annual tax of £30,000, and especially so when the sale of land at Cleveland Point would handsomely repay the Government for the loss of the buildings.
It was actually threatened that if this was not done stock-holders would with their flocks move northward to the port of North Australia, and Brisbane would become a dead letter in the commercial world !
On the other hand, the Brisbane people, while agreeing that the situation of Cleveland Point was the only one in the Bay possessing natural facilities for the formation of a pier or wharf at which to land or ship cargo in the Bay, argued that this would involve a large expenditure, the deep water being a mile out from the shore, and the benefit to be derived was questionable, since the town to be built in connection with the pier would need to be another mile distant.
A more important objection was the anchorage in the Bay, which, it was asserted, was the most exposed one that could possibly be found. The fact remained, too, that the bar at the Brisbane had not been examined, and that all the vessels trading here, some of which drew over 10ft., had succeeded in effecting an entrance.
At this point lot us turn to a question which troubled the squatters very much, and which in course of time developed into a most contentious one. Whatever may now be considered the merits of demerits of the case there is no denying the fact that the want of this labour at the time of which we write was very severely felt, and had the effect of greatly retarding the progress of what was then the mainstay of the place - the pastoral interest. Nor was Moreton Bay the only place where this dearth of workers was felt, every district in the colony participated.
Indeed look where we will we find the supply of labour exceedingly disproportionate to the demand, so much so in the Moreton Bay district that in some instances the squatters had themselves to "set to" rather than adopt an alternative that would subject them to heavy losses - boiling down.
Transportation had ceased in August, 1840, while the whole of the immigrants introduced into New South Wales from 1842 did not total 5000. So greatly did this affect industry that as early as 1842 a petition was got up praying for a revival of transportation, but very considerable discussion ensued in the South, and the only result of the agitation was the bestowal of the title " the banditti party" on the petitioners and the engendering of very bad feeling between the contending parties.
The consequence was that the squatters turned their attention to the South Seas, China, and India, but although they were almost unanimous in the opinion that they would have to draw on these fields they did not immediately give effect to their conclusions.
Nearly 100 young natives from the New Hebrides (this was probably the first introduction of kannaks) were imported by Mr. Benjamin Boyd, of Twofold Bay, who informed the squatters that there was an unlimited number to be procured. He expressed his opinion thusly:
"They are a class of men which by common firmness and kindness in management may be induced to do a moderate quantity of work equally as well as any European and at less than one third the cost”.
In such straits were the Port Phillip people that they had to employ the most unreliable labour of all – aboriginals. It may be taken for granted that if the Southern portion of the colony was so badly off, those in Moreton Bay were in a worse condition. What few men did come to the Settlement did not care to move out of it. If perchance they did go up country they as a rule had no sooner become settled in their situations than they began to regret their agreements and accordingly "bolted ".
A local labour fund was established here by stock holders, who subscribed at the rate of 10s for every 1000 sheep or every 250 head of cattle they owned. During the four months this was worked Mr Robert Graham, the agent, introduced 150 labourers. These however, like the rest, cared little for the agreements they had signed, and deserted as soon as they became tired or a hint was dropped that somewhere else they could get an advance on their wages, and the only satisfaction derived by the troubled squatter was the payment of a reward of from £2 to £5, and if captured to give the object of his search a month in Sydney.
In many cases this is what the runaway wanted for, wishing to get back, he was quite willing to do a month in gaol for the opportunity it afforded. One has to only to look at the old records to see how greatly the employers were inconvenienced by this and to what expense they were put. The following is one of the scores of notices issued for the absconders:-
“£5 Reward – Whereas Patrick Gaughan, under agreement for twelve months, has absconded from the hired service of James Rees, after having lost twenty-three sheep and receiving goods to more than the amount of wages due to him, all persons are hereby cautioned against harbouring him or giving him employment; and the reward of £5 will be give to any person as will give such information as will lead to his being apprehended and lodged in gaol”
Then followed a detailed description of the runaway.
While however, the importation of alien labour was being discussed, the question of the renewal of transportation was brought formally before the Council by a despatch from the then Secretary of State (Mr. Gladstone), who urged the expediency of such a course being pursued. A Select Committee reported favourably of the system, and its recommendations were adopted. Anti-transportation petitions were of course got up, and one signed by thousands of residents of Sydney was presented.
This the Council refused to order to be printed, and the petitioners then approached the Governor, who promised to forward it to the Home Office, though he freely asserted that he ‘could use no influence in the matter, for he had none’. And so things went on in the South – meeting and counter meetings being held. Moreton Bay in the meantime anxious for revival of the system.
In seeking to give our readers an account of the new settlement-if 'settlement' it can be called-we (Courier) are met on every side with such lamentable instances of neglect, want of energy, timidity, blundering, and indecisiveness that we are tempted to relinquish an effort so ungrateful. But the people of this colony have a deep interest in the character and actions of Colonel Barney.
The man who has already earned a most unenviable reputation in the exercise of his profession, who is now in his unhappy attempts to found a colony enhancing that reputation, may yet, if we are to credit the Parramatta Messenger, become our Chief Commissioner of Crown Lands
The attention of the Lord Auckland's passengers was almost wholly absorbed by a topic which they deemed most momentous, and ,which, as it is highly characteristic of those who discussed it, we think worthy of a place in our columns. How was their arrival to be celebrated? Were they to land like ' nobodies' to step from ship to boat, and from boat to beach, as other men? or were they to burst in the full blaze of official splendour and (par consequence) dignity upon the astounded gaze of some wandering savage who might perchance watch their (to him) unintelligible movements? Dignity is a great thing truly; and a due regard for it carried the day.
At the bottom of the ship's hold were some five-and-twenty cannon, which after much tumbling of the cargo were brought on deck and prepared for use. Ceremonials were duly arranged. As soon as the ship cast anchor the military and officials were to land, and having drawn up in imposing array on the beach were to await and welcome with acclamation the arrival of their illustrious head. The officer in charge of the detachment brought to the light of day his much prized regimentals, the legal gentlemen their wigs and gowns, the rest of the illustrious their ' official coats. ' But alack ! vain are the hopes, futile the schemes, of man.
In two short hours, in the midst of the rehearsal of this melancholy farce - bump! the vessel struck upon a sandbank, and was soon, with an ebbing tide, straining and rolling heavily. Sauve qui peut ! His Honour landed ingloriously in the first boat; the 'fine' things were hurriedly thrust aside, and all attempts to render ' honour to whom honour is due,' as the copy books have it, were frustrated.
This untoward circumstance completely paralysed Colonel Barney; for although he succeeded a few afterwards at the cost of leaving a boat load of stores on the beach of Facing Island, to be rendered worthless by the surge and the advancing tide to get up the ceremony of 'swearing in' the whole passed off spiritless and dull.
The poor officials, wan and woe-begone, wetted in then endeavours to rescue their traps, thought more of their plight than their dignity and as a natural consequence less of the dignity of their chief. On the very threshold, as it were, his resolution failed him. Circumstances and opportunities make men great, but, alas! his Honour is destitute of the simplest element of greatness.
Necessity is the foster parent of genius but genius must first have a latent existence. Adversity tries men as the fire tries steel: his Honour has been tried, and is sadly wanting - wanting in every attribute essential to the founding of a colony. We sit down to record the labours of the new colonist and we conclude as no began - with a clean sheet The matter is too serious for ridicule - too ridiculous for serious reprehension. Colonel Barney has accomplished nothing literally nothing.
Heavy expenses have been incurred, and for what? To land a few helpless people on Facing Island - himself the most helpless of all - and huddling them together in tents, fritter away months in idleness. Not more knowledge of the capabilities of Port Curtis, we are assured than any active pedestrian might acquire in a single day.
Perplexed, bewildered, and rendered utterly helpless by the grounding of the Lord Auckland the poor Colonel persuaded himself, and endeavoured to persuade others that he awaited the arrival of the Thomas Lowry. But week after week elapsed and no Lowry came. The sheep, reduced to six, seemed in their miserable leanness, to utter a solemn protest against a further supply of fresh meat.
Vegetables there were none; and reduced to coarse biscuit and salt junk the small stock of energies possessed by the unfortunate colonists began to prey upon themselves. Fresh meat and despondency, but salt junk and despair! The Thomas Lowry was surely lost and the Lord Auckland unseaworthy, there they were cast upon Facing Island,
Happily the commissariat stores were considerable, and long before to use a homely phrase, there was a southerly wind in the bread basket the Secret and the Harriet arrived from Brisbane with news of the Thomas Lowry s safety and detention and the purchase of the Kangaroo.
Colonel Barney announced his intention of making a general survey of the coast before finally deciding upon forming a settlement; but while in this glorious state of certainty he was notified by the Kangaroo (which had in the meantime been purchased for the North Australian trade!) that the letters patent had been revoked and the philanthropic scheme would be allowed to fade away with the £20,000 which represented the cost of the experiment.
For some months prior to the time of which I write the blacks notwithstanding all the kindness shown them and the many efforts set forth to civilise them, had become extremely troublesome. From every place where there were a few white habitations came the reports of depredations by the natives - sheep slaughtered, cattle speared the monotony being occasionally with the news that a shepherd or a hutkeeper had been butchered. The dusky warriors were especially troublesome to the teamsters carrying supplies to the Downs.
Indeed so successfully was then work of plunder and murder carried out in this quarter that the Government doomed it necessary to station a small detachment of military in the vicinity of Helidon. Here, assisted by native police, the soldiers remained for some three or four years, and it is said said what truth I know not, that during this period hundreds of blacks became victims to the bullets of the red coats and semi-civilised black troopers. In the vicinity of the Settlement, too, did the blacks give evidence of their thirst for blood and love of plunder
One of the outrages which occurred towards the close of 1846, in which the victims - for there were two - were known friends of the blacks, may be given as a fair sample of their treachery. The crime was perpetrated on the 20th October. On this day Mr. Andrew Gregor, a much respected settler on the North Pine, sent four blacks (Jemmy, Millbong Jemmy, Dick Ben, and Jackey) to cut bark in the bush.
During their absence some score of sable intruders gathered about the hut evidently wanting provisions. Some were given food, and all were ordered away, but their obstinacy necessitated their being driven off by Mr. Gregor. About an hour after this incident the four blacks returned with the bark, depositing it in the stockyard. They were soon joined by other natives, and then the murderous work commenced.
Mr. Gregor was engaged in inspecting the bark, when Dick Ben and Jackey stole upon him unexpectantly and dealt their benefactor many blows on the back of his head with their waddies, quickly depriving him of life. Another native named Moggy Moggy with Millbong Jemmy then attacked Mrs, Mary Shannon (the hired servant of Gregor), who was standing in front of the hut. She was killed in much the same way as her master.
During the time this was taking place Mrs. Shannon's husband was at a waterhole some 200 yards away, and hearing his wife's cries he ran to her assistance. He was, however, repelled with spears, but fortunately he had acquired the habit of carrying a gun while working about the place, and this enabled him for a time to keep his assailants at a distance.
However, he found it necessary to retreat, which he did in the direction of Captain Griffin's station, hotly pursued by some of the blacks. After travelling about four miles he met a Mr. Haly on horseback. This gentleman having been informed of the occurrence galloped to Griffin's station. The Captain and his three sons armed themselves, and with Haly set out for Gregor's place.
On arrival there they found two of the blacks filling their "dilly-bags" with flour. The thieves at once took to the bush, and though chased they evaded capture. On returning to the hut the pursuers found Shannon's three children standing at the door, scarcely aware of the seriousness of the proceedings. Both bodies, which were much mutilated, were removed to the hut, where they were found by Dr. Ballow and the police-magistrate, Captain Wickham.
That the murder was premeditated is obvious from the fact that a few days before its committal the natives informed a black boy who was engaged on the station, and who saw the whole affair, but was too much afraid to interfere, that they would " kill Gregor, white woman, and children," because they would not give them food. This statement was corroborated by another native, and strangely enough Gregor had been informed of their murderous intentions, but refused to believe that his life was in danger.
The sad end of poor Gregor threw the Settlement into a state of great excitement, and several parties went out in search of the perpetrators of the crime. For all the success which attended their efforts, however, they might have remained passive. True, " Jackey" was seen by several persons, and was even captured, but though his captors hung on to him by his hair and his limbs, he exhausted their strength, and at length got free. The leaders in this murder were indeed notorious scoundrels whose hands were steeped in the blood of many white men.