Thomas Roper - Carbon Corroboree

York's Hollow (Victoria Park) was situated somewhere about the Horse Parade on the Exhibition Ground, was a favourite camping ground for the Blackfellows. Bribie Island, Amity Point, Logan and Wide Bay would all send their contingent for the Carbon Corroboree.

These gatherings preceded a fight, generally of a tribal character. More frequently the ladies were the unintentional cause of these Savage Appeals to Arms. Both their corroborees and fights were patronised by the civilised white man. It was the only evening's diversion.

The actors of the play took good care to freely advertise the forthcoming treat weeks before the event. This would be verbal announcements only, as they never patronised the local paper. Admission free, no tickets, no collection at the close further than most urgent appeals for tobacco or any stray coppers.

Having these trifles in your pockets you were always most heartily welcomed. On these occasions Royalty would be presented. Two or three kings with glittering badges on their breast denting their name and country over which they ruled. Besides these there would be quite a posse of Dukes.

I well remember the Duke of York. He was evidently a Chief whose smile was more courted than his frown. Making Kippers, which means the young men are brought out - their first debut into society.

After this introduction and sundry ceremonies, they are recognised as full-blown warriors, eligible to marry and have a lady love to build his Gunyah, carry his household treasures and finish picking the bones of the newly-killed opossum after he has satisfied his inner man.;

The wife usually squats down behind her Lord and Master during the meal time and he tosses the half picked bone over his shoulder to his hungry and patient spouse. The scene of a first class Corroboree is one full of excitement mixed with a certain amount of timidity. The Gins sit round in a large circle, say 200.

They are singing a War Dance, accompanying the song by slapping their thighs with the hollow of the hand and keeping good time to the tread of their Lords. A peculiar feature in their dances. The Ladies never joined in the frivolous fantastic step. This was following our John Wesley's idea of a ballroom - the gentlemen dancing by themselves.

The refreshments during the interlude were of a very meager order - simply a few Calabashes filled from the adjacent water holes, accompanied by the inseparable pipe. The whole scene had a weird and pandemonium appearance.

Innumerable torches from strips of stringy bark (which is very inflammable), the warriors painted in a most fantastic way, usually in alternate red and white stripes from the face down to the feet. Their hair would be stuffed with down and feathers. They would come darting out from behind the big forest trees, waving their flambeaus and yelling like demons.

During the stillness of the night their reveling could be heard for miles. The whole assembly would be attired in nature's costume, like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The following morning they would be lying about the camp - completely exhausted. Usually there was an interval of a few days prior to the armies meeting on the battlefield.

It was customary for the opposing forces to assemble on two opposite ridges, having the valley between. From these vantage grounds, they would send forth their taunts and challenges (reminding one of David and Goliath in Biblical History). One after another of their leading champions, or some young hot-blood thirsting for distinction, would walk down into the valley and several single combats would take place.

They were very dexterous, both offensive and defensive. Unlike European wars, the ladies would take part in the melee. They would show extraordinary aptitude in the art of self-defence.

I remember on one occasion a goodly number of townsfolk had come out to witness the heroic deeds of the able champions. During the heat of the battle, the retreating forces got mixed up with the non-combatants, or whites. Away we all ran townward, followed by the victorious troops flushed with victory.

Probably the cunning of the savage saved him from a disastrous defeat, as the victors dared not throw their spears of boomerangs, fearing they might injure some of the white men. I am not very clear as to their methods of Treaties of peace. I never heard of any War Indemnities, either monetary or territorial.

They ministered not the daily wants and necessities of the dwellers in town as far as their intelligence and natural indolence would permit them. They would come daily, marching in Indian file, accompanied by troops of dogs, the Gins usually with a bundle of firewood on their heads which would represent a breakfast. The Gins were the burden bearers.

In addition to the load of wood, they would frequently have a piccaninny squatted in a blanket on their backs, also a dilly bag stuffed full of odds and ends, their household treasures. The bulk of the domestic work such as scrubbing verandas, cleaning up back yards, hewers of wood and carriers of water, would fall to the lot of the poor drudging wife.

An unfortunate occurrence happened about the year '50. A man reported in town the Blacks were spearing Mr Petrie's cattle at the Fisheries on Breakfast Creek. A detachment of military went out, accompanied by the Chief constable, Mr Fitzpatrick. On arriving at the camp somebody blundered respecting the word of command.

The military fired into the camp. The Blacks were horrified as well as maimed and fled for their lives. An investigation was held and punishment was metered out to the offending parties. It turned out the charge of their molesting cattle was all a fabrication.