History Repeats Itself

Scarcely had the effects of the races and the dinner disappeared than the stock-holders were called together to consider the labour question. And here we find history repeating itself. The subject bad been revived by several causes: A debate in the Council, the failure or the North Australian scheme, and the reported success of Mr. Benjamin Boyd's experiment with South Sea Islanders at Twofold Bay. The debate in the Council took place on a motion of Mr. Cowper requiring the appointment of a select committee " to consider and report upon the demand for labour and the best means of obtaining an adequate supply of the same."

Much discussion was elicited, nil agreeing on the importance of the subject, but all differing as to the remedy to be applied and the source from which the required labour should be drawn. Some set their faces against the revival of transportation, others against what they were pleased to call " the pauper population of Great Britain," and a third party against either Indians, Chinese, or South Sea Islanders.

An amendment on the practicability of introducing alien labour and making a charge of £1 per head was proposed. During the discussion it transpired that while the Colonial Secretary would not favour any bounty being paid for the introduction of Asiatic labour he would not prevent private individuals subscribing towards their introduction, and on the question being put to the vote the amendment was lost by 11 votes.

In rising and important districts like Moreton Bay, which possessed all the elements of wealth but lacked the means of procuring it - labour - the resources of the country remained comparatively undeveloped, and employers were exposed to a perpetual recurrence of difficulties and inconveniences.

Under these circumstances, and with an assurance that the introduction of South Sea Islanders would not be objected to here, a meeting was held on the 31st of May to consider two schemes promulgated by a Mr. Welsh, of South Brisbane. The first of these was to bring convicts from Van Diemen's Land at an average rate of about £4 per head (payable in installments), and the second to introduce South Sea Islanders from the New Hebrides at about £5 per head. After an inquiry extending over two or three days the first proposal was accepted, and Welsh was to start on his journey not later than the 1st. July.

But once more the fond hopes of the stock-holders were blighted, for this scheme, like all the others, fell through. The question was evidently too complicated for the employers themselves, who needed someone to act for them and work out the details. That someone was found in Dr. John Dunmore Lang, of whom more anon.

Moves to Block Brisbane as Port

But whatever the difficulties in the country there were many signs of growth in the Settlement on Moreton Bay, which is surprising, considering the studied and repeated attempts made by Ipswichians and Cleveland Pointites to block out Brisbane from participation in the trade with the Bay. One man alone (Mr. Biggs, a squatter) expended something like £10,000 in the attempt, and when the importance of the person and his followers is considered it seems something like a miracle that they were not more successful.

Of course the advocacy of the two sites had its funny side. On one occasion, for instance, an adventurous pig was found in the middle of the river swimming down with the tide. A ferryman captured the amphibious grantor and landed it in South Brisbane. Under ordinary circumstances the fact of a pig getting away from its prescribed quarters is not regarded as being unusual, but in the case in question it was given out in Brisbane that the animal had a special mission and was removing to Cleveland Point, in order that it might fully gratify the well-known partiality of its order for dirty and muddy places!

Some of those who foresaw the hopelessness of their hopes agitated for the establishment of headquarters at the mouth of the Mary, but these met formidable opponents in Mr. Burnett and other authorities, who reported that the water was too disturbed to admit of a safe anchorage. The whole question, however, seemed to be approaching a head in June, when it was announced that the Government would lay out a township at Cleveland Point, and that the Custom house would be built there if a safe anchorage could be found there for vessels.

Town Improvements

This proviso gave Brisbane some feeling of security; but when it was announced that they were to receive a vote of £300 for the repair of the ferry approaches and "the leading thoroughfare in South Brisbane, which in wet weather is impassable," they indeed thought themselves safe.

The water reserve, too - portion of which is now known the Town Hall reserve - between George and Albert streets, which had actually been surveyed into allotments by Governor Gipps, was granted as a reservoir, and the plans were altered accordingly; while tenders were called for the alteration of the penal factory so as to convert it into a gaol "suitable for the incarceration of transgressors, who have made themselves most obnoxious to the penalties of the law."

The only gaol accommodation at this time was a set of miserably damp and dirty cells located near the present Town Hall, (Queen Street between George and Albert Streets west) and the system of sending defaulters under escort to Sydney was in itself expensive, besides weakening to the slender Police Force. Worse than all, it was a means of draining the district of a large portion of available labour, for the majority of prisoners so sent were offenders under the Masters and Servants Act, and often transgressed for the purpose of gaining a free passage to Sydney.

These announcements were too much even for the Courier, which immediately waxed grandiloquent over the beauties of the town of its birth. Here is a specimen effusion which sounds queer in these days, but which nevertheless would now readily secure for the writer a permanency in a land auctioneer's office, or a fortune as a concocter of patent medicine advertisements:-

"Amidst the many attractive scenes which distinguish the banks of this beautiful river one of the most charming and at the same time most neglected because not generally known is the splendid view of the bluff at the angle immediately opposite to Kangaroo Point. The best approach to this spot is by the New Farm road passing to the left of the truly picturesque cottage of Mr. Skyring and the rural huts in its vicinity, and then diverging to the right until you gain the high banks of the Brisbane. Here, then, within a compass of a lady's walk the visitor will be amply rewarded by beholding the most magnificent panorama which the bounteous hand of Nature has spread out before him. Let the time be half an hour before sunset. Immediately in front of his position is the low peninsula of Kangaroo Point, dotted with its human habitations and seeming to repose on the peaceful bosom of the Brisbane, whose glittering arms embrace it on either side until its serpentine course is lost to view amidst its own fringes of green in the distance. To the right gleams the lofty range of white walls which mark the town of North Brisbane, while far away to the westward the mountainous range with one gigantic tree brought out into bold relief against the setting sun adds a grandeur which forms a graceful contrast to the otherwise peaceful beauties of the scene. To such as love those national and healthful recreations which, while they invigorate the body, exalt and delight the mind we would recommend a walk to this interesting spot."

Who among old residents fails to recall " Skyring's truly picturesque cottage," or identify the scene of the Courier writer's flowery effusion with the Bowen Terrace of today and the " one gigantic tree brought out into bold relief" with that which gave the name to One-tree Hill? (Mt. Cootha)

Obnoxious Banking Regulations

As if to provide further food for agitation the banking institutions in the South issued regulations to come into force on the 1st July being two weeks after the information reached Brisbane. By these regulations it was provided that no cheques should be drawn that were not payable to bearer; that all such cheques should be confined to sums of not less than £2; and that the name of the bank in which the account of the person to whom a cheque was to be paid was kept should be written across the face of the documents.

As may be expected such a revolution in banking, and especially as it was intended to enforce the change with only a fortnight's notice, could not but act injuriously to people outside of Sydney. But since Sydney ruled the roost, Moreton Bay had to make the best of the inconvenience.

A renewal of the agitation for the establishment of a branch bank at Brisbane followed, and though it did not immediately bear fruit there is no doubt that the information collected in support of such an institution and submitted to the directorate in the South caused those in authority to study the matter more closely than they had hitherto done, and eventually - years afterwards - to grant the request.

Restrictions of Industry

The pot of agitation was kept boiling, too, by the land laws left as a legacy to the colony by Governor Gipps. As a matter of fact the pastoral lessees persistently objected to the Orders-in-Council issued under the Act of 1846. By these the colony was divided in what was described as "settled," "intermediate," and "unsettled" districts. Moreton Bay practically came under the head of "unsettled" land, and by the conditions applying to such a district leases of runs were granted for fourteen years for pastoral purposes only, the lessee being allowed to cultivate nothing but what was required for his own use.

The carrying capacity of a run, too, was restricted, though provision was made for cases where the carrying capacity of the land might be considered above the average by the charging of £2 10s. per 1000 sheep over the minimum number; while the minimum annual rental was fixed at £10. During the tenure of his lease the lessee could purchase the run in quantities of not less than 160 acres at one time at a minimum price of £1 per acre. Governor Gipps never receded from his £1 an acre idea.

The question of how much more than £1 an acre he might be called upon to pay rested with the Governor, and should this functionary think it advisable to sell the land held by a lessee of course he could do so. To say the least of it this could not but raise a feeling of insecurity, for the pastoralist really possessed no right of tenure worth speaking of. As a matter of fact the only thing Governor Gipps could hope to do was to bolster up what was described as his "abominable £1 an acre system," and to prohibit the cultivation of the land.

In the case of intermediate lands the pastoralists might grow a cabbage or two, and by the kindness of a paternal Government a few potatoes, perhaps ; but woe betide them if they ventured to sell their surplus produce - the fruits of honest industry were liable to seizure by those " harpies of the land," the commissioners.

The bad policy of the attempt to force colonists to purchase land at a fictitious value - and this was evidently the aim of those who made the leasing laws so stringent - was felt at the time, and it was feared the future welfare of the place was threatened.

At the time of which I am now writing (1847) news came of the terrible novelty at home, of starving poor in Ireland and Scotland, thousands of whom were dying, and it was regarded as a crying shame that while all this was going on colonists should be prevented from raising grain and other products on leased land simply because the Government had said the colonists should purchase the land at the price set upon it, otherwise they would place such restrictions on it as would make the holding of a lease highly inconvenient.

On several occasions efforts were made to get the laws repealed, but without success, and now it is satisfactory to know that an industry which has exerted such an influence on the destiny of the place was not crushed out of existence, as was anticipated would be the outcome of the new regulations.

Local Pedestrianism

About this time our old friend Duramboi essayed to bring himself into prominence as a pedestrian, but the few years' residence in a civilized community had had a damaging effect on the mechanism of his pedal extremities. When found with the blacks, Davis was an expert climber and runner, and of those two acquirements he was want to boast. So confident was he of his superiority over others that he was led to make a match with a man named William Harrington for £20 a side. Of course the event was considered of importance, and consequently the proceedings wore witnessed by au enthusiastic crowd.

The race took place on the 10th July in what is now Main Street, Kangaroo Point. Both men had a fair start and kept tolerably well together for about half-distance, when Duramboi began to " rook," and it soon became evident that he had no chance with his opponent, and he gave up what was merging into a chase. After this Harrington became so conceited with his own abilities that he offered to lay £50 to £10 on himself - an offer which, however, met with no response.

A few days afterwards both Duramboi and Harrington had an opportunity of showing their powers, when "Dick Ben," one of the murderers of Mr. Gregor, made his appearance on Kangaroo Point. Neither they nor the police were, however, equal to the occasion, and the notorious black escaped.

Murder of Sawyers at the North Pine

Since the murder of Mr. Gregor and Mrs. Shannon the blacks, encouraged by their success in eluding capture, had given further evidence of their remorseless cruelty and blood- thirsty propensities. A thousand pities it was that an example could not be made to check the sanguinary career of the natives. Several murders had been perpetrated in the interior, where of course the chances of capture were even more remote. The killing of a shepherd, or hut keeper, indeed, came to be looked upon as a mere matter of course on the stations ; but in the Settlement the various atrocities naturally caused much alarm.

The blacks in the Pine district were apparently the most villainous scoundrels of their order, and the stir excited by one murder had no sooner subsided than another succeeded. In August, Wymbra, a blackboy carrying letters, fell a victim, and about the same time a station hand named Rodgers met a similar fate. On the 11th September, however, a murder of a wholesale character was perpetrated which aroused a feeling of indignation throughout the whole country.

Three sawyers named James Smith, William Boller, and William Waller were at work at the North Pine, the two former sawing timber in the scrub and the latter acting as cook. Smith and Boller were in the pit when suddenly the saw "came to" Smith, and on looking up he saw his companion making signs. Some little distance away were a number of natives, who immediately threw a shower of spears, one of which hit Boller in the shoulder. Others were thrown, and Boller there on retreated to the hut, which was close to the pit, with five spears sticking in his body.

The sable murderers rushed to the pit and attached Smith, who managed to ward off their spears. As he was striving to make his way out, however, a notorious native named Dundalli, of whom I shall have more to say later on, hit him on the back of the head with a waddy, which knocked him senseless into the pit. On recovering he again essayed to leave, when he was observed by Dundalli, who threw another waddy, which struck the unfortunate man on the cheek.

More dead than alive he eventually made his way to the hut, where he found Boller with a gun on his knees and pointed towards the blacks. Smith reproached Boller for not firing at the black when he threw the waddy, but the poor follow replied that he had lost his eyesight, and that he was speared all over.

Smith, taking the gun, called to the natives to know their grievance, and at the same time told them if it were food they required they could have it. The reply was not understood by Smith, but from the fact that it was accompanied by spears he regarded it as being scarcely of a conciliatory nature. The missiles were badly directed, though, the throwers' aim probably being affected by the sight of the gun.

Observing that the Blacks were preparing for a general rush, and feeling convinced that they were determined to take their lives, Smith prevailed upon his sinking companion to make for the scrub. The poor fellows then commenced their retreat, Smith covering the body of the other as they backed out into the scrub. They had only proceeded a few yards when a waddy thrown with great force hit Smith on the left hand, disabling him. Eventually they got away, and the natives having rushed the hut, Smith left his mate in a small enclosure while he ran to Captain Giffen's for assistance.

On procuring help and going to the hut it was found that the blacks had taken everything they could lay their hands upon, and Boller was with great difficulty removed to the station, where he underwent severe suffering from the deep spear wounds, which culminated in internal haemorrhage. During the attack the hut keeper Waller had not been seen by either, and it was conjectured that he might have escaped into the bush and so lost his way.

As, however, he did not make his appearance on the following morning a search was instituted, and his lifeless body was found in a sitting posture among the branches of a tree that bad been felled. There were several slight wounds on the legs and on the left breast ; but there was a deep one in the neck which had touched the jugular vein and caused death. His body was buried in the bush.

The other two were brought on to Brisbane in a cart and after a deal of difficulty placed in the hospital, where Boller died in great agony a few days afterwards. How many old residents can call to mind the shameful conduct of the Government officials, who, because a man, dying though he was, could not give a guarantee for the payment of the cost of his treatment, refused him admission and left him outside until a good Samaritan came along and promised to pay all dues? This gentleman, who now lives, not only met these claims but defrayed the funeral expenses of poor Boller.

Just before the attack several natives went to Mr. Giffen's station, where they were supplied with food. At this time they volunteered the information to an aboriginal working about the place that it was intended to spear a shepherd and some cattle. This, it subsequently transpired, was simply a ruse to divert attention from their real intentions, and it was somewhat remarkable that on the day following the murder not a single native was seen about the Settlement - a fact which corroborated the opinion expressed that when a murder was contemplated the whole of the blacks in the district were cognisant of it.

Hopeful Signs

During the remaining months of 1847 there was further evidence of the Government and others becoming sensible to the neglect which the district had been subjected to. The contract was let for repairs to the penal factory , £20 was voted as a coroner's salary (a position to which Dr Ballow was appointed), one extra constable was stationed at Ipswich and at Brisbane, tenders were called for the erection of the pilot's quarters on Moreton Island, and Mr Petrie secured the contract for the ferry approaches at Kangaroo Point and South Brisbane, although he had to do it for £20 less than he tendered owing to the sum quoted exceeding that placed on the estimates (£800).

People crossing the lower ferry from Kangaroo Point will scarcely have thought that the steps on the Point side were laid so long ago, yet such is the case. The north side steps, or rather what remains of them, can be seen near the present Aquarium Company's wharf together with a portion of the old shed.

But what was regarded as even a more hopeful sign was the decision of the Government to place at the disposal of the residents for a month the nett profits of the Customs Department, the tolls collected on the road over D'Aguila’s Range, and that derived from the Government windmill. I do not in tend to speculate as to what this revenue for the month actually amounted to, but if the Customs Department may be taken as a sample of the other two sources I should say that the belief expressed that with the handling of such funds the Settlement would progress was scarcely justified by results.

From the time of the Customs officer taking up his residence here up to the 5th July, 1847 the total revenue only amounted to £19 19s l0d , while the expenditure incurred in collecting the same was £875 7s 8d , £450 of which went in salaries. The ferries, too, showed signs of depreciation, for at the annual sale that between North and South Brisbane (Russell street only realized £40, being £200 less than in the previous year). The same price was obtained for the Point one, but in this case the amount obtained was £8 in advance of the year preceding.

However, the people had got in the thin end of the wedge, and that was something. So long had been the fight for recognition that success even in so small a degree was a significant sign of the future. Having gained these concessions, the residents petitioned for the port to be made a free warehousing one, which request was refused, and a section of the community, who subscribed £100, petitioned the Government for a grant of £100 for repairs to roads and bridges, the bad condition of which made it almost impossible to get in the wool clip.

Contrary to expectation, the money was voted, but having got it a difficulty arose as to its expenditure, those who had subscribed the £100 maintaining that it should be spent on certain roads mentioned by them, while others claimed that it should be devoted to roads "in the district of Moreton Bay" a term used by the petitioners themselves.

The matter was amicably settled, but none too soon, for had they delayed longer they would have lost the Government vote of £100. This concession had a stimulating effect on private enterprise. One old colonist gave it out that it was his intention to establish a flour mill at at near Ipswich.