"On The Track"
J. Grant (Battler) Pattison
Monday, 8th September, 1924 Somewhere
on the Expedition Range, sometime in August.
Ain’t it rare to rove again
Through the light and love again,
The colour an’ the call?
Ain’t it good to take again
Life for life’s own sake again
Lettin’ trouble fall?
Ain’t it grand to know again
Seasons come an’ go again
An’ God is over all!
Those lines are only meant for sunshine, and it has been raining nearly a
week. Thank heavens we are off the black soil. Those who wish to
travel the track to Springsure that we have come over I advise to take the
advice given by “punch” to the mug who was about to be married.
“Don’t!” If you do try it in a Ford, bring a kit of tools, a winch,
and a hefty young fellow to help you!
Amongst the forty years’ gathering I have with me is an old note book.
Its pages show a medley of girls’ names horses’ names, handicap weights,
bets and amounts due to tailors, &c. I was a bank clerk at the time,
and the bank was situated on the site of Stewart’s present carpet store.
Tom Hall was manager, and I received the princely screw of one pound per week,
and what I could make. In those days there was very often a note, or half
sovereign, or some silver, to be picked up in front of the counter; the money
had been dropped by careless customers. I used to hand the amounts over,
and it was put to what we called the “all cop” account. During my stay
with the bank I never remember any of it being claimed. However, on a
couple of occasions I was fined by the accountant for making mistakes in
stamping letters. He told me it would make me more careful. It did;
no more windfalls went to the “all cop” account, they went down south.
I find in the old note book an entry, saying I had joined William Kelman on the
9th of February, 1881, for a trip to Cooper’s Creek, and on the 23rd of the
same month, of the same year, I was camped near the spot where I am at present
writing this article. Forty four long years ago, but what a change!
All t hose old timers have gone; William Kelman, best of bosses, Fred Hopkins,
Furber, Lamond, and all the young fellows who were with me on that big trip have
taken the sunset trail, and here I’m sitting in a comfortable car, with the
bush to myself. The only visitors I have had have been a few emus, and a
few wild eyed bullocks. The old trail is deserted, and what used to be a
well travelled road is now mostly a washed out or overgrown track.
When the proprietors of the “Bulletin” sounded me about taking out a car
into the Western districts I jumped at the chance. I would have taken on
an aeroplane. I have travelled many thousands of miles in cars, but never
had a chance to learn anything about them, except helping to pull them out of
the Flinders and such like rivers. However I have some experience of oil
and steam, and hope in the near future to know as much about this tin can
arrangement I’m travelling in now. The company very kindly gave me carte
blanche re fittings, and she is up to the knocker for comfort. Fitted on
the lines of a sporting wagon Viall’s, of Sydney, once built me, with the
exception that the car fittings are fixtures, and the wagon’s were removable,
the present vehicle is suitable for sport or business. Three lockers are
built in under a most comfortable spring bed, and a detachable table for type
writing fits at the car side. A removable lazy back allows for a full
length bunk. The car is electrically lighted, and a full sized cheesecloth
mosquito bar blocks the pests of the night. She has stood a splendid test
as far as wet weather is concerned and is a perfectly dry camp. One locker
is used for rations, another for typewriter, books and papers, and photographic
material, and the third for spares. The open part of the floor is occupied
by the necessary winch, long handled shovel, and axe. An auxiliary petrol
tank came to grief in the thick timber of Bauhinia Downs. I wanted a flat
tin, fixed well up under the body of the car, but Mick Ryan thought it better to
put a round one on. A second hand speedometer is a delusion, some days she
gave us a run of a couple of hundred miles and the next day she might give us
We ran out of town one afternoon at two o’clock, and said good bye, I hope
for a long time, to the dusty streets, the shicker, and general cussedness of
town life. My travelling mate, an old time Comet River scrub rider, was
with me on Purbrook many years ago. He is a clinking good mate for a trip
of t he sort, but although he owned a Ford some years ago he knows nothing about
the internal part of them. He admitted being able to put them over a wire
fence when required. On this trip we have not averaged more than twelve
miles and hour, and yet have had a lot of trouble.
The first afternoon we ran out to Benmore, the home of Will Cousins, who is a
brother-in-law of my passenger. Benmore on my last visit was terribly
drought stricken. Today it looks a picture. The barn was full of
lucerne, and rich heavily grained wheaten hay, pumpkins were also there in
hundreds. A few inches of rain and the property has been transformed.
It was up to our cheery host and hostess to have a turn of luck. When we
were leaving our kind hostess piled the car with eggs, marmalade, chutney and
some pumpkins. They all proved useful.
On our way out we called at Kabra to see how Stuart Hawthorn was getting on
in his new business. He reported matters very satisfactory.
The O’Shanesy country all looked a picture. We pulled in to Jack
Chapple’s old home to say good day, and proceeded on our way, Toon’s nicely
stocked bar deserved more custom than it was getting. After leaving
Benmore we had a good run to Westwood, and called on the O’Cook. Cotton
has given place to vegetables, and a fine lot they were. Mrs. Cook loaded
us up with pickled red cabbage, pickled eggs, tomato jam, fresh tomatoes, and a
few beautiful cabbages. My mate said “The people will take us fur
hawkers.” So we are. We are hawking the glad tidings that the
“Capricornian” is the best weekly in Queensland.
At Westwood we picked up a go ahead Rannes storekeeper named Anderson.
His “Lizzie” was well down to Plimsoll, with stores of all sorts.
Numerous cases of eggs were strapped to the running boards; it is surprising
what becomes of them all weekly.
We lunched a few miles out from Westwood, and ran on to Wowan, reaching there
at three o’clock. We renewed acquaintanceship with Jack Anderson, and
some other leading residents, and proceeded on thirteen miles to near the
junction of the Don and Dee Rivers, being about two miles from Rannes. We
had some trouble getting a kick off in the morning; it had been a cold night.
Passing through Rannes we travelled on to the Banana road on our 30 mile run.
Twelve miles out, at the Wandoo turn off, we passed Fred Nott’s comfortable
looking home. I’m not sure of the name, but think it is called
“Pleasant Downs.” Anyhow it reminded of the fact that Bill Nott did
not send me the photograph he promised me of his pioneering father.
Most of the road to Banana is out and out bad. Chopped up in the wet with
teams and motor lorries, it is unfit for light traffic, and we got a bad
shaking. We pulled in to Mrs. Hart’s at 2.30, and found that that
cheerful lady had just sewn up a double gash in a would be suicide’s throat
and made a fine job of it. The lady’s services are always made use of
for the sick and wounded of Banana. Sergeant Hanrahan, who, by the way,
has a number of relatives around Rockhampton, gave us directions about the road
to Moura, and we ran on and camped at a dam about five miles out. I
regretted to hear the sergeant’s wife had been ill for some weeks, and hope
matters will soon mend for the genial constable.
We called on Jim Shean, old time drover, now hotel keeper. I had not
seen Jim since ’82, and he is carrying his age wonderfully well. Maurice
Halberstaedter was keeping him from feeling lonely at the time of my visit.
Three interesting daughters of the house manage the business for dad. Jim
told me that for many years he lived on Walloon, now known as Castle Creek.
He has seen the water many feet over the site of the present township.
Travelling on to Roundstone, ten miles, we had a rough spin. Through
gum and ironbark country we struck some very bad patches of sand, washouts, and
sandstone ridges. We pulled up at the foot of a steep sandstone jump-up
for lunch, and later ran out on the level country to Roundstone. The
comfortable looking homestead reminded me of old time Waverley in some ways, but
the country has not the extend of plain that Waverley has. The owner, Mr.
R. E. Davey, was just starting for Moura, so I did not detain him after he gave
us instructions about the road. He told me Roundstone at one time belonged
to Homer, of Moura, and later, George Cook, a brother of the late Fred Cook, of
Sanders Station. George Cook is buried right in front of the house,
between the garden and tennis ground, and the grave is kept in beautiful order.
We ran on three miles to the steep descent into Roundstone Creek. Both
sides of the creek are merely washed out cattle tracks, and it is a bad get in
and get out. We stuck in the sand at the bottom, and had to jack the cart
up to corduroy underneath. By the look of the sticks and strips of bark we
could see many others had been stuck there. However, after packing the
road up we threw off the swags, and Harry taking the wheel she flew up that bank
like a scared possum up a tree, and pulled up as sweet as a red headed woman who
had just been kissed. We camped that night near a 10,000 gallon tank.
Next morning we got under way for Thalmera, the property of the Bloomfield
family, and managed by a white man in returned soldier Arthur Fox. We
noticed the car was not pulling well on her first gear; possibly the rough
passage we had made upset things. On the track we met Mr. Fox, and he
warned us about Sandy Creek, near his homestead. He said “I will be back
tonight, and if you are there then, which I expect you will be, I’ll pull you
out with a horse.” When we saw the creek, we though after Roundstone, it
would be pie for us, so we bushed the sand. She ran over it well but
jibbed on pulling up a slight bank, and we could not get a kick out of her.
Getting the winch to work we pulled her on to the hard, but she still refused
duty. I remembered something Mick Ryan and Bert Swain told me. In
the Ford kit there is not a screw driver, and the one I bought the morning I
left town was too large for the job. An oyster knife was in the kit, so
that was filed down, and taking the screw out of the magneto contact, found a
piece of highly polished wood stuck to the spring. We camped at the
station that night, and in the morning Mr. Fox pulled us up the bank with a
horse. Giving the car a kick off she travelled well, but still had that
ominous knock when in first gear.
The instructions were “When you get through Davey’s two double gates turn
to the right, and follow the telegraph line.” When a bushman wants to go
west he does not generally north to get there. We ran on some six miles
before we surmised we were on the Taroom road, so turning back we were not long
running on to Bauhinia Downs country. There are any amount of broken
gullies on what was once a track, and the dead timber on the roadway is deadly.
It was there we came to grief with our reserve petrol tank; fortunately we had
taken a fair quantity out.
Old Bauhinia Downs station looks desolate; all the old time garden has
disappeared. It was in ’82 I was with George Stanley and Tom Davis and
the brothers Lawrence running scrub cattle and brumbies on Goomally and
Fairfield. The Duttons were on Bauhinia then, and fine gentlemen they
were. Dick Picton, later buyer for Lake’s Creek, was in charge of
Fairfield, and Ned Agnew was on Goomally. The last time I saw Ned was on
the Cloncurry River, and his age was then between 80 and 90 years, and he was
still riding bush. Mr. Mulry, manager of Bauhinia, kindly let me have a
tin of petrol; he could hardly spare it, but storm clouds were rolling up, and
he took the risk. The telegraph master said “Cut for your lives, for
twelves miles; if it rains on the black soil you will not get out for days.”
We got to the foot of the range and down the rain came. The engine
stalled at the first steep pinch, and we tied up for the night. We could
not get her to lift herself next morning, the rain was teeming down, and Harry
walked on twenty miles to Planet Downs for assistance. It was impossible
to get a fire started in the heavy wet so I made a spirit stove with a couple of
tins and managed to do my cooking with it. To add to my troubles the extra
exertion cranking and pulling the car out brought on my old trouble in my right
knee and foot. I crawled around the camp with a long handled shovel for a
crutch, but felt more like hopping to h------ on one leg. oooOOOooo
Monday, 29th September, 1924 I
would fain go back to the old grey river,
To the old bush days when our hearts were light,
But, alas! Those days they have fled for ever,
They are like the swans that have swept from sight.
And I know full well that the strangers’ faces
Would meet us now in our dearest places;
For out day is dead and has left no traces
But the thoughts that live in my mind tonight.
From Comet to Springsure, 65 miles, was an uneventful run. We ran back
to Comet Downs, and then turned south, over a bumpy track, and through Brigalow,
box, ironbark, and nypuna, pass through flooded areas. We passed Comet
Downs boundary at the bridge over that river, and ran on to country known as
Burke’s Plains, where one of the old timers used to run a pub. A little
further on, on the Arcturus side, we came on to the remains of the old corduroy
road built by the carriers in the sixties. The road was laid down in the
Brigalow scrub, and over the boggy black soil. They were a fine body of
men, those old time teamsters, they did not wait for Government assistance,
bucked in and laid a solid Brigalow road for miles. It still stands as a
memento of their hardihood. We passed on through a new dog proof wire
fence to Arcturus country, on the open plains. The sun was dipping when we
pulled up at the homestead. I expected to get some good copy, and
photograph’s of Mick Ryan’s famous stud, but the overseer was away.
Andy Whalan gave us directions about the track, and we ran on and camped about
seventeen miles from Springsure. Getting a good start in the morning we
passed Wallerlea early, and travelling over a road that would stand a lot of
doing up, arrived at the old pastoral township, at about 9:30. The first
place to be called at in the outside towns is the post office, then the
newspaper agent, then of course the pub - that is where most of the
information is gathered.
The first thing I learnt was, that Alick M’Laughlin was away ill, in a
Rockhampton hospital, I was greatly disappointed; I had known him in the old
Meteor Downs days, and am sure the information he could give me about the early
days of the district would be invaluable. Among sons of old timers I used
to know were Messrs. Alchin, Milliken Slatyer, and Ellis, but of the old brigade
I only saw old friend Ward, and Billy Ellis. Billy Lane who for years ran
the horse mail from Springsure to the top of the Range via Rolleston, but in
latter days did the run with a car, is still going strong, but has given up the
track. Billy was one of Barfield’s pupils at Rockhampton in the sixties,
and any boy who was under the old savage can speak feelingly of him. W.
Weiting had just bought Milliken’s butchering business. At Slatyer’s
book depot I met Sergeant Cahalane who, some years ago resided in Rockhampton.
I was told Springsure people are conservative, I don’t know if it was that
or not, but information seemed to drag. I had been to different
secretarial offices for information, but the gentlemen were away. I called
on Jack Clements. Jack is more interested in breeding gallopers than in
public affairs, he told me he was sending something better than Rainy Day to
Rockhampton very shortly. It looked as if it were going to be a “blue
duck” day. I found the men of Springsure even took their drink
seriously, I had mine standing on one leg, like a sick fowl.
I was sitting in the car outside the new building that occupies the site of
the old Commercial Hotel, just thinking if it would not be wise to make a break
for Emerald. Storm clouds were rolling up, and I was also a bit full of
the apathy of the townspeople, when I saw a sturdily built young man standing by
the car, he had a head like one of our leading Supreme Court Judges, and but for
the nose the facial resemblance is something similar. H asked if I was a
surveyor - I was for the time being; I was surveying the empty main street, and
comparing it with the pre-railway days, when the four-in-hands of the sporting
squatters used to dash in and out of the archway next the hotel. Coaches
were running regularly from Gogango, and Tambo, connecting the south, and little
known west. Teams of bullocks and horses were pulled up in the main
street, and the stockmen of the time, clad in boots and breeches and cabbage
tree hatted used to enliven the streets and pubs. Kelman, the Bolitho’s,
Richards and the rest have all gone, and they have not been replaced.
Springsure is as quiet as a church yard, but as far as its business connections
are concerned, it is as solid as a tombstone.
I turned to the young man, and asked him a question. After a bit of
mutual leg-pulling we understood each other, and I told him what I wanted.
The reply was:- “Well come over to our house of business tomorrow and we will
talk it over.” The house of business traded under the name of Hinton
Bros. and has done since its inception in the early days. The young man I
met was Gerald Burke, general manager of the firm. His father, Martin
Burke, joined the house as a young man, and worked his way to ownership.
The gentleman’s health failed somewhat, and he retired from the business, but
it is well represented by his son. I called to see Mr. Martin Burke, and
thought, considering the number of years he had been tied to business he looked
well. Mrs. Burke told me he had greatly improved in health in the last few
weeks. The Burke boys both enlisted, and Martin who had been specially
trained to take over the business of the house, paid the supreme penalty.
I gathered a lot of information from Gerald Burke, and when he suggested a run
out to the old Rainworth Fort, I jumped at the offer. The “Rover” was
parked at the store, and I climbed into a powerful Rugby car, and we set out at
25 miles an hour over execrable roads. They appeared like the rest of the
district roads we had so far travelled over, to never have known a road
party’s care. At old Rainworth I met one of Mr. M’Laughlin’s
sons. He gave us permission to go where we liked over the old fort, but to
look out for snakes. He had just killed a beauty. The fort was a
wonderful bit of work for those early days, it was built solidly of blocks of
blue metal, a number of stones of such size that they must have taken a lot of
handling, are cemented together with a mixture of clay. Loopholes were
left a few feet up the walls, others there were on top of the walls just under
the shingle roof of the house. Steps lead to the upper compartment.
Wall plates 18 in. through. The doors were all and floorplates were solid
logs easily heavily built, and shutters of timber filled the window spaces.
A cellar occupied part of the space under the floor. Up to a few months
ago the old rifles used at the time were in the loft. An iron bungalow
roof has taken the place of shingles, and spoils any chance of getting a
snapshot of the embrasures. Part of the walls where the stones had eroded,
has been filled with bricks by Mr. M’Laughlin, who owns the old property, and
who deserves the greatest credit for preserving it.
At the time of the Cullin-la-ringo murder Jesse Gregson owned Rainworth.
It was there a survivor went for help, and it was Mr. Gregson’s party who
buried the nineteen persons murdered. The retributive measures taken by P.
F. Macdonald and others belong to another story.
A new Rainworth home was built near the fort something over 40 years ago.
The contractor was Alick M’Laughlin. On the flat below the old home a
lonely grave marks the resting place of a child of the latter day owners.
Mr. M’Laughlin’s home “Burnside,” is in view of the old place. We
drove on and were kindly received by Misses Nancy and Dolly M’Laughlin.
We stayed and had an enjoyable lunch with them. Three brothers enlisted at
Springsure, the two older being in the artillery. These cousins also
joined the forces, so the family was well represented. It was all very
nice, but I missed the old man. I forgot to mention that in the old days a
supply of water was secured at old Rainworth, by damming one creek and
turning the water into another, this brought it past the house, and a very fine
garden was irrigated from it.
We drove on to Mr. Burke’s stud farm of five thousand acres. It is a
beautiful block of country consisting of open downs and forest. The home
and yards are well sheltered by surrounding hills. Mr. Tom Taylor, who
manages all Mr. Bourke’s country properties, was away but we were met by Miss
Frances Taylor. The farm is called Pride of the Valley Farm. I
don’t know if I am correct or not, but would bet Nonpareil against one of
Burke’s best that it was called after the young lady who met us. I did
not see the sires Ben Thor, or Young Orcus, but a nice lot of youngsters were
rounded up by Misses Frances and Emma Taylor. They are a good lot and are
in splendid condition. Jack Kelly, who was for some years with William
Noud, is the stud groom, and he had feeding a nice eighteen months old cold in
Zilpershight, by Zilpher, from Foresight. Another was a half brother
to Afterthought. This young one is named Thorthought, by Ben Thor.
Another was a four year old that looked in the pink of racing condition.
This was Merrythor, by Ben Thor, from Friar’s Folly. He is a half
brother to Merry Plane. He should be heard of early. Pride of the
Valley also fattens cattle and carries a few sheep. In ordinary seasons
the feed for stock is grown on the place. Other properties of the Burke
family, in charge of Mr. Taylor are Riverstone, Meteor Park, and Sonthlea, in
all approximately 60,000 acres.
Mr. Bourke gave me a deal of information about the district, all farmers are
in a solid way of business. There are other leases falling in, in the near
future, and the district will become a great one. His firm import all
their wares direct, and I saw some bills of lading that would open the eyes of
East street shopkeepers. Springsure seems to have more motor cars to the
population than Rockhampton. The hospital is going along well, and a new
maternity ward is being built.
I talked with Charlie Haswell. He is in charge of the Ambulance, and a
big district, he has two cars an Essex and a Ford. Charlie’s mother was
a Hoffman, and he is as like uncle Charlie as possible. They have got on
so well, they are just about to build ambulance buildings, and residence.
Charlie was just off for his holidays, and was being relieved by Super. Herb.
Villiers. The latter gentleman, I bump into everywhere - Canoona races or
A little cigar box known as the Cardbeign School, in a Saturday night’s
dance mustered £40 for the Ambulance Brigade.
There is a good deal of soreness over railway matters. Trains that are due
at about twelve o’clock, do not arrive until getting on sundown.
Business men say if their goods and passengers were loaded on the 44 up, they
would get a straight run through, the train would arrive at nine o’clock in
the morning. This would give townspeople a chance to go through their
mails, and country people a chance to get home by daylight.
Another old timer I met was Walter Hagen, who landed in Springsure about the
time the first bullock team got bogged there. He has been loyal to the
house of Hinton practically ever since. Walter although the years are
climbing on, looks as active and debonair as ever.
I mentioned friend Ward, I ran out over Murray’s Pinch to his home.
Mr. Ward came out from Hatcham, Kent in the Pakena, in ’72. He arrived
at Springsure in ’75, the year of the Dawson flood. In ’78 or ’79 he
had a hotel at Vandyke. He then removed to the Commercial Hotel. He
has followed various occupations, and was for a time teamster with the late
Louis Pfitzenmaier. Mr. Ward, who has retired comfortable, is the leading
and oldest mason in the district. I noticed on his side tables he had
enough “Capricornians” and “Bulletins” filed to keep Springsure in
reading matter for twenty years.
Mrs. Clements has the old hotel kept by Mrs. Cahill for a number of years,
and a comfortable well run old nest it is. Mr. Keating, one time of New
Guinea, has what is now known as Scott’s Hotel. Both houses are to be
complimented on the excellence of the wet supplies. Mr. Nuzum was the only
stock agent I met, and Mr. Alchin who had done a splendid run through by car
from Rockhampton, was the only other merchant who said good day.
For people who like a quiet life Springsure would make a splendid health
resort; mothers and children look well. I sat in Hinton’s store one
afternoon. There was to be a ball that night. I watched a bevy of
young girls come in to the drapery department, some were from the country, and
some from the town. They were well and tastefully dressed, there was not a
bare arm showing amongst them, they were a fine type of young Australian
womanhood, wholesome to look at, and with the ruddy cheeks that only the pure
bush air can give.
Two old friends I met in Mrs. Fletcher, and her brother, Tom Cummins, who
manages Woorooloo for the Macartney’s of Doonside. They were children of
old time Rockhampton auctioneer, T. T. (Larry) Cummins
If mention of any people or incidents are missed in this article, I ask
forgiveness, it has been put together under the stress of a good deal of bodily
And so farewell to a district that gave me some happy days in years long
Tuesday, 30th September, 1924. They
had told us of pastures wide and green,
To be sought past the sunset’s glow;
Of rifts in the ranges by opal lit;
And gold ‘neath the river’s flow.
And thirst and hunger were banished words
When they spoke of that unknown West;
No thought they dreaded, no flood they feared,
Where the pelican builds her nest!
Mary Hannay Foott.
I forgot to mention that I met at Rolleston an old Flinders River friend in
Mr. Penhallurick, who at the time had country near Nella Ponds. If a
Central District man goes to the north he eats his heart out until he gets back
to the centre again. Pen. was trying to get back four years ago. He
has however, secured a very fine property from the Gillespie family.. Many
years ago, Charlie M’Gurrin, at that time one of Lake’s Creek’s crack
buyers said to me:- “If at any time you go down the Gulf to buy cattle, put
them at the same weight you would when buying Central Queenslanders, then knock
100 hundred pounds off. If you are buying sheep use the same method, and
knock off ten pounds.” In later years Charlie’s advice proved very
useful. And that is a good deal the reason the Central men try to get back
from the North. The name of the Brown township was altered to that of
Rolleston in honour of David Rolleston who at that time owned Albinia Downs, but
later sold to William Kelman.
Pulling out of Rolleston at eleven o’clock one morning we ran over a well
cleared bush road for nine miles to Planet Creek. The crossing is in a
disgraceful state and a discredit to the authorities. I was told the
reason it was not put in order, was because the trade might go to Comet.
There was a wash out 3 ft. deep, which Jim Ellis filled with timber. My
mate put in an hour and a half brushing the sand, and we just staggered out.
The last of the road was the best we had travelled over.
We ran on over country timbered with iron bark, gum, blackbutt, bloodwood,
and Morton Bay ash, and arrived at Memooloo, the comfortable home of Mr. William
Downman, and forty two miles from Rolleston. We here received a genuine
Australian welcome, and were made truly at home. Memooloo is the native
name for the cucumber like fruit that used to grow so freely on the vines of the
western plains. Memooloo is part of resumed Comet Downs. It is 35
miles from Comet, and contains 35,000 acres well subdivided. It is well
watered by subarteasian wells, at 50 ft., 100 ft., and 300 ft., and the water is
pumped by oil engine and windmill. Memooloo plain is a beautiful bit of
country, and in the centre, standing solitary sentinel of the surrounding acres,
is flat topped Mount Toprain, surrounded by Mitchell and blue grass, while here
and there are seen patches of Flinders grass. No wonder Mr. Downman
enthuses over his change of life! For some years he led the life of a
farmer on the Logan River. He said it would be like going back to a prison
to have to go back to the old life after fourteen years in the wide spaces of
the west. He was the first selector in the district, and has passed
through many battling years, but has made good and a comfortable and happy home
is part reward for his labours. Mrs. Downman is a generous and motherly
hostess to the young unmarried men who have farms surrounding Memooloo, and they
are always sure of a week end’s welcome. The lady is a first class rifle
shot; with a .32 rifle she will bring down a turkey at 150 and 200 yards.
Just before our arrival she dropped three out of five emus at 200 yards.
Two sons help to work the property, the younger one Herbert being a motor expert
of the first grade, and I was glad of his advice in connection with “The
Rover.” A bright young daughter in Jessie helps to make a cheery home
cheerier. Memooloo generally has visitors, and on the occasion of my visit
among the guests were Mrs. M’Kinlay wife of my road mate, and also a business
lady from Rockhampton. The later lady was enjoying her first experience of
bush life, part of which was of course horseback exercise. The riding
costume was the handsomest I had seen for a long time, but oh, those leggings
were a nightmare. However I secured a snapshot. Shotover and
Rocklands creeks run through the properties. They have an outlet into
Humboldt Creek, the latter creek runs into the Comet River between Comet Downs
and Arcturus Downs. Memooloo at one time carried sheep, but they were
later replaced with cattle. Most of the surrounding settlers were away at
the Springsure horse sale so I can only supply some information about their
First of all we passed Jim Pocock’s place on Planet creek, and it appeared
to be left in charge of a fine type of Kelpie. The next place we passed
was Sunlight, owned by J. Beasley (no relation to Jack and Frank of that ilk).
We passed Scott Bros.’ 20,000 acre3 block, Somerdy, lately acquired from Will
Ellis. Frank Mayne’s Mlra was the next block, then C. W. L. Roger’s
Humboldt lease. Some little distance away Jack M’Kinlay has 10,000 acres
which he calls Struan. Joining Memooloo Jack Hutton has 28,000 acres which
he calls Togara, which means in abo “place of rest.” God bless the
boy! In the nearby neighbourhood Archer Bros. have Laleham, and Harry
Penrose has the open downs country which he calls Springvale. All the
properties are naturally watered, or water is secured at shallow depths by
boring, it is all good cattle country but I fancy Memooloo is the pick.
We left on our 35 mile run to Comet at 2.30, and pulled into Comet Downs sixteen
miles away. Comet Downs was taken up in the very early days by Smith and
Schofield. Since then it has passed through many hands. Alick Laurie
owned it after he left Arcturus, and it was on Comet Downs he met with the
accident that caused his death. Trying to hit a kangaroo with a swinging
stirrup iron, he struck his own shin bone and split it, a few days later
complications set in, and one of the most genial squatters in the district
passed to his rest. Later on “Bill” White had the property and later
still Falconer Hutton was owner. The panels of the doors still show Mrs.
Hutton’s artistic work in the beautifully painted birds, which are still well
looked after by Mrs. George Bartholomew, who at present has charge of the house,
Mick Ryan being the owner of the station. The good lady gave us tea and
cake, and added to my medicine chest some goanna oil and marsh mallow to ease
down the rheumatism a bit. Mrs. Bartholomew is an ardent photographer and
develops her own negatives. A number of those she gave me show the varied
sides of station life.
The road is good in places, but there is a lot of heavy sand. Water can
be secured at the five mile tank, ten miles on the Rolleston side of Comet
Downs. The timber we passed through was bloodwood, blackbutt,
Moreton Bay ash and brigalow. After leaving Comet Downs we passed through
“Dad” Carpenter’s property, The Lagoona, the house just showing on the
ridges to the left. Phill Rosel’s property, Undooloo, was away to the
right. Neither of the squatters had yet returned from the Carnival, the
joys of the city are evidently still holding them. There is still room for
a poddie dodger on the Comet.
We passed on to Rhudanan, another property owned by “Dad” and eight miles
from Comet. There was nobody at home but the crows, so we ran along a
sandy track and came out on Corry Brothers’ Myrtle Farm, cotton growing being
the chief industry. They had 27 acres under cotton, but had a bad spin on
account of the dry season. The comet country had not nearly the rainfall
the coast had. The Corrys’ ground which is of a chocolate nature, was in
beautiful order. We ran into Comet township at 5.30 and parked the car
under a huge weeping fig, next to Mrs. Carrington’s store.
It was a good many years since I had camped a night in Comet, and there were
a number of hotels, of sorts there. On one occasion Fred Hopkins and I
were camped at Blackwater. We had come in to meet some bulls William
Kelman had bought in the south. They wanted a day’s spell, and I took
advantage of it to go up the line and have a look at Emerald. The line had
just reached there and a lively spot it was. On my return to Blackwater I
was met at the train by an individual dressed in shabby skirt, and blouse, an
immense flop had crowned the head, and the face was hidden by a veil. The
boys in the carriage started chipping me about the girl. I had my
suspicions and unceremoniously pulled the veil from the “lady’s” face, and
found the bewhiskered and smiling features of Fred Hopkins underneath. We
started with the bulls, and something happened to our horses; anyhow, we could
not use them. We got, after considerable trouble, the pack saddles
strapped on the bulls, and packing the swags on, started our tramp to Meteor
Downs. I’ll never forget that trip, His hair when uncut stood six
inches straight above his head, a long tawny beard adorned his face. He
was barefooted and bareheaded, and carried a long spear that he had pinched from
some blacks’ camp to goad the bulls with. Hopkins was the happiest man I
ever travelled bush with, and the blacks had no points on him in tracking or
finding food when the ration bags were empty. There was always something.
Possum, emu, eggs, a carpet snake, or goanna. I have known him to be two
weeks bush without rations, and then life well. One thing that used to
beat him was a shortage of tobacco.
At Comet I found the hotel had lately changed hands. Jim Parker had
sold out to Paddy Ryan, who was for many years in charge of the horses on Alice
Downs, but later took over the management of West Hill, which joined the same
property. Paddy was with the same firm for fourteen years, and this record
speaks for itself. Paddy married Miss Chardon of Dingo, and I am quite
sure they will make themselves popular. If paddy is half as good behind
the bar as he used to be over the top when schooling Alice Downs show horses, he
will make good. He has a first class helpmate. Mrs. Parker was also
a Dingo lady, being a daughter of the popular old time squatter, the late Moses
Wafer. I was still suffering from the effects of the rheumatic attack, and Mrs.
Fred Carrington and her daughter Esther, were kindness itself. I lived in
the ‘bus, but the house was always a home. On Sunday the two ladies gave
a picnic to a few friends to Leichhardt’s tree at the junction of the Comet
and Nogoa Rivers, where they form the Mackenzie. A mercy party formed on
the banks. The Nogoa was in flood, and had backed up the Comet, making
just a muddy stream of the Mackenzie.
Leichhardt’s tree before long will be a thing of the past. The
straight line in the D which forms the word Dig, has disappeared, either having
been cut out, or washed out by floods. The rest of the timber bearing the
inscription appears to be in the last stages of decay. The letter L has
been grown over. Frequent floods have cut away the earth from the roots,
and after a few more floods the weight of the tree will bring it down.
Considering the inscription was cut seventy years ago, the old coolabah has
carried the ill fated explorers’ brand well. Under the word “Dig” is
a deeply indented line, which is probably the tail end of the broad arrow.
Our own local explorer, W. O. Hodgkinson, was said to have recovered some papers
that had been buried at the foot of the tree. When A. C. Gregory visited
the spot some time later he found the earth at the foot of the tree had been
disturbed and any papers that had been placed there had been removed. The
ashes of the fire and bones of goats still remained. Mr. H. F. G. Brecht,
who owns St. Aubins, the property on which the tree stands, is anxious that
something should be done to protect it, but does not care to take steps to do so
It is not often one who is on the track nine months in the year, enjoys going
to a picnic, but I did that one. I was never very keen on plain turkey as
a diet, but the boys shot some young ones. They were well cooked and made
an ideal picnic meal. A nice lot of fish were caught, and those we enjoyed
next day. Dhu fish, bream, and cod, formed a nice variety. We ran
back the three miles to the township in the cool of the evening, young and old
having enjoyed to the full, the hospitality of our hostess and her daughter.
Came to me during the evening a handsome matron, full of sympathy for my
suffering. She produced some pills that proved to be a prescription of the
late Paddy O’Reilly’s. Paddy had often told me of them, but I never
bothered to make them up. They are simply made of sulphur and venice
turpentine. I was more taken with the kindness the act than with the
probable value of the pills. The lady’s father was a well known banker
in Rockhampton in the ‘eighties. Old timers will remember Mr.
Stephenson, who, I think, in those days, managed the Royal Bank. The old
gentleman died in New Zealand, and soon after his daughter, who had married Mr.
Motley, came over to Queensland.
I visited St. Aubins, the homestead of which is situated quite close to
Leichhardt’s historic tree. Mr. Brecht is a Hunter River man, and on the
walls of his comfortable home hang some pictures showing life in the mother
State.. One I was taken with was an oil painting of Widden, the celebrated
stud farm of the Thomson’s to whom Mr. Brecht is related. The
Thomson’s, although not racing men, have bred many good winners. The old
time home looks extremely picturesque with a high range of mountains behind.
St. Aubins contains 17,000 acres, 1000 of which are freehold. Mr. Brecht
bought it in 1918, and the country takes in both sides of the river.
Cattle are fattened on the property, the herd being Hereford Shorthorn cross.
Cotton has been given a trial. In ’22 eighteen acres were planted three
times, but owing to inexperience the crop did no good. Later another area
cleared £9 per acre. In ’24 ten acres gave a return of £12 per acre,
and ten acres will again be planted. Mr. Brecht considers the soil too
heavy to grow cotton well. After leaving his home, (Dampton, on the
Hunter) he came over to Miles and bought a property, starting business there as
a stock dealer. Mrs. Brecht takes as much interest in the work of the
estate as her husband and is au fait on the cattle camp.
Among others growing cotton the Carrington boys planted fifteen acres from
which they had a fair pick. A. Johnson of Comet View, picked seven tons
from fourteen acres. J. Campbell, of Zara, had 30 acres under cotton.
There are a number of other farmers scattered throughout the district, the roads
would not permit of visiting at the time. There a number of Old Billy
Carrington’s descendants in the district, among them being Mrs. Jack Murphy
who lately had a business in Yeppoon. Old Billy was one of the heroes, of
the Eureka Stockade riot. He was well known in Rockhampton in the
‘60’s, and was particularly good with his hands under old English rules.
But that was in the days when the world was wide. And it is now time to
say good bye to our kind Comet Friends, and take the track to Springsure.