Friday, April 27, 2012

Bullock Drivers - Mates of the Whip

Although bullockies were popularly perceived as figures of fun and ridicule, of appallingly obscene language, and notoriously dissolute habits, they performed an essential service in the early days of the colony.

Unloading a Bullock Wagon

Until the coming of the railway in the 1860s, the wool from the vast sheep runs of the Darling Downs and the districts below the Range was transported to Ipswich by bullock drays.  Travelling over rough country and unmade roads, bullocks were much more proficient draught animals than horses.

Before the railway, Ipswich was a busy river port as it lay at the farthest navigable point inland. A wharf and warehouse was soon built to accommodate the river steamers.

Ipswich landing place Nov 24, 1851 (Conrad Martens)

As a result the streets of Ipswich were lined with bullock wagons bringing in bales of wool and waiting for return loads of various goods and supplies for the sheep stations.  During the layover, the bullockies enjoyed the hospitality of the local public houses and the charms of the ladies of “ill repute”.

A well-known bullocky character familiar to the residents of Ipswich was known by the curious nickname of “McGouzlem's fool”[1].  He was also a frequent guest of the constabulary.

Bullocky standing with his whip and bullock team at Rosewood c.1882

The sittings of the Ipswich Court in 1849 saw the usual parade of misbehaving bullockies.  First to appear was one William Smith on a charge of indulging in the use of obscene language. The magistrates were making use of the new Vagrant Act.

William Smith, bullock driver to Mr. C. W. Pitts, was brought up for using blasphemous language in the streets. The charge was fully proved, but as this was the first case under the new Act, which was not perhaps generally known amongst the working classes, their Worships fined the defendant only one shilling, at the same time admonished Smith, and directed him to spread the news far and near, especially amongst his "mates of the whip," whose propensities in this unfortunate failing are proverbial.[2]

Bullock Driver Brandishing his Long-handled Whip

Next to front the court was a colleague of Smith, one Thomas Milner, popularly known about the streets of Ipswich as “McGouzlem's fool”.  The Ipswich Correspondent of The Moreton Bay Courier took great delight in describing his appearance and his dialogue with the magistrates.

Next appeared, for the same offence, and also drunkenness, a mate of the former defendant, named Thomas Milner, better known as McGouzlem's fool, a regular Victor Hugo's "Quasimodo"[3] in ugliness, whose entree created much mirth.

He was indeed as ugly as sin, with an obliquity of mug truly remarkable, and lips that would rival any Hottentot[4] Venus, beard of at least a week's growth, manured by a portion of some puddle which his phiz[5] often appears to fondle,- and hair of "mud coloured grey," standing out like quills upon the fretful porcupine. Fancy all this, and you have my "Caliban"[6].[7]

Their Worships struggled to maintain their serious demeanour as the following exchange proceeded.

The subject matter in dispute will be seen by the following colloquy between Bench and defendant -

 Bench - Were you drunk?

Defendant - Oh! yes.

Bench - How much did you drink?

Defendant (grinning most ominously) - Until I got drunk.

Bench - Had you no water to wash your face?

Defendant (another grin) - I forgot the water while I drank the rum.

During this short confab the calcinatory muscles of the auditors were exercised to an unusual degree; even the stern front of Justice was compelled to relax, which was perhaps so much in favour of McGouzlem's fool, that he was only admonished as to the present working of the Vagrant Act, and fined five bob.[8]

This would not be the last time McGouzlem would appear in the Court reports, but by all accounts he was a likeable, harmless character who was fond of children.

Bullock Wagon in front of Cribb and Foote London Stores, Bell Street, Ipswich, 1850s-1860s

© K. C. Sbeghen, 2012.

[1] Of obscure origin.
[2] The Moreton Bay Courier Monday 10 December 1849
[3] i.e. “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”
[4] A derogatory term for an uncivilised, primitive “native”.
[5] face or facial expression (OED)
[6] A man of degraded bestial nature (a character in Shakespeare's Tempest)
[7] The Moreton Bay Courier Monday 10 December 1849
[8] The Moreton Bay Courier Monday 10 December 1849

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Brief Career of the Young Bushranger Patsy Collins

The 1860s saw the height of the bushranging period in Colonial Australia. Newspapers carried many reports of the exploits of these daring, desperate, and ruthless outlaws. Not surprisingly, bushranging tales inspired many feckless youths. But the reality was far from the mythology of the bushranger as “Robin Hood”.

Bushrangers' Camp

In November 1866, an unfortunate traveller by the name of George Cronan unwisely chose to ask directions from a pair of young ne’er-do-wells in the bush.

The Brisbane Courier February 7, 1867
The story was related in detail by Cronan during the proceedings of the court in Ipswich the following February.[1]

On the 22nd November last I met the prisoner[2] on the road between Normanby[3] and Fassifern[4]; I had lost my way about sundown; the prisoner and another man were hunting cattle; I went to them, and asked them the road to Fassifern; the prisoner said if he told me I should not find the road, and that I had better camp with them for the night; we rode on together for a short time, when another man (a third man) came up and joined us; we then all camped, and made some tea and cakes[5].

View from Normanby Homestead

The friendly atmosphere did not last long as the “gang” of young would-be bushrangers soon retreated from the camp site to hatch their plan.

Sometime after supper the prisoner called the other two men from the fire; they went about two hundred yards, when they returned, and the prisoner took off his coat and asked if I had any saddle straps; I said yes, and told him to take two off my saddle; he did so, and called me to him (making use of a filthy expression), and said he would tie me to a tree; it was no use, he wanted all I'd got.

Realising his outnumbered position, Cronan resigned himself to his fate and made no attempt to resist the robbery.

He then called to another man to come and tie me tight, adding that he supposed I did not know they were bloody bushrangers; the other man then tied me to the tree, and the prisoner asked me if I'd got any bloody money about me; before they tied me l told them that if they did me no harm I would give them all I'd got.

I had thirty shillings about me; the prisoner took that from me, and then went to my swag and searched my clothes, and took a towel and a quart pot; the other man said if I told anything about this, the next time they met me I'd know what they'd do to me; I said I would say nothing about it.

Generously, the desperados promised to return with a restorative drink for their victim.

Before leaving, the prisoner and one of the other men said, "Get loose, you bugger;” I said "I could not;" prisoner said, "Stick there till the morning; we're going to the public-house, and we'll get you a nobbler[6]."

It did not take long for Cronan to free himself from his bonds and make his way to Ipswich to report his ordeal at the hands of the Colonial juvenile delinquents.  A few days later Patsy Collins was arrested near Ipswich. Police Sergeant George Dyas told the court of the apprehension and dramatic attempt at escape by his prisoner.

I apprehended the prisoner on Sunday, the 25th November, at a house near the Three-mile Creek[7], on the Toowoomba Road, and brought him to Ipswich; when I apprehended him and told him the charge, he said he knew nothing about it, and said he would not go; I told him he was bound to come, and I would bring him; he then consented to come; Constable Cuffe was with me.

A Bushranger Escapes

On the way down prisoner run me against the telegraph post, and escaped from my custody; I called on him to pull up, and told him I would shoot him; we got him again and brought him to Ipswich.

The Hon. Ratcliffe Pring, Q.C.

The only defence offered by Patsy’s lawyer Pring was that the whole episode was merely a youthful prank and that the one member of the gang who incriminated his friend was an unreliable witness.  Unfortunately for Patsy the jury were not buying it.

His Hon. Mr. PRING, Q.C., then addressed the jury, and contended that the evidence went to show that the whole transaction was one of practical joking at bushranging, and that the evidence of the witness O'Loughlan, who was one of the parties to the offence, ought to be received with great suspicion.

Court House, Ipswich ca. 1860

The ATTORNEY-GENERAL replied, and the CHIEF JUSTICE having summed up, the jury returned a verdict of, guilty, with a strong recommendation to mercy on account of his youth.

The CHIEF JUSTICE, in passing sentence, said that notwithstanding the recommendation of the jury, to which he always paid the greatest consideration, the prisoner had been convicted of an offence which called for exemplary punishment, and the sentence of the court was that he be kept to penal servitude for five years.

So ended the short bushranging career of Patsy Collins.

© K. C. Sbeghen, 2012.

[1] Reported in The Brisbane Courier 7.2.1867. Note: According to a reader Cronan was a German immigrant whose actual name was Cronau.
[2] The defendant, Patrick (Patsy) Collins.
[3] A homestead near the present town of Harrisville.
[4] A homestead near the present town of Kalbar.
[5] Probably damper.
[6] A small glass of rum or other spirit.
[7] A crossing of the Bremer River near the present town of Walloon.

Friday, April 13, 2012

A Colonial Peril - Death by Drowning

Early view of the Brisbane River and Kangaroo Point

Death by drowning was remarkably frequent in Colonial Queensland.  Newspapers often carried reports of these tragedies.  The chief cause of these deaths was the inability of most people of the times to swim. Drowning was also a common method of taking one’s own life, while others drowned during drunken misadventures.  An example of the latter situation was reported by The Moreton Bay Courier in January 1847.

DEATH BY DROWNING.-A few days since a man named William Ladd, a mariner employed by David Peattie on board the Nelson cutter, was ascertained to be missing by his master. As he was last seen in a state of intoxication late on Monday evening last, wending his way to the vessel, it was feared that some serious mishap had befallen him.

On the following day, the river was dragged near the spot where the cutter is lying, opposite to Kangaroo Point, but without finding the body. On Thursday morning, however, the body of the unfortunate man was discovered near the saw-pits, with the head out of water. It was immediately taken out and conveyed to the General Hospital, when an inquisition was taken before the Police Magistrate.

There was no evidence to prove how the poor fellow lost his life, but from the appearance of the body, Dr. Ballow was of opinion that drowning was the cause of death. It is supposed that on going on board the cutter on the evening when he was last seen alive, he lost his hold and fell into the water. As no person witnessed the occurrence, this unfortunate victim of intemperance was unable to extricate himself, and thus lost his life.[1]

Those workers living solitary lives as shepherds and hutkeepers were sometimes found drowned in waterholes and rivers.

DEATH BY DROWNING.-On Monday, a man well-known as "Old Jemmy," employed by Mr. Williams in the capacity of hutkeeper at the Coal Reach[2], was accidentally drowned in endeavouring to secure a log of wood which he observed floating in the river.

It appears that the unfortunate man was last seen by the men at the coal pit in a canoe going from the wharf. On coming out of the pit some time afterwards they looked about, and observed the canoe bottom upwards, but "Old Jemmy" had disappeared. The body was not found until Wednesday, when it was discovered floating not far from the place where he had met his death. [3]

Even prominent citizens were not spared their fate when venturing beyond their depth.  In the oppressive summer heat of January 1848, a German pastor residing at the German Station[4], ventured into a waterhole to cool off.

Woman fishing at a waterhole

DEATH OF THE REVEREND JOHN GREGOR.—It   is our painful duty in this day's issue to record the loss the community has sustained by the death of the Reverend John Gregor, the Episcopalian Minister, who was accidentally drowned at the German Missionary Station on Saturday morning last. As soon as intelligence of this distressing event reached town, the Police Magistrate immediately proceeded to the station, and held an inquiry on the unfortunate gentleman's remains.

The following are the depositions of the witnesses who were examined on the occasion:—
Theodore Franz being duly sworn deposeth that about eleven o'clock on Saturday morning, the Reverend Mr. Gregor who has been residing here for seven months complained to me of headache, and said that he felt the heat very much. I saw him go to the water, as I imagined for the purpose of bathing.

About ten minutes afterwards, I heard Nicquet calling to me and asking if Mr. Gregor could swim. I answered "No" and hurried to the place where he was. I did not see Mr. Gregor there. I undressed myself and sprang into the water and swam to the place where I thought Mr. Gregor might have sank— Mr. Nicquet also came into the water. He felt the body of Mr. Gregor with his feet, but could not succeed in raising him; but after another attempt he did succeed.

 I assisted to draw the body to the land—there was no appearance of life, although the body was warm. We did all we could to restore life, but without success.[5]

Life for colonial children could be carefree and adventurous but there were dangers for the unsupervised child.

Colonial Boys

MELANCHOLY ACCIDENT.-BOY DROWNED.   On the afternoon of Sunday last, a boy named James Binstead, between six and seven years of age, son of John Binstead, sawyer, residing in North Brisbane, was accidently drowned by falling into the town reservoir[6].

An inquest was held on the body on Monday morning, and from the evidence then adduced, it appeared that the deceased was fishing in the reservoir, and while in the act of hauling out his line, his foot slipped, and he fell forward into the water, which is of considerable depth.

A boy named McAllister, who  was standing by, procured a stick, and tried to haul him out but he failed. The deceased was seen to come up and go down several times before he finally sunk.

It is interesting to note that in contrast to European children, young aborigines were accomplished swimmers.

Boys swimming in a creek
The deceased's father being informed of the fatal occurrence, very soon arrived on the spot, and an aboriginal boy was procured who dived for, and brought up the body. Means were tried to restore animation, but unfortunately without effect.[7]

In an editorial in The Moreton Bay Courier in April 1848, parents were taken to task for allowing their children far too much freedom, particularly on a Sunday.

CAUTION TO PARENTS. We some weeks ago cautioned parents against allowing their children to absent themselves too much from their houses, and we again repeat it in the expectation that a late unhappy circumstance may give double effect  to the recommendation.

Children in this colony are allowed by far, too much indulgence in the employment of their time. No person would, of course, desire see them excluded from that recreation which is so necessary and congenial to their period of life, but their amusements, and the time for enjoying them, ought to be regulated by their parent and if they were so, it is to be hoped they would not be found fishing on Sundays, and engaged in other unbecoming occupations, which would not be tolerated under that better and more strict state of society which obtains at home.

Parents who neglect the moral training of their offspring incur a heavy responsibility, and the first step towards such training is to teach them a becoming reverence for the Sabbath. We hope that for the good of the children, the satisfaction of their parents, and the advantage of society at large, these repeated cautions may have some effect.[8]

© K. C. Sbeghen, 2012.

[1] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 30 January 1847
[2] Probably near the present suburb of Redbank.
[3] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 24 April 1847
[4] Now the Brisbane suburb of Nundah.
[5] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 29 January 1848
[6] In the general area of the present day Roma Street Railway Station.
[7] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 22 April 1848
[8] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 22 April 1848

Thursday, April 5, 2012

An Uncommon Encounter

Chinese cook

In the early days of the Moreton Bay settlement, the labour shortage produced by the booming pastoral industry resulted in the eager importation of labour not only from Europe but from India and China.  The latter was referred to as “coolie labour”.  One such importation of Chinese labourers consisted of fifty-six workers who arrived on the ship Nimrod at the end of 1848.

Chinese coolie
CHINESE LABOURERS.- Fifty-six Chinese labourers have arrived by the “Nimrod”. The want of labour is so great that we have heard a gentleman express his determination to hire some of them, notwithstanding that the “Artemesia” is hourly expected, and that it is stated, in the Sydney Herald, of the 14th ult., that another emigrant vessel would immediately follow her, for Moreton Bay direct.

The wages for which the Chinese may be hired is £6 per annum, and their engagements are for five years. It will be necessary to pay down a sum of £15 for each labourer, if taken singly, but a liberal allowance is made on taking a quantity. Those who have no objection to taking this description of labour in preference to that which is about to arrive, might find that the £15 was well laid out - always provided they could reckon on the honesty and usefulness of the Chinaman himself.[1]    

A few weeks later an encounter took place in Brisbane between a group of these Chinese imports and some of the local aborigines.  The incident caused much amusement to the local townsfolk and was reported in The Moreton Bay Courier in the racist verbiage of the times.[2]

Chin-ring in a Difficulty.-

On Sunday morning last, as some of the lately-arrived Chinese labourers were passing down Queen-street, they encountered about six or eight aboriginal blacks, who saluted the Celestials[3] with some observations, in the mixed gibberish formed by the patois of the natives and the elegant language of their earliest instructors.

Early view of Queen Street

The subjects of the Moon's Brother[4] did not understand the words, but, as the actions of the blacks were tolerably significant, without being equally flattering, several of the offended parties tucked up their sleeves, and prepared for a bout at fisticuffs a l’ Anglaise[5]. This was opposed to the tactics of the black-fellows, and they hastened to possess themselves of waddies, to the infinite disgust of their antagonists, who in vain strove, by voice and gesture, to convince the grimy savages of the unfairness of such a contest.

At every fresh expostulation, the man-eaters opened their jaws to a frightful width, and flourished their weapons with increased glee. A crowd soon collected, and the influence of the mischievous might have been sufficient to have caused an affray between the parties, but that some well-disposed persons contrived to separate them. Certainly the Chinamen displayed considerable game and their adversaries an equal amount of the chicken.   

Chinese market gardener

Although initially employed as shepherds, shearers, and general labourers, the Chinese went on to become an important element in Colonial Queensland.   Some would be market gardeners supplying settlements like Ipswich with fresh fruit and vegetables. Others would be merchants and grocers.

© K. C. Sbeghen, 2012.

[1] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 2 December 1848
[2] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 13 January 1849
[3] A common term of the times, referring to China as the “Celestial Empire”.
[4] The Chinese emperor.
[5] In the English manner.