Saturday, August 17, 2013

FIFTY YEARS AGO.



The articles under this heading will be resumed on Saturday February 23. Meanwhile Mrs. Da Costa, of Petrie-terrace, has very thoughtfully sent the following interesting material which will be welcomed by old Queenslanders :- 

I saw in one of your late "Couriers" that some of your issues had been mislaid, and thought I might be able to stop a gap for you, as I have been a longer time in Queensland than even fifty years. My father, Mr. James Warner (formerly Sergeant at Arms in the Legislative Assembly), was sent here with Mr. J. C. Burnet, in 1837, to survey and lay out a township; this was during penal times. He purchased the first piece of ground on Kangaroo Point sold by the Government and built the fourth house erected, there being at that time only three houses, one belonging to Mr. Petrie, one in George-street, occupied by the officer-in-command (for, of course, that was in penal times), and the doctor's residence. The medical officer was Dr. Ballow, who lost his life through going down to report on a vessel which had come here with what was called plague, but was really a virulent form of typhus fever. The ship's doctor had died previous to her arrival, as also had nearly all of the 400 and odd immigrants on the vessel.

My father erected the first house on Kangaroo Point; sent then for my mother, who had to get a free pass, as no one was allowed in except convicts. My parents were married by Mr. Handt, the army chaplain. Upon my mother's first arrival, and for some months after, the officer-in-command of the regiment here placed his quarters at her disposal. The place was used for many years as an office for the Commissioner of Police before the new barracks were built at the "Green Hills." My oldest sister was born in the George-street building. Kangaroo Point was not a desirable place at first, as having been densely covered with vine scrub, it was literally alive with snakes, deaf adders, and other unpleasant reptiles.

The town was not open for some time after the survey, and when the prisoners were removed my parents were allowed the use of the old factories, one containing the treadmill for female convicts, the hospital, dead house, and sundry other buildings, on the land now known as New Farm. As soon as possible my father removed to Kangaroo Point (1844), where the writer of these notes was born. All our servants were convicts, even the male nurse who carried my oldest brother out every day, but he got so unmercifully teased by the fellow servants that he prayed my mother to give him anything to do but nurse the baby. He always went by the name of "Miss Betty," and the other men (in fun) would run to place stones on a wet place for fear "Miss Betty's" shoes would get wet. 

I well remember seeing the old mill, now the Observatory, grinding corn to make "ommaney" or hominy, for the convicts' use, and remember its disuse when "Dundally", the blackfellow was hanged in it. Many notable people came to see our garden, a sort of acclimatisation grounds. Fruit from every part of the world grew there, my father having a hobby for gardening. Amongst our "notables" I recollect Dr. Ludwig Leichhardt, who dined with us on his way out to Port Essington. He was journeying up to Toowoomba in company with Mr. Edward Lord. In publishing his last journey he mentions that he had that day (I forget the date) arrived at a station called Jimbour, which was then on the edge of the "pale of civilisation". What would we think if he came again to Brisbane? But I fear he has long passed away to his far home. He was a good-looking German-faced man. One of his party, Murphy, the taxidermist, went out afterwards with my father, getting and stuffing birds to send to England. One collection brought him £800. Murphy was a delightful companion. Another man who accompanied my father was poor Stapleton, who was found dead in the camp when father returned (he having been speared by the blacks during the party's absence) at Amity Point, for the Bay and islands were all surveyed by Mr. Burnet and my father. 

As soon as the convicts were removed there was of course a rush for this place from Sydney, and a large number of residents came up, most of whom have long passed away. As soon as our house on Kangaroo Point was finished (the first house built there) my parents took up their abode in it. I well remember seeing the convicts going through Queen-street every afternoon on their way back to the barracks, a soldier on either side of them. Those days were more pleasant when the Observatory Hill was thickly timbered, covered with mimosa and the lovely purple sarsaparilla, and we were not allowed to picnic there, as the blacks were too bad, and they used to drive away picnicking parties and confiscate the dinners - days when we, as girls, could take across the river a little cockle-shell of a boat laden with fruit and meet our girl friends on the bank opposite and "take shares;" and when the grass grew green all along Queen-street, except in the middle, where the convicts marched to their daily tasks; when the old paddle-wheel steamer, the Yarra-Yarra, used to make her way along, causing a great wave of water to follow in her wake, and we girls followed up rowing in our dingey, laughing to see all the passengers rushing to the side evidently expecting to see us all struggling in the water and requiring a "rescue." But we were all good sailors, both at handling and sailing boat, or rowing with sculls.

There was no Hamilton Reach or kiosk in those days. A good regatta was held every 24th May, when one of the Sydney boats was our flagship, and all the residents as one family, not split up into "sets," as they are now, no "toffs and silver tails," all good friends, and open-house wherever we went. Shafston and Mowbray's school were in full blast, and we walked from Kangaroo Point Ferry to Shafston to have a dance. No trams or buses. I do think the rising generation will forget the use of legs and how to use them. When we think of our four-mile walks to school and back, the grand-mothers can beat the up-to-date girls at taking exercise, prisoner's base, cricket, riding, rowing, and boating being our training for strong old age. All our beautiful spots are built over, and to go for a picnic we require steam or electricity. If we only had wings to surmount all the difficulties - well, that will come soon, and then we shall travel round, or take "just a flutter" every afternoon to get icecreams or see our country cousins. I love the railway carriage with its comfortable seat, but a tram is a horror, dust, noise, and all things unutterable.

At the time of which I write there was of course, no such place as "Queensland." I was severely reproved one day by a young Queenslander for calling myself a Queenslander. "How can you call yourself a Queenslander when we have not obtained (as yet) separation?" She was quite right. I was a cornstalk sure enough. The gaieties of Separation time I well remember. An invitation to the first Mayor's ball was sent to me though I was 270 miles away, by our favourite A.D.C. D. T. Seymour, and I was present at the landing of Sir George and Lady Bowen. Such a blazing hot day, too, when we all walked up to Dr. Hobbs's house to hear the Governor speak. After spending the whole morning being roasted by a summer sun we lunched at Captain Coley's house in George-street, and then walked (no trams) up the hill. I wonder if many of "our girls" would do that now.

If my few notes are of any use I shall be glad. 


FIFTY YEARS AGO. (1907, February 9). The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933), p. 12. TROVE


  

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