Piecing Together a Fragmented Jigsaw

Late in life, in a letter to a newly discovered cousin, the only cousin she had ever known, my mother expressed the pain of her reality; of never having enjoyed the benefits of having a close extended family or of knowing who she was. As the youngest of four, I lived at home with her unbridled grief. Now, late in life, I find myself still wrestling with the ghost of her past, a reality which I share by default.

I never knew my grandparents, I never had a connection with uncles or aunts and there were no joyous family gatherings with cousins. It was not until the bicentenary in 1988 that I discovered that my great-grandfather was a prominent Queensland surveyor who, it turned out, was very handy with words. I made the effort to pour through his writings and I did document quite a bit of it online. Weathering the storms of life led to me shelving the material in a box which I faithfully carried with me as I moved to reinvent myself and start over again.

Over the past four years, I have undertaken a Masters of Social Work and I am now graduating. Essays that explored Indigenous trauma trails served to reinforce the impact that colonisation had not only on the Indigenous inhabitants but also on the people who were forcibly bought to Australia as convicts or who came as free settlers, seeking a better life.

My ancestors came as convicts and free settlers and with my son now living in Germany I have some understanding of the sense of separation they felt! Given my mother’s legacy, it is no coincidence that late in life I should determine drink from Mimir’s Well of Remembrance (DNA reveals Nordic strands) in order to learn more about my ancestral past.

What is perhaps most surprising is that I have now made a connection with a paternal second cousin whose mother remembers my paternal grandparents and that the wife of a distant relative has made contact because she and a colleague have identified that I am a direct descendant of the prominent Tasmanian colonists they are researching. This combination is enough to propel me to endeavour to piece some of the jigsaw pieces together to form a clearer picture of my ancestral history.

Activities to Connect with Ancestors

Honouring Ancestors

Visit the Isle of Ancestors Tonight

Making Descansos to Honor Ancestors

Breaking Open a Lock

Shedding Light on Aspects of Our Ancestors Lives

 

Cultural Celebrations to Honour Ancestors

Bon Odori Festival Japan

Lemuralia Banishing Malevolent Spirits

Mah Meri Tribe Ancestral Celebrations

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Aboard the Rodney

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Convict Ship – Rodney (1)

First voyage
Male convicts on board
Departure Port: Portland (Dorset) Departure Date: 23 Aug 1850
Arrival Port: Hobart Arrival Date: 28 Nov 1850

Convicts landed: 308

Died on board:
GILL John
MURPHY George
SPEAKMAN Thomas

Sources:
Archives Office of Tasmania, Guide to Convict Records by Ship Reference.
Bateson, Charles, The Convict Ships 1787-1868, Brown, Son & Ferguson Ltd 1985.
Broxam, Graeme, Shipping Arrivals and Departures, Tasmania, 1843-1850, Roebuck, 1998, p227.
Phillips, Margaret E., Australian Joint Copying Project, Handbook Part 7, Public Records Office Admiralty Records, National Library of Australia 1993, pp 75-77.
Archives Office of Tasmania, Convict Department, Registers of Convict’s Deaths, 10 Jun 1840-31 Mar 1846, 25 Nov 1845-5 Jul 1874, (Ref: CON 63).

Convicts on board listed by Researchers

ALLEN Charles
BARKER Samuel
BERRYMAN Charles
BROWN William
CAMERON John
EXALL Joseph
GOLD Hugh
GOODWIN Joseph aka STEWART
RANDALL William
RITCHIE David
ROBSON John Boyd
SPACKMAN James
STEWART Joseph aka GOODWIN
WADE William
WARE Charles
WINWOOD Levi

Non-convicts on board listed by Researchers

MATTHEWS Joseph & Sarah – Military Pensioner
TYNAN Andrew – Military Pensioner
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I sit looking at the jigsaw pieces
Studying them
Seeing how they will fit together
To form an impression
make whole
the broken mold
From which I sprang
I am the one
Who carries on the tradition of
Opening Lockfast Places
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Cunnamulla

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“Having made my measurements and adjusted the boundaries to the satisfaction of the runholders I retraced my tracks as far as Eulo, where I turned off to Cunnamulla, en route to this eastern part of the district, where I had some work. I reached Cunnamulla in November 1874 and found it a lively and pleasantly situated township. Being on the intersection of two main lines of traffic – namely the road along the Warrego into New South Wales and the route from St George to Cunnamulla – a fairly constant stream of traffic was passing through consequent upon the travelling of stock, the cartage of wool and the delivery of station supplies, whilst an increasing occupation of the West involved the moving about of all classes and grades, from rich squatter to the swagman and bookmaker. The principal occupants of the place were the Huxley’s (who kept the Hotel, exceedingly well conducted), Fred Ford, a storekeeper, the local blacksmith and their contemporary, the sergeant of police.

Finding some instructions from the Surveyor-General to extend the survey of Cunnamulla I diversified my feature surveying by the marking out of a few sections of town allotments, which occupied me a week, during which time, putting up at Huxley’s Hotel, I met with many denizens of the West, representative men who had won their spurs as pioneers, and whose preliminary exploits have proved the foundation of the Commonwealth in this part of the continent of Australia.

From Cunnamulla I proceeded further east and affected the survey of Noorama and Widgeegoara Creek where stations had been formed by Mr Edward Brown, the Messrs Howie and Mr John Bignell, the latter in Widgeegoara Creek. He was married to the eldest Miss Williams of Coongoola, one of the first white women who entered the Warrego District and certainly one of the bravest. Some years previous to 1874, when just married and residing on the Upper Bulloo at Tintinchilla station, of which her husband was the manager, upon one occasion a blackfellow stealthily crept into the dwelling and was in the act of tomahawking here when she flew out the opposite door, which fortunately happened to be open, and reached within sight of the stockyard, where Mr Bignell and his men were working. The pursurer, unable to catch her, ran off to roam about until the native police terminated his career.

Upon reaching Mr. Bignell’s station on the Widgeegoara I found Mrs Bignell upholding the traditions of pioneering, for she was living in an improvised shelter of a few sheets of corrugated iron. However, she found means, even in those primitive conditions to extend the traditional hospitality of Coongoola.

The whole of the Widgeegoara and Noorama country was like a luxuriant wheat field, covered with Mitchell grass. The Widgeegoara and Noorama creeks are actually billabongs which run out of the Warrego on to an immense southern plain which runs along the boundary of Queensland and New South Wales, extending from the Condemine waters to Grey’s Range on the west of the Bulloo River. It is only in a very high flood like that of 1874 that the Warrego overflows into the Widgeegoara and Noorama so that until dams were made and wells sunk the waterholes would remain for years unfilled. A few hundred yards of the canal cut out of the Warrego into the head of the Widgeegoara billabong would obviate this serious drawback. In fact the billabongs which break away from the Warrego, Paroo and Bulloo might be utilised by the extension of canals to irrigate the immense Southern plain referred to.

These surveys completed my work for 1874. I had located and classified about 200 runs and in the classification had materially augmented the revenue for many of the runs had been held throughout as half unavailable, which meant the rent was only paid on the available portion.

Source: G. C. Watson Building the Commonwealth

A Model Station

“Reaching Calwarro head station I found it in possession of its proprietor, Mr. W. J. Malpas, who renders me valuable assistance. I found in Calwarro water holes a resemblance to an inland lake, the wild fowls were in abundance; pelicans, swans, ducks, in search of prey, as the waterhole abounded with fish of all sizes.

In entering upon the survey of this run I found I had some intricate questions of boundaries to determine between Mr Malpas and his neighbours, Messrs Calder and Stephenson, of Thorlindah as well as Messrs Hood and Torrance, of Currawynya, as their respective runs had been applied for from divergent points, and some clashing had taken place. The country as I advanced increased in interest, as countless billabongs diverged east and west, ten, twenty and thirty miles, forming magnificent lakes in the backcountry some four kilometres in diameter; so that as we camped on the banks whereon the waves were beating we could imagine ourselves upon the seashore. It was plainly evident that the country should never suffer from drought, where Nature had already done so much of the engineering in rendering canalisation and easy process, and the outlet of the lakes practicable sites for effective embankments that would retain a permanent supply of water for many years. For although I was now witnessing the spectacle of well-filled lakes after the good rains of 1874, the same lakes, in protracted drought, had been known to be quite dry, so that horseman could canter through their beds.

I spent an exceedingly pleasant three months in the survey of Calwarro, Currawyn and Thorlindah and the backcountry thereof. Carrawynya had been formed by Messrs Hood and Torrance, of whom Mr Torrance was the leading spirit. He was ably assisted by the young Hoods, nephews of the part-owner, who soon became as proficient as their tutor. Mr Torrance died whilst upon an overland journey, about three months before the run was surveyed, so I missed the pleasure of meeting him. However, I saw his work, which was a marvel of practical forethought – no fortunes frittered away, nor embarrassments engendered by the building of ornamental woolsheds – but awaiting the growth of the clip, he met the necessities of shearing by the expedient of bough sheds.

 

Early dwellers built shanties for shelter and bough sheds for coolness. A primitive fridge was made by cutting a hessian bag down two sides and inserting two boards. This hung in the bough shed in the breeze and was used to set jellies and to keep honey and syrup away from the “hants”. Even meat and butter were kept in the bough sheds. A canvas water bag hung from one of the boughs and the water tasted good on a hot day. Lamps were made by stuffing a kerosene-soaked rag in a bottle.

Horses, cattle, and sheep or throve exceedingly well, horses especially. Much of the country was polygnum flats, whereon the cattle throve amazingly, whilst on the mulga ridges sheep found herbage and grasses adapted for their sustenance judging by the superior meat and wool grown there.

During my rendezvous at Currawynya the station property, consequent upon the death of Mr Torrance, changed hands being purchased by Mr Wilson, of Victoria, whose sons Hector and Norman duly arrived to take possession in 1874. I found them capable young men of business.

When Hood and Torrance formed the station they improvised such buildings as met their necessities for dwellings, stores and sheds; but within the year preceding my survey they had built a splendid mansion, with lofty rooms and also a detached, composite building for a store, dormitories, harness sheds etc.

Eulo Lizard Racing

This is a land of ancient landscapes – grassy plains stretching to the horizon, rugged red ranges and the sweep of sand dunes.
The Eulo Lizard Race is a testimony to the belief that Australians
would bet on two flies crawling up a wall.

Passing through Tilbooroo, whereon was the situation the township of Eulo, I reached the unsurveyed Lower Paroo. Eulo had been an important centre, situated the direct route of travel to the West; it accommodated the travellers passing to and fro and was at the same time a nucleus for the thirsty bushman to quench their thirst, by the ‘melting’ of their cheques and the increase of the territorial revenue, as well as the emoluments of the public-house. An adjacent store was in readiness to supply all the ordinary station requirements. The public house, the store and a blacksmith’s shop constituted the original township of Eulo, which came into celebrity as the rendezvous of prodigal adventurers who professedly had settled upon the Paroo as graziers, but whose purpose was actually to squander their means in hilarious horse-play. In announcing at the Eulo Hotel the termination of their repast they would hurl tablecloths, dishes, plates and crockery on to the floor and indulge in the bravado of paying for the bill of damages. Exploits of this kind continuously bought their holdings into the hands of the land monopolist.

Below Tilbooroo run I found myself upon Calwarro run whereon the river runs into a succession of magnificent waterholes, of which the Calwarro waterhole is the principal. The Paroo River at this southern extremity is characterised by the disappearance of its distinctive channel; the waterholes are connected by low depressions and polygnum flats which a stranger may cross unaware that he has gone beyond the river he is in search of. In fact, such was the fate of an early surveyor, who in search of water crossed the Paroo and kept going onward in the backcountry, where he perished.

The Paroo River Region

The Paroo River is a network of waterholes, swamps and floodplains that flows, after the rains of summer, from near Quilpie in western Queensland, through to Wilcannia in western New South Wales.

“My work fairly commenced with the survey of Qulberry Creek; thence extending my measurements to the Paroo, I traversed it to its head. The wave of pastoral enterprise having set in upon Western Queensland, there was a large inflow of capital, principally from Victoria, for the taking up and stocking of a new country, which I was now surveying. The Upper Paroo had, however, been taken up by Mr Bullmore, so that being yet unoccupied, I had the experience of being the first to measure a long stretch of the wilderness that had not been trodden by man or beast. (Needless to say, Watson was not the first man to walk this area)

Paroo River from the air, Qld
Celebrate Rivers

After reaching the head of the Paroo I turned southward and passed through land that had been settled but abandoned and forfeited, which probably had been the means of saving many lives, from the fact that the stations had been formed upon the river with deep billabongs behind them, in places imagined to be above flood level. The flood of January 1874, which I had witnessed on the Langlos, had also proved a great eye-opener on the Paroo, where the water rose 6ft over the roofs of the abandoned stations; so that there would have been no escape for the inmates hemmed in by the billabongs. Upon the most elevated spots between the river and the billabongs, I could not reach the flood mark with a riding whip standing up in my stirrups.

Continuing my surveys southward I reached the Humeburn station a the junction of the Paroo River and the Beechel Creek. The station had recently passed into the hands of a Victorian investor who happened to reach the station just before the flood. Despite being built on high land the water made an unceremonious entrance into the homestead, compelling the proprietor, manager, stockman and cook to take refuge on the roof for three days.

I reached Humeburn in June 1874 after a protracted survey of the unoccupied country and appreciated the domesticity of pastoral occupation. The surrounding country, after its inundation was clothed with a luxuriant verdure and as the flood did no damage to the improvements the well-ordered arrangements had not been disturbed.

Beechel Creek being unsurveyed, I forthwith traversed it to its head and adjusted all the runs thereon. About twenty miles above Humeburn I came upon the station of Beechel, in the possession of Messrs Lyons and Playfair. Mr Lyons who accompanied me upon the survey of his country was from the colony of Victoria, a well educated young man about 30 years of age with a well informed and well-behaved mind. He had had some startling adventures with the blacks; on one occasion he was beset by a hostile and numerous tribe, but being well mounted he rode across the Warrego and reached Coongoola (Williams’s).

Passing out of the Turungllnnunbah Creek and plains I was gratified and surprised at the luxuriant pasturage and splendid country and the great future when water conservation should be availed of to nullify the occasional visitations of drought. Some few miles above the Beechel, a new station was being formed by Mr. Ridley Williams, one of the Coongoola family who was striking out for himself.

Completing the survey to the head of Beechel I returned to Beechel Station and after drawing plans for the work I resumed the survey of the Paroo River downward and I proceeded to mark out the backcountry.

I might observe here that I found there was a vast stretch of country, vacant Crown Land between the Paroo and the Bulloo. The ball was at my feet as there was nothing in the Pastoral Leases Act of 1863 to prohibit my acquiring a stretch of this country at the Crown rental and disposing of the same at a high premium, which was already being done by a class of speculators who were flourishing thereby. Upon full consideration, I would have nothing to do with it, as no man can serve two masters, and I had always had an antipathy to the land monopolist and had no ambition to join their ranks.”