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Title: Sydney to Croydon (Northern Queensland) - An Interesting Account of a Journey to the Gulf Country - with a Member of Parliament
Author: Saltbush
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                                SYDNEY

                                  TO

                               CROYDON.

                        (NORTHERN QUEENSLAND.)

              An Interesting Account of a Journey to the
               Gulf Country with a Member of Parliament.

                            BY “SALTBUSH.”

                       PRICE ...  ONE SHILLING.

                                Sydney:

              “CAXTON” PRINTING WORKS, 247 GEORGE STREET.

                                 1889.



                        FROM SYDNEY TO CROYDON.

                            BY “SALTBUSH.”


Having received letters and telegrams from an old mate of mine who has
been on the Croydon goldfield for some considerable time--in all of
which communications he strongly advised me to pay a visit to the field
in order that I might judge for myself as to its richness and permanency
and its suitability for investment--it being in his opinion the grandest
goldfield ever discovered in Northern Queensland. I finally decided to
make the trip, and in company with a friend of mine, who with myself,
had on a former occasion visited Normanton and the Gulf-country before
Croydon was ever thought of, we started from Sydney on Monday, the 25th
July, and as the incidents of our journey may prove interesting to many
others who may visit the locality in the near future, I have ventured to
jot down a few experiences and impressions picked up during the journey.
We waited upon Messrs. Burns Philp and Co. in Sydney and made all
arrangements as to return passage from Brisbane to Normanton, having
decided to proceed overland from the capital of New South Wales to the
capital of Queensland, my friend, who had never travelled that route,
being particularly anxious to have a good look at the New England and
Darling Downs country, more especially as I was pretty well acquainted
with it, and could furnish him with some information concerning it that
might be eventually both useful and profitable. Having packed our
travelling trunks and various necessaries for the voyage, and confining
ourselves to such articles as were absolutely indispensable, in order to
make our “impedimenta” as light as possible--knowing from experience
that too much luggage is a terrible handicap on a long journey--the
first step was to secure berths on the Hunter River Steamship Company’s
fine boat, “the Namoi,” which left the wharf at half-past eleven, for
Newcastle. With the assistance of “Alick,” the well-known and genial
bedroom steward, we secured a very comfortable cabin to ourselves on the
upper deck, and a more obliging and attentive steward than the same
Alick I never wish to drop across in my travels, as nothing seemed any
trouble to him and he relieved us of all anxiety concerning our luggage
by looking carefully after it whilst in transit on the steamer, and
then, on our arrival at the coaly city, by conveying it on board the
Northern train advertised to leave at a quarter-past seven, a.m., on the
morning of the 26th.

As we had half-an-hour to spare before its departure we stepped across
the street from the Railway Station to the Terminus Hotel, where we
interviewed a very old friend of mine in the person of Walter Sidney,
and imbibed a refresher in the shape of a first-class glass of whiskey
and milk, which proved very refreshing in the sharp morning air, when we
strolled into the main street; passing the Post and Telegraph Office and
turning to the right, we climbed the hill at the back of the town, from
which point of advantage we had a most glorious view of the city and its
surroundings--the Pacific Ocean spreading away to the horizon on the
right; Nobby’s, with its light-house lying in front of us, Carrington,
late Bullock Island, to the left, and the city and its environs at our
feet, altogether formed a most delightful panorama, viewed as it was
under favorable circumstances, the morning being beautifully fine and
clear with a crisp, sharp feeling in the air, which rendered our stroll
truly refreshing and enjoyable.

Returning to the Station we found the train on the point of starting, so
securing our seats and a supply of literature, in which the “Town and
Country,” “Sydney Mail,” “Evening News,” “Echo,” and “Bulletin” figured
prominently, we made ourselves as comfortable as circumstances would
permit, having for fellow passengers, Mr. and Mrs. Blunt--the former the
contractor for one of the sections of the Homebush and Waratah railway
extension--who were on their way to Muswellbrook to spend a few weeks at
home and enjoy a well-earned rest.

Leaving Newcastle we steamed along past Honeysuckle Point, then onwards
through Hamilton, Waratah, Sandgate and Hexham, where we commence to
traverse the famous swamps, rendered memorable as the breeding-grounds
of the well-known and duly appreciated “Hexham Greys,” those noted
mosquitoes, which beyond all question, are able to climb the trees and
_bark_, whilst it is also an equally well-known fact that many of them
weigh a pound, but as this is not the real mosquito season we escape any
very pressing attentions on their part, and running along through this
flat swampy country with the Hunter River shining brightly in the
morning sun on our right, we gradually strike into better country, and
by the time East Maitland is reached the land looks about as good and as
fertile as they make it in this part of the world.

Passing the gaol on our right, where no doubt many an unfortunate is
bitterly regretting the hour in which he strayed from the paths of
rectitude, we shortly afterwards pull up at East Maitland, where the
guard and porters inform us that passengers for Morpeth change here, and
after a few minutes delay we again proceed on our journey, calling at
High Street (West Maitland) where the inevitable newsboy supplies us
with the “Maitland Mercury,” one of the best country papers in New South
Wales--conveying, as it does, an enormous amount of information on every
conceivable subject to its numerous readers--and a journal of which the
proprietary may feel justly proud. On, past Farley, formerly known as
the Wollombi Road, where most of the fat cattle are unloaded for the
Maitland market, past Lochinvar, Allandale, Greta, with its noted
colliery, Branxton, famous for the excellence of its wines, Belford and
Whittingham platforms, and we emerge on to the famous Patricks Plains,
passing through the valuable estates of Messrs. Dangar--Baroona lying to
the left of the line situate on a commanding site, overlooking a most
charming and extensive view of the surrounding country, Neotsfield being
hidden away to the right, whilst the paddocks with their wealth of
pasture are thickly dotted with groups of cattle in splendid condition,
who seem highly content with their comfortable quarters. Past Dalcalmah,
the beautiful residence of the late D. F. Mackay, who I remember years
ago as the proprietor of “Bullamon” and “Nindygully” Stations on the
Moonie, in the colony of Queensland--before the Messrs. Fisher became
the purchasers--and where he passed many years in the pursuit of his
occupation as a squatter, roughing it with his men through fair weather
and foul, and where, no doubt, he contracted the seeds of the disease
that eventually terminated his life; past the magnificent Beebeah
Vineyard, the property of Mr. A. Munro, whose vines have won a
deservedly high reputation for purity and flavor, and we pull up at
Singleton, 49 miles from Newcastle, about half-past nine, quite ready
for the breakfast which awaits us, and which we have been anxiously
looking forward to for the last half-hour.

Several old friends greet me on the platform, amongst them being Harry
York, formerly a well-known host at Jerry’s Plains, and Joe M‘Alpin, who
is now the boniface of the old Caledonian Hotel, and who looks as though
the life agreed with him down to the ground.

Breakfast over, we get under way again, and pass over the bridge across
the Hunter, where a former member of the New South Wales Legislative
Assembly now does duty as gatekeeper; and that reminds me of a racy
story told at his expense, as follows:--During his Parliamentary career
he on one occasion received an invitation to dinner at Government House,
which, of course, was duly accepted; and at length, arrayed in full
evening costume, he had the pleasure of stretching his legs underneath
the Governor’s mahogany. Waiting at table was at that time reduced to a
science in the “uppah succles,” and our worthy M.L.A., who felt rather
at sea in such high and dignified company, awoke some compassion in the
bosom of his right-hand neighbour, who, to relieve his embarrassment and
to make him feel at home, engaged him in conversation on the various
topics of the day. Soup was duly served, when a remark from his
right-hand neighbour caused our friend to lay down his soup spoon and
turn his head to reply. In a twinkling his plate disappeared, to our
friend’s utter astonishment; but a supply of fresh fish brought peace to
his soul for the time being, when “A glass of wine with you, sir,” from
his friend caused him to relinquish his hold upon his fish-knife and
fork, turn his head to reply, when, lo and behold! the balance of his
fish, plate and all, disappeared like a flash. Turning round to continue
his meal, our friend discovered his loss, and coming to the conclusion
that some practical joke was being played upon him, he determined to
keep a sharp watch during the remainder of the repast. Everything
progressed to his satisfaction until the joint was served, when the same
performance was likely to be repeated; but our worthy legislator was
equal to the occasion, and, seizing his knife, he wheeled suddenly round
as he saw the waiter’s hand stretched forth to grasp his plate, and in
low but impressive tones said to the astonished waiter: “By Jove! if you
remove _that_ plate until I have finished with it I will chop your
blooming hand off.” Tableau. Still onwards, passing through some lovely
country, both agricultural and pastoral, of which the famous Ravensworth
Estate forms no inconsiderable portion, noted in years gone by for the
excellent breed of horses raised there by Captain Russell, we at length
arrive at Muswellbrook, the great store cattle market of the colony,
where thousands of horned stock from distant parts of New South Wales
and Queensland are annually brought under the hammer and disposed of to
various buyers, a great number of them finding their way into the grand
fattening paddocks of the Hunter River valley, there to be topped up for
the metropolitan market.

There is a sale advertised to take place on the day we pass through; and
away on the hillside, at the south-eastern corner of the town, we
observe the saleyards filled with cattle, whilst drovers and stockmen
are hurrying hither and thither, giving life and animation to the scene;
whilst buyers are congregating from different parts of the district in
order to supply their requirements.

Mr. and Mrs. Blunt leave us here; and away we go past Aberdeen, pulling
up at the bridge which here spans the Hunter, to replenish the water
tanks of our engine. On past Turanville, of which a splendid view is
obtained away to the left; and Scone, where thousands of pounds have
been spent in the extermination of that terrible pest, the prickly pear.
On through the fertile and beautiful valley of the Upper Hunter, past
Wingen, with its famous burning mountain, and into the valley of the
Page, tributary of the Hunter, eventually pulling up at Murrurundi,
nearly 120 miles from Newcastle, about a quarter to one, and where we
are allowed ten minutes to stretch ourselves and refresh the inner man
if we feel so inclined.

We change engines here; in fact, we obtain two for one, it being
absolutely necessary to attach an additional locomotive in order to
climb the Liverpool Range at the head of the valley, and which I have
many a time climbed on foot in the coaching days of King Cobb, when
Murrurundi was the terminus of the Great Northern line, it being more
than even their noted good teams of horses could do to drag a heavy load
of passengers and mails to the summit.

Onwards and upwards we go, winding around spurs and alongside steep
ranges, obtaining some magnificent views of the town and valley below,
the prospect in some places being most lovely and enchanting, with its
background of noble-looking hills; and at length we plunge into the
tunnel and intense darkness, from which we emerge into the far famed
Doughboy Hollow, a famous camping ground in the olden days, where the
teamsters who had surmounted the difficulties of the range were glad to
rest themselves and their tired cattle before tackling the black soil
plains of Breeza, and where they would gather round the camp fires at
night relating their various adventures by flood and field, backing
“Doughboy” and “Damper” against “Bally” and “Brindle,” and swapping lies
generally, until it was time to go to roost. On past the Willow Tree,
Braefield platform, Quirindi--a thriving little inland town, situate in
the midst of some splendid agricultural country--the whole of which,
from here to Tamworth, must in the course of time come under the
operation of the plough, and find employment and food for thousands of
people--we at length pull up at Werris Creek, at half-past two, 156
miles from Newcastle, where, in exchange for half a-crown, we are
allowed to discuss an ample repast in one of the largest and best
refreshment-rooms in the colony, twenty-five minutes being allowed for
the operation; and as a lavatory is attached to the establishment, we
find a good wash very acceptable and refreshing before proceeding to
dinner.

Here part of our train is detached, it being the junction of the
North-Western line, and with its complement of passengers proceeds
onwards, via Breeza, Gunnedah, and Boggabri, to Narrabri, the present
terminus of that portion of the line; although it will be a good day for
the colony when the extension is carried out via Moree to Queensland
border, the country in that direction being some of the finest grazing
land in the whole of the colonies, which must eventually become
populated, as means of communication are provided for the people; the
roads, so called, being simply impassable in wet weather, and many a
time and oft have the inhabitants of that part of the colony been
threatened with famine in consequence of their supplies being detained
for weeks and months at a stretch in transit from Narrabri to their
destination.

However, I suppose all that will come to an end when the colony is
blessed with a progressive Government, and in the meantime we will
proceed on our journey, via Currabubula and Duri, to Tamworth. We pass
through beautiful open forest and plain country, every acre of which
seems fit for cultivation, and is dotted here and there with
comfortable-looking homesteads and smiling farms, and shortly pull up
for a few minutes at West Tamworth, where I greet a very old friend on
the platform in the person of Mr. David Brown, of Menedebri Station, who
is beginning to look “like a flour bag” now, although still as smart and
active looking as I remember him in years gone by, when he was bossing
the Millie South run on the Galathera Plains, then the property of his
father, and where a traveller was always secure of a real Australian
welcome. He was riding, as usual, a splendid-looking specimen of a
hackney, being always reckoned a good judge of a horse; but as the train
waits for no one, except perhaps a Minister for Works or a Railway
Commissioner, we bid each other good-bye and steam away for Tamworth
proper, crossing the valley of the Peel and the river itself by a long
viaduct and bridge, and curving away to the right, shortly afterwards
pull up at the station, where on the platform I espy another old and
esteemed friend, Mr, Frank Wyndham, who formerly owned the Boronga
Station on the Macintyre River, but after many years of hard work and
anxiety finally had to succumb to the combined forces of droughts, bad
markets, and excessive rentals; but being one of the old sort, who never
say die, he has established himself in business in Tamworth as a stock
and station agent, and I was very pleased to learn he has succeeded very
well in his undertaking, and is doing much better than he did in his
squatting ventures. He deserves all the good fortune that time may have
in store for him, for he is a “real white man,” whichever way you take
him.

The town of Tamworth is pleasantly situated at the foot of a bold chain
of mountains and on the Peel River. The soil on the flats is very rich,
and has been occupied and under cultivation for years; and on the border
of the town is situate the famous Little Paradise garden, a most lovely
and charming resort during the summer months, which is duly appreciated
by the citizens and those visitors who may be staying in the town for a
few weeks’ change.

Skirting the foot of the ranges, with the river flats on the right cut
up into farms and paddocks of every size, and tending eastward and
northward, with signs of cultivation and occupation on every hand, we at
length reach the Moonbies, and commence in earnest our climb to the
tablelands of New England.

Onwards and upwards, following the course of a romantic-looking stream,
containing some beautiful pools of clear, sparkling water, at one of
which, where an overshot dam had been constructed, we pull up for a few
minutes to replenish our water supply. Then, still onwards and upwards,
we at length reach the summit, the first station on the tableland being
the Macdonald River, 208 miles from Newcastle, a splendid stream of
water, cool and clear-looking, and enough to make a dweller in the back
blocks suffering from drought turn green with envy.

As it is now nearly six o’clock and darkness is setting down over the
land, my powers of observation are for the time restricted, and can
merely discern that we are passing through rocky granite country of poor
character, although where patches have been cleared and ring-barked, it
shows decided improvement, on past Walcha Road, Kentucky and Uralla. At
7.40 p.m., we alight cold and hungry at Armidale, 260 miles, where tea
is provided, and for a cold, cheerless, uncomfortable meal, the tea at
Armidale “takes the cake.” As the air is piercingly cold no fire is
visible in the dining-room, whilst the viands are neither tempting nor
appetising, but the fifteen minutes allowed soon expire and away we go
again, and still rising we cross Ben Lomond--the highest point of
elevation on any railway in New South Wales, it being 4471 feet above
the sea level--302 miles from Newcastle, about a quarter to ten. Coiled
up in a corner of the carriage with my rug wrapped round me I make
myself as comfortable as possible, fall fast asleep, and do not awake
until we reach our destination at Tenterfield, the present terminus of
the line, at five minutes past one in the morning, and bitterly cold we
find it on stepping out of the carriage and making our way to the coach
in waiting to convey us to Browne’s Hotel, where fortunately a good fire
and a warm welcome await us, but we are not long before turning in,
being anxious to obtain a few hours rest in a comfortable bed before
resuming the journey. At 5 o’clock Wednesday morning we are roused up by
a knock at the door and a voice saying, “Breakfast will be ready in a
few minutes,” and shortly afterwards appear in the breakfast-room where
a well cooked and appetising repast is quickly placed upon the table, to
which we do ample justice, and a few minutes past six take our seats on
the box of Cobb & Co.’s coach with luggage aboard, to compass the 13 or
14 miles of road between Tenterfield and Wallangarra on the border and
the terminus of the Queensland line.

Our driver is “Old Larry,” a well known whip on the Northern roads, and
quite a character in his way, so that we have a remarkably pleasant
drive in the crisp mountain air, and being well wrapped up we defy the
cold, for it is cold without a doubt, many of the little pools by the
wayside being coated with ice, whilst the frost in the valleys is thick
and heavy, and the air ten degrees colder than on the summit of the
hills, where the beams of the rising sun are dispersing the mists and
warming the atmosphere. The steam rises from the horses in the frosty
air, but they are staunch and good, and about eight o’clock we cross the
border, and shortly afterwards transfer ourselves and luggage from the
coach to the train at the township of Wallangarra, on the Queensland
side.

I am afraid this township has not a very bright future before it, the
surrounding country being of remarkably poor quality and evidently
incapable of maintaining anything like a large population, and I should
fancy that the branch of the Royal Bank of Queensland established there
can hardly pay expenses, whilst the hotelkeepers must have all their
work cut out to make both ends meet. However, I wish them all sorts of
good luck--for any man deserves it who would live in such an
out-of-the-way hole.

Our train starts about half-past eight and is not long in running into
Stanthorpe, formerly a very thriving town and the centre of a large and
important tin-mining industry, but judging from what we saw during the
few minutes the train stopped, I should say now that the principal
residents are goats and Chinamen; in fact, the place seems almost handed
over to the Chinkies, and I hear that the Chinese Commissioners on their
overland journey to Brisbane had a high old time of it here with their
countrymen during their short stay, being driven round to the principal
mines in the vicinity, and being made much of generally, to say nothing
of the wine consumed in their honor.

Granite rocks and boulders are the principal features of interest as we
steam along, but a few miles out of Stanthorpe the line follows the
course of a lovely looking valley for some distance, giving us some
charming views of mountain scenery from our coign of vantage, we having
secured a very comfortable compartment right at the rear of the train,
having a platform on which we can stand and view the surroundings and
have a smoke in peace and comfort whilst viewing the line of rails
disappear in our rear. The country shortly afterwards begins to improve,
and as we near Warwick some grand agricultural land dotted here and
there with farms comes into view, the train presently coming to a
standstill at what will shortly be the main station, on the eastern side
of the town. A goods shed has already been completed and the station
buildings now in course of erection will bear favorable comparison with
anything of their kind along the line, being built in a most substantial
manner of a very superior kind of freestone, which I was informed was
obtained at a quarry about twelve miles distant to the eastward, where
there is an inexhaustible supply. After a few minutes’ delay we steam
slowly across the Condamine River over a substantial bridge, and
following a bend of the river to the westward, pull up at the present
main station where twenty minutes is allowed for dinner, and a right
good meal is served about half-past twelve, to which we do full justice,
our five o’clock breakfast at Tenterfield having vanished into the mists
of the past by this time--the viands being plentiful, the cookery
excellent, and the country girl who waits upon us very attentive, the
charge also being moderate--two shillings--and for the life of me I
cannot understand the difference in the tariff on the overland journey
between Melbourne and Brisbane. At Seymour, in Victoria, they give you a
splendid tea for eighteen-pence, but for one early breakfast at Albury,
and for any other meal on the New South Wales lines nothing less than
half-a-crown is charged, so that protected Victoria will certainly
compare favorably with freetrade New South Wales in that respect, whilst
Queensland strikes a balance between the two, and gives you as good a
meal as either of them for two shillings. However, the bell rings and
again we take our scats shortly to commence our journey over the
far-famed Darling Downs, as soon after leaving Warwick the panorama
opens out and some magnificent stretches of country meet the eye on
every side, the view being enchanting in the extreme, more especially as
we are favoured with exceptionally fine weather, whilst the temperature
is becoming decidedly warmer, making travelling far more pleasant than
it was during the cold hours of the night and early morning coming
through New England. Grand agricultural country this, as well as
pastoral, farms being thickly dotted over the landscape, whilst splendid
stacks of hay, visible at various stations, speaks well for the
forethought of those who, having doubtless learnt a few severe lessons
during our seasons of drought, have made preparations for the future.
Passing Allora, a thickly populated farming district, with signs of
cultivation visible on every hand, we pass over some splendid rolling
downs divided into paddocks, and evidently forming a portion of the
famous Clifton Estate, in which we discern some grand specimens of pure
Devon and grade cattle, whose condition speaks volumes for the richness
of the pasture, the water supply evidently being obtained from wells,
with pumps worked by means of windmills of the solid-wheel type, numbers
of which can be seen at work as we pass along, with cattle grouped
around the troughs and tanks in their vicinity, whilst the prospect
extends almost as far as the eye can reach.

A splendid hare is handed to the guard at one of the Clifton crossings,
and we shortly afterwards pull up at Clifton Station, where the passing
of the train appears to be the event of the day in the eyes of a few
bushmen congregated under the verandah of the Clifton Arms; whilst the
horses hitched here and there show that the arrival of the mail is
evidently of some importance to the settlers resident in the vicinity.

The country continues of the same splendid description past King’s Creek
and Cambooya, where the south-western traffic, via Leyburn, Inglewood,
and Goondiwindi, joins the railway line, and where a splendid reserve is
available for the carriers on that road. Still on, through grand farming
country, passing under the road leading to Toowoomba through Drayton,
past one or two small platforms and we pull up for a few minutes at
Gowrie Junction to refresh our engine. Here the main western line from
Mitchell, Roma, Yeulba, and Dalby, junctions with the Warwick and
Stanthorpe line; and another eight miles, through farms, orchards, and
gardens, with soil of the real Toowoomba color, brings us to the capital
of the Darling Downs. We run out on a substantial trestle-bridge, and by
means of a triangular section of railway back into the station, so that
we have a clear run outwards when resuming our journey to Brisbane.

With a quarter of an hour allowed for refreshments, we step out and
stretch our legs, have a cup of tea, obtain a couple of good havanas,
and again resume our seats, and passing outwards towards the crest of
the range obtain a very fair view of the town and its surroundings, the
excellence and fertility of the soil being conspicuous on every hand.

Just as we commence the descent a lovely place is visible to the sight
perched on a plateau at the summit of the range, a splendid orangery
being a conspicuous feature in the surroundings, whilst the view
obtainable therefrom would be hard to surpass in any part of the colony.

Onwards and downwards we go, mile after mile, the views from various
points being magnificent in the extreme and extending for miles,
comparing very favourably with some of the most romantic scenery of our
own far-famed Blue Mountains. On round sharp curves, over
spidery-looking bridges that look almost as though a strong gale would
blow them over; across deep ravines fringed with beautiful shrubs and
trees of every description, plunging through short tunnels built on the
curve to such an extent in some instances that one wonders how on earth
they managed to construct them safely--the whole forming a lasting
monument to the engineering skill that managed to overcome the almost
insurmountable obstacles that stared them in the face in their
endeavours to open up railway communication between the capital of the
colony and the Darling Downs. One particular feature of the journey
struck me as an example worthy of imitation on the various lines
throughout the different colonies. I allude to the numerous peach trees
bordering the line, planted there by the gangs of fettlers employed in
the maintenance of the permanent way between the summit of the range and
Highfields, these trees being a treat to see during the summer months,
and affording an ample supply of beautifully cool, juicy fruit during
that time to the numerous employees on this heavy length of line.

Highfields, where we stay for a few minutes to replenish the water
supply, is a most romantically situated spot, sheltered from the hot
westerly winds that generally prevail on the Downs by a range clothed in
verdure and greenery almost surpassing description, and I have often
wondered why some speculative individual has not taken advantage of the
natural beauties of this most charming retreat amongst the mountains and
erected an hotel, to which the tired denizens of the city could resort
during the hottest months of the year to renew their health and energy,
feeling sure that the speculation would be one of the most profitable of
its kind in the colony if properly carried out; for if our own colony
can support hotels and boarding-houses by the dozen on the Blue
Mountains, surely the colony of Queensland could maintain one of the
kind, at least, in such a lovely spot, with a perpetual spring of pure
water available for every purpose, which would enable anyone to turn the
place into a veritable paradise on earth.

Leaving Highfields, with its sanatorium still in the womb of the future,
we proceed onwards and downwards, passing some magnificent blocks of
freestone of excellent quality stacked along the line, awaiting
conveyance, the quarry from which it is obtained being situate in a
gorge of the mountains immediately below, and with a supply evidently
inexhaustible. Past Murphy’s Creek, at the foot of the range, we shortly
afterwards pull up at Helidon for tea, where the good opinion we have
already formed of the quality of the meals supplied on the Queensland
railways is still further strengthened; the establishment being under
the control of an old friend of mine, with whom I had often spent a
pleasant hour in Brisbane, when he was managing a very large business
venture in that city. Very pleased indeed we were to meet again; but the
iron horse allows of scant delay, so with a hearty grip we part--I to
resume my journey, and he to remain looking after the wants of
travellers like myself; and if they never get into worse hands they will
never take much harm.

Night has now settled down upon us, and shortly after passing
Grandchester, with its beautiful plane trees growing alongside the
station, I drop off to sleep, passing the intervening stations,
including Ipswich, with very faint recollections, and am finally roused
by my travelling companion as the train slows down just outside the
Brisbane terminus for the collection of tickets, about a quarter past
ten at night.

Shortly afterwards, with our belongings stowed away on board a
wagonette, we are on our way to the Metropolitan Hotel, where I renew an
acquaintance extending over many years with its jolly proprietor, Mr. J.
A. Philips, but unfortunately have to interview him in his own private
room, as he was laid up with a severe attack of the gout, and unable to
leave his bed.

However, I find him as jolly as ever, making light of his affliction,
and looking upon it as a matter of course; but he takes good care that
our wants are duly attended to; and shortly afterwards, pretty well
tired out with the long journey, I retire to rest, and sleep the sleep
of the just until roused by the loud tones of the gong calling me to
breakfast in the morning.

Just to give your readers an idea of the time occupied on the overland
journey between Sydney and Brisbane I will summarise it as follows:--

We left Sydney on Monday night at half-past eleven; arrived at Newcastle
early next morning; left there by train at a quarter-past seven a.m. on
Tuesday; travelled all that day, reaching the present terminus at
Tenterfield at a quarter-past one on Wednesday morning; left there at
six a.m. the same morning by Cobb’s coach, and arrived at Wallangarra
about eight o’clock, finishing the journey at Brisbane at a quarter-past
ten the same night.

The steamer for Normanton had been advertised in Sydney to leave
Brisbane on the Thursday, the day after our arrival, but on going to the
office to make inquiries as to her time of departure, we were told that
in consequence of having been delayed by running aground in the Brisbane
River on her way up to the wharf, she could not possibly leave before
Friday afternoon, so that we had a clear day to look around the city and
hunt up our acquaintances. Not having seen Brisbane for a couple of
years I took advantage of the opportunity to ascertain what progress the
city had made since my last visit, and must say that the sight of the
buildings lately erected gave me a very strong idea that the community
must be in a tolerably prosperous state to enable them to erect such
structures in their midst.

The Queensland National Bank, the “Courier” buildings, the offices of
Macdonald-Paterson and Co., Grimes and Pettys, Finney, Isles and Co.,
the Imperial Hotel, and many others, would compare favorably with
anything in the colonies, and would certainly be a credit to any city in
the world. I also paid a visit to Parliament House, and must certainly
admit that the lower chamber is far and away superior to that of Sydney
in every respect, it being arranged much after the style of the Council
Chamber in the latter city, but the accommodation for the public, and
more particularly the gallery set apart for ladies, is perfect in its
way, and offers an example that the older colony might well follow
whenever it is decided to erect something more suitable for the purpose
than the present barn-like structure that passes muster as the
Legislative Hall of New South Wales. With regard to the refreshment
room, Sydney has the advantage; in fact, I think it would be hard to
find a finer dining-room than the one attached to the Legislative
Assembly of the old Colony, but like the railway arrangements for meals,
in this respect also, Queensland bears the palm, the tariff for all
meals to Members of the House being one shilling only, and available
every day, both in session and out, the consequence being that many
Members of the Legislature who appreciate good cookery at a moderate
rate, desert the clubs at meal times and give the preference to the
Parliamentary cuisine.

We fell in with several Members of the Lower House, notably, Mr.
Macdonald-Paterson, Postmaster-General, and Mr. Macrossan, the late
Minister for Works; the former, a fine jovial specimen of humanity who
did his best to make our stay as agreeable as possible, and who
certainly left a most favorable impression on my mind as a courteous and
affable gentleman of whom the colony may well feel proud.

However, it is not my intention to weary your readers with a description
of Brisbane and its surroundings, so will proceed to relate more
particularly the incidents of our voyage northwards, which may prove of
more interest than descriptions of men and cities told many a time and
oft by abler pens than mine.

The s. s. Rockton, 2000 tons, was the vessel destined to convey us to
the port of Kimberley, in the Gulf of Carpentaria, passengers and
luggage being transferred there into the s.s. Dugong for the remainder
of the voyage up the Norman River, it being as yet impossible to get
vessels of the Rockton’s tonnage and draught across the bar at the mouth
of the river, and about a quarter-past five, p.m. on Friday, the 29th
July, we left the wharf in Brisbane and steamed slowly and carefully
down the river, being one day behind at the start through the
before-mentioned accident to the vessel on her inward voyage. The usual
bustle consequent on the departure of a large steamer with a full
complement of passengers took place--many tearful farewells and goodbyes
were uttered, many hearty hand-shakes given, and many a white
handkerchief waved as we cast loose from our moorings, but there was
little or no confusion, Captain Leggett and his officers reducing
everything to apple pie order in a very short space of time, whilst the
passengers began to look about them trying to discover who were their
companions for the voyage and what sort of a prospect was held out for a
pleasant passage, as it depends very much upon the company one happens
to meet whether matters go smoothly or not, and judging from personal
observations, we were evidently in for a sociable and enjoyable trip.

We got safely out of the river just as the night came on, bore across
for the light on Moreton Island, got safely over the outer bar, and the
voyage had fairly commenced, our first port of call being Townsville;
and as by this time it was about a fair thing, I turned in and had a
good night’s rest, the sea being comparatively smooth, whilst the
steamer, with the wind abeam, was going a good twelve knots and giving
every prospect of a rapid passage--a promise fully borne out by results.

On we sped, passing Frazer Island and the Great Sandy Cape on Saturday
morning, very little occurring to break the monotony of the voyage,
except that off the Cape we noticed thousands of sea birds engaged in
fishing--a very interesting performance to those who had not previously
witnessed anything of the kind--and as we were very close to them, in
fact they almost surrounded us, we had a splendid view of the operation.

A bird would rise from sixty to a hundred feet above the surface of the
sea, then turn, and with head down, wings folded closely to its sides,
come down like a stone, disappearing under the water for a few seconds,
when it would emerge--in most instances with its finny prey secured--and
after paddling on the surface for a few yards, disposing of its capture,
it would again take wing, and mingling amongst its fellows again and
again go through the same evolutions with varying success.

We had also some glimpses of lovely islands scattered here and there on
the calm surface of the sea, which, together with the glorious views of
the mainland, combined to form a most exquisite picture, ever changing
and ever enjoyable, more especially to those who had not previously
taken a trip along the lovely northern coast.

We had the usual variety of games by which travellers on shipboard
manage to while away the time--deck quoits, whist, cribbage, penny nap.,
draughts, and chess, and amongst those who affected the latter game was
“Uncle John,”--a perfect character in his way, and a never-failing fund
of amusement to his fellow-passengers,--who was _en route_ to Cooktown
on business connected with the construction of the railway from that
place to Maytown. A jovial old card at all hours and under all
circumstances was “Uncle,” ever on the watch to persuade a friend to
join him in “viewing the alligator,” ever ready to join in a round game
at cards or meet an opponent over the chess board, where his
preternatural look of wisdom and “whuskey,” combined with his witty
remarks on the progress of the game, would afford a regular “go as you
please” entertainment to his delighted auditors, chief amongst whom was
a little four-eyed specimen of the tribe of Israel, whose laugh at
“Uncle’s” sallies was loud and continuous, until it finally became
monotonous, and created a murderous desire in the breasts of those in
the immediate vicinity, more especially when he followed the old man
about with a pressing request that he would again entertain him with the
funny story of “The broken down walls of Jerusalem.” “Vich vas de pest
yarn, sho elp me neffer, dat I efer hear in all mine life, und gome und
dell it to dis shentleman; he was not hea it at all yet,” until we all
had it by heart.

At meal times also “Uncle” was a regular picnic all to himself, and a
chop trying a wrestling match with the “old un” invariably came off
second best, for, seizing it by the shank end, it would disappear down
his capacious maw with a rush, the bone reappearing immediately
afterwards as bare of meat as a black gin’s shin-bone; whilst he would
dive the fork he was using into the dish of spuds and impale one with
unerring aim, to the great “amusement” (?) of his nearest neighbours. As
for the dessert, particularly the oranges and bananas, the way it
disappeared was a caution to boa constrictors. And as Uncle was never
sick or sorry, but always on hand whenever the saddling bell rang, I am
afraid the purser did not get much the best of the deal.

However, the old boy was a jolly good old sort, able to give a joke or
take one with perfect good humour, and the last we saw of him was going
over the side and down the companion ladder into the ship’s boat for
delivery in Cooktown, with the following label secured firmly to his
coat:--“I am out for the night; when full, take me home; address, Uncle
John, Cooktown Gaol.” And one of our passengers who went ashore in the
same boat says the old chap was safely landed, the last words he heard
him utter being, “Stand up, lads; my shout this time!” in the bar of
Poole’s hotel.

We also had on board Mr. B. Cribb, who was on his way to Croydon to act
as P.M. and assist the Warden at that place in getting through the vast
amount of work caused by the large influx of diggers, attracted by the
reports current throughout the colonies of the richness of the field;
together with Messrs. Hassall and Waddell, members of the N.S.W.
Legislature, who were taking advantage of the recess to pay a visit to
the field; and many others, including a brother of Mr. Cribb’s, Charley
Street, a well-known expert telegraph operator, who had been told off to
help the unfortunate post and telegraph master at Croydon (who was
nearly worked to death) pull through the enormous amount of business
which was being done since the opening of the office; Mr. Wilson Le
Couteur, the possessor of a magnificent voice and an extensive
repertoire of songs, with which he whiled away many a pleasant hour, who
had been instructed by the A.U.S.N. Co. to proceed to Normanton and
report upon the best means of doing away with the delay that now exists
in landing and lightering the vast quantities of goods shipped to that
port.

It was high time some decisive steps were taken in reference to this
important matter, affecting, as it does, the future welfare of nearly
the whole of the residents of the Gulf country, who are at present, and
will be for years, mainly dependent upon outside supplies for the
necessaries of life; the country around here which has come under my
observation being totally unfitted for agriculture. And in view of the
immense increase in business which has taken place since the discovery
of the Croydon goldfield, of which the A.U.S.N. Co. are reaping the
direct benefit, it was a good stroke of policy on their part to send a
gentleman of Mr. Le Couteur’s ability, knowledge, and tact to discover
and report upon the best means to be adopted in order to attain the end
in view; and, speaking for myself and many others who have made this
trip more than once, sincerely hope that suggestions made by him to the
company he represents may be carried out in their entirety, and without
any unnecessary delay.

The rest of our passengers were of the usual mixed order found on board
most coasting steamers--a fairly representative collection of the
various trades and professions incidental to colonial life, who
fraternised together in the usual way, and, as a rule, did their best to
entertain each other during the voyage; the number being largely
increased on our arrival at Townsville by an influx of miners, machine
owners, and speculators from Charters Towers, some of them accompanied
by their wives and children, and evidently intent upon settling down at
Croydon and giving the place a fair trial in a thoroughly practical way.
We arrived at Townsville on Monday morning, and cast anchor in the bay
shortly before eleven o’clock, but it was some little time before the
steam tender came off to convey mails and passengers ashore; our
captain, Mr. Cribb, Mr. Le Couteur, and one or two others being
accommodated with a seat in the Customs’ boat, which had come alongside
in the meantime. The usual inconveniences of landing at Townsville were
experienced on this occasion, for, notwithstanding the large sums of
money spent in trying to improve the port by erecting jetties and by
dredging, it is almost as difficult to land now as it was years ago,
when the first rush took place to Charters Towers.

The steam tender took us as far as the bar at the end of the jetty right
enough, but there the trouble commenced as we had to tranship into the
steamer’s boat, which the officer in charge had taken the precaution to
tow behind us, and from that we were transferred or landed on the
northern jetty, climbing up the blocks of stone of which it is composed
as best we might, winding up with a fairly long walk under a glaring sun
over a pretty rough track with a heavy patch of sand to wind up with,
and finally pulling up at the Criterion Hotel for a refresher, where I
met several old and valued friends, including Mr. Fred Johnson, who
looks as well and hearty as when I met him nearly ten years ago, Mr.
Hubert, Tom Coyle, and many others.

As we had about eight hours to spare I utilised the time by having a
look around the city, and found that many improvements had been made
since my last visit, and from all appearances the place has every
prospect of a prosperous future, although just at present matters are as
dull as the proverbial ditch-water; Townsville, like many other places
throughout the colony, having suffered severely from the effects of the
late drought, but signs of improvement are visible in consequence of the
present really good season, and the beef and mutton exhibited in the
shops of Messrs. Castling and Johnson would compare favorably with
anything in Australia.

Townsville has long been noted for the excellence of its hotel
accommodation, and years ago when the Queen’s Hotel was under the
management of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Boulton, now of Pfahlert’s Hotel,
Wynyard Square, Sydney, the name was a household word amongst all
travellers whom business and pleasure took northwards, for the
excellence of its arrangements; and under the present supervision of Mr.
and Mrs. Cran it has lost none of its former prestige, whilst the
“Imperial,” established by Mr. D. Buchanan, and now conducted by Mrs. W.
Eaton, late of the Criterion Hotel, Rockhampton, will compare favorably
with anything of the kind in the colonies.

The news of the good crushings at Croydon had created quite a stir, and
many of the old pioneers of the north were thinking of paying a visit to
the new “El Dorado,” in order to ascertain from personal observation
what the future prospects of the gold-field were likely to be, and their
opinions will doubtless be looked forward to with a great deal of
interest by their immediate circle of friends and acquaintances, as well
as many others who will rely upon it before making a start for this as
yet comparatively unknown country.

We had been instructed by the “Skipper” to be at the Company’s wharf
about 4 o’clock, and about that hour crowds of people are congregated in
that locality--the majority of them being passengers, attended by their
relatives and friends, who have come to wish them God-speed on their
voyage--and on the tender putting in an appearance and making fast to
the wharf quite a rush took place to secure seats on board, the little
vessel being crowded to its utmost capacity with passengers and luggage.
As the tide is making we get out safely, and without any delay, are
shortly aboard the “Rockton,” the anchor being weighed a few minutes
after 7 p.m., and with a fair wind and smooth sea we continue our
voyage, taking the outside track round Magnetic Island, obtaining a
splendid view of it and the Palms as we steam along. Nothing occurs to
break the monotony until we arrive at Cooktown, where the anchor is let
go about 5 p.m. on Tuesday, the ship’s boat being very quickly in
readiness to convey the captain, purser, mails and passengers, ashore,
but as it is pretty rough I prefer staying on board, giving our genial
old friend, “Uncle John,” a parting salute as he goes over the side with
about as much ballast aboard as he can carry.

We are only delayed about five hours when everything is again in
readiness to resume our voyage, the passenger list being supplemented by
a few fresh arrivals, causing some of the state-rooms to be rather
inconveniently crowded, but as the nights are warm and the weather keeps
gloriously fine many of us prefer sleeping on deck, and by the aid of
pillows, mattrasses, and rugs, succeed in making ourselves perfectly
comfortable. Captain Thompson, whose duty it is to take charge of the
vessels belonging to the A.U.S.N. Co. during the passage between
Cooktown and Thursday Island, and _vice versa_, comes aboard here for
the purpose of superintending the intricate navigation of this portion
of the eastern seaboard, and as we also have the services of Captain
Keating available in that capacity, in addition to the practical
seamanship and knowledge of the coast possessed by Captain Leggett, we
have every prospect of pulling through in good time and without the
necessity of having to anchor at night; more especially as the nights
are beautifully fine and clear with a good moon, which renders, by means
of its light, most valuable assistance.

I have often wondered how it is, that further south where plenty of sea
room is always at command, accidents of the Ly-ee-moon and Cahors type
should be of more frequent occurrence than they are in the intricate
navigation between the Barrier Reef and the mainland, where, if such
calamities did happen, it would not be so much matter for wonderment,
and some excuse could be made for those in charge of valuable human
lives and property, and can only account for it by the fact that the
danger renders everyone connected with the vessel most vigilant and
attentive; pilot, captain, and officers, being always on the alert to
secure the safety of everything under their control.

On Wednesday morning we have a rare bit of fun. One of our
passengers--the little Jew, wearing specs., before mentioned--was coming
out of his cabin, and hearing a commotion going on in the fore part of
the steamer, asked a steward whom he chanced to meet, “Vat vhas all the
row aboud?” There was a sail in sight ahead, and on the look-out man
giving notice of the fact everyone on deck was rushing about to try and
get a sight of the stranger; hence the bustle and noise noticed by the
Jew. “A sale! a sale!” says the child of Israel. “Mein gott, steward,
vhy dont you got me a ‘kateelog’; de tings vhas all sold pefore I make
me any monish.”

About breakfast time we were abreast of the Channel Rock lightship, and
as we had some packages on board for them, the whistle was sounded and a
boat manned by four men--one of whom was the possessor of, I think, the
finest beard I ever saw on a man--put off from the lightship and was
shortly alongside, the steamer being stopped for a few minutes to enable
them to obtain their letters, papers, and goods, amongst the latter
being a large bale of aboriginal blankets for the use of the blacks in
the vicinity of Cape Melville, where they are still pretty numerous. How
on earth the unfortunate beings condemned to pass their days on this
lonely lightship manage to exist without losing their reason passes my
comprehension altogether, for a more desolate-looking spot it would be
hard to find on the face of the earth, viewed as we saw it from the deck
of the Rockton, with the lightship anchored about three miles from the
shore; a few ugly rocks just showing above the surface of the sea
indicating the dangers of the channel; the mountains of rock piled
together in most admired disorder, and almost bare of vegetation, in the
background--the whole scene being one of such utter desolation that I
could not help a feeling of pity arising in my breast for the poor
devils, whose only intercourse with the outer world is limited to an
interchange of a few words once a week with a passing steamer.

Some little time after passing the lightship, and when nearing the
Flinders Group, a blackfellow’s canoe was descried in the distance, and
as we drew nearer we could see that it contained four darkies, who were
paddling with might and main trying to intercept us--no doubt for the
purpose of begging food and tobacco, or any other articles which the
charitably disposed might feel inclined to bestow upon them. Their
canoe, which was fashioned out of a hollowed tree and fitted with an
outrigger to prevent its capsizing, was making good headway under the
frantic exertions of its dusky crew, being well away on the starboard
bow; but as time was precious, our genial skipper did not care to slow
down for the purpose of holding an interview, and we gradually drew
abeam of them: but they struggled gamely on until we left them astern
and they saw pursuit was hopeless, when, with a gesture of despair, they
threw up the sponge and, squatting down in their frail bark, watched us
steam away, regretting no doubt their hard luck at missing a breakfast
and a smoke which had seemed almost within their grasp.

We shortly afterwards passed the Flinders Group, a most remarkable
landmark on this route; and I was informed by Captain Leggett that
splendid oysters of most delicious flavour can be obtained in almost any
quantities just off the point of the most westerly of the islands, he
having discovered them on a former voyage when commander of the Gunga.
The sea is as calm as the proverbial mill pond, and we seem as though
steaming along some broad and beautiful river, the points of the Great
Barrier Reef showing plainly on our right, whilst on our left we have
the mainland, in some places bold and well defined, and in others low
and indistinct, from which at times dense columns of smoke are seen
arising, denoting no doubt the presence of some of the wild tribes of
blacks who still find a safe retreat in the recesses of Cape York
peninsula.

We shortly come in sight of Claremont Island Lightship on the Northern
side of Princess Charlotte Bay, where Captain Wilson, his wife, and
assistants find a quiet retreat from the noise and bustle of the outside
world; and here also we see a little daughter of Pilot Thompson’s, who
is suffering from an affection of the brain, and has been recommended by
a medical man thorough rest and quietness for a time; and no better
place could have been selected, for certainly, to judge from
appearances, nothing could ever occur here to jar the nerves of the most
sensitive, whilst there is a little more variety than is apparent at
that lonely Channel Rock, there being a beche-de-mer station visible on
a low-lying coral island a short distance away to the eastward, with
which doubtless the dwellers on the lightship keep up communication.

There are many low islands and patches of coral reef distinctly visible
on either side as we steam along, rendering the utmost vigilance on the
part of pilots and captain indispensable, but we have a relay of good
men in Pilots Thompson and Keating and Captain Leggett; so we make good
headway in spite of all obstructions; and shortly after leaving the
Claremonts we meet the British India Steamer Catterthun bowling merrily
along on her course southwards, with whom we exchange the courtesies
usual at sea. We are evidently in tropical climes this morning, judging
from the light and exceedingly airy costume in which one of the gentler
sex appears on deck, causing quite a feeling of astonishment amongst the
lady passengers who have not yet learnt to appreciate the coolness and
luxury of a robe made of mosquito netting and fine linen, and a flutter
of excitement amongst the male portion, who, like myself, believe that
beauty unadorned is admired the most. But the Captain, like the good
general he is, soon puts matters straight, and the excitement gradually
subsides as we settle down listlessly to pass away the hours as best we
may.

On Thursday morning, about eight o’clock, we enter the beautiful Albany
Pass, certainly one of the most lovely spots on the whole coast of
Australia, and nearly everyone is on deck to admire the lovely scene
presented to their view.

There is a terrific tide rip at the entrance, the water fairly surging
over some low-lying rocks on the port side, running down from a point of
land covered in all directions with ant-hills of a beautiful red color,
with which one lady seemed excessively charmed; and not being quite sure
of what they consisted, asked another lady friend if that was the lovely
red coral of which she had heard so much, but was unable to obtain any
definite information on the subject; and I am still under the impression
she retains the belief that some of the grandest coral ornaments in the
world are to be obtained at that particular spot. The ever-changing
views obtained as we steam through the Pass bring forth expressions of
admiration and delight on every hand, culminating in one spontaneous
burst as we round the point, which reveals a view of the old Government
residence at Somerset, and now occupied by Mr. Frank Jardine, who has a
large cattle station in this portion of the peninsula--the house being
situated upon an eminence surrounded by dense tropical foliage, bringing
out in strong relief the cleared ground in the midst of which the
buildings are erected, whilst down on the beach are the boat and
beche-de-mer sheds, with a neat little schooner and her attendant fleet
of small boats lying peacefully at anchor--making, altogether, a picture
long to be remembered.

At the northern end of the Albany Pass lies the Sextant Rock, so called
from the circumstance of the great navigator, Captain Cook, having
landed there to take observations; and as we draw near to Thursday
Island, just before entering the Prince of Wales Channel, we see away to
the north-east some few miles distant the wreck of the ship
John-de-Costa, which ran aground on the North Torres Reef, a little over
two years ago, whilst on her way from Melbourne to Calcutta with 150
head of horses on board for the Indian market.

There she lies nearly high and dry with a slight list to starboard,
looking in the distance like a vessel at anchor, a grim monument to the
dangerous navigation of these coral seas; and shortly after she was
wrecked, whilst horses, stores, &c., were still on board, the lot was
submitted to auction at Thursday Island, and bought by a syndicate of
the residents in the immediate vicinity at the following figures: The
vessel with all standing rigging was sold for £170; the horses and about
30 tons of fodder only realised £20; cabin stores, £20; deck stores,
£20; and 125 iron tanks of 400 gallons each, £20.

All attempts to get the ship off the reef have proved futile, but about
100 of the horses were saved, being transhipped into small vessels
belonging to some of the pearl-shellers, in lots of four and five at a
time, and then landed at Thursday Island, from whence they were finally
sent on to Normanton, the majority being conveyed by Captain Leggett in
his various trips with the “Gunga,” so that the speculation on behalf of
the syndicate must have turned out a very profitable venture. We steam
round the northern end of Hammond Island and Hammond Rock, the latter
looking like some immense boulder, round which the tide is rushing at
the rate of a good five knots an hour; and here we catch the first
glimpse of Goode Island and the lighthouse, with Friday Island looming
in the distance; and shortly afterwards pass the Mecca Reef, so called
from the fact of the steamer of that name having there become a total
wreck.

It is matter for congratulation amongst us that we have come through
safely, it being almost impossible to over-estimate the difficulties
attending navigation through these dangerous and intricate channels,
which necessitates a uniform rate of speed in order to keep a correct
reckoning, so that great reliance has to be placed on the chief
engineers of all steamers taking this route; the beacons placed here and
there on the numerous sunken reefs with which the place abounds denoting
plainly even to the most unpractised eye that the life of a captain in
these waters is certainly not all beer and skittles; and excuses might
be found for an accident in this locality which would be entirely
wanting in more open navigation, as the reefs extend right across to the
New Guinea coast, so that all vessels have to come pretty close to Goode
island in order to get through the narrow channel of some half-mile in
width which there exists, and which in the event of an invasion of our
territory by a foreign power could be fortified at comparatively
trifling expense, and render an attack from that direction almost
impossible.

We steer round the northern end of Goode Island, obtaining a line view
of the lighthouse and keeper’s quarters, romantically perched on the
highest point of land in the island, having Friday and Prince of Wales
Islands on the right, Goode and Hammond Islands on the left, with Horne
Island in the background, Thursday Island lying dead ahead. Going
through this passage we encounter a very strong tide, the buoys marking
the passage being half submerged by the fierce rush of water, which
reminds one very much of the current in a mighty river; but the Rockton
is equal to the occasion, and our progress is certain, if not very
rapid. There are several shelling stations in sight, and I was
particularly struck with the beautiful situation of the one known as
“Waiawea,” which is on a small island lying between Hammond and Goode
Islands, and looks, with its grove of palms surrounding the residence, a
veritable paradise on earth.

Fleets of shelling boats are lying at anchor at the various stations,
whilst one small schooner, evidently making for the anchorage at
Thursday Island, has had to drop anchor through not being able to make
headway against the tide, and forms a very picturesque object, with her
colored crew forward and the boss, evidently chewing the cud of
reflection, seated near the stern. We entered the port by a different
channel to that which I entered on a former occasion in the City of
Melbourne, in consequence of the water being too shallow to admit a
vessel of the Rockton’s draught coming through the nearer passage; but
we rounded the point on which is situated the Government residential
quarters and laid a course for the hulk Star of Peace, alongside which
our Captain laid the Rockton in a thoroughly workmanlike manner, without
any of the noise and fuss generally noticeable on such occasions.

We are soon boarded by Mr. Milman, the acting Government resident, in a
smart water police boat, who shortly afterwards goes ashore, taking as
passengers Messrs. Cribb and the parson who had come to settle down
amongst the “Thirsty Islanders,” whilst several friends and myself are
invited to take passage in the remarkably smart boat belonging to
Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Co., manned by a colored crew of boys, dressed
in a neat blue and white uniform, white caps with tortoiseshell peaks,
and commanded by Mr. Bromley, the agent here for the great northern firm
who monopolise the greater portion of the business done in this quarter
of the globe. The colored population is very conspicuous, shore boats
manned by Cingalese being an especial feature; and some howling swells
are visible amongst the various crews, one joker in particular being
especially remarkable for his flowing petticoats, tortoiseshell comb,
bald head, and a few long locks of hair behind his ears and on the back
of his neck.

Cingalese traders also come aboard with heaps of Brummagem stuff, dear
at any price, and do their best to drive a bargain, but with very little
success, the majority of our passengers having been there before, and
had some little experience of these guileless colored gentlemen. We cast
anchor at a few minutes past noon on Thursday, and as we had to
discharge about 70 tons of cargo and take aboard 100 tons for Normanton,
our skipper, who was anxious if possible to get away again that night in
order to catch the tide on the Norman River bar on Saturday, tried his
best to expedite matters; but he had to deal with a lot of colored
wretches who had evidently been born tired, and consequently required a
certain amount of rest, so that, strive as he would, the fates were
against him, the loading and unloading process lasting well on to
midnight, when it was too late to make a start, so that we had to remain
where we were until daylight on Friday morning.

We had a commercial traveller aboard with a heap of samples who got
fairly on the war-path because he was unable to induce Mr. Bromley to
let him stow his luggage in Messrs Burns, Philp and Co.’s gig, a craft
certainly never built for or intended to carry cargo, and never used for
that purpose even by the firm themselves. Then he tried to induce
Captain Leggett to place one of the ship’s boats and crew at his
service, evidently wishing to get his goods ashore on the cheap, and not
caring what delay or inconvenience might be caused to a whole ship’s
company by the proceeding as long as he got his own turn served.

The Captain told him that as he was anxious to proceed on the voyage
that night if possible, he could not spare the boat’s crew, but as there
were plenty of shore boats available, why not engage one of them if very
anxious to get his samples landed. But this did not suit the drummer’s
book altogether, so he relieved his feelings by blackguarding everybody
all round, and swearing vengeance on Bromley, Captain Leggett, and all
concerned, but I noticed he took the shore boat at the finish, when he
found it impossible to save the expense of the transaction. There are
thousands of people like him in the world who care nothing for the loss
and inconvenience their actions may cause to others as long as they can
get their own turn served, and save expenses which are only fairly and
legitimately incurred in the prosecution of their own business
transactions. Going ashore at Thursday Island is a bit of a pic-nic,
especially for ladies, there being no wharf to land at, and as the water
is very shallow for some distance from the shore, boats are unable to
come right in, consequently, passengers have to be conveyed from the
boats to the beach on the backs of the colored boys who compose the
crews--so that a heavy weight on a light built boy stands a fair “six to
four” chance of coming to grief, and carrying more water ashore in his
clothes than he bargained for.

There are some very nice buildings and residences visible from the
beach, the Queensland National Bank and the private residence of Messrs.
Burns, Philp and Co.’s manager shewing out prominently; there are also
two hotels, which are very fairly conducted and look extremely cool and
comfortable, but I can hardly understand why customers have to pay a
shilling for a drink, as they surely ought to be able to land liquors as
cheaply here as they can in Normanton, where the price is only sixpence.
We had a stroll round the place, but it does not take long to encircle
the settlement, and I was more interested in a visit paid to Messrs.
Burns, Philp and Co.’s Stores under the guidance of Captain Pearson, an
old resident of this locality, than with anything else I saw upon the
Island. The front store abounds with supplies of every description
required in the Island trade--a large business being now done with the
natives of New Guinea, whose curios and implements of warfare form a
conspicuous and very interesting exhibit, the Company having a large
stock of them for sale.

In the back stores they showed us tons of pearl shell, some of which,
recently discovered in a patch off the coast of New Guinea, was of
excellent quality, several specimens of the golden-lipped variety that
were submitted for our inspection being something magnificent in size
and appearance; whilst ranged in bags round the walls were the different
species of beche-de-mer, first and foremost being the teat fish, which
realises a high figure in the Chinese market, it being esteemed by the
disciples of Confucius as one of the rarest of delicacies when served at
table in the form of soup.

Having fairly explored the settlement, which certainly is one of the
most picturesque and interesting spots on the eastern coast of
Australia, and has a resident population of about four hundred souls,
embracing, of course, the islands in the vicinity, as well as a floating
population of about twelve hundred, comprising whites, blacks, Malays,
Lascars, Coolies and Chinese, we signal the boat, in order to return to
the ship, and on our way witness a rather novel sight.

A number of fat bullocks had been shipped at Townsville on board the
Rockton to the order of the only butcher at Thursday Island, and as the
ship was as previously described, lying at some distance from the shore,
it proved a matter of some little difficulty and danger to land the
stock without running the risk of loss by drowning; so to minimise the
risk as far as possible, the following plan was adopted:

A rope with running noose at one end was first placed round the horns of
each bullock as they stood in their stalls on deck, when the slings were
placed under them, and one at a time they were hoisted into mid-air, and
then gradually and gently lowered into the water alongside the ship,
where boats were lying in readiness to take them in charge, in order to
tow them ashore. The ropes round the horns were grasped and secured to a
ring in the stern of the boat, whilst two stout rowers pulled with might
and main towards the shallow landing, the butcher, or one of his
assistants, being seated in the stern of the boat to steer and watch
that the cattle did not come to grief on the journey.

Thus, partly swimming and partly towing, slow progress was made, until
eventually the cattle struck the sandy beach--when the fun
commenced--as, finding they had foothold and something to charge at,
they madly plunged at the boat, necessitating the exercise of
considerable skill on the part of the boatmen in keeping out of harm’s
way; but what with the confinement on board ship and the resistance
offered by the water, the poor animals were soon exhausted, and seeing a
few green bushes and some tempting green grass at the edge of the water,
they slowly made their way ashore, and under the welcome shade of the
trees, stood ruminating, no doubt upon their novel experiences of the
last twenty-four hours.

On board again once more, where all is hurry and bustle in order to save
the tide, Captain Leggett being anxious to get through the passage that
night if possible, and in the meantime we are favoured by numerous
visitors from ashore and afloat, if I may use the term, “everybody who
is anybody,” making it a point to avail themselves of the hospitality of
our worthy skipper whenever he drops his kellick in these waters--to say
nothing of the opportunity afforded to these convivial and thirsty souls
of “interviewing the alligator” at the, to them, moderate charge of
sixpence, when compared to their own island tariff of a “robert.” We had
the brave Baron Wilkins, the bold commander of the “Von der Sluyt,” as
grand a hulk as ever stored a cargo of coal, accompanied and supported
by a true specimen of the British Tar, in the person of Captain
Williams, of the equally celebrated clipper “The Star of Peace,” now,
alas, also condemned to the ignoble but useful role of storing coal and
cargo for the ships of the A.U.S.N. Co.



A SHARK STORY.


Many others came, amongst them being Captain Anderson, an old sheller in
the waters of Torres Straits, and the owner of a complete plant and
station on Friday Island. He has in his possession a splendid collection
of pearls obtained by him in the pursuit of his avocation during the
last ten weeks, their value being about £300, one of them weighing 8¼
carats, an egg-shaped pearl of remarkable beauty and lustre, and without
a flaw, being valued by him at £150; and as he also collected three
tons of shell worth £140 per ton at the same time, his venture was, to
my mind, pretty successful. On my making a remark to that effect, he
said the life was not all beer and skittles, having its full share of
dangers as well as its pleasures; and as an illustration he related to
me one of his diving experiences, when he had a fight with a shark. He
said “I was working at the time with my boat’s mate and crew, about 15
miles from Captain Hovell’s Shoal, out to the westward from here, and
was down in my diving dress, in about twelve fathoms of water. As I was
walking along I espied a shark lying on the bottom close to a coral cup
or sea fungi, and apparently fast asleep, so walked over towards him,
and lifting my foot, shod with the heavy leaden sole which it is
necessary to use in connection with the dress, I kicked him fairly in
the head. But I made a great mistake that time, for in about three
seconds my noble shark came at me like a bulldog. I was carrying a bag
with about ten shells in it, which partly hid my right hand; but,
unfortunately, my left hand was exposed fairly to view, and the monster
descrying it came towards it with a terrific rush, and succeeded in
touching it with his nose. Before he had time to turn and seize upon it
I managed to wrap the bag around it. I moved backwards and the shark
struck me twice with his tail, nearly knocking me over, when it would
have been all u. p.; but I managed to keep my feet, and obtaining a
little room, kicked him fairly in the teeth with my diving boot, which
gave him a start, and to my intense relief he turned tail and cleared at
the rate of 40 miles an hour. I can assure you that no one was more
pleased than myself at the termination of the encounter, as I was fairly
stunned with fright, and was totally unable to draw my dagger, which, in
order to keep bright and useful, is inserted in a watertight case, and
has to be turned four times in the sheath before it can be withdrawn.”

       *       *       *       *       *

We weighed anchor on Friday morning, having, after all, been delayed
longer than we expected, got safely through the passage in a strong
ripping tide, and after an uneventful voyage down the Gulf of
Carpentaria, we sighted, about midnight on Saturday, a light that
pointed out the anchorage off the mouth of the River Norman.

We steered a course as straight as an arrow for the lightship, shewing
that our captain and his officers must have kept a very good reckoning,
and I cannot close my remarks upon this part of our journey without
bearing ample testimony to the kindness and courtesy of Captain Leggett
throughout the voyage, and to the care and attention bestowed upon the
passengers by one and all connected with the ship.

We cast anchor off the Norman River bar between twelve and one a.m. on
Sunday, and the steam tender “Dugong,” under the command of Captain
Campbell, came alongside in the small hours of the morning to convey
passengers and luggage up the river to Normanton, so that we had to turn
out pretty early in order to save the tide, and partake of a seven
o’clock breakfast before starting, the transfer of luggage being rapidly
and safely effected in the meantime, after which the whole of the
passengers are transhipped without delay, and we bid good-bye to the
good ship Rockton, which has carried us so far safely on our journey.

The anchorage at Kimberley is a wild dreary looking waste of water as
viewed from the deck of the small steam tender, it being fully fourteen
miles off the shore with scarcely anything visible to break the monotony
of the scene, the land lying very low and fringed with the mournful
looking mangroves so prevalent on the northern coast of Queensland; but
steam is up and away we go, shaping our course by means of the buoys
laid down to mark the course of the very circuitous channel which we
have to follow, bounded on either side by shallow sand banks covered
with sea birds of various kinds, who here find a congenial home, the
only land in view being on the starboard side and only just discernible
above the water’s edge, whilst some few miles off lies a ship which has
brought out a cargo of rails for the Gulf railway, but has made the
mistake of keeping too far out, she having anchored in five fathoms of
water and unbent her sails preparatory to discharging her cargo, but as
it was almost impossible for the lighters to lay alongside in such an
exposed position, her captain was making preparations to bring her a few
miles closer in and nearer to the lightship, in order to enable them to
get through the work. We cross the bar safely and shortly afterwards
sight the Telegraph Station at Kimberley, and as the Dugong is making
fair progress we are not long before entering the mouth of the river,
and a blast from the whistle brings off old Bob, the boatman, to receive
a few telegrams, conveying the fact of our arrival to the Normanton
agents of the Company, who have to make provision for our conveyance
from Baffle Group to the town, as the Dugong, drawing six feet of water,
is unable to proceed any further than that point in the present state of
the tide.

The Telegraph Station is situate on the left hand bank of the river as
we enter, and seems a lonely enough spot in all conscience, but I am
told the old man in charge has been there for years, and seems fairly
contented with his lot; his immediate neighbours consist of a tribe of
aboriginals to whom he is very kind, but they all received a terrible
fright during the hurricane that almost destroyed Burketown, as it came
tearing across here with terrific force sending a wave of water right
across the point, reaching half way up the little house with the red
door, situate on a sandbank a short distance from the beach, and making
the darkies believe their last day was at hand. The river here is a
noble looking stream carrying about five fathoms of water, the depth
from the bar to the mouth averages about four, and is nearly a mile in
width, and taking into consideration that not one pound of public money
has been spent in its improvement, it is, in its natural state, one of
the finest rivers in the colony; but the bar sadly wants dredging in
order to allow ocean-going steamers to enter the river, where they could
obtain safe anchorage in all weathers and discharge cargo without risk,
damage, or delay. Old Bob comes oft in obedience to the signal whistle,
seizes the line thrown to him and hangs on until the telegrams are
handed over, when he clears for the shore, off which are lying the old
pilot cutter, the new steam launch which has superseded it, and a
lighter belonging to the rail ship before mentioned. The bank on the
right hand as we steam up being very low and densely covered with the
everlasting mangrove, forming a splendid breeding ground for the Gulf
mosquito, but the land on the left is of much superior character,
consisting of lightly timbered forest country, well grassed, and of fair
fattening capacity, and now in the occupation of a small syndicate, who,
by means of a butcher stationed at Mrs. Armstrong’s old selection,
supply the pilot and Telegraph Stations, together with the various
vessels calling at the port, with beef of excellent quality, both horses
and cattle keeping in grand condition, more especially after the old
grass has been burnt and young green feed springs up, which it does in
about a fortnight after the fire has died away.

Here we observe the blackfellow in all his native dirt and
ugliness--numbers of both sexes, many of whom are clad in the costume of
the Greek slave--standing on the bank watching us as we steam rapidly
by, and shortly afterwards we pass Messrs. Burns, Philp and Co.’s steam
launch undergoing an overhaul on what Captain Campbell calls his
gridiron--a slip invented by himself for the purpose of occasionally
having a look at the bottom of the vessel he commands.

About ten miles from Kimberley we pass the Red Bluff, a low-lying red
ridge, situate about a mile back from the river, and chiefly remarkable
for the agitation that has lately sprung up with regard to the
construction of a railway from there to Normanton; but one can hardly
recognise as sound economy the idea of running a railway over flooded
country, on a course parallel with a navigable river, especially as the
surrounding land seems to consist entirely of swamps and salt clay pans,
which could never be made available for any useful purpose.

Fifteen miles up we pass the mouth of Walker’s Creek on the left hand,
on which there are some good waterholes about twelve miles back from the
river, near where the telegraph line to Kimberley crosses it, as well as
some very fairly grassed country of decent quality; and some distance
further on we pass the mouth of Wells Creek, also coming in from the
same side, whilst on either hand we pass numerous mangreve-lined small
inlets; in fact, one could almost call them ditches so narrow are they,
whilst the country is so level that the windings of the river itself are
something to be remembered, our boat’s head being pointed to nearly
every quarter of the compass during the passage; and some idea may be
formed of its twistings and turnings by the knowledge that it is fully
50 miles from Kimberley to Normanton by the river and only 20 in a
direct line by land.

As it is now about mid-day we have the pleasure of interviewing the
steerage passengers at dinner, and a fearful and wonderful performance
some of them go through in the operation, two or three individuals being
exceptionally expert at the Japanese trick of knife swallowing. It was
a wonder, as I heard a passenger remark, that they did not cut their
blooming throats, whilst the way others would load up, and after
disposing of a loaded forkful within their capacious jaws, dive the fork
they were using viciously into the nearest dish of potatoes for a fresh
supply, was a caution to snakes. Proceeding onwards we pass the barque
Florida and schooner Budgeree, both of Sydney, the Scandinavian skipper
of the latter having the cheek to ask the Dugong to give him a tow up to
Double Island, which reasonable (?) request was, of course, politely
refused.

Passing Double Island I was astonished at the enormous number of
Spoonbills perched upon the trees; they were literally packed in
thousands, this being a favourite breeding ground for them, and some
distance higher up the river the Captain gave me the word to look out
for an alligator, and sure enough, on arriving at the spot indicated,
near one of the beacons erected as a guide, we saw the scaly monster
sunning himself on a grassy bank, and succeeded in getting within twenty
yards of him before he glided silently into the water, where, with a
swish of his tail, he quietly disappeared from view.

He caused a great commotion amongst our passengers, many of whom had
never seen such a sight before, and all were on the look-out for another
of the tribe whose habitat was a little further on, their curiosity
being duly gratified as the saurian was at home, but hearing the steamer
approaching he also backed quietly astern, and as we came abreast, his
jaws and little twinkling eyes were all that could be discerned for a
moment as he plunged silently beneath the wave. Some little distance
below the Battle Group we passed the barque Lucy and Adelaide, of
Sydney, with her nose in the bank, and evidently aground till a good
tide should give her a lift, making it rather difficult for us to pass,
but we managed it safely, and shortly after one o’clock we made fast to
the primitive landing at the Group, where a string of wagonettes,
buggies, &c., were in waiting to convey us to town.

Planks were run ashore, passengers and light baggage landed, the balance
being transferred into a lighter for conveyance up the river to the
wharf at Normanton, and we take our seats in the conveyances provided
for the six miles drive which has to be covered before our journey is
ended, and in about an hour we are safely deposited at Hely’s
Transcontinental Hotel, where a cordial welcome from the hostess and
many old friends greets us on our arrival.

After a good bath and a cup of tea we drive down to the wharf in the
hotel trap to secure our luggage which had just arrived in the lighter,
a crowd of people being congregated on the same errand; and I witnessed
about as good a rough-and-tumble performance in connection with it as I
ever wish to see again.

The light packages, portmanteaus and tin travelling trunks, had been
bundled down into the bottom of the hold, and the heavy packages thrown
promiscuously upon them, bursting open locks and squeezing them out of
shape in a manner very annoying to their owners; and many were the
curses, not loud but deep, bestowed upon the lighter’s crew in
consequence, but fortunately my own came through the ordeal all right,
thus saving me from expending a certain amount of profanity, which may
prove useful on a future occasion. I meet many old friends at Normanton,
among them, Major Colless, Messrs. Heydon and Brodie, Charlie Hely, and
others, and we have a long chat over the late race meeting at which
Heydon and Brodie’s “The Moor,” secured the lion’s share of the spoil,
and to shew the sporting instinct of the residents of this go-ahead
town, a sweep of £50 each was duly entered into by four well-known
individuals, the conditions being that one and all should keep sober for
six months; or, in the event of any of them breaking the pledge before
the expiration of the time, his or their deposit should become the
property of the one who kept the agreement intact.

Fortunately, they all renounced whiskey until the time expired, when
they had an old-time spree just to treat resolution, and then, I
believe, handed over the whole of the stakes to some charitable
institution. We have to wait in Normanton from Sunday until Tuesday
morning, and in the meantime amuse ourselves as best we may, but there
is very little in the town or its surroundings to interest the
traveller, and time passes listlessly enough to those who have neither
business or occupation to while away the time. The town of Normanton
itself is very well situated, being built on a hard, red ironstone
ridge, which no amount of traffic ever cuts up; the only inconvenience
suffered being caused by the clouds of fine red dust that occasionally
sweep through the streets, and which clings to one’s clothes with the
tenacity of a Bathurst burr. It is also well supplied with banks, the
New South, Queensland National, and Royal being well represented, whilst
the hotels are also numerous and well kept, Hely’s, O’Shaughnessy’s,
Rafferty’s, and Davis’ being amongst the principal ones, but I must not
forget to mention the hotel kept by the Meriga family, it being quite an
institution in Normanton, and received a very suggestive appellation in
the olden days when residents and visitors did not care to walk too far
for a “nip,” as in consequence of its being fully a quarter of a mile
from the nearest house of entertainment they found that the walk made
them so excessively thirsty that it was unanimously christened “the dry
stage,” a title it still retains to the present day; and between
ourselves, there are many worse ways of passing away an hour than a
visit to the above place in the evening, as in the first instance, you
have an opportunity of cultivating a thirst that you would not sell to a
lushington for less than a “fiver,” and secondly, there are two of the
nicest and brightest girls one could wish to meet, ever ready to
entertain visitors with a musical treat such as one rarely hears, and
certainly never expects, in such an out-of-the-way place.

It was on a Tuesday morning at 4 o’clock when I was woke up to make
ready for the journey to Croydon, as Cobb and Co.’s coach starts
punctually at 6. An appetising breakfast was placed upon the table
shortly after 5, to which we pay strict attention, and, with luggage
packed, are at the booking office shortly before the time appointed,
where a regular rush ensues for seats, there being ten applicants for
the eight places on the coach; but having taken the precaution to wire
from Brisbane for a box seat I am all right, having for my mate Mr. B.
Cribb, the others managing to stow away somehow, one riding on the
footboard, another on top of the coach and six inside, whilst fully half
a ton of mails are stowed away on the rack, on top and in the boot,
which with passengers’ luggage makes altogether a tidy load for our team
of five horses.

Some little delay occurs through the absence of a break-block, it being
unsafe to proceed without that very necessary adjunct to our safety, but
at length we get properly fixed, and steering for the river are soon
safely on the punt and being towed across to the other side, all hands
being requested to alight during the operation for fear of an accident.

We get across all right, and stowing ourselves on board get fairly under
way for the diggings, and I am pleased to find we are in charge of a
very experienced whip in the person of Jack Lennard, a well-known driver
in times gone by on the Namoi River, in New South Wales, where he used
to tool the coach between Narrabri and Walgett for Bob Nowland, at the
time he was running opposition to M‘Namara, Vickery and Co., when
passengers were carried 150 miles for £1. We swap yarns about old times,
and many are the anxious enquiries Jack makes about old friends, many of
whom have gone over to the great majority since he left that part of the
country, and his heart fairly warms as I give him the latest news
concerning those still left behind.

Our route lies through miserable-looking country, the principal features
consisting of level teatree flats, with patches of quinine and coolabah,
all of stunted growth, scattered throughout with here and there
noisome-looking swamps, at some of which we observe carriers camped,
whilst the sound of the bells on their horses and bullocks resound on
every side, there being over 150 teams on the stretch of road 120 miles
in length, between Normanton and Croydon. The dust as we proceed becomes
something frightful, in fact, in all my travels I never saw anything
like it, as it is inches deep everywhere on the tracks, smothers the
trees and bushes by the roadside, and follows us throughout the journey
like a cloud, settling on our clothes, burying itself in our hair,
finding its way into our boots, and penetrating to our lungs in the most
aggravating manner, and we are not sorry for a short respite obtained at
one of the carriers’ camps abovementioned, as Jack, who seems to be
universally well known, observes some goats being milked, and pulling up
his team produces a whisky bottle, and with the addition of some fresh
milk begged from the carrier’s wife, concocts a very welcome refresher.
We pass enormous flocks of crows, who seem to hang to the roads in a
very suggestive manner; pass some very lengthy bullock teams containing
from 18 to 24 bullocks, all in very fair condition and in some instances
really fat, and following the course of the Carron River, arrive at the
Twenty-mile, our first stage out, where we change horses, have a cup of
tea, and shortly afterwards are again speeding on our way, the road
improving as we proceed, although the dust is as bad as ever, whilst
there is also a slight change for the better in the appearance of the
country. We soon rattle over this stage, it being only 15 miles in
length, at the end of which we are told dinner awaits us, but on this
occasion are doomed to disappointment, as the driver has forgotten to
bring along any beef, consequently we have to be satisfied with a liquor
up and a smoke, and a bite of chocolate cake which one of our party has
taken the precaution to bring with him from “La belle France.” However,
the hostess makes a cup of tea, which proves very refreshing and helps
to clear the dust out of our throats. This place is well named The
Rocky, there being some beautifully clear holes of water in the creek
surrounded by rocks, and it is evidently a favorite camping ground for
travellers, many of whom have turned out in the vicinity. We indulge in
a little revolver practice here. One of our party hangs his overcoat on
a bush and wagers that another of the party cannot hit it at 15 paces,
but the coat suffers, and as the horses have not yet been put to we
start for a walk along the road, partly to escape the dust and partly to
stretch our muscles, and succeed in throwing four miles behind us before
we are overtaken by the coach, which for this stage has a good although
rather mixed team harnessed to it, there being two grand horses for
leaders, whilst the wheelers are a couple of likely looking mules, who
slip along with us at a very fair rate of speed.

We pull up for a few minutes at Munro’s, have a refresher and away,
shortly afterwards meeting a carrier, who, with the proverbial
Queensland hospitality, invites us one and all to “have a booze,” at the
same time producing a bottle of the real “Mackay,” but as we have no
water with which to dilute it, we have to pass, and shortly afterwards
pull up at our stopping-place for the night--a fairly comfortable hotel
kept by Mrs. Paterson--where we obtain a plentiful supply of water to
enable us to get rid of the dust--a good supper of wild duck being in
the meantime prepared, to which you may rest assured we paid strict
attention when placed upon the table.

The Croydon coach meets us here, and after solving the problem of
stowing away fifteen passengers in six rooms, we are very soon safe in
the arms of “Murphy,” and sleep the sleep of the just until daybreak
next morning, when the cry of “All aboard!” rouses us to prepare for
another day’s journey. After a hearty breakfast we make an early start,
with a change of drivers, Jack taking the back track to Normanton, our
whip turning out to be a genuine specimen of a “Frenchman” from the
Emerald Isle, named “Barney,” who is a real gem in his way, and enlivens
the journey by many quaint remarks, and more especially by the way in
which he renders the chorus of two or three popular songs, his
performance of “Jack’s come home to-day” being simply indescribable.

As the track on this stage has again become very heavy we have a
five-head team, four horses and a mule, the latter getting fits from
Barney, and being continually sneered at as “Irish,” for “shure, yez
know, the divil a bit o’ good is he, the spalpeen,” but we manage to get
along very well, and at about 10 o’clock arrive at Mother Foot’s Lagoon,
a grand sheet of water 18ft. in depth in the deepest part, and which has
never been known to fail in the driest seasons.

There is a nice, clean-looking hotel here kept by Mr. Griffin, formerly
well known about St. George, and some distance away on the bank of the
lagoon the irrepressible Chinaman has settled down and formed a very
fair garden, with the produce of which he supplies carriers and
travellers, as well as the hotel.

Between the hotel and the Chinaman’s garden I come across a spot where
repose the last remains of poor old Frank Stubley, at one time one of
the richest miners in Charters Towers, and a man well known and esteemed
throughout the whole of Northern Queensland for his liberality and
generosity. He lies at the foot of a box tree, a short distance from the
water’s edge, and on the tree is carved the following inscription:--

                     +-----------------------------+
                     |           SACRED            |
                     |                             |
                     |             TO              |
                     |                             |
                     |        F. STUBLEY’S         |
                     |                             |
                     |           MEMORY.           |
                     +-----------------------------+

                                              “J. Gill, 7th May, 1887.”

Poor fellow! He died at last in poverty, but I with many others can
safely say that he was no one’s enemy but his own.

We have a bit of trouble at this stage as the groom is as drunk as an
owl. There are no horses in for a change and the team we have been
driving is pretty well tired, but we fix the nosebags on them in case we
have to go further, and in the meantime scour the country in the
immediate vicinity to try and discover the missing mokes; but all
efforts are fruitless, and after a spell of a couple of hours we again
yoke up and proceed upon our way--leaving the drunken groom riding
around in a vain endeavour to discover the objects of his search. We
managed to nail one fresh nag, which did not belong to the firm and had
never been in harness before, so were treated to a bit of life at
starting, as he bucked and kicked, mixing himself up in the traces and
going nearly mad; but he eventually kicked himself clear and away we
went, Barney being quite equal to the occasion.

The dust still brings forth curses both loud and deep, but the country
gradually improves, although still of very poor character, and we meet
on the way many carriers, some of whom are accompanied by their wives.

Our team by this time, through having to run the double stage, is
getting nearly done, so shortly after leaving Creen Creek most of us get
out and walk the distance between there and the Carron River, a good
four miles stretch, that under the warm rays of a tropical sun increases
our temperature considerably; the tedium of the journey being now and
then varied by the remarks of such carriers we pass on the road, who
call each others attention to the style of locomotion adopted by the
passengers per Cobb and Co. The crossing of the Carron is very heavy,
being a bed of deep, wet sand, so that all hands have to alight, but the
change is only a few yards distant, and we are very pleased to see a
fresh team awaiting our arrival, as we are all pretty well baked, and in
no humor for another long stretch on foot. So while the fresh horses are
being put to, we stroll over to the tent occupied by the groom and his
wife, where we find a “drop of the craytur” and a very acceptable cup of
tea. The road, after leaving the river, is very heavy for about eight
miles, consequently our progress is but slow, and it is nearly sundown
before we get on to better travelling country; but Barney here lets them
slip, so that we get over the ground pretty rapidly, although it is
nearly dark when we cross the “12 mile,” where we discern a range of
hills on our left, being the first elevation we have seen since leaving
Normanton. Six miles from Croydon we pass the Golden Gate, a very
suggestive and appropriate name for the first claim met with on the main
road to the field, but as it is now very dark, and the track is full of
ruts, stumps and other obstacles, we have to proceed very slowly and
carefully for fear of accident, there being no lamps on the coach to
guide us on our way.

Two or three miles from Croydon we cross Station Creek, where there is a
very good waterhole, into which “Barney” drives for the purpose of
giving his horses a drink, water being rather a scarce article in the
town itself. We get a bit mixed with a couple of stumps between here and
the town, but extricate ourselves safely at length, and shortly
afterwards we come in sight of the lights of Croydon twinkling ahead,
pulling up in a few minutes to deliver the mails at the post-office,
from whence we proceed down the main street, and about 9 p.m. we finally
alight at our journey’s end on the verandah of Harries and M‘Cabe’s
Imperial Hotel, where a large crowd is assembled to witness our arrival.
Host M‘Cabe turns out to be a very old friend whom I had lost sight of
for some years, and consequently we were mutually pleased to renew our
former acquaintance, and for my own part I felt delighted to meet some
one in a new country like this whom I had formerly known so well, as it
made me feel quite at home from the start.

A good bath and a good supper soon put everything to rights, and the
fatigues of the journey are soon forgotten, so we stroll round to the
ballroom, where about 12 couples are enjoying themselves on the light
fantastic, the fair sex being especially conspicuous by their dresses
and good looks.

Strolling round next morning I was very much struck by the inconvenience
and delay caused by the inadequate provision made for the public when
seeking letters or telegrams at the hovel that at present does duty for
a post-office. Just imagine a crowd of people waiting outside a
pigeon-hole cut in a sheet of galvanised iron, at which one person only
can be attended to at a time, with an individual inside attending to
their wants who is just about as slow as they make them on earth, and
who certainly might materially improve his performance of letter-sorting
100 per cent. by practising shuffling and dealing with a pack of cards
in his leisure moments.

A friend of mine said to him one day--

“Did you ever attend a funeral?”

“Yes. Why do you ask?”

“Well, I was wondering if you did, how on earth you managed to keep up
with the procession.”

And I wondered as well, after calling two or three times at the office
for letters.

They do a great business at Croydon in telegrams, for since the office
was opened the receipts for 24 days’ work amounted to £276--not a bad
performance by any means, either on the part of the department or the
public.

Outside the hotel at night, after tea, whilst smoking the calumet of
peace, we congregate together, discussing the news of the day and
retailing anecdotes, in which performance the well-known agent for the
A.M.P. Society in Northern Queensland, Jack Warby, stands pre-eminent.
His yarns about “Greasy Bill” and the “Lamb of God” are very rich. The
former, an old northern prospector, is noted for his antipathy to water;
in fact, he has not been known to wash either himself or his clothes for
years, and on one occasion, when he felt very ill, the doctor was called
in to see what could be done for him, and prescribed, to Greasy’s horror
and astonishment, a hot bath. “Good heavens,” says Bill, “it would kill
me for certain. Wouldn’t a bucket of warm slush do as well?” Whilst “The
Lamb” could almost give a rabbit a fair start in sandy ground, his
peculiarity being, that when thoroughly overcome with liquor--a very
common occurrence--he selects the softest spot he can find outside the
“pub,” and lying down at full stretch, face downwards, gropes and
scratches the sand over himself until he is almost out of sight, when,
thoroughly comfortable, he sleeps off the fumes of the drink, and arises
from his burrow like a giant refreshed.

Social life on the goldfield, like on all new rushes, is of a very free
and easy style. Footracing in the streets is a common occurrence, whilst
many a time and oft a fight will occur to vary the monotony.

A word or two with regard to the situation of Croydon--its food and
water supply, &c.--may not be out of place and will help to give some
idea of the town and its surroundings to those who may feel inclined to
visit it in the future.

The site selected for the township is fairly picturesque, with its
background of hills in the immediate vicinity; but I am of opinion that
a far more healthy and convenient spot could have been chosen within a
few miles, either on the banks of Station or Cork Creeks, where a
permanent water supply could have been secured at comparatively small
cost for a large and thriving township such as I feel assured Croydon is
bound to become in the near future, but judging from present appearances
there will be some difficulty in obtaining a full and plentiful supply
of that necessary element for the wants and requirements of the
residents at present situated; whilst as for the sanitary arrangements,
I am afraid if immediate steps are not taken with regard to the
necessary precautions for the preservation of health, there will be such
an outbreak of typhoid fever by the time the next wet season comes round
that will carry terror to the hearts of every resident on the field.
Notwithstanding the cry raised by some that there is bound to be a
terrible famine when the wet season arrives, I to a certain extent beg
to differ from them, as there will always be an ample supply of beef of
first-rate quality available, which, together with the vegetables--sweet
potatoes, &c., supplied by the Chinese gardeners who have settled in
large numbers on the various creeks--will stave off starvation pure and
simple for an indefinite length of time; besides, there is yet plenty of
time before the wet season to lay in sufficient stocks of flour to carry
them through until the roads are again dry and hard enough for wheeled
traffic.

The Divisional Board have done good work by sinking a well 100 feet
deep, which now contains 60ft. of water of excellent quality, which
fairly supplies the wants of the inhabitants, so that there is no
immediate fear of a water famine; but increased provision will be
necessary as the population increases before another summer comes round.
The hotel charges are most reasonable, as I obtained very comfortable
quarters at M‘Cabe’s for two guineas per week, the table being
excellent, the waiting and general attendance first-class, whilst the
beds were clean and comfortable to a marked degree, spring mattrasses
being the rule, and one fully appreciates the luxury of a spring
mattrass in a climate like this; whilst during my stay a bath was always
available, so that altogether one might be in far worse places than
Harries and M‘Cabe’s Hotel. Horses can also be procured at reasonable
figures for riding about to inspect the various lines of reef--15s.
being the charge for a full day and 10s. for a half day from Messrs. T.
Banks and Co., through Mr. M‘Cabe, and I have to thank the latter
gentleman for many kindnesses shown to me during my visit, not the least
of which was his accompanying me in my various rides round the field,
acting as pilot and giving me much useful and valuable information, not
only with regard to the various well-developed mines, but also to many
new finds and good shows which have not yet been properly tested. Of
Croydon as a goldfield I cannot speak too highly, after a thoroughly
careful inspection of the field, but it is no poor man’s diggings. It
will require time, machinery and capital to develop its hidden wealth,
and I strongly advise one and all not to rush to Croydon without they
have the means to support themselves for fully six months, or great
misery and destitution must be the inevitable result. There is plenty of
time during the next two or three years for the investment of capital
and labor, the field being of such large extent, and I hold the opinion,
shared in by many others, that the workings are as yet only on the
outskirts of the gold-bearing country which extends for miles from south
to north-east of the present workings.

An account of my trip to Croydon would scarcely be complete without a
few facts with regard to the returns from some of the principal mines on
the field; and a short statement regarding the discovery of payable gold
may not be out of place. Mr. W. C. Browne, who was the manager of the
Croydon cattle station, had some idea that gold existed on the run, and
about two years ago had a couple of men named Walter and Dick Aldridge
working at the station under a contract for fencing. These men were old
diggers, and on the completion of their contract Mr. Browne supplied
them with rations, tools and horses, and paid them wages to go out and
prospect the surrounding country in the vicinity of the station, as the
locality abounded with quartz reefs cropping here and there above the
surface, the outcrop in some places extending for miles. They discovered
gold in a few days, and reported the find to Mr. Browne and also to
Warden Samuels, of Georgetown, at the same time making application for a
reward for the discovery. The warden came over to Croydon, and after
careful inspection was well satisfied of the payable nature of the
field. He laid off the Lady Mary Prospecting Claim, giving a reward
claim of 500ft. in addition to the four men’s ground applied for, making
the area 700ft. by 400ft., and at the same time laid off the Lady Mary
No. 1 north, on behalf of two men named Derisley and Flowers, who set to
work and raised 14 tons of stone, 6 tons of which were sent over to the
machine at Georgetown, about 150 miles distant, as a trial crushing, it
not being expected to yield more than 3oz. to the ton, but the return
was 7oz. 3dwt. per ton, the stone not being picked in any way, but
forwarded just as it was taken out of the ground. This handsome result,
on being made known, immediately caused a rush, and notwithstanding the
counter attractions of Kimberley in Western Australia, which for a time
delayed the development of the field by taking away many of the mining
population, the Croydon of to-day is a monument to the enterprise and
perseverance of the Australian miner, and bids fair before long to
rival, if not surpass, any goldfield in Australia. Taken right through,
and judging by what I have myself seen and inspected, there is a great
and prosperous future in store for Croydon, but very little will be done
to develop the undoubted richness of the field until after the next wet
season, the machinery at present erected being utterly inadequate for
the requirements of the place; but as this defect will soon be
remedied--there being several large crushing plants now on the way to
Croydon--the country will have a better chance of being prospected, and
those who have been waiting for months to obtain a chance of getting
their stone crushed will be able to realise some return for their labor
and perseverance. But the field requires time, machinery, and the
introduction of a little foreign capital to thoroughly develop its
resources, and I cannot too strongly impress upon the minds of your
readers the fact that it is no diggings for a poor man, and that no one
should venture there without having at least sufficient for their
support for fully six months, otherwise they are bound to suffer, as all
branches of skilled labor are well represented, and there being far more
cats now on the field than are able to catch mice.

The cost of passage is as follows:--From Brisbane to Normanton, by
A.U.S.N. Co.’s boats, every alternate Thursday, saloon, £14; steerage,
£9. By Cobb and Co.’s coach, Normanton to Croydon, leaving every Tuesday
and Saturday 6 a.m., £3 10s., two days’ journey, 120 miles; 2s. 6d. for
meals and bed on the road, whilst good accommodation can be obtained at
the principal hotels in Croydon for £2 2s. per week.

The first claim visited by me after arriving on the field was the
Caledonian P.C., Mr. Tom Carvill being the Manager, and he kindly
constituted himself my guide, philosopher and friend during my
inspection of this grand property. The main shaft was down 56 feet, the
reef averaging about 2 feet, between well-defined foot and hanging
walls. Levels had been driven each way from the shaft for a distance of
30 feet, and there were from 250 to 300 tons of stone at grass giving
prospects of fully 3oz. per ton, and with the stone in sight in the
claim it struck me that it was a regular bonanza to the fortunate
shareholders. It was discovered in rather a singular manner, by a digger
who, in searching for his horse, happened to get “bushed”; wandering
about for hours and eventually stretching himself out for a rest on the
cap of the reef, and whilst lying down thinking, as Paddy says, of
“nothing at all,” his eye was attracted by the promising appearance of
the stone, which induced him to break off a portion, when to his
surprise and delight he saw specs of the precious metal imbedded
therein; and whether this discovery was the means of restoring his bump
of locality to its normal condition or not may be a matter for
conjecture, but the fact is that he shortly afterwards made his way to
the main camp of the diggers situated on Station Creek, arriving there
shortly after darkness had set in, when he acquainted a man named
Connolly with his discovery, showing him the specimen and describing the
locality to the best of his recollection.

Connolly saw him safely wrapped in slumber--and worn out as he was by
his ramblings, you may rest assured he slept very soundly--when
believing in the old proverb “The early bird catches the worm,” he
started away before daylight, succeeded in finding the place indicated
by Hallen, followed up the tracks, discovered where the piece of quartz
had been knocked off the reef, pegged out a claim of four men’s ground
and returned quietly to camp almost before his absence had been
remarked. But he acted in the meanest possible way to the man who gave
him the information, by refusing to give him a share in the ground he
had secured, preferring rather to give it to his own particular
friends.

I heard this claim had been sold to a syndicate for £12,000 cash, and in
my opinion and that of many others, they have got a long way the best of
the deal. We next had a look at the Highland Mary line, which some think
is a continuation of the Caledonian, in which opinion I hardly share as
I fancy they are two distinct and separate lines of reef, the Highland
Mary running north and south with a dip to the east, whilst the
Caledonian runs nearly east and west clipping to the south. I went down
the Highland Mary P.C. for 90 feet on the underlay, following a
well-defined reef about two feet thick all the way, which seems to
improve as it goes deeper--and the next claim visited was No. 2 South,
on the same line. This is a grand claim; is down on the underlay 135
feet, with a two foot reef shewing good gold; has between 120 and 130
tons of stone at grass prospecting for nearly 4ozs., their last crushing
of 211 tons realized 838ozs., and to shew the estimation in which this
line is held I may state that nearly the whole of it has been blocked
off and shafts are being sunk to catch the reef at a depth. The line
extends some considerable distance, and further south takes the name of
the Sir Garnet, which has crushed 326 tons for 873ozs., but there is no
doubt it is all one and the same line of reef.

Next day, Friday, we started for Table-top, and I may remark that
coaches run to this place daily, so that visitors to the locality will
have no difficulty in reaching their destination, passing on the way the
Mountain Maid line, near which is erected Bibby’s mill on Belmore Creek,
about 3 miles from town; then the Welcome Reef, seven miles out; and
about fourteen miles out pull up at the Rising Sun P.C. claim, better
known as the ten men’s ground, and as the miners are just having their
mid-day meal, we are invited with true bush hospitality to partake of a
pannikin of tea and a slice of bread and beef, which invitation we
heartily accept. There are three reefs in this ground, which belongs to
Thomas and party and the one they are at present working is three feet
in thickness; there is a large body of stone at grass estimated to crush
4ozs. to the ton, and I have no hesitation in saying this is really a
splendid property, which must become very valuable when properly
developed. The road to Table-top from Croydon runs through ridgy country
shewing every sign of being gold-bearing, but the dust fiend is with us
in all his intensity for the whole of the journey, and we are not sorry
to pull up at Busted’s Hotel for a wash and refreshment. In the
afternoon we wander about on foot looking at the various claims in the
vicinity; visiting “Mount Morgan” and “The Federation,” to the south of
the township--the former, a well developed mine with good prospects, and
the latter in an embryo stage, but with a very good show.

In the evening we wander northwards visiting the celebrated “Bobby
Dazzler” P.C., a grand mine with wide, well-defined reef, situate in the
face of an immense bluff, plainly visible from the main street of the
little town--The Republic--The Great Eastern--The Surprise--and a
prospecting area not yet named, all of which were discovered by an old
hand named Jack Murphy; but the travelling is very rough indeed and the
ranges are particularly hard on muscles and shoe-leather, so by the time
we return to the hotel we feel pretty well tired out.

Table top at night is not the most lively place in the world, there
being little or nothing in the way of amusement as yet provided, if we
except a shooting gallery and a sort of free and easy held in the
dining-room of Bell’s Hotel to the strains of a cracked concertina,
where between twenty and thirty men have congregated together to pass a
_musical (?)_ evening, and pay their attentions to a lively looking
servant girl, who seems to have a kind word and a smile for one and all.
The buildings, as well as the inhabitants, are of the rough and ready
type, the former being constructed entirely of saplings and galvanised
iron, put together in a hurry just to answer present requirements, the
native earth still doing duty for a floor, boards being far too
expensive a luxury to indulge in at present; whilst the dust, which is
thicker and more penetrating even than that of Croydon, envelopes the
place like a cloud.

The butcher’s shop, if the term can be applied to an open shed roofed
with boughs, contains some splendid beef, in fact, I never remember
seeing meat of better quality exposed for sale even in Sydney, and the
diggers are to be congratulated on the fact that an inexhaustible supply
of that indispensible necessary of life is always procurable at
reasonable rates; whilst it is evident that rest and refreshments will
not be difficult to obtain in future, there being already three hotels
in full swing--Busted’s, Bell’s, and Mulvey’s--with two more in course
of erection; but I am sadly afraid the water supply is none of the best,
its permanency being a matter of very grave doubt. Coaches run daily
between Table-top and Croydon, the service performed by Messrs.
Carrington Bros, being thoroughly reliable, whilst others are also
available, but for scouring the country in the vicinity horses are
almost a necessity--except one prefers to explore on foot--the country
being very rough and broken. We obtain a shake-down at Messrs. Black and
Co.’s store, who have a monopoly of the business here in that line at
present and appear to be doing very well indeed, and as a good supply of
blankets is available, manage to make ourselves very comfortable,
passing a quiet and peaceful night, and awaking thoroughly refreshed
from the fatigues of the previous day.

On Saturday we take a run out towards Laycock’s and inspect a
prospecting area known as the “Harry Lee,” or “Bellbird,” which contains
three reefs in the ground and prospects very fairly, but as the claim
has not yet been developed to any great extent, it is rather hard to
predict what its future may be, although to my mind, it appears very
promising indeed, whilst the Grace Lee, The Golden Valley Co., Coles’
the Vasco de Gama, Black Diamond, and other lines speak well for the
prosperity of this portion of the field. We start back for Croydon in
the evening by way of the Twelve-mile and Homeward Bound, and travelling
as we are in a light buggy, find the bridle-track we are following
fearfully rough and very trying to our pair of ponies, who get stuck
amongst some boulders on a rather steep pinch, and trying to extricate
themselves with a bit of a rush manage to snap the main bar where it
crosses the pole, putting us in rather a fix as we had no tomahawk, but
I manage to break down a sapling and inserting it between a couple of
trees snap it off about the required length, and by the aid of a few
straps doctor it up sufficiently to answer the purpose, but
unfortunately a few miles further on one of our nags starts kicking in
going down a steep gully, and demolishes the lot. Nothing daunted, we
again set to work and succeed in effecting repairs, taking the
precaution to drag the buggy across the gully before harnessing up, and
from that out get on all right.

We have to climb a nasty spur covered with boulders leading on to the
ridge on which the Homeward Bound line of reef is situated, so all
alight, and two of us lead the horses whilst the remaining one of our
party pushes hard behind; but the ponies are staunch and true, and
although during the process everything falls out at the back, including
cushions, whip, screw-wrench, specimens, &c., we eventually gain the
summit without further mishap.

We pulled up at the Homeward Bound No. 1 and 2, amalgamated, and I was
very much struck with the permanent character of the reef running down
between remarkably well defined foot and hanging walls, and evidently
making and improving as the depth increases, whilst the heap of stone,
about 300 tons, at grass augurs well for the prosperity of the
shareholders and speaks volumes for the systematic working of the mine,
as the stone is of excellent quality, well impregnated with the precious
metal, a trial crushing of 40 tons having returned a total of 188oz.
10dwt., whilst in many of the lumps of quartz now in the paddock gold is
distinctly visible.

I also have a look at the Homeward Bound P.C., a splendid claim, reef
well defined, ground 350ft. by 400ft., trial crushing, 58 tons for
170oz. The Homeward Bound No. 1 South, 10 men’s ground, 500ft. by
400ft., with equally good prospects. The Waterfall Nos. 2 and 1 North on
a grand reef about 2ft. 6in. in thickness, the latter claim also shewing
a good cross line of reef dipping south into the ground of the
Waterfall, P.C., 500ft. by 400ft., one of the best claims on the field,
having a splendidly defined reef from 18in. to 2ft. in thickness running
right through the ground, which has prospected remarkably well on both
the north and south boundaries, thereby proving its permanency, and
which crushed 85 tons for 336ozs. of gold, value £3 11s. 10d. per ounce,
the highest price yet realised for any gold discovered on the field.
This claim has a shaft down 80ft. on the underlay, and they are now
putting in levels preparatory to stoping out, and to shew the estimation
in which this property is held, the land to the eastward has been
blocked off, notwithstanding that they will have to sink over 200ft. to
cut the reef, and a shaft 70ft. in depth put down, the shareholders
working night and day.

On the south boundary of the Waterfall comes No. 1, “The Ayrshire,” ten
men’s ground, belonging to a Townsville Company, land 500ft. by 400ft;
No. 2, “The Surprise,” four men’s ground, 200ft. by 400ft., also Nos. 3,
4, and 5, and then “The Pride of the Hills,” P.C., 350ft. by 400ft., and
Nos. 1, 2 and 3.

Notwithstanding the change of names this is really the one line of reef
as I traced the outcrop for miles through the Homeward Bound, Waterfall,
&c., and have no hesitation in saying that it will turn out one of the
best lines discovered on the field, the reef throughout being of fair
thickness, the stone crushing well, and the gold of excellent quality.

I also visited the Ross Shire line on which several claims have been
taken up, all showing good prospects, which will, in my opinion, turn
out well as it becomes more developed, and I shall watch with interest
the returns of the trial crushing from the P.C. now going through the
mill.

Some little distance below the Ross Shire is the Upper Twelve-mile,
around which many claims are at work, of which I heard very favorable
accounts, but not having time to visit them cannot speak definitely as
to their prospects, as I intend to confine my description to those
claims which came under my own personal observation, and of which I can
speak with some degree of confidence.

On Monday, accompanied by host M‘Cabe, I went out in a southeasterly
direction, visiting the “Waratah,” which had been passed by for months
as a “Buck Reef,” but in which the fortunate prospector is now obtaining
good gold; then across to the Harp of Erin, a grand line, the trial
crushing of 96 tons from the P.C. having realised 586ozs., on which many
claims are being worked, shewing splendid prospects, and from there to
the Baal Gammon, on Gorge Creek. This reef was found in most peculiar
country on the banks of the above creek, in the midst of a bed of sand
which covers the reef for a depth of about eight feet, and shewing on
the surface very little indication of the treasure lying immediately
below.

The reef itself lies nearly as flat as a table with scarcely any dip
observable, and is worked on the paddocking system, the sand being first
cleared away, then about two feet of mullocky stone forming the hanging
wall, and the reef lies clear for working, the stone being taken out
very easily; and a large body is now lying at grass awaiting its turn to
go through the mill, which should pay a handsome dividend to the
shareholders.

From thence we proceeded across to the celebrated Croydon King line and
went down the prospecting claim to the bottom of the underlay, the claim
being systematically worked under the supervision of a practical
manager. The reef is large, well defined, and carries good stone, a
large quantity being now ready for raising, showing gold freely, and
crushings from this line have gone as high as 27ozs. to the ton.

Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4 North have all opened out along the line of reef, a
lot of work having been done and some grand heaps of stone stacked ready
for the machine, whilst a lot of about 50 tons from No. 2, which went
through at the time of my visit, realised 14½ozs. per ton, another 100
tons of equal quality being ready for the stampers. No. 1 also, has over
400 tons at grass, estimated to go fully 10ozs.

This line is also blocked off from end to end, one shaft being down
about 70ft., and from all appearances will prove a very valuable
property.

I also paid a visit to “The Richmond,” lying east of the “Croydon King,”
and found it to be a grand reef about 2ft. in thickness, situate about
one-third of the way up a large bluff range and dipping easterly into
the hill, shewing splendid prospects along the face right through the
P.C. and No. 1 North, some specimens that were shewn to me being fairly
dazzling in their richness, and I should not be at all surprised to see
this line turn out almost as well as anything on the field.

The “Mountain Maid” and “Babe” lines lying parallel to each other on the
short-cut to Table-top were also visited, and although not crushing a
very high average per ton still they have a wide reef, which renders it
unnecessary to do any dead work in taking out the stone, so that they
are fairly valuable properties, and will, no doubt, improve at a depth.

I also had a look at the “Ironclad” and “Mark Twain” P.C., a crushing of
95 tons from the former realised 254ozs., and from the latter 174 tons
turned out 324ozs., the reef averaging from 2ft. to 5ft. in thickness
and going down perpendicularly, so that there is not much likelihood of
the claim being worked out in a hurry.

The “Croydon Queen” is also a main line of reef, some saying it is
identical with the Croydon King, and if such is the case it extends for
miles and must prove one of the backbones of the field, as the P.C.
crushed 200 tons for 787ozs., whilst many of the numbers also have given
good returns, causing the line to be blocked off for a considerable
distance, on which claims sinking is vigorously proceeded with. Last,
but certainly not least of the claims I visited is the “Iguana Hill,” a
splendid property judging from all appearances, situate on the border of
the township and just above the Company’s mill, to which the stone could
be conveyed at a minimum cost by means of a tramway. There is an immense
quantity of stone in sight, the shaft being down about 170 feet on the
underlay with a grand reef varying from two to five feet in thickness,
showing gold freely, the country being easily worked, which materially
reduces the cost of raising stone and makes this particular claim, from
its proximity to the mill, body of stone, and other advantages, in my
opinion, one of the most valuable mining properties in the North.

Appended are the returns of the crushings from various claims to the
date of my visit.


CROYDON GOLD RETURNS.

Complete returns of the crushings from the Croydon Reefs, from the
opening of the field to the end of August, 1887:--


CROYDON QUARTZ-CRUSHING COMPANY’S MILL.

       DATE.            CLAIM.                     YIELD.

                                          TONS.        OZS.  DWT.

       1887.

    January  3    Caledonia No. 1 E.       136         630      0
            14    Highland Mary            183         460      0
            20    Caledonia P.C.           154       1,073      0
            25    Highland Mary, No. 18    153         328      0
    February 5    Sir Garnet               176         525      0
            12    Lady Mary P.C.           164         824      0
            15    Harp of Erin P.C.         96         586     19
            22    Come at Last             140          98      8
    March   11    Iguana Hill P.C.         254         685      8
    April    1    Alice                    360         484     17
             5    Better Luck P.C.          46         160      0
             6    Day Dawn                  30½         51      0
             9    Iguana Hill, No. 1 E.     65         196     16
            13    Croydon Queen, No. 9 S.   44          56      6
            15    Highland Mary, No. 1 N.   69         105      0
            20    Burns’ Croydon Queen      15          61     19
            25    Lady Mary (surface)       33          47     19
            28    Miners’ Right, No. 1      21½         29      3
            29    Highland Mary, No 2 S.   211         831      5
    May      6    Better Luck, No. 1 E.     55          55     18
            10    Little Wonder             11          14      0
            10    Lady Norah                12          37      1
            13    Lady Mary, No. 1         201       1,180      0
            13    Salamander                40          31      0
            23    Frost’s Claim, Springs    19          28      0
            27    Sir Garnet               150         348     18
            28    Just in Time, No. 1 E.    63         112     14
            28    Alice, No. 2 S.           10          16     11
            29    Post Hole                 36         227     17
    June     8    Black Snake               40         190      0
             8    Miners’ Right P.C.        30          38      8
            10    Croydon Queen P.C.       200         787      3
            11    Alice, No. 1 N.           25          45      3
            17    Nancy Lee P.C.            30          28      3
            21    Lady Mary, No. 1 S.       25          27     19
            23    Post Hole                  6½          8      5
            26    Lady Mary P.C.           279         535      1
            28    Banner of Freedom,
                    No. 1 S.                24          22      7
    July    14    Chance P.C.               45         131      5
            15    Just in Time. No. 1 W.    62          61     17
            16    Morgan’s (surface)        10          21      0
                                         ---------  ------   ----
                              Total      3,724½     11,183     10

Average--3oz. 0dwt. 1½gr.


BIBBY’S MACHINE.

       DATE.            CLAIM.                     YIELD.
                                          TONS.        OZS.  DWT.
       1886
    December 9    Mountain Maid P.C.       187          245     0

       1887
    January  3    Mountain Maid No. 1 S.    74          169     0
             7    Sovereign P.C.            58          214     7
            12    Stephen’s (surface)       16           62    17
            18    Alice No. 1 (surface)    121          140    19
            24    Pride of the Hills        78           93     5
            28    Post Hole                 42          547    14

    February 8    Iron Duke, P.C.          122          253     9
            17    Croydon Queen No. 2 S.    98          666     4
            24    Mountain Maid No. 1 N.   107          177    12

    March    9    Phœnix P.C.               54          106     5
             9    True Blue P.C.            53           77     5

    April   25    Homeward Bound No.
                    1 and 2 S.              95          262     9

    May      3    Sir Walter, P.C.         100          673     5
             8    Waterfall, P. C.          85          335    15
            17    Sir Patrick, P. C.        56           75     0
            17    True Blue No. 1 S.        54          136     0
            18    Caledonia (surface)        9           26    12
            23    Rainbow No. 3              8            5     5
            23    Haythorn’s (surface)      14           13     0
            24    Chance, P.C.              28           28     0
            27    Homeward Bound, P.C.      58          171     0

    June     3    Rainbow No. 1 N.         104          101     1
             9    Lady Catherine, P.C.      87           52     2
            20    Banner of Freedom, P.C.  137          122    17
            22    Babe, P.C.                96          102     7
            25    Mountain Maid No. 3 N.    86           68    13

    July     2    President, P.C.           44           62    17
             2    Sunset, P.C.             162          125     0
            30    Babe No. 2 S.             16           18    16
            30    Babe No. 1 S.             55           55     5

    August   8    Mountain Maid No. 5 N.   115          156     5
            20    Golden Gate P.C.         214          183    16
                                         -----        -----  ----
                           Total         2,633        5,529     2
Average--2oz. 2dwt.


BYCE’S MACHINE.

     DATE.            CLAIM.                     YIELD.
                                        TONS.     OZS.  DWT.
     1887.
  July      1  Croydon King (surface)     12        25     0
            6  Croydon King (Pogg’s
                 surface)                 24       240     0
           10  Just-in-Time, P.C.        104       228     0
           25  Sovereign No. 1 W.         74       628     0

  August    5  Glengarry                 156       437     0
           20  Croydon King No. 2 N.      54       758    12
               Blankstongs from
                 Croydon Queen P.C.        6        30     0
                                        ----     -----  ----
                           Total         430     2,346    12
Average--5oz. 9dwt. 3gr.


SPENT’S MACHINE.

   DATE.            CLAIM.                     YIELD.
                                      TONS.       OZS.  DWT.
   1887.
April    7    Dan’s P.A.                 6         39     10
              May Queen                 15½        34      8
              Harp of Erin No. 1        14         17     14
              Whorman’s P.A.             6½        14      8
              Rivers’ P.A.              11½        18     14
              Highland Mary (surface)  300        268     10
              Mark Twain P.C.          174        327      0
              Kregg’s P.A.               6         12     10
              Cooper’s P.A.             36         77      0
              Dan’s P.A.                37         32      0
              Break of Day              22½        81     10
              Emperor P.C.              22½        81     10
              Foultons P.A.             15         13      0
              Ironclad, P.C.            95        254      0
              Mark Twain No. 1 N.       24½        26      9
              Dan’s P.A.                22          9     10
              Babe No. 1 N.             80         71      0
              Woldts P.A.                3          6      0
              Kelmers                   13         27      0
              Problem P.C.             108        300      0
              Taylors P.A.               6          3      5
              Golden Gate No. 1 N.      80         85      0
              London P.C.               22         24      0
              Wards P.A.                13         49      0
                                     -----      -----    ---
                        Total        1,133      1,872      9
Average--1oz. 13dwt.


CROYDON STONE CRUSHED AT GEORGE TOWN.

   DATE.            CLAIM.                     YIELD.
                                        TONS.      OZS.  DWT.
              Baal Gammon               18.15      238      2
              Croydon King (surface)     6.10       25     17
              Croydon King               2  0       32      8
              Croydon King No. 2 N.     10  0      165      0
              Golden Gate P.C.           8  0       34      9
              Croydon King No. 3 N.     41  0      731     19
              Croydon King P.C.         10  0      276      0
              Croydon King No. 1 N.     10  0      245      0
                                        -----    -----    ---
                            Total       99.5     1,781     15
Average--17oz. 15dwt.


CRUSHED AT CHARTERS TOWERS.

         CLAIM.                     YIELD.
                            TONS.    OZS.  DWT.
    Croydon P.C.               8      33      0


GRAND TOTAL.

      STONE.             YIELD.            AVERAGE.
    TONS   CWT.        OZ.   DWT.       OZ.  DWT.  GR.
    8,019   15       23,713   8          2    16   15

    ASSAYED VALUE PER OUNCE OF GOLD FROM VARIOUS CLAIMS.

    Highland Mary, No. 1 S.         £2 11  4
    Lady Mary, P.C.                  2 10 10
    Miners’ Right, No. 1 N.          2  0 10
    Post Hole                        2  5  8
    Highland May, No. 2 S.           2 15 11
    Better Luck, No. 1 E.            2 19  2
    Little Wonder                    2 12  7
    Lady Norah                       3  1 11
    Lady Mary No. 1                  2 12  6
    Salamander                       2 18  6
    Sir Garnet                       2 11  5
    Just-in-Time, No. 2 E.           2 13  4
    Croydon Queen P.C.               2 14  7
    Black Snake                      0 14  5
    Miners’ Right, P.C.              1 13  2
    Lady Mary No. 1 S. (surface)     2 12  5
    Nancy Lee, P.C.                  2 18  6
    Banner of Freedom                2 18  1
    Chance, P.C.                     2 19  7
    Homeward Bound, No. 1 N.         3  6 10
    Sir Walter                       2 11  0
    Waterfall, P.C.                  3 11 10
    Mark Twain, P.C.                 3  5  0
    True Blue, No. 1 S.              3  2  4
    St. Patrick                      3  4  4
    Homeward Bound, P.C.             3  4  4
    Mountain Maid                    3  2  0
    Babe No. 2 S.                    3  4  1
    Babe No. 1 S.                    3  6 11
    Croydon Queen, No. 2             1 19  2

[Illustration: text decoration]





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