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Title: The Newcastle Packets and the Hunter Valley
Author: J H M Abbott
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Language: English
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Title: The Newcastle Packets and the Hunter Valley
Author: J H M Abbott


The Newcastle Packets and the Hunter Valley



Author of

"Tommy Cornstalk," "An Outlander in England," "Letters from Queer
Street," "The South Seas," "Castle Vane," "The Governor's Man,"
"William Dampier," etc.

SYDNEY, 1942.






THE only claim the author can make on behalf of the book that
follows these preliminary remarks is that he has done his best to
present to other Australians--and to people who don't quite so
much count--something of the story of a countryside he loves and
believes in, and of that most important factor in its development,
the steam-driven shipping that has served it so well for more than
a century under the ownership of several corporations that are now
embodied in the Newcastle and Hunter River Steamship Company, Limited.
Looking over the MS. that lies piled up on his desk, he is conscious of
one or two omissions that he can hardly justify--he has, for instance,
only referred to the very earliest days of coal-mining in the Newcastle
district. He can only plead that there hasn't been room for everything,
and hopes that what he has written about may have some interest for the
general reader.

He would like to make particular acknowledgment to the Mitchell Library
in Sydney for most of his sources of information, and especially to the
Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, in which valuable
publication have appeared from time to time many papers having to do
with the story of the Hunter Valley. Of all these, perhaps the most
useful and reliable have been contributed to the Journal by the late
Mr. J. F. Campbell, whose knowledge of the story of the Valley was
almost encyclopaedic. He would like also, to thank Mr. A. F. Smith, of
The Scone Advocate, for the use of the series of articles, entitled
"Peeps at the Past," published in that newspaper some years ago. And
to the management of the Newcastle and Hunter River Steamship Company,
Limited, he is indebted for much appreciated assistance in the making
of this book.

In his story of the Hunter Valley the author has hardly anywhere come
further into modern times than the middle of the Nineteenth Century,
and can only excuse himself for this by expressing a belief that less
familiar news of an earlier day is of more interest than a description
of what happened last week.

Sydney, 1942. J.H.M.A.



ALTHOUGH Lieutenant John Shortland, R.N., is always credited with
the discovery of the Hunter River, at the beginning of September in
the year 1797, nearly a decade after the establishment of British
settlement in New South Wales, the fact of his going there at all is
really due to the enterprise of a party of convicts who are now only
nameless and forgotten men with no place at all in Australia's story.

On September the 5th in the year mentioned the Government vessel
"Cumberland," voyaging from Sydney to the Upper Hawkesbury with a
cargo of stores, was boarded at the mouth of the river by a number of
convicts from a small boat. They took possession of the little craft,
being made heartily welcome on board by some of her company. The
combined party informed the coxswain and crew of the "Cumberland"
that they intended to use her in making their escape from New South
Wales and penal servitude, threatening their lives if they should
presume to offer any resistance. So the petty officer in command made
the best of a bad job and landed in Pittwater with those of his men
who remained faithful. They travelled down the coast to Manly Cove,
and eventually reached Sydney, where the coxswain reported to the
authorities the piracy of the vessel lately under his charge.

It is a pretty picture, all purple coastline, blue sky over rugged
ranges inland, and dancing waves breaking into foam round the rocky
bases of Lion Island and the headland of Barrenjoey, with the little
Hawkesbury packet-boat--one of the first ships of the Australian
mercantile marine--dancing and curtseying on a westerly course
across Broken Bay towards the mouth of the river. And then the small
boat from the shore, probably making signals of distress, with the
"Cumberland" hauling up into the wind to await its arrival. It must
have been a disillusioned and disgusted coxswain who realised presently
what the matter really was, but, with some of his men siding with the
runaways, nothing was left for him but to do what he did. So he went
ashore on the long strip of sand inside the harbour now known as Palm
Beach, with his three men, to undertake the hazardous rough tramp along
the coastline to Port Jackson.

Governor Hunter's version of the incident is given in a dispatch to the
Duke of Portland, the Colonial Secretary, dated January 10, 1798.

"I have now to inform your Grace," he says, "that on the fifth day
of September last, as our largest and best boat, belonging to the
Government, was on her way to the Hawkesbury River, carrying thither
a few stores, and to bring from there some articles wanted here, a
service on which she was constantly employed, she was taken possession
of by part of the crew, assisted by a few men in another boat, who
threatened the life of the coxswain and all who dared to oppose them.
They put him and the others on shore at Broken Bay, and went off with
the boat we know not whither. And as another party of these villains
went off some time after in another boat, and the very men who were
landed from the first, as unwilling to go, were a part of the second
gang, I am of opinion that it had been a long concerted plan. Not
having any fit vessel to pursue upon such occasion, I dispatched two
row-boats, well armed; the one went about sixty miles northward along
the coast, and the other forty miles southward, but without success, a
gale blowing soon after the escape of the second boat, which obliged
the officer in pursuit to land upon the coast. There is every reason
to believe that the last party has perished, as the vessel was very
feeble. Most of the people were of the last Irish convicts."

The boat sent to the northward was in charge of Lieutenant John
Shortland, R.N., and as several of his family are connected with the
story of early Australia, some biographical details relating to the
discoverer of the Hunter may not be out of place. He was a son of the
Lieutenant John Shortland who came out with Phillip as Naval Agent in
the First Fleet. Born in 1769, he joined the navy in 1781, becoming a
lieutenant in 1792, commander in 1800, and post-captain in 1805.

Shortland served as master's-mate in H.M.S. "Sirius" on the voyage
to Botany Bay in 1787. When Captain Hunter returned home in 1792 he
took the young officer with him, and when he came out as Governor in
1795 made him first lieutenant of H.M.S. "Reliance," the ship in
which he sailed to New South Wales. He served in this vessel until her
return to England in 1800, when he was appointed to H.M.S. "Pandora"
as agent for Abercrombie's troops, then on their way to Egypt.

A quaint exploit of Shortland's in Egypt is worth mentioning as typical
of his cheery temperament. While lying off Alexandria in 1803 he landed
a party, with whose assistance he flew a kite over Pompey's Pillar,
hauled over it a rope and then a rope ladder, and climbed 160 feet to
the top to drink the King's health. A few days later he repeated the
performance, ate a beefsteak there, and fixed a weather vane on top of
the obelisk.

His last adventure in the navy, however, was more heroic, and endowed
him with lasting fame in the great service to which he had devoted
his life. This was his fight in H.M.S. "Junon" with four French
frigates. The "Junon" was originally a 40-gun frigate in the French
navy, and had been captured in Nova Scotian waters in February, 1809.
When he was given command of her, Shortland spent 1500 of his own
money in fitting her out. On December 13, 1809, he sighted four ships,
which at first he took for Spaniards, but presently realised to be
French. He found himself forced to give battle with a ship's company
of 200 against a squadron mounting altogether 120 guns and manned by
1400 seamen. The engagement lasted an hour and a quarter, when half his
men were killed and he himself severely wounded--the "Junon" was so
damaged that she had to be burnt next day. His French captors carried
her commander to Guadaloupe, where he died in the military hospital on
January 21, 1810.

Shortland left Sydney in chase of the pirated "Cumberland" in a
whaleboat, equipped with provisions for a fortnight, and searched Port
Stephens for the runaways, finding no traces of them. Then he turned
back to Sydney, and David Collins, the ablest historian of Australia's
earliest years, gives an account of his discovery of the Hunter River.

"Mr. Shortland's pursuit, however, had not been without advantage, for
on his return he entered a river which he named Hunter's River, about
ten leagues to the southward of Port Stephens, into which Lieutenant
Shortland carried three fathoms of water, in the shoalest part of
the entrance, finding deep water and good anchorage when within. The
entrance of this river is but shallow, and covered by a high rocky
island lying right off it, so as to leave a good passage round the
north end of the island, between that and the shore. A reef connects
the south part of the island with the south shore of the entrance
to the river. In this harbour are found a considerable quantity of
very good coal, and lying so near the waterside as to be conveniently
shipped, which gives it in this particular a manifest advantage over
that discovered at the southward. Some specimens of the coal were
brought up in the boat."'

Hunter remained in New South Wales as Governor until the last quarter
of the year 1800, but does not seem to have himself visited the scene
of Shortland's discovery, although, of course, he was officially
associated with the first export of coal from the river in 1799.

This pioneer cargo was shipped to Bengal, and was the first of its kind
to leave Australia. There is no record of either the shipper, the ship,
or her captain, but a fair likelihood exists that she may have been the
"Hunter," then owned by Campbell, Clarke & Co., of Calcutta, which
had arrived in Port Jackson in the middle of the previous year. So far
as it has been possible to ascertain, the "Hunter" was the only ship
which sailed for Bengal from Port Jackson in August, 1799, so it seems
rather more than likely that she really was the first collier to leave
Australian waters.

Several Sydney merchants--Underwood, Lord and Palmer--investigated the
"Coal River," as it was generally referred to, and sent small vessels
there not long after Shortland's discovery of it, but it was not until
the beginning of 1800 that a regular shipping trade was established,
mainly in red cedar. This valuable timber flourished in various
places along the lower river--for years it was known as the "Cedar
Arm"--assigned convicts being employed in cutting the cedar and rafting
it down to the river mouth.

Curiously enough, the first settlement of any length of time on the
site of Newcastle was that of a party of convicts, who repeated the
"Cumberland" exploit by seizing the "Norfolk," a vessel of 25
tons, built at Norfolk Island, in Broken Bay in November, 1800.

The little vessel, employed in the government service, was on its way
from the Hawkesbury to Sydney with a cargo of 500 bushels of wheat,
when she was captured by 15 convicts at the mouth of the river. They
intended to make their escape to the Dutch East Indies. Turning into
Port Hunter in bad weather, the "Norfolk" was wrecked at a spot
on the north shore since known as Pirate Point. Nine of them seized
another craft belonging to some of the Sydney merchants, and set out in
continuance of their voyage to the Dutch colonies, while six remained
at the river mouth. The nine absconders were pursued by an armed cutter
from Port Jackson, captured, and taken back to Sydney, where two of
them were hanged, the remainder being sent to Norfolk Island. The six
who stayed behind at the Coal River crossed over to the south shore,
where they lived among the natives, though three of the party attempted
to reach Sydney overland, with the intention of surrendering to the
authorities. It is probable that those who remained on the river ended
their days with the blacks, retiring inland when settlement came.

When Captain Philip Gidley King assumed the government of New South
Wales in 1800, he had very definite ideas as to the importance of
fostering a coal industry, but hoped to find workable seams closer to
Sydney than at the Hunter River. For some time he had an expert miner
named Platt investigating the country near the mouth of George's River
at the back of Botany Bay, and afterwards the strata at Coal Cliff
in Illawarra. As no very satisfactory results were the outcome of
Platt's prospecting activities, King decided on a thorough test of the
possibilities of the Hunter.

In April, 1801, he was contemplating the dispatch of a research
expedition to the Hunter for the purpose of finding out what the value
of the district might be for coal, timber, and other commodities, but
in the meantime a privately owned vessel, the brig "Anna Josepha,"
belonging to Simeon Lord and commanded by Hugh Meehan, had been the
first vessel of any size to moor in the river. She anchored off the
north shore inside Pirate Point, close to the saw-pit dug some time
before by Meehan. This anchorage was abandoned for one on the southern
side, where Lord's men formed a camp and began to collect coal from
the beach as well as from the face of the cliff. They carried it in
bags and baskets to the beach on the south shore, where it was loaded
into the brig. Some of the party went up the river for cedar and other
timber, which was rafted down to the saw-pits at the entrance to be
cut into lengths that would fit the ship's hold. On May 29 the "Anna
Josepha" sailed for Sydney, anchoring in Port Jackson the same

On June 9, 1801, Governor King handed the following letter to
Lieutenant Grant, R.N., commanding H.M.S. "Lady Nelson," and since
the document is of unique historic interest, as relating not only to
the survey of the port and river, but also to the first official effort
to exploit the Hunter River's commercial possibilities, it may be
quoted in extenso.

"As winter is now advancing," it reads, "which renders it unsafe for
the 'Lady Nelson' being sent to renew the survey of Bass' Strait
and the south-west coast of this country until the spring, and as
the surveying of Hunter's River, lying between this place and Port
Stephens, is of the utmost consequence to be ascertained, you are
hereby required and directed to receive Lieutenant-Colonel Paterson and
the persons on board, as per margin, bearing them on a supernumerary
list for provisions, and proceed without loss of time to Hunter's
River, for which place you are provided with a pilot. When arrived
there, you will give every assistance to Ensign Barrallier in making as
complete a survey as possible of the entrance and inside of that river,
its shoals, depth of water, and every other particular, as pointed out
by the second paragraph of your former orders. You will take under
your command the 'Francis,' colonial schooner, and cause her to be
laden with the best coals that can be procured; and should that vessel
be laden before the survey is completed, you will dispatch her to this
place without loss of time."

The "Lady Nelson" was one of the most notable vessels in the story
of early Australia, and was the first craft in which a centre-board,
or retractable keel, was used in navigation. She was built by Captain
(afterwards Admiral) Schanck in 1790 specifically for exploring work on
the coasts of Australia, and navigated to this country by Lieutenant
James Grant, R.N. She was of shallow draught, and had three keels which
could be hauled up into water-tight casings when sailing in shoal
waters. Of all the craft that took part in the exploration of the
coasts of the southern continent, she was probably the most famous,
and when she was lost in 1825 in northern waters, she had rendered the
greatest service to Australian geographical research. She was only of
60 tons burthen, and almost flat-bottomed, drawing but six feet of
water, and depending for stability at sea on her movable keels. She had
a freeboard of 2 feet 9 inches.

When you came in from the sea to the mouth of the Hunter River at
the beginning of the nineteenth century, and old King George III,
intermittently insane, presided over an empire that had not long
before--partly by his and his advisers' folly--lost the priceless
possession of the American colonies, and had just started another phase
of empire-building in this vast, unknown continent of the south, the
scene was very different from that on which you may look to-day. The
broad sheet of water stretching inland from the Coal Island--almost
half as tall again as it is now--lay calm and placid between dark belts
of mangroves, and there was nothing at all beyond those low-lying
shores but an uncivilisation as old as the world. Quiet and serene
and mysterious, running into the ocean out of wide-flung territories
that no European knew anything about, the old Coal River had a past
utterly unknown, but a future that is in the making as we see it now.
No one knew, when the "Lady Nelson" anchored in the estuary so long
ago, what was to happen by this silent river mouth. The settlement
at Port Jackson was still primitive and precarious in its chances of
survival, and no one there as yet was able to regard New South Wales as
an established province of the British Empire. But here, this evening,
that problematical outpost was already establishing an outpost of an
outpost. Though no one in the "Lady Nelson" realised it then, this
was only another instance of the British genius for colonisation--the
genius that admits no chance of failure and has always succeeded,
whatever the odds against it.


BETWEEN Lieutenant Shortland's discovery of the Hunter River and
the coming of steam navigation a whole generation elapsed, and the
settlement at Port Hunter developed out of a convict camp into the
beginnings of a respectable town of considerable importance. But before
we take a glance at Newcastle in 1830 it is necessary to consider a
little the first exploration of the lower river and its tributaries,
as alluded to in the previous chapter. This was the expedition in the
"Lady Nelson," led by Lieut.-Colonel Paterson, during the course of
which Ensign Barrallier made the first map of the district.

The brig sailed from Port Jackson early on the morning of June 10,
1801, under the command of Lieutenant James Grant, R.N. The expedition
he had been commissioned by the Governor to carry to the Hunter
consisted of Lieut.-Colonel Paterson, Surgeon John Harris, Ensign
Barrallier (Engineer and Surveyor), J. W. Frewin (Artist), J. H. Platt
(the expert miner), James (the pilot), five sawyers, six soldiers, the
crew, and the native Boongarie, or Bungaree--about 70 persons, all
told. The mates of the "Lady Nelson" were named Murray and Bower,
and the colonial schooner "Francis" was under the charge of a man
named Aitkin.

They spent a little time at the entrance to Lake Macquarie (Reid's
Mistake), arriving off the mouth of the Hunter early on the morning of
Sunday, June 14. During the forenoon Lieutenant Grant and Dr. Harris
put off in a boat to examine the entrance to the river, and on their
return to the brig Colonel Paterson named the rock in the opening,
now known as Nobby's, the "Coal Island." The two vessels were brought
abreast of the island and anchored for the night. Next morning at
daybreak they were towed by their boats into the river, and moored off
the north shore in three fathoms of water.

On the 16th, Paterson and Grant took Platt, the miner, ashore to
examine the coal measures in the cliff and on the beach. They found
a seam 22 inches thick high up in the cliff face, and at the foot of
the hill and on the reef other strata of varying dimensions. On the
following day Platt landed a gang of men to dig out the coal and load
it into the schooner, which had collected a full cargo of 24 tons by
the 26th, when she sailed to Sydney, arriving there on the following

While the "Francis" was being loaded with the first cargo of coal
to leave Newcastle, Paterson, Grant, Harris and Barrallier set off up
the river in boats. Eventually they got as far as the present position
of Singleton, and also explored for a short distance the tributary
streams, Williams and Paterson. Barrallier made the curious mistake in
his chart of marking the Williams as the main stream--in view of the
appearance of the two rivers at their junction, a very natural error.

Impressed by the reports concerning their expedition which he received
from Grant, Paterson, Harris and Barrallier, Governor King decided to
establish a small post at the mouth of the Hunter, and this little
garrison found itself planted there at the end of June, 1801. Corporal
Wixstead and five privates made up its personnel, and they had
charge of a working party of convicts engaged in getting coal, under
the direction of Platt, the mine-manager. Another gang was employed up
the river in cutting cedar.

It was a queer little community, and was not a great success.
Wixstead was a good fellow, and did his best, but was quite unsuited
for the job. His military subordinates resented his appointment as
a sort of minor governor, and eventually he found his work greatly
hampered by their disloyalty. He treated the best of the convicts with
consideration, but anonymous letters went to Governor King accusing
the corporal of drinking liquor that should have been issued to the
soldiers in his charge. So at the end of September, Surgeon Martin
Mason was sent up to hold an inquiry into the soldiers' complaints.
Wixstead was exonerated, but was censured for slackness in his
administration of the outpost. Dr. Mason was put in charge of it, and
it is not easy to see why the Governor selected him for the position,
as his reputation in the colony was not very good, and he was more
or less "in Coventry" with his brother magistrates. In this distant
outpost he was a decided failure, and his brutal conduct to the
prisoners even provoked a minor mutiny. Eventually he was relieved of
his charge and recalled to Sydney, and not long afterwards King decided
to abandon the settlement, feeling that it was too far away from the
seat of government for proper control. The soldiers and convicts were
accordingly brought back to Sydney early in 1802.

It was not until March, 1804, that King decided again to establish an
outpost at the mouth of the Hunter for the purpose of obtaining coal
and cedar. He selected Lieutenant Charles Menzies as Commandant, and
named the settlement "Newcastle, in the County of Northumberland." It
is not possible here to follow closely the growth and development of
the little community from the period of Menzies' command until the date
which heads this chapter, but we may glance at it briefly.

Lieutenant C. A. F. N. Menzies was an officer of the Royal Marines, and
had volunteered his services to Governor King when he heard that the
Hunter was to be re-settled. In the official letter accepting them, the
name "Newcastle," as applied to the settlement, appears for the first
time, and in a dispatch to Lord Hobart dated April 16, 1804, King gives
his reasons for the selection of this name.

"Although the harbour and river will still retain their original
name," he writes, "yet I have considered it advisable, to avoid future
mistakes, to give the settlement a name, and none appears so applicable
as that of Newcastle. And as no bounds had ever been prescribed to
this county (i.e., Cumberland) northwards, I considered it would be
equally applicable to call the country in which new Newcastle is placed
'Northumberland,' that being the next county to Cumberland in England."

Menzies' establishment consisted of 1 sergeant, 9 privates, 1 marine,
2 superintendents of convicts and a junior surgeon--the soldiery,
of course, being members of the N.S.W. Corps and the marine the
Commandant's personal servant. Prisoners were to be employed in
procuring coal and cedar, and no one else was to be allowed to dig for
coal or cut cedar without official sanction. The new colony sailed from
Sydney in the "Lady Nelson," the "Resource" and the "James" on
March 27, 1804, and arrived in the Hunter on the 30th of the month.

At first everything went very well with the revived settlement, but
a murderous plot of mutiny was discovered in June, nipped in the
bud, and the ringleaders severely punished. A massacre of the local
authorities had been planned, but the scheme was fortunately given away
by some of the conspirators before it came to a head. Menzies seized
and double-ironed the two leaders, and sent them to Sydney to be dealt
with. "Allow me to say," he wrote to King, "that two more determined
villains never existed." They did not exist much longer.

For nearly 20 years Newcastle was a penal settlement and nothing
else--a place of secondary punishment for convicts who offended again
while serving their original sentences. The disciplinary system was
harsh and merciless--no more terrible place of punishment ever existed
during the convict era in Australia, than the subsidiary establishment
for "incorrigibles" at Limeburners' Bay, on the inner side of the
Stockton Peninsula. The Commandants who succeeded Menzies were more or
less humane men, and did what they could for their charges, but Major
Morrisset, of H.M. 48th Regiment, left behind him a reputation for
ferocious harshness that has not yet been forgotten. John Bingle, in
reminiscences published when he was a very old man, gives us a glimpse
at the Coal River Settlement under Morrisset in 1821.

"Although upwards of 50 years have elapsed since," he writes, "there
is not effaced from my memory the impression this made. I had never
visited a convict settlement, nor seen the arbitrary powers carried
to such an extent. Perhaps it was necessary for the safety of the
settlement that such severe discipline and punishments should be
adopted, but to a stranger's eye it seemed very un-English. Walking out
with the Commandant to see the beauties of the harbour, the splendid
ocean view, and, above all, the magnificent and unrivalled prospect
from the church close, and to give me an idea of the awe in which he
was held, I found no convict passed us walking; all drew up, head
uncovered, long before we reached them, and every coal cart drew up and

Convict mining was very primitive. There were 27 men in the mining gang
in 1820, and it was all task work--every miner having to cut 2 tons
of coal each day. The coal was carried in barrows to the bottom of
the shaft and hauled to the surface by a windlass. The work was very
severe, the drives being only 4 feet 6 inches high, and bad health
amongst the miners was the usual condition of things. Compared with
this work, that of the cedar-cutters was a recreation and diversion.

In the earliest days of settlement there was plenty of cedar near the
river mouth, but it was soon cut out, and by 1820 the timber gangs were
working 70 miles up the river. Trees were selected by the overseers,
and then cut down, lopped, and rolled to the river bank, where the
logs were made into rafts on which huts were erected to accommodate
the prisoners. There were two boats to look after each raft, and when
they came close to Newcastle, all the available small craft in the
settlement were sent to meet them. It usually took about a week to
navigate the raft down to the mouth of the river. The cedar-getting
gangs were sometimes up the valley for four or five weeks, and each
gang had a military escort of a corporal and three soldiers. The men
built bark huts for themselves in the bush, and their daily work, like
that of the miners, was tasked--30 men being supposed to cut 100 logs,
from 12 to 16 feet long, in a month.

For the first half dozen years of its existence the population of
Newcastle did not vary--there were 128 inhabitants in 1804 and 100
in 1810. The common fry among the prisoners lived in the gaol, but
well-conducted men were allowed to erect huts, and it was regarded
as a great privilege to possess a dwelling of this sort. Bingle says
that the appearance of the huts was always neat and orderly--whenever
instructed to do so by the Commandant, tenants had to whitewash both
the outsides and the insides of their residences.

The population of the settlement began to grow after 1810--mainly owing
to the increased demand in Sydney for timber and lime. Large numbers
of prisoners were sent to the station, and a good deal of new building
became necessary. In 1811 the population of the township was 124; in
1815, 272; in 1817, 553; and in 1821, 1169.

During the regime of Captain Wallis something of a building boom
took place--the Commandant caused to be erected a church, hospital,
stone gaol, accommodation for officers, barracks for the convicts,
a guardroom, watch-house, boat-house, and a lumber-yard, or general
enclosure for men working at trades. The breakwater joining Nobby's and
the mainland was begun in 1812, though almost half a century was to
elapse before it was completed.

The hospital stood where the present Newcastle Hospital is, and the
gaol was on the site of the Tramway depot. The watch-house was situated
about where the present police station is, and the lumber-yard site is
now occupied by the Custom House.

During Governor Macquarie's reign, as might have been expected, a good
deal of public work was carried out in the town. A parsonage was built,
barracks for a company of soldiers, a military hospital, a couple
of windmills, residences for the storekeeper, Chief Constable and
Superintendent of Convicts. The original streets were repaired and new
ones laid out. The Commandant's House in Watt Street was put into good
order, but was burned down soon after Major Morrisset's time.

Towards the end of Macquarie's term of office he decided that it was
time to abandon Newcastle as a penal station--partly because it was
too close to Sydney, but also for the reason that he considered it
desirable to make the Hunter Valley's rich territories available for
free settlement. He would reduce the number of prisoners employed at
Newcastle to 100, and the others would be sent to Port Macquarie. The
year 1823 marks the end of the city's penal-settlement era, when no
one was permitted to land at Newcastle, or go away, without official

In August, 1822, Mr. Surveyor Dangar began a survey of the town, with
a view towards laying it out in allotments for general settlement.
Township allotments were to be held on leases for 21 years, and if in
that time the tenant had erected a building worth 1000 he was to be
given the freehold of the land.

The first inn--"The Newcastle Hotel"--was opened in 1823 for the
entertainment of "Gentlemen, Settlers and Others," and in 1827, when
the population only numbered about 1200, there were 27 public-houses.

In July, 1824, a passage-boat began to trade between Newcastle and
Wallis Plains (West Maitland). No road existed between the two
places--a track through the Hexham swamps being the only land route to
the first inland settlement on the Hunter River. And it was about this
time that the Newcastle Packets had their origin. In August, 1823, the
cutter "Eclipse" began a regular run between Port Jackson and Port
Hunter, but she was pirated by a gang of convicts in the following
year, and the service was carried on by the "Lord Liverpool," under
the command of Captain Livingstone.

Between the end of Macquarie's time and a century ago the population
of Newcastle did not increase very much--it was 1169 in 1821 and 1377
in 1841. But its character had changed entirely. The settlement was
beginning to take on the aspect of a free civilisation, though there
was still a large convict gang engaged in the construction of the
breakwater, which was guarded by a considerable garrison.

In 1830 Newcastle was still a village, with less than 40 houses in
its streets. But in the following year--the year with which this book
is most concerned--steam navigation was to begin an alteration in the
condition of things at the mouth of the Hunter River that was to mark
the inauguration of a new era. The story of the Newcastle Packets,
which we are coming to presently, is not the least important of many
factors that have combined to make the present City of Newcastle one of
the principal communities of the Australian Commonwealth.


BEFORE we turn to the beginnings of steam communication along the coast
between Sydney and Newcastle by the "Sophia Jane" in 1831, we may
glance briefly at the two industries which were the jointly principal
reason for the foundation of a settlement at the mouth of the Hunter
River in the first years of the nineteenth century, as handed down
to us in contemporary records. They were, of course, coal-mining and

In the early eighteen-twenties, a young immigrant landed in Sydney Cove
to try his luck in this country, and about twenty-five years later--in
1847--he published anonymously in London a little book that was by
way of being an autobiographical account of his life, adventures and
fortune in New South Wales during the intervening years. It is the work
of a keen observer, a logical moralist, and a very wholesome and rare
personality that was not deficient in the saving grace of humour. Taken
with Surgeon Peter Cunningham's "Two Years in New South Wales,"
these accounts of the young colony give as complete an impression
of everyday life in Australia a century-and-a-quarter ago as it is
possible to obtain from any source.

The author was Alexander Harris--he veils his identity with the
pseudonym of "An Emigrant Mechanic"--and under the title of "Settlers
and Convicts" writes of colonial life in Australia from the point
of view of the free pioneers who were beginning at that time to land
here in fairly large numbers. It is a delightful yarn--honest, breezy
and optimistic--and falls not far short of ranking as a classic in the
contemporary historical literature of our earliest days. He published
several other books afterwards under his own name, but "Settlers and
Convicts" will always remain his most valuable contribution to such
literature in the estimation of students of Australian history.

Harris began his acquirement of "colonial experience" as a
cedar-getter--first of all in the Illawarra district of New South
Wales--and the passages reprinted below from "Settlers and Convicts"
have to do with some of it that came his way in the Hunter Valley.
For a reason not very evident, he is careful throughout his writings
to disguise real names and places, but there can be no doubt that the
"River ----" of his narrative was the Williams. The cedar forests have
long been cut out in and about the Hunter Valley, as elsewhere in New
South Wales, but for many years they yielded a rich harvest of valuable
timber to the colony. How completely they have disappeared may be
recognised from the present writer's own experience. Though a native of
Wallis Plains (Maitland), and with a fairly long lifetime's knowledge
of the Hunter Valley between Newcastle and Murrurundi, the only red
cedar he has ever seen growing is in Sydney's Botanic Gardens! Only in
almost inaccessible parts of the ranges are any red cedars (cedrelis
tuna) to be found flourishing now.

"At this time"--Harris is writing of the adventures of himself
and a companion in the district of the Lower Hunter in the late
eighteen-twenties--"the cedar-getting was going on at a great pace
to the nor'ard of Sydney, on----River, one of the tributaries of the
Hunter. Thither at length we resolved to proceed, taking with us, by
one of the boats that went as far up the stream as it was navigable,
our own provisions; and so to set in on the best fall of timber we
could find on Government ground near the river bank, and cut away
until our stock of provisions was exhausted; then bring the plank we
had got up to Sydney, and sell it on our own account. And this, after
certain leave-takings, we accordingly did; taking with us, moreover,
a free man, whom we knew to be a hard-working chap, as a labourer, to
fall trees with the axe, build the pits, clear the roads through the
bush, bring out the plank, give us help at heavy lifts, and afford us
the needful assistance in all those other difficulties which render
cedar-getting too heavy for only a pair of men. . . .

"The ----River, on the banks of which we now were, rises and for a
long distance winds to and fro among the mountains of the county of
Durham; at length it falls into the Hunter, not a great way from the
mouth of that stream. It is now well settled, but at the time we were
there, spoiling it of its cedar, only here and there amidst the lonely
wilderness were to be found a settlers farm or stockman's hut. The
blacks were occasionally, but not often, troublesome. . . . Tree after
tree went crashing down before our labourer's axe, and breaking a broad
opening to the sky around its stump; and pile after pile of square red
plank arose in welcome transformation on the spot, as our saw did its
duty; and road after road stretched straight away from the piles of
cedar to the river's edge, which as yet was shallow, and full of shoals
and falls. . . .

"Our nearest neighbour of the settler genus was a strange, eccentric
old sea captain. Apparently when he first commenced settler he had
plenty of money, with part of which he had bought a herd of cattle.
Wherever he went his sword was his inseparable companion--he walked
about flourishing it at the trees all day long. He had, however, more
reason for guarding himself from his own people than from anyone else;
for his overseer was all the time branding lots of his young cattle in
his own name, whilst the old gentleman gave him credit for being one of
the most honest, trustworthy fellows on the earth. . . . On the other
side we had an old major of the army, who, I believe, had a family,
and was very poor. We heard that when he first took possession of his
land he was quite well off, but he had impoverished himself greatly,
as gentlemen settlers so very often do, by expending their capital on
everything but that which really wants doing."

Harris tells a story of his fellow-workers in the forest which gives us
a picture of those early Australian lumber-jacks as they really were.
He and his partner had lost most of the first fruits of their toil in
a flood, which washed away nearly all their cut and dressed planks of
cedar. They began all over again.

"One incident only of a much more unpleasant than unusual character
marks this period. A lot of sawyers from various pits had met at the
old sea captain's farm, where a large cask of brandy had arrived. After
letting them drink very freely, he took it into his head not to let
them have any more. This at first they would not submit to; but the old
gentleman, who, by the by, was not at all behind with them in their own
way, showed such very strong symptoms of using his sword and pistols
that they thought best to decamp. A council of war was then held, and
someone suggesting that I and my mate had a lot of rum still left,
down they came in a body to an amount of about twelve or fifteen. At
first we did not much heed the shouting and shrieking, in every tone
and dialect, from that of Cockneyism to that of the Irish province
which is said to be a mile beyond his Satanic Majesty's residence;
but it came nearer and nearer. At last it crossed the river and came
up the road through the bush; and by the time we were at the fire
in our shirts, the whole corps debouched before us. Some wore check
shirts, some wore woollen; some were in red ones and some in blue, and
some in none at all; some had straw hats, some Scotch caps, some old
working skull-caps, some nothing but their own shock heads of hair;
some had sticks in their hands, some the ration-bags they had been to
get filled; some the axe they had been sharpening at the grindstone,
and some three or four ribs of salted beef for to-morrow's dinner; some
sang, some yelled, some said nothing, but the one unanimous demand
was the remainder of our stock of rum. All my remonstrances were
ineffectual. I was told at last that if I did not give it they would
take it, and put me on the fire for a back-log.

"Of course, further parley was useless; I brought it out, and they
set to it with all the pannikins they could muster. R----, whose
habituation to such emergencies from his infancy rendered him much more
a match for them than I was, employed himself in getting hold of every
vessel that he could, and pouring it out unobserved upon the ground;
and as they were filling only pint and quart pots, this proceeding
soon lowered their stock; and by sunrise it was all gone. They then
gradually began to disperse; a couple, however, took possession of our
bed and slept all day; and after having their supper with us at night,
went home."

Most of these men would have been time-expired convicts, with a
leavening of native-born young Australians like Harris's companion,
and a few emigrants of his own class. Rough, hard-working, hard-living
fellows they were, these pioneers of the Hunter Valley, toilfully
fighting the hardships and vicissitudes of an enterprise that demanded
all they had of endurance and resource, of courage and manhood, and
gave them nothing of comfort or the elements of luxury. In all weathers
they battled through a strenuous existence, living rough and sleeping
hard--strong, muscular men, who worked "from jackass to jackass" and
lived lives of manly independence, steadied by unremitting toil. They
might well, occasionally, have broken out like this. Harris goes on--

"Such affairs were pretty well understood to be only jokes, and no
ill-will is allowed to be borne about them afterwards. We took nothing
for the liquor, though several offered to pay their 'whack.' I could
not reconcile it to my conscience to take any payment for it, for it
would not do to tell them how it had been disposed of; and unless we
had let them pay for what they had not had, that seemed unavoidable.
There was likewise another reason of a more serious and painful
character. One of the 'topmen'"--the top-sawyer in the pits where the
planks were laboriously cut out of the cedar logs--"was a sad, brutal
fellow when intoxicated; and in going home he quarrelled with his
pitman, and gave him a blow from which he never recovered. The poor
fellow had first to leave off work, then go to the settlement and put
himself under the doctor's hands, and at last, after lingering a few
weeks, died. I almost felt as if his blood was on my head, and from
that day forth have never either sold or given to anybody spirituous
liquors of any kind."

The two young men did well enough out of the Hunter cedar brushes to
combine a little trading with their timber-getting. They went shares
with another man, during their third year at the work, in a small
coasting vessel, and this shipping venture proved extremely profitable,
as it might easily have done, judging from the figures Harris gives in
his book.

"The whole of the parties cutting on the river," he says, "had run
short of flour, tobacco, and tea, three most profitable articles. We
bought our tea at 2/6 and sold it at 6/-; our tobacco (good Hawkesbury)
at 1/-, and sold it at 3/-; our flour we made about 60 per cent, on."

He draws a delightful picture of the scene of their last location in
the forest, where they spent more than twelve months, for the solitude
and loneliness of which they found themselves well rewarded when they
retired from the business. They had been guided to this place by one,
Jack the Liar.

"Numbers of the trees were six feet in the barrel without a limb, and
so thick that, as they lay on the hillside, after they were cut down,
I could barely lay my hand on the top of them at 10 and 15 feet from
the butt. They were generally sound, and many of them as sound as stone
pillars, and they lay for the most part on the hillsides, so that
rolling them to the pit was effected by merely slackening chocks away
from them in front, instead of heaving them along by handspikes and
lever, as is done on level ground. . . .

"We kept to one hut all the time, having fixed ourselves deep down the
descent of one of the hill points in a sort of basin, where five creeks
met, so as to be near the water and the work. It was a lonely place,
where you heard nothing but the perpetual splashing of the creeks, and
once or twice a day the thunder of falling trees, or sometimes in the
still, warm noon the startling note of the coachman bird, or the not
less wonderful mimicry of the mocking-bird imitating the shrill grating
of our files in sharpening the saw, so exactly that we often could
not but believe that some other pair had come and set in close to us.
Countless, and motionless, and gigantic, stood the forest army, up and
down all the hillsides around us; in strong contrast to this stood the
great red piles of plank, squared with mathematical exactness, which
spoke of man and labour. How simple the lesson that contrast read,
and yet how grave! The toil-bearer must have a motive; he must want
something that he has not; he must be unhappy."

Reading his book, however, a century or so after it was written, one
would not easily believe that Alexander Harris was ever an unhappy man
when he was in the Australian bush he learned to love so well.


THE arcadian picture of life in the tall forests on the hills through
which the Williams River winds, peaceful and beautiful, to its juncture
with the Hunter, just above Raymond Terrace, presented in the last
chapter is startlingly contrasted by that which another contemporary
chronicler draws of the brutal and horrible conditions under which the
earliest mining was carried on at the Coal River settlement.

It was purely a penal settlement, that little village at the mouth
of the Hunter that has developed into the great industrial centre
of Newcastle--a place which, despite the many vicissitudes of its
adolescent years, is surely destined one day to be the Birmingham
of the Commonwealth. As a convict depot it was quite easily able to
compare in conditions of infamy and sordidness with anything that has
gained unenviable notoriety for similar establishments at Port Arthur,
in Van Diemen's Land, or in lovely and lonely little Norfolk Island out
eastward in the wide waters of the Tasman Sea.

A remarkable and terrible human document, but of the greatest
historical value in coordinating the story of this country's first
beginnings, was discovered some years ago by Mr. C. H. Bertie, then
Sydney's Municipal Librarian, and subsequently published in an edited
form in London, under the title of "Ralph Rashleigh." With due
acknowledgment to its publishers (Jonathan Cape), one cannot refrain
from quoting from the series of vivid and often startling pictures of
Newcastle, as it was little more than a century ago, contained in the
book, and, although some of them are almost unbelievably horrible,
contemporary records confirm their fidelity to fact and freedom
from exaggeration. Indeed, they are so simply drawn as to carry
conviction from the mere reading of them. "Rashleigh" was, of course,
a fictitious name, but there can be little doubt that his story is a
true representation of the merciless and inhuman conditions under which
prisoners of the Crown were so often worked in the penal servitude of
the bad old days of the convict "System" in Australia.

Here is a description of the fashion in which prisoners exiled to
the Coal River were sent there from Sydney in those days. The vessel
employed as a convict transport on this occasion was the small schooner
"Alligator." It reads unmistakably as having been written by a man
who had himself experienced the miseries of that nightmare voyage
between Sydney Heads and the mouth of the Hunter River.

"The prisoners were marched aboard and stripped naked before being sent
down into the hold, the floor of which had been spread with shingle
ballast. As each man got below he was secured by his fetters to a
chain which was strongly fastened to the planking of the floor. It
was impossible for the men to walk, or even to stand, the height from
the floor of the hold to the upper deck being not more than three and
one-half feet, and the hold was so small that, when all the prisoners
had been crammed into it, they were squeezed so tight that they could
only lie down upon their sides, body to body. The heat was intense, and
the steam from the perspiring unfortunates rose through the hatchway in
a cloud, as if the hold were afire. . . .

"The 'Alligator' weighed anchor and cleared the harbour with a fair
wind, but, once out at sea, ran into a fresh gale in which she pitched
violently, shipping water. The waves, breaking over the sides, worked
through the hatchway into the hold, cooling the fevered wretches; but
as the seas remained big it was not long before the hold was awash,
and the prisoners were obliged to kneel or crouch in order to keep
their heads above water. . . . The voyage lasted forty-eight hours,
and, during the whole time, the ration for each man was half a mouldy
biscuit and a drink of water.

"Filthy and stinking, the prisoners were at last landed at Newcastle,
where they performed with joy the compulsory ablutions in the sea,
after which clothing was served out to them. They were then paraded and
inspected by the military Commandant, a man of such ruthless severity
that he had earned the title of the King of the Coal River."

The Commandant at Newcastle at this time was Major James Morrisset, of
H.M. 48th Regiment, who afterwards held similar positions at Bathurst
and Norfolk Island. Wherever he went, a reputation for mercilessly
cruel disciplinary methods went with him, and it is in no way
exaggerated by tradition. He is, perhaps, the outstanding personality
of Newcastle's penal settlement days--a man as hard as steel and as
unrelenting as Fate. With 70 of his shipmates on this pleasant voyage,
Rashleigh was drafted to a pit known as the "Old" coal-mine, to
distinguish it from another shaft recently sunk. Its situation is said
to have been somewhere about the site of the greens of the Newcastle
Bowling Club, not far from the crest of the cliffs south-eastward of
the city.

"A grim-visaged overseer received them at the pithead, and called his
clerk to 'take the likenesses' (this was merely to have a good look at
each man, so as to be able to identify him when necessary) of the new
victims of his oppression. The clerk was a miserable, half-starved,
brow-beaten creature, who did his duty trembling with fear at the
threats of his superior; after which the men were lowered singly in a
bucket to the bottom of the shaft.

"Rashleigh gazed into the gloom, full of wonder at the strangeness of
the scene. Seven low passages opened out from the space at the foot of
the shaft, dimly lit by small lamps; but at the end of each tunnel was
a blaze of light. In the glow, like some glimpses of inferno, he saw
groups of men working feverishly, who redoubled their energies at the
sight of the hated overseer, who had brought down the new hands. As
this brute stepped out of the bucket, he criticised the manner in which
a waggon had been filled by a gang who had just dragged it along to be
unloaded. Cursing and abusing them, he set upon the men in charge, with
a stout cudgel, and in a few moments had knocked every man down, and
then beaten them until they rose again, driving them back to refill the
waggon down the passage along which they had just come.

"He came back out of breath, and, dividing the newcomers up into
parties of sixteen, gave each gang a waggon. He then led the way along
one of the galleries into a great open space, where large coal fires
were burning, by the light of which, added to that of their lamps,
miners were busy hacking out masses of coal. The overseer stopped at an
immense heap, and called the overseer in charge of the section.

"'Take these new chums in hand, and set 'em on?' he ordered shortly.

"Their work was to fill the waggons with coal, drag them to the
opening at the shaft's foot, and tip out the contents according to the
direction of the man in charge there. They set to work immediately, and
continued without rest under the blows and curses of their taskmaster
until night, when each man received a small portion of boiled maize
grain, a morsel of salt beef, and water. They slept naked in any part
of the workings, the heat being so excessive that any clothing or
covering only added to the misery of life. No bedding was provided,
but those who were not too exhausted to make the effort could scrape
together enough dust to make a comfortable sleeping-place. The convict
miners remained underground the whole week, and on Saturday afternoons
were taken to the surface to wash themselves and their clothing in sea
water. When their clothes were dry they were marched to the convict
barracks, and confined there until Monday morning.

"Bathing in the sea on his first Saturday afternoon, Rashleigh noticed
that there was scarcely one of the older miners whose back or buttocks
were free from the marks of the lash. He remarked to one of the men
that it seemed as if punishment was plentiful at Newcastle.

"'Aye, that's something there's no lack of, anyway,' answered the
miner, with a laugh. 'And so you will know soon, for tomorrow is

His informant was correct. At the first streak of dawn on Sunday the
prisoners were paraded in a yard, where a series of triangles had
been set up, with a large corps of flagellators in attendance. The
presenting of arms by the guard and the roll of a drum announced the
arrival of the Commandant, in full uniform.

"'Dash my old duds,' whispered a fellow next to Rashleigh, 'look out,
my lads! The cove has got on his fighting-jacket, so it's going to be a
regular field-day.'

"The clerk opened his book, and the overseer of the miners was called.
He made a loutish reverence to the Commandant, and handed in his
punishment list.

"'Charles Chattey!' shouted one of the scourgers, acting as announcer.

"A little duck-legged Londoner stood forward.

"'What's he been doing?' demanded the Commandant.

"'Neglecting his work, your honour,' answered the overseer.

"'One hundred lashes.'

"The orgy of punishment continued hour after hour until not less
than fifty men had been lashed, none with less than seventy-five
stripes, the Commandant taking obvious pleasure in stimulating the
jaded scourgers with threats of punishment. When, some time after nine
o'clock, the convicts were dismissed, they were served with breakfast
of boiled corn and half a pound of indifferently cooked meat, which
comprised the full daily allowance of each man."

Rashleigh toiled for nine miserable months in the coal mine, receiving
some 650 lashes during this period, and finally, being charged with
"incorrigible laziness" by the overseer, was given another taste of
the cat-o'-nine-tails and sent to work in the limeburners' gang on the
northern side of the harbour.

Over at Stockton, on the low-lying shores of Limeburners Bay, it is
still possible to locate the pits whence the unfortunate prisoners
sent to this dreadful place of extra punishment dug the shells that
were burned to make lime in the adjacent kilns. It was a terrible
hell-in-a-hell, where the mining awards of Major Morrisset's day were
paid with interest to the pioneers of the Hunter River coalfields.
There can be no doubt that it was by far the most atrocious place of
punishment in convict Australia throughout the whole of "The System's"
brutal existence. Neither Norfolk Island, Port Arthur, Macquarie
Harbour, Moreton Bay or Cockatoo Island ever staged a more impressive
display of man's inhumanity to man than this awful place of torture at
the mouth of the Hunter.

It was "on its own"--a place so infamously cruel as almost to sicken
anyone who contemplates its anguished story to-day. Flogging was
perpetual, and the poor, raw-backed victims of the unspeakable
penological methods of the day had to load the barges from the
settlement with heavy sacks of lime that they carried on their
lacerated shoulders through the shallow water to the anchored craft,
frequently falling into the salt water, as they staggered out to
the barges under their heavy burdens. Raw backs, torn and bleeding
from recent lashings, to be treated with lime and salt water in this
fashion! Little wonder is it that many preferred to drown in the
shallows when they fell beneath their loads, rather than to struggle to
the surface to be rewarded with another dose of the "cat" for wetting
the lime.

Those low shores, fringed with mangrove, are arid and waste and
depressing, even to view casually without any knowledge of the wicked
tyranny that once made them a place of unimaginable terrors, and they
look to-day as though something evil still haunted them. There was
never any place so woeful in Australia as the camp for "incorrigibles"
at Limeburners' Bay, about the time when Major Morrisset ruled the Coal
River settlement with a red-hot rod of iron and the soul of a devil.


WHEN maritime steam communication was established between Sydney and
Newcastle in 1831 by the "Sophia Jane," a regular packet service had
already been in operation for some time. As has been mentioned, this
was first of all carried on by a cutter named the "Eclipse," and,
after she had been pirated by runaway convicts, the "Lord Liverpool"
took her place.

Of the condition of Newcastle and the Lower Hunter about this time we
are able to learn from another contemporary source, perhaps even more
valuable than the chronicles of Alexander Harris and the unknown author
of "Ralph Rashleigh." In 1829, Surgeon Peter Cunningham, R.N., who had
made a number of voyages to New South Wales as Surgeon-Superintendent,
or officer-in-charge, of the involuntary passengers of several convict
transports, published in London his "Two Years in New South Wales,"
which still remains one of the most readable and trustworthy accounts
of the Australia of the eighteen-twenties. The following extract gives
an excellent idea of the conditions existing in and about the Valley of
the Hunter when the Newcastle Packets changed over from sail to steam,
and makes particular mention of the "Lord Liverpool."

"The settlement of Hunter's River, to the right or north of Sydney,"
says the Doctor, "is divided at present into the counties of
Northumberland and Durham, the first lying between the Hawkesbury and
Hunter's Rivers (the distance between which is fifty-five miles), and
the second, lying to the north beyond Hunter's River, and stretching
upwards along its banks; but the limits of neither are yet properly

"By land, you proceed either by way of Windsor or Richmond. From
Windsor to Patrick's Plains, on Hunter's River, is a distance of
seventy miles in a direct line, but nearly of ninety miles when
following the convolutions of the road, which is, as yet, but a rugged
bridle-path over the mountainous ridge called the Bulgar, quite unfit
to take even an empty cart by. Patrick's Plains, again, are twenty
miles from Wallis Plains, the head of loaded-boat navigation, and forty
miles from the town of Newcastle, at the outlet of Hunter's River on
the sea-coast. By the circuitous route of Windsor, therefore, Patrick's
Plains are upwards of one hundred and twenty miles from Sydney; but a
practicable route for a road has been surveyed direct from Parramatta
thither, which will reduce the distance to Sydney upwards of thirty
miles, crossing the Hawkesbury low down by a punt.

"A fine little cutter packet, named the 'Lord Liverpool,' sails
weekly between Sydney and Newcastle (in distance seventy-three
miles), twelve hours' easy sail; cabin fare (including provisions,
wine, and spirits), 1/6/-, and the accommodation excellent, the
vessel having been formerly a pleasure yacht in India. Several other
craft pass backwards and forwards between the two places, also, as
irregular traders, all taking good freights, the principal return
being coals--Newcastle supplying the Sydney market with that necessary
article. Two passenger boats ply between Newcastle and Wallis Plains,
conveying goods upwards, on freight also, which goods may be there
secured in a safe store appertaining to Messrs. Powditch and Boucher,
on payment of a small commission. There is only a bridle-road as yet
between Newcastle and Wallis Plains; but a cart-road, which is now
in progress, will ere long be completed. The distance by land I have
already stated at twenty miles, but on account of the convolutions of
the river, it amounts by water to nearer seventy.

"Close to these places, indeed, there is part of the river, so
tortuous, that, although the distance between the two points (that is,
between Lieutenant Close's wharf and Powditch and Boucher's wharf) be
not three miles by land, it is twenty-five miles by water. In freshes
boats can go no higher than Lieutenant Close's, and this being a
high-lying dry place, and abounding in fresh water, will doubtless
eventually be the situation pitched upon for a town. Carts, therefore,
must be sent thither from Newcastle until the road is completed; but
from Powditch and Boucher's store, loaded drays may pass by the banks
of the river for seventy miles farther, at least, crossing to the
right bank at Mr. Singleton's ford, head of Patrick's Plains, the
country beyond this being too rugged on the left bank to admit of carts
proceeding much higher on that side. When the made road from Newcastle
to Wallis Plains is finished, an excellent cart-road might, by the
employment of a gang of twenty men for a fortnight or so, be completed,
upwards, to fully ninety miles distance from Newcastle; the country
being generally so even, so thinly timbered, and clear of brush, that
the banks of a few rivulets and gullies only require to be lowered,
or bridges thrown across, nature having done the rest. But the road,
even as it is, cannot be found much fault with, there being only two or
three difficult gullies which require, in crossing, a partial unloading
of the drays.

"Newcastle is distant about one hundred and twenty miles from that
extensive pastoral country, Liverpool Plains; and after the road from
Newcastle to Wallis Plains shall be completed, a stage-coach might
be driven that distance (by a cart road of fourteen miles only near
Liverpool Plains) without much inconvenience, so easy of communication
is this part of the country."

The landmarks of the sixty-mile voyage between Sydney Heads and the
Coal Island (Nobby's) succeed one another quickly as you pass them by
at sea nowadays, but in the years when the small sailing packets had to
beat up very often against stiff nor'-easterly winds there was longer
time to study them as they slowly slipped by to port, or sometimes
"stayed put" whilst the little vessels made slants out to sea, and then
back again towards the coast, in temporarily vain endeavour to complete
their run northward. The voyage of the convict schooner "Alligator,"
with the sweltering cargo of naked and suffering humanity in her
four-foot-high hold, shackled to the chain running fore and aft
amidships, described by "Rashleigh" in the preceding chapter, must have
been one of these frustrated efforts, since she took two days to reach
her destination.

Many hundreds of times, by day and by night--though more frequently by
night, since passenger traffic between Sydney and Newcastle along the
coast had become a nocturnal affair long before his day--the writer
has passed up and down the old-time sea-track since first he followed
it as a very small boy, somewhere about 1877, in the yacht-like
paddle-steamer, "Coonanbara." On a daylight voyage northward a
few years ago, assisted by the master of one of the Newcastle and
Hunter River Company's cargo steamers, with the chart before him on
the bridge, he studied all the bays and beaches and headlands of that
picturesque stretch of the shore of East Australia, and, as this
book is very largely concerned with the ships that have passed as a
regular thing up and down the same seaway during the last 150 years,
he will request the reader to stand beside him and the captain of
the "Kindur" whilst he makes the voyage again in these pages. We
must remember that we had a closer and clearer view of the coastline
that sunny day than was usually afforded Captain Livingstone when he
navigated the "Lord Liverpool" to the Coal River circa 1830.

When the steamer swings round Outer North Head as she leaves Port
Jackson, she passes by a magnificently complete geological section of
the sedimentary rocks of the "Hawkesbury" series upon which Sydney is
built, extending between the perpendicular corner of the headland to
an almost equally "up and down" formation in North Point, once past
which she opens up Cabbage-tree Bay--the little known but rightful
designation of the glittering waters breaking in long lines of surf on
curving sands, which is popularly known as Manly Beach.

Then comes the majestic joint called Queenscliff, with the little
Freshwater Beach (named by Governor Phillip when he walked overland to
Broken Bay in 1788, and now foolishly re-named "Harbord") lying between
it and Curl Curl Head. Another long stretch of gleaming yellow sands
extends between the latter rocky bluff and Dee Why Head, and the next
far-projecting promontory is marked on the chart as Long Point, but is
better known as Long Reef.

After that stretches a succession of beaches--bounded by Narrabeen
Head, Bungan Head, and Bulgolo Head--extending to the South Head of
Broken Bay. Round the corner is Little Head, with Palm Beach lying
between its steep seaward escarpment and Barrenjoey Head, on top of
which stands the first of the two lighthouses on the coast between Port
Jackson's North Head and the mouth of the Hunter.

In between Bulgolo Head and the South Head of Broken Bay, a great
cavern in the cliffs, plainly visible from seaward, has given to the
high bluff in which it occurs the picturesque title of the "Hole in the

Broken Bay is a wide indentation, surrounded by densely-wooded ranges
and well fitted with the name bestowed on it by Captain Cook when he
sailed up the coast in H.M.S. "Endeavour" early in 1770. Through
its broad opening the waters of the Hawkesbury find their way into
the Tasman Sea, and the voyage from Sydney Cove in Port Jackson to
the mouth of South Creek, near Windsor (N.S.W.), is the oldest line
of sea-borne traffic in Australia--next to it in order of seniority
comes the one we are studying from the bridge of the "Kindur" this
morning. Almost directly north of Barrenjoey, across the sunlit waters
of the estuary, Hawke Head points a long finger due south, and lying
back in the bay is the aptly named Lion Island, which the Admiralty
chart distinguishes as Eliot Island.

West Reef and East Reef are set out from the rocky coastline
between Hawke Head and the most southerly projection of Cape Three
Points--these are all James Cook's names--which is broken into Third
Point, Second Point and First Point. Between the latter and Broken Head
lies a pretty indentation known as Balbaring Bay. Immediately south of
this is Terrigal Harbour, where small shipping may, on occasion, find
shelter from southerly weather.

The next rocky promontory distinguished on the chart is Upright Point,
with a little boat-harbour not far south of it, and a few miles further
on is the entrance to Tuggerah Lakes. Tuggerah Reef lies almost east of
the entrance, and a couple of miles nor'-east of it a "bomborah" breaks
at some distance from the shore when the swell rolling in from the
Tasman Sea is heavier than usual. North of it is Norah Head, with its
tall white lighthouse, a little more than half way between Port Jackson
and the Hunter.

Like Lavender Bay in Sydney Harbour, Norah Head is a little deceptive
in its name. "Lavender" does not commemorate an early-day planting of
the fragrant English flower on the shores of the pretty bay opposite
to Sydney Observatory--it was the name of the boatswain of the convict
hulk "Phoenix," moored in the inlet a century ago. Nor is the
"Norah" the name of some Irish colleen beloved of an early navigator
of the coastline--it is properly "Norah Bungaree," a purely aboriginal
designation of a natural feature of the scenery.

Flat Island, a little further on, looks like a point of land,
and between it and Catherine Hill Bay the coast is rocky and
dangerous-looking. The shore is then mostly cliffs to Moon Island,
lying just off the narrow, shallow and tortuous entrance to Lake
Macquarie. From here a long, curving beach stretches to the well-named
Red Head, perhaps the most striking landmark between Sydney and
Newcastle. Passing by about eight miles of mountainous and wooded
coastline, broken by Merewether Beach and one or two smaller
indentations, our course lies direct to Nobby's, the old Coal Island,
at the entrance to the Hunter, where the "Kindur" turns sharply
westward and runs into the harbour between the two long lines of
breakwater. Over on the right, seaward of Stockton, is Pirate Point,
where the lads who stole the "Norfolk" came ashore in 1800. And so
we run into the King's Wharf, after making passage along the length of
coast with which we are most concerned in the story of the Newcastle


ON the morning of June 12, 1831, the first steam-driven vessel to make
the voyage between Port Jackson and the Hunter River sailed up the
coast from Sydney to Newcastle and inaugurated the cargo and passenger
steamer service which has functioned along the same trade route ever
since. The present Newcastle and Hunter River Steamship Company,
Limited, can trace its descent through various organisations directly
from this small steamer which was, a hundred and twelve years ago, the
most remarkable and famous craft afloat in Australasian waters.

The "Sophia Jane," under the command of her part-owner, Lieutenant
Edward Biddulph, R.N., had been in New South Wales waters just a
month when she began to ply between Sydney and the Green Hills, the
picturesque name of the picturesque old town which has long been known
as Morpeth, situated at the head of the navigable waters of the Hunter.
"The Sydney Gazette" of May 17, 1831, records her arrival in New
South Wales as the most notable news item of the week.

"On Saturday last," says the colony's first newspaper, edited and owned
by Mr. Robert Howe, son of George Howe, the founder of Australian
journalism, "the inhabitants of Sydney had the extreme gratification
of seeing for the first time a steam vessel floating in their harbour,
the 'Sophia Jane' having arrived from England during the night.
This being the commencement of steam navigation in Australia, we shall
enter into as many particulars as we have been able to collect, for
most of which we are indebted to 'The South African.' The name of
the vessel is the 'Sophia Jane.' She is commanded by Lieutenant
Edward Biddulph, R.N., who is, we believe, part owner. She was built in
1826 by Barnes and Miller, the pupils of the celebrated Watt, the only
ones who have carried on his work for themselves. The whole length of
her deck unimpeded (as all vessels of this kind are) is 126 feet; her
breadth 20 feet; her burthen 256 tons; her power 50-horse. In smooth
water she will travel eight miles an hour. She draws only six feet of
water, and could easily be made to draw only five. She was originally
constructed for the almost exclusive accommodation of passengers,
and the greater portion of the room is adapted for this service. Her
principal employment, hitherto, has been in the carrying of passengers
between England and France, and to various parts of the British
Islands. No expense has been spared for the comfortable accommodation
of her passengers, and her apartments are of the finest description.
She has three separate cabins--one for gentlemen, one for ladies, and
another for steerage passengers. In the gentlemen's cabin 16 beds can
be made up, in the ladies' 11, and in the steerage 20, and in cases
of emergency extra beds can be prepared, making in all 54. Being
intended in the first instance for Calcutta, where wood is the cheapest
fuel, she is as well adapted for its consumption as for coal. She
originally cost 8,000, and her present value is estimated at 7,500.
She has brought out an experienced engineer, and a duplicate set of
all the necessary apparatus. She was ultimately fitted out especially
for Sydney as a private speculation. On her passage she touched at
Pernambuco and the Cape. At the latter place they were extremely
desirous of purchasing her to ply between Algoa Bay and Table Bay. A
public meeting was held in the Commercial Exchange for the purpose of
forming a Joint Stock Navigation Company, but the attempt failed, and
she prosecuted her original course. At present the arrangements are
too immature to enable us to say how she will be employed, but in all
probability she will form a regular packet for the conveyance of both
goods and passengers between Sydney and Newcastle. Most certainly do
we wish her every success, and congratulate our fellow colonists on so
valuable an acquisition for their pleasure and advantage.'"

In the issue of the same journal of May 21, further reference is made
to the engrossing subject of the wonder-ship.

We have derived from the most authentic sources the following
particulars:--She is 250 tons, builders' measurement, and 150 tons
register, four years old, but ran only some two years, chiefly in the
British and St. George's Channels. The engine is of the most approved
construction, and she was esteemed one of the fastest vessels ever
built. She has frequently towed ships of the largest class, and the
last time she was thus engaged was tugging the 'General Kydd' from
Gravesend to the Downs. Should the 'Sophia Jane,' we are told, meet
with the encouragement her spirited owners expect, they will send out
another vessel of nearly 500 tons, with an engine of 100-horse power,
to ply between Sydney and Van Diemen's Land."

It is really probable that the "Sophia Jane" was one of the fastest
steam vessels of her day, since she was able to negotiate the run
between Sydney Heads and Nobby's--60 miles--in 7 2/3 hours, which
represents a pace of about eight knots an hour. The maximum speed of
ocean-going vessels in 1840--according to Sir William White in his
Presidential address to the British Association in 1899--was only 8
knots. So something of an "ocean greyhound" made its appearance on
the Australian coast in 1831. It is strange that such a synonym for
Lieutenant Biddulph's little steamer does not seem to have occurred
to the fertile journalistic imagination of Mr. Robert Howe in any of
his eulogistic descriptions of the "Sophia Jane" published in the
"Gazette" about this time. Mr. Howe was particularly apt at this
sort of thing, as will be evident from his "Gazette" article printed

When the "Sophia Jane" had undergone the overhaul necessary after
her long voyage from England to Australia, Lieutenant Biddulph gave a
demonstration of her capabilities in Sydney Harbour which was reported
with impressive enthusiasm in the columns of the "Gazette." It
may be quoted in full as testimony to the tremendous sensation her
arrival in Australian waters had made--such a sensation as not even the
latest thing in flying-boats is able to make to-day. Nothing like this
excursion had ever before taken place in Port Jackson.

"Yesterday was a proud day for Australia," it reads, "a day that
ought to be placed high in the calendar of her improvements--a day to
which her sons and daughters, if alive to the true interests of this
country, will in future years look back with admiration. The first
efficient exhibition of steam navigation in this fifth quarter of the
world was beheld by the select few who had adventured on board the
'Sophia Jane,' on Friday, the 11th day of June, 1831. True, the
'Surprize' had, as was fully reported in a recent number, performed
a trip to Parramatta some days before; but that was altogether so
diminutive a display of the tremendous power of steam, that it cannot
for a moment be placed in competition with the magnificent masterpiece
of yesterday. It must also be granted that the 'Sophia Jane' had
herself performed one trip before that which we designate her first.
On Sunday last she towed the ship, 'Lady Harewood,' bound for
England, out of the harbour, and accomplished her task in the most
gallant style; but this was no more than a private trip, intended for
the amusement of a few of the captain's friends, and therefore was not
considered by us as entitled to any particular notice. But yesterday
was the grand--the memorable affair. The 'Sophia Jane' put forth
all her powers. She showed what the ingenuity of man had been able to
contrive--to dispense with oars and canvas, and to urge rapidly onward,
in defiance of wind and weather, a vessel of large dimensions and heavy

"Early in the morning the Captain gave a breakfast on board to his
Excellency the Governor and a distinguished party of ladies and
gentlemen. The vessel performed a gentle trip round Dawes Point,
Darling Harbour, and Goat Island, and in so fine a style that His
Excellency and all the fashionable guests were pleased to express the
highest encomiums on the scientific construction of the vessel, and on
the admirable skill with which she was managed.

"But the grand display was reserved for the public excursion to Middle
Harbour, and we are really at a loss for terms to convey to those who
were never on board a steam vessel, an adequate conception of the scene.

"Soon after 11 o'clock, a signal gun having been previously fired,
the 'Sophia Jane' loosed her moorings in Sydney Cove, and began
her adventurous journey. The manner in which she threaded her way
through the shipping, without any assistance whatever, filled everyone
with admiration. She crept in and out with the utmost exactness, as
if she had possessed all the attributes of a rational creature; and
when fairly free from the cove her energies were allowed unlimited
play, and away she went as on the wings of the wind. Her velocity was
astounding. She actually flew through the water. The ordinary motion
of a vessel leaving the harbour, compared with hers, was absolutely
contemptible. Before the passengers well knew they had started, they
found themselves abreast of Pinchgut Island; and ere they had digested
this astonishment, they looked up, and lo! they were in the very
mouth of the Heads! Here a gun was fired, and Mr. Watson, the pilot,
came on board. Then away she dashed up Middle Harbour--crossing bars,
skimming flats, and threading needles, in the finest style imaginable.
She went about five or six miles inland. In many places the Harbour
was so narrow as to resemble a mere canal. The scenery was beautiful,
and was brightened by one of the most charming days earth ever saw.
Having reached the utmost navigable point, she veered round, and again
ploughed her way towards the Heads. At 2 o'clock the company was
summoned to the mess room, where they found a sumptuous cold collation,
served up under the direction of Mr. Bax, of the Australian Hotel.
Every luxury that could be devised was spread upon the hospitable
table, garnished with the choicest champagne and other wines, ale,
porter, &c. The passengers had already seated themselves at table when
they were conscious of a very peculiar motion, the vessel rolling in
the most regular and agreeable manner; but supposing it to be only
imaginary on their sitting down, for the first time, in the cabin, no
particular notice was taken of it; but when the meal was finished, and
they returned on deck, what was their astonishment to find themselves
actually at sea--aye, rolling upon the wide ocean, the boundless
expanse before them, and the Sydney Heads far behind! However, they
greatly enjoyed the unexpected novelty of their situation, and while in
the act of expressing their surprise, behold! the miraculous steamer
was again rounding Bradley's Head, on the full wing for Sydney, with
both tide and wind against her. She performed the trip from between the
Heads to Fort Macquarie, a distance of full five miles, in 26 minutes
and 42 seconds--the shortest period in which it was ever accomplished
by a sailing ship, with wind and tide directly in favour, being 42

"Having honoured Sydney with a hasty glance, to assure the good
folk that all was well, she shot past with the velocity of thought,
directing her course to Kissing Point. Thither she had a delightful
trip, and returned to Sydney, the distance being about 10 miles, in
less than three-quarters of an hour.

"The day was the most favourable that could be desired. Not a cloud
obscured the sky; the sun shone in all its chastened splendour, and a
gentle breeze from the westward seemed to refresh and invigorate the
joyous passengers. Part of the band of the 39th regiment added to the
other delightful pleasures of the excursion the charms of martial music.

"Captain Biddulph acquitted himself in the handsomest manner. His
duties, as the navigator of the vessel, were performed with the utmost
zeal and discretion, while his polite assiduities for the comfort
of his passengers were all that became a commander and a gentleman.
Everything, in short, went off in the very best style. Not one
blunder--not one mistake. All was order and precision.

"The accommodations between decks are truly admirable. The state cabin
is appropriated exclusively to the ladies. The fair sex are always
entitled to the best, and certainly their claim is fully conceded on
board the 'Sophia Jane,' their apartment having every convenience
they could desire, together with superb looking-glass panels, which
reflect their charms with all the fidelity of truth.

"The dining-room is a noble apartment, being arranged with the most
ingenious regard to utility and comfort. But those who would fully
appreciate this wonderful achievement of human skill and enterprise,
must take a trip, and judge for themselves. Her first voyage to
Newcastle will be performed this day, and we hope she will have
abundance of passengers. She deserves well of the colony; may she
receive that liberal share of public patronage and support of which she
is so eminently worthy!"

Good Robert Howe, son and successor of Australia's pioneer printer!
Never elsewhere in "The Sydney Gazette," or out of it, have you
expressed yourself so nobly! But, truly, that voyage round Our
Beautiful Harbour on that lovely winter day so long ago was an
Occasion--with a capital "O."

On her first voyage to Newcastle the "Sophia Jane" left Sydney at
7.13 a.m. and arrived at the King's Wharf in Port Hunter at 3.13 p.m.,
having been detained a little by towing another ship to sea. She took
3 hours to make the run up the river to the Green Hills (Morpeth), and
was exactly three hours coming down on the following day. The run back
to Sydney from Newcastle was completed in 7 hours and 40 minutes.

This rate of speed was kept up for many years, and the steamer
continued to trade on the coast until 1846, when her engines were
transferred to the newly-built "Phoenix." The "Sophia Jane" was
then broken up, and her successor was wrecked on the North Head of
the Clarence River in 1850. The engines of the pioneer steamship in
Australian waters are still covered by the sands at the spot where the
"Phoenix" came to grief. They were partly exposed by the effects of
a storm some forty odd years ago. Should it ever be desired to salvage
them as relics of our maritime beginnings in steam navigation, there
would probably be few difficulties in digging them out of the beach at
the mouth of the Clarence.


BEFORE we turn to the development of the Hunter River district by the
various corporations and privately owned steamships which have traded
for 110 years between Sydney and Newcastle, we must glance for a moment
at the first really "Australian" steamer--the "Currency Lass" of our
earliest shipping--that navigated the eastern side of the continent
in the infant days of its British existence. From an Australian point
of view, there is more of interest in the story of the "William the
Fourth" than in that of any of the earlier vessels. She was building
at Clarence Town, on the Williams River, when the "Sophia Jane"
arrived in the colony, and how well and faithfully her designers and
constructors carried out their task is evidenced by the fact that,
after thirty years of hard work on the Australian coast, she was still
fit to be sold into the China trade, where she continued to render
excellent service for a considerable time longer.

Incidentally, it may be noted that the ship's associations seem to
have rendered inevitable the name bestowed upon her. She was built
at Clarence Town, the settlement on the river named after King
William, which had been called after him when he was the Duke of
Clarence, before succeeding his brother, George IV, on the throne
of Great Britain and Ireland. Hardly any other name could have been
appropriately chosen for her.

Mr. Joseph Hickey Grose, a prominent Sydney merchant, had the idea
of building a steamer locally before there was even a rumour of
the impending arrival of the "Sophia Jane," and entrusted the
realisation of his design to two newly arrived Scottish ship-builders,
Messrs. Marshall and Lowe, who had recently come to New South Wales
from the West Coast of South America. On account of its timber
resources, the upper waters of the Williams River were selected by
these gentlemen as a suitable locality for the carrying out of their
enterprise, and for years afterwards they continued to build both
steamers and sailing craft just below Clarence Town on the ways laid
down for the construction of the "William the Fourth."

The ship was launched on October 22, 1831, and arrived in Sydney under
temporary sailing rig on November 23. Here the engines imported from
the works of Fawcett and Co., of Liverpool (Eng.), were installed
in the hull by Mr. Alexander Lyle Pattison, of the Phoenix Foundry.
Mr. Pattison had been brought to Sydney in 1827 to erect Mr. Robert
Cooper's engine at Blackwattle Swamp, and took a prominent part in
the development of early Australian steam navigation, having been one
of the committee of the Australian Steam Conveyance Company formed
to build the steamer, "Australia," for the Parramatta trade, in
1834. He was drowned by the capsizing of a boat at Kiama in 1838. The
engines, of the "jet condensing" type, were hardly powerful enough to
give the ship much speed--it was less than eight knots an hour--but
their importer had to consider cost, and they were the best he could
afford. "The Sydney Herald," in one of its issues of September,
1831, states that they have "been much improved by Mr. Pattison, of the
Phoenix Foundry."

The length of the "William the Fourth," from stem to stern, was 80
feet, and she had a beam of 15 feet amidships, whilst 20 feet was the
extreme width of the sponsons round the paddle-boxes. Her perpendicular
dimensions from the flush deck to the keel were 7 feet, whilst those
of the after cabin were 6 feet 6 inches. The ladies' cabin was 12 feet
long, and the gentlemen's 16. The outside planking of the hull was
of flooded gum, 1 inches in thickness, and her deck planking was of
colonial pine, 2 inches thick. She had two masts and was schooner
rigged, and, as may be realised from her portrait, was a very pretty
and yacht-like model of a ship. The new steamer's first voyage to
Newcastle is thus referred to in "The Sydney Gazette" of February
21, 1832:--

"That beautiful specimen of colonial enterprise, the 'William the
Fourth,' made her maiden trip to the Hunter last week. She left
Barker's Wharf at 7.30 in the evening, cleared the Heads in 44 minutes,
and made Newcastle at 6 the following morning."

In the same issue appears this advertisement from Mr. Grose.

"The 'William the Fourth' leaves Sydney every Monday evening at 7;
will receive and discharge goods at the store of Mr. William Walker
on Mrs. Close's land, Green Hills; cabin, 25/-; to Newcastle, 20/-;
steerage to Newcastle, 12/6; Green Hills, 15/-."

The advertisement is signed by Captain Taggart, and the Green Hills, of
course, was the original name of the present township of Morpeth.

The commander of the "William the Fourth" was well known to early
day pioneers as the commodore skipper of the Hunter River passenger
trade, owing to his having been master of the "Lord Liverpool"
sailing packet for some considerable time prior to the introduction of
steam navigation. He was subsequently master of the "Sophia Jane,"
"Maitland," "James Watt," "Victoria" and "Phoenix." From
1832 until 1835 the "William the Fourth" was almost exclusively
employed in the Hunter River trade, though now and again she made a few
trips to the Hawkesbury, navigating the river almost as far as Windsor.
Needless to say, there was a much greater depth of water in the stream
then than there is now. As in the case of the Hunter, the clearing
and cultivation of the land on the banks has resulted in the gradual
silting up of the river. In 1835 she was withdrawn from the Hunter,
and put on the Sydney-Port Macquarie run, under the command of Captain
William Parsons. Subsequently she was for some years engaged in the
Illawarra trade.

When the Australian Steam Conveyance Company was formed in 1834,
another corporation came into existence which had as its raison
d'etre the establishment of an opposition to the "Sophia Jane"
and the "William the Fourth" in sea communication with the Hunter
River. In April, 1833, a meeting had been held in Sydney, at the office
of Mr. A. B. Spark, at which it was proposed by Mr. Thomas Walker, of
Concord, and seconded by Mr. R. C. Pritchett, "that an association
be formed to build in the Colony of New South Wales a steamer of 200
tons, and to order from Great Britain two engines of 40-horsepower
each." The cost of the two engines was estimated to be, when installed
in a vessel, 4000. Mr. Lowe, of Clarence Town, tendered to build a
ship of 250 tons, everything complete, for 3,300, anchors, blocks,
and rigging, to cost 360, whilst other "extras" were to be covered by
500. The total cost was to be 8,150, and there were to be 400 shares
of 25 each. The Secretary was to be Mr. Thomas Smith. The outcome
of this meeting was the establishment of the Hunter River Packet

An order was sent to Messrs. Scott and Sinclair, of Greenock, for two
engines of a combined horse power of eighty, and a contract entered
into with Marshall and Lowe to build the new steamer at Clarence Town.
The machinery arrived in the colony at the beginning of 1836, and
was installed in the "Ceres," as she was called, which had been
launched on the Williams during the previous year. She is described in
the newspapers of 1835 as being 134 feet long, and 38 feet wide, the
deck as most spacious--almost, it was said, "like the deck of a 50-gun
ship, or the old 74." The paddle-boxes, we are informed, "do not put
out at the sides like those of other steam vessels, but are enclosed
by, and form part of, the deck." There were six enclosed cabins for
families, and in the "Great Cabin" twenty sleeping berths were fitted
up. The ladies' cabin contained twelve berths, and in the fore-cabin
or steerage, twenty passengers could be accommodated. With 150 tons of
dead weight in her holds, the "Ceres" only drew seven feet. She must
have been a fine little craft, but her active career was only a short
one of six months, for she was wrecked whilst running from Sydney to
Newcastle on a sunken rock between Bird Island and Norah Head.

In an interesting and valuable paper read before the Historical Society
on June 30, 1904, the late A. B. Portus had some remarks to make
concerning the durability of the timber used by Marshall and Lowe in
the construction of the "William the Fourth" and "Ceres," as well
as of other ships which they launched at Clarence Town.

"As with the 'William the Fourth,'" he says, "the builder used
flooded gum extensively in the hull of the 'Ceres'; some ironbark
was fitted where desirable, and the decks were of Norway pine. The cost
of the steamer was favourably commented on at the time, a comparison
being made between British and Colonial built vessels. The cost of the
'Ceres' is given at 10 per ton; while in England a vessel built of
similar material could not, we are told, be constructed for less than
15 per ton. The lifetime of a vessel built of Australian flooded-gum
was at that time estimated at 20 years. How very far short of the
endurance of this excellent timber this forecast was can be judged by
the fact that the oldest steamer now in service in Australia was built
of flooded-gum, near Raymond Terrace, on the Hunter River, 60 years
ago. I refer to the 'Kangaroo,' now running in the Yarra."

The wreck of the "Ceres" was a disastrous climax in the affairs
of the corporation which had built her and was only destined to reap
any return from its enterprise for a brief half year. On September
16, 1836, Mr. Thomas Smith, the Secretary of the Hunter River Packet
Association, announced that its transactions would be wound up as
soon as possible. Not long before the little ship came to grief, the
Association had decided to build another steamer, but the project fell
through, and although an attempt was made to revive the H.R.P.A. in the
form of another company, nothing definite was done until June, 1839,
when the Hunter River Steam Navigation Company was established.

An interesting description of the Hunter River shipping trade in
1834 is given by the Rev. John Dunmore Lang, D.D., in his "New South
Wales," and it may be quoted here in parts as illustrating the
conditions of coastal and river navigation in the years immediately
succeeding the arrival in the colony of the "Sophia Jane" and the
first employment of the "William the Fourth." The latter portion
of it is apposite enough now, as comparing the luxuriantly wooded
condition of the country along the banks of the lower river with its
present treeless aspect after more than a century of settlement and

"A packet for goods and passengers," he writes, "used formerly to ply
between Sydney and Newcastle once a week, goods and produce being
conveyed to and fro, between Newcastle and the head of navigation of
the river, distant about 20 or 30 miles from the coast, in a barge.
Several other vessels also plied on the main river, and the other two
navigable streams that fall into it, carrying direct to Sydney the
produce of the farms along their banks; but the annual loss of life
in these vessels, on the coast between Sydney and Newcastle, was very
considerable. . . . The arrival of a steamboat in the colony in 1831,
to ply between Sydney and Hunter's River, was therefore of incalculable
benefit to the latter district, as well as to the colony in general.
There are two now on the course, each of which makes a trip to Hunter's
River once a week, and there will shortly be a third of much larger
size. The steamboat leaves Sydney at six o'clock in the evening,
reaches Newcastle about the same hour next morning--the ocean part of
the voyage being thus performed during the night--and arrives at the
Green Hills, or the head of navigation of the Hunter, at the distance
of four miles from the town of Maitland, about 11 o'clock, the whole
distance being about 120 miles. The town of Newcastle, I have already
observed, has somewhat the appearance of a deserted village. It is
reviving, however, though rather slowly, and is likely eventually to
become a place of considerable importance, as it is situated in the
centre of the great coal-field of the colony, and as the Bay forms a
good harbour for small vessels. . . .

"Hunter's River, or the Coquon, as it is called by the aborigines, runs
in an easterly direction for upwards of 100 miles, from the high range
of mountains in the interior to the Pacific Ocean. It is formed from
the junction of various smaller rivers, that traverse these ranges in
various directions to the right and left. It is navigable, however,
only for about 25 miles in a direct line, or about 35 by water, from
the coast. At the distance of 20 miles by water from Newcastle it
receives another river of considerable magnitude from the northward,
called the Williams River or the Dooribang, and at the head of
navigation, or about 35 miles from Newcastle by water, it receives a
second river, called Patterson's River, or the Yimmang, each of which
is navigable for a considerably greater distance than the principal
stream or main river.

"For the first 15 or 20 miles by water from the mouth of the river the
land on either side is generally low, swampy, and sterile, though for
the most part thickly covered with timber, but higher up and along the
banks of the two tributary rivers the soil for a considerable distance
from the banks is entirely alluvial and of the highest quality, and the
scenery from the water exceedingly beautiful. Let the reader figure
to himself a noble river, as wide as the Thames in the lower part of
its course, winding slowly towards the ocean, among forests that have
never felt the stroke of the axe, or seen any human face till lately
but that of the wandering barbarian. On either bank the lofty gum-tree,
or eucalyptus, shoots up its white naked stem to the height of 150
feet from the rich alluvial soil, while underwood of most luxuriant
growth completely covers the ground, and numerous wild vines, as the
flowering shrubs and parasitical plants of the alluvial land are
indiscriminatingly called by the settlers, dip their long branches
covered with white flowers into the very water. The voice of the lark,
the linnet, or the nightingale, is, doubtless, never heard along the
banks of the Hunter, for New South Wales is strangely deficient in the
music of the groves. But the eye is gratified instead of the ear, for
flocks of white or black cockatoos, with their yellow or red crests,
occasionally flit across from bank to bank, and innumerable chirping
paroquets, of most superb and inconceivably varied plumage, are ever
and anon hopping about from branch to branch."

Nothing like that is to be seen on the Lower Hunter now.


THE second steamer to reach these shores direct from Great Britain
was the "James Watt"--though the "Tamar" had traded on the New
South Wales coast after a short period of service in Van Diemen's Land
waters. The "James Watt," built for the Glasgow-Liverpool trade, had
not been a success in the old country, nor did she prove to be such in
New South Wales. She was very well engined and luxuriously appointed,
but some miscalculation had been made with regard to her draught which
affected her speed, and although she was tried out as a trader to
almost every port in the mother colony and Van Diemen's Land, she was
always a disappointment to her owners, Messrs. Grose and Street, of
Sydney. During 1839 and 1840 she lay idle at moorings in Port Jackson,
and was finally sold in 1842 to the newly formed Hunter River Steam
Navigation Company, who employed her at intervals, with unsatisfactory
results, in the Clarence River and Moreton Bay trades. She was finally
broken up in 1847. In July, 1837, she had been the first steam
vessel to anchor in Port Phillip, and was later the pioneer of steam
navigation in Moreton Bay.

And now we come to the beginnings of the Hunter River Steam Navigation
Company, which was established in 1840, with a capital of 40,000,
subscribed in 2000 shares of 20 each. A meeting was called by
public notice in the press, signed by John Eales, of Duckenfield,
near Morpeth, and provisional directors were appointed--Messrs.
Eales, Hosking, Lord, Drake, Abercrombie, Steel, Capel, R. Scott and
Ward Stephens. This number was reduced to six when the company was

During the course of the meeting Messrs. Edye, Manning and A. B. Spark
opposed the formation of the company, stating that there was already
building in Sydney a steamer--the "Victoria"--designed for the
Hunter River trade, and that the early construction of another was
contemplated. However, the formation of the company was completed, in
spite of these protests, and it was decided to have built in England
three iron steamers of light draught and the highest speed possible.
Two of them--the "Rose" and "Thistle"--were built by Fairbairn
and Co. at Millwall, on the Thames. Their dimensions were 150 feet in
length, with a beam of 20 feet, and the draught was 6 feet 6 inches.
Their trial speed on the Thames was 12 statute miles an hour--then a
very high one. The "Shamrock" was built by Paterson, of Bristol,
where her engines were also constructed. She was of the same length and
horse power as the others, but her beam was greater by two feet. She
was a very fine sea boat, and was the crack steamer of her day in the
Sydney, Melbourne and Tasmanian trades. The "Shamrock" was rigged
as a three-masted schooner, and had a raised quarter-deck, whilst the
others were flush-decked and two-masted.

By this time steamers had ceased to be novelty in Australian waters.
In addition to the "Rose," "Thistle" and "Shamrock," there
were the "Corsair," "William the Fourth," "Maitland,"
"Sea Horse," "James Watt," "Victoria," "Sovereign" and
"Tamar." Between the three ships of the H.R.S.N. Co. and the
"Victoria," their unrelenting rival in the Hunter River Trade, there
was the keenest competition over the time of passage between Newcastle
and Sydney, and "The Sydney Herald" of April 21, 1842, thus refers
to it:--

"The 'Victoria' arrived in Sydney at 10 minutes past 6 yesterday;
the 'Rose' afterwards. Leaving Newcastle, the 'Victoria' was two
miles ahead, and kept so for several miles, when a north-easter sprang
up, and she set square sails; the 'Rose' had none. The 'Victoria'
gradually gained three miles. The 'Rose' wants slipping, and it
is expected that she will make the passage in an hour less than the
'Victoria.' If she does, she must run fast."

The betting on these speed contests was sometimes very heavy, and
on one occasion as much as 100 was reported as offered on the one
steamer against the other. However, the "Victoria," unable to
compete successfully with her rivals, was withdrawn from the Hunter
River trade, after running in it only a few months. In July, 1842,
she was sent to the East to be sold, and for the next eight years the
H.R.S.N. Co.--which became the Australasian Steam Navigation Company in
1851, with a capital of 320,000--enjoyed a practical monopoly of the
Hunter trade, whilst they extended their operations widely round the
Australian coastline.

After the gold discoveries of the early 'fifties, shippers of cargo and
produce from the Hunter valley began to entertain a grievance against
the A.S.N. Company because of the lukewarm attention given to their
interests by that corporation. The "Maitland" had been sold to a
Melbourne firm, and the "Rose" and "Thistle" had become too small
to cope with a greatly increased volume of trade, mainly due to the
requirements of the number of "new chums" flocking to the diggings from
all over the world. Meetings were held in the district of the Lower
Hunter, and it was decided to incorporate a purely local company, to be
known as the Hunter River New Steam Navigation Company, with a capital
of 40,000. Following on the lines of the pioneer company, they decided
to import three steamers of slightly larger size and lighter draught
than the "Rose," "Thistle" and "Shamrock." These vessels were
the "Hunter," "Williams" and "Paterson," and they were built
by MacNab and Clark, of Greenock. The "Hunter" was 150 feet long,
had a 20-feet beam, and drew six feet of water. She attained a speed
on her trials of 15 statute miles an hour. The other two ships were
identical with her but for the fact that they had 2 feet 6 inches more

But the A.S.N. Co. was not idle whilst the lately formed company was
building its fleet. They had ordered six new vessels, and their speedy
passenger steamer, the "Illalong," had arrived in the colony before
the "Hunter." They had also purchased the "Collaroy" from a
firm which had imported her as a speculation. She had been built by
Laird, of Birkenhead, and was one of the first vessels in these waters
with feathering floats on her paddles and oscillating cylinders, and
although she was not fast, she remained for a quarter of a century the
favourite passenger steamer on the Newcastle-Sydney run.

When the "Hunter" arrived rivalry became very keen between that
vessel and the "Illalong"--much the same sort of thing as the
strenuous competition between the "Rose" and the "Victoria"
fourteen years earlier. The "Hunter" was the more frequent winner,
but there was not a great deal between them, and the "Paterson" and
"Williams," when they made their appearance on the coast, were soon
able to demonstrate their fitness to hold their own. For a year and
a half the two companies were engaged in the cheerful occupation of
cutting each other's throats, but eventually a compromise was arranged.
It was decided that the rival steamers, instead of leaving Morpeth
together in the early morning, should start at 7 a.m. and 2 p.m.,
and from the Sydney end at 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. They ran these hours
month about, and the plan was found to work well, since it was of the
greatest convenience to the public. It continued in operation for many

For the next 35 years two separate lines of steamers traded between
Sydney, Newcastle and Morpeth, at the head of navigation of the
river, but it is only possible here to give a brief outline of the
developments that took place in the Hunter River steamship trade
between 1855 and 1891, when competition ceased and the companies then
in existence amalgamated--an event induced by the opening of the
Sydney-Newcastle railway.

In 1856 the H.R.N.S.N. Company purchased the steamer, "Fenella,"
and two years later it was decided that the "Hunter" should be sold
and a new steamer built, to be called the "City of Newcastle." This
decision was opposed by some of the shareholders, and in consequence of
the divided feeling over the matter, the directors published a circular
which gives an interesting record of the operations and experience of
the Company, but it is too long to be quoted here in its entirety. One
or two extracts from it, however, may be given.

The directors begin by reminding shareholders that, on the first
establishment of the Company, the object of its formation was publicly
announced to be "to promote the welfare and prosperity of the Hunter
River District by securing constant, sufficient and reasonably
inexpensive means of transit to and from the Metropolis." This pledge
they claim themselves to be "most anxious to maintain." And then is
given an extremely interesting resume of the competition encountered
from the A.S.N. Company, with some of the methods employed upon both
sides in waging the trade war.

"Hardly had the Company commenced operations," says this document,
"when a very determined opposition was opened by the A.S.N. Company,
and continued until the futility of the attempt to drive the Company
from the line or force its dissolution became apparent; then endeavours
were made to compel the amalgamation of the Companies; but these
and various other efforts in the same direction having failed, an
agreement was made, terminable at a month's notice, to run at
equal fares and corresponding times, allowing thus to each Company
an equal opportunity for trade. At this period a large number of
Sydney proprietary joined our Company, buying up the shares of the
local constituency, so that about one-half of the capital, namely,
2,704 shares, became vested in Sydney residents, and of these a very
large proportion were purchased by members of the A.S.N. Company. The
significance of this movement became the more apparent when, on a later
occasion, the Chairman of the Company publicly stated to the Directory
of our own, that though he held about 900 shares in his own name, he
held also about 300 shares in the names of others, thus giving him
unseen influences against which the Directors of this Company cannot
protect their constituency.

"Thus, you will observe, that the character of this Company, which, at
its foundation, was largely local, was considerably changed. We do not
allege that all our Sydney proprietary are antagonistic to ourselves
in their desires, but it is certain many must have a 'divided duty'
and divided interests, which (with justice to each Company) it is
utterly impossible to perform or support. The trade lies between the
two Companies; those who have shares in both doubtless desire to do
it with the least requisite capital, while those whose investments
are wholly with us desire that their Company shall maintain its
prestige, and secure its present success and freedom from aggression
by being ready to oppose those who unnecessarily attack them. If our
Company sought monopoly--if it aimed at exacting undue profit from the
just gains of the importers and producers of the district--then we
might pause in asserting our principles to the public; but desiring
only to secure 'constant, sufficient, and reasonably inexpensive means
of transit,' we submit our duty is so to direct the affairs of this
Company, that its foundation principle may be maintained, as far as it
possibly can be, consistently with the interests of its members."

In the end, the counsels of the directors of the H.R.N.S.N. Co.
prevailed, they went on with their programme of development, and, a
little more than twenty years after their appeal to the shareholders,
as quoted in part above, saw the A.S.N. Co. withdraw from the Hunter
River trade. But it was a long, stern fight, and few points were
conceded upon either side.

The "Fenella" was sold in 1859, and early in 1860 the "City of
Newcastle"--wrecked in 1878--was added to the H.R.N.S.N. Company's
fleet. In 1862 the "Morpeth" arrived, and the "Williams" was
chartered, being sold to the A.S.N. Co. in the same year. In 1862 the
A.S.N. Co. brought out that beautiful steamer, the "Coonanbara," and
employed her in the Hunter River trade. On July 12, 1866, the A.S.N.
Company's "Cawarra" was wrecked on the dreaded Oyster Bank, the
grave of so many ships seeking to enter Port Hunter in bad weather, and
appalling loss of life occurred. Everybody on board was drowned, with
the exception of one man, who was saved by the only survivor of the
"Dunbar," wrecked at Sydney Heads in 1857.

The "Maitland"--wrecked on Cape Three Points twenty-seven years
later--arrived on the run in 1871, and in the same year, after long
and faithful service, the "Paterson" was sold. Three years later,
the steamer, "Kembla," began to compete in the Newcastle-Sydney
trade, and the competition was afterwards carried on by the Newcastle
Steamship Company. In 1880 the A.S.N. Co. retired from the Hunter
trade, having disposed of the "Coonanbara," "City of Brisbane"
and the other vessels to the Newcastle Steamship Co., who afterwards
acquired the "Boomerang." In the same year the H.R.N.S.N. Co. had
purchased the "Lubra." The "Lady Bowen" was added to their fleet
in 1882.

The H.R.N.S.N. Co. brought out the "Namoi" early in 1884, and
commenced to run her on the "Sixty-mile" in May of that year. The
N.S.S. Co. countered with the "Newcastle" at the end of the year,
and these two ships, fine vessels of their class, continued in the
trade for about forty years, before old age and infirmities compelled
their sale to the ship-breakers.

The railway between Newcastle and Sydney was opened in 1887--though
the Hawkesbury Bridge was not completed for a couple of years--and the
consequent decrease of trade led to the amalgamation of the Hunter
River New Steam Navigation Company with the Newcastle Steamship Company
in 1891. The new corporation, under the name of the Newcastle and
Hunter River Steamship Company, Limited, began operations on January 1,
1892. The present Company, as will be seen by those who have had the
patience to follow this chronicle so far, is the lineal descendant of
"Sophia Jane" and "William the Fourth." Whether the bar sinister
comes into this genealogical tree the writer cannot quite make up his
mind, but there may possibly have been some sort of morganatic marriage
between Lieutenant Biddulph's pretty Sophy and the handsome little ship
named after Britain's "sailor King."


IT is many years--more, perhaps, than he likes to admit, even to
himself--since the writer first travelled as a passenger between Port
Hunter and Port Jackson, and now, having written some 20,000 words
or so from the records, assisted by the chart and a good deal of
experience of voyaging up and down the sixty miles of Australian coast
with which this book is concerned, perhaps he may be permitted to set
down something personal in the way of reminiscences connected with the
story of the Newcastle Packets.

They are recollections that go back to making a first voyage
of any sort in that yacht-like and beautiful little craft, the
"Coonanbara," somewhere about the year 1878, when he wore
petticoats, and was still a very long way off learning to smoke or
drink or swear. They are very dim recollections, and mainly consist
of a vague remembrance of having been brought out of a railway train
across a high foot-bridge and a windy wharf, with a peculiar smell
about it hitherto quite inexperienced, into a strange and unfamiliar
condition of existence, when he was put to bed in a ladies' cabin,
told to go to sleep like a good little boy, and passed a more or less
wakeful night in a heaving and rolling condition of existence that was
altogether different from anything that had so far transpired in his
short life on the Upper Hunter.

A rushing, roaring sound of tumbling waters, unpleasant manifestations
of female sea-sickness, and a vague realisation that the night had
been "horrid" to everyone but himself are his principal impressions
of this first voyage from Newcastle to Sydney--though there was one
transcending impression that has never been obliterated. The beauty
of Port Jackson at 6 o'clock on a summer morning is the most vivid
memory of very early childhood that is his, and it has compelled him
to a belief that Sydney Harbour could never be anything else but
very beautiful at any hour of the day or night. Owing to that early
experience, he is constitutionally unable, in these latter days, to
turn into his berth, when making the voyage to Newcastle, before the
steamer has passed between the Heads.

The "Namoi" was a wonder-ship when first she began to run, and was
generally regarded by the inhabitants of the Hunter Valley and the
Liverpool Plains as being the very last word in maritime efficiency and
comfort, so far as ocean travel might be considered. She was equipped
with the still novel electric light, a bath-room, a nobly proportioned
saloon with roomy cabins opening out of it, and her deck-cabins were
all that a sense of luxury could demand.

But when the "Newcastle" came out, it had to be conceded to the
N.S.S. Company that they had "gone one better" than their older rivals.
She was a handsome model of a ship, and, with her three funnels and
yards on the foremast, a most unusual one for a paddle-steamer. And
she was extraordinarily fast--a regular ocean greyhound, so far as
the Sydney-Newcastle run was concerned. Indeed, her record of three
and a half hours from Sydney Heads to Nobby's (with a southerly gale
behind her) has never been approached by even the most modern of her
successors. She was built at Kinghorn, in Scotland, by J. Key and Sons,
in 1884, and began to run between Port Jackson and the Hunter at the
end of that year.

She was a smaller ship than the "Namoi," having only a gross
register of 1251 tons against that vessel's 1414, but had accommodation
in separate cabins for a considerably greater number of passengers. It
was found, however, that she was something of a coal-eater, so one of
her boilers was removed, and the after funnel went with it, the change
making a good deal of alteration in her appearance. When she was broken
up some years ago, the last ocean-going paddle-steamer in Australian
waters--if not in the world--retired from business. Those of us who
were young when these two old ships were young also will always regret
their disappearance from the Hunter River trade.

A large room occupying the whole of the upper floor of a venerable
stone building in Sussex Street, Sydney--one of the city's business
thoroughfares where some aspect of old Sydney still lingers--contains
a collection of pictures, models and documents relating to early
steam navigation on the Australian coast which is probably unique. A
high, vaulted apartment, with a timbered roof supported by massive
beams stretching from wall to wall, it extends from front to rear of
the premises, so that, of the two sets of windows lighting it, one
looks out into busy Sussex Street and the other commands a view of
the shipping in Darling Harbour which gives the street its reason for
being. From end to end the big room is adorned by pictures and models
of steamers, the dates of whose launching range between a couple of
years ago and the early 'thirties of the last century. And in the safes
and cupboards with which it is equipped in a massive and dignified
fashion, are many folios and documents, ancient and yellowed with age,
and inscribed in the penmanship that has become a lost art, in which is
written the story of the sea-borne trade between Port Jackson and the
Hunter River.

The chamber is the board-room of the Newcastle and Hunter River
Steamship Company, Limited--but it is also a filed record of a
very important chapter in the story of the Commonwealth. For the
organisation to which it belongs is in the direct line of descent from
that one which came into being a little over a century ago as the
Hunter River Steam Navigation Company. And to the original corporation
credit is due, more than to any other agency, for having maintained,
in "the days before the gold," the greater part of the trade between
the capital of New South Wales and that vast area of territory lying
between the Hawkesbury and the Barwon Rivers. Everything from the
north-west of the old colony, and a good deal from south-western
Queensland--or the Moreton Bay Territory, as it was then--came down the
Hunter Valley to Morpeth at the head of navigation, and whatever was
not shipped overseas from Newcastle was carried from Morpeth to Sydney
in the steamers of the several companies that were the ancestors of the
one whose present affairs are directed from this nautical museum in
Sussex Street.

For a long time the whole of the local Australian shipping trade was
confined to voyages between Sydney and Hobart and Sydney and the
Hunter River. Neither Melbourne nor Adelaide began to count until well
after 1835, and Queensland before that was little more than a penal
settlement at Moreton Bay, on the edge of a vast and unexplored section
of the continent. So it is not to be wondered at that steam navigation
in Australian waters should have made its beginnings along the sixty
miles of coast lying between the North Head of Port Jackson and Nobby's
Island at the mouth of the Hunter. It was unquestionably the only run
in which the "Sophia Jane" could be profitably employed when, as
detailed in a previous chapter, she inaugurated the era of steam-driven
shipping on the Australian coast in the middle of 1831.

In the Sussex Street board-room there is a water-colour drawing of the
steamer, "Phoenix," which was built in 1846 to take the engines of
the "Sophia Jane," about to be broken up. The latter vessel had been
purchased from her original owners by Mr. J. H. Grose, and was sold by
him in 1839 to J. T. Wilson, who shortly afterwards got into financial
difficulties and absconded from the colony. Two of the defaulter's
ships--the "Sophia Jane" and the "Tamar"--were sold by order of
the Supreme Court, and were purchased by the General Steam Navigation
Company. In 1846, her then owner, Mr. Edye Manning, determined to break
up the "Sophia Jane," and to build a new steamer to be equipped
with her engines. So the smart little packet, "Phoenix," came into
being--only to be wrecked, as has been mentioned, near the North Head
of the entrance to the Clarence River.

It is interesting to examine the genealogical tree of the present line
of what may be called, as in the title of this volume, the Newcastle
Packets. As we have seen, our first steamship traded for ten years
on the Sydney-Morpeth run, in competition with other privately owned
ships, until they were all put out of business by the formation, in
1840, of the Hunter River Steam Navigation Company, which imported the
"Rose," the "Thistle" and the "Shamrock," iron vessels of the
very latest model and design. This body became the Australasian Steam
Navigation Company in 1851. A local corporation, the Hunter River New
Steam Navigation Company, was established in opposition to the A.S.N.
Co. in 1852--some details from this organisation's minute book are
given in the next chapter--and imported the steamers, "Hunter,"
"Williams" and "Paterson" in 1855. In 1880 the A.S.N. Co. retired
from the Hunter River trade, and sold several of their steamers to a
newly formed body called the Newcastle Steamship Company, which ran
them in opposition to those of the H.R.N.S.N. Co. for eleven years,
adding new vessels to their fleet from time to time. In 1891, owing to
decrease of trade, as a result of the Newcastle-Sydney railway having
been opened, the two businesses amalgamated under the title borne by
the company now controlling the trade.

The old-time ships whose portraits adorn these walls were usually
yacht-like in design, clipper-bowed and graceful of aspect, and
possessed much more pleasing lines than most of the units of the
shipping to be seen in Sydney Harbour at the present day. They belong
to a generation that has passed, and there is no one living now who can
remember any of those that navigated the Hunter River before the era
of the gold discoveries. By those of us who are middle-aged and over,
many of the later steamers which used to ply up and down the coast in
the 'seventies and 'eighties of the last century will be very well
remembered. They are nearly all in this collection.

One of the framed documents hanging on the walls of the board-room
is a letter from the equerry-in-waiting to his Royal Highness the
Duke of Edinburgh to the directors of the H.R.N.S.N. Co., thanking
them for having carried the Duke from Clontarf, in Middle Harbour, to
Sydney, after he had been wounded by the Fenian O'Farrell, in 1868,
when the latter attempted the royal visitor's assassination by means
of a pistol-bullet. Close beside it, in a glass case, is a builder's
model of the modern steamship, "Hunter," sold by the Company to
Chinese buyers a few years ago. Her old-time namesake of 1855 was, as
her portrait in this collection shows, a most graceful specimen of
the naval architect's art, and must have been one of the prettiest
ships that ever floated in Port Jackson. Of other vessels that have
maintained the service between Sydney and Newcastle during the last
hundred years there are many fine pictures. The collection has a value
in an historical sense that it is impossible to exaggerate, and it is
well displayed in its present setting.

Of all the many ships in which the writer has made the voyage between
Sydney and Newcastle, there is none of which he has pleasanter memories
than the old "Newcastle," of whose dismembered hull he took a
melancholy farewell one morning a few years ago, as he watched her
being towed down Port Jackson to be sunk at sea outside the Heads. Of
that sad occasion he wrote something in a Sydney newspaper at the time
that he would like to quote here.

". . . One pondered many things about the 'Newcastle's' long
career at sea. She had gone, for one thing, a good way in her time.
In a notebook one did a little arithmetic. Three voyages a week to
Newcastle and back make 420 miles, since the distance from wharf to
wharf is about seventy. If she did this for about 48 weeks in the
year--the Company's ships are usually in dock for about four in each
twelve-month--that would come to a little more than 20,000 miles per
annum. Allow her 30 years of such steaming, out of her career of forty,
and you get 600,000 miles--that is, about two and a half times the
distance from this planet to the moon! . . . And there was another
queer notion to consider--that the 'Newcastle' is the last of the
type of vessels, on the Australian coast at any rate, that began to
navigate the Seven Seas under steam propulsion. She is the direct
descendant of the queer little craft with which Henry Fulton astonished
the United States and the world on the Hudson River in 1807; of Henry
Bull's 'Comet' on the Clyde, in 1812; of David Napier's 90-ton, 30
h.p. 'Rob Roy,' which paddled herself between Glasgow and Belfast,
in 1818; of the 'Enterprise,' which steamed from England to the
Cape of Good Hope in the phenomenal time of 57 days; of the 'Sophia
Jane,' the first steamer to reach Australia from Britain, in 1831;
and of the 'Great Eastern.' All of these were paddle-boats--though
the last-named had a screw-propeller as well as her enormous side

". . . And the 'Newcastle' is the last of them--the last of a
breed that traces its lineage from the beginnings of steam at sea.
Motor-ships and oil fuel have begun another era in the history of
ocean navigation--but the handsome, comfortable, dependable old vessel
limping down Sydney Harbour to her grave might be supposed to say, as
she passes by modern editions of herself at their anchorages--'Ah,
well--I have done my work. See to it, my friends, that you do yours as
well as I have done mine, and as my sisters have done theirs.' It would
not have been unseemly on their part had they dipped their ensigns to
the old, dying ship. But none of them did so."


ONE of the most valuable relics of the Newcastle Packets contained in
the big steel safe in the Sussex Street board-room is an ancient Minute
Book of the Hunter River New Steam Navigation Company, containing
records of meetings of the Board of Directors from May 27, 1852, to
October 15, 1855. It is apparently the sole survivor of a series of
such volumes, and is beautifully written in the copper-plate caligraphy
which the advent of the typewriter has rendered a lost art.

One or two extracts from this book may throw interesting sidelights
upon the sea-borne commerce of the Hunter at a period when Australia
was rapidly developing, not only by reason of the gold discoveries,
but also as a result of the extension of the pastoral industries. It
is to be remembered that practically all the trade of northern and
north-western New South Wales, ninety years ago, came through Morpeth,
and was carried to Sydney for distribution to the world beyond these
shores in the steamers of the Hunter River New Steam Navigation Co.
and the Australasian Steam Navigation Co. The entry relating to the
preliminary meeting, since it is of so historic a character, may be
given in full. This is an exact transcription from the old MS. book.

"At a Preliminary Meeting of parties interested in the formation of a
New Steam Company held at the 'Northumberland Hotel,' West Maitland, on
Thursday, the 27 May, 1852--


"Bourn Russell, Esq., in the Chair; Messrs. W. C. Wentworth, James
Dickson, Peter Green, George Yeomans, William Nicholson, Otto Baldwin,
William Newcham, John Nott, H. S. Grenfell, Isaac Gorrick and George


"That it is expedient to establish a Steam Company to be called the
Steam Navigation Company, to consist of 4000 shares, at 10 each, to be
raised in the following manner, viz:--

"On Shares not exceeding five in number a deposit of 5 per Share, and
the remainder by a bill at six months date;

"On Shares exceeding five in number a deposit of 3 per Share, and
the remainder by equal instalments by bills at four, eight and twelve
months' date;

"That three boats of a proper capacity and power to navigate the River
Hunter be obtained by the Company;

"That an Act of Council be applied for, limiting the liability of the
Shareholders to double the amount of their respective shares;

"That as soon as three-fourths of the number of Shares be subscribed
for, immediate steps be taken for the accomplishment of the objects of
the Company.


At the next meeting, held on Saturday, June 12, 1852, it was resolved,
inter alia,

"that the name of the Company be styled 'The Hunter River New Steam
Navigation Company,' with a capital of 40,000, to be raised in 10
shares as follows, viz:--

"Twenty-five per cent, on the Allotment of Shares, and the remainder by
equal instalments by bills at 6, 12 and 18 months;

"That the Management and Control of the Company shall be conducted and
carried on in the Hunter River District."

A provisional committee was appointed "to receive applications for
Shares, allocate the same, and to take steps to commence business,"
consisting of W. C. Wentworth, Esq., M.L.C., Messrs. James Dickson,
Peter Green, George Yeomans, William Nicholson, Otto Baldwin, John
Nott, N. S. Grenfell, Isaac Gorrick, Samuel Cohen, John Portus, Charles
Boydell. James Solomon, Edward Ogg, Samuel Owen, John O'Regan, A.
Windeyer, W. Kingston, William Dangar, Bourn Russell, Charles S. Pitt,
William Wade, Saml. S. Dickson, Richard Jones, Henry Gooch and Andrew

The Northumberland Hotel, where these preliminary meetings were held
was the most famous hostelry of northern districts of New South Wales.
It stood for many years on the site at present occupied by the Police
Station at West Maitland. Meetings were held there until September
15, 1852, when they began to take place at "Mr. Dickson's, Maitland."
They were continued at this address until October 8, when they are
recorded as being held at "the Company's Office, East Maitland." In the
meantime, Mr. James Thompson had been selected, from twelve applicants
for the position, to act as "Secretary and Collector" at a salary of
125 per annum. He was to give his whole time for the first month of
holding office, and afterwards three days a week.

At a meeting held at the East Maitland offices on April 11, 1854,
wharfage accommodation in Sydney, it was announced, had been secured at
"the Union or Bray's Wharf," and was leased from Mr. Thomas Bray for
ten years. The situation of this wharf was just about in the position
where steamers of the Newcastle and Hunter River S.S. Co. berth to-day.

News was received at the meeting held at East Maitland on January 25,
1855, that the first of the Company's new ships, the "Hunter," had
sailed for Sydney on September 8, and that the second steamer, the
"Williams," was making satisfactory progress in the builder's hands.
Captain Petley was in command of the "Hunter," and the first and
second engineers were R. Glen and J. Smith.

Minute Book No. 1 closes in January, 1855, and No. 2 is opened with the
meeting of February 15.

On April 10, 1855, it was decided that--

"The following arrangement for the sailing of the 'Hunter'--to
appear in the 'Herald' and 'Empire' daily, and in the
'Mercury' on the days of publication--To leave the Company's Wharf,
Morpeth, every Tuesday and Friday at 8 o'clock a.m., and from the
Company's Wharf, Sydney, every Wednesday and Saturday at 10 o'clock
p.m. until further notice."

Directors' meetings, later on, were often held on one or other of the
Company's steamers at Morpeth, or in their offices at the wharf, where
routine business was discharged. The last meeting recorded in the
volume took place at the Morpeth offices on Monday, October 15, 1855.

The old Green Hills settlement, known as Morpeth for several
generations past, had its day between the years 1831 and 1880. Maitland
was the capital of a vast pastoral territory, and Morpeth was its
sea-port--not Newcastle. There were coal mines down there, and deep
sea shipping to attend on them, but this busy township on the edge
of Wallis Plains was the place where the export and import trade was
centred. To-day, in the great decaying stone buildings that line the
wide main street of the pretty, sleepy little village--still, in its
old age, the centre of a prosperous farming community which cultivates
some of the best land in Australia--you may read what the place used to
be. "Steam to Morpeth," ninety years ago, was one of the really notable
advertisements in the columns of the Sydney newspapers. Morpeth had
an importance that was quite the equal of Newcastle's--if it did not
exceed it. The Anglican Bishop of Newcastle, good Dr. Tyrrell, lived
there, as did his successors in the see for nearly half a century, and
ruled a diocese that extended northward to Cape York. Over at the other
end of the ridge that forms the "Green Hills," the seat of government
in this great province of the valley of the Lower Hunter was placed at
East Maitland.

A few years ago, shortly before the Newcastle and Hunter River Company
gave up the Morpeth trade, the writer went for a run up the river in
the "Allyn River," the little steamer that was the last of her
line to and from the sea-going vessels in Newcastle, and the last
representative of the dainty packets that navigated these river waters
for so many years. Every one of that lovely inland voyage of nearly
30 miles is redolent of Old Australia. We passed by the mudflats off
Limeburners' Bay--there, as has been mentioned, the penal system
out-helled itself long ago--where the "Sophia Jane," the "William
the Fourth," the "Rose," the "Thistle," the "Shamrock," the
"Hunter," the "Williams" and the "Paterson" would sometimes
stick fast at low water; the wide, rich expanses of Miller's Forest
and Nelson's Plains; Raymond Terrace, at the junction of the Williams
River; the magnificent estate of Duckenfield; the entrance to the
Paterson, and a score of places in between, more or less remembered now
only by those who care about legend and tradition.

Long ago, top-hatted squatters and their crinolined ladies, who would
discard their city finery at the Northumberland Hotel in West Maitland,
and take to cabbage-tree hats and riding-habits, looked out from the
poops of the old packet steamers across these rich acres to the purple
mountains up the valley, over which lay their rough road homeward.
Wealthy storekeepers who had been "old hands," new-chums seeking
"colonial experience" on the Liverpool Plains, "Bullocky Bills" from
the Big River (the Macintyre) or the Mooki, civil servants of the Lands
Department, police, commercial travellers, Scottish immigrants to the
Upper Hunter who had listened in their native glens to the eloquent
persuasiveness of Dr. John Dunmore Lang--many men and women, now dead
and gone, gazed hopefully across the Hunter lowlands to the lovely
Green Hills and the distant purple mountains from the white decks of
the dainty packets. Good people and bad people and indifferent people,
the little ships carried towards the north and north-west--but some of
them were of the best that ever came to any new country. Especially Dr.
Lang's lot.

The Company's wharf at Morpeth, before it went "out of commission," was
a sort of museum, too--something after the style of its board-room down
in Sussex Street. Beside it, a few years back--her remains may still be
there--lay a little steamship that was a contemporary of the Newcastle
Packets eighty years ago. The "Anna Maria" was a small iron, almost
flat-bottomed, stern-wheeler, whose ancient engines carried the date
"1861." She was brought to Australia in parts, and put together at
Newcastle about that time, and was very familiar with the old-time
packets whose holds she used to fill with deck-cargoes of produce from
the Paterson and Williams Rivers.

When the writer last saw her--maybe ten years ago--her hull was sound
and her uncanny-looking engines could still turn round, and if she
wasn't handsome, she was at least notable--like some old woman of the
pioneers who had borne the heat and burden of days that were done and
might have been too much for weaker vessels.

In point of age at that time, amongst ancient Australian vessels, she
probably came next to the "Edina," Howard Smith's venerable trader
between Melbourne and Geelong--since gone to the ship-breakers--which
is reputed to have carried troops from Great Britain to the Crimean
War. Her master, until not long before the time I last looked over
her weird outlines at Morpeth, had been fifty years in the H.R.N.S.N.
Company and the N. & H.R.S.S. Company's services, and the wharf she
used to berth at when she came to Morpeth was about the same age
as herself. As has been pointed out, her owners were no upstart
corporation, but direct descendants of that one which gave to little
old "Anna Maria," so long ago, her intriguing name.

Who, it may be wondered, was the crinolined Anna Maria after whom
she was christened? There is no answer now. Maybe some old slanting
tombstone in the Cathedral churchyard at Newcastle, on Campbell's Hill
at West Maitland, or in the big graveyard at Sandgate--Newcastle's
necropolis--could tell us something of the lady--if we only knew where
to look.

And so--although we have not quite done with the Packets yet--we come
to the end of this chronicle concerning the maritime developments of
a century and more in the commercial and social life of the Lower
Hunter River. It is a worthy record and an interesting one, and shows
signs of continuance. In spite of the competition of railways and
motor transport, and the probable inevitable loss of passenger traffic
to the future development of air travel, the present Company's ships
still hold their own, with something to spare. Of the changes that
have taken place in methods of management and in plant during the
hundred odd years that have elapsed since the month of June in 1831,
when the "Sophia Jane" made her first voyage from Port Jackson to
Port Hunter, and up the river to the Green Hills, there is not room
for discussion here. It may only be said that the present Newcastle
and Hunter River S.S. Company, the actual present-day embodiment of
the Hunter River Steam Navigation Company, the Australasian Steam
Navigation Company, the Hunter River New Steam Navigation Company
and the Newcastle Steamship Company, strives to maintain traditions,
laboriously acquired through almost twelve decades, of efficiency and
safety as the watchwords of management in the conduct of the Newcastle
Packets. Not a great many enterprises, it may fairly be said, have been
so well conducted for so long a time as those which are represented
to-day by the Newcastle and Hunter River Steamship Company, Limited.


IN 1858 there was published in Sydney a small volume of collected
prose and verse, originally contributed to various Australian
journals, entitled "Peter Possum's Portfolio." The author was a young
Englishman named Richard Rowe, who came out to Sydney in the early
eighteen-fifties, and after various "colonial experiences," took to
writing for "The Sydney Morning Herald" and other newspapers under
the nom de plume of "Peter Possum." For many years his contributions
were widely read and exceedingly popular in Australia. He returned to
England eventually, and died in London in 1880.

Rowe had had a classical education, and almost all his literary remains
are lavishly ornamented with bits of Virgil, Horace, Cicero and other
Latin authors, as well as with odd lines from the English poets of
the 17th and 18th centuries. The extract from them printed below is
characteristically embellished in this fashion, but the writer has
"sub-edited" all such somewhat superfluous matter and has merely
presented to the reader Mr. Rowe's unadorned prose, which really stands
in need of no garnishing at all. His long-windedness and tendency to
moralise are probably due to the fact that he was being paid "on space"
as much as to the journalistic style in vogue during the mid-Victorian
period in which he wrote. Nowadays the volume of this description of a
run to the Hunter River in one of the Newcastle Packets would be "cut"
to about half the space it occupies. But it is the only contemporary
record of one of these short voyages that the writer has come across,
and he prints it here with some regret that there is not room for it

The extract describes a voyage to Morpeth in the paddle-steamer
"Illalong," of the A.S.N. Company, and the date of it would have
been some time in the early 'fifties. Here are a few of "Peter
Possum's" impressions of the run to Newcastle and up the Hunter River
to Morpeth, the port of Maitland. It will be noticed that the ship
passed by, or merely called at, Newcastle en route. Morpeth was
the important place in those days, so far as the Packets and their
owners were concerned. Mr. Rowe goes aboard the "Illalong" fairly
late in the evening. She probably left her wharf in Darling Harbour at
much about the same time as the Newcastle steamers leave now--in the
neighbourhood of 11 p.m.

"The bulls' eyes in the deck twinkle knowingly when I tread upon them,
as if they saw that my boots, so swellish in their upper leathers,
stand sadly in need of soling, and chuckled over the discovery. The
wheel--its brazen centre just revealed by the glow of the impertinently
inquisitive little lights--gazes at the binnacle with its queer,
bell-crowned hat, like Polypheme ogling Mother Hubbard by mistake
for Galatea. . . . The quarter-boats creak lazily upon the davits.
The funnels, with their cauliflower heads of rising steam, look like
gigantic pots of foaming beer.

"Figureheads of neighbouring vessels peer in upon me; bowsprits point
at me, as if festered fingers extended from their noses in contemptuous
'sight.' Like the very spectres of ships--craft such as that which
crossed the Ancient Mariner's track in his wild, lonely voyage--lie
the more distant vessels, with shadowy hulls and dimly towering spars.
Warehouses, commonplace enough by day, mere prosaic receptacles for
'produce,' loom through the murk, awful as haunted castles. The crane
looks fearsome as the tenanted gibbet on a 'barren moor' beneath which
a benighted wayfarer suddenly finds himself. . . . Here and there a
glimmering lamp pries into the secrets of the black waters, with light
all trembling as if it fell upon a corpse's face. . . .

". . . The moon--long awaited for by her patient hand-maidens, the
silvery stars--arises in full-face beauty, paving the waters with a
road of trembling gold. A less romantic animal is contemporaneous with
her. Going below, I find that the mail-bags have just been brought
on board--the official who brings them looking very sulky when he
beholds upon the cabin-table the luggage of a fellow clerk, who--he
for the first time learns--has obtained a few days' leave of absence,
which, I presume, will double grim official's duties. Grim official,
however, solaces himself by demanding a cigar of the civil black
sub-steward, for which, in his perturbation of spirit, grim official
forgets to pay; but lighting it at the wrong end, stalks stiffly up the
companion-staircase, crushing his hat with an appalling smash . . . as
he emerges in indignant majesty upon the deck. Civil black sub-steward
loses his civility, an inebriate consignor of cargo persisting in
looking for it in the steward's pantry. . . The dapper, obliging little
steward . . . and dainty, obliging little stewardess flit about like
Cock Robin and Jenny Wren amongst a lot of rooks; for gruff croaking
is the dominant note among the passengers who are now pouring in--lost
parcels and pre-occupied berths being the grounds of their complaints.

"Attendant friends, having imbibed valedictory nobblers, rush on deck
at the cry of 'Who's for the shore?' and I follow them. The boat is
cleared of all but crew and passengers, the moorings are cast off,
the gangway is drawn back with a jerking pull upon the wharf, and
away we go: past huge, anchored ships, with lights blinking drowsily
alow, and brighter lights aloft, making the gaffs seem Aaron's rods
bursting forth in golden blossom--past bobbing buoys that look, with
their long streaming locks of dripping tangle, heads of sea-monsters
(submerged during day), come up to dry their manes, and breathe the
cool night air--past Dawes' Battery, stronghold of infantry and
pretty nursemaids--past Fort Macquarie, shimmering ghostly-white
in the moonlight--past Woolloomooloo's avalanche of hovels--past
villa-gardens, where the moonbeams glint from lustrous banana-leaves
like love-glances from Spanish eyes, and make the pale blue aloes
doubly pale--past Rose Bay's reach of milk-white sand--past the
lighthouse, winking to itself as if it knew a thing or two that the
ocean wanted to do in the wrecking line, but didn't mean to let
him--past the dazzling lightship--past the Heads, looking over at each
other, sadly stern--out into the black, white-crested, surging, hissing
waves, coming on, on, on, for ever and ever, and swept over by that
lonely homeless sea-breeze--half mournful and hall fierce--that
always makes me think of the wasted girls with hopeless eyes one sees
in London streets at night, hurrying along wind-like--none knows
whence, none cares whither.

"Swaying from side to side like a sea-bird, the 'Illalong' skims
along the billows. From each funnel flutters a smoke streamer spangled
with glowing sparks. Far behind stretches a line of seething, creamy
foam. Contrasted with the wild welter of the waters, how peaceful
seems the pearly sky! And yet, in that calm heaven, a radiant rushing
is really going on, that makes man's fastest, machinery-aided speed
far, far less in comparison, than, beside that, appears the slowest
snail's pace. Where we see only the fin-poised repose of sleeping
goldfish, mighty masses are thundering through space with more than a
hurricane's impetus. So much for the 'silent stars.'

"The moonbeams fall upon a passing vessel's swelling sail. White as
alpine snow it glistens in this tranquil light, and carries my thoughts
back to that far-off night upon a distant sea when we were boarded
by the ruthless pirate, Death--who cometh without hail, selects his
victim, and then, unmarked, goes over the side again, in quest of other
prey in the wide ocean.

"We were becalmed in the tropics. The reef-points pattered on the
idle sails like rain, as the ship, frosted with silence by the
gorgeous moonlight--deck, canvas, cordage, spars, one blaze of lovely
light--lazily rose and fell upon the heaving billows. But in that
beauteous sea, round and round the ship, like a sullen sentinel, a
grim shark kept his watch. I went below to the 'Hospital-berth.' A
flickering lamp cast its sickly gleam on the sick man's pale and clammy
brow, as he tossed in his narrow bunk; talked deliriously of scenes
and faces far away, and petulantly asking why they should chain him
there--when would the ship move on? A breeze sprang up a little after
midnight; on went the ship and the shark followed her. At sunrise,
gasping forth some message to his mother--fated never to reach her,
for none on board knew aught of her or him--the sick man died. Wrapt
in the Union Jack, we laid him in the long-boat; and at evening, when
the setting sun was tipping the foaming waves with crests of fire,
the solemn words were read; the sails shivered as the ship was luffed
up into the wind; there was a leaden plunge; a snowy sea-bird flew
off to the horizon like a liberated soul; the sails filled again; the
ship went swiftly on, and far astern the moonbeams played above the
stranger's lonely grave.

"But it is time to turn in. A boisterous gentleman opposed my purpose,
when I decided to carry it into operation; inviting me to partake of
brandy and water with him instead, and asserting, with swaggering
emphasis, that he is 'Ocean's child' and considers 'the delightful
motion of the boat to be the rocking of his natural cradle.' I observe,
however, that 'Ocean's child' cannot eat the ham sandwiches he orders.
He soon grows very white about the gills, and disinclined to talk;
and, at length, makes a precipitate retreat to his berth, beside which
the black sub-steward (whom he has been chaffing), exulting at his
discomfiture, hangs one of those queer little buckets like birdseed
holders, and, grinning, leaves him to be lulled to sleep by the rocking
of his natural cradle.'

"Unfortunates, in various stages of mal de mer, startle the night
with moans and hideous uproar. Being pretty well-seasoned myself, of
course, I am disgusted at their conduct. By-the-by, is not this the
way in which most of us treat a certain moral infirmity, also?
Happening, from difference of temperament, to be proof against the
particular temptation--perchance, possessed by strength of constitution
from exhibiting the ordinary symptoms of having yielded to it--how we
cry out against our peccant brother who has both eaten of the forbidden
fruit, and manifestly has the stomach-ache in consequence! It costs
many men nothing to be teetotallers, and yet they plume themselves upon
their abstinence as though it were a sunbright virtue. Others again,
who have each drunk as much in a night as the object of their scorn
would drink in a fortnight, turn up their noses at a poor weak-headed
fellow who succumbs to a glass or two, in most ethical disdain. It is
edifying to listen to their lectures of satisfaction.

"When I wake the next day--a cool and showery Sunday--we have passed
Newcastle and are steaming up the river. This, then, is the far-famed
Hunter--muddy as the Thames, with banks as flat as Essex marshes! True,
there are some pretty hills in the distance just before you come to
Hexham, but, as a whole, the lower part of the Lower Hunter appears to
be about as lovely as a plate of soup.

"Apropos of hills--I am going to manufacture a parenthetical period,
because really I can find nothing at present to describe, except the
tall, white, leafless, barren trees, looking, in the dim morning light,
like bands of spectres that ought to have been back in Hades a good
hour ago--as these, you see, are described already--apropos of hills.

"I know nothing inanimate more changeful in its expression than a
distant range. . . . But it is of hills that we are talking now.
How brilliantly beautiful--freshly beaming as though just born from
Chaos--do they look when they blushingly waken into life again beneath
the morning kiss of the summer sunlight; the silvery tissue of their
veil of mist transmuted by their lover's fingers, as he lifts it, into
gauze of gold. Sweet lavender, or gorgeous purple, is their hue by
day; there is what painters call the 'second distance,' more and more
cloud-like till they melt into the sky--a very dream of hills. The
setting sun, with its westering rays and lengthening shadows, plays
strange masquerading pranks with my mountain range, arraying it in
motley garbs that alter as you gaze. It runs through the whole gamut of
colours. Like a Titanic red-hot saw the sierra glows in the last light
of day, embossed upon the heavens--cools into gloomy grey--and then its
summits swoon ghost-like in the uncertain twilight, speedily to rise
again beatified in the hushed and holy radiance of the moon.

"When Thor is abroad, with what solemn sternness, wrapt in their dusky
robes, dark blue as the leaden sky above, do the everlasting hills
await his coming. He flings his white-hot hammer, cleaving through the
murky air a track of blinding light. The awful rumble of his unseen
chariot-wheels is heard, and with a proud defiance the mountains echo
back the roll. Down comes the rain in one thick, fibrous mass, and the
clouds drop upon the hills, steal down their sides, and hide them from
the view; but ever and anon the curtain shifts, and like the gods seen
by the Trojan amid the tumult of that fearful night when 'sacred Ilion'
fell, huge masses, loftly peaks, look out for a moment on the rush and
roar, and then as silently go back in the gloom.

"The sun ascends, and with it rises 'Ocean's child'--intensely nautical
once more, now that his 'natural cradle' no longer rocks him. Yonder
sulks a youngster going back to school, and there lies a little girl
fast going home, as her pale, sunken cheeks, pinched features, and
violet veins too plainly show. That party of foul-mouthed old settlers
might surely read in her a 'lesson proper for the day,' but the sight
affects them not. Within earshot of the dying child, they talk their
loathsome smut.

"However, I must not be censorious; for I shall soon need charity
myself. It is well that I treated topers so tenderly a while ago.
Seductive Wine! Like Nereid in crystal cave thou smilest in the
glass--who can refuse to kiss that ruby lip? But alas! alas! for the
'sermon and soda-water' the day after.

"I land at Morpeth, and proceed to Maitland, intending to go on at once
by the mail to Singleton. At the inn from which the machine starts, I
fall in with a friend. The sinner enticeth me, and I consent.

"I wake next morning, to find my friend is gone, my money, too; an
inconvenient state of things, since I remember enough of my pridian
experience to be aware that latterly I imbibed on tick, that my
friend was impecunious, and that, consequently, an hotel-bill remains


THE valley of the Lower Hunter is almost as full of relics of early
Australia as are the vale of Parramatta and the stretch of the
Hawkesbury River lying between Emu Plains and Wiseman's Ferry, down
below Windsor. Though settlement on the Hawkesbury had its beginnings
long before there was anything of the sort on the Hunter, the
conditions of pioneering were much the same in the case of both the
"senior" rivers of Australasia. The first colonists of the hinterland
of Port Jackson sought better country than was available to them in
the districts of Sydney and Parramatta, and went westward towards the
Blue Mountains in order to find it. And the first free people to push
out from the Coal River settlement at Newcastle also turned their steps
westward when they began to search for something better than the more
or less arid and "hungry" soil of the coastal regions. Naturally they
went up the river, and were not disappointed when they came to the
rich river flats below the site of Morpeth and the splendid lands that
surround West Maitland and Singleton, higher up the valley.

It was the cedar-getters, of course, who opened up the Lower Hunter
country, and the first of them--gangs of prisoners sent up to cut the
valuable and abundant timber, who were guarded and protected by armed
soldiers--were the original pioneers of the district. After them came
the farmers, and after the farmers, as far as the Maitland district is
concerned, the coal-miners. The development of the Maitland coalfields
has greatly altered the social structure of the Lower Hunter, but
nevertheless it still remains, and must always remain, essentially an
agricultural community.

Many years after Richard Rowe ("Peter Possum") had travelled from
Sydney to Morpeth in the A.S.N. Company's steamer "Illalong," as
described in the last chapter, the writer made a voyage in the S.S.
"Archer," belonging to the Newcastle and Hunter River S.S. Co.,
along the same route. The "Illalong," however, was a passenger
steamer running one of her regular trips, whilst the "Archer" was
solely a cargo-carrier, shipping merchandise at Sydney for Newcastle
and the Maitland districts, and returning to Port Jackson with her
holds full of bales of lucerne-hay and other agricultural products of
various descriptions. Occasionally she used to call at the Broken Hill
Proprietary Company's steelworks at Port Waratah, on her way down the
river, and fill up with girders, steel rails, angle-irons and other
outpourings of the blast-furnaces and rolling-mills. Sometimes she
carried wool-bales transported from Upper Hunter sheep-stations along
the Great Northern Road by teamsters who found it possible to undercut
the railway rates by carrying back-loading for the storekeepers in
their districts.

We left Darling Harbour in Port Jackson somewhere about 9 o'clock in
the evening, arriving in Port Hunter in the dawn of the following
morning. After tying up at the King's Wharf for a few hours, while we
unloaded what cargo we had for Newcastle, we went on up the river,
calling at Raymond Terrace on the way to land whatever we were carrying
as freight for that centre of distribution. Then we went on, past the
junction of the Williams River, to Morpeth, passing through some of the
best of those magnificent lucerne flats which have made the lands of
the Lower Hunter famous more than anything else that is grown in their
fertile area.

As the ship approached the end of her voyage, the river became more and
more beautiful, and the verdant flats, most vividly green in the bright
sunshine, were very suggestive of an English countryside. Everywhere
were pretty farmsteads, nestling in orchards and lovely gardens, and
all the land was green. If the long levels had been divided up into
little fields by hedges and stone walls, anyone who had ever been in
the Old Country might quite easily have imagined himself back there
again. And many of the buildings along the riverside helped out the
illusion by being unmistakably of the latter end of the period of
Thackeray's Four Georges. Here and there were remains of old mills,
solidly built of stone, which testified to the fact that the Lower
Hunter was once upon a time a wheat-growing country--until, very
many years ago, the devastating rust appeared, and all the farming
operations of the neighbourhood perforce changed their character.
To-day it is nearly all lucerne that is grown hereabout--a fact that
was well borne out by the cargo of sweet-smelling bales of hay which we
spent the greater part of our stay in the old-time river port lowering
into the "Archer's" holds.

Very striking is the approach to the town by water. Up above the
Newcastle and Hunter River Company's wharf--as it was then--with its
big galvanised-iron receiving shed, a long white bridge crosses the
river, carrying the highway to the village of Hinton, a couple of miles
away--and the writer has never seen it of late years without thinking
of Captain Scott's famous ship, the "Discovery."

It is a far cry from Morpeth to the South West India Docks in London,
but the recollection of the sight of that white bridge takes him back
to a certain cold and frosty but clear winter afternoon, when he
wandered through the great basins looking at the extraordinary variety
of ships from all the world to be found at rest therein. Suddenly he
came upon a small wooden vessel that was obviously laid up and out of
commission. On her bows were painted the letters "D-I-S-C-O-V-E-R-Y."
Immediately he recognised the famous Arctic and Antarctic exploring
ship, and halted to inspect her closely.

A man was leaning over the side, smoking a pipe and looking lonely,
and evidently anxious for conversation. He confirmed one's idea that
this was, indeed, the "Discovery," and extended an invitation to
come aboard. He was the ship-keeper, and informed the writer that she
then belonged to the Hudson's Bay Company, and was laid up for the
winter. Very hospitably, he showed me over the famous ship, and then
suggested an adjournment to the galley for a pot of tea. There, for an
hour or two, we talked and smoked. It came out that the writer was an

"What part of Australia?"

"Well--I'm a Hunter River native, really---but I've been----"

"The Hunter! You know the Hunter River? You know Newcastle?"

"Yes--better than I know the Commercial Road. I was born at West

This seemed to excite his liveliest interest. He fairly gaped at me in

"Well, you must know a little place on the river, down below Maitland,
called Morpeth?"

"Oh, yes--know it well. Often been there."

"Lord, it's a narrow little world! Would you remember a big wooden
bridge, by any chance, just above the town?"

I told him I'd often been across it, and he got up and grabbed my hand.

"Well, now--to think of that! Shake hands, Mister. I ran away from my
ship in Newcastle, and the first job I got in the country was on that
bridge, when they were building it. Come on--we'll go ashore and have a
drink. Holy Moses--to think of that, now! It beats Creation!"

Morpeth is built upon the northern extremity of a long ridge--upon the
south end of which is East Maitland--which constitutes the highest
land in the immediate neighbourhood. The name by which the place was
first known is curiously attractive, and one that was very commonly
bestowed in the naming of localities by the pioneers of Australia all
over the continent. It is one of those natural designations of which
"Black Mountain," "Dry Creek," "Sandy Flat," etc., are such abounding
examples throughout the Commonwealth. The first and most notable of
the Green Hills was, of course, the old settlement on the banks of the
Hawkesbury, where Governor Macquarie established the town of Windsor
in 1810. For a score or more of years it bore the name bestowed upon
it by those who came there first, and it is always to be regretted
that his autocratic Excellency ever changed it. It may have been that
the first settlers in this part of the Hunter Valley--who came here
about 1812--named it after the Hawkesbury settlement, but it is just as
likely that the greenness of the ridges themselves was responsible for
what they called it. For the first supposition, a certain resemblance,
just hereabout on the banks of a noble river, to the site of Windsor,
encourages such as may like a romantic story to a preference. For
the second, the fact that the pioneers were usually more practical
than sentimental seems to make out a case. Whichever notion may be
correct--it must have been one or the other--the fact remains that,
from the old Green Hills of the Hunter, the outlook must have been as
delightful, in the first decades of the nineteenth century, as it was
from the older Green Hills of the Hawkesbury. To-day, any comparison
would be odious, and there is not much to choose between the view from
the belfy of St. Matthew's Church at Windsor and that obtainable from
the summit of the square tower of St. James's in Morpeth.

The town is unmistakably very old, as age counts in a new country like
Australia--and it has as unmistakably seen better days. It is to-day
the centre of a very rich farming district, and has a certain air of
solid prosperity of its own--but it is more than obvious that long ago
it did very much better than it does now. Huge stone storehouses along
the river indicate a former business activity that does not exist in
these days, and this is borne out by the history of the place.

From about 1820 until the eighteen-sixties it was the port of all
northern New South Wales, and pretty well all the trade of the north
used to pass through it. Everything destined for Sydney--in the days
when Maitland was the real capital of this part of New South Wales--had
to come through here, as did all but a very inconsiderable part of
the passenger traffic. Shipping on the river, before the construction
of the railway along the Hunter Valley, was at least a score of times
greater than it is now. For many years, as we have seen in preceding
chapters, two steamship organisations competed for the trade of
the Hunter, together with that of the north-western plains and New
England. The "Archer," and then the "Kindur," were the last of
the deep sea ships that came to Morpeth, and the rest of the local
shipping was made up of shallow-draught vessels of the drogher type and
motor-launches carrying cream-cans to the local butter factory.

Formerly the passenger steamers plying between Sydney and the Hunter
invariably continued their voyage on from Newcastle to Morpeth, but
they never do so now. The gradual but inexorable shoaling of the river
accounts for this. The last of the larger vessels of the Newcastle and
Hunter River Company to make the complete voyage was the "Namoi,"
but when the "Archer" and the "Kindur" used to make it, say, a
dozen years ago, it was only possible to get them up to the Morpeth
wharf on the flood tide, and sailings from Sydney were timed in
accordance with high-water at Newcastle, which is about three hours
earlier than at Morpeth. If the quantity of cargo to be taken in
meant missing a tide, the ship concerned had to remain at the head of
navigation until the next ebb tide--that is to say, if she were drawing
her fully-loaded draught.

While the lucerne was coming into the "Archer's" hold, the captain
and the writer went ashore with a camera, and took a stroll about the
town and across the river, securing various snapshots of the old town
and its surroundings. The one with most historic interest in the couple
of spools used up was that of St. James's Church of England, which
is a temple with a story. The little stone church goes back in its
traditions to the earliest days of settlement.

The original grantee of the land upon which Morpeth is built was
Lieutenant Edward Charles Close, of H.M. 48th Regiment of Foot, who
came to New South Wales with his battalion in 1817. An extraordinary
escape from death whilst on active service in the Peninsula War--so
the story goes--induced him to make a vow that whenever he was in a
position to do so he would build a church as a token of his gratitude
to God for his escape. So, years afterwards, he fulfilled this pious
resolve at the old Green Hills, and St. James's was opened for public
worship in 1833. This is the biographical notice of Lieutenant Close
printed in "The Australian Encyclopaedia," which may fittingly be
quoted here as that of the principal pioneer of the district:--

"CLOSE, EDWARD CHARLES (1790-1866), born at Rangamati, near Calcutta,
on 12 March, 1790, and educated at Ipswich, in Suffolk, with a view to
taking Holy Orders; in 1808 abandoned the Church for the Army (ensign,
1808; lieutenant, 1809), serving in the Peninsula, and taking part
in the battles of Talavera, Busaco, Albuera, Vittoria, the Nivelle,
Orthes, and Toulouse. In 1817 he came with his regiment (the 48th) to
New South Wales, and in 1821 was acting engineer at Newcastle; but at
the end of that year seems to have resigned his commission and settled
down as a landholder at Green Hills, now the town of Morpeth; to the
2000 acres he held there he soon added another 3800, thus becoming one
of the biggest landholders in the Newcastle district. The Green Hills
property, lying along the ridge at the head of the Hunter navigation,
was the obvious site for a township; but Darling's attempts to recover
the grant without giving Close an equal area elsewhere delayed
resumption until the impatient settlers had planted themselves on the
low land of West Maitland, and Close's later subdivision of the Green
Hills land did not attract them back. Made a magistrate in 1822, he
was in 1827 involved in trouble over the shooting of aborigines on Dr.
Bowman's land . . . and removed by Darling from the magistracy; he was
not, however, long in disfavour, being appointed on 1 February, 1829,
an original member of the newly constituted Legislative Council. From
this position he retired in 1839, and lived quietly on his estates
until his death on 7 May, 1866."

The "Archer" sailed for Sydney on the top of the ebb tide about 4
o'clock in the afternoon, passed out to sea round Nobby's at 7 p.m.,
and was at her berth in Port Jackson at 2 o'clock on the following


THE first inland settlement of any importance on the Hunter River was
made on the level country, a few miles above the head of navigation at
the Green Hills (Morpeth), which had been named after the Commandant
at Newcastle, Captain James Wallis, of H.M. 48th Regiment. The river
itself, however, had already been explored from the sea as far as the
present site of Singleton, as had also the Williams and the Paterson.

In July, 1804, the district about the mouth of the river had a
population of 95 souls, which had increased in twelve months to 138.
Its principal exports, as has been mentioned, were coal and red cedar,
the latter of which was found growing in great abundance along the
banks of the Hunter and the Williams. Governor Macquarie visited
Newcastle in 1811, and went up the river as far as its juncture with
the Williams, where Raymond Terrace stands to-day. He was there again
in 1818, and gave the Commandant, Captain Wallis, permission to
settle a number of well-conducted convicts on the country round the
site of West Maitland, which he named Wallis Plains in honour of that
gentleman. Before this time it had been known as "The Camp," and was
often referred to later as "Molly Morgan's Plains."

The two earliest identities of the district who have been remembered in
its traditions were a man named Maloney, who had been granted 170 acres
on the site of West Maitland, and Molly Morgan, who had a grant of 159
acres in his neighbourhood. An over fondness for rum eventually led, in
both cases, to a loss of all their possessions, but for some time the
locality was always referred to on the Lower Hunter as "Molly Morgan's."

Major Morrisset, Commandant at Newcastle in succession to Captain
Wallis, made the first overland journey between Newcastle and Sydney
in 1823. He reached Windsor, on the Hawkesbury, after nine days of
strenuous battling through the densely timbered and very rough country
lying between the two rivers. But before Morrisset made his expedition
a party from the Hawkesbury led by John Howe, Chief Constable at
Windsor, had crossed the ranges and reached the Hunter at a point
about where the town of Singleton was afterwards established. The
party consisted of John and Andrew Howe, George Loder, William Dargan,
Phillip Thornley and Benjamin Singleton, after whom the town was
subsequently named.

On March 17, 1820, they came down from the mountains onto open plain
country which, in honour of the Irish saint, they called Patrick's
Plains. A subsequent chapter deals more fully with this adventure.

In March, 1823, Allan Cunningham followed Howe's track to Patrick's
Plains, and travelled about 40 miles further up the Hunter. Two years
later Mr. Surveyor-General Oxley followed the same route, and made a
journey to Bathurst via the Liverpool Plains.

Of the two Maitlands, East and West, the latter is the older. The name
is said to have been given to the place by Mr. Surveyor Maitland, who
marked out the first land boundaries in the district. In 1826 there
were only three residences in the neighbourhood, but the settlement
must have increased in importance very rapidly, for at the end of 1829
an order was issued by the Chief Justice, Sir Francis Forbes, for the
holding of a court at Maitland on the 20th of the following January.
This growth of population is further borne out by the fact that it was
stated in March, 1828, that every acre of land on the banks of the
Hunter had been allocated, and that 10,000 head of cattle had been
driven over the ranges onto the Liverpool Plains. In 1831 the first
survey for a township at Maitland was made by the government, the plan
of the settlement having been signed and approved by Governor Darling
the year before. About 200 allotments were sold, and by this time a
house for the local Commandant had been built and a guard-house erected
for the accommodation of prisoners being sent down to Newcastle gaol
from outlying parts of the valley.

The best way to go to the place whose name appears at the top of this
chapter is by the route that was most in use when it went by such a
name--that is to say, if you are going from Sydney, by way of the
Tasman Sea and the Hunter River. You will not find it easy, however,
to book for such a destination. A hundred years ago it would have been
possible to come across someone who would have understood you when you
told him whither you were bound, but nowadays almost your best plan
would be to write a note to the honorary research secretary of the
Royal Australian Historical Society, asking him where to look for the
locality. His reply would be, "Try West Maitland."

So you would secure a berth in one of the steamers of the Newcastle
and Hunter River S.S. Company, and make the six-hour voyage to
Port Hunter--on a summer night for preference, with a full moon
shining--arriving there just as the old Coal River city is waking up
in the morning. It might be possible for you to catch a certain small
river steamer still engaged in the navigation of the Hunter, and voyage
up to Morpeth through some of the most charming river scenery in
Australia. If you then ascend the ridge on which the latter town and
East Maitland are situated, you may look out across Wallis Plains, with
the placid river winding through them, and West Maitland lying in their
green spaciousness a few miles away.

The name by which these higher lands along the Lower Hunter was first
known is a curiously attractive one, and one that was very common in
the christening of localities by their pioneers all over Australia,
as has been pointed out before. From the Green Hills, perhaps, Wallis
Plains are seen at their best.

Those long, level lands--some of the richest in the State of New South
Wales, if not in the Commonwealth--received their name originally,
as has been mentioned, in honour of the man who was Commandant at
Newcastle in the second decade of the last century, Captain James
Wallis, of the 48th Regiment, who subsequently established the
settlement of Port Macquarie. Wallis Creek, between East and West
Maitland, also perpetuates his memory. And you may see some of the
work that he began at the mouth of the Hunter in the shoreward end of
the southern breakwater, connecting Nobby's (Coal Island) with the
mainland. It was commenced in his day, but was not finally completed
until 1857, having more than once been partly destroyed during its
construction by heavy southerly gales.

Captain Wallis seems to have been one of the better sort of officials
who had control of most of the country during the somewhat horrible
days of "the System." Of the establishment he founded at Port
Macquarie, and directed for several years, Governor Macquarie writes
with enthusiasm in his despatches and his own private journal. He was
an energetic, painstaking, conscientious officer, who was, according
to the ideas of colonial government held in Australia at that time,
possibly a little too mild in his methods of enforcing discipline. If
this was really the case, however, the relaxing effects of his humane
administration were very efficiently counteracted by his successor,
Major Morrisset, whose government in no way erred on the side of
softness and leniency.

It was this gentleman who, during his term as Commandant of the
district of the Lower Hunter, used to make periodical inspections of
his famous barge of the main river and its tributaries, the Williams
and the Paterson. The flagellator always accompanied him on these
rounds, and the triangles were kept conveniently rigged in the bows
of the big boat, against any possibility of a waste of time. He would
call at a farm on the river bank, inquire whether any of the assigned
servants stood in need of discipline, and, in his capacity as a
magistrate of the Territory, would try those who were so reported to
him. In the event of their offences being proved, they only had to step
down to the barge to receive the correction due to them.

These rich river flats are amongst the very best lands in all
Australia, but they have to pay for their fertility by periodic
inundations of the sort through which Noah carried out his justly
celebrated feat of navigation. The present writer was in Maitland
during the big flood of 1913--the record one was in 1893--all but
thirty years ago, and can truthfully affirm that such visitations are
by no means amusing interludes, confident in the fact that he will be
backed in such a statement by many people who had fine views of this
particular episode of super-dampness from ridgepoles and lofts, and
even from the tops of trees and the roofs of floating homesteads. A
wooden house is not a comfortable craft in which to make a voyage,
owing principally to the fact that it steers badly and is difficult to
berth successfully. There are plenty of people living on Wallis Plains
to-day who would vouch from experience for the truth of this. And
tree-tops, though well ventilated, are said to leak atrociously and not
to be comfortable residences for others than birds.

But if the floods are bad, they have the redeeming virtue of
top-dressing the lands they overwhelm with a soil that would almost
"grow hair on a billiard ball." Nowhere is there anything better for
lucerne cultivation than the deep, loamy deposits of Wallis Plains.
Nowhere else are there such possibilities for an intense cultivation
of the sort that one obtains in France and other western European
countries and will surely one day be followed here. Always, of
course, will remain the floods; but, even in spite of this very great
drawback, it is safe to say that this fertile countryside will have an
agricultural future of this description that those who come after the
present generation--though, maybe possibly, not until the one after
that--will adequately realise. It may be an unwelcome thing to say to
the Lower Hunter farmer--but he hasn't even yet, after a good deal
more than a century of possession, altogether realised the manifold
possibilities of his rich and bounteous heritage.

Possibly because he is a native of them, the author is a little
prejudiced in favour of the Hunter River flats as they exist on Wallis
Plains, but whether that be so or not hardly matters. By their very
aspect they advertise themselves in a way that is unmistakable. If
you have eyes to see, you need only go and look at them in order to
realise what they are. If it be desired to show to any foreign visitor
something worth looking at whilst he is in New South Wales, he might
well be taken up the Hunter River to Wallis Plains.

Two generations ago the people of Wallis Plains were nothing if not a
community of agriculturists. West Maitland was a somewhat sleepy rural
centre almost of the sort that you might have found contemporaneously
in Kent or Devonshire. In between floods, the people of the surrounding
countryside took life placidly, and hardly concerned themselves much
with what took place beyond Singleton, up above, and Newcastle down
below, along the quiet river winding to the sea through these rich,
green fields. The town had an aspect of having seen better days--as
it certainly had, when the north and north-west were in process of
development and it was the social, commercial and political capital of
all the vast territory stretching to the Queensland border. There was
almost an air of decay about it, however, fifty or sixty years ago, and
nobody who knows it would have been very much surprised had High Street
slipped into the encroaching river, as it more than once very nearly
did in flood-time, and the town been abandoned to the ploughshare and
the mowing-machine. It was a place of Past Glories.

But now all that is changed. There is still an agricultural
population--but there is another sort as well. The opening up of the
South Maitland collieries has brought a new class of human being into
the district, a new industry, and a new life. You could not fire a
rifle down High Street to-day at noon-tide without shooting somebody,
as you might sometimes have done in those old days. High Street at
the present time is a busy place of fine shops and imposing business
premises--though much of the old-time lingers about it, if you know
where to look. But there is no doubt that the neighbouring coalfields
and the race of beings that belongs to them have changed the nature of
the place utterly and completely.

In a little volume of verses printed privately half a century ago--the
author was a relative of the writer of this book--is a poetical
effusion which is a sort of curse bestowed upon the place by a young
man on his departure from the old capital of the Lower Hunter, which,
since it is entirely opposed to every sentiment of the present scribe
regarding the town, he would like to insert here. It is entitled
"Farewell to Maitland," and originally appeared in a Hunter River
newspaper some time in the early eighteen-sixties. Here it is in all
its malevolence, but whether it truly represents its perpetrator's
ideas one has never been quite certain.

"Farewell at last, thou land of dust,
None live in thee but those who must;
When eddying clouds around me rise,
With close-shut mouth and blinking eyes,
I pray to God that I may soon
Be far from Maitland's dread simoon.

"Ah! brave indeed they need to be,
Who through all seasons live in thee--
Who dare thy summer's scorching heat,
Nor from thy wintry floods retreat,
But keep their places steadfastly,
When all thy land is changed to sea.

"When Hunter's angry waters meet,
And rivers rush down every street,
When through each lane the boatman steers,
How sweet to dream of gondoliers--
To think that we in Venice rest,
By soft Italian breezes blest.

"And when at length the turbid flood
Retiring, leaves us all its mud,
What pleasant odours greet the nose
Who down each muddy by-way goes,
And ventures o'er thy hardening crust--
Exhaustless magazine of dust.

"Farewell, ye houses, low and damp;
Farewell, thou far-surrounding swamp,
Where pestilential vapours rise,
And all that's good or lovely dies.
Oh, grant I ne'er behold again,
A town so cursed of gods and men."

There is a view in West Maitland that the writer never fails to look
at when he goes there. It you stand on the footway on the lower side
of the Belmore Bridge and gaze down stream, you cannot fail to be
charmed with the sweeping curve of the river, round which the hacks
of the houses along High Street seem to perch precariously--and a
square church tower gives an old world note to the scene. No Australian
film-producer need go further afield than the Belmore Bridge at West
Maitland to get a setting for an old English market-town, whence the
hero of the story emigrated to Australia. And from the bridge the
ordinary Australian, who is not in the moving-picture business, will
get his best impression of the old-time "county town" of Wallis Plains.
It is one that he will never wish to forget.


ALTHOUGH, strictly speaking, Port Stephens lies outside the scope of a
book with the title borne by this volume, it is so close to Newcastle,
and is destined one day in the future to play so important a part in
the development of New South Wales, that it seems necessary to say
something about it here before going further up the Hunter Valley.
The Newcastle Packets no longer trade there, but 16 years ago the
writer visited the great port, 25 miles north of the mouth of the
Hunter, in one of the small steamers--the "Allyn River"--which the
Newcastle and Hunter River S.S. Company used to run there regularly.
The following account of his voyage was published at the time in a
Sydney newspaper, and he feels that he cannot do better than reproduce
it here. It gives as adequate a description of the port and its story
as he could write now, though it is to be remembered that the article
was published in 1926. However, little change has taken place in the
conditions existing at that time.

"The little ship is a cargo carrier, broad of beam and shallow of
draught, and has no accommodation for passengers, but, knowing the
Company and the captain, the writer was given a passage and found a bed
on the settee in the latter's cabin.

"A few minutes before midnight the captain came aboard, and in the
first hour of the new day we slipped out of the Hunter River, swung
round the northern breakwater, and headed nor-eastward, into the teeth
of a stiff breeze, towards Port Stephens, leaving the flashing light
on Nobby's behind us. Twenty-five miles or so we had to roll across
Stockton Bight, past Anna Bay and Morna Point, before we should have
another lighthouse on our beam, and alter our course to enter the
big harbour where Newcastle might, with advantage, have been placed

"The strong head wind had checked our passage across the tumbling,
moonlit waters of the Bight, and by the time we were off the steep
basaltic face of Toomeree, Port Stephens's south head, the dawn was
lightening the sky to seaward with all the promise of a glorious day.
As we rolled round on to a westerly course to enter the harbour, the
sun rose up out of the wide green waters behind, and we opened up the
splendid beauties of Port Stephens under conditions that were perfect
for their appreciation.

"The yellow scarp of Toomeree, split from summit to base by a deep
chasm into which the swells heave and surge interminably, became a
buttress of shining gold; the dark green crest of Yacaaba--the north
head--surmounted similar golden walls, with a line of pink foam at
their foundations, and the wide waters of the great bay spread west and
nor-'west before us to distant wooded coastlines of gleaming beaches,
backed by dark forest-clad hills, with far-off blue ranges behind them,
shining and glowing in the light of the new morning like the inside of

"On our port side, when we had rounded Toomeree, the white beach of
Shoal Bay curved to Nelson's Head, on whose summit stands the Inner
Light, and beyond which the little settlement of Nelson's Bay--hotel,
post-office, store and scattered handful of houses is almost all
that over a century of occupation by the white man has done for
Port Stephens. Nowhere else can there be such a glaring instance of
opportunities neglected as is presented by the wild and lonely aspect
of this magnificent harbour in the present year of grace.

"Having landed an extraordinary variety of cargo on the wharf at
Nelson's Bay, we steam westward up the harbour, en route for
Pindimar--which pleasant name is pronounced with the accent on the
second syllable. A long shoal--the Manton Bank--extends up the northern
side of the bay, and it is necessary to get round this before we turn
northward. Pindimar, or Duck Hole, as it is referred to locally, lies
opposite the navigable mouth of the Myall River, running into Port
Stephens from the Myall Lakes to the north. The other branch enters the
bay through a series of shoals, far over to the eastward.

"The scenery of Port Stephens is incomparable, and even the most
truculantly boastful 'booster' of Port Jackson, having once seen the
place, cannot but admit that in this splendid haven there exists a
worthy rival to Our Beautiful Harbour. It has always seemed to the
writer that, in their natural state, any comparison of the beauties
of the two big inlets must result in favour of Port Stephens. Sydney
Harbour has been immensely improved in appearance by the growth of
the city about its shores--you need only look at Broken Bay, which
to-day gives us a fair example of the original Port Jackson scenery,
to realise this. The low ridges of Hawkesbury sandstone, monotonously
uniform in height and contour, of the two big bays down the coast to
the southward, cannot be compared to the tall hills that surround Port
Stephens in ever-varying shape and form, and the tall blue ranges
behind them provide a background that is missing in Broken Bay and
Port Jackson. Of course, it can never be seriously contended that Port
Stephens is as good a harbour as Port Jackson--so far as universal deep
water and navigability are concerned--but for good looks, at any rate,
it is easily its equal and possibly its superior.

"Pindimar consists of an ice-factory, once a State fish depot, which
supplies the local fishermen with ice for the packing and preservation
of their catches on the voyage to Newcastle and Sydney, a store, a
few little houses, many square miles of eucalyptus forest, and a long
jetty. Here the river steamer meets the "Allyn River," and transfers
from her capacious hold and broad deck a miscellaneous cargo, ranging
between furniture, kegs of ice-cream, beer, groceries and machinery for
transport to Bullahdelah and the scanty settlements about the coasts
of the Myall Lakes. And it is here that you first come in contact with
the oyster culture that is the principal means of subsistence, apart
from timber-getting, for the handful of inhabitants of this sparsely
populated province.

"On the whole, oyster-farming is nowadays the principal industry
of Port Stephens. Along the extensive coastline of the bay and
its many branches--including the mouths of the Myall and Karuah
Rivers--there are over 500 miles of oyster leases. Almost every foot of
frontage--even round the mangrove islands--has been taken up.

"People who do not know better are very liable to regard oyster-culture
as an easy, lazy, carefree and profitable method of making a
living--just as very many so regard poultry-farming. But there could
not be any greater mistake. Teaching ostrea cuculata how to
domesticate himself in certain places, how to behave when there, and
how to keep his health and grow fat and palatable to the ogres who eat
him alive, and how to return a reasonable profit to his exploiters, is
almost as complicated a job as the breeding of stud sheep. He is a good
fellow, ostrea cuculata, but he has succeeded in bankrupting more
than one of his cultivators who have made the mistake of not taking him
sufficiently seriously.

"In continuation of our voyage up Port Stephens and the Karuah River to
the head of navigation in that picturesque stream, our course lies more
or less along the northern coast of the great bay. The big inlet is
really two immense basins connected by a narrow passage, in the midst
of which lies the beautiful tree-clad gem of little Middle Island,
between Soldiers' Point and the high hills of the north side. The point
got its name from the fact that in the old days a detachment of the
Newcastle military garrison was stationed there to prevent runaway
convicts from the penal settlement at Port Macquarie making their
escape towards the populated centres to the southward. The outer basin
is fed by the Myall River, and the larger, inner one by the Karuah and
by Telligherry Creek, which enters it on the western side of Soldiers'
Point. The mouth of the Karuah is the head of the harbour proper.

"It is usual to pass Middle Island by the southern passage, but
to-day we are taking the Inner Channel, which runs close inshore to
Carrington, the site of the Australian Agricultural Company's first
settlement on Port Stephens, so we go by the northern. We pass close
by the mouth of the North Arm, and then make a more or less direct run
across to Sawyers' Point, where the township of Karuah is situated,
and the road from Raymond Terrace, at the junction of the Hunter and
Williams Rivers, that leads to Tea Gardens, crosses the river by a
punt. We steam up the Karuah for about ten miles to Booral Wharf, where
lies the village of Allworth, the port of Booral, situated four or five
miles away. Then back to Sawyers' Point, to tie up there for the night
and all day Sunday, sailing on our return voyage to Newcastle, by way
of Pindimar and Nelson's Bay, at 6 o'clock on Monday morning. It will
be sufficient to say here that no quarter-mile of the voyage is without
interest and beauty--what space remains of this chapter must be given
to the story of Port Stephens.

"The first attempt at settlement on the big harbour was made nearly 120
years ago, during the reign of Major Morrisset at Newcastle. The penal
colony at Port Macquarie had been established during the latter years
of Governor Macquarie's administration of the Government of New South
Wales, and, to prevent runaway convicts from that place making back
towards Newcastle and Sydney, the guard of soldiers mentioned above
had been placed at Soldiers' Point. A few years later, the Australian
Agricultural Company, formed in London in 1824, took up its immense
land grant of one million acres between Port Stephens and the Manning
River, and in 1826 established its headquarters, and disembarked its
stock and its servants, over at Carrington, on the north-western side
of the inner basin, not far from the mouth of the Karuah River. Here,
for a while, was great activity--until the Company discovered that it
had been ill-advised in putting all its eggs into one basket, and that
the existence of a fine port wherefrom to ship its produce did not
altogether compensate for inferior country for stock-raising, such as
the land in the vicinity of Port Stephens proved to be.

"So it made its famous exchange of much of its infertile tract of
mountain, ravine and forest for the rich pastures of Warrah and Goonoo
Goonoo, out on the Liverpool Plains. Carrington faded away, and never
since has any serious attempt been made to turn Port Stephens to its
best account. For 120 years its immense forests have been exploited
for timber, and all the valuable red-cedar which used to abound in the
ranges has been cut out--but to-day the shores of the great harbour
remain much the same in aspect as when Mr. Superintendent Dawson set
out, and failed, to make a fortune for the English shareholders of
the A.A. Company. The fortune has been made since from the coal-beds
of Newcastle and the grasses of the rich plains beyond the Dividing
Range--the Port Stephens venture contributed little to it but a
negative or minus quantity. Civilisation here made a bad start,
but that it will before long make a good one is quite certain and

"The first of the Company's settlers, with valuable stock, arrived
in Sydney, in the ships 'York' and 'Brothers,' at the end of
1825, and by May, 1826, a substantial settlement had been formed at
Carrington, under Mr. Robert Dawson, the first local Superintendent--a
gentleman of no 'colonial experience' whatsoever, to whom too much
responsibility was left, and who seems to have been, in many respects,
quite unfitted for his position. 'At any rate,' writes Mr. Jesse
Gregson, General-Superintendent of the Company from 1875 to 1895, in
his valuable work, 'The Australian Agricultural Company, 1824-1875'
(Sydney: Angus and Robertson, Ltd.), 'this wealthy corporation,
bringing advantage to a community whose very existence depended on the
existence of capital, was pitchforked into a district wholly untried,
and quite different in soil and vegetation from any which had been
tried; and its settlement there was so far determined upon that by
October, 1826, 1000 head of cattle and 2000 sheep had been purchased
and brought to Port Stephens, and the establishment there had grown to
250 souls.'

"One cannot do better here than to quote from Mr. Gregson's book as to
the condition of the settlement about six or eight years later, during
the administration of Captain Sir Edward Parry, R.N., the famous Arctic
explorer, who had succeeded Mr. Dawson and Mr. James Ebsworth as the
Company's Commissioner in New South Wales. It gives a picture of Old
Port Stephens, and a description of the working of the establishment,
that cannot be improved. The book is a most fascinating record of the
many failures and ultimate success of a great corporation, which has,
on the whole, done notable things for Australian civilisation. Tahlee
House still stands at Carrington, the property of the descendants of
the late Hon. R. H. D. White.

"'Tahlee House,' he says, 'was then the residence of the Commissioner.
It was prettily situated on rising ground, overlooking the harbour,
near the mouth of the Karuah River, surrounded by a garden which has
been described to me as one of the best in the district. Less than
half a mile east of it a township named Carrington had been laid out
on flat ground near the water's edge. Here were the storehouses,
the residences of the officials, the cottages of the men and of the
military guard. It was the place of business, the headquarters of the
establishment. In the other direction, on the left bank of the Karuah,
was No. 1 farm; and further on another farm called Booral had been
formed on a rather extensive flat bordering the river. At these two
farms small parties of prisoners and the overseers under whom they
worked were living. Four miles farther on, a considerable area of
undulating land at the confluence of Mill Creek had been cleared and
cultivated, employing many labourers. Already the residence of one of
the superintendents, a township had been laid out here called Stroud,
which eventually became one of the most important and populous of the
Company's settlements, and subsequently the chief place of business of
the district and the seat of the Court of Petty Sessions. Two miles
beyond Stroud, on the Karuah, was Telligherry, the residence of the
superintendent of stock, overlooking a beautiful reach of the river;
and nearby was the woolshed. Sheep stations had been formed in Mr.
Dawson's time in various places on the Karuah River and the Mill Creek,
to a distance of twelve miles from Stroud, and had since been pushed
on, till the valleys of the Avon and Gloucester Rivers had also become
sheep runs, where, by 1834, most of the flocks appear to have been
stationed. In those days flocks of sheep averaged from 300 to 500 in
number. Two flocks were usually stationed at one place, where was the
hut of the shepherds, and a yard for each flock to camp in at night.
Each flock had two shepherds with it by day, and, on returning to the
yard, was throughout the night, in charge of a watchman, whose duty
it was to see that the sheep were not attacked by native dogs. There
were, therefore, six men at each station, generally, if not invariably,
assigned prisoners, and, therefore, not costing much for wages. This,
it must be understood, was then the general practice in the colony,
which the Company's officials had adopted at their first landing, and
had since followed. In an elaborate paper prepared by Mr. Henry Dangar
in 1832, for submission to the court of directors, he states the number
of people engaged in looking after the sheep, then nearly 25,000, was
no fewer than 121, besides three superintendents; and he enumerates
them as follows:--Thirteen free overseers, three prisoner overseers,
one chief overseer, two free shepherds, and 102 prisoner shepherds.
The cost of this part of the establishment he estimates at 3,160 per
annum, exclusive of shearing expenses.'

"The 'General Order Book' of the Company about this time, from which
Mr. Gregson quotes extensively in order to show the extraordinary
details which had to be attended to by the Commissioner, is a most
valuable historical document. There is not room here for much of it,
but General Order No. 30 is very typical. It is under date of August 5,
1830, and reads as follows:--

"'As the stopping of the tobacco from the prisoners who slept at the
camp on the night of the 18th ult. has not led to the conviction of the
offenders, it is my direction that the tobacco of all the prisoners who
were at Carrington, the tan-pits, and the brickfield on that night,
including also Page and Donelly, the Tahlee gardeners, and Denis
Reardon, be stopped from this time.

"'Memorandum to Mr. Wetherman.--Issue and send up to Stroud by the
first opportunity for Matthew Delany, at Lawler's station, one blanket,
two shirts, three-quarter pound tobacco, in lieu of the same articles
stolen by the blacks when he was speared.

"'Order.--Simon Kemp is to explain how it has happened that the horse
placed in his charge has died.

"'Mr. Barton is not to pay the last quarter's salary to Simon Kemp,
till he has given me a satisfactory explanation as to this serious loss
to the Company.'

"The first part of the above proclamation has a sequel later in the
month. Mr. Wetherman, it may be explained, was the storekeeper.

"'August 24. General Order No. 36.--As the stopping of the tobacco from
the prisoners at Carrington and its neighbourhood has not led to the
conviction of the robbers of Daniel Joby's property on the 18th ult.,
it is my direction that the tea be also stopped from all the prisoners
mentioned in my order of the 5th inst.

"'Mr. Wetherman will remind me every other Friday to stop some other
allowance till the prisoners are reduced to the Government ration, or
till the offenders are all brought to justice."

"It is quite evident that Sir Edward Parry, despite his universal
popularity, and the high character for benevolence which he enjoyed in
the colony, was not a man with whom it was very safe to trifle. Always,
he was the naval captain--even in dealing with delinquent convict


THE district of the Lower Hunter, of which the town of Singleton is the
centre, was discovered on March 17, 1820, by a party led by John Howe,
the Chief Constable of Windsor, on the Hawkesbury River, but it is
certain that Howe's party were not the first white men to set foot in
that countryside.

When Lieutenant Grant, R.N., carried Colonel Paterson's expedition to
the mouth of the Hunter in 1801, aboard the "Lady Nelson," as has
been related in an earlier chapter, several of the party--including
Grant, Paterson, Surgeon Harris and Ensign Barrallier--went up the
river in boats. After exploring the two tributary streams of the
Williams and the Paterson for comparatively short distances, they
followed up the main river--though Barrallier credited the Williams
with being that in his map--past the present position of Maitland to a
point somewhere about the site of the town of Singleton. However, it
was not until 17 years later that any attempt was made to reach the
Lower Hunter country above Wallis Plains overland from the Hawkesbury.
Soon after the establishment of the settlement at the mouth of the
river in 1804, several runaway convicts made their way across the
intervening ranges to the Hawkesbury, but it was a long time before
a passage was effected in the opposite direction. In 1818 Benjamin
Singleton and four others set out to examine the country north and
north-west of Windsor, and although they failed to reach the Hunter,
they got into touch with aboriginals who gave them a good deal of
information about it.

Singleton left the Hawkesbury on April 25, 1818, and pushed on until
May 6. He kept a journal of his expedition--a quaintly puzzling bit
of literature it is--and the following extract refers to the end of
his journey, and carries the date "Wednesday, 6th." Singleton was a
better pioneer than a scholar, as this part of his literary remains
sufficiently attests.

"Arose the morning," he says, "and shaped our course on the same Hill
about 10 o'clock fell in with upwards of two hundred natives who Had
Never Seen a White Man Before except one the name of Mawby who could
speak a little English the Whole Being clothed with Skins and Furnished
with a Great Quantity of Spears through the Means of the Native we had
with us we got Mawby an four More to Advance close to us the Native
we had with us enquire if we could go to the Westward he informed us
it was impossible as it was very rocky an no water to be got that way
they asked us our Business we told them we wanted to go to Bathurst or
to find good land they pointed to the N. Eastward saying we go there
in two Days where there was a Large river so large they could not swim
over it saying they could not Drink it we suppose by that means it was
salt we told the Native to ask them which way it run they said Both
ways by that Means we suppose the tide must rise and flow Pointing to
the Westward saying it run along that way with a large flat of land by
the side of it we suppose it might be very possible the river run from
the Plains supposing it to empty itself into Port Stephens although
they said it was only two Days further we feared to go upon account if
we went they would still go with us we was afraid they would betray us
upon account of the Provisions being only 5 in number and a Native who
was a very Weak member to fight he was more in dread than Ourself an
anxious to return we supposed ourselves to be 120 miles from Windsor .N
30 W. returned the same way we went We arrived Home at the Water Mill
may 14th."

If old Ben Singleton's style is puzzling, it is at least quite
original. The Rev. "Bobby" Knopwood's MS. journal is the only
Australian historical document the writer is acquainted with that can
possibly rival it.

Although Singleton's diary in the original calls for somewhat
exhausting study, it was interesting enough to Governor Macquarie, who
read it at Windsor ten days after the explorers' return, to induce him
to encourage another expedition along Singleton's route. So next year
he gave instructions to John Howe to lead a carefully selected party
of pioneers in search of a practicable track across the ranges to the
good country in the valley of the Lower Hunter. Only a few absconding
convicts had hitherto been into the rough and forbidding territory
lying between the two rivers, and their experiences, of course, were
not available.

Howe and his expedition left Windsor on October 24, 1819, and, after
some strenuous experiences in the ranges, reached the Hunter River on
the 5th of November. On the 17th, after his return home, Howe reported
to the Governor as follows:--


"November 17, 1819.

"I take the liberty to inform your Excellency that I returned to
Windsor on Sunday night last, November 14, after an absence of
twenty-two days in the interior to the north-north-west; that after
travelling through a diversity of country we, on the thirteenth day
from Windsor, fell in with a fine tract of land for cultivation and
grazing which appears to be very extensive. It is situated on the banks
of a fine fresh water river (the Hunter River). We made the river about
2 o'clock in the afternoon. . . .

"I have enclosed for your Excellency's perusal my track out, which, I
trust, will be found as correct as could be taken by means of a pocket
compass and the distance by my watch.

"I have the honour, etc.,


Howe was accompanied by six others, including a local aboriginal. The
following "list of persons who accompanied Mr. Howe" is preserved in
the office of the Chief Secretary of New South Wales at Sydney, and is
in Macquarie's own unmistakable handwriting. The memorandum reads as

"1--George Loder, junr. Free.

"2--John Milward. do.

"3--John Eggleton. Convict.

"4--Charles Berry. do.

"5--Nicholas Connelly. do.

"6--Miles, native guide; and another native who left the party the
second day after it marched from Windsor.

"There were two horses, and each man had a gun and three weeks'

"(Signed) L.M.,

"Parramatta, November 25, 1819."

Howe kept voluminous notes of his distances, directions, and
impressions of the country he passed through in diary form, but his
account of the whole journey is too long for full quotation here, so
we will only glance at his journal of the last couple of days before
reaching his furthest point on the right bank of the Hunter, a mile or
two down the stream from Jerry's Plains.

"Friday, November 5. Breakfasted and got ready for travelling. North to
N.N.E.  mile. N.E. 1/8 mile to pass a gully. North  mile. Went down
a gully to make the creek, which we left yesterday afternoon (?), and
with much difficulty obtained it. N.N.W.  mile. Cross the creek, where
we found a fine valley and thinly timbered about  mile over it, but
widening as we got down. W.N.W. 1 miles. Valley nearly a mile over and
fine ground. I think it equal to Richmond, but not one-half the timber.
N.N.W.  mile. North 1 miles. The valley not so wide as before, the
mountain coming closer in one place. N.E.  mile. North 2 miles to
a fine fresh water river (the Hunter). The last two hours through a
fine country thinly timbered, and for the last hour many acres without
a tree on it. One spot, I think, exceeds 50 acres with not 20 trees
on it, and very fine ground. It is evidently flooded, it having left
the rubbish where the bushes were about breast high, but there is
sufficient high land for stock and buildings. It is the finest sheep
land I have seen since I left England. The tide makes in the river,
though it does not appear to flow as high as where we made it. Resolved
to follow it down till to-morrow night, if not longer. Stop to dinner.
Caught a few perch. A great number in the river. The land on both sides
very fine, and a great part may be cultivated without felling a tree.
Even the high land is well clothed with grass and lightly timbered,
though mostly thicker than the low ground. The grass on the low ground
equals a meadow in England, and will throw as good a swath, and is
like that native grass which is found where old stockyards have been.
In the afternoon, though much fatigued, we took our course down the
river. E.S.E.  mile. N.N.E. 1 miles. At the bottom of the reach a
large bank or beach of gravel, pebbles, and sand. The river widens to
near the width of the Hawkesbury at Windsor, and is very deep. North
1 mile. A rock on the east side of the river and high land, nearly a
mile, sloping to the river. Back ground very fine and little timber,
only a few trees to an acre, and some patches without. Opposite side of
the river, land more level and what timber is on it is of no object. It
may be said to be clear. The high land appears to be  of a mile back,
and that very little timber on it, and the grass very green. As we get
lower down the river appears to have a fall, so that what we took to
be high water mark was only the height of a fresh that we soon found
to be in it, for in this reach we found it had fallen about three or
four feet from a day or two before, and after you leave the fall the
river gets contracted by a large, pebbly, sandy and gravelly beach in
many places to about four rods, with a rapid descent. . . . The river
widens to about the width of the river at Windsor, but it has sand
shoals in it. Stop for the night, and before we could unload the horses
we were surprised by a strange native who, before I could get the one
we had, and knew their tongue, to speak to him, disappeared, and with
all our searching we could not find him. Our natives were much alarmed,
and notwithstanding all I could say, or do, would have shot the poor
creature had they found him. About half an hour afterwards we saw five
cross the river about half a mile below, and come nearly opposite us to
watch us, and left about nightfall. Our natives threatened to leave,
and I detained them till morning, relying on Miles, but even he, poor
fellow, was much alarmed. We kept a strict watch, and after getting an
early breakfast, started.

"Saturday, November 6. S.E. 1 mile. Another fall over a pebbly ford,
came across the tracks of the natives which we suppose to be the five
seen the night before, and the native will proceed no further down
the river; we agreed to go the next reach, and then cross the back of
the country to our entrance into Coomery Roy, the land increasing and
the river widening. The land does not appear to be high flooded; the
highest place I saw did not exceed twelve feet, and that on low land.
The high land, now about one mile back, gradually sloping to the low
land and the reaches of the river, as they open, appear on the banks as
clear farms. I regret very much we could not go further down the river,
but being very poorly in health, consider it more prudent to cross
the land backwards, as by that means we shall see more of the country
generally. E.S.E. about  mile, and the appears to run north."

It was in the following year, 1820, that the district received the
name of "Patrick's Plains," though originally the title was prefixed
with the "Saint." John Howe set out from the Hawkesbury the following
March to try and amplify his discoveries of the previous November,
and following for the most part his former route, reached a position,
on March 17, 1820, somewhere close to the location of the present
Whittingham railway-station. In honour of the day of his arrival in
this promised land, Howe called the country surrounding him "Saint
Patrick's Plains," and although the "Saint" went out of use very many
years ago, the name is still that of the local government shire which
includes the rich territory Howe went and discovered at the behest of
Governor Macquarie.

The present town of Singleton derives its name from the Benjamin
Singleton referred to above. Several members of Howe's party were given
grants of land in the district as a reward for their exertions in
opening it up. Howe got 700 acres (Redbourneberry) and Singleton two
grants of 400 and 200 acres.

It seems, however, that other grants of land were made earlier than
that given to Singleton, since two holdings, "McDougall's Farm" and
"Brown's Farm," are mentioned in the wording of his grant. It is likely
enough that he was in possession of his land before the others got
theirs, his grant being surveyed later than the actual time of his
taking possession. Of other early grants in the neighbourhood, there
are records of John Brown having received 600 acres (Macquarie Place);
James Cobb, 600 acres; and Henry Dangar, 700 acres (Neotsfield).
Singleton lived until May 3, 1853.

Not a great deal is to be found in the Historical Records concerning
John Howe, the pioneer of Patrick's Plains. There was a Francis Howe
who was a private in the New South Wales Corps, and received a grant
of 25 acres on the Hawkesbury, and this man may have been John Howe's
father--though there is no positive proof that he was.

On April 18, 1808, John Howe and other Hawkesbury settlers signed
a petition to Lieut.-Colonel Paterson, asking him to take over the
government of New South Wales. He also signed the settlers' memorial
to the deposed Governor, Captain Bligh, in 1809. On December 29,
1810, John Howe was appointed auctioneer at Windsor in place of the
lately-deceased Andrew Thompson.

In the Directory of 1833 it is announced that John Howe is auctioneer
at Windsor, and also coroner. It is stated elsewhere, on the authority
of Mrs. Mary Araluen Baldwin, daughter of Charles Harpur, the poet,
that John Howe had the following family:--

John Howe, died unmarried.

Frances Howe, married James Doyle.

Kate Howe, married Andrew Doyle.

Elizabeth Howe, married George Dight.

Emma Howe, married John Dight.

Both Doyle and Dight are among the pioneer names of the Hunter Valley,
and many representatives of the families are still living there and in


ALTHOUGH the natural development of the Hunter Valley followed
along the usual Australian pioneering lines--the breeding of stock,
accompanied by some amount of agriculture complementary to such
pursuits--it must not be overlooked that wine-growing played an
important part in it. In the past and the present, the culture of the
grape-vine may be counted as a notable, if subsidiary, factor in the
Valley's progress. And to get Hunter River grape-culture into its
rightful perspective, it is necessary to glance briefly at that of
the rest of the colony. Viticulture even yet does not seem to have
reached the stage of development that might have been expected in
such a country, with such a soil and climate, as Australia, but it
has nevertheless an important place in the story of the growth of the
Commonwealth. The Hunter River Valley contains some of the oldest
wine-growing undertakings in the country.

Grape-vines came to Australia from the Cape of Good Hope in the First
Fleet, and were planted on the subsequent site of Sydney's Botanic
Gardens behind Farm Cove. They were not a success at Port Jackson, but
did better at Parramatta, and in 1791 Governor Hunter reported to the
home authorities that there were eight acres under vines.

In 1800 George Suttor, and in 1817 John Macarthur, brought out European
stocks and established vineyards as commercial undertakings. In 1824
the Australian Agricultural Company included vine-growing amongst the
objects for which it was constituted, though it does not seem to have
troubled itself at any time over the production of wine.

But the most important introduction of stocks was made in 1831-32 by
James Busby, who imported over 1100 varieties from the best French and
Spanish vineyards. About the same time James King, of Irrawang, who
subsequently richly endowed the University ol Sydney with one of its
most valuable scholarships, was growing vines from Spain and France on
the Williams River, not far from its junction with the Hunter. He also
experimented with some from the valley of the Rhine, but not with much
success. In 1838 Jules Joubert brought into the country cuttings from
the Medoc district of France, and a year later H. J. Lindeman founded
the famous Cawarra vineyard on the Paterson River.

Up to the middle of the nineteenth century, New South Wales was the
principal wine-growing province, and three of its pioneer vineyards
are still in production--Kirkton, near Singleton, dating from 1830;
Dalwood, close to Maitland, established about the same time; and
Bukulla in New England. With the development of viticulture in other
parts of Australia we are hardly concerned here, and will confine
ourselves to the Hunter Valley.

A small quantity of very inferior wine was made near Sydney in 1803-4,
and Governor King reported that the industry was unlikely to be a
profitable one. His prediction was falsified, however, a score of
years later, when Gregory Blaxland succeeded in making good wine at
Brush Farm, on the Parramatta River, from South African vines, and was
awarded medals for his efforts by the Royal Society of Arts in England.
And presently Hunter River wines, made by James King at Irrawang,
secured European recognition. This was possibly the first overseas
success of any wine grown in the Hunter Valley.

Captain John Macarthur, founder of wool-growing in Australia, seems to
have been also a pioneer of wine-making in this country. Records of
his early activities are scarce, probably for the reason that he was
away from New South Wales between 1809 and 1817, but he was apparently
the first settler to employ experienced wine dressers, and during his
eight years' absence from the colony he made a study of wine-making
in Europe. On his return to New South Wales he planted several acres
of vines at Camden Park, and afterwards on the bank of the Nepean
River, with such good results that in ten years' time he was producing
somewhere about 20,000 gallons of wine annually.

But for a Hunter River pioneer of viticulture we must turn to James
Busby. He was the second son of John Busby, the civil engineer
responsible for Sydney's first water supply, conveyed to the town
by "Busby's Bore" from the swamps in the area now occupied by the
Centennial Park to the south-east of the city. He was born in Scotland
in 1800, and arrived in New South Wales with his father in 1824. Even
before coming to this country he seems to have envisaged a wine-growing
future for Australia, since, as a preliminary to his setting out for
the antipodes, he made a tour of the Bordeaux district, with the
intention of finding out what could be done with regard to viticulture
in Australia.

Soon after he arrived in Sydney, Governor Brisbane granted him 2000
acres on the Hunter River, which he named "Kirkton," after his
birthplace. In 1825 he entered the civil service, and was appointed
Superintendent of the Male Orphan School at Cabramatta, where he
planted a vineyard which in four years was producing good wine of the
burgundy type.

In the first year of his occupation of this position he published a
manual, in collaboration with his father, called "The Culture of the
Vine and the Art of Making Wine," in which he suggested that every
settler should grow wine for the use of his family and the sale of what
was left over. It is interesting to note that he estimated a man could
trench and prepare one acre a year, and that with an annual cost of 8
until the vines began to bear, the total cost per acre would be 48.

In 1830 he handed over the grant of Kirkton on the Hunter to the care
of his father, and went to Europe expressly to study the vineyards of
France and Spain. On his return two years later he planted at Kirkton
365 varieties of wine and table grapes. But his career in Australia was
only a short one, for in 1833 he took up an administrative post in New
Zealand. His father, John Busby, went to live at Kirkton in 1837, and
died there, at the age of 92, twenty years afterwards.

When cuttings from the vines James Busby planted at Kirkton became
available, viticulture in New South Wales received a stimulus. It was
in 1832 that James King planted his vineyard at Irrawang, near Raymond
Terrace, and in 1843 Dr. Lindeman established one at Cawarra, on the
Paterson, the wines from which made a great name for themselves. John
Wyndham planted his vineyard at Dalwood in 1846, and after that came
the Porphyry vineyard, near Seaham, on the Williams River, planted by
the Carmichael brothers.

It soon became established that the large area watered by the Hunter
River and its tributary streams contained all sorts of soils most
admirably adapted for viticulture, and that the climate and rainfall
of the Valley were all that could be desired by wine-growers for its
successful carrying on. From the Hunter wine-growing became widespread
throughout all parts of Australia, though this means rather that
the Valley is the original home of commercial viticulture in the
Commonwealth than that subsequent effort in such a direction, derived
exclusively from its flats and slopes.

About the middle of 1914 Kirkton vineyard in the Patrick Plains
district was sold, and the following reference to the transfer of this
historic property appeared in "The Sydney Morning Herald" of July 12
in that year.

"The recent purchase of the Kirkton vineyard, in the Hunter Valley
district, by Lindeman, Ltd., centres interest for the moment in one of
the historic spots in this State, and recalls the work of pioneer hands
and the fruitful legacy which they left for later generations to profit
by. Kirkton is not only the oldest vineyard in New South Wales, but the
home of the parent stock from which spread vineyards of the Hunter, and
from stage to stage all over the mother State. It was here that the
late Mr. James Busby, in the year 1830, planted out over 350 varieties
of grape vines, which he imported from France and the Rhine provinces,
with the idea of testing the soil and climate of this country for
their successful cultivation. And from the picked varieties, which
both soil and climate abundantly developed, the whole of the vineyards
in the district were planted. For over 84 years the Kirkton vineyard
has survived the effects of time and change, and to-day there are
still some of the original stock bearing as well as ever they did
over three-quarters of a century ago. Curiously enough, the property
remained in the possession of the one family until the present change,
the effect of which will be to add another 200 acres of vines this year
in adjoining land secured by Lindeman, Ltd., for the purpose. It is
noteworthy that in all these years the Kirkton vineyard was never once
attacked by the diseases which have ravaged and often destroyed other
properties. The sandy nature of the soil in which the pioneers rooted
the mother stock has always happily secured them from phylloxera. It
may be mentioned that this is the fourth vineyard property acquired by
Lindeman, Ltd., along the Hunter Valley within the last four years.
The firm has centres on the Paterson River and along the Murray Valley
round Corowa."

As James Busby was the pioneer viticulturist of the Hunter--possibly in
seniority, certainly in achievement--a few words here about his later
career will not be out of place.

In 1837 Lord Goderich, then Colonial Secretary, appointed him British
Resident in New Zealand, and on May 16, 1837, he landed in the Bay of
Islands to take up his work. There he began his duties as Administrator
of the islands, and performed them faithfully and well until the end of
the decade. And then singular ill-fortune attended him for the rest of
his life, and if ever a man was badly treated by Fate, this pioneer of
Australian wine and New Zealand civil government might well claim that
he was.

In 1839 the New South Wales authorities protested to the Colonial
Office that the payment of Busby's salary wasn't really their affair,
since they got nothing out of his services in New Zealand. However, at
the end of January, 1840, Captain Hobson, R.N., arrived at the Bay of
Islands with a commission appointing him Lieutenant-Governor of the
group, thereby superseding Busby as representative of British rule.

Busby gave Hobson most loyal support and assisted him materially over
the Treaty of Waitangi, that vital New Zealand historical landmark,
obtaining to it the signatures of many influential chiefs.

With an idea of settling permanently in New Zealand, Busby had
purchased from the Maoris, strictly in accordance with their customs,
a block of 40,000 acres of grazing land at Whangarei and 10,000 of
timber country near Auckland, where he had established a saw-mill.
Crossing over to Sydney to buy cattle, he was appalled at finding
that Governor Gipps--mainly on account of W. C. Wentworth's attempted
land-grab of 20,000,000 acres in the South Island--was putting through
the Legislative Council a bill cancelling all existing titles to land
in New Zealand.

In spite of Busby's protests the bill was passed though it was
afterwards vetoed by the Colonial Office because, before it could
become law, New Zealand had been constituted a colony. Rusby returned
to the Bay of Islands, but could get nothing definite as to how he
stood from Captain Hobson, so decided to go to England about it. After
five weary years he returned with his claims still unsatisfied, and
settled down on what land he had.

For ten years or more he published a ceaseless stream of pamphlets on
local affairs, which were very unsatisfactory so far as responsible
government was concerned, and in 1864 returned home to press his
claims to the land he had been done out of, or alternatively to get
compensation. Finally he was awarded 28,000 by arbitrators appointed
in New Zealand--and was cheated out of it by what almost amounted to a
confidence trick.

"The government," says the 'Australian Encyclopaedia,' "not having
so much spare cash, paid him with scrip that would be accepted, it
said, at its face value in payment for any crown lands on sale in
the province of Auckland--whereupon, according to Busby's story, the
superintendent of lands promptly withdrew from sale every block of land
in the province that was of any value."

While visiting England in hope of obtaining some redress for this
manifest piece of sharp practice, Busby died in July, 1871. Better far
for him had he stuck to Patrick's Plains and his pioneer vineyard at


THE lands of the Hunter Valley above the limit of navigation at the
Green Hills (Morpeth) were opened up to settlers about the time of the
departure of Governor Macquarie for England in 1822, and the list of
the first settlers on the river who took up their land between 1821
and 1825 is a long one--too long for quotation here. It was made out
by Mr. Surveyor Dangar in 1827, and contains 263 names. As to the
status of these pioneers of the Valley, the Historical Records and
those in the Lands Department of New South Wales and the office of the
Chief Secretary, as well as the newspapers of the period, show that
a large proportion of them belonged to the mercantile, professional
and leisured classes, most of whom lived in Sydney and worked their
properties through agents or managers.

Twenty-four of these settlers had been given grants by Governor
Macquarie, and several dated back almost to his time, while many of the
others were given to men who afterwards became notable in the history
of the colony. The following biographical notes on some of their number
are contained in a paper contributed to the Journal of The Royal
Australian Historical Society by the late J. F. Campbell in 1926.

William Harper, principal assistant surveyor, seems to have been
engaged with Henry Dangar on the early surveys of the Hunter River
districts, but having become an invalid, and incapable of active field
duty, his application for land received early consideration.

John Howe, chief constable at Windsor, on the Hawkesbury, having
discovered a route between that river and the Hunter Valley, was
rewarded by a licence to graze his stock at Patrick's Plains, and a
few months afterwards by a grant of 700 acres in that neighbourhood.
In 1824 he received an additional allotment of 500 acres higher up the

Of the twenty-four earliest grantees, all but four retained their lands
until secured by deeds of grant, and notable among these was T. M.
W. Winder, a Sydney merchant, who for a little while held a monopoly
in the coal-mining industry at Newcastle, against which Governor
Darling protested to Downing Street. His first grant of 760 acres was
subsequently increased, and eventually he held 4,640 acres of Crown
Lands on the Lower Hunter, some of which he had acquired by purchase.

Henry Dangar, who compiled the list of settlers referred to above,
migrated from England to New South Wales in 1821, and obtained a
position under Government as an assistant surveyor. He was engaged
on surveys in and about the Hunter Valley up to 1827, when, owing to
failure in establishing his claim to a block of land near Segenhoe,
he retired from the civil service. He appealed to the authorities in
England over the Segenhoe business and, whilst engaged in representing
his case in London, published his "Guide to Emigrants," by Henry
Dangar, with a sub-title of "An Index and Directory to His Map of the
Hunter River Valley.'"

About this time the ultimate position of the Australian Agricultural
Company's huge land grant in New South Wales was under consideration,
and Dangar's surveys in connection with the Port Stephens location,
together with his knowledge of the northern region generally, becoming
known to the directors in England, he was selected to assist Sir
Edward Parry in the final adjustment of the grant. After having given
outstanding service as a surveyor to the interests of the company, he
took up pastoral pursuits. In addition to the land he had been granted
in the Hunter Valley, he acquired several stations in the New England
district, including "Gostwyck," near Armidale. His family name has been
prominent ever since those days in the pastoral and mercantile circles
of New South Wales.

There is not much of interest to be told concerning the remainder of
the earlier settlers in the Valley, but some mention may be made of a
few on whose behalf "Orders" were issued.

In 1819, Sarah and Elizabeth Jenkins were permitted by Lord Bathurst,
Secretary of State for the Colonies, to settle in New South Wales.
They sailed from England in the ship "Midas," owned and commanded
by Joseph Underwood, and arrived in Sydney on February 14, 1821. In
March of the same year orders for grants were issued, and they selected
land on a tributary of the Hunter, afterwards named "Muscle Brook"
(Muswellbrook). Their lands lay about three miles east of the site of
the subsequently built town of that name.

Joseph Underwood, merchant and shipowner, was given a grant of 1,500
acres on the river some little distance above Wallis Plains--the grant
was made out in the name of James Mitchell. Underwood's stores were for
long a prominent feature of Lower George Street in Sydney. He was one
of the leading merchants of the capital, and the owner of a number of
trading vessels engaged in the Bass Straits seal fisheries and in the
South Sea Islands.

Dr. Lawrence Halloran was granted an area of 300 acres a little to the
north of the Green Hills (Morpeth), the rights of which he disposed
of to John Cuneene. For some years, assisted by his daughter Laura,
he conducted successfully a boys' school in Sydney, located at the
intersection of Hunter and Phillip Streets.

George and Andrew Loder were allotted grants on Patrick's Plains, but
they were either abandoned or sold prior to the issue of their titles.
Their father, George Loder, Sen., son-in-law of John Howe, was allotted
150 acres close at hand. He and his son afterwards took up a large
station near Quirindi, on the Liverpool Plains (Colley Creek).

Benjamin Singleton's grant became the site of the town of Singleton.
Singleton, Philip Thornley and George Loder, Sen., had accompanied
Howe in his exploration of the Upper Hunter in 1820, as related in a
previous chapter.

During the first few years of settlement in the Valley, there was
any amount of country stretching behind the lands taken up by early
settlers for all the stock grazing in the Valley, but as settlement
increased, additional pastoral land became necessary, especially
during dry seasons. So stockmen began to push over the Dividing Range
above Murrurundi, squatting first of all on the Liverpool Plains, and
afterwards in the New England and Gwydir districts. The northern limit
of the settlement area, "beyond which land was neither sold nor let,"
was first described as bounded by a line from Cape Hawke, due west to
Wellington Vale, but in 1829 it was more definitely described as by the
Manning River to its source on Mount Royal, thence westerly by Mount
Royal and the Liverpool Ranges, "to include all streams, valleys and
ravines which descend to the Goulburn and Hunter's Rivers."

The most important estate of the Hunter Valley in this early period of
its history was the special area granted to Thomas Potter Macqueen,
M.P., of Park Lane in London. In a subsequent chapter the story of
Segenhoe, as he named his property, is dealt with at some length, so it
is not necessary to go into details about it here.

In Lord Bathurst's despatch to Governor Brisbane of August 4, 1823, the
following announcement is made:--

"Francis Forbes, Esq., has been appointed Chief Justice in the new
court, and will immediately proceed to Sydney to enter upon the duties
of his office."

Francis Forbes, the eldest son of the Hon. Francis Forbes, a member of
the Bermuda Legislative Council, was born in the island in 1784. He
arrived in Sydney on March 5, 1824, and acted as Chief Justice up to
the middle of 1837, when he resigned and went home. On his subsequent
return to the colony he became a pastoralist, in partnership with
his brother George, and settled at Skellator on the Hunter River,
near Muswellbrook. In conformity with the regulations then in vogue
respecting grants of land to civil servants, he was allowed 2,560
acres close to the site of the above-mentioned township, with a
frontage to the Musclebrook and the Hunter Rivers. He applied for an
additional area of 10,000 acres in exchange for land he had acquired
in the Bermudas, "which land, on his quitting that colony in 1815, he
had settled upon his mother." The Surveyor-General was instructed to
reserve 10,000 acres on the east and south sides of his grant, whilst
awaiting instructions from the Secretary of State for the Colonies.
His proposal, however, was not sanctioned, but Forbes was allowed to
purchase the land. His name also is included in the lists of licencees
as an occupier of lands beyond the limits outlined above. Knighted
in 1836, before his retirement from the bench, he died in Sydney on
November 6, 1841.

Robert and Helenus Scott landed in the colony on March 8, 1822, and in
April were granted 2,000 acres of land northward of Wallis Plains. They
named their estate "Glendon," and presently applied for an additional
area of 10,000 acres "on the ground that they actually meant, and
had ample means, to cultivate and stock land to that extent." Their
application, which seems for a time to have been pigeon-holed, was
resubmitted on January 3, 1826, on behalf of his brothers, by A. W.
Scott, and received favourable recommendation by Governor Brisbane, who
had returned to England. In his letter to the Secretary of State, Sir
Thomas Brisbane stated that "Mrs. Scott's two sons, already settled
in the colony, had frequently come under his personal observation as
young men of great promise . . . and were of superior education and
acquirements, particularly the elder." The Scott brothers were most
valuable settlers in every respect. Robert Scott died on July 30, 1844,
his brother surviving him for some years.

Dr. James Bowman entered the navy as an assistant-surgeon in 1806, and
was promoted to the rank of surgeon in the following year. He served in
that rank until 1814, when he was placed on half-pay. He was appointed
surgeon at Hobart in 1817, but when he arrived in Sydney found that
his appointment was not recognised, because no official notification
of it had been made to the colonial authorities. He returned home in
1819, and, after submitting his case to Lord Bathurst, was appointed
principal surgeon in New South Wales, vice Surgeon D'Arcy Wentworth,
who had resigned.

In applying for a land grant--he was allotted one a little distance
above Patrick's Plains--he stated that he required a grant
"commensurate with the stock he had acquired with his wife, the second
daughter of John Macarthur, whom he had recently married." When the
Australian Agricultural Company was formed in 1824, Dr. Bowman was
appointed a member of the local committee of management, and filled
the position until the arrival of Sir Edward Parry, the company's

Commander William Ogilvie, R.N., of "Merton," near Muswellbrook,
applied for an extension of his grant on July 20, 1828, when he stated
that was "an officer of thirty-four years' standing in His Majesty's
Navy, twenty-seven of which he had been a lieutenant, having obtained
his promotion to that rank when a midshipman of the 'St. George,'
Lord Nelson's flagship at the Battle of Copenhagen, for his services in
the boats on that memorable day."

He had come to New South Wales in 1825, with his wife and family, and
had been granted 2,000 acres, being allowed to reserve 4,000 more
adjoining it for purchase. He was appointed Resident Magistrate of the
Upper Hunter district, and was nominated a member of the Legislative
Council on February 1, 1829. In his official capacity he took a
prominent part in keeping the blacks in order and in the suppression
of bushranging. Having applied for further grants of land in view of
the increase of his flocks and herds, and being refused, he crossed the
Liverpool Ranges and "squatted" in the Gwydir district.

George Lang, a brother of the Rev. Dr. John Dunmore Lang, of the Scots'
Church in Sydney, arrived in the colony in 1821, and immediately
received a grant of 400 acres from Governor Macquarie. He obtained
a further grant of 1,000 acres on the Hunter River from Sir Thomas
Brisbane, not far from the Green Hills (Morpeth). He had been employed
in the Commissariat Department, but resigned at the end of 1824, and
settled on his Hunter River estate. He died on January 18, 1825, but
the property remained in the family, and was managed by his surviving
brother, Andrew Lang.

Captain Francis Allman, who had come out in command of a convict
transport's military guard in the ship "Minerva," landed in Sydney
at the end of April, 1818. In March, 1821, he was appointed Commandant
of the new convict settlement at Port Macquarie, to which place he was
required to effect the transportation of the convicts hitherto located
at Newcastle. Three years later he became Commandant at Newcastle, and
held the position until it was abolished in 1826. He was then given
command of the police force. For some time he was Police Magistrate in
Illawarra, and in 1834 became P.M. at Goulburn Plains. He was granted
2,560 acres nearly opposite the site of Muswellbrook, to which he added
640 acres by purchase. He was also indirectly interested in squatting
enterprises in the New England district.

James Mudie, of "Castle Forbes," was so notoriously a bad master of
assigned convict servants, that he deserves a chapter to himself. He
may be taken, perhaps, as the very worst type of wealthy class of
settlers in New South Wales in this period--but by no means does he
stand alone. The story of the settlement of the Hunter Valley would be
incomplete without some detailed reference to this cruel and tyrannical
master of convict labour. It was men like Mudie who distorted the
intended benevolences of "the System" into hopelessness and misery for
the unfortunate men who became subject to their sadistic control.


CONTINUING these brief notes relating to some of the pioneers of
the Hunter Valley, we come to a memorial sent to Governor Gipps by
Lieutenant James Reid under date of March 24, 1838, in which he informs
His Excellency that "he emigrated to the colony in the year 1823, being
then a lieutenant upon half pay." He states, also, that he brought
with him an order from Earl Bathurst to Governor Brisbane that a grant
of land should be given to him if the Governor approved. As he was
prepared to maintain twenty convicts as labourers for ten years, the
Governor allotted him a grant of 2,000 acres on the Hunter, situated
between Newcastle and the Green Hills (Morpeth). He asked in the
memorial for a second grant of land, pointing out that on an allotment
he had been given in the town of Newcastle he had erected buildings
valued at 2,000. His claim was not allowed, but he acquired a fairly
large estate by purchase.

Amongst the more notable pioneers of the Hunter were Coloney Henry
Dumaresq, of St. Hillier's, near Muswellbrook, and Edward Gostwyck
Cory, of "Gostwyck" on the Paterson River. Others were Captain W. J.
Dumaresq, of "St. Aubin's," near Scone, Surgeon W. B. Carlyle, R.N.,
of "Invermien," in the same neighbourhood, and Lieutenant J. J. Cory,
R.N., of "Coryvale" on the Paterson.

"The Sydney Gazette" of May 5, 1825, has something to say of another
early settler on the Lower Hunter--Captain William Powditch.

"Mr. Powditch, who was formerly commander of that fine large ship, the
'Royal George,' in which His Excellency, Sir Thomas Brisbane, and
family came to our shores, is well known since that period to have
emigrated hither. Mr. Powditch some months ago imported a valuable
cargo of merchandise, and temporarily occupied a residence in Pitt
Street, which now he has abandoned for a charming retreat in the
vicinity of Hunter's River."

A month later, "The Australian" mentions that:

"William Powditch, having himself experienced the great want of a
store or general warehouse at Newcastle for the supply of the Hunter
River settlers, has determined upon opening a house of that nature
immediately upon his allotment at Newcastle. . . . The business will
be conducted by Mr. Frederick Boucher, under the firm of 'Powditch and

Lieutenant Vickers Jacobs, an officer of the Honourable East India
Company, comes in for a little unfavourable comment in a dispatch of
Governor Brisbane's dated September 3, 1823.

"Lieutenant Jacobs, an officer of the East India Company, certainly
did arrive in Sydney, under the pretence of ill health, but in
reality with a mercantile speculation. His brother officers, of whom
there were many at the time convalescent in Sydney, shunned him, and
publicly upbraided his unnatural alliance of the soldier and the
shopkeeper. . . . Mr. Jacobs has been allowed to make choice of an
allotment in the town of Newcastle, and he has been given the temporary
occupation of 2,000 acres of land . . . to be converted into a grant
provided Mr. Jacobs remains in the colony."

Jacobs resigned from the H.E.I. Company, and was eventually given
possession of his 2,000 acres.

J. P. Webber, Justice of the Peace, was granted 2,000 acres on the
right bank of the Paterson River, not far from the Green Hills
(Morpeth), and later on 720 acres were added to it. He made an
application subsequently to the Secretary of State for a further grant
of 2,560 acres, but did not get it.

In 1822 Timothy Nowlan came out from Ireland to be a free settler in
Van Diemen's Land, with the intention of going in for experimental
sheep-breeding. But as he was not satisfied with the land allotted to
him in the island, he applied in 1823 to Governor Brisbane for a grant
in New South Wales. He was given a provisional allotment on the Hunter
River, and was informed that he would be allowed another 2,000 acres if
his experiments were successful. The land was situated some distance
back from the right bank of the Paterson. Eventually he applied for,
and was granted, a lease of the land for seven years. When the time was
up, and he had been given notice to quit, he renewed his application
for a grant, which was finally allowed him. He was also permitted to
purchase the 3,800 acres reserved for lease in the first instance.

"The Australian" of November 10, 1825, prints an item of news
which illustrates the dangers of pioneering at this early period
of settlement in the Hunter Valley. It is a contribution from a
correspondent at Patrick's Plains, somewhere about the present site of

"Patrick's Plains,

"Hunter River,

"October, 1825.

"On the morning of the 28th ult., a Mr. Forsyth and a Mr. Allen called
at the hut of Mr. John (James) Greig, a settler, to breakfast, and
on their entering the hut, they found Mr. Greig a corpse, lying on
the ground with his head beaten to a mummy, and, as his stockman was
absent, and has not since been heard of, there is reason to believe
that the poor fellow has shared the late of his master. Two other
stockmen have been speared, and a man of Captain Pike's narrowly
escaped being murdered by them (the blacks) owing to the arrival of
two men, who found him in the act of struggling with the native for a
spear. . . .

"Mr. Greig was a respectable and industrious settler, and was one of
the owners of the brig 'Amity,' in which vessel he arrived in this
country from Scotland about eighteen months ago."

William Dun was allotted an area of 1,300 acres on the Paterson, a
little way below the site of the subsequent township, and applied for
a further grant to bring it up to 2,000 acres. His application has a
curious though worthy reason for its lodging.

"At the time the land was given to me," he says, "Newcastle was a
penal settlement, and in the district there were only three or four
settlers, and many Government cedar parties, and they were under so
little control on a Sunday that, at the request of Major Morrisset,
the Commandant at Newcastle, I collected the prisoner settlers, and
these men, as well as many of the cedar parties, on a Sunday, about
five miles from my residence, and performed divine service to them. For
this duty, which I continued to perform for upwards of two years, I
considered the land as given to me."

The author of one of the best books written about this period--"Two
Years in New South Wales"--was one of the early Hunter River settlers.
This was Surgeon Peter Cunningham, R.N. He had a grant of 2,560 acres,
and applied for an additional area--the estate was on the outskirts of
Patrick's Plains. His application affords some interesting information
with regard to the pastoral quality of his holding. He says that "he
had 600 sheep and 120 cattle and horses, and that the carrying capacity
of his land was at the rate of three acres to a sheep, or ten acres per
head of cattle"; also, that his stock doubled every three years. He
states that "stock has depreciated in value 400 per cent, within the
last four years."

Dr. Francis Moran arrived in the colony on May 31, 1822, and three
months later was given a position as assistant surgeon on the medical
staff. He received a grant of 1000 acres on the Hunter almost
immediately, but sold it to H. Osburne, in whose name the deeds were
issued. He was stationed at Port Macquarie for several years, and on
his return to the Hunter practised his profession at Wallis Plains

In the first period of settlement conditions were peaceful in the
Valley, but it was hardly five years old when bushranging broke out
within its territories. This account of the worst outbreak of the time
is taken from "The Australian" newspaper in July, 1825.

"On Friday, the 1st instant, Mr. Reid brought Mr. Jacobs's shepherd
before Captain Allman and Mr. Close for neglect of duty, and for being
deficient four wethers which he could not in any manner account for,
in consequence of which those magistrates sentenced the shepherd to
receive a corporal punishment of fifty lashes, and to be returned to
government employ. On his way to Newcastle, he effected his escape
from the constable who had him in charge, and that night, or early
next morning, stole three mares and two colts from Mr. Reid's, and on
the Monday morning at seven o'clock, just as Mr. Vicar Jacobs's men
had been ordered to the different employments on the farm, and all of
them had gone excepting two, this shepherd, by name Reiby, and these
two, rushed into the house, seized the overseer, tied his hands behind
his back, and then to one of the verandah posts . . . and after having
secured him they seized two muskets and a sabre . . . and proceeded to
where each of the other two men were, and having tied them to trees,
they plundered the house of blankets, provisions, and other articles
likely to be of service to them. Very fortunately, however, one of them
got himself disengaged in the course of two hours, and then liberated
the rest; when the overseer immediately ran to my (McLeod's) farm
and informed me of the whole occurrence. . . . We traced the horses
to the top of a mountain about eight miles distant, where we found
them tethered and almost the whole of the articles plundered from Mr.
Jacobs's concealed under fallen trees. . . . Last night they robbed Mr.
D. Mazier's overseer of two muskets, and all the ammunition he had, and
all his provisions.

"August 4th.--Recent advices from the settlement at Newcastle state
that the bushrangers in that neighbourhood are increasing in number,
and are continuing their outrages with a good deal of success. . . .
Respecting these desperadoes, five men have absconded from Mr.
Boughton's farm at Paterson's Plains, for the purpose of joining Mr.
Jacobs's men. One man has run from Mr. Cobb's farm, and one from the
town of Newcastle.

"Eight soldiers, accompanied by black natives, have been sent in
pursuit of them.

"Lieutenant Hicks' farm has been visited by them and stripped of
provisions, firearms, etc. . . . Mr. McClymant's farm has also been
plundered by them.

"On the 26th ult. . . . the bushrangers were traced by a party of
natives to a brush above the farm of Mr. Cory, Senr., at Paterson's
Plains, and a party of soldiers stationed there, accompanied by three
constables, went in pursuit of them.

"August 6th.--The day before yesterday I had the pleasure in informing
you that Mr. Jacobs's Irish brigade was, by the active and praiseworthy
exertions of Mr. R. Scott, the magistrate at Patrick's Plains, in
custody, and that the arrival of the party was hourly expected here,
when they would be in safe keeping. I now regret to acquaint you that
after Mr. Scott had handed them over to a party of the military at
Wallis Plains (a corporal and four privates, and a constable), these
suffered themselves to be surprised by their prisoners, although the
prisoners had handcuffs on. The prisoners took from the soldiers
unresistingly five muskets, ammunition, all their provisions, clothing,
etc. They went to O'Donnel's farm . . . and then proceeded on their
march. The party now consisted of Mr. Jacobs's four men, one of Mr.
Mudie's men, and a servant of Dr. Moran. . . .

"August 11.--The desperadoes, who have given so much annoyance at
Wallis and Paterson's Plains, are at length taken. . . ."

Runaway convict bushrangers gave much trouble to pioneer families in
their homesteads, and by plundering and killing their stock, but the
native blacks, also, were an occasional source of danger. In 1826
the following outrages were committed by the aborigines, chiefly in
the Upper Hunter district. R. Scott and A. McLeod, Justices of the
Peace, made the following joint statements regarding their hostile
attitude--one which, no doubt, had been wantonly provoked by the
conduct toward them of convict settlers and absconders.

"It is our opinion that the first cause of ill-blood originated in
a communication between the Mudgee blacks and those on Hunter's
River. . . . Several acts of aggression were committed, such as food
and clothes being forcibly obtained from some of the lone stock
stations; for instance, Mr. Onus' station at Wollombi Brook. . . .
Then followed several petty robberies on single individuals, while
travelling the long and lonely road from Dr. Bowman's upwards, such as
stripping them of their clothes and provisions. . . .

"Mr. Greig and his shepherd soon after were murdered without any
apparent cause, unless Mr. Greig's known aversion to having the natives
about him might have excited their hatred. The same tribe who committed
this murder, fearful of our vengeance, removed, together with the
Wallumbi natives, into the mountains, and then again they were guilty
of another atrocity by murdering one man and dreadfully lacerating
another. This happened at Mr. Laycock's station. . . . The mounted
police now arrived and were called into action in consequence of an
attack by the natives on Mr. John Forbes' station, when one of his men
was speared in the shoulder. . . .

"Shortly after this Dr. Bowman's stockman was attacked, and stripped
quite naked in the bush, and a day or two afterwards the same
gentleman's watchman was murdered in his hut. . . A few days afterwards
the same natives went to James Chilcott's farm and attempted by force
to plunder the house. One of the natives, named Cato, had a struggle
with Chilcott for a gun, when a general engagement took place, and the
natives were beaten off without the loss of any lives, the white people
only firing at their legs. . . .

"The house of Mr. Ogilvie (the Resident Magistrate), during his
absence, was attacked by a large body of blacks . . . and in
consequence of Mrs. Ogilvie's judicious and spirited conduct, the
natives retired without doing any further harm than stealing a quantity
of maize from the house. Then followed a daring and most shocking
attack on Mr. Lethbridge's farm, when the hut was suddenly surrounded
and two men killed and one wounded, before they had time to defend
themselves. The fourth man was severely wounded while defending the
hut, after the others had fallen, his wife and two children having been
sheltered under the bed during the attack. The natives succeeded in
plundering the huts adjacent, and retired in consequence of one of the
shepherds having run towards Mr. Glennie's. The mounted police went in
pursuit. . . . Subsequent to this, another attack was made upon five
fencers in the employ of Dr. Bowman, who, while at work, were alarmed
by their dog barking. They fired upon the blacks, and, it is supposed,
wounded one."

All this, according to the magistrates, had happened within the
previous ten months.


OF the early Governors of New South Wales, one of the most popular,
benevolent and successful in administration was Lieutenant-General
Sir Richard Bourke, K.C.B., Governor-General from 1831 to 1837. But
he had his troubles and annoyances, and one of the worst of these was
connected with the man whose name, with that of his estate at Patrick's
Plains on the Hunter, makes a heading for this chapter.

James Mudie had at one time held a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in
the Royal Marines, from which distinguished corps he seems to have
been permitted to retire under some sort of a cloud. He then went into
partnership with certain booksellers in a speculation for manufacturing
medals of the chief actors in the Peninsular campaign and the brief
one that ended with the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo. The production
of the medals having been delayed until the people they portrayed had
been almost dropped from public interest, Mudie and his associates in
the business had to go through the bankruptcy courts, from which he was
eventually discharged as a certified insolvent. Out of this connection
with the production of medals, Mudie acquired the nickname of "Major
Medallion," which, after a time, became abbreviated to that of "the
Major." Afterwards, in New South Wales, the owner of Castle Forbes was
sometimes alluded to as "the Major" by people who were ignorant of
the fact that he had no pretensions to any military title at all save
the plain "Esquire" that might be supposed to go with his status as a
retired junior subaltern officer.

He got into very low water after his bankruptcy, but had the good
fortune to be befriended by a benefactor--Sir Charles Forbes--who
assisted him to emigrate with his family to New South Wales.

On his arrival, with letters of introduction from his patron, he
applied for a land grant and obtained a very good one at Patrick's
Plains, which, with a decency he seldom otherwise exhibited, he
named after the man who had come to his assistance in the period of
his distress. In a few years his holding developed extensively, and
was considered of sufficient importance by the Department of the
Comptroller of Convicts to permit of his being assigned the slave
labour of between 40 and 50 prisoners of the Crown.

Mudie was a veritable "nigger driver," and contrived to exact from his
assigned servants the maximum of labour at the lowest cost to himself
for rations and clothing. He had unpleasant theories regarding the
meaning of transportation and prison discipline. The extension to the
unfortunates in his employment of any sort of indulgence was not to
be considered for a moment, and he had no high-minded notions about
reformation. He regarded lasting punishment as the well-deserved lot
of all who had gone astray or offended against the social code. He
always acted as though the unsparing use of the cat-o'-nine-tails was
the only way in which convicts should be treated, and more than once
expressed an opinion that men who had been prisoners should never be
forgiven--even after they had finished their sentences.

Dr. West, the historian of early Van Diemen's Land, drew a contrast
between Mudie and other employers of assigned labour.

"According to Mudie's doctrine," he said, "They (the convicts) were
sent to New South Wales to be punished; such was his theory. Mudie
spoke of the men he employed in the tone of an executioner: 'Nothing
could wash away their guilt or obliterate its brand.' James Macarthur
(of Camden Park) describes his own plan as the reverse. He knew that a
severe gaoler could not be esteemed as a good master. He endeavoured to
make his servants forget that they were convicts."

Mudie "made no bones" about acknowledging his ideas concerning the
treatment of convicts. In the spiteful, lying and vindictive volume
he published on returning to England--"The Felonry of New South
Wales"--he thus avows his miserable sentiments:

"Regarding their (the convicts') punishment as a means of deterring
other persons in England from the commission of similar crimes, the
prolongation of the punishment is justified even in cases in which the
reformation may have already been accomplished."

This delightful gentleman practised what he preached. It lay in his
hands for years--this power of enforcing his acknowledged doctrines.
Tickets-of-leave were rarely won by the unhappy beings who toiled
for him at Castle Forbes--"the high-sounding name that," says a
contemporary commentator, "in compliment to his benefactor, Mudie
bestowed upon a number of detached slab-huts and rickety wigwams
huddled together in his establishment." Flogging was perpetual on his
station--with the natural result that the outraged feelings, moral as
well as physical, of his wretched serfs found expression in desperate
acts of insubordination and reprisal.

The most flagrant instance of this breeding of violent crime in its
history whilst under the domination of this damnable fellow took place
when five of his men, goaded beyond endurance, absconded from Castle
Forbes and "took to the bush." They tried to shoot his son-in-law,
John Larnach, who acted as his superintendent, but does not seem to
have been quite so heartlessly callous to suffering in others as his
employer. After being hunted for some time by the mounted police, they
were at length captured and committed for trial in Sydney. Sir Roger
Therry, afterwards a Supreme Court judge in New South Wales, gives
in his "Reminiscences" details of the case of the five doomed men in
which, acting for their defence, he was himself engaged.

"Convicts on their trial for capital offences," he says, "were usually
unprovided with counsel; they had seldom (except cattle-stealers, who
were a wealthy tribe of robbers) means to defray the cost of a defence.
In such cases as the trial of aboriginal natives, Government defrayed
the expense of counsel for the prisoners; but this provision did not
extend to convicts. There was at this time, however, a benevolent
person in Sydney, possessed of ample means, who, on condition only
that his name should not be disclosed, defrayed the cost of counsel in
several trials of convicts on capital charges; and on this occasion it
happened to me to be thus employed as counsel for Mudie's men.

"The trial presented a truly painful exhibition. The men took their
places in the dock, and I took mine at the bar, in utter hopelessness
of their escape from conviction. They had repeatedly declared before
the trial, and afterward, that they would prefer death to being
returned to the service of their late employer. Evidence of their guilt
was too transparent to admit of doubt; and the only line of defence,
that I conceived in any way available for them, was to show that their
treatment had been such as to present some mitigating features which
might lead to the infliction of a punishment short of death. By this
course, no doubt, I greatly displeased Mudie, and all who identify
the duties of counsel with his private opinions, and look upon him as
the approver of the crime, and not the mere defender of the criminal.
The men were tried under a local ordinance, called 'The Bushrangers'
Act,' which rendered them liable to execution twenty-fours hours
after sentence. They were found 'Guilty'; and then ensued such a scene
in court as is not likely again to be enacted in New South Wales, or,
it may be hoped, anywhere.

"On being called upon in the usual solemnity of form to say why
sentence of death should not be pronounced upon them, Hitchcock, the
most intelligent of the five men, said he had no ground to offer, but
he implored the Government to institute an inquiry into their past
treatment; the floggings they had undergone; the frivolous excuses
resorted to for the purpose of depriving them of their liberty after
they had served a period that entitled them to its partial enjoyment,
by being granted tickets-of-leave; the bad and insufficient food
they had received; the system of merciless infliction of the lash
throughout the district of the Hunter River. On behalf of the convict
population he implored this act of justice and of mercy. He proceeded
to denounce by name the proprietors on whose establishments he alleged
that floggings were incessant. Hitchcock was stopped by the Court, and
he concluded by requesting permission that he and his fellow prisoners
might be permitted to exhibit their lacerated backs to the public
gaze in Court, to show what torture they had endured. This request,
of course, could not be complied with; the fatal sentence was passed,
and they were executed. The Solicitor-General (Mr. Plunkett) humanely
forbore to insist on their execution in twenty-four hours after the
sentence, and assented to their having a reasonable time to prepare for

The unhappy victims of Mudie's callous brutality were all young,
healthy men whose ages varied between twenty and thirty-two. One was
a first-class carpenter and two others were mechanics. "The whole
scene," says Therry, "caused a shudder that thrilled, not only through
the Court, but through the heart of the Colony. They died with the
same expression of complaint on their lips as those to which they gave
utterance on the trial."

Sir Richard Bourke caused an inquiry to be held, and it was conducted
by two trustworthy civil officials, who condemned utterly the manner
in which assigned servants were treated at Castle Forbes. But this, of
course, did nothing for the five lads dead of the hangman's ropes and
rotting in their graves, with only the odium cast upon their oppressor
to compensate for the hard and cruel end their servitude had brought

Mudie was much in the limelight during his Australian career, and
that searching illumination brings out little that is likeable in his
reputation or his career. He took a prominent part in persecuting a
ticket-of-leave man who was a sort of sub-editor, or second-in-command,
of "The Sydney Gazette." Watt had come to light as the writer of a
pamphlet entitled "Humanitas," and as the author of several articles
in the "Gazette" dealing severely with the unpaid magistracy
as a whole and with Mudie in particular. To some extent Watt was
victorious, being acquitted more than once of vindictive charges which
Mudie trumped up against him--but for the sake of peace and quiet
the Governor exiled him to Port Macquarie, where he was accidentally
drowned soon after his arrival.

The rest of Mudie's life was as discreditable as his association with
the estate of Castle Forbes. Soon after the trials mentioned above he
returned to England, and was a witness before a Parliamentary Select
Committee on Transportation in 1835. His evidence was so spiteful
and prejudiced that some of it was directed to be expunged from the
records, and other parts of it were contradicted in the press and

He came back to New South Wales later on, but found himself virtually
"in Coventry" amongst the better class of colonists. After a short
stay in Sydney, in which he found bad trouble, he went home again,
unregretted by anyone, but leaving behind him a reputation, in the
Hunter Valley particularly, that was wholly unenviable.

Before he finally left Sydney he was publicly horsewhipped in George
Street by a son of the Attorney-General, Mr. Kinchela, whose deafness
Mudie had ridiculed in "The Felonry of New South Wales" in a pretty
heartless fashion. He underwent a severe drubbing at the young man's
hands, and was moved thereby to bring an action for assault against
his castigator. The jury awarded him 50 damages, but young Kinchela's
drastic treatment of the "Major" was so popularly acclaimed that
both damages and costs were immediately paid in the Court-room by a
subscription taken up on the spot.

Mudie's book, referred to above, "The Felonry of New South Wales,"
although suppressed for a time on account of the manifold libels
it contained, was published in London in 1837, and while to anyone
acquainted with historical facts in New South Wales at this period it
is a spiteful, vindictive and misleading piece of work, is nevertheless
eminently readable and has some value as an historical document. This
is the case if only because it shows how men of Mudie's sort--and there
were others like him in New South Wales in the second quarter of the
nineteenth century--could regard the unfortunate convicts who had been
sent to these shores, theoretically at anyrate, to give them a chance
of making something of their lives that would have been entirely denied
them in Great Britain. It is undeniably clever, even if disgustingly
malicious. After reading it there is little difficulty in recognising
how natural it was that even the comparatively few people to be found
in a law court on a given day would be eager to put their hands in
their pockets to pay the damages and costs given against any man who
had horsewhipped such a fellow as James Mudie.

There must still be many people in the Hunter Valley who, like the
writer, can recall impressions received from his contemporaries as to
what an unsavoury person he must have been, the Squire of Castle Forbes.

There is an extremely rare book--it may be seen in the Mitchell Library
at Sydney--in which James Mudie, Esquire, attempts to gild James Mudie.
It is cleverly unconvincing, though well worth reading. Here is the
title-page of the little volume, which was printed by "Monitor" Hall in
1834. Hall can be well imagined accepting the job with his tongue in
his cheek.



James Mudie and John Larnach 
from certain reflections on their conduct
contained in letters addressed to them respectively 
Through the


By order of

Relative to the treatment by them of



Printed by E. S. Hall, George Street

September, 1834

It is as readable, and unreliable, as "The Felonry of New South
Wales," confirming every idea one might be inclined to entertain as
to James Mudie being a specious rogue and an unmitigated liar.


ABOUT the time when the Crimean War was in full swing, and ladies wore
crinolines and braided their hair in nets, a little red-headed boy of
twelve waited at the old Highland Home Inn for the coach to Morpeth,
which would be due at Wingen from Murrurundi by breakfast time. A
desolate little lad he was, for it was the beginning of term, and he
was going back to The King's School at Parramatta, and the occasion, as
it always was and always will be to small boys, whether they travel by
four-horse coach or aeroplane, was a melancholy one.

Down the road that led up the wooded valley past the Burning Mountain
to Warland's Range, along the she-oak shaded Kingdon Ponds Creek,
would presently clatter and trundle, its team at a canter, the great
lumbering vehicle, boot bulging with mail-bags and passengers' luggage,
that was to bear him away from freedom and deposit him in the old
Hunter River port of embarkation near East Maitland, where the wondrous
steam-packet would navigate him down to Sydney and servitude, and
Parramatta and punishments, if he didn't work hard and comport himself
with circumspection. All too swiftly had the holidays slipped away here
in the ranges bordering Page's River, all too swiftly would the coach's
four horses haul him away from the cattle to the class-room--from the
delights of liberty to the doleful contingencies of discipline. In the
space of three days--so swift and speedy had travelling become in these
latter years--the things that were worth while have given place to the
things that were worthless and of no account. Very naturally, he was
not happy.

The coach came, and side-whiskered gentlemen in peg-top trousers and
top-hats got down from the roof and emerged from its interior, and
went inside to eat pork chops and peach jam on thick slabs of bread
and butter, whilst the one haughty but beautiful lady passenger lifted
her wide hoops, displaying a pretty ankle as she tripped across the
verandah of the inn to the dining-room, and captivated the amatory
sensibilities of sundry bearded and sunburnt men whose present
occupation, even at this early hour, was the consumption of Jimmy
Hyde's bad rum in his evil-smelling, low-ceiled bar-room across the
passage. The little boy carried his carpet-bag to the coach, much
cheered by the warm welcome accorded him by driver Peter Malone, who,
having already broken his fast in Murrurundi, sat upon the box, holding
the reins loosely in his big and powerful right hand, and smoking a
short and grimy clay pipe that stuck out of his hairy features like a
little chimney.

"Climb up here, Johnny-boy," he said. "I tole y'r mother I'd keep a
seat for ye. Well, then, it's th' lucky kiddy ye are--for to be a-goin'
back to school. I never had no schoolin' at all--on'y what I larnt in
th' brandin' yards, an' roun' th' cow-bail, and in th' flamin' stables.
Stiffen me, Johnny, ye did ought to be as jolly as a piccaninny with
all them there hadvantages. Don't tell me ye hain't!"

So Johnny-boy climbed up--maybe a little sceptical as to the advantages
he was supposed to be enjoying, but manfully unwilling to correct Mr.
Malone--and presently they drove off. The Northern Road might be a via
dolorosa to him that morning, but Peter Malone would not know it.
So he pretended to burst his sad little heart with joy, and laughed
uproariously at Peter's broad and clumsy witticisms.

Down past Captain's Lagoon and Cressfield--it was from Cressfield,
over a century ago, that Dr. Little discovered the Burning Mountain at
Wingen--and across the long flats on old St. Aubin's station, leaving
the Black Mountain on their near hind wheel, and they came to the
Golden Fleece Hotel in Scone, where they changed horses, and whence
they presently drove on through Segenhoe to Muswellbrook. Here again
they changed horses--the coaches were well-horsed, and liberally, in
1855. "Boshy" Nowland had the mail contract, and though he was reckoned
"a bit of a nailer," there was nothing mean about the way he dragged
his coaches up and down the Valley. Cobb and Co. hadn't yet arrived on
the old North Road.

Segenhoe was a famous place in those days. The old hands called it
Seej'nhoe, with the accent on the first syllable. Ten years and more,
it was, since Mrs. Potter Macqueen, its owner's beautiful wife, had
queened it there, the handsomest and haughtiest lady in the Valley.
It used to be said--though whether truthfully or not the writer does
not know, that she had run away with a medical man from Muswellbrook,
leaving on her husband's hands the immense bath-tub, carved out of a
solid block of Carara marble, specially imported from Italy by her
doting spouse, in which she used to bathe in milk for the good of her
skin and complexion. Tradition had it also that the milk was afterwards
handed over to the convict servants for their consumption. The bath is
still at Segenhoe, where we will take a closer look at it in the next

And so on down the valley to Patrick's Plains, and thence through the
Maitlands to Morpeth, goes little red-headed Johnny on his way back to
The King's School--and now we will take a look at the Valley Road as it
was twenty years before that sad occasion.

"The New South Wales Calendar and General Post Office Directory" for
the year 1833 gives an itinerary of roads "leading to various parts of
the colony." The old North Road crossed the Hawkesbury at Wiseman's
Ferry, traversing the mountain ranges separating the two rivers, and
came into the Hunter Valley on Patrick's Plains. We will follow it up
the Valley from the present position of Singleton to where the town of
Murrurundi lies below the point at which it crosses the Dividing Range
and descends on to the Liverpool Plains. Reprinted in full--though not
exactly in the same form as it is presented in the "calendar," the
description runs:--

"Here (at 137 miles from Sydney) it branches off, the one track going
straight to the Twickenham Meadows, and more particularly to Merton,
the residence of William Ogilvie, J.P., and the farm of Dr. Peter
Cunningham, the author of 'Two Years' Residence in New South Wales.'
These farms are about 25 miles from Glennies'. The other track turns
to the south, crossing the Hunter at Blaxland's and Doyle's farms,
and continuing upwards, along the bank of the Hunter, it crosses the
Goulburn a little above its confluence with the Hunter and follows the
course of Gungai Brook, being the road to Gammon Plains, Bow Plains,
Waibong, etc.

"To the south of the confluence are some small farms, and the grants
of Greig, Doyle and Wilkinson, and a curious valley called Carter's
Valley, through which flows a chain of ponds. To the north, as far
down the Hunter as Muscle Brook, the whole of the land is located--the
track is known as Twickenham Meadows: the soil is a fine red loam, of
such great depth, and although it is very fertile in wet seasons, in
dry ones it becomes a desert. At 147 cross a chain of ponds, forming a
creek that has no other name; the water is very brackish. At 150, one
mile on the left is the marked line for the new North Road. 154--farms
of the Misses Jenkins. 155--enter the estate of Chief Justice Forbes.
156--cross Muscle Brook, and enter a village reserve.

"To the left (157), about a quarter of a mile, Muscle Brook enters the
Hunter, and a little further down the new road will cross that river.
From this neighbourhood there is a track extending north-westerly to
the Waibong. Crosses St. Helier's Brook at 160, and enters the estate
of Colonel Dumaresq. On the left (161) is the house of St. Helier's,
the residence of Colonel Dumaresq, remarkable for the beauty of its
situation and the elegance of the house, and a little further up, the
Dart Brook joins the Hunter from the west.

"164--enter the village reserve extending to 165, where you ford the
Hunter and enter the lands of Messrs. Dangar and Macintyre." (This
would be the present position of Aberdeen.) "One mile up the Hunter,
Segenhoe, the magnificent estate of Potter Macqueen, Esq., commences,
containing 24,000 acres, and extending about six miles up the Hunter
and about eight miles up Page's Creek. Enough has been said of the
park-like scenery of the Hunter, but nothing in the colony, if taken as
a whole, can compare with Segenhoe.

"Further up the Hunter lies the beautiful estate of Belltrees, the
property of H. C. Semphill, Esq., J.P., possessing the unusual
advantage of having nine miles of river frontage embedded in a
beautiful amphitheatre, through which the Hunter winds, approached by
a romantic pass between two conical-shaped mountains; the lands being
left in equal parts on both sides of the river, thereby dividing them
between the counties of Durham and Brisbane.

"Further up the Page are the grants of Messrs. Stewart and White, at
Gunda Gunda (Gundy), and a recent selection of 13,000 acres made by
Hart Davis, Esq. The road continues through St. Germain's Meadows,
167. On the left is the confluence of Dart Brook with the Kingdon
Ponds, 171. On the left is the bridle track to Liverpool Plains. This
track first crosses Kingdon Ponds, then enters Holdsworthy Downs, then
crosses Dart Brook to the estate of John Bingle, Esq., J.P., consisting
of many purchased farms."

The town of Scone is situated in this neighbourhood.

"The track now follows the course of Dart Brook, through the grants of
Messrs. Scales and Bell, and about 184 miles from Sydney is the grant
of E. Sparke, Junr., on the opposite side of the creek; at about 188
miles on the left is the grant, extending southerly to Waibong, and
particularly to the residence of Mr. Forsyth, and onwards by Gammon
Plains, Bow Plains and Bilong, to Mudgee. The Waibong track connects
also with the Gungal track, leading to the confluence of the Goulburn
and Hunter.

"Continuing up Dart Brook, at 193 miles from Sydney, you gain the
summit of the Liverpool Range, and continuing along it about a mile
and a half, descend into the Plains. On your left, the nearest point
of the range is Terell, distant about four miles, and about eight
miles further is Wereid, or Oxley's Peak--Moan, or Mount Macarthur,
and others, the most prominent points in the range. To the right is
Towarra, about two miles off, and Tinagroo, about six miles further.

"Continuing up the valley of the Kingdon Ponds, on the east bank,
at 172, is a large Government reserve. With a few exceptions, the
locations now cease, but the whole district, from Muscle Brook upwards,
is entirely located, the soil being somewhat similar to Twickenham
Meadows, but the surface more undulating.

"176--pass through the grants of Dale and Wm. Dumaresq, Esq. On the
west is a township (the present Parkville) and another Government
reserve at 177, and at 179 is Mr. Geo. Sparke's grant, and on the west
is the grant of Dr. Little.

"About six miles on the right (184) is the Burning Hill of Wingen,
the only hill of that description at present known in New Holland,
or indeed elsewhere, for it is sui generis. The whole of the
surrounding country abounds with petrifactions and interesting
geological specimens, which have been described both to the public here
and to the learned societies in England, by the Rev. C. P. N. Wilton,
Chaplain of Newcastle. On the left (at 187) is a grant of Mr. A.

"Cross the range dividing the waters of Kingdon Ponds and those
of Page's River at 188, and about a mile to the left is Merrylaw
(Murulla), a lofty conic mountain, a point in a range connecting with
the Liverpool Range at Tinagroo. 192--meet the waters of Page's River,
which takes its rise between the Merrylaw and the Liverpool Ranges, and
flows easterly to Stewart's and White's grants at Gunda Gunda.

"On the north bank of the Page are the grants of Warland and Onge.
Following up the course of the Page, and crossing its channel two
or three times, at 198 miles you cross the Dividing Range and enter
Liverpool Plains. On these extensive flats are many stations, and the
road thus far is a very well marked cart track at present across a low
part of that mountain barrier which forms the present limits of the
Colony, on the north."


THERE were several notable estates in the Hunter Valley during
the first decades of its settlement and adaptation to pastoral
purposes---Ravensworth, Neotsfield, Merton, Bengalla, Kayuga,
Edinglassie, St. Helier's, St. Aubin's, Invermien, Yarrandi, and
Satur--but there is not room for them all in this little volume, so
we will have to content ourselves with a glance at one or two. Castle
Forbes has, as it were, been forced upon us by the malignant ghost of
James Mudie, and now the benevolent shade of Potter Macqueen urges us
to take a look at what he did, or tried to do, with Segenhoe.

For many years old Segenhoe station--the writer used to hear
contemporary stories of the place from his grandmother--has been a
legend of the Upper Hunter. Little remains of it now save the venerable
and picturesque homestead--that solid old Georgian mansion--and a
couple of thousand acres surrounding it (it has been cut up into dairy
farms), but it has always been regarded as one of the most "historic"
estates in the district wherein it is situated, almost midway between
the towns of Muswellbrook and Scone, and in the near neighbourhood of

On July 21, 1823, Thomas Potter Macqueen, dating his letter from
Park Lane in London, wrote to the Colonial Secretary, Earl Bathurst,
applying for a land grant of 20,000 acres in New South Wales. He was
informed, in reply, that Lord Bathurst would allow him an allotment
of 10,000 acres, "which is as large a grant as His Lordship thinks
it proper to make to any individual, but he will take care to direct
that ten thousand acres adjoining may be kept in reserve with the view
of your obtaining that addition when the first grant is brought into
successful cultivation." On October 21, 1823, Governor Brisbane was
authorised to make such a grant, and his successor, General Darling,
executed it in July, 1826, when the estate of Segenhoe came into being
at the point where the Page River runs into the Hunter.

Macqueen did not find settling on the land in New South Wales
altogether plain sailing, and he had a good deal of trouble over his
application and the grant he received, as a petition to authority on
his part amply demonstrates. In his own words:--

"Memorial of Thomas Potter Macqueen, at present resident in Sydney in
the Colony of New South Wales, showeth:--

"That in the month of August, 1824, your memorialist, in consideration,
amongst other things, of his declared intention to invest large sums of
money in agricultural pursuits within the Colony of New South Wales,
received from the Right Honourable the Earl Bathurst, at that time His
Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for the Colonial Department, an
order to His Excellency the Governor, Sir Thomas Brisbane, to make your
memorialist a Primary Grant of twenty thousand acres of land within the
said Colony."

The memorial goes on to state that this grant carried all the
customary rights and privileges, and that, having received it, he
chartered and sent out from England to New South Wales two ships, the
"Hugh Crawford," 420 tons, and the "Nimrod" of 260. The ships
transported a number of specially selected shepherds, agricultural
labourers and mechanics for the purpose of improving the land that was
to be allotted him.

The ships also carried to Australia "a fine flock of Saxon sheep, and
another of merinos," some sheep dogs, two stallions, pure bred Durham,
Down and Highland cattle--the sire of one of the Durham bulls had cost
1000 guineas--and all sorts of agricultural implements, at a total cost
of 8000. The land taken up was occupied in 1826, and by 1830, 18,000
was spent upon it. That Segenhoe was being worked to the best advantage
is vouched for by such authorities as Mr. Surveyor Dangar and Dr. Peter
Cunningham, R.N., author of "Two Years in New South Wales."

In 1830 Macqueen appointed H. C. Semphill to manage Segenhoe, and a
further sum of 16,000 was spent on the estate in six years, making a
total for stock and improvements of 42,000.

In the memorial quoted above Macqueen claims to have employed and
maintained 160 convicts, and to have brought out from Great Britain
the wives and families of about twenty prisoners. He also states that
most of these assigned men, after acquiring their freedom, had settled
on the estate as tenant farmers. During the severe drought lasting
from 1827 to 1830, he had supplied almost the whole of the Upper
Hunter district with grain. He maintained that all these services
to the colony entitled him to more than the ordinary grant of 2500
acres. He therefore asked for a special grant of that area to be an
addition to the 20,000 acres already allotted him. The maintenance of
each convict, he asserted, relieved the Crown of an expenditure of 25
per annum--though Henry Dangar reckoned the cost of each man would be
about 16. He stated that more than 200 convicts had passed through his
hands, and gave the following particulars of them:--

Became free, or with tickets-of-leave, married, and thoroughly
reclaimed, 14; became free, or with tickets-of-leave, single, and
thoroughly reclaimed, 49; free from expiration of sentence, but
worthless, 7; free, and returned home, 1; good conduct men still
under sentence, 62; indifferent and untrustworthy, 29; depraved
and irreclaimable, 7; sent to iron-gangs and penal settlements for
further crimes, 11; dead--one of old age and two casualties--3; given
up at request of Government, 2; returned to hospital on account of
ill-health, 4; total 191. To this number were to be added about 15 new
arrivals not yet classified.

"One of the most important methods of ensuring reformation is to allow
the well-disposed men every opportunity of benefiting by their own
industry. Government exacts a fixed quantity of labour from every man;
a pair of sawyers must cut a certain portion per day; a shearer must
shear twenty-five sheep"--Macqueen continues his observations, as set
forth in the memorial. "When these prescribed tasks be finished they
consider their time their own, and unless their masters allow them
remuneration for extra work, that time will probably be badly spent.
It is forbidden to pay money to prisoners, at least before they obtain
their tickets; the remuneration, therefore, consists of tea, sugar,
tobacco, cape wine, extra clothing, etc. I had a Scotchman who has
shorn one hundred and one sheep in the day, being allowed at the rate
of two shillings and sixpence per score above twenty-five. I have seen
my sawyers and fencers working by moonlight, others making tin vessels
for utensils, bows for bullocks, etc., in their huts at night.

"The consequence is a degree of comfort in reclaimed prisoners most
gratifying to observe, and which, if it was properly understood,
would go far to induce the superabundant rural population of England
to overstep the bounds which ignorance and prejudice have laid down,
and exchange their squalid, hopeless poverty for the substantial
blessings which emigration offers to them. At Christmas, 1837, I
had an application from one of my convicts (who had a narrow escape
from the gallows at home) to be permitted to draw the amount of his
extra labour in certain articles from my stores, as he wished to
give an entertainment to his colleagues, all of whom were named and
well considered men. As the party in question was industrious and
well-behaved and was particularly cleanly in his hut, and took a pride
in his garden, poultry, etc., his request was accorded; and I had the
curiosity to look in to observe the style of the festival. I found the
supper to consist of a good meat and vegetable soup, a dish of fine
mullet out of the adjoining river, two large fowls, a piece of bacon,
roast beef, a couple of wild ducks, and a plum pudding, accompanied
by cauliflowers, French beans, and various productions of his garden,
together with the delicious water-melon of the country; they had a
reasonable quantity of Cape wine with their meal, and closed their
evening with punch and their pipes."

He gives it as his opinion later on that the transportation system is
in need of revision.

"I would suggest," he says, "that a division of sentence into two
classes be permitted at home--the first to be punishment of a far more
lenient character than the others; that it consist of those who have
erred from the impulse of want and poverty more than vice; that though
prisoners be assigned they shall be distinguished from the felon class
by a distinguishing badge or dress and shall not be liable to corporal
punishment in the first instance, and only upon substantial complaint
of misconduct; they be then reduced to the second and more degraded
class, and be reassigned by Government, liable to the same method of
treatment which prisoners now receive; but should parties so sent
out behave themselves with propriety and industry for, say, twelve
months, that every encouragement be given by the Home Parish sending
out the wife and family and allowing the indulgence of the present

He has something to say about the influence of religion.

"In the assignment of convicts every attention ought also to be paid to
their religious creeds. There are many most respectable Roman Catholic
and Presbyterian settlers; to these servants of the same faith ought,
as much as possible, be conveyed, as holding out the best chance of
efficient religious instruction."

Segenhoe was administered, so far as its convict servants were
concerned, in a model fashion. The station had its own surgeon, as
had two or three other large holdings on the Upper Hunter, and church
services were always held on Sundays. Macqueen discriminated strictly
between his good-conduct men and those who habitually misbehaved. The
former were permitted to build themselves small huts, in which they
used to live in comparative comfort, but the bad lots were herded at
night into a tunnel cut in a hillside, where living conditions were
squalid, mainly owing to the prisoners' own disgusting habits.

Macqueen's treatment of his assigned servants offended other landed
proprietors in New South Wales who dealt with the convicts allotted to
them as workers, not infrequently, in a worse fashion than if they had
been slaves. They made complaints about him in Sydney, so Sir Richard
Bourke, the Governor, went to Segenhoe to see for himself what Potter
Macqueen was doing. He spent a whole day on a high hill overlooking
the headquarters of the station, whence he could see for himself most
of the agricultural activities carried on in the vicinity of the
homestead. The hill where he went to spy out the land is to this day
known as "Bourke's look-out." Here is how the correspondent of "The
Sydney Herald" describes the great occasion in that journal's issue
of November 24, 1834:

"The Governor arrived at St. Helier's on Tuesday, 11th inst., and
stopped with Mr. George Forbes for the night.

"On the following morning Mr. Macqueen, with his carriage and four,
drove to St. Helier's, and brought his Excellency to Segenhoe. On
reaching a certain point, where the first glimpse of Segenhoe is
obtained, the carriage was met by twenty-six horsemen, including
the overseer, headed by Dr. McCreedie, the medical gentleman of the
establishment, who joined his Excellency's escort. On the carriage
entering the great avenue, the speed of the avant-courier was
checked by the immediate discharge of cannon, and the hoisting of
the British flag in different positions. During the firing of the
Royal salute, the carriage moved on, by his Excellency's desire, at
a very slow pace through a line, on the one hand, of one hundred and
forty-four working bullocks yoked up to eighteen iron ploughs, with
drivers and ploughmen in new suits of clothing; and on the other hand,
eighteen drays with shaft bullocks and their attendants; further on
stood eight teams yoked up to harrows, scufflers, and other implements
of husbandry; and opposite to these, eight pack bullocks with their
packs, and loaded for the distant out-stations; farther in advance
stood the native chief of Segenhoe with forty followers, painted in the
most grotesque manner, carrying spears of twelve to fourteen feet long
and other instruments of war, and eight blackboys, each holding a leash
of kangaroo dogs.

"His Excellency passed on through the inner gate amidst the roaring of
the cannon and the deafening cheers of the establishment, where Mr.
Semphill was in waiting to receive him, to whom he expressed the very
great pleasure he felt in viewing so unexpected a pageant in the wild
bush, and which he, his Excellency, observed he would not soon forget.

"Two bullocks were presented to the Chiefs of Segenhoe and Waverley,
and the evening was closed in by a grand corroboree. Thus far has Mr.
Macqueen paid respect and done honour to the King in the person of his
Representative. The Governor proceeds to the Liverpool Plains with Mr.
Macqueen, Mr. Dow, and Lieutenant Bunbury this day."

His Excellency could see no reason for censuring Potter Macqueen--in
fact, he departed from Segenhoe with regrets that there were not more
men of his useful sort in the colony. He could hardly help comparing
this model estate with Castle Forbes down the valley, where James Mudie
was making life a hell for the unfortunates in his service. Apart from
the success that attended Macqueen's efforts as an agriculturalist and
grazier, his treatment of his assigned servants entitles him to the
highest credit. When prisoners were assigned to humane and enlightened
employers of his sort their lot was far from being a bad one and
they came to render real service to the country of their compulsory
adoption. Their condition was, indeed, very much better than that of
the farm labourers and factory hands they had left behind them in the
Old Country.

Stories which may or may not be true, as mentioned in the previous
chapter, have attached themselves as a sort of legend on the Upper
Hunter to Mrs. Potter Macqueen. However much of truth may have been in
them, it seems to be the fact that this good man's efforts as a pioneer
were greatly hampered by her indifference to his very noble ideals and
her distaste for life in the Australian bush. There is probably some
foundation of fact for the tradition that she finally deserted him. She
doesn't seem to have been nearly good enough for that valuable man.


AS in other parts of New South Wales in the first half of the
nineteenth century, bushranging had its day in the Hunter Valley, and
the most notorious gang of runaway convict bandits which levied toll
upon the pioneer community in the districts lying between Wallis Plains
(West Maitland) and Murrurundi, near the head of the Page River, was
the party led by Edward Davis, better known as "The Jewboy."

Edward Davis (alias Wilkinson), who was only twenty-six years of age
at the time of his execution in 1841, made his escape from an iron-gang
in the Sydney district, took to the bush, and was presently joined by
a desperate character, an Irishman known by the name of Ruggy, and two
other absconding prisoners. They made northward into the country lying
between the lower reaches of the Hawkesbury and the Hunter, where they
picked up three more recruits.

After a little while the gang managed to arm itself with
double-barrelled guns and pistols, and its equipment of stolen
horseflesh was excellent. For a long time they carried on in the
district in which they had begun their operations--occasionally going
further afield--and were able to defy all efforts to capture them
on the part of the detachments of mounted police stationed in the
district. The gang committed so many robberies in a little over twelve
months that the authorities in Sydney began to realise that something
in the nature of a special expedition against them would be necessary.
So a strong body of mounted troopers, under a subaltern's command, was
sent to the Brisbane Water district, with instructions to hunt the gang
relentlessly and capture its members either dead or alive. But although
the Sydney contingent pushed them hard, it could not bring them to a
final reckoning. Nevertheless, it succeeded in forcing them northward
into the Hunter River country.

They looted stores and dwellings all over the Valley, and in due course
turned up at Muswellbrook, where they raided another store before
going on to the neighbouring settlement at Holdsworthy Plains (Scone).
Here they put up at one of the inns in the township--Chiver's--and
afterwards set out to levy toll upon the local citizenry. Up to this
time they were innocent of bloodshed, as Davis had insisted upon a "no
murder" policy, and would only permit of fighting in order to evade

A little more than twenty years ago, an Upper Hunter newspaper, "The
Scone Advocate," printed the evidence taken at the inquest on the
body of a young man they murdered at Scone, followed by that recorded
at the subsequent police court proceedings, and the testimony given
at the coronial inquiry is quoted from the issue of that journal for
August 20, 1920. It was one of a series of highly interesting local
historical articles. Thus it goes:--

"At Scone and within the lock-up there, this 21st day of December,
1840, in the presence of J. A. Robertson, Esq., Police Magistrate and
acting Coroner; at the inquest held on the body of John Graham, late
storekeeper to Thomas Dangar.

"Appeared James Juchau, saddler to Mr. Thomas Dangar, and working at
his place, who being sworn deposes: That about 7 o'clock this morning
deponent had just sat down to work in his own room behind Mr. Dangar's
store when he saw several men on horseback arrive at the public house,
and immediately afterwards one of the number came riding into the yard
and called--

"'Cook, Cook, come out here!'"

"From the wild appearance of the man, deponent called out to a man
beside him named Mills that they were bushrangers, and deponent
then jumped up and put on his hat and made his escape, followed by
Mills, through a broken part of the fence, and made his way to the
blacksmith's shop and told the blacksmith that there were bushrangers
at the store. That as deponent was leaving Mr. Dangar's yard, as just
stated, he heard the report of firearms--two reports, one following the
other very quickly.

"That after leaving the blacksmith's place and before getting to the
road on his way to inform the police, he saw the deceased running along
the road. Then he began to walk and again began to run and stagger, and
just as deponent got close to him the deceased fell. That after falling
he looked up in deponent's face very pitifully and said--

"'They have shot me; I am a dead man.'

"That upon this he observed a man riding up with a blunderbuss, or
fowling-piece, holding in his hand, and said to deponent--

"'Come back, or I'll blow your brains out.'

"Graham was quite sensible at the time, and the bushranger ordered him
also to come back. That Graham answered that they had shot him right
through, and that he was not able to come back; and deponent then
saw the blood come out of deceased's mouth. That the bushranger then
marched deponent, accompanied with Mills, back until they came to the
blacksmith's fence, when the bushranger told deponent and Mills to stop
until he got the blacksmith and his mate, and for that purpose the
bushranger rode up to the blacksmith's place and called those within
out, and put them along with deponent and Mills and marched them down
to a tree opposite Mr. Dangar's store.

"That after remaining guarded by one of the party for about five
minutes in a state of great alarm, deponent saw the ruffians come out
of the store and another part of them come out of Chiver's public house
and mount their horses and ride off along the high road towards the
Page. That they were seven in number, and to the best of deponent's
belief, all armed. That as soon as the bushrangers were gone deponent,
Mills, and some others went down to where Graham was lying and found
that he was just alive, but quite insensible, and he died a few minutes

"Dr. Isaac Haig, district surgeon, being sworn, deposes: That deponent
was called upon this morning at about 8 o'clock to see a man said to
have been shot by the bushrangers. That on arriving at Scone, deponent
found a man named John Graham lying on the road quite dead, having
apparently been so for about an hour, from the state of the body. That
on examining the body about an hour after his arrival, in the presence
and by direction of the Police Magistrate, deponent found a wound
in the back about a couple of inches on the left side of the spine,
apparently caused by a gunshot wound. That there had been very little
external hemorrhage. On proceeding to open the body, the deponent found
that the shot had passed right through the cavity of the chest, making
its exit between the third and fourth ribs of the left side. The head
was uninjured, but from the immense quantity of blood in the chest, and
the rapidity of his death, it is evident that some of the larger blood
vessels must have been injured. Deponent was not able to discover the
ball, which was probably lodged under the muscles of the chest, nor
was it considered necessary to make further search for it. Deponent's
opinion is that the man died from internal hemorrhage, the consequence
of the gunshot wound.

"William Day, cook to Mr. Chivers, publican, who, being sworn, deposes:
That this morning about 7 o'clock, when the bushrangers attacked the
public house, the deponent was in the back yard when he observed the
deceased running from Dangar's store and one of the bushrangers running
after him, who pursued him 20 yards and then fired a piece at deceased,
who appeared to witness to be shot from his bending his knees at the
moment the piece was fired. Deceased continued running for about forty
yards, pursued by the bushranger, who then fired a second time at the
deceased. That the bushranger then returned to the public house and
sent another bushranger on horseback after deceased, and that the
latter shortly afterwards returned and was asked by one of his mates if
that man was all right, when the other answered that he was."

Events moved very rapidly after that, for two days later, Mr.
Robertson, the Police Magistrate, heard the charge against six of the
gang, including its leader, Edward Davis, of having murdered Graham.
In the meantime they had been captured at a place known as Doughboy
Hollow, just over the Liverpool Range above Murrurundi, and brought
back to Scone to appear before the local bench. The evidence given at
these preliminary proceedings was much the same as that brought forward
at the inquest, with the testimony of a few additional witnesses. The
hearing, at the request of Mr. Edward Denny Day, the Police Magistrate
at Maitland, who had pursued them up the valley and effected their
capture at the end of the day on which Graham was murdered, was
adjourned to Muswellbrook, whence their committal eventually took place
to the Criminal Court in Sydney.

The men charged were John Marshall ("Clydesdale," 1832); James
Everett ("Mangles," 1832); John Shae ("Calcutta," 1827);
Edward Davis, alias Wilkinson ("Camden," 1833); Robert Chitty
("Sophia," 1829) and Richard Glanville ("Lord Lyndoch," 1838).
The names and figures in brackets are those of the convict transports
that brought them to Australia and the dates when each of them arrived
in the country.

When you stand upon the summit of the pass by which the Great Northern
Road crosses the main range, you are on the division of the two parts
of New South Wales, the coastal and the western, and down below,
looking towards the sunset, is Doughboy Hollow, now, by some stupidity
of the civil service, officially labelled "Ardglen." But it is still
Doughboy Hollow to those who, like the writer, knew it before this
idiotic change was made.

This re-entrant gulf in the western slope of the range seems to have
earned its original name because the old-time carriers--bullock-drivers
and horse-team conductors--used to boil the succulent and indigestible
doughboy, or dumpling, there, with the leg-o'-mutton, when they
camped above the pretty creek that tinkles through it at the end of
their day's pilgrimage towards the coast. Many of the names within a
hundred miles radius are curiously happy--though there is not room here
to enter into explanation of their origins. There are Bother Jimmy
Mountain, Who'd-ha'-thought-it, Come-by-Chance, Campo Santo station and
many others.

On December 27, 1840, "The Sydney Herald" published the following
news item from its correspondent in Scone, which tells of the doings
of the gang on the 21st, when they were being chased northward from
the vicinity of Muswellbrook by Denny Day and a commando of police and
inhabitants of the Hunter Valley. Day was an old Peninsula veteran
of field rank, and his district as a Police Magistrate (Maitland)
extended from Port Macquarie to Muswellbrook. The hunt on this occasion
had led him far outside the bounds of his own official district, but
that didn't matter much to him when he had a congenial job in hand.
The "Herald's" description of the events with which we are here
concerned is a quaint sample of the journalism of that distant day.

"The Rubicon is past," it reads, "and human blood is again shed by one
of the most lawless gangs of bushrangers that ever infested the Hunter.
Blood cries aloud for retribution at the hands of our vacillating
government. Blood--yes, blood--the first of a long list which it is
anticipated will mark the career of the Hunter River bushrangers. My
last letter feebly related the career of this gang at the Wollombi, of
their assault on the late Constable McDougall, and the murderous attack
on one of Mr. Crawford's men; of their rencontre at the Red House;
and other particulars of their misdeeds. This, though not so full of
particulars, will be more full of horror. It appears that on leaving
the Wollombi, they were joined by six others, thus making their number
10, when they proceeded to Scone, simultaneously attacking the inn
of Mrs. Chivers and the store of Mr. Thomas Dangar; their approach,
however, was observed by a young man, clerk to Mr. Dangar, named
Graham, who injudiciously armed himself with a pistol, which he fired
at the advancing party, when one of them (Marshall, it is thought),
levelled his gun and shot him dead at the door of his master's house,
whose property he was defending. Davis, the chief of the robbers, on
hearing the report, came forward; he seemed to regret it much, but I
will quote his own words: 'I would give a thousand pounds that this had
not happened, but as well a hundred now as one.' We may, therefore,
expect that this one murder is the precursor of others, each more
sanguinary than the others."

It was a miserable business. The young assistant-storekeeper was a good
specimen of the better sort of free immigrant who was beginning to
arrive in this country, and it was over his body that the forthright
Denny Day made some unpleasant remarks about his brother Police
Magistrate at Scone and the timorous inhabitants of the town. To him
and to them he applied in equal measure an unambiguous accusation of

Day wasted no time. He led his party up the valley of the Kingdon
Ponds, past the Burning Mountain at Wingen, over Warland's Range and
down into the valley of the Page River. About 5 p.m. his little force
arrived at Atkinson's Inn at Murrurundi--for many years known as The
White Hart--to find that his quarry was only about forty minutes ahead
of him. The bushrangers had helped themselves to the fresh horses they
found in the stables of the hotel and had gone on towards the ranges at
the head of the Page valley.

By this time Day's contingent had ridden 43 miles since early morning.
He accordingly allowed a halt of ten minutes so that the horses might
be watered and his men refreshed with a drink or two. Then they rode
through the town, and up the valley to the pass across the ranges.
When, after sunset, they looked down into Doughboy Hollow and saw the
men they were after preparing to camp for the night, they had ridden in
chase of them for at least 50 miles!

The fight that took place immediately was short and sharp, and all the
bushrangers were captured except one--although, curiously enough no one
on either side was badly hurt. And here is its inevitable sequel, taken
from "The Sydney Herald" of March 17, 1841:

"The gang of ruffians recently convicted in the Supreme Court of
bushranging and murder . . . . paid the forfeit of their lives on the
scaffold in the rear of Sydney Gaol yesterday. The malefactors were
all transported felons from the Mother Country, and their names, ages,
etc., were as follows:--Edward Davis, 26, arrived in 1833, per ship
"Camden"; Robert Chitty, 37, arrived in 1829, per "Sophia";
James Everett, 25, arrived in 1832, per "Mangles"; John Marshall,
27, arrived in 1832, per "Clyde"; Richard Glanville, 31, arrived
in 1831, per "Lord Lyndoch"; and John Shae, 27, arrived in 1837,
per "Calcutta." . . . At ten past nine the culprits were strongly
pinioned and conducted from the cells to the area in front of the
drop, where they all knelt down. . . . All the culprits (if we except
Everett) deeply lamented their having committed the crimes for
which they were about to die, and acknowledged the justice of their
sentences. . . . The ropes were speedily adjusted, and the white caps
drawn over the faces of the wretched criminals. In the short interval
which elapsed before the withdrawal of the fatal bolt, Marshall and
Glanville were engaged in loud and apparently fervent prayer, and we
observed the culprit Davis (who was attired in a suit of mourning),
thank the Jewish minister for the attention paid to him in his last
moments. The struggles of all the men were of short duration. The
immense crowd dispersed peaceably. It will be remembered that these
men were apprehended chiefly through the active exertions of Mr. Day,
Police Magistrate, Maitland."


OF all the old time estates on the Upper Hunter the most notable for
generations has been Belltrees, the magnificent station controlled for
more than eighty years past by members of the White family--men who
rank as notably as any in the pioneering of the Hunter Valley, and,
indeed, of New South Wales. For almost a century and a quarter of the
Hunter's history the name "White" has been connected with its records,
and there is such a numerous clan still existing in the district that
nothing short of alien conquest would seem likely to remove it from the
position it occupies in its relations with the Valley.

The Australian founder of the family, James White, came to the colony
in 1825 in charge of a consignment of merino sheep for the Australian
Agricultural Company. On September 23, 1839, having severed his
connection with the A.A. Co., he was given a Crown grant of 1,280 acres
at the junction of the Isis and Page Rivers, since known as the Gundy
Estate--as previously noted, the original form of the name seems to
have been Gunda Gunda. James White was the father of the Hon. James
White, of racing fame, of H. C. White, Frank White and four other sons,
all of them more or less connected with the family tradition of flocks
and herds.

But the founder of Belltrees was Henry Collins Sempill, already
mentioned in these pages in connection with Potter Macqueen and
Segenhoe. He was born in Scotland in 1794, and was the son of Hamilton
Collins of Bonaw, and heir by will to the estates of his grand uncle,
Robert Sempill, of Castlebarns, Edinburgh, provided he assumed the name
of Sempill. The will also stipulated that the estate of Castlebarns
remain in the family of the Belltrees Sempills, but in 1818 it was
otherwise disposed of.

About nine years later Sempill came with his family to New South
Wales, and settled in the Hunter Valley. In 1831 he received a grant
of land on the Hunter River, which he named "Belltrees," and, having
acquired the necessary experience, he devoted his time to the raising
of stock there. Notwithstanding considerable additions to his grant
of 2,560 acres in both freehold and lease, he found it desirable,
if not absolutely necessary, to look for fresh pastures elsewhere,
and learning from Oxley's "Journal," and probably from the explorer
himself, of the well-grassed Hamilton Valley on the Upper Apsley River
in the New England country, he occupied it.

In 1831 he was appointed General Manager of Thomas Potter Macqueen's
Segenhoe estate, which had been founded and managed by Macqueen's
agent, Peter Macintyre, up to that date.

He returned to Scotland in 1842, partly with a view to "procuring
the emigration of shepherds from the Highlands" of that country, but
learning of the continued decline in the pastoral industry of the
colony, he instructed his agent to dispose of his interests in New
South Wales. His property, as advertised for sale in "The Sydney
Herald" of March, 1844, consisted of his "station in New England,
called Walca (Walcha) and Dungowan Creek, also the stock running
at Ellerston, Belltrees, Aberfoyle, Long-flat and Horndale." These
last properties, all within the settlement area, appear to have been
disposed of privately.

Sempill, although a man of ability and evidently honourable in his
transactions, was a somewhat imperious and overbearing character,
tactless in his attitude towards his fellow settlers, which deprived
him of the popularity his attainments and personality should have

Its original owner made an exchange of Belltrees for other properties
with W. C. Wentworth. In 1848 Wentworth leased the estate to Messrs.
J. F. and H. White, and in June, 1853, they purchased it from him.
The new owners subsequently added to Belltrees the adjoining station
of Ellerston, running to the headwaters of the Hunter, and Waverley,
situated on the Isis and Page Rivers. Belltrees was a celebrated
pastoral holding even before the Whites acquired it. In the early
eighteen-forties--when W. C. Wentworth owned it--it is on record
that 180,000 sheep were shorn there, being brought from Cassilis,
Kickerbill, Coolah, Gammon Plains and other stations to be washed and
shorn. At that time wool was always washed on the sheep's back, and
facilities for washing were particularly good at Belltrees.

Thirty years ago Belltrees contained an area of 160,000 acres of
secured land, but sales in the meantime have reduced the total to
something less than 100,000 acres. The country consists of small river
and creek flats backed by abruptly rising ridges, which lead up to the
higher spurs or offshoots of the Main, or Liverpool, Range. The land
towards the head of the creeks is rough, and was originally covered
with a dense growth of timber, which has gradually been killed off by
ringbarking. Some of the small flats are formed of the richest soil,
and are well adapted for lucerne growing. They have been extensively
used for this purpose.

The lower lands have been found more suitable for cattle, whilst the
higher are devoted to sheep; the basalt country, occurring at a height
of about 2,500 feet, is eminently favourable to the production of
high-class merino wool. These high lands are covered with good natural
grasses right to their summits, which run up to 4,000 feet; the whole
estate carrying stock equal to a sheep to the acre in all seasons.

The country has proved itself wonderfully suited to merino wool
production, and the high quality of the wool produced bears constant
testimony to this fact. The Belltrees clip was formerly sold in London,
but has for many years now been offered in Sydney, and has always
commanded high values, on more than one occasion obtaining the season's
record price. In early days the wool obtained a high reputation for its
length, quality and "soft handling." It was specially sought after by
the world's buyers. In 1880, 18d. was reached for 54 bales--this being
the highest price obtained for Belltrees wool up to that time. However,
in September, 1916, during a war-time wool boom, Belltrees wool sold in
Sydney to 23d. per lb. in the grease for 31 bales.

The firm of H. E. A. and V. White, which has owned Belltrees for many
years, took over the estate in 1889. The partners were H. L. White,
W. E. White, A. G. White and Victor White, who were the sons of the
late Francis White, of Edinglassie, Muswellbrook. He was a son of the
original James White, the owner of Edinglassie and Timor--the man who
brought the merino sheep out for the A.A. Company in 1825.

In the tumbled ranges of the Upper Hunter there are many high peaks
and quite respectable hills. It is a rough country with a jagged
skyline, and much of it may be fallen "off" rather than "down." Great
indigo humps of mountains that look like the backs of sleeping camels,
or elephants, stand out against the orange of the dawn. Sharply-cut
pinnacles, with uniform curves of slope, pierce the blue sky in the
glare of midday. Under the glittering stars, long black ramparts wall
the wide glens and the narrow. It is a land of climbing and descending,
of great rises and little rises, broad valleys and steep-sided ravines,
and a thousand patterns upon the excrescences of this whirling globe
we live on. Mount Murulla, Tingaroo, Mount Dangar, Mount Royal--you
may see each of them from the summit of each--are mighty and stately
guardians of the landscape, standing like big blue policemen in the
crowded mob of mountains. But there is none of them so big, so stately,
and so massively dignified as the mighty mound of Woollooma, looming
magnificently over the lovely valley in which Belltrees lies.

When the writer last saw Belltrees it seemed to him that it might
almost be described as the perfect example of the perfect station.
It is fifteen years since the great man who made the old station
what it is passed away--the late H. L. White--but the place that was
his life's work will always remain an abiding memorial to the man
so affectionately nicknamed in the district, "The King of the Upper

There is nothing of exaggeration in writing in this way about
Belltrees. But you must know something of stations, either to say such
a thing or to be able to appreciate its truth for yourself. You must
have seen them in many sorts and sizes. If you have, and you should
ever come to travel up the Hunter towards its sources, and pass through
the many miles of Belltrees--or that once belonged to it, for much of
the big run has been alienated in recent years--you will recognise the
fact that this fine holding as nearly attains a pastoral ideal as it
is possible for any place to do. You will discover nothing wrong with
it--from gate-fastenings to woolshed, from boundary-riders' cottages to
sheep-yards, from the station store to the harvesting machinery. The
Whites of the Hunter Valley have all been remarkable for a certain sort
of genius in station management, but it is safe to say that in none
of them has this genius been so evident as in the late H. L. White,
who had the great estate under his control, in association with his
brothers, for over forty years.

Perhaps there is no better view to be had of Woollooma than from
the head station at Belltrees. Five miles away, in a more or less
easterly direction, its high mass towers solidly into the sky. It is
a flat-topped kop, something like Table Mountain, behind Cape Town,
and a sheer precipice near the summit gives it, also, a resemblance
to Mount Wellington in Tasmania. Looking at it from Belltrees you are
just far enough away to get its true perspective, but unless you stand
upon another of the heights in the surrounding ranges--say, on Mount
Murulla, twenty-five miles away at Wingen--you will not be best able
to realise its relative size in comparison with its brother mountains
in this part of New South Wales. The top of Murulla is 4,171 feet
above sea level, and Woollooma is about 1,000 feet higher. But it is
a bigger, more massive mountain than Murulla, irrespective of height,
because it has a broader base and a wider top. In every way it is more

When the writer ascended the mountain over a score of years ago, he
drove in a motor-car along a bush road to a spot near the foot of the
great mound, where a selector on Belltrees waited to ride with him, and
show him the way to the top. It was a pleasure to make the ascent of
the big mountain in the company of such a fine specimen of the Hunter
River native as Donald McPhee, and it was evident that he thought as
much of the Belltrees people as they did of him. Such relations between
"cocky" and squatter are only too rare in these days--but they usedn't
to be so uncommon in this part of the world as elsewhere.

Woollooma is easy to climb--on the back of a good horse. You may ride
the whole way up--unless you wish to look out from the north-eastern
corner, which is a few hundred feet higher than the general level of
the summit. For many years the mountain has been a forest reserve, and
has never been ringbarked, so that there is not so much of the dead
timber lying about its spurs and slopes that makes present-day mountain
riding a more difficult business than it used to be. After a long
experience of Mount Murulla, the ascent of Woollooma seemed almost like
a saunter in a park.

We climbed an easily rising spur that led us up to the left of
the basalt precipice--the position of the "Organ Pipes" of Mount
Wellington--that stands out on the western face of Woollooma, like a
dark scar, below the crest. And then we came out on the edge of the
mountain--and one almost gasped at the grandeur, beauty and immensity
of the view. One has been on higher mountains, and has looked down on
the world from aeroplanes that were considerably more elevated than
5,000 feet, but never had one seen a prospect more to his liking. That
might have been, of course, because one knew the surrounding country
well, and seemed to be enjoying the recognition of old friends in many
peaks and heights that stood up out of the chaotic ranges against the
clear blue of the sky. But it was, indeed, a noble outlook.

To the west and the south and the north the prospect is a very wide
one. The most distant skylines are, maybe, a hundred miles away,
and in between lies a beautiful and varied countryside. Singleton,
Muswellbrook, Aberdeen, Scone, Murrurundi--though not all actually
visible--are easily located. The courses of the Hunter and half a score
of its tributaries are readily discernible. Immediately below lie the
rich lands of Belltrees, and from the top of Woollooma it is most
possible to realise what a splendid place it is.

On the southern end of the wide plateau there occurs a curious and
interesting botanical feature. A forest of tall stringybarks grows near
the edge of the mountain, and it is made up of a variety that is found
only in one other place in New South Wales, down to the Monaro. They
are Tasmanian stringybarks--tall and noble trees that overtop the local
specimens of their kind by scores of feet. The reason for their being
here is probably that at this elevation they find a climate resembling
that of their own southern island. For even on a hot day the top of
Woollooma is as cool and fresh as you will find the climate in the
valleys of the Derwent and the Tamar. Excepting Kosciusko, and one or
two of his mates, there are no higher mountains in New South Wales than
the big fellow who stands guard over Belltrees.

It is sometimes the case that objects of the greatest interest
to visitors to any locality are not regarded as being in any way
impressive by those who have always lived close at hand to them. The
writer has encountered Cockneys who have never been inside Westminster
Abbey or the Tower of London. There are plenty of people in Sydney
who have never seen the Jenolan Caves--doubtless, there are a good
many who live on the Blue Mountains themselves who have not troubled
to go across and take a look at them. Proximity and familiarity with
the tradition that they have always been handy, and always will be,
accounts for such neglect of things that outsiders travel expensively
many miles to behold. They are available at any time. It is a variation
of the proverb about a prophet having no honour in his own country,
but means the same thing. However, such is not the case with Mount

Everybody in the Upper Hunter district takes a pride in the big
mountain. Most people can pick it out, as it looms above its fellows,
from any point from which it is visible. It cannot be said to be
neglected by the people who live close beside it, although many of them
may never have climbed to its summit and enjoyed the splendid prospect
it is possible to behold therefrom. It has all the local honour it
could desire if it were a sentient entity. And for proof of this,
witness the Seal of the Shire of the Upper Hunter. It is nothing more
nor less than a picture of Mount Woollooma.


JUST below the old town of Scone, near the top of the Valley, a
beautiful she-oak shaded rivulet empties itself into the Hunter River,
after meandering down a fertile vale which has its upper end in
Warland's Range--the long spur of Mount Murulla running eastward from
the great mountain which dominates all the scenery of this part of the
world, as Woollooma does that of the main river at and about Belltrees,
twenty-five miles away in a south-easterly direction.

It is one of those water-hole-and-rapid streamlets that are such
characteristic features of the rough country through which the
tributary valleys of the Upper Hunter approach the main one--too small
to be called a river, but just large enough to be a typical Australian
creek in mountainous country. Its charms, and those of the lands
through which it flows, are obvious to all who go that way. But it has
a place, also, in the pioneering of the Commonwealth that entitles it
to more than passing notice.

As we have already seen in previous chapters, when the first pioneers
from the Hawkesbury crossed the ranges separating the watersheds of
that river and the Hunter in March, 1820, and came down on to Patrick's
Plains--of which rich area of land the town of Singleton is the civic
centre--they opened up a new tract of country to settlement which
was not long in being occupied. Already the march of civilisation
had progressed as far up the Hunter as the district of Wallis Plains
(Maitland), and in the course of a few years the wide valley lying
between the Wollombi Ranges and the mountainous country northward of
them began to be occupied by cattle stations and sheep runs.

Some famous old-time holdings came into existence, of which such
estates as Castle Forbes, Ravensworth, St. Helier's, Segenhoe and
Belltrees were representative. Muswellbrook got itself established as a
district centre, and before long Scone became the outpost of Government
of the country on the lower side of the Liverpool Range. Page's River,
which was the first name by which the settlement of Murrurundi was
generally referred to, was the ultimate outpost. Over the range above
that pretty town nestling in its lovely valley, lay the No Man's Land
of the vast plains extending away to the north and nor'-west.

The summit of the Divide marked the boundary, in this part of the
country, of the Nineteen Counties, outside the limits of which all
those who occupied the land and depastured herds and flocks of cattle
and sheep, were supposed to do so entirely at their own risk, and
without the help and protection of Government. The pioneers might
obtain licences to take up runs out there, but it was carefully
impressed upon their understandings by the authorities in Sydney that
they must rely altogether upon themselves for protection against
whatever dangers threatened--the chief of which were the depredations
of the aborigines and the lawless activities of the early class of
bushrangers recruited from the runaway convicts who had absconded from
their assigned service with the landholders of the Hunter.

The track that led to this out-back country left the main valley of
the Hunter near Scone, and followed the course of the Kingdon Ponds
northward towards Mount Murulla. Through the narrowing plain of the
valley at the mouth of which is situated Scone, it ran more or less
beside the left bank of the creek, until it crossed the low range that
divides the Kingdon Ponds from the watershed of the Page. Up a narrow
gully under the big mountain's main spur it climbed over Warland's
Range, and every settler, every head of horned stock, every sheep,
and every hundredweight of supplies had to come this way. It was
the first of the two gates--the other was at the summit of the main
range--leading into the Liverpool Plains, and across them to the New
England tableland and the country then vaguely described officially
as "The Moreton Bay Territory," which is now Queensland. The Kingdon
Ponds, for a distance of about 15 miles in a straight line from its
mouth to its source, was the highway along which civilisation found
its way to the northward of New South Wales, or, rather, to that part
of the State which lies to the westward of the Great Dividing Range in
the northern half of its area. And this is where the pretty, winding
streamlet finds its place in Australian history. To the men and women
who passed along that way more than a hundred years ago, it was a
good deal more important, even, than it is to-day to those who have
inherited the rich lands through which it winds its picturesque way
towards the Tasman Sea.

There is some vagueness as to the origin of the name "Kingdon Ponds,"
but the most probable explanation of it is that the stream was so
called after an early settler on it named Kingdon, and that the
"Ponds" part of it refers to its appearance in a time of drought when
white men first became acquainted with it and its waterholes were
unconnected--much in the same fashion that the famous old coaching inn
standing on the Valley road between Muswellbrook and Singleton was
referred to as "Chain-o'-Ponds." Whatever may be the case, however, the
principal fame of the Valley lies in the fact that near its head is
situated the only burning mountain in Australia.

On March 19, 1828, in the newspaper which had not long been established
by W. C. Wentworth and Dr. Wardell--"The Australian"--there appears
a news item which in these days would undoubtedly partake of the nature
of a journalistic "scoop."

"A volcano," it read, "has just been discovered in the vicinity of
Hunter's River. It is situated among the mountains at the distance of
about 100 miles in a north-westerly direction from Newcastle--12 miles
beyond Houldsworthy's Plains, and 14 miles from Segenhoe. The distance
of the volcano from the sea is calculated to be about 90 miles. Of
the existence of the phenomenon there can be no doubt. It has been
visited by several persons. . . . When discovered the volcano emitted
a brilliant light, and had every appearance of being long in a state
of activity. It is thought that it has not hitherto claimed particular
observation on account of its resemblance, at a distance, to the sight
which is frequently witnessed in various parts of the colony, and to
its being mistaken for deep grass on fire."

Naturally enough, this paragraph has pride of place in the columns
of "The Australian," and must easily have been one of the most
startling journalistic announcements ever made in Sydney.

There is no doubt now as to its origin. The man who first saw the smoke
from Mount Wingen ascending into the blue sky above the wooded ranges
on the north-eastern side of the upper end of the Valley of the Kingdon
Ponds was Dr. Little, of Cressfield, a holding which lies a trifle more
than half way between Scone and Wingen.

He was out hunting, one day in 1826, with some blackfellows, in the
country to the northward of his station, and saw smoke rising from a
hillside on the north-eastern slopes of the valley. The blacks who were
with him told the Doctor that it came from a burning mountain which
they called "Wingen." ("Wingen," in those parts, is the native name for

On the news reaching Sydney and being printed in "The Australian," a
Mr. Mackie, of Cockle Bay (Darling Harbour), became greatly interested,
and, together with his partner, Mr. Dixon, equipped an expedition
to investigate the supposed "volcano." On July 30 of the same year
"The Australian" printed a long report from the leader of the
expedition, under the heading, "The Volcano." This is the first--and
easily the most foolish--account of Mount Wingen, and it was copied
into the October issue of "The Australian Quarterly Review," whose
editor, the Rev. C. P. N. Wilton, himself a geologist of ability,
subsequently made the first scientific investigation of the place. At
the beginning of 1829 he went up the Hunter to see it for himself,
and in a communication to "The Sydney Gazette" of March 10, 1829,
he ridicules the idea of there being anything volcanic about it. He
takes up three columns of the "Gazette" to do this, but does it very
interestingly and convincingly.

In December, 1831, while on his expedition out into the Liverpool
Plains country in search of a supposed navigable river--the Kindur--Sir
Thomas Mitchell investigated Mount Wingen as he passed up the valley.
He camped a little below the present site of the village of Wingen,
on a fine waterhole in the Kingdon Ponds--probably on what is now
the Cliffdale estate--and his description, together with that of Mr.
Wilton, fixes the exact position of the fire when the burning mountain
first became known to white men, 116 years ago. The date on the plan
survey which illustrates his observations is "1829," so presumably he
had visited the place before, not long after it had been discovered by
Dr. Little.

"Wingen, the aboriginal name," he says, "is derived from fire. The
combustion extends over a space of no great extent near to the summit
of a group of hills forming part of a low chain which divides the
Valley of the Kingdon Ponds from that of Page's River. The blue smoke
ascends from vents and cracks, the breadth of the widest measuring
about a yard. Red heat appears at the depth of about four fathoms. No
marks of any extensive change appear at the surface near these burning
fissures, although the growth of large trees in old cracks in the
opposite slopes, where ignition has ceased, shows that the fire has
continued for a very considerable time, or that the same thing had
occurred at a much earlier period."

In the old days this country was cattle country, but up here at the
head of the Kingdon Ponds Valley, the cattle days are gone for ever.
The beasts of a herd receive more "spoon feeding" than they used to
get eighty or ninety years ago. The holdings are all fenced, the runs
paddocked, and the saleyards only a dozen miles away, or, if they are
further off, the railway carries stock to them safely and expeditiously.

No more do all hands attend the big musters, camping out for weeks
along the rivers and in the ranges, whilst the work of sorting out the
different station brands as carried on the cattle goes on. There are no
wild cattle running in the inaccessible fastnesses of the ranges, and
the brumbies have all gone, too. The mountain sides are still steep,
and the gullies deep and rugged, and fine horsemanship is called for
on occasion; but there is nothing to-day like that which was the pride
of the old hands. Horsemanship then was a necessity--now it is an

In the 'sixties and 'seventies of the last century the country in the
Upper Hunter started to be stocked with sheep, and everywhere wire
fencing began to divide and block the open territory that used to
stretch, free of artificial hindrance, almost from Port Stephens to the
Gulf of Carpentaria. It was a period of change that utterly altered the
whole spirit of the countryside.

In place of the wide, inter-related life of the old cattle stations,
the somewhat parochial interests of the sheep men rendered the bush
more a place of routine and hard toil than it had been in the old days,
when practically all the work of the average pastoral establishment was
confined to musterings and brandings, and the droving of fat stock to
distant markets.

The boundary-riders took the place of the stockmen. All the old
conditions retreated further back, or out into the newly pioneered
country in Queensland. Save in a few cases, all the cattle men became
sheep men, and the shearer became a power in the land.

With Sir John Robertson's "free selection before survey," most of the
big stations in these parts were broken up, and, undoubtedly to the
benefit of the country at large, the small man came to stay.

But to us of the present generation those old days must ever be
invested with an atmosphere of romance that is not so easily
discoverable in these of Shire Councils and Pasture Protection Boards.
Without too much of the praise of times past, it is impossible not to
feel that they were wider, freer, pleasanter times than these. The
coaches rolled leisurely to the seaboard, little steam packets of a few
hundred tons almost drifted down to Sydney; along the roads were good
inns, conducted upon Old Country principles, and travel was a process
in which time was of the smallest account.

Everyone knew everyone else in the district--there was a spirit of
good-fellowship abroad in the land. These days are reckoned democratic
in Australia, but there was a truer democracy in the old bush life than
will ever come again in the Commonwealth. As the hearty freedom of the
bush is in contrast now with the conventions and restrictions of the
city, so is present-day country life in contrast with that of a couple
of generations ago.

The valley to the right of Scone, leading up to the source of the
Hunter in the high tableland where the Manning and the Namoi also find
their beginnings, is the real Hunter Valley, but it was along the
Kingdon Ponds that the tide of progress and settlement in northern New
South Wales ebbed and flowed up and down the Great North Road until the
coming of the Iron Horse, in the 'sixties and 'seventies of the last
century, definitely established the track beside the little murmuring
brook as one of the main trade routes of Australasia.

The big estates of the cattle men began to be divided into farms and
small holdings, whose multiplication along the valley of the Hunter
and those of its tributaries meant the settlement of a permanent and
progressive population in the fruitful territories that had formerly
been but inadequately used in the more or less haphazard grazing of
comparative handfuls of cattle and sheep. The tiny village settlements
grew into considerable towns. Dairying began to take the place of
grazing. And now, instead of the oak-lined windings of the Kingdon
Ponds, meandering through the unfenced areas of old St. Aubin's
Station, the pretty creek twists and turns down the valley between
prosperous farmsteads and thriving agricultural establishments. In the
churchyards at Muswellbrook, Scone and Murrurundi, across Warland's
Range, lie the bones of the men and women who first came up the creek,
and helped to make British Australasia. Their memory lies in every
bend and in every tree-shaded waterhole of the Kingdon Ponds, and the
sighing winds, murmuring through the she-oaks that line its fertile
banks, whisper the stories of their useful lives.


IN the previous chapter, describing the Valley of the Kingdon Ponds,
passing reference was made to the Burning Mountain at Wingen, but as
this curious geological "freak" is unique in Australia, if not in
the world--there is something similar, on a much smaller scale, in
England--a book about the Hunter Valley can hardly do without a chapter
entirely devoted to Mount Wingen. And, inevitably, something personal
to the writer and his people must come into it, for ever since 1838
some of the clan have been living round and about the 800-foot hill
that has long possessed the courtesy title of "Mount." When the huge
bulk of Mount Murulla opposite (4,171 feet) is contrasted with Mount
Wingen, it is almost possible to regard the immediate neighbourhood of
the Burning Mountain as flat country--which it isn't by any means, as
you'd find out if you assisted to muster the Burning Mountain Paddock
of the old Glengarry run for cattle or sheep.

John Kingsmill Abbott--his brand was JKA--the writer's grandfather,
bought 350 acres of land at Wingen, within about a mile of the Burning
Mountain, in 1838. He afterwards leased Glengarry Station on the Page
River, and when he died in 1847 his widow, Frances Amanda Abbott,
carried it on as her own property with the assistance of an old Irish
ex-convict stockman named Terence McMahon--legends of whom, as "Old
Mac," still survive in the Wingen neighbourhood. "Mac" lived in his old
age at Glengarry, honoured and respected, and maybe a little feared, by
those whom he had worked with and for faithfully and well for more than
a generation. A tough, indomitable Irishman, with a hot temper and a
hotter vocabulary--his body was found just inside the boundary of the
adjoining Waverly Station, whither he had ridden at the age of 80 odd
to get some of his horses after a muster, in 1878.

When he arrived at manhood, the late W. E. Abbott, second son of John
Kingsmill, took over the management of the station, and, until his
death at the age of 81 in 1924, lived close beside the Burning Mountain
at Glengarry, Wingen and Murulla. Unquestionably, he was the
authority on it, and will presently be quoted on it pretty extensively.
The writer knows a good deal about the place himself, but nothing
compared with the knowledge of it possessed by his uncle.

It will be remembered that Mr. Mackie, of Cockle Bay (Darling Harbour),
organised an expedition to investigate Mount Wingen after "The
Australian" had announced its discovery at the beginning of 1828,
and had sent his son to report on it. The newspaper printed young
Mackie's precious production under the heading of "The Volcano"--it was
the most foolish account of the Burning Mountain ever published. And
then the Rev. C. P. N. Wilton, Chaplain at Newcastle, and a geologist
of real ability, went to see it for himself. In a contribution to "The
Sydney Gazette" of March 10, 1829, Mr. Wilton deals with young Mr.
Mackie's observations, and here follows something of what he wrote.

"The only written description of this mountain which, it seems, has
hitherto met the public eye, appeared in 'The Australian' newspaper
of the 30th of July last, and was copied into 'The Australian Quarterly
Journal' in October. . . . Now this description is decidedly
incorrect, for in the first place there is no mouth or crater at all,
nor does such an opening lie between the peaks of two mountains to
which the blacks have given the appellation of Wingen. That portion of
the Mountain of Wingen where the fire is now burning, and which is a
compact sandstone rock, comprehends parts of two declivities of one and
the same mountain. The progress of the fire has of late been down the
northern or highest elevation, and is now ascending with great fury the
opposite and southern eminence. From the situation of the fire having
been in a hollow between two ridges of the same mountain, Mr. Mackie
(observer of July 30, 1828) was probably induced to give the clefts
in the mountain the appellation 'crater.' The fact is, the rock, as
the subterranean fire increases, is rent into several concave chasms
of various widths. . . . The area over which the fire is now raging
is about half an acre in extent. There were throughout it several
chasms, varying in width, from which are constantly emitted sulphurous
columns of smoke, the margins of these beautiful with efflorescent
crystals of sulphur, varying in colour from the deepest red orange,
occasioned by ferruginous mixture, to the palest straw colour where
alum predominated. The surface of the ground near these shafts was too
hot to permit me to stand any length of time upon it, neither were
the vapours arising from them by any means the most grateful to the
lungs. . . . No lava or trachyte of any description was to be met with,
nor did I see any appearance of coal."

However, whether Mr. Wilton saw any indications of coal or not--and
it is quite easy to miss them on the summit of the hill--the fact has
long been established that the Burning Mountain is nothing else but the
combustion of coal seams that extend to a very great depth.

As has been mentioned in the preceding chapter, Mount Wingen was again
visited in December, 1831, by an observer whose notes are of value.
Major Mitchell's description of the Burning Mountain tallies generally
with Mr. Wilton's, but the main value of his observations lies in the
fact that he made a plan survey, and a sketch in elevation, of the
ranges in which it is situated on the eastern side of the Kingdon Ponds
Valley. So we are enabled to fix the exact position of the fire when
Mount Wingen was first investigated by white men.

"Since 1831 Mount Wingen has been very carefully examined by many
eminent geologists, including the Rev. W. B. Clarke and Professor
David, and it has been established beyond the possibility of doubt
that the cause of the fire is the combustion of a very thick seam of
coal which lies up against the basaltic mountains of volcanic origin,
situated to the eastward of the Burning Mountain Range, and which
form the divide between the Valley of Kingdon Ponds and Page's River.
The coal measures of the Kingdon Ponds Valley, apparently without
much local disturbance, have all been tilted by the same action as
that which tilted the Greta seam (now burning). This displacement
varies in places from 55 to 80 degrees from the horizontal; but on the
western side of the valley the coal measures are almost level, and are
capped by a range which Professor David considered to be composed of
Hawkesbury sandstone. The exact point at which the tilted seams end and
the local seams begin has not been determined, as it is covered by the
deep alluvium of the valley."

The last quotation is from "Mount Wingen and the Wingen Coal
Measures," by W. E. Abbott, whose observations of it extended over a
long lifetime, and may be regarded, as has been stated, as the most
authoritative of any yet made. The book was written at the request
of his friend, H. L. White, of Belltrees, who had twenty-five copies
printed for private circulation. To those who wish for a fuller and
more competent account of Mount Wingen than is possible here, a copy is
available in the Mitchell Library at Sydney.

Mr. Abbott remembered it from the year 1852--a period of 72 years--and
lived close beside it all his life. A deep knowledge of geology and
mineralogy enabled him to speak with authority on all that concerns
Mount Wingen and the country in which it is situated. In his book
he goes very extensively into the geological aspect of the Burning
Mountain, but beyond the above quotation and those which follow, there
is not space here for any detail.

"During the last 65 years," he wrote in 1917, "the fire of Mount Wingen
has climbed almost to the top of the southern slope of the hollow in
which it was situated when discovered in 1828, and as it moved south
all signs of fire have disappeared from the northern slope and the
hollow, and from about half-way up the southern slope. I cannot say
whether this southward movement has been regular or not. When I first
saw it, twenty odd years after Mr. Wilton and Sir Thomas Mitchell
described it, my recollection is very distinct that it was just as they
describe it.

"Now their descriptions would not apply, as all signs of fire have
disappeared from the whole area of combustion. For the last 65 years
there has been a gradual dying down as the fire moved south--an
appearance of going out. During the whole time the fire was moving up
the southern slope of the hollow the rock to the west of the line of
fire kept cracking into long fissures, nearly parallel to the line
of fire, and sinking down in steps, and some similar cracks at right
angles or across the line on which the fire was advancing were always
forming in front of the fire just as they are now.

"This was caused by the burning out of the underlying Greta coal seams,
and, as the subsidence in places is more than 20 feet, it proves that
the burning seam at Wingen is very thick. ... I believe that this seam
is in places 30 feet thick.

"In making a geological examination of the Wingen district, which I did
many years ago with the assistance and under the instruction of the
late Rev. W. B. Clarke, then a very old man and unable to climb about
the mountains, I found, showing in the recently-built railway line, a
well-defined basaltic or dioritic dyke over 30 feet wide, running in
the direction of the Burning Mountain. If this dyke connects with the
basaltic formation east of the Burning Mountain--as it very probably
does--it would cut all the coal seams, and this may account for the
gradual dying down of the fire in the last 65 years."

The writer can remember the Burning Mountain for as long, almost, as
he can remember anything--that is to say, for about 60 years. Since
W. E. Abbott first saw it in 1852 it has only progressed about 80
yards. In the writer's recollection it has moved, roughly, about half
that distance. Of late years, however--that is, during the last three
decades--it has unmistakably begun to change its direction of advance,
and is now taking rather a westerly than a southern course.

The distance over which the fire can be traced as having moved--between
the most northerly point on the burnt-out track over which it has
travelled and its present position--is about a mile and three-quarters,
or 3,080 yards. A very pretty and entertaining little sum in the rule
of three now presents itself. If the fire burns 80 yards in 68 years,
it would, assuming its rate of progress to have been constant, have
been burning for some 2,518 years. But two considerations discount
this estimate of the age of the Burning Mountain as such. The rate of
progress may not have been constant--although it has been consistently
so for over a century--and it may have started, say, in the middle of
the present burnt-out area, and have worked both ways. But however you
look at it, the very lowest estimate of the duration of the fire cannot
reasonably have been less than 1,500 years, and there are many good
grounds for supposing that it has been going on for even a much greater
length of time than that.

"Neither Mr. Wilton nor Sir Thomas Mitchell," writes W. E. Abbott,
"seems to have made any attempt to determine the extent of the
burnt-out country north of the fire, when they made their observations.
If they had, they would have found what is called the Little Burning
Mountain, about a mile and three-quarters from the main fire, in a
direction a little east of north . . . on the estate of Bickham, the
property of Mr. H. A. Wright. The country between the two fires is
completely overgrown with heavy timber, which shows no sign of a fire
ever having passed through it, but the line can easily be traced by the
fissured rocks and evidences of subsidence like that which has taken
place along the western side of the fire at Mount Wingen. The Little
Burning Mountain has not changed its position since I first saw it many
years ago, nor altered its appearance in any way. The only indication
of fire is the rising of sulphurous smoke and steam from a few cracks
or holes in the ground, over a surface of a few yards, where the
surface is comparatively level. Probably the fire has become stationary
and is dying out, because the coal seams are more nearly horizontal, in
which case the falling in of the roof would cut off ventilation."

When the writer last visited the Little Burning Mountain, about 22
years ago, it was just the same length of time since he had previously
seen it. Its position was in no way changed, but, so far as his memory
served him, the vents had altered somewhat. There was a fissure in the
slope of a ridge running westward from the dividing range of the Page
River and Kingdon Ponds watersheds, which was a good 25 feet wide and
about 15 feet high at its mouth. It was possible to see far down into
the great crack. No vapour was rising from it--though it was said to
steam in wet weather--but an intense heat and sulphurous gases eddied
up from the bowels of the earth, so that it was not possible to go
down into it for more than a yard or two. The fires far below were
undoubtedly burning with a certain fierceness, though, as W. E. Abbott
pointed out in his book, they were probably declining in intensity.

We walked over the rough country that lies between the two fires and
saw the great timber growing where, many centuries ago, the surface of
the earth was as hot under foot as it is now on the burning part of
Mount Wingen. It is mostly ironbark and red-gum, and some of the trees
are undoubtedly very old. As is well known, the eucalypti attain
great age, and some of these veterans are growing in the earth-filled
position of fissures whose process of filling in must have taken a
length of time that could only be reckoned in hundreds of years. It
is possible--from all the evidence--to hazard a supposition that the
Burning Mountain may antedate the Christian era by some centuries.

Whenever the fire began, there can be little doubt that it started at
some period before the birth of Christ, and that for at least 2,000
years it has been slowly eating out the coal seams deep down below
the surface of the earth. It is no new thing. The blackfellows had no
tradition of its origin--indeed, they preferred neither to mention
nor discuss it, and did not like to go near it. Whether it had its
beginnings geologically, or whether it commenced as the result of
an ordinary bush fire, we shall never know, for there is no way of
determining the question. It is one of those deep mysteries of this
ancient and mysterious continent of ours which is unfathomable--as
unfathomable as the origin of the bunyip tradition.


THE village of Wingen lies five miles below the source of the Kingdon
Ponds, and its height above sea level is about 1000 feet. Overhanging
it is the great blue dome of Mount Murulla--always referred to locally
as "The Murlow"--and the scenery everywhere in the neighbourhood is
very beautiful and grand. The higher ranges, as has been mentioned
before, are basaltic, and they are fringed about their bases by the
remains of an ancient sedimentary deposit of sandstone and conglomerate
belonging to the Hawkesbury series, waterworn and broken into craggy
ravines and cliffs that lend colour and variety to the view from the
middle of the narrowing valley. From a point just below Wingen, the end
of a long tongue of rough mountain country, projecting southward like a
cape or promontory, has the semblance of a giant seated female figure,
and has long been famous in the district as "The Stone Woman of Wingen."

In recent years the old North Road has been diverted eastward of
the track it used to take over the crest of Warland's Range, and
now ascends the divide between the Kingdon Ponds watershed and that
of the Page River by a much easier gradient than the pioneers first
used and is familiar to those who, like the writer, have known this
country all their lives. After a steep ascent from the head of the
valley, a long and gentle slope carried the road down to the village
of Blandford, in the valley of the Page, four miles from the old-time
town of Murrurundi--the new highway rejoins the older one close to
Blandford--and about half-a-mile beyond the summit, on the left-hand
side of the road as you go north, stands a sandstone obelisk which
marks the scene of a bushranging tragedy of four-score years ago. The
inscription on one of its faces tells the story--

To the memory of


who was shot by Wilson, the bushranger,
near this spot on the 9th of April, 1863.
This monument was erected by public sub-
scription in honour of the brave deceased,
who lost his life while endeavouring to effect
the capture of that notorious offender.

Wilson shot Clark through the heart whilst the latter was grappling
with him, and was himself then rushed and disarmed by Clark's two
companions. The highwayman was subsequently tried at Maitland, and
hanged in East Maitland Gaol later in the year. Now the monument
stands, unnoticed and forgotten, in one of the paddocks belonging
to the Bickham estate, but to some of us who are growing old it was
formerly the most important historical landmark of those parts. Riding
over Warland's Range at night not a few contemporaries of this recorder
of the tragedy--and possibly the recorder himself--have spurred their
horses into a gallop past the site of the obelisk, so that they would
not be compelled fearfully to witness a ghostly reproduction of the
bloody drama. Whether anyone ever did claim to have seen Peter Clark's
ghost is not clearly recollected by the writer, but when he was a lad
that bit of the Great Northern Road was always supposed to be haunted.

Murrurundi is possibly the most picturesquely situated town in the
whole of the Hunter River district. High mountains wall in the valley
of the Page on either side, and the fertile flats along the river
are rich and green with beautiful farms and gardens. Somewhere about
three miles westward of the town the highway crosses the Liverpool
Range--which the railway pierces by means of a long tunnel--after a
winding climb up the flanks of the mountain. The actual divide is very
narrow, and it used to be said that a man might stand upon the summit
and spit into the Murray River to the westward and into the Tasman Sea
to the east--figuratively, of course. From this elevated position,
looking back down the valley, one of the most beautiful views is
obtainable that it is possible to enjoy anywhere. Immediately below, on
the western side, lies Doughboy Hollow, where Edward Denny Day, with
his armed commando, fought and captured the Jewboy gang of bushrangers
in 1840, as related in a previous chapter.

And here we come to the end of our pilgrimage up the Hunter. This
locality, of course, is rather the head of a tributary stream than the
proper top of the valley, which lies above Belltrees in the Barrington
Tops--but it is the place where the valley's furthest outpost was
established over a century ago. For many years Murrurundi was the
gateway through which all traffic and trade to the north and north-west
of New South Wales had to pass--just as it had to pass through Morpeth,
where the Newcastle Packets set it on the road or carried it to sea on
the first and last stages of its long journey between the Liverpool
Plains and the capital, and vice versa. There still remains about
the town an old-time aspect of the same sort that lingers in Morpeth
and East Maitland. Once upon a time it was a lively little community,
brisk with trade and always thronged with travellers along the main
highway to the north. But the construction of the railway in the
eighteen-seventies left it somewhat high and dry, and to-day, although
the centre of a district of considerable pastoral importance, it is as
it looks--a place with a past.

*  *  *  *  *  *

And now, to bring this little book to a conclusion, we will go back to
the old Coal River settlement at the mouth of the valley and take a
glance at the Newcastle Packets as they navigate to and from the Hunter
in this year of grace. But before we do that, we will consider the
wharf where they berth themselves in the city of to-day.

When you arrive in Port Hunter in the early morning by one of the
Newcastle and Hunter River Company's steamers, and, having partaken of
coffee and toast in your cabin, are about to go down the gangway on
to the landing place, you may or may not be aware that you are about
to step ashore on to the King's Wharf. That is the official address
of the Company's headquarters in Newcastle, and it is a very old
address--almost as old as the city itself--for the first wharf that
bore the name was the one that ranked as the property of His Majesty,
King George the Third.

There has been a King's Wharf in Port Hunter from the very earliest
days of British settlement there, and probably always will be. Roughly
speaking, it is nowadays that stretch of quayside lying between a point
opposite to the Custom House and the landing-place to the westward of
the Newcastle and Hunter River Company's sheds where the passenger
ferry to Stockton, over on the north side of the harbour, takes its
departure--but the first wharf ever constructed on the Hunter was a
wooden jetty sticking out into the estuary, at right angles to the
shore, somewhere about the eastern end of that length of riverside.
There, in the very early days, was the official landing-place for all
the people and goods that came to and went from Newcastle.

It is shown in a picture that illustrates one of the early volumes of
"The Historical Records of New South Wales," wherein Nobby's is an
island, and the wharf itself is depicted as a flimsy structure, only
capable of accommodating the smallest of ocean-going vessels. It was
strictly guarded by a red-coated sentry, and every person making use
of it was required to give a full account of himself and his business,
and to produce his authority for doing so. Its position is more or
less determined by the following paragraph in the "Instructions to the
Commandant at the Coal River," issued by Governor Macquarie in 1810.
Thus it reads:

"Some lives having been lost by persons bathing on that part of the
beach where there is a heavy surf, you are to caution all persons
against bathing in any other place than on the beach within the
harbour, to the westward of the wharf."

It is on to the position of that beach that you step ashore to-day when
landing from the steamer that has carried you from Sydney.

Three paragraphs from Macquarie's "Instructions to the Commandant"
emphasise the importance of the first King's Wharf, and are worth
quoting. They are given as they are numbered in the original document.

"31. It being equally necessary for the security of the colony, and
of all vessels lying in the Coal River, that the masters and sailors
belonging to them should sleep on board, you are to direct all masters
and sailors to go on board their respective vessels before eight
o'clock at night in the winter season, and before 9 o'clock in the
summer months. Sailors, for a first offence, are to be confined for
the night and sent on board next day, and not to be permitted on that
occasion to land again; for a second offence they are to receive
25 lashes, and to be put to Government work until the Governor's
pleasure shall be made known to you; and masters of vessels acting in
disobedience of this order are to be confined for the night, and you
are to report their conduct to the Governor.

"32. You are strictly to forbid all persons from harbouring or
permitting any master of a vessel or sailor to remain in their houses,
huts or lodgings after bell ringing at 8 o'clock in the evenings in
winter, and 9 o'clock in the summer, contrary to the foregoing article;
and a breach of this injunction is to be punished by a forfeiture to
Government of all houses or huts wherein they have been so harboured.
The persons so harbouring them are also to receive moderate corporal

"33. You are to authorise the sentinel at the wharf to detain any
master of a vessel or sailors who shall be found transgressing the 31st
article of these instructions."

If you look at the amount of cargo, inward and outward, that rests
temporarily on the King's Wharf to-day, you will be able to form
some idea of the enormous value of the commodities that have been
received into and despatched from the Port of Newcastle during the
century-and-more since the King's Wharf of George III came into
existence. Pretty well every conceivable article of commerce is dumped
daily upon the stout decking of the wharf, from household furniture
to mining machinery, from haberdashery to caterpillar tractors, from
lucerne-hay to sewing machines. Marshal Blucher's remark when he first
looked out over London might well be paraphrased by anyone observing
a day's activities on this busy quayside into, "Oh, what a wharf to

The present ships of the Newcastle and Hunter River Company--the
Newcastle Packets of to-day--are the "Mulubinba," the "Karuah"
and the "Kindur," the two first provided with limited passenger
accommodation, and the last having been designed and built solely for
the cargo trade.

The "Mulubinba" was built at Leith, in Scotland, by Henry Robb,
Ltd., in 1937. She is 220 feet in length, with a beam of 39 feet, and
a depth of sixteen. Her deadweight capacity is 1518 tons, with a gross
tonnage of 1262 and net 479. Her speed is 11 knots.

The "Karuah" was built at Hong Kong by the Hong Kong and Whampoa
Dockyard Co., Ltd., in 1940. She is 230 feet long, has a beam of 39
feet, and a depth of seventeen. She has a deadweight capacity of 1570
tons, with a gross tonnage of 1341 and net 514. Her speed is 12
knots. She was the first vessel built abroad for the Australian trade
of Australian steel, the latter having been forged in the Broken Hill
Proprietary Company's works at Newcastle and shipped to the East. She
was also the first steamer to use Australian-made wire ropes on board,
and the fittings of her cabin accommodation are of Australian timbers.

Both vessels are equipped with water-tube boilers fired by mechanical
stokers, and are the first and so far the only vessels of the
Australian merchant service to employ this means of firing their
boilers. They each have accommodation for 12 passengers in deck cabins.

The cargo-carrier "Kindur" is a steamer of 1267 tons gross, and for
the last fifteen years has done constant and efficient work in the
Sydney-Newcastle trade. There is a circumstance in connection with her
name that is historically interesting--she is called after a river that
doesn't exist.

Sir Thomas Mitchell, Surveyor-General of New South Wales, left Sydney
in November, 1831, in search of a river which a runaway and recaptured
convict named Clarke--otherwise "George the Barber"--asserted to flow
to the sea in a westerly direction from the Liverpool Plains. As a
result of his journey, Major Mitchell came to the conclusion that this
stream was wholly a myth and Mr. Clarke an unmitigated liar. He did
not even think that it was represented by the Namoi, the Gwydir or the
Macintyre Rivers. So it would seem that this vessel is named after
a geographical feature that is not, and never was, in the realm of
reality. However, that doesn't alter the fact that the "Kindur" is a
very fine ship.

With this brief mention of the present-day Newcastle Packets we will
bring their long story, and the story of the Valley they have so well
served for more than a hundred years, to an end--very conscious that so
superficial an outline of the history of both is somewhat inadequate.
The ships running in the trade between Sydney and Newcastle have helped
to develop and serve one of the richest provinces in the Australian
Commonwealth, and one with a story that might have been more fully
told. However, as has been remarked at its beginning, the author of
this book is a Hunter River native, and although he doesn't actually
hate other people who were not born on the banks of the old river, and
only feels sorry for them, he hopes that his prejudices in its favour
may not have led him to exaggerate its excellences as a countryside
that counts for much in the story of Australia. He can only hope that
the reader may have an opportunity of seeing the Hunter Valley for
himself or herself, and may have the good sense to navigate to the
mouth of the river by one of the Newcastle Packets.


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